I invite everyone to participate in this book discussion hosted by Fariba, the author of Incarnational Catholic, She is producing a fine topic for us Catholics to discuss on St. Anselm’s Proslogion. I challenge everyone to challenge the text of St. Anselm’s when answering the questions that are posted by Fariba. Click Here, If you need them. Also, challenge my answers to Fariba’s questions. We’re promoting a discussion for a better understanding. I am certain that Fariba will object to some of my points, but through her objections I will gain a better understanding of St. Anselm’s message, this is the point of having these discussions.
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My impressions, so far, of this work of St. Anselm, are negative, but I will admit these feelings are based on a first impression of reading the text. St. Anselm appears to be hiding a rather weak argument for the existence of God in a rather tortuous scholastic maze. The text is filled with an abundant supply of tautologies that for the vast majority of the time spent reading the text, St. Anselm is saying very little. I will agree with Fariba that Anselm does seem to be “frustrated that he does not know God the way he should.” However, although I do agree that he seems influenced by St. Augustine, it appears that Anselm got to only this portion of St. Augustine’s Confession, “You arouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” (Book 1 Ch. 1) This makes me conclude by his famous definition of theology, “But I yearn to understand some measure of Your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand that he has failed to understand,” St. Anselm does not have the same understand of the grace and of the mysteries given by God, which is fundamentally understood by St. Augustine throughout his Confessions. St. Anselm, would not make such a point, if he fully had vested belief in Christ’s words, “3 and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,[a] you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
However, St. Anselm by way of the text has concluded an existence of God; however, Anslem—as explained by Fariba—does appear to be upset by not understanding this distance from God and himself. He speaks of desolation and famine because of this exile that mankind must suffer away from God in exile. St. Anselm, perhaps, needs to fully reach the point of belief to understand the grace that God provides to properly reach the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the early part of the text in Chapter 1 of the Proslogion, it’s interesting that Fariba spoke of St. Anselm’s influence from St. Augustine’s On the Trinity because I felt like I was reading an influence from another text, On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. It appears that St. Anselm is really driving home the fact in the early parts of the Proslogion that the existence of God, our exile, and our hunger from him all hinge on the importance of the Creation story. St. Anselm writes, “He lost the happiness for which he was made and found an unhappiness for which he was not made…Man then ate the bread-of-angels for which he now hungers; and now he eats the bread-of-sorrows…while, alas, remaining empty.”
The strange divergence between the two text, and rather I would assert the same divergence that occurs between St. Anselm and St. Augustine, is that Anselm doesn’t appear to be persuaded by the argument that Mankind’s betrayal of sinning against the Father is sufficient for this exile. St. Anselm asks, “Why did he take away from us life and inflict death?” I would say to this question it is answered when St. Athanasius writes, “3. For of His becoming Incarnate we were the object, and for our salvation He dealt so lovingly as to appear and be born even in a human body. 4. Thus, then, God has made man, and willed that he should abide in incorruption; but men, having despised and rejected the contemplation of God, and devised and contrived evil for themselves.”
St. Anselm asks, “Why did God take away?” St. Athanasius answers, “Mankind rejected God.”
In Chapter 3-7 of the Proslogion, one discovers St. Anselm’s argument for the existence of God after one wades through the tremendous amount of tautology to arrive at the argument. The basic argument is that “O Lord my God, You exist so truly that You cannot even be thought not to exist…For if any mind could think of something better than You, the creature would rise above the Creator and would sit in judgment over the Creator—something which is utterly absurd.”
Frankly, I find Blaise Pascale’s argument of “wager” more convincing. St. Anselm’s argument is already laid on the foundation that a deity does exist, and that ontologically speaking if one were to argue that something is greater than God, that something would be God—and there goes the strawman. Perhaps, I feel this way because I know St. Thomas Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, which St. Anselm did not have the pleasure to read. Fundamentally, one cannot assert the existence of God without proving that God existing is self-evident based on the cosmological argument rather than asserting a mere metaphysical acknowledgment that is ontologically speaking that God already exists and that there can be nothing greater. One must make clear that metaphysically there must be a First Cause before any such argument can be used: “If there is no First Cause, there is no second causes, or simply, nothing can cause itself to be.”
 Augustine of Hippo, trans, by John K. Ryan, The Confessions (New York: Image, 2014), 1.
 Anselm of Canterbury, trans, by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury (Minneapolis: Arthur J. Benning Press, 2000), 93.
 Mt. 18:3 RSV
 Anselm of Canterbury, 91.
 St. Athanasius On the Incarnation 4
 Anselm of Canterbury, 94.
 Peter Kreeft, Summa of the Summa ( San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990). 62.