Christopher has an excellent follow-up post on Anselm and atonement, addressing some of the worries I had about Jesus’ death being a payment of sorts. Instead of trying to summarize it, I encourage you to read the whole thing.
Some of what Christopher wrote brought to mind a passage from Denis Edwards’ Ecology at the Heart of Faith (which I talked about in the previous post). Here Edwards is discussing Karl Rahner’s account of redemption:
[Rahner's] focus is not on a forensic view of redemption, on Christ making up for human sin in legal terms, but on God embracing humanity and the world so that they are taken into God and deified.
He sees the death and resurrection of Jesus as two distinct sides of the one event. In death, Jesus freely hands his whole bodily existence into the mystery of a loving God. In the resurrection, God adopts creaturely reality as God’s own reality. Jesus, in his humanity and as part of a creaturely world, is forever taken into God. God’s self-bestowal to the world in the incarnation reaches its culmination in the resurrection, when God divinizes and transfigures the creturely reality of Jesus. (Ecology at the Heart of Faith, p. 87)
What I read Edwards as saying here is that Jesus offers his death, not as a payment, but as an act of total self-offering in trust. Because Jesus has made the perfect response to the Father, humanity–indeed, creaturehood–is taken into the divine life.