Sunday, June 10, 2007

Theological Retardation - Blood/Body

I got up this morning and as is the usual habit I thought upon a biblical teaching I have heard plenty of times - transubstantiation. I began to wonder - where did this idea really come from?

Transubstantiation really is about the idea of the body of Jesus and the blood of Jesus in the communion service becoming the actual blood and body of Jesus. I think the Catholics still believe this is how it works but it's funny that for many a year in Christendom this was the actual belief about the communion service. Isn't that odd?

I think we have to come to a finer and deeper understanding of the communion service (symbolism and use of the service) and that in looking back we can see the theological weirdness of this old view. It would point to the idea that maybe we are looking a lot deeper into the scriptures and actually viewing them more appropriately - as in interpretation in these days. Maybe as a Christian society we have 'grown up' and are starting to use our ideas about literature when reading the bible - to both scope out literalness and creative symbolism in passages.

This is one of many examples that have been taught as literal at one point but appear to be not quite when done in reality. I cannot imagine actually eating flesh and drinking blood - regardless if it's our Messiah we are doing it to (ie: literal view). It actually makes no sense since the disciples are pretty sure Gentiles should abstain from 'drinking blood or eating it' within Acts. So how can a church become so quick to look at this idea from the disciples yet not use this in regards to communion - simple answer - misunderstanding.

It's really too bad too - since this is only one of the many ideas the church has thrown around as fact and found to be not quite that. One could make a proverbial listing of many of these mis-interpretations that still exist - ex: word of faith ideals, tongues, and judgement to name a few. Let's not move backwards in our understanding of these scriptures - but forward - we know the literature motifs much better now and the use of context - let's apply it. Let's not pretend that something has to be literal to have meaning.

9 comments:

HeIsSailing said...

SocietyVs ponders:
" I think the Catholics still believe this is how it works but it's funny that for many a year in Christendom this was the actual belief about the communion service. Isn't that odd?"

I live in the just inches from the Mexican border, and Catholicism is the dominant faith here. And yes, transsubstantiation is taken very literally here. It is a very odd belief to me, but I do not know its origins. But like most of the odd stuff taught in Catholicism, I am guessing it started around 1200AD or so - but I'll have to look into it. Funny thing is, the belief persists despite threats perform DNA analysis on the elements. So the church had to claim that the substance of Christ's literal flesh and blood are in the elements but NOT the DNA. Huh? As science advances, theistic beliefs get redefined into such abstract silliness that they start to loose all meaning.

So yeah, I am all with you in this article.

Jim Jordan said...

Luke 22:19
"This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

Saying that the wine or grape juice is really blood is just plain stupid.

Communion forces us to truly remember our Lord's sacrifice on our behalf and guides us to what He is calling us to do. To bastardize that bonding with literalism can only lead people astray, esp. through the sin of self-righteousness.

"You've got grape juice, but I've got blood. Bwahahaha!" OK, drink up, fool, I'd say.

Great post, society.

jim said...

Great post Jason... I think you are right, let's not move backwards, let's move forwards in our understanding of scripture. The Bible is an eastern book and is full of hyperbole and metaphor that was so natural to eastern thought and literature. What a relief to realize that Jesus was using hyperbole when he said that in order to be a disciple of his I have to hate my mother and father.

the_burning_bush said...

This is definitely an issue I would like to stay out of, but I will say a few things:

1) Interesting point about the Gentiles in the book of Acts ... and persuasive.

2) Aquinas' defense of transubstantiation is seminal. His view basically goes like this:

We don't see anything in itself, only it's "accidents". In other words when I have a cup in front of me I see a white cylindrical object infront of me, but the properties of whiteness and cylindricalness do not make the object a cup.

In the same way he would say that flesh has different accidents: "It is has a spongy texture, an odor when not connected to a living body, DNA with certain properties ... etc." But none of these things are what make something "flesh".

In an edifying twist Pascal says the same thing about the way Jesus was not recognized by his fellow men. The accidents they saw (a certain height, hair color, accent) had nothing to do with the way he was the Son of God. Yet he was truly the Son of God.

Even though I'm a protestant I'm not taking a side on this issue. I am inclined to believe it got made into a big deal to justify a war that was actually political in nature and related to the Hapsburg dynasty. Eventually Catholic France fought the Catholic Holy Roman Emporer (i.e. both countries were aggressively pro-transubstantiation).

In my way of thinking, the serious person is more interested in questions like, "How now am I going to live?". Obviously I have a lot to learn about being serious ... ;)

SocietyVs said...

Thanks HIS, Jim J, Jim and BB for the responses...no real reason i thought about this issue except to think 'man was interpretation weird at one point in the church'.

"In my way of thinking, the serious person is more interested in questions like, "How now am I going to live?"." (BB)

This is where I agree 100% - but the honest religious person has to to also balance that with 'what does my interpretation say and mean'. You see our interpretation of these texts/teachings make a world of difference sometimes - in the way we will act towards others and what we value. This blog on communion - not so much - but I can name many a value that is being mis-repesented in the Christian faith that does change one's view about humanity.

Heather said...

I wonder how much the bread and wine would also have to do with communal mealtime. If I'm remembering correctly, there was a hierarchy when people sat down. Certain people couldn't sit next to the 'sinners' or the whole meal was tainted. But Jesus doesn't even address that here, he just says, "Do this and remember" and unsaid was, "Stop worrying about the little things."

Granted, the concept alone does kind of bother me. Even if it's just reduced to symbolism, one is symbollically drinking the blood and eating the flesh.

BrotherKen said...

Communion. Love it but haven't had it for a few years. That is just cause I don't go to church.

I actually feel the same connection sometimes when I sit down to a good meal. A glass of wine helps but is not necessary. Anyway, as far as the transubstantiation thing goes, I'm with BB on this one; no big deal.

I would have said otherwise a while back but I just don't see it as a beg deal compared to some of the false crap going on out there today. Yes it is weird and wrong but if it helps someone experience a connection to God then fine. Just don't say that I have to believe it too.

The main point you don't want to miss is that the Lord wants to commune with us. He wants to feel welcome at the table. I like that in Him.

Megoblocks said...

As much as I try to see things from other's views, I just dont see how anyone stays on this conclusion after looking / thinking about it for any length of time.

Part of the problem is I think, that the concept is so engrained in the Catholic faith (or the adherents to the position) that should literal Transubstantiaton be challenged, there is the fear that the rest of their Catholic faith will soon follow.

Slapdash said...

I can't say much here on the merits, as the Catholic teaching on it is quite complex and beyond the physical properties of transubstantiation. Communion is one of the sacraments - one of (I think) seven tangible, physical ways that God connects with us. I'm not Catholic, so I probably have that wrong, but I do remember being attracted to the idea of the sacraments, because in my evangelical upbringing, everything about my faith was metaphorical and symbolic. I never got to be "touched" by God through anything we did at church.

The transubstantiation thing of course begs the broader question of how we know whether to interpret something in the Bible as literal or symbolic. I think there is no real way to determine it, because someone who interprets it literally will say "are you saying you don't believe God *could* mask the DNA properties of the blood and wine if he wanted to?" and someone interpreting it symbolically will say "my experience tells me this is obviously a metaphor; besides, if it were literal wouldn't that make us cannibals?"

SocietyVs - I hope it's okay that I added you to as a link on my blog.

Cheers~