A Prayer of Anselm My God, I pray that I may so know you and love you that I may rejoice in you. And if I may not do so fully in this life let me go steadily on to the day when I come to that fullness . . . Let me receive That which you promised through your truth, that my joy may be full.
Anselm of Canterbury
Some have asked whether we shall know one another in heaven? Surely, our knowledge will not be diminished, but increased. The judgement of Luther and Anselm, and many other divines is, that we shall know one another; yea, the saints of all ages, whose faces we never saw; and, when we shall see the saints in glory without their infirmities of pride end passion, it will be a glorious sight.
It is possible to conceive, Anselm said, of a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. Even an atheist can conceive of such a superlative being, though he would deny its existence in the real world. But, goes the argument, a being that doesn't exist in the real world is, by that very fact, less than perfect. Therefore we have a contradiction and, hey presto, God exists!
Ever since Plato most philosophers have considered it part of their business to produce 'proofs' of immortality and the existence of God. They have found fault with the proofs of their predecessors - Saint Thomas rejected Saint Anselm's proofs, and Kant rejected Descartes' - but they have supplied new ones of their own. In order to make their proofs seem valid, they have had to falsify logic, to make mathematics mystical, and to pretend that deepseated prejudices were heaven-sent intuitions.
Is this Tree of Life a God one could worship? Pray to? Fear? Probably not. But it did make the ivy twine and the sky so blue, so perhaps the song I love tells a truth after all. The Tree of Life is neither perfect nor infinite in space or time, but it is actual, and if it is not Anselm's "Being greater than which nothing can be conceived, " it is surely a being that is greater than anything any of us will ever conceive of in detail worthy of its detail. Is something sacred? Yes, say I with Nietzsche. I could not pray to it, but I can stand in affirmation of its magnificence. This world is sacred.
Daniel C. Dennett
The definition of God as infinite Love was a particularly important theme for [John Duns] Scotus. He disagreed with Anselm, who understood the Incarnation as a necessary payment for sin. He also disagreed with Thomas [Aquinas], who argued that the Incarnation, though willed by God from eternity, was made necessary by the existence of sin. For Scotus the Incarnation was willed through eternity as an expression of God's love, and hence God's desire for consummated union with creation. Our redemption by the cross, though caused by sin, was likewise an expression of God's love and compassion, rather than as an appeasement of God's anger or a form of compensation for God's injured majesty. Scotus believed that... knowledge of God's love should evoke a loving response on the part of humanity. 'I am of the opinion that God wished to redeem us in this fashion principally in order to draw us to his love.' Through our own loving self-gift, he argued, we join with Christ 'in becoming co-lovers of the Holy Trinity.
For modern cosmology God cannot be a working hypothesis because God is not given to us in the observable nature of things. The poetic and theological idea that the universe is an expression of God's creative power is false. And yet the possibility that underlying the nature of things is an undiscoverable force of unimaginable simplicity that one may call God haunts and frustrates modern science. If this principle exists, then it cannot be different from our experience of it: it must be inherent, not transcendent; purely natural, therefore, not a violation of its own being, and hence intelligent, in the sense it requires coherence rather than chaos and confusion to exist at all-as the ancient myths tell us; impersonal to the extent that we cannot attribute moral purposes or even will, classically understood, to what we can observe of its operations. It is entirely coextensive and if it has a limit coterminous with what is-a perception that dates in theology from Anselm to Tillich and in natural philosophy from Democritus to Planck. It does not exist in gaps of undiscovered data or models or as an unsolved mystery but in the givenness of the world and the intelligent life form that has arisen to ponder it.
R. Joseph Hoffmann