Warning: this is going to be a short post. After 500 pages of Christian theology (and hit-or-miss philosophy), I kind of hit my limit with “absurd theological beliefs that have perfectly satisfactory metaphorical or symbolic explanations but instead of talking about what richness lies therein we are going to twist ourselves in logical knots trying to make it metaphysically coherent because #tradition.” Perhaps it’s unfortunate that Alexander R. Pruss’s chapter came at the end of the exploration of Christian theology-explained-philosophically. Perhaps this is just a doctrine I don’t think merits much attention. Either way, however, I. Am. Over. It.
BUT in the interest of fairness, the basics! “The Eucharist: Real Presence and Real Absence” was written by Dr. Alexander R. Pruss, Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University. His writings has focused on the philosophies of David Lewis and Soren Kierkegaard, as well as metaphysics regarding religion, the existence of God, and apparently some mathematical things. His blog is a collection of pretty fascinating thoughts. Definitely worth checking out and spending some time in, even if you, like me, have a short fuse for defending real presence in the Eucharist.
The “problem” of the Eucharist is this: how can Jesus be the bread and wine in communion (how can we be consuming his literal body and his literal blood) if the elements of communion still seem to be bread and wine, if there is communion going on all over the world, and if Jesus’s body (and self?) is (presumably) wholly located in heaven? How can Jesus be wholly or partially located in more than one place?
Pruss lays out several ways of defending the “real presence” doctrine, which includes concepts like presence relation, accidents unattached to a/their substance, curved space (STAAAAAAHP TWISTING PHYSICS TO EXPLAIN THEOLOGY), time travel (sigh), non-robust bilocation, endurantism, perdurantism… the list goes on. While Pruss seems to want to keep open the possibility of Christ being “really” present in the elements of communion rather than arguing for real presence as the “best” explanation, all I have to say is:
Why the heck can’t we just accept that communion is symbolic?!
When Jesus hands out communion to the disciples and says “This is my body…” why can’t that just be seen as Christ speaking metaphorically?? I just… I don’t understand how the metaphorical explanation is not the best, most logical explanation, considering all the intellectual knots we need to tie ourselves in to make a doctrine of real presence viable. (Aka, based on how incoherent it is to explain someone or something being wholly located in more than one place, and how many claims to “miracle” and “theoretically possible” we need when defending real presence.)
See? Told you this was going to be a short post.
For it may be that the causal interconnections between the multilocated parts of Christ’s body depend only on the spatial interconnections that the parts have as found in heaven, and not as found in the Eucharist.Pruss 530