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64 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important for understanding how we got where we are
Anselm of Canterbury is one of the most important theologians in the history of the Western Church. That means that his ideas most likely have influenced the way you think about the world, whether you realize it or not. It also means that the ideas he taught have reached us in a very garbled form. Take his doctrine of the "atonement," for instance (you can read it in "Why...
Published on January 24, 2002 by Edwin Tait

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is One Tedious Book!
I purchased the book for an online course. It seems somewhat unfair to give it a less than 5 star rating because it is so well formatted for the Kindle. However, the text is tedious and tedious some more. It seems to be as well presented as it can be, but had I not needed it for a course I would never have read it all the way through.
Published 13 months ago by SinDe


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64 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important for understanding how we got where we are, January 24, 2002
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Edwin Tait (Huntington, IN United States) - See all my reviews
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Anselm of Canterbury is one of the most important theologians in the history of the Western Church. That means that his ideas most likely have influenced the way you think about the world, whether you realize it or not. It also means that the ideas he taught have reached us in a very garbled form. Take his doctrine of the "atonement," for instance (you can read it in "Why God Became Man" in this volume). Anselm taught that by sinning humans have failed to give God the "honor" due him as our creator and as a supremely great and good and beautiful being. This creates a "debt" that must be paid back. We can't pay it, because even if we were perfectly good (which we can't be), that would only be our due anyway. It wouldn't pay back the original "debt" incurred by Adam and Eve. That debt is so great that only God himself could pay it. Yet the debt had to be paid by a human being. So God became human and paid the debt on our behalf.
This notion lies behind hundreds of evangelical and fundamentalist sermons which you can hear in churches throughout this country every Sunday. It also is partly responsible for the notion of God a lot of nonreligious people reject--a cosmic tyrant who demands perfect obedience and threatens us with punishment if we don't comply.
Yet Anselm actually _never_ taught that Jesus was "punished" on our behalf. On the contrary, the debt was paid precisely so that no punishment would be necessary. Jesus' death on the cross was not a sadistic punishment exacted by an angry God, but was the culmination of his absolute obedience to God's will. It was that obedience, completed in his sacrificial death, that paid "the debt we could not owe."
For Anselm, and for Christians generally, honoring God is the highest and most joyful thing we can do. It is the most truly human and humanizing activity imaginable. This is tied to Anselm's notion of God (expressed in his "Proslogion," also in this volume). For Anselm, God is the being than which nothing greater can be imagined. This isn't primarily about an omnipotent being who can make us do things. It's about a being so unimaginably glorious that the greatest happiness anyone can know is just to be in his presence. To turn away from a being like that (knowing what we're doing, which most of us don't) is to be something less than we could be. Obviously this is a bit of a modern interpretation of Anselm, but I don't think it contradicts him.
I do think, though, that there are better ways to think about the Atonement than Anselm's. Earlier Christians had spoken of Jesus' death and resurrection primarily as a victory over death and the devil--what the baptismal vows in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer call the "forces that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God." Anselm didn't like this notion, because he thought it limited God's power and gave the devil some sort of independent existence (and in some versions even legal "rights"). But I think that that understanding of Jesus' saving work is probably truer to the Bible and Christian tradition than Anselm's.
But even if--indeed especially if--you disagree with Anselm, he's worth reading. He and the "scholastic" theologians who followed him helped shape Christian thinking in the West for the past thousand years. They are partly responsible for the fact that Western Christians--Catholics and Protestants--think so differently from the Orthodox.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New English Edition of Anselm's Major Works, November 30, 2009
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This review is from: Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
There are numerous English translations and Latin originals of Anselm of Canterbury's major theological and philosophical works available for general reader consumption. However, this newest addition to the already-multitudinous amount of editions allows easy access to all the important writings Anselm produced in his career. In order to fully grasp the convenience of having the works of Anselm easily available to the English reader in one place, it must be pointed out that (to my knowledge) there is not a single volume that brings all his works together, like "Monologion", "Proslogion", "Cur Deus Homo" (don't let the Latin titles scare you; it's all in English), or some of his lesser known writings such as "On Truth", "On the Fall of the Devil", and "On the Procession of the Holy Spirit", and more. Those interested in reading the full spectrum of Anselm's thought have usually been compelled to look for multiple volumes, since a single publication may only contain one or two of the most important of Anselm's works. But now there is a single text (i.e., this one) that enables readers to look at one compendium for Anselm's theological and philosophical speculations in good English translation.

Perhaps a plus in the volume is the fact that two excellent scholars, G.R. Evans and Brian Davies, OP, co-edited the compilation of these works into the volume published by Oxford University Press. G.R. Evans lectures and researches at Oxford University, and is well known for work in Medieval Christian philosophy and theology. Brian Davies earned his Ph.D. from King's College in London, and is a reputable expert on Medieval philosophy; he works at Fordham University in New York. Both are very capable and rigorous academians, having equally contributed to the very informative (but not longwinded) introduction to the life of Anselm and the basic content and arguments in his individual works included in this monograph. Similarly, they have included notes on different translations and the original Latin text of Anselm to help the reader and/or scholar.

Oxford World's Classics' "Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works" is a fitting addition to any private or public theological, philosophical, patristics, medieval, or British history library. Instructors of college or graduate-level courses on theology, philosophy, medieval studies, or Anselmian studies would greatly benefit from assigning this text in their courses; it is a fairly inexpensive volume (especially in its paperback edition), but allows students to handle the works of Anselm from one source instead of requiring them to seek them out among a vast amount of translations and publications.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Critical, repetitive, for the theologically tenacious only., July 14, 2005
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Anselm is most famously identified with his ontological arguments. This collection begins with the Monologian, a soliloquy (or meditation), and the Proslogian, an allocution, Anselm's go at a more robust ontology. It is true that classical ontology has not been highly regarded in the modern and post-modern academies; the "science of being" is metaphysical and not something that fits well with modern methods, or uses, of inquiry. This is so because classic ontology, as developed notably by Anaxagoras, Plato, Plotinus, etc, sees the central question of being (i.e. existence, essence, the-thing-in-itself) as transcending all sense-based inquiry (empiricism). In modern thought, 'pure reason' as such recoils from a ubiquitous relativism (please notice the self-contradiction) and broadly nihilistic presuppositions. An epistemologically and psychologically troubled mix! It is not the case that the modern thinker has 'refuted' ontological arguments so much as it is the case that he fancies them odd and tedious, presumes them useless, and conveniently pronounces them "meaningless". If, after surveying the problems of the modern/post-modern views, you think Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus might have been onto something, Anselm may interest you (although he may put you to sleep with his deliberate and repetitive arguments).
On First Philosophy:
"Supreme truth does not admit at all of the big and the small, the long and the short, which belong to spatial and temporal distension." From that which "time and space stipulate, I do not doubt that the supreme substance is exempt." (Mono. 22)
". . . the supreme spirit . . . is not like anything. It is the original." (M. 32)
On the Trinity (here Anselm hoped that Augustine would have concurred):
"Father [supreme essence, consciousness], Son [understanding, Word of the supreme essence], and Spirit [love, mutuality of supreme essence and the begotten Word], each on its own, as individual, knows and understands -- while all three taken together are not three knowers and understanders but one single knower, one single understander. . . one speaker and one thing spoken; one wisdom in them that speaks, one substance in them that is spoken. From which it follows that there is only one Word. . . A conclusion that has something of the wonderful and unaccountable about it!" (M. 63)
"Perhaps it is explicable -- and hence our conclusions true -- only up to a point, while being incomprehensible, and therefore ineffable, as a whole . . . the supreme essence is above and beyond all other natures. Thus when we talk about it, the words may be common . . . but not their meanings." (M. 65)
The Proslogian contains Anselm's famous ontological argument "that God truly exists." "That-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought" (alternately, that-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought) either must be the highest/truest/purest thought that can exist or the highest/truest/purest reality. Since we readily discern that the highest reality must be greater than the highest thought short of such a reality, it follows that something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought must [supra]exist, and must be beyond containment by the greatest thought -- which must be less than itself. Although all human language is inadequate to the task of naming (i.e., defining) this "something", it is what we call God.

Like Augustine, whom he regarded highly, Anselm says that evil is nothing, as it is most rightly understood as being the privation of good. "So we should say that injustice is nothing but the privation of justice." He acknowledges that to speak of evil and injustice imparts upon them an apparent "thing" status, the words are, after all, nouns. But this is a problem of mere language, not reality. Nonetheless, given that we cannot even speak of evil and injustice without elevating them to being "something," Anselm says that in this sense they are "quasi-something."

Many works in this volume, De Grammatico (an essay on logic and linguistics), the treatises On Truth, On Free Will, and so forth, use the classic framework of teacher-student dialogs. The translation is quite readable although the material itself is mostly dense, deliberate, and redundant (which is why many avoid or reject metaphysics -- a curious circumstance given that the human mind can make no judgments without metaphysical suppositions). There are some lengthy discussions of the logic of Trinitarian monotheistic theology that are reminiscent of Plotinus and Augustine (also Paul, e.g., Gal. 4.6). De Concordia is Anselm's attempt to reconcile divine "foreknowledge" with the concepts of predestination and human freedom. He says, "It should also be understood that the word 'foreknowledge', as also the word 'predestine' are not used of God literally, for in him there is no before or after, but all things are present to him at once." Boethius argued the matter more directly (and enjoyably) five centuries earlier.
Anselm's treatment of the Atonement, 'Why God Became Man', explains the debt humanity has incurred by way of transgression (sin), a debt man must pay but cannot. Simply put, only God is capable of paying man's debt to God, yet man must pay it, because it is man's debt. Thus the logical necessity of the Incarnation and the Atonement (and of both mercy and justice). Anything less would amount to the Immutable abandoning His will for man, something that, being immutable, He cannot do (by reason of definition and logical mutual exclusion). For this reason Christ's crucifixion was not punishment for sin but was his willful alleviation of the ultimate necessity of punishment.
There are some interesting passages here, including a few gems, but the collection is slow-going and repetitive. You'll spend a lot of time in this book, encountering many ideas for the twentieth painstaking time. A prudent approach may be to skim through the texts topically, reading it 'surgically'.
While perhaps only his ontological argument was original -- although rather Platonic, Anselm's writings contain many important and influential examinations of Christian theology. Recommended for the tenacious theologian only.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Classic Christian Reading, April 15, 2000
Anselm was a very important author for Medieval Christianity. He contributed the Ontological argument for the existence (or should I say subsitence) of God, as well as formulating verbally the substitutionary atonement of Christ. This book provides these as well as a host of other rich classical Christian thoughts. It is difficult reading, but excellent in that it makes one think, believer or non-believer, in the metaphysical realities of life. I would have to say a must for anyone interested in the development of Christian thinking, as well as Philosophical development.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christian Theology Never Smelled So Sweet., January 16, 2007
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V. Easton "CriticforHim" (Huntington Beach, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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St. Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works is an incredible book. His proofs are amazingly written and although some of the writings, the wording is a little tricky, it is for the most part clear and concise. His proofs really allow a non-christian and a Christian to fully grasp Why God became Man and the foundation of Christianity such as: How does one know that God exists. Everyone should read this whether they think they know all there is to know or whether one has never even though about this stuff.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on: Major Works by a Major Thinker, September 27, 2012
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Ian M. Slater "aylchanan" (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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"Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works" from Oxford World's Classics (1998), is one of the most comprehensive English-language collections of the medieval theologian's writings, (See below for two other large collections) At the current price (in September 2012) for the Kindle edition, it is also a fantastic bargain (only slightly higher than some repackaging of older, smaller, or less reliable, collections as Kindle books)

Better still, the translators variously responsible for the individual works have given us exceptionally readable versions of his often strikingly original, if sometimes rather repetitive, expositions of central Christian doctrines. The World's Classics volume contains fourteen works by Anselm, and a response to one of his most important writings, which he had asked be included with it when it was copied (along with his own reply, of course). There is a good general introduction, an excellent index (unfortunately not linked in the Kindle edition) and some useful, but minimal, notes. Except for the difficult De Grammatico (on language and logic,) there are no headnotes to the individual works. The Select Bibliography is confined to books, but does point out which of them have extensive bibliographies, tacitly acknowledging the large literature in academic journals (aimed at theologians, philosophers, and medievalists).

Personally, I have found Anselm one of the most engaging of medieval Christian theologians, and of Christian theologians in general, although I read his works out of curiosity, rather than as part of my personal religious experience.

St. Anselm "of Canterbury" (1033-1109) was born to a noble family in Aosta (in what are now the Italian Alps), became a student, monk, teacher, and abbot at the Norman monastery of Bec, and, more than reluctantly, Archbishop of Canterbury in the reigns of William Rufus and Henry I. (Part of a larger pattern of putting clerics from Normandy into key positions, replacing the Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical hierarchy; Anselm was in his thirties when William of Normandy was conquering England.)

Politically, Anselm is most noted for his (almost accidental) involvement in the Investiture Controversy between the Papacy, the Holy Roman Empire, and assorted kingdoms -- a topic which is immediately familiar to students of Church History and of the Middle Ages, and probably not to many others. He also took part in the Council of Bari, an attempt to re-unite the Greek, Orthodox, and Latin, Catholic, Churches. (It failed.)

Religiously, Anselm is most famous for the "Proslogion," with its so-called "Ontological Proof of the Existence of God" (which he himself may not have regarded as a proof, but as expression of faith), and for a then-new soteriology (theory of salvation) in the two-part treatise "Cur Deus Homo" (Why God became Man).

For the theologically-minded out there, in the latter work he replaced the then-popular Ransom theory of the Crucifixion with the Satisfaction theory -- although the former is still alive, not only, for its narrative possibilities, in C.S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia," but also as sound doctrine in some preaching I've heard. (Then again, I've heard echoes of several classic heresies in popular sermons, as well.) Either one would need more space to expound than I have here.

Within the bounds of orthodoxy - largely as defined by St. Augustine of Hippo ("The City of God," etc.) Anselm was a startlingly original thinker. For example, he produced an extended consideration of the Fall, not of Man, but of Satan, in "De Casu Diaboli, ""The Fall of the Devil". This is a topic many people probably assume is "somewhere in the Bible," but isn't. For Anselm, Satan's proper desire to "be like God" in accordance with his own proper nature became a desire to simply "be like God." (Remember the serpent's temptation of Eve?) Echoes of Anselm seem to me to be heard in Satan's self-justification passages in Milton's "Paradise Lost," among other places.

Anselm's prose style, although much less intimidating than, say, the endless quotations of authority by his contemporaries, or the syllogisms and demonstrations of the Scholastics who followed him, is sometimes rather heavy. Some point out that Anselm had learned from experience that anything not said as explicitly and as often as possible would give rise to confusions, including accusations of heresy from the easily-alarmed or simply malicious. On the other hand, given his years as a teacher, he may have been following the dictum I learned from my mother: "Tell them what you are going to teach them, teach them, and then tell them what you taught them."

As hinted above, there are other extensive collections in print. Slightly fuller is "The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury," translated by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson. At this writing, it is still offered by Amazon at, by present-day standards, a remarkably low price for a 574-page academic hardcover. It includes some philosophically interesting "Meditations," but otherwise the contents fully overlap with the World's Classics volume. Published in this form in 2000, it was put together from work done over several decades, and published in other places. Somewhat revised versions of its contents are available, along with articles and bibliographies, as individual PDF files on Jasper Hopkins' website (along with translations of major works by Nicholas of Cusa [1401-1464], Hugh of Balma, and Hugo of Strassburg).

I don't find most of the Hopkins-Richardson Anselm translations quite as readable as their counterparts in the Oxford World's Classics volume, but they are more than worth the time of anyone puzzled by passages in other translations (and vice-versa, of course). And the additional material, although not systematic in presentation, is helpful.

Another recent collection, "Anselm: Basic Writing," translated by Thomas Williams (Hackett, 2007), contains a dozen well-chosen pieces; since I have not read the volume, I pass this along as a point of information. Hackett is a reliable publisher of philosophy, so it seems a fair guess that the translation is sound, and a glossary of terms looks helpful -- but I have no idea of how readable it is.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Anselm, November 24, 2010
This review is from: Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Anselm was definitely a man of high calibre when it came to tackling knotty questions and tasks.

His arguments can be fascinating especially when he brings in the authority of an exegesis of a single verse to build logical consequences from that towards his answer. However he is notably infrequent in Scriptural citations.

Much of this I found laborious to read, as good things often require labour, sometimes Anselm seems downright repetitive (such as in On The Fall of the Devil) but essentially it is a beneficial read and thats what really counts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent translation and presentation of one of the most influential ..., October 23, 2014
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This review is from: Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
An excellent translation and presentation of one of the most influential but oft-forgotten minds in medieval philosophy and theology. Containing the origins of some of the most fundamental arguments in philosophy (not the least of which is the ontological argument of the Proslogion), Anslem is necessary reading for any student of philosophy and theology.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Anselm of Canterbury is 100's of years ahead of his time., December 5, 2013
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This review is from: Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Anselm of Canterbury is 100's of years ahead of his time. I was blown away by his logical approach to religion and Christianity.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A full-hearted theologian, July 22, 2011
This is a full edition of St Anselm's writings, but the main texts are the Proslogion, that first gave us the 'ontological argument' for the existence of God and the 'Cur Deus Homo', or 'Why God became Man'.

The Proslogion starts with the words of scripture 'The fool says in his heart there is no God' and asks why this is foolish. Anselm's reply is that the idea of God is of the most perfect being and such a being would not be perfect if it were non-existent. In other words, someone who thinks of God as non-existent is not really thinking of God at all. This gave rise to Gaunilo's reply that you could say the same thing about a perfect island and Kant's objection in the Critique of Pure Reason (Penguin Classics) that 'existence is not a predicate' with the famous example of the imaginary $100. Hegel replied in his Lectures on the Proofs of the Existence of God that dollars and islands are finite and so we know from the start that they are the sort of things that might or might not be there, but supposing this about God prejudges the question at issue.

Less well known, but as interesting is the 'Cur Deus Homo'. This argues that man's salvation cannot be a work of man, for sin has made him incapable of saving himself by his works, so the salvation of man must be an act of God, but also an act of Man. Hence the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ follow from God's mercy. These to me are the highlights of the book and I would have been happy with a Oxford World Classics edition of just those, perhaps with the debate with Gaunilo as an appendix. Anselm was a major religious thinker and goes a long way to give an intellectual basis to the Gospel and to religion generally.
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Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics)
Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) by Saint Anselm Archbishop of Canterbury (Paperback - July 15, 2008)
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