All together

"Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." James 1.8


There was apparently nothing "double-minded about Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Professor Steven Porter of Biola University in Southern California hails him as the supremely integrated Christian theologian. That is to say that he combined faith and intellectual rigour as two sides of a coin rather than competing impulses. This allowed him to move seamlessly between expressing his devotion to God in prayer and answering intellectual questions with penetrating clarity. He is perhaps best known for his conception of the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God. In layman's terms, if God is the greatest entity which can exist and because being real is greater than being a figment of the imagination, God must really exist.


Professor Porter ascribes Anselm's integrity to his qualities of intellectual rigour, his personal connectedness and his passionate spirituality - a rare cocktail in academic circles, where it is so often the case that theological reflection stifles spiritual growth. However Anselm's approach was to maintain a strict balance between faith and reason, so that his faith was not governed by his intellect but rather his intellectual curiosity illuminated his faith, by revealing and exploring and developing the principles upon which that faith was grounded.


Nor was Anselm selfish or self-indulgent in his giftedness. It appears that he was humble, patient and generous with students and peers alike, embracing opportunities to further his own insight by answering the difficulties and objections of others. So often we hug our ideas and convictions close to our chests, arriving at private convictions which are so brittle that we dare not risk upsetting our worldview by sharing it with others. Or we end up turning what could be constructive conversations into bruising arguments, for the sake of warding off those whose objections might upset our fragile assumptions and prejudices.


Why not rejoice in the fact that we are all theologians in the making? And if we really believe that Jesus is the Way and that the Truth is in Jesus, what have we to lose by openly engaging with others? And if we find ourselves lured into an argument which we subsequently lose, that does not have to undermine our faith. Instead let it return us to the drawing-board in order to understand better what we failed to convey adequately, so that we may learn from the experience and do better next time...

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