Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Martin Luther, Eucharistic devotee

My ignorance knows no bounds.

All these years I've simply assumed that protestant reformer Martin Luther didn't believe that the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ, but saw it as merely a symbolic act.

Well, consider myself corrected.

While many of the other protestant reformers did see it as merely symbolic, Luther himself was a strong proponent of the real presence. Consider the following rebuttal he issued to Ulrich Zwingli, one of the founders of what today we would call the "reformed" protestant churches. Zwingli thought that Scripture itself was clear that Christ's words "This is my body" were to be taken figuratively, rather than literally. The following is from Luther's treatise entitled, That These Words of Christ, 'This Is My Body,' etc., Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics:
Our adversary says that mere bread and wine are present, not the body and blood of the Lord. If they belive and teach wrongly here, then they blaspheme God and are giving the lie to the Holy Spirit, betray Christ, and seduce the world. . . .

Neither does it help them to assert that at all other points they have a high and noble regard for God's words and the entire gospel, except in this matter. My friend, God's Word is God's Word; this point does not require much haggling! When one blasphemously gives the lie to God in a single word, or says it is a minor matter if God is blasphemed or called a liar, one blasphemes the entire God and makes light of all blasphemy. . . .

The sum and substance of all this is that we have on our side the clear, distinct Scripture which reads, "Take, eat; this is my body," and we are not under obligation nor will we be pressed to cite Scripture beyond this text -- though we could do so abundantly. On the contrary, they should produce Scripture which reads, "This represents my body," or, "This is a sign of my body."
Clearly, Luther saw that a central tenet of the Christian faith was the real presence in the Eucharist.

However, that said, I have a pretty good excuse for my prior ignorance and confusion. Luther did differ with the Catholic Church's understanding of the Eucharist on one central point: the doctrine of the transubstantiation. Rather than transubstantiation, which is the notion that the substance of bread and wine changes into the substance of Christ's body, so that only the accidents of bread and wine remain, Luther promoted the concept of consubstantiation, which purports that in the Eucharist the body and blood of Christ coexist with the bread and wine after the Consecration.


Post a Comment

<< Home