There are many cases where I have wonderful conversations in study with my Roman Catholic friends on various subjects. Recently however I was involved in a conversation with a devout Catholic over the topic of Transubstantiation and I just can’t find common ground on this one.
This particular person said that he based his view on the topic most strongly on John chapter 6. He held this passage up as the most important to back his position that the bread and wine taken in communion after the priest’s blessing change in substance to the blood and body of Christ without being able to observe that change. In fact this person went to far as to say that he knew of a person that was so convinced by John 6 that they converted to Catholocism because of it. This person asked me if I was willing to walk away from Christ’s teaching like many walked away from Christ in the chapter.
I have to say that this perplexes me because I find no indication of transubstantiation within the context of John chapter 6 at all. I realize and admit that I could be wrong and that many thinkers over time have believed this to be true formally since the year 1215, but John 6 would not be the passage that I would lean on. It is probably best to claim Authority of the Church on the issue and not point to the Bible at all since it doesn’t seem to be supported.
Since my responses to the last of his comments have gone unanswered, and pretty much unanswered over many years regarding this topic I would like to post the comments here and see if there are any readers who would like to discuss it further. My intention is not to convert Catholics or persuade them in any way for I realize that many more intelligent then I have come and gone and failed to do so. However I would like to understand the argument as best as I can so here goes. (His comments in block quotes)
Anyway, a couple of comments were presented one from a self-proclaimed atheist and a person who appears to be a Protestant seeking to bring me to the Fullness of Truth. In doing so, this individual exposed the own truth behind the heretical basis of Protestantism, that is to say the sin of pride. Protestant reformers sought to conform the Church to what they conceived in their minds as truth. Yet each person is subject to the truth in relation to their lived experience and thus there is a potential to either negate the validity of the experiences of others or embrace the so-called validity of all (usually at the expense of one that unites the rest) – this is what I call relativism.
In any event, I will strive to give more of an explanation to address the first comment post from this person and, in light of my com-box reply, seek to address the issues pointed out in the second comment post.
I am a Protestant, however there is nothing heretical about the Reformed position at all. It seeks to be as Biblical as possible where it is Catholicism that steps outside the Bible and claims external authority. Protestant reformers attempted to reform the Roman Catholic Church according to the Bible and not their own minds. There is nothing relativist about what they did either, I assumed being a devout Catholic that your understanding of the Protestant Reformation would be a little sharper. I would expect for you to disagree with it, but not to completely misunderstand it.
In commenting on my post, the Protestant “llondy,” attempted to clarify how Jesus’ own words were “only symbols and seals of what Christ has done for us.” This for me is tantamount to blasphemy as this Protestant’s position is to make the Lord a liar and a person who speaks against His very own nature. Allow me to expound:
I hope your exposition of this is well done, because to accuse of blasphemy is a serious charge. We all know that not everything the Lord said was literal and when we interpret as such, as in the case of Jesus referencing the vine in John, we are not calling Christ a liar if He is not a vine.
I would agree with much of this statement except for what seems to be an implicit negation of the results of scientific study if said results do not conform exactly to the written Word. For example, are the theories of evolution and the “Big Bang” wrong because science cannot find God’s creation instructions as detailed in the book of Genesis? In this I argue in the negative. Both of these theories are valid and the science behind them appears to be solid. The deviation between the faithful and the non-faithful is just that – the origin or instigator of creation. For the faithful, all scientific explanation logically leads to God as the uncaused cause and His ability to create ex nihilo or “out of nothing.” This ability is unique only to God. So it is not that science and interpretation must be correct in order to match up with the written Word, it is that we must hold steadfast the facts that God has revealed to us – namely that He is the Creator. Science will never prove the non-existence of God and will always our origins will always remain incomplete without God.
I don’t really have any problem with this as I never said that the Bible was a Science book. I simply said that if our understanding of Science and the Bible were 100% exhaustive that there would be no contradiction since the one that creates is also the Word that proclaims.
Any faithful Catholic will agree, that with the exception of extraordinary miracles like that at Lanciano, the study of consecrated bread and wine will remain visibly the same construction under the scrutiny of a microscope and scientific testing. The reason for this is that Jesus Christ is substantially present under the accidents of bread and wine. For example, one can discern the accidents of a pink hi-bounce rubber ball: it is spherical, pink in color, made of rubber and reacts to motion/impact (probably wrong in how I am saying this) by “rebounding” but science cannot truly discern the substance of what this ball is. The reason is that to discern the substance of an object one must consider the philosophical implications behind what is “substance.”
The similar can be said about Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The accidents, or outward appearance remains the same, yet the substance of the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity or Our Lord Jesus Christ. Again proof this reality can be found in Scripture and Tradition, the lived experience of the Church as handed down by the Apostles and their successors (Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15). Scriptural references of concerning the Holy Eucharist include those in John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11. The objection placed by llondy on my referring to it in yesterday’s post is hollow as that would not be lost on the reader (I believe the reference was towards the atheist who first posted a comment) as any reference to Scripture would be irrelevant to one who does not believe.
The objection to John 6 was not a hollow objection at all. I stated that there would be no reason to reference the Lord Supper with this passage logically because it was well before the Lord’s Supper took place and would be incomprehensible to those listening or even the original readers. In addition, the passage is obviously spiritual in context for many reasons, the first being that the listeners themselves were taking Jesus literally and this was causing their confusion.
Secondly one must not disregard the time line wen interpreting this passage. The previous day was the feeding of the 5 thousand so this is fresh in the minds of the listener which is also a cause for their confusion but Jesus is obviously relating to it. There is no reason to think that he is relating to an event not yet happened instead. Jesus points to the previous day events and spiritualizes the bread telling the people that they need to eat of the eternal bread of life and not be concerned with the physical.
The third reason to interpret from a spiritual perspective is Jesus words “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood there is no life in you” Many people were no doubt impressed with the way the Lord used the food in the feeding of the 5,000, but Jesus says clearly that “UNLESS” you eat his flesh (Be in him) there is no “Life” (spiritually) in you.
The final proof is later in John 6:63 where Jesus says the words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. The passage has nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper at all contextually and it is meant to be applied spiritually.
Llondy’s reference to promulgation of the dogma of Transubstantiation at the Fourth Lateran Council is indeed correct but the implied argument that it was not believed by Christians prior to that date is false and short-sided of the historical and Traditional evidence, not to mention the Scriptural, as evidenced, again, by Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians. But for written extra-Sciptural references we can turn to Saint Ignatius of Antioch who wrote in AD 106, “I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” (Ignatius to the Romans – Chapter VII – Reason of Desiring to Die). Additionally, the Didache, written about AD 90, instructs the faithful in a fashion similar to that found in 1 Corinthians, “No one is to eat or drink of your Eucharist but those who have been baptized in the Name of the Lord; for the Lord’s own saying applies here, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs” (Didache 9). There are plenty of other Patristic era references to the Eucharist and the long-held belief and understanding of the Real Presence of Jesus under the accidents of bread and wine but I will not go further at the moment.
Wikipedia’s article on Transubstantiation states the following, “The belief that the Eucharist conveyed to the believer the body and blood of Christ appears to have been widespread from an early date, and the elements were commonly referred to as the body and the blood by early Christian writers. The early Christians who use these terms also speak of it as the flesh and blood of Christ, the same flesh and blood which suffered and died on the cross.”
I would be careful to use Wikipedia as a reliable reference, but that being said, since I don’t agree that the correct interpretation of the scriptures in John or 1 Corinthians points to transubstantiation and have defended that already I will move on to evidence outside of the scriptures. The Didache you refer to makes no mention of the blood or body of Christ at all, additionally there is no mention of a Church leader having to perform a special blessing. All I take from the Didache is a body of believers remembering and giving thanks to God. It sounds very Protestant to me.
Furthermore, I never said that there was absolutely nobody who believed this between Peter and Pope Innocent III, the listeners at the time were confused and I am sure more confused people came after these words, my point was simply this, if this was so widely accepted by Peter and the apostles as well as those they laid hands on, then why did it take until 1215 A.D. For a Pope to declare it an article of Faith? What I try to get my dear Catholic friends to recognize is that this was at the very least not clear in the First church and at most not what the Apostles or Christ Himself meant at all about the sacrament. There are many more reasons to believe as many through history have that although Christ is present through the Spirit around the body of true believers during the sacrament there is no representation of His body and blood in the materials used and the Priest has no power to make this happen. The Catholic Church has no authority Biblically or historically to declare this dogma as they do or to pronounce others heretics for their arguments.
I am not in disagreement concerning the sufficiency of Christ’s bloody sacrifice on the Cross; however, it is a clear contradiction of God’s Word to say that there is no need to confect and consume the Eucharist and that the Words Jesus spoke concerning His Eucharistic Presence was never meant to be taken in this fashion. On our need to confect and commune with Christ in the Eucharist is given the uttermost importance by Jesus Himself when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (John 6:53-56). The Greek word recorded by Saint John the Evangelist is trogon, which literally means to gnaw or masticate. These quoted verses show Jesus escalating His point concerning His Eucharistic Presence and our need, as commanded by God Himself, to eat the body and blood in order to have eternal life.
I have already expounded on John enough to crystallize the context here so I will not take a lot of time to repeat myself. However I will comment on the Greek form used. It is interesting that you pick the word “eateth” here and leave out the word “eat” in the verse before it. The word eat (phago) in the Greek clearly allows for a figurative interpretation. Even if we assumed that in the very next verse Christ changed the meaning entirely, which is absurd, the word eateth (trogo) is only in some cases taken from the base word (trizo) which is to nash. There are 3 other possibilities here which were conveniently left out by your source since they don’t suit his purpose. However all of that is not of concern since we can reference the word “eat” in the verse prior in the figurative sense.
Next there exists His command to us in the synoptic Gospels, as recorded at the Lord’s Supper, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). This passage in Luke is but one example. The flawed understanding of our Protestant friend, as evidenced by their desire to read into scripture an interpretation that is contrary to Scripture itself let alone Tradition, is an example of how those who adhere to the “traditions of men” attempt to twist Scripture to their own devices. On this I will say that the unfaithful Jews and disciples that heard Jesus say that they must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood also made the same mistake. For that matter, it can be said that Our Lord would not require us to do something that even represents or symbolizes an intrinsic evil or wrong, so why He would do the same with the Eucharist is simply bad form. He would not, thus like Peter and the other faithful, we must take the Lord at His Word and know that everything He commands of us is not wrong even if we cannot understand how. Yet for those present at the Lord’s Supper, with the exception of Judas who ceased to believe in the divinity of Jesus and only saw him in fleshly terms and not in the Spirit, they perfectly understood that they would not be cannibalizing Jesus but remained faithful to His Word by partaking of the Sacramental Presence of Jesus as His word’s that night would most certainly intersected with the two feeding miracles, the manna in the desert, the Passover and the Bread of Life discourse in John 6. God is omnipotent and performing this miracle is well within His ability.
As I already pointed out it is our dear Catholic friends that consider this dogma of the original Church, so by this they are the ones who need to read into the Scripture and then pronounce their Church as authority given by Peter so that we all must believe. If they could have kept the Scriptures a secret as they do many of the books in the Vatican library maybe this would have held, but thankfully we can all read for ourselves and go back to the original languages for the real truth. Your passage in Luke does nothing to establish transubstantiation, and if you were not arguing for it I would agree with some of your language here. I as a Protestant take very seriously the sacrament of communion and believe that all churches are commanded to observe it in”remembrance” of Christ as Luke and the Synoptic Gospels declare. I have not ever stated that this limits the power of Christ in some way, my position is that He never intended it to be this way. Christ is glorified when his children come around the communion table and remember what he has done for us being with us in his Spirit. There is no need to read into this some supernatural event of transubstantiation where we return to the foot of the cross and Christ body returns in some way shape or form in the form of bread and wine. The Lord declared that it was finished and indeed it is.
My last point on this matter concerning the sacrificial nature of the Mass is this. In the book of Malachi, the LORD says to us, “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:11). The surrounding verses refer to polluted and flawed offerings to the Lord as there can only be ONE pure sacrifice, that is God Himself, Jesus Christ. As Jesus commanded, we must partake of the Eucharist in remembrance of Him. This must occur daily as the verse above points out and because the sacrifice is once-and-for-all it remains that, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The Mass is God allowing us to participate in the very moment of our salvation, which is a perpetual and transcends time because God is outside of time.
Also, let us consider another, even more poignant commandment, “They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it” (Exodus 12:8). This command is of course, in reference to the Paschal or Passover Lamb, who is exclaimed as much by Saint John the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!
Again, what does this passage have to do with any of the arguments put forth? The passage from Malachi is clearly dealing with improper sacrifice by corrupt priests contextually. However I do eagerly await the day when His name will be exalted above all nations and order will be restored as 1:11 says it will be.
The “intelligent” person in this case is one who, due to their own flawed intelligence, is lacking in the Fullness of the Faith and fails to heed Jesus’ words in hearing Him through the Church, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). This is very same Church that was established on the Rock or Peter (Matthew 16:18) and “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). So to say that the Church is wrong is to call Christ a liar when He said that “the powers of death shall not prevail against it” and rendering His own authority as God null when He continued, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18).
Do you take into account at all the words of Peter in 1 Peter chapter 2? “You yourself like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood”. Christ is the cornerstone and he continues to build his Church of true believers across the world. Peter and the Apostles were given the keys to proclaim this in a special way which was recorded in God’s Word for all of us to hear. The scriptures are now the key for us and not the Roman Catholic Church.
I don’t hear the words of Jesus through the Roman Catholic church or the Pope. I hear it through His Word and through those who preach the truth from it. The Church was established on the rock of Christ lest it fail and Peter started that marvelous body of believers with the special power of the Spirit laying the “Ground” work for us. That the Roman Catholic Church puts itself in this passage is sad because it gives it the idea that it has special authoritative powers that it does not have which is why they must cling to dogmas such as transubstantiation and others even when they clearly violate the scriptures.
Without the clear misinterpretations of the scriptures for their purposes we would not even be questioning passages like John 6 and other found in the Synoptic Gospels. However I don’t declare my Catholic friends “Anathema” like the leaders of your church condemned the rest of us. I also don’t intend to convert you or anyone else since who am I next to the great spiritual leaders of our time. However I do pray that these things will be seen now by as many as the Lord gives his grace to, and I await the day eagerly when the Lord reveals his true Church to the world. God bless