The Sacraments

Ward's treatment of the Church as a sacramental community leads us to reflect briefly on the topic of the sacraments as such. These are not mentioned in the Apostles' Creed, and, in the Nicene Creed, it is 'one Baptism for the remission of sins' that alone finds acknowledgement. Baptism is the outward and visible sign of the appropriation of God's justifying and sanctifying work through Christ and the Spirit. What philosophical theology has had to say about this was surveyed and discussed in chapter 6 on salvation. The actual sacrament of baptism has been of more theological than philosophical interest.

Where the Eucharist is concerned, the doctrine of Christ's real presence in the sacrament of the altar is of much more philosophical concern, given the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, with its medieval background and the use, there, of the Aristotelian categories of substance and accident. (The idea was that, at consecration in the Mass, the bread and wine, while retaining their outward phenomenal properties, are in reality — in substance — changed into Christ's body and blood.) This doctrine received remarkable treatment by the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, in what was originally a Catholic Truth Society pamphlet, now reprinted in her Collected Philosophical Papers. Anscombe defends the doctrine that, at consecration, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. In receiving them, believers are united with their crucified and risen Lord and sustained in union and communion with him. Now clearly, as Anscombe herself allows, this sacramental eating and drinking are symbolic. Christians are not cannibals. But it is not a matter of the bread and the wine just symbolizing Christ's crucified and risen life, into which communicants are incorporated. The bread and wine actually become, as a consequence of the words of consecration, following Christ's own stipulation at the Last Supper, the vehicle of his presence and unitive act.

As is well known, Protestant theology rejected the doctrine of transub-stantiation while, at least in its Lutheran and Anglican streams, retaining the idea of Christ's real presence in the Eucharist. Philosophical theologians may well ask whether there is much of a difference here. Let us drop the Aristotelian talk of substance and accident. That, after all, as Anscombe allows, was a distinction in the metaphysics of matter. But talk of substance is not restricted to material substance. In previous chapters we have seen the need to speak of spiritual substance and of divine substance. If the bread and the wine of the Eucharist become the outward and visible signs, and indeed the vehicles, of the inward and spiritual grace of Christ's substantial presence and action, then even the language of transubstantiation might be allowed.

Insightful consideration of the Eucharist may be found in an essay by Nicholas Wolterstorff, who, like Quinn, expresses regret at the relative lack of philosophical reflection on such themes. Wolterstorff, as he himself acknowledges, concentrates on the commemorative dimension of the Christian Eucharist, contrasting it with the rituals ofarchaic religion, as studied by Mircea Eliade.13 In the latter, the participants are taken out of historical time into either the primordial time of origins or an eternal present. In the Eucharist, by contrast, Christians imitate and repeat Christ's actions in historical time and, through their commemoration, it is held, God acts causally here and now. Somewhat frustratingly, Wolterstorff refrains from exploring the modality of God's special action here. He refers to the sacramental dimension, but is curiously diffident about bringing it within the purview of philosophical investigation. Indeed, at one point he writes: 'What exactly God does by way of our liturgical actions and then, more specifically, by way of our imitative/commemorative actions in the Eucharist, belongs to the theologians and not to philosophers.'14 But two pages later, he virtually contradicts himself by saying: 'As to how God acts by way of our participation in the liturgy, that is a rich field waiting for exploration by philosophers.' That the second rather than the first of these quotations from Wolterstorff should be endorsed will surely be agreed by any reader sympathetic to the aims of the present volume.

The theme of special divine action is more than implicit in these treatments of the sacraments. It is explicit in both Anscombe's and Wolterstorff s analyses. But there is only the occasional hint in these authors — and the same is true of Ward on the Church as a sacramental community — of the role of both Church and sacraments in lifting up the creation specifically and consciously to the Creator in worship.

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