More in Common Than Either Would be Willing to Admit, but for Some Quite off the Reservation

lord's supper

As we have seen, one of the basic problems of transubstantiation is its virtual equation of the sign with the thing signified. The symbolic memorialist doctrine errs at the opposite extreme. While Rome virtually equates the sacramental sign with the thing signified, symbolic memorialism completely divorces the two. We have already seen the results of Rome’s failure to truly distinguish the two in the veneration and adoration of the host. The result of symbolic memorialism’s separation of the two is to reduce the sacrament to a subjective act of mental recollection. By superimposing a modern concept of signs on the biblical teaching, proponents of symbolic memorialism have emptied the sacrament of any real significance. Is it any coincidence, for example, that a radical memorialist like Lewis Sperry Chafer would devote a mere half page out of a 2,750-page systematic theology text to the subject of the Lord’s Supper?

The language of Scripture does not lend any support to the idea that the sacraments are mere empty signs that produce a subjective state of mental recollection. Jesus connects the bread and wine with his body and blood in the words of institution at the Last Supper. The Bread of Life discourse in John 6 points to the believer’s communion with the body and blood of Christ. The apostle Paul explicitly talks about the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10). The Scriptures tie the signs together with the things they signify in a way that is simply ignored by proponents of symbolic memorialism…

…Although there were always disagreements among Christians concerning the precise mode of Christ’s presence in the sacrament, the fact of that presence was not doubted until the rise of symbolic memorialism. Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists debated the mode of Christ’s real presence, but they agreed that he was present in some unique way. According to the proponents of symbolic memorialism, however, Christ is not present in the Supper any differently from the manner in which he is present all the time in every place. He is certainly not present in any special way in the Lord’s Supper. As Lewis Sperry Chafer explains, the elements of the Lord’s Supper are a recognition of Christ’s absence…

…According to the symbolic memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper, Christ is not present in any unique sense in the Lord’s Supper. He is not objectively offered or received in any sense in the Lord’s Supper, and the Supper is not an objective means of grace. According to the symbolic memorialist view, the Supper is primarily a subjective observance. Rather than something God gives to us, the Supper is viewed as something we give to God. The Lord’s Supper is our testimony of faith to God and man. Ironically, the symbolic memorialist doctrine shares this reversal with the Roman Catholic Church. Both turn something that God gives to man into something that man gives to God. Rome turns the sacrament into a propitiatory sacrifice that man gives to God. Symbolic memorialists turn the sacrament into a testimony that man gives to God…

…Of all the various concepts of the Lord’s Supper that exist today, symbolic memorialism is the only view that is in complete and total discontinuity with the teaching of the historic Christian church. When we look at the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper from the first centuries of the church onward, it becomes abundantly clear that although Christ’s presence in the Supper was explained in different ways, there was no disagreement over the fact of that presence. The doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the sacrament was not denied by Luther or Calvin during the sixteenth-century Reformation. In fact, Luther argued that the universal testimony of the historic church proved the validity of the doctrine…

Keith A. Mathison, Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper

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44 Responses to More in Common Than Either Would be Willing to Admit, but for Some Quite off the Reservation

  1. John Harutunian says:

    Zrim, for once we’re completely agreed. I myself recently bought Mathison’s book -it’s superb.

  2. Zrim says:

    John, you just wrote in the preaching thread that “I’m fond of pointing out to my High-Church brethren: the Word can stand without the Sacraments, whereas the Sacraments cannot stand without the Word.”

    You also speak highly of Mathison here, who also wrote in Given for You:

    “When Calvin wrote or spoke of the sacraments, he always insisted on the inseperable connection between the word and the sacraments. Both are necessary in order for a sacrament to be a sacrament. Without the word, the sacrament is merely an empty sign. Without the sacrament, the word is not properly sealed and does not have its full, intended effect. Calvin urged the fact of this inseperable connection between word and sacrament as a response to the practice of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, which had made a habit of observing the Lord’s Supper without the preaching of the word. His doctrine is just as relevant to the practice of the modern evangelical church, which has made a habit of preaching the word without the observance of the Lord’s Supper. Both medieval Rome and modern evagelicalism have overlooked the fact that neither the preaching of the word nor the observance of the sacrament is superfluous or optional in regular Christian worhsip (cf. Acts 2:42). Biblical worship includes both.” (pg. 270).

    Following Calvin, Mathison seems to be suggesting here that the word, in point of fact, cannot stand without the sacraments anymore than the sacraments can stand without the word. Isn’t your suggestion that the word can stand without the sacraments an example of the modern slouching toward the flipside error of medival Rome?

  3. "lee n. field" says:

    How did Chafer (the dispensationalist straying Presbyterian) view baptism?

    I’m going to guess, based on what I hear with my ears out in generic evangelicalism, something along the lines of “an act of obedience” and “a way to show the world we love Jesus”.

  4. John Harutunian says:

    Good question, Zrim. I think the key is in Mathison’s observation that without the Sacrament, the word “does not have its full, intended effect.” I take “effect” here in a mostly empirical sense -to mean “full effect on the human consciousness.” I may well be misinterpreting Mathison when I say this. But I do think that he (and for that matter Calvin) would concur that if one is speaking in an absolute, ontological sense, the Word is supreme. The Sacraments flow out of it, as a stream flows out of an ocean.

  5. Zrim says:

    John, I think it’s true that the audible word has primacy in relation to the visible word, but I think that is different from saying it has supremecy over it. Your formulation seems to presume a superior/inferior taxonomy. I think Mathison’s point is that there is more of an organic relationship between the two.

    Lee, having spent my formative years amongst the Chaferian symbolic memorialists (read: broad evangelicalism) where baptism was clearly understood as my act on behalf of God instead of vice versa, I would say your guess is pretty good.

  6. John Harutunian says:

    I think you’re right concerning Mathison’s point. I can’t deny the _relationship_ between: Christ Who is the Word made flesh, the Bible (the inscripturated Word), the sermon which is the Word preached, and the Sacraments which are the word made visible. I’m just wary, Zrim, of any attempts to fuse any of these concepts together and come up with a metaphysical abstraction designated as “The Word”. Here are a couple of reasons why.
    Let’s suppose that one morning during my devotional time I read Romans 8 -one of the critical theological high points of Scripture. That is _The Word of God_. Verbatim. Now, let’s suppose that over the next two Sundays I visit two different churches where I hear two sermons expounding Romans 8. They’re two very different sermons, but both Biblically sound. I would not give sermon one supremacy over the other -but I would have to say that Romans 8 itself is supreme over both. It could exist without the sermons -but the sermons couldn’t exist without Romans 8.
    In a similar way, the efficacy of a Sacrament is dependent upon its use of the Word (the Words of Institution _must_ be spoken or else it’s not the Eucharist, right?). On the other hand, simply reading Matthew 26:26-28 -if it meets with faith in the reader’s heart- is efficacious: it’s the saving Word which proclaims Christs blood as the ground of our forgiveness.
    (It’s funny that I’m the Episcopalian and you’re [presumably] the Presbyterian, isn’t it?)

  7. Rick says:

    I think the difference is between should and must.

    Calvin never argued that the Supper must be celebrated every time the Word is preached – but that it should be celebrated every time the Word is preached.

    Preaching can stand without the Sacrament and still be effective. The preaching can still be pure and right and is still a mean of Grace should it have to stand alone. The Supper cannot stand without the Word preached and still be effective – the Sacrament without the Word preached is improper and not a right administration of it.

    Now, I am persuaded that the preaching should always be followed by the Sacrament. The Supper confirms the Word – it puts a seal on it. It’s for our good.

  8. Zrim says:

    John, yes, of course I agree that even in the informal reading of the word it is efficacious when it meets with true faith. But I think Calvin’s and Mathison’s assumption here is with regard to the preached word in formal and stated worship. (The irony is that I’m a Refomed believer who inherited my fraternal grandmother’s prayer book, not my father who grew up an Episcy altar boy.)

    And, of course, Rick makes a good point here. If we confess that something is for our good it makes little sense to willfully neglect it. And with all due respect to those around here I know disagree, I have yet to hear a persuasive argument for why there are times that the preached word needs no sealing by the visible word or shouldn’t be celebrated.

  9. John Harutunian says:

    >I have yet to hear a persuasive argument for why there are times that the preached word needs no sealing by the visible word or shouldn’t be celebrated.

    Good point. As we start to wrap this up, let me be more explicit about my last point. It seems to me that the two sermons on Romans 8 could both be equally “faithful to Scripture” -and yet have different contents. Hence, categorizing both of them as “The Word [of God?]” creates more problems than it resolves.
    Which is why I prefer to say “preaching a sermon based upon the Bible” rather than “preaching the Bible”.

  10. Lacie says:

    John: Regarding your last parenthetical statement, I do think it’s funny. But I agree with you–and I am a Presbyterian.

  11. John Yeazel says:

    To add a complication to the debate how does the Calvinistic understanding of the Supper differ from the Lutheran? It seems to me that the debate was never resolved. And does it make a difference? Should we still debate about it and try to reconcile over it? Or, just realize that we will probably never agree over it? Is it an issue that is critical to resolve? Or, to put it another way, is it an issue in which the Church will stand or fall or one in which is critical to our salvation?

  12. Zrim says:

    John, the Lutheran doctrine holds that there is similtaneous presence of both bread and the body of Christ at one and the same time: the substance of the bread co-exists with (“con”) the substance of the body. The Reformed, following Calvin, hold to what is typically called “real presence,” which is to say that Christ is only locally present at the right hand of God but that he is as spiritually present to us in the Supper (and communicated by the Spirit) as he is physically present at the right hand of God in heaven. Mathison suggests that the Calvinistic doctrine, in contrast to the Roman transsubstantiation and the Lutheran consubstantiation, might better be called “suprasubstantiation” than “real presence,” supra meaning “above, beyond or transcending.”

    Mathison points out significant errors from the Reformed perspective with the doctrine of consubstantiation that cannot simply be glossed over. They certainly are not as problematic as transubstantiation (which includes a doctrine of propitiatory sacrifice), but consubstantiation diverges significantly from real presence/suprasubstantiation.

    If it helps, though, I’m of the perspective that, after all is said and done, the next best Christian expression after the Reformed tradition is the Lutheran tradition. It seems to me that most Reformed & Presbyterians anymore seem to think they have more in common with Baptists than with Lutherans. What they don’t understand is that the Baptists are the spiritual descendants of the Anabaptists, the other battlefront during the Reformation. Lutherans and Reformed, whatever their Eucharistic differences, were allied against both Rome and Muenster.

  13. David R. says:

    “Without the word, the sacrament is merely an empty sign. Without the sacrament, the word is not properly sealed and does not have its full, intended effect.”

    I’m personally inclined toward the weekly view and I appreciate the above formulation but doesn’t this suggest that the Lord’s Supper should be administered in the evening service as well as the morning?

  14. David R. says:

    P.S. I’m asking this because I honestly don’t know the answer.

  15. Zrim says:

    David, Mathison’s book is an argument for weekly. Calvin’s famous line was “at least weekly,” which has always sort of suggested to me what you are saying. I don’t know if you intend it, but it almost sounds like you might think this a disadvantage of such formulations. Personally, I don’t. But I think we weekliers need to keep in mind that most aren’t convinced of weekly, and to suggest it twice a week would be “greedy.” I would be happy with just once every week, morning or evening.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thanks. Nah, I don’t think it’s a disadvantage. It’s just that I’d never heard anyone advocate for more than once weekly (though I am familiar with Calvin’s take).

  17. John Harutunian says:

    Zrim-

    >most aren’t convinced of weekly [Communion], and to suggest it twice a week would be “greedy.”

    A good strategy! In my more-or-less Baptist home church, a stock response was “if you do it too often, it loses its meaning.” (Which makes sense if the “meaning” is in one’s mind, rather than in the elements, the actions, and the words themselves.)
    As you doubtless know, Luther took Communion every day. Which _might_ have been overdoing it. But I wonder if Evangelicals have even fully come to grips with this as a fact of church history.

  18. RubeRad says:

    Also, if it helps, the shorthand that I stick with is that Lutherans believe in “real physical presence” and Calvinists believe in “real spiritual presence”. Here’s a link to where you can download mp3 of a debate on precisely that topic, featuring OHS Mike Brown.

  19. Zrim says:

    John, the other interesting thing about the “if you do it too often, it loses its meaning” argument is that it seems to harbor an extraordinary understanding of the sacraments. Frequency seems to be more in keeping with an ordinary piety. What’s ironic to me is that infrequenters tend to like to suggest that frequency lends itself to magical ideas, as in “you think that there’s something magical to the elements, that’s why you want it frequently.” But the “frequency loses meaning” argument is what is actually making more out of the sacraments than is proper. The way to put anything into sober, ordinary perspective is to subject it to regularity.

    Luther’s daily was indeed overdone, I think. Infrequenters will point to this as an example of the point that frequency has no way to draw the line and we fall into the opposite ditch the medival church did by once a year. But they forget that the sacraments are tied to the Sabbath, which itself was ordained by God but once a week. I wonder if Luther’s practice was the forerunner to that American maxim, “If once is good, twice (or more) is even better.” But God is a God of limits, too. Some Reformed meet critiques of two services every Sunday by saying, “The question isn’t why two services, rather why not three or four or more?” No, it’s not, God ordained limits for good reason. There is only one Sabbath a week and two services on it suffice just fine, which is the same reasoning we can use for why Luther’s daily was improper.

  20. John Yeazel says:

    Rube,

    The tape was well worth listening to-it got heated but they both seemed to respect each others position without agreeing. I guess the question to ask is if it does the body of Christ harm by our not agreeing? Is it worth trying to gather a legitimate ecclesiastical body to reconcile the positions?- they seem so close to saying almost the same thing.

    It did bring clarity towards how the Reformed and Lutherans differ but because of the differing methodologies they use in the interpretation process I do not see how they can reconcile- it certainly is at an impasse. The discussion was engaging and held my attention throughout one sitting of about an hour and a half. Again, it was time well spent I think.

  21. John Yeazel says:

    Zrim,

    I have heard some Lutherans deny that they teach consubstantiation and they claim this is just a Reformed caricature of their position. Lutherans do not try to explain this is my body like the Calvinists do. The Hoggie and Stoggie tape of the debate did not even mention consubstantiation- although I believe there was a passing reference to the over and under language.

    I think the most significant issue is the Lutheran failure to mention the Holy Spirit and His role in the Supper. That was never really confronted and answered by the Lutheran pastor in the debate. I think Lutherans would probably answer that the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the scriptural texts on the subject and the Calvinists just logically impose His work on the scriptural texts.

    In the end it does not seem that the positions are that far off although I do see the problems that both positions cannot seem to answer to each others satisfaction.

  22. RubeRad says:

    Yes, it is an age-old debate, I don’t foresee any reconciliation any time soon. I’m glad you enjoyed the recording — you might also be interested in Mike Brown’s after-thoughts. It would take much less than another hour-and-a-half, and I think you will see that Mike had many of the same reactions as you.

  23. Zrim says:

    John, Mathison points out that some Lutherans object to the use of the term “consubstantiation” and suggest alternatives like “sacramental union.” However, he does not consider there to be any real pejorative connotations in the former term so he uses it “because of its familiarity and widespread usage in theological works.” So, I’m not so sure it’s a Reformed caricature.

    Of all his objections, Mathison doesn’t say anything about the Lutheran failure to mention the HS’s role in the Supper. The problems he sees as important are how “In order to make it work, Luther had to invent the doctrine of Christ’s ubiquity, which contradicts Scripture, the Council of Chalcedon, and itself. As in the case of transubstantiation, the proponents of consubstantiation are unable to define bodily or corporeal in a way that is consistent with their own doctrines of corporeal bodily presence. Ultimately, both doctrines end up with a Christ who is said to be present in a corporeal and bodily manner, although that presence is also said to be invisible and intangible–the very opposite of corporeal and bodily.”

  24. John Yeazel says:

    According to Brown in his explanation in the debate, the Holy Spirit brings the believer into the presence of Christ in the heavenly realm when the believer is partaking with faith. This gets around the “problem” of the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature in the Supper at the altar. He also stated that Lutherans claim the ascended Christ comes down in both His human and divine natures into all the communion altars whenever the Supper is served. The Lutherans claim the ascended Christ is there whether the person is partaking with faith or not. Therefore, those who do not partake in faith are calling judgment and guilt upon themselves. The Lutherans have problems with the Calvinist concept of fencing off the Supper and partaking in a “unworthy manner.” There is really no reason to fence it off because they are not really partaking of the body and blood when do not partake in faith.

    I do not think either position can be backed up scripturally and therefore there is the impasse. Both are using reason and speculation to a certain extent to defend their positions. Both do not make clear or have differing positions on the fully God and fully man doctrine of Christ and do agree on how these differing attributes communicate to each other in the ascended Christ. There is much paradox and mystery involved and neither side has been able to reconcile the problems of each others positions. At least that is the way I understand it at this point. I do find the doctrine of Christ’s natures difficult to grasp though and I need to do more study on the subject.

  25. John Yeazel says:

    Rube,

    Again, thanks for the link to Mike Brown’s after thoughts. It was helpful to read a summary of the positions and what he thought the critical differences were. They both were defending their positions with passion and in a informed and thoughtful manner. As I said before it was very engaging to listen to.

    So, was the golf course John Kent shot the 69 at a difficult one?

  26. John Yeazel says:

    I was missing a couple of words in this post- they in the last sentence of the first paragraph and not in the sentence: “Both do not make clear or have differing positions on the fully God and fully man doctrine of Christ and do not agree on how these differing attributes communicate to each other in the ascended Christ” (and descended Christ too)

  27. RubeRad says:

    I couldn’t tell you about ball golf, I’m a disc golfer myself. Ask my dad.

    Hey, if you liked this Lutheran/Calvinist debate on the sacrament of communion, you should make some time at some point for this Lutheran/Calvinist debate on the sacrament of baptism. John Bombaro was kind of an advisor to John Kent in preparing for the communion debate, and he puts up a spirited defense of baptismal regeneration. In the end, though, I think it’s a parallel case of over-realized sacramentology because hey, Lutherans is Lutherans.

  28. John Yeazel says:

    Thanks Rube, I will definitely give it a listen. I love this stuff between Lutherans and Calvinists. They most assuredly veered off from each other in regards to the sacraments. Many wonder that if Calvin and Luther met together they might have been able to reconcile their differences. I know this is what Melancthon tried to do but ran into severe difficulties with both parties. The second Martin had to try to clean up a lot of theological mess and the Calvinists thought he did not do a very good job of it. I think that a lot of covenant theology makes sense but my Pastor is not convinced and thinks it is better not to try to resolved the difficulties through systematic theology and a system that makes logical sense. He is content with the paradox and problems inherent in the Lutheran dogmatics. Again, it is an impasse that probably will not be resolved in this life.

  29. Jonathan Bonomo says:

    I need to check this blog more regularly. There are so many issues that have been brought out in this discussion that I’d like to touch on but which time constrains hinder me from addressing. So I’ll have to leave myself to one thing…

    On the issue of “real spiritual presence” over against “real physical presence.” I understand what this is trying to communicate, but I’m uneasy about it. The reason is that pitting “spiritual” over against “physical” in this way implies that the Calvinistic view posits some sort of disembodied presence. In reality this is not the case. It is the whole incarnate Christ, the God-Man, who is present in the sacrament, and he has a human body–a physical dimension. He is not present outside of or apart from his body–it is, after all, the substance of Christ’s *flesh* and his *blood* that we receive in the sacrament. When Calvin and the sacramental Calvinists spoke of a “spiritual presence,” they meant it as short-hand for “A non-local presence brought about by the operation of the Holy Spirit, who who transcends spatial distance.”

    The difference of this Calvinist view with the Lutheran view touches only on the mode and location of presence, but not at all on the fact of presence or on what it is that is present. Or, to put it another way, the issue concerns only the “how” and the “where” but not at all the “that” or the “what.” The Reformed hold that the Spirit in the Eucharist brings us to Christ in heaven to receive, eat, and drink his flesh and blood by faith. The Lutherans hold that Christ’s flesh and blood, present everywhere, are located there in the bread and wine also to be received by our hands and eaten and drunk with our mouths. And here, the issue touches also on the nature of the sacramental elements: are they instruments that communicate Christ, or are they containers that carry him? For the Calvinist, they are instruments that communicate. For the Lutheran, they are containers that carry (At least as the Calvinist sees it).

    But in the end, what is present and received is the same thing for both Calvinist and Lutheran. So the differences, while significant, are not insurmountable. Both hold to a real objective presence of the whole Christ (notwithstanding differences on how and where), whose benefits are not enjoyed apart from faith. There is in fact much ground for unity if prejudice and rhetoric were thrown aside. (Which is and always has been quite hard for confessional Lutherans, since they’re confessionally bound to anathematize us no matter what we say. They’re always under the suspicion, as Westphal was of Calvin, that we are “slippery eels whom no one can catch by the tail.”)

    A couple other things… I can’t help myself:

    Zrim: I do think it’s important to emphasize that the promise offered by the word is also the substance of the sacrament, and that without the word we have no sacrament, but without the sacrament we still have the word. The sacraments signify and seal the promise offered in the word–they confirm it, make it more sure. So by their very nature the sacraments depend on the word for them to even be sacraments in fact. The word, however, does not *depend* on the sacraments. The sacraments confirm the word, but they are not absolutely essential for the existence and efficacy of the word, whereas the word is absolutely essential for the efficacy and existence of the sacraments. This is what drove Luther’s famous statement: “Add the word to the elements and you have a sacrament.”

    A side note on frequency: Calvin’s famous statement, “at least once a week,” is preceded by “every time the word is preached.” In Geneva that would have been 6 days a week, and more than once on Sundays. The full statement is “The sacrament should be celebrated every time the word is preached, or at least once a week.” For him, “once a week” was a compromise, because ideally he saw it being celebrated multiple times a week–whenever the word is preached.

  30. John Harutunian says:

    One terrific blog, Jonathan -as an Anglican I find myself agreeing with everything you say.
    One suggestion:

    “it is, after all, the substance of Christ’s *flesh* and his *blood* that we receive in the sacrament.”

    Do you think our Evangelical brethren might be just _a bit_ more open to this if you were to substitute “nature” for “substance”?

  31. todd says:

    Jonathan,

    That is helpful, but also, it is helpful to rememeber that Christ’s presence in the Supper does not assume his absence outside of it. The presence and power of the Lord Jesus is in the assembly as his people sing (Heb 2:12), gather
    (I Cor 5:4), and even do church discipline (Matt 18:20) The Supper doesn’t bring down his presence to us; he is already here.

  32. Jonathan Bonomo says:

    todd,

    Entirely true. In corporate assembly, we are gathered up to Mt. Zion, gathered around our common Lord, and surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. However, what is unique about the Eucharist that cannot be had otherwise is that that which is present objectively is (spiritually) received by us through sacramental elements and actions. The Eucharist doesn’t create presence–the Spirit does that, and he does it wherever the assembly is gathered around the word. But the Eucharist is the means by which the Spirit communicates substantially to us the Christ who into whose presence we are brought in corporate assembly.

  33. Jonathan Bonomo says:

    John,

    To your question, I’m not really sure. Even if it were made more palatable by the substitution, I’m not sure it would help things. I’m almost certain that if you asked 10 evangelicals what they think a “nature” is, you’d get 5 blank stares, and 5 attempts at an answer, all of which would be entirely different from each other. Thinking metaphysically just is not a part of the evangelical psyche. Hence all the perplexity which ensues any time one tries to explain to a group of evangelicals why the 5th century Christological controversies actually were important.

  34. todd says:

    Jonathan,

    How does the Supper give us what the Word doesn’t, and how do you support this from the Bible?

  35. Jonathan Bonomo says:

    todd,

    It doesn’t. It gives the same thing than the *preaching* of the word, but in a more profound and tangible way (I highlight *preaching* because I would not afford private reading or Bible study groups the same status are the Supper and the Word preached in corporate assembly). It confirms and strengthens our union with Christ. It doesn’t give something different, but gives the same thing–Christ with all his benefits–in a different way. When I said that the eucharist is unique I did mean to discount the fact that the word preached holds out the same promise to us, to be received by faith. Preaching Christ crucified is itself sacramental.

    However, I would point out that the Scriptures do only refer to the bread and the cup as being a participation/communion in the body and blood of Christ, so I would say there is *something* unique about it. However, this being said, and in agreement with the previous paragraph, I would also want to steer clear of saying that its uniqueness necessitates saying that it offers anything substantially different than what is offered through preaching.

  36. Jonathan Bonomo says:

    Oops, penultimate sentence in the first paragraph should read, “When I said that the eucharist is unique I did NOT mean…”

  37. John Harutunian says:

    Sounds like you’ve got Evangelicals pretty much down pat! But -[“fatih hopeth all things”]- what about this line of argument: In the Incarnation, the Eternal Word which was God put on our human nature. He didn’t just put on a body externally (like your neighborhood kids will be putting on a costume in a few weeks!). He became one of us “on the inside.” So, human beings at any rate have a “nature”. But inanimate objects (like bread and wine) don’t? Aren’t they also part of God’s creation?

  38. John Yeazel says:

    Thanks for your input Jonathan- that was a helpful discussion- perhaps the differences between the Reformed, Lutherans and Presbyterians can be reconciled in a manner that will helpful to all involved. It seems to me they are talking, discussing and debating more with each other now then they have been in a long time. Probably the result of the internet and easy access we have with each other. It also may be due to the efforts of those at WS-Cal, Modern Reformation magazine, the White Horse Inn and web sites that many reformational theology types frequent these day.

  39. Zrim says:

    Jonathon, thanks, all excellent clarifications and all harmonious with what I read in Mathison.

    I wonder if you know anything about this bit of historical rumor: I read it somewhere that during the Eucharistic controversies the Reformed physically broke the bread during the institution as a way to respond to Lutheran consubstantiation saying, “See, nobody here. It’s just bread.”

  40. John Harutunian says:

    Certainly does sound like a _rumor_ to me. It does remind me of a challenge once posed by a skeptic to a Catholic priest, “If you really believe in transubstantiation, then when you make the Communion bread why don’t you pour a bit of arsenic into the mixture. Once it’s consecrated it won’t hurt you, right?”
    To which the very proper answer was, “Wrong: only the bread would be transubstantiated -not the poison.”

  41. Zrim says:

    Or as Mathison notes, if trans is correct, and given what is true of the human digestive system, what that implies about the end result of the bread-body should be enough to reject trans.

  42. John Harutunian says:

    I don’t hold to transubstantiaion. But I think the priest had a valid point: the substance of arsenic is not -and can never be made to be- part of the substance of bread. By its very nature, it’s something _added_.

  43. RubeRad says:

    If you go here and search the text for “sacramental”, you will find enough information to get you to MGK’s fascinating discussion of the difference between typology and sacramentology. His conclusion is that the reformed should not break the bread in the administration of communion, because it is tantamount to (symbolically) repeating the once-for-all sacrifice of the cross.

    (Or, listen to this mp3″ starting at 6:88)

  44. RubeRad says:

    Sorry, 6:88 is not a real time, just start at 6:00 or so.

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