Andrewes Contra Calvin?

In Anglican eucharistic theology there are few figures as prominent as Lancelot Andrewes. Beginning with E.B. Pusey, and reinforced by titans such as T.S. Eliot, Andrewes became the standard-bearer for a sort of Anglo-Catholicism avant la lettre.[1] These Anglo-Catholics were thought to be a small but elite group of Anglicans who withstood Protestantism over the centuries and upheld a supposedly patristic theology, particularly a doctrine of the Real Presence in and under the forms of bread and wine. While modern scholars such as Peter Lake, Peter McCullough, and Nicholas Tyacke have thoroughly undermined Andrewes’ supposed Anglo-Catholicism, the general consensus among scholars still remains that he holds to a “Lutheran” understanding of the real presence.[2] However, research into sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Church of England sacramentology reveals striking similarities between Andrewes and other Reformed figures of the era regarding their doctrine of the Eucharist. If one examines the language Andrewes uses in his sermons and writings, as well as his influences, it seems much more likely that a “High Calvinism,” rather than a “Crypto-Lutheranism,” is at play. Then, the commonly cited instances of Andrewes’ affirmation of a Lutheran presence, upon closer examination, do not contradict this conclusion.


First, in Andrewes we find the exact language of both spiritual ascent to Christ in Heaven in the Eucharist, as well as spiritual, not oral, consumption of the Body and Blood deployed by the likes of Calvin, Cranmer, Jewell, Vermigli, et al.[3] This is perhaps most clearly laid out in two sermons during April 1621, late in Andrewes’ career. Plainly present is spiritual eating via faith:

Christ resolves the point, in that very place. The flesh, the touching, the eating it, profits nothing. The words He spake, were spirit: So, the touching, the eating, to be spiritual. And Saint Thomas, and Marie Magdalen or whosoever touched Him here on earth, nisi faelicius fide quàm manu tetigissent, if they had not been more happy to touch Him with their faith, then with their fingers end, they had had no part in Him; no good by it at all. It was found better with it, to touch the hem of His garment; then, without it, to touch any part of His body.

When placed next to the Gnesio-Lutherans, the contrast is stark. Take the Formula of Concord:

Also, that the oral participation of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper is denied [by the Sacramentarians], and it is taught, on the contrary, that the body of Christ in the Supper is partaken of only spiritually by faith, so that in the Supper our mouth receives only bread and wine.[4]

For Andrewes, regardless of how he discusses the bread and wine, the eating of the Body and Blood is always a spiritual one via the mouth of faith. Even in particularly high sermons, such as St. Giles Cripplegate, 1 October 1598, the outward sign exists to confirm faith, while it is the invisible word signified by the elements that works upon our souls.[5] However, this does not mean that the eating of the elements is inessential. The Calvinist school, sometimes referred to as “symbolic instrumentalism,” does believe that the bread and wine convey grace as they are recieved, but it is to our souls via the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we find the spiritual ascent present in 1621 as well:

Now if faith be to touch, that will touch Him no less in Heaven than here; one who is in Heaven may be touched so. No ascending can hinder that touch. Faith will elevate itself, that ascending in spirit we shall touch Him, and take hold of Him. Mitte fidem et tenuisti–it is St. Augustine. It is a touch to which there is never a noli, fear it not.

So do we then; send up our faith, and that shall touch Him, and there will virtue come from Him; and it will take hold on Him, as it shall raise us up to where He is; bring us to the end of the verse, and to the end of all our desires; to ascendo ad Patrem, a joyful ascension to our Father and His, and to Himself, and to the unity of the Blessed Spirit.[6]

A little over a week later, Andrewes returned to similar language:

He was found in the ‘breaking of the bread:’ that bread she [the Church] breaketh, that there we may find Him. He was found by them who had their minds on Him: to that end she will call to us, Sursum corda, ‘Lift up your hearts;’ which, when we hear, it is but this text iterated,Set your minds,’ have your hearts where Christ is. We answer, ‘We lift them up;’ and so I trust we do, but I fear we let them fall too soon again.[7]

While ascent language is certainly patristic, in the post-Reformation era it is a clear marker of Reformed theology, and is found in Gnesio-Lutheran writings only disparagingly, whereas with Calvin it is the foundation of his eucharistology.[8] This is not to be confused with a “figurative” ascent. Andrewes, like his predecessors, believed in a literal ascent of our souls to the throne room of God where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father.

In these two sermons we find the real crux of Andrewes’ eucharistic theology. The two-fold affirmation of both spiritual consumption and ascent not only present enormous obstacles to a Gnesio-Lutheran understanding of the presence, but place Andrewes well within the realm of Calvinist orthodoxy when it comes to the sacrament. Regardless of whatever “realist” language Andrewes might use, it exists within this framework.

Second, Andrewes frequently uses the descriptor “exhibits” when speaking of the sacrament. This usage can be seen in a variety of sermons: “And that, a great honour and power, not only to represent but to exhibit that it representeth,” and “For in Christ this sign is a sign, not betokening only, but exhibiting also what it betokens, as the Sacraments do.”[9] This usage puts Andrewes squarely within the sacramental lineage of Calvin and Bucer, both of whom use the phrase extensively when describing the Eucharist. This language also distinguishes Andrewes from more memorialist Reformed thinkers, as well as from the Gnesio-Lutherans, neither of whom use the phrase. Sacramental exhibition is an odd term, and no one is entirely certain what Calvin meant by it (his use of the verb exhibere serves to further obscure the meaning). However, Calvin seems to use the phrase to mean that the physical signs truly present us with the invisible realities in the sacrament. Regardless of the exact meaning of “sacramental exhibition,” anyone seeking to push Andrewes towards Augsburg will have to reckon with the widespread presence of the phrase in his writings.

A further reading reveals numerous additional markers that indicate Andrewes stands within the spectrum of Reformed orthodoxy. Take, for example, his labeling of the Sacraments as conduits and arteries of grace (alongside prayer, preaching, and scripture).[10] This language remarkably parallels that of Richard Hooker’s,[11] and one could build a convincing argument that Andrewes’ primary influence is Hooker. The Sacraments are labeled as “antetypes” as well as “seals of the covenant,” both common Reformed phraseology.[12] Andrewes mocks those who would utilize tabernacles to contain the presence of the sacrament, and says that the Holy Spirit is the “true ark of His Presence.”[13] Several instances of “instrumentalism” can be found in his sermons, such as,

“It doth manifestly represent, it doth mystically impart what it respresenteth. There is in it even by the very institution both a manifestation, and that visibly, to set before us this flesh; and a mystical communication to us in it or make us partakers of it. For the elements; what can be more properly fit to represent unto us the union with our nature, than things that do unite themselves to our nature?”[14]

Even the controversies that surrounded Andrewes during his lifetime support the argument that his sacramental theology fell along the Reformed spectrum. The most prominent issues dealt with his positions on predestination and the episcopacy–they did not involve his sacramental theology.[15] If there had been controversy about his view of the real presence, we would know about it. Remember: Andrewes preached in the most prominent venue in the land before an openly Calvinist king and court.[16] If there was even an inkling of heterodoxy surrounding his explanation of the sacrament, much would have been written.

What, then, should we make of all the quoted instances where Lancelot Andrewes appears to diverge from his contemporaries in regard to eucharistic presence? I believe that if we go through each one and inspect them, taking into account their broader Reformed context, far from contradicting Reformed theology, these instances actually confirm that Andrewes belongs to the ranks of the Reformed. I have formatted the following section as “Question and Answer” for the sake of brevity.

Question and Answer

Q: What of Andrewes’ discussion of the “sacramental union” on Christmas 1623, and other markers of Lutheranism?[17]

A: Although the phrase “sacramental union” did not appear frequently among the Reformed during the sixteenth century, the phrase gained in popularity during the seventeenth. Not only did “conformist” churchmen, such as John Cosin employ this phrase, but it even ended up in the Westminster Confession of Faith![18] Beyond this, I find that claims of Lutheran influence on Andrewes’ sacramental views tend to be overblown. The Gnesio-Lutherans are quite explicit with their position that Christ is substantially present “in, under, and with” the forms of bread and wine, language that never appears in Andrewes. Likewise, Andrewes rejects Lutheran conceptions of ubiquity, as shown above. Additionally, if Luther truly had been a deep influence on Andrewes, one would expect to find a myriad of Lutheran works in Andrewes’ personal library.[19] However, based on the evidence available, none appear to be present.[20] Heavily present, however, are the Reformed who espouse very similar eucharistic views, lots of Bucer, Calvin, Zanchi, and Richard Hooker,[21] as well as the expected Fathers, Scholastics, and Renaissance Humanists. While Andrewes read beyond his personal library, the likely conclusion is that he is more broadly Augustinian than some of his Calvinist contemporaries, a known fact considering his response to the Lambeth Articles.

Q: What of the St. Giles sermon in October 1598 where the elements appear to be necessary to convey grace?

A: Again this language is extraordinarily similar to that of Richard Hooker’s, who in turn is clarifying aspects of Calvin and Bucer. Take Hooker in Book V: “those Mysteries should serve as conduits of Life, and conveyances of his Body and Blood unto them [the faithful]” or “so I give them [the faithful] in hand an actual possession of all such saving Grace, as my Sacrificed Body can yield, and as their Souls do presently need: This is to them, and in them, my Body.”[22] Michael Allen summarizes this theology well when he says: “the Supper and the very partaking of the elements served as a conduit or instrumental means by which Christ and the believer communed in the Spirit.”[23] One must remember that the sharp Cartesian distinctions between soul and body did not exist when Andrewes and Hooker were writing. For them, when the faithful consume the elements, the soul locally participates in the flesh and blood of Christ in Heaven via the Holy Spirit using the bread and wine.

Q: What of phrases such as “in the Sacrament” or “in these holy mysteries” or “Christ is set before us”?

A: This language is by no means unique to Andrewes. For instance, see John Jewell where he describes how, “here, in a mystery and Sacrament of bread, is set before us the body of Christ our Saviour; and his blood in the Sacrament of Wine.”[24] However, this sort of language can be confusing, as sometimes these English divines use “sacrament” to mean the signum, the elements, and at other times both the signum and the signatum, the elements as well the spiritual realities they signify. This is because the signatum is indeed substantially contained within a sacrament e converso, just not in and under the signum. This also helps us to understand passages such as the “Christ in the cratch” commentary on Christmas 1618.[25]

Q: What of Andrewes’ confirmation that the bread and wine are indeed transmuted[26] at the consecration in his response to Bellarmine?

A: This is another area where the Reformed are misunderstood. The application of Christ’s benediction to the bread and wine do indeed create something entirely new: a sacrament. The bread and wine, while retaining their substance, become sacramental bread and wine, and are therefore transmuted. Jewell illustrates this best in his treatise on the sacraments where he describes how when “we say, they are changed,” this means “that they have a dignity and preeminence which they had not before; that they are not now common bread, or common wine, but the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ: a holy mystery.”[27]

Q: What of Christmas 1620, when Andrewes discusses Patristic reservation of the sacrament, saying, “And in the old Ritual of the Church we find that on the cover of the canister, wherein was the Sacrament of His Body, there was a star engraven, to shew us that now the star leads us thither, to His body there”?

A: This may shock some of those who read this, but the Reformed are not opposed to reservation as an ontological impossibility. Rather, they are opposed because of the theological confusion reservation of the sacrament creates, as well as its disregard for verbum domini: take, eat. Many of them readily admit to the sacrament being reserved during the Patristic age as a viaticum. Again, Jewell is immensely helpful here:

Cyrillus [Cyril of Alexandria] answereth them, not that the flesh which Christ received of the Blessed Virgin continueth still as inclosed in the sacrament, as it is untruly reported by M. Harding; but that Christ’s institution, and the mystical benediction, which he calleth the quickening grace, continueth still. And his reason is this, for that all sacraments have their virtue[28] and power, not of themselves, but wholly and only from Christ. Wherefore, as Christ continueth still without change; even so must the grace that Christ worketh in us by his sacraments be likewise one, and continue still.[29]

It is important to remember that for the Calvin-Bucer school, a sacrament is created at the benediction. Much more needs to be written about this, but one can quickly see the confusion that begins to arise when the sacrament is removed from its context, as Andrewes makes clear in his response to Bellarmine:

A sacrifice has to be consumed; a Sacrament to be taken and eaten, not laid up and carried about. Let that be done which Christ desired when He said “Do this” and there will be nothing left for the priest to expose, or the people to worship, in the pyx.[30]

Q: What of the Answer to Bellarmine, when Andrewes affirms a presence as well as “adoration”?

A: Honestly, I’m a little shocked at how much these passages get cited to defend Andrewes as having a radically different eucharistic theology than his contemporaries. For one, he openly denies the Body being “in, with, or under.” He denies a need for a “natural” mode of communication, and as far as the presence goes, he uses John Calvin’s exact language when stating that the (spiritual) presence in the supper is “true.”[31] And if we are working from a use of “presence” alone, we must take into account that Andrewes doesn’t use as strong of language as many of his Calvinist contemporaries. Take for example Edward Reynolds, the great presbyterian divine, who willingly states, “in this Sacrament wee doe most willingly acknowledge a Reall, True, and Perfect Presence of Christ.”[32]

Regarding adoration, Andrewes clearly plays the sophist a bit here. The sacrament is not adored, but Christ, the res sacramenti, is via faith. His citation of James I is telling as well: James’ Calvinism is well documented, and unless one wants to believe in some sort of secret Cult of the Blessed Sacrament operating at the Court of St. James, we can rest assured that no adoration of the bread and wine occured.


I hope to have laid out a strong case for reevaluating Lancelot Andrewes’ eucharistic theology from a Reformed perspective. I encourage those who disagree to dig further into Andrewes’ Church of England contemporaries, as well as the articulations of Lutheran theology during the period Andrewes was writing. No longer can mere use of the term “presence” or a high view of elements stand in as markers for a theology divergent from mainstream Reformed thought, as scholars such as Bryan Spinks have thoroughly demonstrated.

At the same time, it is clear that Andrewes does not fit easily into our twenty-first century understanding of what it means to be a “Calvinist.” His views on predestination, episcopacy, ceremonial, the sacraments, and prayers for the dead all mean that he will not be welcome in modern Reformed circles. However, he may serve as the strongest indicator that our modern definitions of what it means to be “Reformed” or “Calvinist” need to be heavily revised for the sake of clarity. Likewise, he is a stark reminder of how far eucharistic piety has fallen within Anglicanism, particularly of the Reformed variety. If those of us who hope for a resurgence of classical Anglicanism plan to succeed, we must take the realist language of churchmen like Andrewes seriously, and not look to sweep them aside for fear of being misunderstood.

  1. Eliot, T. S. 1929. For Lancelot Andrewes : Essays on Style and Order. 1st ed.. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Doran.
  2. See Mccullough, Peter E. 2008. “Lancelot Andrewes’s Transforming Passions.” Huntington Library Quarterly 71 (4): 573–89
  3. See Calvin’s Institutes (all editions), Cranmer’s True Doctrine, Vermigli’s Oxford Treatise and Disputation on the Eucharist, and Jewell’s A Defence of the Apologie of the Churche of Englande for nearly innumerable reiterations of these two doctrines.
  4. Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration, VII, 114
  5. Lancelot Andrewes, VIII. A Sermon on Isaiah 6.6–7 Preached at St. Giles Cripplegate, 1 October 1598 (1598)in Peter McCullough (ed.), Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures.
  6. Andrewes, Lancelot, Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Sunday the First of April, A.D. MDCXXI, XCVI. sermons by the Right Honorable and Reverend Father in God, Lancelot Andrevves, late Lord Bishop of Winchester. Published by His Majesties speciall command, (London: George Miller, 1629). Henceforth I will just cite the sermon title and “XCVI. sermons”
  7. Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Sunday the Twelfth of April, A. D. MDCXIII, XCVI. sermons
  8. Some scholars even go as far as to say that ascent language is the marker of Reformed Eucharistic theology. Christopher Kaiser’s excellent ‘Climbing Jacob’s ladder: John Calvin and the early church on our eucharistic ascent to heaven,’ Scottish Journal of Theology, 2003, Vol.56(3), pp. 247-267, summarizes the scholarly work on this topic so far. For an example of disparaging usage of ascent language in Gnesio-Lutheran writings see the Formula of Concord: Epitome, Section 7, V. Kaiser has found over 33 instances of ascent language in Calvin’s writings.
  9. Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Sunday the twenty-fourth of March; Preached before King James, at the Cathedral Church at Durham, on Sunday the Twentieth of April, D. MDCXVII, XCVI. sermons
  10. For “conduits,” see the sermon Andrewes preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Wednesday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCXI, XCVI. sermons. For “arteries,” see Preached before the King’s Majesty, at Greenwich, on the Eighth of June, A.D. MDCVI, being Whit-Sunday, XCVI. sermons.
  11. And ultimately Calvin’s. See page 2574 of the Institutes.
  12. For “antetypes” see the sermon Andrewes preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Wednesday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCXI, XCVI. sermons. For “seals of the covenant” see Andrewes, Lancelot, 1854, vol. III, Sermon III, pg. 162, The Works of Lancelot Andrewes, Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology. Thanks to Bryan Spinks for this source.
  13. For opposition to the practice of reserving the sacrament in a tabernacle see the sermon Andrewes preached before the King’s Majesty, at Windsor, on the Twelfth of May, A.D. MDCXI, being Whit-Sunday. Although Luther would take the same position, I believe this example is worth including because it helps put a nail in the coffin of Eliot’s conception of Andrewes. For the description of the “true ark” see A Sermon Preached before the King’s Majestie, At Whitehall, on the IX. of April, A. D. MDCXV. being Easter Day, XCVI. sermons.
  14. Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Thursday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCVII, XCVI. sermons. Strong parallels, again, to Hooker.
  15. Indirectly, this is untrue. Predestination does indeed shape the sacramental controversies of the 17th century, but they have to do with the sacraments conveying grace rather than merely “confirming and sealing” the faith of the elect.
  16. I don’t find the argument that Andrewes “tones it down” to be persuasive. All of his “high” language from hisparochial sermons can be found at court if you go looking.
  17. Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Thursday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCXXIII, XCVI. sermons
  18. For Cosin’s usage see Cosin, John, pg. 45, History of Popish Transubstantiation, (London: Andrew Clark, 1676). For its presence in the Westminster Confession of Faith see Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 27, Sec II.
  19. Working off of both those books listed in his will and those documented by Matthew Wren.
  20. I actually wasn’t able to find any, but assume he must have had a couple. Since Andrewes spent his career around vast libraries, we can also assume he read far beyond his personal one.
  21. Andrewes not only had the first volume, containing books 1-4, but the second, containing the mighty book 5. As Hooker was not broadly read in the early 17th-century, it is notable that Andrewes placed him among a carefully groomed selection of some of the most influential writers in history.
  22. Hooker, Richard, Book V, Chapter 67, The works of Mr. Richard Hooker (that learned and judicious divine), in eight books of ecclesiastical polity compleated out of his own manuscripts, (London: Thomas Newcomb, 1666)
  23. Allen, Michael, “Sacraments in the Reformed and Anglican Reformation” in Boersma, Hans, and Levering, Matthew. 2015. The Oxford Handbook of Sacramental Theology. First edition.. Oxford, United Kingdom; New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pg. 292
  24. Jewell, John, Treatise on the Sacraments, (London, 1611)
  25. Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Friday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCXVIII, XCVI. sermons
  26. Not to be confused with transubstantiation. Pusey still uses it as an indicator of objective presence, however.
  27. Jewell, John, “On the Body and Blood of Christ,” Treatise on the Sacraments, (London, 1611)
  28. Some clarity should probably be given to the distinction between “holiness” and “virtue” here.
  29. Jewell, John, and Ayre, John. 1845, Vol. II, “Reply Unto M. Hardinge,” The Works of John Jewel. Cambridge [Eng.]: Printed at the University Press. pg. 781
  30. Andrewes, Lancelot, and Bliss, James. 1851. Responsio Ad Apologiam Cardinalis Bellarmini. Oxonii: J.H. 267
  31. Calvin, John, Institutes, Chap. 17, pg. 2571. Also, note how Andrewes never states a presence in the bread and wine but in the supper or the sacrament, a subtle but profound difference.
  32. Reynolds, Edward, Meditations on the holy sacrament of the Lords last Supper Written many yeares since by Edvvard Reynolds then fellow of Merton College in Oxford. (London, 1638) Pg. 87. Thanks to Bryan Spinks for this source. Some of Reynolds language is startling; he states that the spiritual presence is concomitant with the elements, and that “by the Sacrament wee have the presence of things farthest distant and absent from us,” implying a “spatial” presence. 


Robert Ramsey

Robert is the Executive Editor of The North American Anglican. He is also a warden and church planter at Christ Church Anglican South Bend. In his spare time he likes fixing old espresso machines and cars from the 90s.

'Andrewes Contra Calvin?' have 7 comments

  1. January 18, 2021 @ 10:43 am Peter W. Yancey

    Now I have heard it all. The sainted Bishop Andrewes was a Calvinist. Good grief. One could write a rebuttal with an equally long list of citations if one were disposed to do so, but the bigger question is: who cares? So glad I removed myself from the incessant theological debating that goes on in these circles. Such meaningless dribble. An hour spent working in a soup kitchen or picking up trash on the beach is of more value than any amount of time wasted on theological nonsense.


    • January 19, 2021 @ 3:31 pm Drew Nathaniel Keane

      The author doesn’t argue Andrewes is a Calvinist; the author’s claim is much narrower — to wit, that Andrewes’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper fits squarely within the Reformed mainstream. An hour or more working in a soup kitchen or picking up trash is certainly an hour well spent in the Lord’s service, but I’m not sure that makes theological discourse of this sort meaningless drivel — they aren’t mutually exclusive goods. Andrewes, like other Reformed divines, sought (I) to avoid sacrilege by denying Christ’s presence in the sacrament; (II) to avoid blasphemy by making Christ a liar; (III) to avoid heresy by denying the truth of Christ’s human nature or mixing it with his Divine nature; (IV); to avoid disobedience by doing with the sacramental bread and wine something other than what Christ commanded; and (V) to avoid idolatry by refusing to confuse the signs with the Divine Person signified by them.


  2. January 18, 2021 @ 1:27 pm Ben Jefferies

    A strong case, that causes me to re-consider my own interpretation of Andrewes. Though I think there *is* room for Lutheran eucharistology within our Anglican formularies, it may be the case that Andrewes is no among those who exemplify it.
    Nevertheless — as one who is deeply committed to patristic eucharistology — nothing of what is here described as “High Calvinist” or “Andrewes” or “Hooker” is objectionably — nay, it’s actually *excellent* and glorious and commendable. The Gnesio-Lutheran school (and I avoided the term in my essays, because I believe some of the Gnesios were Ubiquitarians), with the Fathers, affirms everything that Andrewes/High Calvinist affirm (this is how Melancthon could slide in and out of both camps and be recognized by both), we only part ways where the High Reformed make their *denials*. The Reformed on the continent are very explicit in their denials (e.g. Belgic confession) — that the Body is NOT eaten with the mouth. Does Andrewes make the same denials? If so — the case is closed and I concede. If not — to my mind it still remains open. (You mention in your essay that in the answer to Bellarmine Andrewes explicitly denies “in, with and under” — I have never seen such a quotation — if it can be presented, that will make your case). Andrewes (and the Reformed) are RIGHT to point to the eating of faith as the real center and necessity of Holy Communion. All Spirit-minded Lutherans would agree. The question, at a scholastic level, is simply what should and shouldn’t be denied as a corollary.


  3. January 19, 2021 @ 2:29 pm Jeff

    This article impacted me in a different way than likely intended as it reveals a problem that, at least for me, generates feelings of deep frustration and cynicism. The past 24 hours or so I’ve been deeply bothered, though not due to any answer posed the question itself.

    This article has convinced me that questions like this will not and cannot be solved sufficiently to the satisfaction of all, let alone most. Innumerable factors shape our own modern, interpretive, and environmentally-biased frameworks, all the while we lose perspective of the past due to our distance from it.

    I have to agree with the first comment: the question itself is a waste of time. This is so not only because there will never be a definitive answer to such nuanced questions posed upon historical figures but also because the question itself ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is what the Christians closest to Jesus thought, who were direct disciples of the Apostles, and who spread Christianity throughout the world at the risk of their own lives. The Patristics are clear on the question of the Lord’s Supper: Jesus is truly present not only in the reception but also the elements themselves. Some Fathers may posit a belief in what we would term today as “transubstantiation”, while others would not; the wisest position, of course, being to defer the matter to mystery (pun intended). Nevertheless, the consensus was that Jesus is present in/among/with/within/under/above the bread and the wine in some form and fashion.

    As such, what does it ultimately and finally matter concerning the belief of Andrewes or Jewel or Cranmer on this question, particularly when Anglicanism has no problem with the idea of “reforming” in the sense of constantly pruning aberrant practices from the faith? Today, why can we not brandish the mantle of “reforming” and retrieve in unanimous fashion the Patristic eucharistology that the Church of England during the Reformation had mostly confused for and overreacted against as Roman excess (that was firmly grounded in Aristotelian speculation and eccentrically accompanied by Medieval superstition)?

    What Andrewes thought is not nearly as important as what Sts. Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Ignatius, Augustine, Athanasius and many more taught, defended, and bequeathed to others as the Apostolic Deposit. (As the famous saying goes… “…five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period”.

    This leads us to a fork in the road: the choice between the first 5 centuries of the Church or the past 5 centuries of the Church. One thing is for certain: we cannot reform “past” the Fathers, for to reform the purity of Faith which they possessed is to surely mutate that blessed Faith into “another Gospel” as St. Paul warned in Galatians.


    • January 19, 2021 @ 3:18 pm Drew Nathaniel Keane

      17th century divines like Andrewes were just as concerned about the continuity of what has been handed down as you are, though. You\’re right that ultimately it doesn\’t matter what Andrewes or Jewel of Cranmer thought, but then again, it ultimately doesn\’t matter what I think either. I don\’t know that it would be safe for me to assume that I understand Augustine (for example) better than Andrewes does — it certainly seems like Andrewes is a better student of Latin than I am! Given that we cannot read patristic writers without the filters imposed by our own human limitations any more than we can read the scriptures without such filters, it does seem likely that reading how previous divines made sense of what they found in the patristic literature a useful tool for helping to make sense of them (not because past authors were less limited, but because they won\’t have the same filters or blind spots we do), just as reading what patristic writers wrote about the scriptures is a useful way of making sense of the scriptures themselves. So, I for one find it useful to read Andrewes and Augustine and Paul, as well as what more recent writers have said about all three, because I have something to learn from them all.


      • January 19, 2021 @ 6:50 pm Jeff

        Howdy! Thank you for the charitable reply and necessary counter-balance! I definitely appreciate these points, and I do agree with them; the brevity of my response didn’t allow such nuance to state this background. I don’t intend to say Andrewes, Jewel, Cranmer, and other writers are arbitrary; their writings are useful, helpful, and part of the history of the Anglican Church of the past 500 years. Further, all of them are more spiritually- and intellectually-gifted than I could ever hope to be, and if it were at all possible, I would be honored to sit at the feet of any of the great Anglicans of the past (even if I disagree with some of them on the topic; all tings considered, more likely to my own peril than theirs). Moreover, we all have blinders and biases as well as historical distance (to an even greater degree) to the Fathers themselves. My concern stems primarily from mining so intensely any one, or several, historical figures and/or a historical (especially more recent) body in such a way that not only is the forest missed for the trees but also no definitive conclusion of any importance is reached (or even possible to reach) even though such effort has been attempted for centuries to no universal avail.

        Correspondingly, to more deeply nuance my original post for interested readers that may be concerned that I may have matter-of-factually dismissed these theologians and their importance, my concern with questions aimed towards Andrewes and more contemporary Christian individual theologians is two-fold: 1) certainty towards the absolute understanding of an individual historical figure’s (and in some cases, a collective historical body’s) beliefs and 2) the objective importance of an individual historical figure’s (and collective historical body’s) beliefs, especially the more distant from the Early Church such a figure is. In short: the Church of the first five centuries (to maintain the Andrewes theme) held a general (though not nuanced/detailed) consensus to a Realist position of the elements; as such, the Church today must of necessity hold this view, which is informed and presupposed by the promises of Christ to his Church (as well as the writings of the Apostles such as exemplified in Jude 3) and the historic Apostolic Succession (thus guarding the Apostolic deposit).

        1) Historically, we can ascertain the general sense of a historical figure’s beliefs, but I am skeptical that the nuances of a belief held by any one of them can be definitively concluded with certainty. An example of this would be that historians can agree that a certain historical event happened and that certain various factors certainly played a role in that event’s happening. However, the degree to which each factor played a role in the occurrence of the event, and even the list of factors themselves, are typically disputed among historians. In our case today, Andrews without question has a high Eucharistology, but the question (and nuance) is and will ever be (in my opinion) whether he is specifically a believer of the “Catholic” view of the Real Presence in the elements themselves in a spiritual-though-tangible-and-truly-real manner (though not necessarily physical with regards to the actual, literal, and substantive human flesh and blood of Jesus), or if he held a high Receptionist (and as such, Reformed) view defined by its reverence for the elements as the real and tangible means facilitating true spiritual connection to, spiritual reception of, and spiritual feasting upon Christ’s flesh and blood through the very act of communing in sacramental fashion through the appointed symbols .

        Where the Patristic consensus differs (and can rise above the challenges seen in the question applied to Andrewes or even to the “Jewel School”) is that it is in fact a consensus of a whole, a collective of individual Church Fathers. Whereas any particular Father’s view on the Lord’s Supper may not be definitively understood in all its nuance (due to historical distance, just as with Andrewes), their individual writings collected into a whole are numerous and clear enough to show a detectable convergence on the general understanding and pattern of belief in that something mysterious/sacramental occurs to the elements themselves (and not just to or within the partakers) in which it is proper to call them the very Body and the Blood of Christ in a more than merely symbolic way. The question of presence is no doubt one we pose upon them, and we will read to varying degrees with active biases — clouding nuance in an eternally imperceptible smog but but humbly (if not also reluctantly) bowing to a general evidence that is simply overwhelming in its clarity and constancy across time and space. Yet, while a definitive Transubstationist conclusion is not possible from reading the collective Fathers, a definitive low-Receiptionist (though I could see a high-Receiptionist position granted) – and certainly not a definitive Memorialist – position is not tenable. What is definitively observed from reading the collective Fathers is that in Communion the Bread is Bread yet Flesh and the Wine is Wine yet Blood and in the eating thereof we truly receive Christ by faith unto the benefit of Life Everlasting — to say more is to venture past the consensus of the Fathers while to say less is to reject the consensus of the Fathers.

        2) Granting even that we could conclude with certainty the fine nuances of a historical figure’s believe, that does not necessarily vindicate their (or our agreement with their) belief on a given topic. So even if Andrewes had a more Reformed than Catholic belief, his word on the subject is not the definitive word. Moreover, the majority’s belief on a subject “may” also not be the definitive word. Whether definitive or not depends on whether such a belief is consistent with the original belief (in this context, of the Church, particularly the Church Fathers) or is modified in light of new definitive information (at a minimum, a deeply troubling prospect in the context of the Church as seen in the recent progressive innovations on human sexuality and gender).

        Comparing the belief of the vast majority consensus of Reformational Anglicanism to the belief of the consensus of the Church Fathers reveals a disparity. The disparity is even more soberly revealed when expanding past the Church Fathers to review the historic combined witness of the Roman Church, the Eastern Church (in all its national forms), the Oriental Church (also in all its national forms, and the pre-Reformation English Church of how the “catholic” doctrine of Real Presence concerning the Lord’s Supper has been the rule and practice in every century and in all places. This consensus of these multiple wholes (all composed of individuals, of course) to my mind not only nullifies any one individual’s competing position on Communion but also nullifies any collective’s/group’s competing position on Communion.

        To sum, the Reformers either obtained new information (and thus, the Apostolic Deposit was either incomplete from its inception by Christ and the Apostles’ teaching or else lost for over 1,000 years) or the Reformers ultimately did/do not hold to the Patristic belief, which is synonymous with the “faith once delivered”, held by the undivided church for the first millennium and both the East and West for the second millennium. As a Reformed Catholic Church, we can balance the scales that were over-tipped (and understandably so) during the Reformation.

        I expect many might disagree with the above, which is perfectly fine; however, my only hope is that I was able to poke-the-box, at least a bit, concerning how we approach history and expend our energies: that we may need to broaden our scope a bit past our more recent history to more fully give space and (I would argue) prominence to our earliest history as well as to surrender these battles (of questionable ultimate importance) over levels of precision either lost to or hidden by history — battles that simply are never going to be won by any side, who, at the end-of-the-day, must ultimately give deference to consensus of the Early Church if we are to be in any sense part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.


        • January 21, 2021 @ 1:30 pm Diogenes

          Thank you for your comments. My reaction was the same, and I wrestled with whether to comment; if so, then how to reply with thoughtfulness and charity. Your explanations more eloquently state what I would have hoped to say, and because of the comment thread, I am more encouraged.


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