Anselm at the point of mystery

I realise I’m a week late for Trinity Sunday, but I read this in St Anselm’s Monologion last night, and I thought I’d share it here. It comes after Anselm goes as far as he can in using logic to prove and explain the Trinity (although I don’t think logic goes quite so far as he thinks). He writes:

This seems to me to be a sublime mystery, which stretches well beyond the horizon of human understanding. Therefore one ought, I think, to restrain the ambition to explain. When investigating the inexplicable, if it is possible to arrive at an account which is certainly correct, I think one must be content with that even if it is impossible to see how it may be so. There is no argument for disallowing P the certainty of faith where P is asserted as a necessitated and uncontradicted conclusion, but, because of its deep and incomprehensible nature, does not admit of explanation. And what, after all, is as incomprehensible, as ineffable, as that which is above everything else? So then, given that all our assertions so far on the subject of the supreme essence have been made on the basis of necessary reasoning, the fact that understanding cannot fathom so far as to explain them in words does nothing to undermine their certainty. (Ch. 64, trans. Simon Harrison in Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works)

Advertisements

One thought on “Anselm at the point of mystery

  1. Hey MJH… (and technically I can say Happy Father’s Day, I guess!): this caught my attention because – as you may have noticed – I have joined you on Goodreads, and am (at my usual snail’s pace) reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Don’t know if you know it; it’s a fictional letter from a dying old pastor to his very young son (he married late in life). Perhaps the author had been reading Anselm, because at p. 178-9 [which I just read last night] the protagonist reflects in very similar terms on the impossibility (or inutility) of proofs of God, etc. He says: “So my advice is this – don’t look for proofs…. They are never sufficient to the question, and they’re always a little impertinent, I think, because they claim for God a place within our conceptual grasp.” And so on. Anyway, thought that might be of vague interest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s