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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Aquinas and Dimensive Quantity

This afternoon I have been reading Thomas Aquinas after having read William Perkins'on presence who erroneously says that Rome teaches a 'local' presence of Christ in the sacrament in the manner in which we would understand local in modern terms. In ST 3a. 77, 7, it is perfectly clear what Thomas means about what is broken in the fraction at communion. The dimensive quantity is where accidents find their subject so Aquinas Rome, or Trent never believed in a local presence on the altar as we think of local. Aquinas says, 'Whatever is eaten as under its natural form, is broken and chewed as under its natural form. But the body of Christ is not eaten as under is natural form, but as under the sacramental species.' ST 3a.77, 7. Let's at least get this right. That means according to Thomas,
'The body of Christ in itself is not broken, but only in its sacramental appearance. And this is the sense in which we should understand Berengarius's profession of faith; the fraction and the chewing with the teeth refer to the sacramental species, underneath which the body of Christ is really present.'

2 Comments:

Blogger Brian Douglas said...

I agree Jeffrey that we need to understand what Aquinas actually says. Your comments make it clear that Aquinas is in no way arguing for a local presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist, that is, in the sense of a physical presence. Aquinas also says: "It is evident that Christ's body does not begin to be present in this sacrament by local motions" (ST, III, 75.2) and "Christ's body is not in this sacrament in the same way as a body is in a place, ... but in a special manner which is proper to this sacrament" (ST, III, 75.1). This suggests that Aquinas' realism in relation to the Eucharist is moderate and not immoderate (or fleshy). Transubstantiation therefore does not express immoderate realism (as many, including some Anglican commentators, suggest) rather it expresses a moderate realism. It is this corruption of transubstantiation that the Reformers object to in the 39 Articles I would argue and not moderate realism per se. It is for this reason that some have argued (e.g. William Temple) that transubstantiation (properly understood) may be a possible concept for Anglicans to use (ARCIC also clarifies this) as long as by its use we do not understand immoderate realism. On the other hand the term transubstantiation may be so fatally flawed by wrong interpretations and by outmoded philosophical distinctions that it has little value for us now. This is the reason why I would prefer to use 'instantiation' based on a philosophical model of moderate realism.

You have performed an important role here in helping us to understand what Aquinas is saying. Did Andrewes understand the difference between the way Aquinas spoke and the coruptions?

8:08 pm  
Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks Brian. I think you are right about the use of the term and the ill baggage that it naturally caries due to gross misrepresentations of what it actually is. No doubt an abuse of practice caused much of this during the Middle Ages but not a lot different from the abuses we find in many Prots these days on other issues.

Your use of the word instantiation is a really good way of communicating the moderate realism that men like Andrewes and others had sought to explain. The problem is, I think Andrewes bought into the misunderstood view of the doctrine and denied it on the basis of reason. Yet in so doing, he was keen to speak of a trans of the elements which is why I have named him a 'transelemenationist.'

By the way, I would really like an 'electronic' copy of your diss if you are willing! I would like to use you in the present chapter I am working on with regards to presence and I would like to properly reference your work rather than your web site. I would be happy to purchase it if you want to charge for it. :-)

I'll send you my chapter on presence to look over when I get it pulled together. Hopefully it will be within the next few weeks!

9:17 pm  

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