Anselm’s Anthropology: Connecting the Image of God to the Debt Humans Owe God

It is common in Anselmian scholarship for someone who wants to study Anselm’s understanding of God to turn to Monologion. Likewise, when the subject under scrutiny is Anselm’s understanding of salvation, the researcher turns to Cur Deus homo. This tends to be the case even though it is widely accepted that Anselm’s theology is consistent and stable throughout his philosophical-theological treatises. This steadiness of thought in Anselm’s treatises has allowed David Hogg to examine a larger portion of his corpus to investigate his worldview and Dániel Deme to do the same with his Christology. Therefore, this should also be able to be done to ascertain his anthropology, which serves a foundational role in studying his soteriology.

According to Monologion 66-68, humans most image God in their minds, and what they owe God is to use their rational natures to remember, understand, and love him above all other things. In Cur Deus homo 1.11, in response to a question raised by Boso, Anselm states the debt every human owes to God is that “the will of every rational creature ought to be subordinate to the will of God” (Hopkins and Richardson’s translation). This paper will bring these two passages together—along with other select passages from his treatises—in order to outline Anselm’s understanding of the image of God in humans and then connect that to his understanding of human sin and Christ’s saving work on their behalf. This will serve as a counterproposal to some historical and contemporary theologians (e.g. Gustaf Aulén, J. Denny Weaver) who have looked for the background to Anselm’s understanding of the debt spoken of in Cur Deus homo in feudalism, while also supplementing the work of theologians who have sought the background to Anselm’s presentation of this debt in the Bible and Benedictine monasticism (e.g. John Fortin, David Whidden III).

By emphasizing Anselm’s explanation in Monologion of what it means for humans to be made in the image of God, this paper will demonstrate that, according to Anselm, the debt humans owe to God is the debt of a beloved creature to his loving Creator as opposed to that of an oppressed servant to an overbearing lord. Humans’ reward for remembering, understanding, and loving God above all things is being allowed to live eternally in his presence, enjoying the blessings that come from living in a right relationship with him. They can joyfully and lovingly put God first in all things, because this is what they were made to do. God created them to be dependent upon him for their own good, and when they fulfill the role for which they were created, they are blessed and God is glorified.

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