3) In the idea of salvation, he is best known to Protestants and very often quoted. In the doctrine of atonement, as we have seen yesterday, Anselm makes a deal between God and Christ, out of the situation which is produced by human sin. He describes atonement in quantitative terms of satisfaction. This is not the idea of Abelard. But it is the love of God which is visible in the cross of Christ, which produces our love.
It is not an objective mechanism between transcendent powers which enables God to forgive, as it is in Anselm, but it is the subjective act of Divine love which provokes our subjective act of loving Him. Salvation is man’s ethical response to the forgiving act of the Divine love – -ethical in the sense of personal. Now this has produced a whole type of the doctrine of atonement, which is always called the Abelardian type, the type in which God forgives because He loves; the mechanism of atonement through the substitute suffering, the problems of satisfaction, etc., are simply ruled out. It is a doctrine of atonement in the personal center, while in Anselm it is a doctrine of atonement in a mythological realm in which God and Christ trade with each other — Christ sacrifices something and gets back something from God in return, namely the human individuals, with whom He is united. In all these things Abelard is a pre -Protestant and pre-autonomous type. It is subjectivity in the sense of reason and centered personality. But Kant could not have appeared in the 12th century; he could only appear in the 18th century and become the all- decisive philosophical turning point. Therefore many things of Abelard were rejected. He was too early for the educational situation in which the Church found itself. For instance, when you tell somebody whom you want to educate that the act of confession is only act of confession (and that means repentance) if it comes from love towards God and not from fear, then the whole educational effect of the preaching of the law is taken away. Abelard is just the opposite of an educational theologian. He doesn’t think in terms of what is good for the people, but in terms of what is ultimately true, and what is good for those who are autonomous. For this reason some of his doctrines were rejected, and he was not received completely, in his time. But nevertheless he became one of the most inf luential people in the development towards Scholasticism, because of the cleverness and greatness of the method he produced, the method of sic et non.
I said he was rejected. Who were the people who rejected him? This brings me to another great man of the same century: Bernard of Clairvaux Anselm was fighting with Bernard about the possibility of applying dialectics to Christian contents. Bernard is the most representative of a Christianized, or “baptized,” mysticism. He was, as I said, the foe of Abelard, but he was not only the foe; he brought Abelard to a council which rejected him. But when we call him the adversary of Abelard, this is only half true because he also was fighting for the subjective side, namely subjectivity in terms of mystical experience. He belonged to those who wanted to make the objective Christian doctrines, the decisions of the Fathers and the council; a matter of personal adaptation. But the difference was that while Abelard did this in terms of reason, Bernard did it in terms of mystical experience. This experience is based on faith – of course, every medieval theologian would say this – -and faith is described as an anticipation of will. This is Augustinian voluntarism which becomes visible here in Bernard as well as in the whole Franciscan school later on. Faith is something daring, is something free. You anticipate something which can become real for you only by full experience.
Certainty is not given in the act of faith; it is a daring anticipation of a state to which you may come. Faith is created by the Divine Spirit, and the following experience confirms it.