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Re: Part Two of the Course, Third Assignment, Question 2
by Marvin Fitchett - Wednesday, 25 July 2012, 4:31 AM

The concepts of legalism and magic as it relates generally to religious matters emanate from a lack of understanding. When a participant or observer of a religious ritual does not fully understand the ritual they would equate their participation in the ritual to receiving a spiritual effect. The next line of reasoning involves the previous, but the spiritual effect would be associated to magic.

A construction of a more exact conceptualization of legalism and magic shall be ascertained. The concepts will be examined as they relate to the sacrament, prayer, and worship in the Middle Ages, in the Pre-Vatican II church, and post Vatican II church. The two concepts of legalism and magic became apparent as the discussion of sacramental effectiveness ensured.

A result of sacramental effectiveness was sacramental validity, where the clergy understood performing the necessary acts during a sacramental ceremony then the effects of the sacrament would take effect. This understanding was labeled sacramental minimalism which evolved into the thinking that the spiritual effects happen automatically. The by-products of sacramental minimalism is sacramental legalism and magic.

The concept of sacramental legalism refers to the clergy performing the legal minimum of the sacramental ritual, and then the spiritual effect would occur. Next, the concept of sacramental magic involved the clergy speaking the right words or prayers and performing the right actions in the sacramental ritual, and then God would cause the supernatural to manifest. A worthwhile side note is from the sacramental magic came abuse of the sacraments, the clergy began collecting money for them.

Middle Ages

The Middle Ages’ sacramental foundations were identified with canon law. As the word law is mention, it creates images of the legality, thus sacramental legalism was developed from the canon law. Sacramental legalism established the sacraments validity and reality which effected the administration of the sacraments. Eventually, the sacramental legalism opened the door to sacramental magic, the rituals working automatically.

Pre-Vatican II Church

The Pre-Vatican II church contained both theologians and canonist, who maintained their views regarding the sacraments. The Pre-Vatican II theologians were interested in understanding and presenting a working interpretation of the sacraments. Whereas, the canonists were concerned with the sacrament function, they were searching for the technicality of the sacraments.

Post-Vatican II Church

The Post-Vatican II church maintained its class of theologians. During this period there were two schools-two schools of thought. They were the Dominicans who followed the scholastics and the Franciscans who followed the modern way. The both used the teaching of Aristotle for their own paths of thought. The Dominicans used Aristotle teaching with a logical approach, and the Franciscans approach was that of critical reasoning.

The sacramental condition of legalism and magic can be traced back to the sacraments, prayers, and worship from the Middle Ages, Pre-Vatican II Church, and Post Vatican II Church.