Back on Thursday, April 5 (Maundy Thursday) Issues Etc.,
hosted by Rev. Todd Wilken, had überblogger Reverend Paul McCain
on to talk about the Lord’s Supper. During the interview, a caller named Jeff asked Rev. McCain “If Christians who don’t have our Lutheran understanding of the real presence, when they take the communion and do all the other stuff and say the words,is the Body and Blood of the Lord present as we understand it even if they don’t understand it that way?” Rev. McCain responded with the following:"Where there is a denial of what those words ['This is my Body' ... 'This is My Blood'] mean, we can have no confidence whatsoever that the Lord is present there, in their Lord's Supper... Because if they are denying what their Lord is telling them, and trying to re-enact this Lord's Supper, it's not a Lord's Supper that they have. It's simply a memorial meal."
Todd Wilken then followed up with a question asking “does the congregation’s affirmation or the individual’s faith somehow make’s the Lord’s Supper what it is?”
Rev McCain answered “no but when you deny what it is, when you deny our Lord’s words, you are saying no to Jesus at that point. And He is not going to force himself onto you or force himself into you with this thing you have which you for determining the Lord’s Supper. So unfortunately these churches do not have the Lord’s Supper. I believe that, others may disagree with me, but again I only go on what the words say.”
The next day fellow blogger Herr Bettler over at Hoc Est Verum
chimed in with a post
that disagreed with Rev McCain by quoting the following from the Solid Declaration’s answer to the Sacramentarian
"Secondly, they hold that the institution of this Sacrament made by Christ is efficacious in Christendom [the Church], and that it does not depend upon the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister who offers the Sacrament, or of the one who receives it. Therefore, as St. Paul says, that even the unworthy partake of the Sacrament, they hold that also to the unworthy the body and blood of Christ are truly offered, and the unworthy truly receive them, if [where] the institution and command of the Lord Christ are observed. But such persons receive them to condemnation, as St. Paul says; for they misuse the holy Sacrament, because they receive it without true repentance and without faith. For it was instituted for this purpose, that it might testify that to those who truly repent and comfort themselves by faith in Christ the grace and benefits of Christ are here applied, and that they are incorporated into Christ and are washed by His blood." - Paragraph 16
As well as
"Hence it is easy to reply to all manner of questions about which at the present time men are disturbed, as, for instance, whether a wicked priest can administer and distribute the Sacrament, and such like other points. For here conclude and reply: Even though a knave take or distribute the Sacrament, he receives the true Sacrament, that is, the true body and blood of Christ, just as truly as he who receives or administers it in the most worthy manner. For it is not founded upon the holiness of men, but upon the Word of God. And as no saint upon earth, yea, no angel in heaven, can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, so also can no one change or alter it, even though it be abused. For the Word, by which it became a sacrament and was instituted, does not become false because of the person or his unbelief. For He does not say: If you believe or are worthy, you will receive My body and blood, but: "Take, eat and drink; this is My body and blood"; likewise: "Do this" (namely, what I now do, institute, give, and bid you take). That is as much as to say, No matter whether you be worthy or unworthy, you have here His body and blood, by virtue of these words which are added to the bread and wine. This mark and observe well; for upon these words rest all our foundation, protection, and defense against all error and temptation that have ever come or may yet come." -Paragraphs 24-26,
Herr Bettler had a few more quotes from the confessions and ended his post with the following;So this seems to say that the guest had it backwards. It's not that the Calvinist Lord's Supper becomes a memorial meal, but that their memorial meal was and continues to be the Lord's Supper, regardless of how they believe.
I waited a few day to see if any one else was going to comment and when nobody did I left the following comment;"I reread the applicable sections of the Augustana, its Apology, and of the Large Catechism last night and I still believe your statement is correct. However, the guest is correct when he says we can have no confidence whatsoever that the Lord is present there because the Marks of the Church are not visible. Clearly the Lord works where ever He wills. But since the Marks are the only way to be sure He is there, when we deviate from what is called for and commanded, how are we to know he is there? I still agree with your premise that their memorial meal was and continues to be the Lord's Supper, regardless of how they believe. To say otherwise using the same logic would mean that every child or adult baptized in reformed churches (and some of our own) would have to be rebaptized because we aren’t sure if the Lord was truly present since baptism is a mere ordinance. We accept one baptism for the remission of sins because we know that our Lord is riding a three legged horse, it’s not pretty but He still accomplishes the feat in spite of the dumb animal He is on. The guest can say the Marks are not visible. What he should not be saying is what God can’t be doing because of what he has to work with."
The next day I then followed up with this comment:"I was talking last night with someone about this. I’ve shifted my position to be more in line with the guest. Since the only visible signs of a church are the Marks, that is to say the Word preached purely and the Sacrament administered rightly, we can’t say with any confidence that any church is there where Christ’s gifts are denied by that body’s confession. We can’t say God isn’t there either, but we have no visible sign He is. I guess it’s like two kids play(ing) church waiting for their parents to pick them up from VBS. They are at a church; they are saying the words, and even distributing some kind of element. But is anything efficacious going on? I think we could all agree that nothing good is happening here. So how can we say with any certainty that a group of people who by their confession say the Eucharist is merely brunch, are benefiting at since they by that same confession deny what Christ does for them in the Holy Supper? I’m not saying it’s the belief or unbelief of the communicant that affects the elements, as your post clearly point that out. But it is the unbelief of the communicant that condemns him to receive nothing efficacious at all. If they wish to confess that Christ can’t be where Christ says he is, then they have chosen their own path that does not follow Christ and their damnation is their own fault."
Kerner followed my comment agreeing with Der Bettler’s Anti-Sacramentarian line of thinking and concluded his argument with following: "Maybe this is a very oversimplified analogy, but if I eat an orange, it doesn't matter whether I believe I am receiving vitamin C."
Well, that’s the setup. It needs to clearly
noted that I emailed a request to move the discussion to this blog with links to the former because I believe that this has much larger implications than just what happens at the alter rail during the Eucharist. Herr Bettler responded back quickly and graciously allowed my request. I believe he knows where I’m going with this as he made the comment the debate may get “heated
And now, our feature presentation…
I’ve had to rewrite this post twice now for a couple of reasons. One reason is that I don’t type. Because of this I have a tendency think three sentences ahead while typing. What usually comes out is a jumbled mess that is indecipherable to even those who are the linguists. The second reason is that I’m not the planet’s best communicator. I have a tendency to speak (and write) in my own version of shorthand. Not good at all on it’s own, but when coupled with the first reason, well you get the point.
I don’t disagree with any of what der Bettler wrote. But I also think Reverend McCain is on to something when he says “Where there is a denial of what those words ['This is my Body' ... 'This is My Blood'] mean, we can have no confidence whatsoever that the Lord is present there.” Lutherans have always said the visible Church can only seen where the Word is preached purely and the Sacraments administered rightly. Where Rev. McCain I think goes a little off base is when he says the Lord might not be present. What Rev. McCain should have said is that we have no way of knowing what is going on in buildings when their very confession denies that God can be in, with and under the Sacrament(s). There are only two possibilities, one they are either eating the body and blood of Christ worthily, or they are eating and drinking to their damnation. It can’t be both.
Our Lord instituted the Eucharist to feed His Church till the last day. He said “this is my body and this is my blood” and that is exactly what it is. That body and blood is the same corpus that hung on the cross on Good Friday. Nothing we do or think can change how and when Christ works. But when a body of people confesses that Christ can’t be where He says He is, how do we know what is going on? We don’t. Is Christ there? No doubt he is. But are the people abusing the sacrament getting anything efficacious out of it? NO!
Let’s take the Mormons as an example. (I know this is an extreme example, but humor me) They say words of institution, don’t they? Yep. They baptize people don’t they? They sure do. They say they believe in Jesus don’t they? Yes is the answer to that question as well if you ask them. But to the Mormons, Jesus is just a reincarnated Adam, a creature that they follow as an example to be better people so they (Mormons) can become gods themselves. Will anyone seriously say that we accept that they might be getting something good out of their “memorial meal.” I think not! Is their sacrament even valid? Certainly not.
Here’s where things get dicey. So how I ask, do we say with any certainty that those in the reformed (and Lutheran as well, heck, even churches in our own beloved synod) churches receive anything good and efficacious? Could the Lord be doing something efficacious in their memorial meal? Uh, sure, I guess. If Christ can raise himself from the dead and create everything that is, He can clearly do something with that three legged horse making a mockery of His sacrament(s). But how do we know? We don’t. I’m sort of siding with Rev. McCain on this one, if they say it’s a memorial meal, I believe them. But they eat and drink the Body and Blood to their own damnation and judgment, as did the Corinthians in 1 Cor 11:27-29. As our confessions say; “we teach and confess also that there is only one kind of unworthy guest: those who do not believe. About these guests it is written in John 3:18 “Whoever does not believe is condemned already
” Formula, Epitome, VII, 18.
People have accused me of being a parrot who keeps repeating “Word and Sacrament” again and again. I even had someone post a question asking me if I didn’t think it was dangerous to keep repeating this over and over. Uh, no, I don’t think Word and Sacrament are dangerous at all. I cling to these two Marks because it’s the only way to “see” a visible church.
The only place where I would take issue with Der Bettler is in the last sentence of his original post which reads “but that their memorial meal was and continues to be the Lord's Supper, regardless of how they believe.” While Der Bettler is 100% right, he leaves out the condemnatory statement that Rev McCain should have at least implied. Yes, what they have is the Eucharist, but they eat and drink to their own damnation.
Kerner’s analogy above I don’t think applies here because those who deny the words of Jesus aren’t eating oranges, they are eating apples and calling them oranges. And all the reason, logic, and best intentions about what makes an apple an apple and when an orange is an orange, it doesn’t change the fact they are still eating apples while pretending to eat oranges. I’ll even go one step further, they might even be eating and drinking Drano, we don’t know.
Where I was wrong was saying that the Lord wasn’t there if the Marks were not there. I tried to right my argument by saying it was the efficacy that proved the Lord was there. In the end, I ended up in the same heterodoxical position as the Sacramentarians with my putting limits on what God can and can’t do. Clearly this is not what Scripture and our confessions teach. Herr Bettler and Kerner were just right on the money with both of their arguments. I do think I would have caught on a little quicker if they had attached a strong condemnatory statement to the end of their learned discourses.
When I first looked at this issue I thought that those who denied the words of Christ basically kicked Him out because of unbelief. But our Lord who took on human form is used to people rejecting him and works in spite of those sinful creatures, even to the point of His own death on a cross. But after studying the issue further, I’m saddened even more as I think of all the people eating and drinking to their judgment and condemnation. How sad it is that my first line of thinking would the “better” option?
I’m certainly not going to say where the Lord is or isn’t. But as I stated above, if you say that Christ can’t really be in your meal, I’m going to take your word that you believe for it and steer clear.
Labels: Eucharist, Sacramentarian