Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Real Presence of Christ in the Supper

Although Lutherans have often been viewed as part of the larger "Protestant" community, our commitment to the doctrine of the "real presence" in the Lord's Supper sets us apart sacramentally as more catholic. It would seem that embracing real presence would be the most natural move for a literal Bible-believing evangelical. Yet somehow, when it comes to this one area, many Protestants balk. Despite the clear language and clear intent of our Lord, reason slams the door on the truth and says: "It doesn't make any logical sense." Then, with the argument of reason presented, Biblical proof is sought to under gird the argument.

Aside from the scriptures, however, there is also additional assurance of the real presence to be found in the witness of the Early Church. The Rev. Paul T. McCain on Cyberbrethren: A Lutheran Blog has amassed a nice collection of testimony from the Early Church in defense of the real presence. The list is entitled "Early Church Fathers on the Real Presence in the Lord's Supper." It is hard to argue with such consistent teaching through the ages. I think that those Protestants who continue to insist on what is sometimes called the "real absence," with Jesus' body conveniently 'stuck' in heaven, need to ask themselves: Could the church fathers be so consistently wrong for so long?


318@NICE said...

This has nothing to do with your post, although I fully agree with it, but what do you think will happen with the LCMS this summer after the convention is over?
Do you think there will be a split?
I know in Charlotte, NC, where I live, there is only ONE traditional LCMS church, all the rest speak in tongues and have contemporary services. It seems that the Traditional Lutherans are beginning to get outnumbered.

The Heresy Hunter said...

Was there ever any debate in the early church about whether the bread and wine were the body and blood of Christ?

D. Engebretson said...

Hello Dave,
Personally I don't see a split in the LCMS at this point. There are some who are leaving, to be sure, but I don't see a mass exodus or a sizeable breakaway.

I'm not sure just how to predict this convention yet. A cursory tour through the convention workbook did not yield any surprises, but that doesn't mean a whole lot. I think that the delegate makeup will be critical. Last time around in 04 there was a lot of grassroots recruiting by moderate and liberal groups, and the votes consistently showed that they did their work. This time around it may be different. I have heard one report that there may be more confessionally-minded pastoral delegates this time, but that is only anecdotal.

Conservatively speaking I think that there will be less new stuff coming out of this convention as compared to last time.

As to the makeup of parishes in synod, a lot depends on geography. Out there is the largely 'saltwater' districts confessional Lutherans are fewer and farther between. In the midwest there are more. It all depends on where you live - at least in part. One should never underestimate the quiet resolve of hundreds of the traditional little parishes that dot the landscape of the LCMS. It's not over yet.

The skeptic in me is more reserved today. Catch me tomorrow and I may think differently :)

D. Engebretson said...

Re: the Early Church and debate on the real presence -
I can't think of any, personally. And that's what makes their witness so great. It really wasn't an issue for them. So why is it for so many Protestants since the Reformation?