History of the christian church



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At first the Stagyrite was looked upon with suspicion or even prohibited by the popes and synods as adapted to breed heresy and spiritual pride.4 But, from 1250 on, his authority continued supreme. The saying of Gottfried of St. Victor became current in Paris.


Every one is excluded and banned

Who does not come clad in Aristotle’s armor. 1315


The Reformers shook off his yoke and Luther, in a moment of temper at the degenerate Schoolmen of his day, denounced him as "the accursed pagan Aristotle" and in his Babylonish Captivity called the mediaeval Church "the Thomistic or Aristotelian Church."

The line of the Schoolmen begins in the last year of the eleventh century with Roscellinus and Anselm. Two centuries before, John Scotus Erigena had anticipated some of their discussions of fundamental themes, and laid down the principle that true philosophy and true religion are one. But he does not seem to have had any perceptible influence on Scholastic thought. The history divides itself into three periods: the rise of Scholasticism, its full bloom, and its decline.6 To the first period belong Anselm, d. 1109, Roscellinus, d. about 1125, Abaelard, d. 1142, Bernard, d. 1153, Hugo de St. Victor, d. 1161, Richard of St. Victor, d. 1173, and Gilbert of Poictiers, d. 1154. The chief names of the second period are Peter the Lombard, d. 1160, Alexander of Hales, d. 1243, Albertus Magnus, d. 1280, Thomas Aquinas, d. 1274, Bonaventura, d. 1274, Roger Bacon, d. 1294, and Duns Scotus, d. 1308. To the period of decline belong, among others, Durandus, d. 1334, Bradwardine, d. 1349, and Ockam, d. 1367. England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain made contributions to this galaxy of men. Gabriel Biel, professor at Tübingen, who died 1495, is usually called the last of the Schoolmen. Almost all the great Schoolmen were monks.

The two centuries included between the careers of Anselm and Duns Scotus show decided modifications of opinion on important questions such as the immaculate conception, and in regard to the possibility of proving from pure reason such doctrines as the incarnation and the Trinity. These two doctrines Thomas Aquinas, as well as Duns Scotus and Ockam, declared to be outside the domain of pure ratiocination. Even the existence of God and the immortality of the soul came to be regarded by Duns Scotus and the later Schoolmen as mysteries which were to be received solely upon the authority of the Church. The argument from probability was emphasized in the last stages of Scholastic thought as it had not been before.

In their effort to express the minutest distinctions of thought, the Schoolmen invented a new vocabulary unknown to classical Latin, including such words as ens, absolutum identitas quidditas, haecceitas, aliquiditas, aleitas. 1317 The sophistical speculations which they allowed themselves were, for the most part, concerned with the angels, the Virgin Mary, the devil, the creation, and the body of the resurrection. Such questions as the following were asked and most solemnly discussed by the leading Schoolmen. Albertus Magnus asked whether it was harder for God to create the universe than to create man and whether the understandings of angels are brighter in the morning or in the evening. "Who sinned most, Adam or Eve?" was a favorite question with Anselm, Hugo de St. Victor, 1318and others. Alexander of Hales attempted to settle the hour of the day at which Adam sinned and, after a long discussion, concluded it was at the ninth hour, the hour at which Christ expired. Bonaventura debated whether several angels can be in one place at the same time, whether one angel can be in several places at the same time, and whether God loved the human race more than He loved Christ. 1319 Anselm, in his work on the Trinity, asked whether God could have taken on the female sex and why the Holy Spirit did not become incarnate. Of the former question, Walter of St. Victor, speaking of Peter the Lombard, very sensibly said that it would have been more rational for him to have asked why the Lombard did not appear on earth as an ass than for the Lombard to ask whether God could have become incarnate in female form. The famous discussion over the effect the eating of the host would have upon a mouse will be taken up in connection with the Lord’s Supper. Albertus Magnus, Bonaventura, Thomas Aquinas, and others pondered over the problem. It was asked by Robert Pullen whether man in the resurrection will receive back the rib he lost in Eden, and whether a man will recover all the clippings of his finger nails.

Such endless discussions have been ridiculed as puerile and frivolous, though, as has already been said, they grew out of the desire to be exhaustive. At last and justly, they brought Scholasticism into disrepute. While it was losing itself in the clouds and mists of things transcendental, it neglected the earth at its feet. As the papacy passed sentence upon itself by intolerable ambition, so Scholasticism undermined its authority by intellectual sophistries and was set aside by the practical interests of the Renaissance and Humanism and by simple faith, searching through the Scriptures, to reach the living sympathy of Christ. 1320
§ 97. Realism and Nominalism.
The underlying philosophical problem of the Scholastic speculations was the real and independent existence of general or generic concepts, called universalia or universals. Do they necessarily involve substantial being? On this question the Schoolmen were divided into two camps, the Realists and the Nominalists.1 The question, which receives little attention now, was regarded as most important in the Middle Ages.

Realism taught that the universals are not mere generalizations of the mind but have a real existence. Following Plato, as he is represented by Aristotle, one class of Realists held that the universals are creative types, exemplars in the divine mind. Their view was stated in the expression—universalia ante rem — that is, the universals exist before the individual, concrete object. The Aristotelian Realists held that the universals possess a real existence, but exist only in individual things. This was the doctrine of universalia in re. Humanity, for example, is a universal having a real existence. Socrates partakes of it, and he is an individual man, distinct from other men. Anselm, representing the Platonic school, treated the universal humanity as having independent existence by itself. Duns Scotus, representing the second theory, found in the universal the basis of all classification and gives to it only in this sense a real existence.

The Nominalists taught that universals or general conceptions have no antecedent existence. They are mere names—nomina, flatus vocis, voces — and are derived from a comparison of individual things and their qualities. Thus beauty is a conception of the mind gotten from the observation of objects which are beautiful. The individual things are first observed and the universal, or abstract conception, is derived from it. This doctrine found statement in the expression universalia post rem, the universal becomes known after the individual. A modification of this view went by the name of Conceptualism, or the doctrine that universals have existence as conceptions in the mind, but not in real being. 1322

The starting-point for this dialectical distinction may have been a passage in Porphyry’s Isagoge, as transmitted by Boethius. Declining to enter into a discussion of the question, Porphyry asks whether the universals are to be regarded as having distinct substantial existence apart from tangible things or whether they were only conceptions of the mind, having substantial existence only in tangible things.3 The distinction assumed practical importance when it was applied to such theological doctrines as the Trinity, the atonement, and original sin.

The theory of Realism was called in question in the eleventh century by Roscellinus, a contemporary of Anselm and the teacher of Abaelard, who, as it would seem, advocated Nominalism. 1324 Our knowledge of his views is derived almost exclusively from the statements of his two opponents, Anselm and Abaelard. He was serving as canon of Compiegne in the diocese of Soissons, 1092, when he was obliged to recant his alleged tritheism, which he substituted for the doctrine of the Trinity.

The views of this theologian called forth Anselm’s treatise on the Trinity, and Abaelard despised him as a quack dialectician. 1325 Anselm affirmed that Roscellinus’ heretical views on the Trinity were the immediate product of his false philosophical principle, the denial that universals have real existence. Roscellinus called the three persons of the Godhead three substances, as Scotus Erigena had done before. These persons were three distinct beings equal in power and will, but each separate from the other and complete in himself, like three men or angels. These three could not be one God in the sense of being of the same essence, for then the Father and the Holy Spirit would have had to become incarnate as well as the Son.

Defending the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, Anselm proceeded on the basis of strict realism and declared that the three persons represented three relations and not three substances. Fountain, brook, and pond are three; yet the same water is in each one and we could not say the brook is the fountain or the fountain is the pond. The water of the brook may be carried through a pipe, but in that case it would not be the fountain which was carried through, nor the pond. So in the same way, the Godhead became incarnate without involving the incarnation of the Father and Holy Spirit.

The decision of the synod of Soissons and Anselm’s argument drove Nominalism from the field and it was not again publicly avowed till the fourteenth century when it was revived by the energetic and practical mind of Ockam, by Durandus and others. It was for a time fiercely combated by councils and King Louis XI., but was then adopted by many of the great teachers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.


§ 98. Anselm of Canterbury.
Literature: The Works of Anselm. First complete ed. by Gerberon, Paris, 1675, reprinted in Migne, vols. 158, 159.—Anselm’s opuscula, trans. Chicago, 1903, pp. 288.—Anselm’s Devotions, trans. by Pusey, Oxf., 1856, London, 1872, and by C. C. J. Webb., London, 1903.—Trans. of Cur Deus homo in Anc. and Mod. Library, London.—The Life of Anselm by his secretary and devoted friend Eadmer: de vita Anselmi and Historia novorum in Migne, and ed. by Rule in Rolls series, London, 1884.—John of Salisbury’s Life, written to further Anselm’s canonization by Alexander III., Migne, 199: 1009–1040, is based upon Eadmer.—William Of Malmesbury in Gesta Pontificum adds some materials.—Modern Lives, by *F. R. Hasse, 2 vols. Leip., 1843–1852, Abrdg. trans. by *W. Turner, London, 1850. One of the best of Hist. monographs.—*C. De Remusat: Paris, 1853, last ed., 1868.—*Dean R. W. Church (d. 1890): London, new ed., 1877 (good account of Anselm’s career, but pays little attention to his philosophy and theology).—M. Rule: 2 vols. London, 1883, eulogistic and ultramontane.—P. Ragey: 2 vols. Paris, 1890.—J. M. Rigg: London, 1896.—A. C. Welch, Edinburgh, 1901.—*W. R. W. Stephens in Dict. Natl. Biog., II. 10–31.—P. Schaff, in Presb. and Ref’d Review, Jan., 1894.—*Ed. A. Freeman: The Reign of William Rufus, 2 vols. London, 1882.—H. Böhmer: Kirche u. Staat in England u. in der Normandie im XI. u. XIIten Jahrh., Leip., 1899.—Anselm’s philosophy is discussed by Ritter, Erdmann, and Ueberweg-Heinze in their Histories of Philos.; his theology is treated by Baur: Gesch. d. Christl. Lehre. von d. Versöhnung, Tübingen, 1838, 142–189.—Ritschl: Rechtfertigung u. Versöhnung, and in the Histories of Doctrine.—Kölling: D. satisfactio vicaria, 2 vols., Gütersloh, 1897–1899. A vigorous presentation of the Anselmic view.—Leipoldt: D. Begriff meritum in Anselm, in Theol. Studien u. Kritiken, 1904.—Le Chanoine Porée: Hist. de l’Abbaye du Bec, Paris, 1901.
Anselm of Canterbury, 1033–1109, the first of the great Schoolmen, was one of the ablest and purest men of the mediaeval Church. He touched the history of his age at many points. He was an enthusiastic advocate of monasticism. He was archbishop of Canterbury and fought the battle of the Hildebrandian hierarchy against the State in England. His Christian meditations give him a high rank in its annals of piety. His profound speculation marks one of the leading epochs in the history of theology and won for him a place among the doctors of the Church. While Bernard was greatest as a monk, Anselm was greatest as a theologian. He was the most original thinker the Church had seen since the days of Augustine. 1326

Life.—Anselm was born at Aosta, in Piedmont, at the foot of the great St. Bernard, which divides Italy from western Switzerland.7 He had a pious mother, Ermenberga. His father, Gundulf, a worldly and rude nobleman, set himself violently against his son’s religious aspirations, but on his death-bed himself assumed the monastic garb to escape perdition.

In his childish imagination, Anselm conceived God Almighty as seated on a throne at the top of the Alps, and in a dream, he climbed up the mountain to meet Him. Seeing, on his way, the king’s maidens engaged in the harvest field, for it was Autumn, neglecting their work he determined to report their negligence to the king. The lad was most graciously received and asked whence he came and what he desired. The king’s kindness made him forget all about the charges he was intending to make. Then, refreshed with the whitest of bread, he descended again to the valley. The following day he firmly believed he had actually been in heaven and eaten at the Lord’s table. This was the story he told after he had ascended the chair of Canterbury.

A quarrel with his father led to Anselm’s leaving his home. He set his face toward the West and finally settled in the Norman abbey of Le Bec, then under the care of his illustrious countryman Lanfranc. Here he studied, took orders, and, on Lanfranc’s transfer to the convent of St. Stephen at Caen, 1063, became prior, and, in 1078, abbot. At Bec he wrote most of his works. His warm devotion to the monastic life appears in his repeated references to it in his letters and in his longing to get back to the convent after he had been made archbishop.

In 1093, he succeeded Lanfranc as archbishop of Canterbury. His struggle with William Rufus and Henry I. over investiture has already been described (pp. 88–93). During his exile on the Continent he attended a synod at Bari, where he defended the Latin doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit against the Greek bishops who were present. 1328

The archbishop’s last years in England were years of quiet, and he had a peaceful end. They lifted him from the bed and placed him on ashes on the floor. There, "as morning was breaking, on the Wednesday before Easter," April 21, 1109, the sixteenth year of his pontificate and the seventy-sixth of his life, he slept in peace, as his biographer Eadmer says, "having given up his spirit into the hands of his Creator." He lies buried in Canterbury Cathedral at the side of Lanfranc.

Anselm was a man of spotless integrity, single devotion to truth and righteousness, patient in suffering, and revered as a saint before his official canonization in 1494.9 Dante associates him in Paradise with Nathan, the seer, and Chrysostom, both famous for rebuking vice in high places, and with the Calabrian prophet, Joachim. 1330



Writings.—Anselm’s chief works in the departments of theology are his Monologium and Proslogium, which present proofs for God’s existence, and the Cur Deus homo, "Why God became Man," a treatise on the atonement. He also wrote on the Trinity against Roscellinus; on original sin, free will, the harmony of foreknowledge and foreordination, and the fall of the devil. To these theological treatises are to be added a number of writings of a more practical nature, homilies, meditations, and four hundred and twelve letters in which we see him in different relations, as a prelate of the Church, a pastor, as a teacher giving advice to pupils, and as a friend.1 His correspondence shows him in his human relations. His meditations and prayers reveal the depth of his piety. His theological treatises betray the genius of his intellect. In extent they are far less voluminous than the works of Thomas Aquinas and other Schoolmen of the later period.

Theology.—Anselm was one of those rare characters in whom lofty reason and childlike faith work together in perfect harmony. Love to God was the soul of his daily life and love to God is the burning centre of his theology. It was not doubt that led him to speculation, but enthusiasm for truth and devotion to God. His famous proposition, which Schleiermacher adopted as a motto for his own theology, is that faith precedes knowledge—fides praecedit intellectum. Things divine must be a matter of experience before they can be comprehended by the intellect. "He who does not believe," Anselm said, "has not felt, and he who has not felt, does not understand." 1332 Christ must come to the intellect through the avenue of faith and not to faith through the avenue of intellect. 1333 On the other hand, Anselm declared himself against blind belief, and calls it a sin of neglect when he who has faith, does not strive after knowledge. 1334

These views, in which supernaturalism and rationalism are harmonized, form the working principle of the Anselmic theology. The two sources of knowledge are the Bible and the teaching of the Church which are in complete agreement with one another and are one with true philosophy.5 Anselm had a profound veneration for the great African teacher, Augustine, and his agreement with him in spirit and method secured for him the titles "the second Augustine" and the, Tongue of Augustine."

Anselm made two permanent contributions to theology, his argument for the existence of God and his theory of the atonement.

The ontological argument, which he stated, constitutes an epoch in the history of the proofs for God’s existence. It was first laid clown in the Monologium or Soliloquy, which he called the example of meditation on the reasonableness of faith, but mixed with cosmological elements. Starting from the idea that goodness and truth must have an existence independent of concrete things, Anselm ascends from the conception of what is relatively good and great, to Him who is absolutely good and great.

In the Proslogium, or Allocution, the ontological argument is presented in its purest form. Anselm was led to its construction by the desire to find out a single argument, sufficient in itself, to prove the divine existence. The argument was the result of long reflection and rooted in piety and prayer. Day and night the author was haunted with the idea that God’s existence could be so proved. He was troubled over it to such a degree that at times he could not sleep or take his meals. Finally, one night, during vigils, the argument stood clearly before his mind in complete outline. The notes were written down while the impression was still fresh in Anselm’s mind. The first copy was lost; the second was inadvertently broken to pieces.

Anselm’s argument, which is the highest example of religious meditation and scholastic reasoning, is prefaced with an exhortation and the words, "I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order that I may understand, for of this I feel sure, that, if I did not believe, I would not understand."

The reasoning starts from the idea the mind has of God, and proceeds to the affirmation of the necessity of God’s objective existence. The mind has a concept of something than which nothing greater can be conceived. 1336 This even the fool has, when he says in his heart, "there is no God, " Ps. 14:1. He grasps the conception when he listens, and what he grasps is in his mind. This something, than which nothing greater can be conceived, cannot exist solely in the mind. For, if it existed solely in the mind, then it would be possible to think of it as existing also in reality (objectively), and that would be something greater. 1337 This is impossible. This thing, therefore, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists both in the mind and in reality. This is God. "So truly," exclaims Anselm, "dost Thou exist, O Lord God, that it is not possible to conceive of Thee as not existing. For, if any mind could conceive of anything better than Thou art, then the creature would ascend above the Creator and become His judge, which is supremely absurd. Everything else besides Thyself can be conceived of as not existing."

The syllogism, compact as its presentation is and precise as its language seems to be, is nevertheless defective, as a logical statement. It begs the question. It offends against the principle that deductions from a definition are valid only on the supposition that the thing defined exists. The definition and the statement of God’s existence are in the major premise, "there is something than which nothing greater can be conceived." And yet it was the objective existence of this being, Anselm wanted to prove. Setting this objection aside, there is the other fatal objection that objective existence is not a predicate. Objective being is implied when we affirm anything. This objection was stated by Kant. 1338 Again, Anselm confused, as synonymous, understanding a thing and having a conception in the understanding. 1339

The reasoning of the Proslogium was attacked by the monk Gaunilo of Marmontier, near Bec, in his Liber pro insipiente. He protested against the inference from the subjective conception to objective reality on the ground that by the same method we might argue from any of our conceptions to the reality of the thing conceived, as for example for the existence of a lost island, the Atlantis. "That, than which nothing greater can be thought," does not exist in the mind in any other way than does the perfection of such an island. The real existence of a thing must be known before we can predicate anything of it. Gaunilo’s objection Anselm answered by declaring that the idea of the lost island was not a necessary conception while that of the highest being was, and that it was to it alone his argument applied.

Untenable as Anselm’s argument is logically, it possesses a strong fascination, and contains a great truth. The being of God is an intuition of the mind, which can only be explained by God’s objective existence. The modern theory of correlation lends its aid to corroborate what was, after all, fundamental in the Anselmic presentation, namely, that the idea of God in the mind must have corresponding to it a God who really exists. Otherwise, we are left to the mystery which is perhaps still greater, how such an idea could ever have taken firm and general hold of the human mind.0



The doctrine of the atonement.—With the Cur Deus homo, "Why God became Man," a new chapter opens in the development of the doctrine of the atonement. The treatise, which is in the form of a dialogue, is the author’s most elaborate work, and he thought the argument sufficient to break down the objections of Jew and Pagan to the Christian system.

Anselm was the first to attempt to prove the necessity of the incarnation and death of the Son of God by the processes of pure reason. He argued that the world cannot be redeemed by an arbitrary decree of God, nor through man or angel. Man is under the domination of the devil, deserves punishment, and is justly punished; but the devil torments him without right,1for he does not do it by the authority of God, but from malice. The handwriting of ordinances against the sinner (Col. 2:14) is not a note due the devil, but the sentence of God that he who sinned should be the servant of sin.

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