medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
----- Original Message -----
From: "Edwin Hewitt" <[log in to unmask]>
> Are you suggesting then that the Western Medieval Church accepted only
Atonement? I would respond back with these quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas
(Summa Theologica III) where he lists seven reasons Christ died on the cross
(only one of which is atonement):
Yes, but Atonement was, it appears to me, the prime reason for Aquinas.
The question is: why and by whom was the atonement required?
From an Eastern viewpoint, the primary need was not punishment for sin but
the re-establishment of man's relationship to God which had been broken by
the introduction of sin into humanity. This relationship was accomplished
by the incarnation of the Son and the Son's offer to mankind of deification
in Himself, making it possible for man to become by grace what God is by
nature. The death on the Cross accomplished many things of course, among
which is the destruction of death to which man had become subject through
To return to the Summa and Aquinas: "And therefore Christ's Passion was not
only a sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human
race..." And to put the quote in its complete context:
"Whether Christ's Passion brought about our salvation by way of atonement?
"Objection 1. It would seem that Christ's Passion did not bring about our
salvation by way of atonement. For it seems that to make the atonement
devolves on him who commits the sin; as is clear in the other parts of
penance, because he who has done the wrong must grieve over it and confess
it. But Christ never sinned, according to 1 Pt. 2:22: "Who did no sin."
Therefore He made no atonement by His personal suffering.
"Objection 2. Further, no atonement is made to another by committing a
graver offense. But in Christ's Passion the gravest of all offenses was
perpetrated, because those who slew Him sinned most grievously, as stated
above (47, 6). Consequently it seems that atonement could not be made to God
by Christ's Passion.
"Objection 3. Further, atonement implies equality with the trespass, since
it is an act of justice. But Christ's Passion does not appear equal to all
the sins of the human race, because Christ did not suffer in His Godhead,
but in His flesh, according to 1 Pt. 4:1: "Christ therefore having suffered
in the flesh." Now the soul, which is the subject of sin, is of greater
account than the flesh. Therefore Christ did not atone for our sins by His
"On the contrary, It is written (Ps. 68:5) in Christ's person: "Then did I
pay that which I took not away." But he has not paid who has not fully
atoned. Therefore it appears that Christ by His suffering has fully atoned
for our sins.
"I answer that, He properly atones for an offense who offers something which
the offended one loves equally, or even more than he detested the offense.
But by suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was
required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race. First of
all, because of the exceeding charity from which He suffered; secondly, on
account of the dignity of His life which He laid down in atonement, for it
was the life of one who was God and man; thirdly, on account of the extent
of the Passion, and the greatness of the grief endured, as stated above (46,
6). And therefore Christ's Passion was not only a sufficient but a
superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race; according to 1 John
2:2: "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also
for those of the whole world."
"Reply to Objection 1. The head and members are as one mystic person; and
therefore Christ's satisfaction belongs to all the faithful as being His
members. Also, in so far as any two men are one in charity, the one can
atone for the other as shall be shown later (XP, 13, 2). But the same reason
does not hold good of confession and contrition, because atonement consists
in an outward action, for which helps may be used, among which friends are
to be computed.
"Reply to Objection 2. Christ's love was greater than His slayers' malice:
and therefore the value of His Passion in atoning surpassed the murderous
guilt of those who crucified Him: so much so that Christ's suffering was
sufficient and superabundant atonement for His murderer's crime.
"Reply to Objection 3. The dignity of Christ's flesh is not to be estimated
solely from the nature of flesh, but also from the Person assuming
it--namely, inasmuch as it was God's flesh, the result of which was that it
was of infinite worth."
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