The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Heretical Pitfalls of Hyper-Protestantism


One of the interesting things about Hyper-Protestantism, which is distinguished from the Protestantism of the Magisterial Reformation by its opposition to and rejection of what is Catholic, that is to say, belonging to the faith, religion, tradition, and practice held since the earliest centuries by all the ancient Churches descended organically from the Church of Jerusalem, rather than merely the errors distinctive to the Roman Church that sparked the Reformation, is its obsession with Marian doctrine.   Hyper-Protestants often act as if they thought Rome's teaching with regards to Mary is her most serious error rather than the soteriological issues at the heart of the Reformation.   At some point in the future I plan, if the Lord so wills, to show how the English and Lutheran Reformers and even John Calvin held certain Marian doctrines that would be considered "popish"  by Hyper-Protestants.   For today, however, I wish to explore how this obsession with contradicting everything Rome - and in many cases all the ancient Churches - says about Mary often leads them into serious Christological heresy.


One person who commented on my earlier essay "Be a Protestant - BUT NOT A NUT!" insisted that the ancient Church was wrong in condemning Nestorianism as a heresy.   Nestorianism was condemned in the Third Ecumenical Council, the Council of Ephesus, which took place in 431 AD.   Nestorius was the Archbishop of Constantinople at the time.   While this See had not yet been made a Patriarchate - that would come twenty years later when St. Anatolius held the office - it had been given the second place of honour after Rome by canon of the Second Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople in 381 AD and was en route to becoming the fifth See of the ancient Pentarchy.   Nestorius, in other words, was in a very influential position, making error on his part all the more serious.


The controversy began with the use of the term Θεοτόκος (Theotokos) as an honourific title for the Virgin Mary.    Theotokos is Greek for "God-bearer".   In English it is generally rendered as "Mother of God".   The controversy over the title was older than Nestorius and Nestorius entered the controversy with the intention of being a peacemaker.   He proposed that the Virgin Mary be called the Christokos ("Christ-bearer").   Unfortunately for him, this was one of those cases where the compromise fell on ground belonging to one of the two sides (think of the Sunday School/Bible camp skit in which various people walk along a fence, with God and Satan each calling them to come over to their side, some choosing God, some Satan, until the last person, indecisively sits on the fence, only to be claimed by Satan, the owner of the fence).   By proposing the alternative title, Nestorius sided with those who rejected Theotokos, and as a consequence became forever associated with their ideas.   Those ideas included a serious Christological error.


Consider the following syllogism:


Premise A: Jesus is God.

Premise B: Mary is the Mother of Jesus.


Conclusion (C): Mary is the Mother of God.


This is a valid syllogism, meaning that if he premises are true the conclusion must be true as well, and so the conclusion cannot be rejected on the grounds of logical invalidity.    Those who reject the conclusion, therefore, must argue against the truth of either the Major or the Minor Premise.   They generally do not want to argue against the Major Premise by denying the deity of Jesus Christ.    Therefore they try to argue against the Minor Premise, that Mary is the Mother of Jesus.


Now, obviously they try to do so in a more subtle way than by an outright denial that would make them sound completely stupid.    What they try to do is to separate Jesus' human nature from His Person.   "Mary is the mother only of Jesus' human nature" they say.   


Do you see what they have done there?


In saying that Mary is the mother only of Jesus human nature they want you to think of His human nature in opposition to His divine nature.   That way they can come across as standing up for the truth against some unnamed heresy that says that Jesus got His divine nature from His human mother.   There is a reason, however, that this heresy is unnamed.  Nobody has ever taught it.   Nobody who calls Mary the Theotokos or the Mother of God thinks these terms mean that Mary was prior to God, that Jesus derives His deity from her, that she is the Mother of the Father or the Holy Ghost or any other such stupid things that opponents of these terms read into them.   Unnecessarily guarding against an error that nobody teaches is an easy way of falling into error yourself.   This is exactly what has happened here.


In actuality, when they say that Mary is the mother only of Jesus' human nature, this is not as opposed to her being the mother of His divine nature, but as opposed to her being the Mother of Jesus the Person.   Mother is a relational term.   It denotes how one person relates to another.   This is its primary use and meaning, and any implications it may have about the "nature" of either mother or child are entirely secondary.


By the reasoning the opponents of Theotokos use they should also be claiming that God the Father is not the Father of Jesus but only of His divine nature.   They do not usually say this, however, because the huge flaw in the argument is a bit more obvious when worded this way.


With other human beings a mother and father each contribute half of the genes their child inherits.   Each could, therefore, be said to contribute half of the child's nature, at least in its physical aspects - I don't wish to get into the ancient theological debate between Tertullian's traducianism and St. Jerome's creationism (of each individual's soul not of the world), now, maybe some other time.   We would never say, however, that someone's father is not that person's father but only the father of half of his genes, nor would we say such a thing, mutatis mutandis, about his mother.   A father is the father of his son as a whole person, not just the part of his son he contributed.   A mother is the mother of her daughter as a whole person, not just the part she contributed.


Now with Jesus we do not have a case of His Father contributing half of His genetic material and His Mother contributing the other half.   Jesus is One Person, with Two Natures, Fully God and Fully Man.   His divine nature comes entirely from His Father.   His human nature comes from His Mother.   This, however, does not mean that what we have just said about a father being the father of his child as a whole person, and a mother being the mother of her child as a whole person, rather than each being merely the father and mother of what they have contributed to their child does not apply with regards to Jesus.   Those who claim otherwise, seem to think it is sufficient to point to Jesus’ uniqueness as the Only Person born of a Virgin, or the Only Person with two natures, divine and human, and say see, Mary is mother only of His human nature not of Him as a Person, as if such a conclusion somehow inevitably followed from these observations. This is not, however, a conclusion that logically, inevitably, or naturally follows from Jesus’ being unique in these ways.


One objection that was raised that requires an answer is the following from someone posting under the name “Jason Anderson”.  He writes:


How can a mother of a pre-existent being be the mother of the personality that always existed? She can't.


Jesus was, of course, pre-existent.   Indeed, He is eternal.   He had no beginning.  There never was a moment before He existed.   The problem with drawing Mr. Anderson’s conclusion from this is that if his reasoning were sound it would also work against God being the Father of Jesus.   If Someone Who is pre-existent, Someone Who is eternal, Someone to Whom there is no “before”, cannot have a Mother, neither can He have a Father.    God the Father, however, is the Father of Jesus.   Furthermore, He is the Father of Jesus not merely by adoption, as the Adoptionist heresy would have, much less the Father of Jesus by creation, since Jesus is uncreated.   Jesus is the “Only-Begotten” Son of the Father, that is to say, the natural Son of the Father, the Son Who has the same nature as His Father which He gets from His Father.   Since both Father and Son are co-eternal, this does not mean the Father is temporally prior to the Son.   Theologically we refer to the way Jesus is begotten of the Father as “Eternal Generation”.   Unlike with a human father and a human son, the begetting or generation is not a moment in time to which there was a before when only the father and not the son existed, but is the eternal relationship between Father and Son.  


Now, before you raise the objection that Jesus’ relationship with Mary is not like this, that it had a beginning in time, that Jesus is eternal and Mary a created being, allow me to say that my argument is not that Jesus’ relationship to His Mother is identical to His relationship with His Father, obviously it is not, but rather my argument is that if a pre-existent, indeed, eternal Person can have a Father in this one way, eternal generation, then it is possible for the same pre-existent, eternal Person to have a Mother in another way.   That way, of course, is by Incarnation.   Jesus, the eternal Son of God, became Man by taking human nature and permanently uniting it to His Own eternal divine nature.   He did so, not by entering someone and taking possession of their body, but through the miraculous conception wrought by the Holy Ghost.    As St. Ambrose - and later John Francis Wade - put it, He “abhorred not the Virgin’s womb”.   He entered this world as Man, in other words, by being born into it.   By doing so, He Who was and is eternal, gained a Mother.   The Mother-Son relationship here is unique in that the Son existed before the Mother, not in that the Mother is Mother only of one of her Son’s natures rather than of her Son Himself.   The first uniqueness, the one that is actually true of Jesus’ relationship with the Virgin Mary, is a mystery.   The second is an absolute absurdity.


In addition to the thought-provoking question just addressed, Mr. Anderson provides us with a further illustration of the extremes to which the fanatical, anti-Catholicism of the Hyper-Protestant can take one.   He claims that Jesus “disowned” Mary three times.    Now, before looking at the passages he points to in order to back up this claim and seeing how he twists these Scriptures I am going to point out the gross Christological and Soteriological heresy he has committed by making this claim.   Jesus is both God and Man.   As Man, He is Perfect Man.   He is the Second Adam, Who succeeded where the first Adam failed.   He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).   His sinlessness is essential to His being our Saviour.   “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)  “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).   If Jesus disowned Mary, however, He broke the Fifth Commandment.   That would mean that He was not without sin, and could not be our Saviour.   Mr. Anderson, by taking his anti-Catholic fanaticism so far as to try to throw dirt on Mary because Rome gives her too much honour ended up throwing dirt on Jesus and committing soul-damning heresy in the process.


His attempt to back up this claim from Scripture demonstrates his “exegesis” – it is really eisegesis, the reading into a text of ideas that are not there – to be as bad as his theology.   The three occasions are the Wedding at Cana in the second chapter of St. John’s Gospel, the account of Jesus’ identification of those who do the will of God as His mother and brethren at the end of the third chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, and when He passed Mary into St. John’s care on the Cross in the nineteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.    In his interpretation of the second of these, the one from St. Mark’s Gospel, Mr. Anderson attempts to guard against the obvious conclusion of his claim by providing a “justification” of Jesus’ “disowning” His Mother.    Even if, however, we accepted his interpretation of these events, it would not work as such a justification.   One of the examples of these supposed disownings took place prior to the events of Mark 3.   The Wedding at Cana took place before Jesus began His public ministry after the arrest of John the Baptist.   The events at the end of Mark 3 take place after the ordination and first commissioning of the Twelve Apostles earlier in that chapter which took place after His public ministry was underway.


There is no disowning in any of these passages.   Jesus’ words at the end of Mark 3 are for the sake of the multitude He was addressing.   He doesn’t say anything, positive or negative, about His biological relatives.   He asks who His mother and brethren are, then answers by pointing to His disciples, and saying that these are His mother and brethren, and that whoever does the will of God is His brother, sister, and mother.    This is an ecclesiological statement.   The Church is the family of God is what He is saying here.   Mr. Anderson bases his interpretation of this on the fact that the occasion of Jesus’ saying this was His Mother and brethren having come and sent for Him.   Earlier in the chapter, in verse 21, we read that “when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself” and while this might be referring to the people of Nazareth in general it is not unreasonable to see the visit of Mary and His brethren as the unfolding of this.   If that is the case, however, most reasonable people would look at this and in the parlance of our day call it a misguided intervention.   No such action was needed, but it was done out of love.   Mr. Anderson, however, calls it a “kidnapping plot” and a “gubpowder (sic) plot”, “treachery” and an “attempt to be Judas before the time of Judas”, basically a violent criminal conspiracy against Jesus, that would justify His disowning them.   This, however, comes from his own twisted mind.  It is not there in the text.


Nor is there a disowning of Mary in the second chapter of St. John’s Gospel.   The words that Mr. Anderson takes as a disowning, the English of which can unfortunately come across as rude even though it is not so in the original, are in the original Greek: Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι.   A word for word literal rendition of this is “What to me and to you, woman?”    John Calvin took this to be a rebuke, but does not go so far as to read a disowning into it like Mr. Anderson does.  He said that it has the same force as the Latin Quid tibi mecum, which, while not entirely wrong, is not the whole story.   It is in fact a common idiom in Greek and Hebrew – it occurs several times in the Old Testament - as well as Latin.  Calvin likely had in mind the version of it that appears a couple of times in Plautus’ Menaechmi.   This is the play that inspired Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors.   It is about twins and mistaken identities.  The idiom, with the additional words est rei (Latin is not quite as economical with its words as Greek) has the meaning of “what business have I got with you?”   In the second scene of the third act it is spoken by the one Menaechmus to Peniculus who had addressed him thinking he was speaking to the Menaechmus he knew, the twin of the other.  This illustrates the sort of situation, or at least a farcical version of the sort of situation, in which this idiom is used as a rebuke.  As a rebuke, it is generally addressed to someone who you don’t know or don’t know very well who has been unduly intrusive.   This doesn’t fit the context of John 2 at all, making it really strange that John Calvin seemed to think this was the use in play here. The meaning that does fit here is “what does that have to do with me?” and in fact in this case it means “What does that have to do with us?”     Spoken in response to Mary’s having told Him that the wedding party had run out of wine, it means “why is that our concern?”  They were not, in other words, the hosts of the event, and were not responsible for the wine supply.  Note that neither this point, nor His hour not yet having come – a reference to His public ministry not having started yet – prevent Him from actually rectifying the situation, nor do they prevent Mary from understanding that He would do so as evinced by her instructions to the servants in the following verse.   Both her and His actions would be inexplicably odd if His words had the meaning Mr. Anderson reads into them.


As for the final reference from the nineteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, Mr. Anderson’s interpretation of the passage is literally the opposite of how it has been universally understood, that is to say, as the loving expression of a dying Son concerned that His Mother be provided for and asking a trusted and beloved friend to take care of her for Him.    The universal understanding is the correct one.    The language used is the language of adoption, not the language of disowning.     Here is Mr. Anderson: “and at the cross in John "man behold THY mother, woman behold THY son" (i.e. you can have her if you want her, I disown her for a 3rd time)”.    Here by contrast is John Calvin: “The Evangelist here mentions incidentally, that while Christ obeyed God the Father, he did not fail to perform the duty which he owed, as a son, towards his mother… Yet, if we attend to the time and place when these things happened, Christ's affection for his mother was worthy of admiration.”     Calvin’s is a far less tortured and much more natural reading of this text.   An even more natural reading is to emphasize the affection over the duty.  


It is one thing to say that we should not give to the Blessed Virgin Mary the honour and worship due only to her Son Jesus Christ Who, with the Father and Holy Ghost, is God.   All orthodox Christians should be able to agree on this.   Even the Romanists are not likely to disagree with it as worded, even if we Protestants suspect their practice to sometimes be in violation of it.   It is another thing to hate Rome so much as to take the furthest possible position from hers, even if it means disagreeing not just with Rome but with all the ancient Churches, rejecting the right judgement of the universal Church that Nestorius had committed heresy, and twisting and torturing the Scriptures beyond recognition, in support of a claim, that Jesus disowned His Mother, that contains within itself a blasphemous imputation of sin, specifically the violation of the Fifth Commandment, to the sinless Saviour of the world and is thus a worse heresy than that of Nestorius, who not wanting to ascribe too much honour to the Blessed Virgin ended up dividing the Person of her Son, Who in  His One Person is both fully God and fully Man.


It is okay to be a Protestant.   When Rome says or does something that goes against what the Scriptures teach, as faithful and orthodox Churches everywhere have understood them to teach since the days of the Church Fathers, then you can and should follow Scripture first, and the universal tradition second, rather than Rome.   The path of Hyper-Protestantism, however, is one which if followed, leads into pits of error worse than the errors of Rome.   It is best to avoid it at all costs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Religion and Politics

 Worship on Earth as it is Where?


The Church is the society of faith that Jesus Christ founded through His Apostles on the first Whitsunday (the Christian Pentecost, the successor to Succoth the Jewish Pentecost) when in accordance with His promise given on the eve of the events through which He established the New Covenant that would become the basis of that society, the Father sent down the Holy Ghost upon His disciples, uniting them into one body, with Christ as the head.    Into this one organic body, was joined the Old Testament Church, the Congregation of the Lord within national Israel, whose faith looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ and who were taken by Him, from Hades, the Kingdom of Death, in His Triumphant descent there after His Crucifixion, and brought by Him into Heaven when He ascended back there after His Resurrection.   The Church does many things when she meets as a community but first and foremost among them she worships her God.   In this, the Church on earth, or the Church Militant as she is called, unites with the Church in Heaven, also known as the Church Triumphant. 

Throughout her history those who have led, organized, and structured her corporate worship have been guided by the principle that our worship on Earth should resemble than in Heaven.   It is a Scriptural principle.   The Book of Hebrews discusses at length how the elaborate religious system given to national Israel in the Mosaic Covenant was patterned on Heavenly worship, the Earthly Tabernacle (the tent that was the antecedent of the Temple in the days when Israel was wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land), for example, was patterned on the Heavenly Tabernacle.   Indeed, Hebrews uses language strongly suggestive of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave to describe the relationship between the Earthly Tabernacle and the Heavenly Tabernacle.   Since Hebrews also uses this kind of language to describe the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New the only reasonable conclusion is that if the worship of the Old Testament Church was to be patterned after worship in Heaven, how much more ought the worship of the New Testament Church to be patterned after the same.   Now the Bible gives us a few glimpses of worship in Heaven.   These are generally found in visions in the prophetic and apocalyptic literature.   The sixth chapter of Isaiah is the classic Old Testament example.   The vision of St. John in the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation is the classic New Testament example.   In these chapters we find a lot of praying, a lot of singing, a lot of incense, an altar and a lot of kneeling.   The Scriptural depiction of worship, in other words, is quite “High Church”.   Indeed, since the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus, in His role of High Priest, entered the Heavenly Holy of Holies with His blood, which unlike that of the Old Testament bulls and goats effectively purges of sin and the New Testament elsewhere tells us that Jesus on the eve of His Crucifixion commissioned the Lord’s Supper to be celebrated in His Church until His Second Coming, which was practiced daily in the first Church in Jerusalem and which is Sacramentally united with Jesus’ offering of Himself, the way the pre-Reformation Churches – not just the Roman, but the Greek, Coptic, Armenian, Assyrian and other ancient Churches as well – made this the central focus of their corporate worship is also very Scriptural.   

In the Reformation, Rome’s abuses with regards to the Sacrament and her neglect of the preaching ministry, led many of the Reformers to de-emphasize the Sacrament and make the sermon the central focus of their corporate worship.   The more extreme wing of the Reformation confused the New Testament ideas of a preaching ministry in the Church, which is a didactic ministry, teaching the faithful, with that of evangelistic preaching, which is the Church’s external ministry of proclaiming the Gospel to the world, and worse, developed unhealthy ideas about the preaching ministry, such as that the Word is inert and lifeless unless it is explained in a sermon, which are susceptible to the same charges of idolatry that the Reformers themselves made against Rome’s late Medieval views of the Sacrament.   More to my point, however, the glimpses the Scriptures provide us of worship in Heaven do not mention a Heavenly pulpit, and, indeed, the closest thing to a sermon in Heaven I can think of in the Bible, is the reference to the everlasting Gospel in Revelation 14:6.  The same verse, however, specifies that while the angel carrying it is flying in the midst of Heaven, it is to be preached “unto them that dwell on the earth”.   Curiously, the Bible does make mention of a sermon that was preached to an otherworldly congregation.   St. Peter, in the nineteenth verse of the third chapter of his first Catholic Epistle, talks about how Jesus “went and preached unto the spirits in prison”.   There is, of course, a lot of debate about what St. Peter meant by this.   Did he mean that Jesus preached the liberty He had just purchased them to the Old Testament saints when He descended into Hades?   Or that He preached to those who would be left in the Kingdom of Death when He took His saints with Him to Heaven?   If the latter, as the verses following might suggest, to what end?   We cannot answer these questions dogmatically, interesting though the long-standing discussion of them be.   My point, with regards to sermon-centric worship, is best expressed in another question.   Whoever thought that worship on Earth as it is in Hell was a good idea?


The State?


I prefer the term Tory to the term conservative as a description of my political views, even if that always requires an explanation that I do not mean “big-C party Conservative” by the term, but Tory as Dr. Johnson defined it in his Dictionary, a pre-Burke conservative if you will.   Today, the word conservative in its small-c sense, is mostly understood in its American sense, which is basically the older, nineteenth-century kind of liberal.   I don’t disassociate myself from this out of a preference for the newer, twentieth and twenty-first century types of liberalism over the older.   Quite the contrary, the older type of liberalism is far to be preferred over the newer.   I disassociate myself from it because the older type of conservatism, the British Toryism in which Canada’s original conservatism has its roots, is to be preferred over either type of liberalism.   

Some explain the difference between a Tory and an American type conservative by saying that the Tory has a high view of the state, the American conservative a low view of the state.   While this is not entirely wrong – Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary mentioned earlier defines a Tory as “One who adheres to the antient constitution of the state, and the apostolical hierarchy of the Church of England, opposed to a whig” – it can be very misleading, because “the state” has several different connotations.   

The basic error of liberalism – classical liberalism – pertains to human freedom.   Classical liberalism was the theory that man’s natural condition is to be an individual, autonomous with no social connections to others, that this natural condition is what it means to be free, that society and the state were organized by individuals on a voluntary contractual basis in order to mutually protect their individual freedom, and that when society and the state fail to do this individuals have the right and responsibility to replace them with ones that do.   Liberalism was wrong about each and every one of these points, failing to see that man’s natural is social not individual – an individual outside of society is not a human being in his natural condition – that society and the state are extensions of the family, the basic natural social unit, rather than extensions of the marketplace based on the model of a commercial enterprise, and that attempts to replace old states and societies with new ones, almost always result in tyranny rather than greater freedom.   

Nor did the liberals understand how their view of things depersonalizes people.   “The individual” is not Bob or Joe or Mary or Sam or Sally or Anne or Herschel or Marcus or George or Bill or Leroy or Susie, each a person on his own earthly pilgrimage, distinct but not disconnected from others, but a faceless, nameless, carbon copy of everyone else, identifiable only by the rights and freedoms that he shares equally with each other individual, in other words, a number.   When our primary term for speaking about government is the abstract notion of “the state” this tends to depersonalize government in the same way liberal autonomous individualism depersonalizes people.   In twentieth century liberalism, which envisioned a larger role for government than the earlier classical liberalism, and in that offshoot of liberalism that has gone by the name “the Left” or “progressivism”, “the state” is very impersonal, a faceless bureaucracy which views those it governs as numbers rather than people, a collective but a collective of autonomous individuals rather than an organic society/community.   I would say that the traditional Tory view of “the state” in this sense of the word is even lower than that of an American style, classical liberal, neoconservative.   

What the Tory does have a high view of is government in the sense of traditional, time-proven, concrete governing institutions, particularly the monarchy and Parliament.   Note that Dr. Johnson spoke not of “One who adheres to the state” but “One who adheres to the antient constitution of the state”.   What monarchy and Parliament, which complement each other, have in common, is that they are both very personal ways of thinking about government.   The king reigns as father/patriarch over his kingdom(s), an extension of his family, as his governing office is an extension of the family as the model of society and state.   Parliament is the where the representatives of the governed meet to have their say in the laws under which they live and how their taxes are spent.   The conversation between these two personal governing institutions has contributed greatly to the most worthy accomplishments of our civilization, and both have long proven their worth, so it is of these that I prefer to say that I as a Tory have a high view, rather than the impersonal state.   I have a higher view of the monarchy than of Parliament, and not merely because those who currently occupy the seats of Parliament leave much to be desired, but for the very Tory reason that if the Church should be worshipping on Earth as in Heaven, government ought to be modelled after the Heavenly pattern as well.   God is the King of Kings, and governs the universe without the aid of elected representatives.    Monarchy is the essential form of government.   Parliament accommodates the model to our human condition.    


Capitalism or Socialism?


There is a popular notion that unless one has no opinion on economics at all one must be either a capitalist or a socialist.   Those who have studied economic theory will point out that that this is a little like the dilemma posed in the question “Did you walk to work or take a bagged lunch?” – a capitalist, in the terms of economic theory, is someone who owns and lives off of capital, whereas a socialist is someone who believes in the idea of socialism.   Since, however, for most people, the term capitalist now means “someone who believes in capitalism” we will move on.   A more nuanced version of the popular nation postulates a spectrum with capitalism, in the sense of pure laissez-faire with no government involvement in the market whatsoever as the right pole, and pure socialism, where the government not only controls but owns everything, as the left pole, with most people falling somewhere between and being identified as capitalists or socialists depending upon the pole to which they are the closest.   The terms “left” and “right” in popular North American usage have been strongly shaped by this concept even though their original usage in Europe was quite different – the “left” were the supporters of the French Revolution, which, although it was the template of all subsequent Communist revolutions, was not a socialist undertaking per se, and the “right” were the Roman Catholic royalists, the continental equivalent of the English Tories.   To complicate matters there is the expression “far right” which is usually used to suggest the idea of Nazism, which makes no sense with either the old continental European or the new North American usage, although the less commonly used “far left” for Communists makes sense with both.   

The conservatives who think civilization began with the dawn of Modern liberalism and have little interest in conserving anything other than classical liberalism tend to accept this idea of a socialist-capitalist, left-right, economic spectrum and to identify as capitalists.   This makes sense because it is liberalism they are trying to conserve and the Adam Smith-David Ricardo-Frédéric Bastiat theory of laissez-faire that we commonly identify as capitalism is more properly called economic liberalism.   

With us Tories it is a bit more complicated and this has led, in my country, the Dominion of Canada, to the idea held by some that classical conservatives or Tories, unlike American neoconservatives, are closer to socialism than to capitalism.     To come to this conclusion, however, one must accept the American notion of a socialist-capitalist economic spectrum and the idea contained within it that any move away from laissez-faire is a move in the direction of socialism.   That idea is nonsense and does tremendous violence to the historical meaning of the word socialism.   Historically, several different socialist movements, popped up at about the same time.   What they all had in common was a) the idea that the private ownership of property, meaning capital, any form of wealth that generates an income for its owner by producing something that can be sold in the market is the source of all social evils because it divides society into classes, some of which own property, others of which must sell their labour to the propertied classes in order to make a living, and b) the idea that the remedy is some sort of collective ownership of property.   In the Marxist version of socialism, this collective ownership was conceived of as by the state, after it had been seized in violent revolution by the proletariat (factory workers).   In other versions of socialism, such as that of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the state was viewed as unnecessary – Proudhon, as well as being a socialist, was the first anarchist - and collective ownership was conceived of more in terms of workers’ co-operatives.  Socialism, in both its diagnosis of the cause of social ills and in its proposed remedy, is fundamentally at odds with orthodox Christianity, which tells us that sin, the condition of the human heart as the result of the Fall of Man is the cause of social ills, and that the only remedy for sin is the grace of God, obtained for mankind by Jesus Christ through His Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection, and brought to mankind by His Church in its two-fold Gospel Ministry of Word and Sacrament.   From the perspective of orthodox Christianity, socialism, therefore, is an attempt to bypass the Cross and to regain Paradise through human political and social endeavours.   Even worse than that it is Envy, the second worst of the Seven Deadly Sins, made to wear the mask of Charity, the highest of the Theological Virtues, and institutionalized.   It is therefore utterly condemned by orthodox Christianity and Toryism, the political expression of orthodox Christianity, in its rejection of laissez-faire liberalism does not step in the direction of socialism.  Even when Toryism supports state social programs for the relief of poverty, unemployment, and the like, as it did under Disraeli in the United Kingdom in the Victorian era and as it historically did in Canada, it was not for socialist reasons, not because it believed that inequality was the cause of all social ills and wealth redistribution society’s panacea, but for counter-socialism reasons, because it did not want poverty, unemployment, etc. to because the opportunity for recruitment to the cause of socialism which it correctly saw as a destructive force that unchained leads to greater misery, especially for those whom it claims to want to help.   

The main way in which Toryism has historically envisioned a larger economic role for government than laissez-faire liberalism has been that the Tory recognizes the genuine economic interests of the entire realm, such as the need for domestic production of essential goods so as to not be dependent upon external supplies that may be cut off in an emergency, along with the economic interests of local communities, families, and individuals.   Adam Smith argued that individuals are the most competent people to look out for their own economic interests rather than governments, especially distant ones, and Toryism doesn’t dispute this as a general principle – obviously there are exceptions.   Rather it agrees with this principle and adds that families are the most competent at looking out for their interests as families, and communities for their interests at communities – this is what the idea of subsidiarity, rooted in Christian social theory, is all about.   Toryism doesn’t accept Smith’s claim that individuals looking out for their own interests will automatically result in these other interests taking care of themselves, much less those of the entire realm.   The government, although incompetent at making economic decisions for individuals qua individuals, or families qua families, communities qua communities, for that matter,  is generally as an institution, the best suited for making economic decisions for the realm.   

This is compromised, of course, if the person selected to lead His Majesty’s government as Prime Minister is an incompetent dolt, imbecile, and moron.    The government of Sir John A. Macdonald, protecting fledgling Canadian industries with tariffs while investing heavily in the production of the railroad that would facilitate east-west commerce, uniting Canada and preventing her from being swallowed up piecemeal by her neighbor to the south is an example of government making the best sort of economic decisions for the realm.   Unfortunately, His Majesty’s government is currently led by the classic example of the other kind of Prime Minister.


Which Branch of the Modern Tree?


Not so long ago, when the fashionable, progressive, forward-thinking, and up-to-date began to tell us that boys or men who thought they were girls or women and girls or women who thought they were boys or men should be treated as if they were what they thought and said they were instead of what they actually were in reality, rather than indulge this nonsense we ought instead to have treated those making this absurd suggestion the way we had hitherto treated those who thought they were something other than what they were, that is to say, called those fellows in the white uniforms with the butterfly nets to come and take them away that they might have a nice long rest in a place where they would be no harm to themselves or others.   Instead we left them among the general populace where they proceeded to wreak maximum harm.   

It had seemed, at one time, that this madness had peaked when people started introducing themselves by their “preferred pronouns” rather than their names but, as is usual when one makes the mistake of thinking things can’t get any worse, they did.    The past few years have seen a major backlash finally starting to take shape against the aggressive promotion of this gender craziness in the schools, and no, I don’t mean the post-secondary institutions that have long been home to every wacky fad under the sun, I am talking about elementary schools.   It seems that teachers, with the backing of school board administrators, have taken to treating every instance in which a boy says that he is a girl, or a girl says that she is a boy, as a serious case of gender dysphoria rather than the passing phase it would otherwise be in most cases and responded with “gender affirmation” which is a euphemism for indulging and encouraging gender confusion – and forcing everyone else in the classroom to go along with it.   To top it off, they have been keeping all of this secret from the parents.    

The state of California in the United States has just taken this to the next level, as a bill has passed in its legislative assembly that would essentially make “gender affirmation” a requirement for parents to retain custody of their children.    It is worth bringing up at this point that there is a very similar and closely related euphemism to “gender affirmation” and that is “gender affirming care”, which refers to using hormones and surgery to make someone who thinks they are of the other sex physically resemble that sex.   The same lunatics that I have been talking about, think it appropriate to offer this “care” to prepubescent children.   In every single instance where this is done – every single instance – it is a case of child abuse.  Period!   

It is this aggressive war on the sexual innocence of childhood and the rights and authority of parents that has sparked the backlash on the part of parents who have had enough and are fighting back.   Some jurisdictions, like the state of Florida in the United States, and the provinces of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan here in Canada, have responded by requiring schools to notify parents when this sort of thing is going on.  The government in my own province of Manitoba has promised to do this if they are re-elected next month.    That, I would say, is the very least they ought to do.   I think that teachers that twist the minds of young kids in this way ought to be severely punished – a case can be made for bringing back the stocks and/or public flogging to do this.   

The progressives, including both Captain Airhead, Prime Minister of Canada, and J. Brandon Magoo, President of the United States, have denounced the policy of informing parents as if it were placing kids in mortal danger.   Progressive spin-doctors have even coined a new expression “forced outing” with which to vilify the sensible idea that teachers should not be allowed to continue to get away with this ultra-creepy business of sexualizing little kids and encouraging them to keep it a secret from their parents.   

Those whose conservatism seeks primarily or solely to conserve the older stage of the Modern liberal tradition tend to view this sort of progressive cultural extremism as a form of Marxism or Communism.   There is truth in this perspective in that sort of thinking among progressives in academe that leads them to embrace such nonsense can be traced back to academic Marxism’s post-World War I reinvention of itself along cultural rather than economic lines, albeit through the detour of a few prominent post-World War II thinkers who were heirs of Marx only in the sense of following in his footsteps as intellectual revolutionaries rather than that of having derived their ideas from his in any substantial way.   The phenomenon itself – the idea that one has the right to self-identify as a “gender” other than one’s biological sex, to expect or even demand that others acknowledge this self-identification and affirm it to be true, and even to force reality itself in the form of one’s biological sex to bend to this self-identification – does not come from Marx, and those countries that had the misfortune of having been taken over by regimes dedicated to his evil ideas seem to have been partly compensated for this by being inoculated against this sort of thing.   This is the autonomous individual of Locke, Mill, and the other classical liberals taken to the nth degree and it is the countries where liberalism has had the most influence that have proven the most vulnerable to this gender insanity.

Friday, September 1, 2023

The Mysterious Sacrifice and the Sacrificial Mystery

 If Adam had not sinned would God the Son have still become Incarnate as a Man?


Note that the question as worded pertains to the Incarnation not the Atonement.


Many would say that there is no way of knowing the answer to this question, and they have a good point.   What Luis de Molina, the sixteenth century Spanish Jesuit who is best known for trying to harmonize a strong Augustinian view of predestination with free will, called "Middle Knowledge", the knowledge of counterfactuals, what would have been under different circumstances, properly belongs to God alone.   For many Protestants however, without having considered the question per se, the default answer would likely be "no" because in their theology the Atonement was the end of the Incarnation.   If you remove the need for the Atonement you remove the need for the Incarnation.   For earlier theologians who seriously considered the matter, this was not the case.   John Duns Scotus, a Scottish Franciscan friar of the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries, and one of the most important Medieval theologians even if Modern thinkers scoffed at him - the word dunce, which was the name of those conical caps teachers made disobedient and obtuse students wear back when teachers were concerned with imparting learning and had not yet realized their calling to convince girls that they are boys and boys that they are girls, was derived from his name - argued that the answer was “yes”.   He argued this in both his Ordinatio, the published collection of the lectures he gave in Oxford on Peter Lombard’s Sentences, and his Reportatio Parisiensis, which contain similar lectures delivered at the University of Paris.   It was also a common although not universal view among the theologians of the Eastern Church.


That this would be the case - the "yes" answer being common in the East - is understandable when we consider one of the major differences in Eastern and Western theology, that which has to do with the antelapsarian state of man.  John Calvin, in the second book of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, chapter two, section four, says of the consequences of the Fall upon the freedom of man’s will that “although the Greek Fathers, above others, and especially Chrysostom, have exceeded due bounds in extolling the power of the human will, yet all ancient theologians, with the exception of Augustine, are so confused, vacillating, and contradictory on this subject, that no certainty can be obtained from their writings.”  St. Augustine was, of course, the leading doctor of the Western Church.   Countless Reformed theologians since have assumed without looking into it that the East is Pelagian or semi-Pelagian but that is not the case and that is not really what Calvin said.   Pelagianism was a heresy that East and West joined in condemning, but which was a heresy that arose in the West and which has perennially plagued the West not the East.   The East-West difference is that the East does not have as exalted a view of the pre-Fall state.  Man was created in the image and likeness of God, the Orthodox say, and they distinguish between the two, identifying the image of God with man’s reason, responsibility, and the like, and the likeness with moral excellence.   The Fall affected the likeness of God in man, but prior to the Fall that likeness was not yet perfect.   Man was created innocent, that is to say, without moral flaw, but was to grow to perfection, which is another way of saying maturity.   He was to grow in the likeness of God until he was as like God in righteousness and holiness as a creature can be.   The East calls this theosis and sees the Fall as an interruption of the process.   They liken it to a child stumbling as he takes his first steps.   While this sounds to Western ears like downplaying the Fall, this is because the West has followed St. Augustine in regarding man’s antelapsarian state as one of moral perfection.   The East regards the Fall as seriously as does the West, and insists contra Pelagius that apart from the Grace of God as given through Jesus Christ there can be no salvation, but they see the end of salvation as the completion of the interrupted theosis rather than the restoration of the status quo ante.  Given that framework, it is to be expected that a “yes” answer to the question would come more naturally to Eastern theologians than to Western theologians. 


I do not bring this up to argue that the East is right rather than the West.   I think that we are better off for listening to orthodox theologians from all the ancient Christian traditions rather than just our own, but replacing a Western provincialism with a reverse provincialism in which the East is always right is not an improvement,   I bring it up because there are parallels in the preceding discussion with the one that is about to follow with a new question:


If Adam had not sinned would there still have been sacrifices?


Here too, although this question is as much about what might have been as the first, those who would be inclined to answer the first question with "no" are likely to answer "no" again.   In this case, however, we might expect a better argued reason for the answer.   Sacrifices, the argument goes, began after the Fall and pointed to the Ultimate Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.   God gave Adam and Eve skin coats to cover them as the first picture of the necessity of the shedding of the blood of the Son of God to atone for sin.   Their sons offered sacrifices, showing the practice was established that far back, and while it got corrupted by paganism, God gave a pure sacrificial system to the Israelites in the Old Covenant, to point them towards Jesus Christ, Whose True Sacrifice brought other sacrifices to an end.  Since the whole point of this was that Jesus Christ's death atoned for man's sin, in the absence of sin there would have been no need for any of this.


The problem with this reasoning is not so much with what it positively affirms but with what it leaves out.   The Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, speak of sacrifices other than sacrifices that a) involve death, and b) are offered on account of sin or trespass, voluntary or otherwise.   The hidden assumption in the argument outlined in the previous paragraph is that in verses that speak of non-physical sacrifices, "sacrifice" is used in a metaphorical sense, with blood/death sacrifices being the literal thing that gives the metaphorical its meaning.    Even the physical sacrifices of the Levitical sacrificial system that God gave to the Israelites as part of the Mosaic Covenant, however, contain sacrifices that don’t fit the model of death and blood, prefiguring Calvary.   There were the sin offerings and the trespass offerings to be made when one had unknowingly sinned, the difference between the two basically being that the one was for when no restitution was possible and the other for when it was.   There were the daily burnt offerings and sacrifices, which had reference to sin in a more general sense.   Then there were the peace offerings which, while not entirely unrelated to sin, were more about thanksgiving and fellowship.    The focus was on the positive not the negative and this was even more the case with the sacrifices that were offered in commemoration of events, or to mark the beginning of the month, or to consecrate something or another.   Not all of the offerings involved animals.   There were also grain offerings – sometimes in the form of flour, sometimes in the form of roasted grains, sometimes in the form of cakes, in each case mixed with oil, and except for the cakes with frankincense as well – and there were wine offerings or libations.   Sometimes these were offered with an animal sacrifice, sometimes they were offered on their own.    If there were other types of sacrifices, even among the physical sacrifices of the Levitical system, then perhaps the non-physical sacrifices are not metaphorical after all.   Perhaps there is a deeper, more essential, meaning to the concept of sacrifice that might actually be easier to see in these other sacrifices where it is not overshadowed by the thought of man's sin and the need to atone for it.   If that is the case, this might be, depending upon what that deeper meaning turns out to be, a good case for the “yes” answer to our question.  


It is worth noting here that the word “sacrifice” does not appear in the Authorized Bible until the thirty-first chapter of Genesis.   This is the word זֶבַח (zebach) which is most often rendered “sacrifice” and which is the word behind most appearances of “sacrifice” in the Authorized Old Testament.   Here it is used of the sacrifice that Jacob offered when he and his uncle Laban had made a covenant between themselves before going their separate ways.   Now, if you are familiar with the Old Testament or even just the most basic episodes in its narrative history you are probably saying that this cannot be right, because sacrifices appear much earlier.  What about Cain and Abel?


Yes, the account of Cain and Abel in the fourth chapter of Genesis does indeed depict sacrifices, but it does not use the basic word for sacrifice.   What Cain and Abel each brought to the Lord is called in the Authorized Bible an “offering” and this is a translation of the Hebrew מִנְחָה (mincha) that is actually more common than the word rendered “sacrifice” being rendered “offering” two more times than the total of all uses of זֶבַח.   


זֶבַח is a noun derived from a verb meaning “to kill” or “to slaughter”.  מִנְחָה, however, is derived from a verb meaning “to bestow” or “to give”.   Interestingly, although the Hebrew uses מִנְחָה consistently for both Can and Abel’s offerings, the translators who produced the Septuagint opted to use different words.  Cain’s offering is described as a θυσία (thusia) which is the word one would expect had זֶבַח been used as it means “sacrifice” whereas Abel’s is called by the plural of  δῶρον (doron) which is the basic Greek word for “gift” and so a more literal translation of the Hebrew word.   What makes this an even stranger translation choice is that one would expect the reverse since Cain’s offering was of the “fruit of the ground” and Abel’s was of the “firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”.   Perhaps by using the word one would have expected of Abel’s animal sacrifice for Can’s grain offering the LXX translators wished to emphasize the difference in the nature of the gifts as an explanation of why the one was rejected and the other accepted.   If so they anticipated an interpretation, i.e., that not being an animal sacrifice it could not prefigure Christ’s Atonement, that is very popular in Christian pulpits but which makes little sense given that grain offerings were later established in the Mosaic Covenant and that the text itself offers the explanation that Abel brought the “firstlings” of his flock and “of the fat thereof”, that is to say the very best, but uses no such language of Cain’s offering.   Cain’s offence, then, was most likely that of Malachi 1:7:


Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.


That the first account of sacrifice in the Bible uses the word for “offering” rather than the word derived from the verb for killing is, I think, very instructive as to the basic, essential, nature of sacrifice.   Later in Genesis, when Jacob is contemplating how his brother will receive him upon his return, he uses this same word for the extravagant gift he prepares in the hopes of appeasing Esau should he still be miffed over the whole stolen birthright/blessing thing.  Here the word is translated “present” in the Authorized Bible.   Even later in Genesis it is the word used of the tribute that Jacob orders his sons to bring to Pharaoh’s Prime Minister, who they do not yet know is their brother Joseph, on their second trip to Egypt.   Here too it is rendered “present” which is the second most common translation of the word.  When the recipient is another human being rather than God “present” or “gift” is used, almost always with the sense of “tribute”.   This would appear to be the basic idea behind an offering or sacrifice to God as well.  It is the tribute that human beings as His subjects, owe to the King of Kings.  


Such an understanding rather clinches the case for a “yes” answer to our question.   For human beings were always subjects of their Creator, the King of Kings, and as such would always have owed Him tribute whether they had fallen from His favour through sin or no.   Even if one were to argue that had man remained in his primordial, antelapsarian, condition he would have had nothing to bring to God of the fruits of his labour, not even grain offerings, because having to work the land was part of the curse and he would still have been in the Garden, they would have been expected to bring the sacrifice (θυσία) of Hebrews 13:15:


By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.


In this verse we come at last to my point in raising these questions of what would have been.   If sacrifice is in its truest essence human beings bringing to God, the King of Kings, the tribute we owe Him as His subjects and which would have been required of us even if we had not sinned, and if, therefore, the idea of a propitiatory offering reconciling us to the God we have offended as sinners, prefigured in the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament and ultimately fulfilled in the Crucifixion, is the form that sacrifice took after the Fall due to the sinfulness of man, we would expect that after Jesus Christ fulfilled the propitiatory aspect of sacrifice once and for all, its essence would remain in Christian worship, and that is exactly what this verse, near the end of the epistle which most clearly spells out how the death of Jesus Christ has satisfied the need for sacrifice for sin, says.


By His death on the Cross, Jesus Christ did what the bulls and goats, sacrificed on the altar of the Tabernacle and Temple, looking forwards to Him, could never do.   He took away the sin of the world.   Moreover, His Sacrifice was the Sacrifice that established the New Covenant foretold in the Old.   With the change in Covenant came a change in priesthood and rite.   These changes reflect the fact that in the events of the Gospel, everything the Old Covenant looked forward to has been fulfilled.   Under the Old Covenant the rite of entry and the outward sign of membership in the Covenant people was Circumcision.   While not a sacrifice per se, Circumcision involved the shedding of blood.   With the establishment of Christ’s New Covenant, all ceremonial requirements for shedding blood came to an end having been fulfilled with the shedding of His blood on the Cross.   So Circumcision was replaced with Baptism, which does not involve the shedding of blood, and which is a more perfect rite of entrance in that it can be administered to everyone, male and female alike, as is entirely appropriate for a Covenant which, unlike the Old Covenant that was national, is Catholic, for people of every kindred, tribe, and nation.    Where Baptism most resembles the rite that was its equivalent in the Old Covenant is that it is administered once and does not need to be repeated.


Other than Circumcision, the most important part of the ceremonial aspect of the Old Covenant was the sacrifices that the Levitical priesthood offered at the Tabernacle/Temple.   These did have to repeated, some daily, others, such as those assigned to the Feast Days and the Day of Atonement, annually.   Just as Baptism is the more perfect replacement for Circumcision, so under the New Covenant there is a more perfect ceremonial replacement for the Old Testament sacrifices, and that is the Sacrament that we variously call the Lord’s Supper or Lord’s Table, Holy Communion – this word means fellowship or sharing, and the Eucharist.   This last is the Greek word for thanksgiving, the verbal form of which is used by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 for the thanks given by the Lord in the institution of the Sacrament.   Although a different word, the verb that is usually translated “confess”, is used for giving thanks in Hebrews 13:15, it is not improbable that this verse contributed to the rite replacing the Levitical sacrifices being named “Thanksgiving” from the earliest days (it is so named in the Didache, an early instruction manual in right living, liturgy, and Church structure which was thought lost until rediscovered around the middle of the nineteenth century, and which after the discovery of similar Jewish manuals among the Qumran scrolls has usually been dated to the first century).


Using the word “sacrifice” in the context of discussing the Eucharist sends a certain type of Protestant into hysterical fits.   This is, perhaps, understandable considering the state of the Sacrament in the West on the eve of the Reformation.   Masses were said around the clock, often with no laity present or expected to be present.  When the laity were present they seldom took Communion and when they did receive it was only the host, the cup being withheld from them.   Instead of being encouraged to receive the Sacrament, the people were encouraged to gaze at it in adoration from afar.   The underlying theological problem behind all this was the idea that in the Mass Christ’s Sacrifice was repeated and so each Mass was a sacrifice in itself that was offered up by the priest, and which conferred its benefits regardless of whether the beneficiaries were present or not.  This, at least, is how the Roman late Medieval theology on the matter was understood at the popular level.   To what extent the popular theology reflected the official teaching of the Roman Church at the time is debatable.   St. Thomas Aquinas addressed the question of whether Christ is sacrificed in the Sacrament in Summa Theologiae, Third Part, Question 83, Article 1.   He argues in the affirmative, but his main argument in the Respondeo, an argument that he borrows from St. Augustine, is that just as we point to a picture and say that this is Cicero or Sallust, so we say that the Sacrament, the depiction of Christ’s One Sacrifice, is that Sacrifice, which was an argument that Zwingli could have endorsed.   However, St. Thomas Aquinas represented the Medieval theology of Rome prior to Trent at its best, in its most scholarly form, which differed both from the popular theology and the dogmas coming out of the Roman See.  That people could pay a price to have a Mass said in order to reduce their own temporal debt for sin or knock time off of Purgatory for someone else, suggests that the Patriarch of Rome and his subordinates cannot be wholly absolved of blame for what was going on at the popular level.   The fact that they cleaned up some of the abuses and clarified their official doctrine in the Council of Trent (1545-1563) demonstrates that they recognized this as well, even if they were not willing to publicly admit their wrong doing.   It was to this sort of thinking and the bad practices it produced, that the Reformers reacted.


Or maybe they overreacted.     The abuses described in the previous paragraph were distinctly Roman.    The Eastern Church never withheld the wine from the laity, encouraged them to adore the host from afar rather than receive it, or sold private Masses.   These abuses, therefore, are Roman rather than Catholic.  The Eastern Church did and does, however, regard the Eucharist as a sacrifice.   Since the Church Fathers going back to St. Ignatius, the Patriarch of Antioch who was martyred early in the second century and who had been taught by St. John the Apostle himself, spoke of the Eucharist as a sacrifice, the idea that the Eucharist is a sacrifice is a Catholic one and not merely a Roman one.   The Reformers, therefore, should have been very careful in approaching this, not to condemn what was Catholic along with what was Roman, unless they had solid Scriptural grounds to do so.  Certainly, they were on solid Scriptural ground in objecting to any teaching that suggested that the Eucharist was another sacrifice of the same type as Christ’s One Sacrifice, or that in the Eucharist Christ’s Sacrifice was repeated, or that the Eucharist adds to what Jesus accomplished on the Cross.    These, however, are not Catholic ideas.   They might be Roman or have been Roman at one point in time, but they were never taught by the Eastern Church.   The Eastern Church, however, did and does teach that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice.   How they can teach that and not teach these other things, I will explain momentarily. 


First note that the Reformers, in reacting to Rome, rejected that idea common to the Eastern and Roman Churches, that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice.  They would allow for it being a sacrifice only in the sense of a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.   Calvin’s discussion of this can be found in chapter XVII of the fourth book of his Institutes, the second part of the chapter beginning at section ten being most relevant.   In the tenth section he acknowledges that the ancients spoke of the Eucharist as a sacrifice but says that they meant it merely in the sense of a commemoration of Christ’s Sacrifice.   As his argument proceeds, he acknowledges that there are other sacrifices than the kind that involve death, although he describes those who raise the point as “quarrelsome” and says that he does not see the “rational ground” on which they “extend” the term to these other rites (section thirteen).  Clearly, the kind of argument made at the beginning of this essay that sacrifice, in its essential meaning, is tribute offered to the King of Kings, with the idea of death and blood being external to the essence and a consequence of the Fall, would be lost on Calvin.  Since his mind was shaped by training in law, he should not be too harshly blamed for this.   He argues that as a sacrifice, the Eucharist belongs to a class that includes all duties of charity and piety rather than being unique, (section sixteen), and that in particular it is a sacrifice of praise, prayer, and thanksgiving (section seventeen).   His point in all of this is to so separate the Roman “Mass” from the Lord’s Supper as to make them two different things altogether than the one a corrupted version of the other.    Amusingly, considering his opposition to “superstition”, by this he succeeded in creating a new superstition, the aversion to the very word “Mass” found among certain Protestants who seem to think that all of popery is smuggled in by the use of this word which simply means a service in which the Eucharist is celebrated.


In the Eastern Church, such a service is commonly called the Divine Liturgy.     The Eastern Church, as mentioned, regards the Sacrament celebrated in the Divine Liturgy as a propitiatory sacrifice.   They do not, however, regard it as being another propitiatory sacrifice adding that of Jesus Christ, or a repetition of Christ’s Sacrifice.   This is because they regard it as being the One Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.   The late Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, writing under his pre-monastic name Timothy, explains:


The Eucharist is not a bare commemoration nor an imaginary representation of Christ’s sacrifice, but the true sacrifice itself; yet on the other hand it is not a new sacrifice, nor a repetition of the sacrifice on Calvary, since the Lamb was sacrificed ‘once only, for all time’.  The events of Christ’s sacrifice – the Incarnation, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension – are not repeated in the Eucharist, but they are made present.   ‘During the Liturgy, through its divine power, we are projected to the point where eternity cuts across time, and at this point we become true contemporaries with the events which we commemorate.’ ‘All the holy suppers of the Church are nothing else than one eternal and unique Supper, that of Christ in the Upper Room.  The same divine act both takes place at a specific moment in history, and is offered always in the sacrament.’ (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, 1963, rev. 1993, 2015 edition, pp. 279-280, bold representing italics in original, citations in text from P. Evdokimov, L’Orthodoxie, p. 241 and 208 respectively)


The Eastern Church had to clarify her views on this much earlier than the Roman Church.  One notable example took place about a century after the mutual excommunications of the Patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople in the Schism.   Lukas Chrysoberges, the newly installed Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, was barely in office in 1156 when a controversy arose due to the teaching of Soterichos Panteugenos, who had been chosen for the next Patriarch of Antioch but had not yet been enthroned.   Panteugenos taught that Jesus had offered His Sacrifice only to the Father and not to the entire Holy Trinity.   This was denounced as heretical, and Chrysoberges was asked to preside over the Synod of Blachernae that Emperor Manuel I Komnemnos called to meet in said quarter of Constantinople in 1157 to decide the matter.   The main issue was the one just mentioned but Panteugenos had also taught that the Eucharist was merely a figurative commemoration of Christ’s Sacrifice.   His teachings were condemned and his selection for the See of Antioch was nullified, although he was persuaded to recant.  Most significantly for our purposes here, the Eastern Church declared in the council that the Eucharist was not just a figurative commemoration, but the One Sacrifice of Jesus Christ and to make the identification clear it was emphasized that it was not another sacrifice, not a repeat of the sacrifice, but the One Sacrifice made present in a sacramental fashion.   Having had to clarify her understanding of the Eucharist so soon after breaking fellowship with Rome, she was clear on there being no repetition of or addition to the One Sacrifice  in a way that Rome was not, and so did not go down the same path as Rome.


Although the Eastern understanding excludes the ideas that were most objectionable to the Reformers in the idea of the Eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice, the ideas of adding to or repeating the One Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and was not coupled with the corrupt practices of withholding the wine, encouraging the faithful to gaze from afar rather than receive, charging for private Masses, etc., it likely would not have met with a good reception among the continental Reformers.   Dr. Luther logically ought not to have had any problem with it considering his overall conservatism and especially his strong view of the Real Presence which prevented him from reaching accord with the Swiss Reformers in the Marburg Colloquy of 1529.   It does not make much logical sense to insist on the Real Presence of the Body and Blood in the elements of the Sacrament without accepting the Real Presence of the One Sacrifice in the Sacrament.   Calvin, who already had a low view of the Eastern tradition because of the differences between the Greek Fathers and St. Augustine, and who held a considerably less literal view of the Real Presence than Dr. Luther, would not likely have viewed the Eastern position as much less objectionable than Rome’s.   The real question, however, from the starting point of the primacy and supremacy of Scripture, which both Dr. Luther and Calvin affirmed, is what the Bible teaches concerning the relationship between the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.


Jesus Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross was the One Sacrifice that effectually removed the sin of the world and accomplished salvation.   It was also a Sacrifice that established a Covenant.   In the words of Institution in Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25, Jesus pronounced over the cup of the Eucharist that it was the “new testament” in His blood, i.e., the New Covenant.   Understanding that Christ’s Sacrifice was a Covenant Sacrifice as well as the Sacrifice that accomplished the salvation of the world is essential to understanding what the Lord’s Supper is all about.   Important information about this can be gleaned by looking at the establishment of the Old Covenant.


The Old Covenant was established at Mt. Sinai, where Moses led the Israelites after their flight from Egypt in the book of Exodus.   The formal establishment of the Covenant takes place in the twenty-fourth chapter, where the LORD summons Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel to worship (v. 1), allowing only Moses to come near Him (v. 2), Moses tells the people all the words of the Lord and they promise to keep all of them (v. 3), Moses records everything and rises early in the morning, builds an altar, and erects twelve pillars for the twelve tribes (v. 4), they offer burnt offerings and peace offerings of oxen (v. 5), Moses puts half the blood in basins and sprinkles half on the altar (v. 6), the book of the Covenant is read to the people and they again promise to do all that is contained in it (v. 7) after which Moses sprinkles the people with blood and tells them to behold the blood of the Covenant which the Lord has made with them (v. 8), then all those who had been summoned go up the mountain where they see God and “eat and drink” (vv. 9-11).   In this formal establishment of the Covenant we see a) the sacrifices, i.e., the actual killing of the victims b) the act of sanctification by the sprinkling of the blood, and c) the representatives of the people eating and drinking in the presence of the Other Party to the Covenant, i.e., God.  The first two of these, the killing of the victim on the altar and the sprinkling of the blood, are the key components of sacrifices that are offered on account of sin and which prefigure the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Think especially of the procedure on the Day of Atonement.   The killing on the altar prefigures the death of Christ on the Cross on Calvary, and the sprinkling of whatever needs to be sanctified, such as the Holy of Holies, with the blood prefigures Jesus Christ’s entry into the Heavenly Tabernacle with His Own Blood as High Priest after the order of Melchizedek which is discussed at length in the book of Hebrews.    The part where the parties of the Covenant eat and drink together is the standard conclusion of the making of a Covenant.  It was seen earlier in the Pentateuch in the passage that contains the first use of the principle word for sacrifice where after Jacob and Laban have come to their agreement “Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.” (Gen. 31:54).   Indeed, it is seen even earlier than that where Melchizedek, the priest of Salem alluded to in the references to Jesus Christ as a priest after the order of Melchizedek, brings out bread and wine to Abram and his confederates and to those they just liberated from the eastern confederacy after the rebellion of the cities of the plain in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis.   In this passage, the making of a Covenant is implied by the circumstances, only the final meal is explicitly mentioned.   Note the close resemblance between that meal and a Eucharist.


Having looked at the formal establishment of the Old Covenant we need now to back up in the book of Exodus to look at the event which more than anything else in the Old Testament prefigures Jesus Christ and the redemption He accomplished on the Cross.   God’s deliverance of Israel from literal slavery in Egypt, prefigures His delivering His people of every nation from slavery to sin through Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross.   This is why Christ’s work on the Cross is called “redemption”, a word that literally means purchasing someone out of slavery.   God’s challenge to Pharaoh through Moses culminated in the plague of the firstborn, in which the Angel of Death visited all the firstborn in Egypt, from Pharaoh’s household down,   The Israelites were delivered from this plague in a manner that they would commemorate forever in the Passover.   It was on the anniversary of the Passover that Jesus was crucified.   In Exodus 12, God gave Moses the instructions regarding the Passover.   They were to choose a spotless lamb per household on the tenth of the month.   On the fourteenth of the month, the lamb would be killed before the assembly of the entire congregation of Israel.   This foreshadows the death of Christ on the Cross.  Then they were to take the blood and strike it on the two side posts and the upper post of the main entrance to the house.   This, which incidentally or not requires making a cross shaped motion, foreshadows Christ’s entry into the heavenly Holy of Holies with His blood.   Then, finally, they were to eat the Passover:


And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.  Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. (vv. 8-10)


So covenants were formally established with sacrifices after which there was a shared meal.   The implication that the sacrifice itself became the meal is made explicit in the account of the Passover.   Do I really need to state the obvious by saying that the Lord’s Supper, which was instituted on the occasion of a Passover meal, is to Christ’s One Sacrifice what that meal was to the Passover sacrifice or that Christ’s One Sacrifice being a Covenant Sacrifice, the Lord’s Supper is the Covenant meal?


Now ordinarily Covenant meals were eaten once on the occasion of the establishment of the Covenant.   The Passover meal was repeated in a commemorative way once a year on the anniversary of the original event.   The Lord’s Supper, however, was to be eaten over and over again on a regular basis.   From the account of the first Church in Jerusalem in its early days we learn that at first the Lord’s Supper was celebrated on a daily basis (Acts 2:42, 46).    Note the juxtaposition in the second of these verses of the believers’ continuing in the Temple of the Old Covenant, which was still standing at the time, and their “breaking bread”, i.e., in the Lord’s Supper, in the houses where they met as the Church.   Here the two systems temporarily overlap, but with Christ’s death having accomplished what the old sacrifices of bulls and goats could only point to, the old system was already essentially dead.  What remained for believers was to eat and drink of that One Sacrifice in the manner of which Christ prescribed, through the means of bread and wine.    The Lord’s Supper took the place in the religion of the New Covenant that the sacrifices occupied under the Old Covenant.   It is hardly a coincidence that bread and wine, in addition to being important elements of the Passover meal, were the non-animal offerings required by the Mosaic Law.   There is another reason, however, why the meal in which the Sacrifice of the New Covenant is eaten by the faithful, is to be repeated and far more often than the commemoration of the Passover.


The New Covenant is the Covenant of everlasting life.   Man had lived under the dominion of Death since the Fall.   The Son of God, by becoming Man, living the righteous life as Man that God required, taking the sins of fallen man upon Himself and submitting to Death, defeating Death in the process, smashing the gates of Death’s kingdom Hell, then rising Immortal from the grave and ascending back to the right hand of the Father, obtained everlasting life for us.  It is offered to us freely in Him to be received by faith.    This new life, everlasting life, is like the old physical life in that it begins with a birth and is sustained by food and drink.   Entry into everlasting life is described as a new or spiritual birth by Jesus Christ in His interview with Nicodemus in the third chapter of St. John’s Gospel.   In the sixth chapter of the same Gospel in an extended discourse which takes place in the synagogue of Capernaum on the day after the feeding of the five thousand He describes Himself as the Bread of Life.  In the course of this discourse He talks about how it is God’s will that He, Jesus, preserve all those whom He has been given, believers, in everlasting life.  Therefore, when at the end of the discourse He says that one must eat His Flesh and drink His Blood to have everlasting life, it is apparent that He is talking about the means through which He accomplishes this preservation.   Everlasting life is received in the new birth, and nourished and sustained by the food that is His Flesh and Blood.  In both chapters faith is identified as the means by which we personally appropriate the Grace of everlasting life both as the initial new birth and the sustaining food and drink.   Both chapters also identify the means by which God confers the Grace upon us.   God confers the Grace of the new birth through the Sacrament of Baptism (Jn. 3:5, cf. 1:33), and the Grace of the sustaining of that life through the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, i.e., the Sacrament of the Eucharist.   There is no contradiction between the Sacraments conferring Grace and faith receiving it.   The New Covenant is not between God and each individual believer on a one-on-one basis as the evangelical expression “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” which is found nowhere in the Scriptures would suggest.   The New Covenant is between God and the community of faith established by said Covenant, the Church.     The new life is the life of Jesus Christ Himself and we share in it through union with Him which union also united us with other believers in the New Covenant community that is His Body, the Church.  The Gospel Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are both the external sign and seal of the new birth and the sustaining of the new life with the food and drink of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and the means through which that union is established and God brings these gifts to his people.   This is not a mechanical operation.   Nobody receives the Grace conferred through the Sacraments except through the appointed means of appropriation, which is faith in Jesus Christ.   Since, however, the Sacraments occupy the same spot in the Ordu Salutis as the preaching of the Gospel, the means through which God works as opposed to the means through which we appropriate, they, like preaching, work towards forming and sustaining in the believer, the faith by which the believer receives the Grace.  


Unlike the more fanatical types of Protestants who tended towards schism and separatism, Dr. Luther had a good understanding of this.  John Calvin’s understanding of it was not quite as good as Dr. Luther’s but it was passable.   See his refutation of the idea that the Sacraments are only outer signs in the thirteenth section of chapter XIV of the fourth book of his Institutes and also note that Calvin begins this chapter by saying that the Sacraments are “Akin to the preaching of the gospel”.   It is strange therefore, that they allowed their reaction against the errors and abuses of Rome, to blind their eyes to the obvious reference to the Lord’s Supper in the fifty-first to fifty-eight verses of the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, and in the larger discourse in which they are found.   Calvin wrote of it that “this discourse does not relate to the Lord’s Supper” (Calvin’s Commentary on John 6:53).   Commenting on the words “And I will raise him up at the last day” in the next verse, Calvin compounds his error by saying:


From these words, it plainly appears that the whole of this passage is improperly explained, as applied to the Lord’s Supper. For if it were true that all who present themselves at the holy table of the Lord are made partakers of his flesh and blood, all will, in like manner, obtain life; but we know that there are many who partake of it to their condemnation. And indeed it would have been foolish and unreasonable to discourse about the Lord’s Supper, before he had instituted it. It is certain, then, that he now speaks of the perpetual and ordinary manner of eating the flesh of Christ, which is done by faith only.


This reasoning is entirely specious.   It confuses the means of Grace, that is to say, the intermediate means God has established to bring the Grace obtained by Jesus Christ for sinful man on the Cross to sinful man, with the means assigned to sinful man to appropriate said Grace to himself.   Faith is the only means of appropriating Grace, this is what we mean when we speak of “faith alone”.   The means of Grace in the sense of the means through which God works to bring Grace to people include the preaching of His Word, in both its aspects of Law, which works repentance by opening man’s eyes to his need of Grace, and Gospel which proclaims that Grace, and the Sacraments, of which the Eucharist is one.   Only those who make use of the means of appropriating Grace, faith, actually receive the Grace conferred in either Word or Sacrament.   John Calvin understood how this works, so it is inexcusable that he pretended he did not here.   It is also inexcusable that he argued the Lord’s Supper cannot be referred to here because it would be “foolish and unreasonable” to talk about the Sacrament before instituting it.   This is St. John’s Gospel he was commenting on, a Gospel written by an Evangelist who more than once quotes the Lord as saying something and commenting that nobody understood it until much later (2:22 for example and 12:16).


Lest I be accused of misrepresenting the Reformer, he does go on immediately after what I just quoted to say:


And yet, at the same time, I acknowledge that there is nothing said here that is not figuratively represented, and actually bestowed on believers, in the Lord’s Supper; and Christ even intended that the holy Supper should be, as it were, a seal and confirmation of this sermon.


If it is “actually bestowed on believers” in the Lord’s Supper, as Calvin here affirms, there is no good reason for him to think the passage does not make reference to the Lord’s Supper.    Since Sacraments don’t work mechanically and Grace is not received apart from faith it is quite silly not to see the Lord’s Supper in these verses.   If the Lord’s Supper were not intended and reception of the Lord by faith was all that was being discussed here, then why after talking for quite some time about His being the true Bread of Life, does Jesus all of a sudden introduce the idea of drinking His blood?   What Calvin thinks is being stated in this passage without direct reference to the Lord’s Supper, would have been conveyed without the reference to drinking His blood.   That the Lord would needlessly complicate a metaphor in such a way as to make it sound like He is talking about the Sacrament He would later establish without actually talking about it is a truly incredible interpretation.


So the Scriptures teach that the Lord’s Supper is a) the meal in which the Sacrifice establishing the New Covenant is eaten and b) the Sacramental means by which the new life is sustained by the spiritual food of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.   This harmonizes very well with the understanding that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, even a propitiatory one, but not in its own right, not by repeating or adding to what Jesus Christ did, but because the One Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the only Sacrifice that is truly propitiatory,  is Sacramentally present in it.     Since this view harmonizes with the Scriptures, we have good cause to call it the true Catholic understanding, passed down from the Patristic era, preserved fairly well in the Eastern tradition, and distorted, although not necessarily obliterated, in the Roman tradition after the Schism.   


While our Articles of Religion cannot be said to enthusiastically embrace this view, neither do they disallow it.  Our English Reformers were generally more conservative than any of the continental Reformers and it shows here too.   Articles XXVIII to XXXI treat of the Lord’s Supper and the various controversies pertaining to it in the Reformation.   We will not dwell on Article XXIX which reiterates the assertion in Article XXVIII that faith is the means of receiving Christ in the Sacrament by declaring the necessary flipside to that that the wicked do not receive Christ and Article XXX prohibits the withholding of the cup, with no exception for when a pandemic is underway.   Article XXXI is most relevant to our discussion here.   It reads:


The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.


The “Wherefore” which starts the second sentence in this ties the condemnation of “the sacrifices of Masses” as “blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits” to what was said in the previous sentence.   Any idea of a Mass as a sacrifice that in its own right does what the Offering of Christ did, repeats it or adds to it in any way, deserves such condemnation.   The idea that that the Eucharist is a sacrifice because that One Offering of Christ is Sacramentally present in it is not condemned in these words.


Which brings us to the subject of the Real Presence that is treated earlier under Article XXVIII.   It affirms the Sacramental nature of the Lord’s Supper and the Real Presence right at the beginning:


The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.


It then addresses the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation.   Transubstantiation is not the same thing as the Real Presence.   The Real Presence was affirmed everywhere in the Church from the Patristic era to the Reformation and is truly Catholic rather than merely Roman.   Transubstantiation is a late Roman doctrine.   It is how Rome attempted to explain the Real Presence.   At this point it is worth noting that one of the big differences between the Western and Eastern traditions is that the Eastern tradition is far more comfortable in leaving things as mysteries without a rational or scientific explanation for them than ours is.  This is something for which the East is right to criticize us.   Some things should be left as mysteries.   This is one of them.   Rome, not content to leave the Real Presence unexplained, came up with Transubstantiation, the idea that in the consecration of the Eucharist the bread and wine go away, leaving only their appearances behind, and are replaced by the Body and Blood.   The Reformers, rejecting this explanation, repeated the basic mistake of the Romanists of seeking to explain what did not need to be explained.   Dr. Luther, the strongest defender of the Real Presence among the Reformers, came up with an explanation that pressed to its logical conclusion means that Jesus is present in the bread and wine – and in the altar, the pew, the walls of the Church building, and the tree on the front lawn – with the only thing special about the bread and wine being that in the Eucharist attention is drawn to the Presence.   Zwingli, who saw the Sacrament as being merely a figurative commemoration, argued that Jesus is spiritually present.   That Jesus is spiritually present is true, of course, but it is rather strange to maintain that this is what Jesus meant when He said “this is My Body”.   John Calvin, who saw the Sacrament as being more than a figurative commemoration, but held a view of the Real Presence that only he could distinguish from Zwingli’s, came up with arguments against Dr. Luther’s understanding that pressed to their logical conclusion amount to gross heresy.   While Jesus as God is omnipresent, he argued, His physical body can only be present in one place at a time, and is in Heaven.   Therefore it cannot be present in the Sacrament.   This reasoning overlooks the fact that Heaven, in this sense of the word, is outside of space and time, which are dimensions of Creation.   There might be something in God’s eternal presence outside of Creation that corresponds to them, but the point is that Heaven is not a “place” in the sense it would have to be for Calvin’s reasoning to work.   It also tends to Nestorianism, by dividing Jesus’ deity from His humanity, as Dr. Luther did not hesitate to point out.   In each of these explanations, Rome’s mistake of not being willing to let a mystery be a mystery, a far more fundamental mistake than Transubstantiation itself, was repeated.  


Of Transubstantiation our Article goes on to say:


Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.



The statement that it “overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament” is an allusion to St. Augustine’s explanation of the Sacraments.   St. Augustine said that a Sacrament was an “outward and visible sign of an internal and invisible Grace”.   These two components, the outward sign and the inward Grace, were necessary for there to be a Sacrament, which both signified the inner Grace and effectively conveyed it to the recipient.   The combination was accomplished by adding the Word to a physical element turning the latter into a “visible Word” and a conduit of Grace.   Transubstantiation overthrows by eliminating, through explaining away, the physical elements, the bread and wine.    The error in Transubstantiation is not that it affirms the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, but that in trying to explain the Real Presence it teaches the Real Absence of the bread and wine.  In 1 Corinthians 11, St. Paul, after giving an account of the Institution of the Eucharist, (vv. 23-25), speaks of the consecrated elements both as “bread” and “the cup” (v. 26-28) and “the body and blood of the Lord” (v. 27) The orthodox position is to affirm that the elements are both at the same time.  The bread and wine do not cease to be bread and wine when they become the Body and Blood of Christ.   There is no need to explain this with some clever philosophical theory about the substance being switched out under cover the accidents or to postulate there being two substances or some such thing.   The bread is the Body.   The only explanation given and the only explanation necessary is because the Word through which the world was spoken into existence declared it be so.  


When the Article goes on to affirm that the Body of Christ is “given, taken, and eaten…only after an heavenly and spiritual manner” this should be understood as the brilliant non-explanation that it is.   The adverbs that suggest a Calvinist or even Zwinglian understanding are removed from the Body one degree and applied only to the manner.   This allows for more wiggle room in interpretation, which was Archbishop Parker’s purpose for putting this in when he revised Archbishop Cranmer’s version of the Article into its final form.   This was done to avoid committing the Anglican Church to either side in the increasingly contentious debate between the German and Swiss sides of the Reformation.   While this could be seen as a political decision it was also providential in that it prevented the Anglican Church from either throwing the baby of the Real Presence out with the bathwater of Transubstantiation or adopting a rationalist explanation of what is best left a mystery.


This also providentially prevented our Church from repudiating the Catholic view that Christ’s One True Sacrifice is Sacramentally present in the Eucharist in our repudiation of Rome’s twisted version of this for, as much as the Lutherans and Calvinists deny it, the presence of Christ’s Sacrifice in the Sacrament necessarily follows from the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament, for the broken Body and shed Blood of Christ are the Sacrifice.   We have not gone out of our way to openly declare this Catholic view, mind you.   But then we have not shied away from the word “Sacrifice” in reference to the Lord’s Supper either, albeit in language that would have been acceptable to John Calvin.   We included the Prayer of Oblation in every edition of the Book of Common Prayer, albeit in different places (end of Prayer of Consecration in the 1549 original and American editions, after Communion in 1552 and all subsequent Church of England editions, part in the one place and part in the other in the Canadian edition), which speaks of our “sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving” and offering “ourselves, our souls, and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice”.   The Book of Common Prayer, which traditionally has been even more definitive of Anglicanism than the Articles of Religion (which are printed in it), includes stronger affirmations of the Real Presence than that which appears in Article XVIII, including when immediately prior to the Words of Institution the priest prays that “Hear us, O merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee; and grant that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood” and when in the Prayer of Humble Access we ask “Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, So to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, And to drink his Blood, That our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, And our souls washed through his most precious Blood.”   In the BCP Catechism, furthermore, the Answer to what the inner Grace of the Lord’s Supper is reads “The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper”.   In the Prayer Book, therefore, we have preserved a stronger affirmation of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood, which necessarily brings the Catholic view of the Real Presence of the One Sacrifice in the Sacrament along with it, which is good, because this view affirms the Biblical image of the Lord’s Supper as the meal in which the Sacrifice of the New Covenant is eaten, nourishing and sustaining the faithful in the new and everlasting life of Jesus Christ.