Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Floating axeheads

My final exchange with the sacramentalist on Facebook: 

when is the last time you met a human body that…appeared at will in locked doors? Oh, I forgot, you think Jesus must have had a key.

1. Actually, Jesus has a universal key (Rev 1:18) :-)

2. I happen to think Jn 20:19,26 indicates that Jesus had miraculous access to the upper room. As luck would have it, there's a NT example of how an embodied agent miraculously transgressed physical barriers (Acts 12). It wasn't because Peter had a mutant superhero body that slipped through chains and locked gates. Rather, the chains miraculously unlocked and fell off (v7) while the gate miraculously unlocked and opened (v10). 

3. You don't bother to even explain what you think actually happened in Jn 19,26 or how that's applicable to the Eucharist. Let's consider two possible explanations:

i) Jesus initially stood on one side of the door, temporarily dematerialized to pass through the door, then rematerialized on the other side.

One problem with that interpretation is the text doesn't say or imply that this is what happened. At best, that's a possible inference.

A more radical problem is that it subverts the integrity of the Resurrection. Both Luke and John are at pains to stress the physicality of the Resurrection. If, however, Jesus is alternately material and immaterial, physical and ghostly, embodied and disembodied, then physicality is expendable. 

ii) But perhaps you take the position that Jesus is ubiquitous. On that view, Jesus didn't enter the upper room because he never left the upper room. Jesus is everywhere. He wasn't outside the room at one point, then inside a moment later. Rather, he was both inside and outside the room simultaneously. If that's what Josh has in mind–assuming Josh has anything discernible in mind–there are two problems with that interpretation:

a) To begin with, the text indicates that Jesus wasn't always there. Rather, he can and went at will. 

b) Perhaps, though, you'd say that was psychological. He was there all along, only the disciples were enabled to perceive him at that point. 

On that view, Jesus fills all the space inside the upper room. But if Jesus has a physical body, with the density of a human body, it can't have the size and shape of the upper room. Rather, it must have the dimensions of a human body. The structure of a human body. Otherwise, that's, at best, an inhuman body (whatever that means).

Likewise, it would mean there's no space for anyone else in the upper room. For if Jesus is physical, and he occupies the entire upper room by virtue of his ubiquity, then two or more physical bodies can't occupy the same space at the same time.

In addition, the disciples didn't perceive a body that filled the entire room. Rather, they saw a body with normal human proportions. A body with empty space around it. Was that an optical illusion? A hallucination? Is that not the real body of Jesus?

The more radical problem with positing the ubiquity of Jesus is that it once again sabotages the integrity of the Resurrection. A "physical" body becomes indistinguishable from an astral body or ghost. Has no particular size, shape, structure, density, or locality. 

A Christian can't affirm the Resurrection unless he can say what a resurrected body is not. But the ubiquitous interpretation destroys the point of contrast.

the old, tired argument of 'muh human body' doesn't work, because human bodies don't walk on water.

Axeheads don't naturally float. So did the Son assume the nature of an axehead to communicate divine attributes to the axehead? 

or ascend, either.

So Elijah was God Incarnate? 

So this business about upholding the integrity of a human body doesn't cut it. Besides, Jesus' divinity communicates to His humanity.

That formulation violates Chalcedonian Christology. You're a monophysite. On your view, the two natures are blended. 

Oh wait, no it doesn't, that would violate muh logic, since , ya know, the finite cannot contain the infinite and all.

You keep dragging the extra Calvinisticum into the discussion even though I haven't used the finitum non capax infiniti paradigm in my analysis. Indeed, as I've explained, that way of framing the issue is confused. I don't oppose the real presence on the grounds that what's inside can't be bigger than what's outside. I reject the entire finite/infinite framework–since God is not a spatial being to begin with. 

BTW, why do you constantly drag Calvinism into the discussion? Are you so theologically uninformed that you imagine only Calvinists deny the real presence?


  1. These posts are timely.

    We were attending a PCA church for some years when the pastor retired. After 18 months work, the hiring committee brought in guy that the congregation liked, though he was a current ARP church planter. The elders (all two of them) and their families decided to sandbag the committee and the rest of the congregation. Why they did so is a long story and not the point of this comment.

    My point? Two families that left when we did, whom we thought we were quite close to, and with whom we thought we had very close communion, immediately started attending an Anglican church. A month or so later they and their kids were all catechised and confirmed.

    We visited the church twice (high mass both times) and didn't stay through the end either time and didn't common though we had permission from the bishop to do so.

    It seems like a main point of difference is the doctrine of Real Presence. It leads to all kinds of strange behaviors like:

    -Facing the bread and wine instead of the congregation for significant portions of mass.

    - Genuflecting and crossing themselves in the direction of the elements.

    - Strange admonitions like not 'grasping' the bread and not chewing it.

    And when questioned, our friends give us the same arguments that the Lutherans and Roman Catholics do: some church fathers and their reading of 'this is my body'.

    This has been a point of contention between believers a long time but Steve's responses in this series have been helpful.

    I'll say though that I like one of Zwingli's arguments: that the word translated 'is' is the same Greek word used in the Septuigent in some key places to mean 'symbolizes'.

    I'll also say that when pressed by Zwingli asking,"If Christ's body is present in the bread, _where_ exactly is it?" one of Luther's replies was, "It is not present as in a place." When pressed on the fact that things that are 'present' must actually be located somewhere, Luther replied that such was not necessarily the case for, "the universe is present but not in a place."

    What do you make of Luther's argument as presented?

    1. We could debate the merits of Luther's reply in the abstract, but that has no bearing on what a human body is like. To be physical is to have physical limitations. And a human body has physical limitations specific to what it is to be a human body.

  2. The next argument I hear is, "Well we don't know what a glorified human body is like so we should take what we read in the NT at face-value."

    1. They don't simply take Jn 20 at face-value. They draw inferences.

    2. Actually, I think we do know what a glorified body is like. According to 1 Cor 15, a glorified body is immortal. And that's about it.

  3. Problem with saying they don't know what a glorified body is is that if they can't say what a glorified body is *not*, then they can't really affirm the resurrection of Christ. What are they affirming if they have no clear idea of what that means? So their statement is theologically subversive. To affirm the resurrection of the body requires an implied point of contrast.

  4. I think I get what you're saying now. I'll have to go back and reread the posts with Josh.