Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Transubstantiation - Concluding Thoughts

These are the concluding thoughts from a series of posts on the topic of transubstantiation. The previous posts are as follows:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Most Catholics I have spoken to on the matter of transubstantiation contend that the view presented here completely downplays the Lord's Supper. I would like to finish out this series of posts simply by saying that this view in no way detracts, denigrates, or condescends the Lord’s Supper. Nor would I say that Communion is merely a symbol. I think most people would agree that when Jesus says “Do this in remembrance of Me” He is not saying “I want you to intellectually recall all the facts you know about Me in your brain.” Rather, to partake of the Lord’s Supper is to remember His death and all that His death accomplished for us; this should stir and strengthen our faith and draw us into deeper communion with Jesus. Consider once more the words of J.C. Ryle on the subject:
    Now, is it reasonable to suppose that our Lord would appoint an ordinance for so simple a purpose as "remembering His death?" It most certainly is. Of all the facts in His earthly ministry none are equal in importance to that of His death. It was the great settlement for man's sin, which had been appointed in God's promise from the foundation of the world. It was the great redemption of almighty power, to which every sacrifice of animals, from the fall of man, continually pointed. It was the grand end and purpose for which the Messiah came into the world. It was the cornerstone and foundation of all man's hopes of pardon and peace with God. In short, Christ would have lived, and taught, and preached, and prophesied, and performed miracles in vain, if He had not "crowned it all by dying for our sins as our Substitute on the Cross!" His death was our life. His death was the payment of our debt to God. Without His death we would have been the most miserable of all creatures. No wonder that an ordinance was specially appointed to remind us of our Savior's death. It is the one thing which poor, weak, sinful man needs to be continually reminded. (J.C. Ryle, The Lord’s Supper)
In the ordinance of Communion, we have been given the opportunity to experience a profound and vital spiritual truth, and we are to be nourished and satisfied by faith in all that God has given us in Christ.

The Lord’s Supper proclaims Jesus – and that is no small thing at all.


diddy.9000 said...

Trains have substations?

Matthew Wireman said...

Great series of posts Jason! I am thankful that you tackled such a foreboding topic. It is encouraging to see people use their blogs for more than empty words of stream-of-consciousness.

van.diesel said...

Thanks brother. An encouraging word is always welcome... and, as always, it seems, yours are well-timed.

Anonymous said...

Good article, but Christ did mean for us to actually consume his body and blood which is what 'Catholics' do at Mass. Christ did mean his words literally. That's why transubstantiation is so important to 'Catholics' and why our communion is not appropriate for non-believers in transubstantiation.

This is also why the arguements last fall over John Kerry taking communion occured. If it were just a wafer and some grape juice in some sort of relegious play, there wuld have been no arguement.

For Catholics, this is simple. We were told by Christ to do it and that practice has been passed down to us over 2,000 years. For over 1,500 years, it was likewise faithfully observed by the forefathers of Baptists, Pentacostalists, Jehovah Witnesses, et al.

According to Protestants, everything in the Bible is literal, except Christ's commands to eat his body and flesh. Creation is literal, the great flood is literal, Lazarus rising from the dead is literal, but the Eucharist is allegedly not literal -- strange.

van.diesel said...

See the second post in this series regarding the idea of continually sacrificing Christ through "actually consuming His body and blood."

See the third post in this series regarding literal and symbolic language.

David Wills said...

Hey Jason, I first saw this blog a few days ago and it is nice to read the things you have to say. I do have a few comments to make about your posts concerning the Eucharist. I will try to be brief.

<<"This view of the Lord’s Supper, from the Catholic standpoint, is literally the re-sacrificing of Christ." >>

This is not the Catholic position. Catholic doctrine is very clear that Christ is not being re-sacrificed. The 'Catechism of the Catholic Church,' in paragraph 1366 states, "The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit." Thus, it is not another sacrifice or a new sacrifice. It is the making present of the one sacrifice of Christ. The Catholic Church has never used language such as "re-sacrifice of Christ" nor has she ever taught anything that could be classified as such.

<<"New Testament doctrine is clear that after the one offering of Christ on the cross, there is no more need of continual or further sacrifice.">>

The New Testament is clear that there is only one sacrifice of Christ. However, there is a need for that one sacrifice to be applied and appropriated in the lives of individuals all throughout history. You referred to the Letter to the Hebrews and to the fact that Christ offered just one sacrifice, but the Catholic Church does not reject the singular nature of Christ's sacrifice. The Church simply points out that the 'application' of the one sacrifice takes place over time in the lives of individuals. His sacrifice took place in a singular point in history, yet in the spiritual realm his sacrifice is perpetual because he is a priest forever. Hebrews 7:24-25 states, "because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Yes his sacrifice was singular, but because of his permanent priesthood he continually intercedes for his people. Hebrews 8:1-2 points out that he did indeed sit down at the right hand of God, but goes on to say that he "serves in the sanctuary." And Hebrews 9:24 claims that "he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence." I would argue that these passages show how Christ's work on our behalf is timeless, though the one sacrifice took place in time.

Next, you mentioned that John 6:48-59 is a text that Catholic apologists often use to defend the doctrine of the Eucharist, and this is certainly true. You also made mention, however, of John 6:35 in which Jesus speaks about coming to him and believing in him. Yet this is not part of the Catholic argument because there is a shift in the context in John 6. Prior to verse 48, Jesus makes no mention of the words "eat," "drink," "flesh," and "blood." Jesus then speak about the physical act of eating as he says "your forefathers ate the manna in the desert"(vs 48). He goes on to claim that he is the living bread that came down from heaven, and the eating of this bread will cause one to live forever. He claims, "this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Whereas earlier in the chapter Jesus was speaking of the spiritual realities of "coming to him" and "believing in him," he is now speaking of a physically reality as he will physically give his flesh on the cross for the life of the world. And it is in this context that he claims the bread is his flesh.
You are correct that he later claims that "the Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing." But in this statement he is clearly referring to the flesh in the sense of carnal or worldly as opposed to the things of God. We must admit that the flesh DOES count for something in that it was his flesh that he gave for the life of the world. But this is not how he is using the term here. He is using it to refer to worldliness and unbelief.
What is striking in John 6, though, is that when Jesus is saying the bread is his flesh to be eaten, the Jews began to argue among themselves saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (vs 52) They understood his words literally and Jesus does not correct them and clear up the confusion by saying his words are merely symbolic. Rather than correcting them, he continues his exortation to eat his flesh and drink his blood causing those listeners to subsequently leave him.

<<"to partake of the Lord’s Supper is to remember His death and all that His death accomplished for us; this should stir and strengthen our faith and draw us into deeper communion with Jesus.">>

All throughout Scripture, the call to remember or the act of remembering is more than a calling to mind of an event in the past; it is rather a making present of the past, appropriating for oneself in the present what God has provided for His people in the past, and realizing that the promises God makes in one generation can be received and experienced by those in all generations. Just as Old Testament Israel was to remember "this day" (Exod. 12:14) by celebrating the Passover yearly, so the Church is to remember the work of Christ through the regular celebration of the Eucharist. And just as Israel, through remember the Exodus, still saw themselves as living the event, so the Church, as she participates in the celebration of the Eucharist, communes with Christ and reaps the benefits of his death. In this way the mysteries of the life of Jesus are both singular and transcendent. His life, death, and resurrection took place in a single period in history, yet transcend space and time and permeate the lives of all who draw near to him now. In 1 Cor. 10:2-3 Paul, referring to Israel, points out that "all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in teh sea; and all ate the same spiritual food." In fulfillment of the Old Israel, the new Israel, the new people of God are baptized into Christ and share the same spiritual food, which is not manna from heaven, but rather Christ himself who came from heaven.

Am I a slave to the Mass? Well, I've never thought of it in that way, but Paul did mention being "slaves to God" in Romans 6:22. In that sense, then, I could consider myself a slave to Christ and his will and therefore would be a slave to his command to "do this in remembrance of me." For 2000 years the Church has always understood this to be sacrificial language; and for 2000 years the Church has always believed the Eucharist to be the body and blood of Christ.
What is most striking to me about the doctrine of the Eucharist is the complete unanimity among Christians since the time of Christ that it truly is the body and blood of Christ. What I find very interesting is that, in the early church, there was some confusion and a development of understanding concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, the natures of Christ, and even the canon of Scripture insofar as what books are to be included and which books are not. Yet despite all of the discussion and debating that took place about these issues, never was there a dispute that took place concerning the nature of the Eucharist. Every individual who considered themselves Christian, from the time of Christ onward into the early centuries of the Church, attended the regular celebration of the Eucharist and believed it to truly be the body and blood of Christ.

When I get a chance, (hopefully tomorrow) I will post several quotes from early church fathers that show an explicit belief in the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist and display that this has been the unanimous teaching of the Church since the time of Christ.

These are just a few thoughts I had. I didn't want to take up too much space, but at least wanted to make some comments in defense of the Catholic. As I mentioned in my response yesterday to the comment made by "Batman" on your previous post, I truly commend the desire to seek truth and to clarify one's own position. That is why I do not take these arguments against the Catholic Church personal, as I know they arise from your heart, a heart that is truly seeking after God. I hope you believe the same for me and know that truth is my desire as well. It is my prayer that this exchange would create light for others in their understanding of these matters, but not the heat of debate. Thank you for your honesty in expressing your position; I hope you consider mine as well.

God Bless.

Karate Explosion said...

1. that guy said

"I will try to be breif"

then wrote a novel. I will be honest and say I read about 3 sentences then fell asleep.

2. If i am really eating Christ body and drinking His blood...sick. I can't even drink a glass of water if the waiter takes it away from the table.

3. I laughed out loud when Erik said "Trains have substations." That was hi-freakin-larious.

4. I wonder what Jesus thinks about us eating his flesh. Probably hurts.

5. I hate when people list things out.

6. I hate the word hate.

Matthew Wireman said...

Karate Explosion - I appreciate your sense of humor to a certain degree. However, when you degrade the Catholic position I think you are hurting more than helping in the dialogue. When we make comments on these things it is easy to throw words out there when you don't see someone face to face. Remember that these are real folks (as I am sure you know).

David - A few points of exegesis. I fail to see how you connect Jesus' continual intercession with the once-for-all-sacrifice with the Eucharist. I understand that you believe that the Mass is not re-sacrificing, but this fails in light of logic. The OT pirest offers the sacrifice and atones for the sins each year. Jesus sat down once the sacrifice was finished once. If a Catholic priest "turns" the bread into the body, then how is it possible for the flesh to be real when Christ now has a resurrected body? The point of Hebrews 7 is that we have a perfect intercessor who is not like the OT priests. He does not offer again and again. Once. Though you claim the Eucharist is not a re-sacrifice, in all simplicity it is calling the bread Christ's flesh that is truly present with him as he sits at the right hand of God. Make sense?

Secondly, following your literal interpretation of John 6.48-49 Jesus flesh would have to be present in the Wilderness in Israel BEFORE the Incarnation. I still don't think you dealt with Jason's argument from v. 63 where Jesus is expositing all the words from before (including eating his flesh).

Thirdly, I know that Aquinas sought to distinguish between actual and perceived. However, how is Jesus able to say at the Last Supper "This is my body" which he is holding in his hands. We can argue all day that "is" means "is", but logic will not let us take it literally. It is not a lack of faith. Rather, it is hermeneutical principles that govern the interpretation (namely, the rule of faith).

Fourthly, How is Jesus present in heaven interceding for us and present in the multiple Eucharists that are being eaten by people? One of the beauties of the Incarnation is that Infinite God became finite man. In his physical body he is only able to be in certain places. So it is now. He sits at the right hand of the Almighty...

Lastly, I know that this is fed by a presupposition Catholics have of the ongoing nature of forgiveness and sacrifice and sacraments. However, I hope biblically we can let the Bible guide our theology. Here is a short article by Dr. Joe Mizzi that may help the discussion: here.

Karate Explosion said...

My Dear friend matthew wireman

if you go back and reread my post you will see that i wasnt making fun of the man at all. I was just simply saying that he wrote a book rather than being breif as he stated he would be. I can hardly find the time to make fun of others due to the fact that i spend most of my time making of myself. Sorry for the miscommunication my friend.

Matthew Wireman said...

Thanks for the response. That helps. I was mostly talking about numbers 2 and 4 on your list. That's what I meant by the "degrade" part of my comment. This is a senstitive topic and we need to be careful when we talk about someone's position. Thank you for your kindness in your response to me...no hard feelings at all.

Karate Explosion said...

Matt my man, no sweat...I meant nothing by it, but nonetheless apologize if I offended in any way. :)

David Wills said...

Matt - Tomorrow I will post a response to some of your questions. But in my previous post I had mentioned the unanimous consent of the early church fathers concerning the nature of the Eucharist. In the early centuries there were disputes conerning issues such as the Trinity and the natures of Christ, but never was there a dispute that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.

Here I just want to post a few quotes from some of the great fathers of the church simply to show readers of this blog that what the Catholic Church teaching about the Eucharist is what has been believed for 2000 years, and was the belief and practice of the early church. This is only a small representative sample, but statements such as these were widely made and believed by the Church since the time of Christ:

"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the same Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead." ('Letter to the Smyrnaeans')

JUSTIN MARTYR (110-165 A.D.)
"This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true...For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Saviour being incarnate by God's word took Flesh and Blood for our salvation." ('First Apology')

"For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist." ('Against Heresies')

ATHANASIUS (295-379)
"So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ." ('Sermon to the Newly Baptized')

"We have been instructed in these matters and filled with an unshakable faith, that that which seems to be bread, is not bread, though it tastes like it, but the Body of Christ, and that which seems to be wine, is not wine, though it too tastes as such, but the Blood of Christ." ('Catechetical Lectures')

"What is the mark of a Christian? That he be purified of all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit in the Blood of Christ, perfecting sanctification in the fear of God and the love of Christ, and that he have no blemish nor spot nor any such thing; that he be holy and blameless and so eat the Body of Christ and drink His Blood." ('The Morals')

"The bread is bread before the words of the sacrament. When consecration has been added, from bread it becomes the flesh of Christ." ('The Sacraments')
"For the sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Chrsit have power to change the nature of the elements?" ('On the Mysteries')

"This Sacrifice, no matter who offers it, be it Peter or Paul, is always the same as that which Christ gave His disciples and which priests now offer: The offering of today is in no way inferior that which Christ offered, because it is not men who sanctify the offering of today; it is the same Christ who sanctified His own. For just as the words which God spoke are the very same as those which the priest now speaks, so too the oblation is the very same." ('Homilies on the 2nd Epistle to Timothy')

AUGUSTINE (354-430)
"What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice the Blood of Christ." ('Sermons 272')
"The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Chrsit, becomes Christ's body." ('Sermons')

Matthew Wireman said...

Thank you for posting the quotes from those who helped form the early church. I sympathize with your desire to see how these godly men fought for various doctrines, but I don't think it is an open-shut case because the early church seemed to advocate your position (as I know you don't think it's open-shut).

First, the early church did get things wrong. Thus you had schisms and heterodoxy sprouting up as the Church sought to define its doctrine. I do not believe that Justin Martyr, nor Athanasius, nor Basil, nor Ignatius got it right. Yes, they helped define at pivotal points in the life of the Church, but they were not inerrant.

Secondly, the doctrine of transubstantiation did not become official until the 13th century. The RCC may talk about the present doctrine being in seed form all day, but the fact is that this was not a doctrine officially taught until that time. You make the statement that the Church was more concerned about the Trinity and the Canon than it seems they were about transubstantiation. This is due to the heresies that were popping up trying to deny the deity of Christ, not because transubstantiation was not an important doctrine.

Put another way: The men you quote are pillars on which we stand. However, we cannot look to our foundations from our presuppositions of what we believe to be doctrinally pure. That is, simply because you believe transubstantiation is true and you see it evidenced in the fathers of the church does not mean they taught this. There is way too much ambiguity as to this.

Doubt the ambiguity? I am perfectly okay with (as a Protestant) saying that the bread and the cup are the body and blood of Christ. Read this comment when I am dead for ten generations and people will think that I believe in transubstantiation.

Not so. I believe in a spiritual reality that says that by faith I am partaking of the body and blood of Christ. Do I eat the flesh? No. Metaphorically this may ride. Parabolically this may hold. But not actually. Again, biblically there is no warrant to hold to transubstantiation when read in context.

van.diesel said...


First off, it's great to hear from you, old friend! Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. Yours is one of the few well-articulated Catholic responses I've read. Thanks for taking the time to respond and for approaching the topic without taking offense.

I would like to clarify a couple points concerning Real Presence. Though you have stated well your position, and perhaps clarified some misconceptions, I still fail to see sufficient Scriptural evidence to support literal transubstantiation. I am not saying Christ is not at all present in the Eucharist. I believe that Scripture supports His spiritual presence – but not His physical presence. In asserting the spiritual presence of Christ in the Supper, understand that by "spiritual" I do not mean ethereal or symbolic. To say the spiritual presence of Christ is present is not to be downplayed, as the Catholic church seems to do, in my opinion – but the spiritual is no less literal or real than the physical. This seems to be a point many believers fail to realize, much less integrate into their lives. Remember, the Spirit gives life while the flesh “is of no avail” (John 6:63). I think Donald MacLeod put it quite well:

He is there [in the Eucharist] by His Holy Spirit. He is there not to be seen and touched and handled, but to be received by faith. This is no mere metaphorical presence. It is a genuine presence, `real' not in the sense of the body being present, but in the sense of Christ being personally present. He is present at the Lord's Table as He is present wherever two or three gather in His name (Matthew 18:20). He is present as He is present in the prayer meeting. He is present as He is present in the preaching of the Word. He is present as He was present to the saints of the Old Testament. There is no peculiar sacramental presence. We cannot teach that tonight we have the prayer meeting presence and tomorrow we have the preaching presence and next month we have the sacramental presence, as if somehow these were gradations on some kind of scale. The person, Christ, is present wherever His people gather, wherever His Word is preached, wherever His name is invoked in prayer. He is present in our hearts, present with His grace, present with His help in time of need, and present in His benefits. (The Lord’s Supper)

You say: What is most striking to me about the doctrine of the Eucharist is the complete unanimity among Christians since the time of Christ that it truly is the body and blood of Christ. What I find very interesting is that, in the early church … never was there a dispute that took place concerning the nature of the Eucharist. Every individual who considered themselves Christian, from the time of Christ onward … believed it to truly be the body and blood of Christ.

Respectfully, I consider that a gross overstatement and would question the accuracy of this particular point. Even in the early church, there was debate and discussion over this issue. And although I appreciate you sharing some thoughts from the church fathers regarding this subject, I don’t believe that you have presented an accurate range of teachings or comments. There was hardly a “unanimous consent” regarding the Eucharist. Please consider the following:

>> The Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, as it is sometimes called, is included in the collection of works known as the Apostolic Fathers, and is one of the oldest documents from the immediate post-apostolic age that we possess. It is an early manual of Church discipline dated from between the late first century and 140 A.D., and it simply refers to the Lord’s Supper as spiritual food and drink. There is no indication that the elements are transformed in any way. (William Webster, The Eucharist)
>> Tertullian (155-250) explicitly maintained that the bread and wine in the Eucharist were symbols or figures which represent the body and blood of Christ and specifically stated that these were not the literal body and blood of the Lord. Tertullian asserted that that Jesus was speaking figuratively when He said “This is My body” and that he consecrated the wine ‘in memory of his blood’ (On the Resurrection of the Flesh).
>> Clement of Alexandria (150-216) also called the bread and wine symbols of the body and blood of Christ, and taught that the partakers received not the physical but the spiritual life of Christ (The Instructor)
>> Eusebius (263-340) identified the elements as being symbolical or representative of spiritual realities. He specifically states that the bread and wine are symbols of the Lord’s body and blood and that Christ’s words in John 6 are to be understood spiritually and figuratively as opposed to a physical and literal sense. (On the Theology of the Church)
>> Augustine (354-430) contended that the Eucharist was a sign which represents and symbolizes a spiritual reality. He made a distinction between the physical, historical body of Christ and the sacramental presence, maintaining that Christ’s physical body could not literally be present in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Though he maintained that Christ is spiritually with His people, Augustine maintained that Christ is physically at the right hand of God in heaven, and will be there until He comes again. Augustine viewed the Eucharist in spiritual terms and he interpreted the true meaning of eating and drinking as being faith: ‘To believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again.’ (Homilies on the Gospel of John)

The views of the early Church on the meaning of the Eucharist and its relationship to the person of Christ are, in actuality, very similar to those found today in relation to different Protestant and RCC views.

I think, however, that you and I must both take something into account in quoting the church fathers, as Matt alluded to above. Interpreting the meaning of the Eucharist through the writings of the fathers must be done with great caution. I think it is all too easy to filter their comments and teachings through preconceived theology of the Eucharist. Great men though they may have been, they are not infallible. And with all due respect to them – for they are no doubt greater theologians than I will ever be – if they held the stance of literal, physical transubstantiation, they were in error.

Dave, I do want you to know that it’s great to hear from you and I’m glad we can have this discussion. May the Lord use this to sharpen us and deepen our love for Him. Grace and peace, brother.

David Wills said...

Sure, individuals in the early church can err when they give their private opinion concerning a matter. But the Eucharist was not a matter of some private opinion, but rather of public worship and celebration. All of the early fathers attended Mass and celebrated the Eucharist. It's one thing to disagree with 1 father in his interpretation of a particular issue. But it's another thing to disagree with the entire life and practice of the early church.

You mentioned that the doctrine of transubstantiation did not become "official" until the 13th century. I am a little confused as to the point you are trying to make with this statement. Are you arguing that it was not believed until then? You mentioned how the Church claims doctrines were in seed form in the early centuries, and that is certainly true of some doctrines in the sence that the Church, over time, comes to a fully understanding of what God has revealed. But I did not present this argument in anything I have said so far about the Eucharist. I did not do so because this belief - that the Eucharist is literally the body and blood of Christ - was not something that was present in seed form in the early church. This belief was the unanimous belief and practice of the Church.

Now certainly the Church, over time, clarified her language in regard to the Eucharist as well as every other theological issue. The word "transubstantiation" is simply a term that developed in attempt to come up with a word that best expresses the reality that takes place in the Eucharist, a reality that was already believed. Terms such as "Trinity," "Hypostatic union," "Pope," "Transubstantiation," and others were formulated by the Church in order to explain an already existing reality on a deeper level so as to clear up any confusion that may exist as well as to have a word or phrase by which these realities can be associated.

The early fathers spoke often about the Eucharist, but had no single term to describe exactly HOW the transformation takes place. The Church gradually developed her language to decribe what takes place and even received help from the vocabulary of Aristotle in distinguishing between "accidents" and "substance." I'm not going to go through the distinction, but bring it up only show that that language developed and the understanding of how it all takes place was brought to a fuller realization.
the important point to note, however, is that there was never a development or a doubt as to whether the fathers believed that the Eucharist was actually the body and blood of Christ. That is the bottom line. The fathers begin with the basics, namely, that after the prayer of consecration, the bread and wine is truly the body and blood of Christ. They believed that he was physically present. Incidentally, even Martin Luther himself believed that Christ was physically present.

The Church does not "officially" define a dogma unless there is dispute or confusion over the matter or if there is need to futher clarify an issue in order to lead the people into a deeper understanding of and devotion to the reality.

You mentioned schisms and heteroxy sprouting up at times in the Church. This is true. And every time that happened the Church condemned the heresy and proclaimed the orthodox teaching. In some cases, such as the Trinitarian and Christological controversies, the Church had to gradually formulate her language and further clarify the issue along with condemning the heresy and the heretics. People were denying the Trinity and the 2 natures of Christ in the early church, leading the Church to meet at councils to settle the issue, coincidentally what the Church has been doing from the time of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 all the way to the 2nd Vatican Council in 1962. But noone in the early church denied the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. His physical presence was 1st denied in the Middle Ages, and that is why the Church at that time sought to further develop the language in expressing the reality. Any time a heresy developed in the early Church, there were fathers and councils ready to speak out and correct the error. But there is no dispute over the Eucharist, even with fathers such as Ambrose who I quoted as referring to the elements of bread and wine changing in their very nature after the words of consecration is spoken. A quote I failed to post, but would be happy to post, is the statement by Augustine when he refers to Christ carrying his body in his own hands at the Last Supper. But never were there any disputes until the Middle Ages when someone finally made the claim that Christ is NOT physically present. And when that happened the Church did what she has done with every other error that has popped up throughout the centuries, that is, condemn the error and further clarify and define the language in a council if necessary.

I am going to go ahead and stop here for now. I do not want to argue with Jason or with you. My goal is simply to state the Catholic position so that readers may understand what the Catholic Church actually teaches. I hope everyone can take these statements in a charitable way. And I hope our statements have helped to shed some light to others as to what the Catholic Church believes and to what the belief is that Jason has presented.

damocon said...

Guys, I think you need to rethink your position on transubstantiation. I think you need to listen to Dave, your "old friend." The early Church believed that the body and blood of Jesus were used for a real sacrifice. This is fact. But what kind of a "sacrifice" would it be if the body and blood of Christ were not the literal body and blood of Christ? It would be no sacrifice at all. Would you have the entire early Church performing meaningless sacrifices? You see, if it is just bread and wine, then it is not a sacrifice - it is play acting. But I don't believe for a second that the early church met together for playacting sacrifices with bread and wine. How come you can't see that when they got together for a sacrifice, they got together for a real sacrifice with real flesh and blood, and not some pretend sacrifice with bread and wine?

Then there's John 6

You keep fixating on other words of Jesus: "It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." But what does this mean? That is the question. Jesus meant that they needed to listen to Jesus with the help of the Spirit. He didn't mean that it is useless to eat his flesh. If he meant that it is useless to eat his flesh, then everyone would have asked him why he just contradicted himself. Because just a few verses earlier, Jesus told them that his flesh would give life. But then understood that Jesus was not contradicting himself. That's why they didn't call Him on it.

But when He said that the flesh profits nothing He meant that it is only with the Holy Spirit's help that someone can believe Jesus' words. You see, we can't believe Jesus' words by our own human understanding (by the "flesh"). Essentially, Jesus is telling them that they have an option. And we all have this option. They/we can accept his difficult words with the help of the Spirit, or they/we can reject his words by their/our own human lack of understanding (which he calls the "flesh"). And it profits nothing to listen to Jesus' words from the the human flesh, that is, with human ears.

If Jesus meant that his body and blood were mere symbols, wouldn't he have called his disciples back after they left him? How come He didn't say, "hold on a second guys, don't take me literally, I was speaking symbolically?" The reason he didn't say this is because He was not speaking symbolically. And they knew it. That's why they left him (John 6:66). They didn't leave Him because he used some gaudy symbolic language. They left Him because they knew exactly what He was saying. And Jesus didn't call them back.

David said it right. Jesus is not sacrificed over and over again at the Mass. The Mass is when we re-present the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus to the Father. We re-present the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus to the father. Believe it or not, you do the same, but only in a purely spiritual way. Whenever you sin, you repent, and ask God to forgive you on the basis of Jesus' sacrifices. In this sense, you call to the Father's mind the sacrifice of Jesus. And we Catholics do the same, only when we sin, we repent and ask God to forgive us on the basis of Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice which we then present to the Father in a mystical but very real way. That is why the Bible can say that Jesus is standing (Rev 5) and sitting at the same time.

Lastly, the early Church father's comments. Of course they will speak of the body and blood of Jesus as signs. Catholics believe that the sacraments are signs that do what they signify. A sacrament is an effecacious (sp?) sign. Though some of the early fathers referred to the eucharist as a sign, they never denied that the eucharist was the literal body and blood of Jesus. If they did condend that it was just a sign, and not any more than that, they would have been labeled and taken to task by the Christian community at large. But this is not what happened.

I hope this helps explain our position a little more. God bless,


Matthew Wireman said...

Thanks for the response, Dave. I just don't think you have dealt with our arguments. I am not trying to go against the sitness of church history like you say. I am merely saying that to read your presuppositions into the Church Fathers is not an argument to support your position. Jason raised a very good point from the Didache and Terutllian. If this was a teaching that was unanimous, why does it not seem to be the case with these men? I suggest that there was no unanimity/clear teaching of transubstantiation in the early church as you suppose.

Regarding the heresies I brought up, I was merely saying that the doctrine of transubstantiation was not developed because it was not of utmost importance - the Trintity and Canon were - not because of unanimity.

Matthew Wireman said...

Note: This will probably be my last comment. I have a blog to work on and reading that I am too far behind in to justify putting off any more. This conversation has been very encouraging for me and helpful. Thank you all for your time.

Damienc ~

Thanks for your comments. I think it would be beneficial for you to read the Webster articles Jason cited and the previous posts.

It seems we are totally missing each other in our exegesis. I simply don't think you are reading the text right. Period.

Again, the Church Fathers. Read my response to David above. The last paragraph did not make sense to me. You used "sign" in two different ways.

damiencon said...

I am trying to explain the Catholic interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures. I could have come on the the blog here and just stated that I disagree with you too. Period. But I prefer to give some reasons for why I disagree. I showed you why I disagree with your interpretation of John 6. It makes no sense to me to intpreret it your way too. But I showed why it makes no sense to me to interpret it your way. But you just come on and say that I am not reading it correctly and then you give me the "period." What kind of response is that? Please, answer me this, why did the followers of Jesus leave him when He told them that His flesh was food indeed and that his blood was drink indeed? Was it because of gaudy language?

Second, I am not using "sign" in two different ways. For Catholics the sacraments ARE signs. But, these "signs" do what they signify. For example, I could take the sign post from the street, and then travel to England. But just because I have the sign post with me doesn't mean that I am at my home town anymore. The sacraments however give us what they signify. A sacrament is a sign, but more. See? You have to see that I am speaking from within the Catholic paradigm.

Lastly, the references to the Didache and Tertullian etc. come with no quotes. Please, if you will, supply us with the relevant quotes.



van.diesel said...


Thanks for joining the discussion and for sharing your thoughts.

Please see the second post in this series regarding sacrifice. Scripture teaches that Christ’s body and His sacrifice were offered once. On this point, you as an individual would seem to agree, yet Catholic doctrine does seem to teach that his body and sacrifice are offered over and over again in transubstantiation and the repetition of each mass.

I think it may be helpful to look a piece of the history within the Catholic church to get a better understanding of this matter. Now, I realize that I am an outsider looking in, so I will try my best to refrain from making great leaps to support my perspective apart from the historical facts. Specifically, I’d like to look at the Council of Trent.

The Council of Trent was a Catholic council held from 1545-1563 in an attempt to stop the progress of the Protestant Reformation. The Vatican II Council of the mid-1960s referred to Trent dozens of times, quoted and reaffirmed Trent's proclamations as authority. The New Catholic Catechism cites Trent no less than 99 times. At the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII stated, "I do accept entirely all that has been decided and declared at the Council of Trent." Every cardinal, bishop and priest who participated in the Vatican II Council signed a document affirming Trent. The Council of Trent has never been annulled. (David W. Cloud, Declarations of the Council of Trent)

Now, there are modern Catholic writers who say the RCC does not teach that the mass is the re-sacrifice of Christ. However, the words of the Council of Trent – still upheld by Rome - are quite clear in their meaning:
And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated [killed as sacrifice] in an unbloody manner who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross . . . For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. . . If any one saith, that the sacrifice of the mass is only a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; or, that it is a bare commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice. . . and that it ought not to be offered for the living and the dead for sins, pains, satisfactions, and other necessities: let him be anathema.
“Trent teaches that just as Christ was the divine victim and was offered and immolated on the cross as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, so in the mass, which is a distinct sacrifice in its own right, he is referred to as the divine victim who is again offered and immolated as a propitiatory sacrifice, just as he was immolated on the cross. The only difference, according to Trent, between the sacrifice of the mass and the sacrifice of the cross is that one is bloody and the other unbloody. Trent teaches that just as Christ was the divine victim and was offered and immolated on the cross as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, so in the mass, which is a distinct sacrifice in its own right, he is referred to as the divine victim who is again offered and immolated as a propitiatory sacrifice, just as he was immolated on the cross. The only difference, according to Trent, between the sacrifice of the mass and the sacrifice of the cross is that one is bloody and the other unbloody.

“The Church attempts to get around this problem by claiming that the sacrifice of the mass is not a different sacrifice from that of Calvary but the same sacrifice perpetuated through time. Because God is beyond time the sacrifice of the cross is always present with him, and therefore the sacrifice of the mass is the same sacrifice as that of Calvary. This logic is a semantic smoke-screen: the sacrifice of the cross was an historic space-time event which occurred once and can never be repeated. The application of the Lord’s sacrifice goes on through time in terms of the Holy Spirit bringing men to receive the benefits of his finished work, and the commemoration of his sacrifice goes on through time, but the sacrifice itself cannot be perpetuated.” (William Webster, The Eucharist)

I appreciate your attempts to exegete John 6:63, I do not believe you are taking into account the broader context of symbolic language used generally in Scripture and specifically by Christ Himself. See the third post in this series for more details.

Unless I am misunderstanding you, there is a point on which you seem to contradict yourself. Your opening paragraph asserts that the RCC perpetuates a real sacrifice of Christ (“…What kind of a 'sacrifice' would it be if the body and blood of Christ were not the literal body and blood of Christ? It would be no sacrifice at all. Would you have the entire early Church performing meaningless sacrifices?”) But later you say Christ is not really sacrificed (“Jesus is not sacrificed over and over again at the Mass. “) but simply re-presented. I understand this concept, but in light of the once-and-for-all finality of Christ's sacrifice upon the cross, I again would say that there is no need for physically eating or drinking the literal body and blood of Christ. "For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed." (I Cor. 5:7) His death is an accomplished fact. "Let us therefore celebrate the feast . . . with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (I Cor. 5:8) We are called no longer to a sacrifice, but to a feast.

You assert the only alternative to literal transubstantiation with literal flesh and blood is a “playacting sacrifice.” I think you fail to recognize the reality of the spiritual nature and instead elevate the physical to unwarranted height. Again, the spiritual is no less literal or real than the physical.

Matthew Wireman said...

Okay, this really is my last post. I told my wife it would be. This has truly been helpful for me and I appreciate everyone's time. As I am not studying this right now in my classes, I don't feel like I should spread myself too thin - rather giving myself to what I am currently studying.

Note of clarification: I did not mean to be lazy in defending my exegesis of John. Rather, it is obvious that we are coming at the text with too many different presuppositions...that's whay I said "I think we are totally missing each other". This has been a debate that I doubt we will be able to solve in comment boxes. I did not mean to offend.

Rather, I will direct you to some very good articles relating to this topic. This will help explain where I am coming from.

Thank you.
John 6.53
The Eucharist
Sola Scriptura
Various Articles by William Webster

damiencon said...

Hey Guys, I am really enjoying your posts. Thanks for being so engaging. It's MY wife's birthday today, so I'll have to get back to you tomorrow. Peace,


Bryan said...

Kind of tying two of your recent series together, I would like to point out that this is "the Year of the Eucharist" by proclamation of the Pope. One of the things recommended during this year is a renewed emphasis on "Eucharist Adoration". This is an abominable practice. After the priest "conjures" Christ into the wafer, it is then put on display in a large golden container called a "Monstrance". The people attending are encouraged to gaze in awe at the fancy golden bread box and direct their prayers toward the Christ presence that it contains! Roger Oakland of Understand the Times International www.understandthetimes.org has taken on the thankless task of (among other things)informing Christians about just how far the Roman Catholic Church has abandoned Truth.

damiencon said...

Me again. Thanks for waiting. A few things:

1. Trent: We need to think in sacramental terms. The reason Christ is immolated at the Mass, is because his immolation is being re-presented. It is as if we got into our time machiene and went back to Calvary. The Cross is being perpetuated throughout time so that when we go to Mass, we are going, in all reality, to Jesus' crucifixion. So, yes, Jesus is immolated. If Jesus was in an immolated state at Calvary, Jesus has to be in an immolated state at the Mass. Because the both are the same thing, except for the latter being offered to the Father in an unbloody manner. The priest is not up there killing Jesus. The priest is standing in FOR Jesus. When the priest speaks the words, it is Jesus speaking through him (just as the Holy Spirit spoke through His holy prophets). By the power of Jesus' spoken word (spoken by the agancy of the priest) the bread and wine are transformed. First the bread to the flesh and then the wine to the blood. The separate consecrations (first body then blood) is for the purpose of giving a more precise symbol of death--that is, the separation of body and blood.

Now to Hebrews: What would Jesus have to do in order to go "in and out" as the Old Testament priests did when they were offering their sacrifices? Think about it. When the Old Testament priest went "in" to offer the sacrifice, he went into the earthly holy of holies. The priest performed the sacrifice and then he came "out." But Jesus simply cannot go in and out. Jesus went "in" to the heavenly holy of holies. But when Jesus went into the holy of holies, he did not come out in order for him to go back in the next year. He couldn't because HE was the sacrificial victim. In order for Jesus to go back into the holy of holies, He would have to be born all over again, wait 30 years, have 3 years in the field, and then be cricified all over again. But Jesus had something eles in mind. Instead of dying and going through with the everything all over again, Jesus went into the holy of holies ONCE and it is that one sacrifice that is offered to God on a continual basis throughout history. The early Church understood this.

Pretend you were alive during the time of Jesus and you sinned the day before the crucifixion. What could you possibly offer to God to make up for your sins? Nothing. But then the crucifixion occurs and you realize that this is the only thing that you can offer to God to make up for your sins. And so you all you can do is offer the Father the sacrifice of the Son. Now you are forgiven. Now what happens the next day--after the crucifixion--when you sin? What can you now offer to the Father to make up for your sins? You have nothing to offer to Him that could make up for your sins. You wish that you could get back into your spiritual time machiene for just one second so that you could go back to the Cross and offer the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father. But guess what? You don't have a spiritual time machiene.

Well, in a sense you CAN get back to Calvary. Or rather you can enter into it in a mystical but real way. Instead of us going back to Calvary, Calvary becomes present at every Catholic altar. Every time we offer the Mass to the father (day in, day out) we are but offering the one sacrifice of Jesus. This is why the book of Hebrewe makes reference to the "sacrifices" that Catholics perform in order to atone for sins (Heb 9:23). And this is why Hebrews says that Jesus has a "permanent priesthood" and that "he always lives to intercede for them." If Jesus' intercessory work was "finished," then why would he "always live to intercede for them"? Earlier on (and I did read the earlier posts) Dave reminded us that Jesus "serves" (present continuous) in the sanctuary of heaven for us Hebrews 8:1-2. Now, let me ask you, how else would someone "serve" (or "minister") in a sanctuary in order to make "intercession" for people other than by sacrifice? The fact is that Jesus is involved in sacrifical intercessory work on our behalf, which is carried out in conjunction with our ministerial priests on earth.

Last thing: I don't thing that anyone has answered the question that I asked in an earlier post. How come the disciples of Jesus left Jesus' side if Jesus was only talking symbolically? You can't say that they understood Him to be speaking literally, because you yourself calim that Jesus explained clearly that He wasn't when He said "the flesh profits nothing."

I hope that this helps:

God bless,


Hugo said...

Hola "mono" van diesel!
Cuantos meses tiene el bebe?
Acerca del tema de la transustantación... mucho para leer en ingles ahora.

damiencon said...

Was it something I said?

j truitt said...

I didn't read all that long stuff. No time. But I wonder if — in two millenium's of people eating his flesh and drinking His blood — Jesus has yet run out of flesh and blood. He must be getting close...I mean I know would be long gone after at least a few centuries of people chomping on me.

damiencon said...

Van diesel...I have been checking this blog every day to see if you have responded to my concerns. Unfortunately, no one has really responded (at least intellectually). I really don't like to be checking every day if you have no intention of responding. I would just like to know one way or another. That way, I wouldn't have to be checking every day. Please let me know. God bless,


van.diesel said...

Damienc, et al,
My apolgies for the hiatus - it was not my intention to lose the inertia of our conversation here. I have been out of town and my wife has had a death in her family, so time has simply not allowed that i respond to your comments, though i fully intend to do so as soon as I am able to put appripriate thought into it - hopefully this weekend. Thanks for your patience and your passion.

damiencon said...

No problem!

curious servant said...

Nice conclusion. Better than I thought it would be.

Thanks for the intellectual activity these posts have brought.

Judas Hate said...

I love your conviction, your beautiful command of the written word and your patience with those who feel it necessary to respond to your posts with verbal thrashings due to their insecurities and need to put you in your place because "their" view on religion and spirituality is the ONLY correct one.

You are beautiful and open-minded. I love that you freely express how you see and believe things yet don't try to force it down the throat with a self important, ignorant zeal.

Keep preaching YOUR words. This is how it should be. We don't all have to agree what's right, but we certainly need to try to do what's right. Let your light shine brightly my brother.

I am deeply sorry to hear of your loss. I hope that healing and some measure of comfort may come to all concerned soon.

I hope your baby boy is healthy and strong.

May you and your family be well, safe and surrounded by love and happiness.

David Wills said...

I would like to make a couple comments about the Eucharist and the early church.

In previous posts I have been accused of reading my presuppositions into the writings of the Church Fathers in order to support the position of Christ's physical presence in the Eucharist; and I have been accused of grossly overstating the consensus of the early church regarding this belief. I wish to briefly respond to these claims, and will do so not with Catholic sources, but rather with Protestant sources, namely, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the great Protestant historian J.N.D. Kelly.

Firstly, not only did I argue that the belief in the physical presence of Christ in Eucharist has been the belief of Christians since the time of Christ and was the belief in the life and worship of the early church, but Martin Luther argued this as well. While Luther certainly disagreed with the Catholic Church on several points, including the nature of the Mass itself, he did nonetheless hold to the view, as had been the primary belief of the Church for 1500 years leading up to his own day, that Christ is not only spiritually, but also physically present in the Eucharist. In his commentary on John 6, he persists in his belief that when Christ says, "This is my body," and refers to "eating my flesh," these words are to be taken as meaning that his body is physically present in the bread. He writes, "Who, but the devil, hath granted such license of wrestling the words of Holy Scripture?" He goes on to rebuke the idea that one could read in the Scriptures that the bread merely represents his body or that it is a sign of his body, in the sense that one would claim his body is not physically present. Luther writes, "It is only the devil, that imposeth upon us by these fanatical men... Not one of the Fathers, though so numerous, ever spoke thus.. they are all of them unanimous."

Second, John Calvin, though he did not believe in the physical presence, as he stripped himself and his church of almost everything Catholic, did admit the patristic witness of the bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He even ackowledge the sacrificial nature of the act. In the 'Institutes' 4:18:11 he writes, "We do not deny that the sacrifice of Christ is so shown to us there in the Fathers..that the spectacle of the cross is almost set before our eyes.." He merely went on to argue that the understanding was incorrect.

Finally, I point to Protestant historian J.N.D. Kelly and his famous work 'Early Christian Doctrines.' Kelly's work is widely read and referenced by theologians of all theological persuasions because of his fair-minded assessment of church history. He, unlike writers such as William Webster, is not arguing for or against any theological point of view in his summary of the life and thought of the early church. While Webster's task in many of his writings is clearly to argue against the claims of Catholicism, Kelly's goal is merely to present the life of the early church no matter what the audience. This is not to say that writers such as Webster are not useful in evaluating the various issues, for certainly there are theologians from the Catholic side who have the same agenda that he has. And these apologetic works each have their place. But I do feel as though Kelly's work is a particularly valuable resource to reference here, being that he is a Protestant and that his focus is not primarily to make an argument, especially in light of the claims made about my reading my Catholic presuppositions into the early church and grossly overstating the belief in the Eucharist.

On page 196, he points out the sacrificial language concerning the Eucharist: "the eucharist was regarded as the distinctively Christian sacrifce from the closing decade fo the first century, if not earlier." He writes that the Didache actually applies the term sacrifice to the Eucharist and beleived it communicated immortal life; that Ignatius referred to the one altar, just as there is one bishop, and thought in sacrificial terms while also claiming that the Eucharist is the 'flesh' of our Savior Jesus Christ; that Justin "makes it plain that the bread and wine themselves were the 'pure offering' foretold by Malachi," and that he also refers to the 'change' in the elements.

Kelly goes on: "It was natural for early Christians to think of the eucharist as a sacrifice. The fulfillment of prophecy demanded a solemn Christian offering, and the rite itself was wrapped in the sacrificial atmostphere with which our Lord invested the Last Supper."

Those were a few of his comments in regard to the first two centuries of Christianity. He moves forward and, on page 211, writes, "In the third century the early Christian identification of the eucharistic bread and wine with the Lord's body and blood continued unchanged."

In an earlier post on this blog it was argued that some in the early church refer to the Eucharist as a 'symbol' or 'figure,' and Tertullian was used as one of a few examples of this view. Two claims were made of Tertullian's position, namely, that he 1)"explicitely maintained that the bread and wine in the Eucharist were symbols or figures which represent the body and blood of Christ," and that he 2)"specifically stated that these were not the literal body and blood of the Lord."

As to the 1st claim, a few Father's did indeed use the term 'symbol' or 'figure,' and I will respond to this in a moment. As to the 2nd claim, I would ask that a quote or quotes be provided in which he, as well as Augustine - since it was also argued Augustine held that "Christ's physical body could not literally be present in the sacrament of the Eucharist" - specifically denies a bodily presence in the Eucharist. Their statements would need to be a specific denial and not merely a statement in which they emphasize or talk about the spiritual reality of the Eucharist.

Pointing out the spiritual reality and application of the Eucharist to the individual does not equate in a denial of the physical reality. Many modern Catholic writers speak of the Eucharist in spiritual terms as well, but without denying the phyical in the process. Let's face it, EVERYTHING in Christianity is spiritual. Jesus' death on the cross is a spiritual event, for if it were not then the event would simply consist of a man reaching the end of his life, as all other men do, though coincidentally here on a cross. The event, however, is no less physical. The physical is not the 'end.' It is the 'means.' But the physical is still there. The 'end' of all things is union with God, which is a spiritual reality; but God has almost always used the phyical as the means to accomplishing the spiritual end. This is the principle of Divine accomodation, God stooping to our level and meeting us where we are as individuals who are both body and soul, physical and spiritual. For this reason we do not only recall in our minds what took place at the Last Supper and on the cross, we "do this" because it is through our physical participation that the supernatural reality is appropriated in us. Just as the Son Comes to us in bodily form through the Incarnation, so also He comes to us bodily in the Eucharist, though under the appearance of bread and wine, both with the end of providing spiritual life and nourishment. The prior was in order to sacrifice himself once and for all for the sins of the whole world. The latter is to appropriate and make present that reality in the lives of individuals all throughout history.

In regard to the argument that a few of the early Father's spoke of 'symbol' and 'figure,' we must be careful to interpret these words in the way the Father's used them and not in the way WE commonly understand those words in our own day and age. I again refer to Kelly who makes this same point, and does so while using Tertullian as one of the main examples in whose writings such language is to be found. Kelly urges that "we should be cautious about interpreting such expressions in a modern fashion. According to ancient modes of thought a mysterious relationship existed between the thing symbolized and its symbol, figure or type; the symbol in some sense was the thing symbolized." This is similar to the point Damienc made when he explained that a sacrament is an efficacious sign which does what it signifies. Or in the case of the Eucharist, IS what it signifies.
Tertullian also speaks of the bread by which Christ 'represents' His very body. But Kelly points out that "the verb 'repraesentare,' in Tertullian's vocabular, retained its original significance of 'to make present." Thus, the Church not only has never had a problem with such language, but actually utilizes these same words in her own description and explanation of the Eucharist and of all the sacraments in general.
Referring to this same time period on page 214, Kelly writes, "The eucharist was also, of course, the great act of worship of Christians, their sacrifice. The writers and liturgies of the period are unanimous in recognizing it as such."

On page 440, he makes similarly strong points, "Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e. the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Saviour's body and blood." And on page 441 he comments once again on 'symbolic' language in the early church: "It must not be supposed, of course, that this 'symbolic' language implied that the bread and wine were regarded as mere pointers to, or tokens of, absent realities. Rather were they accepted as signs of realities which were somehow actually present though apprehended by faith alone."

Again, Kelly nowhere tries to argue whether any position is right or wrong. As a good historian, he merely presents the doctrines of the early church.

The main point I want to communicate is, not only do the words of many of the Father's express Christ's physical presence in the Eucharist, the "life" of the Church has displayed this for 2000 years. The Father's were Catholic, and the life and worship of the great Father's has continued thoughout history to the present day. The Father's went to "Mass," they received the "Eucharist," and they had Bishops who they recognized as being successors of the Apostles. And it is within the entire life and context of the early Church that we see the overarching belief that Christ is physically present in the Eucharist after prayer of consecration has taken place. Certainly, over time there was a development in the understanding of how all of this takes place and much of the language was further defined. But the reality has always been the same, the when we receive the bread and the wine, we are truly receiving the body and blood of Christ.

Time requires that I end here. It was my hope again to simply clarify the Catholic position as many people are often not clear as to what the Church teaches on many matters, and this includes many Catholics as well. I hope this helps shed a little more light on these issues for those who may be unclear of the opposing views. May we all seek to understand the great truths that exist here and, more than anything else, grow closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.

God Bless.

Matthew Wireman said...

I spoke to a Patristics Scholar, Dr. Michael Haykin from Toronto, and he explained to me that there is no consensus as to whether the patristics were literalists when it came to the Lord's Supper. That is, like I mentioned before, you cannot read the early church fathers' realist language with contemporary and medeival interpretation of literalism. This is to read falsely.

Secondly, it was mentioned that Luther held to the doctrine of transubstantiation. This is a total misrepresentation. Luther firmly rejected transubstantiation, private masses, communion in only one kind, bowing before the elemetns, etc.

Thirdly, as relates to Damienc's question: "Why didn't Jesus correct the disciples that left when the teaching got rough?" This is a much bigger question than this verse has to do with. Jesus preached in order that people would not understand him. That's right...Jesus said in Matt 13.13 - "This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand" (Isaiah's very call Isaiah 6.9-10). One may object, Jn 6.53 is not a parable. You are right, it is not, but it is a picture of what Jesus was doing in the larger salation-historical model. Consider: He did not do mighty works in his hometown because of their unbelief Matt 13.58. Following Damienc's logic, Jesus would surely have done mighty works so that people would believe in him...wouldn't he?

Back to Jn 6. First of all, it is a precarious thing to draw such a doctrine as transubstantiation from one verse...let alone the apocalyptic way of saying things the way John did.

If this doctrine is so clear, why did the other gospel writers not pick up on the saying. Surely they would have something to say regarding a literal interpretation. Even the Catholic defense is not as clear as they would hope. The crux of the argument lies in the fact that verse 63-65 teach that only those whom the Father calls will be able to accept such a hard teaching. Jesus tells people that the words are spirit and life...he enumerates his words to give greater clarity to his hearers. Damienc and David have said that "flesh" in v.63 should be understood as "unbelief". If it is unbelief and worldliness, why does Jesus say that the words he speaks are spirit and life? Let me clarify. The opposite of unbelief is...belief. The opposite of worldliness is..."spiritual-mindedness". The parallel for the Catholic position does not stand.

That may have been hard to follow. Let me try this way. Jesus is following his teaching from v.22, as David mentiond. What is hard to conceive is how Jesus moves from the spiritual realities of coming to him and believing in him to what David claims is the physical realities. **John 6:26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”** Jesus is still speaking of spiritual realities. **John 6:35   Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst...John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”** Jesus is speaking of belief...not of eating flesh. He is re-defining what is true manna and what is truly eating.

Jesus is attempting to show them that yes his words are hard to understand, but those called by his Father will come. A little counter-argument...How do you explain the clear and obvious language that no one can come to Jesus unless God calls them? It is not by human cunning, but it is by God's calling them. Picture yourself on the playground, two guys are picking teams for basketball. If Jim calls, you go on his team. If Bob, his team. You are not welcome and will not be on Jim's team unless he calls you.

As I said earlier, there is no consensus as to what the patristics taught - and you can't pull the trump card that this is the way the Church has always taught. A good book to read, better than Kelly, is Everett Ferguson's chapter, "The Lord's Supper in Church History: The Early Church" in Dale R. Stoffer, ed., The Lord's Supper: Believers Church Perspectives (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1997), 21-45. This is much better than Kelly on the topic.

David Wills said...

Matt -

I am not surprised that Dr. Michael Haykin would say there is not a consensus in the early church concerning the Eucharist. However, I could list Catholic Patristic scholars who say there is a consensus, but that does not get us anywhere. This is why I devoted quite a bit of time in my previous post to dealing with the Fathers themselves, explaining why I believe there is consensus in the early church. I provided quotes from some fathers who speak of a "change" in the elements after the words of consecration are spoken; and I dealt with the symbolic language used by Tertullian as was brought up by Jason. You even followed his remarks by saying he made a good point with the Didache and Tertullian and you wrote the following: "If this was a teaching that was unanimous, why does it not seem to be the case with these men?"
I attempted to address this question, and in doing so I used Protestant sources since you had previously accused me of misreading the fathers and reading my own position into their writings. I presented Luther, Calvin, and JND Kelly, yet you again brought up me reading my presuppositions into the fathers writings and in the process did not deal with one statement that was made about the fathers. I am simply trying to present the Catholic position so people can understand what it is and where it came from, but it seems as though you are just writing if off without even dealing with it. That's fine if you don't have the time to go into detail on all this. I understand. But my entire last email dealt with the fathers and you seemed to completely write it off in your response and said Michael Haykin and Everett Ferguson say otherwise, therefore the Cathoilc view is wrong.

You also disregarded everything I posted from JND Kelly concerning the fathers simply by saying Everett Ferguson's chapter is better. Why is Ferguson's chapter better than Kelly's book? After reading your post I went online to purchase the book that contains his chapter and discovered that the book is either out of print or noone carries it, other than Amazon.com who says they have 1 copy available. Now there certainly a lot of good theology books that are OOP, but this book was published in 1997. What is wrong with Kelly's book? It is probably the single most standard book on the early Church used in seminaries today. This work is highly praised by theologians of all theological persuasions. Which of his statements that I presented is inaccurate? I'm really curious about this because, as I mentioned in my last post, he is not arguing whether any particular view of the Eucharist is right or wrong. He is simply preseting the early Church, and does so with great scholarship. This is why his work is so esteemed.
He even dealt with the "symbolic" language brought up by you and Jason concerning Tertullian. You claimed that I am reading medeivel literalism into the early church, but Kelly, a Protestant, warned against reading our "modern" understanding of "symbol" and "figure" into the early church, which is done by many who do not understand the commonly used sacramental terminology by fathers such as Tertullian. In other words, we must understand these terms in the way the fathers themselves used them.

Secondly, You claimed I gave a "total misrepresentation" of Martin Luther, yet you did not address one statment I made about Luther. You said, "it was mentioned that Luther held to the doctrine of transubstantiation." I did not mention this. I know perfectly well that Luther believed in "consubstantiation," but I did not want get into the terminology because it has nothing to do with the point I was making about Luther. The point is that he believed that Christ is substantially present in the Eucharist. His body and blood are physically present, not just spiritually. I simply stated what Luther believed. Where did I misrepresent him? I even qualified my statements about him by noting that he disagreed with the Catholic Church on several points, 'including the nature of the mass itself.' I clarified this up front because I am trying TO represent him correctly.
He believed that Christ is physically present in the Eucharist and also claims that that fathers were unanimous on this. He was even in heated debates with other reformers because they would not accept what he understood to be the plain words of Scripture regarding the matter.

Eventhough he personally despised the Pope of his day, Luther writes, "Before I would have mere wine with the fanatics, I would rather receive sheer blood with the pope." (p.232) I am quoting here from the reference found in the biography on Luther by Protestant historian Heiko Oberman. Luther was surprised that, as soon as the year 1524, the intrepretations on the Eucharist were already 'running rampant far and wide." Oberman reports that "Luther was roundly attacked and ridiculed as a 'flesheater.' He was termed a 'neo-Papist.'" (p.244)
Oberman recounts Luther's words in a letter he wrote to his wife after he attended a meeting in Marburg with Zwingli and other leaders of the Reformation from all over Germany in an attempt to acheive doctrinal agreement. Philip of Hesse initiated the meeting and Oberman writes, "The discussion was substantive, the tone only rarely acerbic, but the agreement Philip had hoped for was not acheived." The confession of Worms, displaying a belief in the real presence, claiming the following: "I am a captive of the Word, even if one cannot explain how the presence of Christ in bread and wine is to be imagined. The virgin birth and the forgiveness of sins are beyond our understanding in the very same way. Thus Christ instituted the Eucharist; 'the Devil cannot get around that.'" In the letter to his wife, Luther writes concerning the discussion of the Lord's Supper at the meeting: "At the Lord's Supper, however, they will allow bread to be only physically and Christ to be only spiritually present ... I suppose that God has blinded them."

I do not think that I am misrepresenting Luther. Luther firmly believed the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and he believed this teaching came from Scripture and was the consensus of the fathers.

Thirdly, concerning John 6 you wrote, "it is a precarious thing to draw such a doctrine as transubstantiation from one verse." First I would say that something doesn't have to be taught in more than once place in order to be true. But second, and more importantly, the doctrine of the Eucharist is not drawn from one verse as you claim. Luther himself argued for the real presence based on the words of institution presented in the other three gospel and in 1 Corinthians 11 by the Apostle Paul. And the belief is drawn not only from these passages but from the entire life and worship of the Church. This is why I had previously claimed that not only do the words of the fathers give witness to the Eucharist, but the entire life and worship of the Church give witness as well. As I mentioned before, the fathers were Catholic, they had liturgical celebrations, they went to "Mass," celebrated the "Eucharist," and the Eucharist was not celebrated and presided over by just anyone, it was the "Bishop," recognized as a successor to the Apostles, or one whom he appoints, namely, a presbyter who presided. The Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) not only defined the doctrine of the Trinity, but dealt with practical matters as well, such as cleaning up improper customs like the deacon administering the Eucharist to the presbyters or touching it before the bishops etc.. The Council of Ephesus (431), which helped defined the 2 natures of Christ, also writes, "We perform in the churches the holy, life-giving, and unbloody sacrifice, as also the precious blood..." The entire life of the early church was centered around this celebration of the Eucharist.

John 6:63 was brought up again, in which Jesus says, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." Again, Jesus here is not downplaying the physical reality he had previously been speaking of. He is speaking of a carnal mentality and the unbelief of his hearers. This is evident by the very next verse, "Yet there are some of you who do not believe." Is Jesus not speaking of unbelief here? Sure he is. Thus, he is using flesh in this verse as unbelief or worldliness. We must understand that flesh, or the physical reality, DOES count, and it counts for plenty. Do you believe that Jesus' flesh counts for nothing? Of course not. OUR flesh may not count for a whole lot; and the things of this world may not count for much, but Jesus' flesh is everything. His flesh is the instrumental cause of our salvation. The 'spiritual' benifit of salvation came by means of the 'physical' body of Christ. This is why I spent time in my last post explaining how everything in the Christian life is spiritual, but that many of the spiritual applications come by means of the physical.

Just 2 chapters later, in John 8:15, Jesus says, "You judge according to the flesh." The NIV renders it: "You judge by human standards." I think it is clear that John's Gospel uses "flesh" in more than one way. In certain places it refers to the physical flesh of Jesus himself, while in these passages it refers to worldliness.

The great early church Father St. John Chrysostom, in his 'Homily on John,' also describes Jesus' use of 'flesh' in John 6:63 not as a downplay of the physical reality, but as a warning against and a rejection of a 'carnal' mentality. He writes: "'It isthe spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing': that is to say, You ought to understand My words in a spiritual sense: he who understands them carnally is profited nothing. To interpret carnally is to take a proposition in its bare literal meaning, and allow no other. But we should not judge of mysteries in this way; but examine them with the inward eye; i.e' understand them spiritually. It was carnal to doubt how our Lord could give His flesh to eat. What then? Is it not real flesh? Yea, verily. In saying then that the flesh profiteth nothing, He does not speak of His own flesh, but that of the carnal hearer of His word."

The flesh of Jesus does profit, therefore he could not have been referring to his own flesh when he said, "the flesh profits nothing."

Finally, John 6:44 was alluded to, in which Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." Jesus also says in John 12:32, "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Fallen man is unable to come to Jesus by his own power. One cannot attain spiritual life apart from the grace of God. It is only through the initiative of God that salvation is possible.

Now back to the Eucharist, I have enjoyed having the opportunity to try to clarify the Catholic position. It is my hope that anyone reading this will simply try to understand were the Catholic position is coming from, without being quick to reject it even before understanding it. I certainly appreciate the convictions of both Matt and Jason and their desire for truth. Hopefully this has been beneficial to anyone trying to get a clearer understanding on this issue. Of course, all this may have some people more confused now than when we began :)
Anyway, that's all I have for now. I hope this helps a little.

God Bless.

van.diesel said...

I do have some further comments regarding both Dave's and Damienc's statements - and I am not trying to redirect focus away from the current topic of the church patriarchs - but I do have a question for either Dave or Damienc.

I assume that you would agree that there is a sense in which Jesus had two bodies, yes? One body - before his death - was clearly subject to weakness, aging, etc. like our own bodies are. Hypothetically, had He not been crucified, that body would have aged and died as all human beings die.

When Christ died, He was resurrected with a "resurrection body" - still His physical body, but transformed and perfected, free from suffering, weakness, illness, death, etc. Paul says the resurrection body is raised "imperishable ... in glory ... in power ... a spiritual body." (1 Cor. 15:42-44)

Does Catholic doctrine teach which of Christ's bodies is present in transubstantiation? I haven't found anything that addresses this and I'm curious to know. Would this, in your opinion, even be relevant in this discussion?

damiencon said...

Hi everyone! I have a few things I would like to talk about, including Van Diesel's recent question.

Matthew, glad to see that you are back. I am delighted to be involved in this conversation. I would like to add to this discussion with the following...

Church Fathers...
You said: "you cannot read the early church fathers' realist language with contemporary and medeival interpretation of literalism. This is to read falsely."

Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that you are saying that the early Church fathers spoke literally ("interpretation of literalism"). It also seems that you are saying that our contemporary (or mideival) interpretation of their "literalism" is way off base. But first, I would like to make the point that to say that the fathers spoke literally is to throw a spanner in the works, as it were. Because, lets face it, the fathers didn't just speak literally. Sure, the fathers spoke literally, but they also spoke symbolically and figuratively and annagously as well. That's why we have to be careful with the Church fathers and make sure that we interpret them correctly, as with all things.

But the question is, how do you interpret them correctly? All scholars would agree that we need to see how the fathers used certain words in order to acertain what the fathers meant by those same words. The meaning of the word is found out by examining the way it is used. For example, people can call each other "dumb," but that doesn't mean they are literally dumb. Or people can call each other "gay" (teenagers are really big into this one) but that doesn't mean that they think the other person is literally "gay." I hear these kinds of things all the time, but I don't take them literally, because I have learned to see how people are using these words. It all depends on the context...you know that.

So, to find out what Tertullian meant by the word "symbol" we have to look at all the places where he uses the word "symbol." And when we study how he used the word, we can come closer to understanding exactly what he meant by the word. And you will see that he used the word differently in different places. This is how Catholics have been reading the Church fathers, and indeed the holy Scriptures. But this is a far cry from "reading the early church fathers' realist language with contemporary and medeival interpretation of literalism."

By the way, what exactly do you mean by realist language? Is it the same as "literalism"?

If you can prove that the Catholic interpretation of Tertullian's "symbol" is wrong, then I would be more than happy to read what you have to say. But from what I can see, Tertullian's use of symboly is not as straight forward as non-Catholics may suppose.

John 6...
Matthew (or anyone who wants to reply)... Jesus said "For my flesh is food indeed: and my blood is drink indeed." You (or Van Diesel; I think both of you) say he was speaking symbolically because he later went on to say that the flesh profits nothing. So, Jesus obviously explained to his disciples in clear terms that he didn't mean that we have to literally eat his flesh. But, then you just wrote: "Jesus is attempting to show them that yes his words are hard to understand, but those called by his Father will come." Now, which is it? Are Jesus' words hard to understand or not? If they are easy to understand...because of his qualification, then why say that they are "hard to understand"? Maybe you meant...hard to accept??? But, if by "hard to understand" you merely meant "hard to accept," then that just begs the question. Why would Jesus' words be hard to accept, if he is just speaking symbolically? Let me put it to you this way--if Jesus is just speaking symbolically, then his words must be both easy to understand (given his clear explanation) and easy to accept (given that a symbol is all that is in view). This sure looks like a tangled web to me.

With that said, it is unfortunate to see, that the doctrine of predestination is slowly being injected into John's narrative. You later speak of being picked to be on God's team: "You are not welcome and will not be on Jim's team unless he calls you." In this, it is being suggested (it seems) that the reason the disciples didn't accept/understand Jesus' words is because they were predestined not to understand/accept them. I hope that this is not what you are saying, but from what I can tell, you are saying (in not so many words) that Jesus did not call his disciples back, because He had never actually "picked" them to start with. Or in other words, Jesus didn't call these disciples back because, there was no point...since they were predestined to unbelief/unacceptance from the very beginning.

It seems it all boils down to this: They didn't accept his words...not because his words weren't clear (Van diesel says "I believe it is clear that the same is true when Christ says “This is My body” in reference to the bread."), nor because his words weren't easy to accept (you say Jesus was speaking symbolically), but because they were not "picked" by Jesus to be on His team. How sad. Please, I don't mean to distort your position, but that sure seems to be what you are saying. Please correct me if I am not interpreting you correctly.

You asked: "How do you explain the clear and obvious language that no one can come to Jesus unless God calls them?" I am not sure what you are trying to get at with this question. But my interpretation is pretty simple...no one can come to Jesus unless God calls them! What are you getting out of this single verse that I am apparently not seeing? Would it be total predestination?

Imagine this...Jesus goes into this sermon about the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. He is scaring a lot of people by his graphic words. But, don't worry, Jesus explains clearly that he is merely speaking symbolically when he said, the flesh profits nothing. Phew! Thank God for that! I mean, for a second there I taught that Jesus was speaking literally. But then, some of His disciples, who for some reason didn't get the fact that Jesus was speaking symbolically, lef Him! Can you believe that? They left Jesus! Why did they leave Jesus? Because he was speaking literally? No; Jesus explained clearly that He wasn't speaking literally. Well, why then did they leave him? Because His words were hard to accept? No...why would symbolic words be hard to accept? Well then, why did they not stay with Jesus? Well, the answer is because the Father had not called them. Those particular disciples....for some readon, they just weren't picked to be on God's team. It's not that they are stupid; it's not that they did anything wrong. It's simply because they weren't picked to be on God's team.

You can believe that, OR, you can believe the alternative. They understood that Jesus was speaking about literal FLESH and BLOOD and they refused to stay with him, just like the people of John 5:40 refused to come to Jesus by their own free will ("yet you refuse to come to me to have life").

Ps. I think you ought to give David Wills some props here. I mean, I have read what he said and I don’t think he misrepresented Luther either. I think that the point he was making is that…at least Luther believed that Christ is substantially present in the Eucharist, not that I am biased or anything :)

Which leads me to Van Diesel’s recent query (thanks for the question btw)… “does Catholic doctrine teach which of Christ's bodies is present in transubstantiation?” I would have to say that I haven’t read anything dealing with this particular aspect of the Eucharist (which, is definitely not to say that there isn't material out there on it). I would like to hear what David Wills has to say about it, but I honestly don’t think that it matters, since, substantially, both bodies (pre and post Cross) are the same.

I hope this helps the discussion along. Looking forward to your next post(s). God bless,


Matthew Wireman said...

Damien & David~

Thank you for your charity. There is a difference between realism and literalism. Realist language is saying, like I said a while back, "This is the body and blood of Christ" where the copulative verb is used to equate the subject and the predicate. In other words "x is y". Literalism means that we should understand that "x is equal to y". This is saying more than "x is y".

As I said before, there is no consensus among patristic scholars as to how we should interpret the patristics' realist language of how they speak of the Lord's Supper. The burden of proof lies on you as much as it does on me to prove otherwise. I believe to take a literalist interpretation, as opposed to a realist, is wrong. This is where we disagree. The RCC teaches a literalist interpretation that is loaded with a lot of presuppositions having to deal with their arriving at specific doctrines. Like I said, when you necessitate that the patristics are to be readd literally, you are wearing medeival and post-medeival glasses. That is, you are reading them as though they had always understood the Lord's Supper to be literal.

As Kelly has written in his "Early Christian Doctrines" David cited earlier, he states that it is unclear how we should read Tertullian. I don't think the argument should be fought on whether we are reading him right. Rather, we need to go to the Scriptures and rightly interpret how Jesus' words play into the larger context of John 6. And I am glad that you have gone there...

You are right...I meant to say that Jesus' words are hard to accept, insofar that they were hard to understand. Let me explain. You say that I have woven a tangled web by the logic. I believe the logic is clear. It seems that you believe the only alternative is literalism to Jesus' words. I think you are jumping to a too quick a conclusion. John is writing about belief. It seems like hermeneutical gymnastics to say that Jesus is talking about belief in a transcendental sense and then he comes to some level of literal eating a drinking here on earth.

The words are hard to accept because those who have not been chosen by the Father will not believe. Side question that relates to the picture: Why didn't Jesus return to this hard saying that was hard to accept if it is so pivotal to his theology? That is, why didn't Jesus say something to the effect: Those who genuinely believe in me will truly eat my flesh and drink my blood. He is driving home the point that unbelief is the ruling issue in those who have not been chosen. (Notice the shadow of the desert wanderings when John tells us that they grumbled, like the Israelites did when given manna).

You say that Jesus is "going into this sermon about eating his flesh and drinking his blood"...no he is not. This is a distortion of what Jesus' purpose in preaching this was. It was not a teaching about the Eucharist! It was about unbelief. You say that I say it all boils down to the fact that they were not chosen by God. This is right! It is ALSO right that it is because they do not believe. The two are intricately tied together.

My point in bringing in the counter-point had to do with the fact that the RCC has to re-read the clear teaching of God's predetermination of who would belong to his Son. You say the teaching is easy...yes, it is quite clear that Jesus is showing that belief is a gift from God and not from man's ability to weigh all the arguments and just be smart enough to figure out the language "it has not been granted to him by the Father" (v. 65). To bring the point home he tells them that even one among the Twelve is not chosen, which is an explanation of v. 65.

You marginalize my position regarding God's choosing people. In fact, you make it sound fallacious. This is truly sad. Listen. Rather, read. Jesus said the reason they had not believed was because it had not been granted. Why do you fail to see this? Regarding free will, I will not enter into that debate here. You can check out my blog in a few weeks as I will deal with this question.

I will say this: Jesus is not preaching a sermon on "predestination". Nor is this a sermon about the Last Supper. This is a sermon about belief. The fact that the people do not believe has to do with the Father granting it to them. You read way too much in this text in an attempt to support your presupposition that the Lord's Supper is literal and not realist language.

What is of particular interest is that this was not during the Last Supper. This is way before the fact. Rather, Jesus is redefining what eating and drinking from the provision of God is. This is why the reference to the Israelites is also key in understanding this text. As Hebrews 3-4 fleshes out even more, although the Israelites ate and drank from God's hand, they failed to believe. Jesus is loading the reference to eating and drinking with belief language. That is, you can eat manna but still not believe. But those who believe first will truly partake of Christ. Again, I am comfortable using realist language (as Jesus did). But it is unnecessary and horrible hermeneutics to read into the text a literalist interpretation.

You offer an alternative, but it is not a very good one. How can you read over the teaching of this passage that Jesus is speaking of belief in the Son...belief that is a gift? From verse 27 to the end, Jesus is speaking in metaphorical language. Surely you do not think that because something is symbolic that it is easier to accept! Jesus is using symbolism all over the place (v. 27, 32,33, 35, 48, etc.). To make it even cleaer that he is speaking metaphorically, read v. 35 where Jesus says those who eat the bread of life will never hunger nor ever thirst. Therefore, to be consistent with the RCC interpretation is to say that if you eat Jesus' flesh, which you say is present means that you will never hunger. How can you play fast and loose with the interpretation? How can you be metaphorical here and literal just a few verses later. This will not do! God's choosing equated with belief is quite clear (v. 37, 44, 65, etc.).

Regarding Luther. I appreciate the clarification. You are right we don't need to get into Luther's interpretation of consubstantiation. That would not be helpful. However, I want to make sure that we understand that Luther did not accept the doctrine of transubstantiation, which is telling even if you want to use him to say that even he believed in Christ's physical presence.

Yes there will be Protestants that say the fathers meant this and Catholics who believe they said that. My point was to make clear that there is no consensus. I appreciate you clarifying the Catholic position. I just wanted to say that because the RCC believes the fathers meant something literally does not close the case. That was my point. In other words, just because it is the consensus of the RCC...this does not prove it is literal. Make sense? As for the book, I will ask Dr. Haykin some more regarding this. It was a very short dialogue and I lament the fact that we did not get to discuss more. I will talk with him more in January, Lord willing. He and I will discuss this issue more then.

Again, I really appreciate your comments, David. They have been very charitable...

David Wills said...

Jason -

Thank you for your question and your interest. Whether it was Christ's pre-resurrection body or his post-resurrection body, Catholic doctrine does not define one way or the other because it is the same Christ in either case. Yes he did humble himself to the point of being able to suffer and die, but he was never any less divine before, as opposed to after, the resurrection. While he willingly subjected himself to some human limitations during his life, at times Jesus performed supernatural actions like walking on water, turning water in wine, multiplying the loaves and fishes, and driving out demons.
Also, it's not as if Christ is just bodily present in the Eucharist and not also spiritually present. The Church teaches that in the Eucharist it is the whole Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity.

Matt -

Thank you for your comments. Unfortunately it looks as though it is getting to the point where we all are reiterating the same points again and again. So I want to make just a couple points to help clarify my position, and then ask a couple questions to help me better understand yours.

First, I didn't quite understand your purpose in explaining the difference between realism and literalism. I have never put forward the argument that one should read anything in a "literalist" fashion. For example, Psalm 110:1: "The LORD says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'" To interpret this in a literalist way is to believe that he will actually rest his feet on his enemy's. This is not how Scripture is to be intrepreted; and I hope you don't believe that the Church reads Scripture is such a way. We do, however, need to interpret it literally, that is, in the way the author meant it. Biblical interpretation begins on the "literal sense." I have not suggested that we are to read Scripture or the Fathers in any other way than in the way the words are actually meant. This is why Kelly cautions against reading the use of the words 'symbol' and 'figure' by Fathers such as Tertullian in a way that it reflects our modern usage of those terms. In other words, we are to interpret the words in the way THEY meant them and used them. I want to make this clear because I don't think our disagreement is on the 'method' of interpretation. Our disagreement is on what the words of Scripture and the Fathers actually meant.

You wrote, "The RCC teaches a literalist interpretation that is loaded with a lot of presuppositions having to deal with their arriving at specific doctrines." I hope what I said above helps clarify that the Church does not teach a 'literalist' intrepretation of Scripture. To the second part of your statement, what are all the presuppositions you are referring to?

Second: Concerning John 6, you again referred to the symbolic language present there, and I acknowledge this as well. To clarify my position here, I am saying that there is a shift in the context. I do not deny that Jesus is emphasizing the spiritual reality of coming to him and believing in him in the first part of the chapter. This is essential because one must first believe in him before anything else will even matter. My point all along has been that, in the context of belief, God often uses physical realities to communicate his grace. This is the foundational principle behind the sacraments in general. This is why I spent time in my previous posts explaing that everything in the Christian life is spiritual, yet God almost always uses the physical in the process precisely because we are beings that are both physical and spiritual. Thus the shift in John 6 comes beginning with verse 49 when Jesus introduces the words "flesh," "blood," "eat," and "drink."
You wrote, "Jesus is using symbolism all over the place (v. 27, 32,33, 35, 48, etc.)."
Yet each of the verses you referenced there come before Jesus introduced any of the words I just mentioned. Therefore we have no dispute about verses 27, 32, 33, 35, and 48. In verse 51 Jesus refers to his own flesh which he will give for the life of the world. Here he is speaking about a physical reality, namely, his own physical death on the cross which brings about a spiritual benefit.
You argued that for the Catholic position to be consistent, we would have to believe that if one partakes of the Eucharist he will never be hungry. Again, this is where I want to bring in my point that everything in the Christian life is spiritual, even when physical things are a means of bringing that about. Therefore, physical hungering is not the issue. Spiritual hungering is what we must have nourished. All I am saying is that Christ gives us his complete self as the means of quenching this hunger. In like manner, Jesus uses his physical body on the cross to bring us spiritual life.
A general question I have then is: do you believe that it is possible for a physical reality to be the means in accomplishing a spiritual end? I ask this not in reference to the Eucharist and John 6, but in reference to your general understanding of how God works and communicates his grace.

Third, you wrote, "Yes there will be Protestants that say the fathers meant this and Catholics who believe they said that."
I agree, but this is why I presented the position of three Protestants: Luther, Calvin, and JND Kelly. I did this simply to show that it is not just a Catholic 'literalist' reading of the fathers that produces such an idea. Luther believed they were unanimous in believing Christ to be physically present. Calvin did not believe in the physical presence, but at least acknowledged that many of the fathers taught it. And I have already dealt extensively with Kelly. My point is that one does not have to be a Catholic in order to believe that the Fathers taught a physical reality present in the Eucharist.

Finally, I want to ask a couple question in addition to the two questions I have already asked.

1) Matt, you warned against reading the fathers trough medeival and post-medeival glasses, as though they believed the Lord's Supper to be literal.

- Is it your position, then, that none of the fathers believed Christ to be physically present in the Eucharist?

2) This question is for both Matt and Jason in order to help me better understand your own position. In his 4th post, Jason wrote, "Rather, to partake of the Lord’s Supper is to remember His death and all that His death accomplished for us; this should stir and strengthen our faith and draw us into deeper communion with Jesus." The question I have is also in light of the differing views within Protestantism since the time of the Reformation. For example, there was a disagreement between Calvin and Zwingli as to whether Christ was spiritually present or whether the Supper is a symbolic remember of what Jesus did. I am curious as to the position that each of you take.

- Do you believe that Christ is spiritually present or that communion is only a symbolic remembering? If he is spiritually present, do you believe that it is an objective presence due to the nature of the act itself; or is it a subjective presence based on the disposition of the individual who is receiving?

3) Jason, in your first post you mentioned that the congregation of which you are a part takes communion monthly.

- How come you celebrate the Lord's Supper only once a month?

Hey guys, thank you for your willingness to dialogue about these issues. I really appreciate it. I just wanted to take this opportunity to clarify my position a little further. It is clear that we are not all going to agree, but the best we can do here is at least listen to and try to understand each others position. It's no hurry on your answers. But when you get a chance I would like to know what your position is on the questions I asked.
Thanks a lot!

God Bless.

damiencon said...


It looks like we are not going to get anywhere by appealing to the fathers or to patristic scholars (by the way, doesn’t this stink if you are a patristic scholar…all those years of hard work only for some other scholar to say, “sorry, but I have a different opinion, and you can’t say anything about it because I have a PHD.”)

At this stage, all I want to do is try to show how that the Catholic interpretation of John 6 is more reasonable than the Protestant interpretation. Actually, I would just like to show that it is reasonable. If you come to think it is more reasonable, then great :)

Forgive me if I am repeating myself (or David) on anything here…

John 6 is about belief, as is John’s gospel in general…granted. In the first half of John 6, Jesus is speaking metaphorically, whereas in the second half of John 6, Jesus changes his language to include the words “eat” “drink” “flesh” “blood,” language which, in my opinion, is not metaphorical. In the first half of John 6, Jesus doesn’t offend anyone by his metaphors. Instead, they get offended by Jesus’ statement that he came down from heaven. Jesus’ statement that he came down from heaven as bread could also have been taken metaphorically. But they didn’t take it metaphorically. This just shows us that these people recognized when Jesus was speaking metaphorically and when he was not. They knew metaphorical language from literal language.

In the second half of John 6, even though Jesus still mentions how he came down from heaven (twice—just to push their buttons), the disciples get offended at something else—Jesus’ command that we must eat His flesh. They side step the fact that Jesus mentioned how he came down from heaven (twice) and ask themselves: “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” First he comes down from heaven. Now he gives us his flesh to eat!!! But Jesus (well aware that they were not able to understand Him) kept hammering home the same message about His flesh and blood, just as He kept hammering home the message that He came from heaven. Then, as if to doubly offend the people says: “this is the bread [read: non-metaphorical bread] which came down from heaven…” This is like a double whammy—a combination of two offensive statements. In this one statement, Jesus combines the thing that offended them in the first half of John 6 with the thing that offended them in the second part of John 6. When he said “THIS is the bread,” he was referring to the flesh that we must eat for everlasting life. So, at this stage, the people are completely offended and say: “This saying is hard; and who can hear it?

But non-Catholics will remind us that later on, Jesus says that: “the flesh profits nothing.” These non-Catholics (van Diesel and Matthew included) say that when Jesus “the flesh profits nothing” he was explaining that we should not take his words literally. But here’s the problem: when Jesus said: “the flesh profits nothing,” He was speaking about fleshly interpretation, that is, interpretation that is not powered by the Holy Spirit, as it were (8:15). It makes perfect sense that the disciples left Jesus because they understood that Jesus was speaking about literal flesh and blood, literal eating and literal drinking. But they were scandalized by Jesus’ literal words and left Him. If Jesus explained that He wasn’t talking literally, as you claim, then they wouldn’t have left Him. These people were well able to accept and understand symbolism (as explained above). Jesus wasn’t speaking symbolically, and they knew it. That’s why they left Him. And as I said in my other post, If Jesus was merely speaking symbolically, then his words must be both easy to understand (given his clear explanation) and easy to accept (given that a symbol is all that is in view). You asked: “Surely you do not think that because something is symbolic that it is easier to accept!” I answer that yes, something is easier to accept if it is symbolic, especially for these people. That is my position.

But let’s grant for a second that Jesus was speaking symbolically. Now, turn to Num 23:24 and Ez 39:17-20. Here you will see that the language of eating flesh and drinking blood, WHEN USED SYMBOLICALLY, means to attack an enemy. So, if Jesus is speaking symbolically, then it would have amounted to Him saying “whoever attacks me has eternal life.” But, we know He wouldn’t say that. If He did say that, the people would have asked “why does he want us to attack him?” But they didn’t ask that. They knew that Jesus was speaking of his literal flesh and blood. As I stated earlier, these people knew what non-symbolic language was and how to differentiate it from symbolic language.

But to save himself from having to admit that Jesus was using literal language, the Calvinist will have to say that these people left Jesus’ side because, God didn’t pick them to be on His team. Let’s think about this for a second. There is NO way (in my opinion) that Jesus could have been speaking symbolically. Symbolism didn’t bother them (as per the first half of the chapter). Even if Jesus was speaking symbolically, it would have meant something that Jesus would never say. This is why I maintain that the Catholic view of the Eucharist is more reasonable than the Protestant view. Even if you don’t think it is more reasonable, at least admit that it is reasonable.

Jesus gives Himself to us. But if Jesus gave himself to us only in Spirit, then we would have to say that Jesus is holding something back from us. In the Catholic view, Jesus does not hold back anything from us of Himself. So, when he gives himself to us (as a husband gives himself to his bride—both spirit and body) He gives All of Himself to us—Spirit AND Body. This is why St. John says: “whose fullness we have all received.” We receive ALL of Jesus, not just his divine nature, but his human nature too.

This is how we Catholics see it.

I hope that this helps to, at least, show that the Catholic position is a very reasonable position. I hope you will grant us that much.

I have more to say, but it is time for bed…next time.


van.diesel said...

I have to admit I'm relieved to leave the patristics area behind simply because I think we'll find it more profitable focusing on Scripture than history (not to negate the importance of history by any means.)

Anyway - i have a couple more questions if my Catholic friends will indulge me. (I would like to add that these questions are not meant to be leading - I have no hidden agenda in asking them other than I am curious to know and haven't found anything that addresses them.) Here they are:

>> In RCC doctrine, is the Eucharist temporal? That is, will we always feast on the "body" of Christ?

>>What happens if a non-believer eats the Eucharist? Does Christ enter him or her?

>>What happens if a Christian (but non-Catholic) person takes Eucharist in Mass?

>>This may sound weird, but what if a person gets sick and throws up the Eucharist afterwards? Are the remains still Christ?(My in-laws told a story about a relative who was in great distress because this happened to her son. Their priest didn't know what to do about it.)

>>Is Christ's physical, ressurrected body infinte in its physicality?

Mike T. said...

I just have a couple of brief comments here. I am a Roman Catholic. From what I understand this is a Christian blog. First I am very satisfied at the depth and care to discuss the doctrine of Transubstantian on this site. Van and Matt your respect and willingness to allow the Catholic position to be posted is commended. However, as a brother Christian who loves Christ and His Church some of the off the cuff comments are truly offensive and hurt. I love Jesus with all my heart - and it hurts to see some of these comments said. For example - someone even said they didn't have time to really read this wonderful intellectual debate - and then makes comments about whether or not Jesus would have any flesh left! And that if they were the one's being eaten they would be long gone by now. As a Catholic those comments are unjust and unChristian. This person has not taken any effort to at least understand the Catholic Christian position regarding the Eucharist and Transubstantion. They have shown ignorance in something that if you are not right on boils down to Salvation. Truth must be sought in Charity, and as Christian brother I would ask that comments like that be checked.

Again thank you for being open to debate - and I hope this Season of preperation for Christmas is full of grace and peace.

Blessings in Christ,

van.diesel said...

Mike T., thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comments and sensitivity to the topic at hand. I can definitly see how you may have been offended by off-handed comments.

One of Mike's comments (regarding the link to transubstantiation and salvation) actually prompts me to add another question to those listed above, if I may.

>>As one who does not find sufficient evidence for the doctrine of transubstantiation, would the RCC consider me saved? Would you?

damiencon said...

Hey Guys, good to be back. I have to say, this is a great blog. I will try to answer your questions.

“In RCC doctrine, is the Eucharist temporal? That is, will we always feast on the "body" of Christ?”

I don’t know whether we will be receiving the Eucharist in heaven in the same way we do this side of heaven. But we will always feast on the body of Christ in the sense that we will be one with Him, spirit and body. This is my understanding.

”What happens if a non-believer eats the Eucharist? Does Christ enter him or her?”

Yes Jesus enters into him/her.

”What happens if a Christian (but non-Catholic) person takes Eucharist in Mass?”

They receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. But, we have to ask whether the person knew about the Catholic belief and persisted to the alter anyway. This kind of obstinacy is dangerous. Who knows what God would do to a person like that. But Paul says we must recognize/discern the body and blood, because those in his day who received unworthily, ate and drank judgment onto themselves. Some even died as a result (1 Cor 11). So Jesus coming in the Eucharist is like a preview of the Second Coming. Jesus comes. If you are not right with God, you will be judged (as the people in 1 Cor 11) or you will be accepted. Now, whether God still judges people today as he did in 1 Cor 11 is a debatable topic, I think.

"This may sound weird, but what if a person gets sick and throws up the Eucharist afterwards? Are the remains still Christ? (My in-laws told a story about a relative who was in great distress because this happened to her son. Their priest didn't know what to do about it.)"

The remains are Christ, if the Eucharist is still visible as bread. When the appearance is no longer the appearance of bread or wine, then Christ is no longer present. But if a person vomits the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is still visible as the Eucharist, then it ought to be treated with care. The Eucharist can be diluted in water till it’s appearance is no longer discernable, at which point the Real Presence of Jesus leaves. So, when we receive Jesus, he is only really in us for a few minutes. But those few minutes are precious moments, when we are one in spirit and body with Jesus. When a husband and wife unite in a marital embrace, they must separate at some point, right? This is what happens when our Lord comes to the Church, his bride. At Mass, we receive a foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet when we will be one with Jesus, our bridegroom.

"Is Christ's physical, ressurrected body infinte in its physicality?"

Yes, Jesus is omnipresent, even in his physicality (if he wants). This is how we can say that Jesus is physically present in every Catholic Church around the world. The women were looking for Jesus’ “body” in Luke 24. Then the disciples explained to Jesus (without knowing who they were talking to) that his “body” was not found. But then Jesus sat down with them and said the blessing, i.e. “this is my body.” Then he vanished. But guess what was left there on the table?…his "body." This is like Jesus’ way of saying that he has not left them, he is always with them, even bodily.

"As one who does not find sufficient evidence for the doctrine of transubstantiation, would the RCC consider me saved? Would you?"

To go against your conscience is always wrong (per Rom 14 – cool blog in drinking by the way). But Catholics would say that one’s conscience needs to first be formed…formed by truth.

I think you would first need to prove that the doctrine of transubstantiation is unreasonable, in order to preserve a good conscience before God and to be preserved from judgment. But if a person has been shown all reasonable argumentation and is convinced to a degree, has the responsibility of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that his interpretation is correct. If he can do this then fine, but if he cannot, then he must bow his intellect and will to the truth. This can be a very difficult experience or an elating one.

Actually, the first person to suggest that that Eucharist is not Christ’s physical body was a man called Beringarius (sp?). This was back in the early 700s. His teachings spread and many people in Italy (Lantiano) came to hold that the Eucharist was just bread. Anyway, to make a long story short, as he was saying Mass, the host turned into live flesh in his hands, and the wine turned to live blood. He was aghast, as were the people at Mass. The Eucharist is still there in Lantiano today as a constant witness to the truth of transubstantiation. The flesh was examined by experts a number of times. The flesh is flesh of a 30 something year old man’s heart. The blood is type AB (same type by the way as on the Shroud of Turin, but that’ neither here or there). All of the chemical properties in the blood are STILL THERE, even though they should have left the blood some 20 minutes to a half an hour after the miracle. The blood has coagulated into 5 globules, but it can be liquified to check it’s chemical properties. The flesh is still there, even though it should have decomposed since the year 700. People from all over the world go to Lantiano on pilgrimage to see this miracle. But the reality is that this “miracle” happens every day at Mass, only at our Masses today do the appearances of bread and wine remain the same. But blessed are those who do not see and yet believe, right? Anyway, this miracle was meant not just for the people of Lantiano back in 700, but for all people who doubt, even us today.

I hope that what I wrote is of help. Many blessings,


Mike T. said...

"As one who does not find sufficient evidence for the doctrine of transubstantiation, would the RCC consider me saved? Would you?"

I prefer not to enter into the debate about Transubstantiation, nor to detract from the discussion at hand. As far as the question of whether I would consider you to be saved - I will address it this way. (1) I am not God. I have no power to declare whether or not you will indeed enjoy the Beatific Vision. (2) I am not sure as to what "Salvation" position you take as a Protestant. Protestants have different beliefs in Salvation. For example: The Weslyan's down the street from me do not believe in the "once saved, always saved - doctrine. They actually believe that one can LOSE the grace of Justification - thus losing their Salvation (similar to the Catholic position here) - even after excepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior through an act of Faith. From the conversation I had with the Youth Pastor's there the other day - they professed to me a "theology of continuual sanctification" as they put it (I wonder if all Weslyian's belief that?. However, the Baptist Minister on the other end of town -rejects this notion. He believes that He made an act of faith - and that He is "already" saved completely. He cannot lose the grace of Justification. I have no care in debating either of these positions here, nor will I enter into a debate on the Doctrine of Justification (that could be left for another day). This would start a parallel debate - and I am enjoying reading the one on Transubstantiation too much. I will simply just state the Catholic Position of "Being saved" for the simple sake of helping people understand the Catholic position (regardless of whether or not you agree, or whether I want you to agree - is not my point here. I just want the facts stated).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the promise of eternal life is a gift freely offered to us by God (CCC 1727). Our initial forgiveness and justification are not things we "earn". Jesus Christ is the One Mediator who bridged the gap of sin that seperates us from God (1Tim 2:5); he bridged it by dying for us. He has chosen to make us partners in the plan of salvation (1 Cor. 3:9). The Roman Catholic Church teaches what the Apostles taught and what the Bible teaches: We are saved by grace alone(evident by faith and good works), but not by faith alone (see James 2:24). When we come to God and are justified, nothing preceding justification, whether faith or good works, "earns" grace. But then God plants His love into our hearts, and we should live out our faith by doing acts of Love (i.e. "good works" Gal. 6:2). Even though only God's grace enables us to love others, these acts of love please God, and He promises to reward them with eternal life (Rom. 2:6-7, Gal. 6:6-10). Thus good works are meritorious. When we first come to God in faith, we have nothing in our hands to offer Him. Then He gives us grace to obey His commandments in love, and He rewards us with salvation when we offer these acts of love back to Him (Rom. 2:6-11, Matt. 25:34-40). Jesus said it is not enough to have faith in Him; we must also obey His commandments. "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' but do not do the things I command?" (Luke 6:46, Matt. 7:21-23, 19:16-21). The Catholic faith does NOT teach that we "earn" our salvation through good works (Eph 2:8-9, Rom. 9:16), but that our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that or obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life (Rom. 2:7, Gal. 6:8-9). St. Paul said, "God is the one who, for His good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work" (Phil. 2:13). St. John the Apostle, explained that "the way we may be sure that we know Him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, 'I know him,' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:3-4, 3:19-24, 5:3-4). Since no gift can be forced on the recipient - gifts always can be rejected - even after we become justified, we can throw away the gift of salvation. We throw it away through grace (Mortal) sin (John 15:5-6, Rom. 11:22-23, 1 Cor. 15:1-2). "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). St. Pauls letters are chalk full of him warning his fellow Christian brethren about sin. He would not have felt compelled to do so if their sins could not exclude them from heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21). St. Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that God, "will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life for those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perserverence in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness" (Rom 2:6-8). This brings me to the whole notion of the "once saved, always saved" notion of my Baptist friend down the street. The Catholic Church rejects this notion of Salvation. St. Paul said, "If we have died with him [in baptism; see Rom. 6:3-4] we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him" (2 Tim. 2:11-12). If we do "not" perservere, we shall "not" reign with him. In other words, the Church teaches that one can forfeit heaven (CCC 1861). The Bible makes it clear (and the Church teaches) that Christians have a MORAL assurance of Salvation (God will be true to His word and will grant salvation to those who have faith in Christ and are obedient to Him (1 John 3:19-24), but the Bible does not teach (nor the Catholic Church) that Christians have a "Guarantee of Heaven. In other words, while we are "working out our salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12)during our earthy exile, we cannot have absolute assurance of salvation. Our assurance in the promise of Salvation lies in whether we successfully "perservere" in the life of grace. St. Paul said, "See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell, but kindness to you, PROVIDED you remain in his kindness, otherwise you too will be cut off" (Rom. 11:22-23 emphasis mine; Matt. 18:21-35, 1 Cor. 15:1-2, 2 Pet. 2:20-21). St. Paul includes an imporatant condition: "provided you remain in His kindness." He is making clear that Christians can lose their salvation by throwing it away. He also warns, "Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall" ( 1 Cor. 10:11-12) Why should a Christian take care not to fall (sin)? Because, we run the risk of losing the grace of Salvation that we have recieved. Concluding then, as a Catholic, if I am ever asked as to whether or not I am "saved" - I answer this way: "I am redeemed by the blood of Christ, I trust in Him alone for my salvation, and, as the bible teaches, I am 'working out my salvation in fear and trembling' (Phil 2:12), knowing that it is God's free gift of grace that is working in me."

As I stated - I submit this as what Catholics believe concerning Salvation. At this time I have no interest for debate on the subject. I wish only to state the Catholic position for your own better understanding. I look forward to reading more on the discussion concerning Transubstantiation. Thanks again, and God bless.

damiencon said...

Hi everyone...

When I spoke of the eucharistic miracle of Lanciano, I was speaking from memory. I need to make a correction. The miracle did not occur to Berengarius of Tours(in the 1000s), but to a Basillian monk in Lanciano in the 700s. This monk was doubting the real presence at the time. That is when the eucharist changed to live flesh and blood.

Berengarius, on the other hand, was in the 1000s. As from what I can understand (and maybe other Catholic bloggers can "substantiate" this (oh I just couldn't help myself!), Berengarius was the first to formally oppose the Catholic teaching that Jesus is substantially present in the eucharist--though he seems to have been influenced by some of his contemporaries. He was called in by the Pope for questioning. Eventually, Berengarius' teaching gave rise the the Church's first formal proclamation on transubstantiation at the 4th Latern Council in the 1200s.

Sorry bout that!


David Wills said...

Hey Jason, I will just give a couple very brief responses as a lot has already been said.

- We will not receive the Eucharist in heaven. The Eucharist provides a special occasion of communion with Christ here. I think a good way to look at it is, as Damien mentioned, like a husband and wife coming together at certain times in the maritial union. The Eucharist is a source of spiritual nourishment and sanctification for us on our way to heaven. Here Christ's presence is veiled under the appearance of bread and wine; in heaven we will see him face to face.

- In regard to an individual receiving the Eucharist, only a Catholic who believes it is the body and blood of Christ should receive. The best passage to refer to, as Damien did, is 1 Corinthians 11:27-30. Paul writes that one should examine himself before receiving, and that one should not eat or drink without recognizing the body of the Lord.
If the Eucharist truly is the body and blood of Christ, then it is an objective reality and is not based upon the disposition or the belief of the one receiving. Therefore it is still Christ no matter who receives it. But as to what happens to one who receives without believing in his presence, that is for God to deal with.

- Concerning Christs resurrected body, our knowledge is limited. As with many aspects of Divine Revelation, we can know THAT something is true, yet not be able to fully comprehend how it is so. I think this is true the Virgin birth, Creation ex nihilo, an eternal God who had no beginning, a God who is three persons yet one being. So also with the Eucharist, it is difficult to fully comprehend how God does what he does. What we believe is that he does it. There is no limit to what God can do. When speaking of Christ's resurrected body, it is important to realize that his real body is in a sense a spiritualized body. His material substance has qualities more proper to spiritual realities than matter as we know and understand. Thus he was able to enter a closed room without a door or wall being opened.

- As to whether or not you can be saved without believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, I will make a couple of points. First, if Christ did indeed establish one church, a visible church, and if he gives his full being to us, body, blood, soul and divinity, in the Eucharist, then one should certainly be a part of this one church and partake of the Eucharist. As Catholics we are saying that this is what Christ does. Anything less is to not partake in the fullness of life and grace that he intends for his people. God will judge every person, for only he knows every heart. My task is to preach the truth of the Catholic faith and let God take care of the rest.
There is, however, a union that exists among those who have been baptized into Christ and who profess faith in him as Lord and Savior. It is for this reason that I can consider you a brother in Christ, though in a sense a separated brother. And I know that your not being a Catholic and not receiving the Eucharist is not an intentional rejection of Christ and what he wants for us; it is rather a result of you not realizing this is in fact what he intends. Where there is faith in Christ and an honest desire to follow him, we as Catholics may see that as an implicit desire for the Catholic faith and an implicit desire for the Eucharist. In fact, I feel a stronger bond of Christian unity with you and with Matt than I do with many people who claim to be Catholic.

These are just a few quick thoughts. I hope they help a little.
Also, I would like to know your answer to the flip-side of the question. Do you believe that I, as a Catholic, believing what I believe about the Mass and the Eucharist, can be saved?

God Bless,

damiencon said...

Van Diesel,

Our conversation seems to be winding down a bit. We may have reached an impasse. I would like to thank you for allowing the Catholic view to be presented, and I would like to thank you for answering our questions as you have. You have been very courteous. I don't want you to feel as though we are bombarding you. So, for now, I will take a break from the activity. If you would like to ever discuss this further, I would be glad to do so. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of this.

You can find my blog on the psalms at heyirishman. Feel free to drop by.