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Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo For a Peace Theology: On The Compatability of Non-Violence and Sacrificial Atonement

Rachel Reesor -Taylor, Jakob
June 4, 2015

Source: (2007) Thesis submitted to McGill University for Doctorate of Philosophy.

Although the interpretation of Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo in the tradition of Albrecht Ritschl,Adolf Von Harnack and Gustav Aulen has led to a suspicion about its usefulness for a Peace Theology, a reading through the lens of more recent scholarship,which assumes its original Catholic, sacramental and sacrificial framework,reveals a beautiful understanding of the cross in this medieval classic that is perfectly compatible with a commitment to non-violence.Three Mennonite scholars writing in pursuit of an Anabaptist Peace Theology, John Howard Yoder,John Driver and J. Denny Weaver display varying degrees of dissatisfaction with the explanation that Anselm provided in Cur Deus Homo,and none held out many prospects for its usefulness.Yoder highlighted the weaknesses, Driver essentially repeated them, and Weaver went a step further to charge that Cur Deus Homo depicted divinely sanctioned violence and ought to be rejected.They did not demonstrate much awareness of our reliance on the contributions of scholars who have focused on Anselm’s theology and context.Reading Cur Deus Homo through the lens of more recent anselmian scholarship reveals that the honour and justice of God are one with the mercy and love of God.Humanity is restored not through punishment, but through the means of satisfaction and reward, while the whole explanation is seen in a sacrificial framework. Anselm’s isistence upon human participation, and on satisfaction are very congenial to certain emphases of a Peace Theology, namely, discipleship and restorative justice. The real death understood metaphorically as a sacrifice does not violate the commitment to non-violence, but strengthens it. A rejection of Anselm’s metaphysic,ontology and sacrificial framework, a failure to distinguish between punishment and satisfaction, a failure to reflect from the perspective of the guilty,and a neglect of or an ambivalence about the doctrines of the two natures and the trinity all lead to a distorted impression of Cur Deus Homo, concealing the contribution Cur Deus Homo might make to a peace theology.


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