Volume 6, No. 2 (Spring 2009)
St. Thomas Aquinas on Human and Divine Forgiveness
Saint Anselm College
Two major influences guide St. Thomas Aquinas in his discussions of forgiveness-Greek and Roman philosophical thought and Christian Revelation. Although there is certainly some notion of forgiveness, human and divine, in pagan thought, it turns out to be quite different from Christian forgiveness. The foundations for this difference lie in how pagans and Christians understand what it is to be human and the meaning of divinity. In this paper, we shall not try to trace out the intricate relations between pagan and Christian thought on matters human and divine. Rather, we shall limit ourselves to a consideration of the notion of forgiveness as it may be found in Aristotle and in St. Thomas. In both cases, the model of human forgiveness is closely associated with that of divine forgiveness.
Anselm on Forgiveness, Patience, and Free Will
Katherin A. Rogers
University of Delaware
Anselm says some seemingly harsh things about forgiveness, for example, that God cannot simply forgive the wrong done at the Fall. I argue that the harshness is only apparent. God cannot simply forgive sin because that would not be best for mankind. Divine forgiveness must be understood in light of the importance Anselm places on human freedom and the virtue of patience. I look at divine forgiveness in Cur Deus Homo and the first sin in De casu diaboli to explain Anselm's view on why God prefers process to immediate change, in hopes of bringing some new, Anselmian, insight to an old theme.
Penance and Peter Abelard's Move Within
Kevin A. McMahon
Saint Anselm College
Peter Abelard is perhaps best known for having taken the role of master in the schools to celebrity status. Yet dramatically public as his life was, the analyses he develops in his commentary on the letter to the Romans (c. 1134) and in the Ethica (c. 1138) of moral action, sacramental efficacy, even the atonement, center on interior subjectivity. The rightness of an act is determined in the first instance by the agent's intention, and ultimately by God's. The sacraments, such as baptism and penance, represent what God is accomplishing through his relation to the recipient, independently of the actions themselves or the work of the priest. Further, just as sin involves a turning away from God, so our redemption consists in the love aroused in us by the sacrifice of his Son. All of this displays Abelard's capacity for analytic nuance; but it foreshadows, too, the shift that will divide Christian theology in the sixteenth century.
Justifying Atonement: An Anselmian Response to Modern Critics
This paper considers three modern objections to Anselm's argument on atonement in book I of Cur Deus Homo. The objections are from Friedrich Nietzsche, R. C. Moberly, and Hastings Rashdall; each one makes the case that Anselm's argument is fallacious. Each one interprets Anselm's position as requiring that someone innocent suffer punishment in order to acquit guilt. I contend that these objectors do not offer a strong case against Anselm's argument, principally because they have not examined it completely and have misunderstood his reasoning. In fine, Anselm's case is (a) the Son's obedience to the Father suffices for atonement, (b) the Son is an advocate for Adam and his heirs and stands in for them because of his blood ties to humanity, and (c) the Son is the advocate for the Father in the latter's attempt to end human estrangement from justice. Being both an advocate of the Father and an heir to Adam, the Son's Incarnation itself prepares the way of reconciliation and the life of the upright will resolves estrangement. The fact that the Son suffers pain and death is due not to the Father's will but to our resistance to the justice of the Son's upright will.
De Casu Diaboli: An Examination of Faith and Reason Via a Discussion of the Devil's Sin
Although De Casu Diaboli is not a traditional locus for a discussion of faith and reason, it is nonetheless subtly permeated by this topic in two ways. The first concerns Anselm's general strategy for answering the student's questions regarding the cause of the devil's first sin. Anselm ends by claiming the devil willed incorrectly for no other cause than that his will so willed. Anselm thus ultimately calls upon the student to have faith in the mysterious, libertarian self-determining power of the created will; explanation must cease and the student must accept that God would only have punished the devil if the devil's will were freely to blame. This implicit, ultimate appeal to faith appears in stark contrast to the content of the entire treatise-a treatise up to that point filled with explanations of how the devil sinned in terms of the structure of the angels' wills and intellects. In other words, the purpose of the treatise had been to provide a reason for the devil's sin. It would seem that such reasons-giving discussions which occupy the first part of the work would be unnecessary if Anselm were ultimately to appeal to the student to rest upon his faith. The first part of the paper accordingly explores and attempts to alleviate this seeming tension. Additionally, Anselm explains that the devil had some compelling reasons to choose the way in which he did given his particular epistemic state. Despite this, the devil was to have faith in God's prohibition and not follow his reasons for doing otherwise. The second part of the paper, therefore, discusses how the relative priority of faith can be inferred from Anselm's discussion of the devil's first sin.