Did the Whole Church Get the Identity and Theology of the Eucharist Wrong?


For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but just as our Savior Jesus Christ, being incarnate through the work of God, took flesh and blood for our salvation, so too we have been taught that the food over which thanks have been given by a prayer of the Word that is from Him, from which our flesh and blood are fed by transformation, is both the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.  (First Apology 66:2)

I ran across this statement from Justin Martyr in the 3rd Century, and it occured to me that in all of my reading of primary sources throughout church history, I can’t find a single person who regards the elements of the Lord’s Supper to be merely a memorial or a symbol prior to the 16th century who isn’t also a heretic for other reasons. If it is in fact true that the memorial view wasn’t held by any otherwise-orthodox believer prior to the sixteenth century, what does this say about the validity of this view if no one in the church holds to it for fifteen hundred years of the church’s history? Was the whole church wrong until Zwingli? I suppose many Evangelicals will bite the bullet and say yes, but that’s an awfully big bullet. Let me head off at the pass the argument that the Roman Catholic church is to blame for this doctrine. Sorry to take away from you that old saw, but the doctrine of the real (and unique) presence was in the Eastern church as much as it was in the Western church. Long before the Magisterium in the West, the church throughout the world held to this doctrine. Ultimately, to hold a memorial/symbolic view is to disconnect yourself from the church throughout time.

Note: this question should be asked about other doctrines too, but lots of doctrines pass this test. There were a variety of views on baptism throughout history for example, and justification by faith alone (even if in nascent form) can be found much earlier than Luther.

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About Rev. John Fraiser

Pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church - LaGrange, KY htlc-lagrange.org
This entry was posted in Church History, Eucharist, Historical Theology, Justin Martyr, Lord's Supper, Lutheranism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Did the Whole Church Get the Identity and Theology of the Eucharist Wrong?

  1. Jeffery Hunt says:

    The primary sources are the scriptures. With the apostles its the distribution of bread, not the distribution of Jesus that caused issues. We’re told to do this in “remembrance” of Jesus. the third century church was just as capable of getting it wrong as we are. And we certainly are capable of getting it wrong. They may be right.

    • Fraiser says:

      Jeff, So the entire church read the Scriptures on the eucharist wrongly until the sixteenth century? I just want to make sure that I understand your claim.

  2. Renee says:

    Jeff sounds like a skeptic. Maybe he also thinks there is no external world. :p

    • Fraiser says:

      That’s the danger of rationalism. Because the human mind is incapable of understanding it, “This is my body/blood” can’t mean *This is my body/blood*. Evangelicals rarely make any textual argument against the doctrine. Instead we hear that if it’s true then it’s some kind of voodoo magic. Rejection on these grounds is rationalism pure and simple.

      • Brent says:

        Fraiser, when Jesus expounds on the purpose of the supper, of doing communion in remembrance of Christ, and proclaiming his death until he comes, doesn’t that say something about the interpretation of his words?
        I have been trying to believe in the real presence for a while now and as obvious as most Lutherans make it seem, “is means is” does not help me overcome the other passages that indicate that this meal may be memorial. It doesn’t have anything to do with rationalism, or the infinite not containing the finite. Honestly, when you or others tell me that I’m not receiving the word as a little child because I have trouble understanding the words of institution as you do, it is irritating to say the least. It’s irritating because I am trying to understand what Jesus plainly meant when he instituted this, and it isn’t as clear as you make it seem.

  3. Mark S says:

    Jeff, John’s argument is not that the Church fathers are somehow more authoritative than Scripture. In using the term “primary documents,” he clearly meant what they themselves (i.e. the fathers) had written, not what was written about them. His argument is that, with the understanding of simple hermeneutical principles, the Scriptures, like any other word/phrase/writing/etc., are interpreted when they are read and heard. Until the 16th century, the Scriptures written about the Supper were interpreted by the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as referring to something more than a “symbol” or simply a “remembrance.” Thus, to stray from this interpretation is to separate oneself from the historical interpretation of the Church.

    I hope I did your argument justice, John, and didn’t put words into your mouth.

    • Joe says:

      If you read John 6, Christ calls Himself the Bread of Life. On four different occasions, he says something to the effect of “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Eventually, most everyone leaves, because they remembered the commandment in Leviticus that said not to eat flesh. Plus, they just thought the idea was gross. When Jesus went back to His disciples, they asked Him if they really had to eat Him. Jesus then told them that His words were Spirit, meaning it wasn’t literal. It was purely symbolic. A lot of people don’t usually read that far in John 6.

      Later on in John, Jesus calls Himself The Door. Does that mean he is made of wood, has three hinges and a handle? He also calls Himself The True Vine. Does that mean He is literally a plant that grows out of the ground? When Jesus called Himself something, it was usually an object lesson. Before He called Himself the Bread of Life, He had fed the 5000 just before that.

      And one other thing, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a once and for all sacrifice, It is complete, and it is perfect. By taking the eucharist, and claiming that the eucharist actually contains the body and blood of Christ, you’re saying that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is not sufficient, and you are re-sacrificing Christ each time you take of the eucharist (assuming, of course, the body and blood is actually contained within).

      I don’t claim to know as much about church history as others. I look at the church like this – It was formed on the day of the Pentecost, it was deformed with the creation of the papacy, it was reformed by Luther and Tyndale and the like, and now it is becoming conformed to the world. And while church history is very important, it’s not so important that we need to base our core doctrines around what the church does/used to do. Our core doctrines need to come from the Word of God.

      • Mark S says:

        Joe-

        I am certainly familiar with John 6. If your comment about reading all of the chapter was directed at me, I’ve read it many times (yes, through the whole chapter, and yes, through the entire Gospel). If it was directed at the Fathers, they were certainly familiar with the whole chapter (and the whole Gospel). Your comparisons fall short on several levels, one obvious one being that when Jesus says “my body,” he actually does have a body (yes, he’s made of flesh!). Though he says, “I am the door” (etc.), he is obviously making a metaphorical comparison; yet, he never says, “I am a body.” Indeed, he is one (he is made of flesh). Furthermore, it is a non sequitur to say that eating flesh and blood forces one to understand the Eucharist as a “re-sacrifice.” The Israelites sacrificed plenty of things without eating them; also, they ate many things without having sacrificed them. One does not necessarily imply the other. Certainly, metaphorical language (along with hyperbole and other literary devices) is an important part of Scripture and specifically of Jesus’ words. Again, John’s (Fraiser) point is not that we should somehow “base” our interpretations on the Fathers. We are agreed that our doctrines are based on the Word of God (“sola Scriptura” after all). But, wouldn’t it seem strange that for 1500+ years the Church interpreted Jesus’ words one way, and we, all of a sudden, in a stroke of pre-Enlightenment hubris think that we suddenly have the right understanding of something from which we are so far separated by time and space? That, in fact, seems like a separation from the Word of God, putting in its place rather our own preconceived notions about how reality works or how the nature of God exists, instead of trusting the very words of God spoken in his Son Jesus Christ.

      • Mark S says:

        Also, “my words are Spirit” does not mean that they are “not literal” or that they are “symbolic.” A cursory glance at the uses of “spirit” in John (or elsewhere, for that matter) reveals that “spirit” is connected with “life” and/or “truth.” There is no sense – anywhere – of “spirit” being connected with “not literal.” In fact, I would submit that there is no such thing as “purely symbolic” in the cultural and collective consciousness of first century Jews.

      • Fraiser says:

        Mark,
        You haven’t misunderstood me at all here. Thank you for your comments. They are spot on.

        Joe,
        Even if you think that the church was deformed by the papacy, that won’t work for you on this doctrine. As I noted in the post, there is simply no magisterial papacy in the time of Justin Martyr. So to hold the memorial doctrine of the Supper, you essentially have to say that the church got it wrong for its entire history until Zwingli. Saying this about a small doctrine is one thing, but for the church to say for 1500 years that salvation is found in the body and blood of Christ present in the bread and wine is no small doctrine. The question becomes: in what sense do those who hold to a memorial view belong to the church when they so freely cast aside what the church has believed for its entire history. In doing so, you are essentially saying that the church didn’t exist for at least 1500 years. I don’t think you want to say that. A number of Fundamentalist Christians have recognized this challenge and so they have proposed an alternate church history of baptist belief going all the way back to (you guessed it) John the Baptist. Did you ever finish reading Carroll’s The Trail of Blood? One of the links in Carroll’s chain is the Donatists of the 4th century. Yet even the Donatists held to a bodily presence in the eucharist. So I don’t know any way back through history for the memorial view (it’s possible in the case of baptism, I think, but it relies on claiming those who are clearly heretics as one’s theological ancestors). What’s left then? Saying that there was no correct doctrine of the Supper for 1500 years. That the whole church went around saying that it saved — even pre-magisterium. Tough pill to swallow.

        As for what the doctrine of the real presence actually says, your following comment gets it completely wrong.

        “By taking the eucharist, and claiming that the eucharist actually contains the body and blood of Christ, you’re saying that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is not sufficient, and you are re-sacrificing Christ each time you take of the eucharist (assuming, of course, the body and blood is actually contained within).”

        This isn’t even an accurate statement of the Roman Catholic nuance of the doctrine of the Supper, and it certainly isn’t an accurate statement for all those who claim that the eucharist contains the body and blood of Christ.

        In short, the eucharist *is* Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, so we certainly couldn’t be saying that it’s insufficient. Here’s the concern. How is the work of Christ done two-thousand years ago on the other side of the world brought near to me today? How does the body and blood come near to me today? We actually need a real and present means for it to be delivered to us. The sacraments are those real and present means. Otherwise, we end up with vague instructions about feeling Jesus or depending upon our “sinner’s prayer” or the date written in our Bible. In short, we end up depending on ourselves in some way — a feeling, a confidence in our own faith, a belief in the power of our prayer, etc. The sacraments give us something objective to believe in. It calls us away from trusting in ourselves. We all believe that we should trust in Christ, but two questions always remain “How do I do that?” and “How do I know when I have done that?” Without the body and blood of Jesus Christ brought into the present for us, the only other option is through something we feel.

        Also, it isn’t a re-sacrifice because it is precisely the once-for-all sacrifice brought into the present. It’s a partaking of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

        I was going to cover John 6, but Mark did that so well that I have nothing to add.

      • Joe says:

        Hey guys, I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you, but I’ll probably not be able to properly respond until tomorrow.

        Thank you for the comments, by the way. I love when my point of view is challenged.

  4. Darlene says:

    I decided to drop by after being away for quite awhile. I first discovered this site back in 2006 when I was looking for a faith having more substance than Evangelical Protestantism. The long and short of it is that I went through many inward struggles as I began reading about the early church and her teachings. The more I read, the more convinced I became that Protestantism in its current forms had departed from historical Christianity – from that Church of the first millennium. I, too, read what the Church believed about the Eucharist and it was a far cry from what I had been taught. I, too, came to the same conclusion that the view of the memorial supper was non-existent until the Protestant Reformation came along.

    In conclusion, I became convinced that the Protestant church I attended was a schism of a schism of a schism of a schism of a schism. No exaggeration there! :-) Without going into a lengthy explanation, I came to discover that the Orthodox Church has held to the faith of that early church of the first millennium. She has honored the defenders of the faith from the First C. till the present day. It was with much joy that I was received into the Holy Orthodox Church two years ago on Lazarus Saturday.

  5. Joe says:

    @Mark – I wasn’t directing anything toward you or anyone else. My reply was in response to the blog entry. In fact, I’m not sure that I even read your entry before I replied. I’ll do that now.

    John 6:63 says – “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit,”. The Greek word for “spirit” is “pneuma,” and it means “by analogy or figuratively.” That’s just having a quick look through my Greek dictionary. So, we know that Jesus was telling His disciples “Look. I don’t mean for you to ACTUALLY eat my flesh and drink my blood. I mean that figuratively. Believe in me, accept me, etc. THAT’S what I mean by ‘eat my flesh.'”

    Otherwise, Jesus lied to the thief on the cross, because the thief never had the opportunity to eat the flesh or drink the blood (or get baptized for that matter).

    Again, we referenced The Door. Jesus didn’t mean for us to walk up to Him, knock on Him, turn His handle and push Him open. Same with the Light of the world. We don’t walk in literal darkness, and then find this lamp (Jesus), and flick the on switch. These are ALL metaphors. All of them.

    —————-

    In your second response to me, you state the following:

    “In fact, I would submit that there is no such thing as ‘purely symbolic’ in the cultural and collective consciousness of first century Jews.”

    However, in your first response to me, you state the following:

    “Certainly, metaphorical language (along with hyperbole and other literary devices) is an important part of Scripture and specifically of Jesus’ words.”

    You can probably understand my confusion. In one instance, you say that The Door is purely metaphorical, but in another instance you say that the Jews did not use or understand metaphors.

    —————-

    @John – You bring up some things that I am in complete agreement with you about. For one, you mentioned the “sinner’s prayer.” I think that might be one of, if not the, biggest heresy in America today. It is awful. There are thousands and thousands of people in America right now who “believe” and pray this awful little prayer, and then are told by some hack preacher that they have been redeemed. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are going to be shocked when they die and see what type of judgement awaits them; and equally I think a lot of hack preachers are going to have much to answer for.

    No, I didn’t not read “Trail of Blood.” I put it down and decided to read something else. If you refer to “the church” as the Roman Catholic church, then yes – They have been re-sacrificing Christ over and over again since they were formed in the 300s. But the church that Christ came to the Earth and formed, and gave to the apostles and other followers and told them to share and spread, has always existed; and there have always been groups (the correct ones) that have held to what the Word of God says – The body and blood of Christ are not present in the bread and wine that we take.

    So yes, I am saying that “the church” has got it wrong for 1500 years.

    “In doing so, you are essentially saying that the church didn’t exist for at least 1500 years.”

    No I’m not. See the comment above.

    “A number of Fundamentalist Christians have recognized this challenge and so they have proposed an alternate church history of baptist belief going all the way back to (you guessed it) John the Baptist.”

    Fundamentalist Christians do a lot of goofy things. I generally don’t associate with those particular groups.

    “How is the work of Christ done two-thousand years ago on the other side of the world brought near to me today? How does the body and blood come near to me today?”

    By the Holy Spirit of God working in our lives through the reading of the Word of God. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Not “Faith cometh by eating bread and drinking wine, and bread and wine by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.” By accepting Christ as your Saviour, by TRULY believing in Him, the Holy Spirit indwells in us. That’s how the body and blood come near us today.

    “We actually need a real and present means for it to be delivered to us. The sacraments are those real and present means.”

    This statement is a bit alarming. Mormons say something similar with regards to “needing” a prophet. Muslims say something similar with regards to “needing” a prophet. We do not “need” Christ to be real and present, in the sense that you mean. Christ is real and present – He is real and present in the Word (for Christ is the Word) and the Holy Spirit.

    “Otherwise, we end up with vague instructions about feeling Jesus or depending upon our ‘sinner’s prayer’ or the date written in our Bible.”

    As mentioned previously, you won’t get an argument from me. This particular thing is something that I’m really burdened with right now. I know *a lot* of people who are this way.

    Anyhow, I think that’s about as far as I’m going to go. This is one of those topics that we can go around and around and around on. Have a good week. :)

  6. Mark S says:

    Joe-

    Thank you for your response. It is nice to discuss this with people who care about it.

    I’m curious to know what Greek dictionary you are referencing. The standard Greek lexicon for Biblical Studies, BDAG (Bauer/Danker/Arndt/Gingrich), lists 8 meanings for “pneuma”: blowing, breath, spirit (several nuances regarding non-corporeal being), and The Spirit. Nowhere is there any sense of “by analogy” or “figuratively.” It’s simply not a part of the semantic domain of the word. As I posted before, Jesus speaks about his words being “full of spirit and life,” over against “the flesh, which is no help at all.” This flesh, which Jesus claims is no help, is the flesh of mankind which is offended by Jesus’ words and cannot believe without the Spirit (6:60-63). Jesus would be contradicting himself if he claimed that his own flesh was no help, when he just claimed that one must “eat my flesh and drink my blood and be raised on the last day” (6:54). Neither the lexicon nor the text has any sense of “figuratively.”

    As far as the thief on the cross, I would certainly hope that faith in the words, “Today you will be with me in paradise” would be sufficient for life eternal. When Jesus speaks something, it’s real. God’s words create reality – they are not figurative (cf Gen 1). It is, again, a non sequitur to say that Jesus lied to the thief if his words were not “figurative” in John 6. The text does not say, “Your salvation is dependent on receiving the Eucharist before you die.” Rather, it is Jesus’ own words that are full of spirit and life. For those not hanging hopelessly on a cross, his words of promise are connected with a tangible meal of his body and blood, which is a participation in the body and blood of Christ given on that cross (1 Cor 10:16), as well as with the rebirth through water and the Spirit (John 3) in Holy Baptism.

    I apologize for causing any confusion earlier regarding “symbolic” things. That was certainly not my intention; I should have been more clear in my words. What I was driving at was that there was no ceremony, rite, or command from God that was purely symbolic, figurative, or metaphorical in the Old Testament. Each action had real connections to reality through the promises of God. Were there “symbolic” pieces? It depends on what you mean. The act as a whole was not “figurative,” as if there wasn’t something real happening. Various pieces matched up with a certain reality – but this did not make them purely “figurative,” as if nothing were happening. Furthermore, there is a difference between Jesus’ metaphorical language and figurative actions. One can make a comparison with metaphorical language (e.g. “I am the door”), and it does not follow that actions or ceremonies must be purely figurative.

    • Mark S says:

      To clarify my last bit, Jesus says, “I am the door, enter through me” but never says, “I am a body.” He says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will not go hungry.” If he had stopped here, with the metaphorical “I am” statement, it would have been one thing. It makes sense to eat bread. However, moving to “flesh and blood” language goes beyond the simple “I am the bread of life” metaphor. Connecting the two some sort of “figurative” level is confusing and strange.

  7. Tim Harris says:

    Pastor John,
    Your thesis seems to play on two rather fragile terms:
    1. “merely a memorial or a symbol.” For, the question is, whether anyone except Quakers and a few Baptists believed that AFTER the 15th century. I’m not at all convinced that Zwingli was a Zwinglian when given that hard interpretation.
    2. “who isn’t also a heretic for other reasons.” How shall we define “being a heretic”? I’m not trying to be peevish. I actually want to take the challenge to see if I can find someone, but I have to know what will count as a defeater? Can a pope make such a determination unilaterally? A Council? And if so, even if according to our Reformation Confessions, a man would not have been found guilty of heresy? So Huss’ condemnation must stand even if Luther came to reject it? (just to give one example, not necessarily related to the challenge)

    • Fraiser says:

      Tim,
      Thanks for stopping by. I have for years admired your co-blog, mostly from a distance though. Your blogging is usually so extensive that my thoughts are not refined enough on the subject to engage the post. But I enjoy reading.

      I don’t think my terms are quite as fragile as you say. A mere symbol is, unfortunately, how the majority of protestants and practically all evangelicals regard the Supper. Regardless of whether Zwingli was a Zwinglian, millions of people the world over are Zwinglians (albeit unwittingly in most cases). Now if you say that most people didn’t even believe it AFTER the 15th century, that makes my case all the stronger. Now we’re up to even later centuries that people started confessing the memorial view en masse.

      Regarding heresy, I say “for other reasons” because if I was to identify those who believe the memorial view to be heretics (which I don’t) then my argument would entirely beg the question. So I say, find a person in church history prior to the 15th century who held a memorial view that wasn’t a heretic for other reasons. Now, you’re right that there are different standards for heresy. So whose do we follow? Since I’m a Protestant writing about Protestants who hold a memorial view, I’m using Protestant standards for heresy, which would roughly include denial of the Trinity and denial of any of the three (five) solas. We can discuss a specific case if you come up with someone who seems to otherwise pass the test I’ve proposed here.

      Thank you for the clarification. So can you think of anyone who held a memorial view who isn’t a heretic by Protestant standards prior to the 15th century?

      • timharris says:

        For my first candidate, I present… none other than Augustine the Magnificent.

        Admittedly the case is complex, but according to Hermann Sasse, the Africans in general made the (for him) fatal move of identifying the sacrament as signum. On p. 23 of “This is my Body,” Sasse writes,

        “In the case of Augustine, it is obvious that his understanding of the Sacrament is determined by his neo-Platonism. The distinction between signum and res; the fact that he places all the emphasis on the invisible reality which underlies the visible sign; his idea that not outward signs, but solely the Spirit of God in his direct influence on man, can bring salvation: all these belong to his neo-Platonic convictions. Also of great importance for the future is his idea that the body of Christ is in heaven until his Second Advent, and, therefore, cannot be on the altar.”

        To be sure, he continues:

        “However, this is not the whole of Augustine’s doctrine. There is another aspect of his eucharistic theology. As a Catholic he uses ecclesiastical terminology, so that the later medieval theologians could quote him as an authority for their understanding of the Real Presence” and he goes on to describe a shift toward objectivity in his later controversies, concluding “Augustine was never able to reconcile his older spiritual views of the Sacraments with his Catholic practice, and with the corresponding utterances of his later years.”

      • timharris says:

        Candidate #2: Ratramnus, 9th century.
        Controversialist against Radbertus representing the realist side. Quoting from Sasse again (p. 18),

        “The elements are not changed; they remain bread and wine. Only virtually are they the body and blood of the Lord. They are, after the consecration, the ‘image’ of the body and blood, signs with which the faithful receive the ‘res’, the celestial blessing of the spiritual communion with Christ.”

      • timharris says:

        #3: Berengar
        #4: Wyclif

  8. Fraiser says:

    Tim,

    As much as I, as good confessional Lutheran, appreciate Sasse, I do not think his argument constitutes evidence that Augustine believed in a purely symbolic view. Augustine’s view is difficult to pin down, but on balance of the whole of his teaching on the Eucharist, he seems to have strongly held to the real bodily presence. Do you have any particular Augustine quotes to support your argument. As it is, Sasse won’t suffice. I can’t grant you Augustine. See here for more on the Augustine question: http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/num30.htm

    I will, however, grant you Ratramnus. Even though he did hold a symbolic view, the substance of my claim would still stand: it’s not a view that can be traced back through to the apostles which makes it highly dubious from the standpoint of one’s connection to the church. Ratramnus would require perhaps a small adjustment to my claim. I cannot claim that *no* person who wasn’t a heretic for other reasons held to symbolic view, but I’m not sure what is gained if one finds an obscure person here or there.

    Btw, Ratramnus also argued for double predistination. While I myself would not consider this doctrine heresy, the Lutheran church historically has regarded it as such.

    • timharris says:

      John, you raise several points that could each become major discussion points. For Augustine, I will lean on Sasse — I am no scholar of the original sources. However, one point I would make about some of the quotes appearing at the link you gave above, is that they could be question-begging. Someone says, “this is the body of Christ,” but it all hinges on what the meaning of ‘is’ is (to quote Theologue Clinton). That is where the discussion must begin, not end. Said differently, the whole debate is how to interpret the words of institution: literally or tropically. And if literally, what does that actually mean, especially in view of the original context? Sasse also points out that the forms of expression regarding the eucharist were almost entirely devotional and liturgical until the High Medieval period, when they first became dogmatized and thus contentious.

      Thus, Ratramnus’ views were contended, but at that period no one raised the heresy banner. The discussion was within the realm of legitimate speculation.

      I would be sorry if the Lutheran fathers condemned anyone at such a long distance of time. For, the way questions are framed tightens up with the passage of time, new exegesis and even a deeper understanding of logical implication can come about, so that it is quite unfair and anachronistic to dig up an old corpse and put it on trial for heresy.

      I am told Luther believed in at least single Predestination. Now if that is so, and if the later fathers would have balked at declaring Luther a heretic, then the point of discussion is going to center on how to model those not included in the single Predestination. If their point was that the mode of the divine decree is qualitatively different here than that of Predestination, that is fine — and the question would be what they felt was at stake in making a modal error on that finely-divided question then. Surely, they would allow Ratramnus to speak after giving him a chance to hear their way of dividing the question.

      As for “tracing back through to the apostles,” Friedrich Lücke (1791-1855) argued (according to Christophersen) that John’s quite different narration of the Last Supper hinged from his symbolic interpretation of it. I haven’t had a chance to drill down into this very interesting thought yet, just thought I would mention it.

      Sasse’s book is causing me to rethink all these questions at a very fundamental level. He defeated almost all my schoolboy Reformed objections to the Real Presence. I hope to do a detailed review of the book soon. He hasn’t yet quite made me a Lutheran, but the questions I now have are either different or differently formulated than before.

      As to

    • timharris says:

      Scratch the “as to” — typing mistake.
      And thanks for your kind words about our blog.

  9. kas says:

    I’m in a very peculiar place where there is no Lutheran church and my only other choices are Roman Catholic, Evangelical or IFB. For several years now I’ve been wrestling with this question, along with other ones. More than the “is means is” argument most Lutherans put forth, I find the John 6 text most compelling on this issue. Jesus says, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink my blood…you have no life in you.” I’ve heard people who don’t believe in anything but a memorial meal try to spiritualize that text. When you tie it in with the OT passages it just doesn’t seem doable. The first time I approached the text on its own terms and context I said the same thing as the disciples, “this is a hard saying”. Even my seven year old said, “yuck, but OK if Jesus says so.” Just don’t tell my Baptist church….

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