Anselm’s Fittingness Argument for the Virgin Birth

This is from Oxford World Classics’ Anselm of Canterbury: the Major Works, p. 323. God can create in four ways. (1) Through both a man and a woman, as he often does. (2) Through neither a man nor a woman, as with Adam. (3) Through a man but not a woman, as with Eve. (4) Or from a woman but not a man. To show that this is within God’s power too, God used it for the Savior. So, the virgin birth is fitting for God.

Anselm’s Explanatory Problem for Mary’s Cleanness

Here are two quotes from Anselm’s Why God Became Man found in Oxford World Classics’ Anselm of Canterbury: the Major Works, p. 340:

But that Virgin from whom the man about whom we are speaking was received was one of those who, before his birth, were cleansed of sins through him, and he was received from her in the state of cleanness which was hers.

Rather, his mother’s cleanness, whereby he is clean would not have existed, if it had not come from him, and so he was clean on his own account and by his own agency.

Anselm seems to say this. Christ’s cleanness is dependent upon Mary’s cleanness. Mary’s cleanness is dependent upon the work of Christ. But now we have a third point that Anselm seems to accept: the work of Christ is dependent upon Christ’s cleanness. But now we have a circularity problem. For Christ’s cleanness is dependent upon Mary’s cleanness, and Mary’s cleanness is dependent upon the work of Christ, and the work of Christ is dependent upon Christ’s cleanness, and Christ’s cleanness is dependent upon…

Perhaps there is a solution. After all, Plantinga originally responds to Adams’ criticism of molinism by noting that some circularities are fine. On the face of it, though, this seems like a problem for Anselm.

Outline of Anselm’s Why God Became Man

I won’t cover everything or give every support in the book, but I wanted to provide a somewhat detailed outline of Why God Became Man.

  • The animating question is, “By what logic or necessity did God become man, and by his death, as we believe and profess, restore life to the world, when he could have done this through the agency of some other person, angelic or human, or simply by willing it?” (Oxford World’s Classics’ Anselm of Canterbury: the Major Works, 265)
  • It cannot be that God owed the devil something. Since, “given that neither the devil nor man belongs to anyone but God, and that neither stands outside God’s power…” (272) But God would then be just in simply using power to overcome the devil’s theft. Nothing requires God to use his power against him for the purpose of liberating mankind.
  • Since there was no sin in Jesus, God did not force Christ to die. Instead, Christ died out of obedience that upheld righteousness that as a result led to death. (277)
  • Jesus’ words of wanting the cup to pass combined with his death “was to teach the human race that it could not have been saved by any means other than by his death.” (281)
  • Sinning is simply not giving God what is owed to him. So, someone who does not give God the honor that is due to him takes away from God what is his and thus dishonors God. If there is no repayment, then the person remains in a state of guilt. But he must do than that: he must pay back more “in proportion to the insult which he has inflicted.” (283)
  • Here are a few reasons why God it is not fitting for God to simply forgive out of mercy alone. First, no punishment means forgiveness without regulation, but it is not fitting for God to allow something unregulated into his kingdom. Second, the position of the sinner and non-sinner would be the same, which does not fit God. Third, if there is no payment or punishment, then there is no law so that sinfulness “is in a position of greater freedom” than righteousness, which is unfitting. (284)
  • Since God is just, he cannot tolerate the greatest injustice of sin. “it is a necessary consequence, therefore, that either the honor which has been taken away should be repaid, or punishment should follow. Otherwise, either God will not be just to himself, or he will be without the power to enforce either of the two options; and it is an abominable sin even to consider this possibility.” (287)
  • God, however, never loses his honor because either a sinner repays or God takes it by bringing the sinner into submission. (287)
  • “It is plain, therefore, that no one can honor or dishonor God, so far as God himself is concerned, but, in so far as the other party is concerned, a parson appears to do this when he subjects himself to God’s will, or does not subject himself.” (289)
  • God knows the perfect number of rational beings, so, since some angels fell, the total number of redeemed humans will fill out the perfect number of rational beings. This total number of redeemed humans can be greater than the number of angels who fell, given that God did not originally create the same number of angels as the perfect number of rational beings. Anselm favors the view that the number of angels was not equal to the perfect number of rational beings. (290ff.)
  • The whole human nature was inherent in our first parents. So, their sin affected all of humanity, excluding Jesus. (297)
  • Since God’s goal is to replace the fallen angels with humans, based on truth it is not fitting that God should receive into heaven a human sinner who has not paid recompense to equality with the blessed and sinless angels. (301)
  • “Consider it, then, an absolute certainty, that God cannot remit a sin unpunished, without recompense, that is, without the voluntary paying off of a debt, and that a sinner cannot, without this, attain to a state of blessedness, not even the state which was his before he sinner. For, in this case, the person would not be restored, even to being the kind of person he was before his sin.” (302)
  • We cannot pay God back for our sin because we owe God our whole lives so none of that can redound to repayment. (303-304)
  • It is contrary to God’s honor for him to receive man to a blessed state unless man conquers the devil by death without sinning. But this is impossible because of original sin. (307-308)
  • Because of God’s justice and man’s sin, “Man, therefore, neither ought nor can receive from God what God planned to give him, unless man returns to God all that he has taken away from him.” (309)
  • Man’s incapacity to pay because of original sin does not absolve man’s repayment. “For the result of a sin does not excuse a sin which it brings about.” (310)
  • Repayment to God must be something “greater than everything that exists apart from God.” (319) But this can only come from someone who is superior to everything besides God. The only fulfillment of this can be if God makes the repayment. But the repayment must be on behalf of mankind, so the person repaying must be man.  So, “it is necessary that a God-man should pay it.” (319-320)
  • These two natures must be found intact in one man or else it cannot come about that one and the same person is both perfect God and perfect man. (321)
  • Since it is the race of Adam that must be restored, the Savior must come from Adam’s line. (322)
  • And now a neat argument for the virgin birth. God can create in four ways. (1) Through both a man and a woman, as he often does. (2) Through neither a man nor a woman, as with Adam. (3) Through a man but not a woman, as with Eve. (4) Or from a woman but not a man. To show that this is within God’s power too, God used it for the Savior. (323)
  • This God-Man will be righteous based on his own free choices. (328)
  • Since this God-Man will have no sin, there will be no obligation to die. (330)
  • It is right for the whole world to perish or to take upon one’s self all the sins of the world instead of killing this Righteous one. So, his life is worth more than all of the sins of the world. His death, therefore, is sufficient to repay all the sins of the world. (334-335)
  • “[I]n the case of Christ, the difference between his natures and the unity of his person had the effect of making it possible for his divine nature to bring about what had to happen for the restoration of mankind, should his human nature not be capable of this, and for his human nature to show forth whatever was not at all appropriate for his divine nature.” (345)
  • Since Christ’s death merits such a great recompense and Christ cannot receive this since has is over all things, then the just recompense for Christ’s great act of faithfulness must go to others. The Son can therefore give this recompense to those who are believers. (352-353)

“78 Tough Questions for Christians”, part 4

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

Continuing on with the series, let’s see how many questions I can get through today without becoming totally pessimistic.

If someone came up to you and said she was pregnant but she was totally a virgin, would you believe her?

Probably not, but that is simply a question about what my psychological state would be. So what?

Why did God have to rape a teenage girl in order to become human?

This is just really sad. Seriously? Nonetheless, it goes without saying that God didn’t rape Mary nor does the Bible portray that. In fact, I believe it was Joseph Fitzmyer who said that Luke went to great lengths in order to be clear that God and Mary didn’t have intercourse. On to the next point, I don’t believe the virgin birth was necessary for the incarnation, but I think it makes a great deal of sense to do it that way.

If you could go back in time when Jesus was being crucified, would you try to save Him or would you stand back and do nothing because your entire faith depends on Him being crucified?

First, I want to say that I have no idea what I would do if I saw someone being crucified in front of me and Roman soldiers around. That would be the scariest thing I would ever experience so all bets are off. Nonetheless, hopefully I would try to save Him. How is this a tough question exactly?

What would it take to change your mind in God’s existence?

A sound argument against God’s existence. But let’s suppose the answer is nothing, so what? That’s a perfectly valid and defensible position to take.

Do you think it is a little strange when someone says they’re gonna believe in something no matter what, even when all the evidence seems to point in the other direction?

It really depends on the situation. However, I don’t see how asking about my psychological state in a situation is supposed to be a tough question.

What is something your pastor has said in church that you totally disagree with?

There’s lots of things, but I think Calvinism would be one.

And when that happened, did you confront your pastor about it or did you just let it slide?

I think the final option is supposed to be condescending or bad or something of the sort, but I’m not sure why not confronting a person when you disagree with them is a bad thing. So, I didn’t confront him, but I fail to see how this is a bad thing and I suspect the person in the video has ever let things like that happen.

Why are there so many different Christian denominations?

Because people decided to make different denominations. That seems pretty obvious.

And are the people who are in those different denominations bad Christians, are they wrong?

It seems like he takes the last clause as an explanation of being a “bad Christian”, but I don’t think those are so intricately tied. Of course I think those who disagree with me are wrong (or else I wouldn’t believe what I do!), but that doesn’t mean they are bad Christians in any sense of the word. I am willing to guess that some are and some aren’t (assuming, of course, that there are good and bad Christians, a question in itself that can only be answered based on strict definitions).

Which denomination is right?

Well there is nothing I disagree with in the Southern Baptist convention, but that’s a large part because the Baptist Faith and Message doesn’t discuss a lot of the more controversial positions. So, I’m Southern Baptist, and I think they are right.

Or, which group of denominations is right?

I’m not aware of a different denomination where I wouldn’t disagree with something that is part of that denomination, so I would say none that I am aware of.

Who or what do you think is responsible for natural disasters, like earthquakes and tsunamis?

I’m not sure what he means by “responsible”. However, let’s take what I assume he thinks is the most ridiculous position: natural disasters are the work of demons. As Alvin Plantinga says in The Nature of Necessity, “many people find it preposterous; but that is scarcely evidence against it.” (p. 195) So how is this a tough question either way?

Can you pause the video right now and tell me what the Ten Commandments are?

How is this a tough question? But, yes.

And if you know them (and good for you if you do), why do so many Christians believe the first four of them belong on government property and in classes?

“…and good for you if you do…” came off as rather condescending so I hope he didn’t mean it that way. However, with regards to the question at hand, I would suggest asking those people. I have some hunches, but this is nonetheless not a tough question.

Would you feel comfortable saying the pledge of allegiance in class everyday if the words were “one nation under no God, with liberty and justice for all”?

Probably not. However, in all honesty, I really don’t like saying the pledge of allegiance, period. So what?

Do you think it’s just a coincidence that different religions are popular in different parts of the world?

Nope. I think God know who would and would not freely choose Him given the opportunity and He so created the world with that in mind. 🙂

Do you believe that if you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim rather than a Christian?

I have no idea. Maybe; maybe not. So what?

Is it possible that religion has less to do with what’s true and more to do with the circumstances of where and when you were born?

I’m not sure how “possible” is being used here, but it doesn’t really matter either way as nothing of consequence follows. So I will say “sure, anything’s possible.”

Do you believe childbirth is an example of a miracle?


Does that mean Hitler was once a “miracle baby”?


And if childbirth is a miracle, how come that miracle happens thousands and thousands of times every week?

Just because something happens often does not mean it isn’t a miracle. This question assumes a defunct definition of miracles and shows the person hasn’t thought deeply about the topic.


I don’t think I am going to go back through and see if I missed any simply because these weren’t tough questions. My next post in the series will be some concluding thoughts.

“78 Tough Questions for Christians”, part 3

Update: apparently the transcript of the questions in the description of the video is incomplete. Thus, some earlier questions were missed. I will try to finish out the questions from the video and then go back and find any I missed.

Don’t forget to check out part 1 and part 2!

How do you respond when someone who’s not a Christian tells you about their religious faith?

I listen to them and interact with them.

Do you listen and consider what they have to say or do you just ignore them because they don’t believe what you believe?

I promise I didn’t read ahead, but I listen and interact with them and that involves considering what they have to say. However, suppose that someone just ignored them, that’s not unwarranted in any manner as the person’s religious experience can act as a defeater for the other person’s religious faith. Now, the other person could provide a defeater for Christianity and this probably should be listened to (although there is the interesting case of intrinsic defeater-defeaters), but that’s a separate discussion. Either way, I fail to see how this is a tough question.

What do you make of Muslims who think the Koran is the true holy book?

I’m not sure what he means by “make of” them. I think this is elucidated in the following questions, so I will turn there.

Are they wrong?

Yes, I think so.

Have you read the Koran?

No, but it’s on my to-do list. I just have so many books that are ahead of it in the queue.

Why do you dismiss them so easily?

Who says I do? And what does it mean to “dismiss them so easily”? Maybe it means in a very succinct manner, but that’s not a bad thing since maybe there is an obvious defeater from the person’s viewpoint. But maybe it means without any thought, but I don’t do that.

Is homosexuality itself a sin?

I think we should distinguish between homosexual attraction and homosexual practice. I think homosexual practice is a sin. I don’t tend to think homosexual attraction is a sin, but lust is so there is a fine line between the two (and the same goes for heterosexual attraction and lust).

Should gays and lesbians have the right to get married?

Personally, I don’t think government should have anything to do with marriage but I think that’s the viewpoint the question is being posed from. Given my views, the question doesn’t make much sense. But suppose someone thinks government should be in marriage, how might they respond? Well, they can be a bit snarky and say that gays and lesbians should have the right to get married, but only to members of the opposite sex. That’s probably not what he is asking though. So let’s say they answer “no”, so what? How is this a tough question?

Why would God make people gay and then punish them for being gay?

I’m not sure what he means by saying that God makes people gay. As to punishing them, I really don’t think this is a proper formulation either. As I said above, I only think homosexual practice is a sin, so that means being gay doesn’t entail punishment by itself. Moreover, I tend to think punishment is the wrong sort of terminology to use due to the fact that I think people send themselves to hell and choose the separation, but that is a much longer discussion that I might dive into at some point.

If God’s already sending gay people to hell, why do you feel the need to persecute them here on Earth

This question really saddens me? Really, you want to use this terminology to all Christians? But maybe you mean a subset, then why is this “tough questions for Christians”? This is outrageous. Nonetheless, as I said above, I don’t think God sends people to hell nor do I think all gay people go to hell. I also feel no need to persecute them on earth.

Why does God playing
 [sic] hide and seek with all of humanity? 

Who says he is? I don’t think He does so the question doesn’t make much sense to me.

Do you believe Jesus is coming back to Earth during your lifetime? 

I honestly have no clue, just like the Bible says: maybe He does, maybe He doesn’t.

If you do, what do you say to the many generations of people who have been saying that for centuries?

Suppose I do so that I can answer this question. The simple answer is that I would say that they were wrong. That seems rather simple.

Why is the story of Jesus’ birth and life so similar to that of mythological beings well before his time? 

He gives a citation to listverse here. Really? The listverse post talks about books by Acharya S (yeah, look her up). These types of arguments fall prey to anachronism, parallelomania, and many other problems. If he would like to actually discuss any of the specific examples and look at original sources, I would enjoy that. Until then, this is a silly question, not a tough one.

How do you decide which sections of the Bible are literally true and which ones are just metaphorical?

Well, I would say all of the Bible is to be interpreted according to its literary genre. Thus, if I am reading a parable, I should recognize that it isn’t supposed to be literally true in depicting history. This is all rather basic hermeneutics.

What are the minimum requirements for being a Christian?

I would say a lack of heresy for core doctrines like the Trinity, Jesus as true God and true man, the crucifixion, the atonement (the theory doesn’t matter), and the resurrection at the very minimum. Heresy is here defined as not just incorrect belief, but holding on to that incorrect in spite of being shown that it is not orthodoxy. Moreover, they must not just intellectually assent to these doctrines, but have faith and be born again.

And who falls under that definition?

Anybody who is a Christian. haha. Sorry, that was just too easy. Anyone who is saved, is that better?

Fred Phelps

I answered this in part one. Namely, we do not know who is truly saved and isn’t, but we are told to evaluate people according to their fruit.

Pat Robertson?

See above.

James Dobson?

See above.

President Obama?

See above.

Do your really believe Mary was impregnated without ever having sex?

Assuming “impregnated” simply means being pregnant and doesn’t entail having sex, then yes. That was an easy one! I love being pitched softballs.


That’s all for this post. I will respond to more in posts to come.