Tuesday, October 2, 2007

An Epiphany for my bible class

I am in the middle of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is strongly anti-Roman Catholic. It's the heart of the bible belt. As such, this impacts the general thoughts of Lutherans here. To be sure, Lutherans have quite a bit of "anti-papism" in our own self-identity, and rightly so. But - especially in Oklahoma - there are times where we can over villify Rome - and often for the wrong reasons.

And with this as background - I believe a few of my folks had an Epiphany in Bible Class on Sunday. We are going over the Augsburg Confession, and we hit Article X on the Lord's Supper. I asked the question "Who are those who deny that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present in the Supper" - which is appropriate as this article condemns those who deny this.

And there was silence for just a moment. And I encouraged and asked again. Then I got an answer.

Then Muslims.
Then Jehovah's Witnesses.
And after a bit of prompting, a new member to this Congregation, who has been Lutheran for probably 30 years but was raised 7th Day Adventist said, "Well, most other protestants."

And the Epiphany was on - better than I could have planned. I was looking for Protestant denominations from the start - I figured "Baptists" would be the first thing I heard. It wasn't. Upon hearing protestant, I actually listed out some of the denominations - do Baptists believe Christ is truly present? No. . . what about Methodists? What about UCC?

Jews. . . Muslims. . . Jehovah's Witnesses. . . and all those other Protestants out there.

I think some people at this congregation had been somewhat surprised how much I would harp on protestant denominations - and granted, it would be textual and in sermons where the text pretty much demands the topic of harping be addressed - and I'd nail Rome too - but how often I would hit upon the nice little baptists or the fly by night churches in the area surprised some people.

Jews. . . Muslims. . . Jehovah's Witnesses. . . and all those other Protestants out there.

And what do they all have in common? They call Jesus a liar. They call Jesus a liar when He says, "Take, eat, this is My Body." And I think that sunk through.

We had then a bit of a discussion - okay, I talked - about the somewhat akward position Lutherans have in theological discussions. Quite often we rail on Rome - but on some debates - we side with Rome and rail against the other protestants. And I was gentle - I said, "I know you aren't used to thinking this way - but I grew up in Chicago, which is basically 1/3 Roman, 1/3 Lutheran, and 1/3 Protestant [not precisely accurate, should be 1/2, 1/6, and 1/3 - but for the discussion]. And so I was used to being in theological debates where sometimes you'd be with the protestants against Rome and sometimes you'd be with Rome against the Protestants."

And it's so nice to talk about the Anabaptists when some of your members live in the town of Meno - as in Meno Simmonds - as in the Mennonites who live 5 miles west of here.

False doctrine is bad - and it's just as bad from a Protestant and is it from a Roman Catholic - and I think some people just realized that. You know, two families, the two that know that - they were out of town last Sunday - perhaps it was good that they were.


JohnOneOne said...

Concerning St. Matthew 26:26-29, it might be of interest to you to note an alternate reading of this wording as appearing within the following translations:

“this represents my body,” “this represents my blood.” -- "The Christian’s Bible—New Testament" (1928), George N. LeFevre.

“it means my body,” “this means my blood.” -- "A New Translation of the Bible "(1934), James Moffatt.

These renderings agree with what is stated in the context, in verse 29, in various Catholic editions.

"The Holy Bible" (1954; as printed in 1956), by Ronald A. Knox, reads: “I shall not drink of this fruit of the vine again, until I drink it with you, new wine, in the kingdom of my Father.”

Likewise, "The New Testament" (1941; as printed in 1947), Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Revision; "The New American Bible, Saint Joseph Edition" (1970); and the Catholic Challoner-Douay Version (1750; as printed in 1941), also show Jesus referring to what was in the cup as being “this fruit of the vine,” and that was after Jesus had said, “This is my blood.”

Furthermore, consider the expressions “this is my body” and “this is my blood” in the light of other vivid language used in the Scriptures. Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world,” “I am the gate of the sheepfold,” “I am the true vine.” (John 8:12; 10:7; 15:1, Jerusalem Bible) None of these expressions implied a miraculous transformation.

At 1 Corinthians 11:25 (Jerusalem Bible), the apostle Paul wrote concerning the Last Supper and expressed the same ideas in slightly different words. Instead of quoting Jesus as saying regarding the cup, “Drink all of you from this . . . for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant,” he worded it in this way: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Surely that did not mean that the cup was somehow miraculously transformed into the new covenant. Is it not more reasonable to conclude that what was in the cup represented Jesus’ blood by means of which the new covenant was validated?

Although we can read the literal meaning of the Greek at Matthew 26:26 “is” (Greek, e‧stin), this can also be understood as meaning in the sense of signifying, importing, representing. For an example of such a clear meaning in the usage of this Greek term, please consider the same word used at Matthew 12:7 and 1 Corinthians 10:4.

Agape, Alan

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I was a Greek language major in college. In the Greek language, the word "is" is not required in sentences. It is demonstrative, to clarify. It is is. The early translations listed are not faithful to the text but rather are interpretations there of. It is "This is My Body" - literally word for word. And Jesus expressly includes the word for is when "This My Body" would have been completely understandable.

Also - note again in 1 Corinthians that Paul denotes those who abuse the Supper are sinning against and guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Also, you might want to read some of the Early Church Fathers -- not that they are authoritative, but they do provide insight. Ignatius of Antioch (fantastic author, by the by) is fantastic - see what he writes about the supper. In particular in his letter to the Romans: "7:3 I have no delight in the food of corruption or
in the delights of this life. I desire the bread of
God, which is the flesh of Christ who was of the seed
of David; and for a draught I desire His blood, which
is love incorruptible." That doesn't seem to be an idea of representation.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. That is a direct correlation. And when Christ, the Word of God speaks - I trust His Word and do not doubt His ability to give me His own Body and Blood under the means of Bread and Wine. I believe the Word of God has power.

Danny Mackey said...

Alan is right in saying that the bread and the wine are present in the Lord's Supper - as opposed to Rome's doctrine of transubstantiation.

Eric is also right in the clear words of Jesus, "This is My body.... This is My blood" (Matthew 26:26, 28). Moreover, Eric is correct in pointing out 1 Corinthians 11:27, 29 in that you cannot blaspheme Christ's body and blood unless they are present.

The contrary understanding that Christ is using figurative language in His Institution of the Lord's Supper did not become widespread until the 16th century with Zwingli and Calvin (although Calvin's view is quite different than Zwingli). Moreover, while not the case in America, most who call themselves Christian believe that Christ's body and blood are truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar. To go against the idea that Christ's body and blood are truly present in the Sacrament is to go against most who call themselves Christian today and throughout history (though tradition, when it goes against clear Scripture, must be tossed aside).

To deny the simple meaning of Christ's words is to obscure God's clear Word. Even when Zwingli wanted to reject that "is" means "is" in these verses, he knew enough that it didn't mean "represents" or "symbolizes/signifies." Instead, he created a figure of speech called alleosis.

Basically, Zwingli says, if Scripture says that Christ suffered and died, this means that only the human nature suffered and died, since the divine nature can do neither. Likewise, if Scripture speaks of acts of omnipotence or omnipresence in connection with Christ, this means, on Zwingli's view, that only the divine nature is in view.

What the whole argument comes down to is much bigger than the Lord's Supper (though it's no small potatoes). It comes down to our view of Jesus Christ.

Is He both true God and true man? Is His Divine nature separate from His human nature? Or are His natures joined to each other? In other words, are Jesus' divine and human natures in communion? To reject Christ's body and blood being present in the Sacrament is to deny Christ's very nature as the God-Man. (This issue was settled long ago at the Council of Chalcedon).

The clincher in the argument for me is 1 Corinthians 10:16 - "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ" (NKJV). In order for "communion" (or "participation" as in NIV) to happen, both things must be present. In this case, we must be there and so must Christ's body and blood. If Christ's body and blood are not present, then no "communion" is possible, and the answers to Paul's rhetorical questions - which expect a "yes" answer - must be "no, there is no communion."

bmgilland said...

Can someone call Jesus a great user of parable and metaphor instead of being just a liar? Seems like an awfully large false dichotomy to me.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Silence, you Pelegian! =o)

Actually Brett, my good friend - the thing in parables are introduced as parables - the kingdom of heaven is like. Metaphoric language is explained - I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in me bears much fruit.

There is no parabolic language here. There are none of the signs that call for metaphor. And in addition to be a great user for parable and metaphor, Jesus is also a great user of incredibly blunt and frank language. "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder'. . . but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement."

This is especially true where forgiveness is involved - look at Matthew 9:1-8. The paralytic is brought to Jesus and Jesus says that his sin is forgiven - and people freak out. How does Jesus respond, "Why do you think such evil in your hearts? For which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (He then said to the paralytic) 'Rise, pick up your bed and go home.'"

When it comes to things dealing with forgiveness, Jesus doesn't beat around the bush - He is direct and plain. He's talking about forgiveness - He has the ability to have His Supper be what He wishes it to be - and there's nothing in His Words that calls out for metaphoric interpretation.