Skip to comments.Cur Deus Homo VI-VIII: Is God Omnipotent and Wise? (Cath-Orth caucus)
Posted on 05/11/2007 4:33:32 PM PDT by annalex
How infidels find fault with us for saying that God has redeemed us by his death, and thus has shown his love towards us, and that he came to overcome the devil for us.
Boso. This they greatly wonder at, because we call this redemption a release. For, say they, in what custody or imprisonment, or under whose power were you held, that God could not free you from it, without purchasing your redemption by so many sufferings, and finally by his own blood? And when we tell them that he freed us from our sins, and from his own wrath, and from hell, and from the power of the devil, whom he came to vanquish for us, because we were unable to do it, and that he purchased for us the kingdom of heaven; and that, by doing all these things, he manifested the greatness of his love towards us; they answer: If you say that God, who, as you believe, created the universe by a word, could not do all these things by a simple command, you contradict yourselves, for you make him powerless. Or, if you grant that he could have done these things in some other way, but did not wish to, how can you vindicate his wisdom, when you assert that he desired, without any reason, to suffer things so unbecoming? For these things which you bring up are all regulated by his will; for the wrath of God is nothing but his desire to punish. If, then, be does not desire to punish the sins of men, man is free from his sins, and from the wrath of God, and from hell, and from the power of the devil, all which things are the sufferings of sin; and, what he had lost by reason of these sins, he now regains. For, in whose power is hell, or the devil? Or, whose is the kingdom of heaven, if it be not his who created all things? Whatever things, therefore, you dread or hope for, all lie subject to his will, whom nothing can oppose. If, then, God were unwilling to save the human race in any other way than that you mention, when he could have done it by his simple will, observe, to say the least, how you disparage his wisdom. For, if a man without motive should do, by severe toil, a thing which he could have done in some easy way, no one would consider him a wise man. As to your statement that God has shown in this way how much he loved you, there is no argument to support this, unless it be proved that he could not otherwise have saved man. For, if he could not have done it otherwise, then it was, indeed, necessary for him to manifest his love in this way. But now, when he could have saved man differently, why is it that, for the sake of displaying his love, he does and suffers the things which you enumerate? For does he not show good angels how much he loves them, though he suffer no such things as these for them? As to what you say of his coming to vanquish the devil for you, with what meaning dare you allege this? Is not the omnipotence of God everywhere enthroned? How is it, then, that God must needs come down from heaven to vanquish the devil? These are the objections with which infidels think they can withstand us.
How the devil had no justice on his side against man; and why it was, that he seemed to have had it, and why God could have freed man in this way.
MOREOVER, I do not see the force of that argument, which we are wont to make use of, that God, in order to save men, was bound, as it were, to try a contest with the devil in justice, before he did in strength, so that, when the devil should put to death that being in whom there was nothing worthy of death, and who was God, he should justly lose his power over sinners; and that, if it were not so, God would have used undue force against the devil, since the devil had a rightful ownership of man, for the devil had not seized man with violence, but man had freely surrendered to him. It is true that this might well enough be said, if the devil or man belonged to any other being than God, or were in the power of any but God. But since neither the devil nor man belong to any but God, and neither can exist without the exertion of Divine power, what cause ought God to try with his own creature (de suo, in suo), or what should he do but punish his servant, who had seduced his fellow-servant to desert their common Lord and come over to himself; who, a traitor, had taken to himself a fugitive; a thief, had taken to himself a fellow-thief, with what he had stolen from his Lord. For when one was stolen from his Lord by the persuasions of the other, both were thieves. For what could be more just than for God to do this? Or, should God, the judge of all, snatch man, thus held, out of the power of him who holds him so unrighteously, either for the purpose of punishing him in some other way than by means of the devil, or of sparing him, what injustice would there be in this? For, though man deserved to be tormented by the devil, yet the devil tormented him unjustly. For man merited punishment, and there was no more suitable way for him to be punished than by that being to whom he had given his consent to sin. But the infliction of punishment was nothing meritorious in the devil; on the other hand, he was even more unrighteous in this, because he was not led to it by a love of justice, but urged on by a malicious impulse. For he did not do this at the command of God, but God's inconceivable wisdom, which happily controls even wickedness, permitted it. And, in my opinion, those who think that the devil has any right in holding man, are brought to this belief by seeing that man is justly exposed to the tormenting of the devil, and that God in justice permits this; and therefore they suppose that the devil rightly inflicts it. For the very same thing, from opposite points of view, is sometimes both just unjust, and hence, by those who do not carefuIIy inspect the matter, is deemed wholly just or wholly unjust. Suppose, for example, that one strikes an innocent person unjustly, and hence justly deserves to beaten himself; if, however, the one who was beaten, though he ought not to avenge himself, yet does strike the person who beat him, then he does it unjustly. And hence this violence on the part of the man who returns the blow is unjust, because he ought not to avenge himself; but as far as he who received the blow is concerned, it is just, for since he gave a blow unjustly, he justly deserves to receive one in return. Therefore, from opposite views, the same action is both just and unjust, for it may chance that one person shall consider it only just, and another only unjust. So also the devil is said to torment men justly, because God in justice permits this, and man in justice suffers it. But when man is said to suffer justly, it is not meant that his just suffering is inflicted by the hand of justice itself, but that he is punished by the just judgment of God. But if that written decree is brought up, which the Apostle says was made against us, and cancelled by the death of Christ; and if any one thinks that it was intended by this decree that the devil, as if under the writing of a sort of compact, should justly demand sin and the punishment of sin, of man, before Christ suffered, as a debt for the first sin to which he tempted man, so that in this way he seems to prove his right over man, I do not by any means think that it is to be so understood. For that writing is not of the devil, because it is called the writing of a decree of the devil, but of God. For by the just judgment of God it was decreed, and, as it were, confirmed by writing, that, since man had sinned, he should not henceforth of himself have the power to avoid sin or the punishment of sin; for the spirit is out-going and not returning (est enim spiritus vadens et non rediens); and he who sins ought not to escape with impunity, unless pity spare the sinner, and deliver and restore him. Wherefore we ought not to believe that, on account of this writing, there can be found any justice on the part of the devil in his tormenting man. In fine, as there is never any injustice in a good angel, so in an evil angel there can be no justice at all. There was no reason, therefore, as respects the devil, why God should not make use of as own power against him for the liberation of man.
How, althougth the acts of Christ's condescension which we speak of do not belong to his divinity, it yet seems improper to infidels that these things should be said of him even as a man; and why it appears to them that this man did not suffer death of his own will.
Anselm.. The will of God ought to be a sufficient reason for us, when he does anything, though we cannot see why he does it. For the will of God is never irrational.
Boso. That is very true, if it be granted that God does wish the thing in question; but many will never allow that God does wish anything if it be inconsistent with reason.
Anselm.. What do you find inconsistent with reason, in our confessing that God desired those things which make up our belief with regard to his incarnation?
Boso. This in brief: that the Most High should stoop to things so lowly, that the Almighty should do a thing with such toil.
Anselm.. They who speak thus do not understand our belief. For we affirm that the Divine nature is beyond doubt impassible, and that God cannot at all be brought down from his exaltation, nor toil in anything which he wishes to effect. But we say that the Lord Jesus Christ is very God and very man, one person in two natures, and two natures in one person. When, therefore, we speak of God as enduring any humiliation or infirmity, we do not refer to the majesty of that nature, which cannot suffer; but to the feebleness of the human constitution which he assumed. And so there remains no ground of objection against our faith. For in this way we intend no debasement of the Divine nature, but we teach that one person is both Divine and human. In the incarnation of God there is no lowering of the Deity; but the nature of man we believe to be exalted.
Boso. Be it so; let nothing be referred to the Divine nature, which is spoken of Christ after the manner of human weakness; but how will it ever be made out a just or reasonable thing that God should treat or suffer to be treated in such a manner, that man whom the Father called his beloved Son in whom he was well pleased, and whom the Son made himself? For what justice is there in his suffering death for the sinner, who was the most just of all men? What man, if he condemned the innocent to free the guilty, would not himself be judged worthy of condemnation? And so the matter seems to return to the same incongruity which is mentioned above. For if he could not save sinners in any other way than by condemning the just, where is his omnipotence? If, however, he could, but did not wish to, how shall we sustain his wisdom and justice?
Anselm.. God the Father did not treat that man as you seem to suppose, nor put to death the innocent for the guilty. For the Father did not compel him to suffer death, or even allow him to be slain, against his will, but of his own accord he endured death for the salvation of men.
Boso. Though it were not against his will, since he agreed to the will of the Father; yet the Father seems to have bound him, as it were, by his injunction. For it is said that Christ "humbled himself, being made obedient to the Father even unto death, and that the death of the cross. For which cause God also has highly exalted him;" and that "he learned obedience from the things which he suffered;" and that God spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all." And likewise the Son says: "I came not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me." And when about to suffer, he says; "As the Father has given me commandment, so I do." Again: "The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it? " And, at another time : "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will ." And again: "Father, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, your will be done." In all these passages it would rather appear that Christ endured death by the constraint of obedience, than by the inclination of his own free will.
... to be continued
St. Anselm: Proslogium; Monologium: An Appendix In Behalf Of The Fool By Gaunilo; And Cur Deus Homo, Translated From The Latin By Sidney Norton Deane, B. A. With An Introduction, Bibliography, And Reprints Of The Opinions Of Leading Philosophers And Writers On The Ontological Argument, (Chicago, The Open Court Publishing Company,, 1903, reprinted 1926)
I plan to publish it for discussion in short installments as Catholic-Orthodox caucus threads. All Christians as well as non-Christians are very welcome, but I ask all to maintain the caucus discipline: no interconfessional attacks, no personal attacks, and no off-topic posts. Avoid mentioning confessions outside of the caucus for any reason.
Previous: Cur Deus Homo III-V
A skeptical mind finds Christianity illogical. If God is omnipotent, he could release man from the bondage of sin by his Divine will. If, despite that, God chose to send His Son to suffer and die in order to release man, then God did not choose the easiest way to do it and is not wise.
Possibly, God wanted to convict the devil of an injustice before conquering him by Divine power. But both the devil and man in justice should serve God. As the devil and man conspired against God, no further fault needs to be found in the devil than his role in the Fall. They are two disobedient servants.
Possibly, God wanted the devil to torment man as punishment. But that task would not exhonerate the devil, because the devil does not torment man out of obedience to God, but rather the torment is a natural consequence of his disobedience.
Further, there is no contract that God had to honor with respect to the devil, because the torment for sin is something man owes not the devil but God Himself.
The answer to the skeptic is rooted in the dual nature of Christ. The suffering of Christ was fully the will of Jesus the Man; God did not will it:
the Father did not compel him to suffer death, or even allow him to be slain, against his will, but of his own accord he endured death for the salvation of men.
-- How so? -- the skeptic retorts. Wasn't Jesus obedient to the Father?
The answer, only sketched today, will be elaborated upon in the next installment.
Pharmamom, welcome to the ping list.
This is SO over my head, but it looks like y’all are having a good time. Cheers!
With a crew called Anselm and Boso, was there any doubt?
To the substance of your post, I agree that there are several scripturally possible views. I am surprised you do not mention the clean Unlimited Atonement, which says that Christ died for all without exception, but the salvation he offers is efficacious to certain people, and not those who reject His grace.
However, I do not see any basis for advancing any particular theory based on the discourse presented in this installment. Specifically, I do not see why God owes anything to the devil, and you do not clarify what exactly is your disagreement with my summary or, more importantly, with St. Anselm himself.
It is always my fear that I will summarize incorrectly, and I invite comments on that. At the same time, this is a large book by FR thread measure, and perhaps it would we wiser if we limited our comments to what is actually said in the chapters here presented. For an overview of the theories of atonement a good source is Doctrine of the Atonement. Now, if you disagree with the statement you outlined, what are the contractual rights of the devil?
RM, if you feel that my post #6 is a detriment to this limited caucus thread, please remove it. My mention of other confessions in it was comparative and not meant to invite their input. Thank you.
I am surprised you do not mention the clean Unlimited Atonement, which says that Christ died for all without exception, but the salvation he offers is efficacious to certain people, and not those who reject His grace
Alex, the term "efficacy" is not used by the Orthodox. We always have a choice between God and no-God, so the possibility of our rejection of His grace is always there.
The ransom doctrine only specifies how Christ atoned for our sins and not whether we are under any obligation or guarantee to be saved. Our cooperation with God's grace is always a requirement for "efficacy."
If you don't mind, provide NT references for easier comparison.
Specifically, I do not see why God owes anything to the devil, and you do not clarify what exactly is your disagreement with my summary or, more importantly, with St. Anselm himself
God doesn't owe devil anything. The NT (Mat, Mar, John, 1 John, 2 Tim, Heb) tells us, among other things, that God used this approach (offering Himself as ransom for us), not that He was obliged to do so. St. Anselm's objection to this doctrine suggests that God was somehow obligated to the devil. Rather, it seems God used this approach to trick the devil and destroy his hold on us. Everything is on God's terms and His choosing.
The "efficacy" of God's method is deemed unlimited, i.e. "for all," in some of these NT books (John, 1 John, 2 Tim) and in others as pro multis, "for many" (Mat, Mar, Heb), the former reflecting God's desire, and the latter the reality of our freedom which many use to reject His grace.
Speaking of obligations, with regard to St. Anslem's comment that "there is no contract that God had to honor with respect to the devil" (probably because it "weaknes" God in St. Anslem's eyes), I ask what should we conclude about the idea that He died as "propitiation" (appeasement), which, by the way, is suggested only outside the Gospels? (Rom 3:25, Heb 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 4:10, NAB)
I agree that no one should conclude that God was under any obligation. Rather God, chose the "sting" ransom approach, saying to the devil "Take Me and let My people go," and the devil fell for it and was rendered powerless because now He had God, over Whom he has no power, instead of men.
I see nothing in that doctrine that would oblige God "legalistically" or otherwise, as some suggest.
Could God have just given us a presidential pardon, with no atonement? I was thinking that the Incarnation and crucifixion were necessary in order for our human nature to be healed and in order for death to be conquered. If God just flat out forgave us and made us perfect, then we would no longer be humans with free will, but robots. But in taking on our human nature, Christ healed everything in us, including our will. By choosing death, he won our victory over death, which is the consequence of our sin. This leaves out the idea of a ransom, but does bring in the idea of reconciling our human nature with the divine. It is more an idea of healing, including healing from death, than of paying for sin.
“I agree that no one should conclude that God was under any obligation. Rather God, chose the “sting” ransom approach, saying to the devil “Take Me and let My people go,” and the devil fell for it and was rendered powerless because now He had God, over Whom he has no power, instead of men.”
I just can’t resist this:
“Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?”
Thanks. That gave me the shivers.
Ransom is explicitly the most often used doctrinal position in the NT. (Mat, Mar, Heb, 2 Tim, John, 1 John).
You forgot to identiy the piece as St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily.
So also the devil is said to torment men justly, because God in justice permits this, and man in justice suffers it. But when man is said to suffer justly, it is not meant that his just suffering is inflicted by the hand of justice itself, but that he is punished by the just judgment of God. But if that written decree is brought up, which the Apostle says was made against us, and cancelled by the death of Christ; and if any one thinks that it was intended by this decree that the devil, as if under the writing of a sort of compact, should justly demand sin and the punishment of sin, of man, before Christ suffered, as a debt for the first sin to which he tempted man, so that in this way he seems to prove his right over man, I do not by any means think that it is to be so understood. For that writing is not of the devil, because it is called the writing of a decree of the devil, but of God. For by the just judgment of God it was decreed, and, as it were, confirmed by writing, that, since man had sinned, he should not henceforth of himself have the power to avoid sin or the punishment of sin; for the spirit is out-going and not returning (est enim spiritus vadens et non rediens); and he who sins ought not to escape with impunity, unless pity spare the sinner, and deliver and restore him. Wherefore we ought not to believe that, on account of this writing, there can be found any justice on the part of the devil in his tormenting man. In fine, as there is never any injustice in a good angel, so in an evil angel there can be no justice at all. There was no reason, therefore, as respects the devil, why God should not make use of as own power against him for the liberation of man.
When Boso speaks were are not to presume that this is the doctrine advanced by St. Anselm. This installments generally, is a large array of objections, to which St. Anselm only begins to answer in the end. All that has been said so far is that the dual nature of Christ makes it possible for God to not command His Passion. I suggest we wait till St. Anselm actually addresses the putative contract with the devil issue. We know that he offers a doctrine different from the ransom doctrine, but so far it has not been addressed.
I am not sure if Catholics use the term "efficacy" either. I was merely struggling to define Unlimited Atonement, which we teach and I know the Orthodox Church teaches. Further, the Catholic Church does not reject the Ransom doctrine, even if it also teaches the atonement by satisfaction. We consider all patristic atonement theories, up to and including Anselm's, theological speculation, as far as I know.
I don't think anything in the text suggests an opposition to the Ransom doctrine, except the remark by Boso that surely God did not owe anything to the devil, and you agreed with that.
Note the devil in chains. Incidentally, what Christ is standing on is the "gates of hell" from Matthew 16.
We do. God provides salvation, but it is not "efficient" if it is thrown away by the individual. We, Orthodox and Catholic, believe that we have some say on whether we will accept God's offer or not.
“Note the devil in chains. Incidentally, what Christ is standing on is the “gates of hell” from Matthew 16.”
Really????????????? I didn’t know that! /s
“You forgot to identiy the piece as St. John Chrysostoms Paschal Homily.”
Given the number of times I have posted that sermon here on FR, I assumed readers of this thread in particular would recognize it. In other words, “He needs no introduction”! :)
Correction: But, of course....