Do you subscribe to the truth rooted in the historical church prior to St. Anselm or do you subscribe the truth rooted in the far less historical catholic church of post St. Anselm?This will be an answer in two parts, because it's so good as to demand more than a single long-winded post by yours truly can manage without doing a disservice. The first thing I want to think about is the very nature of Catholicism as it compares to other ways of seeing and approaching the truth. As a fairly new Catholic, former Protestant minister, former agnostic, it's amazing at how there really are major differences in our various models for finding the truth.
I think part of this is getting one's head around the Catholic/Orthodox approach to Christianity. And it isn't easy. We have all grown up in a post-Protestant, post-Christian world that has more or less taken the worst interpretation of Catholicism and its history that one can imagine. Tales of sadistic inquisitors running amok, butchering and torturing any who dare raise the slightest question about the rigid dogmas of Catholicism are all part of the popular imagination. In addition, the existence of Protestantism and individualistic authority toward establishing a world view makes us assume that the Catholic Church must follow the same approach. For in Protestantism, one finds the denomination that fits closest to where one believes. You may not agree 100%, but you are going to come close, and most of the things that define that particular denomination, or even congregation, are going to be seen as important (hence, why you belong to this and not that church).
So it is difficult to get your head around the Catholic Church that, believe it or not, doesn't always put dogmatic pronouncements down on every conceivable interpretation of a teaching. There is actually plenty of wiggle room for how one sees this or that doctrine. The doctrine itself may be dogmatic, but how the Church sees it over time can change, develop, evolve - and the Church is fine with that. So we can all throw our two cents into the ring with our own ideas. Like Darwin's theories? That's fine. The Church has no problem with that. As long as you hold onto God the Father, the Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth. Wonder about how the Old Testament came into being? Think it was written by Moses? Or do you prefer the more modern critical scholar approaches? Again, the Church is pretty loose about that, as long as you don't deny essential truths and doctrines about the Scriptures or the truths they convey that has been clearly taught and decided upon by the teaching authority of the Church.
Next time: The Atonement in a nutshell.
Note: The question was later restated, with certain parts taken back. That's fine. No problem there. But it did touch on a major difference in what the Catholic Faith is, and how folks outside the faith often think it is, and I thought it worth mentioning. Next post, we'll take on Atonement itself! Fun stuff