Brian Douglas: Paul Zahl’s Eucharistic Theology

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Paul] Zahl however does concede that “the presence of Christ’s absence is found within the works of love” (Zahl, 2000: 37). He describes this as:

“an unseen presence within the historic absence that is in fact more tangible and more universal than of the symbolic or objective substitutes we have criticized as being insufficient, unworthy, and autonomous in relation to God’s will. There is only one ‘form’ of the unseen presence of his absence that persists in every age and time. The form of his absent presence is the form of love” (Zahl, 2000: 37).

It seems that this ‘form of his absent presence’ as love is not seen as objectifying human activity since its source is God rather than the actions of people. Love, as Zahl portrays it, comes from God as grace which forms the human person to resemble Christ’s love. For Zahl this is a work of grace and not works. He says that: “the works of love derive from prior grace. The works of love since A.D. 29 are pressed and stamped with the image of Christ’s life from 4 B.C. to A.D 29.” (Zahl, 2000: 39). It is these works of love that Zahl sees as the presence of Christ in the world.

Zahl’s work is useful that it helps to establish that there is both a Protestant and a Catholic face of Anglicanism. It is less useful though in the way Zahl seeks to analyse these faces. His dependence on party position and overly simplistic treatments of persons and the philosophical underpinnings of their work limits the usefulness of his contribution. Zahl’s work however, does serve to illustrate a trend among some Anglican Evangelicals, that is, to dismiss any notion of realism, through the sacramental principle or sacramental mediation of grace, and to type-cast and exclude any moderate realist notions in connection with the Eucharist as by definition immoderate in nature.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologySacramental TheologyEucharist

Posted August 28, 2007 at 6:44 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

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1. Kendall Harmon wrote:

This thread went way off track, due mainly to the initial comment which made unduly personal criticisms of the author.  The thread then somehow turned into a pro and con debate on the author himself.

Somehow I think these reactions say more about the community in which they are made—ie that of Anglican reasserters—than anything else.

I have decided to void the whole thread.  I regret that this means that the few messages actually responding to the subject of the article has to go to, but I believe it is for the best—KSH

August 28, 9:09 pm | [comment link]
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