Aesthetic Theory of Atonement again

God’s honor cannot be diminished or increased in itself, but when human beings refuse to honor and obey Him, Anselm says ( Cur Deus Homo , 1.15), they dishonor God in relation to themselves. In so far as they are able, the disobedient disturb the “order and beauty of the universe.”

They aren’t able to do much damage because the will of God is inescapable. Those who obey God’s will obviously do not escape it; those who disobey only move from “a will that issues orders” to a “will that inflicts punishments,” and the way between the two is not autonomous from God’s will, but is the road of the “will of permission” ( voluntate permittente ). In this way, God’s sapientia converts even wrong desires and actions into the beauty of universal order.

Thus, both voluntary satisfaction and the exaction of punishment have their “own proper place in this same universal order and their own regulatory beauty.” If God didn’t rectify by satisfaction in these ways, the world would become ugly ( deformitas ) and God’s disposition or governance of the world would become questionable.

Anticipating the later logic of the argument: What the atonement achieves is not so much a restoration of honor to God in Himself, since that can’t be added to or lost. What the atonement achieves is a restoration of God’s honor in relation to creatures, which Anselm identifies with the universal order of beauty.

Cur Deus Homo? To restore and enhance the beauty of the world.

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