Category Archives: Cult Library

Religious groups/systems which promote or add teachings which are contrary to the Word of God.”But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Gal. 1:8 This includes any adding to the Word of God. Rev. 22:18

Why I’m Not A Mormon

Why I’m Not A Mormon

by Eric Davis

Feb. 4, 2015

Living where I do, the topic of the Mormon faith often arises. It’s a religion which is gathering quite a few adherents, especially outside the USA. But if you were to ask me why I do not ascribe to Mormonism, I would begin by giving these three reasons:

1. Mormonism deviates from the sufficiency of the Bible.

Mormonism teaches that the Book of Mormon is holy Scripture, on equal standing with the Bible, and is, therefore, the word of God. The assertion is that it was recorded on gold plates long ago in an ancient Egyptian-type language. In 1823, Joseph Smith claimed to have been directed by the angel, Moroni, to discover and translate the contents, which became the Book of Mormon.

Mormonism teaches that Smith was a prophet in the ranks of biblical prophets like Moses and Isaiah, chosen by God to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ using the text from the plates.

The content of the Book of Mormon also rebukes the idea that Scripture alone is sufficient: “Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible” (2 Nephi 29:6).

Along with the Book of Mormon and the Bible, Mormonism affirms the canonicity of two other works, The Doctrine and Covenants, and Joseph Smith’s work, The Pearl of Great Price. New revelation is also permitted, which, similar to papal authority in Roman Catholicism, can arise from the Prophet, or President of the Church.

This violates the clear teaching of the sufficiency of Scripture: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:18-19 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

2. Mormonism deviates from the biblical teaching of the deity of Jesus Christ.

The language on Christ in Mormon teaching appears similar to that of biblical Christianity. Christ is said to be the Savior of the world, our Redeemer, and the Son of God. However, all is not as it seems.

The deviation begins here: Mormon teaching denies one of the most important biblical teachings, that God is a Triune God; one God and three Persons, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Instead, the Persons of the Trinity are claimed to be three separate gods. God the Father is an exalted man who “…has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22). The Father was once a mortal being who dwelt on an earth and eventually ascended to his current god-like status.

Mormonism teaches that he is the father of human spirits (before creation, all humanity were spirits who lived with God the Father), among whom were Christ and the Holy Ghost. The god-like status of Christ and the Holy Ghost was something that became rather than something eternally possessed. By virtue of being children of God the Father, like all human spirits, they rose to their status of deity. Like Christ, humanity has the potential to work themselves into this god-like standing. This renders a different Christ than that of Scripture; one who is less than eternal God, and, therefore, not God.

Mormonism violates the clear teaching of Scripture that, among other things, Christ is God; the uncreated, eternal, second Person of the Triune Godhead, who has eternally possessed all the attributes of God (John 1:1-2 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 8:58 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 10:30 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Col 2:9 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Titus 2:13 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

3. Mormonism deviates from the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

As with the deity of Christ, the wording on salvation appears similar to biblical Christianity. However, any belief that deviates from the deity of Christ thereby espouses an unsavable Christ. A Christ who is not the eternal God of the Bible cannot effectually save and propitiate sin for men who are not sinless. A being who is not the God of Scripture, whether having ascended to divinity or not, is unable to ascend to a moral finesse necessary such that his substitutionary death would be sufficient to placate the wrath of God for sinners. Humanity is depraved. Unless we have an individual who is fully God and fully man, humanity remains under the wrath of God because no created individual can arise out of Adam to atone for our sin. This, sadly, is where Mormonism is void of any saving power for depraved humanity.

Furthermore, since Christ is not the eternal God of the Bible, the justice of God in forgiving sinners is called into question. If God the Father is going to justly justify the unjust, then he must do so through the biblical Christ. Christ must be eternal God or we may not have eternal life.

Mormon doctrine teaches that atonement is made effectual in our lives through faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and choosing to follow Christ’s teaching for the rest of our lives. In addition to faith in an unsavable Christ, this is a works-based righteousness, which contradicts the teaching of Scripture (Gal 2:16 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Eph 2:8-9 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

Also, in Mormonism salvation is less about Christ’s penal substitutionary atoning work, and more about trying hard to follow Christ’s example and develop god-like attributes.

Mormonism also teaches a form of offered salvation through vicarious baptism. A deceased individual can have a baptism performed in the Temple on their behalf. The deceased then have the opportunity to embrace that vicarious work.

Tragically, Mormonism is an unsavable system that was off from the start. No angelic apparition, no matter how convincing, is to be embraced who suggests another gospel, as did Moroni to Joseph Smith: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Gal 1:8 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

Sometimes well-meaning individuals have responded to me, “Well, I know some wonderful people who are Mormons.” I, too, know some kind people in the Mormon faith. However, the issue here is not on the kindness of a system’s adherents, but the truthfulness of its doctrine. Despite the outward morality which may exist within Mormonism, because its teaching deviates from the sufficiency of Scripture, the deity of Christ, and, therefore, the gospel of Christ, it is an unsavable system, and, thus, a false religion altogether.

We must lovingly appeal to Mormons to turn from their erroneous teaching and submit themselves to the word of God in the 66 books of the Bible alone. Therein they will find the saving knowledge of the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ for right standing with God.

http://thecripplegate.com/why-i-am-not-a-mormon/

Why I’m Not A Mormon

Why I’m Not A Mormon

by Eric Davis

Feb. 4, 2015

Living where I do, the topic of the Mormon faith often arises. It’s a religion which is gathering quite a few adherents, especially outside the USA. But if you were to ask me why I do not ascribe to Mormonism, I would begin by giving these three reasons:

1. Mormonism deviates from the sufficiency of the Bible.

Mormonism teaches that the Book of Mormon is holy Scripture, on equal standing with the Bible, and is, therefore, the word of God. The assertion is that it was recorded on gold plates long ago in an ancient Egyptian-type language. In 1823, Joseph Smith claimed to have been directed by the angel, Moroni, to discover and translate the contents, which became the Book of Mormon.

Mormonism teaches that Smith was a prophet in the ranks of biblical prophets like Moses and Isaiah, chosen by God to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ using the text from the plates.

The content of the Book of Mormon also rebukes the idea that Scripture alone is sufficient: “Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible” (2 Nephi 29:6).

Along with the Book of Mormon and the Bible, Mormonism affirms the canonicity of two other works, The Doctrine and Covenants, and Joseph Smith’s work, The Pearl of Great Price. New revelation is also permitted, which, similar to papal authority in Roman Catholicism, can arise from the Prophet, or President of the Church.

This violates the clear teaching of the sufficiency of Scripture: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:18-19 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

2. Mormonism deviates from the biblical teaching of the deity of Jesus Christ.

The language on Christ in Mormon teaching appears similar to that of biblical Christianity. Christ is said to be the Savior of the world, our Redeemer, and the Son of God. However, all is not as it seems.

The deviation begins here: Mormon teaching denies one of the most important biblical teachings, that God is a Triune God; one God and three Persons, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Instead, the Persons of the Trinity are claimed to be three separate gods. God the Father is an exalted man who “…has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22). The Father was once a mortal being who dwelt on an earth and eventually ascended to his current god-like status.

Mormonism teaches that he is the father of human spirits (before creation, all humanity were spirits who lived with God the Father), among whom were Christ and the Holy Ghost. The god-like status of Christ and the Holy Ghost was something that became rather than something eternally possessed. By virtue of being children of God the Father, like all human spirits, they rose to their status of deity. Like Christ, humanity has the potential to work themselves into this god-like standing. This renders a different Christ than that of Scripture; one who is less than eternal God, and, therefore, not God.

Mormonism violates the clear teaching of Scripture that, among other things, Christ is God; the uncreated, eternal, second Person of the Triune Godhead, who has eternally possessed all the attributes of God (John 1:1-2 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 8:58 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 10:30 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Col 2:9 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Titus 2:13 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

3. Mormonism deviates from the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

As with the deity of Christ, the wording on salvation appears similar to biblical Christianity. However, any belief that deviates from the deity of Christ thereby espouses an unsavable Christ. A Christ who is not the eternal God of the Bible cannot effectually save and propitiate sin for men who are not sinless. A being who is not the God of Scripture, whether having ascended to divinity or not, is unable to ascend to a moral finesse necessary such that his substitutionary death would be sufficient to placate the wrath of God for sinners. Humanity is depraved. Unless we have an individual who is fully God and fully man, humanity remains under the wrath of God because no created individual can arise out of Adam to atone for our sin. This, sadly, is where Mormonism is void of any saving power for depraved humanity.

Furthermore, since Christ is not the eternal God of the Bible, the justice of God in forgiving sinners is called into question. If God the Father is going to justly justify the unjust, then he must do so through the biblical Christ. Christ must be eternal God or we may not have eternal life.

Mormon doctrine teaches that atonement is made effectual in our lives through faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and choosing to follow Christ’s teaching for the rest of our lives. In addition to faith in an unsavable Christ, this is a works-based righteousness, which contradicts the teaching of Scripture (Gal 2:16 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Eph 2:8-9 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

Also, in Mormonism salvation is less about Christ’s penal substitutionary atoning work, and more about trying hard to follow Christ’s example and develop god-like attributes.

Mormonism also teaches a form of offered salvation through vicarious baptism. A deceased individual can have a baptism performed in the Temple on their behalf. The deceased then have the opportunity to embrace that vicarious work.

Tragically, Mormonism is an unsavable system that was off from the start. No angelic apparition, no matter how convincing, is to be embraced who suggests another gospel, as did Moroni to Joseph Smith: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Gal 1:8 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

Sometimes well-meaning individuals have responded to me, “Well, I know some wonderful people who are Mormons.” I, too, know some kind people in the Mormon faith. However, the issue here is not on the kindness of a system’s adherents, but the truthfulness of its doctrine. Despite the outward morality which may exist within Mormonism, because its teaching deviates from the sufficiency of Scripture, the deity of Christ, and, therefore, the gospel of Christ, it is an unsavable system, and, thus, a false religion altogether.

We must lovingly appeal to Mormons to turn from their erroneous teaching and submit themselves to the word of God in the 66 books of the Bible alone. Therein they will find the saving knowledge of the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ for right standing with God.

http://thecripplegate.com/why-i-am-not-a-mormon/

200 Words: Why I’m Not Roman Catholic

200 Words: Why I’m Not Roman Catholic

June 24, 2014

by Nathan Busenitz

If someone were to ask me why I’m not Roman Catholic, this would be my answer in 200 words or less:

I believe the Roman Catholic church has seriously erred in three fundamental areas: in its approach to God, the Bible, and salvation.

1) In its approach to God, Roman Catholicism approves the veneration of (i.e. bowing down before) images and relics, encourages praying to the saints, and promotes Mary to a semi-divine status. All of these constitute varying forms of idolatry, which Scripture condemns (cf. Ex. 20:4–5 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); Lev. 26:1Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); Acts 10:25–26Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); Rev. 22:8–9Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

2) In its approach to the Bible, Roman Catholicism elevates church tradition to a place of authority equal to (and in practice higher than) Scripture. The Lord Jesus condemned first-century Judaism as apostate because it likewise elevated the traditions of men above the Word of God (Mark 7:6–8 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

3) In its approach to salvation, Roman Catholicism adds various sacramental works to the gospel of grace. In a similar way, the apostle Paul condemned the Judaizers because they added self-righteous works to the gospel (cf. Acts 15:1–11 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); Rom. 11:6Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); Gal. 1:6–9 Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).

These fundamental issues, in addition to a host of other doctrinal problems (e.g. purgatory, the papacy, priestly celibacy, indulgences, the Apocrypha, etc.) lead me to reject Roman Catholicism.

http://thecripplegate.com/200-words-why-im-not-roman-catholic/

What Does Scripture Teach about the Presence of Christ in the Lord’s S

What Does Scripture Teach about the Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper

December 23, 2013

~~by Benjamin Elliff~~

The issue of the presence of Christ in the elements of the Lord’s Supper has divided Christians for more than ten centuries.1 I will (1) examine the three primary views that have emerged (the Roman Catholic view, the Lutheran view, and the view of the rest of Protestantism) and (2) defend a version of the view of the rest of Protestantism from Scripture.

Three Views

What do the words, “This is My body” (Matt 26:26) mean? Three distinct answers to the question of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper appear in Christian history.

The Roman Catholic View

Roman Catholics take the words, “This is My body” in a strongly literal sense. Christ becomes present in the meal “by the transformation of the whole substance of the bread into His body and of the whole substance of the wine into His blood.”2 At consecration, the elements become (in substance) the body and blood of Christ, and nothing but the body and blood of Christ. This conversion of the substance of one set of elements into the substance of another is called “Transubstantiation” by the Roman Catholic Church.3

How is it that the elements still look and taste like bread and wine? Roman Catholics make a distinction between the substance (the matter) of an entity and its accidents (its properties that make an impact on the senses). At the Eucharistic conversion, according to Ludwig Ott, “the whole substance . . . of the bread and wine is converted . . . while the accidents remain unchanged.” 4 The Council of Trent puts the matter succinctly:

And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiantion.5

Two doctrines flow from the Roman Catholic understanding of the presence of Christ in the Supper. First, the Mass is a “true and proper sacrifice.” .6 Second, Christians may “render in veneration the worship of latria” to the sacrament.7

The Lutheran View

Luther and the Lutherans also affirm the true bodily presence of Christ in the elements (“I . . . must confess and believe that the body of Christ is there”8). Yet the bread remains as well. “Thus in the supper what Christians ate was not bread alone but also the body of Christ.”9 This view has been called consubstantiation. The eating of Christ and of the bread is done truly, “substantially,”10 “orally.”11

But how can Christ be both on earth, where he is said to be present in bread, and in heaven, where he ascended bodily (Luke 24:51)? To answer this question, Lutherans posit what is sometimes called the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature.12 Christ, because he is divine, is present everywhere according to his human nature. Yet this bodily presence is not of the ordinary sort. Francis Pieper, in his Christian Dogmatics, attacks at length the Reformed notion that “Christ according to His human nature, hence also according to His human body, can possess no other than the local and visible presence.”13 For Pieper, in other words, Christ’s bodily presence everywhere, and particularly in the Supper, is non-local and non-visible.14

The Lutheran view shows a clear component of mystery. Pieper speaks of two elements in the Supper: (1) the “earthly” (the bread and wine) and (2) the “heavenly” (the body and blood of Christ).15 These are joined together in a “sacramental union” so that each element is received “with” the other.16 This union is not “natural or local, but . . . supernatural.”17 As a result, the eating of Christ’s body and blood is also supernatural.

The Rest of Protestantism

In contrast to the Roman Catholics and Lutherans, non-Lutherans within Protestantism hold that Christ’s body and blood are not present in the elements of the Lord’s Supper. R. L. Dabney, for instance, argues against both transubstantiation and consubstantiation, calling the former a “batch of absurdities”18 and holding that the latter “does not outrage the understanding so much” but is “liable to all the [same] objections.”19 “This is my body” (Matt 26:26) is not to be taken literally but symbolically. Jesus’ statement means, according to Augustus Strong, “This is a symbol of my body.”20

Is there then no place for the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper? Most Protestants hold that Christ is indeed present—spiritually. Both Zwingli and Calvin, according to Louis Berkhof, allowed for a spiritual presence of Christ in the Supper, though Zwingli was less comfortable with the idea.21 The Lord’s Supper is a symbol, yes, but Christians can expect a special, spiritual manifestation of Christ as their faith is strengthened and their minds are turned toward him in the company of other believers.22

The Teaching of Scripture

Against the Roman Catholics

Several responses may be made to the Roman Catholic view. First, it is based on a wrong interpretation of the words of institution (Matt 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23; 1 Cor 11:23-26). Consider Matthew’s account:

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.

Must the words “This is my body” be taken literally? Certainly not. Rather, a tropical (figurative) interpretation is possible and even preferable. Dabney lists a number of similar scriptural constructions that must be taken tropically.23 Ezekiel 37:11, for instance, asserts that “these bones are the whole house of Israel.” John 10:9 is particularly relevant because it identifies Jesus with something that is manifestly not Jesus: “I am the door.” These passages, along with the many similar ones found in Scripture, take a tropical explanation most naturally. A literal interpretation makes no sense of them at all.

Strict literalness cannot be maintained even by the Roman Catholics within this passage, says Dabney.24 The Synoptics teach us that Jesus took “a cup . . . saying . . . ‘this is My blood.’” First Corinthians 11 says that Jesus “took the cup . . . saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant’” (25). In these passages the cup stands for, respectively, (1) what is contained in it and (2) the new covenant. Even the Roman Catholics must agree that there is symbolic language here.

First Corinthians 10:17 provides a clue as the true nature of the elements in the Supper: “We all partake of the one bread” (emphasis mine). This passage, along with 1 Corinthians 11:26-28, reminds us that the substance eaten with the mouth is bread, not the body of Christ.

The most natural understanding of the words of institution, therefore, is that the elements symbolize Christ’s body. The disciples, seeing Christ’s living body before them, would not have identified the loaf with the living hands that held it.25

Second, the Roman Catholic view requires an unbiblical view of the nature of man, the nature of man’s epistemological relation to the world, and of the nature of objects within the world. Scripture teaches that man was made in God’s image (Gen 1:27) for specific purposes of ruling the earth by the gifts he had been given (Gen 1:28). The whole tenor of Scripture encourages us to believe that the senses are basically trustworthy with regard to the apprehension of material things. Thus it is a natural thing that Thomas would be convinced of the bodily resurrection of his Lord by the evidence of his senses (John 20:27-28). The Roman Catholic view, however, asserts that the senses are absolutely and deliberately deceived every time the Mass is observed.

To make this outrage to the senses more palatable, Roman Catholics distinguish between substance and accidents. Such a distinction is not found in the Bible, however. All that is found in the Bible is an affirmation of the natural understanding of the world, which, despite the Fall, still functions in human beings. “Our mental intuitions compel us to recognize substance by its sensible attributes,” Dabney reminds us.26

Third, the Roman Catholic view leads to unbiblical notions like (1) the repeated sacrifice of the Mass, (2) the exclusive rights of a class of priests to administer the Supper, and (3) the withholding of the cup from the laity.27 These ideas spring from the gravity of the claim that Christ’s body and blood are the true substances involved in the Mass. Regarding the sacrifice of Christ, Scripture is clear that it took place once for all; it is not repeated. The book of Hebrews explains that Christ does not “offer Himself often” (11:25) but was “offered once” (11:28). Regarding the notion of a class of priests, Scripture has no such teaching. Rather, all Christians are members of a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9).28 Regarding the propriety of giving the cup to the laity, Scripture teaches Christians to “Drink from it, all of you” (Matt. 26:27).

Against the Lutherans

A number of the objections to the Roman Catholic view apply to the Lutheran view as well. Several additional arguments may also be forwarded. First, the doctrine of the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature, so necessary to explain the real presence of Christ in the Supper, is not found in Scripture.29 Christ told his disciples that he would be “leaving the world again and going to the Father” (John 16:28). His disciples understood him to be “speaking plainly” (John 16:29). It is evident from these words that Christ’s body is not on earth.

Second, the Lutherans choose an unlikely sense for the words of institution. Though they argue for the real presence by claiming a literal (“according to the letter”30 ) interpretation, their interpretation is in fact a figurative one—and an unlikely figurative one at that. Berkhof explains: “[the Lutheran view] really makes the words of Jesus mean, ‘this accompanies my body,’ an interpretation that is more unlikely than . . . [any of] the others.”31 The Lutheran view thus runs into linguistic difficulties without resolving the metaphysical ones.

A Biblical View

It is a basic rule of interpretation that the words of a passage must be interpreted literally if possible. Millard Erickson points out that there must be proper justification if a passage is to be taken any other way.32 Compelling justification can be provided, however, for interpreting the words, “This is my body” and “This is my blood” in a non-literal sense. First, a literal interpretation results in an absurdity at the time of the institution.33 Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, would have been in two places at once: in his living form and in the bread. Yet in Scripture we find that the Word “became flesh” (John 1:14) and that he was “made like His brethren in all things” (Heb 2:17). Jesus, as a true human being, could not have been in two places at once.

Second, a literal interpretation results in metaphysical difficulties in subsequent celebrations of the Lord’s Supper.34 To achieve a bodily, substantive presence of Christ it is necessary either (1) to place the substance of Christ’s body in exactly the same place as the bread (the Lutheran view) or (2) to strip the substance of Christ’s body of all of the characteristics of a body (the Catholic view). Either view seems incompatible with the nature of the world as seen through the lens of the Bible.

Because of these two factors, therefore, a Christian is justified in looking to the Bible for alternative interpretations of the words of institution. John 6 provides a great deal of relevant material. Jesus fed five thousand men (1-14) but soon turned the attention of the crowd to “a food which endures to eternal life” (27). This food is not physical but spiritual. “I am the bread of life,” he claimed; partaking of him involves coming to him and believing in him (35). During his ministry Jesus used a number of similar metaphors to describe his relationship to individual believers (e.g., “the way,” “the good shepherd,” “the vine”).35 A metaphorical, symbolic interpretation of the words, “This is My body,” is therefore a distinct possibility. Indeed, it is the probable interpretation, since it avoids all of the “exegetical, sensible, rational, and doctrinal objections”36 that plague the Roman Catholic and Lutheran views. Christians, by eating and drinking the bread and cup, symbolize, among other things, the spiritual feeding on Christ which is already a reality for them. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56).

On the basis of the symbolic interpretation, therefore, Christ is not physically present in the Lord’s Supper. Must his spiritual presence also be denied? Not at all. 37 Christ is with us “always, even to the end of the age.” Indeed, he has promised to be in the midst of even “two or three” believers gathered in his name (Matt 18:20). When believers gather for the worship experience of the Supper, the spiritual presence of Christ can be felt in a special way. “The rite is basically commemorative.”38 When Paul brings the significance of the Supper to bear on the church at Corinth, he focuses on the remembrance: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26). Yet the spiritual presence of Christ is laid hold of and felt in a deeper way when Christians partake in faith and worship.

Conclusion

The presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper has divided Christians for centuries. In attempting to interpret the words of institution literally, Roman Catholics have resorted to transubstantiation and Lutherans to consubstantiation. Neither view does justice to the biblical text or the biblical view of man’s senses and reasoning capacity. A symbolic/spiritual presence view, however, provides an uncomplicated, scriptural interpretation.

__________________

1 M. E. Osterhaven, “Lord’s Supper, Views of,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 653.

2 Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, ed. James Canon Bastible, trans. Patrick Lynch, 2nd ed. (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Company, 1954), 379.

3The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent, ed. and trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), 76 [on-line], accessed 21 November 2006, http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ trentall.html; Internet.

4Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 380.

5The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent, 78.

6The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent, 78.

7 The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent, 79.

8Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1988), 151.

9 Ibid., 153.

10Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. 3 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953), 362.

11Ibid., 331.

12Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 994.

13Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. 3, 322.

14Ibid., 348.

15Ibid., 353.

16 Ibid., 362.

17Ibid.

18 R. L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), 804.

19 Ibid., 808.

20 Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology: A Compendium Designed for the Use of Theological Students (Westwood: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1907), 965.

21 Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed., rev. and enl. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), 653-54.

22 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 995.

23R. L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology, 805.

24Ibid., 806.

25 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 993.

26 Ibid.

27Ibid., 993-94.

28Ibid., 993.

29Ibid., 994.

30Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, vol. 3, 296.

31Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 653.

32 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), 1121.

33Ibid.

34Ibid.

35Ibid., 1122.

36 R. L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology, 808.

37 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 1122.

38Ibid.

Copyright © 2013 Benjamin Elliff

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SHOULD CHRISTIANS USE HYPNOSIS?

SHOULD CHRISTIANS USE HYPNOSIS?

By Don Ruhl

One of the many dangers associated with hypnosis is that symptoms are treated rather than the real problems, such when a person has gone to a hypnotist because of guilt. The hypnotist will try to relieve the feelings of guilt, but in truth the guilt is still there because the sin is still there. Forgiveness comes only through Jesus Christ.

Another danger of hypnosis is that it gives a false of security, which can lead to avoiding the true solution. Take the example of guilt again. If a person finds relief from the feelings of guilt, but is still outside Christ, that person will not seek forgiveness from Jesus, thinking that there is no guilt to be removed. That person will then come into the Judgment bearing his guilt!

Another danger of hypnosis is that it brings a person under the control of another person. Hypnotism allows the patient to be put under the control of another person in ways that the Bible forbids. First Corinthians 7:23 says, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” This is one of the dangers of cults; another person is being allowed to control us, and hypnosis falls under the same category. One writer said, “The hypnotized individual does not consider consequences or alternatives to the focused idea and becomes extremely open to suggestion.” 1

Two paragraphs later the writer demonstrated how easy it is to be deceived while in hypnosis when subjects were told to imagine that one of their hands felt like a helium balloon. Some received the suggestion, thus being deluded into believing a lie. Others did not receive the suggestion, showing that hypnosis is not a reliable way to discover the truth. James Braid, who invented hypnosis, shows us just how much the hypnotized individual can be controlled by the hypnotist when he noticed that, “Ideas suggested to the patient by the hypnotist, if reasonable, were carried out. Ideas suggested by another person were apparently unheard, unless the hypnotist told the patient to hear and heed them.” 2

From A Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychological and Psychoanalytical Terms, 3 “A person under hypnosis shows extreme responsiveness to any suggestion made by the hypnotist.” This susceptibility to suggestion can lead the patient to depend on the hypnotist for peace of mind rather than Jesus Christ. A supporter of hypnosis has himself said, “The greatest danger, in my view, is that if hypnotic treatments are carried on many times over long periods, hypnosis seems to induce an emotional dependence of the patient on the hypnotist” 4

John MacArthur calls hypnosis, “a form of shamanism made respectable by secular psychology…” 5

He also wrote that hypnosis offers the same promises as psychology in general, “Christian bookstores are full of books advising believers to ‘look deep within’; ‘get in touch with your inner self’; ‘explore the recesses of your past fears, hurts, and disappointments’; and ‘find the real answers to your problems within your own heart.’ Why? Because ‘the answers lie deep within.’” 6

Every student of the Bible knows that the Holy Spirit urges us to look to Jesus (Heb 12:1, 2).

Yet another danger of hypnosis is that the patient will be deceived into believing that the truth of a memory has been discovered. Leslie D. Weatherhead, who was a friend of hypnosis and used it, also tries to reassure us that any moral difficulties are not to be worried about because of the following reasons (but in saying these things he also shows the weaknesses of hypnosis),

The first is that it is inaccurate to suppose that a hypnotised patient will disclose a closely guarded secret and answer any question. 7

The second is that it is inaccurate to suppose that an indecent act could be perpetrated on a hypnotised subject if it offended his moral scruples, or that he could be induced to commit a crime. 8

The idea that by hypnotising a patient the psychologist can “get anything out of him that he wants to know” is fallacious. In the first place, only a proportion of patients are hypnotisable. The proportion of those who can be deeply hypnotised is, in my experience, very small. To attempt hypnosis and to fail to induce it sometimes gives the patient the impression either that he is difficult to cure or that the psychologist is incompetent. 9

In the second place, it is by no means true that a hypnotised patient will answer truthfully any question put to him. 10

The problem is that memory is not perfect, but can be influenced in many ways. There is a phenomenon known as False Memory Syndrome, and there is even an organization dealing with this, because many parents have been hurt by their children claiming sexual abuse and satanic ritual abuse, when these ideas were only planted in the mind of the child by a psychotherapist; sometimes suggested during hypnosis.

Charles Morris, who authored a textbook on psychology, wrote, “Hypnosis can also create hallucinations that are so realistic that subjects cannot easily determine whether they are real or the products of their own minds.” 11

He went on to say that the nature of hypnosis is unresolved for two reasons, the second of which is that the reactions of hypnotized people “are necessarily subjective and varying.” 12

Martin and Deidre Bobgan have written, “Research shows that hypnosis is just as likely to dredge up false information as true accounts of past events. In addition, studies have shown that individuals can and do lie under hypnosis.” 13

Again from the Bobgans, this time quoting Bernard Diamond, a professor of law and clinical professor of psychiatry, says that hypnotized persons “graft onto their memories fantasies or suggestions deliberately or unwittingly communicated by the hypnotist.” 14

One reason that people put faith in hypnosis is that they believe that somehow memories are kept hidden in the mind unadulterated. The truth is that our memories are influenced:

• By what we want to remember

• By other people

• By lies

Jeremiah 29:8 reveals that we can even create dreams and memories of things that never took place,

For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed.

Furthermore, people turn to hypnosis for the following reasons:

• Removal of guilt

• Relief of stress

• Treatment of sexual abuse

• Personality stabilization

• Prevention of self-destructive behavior

• Relief from anxiety

If hypnosis really takes care of these things, why did God not include it in the Scriptures? Has God kept us from something that is profitable and helpful for us to live life successfully? Not according to the Jesus Christ-appointed and Holy Spirit-inspired apostle Paul, who reminded the Ephesian elders that when he preached in their city he, “kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you” (Acts 20:20).

However, hypnosis is not found in any of his preaching in the Book of Acts, nor is it taught anywhere in Paul’s writings. We do have the assurance that by knowing God and Jesus Christ fully we have all the tools that we need for life and godliness (2Pe 1:2–4); and that by knowing the Scriptures we are equipped to perform any good work (2Ti 3:16, 17); and that God by His grace makes us sufficient for every good work (2Co 9:8); and that Jesus promised the apostles the Holy Spirit would reveal to them all the truth, and they in turn would reveal it to us (John 16:13). Notwithstanding there is not a commandment, or suggestion, that we use hypnosis! Hypnosis claims to deal with the same things that Scripture deals with (mentioned above), so it would seem that God would have included it, if it truly works.

Philippians 4:6, 7 would have been the opportune time to inject hypnotism, but the silence speaks volumes,

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Hypnosis is also faulty because it assumes that there is a subconscious; and that it controls our life; and that everything in our life is recorded perfectly in the so-called subconscious.

The following quote will demonstrate how our memories cannot be relied upon to give an accurate account or how they can add details:

…Americans were spellbound before their television sets, watching Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas clash over their recollections of events a decade past. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are still fresh in our minds, but how many of us remember exactly what the two adversaries said, what they wore, the expressions on their faces and the tone of their voices? And 10 years from now, when we think back, how faithful will our memories be? Will we remember Hill’s tears at one particularly painful disclosure of sexual harassment, and Thomas thumping the table as he decried the hearing as a high-tech lynching of an uppity black?

Those with sharp memories will have noticed two errors in the preceding paragraph: Hill’s voice may have sometimes wavered, but she never cried, and Thomas may have thundered with his voice but never with his fist. Even if memory fails to retain these details, how many Americans will accurately retain the essence of the events? Will our memories reflect the truth?

15

An interesting item was that Sigmund Freud abandoned hypnosis, in one sense. Thomas Szasz says concerning Sigmund Freud, “He switched to the ritualized repression called hypnosis, and then to the ceremonial conversation which he called ‘psychoanalysis,’ because he believed that electrotherapy and hypnosis were pretenses.” 16

Szasz also says that psychoanalysis is a reshaping of hypnosis by Sigmund Freud. 17

Szasz says that hypnosis is nothing more than “a conversation between patient and doctor, and that this simple fact was disguised by a scientific-sounding Greek term that legitimized them as therapeutic interventions.” 18

Szasz quotes Pierre Janet, who was defending hypnotism,

The relationship of a hypnotisable patient to a hypnotist does not differ in any essential way from the relationship of a lunatic to the superintendent of an asylum. By accepting this outlook, those who practice suggestion and hypnotism would escape a good many moral difficulties – difficulties which never trouble alienists. 19

Remember that only God can see the imagination and the thoughts as they really are. In a prayer to God King Solomon said, “…for You, only You, know the hearts of all the sons of men” (1Ki 8:39), which Solomon probably remembered his father David saying, “…the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts” (1Ch 28:9). These statements from David and Solomon cannot be said about any humans, including preachers, elders, parents, spouses, therapists, hypnotists, or any others.

Therefore, only God knows perfectly what happened in the past. E. Fuller Torrey says, “in an altered state of consciousness the patient may incorporate the analyst’s frame of causation as self-hypnosis – ‘I do want to sleep with my mother.’” 20

He also said concerning hypnosis, “It has also been described as a therapeutic technique used by Apache Indian shamans and Washo Indian shamans.” 21

“Hypnosis is one aspect of the yoga techniques of therapeutic meditation…” 22

With these facts from Scripture and from the writings of psychologists and hypnotists themselves, why would any Christian want to trust his life to hypnosis? The Lord has blessed us with the all-sufficient Scriptures, and with prayer and the other things that we have examined. Let us learn to trust Him for peace of mind and success in life.

1 B. Bower, “Post-traumatic stress disorder: Hypnosis and the divided self,” Science News, March 26, 1988, p. 197.

2 Leslie D. Weatherhead, Psychology, Religion and Healing, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1952, p. 109.

3 Horace B. English and Ava Champney English, New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1958, p. 245.

4 Weatherhead, op. cit., p. 120.

5 Our Sufficiency in Christ, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991, p. 93.

6 Ibid., p. 94.

7 Op. cit., p. 118.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid., p. 305.

10 Ibid.

11 Psychology, An Introduction, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1985, p. 128.

12 Ibid., p. 129.

13 Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Hypnosis and the Christian, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1984, p. 25.

14 12 Steps to Destruction: Codependency Recovery Heresies, Santa Barbara, California: EastGate Publishers, 1991, p. 156.

15 Anastasia Toufexis, “When Can Memories Be Trusted?” Time, October 28, 1991, p. 86.

16 The Myth of Psychotherapy, Syracuse University Press, 1988, p. 97.

17 Ibid., p. 107.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid., p. 185

20 The Mind Game: Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists, New York, New York: Bantam Books, 1972, p. 80.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

http://thebiblemeditator.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/should-christians-use-hypnosis/

5 differences between Catholic theology and the gospel

5 differences between Catholic theology and the gospel

by Jesse Johnson

With Reformation Day this week, it is a good time to remind ourselves of what exactly the differences are between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestants. Certainly on just about every single area of theology there are differences, but here are what I think are the five most glaring and significant issues that separate the Catholic Church from the gospel of grace:

1) Justification

Evangelicals teach that sinners are justified on the basis of faith alone, and that ones’ faith is placed in the finished substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross, confirmed by his glorious resurrection, and that this is a gift based entirely on his grace. Finally, that justification is complete and total at the moment of our conversion, and that believers never grow more justified.

In contrast the Catholic church teaches that justification is a process that includes works (with those works “infusing” one’s faith), and that those works are the cause of the justification process. Beyond that, the Catholic Church teaches:

“If anyone says, that by faith alone the impious is justified; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent #9)

Or:

“If anyone says that the justice [or justification] received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, 24).

2. The Pope as head of the church

For evangelicals, the church is made up of all of those who have been justified by God through faith. Local churches are led by elders, and each church is generally autonomous. Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and there is no authority over any local church on earth apart from Scripture. Elders and pastors are fallible in how they lead the church.

In the Roman Catholic teaching, the church is composed of laity and is led by those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders (deacons, priests and bishops). The head of the church is the Pope, who when speaking authoritatively on matters relating to the church, is protected from the possibility of error concerning doctrine and morals of the church. Also, for anyone to be saved, they must be under the Pope’s authority:

“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Unam Sanctam, 1302).

3. Mass vs. communion

For evangelicals, communion is commemorative, and acts as a remembrance of the substitutionary atoning work of Jesus. The bread is symbolic of the body, and wine symbolic of the blood. There is nothing mystical or meritorious about it, but it is a means of grace and of provoking growth in godliness.

The Catholic Church teaches transubstantiation, that the bread and wine are transformed literally into the body and blood of Jesus. Thus in the mass, the priest calls Jesus down from heaven, and in the breaking of the bread Jesus is re-sacrificed. The mass is meritorious, as one of the seven sacraments, and it is a “true and proper sacrifice.” Here again is the council of Trent:

If any one saith that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema.”

As a side note, many of the Protestants and puritans made martyrs by the RCC went to their deaths over this issue. They considered participation in the Mass to be idolatry, and refused, and often were put to death for their refusal.

4. [B]Mary[/B]

For evangelicals, Mary was Jesus’ mother, a sinner, and one who was saved from her sins by her faith in Jesus. We recognize a period of her life where she did not believe in Jesus (see, for example, Mark 3:30-33), but that by the time of Jesus’ death she had placed her faith in him as her Messiah. She had other children after Jesus, and died a physical death. She is to be admired as a woman of faith.

In the Catholic Church, Mary is an object of devotion—and in much of the world, she is an object of outright worship. It is normative to pray to her (consider, for example, the Hail Mary), and it is taught that she was sinless. In fact, the Immaculate Conception is the Catholic doctrine that Mary was conceived without a sin nature, thus she was not a recipient of Jesus’ redemption, but instead was a participant in that redemption. She was a perpetual virgin, and did not die a physical death, but was rather assumed into heaven, where she reigns now as the Queen of heaven and is herself Ineffabilis Deus (“ineffable God,” or “inexplicably divine”)

5. Purgatory

Evangelicals believe that there is no such place as purgatory, but that hell is real and heaven is obtainable only as a gift from God, through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, and this is all of grace. For those who place their faith in Jesus, when they die they are immediately ushered into glory, where they will be in the presence of the Lord.

In Catholic theology, purgatory is where Catholics go when they die. Only those who are in a state of grace may go there, and once you have suffered for your non-mortal sins, you are made ready to see heaven. Thus purgatory is not eternal—but it is like hell in another way: purgatory involves both flames and suffering, and serves to make atonement for sins that you did not confess before you die. In many ways, Purgatory is the glue that holds the system together. Because it is a system where eternal judgment is based on works, and because sins are frequent and it is impossible to know and confess all of ones’ sins, purgatory is an essential piece of Catholic theology.

I give this list here simply because it always surprises me to find those that say “Catholics and Christians believe the same thing on the important issues, it is just in details where they differ.” Well, I suppose it matters what the “important issues are” but these five certainly touch on areas that are essential to the gospel.

http://thecripplegate.com/5-differences-between-catholic-theology-and-the-gospel/

Evangelicals the Eucharist (Part 1)

Evangelicals & the Eucharist (Part 1)

by Nathan Busenitz

Over the past few weeks, I have received no less than three inquiries regarding the early church’s celebration of the Lord’s Table and its implications for the evangelical church today. Two of these inquiries have come from Roman Catholics, each of whom has suggested that the Roman Catholic practice of transubstantiation best represents the way the Lord’s Table was observed in the first few centuries of church history.

This two-part post is intended to provide an initial response to such assertions.

The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving” and was an early Christian way of referring to the celebration of the Lord’s Table. Believers in the early centuries of church history regularly celebrated the Lord’s Table as a way to commemorate the death of Christ. The Lord Himself commanded this observance on the night before His death. As the apostle Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

In discussing the Lord’s Table from the perspective of church history, at least two important questions arise. First, did the early church believe that the elements (the bread and the cup) were actually and literally transformed into the real body and blood of Christ? In other words, did they articulate the doctrine of transubstantiation as modern Roman Catholics do? Second, did early Christians view the eucharist as a propitiatory sacrifice? Or put another way, did they view it in the terms articulated by the sixteenth-century Council of Trent?

In today’s post, we will address the first of those two questions.

Did the Early Church Fathers Hold to Transubstantiation?

Transubstantiation is the Roman Catholic teaching that in the eucharist, the bread and the cup are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ. Here are several quotes from the church fathers, often cited by Roman Catholics, in defense of their claim that the early church embraced transubstantiation.

Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 110): “Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1).

Irenaeus (d. 202): “He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body.’ The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his blood” (Against Heresies, 4:17:5).

Irenaeus again: “He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?” (Against Heresies, 5:2).

Tertullian (160–225): “[T]he flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may be filled with God” (The Resurrection of the Dead).

Origen (182–254): “Formerly, in an obscure way, there was manna for food; now, however, in full view, there is the true food, the flesh of the Word of God, as he himself says: ‘My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink’” (Homilies on Numbers, 7:2).

Augustine (354–430): “I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. . . . That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ” (Sermons 227).

How should we think about such statements?

Obviously, there is no disputing the fact that the patristic authors made statements like, “The bread is the body of Christ” and “The cup is the blood of Christ.” But there is a question of exactly what they meant when they used that language. After all, the Lord Himself said, “This is My body” and “This is My blood.” So it is not surprising that the early fathers echoed those very words.

But what did they mean when they used the language of Christ to describe the Lord’s Table? Did they intend the elements to be viewed as Christ’s literal flesh and blood? Or did they see the elements as symbols and figures of those physical realities?

In answering such questions, at least two things ought to be kept in mind:

[B]

* * * * *[/B]

[B]1.[/B] We ought to interpret the church fathers’ statements within their historical context.

Such is especially true with regard to the quotes cited above from Ignatius and Irenaeus. During their ministries, both men found themselves contending against the theological error of docetism (a component of Gnostic teaching), which taught that all matter was evil. Consequently, docetism denied that Jesus possessed a real physical body. It was against this false teaching that the apostle John declared, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7).

In order to combat the false notions of docetism, Ignatius and Irenaeus echoed the language Christ used at the Last Supper (paraphrasing His words, “This is My body” and “This is My blood”). Such provided a highly effective argument against docetic heresies, since our Lord’s words underscore the fact that He possessed a real, physical body.

A generation after Irenaeus, Tertullian (160–225) used the same arguments against the Gnostic heretic Marcion. However, Tertullian provided more information into how the eucharistic elements ought to be understood. Tertullian wrote:

“Having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, Jesus made it His own body, by saying, ‘This is My body,’ that is, the symbol of My body. There could not have been a symbol, however, unless there was first a true body. An empty thing or phantom is incapable of a symbol. He likewise, when mentioning the cup and making the new covenant to be sealed ‘in His blood,’ affirms the reality of His body. For no blood can belong to a body that is not a body of flesh” (Against Marcion, 4.40).

Tertullian’s explanation could not be clearer. On the one hand, he based his argument against Gnostic docetism on the words of Christ, “This is My body.” On the other hand, Tertullian recognized that the elements themselves ought to be understood as symbols which represent the reality of Christ’s physical body. Because of the reality they represented, they provided a compelling refutation of docetic error.

Based on Tertullian’s explanation, we have good reason to view the words of Ignatius and Irenaeus in that same light.

* * * * *

2. We ought to allow the church fathers to clarify their understanding of the Lord’s Table.

We have already seen how Tertullian clarified his understanding of the Lord’s Table by noting that the bread and the cup were symbols of Christ’s body and blood. In that same vein, we find that many of the church fathers similarly clarified their understanding of the eucharist by describing it in symbolic and spiritual terms.

At times, they echoed the language of Christ (e.g. “This is My body” and “This is My blood”) when describing the Lord’s Table. Yet, in other places, it becomes clear that they intended this language to be ultimately understood in spiritual and symbolic terms. Here are a number of examples that demonstrate this point:

The Didache, written in the late-first or early-second century, referred to the elements of the Lord’s table as “spiritual food and drink” (The Didache, 9). The long passage detailing the Lord’s Table in this early Christian document gives no hint of transubstantiation whatsoever.

Justin Martyr (110–165) spoke of “the bread which our Christ gave us to offer in remembrance of the Body which He assumed for the sake of those who believe in Him, for whom He also suffered, and also to the cup which He taught us to offer in the Eucharist, in commemoration of His blood“(Dialogue with Trypho, 70).

Clement of Alexandria explained that, “The Scripture, accordingly, has named wine the symbol of the sacred blood” (The Instructor, 2.2).

Origen similarly noted, “We have a symbol of gratitude to God in the bread which we call the Eucharist” (Against Celsus, 8.57).

Cyprian (200–258), who sometimes described the eucharist using very literal language, spoke against any who might use mere water for their celebration of the Lord’s Table. In condemning such practices, he explained that the cup of the Lord is a representation of the blood of Christ: “I marvel much whence this practice has arisen, that in some places, contrary to Evangelical and Apostolic discipline, water is offered in the Cup of the Lord, which alone cannot represent the Blood of Christ” (Epistle 63.7).

Eusebius of Caesarea (263–340) espoused a symbolic view in his Proof of the Gospel:

For with the wine which was indeed [I]the symbol of His blood, He cleanses them that are baptized into His death, and believe on His blood, of their old sins, washing them away and purifying their old garments and vesture, so that they, ransomed by the precious blood of the divine spiritual grapes, and with the wine from this vine, [COLOR=Red]“put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man which is renewed into knowledge in the image of Him that created him.” . . . He gave to His disciples, when He said, “Take, drink; this is my blood that is shed for you for the remission of sins: this do in remembrance of me.” And, “His teeth are white as milk,” show the brightness and purity of the sacramental food. For again, He gave Himself the symbols of His divine dispensation to His disciples, when He bade them make the likeness of His own Body. For since He no more was to take pleasure in bloody sacrifices, or those ordained by Moses in the slaughter of animals of various kinds, and was to give them bread to use as the symbol of His Body, He taught the purity and brightness of such food by saying, “And his teeth are white as milk” [/COLOR][/I](Demonstratia Evangelica, 8.1.76–80).

Athanasius (296–373) similarly contended that the elements of the Eucharist are to be understood spiritually, not physically: “[W]hat He says is not fleshly but spiritual. For how many would the body suffice for eating, that it should become the food for the whole world? But for this reason He made mention of the ascension of the Son of Man into heaven, in order that He might draw them away from the bodily notion, and that from henceforth they might learn that the aforesaid flesh was heavenly eating from above and spiritual food given by Him.” (Festal Letter, 4.19)

Augustine (354–430), also, clarified that the Lord’s Table was to be understood in spiritual terms: “Understand spiritually what I said; you are not to eat this body which you see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify me shall pour forth. . . . Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood” (Exposition of the Psalms, 99.8).

He also explained the eucharistic elements as symbols. Speaking of Christ, Augustine noted: “He committed and delivered to His disciples the figure [or symbol] of His Body and Blood.” (Exposition of the Psalms, 3.1).

And in another place, quoting the Lord Jesus, Augustine further explained: “[COLOR=Red]‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,’ says Christ, ‘and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.’ This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore[I] a figure [or symbol], enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us[/COLOR][/I] (On Christian Doctrine, 3.16.24).

A number of similar quotations from the church fathers could be given to make the point that—at least for many of the fathers—the elements of the eucharist were ultimately understood in symbolic or spiritual terms.

To be sure, they often reiterated the language of Christ when He said, “This is My body” and “This is My blood.” They especially used such language in defending the reality of His incarnation against Gnostic, docetic heretics who denied the reality of Christ’s physical body.

At the same time, however, they clarified their understanding of the Lord’s Table by further explaining that they ultimately recognized the elements of the Lord’s Table to be symbols—figures which represented and commemorated the physical reality of our Lord’s body and blood.

Next week, in part 2, we will consider whether or not the church fathers regarded the Lord’s Table as a propiatory sacrifice (as the Council of Trent defines it) or as simply a memorial offering of thanksgiving.

http://thecripplegate.com/evangelicals-and-the-eucharist-part-1/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheCripplegate+%28The+Cripplegate%29