Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Lord's Supper

In chapter 29, we find laid out for us the WCF's teaching on the Lord's Supper. Most of this in not controversial in Reformed circles, except for paedo-communion, which we will discuss briefly. There are four general views of Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper. There is the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation. In this view, though the outward elements remain the same, when the priest blesses the bread and wine, they become inwardly (according to essence) the actual physical body and blood of Jesus. This view is based on a misapprehension of Aristotle. Aristotle did distinguish between the accidents (outward elements) and the essence of something. However, he also said that they always correspond to each other. It would certainly have been foreign to Aristotle's mind to have the outward elements of one thing, and the inward essence of something entirely different. The second major view is the Lutheran view. This view is in many ways similar to the Roman Catholic view. They both believe in a physical presence at the time-point of blessing. But the Lutherans say that instead of the essence/element distinction, Christ's body is in, around, and through the elements of the bread and wine. The distinction is parallel to the distinction between pantheism (wherein God equals the world) and panentheism (wherein God is in the world). I am not saying that Lutheranism or Catholicism equates to either of these pagan thought-patterns. It is merely an illustration. The third major view of the presence of the Lord in the Lord's Supper is the complete absence of the Lord from the table. This is the Zwinglian view. That view is that the table is a mere remembrance of what Jesus did, but nothing more than that. The Reformed position is that Christ is present spiritually at the table. That is, the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is present. Just as the bread and wine nourish our physical bodies, so also does the Holy Spirit nourish our souls. Ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements, but not the thing signified. One could draw parallels between this aspect of the Lord's Supper and the misapprehension of baptism in the Federal Vision. Wicked men and apostates do not receive the thing signified by baptism at any time. Paedo-communion is rejected in the Westminster Standards clearly in LC 171, wherein the duties listed for preparation cannot possibly be engaged in by infants, and in LC 177, which is about as clear as it gets, and in 29.8, where ignorant persons are not to come to the table. The exclusion of infants from the table is based on a differentiation in the body of Christ between those who are baptized, and those who have professed their faith to the congregation. To this differentiation is applied the teaching of 1 Corinthians 11, which requires a "man to examine himself," and then to "discern the body." Since these are the key phrases, we will examine them in some depth. The first phrase is found in verse 28. The verb is "dokimazo," which, according to BDAG lexicon, means "to make a critical examination of something to determine genuineness, put to the test, examine," and lists 1 Cor 11:28 as one of the examples of this usage. I take the verb to be expounded by the phrase "discern the body." Namely, the one taking the Lord's Supper should examine himself to see if he is discerning the body of Christ. Thiselton, in his commentary (page 894) argues that the phrase "discern the body" means "know what characterizes the body as different (from the world)." The verb in the second phrase is "diakrino," which BDAG lists as meaning here "judge." The point is that the examination of oneself and discerning or judging the body is not an ability which infants possess.


At 9/21/2006 03:11:00 PM, Blogger Lee said...

You asked for proof that Zwingli later held a different view than the memorial view. I found a few sites that speak of a later more mature view in Zwingli. Here is a quote:

"In this Commentary there appear the mature views of Zwingli on the subject of the Elements of the Lord's Supper. He was quite as clear as Luther in repudiating the medieval doctrine of transubstantiation, but he declined to accept Luther's teaching that Christ's words of institution required the belief that the real flesh and blood of Christ co-exist in and with the natural elements. He declared that Luther was in a fog, and that Christ had warned His disciples against all such notions, and had proclaimed that by faith alone could His presence be received in a feast which He designed to be commemorative and symbolical."

Here he seems to indicate that Zwingli held that faith was the instrument through which the presence of Christ was received.

Another site makes the following notice.

"Others, even the mature Zwingli, stressed faith's spiritual eating of Christ's body and blood, and Calvin further focused on communion with the heavenly Christ by the Spirit."

So we see that Zwingli moved away from a memorialist view in his mature thought. I can find more stuff if you need it!

At 9/21/2006 03:26:00 PM, Blogger Lee said...

Here is another one with a list of Zwingli's works to read.

And Leithart admitting Zwingli did not hold to what we know as Zwinglianism.


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