Atonement & Eucharist– Notes on Eleonore Stump’s LATC15 Presentation

Eleonore stump had the privilege of being the final plenary speaker at #LATC15 today. She presented a paper on the connection between atonement and the eucharist. She is best known for her work on the philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and medieval philosophy. Here are my notes on her lecture.

Atonement and Eucharist

Eleonore Stump

Purpose: Explore the connection b/w Atonement and Eucharist

  • Reasonable to believe you would need a full account of Atonement and full account of Eucharist – yet this is impossible to fulfill. (Not a lot of agreement about these doctrines.)
  • In order to go around the differences:
    • Focus on the salvific effect of Christ’s death & the impact of atonement on human sinfulness. Assume the effects of his death have to be applied to the person.
    • Eucharist – adopt a minimalist account. At least it can be said that the rite reminds those who participate in it of the death of Christ. At least they are made mindful of the body and blood of Christ.


  • At-one-ment: making one of things that were not at one, namely God and human beings.
  • The process of atonement begins when a person ceases to resist God – i.e. surrenders to God – but its up to the person (e.g. Paula) alone to do that.
    • The passion and death of Christ can certainly be a catalyst in helping a person (e.g. Paula) surrender.
    • If anything can help Paula cease resisting God’s love it is the spectacle of the love of God for us on the cross.
  • If Paula surrenders – God will provide Paul the grace to will to will what God wills (2nd order willing)
  • As long as Paula continues to will to will – God can keep helping Paul in this trajectory.
  • Atonement has a role in helping Paul surrender – that surrender is the beginning of union with God that will fulfilled if Paula continues on this track.
  • Shared attention….
    • 2nd person experiences
    • 2nd person experiences (knowledge of persons) can be had through stories
      • A story of Jerome can connect someone like Paula in such a way so that Paula comes to know Jerome, not just facts about him.
      • If one day Paula meets Jerome, then there is some possibility of union because of the knowledge that Paul has about Jerome.
    • This point about stories matters very much for the purposes of this paper.
      • Everyone who responds to Christ’s death has to do so through a story.
        • His person and work is mediated to us through a particular story.
      • The story doesn’t act on her will with sufficient causation, nonetheless the story can move her to the melting of heart, the state where she can lay down her resistance to Christ
    • When this story results in the ceasing of the resistance to God – she meets God.
  • The story of Christ’s passion and death is central in bringing people into union w/God because the surrender which is the beginning of this union happens when we “hear” the story.
    • As long as she doesn’t return to her resistance to God.
    • Since this is so there are actually three parts that bring Paula to the complete and permanent union with God
      • The Beginning – her initial surrender
      • Sanctification
      • Perseverance (the continuation of the initial ceasing to resist God)
    • Perseverance is as delicate and tricky a matter as that initial surrender
  • If God were to give Paula a lifetime of perseverance – then God would be taking away her alternate possibilities (and hence the freedom of will necessary for union).
    • So, God can’t give someone the grace of a life time of perseverance.
    • Analogy of Marriage – Jerome can’t guarantee Paula won’t divorce him, but there are many things Jerome can do to help make it so that Paula wont divorce him.
      • Something similar occurs with our perseverance…
      • The Eucharist is one means through which God helps perseverance happen


  • God’s love is most manifest in God’s passion and death.
  • One way to think about the Eucharist is that the bread and wine are eaten during the rite – for a person who participates in the rite, some things are brought entirely in that person by being eaten.
    • The imagery is of a union (union b/w thing eaten and the eater)
  • Increased union and increase love is the result of the rite
  • For virtually all people – the ceasing of resistance must come through a story (Gospels)
    • On every occasion which a person participates in the Eucharist with faith, she is brought back into that story of the love of Christ
    • When Paul participates in the rite, she will remember her need for help and she will remember, vividly, God’s perfect love for her
  • Every time Paula participates in the right, she is reminded of the reason why she should persevere – God’s love for her


  • Salvation has three parts – Surrender, Sanctification, Perseverance
  • God can’t get what he wants by acting directly on the human will – or else union would be lost.
  • By means of the story of the Passion and Death of Christ – Paula comes to know Christ.
  • By means of the remembering of the story – participation in the Eucharist – she reenacts (in a renewal of a marriage vow sort of way) that initial encounter and surrender to God – hence ensuring perseverance.



Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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