Eucharistic controversy

Here is E. Brooks Holifield, commenting on the eucharistic controversy between Charles Hodge and John Williamson Nevin in the mid-nineteenth century:

“The controversy illuminated two distinguishable tendencies in nineteenth century American Reformed theology. While remaining with the Reformed tradition, Nevin demonstrated a willingness to accept categories of continuity that at times approximated the Roman Catholic tradition: continuity between creation and redemption, between the divine and human natures of Christ, between the first Adam and the second, and between the visible Church with its efficacious means of grace and the ideal communion of true saints. Charles Hodge, on the other hand, carried almost to its logical terminus another pattern present within the Reformed tradition: the impulse to accent discontinuity, in various ways, as the prevailing theological category. In the course of their polemics, therefore, Hodge and Nevin not only delineated the contours of two divergent Reformed eucharistic doctrines, but they also displayed two conflicting modes of theological reflection and produced the indices for identifying a spectrum of sacramental positions.” (E. Brooks Holifield, “Mercersburg, Princeton, and the South: The Sacramental Controversy in the Nineteenth Century,” Journal of Presbyterian History 54 [1976], pp. 238–257)

Professor Holifield goes on to explore how, for these nineteenth century disputants, the question of the relationship between sacramental elements and sacramental grace was closely tied to the question (so fiercely debated in the fourth and fifth centuries) of the union of Christ’s divine and human natures, to the issue of the soteriological significance (if any) of Christ’s Incarnation, and to questions regarding a proper definition of the church. Variances in sacramental theology, both Hodge and Nevin understood, are intimately related to variances in Christology, soteriology, and ecclesiology.

Category: Incarnation and Embodiment Comment »

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