Monday, May 07, 2007

A faulty premise on the Lord's Supper

Should I try blogging again, Jack?

I read a post at Boar's Head Tavern, my favorite religion blog I never recommend to others*, on Saturday which literally kept me thinking all weekend. One of my favorite Lutheran bloggers affectionately known as Pirate posted a good commentary on the what Lutheran's believe regarding the Lord's Supper. The post was timely because I was looking forward to hearing Pastor Flohr announce loudly with joy, "Your sins are forgiven! Depart in peace!"

Here's is the entire thread. I know its against blogging protocol to post something in its entirety, but in this case I will:

The Real Presence

The Lutheran doctrine is fairly simple: the bread and wine, by virtue of Christ having said so in the Words of Institution, is no longer just bread and wine only, but also the body and blood of Christ. The body and blood of Christ are in fact taken and eaten.

The litmus test is what we call the manducatio impiorum, which is a fancy Latin slogan meaning “The unbelievers eat the body and blood of Christ, too,” but to their judgment, not to their salvation–just like they hear the Gospel, but not unto salvation. There are two major points of doctrine that rest on the Real Presence:

First, the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are all bestowed in the Supper. Notice the difference between Q168 of the WLC and Luther’s Small Catechism. First, Westminster:

The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to the appointment of Jesus Christ, his death is showed forth; and they that worthily communicate feed upon his body and blood, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; have their union and communion with him confirmed; testify and renew their thankfulness, and engagement to God, and their mutual love and fellowship each with other, as members of the same mystical body.

Nowhere is forgiveness mentioned. Rather, the sacrament is essentially a means of increasing one’s sanctification, which is nearly identical to the Roman Catholic view of Holy Communion (which is different from the Sacrifice of the Mass). Now, Luther:

That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

And in the context of Luther’s theology, “life” means “eternal life.” Sacraments bestow justification.

The second is that the reality of the sacrament is founded exclusively on Christ’s word. Westminster simply asserts that those who have faith feed on Christ in the Supper. Christ’s institution and word are only mentioned when discussing how the sacrament is to be performed, but not in discussing what it is, or how we know what is there. Any sense of the Words of Instutution being that which makes the sacramental reality is made is completely absent–faith, not the word of Christ, make the Supper into the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood (and that only in a spiritual sense). Without faith, only bread and wine is there, leaving it incumbent upon the communicant to ascertain for himself whether what is supposed to be happening is truly happening with him. Therefore, one must condition one’s self internally for the Supper to work. As Q171 says,

They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.

Contrast that with Luther, who always goes back to “This is my body.” It is Christ’s body because Christ has said so, and it gives the forgiveness of sins because Christ has said so. The communicant is exhorted to look not within himself, but to simply believe what Christ has said”

Fasting and bodily preparation is, indeed, a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.

The Lutheran doctrine of the Supper is nothing other than justification by faith alone put into practice.



Shea posted a good response to Pirate's post:

If I was holding the highlighter and reading the Luther you quoted I would have presented it this way:

That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

The question in my mind is to what degree faith in this promise requires believing anything about the bread and cup themselves. In 1 Corinthians 10 (one chapter before the LS ordinance, obviously) when Paul said that “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” Do you believe that the Rock was Christ in the same way that the bread you eat tomorrow is?

I’m sure that’s not the first time you’ve heard this argument, but I will be interested to hear your answer to it.

Can you guess what about Shea's question intrigued me? I think he is operating from faulty premise about what is important to Lutherans. What could that be?


*I never recommend BHT blog to anyone because it should be discovered and read at one's own risk. I love it, but it could really confuse someone not prepared to THINK.

2 comments:

Alien Youth said...

I am studying this subject right now (Reformed v Lutheran view on LS). You left off with this interesting quote: "Can you guess what about Shea's question intrigued me? I think he is operating from faulty premise about what is important to Lutherans. What could that be?" Do you mind answering that question for me? I am trying to learn the differences between these opposing views. I would really like to know what the Lutherans do with that passage from 1 Corin. 10 ("that rock was Christ"). Thank you!

TKls2myhrt said...

The answer is: What I saw was someone quoting Luther who was, in turn, quoting Christ. However, it seems that others interpret that as merely quoting Luther. To me, the difference is huge. I was taught that the Lutheran Confessions reflect scripture and sit upon them. Scripture is the foundation. It is conceivable that we could remain Lutheran without the Lutheran Confessions, though they would surely be naturally created again over time (as the originals were) in response to the continual false teachings that crop up among believers. We could not, however, do without scripture.