Sola Scriptura?

Don’t listen to the polls but only to Jesus except when he teaches about what will become of Jerusalem:

Q. Recent polls indicate that some 70 percent of Catholics in the United States (and 66 percent in Ireland) do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but rather a symbolic presence.

I happen to be one of them. I am Jesuit-educated, and I have written to my pastor with my question but have been greeted with stone silence. If these polls are even halfway true, why is this elephant in the room never addressed or even mentioned in church? Are we all condemned to hell for this belief? (Duxbury, Massachusetts)

A. The beliefs of the Catholic Church are not determined by plebiscite. That is to say, what is fundamental in determining the core content of the Catholic faith is not how people feel, but what Jesus said. And for that, we go to the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.

Jesus has just multiplied the loaves and the fish to feed 5,000 people, and the crowds are in awe. The very next day, Jesus says something that turns out to be very controversial (Jn 6:35, 51): “I am the bread of life … the living bread that came down from heaven … and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” People are shocked and ask: “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” (Jn 6:52).

Even his followers are horrified. Christ has every opportunity to pull back and explain. “Wait,” he might have said, “I was only speaking figuratively.”

Instead, he presses the point, watching as people start to drift away: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:54-56).

Later, at the Last Supper, Jesus reaffirms this teaching in language that is virtually identical.

Polling data varies widely regarding this teaching. The National Catholic Reporter, for example, found in a 2011 survey that 63 percent of adult Catholics believe that “at the consecration during a Catholic Mass, the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

But as I said at the start, polling data is largely irrelevant, except to this extent (as your question suggests): If a fair number of Catholics do not subscribe to a long-held and central article of faith, the Church should doubtless do more to proclaim and explain that teaching.

As to your last line, about the consequences of not believing, one thing is certain: No one is going to hell who sincerely follows the dictates of his own properly formed conscience. So why worry about that? Why not focus instead on determining what Jesus taught?

So bishops should teach what the Bible teaches or church members should follow their consciences? No wonder the polls’ results and authority.

19 thoughts on “Sola Scriptura?

  1. Don’t you think it’s cool that only the elders in Reformed church need to avoid “biblicism”? The ordinary members of the congregation still can read the Bible for themselves, unless they want to become one of the two kinds of elders. These individuals can even ask where the Bible talks about two kinds of elders.

    75. How is it signified and sealed to you in the Holy Supper, that YOU DO PARTAKE of the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and all His benefits?

    Thus: that Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and to drink of this cup in remembrance of Him, and has joined therewith these promises: First, that His body was offered and broken on the cross FOR ME and His blood shed FOR ME, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken FOR ME and the cup communicated TO ME; and further, that with His crucified body and shed blood He Himself feeds and NOURISHES MY SOUL to everlasting life, as certainly as I RECEIVE FROM THE HAND OF THE MINISTER and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, which are given ME as certain tokens of the body and blood of Christ.

    As one of the elders explains—“have you wondered whence Rome found five other alleged sacraments? The short story is that these were all popular additions to the divinely instituted sacraments that, over time, were ratified into alleged sacraments. These five practices were the product of popular sentiment. People liked them. They understood them. They evoked certain feelings. By the 16th century Rome had developed a rationale for them but the history is quite clear. They are each man-made practices that elaborate the two divinely instituted sacraments. With the addition of these five false sacraments popular sentiment trumped God’s truth in the practice of the church. When the Reformed returned the church to biblical and the most ancient practice of the church (they studied the Fathers closely) they did so not on the basis of what they liked or what pleased them.”

    mcmark—not being a “biblicist” means not paying attention to what pleases those who are not priests, sure, but does it mean not paying attention to what pleases the “presbyters”? I don’t see how that follows, unless “studying the Fathers” (not only the Bible) ensures that the elders themselves don’t do what pleases their own consciences.


  2. Xtian first, Presby second, Giants fan Husband third…

    I seek to implement the Calvinistic doctrine of the real presence of our Lord. He is the resurrected, enthroned, living host of the Supper. It is his Supper. I speak in his place, thus, not as if he were absent. Liturgically it is important that those partaking understand that there is more going on in the Lord’s Supper than meets the eye. By his Word and Spirit the Lord is present, and his presence is a transforming one.


  3. Sola scriptura presumes tota scriptura and somehow in all the Roman ersatz “discussion” of what Jesus taught in his Bread of Life discourse, John 6:35 is conspicuous by its absence.

     And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

    The G&N consequences might seem to preclude the literal/fundamentalist take. If you come to, if you believe in Christ, you will never need to literally do the impossible: eat and drink his body and blood, the improperly formed consciences of popish cannibals notwithstanding.

    We partake of Christ spiritually by faith, not literally as transubstantiated in the bread and wine.
    IOW we are justified by faith, not by partaking the sacrament. Big difference there.

    That is not to say prots like Allison in his recent celebrated evangelical assessment of Roman theology and practice don’t miss John 6:35 also (pp.312-315), but then again to be evangelical is not necessarily to be reformed.


  4. this was a great pod casted by the likes of C.Bucey. It’s not Transubstantion, per se (sorry il Unificatorio), but it covers recent scholarship (like Allison?) and doesn’t require you to read it to get a sense of the thought coming out. I recommend highly for your podcast addict app!


  5. but when you start to count the numbers, you need to balance out the solas. There’s a lot more Lutherans and Catholics, so it must come down to “Christianity and Liberalism”, in which even the liberals who don’t believe in “Christianity” might still be justified before God, and all the “conservatives” are (at least for now) “in the body of Christ.” Because there is only one gospel, and therefore only one church, and anybody who really believes in the Trinity is close enough without getting uptight about confessional details.

    “sacramental baptist” Timothy George—-“Packer was a major target of the initial evangelical protests against ECT. In an essay published in 1994, titled “Why I Signed It,” he defended the statement and his continuing involvement in the project. I am a Protestant who thanks God for the wisdom, backbone, maturity of mind and conscience, and above all, love for my Lord Jesus Christ that I often see among Catholics, and who sometimes has the joy of hearing Catholics say they see comparable fruits in Protestants.”

    Timothy George explains the situation theology—-“Packer recognized that the deep division that had separated Protestants and Catholics since the time of the Reformation had changed in a significant way. The most important fault line today, he argued, was between ‘conservationists,’ who honor the Christ of the Bible and of the historic creeds and confessions on the one hand, and the theological liberals and radicals who do not on the other.”


  6. Machen (Christianity and Liberalism)— Far more serious still is the division between the Church of Rome and evangelical Protestantism in all its forms. Yet how great is the common heritage which unites the Roman Catholic Church, with its maintenance of the authority of Holy Scripture and with its acceptance of the great early creeds, to devout Protestants today!

    “We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all.”


  7. is the Scripture of John 6 about the Lord’s Supper?

    What do the Reformed confessions say?

    What does your priest say?

    Mark Jones explains how you are a moralist if you keep your children from the table.

    Mark Jones explains that you cannot really have an indicative for your children unless you are willing to “assure them” that God loves them and that they are Christians. Saying God the creator’s law commands obedience, according to Mark Jones, is “moralism”.

    Mark Jones has a “large commanding gospel”, and it’s his gospel which commands obedience. God is your God, even if you are not-elect is not enough “indicative” for Mark Jones. Only if you welcome all your children to the water and to the table, can you avoid legalism. Only if you say there was already grace for Adam before Adam sinned, can you avoid legalism. Being a mere creature of God is not enough “indicative”.

    In this way Mark Jones has achieved the balance between “hyper-covenantalism” and “hyper-conversionism”. Assure your infants that they are already Christians, but will remain so only if they keep repenting, because security in election and justification is “presumption”. (hyper-decretalism, antinomianism). Because all the covenants are the same one covenant, Mark Jones warns that those once in the covenant may not remain in the covenant.

    But if imperatives demand an indicative which assures your children that they are already Christians, then God’s grace must be common and God must love a person before God can dare command that creature to obey God. And if you are going to command all your children, then you may not have to teach an unlimited atonement, but you are going to have to teach an atonement for all your children, because to avoid moralism, you will have to tell them they are already Christians, even if it turns out in the end that some of your children fail to repent and reveal themselves to be non-elect, once in the covenant but not in the covenant on the last day…..


  8. Mark, I will say though, I miss when MJ used to post in his tomes links to Nacho Libre and Taylor Swift. If he does that, try to highlight that in the combox, will ya? I likely won’t click on any more links to ref21, without knowing where it’s taking me. Just me tho..


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