The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.
God looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
Do all these evildoers know nothing?
They devour my people as though eating bread;
they never call on God.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
- Psalm 53:1-6
“One of the most striking pieces of philosophical logic produced in the medieval period is the proof of God’s existence created by Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), later Saint Anselm.
”Anselm’s argument began with a reference to the fool (of Psalms 53:1) who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God.”’ But, said Anselm, even the fool is convinced that something exists in the understanding at least, than which nothing greater can be conceived. …”
“Try out Anselm’s argument. Conceive in your mind the most perfect being you can think of. (Anselm believed it will look very much like the conception of the traditional Christian God – a being who is all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, and unchangeable.) Now ask yourself, does the entity you conceived exist ONLY in your mind? If it is even possible that it exists only there, then it is NOT the most perfect entity conceivable because such an entity who existed both in your mind and EXTRAMENTALLY would be even more perfect. Therefore, if it’s possible even to conceive of a most perfect being, such a being necessarily exists.”
- Donald Palmer, Looking at Philosophy, The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter
Note that “extramentally” is an adverb meaning outside the mind or beyond what we can perceive.
What is written above about Saint Anselm’s philosophical logic stands alone. It is beautifully logical and unassailable (except…). I can follow the logic and come to the same conclusion. For anyone with Jesus in their hearts, they should be able to follow this logic and produce no other answer. Yet, not all who do not believe will be swayed, due to the fallacy.
In Saint Anselm’s world, probably even the foolish seekers were in search of such things as the most perfect being, but outside his circle, there were fools who thought they were the center of the universe, the most perfect, or at least the most important, being. If they ever violated a rule, they meant to do it, thus it was not a rule violation in their book.
Saint Anselm’s argument crumbles with his assumption that people would even dare to consider a perfect being other than themselves. The psalmist would have never written Psalm 53 if the psalmist had not met such fools. Narcissists consider themselves the closest thing to perfection, and you may bow early and often at their feet. They may or may not acknowledge it or admit it, but they think it and their words and actions betray their mindset. Some people are so full of themselves that they cannot follow logic at all, much less Saint Anselm’s argument.
As I continue to watch the television series, Origins, I am amazed at how people, calling themselves scientists, have bought into evolution and the earth being millions of years old (postulated by a 19th century lawyer whose aim was to destroy people’s confidence in the Bible with no data to back up his claims, yet often quoted). They ignore the mountain of evidence that points to the Bible’s accuracy. The scientists that follow the Biblical narrative, or at least keep an open mind, are ridiculed as “that ship has sailed.”
And maybe that is why Anselm’s argument will not work in modern society today. People are no longer rational beings. There has always been that emotional impetuousness, but the rules of logic used to mean something. Evidence that proves a theory wrong used to destroy the theory. But those who do not believe will be condemned, I am afraid, by their dogged determination to adhere to their own values, rejecting God. They will even say that they hate God. Odd, when they also say that they do not believe He exists. Yet, another example of how logic and reason have been cast aside.
And how can wisdom come to the fool of Psalm 53? Only God can present Himself to these people who consider themselves self-sufficient. Only God can break down their ramparts and get close to their souls. Yes, they have souls, but like the Grinch that stole Christmas, their souls are extremely small and possibly made out of coal.
Jesus instructs us to shake the dust from our sandals when we meet such people. It is not worth the argument. The argument will serve no purpose, but today there are apologists who go to battle. If not for the one they are arguing with, but for those in the audience who may be on the fence, or those who God has reached deep within them to allow them to accommodate the message.
So, we keep plugging along. We keep sharing our faith. You may have the atheist that loves to toy with you and mock. They’ll ask a question, making it seem that they are interested. As you start to give a logical, well-prepared answer (having anticipated such a question), they either change the subject, walk away, or laugh in your face. Yet, if you really love them, you will be prepared for the next question. If they are family, it will be unavoidable.
The key is to be prepared and be willing to do as Jesus did, share the Good News, knowing that the people who are listening are not really listening at all. Yes, Jesus was rejected by many. Why else did they crucify Him?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.