Anselm is commonly charged with portraying the Father as a sadistic child-abuser who demands a death from His innocent Son. In a 2009 article in The Saint Anselm Journal , Daniel Shannon argues that Anselm says no such thing, and that in fact “God did not compel the innocent to suffer nor compel Jesus to suffer and die for humanity.”
He bases this conclusion on Cur deus homo 1.9, where Anselm endorses Boso’s distinction between “what Christ did because of the demands of his obedience” and “the suffering, inflicted upon him because he maintained his obedience.”
The first refers to those things that the Father commands the Son; the second to the consequences that follow from that obedience. “Obedience did not demand” suffering and death in the sense that the Father never commanded Him, “Go and die.” Rather, because He “maintained truth and righteousness unflinchingly in his way of life and in what he said,” his life led by an irresistible logic toward death. Anselm sums the point this way: “He underwent death of his own accord, not out of an obedience consisting in the abandonment of his life, but out of an obedience consisting in his upholding of righteousness so bravely and pertinaciously that as a result he incurred death.” The Father instructed Him to die in the sense that “He gave the instructions as a result of which He incurred death.”
As part of his argument, Anselm denies what critics often attribute to him when he says that a man who never sinned would not be “under an obligation to suffer death” and it would not be “at all appropriate ( nequequam aestimabis convenire ) for God to force a creature . . . . to be pitiably afflicted, in spite of an absence of guilt.” Anselm’s answer to the question, Why did Jesus die? is that His courageous obedience led him into a deadly clash with the Jews, and he willingly went to death rather than shrink back from the way of obedience. Anselm comes out surprisingly well by NT Wright’s criterion of “crucifiability.”
What is noteworthy in all this is the hesitation that Anselm has about speaking of Jesus’ death as the will of the Father in a direct and unqualified sense.
As before in my posts on Anselm, I am not defending or attacking Anselm; only trying to understand him.