Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Christology of Anselm of Canterbury

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Christology of Anselm of Canterbury

Article excerpt

The Christology of Anselm of Canterbury. By Dániel Deme. Aldershot, UK and Burlington, Vt.: Ash gate Publishing, 2003. xii + 263 pp. £42.50; $74.95 (cloth).

The point of reference throughout this book is Cur Deus Homo, that perpetually perplexing thousand-year-old explanation of the Incarnation written by the thirty-sixth archbishop of Canterbury. The great strength of Denies study lies in the way it expounds Anselm's answer to the title-question "Why did God become a man?" in relation to the rest of his writings-not just the famous ones, either, the Monologion and Proslogion, but the meditations and prayers as well, and the treatises on free will, the Holy Spirit, the devil, and so on. It has been said that in all these works Anselm was attempting to make bricks without straw, meaning without the interwoven terms and relations which the rediscovery of Aristotle would shortly provide. But at least the bricks fit together, as Deme shows.

That is not to say his book is exegetical or historical-critical. It is neither. Of its six parts, the first is methodological; then come the fall and the necessity of grace; then the two classically Christological topics of Christ's person and work; and finally eschatology. If this layout suggests the shape of a systematic theology, it should. Denies stated aim is not to understand an author in terms of the questions he could and did raise in a specific historical milieu, as the inheritor of a stream of tradition. Rather, the aim is to produce an Anselmian Christological dogmatics, on the supposition that what the archbishop wrote he meant to be shaped and beaten like blacksmiths iron.

To that constructive end Deme constantly brings Anselm's statements into a conversation, not only with the Fathers, whom Anselm had read, but with the Reformers and with twentieth-century theologians, mainly in the German Protestant tradition. (Rahner and Balthasar, on the other hand, come in for sharp criticism. …

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