Although only mid way through chapter 1, Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation has managed to live up to its hype.

In this section, Gregory situates the Eucharistic controversies of the Reformation in light of the late-medieval turn towards univocal metaphysics.

Whether it was explicitly recognized by its protagonists or not, the denial that Jesus could be really present in the Eucharist – which is particularly clear, for example, in Zwingli’s spatial dichotomizing of Jesus’s divine and human natures, and the claim that “he sits at the right hand of the Father, has left the world, is no longer with us” – is a logical corollary of metaphysical univocity. A “spiritual” presence that is contrasted with a real presence presupposes an either-or dichotomy between a crypto-spatial God and the natural world that precludes divine immanence in its desire to preserve divine transcendence. But in traditional Christian metaphysics the two attributes are correlative: it is precisely and only God’s radical otherness as nonspatial that makes his presence in and through creation possible, just as it had made the incarnation possible. (Otherwise, Jesus would have been something like a centaur – partly human partly divine, rather than fully human and fully divine.) The denial of the possibility of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, by contrast, ironically implies that the “spiritual” presence of God is itself being conceived in spatial or quasi-spatial terms – which is why, in order to be kept pure, it must be keep separate from and uncontaminated by the materiality of the “mere bread” (42-3).

Gregory’s thesis furthers the argument that metaphysics, or at least what we in the West have come to regard as metaphysics, is an invention of the late modern period. When God is no longer regarded as esse, but as an ens with extension and form; namely, a “nobodday” in the sky, we then have a pejorative metaphysics. According to Gregory, our problem is that we fail to grasp this nuance, as did the Reformers and Counter-Reformers.

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