John 6 Debate
Dr. Jim Guinee v. Mr. Scott Windsor
First Rebuttal of Dr. Guinee to Mr. Windsor
Scott is to be commended for presenting his beliefs clearly and forcefully (I mean that in a good way). He does not waver or wiggle, and that is commendable.
What is disappointing however is how little use of scripture Scott used to make his case. I pretty much knew what he would use and how he would use it. That's not to say it's a bad thing, but I kind of hoped he might have a few aces up his sleeve.
What is also not surprising to me is how quickly I felt he jumped from scripture to pulling out church fathers to support his position. I think this is a clear case of the fact that scripture simply isn't on his side. He must ask for help outside of scripture.
And worse, I will show that the church fathers do not speak with the clarity and unanimity that Scott would have us believe.
Section I: The analysis of Scott's use of scripture
Scott begins by taking us to an earlier section of John 6, where Jesus performs a miracle. A good miracle. Too good -- because as we all know in feeding the bellies of His people they seek to make Him king. Once again they are looking at Jesus from a physical perspective, and this proves to be their downfall.
Odd then that Scott would produce a scene that is supposed to prefigure a truly astounding miracle (i.e., transubstantiation). I say that because when Jesus' audience heard "eat my flesh" Scott would have us believe:
a) they knew He was being literal
However, as I demonstrated in my opening remarks, there is a consistent pattern in John's gospel where Jesus audience gets confused BECAUSE THEY TAKE HIM LITERALLY, because they focus on the physical aspect.
They don't seem to have any trouble believing Jesus did miraculously feed them. So what do they do? Take the next step and want to make Him king. A physical king, an earthly ruler.
Which prompts Jesus' departure.
Another problem with Scott setting up the disputed John 6 section with this feeding is an obvious one…why we should find any help in this miracle to connect it to a literal interpretation of "eat my flesh" and "drink my blood" when Jesus does NOT provide a single drop of wine to anyone? Can Scott explain this? Are we supposed to simply ignore this? It's a rather startling omission.
I hope that Scott will not try to argue ala Trent that the flesh and the blood both contain Jesus and therefore either suffice. Let him go ahead, and I will skewer him on the point that Jesus very clearly commands one to eat His flesh AND drink His blood. He doesn't give you a choice! You are to do BOTH!
And yet sadly through the years the Roman Catholic Church has obviated this double-command by revising communion to restrict the laity from having the wine ("blood").
Pope Gelasius I (492-496), in a letter addressed to some bishops said: "We have ascertained that certain persons having received a portion of the sacred body alone abstain from partaking of the chalice of the sacred blood. Let such persons...either receive the sacrament in its entirety, or be repelled from the entire sacrament, because a division of one and the same mystery cannot take place without great sacrilege." Further, the decrees of pope Urban II, in 1095, and pope Paschal II in 1118, also condemned the practice of giving the bread only in the sacrament
Read early documents like the Didache and you won't find obviating eat this bread AND drink this cup.
Back to Christ…Scott then goes on to talk about the miracle of Jesus walking on water. I fail to see the importance of this miracle in relation to his argument.
Where is the miracle that Jesus performs in "eat my flesh" and "drink my blood"?
If Jesus has performed TWO miracles in order to prepare their hearts and minds for a truly significant miracle, why doesn't He do it right there?
Why doesn't He give them His flesh and blood?
Can Scott explain this?
I'm also surprised that Scott in setting the table for John 6 reiterates Jesus' statement that the work we must do is to believe in the Son who the Father has sent. When the Jews ask what work they must do, Jesus does not tell them "eat my flesh" and "drink my blood." No, He tells the work they must do is to believe in Him. Yes, that is the theme of John's gospel.
Believe in the Son of God who the Father has sent. And "eat my flesh" or "I am the door" are a myriad of ways Jesus speaks to us to reiterate this salvifically imperative response.
Jesus does not say:
Can Scott explain why Jesus does not call us to believe?
"Eat my flesh" is simply a call for a behavioral response. One could take Jesus literally, and go to Mass and eat the flesh of Christ. Would this suffice? Of course Scott will say "no." Why not? There is no call to believe anything, just do what He says. He doesn't say you HAVE to believe it is His flesh, DOES HE?
No, He does not. I am curious what Scott would say about someone who went to Mass and partook of communion and did not believe or understand what he was doing.
As Scott continues in his analysis, he gets us farther into John 6. Eventually we come to verse 35, where Jesus affirms He is the bread of life. Does Scott believe that Jesus is literally a load of bread here?
Further, when Jesus says He is the bread that came down from heaven (in comparison/contrast to the manna), does Scott believe Jesus descended in the form of bread?
I doubt it. And assuming I am correct, we can see from the very beginning of this discourse that Jesus is using figurative language to describe whom He is and what He came to do.
But Scott would have Jesus suddenly and inexplicably go from figurative to literal – Jesus didn't come down as a piece of bread, He isn't standing there as a piece of bread – but suddenly without any context or warning, and in DIRECT violation of the scriptures (i.e., consumption of blood was forbidden) – Jesus is now being literal. He is bread to be literally consumed!
Moving onto verses 52-53, Scott argues that Jesus does not say "Figuratively, figuratively, I say unto you… but "Truly, truly." This is a most bizarre and clumsy defense. First of all, Jesus does not often affirm explicitly He is speaking figuratively, so that doesn't prove anything. When Jesus says He is the door or the light of the world, are we to assume that He changes into these things because He didn't point out He was being figurative?
Further, Scott needs to do some homework on the use of the phrase "Truly, truly." It doesn't mean "literally, literally" as opposed to figuratively figuratively. So if he is trying to argue that, he simply doesn't know what he is talking about.
Jesus' use of "Truly truly" is emphatic, but moreso because He can say this ON HIS OWN. Please note that NONE of the prophets ever said "Truly truly" or words to that effect. No, they said or wrote "Thus sayeth the Lord" or something akin to that. They did not speak on their own behalf, they spoke FOR the Lord. They did not have the authority to speak on their own.
Jesus CAN speak on His own because though He does speak on behalf of the Father He is nonetheless also God.
This is simply another example in John's gospel of the clear message: Jesus is God incarnate.
Therefore, I challenge Scott to prove his use of "truly truly" by showing us some scripture examples where "truly truly" is supposed to mean "I am speaking literally." Again, the point is that Jesus affirms that HE SPEAKS TRUTH, whether it is figurative, literal, or both.
Moving onto verse 54 and beyond, we find more problems as we continue to take Jesus literally.
Note that Jesus says some interesting things in the subsequent verses here:
1. "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (v53)
SO unless you do what Jesus says, you are not born again. We know from scripture that sinners are spiritually dead and must be reconciled to God, must have the Spirit of God inside of them to belong to him (cf. Romans 8:8-9).
The conclusion here is that anyone who doesn't take part in the Roman view of communion is not born again. Cannot belong to Christ. This is not consonant with Vatican II's understanding of non- Catholic Christians and the promise of redemption and eternal life. After all, Jesus doesn't offer wiggle room here. Scott on the other hand will wiggle.
2. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (v54)
Here is another interesting conclusion from taking Jesus literally. Does Scott believe that anyone who partakes in Mass and communion will have eternal life with Christ? I am sure he does not.
So once again, taking Jesus literally contradicts other aspects of Catholic theology, doesn't it?
3. "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him." (v55)
If Jesus is speaking literally, then we should be able to believe that Jesus wants us to believe that when He eat His flesh an drink His blood, He will physically remain inside of us. Does any Catholic here believe that? No, instead we will be given some vague contradictory explanation of why despite Jesus' insistence on REMAINING there is no real remaining. Go to Mass, take communion, and an hour later ask yourself if Jesus is still physically living inside of you.
In Father George Searle's "How To Become A Catholic" he tells us: "This Real Presence only remains while the Blessed Sacrament still continues undestroyed, which will only be for a few minutes at most, for it will usually be acted on more quickly by the stomach than by the mouth…"
This is what Jesus meant by "I will remain in you"? For a few minutes??
Further, note that Jesus didn't just say He will remain in US, but we will remain in HIM. Are we supposed to believe that Jesus will remain in us physically, but we remain in Him spiritually? Why the difference? Where in Jesus' words can we see that He meant PHYSICALLY for Him and SPIRITUALLY for us.
If He didn't mean physically, then this entire debate is over. Not to mention, in scripture, we are never told anywhere else that we have a PHYSICAL presence inside of us. It's a spiritual one.
Therefore, with each of these verses, I have shown that by following Scott's belief, we run into a theological wall every time – not just in general, but in Catholicism itself!
Next, Scott moves us to verse 58 where Jesus said, "This is the Bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats This Bread will live forever."
Now, Scott wants us to believe that Jesus is being literal, that we are to eat HIS FLESH that is the bread which will enable us to live forever.
But again, when Jesus says this is the bread that came from heaven, is Jesus also being literal here?
Does Scott believe Jesus came down as a loaf of bread?
If not, on what basis in the middle of a verse does Jesus suddenly switch from being figurative to literal?
Moving on to the end of the discourse, Scott tries to argue that the listeners must have known Jesus was being literal because if they really believed He was the Son of God but couldn't go the extra distance in believing bread turns into His flesh…then Jesus commits a curious response by failing to explain "Look, I'm being figurative… come back."
First of all, this assumes that Scott has demonstrated cogently Jesus was speaking literally. By this point, I have dismantled that view verse by verse.
Second of all, this assumes that Judas did believe Jesus was the Son of God and could turn bread into His flesh, and that Jesus knew this as well. Yet today in Catholic theology a man of Judas' spiritual corruption is to DENY himself the species. Does this mean Christ is more forgiving than the Catholic church today?
Third, we are told in the beginning of John's gospel that Jesus knew the hearts of ALL men. And further I have established the pattern of listeners taking Jesus literally because they are not interested in a spiritual meaning. Are we to believe that these rejectors were willing to accept Christ as the Son of God?
Hardly. If so, why does Jesus ask them "Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?" Why doesn't Jesus relate the stumbling to a literal view of communion?
I'll tell you why – because that ISN'T the point of this passage at all.
Here is further evidence. Note that Scott examines the "grumbling" of the Jews in response to Jesus' message.
There are two important points here:
a. The gospel of John from the very beginning establishes the true identity of Christ. He is God. He has always existed (John 1:1). His origin is heavenly, not earthly.
b. The "grumbling" from the Jews hearkens us back to the Old Testament, which is also in the context of providing manna -- where we see a similar interchange.
Now watch the hearkening back to the Old Testament, already alluded to by the God's provision of manna to the Jews in the desert. Watch who THEY grumbled at:
"You are not GRUMBLING against us, but AGAINST THE LORD." [Exodus 16:8]
"Then Moses told Aaron, "Say to the entire Israelite community, `Come BEFORE THE LORD, for he has heard your GRUMBLING.' " [Exodus 16:9]
And since a 3-time statement is the most compelling, let's see it one more time:
"I have heard the GRUMBLING of the Israelites. Tell them, `At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD.' "[Exodus 16:12]
What is the point made in Exodus? That God will provide what He provides because He is the Lord your God.
What is the point made in John? Same thing. That Jesus is the Lord from heaven.
And THAT is the stumbling point here, the rock of offense. Not anything about communion and bread.
But WHERE Jesus came from and WHO HE IS.
Note that when Jesus initially makes His identity claim, what do the Jews say about Him: "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?" (v42)
Finally, with respect to scripture, Scott takes us to the gospel of Matthew, hoping to connect the Last Supper in Matthew to Jesus' discourse in John 6. It doesn't work for a number of reasons. If Scott cannot adequately explain John 6, then he cannot run to the synoptic gospels for reinforcement. Nor can he claim that since Jesus held up a piece of bread and said, "This is my body" that this proves the bread was His body when he said it.
Not once do any of the synoptic writers affirm this happened. An astonishing omission.
Not to mention there are a number of exegetical problems with Scott's argument.
The Last Supper takes place BEFORE Christ is crucified. Therefore, there can be no atoning power in the bread and the wine, given that Christ has not yet become sin on our behalf, and gone to the cross with our sins.
In scripture Matthew (26:27-28) tells us that "And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, `Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.' "
Please note that despite the Council of Trent affirming the blood is in the wine and bread Christ only refers to the wine representing the blood shed for our sins! BUT we know that Christ has not gone to the cross yet so there would be no reason for Him to pour His blood out here. There is no crucifixion yet, no resurrection, and no saving work of the Holy Spirit.
So there is no reason Christ would have been present in the bread and the wine!
Further, Jesus tells the disciples when breaking the bread "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). How can the Catholic communion remember Christ when He is supposedly physically present on the altar? You remember someone when they have departed, not when they are present.
Section II: The analysis of Scott's use of church fathers First of all, Scott in appealing to the early church looks at 1 Cor and St Paul, because he knows this is the only reference outside of the gospels to anything even close to his belief. Again, isn't it amazing that Scott wants us to believe it isn't enough to believe in the Son of God, but that we must also consistently and purely eat His flesh and drink His blood?
And yet outside of this unclear reference to communion, nowhere else in scripture written by Paul, Peter, John, etc are we admonished to believe AND EAT the flesh of Jesus.
Doesn't that seem just a little strange that the Holy Spirit wouldn't consistently emphasize this teaching?
Now, with respect to Paul, this issue has been discussed by Scott and I for some time. Let me just stand on my argument – that Paul speaks of eating AND drinking, and refers to both bread and cup. He does not affirm that we can simply take the bread and that will suffice.
Both Jesus and Paul admonished us to partake in BOTH.
The early church did this as well.
But sadly since then the Roman Church has often altered a very clear instruction from scripture.
Next, Scott predictably pulls out the same passages from church fathers, hoping this will buttress his presented arguments. This isn't meant to sound insulting, it's just interesting that after you spend time doing apologetics you see (and myself included) some occasionally shabby scholarship.
What I mean is that Scott only grabs from a site without
a) providing the entire context of the church father's statement
If Scott hasn't been able to use scripture to defend his point of view (which I don't believe he has), then appealing to church fathers is just a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Second of all, Scott himself knows that the early church fathers were not infallible, therefore unlike the scriptures they are suspect. So let's examine our suspects.
If nothing else, I believe I can demonstrate that a wider context of many of these writers shows that their view on communion isn't so clear-cut as Scott would have us believe. Therefore, if their views are vague in a wider context, we must revert to trusting in scripture as the ultimate word on the matter.
Further, Scott curiously fails to note that there are early writings that fail to affirm his position.
For example, Clement of Rome in his Letter to the Corinthians (chs. 1 & 40) wrote that "it behooves us to do all things in order, which the Lord has commanded us at stated times. He has enjoined gifts and services to be performed...at the appointed times and hours." There is no mention of the Lord's Supper, and still less of Transubstantiation.
Further, in the Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), we are told in chapter 14 "On the Lord's [Day], gather yourself together and break bread [but not 'Physically eat the flesh of Christ'], and give thanks!... For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: 'In every place and time, present to Me a pure offering!' [Malachi 1:11]. Again, there is no mention of John 6:32-63; and still less of Transubstantiation.
Scott's first quotation is from the much-used Ignatius letter to the Romans (and please note I am being charitable in assuming all of his citations are not spurious, even though the Catholic church has a history of spurious documentation): "I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible" (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).
Taken on the surface, this sounds like what Scott has been arguing. But is it? What is the context? Even by looking at the text, Ignatius says he has no taste for corruptible food. Is this literal? So Ignatius means he is not hungry for eating regular food but for communion? Didn't St Paul admonish the church at Corinth for eating communion as a common meal?
Perhaps what Ignatius really means comes to light when he examine another letter. In his Epistle to the Trallians (ch. 8), Ignatius declares: "Be renewed in faith; that is the flesh of the Lord -- and in love; that is the blood of Jesus Christ."
Further, not once in Ignatius' letters does he ever mention John 6:32-63 or Transubstantiation. Indeed, none of the extant writings of the Apostolic Fathers -- those authorities who knew the Apostles personally -- even once quote from John chapter six to prove anything at all.
Next, Scott appeals to Justin Martyr: "We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).
Most of this letter doesn't sound any different than what any Protestant can and should believe – that communion is no ordinary meal, that the bread and drink are in no way common.
But is he really advocating for a Catholic view of John 6 (note Justin also never quotes from that passage!)?
Let's look at the preceding chapter from Justin Martyr to get a wider view of what he may mean: "…bread and a cup of water and wine are brought to the presiding brother. He receives them and presents praise and glory to the Father of all things through the Name of His Son and of the Holy Ghost,... And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people express their assent. And when the one presiding has given thanks and all the people have assented, they whom we call deacons give to each of those who are present a portion of the bread and wine mixed with water." Here Justin is speaking about what happens DURING communion and there is NOTHING about transubstantiation, nothing that affirms the bread and wine are now FLESH AND BLOOD. He still calls them bread and wine!
Further, in chapter 70 of the same work Martyr defends Christians against the false charge of their enemies that God's people were cannibals and drinkers of human blood. He does so, by saying that Isaiah 33:13-19 alludes "to the bread which our Christ gave us to eat in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers." Indeed, in ch. 117 Justin tells the Jew Trypho that "God, anticipating all the gifts which we bring through this Name and which Jesus the Christ enjoined us to present, i.e. the bread and the cup in the Eucharist, and which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him." This is a rather strange defense from Martyr considering Catholics are doing what he says they are not!
How does Scott also explain Theophilus who in his Letters to Autolycus (III:4) rebukes the "godless lips [which] falsely accuse us who are worshippers of God and are called Christians...that we eat human flesh."
Isn't that what Scott says we must do? Eat human flesh? Jesus is human still, correct?
Next, we have writings from Irenaeus, another example of someone who doesn't quote from John 6 or affirm transubstantiation. Isn't it odd that Scott relies so heavily on church fathers to defend his view of John 6 who a) are not so clear on the issue?br> b) never quote from the passage he is using them in his defense for???
I will certainly concede that LATER writers do at times begin to sound more "Catholic" in their view of communion, but if the earliest writers do not, it isn't helpful to appeal to later ones. In the end, the debate about transubstantiation can be seen occurring much later in church history, additional proof that Scott cannot show that the early church fathers all happily viewed communion in the same way Catholics do today.
The facts say otherwise.
The teaching on tansubstantiation was not adopted until the 11th century! Stranglely it took a millennium for the church to clarify its position.
It is known that Paschasius Radbertus (800-865 AD) was the first to clearly and unequivocally expound transubstantiation in his book "On the Body and Blood of the Lord" where he clearly taught that "the substance of bread and wine is effectually changed into the flesh and blood of Christ " while "the figure of bread and wine remain". Radbertus supported his doctrine by the word of institution interpreted in a literal sense and appealed to marvellous instances of the supposed appearances of the body and blood of Christ.
On the other hand. Ratramnus opposed the views of Radbertus, and, in a tract which he wrote, concluded that the elements remain in reality what they were before consecration and that only in a spiritual sense to the faith of believers are they the body and blood of Christ. "Bread and wine, produce, after consecration, an effect on the souls of believers which they cannot produce by their natural qualities". Unbelievers, on the other hand, cannot receive Christ as they lack the spiritually renewed heart to do so. Hence Ratramnus regarded the Mass only as a commemorative celebration of Christ's sacrifice whereby Christians are assured of their redemption. "How then", asks Ratramnus, "shall that be called Christ's body and blood in which no change is recognised to have taken place? But since they confess that they are Christ's body and blood....and this change did not take place in a corporeal sense but in a spiitual, it must now be said that this was done figuratively." Radbertus then quotes Augustine and continues, "...we see then that the doctor says that the mysteries of Christ's body and blood are celebrated in a figurative sense by the faithful."
Alcuin, Rabanus Maurus, John Scotus Erigene and Florus Magister supported this view!
How could this be if the church universal was so universal on the proper understanding of communion?
If Scott wishes to score any more points from church history, he will have to explain this medieval controversy!
It is my belief that I have ably dismantled Scott's initial treatise, but if he says otherwise ( and we expect him to do just that), then I will look forward to pulling out and producing more scriptural arguments and more examples from church history to demonstrate that Scott's position is nowhere near as clear as he wants us to believe.
I will now in posting this rebuttal, wait for Scott to post his own rebuttal and make no additional comments or arguments until that time.
Again, my thanks to Scott for being a good Christian and a worthy "opponent."
And to the rest of you for reading, reflecting, and praying that this entire debate will be fruitful for us all.