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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/79

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ATONEMENT


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ATONEMENT


faction for sin. No sin, as he views the matter, can be forgiven without satisfaction. A debt to Divine justice lias been incurred; and that debt must needs be paid. But man could not make this satisfaction for himself; the debt is something far greater than he can pay; and, moreover, all the service that he can offer to God is already due on other titles. The suggestion that some innocent man, or angel, might possibly pay the debt incurred by sinners is rejected, on the ground that in any case this would put the sinner under obligation to his deliverer, and he would thus become the servant of a mere creature. The only way in which the satisfaction could be made, and men could be set free from sin, was by the com- ing of a Redeemer who is both God and man. His •death makes full satisfaction to the Divine Justice, for it is something greater than all the sins of all mankind. Many side questions are incidentally treated in the dialogue between Anselm and Boso. But this is the substance of the answer given to the great question, "Cur Deus Homo?" Some modern writers have suggested that this notion of deliver- ance by means of satisfaction may have a German origin. For in the old Teutonic laws, a criminal might pay the wergild instead of undergoing punish- ment. But this custom was not peculiar to the Ger- mans, as we may see from the Celtic eirig, and, as Riviere has pointed out, there is no need to have re- course to this explanation. For the notion of sat'isfac- tion for sin was already present in the whole system of ecclesiastical penance, though it had been left for Anselm to use it in illustration of the doctrine of the Atonement. It may be added that the same idea underlies the old Jewish "sin-offerings" as well as the similar rites that are found in many ancient reli- gions. It is specially prominent in the rites and prayers used on the Day of Atonement. And this, it may be added, is now the ordinary acceptance of the word; to "atone" is to give satisfaction, or make amends, for an offence or an injury.

(e) Whatever may be tlie reason, it is clear that this doctrine was attracting special attention in the age of St. Anselm. His own work bears witness that it was undertaken at the urgent request of others who wished to have some new light on this mystery. To some extent, the solution offered by Anselm seems to have satisfied these desires, though, in the course of further discussion, an important part of his theory, the absolute necessity of Re- demption and of satisfaction for sin, was discarded by later theologians, and found few defenders. But meanwhile, witliin a few years of the appearance of the "Cur Deus Homo?" another theory on the sub- ject had been advanced Ijy Alielard. In common with St. Anselm, Abelard utterly rejected tlie old, and then still prevailing, notion that the devil had some sort of right over fallen man, who could only be justly delivered by means of a ransom paid to his captor. Against this he very rightly urges, with Anselm, that Satan was clearly guilty of injustice in the matter and could have no right to anything but punishment. But, on the other hand, Abelard was unable to accept Anselm's view that an equiva- lent satisfaction for sin was necessary, and that this debt could only be paid by the death of the Divine Redeemer. He insists that God could have par- doned us without requiring satisfaction. And, in his Naew, the reason for the Incarnation and the death of Christ was the pure love of God. By no other means could men be so effectually turned from sin and moved to love God. Abelard's teaching on this point, as on others, was vehemently attacked by St. Bernard. But it should be borne in mind that some of the arguments urged in condemnation of Abelard would affect the position of St. Anselm also, not to speak of later Catholic theologj'.

In St. Bernard's eyes it seemed that Abelard, in


denying the rights of Satan, denied the " Sacrament of Redemption" and regarded the teaching and exam- ple of Christ as the sole benefit of the Incarnation. "But", as Mr. Oxenham observes, "he had not said so, and he distinctly asserts in liis ' Apology ' that ' the Son of God was incarnate to deliver us from the bondage of sin and yoke of the Devil, and to open to us by His death the gate of eternal life.' And St. Bernard himself, in this very Epistle, dis- tinctly denies any absolute necessity for the metiiod of redemption chosen, and suggests a reason for it not so very unlike Abelard's. ' Perhaps that method is the best, whereby in a land of forgetfulness and sloth we might be more powerfully and vividly re- minded of our fall, through the so great and so mani- fold sufferings of Him who repaired it.' Elsewhere, when not speaking controversially, he says still more plainly: 'Could not the Creator have restored His work without that difficulty? He could; but He preterred to do it at His own cost, lest any further occasion should be given for that worst and most odious vice of ingratitude in man' (Bern., Serm. xi, in Cant.). What is this but to say, with Abelard, that ' He chose the Incarnation as the most effectual method for eliciting His creature's love'?" (The Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement, 85, 86).

(/) Although the high authority of St. Bernard was thus against them, the views of St. Anselm and Abelard, the two men who in different ways were the fathers of Scholasticism, sliaped the course of later medieval theology. The strange notion of the rights of Satan, against which they had both protested, now disappears from the pages of our theologians. For the rest, the view which ultimately prevailed may be regarded as a combination of the opinions of An- selm and Abelard. In spite of the objections urged by the latter writer, Anselm's doctrine of satisfaction was adopted as the basis. But St. Thomas and the other medieval masters agree with Abelard in re- jecting the notion that this full satisfaction for sin was absolutely necessary. At the most, they are willing to achnit a hypothetical or conditional neces- sity for the Redemption by the deatli of Christ. The restoration of fallen man was a work of God's free mercy and benevolence. And, even on the hypothesis that the loss was to be repaired, this might have been brought about in many and various ways. The sin might have been remitted freely, without any satis- faction at all, or some lesser satisfaction, howe\er imperfect in itself, might have been accepted as suffi- cient. But on the hypothesis that God had chosen to restore mankind, and at the same time, to require full satisfaction as a condition of pardon and lie- liverance, nothing less than the Atonement made by one who was God as well as man could suffice as satisfaction for the offence against the Divine Majesty. And in this case Anselm's argument will hold good. Mankind caimot be restored unless God becomes man to save them.

In reference to many points of detail the School- men, here as elsewhere, adopted divergent views. One of the chief questions at issue was the intrinsic adequacy of the satisfaction offered by Christ. On this point the majority, with St. Thomas at their head, maintained that, by reason of the infinite dignity of the Divine Person, the least action or suffering of Christ had an infinite value, so that in itself it would suffice as an adequate satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Scotus and his school, on the other hand, disputed this intrinsic infinitude, and ascribed the all-sufficiency of the satisfaction to the Divine acceptation. As tliis acceptation was grounded on the infinite dignity of the Di\dne Per- son, the difference was not so great as might appear at first sight. But, on this point at any rate, the simpler teaching of St. Thomas is more generally accepted by later theologians. Apart from tliis