An Infinite Multiplication of Happiness

If the Lord in his kindness were ever to grant me the opportunity to pursue doctoral studies in theology, the dissertation I would like to pursue (at least these days) would be something like: “An Infinite Multiplication of Happiness: Chapters 24-25 as the Heart and Climax of Anselm’s Proslogion.” Anselm’s Proslogion is my favorite theological book. Unfortunately, its often neglected among conservative Protestants, perhaps because it is medieval and somewhat philosophical. When people do discuss Proslogion, the influence of chapters 2-4 and the so-called “Ontological Argument” contained therein usually completely dominate the discussion. I have become convinced that Anselm was far more concerned with what “that than which nothing greater can be conceived” entailed for the nature of God’s existence (chapters 5-26) than what it entailed for the fact of God’s existence (chapters 2-4). And from a slow, meditative read of Charlesworth’s translation and commentary on Proslogion last June, I have become convinced that chapters 24 and 25 – those concerned with the believer’s infinite joy in God – are the highlight and climax and heart of the book. Everything, including chapters 2-4, serve to get him to this section, where Anselm’s understanding of God as a maximally great Being finds its correlate in human faith as a maximally great joy.

In chapter 24, Anselm argues from the joy of creaturely realities (wisdom, life, salvation, and delight) to the joy of the Creator who made these realities. In chapter 25, which at times feels similar to Edwards’ sermon “Heaven is a World of Love,” Anselm argues that perfected believers in heaven will experience infinitely multiplying joy because their love for others (including God) will cause them to rejoice in the happiness of those others as much as they rejoice in their own happiness. Here is the heart of it:

“Surely, if any other whom you loved altogether as yourself possessed the same blessedness, your joy would be doubled, because you would rejoice not less for him than for yourself. But, if two, or three, or many more, had the same joy, you would rejoice as much for each one as for yourself, if you did love each as yourself. Therefore in that perfect love of innumerable holy angels and holy men, where none shall love another less than himself, every one shall rejoice for each of the others as for himself.

If, then, the heart of man will scarce contain his joy over his own so great good, how shall it contain so many and so great joys? And doubtless, seeing that every one loves another so far as he rejoices in the other’s good, and as, in that perfect happiness, each one should love God beyond compare, more than himself and all the others with him; so he will rejoice beyond reckoning in the happiness of God, more than in his own and that of all the others with him.”

2 Comments

  1. I share your love of the Proslogion, Gav! Wish we could read it together.

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  2. Dad, I remember all your Anselm quotes in A Passion for God! That was probably the first time I ever heard of him.

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