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The Necessity of Christ: Anselm and His Heirs

Brett Graham Fawcett
Anselms Cur Deus Homo is one of the most significant texts on the Atonement in
the history of theology, even though it is necessarily incomplete. It does not claim to be
an exhaustive explanation of the Christ event or of soteriology; it is explicitly situated as
a kind of apologetic thought experiment, setting out to prove that the Incarnation would
be necessary by reason rather than appealing to the fact that the Incarnation happens to
have occurred. Thus Anselm may seem to be a proponent of a kind of natural theology,
though Barth attempted to exonerate him of this charge; it is often stated that this, like his
well-known so-called ontological argument, is really more of a commentary on the Bible
than an actual attempt to start from scratch on common ground with unbelievers. R.W.
Southern argues that the book was a response to Jewish arguments against Christianity
(77-82), which is why it can be read as arguing the necessity of the Incarnation from the
thought-patterns of the Old Testament (that God must be honoured, and so on). Another
familiar historical claim is that the book represents the change in mentality as adult
baptisms became nearly nonexistent and other sacraments defined the Christian life;
unlike the epic conquering of Satan depicted in the baptismal liturgy and the atonement
theories of the Fathers, Anselm is influenced by the penitential system of the Middle
Ages and an account of how the Mass could serve as a sacrifice (Williams book is
dedicated to this thesis). Certainly many of those who criticize Anselm also want to
move away from any sacerdotal understanding of the Eucharist, which perhaps lends this
theory ammunition.

Anselm begins by arguing that humans are rational beings ordered towards
happiness in the contemplation of God; God is owed the rational submission of our wills,
and we find our happiness in that. Sin is failing to give God what we owe Him, or, put
differently, withholding from Him what belongs to HimHis honour, as Anselm puts it
and thus committing theft. We are therefore depriving ourselves of beatitude, and
moreover God must punish us, that is to say, reclaim the honour that is rightfully His
(which must, of necessity, consist in a kind of humiliation of us). In order to save us,
therefore, a representative on our behalf must fulfill what we owe Godperfect rational
submission of the willbut more than this: When an offense is committed against
someone, returning what was stolen is not enough; additional restitution is required, and
it must consist of something that was not initially owed. This mediator would need to be
perfectly human, including having a rational will, in order to fulfill this debt, but would
also need to be God, in order for the work to have infinite value (only such value could
pay for infinite offense). The Son becomes human in order to fulfill this obligation, and,
because death is a consequence of sin, the sinless One does not have to die, but chooses
to; because of its gratuity, it serves to make restitution on our behalf. From there, Anselm
can describe the hypostatic union in terms that are both faithful to the tradition and also to
the internal logic of his own argument.
The nuances of Anselms thought will be fleshed out in studying some theologians
who have responded to him, but a few points should be made right away. Firstly, I am
not convinced that his theory requires that the reader already subscribe to, or even
necessarily be familiar with, the Scriptures. If we begin with Anselms familiar definition
of God (explicated in his other works but certainly present here) as that than which

nothing greater can be conceived, much of the rest of his thought falls into place: We
would owe God our rational submission the way that we owe our devotion to the Good,
the True, and the Beautiful (and Anselms understanding of simplicity would make God
identical to these transcendentals), and since we obviously fail to always pursue the
Good, Anselms arguments in the first book of CDH would hold water. Where revelation
does seem necessary is in the idea that God can offer Himself satisfaction. This seems to
require the Trinity; but perhaps that is Anselms pointonly a Trinitarian God could save
It is often said that Anselm is rejecting the ransom theory of the Atonement
propounded by the Fathers in favour of an original theory. Actually, Anselm tells Boso
that he is simply restating what the Fathers said, and subsequent theologians have agreed;
Pannenberg sees him as developing the themes of Irenaeus (Systematic Theology 2, 402)
and Greene calls him the natural heir of Tertullian and Cyprian (67). The section that
supposedly refutes the ransom theory is Boso expressing his reservations about the idea
of the rights of the devil in I.7. But it is interesting that Anselm does not make this
argument, Boso does, as part of an overall expression of doubt that Anselm spends the
rest of the book responding to. To be sure, he does not specifically refute Boso, but he
does not affirm him in these doubts, either. Was Anselm simply guarding himself by
putting his doubts in a friends mouth? Perhaps. Even Boso, though, acknowledges that
there is a sense in which the devil is said to persecute human beings justly; he simply
explains this in a way which makes it clear that the persecution itself is still unjust.
(Anselm uses language of conquering the devil which has a Christus Victor feeling in

Anselms anthropology is an important element of the book which needs to be
considered if the whole (especially the Christological aspect) is to be understood. When
dealing with the question of why God cannot simply forgive by fiat, Anselm makes the
point (among others) that a rational nature can only be happy in fulfilling its telos of
contemplating God, and a forgiveness which does not bring this about curses humanity
to unhappiness (I.24). In fact, his anthropology is monastic: Bosos description of what
the fulfillment of humanitys debt to God would look like is a frank description of the
vocation of the monk. Moreover, in an extended section that is very odd to modern
minds, Anselm discusses whether or not humans were created in order to make up for the
angels that fell. Part of this is a Platonic love of order and numerical perfection which
permeates the books argument, but in a way, this section is the heart of the book: It
shows that humans are necessary to complete the city of God; we are essential to the
project of the universe, and our dignity is to be (at least) as elevated as the angels. 1 This
is why it would not be fitting for God to allow humanity to be completely lost; the GodMan is therefore a necessity. If what could be called the humanist aspect of CDH is not
appreciated, the rest of its argument will lose much of its force and beauty.
And beauty is important to it; Anselm compares it to painting a picture of Christ, and
shudders that he may do a poor job; he prays for help, and invites other theologians to
assess and improve on him. We will now consider a few who have tried.
1 One of the critiques is that Anselm does not deal with deification, but not only is this not germane to his
purpose (which, again, is explicitly not to be comprehensive), but may actually be excluded by his
methodology. He sets out to prove the necessity that the debt of sin be paid so that humans can be saved.
Salvation in the sense of the forgiveness of sins and salvation in the sense of theosis can be distinguished;
as a Latin rather than an Eastern Orthodox Anselm focuses more on the former, but also, participating in the
divine nature is an element of grace. We could have been delivered from sin without participating in the
divine life in this way. Anselm is perhaps relying on the nature-grace distinction; we are naturally ordered
to contemplate God, but by grace we participate in the Beatific Vision (the merits of this have been
challenged by the likes of Henri de Lubac but may account for Anselms thought here). We know our
natural end by nature; thus the need for atonement is more in the province of deduction than deification is.

Leonardo Boff/Jon Sobrino
With its use of the language of distributive justice and its economic imagery,
Anselms work begs a comparison to the thought of the liberation theologians, to which
its structural concerns have been compared (McDermott, 216).
Boffs interpretation of Anselm includes an unsurprising (and rather tired)
critique. A horrible cruelty prevailed in Saint Anselms time regarding the repayment of
debts. This sociological context is reflected in Anselms theological text Was this
cruelty worse than the cruelty exacted by creditors depicted in the New Testament? The
latter did not prevent Our Lord from using the analogy of debt in His parables.
In fact, however, Boff also wants to retain Anselms basic structure, albeit shorn
of its debt-based imagery, and detects a theological undergirding to Anselm that so many
of his commentators miss.

Boff explains that human salvation consists in humans

becoming ever more and more themselves and to be saved must be able to actualize
the inexhaustible openness that they themselves are. Sin consists in being closed in on
oneself, and this is the cause of historical trauma. Christ achieved this openness to the
absolute that enabled him to identify with that Absolute, and succeeded in satisfying
the exigencies of human ontological openness. God did not take flesh in Jesus of
Nazareth merely to divinize women and men. God did so to humanize them, as well2
Thus Boff follows Anselm in the sense that he affirms that God had to penetrate the
infinite human openness in such a way as to fill it to the full. Boff thus re-appropriates
and re-interprets the word satisfaction; he believes that, understood in this ontological
dimension, the notion of satisfaction can be regarded as a priceless tool for the
2 A fuller treatment of Boffs thought would deal with the fact that he sees the meaning of the Cross in the
Resurrection, which he interprets as being primarily the enthronement of human nature and thus having a
protest value against the oppressive systems of history.

representation of liberation offered by Jesus Christ, given that we experience a
solidarity with Jesus in his suffering and in his questa solidarity with him who, in the
name of all, satisfied the call to complete intimacy with God.
His notion of openness to the Absolute and how that brings about our full
humanization is not so far removed from Anselms thought that rational natures are
created to enjoy beatitude in the contemplation of God. Moreover, Boffs emphasis that
this openness is incomplete historically and finds fulfillment in the Resurrection (where,
as he puts it, the utopian becomes topian, or topical) is not far removed from Anselms
argument that human nature was created incomplete, even in Eden, and awaits its
fulfillment in the transformation at the resurrection: If human beings had not sinned,
they were going to be transformed into incorruptibility along with the bodies that they
bore (II:3); [i]t is therefore necessary that [God] complete what he began in human
nature (II:4).3 The difference is that Boffs account has a reduced sense of human
obligation towards the Absolute, which raises the question: Does Beauty not, in a
sense, demand appreciation? Does Truth not make a certain moral as well as
epistemological claim on us? Ought we not seek Goodness?

Linguistically, if that

concession is made, we are already in Anselms (and Scriptures) language of debt.

Meanwhile, in Christology at the Crossroads, Sobrino makes the critique that any answer
to the why? of the Crossthe problem of theodicywould dull the edge of the
scandal of the crossbecause in the end it could not be explained, and, in Anselms
theology, Jesus cross becomes something logical and even necessary. If this were the

3 Anselm does not explicitly talk about Christs Resurrection, but he does see human nature being fulfilled
in resurrection (when we will join the angels and form the perfect city of God), and this is only made
possible through Christ fulfilling the human project, so a kind of theology of Easter Sunday can be inferred
from CDH.

case, Jesus cross would not reveal anything about God, it would not give us any help at
all in understanding God. That said, Sobrino does acknowledge that this is in continuity
with a Christian tradition of trying to see an explanation for Jesus death in the history of
salvation, even acknowledging that the New Testament states that the cross was
necessary (Luke 24:26), an expression that becomes a technical term to explain the
reason for the cross (221). But he is skeptical of using any pre-existing theological
schemata to understand the Crossa healthy enough impulse, but potentially a shortcut
to Marcionism.
In Jesus the Liberator, Sobrino does see an inevitability to Christs death, but
from the worlds side, not Gods: Jesus prophetic praxis testifying to the kingdom of
the God of life in contrast to the empire of the idols of death meant that He objectively
set [out] to counter the pax Romana, and thus, contra Bultmann, Jesus death was not a
mistake, but, historically, a necessity (210). In response to this, we must consider I.9,
an extended treatment of whether or not the Father willed the death of the Son, and how
this can be reconciled with Gods justice (a question raised by Boff, who wonders how
God can find Christs death beautiful and desirable when He states that He hates killing
and death). There are two interesting and subtle answers to this question. Anselm argues
Scripture indicates that God willed what Christ did because the Father was unwilling
that the human race should be restored unless a human being accomplished something as
great as that death was; Christ was the one who willed specifically to accomplish this in
the form of His death. Anselm thus completely exonerates the Father against being
bloodthirsty and wishing the Sons death. More interestingly, Anselm asks Boso: Why
did the Jews persecute [Jesus] to the point of death?

The answer is because He

preserved justice, which is what every rational creature is called to; thus, obedience to the
Father only necessitated the Cross in the sense that this obedience is what led to His
murder. There is potentially a fascinating resonance here with Sobrinos thought: Jesus
holiness caused His death because of the reaction it elicited from humanity, not because
the Father specifically and coldly ordered His execution to satisfy His own bloodlust. In
this sense, Boff and Sobrino, despite making rather pedestrian errors about Anselm, have
detected and developed elements in his thought that almost no other scholar seems to
have even noticed, and much could probably be written about Anselms understanding of
the structures of evil that killed Christ. 4 Disappointingly, neither of these thinkers explore
any social or economic application of Anselms thought, or see how it could have been
subversive of the very feudal society it was set against: Whether, for example, the fact
that our debts are paid has any implication for our debt-forgiveness (given that every
creditor is in the position of the forgiven servant of the parable).
Wolfhart Pannenberg
Pannenbergs critique of Anselm stems from his Lutheranism, or from the way he
implements his own interpretation of Lutheranism, an implementation which necessarily
leads him to reject or downplay elements of the Gospels as well as the conciliar decisions
on Christology. Following Luther, Pannenberg stresses Christs office over His work,
because this emphasizes the divine initiativegraceoperative in Christ, rather than His
human will.

Indeed, Pannenberg largely rejects the language distinguishing Christs

active and passive obedience and argues that His righteousness consisted solely in His
passivity towards the Father (44, 277). This is all part of his Lutheran emphasis on Gods
4 One does wonder, however, whether Boff and Sobrino would agree with Anselms argument that Christs
death is only able to forgive His murderers because they did not know His true identity, and would not have
killed Him if they hadthough Anselm has Scriptural support for this (I:15).

grace over against the bondage of the will on the part of the human person. What this
translates into, however, is a curious criticism of Anselm for laying too much stress on
Jesus humanitythe opposite, in some ways, of the liberation theologians who criticized
him for putting too much emphasis on the Cross role in Gods plan.
Following the school of thought that sees Anselms theories as reflecting the
medieval theology of penance, Pannenberg alleges that his thought moves the emphasis
from Gods work in deifying man (as the patristics emphasized) to satisfaction, meaning
that what matters in Christ is what He accomplishes in His humanity. Salvation no
longer depended directly on the divinity of Jesus. (43) Only as the basis for the infinite
value of Jesus work of satisfaction does Anselms theory require the dogma of Jesus
divinity in addition to that of his sinlessness. Onlyas though that were insignificant!
Of course, Anselm gives another reason the Mediator must be divine: if it were an angel,
or any being not from the sinful mass of Adam, then humans would be obligated to,
and thus subservient to, something other than God, which would compromise their
dignity and frustrate their orientation towards beatitude (I.5).
In any event, Pannenberg dislikes Anselms idea of Jesus offering something
meritorious to the Father (42), because that would make His unity with God the result
of His human will instead of something entirely gratuitous. (350-1) What role, then, does
Christs human will play? In fact, Pannenberg seems to nearly deny that He had one: He
is dismissive of the conciliar understanding of Christs two wills, and Anselms theory
of satisfaction presupposed Dyothelitism in its most dangerous extreme. This theory was
intensely interested in the spontaneity with which Jesus divine will secured Jesus human
wills having offered itself to God, thus in the independence of the human will in Jesus

over against the divine! Jesus work, according to Anselm, was meritorious only because
of this independence, because of this spontaneity. (295) In one intriguing passage,
Pannenberg gives us a glimpse of his anthropology, which gives us insight into the whole
of his Christology: When a mission has seized a man so unconditionally, he no longer
has any choice with respect to that mission. Precisely this constitutes his freedom. (350)
And here the hammer-blows on the Wittenberg door echo clearly in the background, and
we see how Pannenbergs Protestant rejection of any and all merit-based theology is
controlling his Christologyironic, given his stated repudiation of any Christological
system that is reduced to soteriology, because of the anthropocentrism inherent in it (47).
Before comparing this to Anselm, it is important to see what else besides the
Councils that Pannenberg has to reject to protect his theology. He admits that Anselm
had precedent in Scripture: That Anselm overlooked the character of Jesus death as
something that happened to him was suggested by the tendency in the Gospels, especially
in the predictions of the passion, to represent Jesus death not as something that overtook
him unexpectedly but as an objective toward which he systematically directed himself.
The divine must, the divine plan, was transposed into Jesus own consciousness (277).
Panneberg seems to believe this transposition was part of a theological technique of
prolepsis on the part of the Evangelists, retroactively putting the Resurrection into Jesus
life and ministry; the expiatory character of Jesus death was not his own idea but one
that emerged only in the light of his resurrection. (ibid.).

Thus, because of his

theological presuppositions, Pannenberg relegates any sense of volitional determination

towards the Cross on Jesus part to the imaginations of His biographers. He also detaches
Christ from the Hebraic tradition: Anselm overlooked the character of Jesus death as


something that happened to him, and misunderstood it as something that Jesus had
actively done. Here Anselm comes amazingly close to Rabbinic Judaisms understanding
of the meritorious power of the suffering of the just (ibid.), an observation which
perhaps lends ammunition to the idea that Anselms work was an apologetic to the Jewish
community, and appealing to (and working within) a worldview shaped by the Hebrew
Having shown that Pannenberg must reject a literal interpretation of much of the
New Testament, a major theme of the Old, and the definitions of the Seven Councils in
order to prop up his Christology, we will also find that he has not done justice to Anselm,

Interestingly, even though Pannenberg accuses Anselm of being too rigidly

Dyothelitistic, there is a passage in CDH that can be interpreted in a Monophysite way, if

taken strictly literally. Although Anselm has, in fact, discussed the necessity of the
spontaneity of Christs human wills obedience to the Father (since it is what all humans
owe God), in II.16, discussing the question of how it can be said that Christ did not
need to die even though He seems to have become Incarnate so that He could die,
Anselm reasons that since Gods will does nothing by any necessity, but only by its own
power, and since his will was Gods will, he did not die of necessity but solely by his own
power. Obviously, Anselm is an orthodox Dyothelitist, but for him, Christs human will
was so utterly consumed with the divine will that they could (poetically or
metaphorically) be said to be the same (Anselm could possibly be interpreted here as
also subscribing to a kind of monoenergetism, or belief in a single operation or energy in
Christ, but this is not a necessary or even plausible deduction from the text by any
means). Anselm also believes that the Incarnate Christ possessed omniscience (II.13);


Pannenberg draws attention to the tension between affirming that Christ possessed the
Beatific Vision and freedom of choice simultaneously (350). Pannenberg may be right to
note the tension, but he inadvertently draws attention to the fact that Anselms support of
this paradox means that the merit of Christs human will does not obviate or minimize
Gods dominance in His life and activity.
While Boff and Sobrino want to see the necessity of the Cross as resting
entirely on the sin and brokenness of the worlds oppressive systems, Pannenberg sees the
necessity entirely in the divine plan and in Gods grace. Brunner, however, will deal
much more generously and fairly with Anselm than Pannenberg, and is by and large more
docile before the text of Scripturethe one fact is not unrelated to the otherand will
deal more directly with the question of necessitas, which the previously examined
theologians approached from different angles.
Emil Brunner
Brunners significant 1934 work The Mediator interacts with Anselm in several
places, calling his theory of the atonement a magnificent attempt, a profound and
masterly example of the ideas which the New Testament provided for the explanation of
the meaning of the Atonement, and that in essentials it coincides with the thought of the
Scriptures (Mediator, 458). Moreover, much of Brunners theology as presented to a
popular audience in his series of lectures The Scandal of Christianity are largely the
thought of Anselm shorn of its feudal imagery and re-phrased in contemporary language
proof that Anselm is not bound to his historical context, however much he may draw
on analogies from it.


This is not to say that Brunners treatment of Anselm is exempt from criticism,
though the point must be made that a lot of his critiques are the polar opposite of what
other theologians have critiqued Anselm for. For example, Brunner completely inverts
Pannenberg: The Person of the Mediator should not be subordinated to His work, and
Anselms problem is that he reduces the Person of Jesus to "the instrument of the
reconciliation" (Mediator, 409). (It seems that any thinker who can be criticized for
omitting elements from his thought by two polar opposite positions, both of which think
he over-emphasizes the view that differ from their own, seems to suggest that perhaps the
thinker in question is more balanced and comprehensive than his critics realize.) That
being said, Brunner affirms that, according to Anselm, Christs active obedience
underlay His passive obedience (Mediator, 510), refuting all those who claim that
Anselm neglects Jesus life and ministry.
When it comes to hamartiology, Brunner favours the image of community over
order; community with God, for Brunner, is what changes one from an individual with
a personality to a personnot unlike Balthasars phenomenology of holiness. This is
why sin is not merelythe destruction of an order which God has established and
sustainedSin is destruction of communion with God, the dissolution of the personal
link which holds God and man together (Scandal, 75-6). What Brunner seems to miss
here is that this perverted attitude has consequences, not just for the person, but for the
whole universe of which the person is such a constitutive and important part; sin creates
objective disorder, which Anselms thought takes into account by stressing the
disharmony and assault on beauty that occurs in sin (I.15), and which is depicted in
Genesis 3 in the fact that sin leads to a curse on the land and on the animals. That said,


like Anselm, Brunner affirms that even if we could cease sinning, we would still have to
make up for the fact that we had sinneda fact he calls guilt, the denial of which is the
central problem of the modern age, but which we should be uniquely aware of because of
the events of the 20th century (Scandal, 79).
Although Brunners discussion of guilt resembles Anselms description of the
debt of sin, Brunner also argues that Anselms theorys chief error is to regard guilt as
something concrete rather than absolutely personal, a perverted attitude towards God
(Mediator, 443). Yet McIntyres book defending CDH, Anselm and His Critics, not only
does he argue that for St. Anselm sin is an intensely personal thing, he also makes the
claim that the real problem with Anselms understanding of sin is that it is too abstract
and not concrete enough (72). This all serves to suggest once again that Anselm may be a
more layered and complex thinker than his critics realize; indeed, he may already contain
their corrections within the original text.
Brunner sees the non-Scriptural element of Anselms thought as being the idea
that the Atonement can be deduced by necessity from the character of God (which gives
his doctrine the fatal trait of rational calculation, which makes his theory look not merely
strange but also sinister), a familiar and legitimate concern of many commentators on
Anselm (Scandal, 88). That being said, Brunner observes that we should not go to the
opposite extreme in stressing the freedom of the atonement, lest we render the whole
institution of redemption an incomprehensible arbitrary act of God. Brunner ends up
settling on Calvins idea of relative necessity (Mediator, 472). This is, in fact, not so
far from Anselms own understanding of the necessity of the Incarnation: II:5 explains
that God is not under any compulsion to save humanity, but is under the same sort of


necessity that a monk freely places himself under in taking a vow; in other words, a
necessity that actually amplifies freedom. Thus, Anselm not only depicts humanitys
relationship to God in the images of monasticism, but uses the same picture for Gods
relationship to humanity, and uses this (likely very personal) analogy to explain what
Calvin and Brunner calls relative necessity.
Elsewhere, Brunner agree[s] with Anselm that there is an objective necessity in
reconciliation. But we completely disagree with him if he thinks of this reconciliation as
being a sacrifice by which Gods wrath has to be appeased While we must underline
the objectivity of divine wrath and of the curse laid upon humanity and that by the
death of Christ the reality of divine wrath has been removed, but that God is the subject
and not the object of this reconciling action. (Mediator, 89) In fact, this depiction of the
angry Anselmian God has no basis in fact whatsoever; the wrath of God is only
mentioned in I.6, and there in the context of a hypothetical exchange with unbelievers
postulated by Boso (wherein Gods wrath is defined as just his will to punish), and
even a casual reading of CDH immediately dispels any notion of a change in God
occurring at the Cross.
Finally, having seen how Sobrino and Boff understand necessity from the human
perspective, how Pannenberg sees necessity entirely from the divine perspective, and how
Brunner sees how Anselms theory encompasses both, let us turn to two of the most
important theologians of the twentieth century, both of whom were heavily influenced by
Anselm, to see how they round off the discussion.


Karl Barth
Unfortunately, this treatment cannot deal with the way that Barth handles
Anselms thought on the knowledge of God; Barth himself claimed that he learned his
own thought on this question at the feet of Anselm (CD II.1) and he wrote an entire
book on Anselms proofs. That said, references to CDH are scattered throughout the
Church Dogmatics.

There is no systematic treatment of Anselms theory of the

Atonement; in CD IV.I he describes Anselms account of sin as very accurate and

complete and reproduces it (485-7), yet says that Anselms theory that Christ has made
satisfaction for us is an error, though it is correct to say that He has suffered this
punishment of ours (253). The closest he comes to a detailed discussion is in CD I.II,
where he admits that everyone must admit that [t]here is a wrong note in Anselms
attempt to logically deduce the necessity of salvation. That being said, [f]or him
necessitas is not a last word either noetically (in the recognition of an object of faith) or
ontically (in this objects existence prior to faiths recognition). But the last word is had
by and is veritas itself, God, for whom and over whose will there is no necessity (135).
What this means is flushed out more by Balthasar, and it is easy to see how it fits into the
general schemata of Barths thought (which, of course, is itself influenced by Anselm).
Hans Urs Von Balthasar
Contra Barth, Balthasar believes that Anselms concept of representation is
indispensable, although the great saint interpreted it in a narrow way (Theo-Drama
III, 120). For example, Balthasar identifies one of the flaws of Anselms theory being
the idea that Christs death outweighs our sins on a kind of metaphorical scale; Jesus
seems no longer to be the Sin-Bearer, meaning that, for Anselm, Christs sufferings are


not expiatory but only exemplary, a focus on the death which Balthsar sees as being the
same error as Rahner (260-1). This needs to be set against Anselms argument that it was
appropriate for Christ to suffer in the course of paying our debt: Since humanity sinned
through pleasure, is it not fitting for humanity to make recompense through pain? (II.11)
It is possible that the pain involved here is simply incurring death, as Anselms next
response perhaps implies, but certainly there is a hint here of the need for Christs
Passion. Balthasar also sees an inadequacy in an absence of any mention of the fact that
Christs mission was an extension of His eternal procession; but perhaps it is there, since
II.9 explains why the Son had to be the one who became incarnate, since, among other
reasons, if the Father is incarnate, there will be two grandsons in the Trinity, and,
moreover, human sin, which arrogates a false likeness to God, is a particular injury to
the Son among all the members of the Trinity, since the Son is the Fathers true likeness.
Finally, Balthasar claims that Christs connection to the human race is not put forward
strongly enough; [t]he fact that Christ is the New Adam, possessing the gratia capitis, is
more assumed than declared (261). In response to this, one must only consider II.16,
which essentially constitutes CDHs ecclesiology and discusses the fact that Jesus came
from the sinful mass, how He mediated His satisfaction to them, and describes how
salvation occurred throughout history; II.8 also discusses the necessity of Christ being
descended from Adam and uses an interesting argument to show the necessity of the
Virgin Birth; roughly, that it rounded off all the ways a human could be created.5
Setting aside these criticisms (and our critiques thereof), Balthasar, like Barth,
seems to have learned his methodology at the feet of Anselm. He finds the juncture
5 "The strong Second Adam Christology that Anselm develops is generally overlooked. Anselm draws
heavily upon this tradition in arguing for the humanity of the Saviour (Schmiechen, 200).


between Gods plan and human freedom in the notion of covenant; he rebukes critics of
Anselm for forgetting that juridical categories that are intrinsic to Gods personal
freedom and to that of the creature. Anselm becomes substantially more accessible if we
approach him after being schooled in the Old Covenant (Theo-Drama IV, 255). And
here we begin to see how Balthasar will harmonize the two forms of necessitas. He starts
with the notion of covenant, which emerges from pure grace on Gods part, but also
implies that man has the dignity of a free creature This is the source of Anselms
insight, when he says that it is impossible for God alone to bring about reconciliation
however much all the initiative lies with him (229). We could call this a covenant
necessity which preserves the freedom and the obligation of both parties, and Anselm
detects that the interplay of this interlocking necessity (necessitas) and Gods perfect,
unabridged freedomand this applies to the triune God as well as to the Father and the
Son separatelybrings out the aesthetic dimension that is preserved and nurtured by the
dramatic (258). Since Anselm was the first to try to bring Scriptures soteriological
motifs into a coherent rational system, the dramatic dimension came out in his theology
as never before, in terms not only of content but also of form; [t]here is a necessary
transition from an aesthetic to a dramatic view of the world; rarely has it been as clearly
as this: Anselms honour is the glory of God in contemporary form (257). The drama
is where the necessities intersect. Thus, Anselms discovery of the drama of salvation is
the source of Balthasars central notion of theo-drama, which makes us realize that
Anselm may still be one of the most influential theologians in history, not only because of
his importance for theological history, but for theologians operating today.



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