Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Anselm's theory of atonement and its flaws (Brunner)

Anselm’s theory of “satisfaction” claims to be an adequate, completely sufficient expression, which does not need to be complemented by any other ideas—it does not even allow for them—whereas for the writers of the New Testament the variety of conceptions and expressions points to the fact that none of these expressions in themselves are regarded as sufficient, but that all, as figurative expressions, are intended to point to a fact which by its very nature can never be fully understood. Further, the rationalistic form of the proof, and the spirit of calculation, is contrary to the outlook of the Bible. Finally, and this is by far the most important point—the theory of Anselm is purely objective in character. Whereas Abelard lays all the emphasis upon the subjective reaction of man, Anselm’s theory does not mention man’s faith at all, whereas the New Testament always regards both the atoning event and faith as indissolubly united. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” “Whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by His blood . . . that He might Himself be just and the Justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.” In the New Testament reconciliation in Christ is “truth as encounter”—just as much as every other part of the Faith; with Anselm, on the contrary, it is rational objective truth, which can be understood. If we look at this question from the opposite end, from God’s standpoint, it means: that whereas in Anselm’s view God is the Object of the Atonement (or reconciliation)—it is God who is reconciled—this is certainly not the teaching of the New Testament. Here it is men who are reconciled, not God; God alone is the Reconciler, the One who makes peace, who restores man to communion with Himself.—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, 290 (emphasis original)

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