Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Signs, Symbols, History, Science


“Is the body of Christ really and truly in this sacrament or only in a figurative way or as in a sign?”

Thomas Aquinas, first article, question 75, Summa Theologica

Transubstantiation: Theology, History, and Christian Unity, Brett Salkeld

Salkeld will rephrase Thomas’s statement, in order to clarify: “Is the Eucharist only a sign, or is it also something more?”

If it isn’t clear by that open, this post will focus on a very “inside Christian baseball” topic.  My intent is not to draw us into a theological debate, but to understand something of one of the key theological divides between Protestants, represented by Luther and Calvin, and Catholic thought, represented by Thomas, on the question of the Eucharist.  Within the context of this blog, it matters theologically only because it matters historically.

Thomas, of course, will deny that Christ is present only symbolically; he also denies that Christ is present physically – meaning not in the same way that Christ was present physically in Mary’s womb, etc.  There is no chemical change in the bread, nothing like this. 

Of course, Salkeld develops the Thomistic / Catholic case much further, but I will next move on to Luther and then Calvin.  Again, not in tremendous detail – as so much of this language and theology is beyond my grasp – but offering instead some conclusions from Salkeld and others.

Luther is not dogmatic on the point, writing in The Babylonian Captivity, regarding the issue: is Christ’s real flesh and blood present in no other way, or only as accidents:

“I permit every man to hold either of these opinions as he chooses. that no one may fear being called a heretic if he believes that real bread and real wine are present on the alter, and that every one may feel at liberty to ponder, hold and believe either one view or the other without endangering his salvation.”

I have thought about this often, on many topics of controversy among and between Christians: does the disagreement rise to one that risks the question of salvation?  Often, I think not.

Eight years later, Luther would write:

“I have taught in the past and still teach that this controversy is unnecessary and that it is of no consequence whether the bread remains or not… It is enough for me that Christ’s blood is present; let it be with the wine as God wills.”

And I often think about this: is it so important to divide on things not clearly described, one way or the other, in Scripture? 

Luther continues with even stronger words, and keeping in mind that here he is writing against those who say it is only bread and only wine (the “fanatics,” as he puts it):

“Sooner than have wine with the fanatics, I would agree with the pope that there is only blood.”

So, while the pope (or at least Thomas) didn’t say that there was only blood (in the sense of that which courses through our veins), Luther found this position more agreeable than the one claiming that it was only wine.

Salkeld concludes, based on forty-five pages of heavily footnoted examination on Luther’s views, as follows:

…Luther’s denial of transubstantiation was not a denial of what Thomas had argued.

As I recall, Salkeld earlier demonstrated that Luther was arguing against what later Catholics would present, which was different than what Thomas presented.

Furthermore, his affirmation of the persistence of the substances of bread and wine was using the term “substance” in a different way than it had been used by Thomas.

Thomas was using Aristotelian language and structure.  Luther was not.  Keep in mind that Aristotle was rejected in many ways (or every way) by Luther (coming back to my ongoing examination of the issues that many Protestants apparently have with teleologically-based natural law).

Finally, Luther’s concerns that transubstantiation led to unnecessary philosophical problems were predicated on this, nominalist, view of transubstantiation. 

In other words, Luther’s affirmation of the persistence of the bread and wine should not be read as a rejection of Thomas.  Suggesting, perhaps, that had Luther been more familiar with and accepting of Aristotle’s metaphysics, much of this controversy might not have come. 

Which now brings us to John Calvin, who attempts to affirm both sign and reality when different parties in the Reformation were emphasizing one to the neglect of the other.  Salkeld suggests that those who have been led to believe that Thomas and Calvin represent opposite poles on this topic might think again; they are remarkably close on many central features of their Eucharistic theology.

…more and more scholars note significant agreement between Calvin and Aquinas on real presence.

Salkeld notes several: British Baptist theologian John Colwell, who writes that he is “increasingly more impressed by the similarities than by the dissimilarities of their thought.”  The Lutheran Robert Jenson would write, “it is more remarkable that Calvinist Reformed sacramentology, seemingly so removed from Catholicism, is structurally very close to it.”

The Dominican Christopher Kiesling, a capable proponent of transubstantiation, writes in a response to Reformed theologian Ross MacKenzie:

“A growing conviction of mine has been that, if Roman Catholics did not have their particular conceptual tools for expounding the Christian faith, they would speak very much like John Calvin when they attempt to convey to others their belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have Calvin’s view directly.  He was writing to try to pull together the various factions that grew out of the Reformation; he does not appear to have ever addressed the Thomistic views directly. 

Here again comes the issue – why divide over issues that are not clearly presented in Scripture?  Salkeld would summarize Calvin’s initial attempts at addressing this controversy within the Protestant factions:

Scripture did not engage in questions about the nature of Christ’s eucharistic presence, but merely assured us of it, and, importantly, its benefits to us.

I would like to think it is enough.  Are we capable of understanding God’s mind?


None from me.  I just thought it worthwhile to bring Salkeld’s book to some kind of conclusion. 


But, coincidentally, I have been thinking about something that comes into play on this topic….

There are many Christians who read the opening chapters of Genesis as both history and science (as we use this term today).  God spoke those words, so it had to happen exactly that way.  Fair enough; for me it isn’t a question on which my faith hinges.

But, many of the same Christians will read the words of Jesus, “this is my body, this is my blood,” and not read it as science (as we use this term today) – and for sure, not history (like He actually cut out a pound of flesh to pass around).

It is not acceptable to read the opening of Genesis and God’s words in any manner other than a historical and scientific description; it is acceptable to read Jesus’s words at the Last Supper as anything but a historical and scientific description.

I am sure one of you will have a quick answer as to why this makes sense, and maybe it does.  But, maybe it doesn’t.


  1. "I have thought about this often, on many topics of controversy among and between Christians: does the disagreement rise to one that risks the question of salvation? Often, I think not."

    Theologically there are implications to salvation based on what you teach the purpose of the body and the blood's presence in eucharist.
    Protestants today believe transubstantiation is a problem because Catholic teaching says that they must be resent so that Jesus' can reperform his sacrifice to the Father to pay for our sins. This is in violation of clear scriture in the gospel of John specifically and much of the rest of the NT writings. Jesus crucifixion was the one and only necessary sacrifice for our sins and accomplished complete payment for sins. It completely satisfied the Father's judge of sin.

    For a Protestant like me there is no theological or salvific reason for the real body and blood of Christ to exist in communion because the payment is already done. Jesus, in the gospels, states do drink in eat in remembrance of Him, not to receive grace or have our sins forgiven.

    If the presence isn't needed for that, then what is it needed for? I don't need it to remember. I don't need it to worship. The main passage used to claim the presence is actually not the passages where the Lord's supper/communion/eucharist are described. Catholics that I have discussed this focus on John 6. But there Jesus isn't even talking about the Lord's supper ritual per se, but how to be saved. So do we have to partake continually in the Lord's supper in order to be saved (i.e. to have our sins forgiven)? That goes back to my previous point. Also, in John 6 Jesus' equates believing in Him with drinking His blood and eating His flesh. Jesus explicitly stated that he spoke in ways difficult to understand, so that only those who had faith would follow Him. At the end of John 6, the crowd he is talking to leaves Him, showing they didn't have faith.

    "But, many of the same Christians will read the words of Jesus, “this is my body, this is my blood,” and not read it as science (as we use this term today) – and for sure, not history (like He actually cut out a pound of flesh to pass around)."

    I would say I take Jesus to be using metaphor here. "This is my body, this is my blood" as a metaphor would lead to a symbolic meaning. It is a literal reading without being scientific or historical as you put it. That is why I believe the Lord's supper is a symbolic supper to remind us about our sin and His righteousness and His substitutionary atonement that took place in the past.

    Could Jesus' presence really exist? Sure. I'm not sure how that benefits me, but if that is what is happening who am I to argue. However, it does matter what theology is built on top of that belief. If a Christian tells me that they believe in some kind of presence of Jesus in the meal, I won't argue with them or think down on them. However, if they then say because of the presence then Jesus' sacrifice is being re-enacted to bring more grace or forgiveness to them, I would definitely disagree and it could be a dividing factor for me.

    1. One theological dispute at a to the sacrificial quality (or not) of the Eucharist, perhaps another day....

      As to Jesus using a metaphor, yes, of course. This isn't my point in comparing these words to the words of creation.

    2. "Could Jesus' presence really exist? Sure. I'm not sure how that benefits me" - RMB

      It may benefit you a lot. Jesus explains in the Gospel of St. John Chapter 6:

      "[54] Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. [55] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day." - John 6:54-55, DRB


      "[56] For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. [57] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. [58] As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. [59] This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever. [60] These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum. But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you? [63] If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? [64] It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life." - John 6:56-64

      In Bishop Challoner's translation (1752) of the Douay-Rheims Bible (1582), which is a direct English translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible (~400), he provides the following notes to these passages, which I think are helpful:

      [63] "If then you shall see": Christ by mentioning his ascension, by this instance of his power and divinity, would confirm the truth of what he had before asserted; and at the same time correct their gross apprehension of eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, in a vulgar and carnal manner, by letting them know he should take his whole body living with him to heaven; and consequently not suffer it to be as they supposed, divided, mangled, and consumed upon earth.

      [64] "The flesh profiteth nothing": Dead flesh separated from the spirit, in the gross manner they supposed they were to eat his flesh, would profit nothing. Neither doth man's flesh, that is to say, man's natural and carnal apprehension, (which refuses to be subject to the spirit, and words of Christ,) profit any thing. But it would be the height of blasphemy, to say the living flesh of Christ (which we receive in the blessed sacrament, with his spirit, that is, with his soul and divinity) profiteth nothing. For if Christ's flesh had profited us nothing, he would never have taken flesh for us, nor died in the flesh for us.

      [64] "Are spirit and life": By proposing to you a heavenly sacrament, in which you shall receive, in a wonderful manner, spirit, grace, and life, in its very fountain.

      So we are not actually eating chunks of Jesus' flesh like cannibals, but by some miracle, the Catholics believe, with good reason, we are partaking of His divine substance or essence in some mysterious way.

    3. This is where Protestants get Catholicism wrong vis a vis the Eucharist: while Christ's sacrifice on the cross, really, his descent into hell and resurrection from the Dead, opened the door for salvation; it was not salvation in and of itself for all. Remember the old adage of the pre-conciliar Church? "All are called; few hear." It is THROUGH the Body that we are saved. That is the reason for the use of the word "communion." Jesus cleared the way, we have to walk down the path. And it is only through his body and blood that we can do that.

    4. ATL,
      But he isn't talking about the Lord's supper in John 6. He is talking about His own body and blood. He then calls Himself bread from heaven harkening back to manna. He, Jesus, Himself is the bread from heaven, not the bread you eat in the Lord's supper. At least not according to Jesus here.

      Jesus also makes other comments that we have to take into account if we are going to interpret the whole chapter well.

      "40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life"

      "28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

      "35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst."

      These verses from chapter 6 show that the topic in hand was faith in Jesus. The Jews ask for a sign like the manna so that they can believe. He counters saying He is the true manna. The whole point is to communicate that He is worthy of their faith. Then at the end He makes a statement that I think is illuminating in verse 51.

      "51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

      Here Jesus is saying the body he had then was the bread and that He would give that body for the life of the world. He isn't referring to the Lord's supper He is talking about the body standing before them.

      Jesus says this body is the bread of life. Catholic teaching says the Communion bread is the body of Christ. Those 2 claims are distinct and one doesn't follow from the other. The overarching message of John 6 is God's choosing of the elect and Jesus' call to the crowd to believe in Him.

    5. Dr. Weezil, I think Protestants understand very well, we just don't agree. Salvation is by grace through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. One of the earliest creeds of the church is found in 1 Cor 15: 3-8. So in that way it is through the Jesus' body, yes. But no where does the Bible say that communion through bread and wife bring salvation.

    6. RMB,

      I certainly appreciate your perspective, as always, and honestly, I can't find much to disagree with in what you're saying. At the end of my life, if I'm wrong, I don't think Jesus will hold it against me if I believed that He was somehow miraculously present at every Eucharist I enjoyed. I also don't think He'd hold it against you if you view communion as simply a reverential commemoration of His miraculous sacrifice.

    7. Like I said above, I don't have a problem with the idea of Jesus' presence within the bread and wine. It can be a way of experiencing His presence and realizing His power to encourage your faith to follow more closely.

      The potential issue is the theology behind it. I was jus trying to describe the issue. I think we have both taken dialogued in good faith. I appreciate your insight too.

    8. You and I think alike.
      I did also think of John 6, where Jesus stuck it, rhetorically, to all the followers just looking to get something to eat or witness a miracle. Hard stuff to swallow, pun intended.
      Should I also mention that drinking blood would have violated The Law Of Moses?
      The transubstantiation was the first time I encountered Aristotelian logic to a theological point - that the essence, the core, of the bread changed to the flesh of Christ but the axidents, the emanation of the thing, what is perceived by the senses, remained the same.
      I am willing to divide on this issue. Better to live as good neighbors rather than be at each other's nevk in the same house.

  2. On the Real Presence, Thomas, Luther, and Calvin are in agreement in substance, as opposed to verbal formula, on the nature of what is received in the Holy Communion, it seems to me. As Queen Elizabeth put it: "Christ was the One Who spake it. He took the bread and break it. And what His Word doth make It, that I accept and take it." Among the reformers, Zwingli was extreme in his view of the Communion service as a bare memorial. Without causing further in house factions, what separates the Catholics as represented by Aquinas ( and the Orthodox), on one hand from the most conservative of the reformers on the other, was the notion of the Eucharist as sacrifice, offered for the quick and the dead.

    1. Yeah. That's my problem, if the Eucharist is seen as a re-sacrifice. It is unnecessary and violates other parts of Scripture describing how a person is saved.

  3. I have no comment on the topic, but simply wanted to let you know Bionic, that I read all your posts with alacrity. They are the most interesting on the internet. Thank you. Peg

    1. Peg, you are pure class. I was wondering if you were still around given Bionic's deep focus on Christianity these days.

    2. Thanks, Peg.

      ATL, my focus remains liberty. That I have found it impossible to search for liberty without a focus on Christianity...well, I may have arrived late to the party, but at least I have arrived.

    3. I claim no earlier ticket than you to this particular party, in which I'm having a blast. In fact, I probably owe much to you for finding the right address, though I am too forgetful to remember exactly where you may have corrected my course. To be on the safe side, thank you!

      I know one big one I owe to you is skepticism of the Enlightenment. That insight just keeps bearing fruit.

    4. ATL, I could list a dozen regular, long-term, even no-longer-here commenters that have helped my on this journey. You are one of these.

      One comment, from someone I don't remember, challenged me to challenge Hoppe the way I did left-libertarians; another commenter that really moved me in this direction was known as "unhappy conservative." These two interactions are what really bent the curve for me - more precisely, helped me find my way out of the dogmatic libertarianism that was my thinking.

      Then, addressing some titans of libertarianism on positions of theirs that were certain to lead away from liberty. Block, Wenzel (RIP) and Hornberger come to mind. I certainly owe them thanks for helping me see the folly of seeing the NAP in a vacuum.

      Jaime, Roger, RMB, Patrick, you - some longer term, some more recent. Positive feedback from Peg, Nick. Emails from several people. Even atheists / agnostics, like cosmic dwarf (as I believe he has labeled himself).

      And, as is always the danger when writing such things, I am forgetting a dozen others.

      All very involved in this journey....

    5. Well thanks. It is funny how we've formed this little community, all of us, and we've never seen each other. I'm closer to people who think like me here than anywhere else, and yet I don't really know any of you! The internet is a mysterious thing.

      I remember Unhappy Conservative. Very intelligent guy. Politically incorrect unreconstructed white male, hyper-critical of the effects of Jews and Blacks on Western society. I don't remember if he is a Christian or if he looks backed further to ancient Rome and Greece. I think he is an intellectual adherent of Julius Evola right? Maybe Spengler too?

    6. What I appreciated about UC was that he helped send me on the path that the NAP couldn't defend itself. Some of the other stuff was a bit too much for me.

      But you are right, he was a sharp person.

    7. Thank you, ATL, for your kind words.

      Bionic, I wonder where in your world do those of a non-Christian faith fit; those who also hold liberty in high regard? Taoists come to mind. Are they to be excluded from this party?

      I am willing to go this far: I once said to my son, "Even though I don't accept the idea myself, I nevertheless think the world would be a far better place if everyone acted as if they did, that something out there might be taking notes on our behavior for an eventual reckoning. Peg

    8. The discovery of natural law is available to everyone. But for it to be sustained and sustainable, enough people need to believe that it is ground in something or someone above and outside of human reach (God).

      Further, enough people need to believe that love is the highest virtue (Jesus), and I think this proves difficult to do for all of us, but especially for non-Christians.

      There are many non-Christians who have concluded on the value of natural law. However, I think even they are doing so on a foundation of Christian virtues (faith, hope, and love).

      So, yes, Peg, there is room for you. But the society as a whole must hold to the idea that there is something above us that is untouchable by human hands.

  4. Mr. M.,

    I'm still here, too, reading as always. And always fighting (successfully for now) the urge to jump in to the doctrinal disputes.

    1. Ron, I do my best to stay out of these also, but I know I tempt fate by writing such posts. I hope that the way I present such issues is neutral on the doctrine and accurate on the history / philosophy. It is really the latter that I am trying to bring out.

      On the whole I am pleased with the interaction by those who provide doctrinal feedback - cordial, and everyone seems to try hard to not get too far into the weeds.

      My view: if someone wants to make a doctrinal statement, make the case once and move on.

    2. Noted, and I've rested my case with RMB.

    3. ATL, I regularly receive emails from a particular individual - very good comments, and I always encourage him to post at the site, where all could benefit from this.

      He noted, in response to this post, that clearly one cause of our divisions in Christianity is that many of us believe that all of our doctrines must be 100% right, as if any individual is capable of pronouncing such judgement. There must be room for grace between Christian brothers on most matters.

      The divinity of Christ and the salvation that comes only through the Cross and God's Grace - these are untouchable (albeit, even here, we debate around the edges).

      Yes, a few other key doctrinal points. But beyond this, Christian grace toward our brothers; humility in our own understanding.

    4. Agreed. And I totally understand that you don't want this blog to become a pointless theological war between people who agree on 99% of everything.

  5. This is my body" (touto esti to soma mou). This is no more literal than to say "The good seed are the children of the kingdom." or The field is the world". He is speaking figuratively.

    He is using the figure Metaphor; or Representation. Which is a declaration that one thing is (or represents) another; or, Comparison by Representation. From the Greek-metaphora, a transference, or carrying over or across. From (meta), beyond or over, and (Pherein), to carry. The Metaphor declares that one thing IS the other.

    The Metaphor is not so true to fact as the Simile, but is much truer to feeling. The two nouns themselves must both be mentioned, and are always to be taken in their absolutely literal sense, or else no one can tell what they mean. The figure lies wholly in the verb, and not in either of the two nouns: and it is a remarkable fact that, when a pronoun is used instead of one of the nouns (as it is here), and the two nouns are of different genders, the pronoun is always made to agree in gender with that noun to which the meaning is carried across, and not with the noun from which it is carried, and to which it properly belongs. This at once shows us that a figure is being employed; when a pronoun, which ought, according to the laws of language, to agree in gender with its own noun, is changed, and made to agree with the noun which, by Metaphor, represents it.

    In our example, the pronoun, "this" (touto), is neuter, and is thus made to agree with "body" (swma), which is neuter, and not with bread (aptos, artos), which is masculine. This is always the case in Metaphors. Here are a few other examples to illustrate.
    In Zech. 5:8, "This is wickedness." Here, "this" (fem.) does not agree with "ephah" (to which it refers), which is neuter, but with "wickedness, " which is feminine.
    In Zech. 5:3, "This is the curse." "This" (fem.) agrees with "curse", which is feminine, and not with "flying roll", which is neuter, (to which it refers).
    In Matt.13:38, "The good seed are the children of the kingdom." Here, "these" (masc.) agrees with "children of the kingdom" (masc.), and not with seed, which is neuter.
    What this is showing is that in a Metaphor, the two nouns (or pronoun and noun) are always literal, and that the figure lies only in the verb.
    The usual verb to express such a change is (ginomai), which means to be or become. Mk.9:39, 'There was(i.e. became) a great calm,"
    Lk.4:3, "Command this stone that it be made (i.e. changed into) bread."
    John 16:20, "Your sorrow shall be turned into joy." This was a real transubstantiation.
    If Jesus had meant that the bread had become His body, that is the verb He would have necessarily used. The fact that He did not use it, but instead used the simple verb (eimi), i.e., "is" proves conclusively that no change was meant, and that only representation was intended.
    From all this it is clear that the words, "This is my body" means "This (bread) represents my body."

    1. shnarkle, I understand all of this. But it doesn't address my question. Read the Epilogue again, but I will summarize here:

      Why is it OK to read "this is my body" in a manner other than scientific / historical, but not OK to read the opening chapters of Genesis as being something other than scientific / historical?

    2. I had to edit it down quite a bit (too many words), but in a nutshell, "This is my body" is not a scientific or historical statement. The kingdom does not come by observation, and without observations, you're not dealing with science. Christ's spirit indwelling and sustaining the church body transcends historical narratives, but it's right in line with the Jewish liturgical narrative. History can affirm this fact by noting the correlation between the gospel narratives and the Jewish feast days which fit like a hand into a glove. The opening chapters of Genesis are historical and scientific, but too many people are woefully unaware of the figures of speech being employed, and therefore create a mythology that they believe is historical instead. There is no literal snake talking in the garden, any more than "that old fox" Herod is a literal fox. There are a number of scientists who have noted the striking accuracy of the Genesis accounts, and wonder how were the biblical authors were able to figure this out. A lucky guess doesn't cut it. I strongly suggest checking out "The Genesis Enigma". Most libraries carry it.

      The description says it's an argument for the existence of God, but if memory serves me correct, he leaves that as an open question. His meticulous proof that the sequence of events in Genesis mirrors current science is what I found interesting.

    3. Clicked "publish" too soon. I would also add that there's no rule precluding one from extracting deeper theological meaning from Genesis. One can even leave it their children's imagination to assume there is a literal snake talking in the garden as well as leaving their means of reproduction at face value with Adam "knew" Eve. The bible censors itself until people are ready to understand the texts on a deeper level.

    4. "Why is it OK to read "this is my body" in a manner other than scientific / historical, but not OK to read the opening chapters of Genesis as being something other than scientific / historical?" --Bionic Mosquito

      Probably because people in general are inconsistent in their thoughts, logic, and argument.

      I have met too many people who insist that the Bible MUST be read literally...except when it cannot be and then it must be interpreted on a piecemeal basis...according to the individual's preconceived beliefs and opinions, of course.

      This might mean that the Genesis account can be seen as springing from nothing 6000 years ago and taken as fact regardless of the questions unanswered. There is no way to prove that this is wrong. This is a theory and the only opposition comes from other theories...Big Bang, extra-terrestrials seeding the planet, evolution, etc. Because it cannot be proven wrong, it becomes truth.

      On the other hand, the trans-substantiation of the Communion message is a moral concern. Is this cannibalistic? Are we really eating Christ's flesh and drinking His blood? Many recoil at that postulation and resort to metaphorical explanations, even though in every other instance, they insist that Scripture is literal.

      If there is one thing I value as much as freedom of speech, it is consistency of thought. The conclusion is that if my thoughts are not consistent with my speech, then I must change either the way I talk or the way I think.

    5. "Probably because people in general are inconsistent in their thoughts, logic, and argument."

      Given the human condition (me included), this is the most reasonable explanation.

      "If there is one thing I value as much as freedom of speech, it is consistency of thought."

      As long as consistency of thought includes the possibility that different passages can be read in different ways (or more than one way), I am with you.

      There are a few non-negotiable items: God DID create all from nothing; Jesus is divine; His death and Resurrection physically happened and means something in our reconciliation with God...etc.

    6. Re: "consistency of thought includes the possibility that different passages can be read in different ways (or more than one way)".

      Are you saying that when an author uses a figure of speech, we are at liberty to disregard that figure of speech, and interpret what he wrote literally?

      Re: "There are a few non-negotiable items: God DID create all from nothing"

      Why would this be non-negotiable? Genesis begins with darkness, the face of the deep, and the face of water. It doesn't begin with God creating darkness.
      "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."

      Given your previous claim, I'm confused as to why one can't read that passage the way it's written.

      Re:"Jesus is divine;"

      I'm not so sure that's consistent with Christ's thoughts on the matter either. He says that he is the way, the truth and the life, but is he saying the selfsame person(i.e. Jesus) who teaches that one must deny themselves is the way, or is he pointing out the same thing John the Baptist taught, i.e the self must decrease that Christ may increase? Jesus is the name given to the man who taught these things, but what he taught begins with self denial/self sacrifice, and the gospels illustrate that he manifested his own teachings.

      In other words, He no longer identifies with the identity presented to the world, but instead "the way, the truth, and the life" that animates that persona. Christ is not the temple his spirit dwells within, but the spirit that dwells within the temple.

      Re: "His death and Resurrection physically happened and means something in our reconciliation with God...etc."

      Christ is the means by which reconciliation occurs. Added meaning is not added life, nor is there any life in meaning. If one is going to consistently rely upon Christ's own teachings, then one has to ask themselves why would someone who taught that the "flesh counts for nothing" and that wherever "two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst", then go completely off the rails and resurrect what counts for nothing to be where he already exists?

      The kingdom of God does not come by observation, but the incomprehensible burning love of God revealing the risen Christ in strangers who become companions as we "break bread" with them, or with our dearest brothers gathered in fear for our mortal lives which count for nothing only to be reminded he is always with us. The proof is seen in the wounds inflicted upon his body which Paul explicitly points out is the church.

    7. Consistency of thought was meant as opposed to hypocrisy within the individual. It does not mean uniformity nor groupthink and, therefore, allows for different interpretations and opinions. Perhaps I should have phrased it as simply consistency and left it at that.

      Whenever there is a discrepancy or conflict between what we think and what we say or do, then something has to change. It is a learning process. Christians call it conviction and repentance.

      Over time, our actions and words should become more consistent with our thoughts AND our thoughts should become more consistent with the truth. This applies equally to those who seek good and those who are evil. Living in a continuum between absolute good and absolute evil forces us to move in one direction or the other. We cannot remain static nor ambivalent.

      Adolf Hitler, for instance, knew what he believed and spent his life becoming consistent with the evil which drove him, eventually reaching the end of his philosophy by putting a bullet through his own head.

      This world would be radically transformed for the good if Christians (myself included) would exercise that same consistency for their own stated belief. But, then, maybe we do and it is. "I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail (stand) against it."

      Hard to argue with that promise.

    8. "Are you saying that when an author uses a figure of speech, we are at liberty to disregard that figure of speech, and interpret what he wrote literally?"

      How do we know it is a figure of speech? How do we know it is only a figure of speech? If these interpretations were so simple, why do Christians disagree - after even 2000 years - on the meanings of many passages of Scripture?

      As to the Creator being created and Jesus not being divine...Perhaps you are reading literally and I am reading figuratively or metaphysically or vice-versa. Or maybe one of us follows a different gospel.


    9. We may know a figure of speech by noting the definition, and the tell-tale signs which mark and distinguish one from another. There are hundreds of them, and perhaps thousands of ways in which they are used. We know a figure is only a figure because by definition, they cannot be literal.

      For example, the figure Symbol is characterized by substitution. Symbols are signs, and the pedestrian crossing sign cannot be substituted for itself. It is a substitution for actual pedestrians who may be in the actual crosswalk. When one mows over a pedestrian crossing sign they are not going to be charged with vehicular manslaughter because they didn't actually mow down any literal pedestrians.

      The primary reason Christians disagree is a complete ignorance of these figures. How many Christians know the difference between the figure Metonymy and the figure Metaphor? How many know the distinction between Metonymy of the subject and Metonymy of the adjunct? How many Christians can name five examples from their own bible of the figure Hendiadys? Hypocatastasis? How many know the difference between Hypobole and Hyperbole?

      Christ pointed out that there were many making their way into the kingdom despite the fact that there were plenty of legalists standing in the way attempting to prevent them from entering. Today, reveals just as many modern day Pharisees attempting to prevent those who have nothing to lose, or count what they have as nothing worth holding onto, by making their way into the kingdom. The gospel is truly good news to those who are able to make their way into the kingdom. For those who don't see the entrance, they can only come up with alternative narratives in a feeble attempt to soothe their tormented conscience.

    10. Why the difference in understanding when a literary device is to be used?
      Personal preference/bias, for one. Or, ignoring clues as to what is intended by the writer.

      Example, John 6:41
      The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.

      Where has any intimation that manna was something more ... flesh ... prior to Christ saying that manna was Him, His flesh?

      Another example of a metaphore:
      John 4
      31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
      32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
      33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?
      34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

  6. Scripture refers to the Church as the Body of Christ. The bread of Communion is referred to as "Body of Christ". Are these meant to be different? In what way? Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered, there I am in their midst." Does eating a literal meal in the company of other believers constitute (capital C) Communion with God (Jesus) or is that only communion with others and God (Jesus) is present? Is it the deliberate, conscious act of "partaking the bread and wine" that counts or is the love shown around the table what really matters? Are these one and the same? Are they different, but equal? How? Is the distinction terribly important?

    Just asking.

    1. There is something different between the Eucharist and having a coffee and cookie with other believers after the church service. Yes, I find the distinction terribly important.

    2. Unless the coffee and cookies are brought and the call to remember Christ suffering, death and resurrection. And to introspect, truthfully, that we are in the faith and to confess. Coffee and cookies would defintely take a different angle. Usually it just means a celebration and enjoyment, perhaps even a remembrance, of friendship.

    3. Scripture clearly calls the elements of Communion bread and wine. Bread and wine. They are not cookies and coffee. Neither are they oyster crackers and grape juice. If the bread and wine are meant to represent or are literally Christ's body and blood, then using anything except real bread and real wine might constitute blasphemy. Almost certainly, using anything other than bread and wine cheapens the symbolic and/or literal meaning of the ceremony.

    4. OooooKaaaay.
      Can we use tortillas or does it absolutely has to be made with wheat flour?
      Can it be strawberry wine? A wine cooler?
      I will not partake communion with you if you church teaches transubstantiation.
      You will not partake of my cookies and milk communion.

    5. Jaime, you are sounding a bit testy.

    6. Let us be thankful, then, that Jaime does not have a monopoly on milk and cookies (one of my great weaknesses)! ;)

    7. Roger rubbed me the wrong way for some reason.
      It is as if in the last supper Jesus used those little clear plastic cups and small square saltless crackers and demands it is performed that way.
      It was a meal, a structured meal, but a meal nevertheless.
      When having a family gathering with a meal, I have reminded the family of Christ's words as part of the blessing of the food - looking back and remembering and looking forward to Christ's promised supper with all the saints.
      Yeah, it is communion and fellowship.

  7. I began this thread with a list of serious questions and followed it up with a serious statement. I thought this was a serious conversation and I will say that I was quite disappointed with the reaction my comments received. I have spent the last ten or twelve days considering how to answer the them or even if I should.

    Jaime, if you took offense at my statement, then it is incumbent on you to attempt an explanation so that we can get our differences sorted out. Scripture recommends this: Matthew 5:23-24, Mark 11:25, Luke 17:3. I have my own opinion as to why you were "rubbed the wrong way", but it is only an assumption and I would rather hear it in your words, from your heart.


    1. Roger, I have given some thought to your questions. However, given the earlier exchange, I let it sit. Since you have come back to it, I offer the following....

      My response: some things are difficult to put into words. When you ask: is it different? How? Why?

      I have mentioned before...I have an extensive history in, first, a Reformed church (sermon focused, educational, like a classroom), then a long experience in an Orthodox church (liturgical, meaningful, emotional, but little direct Scriptural teaching, just worshipful "doing"), and have recently returned to a Reformed church with an even longer sermon.

      I have such difficulty putting into words the reasons why I value the Orthodox liturgy to those who have not lived in it and appreciated it over the course of many years. The "reasons" don't register for those who only know the classroom style Reformed sermon.

      This is my long winded way of saying...when and how we share the elements vs. a shared meal is different. Maybe I answer this way solely due to tradition; maybe there is no real Biblical ground.

      But even in the Protestant churches that I have attended, the elements are first touched by the pastor. Maybe it is different because the entire local congregation is together, and not some subset.

      Maybe it is just ingrained in me...tradition. I won't be able to come to a point where I consider sharing a meal with believers is the same as taking communion in church.

    2. Bionic, thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it.

      I have no understanding of either Reformed or Orthodox churches, having grown up in the Baptist religion and accustomed to a large measure of Pentecostalism as an adult. I do not now attend church and, should I ever return, it will not be to either of those. I might give the Orthodox version a shot. Some worshipful "doing" might do me some good.

      About all I can remember as a young boy in Baptist churches is that communion was just something that happened occasionally, but had no real meaning. What I learned in the Pentecostal churches is that Communion is an almost purely individual, spiritual practice between the believer and Jesus, with such mystical overtones so that it is almost as if no one else is present. In other words, as far as I am concerned, without any real meaning. (BTW, keep plugging away at the meaning of life. I'm starting to get your drift.)

      I do not view an organized meal with other believers as Communion per se, but I am drawn to the idea of Communion within the context of a meal, as Jaime mentioned above. I think both the Communion practice and the communion meal could be bettered by the blending of the two, so long as a spirit of reverence (sorely lacking at many church meals) and a damn good explanation of what Communion means (sorely lacking at many churches) is present.

      I have more questions than answers. For instance, what does it mean to "eat this bread and drink this an unworthy manner"? (1 Corinthians 11:27, 29) What is a man supposed to look for when he examines himself? If these apply to individual believers and the church is composed of individual believers, then would this not apply to the church as a whole? Does this have any bearing on the fact that today many churches are weak and sick, and some have "passed away"? Could there be a thread of consistency here?

      I don't know. Just asking. And seeking truth.