Professor Thomas Williams: An open letter to the Bishop-elect of Northern Michigan

Dear Fr Thew Forrester:

I most earnestly beg you to stop talking about Saint Anselm. You simply do not know what you are talking about, and your apologia is not helped by your insistence on perpetuating pseudo-historical claptrap about this great theologian.

In Approaching the Heart of Faith, you quote a passage from Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire in which the authors say that “Anselm’s doctrine of the atonement gave support for holy war” and that his “theology and piety crystallized the religious foundations of the Crusades.” “Christians,” the authors say, “were exhorted to imitate Christ’s self-offering in the cause of God’s justice.” Exhorted by whom? Certainly not by Anselm, who would have rejected any such notion as fundamentally incompatible with his key conclusions in Cur Deus Homo: the sufficiency of the God-man’s self-offering and the inability of fallen human beings to do anything on their own to effect a reconciliation between themselves and God. Indeed, the idea that Anselm’s soteriology could provide theological underpinnings for the Crusades is not merely a gross libel against Anselm but rather obvious nonsense.

The authors seek to paper over this nonsense by sleight of hand, invoking “Peace by the blood of the Cross.” I take it we’re to think that the notion of the bloody Cross as an instrument of peace leads naturally to the Crusades. But for Anselm, the peace that is made by the blood of the Cross is peace between God and humanity — a peace that is entirely of God’s own making, that he initiates and sustains because he loves us and created us for himself — and the blood of the Cross can only be the blood of the God-man, offered once for all as a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and (yes) satisfaction. How any reasonable or fair-minded person can think that this soteriology supports wars of conquest and religious imperialism is beyond me.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Northern Michigan, Theology

7 comments on “Professor Thomas Williams: An open letter to the Bishop-elect of Northern Michigan

  1. Kevin Maney+ says:

    [blockquote]I ask only that you stop mispresenting Anselm by repeating the preposterous slanders against him that are made by people who mistake invective and invention for sober scholarship.[/blockquote]
    Invention vs. sober scholarship. The heart of the issue, not only in this instance but the reason so many clergy in the mainline hold and espouse a defective and shallow theology, devoid of real Good News. This, of course, goes directly back to those seminaries that perpetuate most of this nonsense.

  2. A Floridian says:

    Captain Yips, another professor, at Northwestern has dissected Forrester’s defense quite well:

  3. the roman says:


  4. the roman says:

    I meant to say thanks for the link GA/FL.

  5. Brian from T19 says:

    An Open Letter To People Who Write Open Letters.

    Please stop writing Open Letters. This is really a self-serving tactic used to make your opinion look important. Remember Jesus’ chastising of the scribes and Pharisees.

    Yours Forever In Mugwumpdom,

    The Grand Exalted Senior Super Most Decorated and Lauded Brian from T19

  6. Sarah1 says:

    Lauded by whom, though?



  7. dwstroudmd+ says:

    BfT19, when you can’t refute the data you refute the way the message was sent, is that it? Because that is surely all your response indicates.

    On the other hand, Thewie’s understanding of the material seems to be deficient and open letters get the data to the people who need to know that. I seem to recall the PB of the ECUSA/TEC/GCC/EO-PAC doing the same thing. Right for her, wrong for someone else?