Theological “n-words” don’t bother me anymore

One quick way of dismissing classical Protestantism is just to label it as “Nestorian” or “Nominalist.”  The Nestorian charge can be dismissed quite quickly.  I will simply respond, quite rightly, that my opponents are monophysites (e.g., “One nature of the incarnate Logos”).  The nominalist charge takes a bit more explaining.  At its most basic, nominalism is the denial that there are real univerals.    If such is the (admittedly brief) definition, it’s hard to see how Protestant teaching on the Lord’s Supper is nominalist.

One charge that was initially made famous by the Radical Orthodoxy crowd was that the Protestant view of the Supper “de-enchanted” the cosmos (this charge makes more sense at Reformed than at Lutherans).  I will highlight two responses, one by Scott Clark and the other by myself.   When convertskii charge that the Reformation “dis-enchanted the world,” they are exactly right.

Clark notes, ” to “enchant” the world, to make creation per se more than it is, to make the world sacramental and to endow it with power to communicate divinity to us….The medieval church made the world a magical place by endowing with power, either by nature or by divine fiat. In short, the medieval church tended to an over-realized eschatology

The “magic” that Jesus encountered in his earthly ministry was very dark indeed. It is a mark of the gospels that Jesus is confronted by genuine spiritual evil repeatedly. He defeats that evil not by harnessing the latent magical power in creation but by asserting his divine power and divine right as king and Creator.

My response is inspired by William Cunningham.   While many castigate Zwingli on the sacraments, the truth is he saw all of the superstition around him and asked, contra the practice of the Fathers, who used their imagination to think of the most outlandish parallels regarding the sacraments, “What did Scripture actually say about the sacraments?”

And if you keep bringing up the nominalist charge, I will bring up some problems with realism.


2 comments on “Theological “n-words” don’t bother me anymore

  1. Andrew says:

    As far as I understand it nominalism (or some form of it) is not antithetical to realism as such, but to the idea that individuation is the instantiation of universals. Although this isn’t any less controversial (I think) it provides grounds for some pushback against some RO type claims, disenchantment in particular.

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