Friday, February 25, 2011

Rev. Brent Peterson PhD on "Worship & The Sacraments"

Here's part one of the video I shot of Brent's M11 session (which actually picks up about half way through the formal part of his presentation - I was about 20 min. late due to a lunch meeting).

Any comments on this, other than unbridled support and agreement?!  Let's discuss.  There's already been some lively discussion over at NazNet.

As soon as it's finished uploading, I will post the Q & A, which is where he made some of his most provocative points (perhaps not too provocative to those who frequent this blog, but to some they would be).


kalevhinrich said...

Luckily, I was able to attend Brent’s seminar in person, and I found it quite refreshing in many ways. I did want to, for the sake of brevity (and of conversation), push back on a couple of things he said in his presentation.

First, and on a relatively insignificant note, I don’t think Nazarenes have “unknowingly” been more Zwinglian in their Eucharistic theology. I think this has been intentional from the beginning. Rob Staples, if I remember rightly, makes the argument that our Eucharistic theology came about with a co-mingling of Anabaptist/congregationalist and Methodist traditions during the American Holiness Movement, and he continues his argument stating that the Anabaptists unfortunately won out in this regard. My point is this: I find Article XIII was not written out of ignorance (unknowing-ness); rather, it was intentional.

Second, his main emphasis was to move us back to a Wesleyan understanding of the Eucharist, and I just don’t think Wesley can really help us in this regard. Wesley does not hold to a Catholic understanding of the Eucharist (as Brent implies) nor even a Lutheran understanding of the Eucharist. Both of these stress unconditional substantive presence. Wesley (as does Brent) tends to follow Calvin’s notion of spiritual or ‘real’ presence. This is perhaps most evident in Brent’s emphasis on the epiclesis which, he states, draws us into the presence of Christ as well as makes Christ present to us. I find this very reminiscent of Calvin’s understanding of the Eucharist as the means of raising us up into heaven to participate (partake) with/of Christ. This is very different than the divine kenotic descent more evident in, say, Roman Catholic notions of Transubstantiation. Regardless, the majority of contemporary Nazarene scholarship concedes the virtual synonymity between Wesley and Calvin’s Eucharistic theology here: Dunning, Staples, and even J. Kenneth Grider.

Because of the recent Nazarene move back to Wesley, it seems Nazarenes have tried to rehabilitate Calvin’s Eucharistic theology in the process. Nate Kerr perhaps comes the closest with his essay, “Corpus Verum: On the Ecclesial Recovery of Real Presence in John Calvin’s Doctrine of the Eucharist,” but I just don’t think “Real Presence” (e.g., Wesley, Calvin) can be rehabilitated. It isn’t enough for me. If Nazarenes can use John Wesley to critique/correct the early Nazarene theologians in this regard, why can’t we use Thomas Aquinas to critique/correct John Wesley?

Eric + said...

I think the beauty of Wesley's/Anglicanism Real Presence is that it acknowledges the presence of Christ without pinning down the mystery. If anything, I think Wesley offers a corrective to both Tran. and Consub. by focusing us on the importance of Eucharist without bogging down in the unnecessary banter about how.

Brannon Hancock said...

Kalevinrich: thanks for this very helpful and insightful comment / critique. While I think you're ultimately right (re: Wesley and Calvin, and re: the possibility that we'd use Aquinas to correct Wesley), I would also echo Eric's statement, which I subscribe to totally: the doctrine of Real Presence in (much) Anglican theology leaves us with a great mystery, and (hopefully) doesn't mind leaving us to dwell within that mystery. In this sense, we move "east" a bit in our thought - remember, the Eastern Fathers, and the Eastern Church to this day, would use the language of "mysterion" (greek) rather than "sacramentum" (latin) to describe the Eucharist - the "sacred mysteries" don't require philosophical parsing and explanation...which, while I marvel at his amazing thinking and writing, is a place where Aquinas is a product of his day, and subjugates theological mystery to the strictures and structures of the legitimizing philosophical categories that ruled the intellectual landscape of his day. I like the "return to mystery" and prefer it to any of the "substantiation" categories that western thinkers have tried to impose upon something that we will never explain or fully understand.

Brannon Hancock said...

And Eric: this commitment to mystery is why, in part, I struggle with the imposition of such a strict sense of authority on the sacraments - I'm alluding to the discussion on NazNet here - I want to be with you, because I want us to have a more sacramental view of holy orders, and I want us to get straight on the historical basis for deacons and elders and correct our misunderstandings there as well - and while I may not take it as far as the protestant "priesthood of all believers" advocates who seem to think anybody can perform the sacraments without any training, accountability, authority, etc, I also think we have to work within our church as it is, not as it should be - and however historically, ecclesially, or theologically contentious it may be, we do regard assigned, district licensed ministers as charged with the authority to preach and administer the sacraments.

Yes, we have our categories backwards (deacon and elder) and have denigrated the importance of administration of the sacraments while elevating the role of preaching in a way that I believe is unhealthy - and yet, if we want to push toward more frequent and more "liturgically-correct" celebration of the sacraments (e.g. consecration of elements, etc), I believe we should work within our credentialing processes to train and then charge DLMs to rightly administer the sacraments, since many of our churches are pastored by DLMs. Personally, I struggle more with ordained elders administering the sacraments POORLY (i.e. because they haven't been trained and taught how to do so and WHY IT MATTERS) than I do with DLMs who have been instructed well (which of course we cannot guarantee) administering the sacraments without having completed the entire ordination process.

What should happen in MY context, for example? Maybe this should be the topic of my next post, but I go ahead and throw out a teaser: we're in an interim period between pastors - our asst. DS (who is ordained of course) is our interim; our executive pastor is a deacon; ordained elders on our staff include one of our children's pastors, our part time outreach pastor, and the campus pastor for our satellite campus; our youth pastor, elementary pastor and youth pastor are all DLMs. By a long shot, I have the most education and the most experience with sacramental theology and liturgical practice of anyone on our staff; I have been the one to push for weekly communion. So should I refrain from consecrating the elements because I won't be ordained until this summer?

I suspect from your comments on NazNet you would say "yes"; and I believe Brent would say "yes." And that's okay; it doesn't hurt my feelings; but the truth is, I'd rather do it myself, and pray a proper epiclesis over them, than leave it to someone else to do (perhaps poorly) OR NOT DO (at all)...I assure you I value ordination GREATLY, and do not want to denigrate it whatsoever - and I have wrestled with this question - I don't even like to use the title "Rev." as a DLM just seems premature to me. But I also feel like I have the same level of authority and accountability - and in some ways MORE accountability than many (most?) ordained elders because I am in the course of study, I TEACH in the course of study, and I have to interview with the board of ministry every year to renew my DL - than anyone else on our staff, and I feel better equipped than the rest of them (with all due respect to them!) to faithfully preside over the sacraments.

So...what's a sacramental Nazarene to do...?

(I would say this, too: with our asst. DS being on-site as our interim pastor - while HE could certainly fulfill the responsibility of the eucharistic president - odd as it may seem, I feel even more "authorized" to administer the sacraments under his charge and authority than I might otherwise...)

Caleb Henry said...
This post has been removed by the author.
kalevhinrich said...

continued . . .

Fourth, and this is tangential, but it is important to note that notions of real presence did not originate until the 16th Century, and before the various Reformations all orthodox Christians (East and West) held to notions of the physical/substantive presence. Once again, the crux of the debate is not between transubstantiation and everything else, but between Christ’s physical presence in the Eucharist and his non-physical presence in the Eucharist. To find Calvin’s/Wesley’s understanding of the Eucharist as a good corrective to Catholic thought is certainly a valid argument (and many have made it) as long as one understands that a denial of the physical-ness of Christ in the Eucharist (or to equivocate on the issue as if his physical presence doesn’t really matter in the sacrament’s efficacy) is to go against 1500 years of Christian teaching. I don’t see Wesley moving back to a more Patristic, Eastern, or ‘basic’ understanding of the Eucharist; rather, he seems to simply moving back to the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, particularly Calvin.

I have my own qualms about Eucharistic theologies of the spiritual/real presence, but I might save them for another day - haha. I’m long-winded enough as it is.

kalevhinrich said...

I just noticed that my first half of my response didn't make it and was ate up by the computer. Here's roughly about what I said. I'm typing fast so I won't be late for Church:

Thanks for responding, guys. I'm going to push back with just a few comments, but I would like to say that it is a genuine blessing to even have this discussion. I’m thankful for the ‘safe space’ here at Sacramental Nazarenes . . . but to my push-backs.

First, though Wesley and Calvin might think they are emphasizing the importance of the Eucharist without bogging it down in "the unnecessary banter about how," this would do little to assuage their Catholic audience's reasoning that if the elements do not become the physical/substantial body and blood of Christ, then the Eucharist is simply not important (inefficacious).

Second, Catholics would not argue that transubstantiation is less mysterious than other Eucharistic theologies, and I would agree. The Incarnation is also a mystery, but one must still maintain that the Son was begotten and took on flesh. The physical-ness and substance-ness of Christ’s presence does not negate the mystery. Again, the Eucharist was, and still is, referred to as the "corpus mysticum." The real question, I think, revolves around if Christ is or is not physically present in the Eucharist. Calvin, Wesley, the Methodist Church (via their Catechism online), and the majority of Protestants give a hearty ‘no’. The Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, and many Anglicans give a hearty ‘yes’. One position is not more mysterious than the other: Both are making claims on the Eucharist.

Third, and intricately tied with my second comment, since Vatican II the Catholic Church does not mandate that one adheres to the metaphysical theory of transubstantiation (which is admittedly built off an Aristotelean metaphysic), only that one confesses a physical, substantive presence of Christ in the elements. This is virtually synonymous with the Eastern position which does not endorse transubstantiation (but does not prohibit it either). This is important because notions of the real/spiritual presence (Calvin/Wesley) do not move us closer to the Eastern position. The Eastern position (just as the West) is adamant that the elements turn into the physical/substantive body of Christ. Calvin and Wesley would be just as alienated from the East as they are from the West.

Eric + said...

@ Brannon.

1) I would say "yes" -- but in the church as it is, I pastored as a DLM and consecrated as a DLM. It is quite the tension for me, believing DLM's should not be senior pastors and should not consecrate the elements, yet I was a senior pastor who consecrated the elements as a DLM... what a hypocrite I am!

2) I am not sure the issue with consecration and ordination is one of education and/or training. Yes you have more education and training by far. But the issue is grace - grace that is imparted at ordination (not at DLM reception). Now don't try to pin me down on that too harshly ;)

3) This is precisely why I value official/standardized liturgy. Even the most "untrained" can read the eucharistic liturgy, and we don't have to worry about if it will be done right or not.

4) BTW. What I believe in theory is always moderated in practice. After all, as you pointed out, we have to live in the church we are in. I sent a PM to Ben in that thread that went something like this:

I believe baptism is the ordinary means of salvation; but I understand that God can/does work extraordinarily to bring some to salvation. I believe that the sacraments are the ordinary means of grace; but I understand God can/does convey his grace to us in many extraordinary ways. I believe no unordained person should be a senior pastor or consecrate the elements; but I understand that as in the other cases, God can/does operate in the world of the extraordinary. So when I talk about "baptism is God's plan for salvation" or "the sacraments are the means of grace" or "ordination should be required before one pastors a congregation or consecrates the elements" I sound very closed, but am really open exceptions as long as we admit to the rule... make sense?