I haven’t posted for a while because I have been busy preparing for my dissertation defense. Many folks have been asking me about the details of the defense, so I decided to compose a blog post to fill everybody in.
The defense was a wonderful experience. My director, Dr. James Ginther and my two readers were very complimentary of my work. First, I gave a short presentation on my dissertation to introduce it for the sake of the audience. Then were many questions and answers from my committee and the audience. After this, my committee went outside the room to deliberate and came back with their decision. My director pronounced a welcome in to the community of university masters (in Latin!) and presented me with my doctoral hood.
Here is the abstract of my dissertation that I composed for the defense program:
Paschasius Radbertus and Ratramnus of Corbie were two ninth century monks who each wrote treatises on the topic of the Eucharist—both with the same title, De corpore et sanguine Domini. During the sixteenth century Reformation an historical narrative and interpretation was established which posited Paschasius and Ratramnus as bitter rivals in a eucharistic controversy. Ratramnus was claimed by the Reformers as one who shared their view of the Eucharist, and Paschasius was claimed by the Roman Catholics as one who shared theirs. This common interpretation has persisted to this day. However, in the last 25-30 years there has been some call, led by the French scholar Jean-Paul Bouhot, to theorize that there was no controversy between Paschasius and Ratramnus. These more recent scholarly questions led me to discover that there were two lacunae in modern scholarship surrounding Paschasius: no one had ever attempted to read Paschasius’s text in its own particular context and in its own terms, and no one had explored the role of the theology of corpus in his text and how that might lead to developments in its overall interpretation. The purpose of this dissertation is therefore to carefully explore the historical and theological context surrounding the writing of Paschasius’s treatise. In doing this I was very careful to isolate Paschasius’s text from his supposed interlocutors, with whom I argue he had no interlocution, in order to discover its inherent meaning. When applying this method I was able to articulate Paschasius’s doctrine of eucharistic presence, which I label “Eucharistic Motion,” and to articulate a cohesive theology of the concept corpus, which serves as the hermeneutical key to his treatise. Finally, I argue in this dissertation that the entirety of Paschasius’s writing and theologizing was for the purposes of promoting unity in the church through the means of worthy eucharistic reception.
Here is a link to the audio from my defense that Jeff Meyers recorded:
Here is a link to the program for my defense:
Here are the last two paragraphs of my dissertation that I used to close my presentation at the defense:
Which leads me to the final aspect of my conclusion: my estimation, or hopes rather, for the ultimate impact of this study. I am a Presbyterian minister. I did my doctoral work at a Jesuit university. I have rubbed shoulders with many followers of Christ from different, often warring, ecclesiastical traditions: Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox. I have seen that a great deal that holds us apart is our view of the Eucharist. This is utterly absurd when we stop to think about it! A table that was meant to unite has become a table of division. Devils rejoice at the thought.
My hope is that this study will help to show that we can all agree on the Eucharist. I believe that Paschasius’s doctrine of the Eucharist presents us all a way forward, a way of conceiving of the Lord’s Supper that we can all agree with. A Eucharist that is powerful. A Eucharist that distinguishes between the bodies of Christ. A Eucharist that insists upon its mystical nature. A Eucharist that eschews Berengar’s oath. Paschasius’s theology pre-dates our disagreements. His theology represents an era before our Church was rent asunder. If I a Presbyterian pastor can work to rehabilitate a Roman Catholic saint, attempting to show that his theology presents us all with a way forward, cannot we all give a little ground? What beauty would it be – What glory! – if this text, a text that has been used as a blunt axe to split the Table of the Lord in to pieces, could finally be used as it was originally intended: a text to bring us all to the Eucharist together and to make us all one.