Anselm’s method: logic and/or faith?

Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) was the first of the Schoolmen, one of the ablest and purest men of the mediaeval Church. He touched the history of his age at many points. His profound speculations marks one of the leading epochs in the history of theology; no wonder he is reckoned as one of the doctors of the Church. In all probability he was the most original thinker the Church had since Augustine of Hippo.

His approach to Christianity is not, however, free from criticism. But even in pointing out and observing his weaknesses we can be much edified and take heed not to repeat them.

For one thing Anselm sought to demonstrate the necessity of the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ by strict logic.

In his Proslogion, as was the custom of his day, Anselm attempted to show how rational the doctrine of God really is. Adopting a similar methodology in relation to the incarnation and the atonement he wrote his landmark book, Cur Deus Homo? (Why God became man?) As he himself tells us, his objective is to answer difficulties and show man's purpose and destiny "by necessary reasons (Christ being put out of sight, as if nothing had been known of him)." Anselm is a man of faith, and yet, to win others to his same position, he demonstrates an assurance that by rational discussion he is able to show "that all things we believe concerning Christ must necessarily take place."

This approach is not exactly Augustine's Fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding); the proper approach is to start with Scripture, God speaking to us. There our doubts and unbelief is resolved; in allowing Scripture to speak we hear the truth.

But to start by strict logic and continue by strict logic, one can be led astray. A naturalistic scientist, by strict logic, can easily arrive at the conclusion that God is non-existent. Aquinas' proofs of God's existence are not really proofs when submitted to a rigorous test by skeptics and unbelievers.

Logic is a God-given faculty and we are meant to be logicians, and consistent ones too. But limiting ourselves to the confines of strict logic, purposely disregarding Scripture, while keeping in mind that we need to arrive at the same conclusions of Scripture, our logic will appear to be cramped and superficial.

What I mean is this: God often acts beyond our logic - my thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways. We cannot arrive or guess God's plans for our salvation by mere logic.

It is incumbent upon us to start with Scripture, the bedrock and foundation of all our faith. And our attitude should be, "I believe, help my unbelief." To utilize other means to "strengthen" faith is fallacious, whether you're using modern science, tradition, intuition, or logic.

Anselm was correct in one point for sure: the incarnation and atonement of Christ were absolutely necessary for our redemption. But we know this because of what Scripture states. By strict logic who among us, however bright, would have arrived at such a conclusion of God becoming man and paying our debt as our representative? Anselm's strict logic led him along this path, but was it strict logic after all? Was it not rather his knowledge of Scripture? And if so, why was he reluctant to have Scripture as his one presupposition?