Monday, June 25, 2012

Rome's transubstantiation: There's a disturbance in the force (tradition) Part 2

In the last post I laid out some historical evidence which sounds a dissonant note in the so-called unified voice of tradition supporting Rome's teaching of transubstantiation. The purpose of these two posts is to show the inconsistency between Rome claiming the church fathers as supporting witnesses and the actual writings of those witnesses.  Those first examples were by no means isolated.  Rather, there were numerous early and later theologians and scholars that wrote of quite the opposite of Rome's doctrine.

Picking up where I left off, Thomas Cranmer, in his Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ (1550), wrote of the Bishop of Rome, Gelasius (late 4th century), who by the way advocated for the supremacy of the Roman bishopric.  Cranmer comments regarding Gelasius' argument that refuted the heresies of Eutyches and Nestorius:
The other example is of the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; which, saith he, "is a godly thing, and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine do not cease to be there still."
Cranmer continues with an example from Origen:
And Origen, declaring the said eating of Christ's flesh and drinking of his blood, not be undertood as the words do sound, but figuratively, writeth thus upon these words of Christ, Except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall not have life in you:  "Consider," saith Origen, "that these things, written in God's books, are figures; and therefore examine and understand them, as spiritual and not as carnal men..."
In another place the Arch-bishop writes of Ambrose:
And in the same book he saith, "As thou hast in baptism received the similtude of death, so likewise dost thou in this sacrament drink the similtude of Christ's precious blood."  And again he saith in the said book, "The priest saith, Make unto us this oblation to be acceptable, which is the figure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ."
And concurring with Ambrose:
And therefore St. Augustine saith, Contra Maximinum, that "in the sacraments we must not consider what they be, but what they signify.  For they be signs of things, being one thing, and signifying another..."
 And in his book De Doctrina Christiana, St. Augustine saith, (as before at length declared)' that "to eat Christ's flesh and drink his blood, is a figuative speech, signifying the participation of his passion, and delectable remembrance to our benefit and profit, that his flesh was crucified and wounded for us."
I'll finish with two examples that Cranmer supplies from the late medieval church period, not too many years before the Reformation and Rome's Council of Trent:
And Gabriel [priest and scholar - 15th century] also, who of all other wrote most largely upon the canon of the Mass, saith thus:  "It is to be noted, that although it be taught in the Scripture, that the body of Christ is truly contained and received of Christian people under the kinds of bread and wine; yet how the body of Christ is there, whether by conversion of anything into it, or without conversion the body is there with the bread remaining still there, it is not found expressed in the Bible..."
For Johannes Scotus, otherwise called Duns, the subtlest of all the school authors, in treating of this matter of transubstantiation, showeth plainly the cause thereof:  "For," saith he, "the words of the Scripture might be expounded more easily and more plainly without transubstantiation; but the Church chose this sense, which is more hard, being moved thereunto, as it seemeth, chiefly because that of the sacraments men ought to hold as the holy Church of Rome holdeth.  But it holdeth that bread is transubstantiate or turned into the body, and wine into the blood..."
Cranmer sums up the last two bits of historical evidence:
Thus you have heard the cause, whereof this opinion of transubstantiation at this present is holden and defended among Christian people; that is to say, because the Church of Rome hath so determined; although the contrary, by the papists' own confession, appear to be more easy, more true, and more according to Scripture. 
As in our spiritual regeneration there can be no sacrament of baptism, if there be no water.  For as baptism is no perfect sacrament of spiritual regeneration, without there be as well the element of water, as the Holy Ghost spiritually regenerating the person that is baptized, (which is signified by the said water), even so the Supper of our Lord can be no perfect sacrament of spiritual food, except there be as well bread and wine, as the body and blood of our Saviour Christ spiritually feeding us, which by the said bread and wine is signified.

I'm afraid that Gabriel and Duns Scotus, if alive today, might be subject to the anathemas of Trent that followed less than a hundred years after their deaths, not to mention those church fathers (only a few of which have been cited) who did not conceive of the Supper as involving transubstantiation.

No comments:

Post a Comment