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  #1  
Old Jan 10, '11, 8:23 am
panther panther is offline
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Question When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Hi all. In a study group in my parish, we were discussing the Eucharist and how it has been believed to the be actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ throughout the history of the Catholic Church. Someone asked exactly when Protestants abandoned/reinterpreted that belief after the Reformation, and I actually had no idea.

I realize that there are differing views of the Eucharist/Lord's Supper within the Protestant realm. But I'm wondering if any of you historical scholars can point me toward when a purely "symbolic" interpretation of the Eucharist started to develop, and maybe how it came about.

Thanks so much for your help!
  #2  
Old Jan 10, '11, 8:36 am
manualman manualman is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Pretty early, I think. I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure Calvin rejected the idea of the Real Presence entirely. If Lutheranism today is any example, Luther may have believed in a Real Presence, but alongside the reality of bread and wine, not a replacement of those substances.

Really it is almost inevitable due to the way Sola Fide is understood by many (most?) protestants. They misread St. Paul's warnings about reliance on "works" (by which Paul meant adherence to Mosaic Law) and think that it means that what we DO with our physical forms is meaningless. Only 'faith' ,often defined as purely spiritual, matters. From that tenet, if the physical realm is meaningless, it makes no real sense for Christ to become manifest in the Eucharist, body and blood.

For catholics, we see humanity as a union of body and soul, so there is nothing shocking about God working his Grace in us in ways that manifest both spiritually AND physically. Therefore, we need not do any semantic gyrations to evade the clear meaning of John 6.
  #3  
Old Jan 10, '11, 8:37 am
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Well, it depends what you mean. I've heard another Reformation scholar (himself Reformed) say that the phrase "bare sign" is always used in the Reformation to describe the sacramental theology of someone else. In other words, no one wanted to use that kind of language to describe their own position. I think he has a point if you leave the Anabaptists out of it. Still, I think it's fair to say that Ulrich Zwingli's position is a basically symbolic one. Zwingli argued that the word "est" (This is my body) should be understood to mean "significat" (This signifies my body). He started arguing this in the early 1520s, and this led to a break between him and Luther--the first major split within the nascent Protestant movement.

Edwin
  #4  
Old Jan 10, '11, 8:41 am
panther panther is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Excellent, Edwin. This kind of information is exactly what I'm looking for. Thank you!
  #5  
Old Jan 10, '11, 8:51 am
pablope pablope is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by panther View Post
Hi all. In a study group in my parish, we were discussing the Eucharist and how it has been believed to the be actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ throughout the history of the Catholic Church. Someone asked exactly when Protestants abandoned/reinterpreted that belief after the Reformation, and I actually had no idea.

I realize that there are differing views of the Eucharist/Lord's Supper within the Protestant realm. But I'm wondering if any of you historical scholars can point me toward when a purely "symbolic" interpretation of the Eucharist started to develop, and maybe how it came about.

Thanks so much for your help!
You may want to look up Dr. David Anders, on EWTN or if wrote about it or talked about it extensively. He is a former Calvinist, and heard him on the Journey Home talk about this subject.
  #6  
Old Jan 10, '11, 8:52 am
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

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Originally Posted by manualman View Post
Pretty early, I think. I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure Calvin rejected the idea of the Real Presence entirely.
I wouldn't say that, though I can see why a Catholic might see it that way. Calvin certainly believed, like Zwingli, that worship of Christ in the Sacrament was idolatrous, and I think that's the easiest litmus test for whether someone believes in the Real Presence or not. But he differed quite a bit from Zwingli, and spoke of believers ascending to heaven spiritually and feeding on the glorified Body and Blood of Christ--it certainly wasn't merely symbolic for him. Fr. Kilian McDonnell's John Calvin, the Church, and the Eucharist is an excellent study of Calvin's sacramental theology from an ecumenical Catholic perspective. I think Fr. McDonnell may be overly generous to Calvin in certain respects (by the time he's finished, you start thinking Calvin and Aquinas aren't that far apart!), but his work is an excellent antidote to a "Zwinglian" interpretation of Calvin. In the 19th century the Reformed theologian John Nevin wrote a book arguing that Calvin believed in the Real Presence in a "mystical" sense. The Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge attacked Nevin, but eventually had to admit that by his (Hodge's) definition Calvin wasn't really a "Calvinist" in his Eucharistic theology!

Quote:
If Lutheranism today is any example, Luther may have believed in a Real Presence.
He certainly did, though his 1520 Babylonian Captivity (his first in-depth treatment of sacramental theology) isn't too clear on the fact. He attacks transubstantiation and the Eucharistic sacrifice--reading it now it's easy to see that he assumes the Real Presence, but at the time both Zwingli and Luther's Catholic opponents appear to have missed this. Zwingli was rather surprised when Luther accused him of heresy for denying the Real Presence.

Edwin
  #7  
Old Jan 10, '11, 8:53 am
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pablope View Post
You may want to look up Dr. David Anders, on EWTN or if wrote about it or talked about it extensively. He is a former Calvinist, and heard him on the Journey Home talk about this subject.
Just bear in mind that many "Calvinists" today have a more purely symbolic view than the Reformers did. The Enlightenment and 19th-century American "common-sense" theology had a devastating impact.

Edwin
  #8  
Old Jan 10, '11, 8:54 am
MarkBrown MarkBrown is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

1525 Zwingli began teaching in Zurich a rejection of the real presence and transubstantiation. By the Colloqy of Marburg in 1529, his views were so opposed to Christ's and the Churches teaching, even Luther had enough. Said something like (big paraphrase here) He (Luther) would rather drink blood with the Pope than wine with Zwingli.

So SOME protestants almost immediately began believing and teaching a rejection of the Eucharist. As an Anglican our rejection was codified in the 39 Articles. Anglicans today who hold to the Eucharist being the actual Body, Blood and Divinity of Christ, do so in opposition to the 39 Articles. That is why Anglo-Catholics and others will reject part or all of the 39 Articles or go through all sorts of word games to make the 39 Articles fit Catholic Theology.

Prior to the Reformation, some individuals and sects within the Church taught a rejection of the Eucharist...they were all ex-communicated if they would not repent.

In John 6, some of Christ's followers and disciples rejected the teaching from Christ's own mouth.

This rejection has always popped up in the Church from time to time. Just with the Reformation did it maintain a life beyond a few years or a generation.

This response is only a board thumb nail discussion, but should be enough for your Bible Study to understand the history of the rejection.

Fr. Mark
  #9  
Old Jan 10, '11, 9:18 am
1ke 1ke is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

I recommend the book Dissent From The Creed by Hogan, which does a wonderful job of giving a timeline to all the major heresies.

It breaks the chronology down into four parts, based on the Creed: God (Trinity), God the Son, and Grace/Sacraments, the Church. There is a good chapter on the Eucharist.
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ke's universal disclaimer: In my posts, when I post about marriage, canon law, or sacraments I am talking about Latin Rite only, not the Orthodox and Eastern Rites. These are exceptions that confuse the issue and I am not talking about those.
  #10  
Old Jan 10, '11, 9:42 am
pablope pablope is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Contarini View Post
Just bear in mind that many "Calvinists" today have a more purely symbolic view than the Reformers did.
Edwin
I just checked his bio and website, he studied Reformation History, so he may be a good source for the question asked by the OP.


Quote:
The Enlightenment and 19th-century American "common-sense" theology had a devastating impact.
Could you expound on this further? If you don't mind....
  #11  
Old Jan 10, '11, 12:15 pm
Radical Radical is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by panther View Post
I realize that there are differing views of the Eucharist/Lord's Supper within the Protestant realm. But I'm wondering if any of you historical scholars can point me toward when a purely "symbolic" interpretation of the Eucharist started to develop, and maybe how it came about.

Thanks so much for your help!
In stepping away from the somatic real presence view some of the reformers found support by turning to Augustine. Certain Catholic scholars of today are validating that practice.

F. van der Meer, in his renowned study Augustine the Bishop, wrote:

"It is perfectly true, however, that there is nowhere any indication of any awareness of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, or that he thought very much about this subject or made it the object of devotion; that was alien to the people of that age at any rate in the West."

In "Papal Sin", G. Wills (another biographer of Augustine) approvingly cites van der Meer on that point and continues by pointing out that Berrouard thought he could establish that one text in Augustine affirmed a real presence. Wills noted that Kilmartin demonstrated how filmsy Berrouard's case was.

Edward Kilmartin S.J. is a scholar who viewed the Antiochene school as a main source of the somatic real presence (influencing both Ambrose and Hillary). He contrasted this with Augustine, whose "Neoplatonic theology prevented him from interpreting the sacraments as more than signs pointing to a spiritual reality." (see "The Eucharist in the West")

So, if you are wondering how "it came about" (again), you should note that it is not as if the Protestants can't find support in the ECFs for a non-somatic understanding of the alleged "real presence". Augustine, however, doesn't get me to "purely symbolic"....just gets me out of the "somatic". Your claim that "...it has been believed to the be actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ throughout the history of the Catholic Church" doesn't seem to reflect early diversity or later dissension.
  #12  
Old Jan 10, '11, 1:04 pm
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkBrown View Post
So SOME protestants almost immediately began believing and teaching a rejection of the Eucharist. As an Anglican our rejection was codified in the 39 Articles.
The 39 Articles do not reject the Eucharist. They do reject transubstantiation, and the language about the presence being "heavenly and spiritual" is probably an implicit rejection of the Lutheran view as well. I find the Articles very close to Calvin's position, although I have had Anglo-Catholics argue the point with me.

Quote:
Anglicans today who hold to the Eucharist being the actual Body, Blood and Divinity of Christ, do so in opposition to the 39 Articles.
I'm not sure that "actual" is a clear or helpful term here.

Quote:
That is why Anglo-Catholics and others will reject part or all of the 39 Articles or go through all sorts of word games to make the 39 Articles fit Catholic Theology.
Neither at my confirmation nor at any time since have I been asked to subscribe to the 39 Articles. In fact, when I asked my rector about this very issue during my instruction, he said that IV Lateran trumped the Articles. I recognize that this is not a position universally held by Anglicans, to put it mildly. But there are certainly plenty of Anglicans who do not subscribe to the Articles.

Edwin
  #13  
Old Jan 10, '11, 1:10 pm
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pablope View Post
Could you expound on this further? If you don't mind....
A lot of American Protestantism is shaped by "Scottish commonsense realism." American Protestantism tends to assume that our senses and commonsense intuitions give us accurate and adequate knowledge of truth, and that any appeal to a more mysterious or abstract form of truth than that available to common sense is simply a form of mystification designed to keep ordinary people in thrall to kings and priests. I have recently been reading Mark Noll's America's God, which discusses this at some length and describes how this "commonsense republican" theology failed in the face of the problem of slavery.

When Catholics criticize "sola scriptura," it is this complex of theological assumptions that they are usually talking about. Hence the attempts of more traditional Protestants to explain that they don't necessarily hold to this form of "sola scriptura" (though certainly the 19th-century "common-sense" version was descended from the Reformational version and built on it).

Many of the inconsistencies in the standard American Protestant version of sola scriptura can be explained by commonsense assumptions--like the typical Protestant refusal to accept the "plain sense" of passages talking about the Real Presence or baptismal regeneration, or the glaring fact that sola scriptura is not itself in Scripture!

Edwin
  #14  
Old Jan 10, '11, 1:19 pm
manualman manualman is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

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Originally Posted by Contarini View Post
I wouldn't say that, though I can see why a Catholic might see it that way.
...
Edwin
Well I DID caveat that I wasn't an expert! OK, OK, I mixed up Calvin and Zwingli, but that's not terribly bad considering it was 500 years ago, the two are nearly joined at the hip as far as history is concerned and I have them classified in the "Guys Who Got it Badly Wrong" mental file drawer!

I'll defer to actual experts, naturally.

No comment on my hypothesis for WHY protestantism so widely and so quickly strayed from Traditional Eucharistic doctrine? (the natural consequence of Sola Fide...)
  #15  
Old Jan 10, '11, 1:25 pm
Esdra Esdra is offline
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Default Re: When did Protestants first start disbelieving the Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Quote:
Originally Posted by panther View Post
Hi all. In a study group in my parish, we were discussing the Eucharist and how it has been believed to the be actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ throughout the history of the Catholic Church. Someone asked exactly when Protestants abandoned/reinterpreted that belief after the Reformation, and I actually had no idea.

I realize that there are differing views of the Eucharist/Lord's Supper within the Protestant realm. But I'm wondering if any of you historical scholars can point me toward when a purely "symbolic" interpretation of the Eucharist started to develop, and maybe how it came about.

Thanks so much for your help!
I would say rather early!
Calvin and his companions in Switzerland dismissed the belief of the Real Presence actually right from the beginning as being only symbolic.

But one must say that not all Protestants don't believe in the RP!
Lutherans still do today, as did Martin Luther.
So you could say: the closest Protestant Churches to the CC (and the EO) are: the Lutherans, the Anglicans, the Episcopoleans, the Old Catholic Churches in communion with Utrecht and finally the PNCC.
They all hold belief in the RP.
All others are splitter groups or descents of the Swiss Reformation (Calvinism) and the Reformed Evangelical Church, and thus don't believe in the RP.
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