October 16, 2013

1066: A Good Year for a Monk

Stephen Nichols
1066: A Good Year for a Monk


Welcome to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. In this episode, we're going to be talking about a year. The year is 1066. William left Normandy and invaded England. And in October of 1066 he was successful at the battle of Hastings. On December 25, 1066 Christmas day, William the Conqueror was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey. 1066 proved to be a crucial year in the life of William.

It also, as it turns out, proved to be a crucial year for the history of England. And 1066 even turned out to be a crucial year in the life of a monk. This monk was born in 1033. His name is Anselm. And he made his way to the monastery at Bec in Normandy. There he came under the training of the Abbot of the monastery, Lanfranc. And Anselm deeply admired Lanfranc. And apparently so did William. After William became king, he made arrangements to have Lanfranc become the Archbishop of Canterbury. And in his absence, Anselm became Abbot of the monastery at Bec.

While at Bec, Anselm wrote some of the most brilliant texts of the Middle Ages. He wrote Monologion and Proslogion. These are heavy duty philosophical texts that argue for the existence of God. And then, Lanfranc died. And once again, Anselm was tapped to replace him. Anselm made his way across the channel. He was installed as the Archbishop in Canterbury in 1093. This would be a post that he would hold until his death in 1109. Now his time as Archbishop certainly had its share of difficulties. He found himself between the proverbial rock and a hard place as the King of England, or likely we should say, two different kings of England, found themselves at odds with the pope. And during those times Anselm was kicked out. He was exiled from his post and exiled out of England.

Now I suspect Anselm actually greatly enjoyed these times of exile. He was freed from all of his administrative duties, and he could once again apply his mind to his writing. It was during one of these exiles that he wrote one of the most remarkable texts of the Middle Ages, the text entitled in Latin Cur Deus Homo, which means in English, "Why the God Man?" This text is actually a dialogue; a dialogue between Anselm and a man named Bozo. Now, it's likely pronounced Ba-zo, but I like to call him Bo-zo. I mean after all, if you're going to be in a dialogue or a debate and you want to show that you have the superior position, why not just call the other guy Bozo?

So here they are, Anselm and Bozo in this dialogue. And in the course of the dialogue, Anselm is trying to get Bozo to reckon with the crucial starting point. And the crucial starting point is the great weight of sin. Once we come to grips with this—the great weight of sin—that we in our humanity have offended a holy, infinite God, then we are realizing that we have a huge problem and there's nothing we can do about it. God is a just God; He just can't sweep this offense of sin under some cosmic rug. He just can't act as if it never happened. And we on our own, why there's nothing that we can do about it. So enter the God-man.

You might have heard the saying, "He paid a debt he did not owe, and I owed a debt I could not pay." That in many ways encapsulates the argument of Cur Deus Homo. Jesus as God made an infinite sacrifice. In His deity He is able to make a sacrifice that is worthy to pay for the offense of sin. But yet, in His humanity He identifies with us, with the offending party.

So Jesus as the God-man is our substitute for our sin, and that is for our salvation. This is a wonderful book by Anselm, Cur Deus Homo. We should all be thankful for this monk, Anselm, thankful for his book, and even thankful for the year 1066.