Christians and cannibalism

If Josh can declaim propositions then I don’t see why I can’t join in. So here goes:

If what you believe and teach concerning the Supper couldn’t be misinterpreted by some people as sounding like cannibalism, then your understanding and/or teaching of the Supper is deficient.

This is inspired by Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s point that I blogged last year, which can summarised as: “If your preaching of the gospel cannot be misunderstood by some people as teaching antinominianism, then you’re not preaching the gospel”.

As is made clear in my previous post, we do not eat the Lord’s body and blood in a “crude, fleshly, Capernaitic [i.e. cannibalistic] manner”. However, our strong affirmation that we truly receive the Lord’s flesh and blood in our mouths can certainly be misunderstood in that way.

Many outside observers of the early church believed that Christians were cannibals for precisely that reason. And in John 6, it was this “cannibalistic” implication that repelled Jesus’ listeners in Capernaum (hence “Capernaitic”).

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12 Responses to Christians and cannibalism

  1. joel hunter says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. *checking expiry date on Reformed credentials…*

  2. Rev. Paul T. McCain says:

    The strongest evidence I’ve found for the ancient confession of the real presence is the fact that the early Christians were accused precisely of cannibalism, of eating children, to be precise. Why? The rumor got out that they were eating the flesh of the child of God. Wow…lots of theological realities are attested in that rumor.

    And how did they dispell that rumor? They didn’t! They locked non-baptized out of the church when they celebrated the Sacrament and kept right on eating and drink the body and blood of God’s Son.

    Now, they could have immediately said, “Oh, you misunderstand. It is just a symbol. It is a metaphor. Just like your Mithras rites are metaphors and symbols.” [a la Zwingli]. Or they could have trotted out Calvin’s, “Oh, no, we don’t actually believe we are actually eating or drinking the body and blood of Christ. Oh, no, our souls are ascending up to heaven and they are partaking of Him there.”

    Nope, they didn’t do that either.

    They just kept confessing the real presence and held it its comforting hope all the more.

  3. Lito Cruz says:


    If we are not being accused of cannibalism, there is something wrong. We have not explained it too well.


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  6. Tom R says:

    ‘[Star Trek creator Gene] Roddenberry grew up in the South and attended a Baptist church as a youth. According to his own account, Roddenberry rejected Christianity as a young teen because it seemed to him to be nonsense. He came to this conclusion when he began listening to the sermons in church. For instance, he found the Christian practice of communion “crazy”: “It was communion time, where you eat this wafer and are supposed to be eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood. My first impression was, “This is a bunch of cannibals they’ve put me down among!'” Apparently he was not listening very closely, since Baptists are very careful to explain that in their view the bread is only a _symbol_ of the body of Jesus.’

    – Robert M Bowman, Jr, “Strange New Worlds: The Humanist Philosophy of Star Trek”, Christian Research Journal (Fall 1991),

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  9. Larry says:

    Wow! Nice. I remember that old Loyd Jones quote and always loved it, this one is a nice follow up and just as sharp.

    VERY nice.


  10. Larry says:


    I think it’s a testimony to the power of the real Word’s of institution usually spoken even in Baptist memorial meal. I use to be Baptist then PCA now confessional Lutheran (a long journey but the sacraments were key). I don’t know GR’s mind but having been there as a new convert having little to zero doctrine I use to just take the words of Scripture “as are” on the LS and baptism. I had to be taught OUT of that via the Baptist/reformed doctrines over time, that’s when the terror began to set in regarding “am I baptized, elect, etc…” What I’m not saying is this, I now know that I never took a true LS in such churches. But what I am saying is also this, the “innocent mind” of the new convert or ignorant convert to such denominations may be unaware of the Zwinglian/Calvin doctrine and all he/she hears are the real Words of institution and thus naturally take them as spoken. It’s a testimony, in my opinion, of the power of the real Word itself INSPITE of the doctrine. Luther mentions this much that a poor lay person may be under a “rascal” Zwinglian and not know that he (the lay person) is being deceived. As a Baptist with nearly zero doctrine under my belt, yet very educated as to my vocation, I took the words as they spoke, it was no problem for me, even having been an ex-atheist, to understand that God “could do it”, I never asked “how”, if God said so, it is so.

    I recall an event were they had the “LS”, supposedly, at an event I was at in which, to make a long story short, they “threw the elements” in the woods rather than gave them to us to eat and drink, supposedly throwing our sins away we put onto them. I was very green and trusting of my leaders back then. I recall, and this goes to the innocent mindset that simply takes God’s Word as is, nearly falling over with incredulous grief because I assumed we would take the LS, something I’ve always cherished as a Christian above all things but when that happened I thought, “they just threw the body and blood of Christ into the woods.” I mean it really broke me emotionally to the ground and I’m not a man given to such emotions, it was traumatic to me like nothing else. When I later explained my situation to the so called “pastors” and “ministers”, they just looked at me like I was speaking alien to them, they couldn’t understand my problem/struggle. What they didn’t know nor I is that in my hearing of the naked Word’s of institution is that I actually BELIEVED them, and I didn’t know of the doctrine of sign/symbol (Zwingli or Calvin) they understood. We were MILES apart. Yet, I understood and reacted to what I believed the Word to say and thus my reaction. It was GUT wrenching to me to say the least. Looking back I can analyze the whole situation now. I was shocked, later, to find out the Baptist/reformed doctrine on this, but yet fell into it myself as it “made sense” to human reasoning only later to be rescued from it due to some fiery trials over the sacraments.

    The Words of institution are so plain and God so capable that even a child can understand and believe them and there is no Word’s of institution that state, “This is NOT My body…this is NOT My blood…”, the plain statement of the Baptist/Reformed doctrine. If they stated that at their suppers then the reality would uncloak itself plainly and honestly!


  11. Larry says:

    I think I wrote this backward:

    “What I’m not saying is this, I now know that I never took a true LS in such churches.”

    Should be, “What I am not saying is this, I use to take the real LS in such churches” (I now know that I never took a true LS in such churches).


  12. John H says:

    Larry: thanks for this.

    Even if people want to argue over what “this is my body” means, I’d always thought that “take, eat” and “take, drink” were pretty uncontested. But it turns out that “take, throw into the woods” is an acceptable interpretation for some. Hey-ho… 😉

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