Monday, July 13, 2015

A New Understanding of Anselm

Silverio Rebelo, Le Sacrifice du Christ chez Saint Anselm de Cantorbery, Le noveau visage du Cur Deus Homo, Irenikon, LXXXVII, 2014, 5-46

Summary of Silverio Rebelo:
"The Sacrifice of Christ according to Saint Anselm of Canterbury - A New Look at the Cur Deus Homo." According to the current interpretation of the Cur Deus Homo, Anselm explained the redemptive function of the sacrifice of the Cross in accordance with the basic perspective of the theory of vicarious satisfaction, the classic design of a legal-term replacement of the work of Christ. However, a closer examination reveals a theology of redemption of a very different type, deeply rooted in the patristic tradition, whose basic idea is that the sacrifice of Christ is a life-giving event. According to this interpretation of the mediation of Christ, faith allows believers to share in the perfection of his obedience unto death, which becomes the basis of their life of obedience to God. This leads to a veritable revolution in the understanding of the relationship between God and humanity: the sacrifice of Christ is not a condition of the grace of God for humankind, but a work that renews their way of living, and is an expression [of] God's unconditional will to save."

The article contains a discussion of merit in CDH 2.19 - is this the source of Aquinas's teaching on merit re: Christ's redemptive work in ST III? Or is it mediated by other sources? From a completely unrelated work? Wholly "original"?

The dominant understanding of Anselm's teaching among Latins, transmitted in academic settings, is probably familiar to those who have studied Latin theories of atonement. It is a representation put forth even by Joseph Ratzinger and Louis Bouyer. I assume that both read Anselm's CDH, either in Latin or in translation, so that their representation is confirmed by their reading of the primary source and not based solely on secondary sources. So why did the theological giants of yesteryear fail to get Anselm right (assuming this revised understanding of Cur Deus Homo is the correct one)? Did they lack access to the requisite scholarship for properly understanding how the terms satisfaction and honor were being used by Anselm, definitions that could not be uncovered until they were situated within the historical and theological culture in which they were used? Was it a problem of translation (and the interpretation that precedes translation)?