As a Lutheran, I have often been told that we ought not believe in Transubstantiation, the Roman Catholic doctrine that the bread and wine actually becomes the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We ought rather, it’s told, to hold to what is called ‘sacramental union.’
Now, the reason for that, we are often told, is that we ought not use unbiblical terms like ‘substance’ and ‘accident,’ since they are not from Scripture, and since they rely upon Aristotelian philosophy. The word ‘philosophising’ is often thrown around, together with claims that the categories of ‘substance’ and ‘accident’ aren’t helpful and that we should embrace ‘mystery.’ But the same arguments are completely forgotten the second we come to the Nicene Creed. Why are none of these people saying that the category of homousios is ‘unhelpful’? Why is it all of a sudden OK to use philosophy when a Nicean Father does it? And why is the category of substance all of a sudden ‘helpful’ (since they acknowledge that Christ is of ‘one substance with the Father’)?
Is it just a case of ‘Platonism good, Aristotelianism bad’? Why is it that using philosophy is wrong, in principle, when it comes to the Scholastics and the Eucharist, while it is of utmost importance when it comes to Church Fathers and Christology?
It seems to me to be a dishonest way of arguing when the real reason is that one disagrees with a doctrine or idea.
But today I found something interesting, while reading in the Book of Concord. There I stumbled upon this section, from the Epitome of the Formula of Concord (part I:13), in reference to the doctrine of Original Sin:
But as to the Latin terms substantia and accidens, because they are not words of Holy Scripture, and besides unknown to the ordinary man, they should not be used in sermons before ordinary, uninstructed people, but simple people should be spared them.
But in the schools, among the learned, these words are rightly retained in disputations concerning original sin, because they are well known and used without any misunderstanding, to distinguish exactly between the essence of a thing and what attaches to it in an accidental way.
For the distinction between God’s work and that of the devil is thereby designated in the clearest way, because the devil can create no substance, but can only, in an accidental way, by the providence of God [God permitting], corrupt the substance created by God.
Now, why is it OK to use the categories of ‘substance’ and ‘accident’ with reference to Original Sin, and not with reference to the Eucharist? Is the Eucharist off bound when it comes to philosophical speculation and terminology, while God and Original Sin is fair game?
And even if many Lutherans do not use the name, is there really any difference between Luther’s ‘sacramental union’, and the later consubstantiation? If the categories of ‘substance’ and ‘accident’ are OK to use (as they are, according to the Epitome of the Formula of Concord), what makes it wrong for a Lutheran to believe in Transubstantiation?
Transubstantiation has been part of the Western Church since the 13th century. Is it just the classic fear of the Scholastic movement, coupled with the irrational far of anything medieval?