Re: Genesis & sacramental texts

From: george murphy (
Date: Sun May 05 2002 - 22:20:52 EDT

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    "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
    > all.
    > 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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