Thursday, April 27, 2006


A comment from Sylvia on my post about transubstantiation:
I hope you don't mean that Christ is only spiritually present in the communion elements, but that his body is up in heaven. That would be Nestorianism.
This is an old charge against the reformers, that they--through denying transubstantiation--were Nestorian.

(Nestorius, for whom Nestorianism is named, became bishop of Constantinople in AD 428. He stressed Christ's manhood to the extent that there were two distinct personalities--one divine and one human--within the same living consciousness. The litmus test of Nestorianism was an interesting one: whether or not you were willing to grant Mary the title theotokos, or "she who gave birth to the child who is God," or more informally, "Mary, Mother of God." Nestorius and his followers were unwilling to grant Mary that title, arguing that she bore only the human half of the duality.)

Regardless of the truth of the belief that Christ is present spiritually (only) in the elements, it is not Nestorianism. It says nothing whatsoever about the incarnation. One can affirm that Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God while also affirming that Christ can be and is present among us today, spiritually (Matt. 8:28). And that spiritual presence is real and substantive. It is not anything like when one person says to another, "I'll be with you in spirit" which really means "I won't be with you at all."

This is not the way to argue for transubstantiation--by asserting that its denial is Nestorianism. For it implies a perverted view of the incarnation and of Christ in heaven. It presupposes that Jesus' omnipresence has been lost--that his deity was and continues to be a prisoner of his physical body.

Such a view would mean that Christ cannot intervene in our lives, unless he does so bodily.

Jesus forever was and forever will be fully God. He was and is omnipresent. As with God the Father, this does not mean that he is uniformly diluted so that He is in a rock the same way he is in heaven. It means that (a) that he is fully aware of everything that is happening, everywhere and anytime, and (b) he can intervene with anything that is happening--which means that He is not in all places "equally". His presence is manifested more deeply (and typically, spiritually) when and where He is pleased to do so, either in dispensing grace or in dispensing wrath. Although he is always present, he can be more present, by being involved, at certain times. One of these times should be when we come to His table. It might mean transubstantiation, or it might mean a far keener spiritual presence.

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