St. Anselm and His Critics: A Re-Interpretation of the Cur Deus Homo

St. Anselm and His Critics: A Re-Interpretation of the Cur Deus Homo

St. Anselm and His Critics: A Re-Interpretation of the Cur Deus Homo

St. Anselm and His Critics: A Re-Interpretation of the Cur Deus Homo

Excerpt

The problems which have exercised most, if not all, of the historians of soteriology in regard to the Cur Deus Homo of St. Anselm might, with certain justification, be described as secondary. These problems have ranged from the alleged Tritheism and Monothelitism of St. Anselm, through such questions as his dependence upon Teutonic legal concepts and the early medieval penance system, to the issue of whether St. Anselm ultimately reconciles the justice and the love of God. An undue concern with such problems has, in the history of Anselmic study, obscured the primary problem presented to us by the Cur Deus Homo , namely, what is the relation of this work, and the method which St. Anselm employs in it, to his famous principle of credo ut intelligam?

Nowhere that the matter is mentioned is it taken to be a problem at all, the assumption being that the Cur Deus Homo is just another example, similar to the Monologion , of the principle in operation. Now, while this view may be the only one which is in the end permissible, it would be a grave mistake to treat it as an unexplored assumption, or yet as immediately self-evident in the Cur Deus Homo itself. More often, however, the matter is not raised, largely because those writers who have discussed the credo ut intelligam principle (such as C. C. J. Webb, E. Gilson and E. L. Mascall, to name but a few) have been more interested in St. Anselm's theistic philosophy than in his soteriology; whereas those who have been writing about the latter (such as J. K. Mozley, James Denney, T. H. Hughes, A. Ritschl, A. Harnack and many others) have not had the more strictly theistic theme before them. St. Anselm, therefore, is presented in two different, and at the same time unrelated, rôles: on the one hand, as the first Christian formulator of the Ontological Argument, an argument which was to have a famous, if not notorious, history at the hands of St. Thomas, Descartes, Kant and Hegel, and as the first theist really to put the credo ut intelligam principle explicitly and continuously . . .

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