Monday, January 23, 2006

Bishop Colin Buchanon quotes:

taken from "What did Cranmer think he was doing?"--

"In the past it has been conventional to expound as though (Cranmer) designed to bring together the 'consecration' and the reception. But this is to read 1552 through post-1662 eyes. It is far more internally consistent to read 1552 as having no consecration at all...Thus the contention stands that Cranmer had no objective consecration whatsoever in 1552, and that his two-stage process via 1549 to 1552 enabled him to remove everything, whether text, rubric, or ceremony, which might suggest it." (pp. 22, 25)

(A totally de-mystified anamnesis!)

"It is anybody's guess which of the changes listed were directly inspired by Bucer (i.e., read: Calvin). My own guess would be that the only ones where this causation appears really plausible are iii. (no mention of portional homilies) and x. (chapels annexed not mentioned in rubric, meaning, no distinct attention given to the rich) in the Bucer list. Everything else was a natural next step (on Cranmer's pre-suppositions) in any case." (p. 32)

(In other words, Cranmer's sacramental theology was far from equivalent to that of Calvin, though it also resembled Luther consubstantial thought little. Rather, it reflected a certain down-to-earth, pastoral sensitivity, one of a seemingly Zwinglian tenor.)


Jeff Dean said...

I know if you ask Catholic questions you'll eventually seek Catholic answers, but hasn't the church believed for a REALLY long time that Christ is someone uniquely present in bread and wine? Why didn't Luther do away with this bit?

What are the implications of this position? Luther said we needed grace, but maintained we could be sure we had received it through baptism and the mass.

Where am I receiving grace in Cranmer's system?

Anonymous said...


John Zahl said...

Luther had a RC hang-over on this front. I'm convinced he would have been sold on the thought of the English Reformers regarding the matter though. Check out Chapters 5&6 of Phillip Hughes "Theology of the English Reformers."

Even if Luther wouldn't have been sold, that's fine. I am. Cranmer's thought reflects a more even-keeled, well-worked-out thought process regarding the sacraments as they relate to the doctrine of Justification by Faith. Maybe if Luther had had Gardiner annoyingly buzzing in his ear the issue for him would have been clearer. Ministry is the de-mystification of the Gospel (in the same way that God de-mystified himself in Christ) for real people (i.e., sinners), and Cranmer accomplished just that beautifully where the sacraments were concerned.

He always punted back to the water in baptism on the issue of presence vs. thing signified, and his thinking along these lines is extremely succinct and consistent, much like Cranmer's personality when compared with Luther's. The thing is about faith in the propitiatiatory aspects of Christ's death, and remembering the significance of the event. The English Reformers called it a "seal", and much in the way that a seal means nothing if the piece of paper to which it is attached means little, the same is true of the Sacraments. Think of them as identical with the substance of the Gospel contained in Scripture, as "the living word" or just another method for presenting the same dish. No small wonder that, where the sermon is dead (Gospel-wise), the Eucharist has increased in importance, it being the only Gospel on tap in many a church.

Thoughts from the one. Do consider reading Null, and Hughes and Buchanon though. Best, John

P.s., If you end up unsure about what is going on with communion, just call yourself a Calvinist, as that's basically his position regarding this issue. Har (ehem) Har.

William Tighe said...

"Cranmer's sacramental theology was far from equivalent to that of Calvin, though it also resembled Luther consubstantial thought little."

A grand understatement, to be sure. First of all, the last word in the quotation should be "less" not "little." More importantly, though, there is no sign that Calvin had any discernable influence on Cranmer whatsoever. Remember, Calvin was 20 years Cranmer's junior, and, in any case, Bucer, Calvin's teacher and the man who had the greatest influence on Calvin's development as a theologian, was in England from 1547 onwards. He wrote for Cranmer a private memorandum on the 1549 BCP Liturgy and how it could be improved, and it is remarkable how little influence it had on Cranmer. In fact, Cranmer removed those strong references to a kind of "spiritual real presence" in the reception of the elements of bread and wine in the 1549 rite that Bucer had singled out for praise in his observations.

John Zahl said...

Thank you William. I'm sure what you say is true. The "less"/"little" comment was my own and I appreciate the correction. Somewhere along the line, many Anglicans (i.e., think Oak Hill) have gotten the idea that Cranmer's position was that of Calvin's, which it was not, and as your point / the facts regarding Bucer help to cement. Many hold that Cranmer made some jump from Zwingli to Calvin from 1548-1552, though he did not. To what extent is the position of 1552 similar to Zwingli's? Best, JAZ

William Tighe said...

I'd recommend reading *Calvin and Bullinger on the Lord's Supper* by Paul Rorem, which was published, first, in two successive issues of *Lutheran Quarterly* in 1988, and then by Grove Books in 1989 in booklet form. It is hard to see from it how Cranmer's position on the Eucharist was significantly different from that of Bullinger, although they don't always use the same terminology and illustrations. Rorem leaves the question open of whether there were any significant differences between Bullinger's views and Zwingli's views, although he admits that they expressed themselves very differently. (Rorem, a Lutheran, gets in a good jab at Bullinger in one of the footnotes, where he finds Bullinger describing the Incarnation itself as a "metaphor" in one place in his *Decades.*)

A few years ago I drew Rorem's article to the attention of Diarmaid MacCulloch, who regretted that he had not found it before finishing his biography of Cranmer, and said that he regarded the Rorem piece as better than the essay by McGerrish (in *The Old Protestantism and the New*) that he had relied on when writing the book.

mattie said...

John -

I will readily admit my ignorance when it comes to Cranmer and the vast majority of the English reformers, so I won't try to engage the crux of your quotation. However, your post did spark one question for me: what do you mean by a "down to earth pastoral sensitivity?" As I grow into my Roman Catholicism, one of the most pleasant suprises for me has been the profound impact that the notion of the true presence has had on me personally & spiritually. There is something so very "down to earth," about Christ's presence in the elements that has completely transformed my relationship with Jesus. What I mean is that if we believe Christ is truly present (both in the Eucharist and in the "body" of the Church) it changes how one views the divide between the sacred and the profane. In fact, it imbues our every interaction in with not only the spiritual reality of Christ being present but the tangible reality, which, for me at least, has been life changing.



William Tighe said...

You know, one great irony in all this is how the views of the Anglo-Papalist Dom Gregory Dix about the true nature of Cranmer's eucharistic teaching -- that he was a Zwinglian through and through -- views which caused great offense at the time of the publication of his *The Shape of the Liturgy* in 1945 -- have come round again. After the publication of the book, Dix's views were attacked by G. B. Timms' "Dixit Cranmer" in 1946 in the *Church Quarterly Review* to which Dix replied with *Dixit Cranmer et Non Timuit* in the same journal in the following year. Timms tried to argue that Cranmer's views were similar to those of Calvin; Dix conterattacked with vigor. The exchange is still worth reading. The "final word" (at the time) in the controversy was spoken by Cyril C. Richardson in his *Zwingli and Cranmer on the Eucharist: Cranmer Dixit et Contradixit*. This last is especially worth reading, and as it so happens I noticed a couple of months ago that there are a couple of copies of the Richjardson lecture listed for sale on, one of them from an Oxford bookseller ("Psychobabel Books" or something to that effect); so you might want to check it out.

William Tighe said...

Zwingli and Cranmer on the Eucharist
Richardson, Cyril C.
Bookseller: PsychoBabel Books & Journals
(Oxford, OXF, United Kingdom) Price: US$ 20.43
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Book Description: Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Illinois, 1949. Soft Cover. Book Condition: Good. No Jacket. 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. 57 pages, extremeties of covers are faded and slightly foxed, text is clean and bright. Clean Copy. Bookseller Inventory # 005741

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mattie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mattie said...

btw - john -

just reread your comment above about "de-mystifying" the sacraments, which, i think, is more precisely what i was writing to.

beliving christ becomes truly present in the Eucharist needn't require assent to some extra-terrestrial (in the literal sense) notion of a magical change; rather, it can bridge the gap between the worldly and the otherworldly, just as Jesus himself did.

i don't know the anglican liturgy of the sacrament, but my favorite part of the roman liturgy is when the congregation says "lord, i am not worthy to recieve you, but only say the word and i shall be healed." i really understood the multiple significance of that line when i attended a mass where the priest departed from the script to reply to the congregation, "and, the word is jesus." with that i began to view the liturgy in the context of john 1. yes, the "word" is Jesus, and in God "saying the word" ie. the incarnation we are healed.

the other side is the origin, of course, in matthew 8, when the centurion says that jesus can't come into his house because he isn't worthy, but instead should just heal his servant via his word. as you know, jesus does so, but in the next segment, jesus heals by touching (not speaking to)peter's mother in law (forgive a non sequitor, but that has to be the best argument against required priestly celibacy in the whole scripture!).

my point is that the WORD that is JESUS is inherently bodily and i love the idea that while God could have healed us just by "saying" a word, instead he "said" JESUS and gave us a brother in the flesh, present, that we can touch and feel and taste (and ingest)...

John Zahl said...

William, thank you for the wonderfully thorough answer and the pointers as to where I need to go to better understand. I will find both books, and look forward to reading them. It amazes me what a solid answer I received in such a short time after posting the initial quotations from Buchanon, ones which betrayed my query regarding Zwingli!

Mattie, your posts are quite serious and I need to reflect a bit before I respond. Thank you for helping me to better understand the Eucharist from your position though. Does anyone else have any thought regarding Mattie's points?


Jeff Dean said...


I've been to several Roman masses, and I like very much the liturgical quotation you bring to our attention. I prefer Cranmer's version of the same, however:

"We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord,trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy; Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore ever dwell in him, and he in us. Amen"


I understand the position that locating Christ in the mass is a projection. But several questions remain.

1) Why did Paul think the elements had supernatural power? ("Some of you are sick...")

2) What do we make of Christ's words in John 6? Luther insists they are spoken *before* the Last Supper and therefore can only be metaphorical, but, axiomatically, the Gospels are written after the Resurrection, meaning that *everything* *is* written after the Last Supper. John even rearranges the days of the Passover ceremony to emphasize that Jesus was the true Passover lamb. Aren't we subverting the plain meaning of scripture to ignore this "hard" teaching?

3) The belief in real presence sprung up pretty darn quick and has persisted. Very many noteable Christians have believed it, from Augustine to Wesley, from Luther to C.S. Lewis. (Lewis credits the last three months of his life to the efficacy of the "blessed sacrament" given to him as part of the Last Rites). Are we hasty to abandon this idea so quickly?

4) To say that we *receive* grace by imputation seems to argue that the Christian life is *entirely* psychological. I don't advocate the third use of the Law by any means, but it seems to me that grace is *somehow* >received< by a Christian. If the good works that result from a thankful heart are not directly a result of God's grace--if God's grace is not somehow afforded in order to fuel their completion--then those good works occur purely by the efficacy of the individual, simply because he has been regarded as capable by God. Ultimately, is this not even *more* Pelagian than anything the Roman church says, since the Roman church maintains that all good works are fueled by grace received in a very material sense? Certainly its not meritorious, but it does seem that good works are coming from within rather than from above.

John Zahl said...

Your comment is helpful Jeff. I hadn't considered some of your points, though they don't really sway me dramatically. The part about it healing the sick is cool!

As far as I'm concerned, the English Reformation proves wonderfully reasonable and "vulgar"(accessible) in its consideration of the matter of communion (i.e., convincingly so). Let's read the stuff that William Tighe recommended, shall we? Remember I'm not really Lutheran, and I think Luther a bit compartmentalized and overly influenced by his past on this one. The comment regarding imputation was not my own, though I'm sure it relates. I think Luther was being stubborn, what with digging his knife into the table. The man was rash and especially in that instance by the sounds of it. I bet Zwingli was actually wearing a scabbord while debating, and I'm sure that didn't help!

All that said, after our Wycliffe intensive week of study of the Eucharist last year, I became convinced that I had indeed underestimated the importance of Communion; I had just about the lowest view you can imagine (no wonder I was still without a sending diocese at the time?). I'm convinced Jesus wanted us to do it. So my views are higher than they once were.

As one who doesn't drink, and in light of seeing sober alcoholics return to severe drinking after simply drinking of the cup, my views are still very low by most contemporary ECUSA standards. These days, I tend to think communion is taken with a kind of seemingly flippant over-regularity in most Episcopal churches, and I'm definitely not a huge fan of that.

But my low view really amounts to my not being overwhelmingly concerned too much about communion in general. For me, it is not the pivotal issue! It's certainly not the foundation of my faith (apart from as it relates to the Gospel, though church is not the foundation of my faith either in that regard), and I don't personally prefer the Eucharist much more than the service of Morning Prayer. I have seen communion salvage many a terrible service after it's been completely weigh-layed by some terrible sermon.

Anyway, I don't really want to split with anyone on the matter as it's not that "close the bone" for me. As a result, I'm willing to ride the waves a bit on this issue, much more than on other matters, because I don't think it that extremely key. Out of respect for the higher beliefs of others (both in my denom and outside), I won't partake where the priest might find him/herself in a compromising position, etc. Also, I'm not very adamant about "fencing the table" for what that's worth.

So I'm a bit flexible on this one, though I'm starting to know what I think, given the history, and after having researched it a bit, which I've done out of respect for those in my parish who will wish me to be well-versed on that kind of thing, and also out of genuine curiosity, growing respect for the wisdom and theological strength of Cranmer, and distaste for Calvin. I do think it fascinating to see how far removed from Cranmer's own understanding of Communion most of ECUSA seems to be.

The notion that communion is the evangelistic secret to the future, or that it is, in and of itself, the central act of worship, or that it's importance trumps that of preaching, are all views that I do not hold. That unity sky-rockets as a result as well, has me still unconvinced, though I hope I'm wrong on that one.

But I love that which communion draws our attention to (i.e., propitiation), and nowhere does the liturgy do that more powerfully than in the service of communion. The BCP reaches its high-water mark there as far as I'm concerned. I just don't see the sacraments as any kind of departure from the singular message that is found in the Gospel, that Christ died for sinners. No wonder ministers of the church are called to preach and to administer the sacraments. I believe the Presbyterians add a third, "discipline"?

The following snippet of information about me may also explain some of my leanings: I don't partake of the cup, btw, haven't in over nine years. I'm strongly convinced that it is indeed too much wine than I can stomach safely. Whatever it be, unless fully trans (which I can't accept), it contains alcohol. Now that I think about, I have drunk when the portion is grape juice or some other non-alcoholic alternative, never mind the tacky aesthetic. And I enjoy when I get to.

Jeff Dean said...


Very helpful commentary--especially about how the communion is important but not distinct in the presentation of the Gospel. There I agree with you fully. (I attended a service at the society of St. John the Evangelist here in Cambridge on Good Friday where the doctrine of the Atonement, along with Bishops Salmon and Duncan, were lambasted as part-in-parcel of victim complexes. Jesus was just an unfortunate victim of colonialism, and we should oppose it on his behalf. Then we kissed the feet of Jesus on the crucifix...).

Not distinct, but certainly a potentially key way to illustrate. Just so you know, I'll one day be deposed for using Sweet Tea and Cornbread in a mass in Alabama, illustrating the point that bread and wine were meant not as a special ceremony, but rather to call Christ's sacrifice to mind anytime one came to table.

I still wish I were more decided, though.

Pontificator said...

Wow! I'm afraid we are living in completely different religious universes. Cornbread and sweet tea? I refer you to the following citation from Jeremy Taylor:

"It is too much that any part of the church should so much as in a single instance administer the holy sacrament otherwise than it is in the institution of Christ; there being no other warrant for doing the thing at all, but Christ’s institution, and therefore no other way of learning how to do it, but by the same institution by which all of it is done."

As far as Luther, justification, and sacrament: Luther's understanding of justification is intrinsically tied into his understanding of justification---and was from the beginning. For Luther, the Gospel must be embodied, an external, sacramental word, if it is to be a word that creates the righteousness of faith. See my two recent articles: "Believe, and you have it" and "Believing in Baptism." Without the sacrament, faith inevitably becomes a believing in faith. Luther, I am convinced, would have rejected the English Reformers as quickly and as emphatically as he rejected Zwingli.

Dylan Potter said...


Great thought...."Ministry is the de-mystification of the Gospel"...see, ideas like this reinforce exactly why I pay $19.95/mo like everyone else to subscribe to your blog.

About the sacraments and Cranmer. I wrote a paper in my Anglican Theology class at TESM on TC that might substantiate a "low" sacramentality.

While Archbishop, TC drew up a list of heresies which were to be punished by death, including an affirmation of the Real Presence, the supremacy of the pope, denial of the inspiration of the Old Testament, the hypostatic union, and justification by faith (See Will Durant's The Reformation: A History of European Civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300-1564. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1957
pg 585).

Cate West said...


You have the best questions. I think that many people (aka at least eight of nine) would even agree with me! In regards to question #4 from your previous post, I have some thoughts:

(here goes)

It seems to me that it is not the argument of imputation that makes the Christian life (or any life, for that matter) psychological, but rather, that the Christian life is psychological in and of itself. After some thought, I have decided that a purely "thankful" human heart might be an anomaly. I'm not sure that it exists. As Jady Koch once said to me, there is nothing that can be salvaged of our heart; it has been and will always be contaminated with sin. We don't need our hearts to be molded or changed; rather, we need an entire "heart transplant", His for ours (aka imputation). Therefore, all this talk about how upon/after one's initial acceptance of Jesus marks the start of the transformation of the heart is a misconstrued illustration. Or, at least, an idea that, once it becomes the "aim", will never be achieved.

Personally, I have found that any type of "good work" that I attempt is always tainted with an ulterior motive that inevitably points to my own gain. It is a cycle or pattern that plays itself out the same way every time. I know I am to serve someone and sometimes, even want to serve them as means of loving them. I act upon it. I feel good about. Then I think about why I feel good about it. Why do I feel good about it? I feel good about it because I think that I am, in some way, a better person for doing it and, more importantly, because I feel as if I have escaped the paralyzing guilt that occurs when I fail to do the right/good thing called service. What happens after that? I feel guilty knowing that my motivations were not pure and I feel hopeless in the face of my utter inadequacies as a supposed "disciple" of Christ. Sometimes the latter part, ie the part where I realize my failings, doesn't even occur and I just feel good about my self and my own merit. Both situations or consequences are drenched in sin and far from sanctified behavior. It is because of this that I am convinced that, though we live our life in an action-consequence dynamic, it is the death-resurrection dynamic, completed on the Cross by Christ, that allows us to die to ourselves repeatedly, only to be resurrected again, also repeatedly. The good that may or may not occur (ie whether or not she/he was served) does not have anything to do with me, as much as I wish it did. or, more accurately, did not happen because of a "thankful heart". I don't think a distinction needs to be made as to whether grace is coming from above or from within. In either case, it is equally not "of us". And maybe that is too extreme. I just think it risky to think of grace as anything but something that has been given to us, without deserving it or having any right to it, from outside of ourselves. Whether this is the case or not, I don't think matters. What matters is the way we think about it. The second we think that it comes from us, we run the risk of thinking or making it ours (possessing it). This makes us think we are righteous- which we are not.

I guess that what I said could not BE more psychological, but this is what I have experienced/what allows me to -sort of- sleep at night. Am I way off base? Thoughts?

(I'm a little nervous/excited/really nervous that I am doing what you do so often, Jeff, in terms of "putting myself out there".)

simeon said...

Pontificator, just curious: in light of the Jeremy Taylor quotation, what does the Catholic Church say to recovering alcoholics in terms of wine at Mass?

Tim Galebach said...

Simeon, might be worth noting at lots of Catholic masses the cup is not even offered. When I was a kid, I always assumed that this was due to some sort of Merchant of Venice logic.

bonnie said...

"It seems to me that it is not the argument of imputation that makes the Christian life (or any life, for that matter) psychological, but rather, that the Christian life is psychological in and of itself." Go Cate West!

I am convinced that the Christian life is 100% psychological. By that I don't mean that Christianity or God is just an _idea_. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is (are) real whether we believe it or not, whether we feel it or not. But the experience of God is fully mediated by our psychological experience; in other words, because we are inherently psychological beings, there is no way in which our perception of God is not influenced by our psychology. As far as I'm concerned, the idea of an "objective reality" is weak. I can only abstractly (and honestly) say that God is _the_ ultimate objective reality, and everything else in this world (including ourselves and our construal of God) is subjective. I may be bordering on heresy (!) but isn't the phenomenon of our "head knowledge" being different to our "heart knowledge" of God evidence of subjectivity?

I would go as far as to say that any experiential knowledge we have of God is "real" to us whether we like it or not. True reality is God himself, and there is little we can do to know him other than to wait on him to reveal himself to us.

When I was living in Cambodia and going to a church for international missionaries, we took Communion every other week. And every time we would use a different type of bread from a different nation, to celebrate the diversity of the Body of Christ. One week we had naan!

I also have a low view of the sacraments as anything in and of themselves. I think it is the *in remembrance* that is important, not whether we are using bread and wine, or saltine crackers and water. (Speaking of which, at a fellowship camping trip in Hong Kong, we were inspired to take Communion together as a group of believers - the only thing we had was water and hot dog buns, so that's what we took, and it was wonderful.)

Okay, fire away and call me a liberal.

John Zahl said...

Pontificator writes: "Wow! I'm afraid we are living in completely different religious universes." Yes, I think that is indeed the long and the short of it, at least, regarding ecclesiology. No wonder my father felt he was still far from being on the same page as Rome?

It's amazing how much better I felt understood the moment you acknowledged the divergence in our thinking, Al. Nonetheless, I think we line up fairly well where salvation is concerned, and, having established significant differences, respect and love are the natural order of the day. In Him, JZ

Joshua Corrigan said...

Did everyone here know that Cate West was this cool?!

mattie said...

I'm not a psychologist, but I have to say that, prima facie, I disagree with Bonnie & Cate. The Christian experience cannot be wholly a psychological experience. That results in a sort of postmodern gnosticism, a dualism between spirit/mind and body that the early church emphatically declared heretical.

There are clearly psychological elements to every portion of human existence. I think God desires our human pyschological assent, but I think God can and does work outside of or even agaist our mental understanding of how deeply or shallowly we "believe." If we depend on our "pure" pyschological assent, we have become spiritual pelagians, believing that it is our ACT (however tacit or vague or mental or psychological) that initiates God's saving and sanctifying actions. I can't go there.

I think the more promising psychological angle to the Gospel is in the realm of developmental psych. I want to do more reading in this area. I am increasingly impressed with how God really is the perfect parent and we the not-so-perfect children. The aim of the good parent is not to make their children physically and psychologically needy to the point of individual paralysis. The aim of the good parent is to teach their children, through love, how to live a full and beautiful life.

I see so many times when Paul hints at this:

* Romans 5 ("character produces hope" - see how developmental and growth-oriented this is?),

* 1 Cor 3 (young believers are "infants in Christ" who will someday be ready for "solid food")

* Galatians 3 ("the law was our disciplinarian" but now we are "children of God" which implies a transition from a rigid relationship to a developmental, grace-filled relationship)

* Ephesians 5 ("be imitators of God, as beloved children" - how much developmental psych & Girardian mimetic theory have to say about the ways we truly LEARN via imitation)

I could go on, but you get the point. Relationships are developmental and if we truly speak of a relationship wtih Christ it cannot be on just a "psychological" level, but must translate to the level of action and personal growth.

To tie this back to the sacrament, we do have to be careful. Thinking that the body & blood (and water) have inherent power can lead us to places we don't want to be (ie. forced baptisms of "pagan babies," legalistic understandings of restrictions around the sacrament, ie. - you MUST take it x number of times a year or risk damnation, etc.). However, to assert that the sacraments have ONLY psychological power, as Jeff points out, goes against Paul's 1 Cor 11 explanation of the Eucharistic meal. If it were only psychological we should not be able to eat and drink "judgement against ourselves."

Finally: Cate, I don't think that being a disciple is about being altruistic. Lingustically, it is my understanding that the root of the word we translate "disciple" is closer to our words "apprentice" or "mentee" than it is to "follower" or "devotee." The Christian life is about "learning the trade" in many ways, which is the beauty of grace. No, we will never be "like Jesus," but we are "being discipled" by Him to love, care, hope, & minister. I think that to deny that is really to dismiss a great portion of the gift that is Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

Much love, in Christ,

mattie said...

Oh, yeah, two other things I meant to say:

Tim - Not offering the cup was a HUGE problem pre-Vatican II, but I think that it is getting better. I've been Catholic for almost a year and have attended mass at several parishes and the cup has always been offered. Or maybe some dioceses are better than others?

Cate - You are right that grace and salvation are not "of ourselves." However, if salvation is a GIFT from God through Jesus, we do have something to say about it. Imagine if I gave you a gift (even if I was infinitely wiser, stronger, & richer than you) and then watched over your shoulder for the rest of your life to see if you "used the gift rightly." It wouldn't really be a gift then would it? I would still own the gift and would basically be giving you permission to use it but only in the way that I saw fit. In fact, you'd never really get to learn to use the gift appropriately because I would be there at every moment to tell you if you were doing something wrong or being improper. I don't think God is that sort of a gift giver.

To assert that I play a role in enacting my own salvation is not to diminish in any way that my salvation is a FREELY GIVEN gift of God. Period. It has zero to do with my merit. That being said, if grace is a true gift, we have to grow into ownership of that gift and in that way, we must posess grace to truly be transformed by it. In that way, my grace is my own, but only because God gave it to me. That's the Roman Catholic understanding, anyway.

Joshua Corrigan said...

Mattie said:
I could go on, but you get the point. Relationships are developmental and if we truly speak of a relationship wtih Christ it cannot be on just a "psychological" level, but must translate to the level of action and personal growth.

I would only say that we experience "action" and "personal growth" psychologically. They cannot be divorced. I THINK this is what the lovely ladies are saying.

Cate West said...


"Finally: Cate, I don't think that being a disciple is about being altruistic. Lingustically, it is my understanding that the root of the word we translate "disciple" is closer to our words "apprentice" or "mentee" than it is to "follower" or "devotee." The Christian life is about "learning the trade" in many ways, which is the beauty of grace. No, we will never be "like Jesus," but we are "being discipled" by Him to love, care, hope, & minister. I think that to deny that is really to dismiss a great portion of the gift that is Christ's life, death, and resurrection."

Mattie- I certainly agree with you in terms of what we are called to do. In fact, I would say that in the Gospels, Jesus asks us to "follow" Him more than he asks us to be "disciples". The point is, we fail in either case.

The last thing that I think the "Christian life" is about is "learning the trade". Rather, it is about continual repentance and forgiveness, continual recognition of one's complete depravity and, therefore, need of the One who saves. I am "psychologically needy to the point of individual paralysis". All I can do is look Up. And it is the Father who delivers me every time. If, during this process, a "trade" is "learned" than so be it. But that is simply a "fruit of the root" and to deny that (aka think that is a result of a slightly more sanctified version of myself) is a falsity that has tended to lead me down the road of self sufficiency which always comes to a quick halt when I fall on my face. More simply, to deny this, is to deny my sin.

What you describe is a seemingly more optimistic ideal and hope for our lives. It seems to me, however, that reality plays itself out in the "here and now" much differently. We have been told how to live a full and beautiful life- it is done by obeying the Law. What you say about being taught to live a beautiful and full life implies that we can "learn" how to better obey the Law. And, personally, I can't go there. Obedience to the Father is something I will not accomplish, nor is something that I will get better at. More importantly, "getting better" at obeying still misses the required mark; we always will fall- way- short. Perfect obedience to the Lord's Law was lived out by Jesus and, whats more, it was lived out for me. When we look at Jesus's life, we see that his obedience was completely natural and never involved striving for it nor was it something he learned over time. For me, the process of human sanctification or attempt to obey inherently involves a type of striving that negates the "proper" or "perfect" way to love God with all of our heart, body and soul. Of course it does, considering sin. Whether or not I become "better" at obedience (which involves loving, having hope and ministering) within my life need not be the focus and is not what defines my life as a Christian.

I would LOVE to talk more to you about this outside of this somewhat scary context!:
It could be fun!

Jeff Dean said...

What a wonderful place this blog is. To hash out these differences and not pretend we all agree under some silly banner of multiculturalism or stupid things like that that pervade universities. Disagreement in love is amazingly powerful

simeon said...

Hi Mattie! Glad to have you around again!

I'm not sure I can agree with this part of what you said:

"To assert that I play a role in enacting my own salvation is not to diminish in any way that my salvation is a FREELY GIVEN gift of God. Period. It has zero to do with my merit. That being said, if grace is a true gift, we have to grow into ownership of that gift and in that way, we must posess grace to truly be transformed by it. In that way, my grace is my own, but only because God gave it to me."

It seems to me that "gift" is not a very good word to describe salvation as you have articulated it. Your argument is that salvation is a "gift" because it was given without being merited by the recipient of the gift. But I think that does not define "gift" very well. I think that, in addition to not being merited or earned by the recipient, a gift must be given with no strings attached-- with no response necessary, no conditions. Otherwise, you have in fact given the person a burden along with the gift, which makes it not a gift at all. I think what you are describing would be better compared to a deal, albeit a deal in which one person makes the first move, and without reference to the recipient's merit. But without the other half of the deal, the whole thing falls apart. That is what makes it not a gift.

Your kind of "gift" sounds more to me like that scene in the Godfather when Marlon Brando takes care of that shopkeeper or whatever's problem with a great show of how "kind" he is being in doing so, but then later on demands a great deal from him in return. (I forget the details) A true gift, in my book, is something more like what happens at the end of A Tale of Two Cities, when Sydney Carton gives his life in place of the other, boring guy. That gift is one-way, and therefore truly a gift. There is no way for the boring guy to pay Sydney back, or even to respond in a way that could have any meaning to Sydney, who is dead. A gift has to have no conditions.

Basically I'm just not convinced that a gift that requires consequent "participation" in anything at all is really a gift. Unconditional love-- Grace-- must have, ahem, no "conditions". Catholic grace, it seems to me, has a condition, even if it is not given with reference to the prior merit of the recipient. How is it "freely given" if it is not free-- i.e. if a response is later required?

simeon said...

Also, I think Bonnie nailed the role of psychology in our Christian lives (and otherwise) so well it's worth repeating:

"I am convinced that the Christian life is 100% psychological. By that I don't mean that Christianity or God is just an _idea_. God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is (are) real whether we believe it or not, whether we feel it or not. But the experience of God is fully mediated by our psychological experience; in other words, because we are inherently psychological beings, there is no way in which our perception of God is not influenced by our psychology."


Zadok said...

This is not aimed at anyone in particular except anyone who disagrees with what it says.

For me the emphasis of ‘the Lord's Supper’ is all on THE LORD'S SUPPER'. It is THE meal that was shared by the LORD with his disciples, and it is SUPPER!

In 1Cor 11:17 ff. Paul reprimands the Corinthians because at the Lord’s Supper some go hungry, some get drunk. I personally have never eaten my full at a communion service at church. Nor have I had the opportunity to get drunk! So are the small portions to save this from happening? Doesn't sound like a religion of grace to me.

Anyway, my view is that all meals shared by Christians are Communion. It does say ‘as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup (note ‘cup’ not ‘wine’), you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’ God hates religious festivals and ceremonies, so why make what was a humble meal amongst friends into some over-glorified transubstantiated nonsense. Christ’s blood must have been pretty potent if the Corinthians were getting drunk on it!

Saying grace before every meal is the Lord’s Supper, he is our food and drink at all meals when we remember his death on the cross. There is talk of his blood as the new covenant, it is, the wine is not. The wine is a REMINDER. Thus making it sacred is not only stupid but wrong.

Tim Galebach said...

To continue my irrelevant role in this discussion:

Mattie, since I did not resolve my time machine's problems until very recently, my only experience with the Catholic Church is post-Vatican II. Anecdotally, it feels as if the cup is more common now than it was in my earlier youth, but there have definitely been many occasions on which it was not an option. This isn't meant to be a criticism of the Catholic church, and I don't even know if this information is useful at all.

mattie said...

Hi Simeon!

I think we differ on what constitutes a "requirement." In fact, I think the traditional protestant idea that grace is accepted through faith ALONE seems to have more strings than the Catholic understanding that grace is given through the sacraments (particularly baptism & the eucharist). In that way, it is Catholics who are "passive" and protestants (understanding the limits of that catchall phrase) who seem to think God "requires" at least intellectual response.

Moreover, I'm not trying to say that God's gift has "strings attached." We don't respond out of obligation or even out of gratitude. We respond because it is "truly good, right, & salutary" to do so. The patristic ideal of what is "right" is something that I can't really explain... it's not obedience, though that's part of it. It's not gratitude, though that's part of it. It's not a requirement, though it can look that way. It's because it's what is RIGHT... I know that can sound dismissive, and that's not my intent. It's just hard to force into a box.

I'm going to try out an analogy. If I give you an iPod, I am not going to insist that you put any music on it, but it's going to be pretty worthless without any songs to listen to. You can go around telling everyone that you have an iPod, but when people never see you listening to it, they're gonna get a little suspicious. And when people ask you what your best playlist is, and you have no response, they're going to wonder. By giving you an iPod, perhaps I have given you a consequent "burden," and you definately have the right and freedom to reject the gift of the iPod. But honestly, I think you'd rather have the "burden" that comes with the iPod even if it means taking days to rip your CD collection.

Not a perfect analogy, but what I'm trying to get at is that while grace is freely given, our response allows grace to be as full and beautiful as it truly is. Is the person who lets the iPod sit on the shelf without any music in it "saved"? I'll leave that up to God, but I'm thinking that since God is loving & merciful, I'm guessing they'll "go to heaven." Are they really enjoying the fruits of the iPod? Definately not.

Salvation cannot and should not be limited to some sort of forensic justification. That's only the start of it all... Salvation is growing into a life of grace and hope, both here and forever.

I haven't read "Tale of Two Cities" - I'm horribly uncultured - but my thought would be that the appropriate response to the sort of sacrifice that you describe would that the "boring guy" should be inspired to live his life differently, not for the sake or even the memory of Sydney, but because of some sort of true revelation of the gift he's been given and the desire to lead others to share in the joy of such a gift. Is the "boring guy" REQUIRED to do so? Nope. Will he want to? Hopefully.

I don't think Jesus needs us to do "good works" in order to repay him or thank him but because he loves good and hates evil. It's not for him or even to him, but to his other children who he loves just as much as he loves you and me.

Response is "required" only in the sense that it is the only legitimate response to the grace given. We've been invited to share in the life of Christ! Everyday I want to do more of that. I come up way short. But I hope and think that in some slow way I'm becoming more and more "holy" in the way that I'm partaking in the divine life in a deeper and deeper way. Do I do bad things? Name it, I've probably done it, and not just "before my conversion." But I think I'm slowly (and circularly) developing a character (through God's grace) that makes me less inclined to want to sin. Maybe that's too idealistic, but it is my experience and the affirmation of my Church.

This is fun :)

mattie said...

yeah, tim, i realized that after my post! i didn't mean to imply that your experience was pre-vatican II. the point i guess is just that the Church is really slow to change and that can be a blessing in some ways and a curse in others...

Zadok said...


You said, 'the Catholic understanding that grace is given through the sacraments (particularly baptism & the eucharist)'.

So would I be right in saying that the ipod is not free. first you have to go swimming with a priest then eat a wafer and wine?

with love


Tim Galebach said...

Mattie, Christians are people who have iPods, but listen to shitty music. Then again, you have pretty good taste in music, so it looks like good things are happening.

I lose a frame of reference on most of your analogies, because you constantly refer to how people SHOULD respond. Obviously the person who gets an iPod SHOULD use the machine to its fullest potential, and the person whose life is saved SHOULD feel really grateful for that.

But those are not particularly interesting statements. What IS interesting is what ACTUALLY happens. I would go so far as to say that Christianity is the answer to the "should" not being enough. Christianity deals with reality. I am NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT saying that Christians do not do good things. That would be to reject the Gospel and my life experience. I am saying that the path to those good things does not come through the should.

If anyone skipped the above paragraphs, here's the sound-bite:
I do not care about the should, only the is.

William Tighe said...

"Pontificator, just curious: in light of the Jeremy Taylor quotation, what does the Catholic Church say to recovering alcoholics in terms of wine at Mass?"

Generally, it tells them to receive the host, but not the cup, just as for celiacs it will offer them the cup, but not the host. The Catholic Church allows only pure wheaten bread and fermented wine as "valid" elements for communion. In the case of alcoholic priests, they are not allowed to celebrate Mass using grape juice (which is not considered to be "wine"), but they may use "mustum" -- which is wine (or should one say "grape extract"?) which has been set to ferment into wine, but which is drawn off from the vat before any appreciable fermentation has begun.

There was a case in Massachusetts where a mother has a celiac daughter and wanted the parish priest to use a rice wafer for her daughter's communion. The Church authorities said "no" and said that the daughter should receive from the cup. The mother, refusing this because (as she said) it would make her daughter "stand out" from the other children, appealed to Rome, but Rome also said "no." In the end, the mother and daughter became Methodists.

John Zahl said...

That's informative and the story about the celiac girl and her mom is hilarious!!! JAZ

Tim Galebach said...

Man is made for the Sabbath? Yes.

John Zahl said...

I'm sitting in the library reading the Rorem piece that William Tighe recommended on Bullinger and Calvin. The opening section documents Calvin's criticisms of Luther's view on communion. Here are a few initial quotes to chew on (plus a few of my own margin notes):

"To Calvin, the denial of the corporeal presence of Christ's body applied to both the RC doctrine of transubstantiation and the Lutheran doctrine of ubiquity. He admonished Luther for not rejecting local presence clearly enough and eventually attacked Luther's followers for perpetrating the error of trans. within the doctrine of ubiquity" (pp. 8-9)

"' detestable the fiction of corporeal presence is, we show that it necessarily carries an impious idolatry along with it.' Calvin once accused Luther of adoring the sacrament, often called his Lutheran opponents 'bread worshippers'..."
(p. 9)

"...the (Lutheran) error of local presence confuses the bread with Christ's body and leads to idolatry and superstition... Zwingli on the other hand, opposed such idolatry so single-mindedly that they labored more to destroy the evil than to build up the good." (p.6) (note: Zwingli sounds pretty good to me, like a hard-ass AA approach to spirituality, i.e., "Where is it that you aren't spiritual?" --I look forward to reading about Bullinger (tomorrow)! ~JZ)

"Calvin explicitly opposed the Lutherans, who maintained that Christ was present in the bread and wine whether or not the Spirit had yet worked faith in the recipient."..."Do unbelievers receive the body and blood fo Christ? The denial of corporeal presence permitted a negative answer, since Christ was not corporeally present for all to consume." (p. 11) (note: This is key! No wonder fencing the table is so important in LCMS! ~JZ)

bonnie said...

Have any of you seen the Southpark episode, "Do the Handicapped go to Hell?". It's about the kids being worried that their handicapped friend, Timmy, is going to hell because he can only say his own name (and nothing else), hence cannot confess his sins, which (in the episode) is a requirement to enter heaven. They also hosed him down in attempt to baptize him.

John Zahl said...

Bonnie, I own the episode, and it now looks like I know what I will be doing before I fall asleep (alone, as in, not with Simeon next to me).

mattie said...

zadok - the iPod is totally free. it just comes wrapped in a big box labeled "baptism" and tied with a big red "eucharist" ribbon.

tim - yeah, i listen to pretty crappy music too. but jesus is working on me. he encourages me to read pitchfork every day! and he doesn't even get mad when i slip up and listen to avril. desipte our disagreements, i love your take on the analogy!

also, the celiac story is disappointing, but the point is that christ is present in both species and the girl could have taken the cup. now, what would the church do with a recovering alcoholic celiac? then we could really judge!

but seriously, campsters - i know it is tempting to see the sacraments as extraneous and man-made, but i think jesus' great commission is pretty clear that at the very least baptism is essential to "making disciples." and the eucharistic meal is so crucial in maintaining continuity with israel's identity in the passover extended to all nations.

we might disagree on whether or not christ is truly present (whatever that might mean in varied traditions), but it is another thing to dismiss sacramentality all together. as i said earlier, i fear that such an attitude borders on gnosticism, something the early church was adamant to condemn.

anyway. jesus rocks.

Tim Galebach said...

Mattie, I actually agree with you 90% regarding the sacraments (leaving myself 10% of wiggle room for the differences I undoubtedly missed).

While the sacraments are not "extraneous and man made", I think it is inevitable that men will try and use the existence of objective processes like the sacraments to try and gain power. I think that history backs me up fairly well here.

As regards real presence and issues of that nature, I would fall into the camp that looks at the sacraments as a black box. I don't know what the inner workings are, but I know how to interface with them.

Obviously there's the question of to what degree the sacraments are "necessary", or in what context they're efficacious, or who can perform them. But I think that rigorously trying to answer those questions will quickly show to what degree those questions are the wrong ones, i.e. non-creative Law.

Tim Galebach said...

Oh, and to continue the iPod analogy, simul iustus e peccator (sp?) is what happens when you realize that Pitchfork can't make you cool (not you personally).

JDK said...

John Zahl,
I continue to love you and this blog. . I think that it's the electronic equilivent of a sort of postmodern family reunion!

just for my two cents:

Zwingli was wonderful regarding his sacramental theology; however, it shoud be noted that his aversion to anything supernatural was intrinsicially tied to his idea of creating a Zurich that would make Calvin's Geneva look like ECUSA. . . meaning that his law/gospel understanding was far, far from what one would like it to be otherwise. . .

I'm not sure what that means in regards to what I think about Zwingli, but I certainly appreciate his anti "hocus pocus" stance. . .

much love,

Colton said...

For me, the most amazing part about THE LORD'S SUPPER is that if you just remove one "P" and reinterpret the "THE LORD'S" as a contraction for "THE LORD IS", rather than as a possesive, you have the following phrase: THE LORD'S SUPER (meaning, of course, "THE LORD IS SUPER.")

I think we can _all_ agree, despite our various denominations and myriad points of contention, that the Lord is indeed super. And that's basically what I think about when I take communion. Well, that and what I'm going to get for lunch, since it always makes me hungry to eat such a teeny bit. Ok, fine, and I admit that I also usually have condescending and critical thoughts about the Associate Pastor's ridiculous beard while he's explaining the importance of the elements. But let's not miss the point here: THE LORD IS SUPER.


p.s. Also, for what it's worth, I got a really cool digital camera for Christmas, and I haven't taken any pictures with it since December 26.

Colton said...

In case it wasn't clear, my digital camera anectdote was meant to contribute to the ipod analogy discussion. (I probably should give you guys some credit for picking up on the connection, but clearly I haven't, else I wouldn't be writing this.)


p.s. again: if our free salvation is wrapped in baptism and tied with the eucharist, can we get to it without first partaking in these sacraments? is _everyone's_ salvation so packaged?

Eric Cadin said...

This is my first ever blog post, so please excuse any offences.

I would like to add to some of Mattie has been saying on this post and also refer to a few other questions. In a spirit of disclosure I am studying for the Catholic priesthood and consequently have a certain “bias.”

Regarding sacraments. Happiness, i.e. relationship with the Triune God, is our end as man. Through the Word made flesh we understand the Mosaic Law to be consummated in Him and thereby inaugurating the new law of grace. Jesus calls us his friends, calls us into friendship with Him. And it is through His Church, which as its head, he unites and fills with His Grace. This point is important because as St. Thomas notes salvation is not an individual transaction between a person and Christ, but rather is caught up in the salvation of the whole Mystical Body and does not occur apart from it. Here the Church and her sacraments are so important. They are sensible signs that cause the spiritual change they signify. We are embodied spirits who experience the world through our senses. The Incarnation makes God perceivable by us. Thus, again Thomas, the sacraments of the new law are the instruments through which Christ himself causes and deepens the “new creation” that enables us to enjoy friendship with God. Sacraments “contain” grace not because it is a spatial reality but because they cause divine life in us.

Grace, as distinguished in many ways by Thomas, is a GIFT, freely given. Operative, God works in us without us, i.e. He loved us first. Cooperatively we can respond, again to the free gift. “When the Creator lifts us up to share in his dignity, then we can perform actions worthy of reward even though God is performing those actions through us.”

As for the alcoholic partaker of communion. I personally know many with the problem who do receive the precious blood. It is important to note, that their addiction is not properly a disease, rather it is sin. One is not an alcoholic, one is a human person who can drink too much, but he is NOT an alcoholic, properly speaking. It is indeed a shame that the girl and her mother left the Church and the sacraments, but that speaks more to a failure of pastoral sensitivity and truth, wherein she would understand concomitance.

As for a purely psychological Christianity, that seems to smack to much of modern philosophical errors. For a simple question I would ask. Why would it be important to go to Mass/church? Most people answer, in practice, to get something, to “experience” God. Justice, that is giving what is due, demands of us that we give praise and thanksgiving to God, period. We praise and thank Him for Him, not for what I get or feel. I cannot help but think of Mother Teresa who had a very profound experience of God early on and then for decades “felt” nothing.


Colton said...

One last comment and then I swear I'm done for the night!

I love examining this concept (a concept that seems to me very biblical and true) that salvation is a free gift (i.e. no strings attached!). Now, I am no New Testament translator, so I could very well be stepping into waters in which I am ill-equipped to swim, but why include the adjective "free" with the noun "gift?" Is not a gift by definition free? If indeed these two words are present in the original text, I can quickly come up with two possible reasons to refer the "free gift" of salvation rather than just to the "gift."

1. Because we as people generally understand a "gift" to be something that is not free, ironic as that sounds. Most of us think that if I buy it with my money, then I cannot logically consider it a gift. This is true. So why say that we think gifts aren't free? Because the "payment" we make for a gift is often more subtle than cash or a debit card. Almost always, the recipient of a gift has done something or is expected to do something to pay for, properly recognize, or acknowledge the gift. Examples include:
- parents give teenager a car (teenager does not pay one cent for car), but can take it away if he/she misbehaves or abuses the privilege.
- i let you stay in my home for the weekend while i am away, but you need to make sure it is cleaned up and locked up when you leave.
- friends and family members exchange christmas presents and birthday presents, with the implicit undersatnding that you are expected to give something to those who give to you.
*notice that in these examples you may be getting something without paying directly or fully for it, but each gift requires some correct response from you.

I can think of a couple examples of truly "free" gifts:
- flowers to the sick: usually i wouldn't expect anything in return for this. if i actually send flowers to a person in the hospital (which i rarely do, shamefully), it is out of concern and empathy (and probably so that i can think of myself as a good guy), but never with the expectation that the sick person must hold up some end of the bargain.
- christmas morning with little kids. santa claus brings gifts, and he doesn't follow up to make sure they are taken care of, appreciated, used, etc. he also doesn't expect anything in return, and we're all fine with that! (of course we are, who doesn't love experiencing true grace!)

These lists are quickly and haphazardly assembled, but is it a coincidence that truly free grace seems to exist more often when the recipient is seen as sick, helpless, young, and/or immature? Is this not exactly how God must see us? By referring to salvation as a "free gift," one emphasizes the way in which God's gift to us is unlike our common understanding of a gift in this very important way.

2. To emphasize that you are not earning the gift or paying for it in any way. It's almost like he is saying, "It is a FREE gift-- don't you knuckleheads get it?!" I might consider it a gift if my boss gave me a $3,000 bonus at the end of the year, but I would be getting it because I go to work every day, he thinks I do a good job, and maybe I surpassed most of my office goals this year. I did not expect the $3,000. I have received what I would consider a gift, and it may even come without strings attached, but it certainly is not free. It's more of an unexpected reward. Would I have gotten this gift if I did not work for my boss? Certainly not. And I would definitely think to myself upone getting it, "He gave this to me because I am a good employee! Go me!" But that's a whole other issue.

Salvation in Christ truly is a free gift. "Free" meaning that I can do what I want with it. God requires nothing of me prior to, during, or after my salvation experience. ("Blasphemy!") Can I receive this gift and then mock God, injure others, act selfishly, spit on the Bible, tell lies, and do other horrible things? The short answer to that question is yes. (Cringe if you must.) In fact, this is what we do every day. But our salvation is not affected by our continual sinning. God's grace is never rescinded, no matter our response to it, and neither is it diminished, even if we don't act like we appreciate it. This concept is radical, and it seems unjust, unfair, and unappealing - in theory - but not in practice. Because we love the law in theory, but we love grace in practice. (booyah! plug for pz's new book!)

I should end this absurdly long and borderline incoherent post by pointing out that _descriptively_, the nature of grace is often to produce good works in the Christian. But these good works are a product of the free gift of grace, not a required or necessary response to it! Not only is it very hard to tell the difference between a sinful act that God has redeemed for good and a true good work done by the Spirit (hence the question: why do so many non-Christians seem to be doing good works?), but also many times I feel we are blinded, even with regard to our own selves, to some of the Spirit's most profound work in us. Call these the blindspots of sanctification. I would argue that they are the purest, and, if I am honest, probably the only, form of sanctification this side of the Jordan. I feel as if our experience as Christians proves this idea to be true: that sanctification is either a) completely secondary to justification and often not as present as we'd like or b) hidden from our identification and understanding; because our lives make it clear that we are not, not matter how much we'd like to think we are, c) on an identifiable, steadily ascending path to higher grounds of holiness.

Cate West said...


You are just so right. I guess it might be considered heresy to claim that we are NOT on some sort of "ascending path to higher grounds of holiness" or to claim that this so called "path" or growth is, at best, secondary. It seems to me, however, far more heretical (and detrimental) to claim that we are ON this path. What is called of us is to be perfect imitators of Christ- not to STRIVE to be this, but to BE this, wholly and truly. We aren't called to be just a little like Christ. In the same way, we are called to be "holy", not "holier" then we once were. And, as you said, as much as we would like to think this is the case with our lives, it is, in fact, our "lives" that stand as tangible evidence against this ever being the case. Again, I think it much more heretical to believe that we are "on an identifiable, steadily ascending path to higher grounds of holiness".

We aren't called to be "works in progress". We are saved sinners. PTL!

Colton: you're smart AND funny. Remember when we first me? Were you surprised?

bonnie zahl said...

A less serious post:

When Simeon asked me out it was certainly not because he _realized_ he was more sanctified (ha!), and when I said "yes" (to his asking me out)) it was certainly not because I realized I was _on_ the right path!
What I mean is, we were both pretty blind to where we were at on the path of righteousness, and pretty blind to where we were heading. (and I never thought I would be heading to England, and that the British citizenship that I didn't earn is actually coming in handy!)

Gift? Totally yes.

bonnie zahl said...

A more serious post:

Colton: you hit the nail on the head with the "free" gift illustrations.

One of the biggest issues I have dealt with is the familial obligations prominent in Chinese families. When I am young, my parents do _so_ much for me; they lavished me with love and goodies and took me to Australia for a vacation when I was 4. I had the coolest toys ever (including the Thunderbird sword when I was 5 years old). Mom and Dad paid for me to go on numerous camps, vacations, an English-speaking school, to have lots of musical instruments, tons of gadgets, etc. Those were meant to be gifts, but it didn't feel that way. I felt like I had to do well in school, be a good daughter, etc. in return. It got so bad that, at a point, I struggled with receiving gifts. I didn't think true gifts really existed.

And how true is that in reality? We always have to give someone a Christmas gift that would potentially matches the worth of what they give to us. If someone does us a favour, we think we owe them one in return. We aren't wired naturally to receive things that are free. It's a form of control of the relationship. Just because someone initiates by giving a gift, we are naturally wired to calculate, in our heads, what we owe them. It's called reciprocity. We don't like the feeling of OWING. The point is that God gave us his Son and said we owed him nothing in return.

John Zahl said...


please keep in mind that the interest of late is now Bullinger, not really Zwingli in particular, and mainly in the sense that he lines up with Cranmer. And Bullinger was a total stud in his own rite, wrote over 100 books, actually got Calvin to alter his position on Communion in some big ways (for which certain Calvinists have been furious with him about ever since). Bullinger was not, as Rorem puts it, "Zwingli's memory or a static Zwinglian legacy."

What I like about this vein of thought is that, where Communion is concerned, they seemed to run with the Gospel all the way on these matters, ever defending what I think of as (THE)/ an extremely down-to-earth, reasonable (in light of the Bible's heavy diagnosis of sin) position given man's tendancy to want to return always to superstition/works-based/ Pelagian thinking.

I think Christianity, because it is real and covers all the bases, offers a much more sane and honest understanding of life (both personal and corporate) than any other alternative. Yet we humans always want to return to the self-delusion that in some way life is about our needing to play God in some area, and it is a delusion, one that can all-encompassingly be reduced to the singular concept of "sin", and it must be smashed! God as Christ is not a mystery, in other words, but a reality.

By shaving away that which is not Him (pushing on the bruises of life, rather than emphasizing the strengths, a.k.a., paying more attention to weakness over and above strength, a.k.a., using the Law as it convicts over and above how it instructs) -- things such as sin, the devil and fallen creation --, what do you think happens? Here's what I think: God shines; he becomes man for us. We find life-changing love.
Unique, totally adequate hope.

See my point? I'm not interested in Zwingli's eccesiology, I'm interested in following the Gospel of Christ-died-for-sinners, and the implications that Gospel has for the non-conformist, ever dissappointing, human will (meaning: justification by faith in Christ's works), all the way through uncompromisingly, though the world think it "foolish".

Ministry is the de-mystification of the Gospel for people (all of whom are sinners), just as God de-mystifies Himself (i.e., reveals) for us (which means he loves us) as/ in Christ.

The sacraments similarly convey this exact message of the Gospel; they are the "visible word." Our sinful inclination is always to re-mystify God (as the Communion is often a perfect case in point), thereby re-establishing a works-based relationship with Him. Just trying to bring Him "down", implies that He didn't, in fact, already come down of his own accord, which is love, and he did this long before any of us on this blog were born, to reconcile us with Himself.

We are to remember the fact, which we can only ever do by realizing that we haven't done exactly that, which is what we re-iterate week after week in church, and I think those where Cranmer's motives where communion was concerned, and also that, for that/these reason(s), he sought to do away with the consecration, focusing instead entirely upon anamnesis. The Buchanon quote that started this whole thread tells of it, I think. --JAZ

mattie said...
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mattie said...

John (et al) -

As I'm sure you know, Pope Benedict XVI released his first encyclical today - Deus Caritas Est. I thought that this excerpt expressed more eloquently what I was trying to say about true "demystification" of the sacrament only being possible when one believes that Christ is present. In other words, sacramental experience requires not the mystification of God, but the realization of "Emmanuel" - God with us - in the sacrament.

As Benedict writes:

"Jesus gave this act of oblation (the crucifixion) an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna (cf. Jn 6:31-33). The ancient world had dimly perceived that man's real food—what truly nourishes him as man—is ultimately the Logos, eternal wisdom: this same Logos now truly becomes food for us—as love. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God's presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus' self-gift, sharing in his body and blood. The sacramental “mysticism”, grounded in God's condescension towards us, operates at a radically different level and lifts us to far greater heights than anything that any human mystical elevation could ever accomplish.

"Here we need to consider yet another aspect: this sacramental “mysticism” is social in character, for in sacramental communion I become one with the Lord, like all the other communicants. As Saint Paul says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17). Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become “one body”, completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbour are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself. We can thus understand how agape also became a term for the Eucharist: there God's own agape comes to us bodily, in order to continue his work in us and through us. Only by keeping in mind this Christological and sacramental basis can we correctly understand Jesus' teaching on love."

The whole document (it's only about forty pages, and it's rockin') is at

More later.


Jeff Dean said...

When my brother asked his girlfriend to marry him, she was furious and wouldn't speak to him for a week.

"Why didn't you tell me you were going to do this! I can't show the ring off with my nails looking this way! I needed a manicure! You are SO selfish and inconsiderate!!"

Needless to say, they didn't get married.

simeon said...

Ok I'm probably missing the larger context here or something, and I have no illusions that Benedict hasn't thought this through, so perhaps someone could explain:

He says, "Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become “one body”, completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbour are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself". And then concludes: "Only by keeping in mind this Christological and sacramental basis can we correctly understand Jesus' teaching on love".

He says that love of neigbor and love of God are truly united in the sacramental communion, but it seems to me that this would only apply to Christians. If we can only understand Jesus' teaching on love in this sacramental context, what are we to make of his love for non-Christians? For those who do not participate in the communion? What about our unbelieving "neighbors", much less our enemies?

It seems to me that a very high view of the sacraments like this would lead to a downplaying of evangelism. If it is in the communally-received sacrament alone that Jesus' love is truly understood, then those who need that love will always tend to be inward- and church-focused rather than outward- and sinner-focused. If Jesus' love is so concretely present in the communion, why would a truly needy person do anything in their life other than go to Mass as often as humanly possible?

To apply it to the earlier imputation discussion, how does such a high view of the sacraments relate to the central NT theme of love for sinners, which makes no sense outside of an imputational framework? If the love is found fundamentally in the sacraments, what reason do we have to love sinners? If it is Christ infused in each other that we love, how are we to love those in whom Christ has not been infused? There is nothing lovable about them, and any number of things that is highly unlovable.

I guess what is bothering me is that Benedict's description of love-through-sacramental-communion seems very self-congratulatory for those who partake. I want to run around and tap everyone on the shoulder and say "the people who need this are out _there_, not in here!"

Where is the love for non-Christian sinners to be found in this heavily sacramental understanding of Christ's love?

mattie said...

Hi Simeon!

I see your fear. In fact as my roommate and I sat at the kitchen table this morning reading the document (wow, I just realized what dorks we are), he expressed a very similar concern.

I think Benedict allays that concern in four main ways.

First, the cross is the start & end of all love.

For example, para. 12: "This divine activity (love) now takes on dramatic form when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the “stray sheep”, a suffering and lost humanity... His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can understand the starting-point of this Encyclical Letter: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin."

Second, only through the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Christ can love of neighbor become a truly integral part of faith.

See, for example, para. 18: "Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend."

However, that this cannot come without a relationship with Christ grounded in the body of Christ.

See para. 17: "In the Church's Liturgy, in her prayer, in the living community of believers, we experience the love of God, we perceive his presence and we thus learn to recognize that presence in our daily lives. He has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love. God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and since he has “loved us first”, love can also blossom as a response within us."

Finally, we can love (and, in doing so, "evangelize") as a command (ie. from the law) or we can love because we are partaking in divine live (ie. from grace). The Christian life (through a sort of theosis via the sacraments and the spirit) makes the latter possible.

Summarized in para. 17: "Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the “yes” of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all- embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never “finished” and complete; throughout life, it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself... The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God's will increasingly coincide: God's will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself. [Augustine] Then self- abandonment to God increases and God becomes our joy (cf. Ps 73 [72]:23-28)."

Hope that clarifies. A personal point: The "sinner" is definately the one who needs God and in that respect, I tentatively disagree with a closed table policy. After all, Jesus kept Judas at the Last Supper - he must have though it okay for "sinners" to partake... (I asked my archbishop about this and he didn't really have an answer.)


Eric Cadin said...

Simeon, I don’t have much time right now as I must run off to class but I just wanted to offer a starting point by which to begin a response to your question:

“I guess what is bothering me is that Benedict's description of love-through-sacramental-communion seems very self-congratulatory for those who partake. I want to run around and tap everyone on the shoulder and say "the people who need this are out _there_, not in here!"

An encyclical, in my understanding, does not pretend to offer concrete actions for evangelization, for example. Rather they aim to clarify and present the Truth as given by Christ and taught, preserved, and understood by His Apostles. I don’t believe benedict would be a proponent of attending Mass all day and night everyday, though perhaps some would disagree and strive to live in such a way. Instead he gives the source of Love so as to fulfill the philosophical principle Nemo Dat quod non habet (You can’t give what you don’t have)

This Love of which he writes is not selfish nor exclusive, but it is in understanding, in the true sense of understanding, that we are filled and then are able to love the non-Christian. See it is ONLY His Love that loves the unlovable. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “We must all fill our hearts with great love. Don’t imagine that love, to be true and burning, must be extraordinary. No—what we need in our love is the continuity to love the one how loved the world so much he gave his Son.” As we draw closer to Him, and only as we draw closer to him, the more we can love one another. The real presence of Him in the Eucharist shows his immense love for us. “He is ever present, ever sacrificing himself for us, and ever the perfect host, providing all that we could desire or need—Himself.”

Rather than self-congratulatory, the love is profoundly evangelical. Its very communal nature mourns the unbeliever’s separation. We must be careful to distinguish the truth as taught and, unfortunately, the oftentimes miserable application. That the Catholics in America are quiet and non-evangelical does not contribute any weight to the veracity or falsity of the Truth. One need only think of Issac joques and his companions, or any of the thousands of martyrs who died for Love, and to bring His love to all people.

Regarding those outside the sacraments, the Church teaches, and here I don’t have time to get very specific, that the efficacy of the eucharist informs the love of even those Christians outside communion. Just as we are one body, we all “benefit” from His grace.

Tom Becker said...

This thread certainly has been interesting. As a former Presbyterian and now confessional Lutheran, I struggle(d) with the theology behind Communion.

I do think, however, it would be helpful to move the conversation away from various theologians’ interpretations/opinions on this and from our own psychological opinion back to the Word.

I’ve read through the thread and see very little scriptural evidence on any side of this discussion, and since we’re all agreed (I hope) on sola scriptura – I’d love to hear what people have to say.

The Lutherans will say that traditions coming out of an Enlightenment mindset will reject the mystery in sacraments. I for one am apt to agree with them. There seems to be some open hostility here about the ‘mystery’ in the sacraments, though no one seems to have a problem with the mystery of the resurrection or the mystery of the Holy Spirit. Hmmm.

I certainly can agree that going through the motions and leaning on pure ritual is not the gospel – and the Lutherans would agree with you as well which is why it is the WORD combined with the elements that create the sacrament.

They would say that the God wants to ASSURE us of our salvation in Christ – that he does this through baptism (ie why Luther when tempted by the devil would shout – I am baptized!), and communion. The sacraments give assurance of the forgiveness of our sins – 2 tenets – forgiveness & assurance – that they point back to the cross, but that you can’t get around what Jesus himself has to say about these this. Both sacraments are things we CANNOT DO TO OURSELVES. (an interesting point I might add). These are both sacraments for the believer and not for the non-Christian I might add. In the early church, there would be a sermon for both Christians and non Christians, and then the non-Christians would be asked to leave before Communion. (talk about fencing the table). I wonder how much our objection to fencing has to do with our western individualized hyper psychological me-centric worldview?

How would you deal with 1 Cor. 11:27???

Again, I’m most interested in the theological aka SCRIPTURAL work behind this and would love to get some thoughts.



Here are some quotes from:


Matthew 26:26-29 (New International Version)

26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."

27Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

Mark 14:22-25 (New International Version)

22While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."

23Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

24"This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. 25"I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."

Luke 22:14-20 (New International Version)

14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.


1 Cor 11: 17- 32
The Lord's Supper

17In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!

23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

An interesting excerpt from some confessional Lutherans re-closed communion:

Before I became Lutheran, communion was a time to sit in my seat and beat myself up for being so evil that it required Jesus' death to save me from my sins. It was a time for feeling guilt, shame, and unworthiness. And following communion, I left feeling the same.

But now that I know the true meaning of The Lord's Supper, I gladly run to His table where I receive grace, forgiveness of sins, and strengthening of faith in partaking of, and participating in the Lord's true body and true blood until he returns to take me home where I will join him at his own table in Heaven.

mattie said...

Tom -

Thanks for your thoughts.

I'm definately not agreed on sola sciptura for an assortment of reasons. I believe scripture to be inspired and primary, but not the exclusive source of God's revelation. That being said, since I know most of you are committed to sola sciptura, I have tried to use predominately scriptural argumentation to butress my assertions. I hope that you see that in my posts.

Nevertheless, with respect to closed communion I would explain 1 Cor 11:27 with 1 Cor 11:28. I tend to think that the Church has the obligation to teach the proper reception of the sacrament, but doesn't need to be its guardian. The verses seem to imply that a person has to examine him or her self when electing to engage in the sacrament, rather than being denied the sacrament by someone who has determined that they are unworthy. A priest is obligated to explain his reluctance to a parishoner about why that person shoudln't partake, but I am leery that any priest or the magisterium generally should unequivocally withhold the sacrament from someone who desires it. Unfortunately, this takes pastoral sensitivity and effective communication, which is hard to find in any denomination! It's easier to just "make a rule" than dwell in the complicated grey areas.

As I said in my previous post, I "tentatively" reject closed communion, but I can certainly see the reasons it persists and am open to being conviced of it's import.

As self disclosure - I have personally gone through this experience in both the LCMS and the Roman Catholic traditions. When I elected to commune at GraceStreet FourSquare church during college my LCMS pastor told me that I was no longer welcome to commune at my home church and if I came to the table he would deny me the sacrament. When I began RCIA classes (as an inquirer, not as a candidate), the aforementioned LCMS pastor began the process of excommunication (while my own father was head of the board of elders and vice-president of the congregation). I elected to withdraw my membership in the LCMS before such a process could go forward.

On the other hand, I was told by the pastoral associate at my parish (even before my confirmation) that if I were to come forward with a desire for the sacrament that the priest would not deny me. For a host of reasons I chose to complete my catechisis and abstain from the sacrament until Easter Vigil. I am grateful that I made that choice.

I am not judging the actions of either man; I feel they both did things "right" and things "wrong." I'm just explaining my frame of reference.

Do I "feel" differently taking the sacrament at Lamb of God LCMS v. GraceStreet v. Sacred Heart? Most of the time, no. But what I have learned as a Catholic is that the sacrament is a place (not the only place) where I truly encounter God present, something I did not hear as a Lutheran or as a non-denominational seeker. That does "feel" different because it is different

I never thought I'd become a Catholic, but now I can hardly imagine living my Christian life any other way. That does not mean that I have the zealotry of some "converts" and am posting on this blog to "persuade" all of you that Rome is the one, true church and you all are going to hell. Far from it. I am on a journey seeking truth, and so are all of you. I cherish your companionship along the road.


Jeff Dean said...

A few points:

1) Mattie and Eric et al.,

Benedict's position is very interesting to me insofar as it is clearly influenced by Protestantism. He maintained this position during JPII's pontificate, but quietly. Now he's out in the open about.

Specifically I'm referencing the degree to which we are made present to Christ's sacrifice rather than Christ's sacrifice being made present to us. In an earlier work, Ratzinger argued that time spun like a whirlpool around the moment of the cross.

I can see this relating to von Balthasar's theo-drama. Namely, God is triune eternally, and the cross the only temporal moment of triunity. It's very Bartian--God intersects the human experiece at just one point. But he out Bart's Bart: the one point is not the life of Christ, it is the cross. Von Balthasar and Moltmann have some fundamental disagreements, but each is saying that the cross is the only bit of human history that can substantiate the Trinity.

Ratzinger, then, argued that the mass was essential because it circled the present moment back around the axis formed by the cross. Like a tether ball, we spin around and around the pole until our line is used up and we are drawn into the life of the Trinity itself.

This is heavily influenced by Protestantism, I maintain--and several documents allow me to justifiably maintain such a position--because the Reformers felt it was key that Christ was not being re-sacrificed in the Mass, but rather, as Cranmer wrote, Christ "made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.”

So, for starters, this encyclical is very important ecumenically. Since we make no headway when we stick to our guns about essential terms like "sacrifice" and "oblation," Benedict has shifted the terms of the debate by fudging on terms like time and space--terms that are increasingly difficult to define anyway.


That we are enbodied souls is a key point, I think, and you are correct to assert it. As Steven Pinker will readily point out, however, the mind is nothing more than what the brain does. That is to say, our psychology is a product of our bodies, not of our souls.

This could easily slip into the false dichotomy of the Greeks: "If its the soul its good, but if its the body its bad." That's not the direction I'm headed.

Rather, I mean to say that no part of our being is not tainted by sin. Maintaining otherwise is to slip into the Manichean heresy. We are touched totally by sin to varying to degrees. Thus, maintaining that a spiritual soul within is capable of discerning the spiritual side of material substance is to deny the depth of our problem.

3) Tom,

I must confess that I agree with you totally. I disagree vehemently with John that Luther's inability to do away with the notion of real presence was a throw-back to Catholicism. Good grief--he through out the papacy, the Fathers, the Church, and 1500 years of tradition. To say he would get stuck on this point is nonsensical, unless he had a specific reason for doing so.

As far as I'm concerned, Luther couldn't say that he took the text seriously unless he conceded Real Presence >in some way<.

I'm an Anglican (not Cranmerian)here, though, insofar as I look to the words of the prayer book (Rite I, ugh):

"The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.

The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's blood was shed for thee, and be thankful."

That is, "We don't know what the hell "this" is, but you damn well better be on your knees when you accept it, because God's the one who sent it to you."

John Zahl said...

Folks, what I find here on this thread is a very thoughtful (and fun) discussion of Communion. How cool! I am glad to see that Mattie and Eric are content with their denomination's understanding of the sacrament. Further, I am glad to see that Tom is seemingly more and more content with the Lutheran understanding of Communion. I feel that my Anglican tradition lines up really well with my own views on the matter, and this whole thread was sparked initially by my wanting to relate the fact that, despite ECUSA's all-over-the-map-ness, I feel more and more in line with the thinking that was spawned with the birth of the Anglican communion. But Jeff, you seem to be wrestling. Yes, the Anglican tradition is much more liberal in the old sense where you are concerned, in that your unsurity proves no hinderance to our willingness to offer and take communion with you. I don't think the other two denoms here (RC and LCMS) would be so flexible given the technicalities, but, I also think you seem to be lining up pretty well with the LCMS view-point on this issue. Do you line up with them across the board?

Here is Luther's reason for not wanting to part with Rome (very much) on this point: Parting with Rome resulted in the deaths of many, and he was retiscent to part once again too dramatically, that he might not always be associated with simply playing the rebel. Plus, in so vehemently laying out the problems of a glory-based line of thought, he had to fit the Holy Spirit in somewhere (Word and Sacrament), and thus comes his notion of ubiquity of Christ, a perfect description of the Holy Spirit, but a poor one of Christ as sort of risen. It was an aversion to a theology of glory, and a need for a teaching of the reality of the Holy Spirit that might look like "glory".

Also, Jeff, you are right in thinking that Cranmer wanted, to some extent, to leave his liturgy on the matter slightly open, that whatever the right understanding might be (in light of Scripture, and what Christ's words fully meant) would not be blocked. A very "Anglican" approach to church in that sense. Broader than the alternatives. That's especially true of 1548, but, guess what happened, people grossly misinterpreted it to fit their own, more Roman conceptions of the sacraments, so he wrote 1552 to block superstitous ecclesiology and take out any consecration element to the service, focusing entirely on the believer's reception.

Best, JZ

Tom Becker said...

JZ – I don’t know about your statement here - -
Here is Luther's reason for not wanting to part with Rome (very much) on this point: Parting with Rome resulted in the deaths of many, and he was reticent to part once again too dramatically, that he might not always be associated with simply playing the rebel. Plus, in so vehemently laying out the problems of a glory-based line of thought, he had to fit the Holy Spirit in somewhere (Word and Sacrament), and thus comes his notion of ubiquity of Christ, a perfect description of the Holy Spirit, but a poor one of Christ as sort of risen. It was an aversion to a theology of glory, and a need for a teaching of the reality of the Holy Spirit that might look like "glory".

A couple things – I’d love to see where there is support in Luther’s works on this point. I’ve not run across it at all. It’s an interesting perspective for sure, but I’m not sure how accurate it is.

Lutherans again are about where God is clear in the Word and God is clear in the Word about the working of the Spirit in Word & Sacrament. The Word is less clear otherwise, but Lutherans do not deny the Spirit can move as He chooses, but He always is present in Word and Sacrament. Anyway, this all comes back to the theme of assurance based on the Word.

I’m still curious to hear about the exegetical take on the Anglican position on communion. As someone who had a more representational perspective, it really was going through the Word that changed my opinion since I can’t really change what God says.

John Zahl said...

Okay, you're right that the first half of my point is conjecture. I admit. But it is true that after encouraging the attack against the peasant revolts, that Luther took a serious double take regarding the reality of the impact he was having, and that he took the deaths quite hard (as one would). I just wanted to show that not breaking with Rome boldly was not necessarily a huge jump, or one that was hard to envision. I do it all the time. I think: Have I not just been making to big a stink about stuff that really isn't ultimately that important, etc. I'll stay out of the limelight for a while, etc. Especially where ecclesiology is concerned in a heavily divided denomination like ECUSA, one definitely feels motivated to pick battles carefully, and this communion issue is really not the one to pick as far as I'm concerned.

I don't think the implied suggestion that my thinking and that of Cranmer's (and the Anglican communion) was somehow a huge leap away from Scripture is very fair. That's like snake handlers saying that because some don't walk on snakes the way that the end of Mark mentions, or because we don't call the dead "people asleep" that we're not really being Biblical. It's on this point of how do we rightly interpret Scripture that Church tradition is indeed so helpful. Anglicans don't place as much weight upon the 39 articles as do Lutherans on their confessions because they are/were retiscent to posit any statements of faith as being equivalent to Biblical authority. The tradition is extremely Bibline. These guys read the bible all day long. Most of the liturgy itself comes directly out of some of the verses you presented, Tom, the ones from 1 Corinthians.

But I'm not going to produce a long list. If you really want to know, then read about it. There's a ton of material. I like, for example, that Hughes book I always mention. I should probably post the actual 1552 liturgy as well.

You were indeed right to call me out on the assumption I made about Luther regarding why he didn't make a bolder breach with Rome, but I do think the Holy Spirit tension with Glory-stuff is a real problem present in Luther's weight placed upon the sacraments, and his theology at large. That's one of those areas where I think systematization is difficult, much more so than where things like justification and sanctification are concerned. I'm hoping Simeon's dissertation will at least point people like me in the right direction regarding a Lutheran understanding of the Gospel and the reality of present-day charismatic experience described in the New Testament. Jz

Colton said...

Tom and JZ,

I was going to bring into question that same portion of John's post. John, is this purely your conjecture as to why ML took the views he did on communion, or is there evidence and scholarship out there to substantiate your claim?

It seems odd to me that Luther, who to many is seen as "the ultimate rebel," would withhold his true views of communion in order to appear not to be too rebellious. This type of precautionary thinking did not seem to inhibit him from expressing other inflammatory views. What seems more likely is that ML called it as he saw it-- that the views he espoused were truly the views he ascribed to.

Of course, this has no bearing on whether or not he was _right_ or not regarding communion; I just think he probably was not holding back out of fear of ruffling feathers. However, an argument I would be more open to (though I am not sure there is any evidence for it, nor do I think I would ultimately buy it) is that ML withheld his views on communion-- an issue he perhaps viewed as secondary, a la JZ-- in order to maintain some degree of credibility within the theological community at the time.

I am not a Luther expert by any means, but these are my 2 cents.

Colton said...

Oops. Looks like I clicked "Publish Your Comment" about 1 minute too late. JZ, my last post was written before I read your most recent comment.

Tom Becker said...

JZ –

I’m not implying that Cranmer made a huge leap from scripture, I’m just pushing on the bruise so to speak to bring us all back to a Word rooted discussion. : ) Ultimately our opinions should be proofed in the Word, otherwise we’re just blowing a bunch of steam. Again, I had my own opinions which were changed in light of some exegesis (vs. my experience). It’s easy to get lost in the sauce with the theologians, but at the end of the day as a minister someone is probably going to ask you (and maybe me someday) to defend/explain a position from the Bible. For me personally, this has been the hardest thing do since I default to my own opinions & experiences – esp. since doing the work/homework is hard and I'm both opinionated & lazy. As iron sharpens iron . . . Love you bro,


PS – the old G4 is back in pristine condition!

Jeff Dean said...


I found it very helpful that you finally rebutted the claim that you were ignoring scripture. You really didn't even present an argument to support that claim, but reading what you wrote changed my thought about your position almost instantly.

Jeff Dean said...


A few thoughts.

1) I can ascribe myself fully to the 39 Articles. I'll confess that I am likely employing the term "Real Presence" incorrectly. I affirm the idea that Christ is truly present *by faith*. That is, I don't think there is an objective change in the bread and the wine such that a non-Christian who receives the elements will be propelled into faith. I do maintain, however, that Jesus said "This *is* my body," and so I affirm that I faithfully recieve it as such. We can argue about "is" all day long, but I will say that I don't believe the Eucharist has any power apart from my faith that it does.

2) That being said, I think the ministration of the sacraments is *essential* to the Christian life--not merely beneficial. I don't wish to engage in the argument about whether a person will go to Heaven without having received Baptism or communion, but I equally refuse to entertain the notion that the ministration of the sacraments is merely tangential to the preaching of the Word.

Here's why: In our Alpha course this year, we watched the video where Nicky Gumble holds up the "check" written to us from Jesus, offering all the blessings of divine sonship. A young man asked me a very difficult and powerful question: "Where do I get my check?" He was in such pain. He believed that Jesus was indeed the Christ, and he believed that Jesus was the only way to the Father. He had faith. What he did not have was any assurance that he had participated and been implicated by the "Gospel" side of the Law/Gospel divide.

The more I have reflected upon this occassion, the more I feel as though baptism and communion are, as Benedict wrote in his encyclical, occassions we can look upon as our reception of Christ's ministry.

Are they necessary to salvation? The thief on the cross received neither, so I must say no. Are they more than simply beneficial? I must say yes? Why? Because I can say "Jesus Christ died to save sinners" when I think of the cross, but its easier for me to have faith that his death was *for me*--despite the fact that I live two-thousand years after the fact--when I find myself implicated by it directly.

I know the girl I am dating cares deeply about me. When I doubt it, though, I can pull a letter she wrote out of my desk and find myself presently implicated by her actions from months ago. There remains always a danger that how she felt then is not how she feels now, but--thanks be to God!--there is no such danger with Christ.

John Zahl said...

Here's a little quote from John Jewel (1562) that I like:

"Thus doth God make known his secret purpose to his Church: First he declareth his mercy by his word; then he sealeth it and assureth it by his sacraments. In the word we have his promises; in the sacraments we see them."

John Zahl said...

And a quote from John Frith (put to death by a Roman Catholic Thomas
Cranmer in 1533):

(regarding Luke 22:19, and 1 Corinthians 11:24-25) "If a man would
come unto the bride and tell her that this goodly gold ring were her
own bridegroom, both flesh, blood, and bones;...then I think, if she
have any wit, she might answer him that he mocked, and the more he
said it the less she might believe him, and say that if that were her
own bridegroom why should she need any remembrance of him, or why
should he give it to her for a remembrance? For a remembrance
presupposeth a thing to be absent; and therefore if this be a
remembrance of him, then can he not here be present."

and another from Ridley along the same lines:

"If, therefore, he be now really present in the body of his flesh,
then must the supper cease; for a remembrance is not of a thing
present, but of a thing past and absent. And there is a difference
between remembrance and presence, and, as one of the fathers saith, 'A
figure is in vain where the thing figured is present.'"