Faith and Reason

Today the Church celebrates Saint Anselm, an 11th century Benedictine monk who eventually became an abbot and, finally, Archbishop of Canterbury. He is best known as a philosopher and scholar who strove to apply reason to explore the mysteries of faith. His brilliant writing is still much respected today and influences much of current theology.

It was Anselm who defined theology as “faith seeking understanding.” In 1077, he wrote the Monologion (“Monologue”) at the request of his fellow monks, a theological treatise that attempted to demonstrate the existence and nature of God by appeal to reason alone rather than by the usual reference to traditional authorities. In a later work, Cur Deus homo? (“Why Did God Become Man?”), he also explicated the satisfaction theory of atonement or redemption.

Appointed by William II (Rufus) as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, he reluctantly accepted the position, but used his position to fight for reform in the English church, resulting in a contentious relationship with both Rufus and his successor, Henry I.

St. Anselm stands as a demonstration of the possibility that reason and intellect do not stand in opposition to faith. Anselm’s faith did not come strictly from the church’s dogma; his own inquisitive mind found reason to believe in the existence of God and Christ’s role in our salvation. As a Benedictine, he upheld the virtues of humility, stability, and conversion of life. Although known to be a gentle, patient man and lover of peace, he did not back away from conflict when principles were at stake.


Steadfast God, help us to grow into persons of faith like Anselm, practicing reason, compassion, and courage as we grow more into the likeness of Christ himself.  Amen. 

Published by Stephen Isaacson

Stephen Isaacson is Prior of the Cornerstone Community, a lay Benedictine group within Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon. He has served in many other roles in the Cathedral and is currently the Co-coordinator of Outreach Ministries at the Cathedral. Prior to his involvement with Outreach or the Cornerstone Community, Steve was Professor of Special Education at Portland State University, where he also served as Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Education. During his career in academia, he authored a number of juried publications and instructional materials.

One thought on “Faith and Reason

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: