Staking Down Olympus

1258126643q608giI’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 secure and steady things that are wavering, working to strengthen Mount Olympus so that no force would shake it or cause it to fall, it would be amazing if they could contain their laughter and derision. How much more so, then, with that ‘stone’ that was ‘cut out of the mountain without hands and struck and crushed the statue’ that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, which has now become ‘a great mountain that filled the whole earth’ (Daniel 2:34-35). If I should try to support it with my arguments and steady it, as if it were wavering, so many holy and wise people who rejoice that they are secure upon its eternal steadfastness could grow angry with me and attribute my efforts not to sober-minded diligence but to frivolous self-aggrandizement. So if in this letter I have engaged in disputation concerning the steadfastness of our faith, it is not in order to strengthen that faith, but to satisfy the requests of the brethren who required this of me.”

-St. Anselm, Letter Concerning the Incarnation of the Word, in Anselm: Basic Writings, trans. Thomas Williams (Hackett 2007), 214.

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