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Sacramental Thinking. Define Sacrament…. C’mon guys…this is 2 nd grade stuff. The ways in which we speak about things…. Univocal Man is Mortal, Socrates is Mortal

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define sacrament

Define Sacrament…

C’mon guys…this is 2nd grade stuff.

the ways in which we speak about things
The ways in which we speak about things…
  • Univocal
    • Man is Mortal, Socrates is Mortal
    • when terms are used univocally, they mean exactly the same thing in different contexts; for example, in the two statements “Socrates is a man” and “Man is mortal”, “mortal” means the same thing in each case.
the ways in which we speak about things1
The ways in which we speak about things…
  • Equivocal
    • “Tree Bark” “Dog Bark”
    • When terms are used equivocally, it means the same term is used to describe completely different things. For example, “tree bark” and “dogs bark”. The term “bark” means something entirely different each time.
the ways in which we speak about things2
The ways in which we speak about things…
  • Analogical:
    • for instance, “your forehead is hot” and “the sun is hot
    • when terms are used analogically, it means that they are describing the same thing to different degrees. There is a similarity, or an analogy between the two ways each is hot, but the heat of the sun is a billion times greater than the heat coming off your forehead.
problems with univocal language
Problems with Univocal Language
  • If we can only speak about God univocally, then it would mean that to say “You are beautiful” and “God is beautiful” would be predicating the exact same beauty of both God and a human being.
  • It puts us in a tight spot if we claim that we can only speak univocally, because it would actually mean we can’t say anything about God at all.
  • Why? Because God’s beauty is so beyond our beauty that if we tried to use the same word univocally, it wouldn’t suffice. We couldn’t use the same word to describe both because they’re so different. But any word we use has to be one that we know from our experience, meaning we wouldn’t be able to talk about God at all.
problems with equivocal language
Problems with equivocal language…
  • What about speaking about God equivocally? In this case, we would say, God is beautiful, and I am beautiful.
  • But “beautiful” means something absolutely different in each context, so we’ve still said nothing informative about God.
analogical perfect
  • Finally, we can speak analogically about God. This way, when we say “God is beautiful,” and “I am beautiful”, we understand that God has this quality of beauty that we possess, but in a far greater degree—in fact, to the degree of perfection. By speaking analogically, we can finally understand something true about God.
incarnation and language
  • Now, the Incarnation gives us further license to speak analogically about God.
  • Why? Because God became man. He divinizes flesh. This helps us to understand how earth can have anything to do with God. When we think analogically, about a tree, for instance, we are thinking incarnationally.
  • Here’s how it works: I see a beautiful tree. I think, wow! That tree is beautiful in its own right, but it also points to something deeper, something higher: the beauty of the one who created it. We are now thinking about the spiritualization of matter.
  • XP is divine in a human way and human in a divine way.

He communicates divinity in a human way

sign symbol sacrament
  • Analogical language is how we speak about God…
  • This language an be applied to how we understand the sacraments
distinguishing sign and symbol
Distinguishing Sign and Symbol
  • A simple sign, such as a stop sign, has no meaning unto itself. Its sole purpose is to point to something else (the “deeper” meaning: STOP). It is, we might say, univocal.
  • From here, we can derive a definition of symbol: a symbol is an image or object that has a meaning unto itself but simultaneously points to a deeper meaning.
    • A symbol, on the other hand, is a layered reality. As soon as you use it, you are immediately dealing with more than just a tree, for instance. A symbol requires analogical thinking. (example: the green light in The Great Gatsby. The light is both a homelight, and also to Gatsby a symbol of the woman he loves.)
  • Catholic thinkers, (St. Thomas Aquinas, I.13.5 for instance) have said that we can speak analogically of God, because our nature is damaged but not destroyed. Our intellect is dimmed and our wills are weakened, but our intellect/will nature does in fact still bear a resemblance to God. This means that we can understand the term beauty of ourselves and of God, so long as we understand that our beauty is the merest shadow of God’s beauty.
    • For Luther, human nature was created good by God, but has been totally corrupted by sin. It is not merely that we lack the will power to do what we know is right, although that is certainly true. But our senses and our reason are also corrupted, and so our judgment of right and wrong is also unreliable.
    • For Calvin, human nature has been totally corrupted by sin.  Calvin is eloquent on human depravity.  Our minds are dark labyrinths, "factories of idols."  We are placed in the theater of God's glory but are too warped to see it without the "spectacles" provided by scripture.  It is not merely that we lack the will power to do what we know is right, although that is certainly true; our senses and our reason are also corrupted, and so our judgment of right and wrong is also unreliable. 
why not just use simple signs to talk about god
Why not just use simple signs to talk about God?
  • Imagine that you have never heard the name or contemplated the concept of God before. You are on a walk, and you see a sign that has these three letters written in succession: “G-o-d.” You read it and pass by.
  • At the end of your walk, you come to an incredible gorge with a river running through the bottom, mountains, sunlight, and trees, all in glorious splendor before you.
  • Which of these two images is more likely to make you think about God?
answers i have answers
ANSWERS! I Have answers!
  • The scene which is good and beautiful is the one that is more likely to get you thinking, hey, where did this come from? Is there something ultimately good and beautiful who made this?
  • The simple sign is univocal and doesn’t have the ability to say very much. The symbol is analogical and extremely powerful.
  • Now we have begun to think symbolically. The transition to thinking sacramentally will be easy, because the definition for sacrament is just one step further from the definition of symbol we just arrived at.
definition of sacrament
Definition of Sacrament
  • A Sacrament is a sign (something that points beyond itself) but is also a reality and has a foundation in reality—fundamentally the reality of Christ himself. So a Sacrament is always a sign—must have water, bread, wine, etc. But, it’s different from a conventional sign in that it effects the reality it signifies.
in depth
In Depth
  • A sacrament is a sensible sign that signifies a spiritual reality and effects what it signifies. So to differentiate from symbol, if a tree symbolizes God, it points to God but does not “effect” God. Looking at the tree does not cause God to appear underneath it. But in a Sacrament, for example, baptism, the water both symbolizes cleansing and effects cleansing from sin on a spiritual level. It literally cleanses you from your sins.
why does man need the sacraments
Why does man need the Sacraments?
  • St. Thomas say (Summa Question III.61.1):
  • Divine wisdom provides for man according to human nature, and human nature needs corporeal things to be led to spiritual things.
  • In sinning, man becomes subject to material things (Concupiscense). Sacraments target this sickness most effectively by providing spiritual medicine under material veils.
  • Man is prone to bodily exercise and material things. Sacraments give us an orthodox outlet when we’re tempted to do things like build golden calves.
why does man need the sacraments1
Why Does Man Need the sacraments?


  • John 3:1-15 JESUS SAYS TO: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
  • JESUS TELLS US WHY: “Truly, truly I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
christian view of material world
Christian View of Material World
  • Some early philosophical/religious groups tried to deny the importance of material world claiming that only the spiritual world mattered….
    • Gnosticismis a rejection (sometimes from an ascetic perspective) and vilification of the human body and of the material world or cosmos.
    • Gnosticism teaches duality in Material (Matter) versus Spiritual or Body (evil) versus Soul (good).
  • Others claimed that spiritual world did not exist…
    • Manicheans
  • Question: will we have bodies in heaven?
    • Phil. 3:20-1
  • Christians have always maintained the importance of the material world
  • It was Created by God, and it is good
  • It and point to God’s existence and even point to some of his attributes…
  • Furthermore, God uses the material world to impart salvation to his creatures, he sacraments are actual vessels of Grace
  • Speaking analogically about God gives us a way to understand who He is from His creation, and from what we are.
  • Thinking sacramentally gives us a way to see the world on a deeper, spiritualized level.
    • The Incarnation is key in allowing us to do this.
  • A Sacrament is a sign which effects the reality it signifies. It takes “symbol” to the next level, because it is matter which both points to a further reality AND effects that reality.