Monday, November 21, 2011

Luther's really Real Presence v. Thomistic Calvinism

I was shown a brilliant article furthermore ripping apart Aquinas in ways I never knew! For instance the entire Lutheran/Nominalist argument that in the 'hoc enim meum corpus est', Aquinas asserts the 'hoc' as the body of Christ (because he can't say the bread remains), so it amounts to 'my body is my body'. Brilliant. Here's a later quotation from the argument though, that is likewise surprising and fascinating:

"Luther’s understanding of the real presence cannot be
deemed a via media between Roman excess and Reformed understatement.
The medieval theory of transubstantiation is, in fact,
poles removed from any crass overstatement of the real presence.
Rather, transubstantiation, at any rate as expounded by Thomas
Aquinas, represents a watering down and evaporating away of the
real presence, which is conceived more as the presence of the idea
of the body of Christ than as the actual presence of the sacred
body itself. In keeping with the anti-Thomist position of his
nominalist forbears, Luther, as the two quotations at the head of
this section indicate, had a much stronger conception of the real
presence than did Aquinas. “[T]he massive limbs [are] there so
concealed that no one sees or feels them.” “[S]o great a body [is]
in so small a piece of bread.” Such a massively realistic confession
would have been impossible for Thomas Aquinas, whom the late
Hermann Sasse, writing to the Swedish Gnesio-Lutheran Tom
Hardt, dubbed a “Semi-Calvinist” in this connection." - Dr. John Stephenson (here:

(This is my friend Margaret's Dad, who had some hilarious and great conversations with me - he is an incredible historical theologian)


  1. So why do Catholics bow down and worship Christ really present in the Host but Lutherans (from what I have been told) don't?

  2. That's a good question Devin. I'm guessing that Dr. Stephenson would say that Lutherans should follow the proper reverence Roman Catholics show.

    Though likewise, one may see Lutheran congregations where the people kneel (even on the floor) and find Roman Catholic congregations where no one kneels (at least in liberal Canada).

    As such, Christ never ordered such a command, and there was no uniform practice for either action until the invention and widespread use of pews occurred in the 15th & 16th centuries.

    Many East Orthodox stand, and allow their congregations to act themselves in whichever posture they deem most reverent.

  3. Andrew,
    it is good to hear that you have a good friend who can help you grow in the faith. This is a better method than arguing on the internet or just studying. Also, I'm glad to see that I'm no longer getting malware warnings when I visit the blog. I see the posts when they come out via RSS.
    All my best!