Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Anselm! Anselm!

I remember being in discussion with some folks a few years ago whose views I thought were a bit towards the Liberal-Protestant side of the spectrum. (BTW, there ain't nothing wrong with being either a liberal or a Protestant, but being a liberal-Prostestant. Liberal-Protestantism can be defined as "Scholars who incline strongly to a non-dogmatic reconstruction of the Christian faith, usually concentrating on its ethical and humanitarian aspects.")

Anyway, they had a really strong beef with Saint Anselm's view of the atonement. I never really understood what it was about.

I just ran across An open letter to the Bishop-elect of Northern Michigan, by a self-described scholar of Medieval Christianity. The article makes rebuts none other than the Bishop-elect of Northern Michigan, Kevin G. Thew Forrester. Forrester had written a piece called Approaching the Heart of Faith, where he quotes someone who said that Anselm's theory of the Atonement gave support to the Crusades.

The Open Letter makes a very good case for how Anselm's theory of the Atonement is in no way to blame. If there is a focus on the shedding of blood, it's explicitly at the same time, a focus on the one-time sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice. It does not call us to go and shed the blood of whomever is unlovely around us. If someone is going to be a fool and a cretin, they'll find a way to do it, with or without the backing of the traditional doctrines of the church.

Once again, I believe that what we are faced with is another version of the Humanitarian Question. Do we have to choose between theological orthodoxy and compassion? Do we have to give up an iota of Pauline or Johannine scriptural doctrine, of the writings of Augustine or the Book of Concord, lest we become some kind of uncaring brute? Does all talk of social injustices have to be seen as a distraction from the business of the church? I say there is no need to turn our backs on either Truth or Love.

1 comment:

The Postulant said...

Greg, I wanted to thank you for your comment over at my place. I stopped posting comments because they had occasioned some very trollish behavior, but I certainly didn't want to just not post the comment and fail to thank you for your kind words. (Feel free to delete this comment as being not genuinely a comment; I just couldn't figure out another way to write to you.)