Today in my study of Anselm of Canterbury (A.D. 1033-1109), the bishop over all of Christendom in England, I was inspired by his ontological argument that states that “God cannot be conceived not to exist.” He must exist. Stating that God, who exists, cannot exist, such as proclaims the fool in Psalms 14:1, is stating an unreconcilable contradiction. He is a fool, not so much because he is expressing something false, but because he is expressing nonsense. God exists because we exist and because the world exists, the heavens, the universe, the stars, the moon and the planets exist, we know that God must exist. All of us depend on Him. Therefore, He exists.
Of course, Anselm’s ontological argument makes no sense to the unbeliever, but only to him who lays his foundation of faith in Christ. “I believe, therefore I understand,” says Anselm. He does not believe because he understands, but he understands only because he believes first. Elder Bednar in the most recent General Conference states a similar principle of how belief, obedience, and covenant making come first before understanding, “Following the Savior also enables us to receive an actual knowledge that the course of life [we are] pursuing is in accordance with God’s will. Such knowledge is not an unknowable mystery and is not focused primarily on our temporal pursuits or ordinary mortal concerns. Rather, steady and sustained progress along the covenant pathway is the course of life that is pleasing to Him.” Elder Bednar.
Anselm explains further that we do not have to give up Reason to be a believer. In this world where so many are throwing away their faith in Christ to be true only to Reason, Anselm’s discourse is a beautiful anecdote that combines Reason with Faith. He says that Reason can do its best work when it sits upon the bedrock of Faith. Reason alone is empty, cold, and heartless. Real understanding must happen in the heart.
Those who wish to cling on to Reason without Faith in Christ have something wrong with their heart because the state of their heart doesn’t want God over them telling them what to do or how to think. If they want to know about the existence of God, they want that knowledge as a cerebral exercise only. That type of knowledge is futile. When their hearts are darkened, their heads are too, says Wes Callihan, my mentor at Roman Roads Media.
Referring to Anselm’s Proslogium, Mr. Callihan says, “Knowledge for its own sake is foolish. Knowledge helps us to glorify God, achieve union with Christ, draw closer to God and love God.” In other words, the best-sought knowledge is that which is sought through and for Christ. That knowledge is the one that is directed by faith in Christ.