Eli, I was writing a paper in my Mythology class, and I was comparing/contrasting the Christian God with the Greek ones. Now, I wanted to say that God showed his willingness to satisfy the demands of justice and those of mercy in the atonement. Is that an accurate thing to say, or is that a strictly Mormon idea?
This view is presented by the Mormons most candidly in the story of "The Mediator" which I'm sure you're familiar with. God is represented as a loan shark who demands his debtor to pay him back what he owes. The debtor begs God for mercy but the reply goes something like: "No, because then justice wouldn't be satisfied." Jesus is represented as a friend who who has mercy on the debtor and pays God the debt, but then turns around to the thankful friend with these shocking words: "Now you must pay me back. It won't be easy, but it will be possible." And the lesson of the story is, both mercy and justice are "satisfied". Except the story doesn't explain what happens when the debtor can't pay his new debt to Jesus...
One can easily be fooled into thinking that this is the same as the Biblical view of the atonement, but it is definitely not. As we've talked before, it is important to see that it is God the Father who extends mercy to mankind by sending His Son. Christ obeyed the Father by going to the cross. Jesus did not step between man and God as the "good cop", but as the obedient servant of His Father.
It is true that justice demanded satisfaction, but it is not like a loan that needs to be payed back, but an offense that needs to be punished. A loan can be refinanced (which is what the Mormon Jesus does), but a crime cannot. Man has broken God's law, and the law which demands death must be fulfilled. In actuality, that punishment must take place is more about the vindication of God's holiness than a mere legal detail. If God doesn't punish sin, as He said He would, then He becomes a liar and an unrighteous judge. God's character is at stake in judgment (a theme throughout the whole Bible... "Will not the God of all the earth do right?") So when we see it in this light, we see that punishment is inevitable for all of us as true as God is God; but the beautiful thing is this: that God, because of the sacrifice of Christ, is totally satisfied and therefore freely forgives the pleading sinner of all His crimes without ever demanding a payback! "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8:12) Payback would be unthinkable!
Unlike Mormonism, God does not have a necessity to be merciful. There needs no "satisfaction of mercy". However, God, out of the great love which He has for mankind, chose to be merciful in sending His Son, and in this His mercy and grace is truly magnificent in the fact that it was NOT out of necessity but out of love. The cross of Christ, which is what reconciles sinful men to a holy God, is the demonstration of God's pure mercy and love towards the world. That He died for the sins of sinful, undeserving and death-sentenced sinners is what constitutes his love: for men scarcely die for good men, and they might dare to die for their friends and family, but God shows us how different and greater His love is from ours, in that while we were His enemies, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). So the fact that His mercy is surprising is what makes it so glorious. Grace that isn't surprising isn't grace. If it is born of necessity then it really is just a job.
There is no God like Jehovah!