Saturday, August 15, 2009

John 6 (Eucharist): the Plausibility of Literal Interpretation, Based on Extensive Analogical Cross-Referencing and Insufficient Counter-Arguments



John 6:47-66 (RSV) “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. [48] I am the bread of life. [49] Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. [50] This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. [51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [52] The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” [53] So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; [54] he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. [55] For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. [56] He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. [57] As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. [58] This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” [59] This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper'na-um. [60] Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” [61] But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? [62] Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? [63] It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. [64] But there are some of you that do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. [65] And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”[66] After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.


One Protestant argument against the literal interpretation of John 6 is to claim that Jesus’ contrast of “flesh” and “spirit” in 6:63 establishes the symbolic and metaphorical nature of the whole discourse. But when the words “flesh” and “spirit” are opposed to each other in the New Testament, it is always a figurative use, in the sense of sinful human nature (“flesh”) contrasted with humanity enriched by God's grace (“spirit”):


Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Romans 7:5-6,25 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. [6] But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit. . . . [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.


Romans 8:1-14 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. [3] For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, [4] in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [5] For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; [8] and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. [9] But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. [10] But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. [11] If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you. [12] So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh -- [13] for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

1 Corinthians 5:5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?

Galatians 4:29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now.

Galatians 5:13-26 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. [14] For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." [15] But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. [16] But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. [18] But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, [21] envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. [24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [26] Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another.

1 Peter 3:18 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;

1 Peter 4:6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God.

In other words, Jesus is saying that His words can only be received by men endowed with supernatural grace.

Note also that Jesus did not explain or elaborate upon what He meant when some disciples “murmured” (6:61). It is the only recorded instance (other than Judas) of any of His disciples ceasing to follow Him. The plausible reason is because He knew that they were questioning and would not have accepted any further explanation anyway. We
know this from the hard evidence of John 6:64: “’But there are some of you that do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.”

Jesus often noted hardness of heart leading to unbelief:

Matthew 13:13,19 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. . . . [19] When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path.

Luke 5:21-22 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, "Who is this that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?" [22] When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, "Why do you question in your hearts?

John 8:27,43-47 They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. . . . [43] Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. [44] You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. [45] But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. [46] Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? [47] He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."

John 12:37-40 Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; [38] it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" [39] Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, [40] "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them."


Despite this, the counter-argument to the straightforward Catholic interpretation of Real Presence in this passage is that it was purely a symbolic, metaphorical discourse, which the disciples misunderstood, causing some of them to forsake Jesus (6:66). But this makes no sense, because Jesus certainly would have explained what He meant in order to clear up the misunderstanding (and the abandonment), rather than simply reiterate and emphasize the same point more and more strongly: as the passage records.

Moreover, in many other places in Scripture, Jesus explains His meaning when someone merely is
uncomprehending (as opposed to willfully disbelieving). A typical example of this occurs in John 3:1-15: the incident with Nicodemus regarding the meaning of “born again”. Nicodemus asks: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (3:4). Jesus explains His meaning (3:5-8). Nicodemus, still baffled, again asks: “How can this be?” (3:9). Jesus replied: “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this?” (3:10) and then proceeds to explain some more (3:11-15). He explained because He knew that Nicodemus was truly seeking. When someone wasn't seeking or open in their spirit, He usually (if not always) would not do so, as in John 6. Here are further examples:

Matthew 13:36,51 And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” . . . [51] “Have you understood all this?” They said to him, “Yes.”
Matthew 15:10-20 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: [11] not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” [12] Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” [13] He answered, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. [14] Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” [15] But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” [16] And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? [17] Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? [18] But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. [19] For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. [20] These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (cf. Mk 7:17-18)
Matthew 16:5-12 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. [6] Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sad'ducees.” [7] And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” [8] But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? [9] Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? [10] Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? [11] How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sad'ducees.” [12] Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sad'ducees.
Matthew 17:9-13 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.” [10] And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Eli'jah must come?” [11] He replied, “Eli'jah does come, and he is to restore all things; [12] but I tell you that Eli'jah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.” [13] Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
Matthew 19:24-26 “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” [25] When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” [26] But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Mark 4:33-34 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; [34] he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

Therefore, He would have in John 6 if a misunderstanding were involved, rather than a hardhearted disbelief, brought on by the influence of Satan.

Luke 8:9-11 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, [10] he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. [11] Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.”

Jesus continued explaining in 8:12-15.

Luke 9:46-48 And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. [47] But when Jesus perceived the thought of their hearts, he took a child and put him by his side, [48] and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
Luke 24:13-27 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emma'us, about seven miles from Jerusalem, [14] and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. [15] While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. [16] But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. [17] And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. [18] Then one of them, named Cle'opas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" [19] And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, [20] and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. [21] But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. [22] Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning [23] and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. [24] Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see." [25] And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! [26] Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" [27] And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
John 4:31-34 Meanwhile the disciples besought him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” [32] But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” [33] So the disciples said to one another, “Has any one brought him food?” [34] Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”
John 8:21-32 Again he said to them, “I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” [22] Then said the Jews, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” [23] He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. [24] I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” [25] They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Even what I have told you from the beginning. [26] I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” [27] They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. [28] So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. [29] And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” [30] As he spoke thus, many believed in him. [31] Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, [32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

In this instance, Jesus explained because He knew (in His omniscience) that some of the hearers would believe in Him, while others would not.

John 10:6-7 This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. [7] So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”

Jesus elaborated that
He was the “door”: key information that was not present in 10:1-5.

John 11:8-15 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” [9] Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. [10] But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” [11] Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, “Our friend Laz'arus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.” [12] The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” [13] Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. [14] Then Jesus told them plainly, “Laz'arus is dead; [15] and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
John 16:17-19,29-31 Some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” [18] They said, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he means.” [19] Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him; so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me? . . .” . . . [29] His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! [30] Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” [31] Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?”

50 comments:

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Hi Dave,

I'd like to ask a few questions and get your take on some things in John 6:47-66. Some of the questions are naturally redundant based on what is said in the text.

[47] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. [48] I am the bread of life.

The one who believes has eternal life. Is it necessary to believe that Jesus is literally corporeally present in the bread in order to attain eternal life?

[51] "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Does the word "flesh" here refer to the Eucharist?

[53] So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; [54] he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

Again, is this a direct reference to the Eucharist?

[58] "This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”

As above, will all those who partake of the Eucharist (in a believing way) be granted eternal life?

Thanks

Pat said...

Hi Dave,

Thanks for this post. I also would like to point to this sermon by Father Bob Barron which talks about the bread of life..

http://wordonfire.org/WOF-Radio/Sermons/2009/Sermon-447-bread-of-life-18th-sunday-ordinary-time.aspx

It is also quite interesting to note the portion of our Lord's prayer direct translation from Greek on "Give us this day our daily bread"

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Pilgrim,

Thanks for your questions.

(re: [47][48])

The one who believes has eternal life. Is it necessary to believe that Jesus is literally corporeally present in the bread in order to attain eternal life?

Jesus would seem to teach so in 6:53-58. But I think there are some subtleties as we apply this understanding to real life situations. For a treatment of this, see my paper:

"Questions and Answers on the Holy Eucharist"

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/02/questions-and-answers-on-holy-eucharist.html

(section IV)

re: v. 51 Does the word "flesh" here refer to the Eucharist?

We think so, though it probably has a double application, to the crucifixion as well. Catholics do distinguish between Jn 6:26-51 and 6:52 ff., with the latter portion becoming far more literal and "physical" and explicitly eucharistic.

re: v. 53 Again, is this a direct reference to the Eucharist?

Yes.

re: v. 58 As above, will all those who partake of the Eucharist (in a believing way) be granted eternal life?

I replied to this above. I think one can't make a hard and fast statement with no exceptions whatever. Neither life nor language works that way. Jesus is making a general correlation. But there are exceptions to nearly everything, and this is no different.

In any event, Christians who do not believe in the real, substantial, physical presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist do not help themselves spiritually, and put themselves in some peril, if we are to accept this passage as it reads.

David Charkowsky said...

I think this is an excellent example of how *incredibly* sensitive the interpretation of scripture is to the tradition of the person reading/hearing it.

I wonder how this text reads in cultures that are not so prone to thinking of all things "encapsulated". That is, in rigid either/or categories. For example, in a culture that celebrates the following formula:

Void is form
Form is void
Void is none other than form
and form is none other than void

...which I think has a remarkable parallel to the formula for the Trinity and is probably much closer to the tradition of the text than the tradition of most American readers.

Nevertheless, most Protestants accept the Trinity with no resistance whatsoever.

When it comes to Sacramentalism as an extension of the Incarnation, on the other hand...

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I would add here, as I have in another place, that I don't preclude the idea that Jesus is present spiritually in the eucharist.

Calvin was opposed to Luther's concept of the "ubiquitous body" of the resurrected Christ, and I also have argued against this. But Calvin firmly believed in Christ's spiritual presence (which he called "true presence" as opposed to the use of the term "real presence") in the bread and the wine, seeing this as a kind of middle ground between Luther and Rome.

The Reformed majority report today favours the memorial only concept, which is a move away from Calvin's position and one he did not like.

I'm much less certain about the memorial only concept. However, I need to spend more time in Scripture and church history study before commenting further.

Dave Armstrong said...

Do you have any exegetical counter-arguments to what I presented above? I'd love to see any Protestant do that, point-by-point. I won't hold my breath, though. :-)

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Hi Dave,

Two things:

First, bless God that I have been very busy with work, as the summer season is typically quite slow for me. More work means more money. You know how that goes. So I haven't had the time I'd like to have online.

Second, I confess to having been somewhat distracted by a commenter on my blog who is challenging the Reformed understanding of the purpose of parables. One of his arguments is that I am not representing the Reformed perspective at all. So you can imagine that I had to back up quite a bit and "prove" that I am, in fact, "in line" with Reformed teaching.

This is a rabbit trail from the John 6 passage, but I thought I should address it just the same.

I regret if you're feeling a bit frustrated since you have put so much into your post. But if you will be patient with me, I will get back to addressing the John 6 passage on a point-by-point basis with you. I promise to do as much with it as my limited time and knowledge will allow.

Best in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Dave,

It just occured to me that perhaps you have not seen my recent post on my blog as a response to your questions. Did you get a chance to see it? I probably should have told you about it. My bad. I wouldn't call it a verse-by-verse exegesis, but I think I hit on at least some of your points.

Anyway, let's see if that answers at least some of your questions. If I need to clarify more, let me know and we'll go verse-by-verse

Best,

Pilgrimsarbour

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi pilgrim,

I'm occupied with a project I have to get done, and so it'll be a few days (probably) before I can get back to this debate (but I will in due course). The post I'm gonna put up today is from that project (editing one of my books to be sold as an e-book) so it isn't fresh work!

Thanks for your patience.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Hi Dave,

I've been giving this some thought and was wondering how you (or the Catholic Church) sees this. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper to His disciples, was His body present in the Eucharist at the same time He was with them in the room? If not, then should we say that, at least at this initial offering, it was symbolic of what was to come after His death, resurrection and ascension?

Blessings,

Pilgrsimarbour

Randy said...

From Augustine:

"How this ['And he was carried in his own hands'] should be understood literally of David, we cannot discover; but we can discover how it is meant of Christ. FOR CHRIST WAS CARRIED IN HIS OWN HANDS, WHEN, REFERRING TO HIS OWN BODY, HE SAID: 'THIS IS MY BODY.' FOR HE CARRIED THAT BODY IN HIS HANDS." (Ennartiones on the Psalms 33:1:10)

from here

Dave Armstrong said...

Why is it that you assume that He could not be? Are you saying that the God Who took on human flesh; the God who is omnipresent and omnipotent, could not make Himself present in what has the outward appearance of bread and wine?

I don't see what grounds you would have to think this (except for metaphysical skepticism or suchlike). It's what I called in one of my papers "coulda would shoulda" theology.

OF COURSE God could do this. We believe in faith that He did, based on His words.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I never argue about what God could do. That's too speculative, and I'm not smart enough to know His mind that well. I'll stick with what God actually does, which continues to be problematic between the two communions since we have different interpretations.

Randy said...

Dave said,

Do you have any exegetical counter-arguments to what I presented above? I'd love to see any Protestant do that, point-by-point. I won't hold my breath, though. :-)


Then Pilgrimsarbour says

we have different interpretations.

Now you would not let Dave get away with this. If you made an case from scripture and he simply said "we have different interpretations" without actually giving reasons what would happen? I think we would hear a lot about how Catholics don't really take scripture seriously. Do you have an exegetical argument or do you not?

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi pilgrim,

Yes, but what I was driving at (in my typically socratic approach) was your underlying assumption. I was taking the analysis deeper: trying to get to the roots of the disagreement.

Implicit in your very query is the notion that it is implausible to believe that Jesus could be physically present in what was bread and wine while He was present as a human being, like you and I.

I and Catholics are saying that it is not based on the Bible that this perspective arises, but from a sort of skeptical, overly-rationalistic philosophy that limits the scope of the miraculous. I want to get behind what makes Protestants deny what the Church had always taught, and understand it from the inside out.

Historically, if we look at the rationales given, they clearly exhibit a loss of faith in the supernatural. That was certainly the case with Zwingli, who went beyond Calvin's view.

This is what I am arguing. Why do you even think that is a plausibility or a possibility, when we are dealing with the God of the Universe? The biblical eucharistic language is relentlessly "realist" in nature. I would strongly contend that symbolism and metaphor are artificially imposed upon these texts from prior philosophical hostility to traditional realism and literal interpretation (i.e., it is eisegesis). I don't see it in the texts themselves. Now, I agree that we all have our biases; In any event, I don't see it there, myself. It seems to me that both Jesus and Paul could scarcely have said anything more than they did say, to convey realism and the Real Presence. How much more blunt and direct could they possibly be? It doesn't say "represents" or "symolizes" or "is a sign of" ; it says "This IS My Body, "participation in the Body of Christ," etc. Realism . . .

And you have not even attempted to overcome my exegetical counter-arguments to your "parable" argument. I'm not requiring you to do so if you don't feel so inclined, or lack the time at the moment, but I would point out that if this poses a difficulty for your position, rightly considered, then you need to face that, if not publicly, then at least in your own mind. If you have no solid reply to what I said in response to you, then I think that is good reason to give you pause and to consider that perhaps Catholics are actually onto something, and have more biblical support than Protestant do regarding the Eucharist, or at least regarding the argument from the purpose and nature of parable. These were Jesus' disciples who forsook Him in John 6, and He didn't explain to them more fully, just as you argued that He always did. So I believe you have boxed yourself into a corner with your own argument.

As a conscientious thinker, as I know you are, does this not trouble or concern you?

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Dave,

Randy said...

Do you have an exegetical argument or do you not?

In spite of the fact that I've written 5 lengthy posts and answered commenters extensively from several NT and OT texts on topics related to John 6 dealing with the Eucharist, parables, analogies, metaphors, what the disciples knew, what the Jews understood, election, the reason for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the ubiquitous body question, etc., I'm still being charged with not having answered questions. I just have to throw my hands up in the air in wonder and let it go.

Dave said...

These were Jesus' disciples who forsook Him in John 6, and He didn't explain to them more fully, just as you argued that He always did.

First, not all who "followed" Jesus were true disciples, right? We know of the 12, but of others it's hard to say unless the Scriptures get specific. When the Spirit opens the eyes of some, they leave Him because the truth is horrid to them. Others continue with Jesus because they are the elect. Here is a comment I made regarding this:

Speaking of the gospel in my last comment above I said...

It is not clear to those who are perishing...

Sometimes it is all too clear and is completely rejected nonetheless. Hence, the greater the condemnation of that individual for the light he had been given and his abuse of the free gift of God's grace.


This poses no trouble for me in my argument. Some understand and leave Christ, and others never understand and will not follow. But the elect understand and follow Him.

I know Randy has read my posts because he comments on my blog. Why he thinks (and apparently you think) I haven't responded to you I'll never understand. However, I'll try one last time with a summary statement.

I do not believe Jesus meant us to understand that He is bodily present in the bread. I don't ask "could He be?" I ask, "was He?" Could Christ be in the bread physically? Of course it's possible, based on the very broad statement "God can do anything!" But you might as well say, "Could Jesus have meant that He was a wooden gate with hinges when He said 'I am the gate of the sheep?'" Using your logic, I would demand that you answer, just as you have demanded of me regarding the "Real Presence" in the bread, "Yes, Jesus could have been a wooden gate with hinges because all things are possible with God!."

Do you see that the question makes no sense and sheds no light on the issue at hand? Any failure to answer yes to the speculative question "could God do such and such" is some kind of "aha!" moment, apparently, in which the one failing to answer as the questioner demands is "faithless" in the face of the supernatural. It's rhetorical and sophistical, but it doesn't have any meaning. Your best approach is exegetical, the best of which has produced several good dialogues back and forth, in my view anyway.

So to me, "could He" is a nonsense question, that is, it is nonsensical based upon our own human intellectual limitations. We are not God, so we cannot know what is and is not possible for Him from our own intellectually limited viewpoint. Could God create a rock that's too heavy for Him to lift, etc.

"Did He" is the only question I'm interested in because it is the only question that we as human beings, due to His special revelation to us, can answer. No, I am not troubled. But I regret that I've apparently disappointed you somehow. This will no doubt be a non-answer as well.

Blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Dave Armstrong said...

I don't see how you have overcome my argument that it was "disciples" who left Him in John 6. You argued that Jesus explained His parables to His disciples, and think John 6 was a parable, yet He did NOT explain to these disciples what He meant.

Therefore, I conclude that it was not a parable to begin with. They rejected exactly what they knew He meant. That was indicated in the text, whereas your take is purely speculative.

This argument works even within a Calvinist presupposition that those who were called in Scripture "disciples" never were to begin with, because it is based upon what the text says: that He explained parables to disciples (independent of the question of whether some of them left later on or not). Thus your present line dismissing it simply on the grounds that they weren't disciples (even though the Bible said they were) is completely overcome, I submit, by my argument.

As I already said, a lot of these mysterious things were explained to Judas, too, as one of the 12, and he left. Thus, the same would apply to the disciples in John 6, whether they were of the elect or not. This question is logically distinct from the "truly elect vs. wolves" question.

Beyond that, I think it is best to let this be, since nothing fresh is being produced and stuff is now being rehashed. That's the biggest indicator that a dialogue has exhausted its usefulness.

I'm "disappointed" only insofar as I thought we were getting to the heart of the issue, where it is the most fun to discuss, but it seems to have stopped dead in its tracks with no further progression forward in another round. To me, those are the best parts of debates: counter-arguments vs. counter-arguments back and forth, to a third, fourth, fifth round. But it is a rare occurrence.

Whatever the reasons: from you, from me, whether all relevant points were hit and we're spinning our wheels, boredom, fundamental disagreement on various premises leading to an impasse; whatever it is, can't we at least agree that the dialogue has not moved ahead? It's done with. There is a sense in which both parties can agree on that, whoever they think got the upper hand (and of course we all think our own argument is the best one), just call it a day and move on to something else.

Both sides are here on my blog for all to see and make up their own mind. And that is what I am about: let the readers use their judgment and decide.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Therefore, I conclude that it was not a parable to begin with.

Again, repeating myself from my previous comment on my blog:

I said Jesus is teaching the crowds using parabolic language to describe a spiritual reality, not that John 6 is itself a parable like the prodigal son or the lost sheep or something. Even those who believe in transubstantiation believe that the Eucharist is a spiritual reality as well as a physical one. Don't you?

They rejected exactly what they knew He meant.

And again I commented:

Sometimes it is all too clear and is completely rejected nonetheless. Hence, the greater the condemnation of that individual for the light he had been given and his abuse of the free gift of God's grace. This poses no trouble for me in my argument. Some understand and leave Christ, and others never understand and will not follow. But the elect understand and follow Him.

I don't even know what we're arguing about, unless you're arguing against the Reformed understanding of election. Beyond that, you've lost me.

Whatever the reasons: from you, from me, whether all relevant points were hit and we're spinning our wheels, boredom, fundamental disagreement on various premises leading to an impasse; whatever it is, can't we at least agree that the dialogue has not moved ahead? It's done with. There is a sense in which both parties can agree on that, whoever they think got the upper hand (and of course we all think our own argument is the best one), just call it a day and move on to something else.

You're preaching to the choir! Of course the dialogue hasn't moved ahead. I've been saying this for awhile but no one is listening. After repeating myself over and over, I admit to some frustration. My goal is clarity over agreement, but it seems that we have achieved neither. Yet I am continually challenged by commenters here and on my own blog who ask the same questions over and over again. Either they don't understand my answers or they don't like them. In either case, as I have nothing further to add, I agree with you that there's nothing wrong in just saying that this discussion is at a close for us and leave it at that.

Dave Armstrong said...

My goal is clarity over agreement, but it seems that we have achieved neither.

I disagree. I think it was a great discussion. I enjoyed it. I think it'll be helpful for both sides to better understand what it is they believe and the nature of the opposing position.

Randy said...

I agree it was a good discussion. I do think we misunderstood each other a few times. But such is life. I did read your 4 posts but you admitted they were tangents. I didn't think you saw that as an exegetic argument. Maybe you do.

As far as "parabolic language" goes, what is that based on? Every analysis of the Greek I have read say the language is graphic and literal. There is nothing in the language itself to suggest a figurative interpretation. In fact, objective linguistic criteria suggest the opposite.

Do you just say it is parabolic because you don't like the literal interpretation or is there more to it? Certainly the evidence of the text is that people took him literally. Several groups reacted and nobody seemed to see it as parabolic in the least. John does not add any commentary to let us know that Jesus didn't really mean that. Early church fathers don't seem to read it that way. On what basis does one declare this to be parabolic?

Dave Armstrong said...

I say it is a prior philosophical basis that entails a certain antipathy to matter as a conveyor of grace from the outset. I truly think that is the root of this non-realistic Protestant eucharistic thought.

Protestants like things to stay all neat and tidy in the spirit realm. The incarnation and crucifixion don't fit too well into that schema, so they like to stress that Jesus is now glorified in heaven and that the unpleasantness of His death is all over with. In one (historical) sense it is, but in another it is an ongoing reality. It transcends time. Hence, the "slain lamb" in the Revelation accounts.

Back to the physical and sacramental again . . .

Dave Armstrong said...

And by the way, I speak from personal experience: my own past views. I thought that spirit was superior to matter, and that a realism in the Eucharist was a primitive, inferior view that was a step down from the pure spiritual realities. Baptism and communion were mere symbols. I was a good low church evangelical Protestant (in terms of sacraments).

This showed Docetic and ultimately Gnostic influence. Catholics, on the other hand, stress that matter was raised to a far greater dignity with the Incarnation.

Ben M said...

Protestants like things to stay all neat and tidy in the spirit realm. The incarnation and crucifixion don't fit too well into that schema…

Exactly!

Protestantism hopelessly fails to grasp the meaning of the Incarnation. The sad fact is that, for our Protestant brethren, the Incarnation may just as well never have happened!

But why do I say this? Consider a few excerpts from a short article entitled:

THE CHURCH: EXTENSION OF THE INCARNATION.

The community of the Church is not just a human community like any other, not even like any other religious community, which is the way sociology considers things, i.e., with reason only prescinding completely from the reality of the Divine. If one considers the Church just as an historical phenomenon from that pov, ONE DOESN'T EVEN HAVE TO BE A BELIEVER AND ONE WILL UNDERSTAND NOTHING IMPORTANT ABOUT THE CHURCH AS IT REALLY IS ...

THE REALITY OF THE CHURCH IS ALREADY COMPLETELY PRESENT IN CAUSE IN THE INCARNATION. The Divine Word unites humanity to Himself in a qualitative sense and is the True Adam of the human race. He extends this redeemed personal humanity, i.e., extends Himself as Incarnate at Pentecost into the New Creation of the Church objectively infused with His own Divine Trinitarian Life of the Holy Spirit, making it His Mystical Body so as to form one Mystical Person....

Now we can not expect a non-Catholic to see things this way, since they don't have the supernatural power of Divine Faith infused into the mind by grace with its laser-like vision that gets to the supernatural reality in the Church, but one can expect Catholics to, especially when this supernatural vision of the Church is explained to them. …

Now to the outsider considering by reason alone the Church as a societal phenomenon like any other social group, those without this "knowledge of faith" simply do not see the reality of Christ-Church as supernatural in nature and source and go by appearances and conclude the Church erred, the Church persecuted, etc.. But that is not the Truth. The individual erred, persecuted….

The Church is the prolongation of Christ's mediatorial nature and work and possesses a knowledge that comes by faith; she lives objectively (in her institution and her sacraments) and subjectively (in her saints and, fundamentally, in all her members) in the interchange between heaven and earth.


The Church: Extension of the Incarnation.

Ben M said...
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Randy said...

I wonder about that. Luther had an ecclesiastic problem. He had no bishops. So if he held to the real presence then he would need validly ordained priests. With no bishops his church would be doomed. I think this influenced the reformers thinking on the issue a lot.

As for today, the doctrine is simply right. A protestant Lord's Supper is not really Jesus -body, blood, soul, and divinity. A protestant church is not more than a human organization. So their experience conforms with their theology. All you have is a few pesky verses.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Greetings Dave,

And by the way, I speak from personal experience: my own past views. I thought that spirit was superior to matter, and that a realism in the Eucharist was a primitive, inferior view that was a step down from the pure spiritual realities.

This showed Docetic and ultimately Gnostic influence.


You have developed an interesting theory to explain why people like me just can't (or won't, as you might say) see the things that are so obvious to you. That's fine. You seem to have a sincere felt need to do that, so I don't judge you for it.

I think it's a mistake, however, to bring your own subjective experience into the mix and project that onto another personality. I have no thoughts or beliefs such as "spirit is superior to matter," or that the RCC idea of the Eucharist is a "primitive, inferior view." Everything God created (for the purpose of our discussion here, particularly matter) He declared "good." Of course, we speak of that time before the fall of man.

All Reformed Christians have a very highly developed biblical concept of the resurrection of the body. The consummation of all nature and creation at the end of time is very physical, literal and real. We all believe this. We will live forever in glorified physical bodies which are in some measure like our present earthly bodies. Jesus demonstrated this to us with His own resurrection. He is the model, the type for that which is to come to all true believers wherever they may be found.

If you were not a part of a Reformed fellowship previously, this may not have been well taught. I think you know of my annoyance (and worse) at what passes for theology in the non-Reformed Evangelical Protestant world today. And if you were Reformed previously, then you were merely mistaken. No Reformed confession ever made such an antipathy between matter and spirit. I can't speak to the occasional individual viewpoint, if any.

No. I think your assessment is unwarranted. I just don't buy it. Maybe it was true for you, but that has never been, nor ever will be, true for me. It may be true of someone else somewhere, but I doubt very much that a Reformed believer would ever look at things that way. I've never known one who has.

Best as always in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Dave Armstrong said...

It might be mere projection if it was just me, but I was by no means unique in terms of Protestantism.

I think we see it all over the place in Protestantism: the Puritanistic antipathy to even moral sexuality, the fundamentalist frowning upon dancing, even music, iconoclasm (which was certainly rampant in Calvinist circles), the extreme aversion to statues and things of that sort (the early Calvinists even smashed stained glass, organs, and statues of Christ), the secularization of marriage so that it is no longer sacramental: the hostility towards crucifixes because Jesus is still on the cross: the horror of relics, the quick recourse to charges of idolatry of the Catholic Mass because we believe in transubstantiation (Calvin mocked Luther for being "half-papist" and an advocate of idolatry because of his belief in the Real Presence, the adoption of a purely symbolic Eucharist and baptism in many circles.

On and on it goes.

Perhaps your brand of Reformdom does relatively better in many of these respects, but I still maintain that this viewpoint is quite prevalent in Protestantism considered as a whole.

Dave Armstrong said...

Why don't we flip it around, though. If you think Real Substantial Presence is so clearly wrong and not indicated in Scripture at all, why is it, in your opinion, why the Church Fathers were unanimous in espousing it? Why couldn't they see what you see there? How did that come about? What is your theory? If you ponder that, I think you'll have an opinion about why we believe as we do, just as we have an opinion on the deeper causes for Protestant departures from previous orthodoxy.

Dave Armstrong said...

I should have added to my list above the denigration of Christmas, too, in the Puritanistic mentality. I've argued with Calvinists today who believe that.

Ben M said...
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Pilgrimsarbour said...

Dave,

As I said, your theory is interesting. However, it has no bearing on what I believe nor on what any other Reformed person I know believes.

Let me see if I can explain what has happened here.

You have developed a theory in which you seem quite confident. I've seen you state it in other posts and comments as well. Others commenting here have either adopted your views or have their own similar theories. Now, in spite of everything I've said to the contrary about what I and other Reformed people believe, this theory is still insisted upon. This is a straw man argument; attributing beliefs to someone which are not their own, and then tearing them down.

This cuts both ways. For example, I could insist that Catholics worship statues, and proceed to say why that is a horrid thing. Now you would undoubtedly say to me, "Not only do we not worship statues, but we do not worship the Saint depicted by the image of the statue." It would be incumbent upon me to correct my previous statement in order to represent your views fairly, would it not? But instead, if I say, in effect, "I have no interest in what you tell me about what you believe. You worship statues, and that is that." Would I not be a wretched person for slandering you in such a way when you specifically denied my premise? My assertions become the arbiter of everything you believe, rather than what you tell me you believe. "If I say it, it must be so" is the end result. (By the way, let's not get off track about whether this example of images actually happens to Catholics or not. I know it does, but that is not the point I'm making with my analogy).

Likewise, when commenters here tell me that I hate matter and love spirit, or some such nonsense, and relate it to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus whom I love, and I tell you that I have no such beliefs, and yet they continue to assert these things, am I not the victim of a lie? I am, just as surely as my straw man argument about statues would victimize you. It is, in fact, morally wrong and a sin to continue to attribute beliefs to someone when once they have demonstrated those assertions to be false. This, of course, assumes a basic agreement on theological definitions and so forth, but I'm sure you understand what I mean.

I'm not going to develop theories about the motivations of Catholics whose practices I think are off track. I'm not against theories in general about theological issues, but I do think that my opponent's denial of my theory regarding his beliefs and motivations should put that part of the matter to rest. It's fine if the discussion continues, but it must be done fairly and in good faith. Both communions should expect no less from each other.

And now, I'm going to bed after a fun day with the family at the Franklin Institute. As for Calvin, the Puritans and all the other things you mentioned, I am not those people, and I'm not convinced they've been portrayed rightly.

Regarding the "unanimous consent" of the church fathers, I would have to check on that. If I come up with something a church father said that disputes your claim of unanimous consent, we can talk some more. And if I don't, then we'll talk some more!

Either way, I remain as always your crazy Calvinist friend,

Pilgrimsarbour

Ben M said...
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Dave Armstrong said...

I'm not saying you necessarily believe this, or that it motivates you, so it is not slander. I'm talking about possible background factors that contribute to the way that Protestants think, and I am generalizing. You say you don't denigrate matter, fine. So you don't.

But you may have taken in various viewpoints that have that perspective as their premise. We all are influenced subtly by things we may not even be aware of.

You generalize yourself. You are doing no differently than I am doing. You pass by my challenge as to why the early Church believed in the Real Presence as if this is some mystery (it's very well known; consult, e.g., J.N.D. Kelly's book on patristics, or Philip Schaff). Then you make out that if you find one or two who believe as you do, then the unanimity would be nullified. Even if you can find one or two, big wow. So that discussion goes nowhere; but it is very relevant.

I think it is extremely important that a person who claims that the Bible is clearly against Real Presence, has some theory as to how and why the entire early Church got this wrong. What in the world happened there? Many of your comrades adopt a mass apostasy as the explanation, for this very reason, because they can see all the "Catholic" stuff that we see in the actual history.

You have to have some explanation for that, it seems to me, if you want to take Christian history seriously (as I think you do).

Ben M said...
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Randy said...

It is hard to analyze a person's motives. I have an uncle who is gay. He has joined a church in Holland that says homosexual acts are OK. They have biblical arguments so he claims he is just following the scripture. I am sure he is sincere in that those arguments sound good to him. But why do they sound good to him? Any outside observer can see that his sexual behavior and the gay culture around it has influenced his judgment big time. But he can't see that. He just sees traditional Christians as bigots.

This is a real defect in Sola Scriptura. It cannot break unconscious errors. It relies on the person's judgment to be intact or at least for them to know they can't trust their own judgment. But it is just not the case. People are influenced by others without know it all the time. The history of philosophy is nothing but the study of those thought streams. To say they don't effect exegesis is just untenable. To say they don't effect YOUR exegesis is just denial. But you have to live in this denial or Sola Scriptura collapses.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Dave,

You said...

You pass by my challenge as to why the early Church believed in the Real Presence as if this is some mystery...

Again, as I have stated already (and find it necessary to repeat again):

Regarding the "unanimous consent" of the church fathers, I would have to check on that.

When I say I have to check on it, I mean that no answer is forthcoming from me until I do some research, your continuing requests for immediate responses from me notwithstanding. I am aware that the weight of Church history favours the Real Presence understanding. If I find some who disagree with the Real Presence theory, then all I ask, for the sake of clarity, is that you cease using the term "unanimous consent of the fathers" and adopt the more accurate term "consensus" or "majority view," if you prefer. After all, the majority view was against Athanasius. Reformed folks see that event as God's intervention in the life of Athanasius to preserve His Church when "all the world" was against him. If we had acquiesced to the Church then without disputation from the Scriptures, especially John 1:1-2, who knows where we would be today? Undoubtedly some kind of Reformation would have happened anyway, but perhaps with different emphases.

So can the consensus of the Church be wrong? Of course. There's no question about it. It's not even up for debate. This is not even to mention all the heresies rampant in the very days of the apostles themselves with which they had to contend. The Scriptures are replete with such descriptions. Galatians alone is a battle plan for fighting heresy.

I would hasten to add, however, that when you say this:

...a person who claims that the Bible is clearly against Real Presence...

I am not certain it is clear at all. As I said before I will say again: I do not believe that Jesus meant for us to understand Him that way. This is quite a different statement to "the Bible is clearly against Real Presence," a statement I have never made. In fact, I allow that you could be right while I continue to think that you are not. Though I have written vigourously in defence of my position, and expect to continue to do so, I have never said that your position is impossible. I believe it to be highly unlikely.

Best,

Pilgrimsarbour

Dave Armstrong said...

OK, cool.

The term "unanimous consent" in the original Latin does not mean "absolutely every one," as we define it today but "overwhelming consensus."

But if any doctrine qualifies for a consensus with virtually no exceptions in the fathers it is Real Presence (not transubstantiation, which is a development of that).

Pilgrimsarbour said...

But if any doctrine qualifies for a consensus with virtually no exceptions in the fathers it is Real Presence (not transubstantiation, which is a development of that).

Ah, that is a very important distinction. I need to understand the difference between "Real Presence" and transubstantiation; I haven't separated them in my mind, but I would be more open to some kind of "Real Presence" than transubstantiation, myself.

siemprefiel said...

Maybe “another voice” might help pilgrimsarbor grasp the distinction between "real presence" and "transubstantiation" as used by Dave.

"Real presence" is the "what" - the Catholic and Orthodox belief that Our Lord is present in the Eucharistic species not in a figurative way, but literally ("realiter ac substantialiter" according to the Council of Trent, AD 1551, Session XIII, Decree on the Eucharist, chapter 1).

Absent a conversion to Catholicism or Orthodoxy, there must be a very serious confusion in terms if pilgrimsarbor can accept the "real presence" in the Eucharist.

"Transubstantiation" is the "how" - the change accomplished at the consecration during Mass (as explained by the Council of Trent in chapter 4 of the Decree on the Eucharist).

St. John Chrysostom and St. Ambrose (contemporaries, and two of the greatest Doctors of the Church - one from the East and one from the West) are witnesses that the change in the material substance of the bread and wine was well understood more than eleven hundred years before Trent: Chrysostom says that God’s power and grace "transforms the things offered", and Ambrose says it "change(s) their nature".

See, on this: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) #1373-1381, esp. at 1375 where the quotes mentioned above are given with fuller context and references.

Ben M said...
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Dave Armstrong said...

GREAT comments, guys! Thanks.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Yes. The Catholic use of "Real Presence," I suspect, is confusing to Protestants.

I'm starting to understand better now. I've been doing some reading. For example, Calvin believed in what he called the "True Presence" of Christ in the elements, which term he used to distinguish from "Real Presence." By this he meant that Christ was spiritually present but not present in body. To Calvin, the bread and wine are no less instruments of grace in that regard because of His spiritual presence; a spiritual presence of Christ is no less "real" than a bodily presence.

This concept seems biblically plausible to me. It's not a question of what is possible for God, but rather what the biblical text is likely telling us.

My understanding now is that if I should accept the idea of the "Real Presence" according to Catholic thought, I would have to embrace transubstantiation. So I currently cannot subscribe to the "Real Presence" in the RCC sense.

Dave Armstrong said...

According to Catholic dogma, yes, they go together.

But a non-Catholic Christian could accept Real Presence and not transubstantiation by following the Orthodox, Lutheran, and some Anglican models.

siemprefiel said...

I do not think Dave intended to imply any divergence in essentials between Catholic and Orthodox belief in the literal reality of Christ's physical and spiritual presence in the Eucharistic species.

While it is true that Orthodox tradition declines to speculate as to the "how" of the Mystery of the Eucharistic presence, the term "metousiosis" (meaning "transubstantiation) was deployed in refuting Calvinistic doctrines in the 17th century, and it remains in use.

See Decree 17 of the Confession of Dositheus adopted by the pan-Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem (1672) where we find:-

". . . the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord . . ."

(the full English translation can be accessed at, e.g., http://www.crivoice.org/creeddositheus.html).

The very proliferation of terms in the Decree demonstrates, however, that the particular term "transubstantiation" is not regarded as a dogmatic definition by the Orthodox.

Randy said...

Do you understand the distinctions St Thomas drew in terms of incidents and accidents? That was helpful for me. I did have an understanding of the Eucharist in terms like Calvin's. Once I understood fully St Thomas' language I didn't have a problem there either.

As the to conditions under which this change occurs. That I struggled with more. The idea that the criteria had to be knowable and therefore could not be spiritual. That went against my protestant druthers. But it is practical. How can we "Do this in rememberance of me" if we don't have an objective thing to do?

siemprefiel said...

Since the term "true presence" has now been introduced, it is as well to say that Catholics believe in the true presence of Christ in, for instance:

His Word; each praying community gathered in His Name; the poor and afflicted; and the person of the consecrated priest (CCC #1373, quoting scriptural authority as well as the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, n.7).

The Eucharistic Presence is also "true" (Jn.6:55), but the mode is unique in being not only spiritual (and yes, a spiritual presence is a real presence) but substantial, full, whole and entire (Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity).

Pope Paul VI said of this Eucharistic Presence that, when the Church calls it "real", she does so "not to exclude the idea that the others are 'real' too, but rather to indicate presence par excellence" (Encyclical, Mysterium fidei, 1965, #39).

At some stage, of course, rational analysis has to cease, because the Eucharist is the sublime Mystery of Faith.

Pope Paul VI (op. cit., at #17) approvingly quoted St. John Chrysostom to this effect:-

"Let us submit to God in all things and not contradict Him, even if what He says seems to contradict our reason and intellect; let His word prevail over our reason and intellect.

"Let us act in this way with regard to the Eucharistic mysteries, and not limit our attention just to what can be perceived by the senses, but instead hold fast to His words. For His word cannot deceive."

This very pointedly returns us to Jn.6:53-56.

Ben M said...
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Joshua Bennier said...

Hey Dave, or anyone else for that matter,
I have a question about this post, hopefully someone will respond even though the post is old. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shack, and I don't understand how the middle section fits in the argument. I see how John 6:47-66 sets the context for the argument. I can also see how everything after "...hardness of heart leading to unbelief:" supports the Catholic interpretation. I am confused by the verses between "humanity enriched by God's grace ("spirit"):" and "In other words...". I'm very used to the practice of stating your opponents argument before proposing your own, so are these verses supporting the Protestant position? If they are supporting the Catholic position, how?

Are the verses meant to demonstrate a contrast between a nature that produces sin (whether in the form of physical or mental acts) and a nature that produces righteousness (whether in the form of physical or mental acts). Is the first nature described "of the flesh" merely rhetorically, signifying the connection between humanity (which is characterized by flesh) and sin. Is the nature described "of the spirit" because it comes from the holy spirit, or because rebirth has no outward physical signs like our first births?

Anyways, any help on this is greatly appreciated.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Joshua,

Read the paragraph before those passages very carefully.

What I'm arguing is that the Protestant attempted contrast between "flesh and spirit" in John 6 (to try to prove symbolism) doesn't work because elsewhere (massively) in Scripture it has a distinct meaning that is contrary to how it is attempted to be used in John 6.

"Spirit" in John 6 does not refer to a supposedly symbolic or non-substantial Eucharist.

Dave Armstrong said...

"Flesh" in the verses I produced refers to the old nature or sinful propensity: in the sense of how Christians say we are warring against "the world, the flesh, and the devil."

This is how "spirit" and "flesh" are contrasted also in John 6: not in a way to somehow say (as Gnostics would) that "flesh" (meaning, physical flesh) is "bad" and "spirit" good.