Church History 13
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Anselm: What is problematic when we first read him, that the calculus of redemption that he
invokes, the idea of the proportionality of sin to the one who is offended, the proportionality of the
goodness of the act to the goodness of the actor – the language that explains merit in this way is
However, what’s easier to hear is the language of honor. Substitute “honor” with “obedience” and
“worship”. We owe God obedience and worship. What we owe is not for God’s benefit, but
because we need to give it, because in giving it, we are built up.
This language translates better.
Also, understand the graciousness of God’s activity. Notice one of the differences. He rejects
the idea that grace is an act of fiat in which God absolves sin. He wants to include a human as
the agent of forgiveness and salvation. It creates a situation in which God is not only not just
winking at our sin, but he is also allowing us to understand the lack of dignity that is stripped from
us in sin. And he does this be allowing one of us, the God-man, to be the agent of redemption,
he restores us to that proper status of nobility. In other words, there is a price to be paid to be
redeemed in a sinful world. Part of the dialogue is that even in the points of different, where do
we see the point of convergence, or commonality between our culture and theirs.
He’s not giving an exhaustive account. Paradigms of reconciliation. It’s not “either-or” with other
paradigms of redemption.
Now to Abelard.
At the end of class on Monday, perhaps greater affinity with Abelard. Anselm’s theory of the
atonement – the satisfaction theory – reconciliation of man with God, we share vicariaously
through our baptism – we become partakers in the super-abundant merit that Christ did for us.
Therefore, we are treated as if we are righteous. But we’re not actually MADE righteous.
Abelard’s theory of the atonement, does not entail our coming to a vicarious atonement, rather it
effected an actual righteousness within us. It is that actual righteousness that reconciles us with
God. Christ’s death MAKES us righteous, in Abelard’s view.
At 37, he fell in love with the niece of the dean of the Cathedral. His arrogance made others
suspicious of his orthodoxy. He was imprisoned.
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