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Crime, Guilt, and the Punishment of Christ:
Traveling another Way with
Anselm of Canterbury and Richard Hooker

David Neelands

Western Christian theology inherited the theory that human beings possess at birth a guilt for a crime committed by their first parents. This theory invites the notion that Christ’s suffering and death involved an inevitable punishment for human sins. Without criticizing the theory derived from Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury provided an important alternative, substituting the notions of debt, obligation, and satisfaction for crime, guilt, and punishment. Anselm thereby anticipated the modern distinction between civil and criminal law. Duns Scotus recognized the significance of Anselm’s novelty, but later theology lost the insight. John Calvin, distorting Anselm, reinforced the older Latin model of crime, guilt, and punishment, and explicitly related this model to the theory that Christ’s suffering was the inevitable punishment required by God. In retrieving Anselm’s model of debt, obligation, and satisfaction, Richard Hooker provided an Anglican alternative to the model of guilt and punishment that should not be neglected by contemporary Anglicans.

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