DOCTORES ECCLESIAE

A GIFT EXCEEDING EVERY DEBT:
An Eastern Orthodox Appreciation of Anselm's Cur Deus Homo
D. Bentley Hart

I The division between Eastern and Western Christianity — officially almost a millennium old, effectively far older—has often enough been characterized as the ineluctable effect of one or another irreconcilable and irreducible difference: political (Caesars and Czars as opposed to princes and Popes), cultural (Byzantine as opposed to Frankish, Greek as opposed to Latin), theological (in regard to matters of nature and grace, or definitions of original sin), doctrinal (the fMoque, the nature of papal primacy), ritual (leavened bread as opposed to azymes, icons as opposed to statuary), ecclesiological (patriarchal pentarchy as opDavid B. Hart, Religious Studies Dept., University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22901

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posed to papacy, sobornost as opposed to monarchia), even "ontological" (to cite the somewhat hermetic language of the Oecumenical Every serious Patriarch's recent address at Georgetown University). And because theological these various characterizations have been only rarely proposed in a engagement spirit of critical detachment — indeed have most typically appeared in between the contexts of the most squalid kind of recrimination — it has usually Orthodox and proved difficult to distinguish the real differences between the churCatholic parties to ches from the simply perceived, to separate the genuinely important the modern (and from the merely accidental, or efficiently to dismiss distinctions made perhaps quite for purposes purely polemical or ultimately frivolous. Every serious hopeless) theological engagement between the Orthodox and Catholic parties to oecumenical the modern (and perhaps quite hopeless) oecumenical movement movement reveals reveals depth upon depth of substantial agreement, and yet always depth upon depth fades upon the midnight knell, as each side ruefully acknowledges the of substantial perplexing refractoriness and stubborn persistence of differences that agreement, and lie (apparently) deeper still. As if the task of dialogue were not rendered yet always fades difficult enough by the sheer intractability of the concrete details of upon the midnight doctrine and practice that divide the churches, an abiding sense of knell, as each side some ever more determinative (and yet ever more indeterminate), ruefully essential difference almost always overshadows every conversation acknowledges the (however charitable) that attempts to span the divide. Simply said, a perplexing profound sense that our grammars are fundamentally different (which, refractoriness and to a large extent, they of course are) serves constantly to temper our stubborn elation over what meager accords we strike, to imbue our continued persistence of division with an almost mystical aura of inevitability, and to resign us differences that lie fatalistically to our failures and to the failure of our love.
(apparently) deeper still

No region of dogmatics seems to offer better proof of this difference in grammar and sensibility, of course, than the question of atonement; it is, at least, most certainly the case that many Orthodox theologians have long believed (not entirely without warrant) that Western narratives of salvation have all too often reduced the atonement worked by Christ to the status of a simple transaction, enacted more or less entirely on the cross, and intended solely as an appeasement of the Father's wrath against sin. For many in the Eastern Church, it is simply a given that Western soteriology exhibits no very profound sense of the salvific significance of the resurrection, or of the ontological dimension of salvation opened up in the incarnation, or of the superabundance of God's mercy (which requires no tribute of blood to evoke it). Christ is, after all, the conqueror of death and the devil, who joins us — in the Spirit — to the new creation he has established in himself in order to divinize us; and it is this, so the story goes, that has been lost to view along the Western via crucis, with its unrelenting concentration on the language of penal suffering and remission from debt. And no figure in the Western tradition provides a more compelling illustration of this

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supposed failing on the part of the Western Church than Anselm of Canterbury: his Cur Deus Homo, written so soon after the schism, seems to mark the divide between the two theological climates with an exquisite historical precision; and in speaking of Christ's death in terms of "satisfaction" he certainly appears to prove beyond any doubt how far Western theology had strayed, by the time of the division, from the high road of patristic orthodoxy. Whether there is some broad general truth to the Orthodox view of Western theologies of atonement (and, at a certain very vulgar level, there certainly is) will not really concern me in what follows. I hope only to modify the picture of Anselm's thought that has too often prevailed among scholars Eastern and Western alike (with a few notable exceptions). I do this, ultimately, with an oecumenical end in I wish to argue view, but with no very extravagant expectations; I hope, rather, to free that there is a real Anselm from some of the coarser characterizations of his critics, in continuity order to cast the innovations of his method and language in a some- between the what kindlier light (from the Eastern vantage, at least) and in order, thought of the thereby, slightly to allay Orthodox suspicions regarding the fidelity of fathers and the the Western tradition to its ancient sources. I write as an Orthodox thought of Christian and share the Eastern prejudice for the patristic narratives of Anselm, that the salvation; I even share the Eastern discomfort with many of the main Cur Deus Homo currents of traditional Western soteriology; but I wish nevertheless to does not represent argue that there is a real continuity between the thought of the fathers a catastrophic and the thought of Anselm, that the Cur Deus Homo does not represent breach between a catastrophic breach between the theologies of East and West, but only the theologies of a change of accent, and that perhaps the concerns and beliefs that East and West, motivate the atonement theories of either tradition emanate (to a but only a change greater degree than is usually acknowledged) from the same story: the of accent. story of Christ trampling down death by death, in the words of the Byzantine paschal hymn, and of God acting decisively on our behalf, to save us from the powers into which we have delivered ourselves. But to argue this with any effect, I shall have to begin from the more customary (and, I would presume to add, more misguided) readings of Anselm; nor will I confine myself to Orthodox critiques of the Cur Deus Homo: misreadings of Anselm are legion, but many of the misinterpretations to which his work has been subjected over the years are at least instructively false. Perhaps in the light of the accounts provided by his Western critics, Anselm might begin to appear more attractive to Eastern eyes. II Among his critics, Anselm has long been the victim of his own clarity: he cuts a conveniently epochal figure because he is identifiably a

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The argument of Cur Deus Homo is easily read as an uncomplicated series of logical steps that lead to a rigidly rational conclusion regarding the "juridical" necessity of Christ's sacrificial death: an argument that, far from resisting summary, invites it.

peculiar product of the early Western Middle Ages, because in arguing for the "necessity" of a certain picture of redemption he appears to adumbrate the distinctively Western, Catholic theological method of following centuries, and because his is so recognizably a theory of atonement and hence so easy to abstract, simplify, formulate, and assess. The argument of Cur Deus Homo is easily read as an uncomplicated series of logical steps that lead to a rigidly rational conclusion regarding the "juridical" necessity of Christ's sacrificial death: an argument that, far from resisting summary, invites it. To wit: 1) Every rational creature is created to partake of beatitude in God, so Anselm asserts, in return for which the creature owes God perfect obedience, by withholding which humanity offends infinitely against the divine honor and merits death. 2) Inasmuch as humanity has sinned against God, to God's "dishonor," God's honor requires that humanity restore what it has taken away, and indeed give still more, in order to make satisfaction for its offense; otherwise humanity must suffer its condign penalty and be handed over to death. 3) Nor can God merely remit the penalty, as it would contradict his own righteousness and sovereignty over creation were he to allow sin to pass with impunity, and thereby raise injustice (sin) to his own level (transcendent of any higher law), erase the distinction between good and evil (in the latter's favor), and create division within his own immutably righteous will; and so, through restitution or punishment, satisfaction or damnation, humanity shall restore the divine honor and the beauty of the created universe. 4) But humanity possesses nothing by which it might satisfy divine justice; as it is God himself against whom the gravity of every transgression is measured, the slightest sin is an infinite offense, calling for an infinite and "more than infinite" restitution. 5) But it is also contrary to God's goodness and honor that his gracious purpose in creation should come to nothing and that he should abandon his creature to destruction. 6) One is called for, then, who can of his own render to God a payment that surpasses in worth all things under God; but this is possible for God alone; and yet satisfaction must be made by one of the race of Adam. And so, that divine righteousness remain inviolate, the beauty of creation be preserved, and the divine purpose be fulfilled, the God-man must come among his own, in order to make satisfaction on humanity's behalf: a high Chalcedonian Christology is a "necessity" for understanding how God has resolved this apparent impasse between his justice and mercy.

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7) Christ, as a man, owes God his perfect obedience, which he gladly proffers, but as he is a sinless man, he does not owe God his death; when Christ voluntarily surrenders his infinitely precious life for God's honor, and the Father accepts it, the superabundance of its worth calls forth some gracious recompense from God's justice. 8) But Christ, being also God, wants for nothing; and so, lest God's righteousness be defeated by the injustice of no recompense being given, the benefits of Christ's death pass on to those on whom Christ would bestow them. God's infinite honor being more than infinitely satisfied, humanity's debt before God is remitted and salvation is accomplished in such measure as persons approach God in Christ's name and live righteously.

This is more or less Harnack's cursory summary of Anselm's argument, in a largely dismissive passage in the Dogmengeschichte; and perhaps Anselm would have regarded it as a fair précis of his position. Certainly there are elements of Anselm's theology that allow reduction to a simple economic model of atonement, which attempts the impossible task of calculating the exchange value of counterposed infinities, and thus threatens to obscure the fact that the only infinity at issue is For Harnack, as that of God (who cannot be divided against himself). But Anselm's for Albrecht argument, thus denuded of every nuance and ambiguity that enriches Ritschl before him, the text from which it is drawn, is susceptible of every casual mis- Anselm's construal the theological mind can devise; it becomes indeed a significance theological "theory," removed from any larger theological narrative, resided in unable to defend itself by reference to the specific concerns that precisely this prompted it or the historical context in which it was situated. perceived bare For Harnack, as for Albrecht Ritschl before him, Anselm's significance linearity of his resided in precisely this perceived bare linearity of his thought; for thought; for both, both, Anselm was something genuinely new, a theologian who formu- Anselm was lated a "theory of atonement," as distinct from the simple "schemes of something salvation" characteristic of Greek patristic thought. In Die christliche genuinely neza, a
Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, Ritschl reserved the exalted

Anselm's argument, thus denuded of every nuance and ambiguity that enriches the text from which it is drawn, is susceptible of every casual misconstrual the theological mind can devise.

words of his book's title for the period commencing with Anselm and Abaelard; patristic theology is concerned, at most, with Erlösung. "Atonement language," one might summarize, is an improvement over patristic speculation insofar as the former depicts redemption as an objective transaction between the Father and the Son, rather than as the grossly mythic drama of divine descent and rescue, and insofar as it concerns itself with "moral," rather than "physical," reconciliation between humanity and God. Imperfect, indeed in places deplorable (especially where it seems to suggest an essential opposition between God's mercy and God's justice), Anselm's soteriology is still the impor1. In English: Adolph Von Harnack, History of Dogma, trans. Neil Buchanan, 7 vols., bound as 4 (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1976) VI: pp. 54-67.

theologian who formulated a "theory of atonement," as distinct from the simple "schemes of salvation" characteristic of Greek patristic thought.

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From the perspective of Eastern theology, it is more what Ritschl and Harnackfind commendable in the

Cur Deus Homo,
than what they censure, that is the source

of grief.

Among Western theologians, it is not only liberal Protestant scholarship that has taken Anselm to task for the deficiencies (real or perceived) in his argument; many have been quite content to confirm the picture of Anselm provided by such texts as the Dogmengeschichte, in order to condemn him in the name of patristic orthodoxy.

tant first step towards more considered theories of atonement (including Ritschl's own, oddly etiolated account of justification). The mixed verdict of liberal Protestant scholarship on Anselm's argument is best expressed, though, by Harnack: according to him, Anselm's language is little more than the logical extension of Western Catholicism's penitential system, and so concerns itself principally with the placation of God's wrath against humanity; the limits of this system confine his theory to the model of a legal transaction, enacted between Father and Son, rather than to a model of genuine reconciliation; nowhere does he show how the opposition of wills between God and humanity is overcome. Harnack sees that Anselm's is not a theory of salvation through penal suffering, but this he does not lay to the latter's credit. He does commend Anselm for seeing guilt, rather than death,-as that which estranges creation from God, as well as for disabusing theology of other "primitive" elements inherited from patristic thought — such as the notion that Christ's death is a ransom paid to the devil, or the idea of a "physical" salvation accomplished primarily in the Incarnation — but he finds Anselm's theory both unbalanced, limiting the work of atonement to Christ's humanity, and uncomforting, offering no final assurance of justification to the individual (who must still strive after righteousness to attain beatitude). And Harnack chides Anselm for failing to enunciate a clear theory of penal suffering, for indeed subverting such a theory, and for failing to see the necessity not only of Christ's obedience, but of his death. Of course, few of these criticisms would be likely to impress Orthodox scholars, except perhaps in a somewhat inverted form: from the perspective of Eastern theology, it is more what Ritschl and Harnack find commendable in the Cur Deus Homo, than what they censure, that is the source of grief. And, to the Orthodox, Anselm's failure to speak of Christ's death in terms of penal suffering would be no cause of alarm (though it might, given the usual Eastern reading of the Cur Deus Homo, come as a considerable surprise). Within the terms of the "liberal Protestant" critique of Anselm (whether or not those terms are accurate), no issue of import is raised for Orthodox reflection: the spectacle of a conflict within Western theology, between two different ages within the West's apostasy from and misconstrual of patristic theology, might go some way towards fortifying Orthodox theologians in their prejudices, but can offer to their reflection nothing either more edifying or more challenging. But even among Western theologians, it is not only liberal Protestant scholarship that has taken Anselm to task for the deficiencies (real or perceived) in his argument; many have been
2. Ibid., p. 68. 3. Ibid., p. 69. 4. Ibid., pp. 67-73.

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quite content to confirm the picture of Anselm provided by such texts as the Dogmengeschichte, in order to condemn him in the name of patristic orthodoxy. Perhaps the most pronounced reservations regarding the Cur Deus Homo, within Protestant theology at least, were expressed by the theologically conservative Lutheran Gustaf Aulén, in his best known work, Christus Victor. It is here that Aulén's famous (if not always particularly subtle) distinction between the "classic" and "Latin" theories of atonement is laid out in bright primary colors, with Anselm's "theory" serving as the chief example of the latter, and Anselm himself serving (in consequence) as the exemplar of everything decadent and legalistic in mediaeval Catholic theology. It is perhaps somewhat peculiar that Aulén, who rebelled with such vehemence against liberal Protestant scholarship, and who rejected its silly characterization of patristic soteriology as merely "physical," should have accepted the interpretation of Anselm offered him by that same scholarship. Nevertheless, in Christus Victor, he dismisses Anselm's project without qualm, as a radical break from patristic thought, a narrative of salvation that makes Christ's humanity be the sole agency of atonement and so stands at odds with the Pauline, patristic, and (genuine) Lutheran view of Christ's saving work as a unified divine campaign against sin, death, wrath, and the devil. And he, like Harnack, deplores Anselm's apparent opposition of justice to mercy; he too takes Anselm's language to be little more than a monstrous exaggeration of penitential discourse. For Aulén it is only the rejection of any " Anselmian" contour in its language of atonement that will allow Western Christianity to recover the "correct" or "classic" view of salvation, according to which redemption is a single continuous divine action, God's descent into the deepest abyss of human estrangement in order to vanquish death, worldly powers, sin, and condemnation, and to raise humanity up to everlasting life. In the classic view, contends Aulén, talk of sacrifice is intentionally ambiguous; as Gregory the Theologian says, Christ's death is not a ransom paid to the devil, but a sacrifice the Father receives from the Son "by economy," for sanctification and because divine justice requires that Christ alone should overcome the tyrants that hold humanity captive. Thus Christ's sacrifice is an internal relation of the divine will, not an extrinsic exchange of expiatory death and forensic merit. One enters entirely into the atmosphere of the Orthodox suspicion of Anselm (and, by extension, of all Western theology) in Vladimir Lossky's altogether damning portrait of his theory of atonement.

It is perhaps somewhat peculiar that Aulén, who rebelled with such vehemence against liberal Protestant scholarship, and who rejected its silly characterization ofpatristic soteriology as merely "physical," should have accepted the interpretation of Anselm offered him by that same scholarship.

One enters entirely into the atmosphere of the Orthodox suspicion of Anselm (and, by extension, of all Western theology) in Vladimir Lossky's altogether damning portrait of his theory of atonement.

5. Aulén, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement, trans. A.G. Herbert (London: SPCK, 1953). 6. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45.22. 7. See "Redemption and Deification" in Lossky, In the Image and Likeness of God, ed. John H. Erickson and Thomas E. Bird (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974), pp. 97-110.

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Lossky takes Lossky's brushstokes are not so broad as Aulén's, but their effect is special offense at undoubtedly more compelling: everything that Eastern theologians the scandal of a imagine to be constitutive of Western soteriology — the legalism of its book putatively "juridical" categories, the ruthlessness of the God it depicts, the explaining the mechanical simplicity of its model of atonement — Lossky finds exIncarnation, but emplarily expressed in the Cur Deus Homo. While aware that Anselm's attempting to do language is not without precedent in patristic theology, he still sees it so without as an incalculable impoverishment of that theology, a decortication of reference to all the richness of the traditional narrative, leaving behind only the divinization, single unadorned theme of "redemption." Lossky takes special offense victory over hell, at the scandal of a book putatively explaining the Incarnation, but or the rôle of the attempting to do so without reference to divinization, victory over hell, Holy Spirit; and or the rôle of the Holy Spirit; and at Anselm's apparent reduction of at Anselm's the resurrection and ascension to a simple happy ending and of salvaapparent tion to a change not in human nature, but only in the divine attitude reduction of the towards humanity. Salvation, so conceived, is little more than a drama resurrection and enacted between an infinitely offended God and a humanity unable to ascension to a satisfy the demands of his vindictive wrath. Much to be preferred is simple happy the ambiguity, richness, and narrative complexity of a text like ending. Athanasius' De Incarnatione Verbi Da, which allows the story of salvation a greater range of colors, of soteriological models, all narrative in character, and all preventing one another from assuming the shape of a single, definitive, and exhaustively rational account of atonement. Ill A question that might be asked A question that might be asked here, however, is whether the actual here, however, is text of Cur Deus Homo has not been lost to view, behind the welter of whether the actual adverse judgments brought to bear upon it. To begin with, it is not at text of Cur Deus all clear that Anselm's language simply reflects the logic of sacramental Homo has not penance, the logic of attempting to make reparation to God for parbeen lost to view, ticular sins. Penitential discipline provides Anselm a certain grammar, behind the welter obviously, but his argument is also one that oddly subverts that of adverse discipline's logic and would seem to reorient it entirely. If every sin is judgments intrinsically an infinite offense, as Anselm claims, and all penance then brought to bear technically "unsatisfactory," and if the superabundant benefit of upon it. Christ's sacrifice alone remits guilt, penitential practice is both contained in and overcome by the motion of Christ's redeeming act; if grace, then, allows for a penitential return of the sinner, it does so solely because prayerful humility is the fitting form of a redeemed life, and because this way of return is the very promise and substance of salvation for one concerning whom the entire question of satisfaction
8. Anselm, Cur Deus Homo I, p. xi.

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(in the sense of this impossible "restitution" for sin) has been infinitely deferred, through superabounding mercy. In one stroke, Anselm has done away with the notion that penance is a punitive discipline intended to satisfy God's wrath, and shown it to be simply a thankful piety that responds to (and is the result of) an unmerited and transforming grace. A different story is being told about divine justice: one, frankly, that would be unintelligible if Anselm were, as Harnack claims, unconcerned with actual reconciliation.

It is not Anselm, after all, who makes an artificial distinction between his "theory of atonement" It is not Anselm, after all, who makes an artificial distinction between proper and such his "theory of atonement" proper and such remarks as he also makes remarks as he also concerning the appropriation of salvation by those who approach God makes concerning humbly, contritely, placing their faith in Christ. For Harnack, the need the appropriation Anselm sees for acts of contrition and righteousness on the believer's of salvation by part merely means that Anselm's theory can provide the believer with those who approach God no certitude of salvation; whether this is simply the reductio ad absurdum humbly, of Lutheran qualms concerning works-righteousness, or merely an example of Harnack's chronic inability to imagine the church as a place contritely, placing where the real experience of salvation is lived out, Harnack has quite their faith in simply failed to see the link that Anselm has explicitly drawn between Christ.

the vocation of humankind to a prayerful and penitent faith and the overcoming of the sinful human will in Christ's human life of obedience to the Father. In rendering God the love humanity owes him, but withholds, and by bearing the weight of sin's consequences and showing on the cross that the triumph of justice over sin is also the triumph of humility over pride, Christ provides humanity with both a model of obedience and the assurance that it can always return to God, despite its inability to satisfy divine justice, because it is sustained by the grace of Christ's gift. To cling to Christ in faith, the turn to prayer is required; as one asks for forgiveness, so must one forgive; and one's prayer comes to participate in the satisfaction Christ has made on one's behalf. Because the rule of God's justice is forgiveness, the charitable practice of the Church that Christ has redeemed is necessary for a humanity recreated after its original nature. Of course, the claim that such a scheme is immeasurably remote from patristic soteriology has as its premise — for Ritschl and Harnack — the peculiar belief that, in the Greek "physical" view of salvation, it is the Incarnation in itself that saves, wondrously imparting divine energy to human nature as a whole; but this is, of course, to ignore a fairly vital feature of patristic thought: insofar as the Word's Incarnation restores human nature, it is as a new creation to which humanity is admitted by way of Christ's conquest of sin and death and through the corporate solidarity of the Church, with all its necessary practices. For Aulén and Lossky, on the other hand, the discontinuity with patristic
9.CDH,I,p.xix.

Harnack has quite simply failed to see the link that Anselm has explicitly drawn between the vocation of humankind to a prayerful and penitent faith and the overcoming of the sinful human zoili in Christ's human life of obedience to the Father.

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As Anselm says, humanity was placed between God and the devil to vanquish the latter for the honor of the former; and as the fall was a victory for the devil to the dishonor of God, so the satisfaction effected by Christ is a victory over the devil to God's honor. This is, surely, a variant of a Christus victor soteriology, and one that makes questionable every hasty assumption regarding what precisely Anselm means by "satisfaction."

tradition lies in Anselm's failure to give an adequate account of God's action in Christ to overthrow death and the devil and to restore human nature through Christ's resurrection. The truth is, of course (contrary to Aulén's contention), that there never was one "classic" view of atonement, though there was certainly a shared narrative atmosphere in which patristic thought moved; Aulén is correct that, in general, the patristic language of redemption most typically conveys a radical sense that it is God alone who acts to save his creatures from death, but the same is true of the language of the Cur Deus Homo. Granting that the inflection of Anselm's language is scarcely "Greek," the closer the attention one pays Anselm's argument, the harder it becomes to locate a point at which he actually breaks from patristic orthodoxy. The divine action follows the same course as in the "classic" model: sin having disrupted the order of God's good creation, and humanity having been handed over to death and the devil, God enters into a condition of estrangement and slavery to set humanity free. As Anselm says, humanity was placed between God and the devil to vanquish the latter for the honor of the former; and as the fall was a victory for the devil to the dishonor of God, so the satisfaction effected by Christ is a victory over the devil to God's honor. This is, surely, a variant of a Christus victor soteriology, and one that makes questionable every hasty assumption regarding what precisely Anselm means by "satisfaction." Formidable linguistic shifts aside, Anselm's is not a new narrative of salvation. In truth, this facile distinction between a patristic soteriology concerned exclusively with the rescue of humanity from death and a later theory of atonement concerned just as exclusively with remission from guilt — a distinction, i.e., between "physical" and "moral" theories — is perhaps supportable, but only in regard to emphasis and imagery; Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, and John of Damascus (to name a few) were no less conscious than Anselm that the guilt which places humanity in bondage to death is overcome on the cross, nor he any less concerned than they with the Son's campaign against death's dominion over those who have turned from God in disobedience. Indeed, in Cur Deus Homo, the matter of guilt is somewhat recused: it is guilt that is set aside, made of no account by Christ's grace, so that death should be overcome without violence to divine justice. From very early in the text,11 Anselm is dealing with a single question (posed by Boso): If the rights of the devil (who is himself already infinitely indebted to God) over humanity are not really "rights" (a position of purest patristic pedigree), why must death's overthrow proceed as it does? For God could have reclaimed his creation by force, if all that
12

were at issue were the devil's prerogatives; but, for Anselm, the true
10. CDH I, pp. xxii-xxiii. ll.CDH,I,pp.vi-vii. 12. CDH, I, p. vii.

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issue is God's own righteousness. From which unfolds Anselm's story of the "necessity" (the inner coherence) of the action of the God-man. And it is explicitly not a story about a substitutionary sacrifice offered as simple restitution for human guilt,13 but concerns rather the triumph over death, the devil, and sin accomplished in Christ's voluntary self-donation to the Father, which the Father receives (as Gregory the Theologian would say) "by economy," so that its benefits might redound to those with whom Christ has assumed solidarity. On this reading, it is hard to sustain the claim that Anselm makes Christ's humanity the sole reconciling agency in salvation, reducing the rôle of Christ's divinity to that of a commodity, the infinite value bartered for sin's remission. This strangely Nestorian construal of Anselm's Christology is closely bound to the complaint that Anselm has posed divine justice over against divine mercy, making out the latter to be unobtainable until the demands of the former have been satisfied. But, in such criticisms, it is as if the project (indeed the title) of Anselm's work has been willfully ignored; because in Anselm's scheme it is the Word who at every juncture fulfills divine justice and offers himself up. What is all too often overlooked is how trinitarian the structure of Anselm's story is. As it can be shown remoto Christo that sinful humanity cannot make satisfaction to God, that the God who is always maius than whatever can be thought can be reached or sufficed only by God, and that God's goodness cannot suffer defeat, there must be a saving initiative from God's side, and there must already be within the terms of God's changeless righteousness that dynamism that overcomes any apparent incommensurability of mercy and justice. The appearance of such an opposition is the result not only of finite human reason, but of sin: only in the rejection of God's creative mercy is his justice experienced as wrath and dereliction. But the idea of a triune God in whom there exists the "highest concord of justice and mercy" forbids so simple an opposition; and it is because this concord is the truth of a dynamic and living God, in whom the motion of donation and re-donation, obedience and love, is already one, that a way of return can be opened for humanity; a return unimaginable in terms of a "monadic" God, whose justice could be known only in the awful sublimity of damnation. God is already always an infinite venturing forth and return, an action of reconciliation, response, and accord, in which any opposition of goods is already overcome by the motion of an infinite love. And while Christ's suffering and humiliation do not belong to his divinity, and the violence that befalls him belongs in no way to the motion of the divine life, it is necessary (fitting) that it is the divine Son who becomes a man and lives out a life of obedience to God, as it reflects the Word's eternal motion of love towards the Father,
13. CDH, I, pp. viii-ix. 14 CDH, I, p. vih. 15. CDH, II, p. ix.

What is all too often overlooked is how trinitarian the structure of Anselm's story is.

God is already always an infinite venturing forth and return, an action of reconciliation, response, and accord, in which any opposition of goods is already overcome by the motion of an infinite love.

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In the God-man, within human history, God's justice and mercy are shown to be one thing, one action, life, and being.

Anselm is already situated in the Christian theological tradition, he already knows that Christ has recapitulated human nature in himself and conquered evil on our behalf; it is from this narrative that Anselm has undertaken a (by no means final or exclusive) reduction of the tale, in order better to grasp the inner necessity of its sacrificial logic.

returning to him the superabundance of the "initial" gift of himself — a motion in whose beauty humanity is allowed to partake through the condescension of the Incarnation. Christ's laying-down of all he is belongs already to the divine love, as its Filial intonation. And so Christ does not effect a mere posterior reconciliation of justice and mercy: they do not constitute a dialectical opposition sublated in the atonement. Nor do they possess only a mysterious and transcendent unity in God's unsearchable depths, leaving to the human vantage merely a sense of one relenting before the pressure of the other. In the God-man, within human history, God's justice and mercy are shown to be one thing, one action, life, and being. When humanity fails to take up the creature's side of the divine covenant, the righteousness that condemns is also the love that restores by surmounting even human disobedience and creation's lawful subjection to death, to take up the human side on humanity's behalf. The divine address and human response are both present in the Word made flesh, just as God's honor and God's condescension are revealed in a single life handed over to the Father. It is the human understanding of justice and honor that proves inadequate, while the unbroken trinitarian action of God in every aspect of salvation testifies to a divine justice whose inner mystery is infinite mercy. In the end, Lossky's critique of Cur Deus Homo, by virtue of its frank brevity, is the most telling. He oversimplifies Anselm's position frightfully, he is concerned more with Anselm's exaggerated emphasis of one soteriological motif than with the actual structure of Anselm's argument, and his objections reflect many of the suspicions that pass back and forth between Eastern and Western theology (in particular, the Orthodox distrust of "juridical" categories of thought); but he is also quite correct to be suspicious of a narrative that, for instance, says so little about the Resurrection and its place in the 'necessity' of the Incarnation. But while one may prefer the richer narrative complexity of Athanasius's De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, one should also acknowledge that, for Anselm, it is just this complexity that is not desirable. Anselm is already situated in the Christian theological tradition, he already knows that Christ has recapitulated human nature in himself and conquered evil on our behalf; it is from this narrative that Anselm has undertaken a (by no means final or exclusive) reduction of the tale, in order better to grasp the inner necessity of its sacrificial logic. He pauses for one critical moment, to contemplate the cross as the grave inner meaning (or inevitability) of God's condescension. If Anselm's account appears to leave the resurrection and ascension as a mere coda (which indeed is a failing), it also corrects a certain occasional aporia in patristic thought, insofar as the latter often fails to say how the resurrection vindicates — rather than merely reverses — Christ's self-oblation. Easter is the triumph not of an indestructible otherworldly savior, but of the entire motion of Christ's sacrificial life of devotion to the

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Father; the overthrow of death and the devil is accomplished by the peaceful self-donation of one whose life fulfills entirely the vocation of humanity to offer itself in love to the God who gives all things in love. While one might legitimately ask for some fuller account of Easter than Anselm provides, two considerations should be kept in mind: first, it is in keeping with the critical concentration of Anselm's method that he should limit himself to seeking out that tragic condition that makes the cross the necessary way of reconciliation; and, second, Anselm's reading of the cross would be impossible but in the light of the Resurrection, inasmuch as he understands the sacrifice of the cross to be, at the last, essentially aneconomic (Christ's death purchases nothing, but his obedience to the Father calls forth a blessing), and so his is a reading obviously governed by the knowledge that the Father does not retain the price of Christ's blood, as a ransom (in the human sense of a tribute given in exchange for mercy), but rather raises Christ up freely, according to the non-retributive nature of his justice. As for the absence of a clear ontological dimension in Anselm's account of the atonement, of any talk of the change wrought in human nature by salvation that might balance out its "forensic" and "fiduciary" grammar, it might be observed that Anselm already writes from within the precincts of the church's pneumatological life; and certainly none of the fathers suggests that the transformation of human nature occurs anywhere else: the newly refashioned human nature established in the Incarnation is found nowhere (this side of the eschaton) but in the social reality of the church, whose practices of love and disciplines of forgiveness already constitute the new life of the sanctified. This may not, in itself, prove a sufficient retort to the criticism offered, but again, given the very specific limits Anselm has set to his inquiry, it should at least render that criticism somewhat less devastating. Of course, Lossky's great complaint against Cur Deus Homo (and something similar, in all likelihood, underlies most of the complaints brought against it) is simply that it paints an inappropriate and distasteful picture of God, by attributing to him an ability to take infinite offense at an insult to his honor, a vindictive desire for a correspondingly infinite restitution, and a need for a juridical recompense to appease his wrath; he objects to the idea of a God who requires the violence of sacrifice to restore his order. But this impression of Anselm's argument—ultimately so unbalanced as simply to be wrong — can arise from only the most cavalier inattention to a wealth of details. One, for instance, that perhaps all too often escapes notice is the ambiguity present in the very word "honor": what it means in the context of Anselm's age is susceptible of debate, but it should not, certainly, be taken as referring to an infinite reserve of divine pride that prevents God from forgiving unreservedly. If Anselm's usage in any

Anselm already writesfrom within the precincts of the church's pneumatological life; and certainly none of the fathers suggests that the transformation of human nature occurs anywhere else: the newly refashioned human nature established in the Incarnation is found nowhere (this side of the eschaton) but in the social reality of the church, whose practices of love and disciplines of forgiveness already constitute the new life of the sanctified.

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sense reflects the jurisprudence and ethos of mediaeval feudalism, it is One need not look as well to observe that in that context, "honor" most certainly signified beyond the text to more than a sense either of one's personal dignity or of one's social see that, for position, but referred also to a principle undergirding the rather fragile Anselm, God's governance of an entire social and economic order, sustained through honor is an exchange of various benefits and pledged loyalties; one's honor lay inseparable from not only in the obeisance one received, but in the social covenant one his goodness, upheld and to which one was obliged (ideally, at any rate). In any which imparts life event, one need not look beyond the text to see that, for Anselm, God's and harmony to honor is inseparable from his goodness, which imparts life and harcreation, the mony to creation, the rejection of which is necessarily death; as the rejection of which source of all creation's beauty and order, it is the righteousness that is necessarily cannot contradict itself or will anything amiss; it is justice, not wrath, death. and its manifestation is the rectitudo of God's universal government, its Tightness and moral beauty. One might also note how little there is in Anselm's thought concerning expiation or reparation, except in the sense of the reparation of a nature deprived of its original beauty and dignity. Nor indeed is there any suggestion made in the Cur Deus Homo that God is appeased by the "penal" death of Christ (Harnack is quite right about this, though disturbingly wrong about its implications). Anselm certainly depicts Christ's sacrifice as an offering that, in the end, "secures" forgiveness by satisfying the demands of divine righteousNor indeed is ness, on our behalf; but, then, how far does his version of the story of there any salvation actually differ on this matter from its more remote precursuggestion made sors? When Lossky uses Athanasius to call attention to the divergence in the Cur Deus of Anselm's model from its patristic predecessors, even though he Homo that God knows that many of the themes of the Cur Deus Homo are already to be is appeased by the found in De Incarnatione, there is some slight irony, it must be said. At "penal" death of one juncture in De Incarnatione, Athanasius, lamenting the loss of Christ (Harnack humanity's original beauty in the fall, argues that redemption was is quite right necessitated by God's agathotes (consistency, righteousness, honor, about this, though glory), which requires the maintenance and execution of his twin disturbingly decrees that, on the one hand, humanity will share in the divine life wrong about its and that, on the other, death must fall upon the transgressors of holy implications). law; to prevent the second decree from defeating the first, guilt must be removed from humanity through the exhaustion of the power of death in Christ's sacrifice. The hold death had upon us was just, says Athanasius, and it would be monstrous were God's decree that sin
•I Q

shall merit death to prove false; but it would be unworthy of God's goodness were he to let his handiwork come to nothing. Nor could
16. For a treatment of Anselm's theory that brings this point out with particular clarity and beauty, see Michel Corbin, Prière et Raison de la Foi (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1992), pp. 207-328. 17. Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, Vll.i-iv. 18. Ibid., Vl.ii-iii. 19. Ibid., Vl.iv-x.

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God simply accept our repentance as just recompense for our offense, as repentance would neither suffice to guard God's integrity nor serve to restore our wounded nature. In his body, then, Christ exhausts the wrath of the law, and offers satisfaction for our debt. Already present in Athanasius's account is the very story whose inner shape Anselm will, in a moment of intense critical reflection, attempt to grasp as necessity. Already, in Athanasius's theology, one finds the language of punishment used, but subordinate to the narrative of complete and unmerited forgiveness, and the language of law employed to describe the depths of an infinite mercy. As it is with Athanasius, so it is with Anselm. Far from an arbitrary arrangement of jurisprudential transactions calculated to effect a forensic reconciliation between humanity and God, the atonement as Cur Deus Homo depicts it is an assumption of solidarity with us by an infinitely merciful God in order to fulfill in us that beatitude intended in our creation, by accomplishing on our behalf what, in our impotence to do good and in his unwillingness to employ unjust means, could never otherwise have been brought to pass.

The atonement as

Cur Deus Homo

depicts it is an assumption of solidarity with us by an infinitely merciful God in order to fulfill in us that beatitude intended in our creation, by accomplishing on IV our behalf what, in our impotence The rigidity, the dryness, that even Anselm's Western critics feel to do good and in moved to deplore in the Cur Deus Homo is no aspect of the text itself, I his unwillingness would contend; rather it is an impression only, one bred by a largely to employ unjust illusory familiarity with Anselm's argument. If, as has been said, means, could Anselm has often been the victim of his own clarity of thought, it is never otherwise nevertheless the case that it is a clarity frequently concealing an essen- have been brought tial paradoxicality: God's order is preserved through his own assump- to pass.

tion of the conditions of estrangement; his mercy is imparted in the acceptance of Christ's voluntary death; the highest law of God's inviolable justice is boundless mercy; God's sovereignty necessitates his condescension; the goodness that condemns the sinner requires that sin be forgiven. This is not because Anselm sees God as divided against himself: rather, he has come to see that Christ's sacrifice is ultimately not an economic gesture (meant to insure the stability of a universe founded upon unyielding laws of equity and retribution), but belongs instead to the infinite motion of God's love, in which justice and mercy are one and can never be divided one from the other; he has recognized Christ's act as an infinite motion towards the Father, belonging to the mystery of the Trinity, simply surpassing all the arrangements of debt
20. Ibid., Vll.iii 21. Ibid., Vlll.iv; X.v. 22.Ibid.,\X.iAi. 23. CDH II, p. i. 24. CDH I, p. xii.

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and violence by which a sinful humanity seeks to calculate its "justice." Consequently, the only "necessity" Anselm demonstrates in the drama It must not be of salvation is an inward intelligibility to the mind grasped by faith. overlooked that for And indeed, in the end, Anselm merely restates the oldest patristic Anselm it is not model of atonement of all: that of recapitulation. Granted, he rejects Christ's suffering simple typological or aesthetic recapitulation, the correspondence of as such that is motifs shared between the narratives of the first and last Adam, but redemptive (the he is still concerned with recapitulation in essentially the same sense suffering merely as is Irenaeus: Christ takes up the human story and tells it correctly, by repeats sin's giving the correct answer to God's summons; in his life and death he endlessly repeated renarrates humanity according to its true pattern of loving obedience, and essential humility, and charity, thus showing all human stories of righteousness, gesture), but honor, and justice to be tales of violence, falsehood, and death; and in rather his allowing all of humanity to be resitua ted through his death within the innocence. retelling of their story, Christ restores them to communion with the God of infinite love who created them for his pleasure. And when Christ recapitulates humanity, he shows the gravity and terror inherent in posing his form over against the violence of the world of sin; he "satisfies" all the requirements of that form by living out his obedience to the Father under the conditions imposed by a sinful order of power, which conditions bring about his death. It must not be overlooked that for Anselm it is not Christ's suffering as such that is redemptive (the suffering merely repeats sin's endlessly repeated and essential gesture), but rather his innocence; he recapitulates humanity by passing through all the violences of sin and death, rendering to God the obedience that is his due, and so transforms the event of his death The idea of into an occasion of infinite blessings for those to whom death is sacrificial penance condign. Christ's death does not even effect a change in God's attitude is subverted from towards humanity; God's attitude never alters: he desires the salvation within: as Christ's of his creatures, and will not abandon them even to their own cruelties. sacrifice belongs Even here, then, in the text that most notoriously expounds a penal not to an economy logic of atonement, the idea of sacrificial penance is subverted from of credit and within: as Christ's sacrifice belongs not to an economy of credit and exchange, but to exchange, but to the trinitarian motion of love, it is given entirely as the trinitarian gift, and must be seen as such: a gift given when it should not have motion of love. needed to be given again, by God, and at a price that we, in our sin, imposed upon him. As an entirely divine action, Christ's sacrifice merely draws creation back into the eternal motion of divine love for which it was fashioned. The violence that befalls Christ belongs to our order of justice, an order overcome by his sacrifice, which is one of peace. And simply by continuing to be the God he is, and through the sheer "redundancy" of the good that flows from the infinite gesture of his love — which is a generosity in excess of all calculable economy —
25. CDH, I, pp. iii-iv, II, p. viii.

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God undoes the sacrificial logic of our bondage; his gift remains a gift to the end, despite all our efforts to convert it into debt. This is the unanticipated grace of Easter. Whether one chooses, of course, to follow Nietzsche in the Genealogy of Morals and see the redundancy of Christ's merit, inasmuch as it avails for salvation, as an infinite multiplication of debt depends upon one's prejudices. As for Anselm, though, the primordiality of the gift is the truth of Christ's paschal donation: the gift God gives in creation continues to be given again, ever more fully, in defiance of all rejection, disobedience, injustice, violence, and indifference; there is no division between justice and mercy in God, on Anselm's account, because both belong already to the giving of this gift:
The mercy of God, which seemed to you to be lost when we were considering God's justice and humanity's sin, we find now to be so great and so in accord with justice, that neither a greater nor a more just can be thought. For what possibly could be understood to be more merciful than that God the Father should say to the sinner — damned to eternal torment and having no means whereby to redeem himself—"Take my Only-begotten and offer him for yourself"; and that the Son himself should say, "Take me and redeem yourself"? For thus they speak, when they call us and lead us to Christian faith. What indeed were more just, than that he—to whom is given a price exceeding every debt, if only given with the love which he is truly owed — should put aside every debt?26

The gift exceeds, and annuls every debt. Inasmuch as this is the story that Anselm repeats, elaborates, probes, and proclaims, he certainly has his place among thefathers.

The gift, which is the very language of love, precedes, exceeds, and annuls every debt. Inasmuch as this is the story that Anselm repeats, elaborates, probes, and proclaims, he certainly has his place among the fathers. D

26. CDH, II, p. xx. Trans, mine. [Misericordiam vero dei quae tibi perire videbatur, cum iustitiam dei et peccatum hominis considerabamus, tarn magnam tamque concordem iustitiae invenimus, ut nec maior nec iustior cogitari possit. Nempe quid misericordius intelligi valet, quam cum peccatori tormentis aeternis damnato et unde se redimat non habenti deus pater dicit: accipe unigenitum meum et da pro te; et ipse filius: toile me et redime te? Quasi enim hoc dicunt, quando nos ad Christianam fidem vocant et trahunt. Quid etiam iustius, quam ut ille cui datur pretium maius omni debito, si debito datur affectu, dimittat omne debitum?]

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