Review: The Major Works

The Major Works
The Major Works by St. Anselm of Canterbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a great collection of Anselm’s major works and includes his treatments of some of the more controversial and/or original of his ideas, such as penal substitutionary atonement, the filioque, and the ontological argument. In these as well as in his focus on the use of reason in demonstrating the objects of faith and his attempts to see just how far this reason can take one down the road toward the contents of the Christian Faith, Anselm’s works are remarkable early demonstrations of what would become the distinctive features of Western Christianity.

In reading Anselm, one can, even if one disagrees with him, see clearly that he was a man of devoted piety blessed with a magnificent intellect. While he is always well-intentioned and humble and his arguments are always well-reasoned, I found myself again and again wondering where the limit might be for him. Anselm had a penetrating mind that I believe sometimes relied too much on reason and not enough on accepting the mysteries of faith.

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2 comments

  1. You say “…Anselm's works are remarkable early demonstrations of what would become the distinctive features of Western Christianity.” and I don't necessarily disagree with you–Anselm had a very large impact on the Christian west. But don't you think Augustine's teachings would be more of the “distinctive features of western christianity?”

    Maybe it's a bit nitpicky but it seems Augustine would be more suitable for this phrase, considering Anselm himself was so influenced by Augustine. While I am of the western tradition, I do think there are things we need to leave up to 'mystery.' Do you think Anselm thought that he could understand all things of faith through reason because he believed? He does say:

    “Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.”

    This quote makes me wonder if he thought he could know all things of faith because he believed. Just a thought.

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