Thursday, May 31, 2012

Contexts and Differences in the Aquinas and Chemnitz's approach to Christology

More from the article.

Therefore, recognizing that both theologians have drawn upon the authority of Scripture, the Fathers, and first six ecumenical councils in a similar (though not absolutely identical manner), we will now review their theological differences.  The differences between Aquinas and Chemnitz primarily have to do in how they appropriate the implications of the teachings of Scripture and the Christological councils with regard to the communicatio idiomatum.  As we will see, whereas the Aquinas holds to the western Christological tradition stemming from the Tome of Leo, Chemnitz (largely following Luther) develops a Christology that shares many the structural similarities with the Cyrilian tradition of later Greek patristic theology.[1]  These differences regarding the central dogma of the person of Christ elucidate the conceptual difference between Lutheran and Roman Catholic theology, regarding how the divine-human relationship is understood.
Beginning our investigation with Chemnitz, in De Duabus Naturis our author sets out to systematize a slightly modified version Luther’s Christology and its account of the communication of attributes within the hypostatic union.[2]  The systematization of the distinctions regarding the person of Christ does not represent a merely abstract intellectual exercise, but rather was driven by a desire to clarify the theological truth of Christ and his benefits.  As the Finnish church historian Olli-Pekka Vainio comments: “[f]or Chemnitz, communicatio idiomatum is first and foremost a soteriological concept.”[3]  In other words, the person of Christ is inexorably tied up with the work of Christ.  For that reason, the proclamation of Christ’s benefits necessitates conceptual clarity regarding the structure of the Incarnation.    
Explaining with precision the relationship between two natures was particularly necessary in the polemical situation the sixteenth century.  The specific occasion for Chemnitz's treatment of the communication of attributes was a series of debates that broke out between the Lutheran and Reformed communions regarding Christology and its relationship to the Lord’s Supper.  Zwingli and Calvin’s rejection of the substantial presence of Christ according to his human nature in Lord’s Supper was partially rooted in their distinctive understanding of the hypostatic union.  In accordance with Chalcedon, Reformed theologians correctly asserted that humanity and divinity are unchanged in their essential qualities by the Incarnation.  From this, they drew the implication that because human nature is essentially and immutably circumscribed, Christ's flesh and blood could not become substantially present in the Lord's Supper.  Since Christ is seated at the right hand of God, he could not become present at the church altar, due to his spatial limitations.[4]  These Christological claims had differing implications for various Reformed authors.  For Zwingli it meant that only a symbolic interpretation of the Lord's Supper was allowable.[5]  For Calvin and Bucer a spiritual presence of Christ was considered an acceptable interpretation.[6] 
Within the ranks of the Wittenberg reformation itself, the older Melanchthon and his followers remained more agnostic as to the mode of Christ’s presence.  With regard to the communication of attributes, Melanchthon stated in his writing of the 1550s that the sharing of attributes was merely rhetorical (communicatio dialectica), rather than real and concrete (communicatio realis).[7]  Paralleling this development, by the 1540s and 50s, Melanchthon came to argue that Christians need only trust that the person of the Son is present in the Lord's Supper.  Implicitly, this seemed to suggest that the mode of presence (whether bodily or purely spiritual) was irrelevant.  Many of Melanchthon’s later followers were considerably more explicit in their rejection of bodily presence and thereby earned the name “Crypto-Calvinist.”[8]  
By contrast, Chemnitz and the conservative or “Gnesio” Lutherans sought to reject both schools of Reformation thought by reasserting Luther’s understanding of the communication of attributes and, consequently, the Lord’s Supper.[9]  Therefore, as noted above, inDe Duabus Naturis, Chemnitz sets out to systematize Luther’s scriptural insights regarding the communication of attributes.  To explain his position, Chemnitz divides the biblical statements regarding the communicatio idiomatum into three genera: the genus idiomaticum, the genusapotelesmaticum, and the genus majestaticum.[10]  Below, we will review these genera and contrast them to Aquinas’ less formal and systematic treatment of these topics.

[1] This connection has been well explored by scholarship.  See the following articles: G. L. C. Frank, "A Lutheran Turned Eastward: The Use of the Greek Fathers in the Eucharistic Theology of Martin Chemnitz, "St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 26 (1982): 155-71; James Heiser, "The Use of Irenaeus's  Adversus Haereses in Martin Chemnitz's Loci Theologici," Logia 7 (Epiphany, 1998): 19-31;  Paul Strawn, "Cyril of Alexandria as a Source for Martin Chemnitz" in Die Patristik in der Bibelexegese des 16 Jahrhunderts  (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1999), 205-30;  Francis Watson, "Martin Chemnitz and the Eastern Church: A Christology of the Catholic Consensus of the Fathers," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarferly 38 (1994): 73-86; Robert Kelley, "Tradition and Innovation: The Use of Theodoret's Eranistes in Martin Chemnitz's De Duabus Naturis in Christo," in Perspectives on Christology: Essays in Honor of Paul K. Jewett, ed. Marguerite Shuster and Richard Muller (Grand Rapids: Zondewan, 1991), 105-125.  Many thanks for Francis Beckwith’s help in pointing the author towards these sources (Beckwith, 272).
[2] See a summary of Luther’s Christology in the following sources: Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, trans. Robert Schultz (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966),179-218; Neal Anthony, Cross Narratives: Martin Luther's Christology and the Location of Redemption  (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2010),106-54;  Yves Congar, “Regards et réflexions sur la christologie de Luther,” in Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geshichte und Gegenwart,  3 vols., ed. Aloys Grillmeier and Heinrich Bacht (Wurzburg: Echter Verlag, 1953-1954), 3:457-86;  Paul Hinlicky, Luther and the Beloved Community: A Path for Christian Theology After Christendom (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010), 31-65;  Denis Janz, The Westminster Handbook to Martin Luther (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 19-22;  Sammeli Juntunen, "Christ," in Engaging Luther: A (New) Theological Assessment, ed. Olli-Pekka Vainio (Eugene, Or: Cascade Books, 2011), 59-79;  Robert Kolb, Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 110-7;  Marc Lienhard, Luther: Witness to Jesus Christ: Stages and Themes of the Reformer’s Christology, trans. Edwin H. Robertson (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1982), 153-248;  Bernhard Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development, trans. and ed. Roy A. Harrisville ( Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999), 219-31;  Hermann Sasse, This is My Body: Luther’s Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1959), 148-61; Johan Anselm Steiger, "The Communicatio Idiomatum as the Axle and Motor of Luther's Theology," Lutheran Quarterly 14, no. 2 (2000): 125-58;  Ian D. Kingston Siggins, Martin Luther’s Doctrine of Christ (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), 191-243. 
[3] Okki-Pekka Vainio, Justification and Participation in Christ: The Development of the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification from Luther to the Formula of Concord (1580) (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 136.
[4] Justo González, A History of Christian Thought, 3 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987), 3:84, 3:149-53;  Bengt Hägglund, History of Theology, trans. Gene Lund (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968), 256, 264-5;  Pelikan, 4:158-9;  John Willis, A History of Christian Thought, 3 vols. (Hicksville, Ny and Pamona, Fl: Exposition Press, 1976-1985), 3:31.
[5]Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1988), 144-58;  Roger Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform (Downers Grove, Il: Inter-Varsity Press, 1999), 406-8;  William Placher, A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983), 189-90;  G. R. Potter, Zwingli (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 304-5;  Jean Rilliet, Zwingli: Third Man of the Reformation, trans. Harold Knight (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1959), 228-31;  W. P. Stephens, The Theology of Huldrych Zwingli (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), 218-59; Willis, 3:30-2.
[6]See discussion in B. A. Gerrish, Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 157-90;  Kilian McDonnell, John Calvin, the Church and the Eucharist, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), 223-7, 348-52.  Also see the classical study of the subject in John W. Nevin, The Mystical Presence (Hamden, Conn: Achon Press, 1963). Regarding Bucer, also see discussion in Martin Greschat, Martin Bucer: A Reformer and His Times, trans. Stephen E. Buckwalter (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox, 2004), 70-8.
[7] Charles Arand, Robert Kolb, and James Nestingen, The Lutheran Confessions: History and Theology of the Book of Concord (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012), 236.
[8]Melanchthon’s description of the Lord’s Supper in his second to last edition of Loci communes is conspicuously missing any direct affirmation of the real presence.  See Philipp Melanchthon, Melanchthon on Christian Doctrine: Loci communes 1555, trans. and ed. Clyde L. Manschereck (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), 217-23.  Also see discussion in Clyde Manschreck, Melanchthon: The  Quiet Reformer (New York: Abingdon Press, 1958), 229-48;  James W. Richard,Philip Melanchthon: The Protestant Preceptor of Germany 1497-1560 (New York: Burt Franklin, 1974), 178-180, 242, 361.   Michael Rogness, Melanchthon: Reformer without Honor  (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1969), 131-5.  It should be noted that Rogness is not entirely convinced that Melanchthonactually rejected the real presence.
[9] See discussion in Arand, Kolb, Nestingen 231-6;  F. Bente, Historical Introductions to the Book  of Concord (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1965), 183-4;  Eric Gritsch, A History of Lutheranism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 91-5;  J. A. O. Preus, The Second Martin: The Life and Theology of Martin Chemnitz (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1994), 174-7.
[10] See summary in Preus, The Second Martin266-76.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jack

    Thanks for this post. I just discovered it when looking for references to Chemnitz Christology. I am doing my PhD (Stavanger School of theology, Norway) on the Christology of Jerome Zanchi (1516-90), a reformed theologian. I am not able to see where or if the whole of the above paper has been presented or published anywhere before. Would it be possible to read it?

    Have you seen Joar Hagas diss from 2010, Whas there a Lutheran Metaphysics?. From MF, Norwegian School of theology. I think there is material in there that would interest you. It was also published on V&R recently.


    Stefan Lindholm

    For ease of reference, my email is