Nathaniel Dimock

Along with Daniel Waterland, Nathaniel Dimock is a very important reader of the patristic sources.  He helped combat the fallacious claims of the Oxford movement, and while not downplaying various historical discontinuities throughout the ages, he vindicates the Reformed position on the Eucharist as a thoroughly catholic one.

His On Eucharistic Worship in the English Church is now on googlebooks.

The Uncommon Bread of the Caroline Divines

This is a guest post by Peter Escalante:

At the request of my friend Steven Wedgeworth, I am making this little essay available. It was originally published on the now retired Reformed Catholicism forum, and was composed quickly in order to provide some initial rebuttals of untenable claims made by Mr Steel and Mr Douglas, and to begin a public discussion. Mr Steel withdrew. But even recently, on the Auburn Avenue blog, he claimed that his “evidence” was not addressed. I believe this to be far from the truth; but readers can decide. The basic points of contention have been handled very ably by Pastor Wedgeworth in discussion at the Bucer site. What I might add is that Steel had originally claimed that the use of material metaphors such as “artery” showed that Andrewes had a non-Reformed view of the Eucharist; but I gave passages, in the essay below, to show that Andrewes used exactly the same language of prayer. Steel gave quotes from John Johnson, as representative of Andrewes’ school of thought; I gave a quote to show that Johnson was a typical epikletic virtualist, as most of the Nonjurors were; this Eucharistic theology is well known to be a direct development of Calvin’s teaching (much to the distress of Eastern Orthodox examining possible points of agreement between themselves and the English tradition). I concluded with something of a rhetorical trick, using a quote from Andrewes which mocks and abhors as unholy the natural liturgical consequences of Roman doctrine: and that means the substance of the doctrine, not simply a speculative exposition of its metaphysics (transubstantiation). I also gave quotes from Andrewes showing that Andrewes held that the body of Christ is in heaven and not here, and even one place where explicitly distinguishes English church doctrine from that of Rome on this point; this of course is the extra Calvinisticum, a term which makes more sense relative to Lutheran theology, but can serve to indicate the consensus Calvinist teaching on this point. Mr Steel chose not to continue his part in the discussion; and I think it fair to say that I consider myself the one whose evidence- and this essay was just meant to be the beginning of a discussion- was not answered.

Why does any of this matter? Sacramental theology is important, for involved in it are some of the chief principles of the relation between God and man. Unreformed theologies of the Eucharist are bound up with deformed doctrines of the church, which make religious fetishes of the sacred symbols, and thereby subject the people of God to the control of the class thought to have the spiritual mark enabling them to create and dispose these reified means of alienated “grace”.

What also matters is the memory of the old English church. My initial debate with Steel began when he criticized the work of the eminent liturgical historian Dr Bryan Spinks, which I had earlier in that conversation recommended, as biased toward a Reformed reading of the Carolines. Dr Spinks’ excellent work speaks for itself; but I would point out here that Dr Spinks is known and respected for his work on early Syrian liturgy, so it is certainly not as though his intellectual horizons are narrowly 16th century. The early English church, despite all the misconstruals of it by Anglo-Catholics, was Protestant and Reformed. The history of the 19th Anglo-Catholic attempt to deny this is a painful one for those who prize integrity of inquiry. The work of Peter Nockles and the more recent, and excellent, work of Jean-Louis Quantin, have shown how wrongheaded that 19th century orgy of wishful thinking really was. But this was proved back in the 19th c itself by Nathaniel Dimock, regarding sacramental theology, and regarding ecclesiology, by the American Bishop Charles McIlwaine, in his Roman, Oxford, and Anglican Divinity Compared.

The English Church of Elizabeth, James, and Charles is, in some ways, a model of importance for own time. Reformed churches, their common mind constricted by familiarity only with Scots and English Presbyterianism, miss the riches of Reformed thought available in Richard Hooker, or Richard Field, or Lancelot Andrewes (just as they miss the riches available in the thought of German and French Reformed). Anglo-Catholic attempts to prove that the established church was somehow not really Protestant are attempts to deprive modern Protestants of useful heritage. Upon closer examination, many of the things which look less like the Protestantism Americans are used to, can clearly be seen as consistently evangelical appropriations of catholic- and by catholic I mean catholic, which excludes the distinctives of the unreformed- tradition. And too, part of the problem is a narrowly insular focus: just as the Episcopalian settlement of England is seen as less unique when compared to its Swedish parallel (or the teaching of the German Protestant Joachim Stephani), so too Andrewes’ Eucharistic doctrine, for example, looks less unique when compared to that of David Pareus (and other reformers ; the work of Nick Thompson is very helpful here).

At issue in the Andrewes debate particularly is the matter of the ancient church. Those who would read Andrewes as unreformed make much of his “patristic” and “Eastern” inclinations; but although, as Jean-Louis Quantin has shown, the 17th century royalist divines did make much of patristics in the service of forging a distinctly national-confession identity, this does not necessarily imply a departure from Reformed distinctives (Quantin is an excellent remedy to the sort of thing one finds in works such as Canon Middleton’s on the English interest in the old Fathers). As one of the quotes from Bishop Joseph Hall in the essay below shows, the English could easily read the Fathers as basically consonant with Reformed Eucharistic doctrine; and the 18th c Waterland, a great patristics man, engaged in close and extensive patristic exposition, and yet his doctrine on this point is entirely Reformed.

I have removed a single sentence from the beginning of the essay as irrelevant, and ask the reader to remember that it was written quickly as an informal contribution to the beginning of a discussion. Continue reading

The Lord’s Supper: A Thought Experiment



Now, which of these, if set alongside the portrayals of the Lord’s Supper in the gospel accounts, could reasonably “fit in”?

Which looks like we’ve left the context entirely, doing a fundamentally different rite?

Now, this doesn’t do all of the work we need for understanding how our Eucharists ought to look today, but it is a start.

Walter Lowrie on Early Church Bishops

In Walter Lowrie’s “interpretation” of Rudolph Sohm, a very convincing case is made that the “bishop” in the early church was a local church, a congregational, minister whose primary job was to preside over the Eucharist, which was a communal feast.  He writes:

Both Gentile and Jewish usage required a president at the feast, and this was particularly the case with regard to Passover, from which the Eucharistic feast was derived.  In the Eucharist there were two functions especially that fell to the part of the president: namely, the breaking of the bread, and the thanksgiving prayer.

~The Church and Its Organization in Primitive and Catholic Times, p 268

He adds that this bishop was selected on the basis of a personal leadership charismata.  The office was necessary for order, and there was naturally a leader who best fulfilled the office.  In the absence of such a person, however, a layman could step up and fulfill the role.  Lowrie quotes Tertullian, saying:

Are not also we laity priests?  …When there are no clergy thou makest the offering and baptizest and art priest for thyself alone.  When three are present, there is the Church, although they be laymen.

~De exhort. cast. c. 7.

To dismiss ideas that this is simply an aspect of Tertullian’s sectarianism, Lowrie adds:

Tertullian does not contend for this principle, he merely assumes it as a premise for his argument: therein lies the proof that it was not an individual opinion of his own, nor a distinctive tenet of Montanism, but a commonly accepted position, a primitive tradition which had not yet been successfully impugned.

~Lowrie, p 269

Lowrie gives extensive treatment to Ignatius, showing that this view of the bishop, that of congregational Eucharistic president, is precisely what is meant and that this is something qualitatively different from the later metropolitan system of bishops as heads of a larger jurisdiction.  Lowrie writes:

We have seen, however, that the single bishop and the whole organization of which he was the head is explained by the nature of the Eucharistic assembly… For Ignatius, the single bishop is the correlative of a single Eucharistic assembly, and he avails himself of the unity of organization which actually existed to press the plea for unity of worship.  This is his great remedy for schism.  He urges this point in all his epistles– except in that to the Romans.  In Ephs. c. 20 he says: “Assemble yourselves together in common, … to the end that ye may obey the bishop and the presbytery without distraction of mind; breaking one bread,” etc. Ib. c. 5: “If any one be not within the precinct of the altar, he lacketh the bread of God.  For if the prayer of one and another hath so great force, how much more that of the bishop and of the whole Church…

…Let that be held a valid Eucharist which is under the bishop or one to whom he shall have committed it.  Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be; even as wherever Jesus is, there is the catholic Church.  It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize or to hold an agape.

~ p 295

That last quote of Ignatius presses the point home: the bishop was a congregational minister.  The activities of the church were to be done in his presence, just as the Church acts in the presence of Jesus, because the bishop was regularly present at the local church.  He was to be there for every baptism or agape, except in those cases when he appoints a representative.

When the episcopacy shifted to a metropolitan administrative office, the exception became the norm, and the bishop had to appoint permanent “representatives.”  But in so doing, the presbyters effectively became Ignatian bishops, though without the name and, in a fateful shift in doctrine, without the authority.

Clement of Alexandria and the “Twofold Blood” of the Eucharist

Daniel Waterland, in his A Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist, notes Clement of Alexandria’s advocation of a “spiritual presence” in the Lord’s Supper.  Clement writes:

And the blood of the Lord is twofold. For there is the blood of His flesh, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and the spiritual, that by which we are anointed. And to drink the blood of Jesus, is to become partaker of the Lord’s immortality; the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of flesh…

And the mixture of both—of the water and of the Word—is called Eucharist, renowned and glorious grace; and they who by faith partake of it are sanctified both in body and soul. For the divine mixture, man, the Father’s will has mystically compounded by the Spirit and the Word. For, in truth, the spirit is joined to the soul, which is inspired by it; and the flesh, by reason of which the Word became flesh, to the Word.

~ Paedogogus II.2

Eucharistic Words of Jesus

This is a post from an older blog, but I thought it deserved to be made more accessible here.  Some of my juvenile antics are present in this one, but oh well…

Joachim Jeremias, in his The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, has done us all a great favor by rigorously examining the various phrases recorded in the Last Supper passages. He also has a special section on Paul’s retelling of the Last Supper in 1 Cor. 11.

He notes that scholarship has produced very little contextual explanation for the use of the Greek phrase eis mnemen (in remembrance). This has lead some to suppose that Paul is either inventing the phrase’s occurence at the Last Supper or is drawing from an independent source that the gospel writers did not have. Many have simply rejected that the phrase comes from Jesus. The scholars cannot find this phrase in Hellenistic literature in any setting that helps to explain Paul’s usage.

Jeremias though tries another option. He looks to the Old Testament. It is frankly amazing just how opposed to the Old Testament modern biblical scholarship was/is. Whereas from a literary standpoint it would seem the obvious place to start, Bible scholars almost always leave it as a last option. Thankfully Jeremias gets it right.

He whips out his Septuagint (always a good thing to use), and voila! There are all sorts of great mnemoi! Jeremias finds that the cereal offering of Lev. 2.2 is a memorial. The frankincense with the shewbread (Lev. 24.7) is a memorial. The trumpet-blasts (Num. 10.10), the stones in Aaron’s breastplate (Ex. 28.12,29;39.7), and even prayers are memorials (Acts 10.4 New Testament! wow!).

Jeremias writes, “The reader who will take the trouble to check the references to Old Testament and Jewish remembrance formulae gathered together on pp. 244-246 from the viewpoint as to whether they are concerned with human or divine remembrance will see at once that for the most part they speak of God’s remembrance” (pg. 248).

Jeremias concludes that another important aspect of “memorial” is that it is something brought before God. Like prayers, offerings, and sacrifices, memorials are brought before God with the intention “to induce God to act” (pg. 249).

Building off 1 Cor. 11.26, Jeremias also notes that there is an eschatological aspect to memorializing the Lord’s death. He writes, “Consequently the command for repetition may be understood as: ‘This do, that God may remember me’: God remembers the Messiah in that he causes the kingdom to break in by the parousia” (pg. 252).

This makes good sense if we consider that John’s Revelation is a book about Lord’s Day worship and also that when we have the Lord’s Supper, Jesus comes to judge and recreate. The Eucharist is a memorial that we bring before God with the intention that He will remember Jesus Christ’s work. We ask that He will remember its past accomplishment and its future promise. Come Lord Jesus. And He does.

Bishop Bedell and Paedocommunion

William Bedell was an Irish Bishop and a contemporary of James Ussher and Samuel Ward. He took issue with Ward’s position that baptism removed original sin in all baptized infants. Joel Garver has reproduced Ward’s letter to Ussher on this topic here. Bedell seems to limit infant baptism’s immediate effect to obsignation, and he and Ward have a spirited exchange which can be found in Ussher’s Whole Works vol. XV.

I currently favor Ward on the question of baptism, but in his rebuttal to Ward, Bedell espouses some interesting views on paedocommunion. Bedell writes:

Thirdly, you say, ‘What necessity of baptizing infants, if their baptism produce no effect till they come to years of discretion?’ Though the most principal effect be not attained presently, the less principal are not to be refused. So children were circumcised, which could not understand the reason of it; and the same also did eat the Passover. And so did also children baptized in the primitive Church communicate in the Lord’s Supper. Which I know not why it should not be so still, de quo alias.

A little later Bedell also states:

Lastly, by this doctrine you must also maintain that children do spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood, if they receive the Eucharist, as for divers ages they did, and by the analogy of the Passover they may, perhaps ought…

Now it must be confessed that these are sparse and passing remarks. Bedell is chiefly employing them to persuade Ward against his view of baptism. However, it must be pointed out that Bedell goes beyond a mere hypothetical negative and uses the terms “should” and “ought.” He also frankly admits the authority of Augustine and the ancient church in regards to child-participation in the Supper. Finally, he uses the analogy of passover, which he thinks is consistent with all paedobaptists’ use of the similitude between circumcision and baptism.

John Jewel on the Fathers Against Transubstantiation

Much like Bishop Ridley, Bishop Jewel includes a quick run through the Church Fathers to show that it was not possible for transubstantiation to have been the ancient doctrine.  Though the quotations are short, Jewel believes he’s providing the essential core by which the rest of their writings should be understood.  Jewel writes:

For what an be said more plainly than that which Ambrose saith, “Bread and wine remain still the same they were before, and yet are changed into another thing”?  or that which Gelasius saith, “The substance of the bread or the nature of the wine, ceaseth not so to be”? or that which Theodoret saith, “After the consecration the mystical signs do not cast off their own proper nature; for they remain still in their former substance, form, and kind”? or that which Augustine saith, “That which ye see is the bread and cup, and so our eyes tell us; but that which your faith requireth to be taught is this: The bread is the body of Christ, and the cup is his blood”? or that which Origen saith, “Bread which is sanctified by the word of God, as touching the material substance thereof, goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the privy”? or that which Christ himself said, not only after the blessing of the cup, but after he had ministered the Communion: “I will drink no more of this fruit of the vine”?  It is well known that the fruit of the vine is wine, and not blood.

~ An Apologie of the Church of England part 2, in The Library of Christian Classics Vol. 26 pg. 28-29

Eucharist as Absolution

Commenting on Mark 14:24, Calvin writes:

Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke–Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood. Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated.

Now that’s a pastoral application! The sacraments are gospel. Each of us, in particular, are called to believe that our sins have been expiated, and the Eucharist is a promise that this is true.

This all works because of Calvin’s definition of faith. For him, it includes assurance. You are sure that Christ paid for your sins. The gospel is objective. It is what you place your faith in.

In other words, it isn’t that your faith is sure in itself, that you yourself have already been regenerated or that you have “true faith”, but rather you are sure that the message is true, and that being sure just is faith.

Now Pastors, go preach this. Go show this.

Nicholas Ridley and the Fathers Against Transubstantiation

In his fine Brief Declaration, Bishop Ridley begins citing the church fathers for support that the doctrine did not exist in the early church. He begins with Origen, and moves on to Chrysostom, Theodoret, Tertullian, Augustine, and Gelasius. He also briefly mentions Hilary, Ambrose, Basil, and Nazianzen.

He quotes Chrysostom’s 11 homily on Matthew where he says, “If it be a fault (saith he) to translate the holy vessels (in the which is contained not the true body of Christ, but the mystery of the body) to private uses; how much more offence is it to abuse and defile the vessels of our body?” (pg. 32-33).

Notice that the “true body” is not the same as the “mystery of the body.”

Ridley also quotes Chrysostom’s ad Caearium monachum, in which he states, “Before the bread be hallowed, we call it bread: but, the grace of God sanctifying it by the means of the priest, it is delivered now from the name of bread and esteemed worthy to be called Christ’s body, although the nature of the bread tarry in it still” (34) Continue reading