Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Al Kimmel critiques Paul Zahl

I was reading the critique published on Fr. Al Kimel's blog concerning a very interesting topic that is very much a part of my own present research in the Eucharistic theology of Lancelot Andrewes. If Fr. Kimel is correct about what Dr. Zahl is getting at then his position on sacramental presence (absence) and objectivity is wanting of what Anglican theology has said. This is especially true of the Eucharistic theology of Lancelot Andrewes and what I know the other Caroline divines believed about presence. Here is an example of what Andrewes said about these issues in 1598. He begins by setting his interpretation within the tradition of the Fathers and particularly Basil in reference to this text. The direct fruit of Eucharistic efficacy for Andrewes is the forgiveness of sins. He calls this the whole fruit of Religion. Referencing St. Basil he says,
That at the celebration thereof, after the Sacrament was ministered to the people, the Priest stood up and said as the Seraphin doth here, Behold this hath touched your lips, your iniquity shall bee taken away, and your sinne purged. The whole fruit of Religion is, The taking away of sinne, Isaiah the twenty seventh Chapter and the ninth verse, and the specially wayes to take it away, is the Religious use of this Sacrament; which as Christ saith is nothing else, but a seale and signe of his blood that was shed for many for the remission of sinnes, Matthew the twenty sixth Chapter and the twenty eighty verse…
Andrewes says,
For the Angell tells the prophet, that his sinnes are not only taken away, but that it is done sacramentally, by the touching of a Cole, even as Christ assureth us, that we obtain remission of sinnes by the receiving of the Cup: Now as in the Sacrament, we consider the Element and the word; so we are to divide this Scripture.
The point for Andrewes is that God can use either word or Sacrament but is pleased to take away sins by the touching of the Sacrament to the lips. Andrewes mentions that God can do what He will with His word.
It pleased God to take away the Prophets sinnes by touching his lips. And albeit he can take away our sins, without touching of bread or wine, if he will; yet in the councell of his will, he commandeth unto us the sacramental partaking of his body and blood. It is his will, that our sins shall be taken away by the outward act of the sacrament: The reason is, not only in regard of ourselves, which consists of body and soul, and therefore have need both of bodily and Ghostly meanes, to assure us of our Salvation; but in regard of Christ himself, who is the burning Cole.
The following comments by Fr. Kimel are interesting and worth some more research and thought:
As one reads through Short Systematic Theology, one is struck by how untraditional and modern Zahl really is. He jumps from the first century to the sixteenth century reformers and then to twentieth century existentialism. There is little engagement with the Holy Tradition. The Church Fathers have no place in his theology, much less the medieval scholastics or mystics. Zahl is sometimes described as a hyper-Lutheran, because of his strong emphasis on the unconditionality of grace; but this description is only partly true. While grace is the central feature of his theology and is formulated along Lutheran lines, it has been detached from Luther’s incarnational vision and reinterpreted within the iconoclasm of the Swiss reformers. Thus Zahl’s emphatic rejection of Catholic and Orthodox sacramentalism. This rejection is not grounded upon the witness of the Bible. It is a product of Dr. Zahl’s metaphysical commitments and his embrace of a problematic construal of deity.
Quoting Martin Luther Fr. Kimel writes,
As Martin Luther declaimed in response to the anti-sacramental gospel of Ulrich Zwingli: “No God like that for me!”
It's interesting how often theologians or Reformed Christians embrace strongly Luther's doctrine of grace yet isolate it from his sacramental theology. Can one embrace Luther's doctrine of justification in isolation from his sacramental theology? According to Fr. Kimel, Luther says no. He continues on with the following critique and questions:
All Christians will agree with Dean Zahl that the risen Christ is powerfully present in the event of sacrificial love; but I am almost tempted to say, so what? How does that touch my life? How do I enter into that love? How do I unite myself to my Savior? How am I filled with the Spirit? It is true that every actualization of love, every victory of good over evil, every triumph over injustice and wickedness is a manifestation of the risen Christ. But as Luther might ask, Where is Christ for me? If the risen Jesus is not present in the proclamation of the gospel and its sacramental enactments, if he is not the one who speaks to me the gospel words of promise and who gives himself to me in his eucharistic Body and Blood, then what good is this absent Jesus for me, the incorrigible sinner?
This is in response to this quotation by Dr. Zahl provided by Fr. Kimel:
We also understand Jesus to have existed in continuity with the risen Christ. But he is no longer present in the tangible world. He is present neither in sacrament, nor in the words of the Bible, nor in the visual image, nor within his present potential presence arising from the future hope. He is present, rather and only, in the works of love, in the fruit from the belovedness that the gospel story engenders when it grasps us. (p. 49)
Leave your thoughts.


Blogger JATB said...

I must admit I have not read PZ's Short Systematic Theology, but now I must, if only to read that last quotation in context, for it sounds like nothing I've ever heard him say from the pulpit.

In the face of the liberalism of the American church, PZ has been a consistent voice for the authority of Scripture and the truth of the Gospel of grace. Has he drunk more deeply of the spirit of the times than he realizes? Probably. Barth did too. But that doesn't mean I will stop reading him.

We are all products of our time, with all the flaws inherent therein. None of us is without error.

Or sin.

5:28 am  
Blogger Jeff said...


Thanks for stopping in and leaving your thoughts. I could be wrong here but I detect that you are offended by something I've said in my interaction with Fr. Kimel's blog and what he has written in his critique of Dean Zahl. If I've said something within my post that is sinful or in error, please tell me and I'll happily fix it.

I'm not asking you or anyone not to read Dr. Zahl's writings or to have a great appreciation for him. I am thankful that TESM has his faithful witness there. Nothing in my critique of his views of God's mediating grace has anything to do with the man personally. I simply take issue with it in reference to the development of Anglican theology and particularly Lancelot Andrewes and a number of C17 Caroline divines. Puritans would have trouble with that paragraph. So, wouldn't you agree that when we put something out in the public it is hopeful that the community of saints would interact with it and critique our writings and we can accept their critiques without any malice by those who challenge us? That's why this blog exists. I guess I am honestly saying that I don't know what you are getting at in your post about what I have written. Can you clarify what it is that you think I've misunderstood? My point was to discuss how Jesus makes himself present to us. I believe one way (I also believe Dean Zahl is correct that Jesus is present in our love for the world as we are "the hands" of Jesus) is by the means of the Sacraments. To believers, I believe the Eucharist is the primary means. I think the best of Anglican theologians have communicated that view. I don't see in my original post where I said I would encourage people not to read him.

8:19 am  
Blogger JATB said...

No, I was not offended. And the comment about no one being without error or sin was simply to say let's not pile on Paul Zahl for a quotation that may or may not be a fair representation of what he is saying. Many people whom you and I both know well have been misquoted or partially quoted of late, and the results have been disastrous.

You are right: Puritans would have a BIG problem with that quotation: I cannot think of an orthodox Christian who would NOT have a problem with that quotation, which makes me wonder all the more about the accuracy of the quotation. I will have to read the entire chapter to see where it fits, especially since PZ often refers to himself as a Puritan (BTW I am not: I do not track with Zahl's receoptionism, which I admit is curious). The view expressed here would seem to fit more with his predecessor at the Advent, Lawrence Gibson, more than it would with what I know of PZ's beliefs.

That quotation alone may lead someone to believe that Dean Zahl is nothing more than another voice of namby-pamby pietistic liberalism within the American church, which is definitely not the case.

The comments about error and sin were, again, not directed at anyone in particular: they were directed at all of us.

10:52 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Well JA, I only hope I am wrong for it would be a sad thing if it was all proven correct. Thanks for the clarifications. I look forward to your interaction with the ST of Dr. Zahl when you have the chance to get something up. I'm just too busy to chase it all down just now but I am interested in what you may find out. Happy hunting!

12:30 am  
Blogger jon said...

Jeff, read my post from Saturday, and I think you'll have more context for JATB's comments.

Thanks for this post, by the way. I look forward to reading more of your work on Andrewes!

2:08 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:53 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Jon, That is fine! But, what have I said that is so "negative" Dean Zahl? Look, I humbly disagree with the way he approaches sacramental efficacy and I don't find it to be the best expression of the catholic teaching on the Sacraments in the history of Anglican or Patristic theology. I don't want to unchurch the guy and the comments "down with Zahl" are a bit much. Therefore, I am not so sure my comments fit within the "negative Zahl" campaign that is being commented on by you or JA. Disagreeing and discussing or offering critique is not something that Dean Zahl is afraid of I'm sure. He attended Tubingen and I would imagine that he had his share of it there.

3:54 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

I also agree with the sentiments of Dr. Leander Harding who wrote the following article with reference to this discussion that can be found here: http://leanderharding.classicalanglican.net/?p=113

Dr. Harding teaches Sacramental Theology at Trinity and we have exchanged a couple of e-mails recently and I find him a delight. I offer it here for your considerations.

4:14 pm  
Blogger jon said...

Jeff, I don't think your comments fit within the "negative Zahl" campaign, and my post implies nothing of the sort. I simply linked you and others who had discussed Zahl's eucharistic theology (including John Allen, who had positive things to say about Zahl) and added some comments of my own. I, too, humbly disagree with Zahl's eucharistic theology, and I appreciate discussions and critiques of his theology so much that I've been following them for a while. However, in doing so, I also noticed some reactionary comments (like "Down with Zahl," calling him a heretic, etc) by others that I wanted to warn against. But, again, I don't think your comments fit within the "negative Zahl" campaign. I hope this clarifies things.

4:25 pm  
Blogger jon said...

Thanks, Jeff. I read and appreciated Dr Harding's comment on Canon Harmon's blog, and I'm glad to learn that he has a blog of his own where he re-posted his comment, provoking other helpful comments.

4:37 pm  

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