Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit: Intrinsically Opposed to the Real, Physical Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?!?! (Dialogue with a Calvinist)



Giotto



"Pilgrimsarbour," a friendly Reformed Protestant fellow with whom I have had some great, cordial dialogue recently (one / two), wrote this elsewhere. It is just "itching" to be responded to, so I have taken up the challenge, in hopes of further constructive dialogue. His words from his initial comments will be in blue; counter-responses to my initial paper will be in green.

* * * * *

The idea of Jesus going away to be seated at the right hand of the Father was so that the Holy Spirit would come and be the real presence of Christ with and in His people in the world.

John 16 explains this well:

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
These verses are not parabolic. Christ's going to the Father was to demonstrate to His people and to the world that the righteousness of Christ is accepted by the Father. This is a critical point.

I doubt that Catholics and Calvinists would disagree on the primary purpose of the Ascension itself. The problems come in the false, (I think) scripturally unwarranted conclusions that you have drawn from the Ascension and Jesus' words in John 16.
The work of the Holy Spirit is for the purpose of taking the place of Christ in his physical absence from His Church.

This where your reasoning goes astray, in my opinion. You are employing an "either/or" mindset (extremely common in Protestant circles and seemingly a key plank of the Protestant worldview) in order to bypass other aspects of this, as seen in Holy Scripture itself. Jesus is here in spirit, too, just as the Holy Spirit is, and as the Father is. They are all present spiritually because they are one in essence.

I have no argument with your statement [the previous two sentences above], per se, but I do fear that a lack of clarity on my part has sent you off in a direction I did not intend for my reader to go.

Alright; then I am happy that you are willing to clarify for your readers and mine.

* * *

So what sense does it make to assert that the Holy Spirit "takes the place" of Jesus and to tie this in with His physical presence on earth as if the latter is now no longer possible or actual? A spiritual presence of the Holy Spirit in no sense "takes the place" of Jesus, let alone His eucharistic physical presence.

In fact, if we refer the question to the Bible alone, we find many indications that all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are present. This gets into the complicated aspect of trinitarian theology known as perichoresis or circumincession (I've written about it before). Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott, in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, expresses it this way:

The Trinitarian Perichoresis (Circumincession)

The Three Divine Persons Are in One another. (
De Fide.)


. . . Denzinger 704. Christ testifies that the Father is in Him and that He is in the Father. John 10,30: "I and the Father are one." 10,38 . . . Cf. John 14,9 et seq.: 17,21. The Indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the Father and in the Son is indicated in 1 Cor 2, 10 et seq. . . . The fundamental basis of the Trinitarian Perichoresis is the one Essence of the Three Persons. Cf. S. th. I, 42, 5."

(p. 71)
This is rather easily shown with regard to the Indwelling, from Holy Scripture (KJV in the following):



I) Jesus and the Father Indwell Christian Believers
JOHN 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
II) Jesus Indwells Christian Believers
JOHN 14:18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. {cf. Jn 14:16-17}
JOHN 14:20 At that day ye shall know that I {am} in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
JOHN 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
JOHN 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; . . .
III) God the Holy Spirit Indwells Christian Believers
1 CORINTHIANS 3:16-17 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and {that} the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (17) If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which {temple} ye are.
JOHN 14:16-17 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; (17) {Even} the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. {cf. Jn 14:18 below}
ROMANS 8:9,11 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his . . . (11) But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. {cf. Rom 8:10 below}
1 CORINTHIANS 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
1 CORINTHIANS 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost {which is} in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? {cf. to 1 Cor 3:16}
GALATIANS 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
IV) "God" (Divine Person Not Specified) Indwells Christian Believers
(Arguably God the Father)
2 CORINTHIANS 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in {them}; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. {cf. Ex 29:45, Jer 31:33, Ezek 37:27}
V) God the Father and God the Holy Spirit Indwell Christian Believers
1 JOHN 3:24 . . . And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
1 JOHN 4:12-16 . . . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (13) Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. (14) And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son {to be} the Saviour of the world. (15) Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. (16) And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. {cf. Neh 9:20, Jn 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-8,13-15, Rom 8:14, 2 Cor 13:14}
VI) God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son, Jesus, Indwell Christian Believers
ROMANS 8:10 And if Christ {be} in you, the body {is} dead because of sin; but the Spirit {is} life because of righteousness. {cf. Rom 8:9}
VII) God the Father Indwells Christian Believers
1 JOHN 3:24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him . . .

I thank you for citing the various biblical passages to illustrate your point, but I don't think we're in disagreement at all.

Okay; great.

The Spirit has been in the world from the beginning (in creation Genesis 1:2) and all throughout the Old Testament. We touched on this before in a previous discussion about Abimelech. However, it was not until after the ascension that His work within the individual would be most manifest within His people and to the world.

Agreed.
I think the way you phrase your statement is open to a wrong impression. I don't think you mean to say that each of the divine persons of the Godhead has a spirit: the Father has "a spirit," the Son has "a spirit," and there is the Holy Spirit, which may or may not have "a spirit" of His own.

I wasn't arguing that particular issue above; I was simply asserting that all three Persons of the Trinity are referred to as indwelling us. I suppose that would become a complicated discussion itself. But we do have the evidence of Luke 23:46: "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit."
Catholics refer to the "body, blood, soul, and divinity" of Jesus in the Eucharist. Here are some more relevant passages (RSV):
Matthew 27:50 And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

Mark 2:8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts?

John 13:21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me."
These passages refer to a "spirit" that is distinct from the Holy Spirit, as in also the following:

Romans 8:16 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
For clarity's sake I think we should understand that the Holy Spirit is the "spirit of the Father" and the "spirit of the Son" of which is being spoken, the divine essence, as you have said, being one.

The passages I originally presented teach that, yes.

You would agree, I think, that we are not speaking of multiple spirits. But perhaps there is a Catholic doctrine about this that I am not aware.

I was dealing with God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and God the son, Jesus, all indwelling us, according to plain biblical teaching. One has to get beyond an "either/or" outlook to the biblical "both/and" worldview. Perichoresis (Circumincession) is sufficient to explain this particular question, I think.

In any case, I would never argue that the Holy Spirit of Christ is not or could not be in believers and in the Eucharist at the same time. This is not my reasoning for arguing against the "real presence" as Catholics understand it.

I was only objecting to the fact of the Ascension being used to argue that therefore, Jesus can't be with us physically anymore. That doesn't follow.

I do not have a compelling reason to believe that Christ is physically present in the bread in an incarnational way. It seems clear to me that that phase of His redemptive plan has come to an end.

It's not clear to me at all. I would recommend to you and all readers my in-depth treatments of John 6:


* * *

One passage cited in isolation (John 16), interpreted in an "either/or" fashion, contrary to all of this additional related (and plain, explicit) biblical data, misses all this wealth of related information.

His work is to testify to Christ's righteousness through conviction of sin and the regeneration and sanctification of sinners. Being incorporeal, He has no physical limitations such as our Lord, as a human being, had.

Jesus had no particular physical limitations after His Resurrection, since He was able to (so the text vaguely suggests) "float" through walls. So this is a non sequitur. Jesus had a glorified Body after the crucifixion and Resurrection that was capable of extraordinary things. Therefore, the artificial, ultimately Docetic-influenced antithesis of spirit and matter is not a factor in the sense which you claim.

Quite right. I was speaking of those limitations the Father placed upon Him (or He upon Himself) while he was ministering on earth before His resurrection. Also, I am not making a [Docetic] or gnostic statement about a dualism between matter and spirit. The Scriptures teach that at the final resurrection we who are in Christ will be given glorified bodies, just as Jesus had a glorified resurrected body. However, His glorified resurrected body is not suited for the indwelling of believers.

I was applying this aspect to Jesus being able to physically present Himself in the Eucharist; not physically in the indwelling. In context, we were speaking of the state of affairs, post-Resurrection, and my point was that Jesus had no particular limitations after He was resurrected (therefore, it is another reason to believe in the Real, Substantial Presence, beyond the fact of God's [including Jesus'] omnipotence and omnipresence).

* * *

The idea of the "real presence" in the Eucharist conflicts with the clear biblical teaching that Christ by necessity for the sake of His children needed to be physically absent that His Spirit may carry on His work in this world.

This is flat-out false. It is an instance where you have brought in your prior assumption to the biblical text but have not demonstrated at all that it is present in the text itself. You've simply assumed it. That is circular logic. Let me show how and why it is, with some logical analysis:

Your argument:
1) Jesus ascends.

2) He has to do this ("by necessity") in order for the Holy Spirit to come and indwell all believers.

3) This precludes any further physical presence of Jesus on earth.
#1 is agreed upon by all Christians. #2 is questionable and dubious insofar as you make it a question of necessity. The Bible doesn't teach that. I would contend that it is an example of the Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy ("after this, therefore because of this"). I grant that it is not too far-fetched of a prima facie interpretation of the text, but the text doesn't logically require this to be held.

Jesus says (Jn 16:7): "if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." But does it follow from this that He must have done so "by necessity"? No. That was the plan that God carried out: Jesus would die, resurrect, ascend, and then the Spirit would descend upon the new believers in the Upper Room. But it is not necessarily the case. The Holy Spirit had come upon individuals before that time. God could have decided to fill relatively more people with the Holy Spirit before Pentecost. He was under no necessity.

The whole verse clearly demonstrates the imperative nature of what Jesus is about to do:
7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.
Granted the word necessary (or necessity) as I suggested is not present in the verse, but Jesus could not be clearer about it. It is for their good that Jesus is to go to the Father so that the Spirit can be sent to them. The word necessity is strongly implicit in the passage. He needs to go and the Spirit needs to come. Likewise implicit is the fact that if He doesn't go, the Spirit will not come to them. The phrase "to your advantage" here doesn't mean "it's helpful, but you don't really need it."

We agree that God's plan was for Jesus to ascend and the Holy Spirit descend upon all believers, starting at Pentecost. That is not in dispute; only finer points and conclusions that yo attempted to draw from that fact. My arguments here were three-fold:
1) Jesus and the Father also indwell us, so it is not an exclusive situation of "Jesus going away and the Spirit coming to us," because all three are involved. Both/and . . .

2) There was no absolute necessity that Jesus had to go up to heaven in order for this to happen.

3) The Ascension does not in any way preclude a future eucharistic (physical, sacramental) presence of Jesus. The texts you cite do not entail this conclusion.
The suggested dichotomy between Jesus and the Holy Spirit with regard to "presence" has been shown to be an unbiblical teaching anyway. In the same Last Supper Discourse (John 14-17) Jesus referred to He Himself (and God the Father) being "in" us:
JOHN 14:18 . . . I will come to you. {cf. Jn 14:16-17}
JOHN 14:20 . . . I {am} in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

JOHN 14:23 . . . my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
JOHN 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. . . .
JOHN 17:23 I in them, and thou in me, . . .
Therefore, this idea of "Jesus goes so that the Holy Spirit can come" is an incomplete truth, since the Father and the Son are described in the same way. The Bible must be interpreted as a whole.

#3 above is the most unfounded conclusion of all. How is it somehow impossible for Jesus to be physically present anymore, simply because there is now an indwelling? This doesn't follow at all. John 6 itself shows that this is a false dichotomy, but I won't get into that, as I have written about it many times. To claim that the indwelling precludes a physical Eucharist is purely illogical. How is this derived from the text you have presented?

I don't see it there at all. How can it be argued that "there is a spiritual, non-physical indwelling; therefore it can't be the case that God could also manifest Himself physically on earth, after the Ascension." Where does such a notion derive? It isn't coming from the Bible (if you disagree, please show me why, from Scripture: John 16 alone is nowhere near sufficient to do this)), so it has to be from some man-made philosophy that smacks of an anti-incarnational antipathy to matter and sacraments.

I've re-read my original comments three times now and I cannot find where I made this statement. [referring to the second sentence of the paragraph above]

I was referring most specifically to your statement:

The idea of the "real presence" in the Eucharist conflicts with the clear biblical teaching that Christ by necessity for the sake of His children needed to be physically absent that His Spirit may carry on His work in this world.
I then paraphrased your thinking as:

How can it be argued that "there is a spiritual, non-physical indwelling; therefore it can't be the case that God could also manifest Himself physically on earth, after the Ascension."
Apparently, I made an unwarranted conclusion as to whether you were arguing that the Catholic belief on the Eucharist is impossible and necessarily false. But your argument (post-clarification) seems to at least come close to that thought. You've conceded that your "necessity" above was too strong, and I am acknowledging that this particular application of necessity regarding the Eucharist was too strong of a restatement of your views; that I misinterpreted that motif. These are the sorts of things that make a second round of any dialogue extremely important, and why I am such an enthusiastic proponent of back-and-forth dialogue.

Yes, Jesus is God and He can do anything. But I cannot find any compelling biblical reason to believe that it was His intention to reappear in physical form on the earth after His ascension. John 16 indicates quite the opposite, in fact.

I can only appeal back to the Last Supper eucharistic and Pauline discourses, and John 6. John 16 doesn't overcome these at all; it needs to be incorporated harmoniously with the other relevant passages. John 16 has nothing to do with whether Jesus would be present in the eucharist or not. It has to do with His ascending and the Spirit indwelling all believers. Why should one thing (the indwelling) exclude the other (the real, substantial presence in the eucharist)? That is more either/or thinking that is not supported in the texts themselves. You make an argument from silence and commit logical fallacies in your use of John 16, while overlooking the (I think) compelling exegetical evidences of the eucharistic
passages.

I did a very in-depth treatment of John 6 again in my new book, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths, consisting of almost entirely cross-referencing alone, showing how it only makes sense if it is literal (i.e., in the latter part of the discourse). I will soon post that, since it has come up in this dialogue.

* * *

If there is no physical aspect to the Eucharist, then why does, for example, St. Paul make a direct analogy between pagan sacrifice and the Christian "table" or altar (1 Cor 10:16-21, as I recently wrote about). What sense does it make?

If we back up our context a bit to the beginning of the chapter, we see that Paul is plainly using analogies to speak of spiritual matters:
1 For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4, emphasis mine).
Why, then, must we see the bread as some kind of physical indwelling of the ascended (now again descended) Christ when Paul clearly is speaking of spiritual metaphors? He explicitly calls them "spiritual food" and "spiritual drink" from the "spiritual Rock." We are not meant to understand these things literally for the word "spiritual" is right there in the text.

You are seeing only what you want to see. When Protestants see the word "spiritual" they so often irrationally pit it against matter and sacraments, as if they are antithetical notions. No! Jesus' crucifixion was quite the physical event; Jesus' blood was a physical thing; yet all of this was very "spiritual" as well. There is no dichotomy. It ain't "either/or." Yet you have seized upon the words "spiritual" in this fallacious sense. But of course there is also literalism and realism in the same passage; even in your own citation.

The Red Sea and the cloud were physical things, and Paul makes an analogy to baptism. St. Peter makes the same sort of analogy, and is even more explicit in his realism, leading to a plain teaching of baptismal regeneration:

1 Peter 3:18-21 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
The Bible has to be interpreted as a harmonious whole. You pick out parts that you think support your case, but I submit that when context and cross-referencing is further pursued, your case collapses. This is the Protestant method of isolated proof-texting that is so objectionable, and that has wreaked havoc on exegesis. You try to spiritualize the entire passage and make it non-physical, yet the Apostle Paul is plain as day in verse 16:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
How much more literal can one get? What more can one say to express literalism? Jesus says "This is My Body" and Protestants simply say "no it isn't; it's only a symbol, and this is obvious to one and all" (I used to do that myself). Paul says this but it isn't sufficient for Protestants. Jesus is even more literalistic in John 6.

He carries this through in 16-21 with similar language meant to convey that Corinthian believers partaking in the Lord's Supper must understand that they are partaking of Christ and His people. They have bound themselves to Him and to each other as one body. Likewise, those Corinthians who were taking part in the temple feasts were participating in idolatry: "the cup of the Lord / the cup of demons," "the table of the Lord / the table of demons." They also have bound themselves, not to Christ and his people, but to Satan and his minions.

And once again you ignore all the literalism strikingly present: references to sacrifice and the priest eating the offerings in the Old Covenant. Therefore, in the New Covenant Christians are to eat the sacrifice of the Lamb of God in the sense of the Holy Eucharist. The analogy is absolutely straightforward.
You have made a connection between the sacrifices of the pagans in Corinth with the Lord's Supper. If you are saying here that the Eucharist is a new or ongoing sacrifice of Christ, then you are running afoul of several New Testament texts. Below are two of them:

27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever (Hebrews 7:27-28 emphasis mine).
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:11-14 emphasis mine).
Yes, we agree. The Sacrifice of the Mass (as we believe it to be, and this is Catholic dogma, I assure you and everyone) is not killing Jesus over and over; it is a miraculous making present of the one sacrifice of Calvary. It's miraculous in a two-fold sense: Jesus is physically present, and the great redeeming event at Calvary is also present. This is how orthodox Jews view Passover, as a matter of fact (as I recently wrote about). The Christian Church took overt that understanding and developed it, so that past events could become present
Two additional notes here:

First, notice that we are told clearly that He is at the right hand of God (waiting) until His enemies become His footstool. Now of course we don't read this "waiting" in the sense that He is doing nothing. Quite the contrary as His Spirit testifies in the lives of the saints throughout history. But I think His physical presence, that is, His spiritual body at the right hand of the Father comports well with what we learn from John 16.

Then why is it in the book of Revelation (which is largely set in heaven), there are still descriptions of the Lamb and of an altar, if all that is past and done away with? I wrote in another paper:


Revelation . . . describes an altar in heaven before God's throne. This is curious if Protestantism is correct about the need for altars being abolished with the death of Jesus and the end of the OT system of sacrifice and priests. In actuality, the Bible is a continuous whole from Genesis to Revelation, with no radical discontinuity between the OT and NT or Old and New Covenants, as Protestantism is wont to believe. In Revelation we find the "altar" or "golden altar" being mentioned in 6:9; 8:3-5; 9:13; 11:1; 14:18; and 16:7.
The climactic scene of this glorious portrayal of heaven occurs in Rev 5:1-10. Verse 6 describes the "Lamb as it had been slain." The Lamb (Jesus) is "in the midst of the throne" (5:6) which is in front of the "golden altar" (8:3). Is this presentation of Jesus as "Lamb" to the Father a one-time event or an ongoing occurrence (from God's perspective, timeless)? We have strong biblical indications that the latter is more accurate. The sacrifice made "once" in Heb 7:27 refers to the human, historical death on Calvary of Jesus. However, there is a transcendent aspect of the Sacrifice as well. Rev 13:8 describes "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," and Heb 7:24-5 informs us that:
But this {man}, because he continueth ever, hath an un-changeable priesthood. (25) Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Secondly, those who are being sanctified have already been perfected in Him. This bears on my recent post on Catholic and Protestant Justification and the Grace of God found here.

That goes into different territory; we have enough on our plate now.

* * *

This idea is in effect saying that it is impossible for God to do something, when in fact it is entirely possible and not at all ruled out a priori. I wrote in my article, "Is This God?" (a cover story for Envoy Magazine):



Jesus could walk through walls after His Resurrection (John 20:26), and even a mere man, Philip, could be "caught away" and transported to another place by God (Acts 8:39-40). So Zwingli, and Protestants who follow his reasoning, think God "couldn't" or "wouldn't" have performed the miracle of the Real Presence and Transubstantiation (which means, literally, "change of substance")? I don't find this line of thought convincing in the least, and no one should rashly attempt to "tie" God's hands by such arguments of alleged implausibility. The fact remains that God clearly can perform any miracle He so chooses.

Many Christian beliefs require a great deal of faith, even relatively "blind" faith. Protestants manage to believe in a number of such doctrines (such as the Trinity, God's eternal existence, omnipotence, angels, the power of prayer, instantaneous justification, the Second Coming, etc.). Why should the Real Presence be singled out for excessive skepticism and unchecked rationalism? I contend that it is due to a preconceived bias against both sacramentalism and matter as a conveyor of grace, which hearkens back to the heresies of Docetism and even Gnosticism, which looked down upon matter, and regarded spirit as inherently superior to matter (following Greek philosophy, particularly Platonism).

The ancient heresy of Docetism held that the sufferings of Christ were apparent rather than real. It is thought by many (based on St. Irenaeus: Against Heresies, 3,11,1, and Eusebius: Church History, 3,28,6) that St. John wrote his Gospel with his Gnostic/Docetic opponent, one Cerinthus (fl. 100 A.D.), in mind, thus accounting for his strong emphasis on Jesus' "flesh" and "blood" - as in John 6. Many Protestants believe that the Eucharist is apparent and not real. But the Eucharist is an extension of the Incarnation of Christ, just as the Church is (most obviously seen in Paul's title of the "Body of Christ"). A denial of the Real Presence might, therefore, be regarded as an anti-incarnational strain of thought. . . .

This pervasive anti-eucharistic bias smacks of an analogy to the Jewish and Muslim belief that the Incarnation as an unthinkable (impossible?) task for God to undertake. They view the Incarnation in the same way as the majority of Protestants regard the Eucharist. For them God wouldn't or couldn't or shouldn't become a man. For evangelicals God wouldn't or couldn't or shouldn't become substantially, sacramentally present under the outward forms of bread and wine. I think the dynamic is the same. "Coulda woulda shoulda" theology is not biblical theology. Every Christian exercises faith in things which are very difficult to grasp with the natural mind, because they are revealed to be true by God in the Bible. I have attempted to show why I think Protestants inconsistently require a higher criterion of "proof" where the Holy Eucharist is concerned. . . .

No a priori biblical or logical case can be made against a literal Eucharist on the grounds that matter is inferior to spirit and/or indicative of a stunted, primitive, "pagan" spirituality or some such similar negative judgment. If Christ could become Man, He can surely will to become actually and truly present in every sense in what continues to appear as bread and wine, once consecrated. If Protestants wish to argue against the Real Presence, they must do it on scriptural, exegetical grounds, not Docetic, philosophical ones.
I also did an entire spoof of what I consider to be an anti-incarnational / anti-sacramental antipathy to matter, especially regarding the Holy Eucharist, in reply to an evangelical friend of mine who did an elaborate satire of Catholic eucharistic literalism (The Sarxon Fallacy, Refuted).

It is patently obvious that the early Church accepted the Real, Substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist. There were very few dissenters from this doctrine in the entire period up to the "Reformation" when Zwingli adopted pure symbolism and Calvin a "mystical" presence which is not much different from Zwingli's view, in my opinion, and (I think) much more incoherent. Why was this the case in the early Church if it is so supposedly obvious that the Eucharist was only symbolic (or in any event non-physical)? Why did the entire Church get it wrong until Zwingli and Calvin saw the light 15 centuries later?

That makes no sense to me at all, purely regarded as a matter of plausibility or probability, within the Christian realm of faith and guidance by the Holy Spirit that we are discussing in this very dialogue (the indwelling). It is far more reasonable (at least in my book) to accept the plain biblical indications of a literal Eucharist, in Jesus' words and in Paul's interpretation, and to agree that the early Church could not have gotten the doctrine flat-out wrong, with not a single prominent Church father dissenting and seeing what most Protestants now take as self-evident.

They were united in belief precisely because this was the apostolic teaching, received from Jesus and the apostles. The ones who forsook Jesus in John 6 left because they would not accept a literal Eucharist. They didn't merely misunderstand (if so, Jesus would have surely explained further, in order to retain them, as he often did). They understood and rejected the teaching. The same holds for Protestants today. The antipathy to matter and sacramentalism and the miraculous in Christian worship is what should be re-examined: not the unchanged eucharistic teaching of the Catholic Church for almost 2000 years. It stems, I think, from a lack of faith in God (God "wouldn't do so-and-so; He can't do so-and-so") as well as from misunderstandings.

That's more an argument from frustration than anything [last sentence above]. What seems so obvious to you is not to most Protestants, just as what seems obvious to us is not to you. I don't think, necessarily, that our differences stem from a lack of faith on your part (or ours). In addition, I don't think the argument for an "antipathy to matter" is useful or on the mark, as I indicated above regarding the Donatist/gnostic question.

It's not an expression of frustration (though I'm sure I get a little frustrated at times, as we all do). I'm very happy to be able to clarify this theme of mine. When I say "lack of faith," I'm not attacking the piety or spiritual motivation or walk with God of Protestants (least of all you yourself). It's not intended as any form of personal attack or ad hominem. It is more so referring to "faith" as tied into theological presuppositions. As a Catholic and amateur historian I have to account somehow for the fact that the Bible appears to me very plainly in favor of a literal Eucharist (and I give the exegetical arguments; I don't just make a bald claim). I have to also account for the rationale that is employed in order to depart from such overwhelming patristic consensus (an aspect of my paper that you chose to completely pass over).

I firmly believe that the symbolic or mystical Eucharist outlook came in from extraneous philosophical schools of thought (just as Protestants are always saying about us, with the paganism charge, etc., so we have the prerogative to do the same), because it contradicted what the Church had always believed and taught. Heresies do not come in out of the blue; they have historical pedigree. Thus, we can trace anti-incarnational strain of thought back to the Gnostics and the Docetics. The disbelief in miracles and mysteries can be traced to aspects of the secular Renaissance and to the Enlightenment. Zwingli was originally some sort of humanist, and was probably influenced by less orthodox schools. He brought in the purely symbolic Eucharist. In many ways he argues like a rationalist skeptic of today or any age.

That is a lack of faith in the beliefs of traditional Christianity, as it had always been understood. Calvinists and other Protestants today are usually unaware of all the historical background of their particular beliefs (which is one reason I am always analyzing Luther and Calvin). But it still has its effect. What I try to do is to persuade Protestants to take a closer look at some of these things. Elsewhere I have written several times about how Protestants never seem to be able to arrive at an entire body of Christian truth. By nature the Protestant enterprise is to perpetually search and to claim that some things can never be resolved. Whole areas of theology are (sadly) consigned to this "uncertainty bin." We Catholics don't believe that. We think that most things have been made quite clear by now: 2000 years after Christ. And we think that to deny that is another mark of lack of faith that God can guide His Church into all truth, just as Jesus said at the Last Supper. We take Him literally at His word.

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Christ is truly with us "even unto the end of the age" (MT 28:20).


Jesus is not inferior to the Holy Spirit in any sense (nor vice versa). None of the three Divine Persons are inferior to the other ones.

Each person in the Godhead has His role to fulfill as He has covenanted within Himself. The various functions never suggest the superiority of one over the other, nor the inferiority of one to the other. The Son is not inferior because there is a Father, and the Spirit is not inferior because He "proceeds" or "goes forth" from the Father and the Son. This is a Muslim argument, and a poor one at that.

Good; we agree here.

* * *

Therefore, we cannot properly say that Jesus is with us by means of (and only by means of, and only because He ascended) the Holy Spirit. I submit that this notion has been amply refuted from Scripture itself.

If Christ says that he has to leave so that the Spirit can come, then so be it. It doesn't mean that anyone is inferior to anyone. I know of no Reformed Christian that would argue this way, and it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

I've made my arguments above. Often I make arguments analyzing premises of opponents, and contend for what I think these premises logically lead to. And usually (surprise!), the opponent in question disagrees that the logical reduction is in fact the case. In other words, I am not always implying that someone believes y as derived from x; only that y does in fact logically derive from x (including use of reductio ad absurdum methodologies which are usually greatly misunderstood themselves), so that the person needs to either accept that or show how it isn't the case. That is the socratic form of argument that I love (and aspects of it have been vastly misunderstood by my critics; folks like Tim Enloe). I wanted to make that clear, because it will probably come up in our discussions.

Thanks for the continuing dialogue and articulate expressions of your heartfelt belief. I am enjoying it very much. Plato and Socrates thought that good dialogue could only occur between friends who had a measure of respect for each other. We are seeing how non-hostility (at the very least) makes a great discussion possible, even between Reformed and Catholic proponents!

But if you had started out denying that I was a Christian at all, then that would have involved a rank insult and a lie so extreme and outrageous that any hope of constructive discourse would have been pretty much doomed from the outset, since this outlook entails my being placed in a vastly inferior box, with everything I say immediately being suspect, because, what do I know? I'm not even a Christian! . . . That's one reason among many why I don't waste time anymore attempting dialogues with anti-Catholics. It's impossible. I know from over ten years of trying. On the other hand, I've had many scores of wonderful dialogues with ecumenical Christians who have managed to figure out that Catholics are part of the Body of Christ, too.

11 comments:

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Part 1

Hi Dave,

Well, every now and then I truck on over to Dave Armstrong's site to see what's new, and behold! One of my comments is the subject of a new post! I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't be a little paranoid. Of course, if it should turn into a little more blog traffic on my end, who am I to complain?

Be that as it may, I would like to touch on at least a few points. If so desired, we can continue in more depth at a later time.

You said...

Jesus is here in spirit, too, just as the Holy Spirit is, and as the Father is. They are all present spiritually because they are one in essence.

I have no argument with your statement, per se, but I do fear that a lack of clarity on my part has sent you off in a direction I did not intend for my reader to go.

I thank you for citing the various biblical passages to illustrate your point, but I don't think we're in disagreement at all. The Spirit has been in the world from the beginning (in creation Genesis 1:2) and all throughout the Old Testament. We touched on this before in a previous discussion about Abimelech. However, it was not until after the ascension that His work within the individual would be most manifest within His people and to the world.

I think the way you phrase your statement is open to a wrong impression. I don't think you mean to say that each of the divine persons of the Godhead has a spirit: the Father has "a spirit," the Son has "a spirit," and there is the Holy Spirit, which may or may not have "a spirit" of His own. For clarity's sake I think we should understand that the Holy Spirit is the "spirit of the Father" and the "spirit of the Son" of which is being spoken, the divine essence, as you have said, being one. You would agree, I think, that we are not speaking of multiple spirits. But perhaps there is a Catholic doctrine about this that I am not aware. In any case, I would never argue that the Holy Spirit of Christ is not or could not be in believers and in the Eucharist at the same time. This is not my reasoning for arguing against the "real presence" as Catholics understand it. I do not have a compelling reason to believe that Christ is physically present in the bread in an incarnational way. It seems clear to me that that phase of His redemptive plan has come to an end.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Part 2

You said...

In fact, if we refer the question to the Bible alone, we find many indications that all three Persons of the Holy Spirit are present.

If you could clarify this a bit, it would help me understand your point here. Are you using the term Holy Spirit to refer to the entire Godhead, or do you mean that the Holy Spirit Himself has three persons?

You said...

Jesus had no particular physical limitations after His Resurrection, since He was able to (so the text vaguely suggests) "float" through walls.

Quite right. I was speaking of those limitations the Father placed upon Him (or He upon Himself) while he was ministering on earth before His resurrection. Also, I am not making a Donatist or gnostic statement about a dualism between matter and spirit. The Scriptures teach that at the final resurrection we who are in Christ will be given glorified bodies, just as Jesus had a glorified resurrected body. However, His glorified resurrected body is not suited for the indwelling of believers.

You said...

Jesus says (Jn 16:7): "if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." But does it follow from this that He must have done so "by necessity"? No.

The whole verse clearly demonstrates the imperative nature of what Jesus is about to do:

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.

Granted the word necessary (or necessity) as I suggested is not present in the verse, but Jesus could not be clearer about it. It is for their good that Jesus is to go to the Father so that the Spirit can be sent to them. The word necessity is strongly implicit in the passage. He needs to go and the Spirit needs to come. Likewise implicit is the fact that if He doesn't go, the Spirit will not come to them. The phrase "to your advantage" here doesn't mean "it's helpful, but you don't really need it."

You said...

How can it be argued that "there is a spiritual, non-physical indwelling; therefore it can't be the case that God could also manifest Himself physically on earth, after the Ascension."

I've re-read my original comments three times now and I cannot find where I made this statement. Yes, Jesus is God and He can do anything. But I cannot find any compelling biblical reason to believe that it was His intention to reappear in physical form on the earth after His ascension. John 16 indicates quite the opposite, in fact.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Part 3

You said...

If there is no physical aspect to the Eucharist, then why does, for example, St. Paul make a direct analogy between pagan sacrifice and the Christian "table" or altar (1 Cor 10:16-21, as I recently wrote about). What sense does it make?

If we back up our context a bit to the beginning of the chapter, we see that Paul is plainly using analogies to speak of spiritual matters:

1 For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4, emphasis mine).

Why, then, must we see the bread as some kind of physical indwelling of the ascended (now again descended) Christ when Paul clearly is speaking of spiritual metaphors? He explicitly calls them "spiritual food" and "spiritual drink" from the "spiritual Rock." We are not meant to understand these things literally for the word "spiritual" is right there in the text.

He carries this through in 16-21 with similar language meant to convey that Corinthian believers partaking in the Lord's Supper must understand that they are partaking of Christ and His people. They have bound themselves to Him and to each other as one body. Likewise, those Corinthians who were taking part in the temple feasts were participating in idolatry: "the cup of the Lord / the cup of demons," "the table of the Lord / the table of demons." They also have bound themselves, not to Christ and his people, but to Satan and his minions.

You have made a connection between the sacrifices of the pagans in Corinth with the Lord's Supper. If you are saying here that the Eucharist is a new or ongoing sacrifice of Christ, then you are running afoul of several New Testament texts. Below are two of them:

27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever (Hebrews 7:27-28 emphasis mine).

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:11-14 emphasis mine).

Two additional notes here:

First, notice that we are told clearly that He is at the right hand of God (waiting) until His enemies become His footstool. Now of course we don't read this "waiting" in the sense that He is doing nothing. Quite the contrary as His Spirit testifies in the lives of the saints throughout history. But I think His physical presence, that is, His spiritual body at the right hand of the Father comports well with what we learn from John 16.

Secondly, those who are being sanctified have already been perfected in Him. This bears on my recent post on Catholic and Protestant Justification and the Grace of God found here.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Part 4

You said...

It stems, I think, from a lack of faith in God (God "wouldn't do so-and-so; He can't do so-and-so") as well as from misunderstandings.

That's more an argument from frustration than anything. What seems so obvious to you is not to most Protestants, just as what seems obvious to us is not to you. I don't think, necessarily, that our differences stem from a lack of faith on your part (or ours). In addition, I don't think the argument for an "antipathy to matter" is useful or on the mark, as I indicated above regarding the Donatist/gnostic question.

You said...

Jesus is not inferior to the Holy Spirit in any sense (nor vice versa). None of the three Divine Persons are inferior to the other ones.

Each person in the Godhead has His role to fulfill as He has covenanted within Himself. The various functions never suggest the superiority of one over the other, nor the inferiority of one to the other. The Son is not inferior because there is a Father, and the Spirit is not inferior because He "proceeds" or "goes forth" from the Father and the Son. This is a Muslim argument, and a poor one at that.

If Christ says that he has to leave so that the Spirit can come, then so be it. It doesn't mean that anyone is inferior to anyone. I know of no Reformed Christian that would argue this way, and it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi pilgrim,

Thanks for your replies. Another great dialogue!

I am incorporating your replies into the paper and replying further. One clarification:

[ME] "all three Persons of the Holy Spirit are present."

If you could clarify this a bit, it would help me understand your point here. Are you using the term Holy Spirit to refer to the entire Godhead, or do you mean that the Holy Spirit Himself has three persons?

This was a typo. I meant "Holy Trinity."

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Hey Dave,

I meant to tell you in my e-mail how much our discussions have meant to me. Just the challenge to dig into the Scriptures and also to evaluate my church traditions has been a wonderful blessing.

As you know, I am not an apologist, nor do I have any formal training in theology. For me, posting at some other theology sites can be a bit daunting because I am not at that level. I am not qualified to discuss original languages, extensive patristic readings, and so forth. At least not yet :-)

But I thank you for taking me seriously enough to desire to talk to me on an ongoing basis. I sense that you at least find some merit in my arguments, even though you disagree with them.

In truth, for three years I have not (until now) found a Catholic willing to dialogue with me to the depth and length of time that you have. It's usually the "you're following a man, not God" kind of argumentation that ends things quickly--often before they get started. There's also the "you're not a real church" statement that throws up barriers. It is similar, I suppose, to the "you're not a Christian" statement that you have talked about.

Many thanks for the opportunity. I've actually been hoping that others would join in the conversations as well. I would look forward to the challenge. And who knows? Maybe someone will stop by and help me out too! Miracles still do happen, I believe.

Many blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Dave Armstrong said...

I think you sell yourself short. I greatly appreciate the fine-tuned, articulate analysis you bring to the table, mixed with an ever-present charitable demeanor. It is a rare pleasure to interact with a thinker of such high caliber and a gentleman as well. I don't care whether you know Greek or have a fancy theological degree or not. Neither do I. That doesn't mean we can't think and work through the issues.

Far too much emphasis is placed on that. I've studied theology intensively for over 30 years, with the aid of many fine teachers along the way: Protestant and Catholic. I think you have quite a few years of that, too.

I see no reason we shouldn't be able to have many many dialogues and to become even better friends in the process as well. In the past, when I thought I had some good dialogues going, the persons either split (I don't judge their reasons; they may be perfectly justified) or became angry and insulting.

So I was looking for someone, too, as of late, who enjoyed dialogue as much as I do, and who could do it without getting angry or defensive, etc. Looks like you are that guy, and I admire it.

And it puts the lie for the hundredth time or more to the (anti-Catholic) accusation that I am supposedly unable to engage in a normal dialogue with Protestants. I don't know what more I have to do to prove that this is false. Are hundreds of posted dialogues not sufficient? LOL Are scores and scores of nice compliments for Protestants (I collected a bunch of 'em on a page) of no import at all? It's only the anti-Catholics and liberals and radtrad Catholics that I have trouble with, and an occasional nasty, defensive atheist.

Esperu said...

"Therefore, the artificial, ultimately Donatist-influenced antithesis of spirit and matter is not a factor in the sense which you claim."

I think you both mean "Docetist," not "Donatist."

Dave Armstrong said...

Yep, I did. Thanks!

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Thank you. Not being fluent in ancient heresies, that easily slipped by me.

CrimsonCatholic said...

I've been too busy to do much commenting, but let me echo Dave's commendation of Pilgrimsarbour for his civility and modesty. I would also agree that for whatever lack of experience you have, Pilgrimsarbour, you more than compensate in care and attention, something that many people with more experience think they don't have to exercise.