I have found a new historical friend in the person of Anselm; Having never read anything about him before I was keen to read Simonetta Carr’s new book Anselm of Canterbury. And Simonetta’s writing has brought this particular church character to life from the depths of history. It is a children’s book – and an excellent one – but leave it on your coffee table and you’ll find adults enjoy it just as much.
The exciting thing about this book is how it is not just a fact by fact biography. There is a strong gospel message as well as excellent historical background. There’s also some refreshing humor too. For example when Anselm doesn’t want to accept the position of the Archbishop he is pretty much forced into accepting the responsibility and then carried into the nearby church for the celebrations – vehemently protesting.
Anselm’s own sense of humor comes through distinctly when he describes himself and the then King William II as an old sheep and an untamed bull yoked together to a plow. The picture used to illustrate this can’t help but bring a smile to your face.
I loved how this book brings out the sensitivity of Anselm. The story of when he rises to the defense of a fleeing hare who takes refuge under his horse gives a beautiful insight into the character and heart of this great teacher.
Simonetta Carr also brings Anselm’s teaching to the forefront of this book by introducing us to his thoughts and writings. I’ll quote a section here to illustrate this:
‘Many people thought the answer was that after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, the devil had become owner of everyone’s soul, so Jesus had to die to take them back from him. Anselm thought it was a bad answer because he didn’t believe that God could owe anything to the devil. The problem is between God and man. Sin is not only man’s problem, but it is also God’s problem. Sin is a terrible act of rebellion, and God cannot forgive it without some kind of repayment because evil must always be punished…. According to Anselm, even one ‘small’ disobedience to God is greater than many worlds. Only one person could save people from this terrible problem-someone who was fully God, so he could live a perfect life and take the terrible punishment for all the sins of others, and fully man, because it was man who sinned, so man should repay. That’s why Jesus, who is fully God, became fully man for us.
Alongside the historical narrative and strong gospel message there are lots of other things besides – making this volume great value for money.
For example – there’s a time line; some extra factual information and some direct quotes from Anselm himself at the end of the book.
This book is primarily written for children and it is definitely a book that would be an excellent backdrop for a church history project. But I enjoyed reading it myself and learned from it and from the character of Anselm. I’m looking forward to reading Simonetta Carr’s next book whatever that may be.