Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to deal with a Zwinglian

From the Great Confession of 1528:

Next this fellow leads my finger, as if I were a blind man, to the word, "Do this," which St. Paul is said to explain thus: "As often as you eat this bread," etc.  From this he attempts to deduce that with the words, "Do this," Christ refers to the eating of the bread and not the eating of his body.  Of course, if St. Paul had said, "As often as you eat this bread which is not the body of Christ"-which this spirit has added out of his own head-there would have been no need to lay my finger on it; I would have been able to see it more than five paces away. Every time I hope they will produce scripture, they produce their own dreams.  Therefore I repeat, I would like them to lay their finger on the preceding word, where Christ refers to the bread and yet says, "This is my body." Here also stands the word "this," which is waiting to be grasped by the fanatical spirit's fingers. That word exerts a greater and stronger pressure upon me to conclude that Christ's body is eaten in the bread than this fellow's word "this," out of which he would like to make mere bread.  For my word "this" and his "this" both refer to one and the same bread, as they admit. And yet, where I cite the word "this" it reads, "It is my body"; but where he cites the word "this" it does not read, "It is not my body," but he must insert it and skip over the whole context in which my word "this" stands. What a faithful, zealous expositor of scripture!
Now let the whole world be judge between me and this spirit, which bread must yield to the other. My bread has on its side the text, "Eat, this is my body," and explains with emphatic words that this bread is the body of Christ. The spirit's bread has on his side the text, "Do this," or "As often as you eat this bread," and does not explain that it is mere bread or that it is not the body of Christ.  No, the spirit must emend the text and say it is not Christ's body, as he has been commanded to do-yes, by the devil! Now if one "this" must yield to the other, then properly his should yield to mine, since his is bare and naked apart from explanations, whereas mine carries its explanation with it. Or else he must sweat still more in order to prove that my "this" must yield to his "this."  Finger-pointing doesn't help. If he wished to act fairly and squarely, he should not point out to us with his fingers how his "this" indicates the bread. This indeed we could discover without his spirit, explanations, and arguments.  But he should first parry the thrust of this text, "Eat, this is my body." If he could prove that the bread there is not proclaimed as Christ's body, then of course we would know perfectly well ourselves that his "this" does refer to mere bread. However, he does not do this. Thus it is a "begging of the question" and hopeless twaddle, for he does not answer what we ask and beg him to answer, as I continually complain. We say, however, that if the first "this" refers to the body of Christ. then his "this" in the next instance must refer to it also; for "this" in both cases refers to the bread, and yet the first at the same time stands in immediate connection with Christ's body, as the words say, "Eat, this is my body."
(AE 37)


Michael L. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D said...

So in essence, it all comes down to a mortal brain's (or more cutting perhaps, an eye's) cheeky pitting of a Scriptural "this," against another Scriptural "this."

Shame on the Zwinglian eye, and its rationalizing, myelinated connections with the little nerve cells of the gray matter. If what God offers as consumption for our faith ... if what God's Word promises for our salvation ... offends the Zwinglian eye, then such person is advised (by God, no less) to pluck it out ... before his eye leads to his body's judgment.

I fully admit it's harsh and impolitic to say so, but there is a suggestion in the canon that simply crowing "Lord, Lord" will not do. God help us. It simply won't. The defensively despairing (and accusatory, at heart) response of those on Christ's left hand is plaintive enough, to be sure, in Mt 25: "Lord, when did we see You etc.." But, really ... it may as well just have been a hapless "Lord, when did we eat and drink You...?"

Your (unworthy) servant,
Herr Doktor SSP

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

Thank you for your words, Doctor. And of course I should be clear that when I hint, in the title of this post, about being as harsh toward Zwinglians as Luther is in his writing toward Zwingli himself, what I have in mind is not any harshness or unkindness toward the poor people who are victims of the Zwinglian blindness, for they are to be pitied, lifted up in prayer, and many of them will benefit from our bold confession (and also from seeing us taking our confession seriously in our manner of worship). Nor was Luther so heartless and cruel. In fact, it is for their sake that he goes on this all out attack. No, in this case, what I mean by "Zwinglian" is not the rank & file, but the teachers, and those who think themselves theologians, of this tragic view. Of course, it is not so much a view as a blindness, and as you point out, its source is the insistence upon seeing only with our fleshly sight, obscured as it is by the darkness of our hearts.