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Creation under construction

Creation under construction February 8, 2013

Section 1.18 Cur Deus Homo contains a strange, very medieval digression on the question of whether the number of elect human beings is equal to, less, or greater than the number of fallen angels, and whether God created humans to make up the number of fallen angels. Through a series of arguments, Anselm proves to Boso that there are “more elect human beings than there are wicked angels.”

It’s an odd question, but I think there are some profound things going on. Anselm is concerned to discern the logic of the apparent “delay” in the consummation. One of his arguments concerning the relative numbers of angels and humans has to do with Adam: Even if Adam had not sinned, he argues, “God would none the less be delaying the completion of the city” of the blessed and the consummation of creation that accompanies it. It would make no sense for God to “renew immediately a newly created universe.” Once Anselm raises the issue of “delay,” he also raises the question of time.

And that leads to a core issue that runs underneath speculations about angels and elect humans.

Anselm proposes two scenarios: On the one hand, creation might have been entirely completed from the beginning, damaged by the fall of angels, and repaired by the creation of humans to replace the angels. On the other hand, creation is in complete, and God creates man not to fill up a previously existing number of hosts but to add to the current number to achieve a final number.

The first scenario is front-loaded: creation is it , and the goal of history is to get back where we started. The second is back-loaded, eschatological; in the end creation reaches a fullness that it had not previously enjoyed. The first scenario is comic enough; the second is deep comedy. The first scenario is of a creation under re construction, the second of creation under construction.

And Anselm is exactly right to choose the latter.


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