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Sacrifice as Satisfaction, Not Substitution: Atonement in the Summa Theologiae

Rachel Erdman

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This essay, written in response to George Sumner’s article “Why Anselm Still Matters,” in the Winter 2013 issue of the ATR, examines the role of sacrifice in Thomas Aquinas’ version of Anselm’s satisfaction atonement theory. This essay attempts to defend the concept of sacrificial satisfaction against the critiques of “nonviolent atonement” theologians, while differentiating it from penal substitutionary theories of atonement. Satisfaction, rather than being a vicarious punishment meant for humankind, is instead a vicarious offering, given in love. This sacrificial offering is not for sating the bloodlust of an angry god; it is a powerful, effectual sign of love meant to make amends and repair a broken relationship.

 
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