Wednesday, September 23, 2009

John Calvin And The Use Of Icons

On The Well of Questions an interesting dialogue has ensued from what began with MG's take on one of my questions about icons, Scriptural authority and the seventh council. Many people responded as a result. The first comment I will list here is one of MG's examples (a classic) offered as Scriptural indication that one should venerate icons. The next will be fromDisposableSoul who had been conversing with MG on the subject in order to gain insight. In response I will be offering an exerp from John Calvin's Institutes and leaving the whole thing open for dialogue in order to gain a better grasp on the argument.

MG says: "An example of the veneration of icons is Psalm 99. In this Psalm, instructions are given to 'Extol the Lord our God; worship at his footstool'. The word 'footstool' seems to be talking about the Ark of the covenant, given the context (99:1 speaks of God enthroned upon the cherubim) and usage of the phrase 'footstool' elsewhere (see 1 Chronicles 28:2 'I had planned to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God'). The word for 'worship' is the same as the word in Exodus 20:5; it is talking about bowing down in front of things. So here we have instructions mandating that Israelites bow down before the Ark of the Covenant. Naturally an Orthodox Christian will want to transfer this Psalm into its Christ-revealing, New Testament meaning. The ark was a type of the cross of Christ, the tomb of Christ, and the Virgin Mary; so this Psalm is talking about bowing down to the cross and tomb of Christ, and the Virgin Mary, and worshiping the Christ who is within these."

DisposableSoul Responds: "Iconography is indeed a powerful expression of the Gospel, to be sure. I, however, never saw icons as anything worthy of veneration; to be respected, surely. Could it be that ‘footstool’ is indeed just a footstool?... Certainly the Sons of Israel revered the ark, but they worshiped the creator of the universe, not the gold and acacia that made the ark. To esteem wood and metal to the point of veneration seems, in my mind, to be in exact opposite of what scripture teaches."

MG draws our attention to the footstool or Ark of the Covenant and says that God commanded the Israelites to bow down in front of the Ark of the Covenant. From there he extends the whole thing to the necessity that we as believers do the same to the Virgin Mary and other signs because Christ is within these as well. DisposableSoul agrees that icons are a powerful expression of the Gospel but doubts whether the icons (or Ark) are to be venerated on the grounds of what MG brought up. He asks whether a "'footstool' is indeed just a footstool".

John Calvin says in his Institutes "The mercy seat from which God God manifested the presence of his power under the law was so constructed as to suggest that the best way to contemplate the divine is where minds are lifted above themselves with admiration. Indeed, the cherubim with wings outspread covered it; the veil shrouded it; the place itself deeply enough hidden concealed it; the veil shrouded it; the place itself deeply enough hidden concealed it [Ex. 25:17-12]. Hence it is perfectly clear that those who try to defend images of God and saints with the example of those cherubim are raving madmen" (Book 1 XI 3).

From what MG provides from Psalm 99 it doesn't seem as though there is any clear command by God to venerate the footstool (or the holy mountain) itself. The place where the footstool was contained was where God would on occassion make Himself known. It was the established place of worship after all. But do we have indication that the footstool itself was being venerated? Not in what MG provides. From what John Calvin provides it also seems the construction of the Ark itself leads us away from such a practice.

Thoughts?

I realize there are other arguments offered in favor of the veneration of icons. I ask that comments be limited to this specific argument or extended to evidences that would help or dissuade one from accepting veneration of icons on the basis of Psalm 99 and Exodus.

Of Further Note
:

One might also consider the words of Jesus in John 4:21-24

"Jesus declared, 'Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

62 comments:

David Nilsen said...

Catz,

Calvin certainly has a way with words, doesn't he (especially when describing his opponents, haha)?

To draw out your implication from John 4, are you suggesting that Jesus' words might be taken as an indication that even if some sort of veneration of physical objects was prescribed in the OT, that such a practice is passing away in the New Covenant to be replaced by something better (worshiping in spirit and in truth)?

Catz206 said...

Hey Nilsen,

Heh ya. That is one thing that amuses and annoys me about Calvin. Everyone who does not agree with him is clearly raving mad.

And yes, that is exactly what I wanted people to consider when I offered that last verse.

It is also interesting to note that in the chapter MG offered, the Israelies are not only commanded to worship at the footstool but also at "His holy hill".

Lucian said...

The idea is that God's glory has no mental problem inhabbiting physical objects (like, say, icons)

Even idols were commiting idolatry before the Ark (1 Samuel 5:1-5). ;)

Bowing down to people was commonplace just a few centuries ago (and in my humble opinion, saints are far superior to any king, prince, emperor, or nobleman)

In the meantime, also read this.

Catz206 said...

hey Lucian,

You make a good point with 1 Sam 5 but I am not certain you have a case for veneration of icons here. It doesn't seem like Dagon is venerating anything- he is definitely lying face down on the floor in front of the ark- that is significant. Only, he is lying on the ground broken into pieces.

As for bowing down being common- correct me if I am wrong but I thought the veneration of icons involved more than a simple sign of respect.

Also, there are numerous examples in the Bible where people are told not to bow to creatures. Ex: Peter and Cornelius or instances with angels appearing.

Lucian said...

What I said about idols commiting idolatry was of course a joke. :) The idea is that there's a difference between icons and idols, between demons and the power of God. What zealous Jewish king do You remember destroying the God-ordained images in the Temple, along with statues of Baal or other idols? Of course, there's none, but Protestants don't seem to understand that.

As for the Psalm, that's logical, because it says even in the Law of Moses that God will show Himself to him on the mercy-seat between the two golden Cherubim. (How do You think Moses stood when God revealed Himself to him?). The excuse that thesen things were religious "art" and were meant as "adornments" or whatever is not false, but misses the mark: these things were given so that God might reveal Himself to us, and that His power might work through them, and that He might deliver us. (not merely for meditation or beauty).

And --contrary to Calvin-- the comparison is not a cop-out or an excuse: there are many things in common between the OT Temple or Meeting-Tent, and the Orthodox Churches. One thing that I noticed since I was little was that there are two tables in the Altar, just like there were also two tables in the Holy of Holies: in both cases, the Altar-table was towards the East, and the second one at its left, towards the North: and (in both cases) this nothern/left table was used for offering breads to God. The courtain of gold-weaved Cherubim and the iconstand; the orientation of the Church or Temple on a east-west axis; priestly vestments, incense being offered, etc.

Catz206 said...

Lucian-

I’m glad to see you have a sense of humor. I don’t get jokes that often.

On another note, I think there might be a misunderstanding here. We are not against God-ordained images in the temple (or the Church for that matter). Our difference seems to be in what the proper use of these images are.

Also, I do agree with you that God can reveal Himself in religious art in a very powerful way- I simply do not agree that one is required to venerate it. John Calvin’s description is making me wonder about this even further.

By the way, I (not agreeing with much of what he says) don’t agree with Calvin that everyone who disagrees with his position is just copping out or raving mad.

Lucian said...

My question was down-to-earth simple: what bodily position do You think that Moses adopted in front of the mercy seat when God revealed His glory to him between the two golden cherubim?

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Catz,

I don't see how you can think that the use of icons in the Church (which we don't worship) is too close to idolatry, but our worship of the Eucharist is simply a "minor misunderstanding" that John turned a blind eye to when it caught on even amongst his student Ignatius of Antioch? (your words here: http://bywhoseauthority.blogspot.com/2009/03/ignatius-and-eucharist-3.html)

Look at Acts 19:11-12 "And God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons: and the diseases departed from them: and the wicked spirits went out of them." He uses physical objects to advance His glory. Granted, this is relics, and not icons, but the point stands.

In the Old Testament, God *commands* the building of a bronze serpent, even though He knows that His people will eventually worship it: Numbers 21:4-9. He heals people through this bronze serpent. When the Jews begin to worship it, He orders it destroyed. 2 Kings 18:4. I think that example contradicts Calvin's claim.

This bronze serpent prefigures Christ on the Cross, the Crucifix (see John 3:14-15). And indeed, the Crucifix was a symbol used in the early Church: Galatians 3:1.

I don't see where you're going with John 4:21-24. We no longer have a Holy Mountain which God comes down from, etc. How does having an image stop us from worshipping in spirit and in truth? I'm not sure how you're getting to your conclusion. Did Paul stop worshipping in spirit and truth in Galatians 3:1 when he invoked the Crucifix to make his point?

Catz206 said...

Lucian-

I would be happy to answer your down-to-earth simple question if you wouldn't mind answering one of mine. What indication do you have that Moses was venerating the footstool (in the way prescribed by the EO) rather than only what it was pointing to?

Catz206 said...

Hey Joe-

I don't actually think my Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters are committing idolatry and I have not argued for this in the post. Also, I am not against using signs and symbols in the Church or even having them- I own a couple of icons myself (I just don't venerate them).

As for the info on the Eucharist, if you wouldn't mind cleaning this up for me I would gladly respond as best as I can.

The John verse at the end was just food for thought. I have not claimed that icons violates the idea of this passage but requiring their veneration does.

Catz206 said...

To clarify my last thoughts on John (which was a side note):

David Nilsen has discerned my thoughts well in the above comment:

"To draw out your implication from John 4, are you suggesting that Jesus' words might be taken as an indication that even if some sort of veneration of physical objects was prescribed in the OT, that such a practice is passing away in the New Covenant to be replaced by something better (worshiping in spirit and in truth)?"

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Catz,

Thanks for the quick response. Also, I have to say that I really like this blog, so don't take my criticisms as detracting from that. Too few Christians get into the Early Church Fathers, and I'm pleased that you're an exception. Now in regard to two points:

(1) Your use of the John 4 passage to say physical veneration is good up to a point, and then no more isn't supported by a close look at the text. The Jews aren't venerating the mountain itself.

Jesus is responding to the question posed in John 4:20 by the Samaritan, "Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus basically tells her that arguing over which mountain to worship on misses the point entirely, and will shortly become moot (because of the Diaspora, which cut off the Jews and Samaritans from access to both sites). The Spirit and Truth is a reference to the Holy Spirit (see John 14:16-17). Jesus is saying that the important thing is that you're in good standing with the Holy Ghost, and have a true Faith, not that you are at the right mountain.

So they didn't venerate the mountain, they weren't told that veneration of anything was sinful (simply that it wasn't the important thing, and that they were going to have access to the mountain), and no rule was set up for the future, other than to emphasize the Holy Spirit. Catholics agree with all of this: venerating an icon or a relic or something isn't going to replace a relationship with the Holy Spirit - it's intended only to *improve* on that relationship - again, there's a reason that God permits the behavior in Acts 19:11-12, and the Holy Spirit inspires Luke to include the details: if it detracted from a relationship with Him, the behavior would have been condemned instead of lauded.

Does that respond to your reading of the passage? What am I missing?


(2) On the Eucharist, I wrote a blog post here (http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/10/protestant-answer-to-ignatius-on.html) spelling out my thoughts at some length. My basic point was that if Catholics are wrong about the Eucharist, we're worshipping a piece of bread- perhaps one which reminds us of Jesus, but still no better than worshipping a Jesus-shaped cornflake. In the case of icons, veneration of them isn't because we think that icons themselves have power. With the Eucharist, we really think It is, Itself, the Omnipotent God.

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Hey, sorry, new insight.

*The Jews and Samaritans both thought that their given mountain gave them an edge with God, and it didn't, and instead, caused them to fight and hate each other.

In the New Covenant, we access the "Holy Place" not through a mountaing or a synagogue, but through the Body and Blood of Christ: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the Blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His Body” (Hebrews 10:19-20).

In the Mass, this same Body and Blood is made really present for us by the Holy Spirit.

===

Raymond Brown writes of this passage:

"Today most exegetes agree that in proclaiming worship in Spirit and truth, Jesus is not contrasting external worship with internal worship. His statement has nothing to do with worshiping God in the inner recesses of one’s own spirit; for the Spirit of God, not the spirit of man, as vs. 24 makes clear. In fact, one could almost regard “Spirit and truth” as hendiadys (see Note on vs. 23) equivalent to “Spirit of truth.” An ideal of purely internal worship ill fits the NT scene with its eucharistic gatherings, hymn singing, baptism in water, etc. (unless one assumes that John’s theology is markedly different from that of the Church at large)."

Catz206 said...

"Jesus basically tells her that arguing over which mountain to worship on misses the point entirely, and will shortly become moot...Jesus is saying that the important thing is that you're in good standing with the Holy Ghost, and have a true Faith, not that you are at the right mountain."

Agree

“venerating an icon or a relic or something isn't going to replace a relationship with the Holy Spirit –“

I Agree and see that this is not believed by many Catholics and EOrthodox in the US.

“…it's intended only to *improve* on that relationship”

I disagree here if this improvement is in a prescribed sense where those who do not venerate are not gaining this “improvement” and living in disobedience.

“again, there's a reason that God permits the behavior in Acts 19:11-12,”

I am seeing healing but where is the veneration?

As for the Eucharist, I think I see what you are saying now. Do Catholics actually worship the Eucharist? If they do, this may be something important for me to consider.

Catz206 said...

For your new insight, let me confirm some things before responding. Are you arguing that according to these verses, worship has been moved from the mountain or synagogue exclusively to the mass exclusively? If this is the case, then would you say that Protestants are not worshipping God since they are not doing so in the mass?

Joe Heschmeyer said...

1) Yes, we worship the Eucharist. We think It is the Flesh and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

2) The Mass is special (like OT Temple worship) in that the Holy of Holies is physically present. Unlike the Temple, He's not separated from us by the curtain, and we can physically "taste and see the goodness of the Lord."

Worship outside of Mass is good, too, but doesn't replace the Mass' uniqueness. Jews worshipped at home, not just in Temple, and Catholics worship God outside of Mass too, obviously. So Protestant worship is authentic worship of God and Jesus is spiritually present (but not physically present, as in the Mass).

Lucian said...

I don't see the difference between what Moses did and what we do. He believed God was present there, he bowed down in front of it, the OT priests burned incence in front of it, etc. I also don't understand how profound awe or deep reverence could be shown to something apart from its meaning, or from what it signifies, or from divine presence there.

Catz206 said...

Sorry for the holdup I will get back to you all eventually. It is almost time for midterms to begin so responses will be delayed until I can get a few more minutes.

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Catz, I totally understand - I'm in my last year of law school. I'll say a quick prayer than midterms go well!

Catz206 said...

Hey Joe-

Thankx for the prayer! Hopefully my Greek midterm went well. On the bright side, I have had some more time to think over your points.

1) Yes, you are right in this and I think I will have to take back my earlier comment. I don't like saying this but I think this really could be considered a form of idolatry. Still, I know that I am not immune to this charge as a protestant and am very well aware that I often elevate things I shouldn't and am condemned in my own thoughts.

2)Would you mind explaining what you have said here in light of John 6:47 and 20:31? It seems as though believing in Christ is the essential part rather than worshipping at a required location. Also, do you think this might bring up questions regarding the necessity of a literal interpretation of his "body and blood" (especially in light of the tendency for the people recorded here to mistake Jesus' words to be literal)?

Thank you for your patience. It has been a pleasure chatting.

Catz206 said...

Lucian-

Sorry for making you wait. The question is not over whether or not Moses or us ought to or do bow before God but where our particular adoration is directed. Was the attention directed towards the ark itself? I don’t think so but I do think the ark served as a marker for the revealed presence of God. I don’t think the ark was venerated but I do think the ark was especially used by God to draw their attention to Him.

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Catz,

No problem - I've enjoyed this as well.

(1) Obviously, if the Eucharist isn't Christ, we're all idolaters. That includes Ignatius of Antioch, of course. I wrote this in response to this point, because I think you're using different definitions of "idolatry" interchangeably: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/11/idolatry-eucharist-and-our-lady.html

(2) I don't think that Mass is a required location in the same way that the holy mountain once was. After all, a priest can celebrate Mass virtually anywhere. They've had Mass in Antarctica before (literally).

It's not an either-or. We're told to pray to our Father in private in Matthew 6:6. But Christ says that where two or more are gathered, He's (spiritually) present. So we should do both. In addition, He's made Really Present sacramentally in the Eucharist, not simply spiritually present. So just as the righteous Jews would worship in private, in synagogue (corporate worship w/o the Holy of Holies) and in Temple (corporate worship w/ the Holy of Holies), we're to do all three. The major difference is that the veil is torn, and we now receive His Physical Body (Hebrews 10:19-20).

John 6:47 - Faith is fundamental to salvation. But faith entails that you believe *something.* The question we're debating is what that something is. The argument that faith is fundamental is an argument that it's important TO believe not WHAT you believe, but I think both of us would reject it in that form on face. If I said Jesus was simply a prophet of Allah, I think you and I would both say that that faith in Jesus was insufficient and dangerously incorrect.

"Faith" when used by Christ includes more than mere believe. We recently read Mark 10:46-52 in Mass, where Jesus says to the blind man "your faith has saved you," but only after that man has pursued Christ and hounded Him. He didn't simply acknowledge that Christ was capable of healing Him - he acted on that belief. And that whole package: the belief, and the activity upon the belief, is the saving faith.

John 20:31 - The same thing applies to this verse as well. It's more specific than John 6:47, but what if someone believed that Jesus was Son of God but not God Himself? Would that be ok?
Anyways, my point is that the Gospel of John is written so that people can believe in Christ - and that necessarily entails giving them a more accurate understanding of Christ. It's possible to fervently believe false things about Christ. John and Jesus both try and dispel this confusion, not simply praising any fervent belief in Christ.

(3) You asked why one should take John 6 literally. In addition to the fact that the Church Fathers unanimously hold this view, this is by far the superior view of the text. I walked through the text here to show what I mean:
http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/11/john-6-and-eucharist.html

Lucian said...

I don't really know how to explain this, but we don't venerate icons, we venerate the saints depicted there, whom we believe to be present there and hear our prayers; it's not something formal, like "Ooooh, there's a reminder, a symbol, an obelisk of something; let me go there and somehow pay my 'respects' to a memorial, like a politician, or like an intellectual". -- I don't know if You understand what I'm trying to say here... I'm not really good at explainig things. It's just like when You read the Bible, (whom we also venerate), and You believe that God is present there, speaking to You, and You listen; likewise, when we venerate an icon of Christ, we believe He's present there and -this time- we're talking to Him, praying, and He's the One listening to our petitions, problems, troubles, and needs. Basically, Your phrase that Moses didn't venerate the Ark sounds somehow weird to me: it's as if he goes there and says: "Hmmm... the Ark... it's holy... let me somehow venerate IT". It just doesn't seem right, ot it seems forced. (We don't "venerate" icons apart from the saints depicted in it... it's nonsensical).

David Nilsen said...

Lucian, I'm curious:

1) Can you venerate a saint in some way without the use of an icon? Also, can you pray to a saint (or to Christ, for that matter) without the use of an icon?

2) You say that you venerate the Bible and that God is "present" there and speaks through it, and it is the same case with icons. Would you say that icons and Scripture are identical in this regard, or is there a sense in which the venerating of Scripture is qualitatively different from that of icons? Is God present to a different degree in Scripture than in an icon?

Lucian said...

LOL! I'm glad that at least You're finally asking me things that I can actually understand! :-)

(1) Yes, of course; at any time; prayer is prayer. Orthodoxy teaches that we must (strive to) pray continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

(2) The Bible does not represent a person. (You may say it represents Jesus, because it's the Word/Logos of God, but that's not really the same way an actual icon of Christ represents Him). I mean, there are a lot of characters/persons in the Bible, which it might also partly represent: Prophets, Apostles, Evangelists, Patriarchs, etc.

Catz206 said...

Joe-
1) Was this point in reference to a different blog post by any chance? As for the link…I’m sorry to say that I am getting more and more pressed for time this semester so I won’t be able to look at it. However, if you could summarize the argument you are putting forward I would be glad to take a crack at it.

2) I’m tracking with you on the expansion of the mass and availability of Jesus’ body to all who participate in the mass….

You said: “But faith entails that you believe *something.* The question we're debating is what that something is.”

Agreed

“’Faith’ when used by Christ includes more than mere believe. We recently read Mark 10:46-52 in Mass, where Jesus says to the blind man ‘your faith has saved you,’ but only after that man has pursued Christ and hounded Him. He didn't simply acknowledge that Christ was capable of healing Him - he acted on that belief. And that whole package: the belief, and the activity upon the belief, is the saving faith.”

My understanding of faith here is belief, trust and hope in Christ. If one sets his trust in God he will be conformed to His image. I am not claiming that one does not act or that works are not done…nor am I saying faith is a state of mind. I am saying however that faith is not dependant on outward signs though one who believes in faith will do works. Works come out of faith.

“John 20:31 - The same thing applies to this verse as well. It's more specific than John 6:47, but what if someone believed that Jesus was Son of God but not God Himself? Would that be ok?”

This seems like more of a word game. If one does not believe Jesus is the Son of God in the way Scripture understands it and lays out his own definition then he can not be said to believe this at all. Of course, all of this in accordance with the time in history where God has unfolded His plan to the extent He chooses.

“Anyways, my point is that the Gospel of John is written so that people can believe in Christ - and that necessarily entails giving them a more accurate understanding of Christ. It's possible to fervently believe false things about Christ.”

The point I was trying to get across was that in these passages belief (in a faith sense) seems to be in view and not the partaking of His physical body. Could it be that those who simply put their faith in Christ “are” partaking of Him? In addition, these passages are in the path of a theme where people are continually mistaking Jesus’ words to be literal when really He is explaining kingdom realities (ex: Nicodemus being born again, the women at the well with everlasting water, the disciples thinking He had snuck off and gotten food…ect). Do you think it is fairly possible this could also be one of those instances?

“(3) You asked why one should take John 6 literally…”

Again I apologize that time will not permit me to read what you have here. Please summarize.

It may be beneficial to take one of these points at a time. : )

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Catz,

(1) I was pointing out that while you're suggesting that we Catholics worship Mary or saints or statues (which we don't), while in an earlier post, you called Ignatius' views on the Eucharist a "minor misunderstanding." Unlike Mary, saints, and statues, we DO worship the Eucharist, because we believe that it is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.

Then you responded by saying that the Eucharist WAS idolatry, but that you weren't immune from that charge as a Protestant. This notion seemed bizarre to me. We literally get down on our knees and worship the Eucharist. We think it's a heresy NOT to worship the Eucharist (as St. Augustine said). But you're using "idolatry," from what I can tell, in the sense of something which is overvalued, something you devote too much time, attention, or love to. That, I suggested in the link I provided, isn't an accurate or Biblical understanding of idolatry, and explains why you're hung up on Mary, saints, and statues.

(2) Catholics don't believe that faith is unnecessary, or that the Eucharist replaces faith. But we think that a fully formed, proper orthodox Faith leads you to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

John 6:47 and John 20:31 are about Faith. John 20:31 explains one of John's reasons for writing the Gospel, and John 6:47 is about Faith in Christ in the context of a lengthy and thoroughly Eucharistic discourse. No Catholic I know says that those verses are about the Eucharist specifically. So they don't prove or disprove the Eucharist at all. Perhaps I'm not sure what you're trying to prove with them, and am reading too much into this one?

And as for the people taking Jesus too literally, I'll address that in #3.

(3) You said that the people took Jesus too literally. In fact, they initially took Jesus figuratively, and He had to explain the Eucharist in no fewer than seven different ways before they realized He meant it literally. Then they said, "This teaching is hard, who can believe it?" and left Him (John 6:64-66). Had He simply been saying, "Have Faith!" they wouldn't have - they were already "disciples" of His according to the text (Obviously, not the Twelve, but disciples nonetheless).

Since you asked why we should read it literally, I walked through that section of the chapter verse by verse for you, with a special emphasis on what the crowd was thinking; you should look it over when you get a chance, because it's specifically in response to this question.

Catz206 said...

Joe-

1) I was just wondering because this post was on a specific argument in favor of icons and I thought you might have been referring back to a previous post. That’s all. As for the “minor misunderstanding” Yes…through the course of our conversation I reconsidered my more laid back position and concluded that from a Protestant perspective it would be idolatry if it was worshipped (scroll up on this thread). So, from this new perspective it would no longer be a minor point.

“But you're using "idolatry," from what I can tell, in the sense of something which is overvalued, something you devote too much time, attention, or love to.”

I am using it in the sense of setting something else in the place of God that is not and worshipping it. Worship can take many different forms and are manifest in a variety of outward signs. One can even make oneself out to be god. It is more than merely devoting too much time to a task or person.

“That, I suggested in the link I provided, isn't an accurate or Biblical understanding of idolatry, and explains why you're hung up on Mary, saints, and statues.”

Yes, this is what I was hoping you might summarize. I was hoping for a summary of the basic argument. Personally, I am not quick to accuse those who venerate saints of idolatry…though I am still on the fence. That is one reason I have not created any posts accusing others of idolatry. The question posed in this post is one of veneration (in light of one particular argument set forward by MG).

“(2) Catholics don't believe that faith is unnecessary, or that the Eucharist replaces faith. But we think that a fully formed, proper orthodox Faith leads you to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.”

I don’t aim to accuse you of this either. It is only on the last point that we are disagreeing.

“John 6:47 and John 20:31 are about Faith. John 20:31 explains one of John's reasons for writing the Gospel, and John 6:47 is about Faith in Christ in the context of a lengthy and thoroughly Eucharistic discourse.”

John 6:47 Speaks of belief (faith) giving one eternal life. Jesus calls Himself the bread of life. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood gives eternal life. Belief in Him= partaking of His flesh and blood. This gospel was written by John who would have been very well aware of the Eucharistic language packed here and yet there is no Lord‘s supper yet- only belief in Him.

John 20:31 is being used to indicate the context of this “belief” and that “in believing [we] may have life in His name.” John’s purpose in writing this gospel is to lead others to believe. That is, John wants them to partake of Christ and live.


“No Catholic I know says that those verses are about the Eucharist specifically. So they don't prove or disprove the Eucharist at all.”

Whether Catholics take it to be the case or not is not a strike against this point. I am actually bringing these verses up to challenge the Catholic conception. Unless they can be countered they exist as a significant challenge to consider.

Catz206 said...

(3)
“In fact, they initially took Jesus figuratively, and He had to explain the Eucharist in no fewer than seven different ways before they realized He meant it literally.”

Wait, so this is a Eucharistic passage now?

Really? They took Him too figuratively? This crowd was looking for real bread- manna like Moses gave them. They were offended because of a literal interpretation. They wanted real bread to eat and thought His response was cannibalism! In light of what I have presented a ways above, what lends to a literal interpretation in this passage?

“Had He simply been saying, "Have Faith!" they wouldn't have - they were already "disciples" of His according to the text (Obviously, not the Twelve, but disciples nonetheless).”

There were many following Jesus but He none the less told them explicitly to believe in Him. This is not an issue here.

“Since you asked why we should read it literally, I walked through that section of the chapter verse by verse for you, with a special emphasis on what the crowd was thinking; you should look it over when you get a chance, because it's specifically in response to this question.”

I have actually looked over this chapter in John- actually the whole book. This is why I am interested in hearing a response from another person who has done the same to:

1) John 6 which seems to put the immediate context of what Jesus saying into belief in Him= partaking of His flesh,

2) John 20 which lays out the purpose for the whole gospel which is belief in Jesus (in case there was any question of what Jesus meant by “believing” in Him) and

3) How this square with the flow of the whole book of John where people continually mistake Jesus for meaning something literal (women at the well, disciples thinking He snuck off and got real food…ect).

Joe Heschmeyer said...

(1) "Yes, this is what I was hoping you might summarize. I was hoping for a summary of the basic argument."

If it's not idolatry to give my mom flowers and ask her to pray for me (or even to do favors for me), then it's not going to be idolatry when my mom's dead to leave flowers by my mom's grave, and to kneel next to the grave asking her to pray for me and to look after me.

Hebrews 11 tells a shortened version of salvation history, and in Hebrews 12:1 refers to them as a "great cloud of witnesses." In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul encourages us to pray for, and look after, one another. Catholics think this doesn't end at death, since the Body of Christ isn't divided by death (Romans 8:38).

(2)"John 6:47 Speaks of belief (faith) giving one eternal life. Jesus calls Himself the bread of life. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood gives eternal life. Belief in Him= partaking of His flesh and blood. "

We agree on the first three sentences, but I don't see any Biblical support for the last one, nor do I think it can be validly deduced. You're assuming, I think, that belief in Christ is distinct from the Eucharist.

"I am actually bringing these verses up to challenge the Catholic conception. Unless they can be countered they exist as a significant challenge to consider."
Here are the three basic claims:
(A) Faith in Christ is needed for salvation.
(B) Faith in Christ includes believing that He is the Body and Blood of the Eucharist and partaking of Him.
(C) Eating Christ's Flesh and Blood is just a metaphor for believing.

We both agree on claim (A). And that's all that John 6:47 and 20:31 point out. So that's what I mean about it not impacting this discussion either way.

I affirm claim (B), and can provide seven Eucharistic claims in 6 verses [John 6:53-58]:(1) unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no Life in you; (2) Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal Life, and I will raise him up at the last Day; (3) My Flesh is real Food and My Blood is real Drink; (4) Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me, and I in him; (5) the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. Then He says that This is the Bread come down from Heaven: His literal Flesh and Blood. Finally, in His seventh Eucharistic claim, He says that "he who feeds on this Bread will live forever."

You're saying, in contrast, that it's a metaphor for belief: claim C. But I haven't seen any evidence supporting this conclusion yet; plus, this was considered a "hard teaching" by His followers (John 6:63). They were already okay with belief in Jesus (they were following Him, after all), so this seems to discredit that conclusion. If all Jesus meant was "believe in Me," and He knew that they were ready to do that (so long as it didn't involve something which seemed cannibalistic), why would He let them just wander off? Both the crowd's reaction to Jesus' teaching and Jesus' reaction to the crowd suggest something much more profound than a mere discussion on the import of Faith.

Besides that, look at His approach towards His Twelve immediately aftewards, where, instead of clearing up the metaphor, He lays it out as an ultimatium for discipleship. Mark 4:34 already informs us that even though Jesus sometimes let the crowds remain confused by metaphors, He didn't do this to His disciples. So how can you square these things up?

Joe Heschmeyer said...

“Wait, so this is a Eucharistic passage now?”

Yeah. (3) is talking about John 6 in general, which is hyper-Eucharistic, and takes place at Passover, a year before the Last Supper, where the Eucharist is instituted.

"Really? They took Him too figuratively?"

Yes. Their original response isn't that He's living Bread, but that He claims to have come down from Heaven. It's only after He reiterates (using the 7 Eucharistic claims in 6 verses) that their outrage shifts from "came down to Heaven" to "Living Bread."

"There were many following Jesus but He none the less told them explicitly to believe in Him. This is not an issue here."

This is precisely the issue, though. If this is just the same-old "have Faith!" why does the crowd suddenly split? And why does He directly challenge the Twelve on whether they will split, too? Definitely, Christ emphasizes the importance of Faith constantly, and even does so explicitly here, but that's not the problem that the crowd has... at all. Read what they say, and how He responds to them.

"1) John 6 which seems to put the immediate context of what Jesus saying into belief in Him= partaking of His flesh,"

There's a long verse in the chapter you're using to get to that conclusion, and it doesn't make the connection you're trying to make, or in the direction you're trying to make it. It's not that "eating His Flesh" is a metaphor for Faith, it's that Faith leads to eating His Flesh.

"2) John 20 which lays out the purpose for the whole gospel which is belief in Jesus (in case there was any question of what Jesus meant by “believing” in Him)"

This support the "Faith leads to eating His Flesh" as much as it would the metaphoric interpretation. Both your #1 and #2 are examples of you using Claim A [if you see my previous comment]. Claim A is agreed upon by both of us, and doesn't get you Claim C.

"3) How this square with the flow of the whole book of John where people continually mistake Jesus for meaning something literal (women at the well, disciples thinking He snuck off and got real food…ect)."

Sure: compare the dialogue. Definitely, people often took Jesus overly-literally. And every time, either Jesus or John (in narration) explained the confusion. Here, the EXACT OPPOSITE happens.

Just because in some places people took Jesus overly-literally, it doesn't mean that there aren't times where He means exactly what He says.

Catz206 said...

Joe-

I am dropping some points to save time and space. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak ^_- If you are not ok with this let me know. I am more curious about the eucharist than just veneration of icons so I don’t mind the tangent.

“(2)"John 6:47 Speaks of belief (faith) giving one eternal life. Jesus calls Himself the bread of life. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood gives eternal life. Belief in Him= partaking of His flesh and blood. "

We agree on the first three sentences, but I don't see any Biblical support for the last one, nor do I think it can be validly deduced. You're assuming, I think, that belief in Christ is distinct from the Eucharist.”

Rather, I am arguing that Jesus has made this connection. There is no eucharist in this passage (it has not come about yet) and you have already told me that this is not interpreted as a Eucharistic passage by Catholics. And yet, we see Eucharistic language being applied to belief in Christ (the content of which is in John 20).

This is also soon after v.27 where Jesus says not to work for food that perishes but what will given them eternal life.

In answer v.29 Jesus says that in order to get this food they must: “believe in Him whom He has sent.”

My claim: Belief in Jesus Christ is the essential element and that by believing in Him one partakes of Him. What I am not claiming: partaking of the eucharist can not be included as a sign of faith- though I am saying that one does not need to partake of the eucharist in order to partake of Christ.


“Here are the three basic claims:
(A) Faith in Christ is needed for salvation.
(B) Faith in Christ includes believing that He is the Body and Blood of the Eucharist and partaking of Him.
(C) Eating Christ's Flesh and Blood is just a metaphor for believing.”

In response to (B):
*Am I to take it that you are using this as a eucharist passage now?
*The Eucharist is not mentioned in this gospel though there is Eucharistic language present.
-The verses you provided only beg the question. I am applying this language to belief and supporting it by the flow of the book and now vv. 26-29 as well. The use of the flesh and blood language is what we are discussing in the first place…and it all gets applied directly to belief in Christ. The people have asked what they could do to get the eternal food and Jesus tells them to believe in Him- the eucharist isn’t around yet. There is no physical food He is offering at this time but He is offering them belief in Him.
*What is meant by “belief” IS mentioned here.
*You are importing meaning into the text.

“….plus, this was considered a "hard teaching" by His followers (John 6:63). They were already okay with belief in Jesus (they were following Him, after all), so this seems to discredit that conclusion.”

Not really. The simplest explanation is that they fall in line with the flow of the book. Followers and others mistook Jesus’ words for something literal. This would be no exception. The extreme reaction naturally follows. If they are Jews and take him to require they be cannibals then…they will react.

“If all Jesus meant was "believe in Me," and He knew that they were ready to do that (so long as it didn't involve something which seemed cannibalistic), why would He let them just wander off?”

Jesus actually knew some did not believe. V. 64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.” Then in V.66 “As a result of this many of his disciples withdrew…”

“Besides that, look at His approach towards His Twelve immediately aftewards, where, instead of clearing up the metaphor, He lays it out as an ultimatium for discipleship. Mark 4:34 already informs us that even though Jesus sometimes let the crowds remain confused by metaphors, He didn't do this to His disciples. So how can you square these things up?”

Easy. The disciples believed (no need for further interp) unlike those who did not (as it says explicitly in v26) and left.

Catz206 said...

"2) John 20 which lays out the purpose for the whole gospel which is belief in Jesus (in case there was any question of what Jesus meant by “believing” in Him)"

This support the "Faith leads to eating His Flesh" as much as it would the metaphoric interpretation. Both your #1 and #2 are examples of you using Claim A [if you see my previous comment]. Claim A is agreed upon by both of us, and doesn't get you Claim C.”

You do not have a Eucharist here. This is the problem I am getting at. What you have is: How do you receive food that does not perish? You believe. If you believe, you have eternal life. What is the source of eternal life? Jesus is the bread of life. The living water. The Word. The Light…ect. All of this open at that time before the practice of the Eucharist.

Could one apply this all to the Eucharist if it were the body of Christ? Yes. Do we see this laid out here? No. But we do see the essential element: belief in Christ here.

"3) How this square with the flow of the whole book of John where people continually mistake Jesus for meaning something literal (women at the well, disciples thinking He snuck off and got real food…ect)."

“Sure: compare the dialogue. Definitely, people often took Jesus overly-literally. And every time, either Jesus or John (in narration) explained the confusion.”

Overly literal? Living water accidentally interpreted as real water. Food they do not know about interpreted as real food. Flesh and blood interpreted as real flesh and blood…I do not see a difference in literalness here.

Explanation: given there and here. Water= Jesus (4:26 in flow), Food=work of father Birth=water/spirit…a variety of different meanings none literal. Bread= Jesus. Why take the last one literally and not the water actually being Jesus or the food actually being the work of the father (however that is possible) and the birth to be physical birth?

“Just because in some places people took Jesus overly-literally, it doesn't mean that there aren't times where He means exactly what He says.”

Well, when it is in line with a flow of other passages with similar setups (a good amount)…and John’s gospel has a good number of other symbolisms…then it seems more reasonable not to make an exception.

Catz206 said...

*If one believes then he is partaking of Christ and will receive eternal life.

Lucian said...

Jesus is the bread of life

His flesh is the Bread of Life:

John 6:51 [...] and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world

You only look at the first part of the verse, instead of taking into account the whole.

Catz206 said...

Lucian-

The rest is assumed since that is precisely what we are discussing now.

Lucian said...

Bread= Jesus.

No. Bread = Jesus' flesh. (The ending of John 6:51) -- Why do You systematically avoid this [part of the] equation? Hmmm?

Catz206 said...

Lucian-

This is what is under discussion now...and is what the whole string has been about. What does this mean? Does it mean what you call the Eucharist or is it one of a steady stream of John's symbols.

Perhaps this might be helpful in understanding what is going on here:

*I am claiming that the Eucharistic language (flesh and blood) is part of the symbolic language Jesus in John's gospel has been using throughout to refer to Himself...bread, light...ect and that this type of language (sometimes used to refer to the kingdom or God's work) is commonly misunderstood by Jesus' critics.
*Joe disagrees that this is happening in this particular instance. He says it is not just symbolic language but that this passage is referring to the Eucharist and is to be taken literally foreseeing consubstantiation.
*Both of us have been presenting our cases in a variety of different ways.

So, no. This aspect is not being ignored. Rather, it is the object of discussion. We are asking what is meant by His flesh and blood and what Him being the bread of life means and what it is to partake of Him. You may not agree with my answer but none the less this is not being avoided.

Please let me know if I have misunderstood you.

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Catz,

I think that what Lucian is trying to say is that you're equating Christ with the Flesh of Christ. In fact, Christ's Flesh is only a part of Him, and the manner in which He singles it out is significant.

If Jesus had just said "I am Bread," we'd probably understand it to be a metaphor. But here, He actually says "this part of Me - My Flesh - is real food, Bread of Life, etc." When He says that He's the Gate in John 10, He doesn't then say, "I am truly a gate. My arm is the handle." But here, He says "My Flesh is true food," and that "My Flesh is Bread of Life."

I understand that Jesus spoke at times in metaphors, but I also know that there were times when He was understood to be speaking metaphorically and was not. And we've already established that WHEN Jesus spoke metaphorically, He clarified the metaphor to His Disciples (Mark 4:34). So there are two times in the Gospels where Jesus presents what seems to be an obscure metaphor, and neither Jesus nor the Gospel narrator explain the meaning. The first is Luke 9:9-10, where Jesus doesn't explain what the metaphor "rising from the dead" means; the second is John 6. Here, we're not left wondering what Jesus said to the Twelve: John includes the conversation. But what it notably is NOT is an explaination that makes it seem less literal.

And it's not just the crowd or Jesus' critics who understand Him to be speaking literally. Ignatius is John's student and proclaims quite explicitly that this was not a metaphor. How do you explain this, if you're relying on the theory that while the crowds were confused, the Twelve saw past it as just another "Believe in Me" statement?

I am having a hard time seeing how you're able to stand on the claim that you understand John's Gospel better than the first millenium of Christianity (and 3/4ths of Christians today, once you include Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Catholics), and better than John's own students.

Lucian said...

the symbolic language Jesus in John's gospel has been using throughout to refer to Himself... bread

... to Himself as an incarnated celestial being (because He doesn't say "bread", but "bread which came down from Heaven"), and, more precisely, to His flesh.

You focus only on Bread = Jesus, eluding the incarnational part (came down from Heaven -- if He wouldn't have descended from Heaven, then how can He compare Himself to the manna that came down from Heaven in the first place?), ... and totally omitting the strictly fleshly part.

Bread is a metaphor that stands for Jesus as an incarnated celestial being, AND for His flesh (following the same incarnational train of thought, only this time more clearly and more precise); and of this flesh He says: it's food indeed; if we don't chew on it, we won't have eternal life; etc. He doesn't say: I'm food indeed.

Catz206 said...

Joe-
Sorry for the length. First, I realize that this you both hold to. I was addressing the side stepping I was accused of. Now to address the points you raised:

“…you're equating Christ with the Flesh of Christ. In fact, Christ's Flesh is only a part of Him, and the manner in which He singles it out is significant.”

This last part only begs the question. The significance in 6:51 seems to be Christ’s death. He offers His flesh for the salvation of the world. This is where John’s gospel takes us too. Saying this is singled out does not necessitate a Eucharistic interpretation.

“If Jesus had just said "I am Bread," we'd probably understand it to be a metaphor.”

The Greek renders: I AM The Bread of Life (ego eimi). The ego eimi is put first too for emphasis. This is being used as one of John’s titles for deity. I believe the same was used for: I AM the Light of the Word…he uses the I AM throughout for other indications of deity too. It is a normal pattern. We should probably interpret it in a similar way.

“But here, He actually says "this part of Me - My Flesh - is real food, Bread of Life, etc." When He says that He's the Gate in John 10, He doesn't then say, "I am truly a gate. My arm is the handle." But here, He says "My Flesh is true food," and that "My Flesh is Bread of Life."

I see a quotation here but the passage does not actually say “the part of Me” I wiped out my Greek too to see if I was missing something. The passage itself reads: “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” …the “part of Me” language is just not there…and it comes back to how we ought to interpret the verse in front of us.

If the bread is literally just His flesh (only part of Him) that distinction is not made. Rather we have the bread- supposedly just His flesh- being applied as a divine title to Himself and not sectioned off. This is all over the chapter.

Catz206 said...

V.35 actually caps the Ego “Jesus said to them, ‘I Am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

V.41 “Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I Am the bread that came down out of heaven.”
v.48 “I Am the bread of life”
v.51 “I Am the living bread…the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

Of course, this I AM is a divine title used of God (not just part of Him). See John 8:58

“I understand that Jesus spoke at times in metaphors, but I also know that there were times when He was understood to be speaking metaphorically and was not.”

Can you provide a steady flow of this happening in John’s gospel leading up to this point as I have with them mistaking His meaning to be literal?

“And we've already established that WHEN Jesus spoke metaphorically, He clarified the metaphor to His Disciples (Mark 4:34).”

John 10 does not have Him explaining the parable to the disciples. Probably because they were not in a state of confusion. He says: “I am the door of the sheep” “I am the door” “I Am the good shepherd”…understanding? No. They just end up wondering if a demon can open the eyes of the blind. Understanding in John 6? The issue is belief. The disciples had it. The others didn’t. No clarity for those who did not believe in either one. In John 6 the belief of the 12 is not in question. Peter says that He has “the words of eternal life…we have believed”.

As for Ignatius, I will grant that he seems to think the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. I actually am not debating over whether it actually is or is not today. I am claiming that if one believes in Christ he partakes of Him. Anyway, as for how this might affect my interpretation of the text. It is definitely something to consider (and I have) but textually the evidence seems to be tilted in my direction for belief in Christ in John amounting to partaking of Him and the flow of the book (pattern of mistaking something to be literal that is not) is strong and especially significant since it was a prominent belief in John’s time.

“…if you're relying on the theory that while the crowds were confused, the Twelve saw past it as just another "Believe in Me" statement?”

“just another believe in Me statement”? This seems a bit flippant in light of life and death hanging in the balance and the process that the disciples are going through of not getting it and then coming to understand the One they are following.

“I am having a hard time seeing how you're able to stand on the claim that you understand John's Gospel better than the first millenium of Christianity…”

Never mind my thoughts. What do you think about what John has written?

The early Church has never been perfect in their belief and understanding and neither are we now. The NT addresses many weird misunderstandings and practices that those in the Church in the apostles' life time had on a regular basis…even with continued visits and more than just one apostle around at a time! Why think they were immune to it after there was just one left and then after him? The best we can do is interact and learn from one another charitably- past and present.

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Catz,

My last comments weren't very clear, so let me clarify a couple things:

(1) I agree that "Bread of Life" is a title for Jesus Christ, not just for the Body of Jesus Christ. The point I was trying to make was that the various titles for God have distinct meanings, and that those meanings are usually relational. So, when He calls Himself the Good Shepherd, it implies a relational attribute: He has a Flock. Here, He defines why He's the Bread of Life, by saying that it's because He's giving His Flesh for the life of the world.

If eating His Body just means having Faith in Him, I don't see a way to comport that with this term Bread of Life, given the meaning that Jesus Himself gives it. Put another way, it seems to me that you're understanding "Bread of Life" to mean generally "spiritual sustenance," while Jesus ties it directly to a very Corporal notion.

(2) Related to (1), the Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, not just His Body or just His Blood.

(3) The quotation marks I put around the "This part of Me" weren't meant to imply that He literally said that verbatim. I'm saying that's what He's saying, but I wasn't intending to imply that it was some sort of direct quote from John 6. My point is what I explained in (1): Jesus identifies this aspect of Himself - His Body - and we should ask why.

I think that this also answers the citations you provide after that; if I missed something, let me know.

Joe Heschmeyer said...

"Can you provide a steady flow of this happening in John’s gospel leading up to this point as I have with them mistaking His meaning to be literal?"

Arguably, His description of tearing down and rebuilding the Temple was a case in both directions. The people thought He literally meant the Temple, but couldn't see that He literally meant that His Body was a Temple. But besides that, there's the Transfiguration account I mentioned, and throughout, they don't piece together that He means the Resurrection literally: read almost any of the pre-Passion accounts of Jesus predicting His Death and Resurrection, and you'll see what I mean.

At the same time, read the actual accounts you're referring to, and I think it's just as strong a point. You note correctly, for example, that John 10 does not have Jesus explaining the parable to the disciples, because they were probably not in a state of confusion. Exactly. All of the other metaphors He uses were either (a) obviously metaphors to the crowd, (b) obviously metaphors to the reader, looking back after the Resurrection, or (c) metaphors with explanations in-text. I don't think you'll find a single deviation from that.

And then you have John 6. By the first generation of Christians, they're taking this alleged metaphor - and none of the others - literally. If this was simply a metaphor, why wouldn't the Holy Spirit protect all of these well-meaning Christians from falling into heresy and idolatry through an overly-literal reading?


"In John 6 the belief of the 12 is not in question. Peter says that He has 'the words of eternal life…we have believed'."

In John 6, the belief of the Twelve is very much an issue. Jesus asks them, "Will you go away, also?" This signals that this teaching is both so divisive and so fundamental that Christ readily acknowledges that it might split His flock, even His Twelve.


"As for Ignatius, I will grant that he seems to think the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ."

Right. And my point is that there is no possible theory I can imagine for how a student of John could get something this fundamental wrong. Because if you're right, Ignatius is an idolater, advocating idolatry in the name of Christ. How could an Apostle possibly have mis-educated his student so badly? Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox all conclude quite simply that he didn't. That Ignatius' faith was the faith of John, which he received from Jesus Christ in the Flesh.


"I actually am not debating over whether it actually is or is not today. I am claiming that if one believes in Christ he partakes of Him."

But there's no way to get that second sentence until you find out the truth about the first one. If the Eucharist IS the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, then John 6 makes much more sense in a Eucharistic light. If it isn't, then we'd need to find some alternate explanation.

As for the claim, "I am claiming that if one believes in Christ he partakes of Him," this is a question of degree and kind. Here's what I mean. Jesus says that where two or more are gathered in His name, He's present. He means spiritually present, of course. But in the Upper Room, when Ten of the Eleven are gathered, and He appears, He's not just present spiritually, He's present physically. So sure, through Faith, you partake of Christ spiritually. But there's a world of difference between that and partaking of Him sacramentally.

[Continued: sorry it's so long!]

Joe Heschmeyer said...

[cont.]
"'just another believe in Me statement'? This seems a bit flippant in light of life and death hanging in the balance and the process that the disciples are going through of not getting it and then coming to understand the One they are following."

My point is that the New Testament is chock full of Jesus saying "Believe in Me." Why would it suddenly cause a number of His disciples to split on the twentieth time He says it? Why would He ask the Twelve if they were planning on leaving over this teaching? Whatever is being discussed in John 6, we can know this: it was not what His followers expected to hear, and it was novel even to the Twelve. Even Simon Peter's response is one of trust, not understanding.

"Never mind my thoughts. What do you think about what John has written?"

As someone who believes in the Eucharist, I think it's incredibly obvious that John means the Eucharist. I recognize, though, that I have the distinct advantage of having been raised believing in the Eucharist, so it's not crazy or foreign to me. I also think, and think any neutral observer should think, that the Apostles' students were in a better place to determine what the Apostles taught than we are two millenia later. And yet there's 100% agreement within the early Church on this issue.


"The early Church has never been perfect in their belief and understanding and neither are we now. The NT addresses many weird misunderstandings and practices that those in the Church in the apostles' life time had on a regular basis…even with continued visits and more than just one apostle around at a time! Why think they were immune to it after there was just one left and then after him? The best we can do is interact and learn from one another charitably- past and present."

This is one of the major differences in how we see the Church. We believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church (see John 14:16-17 and John 14:26), and that She is guarded by Christ's own protection (Matthew 28:20), and that She is the Spotless Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27), made one Body with Christ. As such, we believe that the Church cannot and has not erred.

The way you've described the Church, it's as if no one knows anything for sure. That we're all left with the Bible, and left trying to figure out what it means. But St. Paul makes it really clear in 1 Timothy 3:15 that that's not the case, that we'll never be left without the aid of the Church, a point Matthew 16:17-19 backs up.

That said, of course individuals and even local churches can. And certainly, various Christians have gotten things wrong here and there: even Church Fathers have made what are now obvious mistakes. But this is nothing like that, really. If the Church is wrong on the Eucharist, it means that every Christian we know of, for well over 1000 years, was wrong. It wasn't the situation you're describing, where the orthodox Christians have to clarify things to confused or heretical Christians - that certainly occurred on other issues. But here, if you're right, everyone was a heretic... but a heretic on only this issue. These "heretics" were the ones who defined which books were in the Bible, that God was a Trinity, that the Son was both fully God and fully Man, eternally begotten of the Father. To imagine that these men were idolaters and heretics is plainly unthinkable to me.


Finally, I haven't taken the time to thank you for so charitably and openly discussing all of these issues. These are really fundamental parts of the Faith, and I love that you're talking with Catholics rather than at them. It warms my heart to know that we have you as a brother in Christ.

Catz206 said...

Lucian-

Reading you comments I think my response to Joe is sufficient to answer your last concern.

Lucian said...

If that's Your best response, then the issues I raised up stay, as far as I'm concerned. (For my flesh is door indeed and my blood is shephard indeed, and he who believes in my blood and trusts in my flesh I will raise up on the last day -- listen, I'm sorry, it just makes little to no sense to me personally: I think we just have to agree to disagree here).

Catz206 said...

Lucian-
What you had in Parenthesis made little sense to me too. I fear the idea I am trying to convey has not been successfully communicated. If you would like me to try and clarify further I can try. If not then we can let this rest and may God bless you as you seek Him in His church.

Catz206 said...

(1)” I agree that "Bread of Life" is a title for Jesus Christ, not just for the Body of Jesus Christ.”

If this is the case then the whole “part” idea seems to fall apart.

“The point I was trying to make was that the various titles for God have distinct meanings, and that those meanings are usually relational.”

I agree. In the case of bread of life- this would go back to the idea of life. One needs bread in order to live life on earth (God sustained them with manna). Those who partake of this bread by believing (said explicitly) will live. He can do this because He is the One sent from heaven, God and is giving His life for the sins of the world (this last part not yet clear in ch6 but hinted at).

“Put another way, it seems to me that you're understanding "Bread of Life" to mean generally "spiritual sustenance," while Jesus ties it directly to a very Corporal notion.”

Belief in Jesus is a matter of the eternal life or damnation of the individual. There is no Eucharist mentioned here (though the language you are accustomed to being applied to it is) and this is what makes this particular passage significant.

(3) “The quotation marks I put around the "This part of Me" weren't meant to imply that He literally said that verbatim. I'm saying that's what He's saying, but I wasn't intending to imply that it was some sort of direct quote from John 6.”

I understand now. I would be careful with those quotations though ^_- there is also the risk of unintentionally making one’s own interpretation on par with what Jesus has actually saying but I understand now.

“My point is what I explained in (1): Jesus identifies this aspect of Himself - His Body - and we should ask why.”

Certainly. Could it be that it is because His body is given over to death as is eluded to in this and previous chapters? This is present with or without a Eucharistic interpretation.

“I think that this also answers the citations you provide after that; if I missed something, let me know.”

The citations in favor of a deity title applied to Jesus and the absence of “part” language seem to dissolve the idea that part of Jesus (His body and not whole) is in view here.

"Can you provide a steady flow of this happening in John’s gospel leading up to this point as I have with them mistaking His meaning to be literal?"

"Arguably, His description of tearing down and rebuilding the Temple was a case in both directions. The people thought He literally meant the Temple, but couldn't see that He literally meant that His Body was a Temple.”

This example would seem to support my notion of a mistaken literal teaching. He said that He would destroy the TEMPLE- if it was not the temple He meant then it can not be thought to be a literal interpretation.

The way the language was being used was to convey something else than what it appeared on the surface. Now, I can use the word “literal” to convey a message too. I can say that I believe Jesus literally rose form the dead. This means I think that He- His body actually rose from the dead.

Now if I were to say that I believe Jesus will also raise up many seeds to life but was using seeds to symbolize people then my words would be said not to be taken literally even though there really are seeds in the world and really are people in the world.

Catz206 said...

Your words on the passion accounts are answered by what I have said above. Jesus may have a literal death but the language He might use to describe is upcoming death may or may not be literal (this has nothing to do with whether or not He literally does die or not).

“At the same time, read the actual accounts you're referring to, and I think it's just as strong a point. You note correctly, for example, that John 10 does not have Jesus explaining the parable to the disciples, because they were probably not in a state of confusion. Exactly. All of the other metaphors He uses were either (a) obviously metaphors to the crowd, (b) obviously metaphors to the reader, looking back after the Resurrection, or (c) metaphors with explanations in-text. I don't think you'll find a single deviation from that.”

You are the one who thought Jesus had to explain it to the disciples. I have said that He did not have to. The issue here seems to be of belief. Will they put their faith in Jesus or not? The Jews were deeply offended- but Jesus does not leave it there. You still have vv.60-66.

Still, other accounts do speak of Jesus telling parables or using different language to separate belief from unbelief (some in audience were not to understand): Matt 13:11-15 and one in Mark and Luke as well as probably others.

Anyway, in our passage Jesus does clarify more. He does not tell us in these words: “I really meant my literal flesh” or “I really didn’t mean my literal flesh after all” but He does bring it back to belief and clarify things some more and these points of clarity are what I am trying to draw our attention to.

“And then you have John 6. By the first generation of Christians, they're taking this alleged metaphor - and none of the others - literally. If this was simply a metaphor, why wouldn't the Holy Spirit protect all of these well-meaning Christians from falling into heresy and idolatry through an overly-literal reading?”

I would love it too if the Holy Spirit did that- but He does not always keep us from making mistakes. The history of the Church is full of them- sometimes very disturbing heresies arise from the misinterpretation of parts of Scripture. The Church made fools of themselves with the Jews thinking they changed parts of Scripture they didn’t because their Septuagint copies said something different (the copies themselves being altered by Christians) and yet- God allowed it. Well meaning Christians split from Rome and a plethora of theologies were born and yet He allowed it. Still, God sees what we can not and we have to trust Him. Also, sometimes what we think is a priority He may not.

"In John 6 the belief of the 12 is not in question. Peter says that He has 'the words of eternal life…we have believed'."

“In John 6, the belief of the Twelve is very much an issue. Jesus asks them, "Will you go away, also?" This signals that this teaching is both so divisive and so fundamental that Christ readily acknowledges that it might split His flock, even His Twelve.”

With the exception of Judas, the Belief of the apostles do not really seem to be in question since in v64 Jesus seems to already know and again, His parables and other veiled says are often used to separate belief from unbelief. The Apostles are part of those who believe and Jesus knows it.

Catz206 said...

"As for Ignatius, I will grant that he seems to think the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ."

“Right. And my point is that there is no possible theory I can imagine for how a student of John could get something this fundamental wrong.”

Ignatius was certainly a contemporary of John but are we certain he was actually a disciple of his? Even if he met John once or knew of Polycarp this does not make him a disciple.

“Because if you're right, Ignatius is an idolater, advocating idolatry in the name of Christ.”

Not necessarily…there is still the issue of not having much of Ignatius’ writings to go off of and what we do have could be used to support more than the Roman Catholic view. Also, his main point is not to further a particular Eucharistic interpretation but to refute heretics who deny Christ. Still, it is difficult to be sure when there is only a limited amount of material.

"I actually am not debating over whether it actually is or is not today. I am claiming that if one believes in Christ he partakes of Him."

“But there's no way to get that second sentence until you find out the truth about the first one. If the Eucharist IS the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, then John 6 makes much more sense in a Eucharistic light. If it isn't, then we'd need to find some alternate explanation.”

One route one could go (though I would in my own mind go further) is to affirm that the Eucharist really is the body and blood of Christ as concluded from different books of the Bible or church teaching AND that protestants, though they do not observe this, also partake of Christ by putting their faith in Him. One could even suppose that they partake of the body and blood of Christ without knowing its complete transformation. Not the way I would go but still plausible.

“As for the claim, "I am claiming that if one believes in Christ he partakes of Him," this is a question of degree and kind. Here's what I mean. Jesus says that where two or more are gathered in His name, He's present. He means spiritually present, of course. But in the Upper Room, when Ten of the Eleven are gathered, and He appears, He's not just present spiritually, He's present physically.”

There is a key oversight here: the first refers to Church discipline and the outcome reflecting heavenly judgment. The last is a different subject entirely.

“So sure, through Faith, you partake of Christ spiritually. But there's a world of difference between that and partaking of Him sacramentally.”

Eternal life is in view here. One does not get more eternal life than another. One can be more sanctified perhaps but not more eternally saved. Also, eternal life is not just spiritual…it is physical. We will actually be resurrected to life. Our mortal bodies will become immortal.

"'just another believe in Me statement'? This seems a bit flippant in light of life and death hanging in the balance and the process that the disciples are going through of not getting it and then coming to understand the One they are following."

“My point is that the New Testament is chock full of Jesus saying "Believe in Me." Why would it suddenly cause a number of His disciples to split on the twentieth time He says it?”
But it did. This section explicitly says the issue was belief. They were already set over the edge by taking His statement literally (though they did not leave yet) and then pushed further. Also, many in this crowd may have been those who wanted to be physically fed and so were following Him for this reason. Either way, this is not a key point I need to prove in order to make my case.
“Even Simon Peter's response is one of trust, not understanding.”
The essential part of this text is belief and trust in Jesus Christ and those who do have eternal life because He is the Bread of Life. Even if they do not understand all that is meant by Jesus being the Bread of Life- if they believe in Him they will have eternal life.

Catz206 said...

“As someone who believes in the Eucharist, I think it's incredibly obvious that John means the Eucharist.”

Sure. The trick in interpretation is not reading our current context back into the text. This is something I will have to keep in mind as I look at other Eucharistic passages too. I was raised with a “once saved always saved” outlook and so the verse “I will never leave you nor forsake you” seemed obviously in support of that.

Sometimes further reading changes our minds and sometimes it is helpful to get inside the mind of an opponent and see things from their eyes and interpret accordingly as a challenge to a current understanding.

“And yet there's 100% agreement within the early Church on this issue.”

We actually do not have enough sources to make that claim. I had assumed this too before reading the Church fathers…I thought the same about other issues too. Even still, the Bible is our primary source and the earliest and inspired and it takes precedence over others. Context helps understand the text but it does not dictate its meaning.

“This is one of the major differences in how we see the Church. We believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Church (see John 14:16-17 and John 14:26), and that She is guarded by Christ's own protection (Matthew 28:20), and that She is the Spotless Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27), made one Body with Christ. As such, we believe that the Church cannot and has not erred.”

It is a fundamental difference between us and a topic for another time- though you may comment on this on a different post we have that speaks on this topic specifically. But still, even you must acknowledge that those within the Church do error. That is one reason councils arise- to correct these matters or make some points more clear. And there is no denying that those of the NT era did get things terrible wrong even with the presence of the apostles- and hence many of the letters of Paul and even the gathering in Acts 15.

“These "heretics" were the ones who defined which books were in the Bible, that God was a Trinity, that the Son was both fully God and fully Man, eternally begotten of the Father. To imagine that these men were idolaters and heretics is plainly unthinkable to me.”

One can believe in a system that leads to heresy without being a heretic. What differentiates the heretics from believers are what is done once they realize where their system of thought on a particular matter leads.

Many small children have weird beliefs about the Trinity when asked to explain what is meant but later when they are better able to grasp where their thought led they leave it behind. I wouldn’t count myself as a heretic for earlier being ok with partaking of the Catholic eucharist (if I was allowed) but would be held accountable for what I now perceive.

“Finally, I haven't taken the time to thank you for so charitably and openly discussing all of these issues. These are really fundamental parts of the Faith, and I love that you're talking with Catholics rather than at them. It warms my heart to know that we have you as a brother in Christ.”

Same here! I have told several people that I am delighted with our talks. It is not often that I find someone who wishes to participate in a charitable yet direct debate. May the love of Christ be evident in our speech! Oh, by the way…I’m a sister ; )

Lucian said...

You argue that eating and drinking are metaphors for faith, trust, or belief in Christ. So, following Your own logic, we have to believe in his flesh and have faith in his blood or trust in his body. (Which makes little sense, as opposed to the more generical "bread = Jesus" equation, where the resulting expression "having faith in Jesus" does make sense, obviously).

You also argue that "my flesh is food indeed" and "my blood is drink indeed" have only something to do with Jesus generally being the bread that came down from Heaven. So, in the same vein, if Jesus says "I am the light of the world", "I am the Shephard", ``I am the door", then why not say ``my flesh/blood is shephard/door-light indeed". Of course, it makes little to no sense to say so.

And there's also another problem: in the sentence "I am the bread of life", "Jesus" is the proper, non-metaphorical term, while "bread" is the metaphor. But when it comes to "my flesh is food indeed", You would have us believe that both terms ("flesh" and "food") are metaphors, as it were. (The same for "drink" and "blood"). [flesh= food= Jesus; blood= drink= Christ]

So yes, there's either a huge problem of communication, or You haven't really thought the implication of Your interpretative method through.

Catz206 said...

Hey Lucian

Sorry for the delay. Projects and school took priority for a while. I hope you are well.

“You argue that eating and drinking are metaphors for faith, trust, or belief in Christ. So, following Your own logic, we have to believe in his flesh and have faith in his blood or trust in his body.”

Yes to the first sentence. The act of eating his flesh and the act of drinking his blood stand for the act of believing in Him. Also, a big part of my faith in Him does have to do with His body and blood. He was crucified for my salvation. This is the same reality that both of our traditions bring out in the Lord’s supper.

Also, I do think flesh and blood are being used to refer to Jesus. I simply take this more symbolically and as a foreshadowing of His crucifixion.

“You also argue that "my flesh is food indeed" and "my blood is drink indeed" have only something to do with Jesus generally being the bread that came down from Heaven.”

…the bread from heaven sustained the Israelites and let them live. Jesus who is the bread from heaven gives one eternal life. The bread to the Israelites was a “type” to come. The serpent raised up in the wilderness that they could look to and live was a “type” to come. All of these are fulfilled in Christ.

“So, in the same vein, if Jesus says "I am the light of the world", "I am the Shephard", ``I am the door", then why not say ``my flesh/blood is shephard/door-light indeed". Of course, it makes little to no sense to say so.”

It is weird to jumble all of those together in one mega word but not at all when taken individually.

“And there's also another problem: in the sentence "I am the bread of life", "Jesus" is the proper, non-metaphorical term, while "bread" is the metaphor. But when it comes to "my flesh is food indeed", You would have us believe that both terms ("flesh" and "food") are metaphors, as it were. (The same for "drink" and "blood"). [flesh= food= Jesus; blood= drink= Christ]”

Bread, food…ect symbolic

Flesh and blood looking ahead towards crucifixion- the perfect sacrificial lamb.

Catz206 said...

*clarification

I take the act of consuming his flesh and blood symbolically not the reality of his flesh and blood being crucified or involved in my salvation.

Joe Heschmeyer said...

Catz,

Sorry for the delay in responding, and sorry for assuming you were a guy. That was dopey of me. It's finals week, I'll respond when I came, and I love that we can have this discussion. Also, you might want to delete the November 25, 2009 12:35 AM comment - it's inappropriate spam.

Lucian said...

It is weird to jumble all of those together in one mega word but not at all when taken individually.

I disagree. (I actually wanted to write all sentences explicitely, but I didn't want to occupy too much space up with words, when the idea is clear). So let's look at them, keeping in mind that eating and drinking and feeding means having faith and belief:

For my flesh is door indeed and my blood is light indeed.

For my flesh is shephard indeed and my blood is bread indeed.

(There are other combinations as well; but these two are enough).

Catz206 said...

Joe-

No problem! I actually don't mind at all about the gender thing. I don't think I've actually ever mentioned it before now. Oh well.

As for finals, I have them soon too. I felt kinda bad until I saw that you didn't and was relieved so no problem. We can resume any time!

And thankx for the spam tip I overlooked it but it is gone now.

Catz206 said...

Lucian-

Are you trying to put the "flesh" and "blood" as different words meant in themselves to mean something? If so, I fear you are not quite getting what I am trying to say here.

Ex: If I were to say something like: "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree" in the context of referring to a father and son pair.I would not be saying one can substitute apple into any combination of sentence as a subtitute for son. "Go ahead and bring your apples and daughters."

Often times, substitute words depend on context...to substitute the same word into other contexts misses the use of the word or combination of words in a given context.

Catz206 said...

Perhaps another example may help:

If I were to tell you to chew on this portion of Scripture for a while I would be asking you to dwell on it, study it..ect

In another instance if I said the Word of God was lion that muust be let out of its cage I may be communicating that it should not be supressed or muffled but brought out for the people to hear.

It would be silly for you to take those two uses of words and make another weird sentence "Chew the lion"...this looses the whole point and the meanings are often lost.

Lucian said...

IF "eating and drinking something" means "believing in something", and "someone's flesh and blood" means "someone's sacrifice", THEN the meaning of "my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" would be "my sacrifice is belief or faith indeed" (which is non-sensical), NOT that "belief in my sacrifice *sustains* [as food and drink sustain life]" ! -- there's simply something *missing* there (a *third* term). You want to make "food and drink" stand for both "to sustain", AS WELL AS for "having belief or faith [in something]": I'm not sure if You realised or noticed that. (The whole construction seems forced or un-natural when translated from metaphore back into plain language)

Catz206 said...

Lucian-

I'm sorry to say that it does not look like we will understand one another on this topic and so I am dropping the issue.

Until next time I wish you well.