Monday, January 10, 2011

Jenson on the Implications of Leoine Christology.

In the UnBaptized God, Robert Jenson makes an interesting observation.  He points out that the Reformed and Roman Catholics basically agree about Christology, with the exception that the "miracle" of the Mass allows Christ to be in more than one place.  Otherwise, Reformed and Catholic more or less agree that Christ is confined to heaven because of a lack of communication between the two natures (just how that is conceptualized is often unclear in their theological works).

This gives the Reformed and Catholics their ecclesiology and sacramental theology.  If Jesus is gone in heaven, then you need a Pope to be Jesus while he's gone (Aquinas says that the Pope literally occupies Christ's office while he is in heaven).  Also, you need a Priest with a special character to make the miracle of the mass happen- that is, to call him down from heaven.  Once you go Reformed though, Jenson observes, you get the rid of the Priesthood and the Papacy.  How is Jesus supposed to come down?  Answer: He doesn't.

For Lutherans things are different though.  Jesus is present in, under, and with the Word.  He is so because possessing the fullness of divine glory he is ruling as God and Man at all places at all times. Since his present, he can rule his Church through the power of his proclaimed Word (no need for the Pope).  In the same manner, he is present in the words of promise in the Lord's Supper.  


  1. Where would Eastern Orthodox Chritology fit into this? Does their Cristology cohere with there sacramental theology? I have heard that modern Orthodoxy follows Rome on Transubstantiation do they share the same Christology?

  2. Greg- I would say that modern EO people do follow Rome on transubstantiation. The conceptuality is something they took over from Rome at the Council of Florence in the 1400s (much of them now also buy into purgatory and the sacrifice of the mass, which they didn't before then either). Nonetheless, before that, John of Damascus does talk about a "transmutation" of the elements, so it seems to be in keeping with their earlier teaching.

    I think for the EO people, you have a position basically the same as early Chemnitz with the "multivolipresence." They, like us, conceptually buy into the all the genera (though they of course don't use the terminology), but they don't buy into the absolute omnipresence of Christ's human nature.

    I guess the point I would make is that the conceptualization of the conversion of elements is incidental. Luther said at one point also that if people wanted to believe in transubstantiation that was no big deal, just as long as you said the presence was there. It is, nevertheless, not the best way of conceptualizing it.

    The point I would make about the EO would be that they seem to want to limit the presence of Christ in the Church (to the Eucharist) and so Christ still needs a mediator in his absence. So they do have something of a concept of alternative mediation through the universal consensus of the Bishops, who when they gather are infallible. This parallels Catholic teaching minus the Pope.

  3. I enjoyed your LOGIA article that recently touched on this topic. Thanks for the refreshing perspective.