Anselm of Canterbury
Middle Ages

Archbishop of Canterbury, author of Proslogion and Why God Human? and forerunner of medieval scholasticism.

Canterbury Cathedral

An Italian who became a monk in Normandy, Anselm became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1098. In this position Anselm clashed with English monarchs over the proper authority of church and state. As a forerunner of scholasticism, Anselm's primary importance for the history of theology is his emphasis on the use of reason to understand revealed truth. Anselm did not aspire to prove articles of belief through the use of the understanding but rather to use reason to understand what he had already accepted by faith. Faith seeking understanding was a leading concept in Anselm's theology. In his Proslogion Anselm advanced the argument that God must indeed exist because God is a being greater than which cannot be thought. Such a being must then, he argued, have the property of existence. In his treatise Why God Human? Anselm maintained that crimes are evaluated according to the nature of the offense and with reference to those against whom they have been committed. In the case of human sin against God, Anselm maintained that it would require a human being to compensate for sins committed by humans, but that such a human being must also be divine in stature in order to atone for the offense of having committed such sins against God. Christ was therefore in his view necessarily human and divine. In both of these cases Anselm in typical Augustinian fashion employs reason to elucidate truths already believed.

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