The bottom line: A mind-bending, classic treatise at the intersection of faith and reason that attempts to contemplate God.
First things first: if you want the Proslogion without rebuttals, it’s widely available for free on the web: http://www.stanselminstitute.org/files/AnselmProslogion.pdf
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) was among the most important predecessors to the scholastics, and therein sought to use reason in order to explain faith. Anselm helped to induce a paradigm-shift in thought about God, by providing the first, best-known, and widely influential argument for the existence of God using reason alone. Anselm’s combination of Christianity and logic sought to establish the faith’s relevance as an intellectual pursuit as well as a theological one, a paradigm that incorporated mainstream secular thought into theological contemplation.
The first five chapters of the Proslogion deal with Anselm’s “ontological argument,” a term not used by the author but coined later. The Proslogion is an a priori argument for God’s existence. That is, it is a formulation that does not require any pre-existing facts, data, or knowledge and is therein necessarily proven true as a function of its own argument. (Granted, Anselm’s proof assumes that the reader already has a proper understanding of God). This is in direct contrast to an argument made a posteriori, based on empirical data and quantifiable measurements.
That God truly exists is a declaration justified through a reductio ad absurdum. It assumes that the greatest conceivable being cannot exist in the mind alone. Anselm says, “[I]f I did not want to believe that You existed, I should have nevertheless be unable not to understand it.” This is a technique grounded in classical Greek philosophy and follows the Aristotelian tradition of non-contradiction, or that a statement cannot simultaneously be true and false. The aim of the technique is to essentially prove its assertion by revealing that the anti-assertion (or a denial of the assertion) leads to an absurd and untenable conclusion. Resultantly, the assertion must be true. Any argument that leads to the anti-assertion is therein false.
Anselm concludes that in effect, nothing caused God Himself, because He is a “supreme being” and therefore is un-causable. The implication is that God could not be God if God was in some way caused: “What then are You, Lord God, You than whom nothing greater can be thought? But what are You save that supreme being, existing through Yourself alone, who made everything else from nothing?”
As an added bonus, Anselm attempts to explain divine justice and mercy, why evil exists, and why bad things happen to good people.
This is a powerful and intellectually challenging work but the Proslogion itself is only about a dozen pages. Keep in mind, that these are some of the toughest twelve pages you will ever read since every sentence is jammed packed with information that challenges every last neuron in your brain.
Perhaps Anselm said it best when he wrote, “I do not try, Lord, to attain Your lofty heights, because my understanding is in no way equal to it. But I do desire to understand Your truth a little, that truth that my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand.”
A mind advanced enough to compose and then be able to understand this is incapable of coming from nothing.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal