Sunday, August 20, 2006

Zwingli again

This morning, I was visiting a church which some friends go to, and it was communion.

The church was a Baptist church, and I was very encouraged that they allowed me to receive communion - there are some baptist churches which exclude me for reasons that seem spurious and unbiblical to say the least.

I was slightly less encouraged by the following:

Jesus took bread, and after breaking it, he gave you thanks and said "Take, eat, this is a symbol of my body, which is given for you."

It saddens me when evangelicals change what the Bible says to fit their preconceptions about communion (or anything else, for that matter!). It also saddens me at the huge loss in symbolism by using the word "symbol". If the bread is just a symbol, then we are not really participating in Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross. If the wine is just a symbol of his blood, then how are we purified? It needs the sprinkling of blood....


Daniel Hill said...

Thanks for this, Custard.
`If the bread is just a symbol, then we are not really participating in Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross.'
Why do you think that this follows? Wouldn't Zwingli have said that we were spiritually participating when we physically ate and drank the symbols?

John said...

Because that's how it works in the Old Testament. You don't participate in the Passover if you eat a piece of bread and say "this is a symbol of the lamb".

As I might have mentioned on here before, I've never come across a satisfactory Zwinglian interpretation of either the extent to which Communion uses OT sacrificial categories or 1 Cor 10:16.

It is of course possible that I'm confusing Zwingli's views with some of the modern folks who think communion is only symbolic - only a memorial. But that doesn't change the fact of their existence.

Daniel Hill said...

Thanks for this, Custard.

You cannot take `participate' in 1 Cor. 10:16 literally, since it is used non-literally in the next verse but one:
Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?

Why cannot physically participating in physical bread and wine be a symbol of spiritually participating in Jesus's sacrifice for us?

John said...

I think it's used literally there too - the eating is the means by which they participate in the sacrifice at the altar.

Yes, we could be (I suppose) spiritually participating in Jesus' sacrifice if we were eating bread and wine as mere symbols. But I don't think spiritual participation is enough... It was a physical sacrifice, and we need to be redeemed physically.

Daniel Hill said...

Thanks for this, Custard.

OK, isn't `participate' used non-literally in v. 20, then?
`No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.'

You're right that we need to be redeemed physically, but I don't see why you think that necessitates a physical participation in Jesus's physical sacrifice. Even those that think we do physically participate in Jesus's physical sacrifice in Communion don't think that it accomplishes our physical redemption, even if they think it (partly) accomplishes our spiritual redemption.

On what do you think members of the Salvation Army are missing out?