Reading Class: Ralph of Battle’s ‘Meditatio cuiusdam Christiani de fide’
17th June: 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm BST
Anselm and Ralph of Battle – A reading session
Ralph of Battle’s ‘Meditatio cuiusdam Christiani de fide’
Anselm’s friend and rival Ralph of Battle was arguably the most original theologian and philosopher of Anselm‘s circle, alongside Gilbert Crispin. Prof Goebel is editing one of Ralph’s major works, Meditatio cuiusdam Christiani de fide, inspired by the Monologion. Four MSS survive, two of them in Oxford. Ralph’s anti-Anselmian claim that natural theology covers but a limited part of Christian theology, & his rejection of Anselm’s proof of God’s existence in favour of a cosmological argument, both seem to prefigure Aquinas.
In his Meditatio cuiusdam Christiani de fide, Ralph raises an anthropological question that almost disappeared from the theological agenda by the time of Aquinas, but which was very much a live issue in the days of Anselm, who discusses it at length in Cur Deus homo. Augustine had argued that the “perfect number” of rational creatures in the City of God had been diminished by the fall of some of the angels, and that it had to be restored by individual human beings. In saying so, he had expressly left open whether the number of human individuals admitted to heaven was equal to that of the fallen angels – which would mean that being an ersatz for fallen angels is all there is to the purpose of our creation, our value being essentially instrumental – or whether, over and above these human substitutes, other humans were included in the perfect number from the outset, which would imply that the human race would have been created even if no angel had sinned, and that it possesses an intrinsic value. Anselm strongly favoured the second alternative (as does Aquinas in his Quaestiones disputatae de malo). By contrast, Ralph tentatively makes a case for the first alternative, rejecting Anselm’s argument that if humans would not have been made unless some angels sinned, the fall of some angels would have occurred by necessity and consequently would have been no sin at all. In doing so, Ralph supplies, amongst other things, an interesting definition of free choice.
The text to be studied in the reading session, with an English translation, will be emailed to those who register.