Who is Richard Gilman?

There it was. In the beginning to the beginning of the book mid-sentence. I stared at the unexpected words wondering if they were real. The book, recommended to me by a blogging friend of mine (Julie) over at Cookie Crumbles to Live By was barely through the preface when I was hit over the head with what seemed to be a boulder. A bold statement that just couldn’t be true. A statement that prefaced a book about two German siblings who started an underground movement against the terror that was Nazi Germany and the Hitler regime. I had barely braced myself to read another book I may not make it through about the Holocaust when the pain came before the story began.

Hans’s “conversion” process is more intellectual than Sophie’s, his spiritual growth being nurtured in large part by books. Many of these are by French Catholics, among them Leon Bloy, Paul Claudel, George Bernanos, and Etienne Gilson (ten years later these same writers would play a central role in my own temporary conversion to Catholicism.” (excerpted from the Preface to the American Edition of, “At the Heart of the White Rose, Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl.

I had never quite seen the words “temporary” and “conversion” tucked so neatly away in the same sentence. As if to say, I found God, it was good for a while and now I am on to trying something else…As if to say it is that easy to move on from God…

The words stirred me so much I had to stop reading the book and instead start to find out who Richard Gilman was. I had already said a silent unprompted prayer for His soul that I felt may be languishing in the throes of purgatory. It was like he was stuck between here and there and just couldn’t see his way out. I broke down and cried for a man I did not even know.

But the news of his “temporary conversion” grew worse still. The article in the New York Times was punishing. How could it begin like this? The title of the piece was What He Found, What He Lost, but how exactly does one lose God?

Eight sentences in I learned. Richard Gilman was a self-proclaimed Jewish “atheist” who became a Catholic and left the church eight years later. Why? According to the summation of his book Faith, Sex, Mystery, because, “there was no place for him in the church either sexually or intellectually…After he left the Catholic Church he briefly tried to return to Judaism, but found there was nothing to return to; he has never been a part of anything.” 

And strangely I could see the Judaism that he spoke about. The one I myself had left to embrace my wholeness in the Church, only to realize I never left Judaism at all, but rather found it in the Savior’s arms. I thanked God for my time in a non-denominational church which taught me not only the fundamentals of Christianity but also the scriptures. I was able to embrace the Catholic Church because I had known the savior. The Church was Him walking me home…

It occurred to me that Mr.Gilman may have had a romance with the Church and all its beauty but lacked in His relationship with God. I too had been drawn in by the false promises of other religions and practices, temporary “fixes” that focused on me and self rather than God. I never believed that God didn’t exist, I just chose to look elsewhere for meaning and purpose in life. God was an entity to me, a concept, not a personal loving friend who offered me salvation.

And I imagine that there are so many others out there like Richard Gilman. Those who are searching for the truth in false religions or new age models. Those that have rejected God because they have chosen to yield to the world and its desires rather than take the narrow road. And there are those who have labeled themselves “deconverts” as if somehow that makes God not to exist. In any case, they are all people who have chosen an alternative to God.

I don’t think Richard Gilman stopped believing in God, I just think that he chose to have his own way. Maybe because the romantic pull of the Church was just that; a fantasy he had created in His own mind. There is nothing romantic about Christianity. It thrives on the notion that suffering is good.

But if one can get past their own selves, if one can reach for God as if a child, if one can believe that nothing else is needed but God alone, the truth of the Church will shine brighter than the sun. I grieved that Richard Gilman never found that truth. But maybe his life was meant to be read about to produce conversion. To draw those to Christ who have clung on to the lie that there is such a thing as “temporary conversion”; and not in the sense of the Church but in the lies of the world. For in Christ there is nothing temporary- there is only eternal. 

 

 

 

 

Why Does Sebastian Drink? Brideshead Revisited and Understanding God’s Grace.

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A favorite post of mine.

Brideshead Revisited was written by Evelyn Waugh, and it is an exceptionally good book, so much so that now I feel simply lost without it.  The book has been great to reflect on the importance of my Catholic faith and morality in a world that seems quite averse to it; I am even prolonging finishing the television series, as I am having a hard time letting go of this family that I’ve come to develop a relationship with over the course of time. I’m always reading books, although now all other fiction titles seem to lack in substance. It’s because the dignity of humanity is one of the great themes of Brideshead Revisited, and of course, it’s something missing in our society today and in many of the arts.

A reader of this blog asked me one time to comment on a post of his on the book on “Why does Sebastian drink?” I felt that I needed to share my thoughts that I shared with him because it deals with many of themes of my most recent posts on this blog such as sin, mercy, contrition, grace, and forgiveness. Sebastian’s drinking could most certainly have been to seek instant gratification of every moment, he may even say something of this nature early on, but what I believe is what drives Sebastian’s thirst is that he doesn’t believe he deserves the Grace given to him freely by God, and it eats away at him inside.

Waugh never clearly states if there is any reason for Sebastian drinking; however, I think the reason may have several layers of depth. Of course, in the novel, there is the connection of The Church and the state of Grace. Sebastian, for the most part, wishes to reject his mother throughout the entirety of the novel, which I believe he views her subconsciously as a replacement for his animosity toward God. In the last half of the book in a conversation between Charles and Cordelia, Sebastian’s youngest sister, the sentiment is expressed by Cordelia when she describes Charles’ feelings toward her mother:

“I never really knew your mother,” I said.

“You didn’t like her. I sometimes think when people wanted to hate God they hated mummy.”

What do you mean by that, Cordelia?”

“Well, you see, she was saintly, but she wasn’t a saint. No one could really hate a saint, could they? They really can’t hate God either. When they want to hate him and his saints they to find something like themselves and pretend it’s God and hate that. I suppose you think that’s all bosh.” ( p. 254-55 Bay Books 2012)

Sebastian believes his happiness is found disconnected from a Catholic world, which has all but revealed God to him. God is very much a part of Brideshead, and Sebastian seeks to find an Island, an oasis, from it. The relationship between Charles and Sebastian takes off into a joyous experience at first, and Sebastian needing his oasis seeks to keep Charles away from any and all sort of connection to this Catholic world.

I remember after the jail incident, Charles speaks about Sebastian believing his happiness to be tied to this separation from Brideshead, and in effect God. However, as Charles emphasizes Sebastian’s need for the disconnect, Sebastian begins to reject even Charles as Charles becomes friendly with his family and closer to Grace. 

Thomas Merton perhaps speaks of a different layer in his book No man is an Island. Merton says, “Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.”

Sebastian always has had a degree of faith no matter how much he tried to reject it. When Charles challenges him about his faith, Sebastian cannot outright reject his faith. Sebastian says “Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.” There is something deeply rooted here, like Grace, that compels him to believe it. Perhaps, Sebastian rejecting the world through drinking is also a method for Grace to enter into this young man of wealth to fully accept the Grace of God. As a society, the humanist tells us, and tries to conform God, that moral actions must relieve suffering. However, these are not the same rules for God. (see: The Book of Job) If God truly relieved the worldly suffering of Sebastian would Grace enter his heart among the brothers later?

It wouldn’t appear so; this is why it is so vital that we understand that the state of souls do matter , even more so than our earthly state.
via Brideshead Revisited: Understanding God’s Grace. – The Latin Community

Silence

Check out my review of the book Silence by Shusaku Endo on the blog All Along the Watchtower.

All Along the Watchtower

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Shusaku Endo’s book is very well written and a fine piece of literature; however, Endo’s theology and conclusion reached at the end of the story is simply bad theology and not a conclusion that is Catholicism, but rather a new age religion. The book has great value when describing events that actually occurred in Japan to those who professed the Christian faith.

The main character of the book is Fr. Rodrigues and his story take place after the apostasy of a real priest who renounced his faith by the name of Cristóvão Ferreira.[1] I became interested in the title due to Martin Scorsese releasing a movie adaptation of the book. I decided before reading the book to read a few reviews, which of course led to spoilers—this post will have them as well. The great part about knowing the ending of the book is realizing how much the author has…

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Pope Francis: reflections by Phillip Augustine

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Check out my post written on All Along the Watchtower about my initial thoughts on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and while you’re there check out a view of the other posts on the site.

All Along the Watchtower

This post is by our frequent commentator Phillip Augustine

friend of mine, who is a Deacon in the Catholic Church, is a big fan of Pope Francis. In conversations with him on topics of Catholicism and theology he often refers to the current pontiff with a boyish name of “Frankie.” The Deacon knowing that I have a great devotion to Pope St. John Paul II and his struggles in Poland has often attempted to find ways to introduce Pope Francis into the conversation. One of the conversations with the Deacon, he requested that I read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Of course, as one who likes to dabble in academia, I already have a very long reading list– but nonetheless, I’ve now begun to peruse the pages of this text at my friend’s request.

I surmise that one of the reasons why the Deacon wishes for me to…

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Dante and The Spiritual but Not Religious

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First published on newsforcatholics.info 

I am currently writing either a short story or what may be a full-length book. During my long working days, I’ve been listening to audio books, and the titles that I have been attempting to choose are Catholic Classics. Two of the titles that I have listened to during the past couple of weeks are commonly known by most folks: The Divine Comedy by Dante and Utopia by Thomas More. The titles have inspired me to combine the two elements of the story to form a modern update for our own period. I will be using the guided journey model of the Divine Comedy with the satire model from Thomas More explaining the beliefs of the Utopians. Of course, my version will be the product of our modern secular world, which at times isn’t far off from More’s satire warning. I am continually researching aspects of scripture, the books mentioned, and scientific advancements to include into the title. It appears my story will fall into the dystopia genre, although modeled after Utopia.

Notwithstanding, I wanted to talk about an early part of the Divine Comedy in the Inferno, or I should say prior to entering the gates of Hell. I believe it to resonate with many in our current society and how they view their own culture and morality.

Prior to when Dante and Virgil enter Hell, they encounter the spiritually neutral in Inferno Canto III: 22-69.

“Here sighs, complaints, and deep groans, sounded through the starless air, so that it made me weep at first. Many tongues, a terrible crying, words of sadness, accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, with sounds of hands amongst them, making a turbulence that turns forever, in that air, stained, eternally, like sand spiraling in a whirlwind. And I, my head surrounded by horror, said: ‘Master, what is this I hear, and what race are these, that seem so overcome by suffering?’

And he to me: ‘This is the miserable mode in which those exist, who lived without praise, without blame. They are mixed in with the despised choir of angels, those not rebellious, not faithful to God, but for themselves. Heaven drove them out, to maintain its beauty, and deep Hell does not accept them, lest the evil have glory over them.’[1]

The audio account that I had listened to was a broadcast reproduction of sorts, and it gave a specific name to these race of souls. I imagine it to be something of the nature of “outlanders” or “outliers,” but no longer remember. I was very much struck by this part of the narrative because I felt it explained many in our current society. Many of us have heard the phrase, for instance, “I am spiritual, but not religious.” Of course what this means is that they have been convinced by the ideology that religious institutions such as churches are antiquated, to say the least.

Part of this ideology has been birthed by the so-called “enlightenment” and the philosophy of Classical Liberalism formed around the same period to govern. Many historians and popular culture for that matter have found it necessary to promote the myth of scientific revolution of leading us out of the Dark Ages of Christianity into an Enlightened state of “thinking for oneself.” Of course, this is the message that one who takes the middle road of saying, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” and these folks would be included with those who Dante writes about in the Inferno.

People feel the need to liberated from institutions that are cast in a negative light by popular histories, and people feel the need to be liberated from institutions who promote a morality that is contrary to the mainstream hedonistic culture. Addressing the first issue, the best thing that Catholic, or any Christian can do is call out false narratives for what they are…false. Rodney Stark, a Lutheran, and professor at Baylor, writes about these false narratives in his book Bearing False Witness that continue to be retold about the Catholic Church, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the Enlightenment, and Protestant modernity. For example, Stark writes, “Incredibly, not only was there no “fall into “Dark Ages,” this was “one of the great innovative eras of mankind,” as technology was developed and put to into use’ one a scale no civilization had previously known.”[2]

The second point is addressed by today’s Gospel reading, Luke 12: 49-52:

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Although I prefer Matthew’s version, Mt. 10: 34-39:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37 He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

By accepting the authority of Christ’s bride, the Church, we do become religious and we are required to be religious to be spiritual. By declaring our faith in Christ and submitting to the authority of his Bride, the Church, we will certainly create divisions amongst our fellow modern friends and relatives by honoring the morality that has been dictated by God, and rejecting the relative morality of our current society.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker has wrote on the topic, writing:

“Spiritual but not Religious?” This just means the person is too lazy to look beyond their adolescent bias. They are too lazy to learn what it means to be truly religious. They are too smug and shallow and immature to ever regard anything greater than themselves as greater than themselves.

Spiritual but not Religious”? They have dismissed religion before they have even seriously considered it or studied it, and even if they have had a chance to consider it, what kind of religion have they been offered to consider? The state of Christianity in the United States is so dire, I’m not surprised any kid with half a brain rejects it. The culture encourages passivity and being a spectator. No wonder they reject religion for religion requires commitment and hard work and wonder and fear and self sacrifice and guts.”[3]

Furthermore, Fr. Longenecker is right to equate this philosophy to the age old enemy of Christianity, Manichaeism. A Christian cannot be spiritual and not religious without falling into an age old heresy of the Church. Many feel that it is an ‘evolved’ state of being for modern man when in reality It falls into the realm of Gnosticism that always denied the physical aspects of the Church, its sacraments, and the words of Christ to St. Peter.

Pray for those who feel compelled to this philosophy for they will always be on the outside looking in as exemplified by Dante’s poem.

[1] Dante Alighieri. Trans. Kline, A.S. The Divine Comedy (Poetry in Translation) 2000, 18.

[2] Rodney Stark, Bearing False Witness ( West Conshohocken: Templeton Press) 2016, 76.

[3] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2012/01/spiritual-but-not-religious.html

‘Recovering Catholics’ and the Flytes

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First Published on http://newsforcatholics.info/ : a great source for Catholic News, Commentary and general information on the faith

It was toward the end of a hot day. I was in the midst of a “small talk” conversation of sorts with an acquaintance and the topic of religion came to the surface. Of course, when pondering the conversation, I can’t help but think that it was a peculiar topic to randomly come up amongst two strangers. However, the topic did somehow naturally develop between acquaintances when my fellow conversationalist told me that he had gone to Catholic School. At this point, I thought perhaps I had stumbled upon a new friend of mutual lifestyles and my reply to his revelation was “Oh, I’m Catholic too.”

The response of my acquaintance was a bit deflating as he said, “Oh, I am a recovering Catholic.”

I’ve heard the phrase before, and I’ve always thought it odd. How do these folks perceive their recovery? Do they feel that they have been so indoctrinated as a child that the foundation that had been forged in their youth causes them to relapse from their newfound clarity back to Catholicism or is it an ongoing process to cleanse them from their attachment to Catholicism much like the doctrine of purgatory?

Regardless, I didn’t continue further with the conversation because I felt that there was little more that I could say on the matter. However, I’ve been reminded recently of two particular parts of Brideshead Revisited after the conversation. My current employment has been a blessing that I am able to listen to many audio books, and when seeing that Brideshead was narrated by Jeremy Irons I could not resist, but it has allowed for little to no time for blogging.

(Although I do try to keep up on reading and browsing my favorite blogs)

As I began listening to Irons read the timeless words of Waugh with the conversation fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but focus on the particular passage in this great title:

“Bridey, you mustn’t be pious,” said Sebastian. “We’ve got an atheist with us.”

“Agnostic,” I said. (Charles Ryder)

“Really? Is there much of that at your college? There was a certain amount at Magdalen.” (Bridey)

“I really don’t know. I was one long before I went to Oxford.” (Ryder)

“It’s everywhere,” said Brideshead. (pg. 86 ebook Little Brown Book Company)

Prior to this clarification by Charles, Charles and Sebastian have a conversation on the topic of Sebastian’s Catholicism:

“Who was it used to pray, ‘O God, make me good, but not yet’?”

“I don’t know. You, I should think.”

“Why, yes, I do, every day. But it isn’t that.”

He turned back to the pages of the News of the World and said, “Another naughty scout-master.”

“I suppose they try and make you believe an awful lot of nonsense?”

“Is it nonsense? I wish it were. It sometimes sounds terribly sensible to me.”

“But my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.”

“Can’t I?”

“I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”

“Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”

“But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea.”

“But I do . That’s how I believe.” (p. 82)

As I was listening to these two scenes that are very near each other, I kept thinking in my mind “Recovering Catholic” over and over. I suppose it’s because in many ways both Julia and Sebastian attempted to be “recovering Catholics.” Charles, in a discussion with Julia about his love for her and her brother, commented on Sebastian being the “forerunner.” The two were so very much alike in many ways it’s not entirely surprising that Charles shared a love for both of them.

Our modern world questions the Catholic faithful much like Charles does of Sebastian’s faith especially when our Catholicism is counter to the prevailing wisdom of mainstream secular morals. When it comes to topics like the sacrament of marriage, unborn children, and rejection of material culture the world replies, “You can’t seriously believe it all?” Of course, when the faithful respond, “But I do. That’s how I believe.” The faithful will be mocked for being anti-science or anti –intellectual. In fact, when Julia is struggling with the realization of her own sins in the world, in a way, Charles mocks the idea in the narrative saying:

“Of course it’s a thing psychologists could explain; a preconditioning from childhood; feelings of guilt from the nonsense you were taught in the nursery. You do know at heart that it’s all bosh, don’t you?” (p. 272)

Julia’s replies: ““How I wish it was!”

“Sebastian once said almost the same thing to me.”

So what does this mean for “recovering Catholics”? What does Waugh attempt to tell us in his passages to a man who during those particular points in the story speaks just like our modern world? Waugh attempts to tell us to recognize God’s Grace in action. I didn’t say anything to my acquaintance, mainly because I thought I would do more harm than good, but we have to remember the words of the Venerable Fulton Sheen, “Actually, there are only two philosophies of life: one is first the feast, then the headache; the other is first the fast then the feast.” And so according to the precepts of Christianity, it comes down to a choice between picking up one’s cross or not. Preparing one’s treasures in heaven or on earth. However, a “recovering Catholic” may yet have the tools necessary to choose to accept God’s Grace.

Brideshead Revisited: Understanding God’s Grace.

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Brideshead Revisited was written by Evelyn Waugh, and it is an exceptionally good book, so much so that now I feel simply lost without it.  The book has been great to reflect on the importance of my Catholic faith and morality in a world that seems quite averse to it; I am even prolonging finishing the television series, as I am having a hard time letting go of this family that I’ve come to develop a relationship with over the course of time. I’m always reading books, although now all other fiction titles seem to lack in substance. It’s because the dignity of humanity is one of the great themes of Brideshead Revisited, and of course, it’s something missing in our society today and in many of the arts.

A reader of this blog asked me one time to comment on a post of his on the book on “Why does Sebastian drink?” I felt that I needed to share my thoughts that I shared with him because it deals with many of themes of my most recent posts on this blog such as sin, mercy, contrition, grace, and forgiveness. Sebastian’s drinking could most certainly have been to seek instant gratification of every moment, he may even say something of this nature early on, but what I believe is what drives Sebastian’s thirst is that he doesn’t believe he deserves the Grace given to him freely by God, and it eats away at him inside.

Waugh never clearly states if there is any reason for Sebastian drinking; however, I think the reason may have several layers of depth. Of course, in the novel, there is the connection of The Church and the state of Grace. Sebastian, for the most part, wishes to reject his mother throughout the entirety of the novel, which I believe he views her subconsciously as a replacement for his animosity toward God. In the last half of the book in a conversation between Charles and Cordelia, Sebastian’s youngest sister, the sentiment is expressed by Cordelia when she describes Charles’ feelings toward her mother:

“I never really knew your mother,” I said.

“You didn’t like her. I sometimes think when people wanted to hate God they hated mummy.”

What do you mean by that, Cordelia?”

“Well, you see, she was saintly, but she wasn’t a saint. No one could really hate a saint, could they? They really can’t hate God either. When they want to hate him and his saints they to find something like themselves and pretend it’s God and hate that. I suppose you think that’s all bosh.” ( p. 254-55 Bay Books 2012)

Sebastian believes his happiness is found disconnected from a Catholic world, which has all but revealed God to him. God is very much a part of Brideshead, and Sebastian seeks to find an Island, an oasis, from it. The relationship between Charles and Sebastian takes off into a joyous experience at first, and Sebastian needing his oasis seeks to keep Charles away from any and all sort of connection to this Catholic world.

I remember after the jail incident, Charles speaks about Sebastian believing his happiness to be tied to this separation from Brideshead, and in effect God. However, as Charles emphasizes Sebastian’s need for the disconnect, Sebastian begins to reject even Charles as Charles becomes friendly with his family and closer to Grace. 

Thomas Merton perhaps speaks of a different layer in his book No man is an Island. Merton says, “Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.”

Sebastian always has had a degree of faith no matter how much he tried to reject it. When Charles challenges him about his faith, Sebastian cannot outright reject his faith. Sebastian says “Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.” There is something deeply rooted here, like Grace, that compels him to believe it. Perhaps, Sebastian rejecting the world through drinking is also a method for Grace to enter into this young man of wealth to fully accept the Grace of God. As a society, the humanist tells us, and tries to conform God, that moral actions must relieve suffering. However, these are not the same rules for God. (see: The Book of Job) If God truly relieved the worldly suffering of Sebastian would Grace enter his heart among the brothers later?

It wouldn’t appear so; this is why it is so vital that we understand that the state of souls do matter , even more so than our earthly state.

Proslogion: Book discussion Ch. 8-11

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I am continuing with my analysis within Fariba’s awesome book discussion on St. Anselm’s Proslogion. In week two, which I am a bit late on supplying my analysis, the chapters that are examined are eight through sixteen. I will be examining chapters eight through eleven as St. Anselm explains how God can be both merciful and impassible.

I do enjoy St. Anselm’s examination on the topic of God being both merciful and impassible more than his examination of the existence of God. I do believe his ontological argument works better when attempting to understand an infinitely omniscient and all powerful being. In chapter eight, St. Anselm really just poses the question, “How can he be both merciful and impassible?” It’s interesting that I find St. Anselm’s response very simple, yet, complex to ponder. St. Anselm answers this question by stating, “ You are [merciful] according to our experience but are not [merciful] according to your experience.”[1] The short answer in explaining St. Anselm’s meaning is that God is simply a divine mystery. A deeper look into the theology of a merciful God that is supremely good is the understanding that humanity not being God cannot understand what is supremely good for humanity operates with the notion of natural rights created by God, but does not confine God. For if something existed that confined God, he would cease to be God. Furthermore, if humanity fully understood the mysteries of God, he would also cease to be God. So again, how is God both merciful and impassible? Many atheists challenge the idea of God because they view the world’s suffering and will not follow a God that allows the free will to commit such atrocities. Overall, this sentiment both St. Anselm’s posed question and the Atheist challenge reminds of the commonly asked question by nonbelievers, “Can an All Powerful God create an immovable rock?” The answer is “Yes, and Yes.” For God can create a rock that he cannot move, and yet, move it all the same because God is not confined to the understandings of humanity.

In chapter 9 of the Proslogion, the reader is met the basic question does a God of infinite goodness do evil by saving those who are evil or allowing evil to exist? St. Anselm writes, “Why, then, good God—good to those who are good to those who are evil—why do You save those who are evil, if [to do] this Is not just and if You do not do anything that is not just?[2] St. Anselm answers the question by stating that “You are also beneficent to those who are evil. For You would be less good if You were beneficent to none of those who are evil.”[3] The logic of St. Anselm here is convincing to me—unlike the logic of his argument for God—because God to be infinitely good must be a state of infinite goodness that is impassible for a supremely good being must good to all or they would be less good, or simply, not God.

In chapter 10-12, St. Anselm continues to develop the idea of how God can be merciful to those who are evil, and if by his will supply what humanity would believe is justice.  St. Anselm explains that in accordance with God’s justice that appears to contradict our own justice that when God spares those who are evil that “You are just in Yourself but are not just from our viewpoint.”[4] A servant of God cannot know His will unless it has been revealed to us through divine revelation, it is a sentiment explained throughout the Book of Job and Job’s conclusion to the events:

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees thee;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”[5]

The servant of God must simply have faith and trust that although there is suffering and that evil has been given mercy when it appears it deserves justice. We do not have the ability to discern what is for the greater good, because if we did have the ability, God would not be God because he would not be greater in this aspect. In this regard, it is perhaps the best to understand St. Anselm’s argument for the existence of God as a prerequisite to understanding God’s nature as both merciful and impassible—both good and just towards evil.

[1]  Anselm of Canterbury, trans, by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury (Minneapolis: Arthur J. Benning Press, 2000), 97.

[2] Ibid, 98.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 100.

[5] Job 42:3-6 RSV

Proslogion-Book Discussion Answers-Ch. 1-7

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I invite everyone to participate in this book discussion hosted by Fariba, the author of Incarnational Catholic, She is producing a fine topic for us Catholics to discuss on St. Anselm’s Proslogion. I challenge everyone to challenge the text of St. Anselm’s when answering the questions that are posted by Fariba. Click Here, If you need them. Also, challenge my answers to Fariba’s questions. We’re promoting a discussion for a better understanding. I am certain that Fariba will object to some of my points, but through her objections I will gain a better understanding of St. Anselm’s message, this is the point of having these discussions.

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My impressions, so far, of this work of St. Anselm, are negative, but I will admit these feelings are based on a first impression of reading the text. St. Anselm appears to be hiding a rather weak argument for the existence of God in a rather tortuous scholastic maze. The text is filled with an abundant supply of tautologies that for the vast majority of the time spent reading the text, St. Anselm is saying very little. I will agree with Fariba that Anselm does seem to be “frustrated that he does not know God the way he should.” However, although I do agree that he seems influenced by St. Augustine, it appears that Anselm got to only this portion of St. Augustine’s Confession, “You arouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[1] (Book 1 Ch. 1) This makes me conclude by his famous definition of theology, “But I yearn to understand some measure of Your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand that he has failed to understand,”[2] St. Anselm does not have the same understand of the grace and of the mysteries given by God, which is fundamentally understood by St. Augustine throughout his Confessions. St. Anselm, would not make such a point, if he fully had vested belief in Christ’s words, “and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,[a] you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”[3]

However, St. Anselm by way of the text has concluded an existence of God; however, Anslem—as explained by Fariba—does appear to be upset by not understanding this distance from God and himself. He speaks of desolation and famine because of this exile that mankind must suffer away from God in exile. St. Anselm, perhaps, needs to fully reach the point of belief to understand the grace that God provides to properly reach the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the early part of the text in Chapter 1 of the Proslogion, it’s interesting that Fariba spoke of St. Anselm’s influence from St. Augustine’s On the Trinity because I felt like I was reading an influence from another text, On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius. It appears that St. Anselm is really driving home the fact in the early parts of the Proslogion that the existence of God, our exile, and our hunger from him all hinge on the importance of the Creation story. St. Anselm writes, “He lost the happiness for which he was made and found an unhappiness for which he was not made…Man then ate the bread-of-angels for which he now hungers; and now he eats the bread-of-sorrows…while, alas, remaining empty.”[4]

The strange divergence between the two text, and rather I would assert the same divergence that occurs between St. Anselm and St. Augustine, is that Anselm doesn’t appear to be persuaded by the argument that Mankind’s betrayal of sinning against the Father is sufficient for this exile. St. Anselm asks, “Why did he take away from us life and inflict death?”[5] I would say to this question it is answered when St. Athanasius writes, “3. For of His becoming Incarnate we were the object, and for our salvation He dealt so lovingly as to appear and be born even in a human body. 4. Thus, then, God has made man, and willed that he should abide in incorruption; but men, having despised and rejected the contemplation of God, and devised and contrived evil for themselves.”[6]

 St. Anselm asks, “Why did God take away?” St. Athanasius answers, “Mankind rejected God.”

In Chapter 3-7 of the Proslogion, one discovers St. Anselm’s argument for the existence of God after one wades through the tremendous amount of tautology to arrive at the argument. The basic argument is that “O Lord my God, You exist so truly that You cannot even be thought not to exist…For if any mind could think of something better than You, the creature would rise above the Creator and would sit in judgment over the Creator—something which is utterly absurd.”[7]

Frankly, I find Blaise Pascale’s argument of “wager” more convincing. St. Anselm’s argument is already laid on the foundation that a deity does exist, and that ontologically speaking if one were to argue that something is greater than God, that something would be God—and there goes the strawman. Perhaps, I feel this way because I know St. Thomas Aquinas’ argument for the existence of God, which St. Anselm did not have the pleasure to read. Fundamentally, one cannot assert the existence of God without proving that God existing is self-evident based on the cosmological argument rather than asserting a mere metaphysical acknowledgment that is ontologically speaking that God already exists and that there can be nothing greater. One must make clear that metaphysically there must be a First Cause before any such argument can be used: “If there is no First Cause, there is no second causes, or simply, nothing can cause itself to be.”[8]

[1] Augustine of Hippo, trans, by John K. Ryan, The Confessions (New York: Image, 2014), 1.

[2] Anselm of Canterbury, trans, by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury (Minneapolis: Arthur J. Benning Press, 2000), 93.

[3] Mt. 18:3 RSV

[4] Anselm of Canterbury, 91.

[5] Ibid.

[6] St. Athanasius On the Incarnation 4

[7] Anselm of Canterbury, 94.

[8] Peter Kreeft, Summa of the Summa ( San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990). 62.