Mankind and religion

Mankind and religion

Mankind practices numerous activities in his social life. These practices range from political, social and economic activities, which are carried out on a daily basis. Religion is one of the main social activities that mankind emphasizes on, on a daily basis. In this regard, the human species tends to have different believes although most of them suggest the recognition of a superior and a supernatural force that determines everything that happens in this world. However, there are individuals who have come out challenging this belief of a supernatural and superior being. These people believe that only mankind activities can determine what happens in this lifetime as well as the next.

However, those who believe in the existence on this superior being also tend to have different believes on the practices that the human race should carry out. That is why we have different denominations even in Christianity, which is the largest religion in the world (Seamands 32). Christianity makes up more than 75% of all the believers in the world. Religion in essence refers to an organized assortment of worldly views, beliefs and cultural systems that relate the human race to an order of existence (Finland 18). Different religions have their own way of explaining the meaning and origin of life. It is from this that people derive their ethics and/or a preferred way of life. Understanding the different religions involves a close look at their teachings, purposes, historical comparisons and a study of their impact on the world; singularly or collectively. Therefore, in relation to this context we will look at the relationship between the teachings of incarnation and atonement, more so in relation to the Anselm’s idea of satisfaction.

In definition, incarnation is a terminology that is used literally to mean “taking on flesh”. It can also mean to be embodied in flesh. In the religious concept, it is used to refer to conception that would later lead to the birth of a sentient being (Baker 08-9). The born being is believed to have a materialistic manifestation of god, a holy force or an entity with an immaterial original nature. Therefore, such a being would be believed to have descended from heaven (in religion), hence viewed as a divine form of a being, or an animal here on earth (Finlan 42). Jesus Christ is the most popular being when it comes to the topic of incarnation, since he is believed to have been God in himself, but took the form of a man for 33 years. In defining the terminology “atonement”, theology defines it as the process in which human beings gets to be reconciled with their maker in heaven, God (Seamands 56). In Christianity, theology teaches us that atonement was achieved when Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, the bible teaches us that there was reconciliation between God’s creation and Him, ending the rift that had been created by Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Aden.

Therefore, the coming of Jesus Christ in this world and his dying on the cross for the sake of mankind is viewed as the most significant atonement of all times in Christianity. In fact, preachers in Christianity interpret the coming of Jesus Christ to earth as a ransom payment for the sin of mankind. The bible also tends to show us the same in the book of Mark chapter 20 and verse 28: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (The Good News Bible). Mark you, these words did not just come from any person, they were said by Jesus Christ himself. The same words are repeated in the book of Matthew 20:28.  This message of Jesus dying as a ransom is seconded by many other verses in the Bible including: John 15:13, 1 Peter 1:18, 19 and 1 Timothy 2:6 among many others. In all these verses, it shows how God’s love to his creation is immensurable that he lay down the life of his own son for our sake. In fact, if I were to quote one of the most popular verses in the Holy Bible, I would quote John 3:16 which says; “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The message of atonement and Jesus being offered as a ransom in this verse is undisputable.

Therefore, from this concept we can see how incarnation and atonement in Christianity are connected. The relationship between the two is that, if Jesus did not come to us in form of a man, then he may not have experienced all the sufferings that he went through in this world (Gunther 12). This is because; Jesus Christ himself was a God with power just like his father and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, he may have opted to take any other form including that of the most powerful king in the world at that time. However, he opted to be born in a normal, poor and humble family so that he could teach us the need of being humble and leading sin free lives (Finlan 123). At the same time, atonement may not have been achieved if Jesus Christ had opted to take another form other than that of man. However, he opted to be a man for the 33 years that he stayed here on earth, and then died on the cross for the forgiveness of sin of everyman.

Going back to the message on Jesus being offered as a ransom, it is very clear that indeed his death was the ransom. However, the question that boggles the mind of many non believers as well as believers is to whom the ransom was paid. This is confusing as even in the time that Jesus Christ was here on earth, he never said as to who the debt was being paid (Gunther 21). As a result, teachers in theology and other church leaders tried coming up with their own theories as to who the debt was paid. Therefore, in the second century, there came a theologist by the mane of Irenaeus of Lyons, who argued that the Jesus Christ’s death was meant to be a ransom to the devil (Seamands 67). In his theory, he argued that in order for the devil to free the souls of God’s creation, he was to be paid Jesus Christ as ransom. However, God had other plans all along as he offered a being who was God in Himself. Therefore, when Jesus Christ died on the cross, instead of his soul going to serve the devil, as he had demanded, in the sense that Jesus was God, the devil was unable to constrain His divine soul (Seamands 83). Therefore, the devil’s plans did work as he was defeated by Jesus’ divine soul, and Christ emerged victorious. This was a theory which was taught by many renowned theology teachers in Christianity including church fathers. It was referred to as the “classic” or the “Ransom” theory, and many theology teachers including Augustine, who was a renowned church father taught it consistently.

However, this was until Anselm of Canterbury came around with his ideology of satisfaction. Anselm was a theology teacher and a philosopher who in the period of between 1093 and 1109 was the Archbishop of Canterbury (Baker 32). He came up with an idea that begged to differ that Jesus’ death was as a ransom to the devil. This was after the ransom theory had hugely dominated Christianity teachings in a period of over a millennium. In Anselm’s opinion, the ransom theory gave the devil way too much power, in the sense that he was assumed to have made the most powerful beings of all in nature, God, give his one and only son. Therefore, he came up with an explanation that the death of Jesus Christ was not a ransom to the devil, but to God Himself (Gunther 16). If we were to look at the life of Anselm, he lived in the period of between 1033 and 1109. During this time, sin was viewed as a dishonor to God especially in the feudal society that he lived in. Therefore, according to his explanation, God cannot overlook dishonor. As a result, a sufficient satisfaction is required in order to balance the dishonor brought about by mankind’s sinful nature. However, since mankind cannot provide sufficient satisfaction for the same, God decide to do it Himself on behalf of his creation (Baker 56-7). This was because Jesus had no original sin, which is brought about by sexual intercourse.

In conclusion, Anselm’s ideology teaches us that Jesus was a ransom to his father in heaven, but not to the devil. Therefore, in accordance to Anselm’s ideology, God’s require his creation to live free of sin and full of obedience. However, mankind was unable to live to the expectation even after He summarized the Mosaic Law into just Ten Commandments. When Jesus Christ came to live here on earth, he was able to earn salvation just by living according to God’s commandments (Seamands 148). Therefore Anselm argues that Jesus passed on salvation to us through suffering for us and dying on the cross in our place.

Works cited

Baker Jacob, “Incarnation or Atonement? Medieval Theologians On the Importance of Incarnatio and Atonement for Christian Theology” the medieval Theologies. Retrieved from:

Finlan, Stephen. Problems with Atonement: The Origins Of, and Controversy About, the Atonement Doctrine. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2005. Print.

Good News Bible. London: Collins, 2004. Print.

Gunther Pratz, “The Relationship between Incarnation and Atonement in the Theology of Thomas F. Torrance,” Journal for Christian Theological Research Retrieved from:] 3:2 (1998).

Seamands, Stephen A. Give Them Christ: Preaching His Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and Return. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, 2012. Print.