Monday, January 16, 2006

This is my body

I said:


a) It tries to explain the real presence by appeal to its peculiar construction of the hypostatic union.

b) It tries to explain the real presence by appeal to “an illocal, supernatural mode of presence.”

By making these moves, Lutheran theology attempts to rationalize the doctrine of the real presence.


To which T13 responded:


Such a complete misunderstanding of Lutheran teaching is...fascinating. Take a good, hard look at the section concerning the Lord's Supper in the Formula of Concord. Christ's presence in His Holy Supper is founded neither on some "peculiar construction of the hypostatic union", nor on "an illocal, supernatural mode of presence", but rather on the creative Word of God. Just as from the beginning, where God speaks the world into existence, what God says is. Thus when Jesus says, "This is my body", it is. Going further than that is a waste of time.

This section from the FoC also answers the remarkable assertion that Lutherans tend toward pantheism. Wow.

# posted by T13 : 1/14/2006 1:54 PM


Unfortunately for T13, I never said that the Lutheran version of the real presence was “founded” upon the Lutheran version of the hypostatic union, or “founded” upon an illocal, supernatural mode of presence.

What I said was that these concepts are deployed to “explain” and “rationalize” the Lutheran version of the real presence. Hence, T13’s arrows miss the target.


This does not mean that Christ Jesus is everywhere; it only means that he is not bound to the confines of his human nature. Because of the communication of attibutes, he is, however, able to be where he promises to be and where he wills to be. And where has he promised to be? In his Supper.


Which precisely illustrates my above points. T13 appeals to the communication of attributes as well as an extraordinary mode of presence to explain and rationalize the Lutheran version of the real presence.

He also illustrates the tension in appealing to divine ubiquity. For this appeal, even if valid, would either prove too much or too little. It is an appeal to a metaphysical attribute of God. But Lutheranism can’t use full-blown omnipresence. It can’t very well say that Christ is equally present in the consecrated and unconsecrated communion elements alike.

Hence, it appeals to a divine attribute only to arbitrarily restrict its scope.

Again, let’s be clear on the claim. Christ is said to be present in several places at once. It is localized in the communion elements wherever communion is validly administered. So is the presence of Christ local or illocal? What we end up with is an artificial tertium quid—like a square circle.

Let’s move on to his appeal to the Formula of Concord. T13 doesn’t give exact references, but he seems to have the following in mind:


75] For the true and almighty words of Jesus Christ which He spake at the first institution were efficacious not only at the first Supper, but they endure, are valid, operate, and are still efficacious [their force, power, and efficacy endure and avail even to the present], so that in all places where the Supper is celebrated according to the institution of Christ, and His words are used, the body and blood of Christ are truly present, distributed, and received, because of the power and efficacy of the words which Christ spake at the first Supper. For where His institution is observed and His words are spoken over the bread and cup [wine], and the consecrated bread and cup [wine] are distributed, Christ Himself, through the spoken words, is still efficacious by virtue of the first institution, through His word, which He wishes to be there repeated. 76] As Chrysostom says (in Serm. de Pass.) in his Sermon concerning the Passion: Christ Himself prepared this table and blesses it; for no man makes the bread and wine set before us the body and blood of Christ, but Christ Himself who was crucified for us. The words are spoken by the mouth of the priest, but by God's power and grace, by the word, where He speaks: "This is My body," the elements presented are consecrated in the Supper. And just as the declaration, Gen. 1, 28: "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth," was spoken only once, but is ever efficacious in nature, so that it is fruitful and multiplies, so also this declaration ["This is My body; this is My blood"] was spoken once, but even to this day and to His advent it is efficacious, and works so that in the Supper of the Church His true body and blood are present.

97] 4. The fourth, that God has and knows of many modes of being in any place, and not only the single one concerning which the fanatics talk flippantly, and which philosophers call localem, or local.

98] Also: The one body of Christ [says Luther] has a threefold mode or all three modes of being anywhere.

99] First, the comprehensible, bodily mode, as He went about bodily upon earth, when, according to His size, He vacated and occupied space [was circumscribed by a fixed place]. This mode He can still use whenever He will, as He did after the resurrection, and will use at the last day, as Paul says, 1 Tim. 6, 15: "Which in His times He shall show, who is the blessed God [and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords]." And to the Colossians, 3, 4: "When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear." In this manner He is not in God or with the Father, neither in heaven, as the mad spirits dream; for God is not a bodily space or place. And this is what the passages how Christ leaves the world and goes to the Father refer to which the false spirits cite.

100] Secondly, the incomprehensible, spiritual mode, according to which He neither occupies nor vacates space, but penetrates all creatures wherever He pleases [according to His most free will]; as, to make an imperfect comparison, my sight penetrates and is in air, light, or water, and does not occupy or vacate space; as a sound or tone penetrates and is in air or water or board and wall, and also does not occupy or vacate space; likewise, as light and heat penetrate and are in air, water, glass, crystal, and the like, and also do not vacate or occupy space; and much more of the like [many comparisons of this matter could be adduced]. This mode He used when He rose from the closed [and sealed] sepulcher, and passed through the closed door [to His disciples], and in the bread and wine in the Holy Supper, and, as it is believed, when He was born of His mother [the most holy Virgin Mary].

101] Thirdly, the divine, heavenly mode, since He is one person with God, according to which, of course, all creatures must be far more penetrable and present to Him than they are according to the second mode. For if, according to that second mode, He can be in and with creatures in such a manner that they do not feel, touch, circumscribe, or comprehend Him, how much more wonderfully will He be in all creatures according to this sublime third mode, so that they do not circumscribe nor comprehend Him, but rather that He has them present before Himself, circumscribes and comprehends them! For you must place this being of Christ, who is one person with God [for you must place this mode of presence of Christ which He has by His personal union with God], very far, far outside of the creatures, as far as God is outside of them; and again as deep and near within all creatures as God is within them. For He is one inseparable person with God; where God is, there must He also be, 102] or our faith is false. But who will say or think how this occurs? We know indeed that it is so, that He is in God outside of all creatures, and one person with God, but how it occurs we do not know; it [this mystery] is above nature and reason, even above the reason of all the angels in heaven; it is understood and known only by God. Now, since it is unknown to us, and yet true, we should not deny His words before we know how to prove to a certainty that the body of Christ can by no means be where God is, and that this mode of being [presence] is false. This the fanatics must prove; but they will forego it.


There are two issues here: (i) What does Lutheranism teach, and (ii) Why should we believe it?

It is not enough to be given an exposition in Lutheran theology. McCain is engaging in polemical theology. He is not merely indulging in an exercise in comparative theology. Rather, he is claiming that Lutheranism is right, and Calvinism is wrong. Mere assertion is no substitute for argumentation.

§75 assumes that the words of institution are not a narrative description of a historical event, but a creative formula for turning the unconsecrated communion elements into the true body and blood of Christ. What is the exegetical argument to sustain that interpretation?

§76 is a quote from Chrysostom. Is this supposed to be an argument from authority? What independent reason do we have for believing that his interpretation is correct?

What exegetical reason is there for treating 1 Cor 11:24-25 as analogous to Gen 1:28? To begin with, why assume that they are even related? In addition, Gen 1:28 is a command, not a creative fiat.

It won’t do to make a perfunctory appeal to the principle of sola Scriptura, only to decline to engage in the detailed exegesis of Scripture.

As to Luther’s threefold modality in §§ 97-102, this analysis simply begs the question in Luther’s favor by assuming what it needs to prove. Luther is positing a threefold modality, along with some fishy illustrations. Truth by definition.

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