It is from a post quoting some of Anselm’s writing about the gravity of sin. Anselm argues, to be overly simplistic in my summary, that every sin is of incalculable significance because it violates the will of God. This is part of a larger argument about the incarnation was necessary to restore us to right relationship with God.
In the initial comment on the post, Anselm was criticized for his conclusions based on a hypothetical situation that said we should not violate the least command of God even if it meant entire worlds would be destroyed by our refusal to disobey God. Anselm’s argument was also linked to the theology of Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church. In my response to that comment, I explained that my goal in trying to understand Anselm was to determine whether I found him persuasive.
Which sets the stage for reading and responding to this comment from a reader:
I’m confused about a number of things now.
1. Are we actually trying to figure out whether Anselm’s works have “merit or value”? This is Saint Anselm, right? A Father of the Church, who was esteemed by all Christians until about 400 years ago. Shouldn’t we be trying to understand his work, not judge its “merit or value”?
2. I think two other issues have been fused in the discussion. One is “How big a deal is it” to knowingly violate God’s will. The other is, are there gradations of sin? It seems obvious to me, a non-theologian, that to willingly violate God’s will is a big deal, Is there a serious argument otherwise? The question of gradations of sin seems to have more to do with one’s views about reconciliation and how that works.
3. And in the first response, I don’t understand how the question about God’s will, and how that enters into the definition of the good, relates to the notion of sin, which has to do with our obedience to God. It sounds like the writer is somehow letting a human’s view of what is good trump God’s will. That’s gotta be sinful.
4. Interesting point about the Reverend Phelps, but there is an additional lesson there. Situations like his (Rev. Phelps) arise when there is no disciplined hierarchy involved in the declaration and proclamation of God’s word. He is a radical outlier who represents only himself, not the settled views of orthodoxy. Anselm was the opposite of that.