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Some misrepresentation and confusion: Lutherans and Consubstantiation

 

 Undestanding the Lord's SupperJust recently in a Sunday morning Bible class, the question was raised about the doctrine of consubstantiation.  Distinct from transubstantiation, which is the Roman Catholic teaching that the bread and the wine “turn into” Christ’s body and blood, the teaching of consubstantiation is often understood to be the Lutheran position by both Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike.  But is this claim correct?  A brief survey of non-Lutheran material shows that many indeed assume that the Lutheran teaching is, in fact, consubstantiation.  Moreover, even Lutherans themselves will sometimes claim this doctrine as their own.  However, other Lutherans confess differently, and not least of all, Dr. Luther and the reformers themselves.  To attempt to clarify the matter, I will briefly try to distinguish between what consubstantiation is from what it isn’t using various sources.  In doing so, I will show that not all who use the term (even Lutherans) are always consistent.  Because of this inconsistency, misrepresentation abounds and confusion remains.  Following this brief survey, I will speak about the importance of such distinctions and the significance of the Lutheran doctrine and her confession.

Right meaning, wrong word

In his Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine, H. Wayne House clearly characterizes the Lutheran position as that of consubstantiation.[1]  He indicates that Luther was the “founder” of this position, and that the major documents from which this teaching is derived are the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Smaller Catechism.[2]  Interestingly, though, House correctly notes that, concerning the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, “The elements do not change into the presence of Christ,” (as in the Roman Catholic teaching) “but he is actually present in, with, and under the elements” (of bread and wine).[3]

Part of this latter “formula” does come directly from Luther’s Small Catechism, where Luther answers the question “What is the Sacrament of the Altar?” with the words, “It is theAnyQuestions-3 true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.”  House is correct in attributing the teaching of Christ’s (“Real”) presence to the Lutheran position.  However, according to others, such a position is not what consubstantiation is.

Rose Publishing, Inc., like House in his Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine, also misrepresents the Lutheran teaching by claiming that it is consubstantiation.  Here is how Rose Publishing describes the teaching of the Lutheran Church, “The Lord’s Supper remains truly bread and wine but also become truly Jesus’ body and blood.”[4]  Rose Publishing calls this teaching consubstantiation.

Thus far, both House and Rose Publishing correctly define the Lutheran position on the Lord’s Supper, but they do so by calling that position consubstantiation.  Likewise, on the back cover of the book, Understanding Four Views on The Lord’s Supper, the Lutheran view is understood to be the same.[5]

For anyone interested in correctly understanding the Lord’s Supper and it’s accompanying terminology, its easy to see how, just from the few examples above, confusion might exist, even among Lutherans.  The term used to describe the teaching of the Lutherans (i.e. consubstantiation) and the actual teaching of the Lutherans are not identical.

Consubstantiation and the actual teaching of the Lutheran Church

According to Dr. Scaer, consubstantiation “etymologically means ‘one substance by the side of another.’”[6]  Lutherans do not teach a “side by side” locale of bread and wine and Christ’s body and blood.  Rather, Lutherans teach what is called the “sacramental union,” which is the “Union of bread and body, wine and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.”[7]  The elements of the Lord’s Table are not side by side.  Instead, Lutherans believe that the recipients of the Lord’s Supper truly receive Christ’s body and Christ’s blood.  Recipients also eat and drink bread and wine.  This includes not only those who believe that they receive Christ’s body and blood “in, with, and under” the bread and the wine, but also those who don’t believe it (See 1 Corinthians 11:27, 29).

Lenker defines consubstantiation this way, “View, falsely charged to Lutheranism, that bread and body form 1 substance (a ‘3rd substance) in Communion (similarly wine and blood) or that body and blood are present, like bread and wine, in a natural manner.”[8]

YesLutherans do not confess that a “3rd substance” exists.  Nowhere does Christ Himself say this in the institution of this sacred meal (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).  Lutherans do confess, however, that in the Lord’s Supper, bread and wine and Christ’s body and blood are received.  Neither do Lutherans teach that Christ’s body and blood are present in a “natural manner,” but in a supernatural one, according to Christ’s Word and promise.  Yet, Lutherans neither mis-spiritualize the sacrament or claim that bread and the wine only symbolize and represent Christ’s body and blood (both teachings are not according to the very words of Christ, to which we are bound).  Lutherans simply teach that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper according to His Word, “Real Presence,” that He gives His own body and blood for us to eat and to drink, that we eat bread and drink wine as He instituted, and that by this means of grace (of the Lord’s Supper), Christ forgives sins and gives eternal life, “for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also eternal life.”

Formula of Concord, Epitome, VII, “The Holy Supper of Christ”: 15 6. We believe, teach, and confess that with the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ are received not only spiritually, by faith, but also orally — however, not in a Capernaitic manner, but because of the sacramental union in a supernatural and heavenly manner. The words of Christ teach this clearly when they direct us to take, eat, and drink, all of which took place in the case of the apostles, since it is written, “And they all drank of it” (Mark 14:23). Likewise, St. Paul says, “The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16) — that is, whoever eats this bread eats the body of Christ. This has also been the unanimous teaching of the leading Church Fathers, such as Chrysostom, Cyprian, Leo I, Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine.[9]

Why the big deal?

Such distinctions may sound confusing, and not least of all due to the confusion that alreadGod'sWordMatterswy exists with many a teaching from one church body or denomination to another.  If we all used the same words in the same way, and correctly attributed this and that word with the identical meaning, things would be different.  But regrettably, we do not.  Misrepresentations abound, as do assumptions and presuppositions, which may or may not be accurate.  People often speak past each other for these very reasons.  It is no different in the church.  Yet in the church, one shift in meaning or usage of a word and its meaning can do a great deal of damage (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).  And if the right teaching is just a bit altered, salvation can be lost.

The teaching of consubstantiation is a term that is often used, but more greatly misunderstood and misapplied.  NonLutherans attribute Lutherans as holding this teaching.  Yet, Lutherans themselves, for the most part, do not claim this teaching as their own, at least as I am aware.  Either way, it is important to try to understand how a word is used and its meaning.  Especially when it comes to the Lord’s Word, which alone gives the true doctrine, is this necessary.  To not do so is not only not careful, it is not “rightly handing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  Instead, it is adding to or subtracting from what the Lord has given (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6).


[1] H. Wayne House, Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 124-125.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.,, 125.

[4] Rose Books of Bible Charts, Maps & Time Lines, “Denominations Comparison” (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, Inc., 2005), 173.

[5] John H. Armstrong (gen. ed.), Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan , 2007).

[6] Ibid., 87.

[7] Erwin L. Lenker, Lutheran Cyclopedia (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1975, rev.), 691.

[8] Ibid., 198.

[9] Theodore G. Tappert, The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959.

 

 

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God and Lying

In a recent, “Answers to Your Questions” section of the Time of Grace Magazine (Spring 2012, p6-7), Pastor Jeske of Time of Grace addresses the question, “Does God condone lies?”

Inclusive of Jeske’s response was a reference to the Israelite midwives who saved the baby boys he had ordered to be murdered (see Exodus 1:15-21).  Jeske states that the Jewish midwives had “lied about why they hadn’t been able to kill” the boys (Exodus 1:18-20).

However, the text doesn’t explicitly indicate that the women had lied at all.  Here’s what the text actually says, along with Pharaoh’s question following his command to kill the male born babies”

“So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?’  And the midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them’” (Exodus 1:18-19, NKJ).

The presumption that the midwives were lying in their answer to Pharaoh has no immediate merit from the text.  And the text itself does not indicate that they had in fact lied.  Therefore, the reference to the lying of the midwives in the Exodus text has little to do with the question of lying.

Of importance in addressing the question of lying, however, is the reference that “the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:17).  Because they feared God, the midwives did not murder those whom Pharaoh ordered to murder.  They were willing to risk “their own lives to save those babies” (7).

In fearing God as they had, the midwives would not have needed to lie to Pharaoh.  And because they feared God, God blessed them (“dealt well with them,” Exodus 1:20), and not because they saved the lives of the baby boys, as Jeske seems to suggest (see below).

Also inclusive of Jeske’s response to the question about whether God condones lies was a reference to the same Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was involved in a plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

The questioner noted that Bonhoeffer had lied to the SS about knowing the location of certain Jews, though he had known.  The questioner also noted that “Bonhoeffer later remarked that it would have been immoral and evil for him to have told the ‘truth’ in that situation.”  The questioner then puts forth the question, “Under certain circumstances, does God condone lies?” (6)

In response to this question, Jeske begins rightly by giving references to Holy Scripture (i.e. Exodus 20:16; Colossians 3:9; Proverbs 12:22).  He gives examples of even David and Abraham who had lied.

Jeske, then, however, gives the irrelevant example of the midwives (see above) and references Bonhoeffer, praising both.  “I commend the midwives and Bonhoeffer.  They were confronted with moral dilemmas and chose to save lives rather than collaborate in murder.”  Jeske continues and writes, “I’m sure their lies were understood and overlooked by God because their actions brought about a greater good” (7).

I won’t argue that a moral dilemma had not confronted both the midwives and Bonhoeffer.  They had “choices” to make.  As God-fearers, the midwives did as they were given to do, to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).  Also, Bonhoeffer did well in saving those Jews.

Jeske suggests that God understands and overlooks lies on the basis of the greater good that results on account of those lies.  Where are the Bible passages to support such a view?  They are in fact non-existent.

Answering the question about lying on the basis of any “greater benefits” that may follow weakens God’s command against lying and deceiving.   What Jeske is doing is replacing God’s law with human opinion.  Instead of speaking truthfully about God’s prohibition of lying, Jeske is opening the door for human explanations and excuses to support the act of lying as dependent on the circumstance, contrary to God’s Word.  By doing this, Jeske also closes the door to the sweet Gospel, which is reserved for those who have no excuses for their sin, but who only seek the mercy of our gracious God.

In this article, Jeske minimizes sin.  And in minimizing sin, Jeske minimizes the need for forgiveness.  In saying that God understands and overlooks the sin of lying, Jeske almost suggests that God accepts lying, dependent on the results.  Yet the Word of the Lord indicates that God does not accept lying at all.  Lying is sin.  Rather than make explanations or excuses for the sin of lying or any sin, repentance is in order.

Rather than say what is not truthful about how God sees sin, Christians are to confess Christ.  This means speaking the truth about what God says concerning the Law and sin.  It also means speaking the truth about what God says concerning God’s unmerited Grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Because Jeske fails to clearly articulate the Law in answering the question about lying, so he also fails to even speak at all about the forgiveness of sins, the very forgiveness needed by all.

“Under certain circumstances, does God condone lies?” The Biblical answer is a sound, “NO.”  Lies are sin.  One could also ask a related question, “Under certain circumstances, does God condone sin?”  Again, the Biblical answer is a sound, “NO.”

As much as we might want to be out from under the unconditional law of God, which allows for no explanations or excuses, we cannot.  As long as we continue attempting explanations and excuses for our behaviors and actions, even if we should be seeking the “greater good,” we are avoiding the weight of God’s law and His Holy Word.  And in such a state, we don’t have God’s forgiveness, for we only demonstrate an unrepentant heart.

A repentant heart, on the other hand, is one that accepts God’s Holy Law full force, and, having nowhere at all to turn, seeks only God’s mercy in Christ Jesus.  And there, in Christ, the repentant sinner walks by faith, wholly certain of having peace with God.

God does not condone lies, even under certain circumstances.  But God does indeed forgive sin, on account of Jesus Christ.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

Questions about the Christian Church and faith

From November 2010-November 2011, these questions and answers were published in an “Ask the Expert” section of the “The Shopping News”. The 12 questions contained herein include: what to look for in a church, the Holy Bible, Tolerance, Salvation, and the Sacraments. Answers were limited to around 100 words, so they are not at all exhaustive. I hope to expand on these in time.

AskTheExpert-ShoppingNews, 2010-2011.pdf

Are all Lutherans the same?

 

 

No.  Not all Lutherans are the same for not all Lutherans teach or practice according to what God says in His Holy Word, the Bible.

The three largest Lutheran Church bodies in North America are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA, www.elca.org), the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS, www.lcms.org), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod (WELS, www.wels.net).  Visit their respective Question/Answer pages and you will find a great deal of difference between ELCA and the other two.

ELCA fundamentally has a different understanding of the Gospel, Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and the Sacraments than do the others.  If the definitions or explanations given by ELCA sound similar, it is only because they use similar words, but with entirely different meanings (meanings and usage which are foreign to Holy Scripture).  In practice, these differences clearly show themselves (i.e. the ordination of unrepentant homosexuals and of women, contrary to the Lord’s mandate; the toleration and acceptance of behavior contrary to God’s will; fellowship with “Christian” church bodies that teach doctrines contrary to God’s Word [open communion];  worship nonChristians [i.e. Jews, muslims, etc.], and not least of all, preaching which is devoid of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life through faith in Jesus [the preaching that unrepentant (nonbelieving) sinners are saved is ever increasing].

By far, the doctrine and practices of the ELCA are quite distinct from LCMS and WELS.  However, between the latter two, noticeable differences do exist.

LCMS permits women to vote in congregational assemblies.  WELS does not.  LCMS permits its young people (and even encourages in some cases) to join boy/girl scouts.  WELS encourages it young people to participate in a WELS group somewhat similar to the scouts.  LCMS has military chaplains.  WELS has civilian chaplains, but no military chaplains.  Also, LCMS and the WELS have a different teaching of The Office of the Ministry and its relation to the priesthood of all believers (however, in practice, differences are not so readily recognizable due to the fact that the LCMS seminaries and colleges in the Concordia University system of the LCMS do not consistently teach similarly, nor are pastors and laypeople always so clear on the distinctives).

LCMS and WELS both accept the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) to be God’s Word (and without error) and the only “rule and norm for faith and life.”  Both also subscribe unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions.  The ELCA does not accept either the Bible or the Lutherans Confessions as the LCMS and WELS do (if the ELCA does in word, then certainly not in practice).

Both LCMS and WELS also clearly teach Christ and Him crucified as the only means of salvation (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:5).  The ELCA is not clear on the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ and fails to distinguish between what is sin before God and what is not.

There will be exceptions to the above comparisons.  ELCA pastors and congregations who seek to be more faithful to the Bible than their church body as a whole do exist.  In the same way, LCMS and WELS pastors and congregations exist who do not teach and practice according Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions (i.e. using worship practices and innovations that are foreign to biblical doctrine).

Simply because someone says that they are a member of an ELCA, LCMS, WELS, or other Lutheran Congregation does not immediately mean that they are genuinely Lutheran.  Nor does the word Lutheran attached to the name of a church body immediately indicate that the church body is genuinely Lutheran.  Only by discerning according to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions is one able to make such a judgment.

What does the Bible teach about love and tolerance?

 The Bible teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son” (1 John 4:10; see also John 3:16; Romans 4:7-8; 5:8). God’s love extends to everyone, yet God’s love is not to be equated with tolerance as popularly defined today (i.e. acceptance of idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, false doctrine, etc.) God does indeed condemn all sin, but there is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 1:3-5), for Jesus came to save sinners by means of His death on the cross. Sinners who love the Lord seek to please God and not the world (Galatians 1:10; Colossians 3:22; 1 John 2:15; see John 14:21-24).

Prayer

I’ve been praying for something for quite some time now, but it doesn’t seem that God hears me. How do I know when to stop praying?

2004 ATP.Prayer.pdf

“1 Timothy 3:2 and Women’s Ordination”

Does 1 Timothy 3:2 support women’s ordination, only declaring that it is not permissible for a bishop (Pastor) to have more than spouse, while not distinguishing between a male/female pastorate?

2006ATP.1 Timothy 3.2, rev.pdf

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