Archive for the ‘Spiritual Presence’ Category

The Weakest Argument Against the Spiritual Presence

April 30, 2009

I recently received the pleasure of a comment from someone who has been following this blog for a long time, a reader who uses the handle “Orthodox” (“O” for short). O doesn’t necessarily represent Eastern Orthodoxy, but he does provide comments against the Reformed position.

O writes: “In too many places to list, Augustine says that the Eucharist IS Christ’s body and becomes Christ’s body. He doesn’t say it becomes Christ’s spirit.”

Agreed, both as to Augustine saying that (though certainly not in too many places to list) and as to that being what happens. The Eucharist IS Christ’s body and blood, and the bread, by being consecrated for the particular purpose, becomes Christ’s body, while the cup (or more specifically its contents) become the blood of Christ.

They are not and do not become Christ’s spirit and Augustine does not say so (which poses interesting problems for transubstantiation, but since Eastern Orthodoxy doesn’t teach transubstantiation, that’s not necessarily a problem for O).

Nevertheless, Christ is spiritually (or mystically, if you prefer) present in the sacrament. We don’t derive this from the words of institution (this is my body etc.) but from other parts of Scripture. This spiritual presence does not imply any physical change in the elements, nor does it imply that Christ’s spirit is somehow contained within the elements. When we feed on Christ (and we do) in the sacrament, it is not through the act of grinding our teeth and digesting the physical substances, but by faith.

O continued: “What would Augustine have to say to convince you, that is the question I have to ask. Anything that could be said in favor of our position, he did say.”

As noted previously, there is no particular reason that the Eastern Orthodox view of the mystical presence needs to be set against the Reformed view (and Augustine’s view) of the spiritual presence. What Augustine would NOT say if he held to transubstantiation were things like: “Christ deprived them of his bodily presence.”

Positively, there are any number of ways that Augustine could have indicated that he meant that Christ was present in more than just a spiritual (or mystical) sense. He did not express himself in those terms, but instead made fairly clear comments to the contrary.

O concluded: “You say the argument is about bodily presence versus spiritual presence. Fine, Augustine says it is Christ’s body, so you lose, end of discussion.”

This is what I call the “weakest argument against the spiritual presence.” As I have noted over and over again, even someone who views the sacrament is merely symbolic could use those expressions.

Even those who hold to a bare symbolic view of the Eucharist affirm that the bread is the body of Christ and the cup is his blood: they simply understand those terms analogically. Perhaps an illustration would help:

Imagine boys playing capture the flag in the woods: there are two teams, the red team and the blue team. The boys from the red team huddle around in a small circle, while their leader draws a map in the dust. “This rock,” says the leader, “is Blue’s camp. “And this stick,” he continued, carefully placing a slender branch next to the rock, “is the creek.”

Now, who in their right mind would think that the leader meant that the rock was transubstantiated into the Blue team’s base, and who would think that the leader transmogrified the stick into a creek? No one would think that. Everyone would correctly understand that a symbolic sense is intended by the expression “This rock is Blue’s camp” and “this stick is the creek.” But for some reason (tradition!) people have trouble recognizing the obvious fact that “this is my body” and “this is my blood” were similar statements that shouldn’t be understood transubstantially but according to their most obvious sense: representatively and analogically.


Augustine vs. Albrecht on the Bodily Presence – Round 2

April 23, 2009

This is video response to William Albrecht’s two videos ( video 1 and video 2 ) responding to previous videos of mine, responding to a still previous video of his.

I continue to point out Mr. Albrecht’s errors. I have 11 points:

1) The issue is bodily presence vs. spiritual presence (not real presence vs. bare symbolism).

2) The issue of the “authority of the Catholic Chruch” is a misleading red herring, because Augustine meant the universal church, not the Roman Catholic Church.

3) When Augustine speaks of “divine presence” that does not mean or imply (quite the contrary) a bodily presence, because a body is not part of the divine nature but the human nature of Christ.

4) Mr. Albrecht (not myself) is the one who seems to need to try to turn Augustine into a Roman Catholic. I just take Augustine as I find him.

5) Mr. Albrecht refuses to let the Westminster Confession speak for itself, even when it clearly and explicitly states that the position is a real, yet spiritual, presence.

6) Mr. Albrecht confuses the real Francis Turretin’s rejection of consubstantiation with a rejection of the spiritual presence (although Turretin actually affirms this, even in the snippets he quotes, if you listen carefully).

7) Mr. Albrecht errs in suggesting that the Latin word for Spiritual ever means or implies, in Augustine, “corporeal presence” – quite the opposite.

8) Mr. Albrecht still does not seem to “get” that statements like “after the consecreation the bread is [or becomes] the Body of Christ” is something that is consistent with not only the view of transubstantiation, but also with the Reformed view (real spiritual presence) and even the bare symbolic view (which is why I would never try to base my argument on such passages of Augustine if I were disputing this matter with a person who holds to the odd and incorrect position that Augustine held to a bare symbolic view).

9) Albrecht had said: “The great Augustine can no longer be twisted into a pretzel because TurretinFan has run out of ways to rip him apart. Perhaps he’ll resort to taking quotes away from him or mutilating what Augustine says, such as his boss Mr. [sic] White has done to advance his theological views in the past.” I note that although this is untrue and analogically inconsistent (the metaphors of “twist[ing] into a pretzel” and “rip[ping] apart” are incompatible physically), nevetheless the quotation provides an illustration of the fact that somewhere deep inside Albrecht recognizes that people can use figurative language, although he does not seem to want to let Christ and/or Augustine do so, when it is necessary to press them into service for his church.

10) Mr. Albrecht claims that there are “hundreds of thousands of denominations” – a number so wildly inflated it makes the usual, grossly inflated claim of 33,000 denominations seem almost truthful (for more on the 33,000 denominations myth, see the following website (link)).

11) Mr. Albrecht, in wrapping up, seems still to be a bit sore about his friend Mr. Steve Ray and himself getting busted for citing Pseudo-Athanasius as though it were Athanasius.


Augustine vs. Modern Catholicism

February 11, 2008

Augustine, as demonstrated in the video below had a view of the Real presence that was more similar to the Reformed (or Orthodox) view, than to the Lutheran or Roman Catholic view. Skip to 5 minutes, 30 seconds, for the relevant material. The first five and half minutes are interesting, but mostly relevant to the attacks on Dr. White posted on Youtube by GNRHead (William Albrecht).

You see, Augustine explained that it was foolishness to suppose that Christ was to be carnally consumed.

Thanks be to our Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus!


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