Saturday, October 15, 2005

Pot of gold-4


56. Teresa Polk Says:
October 15th, 2005 at 9:54 am

#54 - Spirit of Vatican II, I think you have gone way too far now. For one thing, I don’t see how from Trent or any other Catholic source you get approval for a non-denominational communion service, possibly by non-ordained people, as being what Christ intended. Even the non-denominational Protestants would not call what they do Eucharist — although you could find some who would say that they believe in the very limited concept of Transubstantiation that you have now made more clear is what you believe. Even in the Early Church, in Tertullian’s writings, there were concerns expressed about who could celebrate sacraments. The Eucharistic liturgy in the Didache is drawn more from John 6 than from the Last Supper, so that it is historically clear that the first century Church understood John 6 as pertaining to the Eucharist. As the Pontificator’s original posting makes clear, finding the Eucharist in John 6 is troubling to the purely Protestant position, and yet it is in the Didache’s liturgy which dates back to New Testament times. I don’t think you can reconcile your position with the first and second century understanding of what Christ intended, unless you view Christ’s intention from Scripture taken out of context from the surrounding culture and the historical events that led to some of the persecution. You would also have to explain, for example, how Roman rumors developed that accused the Christians of cannibalism — clearly, the surrounding secular culture thought they took the Eucharist so literally that it was feared they might actually be eating someone’s flesh. You could not explain that kind of slander toward a group who used a non-denominational Protestant understanding of Christ’s intention.


1.Her own reference to Tertullian implies that even by the 3C, the question of who officiated at the Eucharist was still unsettled.

2.The Didache is generally dated to the 2C.

3.Even if a given teaching or practice did go back to Apostolic times, that doesn’t make it Apostolic. Most of the NT correspondence was occasioned by false teaching which sprung up with great frequency and alacrity in Apostolic Sees whenever the Apostles were away, planting other churches.

4.The Bread of Life Discourse was delivered around AD 30 or so. The historical setting is Jewish and pre-Eucharistic. What would this have meant to Jesus’ Jewish audience, given their preunderstanding? The explicit background and express frame of reference is not the NT Eucharist, but the OT manna.

5.Whenever and to whomever the Fourth Gospel was written, it is a historical record of speeches which were delivered at an earlier time to a different audience.

Failure to distinguish between the target-audience for the Fourth Gospel and the original audience for the embedded narrative discourse within the Fourth Gospel commits an elementary level-confusion and basic hermeneutical blunder.

Theology of the heart

We are creatures with a heart as well as a head. God has preprogrammed us to feel a certain way towards certain people—indeed, to feel differently about different sorts of people. Men feel a certain way towards women, and vice versa. A normal man doesn’t look at a woman the same way he looks at another man.

Children are programmed to love their parents, and parents their children. Sons have an emotional bond with mother and father alike, but it’s not the same emotional bond in each case. Children get different things from mother and father.

Fathers have an emotional bond with son and daughter alike, but it’s not the same sort of bond in each case; Mothers have an emotional bond with son and daughter alike, but it’s not the same sort of bond in each case.

Little boys think little girls are yucky, but that has been known to undergo a noticeable change with the onset of adolescence.

Unlike the animal world, the emotional bond between parent and child remains much the same throughout life—for better or worse.

There are two or three reasons for this divine programming. Such feelings are necessary for the perpetuation of the human race. It brings men and women together, keeps them together, produces more men and women, and raises them within a supportive environment.

God is also in the business of fostering love. And there is, indeed, some analogy between divine and human relationships.

At the same time, we also know that, in a fallen world, feelings can get out of hand, or become misdirected. Love is a powerful emotion, and unrestrained, love can be divisive as well as unitive, destructive as well as constructive.

This is obvious in the case of romantic love, with its potential for evil as well as good--for broken homes and homicidal jealousy. We all know couples who come to hate each other, and hate each other due to the intensity of their former love and sense of love betrayed. The power of disillusionment.

We all know suicidal lovers when love goes unrequited. The power of longing.

We all know parents who totally identify with their kids. They will break any law, tell any lie, cross any line to protect a their precious kids—even grown children--out of a twisted sense of parental duty and unilateral loyalty. Parents who sue the school if it expels their daughter for assaulting a teacher. Parents who buy a plane ticket if their son kills a girl in a date-rape gone bad.

There are men who are attracted to another men and repelled by women. Natural affection becomes inverted and perverted.

Our emotional preconditioning can easily condition our theology as well. Universalism is pure emotionalism, nothing more and nothing less. The appeal of universalism is the appeal of a half-truth. It has erected an entire theological edifice upon the fickle foundation of how we feel about our loved ones, and the extension of that feeling to perfect strangers.

The obvious flaw in this scenario is the projection of our feelings onto God—as if God should feel the same way about our loved-ones as we do. But this is very anthropomorphic and frankly childish. One may well say that God should look at a woman the same a man would look at a woman. God doesn’t—for the simple reason that God is not a man.

God’s assessment of human beings isn’t beclouded by all of our natural conflicted feelings and urgings and yeanings. God simply sees things the way they are, according to truth. He is not a smitten lover, blinded by infatuation. He is a doting, indulgent, self-indulgent father or mother who is so emotionally invested in the child that the child can do no wrong.

This spills over into the question of universal infant salvation. We’re naturally programmed to have a soft spot for the young. To love our babies. To find little kids cute.

And this carries over into kids who are not our own. When we see a face below a certain age, it is only normal for an adult to feel a bit protective towards the youngster. This is a natural extension of the parental instinct. And that’s one reason we have children of our own.

There’s a certain natural envy in wanting to have what the other has. Singles are envious of couples. Childless couples are envious of parents with children.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. It’s an incentive to marry and beget.

And there’s nothing wrong with having an affectionate and protective feeling about the young. For they need the affection and protection of grown-ups. That’s a major reason that God gave us those feelings.

But, as with universalism, it is a mistake to build a doctrine of universal infant salvation on feeling alone. It is a mistake, and a rather obvious mistake at that, to project our instinctive feelings onto God—feelings which are adapted to human frailties and codependencies.

There is a point of analogy, but a disanalogy as well. We’ve all heard of the classic retort to hell: “How could a loving God consign his children to hell.”

“Children”. Yes, that loaded word again. But this is imposing on God a whole bundle of emotions associated with dating and mating, bonding and begetting, maturation and mutual dependency.

This is suited to creatures--creatures growing out of each other, growing up, and growing back into each other, to reproduce the life-cycle.

Yahweh is a husband to Israel. Christ is a husband to the church. That’s a point of analogy with human affairs, but--just as clearly--a very limited analogy. God is a father to his people, but that, too, is a limited analogy.

We have so many different emotions tugging at us all the time and pulling us in different directions. That is part of being human, and part of being fallen, but no part of being God.

Our Triune Creator is, in some measure, the model of human society. But human society is not the model of our Triune Creator.

God is a father, but God is also a judge. If the kids of a human judge were brought into his courtroom, he’d have to recuse himself. He’s in no position to mete out a fair sentence to his own flesh-and-blood.

That’s is why judges are supposed to be impartial. To have no vested interest in the case. In our human system of justice, this often breaks down.

But God is, indeed, an impartial judge—a disinterested jurist. Unjust judges are a common complaint of the OT prophets. But before the bar of God, the scales of justice are level, for God is no respecter of persons.

We will be judged, not by who we are, in and of ourselves, but by who we are in relation to Christ. And who we are in Christ, or who we are outside of Christ, is unrelated to who we are in and of ourselves.

Let us rejoice in our God-given humanity and lowliness and creatureliness. And let us also rejoice in a God who is not a scaled up version of ourselves.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Pot of gold-3


I am having trouble understanding what your purpose was here. It could hardly be a logical argument.

If you are arguing that the dogma of the Real Presence, then you are right to focus on John 6 for your scriptural basis. Repeatedly, Jesus makes the claim, and those listening obviously understand his meaning to be literal, as evidenced by their horrified reaction.

If you are arguing about the consecration, why would you focus on John 6 and ignore the four times the institution of the Eucharist is told (3 in the synoptics and one in Paul's letter to the Corinthians). The statements "this is my body" and "this is my blood" are straightforward enough.


i) My logic parallels the logic of the CCC. Any illogicality is a reflection of the original source. Thanks for agreeing with me.

ii) I’m arguing about the dogma of the Real Presence (allegedly) in Jn 6 and the words of institution elsewhere because that it how the CCC argument is put together. The CCC supplies the framework for my reply.


In your article you suggest it is incorrect to use connect scripture from one book of the Bible to scripture from another book of the Bible:
"But there are not a few problems with this move. To begin with, it isn’t very sound exegetical method to complete your interpretation of one writer by ransacking another author. This is, frankly, a way of filling in the gaps of an interpretation that goes beyond the textual evidence."


No, my objection was more specific than your introductory sentence makes it out to be.


If this is truly what you meant, one must wonder if you are truly Christian. The Muslims believe the Koran was dictated by Allah in Arabic to Mohammed, who captured every word. Christians believe the Word of God to be the word of God but written by men. For this reason, we speak of the Psalms of David and the Book of Hosea.


Now you’re going off on a tangent.


The historical-critical analysis school of biblical study popularized by German theologians in the 19th century suggested ideas about the authors of the texts, but it is a departure from Christian tradition to assume that the full interpretation of the Divine Revelation is found in a single book of the bible.


i) I don’t endorse the historical-critical method. Rather, I endorse the grammatico-historical method. It’s your church which has adopted the liberal Lutheran grammatico-historical method.

ii) Your recourse to Christian tradition assumes what it needs to prove.


St. Paul is liberal with his quotations and citations from the Psalter and from the major prophets like Isaiah. Is St. Paul not using a "sound exegetical method?"


Your comparison breaks down at the very point where it needs to hold up. If Paul were quoting John or vice versa, then, of course, we’d know that Paul was extending or supplementing Jn 6. In that case, the connection would be valid because the connection would be intended and evident.


You claim we have here "clearly a dogma in search of a prooftext. The dogma comes first." Of course the dogma comes first, for the dogma comes from God. That is what a dogma is: some authoritative, unchanging divine truth. As creatures of God we do not necessarily have the lexicon of the Creator and may employ a doctrine that is our best effort at explaining concepts that are beyond the confines of time and space and creation.


That’s a rather obscure statement:

i) Are your dogmas divinely revealed or not? If they’re revealed, then revelation comes first. That’s the source of your knowledge of dogma. If not that, then what?

You seem to be confounding the orders of knowing and being. Metaphysically speaking, divine truth is prior to divine revelation--but epistemically speaking, divine revelation is prior to divine truth. We formulate dogma in light of God’s dogmatic disclosures. That, at least, represents Reformed theological method.

ii) Now you seem to be giving a Kantian cast to truth—that divine truth is some noumenal, ineffable whatever.

You’re welcome to your opinion, but if our spatiotemporal categories fail to capture then truth, then Catholic dogma can’t right or wrong, true or false. How can something with no truth-value be authoritative?

iii) It will hardly suffice to say that we try to do the best we can, for that assumes an approximation to the truth--but if the truth is unknowable, then you have no basis of comparison.

Finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow-2

Let’s move on to some other critics, all from Kimel’s blog:


2. Jonathan Prejean Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 3:26 pm

“On what basis does he decide that his interpretation of Scripture is superior to the interpretation of the Church? By his private judgment. This, and this alone, is the ground of his conviction.”

On the contrary, he decides it on based on reading Leon Morris, D.A. Carson, Raymond Brown, and all the other commentaries on the Fourth Gospel and judging their respective arguments in an ordinary way.

That theory of revelation goes WAY beyond the “private judgment” of the Reformers. It’s the recourse of people who don’t actually believe in the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church, except as some self-referencing tautology to the exercise of their own will. They don’t believe in God; they believe in themselves and conceive “god” as an appendage to their egos.


By what criterion does Prejean identify the action of the Holy Spirit? By what criterion does Prejean identify the true church? By what criterion does Prejean distinguish his own faith from mere egotism?


October 12th, 2005 at 4:13 pm

“On what basis does he decide that his interpretation of Scripture is superior to the interpretation of the Church? By his private judgment.”

When reading texts like these (the text you referred to), and while reading Scripture I tend to try and remind myself that it is the Church that is the “pillar and support of the truth”, not me or my personal interpretations.


By what criterion does Kjetil equate any particular contemporary denomination with the “church” in 1 Tim 3:15? Doesn’t he have to interpret 1 Tim 3:15 for himself in order to see its applicability (or not) to some church outside the text? There are, after all, many “churches” which lay claim to 1 Tim 3:15.


4. Tom Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 4:19 pm

Fascinating indeed. Yes the Scripture doesn’t teach a real presence as if this were too difficult for God. Now to be sure we don’t build doctrine on conjecture or what God could do if He so chooses but the fact is, in the Old Testament we have the Bread of the Presence, literally the bread of the face, in the New Testament we have our Lord say His flesh is real food and His blood real drink. We hear Him say “This Is My Body” “This Is My Blood.” We read Paul in 1st Cor 10-11 discuss the Eucharist as a present participation in the body and blood of Christ. So Steve what idiosyncratic use of the words “tinkering” and “tweaking” are you employing. Yes, just another reason why I came home to Mother Church.


i) This parallel proves too much or too little. Is Tom saying that transubstantiation applies to the OT showbread as well? Was the showbread the true body and blood of Christ? Is that Catholic dogma? I must of missed that.

ii) The blanket appeal to 1 Cor 10-11 proves too much (or too little) as well since “the body” in this passage sometimes has reference to the church. Or is Tom also applying transubstantiation to the church? Is the church the true body and blood of Christ?

iii) Catholics don’t take 1 Cor 11 literally. They don’t believe that the break and wine is identical with the body and blood of Christ. Rather, they interpose a distinction between species and substance.

This is what happens when you begin with dogma and then cast about for a prooftext.

The appeal to Jn 6 I’ll address further down.


5. Chris Jones Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 4:27 pm

It is useless to treat the Scriptures as the foundation for the Eucharist. The Church was celebrating the Eucharist before there was a New Testament. So you cannot treat the Eucharist as being in any way derived from the Scriptures.

The New Testament is a second-order phenomonon: Christ delivered the Gospel to the Apostles, who then wrote the New Testament. The Eucharist, on the contrary, is a first-order phenomonon: Christ instituted the Eucharist and delivered it to the Church, and the Church has been celebrating the Eucharist, unchanged in its essentials, ever since.


This confuses the existence of the Eucharist with is warrant and right interpretation. No, you don’t derive its existence from the NT. But deriving the warrant and right interpretation of the rite is something entirely different.


6. dilys Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 4:30 pm

If a Lone-Ranger dissenter, Protestant or Catholic, ranges himself against Tradition [hundreds of millions of Catholics as well as Orthodox] in this way, I see only 3 possible logical foundation-stones:

1. “I am smarter or more insightful than all those other [utterly Mickey Mouse tinkering and tweaking] people and/or God has granted me a special revelation He has withheld from them;”

1A. A subset of this is “Those old churches and what they teach are old-fashioned because [stragglers who gobble up whatever stale crumbs] their roots are so much older than mine, and time moves forward:”

2. “They know I am right but want to protect their turf and reputation.” This argument at bottom infers bad faith/fatal corruption on the part of the Church [the soiled apron of Mother Church], usually based on a proto-Marxist kind of analysis that credits sola money and power as the preeminent motive for social behavior, particular as regards those shifty priestly classes (see undergraduate anthropology, typical histories of Egypt);


3. “During an ‘imprinting’ window, somebody told me something different from the teaching of Holy Tradition (without necessarily coming to terms with ## 1 and 1 above), and my tribal allegiances formed around their position and now trigger this argument.”

3A. The subset here is “Look how enthusiastic our worship is, and how uneducated their followers.” Cultural de gustibus at best.

Numbers and centuries and the claim of continuity by the Ancient Church would seem to put the burden of persuasion or demonstration on Steve and his colleagues.

There is much more to these matters than logic, of course. But all the emotion and revelation in the world do not override my question on its own terms. Which is it?


i) All that Dilys has done here is to substitute a set of straw man arguments for the actual arguments I deployed. I congratulate him for conceding the force of my arguments by ignoring them and changing the subject.

ii) He appeals to “numbers and centuries” when it happens to support his contention. What about the areas where the Catholic church and the Orthodox church diverge? Both have numbers and centuries.


8. Fr. Stephen Freeman Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 4:57 pm

I feel, in reading this, that there is no use in arguing with someone who does not accept the authority of Christians who have gone before him. The hubris of a modernist protestant attacking the doctrine of real presence and the interpretation of John 6, against the universal interpretation of the fathers is beyond me. I pray that he will be saved - and I mean this in a way that will be soon manifest and not just in an eternal sense. God correct him and all who are in such delusion.


i) Notice how an initial appeal to the authority of Christians past instantly atrophies into a truncated appeal to the church fathers. So it boils down of a very selective and arbitrary appeal indeed.

ii) To my knowledge, all of the church fathers were also of the firm opinion that every child who died without benefit of baptism was damned. Does Fr. Freeman still believe that? If not, does his doctrinal revisionism reflect the hubris of a modernist in vestments?


14. Jonathan Prejean Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 7:35 pm

So the citation of the Church Fathers is more or less irrelevant, since the question is what St. Paul intended to convey by penning those words. Not what God intended to convey, but what St. Paul “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” intended to convey.

Of course, that would be an account of Scripture that every one of those millions and billions of Christians (including Luther) would have rejected, so it’s far easier to simply point out that this is not a Christian way of looking at Scripture any more than the Mormon view of Scripture is. If you hold this view of Scripture, then plainly, you don’t believe in the skopos of revelation as acknowledged by Christianity throughout the centuries, which means that your theology isn’t “Christian” except by abuse of language.


i) Inspiration does not imply omniscience. God does not reveal everything he knows.

Prejean intrudes a false dichotomy between God’s intent and Paul intent. This intrusive dichotomy would defeat the very purpose of inspiration.

ii) The fact that God knows more than Paul, and has a multitude of aims of which Paul is ignorant, is quite irrelevant to the fact that a word or set of words has a finite meaning. The words are vehicles of meaning, finite vehicles. “White” doesn’t mean “black,” “black and white” doesn’t mean “red.” The meaning is confined to the meaning of the words, in their concrete combination and cultural preunderstanding.


15. Fr. Glenn Spencer Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 8:21 pm

“The hubris of a modernist protestant attacking the doctrine of real presence and the interpretation of John 6, against the universal interpretation of the fathers is beyond me.”

I agree Father Freeman. The words of institution are powerful: “This is my body…” Of course we live in a day and time when it is considered perfectly reasonable to caste doubt on what the meaning of “is” is.


i) Oh, but according to Prejean, there is what St. Paul intended “is” to mean, and then there’s what God intended “is” to mean. So the “is-ness” of “is” gets quite convoluted in Prejean’s enigma machine.

ii) Notice that Fr. Glenn doesn’t really take the words of institution at face value. Rather, he mentally substitutes “become” for “is.” On his view, the bread is not the body of Christ: rather, the bread “becomes” the body of Christ, while retaining the outward accidents of bread.

This, again, is what happens when you have an ingrown theological tradition.


16. obpoet Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 9:08 pm

I have to admit, as a former Protestant, this teaching has always been difficult, because it cannot be reasoned. It in the end it is a matter of faith, unable to be proven or disproved. No doubt that is how it is meant to be. I see it as a gift from God that I must struggle with this idea for the rest of my life. What a wonderful place to turn our thoughts to again and again.


One don’t do exegesis by faith; one does it by reason. Faith applies to product of exegesis, not the process.


18. Apolonio Says:
October 12th, 2005 at 11:19 pm

First, it seems that Steve Hays has been polemical lately (is it just me?). This just takes my desire to fully interact with what he says. Second, again, I think his approach to scripture is faulty. He says,

“But there are not a few problems with this move. To begin with, it isn’t very sound exegetical method to complete your interpretation of one writer by ransacking another author. This is, frankly, a way of filling in the gaps of an interpretation that goes beyond the textual evidence. You can’t find everything you need in the text before you, so you import some putty to plug the cracks.”

What “exegetical method” he is talking about, I don’t know. Is it historical-critical? Is it spiritual? Is there room for both? How? On and on.


Since I explained what I meant at the time, it’s hard to account for Apolonios’s incomprehension. Continuing:

The Tradition has always been reading Scripture *as a whole* rather than an isolated piece.


i) To begin with, since the normative status of tradition is the very point at issue, Apolonio is begging the question.

ii) His characterization is very simplistic. As a rule, you don’t interpret one writer by another writer unless one writer is writing about another writer—by way of quotations and allusions. Absent specific evidence, you can’t assume that one writer knows what another writer was thinking and writing.

The way to read Scripture as a whole is to interpret each writer on his own terms, consistent with his own usage and citations and allusions and culture and context, as well as taking into consideration his relation to earlier authors. Once you’ve done that, then, and only then, are you in a position to read Scripture as a whole. But the cut-and-paste method whereby you start with a little snippet in John, but unable to find what all you were looking for, flip over to scissor out a little snippet from Paul to “complete” what is missing in John, is a miserable little patch-job which has no basis in what either author intended.

There’s a reason John says as much as he does and no more. There’s a reason Paul says as much as he does and no more.


If we apply his method to say, the doctrine that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, how exactly are we going to exegete passages which gives us that doctrine? One might say Matthew 28. But how would we read Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity in that passage alone (notice also how I speak of Jesus as the *Second* Person)? And does Matthew speak of the Holy Spirit as God? What about the phrase “the Son of God”?


Once more, the problem of an insular and hidebound theological tradition. If Apolonio read Evangelical scholarship, he’d wouldn’t have to ask that question since he’d know how we do theology.

Where the Trinity is concerned, we simply glean what various authors of Scripture have to say about the persons of the Godhead, and then integrate the data. That is quite different than using one writer as an interpretive grid through which to filter the statements of another.


I don’t find this type of circular reasoning as vicious. Al is warranted in interpreting the Scriptures within the lenses of the Church and Tradition simply because the Church and Tradition are reliable and are guided by the Holy Spirit. Guided by the Holy Spirit, it is truth-aimed, Christocentric. If someone asks, “how do you know they are reliable?” or “how do you know the Holy Spirit is guiding them?”, I think one is justified in avoiding the (internalist) objections. It seems that what I have said is analogous to Thomas Reid’s principle that our faculties are reliable. In fact, William Alston does not hold that epistemic circularity is vicious. In what way is Al’s argument different from the argument Alston presented on epistemic circularity?


The problem with this comparison is that it’s disanalogous at the very point where it needs to be analogous. We all have same faculties; we don’t all have the same church. So we don’t have the same universal and indispensable lens in both cases.

BTW, as the critics go, Apolonio is one of my better critics.


Moving along:


22. Brother Quotidian Says:
October 13th, 2005 at 6:33 am

For what it’s worth (probably not much) …

I came to faith in the theological matrix Steve did, at least insofar as its view of the Bible is concerned. I was reared on the views of the Eucharist that he was. I most definately did not read catholic teachers on any subject, especially the Eucharist.


I wasn’t raised in any particular theological matrix, and the matrices in which I was raise were not hostile to the Real Presence. From early childhood to my upper teens, I first attended a Lutheran church, then a Presbyterian church, then a Methodist church. After that I was old enough to strike out on my own.


23. Petra Says:
October 13th, 2005 at 7:52 am

What has always boggled my mind is the way evangelical Protestants read Jn 6 and then say: “There is no proof whatsoever that He is talking about the Eucharist (or whatever they call it) in this passage.”

I mean, Jesus keeps talking here about the necessity of eating His body and drinking His blood for about half a page, calling His body the Bread of Life several times, insisting on its importance etc.; all the way undeterred by questioning listeners and incredulous disciples, some of which even leave Him after this speech.

I mean, WHAT ON EARTH do Evangelicals (who absolutely LOVE talking about “the plain sense of Scripture” in other contexts) think He is reffering to? His mother’s cooking????

By the way, I’ve developed a new definition for evangelical Protestantism some time ago:
“To read Genesis 1-3 literally and ALL sayings of Jesus figuratively.”


i) There many similar epithets applied to Christ in the Fourth Gospel: he’s the lamb of God, the light of the world, the true vine, the door, the good shepherd. Does Petra intend to reify these other metaphors as well? Is the front door into his church the true body and blood of Christ?

What about the vine? Notice that Jesus doesn’t just call himself a vine. He adds an adjective: he is the “true” vine or “real” vine.

ii) The Bread of Life Discourse wasn’t addressed to Christians: it was addressed to Jews. The Eucharist hadn’t even been instituted at the time Jesus was speaking to the Jews. You can’t have the Lord’s Supper before the Last Supper, now can you?

How would if be sinful for his audience to disbelieve him if they couldn’t know what he was talking about? If he was talking about the Eucharist, they’d be in no position to know that. So in what sense, on a sacramental reading of Jn 6, is their disbelief culpable? The Eucharist didn’t exist at that time.

This, again, is the sort of thing that happens when your liturgical practice preconditions and overrides your reading of Scripture. You stop asking elementary questions like: When was this said? To whom was it said?

Finally, I wish to end on a more general note. The appeal to what billions of Catholics have believed for two thousand years is simply bogus.

For one thing, widespread literacy and the widespread availability of affordable reading materials is really quite recent—dating to around the 18C or so. So to say that billions of Catholics have always read Jn 6 eucharistically is historically false, and by a simply huge margin of error.

Billions of Catholics over the centuries have not read Jn 6 that way because billions of Catholics over the centuries have not read Jn 6 at all.

But, for the sake of argument, let us stipulate to this claim. Now, by any reckoning, the Catholic church has an unrivalled talent pool. Sheer numbers alone guarantee as much.

Now, if I gave several billion Catholics two thousand years to come up with an argument for the Real Presence, it’s quite something that this is the best they’d have to show for it: “we believe it cuz we believe it. You should believe it cuz we believe it too.”

“We believe in burning widows because our parents believed in burning widows, and their parents, and their grandparents, for as far back as anyone can remember.

“And if that weren’t proof enough, we’ve got the guidance of our ancestral spirits. Just ask the local Shaman.”

“Then here you come along, what with your new-fangled notions and modernistic airs and go spitting in the face of our widow-burning elders and betters! How arrogant! How hubristic!”

I might as well be debating with a witchdoctor over the intellectual merits of suttee.

Finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow-1

It looks like just about everyone who wanted to say something about my “Real Ellipsis” piece has done so by now, so now is as good a time as any to respond.


1.Concerning point ix you misunderstand what is taking place at baptism. You seem to think that nothing happens to the water at baptism but that is in fact incorrect. The water is in fact blessed during baptism. But the emphasis in your criticism is incorrectly focused. The true importance of baptism is that the person, and not the water, is changed. At baptism an ontological change takes place upon the person baptized so that they are at that moment and always will be a baptized person. That is not to say that they cannot later renounce the faith but even if they do renounce the faith that does not mean that their baptism is therefore erased.

2.Concerning your last paragraph and the Catholic "gerrymandering of Scripture". This seems to be a very harsh criticism you are laying on Catholics.

3.From your statements I am assuming that you are in fact are not Catholic, whether that be Roman or Orthodox.

4.Therefore, I would like to know what gives you the right to make such bold claims.

5.From where does your 'church' come?

6.Why are you fighting so harshly against something that you do not truly understand?

7.You are trying to attack the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist using only the Bible. But if you understood Catholic theology then you would know that not everything comes from the Bible.

8.When non-Catholics try to attack the Church with the Bible they operate on an unspoken assumption that the Bible descended on a Golden Thread from Heaven at the moment Christ ascended to the Father. But this is untrue. In the Great Commission Jesus told His Apostles to “make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Jesus did not write the Bible as some sort of rule book like Muhammad supposedly wrote the Koran.

9.Instead, He taught His disciples. He gave them the teaching of eternal life and they, here at the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel are instructed by the Lord to teach others. That is what Apostolic Succession is about.

10.Those who are in Succession to the Apostles are to teach the same Gospel that the Apostles taught

11.and this is shown forth by the physical laying on of hands in ordination.

12.This is how the Gospel was handed down until the New Testament was written and compiled and it is still handed down in this manner.

13.Now, needless to say, some things which were and are handed down are not in the Bible.

14.The books and letters of the New Testament were written for specific purposes and were not intended to be the end all be all of how to live your life as a Christian.

15.The things that have been handed down from the Apostles which are not contained in Holy Scripture are now a part of Holy Tradition. If you truly want to attack the Church’s understanding of the Eucharist then that is where you need to look for ammunition.

16.(By the way, who do you think compiled the Bible to begin with?

17.And have you ever asked yourself where your own faith tradition comes from?

18.Does it stretch back to Jesus and His Apostles?)

# posted by FrJeff


For clarity of analysis and ease of reference, I’ve taken the liberty of numbering Jeff’s leading points. Nothing has been edited out of the original. My numbering in reply to his points will peg the original order of presentation.

Before delving into the details, it is worth noting that, to judge by his boss (the dapper Bishop Iker, one part prelate to two parts Ronald Coleman or Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) as well as his blog, Jeff is an Anglo-Catholic, much disgusted by the liberal activists and spineless conservatives in his own denomination.

Anglo-Catholicism is very precarious outpost from which to be lobbing bombs. The Elizabethan settlement is a theological compromise born of political compromise, while Anglo-Catholicism is another theological compromise. What you end up with is, as we shall see, a very unstable position.

1.Yes, I understand about holy water. I’m also conversant with the dogma of baptismal regeneration. That, however, does nothing to obviate my original point. In transubstantiation there is said to be an ontological change in the composition of the communion elements whereas, in baptism, there is said to be an ontological change, not in the composition of the water, but in the object of the rite or baptismal candidate—effecting an indelible mark upon the soul. There is no transubstantiation of the water, only the wine and the bread.

So the asymmetry remains. And it is odd that the efficacy of communion depends on this ontological change in the medium, whereas the efficacy of baptism does not so depend.

2.Yes, my criticism was very harsh. But what Jeff is quoting comes at the conclusion of a 10-point argument. It doesn’t just emerge out of thin air. I laid a foundation for my criticism, however harsh.

3.No, I’m not Catholic or Orthodox. I’m a Calvinist.

4.As to my “right” to make such bold claims,

i) This is a very American way of framing the issue. Not: what is right and wrong, but: what gives you the right to say this or do that.

The question is simply one of truth and falsehood. That’s what gives me the right. I don’t need a special right to say what is right. I’d only need a special right to say (or do) what is ordinarily wrong.

ii) Jeff is also jumping into the middle of an ongoing debate. I’ve written a great deal on the subject of Catholicism, with extensive quotation from the primary source materials.

iii) What gives me the right is the 10-point argument I laid out. My point of departure was the CCC. I subjected the reasoning of the CCC on the Eucharistic reading of Jn 6 to rational scrutiny.

You might as well ask what gave the Catholic church the right to say what it did. More to the point, however, is that the CCC lays out an argument for its position, citing various prooftexts and given assorted supporting arguments, and all I did was to mount a counterargument.

If an institution gives you reasons for what it believes, then those reasons are liable to rational scrutiny. Are they good reasons or bad reasons?

iv) I’d note that Jeff simply disregards my 10-point argument and chooses to raise a different set of objections. He’s welcome to change the subject, but to act as if I said nothing in justification of my conclusion, when, in fact, he ignores what I said, is less than intellectually impressive.

5.As to where my own “church comes from,” this is the first of several tripwire questions he’ll tries to lay across my pathway.

i) It isn’t clear why that way of framing the issue is the least bit relevant to the question at hand. Even if I myself had nothing better to offer, it doesn’t follow that Rome is right. The case for Catholicism rises and falls of its own dead weight.

ii) Jeff’s question also turns crucially on the definition of the “church.” The church is a theological construct. How we define the church depends on what evidence is feeding into our definition, on what evidence we regard as relevant to the definition of the church.

iii) Speaking for myself, the church is the people of God throughout human history, united by a common faith and a common grace. Because the elect are flesh-and-blood beings, with friends and family, the church has a visible face as well. The inauguration of the church goes back to the very first generation of men (Gen 4:26).

The content of the faith and its outward expression will vary depending on the stage of progressive redemption and revelation.

What was Abraham’s church? What church did Abraham attend?

The Mosaic fellowship had a fairly high degree of internal organization, whereas the NT church consisted of informal house-churches or cell-groups, loosely affiliated with one another. The fellowship of the patriarchs was, likewise, a familial affair, consisting of the covenant with Abraham, along with the chieftain and his clan, as well the house servants and field hands.

iv) So the church is variously exemplified in time and space.


i) Jeff is assuming, without benefit of argument, that I just don’t understand Catholicism.

ii) I oppose Catholicism both because Catholicism is wrong and because Catholicism is a very influential error.

7.Here Jeff raises a rather obtuse objection. My particular criticism wasn’t based on sola Scriptura. Rather, my criticism was tracking the form of argument offered by the CCC. But because Jeff is too intellectually indolent to ever interact with my 10-point presentation, the structure of my argument goes right over his head.

In the part I cited, the CCC offers a number of Scriptural prooftexts in support of its claim. Either those prooftexts implicate the claim, or they do not.

Remember, this is not how I chose to frame the debate. I didn’t lead with Scripture or sola Scriptura. I am simply responding to the CCC on its own terms. It is the CCC that is quoting from the Bible, not me.

That, then, raises the question of whether its appeal to Scripture is exegetically sustainable.

8.Jeff has a very counterintuitive take on the Great Commission. If the duty of the
Apostles is to teach a set of dominical commandments, then the Bible is, to that extent, a rulebook. What are dominical commandments if not a set of divine rules to live by?

Certainly the Bible is more than a rulebook, but no less than a rulebook.


i) How is teaching the Gospel synonymous with apostolic succession? Apostolic succession is a dogma with a highly specified content:

"In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority."35 Indeed, "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time."36

This is hardly interchangeable with teaching the Gospel. You cannot validly infer anything that narrow and specific from the terms of the Great Commission.

ii) It is very awkward for an Anglican to invoke apostolic succession. If the claims of Rome are true, then the Anglican Communion is schismatic--and if her claims are false, then the line of succession is, at best, episcopal, but non-apostolic.

Yet Jeff is welcome to revisit all those excruciating debates over the canonical status of Usagers and Non-Usagers and Nonjurors and how it’s really the church of Rome that broke off the trunk, and so on and so forth. Since I regard that whole conceptual scheme as ill-conceived, I hardly think it’s worth leveling yet another forest over.

10.Theory and praxis are two different things.

11.An utter non-sequitur. Ordination is no guarantee of orthodoxy.

12.This seems to be an allusion to oral tradition.
i) 1C Jews were not illiterate. The NT doesn’t necessarily represent the first time that the Gospel was committed to writing.

ii) Oral communication is not the same thing as oral tradition.

iii) Jeff offers no argument for equating apostolic “tradition” with subapostolic tradition.

iv) The Catholic church does not rely on oral communication to disseminate its teaching. It employs the written medium (church councils, papal encyclicals, catechisms, &c).


i) What things were handed down? By whom? To whom?

ii) I’d add that, according to the 39 Articles, the only acceptable traditions are traditions “not repugnant to the Word of God” (art. 34).

The 39 Article also have a classic statement of sola Scriptura: “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed an article of the Faith, or be though requisite or necessary to salvation” (art. 6).

Is Jeff an adherent to the 39 Articles? Or does he pick and choose--like the liberals?

14. A non-sequitur. The fact that the NT consists of occasional writings doesn’t imply that they are insufficient for the life of the church.

i) For one thing, God, in his providence, occasions the occasions which give rise to the occasional writings.

ii) There’s very stereotypical quality to life. Nature and passion never change. Modern men and women commit the same sins as 1C men and women.

iii) To the extent that Scripture doesn’t prescribe or proscribe a course of conduct for every conceivable hypothetical, that leaves us with more than one right course of action.

15.How does Jeff happen to know that these things were handed down from the Apostles? How does he document the existence and identity or continuity and content of oral tradition?

16.Another trip-wire question. What Jeff is hoping I’ll say is that the “Church” compiled the Bible. But this is a semantic game that trades on many equivocations.

i) The Jews gave us the Bible—not only the OT, but the NT as well, since the NT is a Jewish book no less than the OT. So, in the first instance, the people who gave us the Bible were the people who wrote the Bible.

ii) Jeff wants me to say that the “Church” has handed down the Bible. And I could say that. But what is the “Church”? I could just as well say that Christians have handed down the Bible. That would be entirely correct, and it doesn’t commit one to any particular ecclesiology.

iii) As I write this, my eyes pass over my bookshelves and fall upon a book entitled: Selected Prose of Christina Rossetti, edited by David A. Kent & P. G. Standwood.

So these two men compiled her prose writings for this particular anthology. Does that editorial role confer on them some unique authority to collect and classify her writings? Not at all.

iv) Since I’ve written about the canon on more than one occasion, I need not repeat myself here.

v) Who does Jeff think compiled his canon of the Bible? Assuming that he subscribes to the 39 Articles, his canon is not the same canon as the RC canon or the Orthodox canon of Scripture.

I assume he subscribes to the 39 Articles. Otherwise he’s in no position to attack the liberals within his denomination for their infidelity to the 39 Articles.

17.As to where my theological tradition comes from, this is really two questions bound up in one:

a) There’s the question of where my theological tradition comes from vis-à-vis historical theology.

b) Then there’s the question of where the warrant for my theological tradition comes from vis-à-vis the Bible.

18.The way he poses his final question is prejudicial. Whether what you believe is true or not is independent of whether it “stretches” back in some historical continuum of believers past to its source origin.

For example, the Book of the Law was rediscovered in Josiah’s time (2 Kg 22; 2 Chron 34). So you had a historical break in the process of transmission, skipping over several generations (of Manasseh and Amon). But the veracity of the Law and the validity of faith in the law is irrespective of that historical dislocation.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


And now for a word from


But a couple of things came to mind as I drove back to Grand Rapids. I noticed there are a couple of things that are worth hating in this world.

1) Ignorant and illinformed people. There are so many of them, and although I try to correct them, sometimes they just don't want to here [sic.] the truth (if you are reading this and wondering if I am refereing [sic.] to you, I probably am).


Infant salvation

Many within the Reformed community believe in universal infant salvation. Traditionally, Warfield has classified no fewer than five different positions on this issue:


1.From the beginning a few held with Zwingli that death in infancy is a sign of election, and hence that all who die in infancy are the children of God and enter at once into glory. After Zwingli, Bishop Hooper was probably the first to embrace this view. It has more lately become the ruling view.

2.At the opposite extreme a very few held that the only sure sign of election is faith with its fruits, and, therefore, we can have no real ground of knowledge concerning the fate of any infant; as, however, God certainly has his elect among them too, each man can cherish the hope that his children are of the elect. Peter Martyr approaches this sadly agnostic position.

3.Many held that faith and the promise are sure signs of election, and accordingly all believes and their children are certainly saved; but the lack of faith and the promise is an equally sure sign of reprobation, so that all the children of unbelievers, dying such, are equally certainly lost. The younger Spanheim, for example, writes…”they are justly reprobated by God on account of the corruption and guilt derived to them by natural propagation.

4.More held that faith and the promise are certain signs of election, so that the salvation of believers’ children is certain, while the lack of the promise only leaves us in ignorance of God’s purpose; nevertheless that there is good ground for asserting that both election and reprobation have place in this unknown sphere. Accordingly, they held that all the infants of believers, dying such, are saved, but that some of the infants of unbelievers, dying such, are lost. Probably no higher expression of this general view can be found that John Owen’s.

5.Most Calvinists of the past, however, have simply held that faith and the promise are marks by which we may know assuredly that all those who believe and their children, dying such, are elect and saved, while the absence of sure marks of either election or reprobation in infants, dying such outside the covenant, leaves us without ground for inference concerning them…It is this cautious, agnostic view which has the best historical right to be called the general Calvinistic one. Van Mastricht correctly says…

Warfield, Works, 9:431-434.


Warfield also mentions that “Calvin seems, while speaking with admirable caution, to imply that he believed some infants dying such to be lost,” ibid. 431, n66.

1.Let us remember that this is by no means a debate confined to Calvinism. The traditional rationale for infant baptism was the presupposition that infants were hell-bound due to original sin unless they received the sacrament of baptism. Although Catholicism has softened its initial position, it can only do so by impeaching its rationale for infant baptism.

2.Logically speaking, the structure of Presbyterian theology is more predisposed to universal infant salvation than Reformed Baptist theology. To some extent, then, you have the same arguments and counterarguments for universal infant salvation as you have for infant baptism.

3.Related to (2) is the assumption that if some infants are lost, they are the infants of unbelievers.

Speaking for myself, I don’t see how this is supposed to follow. In the case of adults, we know for a fact that election cuts across family lines: that you have elect children of reprobate parents and reprobate children of elect parents—as well as elect children of elect parents and reprobate children of reprobate parents. So I don’t see any pattern here from which one could extrapolate to the case of infant mortality.

3.In the nature of the case, universal infant salvation is justified on the grounds of some chronological threshold. This is variously called the age of discretion or the age of accountability.

Although the two terms are used interchangeably, the concepts are hardly synonymous. Scriptural evidence for an age of discretion is not necessarily evidence for an age of accountability—especially in light of original sin.

4.On the face of it, the chronological threshold seems pretty artificial—if not wholly so. If a child dies at the age of 6, he is saved--but if the very same child dies at the age of 8, he is damned? One is, in effect, positing a transition from election to reprobation.

This is a hypothetical transition, to be sure, but the whole discussion is hypothetical in the absence of clear revelation. Does your eternal fate really turn on which side of the age range you fall on? Is that the boundary-condition?

This doesn’t seem to be an argument that has nature in its favor. After all, cognitive development ranges along a continuum. It’s not as if the kid goes to bed one night below the age of discretion and wakes up the next morning above the age of discretion.

And it’s hard to see how grace would respect a chronological threshold. How is the boundary drawn? Where is it drawn? Why is it drawn? If it isn’t a natural boundary or a gracious boundary, then what is it?

Is there really some invisible line to cross? Is the same line in the same place in the case of every human being? Or only those who die in infancy? Does God have the same line for those who die in infancy in some possible world, but not the actual world? The whole scheme strikes me as hopelessly ad hoc.

5.The question of infant salvation is a limiting-case of hell. The reason for these makeshift distinctions is the unbearable specter of babies burning in hell. But is that an accurate depiction?

Once again, this ranges along a continuum. Consider the opposite end of the spectrum. What about the specter of your dear old grandmother roasting in the everlasting bonfire. Is that any less intolerable?

What about your mother or father? What about an adult child who dies prematurely?

Everyone is related to someone. Most-all of us would like to exempt our own family members for liability to damnation.

So the logic for universal infant salvation is really of a piece with the logic for universal salvation, simpliciter. And, by that same token, the logic is reversible. If everyone is not saved, then…

Many things in life are unbearable, yet we go on with life. We all live with a certain amount of sorrow and heartache--some more than others. Life is a fallen world is rife with personal tragedy.

6.Let’s go back to the specter of babies burning in hell.

i) Of course, much of what makes this mental image repellent is just that—the colorful imagery. But let’s not mistake Dante for whatever hell is really like. What we’re literally talking about is the state of the soul—whether a younger or older soul, which--at the general resurrection--will be reunited with a body.

ii) Is the age you die at the age you remain? If you die at 90, are you still 90 in heaven?

In heaven, wouldn’t you, in a sense, age up, age down, or both? You would age down in the sense that if you were past your prime when you died, you’d then revert to an optimal time of life—both mentally (in the intermediate state) and physically (in the final state). But you’d also continue to mature—in that same ageless and youthful state—to mature intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

iii) The same with those who go to hell. Suppose that some of the great bloodletters of history like Hitler and Stalin and Mao and Attila and Harry Blackmum and Genghis Khan had died in childhood, died before they murdered their millions. And suppose they went to hell.

Should we really visualize them as cute, curly-haired, cherubic babies in hell—50 years later, a 100 years later? Or should be visualize them as what they became, and worse—far worse. In fact, if you put anyone in hell, without the preservative of common grace, much less saving grace, they’ll all turn into a Hitler or Blackmun or Stalin—a super-duper Hitler or Blackmun or Stalin.

What you have here is a natural evolution of sin, from seed to full flower. It is not a little angel turning into devil, but a little devil turning into a bigger devil.

iv) And when we debate the merits of universal infant salvation, not only are we forming a mental image of babies in heaven or hell, but we’re tacitly projecting our mental image onto the mind of God, as if he is visualizing the very same spectacle.

But does God see a baby as a baby, as only a baby? According to Ps 139:16, God sees a baby as a storybook character in a novel that he himself has written. His entire life and afterlife is present to the mind of God—present because he penned every single page.

What is more—God has a number of unpublished manuscripts as well. Books that never went to press. Books he’s written with alternative endings (cf. 1 Sam 23:11-12; Mt 11:21-23).

The point is not that God chooses according to what’s in the book. The point, rather, is that what’s in the book is according to God’s choosing.

Moreover, when we see a baby or a little child, that is literally all we see. We don’t see the soul. But God sees the invisible soul. Not only does he see the future, but he sees an delitescent dimension of the present. Parts of his book are written in invisible ink—legible to his eyes alone.

7.My purpose is not to stake out a firm position on this issue, but to simply draw attention to some neglected considerations.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The little choo-choo that could


…how objective, correct, and obvious their reading of the “plain meaning” of the Scripture passages in question are.


Yet another one of Johnson’s little lullabies, the better to put the Christian brain to sleep. A feel-good piece that gives you a nice warm sensation in your tummy, but doesn’t amount to anything.

Reading Kevin is always like overhearing one of those boyfriend/girlfriend squabbles. On one side of the table the girlfriend is regaling her boyfriend with what all she did today while, on the other side, the boyfriend is nodding in all the right places, but his gaze overshoots her to the ballgame on the TV screen. At some point the girlfriend abruptly stops her recital and accuses the boyfriend of “not listening” to her. The boyfriend defends himself by repeating some of her words verbatim.

But that doesn’t get him out of trouble, for “listening” has, by her definition, to do with eye-contact, undivided attention, and something resembling actual interest in the topic of conservation.

Johnson is one of those folks who pretends to be a good listener, to listen to all sides. The body language is well-rehearsed. But it’s all part of his little act. He writes these pieces, not to advance the argument, but to give himself a verbal pat on the back.

Take the above statement of Kevin’s. Can he cite a single direct verbatim quote of mine in which I grounded my critique of Paul Owen on an appeal to the “objective,” “obvious,” or “plain meaning” of the verses in question?

Even if I were to use those adjectives from time to time, that comes at the conclusion of an exegetical argument, and not as a substitute for exegesis.

You see, Kevin isn’t actually interacting with anything I did—or Dr. White, for that matter. What we get, instead, is generic Enloe-speak. What I actually said is totally irrelevant to Kevin’s piece. I could reproduce The Cat in the Hat, and he would resort to the very same Enloe-speak.

BTW, who is imitating whom here? Does Kevin play the parrot, or Enloe?

What I, in fact did—and this holds true for Dr. White as well—was to present a series of reasoned arguments for the traditional Reformed reading and against Dr. Owen’s revisionist reading.


Never mind that there is more than one way to view particular passages of Scripture or that two different reads on the text of Scripture normally come from different theological starting points. It doesn’t matter because we are after the so-called “plain meaning” of Scripture here. At least, that is what some of us were taught growing up in Baptist circles.


I didn’t grow up in Baptist circles. The first church I attended as a young child was a Lutheran church, followed by a Presbyterian church when I was an older child, followed by a Methodist church when I was a teenager. I’d add that the expository preaching was hardly in the forefront of any of the churches I attended during my formative years.

But, of course, that doesn’t fit with Kevin’s fabricated psychological profile. Kevin had to fabricate a psychological profile for his theological opponents because that way he is able to control the objections. He can make up fake objections which are so much easier to answer that real objections.


For example, no matter how much one would like to identify the elect in John 10, there is no specific mention of them in the passage and it is a clear a priori assumption on the part of Reformed Baptists that when Jesus spoke of the sheep in John 10 he most assuredly meant “the elect” as Reformed Baptists dogmatically understand the term. One brings this to the passage and the proof that this is the case is presented nicely in the presentation by Dr. Owen on John 10 that notes that the overwhelming context of John [and I would add, the Old and New Testaments] sees covenant members in a way completely different than some would have us believe. Why the difference in looking at the passage?


i) Notice the calculated effort to skew the players. This is not the Reformed Baptist reading of Jn 10. This is nothing less than the traditional Reformed reading of Jn 10, whether by Calvin or Reformed Baptists or confessional Presbyterians or Welsh Calvinist Methodists.

ii) Also take close note of his diversionary tactics. Is the word “elect” used in Jn 10? No. And the case for the Reformed reading was never contingent on the presence of dogmatic nomenclature in that passage.

iii) The question, rather, is whether the concept is present. Both Dr. White and I, in responding to Paul Owen’s contention, have marshaled a number of exegetical arguments to demonstrate its presence. Oh, and we’ve also rebutted his arguments to the contrary.

That’s one of the differences between Kevin and us. We actually interact with what our opponents have said, while Kevin would rather toy with dummies and decoys.

iv) Kevin acts is if some folks were born Baptist, that it’s a genetic thing—like one’s blood type. Needless to say, many Christians converted to the Reformed faith. They don’t see election in Jn 6 or 10 because of clear a priori assumptions they bring to the text. Rather, they arrived at the Reformed faith by overriding their a priori assumptions. Scripture has that corrective power--for those with ears to ear.


The difference is there because both views look at the passage from a different theological point of view. The same is true for a reading of John 6. If your theology of the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper excludes any notion of a change in elements, then you are not going to see such things in John 6. You’ve reasoned it out before you ever came to the text. I’m not endorsing transubstantiation here but only noting that your theological understanding affects the way you look at Scripture. If, on the other hand, you are a practicing Roman Catholic, any reference to eating the flesh and blood of Christ in Scripture is going to be relevant to a discussion of the Eucharist.


This is another palpably false characterization of the differences. As I pointed out in the very piece he references, Lutherans subscribe to the Real Presence, yet they don’t find it in Jn 6.

Once again, Kevin pretends to be reading, but he isn’t. He pretends to listen, but he doesn’t.


Pretending our own interpretation of Scripture is akin to its original meaning without reference to our understanding of theology is indeed a hard habit to break. There are still modernistic fundamentalists who engage in this sort of thinking. Real exegesis on the other hand takes note of these issues and deals with them accordingly.


i) What is he claiming? That original intent is irretrievable? That we can never know what Scripture was meant to mean? Does he apply that to his own theology, perchance?

ii) Notice how much time Kevin spends “talking” about “real” exegesis without every doing real exegesis. Notice how much time he reiterates his trite little truisms about the presuppositional element of exegesis without every moving to the next stage of the process.


Exegeting the Scriptures for Christ was not a matter of acontextual grammatical-historical reviewing of verbs, nouns, and sentence structure or a collated survey of how this word is used in this or that passage. For Christ on the Emmaus road, the text was viewed in light of his historical and redemptive work and who He was. There was additional content present in the context besides just the words of the Old Testament. Christ himself was the context and anyone who looks at the Old Testament today without understanding who Jesus was and what it was He did is not doing justice to the meaning of the text.


i) Given all the relativistic rigmarole, how does Kevin know that the Christ he happens to find in Scripture is the real deal, and not the Christ of the Watchtower or the Christ of the LDS?

ii) To speak of “acontextual” grammatico-historical exegesis is, of course, an oxymoron. The grammatico-historical method is all about the text in context.

iii) Lk 24 is simply a narrative summary of events. It doesn’t give us any detailed illustrations of how Jesus actually exegeted the OT.


Pretending that we view Scripture without reference to these things and in an acontextual way keeps us from truly examining what the Scriptures actually do say. We also aren’t on this path alone and pretending that we can interpret Scripture without respect and reverence for other Christians and their corresponding views both now and in times past also does damage to proper biblical interpretation.


Once again, Kevin is just talking to himself—speaking into a tape-recorder and listening to the playback. The rest of us are quite conversant with context and the history of interpretation.


The hard part for some is admitting that our theology hasn’t come solely from Scripture. We want to say that the Bible has given us the view we now enjoy and that we came to that view through a study of the Scriptures. And that is probably true to a point. But we also relied on the teaching of other men. We sat at the feet of men in the Church trained to think and present things in a certain way. We studied the Scriptures with commentaries and theological works by men who have their own point of view and represent particular schools of theological thought. Some of us learned the Greek language and how it is to be used in the text a certain way (and a way different than others, such as the early Fathers).


In dropping these cliché-ridden truisms in every other sentence, Kevin acts as though he were saying something terribly novel and profound—even revolutionary.

Dr. White and I and others are quite presuppositionally self-aware. We know our own sources of influence. We know the viewpoint of the commentators and theologians.


More than that, we shouldn’t rule out the role of the Spirit working through the means of His Church to help us along the way in understanding Scripture aright.


What is this? Quaker exegesis? God told me that John 6 is an allegory of the Lord’s Supper?


The Reformers believed in sola Scriptura but they never envisioned it to be what it has become in today’s circles.


Really? How does Kevin know that? Is he channeling the shade of John Calvin? Is he holding a séance for Luther? Does John Knox appear to him in the shower?


The Reformers never meant for Christians to come to the truth of Scripture without reference to the teachers, traditions, and theologies of the Church and to assert that they did is to deny the Reformed understanding of these things. The “plain view” of Scripture is only plain to those who forget that they too rely on their own understanding of the nature of the faith and the teaching of their own theological traditions and the Church.


Kevin is like Rousseau, from the comfort of his Parisian salon, writing about the noble savage in the New World. Rousseau had never met a savage, much less a noble savage, but that didn’t stop him from writing all about their social code.

It’s clear that Kevin and his ilk only talk to their like-minded friends. They talk about their opponents, not to them or with them. Otherwise they could hardly churn out so much pulp fiction about their opponents.


Here at we try to take a more humble approach.


Yes, Kevin is humble—and proud of it. He has a chest-full of humility medals lest anyone forget how humble he is.


We don’t always succeed.


Quite an understatement, but this is the truest thing he’s said so far.


That doesn’t mean we always get it right but it does mean that we do not stand alone.


That’s true, too. He stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Tetzel, Erasmus, Johann Eck, Alexander VI and all other such heroes of the faith once delivered.



Finding Eucharist in the Bible

by Alvin Kimel

Over at the Triablogue Steve has presented his critique of the Catholic and Orthodox assertion of the eucharistic real presence. He’s not at all impressed by the exegetical foundations of catholic eucharistic belief. He concludes his piece with these words:

It is upon this utterly Mickey Mouse tinkering and tweaking and retrofitting and gerrymandering of Scripture that hundreds of millions of Catholics as well as Orthodox are staking their faith–not to mention a rag-tag band of “Reformed” Catholic and Federalist stragglers who gobble up whatever stale crumbs fall from, and lick up whatever wine-stains adhere to the soiled apron of Mother Church.

The problem, of course, is that Steve is reading the Scripture as a Protestant and not as a catholic. A catholic doesn’t come to the Bible with a blank slate, as if one can simply read the text and determine what the Church believes and teaches. A catholic reads the Bible within the context of the Holy Tradition and most especially within the eucharistic liturgy itself. Why does the catholic Christian connect the words of Jesus in John 6 to the bread and wine of the Eucharist? Because the Eucharist itself identifies the offered bread and wine with the Body and Blood of Christ. Hence the significance of the priestly recitation of the dominical words over the offered bread and wine. The catholic Christian, in other words, interprets the Scripture by the Eucharist and the Eucharist by the Scripture. As St Irenaeus wrote, “Our teaching is in accord with the Eucharist and the Eucharist, in its turn, confirms our teaching” (Adv. haer. 4.18.5).

Needless to say, I do not expect the generic Protestant to read the Scriptures and find that they clearly teach the real presence. He does not live in a Church that celebrates a truly catholic Eucharist. He does not sacramentally partake of the Body and Blood. He therefore lacks the necessary liturgical experience and knowledge to read the Scriptures rightly. Perhaps he might attend a Catholic or Orthodox liturgy some time to see what’s happening, but he has not been formed by it and therefore has not received its truth. Outside the Eucharist the Scriptures cannot be read in a catholic sense.

At this point, of course, the Protestant will accuse the catholic of violating sola Scriptura. Yep.

I confess I am struck by Steve’s easy dismissal of the beliefs of “hundreds of million” of Catholic and Orthodox Christians. The catholic conviction of the real presence (or real identification, as I prefer) has been consistently confessed and believed by catholic Christians for two thousand years. Yet here is the Protestant accusing the Church catholic of tinkering, tweaking, retrofitting, and gerrymandering the Scriptures. On what basis does he decide that his interpretation of Scripture is superior to the interpretation of the Church? By his private judgment. This, and this alone, is the ground of his conviction. He can’t even invoke Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, to support him.

In disputes like this, it is appropriate to invoke the solemn authority of Pontificator’s First Law: “When Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree, Protestantism loses.” Perhaps Pontificator needs to formulate a new law: “When an interpretation of Scripture violates Pontificator’s First Law, it just can’t be right.” Hmmm, I need to give that some more thought before putting it in stone.


i) As Kimel has chosen to frame the debate, the issue here is not Protestant v. Catholic or sola Scriptura v. tradition or even Zwinglianism v. sacramentalism.

Rather, as Kimel as chosen to frame the debate, the issue here is simply argument v. non-argument, exegesis v. non-exegesis.

There are, after all, Evangelical Anglicans, not to mention all the confessional Lutherans, who also believe in the Real Presence.

They do not, however, justify their belief by appeal to liturgy or tradition. Rather, they justify their belief by argument and exegesis.

ii) But Kimel doesn’t offer any exegesis to justify his belief. In fact, he doesn’t offer any argument at all.

He offers an apparent argument, but all it amounts to is circular reasoning. And that, folks, is what an appeal to tradition is: circular reasoning. Why should we believe it? Cuz we’ve always done it this way.

Really, what kind of argument is that? I should believe it because you believe it, and you should believe it because I believe it. What he’s done is to make faith the grounds for faith.

iii) Couldn’t a Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist use exactly the same argument? Appeal to tradition? Strength in numbers?

iv) Could Irenaeus be right and I be wrong? Sure. But by the same token, I could be right and Irenaeus could be wrong.

God has given me his word. He has made me answerable to his word. I am answerable to God by being answerable to his word. That holds true for every believer. Indeed, it holds true for many an unbeliever as well.

This is not a duty I can shirk and shuffle off by contracting out all the tough questions to a second party. God has a direct claim on my life, on my allegiance. I have no right to delegate that to a deputy. When I face my Judge, I will be in no position to say, “Don’t look at me, Lord! Don’t ask me! Don’t you question me! I turned your questionnaire over to this nifty test-taking agency to circle the true and false questions and check the multiple-choice questions for me. If some of the answers were wrong, that’s not my fault, that’s the fault of the agency for giving the wrong answers. Blame them!”

No, I’m a grown-up. And part of being a grown-up is the assumption of adult responsibilities. I may make mistakes, but they’re my mistakes. Everyone gets to make his own mistakes in life. Everyone has his own exam to take. You don’t get to fill out my exam for me. If I flunk the exam, that’s my doing, my fault. You can’t be faithful for me.

You can see this throughout the Bible, from Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, the Patriarchs, the Prophets, the Judges, the Exodus generation, Saul and David, Elijah and Elisha, &c.

v) What about private judgment? Is Kimel exempt from private judgment? Doesn’t he exercise private judgment in interpreting the church fathers? Doesn’t he exercise private judgment in deeming them to be correct? Doesn’t he exercise private judgment in deeming the Roman Church to be truer than the Orthodox Church, and deeming the Orthodox Church to be truer than the Evangelical Church?

What is tradition if not a compilation of private judgments? Didn’t Athanasius and Chysostom and the Cappadocian Fathers exercise their private judgment in the controversies of the day? Private judgment is inescapable and unavoidable.

When Jesus debated with the Jewish establishment, as well as when the Apostolate debated with the Jewish establishment, this is what it always came down to--direct appeals to Scripture. Whoever had the best argument carried the day.

vi) What about his argument from experience? In Orthodox epistemology, there is no bright line between general and special, public and private revelation. It is possible for the saint and the mystic to directly experience the truths of special revelation—to experience the experience of St. John or St. Paul. Although Kimel is Catholic rather than Orthodox, he seems to be piggybacking on Orthodox epistemology at this key juncture.

vii) This is, of course, subversive of special revelation, subversive of historical revelation.

It goes back to a Platonic epistemology and Platonic mysticism. Historical particulars are unrepeatable. But abstract universals are accessible and repeatable without respect to space and time.

viii) Ultimately, then, this is not a debate between Scripture and tradition, but between sola Scriptura and nulla Scriptura.

The Fundies of Hicksville

The Fundies of Hicksville


The Fundies of Hicksville is set in a futuristic dark age--after George Bush’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocols precipitated a new ice age due to global warming, thereby wiping out civilization as we know it.

The Vatican has to consign all its Raphaels, Titians, and Tintorettos to the flames just to keep icicles from forming in the papal apartments.

But as the Prefect for the Congregation of the Faith is manning his ham radio, he picks up a faint, repeating, prerecorded signal issuing from the North American branch of La Fundación Xavier Zubiri.

The Vatican immediately dispatches a papal nuncio by the name of Marryin’ Sam to investigate. After several days drive across the Atlantic, followed by a Yak ride into the Smokey Blue Hills, the signal leads him straight to Hicksville, USA.

There he is shocked to see the barbarous state of the natives. To begin with, there’s not a single 5-star hotel in underground town, while the fleabag cavern in which he has to lodge doesn’t even have Dover sole on its dinner menu.

But what is worse, if possible, is the impiety of the locals. They call themselves “Fundies,” and actually use tarnip bread and Kickapoo Joy Juice at the Lord’s Supper. Yet even that fails to plumb the fathomless depths of their apostasy.

It takes several months for Marryin’ Sam to master their vulgar tongue, what with its abundance of Southernisms and all. But at last he begins to unravel the mystery.

The Fundies only have three books: a crumbling King James Bible, along with two “commentaries”: an equally dilapidated copy of Sentient Intelligence by Xavier Zubiri, and a yellowing, worm-eaten paperback of The Children of the Corn. There’s also a rusty radio on continuous replay.

Piecing it all together, it appears that when the Eastern Seaboard froze up, a member of the Fundación took refuge in the temperate caves of the Piedmont, where the locals later joined him. Upon further etymological investigation, Marryin’ Sam discovers that “Fundie” is a corruption of “Fundación.”

Not having access to communion wine or wheat wafers, the Fundies at first substituted corn pones and moonshine—and one must admit that moonshine definitely has a whole lot more “presence” than unfermented grape juice.

But after the Second Council of Appalachia, they settled on tarnip bread and Kickapoo Joy Juice—reasoning that that Joy Juice was more fitting for the Agape feast, while tarnips were easier to grow in the cold.

Oh, but it goes from bad to worse. In applying Zubirian hermeneutics--according to which being is posterior to reality, since actuality is posterior to actuity—to the Bread of Life Discourse, the Fundies had radically reinterpreted the Real Presence. For if there is no esse real, only realitas in essendo, then in transubstantiation the true bread and wine subsists under the species of the body and blood.

Marryin’ Sam is naturally aghast this heretical innovation, not to say inversion, and immediately sets about to reeducate them on the finer points of Zubirian metaphysics.

Unfortunately for him, his flock is distracted by more earthly concerns. For a feud breaks out between the Clampetts and the Abners smack in the middle of his catechetical lectures.

You see, Jed had arranged for his cousin Bo to tie the knot with Daisy Mae, while Uncle Abner, who wasn’t so Li’l anymore, had arranged for his second cousin Jethro to tie the knot with Moonbeam McSwine.

That’s afore Bo caught sight a-Moonbeam McSwine working her ample blandishments on the utterly defenseless Bo Duke down at kissin’ rock.

Well, blood was near to be spilt until Uncle Abner intervened. After consulting Deut 12:17, and comparing it with Stephen King’s novel, Bo and Jethro agreed to Marryin’ Sam as a mutually amendable peace-offering.

Acting is not what one really looks for in a film like this, but both actresses have the right constitution for the part, and the amendments aren’t half bad either. Breathtaking natural photography is another plus.

The only weak link is the stilted Zubirian dialogue. Surely no one talks like that in real life. At this point many of the moviegoers left the auditorium to refill their pop and popcorn. But when the priest met his fate, there was a standing ovation. Three stars.

Cast & Credits
Uncle Abner: Lorne Greene
Jed Clampett: Buddy Ebsen
Bo Duke: Tab Hunter
Jethro Bodine: Jim Nabors
Moonbeam McSwine: Dolly Parton
Daisy Mae: Pamela Anderson
Marryin' Sam: Fulton Sheen

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Steve Triabloke.
Screenplay by Al Capp.
Based on the novel by Will Rogers.
Running time: 120 minutes.
Rated PG-13 (for bodacious blonds, shameless colloquialisms, and a rather nasty auto-da-fe).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fundie Hicks II: The Sequel (playing at a theater near you)

Jonathan Prejean continues his retreat into obscurantism. He now says that his fellow Catholics should ignore anyone who subscribes to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. In other words, no conservative Evangelical, whether a Baptist or Lutheran or Presbyterian or Anglican or—God forbid!—a fundamentalist is a worthy dialogue partner.

Prejean has become a one-man cult-leader, withdrawing into his compound and warning his little flock to separate themselves from apostate Christendom.

BTW, it’s fine with me if Prejean wants to go on record opposing the inerrancy of Scripture. This is just one more Catholic witness to the fact that his own communion has gone the way of the dying, hemorrhaging liberal mainline denominations.

At the Mad-Hatter’s tea-party of Prejean’s Looking-Glass world, to affirm the plenary inspiration of scripture is to “insult the dignity” of Scripture. Uh-huh.

He goes on to say that “well-educated nuts are still nuts.” Well now, who am I to take issue with Prejean’s candid self-assessment?

He then says that Protestants ought to conform their belief to “The Interpretation of the Bible Within the Church.”

Yet, in an exchange with me just a little while ago, Prejean also said: “I'm supposedly required by a PBC document to accept the GHM. Apart from the non-binding status of the PBC (a matter on which several Catholics have corrected Hays)…”

Now, however, this “nonbinding” PBC document has suddenly become a litmus test for interfaith dialogue—unless, that is, you happen to quote it against Prejean, at which point it reverts to its nonbinding status.

In Prejean’s theological Wonderland, truth has a conveniently metamorphic quality, changing at will to suit the need of the moment.

He then bandies the word “blasphemy” with great license. Needless to say, “blasphemy” is a Scriptural category, so one can never blaspheme God by refusing to venture beyond the confines of God’s self-revelation.

But let us play along with Prejean’s fiction for a moment. What would it take for a Roman Catholic to give his mental assent to the creed of Chalcedon? To begin with, the vast majority of Roman Catholics recite the creed in some translation or another. But, of course, “person” doesn’t have the same meaning as “prosopon.” The same could be said for the other key terms.

So a Catholic would need to be conversant with the Patristic usage of such key Greek terms like henosis, anthropotes, theotes, idiotes, psyches, logikos, homoousios, prosopon, physis, & hypostasis.

Is there a uniform meaning for these terms? Is there a received meaning for these terms? You’d really have to examine the individual usage of the various Greek Fathers, one-by-one. You’d also have to choose whose usage is normative—since different Greek Fathers use the same words differently.

Now, there is, I daresay, only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of Roman Catholics who know what they’re affirming. Indeed, Prejean is so finicky that scholars of the caliber of Pelican and Lossky and Meyerdorff don’t quite come up to snuff.

For that matter, it’s not as though Jonathan were a patrologist by training. So he’s getting his own opinions spoon-fed to him by second-hand sources.

But, be that as it may, by his very own yardstick the vast majority of Roman Catholics are blasphemers—sadly captive to “anthropomorphic” notions of the Godhead.

One can only hope and pray to the Blessed Mother, ever virgin, that Pope Prejean will issue his own catechism of the Catholic church and thereby redirect his straying coreligionists to the straight-and-narrow. O Lord, how long?

Monday, October 10, 2005

The real ellipsis

1336 The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"160 The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. "Will you also go away?":161 the Lord's question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has "the words of eternal life"162 and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself.

1353 In the epiclesis, the Church asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of his blessing180) on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit (some liturgical traditions put the epiclesis after the anamnesis).

In the institution narrative, the power of the words and the action of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, make sacramentally present under the species of bread and wine Christ's body and blood, his sacrifice offered on the cross once for all.

1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament.

1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."206

1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.207

1384 The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: "Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you."217

1391 Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him."226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."227

1406 Jesus said: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; . . . he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and . . . abides in me, and I in him" (Jn 6:51, 54, 56).

1410 It is Christ himself, the eternal high priest of the New Covenant who, acting through the ministry of the priests, offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. And it is the same Christ, really present under the species of bread and wine, who is the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice.

1411 Only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord.

1412 The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper: "This is my body which will be given up for you. . . . This is the cup of my blood. . . ."

1413 By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).

160 Jn 6:60.
161 Jn 6:67.
162 Jn 6:68.
206 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1642; cf. Mt 26:26 ff.; Mk 14:22 ff.; Lk 22:19 ff.; 1 Cor 11:24 ff.
217 Jn 6:53.
226 Jn 6:56.
227 Jn 6:57.


Such is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about the real presence. You also have “Reformed” Catholics and Federal Revisionists who are calling upon Calvinists to cultivate a more Catholic sacramentology. They also berate Reformed Baptists and Confessional Presbyterians who obstinately refuse to see the “obviously” sacramental import the Bread of Life Discourse.

Okay, then, let’s see how the Catholic church makes her case for the real presence.

i) For starters, let us stipulate to the sacramental reading of Jn 6. I don’t believe that myself, but for the sake of argument, let’s concede that point.

Now, some folks might worry that in so doing I’ve already given away the store. Have I, though?

ii) The problem is that, even if you grant the Catholic interpretation of Jn 6, you still have to connect that text to the communion elements.

Even if Jesus is talking about the Eucharist in Jn 6, he is not, presumably saying, that every piece of bread or glass of wine is his true body and blood, is he?

You see what’s missing in the appeal to Jn 6? What is it that makes his words refer to what happens in your church on Sunday morning?

And once you ask that elementary and unavoidable question, the appeal to Jn 6 loses its transparency. For there is absolutely nothing in Jn 6 to differentiate an ordinary piece of bread from “the Host.”

Nor is there anything in Jn 13. Nor is there anything in the entire Gospel of John to bridge the gap and seal the deal.

iii) So what is it that makes the difference? At this point, the Catholic church has to leapfrog from John to Luke or Paul. One of the differential factors consists in the “words of consecration.”

But there are not a few problems with this move. To begin with, it isn’t very sound exegetical method to complete your interpretation of one writer by ransacking another author. This is, frankly, a way of filling in the gaps of an interpretation that goes beyond the textual evidence. You can’t find everything you need in the text before you, so you import some putty to plug the cracks.

You then end up with an exegetical alloy that isn’t quite John and isn’t quite Paul. There’s no reason to suppose that this synthetic compound represents what either author intended.

iv) Another problem in the way in which a narrative description (“This is my body, this is my blood”) is suddenly turned into a magic formula or alchemical incantation for converting one substance into another. Where is the “epiclesis” in Lk 22:19-20 or 1 Cor 11:24-25? Where, in these verses, is the Holy Spirit summoned to transform the bread and wine into the true body and blood of Christ?

v) Even putting aside the putative role of the Holy Spirit, is there anything else in these passages to indicate a change in the state of the communion elements? A transition from one thing to another?

vi) So where do we stand thus far? The Catholic can’t find everything he needs in Jn 6, so he turns to Lk 22 or 1 Cor 11 to supplement Jn 6. Yet what he finds in Lk 22 or 1 Cor 11 isn’t really there, either. He’s assuming something that is, again, not in evidence.

So what he’s really doing is to plug up one hole with another hole—like a mime who carves up a nonexistent apple with a nonexistent knife. Although we may enjoy the pantomime, we can’t help feeling that something essential is still—how shall we say—missing?

vii) Oh, and that’s not the half of it. For not everyone who pronounces the “words of consecration” has the desired effect on the communion elements. Rather, this is reserved for a priest—a priest in apostolic succession, with valid holy orders, and the right intention.

Now, is there anything in Jn 6 or Jn 13 or Lk 22 or 1 Cor 11 where these additional factors may be found? No, no, no, and no. Is there anything anywhere in the NT that says who must preside at the Eucharist? No. Is there a continuation of the priesthood under the New Covenant? No.

viii) And that’s no all. What about the body and blood “under the species” of bread and wine? Is there anything in Jn 6 or Jn 13 or Lk 22 or 1 Cor 11 where those fine-spun distinctions may be found? Again, no, no, no, and no.

So, when all is said and done, the “straightforward” appeal to Jn 6 as a prooftext for the real presence quickly spirals into an ellipsis with another ellipsis, within yet another ellipsis, within another still ellipsis, &c.

BTW, it is striking that Lutherans, although they’re quite dogmatic about the real presence, don’t go rushing to Jn 6 to prove their point.

ix) Yet another oddity in the Catholic appeal is the asymmetry between baptism and communion. The baptismal water remains water while the grape wine and wheat bread is transmogrified into something other than, or over and above, mere bread and wine.

x) What we have here is clearly a dogma in search of a prooftext. The dogma comes first. And this, in turn, results in dogmatic exegesis as the dogma must conscript an unwilling prooftext, and then dictate to the conscripted text what the dogma needs the text to say.

It is upon this utterly Mickey Mouse tinkering and tweaking and retrofitting and gerrymandering of Scripture that hundreds of millions of Catholics as well as Orthodox are staking their faith--not to mention a rag-tag band of “Reformed” Catholic and Federalist stragglers who gobble up whatever stale crumbs fall from, and lick up whatever wine-stains adhere to the soiled apron of Mother Church.