How far is Westminster from Wittenberg?

A lurker sends me an email from a friend of his, a Presbyterian “with Lutheran sympathies” who was sharing some thoughts as to whether the Westminster Confession of Faith really denies what Lutheranism affirms concerning the Lord’s Supper.

He looks at how the WCF and Lutheran confessions use the phrase “in, with and under”, and suggests that:

  • the WCF’s denial of “in, with and under” is not in fact a denial of the Lutheran teaching of the Supper; and
  • the Lutheran understanding of the Supper is in fact rather more “non-literal” than Lutherans claim.

In other words, the WCF is more “Lutheran” than you might think, and Lutherans are in fact less “Lutheran” than they might think, and so perhaps there is more room for us to meet in the middle than either side might think. (This is my summary of the full email, reproduced below, so I apologise if this summary misrepresents or distorts the enquirer’s argument.)

My immediate response to this was that it is an example of how Reformed Christians are far more focused on the phrase “in, with and under” than are Lutherans. For us, the key word is “is“, as in “this is my body”, with “in, with and under” just being a secondary formula to guard against certain misunderstandings.

However, our Presbyterian friend’s main query is whether “Reformed scholars have misread the WCF as contra confessional Lutheranism”. As he writes: “Give the Westminster Standards a non-TR reading, and I’m not sure how far they are from the Book of Concord when it comes to the sacraments.”

Assessing that point is somewhat above my pay-grade – beyond a vague sense that giving a “pro-Lutheran” reading to the WCF is reminiscent of John Henry Newman’s attempt in Tract 90 to read the Thirty-Nine Articles as consistent with Roman Catholicism. So I’ve asked for permission to post the email on here, after the fold, so that others with more knowledge (and time!) than I can tackle this in more detail, either in the comments thread or on your own blogs. Over to you!

Text of email:

I am writing regarding the phrase “in, with, and under” in discussing the sacrament of the altar.

It’s troubling to me as someone with Lutheran sympathies that the Westminster Confession specifically denies that Christ is present “in, with, or under” the bread and wine while the Strong Declaration of the Formula of Concord specifically affirms this.

However, upon further investigation, it appears to me that the denial and affirmation understand these words so differently that the WCF does not actually deny what the SD-FC affirms.

According to the SD-FC:

For the reason why, in addition to the expressions of Christ and St. Paul (the bread in the Supper is the body of Christ or the communion of the body of Christ), also the forms: under the bread, with the bread, in the bread [the body of Christ is present and offered], are employed, is that by means of them the papistical transubstantiation may be rejected and the sacramental union of the unchanged essence of the bread and of the body of Christ indicated …

Although this union of the body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine is not a personal union, as that of the two natures in Christ, but as Dr. Luther and our theologians, in the frequently mentioned Articles of Agreement [Smalcald Articles] in the year 1536 and in other places call it sacramentatem unionem, that is, a sacramental union, by which they wish to indicate that, although they also employ the formas: in pane, sub pane, cum pane, that is, these distinctive modes of speech: in the bread, under the bread, with the bread, yet they have received the words of Christ properly and as they read, and have understood the proposition, that is, the words of Christ’s testament: Hoc est corpus meum, This is My body, not as a figuratam propositionem, but inusitatam (that is, not as a figurative, allegorical expression or comment, but as an unusual expression).  (9.35, 38)

The LC-MS website explains this a little more:

The language of “in, with, and under,” which is found also in Luther’s Small Catechism, was carefully chosen and was directed at specific errors encountered by the Lutheran confessors (for example, “in” was chosen to reject impanation and “with” to reject transubstantiation). Moreover, the expression “sacramental union” is used as a technical designation for the Lutheran understanding of the Real Presence.

The word “under” in the phrase “in, with and under” used to express the Lutheran understanding of the sacramental union serves as a reminder that Christ’s true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper are “hidden under” the earthly forms of bread and wine (like a “mask” hiding someone’s face – the face is “under” the mask). In fact, Luther often used the term “mask” to describe how God “hides” his work under humble, earthly, external means (sacramental and otherwise).

Thus, I think that the Lutherans AFFIRM the formula “in, with, and under” in order to DENY the very errors that the WCF DENIES in DENYING the formula.

As noted in other contexts, the Lutheran use of these words is surprisingly non-literal, in contrast to their insistence on a “literal” reading of the words of institution.

The cash value of this is that the WCF does not specifically reject the Lutheran teaching on the supper as clearly as one might suppose at first. It nowhere rejects the word “orally,” and in fact specifically ties the inward reception to the “outward partaking” (i.e., with one’s mouth).

It is also interesting that the SD-FC affirms the exact same analogy that Calvin cautiously embraces in the institutes – that the sacramental union of the elements and Christ’s body is like the personal union of Christ’s divine and human natures.

Considering that Bucer and Luther signed off on the Wittenberg Concord, I have to question whether even WCF 29.8 really denies the Lutheran teaching on the supper. It seems that Luther was at least agnostic about reception of the res by non-Christians even while insisting on a manducatio indignorum. Is the disagreeement then about the reception of the res by all, or about who is “unworthy”/”godless”? If the latter, then I’m not sure that even WCF 29.8 meant to (or if it meant to do so, that it successfully) denied the Lutheran understanding of the supper.

Give the Westminster Standards a non-TR reading, and I’m not sure how far they are from the Book of Concord when it comes to the sacraments.

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22 Responses to How far is Westminster from Wittenberg?

  1. DRB says:

    The intent behind the Westminster Confession of Faith was to affirm a Zwinglian or Calvinistic view of the sacrament, explicitly rejecting the Lutheran position by using the words “in,” “with,” and “under.” No Calvinist can affirm the position of the Formula of Concord since it affirms oral reception of the body and blood, even by the wicked. Following Zwingli, Calvin and his disciples have always denied both oral reception and reception by the wicked. To find agreement on the real presence between these two confessions, at least one of them must be interpreted apart from its historical context and the intent of its authors.

  2. Rev. Alex Klages says:

    I would have to concur that the Lutheran position is that it is the Word which makes the Sacrament what it is–not a person’s faith as they receive it. Thus the WCF and FC cannot be reconciled. Point 29.6 is one thing, but 29.5 which talks about the bread and wine “representing” the body and blood and 29.8 which denies the impious eating and drinking the body and blood of the Lord are not speaking in Lutheran terms at all.

    The basic Lutheran standpoint is that by virtue of the Word, the body and blood are actually present, not just present on account of the faith of the recipient, but present by God’s speaking. In, with, and under are a human attempt to try to explain how such a mystery can be.

  3. Phil Walker says:

    I think it’s evident that the polemics sometimes obscure things which we do well to remember—polemics on both sides, as it’s scarcely acceptable to describe, as it would appear did Beza, the Lutheran doctrine as excrementum Satanae. I say that to acknowledge that we cannot escape there having been faults on the Reformed side in the conduct of the debate.

    So one of the things that can get lost is the nuance that’s present in the Lutheran view, as evidenced by the subtle distinction between a “Capernaitic” eating and a “spiritual” eating which is yet by the mouth. We would use the same language of a “spiritual” eating but of course, we mean something different: specifically, not “by the mouth”.

    Another point which gets lost is that the suggestion of the Solid Declaration, that the Reformed doctrine makes something other than the Word makes the sacrament what it is, isn’t a fair representation of the confessional Reformed tradition. The Belgic Confession, which preceded the Declaration, is perhaps less pointed, but not less certain, than Westminster XXVII.3, which came many years later:

    The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither does the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that does administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.

    I would draw your attention to the final statement. You would demur when it comes to baptism, and arguably that arises in some sense from a difference between us over whether “sacrament” is a theological species unto itself, but if I’m reading your theology aright, you agree that the manducatio impiorum carries no blessing but rather a curse. So at that point, we’re not saying anything significantly different: the argument isn’t over whether the blessings come by faith alone, but rather over whether Christ does.

    So yes, there are real differences here, and plainly they’re not going to go away, but I’m not convinced we’ve really moved very far in four hundred years in terms of analysing and assessing where those differences lie.

  4. I am always amazed at the way the Reformed try minimize the differences with us Lutherans, and yet when the rubber hits the road they are not willing to actually accept what the Lutheran Confessions say.
    Perhaps those that are really concerned with the arguments could find the best dissection of the positions in Chemnitz’s “the Lord’s Supper.”
    We are in fact saying two very different things. We may be united in our front against transubstantiation, but Lutherans are actually quite a bit more sympathetic to this view than the Reformed would like. We do believe that impious receive the Body and Blood to their Judgment.
    The Lutheran position is of a three fold eating done by the faithful, and a two fold eating done by impious. The faithful eat physically, sacramentally, and spiritually. The Spiritual can be done without the physical and sacramental eating, and is nothing more than a synonym for faith which grasps the promises of Christ. It is the physical and sacramental that is done by the faithful and impious, in which both receive the true body and blood of Christ, whether they like it or not, as they physically eat the bread and drink the wine. Without the physical reception there is no sacramental reception. But by virtue of the words of Christ, where the sacrament is eaten physically, the body and blood of our Lord are consumed sacramentally, the benefits received spiritually.
    I hope that helps. If not go read Chemnitz, he is always worth it anyway.

  5. DRB says:

    Phil, could you cite the passage in the Solid Declaration to which you referred in this statement?

    “Another point which gets lost is that the suggestion of the Solid Declaration, that the Reformed doctrine makes something other than the Word makes the sacrament what it is, isn’t a fair representation of the confessional Reformed tradition.”

  6. Phil Walker says:

    I hope you caught the drift of that sentence; I was thinking through a stinking cold, and am amazed that I wasn’t less lucid!

    The paragraph referred was Para. 89; admittedly there was a smidge of necessary interpolation, as it follows in thought from Para. 88 where the “Sacramentarians” are brought into play. Of course, it may conceivably not be the Reformed doctrine in view here, as I get the impression that the author/s of the SD didn’t make such nice distinctions as “Anabaptist” [115a, 121?], “Reformed”, and so on.

    Now, it is not our faith that makes the sacrament, but only the true word and institution of our almighty God and Savior Jesus Christ, which always is and remains efficacious in the Christian Church, and is not invalidated or rendered inefficacious by the worthiness or unworthiness of the minister, nor by the unbelief of the one who receives it.

    The author/s present this as if we disagree with that statement; we don’t! I refer you to the section of the WCF cited above: the concept of a “sacrament rightly used” necessitates the concept of a “sacrament wrongly used”, which is to say, apart from faith. It’s still a sacrament; it’s just that the promised blessings are not received.

    Where we do disagree here is on the nature of the sacrament: for you, Christ is, as it were, the chief element; for us, he is the chief blessing. That’s a fundamental disagreement and it’s not going to go away.

  7. DRB says:

    That passage does not claim that the sacramentarians believe faith is necessary for the administration to be valid. Rather, the passage is directed against the Calvinistic teaching that Christ is only present in the Sacrament to those who have faith. The passage is confusing because, for Lutherans, a valid administration of the Supper necessarily means Christ is present.

    Lutherans agree with Calvinists that Christ is of no benefit without faith. To us, however, the presence of Christ whether or not there is faith is essential. If you tell me Christ is present only if I believe it, I am left wondering whether or not I really believe, leading either to despair or to faith in my own faith. On the other hand, if I have the promise that Christ is most certainly present in his blood shed for the forgiveness of my sins, then my faith has an object outside of me. Further, I do not have to ascend to heaven to reach that object.

    This difference on whether Christ is present subjectively or objectively is closely related to the difference between the Reformed and Lutheran positions on whether the gospel promise is subjective or objective, conditional or unconditional:

  8. Rick Ritchie says:

    I think it is significant that the Reformed want to talk about the “in, with, and under” with us rather than the “is” in “This is my body,” as John pointed out. This is a key difference in mindset. It reminds me of hearing Father Peter Gillquist many years ago talk about what ecumenical discussions with Lutherans should look like. He said it would involve discussions to find agreement in areas beginning with the most central and working their way out. He put the liturgy in the center circle and the Gospel on the fourth circle out. I figured I had a fundamental non-affinity with someone who agreed with me on all four circles but ordered them in that fashion. (Theological affinity, of course. Not personal.)

    One of the best things I read on how we read the passages was where some writer explained how we drew a distinction between the Words of Institution which constituted the Lord’s Supper, and Pauline commentary about the Lord’s Supper. You must begin with the Words of Institution. You only attempt to understand commentary after you have made sense of the words. To put those words and commentary on an equal footing is to make a mistake, even if they are both inspired. Jesus made a similar point when he taught that it was wrong to begin even with the inspired teaching of Deuteronomy in understanding marriage. “In the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). That is, even if Deuteronomy was God’s law, the status of that law would not be understood properly if you did not begin with Creation. Marriage had its own words of institution.

    I would also give more credence to Reformed arguments on this point if the so-called high Calvinists were more careful not to sell the farm to the Zwinglians. Historically, the road from Geneva to Zurich seems to be a little too nicely kept for my taste.

  9. Phil Walker says:

    for Lutherans, a valid administration of the Supper necessarily means Christ is present.

    Precisely my point: in those paragraphs at least, the Solid Declaration doesn’t recognise that we think the sacrament is something different. It’s an understandable track to take with confessional polemic, and similar passages can probably be found in our own documents, but it’s a rotten basis for an exercise in comparison because all that happens is we keep talking past each other. The differences between our systems on this are serious enough without our having to invent new ones.

  10. DRB says:

    When analyzing an argument, sometimes it helps to find the unstated premises held by the intended audience. (This passage was written primarily for fellow Lutherans, not for the Reformed.) This is the logic behind the passage:

    Some sacramentarians say Christ is only present in the Sacrament to those who have faith. According to Scripture, a valid administration of the Supper necessarily means Christ is present. Therefore, if, as they say, Christ is only present in the Sacrament to those who have faith, then a lack of faith would mean the administration was invalid. The sacramentarians cannot agree with this implication of their position since they do mot believe that a valid administration of the Supper necessarily means Christ is present.

    Most would prefer the concise wording in the Formula to my syllogistic format, but I hope I have shown this particular passage does not misrepresent the opponent.

  11. DRB says:

    Phil, I agree with you that different language would be required for dialogues between Lutherns and the Reformed than for a confession. Luther addressed the Reformed at Marburg very differently than he did his own people. Know your audience.

  12. DRB says:

    “That is, even if Deuteronomy was God’s law, the status of that law would not be understood properly if you did not begin with Creation. Marriage had its own words of institution.”

    Excellent point. Thanks!

  13. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Blog Archive » Have I ever presided at the Lord’s Supper?

  14. Jordan says:

    As Phil Walker pointed out, the Westminster Standards insist that while only “worthy” recipients (with faith) receive what is offered in the sacrament, this happens through the power of God. The Westminster Standards do not teach (and in fact specifically deny) that a recipient’s faith brings Christ’s presence/blessings about or that the presence/blessings are brought about in response to their faith.

    In fact, there are many places where the Formula of Concord characterizes Reformed doctrine with the word “only.” Every time you see the word “only” or “alone” in the FC, you should note it, turn to the Westminster Standards, and look for it. Many times, you will simply not find it asserted there. And that may very well mean that the proposition rejected is not set forth in the Westminster Standards. If I say that Elizabeth II is the Queen of England that is very true. But if I say that she is ONLY the Queen of England, then that is wrong. You have to read the Westminster Standards charitably — don’t insert only’s and alone’s where they don’t exist! The Westminster divines met 80+ years after the Formula of Concord was written. So, you really do have to ask yourself whether the proposition rejected by the SD-FC — although it may have been held by the Reformed church’s most high-profile leaders at some point — is set forth in a given Reformed church’s doctrinal standards today.

    Also, I don’t think whoever wrote the e-mail meant to suggest that there are no differences between Lutheran and Reformed teaching, but was simply questioning how clearly the Westminster Standards specifically reject a Lutheran understanding of the supper. I think the point is that although at first sight, they appear to reach out and reject the Lutheran formula “in, with, and under,” this simply cannot be the case given that this Lutheran formula was embraced as a denial of other heterodoxies (impanation, transubstantiation, etc.) which were obviously rejected by the Westminster Standards as well.

    Of course, they do not affirm a Lutheran view specifically, and there are plenty of ways in which they could be said to accommodate a more Zwinglian view or, say, the view of a Bullinger or a Beza. But they also were (begrudgingly) satisfactory to John Williamson Nevin!

    At the end of the day, here is the only real difference I see:

    1. The Westminster Standards say that only those with faith receive Christ’s body and blood, and in receiving him enjoy the benefits of union with him; Lutheran teaching is that all those who partake receive Christ’s body and blood but only those with faith enjoy the benefits thereof.

    2. The Westminster Standards seem to say that the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s body and blood present (and even this is muted in the Westminster Standards, which only speak of the Holy Spirit’s agency in regard to baptism and the sacraments generally, but not specifically with respect to the Lord’s supper); Lutheran teaching is that Christ makes his body and blood present.

    [n.b. Reformed say Christ is received by faith; Lutherans say he is received by the mouth. Both say the benefits are only received by faith. This difference is mitigated by the Westminster’s talk of “outwardly partaking . . . by faith” and the SD-FC’s talk of “supernatural eating.” In other words, I think this difference is moot today even if it was still in play in the mid-16th Century.]

    To me, the differences do not render a celebration of the eucharist under one or the other confession invalid because both agree as to the matter (bread and wine), form (words of institution) / action (some combination of: thanksgiving, breaking bread, distributing / eating, thanksgiving, pouring wine, distributing /drinking), and intention.

    Some Lutherans argue that Reformed celebrations are invalid because of a defect of intention. I have to admit that this argument has some traction, I think. It’s too easy for a purely symbolic “real presence” of Christ’s body and blood to be predicated within the Reformed fold. For all I have said in defense of a “high” view of the sacraments under the Westminster Standards, I think it’s only fair to admit that the same Standards accommodate a very low view in which Christ’s true and real body, seated far far away on the throne of heaven, are “really” and “truly” pictured by the words of institution and the ritual action, “really” and “truly” presented to the mind, and “really” and “truly” “received” by the mental assent of those gathered around the table, whose mental assent is made possible by the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, and whose “union” with Christ the debt-payer is strengthened as the contemplation of him by faith renews their wills and fills them with fresh emotion and vigor, the “feed[ing]” then being a physimorphic eating by the soul of the spiritual truth, reality, and power presented to its organ of perception, namely faith. I have been assured that such a view would never pass a Presbytery floor exam, but honestly, how is such a view excluded by the Westminster Standards?

    At the same time, because the Westminster Standards also embrace a high view, I would argue that they are not objectively so defective as to overthrow the validity of a celebration under them — especially with respect to what they *affirm* even if they are weak with respect to what they *deny.* Besides, no public confession is perfect or completely sufficient. The question is whether the Standards are adequate, and I think that even assuming a Lutheran view, the only fair conclusion is that they are — they state that Christ’s body and blood are really, truly, yet spiritually present to the faith of the believer outwardly partaking of the sacrament and that the believer receives the body and blood of Christ and the benefits thereof by faith.

    The public intention of those gathered around the table at a Presbyterian church is to recite the words of institution, give thanks, divide/pour bread and wine, distribute these, and, outwardly partaking thereof, to receive the body and blood of Christ and the benefits thereof (forgiveness of sins, life and salvation). What is lacking here? Nothing, from a Lutheran viewpoint.

    Now, the 39 Articles and the Black Rubric are a different story — they say that “The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, *only* after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And *the* mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.” (Art. 28), and “the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here” (Black Rubric). These assertions are simply missing, by contrast, from the Westminster Standards, which tie the “real” reception of Christ’s body and blood, and the benefits thereof, to faith while outwardly partaking.

    Those admitted to a (traditional) Presbyterian table ostensibly and professedly have faith; there is no reason to doubt that they are receiving the body and blood (and benefits) even according to the assumptions of the Reformed doctrine they profess. Thus, I think the publicly confessed intention of such celebrations is adequate, even assuming arguendo the truth of Lutheran doctrine.

    “Veni, Domine Iesu.”


  15. Jordan says:

    P.S. I’m not suggesting that Lutherans should just merge with Presbyterians without insisting upon some clarification. What I am suggesting is that maybe such an insistance could prove fruitful rather than pointless given the proximity of the two (admittedly distinct) views with respect to what is essential to the sacrament.

  16. John H says:

    Jordan: thanks for your comments.

    As I’ve said in my post, I think “in, with and under” can be a red herring. It may well be the case that Lutherans affirm that formula in order to deny errors which Westminster also denies. However, “in, with and under” is not the Lutheran doctrine of the Supper, but rather a way of guarding that doctrine against error or misunderstanding.

    The Lutheran doctrine of the Supper is that it is “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink” (Small Catechism). In other words, to say that we receive Christ’s body and blood with our mouths is not merely some explanatory adjunct, but the very heart of what we believe about the Supper.

    (This is in fact what I was alluding to in my post. Your comments strike me as a good example of the tendency to treat “in, with and under” as “the Lutheran doctrine”, and then to treat “it is the true body and blood of Christ” as an explanation as to the mechanics of the Supper. In fact, that is a precise reversal of the position: the Lutheran doctrine is “it is the true body and blood”, and “in, with and under” is merely explanatory.)

    This is where the question of “worthy” and “unworthy” reception then becomes relevant. If we say that only the worthy receive Christ, and the unworthy receive only bread and wine (though to their judgment), then this excludes any belief that the bread and wine are “objectively” the body and blood of Christ.

    In other words, the statement in the Small Catechism is incorrect: we cannot say that the Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; though it may be a means by which we receive his body and blood if we have faith.

    So if you’re asking where the Westminster Standards exclude the Lutheran view, it’s right there in WCF XXIX.7,8. Taken together, these assert unequivocally that the Lord’s body and blood are received only by those who eat and drink in faith. That is an outright rejection of the Lutheran view (and, indeed, that is just what it is intended to be – or certainly what its antecedent in the 39 Articles was intended to be).

    To me, the differences do not render a celebration of the eucharist under one or the other confession invalid because both agree as to the matter (bread and wine), form (words of institution) / action (some combination of: thanksgiving, breaking bread, distributing / eating, thanksgiving, pouring wine, distributing /drinking), and intention.

    “Valid” and “invalid” are not really the terms in which Lutherans think. And we wouldn’t want to fit the Supper within an abstract framework of matter + form + action + intention. What matters to us is: is the Supper administered according to Christ’s word of institution? And if the meaning of that word is (in our view) distorted or denied, then at the very least that sows doubt in a place where faith should be at its most confident.

    However, even working within that framework, a crucial difference exists not just at the level of “intention” but at the level of “matter” itself. I recommend this post (and the linked essay by Phillip Cary) on the differences between the Lutheran and Calvinist view. In particular, Cary argues convincingly that Lutherans and Calvinists don’t merely disagree about the meaning of the Supper (the inward grace), but about the outward form of the sacrament. For Lutherans, the body and blood are not part of the inward grace; they are the outward form of the Supper.

    In the end, my question to those Reformed Christians holding a so-called “high” view of the Supper is this: why can’t you just come out with it and say, “the bread is Christ’s body” and “the wine is Christ’s blood”? Why do you expend so much time, effort and confessional ink saying everything but that?

  17. WIlliam Scott says:

    Hello Jordan,

    I think you’re post is generally quite good (and along even more extreme conciliatory and ecumenical lines I would note that in a real sense both Zwingli and Luther were right in their interpretation of the Words “This is My Body”–Zwingli was right as far as the “outward part” or visible part of the Lord’s Supper is concerned (and Tertullian and St. Augustine likewise explicitly qualify the words “This is My Body” as referring to the figure or sign of His Body as far as the outward part of the Lord’s Supper is concerned)–Of course Luther was right in his interpretation of “This is My Body” as far as the “inward part” or invisible grace of the Lord’s Supper is concerned).

    I would differ though on your one point regarding the Anglican teaching in the 28th Article and the Black Rubric (I’ll discuss the Black Rubric in a later post).

    Bishop Guest (who was the primary author of the portion of Article 28 which you cite and a leading revisor of the Book of Common Prayer/BCP) states regarding the word “only” (or, “onely”) in Article 28 (which is revised from Cranmer’s original in the 42 Articles):
    “I told him plainelye that this word onely in ye foresaied Article did not exclude ye presence of Christis Body from the Sacrament, but onely ye grossenes and sensiblenes in ye receavinge thereof: For I saied vnto him though he tooke Christis Bodye in his hand, receaved it with his mouthe, and that corporally naturally reallye substantially and carnally as ye doctors doo write, yet did he not for all that see it, feale it, smelle it, nor taste it.”

    Now, Bishop Guest initially objected to the later inclusion (almost 10 years later) in the 39 Articles of St. Augustine’s teaching on the wicked not feeding on Christ in the Sacrament (in the newly added Article 29)–because of the concern that the Article denied that Christ’s “spiritual, heavenly” presence is in the Consecrated Elements even when they are given to the wicked–but within a few days he withdrew his initial objection.

    Of course, Article 29 does not deny the presence of Christ in the Sacrament. Rather, it simply affirms with St. Augustine and others that regardless of whether the Sacramental presence of Christ may be said to come in judgment with the Sacrament into the wicked or not, yet His Sacramental presence is not truly feed upon, that is, in the soul/heart or “inwardly”–as St. Augustine says, on the authority of Christ’s own Words.

    From St. Augustine’s Tractate 26 on the Gospel of John:
    “He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.” This it is, therefore, for a man to eat that meat and to drink that drink, to dwell in Christ, and to have Christ dwelling in him. Consequently, he that dwells not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwells not, doubtless neither eats His flesh [spiritually] nor drinks His blood [although he may press the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ carnally and visibly with his teeth], but rather does he eat and drink the sacrament of so great a thing to his own judgment, because he, being unclean, has presumed to come to the sacraments of Christ, which no man takes worthily except he that is pure: of such it is said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

    And St. Augustine states further in Tractate 26 (and the BCP’s words “…feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving” seem to have likely been derived from the following statements of St. Augustine).
    “This, then, is the bread that comes down from heaven, that if any man eat thereof, he shall not die.” But this is what belongs to the virtue of the sacrament, not to the visible sacrament; he that eats within, not without; who eats in his heart, not who presses with his teeth.)).

    11…Moses ate manna, Aaron ate manna, Phinehas ate manna, and many ate manna, who were pleasing to the Lord, and they are not dead. Why? Because they understood the visible food spiritually, hungered spiritually, tasted spiritually, that they might be filled spiritually. For even we at this day receive visible food: but the sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the sacrament another. How many do receive at the altar and die, and die indeed by receiving? Whence the apostle says, “Eats and drinks judgment to himself.” 1 Corinthians 11:29

    Blessings in Christ.
    William Scott

    p.s. It has been speculated that Article 29 may have been altered from its original form to better alleviate the concerns of the prominent Bishop Guest–given that Bishop Guest seems to quote in his initial objection a particular phrase which is not present in the final form of the 29th Article that he affirmed shortly thereafter.

    p.p.s. As for Cranmer it was the notable 9th century witness of the Monk/Priest Rathumnus, who was a prominent theologian of the medieval English Church (and apparently–in particular–the teaching of the Church Fathers which Rathumnus brought forward), that was foundational in his later understanding of Holy Communion (now one might validly question whether Cranmer always applied the Church Fathers accurately on the Eucharist–but he made it clear to the end of his life that his intention was to teach no other doctrine than the Church Fathers themselves had taught (explicitly submitting himself to the testimonty of the Church Fathers on the Eucharist to the end of his life), and that the Church Fathers–drawn to his attention most notably by Rathrumnus–were foundational in coming to his later views on the Eucharist).

    Rathumnus’ excellent exposition on the Sacrament can be read here (though a number of Anglicans interpreted him in a more “receptionist” or “virtualist” sense, in my opinion his views accord better with the presence of Christ being in the Consecrated Elements (after a “heavenly or spiritual manner”) held by a number of prominent Anglican Divines–for example, Bishop Overall who wrote the section of the Historic BCP’s Anglican Catechism on the Sacraments):“concerning+the+body+and+blood”#PPA1,M1

  18. WIlliam Scott says:

    As for the Black Rubric it was added in the 1552 BCP to deny both the adoration of the outward Sacrament and of any carnal or corporal presence of Christ therein and was dropped in the 1559 BCP (the original phrase “real, and essential” presence (unless qualified) in the 1552 BCP was almost certainly taken by the English Reformers as the equivalent to the “corporal” (versus “spiritual”) presence* (as the 1662 BCP clarifies the phrase in the Black Rubric–which also helped to clarify that the Black Rubric did not condemn a “spiritual, heavenly” presence of Christ in the Consecrated Elements)).

    *[Now Cranmer counted the presence of Christ in relation to the bread and wine to be equivalent to the presence of Christ in relation to the waters of Baptism–i.e. Christ undoubtedly washes us in Baptism with His Blood without His Blood needing to be present “objectively” in the water and likewise He feeds us with His Flesh and Blood in Communion without His Flesh and Blood needing to be present “objectively” in the bread and wine.]

    When the Black Rubric was added back into the 1662 BCP (in its slightly modified version) it was added under Bishops who maintained the presence of Christ after a spiritual, heavenly manner in the Consecrated Elements–and therefore it certainly can not be considered to be a denial of Christ’s spiritual presence in the elements.

    Finally, as the Black Rubric relates to “Adoration of the Sacrament” it might be helpful to note the Anglican Church’s doctrine on “Eucharistic Adoration” as it is described in further detail by Lancelot Andrewes in his response to Cardinal Bellarmine on behalf of the Church of England:
    About ‘the adoration of the sacrament’ he stumbles badly at the very threshold. He says, ‘of the Sacrament, that is, of Christ the Lord present by a wonderful but real way in the Sacrament’. Away with this. Who will allow him this? ‘Of the Sacrament, that is, of Christ in the Sacrament’. Surely, Christ Himself, the reality (res) of the Sacrament, in and with the Sacrament, outside and without the Sacrament, wherever He is, is to be adored. Now the king [i.e. King James I] laid down that Christ is really present in the Eucharist, and is really to be adored, that is, the reality (rem) of the Sacrament, but not the Sacrament, that is, the ‘earthly part’, as Irenaeus says, the ‘visible’, as Augustine says. We also, like Ambrose, ‘adore the flesh of Christ in the mysteries’, and yet not it but Him who is worshipped on the altar. For the Cardinal puts his question badly, ‘What is there worshipped’, since he ought to ask, ‘Who’, as Nazianzen says, ‘Him’, not ‘it’. And. Like Augustine, we ‘do not eat the flesh without first adoring’. And we none of us adore the Sacrament.

    Blessings in Christ,
    William Scott

    p.s. As an aside–the 1552/1559 BCP states regarding the efficacy of Baptism in children that “it is certain by God’s Word that children being baptized have all things necessary for their Salvation, and be undoubtedly saved.”

  19. WIlliam Scott says:

    Just to make sure that I exhuast everyone following this thread I thought it might be interesting to note Luther’s own view on Adoration of the Sacrament from an earlier post:

    It is interesting (if not a little confusing) to see the nuance of Luther’s views on Adoration and the Sacrament as seen in his 1523 work “The Adoration of the Sacrament” (translated by Abdel Ross Wentz):

    Luther states that because Christ is present in believing hearts and in the Sacrament He may be worshiped or adored in both places (though not of necessity–because he says that Christ is not in His “State of Glory” in these places as He is in Heaven).

    He also states in his work:
    “In the first place, we have often said that the chief and foremost thing in the sacrament is the word of Christ, when he says: “Take and eat, this is my body which is given for you.” Likewise also, when he took the cup, he said: “Take and drink of it, att of you, this is the cup of a new testament in my blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me”…these words are far more important than the sacrament itself, and a Christian should make it a practice to give far more attention to these words than to the sacrament. But as a matter of fact the situation everywhere is just the reverse of this because of the false teachers. They have depreciated these words in the eyes of the people, hidden them securely besides, and called attention only to the sacrament. The result is that faith has been lost and the sacrament has been turned into a purely external work devoid of faith.”

    “And so I repeat what I have said above, that a person should
    note carefully these two things in the sacrament: first, the Word; and second, the bread and wine. The words teach you to give thought and attention to why Christ is present; they will cause you to forget your work and to wait only upon his. For a sacrament is a matter of faith, because in it only the works of God proceed and are effected through his Word. Therefore, those who consider the sacrament to be thus in the Word will forget both worship and adoration. That is what the apostles did at the Supper [Matt. 26:26] and yet without any doubt they were most acceptable and did him the proper honor. They acted just as one does when he hears the gospel, the Word of God to which the highest honor is nonetheless due because God is nearer in it than Christ is in the bread and wine. Yet no one thinks of bowing before the gospel; instead everyone sits still, and in listening gives no thought whatever to the kind of honor he will do to the Word.”

    “It is, of course, true that there is a distinction between Christ
    sitting on high in heaven, and being in the sacrament and in the hearts of believers. For certainly he ascended to heaven so that men should and must worship him there and confess him to be the Lord, mighty over all things (Phil. 2 [: 10-11]). But he is present in the sacrament and in the hearts of believers not really because he wants to be worshiped there, but because he wants there to work with us and help us…”

    Blessings in Christ,
    William Scott

  20. William Scott says:

    Wow-Sorry for all the typos/sloppy writing in my last posts (and for writing, now, 4 posts in a row–which certainly breaks any rules for proper blogging).

    To clarify/correct just a little:

    In the 2nd post:
    “…(as the 1662 BCP clarifies the words *”real and essential” presence* in the Black Rubric *by substituting “corporal” presence*…”

    In the 2nd post:
    In the p.s. regarding the efficacy of Baptism—though clearly somewhat of a tangent from the rest of the post this point was actually noted in relation to the earlier point–namely that there is a sure offering/presenting of grace in Baptism (so much so that children who were Baptized were “undoubtedly saved”) which all believers could take comfort in without the necessity of affirming any objective presence in the Sacramental water. And that similarly there can be full comfort taken in the true offering/presenting of grace in the Lord’s Supper (and thus the sure Sacramental feeding on Christ’s Body and Blood which is “generally necessary for Salvation” as the Anglican Catechism states) without the necessity of an objective presence in the Sacramental bread and wine–as Cranmer and other English Reformers noted.
    [The point of all this is that affirming the certain Sacramental partaking on Christ’s Flesh and Blood (which true or “inward” partaking or feeding on Christ is not possible for the wicked regardless of the nature of Christ’s presence relative to the Consecrated elements) is far more important than how one defines the exact nature of Christ’s presence relative to the Sacrament between the time of consecration and receiving the Sacrament).]

    Blessings in Christ,
    William Scott

  21. Jordan says:

    Hi William,

    Thanks so much for reading my post charitably and for the helpful insight on the meaning of “only” in the 39 Articles.

    “Veni, Domine Iesu.”


  22. Jordan says:

    Hi John H,

    I appreciate your position that the difference between a “high” Reformed view and the Lutheran view of the supper go to the heart of it. In the end, we may simply have to agree to disagree.

    There is a lot that I could take issue with in your post, but all of my concerns orbit your belief that the Reformed insistence that reception of the body and blood is limited to the worthy partakers (which, in the nature of the case, at least ostensibly includes every single person communing at the Lord’s table in a Presbyterian church) excludes the “objective” presence of the body and blood.

    I could see how a certain conceptualization of the “objective” presence could lead to this conclusion. Using a poor illustration, we could imagine the presence of the body and blood as a “thing” which is contained within a locked box (here, the bread and the wine) and which can only be enjoyed by those who open the box with a key (here, faith). If this were the fundamental structure of the sacrament, then to say that those who do not have faith do not even have the thing inside the box throws the entire situation in chaos because those who do have faith have no confidence that when they unlock the box, they will find the thing therein.

    But, again using a poor illustration, suppose the body and blood were like a large balloon tethered tightly to a small package. Those receiving the pacakage stand behind a wall that has a large door, within which is a small window. Some open the window only and take the package, but when the package is pulled inside, the cord uniting the balloon to the package breakes because the balloon itself cannnot fit through the window. Others open the door (with faith) and receive both the package and the balloon.

    These are bad analogies to something so mysterious and wonderful as the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, but I sketch them only to demonstrate that it is possible to conceive of a kind of union of sign and thing(s) signified that is true and objective and real, and in which the thing(s) signified is/are indeed objectively offered to all even if only some who partake of the sign receive it.

    In other words, it’s conclusory to assert that the Reformed view excludes the objective presence of the body and blood. I have no doubt that some “Reformed” views do this, but my question is whether the view set forth in the Westminster Standards does this. Nothing you have written convinces me that the view set forth in the Westminster Standards excludes the objective presence of Christ’s body and blood in the supper. There may be other problems with it notwithstanding, and there may be really good reasons to prefer the Lutheran understanding of the supper instead of the understanding set forth in the Westminster Standards, but I don’t think your assertion regarding the exclusion of an objective presence is fair or accurate.

    In addition, I don’t think that Luther would describe the body and the blood as part of the “outward” part of the sacrament. For one thing, he wasn’t interested in deriving a doctrine of the supper from some larger concept of “sacrament,” but simply trusting the words of the Bible as being true. I also don’t see how “reading” human action (like eucharistic celebrations or gospel writings) to discern its meaning, which necessarily involves analysis of the observable action (materials involved, words used, movements), its context (other materials in the background, other words in the background, background movements), and inferences regarding its intention, is any more “abstract” than categorical assertions regarding “objectivity,” whatever that is.

    There are difference between the Westminster Standards and the Book of Concord regarding the Lord’s supper. I certainly don’t deny that or even want to “play them down” or “minimize” them. What is worth considering is whether those differences in understanding so alter eucharistic celebrations in churches publicly confessing one or the other view that they cannot be said to be doing the same thing. That fundamental level of agreement is all that Luther ever required for union — and he was absolutely right to recognize that it was missing between his fold and that of Zwingli. Today, one might argue that the Westminster Standards do not clearly enough exclude Zwingli’s confusion for union with a Lutheran church to make sense. One might also argue that some specific problem with the Reformed view makes union with Lutheran churches nonsensical. But to simply assert that Lutherans should not join with Reformed at the Lord’s table because the Reformed aren’t Lutheran is to beg the question.

    “Veni, Domine Iesu.”


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