Born in what would be modern-day Italy, Anselm (A.D. 1033–1109) was raised by a father who resisted his son’s desire for a life of scholarly devotion. His mother, however, instilled in him a vision and love of God. Through his unwavering commitment Anselm became not only a Christian scholar but eventually also a celebrated teacher and the archbishop of Canterbury. Like the earlier scholar and churchman Augustine, Anselm sought to better understand the faith he already believed.
In the classic Why God Became Man, Anselm produced what has become the standard view of the atonement: God alone can satisfy the infinite demands of His righteous wrath—and He graciously does so through the saving work of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Written in a spirit of prayer, Anselm’s Proslogion presents one of the most controversial and fascinating arguments for God’s existence—the so-called ontological argument (argument from being). When a fool says in his heart that there is no God (Ps 14:1), he demonstrates that he understands what is meant by the term God, namely “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” And anything that can be conceived not to exist is not God. Thus God cannot be conceived not to exist. Or in other terms, God would not be that than which nothing greater can be conceived if He existed only in one’s mind, for it is greater to exist in reality than in thought alone. Hence God must exist. In response to charges that the argument is unsound, Anselm expounded the argument further by noting that God is a necessary being, that is, a being whose uncaused self-existence accounts for the existence of all other contingent things.