Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sacraments (part two): Living in Tension with the Real Presence of the Eucharist

Now it is time to direct attention to the subject of the Eucharist. In recent months, I have forged and implemented the theological title “Post-Evangelical Lutheran.” As is evident in this discourse, I have adopted many of the doctrines of the Lutheran church – so much so, that I took up their title and called myself a Lutheran. In contrast, my thoughts on the Eucharist live in tension without resolution. On one hand, I agree with Luther in the rejection of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, but not for the same reasons. It is evident from my readings of several of Luther’s works that he does not appreciate the influence of secular philosophy on church doctrines. Personally, I am a big proponent of philosophical ideas. Rather, I agree with Luther’s refutation of Transubstantiation because I am not a fan of the teachings of Aristotle. The tension I spoke of earlier, in my discussion on the Eucharist, is what to do with the real presence of Christ in the bread and the wine.

Once, I agreed with the memorialism concept of the Eucharist presented by Zwingli. After further investigation of Zwingli’s idea that the bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Christ; I feel as though his interpretations of scripture are too ambiguous. Another option, for how to view the Eucharist, lands somewhere between the real presence and symbolism, would be the Calvinist view of the Eucharist; but, I find Calvin’s idea more ambiguous than Zwingli’s. Thus, my views of the Eucharist have remained unresolved.

Conversely, some attributes of the Eucharist, within my theology, have gained clarity. If I recall correctly, there was a time that I did not partake of the bread and the cup because I didn’t feel that I was in the right place to observe the sacrament. Having left the Evangelical worldview, I reject the notion that my frame of mind has any power over this redeeming sacrament. Martin Luther said, “No matter whether you are worthy or unworthy, you have here His body and blood….” A consistent theme within this discourse, attests to the truth that all elements of faith and salvation belong to God and not humanity. As a matter of fact, this means that the Eucharist is a gift to faith from God.

For the most part, I appreciate how Luther validates his arguments for a real presence in the bread and the wine, but his interpretation of Matthew 26:26 is a bit literal for my taste and doesn’t seem to take the context of the Gospel story into account. Arguably, Christ is talking about his blood being poured out in reference to the coming event of the cross within the Gospel story. No matter what the case may be, Luther bases his arguments, heavily, upon the Sola scriptura backing. In part, this troubles me because Luther assumes a position of Inerrancy when it comes to Scripture and I do not, which makes evidence for the three major Protestant views difficult to accept. For now, I will meet Luther at least half way, he says, “Whoever believes it has what the words declare and bring” (Luther, “Large Catechism”). Notwithstanding the fact that I remain in tension about the Eucharist, I believe that through partaking of the bread and the cup, I am absolved of my sins in recognition of the events of the cross. Perhaps, I will one day claim the entirety of Luther’s view on the Eucharist.

1 comment:

  1. Addendum: