Every Evangelical Ever

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9 comments on “Every Evangelical Ever

  1. Will S. says:

    Yes, we continental Reformed who are amillennial in our eschatology do understand metaphor and simile, etc. (a thousand years in Revelation simply meaning a long time), so we’re in a better position than unsophisticated evangelicals to reject the transubstantive / consubstantive literalism of Catholics, Orthodox, and Lutherans in their holding to the Real Presence, because we’re more balanced and nuanced than evangelicals, having a place for non-literalism in our interpretations. 🙂

    • Indeed. And I can only assume your finely-developed theological tradition has a more substantive rejoinder to the traditional and patristic view of the Eucharist than the typical evangelical response, which is somewhere between ‘that’s stupid’ and ‘oh, so you worship bread?’

      😉

      • Will S. says:

        Naturally. Them evangelicals be silly and ignorant. 🙂

      • Will S. says:

        By contrast, we can explain why we hold to our views, and hopefully understand, though not agreeing with, why others interpret things differently. Stating “that’s stupid” and accusing of worshipping elements betrays a lack of understanding of why they believe as they do.

  2. Randy Miller says:

    Okay, I’ll bite. I simply don’t understand what you mean by Transubstantiation. I imagine the conversation would go like this:
    “So you’re being metaphorical, right?”
    “No, it really becomes the blood and body of Christ in a mysterious way.”
    “So… symbolism, then?”

    To me it makes as much sense as saying the Church is literally the body of Christ as well. Well, literally a representation of the body of Christ. But no connective tissue binds us.
    I really doubt I’m going to be adding anything new to the conversation. I’m trying not to say “That’s stupid”, more like “You keep using that word [literally, or actually]; I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    • Will S. says:

      I equally have such difficulties as well, and similar, other ones, because a question arises: when Christ as incarnate, here on Earth, at the last supper, in His body, blood flowing through His veins, when He took the elements, and said ‘This is my body’ and ‘This is my blood’, is it completely unreasonable for some of us to conclude He was speaking in metaphor, because His physical body was right then holding something He was calling His body, even though everyone could see that it was His body that was holding that which He was designating as His body, and because since Christ’s body contained His blood, and we have no reason to believe He was bleeding or had bled into the cup, is it entirely unreasonable for some of us to draw a distinction between the liquid in the cup, and that liquid flowing through His veins, as being two different liquids with two different origins, and that the one was being spoken about in metaphor by someone whose body contained the other, very different kind of liquid?

      I can understand why Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans believe as they do; it is an interpretation that makes sense to many, and certainly seems internally consistent. But I also think that us Reformed detractors can have an internally consistent interpretation that happens to be quite different, yet has as reasonable explanatory power as that of the others. Evangelicals, though, often fail to think things through, and understand why they believe as they do, if they even know. Since Reformed people are theology geeks, that’s less likely to happen. 🙂

    • Hi, Randy. Thanks for your comment.

      A little housecleaning before we get down to the actual theology: I dont mean to be pedantic but the Orthodox Church, to which I belong, does not teach ‘transubstantiation’. She teaches the Real Presence, without further elaboration. The distinction is subtle but important.

      The doctrine of the Real Presence states simply that at some point during the service (different traditions disagree about exactly when; the Orthodox view is that this process is complete at the epiclesis), the elements of the sacrament become the true body and true blood of the Lord. This view is shared by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, all the churches in Apostolic Succession (except perhaps Low Church Anglicans) and Lutherans.

      Transubstantiation, on the other hand, is a particular philosophical explanation of precisely how that transformation occurs. It is taught by Roman Catholicism, rejected by Lutheranism, and, if I am not mistaken, has a degree of traction in the Orthodox and Anglican Churches that varies by individual. I personally am disinclined to accept it, and all my Church requires me to believe is that the transformation happens, not some specific explanation of how.

      Now that that’s out of the way…

      I’m not going to pretend I can explain to you how it happens. However, three points:

      1. I think the idea makes more sense if approached with an Eastern view of salvation and Atonement where Christ deifies human nature by uniting it to the Divine Nature. In that case it would stand to reason that our nature is deified through union with Him, which I believe is our doctrine. And that union is effected, we believe, in large part through the Eucharist, which is why Our Lord said ‘Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.’

      2. As the Catholic Encyclopedia points out, the statement makes no sense as metaphor or symbolism. If I held up a piece of bread and said ‘this bread is Napoleon’, you, upon examining the bread and finding that it bears not the slightest resemblance to Napoleon, would, I assume, conclude that I am a lunatic and not that I have just provided you with a deeply meaningful spiritual symbol of the Emperor of the French. When one uses a common object as a symbol, there must be some connection or resemblance between the object and the prototype. In this case there is not. However, as Christians we cannot conclude that Our Lord is a lunatic. Therefore, following the tradition held by Christians from ancient times, I believe that something supernatural is going on here, and that the bread and wine in the Eucharist truly become the Body and Blood of Our Lord.

      3. The institution of this Sacrament is not the only time in Scripture when Our Lord makes reference to it or discusses it. In the Gospel of St John, Chapter 6, He says ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven’ and ‘If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world’ and ‘Amen, amen, I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you’ and ‘my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed’. Now to me, this seems to support the literal interpretation of the Words of Institution. And in this case it strikes me as a bit arrogant to argue that we, at a distance of 2000 years and through a translation, can discern that Our Lord was speaking metaphorically, while the people around Him, who spoke the language natively, and who had the benefit of both immediate and broader context, and who clearly took Him to be offering them His literal flesh to eat, completely missed the point of what He was saying.

      I realise that Will has posted a rather extensive comment as well, which I hope to respond to tomorrow.

      One more thing: When I posted this satirical and somewhat snarky image, I didn’t think it would provoke such a good discussion, or any discussion at all, really. So thanks, both of you.

  3. Randy Miller says:

    “‘Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.’

    2. As the Catholic Encyclopedia points out, the statement makes no sense as metaphor or symbolism. ”
    It does make sense in as much as the Eucharist is the designated ritual marking one as a member of the body of Christ. The word life in that sentence, note, is not the lay usage of the term! plenty of people have lived sans eating the flesh, so obviously at least a portion in not literal, in the most common sense the word is used.

    “When one uses a common object as a symbol, there must be some connection or resemblance between the object and the prototype. In this case there is not.”

    I think you are making a stronger case than is warranted. Symbols often have non-obvious meanings–a star symbolizes each state on the flag of the USA, probably for only the reason that it was easy to sow. But in the case of the Lord’s Supper, the bread and the wine did have some resemblance to the Lord’s body–the bread was torn asunder, in order that those who accepted it would be sustained; the wine spilled from its skin in order to slake the thirst of Christ’s followers.

    Also, I believe he specifically used common items as symbols so that his followers would encounter them often, and have cause to remember the meal and more importantly what came after.

    “In the Gospel of St John, Chapter 6, He says ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven’ and ‘If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world’ and ‘Amen, amen, I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you’ and ‘my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed’. Now to me, this seems to support the literal interpretation of the Words of Institution.”
    I think it makes as much sense to say that this was a metaphor He returned to frequently, because these were common items of everyday, and at the same time, life and death, to his listeners.

    “And in this case it strikes me as a bit arrogant to argue that we, at a distance of 2000 years and through a translation, can discern that Our Lord was speaking metaphorically, while the people around Him, who spoke the language natively, and who had the benefit of both immediate and broader context, and who clearly took Him to be offering them His literal flesh to eat, completely missed the point of what He was saying.”
    I’m still not sure you are really meaning ‘literal’ there. Do you mean ‘literally granted a non-material portion of the essence of Christ which enacts sanctification and grants the follower a nature more in line with God’s?’ I can grant that as plausible and supported, though not an intuitive use of the words ‘literal flesh.’ Otherwise I’d have to wonder why it does not have the taste or texture of meat.

    At the end of the day, I realize Western thought and the discourse of the time of the Lord differ markedly, and this very well may be a mystery I am unprepared to comprehend. But bear in mind that Jesus talked in parables, codes, and words with double meaning very frequently. Even the most strident biblical literalist is going to realize it and have to interpret much of what He said as figures of speech–which isn’t to say unimportant or disregardable, of course.

  4. Sheepdog86 says:

    This is a perennial discussion, but not stale for all that. At the risk of – oh, anachronism may be the right word – it has always struck me that the Radical Reformer’s objections to the Real Presence rely on an understanding of the created universe that is, pardon the pun, radically incomplete. Taking nothing away from the doctrine of Theosis, it has recently struck me that quantum resonance and quantum intaglement both can provide a sufficiently literal basis for the most die-hard Fundamentalist. I mean, after all, if the. Creator God of the universe can’t ordain a substantial correspondance at the apprpriate moments in worship, He wouldn’t be much of a God.

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