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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook: A Trinitarian Thought of Anselmian "Fittingness" 
2nd-Apr-2008 12:31 am
Chi-Rho Seal
My first session of Theology Through the Centuries students today had a discussion of the middle part of Anselm's Cur Deus Homo?/Why Did God Become Human? where we made particular note of Anselm's description of how it is human beings are seen to be "in the image of God." He pointed to two standard items, the first of which was the rational nature of human beings: that rational mind that so distinguishes us from other animals. (Even the basic hints of reasoning capability we've come to observe in higher species of late are of such a different order that it's difficult to grasp the magnitude of difference, in a serious, non-sentimental comparison.) The second aspect in which we display the imago dei, he says, is the human capacity for holiness, by which he means the capacity for real love, rightly ordered to love's proper ends or goals. Now, we were talking about this in terms of his anthropology: in discussing what this "humanity" is, which God has taken on in the Incarnation. We were trying to see clearly with his vision, for the purposes he was pursuing in this text, at that point in the discussion.

It has only now struck me that these two components to the imago dei that grant a new dimension to the human mammal, and raise it to a new order of being – capacities for reason and love – just so happen to be those very aspects with which the "hands of God" are identified. That is to say, "the hands of God," a phrase or image which I believe goes back to Irenaeus of Lyon (c. 200), are the two Persons of the Triune God who achieve the Father's will in Creation: the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son, or the Second Person, is identified in earliest Christian theology as the Logos, the Word: the rational principle underlying all of reality, or the Reason that makes the physical universe rational. It's a descriptive or ancient "scientific" notion taken from Stoic thought and adapted into Jewish and Christian theology as a descriptor what what this aspect or Person of God in particular achieves. Similarly, the Holy Spirit, or the Third Person, is identified strongly in Western Christian theology, from Augustine of Hippo, as the very living Love generated by the First and Second Persons.

So, you might say, other names for the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity are "Reason" and "Love." And it just so happens that these are the two characteristics given to our species that make it "in the image of God" in a way that is distinct from the ways that the rest of the Creation reflects its Creator.

Anselm, I think, would call this symmetry of concepts "fitting" in how they neatly fold into one another, even though this is not the way in which they were introduced or presented. And I too, had a moment of intellectual or spiritual pleasure in suddenly seeing this fittingness. It is this very "fittingness," this aesthetic harmony within Christian thought, that Anselm is largely using as his theological argument: an argument of Beauty, ultimately, as I noted last semester, when I did a more basic glance at him in my Introduction to Theology course. So yay for reading Anselm!, I guess. That's all.
2nd-Apr-2008 12:20 pm (UTC)
Great post (not just for the musical selection). The most challenging course I took at Notre Dame (other than Calculus and Chemistry, for obvious reasons--no, I take it back...those were just hard for I am a man of Simple Brain) was Why God Became Human. A statement of a title, not a question of a title. We read everybody, Anselm included. But none of the texts addressed the question to my satisfaction, which was a simple answer, really: BECAUSE HE LOVES US.

That doesn't get me very far in theological or philosophical circles, granted. But it's the only answer I'll ever cling to.
2nd-Apr-2008 01:01 pm (UTC)
That's basically Aquinas' answer, most specifically in ST III 49.1, ad 3. His answer is spelled out in various forms of necessity, but ultimately, it comes down to God's love.
2nd-Apr-2008 10:29 pm (UTC)
Hey, no argument here: that'll do. I know that ND days were before electronic-everything, but would you happen to have a copy of your syllabus for that course still tucked away that you could photograph or scan and pass to me as a JPG or PDF file? Teaching is about theft, and I wouldn't mind seeing what a prof did in a class you thought so highly of.

Hmm. I think I actually remember hearing something about this before? Did you take it senior year? I also remember you taking that Arthurian Literature course that I really envied....

Coincidentally, I wanted to email you about a few other random bits: my listening the last few days has been old-timey, as you noticed. And I was noting some of my limited options in my iTunes art. So:

1) Do you have/did you take any pics during the Senior Week Sessions? That would be cool.

2) Similarly, is there any cover art that I've never seen for Windowpane? I got a burned copy of that that you passed through Mark with no frills, and I have to assume that the rest of the guys would have objected if the cover was the pic of you playing the mandolin that you have on the Weakling Records page.

3) And finally, do you happen to have a bigger scan of the I Wrote These Songs Specifically For Now cover lying around? The one on the Weakling Records page is on the smaller side, and just looks anemic on iTunes.

That's the end of my list of demands. No helicopter. No $100,000 in unmarked, non-sequential bills.
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