In a 1995 article in Modern Schoolman on Anselm’s theory of atonement, Brian Leftow offers this list of “incidental benefits” that, Anselm claims, follow from God’s choice to save through incarnation and cross. It’s a demonstration of the “elegance” of the atonement. The rest of this post is directly quoted from Leftow.

—it offers us mercy while still respecting intuitions about fairness, e.g. that it is prima facie unfair to count sinful humans equal to sinless angels if humanity has not “made up for” the moral stain of sin.

— it offers us mercy while respecting the moral intuition that prima facie , sin ought to be either punished or paid for.

— it offers us mercy while respecting the moral intuition that the penalty paid for sin prima facie ought to be proportional to the crime.

— it offers us mercy while respecting the moral intuition that prima facie , God is not fair to Himself if He settles for less.

— it honors humanity by making us subordinate only to God.

— it honors humanity by making us equal to angels.

— it honors humanity by having us defeat the Devil in direct combat.

— it honors humanity by letting us champion God’s cause.

— it honors God in letting humanity make recompense for sin.

— it lets God display His power in a supremely unlikely miracle.

— it supremely displays God’s love for humanity.

— the patterns of fittingness in salvation-history reveal God’s wisdom.

— the beauties of salvation-history reveal God’s goodness.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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