We were discussing in our preceding article the negative statement of the Formula of Concord, the Lutheran Comession of Faith, setting forth the Lutheran conception of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The severity of the language of this confession must, of course, be understood in the light of the time when it was composed. Take, for example, this: “Over and above these, we leave to the just judgment of God all curious and blasphemous questions imbued with virulent poison of mockeries, such as can not be set forth without grave offenses to seemliness and piety, and other pratings, wherein the Sacramentarians speak of the supernatural and heavenly mystery of this sacrament grossly, carnally, Capernaitically, and in utterly abominable fashion, blasphemously, and to the most grievous offense of the Church.” The reader will notice that the Lutherans here speak of the Calvinists and Zwinglians as “sacramentarians.” It was the difference in re the conception of the Lord’s Supper which led to the breach between Luther and the other reformers, to the separate Lutheran Church. But, let us continue with our discussion of the negative statement of this Formula of Concord.
VI, VII, VIII. “That Christ’s body is so confined in heaven that it can in no mode whatever be likewise at one and the same time in many places, or in all the places where the Lord’s Supper is celebrated . . . That Christ could neither promise nor impart the substantial presence of his body and blood, inasmuch as the essential property of the human nature itself which he had assumed could by no means bear or admit of this . . . That God, even with all his omnipotence ( a thing fearful to say and fearful to hear), can not effect that the body of Christ should be substantially present at one and the same time in more places than one.”
In these statements the Lutherans set forth what is undoubtedly one of the chief grounds for their conception of the Lord’s Supper. I say: one of the chief grounds. We are aware of the fact that Luther also insisted on a literal interpretation of Matt. 26:26, insisting that any other exegesis of the passage was impossible. But the Lutherans also appeal to the omnipresence of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the omnipotence of God. And they say that it is a fearful thing to say and also a fearful thing to hear that God, even with all His omnipotence, cannot effect that the body of Christ should be substantially present at one and the same time in more places than one. At this time we wish to quote from Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Vol. III, 670-672, in which that author comments upon this conception of Lutheranism, in re the omnipresence of Christ’s body and soul. Having quoted him, we will attempt an analysis of what he writes and make further comments upon this conception of Lutheranism.
“A thing is present where it is perceived and where it acts. The nature of that presence varies with the nature of the object of which it is affirmed. A body is present where it is perceived by the senses or acts upon them. The soul is present where it perceives and acts. It is somewhere, and not everywhere. God is present everywhere, as He fills immensity. There is no portion of space from which He is absent as to His essence, knowledge, or power. Luther and Lutherans speak of three modes of Christ’s presence: First, that in which He was present when here on earth, space-filling and by space circumscribed; Second, that which is in space, but does not fill any portion of it, and is not circumscribed by it. In this state Christ’s body rose from the grave and passed through closed doors. This kind of presence belongs to angels. Third, the divine and celestial mode of presence, according to which Christ, in virtue of the union of the two natures in his person, is present in his humanity, in his soul and body, wherever God is present. It is specially in the second and third modes (the definitive and the repletive) that Luther asserted the presence of Christ’s power in the eucharist, although he asserted that the first was possible. As de Lutherans affirm the presence of the substance of Christ’s natural body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, of that body which was born of the Virgin and suffered on the cross; and as that body was and is material, it would seem to follow that the presence affirmed is local. It is a presence in a definite place. The Reformed, therefore, always understood the Lutherans to assert the local presence of the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. The Lutherans, however, deny that they teach any such presence. This after all may be a dispute about words. The parties may take the word “local” in different senses. The Lutherans say that the body and blood of Christ are with, in, and under the bread and wine. They are held in the hand and taken into the mouth. This is all the Reformed mean when they speak of a local presence; a presence in a definite portion of space. Magnetism is locally present m the magnet; electricity in the Leyden jar. The soul is locally present in the body. The man is locally present in mind and body where he perceives and acts, and where he is perceived and acted upon: Lutherans appear to take the word local in a sense in which it characterizes the presence of a body which is present exclusively, i.e., both in the sense of excluding all other bodies from the same portion of space, being bounded by it, and of being nowhere else. The Reformed say that it is contrary to the nature of such a body as that which belongs to man, that it should be in many places at the same time, much less that it should fill all space. The idea that the flesh and blood of Christ are omni present, seems to involve a contradiction. It is in vain to appeal to the omnipotence of God. Contradictions are not the objects of power. It is no more a limitation of the power of God to say that He cannot do the impossible, that He cannot make right wrong, or the finite infinite, than it is a limitation of His wisdom that He cannot teach the untrue or the unwise. All such assumptions destroy the idea of God as a rational Being. If the body and blood of Christ be everywhere present, then they are received in every ordinary meal as well as in the Lord’s Supper. The answer which Lutherans give to this objection, namely, that it is one thing for the body of Christ to be omnipresent, and another for it to be accessible, or everywhere given, is unsatisfactory; because the virtue resides in the body and blood, and if they are everywhere present and received they are everywhere operative, at least to believers. If this omnipresence of the body of Christ was actual only after His ascension, then, as Muller argues, the Apostles must, at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, have partaken of his body and blood in a manner peculiar to that one occasion, and Christ, so far as other Christians are concerned, only foretold that his body would be ubiquitous and therefore present in the eucharist. Luther, therefore, says, ‘If Christ at the Last Supper had not uttered the words this is My body, yet the words, Christ sits at the right hand of God, prove that his body and blood may be in the Lord’s Supper as well as everywhere else.’ As Christ in His human nature and therefore in His human body sits at the right hand of God; and as the right hand of God is everywhere, His body must be everywhere, and therefore in the bread as used in the sacrament. The current representations, however, of the Lutheran theologians on this point are, that the presence of the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper is peculiar, something which occurs there and nowhere else.
This presence is due, not to the words of consecration as uttered by the minister, but to the almighty power which attended the original utterance of the words, ‘This is My body,’ and continues to operate whenever and wherever this sacrament is administered. “This presence of the body and blood of Christ in, with; and under the bread and wine has been generally expressed by non-Lutherans by the word consubstantiation, as distinguished from the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation. The propriety of this word to express the doctrine of Luther is admitted by Phillippi, if it be understood to mean, what in fact is meant by it when used by the Reformed, the real coexistence of the two substances, the earthly and the heavenly. But Lutherans generally object to the word because it is often used to express the idea of the mixing two substances so as to form a third; or the local inclusion of the one substance by the other,” end of quote from Hodge.
My first remark in connection with this quotation from Hodge concerns his words, and we again quote: “It is in vain to appeal to the omnipotence of God. Contradictions are not the objects of power.” However, although contradictions are not the objects of power, yet they do not hesitate to maintain contradictions in the Word of God. The Reformed say that it is contrary to the nature of a body that belongs to a man that it should be in many places at the same time, much less that it should fill all space. The idea that the flesh and blood of Christ are omnipresent seems to involve a contradiction, a contradiction which the Lutherans apparently teach, and they appeal, in support of their view, to the omnipotence of God. And it is in this connection that Hodge makes his remark that contradictions are not the objects of power. In other words, one cannot simply appeal to the omnipotence of God in support of things that are contradictory. And yet, and this also includes Hodge, the attempt is made to maintain contradictions in the Word of God. God, then, wills to save all men, and He does not will to save all men. The Lord has elected and reprobated from before the foundation of the world, and He also sincerely and well-meaningly offers His salvation to all, implying that He wills to save those whom He does not will to save, that ‘He loves those whom He eternally does not love, etc. The Lord has His gospel preached to men in order that all who come within the range of that gospel may be saved, and at the same time His gospel is a savor of death unto death, so that, hardening the reprobates under the preaching of the gospel, the Lord makes it impossible for those to “accept” the offered salvation whom He would save through this preaching of the gospel. He wants to save them, and at the same time He makes it impossible for them to be saved. And when confronted by the charge that such presentations of the “truth” involve us in hopeless contradictions, they will answer that they may appear as contradictions to us, but this is only due to our defective minds.’ That black is white and white black is not because this is really so, but only because it appears that way to us. But, mind you, however, as it appears to us, white is really black and black is really white. To this we unhesitatingly reply that if the Scriptures may teach things radically different from what they appear to teach us, then it will be impossible for us to know what the Scriptures really mean and teach. How can we know whether the Word of God really teaches us the troth, whether anything as it appears to us is also really as such the truth? The Bible speaks of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, as lying in a manger, as suffering and dying upon the cross of Calvary, of the grave of our Lord being empty after His resurrection from the dead. Are these things really true, or do they simply appear that way to us? Then we cannot believe anything we read in the Word of God.