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(c) thecreativshark

In the last two posts, which you can check out here and here, I’ve been trying to articulate the traditional position when it comes to the impeccability of Jesus.

I thought it would make good sense to see how a historical theologian understood and grappled with this issue.

So here’s Anselm (born around 1000 AD). His view is worth quoting at length here from Anselm’s work Cur Deus Homo book two, chapter 10. The book is a dialogue between Anselm and another guy Boso, and they’re talking about Jesus here:

Anselm. We ought not to question whether this man was about to die as a debt, as all other men do. For, if Adam would not have died had he not committed sin, much less should this man suffer death, in whom there can be no sin, for he is God.

Boso. Let me delay you a little on this point. For in either case it is no slight question with me whether it be said that he can sin or that he cannot. For if it be said that he cannot sin, it should seem hard to be believed. For to say a word concerning him, not as of one who never existed in the manner we have spoken hitherto, but as of one whom we know and whose deeds we know; who, I say, will deny that he could have done many things which we call sinful? For, to say nothing of other things, how shall we say that it was not possible for him to commit the sin of lying? For, when he says to the Jews, of his Father: “If I say that I know him not, I shall be a liar, like unto you,” and, in this sentence, makes use of the words : “I know him not,” who says that he could not have uttered these same four words, or expressing the same thing differently, have declared, “I know him not?” Now had he done so, he would have been a liar, as he himself says, and therefore a sinner. Therefore, since he could do this, he could sin.

Anselm. It is true that he could say this, and also that he could not sin.

Boso. How is that?

Anselm. All power follows the will. For, when I say that I can speak or walk, it is understood, if I choose. For, if the will be not implied as acting, there is no power, but only necessity. For, when I say that I can be dragged or bound unwillingly, this is not my power, but necessity and the power of another; since I am able to be dragged or bound in no other sense than this, that another can drag or bind me. So we can say of Christ, that he could lie, so long as we understand, if he chose to do so. And, since he could not lie unwillingly and could not wish to lie, none the less can it be said that he could not lie. So in this way it is both true that he could and could not lie.

Anselm’s point is that Jesus had the capacity to sin by lying in John 8:55, and yet was incapable of sinning due to his divine nature. He had the capacity, qua human, and yet was incapable qua divine of sin.

This is just one example from the theological tradition to show that the view I’m putting forward is the traditional view and the historically orthodox view, against what the presenter at the conference claimed.

The main criticism levelled against this view is that it is incoherent. It is to this complaint that we’ll turn in the next post.