Eucharistic Words of Jesus

This is a post from an older blog, but I thought it deserved to be made more accessible here.  Some of my juvenile antics are present in this one, but oh well…

Joachim Jeremias, in his The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, has done us all a great favor by rigorously examining the various phrases recorded in the Last Supper passages. He also has a special section on Paul’s retelling of the Last Supper in 1 Cor. 11.

He notes that scholarship has produced very little contextual explanation for the use of the Greek phrase eis mnemen (in remembrance). This has lead some to suppose that Paul is either inventing the phrase’s occurence at the Last Supper or is drawing from an independent source that the gospel writers did not have. Many have simply rejected that the phrase comes from Jesus. The scholars cannot find this phrase in Hellenistic literature in any setting that helps to explain Paul’s usage.

Jeremias though tries another option. He looks to the Old Testament. It is frankly amazing just how opposed to the Old Testament modern biblical scholarship was/is. Whereas from a literary standpoint it would seem the obvious place to start, Bible scholars almost always leave it as a last option. Thankfully Jeremias gets it right.

He whips out his Septuagint (always a good thing to use), and voila! There are all sorts of great mnemoi! Jeremias finds that the cereal offering of Lev. 2.2 is a memorial. The frankincense with the shewbread (Lev. 24.7) is a memorial. The trumpet-blasts (Num. 10.10), the stones in Aaron’s breastplate (Ex. 28.12,29;39.7), and even prayers are memorials (Acts 10.4 New Testament! wow!).

Jeremias writes, “The reader who will take the trouble to check the references to Old Testament and Jewish remembrance formulae gathered together on pp. 244-246 from the viewpoint as to whether they are concerned with human or divine remembrance will see at once that for the most part they speak of God’s remembrance” (pg. 248).

Jeremias concludes that another important aspect of “memorial” is that it is something brought before God. Like prayers, offerings, and sacrifices, memorials are brought before God with the intention “to induce God to act” (pg. 249).

Building off 1 Cor. 11.26, Jeremias also notes that there is an eschatological aspect to memorializing the Lord’s death. He writes, “Consequently the command for repetition may be understood as: ‘This do, that God may remember me’: God remembers the Messiah in that he causes the kingdom to break in by the parousia” (pg. 252).

This makes good sense if we consider that John’s Revelation is a book about Lord’s Day worship and also that when we have the Lord’s Supper, Jesus comes to judge and recreate. The Eucharist is a memorial that we bring before God with the intention that He will remember Jesus Christ’s work. We ask that He will remember its past accomplishment and its future promise. Come Lord Jesus. And He does.


Theocratic Corpus Christianum

It seems to me that much of modern Presbyterianism shares (unintentionally to be sure) significant parts of a Roman Catholic definition of the Church.  The Presbytery is considered a church, and the minister is not a member of his local congregation.  Furthermore, they forbid lay baptisms, and some even argue for an apostolic succession of elders.

This same problem is seen clearly in discussions on politics, as well as discussions on “the Spirituality of the Church.”  The Christian Reconstructionists, who thought they were “integrating” the spheres of Church and State, still bought into the basic presuppositions of the problem: that “Church” equals Visible Church stuff and that “State” equals something that begins outside of Church in need of influence by Church.  Thus their Christian state left us with a monarch, president, or voting committee who was subservient to the ministers.  The other side of the coin, the neo-Two Kingdoms doctrine, coming out of California (where nothing good ever comes! jk 😉 ), also fails, as it buys into the theory that there is even such a thing as a non-religious secular and that this thing is essentially just peachy. God, according to their view, is really only concerned with the visible church on Sunday morning.

What we need in order to avoid both pitfalls is to be able to preserve a notion of secular space, as in civil and “natural” or “created order,” while at the same time insisting that it is not in the least existing independently of God’s grace.  This doesn’t mean that the secular is dominated by the sacred, nor even by our notions of Church stuff.  Indeed a good old fashioned doctrine of “the priesthood of all believers,” vocation and all, should help us along the way.  In other words, our own Protestant history is our best friend.

Paul Avis explains the Reformer’s position like this:

It is essential not to think anachronistically of the Church’s dependence on the magisterial structure of society in the sixteenth century.  For one thing, the Reformers are not adumbrating a theory of the state at all (least of all, of the modern secular state): theirs is a view of society, not of the state; of Church government, not of political theory.  The background is the theocratic corpus Christianum of the medieval synthesis of Church and commonwealth.  The theory of the godly prince was not what it may appear to us to have been– an appeal from Chruch to state in what was essentially a religious matter.  It was an appeal from one officer to another within a single society, the Christian commonwealth.

~ The Church in the Theology of the Reformers pg. 132

Avis goes on to explain:

For the Reformers, these represented two aspects of one social entity.  In no school of sixteenth-century thought- except for some varieties of anabaptism- were Church and commonwealth actually opposed: they were distinguished but not divided.

pg. 138

The Reformers could say that the King was a legitimate minister of God, because they did not believe in a special priestly caste and because they believed in common grace, or perhaps better, they believed in the continuing integrity of creation.  The King was a true minister and if a believer, a true priest because of the universal priesthood of all believers.

In the case of a Christian King, the society simply had a believer-priest in a position of great practical benefit.  He could make sure that order was carried out.  In the case of someone like King James, he could also make sure that the professional theologians were kept tethered to the real world, where certain particular debates should take the back seat for the good of the country, which would then also be for the good of the Church.

We could summarize the distinction of duties by saying that the state protected the true religion and the Church distributed that religion.

To understand the Reformation you have to understand the godly prince.

Zanchi on the Godly Prince

The Protestant Reformers were known as the Magisterial Reformers, which means that they worked closely with their kings.  Luther appealed to the German princes to Reform the Church, and the other Reformers followed suit.  Different regions had different political structures, largely influencing the various churches’ polities, but all were agreed on the basic position.

Zanchi was an Italian Reformer who studied in Geneva and eventually made his way to the University of Heidelberg.  He has a lengthy discourse on the Godly Prince in his De religione christiana fide.  He states:

Chapt. 26- Of the Magistrate

V. The office of a godly prince concerning religion is two fold and wherein it chieflie consisteth.

Now, sith the duetie of a godly prince, that is a magistrate, which hath a free power over any people and authoritie within his iurisdiction to institute and reforme religion, is twofold, which hee oweth to Christ and to the church in the cause of religion. One about such things as belong unto religion; the other respecteth men, which are in his iurisdiction and sbiect unto him. For the first, our beleefe is that he should diligently take heede that by the pure word of God rightly understood and expounded by the verie word it selfe and according to the principles of faith (that which they call the analogie or rule of faith), religion may be instituted in his dominion or kingdome; or where it is instituted, may be kept sound and pure; or where it is corrupted, may be restored and reformed to the glory of God and salvation of his subiects. For this we read hath beene commaunded of God and of Moses, and ever observed of all godlie princes. Continue reading

Papal Power

In vindicating the Reformers right to protest against the claims of the Papacy, French Reformer Jean Claude writes:

What could our fathers say to that divine power that the flatterers of the Popes attributed to them? As the Glossary of the Decretals, which remarks, “That everyone said of the Pope that he had all divine power- caeleste arbitrium ; that by reason he could change the nature of things, applying the essential properties of one thing to another; that he could make something of nothing; that a proposition which was nothing he could make to be something; that in all things that he should please to do, his will might serve for a reason; that there is none who could say to him, Why dost thou do that?  that he could dispense with whatsoever was right, and make injustice to become justice, by changing and altering that which was right; and, in fine, that he had a plentitude, a fulness of power.”

~ A Defense of the Reformation trans. T.B-M.A. 1815, pg. 21

These are amazing claims, and we too often forget that they were actually made and actually believed by many.  They were binding upon the consciouses of the faithful, and indeed, one has a difficult time seeing how they do not seek to take the place of God.  This is just one reason why the Reformers responded to the papacy in the manner that they did.

King James, Du Moulin, and the Union of the Reformation

King James felt it his responsibility to reunite the churches of Christendom.  He never wanted to carry this out at the expense of truth, however, as can be seen by his refusal to submit to the Roman Catholic Church.  The pope was eager to convert James, sending gifts and rosaries to his wife, but James had them returned.  In fact, James chose to work with definitively Reformed theologians to further his cause.

The most ambitious plan was crafted with the help of Peter Du Moulin of Paris.  According to their combined efforts, the Reformed churches of England and France would lead the effort, seeking to obtain alliance with the Swiss and Dutch churches.  From there, the Lutherans would be invited.  W. B. Patterson writes:

Du Moulin’s plan, with twenty articles, sought to find a basis for bringing together the Reformed churches, including the Church of England, and, subsequently, for bringing together these churches and the Lutheran churches. This would be done in two stages by means of an international assembly held with the support of the civil rulers of the Protestant states, especially the king of Great Britain, who is described in the first article as “the greatest and most powerful” of the sovereign princes of countries not under the subjection of the pope. The international assembly described in the plan would be a meeting of two theologians sent by the British king, two by the churches of France, two by those in the Netherlands, two by the Swiss cantons, and “one or two from each prince of Germany of our confession.” In addition, King James and the Elector Palatine might seek the support of some of the Lutheran princes, especially the king of Denmark and the dukes of Saxony, Wurttemberg, and Brunswick, in sending representatives there. The deputies at the assembly would put on the table the Reformed confessions of the various churches, including those of England and Scotland, and draw up a common confession. Some matters “not necessary to salvation” might be passed over, including the opinions of Arminius on predestination. Once this doctrinal accord had been drawn up, the delegates would formally declare that their churches did not condemn each other because of differences in ceremonies and ecclesiastical polity. The deputies would then seek to meet with deputies of the Lutheran churches in order to enlarge the association. On the perennially contentious issues of the necessity of baptism, the manner of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, and the reception of the body of Christ in the Supper, agreement would be sought with the Lutherans on broad theological principles. But where complete agreement could not be reached, differing views would be tolerated among the churches. At the conclusion of the assembly a celebration of the Lord’s Supper would be held at which the Lutheran pastors and the others would communicate together.

~ King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom pg. 161

He concludes that:

After their return home, the deputies would submit their work for the approval of their respective churches, while the princes would seek to abolish the names of Lutheran, Calvinist, and Zwinglian in favor of the name Christian Reformed Churches.

Superintendents and Bishops

I’ve mentioned before about the Scottish episcopal system here and here.  Patterson gives us a good look at the specifics of the original makeup:

The Book of Discipline had recognized the need for officials who would oversee local churches, supervise the establishment of new ones, and ensure that only qualified persons would serve as ministers. It specified that such officials, called superintendents, would be in charge of areas whose boundaries were intended to reflect the geographical configurations of the country. In the early 1560s five superintendents and three bishops who conformed to the new religious settlement had begun their work.

~ W. B. Patterson King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom. pg. 7-8

What this means is that there were five superintendents, of the Reformed persuasion, and three continuing bishops retaining their positions from the pre-Reformation polity.  All were now united under the Church of Scotland and the Magistrate.

Marilynne Robinson on Total Depravity

So while looking through the books at Borders a while back, I noticed that Marilynne Robinson had a collection of essays called The Death of Adam.  “That’s interesting,” I thought and gave it a quick scan.

Interestingly enough, she’s got an article on Bonhoeffer as well as one on the Puritans.  “Well now,” I thought once more.  I bought the book a little later and finally gave it a read over the weekend.  Lo and behold, the lady’s a Calvinist.  I will no longer be listening to the theo-hipsters lament Reformed theology’s inability to produce good artists and writers.  I will instead retort that our generation has a greater problem, the inability to ever actually be an audience.

So here’s Robinson on the famous “T” in TULIP:

The Calvinist doctrine of total depravity—“depravity” means “warping or distortion”—was directed against casuistical enumerations of sins, against the attempt to assign them different degrees of seriousness. For Calvinism, we are all absolutely, that is equally, unworthy of, and dependent upon, the free intervention of grace. This is a harsh doctrine, but no harsher than others, since Christian tradition has always assumed that rather few would be saved, and has differed only in describing the form election would take. It might be said in defense of Christianity that it is unusual in a religion to agonize much over these issues of ultimate justice, though in one form or other every religion seems to have an elect. The Calvinist model at least allows for the mysteriousness of life. For in fact life makes goodness much easier for some people than for others, and it is rich with varieties of cautious or bland or malign goodness, in the Bible referred generally as self-righteousness, and inveighed against as grievous offenses in their own right. The belief that we are all sinners gives us excellent grounds for forgiveness and self-forgiveness, and is kindlier than any expectation that we might be saints, even while it affirms the standards all of us fail to attain.

“On Prigs and Puritans” in The Death of Adam pg. 155-156

The point of the article is that modern and postmodern Americans, particularly liberal and cosmopolitan Americans, are priggish, enslaved to their perfectionism, dietary laws, and over-sensitivity, and they could do with a strong dose of Puritan freedom.

Melanchthon and Predestination

A third question is whether Melanchthon later gave up predestination; originally he had joined with Luther in decisively advocating it.

Note first that the refers to the universality of the promises of salvation and blames man’s debt on a miscarriage of the human will only, because God is not causa peccati, and in him is no contradictoriae voluntates. On the other hand, there seem to be assertions which do not fit within these limits.  In the commentary on Romans in 1556 he answers the question, Why are so many men lost and so few saved, and why must the Church suffer in so many ways?  “Not all the plans of God can be understood by human thought, but we must sustain ourselves in the revealed word of God… Someday in the eternal school we will learn the reason for the divine plan.”  In this connection he often speaks of a hidden decree of God (arcanum dei decretum, consilium arcanum), or of the hidden majesty (arcana maiestas).  In view of God’s decision with respect to Esau and Jacob, he declares that the same measure for measure is to be given only in the case of an obligation.  “In the case of a gift or of compassion, it is not necessary to grant in the same measure.”  “The sentence which says that there is an eternal election is true, and nevertheless it also remains true that we are not to investigate election without the word of God or beyond the word of God.”  “We should agree to the word, even if we are not able to see all the connection in what is presented contradictorially” (quae se in contrarium offerunt).  “You must know that you should not judge a priori about your election, but a posteriori, that is, you are not to search in the hidden counsel of God to discover whether you are elected, you are to search in the revealed word.”

These statements indicate that Melanchthon does not reject predestination in principle- even in the sense of reprobation, but admonishes practically and pastorally about it.  This would mean that a responsible decision of man and a sovereign decision of God take place simultaneously in the acceptance or rejection of salvation.  In this assertion of dual activity Melanchthon is speaking in a paradoxical way, as he does in the question about the relation of the acts of God and of man in the formation of faith.

Melanchthon, therefore, stands theologically nearer to Luther than the traditional view indicates.  The important theological deficiencies of the time following Melanchthon are more the responsibility of students who fragmented what he had fused.

~Hans Engelland, Introduction to Loci Communes 1555 pg. xl-xli

Christianity Is Not a Means

Our Faith is not primarily intended as a way to create a great culture. It is not primarily a way to run for political office. It is not primarily a way to advance literature, poetry, or song. All of these things are great effects of our faith, but they are not the reason to become interested in Jesus.

So too, we ought not go searching for churches based on which ones have the great pieces of literature or the more “beautiful” experience of worship. This method may seem like a step-up from the buffet-style Christianity you just left, but it is only a small step. Now you’re at the organic foods grocery. You’re still shopping.

Lewis nails this as well. He wasn’t opposed to a religion that created a “culture.” Of course not. He wasn’t disinterested in politics or the human condition. Of course not. He did, however, have his priorities in order.

Through Screwtape’s mouth we again get a gem:

Certainly we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster. On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything—even social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop. Fortunately it is quite easy to coax humans round this little corner. Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that ‘only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and birth new civilizations’. You see the little rift? ‘Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.’ That’s the game.

~ Letter 23

“World and life view” folks (of which I am one), be convicted.

Nothing is Naturally Evil

Screwtape complains:

He has filled His world full of pleasures.  There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least– sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working.  Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.  We fight under cruel disadvantages.  Nothing is naturally on our side.

~ Letter 22

This is better than a theology that emphasizes “common grace.”  This is a theology that emphasizes creation.

All things are naturally good because all things come from God.

So, this ought to influence our approach to culture.  We don’t have to drastically alter the natural state of things.  All we need to do is remove the evil that may have infected them.  Remove the evil from rock music, and that which is left will simply be “Christian rock.”  No need to add extra sugar on top.

Remove any evil that may be in our practice of Logic and Math, and the leftover will be “Christian Logic” and “Christian Math.”

This is important because unbelievers didn’t invent these things.  God did.

And that’s what will separate the good from the bad&ugly “worldviews.”