The Somerset Guardian, 20th December 2023
As my fourth child is called Anselm, named after St. Anselm of Canterbury, an Archbishop and theologian subsequently declared a Saint and Doctor of the Church, I have been reading his works in the run up to Christmas. St. Anselm tried to answer the question about the necessity of Jesus becoming Man to save us from the state of sin that mankind had fallen into and why it was the only way we could be saved.
Anselm’s answer was that a just God demands recompense for sin. He will forgive the offence but the debt must nonetheless be repaid. However, as man is born into sin he cannot repay by his own efforts. This leaves the conundrum that Man must make amends for something that only God can rectify, thus God must become Man.
As Anselm put it regarding the relationship between the divine and human nature of Christ: “if, furthermore, these two natures, as wholes are set to be somehow conjoined to a limited extent whereby Man and God are distinct from one another and not one and the same, it is impossible that both should bring about what it is necessary should happen. For God will not do it because it will not be his obligation to do it, and a man will not do it because he will not be able to. In order, therefore, that a God-Man should bring about what is necessary, it is essential that the same one person who will make the recompense should be perfect God and perfect Man. He cannot do this if he is not true God, and he has no obligation to do so if he is not a true man.”
Anselm, therefore, helps us to understand the logical necessity of the Incarnation. It was the only way to redeem the debt of sin. It was not a capricious act of God but one that was essential from the very nature of creation. This does not reduce the importance of Faith but supports it with the scaffolding of reason, which will help us to comprehend the mystery that unfolds during the Christmas liturgies.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance: firstname.lastname@example.org.