Cur Deus Homo I.11-15

(Continuing from the excursus on CDH I.6-10)

“By what reason or necessity did God become man and by His death, just as we believe and profess, return life to the world when He was able to do this through another person, either angelic or human, or by His will alone?” (CDH I.1)

The argument of Cur Deus Homo begins in earnest in chapter eleven.  It’s possible to stumble through the first ten chapters and still more or less understand St. Anselm’s book, but anyone not understanding these next few chapters will be absolutely incapable of understanding the rest of the book.  This is where the detail work begins.  Errors at this stage are fatal.  Anyone looking to take down the argument should start taking careful notes from here on out.

Anselm is going to propose a theory of justice–often called the Satisfaction Theory, for reasons that are about to be very obvious–and then use that theory to create a dilemma.  In the technical sense a dilemma is a set of mutually exclusive propositions A and B that exhaust all the possible options.  You can only choose one of the two options and you must choose.  For the rest of the book Anselm plans to exploit that dilemma to prove the necessity of the Incarnation.  The way he does this is a little strange, but we’ll comment on that as the argument goes along.

Importantly, at each step Anselm will be excluding things by a process of negation not unlike the via negativa of natural theology.  My students typically find this confusing, since they spend a long time waiting for Anselm to assert something.  When the argument has run its course, it still doesn’t feel like he has.  That’s because Anselm and Boso have already stated the conclusion; the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity is the unique solution to this problem.  There’s no murder-mystery component to the book.  I keep hammering the main question in block quotations for a reason: Boso proposes that the salvation of the human race could have been accomplished another way and Anselm’s answer is necessarily going to be in the form of a negative.  Boso and my students just need to do a better job of keeping the end in mind and tracking all the negations–negations that, in the end, all add up to an assertion, just like more familiar arguments like the First Way of St. Thomas.

How do we end up in this situation where, according to St. Anselm, the only possible remedy is the Incarnation of Christian faith?  Let’s take a look.

A Theory of Justice

Anselm begins by defining sin as an injustice against God.  There’s nothing surprising about this; there’s a strong legal component to the Catholic tradition reaching all the way back to the Mosaic Law, Jesus speaks of the just and the wicked throughout his parables, and St. Paul spends famous chapters in his letters addressing our justification by the grace of God.  Anselm’s favorite Father of the Church, St. Augustine, defines sin as a deed, word, or desire contrary to Divine Law.  Justice is central to the faith.

So it is a modest step when Anselm reframes sin according to the classical, pre-Socratic definition of justice: to render to another his or her due.  Whatever other complications we need to get involved in to understand justice–and there are many!–this is the starting kernel.  Plato, Aristotle, Augustine–they all have different approaches to justice but this same starting point.

This is the pattern of all justice: identify what is due to someone, what is owed to them, what is theirs.  Give that, or refrain from taking it, and you are just.  This is justice.  Deprive it or refuse to return it, and you are unjust.  This is injustice.  What is the just thing will vary in myriad ways but this gives the basic pattern to all justice, from giving back someone’s jacket to paying for your movie ticket to making war reparations and passing good laws and beyond.

Justice before God is no different.  We identify what we owe Him and we pay it.  If we do, we are just.  If we do not, we are unjust. This injustice against God is what we mean by sin.  Every sin is an injustice against God.

“And so sin is nothing other than not to render the owed (thing) to God.”

(Non est itaque aliud peccare, quam Deo non reddere debitum–CDH I.11)

Now there are many things we could pursue here, including a discussion of whether and how justice with God differs from justice between humans.  Anselm assumes without argument that the two justices are univocal, at least in this most basic kernel of reddere suum cuique.  That seems a safe assumption; if not, then it will be difficult to say that God is just at all.  If this is the most basic pattern of justice from which the rest of justice springs and it does not apply to God then how will any other aspect of justice be said of God?  We’ll be forced, following the logic of Proslogion, to abandon the idea that justice is a perfection, since it would be absent from “that than which nothing greater can be thought.”  St. Anselm’s friends at Laon might not mind that argument, but St. Anselm himself would have to betray too many of the aforementioned aspects of the Catholic tradition to make it work.

Instead of this, Anselm is concerned with another dimension of the theory of justice: what to do when an injustice has happened.  Any time someone deprives another of their due, an injustice has happened and the universe is in some small way disordered.  To restore justice, to restore that small slice of order to the universe, requires that the unjust act be undone.

In the simplest sense of playground justice, that means giving back the toy you took from the sweet little boy playing under the monkey bars.  How much of parenting consists in overseeing and regulating countless such justice transactions!  Even as the justice arrangements become more complicated, this basic pattern remains: that the thing taken must be returned.  A jacket is stolen or a wage is withheld; justice is not done until the jacket is returned and things resume their proper order.  What about things that cannot be returned, because they are destroyed in the process or are immaterial in the first place?  Perhaps I can try to restore someone’s good name (perhaps!), but how will I restore to life the man I have killed?  For the moment we can leave that as an open question; perhaps there are some debts that can never be repaid and justice in these cases is impossible; perhaps a simple eye-for-an-eye is necessary; perhaps the recompense need only be proportional or the rules change when it comes to destruction-injustices or something else besides.

What Anselm cares about, what he builds his entire argument around, is a secondary harm caused by the base injustice.  If “being deprived of what is his (or her) own” is the primary disorder of injustice, a secondary injustice always comes with it.  This is the collateral damage of injustice, that it inflicts some insult or injury upon the victim.  The victim’s place in the universe is disturbed; the complex of relations are out of whack.

Anselm’s word for this is dishonor.  In every injustice, the victim is deprived not only of something owed to them, but also their honor.

This is a challenging theory to engage for our contemporary society.  It’s not quite correct to say that we have no such concept in our society, but certainly we have no shared sense of it as a good around which we organize our common life.  There is for us only a messy collision of conflicting accounts of honor, or simple apathy before the question of honor, and maybe–just maybe–a glimmer of awareness that it is not so in every culture in human history.  Whether to our credit or shame, ours is a post-honor culture.  Perhaps that puts us in a better position to critique Cur Deus Homo.  Perhaps it is a serious disadvantage.

For good or ill, St. Anselm’s theory of justice depends crucially on this secondary harm to the victim’s honor.  When any injustice is done the victim suffers a corresponding dishonor.  That means that there are two disturbances to the order of the universe and both must be rectified to restore order.  In the case of the primary disorder, we restore the thing taken away (the jacket, the wage, etc.).  In the case of the secondary disorder, we must make satisfaction.

What Is Satisfaction?

Years ago, when teaching Cur Deus Homo for the first time on a half-whim, I made one of the funniest mistakes of my teaching career.  I knew I wanted my students to understand St. Anselm’s basic argument, but I didn’t want to burden them with too much reading.  I assigned them two key chapters of the book, twenty and twenty-one, without any comment or preparation.  The next class I began our lecture/discussion and launched into the so-called “Satisfaction Theory.”

My students were not merely baffled–they were disturbed.  At first I thought maybe I was just having an off-day, or that they were.  But as the minutes went by we all became increasingly baffled and disturbed.  It was a classic “What are you talking about?” “I don’t know; what are you talking about?” stand-off.  Finally, after maybe ten minutes of painfully futile class, it dawned on me with comedic horror: they thought satisfaction meant to derive pleasure from something, Rolling Stones-style.  Talk about making an argument incomprehensible!

Satisfaction in this context does not mean to like something or derive pleasure from it.  It comes, simply enough, from the Latin phrase satis facere, “to make enough.”  In St. Anselm it means to make things right, to make up for something.  We still have it as an archaism in English, when in period pieces the aggrieved noble strikes someone with the white gloves and “demands satisfaction!”  We also still have an echo of it in our simple playground ethics example of the boy who takes a toy from his playmate: not only must the child return the toy, but as any good parent will insist, he must apologize.  Things are not set right until an apology has been made.  This is our modern version of satisfaction in the way Anselm means it.  It also helps explain why we parents are so adamant that our children “mean it!”

For St. Anselm satisfaction is the act which restores lost honor, the secondary harm involved in every injustice.  The disorder of injustice remains unresolved until not only the thing taken is restored but also the disruption of the victim’s place in the universe is addressed.  Without satisfaction, things are not made right.

Anselm runs a brief analysis of satisfaction at the end of chapter eleven in which he identifies three features of the act that satisfies or restores the lost honor.  This is the most important paragraph in the book.  Each of these three features of satisfaction will play a pivotal role in future chapters.

First, satisfaction by definition is more than the initial injustice.  You restore the toy, the jacket, the lost wage, what have you, and more.  Anselm does not define how much more or explore options on kinds of things that could count as more, only that, on account of the insult borne (pro contumelia illata), something more must be given.  There lurks a complex problem of scale and commensurability and quantifying harms that threatens to make this part of the theory unmanageable.  When he revisits this part of the account in the context of what we owe God, Anselm has a way to eliminate this problem like an ugly term canceling out in a difficult math problem.  More on that later.

Second, satisfaction must be pleasing to the offended party.  It’s not enough to restore a stolen jacket and then hand over a fistful of pocket lint or used tissues (set aside bizarre hypotheticals where that is somehow pleasing to a compulsive lint-collector or a biochemist).  The aggrieved must want the thing being offered.  Anselm is not clear if this is purely subjective pleasure in the thing or measured against a rational actor or some other objective standard.  Could someone be irrational in refusing an offer of satisfaction that should be pleasing?  Unclear, at least if we restrict ourselves to human affairs.  Luckily Anselm already has access to arguments that God is infinitely reasonable so this problem cannot sidetrack him in the future.

The third feature of satisfaction is that it must be different than what is already owed for other reasons.  This is not the same thing as the more feature.  The more feature is defined in terms of the thing taken away; the different feature is defined in terms of any pre-existing arrangements from  before the injustice.  Imagine a local baron who betrays his oath to his lord and tries to make satisfaction by offering unswerving loyalty and the uninterrupted supply of all owed taxes.  That’s not satisfaction, that’s the status quo ante!  Students promising to do all their homework if they can get an extension on an assignment or children promising to obey their parents and keep their room clean as long as Dad doesn’t find out are all violating this principle of different.  They already owe that!  Satisfaction has to come from resources not already under commitment elsewhere.  It has to be something that really and truly belongs to the debtor, something which he or she can truly give.

That’s it for chapter eleven.  Anselm simply defines sin as injustice against God, gives an account of justice that involves a secondary harm of dishonor, and briefly analyses the act of satisfaction that fixes that secondary harm.  Applied to the argument unfolding, that means that sinners, having committed an injustice against God, must make satisfaction in order to restore justice and repair the resultant disorder.  Whatever that act of satisfaction is, it must be more than what was taken away, pleasing to God the aggrieved, and different than what the sinner already owes God.

Now Anselm shows all the problems that flow from this account of justice.

Injustice as Disorder: The Options

A systematic inadequacy mars Anselm’s presentation at this stage.  It only becomes clear as the chapters unfold that he intends to create a dilemma.  He moves without clear, summarizing transitions from one horn of the dilemma to the other, only allowing the reader to catch up toward the end and only by briefest summary.  Things could have been much clearer with a re-write in the opening lines of chapter twelve or in his setup to chapter eleven.

This is the dilemma Anselm begins to set up in chapter twelve: there are two and only two ways to restore lost honor and repair the secondary harm of an injustice.  Either the debtor freely restores it through satisfaction, or he has it done against his will in punishment.  The rest of the book revolves around showing the inadequacy of each of these two options.  First he will pursue the punishment horn and later come back to the satisfaction horn.

But before that analysis can begin Boso attacks the dilemma itself by proposing a third option.  Actually Anselm steals the words from Boso’s mouth and gets him to assent to them–not the finest artistic moment in the book, for sure.  Boso himself will raise the issue in future chapters, making this inelegance all the more striking.  It contributes in part to the confusion surrounding the dilemma.

Set aside St. Anselm’s artistic short-comings for now.  Boso proposes, as well might many a student, a third option for restoring lost honor and re-ordering the universe: forgiveness.  Why doesn’t God just forgive the sinner?  It’s a challenge particularly sharp for Anselm, since the Catholic faith does seem to be built around God’s infinite mercy and the forgiveness of sins.  Boso comes back with variations on this challenge throughout the book; when he does so he is at his best as a dialogue partner.

Anselm rejects this option of divine forgiveness with remarkable vigor, leading many, learned and unlearned alike, to criticize him for preferring divine justice to divine mercy.  This reaction misses the forest for the trees.  The full account won’t come until chapters twenty-four and twenty-five, but we can say this for now: the meta-theoretical point of Cur Deus Homo is to give an account of what it means for God to forgive.  It’s not that Anselm rejects divine mercy; on the contrary he is trying to solve the riddle of how God can be both just and merciful.  That turns out to be the driving idea of the entire argument as well as one which motivates St. Anselm’s entire career.

St. Anselm raises this issue early in Proslogion, written some twenty years prior to Cur Deus Homo.  If God–aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit–possesses all perfections, and justice is a perfection, and mercy is a perfection, then He must possess both.  He must be perfectly just and perfectly merciful, just as He is perfectly wise and perfectly powerful and all the other divine attributes.  But justice and mercy do not appear to be the kinds of things that can co-exist like that.  In our experience mercy appears to be a restraint or limiter on justice; the criminal deserves this punishment but we spare him and don’t give him what he deserves.  So how can God be both?  Do we have to prefer one to the other?

Proslogion 9 states the problem:

For even though it be difficult to understand how Your mercy is not absent from Your justice, it is nonetheless necessary to believe since in no way whatsoever is it turned against what flows out from a goodness which is nothing without justice, nay truly it concords with justice.  Now if You are merciful because You are supremely good, and You are not supremely good except because You are supremely just, then truly You are merciful because You are supremely just.

Help me, just and compassionate God, whose light seek; help me that I may understand what I say!

(Nam etsi difficile sit intelligere, quomodo misericordia tua non absit a tua iustitia, necessarium tamen est credere, quia nequamquam adversatur quod exundat ex bonitate, quae nulla est sine iustitia, immo vere concordat iustitiae. Nempe si misericors es, quia es summe bonus, et summe bonus non es, nisi quia es summe iustus: vere idcirco es misericors, quia summe iustus es.

Adiuva me, iuste et misericors Deus, cuius lucem quaero, adiuva me, ut intelligam quod dico!)

He goes on to resolve this problem only in the most general terms, attributing justice to God in one way and mercy in another.  Beyond referring to them as streams flowing from the same hidden source, St. Anselm does not settle the issue in Proslogion.  It is only decades later, writing Cur Deus Homo at the height of his powers, that St. Anselm gives a complete theoretical account of the union of these two inscrutable attributes.

This confusion about justice and mercy is the overarching obstacle to understanding Anselm’s argument in Cur Deus Homo.  It is always to be born in mind that, when all is said and done, Anselm will insist powerfully on the mercy of God.  But what form that mercy takes is, at this point, unclear.  The early stages of his argument make it seem that he is ruling out mercy but that is only an intermediate step on the way to his final position.  Much more on this in the final chapters of the book.

Anselm restates Boso’s proposal of forgiveness in terms of what it is replacing in the scheme: punishment.  Since Boso proposes forgiveness as an alternative to punishment we can redefine it as “to refrain from punishment.”  Anselm then delivers three crushing reductiones ad absurdum to the idea that God “forgive” in the absence of both punishment and satisfaction.

If the problem of injustice is a problem of disordering the universe, then the solution to injustice must re-order it.  But to forgive without punishment doesn’t simply fail to do this; a number of new, disordered absurdities arise.

  1. Guilty = Not Guilty
  2. Freedom?
  3. Sin = God

The first absurdity makes a mockery of justice.  To forgive without punishment or satisfaction means that the sinner and the non-sinner stand the same before God.  (similiter erit apud Deum peccanti et non peccanti).  The words just and unjust, guilty and innocent, are voided of their meaning.  Not only does that destroy a broader theory of justice; it also undermines the very terms of Cur Deus Homo and the problem it purports to address.  Good news, everyone!  Turns out the human race doesn’t need saving after all!

The second absurdity makes a mockery of freedom.  The just will stand under law and its penalties, but the wicked will not.  They will be free of law and its penalties, in which case injustice will actually be more free than justice.  Admittedly this point is more difficult to see based on modern notions of freedom.  Anyone can see a way in which the rules-breakers are “more free,” since they are practically-speaking not subject to the rules they break.  But true freedom, the freedom of the sons of God, is the capacity to attain the perfection of our last end, our beatitude in the Divine Light.  On Boso’s account that would no longer be true–only slaves would reach their last end, and freedom would be a force of ultimate destruction.  If God is free, then we are not really like Him after all; if we are really like Him then God is not free.  This cannot be.

The third absurdity touches directly upon the divine nature and shows a flash of St. Anselm’s sense of humor.  In all existence there is only one thing that stands under no law in absolute freedom: God.  God orders without being ordered by another.  But if sin stands under no law in absolute freedom, then sin is God, or at least similar to God!  It’s precisely by sinning that we would fulfill our God-likeness, and every scrap of natural theology from an argument like Proslogion would be thrown out the window.

These three absurdities show that Boso’s idea that God could secure justice by forgiving out of mercy is impossible.  Thus Boso’s attempt to break the dilemma by adding a third option fails.  Forgiveness, far from being a third path to justice, ends up being an alternative to justice.  Forgiveness as Boso suggests it reduces to “do nothing about the disorder of the universe,” fixing the problem by pretending it is no problem in the first place.

Boso, as alarmed as any of my students and likely most readers of St. Anselm, attempts to rally with a worry that God is a hypocrite when He commands us to forgive sins.  How can He insist that we forgive when He Himself “cannot?”  But this is no worry at all, given the argument above.  We simply keep “forgiveness” in its restated form of “not to punish.”  God commands us not to punish others for their sins because it is not our job to do so.  This is not hypocrisy, any more than it is hypocrisy when I tell my son not to punish my daughter for her misdeed, or I tell my other students to stay out of it when I deal with a recalcitrant student.

[The final paragraphs of chapter twelve are a discussion of the grammar and logic of negations and how they relate to divine attributes like omnipotence.  It’s a theoretical digression justifying his previous moves in the chapter and need not detain us here.]

Anselm, seldom satisfied until the dead horse is thoroughly whipped, moves on in chapter thirteen to another reason God cannot forgive–i.e., do nothing about sin.  Based on the above, doing nothing would be to tolerate an injustice.  Not just any injustice, but the supreme injustice of the universe: that the creature in all its radical dependency refuse to render to God His due and then refuse to make it right afterward!  To do nothing about this injustice would compromise more divine attributes.  Either God is unaware of the injustice (there goes omniscience), sees the injustice but cannot do anything about it (omnipotence), or can do something about it and tolerates it.  This is nothing other than to become party to the injustice, to become one with the wicked and join them in the unjust act.  God would cease to be just; indeed He would be supremely unjust.  As Anselm says, this is most wicked even to think (quod nefas est vel cogitare).

Anselm has turned back Boso’s challenge to the dilemma by reducing his proposed third option to the ashes of absurdity.  Forcefully removing forgiveness from the argument seems counter to the tradition that St. Anselm sets out to defend and leaves the reader in an uncomfortable place.  Before resolving this problem, Anselm intensifies it by pursuing his analysis of the first horn of the dilemma: punishment.

The Purpose of Punishment

Chapters fourteen and fifteen on the nature and purpose of punishment are the most profound and difficult chapters in Cur Deus Homo.  Each year I teach them only in simplified summary to my students.  Not only would it take a full week to go over the chapters in detail; in the end my students would not understand the ideas anyway.  I propose it as a black hole challenge that they simply need to meditate on for many years.

The primary purpose of this stage of the dialogue is to formalize the dilemma mentioned above.  For punishment to serve as an alternative to satisfaction, it must do the same thing that satisfaction does: restore lost honor.  So how does it do that?

Anselm’s reply is a truly beautiful and challenging line of thinking that unifies all the major concepts of the book so far.  He has already relied on a connection between punishment and justice to work his reductions to absurdity in chapter twelve; now he makes this connection a little clearer by returning to a point he raised briefly in chapter eleven: what exactly to we owe God in the first place?

“The entire will of a rational creature ought to be subject to the will of God”

Omnis voluntas rationalis creaturae subjecta debet esse voluntati Dei. (CDH I.11)

This is what the sinner takes from God: the ordering of wills to Him.  Sin is a rejection of divine dominion over the universe, a usurping that places the creature at the top of the governance pyramid as previously mentioned in the reductions to absurdity.  It is an attempt to take eternal life by force.

The punishment for sin–hell–is equal to it:

“Just as man by sinning seizes what is God’s, so God by punishing takes away what is man’s.”

Sicut homo peccando rapit quod Dei est, ita Deus puniendo aufert quod hominis est. (CDH I.14)

What God takes from the sinner is not yet the sinner’s property–no man has eternal life of his own–but it is his or hers in trust, a thing promised by God.  What would have been the sinner’s reward is lost, and divine dominion of the universe is re-asserted.  The one who would not be subject is made to be subject, if quite against their will.  It is the inevitable outcome of a child’s power struggle–“You’re not the boss of me!”; “Oh really?”

But notice that this is precisely what is owed to God in the first place: submission to divine will.  And if it is the giving of what is owed to God, then it is justice.  So far so good.  But how does that restore lost honor?  Honor is the secondary harm and the punishment of hell seems only to address the primary harm in this case.  We need a middle term here.

Anselm solves this by responding to another worry raised by Boso: how can God lose His honor in the first place?  How can God lose anything in the first place?  This appears to be a fatal flaw in using human transactional justice as our starting point for thinking about divine justice.  God can’t change at all–He’s infinite, He’s omnipotent, but most importantly He’s simple.  Creatures can no more deprive God of what is His than they can kill Him.  Every Augustinian take on divine attributes, everything St. Anselm writes in Proslogion, seems to cut against the very possibility of doing an injustice to God in the first place.

To solve this Anselm makes a distinction, common enough in most cultures and societies, about honor.  On the one hand honor and glory just mean reputation, the public opinion someone happens to have.  In this sense of the word we tend to be highly suspicious of honor, since reputations can be undeserved and people are liars and who cares what people think about us anyway.  That seems to be the dominant sense of honor in modern American society.  On the other hand there’s a sense that honor is something true of the person regardless of what others think, something that no one can truly take away from anyone; indeed it seems to be something that gains a kind of tragic luster of appeal when it is denied and woe to those who deny it.  This is the sense of honor that seems to predominate in the Armed Forces subculture of modern American society although, as mentioned previously, our society is a jumble of contradictory thinking on this point.

This two-fold sense of honor is a feature in plenty of languages and cultures, including the Biblical sources St. Anselm uses, Greek and Hebrew.  Anselm employs something like a divine version of this distinction in chapter fifteen in a clever way to solve all his problems with punishment.

On the one hand if we take God’s honor to be a divine attribute on par with omniscience and omnipotence, then by definition it can never change or diminish.  It’s just as infinite and identified with His existence as any other divine attribute.  But the other sense of God’s honor, the one that corresponds with the reputation of the world?  That would be the very order of the universe itself.  The splendid order of creation–physical, moral, mystical–manifests and testifies to God’s grandeur in the way art reveals the artist and craft the craftsman.

This splendid order is an effect of the divine will.  Every being in the universe is governed by divine providence, lives under sets of laws in the beautiful hierarchy of existence.  Most things in the universe do the will of God and live out their place of order naturally.  Rocks and electrons always do the will of God.  So do rivers and clouds and grass and trees and slugs, cats and catfish, tigers and tiger lilies, horses both sea- and otherwise.  But with rational creatures it is different.  Rationals–angels and humans, and anything else if they happen to exist–act out this divine order of the universe freely.  They choose to do so, or they choose not to do so.  They can fail and they can refuse–sin and its disorder.  This sense of divine honor–the order of the universe–can change.

It is this order that is destroyed by sin and restored by punishment.  And if that order of the universe just is God’s honor, then Anselm has his middle term linking punishment to God’s honor.  By resolving the primary harm of divine injustice, punishment also restores the secondary harm: in God, the primary and secondary harms collapse into one and the same.  Call it the Collapse Theory of Justice and Honor, with a lovely correspondence to divine attributes and the convertibility of transcendentals.

[Anselm also has a wonderful meta-theoretical point here, harking back all the way to chapter three.  Justice is not the only “transcendental” of order; beauty is another.  This is a Grand Unified Theory of Justice and Beauty which gives space to the conveniens arguments that Boso rebuffed at the outset of the book.  I have probably another 3000-5000 words on these magnificent chapters, but that will have to be an excursus of another day or I’ll never get to the end of Anselm’s argument!]

In the larger argument, this means that punishment can do the same job that satisfaction can do.  It also means that God cannot truly lose His honor in any sense.  Punishment is the self-regulating of the moral order of the universe such that sinners always end up giving God His due whether they like it or not.  They can do it God’s way, or they can do it God’s way.

Now Where Do We Stand?

Ironically the conclusion of chapter fifteen seems deeply problematic for Anselm’s proposed dilemma.  Hasn’t he just proven that God could solve the justice problem of sin by consigning all sinners to hell forever?  The moral order of the universe would constantly be regulated, God’s honor would always be restored/preserved, justice would be done…right?  The satisfaction problem of sin would be fixed by the alternative, punishment.

Not so fast.  While this would address the immediate justice/honor problem, it would cause a new problem as well.  Better to say an old problem, since Anselm already mentioned it briefly in chapters four and five.  Wasn’t there something about equality with angels?

Angels.  That’s why God can’t send all humans to hell forever.  Angels.  Why?

Stay tuned.


3 thoughts on “Cur Deus Homo I.11-15

  1. While I appreciate the dialectical form of “Cur Deus Homo?,” the arguments always seemed needlessly obscure compared to similar arguments made by Aquinas. You have done a fantastic job of carrying the reader through these arguments made explicit, and your voice brings a welcome clarity to the topic at hand. Though this is my first time on your blog, it is certainly not the last!


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