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§ 98. Anselm of Canterbury.


Literature: The Works of Anselm. First complete ed. by Gerberon, Paris, 1675, reprinted in Migne, vols. 158, 159.—Anselm’s opuscula, trans. Chicago, 1903, pp. 288.—Anselm’s Devotions, trans. by Pusey, Oxf., 1856, London, 1872, and by C. C. J. Webb., London, 1903.—Trans. of Cur Deus homo in Anc. and Mod. Library, London.—The Life of Anselm by his secretary and devoted friend Eadmer: de vita Anselmi and Historia novorum in Migne, and ed. by Rule in Rolls series, London, 1884.—John of Salisbury’s Life, written to further Anselm’s canonization by Alexander III., Migne, 199: 1009–1040, is based upon Eadmer.—William Of Malmesbury in Gesta Pontificum adds some materials.—Modern Lives, by *F. R. Hasse, 2 vols. Leip., 1843–1852, Abrdg. trans. by *W. Turner, London, 1850. One of the best of Hist. monographs.—*C. De Remusat: Paris, 1853, last ed., 1868.—*Dean R. W. Church (d. 1890): London, new ed., 1877 (good account of Anselm’s career, but pays little attention to his philosophy and theology).—M. Rule: 2 vols. London, 1883, eulogistic and ultramontane.—P. Ragey: 2 vols. Paris, 1890.—J. M. Rigg: London, 1896.—A. C. Welch, Edinburgh, 1901.—*W. R. W. Stephens in Dict. Natl. Biog., II. 10–31.—P. Schaff, in Presb. and Ref’d Review, Jan., 1894.—*Ed. A. Freeman: The Reign of William Rufus, 2 vols. London, 1882.—H. Böhmer: Kirche u. Staat in England u. in der Normandie im XI. u. XIIten Jahrh., Leip., 1899.—Anselm’s philosophy is discussed by Ritter, Erdmann, and Ueberweg-Heinze in their Histories of Philos.; his theology is treated by Baur: Gesch. d. Christl. Lehre. von d. Versöhnung, Tübingen, 1838, 142–189.—Ritschl: Rechtfertigung u. Versöhnung, and in the Histories of Doctrine.—Kölling: D. satisfactio vicaria, 2 vols., Gütersloh, 1897–1899. A vigorous presentation of the Anselmic view.—Leipoldt: D. Begriff meritum in Anselm, in Theol. Studien u. Kritiken, 1904.—Le Chanoine Porée: Hist. de l’Abbaye du Bec, Paris, 1901.


Anselm of Canterbury, 1033–1109, the first of the great Schoolmen, was one of the ablest and purest men of the mediaeval Church. He touched the history of his age at many points. He was an enthusiastic advocate of monasticism. He was archbishop of Canterbury and fought the battle of the Hildebrandian hierarchy against the State in England. His Christian meditations give him a high rank in its annals of piety. His profound speculation marks one of the leading epochs in the history of theology and won for him a place among the doctors of the Church. While Bernard was greatest as a monk, Anselm was greatest as a theologian. He was the most original thinker the Church had seen since the days of Augustine.13271327    Loofs, p. 271, says, "He is perhaps the most important of all the mediaeval theologians."

Life.—Anselm was born at Aosta, in Piedmont, at the foot of the great St. Bernard, which divides Italy from western Switzerland.13281328    Church gives a graphic picture of "wild Aosta lulled by Alpine rills." Aosta was a Roman settlement bearing the name Augusta Praetoria, and was made a bishopric about the fifth century. violently against his son’s religious aspirations, but on his death-bed himself assumed the monastic garb to escape perdition.

In his childish imagination, Anselm conceived God Almighty as seated on a throne at the top of the Alps, and in a dream, he climbed up the mountain to meet Him. Seeing, on his way, the king’s maidens engaged in the harvest field, for it was Autumn, neglecting their work he determined to report their negligence to the king. The lad was most graciously received and asked whence he came and what he desired. The king’s kindness made him forget all about the charges he was intending to make. Then, refreshed with the whitest of bread, he descended again to the valley. The following day he firmly believed he had actually been in heaven and eaten at the Lord’s table. This was the story he told after he had ascended the chair of Canterbury.

A quarrel with his father led to Anselm’s leaving his home. He set his face toward the West and finally settled in the Norman abbey of Le Bec, then under the care of his illustrious countryman Lanfranc. Here he studied, took orders, and, on Lanfranc’s transfer to the convent of St. Stephen at Caen, 1063, became prior, and, in 1078, abbot. At Bec he wrote most of his works. His warm devotion to the monastic life appears in his repeated references to it in his letters and in his longing to get back to the convent after he had been made archbishop.

In 1093, he succeeded Lanfranc as archbishop of Canterbury. His struggle with William Rufus and Henry I. over investiture has already been described (pp. 88–93). During his exile on the Continent he attended a synod at Bari, where he defended the Latin doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit against the Greek bishops who were present.13291329    His views were set forth in the de processione Spiritus Sancti. He argued that the Spirit proceeded from the Father not as father but as God. He must therefore also proceed from the Son as God.

The archbishop’s last years in England were years of quiet, and he had a peaceful end. They lifted him from the bed and placed him on ashes on the floor. There, "as morning was breaking, on the Wednesday before Easter," April 21, 1109, the sixteenth year of his pontificate and the seventy-sixth of his life, he slept in peace, as his biographer Eadmer says, "having given up his spirit into the hands of his Creator." He lies buried in Canterbury Cathedral at the side of Lanfranc.

Anselm was a man of spotless integrity, single devotion to truth and righteousness, patient in suffering, and revered as a saint before his official canonization in 1494.13301330    See quotations in Freeman, W. Rufus, II. 661.labrian prophet, Joachim.13311331    Paradiso, XII. 137.

Writings.—Anselm’s chief works in the departments of theology are his Monologium and Proslogium, which present proofs for God’s existence, and the Cur Deus homo, "Why God became Man," a treatise on the atonement. He also wrote on the Trinity against Roscellinus; on original sin, free will, the harmony of foreknowledge and foreordination, and the fall of the devil. To these theological treatises are to be added a number of writings of a more practical nature, homilies, meditations, and four hundred and twelve letters in which we see him in different relations, as a prelate of the Church, a pastor, as a teacher giving advice to pupils, and as a friend.13321332    Freeman has an excursus on Anselm’s letters in his W. Rufus, II. 570-588.ayers reveal the depth of his piety. His theological treatises betray the genius of his intellect. In extent they are far less voluminous than the works of Thomas Aquinas and other Schoolmen of the later period.

Theology.—Anselm was one of those rare characters in whom lofty reason and childlike faith work together in perfect harmony. Love to God was the soul of his daily life and love to God is the burning centre of his theology. It was not doubt that led him to speculation, but enthusiasm for truth and devotion to God. His famous proposition, which Schleiermacher adopted as a motto for his own theology, is that faith precedes knowledge—fides praecedit intellectum. Things divine must be a matter of experience before they can be comprehended by the intellect. "He who does not believe," Anselm said, "has not felt, and he who has not felt, does not understand."13331333    Qui non crediderit, non experietur, et qui expertus non fuerit non intelliget, de fide trin., 2; Migne, 158, 264.13341334    Ep., II. 41;Migne, 158. 1193, Christianus per fidem debet ad intellectum proficere non per intellectum ad fidem.ed himself against blind belief, and calls it a sin of neglect when he who has faith, does not strive after knowledge.13351335    Cur Deus homo, I. 2; Migne, 158. 364.

These views, in which supernaturalism and rationalism are harmonized, form the working principle of the Anselmic theology. The two sources of knowledge are the Bible and the teaching of the Church which are in complete agreement with one another and are one with true philosophy.13361336    Eadmer: nihil asserere nisi quod aut canonicis aut Augustini dictis posse defendi videret. spirit and method secured for him the titles "the second Augustine" and the, Tongue of Augustine."

Anselm made two permanent contributions to theology, his argument for the existence of God and his theory of the atonement.

The ontological argument, which he stated, constitutes an epoch in the history of the proofs for God’s existence. It was first laid clown in the Monologium or Soliloquy, which he called the example of meditation on the reasonableness of faith, but mixed with cosmological elements. Starting from the idea that goodness and truth must have an existence independent of concrete things, Anselm ascends from the conception of what is relatively good and great, to Him who is absolutely good and great.

In the Proslogium, or Allocution, the ontological argument is presented in its purest form. Anselm was led to its construction by the desire to find out a single argument, sufficient in itself, to prove the divine existence. The argument was the result of long reflection and rooted in piety and prayer. Day and night the author was haunted with the idea that God’s existence could be so proved. He was troubled over it to such a degree that at times he could not sleep or take his meals. Finally, one night, during vigils, the argument stood clearly before his mind in complete outline. The notes were written down while the impression was still fresh in Anselm’s mind. The first copy was lost; the second was inadvertently broken to pieces.

Anselm’s argument, which is the highest example of religious meditation and scholastic reasoning, is prefaced with an exhortation and the words, "I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order that I may understand, for of this I feel sure, that, if I did not believe, I would not understand."

The reasoning starts from the idea the mind has of God, and proceeds to the affirmation of the necessity of God’s objective existence. The mind has a concept of something than which nothing greater can be conceived.13371337    aliquid quo majus nihil cogitari potest. in his heart, "there is no God, " Ps. 14:1. He grasps the conception when he listens, and what he grasps is in his mind. This something, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist solely in the mind. For, if it existed solely in the mind, then it would be possible to think of it as existing also in reality (objectively), and that would be something greater.13381338    si vel in solo intellectu est, potest cogitari esse et in re, quod majus est.ists both in the mind and in reality. This is God. "So truly," exclaims Anselm, "dost Thou exist, O Lord God, that it is not possible to conceive of Thee as not existing. For, if any mind could conceive of anything better than Thou art, then the creature would ascend above the Creator and become His judge, which is supremely absurd. Everything else besides Thyself can be conceived of as not existing."

The syllogism, compact as its presentation is and precise as its language seems to be, is nevertheless defective, as a logical statement. It begs the question. It offends against the principle that deductions from a definition are valid only on the supposition that the thing defined exists. The definition and the statement of God’s existence are in the major premise, "there is something than which nothing greater can be conceived." And yet it was the objective existence of this being, Anselm wanted to prove. Setting this objection aside, there is the other fatal objection that objective existence is not a predicate. Objective being is implied when we affirm anything. This objection was stated by Kant.13391339    Thomas Aquinas said that, even if the name of God means illud quo majus cogitari non potest, yet it would not be possible to proceed to the affirmation of God’s real existence, because the atheist denies that there is aliquid quo majus cogitari non potest, Summa, I. ii. 2. Hegel replied to Kant that the Begriff an und für sich selbst enthält das Sein also eine Bestimmtheit. Professor E. Caird, in an article, Anselm’s Argument for the Being of God (Journal of Theolog. Studies, 1900, pp. 23-39), sums up his objection to Anselm’s argument by saying, "It is the scholastic distortion of an idea which was first presented in the Platonic philosophy," etc. Ritschl, Justification and Reconciliation, p. 217, makes the same objection when he says Anselm confuses reality and thought.13401340    intelligere andin intellectu esse.

The reasoning of the Proslogium was attacked by the monk Gaunilo of Marmontier, near Bec, in his Liber pro insipiente. He protested against the inference from the subjective conception to objective reality on the ground that by the same method we might argue from any of our conceptions to the reality of the thing conceived, as for example for the existence of a lost island, the Atlantis. "That, than which nothing greater can be thought," does not exist in the mind in any other way than does the perfection of such an island. The real existence of a thing must be known before we can predicate anything of it. Gaunilo’s objection Anselm answered by declaring that the idea of the lost island was not a necessary conception while that of the highest being was, and that it was to it alone his argument applied.

Untenable as Anselm’s argument is logically, it possesses a strong fascination, and contains a great truth. The being of God is an intuition of the mind, which can only be explained by God’s objective existence. The modern theory of correlation lends its aid to corroborate what was, after all, fundamental in the Anselmic presentation, namely, that the idea of God in the mind must have corresponding to it a God who really exists. Otherwise, we are left to the mystery which is perhaps still greater, how such an idea could ever have taken firm and general hold of the human mind.13411341    A careful statement of the history of the ontological argument was given by Köstlin, D. Beweise fürs Dasein Gottes, in Studien u. Kritiken, 1875, 1876. Also Ruze, D. ontol. Gottesbeweis seit Anselm, Halle, 1882.

The doctrine of the atonement.—With the Cur Deus homo, "Why God became Man," a new chapter opens in the development of the doctrine of the atonement. The treatise, which is in the form of a dialogue, is the author’s most elaborate work, and he thought the argument sufficient to break down the objections of Jew and Pagan to the Christian system.

Anselm was the first to attempt to prove the necessity of the incarnation and death of the Son of God by the processes of pure reason. He argued that the world cannot be redeemed by an arbitrary decree of God, nor through man or angel. Man is under the domination of the devil, deserves punishment, and is justly punished; but the devil torments him without right,13421342    Quamvis homo juste a diabolo torqueretur, ipse tamen illum injuste torquebat,etc., I. 7; Migne, 158. 367 sq. Again Anselm takes up this point, II. 20; p. 427 sq., and says it was not necessary for God to descend to conquer the devil or to proceed judicially against him in order to liberate man. Nothing else did God owe the devil but punishment, and nothing else did man owe the devil but to treat him as he had been treated, that is, to conquer him as man himself had been conquered. All that was demanded by the devil, man owed to God and not to the devil.Col. 2:14) is not a note due the devil, but the sentence of God that he who sinned should be the servant of sin.

God cannot allow his original purpose to be thwarted. Sin must be forgiven, but how? Man owes subjection to God’s will. Sin is denying to God the honor due him.13431343    Non aliud est peccare quam Deo non reddere debitum. I. 11; Migne, p. 376. be forgiveness. Bare restitution, however, is not a sufficient satisfaction. For his "contumely," man must give back more than he has taken. He must compensate God’s honor.13441344    pro contumelia illata plus reddere quam abstulit .... Debet omnis qui peccat, honorem quem rapuit, Deo solvere et haec est satisfactio quam omnis peccator Deo debet facere.ages to satisfy the demands of violated honor.

All sin, then, must either receive punishment or be covered by satisfaction. Can man make this satisfaction? No. Were it possible for him to lead a perfectly holy life, from the moment he became conscious of his debt, he would be simply doing his duty for that period. The debt of the past would remain unsettled. But sin, having struck at the roots of man’s being, he is not able to lead a perfect life.

God’s justice, then, man is not able to satisfy. Man ought, but cannot. God need not, but does. For, most foreign to God would it be to allow man, the most precious of his creatures, to perish. But as God himself must make the satisfaction, and man ought to make it, the satisfaction must be made by one who is both God and man, that is, the God-man.13451345    Satisfactio quam nec potest facere nisi Deus nec debet nisi homo, necesse est ut eam faciat Deus-homo, II. 6; Migne, p. 404.

To make satisfaction, the God-man must give back to God something he is not under obligation to render. A life of perfect obedience he owes. Death he does not owe, for death is the wages of sin, and he had no sin. By submitting to death, he acquired merit. Because this merit is infinite in value, being connected with the person of the infinite Son of God, it covers the infinite guilt of the sinner and constitutes the satisfaction required.

Anselm concludes his treatise with the inquiry why the devil and his angels are not saved by Christ. His answer is that they did not derive their guilt and sinful estate through a single individual as men do from Adam. Each sinned for himself. For this reason each would have to be saved for himself by a God-angel. In declaring the salvation of fallen angels to be impossible, Anselm closes with the words, "I do not say that this is impossible as though the value of Christ’s death were not great enough to be sufficient for all the sins of men and fallen angels, but because of a reason in the unchangeable nature of things which stands in the way of the salvation of the lost angels."13461346    II. 22; Migne, 158. 431. It is a matter of dispute how far Anselm drew upon the doctrine of penance which had been handed down from the Fathers or from the German law with its Wehrgeld, or debt of honor; or whether he drew upon them at all. It is probable that the Church’s penitential system had affected the chivalric idea of honor. Harnack, Dogmengesch., III. 252 sq., and Ritschl, Justification, etc., p. 263, make the objection against Anselm’s argument that it was based upon an "idea of God’s justice which implies an equality in private rights between God and man."

It is the merit of Anselm’s argument that, while Athanasius and Augustine had laid stress upon the article that through Christ’s sufferings atonement was made, Anselm explained the necessity of those sufferings. He also did the most valuable service of setting aside the view, which had been handed down from the Fathers, that Christ’s death was a ransom-price paid to Satan. Even Augustine had asserted the rights of the devil. Again, Anselm laid proper stress upon the guilt of sin. He made earnest with it, not as a mistake, but as a violation of law, a derogation from the honor due to God.

The subject of the atonement was not exhausted by the argument of the Cur Deus homo. No one theory can comprehend its whole meaning. Certain biblical features have been made prominent since his day which Anselm did not emphasize. Each creative age has its own statement of theology, and now one aspect and now another aspect of the unchangeable biblical truth is made prominent. The different theories must be put into their proper places as fragments of the full statement of truth. Anselm regarded the atonement from the legal rather than from the moral side of the divine nature. The attribute of justice is given a disproportionate emphasis. Man’s relation to God is construed wholly as the relation of a subordinate to a superior. The fatherhood of God has no adequate recognition. The actor in human redemption is God, the sovereign and the judge. Anselm left out John 3:16 and the Parable of the Prodigal Son.13471347    Harnack gives prolonged attention to Anselm’s argument (Dogmengesch., III. 341-358) and, in specifying its merits and defects, declares that the defects largely outweigh the merits. Anselm’s theory is not at all to be adopted, die Theorie ist völlig unannehmbar. It would not be necessary, Harnack says, to waste many words over the defects if it were not that the theology of the present day is stuck in traditionalism and neglects all the canons of Gospel, ethics, logic, and culture. He declares it to be a fearful thought that God may not forgive from pure love, but had to have his honor appeased by sacrfice. Anselm’s argument taken by itself does not justify such severe criticism, and, if his other writings and his own character be taken into account, he will be absolved from the implied charges.

Anselm as a mystic.—In Anselm, mysticism was combined with scholasticism, pious devotion with lofty speculation, prayer with logical analysis. His deeply spiritual nature manifests itself in all his writings, but especially in his strictly devotional works, his Meditations and Prayers.13481348    Meditationes seu Orationes, Migne, 158. 709-1014. See Hasse, I. 176-232.scussions.

The Schoolman’s spiritual reflections abound in glowing utterances from the inner tabernacle of his heart. Now he loses himself in the contemplation of the divine attributes, now he laments over the deadness and waywardness of man. Now he soars aloft in strains of praise and adoration, now he whispers low the pleadings for mercy and pardon. At one moment he surveys the tragedy of the cross or the joys of the redeemed; at another the terrors of the judgment and hopeless estate of the lost. Such a blending of mellow sentiment with high speculations is seldom found. No one of the greater personages of the Middle Ages, except Bernard, excels him in the mystical element; and he often reminds us of Bernard, as when he exclaims, "O good Jesus, how sweet thou art to the heart of him who thinks of thee and loves thee."13491349    Jesu bone, quam dulcis es in corde cogitantis de te et diligentis te, Migne, 158. 770.acrificing, merciful, wise, mighty, most sweet and lovely"—valde dulcis et suavis. The soaring grandeur of Anselm’s thoughts may be likened to the mountains of the land of his birth, and the pure abundance of his spiritual feeling to the brooks and meadows of its valleys. He quotes again and again from Scripture, and its language constitutes the chief vehicle of his thoughts.

In the first meditation, Anselm makes the famous comparison of human life to the passage over a slender bridge, spanning a deep, dark abyss whose bed is full of all kinds of foul and ghastly things.13501350    Rule, I. 48, describes from personal observation the ancient and dizzy bridge, le Pont de l’Aël, over a torrent near Aosta, which, as he says, Anselm in making his description may have had in mind. one’s way! And how greatly would not the anguish be increased, if great birds were flying in the air, intent on swooping down and defeating the purpose of the traveller! And how much more anguish would be added if at every step a tile should fall away from behind him! The ravine is hell, measureless in its depth, horribly dark with black, dismal vapors!13511351    Sine mensura profundum, et tenebrosa caligine horribiliter obscurum, Migne, 158, 719.he birds are malign spirits. We, the travellers, are blinded with ignorance and bound with the iron difficulty of doing well. Shall we not turn our eyes unto the Lord "who is our light and our salvation, of whom shall we be afraid?" Ps. 27:1.

The Prayers are addressed to the Son and Spirit as well as to the Father. To these are added petitions to the Virgin, on whom Anselm bestows the most fulsome titles, and to the saints. In this Anselm was fully the child of his age.

These devotional exercises, the liturgy of Anselm’s soul, are a storehouse of pious thought to which due appreciation has not been accorded. The mystical element gives him a higher place than his theological treatises, elevated and important as they are.13521352    The later Schoolmen did not lean back upon Anselm’s theology as we might have expected them to do. He was, however, often quoted, as by Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, e.g., Summa, I. 3, 13, etc., Borgnet’s ed., XXXI. 60<cbr>, 69</cbr>, 326.



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