The Elephant in the Sanctuary

Respect for another’s beliefs is impossible if one does not in fact know what the other believes. If this exercise is ever to fill a need, then it is necessary that we approach boldly those things on which we are most divided.

My evangelical brothers would of course point to things like salvation through works and the “worship” of Mary, but these things are trivialities compared to the amputation of the very center of Christian worship. I am referring to the denial of the True Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Here we find evangelicals backed into a corner. The discussion usually focuses on all the things that Catholics do that aren’t in the Bible, but when it come to the True Presence we are suddenly told that the clear sense of Scripture is not in fact saying what it appears to be saying. You may thank John Calvin for that. Martin Luther had no problem with it, although his enmity toward Rome may have compelled him to find a middle ground, namely consubstantiation vs. transubstantiation. I sincerely doubt that any Bible believing evangelical could accept either one.

Scripture clearly shows that Jesus was emphatically not speaking metaphorically when He said that unless you drink His blood and eat His flesh you have no part in Him. The Patristic texts also show that it was central part of Christian worship less than a century after Jesus’ death. There are plenty of resources outside this blog if anyone cares to look them up. That’s not my purpose here.

The point of this post is to raise two very important points:

1. If Jesus was, in fact, speaking in a metaphor, where else in all of scripture does he say “this” is “me?” There are numerous examples of His use of metaphors which evangelicals use to buttress the argument that this was not different. “I am the door…” Was Jesus saying He was a door? Of course not. Same thing with “I am the vine..” “I am the Way..” etc. But there is no other passage that says “this is me” or “this is my.” Metaphors don’t work that way. One may say to one’s beloved “Your hair is golden flax,” but if you say “this golden flax is your hair” the definite pronoun means that golden flax is the thing present and the hair is present as well. That is not a metaphor. So when Jesus says with respect to the bread He is holding in His hand, “This is my body..” he is saying that the bread is a real and present thing and it is referring to His real and present body. This is no metaphor.

2. The Eucharist had been the center of Christian worship for centuries. Why, them did the Reformers attack that first? Were they scandalized by its implications? If so they were in familiar company:

John 6:60, 66
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

When I was an evangelical Protestant, I knew nothing of the true meaning of the Mass. I had a vague sense that it was all a bunch of meaningless ritual, no different in kind from the frankly arbitrary nature of evangelical worship. When I began to educate myself as to what Catholics actually believed, I was forced to see the Eucharist as either a horrendous abomination or else the very center and focus of Christian worship and piety. 

That is the challenge I place before my readers: either prove that it is an abomination or admit that it is what the Lord truly intended. There is no middle ground.

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