Monday, November 26, 2007

Luther's odd argument for real presence

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?

57 comments:

Oloryn said...

Perhaps I don't understand the sacramental view, but it still strikes me as something of a side-step. Doesn't the sacramental view see Christ as present in the elements in a way different than He is present in the rest of the universe? If Christ is present in the elements in the same say He is present in the rest of the universe, then there's nothing at all different or special about His presence in the communion elements. This seems to me more consistent with a non-sacramental than a sacramental view.

Weekend Fisher said...

Which is why I really wondered about Luther's approach for the longest time. He seems to have been more interested, at that particular point, in getting people to acknowledge that there is no such thing as wholly denying Christ's presence without denying omnipresence.

Fwiw, when people brought up pretty much what you said, "If Christ is everywhere then he's in the tavern in the beer and I'll go worship there" he said that even still on the "ubiquitous" there is a difference: Christ may well be in the tavern *against* you depending on why you're there. It is only in the bread and wine that we know we have Christ *for* us.

Though as I said at the outset, it really is an odd argument for a sacramentalist to make. I think his point is that their responses were a sidestep, "Oh of course he's present like *that* ... er, right ..." when it came across as if he'd caught them: his opponents came across as if they didn't actually believe in omnipresence or the deity of Christ except on paper.

And the arguments they made were very revealing, esp. Zwingli. He precisely argued a thing that would prevent you from believing the incarnation, if his argument were taken to its logical conclusion. On a sacramental view esp Lutheran view, the real presence is like the incarnation in miniature: real bread and real wine which never cease to be themselves, but come to have Christ's real presence because of his promise, i.e. because Christ wills it.

Take care & God bless
WF

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

But, but, but -- (stammers, stutters) it isn't really because of any argument at all that you hold to the Real Presence, is it?

For the Orthodox, at least, it's simply a datum of our experience. That makes it immune to argument.

Anastasia

Chris said...

Whoa! Wonderful!

I really like the omnipresent argument, yet I also want to make a case for his unique presence in (or the unique nature of) the sacrament. For in absurd fashion, we can use the omnipresence of Christ to argue that God is in, with, and under my laptop and that typing and blogging is truly an act of communion with God. Which, of course, in one sense it is, but . . .

I think that we need to hold onto omnipresence and also hold close to his words of promise, for omnipresence - though good - is not enough. He promises to be present when two or three are gathered. He promises to be present in the meal. He promises to return again. He promises that an act of love toward a neighbor is an act of love toward God. The promises of God, it seems to me, direct us to see the presence of an omnipresent God in our midst.

OK, more to say. Excellent post!

VDMA said...

But I think there is a world of difference between the omnipresence, which is certainly "real", and the Real Presence when referring to the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. If you take "ordinary" bread and wine at Outback steakhouse, even though Christ is omnipresent I don't believe any Lutheran would claim that his presence in the bread and wine at Outback is anything remotely similar to his sacramental presence in, with, and under the elements of the bread and wine during the rite of Holy Communion.

I don't think any Zwinglian denies that Christ is God and thus that Christ is truly omnipresent. What concerned Luther, I believe, is that their "Christ" appeared to be different due to their radically separating the two natures of Christ from each other. A Zwinglian believes that Christ's human nature is locally contained in Heaven, while Christ's divine nature, which is spiritual, is omnipresent. I believe Luther saw this as an aberrant christology. The Zwinglians, and all Reformed/Calvinists, deny the possibility of Christ's true body and blood from being in more than one place at one time because they claim that only Christ's divine nature can be in more than one place at one time. Thus their faulty christology prevents them from accepting the plain words of Scripture regarding the presence of Christ's body and blood in Holy Communion. Luther makes the point that the human nature of Christ can be in more than one place at one time due to the fact that the human nature is united, yet also distinct from, the divine nature of Christ in the one person of Christ. This unity of person makes it possible for the human nature of the one Christ to be present in more than one place at a time.

That being said, I would think Luther would teach that there is something unique that occurs at the Lord's Supper with respect to the human nature of Christ. While the human nature might be omnipresent like the divine nature, without the sacramental miracle that occurs during the rite of Holy Communion, we would not be able to partake of his very body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, life, and salvation.

Craig said...

"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."

Amen! But turning your perspective around, isn't it odd to say that Christ is somehow "more" present in the bread and wine than elsewhere? How are you not back to "making God [more] present" through the act of communion?

Oloryn said...

Some of this strikes me as shuffling around theological tokens without completely paying attention to what they mean (not unusual for me, given my tendency to do theology from a "listening", rather than an academic framework). We get fixated on the term "presence" and treat it as a technical term to be proved or disproved, yet missing what may or may not be implied by the term.

I see two ways of taking a non-sacramental viewpoint. One is that in taking communion, nothing "happens" - we're just going through a ritual. A ritual commanded by Jesus, for sure, but just a ritual. Nothing special happens.

The other non-sacramental viewpoint is that when we take communion, something indeed "happens", but that it is not mediated by something special happening to the communion elements. Jesus commanded us to do this, and when we respond in obedience, He responds to us. Grace is imparted(or received), not because there's something special that has been done to the elements, but because God responds when we, in faith, obey Him in this.

I take the latter view, and it strikes me that it bears some resemblance to Chris's comments. I also think that the argument is typically treated as if it's solely between the sacramental and the first non-sacramental view, which misses some of the issues.

The issue, in my view, is whether we receive grace directly, or whether it must be mediated via something special happening to the elements. This seems, to me, to go directly to the heart of the Roman Catholic/Protestant divide, with the Roman church maintaining that grace is mediated through the church, and Protestants seeing grace as being given directly to the believer, in response to faith.

Weekend Fisher said...

Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts.

I'm breaking out my responses by commenters so everyone can find my
response to them more easily.

---

Hi Anastasia -- I know we come to the same conclusion (real presence) from opposite ends, but here's why Lutherans start at the other end: some people don't "get the feeling"; in their experience of communion, not everyone perceives. So Lutherans have always found it useful to proclaim the reality of Christ's presence on the basis of Christ's word (This is my body, this is my blood) and Paul's same-generation / same culture understanding of it (recognizing the body of Christ) and take Christ's presence as objectively given. That way, if someone doesn't "feel" or "experience" anything, they can still know the objective reality and let their feelings catch up later without worrying too much about them.

Though what you say reminds me of a conversation once where a Roman Catholic fellow told me that the bread and wine became Christ's body and blood during the words of institution, where they (in his way of putting it) prayed for Christ's presence in the elements. I told him that praying for Christ's presence at communion seemed to me a little like praying for rain in the middle of a hurricane ...

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Chris

You were saying "I think that we need to hold onto omnipresence and also hold close to his words of promise, for omnipresence - though good - is not enough."

Exactly. It's an interesting argument he made, but not enough. And that put me off of Luther's "argument from ubiquity" for a long time. Luther had -- and used -- other much more straightforward and Scriptural arguments. Some of his point with the argument from ubiquity seems to be, "If you understood Christ as God and omnipresence as real, we'd be arguing about how to understand the fact of Christ's real presence, not about whether Christ's presence is real."

Along those same lines (hazards of breaking up my responses like this), you may be interested in the response below to Craig about the unique presence.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi VDMA

First things first: "If you take "ordinary" bread and wine at Outback steakhouse ..."

In my book, Outback Steakhouse has some of the best bread ever made. I actually have a recipe for it which I hope to try at some point this winter. The recipe is not from Outback directly, but from a chef who writes cookbooks with reverse-engineered famous restaurant recipes ... Now let's see if I can concentrate on this discusion while mentally putting some butter on hot Outback bread.

You were saying: "I don't believe any Lutheran would claim that his presence in the bread and wine at Outback is anything remotely similar to his sacramental presence in, with, and under the elements of the bread and wine during the rite of Holy Communion."

It's an inadequate understanding, to be sure. And that's why, of all Luther's arguments for the Real Presence, it's probably the least-repeated and least-used.

VDMA: "I don't think any Zwinglian denies that Christ is God and thus that Christ is truly omnipresent."

I don't think any Zwinglian denies *on paper* that Christ is God and therefore omnipresent. But anyone who holds that "the finite cannot contain the infinite" (Zwingli) has in principle sold out the incarnation already, even if the general principle was not originally intended to apply to the incarnation. (I wonder whether Zwingli realized he was conceiving of spiritual realities in merely physical terms, which makes his whole presupposition moot.)

VDMA: "I would think Luther would teach that there is something unique that occurs at the Lord's Supper with respect to the human nature of Christ. "

Oh he did have a lot more to say about Real Presence than this. It's just such an unusual argument, gets at some of the "presupposition" level disagreements that often stay hidden and cause most of the real trouble.

Btw I don't think we've met before. Do you have a horse in this race?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Craig

You were saying: "But turning your perspective around, isn't it odd to say that Christ is somehow "more" present in the bread and wine than elsewhere? How are you not back to "making God [more] present" through the act of communion?"

On a Lutheran view, we don't "make" God present, or "more present". (I'll talk about "making present" first and then "more present" next.) On a Lutheran view, it's God who decided to make himself more present in and through Christ, in and through the Word, in and through the bread and wine. If God had not promised to meet us there, no amount of wanting him to be more present, or theorizing that he was more present, could ever make him actually be more present.

On the "more present" bit -- God's omnipresence didn't stop him from being "more present" with Moses at Sinai, or Elijah, or in the pillar of cloud and fire, or in the tabernacle, or in the Temple. God's omnipresence didn't stop him from being uniquely present as Christ. So while I realize how jarring it sounds to talk about a special presence of One who is already omnipresent, I do believe that's the case. Makes me want to ponder out how exactly that can be. (Wish me luck there.)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Oloryn

I like your expansion of the conversation here. Let's see where it goes. You were saying (taking the last point first):

Oloryn: "The issue, in my view, is whether we receive grace directly, or whether it must be mediated via something special happening to the elements. This seems, to me, to go directly to the heart of the Roman Catholic/Protestant divide, with the Roman church maintaining that grace is mediated through the church, and Protestants seeing grace as being given directly to the believer, in response to faith."

See, on a Lutheran view, it's not quite an accurate picture to say that grace is given in response to faith; it is first true that faith begins in response to grace, and it is axiomatic that grace is always mediated through Christ. That's the key point, on a Lutheran view: that grace (the good favor of God) is *always* mediated, and it is always / only mediated through Christ.

So, back to communion. We see it as grace (specifically forgiveness and God's presence of blessing) mediated through Christ, and that there would be no grace without or apart from Christ. The "grace for obedience" thing is the part that seems Romish to us. Though for us, whether it seems Romish is irrelevant. The real presence was never a theological pawn in the battle with Rome. "The Scripture teaches it and that's that" on the Lutheran view; we'd believe it even if Osama bin Laden did too.

Oloryn: "Jesus commanded us to do this, and when we respond in obedience, He responds to us. Grace is imparted(or received), not because there's something special that has been done to the elements, but because God responds when we, in faith, obey Him in this."

To a Lutheran, that sounds like grace is conditioned on us responding in obedience. And on a Lutheran view, there's nothing special that we do to the elements. God's there because he promised to be, not because we did something special.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Oloryn said...

I can see I need to be a bit more careful in my terminology, as I'm not quite getting across what I intended. Part of it is that I've only recently dived much into the particulars of the theology of communion. The distinction between the two non-sacramental views I made in my last comment have made a difference in my own appreciation of communion, and I'm interested in digging in more.

My use of the term 'grace' for how God responds to our obedience in communion is probably unfortunate. Part of it is that that seems to be the Roman view (The Roman church almost seems to give grace the quality of a "substance", with the sacraments one way that substance is doled out), and in juggling the concepts around in my head, I left the terminology there. I agree, you don't 'earn' grace via obedience - grace isn't earned. Justification and sanctification come via unearned grace received through faith. Grace, though, isn't intended to merely bring justification, it's intended to bring sanctification, which brings us into obedience. I have trouble, though, seeing God as being indifferent to our acts of obedience. You don't earn acceptance with God through obedience, but obedience isn't meaningless. God responds to us some way when we're obedient. I don't know that the proper terminology for the response is, but the response is there.

I think the real difference between the sacramental view and the particular non-sacramental view I have is that you see us meeting Christ in communion because He is specially present in the elements. I see us meeting Christ in communion because the omnipresent Christ responds to our obedience. From that framework, the difference seems a lot less spectacular.

From my point of view, positing Christ's special presence in the elements seems.....unnecessary. That doesn't mean it can't be, but I'm as yet unconvinced. I end up wondering if Lutheran sacramentalism is a result of Luther not pulling far enough away from Roman sacramentalism, but I won't posit that as "proof" that he did so (to do so would be to commit the genetic fallacy - what C. S. Lewis called "Bulverism").

VDMA said...

I think that's the first time I ever came across "reverse engineered" with respect to theology. That's hilarious. I thought only software engineers in Texas actually practiced reverse engineering! ;)

Steven G. said...

In Luther's argument from ubiquity it is not that Christ is more or less present in the Sacrament. It's that Christ is present for us in the Sacrament. This was brought up in Weekend Fisher's first comment, and for my money is really the "hook" of the argument. Luther baits his detractors with the omnipresence of Christ.
It is as if Luther says, "You are not saying that Christ isn't really present everywhere, are you."

They respond, "No, no, but if Christ is present everywhere, isn't He "just as present" at the tavern or in a rope."

Now, Luther has them, "No, only in the Sacrament is Christ there for you because He has promised to there forgiving your sins"

That's my take on it anyway. To summarize, it is not really a quantitative difference but a qualitative difference.

VDMA said...

Steven,

Good point. If that point was made earlier by WeekendFisher, I must have been reading her post too quickly. I agree with you.

Just curious, would you (or anyone reading) say that Christ's human nature is omnipresent at all times, or just his divine nature?

Craig said...

WF, your distinction of Christ's special presence in communion is a helpful one, for the purposes of understanding your argument. Yet, Christ also promised to be "uniquely" present where two or three gather "in My name, there I am with them." The gathering together in community in Christ's name constitutes His body, and He has promised to be there. This gathering is sacramental (in this sense), as well.

I've been tentatively thinking of communion as an extension of that "thread" - a proclamation of (an acting out of) the Gospel that engrafts us into the Gospel story, redeeming our history, present, and future because they become folded into God's history, present, and future. Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright have worked to develop this line of thought.

Anyway, I digress. Perhaps I am getting tripped up on the Lutheran position that says *what* He is uniquely present for, as I assume is correctly highlighted by Steven (I have heard this expressed as the Lutheran position before, but correct me if this isn't the orthodox Lutheran thought). Steven says: "Now, Luther has them, "No, only in the Sacrament is Christ there *for you* because He has promised to there forgiving your sins"

I see communion as a place where heaven and earth come together and of course Christ is present there, but to say that He is *only* present in the bread and wine for us to forgive our sins seems to stretch the biblical language on the eucharist and conflict with other promises that Christ gave (either directly or through the Apostles).

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

A nature cannot be present except in the person whose nature it is. Christ is present in person, which means, bearing both natures inseparably.

Anastasia

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

WF, I was not referring to feelings. I was talking about perception, but of a spiritual sort.

Anastasia

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Oloryn

I can see where you're going a little bit better now.

Oloryn: "(The Roman church almost seems to give grace the quality of a "substance", with the sacraments one way that substance is doled out)"

I think they do see it as a substance; I've heard some Orthodox folks fussing at them about that (substance, and what's worse a created substance so hardly up to the task of reuniting us with God). On a Lutheran view, the primary meaning of grace is something like relationship or attitude within the relationship, basically being in someone's favor or good graces.

Oloryn: "I have trouble, though, seeing God as being indifferent to our acts of obedience. You don't earn acceptance with God through obedience, but obedience isn't meaningless. God responds to us some way when we're obedient. I don't know that the proper terminology for the response is, but the response is there."

I'm 100% with you that God is not indifferent to our obedience and trust. I'm fishing for the "terminology for the response" as you say, and my first instinct is along the lines of "celebration" or "rejoicing".

Oloryn: "I end up wondering if Lutheran sacramentalism is a result of Luther not pulling far enough away from Roman sacramentalism."

Oh, he was asked that during his lifetime. He answered with all his usual delicacy and charm (let the reader understand) that it was a matter of sticking with what the Scripture said.

Oloryn: From my point of view, positing Christ's special presence in the elements seems.....unnecessary.

Well, thing is, on a Lutheran view, "unnecessary" is irrelevant, just like whether Rome believes it is irrelevant. The only thing that's relevant is whether Christ says he'll be there. If Christ's there, then questions of who believes it or not, and who finds it necessary or not, become secondary.

Here's an example of an argument from what's necessary. I know a lady who's a Quaker. Her view of baptism is that the water isn't necessary. Her view of communion is that you can commune with God any time, and bread and wine aren't necessary. So they don't do baptism or communion. The element of truth in the argument verges on being a technicality (and outsmarting the words of Christ seems like a bad idea to me just on general principles); the missed point is that God's blessing never did depend on necessity and that God's blessing in choosing these things is missed by disdaining them.

Which, to stop rambling, is my point about necessity: it's a red herring, especially when talking about God who tends not to be bound by necessity in the first place. It's enough if God chooses it.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Steven & VDMA

VDMA: what Steven said is well put, probably a little plainer than I put that particular point. It's because I find Luther's argument still awkward at that point. His call for uniqueness on the grounds of presence for you / presence against you -- that is an argument for a difference from general omnipresence that I think that a non-sacramentalist could understand. That much said, I probably gave that part of Luther's argument too quick a gloss because it annoys me in falling so painfully short of what we (Lutherans) would typically mean by Real Presence, despite the service it does in constructing a view of Real Presence that a non-sacramentalist can appreciate.

VMDA: "Just curious, would you (or anyone reading) say that Christ's human nature is omnipresent at all times, or just his divine nature?"

I haven't given that any thought before. Just thinking on the fly here, if I try on "yes" for size, it would have to be qualified that "human nature" doesn't mean "flesh". I think what makes the question tend towards a dilemma is our tendency to picture human nature as flesh alone, just the animal physicality, which is not capable of omnipresence. If I try on "No" for size, it would mean imagining Christ's humanity was mere physicality, having neither human spirit nor "rational soul" as some of the old writers used to put it. So I'd think that "yes" is closer to right than "no".

Probably one day I'll pick up a book and find that someone's thought this through much better than I have, but that'll do for today.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Craig



---

Craig: "Yet, Christ also promised to be "uniquely" present where two or three gather "in My name, there I am with them." The gathering together in community in Christ's name constitutes His body, and He has promised to be there. This gathering is sacramental (in this sense), as well."

I'd agree that Christ is especially present when there are two or three of us together in his name. (I still haven't worked out how the Omnipresent can be specially present, but it seems to be the case.) The way you put it made me think about what it says in the book of Acts about the early Christians, that they "devoted themselves to the apostles' teachings, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers." Fellowship and the Lord's supper appear in the same breath there too. And here's a pet peeve of mine. As Lutherans we talk about God's real presence in the Lord's supper a lot, and that's as it should be. But God's real presence in fellowship is something that we all know on paper but doesn't get proper attention or notice. It's under-appreciated, under-considered. When's the last time you saw a major theological work on the fellowship of believers, or heard a sermon on it? When someone asks "Why come to church?" do we straight off say "Because Christ has promised to be with us when two or three of us come together in his name?"

Craig: " ... Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright have worked to develop this line of thought."

If you ever post on that, let me know. I'd be interested to hear more.

Craig: Steven says: "Now, Luther has them, "No, only in the Sacrament is Christ there *for you* because He has promised to there forgiving your sins"

That seems to be a fairly straightforward implication of what Christ said, "take and eat ... my body ... take and drink ... my blood ... for the forgiveness of sins."

Craig: I see communion as a place where heaven and earth come together and of course Christ is present there, but to say that He is *only* present in the bread and wine for us to forgive our sins seems to stretch the biblical language on the eucharist and conflict with other promises that Christ gave (either directly or through the Apostles).

I can't quite figure if you mean "it's wrong to say Christ only forgives sins through his presence in the bread and wine" or "it's wrong to say that Christ's presence in the bread and wine is only to forgive sins" or something else there. I'd put it like this: his promise to be present in the bread and wine is accompanied by a promise of forgiveness, whereas his promise to be with us when we meet in his name is not accompanied by a promise of forgiveness. I'm not saying Christ's presence is unforgiving except in the bread and wine, I'm saying that the forgiveness of our sins is exactly what his presence in the bread and wine is meant to communicate, while his presence when we are gathered in his name is not so purposefully focused on our forgiveness. They're two different types (?) of focused, unique presence.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Steven G. said...

VDMA: I would answer yes that the human nature of Christ is present at all times because it shares the attributes (omnipresence) that properly belong to the divine nature. By human nature, I mean both body and soul, but there is a uniqueness to the way that Christ's human nature is present in the Sacrament. I think post resurrection because only in the Sacrament is Christ's forgiveness of our sins mediated through His "body" and "blood".

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Jesus Christ is, of course, fully present everywhere and at all times. He is as fully "for us" everywhere and at all times as He is in Holy Communion. He is ALWAYS for you. (Holy Communion, taken wrongly, will backfire on your soul.)

But uniquely in Holy Communion, you can take His body and blood into yours. And, miracle of miracles, instead of Him becoming you (as ordinary food would) the result is, you become more and more Him.

Anastasia

VDMA said...

I, personally, agree in that I believe both natures of Christ are omnipresent. A Zwinglian, however, would say that with respect to the human nature of Christ, he is like us in all ways except he is without sin. That being said, they ask, is your "human nature" omnipresent? If not, neither is his if his is like ours in ALL WAYS except sin. They would agree his divine nature is omnipresent, but they believe his human nature is not since he is like us in all ways except he has no sin. This is where the debate with them becomes christological, where one side calls the other Nestorian and the other side calls the other Eutychian. (I think those are the right terms. It's been awhile since I read up on this.) The Calvinists say the Lutherans unduly mix the two natures of Christ to achive an omnipresent human nature, which they say is a violation of the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon. The Lutherans deny they mix, but point out that they are both in the one person of Christ and therefore the divine nature can affect the human nature and can give it the "gift" of omnipresence. The Lutherans then call the Calvinists Nestorians (I believe he's the heretic they refer to.) for unduly separating the two natures in Christ to such a degree where you practically end up with two persons, one human and one divine, intead of one person with two natures.

I try to avoid all of the christological argumentation with them and just say it's a miracle. Yes, Christ is like us in all ways sin being excepted. How is his body and blood in more than one place at one time? Easy, the Bible says so- "This is My Body." Whether or not I can explain that using my human reason is immaterial.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Well, you can use your human reason, too.

This is the risen (= glorified), ascended to heaven (= deified) human nature of Christ, sitting at the right hand of the Father, forever and ever. This is the body that could eat broiled fish, yet appear to the disciples within a locked room. And disappear from it. This is the Lord who multiplied the loaves -- immediately before He taught us about eating His Body and drinking His Blood (John 6).

So I fail to see the Zwinglian problem.

Anastasia

Oloryn said...

On a Lutheran view, the primary meaning of grace is something like relationship or attitude within the relationship, basically being in someone's favor or good graces.

I agree with that. One of my problems with the sacramental view is that Christ responding to our act of obedience seems more 'relationshipy' (to coin a word) to me than positing that a change in the elements mediates the relationship between Christ and us (it seems to put an additional mediator in the chain rather than leaving Christ as the sole mediator between God and man).

it was a matter of sticking with what the Scripture said.

I am as yet unconvinced that that is what the scripture says.

BTW, thanks for the civil discussion on this. I've learned a lot in trying to get across my own position, and it's easier to learn from that when you're discussing, rather than arguing.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Oloryn,

I don't know how it is for Lutherans; I think they call communion a "means", butg for us Orthodox, this sacrament is not a means of communing with God. It is a FORM of direct communion.

It is not anything Christ does in response to our obedience, but exactly the reverse: something we do in response to His instruction.

In the Diine Liturgy, the Holy Spirit changes the bread and wine, as promised, in answer to our prayers. It would be surpassing strange if the bread and wine were NOT changed, since everything else is, our whole world, time, space, ourselves, our perceptions, our relationships, etc., etc., etc., as heaven breaks in upon the earth.

Anastasia

VDMA said...

Anastasia,

We might be saying the same thing. You said you could use your reason and then listed some miracles. How did the ascended Christ accomplish these miracles? How does he make his body and blood present in more than one place at one time? We don't know. Human reason doesn't know. They are miracles related to us through the Word of God and thus I believe them, even though I cannot explain them.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yes, I think we are saying the same thing or else something similar.

Obviously, we cannot know how Christ accomplished any of these miracles; at that point the limit of our human intelligence is surpassed.

The point I meant to make was that when it comes to Holy Communion, we are talking about Christ's *glorified* and *deified* human nature -- which, it seems to me, solves all the Zwinglian problems and objections.

In His earthly life, He was in His human nature was just like us in all things but sin -- but through His resurrection and ascension, He becamem even in His human nature, much more than that. He became who we are destined to become. He became like us that we might become like Him.

Anastasia

VDMA said...

Hi Anastasia,

You wrote: "In His earthly life, He was in His human nature was just like us in all things but sin -- but through His resurrection and ascension, He becamem even in His human nature, much more than that. He became who we are destined to become."

Would you say that before Christ was crucified and while he was incarnate on earth, that his human nature was omnipresent?

With respect to your last sentence above, would you say that one day our human natures will become omnipresent since his human nature is omnipresent?

Craig said...

Anne wrote: "I can't quite figure if you mean "it's wrong to say Christ only forgives sins through his presence in the bread and wine" or "it's wrong to say that Christ's presence in the bread and wine is only to forgive sins" or something else there."

I'm saying the former, based on what Steven had said (and other orthodox Lutherans) as summarizing the Lutheran position. Our sins are obviously forgiven through other responses as well - calling on the name of Christ, in baptism, when we repent, etc. Christ is present for us in more places than just the bread and wine of communion. God's creation exudes His sacramental presence, as N.T. Wright has said.

I guess my objection lies in the fact that followers of Christ aren't dependent on communion for the forgiveness of sins. Christ has promised to be present in communion (how He is present is another discussion) and through our participation in faith in the sacrament, Christ has promised to meet us there and forgive our sins. But I don't see how you can say he is differently or uniquely present in communion as compared to other acts of response in which He has similarly uniquely present. The Scriptures won't support this limitation.

Communion is an important aspect of our relationship with God and each other, but the forgiveness of our sins is not dependent on it.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Craig

The orthodox Lutheran position is not that Christ *only* forgives sins through his presence in the bread and wine, but that he truly does forgive sins through his presence in the bread and wine. Christ likewise forgives sins in baptism ("repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins") and in repentance esp. confession before God ("if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness").

So I don't want to leave the impression that the orthodox Lutheran position is that the *only* forgiving presence is in communion. Luther's quip that elsewhere, God may well be against you was basically in response to someone else's quip on the ubiquity argument, "Well if God is omnipresent I think I'll just go to the nearest tavern ... he's equally present in the ale ...". That was the context of Luther's remarks (parphrased) "God is certainly present there, but there he may be against you rather than for you."

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Steven G. said...

Craig, in retrospect I should probably have stated that clearer that Christ forgives our sins through a myriad of means (baptism, Lord's Supper, Absolution, preaching, mutual consolation of the brethren, etc). The one common denominator in all of these is Christ promise not our response. All though without faith, the thing promised cannot be received. The promise is not conditioned by our response but by God's great mercy.

codepoke said...

I've been cogitating on this discussion, and I think I've figured out what sounds wrong.

The doctrine that God is "in everything" is panentheism, not omnipresence. The word "presence" is being used here as if the two were identical. In omnipresence, God is "present" as Socrates is poisoned. In panentheism, He is present in the poison that kills Socrates, which is germane to the discussion of the Lord's Supper. It seems like an important distinction to clarify.

Which do you mean?

VDMA said...

codePoke,

I agree with you. I think that there is something unique about the presence of the very Body and Blood of Christ given for us in the Sacrament of the Altar.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Eph 1:23 "...him that filleth all in all."


Panentheism, as a heresy, claims that the whole created order is a *part of* God, made out of God, although not the whole of Him.

Christians, on the other hand, make a sharp distinction between God and His creation. God is wholly other. God, in creating, "made room" for something entirely new to come into being. God is so absolutely unique that He doesn't even have any parallel. There is nothing whatsoever we can compare with God’s Nature. There is no analogy we can make. There is no kinship with anything created. There is no category of human thought to which It belongs.

And He did not create out of His own substance, but ex nihilo, meaning without any "building blocks" or materials.

Christians simply say, as in the verse from Ephesians above, that God fills all things. (Anything He ceased to fill would at that instant cease to be.)

Anastasia

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

P.S. We have to remember than God is *infinite*. Meaning, there are no boundaries for Him.

Anastasia

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Kevin

From the Lutheran viewpoint, the way we usually put it with regard to communion is that God is "in, with, and under" the bread and wine. Which is not panentheism, nor yet simple omnipresence. That's why Luther's argument from ubiquity seems so strange to Lutheran ears. It does get the non-sacramentalists talking and thinking about God's presence, but it leaves them, I think, short of the full realization of Christ's presence.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

codepoke said...

Anastasia Theodoridis,

As I read wikipedia on panentheism, they made quite the big deal out of the Orthodox punctuating the word, "panen-theism." Your explanation jives completely with that one. Of course, my question was not about panentheism in the large, but in its relationship to the Lord's Supper. If I understand your previous comments, then you don't consider God's omnipresence to be a proof of real presence. And if that is correct, then we never really disagreed on panentheism.

I have not yet said anything about real presence, so I'll stop for a moment. :-)

codepoke said...

WF,

> That's why Luther's argument from ubiquity seems so strange to Lutheran ears.

Well, if it sounds strange to your ears, it sounds bizarre to mine. To base an argument for real presence on something that applies equally to the Lord's Supper, hemlock, and websites seems like a tease at best. As in, "you cannot be serious." And changing the word to ubiquity doesn't make it any less panentheistic.

Here's my take on real presence. As far as beliefs go, it's quite a nice one and certainly not worth a fight. You called those who don't believe in real presence secularists and humanists in a previous post. I certainly don't believe the subject is worth returning the consideration.

Still, it seems to be tradition-based, rather than scripture-based. Luther was a Roman Catholic, and was not comfortable leaving everything behind. That's not a big knock, but it sure looks like what happened.

There is real grace in the Lord's Supper. There is real power in the Lord's Supper. People don't sleep prematurely from bread fragments on a bad conscience. But I don't see where scripture states unequivocally that the answer is real presence. The references from John simply do not transfer cleanly enough to make anyone who sees them differently out to be heathen.

The place where I'll stick my feet in the ground and get stubborn, though, is at mediation. I've never seen a sacramental church that didn't make the priest/pastor/??? a mediator of grace between me and God. That does not jive with massive chunks of the new testament. That does not jive with the love feast of 1 Cor.

Show me real presence without a man to mediate grace between God and me, and I'll grow less unfriendly to the idea. I'll still need to see some meat on the John passages before I really get friendly to it, though. ;-)

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Kevin

Let's see, half a dozen points you're covering, & where to start? I think the one you said matters most to you:

K: Show me real presence without a man to mediate grace between God and me ...

** Why do you think there's a man to mediate grace between you and God when Christ puts himself into your hands? That's an alien concept to my Lutheran-trained ears. My pastor isn't mediating between us and God. There's nobody between me and Christ in my hands.

K: I'll still need to see some meat on the John passages before I really get friendly to it, though.

** Don't get me wrong, I think John is to the point (though even sacramental theologians discuss that amongst themselves, pro and con, whether that was about the sacrament). I've never heard anyone rest any weight on John for why we think Christ's presence in communion is real.

K: Still, it seems to be tradition-based, rather than scripture-based. Luther was a Roman Catholic, and was not comfortable leaving everything behind. That's not a big knock, but it sure looks like what happened.

** Bless your heart, but you haven't read a lot of Luther, have you? Everyone has to pick their priorities, "so many books, so little time." If you're ever interested, go read some more of what Luther wrote and you'll be disabused of the notion that he held the position out of tradition rather than out of firm conviction that the Scripture teaches it.

K: There is real grace in the Lord's Supper. There is real power in the Lord's Supper. People don't sleep prematurely from bread fragments on a bad conscience. But I don't see where scripture states unequivocally that the answer is real presence.

** If I were to just start with what you said, "real grace" and "real power", to a Lutheran you've already said Christ is really there, because grace comes through Christ, and Christ is the power of God. Is there "real grace" apart from Christ? Meanwhile, "This is my body" and "This is my blood" seem plain enough to us, and we see no reason to reinterpret that to mean something else.

K: You called those who don't believe in real presence secularists and humanists in a previous post.

** Um, deist/secularized in worldview, I believe, because you can't entirely deny Christ's real presence in communion without denying God's real presence in the world; which is a deist or secularized worldview.

K: And changing the word to ubiquity doesn't make it any less panentheistic.

** Ubiquity/omnipresence are just two ways of getting at the concept that God fills all things and is in all places. You say "panentheism" as if it made your argument for you, and as if it referred to a single idea rather than a variety of related ideas about how God and nature relate, or as if calling something "panentheism" made it the same as what various Hindus or Buddhists teach. The idea in question is that God's presence everywhere includes a presence in all things; calling that idea "panentheism" is not a proof of error, nor does it even touch the Scriptural basis that God fills all things.

K: To base an argument for real presence on something that applies equally to the Lord's Supper, hemlock, and websites seems like a tease at best. As in, "you cannot be serious."

** Well, websites don't actually exist; they're just figments of your browser's imagination. ;) Seriously, though, the level on which I sympathize with your objection is the level on which I thought, "You know, Luther is stopping so far short of proving what he wants them to see." The level on which I don't sympathize is the level on which you try to take part of creation (hemlock) and seem to imply that it's too profane to be honored with God's presence, as if it were not "very good" (Genesis 1:31) even though still capable of being abused by humans.

Whaddya say there, is Omnipresence a real presence?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

In Orthodoxy, the priest is NOT the one who performs the change in the bread and wine. (I can't speak for other traditions.) Thus, the priest is by no stretch of imagination any mediator. We do not see him ministering in the palce of Christ, which place Christ Himself still occupies, much less in the person of Christ, as Catholicism asserts.

Instead, the priest ministers *alongside* Christ, doing the visible counterparts of what Christ is invisibly doing. And the One who changes the bread and wine is the Holy Spirit, in response to the prayers of the whole congregation.

Anastasia

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Kevin,

I've never stopped to consider whether omnipresence is any proof of Real Presence in the Eucharist or not, and candidly, I don't intend to. For me, the question seems unnecessary and an answer superfluous. The experience of the Church, of whom I am a member, and whose experience I therefore share, proves it to me.

VDMA,

Don't know whether Christ's human nature was omnipresent while He still lived on earth. But the point is, it most assuredly was after His resurrection.

(Certain saints have been known to bi-locate during their earthly lifetimes.)

Anne,

Well, I personally might not put the way you did, might not say, "being in Christ is being in a place where the law has already executed its judgment."

Christ's death was carried out by OUTlaws, against the Law, illegally.

He was totally innocent, had obeyed the Law to perfection -- and He offered His father that obedience on behalf of us all, and the Father accepted it on behalf of us all.

Who or what was left to be punished? So to say Christ died for us has a host of meanings, but in Orthodoxy, at least, punishment is not literally one of them.

Anastasia

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Oops, sorry, two people addressed questions to me, to which I forgot to respond.

VDMA asks me if I'd say that "one day our human natures will become omnipresent since his human nature is omnipresent?

Yes, I would. We will be perfectly in Him, and He perfectly in us, so united that we acquire His characteristics, all of them except whatever it is He possesses that makes Him God.

Stevan G. asked, "Is Christ present even in unbelievers?"

Yes. He is "the light that lightens every man coming into the world." However, there is no *union* between an unbeliever ad Christ present in him. That communion in Christ is what makes all the difference.

Put another way, Christ has already united our *nature* to Himself, at His incarnation. What remains is to unite the *person* to Himself. That is what has not happened in an unbeliever.

Anastasia

codepoke said...

Thank you for the clarification, Anastasia.

> And the One who changes the bread and wine is the Holy Spirit, in response to the prayers of the whole congregation.

I understand and appreciate where you see the difference. I come from a totally non-liturgical perspective, and see the priesthood as a different thing entirely than you do, so I doubt we'll ever agree on mediation or on the real presence of Christ in the elements.

codepoke said...

WF,

> Um, deist/secularized in worldview, I believe, because you can't entirely deny Christ's real presence in communion without denying God's real presence in the world; which is a deist or secularized worldview.

It baffles me how you can respond to my statement merely by clarifying exactly how you meant to offend. Well, count me offended.

Because a man does not buy into real presence, you are willing to defend your accusation that he believes in an uninvolved God, or no God at all. No wonder the church splits the way it does.

> you can't entirely deny Christ's real presence in communion without denying God's real presence in the world

Boy that's a tenuous chain. Because I say Christ is not uniquely, specially in one place at one time I am therefore logically constrained to say He's at no place at all times in any way? That makes no sense at all, much less logic.

And yet you differentiate between this and panentheism? Your ubiquity sounds like a difference without distinction.

> Whaddya say there, is Omnipresence a real presence?

Cake | Eat it
!Both

A thing is either of value because it is unique or because it is ubiquitous. Nothing is both unique and ubiquitous.

Either God's omnipresence constitutes the basis of His real presence, and therefore real presence becomes no more significant than symbolic presence.

-or-

God's real presence is significant precisely because it differs from His omnipresence and scripture no longer supports your position.



> Why do you think there's a man to mediate grace between you and God...?

Who can effectively "serve" the Lord's Supper?

Weekend Fisher said...

Kevin, you read offense where none is meant, and interpret some things otherwise than they were intended. I think some of our words still have different definitions, too ...

I'll put forward this much for your consideration for the moment:

I'd asked: > Why do you think there's a man to mediate grace between you and God...?

You'd answered: Who can effectively "serve" the Lord's Supper?

Here's an answer word-for-word from a Q&A officially endorsed by our church body, where someone had written a question under the misconception that only the pastor could serve communion. (There must be Very Formal churches somewhere if this was a surprise to the person who wrote in. But I digress.):

(Start of long quote ----)

"Concerning the administration of the Lord's Supper, you seem to be assuming that ONLY a person who has been "ordained" or who formally holds the pastoral office may serve among God's people in this capacity. In the vast majority of occasions, our pastors serve us in this way because the church has called them to do this on their behalf. Remember that the right and privilege of preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments belongs to ALL Christians. God gave them the keys. God also instituted the public (representative) ministry so qualified people will serve the spiritual needs of their fellow Christians, and bodies of believers call or ask these public servants (like pastors) to do much of this work for them. So (to repeat) in the vast majority of cases, our pastors serve us in this way when we gather together.

If for a valid reason a pastor is unable to serve as he has been called to serve (and attending to a wife at the birth of a child and a vacation both qualify in my opinion), the church may call others to serve them in his absence. A neighboring pastor is a great option. And so is using other leaders within the congregation, like the elders. This is obviously what took place in your church--the congregation, probably through its pastor, issued what we might say is a "limited" call for the head elder to administer the Lord's supper on its behalf since the regularly called pastor was not available. That is perfectly acceptable biblically.

You ask, "Where is this written, that the head elder can present a sacrament?" Where is it written that only a pastor may do so? "

(--- End of long quote)

That's our church body's official stand. "Where is it written that only a pastor may do so?" Of course the pastor usually does that. That's why we called him, part of the job description. But I've had communion from laity before and no doubt will again. The leader leads so things will be orderly, not to assume the role of intermediary, a role which isn't available.

---

More after the temperature settles down a little 'round here. For now, you should know this: no offense is meant, and I have reason to believe you are reading certain things with meanings other than I intended. Feel free to chalk it up to my need for improvement in communicating this.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

VDMA said...

Anastasia: “(Certain saints have been known to bi-locate during their earthly lifetimes.)”

Interesting. I’ve only heard of Roman Catholic people allegedly bilocating. Do the Eastern Orthodox claim this happens to some of their faithful as well?

Anastasia: “VDMA asks me if I'd say that "one day our human natures will become omnipresent since his human nature is omnipresent?

Yes, I would. We will be perfectly in Him, and He perfectly in us, so united that we acquire His characteristics, all of them except whatever it is He possesses that makes Him God.”

But isn’t Christ’s human nature omnipresent due to the fact that he had two natures? That is to say isn’t it the divine nature that affects the human nature that results in the human nature becoming omnipresent in the person of Jesus Christ? Since we have only one nature, a human nature, I don’t see how that can happen with us.

Also, I once read a book (Reformed) about Christology that claimed that Luther was very much affected, more so than usually found within the western Church in his day, in his Christology by the Eastern Church Fathers- Cappadocian I believe. I just thought that was interesting.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

VDMA, It' just one of the many things I don't know.

Sorry.

:-)
Anastasia

codepoke said...

A thought:

> More after the temperature settles down a little 'round here.

If you ever believe someone needs to cool off, never say, "cool off." It inevitably leads to the response, "I am cooled off!"

So, while I am (unnecessarily, of course) cooling off, for what are you searching? How do you hope it will help?

VDMA said...

Concerning Elders performing the consecration in the absence of the pastor, I think this is one of those things that are different between the WELS and the LCMS that has to do with the nature of the ministry. I don't think this (an Elder performing the consecration in the absence of a pastor) is ever done in the LCMS. I haven't read up on this, but I think the two synods have different understandings about the pastoral office.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Kevin

You were saying: So, while I am (unnecessarily, of course) cooling off, for what are you searching?

** A more opportune moment. ;)

First off, remember that Luther's "odd argument" was not meant to be a formal proof (unlike many of his arguments), but more of an icebreaker or logjam-breaker for the debate. To approach it as a formal proof is to misunderstand the argument. And it's so out of the norm for Luther's style that it's sure to raise eyebrows, but I think (at that point in the theological treatise-wars and debate-wars of his day) that Luther was beyond worrying about raising eyebrows and was just looking for a way to rebuild some common ground and break open some fresh ground on the conversation.

So, old stuff, mine: > Is omnipresence real presence? (And)
You can't entirely deny Christ's real presence in communion without denying God's real presence in the world.

Kevin's understanding, previous: Because I say Christ is not uniquely, specially in one place at one time I am therefore logically constrained to say He's at no place at all times in any way?

** Nope, that's not what I'm aiming to communicate. Let me reword it using terms that you're using: If God is truly present at all places and times in some way (omnipresence), then God is truly present in *at least* that way in communion. And for Luther's opponents of the day, even getting that much acknowledged was sometimes an obstacle, you know how the debate mentality gets. Some of his opponents (then and now) come across as if they don't believe omnipresence is real or meaningful; and if omnipresence isn't real or meaningful, then there are much more profound theological differences than whether special presence is also happening in the bread and wine.

The point is to establish common ground for the beginning of the conversation, not to establish a logical proof for the entire conversation. And as we've seen here, it sure does a good job of stirring up a conversation on exactly what is meant by God's presence. Which was half the point. The other half is to establish an inch of common ground where it's possible to start a more in-depth conversation about God's presence. (Which Luther did, I mean you can read him going on about the way liquid is present in a bottle versus the way demons are present in a human while the human is there too versus the way omnipresence works, on and on with all the philosophical terminology for different modes of presence.)

Then you bring up panentheism again as if saying the word "panentheism" proves that what you labeled as such is unBiblical. The Bible says that "In him we live and move and have our being" and describes God as "him who fills all things". So there is nothing unBiblical with affirming that God fills all things; it's Biblical to affirm it and I'm not sure someone could disown it and still be fully Biblical. So I have no intention of disowning God's pervasive omnipresence in the world just because someone calls it panentheism. (I think that the pervasiveness of God's omnipresence is what Luther was driving at when he sometimes said "ubiquity".)

I'm a little surprised that in one argument you deny that you see God as less present, but in the next you say that we see God as too present. Those who reject a pervasive view of omnipresence do end up with a worldview where God is seen as much less present than for (say) an Eastern Orthodox like Anastasia or a Lutheran like me.

In "Luther's odd argument" here, the point of discussion is less on the special presence of Christ in communion, and more on the underlying issue of God's presence in the world, how it works, and what it means. He wasn't wrong to notice that the views go hand-in-hand, even if it is really atypical of him to go for a square inch of common ground rather than for the final goal as was his habit.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

codepoke said...

Up front.

I said calling us deists and secularists is offensive, and it is no less so to see that statement go unaddressed in your long reply. The words deist and secularist have meanings, and you have twice assigned them to a group of which I am a part. Please address that topic directly.

On faith that your discussion will resolve that issue, some of your other comments.

> Then you bring up panentheism again
> then God is truly present in *at least* that way in communion.
> in one argument you deny that you see God as less present, but in the next you say that we see God as too present.

It sounds as if you missed the "Either -or-" in my argument.

You are essentially saying Luther's odd argument is almost facetious, intended to deal only with lunkheads who won't discuss the topic at all. Fair enough. I get it and won't beat on the inappropriateness of that argument.

That still leaves us with lots of questions about real presence. The odd argument has muddied the waters for me, though. Here's the point of distinction that defines panentheistism in my mind.

#1) If God is omnipresent in the same place as the bread, and as I eat the bread God is still omnipresent there, and as I swallow and digest it, He's still there - that's omnipresence. He is at all places the bread went.

#2) If God is in the bread, and eating the bread causes me to eat God, then the bread is God. No longer are we talking about omnipresence. God is no longer just nearby to the bread at all points. Now the bread is God. That's real presence, and it's different from omnipresence. When I swallow the bread, I move God.

#3) If you then say that when I eat a moldy grape (which I did last night - yeck) I am eating God too, then we are well past omnipresence and we are just spooking out real presence. Now the waters are so murky as not seem worth sounding.

codepoke said...

Still no answer, I see.

Alright.

You say I should not be offended. I'll quit being offended, and back down to being confused - and I've lived with being confused a long time already.

Peace, Anne. May the Lord bless you and may His presence enrich you.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Kevin

I've been off enjoying the outside world instead of blogging the last couple of days.

For tonight, I'll just say: no, Luther's argument is not facetious. To Luther, there is a very real difference between ubiquity and "symbolic presence": whether God is really there.

Your argument about eating God is actually one Luther was familiar with, he mention that a Muslim in his day was using that as an argument against Christianity ("the only religion where they eat their God").

I'll post a more thorough answer next chance I get, I just wanted you to know I'm still in the thread when time permits.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Kevin

You said "deist" and "secularist" are offensive terms, and that seems to be the primary concern.

So on the deists (esp. 18th/19th century), they believed God to be much less involved in the universe, particularly if this involvement did not fit with their human reasoning as to how God could or should be involved. From a sacramental viewpoint, this is exactly what happened with the non-sacramental worldview: God is less involved in that he is not held to be truly present. As a current application, take the previous argument that if mere omnipresence (not special presence) were held to be a real presence, then eating the bread and drinking the wine of communion would be "moving God". The implication was a kind of negative proof, that based on human reason could not be true in the sense of God being truly present in the bread and wine. The parallel argument could be made that when the Roman soldiers nailed Christ to the cross and set his cross in the ground, they "moved God", or when Mary put Jesus to bed at night when he was a baby she "moved God". I'd contend that this type of "moving God" is not a theological problem. If this is the force of the argument about eating the bread and moving God, then it is effectively an argument against an all-encompassing omnipresence (which is redundant), an argument against God's real presence even when it is not a special presence. If God is seen as less present in the world because this presence is deemed an offense to reason, that meets the criteria for being a deist variety of argument: a less involved God that does not offend human reason by his involvement.

On secularist: a secularist sees a world where God is not actually there. Those who argue against God's omnipresence being a real concern in the sacrament also must argue against God's omnipresence being a real concern in any physical element. So the physical world is conceived as being NOT filled with the presence of "him who fills all things"; it is thought of as a world where omnipresence doesn't include the physical world, and God is banished to a separate spiritual realm. The world where God is banished to a separate spiritual realm is a secular world by definition.

There are all kinds of points still to be made, but based on the current conversation I think the conversation from here is not likely to be productive. Our starting points are so different that I'm not even sure if I've successfully communicated that Luther was not, as you supposed, being facetious, but rather aiming for a lower goal of getting people to see God's omnipresence as real, regardless of whether they believed in special presence in communion. A lot of your specific comments seemed to flow from the idea that Luther was being facetious and I'd content myself to make sure I'd addressed the misunderstanding of Luther's point.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF