Friday, May 30, 2008

Lutherans Deny Consubstantiation

Lutherans are often depicted as holding the view of consubstantiation regarding the Lord's Supper. This is patently false. For those who are interested, I am including sections from 3 accounts which demonstrate that Lutherans deny and reject consubstantiation. You can find many more salutary details by reading the complete articles of Charles Porterfield Krauth, C.F.W. Walther, and Norman Nagel.

CP Krauth, Conservative Reformation, pp. 774-776.

Salmasius (+1653): “Consubstantiation, or fusion of natures, is the commixtion of two substances as it were into one; but it is not this which the followers of Luther believe; for they maintain the co-existence of two substances distinct in two subjects. It is the co-existence, rather, of the two substances than their consubstantiation.” Nothing would be easier than to multiply such citations. . . .

The brethren of the Augsburg confession teach: That the body and blood of Christ are present with the signs in the Supper substantially and corporeally. But here it is to be observed that these brethren do not mean that there is any consubstantiation or impanation. On the contrary, Pfaff, the venerable Chancellor of Tubingen, protests, in their name, against such an idea. He says:

“All ours agree that the body of Christ is not in the Eucharist by act of that finite nature of its own, according to which it is now only in a certain ‘pou’ (somewhere) of the heavens; and this remains that the body of Christ is not in the world, nor in the Eucharist, by diffusion or extension, by expansion or location, by circumscription or natural mode. Yet is the body of Christ really present in the Holy Supper.

“But the inquisitive may ask, How? I answer, our theologians, who have rightly weighed the matter, say that the body and blood of Christ are present in the Holy Supper according to the omnipresence imparted to the flesh of Christ by virtue of the personal union, and are sacramentally united with the Eucharistic symbols, the bread and wine; that is, are so united, that of the divine institution, these symbols are not symbols and figures of an absent thing, but of a thing most present, to wit, the body and blood of Christ, which are not figurative, but most real and substantial.

Wherefore the body and blood of Christ are present, but not by a presence of their own a natural and cohesive, circumscriptive and local, diffusive and extensive presence, according to which other bodies are said to be present but by a divine presence, a presence through the conjunction of the Logos with the flesh of Christ. We, rejecting all other modes of a real Eucharistic presence, hold, in accordance with our Symbolical books, that union alone according to which the body and blood of Christ, by act of the divine person, in which they subsist, are present with the Eucharistic symbols. We repeat, therefore, all those of the Reformed do wrongly who attribute to us the doctrine of consubstantiation, against whom we solemnly protest.”

The adherents of the Augsburg Confession hold that the true and substantial body and blood of Christ . , are received by unbelievers as well as by believers, orally. Pfaff thus expresses it: “Though the participation be oral, yet the mode is spiritual; that is, is not natural, not corporeal, not carnal.”

Not only however have candid men of other Churches repudiated the false charge made against our Church, but there have not been wanting those, not of our Communion, who have given the most effectual denial of these charges by approaching very closely to the doctrine which has been maligned, or by accepting it unreservedly. Lehre and Wehre, II, 2, Feb. 1856, pp. 33-43

If the opponents of the Lutheran Church here in America want to be concise in describing the teaching of Luther, the Augsburg Confession, the Formula of Concord, and the entire old Lutheran church on the Lord’s Supper, especially as regards the manner in which the body and blood of Jesus Christ are present in this sacrament, they commonly resort to the use of the technical terms in our title, consubstantiation and impanation, or also incorporation.

This labeling is still used in the latest edition of the Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1854, edited by J. Newton Brown. Under the entry “Consubstantiation” we read the following: “A tenet of the Lutheran church respecting the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Luther denied that the elements were changed after consecration, and therefore taught that the bread and wine indeed remain; but that together with them, there is present the substance of the body of Christ, which is literally (!) received by communicants. As in red-hot iron it may be said, two distinct substances, iron and fire, are united, so is the body of Christ joined with the bread.”

Under the entry “Lutheranism” we are told that “It has undergone some alterations since the time of its founder. Luther believed the impanation or consubstantiation.”

It is indeed a pitiable and devastating testimony to the level of theological education in this country when a book claiming to represent that education contains such disfigurements (to say no more) of the teaching of a church that is spread across the entire globe. But it is even more unpardonable and presupposes either the greatest ignorance or evil intent when alleged theologians who call themselves Lutherans are just as incorrect in presenting the teaching of the church whose servants, stewards, and watchmen they want to be.

Alas, this is by no means an infrequent occurrence! The whole so-called “American Lutheran” church, led by such men as Dr. B. Kurtz and Dr. S. S. Schmucker, dissociates itself, to be sure, from consubstantiation or impanation in the Lord’s Supper, yet, in spite of all protests on the part of Lutherans in this country who are faithful to the Symbols, keeps on boldly accusing these Lutherans and the whole old Lutheran Church that has remained loyal to Luther’s teaching of holding this unbiblical conception oft he presence oft he body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. This is so notorious that we may dispense with documentation from the Lutheran Observer or the Evangelical Lutheran.

To be sure, the warning has often been issued in recent years against reviving the old controversy about the Lord’s Supper. However, just those who issue this warning keep on attacking the teaching of the Lutheran Church on this point and not only call it a remnant of the papacy and a product of dark and superstitious days, but they also give that teaching a completely false interpretation and then make their renunciation of it a shibboleth of genuine American Lutherans. Who, then, is responsible for stirring up the old conflict? Those who remain faithful to the teaching of our church as deposited in its Symbols and defend it against attacks and distortions? Or is it not rather those who in the midst of our church oppose and misinterpret this teaching as unbiblical and papistic? Every fairminded person, even among our opponents, must concede that it is the latter.

For the moment, we will confine ourselves to rejecting the doctrine of a consubstantiation or an impanation that is imputed to Lutherans who are faithful to the Symbols.

C.F.W. Walther, Editorials from Lehre und Where, p. 15f

First of all, what do these terms mean? Consubstantiation, as the word indicates, means a combination of two substances in such a way that by being mixed together they are fused into one substance or mass, consisting of different ingredients. For example, pouring the substances of water and wine together produces a watered wine (Weinwasser); blending honey and water produces mead; mixing meat and flour produces meat pies. Hence, in the Lord’s Supper consubstantiation would involve the concept of a spacial combination, mixture, and fusion of the body and blood of Christ with the consecrated elements as a new dual mass, as Eutyches once asserted the fusion of both natures in Christ into one nature.

Impanation signifies the spacial inclusion, concealment, incapsulation of an item within the bread, as in a capsule containing and enclosing the item. Hence, in the Lord’s Supper impanation would express the idea that the body of Christ, compressed into a very small body, lies concealed under the consecrated bread and is enclosed by it as by its container.

These conceptions of the presence of Christ, that is, of His body and blood, in the Holy Supper are thoroughly unbiblical, materialistic, unworthy, and self-contradictory, and they are equally un-Lutheran and in contradiction to the Confessions of our church. . . .

The first one to impute the conception of impanation and consubstantiation to Luther was Carlstadt, who therefore in a blasphemous way referred to the God of the Lutherans as a “God made of bread” (St. Louis Edition, XX, 577). Zwingli, Oecolampadius, and even Bucer of Strasbourg followed Carlstadt in this matter. Bucer, however, revoked his accusation after he had read Luther’s “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper” and had talked with Luther. He wrote:

When Luther in the process of this disputation went into greater detail on this entire matter of’ the Sacrament, I perceived that he did not combine the body and blood of the Lord with bread and wine by a natural bond, nor enclose body and blood spatially in bread and wine, nor attribute to the sacraments the peculiar power through which these achieve the salvation of the communicants, but that he merely affirmed a sacramental union between the bread and the Lord’s body, between His blood and the wine. Furthermore, he teaches that the strengthening of faith attributed to the sacraments does not rest on a power which inheres in the external elements as such, but a power which belongs to Christ and is imparted by His Spirit through the words and sacred signs. When I understood this, I was at pains to show and commend this also to others.

Therefore here and now I desire to testify to all who read this that Martin Luther and those who truly agree with him and duly follow his teaching do not assume any impanation in the Holy Supper, nor any local inclusion of Christ’s body in the bread and blood in the wine, nor do they ascribe any saving power to the external actions of the Sacrament as such. They assume a true, substantial presence and distribution of the Lord’s body and blood with the bread and wine in Holy Communion, as both the Lord’s own words and the testimony of the apostle clearly express. This presence and distribution is based on the words and institution of the Lord Himself, without any natural union of Christ’s body and blood with the elements. . . .

After Luther’s death it was Calvin who revived the old accusation, as may be gathered from the Apologia confessionis de coena Domini contra corruptelas Calvini [Defense of the Confession Concerning the Lord’s Supper, Against the Corruptions of Calvin], by Joachim Westphal at Hamburg (Urcellis, 1558, cf. pp. 297 ff.). Therefore our church has spoken clearly about this in the Formula of Concord of 1580. Here it says among other things (in a citation from the Wittenberg Concord, as it had been jointly composed and signed by Luther and Bucer and other Saxon and South German theologians in the year 1536): We “do not believe that the body and blood of Christ are locally enclosed in the bread, or are in some way permanently united with it apart from the use of the sacrament ...” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, VII, 14; Tappert, p. 571).

Norman E. Nagel, "Consubstantiation" in Hermann Sasse: A Man for Our Times?, pp. 240ff

There never was such a word until the sixteenth century. It was conceived and born in darkness and survives only as it battles against the light. It may be likened unto anaerobic bacteria. Its dubious genesis, early cancer, and links are what this paper will attempt to inquire into. We may note its remarkable recrudescence in the 20th century, but that is more than we can pursue today.

Consubstantiation is identified as “Lutheran” in The Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism of 1995. There it is defined as the theory that the substance of bread and wine remain together with the body and blood of Christ in the eucharistic sacrament. A loaded statement indeed, in which we may, for what we are pursuing today, notice particularly that the statement depends on the term substance, and observe that it is here used of bread and wine, and not of the body and blood of Christ.

Should it then surprise us that a recent identification of what Lutherans confess of the Lord’s Supper as consubstantiation should come from Princeton? At Princeton one may expect that they know what theology may be called Reformed, if not what may be called Lutheran. Is there something in the Reformed way of theology which virtually commits it to so misunderstanding what Lutherans confess of the Lord’s Supper as to label it consubstantiation?

Such was indeed the case when the word was first used by a Reformed theologian to depict the Lutheran doctrine as absurd, or what’s even worse as not yet free of Rome. He does not mention the body and the blood. Have you ever heard some catechumen say, “Rome has only body and blood; the Reformed have only bread and wine; the Lutherans have all four. This is the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.” Is that what we might call consubstantiation?

What is at stake here is not whether some theologian has done his homework or not. Sasse leaves us in no doubt what is at stake, and who has ever caught him not having done his homework? He is then able to draw in illuminating instances from at times the apparently unlikeliest places. These then serve to show that we are not the first to face this issue, and how sectarian it is to think and speak (perhaps only speak) as if we were.

Thus he draws to us the resources of the church perpetuo mansura showing how the Lord has brought her through even to such a day as ours, by way of days far worse than ours, and so calling us to live our days in the confidence of such a Lord who gathers His people to His table, and so on to the final messianic feast. In this centenary year of Herman Sasse’s birth, when we give thanks for all that our Lord had use of him for, we may surely include not only his immense learning (apostolic, catholic, Lutheran), but then also his astonishing ability to gather it to a specific focus, thereby illuminating and deepening something that is Christianity crucial. This is nowhere so clear as in the Lord’s Supper.

This paper will attempt then something of a footnote prompted by his confession of “the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.” This is what is at stake when Lutherans are told that they confess consubstantiation.


Father Hollywood said...

Dr. Sasse has an excellent treatment of this in *This Is My Body* - on pages 81 and following in the 1977 edition (see the index under "consubstantiation").

Kurt Onken said...

And yet I distinctly remember my pastor in confirmation teaching us that we DO believe in Consubstantiation. I believed that for years and only got straightened out in seminary. How did my pastor at the time miss that one?

And God help me and forgive me if I've missed anything and permanently screwed up my catechumens.

Anonymous said...

I have been fighting this issue with secular reference resource publishers that never seem to use authoritative sources. The false attribute to Luther or Lutherans that dates back to at least one 17th century Italian Calvinist. I had one or two editors promise to correct their reference works after having been shown authoritative proofs. 2007 came, and no corrections were made by those publishers. Now, with the proliferation of online dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias and some web sites that use the works of the above Calvinist as if they were today's words and that they are true (despite the previous admittance by some that the words were not truth).

If one does a web search for "consubstantiation," the secular references will come to the fore, but not sites such as "Christian Cyclopedia," formerly known as the Lutheran Cyclopedia, that have the correct statements.

I, regrettably, found a web page that claims to be Lutheran, but has the statement that Martin Luther believed this. I am fairly certain that that is an "inadvertent" misinterpretation.

There are too many who go to the secular resources and see the errors, and not the authoritative truths. I have seen some spurn Lutheranism because of the secular definition and the idea that Lutherans believe in a "carnal sense."

I pray that those who know better will encourage publishers online, or by letter, to correct this ongoing error. I don't think it a waste of time or breath as some may, but rather that enough have not taken the time to address the issue and offering authoritative resources, e.g. our seminaries and published works.