Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,17:30-37) [Eucharist: Types of "Presence" / St. Augustine / Adoration / The Temple / Idolatry]

See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

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Book IV

CHAPTER 17

OF THE LORD’S SUPPER, AND THE BENEFITS CONFERRED BY IT.

30. Ubiquity refuted by various arguments.

Granting what they absurdly talk of the invisible presence,

This makes the many scriptural references (I found eleven) to Christ "in" us or among us or "all in all" also absurd. If Calvin wants to attack the Bible, so be it. But it is the Bible he is differing with, not some novel Catholic interpretation of the Bible. He is the innovator, not us.

it will still be necessary to prove the immensity, without which it is vain to attempt to include Christ under the bread. Unless the body of Christ can be everywhere without any boundaries of space, it is impossible to believe that he is hid in the Supper under the bread.

The Catholic position doesn't entail a "bodily omnipresence"; only a local presence in many places. Calvin continues to provide no solid grounds of refutation.

Hence, they have been under the necessity of introducing the monstrous dogma of ubiquity.

Ubiquity itself is a Lutheran error, and not a Catholic doctrine (as noted in past installments). It holds that Jesus is omnipresent even in His Human Nature.

But it has been demonstrated by strong and clear passages of Scripture, first, that it is bounded by the dimensions of the human body; and, secondly, that its ascension into heaven made it plain that it is not in all places, but on passing to a new one, leaves the one formerly occupied.

These arbitrary limitations of an omnipotent God have all been dealt with many times now in this reply to Book IV of The Institutes and refuted in many different ways, in my opinion. Calvin repeats the same old weak arguments over and over. I need not repeat myself ad nauseum, too.

The promise to which they appeal, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world,” is not to be applied to the body.

Correct, but Calvin also asked where there was one syllable in the Bible about an invisible presence of Jesus, and this is one.

First, then, a perpetual connection with Christ could not exist, unless he dwells in us corporeally, independently of the use of the Supper;

How does that follow? This is more of Calvin's odd reasoning.

and, therefore, they have no good ground for disputing so bitterly concerning the words of Christ, in order to include him under the bread in the Supper. Secondly, the context proves that Christ is not speaking at all of his flesh, but promising the disciples his invincible aid to guard and sustain them against all the assaults of Satan and the world.

I don't see how that passage excludes any eucharistic sense whatever. It might very well include that as well as the non-material indwelling.

For, in appointing them to a difficult office, he confirms them by the assurance of his presence, that they might neither hesitate to undertake it, nor be timorous in the discharge of it; as if he had said, that his invincible protection would not fail them. Unless we would throw everything into confusion, must it not be necessary to distinguish the mode of presence?

No.

And, indeed, some, to their great disgrace, choose rather to betray their ignorance than give up one iota of their error. I speak not of Papists, whose doctrine is more tolerable, or at least more modest;

About as close to a compliment that Calvin ever gives to Catholics . . .

but some are so hurried away by contention as to say, that on account of the union of natures in Christ, wherever his divinity is, there his flesh, which cannot be separated from it, is also; as if that union formed a kind of medium of the two natures, making him to be neither God nor man. So held Eutyches, and after him Servetus. But it is clearly gathered from Scripture that the one person of Christ is composed of two natures, but so that each has its peculiar properties unimpaired. That Eutyches was justly condemned, they will not have the hardihood to deny. It is strange that they attend not to the cause of condemnation—viz. that destroying the distinction between the natures, and insisting only on the unity of person, he converted God into man and man into God. What madness, then, is it to confound heaven with earth, sooner than not withdraw the body of Christ from its heavenly sanctuary?

What madness is it to confine Jesus to heaven? Where is that ever stated in Scripture?

In regard to the passages which they adduce, “No man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13); “The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18), they betray the same stupidity, scouting the communion of properties (idiomatum, κοινωνίαν), which not without reason was formerly invented by holy Fathers. Certainly when Paul says of the princes of this world that they “crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8), he means not that he suffered anything in his divinity, but that Christ, who was rejected and despised, and suffered in the flesh, was likewise God and the Lord of glory. In this way, both the Son of man was in heaven because he was also Christ; and he who, according to the flesh, dwelt as the Son of man on earth, was also God in heaven. For this reason, he is said to have descended from heaven in respect of his divinity, not that his divinity quitted heaven to conceal itself in the prison of the body, but because, although he filled all things, it yet resided in the humanity of Christ corporeally, that is, naturally, and in an ineffable manner. There is a trite distinction in the schools which I hesitate not to quote. Although the whole Christ is everywhere, yet everything which is in him is not everywhere.

This section, that contradicts other aspects of Calvin's argument, was dealt with in my installment on IV, 17:29 in the same context as other similar passages elsewhere in The Institutes.

I wish the Schoolmen had duly weighed the force of this sentence, as it would have obviated their absurd fiction of the corporeal presence of Christ.

What Jesus teaches; what the apostles and fathers and Schoolmen and Doctors of the Church taught, is not an absurd fiction. Calvin's denial on arbitrary and unreasonable grounds is that.

Therefore, while our whole Mediator is everywhere, he is always present with his people, and in the Supper exhibits his presence in a special manner; yet so, that while he is wholly present, not everything which is in him is present, because, as has been said, in his flesh he will remain in heaven till he come to judgment.

More as-yet-unestablished and unfounded conclusions . . .

31. The imaginary presence of Transubstantiators, Consubstantiators, and Ubiquitists, contrasted with the orthodox doctrine.

They are greatly mistaken in imagining that there is no presence of the flesh of Christ in the Supper, unless it be placed in the bread. They thus leave nothing for the secret operation of the Spirit, which unites Christ himself to us.

And that is supposed to make more sense? Christ's flesh is somehow present by "the secret operation of the Spirit" but couldn't possibly be under the appearance of bread? If the former is possible, why not the latter? Jesus said nothing about this notion of Calvin's, but He did explicitly teach that what was bread would somehow become His actual Body.

Christ does not seem to them to be present unless he descends to us, as if we did not equally gain his presence when he raises us to himself.

But we are not really bodily present in heaven. For Calvin, that is possible during Holy Communion, but it is not possible for Jesus to be bodily present again on the earth in a eucharistic fashion. We can only magically travel up to heaven: Calvin finds this ultra-odd scenario quite plausible. Perhaps we Catholics can be forgiven if we do not.

The only question, therefore, is as to the mode, they placing Christ in the bread, while we deem it unlawful to draw him down from heaven. Which of the two is more correct, let the reader judge.

I'm very happy to let the reader judge: especially now that both sides can be considered side-by-side, rather than Calvin's position alone being presented.

Only have done with the calumny that Christ is withdrawn from his Supper if he lurk not under the covering of bread. For seeing this mystery is heavenly, there is no necessity to bring Christ on the earth that he may be connected with us.

We don't "bring" Christ anywhere: He decides where He wants to go and how He wants to be present.

32. The nature of our Saviour’s true presence explained. The mode of it incomprehensible.

Now, should any one ask me as to the mode, I will not be ashamed to confess that it is too high a mystery either for my mind to comprehend or my words to express; and to speak more plainly, I rather feel than understand it.

Then why does he go on and on if he himself admits that he can't "comprehend" it or put it in words? And why is he so dogmatic in opposition to the unanimous patristic view, as if it were self-evident that he were right and all others wrong? Wouldn't this lack of comprehension suggest that he should not write about it at all, let alone be arbitrarily and irrationally dogmatic about the matter?

The truth of God, therefore, in which I can safely rest, I here embrace without controversy. He declares that his flesh is the meat, his blood the drink, of my soul; I give my soul to him to be fed with such food. In his sacred Supper he bids me take, eat, and drink his body and blood under the symbols of bread and wine. I have no doubt that he will truly give and I receive.

But it can't be physical. Calvin is prepared to believe every aspect of the Eucharist except that Jesus is truly there: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. He removes the very essence and profundity of the Holy Mystery.

Only, I reject the absurdities which appear to be unworthy of the heavenly majesty of Christ, and are inconsistent with the reality of his human nature. Since they must also be repugnant to the word of God, which teaches both that Christ was received into the glory of the heavenly kingdom, so as to be exalted above all the circumstances of the world (Luke 24:26), and no less carefully ascribes to him the properties belonging to a true human nature.

More of the same old same old . . .

This ought not to seem incredible or contradictory to reason (Iren. Lib. 4 cap. 34); because, as the whole kingdom of Christ is spiritual, so whatever he does in his Church is not to be tested by the wisdom of this world; or, to use the words of Augustine, “this mystery is performed by man like the others, but in a divine manner, and on earth, but in a heavenly manner.” Such, I say, is the corporeal presence which the nature of the sacrament requires, and which we say is here displayed in such power and efficacy, that it not only gives our minds undoubted assurance of eternal life, but also secures the immortality of our flesh, since it is now quickened by his immortal flesh, and in a manner shines in his immortality.

His flesh quickens us but yet according to Calvin it is not His flesh in the Eucharist. Makes a lot of sense . . .

Those who are carried beyond this with their hyperboles, do nothing more by their extravagancies than obscure the plain and simple truth.

Calvin's sophistical, logic-torturing, self-contradictory position is anything but plain and simple.

If any one is not yet satisfied, I would have him here to consider with himself that we are speaking of the sacrament, every part of which ought to have reference to faith. Now by participation of the body, as we have explained, we nourish faith not less richly and abundantly than do those who drag Christ himself from heaven.

If anyone is "dragging" anyone, it is Calvin dragging us to heaven in the Eucharist, rather than Jesus voluntarily being corporeally present with us.

Still I am free to confess that that mixture or transfusion of the flesh of Christ with our soul, which they teach, I repudiate, because it is enough for us that Christ, out of the substance of his flesh, breathes life into our souls, nay, diffuses his own life into us, though the real flesh of Christ does not enter us.

Another self-contradiction:

1) Christ, out of the substance of his flesh . . .

2) . . . the real flesh of Christ does not enter us . . .

I may add, that there can be no doubt that the analogy of faith by which Paul enjoins us to test every interpretation of Scripture, is clearly with us in this matter. Let those who oppose a truth so clear,

Clear as mud, if Calvin is correct . . .

consider to what standard of faith they conform themselves: “Ever spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (1 John 4:3); 2 John ver. 7). These men, though they disguise the fact, or perceive it not, rob him of his flesh.

Another silly and groundless -- but at least interesting -- charge . . .

33. Our communion in the blood and flesh of Christ. Spiritual not oral, and yet real. Erroneous view of the Schoolmen.

The same view must be taken of communion, which, according to them, has no existence unless they swallow the flesh of Christ under the bread. But no slight insult is offered to the Spirit if we refuse to believe that it is by his incomprehensible agency that we communicate in the body and blood of Christ. Nay, if the nature of the mystery, as delivered to us, and known to the ancient Church for four hundred years, had been considered as it deserves, there was more than enough to satisfy us; the door would have been shut against many disgraceful errors. These have kindled up fearful dissensions, by which the Church, both anciently and in our own times, has been miserably vexed; curious men insisting on an extravagant mode of presence to which Scripture gives no countenance.

The last clause exactly describes Calvin's position, not ours.

And for a matter thus foolishly and rashly devised they keep up a turmoil, as if the including of Christ under the bread were, so to speak, the beginning and end of piety. It was of primary importance to know how the body of Christ once delivered to us becomes ours, and how we become partakers of his shed blood, because this is to possess the whole of Christ crucified, so as to enjoy all his blessings. But overlooking these points, in which there was so much importance, nay, neglecting and almost suppressing them, they occupy themselves only with this one perplexing question, How is the body of Christ hidden under the bread, or under the appearance of bread? They falsely pretend that all which we teach concerning spiritual eating is opposed to true and what they call real eating, since we have respect only to the mode of eating. This, according to them, is carnal, since they include Christ under the bread, but according to us is spiritual, inasmuch as the sacred agency of the Spirit is the bond of our union with Christ.

Here Calvin is opposing Lutheran consubstantiation, which is far closer to the truth than his view.

Not better founded is the other objection, that we attend only to the fruit or effect which believers receive from eating the flesh of Christ. We formerly said, that Christ himself is the matter of the Supper, and that the effect follows from this, that by the sacrifice of his death our sins are expiated, by his blood we are washed, and by his resurrection we are raised to the hope of life in heaven. But a foolish imagination, of which Lombard was the author, perverts their minds, while they think that the sacrament is the eating of the flesh of Christ. His words are, “The sacrament and not the thing are the forms of bread and wine; the sacrament and the thing are the flesh and blood of Christ; the thing and not the sacrament is his mystical flesh” (Lombard, Lib. 4 Dist. 8). Again a little after, “The thing signified and contained is the proper flesh of Christ; the thing signified and not contained is his mystical body.” To his distinction between the flesh of Christ and the power of nourishing which it possesses, I assent; but his maintaining it to be a sacrament, and a sacrament contained under the bread, is an error not to be tolerated. Hence has arisen that false interpretation of sacramental eating, because it was imagined that even the wicked and profane, however much alienated from Christ, eat his body. But the very flesh of Christ in the mystery of the Supper is no less a spiritual matter than eternal salvation. Whence we infer, that all who are devoid of the Spirit of Christ can no more eat the flesh of Christ than drink wine that has no savour.

So Jesus can be present or not present, as if He were a phantom who beckons to the whim and fancy of conjurers who determine whether He will be present or not, by their faith or lack thereof. The Bible doesn't teach this; it teaches precisely the opposite. Paul doesn't say that those who receive Holy Communion irreverently do not at all receive Jesus, but rather, that they "will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor 11:27) and that "anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Cor 11:29). Clearly, we again need a Revised Calvin Version to correct these serious biblical errors from St. Paul. Calvin knows better than the great Apostle.

Certainly Christ is shamefully lacerated, when his body, as lifeless and without any vigour, is prostituted to unbelievers.

No worse than He was treated when He was on the earth during the first century . . .

This is clearly repugnant to his words, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:56).

That is a general, proverbial-like statement, that admits of exceptions.

They object that he is not there speaking of sacramental eating; this I admit, provided they will not ever and anon stumble on this stone, that his flesh itself is eaten without any benefit. I should like to know how they confine it after they have eaten. Here, in my opinion, they will find no outlet. But they object, that the ingratitude of man cannot in any respect detract from, or interfere with, faith in the promises of God. I admit and hold that the power of the sacrament remains entire, however the wicked may labour with all their might to annihilate it. Still, it is one thing to be offered, another to be received. Christ gives this spiritual food and holds forth this spiritual drink to all. Some eat eagerly, others superciliously reject it. Will their rejection cause the meat and drink to lose their nature? They will say that this similitude supports their opinion—viz. that the flesh of Christ, though it be without taste, is still flesh. But I deny that it can be eaten without the taste of faith, or (if it is more agreeable to speak with Augustine), I deny that men carry away more from the sacrament than they collect in the vessel of faith. Thus nothing is detracted from the sacrament, nay, its reality and efficacy remain unimpaired, although the wicked, after externally partaking of it, go away empty. If, again, they object, that it derogates from the expression, “This is my body,” if the wicked receive corruptible bread and nothing besides, it is easy to answer, that God wills not that his truth should be recognised in the mere reception, but in the constancy of his goodness, while he is prepared to perform, nay, liberally offers to the unworthy what they reject. The integrity of the sacrament, an integrity which the whole world cannot violate, lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them. We may add, that it is no more possible to receive Christ without faith, than it is for seed to germinate in the fire.

Calvin rambles on and on from his convoluted perspective. I've already dealt with all of these errors.

They ask how Christ can have come for the condemnation of some, unless they unworthily receive him; but this is absurd, since we nowhere read that they bring death upon themselves by receiving Christ unworthily, but by rejecting him.

Again, Calvin seems utterly (quite strangely) unaware of 1 Corinthians 11:23-30: alluded to above. Paul specifically states that some have died because they partook of Holy Communion "in an unworthy manner"; not "discerning the body."

They are not aided by the parable in which Christ says, that the seed which fell among thorns sprung up, but was afterwards choked (Mt. 13:7), because he is there speaking of the effect of a temporary faith, a faith which those who place Judas in this respect on a footing with Peter, do not think necessary to the eating of the flesh and the drinking of the blood of Christ. Nay, their error is refuted by the same parable, when Christ says that some seed fell upon the wayside, and some on stony ground, and yet neither took root. Hence it follows that the hardness of believers is an obstacle which prevents Christ from reaching them. All who would have our salvation to be promoted by this sacrament, will find nothing more appropriate than to conduct believers to the fountain, that they may draw life from the Son of God. The dignity is amply enough commended when we hold, that it is a help by which we may be ingrafted into the body of Christ, or, already ingrafted, may be more and more united to him, until the union is completed in heaven. They object, that Paul could not have made them guilty of the body and blood of the Lord if they had not partaken of them (1 Cor. 11:7); I answer, that they were not condemned for having eaten. but only for having profaned the ordinance by trampling under foot the pledge, which they ought to have reverently received, the pledge of sacred union with God.

Paul didn't talk about a pledge, or profaning an ordinance, but of profaning the Body and Blood of Jesus: a completely different notion. Calvin's sophistries know no end. He should have been a politician.

34. This view not favoured by Augustine. How the wicked eat the body of Christ. Cyril’s sentiments as to the eating of the body of Christ.

Moreover, as among ancient writers, Augustine especially maintained this head of doctrine, that the grace figured by the sacraments is not impaired or made void by the infidelity or malice of men, it will be useful to prove clearly from his words, how ignorantly and erroneously those who cast forth the body of Christ to be eaten by dogs, wrest them to their present purpose. Sacramental eating, according to them, is that by which the wicked receive the body and blood of Christ without the agency of the Spirit, or any gracious effect. Augustine, on the contrary, prudently pondering the expression. “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life ” (John 6:54), says: “That is the virtue of the sacrament, and not merely the visible sacrament: the sacrament of him who eats inwardly, not of him who eats outwardly, or merely with the teeth” (Hom. in Joann. 26). Hence he at length concludes, that the sacrament of this thing, that is, of the unity of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, is set before some for life, before others for destruction: while the matter itself, of which it is the sacrament, is to all for life, to none for destruction, whoever may have been the partaker. Lest any one should here cavil that by thing is not meant body, but the grace of the Spirit, which may be separated from it, he dissipates these mists by the antithetical epithets, Visible and Invisible. For the body of Christ cannot be included under the former. Hence it follows, that unbelievers communicate only in the visible symbol; and the better to remove all doubt, after saying that this bread requires an appetite in the inner man, he adds (Hom. in Joann. 59), “Moses, and Aaron, and Phinehas, and many others who ate manna, pleased God. Why? Because the visible food they understood spiritually, hungered for spiritually, tasted spiritually, and feasted on spiritually. We, too, in the present day, have received visible food: but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament is another.” A little after, he says: “And hence, he who remains not in Christ, and in whom Christ remains not, without doubt neither spiritually eats his flesh, nor drinks his blood, though with his teeth he may carnally and visibly press the symbol of his body and blood.” Again, we are told that the visible sign is opposed to spiritual eating. This refutes the error that the invisible body of Christ is sacramentally eaten in reality, although not spiritually. We are told, also, that nothing is given to the impure and profane beyond the visible taking of the sign. Hence his celebrated saying, that the other disciples ate bread which was the Lord, whereas Judas ate the bread of the Lord (Hom. in Joann. 62). By this, he clearly excludes unbelievers from participation in his body and blood. He has no other meaning when he says, “Why do you wonder that the bread of Christ was given to Judas, though he consigned him to the devil, when you see, on the contrary, that a messenger of the devil was given to Paul to perfect him in Christ?” (August. de Bapt. Cont. Donat. Lib. 5). He indeed says elsewhere, that the bread of the Supper was the body of Christ to those to whom Paul said, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself; and that it does not follow that they received nothing because they received unworthily.” But in what sense he says this, he explains more fully in another passage (De Civit. Dei, Lib. 21 c. 25). For undertaking professedly to explain how the wicked and profane, who, with the mouth, profess the faith of Christ, but in act deny him, eat the body of Christ; and, indeed, refuting the opinion of some who thought that they ate not only sacramentally, but really, he says: “Neither can they be said to eat the body of Christ, because they are not to be accounted among the members of Christ. For, not to mention other reasons, they cannot be at the same time the members of Christ and the members of a harlot. In fine, when Christ himself says, ‘He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him’ (John 6:56), he shows what it is to eat the body of Christ, not sacramentally, but in reality. It is to abide in Christ, that Christ may abide in him. For it is just as if he had said, Let not him who abides not in me, and in whom I abide not, say or think that he eats my body or drinks my blood.” Let the reader attend to the antithesis between eating sacramentally and eating really, and there will be no doubt. The same thing he confirms not less clearly in these words: “Prepare not the jaws, but the heart; for which alone the Supper is appointed. We believe in Christ when we receive him in faith: in receiving, we know what we think: we receive a small portion, but our heart is filled: it is not therefore that which is seen, but that which is believed, that feeds (August. Cont. Faust. Lib. 8 c. 16). Here, also, he restricts what the wicked take to be the visible sign, and shows that the only way of receiving Christ is by faith. So, also, in another passage, declaring distinctly that the good and the bad communicate by signs, he excludes the latter from the true eating of the flesh of Christ. For had they received the reality, he would not have been altogether silent as to a matter which was pertinent to the case. In another passage, speaking of eating, and the fruit of it, he thus concludes: “Then will the body and blood of Christ be life to each, if that which is visibly taken in the sacrament is in reality spiritually eaten, spiritually drunk” (De Verb. Apost. Serm. 2) Let those, therefore, who make unbelievers partakers of the flesh and blood of Christ, if they would agree with Augustine, set before us the visible body of Christ, since, according to him, the whole truth is spiritual. And certainly his words imply that sacramental eating, when unbelief excludes the entrance of the reality, is only equivalent to visible or external eating. But if the body of Christ may be truly and yet not spiritually eaten, what could he mean when he elsewhere says: “Ye are not to eat this body which you see, nor to drink the blood which will be shed by those who are to crucify me? I have committed a certain sacrament to you: it is the spiritual meaning which will give you life” (August. in Ps. 98). He certainly meant not to deny that the body offered in the Supper is the same as that which Christ offered in sacrifice; but he adverted to the mode of eating—viz. that the body, though received into the celestial glory, breathes life into us by the secret energy of the Spirit. I admit, indeed, that he often uses the expression, “that the body of Christ is eaten by unbelievers;” but he explains himself by adding, “in the sacrament.” And he elsewhere speaks of a spiritual eating, in which our teeth do not chew grace (Hom. in Joann. 27). And, lest my opponents should say that I am trying to overwhelm them with the mass of my quotations, I would ask how they get over this one sentence: “In the elect alone, the sacraments effect what they figure.” Certainly they will not venture to deny, that by the bread in the Supper, the body of Christ is figured. Hence it follows, that the reprobate are not allowed to partake of it. That Cyril did not think differently is clear from these words: “As one in pouring melted wax on melted wax mixes the whole together, so it is necessary, when one receives the body and blood of the Lord, to be conjoined with him, that Christ may be found in him, and he in Christ.” From these words, I think it plain that there is no true and real eating by those who only eat the body of Christ sacramentally, seeing the body cannot be separated from its virtue, and that the promises of God do not fail, though, while he ceases not to rain from heaven, rocks and stones are not penetrated by the moisture.

Rather than elaborately delve into all of these sources from St. Augustine, I'll simply refer the reader to another excellent, copiously documented summary from apologist Phil Porvaznik: St. Augustine on the Eucharist. It will be readily seen that St. Augustine was a Catholic through-and-through, who did not agree with Calvin in the main, but with Catholicism then and now.

35. Absurdity of the adoration of sacramental symbols.

This consideration will easily dissuade us from that carnal adoration which some men have, with perverse temerity, introduced into the sacrament, reasoning thus with themselves: If it his body, then it is also soul and divinity which go along with the body, and cannot be separated from it; and, therefore, Christ must there be adored. First, if we deny their pretended concomitance, what will they do? For, as they chiefly insist on the absurdity of separating the body of Christ from his soul and divinity, what sane and sober man can persuade himself that the body of Christ is Christ? They think that they completely establish this by their syllogisms. But since Christ speaks separately of his body and blood, without describing the mode of his presence, how can they in a doubtful matter arrive at the certainty which they wish? What then? Should their consciences be at any time exercised with some more grievous apprehension, will they forthwith set them free, and dissolve the apprehensions by their syllogisms? In other words, when they see that no certainty is to be obtained from the word of God, in which alone our minds can rest, and without which they go astray the very first moment when they begin to reason, when they see themselves opposed by the doctrine and practice of the apostles, and that they are supported by no authority but their own, how will they feel? To such feelings other sharp stings will be added. What? Was it a matter of little moment to worship God under this form without any express injunction? In a matter relating to the true worship of God, were we thus lightly to act without one word of Scripture? Had all their thoughts been kept in due subjection to the word of God, they certainly would have listened to what he himself has said, “Take, eat, and drink,” and obeyed the command by which he enjoins us to receive the sacrament, not worship it. Those who receive, without adoration, as commanded by God, are secure that they deviate not from the command. In commencing any work, nothing is better than this security. They have the example of the apostles, of whom we read not that they prostrated themselves and worshipped, but that they sat down, took and ate. They have the practice of the apostolic Church, where, as Luke relates, believers communicated not in adoration, but in the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). They have the doctrine of the apostles as taught to the Corinthian Church by Paul, who declares that what he delivered he had received of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:23).

Calvin in the previous section made much out of real or alleged agreement with him on certain points by St. Augustine. Yet the same Augustine believed in eucharistic adoration, which proves that he accepted a real, physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This, Calvin describes as "carnal adoration which some men have, with perverse temerity, introduced into the sacrament." Here is what St. Augustine taught and believed (according to Calvin he would thus be guilty of rank idolatry):

“And fall down before His footstool: for He is holy.” What are we to fall down before? His footstool. What is under the feet is called a footstool, in Greek uποπoδιον, in Latin Scabellum or Suppedaneum. But consider, brethren, what he commandeth us to fall down before. In another passage of the Scriptures it is said, “The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.” Doth he then bid us worship the earth, since in another passage it is said, that it is God’s footstool? How then shall we worship the earth, when the Scripture saith openly, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God”? Yet here it saith, “fall down before His footstool:” and, explaining to us what His footstool is, it saith, “The earth is My footstool.” I am in doubt; I fear to worship the earth, lest He who made the heaven and the earth condemn me; again, I fear not to worship the footstool of my Lord, because the Psalm biddeth me, “fall down before His footstool.” I ask, what is His footstool? and the Scripture telleth me, “the earth is My footstool.” In hesitation I turn unto Christ, since I am herein seeking Himself: and I discover how the earth may be worshipped without impiety, how His footstool may be worshipped without impiety. For He took upon Him earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He received flesh from the flesh of Mary. And because He walked here in very flesh, and gave that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation; and no one eateth that flesh, unless he hath first worshipped: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord’s may be worshipped, and not only that we sin not in worshipping it, but that we sin in not worshipping.

(Exposition on Psalm XCIX, 8; NPNF 1, Vol. VIII)

St. Augustine's theme of the "footstool" of God can be seen several times in Holy Scripture (1 Chron 28:2; Ps 99:5; 132:7; Is 66:1; Matt 5:35; Acts 7:49). Protestant historian Philip Schaff commented on the acceptance of adoration of the consecrated host in the doctrine of the fathers:

As to the adoration of the consecrated elements: This follows with logical necessity from the doctrine of transubstantiation, and is the sure touchstone of it . . . Chrysostom says: "The wise men adored Christ in the manger; we see him not in the manger, but on the altar, and should pay him still greater homage." Theodoret, in the passage already cited, likewise uses the term proskuvnei'n [Greek for "worship"], but at the same time expressly asserts the continuance of the substance of the elements. Ambrose speaks once of the flesh of Christ "which we to-day adore in the mysteries," and Augustine, of an adoration preceding the participation of the flesh of Christ.

(History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, chapter 7, § 95. The Sacrament of the Eucharist; 501-502)

The worship of Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb in Scripture is also analogous to eucharistic adoration, in its rich Passover imagery:


1 Corinthians 5:7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.

Revelation 5:8; 12-13 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints; . . . [12] saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" [13] And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, "To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!"

Revelation 22:3 There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him;

36. This adoration condemned. I. By Christ himself. II. By the Council of Nice. III. By ancient custom. IV. By Scripture. This adoration is mere idolatry.

The object of these remarks is to lead pious readers to reflect how dangerous it is in matters of such difficulty to wander from the simple word of God to the dreams of our own brain. What has been said above should free us from all scruple in this matter. That the pious soul may duly apprehend Christ in the sacrament, it must rise to heaven. But if the office of the sacrament is to aid the infirmity of the human mind, assisting it in rising upwards, so as to perceive the height of spiritual mysteries, those who stop short at the external sign stray from the right path of seeking Christ. What then? Can we deny that the worship is superstitious when men prostrate themselves before bread that they may therein worship Christ?

Was it also superstition and idolatry when men worshiped God "toward" the temple?:


Psalm 5:7 . . . I will worship toward thy holy temple in the fear of thee.

Psalm 28:2 Hear the voice of my supplication, as I cry to thee for help, as I lift up my hands toward thy most holy sanctuary.

Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word.

The Council of Nice undoubtedly intended to meet this evil when it forbade us to give humble heed to the visible signs. And for no other reason was it formerly the custom, previous to consecration, to call aloud upon the people to raise their hearts, sursum corda. Scripture itself, also, besides carefully narrating the ascension of Christ, by which he withdrew his bodily presence from our eye and company, that it might make us abandon all carnal thoughts of him, whenever it makes mention of him, enjoins us to raise our minds upwards and seek him in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father (Col. 3:2). According to this rule, we should rather have adored him spiritually in the heavenly glory, than devised that perilous species of adoration replete with gross and carnal ideas of God. Those, therefore, who devised the adoration of the sacrament, not only dreamed it of themselves, without any authority from Scripture, where no mention of it can be shown (it would not have been omitted, had it been agreeable to God); but, disregarding Scripture, forsook the living God, and fabricated a god for themselves, after the lust of their own hearts. For what is idolatry if it is not to worship the gifts instead of the giver?

Remember, all these charges apply to Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, and Theodoret. But don't tell anyone; it'll just be our dirty little secret.

Here the sin is twofold. The honour robbed from God is transferred to the creature, and God, moreover, is dishonoured by the pollution and profanation of his own goodness, while his holy sacrament is converted into an execrable idol. Let us, on the contrary, that we may not fall into the same pit, wholly confine our eyes, ears, hearts, minds, and tongues, to the sacred doctrine of God. For this is the school of the Holy Spirit, that best of masters, in which such progress is made, that while nothing is to be acquired anywhere else, we must willingly be ignorant of whatever is not there taught.

An idol by definition is an object that is replacement of God in one's heart. Catholics are adoring what they believe to be God, not a piece of bread or some wine. Therefore, this act cannot be idolatry, by simple logic. For further reading along these lines, see my papers:


Why the Catholic Mass Can't Possibly be Idolatrous: Quick Proof


37. This adoration inconsistent with the nature and institution of the sacrament. Ends for which the sacrament was instituted.

Then, as superstition, when once it has passed the proper bounds, has no end to its errors, men went much farther; for they devised rites altogether alien from the institution of the Supper, and to such a degree that they paid divine honours to the sign. They say that their veneration is paid to Christ.

Yes, exactly. Calvin's eucharistic theology entails signs only, and symbolism, not ours. So now he wants to project his errors onto us, prior to condemning us, utilizing a premise that we ourselves do not hold?

First, if this were done in the Supper, I would say that that adoration only is legitimate which stops not at the sign, but rises to Christ sitting in heaven. Now, under what pretext do they say that they honour Christ in that bread, when they have no promise of this nature?

"This is my body."

They consecrate the host, as they call it, and carry it about in solemn show, and formally exhibit it to be admired, reverenced, and invoked. I ask by what virtue they think it duly consecrated? They will quote the words, “This is my body.”

A fairly relevant text, isn't it? Right to the point . . .

I, on the contrary, will object, that it was at the same time said, “Take, eat.” Nor will I count the other passage as nothing; for I hold that since the promise is annexed to the command, the former is so included under the latter, that it cannot possibly be separated from it. This will be made clearer by an example. God gave a command when he said, “Call upon me,” and added a promise, “I will deliver thee” (Psal. 50:15). Should any one invoke Peter or Paul, and found on this promise, will not all exclaim that he does it in error? And what else, pray, do those do who, disregarding the command to eat, fasten on the mutilated promise, “This is my body,” that they may pervert it to rites alien from the institution of Christ?

John 6:53-58 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."

Let us remember, therefore, that this promise has been given to those who observe the command connected with it, and that those who transfer the sacrament to another end have no countenance from the word of God. We formerly showed how the mystery of the sacred Supper contributes to our faith in God. But since the Lord not only reminds us of this great gift of his goodness, as we formerly explained, but passes it, as it were, from hand to hand, and urges us to recognise it, he, at the same time, admonishes us not to be ungrateful for the kindness thus bestowed, but rather to proclaim it with such praise as is meet, and celebrate it with thanksgiving. Accordingly, when he delivered the institution of the sacrament to the apostles, he taught them to do it in remembrance of him, which Paul interprets, “to show forth his death” (1 Cor. 11:26). And this is, that all should publicly and with one mouth confess that all our confidence of life and salvation is placed in our Lord’s death, that we ourselves may glorify him by our confession, and by our example excite others also to give him glory.

The Sacrifice of the Mass does exactly that: make the one sacrifice on the cross present. It's timeless and eternal and always "now" because God died and Jesus in His Divine Nature transcends time. What God does is outside of time. See my paper: How the Crucifixion is Timeless (Sacrifice of the Mass).

Here, again, we see what the aim of the sacrament is—namely, to keep us in remembrance of Christ’s death. When we are ordered to show forth the Lord’s death till he come again, all that is meant is, that we should, with confession of the mouth, proclaim what our faith has recognised in the sacrament—viz. that the death of Christ is our life. This is the second use of the sacrament, and relates to outward confession.

And when the Jews celebrated Passover, it was regarded as an analogous instance of the transcendence of time, according to the Hebraic sense of "remember". See: Passover in Judaism: "Past Events Become Present Today" (Analogy to the Sacrifice of the Mass) / "Remember" in Scripture.

4 comments:

Adomnan said...

The fascinating thing about Calvin's eucharistic teaching is that it's impossible to pin down. It's mercurial. I don't think there's much point in spending a lot of time thinking about what he was trying to say, because he didn't put forward a clear concept, but just blew smoke that evanesces when you try to grasp it.

One curious thing about Calvin's approach to the eucharist, though, is how visual it is. He talks of souls being transported to heaven where they behold the physical, local body of Christ, even seeing it with their eyes. This strikes me as an unconscious continuation of late medieval practice. In the time preceding the Reformation, many of the faithful put a great deal of stress on simply viewing the eucharist, usually at the Elevation, often instead of actually communicating. Calvin says the bread and wine should be consumed, of course, but only as metaphors. For him, too, attention is focused not on this eating, but on "beholding" Christ in glory. So, with Calvin as with many laymen in the late medieval church, the point of the rite was not so much eating (which was only a metaphor, after all), but rather looking at the body from a distance. Interesting, isn't it?

Another point: Calvin generally uses the term "Lord's Supper" for the eucharist, and that's the word most Protestants use now. However, the "Lord's Supper," which is mentioned as such only in 1 Cor 11:20 does not appear to be the eucharist, but rather the communal meal or agape that early Christians held, in which the eucharist was usually embedded. Thus, I think that "Lord's Supper" is an inept term for the eucharist and, given that the Calvinists did not have a communal meal or agape, should not be used by them to describe any of their rites.

Dave Armstrong said...

Fascinating comment (as always). Thanks!

I have always thought that Calvin's views on the Eucharist are a hopelessly confused muddle. Now going through his section on this again, I am all the more confirmed in my opinion. I hope my lengthy replies (soon to be edited in a compact form in my next book) can help some Calvinists work through the issue, hear another side besides Calvin, and perhaps reconsider their opinion.

Adomnan said...

Just to clarify: When I wrote that eating was "only a metaphor, after all," I meant that it was a metaphor for Calvin, not for laymen in the late medieval church.

Yes, it's striking how visual Calvin's take on the eucharist is. Even while objecting to gazing at the Host in adoration during the Elevation, he does so not because he objects to gazing in itself, but because he thinks that the communicants should be gazing mentally at Christ "located" in heaven rather than at the "symbol" of His body here on earth. The symbol, visible as it is, is just supposed to be a reminder to look elsewhere!

In any event, eating would be a very odd metaphor for seeing, because seeing an object implies distance and separation between the seer and the object, in contrast to eating, which of course implies intimacy and union. Instead of using eating and drinking as metaphors for union, which would have made more sense, he uses them as metaphors for vision. Just doesn't work.

My remarks are based in part on these passages from Calvin:

"That the pious soul may duly apprehend Christ in the sacrament, it must rise to heaven. But if the office of the sacrament is to aid the infirmity of the human mind, assisting it in rising upwards, so as to perceive the height of spiritual mysteries, those who stop short at the external sign stray from the right path of seeking Christ."

Notice that for Calvin, the sacrament helps "the mind" "perceive" spiritual mysteries (so, concepts in his case), all visual language. And elsewhere he talks about actually seeing Christ's body located in heaven, as here:

"Scripture itself, also, besides carefully narrating the ascension of Christ, by which he withdrew his bodily presence from our eye and company, that it might make us abandon all carnal thoughts of him, whenever it makes mention of him, enjoins us to raise our minds upwards and seek him in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father (Col. 3:2). According to this rule, we should rather have adored him spiritually in the heavenly glory, than devised that perilous species of adoration replete with gross and carnal ideas of God."

Or this:

"First, if this were done in the Supper, I would say that that adoration only is legitimate which stops not at the sign, but rises to Christ sitting in heaven."

Adomnan said...

Here's another passage in which Calvin claims claim the "symbols" of bread and wine invite us to stare at Christ in heaven "with our eyes," as well as minds:

"But if we are carried to heaven with our eyes and minds, that we may there behold Christ in the glory of his kingdom, as the symbols invite us to him in his integrity, so, under the symbol of bread, we must feed on his body, and, under the symbol of wine, drink separately of his blood, and thereby have the full enjoyment of him."

He comes very close here to saying that this gazing is the same thing as "feeding on His body." Nevertheless, his actual views, if he had actual views (and wasn't just saying whatever sophistry prompted him to say in the moment), remain ambiguous.

In any event, Calvin habitually describes the experience of the eucharist in visual terms; that is, he distances it from us. No wonder the Calvinist teaching on the eucharist is jocularly referred to as the Real Absence of the Body and Blood of Christ, in contrast to the Real Presence.