Why Study Anselm?

For the past four years, I’ve been pursuing a PhD in historical theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. I graduated this past Saturday. The whole experience has been very rewarding, and I’m grateful that the Lord opened the door for me to do it. I don’t take that for granted. I had abandoned the dream of doing a PhD and committed myself to local church ministry, and then surprisingly God opened the door to do this one on the side, while continuing on in ministry. For me, the degree wasn’t really about any job requirements, but simply about learning, and wanting…

Staking Down Olympus

I’m reading a lot of Anselm these days for my current PhD reading. This is one my favorite Anselm quotes. I think it so helpfully captures the attitude appropriate for theological defense and disputation. “If I, a trivial and inconsiderable fellow, should try to write something to add strength and support to the Christian faith, when there are so many holy and wise people all over the world, I would indeed be judged arrogant, and could appear worthy of ridicule. For if other people were to see me well-supplied with stakes and ropes and other things, by which we often…

Anselm, Irenaeus, and Recapitulation

A question that has emerged for me in the final few weeks of my atonement seminar is this: is it possible to affirm both an Irenaean/Athanasian view of Christ’s birth (recapitulation) as well as an Anselmian view of Christ’s death (satisfaction)? If so, what is their logical relation? Within atonement theology, there is a tension between approaches which emphasize Christ’s death exclusively, and approaches which emphasize the entire narrative arc of Christ’s incarnate life, including his death. Can we, for example, say that Christ’s birth, life, and resurrection are not merely saving, but in some sense atoning? Does atonement begin…

Barth on Anselm (3): Sola Ratione

I’m about half-way through Barth’s Anselm book.  Barth is the theologian I am reading in 2011.  Next year it will be Augustine.  I’ve chosen Barth because I learn from engaging with him, though where he differs from evangelical theology, I side with evangelical theology.  For me, the great value of engaging with Barth has been precisely because he is different from evangelical theology.  Its an enlarging experience to try to understand why he makes the moves he does, what are the values that drive him in different directions from evangelical theology.  Sort of like an American baseball player studying the Japanese…

Barth on Anselm (2)

Some reasons why Barth’s Anselm book interests me as a book to focus on this year: 1) Barth sees Anselm as an especially important and relevant theologian.  He calls him “one of those phenomena which simply must be known and respected” (8) and says, “I find more of value and significance in this theologian than in others” (7).  Given Barth’s broad acquaintance with historical theology, I think its worth investigating what it was that made Anselm particularly stand out to him. 2) Barth represents a break from traditional interpretation of Anselm (both liberal Protestant and Roman Catholic).  He says that…

Barth on Anselm (1)

Since graduating seminary I’ve been doing some personal study projects to keep learning.  My initial triad was Christ’s resurrection (systematic theology), Hebrews (Bible), and Anselm (historical theology).  I started a new triad during the summer of 2010, focusing on Habakkuk (Bible), justification (systematic theology), and then classic texts of pre-reformation church history (historical theology).  Now that I’ve finished Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy, my final pre-reformation text, I’m considering that second triad done. Through my pre-reformation study, I got some good exposure to some of the theologians I wanted to become familiar with, like the Cappadocians, Boethius, Gregory the Great,…

Simplicity and Trinity

Divine simplicity means that God is not composed of different parts, but utterly whole and indivisible.  Its opposite is not “complex” but “composite.”  To affirm divine simplicity is to affirm that each of God’s attributes is identical with his essence: God is not merely loving and righteous and holy, but Love and Righteousness and Holiness.  Whatever God is, He wholly is. I used to really struggle to understand how the doctrine of God’s simplicity fits together with the doctrine of the Trinity.  After all, if God has no parts, how can we say that He exists in three Persons?  How…