« Ansegis Anselm, Saint, of Canterbury Anselm of Havelberg »

Anselm, Saint, of Canterbury

ANSELM, SAINT, OF CANTERBURY: The father of medieval scholasticism and one of the most eminent of English prelates; b. at Aosta, 189 Piedmont, 1033; d. at Canterbury, England, Apr. 21, 1109. He was well-born and his parents were wealthy. While still a boy he wished to be a monk, but his father—a harsh man and unkind to his son—forbade; his mother, a good and devout woman, had died early. When about twenty-three Anselm left home, and, after three years in Burgundy and France, went to Bec in Normandy, where his celebrated countryman, Lanfranc, was prior. Here he became a monk (1060). He succeeded Lanfranc as prior in 1063, and became abbot in 1078. The abbey had possessions in England, which called Anselm frequently to that country. He was the general choice for archbishop of Canterbury when Lanfranc died (1089), but the king, William Rufus, preferred to keep the office vacant, and apply its revenues to his own use. In 1093 William fell ill and, thinking his end near, literally forced Anselm to receive an appointment at his hands. He was consecrated Dec. 4 of that year. The next four years witnessed a continual struggle between king and archbishop over money matters, rights, and privileges. Anselm wished to carry his case to Rome, and in 1097, with much difficulty, obtained permission from the king to go. At Rome he was honored and flattered, but he obtained little practical help in his struggle with the king. He returned to England as soon as he heard of the death of William (1100), and at the earnest request of the new king, Henry. But a difficulty at once arose over lay investiture and homage from clerics for their benefices. Though a mild and meek man, Anselm had adopted the Gregorian views of the relation between Church and State, and adhered to them with the steadiness of conscientious conviction. The king, though inclined to be conciliatory, was equally firm from motives of self-interest. He had a high regard for Anselm, always treated him with much consideration, and personal relations between them were generally friendly. Nevertheless there was much vexatious disputing, several fruitless embassies were sent to Rome, and Anselm himself went thither in 1103, remaining abroad till 1106. His quarrel with the king was settled by compromise in 1107, and the brief remaining period of his life was peaceful, though clouded by failing bodily powers. He was canonized in 1494.

Anselm is one of the most attractive characters of the medieval Church. He was preeminently a scholar, and considered the monastic life the happiest and best. When duty called, however, he did not shrink from assuming the burdens of administration and from mixing in the turmoils of statecraft, and he proved that steadfast rectitude is as efficacious as the devious ways of politicians. His honesty and simplicity were sometimes found embarrassing by diplomatic pontiffs and time-serving bishops. He was unfeignedly humble, kind of heart, and charitable in judgment, of spotless integrity, as zealous in good works as in the performance of duty, patient under trial and adversity. He was skilful in winning and training the young, achieved marked success as a teacher, and the common people were always on his side. In the history of theology he stands as the father of orthodox scholasticism, and has been called “the second Augustine.” His mind was keen and logical, and his writings display profundity, originality, and masterly grasp of intellect. Of the two theological tendencies occupying the field in his time—the one, more free and rational, represented by Berengar of Tours; the other, confining itself more closely to the tradition of the Church, and represented by Lanfranc—he chose the latter; and he defines the object of scholastic theology to be the logical development and dialectic demonstration of the doctrines of the Church as handed down through the Fathers. The dogmas of the Church are to him identical with revelation itself; and their truth surpasses the conceptions of reason so far that it is mere vanity to doubt a dogma on account of its unintelligibility. Credo ut intelligam, non quæro intelligere ut credam, is the principle on which he proceeds; and after him it has become the principle of all orthodox theology. As a metaphysician Anselm was a realist, and one of his earliest works, De fide Trinitatis, was an attack on the doctrine of the Trinity as expounded by the nominalist Roscelin. His most celebrated works are the Monologium and Proslogium, both aiming to prove the existence and nature of God; and the Cur deus homo, in which he develops views of atonement and satisfaction which are still held by orthodox theologians. The two first-named were written at Bec; the last was begun in England “in great tribulation of heart,” and finished at Schiavi, a mountain village of Apulia, where Anselm enjoyed a few months of rest in 1098. His meditations and prayers are edifying and often highly impressive.

[In the Monologium he argues that from the idea of being there follows the idea of a highest and absolute, i.e. self-existent Being, from which all other being derives its existence—a revival of the ancient cosmological argument. In the Proslogium the idea of the perfect being—"than which nothing greater can be thought"—can not be separated from its reality as existing. For if the idea of the perfect Being, thus present in consciousness, lacked existence, a still more perfect Being could be thought, of which existence would be a necessary metaphysical predicate, and thus the most perfect Being would be the absolutely Real. The argument is significant, partly as showing the profound influence of Realism over Anselm’s thought, and partly as revealing him to be the first to enter upon the perilous transcendent pathway of the ontological argument, to be followed by Descartes (Meditationes), Hegel and his school, and especially J. Caird (Philosophy of Religion, New York, 1881, pp. 153-159. For criticism of the ontological argument, cf. Kant, Critique of the Pure Reason, New York, 1881, pp. 500 sqq., Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, i., New York, 1873, pp. 383-386).

The key to Anselm’s theory of the Atonement (see Atonement) was the idea of “satisfaction.” In justice to himself and to the creation, God, whose honor had suffered injury by man’s sin, must react against it either by punishing men, or, since he was merciful, by an equivalent satisfaction 190 viz., the death of the God-man, which will more than compensate for the injury to his honor, on the ground of which he forgives sin. Incidental features of his theory are—sin as a violation of a private relation between God and man, the interaction of the divine righteousness and grace, and the necessity of a representative suffering. In the Reformed doctrine, sin and the Atonement took on more of a public character, the active obedience of Christ was also emphasized, and the representative relation of Christ to the law brought to the front. In the seventeenth century the forensic and penal justice of God came into prominence; Christ was conceived of as suffering the punishment of our sin,—a complete equivalent of the punishment which we must have suffered,—on the ground of which our guilt and punishment are pardoned. In the following century, Owen (Works, ix. 253-254) held that the sufferings of Christ for sinners were not tantidem but idem. In more recent discussions along this line, Hodge (Systematic Theology, ii. 480-495) maintains that Christ suffered neither the kind nor degree of that which sinners must have suffered, but any kind and degree of suffering which is judicially inflicted in satisfaction of justice and law. There has indeed been no theory of the work of Christ which has not conceived of it as a satisfaction; even the so-called moral influence theories center in this idea (cf. W. N. Clarke, Outline of Christian Theology, New York, 1898, pp. 348, 349). It is therefore evident how fundamental is the idea of satisfaction presented by Anselm. Only it must be observed first that in the evolution of the Christian doctrine of salvation the particular way in which the satisfaction was realized has been differently conceived; and secondly, if the forgiveness of sin in Jesus Christ takes place only when the ethical nature of God is satisfied, the special form in which the satisfaction is accomplished is of subordinate importance. In one class of views—the representative or juridical—the satisfaction was conditioned on a unique and isolated divine-human deed—the death or the life and death of Christ; in the other theories, the satisfaction is threefold—in the expression of the divine good-will, through the life and death of Christ, in the initial response of sinners to forgiving grace, and in the final bringing of all souls to perfect union with the Father. Cf. C. A. Beckwith, Realities of Christian Theology, Boston, 1906, pp. 226-229. For criticism of Anselm on the Atonement, cf. Harnack, Dogmengeschichte, iii., Freiburg, 1890, pp. 351-358, Eng. transl., vi. 67-78.]

C. A. Beckwith.

Bibliography: The best edition of Anselm’s works is by G. Gerberon, a monk of the Congregation of St. Maur, Paris, 1675 (2d ed., 1721; reprinted at Venice, 1744, and, with corrections and additions, in MPL, clviii.-clix.). The Monologium and Proslogium were published by C. Haas, Tübingen, 1863; the Cur deus homo, by H. Lämmer, Berlin, 1857, and by O. F. Fritzsche (3d ed., Zurich, 1893). The Monologium and Proslogium were translated into French by H. Bouchitté, Le Rationalisme chrétien, Paris, 1842; the Cur deus homo, into German by B. Schirlitz, Quedlinburg, 1861. In English are: The Cur deus homo, with selections from his letters, London, 1889; his Book of Meditations and Prayers, with preface by Cardinal Manning, 1872; and the Proslogium, Monologium, and Cur deus homo, transl. by S. N. Deane, with introduction, bibliography, etc., Chicago, 1903.

The sources for Anselm’s life are the Historia novorum and Vita Anselmi of his chaplain and friend, Eadmer, printed in Gerberon and Migne, ut sup., and edited for the Rolls Series by M. Rule, London, 1884; the Vita alia by John of Salisbury, in MPL, cxcix., and the Vita brevior, ib. clviii. Of modern works the following may be mentioned: R. W. Church, The Life of St. Anselm, London, 1870 (“masterly, accurate, vigorous”); F. R. Hasse, Anselm von Canterbury, 2 parts, part i., Leben, Leipsic, 1843, part ii., Lehre, ib. 1852, abridged Eng. transl. by W. Turner, London; 1850: C. de Rémusat, St. Anselme de Cantorbéry, Paris, 1868 (contains able criticism of Anselm’s philosophy, with which cf. E. Saisset in Mélange d’histoire, de morale, et de critique, Paris, 1859); M. Rule, Life and Times of St. Anselm, 2 vols., London, 1883 (the result of long study, but marred by prejudice); DNB, ii. 10-30; P. Ragey, Histoire de St. Anselme, Paris, 1889; J. M. W. Rigg, St. Anselm of Canterbury, a Chapter in the Hist. of Religion, London, 1896; A. C. Welch, Anselm and his Work, London, 1901; E. A. Freeman, History of the Norman Conquest, passim; idem, History of the Reign of William Rufus, vol. i., chap. iv., and vol. ii., chap. vii. (valuable for references to authorities).

« Ansegis Anselm, Saint, of Canterbury Anselm of Havelberg »





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