Saint Anselm

Saint Anselm is a well known religious, philosophical, and theological figure in Canterbury, England and a significant contributor in the Catholic Church. He had a strong faith in the Holy Scriptures in relation to truth which then became his basis of his work and life. In addition, he stressed the existence of God through reason. For him, it is important to see beyond things and concepts with deep obscurity through enlightenment and wisdom (Southern, 1962). Despite the criticisms he received, it is undeniable that Saint Anselm is worthy of studying in the fields of theology, psychology, and philosophy.
In this research, the life, works, influence, and impact of Saint Anselm’s contributions are discussed in details. Saint Anselm in his early life Saint Anselm (1033–1109), an Italian-born English philosopher and theologian of the medieval times, was born in the city of Aosta, Piedmont near the border between Italy and France and he died in of Canterbury, Kent, England. Saint Anselm’s family was known to be well off and noble. His father, Gundulph, who was a Lombard by birth, was a person having a harsh character and intense temper. Ermenberga is the name of Saint Anselm’s mother.
She was virtuous, religious, and prudent. When Saint Anselm has reached fifteen years of age, he decided to join a monastery, but his father was reluctant in supporting his desire in entering a religious life. Due to disappointment, Saint Anselm has developed psychosomatic illness, which he was able to overcome. However, he has lost his interest with his studies for a long time and he also became more carefree in living his life. It was a difficult time for Saint Anselm to bear the challenges he had for his mother died during that time. t became even worse when his father’s violent character became too unpleasant and unbearable. Saint Anselm at Bec After his student life at Burgundy, Saint Anselm left home in 1057. Later, in 1059 he explored France and started to think about joining a religious life in the Benedictine monastery at Bec, Normandy. The reason why he entered the monastery was because he was inspired by the famous countryman and theologian named Lanfranc, a prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec. He then became Lanfranc’s disciple and companion in the monastery and he finally joined in 1060.

Years later, he was twenty-seven years old then, he lived in Avranches and then entered the abbey as a novice. He studied about the works of Saint Augustine for ten years. However, he wrote nothing about his early life, ideas and the things he learned for he spent most of his life in praying and meditating. Although he wrote the De Grammatico, in which he discussed questions that were semantical in nature, and investigated regarding the concepts of possibility and necessity, this work did not have much influence (De grammatico, 2007).
In 1063, Lanfranc became the abbot of Caen and Anselm the elected prior of Bec. Saint Anselm served as a prior for fifteen years. Lanfranc became an archbishop of Canterbury in 1070 while Saint Anselm became an abbot in 1078, the year when Herluin, the warrior monk who was the founder and first abbot of Bec died. Anselm’s fame was not only because of his association with Lanfranc but because of his care about the monks, his sensitivity to their needs and the things around him, and his intuitive mind.
It was the time of Saint Anselm’s leadership when learning was improved in Bec and its high standard for learning was became popular even to foreign students. This achievement has brought Anselm in close contact with ecclesiastical affairs in Europe. His public life brought his way to be recognized by William the Conqueror who favored Anselm’s effort and initiative in serving the people. Lanfranc eventually died and King William consecrated Saint Anselm as the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093. He was then considered as one of the most influential Christian thinkers during that time.
He was the Archbishop until 1109. Conflicts and political issues Anselm continued living a spiritual life since he became the Archbishop of Canterbury but he was involved in a series of disputes with the king and also with his successor regarding investiture, the primacy of spirituality, and papal jurisdiction. Anselm gave absolute obedience to God and he almost despised politics and mediocrity. The king also unlawfully and took the revenues of the see until he died. In addition, Anselm was not able to recognize Wibert who was supported by Rufus.
They were both the anti-pope which Anselm has fought against them. It resulted to a conflict and other issues that made Anselm to exile in 1097. After a year, Anselm decided to resolve the quarrel with the King so went to Rome to seek counseling from his spiritual father. However, it was not easy for him to leave for the king almost did not give him permission to leave. Saint Anselm’s later life Anselm received praise from the Urban at the Siege of Capua and from Count Roger I of Sicily’s troops of Saracen. However, however, Urban did not fully involve in the dispute between Anselm and King William.
A great council at Bari asked Anselm to defend the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Ghost against the representatives of the Greek Church. When Henry I became the king in 1100, Anselm returned to England but in 1103 he exiled for the second time due to his refusal to compromise of both king and archbishop in the Concordat of London. Around 1107, Pope Paschal defended about the Double Procession of the Holy Spirit and explained to the king that Anselm’s positions have been modified which resulted to a victory of the Catholic Church over spiritual jurisdiction.
However, King Henry remained in control when it comes to the appointment of bishops and abbots. The last two years of Anselm’s life was spent in serving as the Archbishop in England until he died on the 21st day of April in 1109. King Alexander VI canonized Anselm in 1494 (Scholasticism, 2004). He was considered the Doctor of the Church in 1720 (Saint Anselm, 2004). Saint Anselm in the late 11th century Saint Anselm’s life motto is about searching for the meaning and understanding by believing or turning into faith. His main undertaking was to seek reason in order to be enlightened about the content of belief (Southern, 1962, pp. 1-13). He is famous with his ontological proof about God’s existence, which is based on the belief that whatever the mind can conceive can be achieved or realized in reality. Anselm’s first work alludes to unbelievers with the Cur Deus Homo. This lead him to compose his memorable phrase, credo ut intelligam, which is translated in English as “I believe in order that I may understand” This was included at the end of the opening prayer of his Proslogion in which he discussed his argument regarding the existence of God.
Anselm’s work on the Cur Deus Homo in England in 1094 was the time when the societies of France, England, Burgundy, and Normandy, were having an exhilarating event that was related to the First Crusade (Asiedu, 2001). Saint Anselm’s credo presents a statement of belief suggesting that understanding requires someone to believe. Anselm’s opposite belief with Aquinas is the result of the different worlds they were exposed to. Augustine had a rich experience with other religious traditions and he lived most part of his life in participating.
On the other hand, Anselm lived his life by trying to maintain everything that is good and keeping his spiritual life. The peace and solemnity at the monastery provided Anselm much time in constructing his intellectual edifice with symmetry and balance. He did not have much knowledge or formal schooling about other religions and religious traditions. His writing about the unbelievers must have been the outcome of his notion that pagans who do not believe in a supreme being like God in the Holy trinity whom he believes in or, perhaps, some non-Christians existed in the Western society before the end of the eleventh century.
Anselm’s reference to the pagans and even the Jews proves that he was knowledgeable that they could object Christian teachings such that they might defend the Law in the Old Testament and that they may negatively respond to Jesus’ preaching in the Gospels (Asiedu, 2001). Although Anselm’s ontological argument regarding the existence of God has influenced Descartes and Hegel, Saint Thomas Aquinas rejected it (Misner, 2000). The term “ontological proof” was first applied by and Emmanuel Kant in his arguments between the seventeenth and the eighteenth century.
Anselm demonstrated the existence of God with his popular credo that anything which can be conceived can be achieved and it can exist in reality (Delio, 2003). On the contrary, Aquinas believes that it is possible that some people not capable of understanding some concepts or ideas. Rather, cognition occurs or one understands since an individual serves an instrumental role in the act of cognition. He contends that in order for an individual to understand, it should be first encountered or perceived by the senses to become known or exist in the mind (Dougherty, 2006).
Saint Anselm as founder of scholasticism Saint Anselm is considered as the “Father of Scholasticism” for he emphasized reasoning, argumentation, clear-mindedness, openness, and terseness with humility. He was not after judging those who cannot understand but he emphasized that there is no such thing as impossible to understand. As an example, Anselm developed technical vocabulary of expressions for his theological and philosophical thoughts (Hopkins, 1976). Scholasticism, which focuses on faith and reason, is a philosophy and theology of Christianity in the Western countries in the Middle-Ages.
Reason was used to deepen the Christian believers’ understanding and to give rationalization to faith (Scholasticism, 2004; Dougherty, 2006). Philosophers who influenced Saint Anselm Aside from Lanfranc who inspired Anselm’s way of thinking Saint, other earlier Christian philosophers who influenced Anselm’s thoughts were Augustine, Aristotle, and Boethius. Saint Anselm was influenced Saint Augustine who argues that truth exists. Although Anselm articulated the need for redemption in an exclusive way, it was Augustine who first drew a strict correlation between Incarnation and redemption (Delio, 2003).
Saint Augustine also contends about the rule of truth in a proposition which makes it true. Boethius worked on puzzling relationship between Creation and Incarnation and believed about Christ having been human regardless of the history of Adam and his sin (Delio, 2003). Like Saint Augustine, Saint Anselm believes about the issue that the world has existed and it forever exists. However, Anselm mentioned about Aristotle only once (Wilks, 1994). In fact, his little knowledge about Aristotle was based on the works of Boethius.
Saint Anselm believes that the mystery of the Holy Trinity was not about being the product of cognitive speculation but it is actually about praise and worship in order to strengthen Christians’ faith. There are some modifications about the claims of Augustine in Anselm’s exploration of the doctrine of the Trinity as Monologion or one God in three different persons (Fortin, 2006). Saint Anselm’s contributions Saint Anselm has also contributed to pedagogical studies. The first children’s literature was basically intended for instruction.
In the Middle-Ages, Saint Anselm, together with Saint Aldhelm, Aelfric, and Venerable Bede wrote school textbooks in Latin. Some of these texts were eventually used in English and American schools (Children’s Literature, 2004). Anselm’s paradoxes on mercy are also significant concepts for policy makers to consider. The first paradox focuses on justice from a normative point of view in relation to the various strands of retribution, a noncomparative justice that centers on a particular person whose punishment does not depend on others.
This implies that a strategy for mercy must be based on the public’s commitment to various strands of retribution. The second paradox poses a dilemma in which mercy is subject to discretion from a comparative point of view where fairness and equality should be attained even in a diverse community. It suggests that a strategy for mercy must adopt equal application of the law for individuals (Misner, 2000). To be in existence means being within God’s love. The creations and God’s salvation are mentally distinguished from each other but they cannot be separated.
Salvation is of God’s unconditional and unlimited love for his Creatures. Anselm believes that salvation from within the context may be limited in but God’s justice is an extension of His enduring love, forgiveness, and caring. God’s mercy and justice are determined to restore beauty and harmony to His creation fro God is ultimately good. Even Christ teaches his followers to never stop forgiving others and asking for forgiveness because these are necessary in eradicating the burden of guilt or other hurt feelings that could serve as barriers to happiness.
In effect, some laws give pardon to those who plead guilty and sorry for their sins or crimes with the promise to become better individuals. There are instances that people will be attracted in doing crimes if they know they will be forgiven but there are other means to overcome this problem. Constructive punishment can be more effective in reducing crime rates because criminals would realize their wrongdoings, pay for them in a positive way and they will learn how to improve their life and function effectively in the society instead of continuously committing crimes after they are forgiven.
Saint Anselm’s impact on other philosophers Many of the Eastern thinkers viewed Incarnation based on the cosmic point of view while Incarnation was seen to impact on juridical and moral aspects as Christology was developed in the West. The later was influenced by the satisfaction theory of Anselm which was supported by saint Thomas Aquinas (Delio, 2003). This theory emphasizes suffering and death of Jesus as a means of salvation. Aquinas argued that reason could possibly lead a person to great spiritual truths and could help him to understand those truths that he accepted on faith (Scholasticism, 2004).
God wants the people to realize that death, pain, suffering, and sacrifice in a better perspective. Because He loves His Creations, He wants the people to promote and bring peace to each other to prevent internal and external conflicts within organizations or families. Saint Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus were influenced by Anselm. They both provided a dynamic, inclusive, and broad understanding about Incarnation. Bonaventure and Scotus recognized Anselm’s satisfaction theory in relation to the primacy of Christ. As a result, Anselm was able to attain a level of theological achievement.
They were able to effectively articulate and understand profoundly the concept of Incarnation, which serve as the underpinning framework God’s love as the reason for His Creations. Scotus provided an explicit explanation regarding the primacy of Christ while Bonaventure described a primacy of the mystery of the fullness of Christ (Delio, 2003). Bonaventure views Creation and Incarnation as significant factors in the primacy of Christ although in the absence of specific doctrine. It is through Bonaventure that made Catholics and other Christians that Christ is the cente of the universe. Bonaventure opted for the traditional solution of Anselm.
In Breviloquium (1255) Bonaventure adopted Anselmian’s position in Incarnation and perfection. People were intended to recognize that the noble perfection of the universe in which he emphasizes not only satisfaction but also Incarnation as part of the cosmic fulfillment. As Bonaventure wrote: “It is in the Word that we discover the perfection of that greatness of heart which brings all reality to its consummation and completion, since the figure of the circle attests to the perfection of bodies both in the macrocosm and in the microcosm… Indeed, God is simply the first. And the last among the works of the world is man.
Therefore, when God became man, the works of God were brought to perfection. ” (Bonaventure, 1989, pp. 73-74. ). Richard Southern affirms Anselm’s concepts about Christ’s death. First, it is considered a divine appeasement instead of condemning an innocent person for to pay for other’s sins. Christ’s death was not a mishap but a significant event that strengthened His relationship with God, just like restoring the harmony of creation. Second, Southern appreciates the moral validations of this event for it brought liberation from sins and reconciliation for improved relationship between God and the people.
Third, it reflects the real and various human experiences for salvation through Christ. Salvation and biblical symbols are deemed important to be integrated and appropriated through the kinds of Christian practices (Cahill, 2007). Salvation was made possible when God the Father offered Jesus to save the sinners who ask for forgiveness, repent, and do penance. This is the most significant means of demonstrating God’s love for humanity. In response to God’s love, Jesus calls His followers to love their neighbors by being generous, charitable, kind, forgiving, understanding, empathetic, honest, and just at all times and in all places.
This classical salvation theory is emphasized in Saint Anselm’s theory of satisfaction (Haight, 1994). God’s act of love or Jesus’ redemption can be best interpreted in modern day activities which were seen in Jesus’ public ministry. If only people would live in accordance to His teachings and examples, promote and practice love, live each day like it is Christmas, and keep a spiritual life, the world will be peaceful and people would learn to care not only to humankind but also to other Creations and the environment. Anselm stressed the role of our mind in making things possible.
It is, indeed, true that we can achieve whatever we can think of if we start acting on it and doing the right steps toward the attainment of our goals. Conclusion Saint Anselm’s family background did not anticipate his career but it was his powerful thinking that brought him to a religious life. He did not have a perfect life during his youth and he also experienced challenges. However, he did not allow the negative experiences to ruin his life. Instead, his pursuit in entering a monastery came true when he left and traveled across places.
His life and work were influenced mainly by Lanfranc, Aristtole, and Boethius. Although Anselm’s concepts about intelligence and knowing were rejected by Saint Thomas Aquinas, they agree about the satisfaction theory and about the primacy of Christ as the center of the universe. Anselm is famous about the importance of belief in understanding things that has not been conceived. He wanted the people, especially the unbelievers or those he wanted to convert to Christianity to understand the content of their belief by having faith and finding reason to avoid uncertainties.
Anselm’s first initiative was to enable the believers to search for reasons in the Christian belief before they are able to profess their faith to their prospect converts or unbelievers. Contemporary thinkers like Bonaventure and Scotus also supported Anselm’s Christology. They have contributed to the centrality of Christ and made it clearer for modern readers to understand about Incarnation and redemption through good reasoning and faith. They also emphasized the mystery of the fullness of Christ.
The acceptance of Saint Anselm’s teachings marks the Church’s official teaching regarding the correlation between the sin and salvation and the Incarnation and redemption. Anselm’s work is not only significant in the religious and spiritual life of Christian but also in improving decisions in the social and political contexts. Placing Christ as the center of people’s life and recognizing the love of God for His Creatures are likely to produce positive results. Anselm’s contributions are important for they favor human life in promoting good in the intellectual, emotional, personal, and spiritual aspects of a person.

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