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Friday, December 01, 2006

Aquinas and Presence: Arguing Against Nothing

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Almost all reformers that I read in the C16 and C17 are arguing against transubstantiation as 'local' presence. I guess if you say something long enough it becomes true. But it should be realised that transubstantiation within Aquinas' understanding is NOT local presence. Thus, the arguments against the sacrifice of the Mass because Christ is local on the altar which would mean that he is immolatus anew; i.e., undergoes bodily change in offering or suffering, is simply arguing in the wind. Aquinas says,
Christ's body is not in this sacrament in the sense of being restricted to it. If that were so, it could only be on that altar where the sacrament is actually being consecrated. But it is always in heaven in its proper appearance. It is also clear that it is not in this sacrament in the senst of being surrounded by it, because it is not there with its dimensions running in conformity with the dimensions of bread, as we have just seen. The fact that it is not outside the containing dimensions of bread or that it is not in any other part of the altar does not prove that it is limited to the sacrament or circumscribed by it; all that that shows is that it began to be in the sacrament as a result of the consecration and of the changes of the bread and wine, as was said above....But to be in place is an accident which has to do with something extrinsic which contains something. So it does not follow that the body of Christ is in this sacrament as localized. 3a. 76, 5
Et idoe non oportet quod Christus sit in hoc sacramento sicut in loco.

5 Comments:

Blogger lexorandi2 said...

It all goes back to your discussions/insights on nominalism, Jeff. If one operates within a nominalist worldview, then all talk of "substance" must be about physicality, all denials to the contrary nothwithstanding.

Remember that it was not Aquinas' explication of transubstantiation that was dogmatized at the 4th Lateran Council, but merely the term "transubstantiation" itself.

10:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In his book "The Domestication of Transcendence" William Placher talks about how followers of a particular theologian always distort their master's teachings in important ways. Sounds like that is what is going on with Aquinas to some degree. His "followers" (and critics) conveyed his teachings in a way that did not do them jusitce.

10:21 pm  
Blogger Brian Douglas said...

While I agree that Aquinas did not teach a notion of local presence, we are still left with the suggestion that Christ is really present in the elements. This I suggest is where much of the problem arises. How is Christ present? Aquinas and most others it seems reject the view that Christ is present in some fleshy or immoderate realist manner. Those who adopt a realist view of the Eucharist however will argue that Christ is really present. John Macquarrie in 'A Guide to the Sacraments' argues that the presence of Christ is focused in the elements of bread and wine. I certainly agree with this analysis but it is the manner of this presence as a focus that has confused many, I suspect. My own view has been much influenced by modern philosophical reflection, which I believe has much to offer us. David Armstrong (a secular Australian philosopher) powerfully argues that there is a difference between 'strict' identity and 'loose' identity. To apply this to eucharistic theology suggests that the nature of Christ as Word or Logos is strictly identical in both instantiations of bread/wine and body/blood - we receive the nature of Christ present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist but not his physical flesh and blood. The particulars though (bread/wine on the one hand and body/blood on the other) are not strictly identical but possess a loose identity. It is the strict identity of the universal that is implied in moderate realism (being careful to realise, as Aquinas did, that this does not mean local or physical presence), whereas it is the strict identity of the particular with the universal which is implied in immoderate realism (that is, bread and wine is fleshy body and blood). It is this immoderate realism that is rejected by Christianity, but not the moderate realism of instantiation. David Ford at Cambridge has also picked up on this, but he calls what I am calling immoderate realism, relational realism. He rejects the idea of relational realism in the Eucharist (i.e. bread/wine is body/blood in a fleshy sense) and argues for a non-relational realism (a moderate realism). I have problems with the terms 'relational' and 'non-relational' since they could be misrepresented to mean that there in no relationship with Christ in the Eucharist. I am certain this is not what Ford means. I prefer to use the use the terms 'moderate realism' and 'immoderate realism' which I think are less confusing (at least to me anyway!).

To summarise what may seem to be a complicated argument: Armstrong's work leads me to the position that two particulars (bread/wine and Christ's body/blood) can each have the same nature (the nature of Christ as Word or Logos) without having a strict or numerical identity in a fleshy sense. Bread and wine on the one hand and Christ's body and blood can therefore have the same nature (Christ's identity of nature) without having a strict or numerical identity. This means (to complicate the whole further I'm sorry) that Christ's identity of nature is in both instantiations (bread/wine and body/blood) is strictly identical - that is, the universal is strictly identical, but the particulars are not (bread and wine can never therefore be fleshy body and blood even though bread and wine shares an identity of nature with Christ's body and blood.

3:58 am  
Blogger Brian Douglas said...

Sorry I was interrupted and had to pick my daughter up from work.

I think the argument I have been putting above has been implicit in much Anglican eucharistic theology which speaks of the Eucharist in the sense of incarnation. Andrewes in one of his Christmas sermons speaks of Christ born in the manger being the same as Christ present in the Eucharist. For Andrewes, it seems to me at least, it is the same Christ that is present in both instantiations. It is the nature of Christ, the eternal Word or Logos, that is instantiated in both places. Other theologians have picked up on this too. Macquarrie speaks of Christ present in the Word, in the community, in the Scripture, in the priest, in the eucharistic celebration and focussed in the elements of bread and wine. It is as if this universal (Christ, the eternal Word or Logos) is strictly identical in these different instantiations even though the different instantiations are not numerically identical. The problem comes (and Aquinas clearly saw this I believe) when there is too close a linking between the particulars and the universal. When we associate the bread and wine too closely with the fleshy presence of Christ's body and blood we have the difficulty of immoderate realism (or relational realism to use David Ford's term). If however we work with the idea of a universal (Christ's as eternal Word or Logos) then that universal can be instantiated in many places (in the person of Jesus, in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist focussed in the elements of bread and wine). It is not that the bread and wine become flesh and blood (Aquinas clearly rejects that idea) but that Christ as eternal Word or Logos in instantiated in the bread and wine so that they are the means by which we receive Christ in the Eucharist. The same can be true for the Scriptures. We receive Christ by them as well.

This notion of instantiation (taken as it is from contemporary and secular philosophy) I suggest is implicit in the actions of God in the incarnation and in the Scriptural record ('And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us' John 1: 14). Just as the Word became flesh instantiated in the person and work of Jesus, so the Word is instantiated in the Eucharist, focussed in the bread and wine. I suggest that if we think about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist in this way we avoid the immoderate realist dangers and we also avoid some of the complication of substance/accident philosophy.

4:38 am  
Blogger Brian Douglas said...

Sorry I was interrupted and had to pick my daughter up from work.

I think the argument I have been putting above has been implicit in much Anglican eucharistic theology which speaks of the Eucharist in the sense of incarnation. Andrewes in one of his Christmas sermons speaks of Christ born in the manger being the same as Christ present in the Eucharist. For Andrewes, it seems to me at least, it is the same Christ that is present in both instantiations. It is the nature of Christ, the eternal Word or Logos, that is instantiated in both places. Other theologians have picked up on this too. Macquarrie speaks of Christ present in the Word, in the community, in the Scripture, in the priest, in the eucharistic celebration and focussed in the elements of bread and wine. It is as if this universal (Christ, the eternal Word or Logos) is strictly identical in these different instantiations even though the different instantiations are not numerically identical. The problem comes (and Aquinas clearly saw this I believe) when there is too close a linking between the particulars and the universal. When we associate the bread and wine too closely with the fleshy presence of Christ's body and blood we have the difficulty of immoderate realism (or relational realism to use David Ford's term). If however we work with the idea of a universal (Christ's as eternal Word or Logos) then that universal can be instantiated in many places (in the person of Jesus, in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist focussed in the elements of bread and wine). It is not that the bread and wine become flesh and blood (Aquinas clearly rejects that idea) but that Christ as eternal Word or Logos in instantiated in the bread and wine so that they are the means by which we receive Christ in the Eucharist. The same can be true for the Scriptures. We receive Christ by them as well.

This notion of instantiation (taken as it is from contemporary and secular philosophy) I suggest is implicit in the actions of God in the incarnation and in the Scriptural record ('And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us' John 1: 14). Just as the Word became flesh instantiated in the person and work of Jesus, so the Word is instantiated in the Eucharist, focussed in the bread and wine. I suggest that if we think about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist in this way we avoid the immoderate realist dangers and we also avoid some of the complication of substance/accident philosophy.

4:38 am  

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