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.