Skip to comments.Cur Deus Homo XI-XIV: God's Honor, Compassion, and Justice (Cath-Orth caucus)
Posted on 05/23/2007 11:52:11 AM PDT by annalex
What it is to sin, and to make satisfaction for sin.
Anselm.. We must needs inquire, therefore, in what manner God puts away men's sins; and, in order to do this more plainly, let us first consider what it is to sin, and what it is to make satisfaction for sin.
Boso. It is yours to explain and mine to listen.
Anselm.. If man or angel always rendered to God his due, he would never sin.
Boso. I cannot deny that.
Anselm.. Therefore to sin is nothing else than not to render to God his due.
Boso. What is the debt which we owe to God?
Anselm.. Every wish of a rational creature should be subject to the will of God.
Boso. Nothing is more true.
Anselm.. This is the debt which man and angel owe to God, and no one who pays this debt commits sin; but every one who does not pay it sins. This is justice, or uprightness of will, which makes a being just or upright in heart, that is, in will; and this is the sole and complete debt of honor which we owe to God, and which God requires of us. For it is such a will only, when it can be exercised, that does works pleasing to God; and when this will cannot be exercised, it is pleasing of itself alone, since without it no work is acceptable. He who does not render this honor which is due to God, robs God of his own and dishonors him; and this is sin. Moreover, so long as he does not restore what he has taken away, he remains in fault; and it will not suffice merely to restore what has been taken away, but, considering the contempt offered, he ought to restore more than he took away. For as one who imperils another's safety does not enough by merely restoring his safety, without making some compensation for the anguish incurred; so he who violates another's honor does not enough by merely rendering honor again, but must, according to the extent of the injury done, make restoration in some way satisfactory to the person whom he has dishonored. We must also observe that when any one pays what he has unjustly taken away, he ought to give something which could not have been demanded of him, had he not stolen what belonged to another. So then, every one who sins ought to pay back the honor of which he has robbed God; and this is the satisfaction which every sinner owes to God.
Boso. Since we have determined to follow reason in all these things, I am unable to bring any objection against them, although you somewhat startle me.
Whether it were proper for God to put away sins by compassion alone, without any payment of debt.
Anselm.. Let us return and consider whether it were proper for God to put away sins by compassion alone, without any payment of the honor taken from him.
Boso. I do not see why it is not proper.
Anselm.. To remit sin in this manner is nothing else than not to punish; and since it is not right to cancel sin without compensation or punishment; if it be not punished, then is it passed by undischarged.
Boso. What you say is reasonable.
Anselm.. It is not fitting for God to pass over anything in his kingdom undischarged.
Boso. If I wish to oppose this, I fear to sin.
Anselm.. It is, therefore, not proper for God thus to pass over sin unpunished.
Boso. Thus it follows.
Anselm.. There is also another thing which follows if sin be passed by unpunished, viz., that with God there will be no difference between the guilty and the not guilty; and this is unbecoming to God.
Boso. I cannot deny it.
Anselm.. Observe this also. Every one knows that justice to man is regulated by law, so that, according to the requirements of law, the measure of award is bestowed by God.
Boso. This is our belief.
Anselm.. But if sin is neither paid for nor punished, it is subject to no law.
Boso. I cannot conceive it to be otherwise.
Anselm.. Injustice, therefore, if it is cancelled by compassion alone, is more free than justice, which seems very inconsistent. And to these is also added a further incongruity, viz., that it makes injustice like God. For as God is subject to no law, so neither is injustice.
Boso. I cannot withstand your reasoning. But when God commands us in every case to forgive those who trespass against us, it seems inconsistent to enjoin a thing upon us which it is not proper for him to do himself.
Anselm.. There is no inconsistency in God's commanding us not to take upon ourselves what belongs to Him alone. For to execute vengeance belongs to none but Him who is Lord of all; for when the powers of the world rightly accomplish this end, God himself does it who appointed them for the purpose.
Boso. You have obviated the difficulty which I thought to exist; but there is another to which I would like to have your answer. For since God is so free as to be subject to no law, and to the judgment of no one, and is so merciful as that nothing more merciful can be conceived; and nothing is right or fit save as he wills; it seems a strange thing for us to say that be is wholly unwilling or unable to put away an injury done to himself, when we are wont to apply to him for indulgence with regard to those offences which we commit against others.
Anselm.. What you say of God's liberty and choice and compassion is true; but we ought so to interpret these things as that they may not seem to interfere with His dignity. For there is no liberty except as regards what is best or fitting; nor should that be called mercy which does anything improper for the Divine character. Moreover, when it is said that what God wishes is just, and that what He does not wish is unjust, we must not understand that if God wished anything improper it would be just, simply because he wished it. For if God wishes to lie, we must not conclude that it is right to lie, but rather that he is not God. For no will can ever wish to lie, unless truth in it is impaired, nay, unless the will itself be impaired by forsaking truth. When, then, it is said: "If God wishes to lie," the meaning is simply this: "If the nature of God is such as that he wishes to lie;" and, therefore, it does not follow that falsehood is right, except it be understood in the same manner as when we speak of two impossible things: "If this be true, then that follows; because neither this nor that is true;" as if a man should say: "Supposing water to be dry, and fire to be moist;" for neither is the case. Therefore, with regard to these things, to speak the whole truth: If God desires a thing, it is right that he should desire that which involves no unfitness. For if God chooses that it should rain, it is right that it should rain; and if he desires that any man should die, then is it right that he should die. Wherefore, if it be not fitting for God to do anything unjustly, or out of course, it does not belong to his liberty or compassion or will to let the sinner go unpunished who makes no return to God of what the sinner has defrauded him.
Boso. You remove from me every possible objection which I had thought of bringing against you.
Anselm.. Yet observe why it is not fitting for God to do this.
Boso. I listen readily to whatever you say.
How nothing less was to be endured, in the order of things, than that the creature should take away the honor due the Creator and not restore what he takes away.
Anselm.. In the order of things, there is nothing less to be endured than that the creature should take away the honor due the Creator, and not restore what he has taken away.
Boso. Nothing is more plain than this.
Anselm.. But there is no greater injustice suffered than that by which so great an evil must be endured.
Boso. This, also, is plain.
Anselm.. I think, therefore, that you will not say that God ought to endure a thing than which no greater injustice is suffered, viz., that the creature should not restore to God what he has taken away.
Boso. No; I think it should be wholly denied.
Anselm.. Again, if there is nothing greater or better than God, there is nothing more just than supreme justice, which maintains God's honor in the arrangement of things, and which is nothing else but God himself.
Boso. There is nothing clearer than this.
Anselm.. Therefore God maintains nothing with more justice than the honor of his own dignity.
Boso. I must agree with you.
Anselm.. Does it seem to you that he wholly preserves it, if he allows himself to be so defrauded of it as that he should neither receive satisfaction nor punish the one defrauding him.
Boso. I dare not say so.
Anselni. Therefore the honor taken away must be repaid, or punishment must follow; otherwise, either God will not be just to himself, or he will be weak in respect to both parties; and this it is impious even to think of.
Boso. I think that nothing more reasonable can be said.
How the honor of God exists in the punishment of the wicked.
Boso. But I wish to hear from you whether the punishment of the sinner is an honor to God, or how it is an honor. For if the punishment of the sinner is not for God's honor when the sinner does not pay what he took away, but is punished, God loses his honor so that he cannot recover it. And this seems in contradiction to the things which have been said.
Anselm.. It is impossible for God to lose his honor; for either the sinner pays his debt of his own accord, or, if he refuse, God takes it from him. For either man renders due submission to God of his own will, by avoiding sin or making payment, or else God subjects him to himself by torments, even against man's will, and thus shows that he is the Lord of man, though man refuses to acknowledge it of his own accord. And here we must observe that as man in sinning takes away what belongs to God, so God in punishing gets in return what pertains to man. For not only does that belong to a man which he has in present possession, but also that which it is in his power to have. Therefore, since man was so made as to be able to attain happiness by avoiding sin; if, on account of his sin, he is deprived of happiness and every good, he repays from his own inheritance what he has stolen, though he repay it against his will. For although God does not apply what he takes away to any object of his own, as man transfers the money which he has taken from another to his own use; yet what he takes away serves the purpose of his own honor, for this very reason, that it is taken away. For by this act he shows that the sinner and all that pertains to him are under his subjection.
... 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.
Sin is failure to pay debt of honor which we owe to God. As with any dept, to satisfy it, more than what has been taken is to be repaid:
He who does not render this honor which is due to God, robs God of his own and dishonors him; and this is sin. Moreover, so long as he does not restore what he has taken away, he remains in fault; and it will not suffice merely to restore what has been taken away, but, considering the contempt offered, he ought to restore more than he took away.
It is not fitting for God to remit sin undischarged. If sin is not paid and punished, then injustice and not God reigns:
if sin is neither paid for nor punished, it is subject to no law ... Injustice, therefore, if it is cancelled by compassion alone, is more free than justice, which seems very inconsistent. And to these is also added a further incongruity, viz., that it makes injustice like God. For as God is subject to no law, so neither is injustice
God can demand justice when men cannot, since the honor is God's alone. Moreover, since God is ontologically justice, is is not a sign of His incomplete power that God cannot allow sin go unpinished:
if it be not fitting for God to do anything unjustly, or out of course, it does not belong to his liberty or compassion or will to let the sinner go unpunished who makes no return to God of what the sinner has defrauded him ... the honor taken away must be repaid, or punishment must follow; otherwise, either God will not be just to himself, or he will be weak in respect to both parties; and this it is impious even to think of.
The honor of God is not recovered through punishment, because God never loses His honor. Rather, the punishment for sin takes away what otherwise would have been rightly man's, his happiness:
since man was so made as to be able to attain happiness by avoiding sin; if, on account of his sin, he is deprived of happiness and every good, he repays from his own inheritance what he has stolen, though he repay it against his will
Note that the difference with "missing the mark" is very subtle, if it exists at all. One thing I preceive from this definition is that while missing the mark is subject to how wide off did one go, failing to pay a debt has a hard edge binary connotation.
To put differently, since the mark is Christ, theosis is never complete; but Anselm's metaphore seems to allow a state when the debt is fully paid off.