Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cranmer's Eucharistic Issues

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I am in the middle of an articl now by The Rev. Cyril Richardson that I am finding very interesting. It is an interaction between Zwingli, Cranmer and Bucer's views of Eucharistic theology. What I find puzzling is the points that Richardson proves showing that Cranmer resolutely refused to acknowledge that in the Eucharist the believer actually participates in the substance of the flesh of Christ. Quoting from Cranmer's Answer he writes,
lest any man should mistake my words (that the body of Christ is present in them that worthily receive the sacrament), and think that I mean, that although Christ be not corporally in the outward visible signs, yet he is corporally in the persons that duly receive them, this is to advertise to that reader that I mean no such thing.
I don't know about any of the readers here, but that is a serious problem for me theologically and patristically. Richardson is right to point out that though Cranmer believes in a 'mystical union of substance in his doctrine of the incarnation, but denies such a union in the Eucharist.' (41)Richardson goes on to point out that Cranmer's Nominalist viewpoint was not taken to its logical conclusion by him but a contradiction in his thinking or he would have ended up reducing our union with Christ into a moral or a spiritual union. What presence becomes is a presence that is apprehended by the mind as believers consider how Christ's body was broken for them, and His blood shed for our redemption. (Defense 438 sited by Richardson) According to Richardson, what Cranmer means by 'spiritual' presence is, that
that which is divine, non-substantial. The presence of Christ at the Supper is no more 'abstract' in Cranmer than in Albertus Magnus, who, like many scholastics, held the substance of Christ's body passed into the 'mind,' not into the stomach and digestion. Cranmer's doctrine is less substantial, but not more abstract (unless, indeed, God can be viewed as more abstract than man!) His use of 'spiritual' concerns the presence of Christ according to His divinity, in opposition to the mystical and substantial presence of His humanity. (43)
I am not going to be around the next three days as I leave for the Highlands of Scotland tomorrow morning early. But please do discuss this amongst yourselves and here and if I can find somewhere to check things out while I am there with my son, I will. If not, I'll be back late Friday night and will look to see comments then. Until then; cheers!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Logos non extra carnem est.

5:00 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Anon! would you like to expand on this and possibly reveal yourself? ;-)

5:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You (and the author you quote) are confusing the concept of substance with corporality. This is something Aristotle and Aquinas did not do. Even a cursory reading of Aquinas would reveal that he too states the Christ is neither physically nor locally present in the Sacrament. It really does bother me when theologians like Cranmer are denounced for things that even tried and true Thomists reject.

(By the way, I'm not the previous Anon.)

4:24 am  
Blogger Jeff said...


Where did I or the author ever say that participating in the substance of Christ's divinity and humanity equals locality or corporally (physically)? Substance is not physical, accidents are. Cranmer denies that we receive the human nature of Christ in the Sacrament just as Zwingli did and quotes from the John passage that flesh provides us nothing. To Cranmer, Christ is only present in his divinity and not his humanity. For Cranmer, it is our faith that unites us to Christ and there is no sacramental union.

From the Defense Cranmer writes, 'He is present by his divine nature and majesty, by his providence and by grace; but by his human nature and very body he is absent from this world, and present in heaven.'

One example that Richardson shows is the analogy that Zwingli, Cranmer, Calvin and Bucer use with the sun and its rays of light. Zwingli and Cranmer both say that we do not participate in in the substance of the sun by participating in the rays of light from the sun. Yet Calvin and Bucer both use the same analogy and say that participation in the sun's lights and rays is a participation in its substance. This is because for Cranmer substance can only be in one place, which shows how much he was affected by his Nominalism and thankfully quite inconsistent with it in terms of his orthodox Christology or he would have reduced our union with Christ to a merely moral union.

What Richardson explains in the article is that 'Cranmer seeks to make two central points. First, that Christ and the Holy Spirit are not present [in] the sacramental forms, but only present by their sanctifying virtue in those that receive the sacrament. Secondly, he seeks to deny the substantial presence of Christ in the believer, as well as in the elements. What is present is the benefit of Christ's crucified body and as spiritual presence of Crhist according to His divinity.'

The above was Zwingli's position. For Cranmer, to eat the flesh of Christ was to have 'faith' in the Passion. Cranmer sought to steer clear from those who thought of the sacraments as little to nothing while also steering clear of any propitiatory sacrifice. I have read authors and heard others say that Cranmer was a Virtualist. One such author that I have recently read that was also pointed out by Richardson was Darwell Stone. Stone defined Virtualism thusly: 'that the faithful communicant sacramentally receives those effects of Christ's life and death which would be conveyed if there were a beneficial reception of His actual body and blood.' Now, Richardson is right to say that if this is the definition of Virutalism, it is the antithesis of Cranmer's Eucharistic theology who denied that such an eating 'should avail them nothing.'

Cranmer never tires of saying, according to Richardson, that the elements DO NOT participate in spiritual power or holiness. Yet there is no doubt that Cranmer gives the elements a higer value than does Zwingli where the latter speaks of them as effectual signs of grace.

Therefore, what I saw as the major difference between Cranmer and those later Divines such as Andrewes and especially the Non-Jurors' eucharistic theology is that Andrewes' eucharistic theology contains a sacramental union with Christ's two natures with us and Cranmer only sees that union via the incarnation received by faith of the believer but denies this union sacramentally. I believe Richardson is correct to point out that Cranmer's Nonimialism and humanism that sharply contrasted body and spirit, makes Cranmer incapable of conceiving of a mystical and substantial participation by the believer in the flesh of Christ in the Eucharist.

9:46 am  

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