Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033–1109) was an Italian Benedictine monk and Christian Theologian/Philosopher who was the leading intellect of the eleventh century. His importance has led to him being called the “Father of Scholasticism.”
Anslem was born in Italy but moved to France. He is known for three things. First, he attempted to show how reason was compatible with the Christian faith. Unlike other theologians of his era who argued exclusively from Scripture, Anselm believed that reason could reveal certain truths about God and His works. Anselm is famous for his statement, fides quarens intellectum, which means “faith seeking understanding.” Thus, for him, reason was not contrary to faith and should be welcomed in the pursuit of truth.
Second, Anselm is famous for inventing one of the primary arguments for God’s existence—the ontological argument. In his work, Proslogion, Anselm asserted that the idea of God is proof that God exists. As Anselm stated, “We believe that thou [God] art a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.” He also said, “Hence there is no doubt that there exists a being than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.” Anselm’s ontological argument is unique in that it is an a priori argument—it is an argument of the mind and not that of experience. Anselm’s archrival, Guanilo, chided Anslem arguing that one could conceive of a perfect island but that does not mean that such an island actually exists. Anselm countered by saying that it was possible not to conceive of a perfect island, but it was impossible to not conceive of God.
Third, Anselm is known for his arguments for the necessity of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. In Anselm’s, Cur Deus Homo (“Why God Became Man”), he argues that Jesus’ life and death was a logical necessity. In doing so he promoted what has become known as the “satisfaction theory” of the atonement.” According to Anselm, God is like a king whose honor has been offended. Since God’s honor and justice has been offended, there must be an appropriate satisfaction for these offenses. This “satisfaction,” though, must be equal to the offense. Since God is divine and humans are finite, there is no possible way that humans could pay the penalty needed to restore God’s honor. Jesus being divine, though, was able to pay the satisfaction necessary. As both a representative of man, and a divine being, Jesus satisfied God’s honor and made a right relationship with God possible.
Anselm was a student of Augustine and like Augustine was reliant at times upon the ideas of Plato. He was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093.