The Real Presence and Baptismal Regeneration

Discussion in 'Free-For-All Archives' started by Matt Black, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    OK, here's another thorny issue through which I'm working currently which should spark a lot of debate here, although I hope more light than heat for it is the former I seek...

    Two Scriptures to kick us off...nah, make that three:

    John 6:32-58 (Jesus' discourse on the Bread of Life). Catholics, Orthodox, most Anglicans and Lutherans interpret this passage as meaning that Jesus is somehow specially present (although they may disagree as to precisely how this occurs) at communion (the Real Presence doctrine); we also in that regard have the "this is My Body, this is My Blood" pronouncements re communion in the Synoptic Gospels. Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans and most Anglicans would interpret this literally. Baptists and most other evangelicals would reject the Real Presence doctrine amd would view those passages metaphorically or spiritually. Who is right?

    Next I Peter 3:21 and John 3:5 - again we have a sharp divergence between the two groups, the former asserting that one finds baptismal regeneration there and the latter rejecting this and teaching believers' baptism ie: post-regeneration and teaching salvation through faith alone (the Lutherans ISTM fall within both camps here although I would be happy to be disabused of that assumption). Again, who is right?

    Now we have some quotes from the Early Church Fathers:-

    Ignatius of Antioch


    "I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible" (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).

    "Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110]).


    Justin Martyr


    "We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).


    Irenaeus


    "If the Lord were from other than the Father, how could he rightly take bread, which is of the same creation as our own, and confess it to be his body and affirm that the mixture in the cup is his blood?" (Against Heresies 4:33–32 [A.D. 189]).

    "He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life—flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?" (ibid., 5:2).


    Clement of Alexandria


    "’Eat my flesh,’ [Jesus] says, ‘and drink my blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children" (The Instructor of Children 1:6:43:3 [A.D. 191]).


    Tertullian


    "[T]here is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe whilst it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed [in baptism], in order that the soul may be cleansed . . . the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands [in confirmation], that the soul also may be illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds [in the Eucharist] on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may be filled with God" (The Resurrection of the Dead 8 [A.D. 210]).


    THE EPISTLE OF BARNABAS (c. A.D. 70)

    Now let us see if the Lord has been at any pains to give us a foreshadowing of the waters of Baptism and of the cross. Regarding the former, we have the evidence of Scripture that Israel would refuse to accept the washing which confers the remission of sins and would set up a substitution of their own instead [Jer 22:13; Isa 16:1-2; 33:16-18; Psalm 1:3-6]. Observe there how he describes both the water and the cross in the same figure. His meaning is, "Blessed are those who go down into the water with their hopes set on the cross." Here he is saying that after we have stepped down into the water, burdened with sin and defilement, we come up out of it bearing fruit, with reverence in our hearts and the hope of Jesus in our souls. (11:1-10)

    THE SHEPHERD OF HERMAS (c. A.D. 140)

    "I have heard, sir," said I, "from some teachers, that there is no other repentance except that which took place when we went down into the water and obtained the remission of our former sins." He said to me, "You have heard rightly, for so it is." (The Shepherd 4:3:1-2)

    They had need [the Shepherd said] to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the kingdom of God. For, [he said,] before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead [in sin], and come out of it alive. (ibid 9:16:2-4)

    JUSTIN MARTYR (inter A.D. 148-155)

    Whoever is convinced and believes that what they are taught and told by us is the truth, and professes to be able to live accordingly, is instructed to pray and to beseech God in fasting for the remission of their former sins, while we pray and fast with them. Then they are led by us to a place where there is water; and there they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn: In the name of God, the Lord and Father of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they receive the washing with water. For Christ said, "Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." ...The reason for doing this, we have learned from the Apostles. (The First Apology 61)


    THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH (c. A.D. 181)

    Moreover, those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration -- all who proceed to the truth and are born again and receive a blessing from God. (To Autolycus 2:16)

    ST. IRENAEUS (c. A.D. 190)

    "And [Naaman] dipped himself...seven times in the Jordan" [2 Kings 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: "Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Fragment 34)

    TERTULLIAN (inter A.D. 200-206)

    A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous.....taking away death by the washing away of sins. The guilt being removed, the penalty, of course, is also removed.....Baptism is itself a corporal act by which we are plunged in water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from sins. (On Baptism 1:1; 5:6; 7:2)

    ...no one can attain salvation without Baptism, especially in view of the declaration of the Lord, who says: "Unless a man shall be born of water, he shall not have life." (On Baptism 12:1)


    I have deliberately put in a cut off date of c.200AD for the quotes as this is roughly 100 years after the death of the last of the Apostles and the finishing of the NT, and I wanted to stay as close in time to the NT - apostolic era for interpretative purposes. Ignatius is particularly important, as he writes within a decade of the death of the Apostle John and was discipled and appointed by John; he is therefore well-qualified to interpret John 6.

    My question is this: whose interpretation of these Scriptures is more reliable - Zwingli and subsequent Protestant and evangelical 'symbolists'/memorialists re communion and the Anabaptists and subsequent Baptists and other evangelicals re baptism, the earliest of whom wrote and preached in the 1520s, over 1500 years after the death of the apostles, or the ECFs quoted above who wrote much closer in time to the NT era and in some cases were discipled by the NT writers?

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  2. tragic_pizza

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    Matt, I'd cautiously offer that, to one degree or another, both are correct. That is, I think a conservative interpretation of Scripture lends itself to a more sacramental view of the Eucharist and of baptism, but probably not going as far in interpretation and explanation as the episcopal-polity churches you've mentioned. Say, for example, the Reformed/Presbyterian position.
     
  3. Matt Black

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    The 'higher church' traditions do embrace both, the 'lower church' traditions only the sybolic-memorialist

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  4. BobRyan

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    Lets start with exegesis for John 6. Take a close look at the details in the chapter.

    #1. John 6 is not a communion service.

    #2. John 6 does not say "some day in some future communion service My body will one day turn into real food".

    #3. John 6 uses symbols "bread coming down from heaven". There were not actually watching bread fall from heaven nor were they watching Christ come down out of the sky.

    #4. The FaithLESS disciples took Christ literally and walked away saying that they would have to bite him if that were true.

    #5. The FaithFUL disciples did not try to bite Christ in John 6. It does not appear to even occur to them to try to drink His blood or to bite him in that entire chapter.

    #6. In each emphasis by Christ on the point that His flesh ALREADY IS food and his blood ALREADY IS drink - He points out that the goal of someone eating and drinking it is to GAIN eternal life.

    #7. Christ does NOT say "Someday in the future there will come a time when you will then need to get eternal life by eating my flesh - but not today". Rather in John 6 it is ALREADY the way of eternal life and if you are ALREADY not partaking then you don't HAVE eternal life - right then and there.

    #8. Christ summarizes His OWN argument in the chapter by stating "literal flesh is worthless".

    #9. The "lesson" the spiritual lesson for bread that comes down out of heaven (being emphasized in John 6) was already spelled out for Israel. The audience already knew what it was. Deut 8:3

    #10. The USE of bread as the symbol for teaching is clearly spelled out in the gospels and the disciples were rebuked for taking it "too literally". Matt 16:11.


    This John 6 chapter becomes the background and context for what you see happening at the FUTURE communion/Passover service because the teaching of John 6 was "already fact" at the time of John 6 - BEFORE the last supper.

    True enough. But as you point out - the John 6 chapter IS the context for that truth.

    The RCC takes this as a continual sacrifice that is in fact "OFFERRED" each Mass. But in Heb 10 we find that Christ's sacrifice was "OFFERRED ONCE FOR ALL" and puts a stop to all sacrifices.

    OF course our Catholic friends are correct to say that their version is a real SACRIFICE and is REALLY OFFERRED each time they do it - no matter what Heb 10 says to the contrary. They have in fact "another" idea going there.

    In the Faith Explained they spell out the "Significance" of the implication of their error if in fact they are as wrong as Heb 10 would make it appear.

    eucharist is “idolatry” according to the RCC.

    The Faith Explained – A bestselling RC commentary on the Baltimore Catechism post Vatican II by Leo J. Trese is promoted as “A standard reference for every Catholic home and library”. Complete with Papal Imprimatur -- Quote from page 350-351

    Parenthetical inserts “mine”

    I am inclined to agree with them on the seriousness of the error - should the Bible turn out to be correct and the RCC wrong.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  5. BobRyan

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    "Normally" - Next would come a long detailed post looking at John 6 verse by verse.

    But a few reference texts may do instead --

    So what IS the symbol of BREAD about in John 6??
    So you know what that means? Nobody was taking a bite out of Christ's arm that day!!

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  6. Matt Black

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    Just to home in on a couple of your points as time does not permit more

    #1The passage was used as part of an early Eucharistic liturgy.

    #4. Note that Jesus did not seek to disabuse the faithless members of the crowd of their notion that they must "crunch/ chew" (τρογηιν)Him and it is that which causes them to drift away as a stumbling block. Jesus, I think, therefore meant it literally

    And what about Ignatius' view of it?

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  7. BobRyan

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    I am in complete agreement with Paul in his letter to Timothy and with Paul in Acts 20 where he makes it clear that error was already making its way into the church and that upon his departure it would come in "from among your own selves".

    So I have no doubt at all that errors of the type were creeping in during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. I think some of those early sources show that point in true living color.

    Notice that in the case of John 6 - Christ is FIRST trying to disabuse the faithLESS disciples of their incessant concern for "literal bread" as they came seeking it right after the feeding of the 5000. They then jump onto "another" error and LEAVE. The fact that he does not disabuse them of that also after they left - is not too surprising.

    There are a number of cases where the faithLESS are married to some negative view - and leave in the gospels - where Christ has not disabused them of all error before they leave.

    In any case - Paul was 100% correct regarding his statement predicting error coming IN to the church "upon his departure".

    As noted - Jesus rebuked the faithFUL disciples when they took the symbol "too literally" in Matt 16:11.

    In John 6 you do not see them do that. In fact what you see is that Christ's statement about "literal flesh being worthless" is taken up by Peter who says "YOU have the WORDS of life".

    Recall the 10 points. One of them is that the ENTIRE discussion was about "how to get ETERNAL life".

    I think the 10 points are irrefutable and taken together they argue for one conclusion.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  8. FLMike

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    Is the literal flesh of Christ worthless?
     
  9. BobRyan

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    If you are speaking of it in terms of "lunch" as in an afternoon 'snack' - then "yes" chewing on Christ would get you nothing. It would also have ended the Gospel story in John 6 -- before the Cross.

    Christ is the one that summarized the point about "FLESH" -- and He does not say "of course the flesh of OTHERS is worthless only MINE can be taken as part of lunch and then get you eternal life".

    Instead of doing that - He addresses the LITERAL view of flesh in its ENTIRETY saying "FLESH is worthless".

    A more devastating case against the RC view could not have been made.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  10. FLMike

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    I'm not sure I understand your reply. Either the literal flesh of Christ is worthless or it isn't. Which is your position?
     
  11. BobRyan

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    Of course if the faithLESS had STAYED to hear Christ's summary statement that literal "FLESH IS worthless" they could have been disabused of their error and seen that there was no need to take knife and fork to Christ - because He was not talking about that.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  12. BobRyan

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    As I said --
    As Christ said --
    Please let me know what part of those statements is confusing.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  13. FLMike

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    I find the entirely of your reply confusing. Perhaps the fault lies with me. In that case, would you mind just choosing one of the following as a statement of your position?

    1) The flesh of Christ is worthless.
    2) The flesh of Christ is not worthless.

    I'm sure I would understand your answer if you simply said "One" or "Two". Thanks! [​IMG]
     
  14. FLMike

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    Matt (and others),

    I'd like to toss something into the pot that I don't see discussed in relation to the Eucharist. The claim among symbolic-only Christians is that the Eucharist was understood by early Christianity to be symbolic, but then at some point the entire Church was converted over to the Real Presence understanding, where it remained until some Christians in the West reasserted the symbolic-only understanding during the Reformation (and even moreso afterwards).

    What I think is overlooked in this theory is that there is no history to back up such an assertion, that the entire Church (not just the Roman Catholics, but also the Orthodox) was somehow changed in one of its most fundamental beliefs. Considering the reaction against the Real Presence expressed by symbolic-only Christians over the last 500 years, what would have been the reaction if the entire symbolic-believing Church had been forced (by whom, BTW?) to adopt the contrary Real Presence belief. One does not turn the entire Church upon its head over such a fundamental item of belief without repercussions, and without any historical evidence of such a change. Where did the change start? How did it spread? What did the opposition do as it spread? How did a local heresy (in the view of the symbolic-onlys) manage to infect the entire Church, and to infect it without any evidence of such a change? How is it possible that the entire Christian world believed "A" at one point, and believed the conflicting (and "heretical") "B" at another point, and we have no historical documentation of such a change?
     
  15. tragic_pizza

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    One would expect that a "heresy" would grow over a few hundred years, and that a Council would have been called to address it. Whatever conclusion the Council then reached would be disputed, with bloodshed (we Christians are, after all, a bloodthirsty lot when we are "wronged"), for a couple of decades.

    Nicea and the Arian heresy is a good example.

    That being said, I can't recall any council over the nature of the Eucharist. Kind of speaks for itself...
     
  16. BobRyan

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    quote:
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Originally posted by BobRyan:
    Please let me know what part of those statements is confusing.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Got it. (Though I am suprised that though you speak in complete multi-word sentences to me -- you need a one word sentence to understand the answer).

    1. Biting literal flesh - is pointless for gaining eternal life - rather 63 "" It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the WORDS that I have spoken to you ARE spirit and ARE Life.

    2. Actually Biting Christ during the John 6 disucssion was the only way to have eternal life. His literal FLESH when bitten would literally produce eternal life right then and there -- no symbolism is being used. He came down from heaven as literal bread and then when literally bitten his flesh literally produces eternal life.

    And the "answer is".... ONE.

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  17. BobRyan

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    Actually as Christ said - "as often as you

    So "instead" of a memorial - eventually this became an actual SACRIFICE - OFFERRED each time that it is SACRIFICED with a priest having the magical-saramental POWERS to (as the RCC says) CONFECT GOD!

    And the question is - just HOW did that error evolve over time??

    In Christ,

    Bob
     
  18. BobRyan

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    I am inclined to agree with them on the seriousness of the error - should the Bible turn out to be correct and the RCC wrong.

    </font>[/QUOTE]
     
  19. FLMike

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    OK, now I comprehend. You believe that the flesh of Christ is worthless. Perhaps I couldn't understand before because I found the answer so startling coming from a Christian. But you have cleared things up for me perfectly.
     
  20. FLMike

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    Yes, that is my question. How did the entire Church move from truth to falsehood, without a trace of evidence that such a move ever took place, and without any recorded opposition or dissent?
     

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