I am continuing with my analysis within Fariba’s awesome book discussion on St. Anselm’s Proslogion. In week two, which I am a bit late on supplying my analysis, the chapters that are examined are eight through sixteen. I will be examining chapters eight through eleven as St. Anselm explains how God can be both merciful and impassible.
I do enjoy St. Anselm’s examination on the topic of God being both merciful and impassible more than his examination of the existence of God. I do believe his ontological argument works better when attempting to understand an infinitely omniscient and all powerful being. In chapter eight, St. Anselm really just poses the question, “How can he be both merciful and impassible?” It’s interesting that I find St. Anselm’s response very simple, yet, complex to ponder. St. Anselm answers this question by stating, “ You are [merciful] according to our experience but are not [merciful] according to your experience.” The short answer in explaining St. Anselm’s meaning is that God is simply a divine mystery. A deeper look into the theology of a merciful God that is supremely good is the understanding that humanity not being God cannot understand what is supremely good for humanity operates with the notion of natural rights created by God, but does not confine God. For if something existed that confined God, he would cease to be God. Furthermore, if humanity fully understood the mysteries of God, he would also cease to be God. So again, how is God both merciful and impassible? Many atheists challenge the idea of God because they view the world’s suffering and will not follow a God that allows the free will to commit such atrocities. Overall, this sentiment both St. Anselm’s posed question and the Atheist challenge reminds of the commonly asked question by nonbelievers, “Can an All Powerful God create an immovable rock?” The answer is “Yes, and Yes.” For God can create a rock that he cannot move, and yet, move it all the same because God is not confined to the understandings of humanity.
In chapter 9 of the Proslogion, the reader is met the basic question does a God of infinite goodness do evil by saving those who are evil or allowing evil to exist? St. Anselm writes, “Why, then, good God—good to those who are good to those who are evil—why do You save those who are evil, if [to do] this Is not just and if You do not do anything that is not just? St. Anselm answers the question by stating that “You are also beneficent to those who are evil. For You would be less good if You were beneficent to none of those who are evil.” The logic of St. Anselm here is convincing to me—unlike the logic of his argument for God—because God to be infinitely good must be a state of infinite goodness that is impassible for a supremely good being must good to all or they would be less good, or simply, not God.
In chapter 10-12, St. Anselm continues to develop the idea of how God can be merciful to those who are evil, and if by his will supply what humanity would believe is justice. St. Anselm explains that in accordance with God’s justice that appears to contradict our own justice that when God spares those who are evil that “You are just in Yourself but are not just from our viewpoint.” A servant of God cannot know His will unless it has been revealed to us through divine revelation, it is a sentiment explained throughout the Book of Job and Job’s conclusion to the events:
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
5 I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees thee;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
The servant of God must simply have faith and trust that although there is suffering and that evil has been given mercy when it appears it deserves justice. We do not have the ability to discern what is for the greater good, because if we did have the ability, God would not be God because he would not be greater in this aspect. In this regard, it is perhaps the best to understand St. Anselm’s argument for the existence of God as a prerequisite to understanding God’s nature as both merciful and impassible—both good and just towards evil.
 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), 97.
 Ibid, 98.
 Ibid, 100.
 Job 42:3-6 RSV