Monday, September 16, 2013

Just a BIT of an exaggeration...

I recently read an article from a Catholic site regarding transubstantiation--the Catholic doctrine which states that the bread and wine of communion are literally transformed into human flesh and human blood.

Now this post isn't about transubstantiation--not the kind of thing that I get excited about--but rather about a statement that was made by the author:

"Christ said, 'This is my body.' I believed it because if that is not true, then what Christ said is not true, and there is no hope for redemption."


Wow. He might have strained something, jumping so far on this conclusion.

Again, I'm not discussing his doctrine here, but rather the logic. What he is saying is:


  1. My interpretation is that Christ was speaking literally in this passage. 
  2. Therefore, that interpretation must be correct. 
  3. Therefore, if it is not true, then Christ lied. 
  4. If Christ lied, then there is no hope for redemption. 

The first step in the logic is his assumption, and I'm not going to debate it. This is one of the most-debated points in the past thousand years, since transubstantiation became a popular Catholic doctrine in the 11th-13th centuries. Suffice it to say that it is by no means assured that his interpretation is correct, but it is a common interpretation.

#2 - Nope. What's my motto, kids? Repeat after me: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love." This is the very definition of a non-essential. Transubstantiation does not exist in any of the earliest church creeds, nor was it even an official Catholic doctrine until 1551. Martin Luther said as much in 1520, stating that none of the ancient Church teachers taught transubstantiation and that it only became popular in the last few hundred years, marrying Christianity to Aristotle. Whether he is right or wrong, it is clear that in no way must that interpretation be correct--it may be, but it does not have to be. 

#3 - Again, nope. There is a perfectly plausible scenario in which Christ was not lying if He did not mean it literally: He often spoke in parables, and even some of the earliest Christian writers, such as Tertullian, specifically called it a "figure of My body." Jesus spoke often in hyperbole (or if not, then His commands about lust indicate that Jesus must think a blind man cannot lust, or that the eye and hand--rather than the mind and spirit--are the source of lustful thinking). So even if #1 and #2 were true, Jesus need not have been lying if He did not literally mean "is."

#4 - And unsurprisingly...nope. If Christ did not speak literally here, He might be accused of being purposefully oblique or deceptive (if not quite a lie, per se). Even if He spoke this way all the time, and never said explicitly and literally what He meant, that would not mean that we have no hope of redemption. If Christ really was God, and really died and rose again, and really offers us a chance to be redeemed, then His literal or figurative speech choices don't come into it at all. To say that this is somehow excludes the possibility of redemption is really far off base.

In other words, this is a classic non sequitur:  the conclusion simply does not follow from the premise.

Please ensure that in your own thinking, you have things a bit more clearly ironed out...it helps ensure you are Biblically "plumb" and not adding in false conclusions based on what is in the Scripture.


3 comments:

  1. At the risk of taking a fairly inconsequential debate too far, I would have to say I disagree with the statement "that nothing in the doctrine of redemption REQUIRES Him to be honest at all times." At least with my current understanding of this topic.

    Unless I have myself been deceived my whole life, telling a lie is a sin, yes? I mean Satan is described as the father of lies, which certainly makes deceiving an undesirable trait, if not a sinful one.

    Christ's being perfect is one of the most important reasons why He was able to die for our sins, right? So, basically what I am trying to say is that I would think that Christ's honesty is one of the essential aspects of our redemption. Without a perfect sacrifice, we are not atoned for in my understanding.

    I may be wrong, and would love your further elaboration.

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    Replies
    1. Well...that's not quite what I meant to say. I will have to reword that to make it more clear.

      What I didn't mean was lying in the way it is usually meant: I took what the author said about "lying" to mean "speaking obliquely or misleadingly"--and Jesus did do that at times. (He even tells us that He does so that those who are not His disciples will not understand His parables, rather than just telling them the doctrine directly). So that is what I was referring to...the word 'lying' is too loaded for what I meant.

      Thanks...I will adjust. :)

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  2. Minor observation: In your sidebar, you attribute the "in essentials..." quote to Augustine. But this attribution has been discarded by historians: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_necessariis_unitas,_in_dubiis_libertas,_in_omnibus_caritas

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