THE CHRISTIAN FAITH: AN INTRODUCTION TO DOGMATIC THEOLOGY - By CLAUDE BEAUFORT MOSS, D.D.LONDON - S.P.C.K 1965 Holy Trinity Church  Marylbone Road London NW 1 - Printed in Great Britain by Richard Clay (The Chaucer Press) Ltd  Bungay Suffolk - First published in 1943 - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2004.

PART II

CHAPTER 59

THE HOLY EUCHARIST:
(3) SPECULATIVE THEORIES

HOME | contents | no Anglican definitions | transubstantiation | objections to T | consubstantiation | virtualism | receptionism | the real absence | admission to communion implies right faith

I. No Anglican Definitions

The Anglican Communion is not committed to any particular doctrine of the Eucharist beyond what was said in the last chapter. 
No such doctrine can be proved from Scripture. 
The Universal Church has defined no such doctrine. 
The outward visible signs, the bread and wine, are really bread and wine. 
The Body and Blood of Christ are really the Body and Blood of Christ. 
To deny either truth is "to overthrow the nature of a sacrament". 
That is rejected by the Anglican Communion, and that alone.

Many theories of the manner in which the sacramental gift is bestowed have been put forward. 
We must know the chief ones if we are to understand the history of the Church,
but none of them is entirely satisfactory. 
Readers who are not interested in these theories had better pass on the next chapter.
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II. Transubstantiation (Roman)

First there are the theories that agree with the doctrine of the Real Objective Presence. 
The most famous of these is Transubstantiation.

Latin Christians in the Dark Ages who could not understand philosophical distinctions took our Lord's words quite literally. 
They held that the Body of Christ in the Eucharist was His material Body miraculously concealed from our senses in order that we might not be shocked by seeing that we were eating human flesh. 
This is called Capharnaism.

Hence arose the legends of bleeding Hosts, Hosts that turned into a Child in the priest's hand, etc. 
Berengarius was compelled in 1059 to sign a recantation declaring that the teeth of the faithful ground the Body of Christ.

Medieval thinkers, in order to get rid of this materialist doctrine
without rejecting the traditional belief of the Church,
devised the theory of Transubstantiation. 
According to the philosophy then generally accepted,
which was based on Aristotle,
everything that exists is composed of SUBSTANCE and ACCIDENTS
The ACCIDENTS are the qualities or attributes. 
The accidents of wine are that it is red, sweet, liquid, alcoholic, etc. 
The SUBSTANCE is that which makes it to be what it is,
and nothing more can be said about the substance. 
No one can see or touch the substance of wine,
for visibility and tangibility (the power to be seen and touched)
are among its accidents. 
The theory was that at the consecration
the ACCIDENTS of bread and wine are not changed,
but the SUBSTANCE is converted
into the SUBSTANCE of the Body and Blood of Christ. 
It was a very brilliant theory that soon came to be generally accepted
and was defined as a dogma by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215),
though it seems that the Council did not discuss it or even pass it but simply accepted it from Pope Innocent III. 
The words were:

Jesus Christ,
whose Body and Blood are in the sacrament of the altar
truly contained under the appearances of bread and wine,
the bread being transubstantiated into His Body,
and the wine into His Blood.

The Council of Trent reaffirmed it. 
The definition is as follows:

The body and blood
together with the soul and the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ
are truly, really, and substantially in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist,
and the conversion of the whole substance of bread into the body,
and of the whole substance of wine into the blood, takes place,
which conversion the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation

(Creed of Pope Pius IV).

The Greek term corresponding to transubstantiation is metousiosis, which, however, is not bound up with the scholastic theory of substance and accidents. 
The Synod of Bethlehem accepted it in 1672 during the reaction against the Calvinizing movement of the Patriarch Cyril Lucaris, but it was never accepted formally by the Russian Church and is not a dogma of the Orthodox Communion.

The Anglican Communion rejects transubstantiation on the ground that

it cannot be proved by Holy Writ,
but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture,
overthroweth the nature of a sacrament,
and hath given occasion to many superstitions
(Article 28). 

The last three criticisms apply rather to the popular teaching of Transubstantiation than to its official definition, and many Anglican theologians have admitted that Transubstantiation properly understood is a tenable opinion, even in the Church of England, but not a dogma. 
Certainly this Article does not deny that the consecration effects a change in the elements (which, as we have seen, is the teaching both of the Prayer Book and the Articles), but only that the change is such as to overthrow the nature of a sacrament.
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Objections to Transubstantiation

The objections to the theory of Transubstantiation are these:

1. Cannot be Proved by Scripture

It cannot be proved by Scripture and therefore cannot be accepted as a dogma, whatever may be its value as an opinion. 
There have always been those who have accepted all that Scripture teaches without accepting Transubstantiation. 
It is not, therefore, a necessary inference from Scripture like the Homo-ousion and the Theoticos.

2. Implies Medieval Philosophy

Transubstantiation requires us to accept the medieval theory of SUBSTANCE and ACCIDENTS
This is a possible theory,
but it is not part of the Christian faith;
and most modern philosophers will have nothing to do with it,
but maintain that there is no such thing as SUBSTANCE in this sense. 
However, some theologians say that those who believe in Transubstantiation are not committed thereby to the medieval philosophy. 
This may be true, but the Roman Communion requires the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas to be taught in all its colleges and disapproves of any other, from which it seems that those who accept Transubstantiation can hardly avoid the medieval philosophy.

3. Requires Unnecessary Miracles

John Wycliffe criticized Transubstantiation on the ground that on this theory the accidents of bread and wine have no substance in which to inhere, for the substance of the bread and wine has been annihilated. 
There is no other case of this, and therefore it must be regarded as miraculous. 
While we ought to be willing to believe miracles for which there is sufficient evidence, there is no evidence in Scripture or anywhere else that there is any miracle in the Eucharist. 
Transubstantiation requires a miracle, or rather a series of miracles, for not only must the SUBSTANCE be annihilated, but it must be restored afterwards, neither of which processes could take place without a miracle. 
Therefore Transubstantiation is not a satisfactory theory.

4. A Form of Monophysitism

Bishop Gore [Dissertations, pp. 229-289.] pointed out that even according to the strict interpretation of Transubstantiation, the bread and wine are no longer bread and wine properly speaking since only the accidents of bread and wine remain;
and that this theory corresponds to the Christological theory of the Monophysites, that our Lord's human nature was not really human when united to His Godhead but only apparently so. 
The Fathers compared the two parts of the Eucharist to the Godhead and Manhood of our Lord. 
If this be true, Transubstantiation is a form of the heresy of Eutyches who taught that the Manhood of our Lord was absorbed by His Godhead.

5. Its Acceptance would not Promote Reunion

The opinion held in some quarters that the Church of England could promote the reunion of Christendom by accepting Transubstantiation is a mistake. 
We cannot promote reunion by asserting what we do not believe to be true, and the great majority of members of the English Church do not believe that Transubstantiation is true. 
But even if we were all agreed that Transubstantiation was not only tenable, but true, the Church of England could only accept it as an opinion; for to accept it as a dogma would infringe the fundamental principle, to which every Anglican priest pledges himself at his ordination, that nothing may be taught as a dogma which cannot be proved from Scripture. 
We must maintain our freedom to deny whatever is not part of God's revelation. 
In any case even the acceptance of Transubstantiation as a dogma would not bring about reunion with Rome from which we are divided by more fundamental differences, as we have seen (Chapter 50), and would hinder reunion in other directions.

6. Tends to Superstition

Transubstantiation was intended to get rid of Capharnaism, but it has not been successful in doing so. 
The recantation required of Sir John Cheke, under Queen Mary I, was as material and carnal in its doctrine as that which was required of Berengarius nearly 500 years earlier. 
That this danger has not ceased even now is shown by the following incident.
Some years ago in Ireland I met a priest of the Roman Communion who began to argue with me about the Holy Eucharist. 
I read him the Prayer of Humble Access to show him that we believed in the Real Presence. 
He said, "But you believe that it is a spiritual presence, don?t you?"
I answered, "Surely you don?t believe that the Host is the flesh of Christ in the same sense as my hand is my flesh?" 
"Yes, I do," he said;
and I replied, "I am sure St. Thomas Aquinas did not";
upon which he changed the conversation!

It seems impossible to prevent people from taking SUBSTANCE in its popular rather than in its philosophical sense. 
For this reason Transubstantiation has brought disunion rather than agreement. 
It is a bugbear to many people who do not know what the word means;
and since it is objectionable both to the learned and the unlearned, we shall do well to avoid it.
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III. Consubstantiation (Lutheran)

Consubstantiation is the theory of Luther that the substance of bread and wine is partly changed and partly remains the same.  It cannot be proved by Scripture, and it depends upon the medieval theory of SUBSTANCE and ACCIDENTS.  The Lutherans do not regard it as a dogma, but they would not unite with any communion whose doctrine of the Eucharist did not satisfy them.  It is for this reason that the Swedish Mission in South India would not join the scheme of union proposed by the Anglican dioceses, the South Indian United Church, and the Methodists.

Ubiquitarianism the theory that our Lord's Manhood is omnipresent and therefore in the sacrament was held by some Lutherans but is contrary to the doctrine that our Lord's Manhood is real manhood and therefore cannot be omnipresent.
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IV. Virtualism

We now turn to the theories of those who reject the doctrine of the Real Presence - that is, that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.

VIRTUALISM, the theory held by Cranmer and Waterland, is the theory that what we receive is not the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ but its virtue or power. 
We receive the outward sign and the effect but not the Body and Blood themselves. 
This theory has been held by many in the Anglican Communion but does not seem to be consistent with the teaching of the Church Catechism that the Body and Blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper, still less with the word "given" in Article 28.
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V. Receptionism (Calvin)

RECEPTIONISM is the theory that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ when we receive the bread and wine, but that they are not identified with the bread and wine, which are not changed. 
The climax of the service is therefore not the consecration but the communion of the people. 
This was the teaching of Calvin.

The consecration is unimportant. It is of minor importance who the minister is, and Calvinists allow a layman to provide at their communion services in exceptional cases. 
The Calvinist liturgical forms have for the most part been very poor (see Y. Brilioth, Bishop of V?j? Eucharistic Faith and Practice, pp. 171-198). 
The consecrated elements are not specially sacred any more than the water in baptism, and no provision is made for their consumption. 
Some passages from the Fathers are quoted in defence of this theory, but other passages from the same Fathers exclude it. 
The general teaching of the early Church gives no support to Receptionism, nor is it known in the Roman or Eastern communions. 
But it has been widely held in the Anglican Communion since the Reformation,
and at some periods it has been completely dominant. 
As we have seen, it is not consistent with the word "given" in Article 28
or with the rubric directing the consumption of the consecrated elements. 
But it has always been regarded since the Reformation as a tenable opinion in the Anglican Communion.
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VI. The Real Absence (Socinus)

The theory that the Lord's Supper is no more than a bare commemoration of the death of Christ and a method of bearing witness publicly to the Christian Faith is commonly attributed to Ulrich Zwingli, but more properly to Socinus.

This theory is explicitly condemned by Article 28 and is contrary to the passages from the Prayer Book quoted above, though it was held by Benjamin Hoadly, Bishop of Winchester (1676-1761).

However, it is the theory held by many "Evangelical" sects whose communion service is not a Eucharist and appears to resemble rather the "Agape; or love feast that followed the Eucharist in the early Church.  (The Agape survives in the "pain b? i" or "antidoron" distributed after the Eucharist in the Eastern and some Latin churches.)
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VII. Admission to Communion Implies Right Faith

For this reason some denominations will admit to communion any one who claims to be a Christian.
[The Orthodox Eastern churches allow any Christian to receive the antidoron even though he could not be allowed to receive Communion. 
We have here, perhaps, a possible solution of the question of intercommunion. 
The Anglican churches might revive the custom of "pain b?i" or antidoron in which Christians not in communion with the Church might be allowed to share.]
 
It is a sign of love and does not imply orthodox faith.

But in every part of the Catholic Church to receive the Holy Communion is to be accepted as a full member, which implies the observance of all that the Church requires of her members. 
For instance, no one may communicate in the Roman Communion who does not believe all the Roman doctrines, and rightly so. 
He who communicates at a Roman altar declares by doing so that he accepts the papal claims and the decrees of Trent and the Vatican. 
He who communicates at an Orthodox altar declares by doing so that he accepts the decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and all the teaching of the Orthodox Communion. 
He who communicates at an Anglican altar similarly declares by doing so that he accepts the teaching and the authority of the Anglican churches.

The refusal of the Church to admit to communion those who do not accept the Catholic Faith as taught by her is not due to want of charity but to an intense sense of the importance of right belief and of church membership. 
Any one in the world may communicate at the altars of the Church if he will fulfil the conditions required. 
Those who will not accept the conditions cannot reasonably expect to be admitted to the privilege.
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