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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Substantive Tangentialism 


From chocolate bunnies to this:


The word “transubstantiation” derives from Latin – trans (across), and substantia (substance). The term is employed in Roman Catholic theology to denote the idea that during the ceremony of the “Mass,” the “bread and wine” are changed, in substance, into the flesh and blood of Christ, even though the elements appear to remain the same. This doctrine, which has no basis in Scripture, first appeared in the early 9th century A.D., was formalized at the Council of Trent (A.D. 1545-63), and was reaffirmed at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

“Consubstantiation” is a term commonly applied to the Lutheran concept of the communion supper, though some modern Lutheran theologians reject the use of this term because of its ambiguity. The expression, however, is generally associated with Luther. The idea is that in the communion, the body and blood of Christ, and the bread and wine, coexist in union with each other. “Luther illustrated it by the analogy of the iron put into the fire whereby both fire and iron are united in the red-hot iron and yet each continues unchanged” (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, F.L. Cross, Ed., London: Oxford, 1958, p. 337).



Christian Courier thinks that both of us (I'm in the Lutheran camp here) are wrong:


Any dogma that attempts to place the “real presence” of the flesh and blood of Christ into the communion components, in a literal sense, is the result of a misunderstanding of the language employed in the Scriptures....

Normally, a word should be viewed as literal, unless other considerations make it impossible to interpret the term in that light. Determinative factors that are essential to making the proper judgments are these: context, both immediate and remote (i.e., discussion of the same subject in other biblical references), grammar, consistency (the Scriptures do not contradict themselves), common sense (i.e., does a literal interpretation imply an absurdity?).



But by the same standards, should we disavow a literal resurrection because it defies common sense? Let's continue:


When Jesus took bread and fruit of the vine, gave these objects to the disciples, and said, “this is my body . . .this is my blood” (Mt. 26:26-28), he quite obviously was not speaking literally, for he still possessed his literal body and blood! Moreover, at the same time, Christ specifically identified the drink as “this fruit of the vine” (v. 29). The nature of the substance had not changed.

There is a common figure of speech that is known as metaphor. The metaphor is a dramatic image by which one thing is compared to another, but being represented figuratively as that very thing.

Of the tribal descendants of Judah, Jacob said: “Judah is a lion’s whelp” (Gen 49:9) – certainly not literally, but having certain lion-like traits. When Jesus referred to Herod as a “fox” (Lk. 13:31-32), no one understood him to imply that the ruler was a four-legged animal with a bushy tail! Christ once said: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn. 15:5)....

The fact that Jesus instructed the disciples to subsequently partake of the Lord’s supper “in remembrance” of him (Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24) contains the implication that he would not be present physically in the communion celebration....

With all due respect to sincere people, it is a crassly materialistic methodology that turns the sacred memorial Supper into a cannibalistic ritual.



In the past, I have portrayed one of the Apostles in a DaVinci-inspired portrayal of the Last Supper (yes, it's not historically accurate; so sue me). They were non-speaking roles, but when Jesus said the words "This is my body," I tried to convey the appropriate amount of disgust at the suggestion. But that is my interpretation; those that Lutherans call "reformed" (i.e. those who are not Roman Catholic or Lutheran; don't know where Eastern Orthodox fit into all this) wouldn't have this difficulty.

It's no surprise to see that the Catholic Encyclopedia is not all that thrilled about consubstantiation:


This heretical doctrine is an attempt to hold the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist without admitting Transubstantiation. According to it, the substance of Christ's Body exists together with the substance of bread, and in like manner the substance of His Blood together with the substance of wine. Hence the word Consubstantiation. How the two substances can coexist is variously explained. The most subtle theory is that, just as God the Son took to Himself a human body without in any way destroying its substance, so does He in the Blessed Sacrament assume the nature of bread....

In the earliest ages of the Church Christ's words, "This is my body", were understood by the faithful in their simple, natural sense. In the course of time discussion arose as to whether they were to be taken literally or figuratively; and when it was settled that they were to be taken literally in the sense that Christ is really and truly present, the question of the manner of this presence began to be agitated. The controversy from the ninth to the twelfth century, after which time the doctrine of Transubstantiation, which teaches that Christ is present in the Eucharist by the change of the entire substance of bread and wine into His Body and Blood, was fully indicated as Catholic dogma....

Berengarius (1000-1088) denied, if not the Real Presence, at least any change of the substance of the bread and wine into the substance of the Body and Blood. He maintained that "the consecrated Bread, retaining its substance, is the Body of Christ, that is, not losing anything which it was, but assuming something which it was not" (panis sacratus in altari, salvâ suâ substantiâ, est corpus Christi, non amittens quod erat sed assumens quod non erat-Cf. Martène and Durand, "Thesaurus Novus Anecd.", IV, col 105)....His opinions were condemned at various councils held at Rome (1050, 1059, 1078, 1079), Vercelli (1050), Poitiers (1074), though both Pope Alexander II and St. Gregory VII treated him with marked consideration....Although it cannot be said that Berengarius found many adherents during his lifetime, yet his heresy did not die with him. It was maintained by Wyclif (Trialog, IV, 6, 10) and Luther (Walch, XX 1228), and is the view of the High Church party among the Anglicans at the present time. Besides the councils above-mentioned, it was condemned by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the Council of Constance, (1418 -- "The substance of the material bread and in like manner the substance of the material wine remain in the Sacrament of the altar", and the first of the condemned propositions of Wyclif), and the Council of Trent (1551).



Here's a view from a Church of Christ:


From early in their history Churches of Christ have rejected Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, and Impanation (the Catholic, Presbyterian, and Lutheran theology).

Churches of Christ followed the Zwinglian model (common also in the Baptist churches) which emphasizes the memorial (cognitive remembering) aspect of the Lord’s Supper.

Consequently, any concept of real presence of Christ has been downplayed of ignored.
The focus of the remembering has been the agony and suffering of Jesus on the Cross.
The Eucharist has been miss-interpreted as an occasion of self examination in light of the cross, whereas the examining self in 1 Cor 11:28 was in light of an abuse of the Agape/Eucharist and the poor. Paul was in fact correcting an abuse of the Agape/Eucharist, not emphasizing a normal emphasis or process

In modern churches of Christ there has been little emphasis on:

Celebration. - we try to be as rational as possible and keep our emotions in check!
Thanksgiving (joyful eucharistia) for the gift of God in deliverance and redemption.
Communion or unity with Christ.
The real presence of Christ.
Emphasis on the unity believers....

The major focus of the Lord’s Supper as experienced in Churches of Christ has been on the altar and not on the table!



And, to conclude, this post links to this one in a blog called "Here We Stand."


I've often thought that many of the arguments for transubstantiation are self-defeating primarily because of the Incarnation....I would never describe Jesus as "taking on outward qualities that look to all appearances to be no different than other men;" rather, he is a man. The Catholic argument that bread cannot be the body of Christ--you must have bread alone or body alone--simply makes no sense in light of the Incarnation....

[F]rom a rational standpoint, saying that a wafer is true God (and, I suppose, true man), but and only "looks" like bread and wine is a nonsensical claim, as nonsensical as saying that Jesus only "looked" like a man, but there wasn't really any human being there at all. In fact, it's quite obvious that Jesus is a man; believing that he is also God takes faith. Likewise, it's quite obvious that what is sitting on the altar is bread. It takes faith to believe that it is also the body of Christ. That's why Luther put so much emphasis on simply believing the words, not trying to reason out the "only" way in which they could be true. Ultimately, reason can only ascend so far. We are finite beings; knowledge of divine things comes by revelation, not careful philosophical extrapolations from rigorously defined philosophical terms. Jesus took bread, broke it, and said, "This is my body." He did not say, "So let me explain to you guys what a substance is...".



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