Cardinal Ratzinger v. Catholic Encyclopedia: Did humanity owe a debt?

Hello, fellow forum-visitors:

Okay, did the “v.” grab you? This thread is not for those who prefer one-liners, for things meaningful sometimes involves more explanation.

The “v.” is a challenge, not to determine what view is the “right” one, but instead to investigate with this in mind:

“True love does not eliminate legitimate differences, but harmonizes them in a superior unity, which is not imposed from the outside, but gives shape to the whole from inside,”

Pope Benedict

First, from an article in a Catholic Encyclopedia (bolds mine):

catholic.com/encyclopedia/doctrine-of-the-atonement

We cannot stay to examine these new systems in detail. But it may be observed that the truth which they contain is really found in the Catholic theology of the Atonement. That great doctrine has been faintly set forth in figures taken from mans laws and customs. It is represented as the payment of a price, or a ransom; or as the offering 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 love. It is essentially 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 by this inward sacrifice of obedience unto death, by this perfect love with which He laid down His life for His friends, that Christ ** paid the debt to justice**, and taught us by His example, and drew all things to Himself; it was by this that he wrought our Atonement and Reconciliation with God, “making peace through the blood of His Cross.”.

W.H. KENT

Next, from Cardinal Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity (bolds mine):

robertaconnor.blogspot.com/2011/03/reappraisal-of-meaning-of-redemption.html

To many Christians, and especially to those who only know the faith from a fair distance, it looks as if the cross is to be understood as part of a mechanism of injured and restored right. It is the form, so it seems, in which the infinitely offended righteousness of God was propitiated again by means of an infinite expiation. It thus appears to people as the expression of an attitude which insists on a precise balance between debit and credit; at the same time one gets the feeling that this balance is based on a fiction. One gives first secretly with the left hand what one takes back again ceremonially with the right. The `infinite expiation’ on which God seems to insist thus moves into a doubly sinister light. Many devotional texts actually force one to think that Christian faith in the cross visualizes a God whose unrelenting righteousness demanded a human sacrifice, the sacrifice of his own Son, sinister wrath makes the message of love incredible.

This picture is as false as it is widespread.”

So, here is a question central to our faith. Why did Jesus come? Was there an “injured and restored right”? Did Jesus pay a “debt to justice”? There are obviously a variety of opinions, and the theology has evolved over the centuries. As much as Cardinal Ratzinger described the error in Anselm’s view, Anselm’s was (IMO) a huge step in the right direction.

Once we get into the discussion, for awhile, I am going to offer something from an unusual source that may shed some light on the topic. I am sure that it will surprise you, it did me!

Thanks, up front, for your replies!:slight_smile:

Pope St Leo and St Gregory the Theologian would say that the debt was paid to our condition.

Now we are to examine another fact and dogma, neglected by most people, but in my judgment well worth enquiring into. To Whom was that Blood offered that was shed for us, and why was It shed? I mean the precious and famous Blood of our God and High priest and Sacrifice. We were detained in bondage by the Evil One, sold under sin, and receiving pleasure in exchange for wickedness. Now, since a ransom belongs only to him who holds in bondage, I ask to whom was this offered, and for what cause? If to the Evil One, fie upon the outrage! If the robber receives ransom, not only from God, but a ransom which consists of God Himself, and has such an illustrious payment for his tyranny, a payment for whose sake it would have been right for him to have left us alone altogether. But if to the Father, I ask first, how? For it was not by Him that we were being oppressed; and next, On what principle did the Blood of His Only begotten Son delight the Father, Who would not receive even Isaac, when he was being offered by his Father, but changed the sacrifice, putting a ram in the place of the human victim? Is it not evident that the Father accepts Him, but neither asked for Him nor demanded Him; but on account of the Incarnation, and because Humanity must be sanctified by the Humanity of God, that He might deliver us Himself, and overcome the tyrant, and draw us to Himself by the mediation of His Son, Who also arranged this to the honour of the Father, Whom it is manifest that He obeys in all things? So much we have said of Christ; the greater part of what we might say shall be reverenced with silence. But that brazen serpent was hung up as a remedy for the biting serpents, not as a type of Him that suffered for us, but as a contrast; and it saved those that looked upon it, not because they believed it to live, but because it was killed, and killed with it the powers that were subject to it, being destroyed as it deserved. And what is the fitting epitaph for it from us? O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? You are overthrown by the Cross; you are slain by Him who is the Giver of life; you are without breath, dead, without motion, even though you keep the form of a serpent lifted up on high on a pole. - St Gregory the Theologian

Therefore the Word of God, Himself God, the Son of God who in the beginning was with God, through whom all things were made and without whom was nothing made with the purpose of delivering man from eternal death, became man: so bending Himself to take on Him our humility without decrease in His own majesty, that remaining what He was and assuming what He was not, He might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father, and join both natures together by such a compact that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new associate. Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality: and for the paying off of the debt, belonging to our condition, inviolable nature was united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other. - St Leo the Great

I am already challenged by the question – Did humanity owe a debt?

What is meant by owe a debt? To whom? Why? etc., etc.

Thank you.

When we are in Heaven and close to God this is what it will feel like. :thumbsup:

:aok:

Hey, remember also, “on Earth as it is in Heaven”?

It can happen now.

Thanks!

Yes, Granny!

Amazing questions, and they have been pondered for ages! I know you read alot. If you have time and wherewithal, take the time to compare the two links. Can you read between the lines and see the subtle differences? Pay attention how the two treat Anselm’s teachings.

Amazing, huh?

Thanks.:slight_smile:

Originally Posted by grannymh forums.catholic.com/images/buttons_khaki/viewpost.gif
*I am already challenged by the question – Did humanity owe a debt?

What is meant by owe a debt? To whom? Why? etc., etc.

Thank you.*

Since you are the Opening Poster and author of the thread’s title, I would appreciate your reasons for your choice of words – Did humanity owe a debt?

Thank you.

Allow me to address your request.

statement (1) I think nails what “The Cross” is all about saying The Sacred Heart loved the cross which harmonizes legitimate differences in His creation in a superior unity.

statement (2) I think says what it’s not. It’s not God feasting on suffering.

I hope it’s not an oversimplification. :confused:

Fascinating, Seraphim!

It looks like a response to the common idea that the “debt” was owed to satan. I am wondering, a little, as to the meaning of “Humanity must be sanctified”. This can mean many different things.

Death is dead? Yes, that is what we believe, in a curious combination of words. Death deserved death? Yes, that does appeal to our desire for justice, doesn’t it? Trouble is, “death” is not what we would ordinarily think of as a holder of debts, so it is a tad confusing. A debt is usually held by a creditor, and death is a nonentity, unless we decide that satan is death or hell is death, which then become the keepers of debt, and resented ones at that, which brings us back to satan or some kind of evil power. I like the train of thought of St. Gregory, though, and the diversion from the idea that humanity owes a debt. He is saying, instead, that “death owes a debt”. Fascinating!

Therefore the Word of God, Himself God, the Son of God who in the beginning was with God, through whom all things were made and without whom was nothing made with the purpose of delivering man from eternal death, became man: so bending Himself to take on Him our humility without decrease in His own majesty, that remaining what He was and assuming what He was not, He might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father, and join both natures together by such a compact that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new associate. Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality:** and for the paying off of the debt, belonging to our condition**, inviolable nature was united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other. - St Leo the Great

Very cool. I am wondering what he meant by the part I put in bold, is this the debt owed by death? That there was a human condition, death itself, that “deserved to die”? This seems, at first glance, a radical departure from the idea that man’s sinfulness is what incurred the debt. It gets so complicated, though, that it may work better to altogether throw out the debt model .

Our condition a creditor. Wow, I like that. Our condition as a creditor and a debtor. wow.

Thoughts?

Thanks for the great input. :slight_smile:

Satan’s rightful rules over sinful men. Lucifer, once bearer of Light, next to the throne of God by an act of disobedience (pride) became Satan, the prince of darkness. Being superior to man in his nature reigned over men. Both were in a fallen state, so it is appropriate that he was the ruler of those angels and men that were rebellious. All men come into the world in the state of original sin, and it’s effects. Heaven was closed to them Humanity was helpless.

  Jesus Christ sent by the Father came to redeem what was lost, because of the Father's love for us.  His mission from the Father was to give His life for the salvation of mankind.  Since Jesus was like us in every way except SIN, Satan had not just hold on Him, but through sinful men, Satan through the instrumentality of sinful men, crucified a Just Man, a God-man.  In so doing he owed God infinitely and lost his rightful rule over sinful men. But salvation depended on sinful man to turn to Jesus Christ for salvation, since He merited it for man, as no one else could.  It is said by the Blessed Mother to St.Mary of Agreda that because of Jesus' humility, Satan co;uld not conceive God being so humble,becoming man and because of Satan's proudful nature, his pride blinded him, otherwise he would never have  caused the death of Jesus, as he knew it would be the end of his reign.  Jesus hooked him by His humility.  It was pride that caused the d ownfall of angels, and men.  So Jesus ransomed us, paid the debt with His life, Since He is God, His act has infinite merit, and He was truly human, and truly divine, the Word Incarnate, the Way, the Truth, and the Light  Jesus reconciled humanity with God, He was the Highpriest, the Bridge between God and man, and Heaven was once again opened  Humanity owed a debt to Jesus, a debt of love, and gratitude, and worship.

Did humanity owe a debt?

The first human Adam certainly owed his immortal soul to the love of his Creator. (CCC 366) We, as humans, individually owe our immortal soul to the love of God, “Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” (Creed professed at the Sunday Holy Sacrifice of the Mass)

An interesting search of the dictionary produced this definition for debt, one of many. 2a. An obligation or liability to pay or render something to someone else.

In this definition, there is a definite relationship between two people which results in an obligation or liability of one to another. From other posts/threads, when we look at the debt of humanity, we usually refer to the relationship between the human creature and the loving Creator. Jesus Christ hanging bloody on His cross often comes to mind. Keeping all this in mind, it may be a good idea to go back to the beginning relationship of the first human and the Supreme Creator and the events connected to that relationship. (1 Corinthians 15: 21-22) In that same chapter 15, there is this hopeful statement. “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Hello, Ynotzap, and welcome!

So, the bold part is what is referred to by the two writers that I linked in the OP. If you have a chance, give those two articles a read and compare/contrast what you have written
with the theology of Anselm.

The question is, is there a debt? Follow up questions are “who is owed the debt?” “Why is there a debt?” and other such questions.

Thanks, I look forward to your response.:slight_smile:

The love of Jesus Christ took the place of aversion to moral strength in order to give us strength, and in the process replaced our selfishness with His love before the eyes of God. That is what the old CE is talking about.

Ratzinger had in mind the idea that God is up there saying “SOMEBODY, even anybody, needs to suffer for these sins. Whoever it is, I’ll accept it if its enough suffering”. That is the wrong way of looking at this

Good Morning Dear!

Yes, this is the Anselmian view, that man owes a debt to God. South of me, the Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas had the same view with some slight variation. As the Cardinal stated:

His view has put a decisive stamp on the second millennium of Western Christendom, which takes it for granted that Christ had to die on the cross in order to make good the infinite offence which had been committed and in this way to restore the damaged order of things.

and

In other world religions expiation usually means the restoration of the damaged relationship with God by means of expiatory actions on the part of men. Almost all religions center round the problem of expiation; they arise out of man’s knowledge of his guilt before God and signify the attempt to remove this feeling of guilt, to surmount the guilt through conciliatory actions offered up to God. The expiatory activity by which men hope to conciliate the divinity and to put him in a gracious mood stands at the heart of the history of religion.

As Benedict said, this is what distinguishes Christianity, that we do not have that view, though it is “widespread” in our Church.

This picture is as false as it is widespread. In the Bible the cross does not appear as part of a mechanism of injured right; on the contrary, in the Bible the cross is quite the reverse: it is the expression of the radical nature of the love which gives itself completely, of the process in which one is what one does, and does what one is; it is the expression of a life that is completely being for others.

Duns Scotus referred to the “primacy of Christ” the idea that the incarnation was in the plan before Adam, before creation, if I have that correct.

Yet, the idea of debt is very, very difficult to overcome, IMO. It is no accident that so many religions have an idea of debt to God or some power. As Benedict said, it comes from our acknowledgement of guilt. So, we have to look at where guilt itself comes from, maybe?

We’ll get to the bottom of this, Granny!:slight_smile:

Thanks!

I am sure we will get to the bottom of this, because post 11 is a great start with a dictionary quote of only 12 words.

Hi

One thing I am considering is that in many cases, the word “owe” does not imply “debt”. If I say, “I owe my life to my Mother, who gave birth to me”, I am expressing the statement “without my Mom, I would not be alive”. This does not necessarily imply debt, but gratitude and acknowledgement of the gift. Does my Mother think I “owe” her for this gift? Well, not my Mom. Would my Mother take me out of her “graces” if I misbehaved, even shunned her? Again, not my Mom. There would only be “give”, no “take”.

Although reciprocity is compelled by our nature, is such reciprocity expected, is it a missing ingredient, a condition that bars the love of God? Did God give and then take away? This is what Cardinal Ratzinger was addressing, I think.

Does that make sense?

Have a great rest-of-the-weekend.:slight_smile:

When God was offended, Love was offended God in justice deserves all the love that man can give for his very existence, He deserves gratitude, love and adoration from His creatures. He created “fallible man” and "fallible’ angels He knew that man would fall, and Satan too. Although Satan’s knowledge is superior to man, and his will is immutable God who is just gave him a test which he was capable of passing, because God would not expect something from Satan he could not give. Satan sinned mortally. Man also sinned mortally, these creatures had sanctifying grace so their transgressions where fatal. How could these offensive acts be permitted by God who is deserving of their adoration, and love knowing that His creatures could never merit forgiveness, and even be acknowledged by God, since they alienated themselves from Him, they made their choices, it was their wills, and God respects their freedom of will. How could they be reconciled (mankind) with their Creator. It would seem completely futile plan from the beginning.

Mankind was made subjected to the rule of Satan, because Satan is superior in nature to man, being p;ure spirit, man being matter and spirit on the ladder of spiritual beings. Both are sinners, and the stronger one reigns. How to redeem mankind from this God-given right. God had a plan from the beginning of creation! Someone had to be a man who could be acknowledged by God and also have the same status as God, a God-man To be a man in order to give God the love and adoration that is justly His, and to be God to arrest the God-given right given to Satan to rule over sinful man. This was accomplished by Jesus Christ! It was all about Love, the Love that Jesus had for His Father, the love that He and the Father had for us, and this love was personified by the Holy Spirit who makes it possible to be redeemed by the merits of Jesus.

The love that existed between Jesus and the Father, begets the Holy Spirit, and it is all internal. There are legitimate differences between the Creature and the Creator, but Jesus through the internal love of the Father, His Spirit harmonized humanity with the divine For humans the internal acceptance of Jesus, make it possible to receive the internal love of God, the Holy Spirit

Correct.
That is exactly what Adam and ourselves need to do in our relationship with God. God the Creator is one step higher than two human creatures.

Adam and ourselves would be alive because it is possible that material bodies can procreate material bodies. Genesis 1: 26-27 tells us that we are more than a decomposing material anatomy. God gives us a spiritual soul which is considered to be the “form” of the body. The result is that our human body is not two natures united (Cartesian extreme dualism), but rather this unique union forms a single peerless human nature. (* CCC*, 365)

This does not necessarily imply debt, but gratitude and acknowledgement of the gift.

Correct.
Adam’s acknowledgement is primary in Genesis 2: 15-17. In addition, the Catholic Church teaches that as long as Adam remained within his relationship with God, he would not encounter the fate of material creatures which is bodily death. (CCC, 376) It is reasonable that Adam felt gratitude for this preternatural gift.

Preternatural gifts, information link.

http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=35763

Does my Mother think I “owe” her for this gift? Well, not my Mom.

Your Mom must be a saint. :wink: Technically, your Mom is not a Divine God. Therefore, we have to adjust “owing her for this gift” because when we talk about Adam’s relationship with God his Father, we have to consider that Adam is not a god.

Would my Mother take me out of her “graces” if I misbehaved, even shunned her? Again, not my Mom.

Correct.
:hug3:

There would only be “give”, no “take”.

If this means that your Mom would not take away her love for you, that is correct.

However, we do have to make some adjustments because your Mom is not the God in Genesis 1:1. We have to recognize that God did not create Adam as a duplicate god. Therefore, Adam being a spiritual creature needed to live in free submission (obedience) to his Creator. (CCC, 396; CCC, 1730) Living in obedience to one’s spouse is not exactly the same. :wink:

Although reciprocity is compelled by our nature, is such reciprocity expected, is it a missing ingredient, a condition that bars the love of God? Did God give and then take away? This is what Cardinal Ratzinger was addressing, I think.

Does that make sense?

Not exactly.
Because when it comes to a relationship between the Divine and the human, reciprocity is not a quid pro quo (an equal exchange or substitution) situation. Adam’s free intellective decision to commit Original mortal Sin, in a sense, took away Adam’s own love for his Creator. Adam, being a human creature, did not possess the power to destroy God’s eternal love. Therefore, God’s love for Adam is evinced by Genesis 3:15.

Have a great rest-of-the-weekend.:slight_smile:

Thank you. And I have the same hope for you. :slight_smile:

Links to the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition

scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/

Hi, ynotzap, this is exactly the question at hand.

Yes, they were permitted because God gave man free will, but did the acts incur a debt? Was man given connection with God, and then the connection taken away by God? Did something done by man create a situation in which anything but God’s unconditional love was “merited”? Or, did the Father not love unconditionally in the first place? Did God give his love, and then take it away?

Mankind was made subjected to the rule of Satan, because Satan is superior in nature to man, being p;ure spirit, man being matter and spirit on the ladder of spiritual beings. Both are sinners, and the stronger one reigns. How to redeem mankind from this God-given right. God had a plan from the beginning of creation! Someone had to be a man who could be acknowledged by God and also have the same status as God, a God-man To be a man in order to give God the love and adoration that is justly His, and to be God to arrest the God-given right given to Satan to rule over sinful man.

The idea that satan ruled over man was a pre-Anselmian view. In this view, a debt was incurred, and the debt had to be paid (by Jesus’) bloody death, to satan. Anselm and then Abelard, turned this theory on its head:

In common with St. Anselm, Abelard utterly rejected the old, and then still prevailing, notion that the devil had some sort of right over fallen man, who could only be justly delivered by means of a ransom paid to his captor. Against this he very rightly urges, with Anselm, that Satan was clearly guilty of injustice in the matter and could have no right to anything but punishment. But, on the other hand, Abelard was unable to accept Anselm’s view that an equivalent satisfaction for sin was necessary, and that this debt could only be paid by the death of the Divine Redeemer. He insists that God could have pardoned us without requiring satisfaction.

catholic.com/encyclopedia/doctrine-of-the-atonement

This was accomplished by Jesus Christ! It was all about Love, the Love that Jesus had for His Father, the love that He and the Father had for us, and this love was personified by the Holy Spirit who makes it possible to be redeemed by the merits of Jesus.

This “arrest” you are referring to is similar to the “satisfaction” that Ablelard says could have been pardoned without requiring a death on the part of anyone. Does the idea that forgiveness or grace was “unmerited” speaks toward the idea of a need for expiation or does it take us in a different direction?

Did you see these parts in the text of the links in the OP? They are worth a good read, maybe 3 or 4 good reads, and I need to look into this issue more myself!

The love that existed between Jesus and the Father, begets the Holy Spirit, and it is all internal. There are legitimate differences between the Creature and the Creator, but Jesus through the internal love of the Father, His Spirit harmonized humanity with the divine For humans the internal acceptance of Jesus, make it possible to receive the internal love of God, the Holy Spirit

See, it depends a lot on what the words “make it possible” mean here, in my reading. If “make it possible” is a matter of a debt that needed paying, then this goes against Cardinal Ratzinger’s writing. If the “make it possible” means that by our internal acceptance of the truth that Jesus is God-incarnate-Love, we know and love God as He truly is, as One who loves unconditionally, whose love knows no bound, whose love is not inhibited by merit, then it falls in line with the Cardinal’s Introduction. Do you see the importance of these seemingly subtle differences?

Do you see how fascinating it all is? I would not have personally used the “false image” words that Cardinal Ratzinger did, because this image of a God who demands payment is so enticing. After all, isn’t God just? Isn’t it fair that people who do evil have to pay? And since we are all sinners, don’t we all have to pay? Since we are sinners, doesn’t satan have power over us? Doesn’t satan seem to rule, and “have rights to” such an unworthy lot? Augustine seemed to thinks so, but these views were later rejected.

But should they be rejected outright? As far as I know, the aspect of satan’s rule, even though it arguably smacks of Manichaeism, has never been branded a heresy. Is there a deeper reality, one that unifies it all? We know there is, intuitively, a reality that unifies, but why are all these different views manifested?

Lots to think about, isn’t it?

Thanks for contributions.:slight_smile: I asked a lot of questions; take a stab at a few!

Here is an interesting question from post 19 which needs an explanation before it can be adequately answered.
“Was man given connection with God, and then the connection taken away by God?”

Out of simple curiosity, I wonder if there is any poster who can describe the value of this mysterious connection with God. If the connection is not valuable, I doubt that anyone would bother answering the question. I may be wrong about incomplete questions. :o

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