It ranged from what is used as the elements in the Lord’s Supper to what we’re actually doing when we take the Lord’s Supper (i.e. What is the bread and the wine?) to neoplatonism to the power of words. Interesting stuff. Anyone care to weigh in on this one?
Sure. The elements are irrelevant. The essence is what matters. The Lord’s Supper began as a, well… a supper, and was one for a long time until it turned into the ‘wine and wafer’ thing. Ideally, the Lord’s Supper would be ribs, potatoes and beer. But that would get expensive. And the elders might frown on it.
So, what about people that believe in transubstantiation? Or that take John 6 as a literal meaning of bread = body and wine = blood?
I think you’d have to ask someone who believes in transubstantiation. But all transubstantiation means is that the “substance” you’re partaking of changes (“trans”) into something else. I see no reason it couldn’t be pringles and Kool-Aid changing into the actual body and blood of Christ. Everyone (even those who believe in transubstantiation) believe that John 6 is metaphorical. I mean, obviously Jesus isn’t saying that he is made out of wheat and yeast (6:48). The question is: How is he being metaphorical? I think the bread and the wine are metaphorically the body and blood of Christ (6:53-56) in the same way Jesus is metaphorically bread (6:48).
I was having a conversation with a mutual friend of ours about communion and I just can’t see how it is anything more than symbolic. That’s not to say that our spirits aren’t more in tune to what God is doing at the Lord’s table. Would you agree or do you think that more is happening when we partake in communion?
FYI, I’m the “mutual friend.” I happen to know that God loves Pringles. To Him, it’s the “unblemished chip.”
Jesse: Well, I just want to know why your “mutual friend” (and others) think something more is going on. I had a similar discussion with a “mutual friend” of mine and McInnis’s the other day and she was writing a paper on the Lord’s Supper and used similar language to what I’ve heard our “mutual friend” use: “Well, I think there’s probably something more going on than just a remembrance…” But why do you think that? First of all, Is there anything biblical to demonstrate that something more is going on? Not that I can see. I think sometimes people merely want to believe something more is going on because that’s more mysterious and mystical. And “mysterious” and “mystical” are interesting and attractive. But there aren’t really any strong biblical arguments for Catholic and Lutheran views—or even the Presbyterian (i.e. Calvinistic) view—just speculation and tradition (Not that there’s anything wrong with tradition. But what’s the tradition based on? A tradition based on nothing biblical may not be worth keeping.)
Second, I absolutely reject the view that the “remembrance” view is a low view of the Lord’s Supper. Words have power. What we say and think and do during the Lord’s Supper is very, very powerful. God created through words. We were made new creations through words. God reveals himself through words. People hear and believe the gospel through words. Christ sustains the universe through words. It’s incomprehensible to me why people think that the remembrance view is a low view of the Lord’s Supper if the words we use are significant merely because I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that the bread is Jesus or that Jesus is floating around and through the bread.
Great point PB [Pastor Bryan]. I think one of the reasons I struggle with this is that [Bryan’s] “symbolic” view of communion is very different than the vast majority of people who ascribe to this view. For many, symbolic means it’s just this thing we do that gets me thinking about Christ (which isn’t a bad thing). But I would contend that a solid Michael W. Smith song simply doesn’t hold the same promised value (by the power of the Holy Spirit) as The Lord’s Supper (although I suppose God can use anything, right?)
I think the common symbolic view is derivative of a sort of neoplatonism where, essentially, spirit is good and stuff is bad. It seems to me the Hebrew understanding of spiritual and secular is more nuanced (i.e. the anthropomorphisms ascribed to God). Plus, Jesus doesn’t seem to advocate a strictly symbolic understanding of the Supper (“this is my body” rather than “this is like my body”). It’s interesting to me that he does do the symbolism thing in regards to the Kingdom of God (“The Kingdom of God can be compared to…”, “The Kingdom of God is like…”). I’m not a Greek student, but why doesn’t Jesus simply say, “This is like/compared to my body”? Also, as far as I know, the early Church had a “different” (note I didn’t use “higher”) view of communion than do most evangelicals.
Ok, I’m done. Bryan, please go ahead and shoot a million holes in my arguments. Ready. Go.
What Bryan [McInnis] said, after some discussion, was that the burden of proof was with the people who believe as [Pastor Bryan does]. The text doesn’t say it’s symbolic but it does say, “This is my body,” implying that something more is taking place. And Bryan [McInnis] is not a Catholic and doesn’t believe in transubstantiation, but as he explained to me, “I would contend that it’s not as easy as the ESV commentators would suggest [in the ESV Study Bible]. I think they are imposing a highly Hellenistic interpretation on these words. The Jews didn’t divide spiritual and material worlds so clearly. For the Jews (and Jesus obviously was a Jew) everything was spiritual. That’s why the levitical laws addressed things so mundane as clothing. You can’t simply say, “This is spiritual and that is material.” To say that communion or baptism is only symbolic, I think, is to impose a worldview that Jesus didn’t ascribe to.” I guess I just don’t see it, McInnis.
You don’t see what? Also, PB, I want to reiterate that your understanding of symbolism is rad, but very different than that of many of the evangelicals I’ve spoken to, whose view on communion sometimes seems to be an opposite end of the spectrum response to transubstantiation.
Good thoughts, fellas. A couple of response:
1) This really doesn’t matter to me much. I think the Catholic view is heretical (yes, I used that word) because it calls into question the once-for-all sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. After that, it’s just like millenial views to me. There’s just not enough evidence to adjudicate. So (with millenial views), as long as you believe that Jesus is coming back physically and that we need to be faithful to him in the meantime, whatever you think is fine with me. As long as you think we should have the Lord’s Supper regularly together as believers and that it should nourish us spiritually in some sort of way, whatever you think about how that happens is fine with me. This isn’t even in the same hemisphere as a hill I would die on.
2) Bryan: You’re rad.
3) Bryan and Jesse: The “Why didn’t Jesus say ‘This is like my body?'” argument is very weak because (a) it’s an argument from silence, (b) the word “like” is not necessary to form metaphors (e.g. “Jesse is a tool” is a metaphor. “Jesse is like a tool” is a simile.), and (c) Jesus himself formed metaphors without the word “like”—especially in the book of John. Unless you think Jesus really is bread (John 6:48: ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς. Lit.: “I am the bread of life”) and a door (John 10:9: ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα· Lit: “I am the door”).
I agree that neoplatonic thought affects how we view things, but I don’t think that has anything to do with this discussion. I’m not saying that bread is physical and the Spirit of Jesus is spiritual, therefore they cannot coexist in the same entity. I’m saying, where’s the biblical evidence? I think your argument is attacking a scarecrow.
Good. I hate scarecrows.