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Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – July 15, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"An excellent edition that will offer students an easy entrance to the fascinating field of Medieval Theology."--L. Russ Bush, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (July 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019954008X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199540082
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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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.
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