Anselm and Luther on the atonement: Was it "necessary"?
This comparison of St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) and Martin Luther (1483-1546) on the atonement is an attempt to respond to comparisons which have been made between these two which have not taken into account their respective differences in purpose and method. The comparison begins, after an introductory chapter, with the points of agreement between Luther and Anselm, in chapter two. These include points on which they have been said to differ, among which is the atonement as vicarious satisfaction. Next, in chapter three, points of some similarity, on style of expression, are considered. Here in particular the use by each of the language of Scripture is examined. Similarities here result from a like familiarity with and love of the Scriptures. The end of this chapter contains a brief excursus summarizing studies on the "early" and "late" Luther. Then, in chapter four, points of difference are taken up, on the essence of sin, the means whereby faith advances, and theological approach. Here, the sola ratione method of Anselm is examined and contrasted against the approach of Luther, for whom faith's advance is attributed alone to the Gospel with its attendant theologia crucis. Finally, in chapter five, the question of the necessity of the atonement is addressed, with the conclusion that for Anselm, "necessary" means "perfectly appealing to reason," and for Luther, "necessary" includes the necessity of the proclamation of the Gospel.
Burnell Frederick Eckardt,
"Anselm and Luther on the atonement: Was it "necessary"?"
(January 1, 1991).
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