In an older post I presented a more general overview of the Two Natures of Christ that any Christian can get behind. Specifically I gave a Biblical overview of the Hypostatic Union, if you want to take a look at that first please click HERE.
In this one I am going to dig in a bit deeper and demonstrate what I believe is the crux of one of the biggest and most relevant disputes in Protestantism. One of the early reformers was a man by the name of Zwingli. He was the first prominent theologian to formally deny the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion.
I welcome being corrected if I am misrepresenting his theology, but my understanding is that he believed that the reason Christ is not present in Communion is because he cannot be. He literally doesn’t have the power to do it due to his Human Nature, which definitively, cannot be omnipresent.
“I insist that there must be a trope in the Lord’s Supper… Otherwise, a great difficulty would arise, namely, that, while Christ says he is in heaven, we should seek him in the Supper. For one and the same body cannot be in several places at the same time.” – Ulrich Zwingli
Obviously, I disagree with Zwinglian theology very much on this doctrine. In this post I am going to present the Lutheran Confession’s with regards to this specific issue and then I will explain why I agree with them instead.
“Against this condemned heresy the Christian Church has always simply believed and held that the divine and the human nature in the person of Christ are so united that they have true communion with each other. The natures are not mingled in one essence. But, as Dr. Luther writes, they come together in one person. So on account of this personal union and communion, the ancient teachers of the Church, before and after the Council of Chalcedon, frequently used the word mixture, in a good sense and with true discrimination. To prove this, many testimonies of the Fathers, if necessary, could be quoted. These are to be found frequently also in the writings of our divines, and they explain the personal union and communion using the illustration of the soul and body, and of glowing iron. For the body and the soul, as also fire and iron, have communion with each other. This is not by a phrase or mode of speaking, or in mere words, that is, so that it is merely a form of speech or mere words. But the communion is true and real. Nevertheless, there is no mixing or equalizing of the natures introduced like when mean is made from honey and water, which is no longer pure water or purse honey, but a mixed drink.” – The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord
Essentially, they are saying that the communion between the two natures of Christ is NOT like a mixture of chemicals but IS like what we would call a heat transfer:
What does that mean and why does it matter? Well in a Chemical Mixture you have two substances combining and forming a new substance, or new molecular compound if you want to use modern terms. With iron heated by a fire all you have is iron molecules moving faster than before. It doesn’t become something new, but it does take on new properties. Like this, a Lutheran believes that the Human Nature of Christ can exhibit the properties of the Divine when and how Christ wills it to do so.
As I understand, Zwinglians accuse Lutherans of believing that Christ is not two natures, divine and human, but rather mixes into one new nature. Lutherans accuse Zwinglians of splitting Christ into two persons, which would be the Nestorian heresy. Both of these arguments rely on drawing additional conclusions outside of the stated confessions of each other.
The fact is, that Zwinglians do not outright confess two persons, and Lutherans do not confess a third substance. Both confess two natures and one person, one must discern which is most intellectually honest and Biblically accurate.
Why Should we say there is Communion between the Two Natures?
This is more of a personal confession of mine. I did not come to Lutheranism from a confessional framework (Book of Concord). I initially came to it from a more Biblicist perspective. After overwhelming Biblical evidence I simply felt I didn’t have any other honest choice. Since then I find the confessions a great blessing, but I only hold to them because they teach the same thing as Scripture.
It is my assessment that the Zwinglian view uses philosophy to overcome and contradict clear scripture where as the Lutheran one holds directly to what the text says and accepts a little bit of mystery as to “how”.
We see in the Bible that Christ, according to his Body, filleth all (Eph 1:23). We see that he forgave sins and spoke it through his mouth in the flesh (Luke 7:48)(Matt 9:5-6). We see Christ in a body of flesh walk on water (Matt 14:22-23) and command the dead to rise (John 11:43). We also see Jesus in the flesh walk through doors as well as appear and disappear in various locations (Luke 24:30-31) (Luke 24:36-39) (John 20:19-20).
The concept of communion between the natures as willed and wielded by the person of Christ is consistent with all scripture.
“Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Eph 1:23 KJV
“And it came to pass, as he sat at the table with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.; And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.” Luke 24:30-31 KJV
“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.; But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.; And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?; Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Luke 24:36-39 KJV
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.; And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” John 20:19-20 KJV
What this all truly comes down to though is whether or not we we take Christ at his Word when he says “this is my body”.
To see my older posts addressing the above verse please click HERE. You will see that I very much believe we should take him at his Word. Thus this removes Zwinglian theology from the running entirely when it comes to Christology. It’s not even a thing. Zwinglian theology is just a strange aberrant teaching that came into existence 1500 or so years after Christ commissioned his Church, which is something I blogged on HERE.
I am not saying Evangelicals who hold to it are not Christians, but I am saying that this specific confession they hold to is not a Christian confession. I would classify Zwinglian Christology in the same manner that I do Papal decrees and traditions that contradict scripture.
I recognize the disputing philosophical positions, and I am happy to see from the Book of Concord that Lutherans have addressed the Zwinglian view on that level. But that is not the reason that I hold to the omnipresence of Christ in the flesh. The reason I hold to it is because Jesus said “this is my body”.
And that is all we should need
And you know what? Once you take the plunge on this the Bible becomes a lot less confusing. To be intellectually consistent as a Zwinglian anything and everything in the Bible can be allegorized. As a Lutheran you are locked into the text as it reads.