October 25, 2020

A Theological Announcement….Sort of

eucharistUPDATE: Just banned a commenter. The admonition to “stop wasting my time” and “leave the SBC” was unacceptable. New commenters- read FAQ section 10 please.

For the past two years, I’ve been trying to get a single question answered:

What are the actual historical evidences, before Zwingli, for the Baptist view of the Lord’s Supper?

I’ve asked this question high, low, in-between and everywhere I could get a hearing.

Long story short: No answer. If there are evidences, then someone needs to write a book, asap. It’s long overdue.

Now let’s be clear what I am saying and not saying. My reading of the New Testament is deeply shaped by my Baptist upbringing, and it’s hard for me to read anything in any discussion of the Lord’s Supper that isn’t a version of the Zwinglian position. Baptists, at their best, such as in the Second London Baptist Confession, articulated a view quite similar to the language of John Calvin: in the Lord’s Supper, we feed on Christ by faith. As I have demonstrated in past posts here at IM (See the Baptists category), I believe there are many confessional resources in the history of Baptists to articulate a richer, deeper theology of the Lord’s Supper than what is commonly heard from Baptist pulpits: a deconstruction that virtually has taken the supper out of church life and the discipleship experience of most American Baptist Christians.

But I am not talking confessional resources, I am talking historical evidences, between the New Testament and Zwingli.

I have not changed my mind that Jesus inaugurated a re-imagined Passover meal, with the meaning changed to his own death on the cross as the ultimate Passover lamb.

I see nothing of any kind of transformation happening in any New Testament text on the Lord’s Supper.

I do, however, see that Paul’s words in I Corinthians, written before any of the Gospels, emphasize both the presence of Christ and fellowship with Christ.

The Didache, a second century document, describes the Lord’s Supper in language that connects it to thankfulness for creation, remembrance of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises and an image of Jesus’ eternal-life giving relationship to the church.

The Didache neither “confirms nor denies” any particular view of the Eucharist. Evidence in its language can be used by every position.

Beyond the Didache, the evidence veers decisively to a recognition of the presence of Christ’s body and blood in the eucharist.

The Baptist position requires that the early church go decisively wrong in a critical matter following the second century, with not only no dissenting majority, but no dissenting minority. Until Zwingli, the historical evidence for the Baptist position is restricted to interpretation of the New Testament and the Didache.

I am not opposed to seeing the church as mistaken when the evidence is persuasive. I believe the early church did go off track in some significant ways in the later second century. I believe the evidence from respected scholars such as Everett Ferguson, G.R. Beasley-Murray and David Wright, as well as ecumenical documents on the history of baptism, all indicate that infant baptism developed in the second century. While there are various theological ways to interpret this development, I see no evidence that infant baptism and its accompanying theological justification is anything other than reasonable second century developments.

But I do not see this development with the Lord’s Supper. The evidence that I see at this point has convinced me that something more like the eucharist as it is celebrated among Lutherans and Anglicans is more faithful to the Biblical evidence AND the historical evidence as well.

This has nothing to do with the Baptist celebration of the Supper or my participation in it. It is only a comment on the evidence in history for the Zwinglian position.

COMMENT RULES: 1) We won’t be arguing the Catholic view of the Eucharist. 2) We can discuss the POST. 3) I’m not going to be involved in a debate. 4) Don’t make this a big deal. It’s a matter of historical evidence and that’s it. I’m not going to any other denomination. I’m just fine as who I am: A Baptist with a Catholic wife, Anglican Children, a Presbyterian interim pastorate and a gig with the Mennonites next weekend. It’s fun being me. 5) I want to know if there are any significant differences in the Lutheran/Anglican view of the Eucharist, aside from closed communion.


  1. Michael,
    I will submit this comment at the risk of you deleting it, because I realize it is not technically within what you are asking for.

    That said, I grew up Baptist and have my M.Div. from a very Baptist seminary (Liberty). I struggle with this because I feel the Catholics have overstated reality, and the Baptists have understated it. My heart would rather be wrong in the Catholic way than the Baptist way, but my head says there is no need to be wrong either way. So here is my conclusion at this time.

    The presence, power, and fellowship of Christ in communion is undeniable. I think where the discussion has veered off track historically is when the emphasis became on Christ coming down to us in communion. For whatever reason it was, what became important was the material issues at stake (trans, con) rather than what was actually taking place. The Baptists fell into the same error, by simply swinging the pendulum the other way. Christ already came down to us, and died at a place called Golgotha. I believe in communion we are actually present and communing with Christ where he is. No miracle of substance is taking place, but a spiritual miracle is taking place. We for a moment are remembering Christ and his death, and joining him where he sits interceding at God’s right hand. The error is focusing on material substance rather than spiritual activity. If this catches your eye, Michael, would love to interact on it.


    • In other words, you have the Calvinistic view, as I understand it, i.e. spiritual communion with Christ in the heavenlies.

      • Yup, this is part of the “Up religion” view, i.e., that we ascend to find Jesus, rather than the “Down religion” view as in where Jesus always comes to us in his body and blood, and also through the other means of grace like holy baptism and the Word. Geniune Lutheranism is truly unique in the “down religion” view, it goes together so well with the idea that He’s accomplished everything for our salvation; there’s nothing left for “us to do.”

  2. There has been a lot of talk here about the Presence of Christ in the elements of the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist. But is Christ’s Presence in the lives of His people limited to that? Did Christ not give us His Spirit, and do we not have Christ living within us, as Paul points out? And, if that’s true, do we not have His Presence in a 24/7 kind of way? And can we not experience His Presence outside the auspices of organized religion in things like a sunset, a walk in the woods, a deep conversation with a close friend, the simple joy of a child, or even in feeling the reality of His peace and love during a particularly hectic day at work?
    I guess I’m wondering if the Lord’s Supper is the exclusive means by which we receive His Presence or if it’s just a way that we’ve been given to remind us of that Presence which is always with us?

  3. Rev. Mark Buetow (LCMS) says

    You ask about the differences in Lutheran/Anglican belief (other than Closed Communion).

    I once attended and Episcopal church in which, between the Book of Common Prayer, Bulletin Announcement and priest’s announcement, there were three different views presented! My guess would be that for the MOST part, the Lord’s Supper in the Episcopal church means whatever the recipient thinks it means.

    As for the Lutheran view, we ought to point out that the ELCA (less Scriptural Lutheran body) has fellowship agreements with several churches that don’t confess the “real presence.” This would indicate that, as Lutherans anyway, they have fallen away from the historic (historic Catholic and historic Lutheran) confession of what the Lord’s Supper is. Again, my guess would be that MOST simply take it to be whatever the recipient says it is.

    Confessional Lutheranism (according to the Lutheran Confessions) simply takes Jesus’ words at face value: it IS His body and blood. How? We don’t answer that. We just say it is, along with, under, in the bread and wine because of the Lord’s Words. This is, one might say a “sacremental presence” that is, one that is real but is not seen with the eyes but is more concrete that simply the “eating Jesus by faith” or “faith looking up to Jesus while eating the bread and wine,” etc.

    With regard to Closed Communion: We practice this in part because the Lord’s Supper IS the body and blood of Jesus and St. Paul very clearly says one may eat and drink to their harm. We want no one to sin against Christ’s body and blood, least of all by denying that it’s actually there!

    Finally, wrt to the comment about finding God in the sunset, etc.: The Lord is indeed present everywhere. But what good does that do? The only good for us is if He is in a certain spot where we can be certain to find him for the forgiveness of sins. I can know that God is in the sunset, that’s nice. But he’s also in cancer cells and hurricanes, too! What does it prove? But the Lord’s Supper is Christ’s promise and delivery of forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation.

    • I respect what you’re saying, but I guess I’m just too much of a “saved by faith” Protestant. To me, Christ stands ready and present to forgive my sins any time I come to Him in a genuine and honest way to confess my sins and ask His forgiveness (I John, 1:9), whether that be during the observance of the Lord’s Supper, at work, or in a public restroom. As far as what Jesus says in John 6, I think Jesus’ requirement that we eat His flesh and drink His blood refers to a chosen lifestyle of hungering and thirsting after Him as our spiritual sustenance — and I think He is pointing to the coming sacrifice of His flesh and blood as the source of our salvation and the doorway through which we can have eternal life. But, like I said, I am a Prostestant, through and through, and salvation and forgiveness of sins through observance of sacrements seems somewhat strange and alien to me and is altogether outside my religious upbringing and personal experience. I mean no disrespect toward your beliefs and church traditions.

      • The Guy from Knoxville says

        Interesting words at the start of this response to the post regarding the three, somewhat, different views on communion in an Episcopal church – interesting because about three weeks ago I attended a LCMS church near Gatlinburg,TN and the service bulletin mentioned
        a “note on communion” which had some general wording and then a reference to reading
        the info in the front of the hymnal. What makes that experience interesting here is that the
        average believer (non-Lutheran) visiting that congreation would have had no idea from what
        was in the service bulletin and the hymnal that this was closed communion. In fact most
        would assume that a baptized believer would be welcome to commune in that congreation
        on any given Sunday. It left one with the distince impression that one should consider all
        that was said in the info and if one could agree with it then that person (assuming a geunine
        believer here) was fully welcome to commune with that congregation. Of course the question
        here could be how many even bother to read it? True perhaps…… but, I did and carefully so
        and conluded that I was fine with it.

        I never have thought that any church body of any denomination should ever be in the business of excluding any genuine, baptized believer from communion period! I still hold
        to that and always will. Call me hard headed but if a person is fully aware and certain of
        their position in Christ as a baptized believer and approaches the supper as they should
        having examined themselves and settled things then there is no question in my mind
        regarding their being able to commune with any – AND I MEAN ANY – congregation of

        • “…and approaches the supper as they should…”

          But there’s the rub. What does that require?

          Ignatius of Antioch, writing in 107 A.D., said that “They (the heretics) even absent themselves from the Eucharist and the public prayers (c.f. Acts 2:42) because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ.” (Smyrna 7:1).

          In the beginning of the second century, Christians–and even heretics!–took Paul’s instruction to the church at Corinth at face value: “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the Body and Blood of the Lord… for anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:27,29)

          Is it really so unreasonable, so offensive, for Catholics merely to continue doing what Christians have been doing for 2000 years? Why must they disregard the considered judgment of those who have gone before us in the faith as Protestants have?

        • Historically most Christians practice closed communion. Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Lutherans all practice closed communion according to their historic doctrine and practice. They do this because they have serious concerns that anyone communing with their church body be catechized properly. They have real theological and pastoral care concerns.

          Their theology is such that communion is NOT symbolic or even just “spiritual”. Generally speaking, only those who believe the body and blood are symbolic practice “open communion”; because after all, nothing is really going on with it anyway. But even Calvin, who understood communion “spiritually”, was very strict in his approach to the sacred meal.

          Again, real theological and pastoral care concerns are at the heart of this, and besides–it’s not your supper or mine, but the Lord’s. We are not at liberty to do with it as we wish.

          A pastor can’t tell if anyone is internally genuine or not, but he does know who has been catechized and have made a good confession in his flock. I would never demand the Sacrament at another denominations altar, because I know I believe differently than they do. In fact, I have been at wedddings where open communion was practiced but I took a pass (even though I was the only one), because they had a completely different confession. We can make no such demand upon pastors and congregations outside our individual confessions, nor should we.

          • I found it very interesting that Sara Miles, who went on to write the book Take This Bread was not even a Christian when she, on impulse, walked into an Episcopalian church that was celebrating the Eucharist and she also took the bread and wine and had an spiritual “experience” that forever changed her life and enriched the lives of many around her.

            As important as I think it is to understand the Christian faith within whatever tradition we are in, I sometimes wish that Catholics priests would announce before Communion, “If you believe that this bread and this wine is truly the body and blood of our Lord Jesus and you wish to take up your cross and follow Jesus until you, too, are taken up in glory, then you are welcome to receive.” So, it would still have some guidelines in accordance with the warning that the Apostle Paul gave about people not knowing what they are doing when they receive the body and blood of Jesus, but it also welcomes all who wish to come forward with the belief that they are truly receiving Jesus.

            That’s just my thoughts on it. I will continue happily receiving Communion in the Catholic church anyway.

          • Amen.

  4. Thank you for your interesting post!

    I believe, particularly with regard to the nature of the Eucharist, a Baptist must commit himself to the belief that the Church went haywire “following the second century.” Are you familiar with the Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch? In about 107, Ignatius was arrested by Roman soldiers. He was transported to Rome, where he was fed to the lions. Along the way, he penned a number of letter to churches, encouraging them in the faith and instructing then on matters of doctrine.

    Ignatius’ letters contain many strong statements about the nature of the Eucharist:

    – He called the Eucharist “the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins.” (Symrn.7.1).
    – He said “…They (the heretics) even absent themselves from the Eucharist and the public prayers (c.f. Acts 2:42) because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ.” Smyrna 7:1).
    – Writing to the church at Philadelphia, states, “Take care, then, to partake of one Eucharist; for, one is the Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and one the cup to unite us with His Blood, and one altar….” (Philadelphians, par. 4).

    Back to Zwingli, his beliefs on baptism were truly radical. In “On Baptism,” (1525), Zwingli stated, “In this matter of baptism–if I may be pardoned for saying it–I can only conclude that *all* of the
    doctors (teachers of the faith) have been in error from the time of the apostles . . . . All the doctors have ascribed to the water a power which it does not have and the holy apostles did not teach.”

    • ‘And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters . . . ”

    • Sorry, I meant to say that a Baptist must commit himself to the belief that the Church went haywire WELL BEFORE the end of the second century.

      • Carmichael says

        A sizable portion of the scholarly community seems to believe that much, if not most, of the material attributed to Ignatius of Antioch consists of 4th and 5th century forgeries.

    • One would not necessarily have to believe that the church went haywire at any certain point, only that it followed the same pattern that most religions have — by which I mean that religions tend to develop rituals and traditions surrounding the religion’s founder or founders, and, as time goes by, these rituals and traditions come to be afforded more importance than the central message and teachings of the person or persons on whom the religion was founded.
      Now, I’m not trying to offend anyone. I’m just throwing that out there for consideration.

  5. Here’s a great classic Lutheran work that demonstrates and applies the theology of the (corpo)real presence of Christ in the Holy Supper:


  6. Luther quote:

    We treat of the forgiveness of sins in two ways. First, how it is achieved and won. Second, how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But he has not distributed or given it on the cross. He has not won it in the supper or sacrament. There he has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the gospel, where it is preached. He has won it once for all on the cross. But the distribution takes place continuously, before and after, from the beginning to the end of the world. For inasmuch as he had determined once to achieve it, it made no difference to him whether he distributed it before or after….

    [So] if now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ, as Dr. Karlstadt trifles, in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. (LW 40.213-214)

  7. Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. His Church is known by the teaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. His Words are powerful and do what they say. If we say of Jesus that He cannot deliver on what He says in the Holy Eucharist, then who do we think is speaking?

    Jesus is Lord and God in the flesh. He is the Word who became flesh and made His dwelling among us. This is foreshadowed to us in the burning bush which Moses saw. The two natures in Christ are not joined together simply like two boards glued together, but as a piece of iron placed into fire where the properties of the fire are communicated to the iron. Therefore what Jesus says is because He says so as the God-man. This is the same power that was evident in the creation of the world from nothing, simply by the Word of God going forth. The Word is joined to the bread and wine and it becomes the sacrament that is what Jesus says most clearly – even when I do not understand how – I can still confess from God’s Word what it is and simply say “Amen.” Transubstantiation is an error because it is a faulty philosophical attempt to explain how it happens. But traditional Lutheranism avoids that imposition of philosophy and simply sticks to the word of Jesus – this IS My body. The Lord God in the flesh says of the bread it is His body, and likewise of the blessed wine that it is His holy blood. So there is no gap between us and what has redeemed us. For we are not re-sacrificing Jesus as Rome says, but receiving the living, already-having-been sacrificed body and blood of Christ given for the forgiveness of sins. The Gnostic will say “yuck” and the rationalist will say “that’s impossible” – but the Church has always said “Amen” let it be unto me according to Thy Word, and we ponder these mysteries in the heart.

    This is the meaning of Revelation 3:20, which is not about conversion but the Eucharist which was being neglected in Laodicea.

  8. Pr. Frahm:

    Your lengthy list of quotations was too long. Most of our readers are familiar with this material.


  9. INternet Monk Commenting Rules

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  10. Michael,

    There are a handful of Baptists who have been “rethinking” the traditional view of Baptists and the “sacraments’ – including, of course, the Lord’s supper. Historically speaking – based on the earliest Baptist confessions of faith – there is not just one Baptist view of the supper but many. Some early English Baptists viewed the Supper as a sacrament which had “regeneartive” power (akin to real presence) others expressed the contemporary “popular” Baptist view.

    Some of those Baptists who are revisiting the Lord’s Supper have abandoned the “popular” Baptist view – claiming that the sacramental view is the more faithfully “christian” view – nevermind whether it is “baptist” or not. These days I tend to agree with them. Moreover, given that there is – in the earliest Baptist confessions – no uniform confessional agreement as to the nature and theology of the Supper, to claim to be able to find the historical roots of the the Baptist view of the supper is a bit of a non sequitur.

  11. I define myself as Protestant Evangelical NOS, and have attended Australian Baptist Churches (and the occasional Church of Christ church) over the last 17 years.

    In recent times I have found myself craving more ceremony and even a little liturgy (shock horror). I find that in the historic evangelical revulsion to liturgy as a sign of corrupt episcopy, something has been lost. My church will happily acknowledge secular festivals such as Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc and yet completely ignore Christian festivals and observances such as Advent, Palm Sunday and Lent.

    I have recently read “Ancient-Future Time” by the late Robert Webber and found it fascinating and inspiring. I have undertaken to personally observe traditional Christian festivals such as Advent, Epiphany and Lent in 2009/2010 and may even venture into Anglican lectionary and the Book of Common Prayer (gasp, shock, faint!).

    I have started blogging my experiences on my blog “Faith Interface”: http://www.faithinterface.com.au/books-im-reading/ancient-future-time-robert-e-webber

  12. imonk,

    you should read some Richard Hooker…

    he gave us Anglicans the baseline understanding of eucharist…it’s a position that seeks to reframe the conversation away from zwingli types and transubs (RCC/anglo-catholics) on either pole.

    it was also a position articulated so that people would stop killing each other over this discussion…

  13. Don’t you wish you could reply to them all. I take the traditional Protestant view of the Lords supper. As I read scripture, I make a habit of looking for patterns. I believe Jesus is/was God. He was also a teacher/rabbi and therefore taught in that vein. Jesus called himself a lion, lamb, rock, stone, gate, food, word, light, etc, when he was clearly not physically any of these. He calls us sheep ,if you are reading this and are actually a sheep please include this in your response and I will re-think my position. I understand that there is spiritual siginificance to the teaching that transcends the specific word he chooses, but come to the conclusion that his reference to his body and blood are just that, metaphores, that he uses throughout his teachings. Since you can easily find dozens of these representations in scripture, I struggle with sorting out this perticular one as literal.

    • Jerry a question for you:

      IF Jesus had really meant to say that the bread and wine at the last supper were really and truly and actually ALSO his body and blood, that very blood shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, how would the words where Jesus instituted the supper as quoted by st paul, need to be different to force you to understand what he said as being literal and not metaphorical?

      i would be very curious to know.

  14. my understanding I monk, is that the anglicans were pretty lutheran in their understanding of baptism and the lords supper under cranmer, and the original 39 articles were meant to reflect this, but also provide some wiggle room to understanding things in other ways.

  15. question for I monk that is only slightly (I hope! ) off thread:

    My understanding is that Lutherans are the only christian sect that believes that faith is planted in the heart by baptism, ie, that babies a few days old, are given faith in baptism. I don´t think that roman catholics believe this or anglicans or anyone else so far as I can tell…. is this your understanding as well? I have be curious about this for a while. Are Lutherans truly outliers on this point?

    This is how Lutherans understand the Nicean Creed btw where it says “one baptism for the remission of sins”. remission of sins could not happen in baptism (following Lutheran thinking) without water baptism being identical to spirit baptism and so the holy spirit working through the word connected to the water and actually effecting the new birth and creation of faith in the heart.