Catholic Atonement Theory

Is the Covenantal Theology of Scott Hahn et al,specifically regarding his understanding of the Last Supper and Calvary, compatible with the Satisfaction view of St. Thomas Aquinas? Or are these simply two legitimate takes on the atonement? (As I understand it, the Church hasn’t dogmatically set down one theory against another)

Can you describe why you think that Hahn and Aquinas differ?

Hahn (in The Lamb’s Supper: the Mass as Heaven on Earth) presents the most highly developed (and absolutely brilliant) analysis of the Eucharist that have ever read.

While Hahn introduces ideas that are not included in the teaching of Aquinas, I am unaware of any of Hahn’s ideas that are contrary to Aquinas.

Could you please be a little more specific?

Sure thing! Basically, I’m curious as to how well these two authors’ answers to the big atonement questions (i.e. Why did Christ have to die for us? What did His suffering and death actually “do” for us?) fit together. Do they conincide with each other? Or is it a matter of two authors with different view points on a matter not explicity set down by Church dogma? (i.e. the precise nature of the atonment)

From what I’ve gathered, Hahn describes salvation and atonement in terms of covenant. Throughout mankind’s history, God established a progressive series of covenants: Adam & Eve - Marriage, Noah - Deliverance From The Flood, Abraham - Covenant of Blessing, Moses - The Law, David - Kingdom, Christ & The Church - Salvation. Each one is marked by different signs: nuptial consumation, rainbow, circumcision, law, (can’t remember David’s), and the Eucharist. The last covenant wasn’t instituted by Christ as a means of drawing mankind into God’s family. It was instituted by the events of the Passion (began in the upper room at the Last Supper and finished at the cross with the Fourth Cup of the Passover meal). So to put it all together, I believe Hahn would say that Christ died in order to draw mankind into a covenantal relationship with God, and this covenant is what the Passion and Death of Christ was all about.

On the other hand, I believe St. Thomas Aquinas’ view is what is call the Satisfaction Theory of Atonement. In the beginning, Adam and Eve were created to live in communion with God and with each other, and they were given the graces of Original Justice/Holiness to accomplish this life. Through disobedience, they ruptured this relationship and lost Original Justice/Holiness, not just for themselves, but for all mankind. To remedy this, God sent Christ into the world. Since Adam lost holiness for mankind by disobedience, Christ regained it through obedience. He offered up tot the Father a sacrifice of perfect obedience, love, and fidelity by obeying and loving Him to the point of death, even death on the cross. This act of sacrificial love and obedience was satisfaction for God. Because Christ was truly human, He could act on behalf of all mankind (like Adam) and because he was truly divine, His actions provided infinite merit. In turn, the graces of His sacrifice are recieved through the sacraments, first through Baptism which infuses the grace lost by Adam, and then subsequently through the other sacraments until the believer achieves perfect holiness in Heaven.

Anyways, this is how I’ve read these two. I’ll confess I need to do some reading on both of them, but this is what I’ve gathered so far. I’m just curious if these two ideas mesh, or if they are two interpretations of a non-dogmatic matter. That being said, if there is something I’ve missed or got wrong here, by all means let me know :slight_smile:

I think they mesh well, perhaps Dr Hahn uses more layman’s term to get into the deeper meaning of justification, especially how it relates to the Protestant version of justification.

I don’t see why both ideas cannot mutually coexist. Obviously, Aquinas was correct that the Sacrifice of Jesus leads to our salvation. But I don’t see why this Sacrifice cannot also be the foundation of a covenant, or why other intervening covenants could not lead to this.

You seem to be framing Aquinas’ teaching thus: We screwed up in the Garden. God ignored us for a long time, and then sent Jesus. I don’t think Aquinas would agree with this characterization.

Neither Hahn nor Aquinas are, in themselves, sources of doctrine. But, as a respected theologian, Hahn commands a certain degree of respect (ie, if you disagree with Hahn, you are probably wrong). Aquinas, as a Doctor of the Church (make that, THE Doctor of the Church), commands a greater measure of respect. But neither can promulgate doctrine.

Scott Hahn is a follower of covenantal theology (which stems from Calvinism), and which is pretty well explained here:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_theology

With its Catholic variation here:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenantal_theology_(Roman_Catholic

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