Patristic Analogues in Anselm of Canterbury's Cur Deus Homo
Cohen, Nicholas. “Patristic Analogues in Anselm of Canterbury's Cur Deus Homo”, Boston College, 2011. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/1829.
The Cur Deus Homo (CDH) of Anselm of Canterbury is one of the most well-known and yet controversial works in the Anselmian corpus. Anselm's audacious effort to prove the necessity of the Incarnation has been met with varying levels of skepticism and critique in the intervening centuries. Critics of Anselm have taken aim particularly at the language that Anselm used in the CDH, commonly asserting that the key terms of the argument were derived primarily from the feudal society that surrounded Anselm as he wrote. The contention is then usually made that Anselm's usage of such terminology betrays a mindset so entangled in feudalism as to render the whole work ineffective as a work of Christian theology. Only in recent years have serious efforts been made to examine the theological roots of Anselm's thought process in the CDH. In this work, I examine the language that has been so maligned in recent years and I build on recent trends in Anselm scholarship to argue that his language is not so much feudal as it is scriptural and patristic. By analyzing Anselm's use of “honor,” “justice,” “debt” and “satisfaction,” I argue that Anselm was more concerned with maintaining consistency with his own work and with scriptural and patristic sources than with the feudal or juridical nature of his social context. I conclude by highlighting the ways in which Anselm accomplished his stated purpose in the CDH and provided a unique perspective on the Incarnation and Atonement that stands on its own as a turning point in the history of Christian theology.