Friday, November 27, 2009

Trying to drag Christ from heaven

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 17 - The Lord's Supper; what it brings to us
16-31 - No omnipresence of Christ's body; spiritual communion
[Deals with the Lutheran view]
20. Their most plausible objection is Christ's own words: "This is my body." This cannot be true in a literal sense, that bread is Jesus' body, lest it must be true that God is bread. "The bread is called the body in a sacramental sense.... Christ's words... ought not to be tested by grammar." This isn't to "diminish anything of that communication of Christ's body, which I have confessed."

21. "This is My Body" is a metaphor, like "Circumcision is a covenant" (Gen 17:13); "the lamb is the passover" (Ex 12:11); "the sacrifices... are expiations" (Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22; and "the rock... was Christ" (1 Cor 10:4). Because sign and reality are so closely connected "the name of the visible sign is given to the thing signified."

22. They don't allow "is" to be a figure of speech in this phrase, but it clearly is in 1 Cor 10:16; Gen 17:13; Ex 12:11; 1 Cor 10:4; John 7:39; Titus 3:5; 1 Cor 12:12. Why not here?

23. If we have to be this literal with our words all the time, figures of speech about God will become "boundless barbarism." Ex 15:3; Deut 11:12; 1 Kings 8:29; Job 7:8; Num 11:18; 2 Sam 22:7; 2 Kings 19:28; Isa 5:25; 23:11; Jer 1:9; 6:12; Isa 66:1; Matt 5:35; Acts 7:49. Also, "if we insist precisely upon the words," it wouldn't make sense to separate the body and blood. The bread is as literally blood, and the wine as literally the body.

24. They accuse us of believing nothing outside of common sense. As if "it is from physics we have learned that Christ feeds our souls from heaven with His flesh." We don't restrict what God could do, but what He has willed to do. "Flesh must therefore be flesh."

25. They think we have to overturn the whole order of nature to affirm God's power and mystery, here. They don't want to know how it works, but if a reasonable answer is ready, why not take it? Mystery remains, but we may inquire how it happens, like Mary - Luke 1:34.

26. The Spirit tells us Christ's body is finite and "contained in heaven" (see Acts 3:21), not Aristotle as they accuse us of relying on reason. Christ says He will leave - John 14:12, 28; 16:7; 12:8; Matt 26:8-11. He is not here but in heaven - Mark 16:6, 19. His departing and ascending are not in appearance only, but real, physically. He is still with us, "in majesty, in providence, and in ineffable grace" in the sacraments, according to Augustine.
27. They say of the Ascension of Christ that He was only removed from sight to show He isn't visible here anymore. But the text says He was taken up to heaven, and will come back from there - Acts 1:9, 11.

28. They claim Augustine agrees with them, but they are wrong. He said that Christ withdrew bodily to be present spiritually. Augustine: "We ought not to think that [Christ's body] is everywhere diffused according to this fleshly form, for we ought to beware lest we so affirm the deity of the Man that we take away the reality of His body."

29. They make Christ's body double: visible in heaven, invisible on earth. This defies the definition of "body." It messes up our resurrection hope, Christ's body being the example for ours - Phil 3:20-21; Acts 3:21. Jesus wants to be sought not in the bread, but in heaven. This is why He told Mary not to cling to Him in John 20:17. They claim evidence that Christ went through door, and disappeared from the two on the Emmaus Road (John 20:19; Luke 24:31), but this doesn't prove Jesus is invisibly, bodily omnipresent on earth.

30. This idea is "monstrous." Matt 28:20 doesn't mean bodily presence. They make Christ's human and divine natures a unity, like the early Eutychean heresy. The scholastics were right to say that "although the whole Christ is everywhere, still the whole of that which is in Him is not everywhere."

31. Christ is not brought down to us; we are lifted up to Him. "We do not think it lawful for us to drag [Christ] from heaven."

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