Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Most Dangerous Truth

One of the most dangerous, and radical, rediscoveries at the time of the Reformation is the truthful assertion that Christ is not present in the bread and wine at Communion. It strikes to the heart of pagan and superstitious religion, which thrives off of the marriage of sacramentalism and sacerdotalism. The first is the notion that receiving the sacraments is the means by which we are saved, rather than by grace alone through faith alone. The second is the notion that Christian ministers are sacrificing priests in the sense that the Old Testament priests were. All Christian believers know that we have one High Priest, Christ Himself, and that all baptized believers are priests by fact of their baptism. These twin forces of evil work together to undo the gracious work of the Gospel and the Crucifixion of Christ for our sins.

The nature of transubstantiation, or the belief that the bread and wine at Communion become the body and blood of Christ is completely against the Christian religion. It must be said that the true nature of Communion also excludes mystical language of "real presence" as well. The Church of England rejected both at the time of the Reformation. Yet, it is this notion that Christ is to be found in bread and wine that fuels the fire of anti-Biblical religion. This belief enforces the two erroneous doctrines mentioned above. It enforces the notion that people receive salvation by receiving the sacraments, instead of trusting in Christ's sacrifice as the once-for-all perfect sacrifice for sin. In this sense, it encourages a belief in works righteousness and a sense of "balancing the books" with God.

Thankfully, our Church has rightfully forsaken these forces of evil. Consider this strong rejection of transubstantiation, firstly, to be found in our Articles of Religion:
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
This deals specifically with the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation, which was the main issue at hand at the time of the Reformation. As strong as our Church condemns this doctrine, one can still find misguided clergymen teaching this heresy.

Our Church continues to offer a clear rejection of the teaching that Christ is to be found in bread and wine. Consider the rubric on kneeling, found after the service of Holy Communion:
For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.
This latter declaration addresses more clearly the issues of our own day, which is less so the doctrine of transubstantiation as such but the vague notion of "real presence". This is the old line that "Anglicans don't define how Christ is present, we just accept it as truth" nonsense. This lack of doctrinal precision comes with lack of knowledge of our own Church's teaching.

The Church of England clearly teaches that Christ is received in the Sacrament, which is important to point out. Those who hate our Church's teaching like to mischaracterize those who uphold its teaching. The Church does not deny Christ's presence in our hearts and in the Sacrament but does not affirm his presence in the elements of bread and wine. In the relevant Article on this subject, our Church begins by clearly affirming that those who worthily receive in faith do indeed receive Christ:
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.
After clearly affirming this truth, we can move on to add some clarity to the "real presence" mystery. As to the claim that our Church does not define the mode and manner of Christ's presence in the Sacrament, the next portion of the Article clearly disproves that fanciful notion:
The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.
This statement clearly affirms two biblical truths. First, the manner of Christ's presence in the Sacrament (note the use of the word "Supper" in the article, rather than the "elements") is "heavenly and spiritual" i.e. not physical. This moves the focus of the discussion from our digestive system (which is the logical trajectory of "real presence" language) to our souls and hearts. The second statement describes the means by which we receive and eat Christ in the Sacrament. In contrast to the Lutheran churches, our Article clearly affirms that we eat Christ by faith, not the mouth. This completely distances the reception of the body and blood of Christ from the elements. 

The next article adds more fuel to the fire of sacramentalism and sacerdotalism by affirming that those who receive the Sacrament without faith or unworthily is that they do not receive Christ "in any wise":
The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing. 

No comments: