Today is the 498th anniversary of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses on the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg. It turned into a big deal, as we all know. But maybe the split of Protestant from Catholic wasn’t the biggest deal, insofar as our faith is concerned.
There’s a case to be made that the split between Luther and Zwingli is more important. For here is the real beginning of the split in the western church.
Firstly I doubt any will be surprised that I completely agree with what Chalcedon wrote yesterday in his post The Real Schism, I almost always agree with him. That said, perhaps we need to look deeper.
Lutherans (like Anglicans) believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, in this we follow our Catholic brethren albeit we do phrase it somewhat differently. Yes, I do recognize that both churches have more or less split on this but that is what our doctrines say, and I would submit that the Catholic church has the same split although not mentioned aloud. why do I say this?
The Zwinglians believe not in the Real Presence but that the Eucharist is a remembrance. Seems minor, doesn’t it? It’s not.
Christ said clearly, “This is my body”. Seems sort of radical, how can God be bounded by something material like bread? That bothered Luther too, I suspect, leading to his formulation, “in, under, and around”. That says the same thing without imposing limits on God. In a sense, it’s a small point, but it leads to the point. if you had leprosy in Jesus’ time, you didn’t go out into nature and hug a tree to get cured, you went to Jesus, and his body.
That doesn’t contradict that God is everywhere, but the mystery of God-in-Flesh is that He came down to earth, where we are, “for us men and our salvation”.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit created the church. The church is the body of Christ. It is where we are baptized into His Body and commune with His body through the Eucharist.
God is everywhere, but outside His church, he is hidden in uncertainty, seen “through a glass darkly” as it were. We see him fully only through the Eucharist.
It’s pretty basic, but if Jesus is God-in-flesh for me, I am not. God is not me, I am not God. God is in me because He gave His body for me, even unto death. Three points here:
- He will always be outside me, not under my control.
- He will always be a gift, not something I imagine, but a gift of His own divine will. Grace, if you will.
- Administrating this gift will involve ordained things and people, water, bread, wine, clergy, and even formal words.
These implications horrified the ancient (and modern?) Gnostics. Why? Because this community created by and around the Eucharist created exactly the sort of political monstrosity that bound the Self. It, like other systems; marriage, family, and even the state, that thwart the unbound self.
If God can be separated from the Eucharist then man and God can proceed hand in hand doing great things, on their own terms. This is where the Millenarian cults come from.
These cults (usually of personality) were the first liberals, radicals, and progressives. Their paradigm was that If God transgressed the boundaries of Jesus (and the Sacrament), ti will also transgress the boundary between church and state. For those of us who are orthodox, the difference between God’s Kingdom and the kings of this world has always been clear. See also Luther’s two kingdoms, and every medieval altarpiece. It’s a very clear boundary.
When God is out of his containment in Christ and church, one gets a (un)Holy mess. One gets an ‘elect’ who believe they are God’s instrument to make His Kingdom on earth. The church becomes a political movement based on good deeds. Because the Holy Spirit worked directly in their hearts, they were to spearhead the new emerging age.
Churches that understand the Sacraments properly don’t ever believe they are “God’s hand in history” because they never confuse themselves with God. Their approach to God is prayer, not one of “how can I change the world”. That goes right back to understanding that one is not God, but God is in one.
The view is one that “views the world as a sinful place, rather than one to be molded into God’s kingdom on earth”.
Hegel was influenced by his Pietist upbringing. In true millenarian form, Hegel believed that “the heart, the sensitive spirituality of man…can and ought to take possession of the truth, and this subjectivity is that of all men.” He interpreted the Reformation in as wrong a fashion as could be imagined, believing that Luther had liberated minds from the tyranny of external ordering agents like the church. […]
Hegel explains from a philosophical perspective why an evangelical movement—which is to say millenarian, or Anabaptist, or Pietist movement—is “step one” in the gradual process toward a secular religion. It begins with the focus away from the external formalism of the church and its Sacrament toward internal psychological occurrences. From there, precisely because of the mechanisms Hegel identifies, evangelicalism tends to devolve into unitarian moralism and communitarianism. God leaks out of his containment in the church’s word and sacraments into my heart, and however I reconstitute him becomes a more “authentic” spirituality than what that fuddy duddy institutional church is telling me.
Much of this article is excepted from, and all quotes come from How Denying Christ’s Body And Blood Leads To Progressive Politics. I strongly recommend reading the full article.
To me, this brings us right back to the problem of our churches delegating part of our mission (Feed the hungry, …) to the state, and even more the problem of the Established Church which I spoke of here and here, in all its flavors.
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