For Martin Luther, the question of theology was ultimately the question of God's grace -- particularly Christ and him crucified. Luther was no stranger to the debating circles of his day, no amateur at driving home his point. So it always struck me as odd, more than odd, a serious mis-step in his arguments when he made an argument for Christ's real presence in communion based on ubiquity -- that is, based on omnipresence. That seemed to be a backwards argument. Luther had made plain and strong arguments on Christ's real presence from Scripture, which was his strong suit. So why take up an argument that starts by assuming that the bread and wine are nothing special?
But as time goes on, and the more conversations I have with people from non-sacramental churches, the more I come to understand that Luther was going for the heart of the problem after all. To paraphrase the thrust of his argument: Is Christ God? Isn't he omnipresent? Isn't it in him that we live and move and have our being? Isn't he the fullness of him who fills all things? Then how can you say that one who is omnipresent is not in the bread and wine? How can you say that one who is omnipresent is present everywhere in the universe except in the elements he singled out and said, "This is my body, this is my blood"?
You cannot say that Christ is not really present at all in the bread and the wine without saying that omnipresence isn't real presence; that is, without saying that omnipresence isn't real. Or without saying that Christ isn't really the fullness of him who fills all things, that Christ isn't omnipresent; that is, that Christ isn't God.
The more I speak with non-sacramental Christians, the clearer it becomes to me that many such Christians see a world where God is not omnipresent, where omnipresence is not a living reality even though it is confessed with the lips, even though as a point of doctrine it will always have their mental assent not because they give it any thought but because the Bible says it. A recent book I read on Christian spirituality speaks of meditation and "making God present." Nobody talks like that who genuinely believes in omnipresence. There is no such thing as "making God present." There is welcoming God's presence or not welcoming God's presence, but there is no changing the fact of God's presence. There is no "practicing the presence of God"; there is only practicing being aware of the Presence which is already there. Those who do not see God in the tavern or the bar, who do not know God's presence in their kitchens, if God is not with them doing rush-hour karaoke in their cars, if they have not looked at the homeless fellow under the bridge and seen Christ, then what hope is there that they will recognize Christ in bread and wine?
Zwingli's famous argument against the real presence is very telling: "The finite cannot contain the infinite." If someone genuinely believes that the finite cannot contain the infinite, then the finite Jesus of Nazareth was not the infinite God. If someone firmly believes that the finite cannot contain the infinite, then has God's real presence ever been known on earth? If not, then omnipresence is not real presence. Luther attacked the heart of the problem after all, the "worldview" as we would now say, when he challenged for the reality of omnipresence. In a world where God is really present, it is a natural thing to believe Christ can truly be present in the bread and wine. In a world where Christ is not even in the bread and wine, where then is he?