Saturday, January 11, 2020

Is a Bird in the Chan worth two in the bush?

Michael F. Bird
Okay, those bagging Francis Chan for having a high view of the Lord supper, mostly nondenominational and low church Evangelicals, regard catholicity as a swearword and have a view of the sacraments that is mere memorialism heading into christological docetism.

i) Have you ever noticed the alleged parallel between having a high view of the Eucharist and having a high view of Mary? That's compared to having a "low" view. Of course, the adjective "low" generally has pejorative connotations. So the debate is rhetorically front-loaded. 

But it's all a question of context. For instance, is it better to have a high view or low view of Muhammad, Joseph Smith, and Benny Hinn? 

ii) How does having a "mere memorialist" view of a Christian rite head into christological doceism? Is the Son reincarnated in every consecrated wafer? Is every consecrated wafer a separate incarnation of God? 

How is it docetic to differentiate a ceremony from what is symbolizes? Is it docetic to differentiate a Christian cross from the event of Christ's crucifixion? Is it docetic to differentiate a Christmas service from the actual Incarnation? Is it docetic to differentiate an Easter service from what happened 2000 years ago? 

Does Michael Bird think the communion wine is in fact the hemoglobin of Jesus? If not, then he's playing a bait-n-switch. 

iii) BTW, even on the reflexively reviled Zwinglian view, the communion elements aren't mere bread and wine. In terms of their composition, they're just bread and wine. But when used in a communion service, they're not mere bread and wine because in that context they've been assigned a particular religious function. They acquire a significance in that setting which they don't have on the dinner table. The significance of an action is often context-dependent. The same action may have a variable-significance according to the setting. Take the difference between an erotic kiss and a platonic kiss. 

Paul declares that the Lord's supper is a "participation" (κοινωνία) in Jesus' body and blood. You cannot participate in what is not real or not present. See 1 Cor 10:15-16!

The worshipers participate in something real by participating in the rite. It's a real rite. The ceremony is present. 

And the ceremony commemorates their actual participation in the sacrifice of Christ because they have a share in the redemptive death of Christ by virtue of vicarious atonement. He redeemed them by his blood. 

Some evangelicals believe in the doctrine of the real absence of Jesus, wherever Jesus is, he's nowhere near the bread and the wine, better to leave Jesus' presence outside the celebration, or else we might turn Catholic.

Cute but willfully equivocal. Ordinarily, Jesus isn't physically present in a worship service. It is, of course, possible for Jesus to appear to people in dreams and visions. And it's possible for Jesus to appear to be physically present with them. To occupy their time and space. The paradigm-cases are the post-Resurrection appearances in the NT, but Jesus can do that in the course of church history he and when he wants to. 

But by virtue of the Ascension, Jesus is normally absent on earth. Worshipers aren't excluding Jesus from the celebration. He hasn't been banished or evicted. Rather, he physically absents himself. We can't summon him against his will. We live between the Ascension and the Parousia. Most of the time, Jesus isn't here, although we can make allowance for occasional Christophanies in church history. But that's unpredictable and unexpected. 

1 comment:

  1. Steve, have you had many like-minded exchanges with Tom Wright? thank you