The other one looks at all this – -nature and history and the self – in terms of something which is given outside, from which through progressive analysis one might come finally to the existence of a highest being called God. This is the form which I deny and think it is hopeless and ultimately ruinous for religion. And I can state that .in a religious statement, that where God is not the prius of everything, you never can reach Him. If God is not the prius of everything, you never can reach Him. If you don’t start with Him, you never can reach Him. And that is what Anselm himself felt when he saw the incompleteness of the cosmological argument.
Anselm is famous in theology for the application of his principles also to the doctrine of atonement. In his book Cur Deus-homo (why did God become man?), he tries to understand the rational adequacy for the substitute suffering of Christ for the work of salvation. The steps are the following. Again they are difficult and not so easy as the popular distortion of this doctrine tells you.
1) The honor of God is violated by human sin. It is necessary that out of His honor, God react in a negative way.
2) There are two possibilities of His reaction: either punishment, which would mean eternal separation from God; or satisfaction, giving God satisfaction so that He can overlook the sins, This is the way in which His mercy has decided to solve the problem.
3) Man is unable to fulfill this satisfaction because he has to do what he can anyhow – he cannot do more – -and his guilt is infinite, which makes it impossible, by its very nature, for man to solve it. Only God is able to give satisfaction to Himself.
4) Not God, but man has to give the satisfaction, because man is the sinner.
Therefore somebody must do it who is both God and man, who as God can do it and who as man must do it. The God-man alone is able to do it.
5) But he doesn’t reach it through what he did, because he had to do that anyhow; he had to give full obedience to God; but he did it by what he suffered, because he did not have to suffer, since he was innocent. So voluntary suffering is the work through which the Christ gives satisfaction to God.
6) Although our sin is infinite, this sacrifice – -since it is given by God Himself – is an infinite sacrifice, and it makes it possible for God to give Christ what he has deserved by this sacrifice, namely, the possession of man. He himself doesn’t need anything, but what he needs and will have is man, so God gives him man.
Now this idea, in these 6 steps, is legalistic, of course, is quantitative, but it has behind it a very profound meaning, namely, that sin has produced a tension in God Himself. And this tension one feels. Anselms theory became so popular because everybody felt that it is not simple for God to forgive sins, as it is not simple for us to accept ourselves – it is the most difficult thing – -and only in the act of suffering, of self-negation, is it possible at all. And that was the power of this doctrine and still is; in every Lenten service, in our Week of Passion this week, we hear of the “atoning work” of Christ. The Church never has dogmatized Anselm; cleverly it restricted itself from doing so, because there is no absolute theory of atonement. As we shall see, Abelard had another one, and others did also, e. g., Origen. The Church has not decided.