1090 AD Cur Deus Homo

That’s Latin for ‘Why God is Man’.  I was so proud of myself for being able to translate that all on my own (the book did not translate it for the reader).  But I have since reminded myself that knowing three words in Latin does not mean I am smart.

Cur Deus Homo was written by Anselm, the archbishop of Canterbury around the year 1090.  This book is about, as the title suggests, why God (Jesus) became a man, as well as any and all ideas connected with that.  Anselm sought to explain Christian theology through rational means, making all the ‘mysteries’ clear and available to believers.

Here are a few quotes I liked and my thoughts on them:

“But when he does not chose what he ought, he dishonors God, as far as the being himself is concerned, because he does not submit himself freely to God’s disposal.  And he disturbs the order and beauty of the universe, as relates to himself, although he cannot injure nor tarnish the power and majesty of God.”

Anselm had been talking about how God does not allow His honor to be violated by the sins of men.  So he is basically saying that our sin does not violate God’s honor, but our own.  And I especially liked how the order and beauty of the universe, as related to us (our life, the world through our eyes), is disturbed by our sins.  So we’re just ruining it for ourselves, and those around us, of course, who share in our little part of the universe.

This book is written as a dialogue between Anselm and his friend, Boso.  There is one conversation that I found particularly interesting.  Boso asks how God can be worthy of worship if He would condemn the innocent to save the guilty, and if He could not save the sinners in any other way, where is His omnipotence.  Anselm replies that Jesus was not condemned, but that He offered up His life willingly.  Boso disagrees, and sites many scriptures to the point of, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  Anselm then explains that we are all given the choice to obey or disobey God.  Jesus chose to obey Him.  ”God did not, therefore, compel Jesus to die; but he suffered death of his own will, not yielding up his life as an act of obedience, but on account of his obedience in maintaining holiness…For that sentence: “God spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all,” means nothing more than that he did not rescue him.”

Some of his thought processes did not make much sense to me; for example, the chapters on angels.  I’m not sure how the Catholic church views angels, their purpose or who they are, so I didn’t really follow that part very well.

Overall, this was an interesting book, but not my favorite of the early-Christian theology books.