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Insight into Calvinist Thinking on the Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper

January 12th, 2006
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I found the quote that follows these remarks to be a helpful insight into Calvinist thinking on the Lord’s Supper. My quick response to their "how" question about our Lord’s human nature is simply this…how was it possible for the Risen Lord to suddenly "appear in the midst of them" among His disciples on Easter? What was  His human nature doing after the Resurrection? Was it omnipresent with Him? Or was Jesus hiding out until the Ascension? How did His human nature ascend? Or what about the Transfiguration? It seems that was a pretty amazing event for His human nature, a foretaste of what was to come during His glorification? How is God able to create everything out of nothing? How is a Virgin able to conceive? How is that some are saved, and not others? So man "how" questions! Finally, how is it that Christ fills all things, and yet, not, apparently, according to the Calvinists with also His human nature, which is forever joined to the divine nature, see Eph. 4.

A desire to provide a "logical" explanation to these "how" questions is really Calvinism’s downfall. Again, you notice how the "system" is all important for Calvinism. Whatever doesn’t square with it is out.  There is a reason old John Calvin said, "The finite is incapable of the infinite" and by saying that he thereby effectively, if they are going to be consistent, excludes the Incarnation to begin with!

My "exegetical warrant" for the Lutheran confession of the Supper, is, and remains the words that ever stand sure. The words of our dear Lord Christ, "This is my body."

Link: Triablogue. Here is the quote. By the way, I let them know I’m not a "Dr." but it is a nice thought. I informed them that I’m waiting for a honorary doctorate, the only really Christian one, received by grace alone, apart from any works:

Can Dr. McCain construct an explanation regarding how exactly the human nature of Christ is present “with, under the bread and wine” of the Lord’s Supper and still be His human nature and fully human? After the Resurrection Christ is depicted as being glorified, able to appear and reappear mysteriously, have an incorruptible body, etc., but there is still continuity with the original body. “Illocality” is not depicted of Him in Scripture. When He is present in the room in His incarnate, resurrected body, He is truly bodily present. Nobody orthodox has ever disputed the notion He is always present in His divinity anyway.

One would have to divinize the human nature in order for his assertion about the elements to be valid. Glorfication is not “divinization.” That is classic Apollinarianism and Monophysitism and Greek piety, not Scripture speaking.

Where does Scripture affirm that Christ’s human nature is present in such a manner? To say that Christ’s humanity is present in the elements divinizes His human nature and further restricts it to the elements at the Lord’s Table, so His humanity shares ubiquity with His divinity with respect to the elements at the Table, yet omnipresence (ubiquity) means God (in all 3 Persons) is present everywhere. Think about that for a moment. How can His human nature be in two places at once, specifically in the elements injested at the Lord’s Table, and Christ be fully human? Approaching this from the other direction, how can His human nature share in the divine ubiquity, which means God is everywhere, and be localized only in the bread and wine? You have to create a special category of ubiquity for Christ’s humanity and the communication of attributes in order to accomodate such a view. I’m sorry Dr. McCain, but you need an exegetical warrant for that.

Lutheran theology tries to get around this by saying His human nature is “illocal” in the Eucharist. The problem is this: It’s not really illocal in this view, it is clearly localized in the elements and in heaven; that’s two specific places at a single time, a fly trapped in amber across two levels of existence. Thus, not only is Christ with respect to His human nature in heaven, He is present on earth in the elements in time when the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. That makes his human nature subject to time as well as spatial constraints on earth as well as heaven. That’s one reason why Calvin rejected the notion of ubiquity of Christ’s body in the elements; it involves too many equivocations on the nature of time and space and what and does and does not constitute localization that necessitate extra-biblical ideas and doesn’t appear to be supportable from Scripture. Calvin stakes out a position between that of Luther and Zwingli.

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Categories: Calvinism
  1. Mike
    November 20th, 2006 at 16:25 | #1

    I will attempt to summarize this whole Calvinist response for everyone:
    “Silly Dr McCain, allow us tell you what God can and cannot do.”
    So… in order for an item to be miraculous, that item, in itself, must be divine? So, mundane things cannot be the product of miracles of multiple quantity and/or location? In order for Christ’s body to be distributed, His human nature must be divinized? Where is THAT in Scripture? I wonder if they deny the following miracles based on similar logic to what they just made up:
    How can ordinary water become wine and still remain ordinary wine without divinizing the water?
    How can jars be poured out and still be full of oil without divinizing the oil?
    How can bread and fish be distributed to 5,000 people and then, after it is collected, there is more than what was started with? Is that ordinary bread and fish or divinized bread and fish? How can a couple pieces of bread and a few fish be localized in the baskets and distributed in the crowd at the same time?
    I hate to start another “Casper” thread on some Calvin blog, but here it goes: When Jesus fed the 5,000, what was the metaphysical nature of the extra fish? Was that the same finite fish in multiple places at one time in the universe? Was that a few infinite fish that had been temporarily localized to a couple fish in a basket prior to the miracle and then allowed to adopt their infinite nature to wow the crowds? Maybe, the extras were all finite fish that were spontaniously created for the purposes of the miracle…. in which case the question becomes: Where did Jesus get the finite fish that He added? Did Jesus make these extra finite fish from thin air or where they instantly gathered from preexisting finite fish in the oceans of the world? If that is what happened, did only the divine nature of Jesus collect/create the finite fish or was Jesus’ human nature elevated to the divine to accomplish this feat? Tell us, how did Jesus, the Great Magician, pull that trick off?
    Wow… these Calvinists have it all figured out. Clearly, their human understanding is way beyond mine because I just figured I would leave all these “how” questions up to God and take Him at His word (again with that “This is My body” quote.)
    I was foolish enough to figure that since God wrote the laws that govern the universe, HE controls what can and cannot be done… not us and not our reason.
    If they can answer these kinds of philisophical questions using only their mortal intelect, I probably should have asked them to define eternity for me before I wrote them off.
    I used to think that Calvinists put words in Christ’s mouth by saying:
    “This is [something like] My body.”
    Now… well is it more like:
    “This is [something like only the spiritual half of] My body.”
    Call me lazy or simple-minded, but I prefer to just take God at His word.

  2. Lindsey
    June 23rd, 2009 at 11:13 | #2

    It sounds like they’re trying too hard to appeal to reason and human comprehension. But what if the Lord’s Supper can’t be rationally comprehended just like the Trinity and the fact that we will live forever with Christ? When you try to think about those concepts it boggles the mind, because we (as imperfect, sinful humans) CANNOT fathom all of the mysteries of God. This is where I believe childlike faith comes in. Why can’t all Christians just take Jesus at face value when he says “This is my body. This is my blood”? Sure, your human mind cannot comprehend it but our Savior is not limited by what we can rationally understand and comprehend.

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