Unbelievers in Anselm of Canterbury


Well, it’s been over a month since I last posted anything, but in that time I have been able to get some much needed reading in. I have recently read through Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo for the second time and was struck by a specific passage. While the work articulates many of the viewpoints voiced by unbelievers against Christians (usually articulated by Boso), most of the text is Anselm’s response and defense of Christian teachings. However, one of the descriptions of unbelievers sticks out in particular. I quote it below from A Scholastic Miscellany: Anselm to Ockham, ed. Eugene R. Fairweather (p. 104):

“The unbelievers, who laugh at our simplicity, charge that we do God injury and insult when we assert that he descended into the womb of a woman, that he was born of a woman, that he grew, nourished by milk and human foods, and -not to speak of many other things that seem inappropriate for God -that he bore weariness, hunger, thirst, blows, and a cross and death between the thieves” (Cur Deus Homo 1.3)

The reason that I wanted to blog about this is that the first line really stuck out to me: “The unbelievers, who laugh at our simplicity…” I find this to be the case largely today. Christians are mocked, scorned, and decried for their “simple-mindedness” and their continued “living in a pre-Enlightenment world.” Many of these arguments bother me greatly, as some of the most intelligent, analytical people I have ever met approach their faith from an intellectual angle. These people also have some of the strongest faiths I have ever encountered.

In today’s USA, there are numerous examples of Christians who are given a massive media outlet to espouse their positions on social issues (such as the Duck Dynasty controversy and the Chick-Fil-A fiasco). Often these individuals are painted as “typical small-minded Christians.” I really despise this term since these people actually don’t speak for most Christians, yet unbelievers often portray them as representing all Christians. I don’t wish to rehash the debates on these issues, I just find them worth mentioning here.

While one must be careful when reading Anselm’s depiction of unbelievers (in much the same way I oppose unbelievers’ portrayal of Christians today), I think there is some degree of applicability to today where unbelievers mock Christians for their simplicity. I welcome your thoughts on this matter. Do unbelievers unfairly characterize Christians? Are unbelievers unfairly characterized today? What about other religions? Do Christians fairly represent them in their discussions of other faiths? Atheists, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus? I would unfortunately have to admit that the answer is probably no.

One last thing to ponder: Is simplicity a bad thing?

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