Cur Deus homo
These reflections on Anselm’s (1033-1109) question about why God became man, suffered a horrible crucifixion and rose from the dead were provoked while reading pp, 150 ff. of Joseph Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity*” With reluctance, the then Fr. Ratizinger, accepted what I below call the “atonement theory.” He calls it “satisfaction theory. ” The satisfaction theory is biblical and Church teaching. He favors, under acknowledged influence from Fr. Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), what I call the “re-creation theory.” This optimistic theory also has basis in scripture and is Church teaching. It promises humanity that God’s suffering was forward looking; not only to remedy what had been done. The Paschal Mystery created a future for humans to be like God; not God, of course, but to have a new human nature with God’s selfless loving as its way of loving.
Ratzinger admits that an outstanding theological problem is reconciling these two theories. In this post, I try to reconcile these two theories by use of my idiosyncratic notion “moral harm.” This may be foolish for someone with no theological training.
There are two answers to Anslem’s question: Atonement, Re-creation
The atonement theory holds that God became man so there would be an appropriate man to suffer the retributive punishment for offending God.
The re-creation theory holds that God became man so human nature could be recreated so that humans could have eternal life with a divinized human nature.
The objection to the atonement theory is that we should not conceive of God as requiring intense misery for an offense to Him. God should not be thought of as being satisfied with suffering.
The objection to the re-creation theory is that is that we should not conceive of God as being unable to re-create human nature without the intense suffering of the crucifixion.
My defense of the atonement theory assumes my notion of moral harm. Moral Harm Distinguished From Vengeance Moral harm comprises the human produced norms that harm ought to be whenever we violate a moral law. Our morality now requires fulfilment of these special moral rules that someone be harmed. Humanity can never fulfill these harm requiring moral norms. Way back with the first humans norms requiring harm – norms requiring retributive punishment – have been accumulating. We are all born into the human community whose justice cries out for indefinitely many unpunished wrongs. God has given us the capacity to create a moral order. For humanity to be complete all its norms must be satisfied. Our moral order requires suffering of harm that no individual or group of humans can bear. So, God becomes man to bear the suffering which we require. It is our retributive justice which demands an execution that only God can suffer.
I made this point in an earlier post on nihilism.
See Jesus has saved us from nihilism being a correct account of the human condition on August 4,2017 I outline my unprofessional theological interpretation of the Paschal Mystery as Jesus carrying out accepting annihilation to save humans from having annihilation as our fate. The gist of my speculation is that human’s original sin is to set the moral obligation that humans’ fate is to be annihilated. We have chosen that human destiny ought to be no different than that of any other animal. But this obligation is incompatible with being like any other animal who have no obligations.
This incompatibility is resolved by the human nature of Jesus suffering annihilation and then being restored with a human nature that has fulfilled the obligation to be annihilated. Jesus suffered what we have required humanity to suffer. His death was not a sacrifice to God. His death was a fulfillment of the human moral demand for human annihilation so that human nature could be free from this moral imperative that nihilism be humans’ fate.
Back to re-creation theory:
My explanation of why recreation of humanity required the crucifixion is that the old humanity had chosen to live under obligations by choosing to have Basic Human Goods become obligatory goods. For instance, instead of having sexual desire be for sexual intercourse for procreation and lifelong male/female bonding,we chose to have an obligation to have those goals for sexual activity. The original sin activated the capacity of the basic human goods to become obligatory goods. We turned away from loving the basic goods for humanity in the way God loves them. We chose not to love as God loves. We chose to be obligated to loves as God loves. Hence, humanities end became fulfillment of the law. Living for fulfillment of the law is only the most meager antidote to nihilism. Living for basic human goods as God wills them is everlasting human life. That old humanity of living for fulfillment of the moral law had to be destroyed by fulfilling the service to the law.
The crucifixion does double duty. It fulfills the demands of our moral law and kills the humanity whose highest goal could be only fulfillment of the law. Resurrection is not necessary for atonement. But for recreation there was a need for the resurrection.
*Introduction to Christianity 2nd ed 1990, 2004 ,Ignatius Press, San Francisco, German original 1968