The Reformed Protestant blog Triablogue offered an attempt to rebut my previous article, Why All Bible Believing Christians Must Believe In the Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass . Please access that rebuttal at this link. Below is my response. I will refer to the interlocutor as SH, and his statements are within <<>> and italicized.
<<I’ll confine my observations to what I take to be the meat of his argument. Christians throughout the world who are actively seeking to join the original “Church” which Christ founded are confronted with the myriad of communities and denominations which compete with each other. That’s a Catholic solution to something that’s only a problem if you grant Catholic ecclesiology. In my 42 years as a Christian, I never sought to join the original “Church” which Christ founded. What about joining Christianity? That’s a better starting-point. I don’t think there’s a one-to-one matchup between “the original Church which Christ founded” and particular instantiations of the church. I’m not looking for a needle in a haystack, because I don’t need to eliminate all the contenders. I don’t view Christian denominations as a zero-sum game. It’s not mortal combat, where you have to kill off all the competition. I don’t subscribe to a Hunger Games ecclesiology..>>
This is a strange bifurcation created between “Christianity” and “Christ’s Church”. All who partake of Christ in a saving manner are “members of His body” (1 Cor 12), and thus in the Church. And since the Church has origination in Christ, I see a problem with this idea of not wanting to be a part of the “original Church which Christ founded”. But I prefer to give SH the benefit of doubt and assume he means here that there is no single visible institutional Church which has been comprised of a visible and unbroken hierarchical succession since the Apostles, with one single membership rite. He would probably say that the Church is visible in one sense, but invisible is another. That much is agreeable. How SH perceives that visibility and invisibility is probably where we would disagree. Protestant scholars who have studied the Patristic data will admit that the early Church Fathers understood “the holy Church” as one visible hierarchical society which requires external unity in faith, sacramental economy, and governmental solidarity. Any break in these three essential elements would create 2 different communities, one false claimant to being the “una sancta” of the Creed and the other being the true and authentic una sancta of the Creed. Period. As a Protestant, it is strange that SH would deny that there are real contenders to the claim of ecclesiality since I am sure he would discount Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, and Unitarians from being an authentic Church. He would prove it by giving criteria of falsification. In any case, SH is free to disagree with this, and I wouldn’t want to side-track this rebuttal by entering into the discussion of the dynamic of visibility in Catholicism versus that of the Reformed Protestant conception(s). So we will do well to just note the difference here, and concede the different of opinion alone so as to leave the bulk of room for his remarks critiquing my arguments from Scripture showing the veracity of the holy Mass.
<< Erick claims ‘This article will hopefully save many years and months of time by showing that there is a doctrine which is very clearly taught by the New Testament which happens to be a doctrine only upheld by a few Ecclesial communities, and which is rejected by the overwhelming majority of Christian denominations. This doctrine which I hear speak about is the real presence of Jesus Christ in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and that a real sacrifice is carried out each time it is celebrated. I mean this – when the Lord’s Supper is commemorated, the bread and the wine are changed into the real Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus, and that the actions of the ceremony effect a true and effective sacrifice, just like the Priests of the Aaronic/Levitical ceremonies.’. Notice some of the unexamined assumptions in that paragraph: i) Even if, for argument’s sake, we grant the real presence, none of Erick’s prooftexts indicate that the bread and wine are changed when a priest speaks a verbal formula. Indeed, that’s nowhere in the NT. ii) Once again, even if, for argument’s sake, we grant the real presence, he seems to be assuming that if you attend a church where the clergy and laity don’t believe in the real presence, then the communion elements are never anything more than bread and wine. But why would the real presence be contingent on what the celebrant or communicant believes? Why wouldn’t that simply depend on the will of God to instantiate the body and blood of Christ? Is belief in the real presence what instantiates the body and blood of Christ? Does a communicant who believes in the real presence receive the body and blood of Christ while the communicant right next to him, who doesn’t believe in the real presence, fails to receive the body and blood of Christ, even if they’re sipping from the same chalice or consuming pieces of the same loaf>>
In response to (i) : I have never sought to argued or prove that the text of Scripture says that the bread and wine are changed when a priest speaks a verbal formula. I may have asserted this once or twice, but that is quite beside the intent of my overall argument. Therefore, this initial point leaves my argument untouched. My argument is, succinctly put, Scripture teaches us that in the Lord’s Supper a real sacrifice takes place, and that there is a real presence of Christ’s flesh and blood in the bread and wine. Never have I sought to particularly show how this comes about in any mechanical fashion.
In response to (ii): I never once asserted that “if you attend a church where the clergy and laity don’t believe in the real presence, then the communion elements are never anything more than bread and wine”, and thus, once again, this leaves my argument untouched. What I did assert, or at least imply, is that one’s search for the true Church can be narrowed by seeing that the Scripture teaches the Catholic Mass, and since Christian communities which are not Catholic or Eastern Orthodox (or of the Oriental line up of Apostolic churches) teach strongly against the Catholic Mass, they would be grievously misleading people away from Christ. That doesn’t say anything about what exists in Protestant churches. Although, if I had the time or the interest, I could venture on that subject. I can play SH’s game and say, for the sake of argument, that the real presence of Christ does exist in the communion-service of Protestant churches. That is still consistent with Protestant communities being extremely dangerous since they would be committing a blasphemy by respecting the bread as mere bread, or worse, a spiritually un-defined medium of another substance. All in all, my intention is to say that all Protestant communities (include all who don’t teach the Catholic mass) defy the Scripture which teaches that the Lord’s Supper is the Catholic Mass.
<< i) Not all the Levitical offerings were consumed. Of course, since the Eucharist is a cultic meal, it’s natural to draw parallels with other cultic meals. ii) Eating cultic meals in honor of a pagan deity wasn’t equivalent to ingesting the deity. So there’s no parallel to the real presence or transubstantiation. iii) Paul is walking a fine line. On the one hand he admits that food sacrificed to idols isn’t spiritually contaminated (8:1-6; 10:19,23-31). But it is idolatrous to go into a pagan temple and eat sacrificial food as part of a heathen ceremony. In one case, the association is incidental. In another case, the whole setting is designed to honor a pagan god. Since the Corinthian Christians were generally former pagans, there’s a genuine danger of syncretism. There’s a basic difference between eating meat that happened to be sacrificed to idols, and eating cultic meals in a pagan temple. >>
In response to (i) : I never claimed all Levitical offerings were consumed, so this leaves my argument untouched.
In response to (ii) : I never claimed that “eating cultic meals in honor of a pagan deity” was equivalent to “ingesting the deity”. Nor did I claim that this supposed “ingestion of deity” was parallel to what occurs when a Christian ingests the holy flesh and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, and so this leaves my argument untouched.
In response to (iii): Point taken. However, this doesn’t subtract or rebut anything I’ve argued.
<<i) Erick is combining things that Scripture doesn’t combine. In his priestly role in Hebrews, Christ doesn’t offer himself in the eucharist. Rather, he offers himself on the cross. His redemptive death is the offering (e.g. Heb 7:27; 9:12,14; 10:10,12) . The Last Supper and Lord’s Supper don’t figure in Hebrews. ii) There’s nothing in Hebrews about Jesus in his priestly role changing the communion elements into his body and blood.>>
In response to (i) : This is begging the question since I’ve asserted and argued that the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ, and so simply saying that it isn’t doesn’t achieve a rebuttal, but a denial without reason. Secondly, my argument doesn’t depend on the Lord’s Supper coming up explicitly in the Book to the Hebrews.
In response to (ii): Point taken. But that doesn’t engage any of the points that I have made, nor any of the arguments in support of those points, and thus my overall argument remains untouched thus far.
<< Erick writes: “But, wait! Isn’t the sacrifice of Christ’s priesthood His own body, as Holy Writ explicitly declares? Indeed, and I would argue that the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is the only way to reconcile the fact that Christ’s priestly order, which is Melchizedekian, and thus can only offer what Melchidezek offered (Bread/Wine) with the fact that Christ’s sacrifice is truly and substantially his own body and blood, since Transubstantiation identifies the two in substance (i.e. the bread/wine become the body/blood).” That’s circular. Whether the real presence is true is the very issue in dispute. That’s what Erick is attempting to demonstrate. So he can’t very well take that as a given, and use that presumptive datum to prove that Christ’s sacrificial action in Hebrews is really offering himself in the eucharist rather than offering himself on the cross. >>
I made an argument from Scripture in 1 Cor 10 in order to show that the Lord’s Supper involves the real presence of Christ’s body and blood. The arguments will have to be engaged, rather than spurned by asserted denials.
<<Erick writes: “Some interpreters of Paul have attempted to tone this all down to either symbolic or spiritual significance. In other words, sure, Christ is the Melchidezekian priest…” It’s highly unlikely that Paul wrote Hebrews. Therefore, you can’t use Hebrews to interpret 1 Corinthians. >>
I never claimed Paul wrote Hebrews
<<then Christ really doesn’t act like a Melchidezekian priest, since bread and wine are not truly offered to God.>>
This is at best another assertion denying my argument, but it remains to be that level. Please engage my arguments.
<<The author of Hebrews doesn’t draw a parallel between Melchizedek and Jesus with respect to bread and wine. Erick is ignoring how the author actually appropriates the comparison with Melchizedek. In Hebrews, the function of Melchizedek is threefold: i) Provides a foundation and justification of how Jesus can assume a priestly role even though he lacks Aaronic or Levitical ancestry. ii) Shows how the priesthood of Jesus is superior to the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood. iii) Unites kingship and priesthood in one person (since Melchizedek was both). Cf. P. T. O’Brien, God has Spoken in his Son (IVP 2016), 70-75. The Chalice holding the wine is the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. Metaphors say X is Y, which means that X stands for Y (e.g. “all flesh is grass,” Isa 40:6; “I am the door,” Jn 10:9). Eric needs to bone up on semiotics. >>
I never asserted that the author to the Hebrews draws any parallel between Melchizedek and Jesus with respect to bread and wine. So this again leaves my argument untouched. What I did argue is that the author to the Hebrews teaches us that Christ is identified as a Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek”. The same author also teaches that every priest is called to intercede on behalf of the people by offering gifts and sacrifices. I then asked what gift/sacrifice did Melchizedek offer in his Priesthood? I argue that it is the “bread and wine” of the Genesis-text. Does the Genesis-text explicitly speak of the “bread and wine” being sacrificial gifts? No, it does not. However, it seems implied by the fact that Melchizedek, acting in his intercessory role between Abram and God, brings out bread and wine. If you read the text, there is mention of the King of Sodom going out to meet Abram at the Valley of Shaveh after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, and then immediately , out of nowhere, Moses writes: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’”. And that’s it. Melchizedek is gone. In the first place, there is nothing in this text which would necessitate that Melchizedek is part of a Priestly order whose character involves the indestructible life of its Priests. Secondly, when King David brings this up in the Psalm, there is still no explication of what ties together the future Annointed one with Melchizedek. The author to the Hebrews draws this out for us, thankfully, but Christians had been able to draw this out before Hebrews was written since it was in the oral tradition of the Church. Moreover, for Melchizedek to be a Priest of the Most High God and the typical Priestly figure whose order the eternal Son of God would fulfill to pop in the life of Abram’s life without acting in his Priestly fashion would be strange, indeed. That bread and wine are mentioned clearly shows that this is what is being offered to God on behalf of Abram. How unlikely and superfluous would it be to mention this grand Priest figure who prays to God on behalf of Abram without acting in his Priestly function, i.e. bringing bread and wine? Lastly, that Christ instituted the last Supper as celebration of Priestly sacrifice (this is why I began my article with 1 Cor 10) in the order of Melchizedek with bread and wine is a parallel fulfillment of the type so clear that it is a stretch to deny the connection.
<< Erick writes: “When the Old Covenant was ratified under Moses, the text of Exodus read as follows:“And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.’(Ex 24:8) This was a real sacrifice which took place. We read: ‘Then Moses sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar ‘(vv 5-6).”. Naturally animals sacrifices are real sacrifices. But there’s nothing sacrificial about bread and wine. And sacrificial offerings don’t symbolize God. So there’s no parallel to the real presence or transubstantiation. >>
But I argued otherwise in my commentary on 1 Cor 10, which SH has left untouched.
<<Erick writes: ’Thus, in each celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we have the renewal of the New Covenant ratification in Christ’s blood, which is nothing less than a renewal of the sacrifice itself with all that it is and means for us.’. No, it’s a symbolic memorial to the crucifixion. >>
Again, a negation without substance.
<<Erick writes: “for even Roman Catholics admit that the communion is Spiritual, and not carnal. For example, Catholics do not believe that we are taking small bites out of the actual composition of Christ’s anatomical body structure as it sits at the right-hand of God. God forbid! If someone were to have attacked Jesus in his earthly ministry and eaten His body and drank His blood, they would have gravely sinned. So the Catholic Mass is very spiritual in the sense that what happens is a spiritual miracle, but which communicates the substance of Christ’s body and blood in a sacramental way.” That’s ad hoc. That’s a distinction Catholics can’t derive from their prooftexts. They have an interpretation that’s not consistently literal or figurative. >>
I don’t quite understand what SH is saying here. Doesn’t sound like an argument, that is for sure.
<< Erick writes: “Furthermore, if we keep reading in the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians, St. Paul has some strong words for those who partake of the consecrated Bread and Wine in a state of unworthiness. He says: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or (ἢ) drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the the body and blood of the Lord” (v 27). The word for “guilty” in the Greek is ἔνοχος which means that “one is held liable unto”. Thus, one is held liable for the body and blood of Christ. Such language could not be fathomed unless the celebration of the Supper involves the giving over of Christ unto sacrificial death, albeit in a bloodless manner.” 1. Paul uses the “body” of Christ in three different senses: i) Literally, as the physical body of Christ, ii) Figurative, as a metaphor for the church (e.g. 10:17; 12:27), iii) Figuratively, as a metaphor for the eucharistic bread.Paul alternates. The operative meaning is context-dependent. >>
Yes, Paul uses the word “body” in different senses. And? I’ve never asserted, argued, nor implied that there is a single sense. Thus, my argument, once again, remains untouched.
<<2. Some Corinthians, by abusing fellow believers at the agape meal, were profaning those for whom Christ died. The “body and blood” of Christ represent his violent death. There are detailed exegetical arguments for everything I said about 1 Cor 10 in standard commentaries by Fee (2nd ed.), Fitzmyer, Ciampa/Rosner, and Thiselton (making allowance for the fact that commentators don’t always see eye-to-eye). Likewise, O’Brien’s monograph on the theology of Hebrews (see above).>>
It is not helpful to appeal to other people’s work unless you are going to provide reference to points which engage my argument.
In conclusion – This rebuttal of SH amounts to a very poor one, if it is truly a rebuttal. The only thing of substance was his call to question whether the parallel between Melchizedek and Christ involve both of their respective uses of “bread and wine”. I provided reasons why it is connected. If you see my original article, I also have a list of early Church fathers who clearly saw the Priestly connection between Melchizedek and Christ in terms of the use of bread and wine.