Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Is the Eucharist symbolic or is it literally the Body and Blood of Christ?


Ignatius said...

IN Matthew, Mark, Luke, Jesus said, "This is my body" and "this is my blood". He never said it was a representation or symbolism.

In John's Gospel he records Jesus saying, "My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." In fact, he repeats it several times. His followers state, "This is a hard saying". They couldn't accept the fact of eating his flesh and drink his blood. After not being able to cope with this concept, it says, "They walked away and followed him no more." At any time, Jesus could have said, "Hey guys! Come back! I am speaking symbolically! I am not being literal!" But he didn't. What did he say? He looked at his disciples and said, "Do you wish to leave also?"

In 1 Corinthians 10 & 11 Paul tells us we must examine ourselves before taking the Eucharist and some have even died from taking the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner. Paul also goes on to tell us anyone who partakes of the Lord's Supper in "participating in the body and blood of Christ".

With this said, and much more and examples could be given. The Protestant believe the Lord's Supper is symbolic. Not one verse implies or says it is symbolic.

The early Church Fathers also believed the Eucharist was the Body and Blood of Christ.

The view of symbolism didn't come about until after the Protestant Reformation in the mid or early 1600's.

Did the gates of hell prevail over the church for over 1600 years? Were all christians in all places at all times for nearly two centuries duped into believing the reality of Christ in the cup?

The Protestant should be asked, why don't you believe the passage to be true? Is it because you don't believe God can do this? Or would do this?

Should we believe the resurrection is symbolic as well? Should we believe the crucifixion was only symbolic?

What Bible verse tells us this is symbolism?

Matthew said...

Unfortunately, Ignatius has chosen to ignore the fact that many Protestant denominations including the Lutherans, Anglicans, etc. believe in the true presence of the Eucharist. Martin Luther refused to reconcile with Zwingli over the Eucharist. During their meeting, he wrote on the table, with chalk or a knife depending on who is telling the story, "This is my body."

Generalizations about what Protestants' believe are difficult to support because many of the denominations do differ greatly.

Adam Roe said...


The "etc." unfortunately ends at Lutherans and some (not all) Anglicans. This is one issue where Lutherans have incorporated the teachings of the Church into the Book of Concord and I suppose we can be glad for that. I offer only a "suppose" because it seems to me that Lutheranism is in large part an attempt to maintain the shell of historic rubrics, theologies, and ceremonies, without maintaining the heart of Eucharistic fellowship. This is why the more historically minded pastors within the LCMS are up in arms over the happy-clappy takeover. They know that if you start getting rid of the historic expressions that Lutheranism is exposed as just another Protestant denomination.

The problem is that the forms and theologies do not by themselves make the Church. Eucharistic fellowship with the church of all ages is a necessity if one wants to be a member of the Church. Protestantism has no claim to such fellowship, which is why Lutheranism is ultimately no different than Pentecostalism in regards to its membership within the Church. To be part of The Chuch one must have more than a historically grounded theology on some issues. One must be in communion with the Church that has always been. I pray that as it becomes clear the Lutheran Confessions have no real "One, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic" clothes that this emperor will be dethroned in favor of fellowship with the communion that maintains an unbroken Eucharistic fellowship...holy Orthodoxy.


Ignatius said...

I would say you are correct Matthew. I did generalize the Eucharist to all Protestants.

However, the Lutheran view of the 'true presence' is still emphatically different than the Orthodox view of the Eucharist.

Luther still tried to explain when and how the Eucharist becomes the body and blood of our Lord and Savior whereas the Orthodox say it is a mystery.

So basically, the Lutheran view of the Eucharist is not the same as the historical church and also I think Adam made a great point that partaking in the Eucharist means being in The body of Christ, the Church.

Ezekiel said...

Excellent points, Ignatius.

As a former Lutheran pastor, I can say very clearly that the Lutheran view of Eucharist departs from that of the Church ... and one of those areas is in the "when" question .. trying to somehow define the "when" of so-called "Eucharistic presence."

A key in my own journey "home to Orthodoxy" was the realization that Luther, who is all but canonized by many Lutherans, may have started out with good intention, but finally threw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak. Although he voices commendation of the "Greeks" (Orthodox) in places, I'm not sure what that was all about at times, because it isn't clear what he knew or understood.

But then, his argument was with the pope ... and I think ultimately, any authority, or at least that what it became very quickly.

Matthew said...

I am not actually Lutheran. I only wanted to point out that most of the arguements that I see from Orthodox believers divide the world into Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants. This style of argumentation is a bit disingenuous, when Protestant views differ greatly from each other.

Ignatious wanted to have more Protestant voices on the blog, so he invited me to join the discussions.

Adam Roe said...


Please pardon my presumption. When Luther is invoked we former Lutherans tend to take off with it! :)


Fitch said...

Jesus also said that we are 'the salt of the earth'. Does that mean that we are literally salt? What bible verse says that we aren't? It seems like you are appealing to sola scriptura regarding this which is interesting taking some of your other posts into consideration.

Anonymous said...

The Orthodox should update the way Holy Communion is distributed. As it is now, germs can be spread either by passing the Blessed Bread by hand or Holy Communion by mouth from a spoon. We know more about germs today than in the past, and you are just tempting God, expecting no contagious disease to spread. How about individual spoons that could be washed like the Chalice? Or bake the wine into the bread, like the Catholics do.