Saturday, May 21, 2005

Getting started - what about receptionism and AC X?

I am going to jump into a theological topic because I am interested in other's opinions on this. My question has to do with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) holding a open question position on the issue of when the real presence in the Lord's Supper is effected. Is it when the elements are consecrated (consecrationist) or when they are received (receptionist)? In practice, it seems most WELS pastors and laity practice receptionism, but the official position of the Synod is that it is an open question. When I read the Augsburg Confession, article X, I see a strong position taken that the consecrationalist position is consistent with the Lutheran Confessions.

I sent my question into the WELS Q & A (quite a resource) and I encourage you to read it for yourself.

http://www.wels.net/cgi-bin/site.pl?1518&cuTopic_topicID=&cuItem_itemID=8848

I am left feeling like the reply was not very solid. I understand that we cannot extrapolate from what is written in the Confessions and that there is not a lot written in this article X, however, what I see there does answer the question.

What do you think?

13 comments:

Lutheran Zephyr said...

I am not a member of WELS, but is there anything wrong with keeping the question open? I wonder if the promise of Christ's presence - "This is my body . . . This is my blood" - makes the how/when questions of Christ's presence unnecessary, or at least secondary. When is Christ present? How is Christ present? I'm not sure in a technical sense, but this much I know - Christ is present.

Buchs said...

On one hand I can agree that the time the real presence is effected is secondary to the fact that it exists. One might hold an open question view but yet seek to practice the Lord's Supper in the true respect to the presence of Christ's body and blood which could occur at the earliest possible time. This seems to be that time of earliest action that is connected with the sacrament - the consecration. Many WELS clergy and laity practice instead that only the latest possible time is to be considered in determining practice.

On the other hand, I obviously consider AC 10 to be teaching that the question isn't open and I also don't see that Scripture keeps it as an open question. As Luther said, "is" means "is." It doesn't mean "will become."

Caspar said...

Firstly, welcome to the blogosphere, Buchs! Please visit us over at Beggars All.

Now, as to your question. I believe Lutheranism leaves the precise moment and duration of the sacramental presence as an open question. Consider this letter from Luther to Simon Wolferinus where Luther writes:

QUOTE:

We will explain accordingly the time or the sacramental action in such a way that it makes its beginning with the start of the Lord's Words [note sometimes this is translated as the "Lord's Prayer"] and that it continues until all commune, after the drinking of the cup, the Host having been eaten, the people have been dismissed, and everyone has departed from the altar.

END QUOTE

And, here's some background info for those of us who are unfamiliar with what is meant by the "consecrationist" position vs. the "receptionist" and the "usus" positions from the WELS Q&A site:

QUOTE

Historically there have been discussions and debates on the question, "Precisely when (at what point of time) is the true body and blood of Christ present together with the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper?" Three basic views have surfaced.

There is a so-called "consecrationist" view that insists that the real presence of the Lord's body and blood is a reality while or immediately after the words of institution or consecration are spoken. So they insist and demand that the body and blood be acknowledged with the consecrated elements on the altar or in the hand (or chalice or cup) of the distributing minister, even prior to distribution and reception.

The so-called "receptionist" view is that the real presence may be said to be a reality only as or after the communicant receives the consecrated elements. Prior to that point in time it is inappropriate to say the body and blood are present with the consecrated elements.

A third view simply says that the real presence becomes a reality in the whole "usus" or "actio" (Latin words) of the Lord's Supper -- which consists of the consecration, distribution, and reception of the bread and wine, that is, the whole sacramental action. This view basically says the precise moment in time when the real presence begins or ends is not known and that Scripture simply doesn't give information to satisfy human curiosity on the issue. But what we do know is that ultimately what is offered and received by communicants in the Lord's Supper is Christ's true body and blood together with the bread and wine.

This last view is the one embraced by the Lutheran Confessions (Formula of Concord, Article VII) and also by the WELS, the ELS, and LCMS. Private opinions, even if somewhat speculative, are allowed (since Scripture really doesn't answer the question), but to insist on a certain "moment of presence" and bind someone's conscience to that opinion is unacceptable.

END QUOTE

It is also interesting to note the REVIEW OF THE LORD'S SUPPER STATEMENT OF THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN SYNOD

by John Klatt

QUOTE

The controversy arose over the teaching that the body and blood of the Lord are present on the altar at the consecration, before the distribution. This idea appeared in a book on the Lord's Supper by Dr. Tom Hardt, a pastor in Sweden. This book, Venerabilis et Adorabilis Eucharistia, was published in 1971. Some of Hardt's ideas were espoused by B.W. Teigen of the ELS and set forth in a book, The Lord's Supper in the Theology of Martin Chemnitz. In 1981 the ELS Convention adopted a statement on the Lord's Supper consisting of nine theses. The ninth of these reads: "We hold that we cannot fix from Scripture the point within the sacramental usus when the real presence of Christ's body and blood begins, but we know from Scripture and acknowledge in the Confessions that what is distributed and received is the body and blood of Christ."

END QUOTE

Caspar

TKls2myhrt said...

Hello! I read your email on free conferences. I am a fellow Minnesotan in an ELS congregation. Please visit my blogs at www.bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com or www.kiihnworld.blogspot.com.

I am a new confessional Lutheran, but spent many years as an "evangelical".

Glad you are blogging! I will add you to my list.

Caspar said...

What's up?

Bob Waters said...
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Bob Waters said...

Try again.

What Caspar said.

Luther suggested the beginning of the Great Thanksgiving, if one really insisted on a moment.

And welcome to the Lutheran blogosphere!

Buchs said...

Bob wrote: "Luther suggested the beginning of the Great Thanksgiving, if one really insisted on a moment."

I can understand and concur with Luther's hesitation to answer the question of what moment the Real Presence is effected. I do believe, however that the Scriptures and the Augsburg Confession rule out some moments.

The second good Lutheran question (after "What does this mean?") to ask Bob is, Where is this written (in Luther)?

Bob Waters said...

I don't at the moment recall "where this is written," though I shall search. I do remember that it stuck in my mind as a response to the misunderstanding of "usus" in Receptionism which avoids the extreme
sacradotalism which is a risk with Consecrationism.

Caspar said...

Bob,

Is Luther's letter to Simon Wolferinus (which I quoted above) what you are looking for?

Again, there he writes:

We will explain accordingly the time or the sacramental action in such a way that it makes its beginning with the start of the Lord's Words [note sometimes this is translated as the "Lord's Prayer"] and that it continues until all commune, after the drinking of the cup, the Host having been eaten, the people have been dismissed, and everyone has departed from the altar.

Bob Waters said...

Caspar, I believe that it is.

Bob Waters said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bob Waters said...

TW, I might note that in my solitary attempt to argue against the ELCA declaration of fellowship with the Reformed back when I was hooked up with that sad and sorry outfit, the Receptionist position was appealed to by the pro-fellowship people as an argument that it's our faith which makes Christ present.

In other words, the Calvinist position (though in neither group is the bodily nature of the presence particularly important).