I recently had a very engaging discussion with a Mormon. The topic of mysteries of the gospel came up, and we mutually wondered just exactly what a mystery of the gospel might be.
Is it a technical term for something more concrete or does it represent something abstract?
My graduate education (M.A.) was Protestant. In discussing difficult theological topics, I often heard my mainline Christian brothers indicate that such-and-such a concept or doctrine is a mystery because it cannot be explained by the rational mind in a concise way. Generally, trinitarianism is the quintessential mystery. How does one understand God’s character given the advent of Jesus? How does one explain Jesus’ relationship to mankind? And, by extension, how does one understand mankind’s relationship to God in light of Jesus? Where does the Holy Spirit fit into all of this, and how are they all one, as the scripture indicates? All these questions might seem easy to a Mormon because Mormons dismiss (corporeal) trinitarianism. But we’re not immune to “mysteries” or “unknowables” either.
Frequently, I hear people of the church indicating that the atonement, for example, is a big mystery. And perhaps it is. On the other side of the coin, I also frequently hear that the atonement is the single most important event in salvation history: the zenith of all events. Now that I think about it, I think I’ve heard each of these statements from GAs.
I’ve read in the ‘nacle where individuals have argued which allegory best represents the reality of the atonement.
So my questions are:
1. Is the allegory really the best vehicle by which to understand the atonement? Don’t alleogires logically “break down” by their very nature? And why don’t the scriptures offer atonement allegories? Or do they?
2. Why does the atonement have to be so difficult to understand? The authors of scripture seem to get their hands around it, yet many of us do not. Anybody know why this might be?
3. If it’s so important that we understand the atonement, why is it frequently set up as one of the most mysterious aspects of the gospel? Is there salvation to be found apart from understanding the atonement? Why the paradox? What are the implications?