Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/80

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ATONEMENT


58


ATONEMENT


question, the divergent views of the two schools on the primary motive of the Incarnation naturally have some effect on the Thomist and Scotist theologj' of the Atonement. On looking back at the various theories noticed so far, it will be seen that they are not, for the most part, mutually exclusive, but may be combined and harmonized. It may be said, in- deed, that they all help to bring out different aspects of that great doctrine which cannot find adequate expression in any human theorj'. And in point of fact it -n-ill generally be found that the chief Fathers and Schoolmen, though they may at times lay more stress on some favourite theorj' of their own, do not lose sight of the other explanations.

Thus the Greek Fathers, who deUght in speculating on the Mystical Redemption by the Incarnation, do not omit to speak also of our salvation by the shedding of blood. Origen, who lays most stress on the deUv- erance by payment of a ransom, does not forget to dwell on the need of a sacrifice for sin. St. Anselm, again, in his "Meditations ", supplements the teach- ing set forth in his "CurDeus Homo?" Abelard. who might seem to make the Atonement consist in nothing more than the constraining example of Divine Love, has spoken also of our salvation by the Sacrifice of the Cross, in passages t-o which his critics do not attach sufficient importance. And, as we liave seen, his great opponent. St. Bernard, teaches all that is really true and valuable in the theorj' which he con- demned. Most, if not all, of these theories had perils of their own, if they were isolated and ex- aggerated. But Ln the Catholic Church there was ever a safeguard against these dangers of distor- tion. As Mr. Oxenham says very finely, "The perpetual priesthood of Christ in heaven, which oc- cupies a prominent place in nearly all the writings we have examined, is even more emphatically in- sisted upon by Origen. And this deserves to be remembered, because it is a part of the doctrine wluch has been almost or altogether dropped out of many Protestant expositions of the Atonement, whereas those most inclining among CathoUcs to a merely juridical view of the subject have never been able to forget the present antl living reahty of a sacrifice constantly kept before their eyes, as it were, in the worship which reflects on earth the unfailing liturgy of heaven" (p. 38).

The reality of these dangers and the importance of this safeguard may be seen in the history of this doctrine since the age of the Reformation. As we liave seen, its earlier development owed compara- tively little to the stress of controversy with heretics. And the revolution of the sixteenth centurj' was no exception to this rule. For the Atonement was not one of the subjects directly disputed between the Reformers and their Catholic opponents. But from its close connexion with the cardinal question of Justification, tills doctrine assumed a very special prominence and importance in Protestant theologj' and practical preaching. Mark Pattison tells us in his "Memoirs" that he came to Oxford with his " home Puritan rehgion almost narrowed to two points, fear of God's wrath and faith in the doctrine of the Atonement ". And liis case was possibly no exception among Protestant religionists. In their general conception of the Atonement the Reformers and their followers happily preserved the Catholic doctrine, at least in its main lines. And in their explanation of the merit of Christ's sufferings and death we may see the influence of St. Thomas and the other great Schoolmen. But, as might be ex-

fjected from the isolation of the doctrine and the oss of other portions of Catholic teaching, the truth thus presen-ed was sometimes insensibly obscured or distorted. It will be enough to note here the presence of two mistaken tendencies. (I) The first 16 indicated in the above words of Pattison in which


the Atonement is specially connected with the thought of the wrath of God. It is true of course that sin incurs the anger of the Just Judge, and that tins is averted when the debt due to Divine Justice is paid by satisfaction. But it must not be thought that God is only moved to mercy and reconciled to us as a result of this satisfaction. This fal.se concep- tion of the Reconciliation is expressly rejected by St. Augustine (In Joannem, Tract, ex, § 6). God's merciful love is the cause, not the result of that satisfaction. (2) The second mistake is the ten- dency to treat the Passion of Christ as being literally a case of vicarious punishment. This is at best a distorted view of the truth that His Atoning Sacrifice took the place of our punishment, and that He took upon Himself the sufferings and death that were due to our sins.

This view of the Atonement naturally provoked a reaction. Thus the Socinians were led to reject the notion of vicarious suffering and satisfaction as inconsistent with God's justice and mercy. And in their eyes the work of Christ consisted simply in His teaching by word and example. Similar objec- tions to the juridical conception of the Atonement led to like results in the later system of Swedenborg. More recently Albrecht Ritschl, who has paid special attention to this subject, has formulated a new theorj' on somewhat similar hues. His conception of the Atonement is moral and spiritual, rather than juridical; and liis sj-stem is distinguished bj' the fact that he laj's stress on the relation of Christ to the whole Christian community. We cannot staj' to examine these new systems in detail. But it may be obser\'ed that the truth which thej' contain is reallj' found in the Catholic theologj' of the Atone- ment. That great doctrine has been faintlj' set forth in figures taken from man's laws and customs. It is represented as the paj'ment of a price, or a ransom; or as the offermg of satisfaction for a debt. But we can never rest in these material figures as though they were literal and adequate. As both Abelard and Bernard remind us. the Atonement is the work of lo\e. It is essentiallj' a sacrifice, the one supreme sacrifice of which the rest were but types and figures. And, as St. Augustine teaches us, the outward rite of sacrifice is the sacrament, or sacred sign, of the invisible sacrifice of the heart. It was bj' this inward sacrifice of obedience unto death, bj' this perfect love with which He laid down His fife for His friends, that Christ paid the debt to justice, and taught us bj' His example, and drew all things to Himself; it was bj' this that He wrought our Atonement and Reconciliation with Ciod, "mak- ing peace through the blood of His Cross".

The Catholic theology of the Atonement may be studied in the works of the Fathers and t^choolnien quoted above, notably ia St. Athanasius and in St. .\nselm; in the Scholastic commentaries on the Third Book of Sentences, and on the Third Part of the Summa of St. Thom.\s: and in later treatises De Incamatione, e. g. that of C.irdin.u, Fr.\.\eelin. Two modern works mav be mentioned as worthy of special atten- tion. These are OxEXH.iM. The Catholic Doctrine of the Atone- ment: An Historical Inquiry into iis Development in the Church. With an Introduction on the Principle of Theological Developments (London, 1865): and RrvlF.RE, Le dogme de la Redemption. Essai d'etude historique (Paris, 1905). Taken together, these two books, each admirable in its way, give a full view of the history of the doctrine. Sluch use has been made of them in this article. For modern non-Catholic the- olog>'. see Ritschl's great work on Justification and Recon- ciliation. Die christliche l^hre von der Rechtfertigung und Versohnung (Bonn. 1870-74). The first volume, containing the history of the doctrine, was translated into English in 1872; the third, in which the author's own view is found, was translated in 1900 iCIark. Edinburgh); the second volume, giving the Biblical matter, has not been done into English. Some account of recent non-Catholic literature on the Atone- ment will be found in Ferries, The Grouth of Christian Faith (Edinburgh. 1905). Like the Catholic works of O.xenham and Riviere, this book is a monograph on the doctrine of the Atonement. See also Simpson in Diet, of Christ and ths Gospels (New York, 1906) s. v.

W. H. Kent.