Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007
Anselm to you, bud!

The following began underneath my post last week entitled "Meanwhile, over in the C. of E." I'm turning it into a separate post here because of its importance.

Richard Vigilante says:

Josef Ratzinger, in Introduction to Christianity, says almost the same thing about the Anselm argument, especially insofar as it appears to suggest that the Father demanded the sacrifice of His Son as the price of our redemption. He writes of this "'satisfaction theory'" That "Even in its classical form it is not devoid of one-sidedness, but when considered in the vulgarized form that has to a great extent shaped the general unconsciousness, it looks cruelly mechanical and less and less feasible..."

Then after conceding that Anselm's argument can be read in ways that make it genuinely useful and enlightening and true to scripture, JR comments that despite any such virtues "the perfectly logical divine-cum-human legal system erected by Anselm distorts the perspectives and with its rigid logic can make the image of God appear in a sinister light."

Of course Introduction to Christianity is a work of the JR's youth, but he reissued it in 2000 with a new preface. And of course Ratzinger is a great fan of Guardini's. And Guardini in The Lord maintains the radical contingency of the Crucifixion, i.e. not merely that because of his omnipotence God could have saved us however he chose, but that even assuming the Incarnation, the crucifixion was not God's intent.

Christ began his mission, argues Guardini, by proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand and we must take him at his word, i.e, that his original intent was not to die but to establish his Kingdom by being accepted first by the Jews and then by all mankind, which acceptance would have triggered the renewal we now look for after the General Judgment.

The Crucifixion, in this view, was man's choice not God's and represents another terrible and consequential rebellion against God's plan. The Resurrection is not plan B, but plan C (The Garden being Plan A).I certainly don't mean to suggest that because Ratzinger likes Guardini and is repulsed by Anselm, that we must all share his views. But it does certainly suggest there is room in the Church for those who find the satisfaction theory as usually presented to be as unsatisfactory as it was innovative.

My reply:

The problem is that, for me, coming originally from a Jewish perspective, the Incarnation would have been, and would be now, utterly unintelligible without the Crucifixion and the satisfaction theory. Either we (mankind) were in such a state that radical divine action was needed, or we weren't, in which case Christ was just a nice preacher for those who like that sort of thing, and His Passion and Crucifixion, while dreadful, were unnecessary and unasked-for, and therefore not things for which my gratitude is necessarily due.

I admit to having nodded sheepishly while reading authors who say that the slightest sacrifice by Christ (a hangnail, say) would have been enough to redeem us. I guess I must say that right now, I don't find that view credible.

I would also note that if the Crucifixion is even a little bit contingent (never mind "radically"), then the guilt of those who brought it about is undeniable. With obvious consequences, no matter how, precisely, one apportions the blame. The better view, I think, is that there is no blame to be apportioned -- with the radical exception of every human person's debt of sin, original and actual. No blame that singles out one person or set of persons, I mean.
"Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and
wonders, and signs, which God did by him, in the midst of you, as you also know:
This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of
God, you by the hands of wicked men have crucified and slain." Acts 2:22-23
(Peter's first homily) (emphasis added)

"Then he said to them: O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all
things which the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these
things, and so to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the
prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were
concerning him." Luke 24:24-27 (road to Emmaus)

"And now, brethren, I know that you did it through ignorance, as did also
your rulers. But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all
the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
Be penitent,
therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out. That when the
times of refreshment shall come from the presence of the Lord, and he shall send
him who hath been preached unto you, Jesus Christ, Whom heaven indeed must
until the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken
by the mouth of his holy prophets, from the beginning of the world." Acts
3:17-21 (Peter's second homily) (emphasis added)
(All quotations from Douay-Rheims.)

Guardini in The Lord maintains the radical contingency of the Crucificxion, i.e. not merely that because of his omnipotence God could have saved us however he chose

How does Guardini answer Anselm's argument that this would have violated God's justice, just as not saving us at all would have violated His mercy?

proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand

Of course it was, and is: its gates were due to be opened by His death, and so they were, and are.

not to die but to establish his Kingdom by being accepted first by the Jews

Why do we acquiesce so easily in the generalization that "the Jews" did not accept Christ? Sure, there was a "divorce" between the Church and the Synagogue, and in the division of property, the Synagogue got to keep the word "Jews," no doubt b/c so many Gentiles had by that time come into the Church.

But, as Fr. Neuhaus pointed out in reviewing a book by -- that NR Orthodox Jewish guy, you know who I mean* -- the available evidence (which admittedly is thin) points to a huge decline in Jewish population between the end of the 1st century AD and the heyday of the Talmudic era. Of course many were killed in the war of 68-70 AD, and later, in the Bar Kochba revolt, but that many? A more likely explanation for the numbers is that the number of Jews who became Christians (and thus ceased to count towards the total number of Jews, according to rabbinic record-keeping) is far greater than we generally assume.

(*Your blogger means David Klinghoffer. The Neuhaus essay I'm referring to is here.)

P.S. I've added Rich's blog, A Christian Democracy, to my blogroll, under Catholic Blogs. Long overdue: sorry.