Monday, July 02, 2007

Another thought on close communion

A man and a woman come to a pastor saying they want to get married. The pastor starts counseling them, and the man soon makes it clear to the pastor that he does not believe that going through the marriage ceremony changes anything.

"The marriage ceremony," the man says, "is merely a public expression of the love I feel for this woman. The ceremony, however, does not bind me in any way to this particular woman."

The pastor responds, "The whole point of the marriage ceremony is to bind two people together in a special way. If one (or both) parties to the rite deny that it accomplishes this, then there's no point to undergoing or administering the rite. It wouldn't make any sense to do it."

That the man responds and says, "Well, that's your view of the rite's purpose. I simply disagree. It's Jesus' ceremony after all."

What can the pastor do, but respond, "I believe you're wrong, and I need to act upon my conscience. Something real happens in a marriage ceremony, and people who deny that something real happens in the ceremony deny the whole point of the ceremony. It would be a joke to proceed with the rite in that case. I won't participate in the ceremony if that's what you think."

Or how about this? A Lutheran brings a baby to a baptist pastor, and requests that he baptize the baby. The baptist pastor refuses. "I believe that the person being baptized needs personally to have confessed his belief in Christ in order to be baptized. Since I don't believe that babies can believe in Jesus, they can't be baptized, the rite has no meaning in that case."

The Lutheran responds, "Ah, pastor, that's just your belief. Baptism belongs to Jesus."

The pastor responds: "You just don't get it. There's no point to administering the rite if the recipient can't personally believe in and confess Jesus. Sure, that's my belief, but I can't do anything but act on that belief. I'm not going to baptize your baby."

The whole point of the Supper is that, in receiving the Supper, we receive Christ's forgiveness in receiving the real body and blood of Christ in the Supper. If a person doesn't believe that, then there's no point to them participating in the rite. It's like undergoing the form of marriage while denying its power, for a baptist, it's like adminstering baptism to an infant.


Blogger J said...

Ah, but you miss something in each of your examples - what the Bible actually says about each thing. It is not just one's own opinion on something. One can look at the Bible and see what the authority has to say on the subject. People may interpret what the authority means differently, or they may ignore the authority, but it is not just each person's opinion.

In marriage, the Bible lays out that marriage (not just love) is a binding force with temporal and eternal consequences.

In Baptism, the Bible lays out when Baptism is supposed to occur. It is always given with repentance and belief.

For the Lord's Supper, the Bible tells us that the Lords Supper is for remembrance and fellowship, not for receiving forgiveness.

July 05, 2007 11:57 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Um, right. That's the point of the stories. Everyone believes that their beliefs and practices must align with what the Scriptures actually say.

As for your examples:

[1] On marriage -- I don't necessarily dispute it, but I'm unsure what you think are the "eternal consequences" of marriage. There is no marriage in the eschaton, after all (Mt 22.30).

[2] On baptism -- who's disputes that belief precedes baptism? What does that have to do with the post?

[3] On the Supper, keep reading your Bible: "Drink from it all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is to be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26.28-29).

July 05, 2007 3:03 PM  
Blogger J said...

1) Marriage - eternal consequences such as sin, adultery, etc.

2) I said nothing of belief, I said "repentance".

3) "which is to be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" - it doesn't say "to be consumed by many for the forgiveness of sins." What is the only thing we are told to do with the Holy Eucharist? Consume it. What is the only reason we are told to consume? Remembrance and fellowship.

July 05, 2007 7:39 PM  
Blogger Jim said...


Writing "repentance and belief," as you did in your original comment, does not strike me as saying "nothing" about belief.

Irrespective, I grant the point (I take repentance to be a part of belief, so its there even if it's not mentioned in a text, Mk 16.16, Acts 8.12-13, 18.8) -- but what does the point have to do with any part of the post?

As for the Supper, now you're just refusing to receive what the text states. Why do you quote only the second part of the sentence?

Jesus gives the cup to the disciples, telling them that what they drink "is" the blood of the covenant, the blood which he sheds for us (the many) for the forgiveness of sins.

That's the precise point of what Jesus says here, the conclusion follows immediately from the text.

July 06, 2007 7:58 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

I might add that I agree that the Supper also entails remembrance, and the fellowship of the body. Of course, the reason that the Christians fellowship with one another in the Supper, is because we fellowship with the body and blood of Christ in the Supper, and so fellowship with each other because we actually fellowship with Christ.

July 06, 2007 8:02 AM  
Blogger J said...

I shouldn't have started this. I have yet to find a Lutheran who doesn't, in the matter of Infant Baptism, remove the context from the "believe and be baptized to be saved" verses, as if the baptism brings salvation. As bad as Calvanists, though less convoluted.

Yes, the individual verses, if taken by themselves, could seem to make baptism the conduit for salvation. It's similar to Calvinists taking some verses to "show" TULIP. Yes, if taken without consideration of others, some verses appear to support the Calvinist position. Ditto for Infant Baptism.

I agree, repentance and belief, when dealing with salvation are inextricably linked - baptism is not. Thief on the cross, Cornelius and his household, the beggar in Acts 3 - all saved before or without baptism. Obviously Baptism is not necessary for salvation. Repentance and belief is what brings salvation, though baptism is to go with the repentance and belief.
Baptism is never given without repentance and belief. The Bible never indicates that Baptism without repentance and belief has any effect. Neither does the Bible ever say that Baptism puts faith or belief into someone, as a couple other Lutherans told me IB does to infants. The closest the Bible ever comes is when it uses "baptism" as a summary word for the whole kit-n-kaboodle of repentance, belief, and salvation. (1 Peter 3:20-21 for example.)
There's another line of argument I've heard Lutherans use - Old Testament circumcision, but this is a much more tenuous line of support (though it has less verse twisting) and not all the Lutherans I've spoken with agree with that line of support, so I'm ignoring it at the moment.

For the Lord's Supper, I really ought to say to you what you said to me - "As for the Supper, now you're just refusing to receive what the text states." The whole verses of Matthew 26:27-28 are this:

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

He tells them to drink of it. He says that his blood is poured out for the forgiveness of sins; Christ's blood is poured out for forgiveness, not consumed for forgiveness. He's speaking of his death on the cross when He says his blood is poured out. Could He have also meant the blood is to be consumed for the forgiveness of sins? Matthew 26 doesn't give the reason for the consumption of the blood. Where is the reason for the consumption of blood given? Luke 22 and 1 Cor 11. In both places (twice in 1 Cor11) we are told that we are to take the body and blood of Christ in remembrance, fellowship, and to "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." Luke 22:19 is even more specific in showing that we are to take the bread (and likewise the wine) in remembrance of Christ.

The flesh and blood is shed for forgiveness, not consumed for forgiveness. It is consumed for remembrance, proclamation, and fellowship.

My apologies for taking so long here. I tried to do super brief summaries above, but it's a topic that can use up lots of words, and this is still pretty condensed.

July 06, 2007 11:45 AM  
Blogger Jim said...


On baptism: I've agreed with you twice already that faith precedes baptism, for everyone. I'm just not following what you think that your point responds to in the original post.

On the Supper: Of course it is the blood that is poured out for forgiveness of sins that we drink in the cup. That's the whole point.

You say, "look, the cup is poured out." Of course it is. Jesus' blood is poured out of the cup into his disciples. That's the whole point Jesus is making when he gives them the cup.

As Jesus says, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink" (Jn 6.54-55).

And I agreed that we remember in the Supper. It's the remembrance of faith, however, not an abstract "let's reflect on the fact of the crucifixion while we eat." In the Supper is the remembrance of Christ's gift of forgiveness and the acceptance of it by faith, so that it gives us life.

July 06, 2007 12:52 PM  
Blogger J said...

Then my apologies if I misunderstood what you were aiming at in your post.

The Lutherans I've spoken with (well, most of them) hold that their sins are forgiven _by_ partaking in the Lord's Supper. Likewise, that an infant will wind up in heaven if he dies in a car crash going home from baptism, but not if he dies on the way to church to be baptized.

My apologies. I should have learned by now to not assume things.

July 06, 2007 2:14 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I "think" we're on the same page now:

In the cup, Jesus gives the disciples his blood that is poured out for the forgiveness of sins. So in the Supper, we drink the blood that is poured out for the forgiveness of sins. We receive the blood of the New Covenant. We receive eternal life from drinking Jesus' blood and eating his body.

Individuals who have faith but do not have the opportunity to be baptized are saved (e.g., the thief on the cross, the infant in the car crash on the way to his baptism). As far as I know, that's not controversial in Lutheran circles, but I can always be surprised.

July 07, 2007 7:44 AM  
Blogger J said...

I've heard slightly differently things from the Lutherans with whom I've talked - the infant on the way to being baptized would NOT go to heaven.

July 07, 2007 1:36 PM  

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