Forgotten Protestant Teachings: The Eucharist

“Now, as it is certain and beyond all doubt, that, that Jesus Christ has not enjoined to us the use of his sacraments in vain, so he works in us all that he represents to us by these holy signs, though the manner surpasses our understanding, and cannot be comprehended by us, as the operations of the Holy Ghost are hidden and incomprehensible. In the meantime we err not, when we say, that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body, and the proper blood of Christ.”

From whence in Christendom do you think the above comes? From Rome, maybe? Or Constantinople?

How surprised would you be to hear that it comes out of Geneva?

It’s the Reformed doctrine of the Lord’s Supper as summarized in chapter 35 of the Belgic Confession. Now, you should read the entire section on the Holy Supper to get the full picture of the teaching, but I’ve drawn out the above quote to highlight the fact that the Reformers didn’t jettison the doctrine of the Real Presence. They certainly corrected the error of transubstantiation taught by the papacy, but they didn’t swing into the opposite error of memorialism. I’ve included a video below of Dr. Michael Horton commenting on this:

It’s also worth checking out what the Westminster Confession and Heidelberg Catechism have to say about the Eucharist. In the Westminster Larger Catechism, the questions from about 150 to around 180 are pertinent.

UPDATE 10/29/16 10:45 PM
The catechism written by Calvin for the church in Geneva offers a nice summary, as well. (I love the title, which includes the phrase “being a form of instruction for children.” If only we taught our children as well as they!)

Friday Five: 4

Jack, the Giant, and the Indigestible Bean: A Fable

By C.R. Wiley. This is a story about modern giants.

Is Choosing To Stay At Home Sustainable For Women?

Luma Simms discusses the circumstances of stay-at-home moms.

Remembering the Reformation

By Carl Trueman. Why do evangelicals love Luther so much, when he would have repudiated much of their theology? Are evangelicals celebrating a Luther made in their own image?

Congress May Lower Taxes on Drinks

From Kevin Kosar. Speaking of Luther… Do you know what kind of hurdles producers of beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks have to clear? They’re ridiculous. Rolling back these stupid regulations would help small, local vintners and brewers be profitable while pursuing their craft.

Civil Righteousness and the Gospel in the American Church

By James Rogers. As beneficial as the Church can be in promoting civil righteousness, She ought not forget that Her mission is not propping up any particular political regime.

Analogy

In this post, I’d like to draw attention to the doctrine of analogy in relation to providence and soteriology. I’ve drawn from an article by Dr. Michael Horton in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. His piece is primarily directed towards delineating the distinctions between the theological methods used by Reformed and open theist theologians, but it is a good starting point for thinking about the classical, Western doctrine of God.

What is the doctrine of analogy? Horton:

“When we assert certain predicates of God, based on God’s own self-revelation, we use them in one of three senses: univocally, analogically or equivocally. If we say that the predicate “gracious” means exactly the same thing, whether in God or in a creature, we are using “gracious” univocally. At the other end of the spectrum, if we say that by using that predicate we are ascribing something to God whose appropriateness is unknown to us, we are using it equivocally. If, however, God is said to be “gracious” in a way that is both similar and dissimilar to creatures, we say it is analogical. For instance, when we acknowledge that God is a “person,” do we really mean to say that he is a person in exactly the same sense as we are? When we follow Scripture in using male pronouns to refer to God, do we really believe that he is male? Unless we are willing to ascribe to God (in a univocal sense) all attributes of human personhood, predications must be analogical.”

Important to note is that we aren’t simply saying, for instance, that God is more gracious than a creature. God’s graciousness is qualitatively different, not just quantitatively different.

What does this have to do with our understanding of salvation and providence? Well, in the conversations I have on the topic, one of the objections that my Arminian/Molinist interlocutors advance is that, on the Reformed view, God is the author of sin. Once the ambiguities of that statement are cleared away, what they mean is that God is the only real cause of everything that happens and is therefore culpable for all evil. Secondary causes, such as human actions, don’t have any moral standing.

To illustrate the objection, suppose a man uses a pole to push a rock. The pole bears no responsibility for moving the rock; the man does. The argument is that if God ordains all that happens, we’re not much different than the pole. We can’t resist. We can’t do otherwise. We have no responsibility for our actions.

This betrays a univocal understanding of God as cause. In human experience, it is generally (though even here, not always) the case that increasing the amount of control one person has over a situation decreases the responsibility of others. However, if we recall the doctrine of analogy, God is a cause in a way that is both similar and dissimilar to us. One of the dissimilarities is that God can cause things such that a) the event certainly happens and b) creaturely freedom is not violated. It should be no surprise that God can ordain that Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, an obviously immoral act, while stilling holding Joseph’s brothers responsible for the sin. When God works providentially, He is operating on a totally different level from us.

It’s yet another mark against theologies built on a commitment to a libertarian account of free will that they lead one to adopt a heterodox view of God.