Theology, History, and Christian Unity

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This thoroughgoing study examines the doctrine of transubstantiation from historical, theological, and ecumenical vantage points. Brett Salkeld explores eucharistic presence in the theologies of Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, showing that Christians might have more in common on this topic than they have typically been led to believe. As Salkeld corrects false understandings of the theology of transubstantiation, he shows that Luther and Calvin were much closer to the medieval Catholic tradition than is often acknowledged.

Foreword by Michael Root
1. Introduction: Transubstantiation in Dispute and Dialogue
Rejection of Transubstantiation
Agreement on Transubstantiation?
The Marginalization of Transubstantiation
Confusion about Transubstantiation
The Corruption of Transubstantiation
2. Transubstantiation in the Catholic Tradition
Origins of Transubstantiation
Transubstantiation and Real Presence
Transubstantiation and Aristotle
Transubstantiation in the Summa Theologiae
"Quid Sumit Mus?" and Transignification: Two Test Cases for Understanding
3. Martin Luther
Real Presence without Transubstantiation
Luther and the Swiss
Replacing Transubstantiation
Signs, Signification, and the Persistence of Bread and Wine
The Incarnational Pattern and the Persistence of the Bread and Wine
4. John Calvin
A Surprising Trend
Sign and Reality
Zwinglian or Thomist?
Ascension and Real Presence
The Holy Spirit
An Obstacle and a Way Forward


"This is an important book on a sensitive topic. It offers a fresh approach to a seemingly intractable problem in ecumenical relations and is well researched and judicious in its judgments. It will be a significant new resource for ecumenical dialogue."

John Cavadini, professor of theology and director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame

"It is a great scandal that the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christian unity, has been the occasion for fracture and division in the body of Christ. At the heart of many of the controversies has been the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Brett Salkeld's book is the best ecumenical study of this topic to appear in years. He asks Catholics to consider what the Church actually teaches on the subject, and invites Protestants to wonder if their own eucharistic doctrines aren't in fact closer to transubstantiation than they've been led to believe. Agree with Salkeld or not, his book is a model of charitable and intelligent ecumenical theology."

Joseph Mangina, Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology

"I learned so much from this book. Salkeld boldly touches the third rail of ecumenism: the doctrine of transubstantiation, the very mention of which is bound to raise the hackles of both Protestants and (increasingly since Vatican II) Catholics. He defends the startling suggestion that Lutherans, Reformed, and Catholics can find in a proper understanding of 'transubstantiation' the position on real presence that each yearns to uphold. As he shows, the meaning of the term had become obscured by the sixteenth century, just as it largely has today. Salkeld writes with love and admiration for his fellow Christians. May this wonderful book enrich Christian unity as we approach the mysteries of the Lord's table."

Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

"In December chill the laborer hastens home at dusk to the hearth. So Brett Salkeld's work in this time of 'ecumenical winter' warms the reader with the glow of ecumenically intentional dogmatics. If Protestants still wish to douse the fire with a bucket of cold water to the effect that Rome has never heard the witness of the Reformation, Salkeld's careful and sympathetic reading of sixteenth-century eucharistic theology, like Elijah's fire on Mount Carmel, vaporizes the objection."

Paul R. Hinlicky, Tise Professor of Lutheran Studies, Roanoke College; Docent, Evanjelická Bohoslovecká Fakulta, Univerzita Komenského, Bratislava, Slovakia

The Author

  1. Brett Salkeld

    Brett Salkeld

    Brett Salkeld (PhD, Regis College, University of Toronto) is archdiocesan theologian for the Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan, and has served for many years on the national Canadian Roman Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue. He is the book review editor for the...

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"An exceptionally well written, organized, and presented study. Particularly and unreservedly recommended for church, seminary, and academic library Contemporary Christian Theology collections."

Midwest Book Review