Paul Tillich, A History Of Christian Thought

Anselm and His Arguments

After the general discussion of the Middle Ages, we now come to two men in the 12th century, in that period which I have described as the beginning of the new developments, namely Anselm of Canterbury and Abelard of Paris.

Anselm’s basis for his theological work is like that of all Scholastics, the assertion that in the Holy Scriptures and its interpretation by the Fathers, all truth is directly or indirectly enclosed. It is that concept of faith or tradition which is not a special act of individuals but is, so to speak, the spiritual substance of the reality in which we are. Therefore the phrase credo ut intellegam –. “1 believe in order to understand,” not “I understand in order to believe.” Belief, which is not belief but which is participation in the living tradition, is the foundation; and the interpretation1, the theology, is built on this basis.

The content of eternal truth, of principles of truth, is grasped by subjection of our will to the Christian message, and the consequent experience out of this subjection. This experience is given by grace; it is not produced by human activities. Here the term “experience” becomes important. Experience, again, must be distinguished from what we mean today by “experience,” if we mean anything at all – -which is very questionable, since the word has such a large use that it almost has become meaningless. In any case at that time experience means not religious experience, generally speaking – such a thing ” didn’t exist at that time — but experience meant participation in the objective truth which is implied in the Bible and which is authoritatively explained by the Church Fathers.