Skip to comments.Cur Deus Homo XXI-XXIII: Enormity of Sin (Cath-Orth caucus)
Posted on 06/15/2007 3:42:43 PM PDT by annalex
How great a burden sin is.
Anselm.. Suppose that you did not owe any of those things which you have brought up as possible payment for your sin, let us inquire whether they can satisfy for a sin so small as one look contrary to the will of God.
Boso. Did I not hear you question the thing, I should suppose that a single repentant feeling on my part would blot out this sin.
Anselm.. You have not as yet estimated the great burden of sin.
Boso. Show it me then.
Anselm.. If you should find yourself in the sight of God, and one said to you: "Look thither;" and God, on the other hand, should say: "It is not my will that you should look;" ask your own heart what there is in all existing things which would make it right for you to give that look contrary to the will of God.
Boso. I can find no motive which would make it right; unless, indeed I am so situated as to make it necessary for me either to do this, or some greater sin.
Anselm.. Put away all such necessity, and ask with regard to this sin only whether you can do it even for your own salvation.
Boso. I see plainly that I cannot.
Anselm.. Not to detain you too long; what if it were necessary either that the whole universe, except God himself, should perish and fall back into nothing, or else that you should do so small a thing against the will of God?
Boso. When I consider the action itself, it appears very slight; but when I view it as contrary to the will of God, I know of nothing so grievous, and of no loss that will compare with it; but sometimes we oppose another's will without blame in order to preserve his property, so that afterwards he is glad that we opposed him.
Anselm.. This is in the case of man, who often does not know what is useful for him, or cannot make up his loss; but God is in want of nothing, and, should all things perish, can restore them as easily as he created them.
Boso. I must confess that I ought not to oppose the will of God even to preserve the whole creation.
Anselm.. What if there were more worlds as full of beings as this?
Boso. Were they increased to an infinite extent, and held before me in like manner, my reply would be the same.
Anselm.. You cannot answer more correctly, but consider, also, should it happen that you gave the look contrary to God's will, what payment you can make for this sin?
Boso. I can only repeat what I said before.
Anselm.. So heinous is our sin whenever we knowingly oppose the will of God even in the slightest thing; since we are always in his sight, and he always enjoins it upon us not to sin.
Boso. I cannot deny it.
Anselm.. Therefore you make no satisfaction unless you restore something greater than the amount of that obligation, which should restrain you from committing the sin.
Boso. Reason seems to demand this, and to make the contrary wholly impossible.
Anselm.. Even God cannot raise to happiness any being bound at all by the debt of sin, because He ought not to.
Boso. This decision is most weighty.
Anselm.. Listen to an additional reason which makes it no less difficult for man to be reconciled to God.
Boso. This alone would drive me to despair, were it not for the consolation of faith.
Anselm.. But listen.
Boso. Say on.
What contempt man brought upon God, when he allowed himself to be conquered by the devil; for which be can make no satisfaction.
Anselm.. Man being made holy was placed in paradise, as it were in the place of God, between God and the devil, to conquer the devil by not yielding to his temptation, and so to vindicate the honor of God and put the devil to shame, because that man, though weaker and dwelling upon earth, should not sin though tempted by the devil, while the devil, though stronger and in heaven, sinned without any to tempt him. And when man could have easily effected this, he, without compulsion and of his own accord, allowed himself to be brought over to the will of the devil, contrary to the will and honor of God.
Boso. To what would you bring me?
Anselm.. Decide for yourself if it be not contrary to the honor of God for man to be reconciled to Him, with this calumnious reproach still heaped upon God; unless man first sball have honored God by overcoming the devil, as he dishonored him in yielding to the devil. Now the victory ought to be of this kind, that, as in strength and immortal vigor, he freely yielded to the devil to sin, and on this account justly incurred the penalty of death; so, in his weakness and mortality, which he had brought upon himself, he should conquer the devil by the pain of death, while wholly avoiding sin. But this cannot be done, so long as from the deadly effect of the first transgression, man is conceived and born in sin.
Boso. Again I say that the thing is impossible, and reason approves what you say.
Anselm.. Let me mention one thing more, without which man's reconciliation cannot be justly effected, and the impossibility is the same.
Boso. You have already presented so many obligations which we ought to fulfil, that nothing which you can add will alarm me more.
Anselm.. Yet listen.
Boso. I will.
What man took from God by his sin, which he has no power to repay.
Anselm.. What did man take from God, when he allowed himself to be overcome by the devil?
Boso. Go on to mention, as you have begun, the evil things which can be added to those already shown for I am ignorant of them.
Anselm.. Did not man take from God whatever He had purposed to do for human nature?
Boso. There is no denying that.
Anselm.. Listen to the voice of strict justice; and judge according to that whether man makes to God a real satisfaction for his sin, unless, by overcoming the devil, man restore to God what he took from God in allowing himself to be conquered by the devil; so that, as by this conquest over man the devil took what belonged to God, and God was the loser, so in man's victory the devil may be despoiled, and God recover his right.
Boso. Surely nothing can be more exactly or justly conceived.
Anselm.. Think you that supreme justice can violate this justice?
Boso. I dare not think it.
Anselm.. Therefore man cannot and ought not by any means to receive from God what God designed to give him, unless he return to God everything which he took from him; so that, as by man God suffered loss, by man, also, He might recover His loss. But this cannot be effected except in this way: that, as in the fall of man all human nature was corrupted, and, as it were, tainted with sin, and God will not choose one of such a race to fill up the number in his heavenly kingdom; so, by man's victory, as many men may be justified from sin as are needed to complete the number which man was made to fill. But a sinful man can by no means do this, for a sinner cannot justify a sinner.
Boso. There is nothing more just or necessary; but, from all these things, the compassion of God and the hope of man seems to fail, as far as regards that happiness for which man was made.
Anselm.. Yet wait a little.
Boso. Have you anything further?
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.
Cur Deus Homo I-III
Cur Deus Homo III-V
Cur Deus Homo VI-VIII: Is God Omnipotent and Wise?
Cur Deus Homo IX-X: Did The Father Wish Christ To Die?
Cur Deus Homo XI-XIV: God's Honor, Compassion, and Justice
Cur Deus Homo XV-XVIII: Men and Angels, Perfection and Election
Cur Deus Homo XIX-XX: No Satisfaction
Nothign in the created world can "satisfy for a sin so small as one look contrary to the will of God". That is because
God is in want of nothing, and, should all things perish, can restore them as easily as he created them
But the sin of man is far greater than a single look contrary to the will of God. Man was created to resist the temptation of the devil, but he failed to do this basic task, the very reason of his creation.
Man is therefore to honor God by overcoming the devil:
in his weakness and mortality, which he had brought upon himself, he should conquer the devil by the pain of death, while wholly avoiding sin.
in man's victory the devil may be despoiled, and God recover his right.
by man God suffered loss, by man, also, He might recover His loss
From the weakness wrought by sin, he obviously cannot do so:
a sinful man can by no means do this, for a sinner cannot justify a sinner.