In a couple earlier posts , I took a look at the aesthetic dimensions of Anselm’s theory of the atonement. He certainly begins with a patristic atonement theory stressing the poetic symmetry of fall and redemption, and aesthetic concepts keep cropping up all along. But it seems that he abandons the aesthetic structure for something else, something more rational.

Leftow doesn’t think so, and points to places where Anselm speaks of the “rational fittingness” of the atonement. For instance, it is fitting that a human race that sinned through pleasure should be restored through distress, that humanity that stole from God should be restored in giving a great gift ( Cur Deus Homo , 2.11).

In short, “Anselm’s ‘fitnesses’ are a set of poetic parallels which are reasons for God to offer humanity” salvation in the way He did. For Anselm “‘poetic justice’ is a rational merit, one which can legitimately attract a rational agent . . . . ‘Poetic justice’ is not only just, but also beautiful.”

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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