"Dr. Blake Nelson" wrote:
> I made this point before, but I'll make it again
> because it bears repeating.
> The Orthodox Church, while insisting that there is
> grace in the sacraments has not had the kind of
> sacramental schism that occurred in the West, because
> they have consistently refused to define the nature of
> the Eucharist in the way the Roman Catholic Church
> did, insisting that it is a mystery.
> After the East / West split and scholasticism took
> over the western church, you had lots of formal
> doctrines put in place that were supposedly based on
> rational thought. So, the doctrine of
> transubstantiation is put into place, and you have the
> schisms between the Catholics and protestants and
> within the protestant and anabaptist churches because
> the Roman Catholic Church insisted on demanding that
> the Eucharist must be transubstantiation.
> This is in part why, without becoming syncretic, I
> think it important not to try to too tightly
> "rationally" define things. Concerning the Eucharist,
> I believe the Orthodox Church is right, that it is a
> mystical experience of God and His grace. It makes as
> much sense to define it as it does to ask whether the
> Son of God could be incarnate as a gourd and still
> redeem mankind, in other words, it makes no sense at
> This does not mean that no claims are made about it in
> the Orthodox tradition, for there are (e.g., there is
> grace in the sacraments, it is the blood and body of
> Jesus -- without labeling it as transubstantiation or
> consubstantiation, etc.). The nature of the
> experience/event, however, defies our categories and
> understandings. We should hold it in reverence,
> rather than try to define it to divide us.
I agree to a considerable extent with this. The Lutheran
tradition has never insisted on any particular understanding of _how_
the Sacrament is the Body & Blood of Christ, only that it is. & in fact
in recent years many Roman Catholic theologians have agreed that there
is no compelling reason to insist upon the model of transubstantiation.
(See, e.g., the U.S. Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue III.)
But it is not only attempts to explain Real Presence that are
divisive. Many Protestants hold a Zwinglian memorial view of the
Sacrament and would not be willing to say that the Sacrament is the true
Body and Blood of Christ.
& today there is probably even deeper division about the
significance of Baptism.
Again, my point is not to provoke a quarrel. I think that
reflection on why we hold these different views, & why we can insist
that some texts must be interpreted literally while others should be
understood figuratively, would be a profitable exercise.
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Interface"
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