Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Gone Garver

With the semester ramping up and demands on my time at an all time high, I am laying off this blog. Catch some of my occasional posts at Reformed Catholicism.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


"Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son." - Dean Vernon Wormer

Spirit of Truth (Maybe?)

This is actual footage from a Los Angeles-based televangelism program. The Future of Preaching is Now!


Monday, May 22, 2006

Madonna Plays Show in Effingham, Illinois

Madonna has been (pun intended) clinging to her controversial twenties with a death grip for the last decade or so. How shocking, then, that she played a recent outdoor show in the downstate Illinois truckstop known as Effingham. The night show, hosted at the sight of the famous 198 foot Cross at the intersection of Interstates 57 & 70 was an unusual choice for the artist more used to arena venues. The cross was erected in the nineties to serve as a beacon of hope to the 50,000 travelers estimated to pass by each day. Adding some ecumenical spice to the normally bare cross, Madonna paid homage to her lapsed Catholic heritage by playing the part of the corpus and creating a crucifix. Observers agreed that the portrayal was her best acting performance since Desperately Seeking Susan.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006)

Christ is Risen!

Dr Jaroslav Pelikan, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University where he served on the faculty from 1962-96, fell asleep in the Lord in the afternoon of Saturday, May 13 after a long battle with lung cancer.

Recognized by many as the most noted historical theologian of our times, Dr Pelikan was a member at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Church in Crestwood, NY from the date of his reception into the Orthodox Church along with his wife in 1998. He is the immediate past president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is one of the world’s leading scholars in the history of Christianity and has authored more than 30 books including the five volume The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (1971-89).

Memory Eternal!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Torture and Eucharist

William Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ (Malden, Mass: Blackwell, 1998) 286pp.

William Cavanaugh is a professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. He is one of the leading lights of a new generation of theologians trying to forge a new conversation between theology and politics. Torture and Eucharist is a revision of his 1996 Duke University doctoral dissertation: “Torture and Eucharist in Pinochet’s Chile.”

The book is not really about him but about the embodied theological practices of Chilean Christians under the regime of General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte from 1973-1990. Cavanaugh argues that when Pinochet rose to power, the church in Chile was dominated by a disastrous ecclesiology of Pius XI and Jaques Maritain that relegated all political activity to a merely social and secular sphere. Because of this, when Pinochet sought through violence and torture to impose a totalitarian state on Chile, the church was left without a sense of its own resources as an embodied political entity. The shepherd being absent the laity were left to act individually and impotently.

Telling the story of Pinochet’s inhuman regime, Cavanaugh contrasts a regime of torture with the eucharistic community: “[T]orture is a kind of perverted liturgy, a ritual act which organizes bodies in the society into a collective performance, not of true community, but of an atomized aggregate of mutually suspicious (p.12).” As such, torture is “the regime’s strategy to fragment society, to disarticulate all intermediate social bodies between the individual and the state—parties, unions, professional organizations—which would challenge the regime’s desire to have all depend totally on it….Wherever two or three are gathered, there is subversion in their midst (p.38).

Cavanaugh writes that in the early years of Pinochet’s regime, the destructive ecclesiology in which the Chilean church had been formed failed them for it assumed a secular state that the church could then inhabit as conscience or soul. The church had no political sense of itself independent of the state and could not combat the violent fragmentation of society. Over time, however, the Chilean church discovered this political sense by ressourcement in the Eucharist. In 1976, Cardinal Silva formed the Vicariate of Solidarity which boldly reasserted the identity of the Church as a social body. In 1980, seven Chilean bishops began to excommunicate (literally, bar from the Eucharist) anyone who was participating in acts of torture. In 1983 the entire Chilean episcopal conference determined to do so as well. In fits and starts, the church in Chile constituted itself as “contrast society” with the Eucharist being a “counter-politics” to the politics of torture. In urging the use of the church’s unique disciplinary resources—Eucharist, penance, virtue, mercy, and martyrdom—habits and consciences are formed that subvert the totalizing vision of the state and transcend the secular-sacred dichotomy established by modernity.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hi! I'm Tom Cruise. You Might Remember Me From Such Films As...

Tom is morphing into Troy McClure before our eyes. Last week his cooky self-promotion wandered into insisting that his girlfriend had renounced Christianity in favor of Scientology and would have a completely silent birth (sans medication). Today he announced that he will eat the placenta and ubilical cord after the happy event. How long before we hear about Tom's bizarre behavior at a local aquarium?

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Little Flower: Story of a Soul

John Clarke O.C.D. trans. The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, 3rd Edition (Washington D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1996) 306pp.

Sainte Thérèse de l'Enfant-Jésus et de la Sainte Face (1873 – 1897) was born Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin in Alençon, France. She was the daughter of Louis Martin, a watchmaker, and Zélie-Marie Guérin, a lacemaker. Both her parents were very religious and had aspired to religious life before their marriage. Lacking vocations themselves, they vowed to give all their children to the church. Thérèse was the youngest of nine children (only five surviving to adulthood).
Zélie-Marie died of breast cancer in 1877, when Thérèse was only four years old. Afterwards her father was unable to continue to work and sold his business. The family moved to Lisieux where Zélie-Marie’s brother, Isidore Guérin, a pharmacist, lived with his wife and two daughters.

When Thérèse was nine years old, her sister, Pauline, entered the Carmelite order of nuns. Thérèse too wanted to enter the Carmelite order, but was told she was too young. At 15, another sister, Marie, also became a Carmelite. Thérèse renewed her attempts to join the order, but was prevented the bishop of Bayeux. Thérèse accompanied her father on a pilgrimage to Rome. During a general audience with Pope Leo XIII, she importunately asked him to allow her to enter the Carmelite order, but the Pope stood by the decision of the bishop. Shortly after, Thérèse’s bishop relented and she entered the Carmelite community. Upon the death of her father another sister, Céline, joined the order.

The Story of a Soul was written at the behest of her mother superior. The autobiographical account of her life discloses her so-called "Little Way" approach to spirituality. The pursuit of holiness, she argues, does not require great or notable acts, but only little acts of sacrifice and great love for God:

Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.

The book bears all the marks of a woman religious who was very young. As such, much of the work is tinged by melodrama and, frankly, unworthy approaches to the spiritual life. One such flaw is when she compares herself to a ball to entertain the baby Jesus.

I had offered myself, for some time now, to the Child Jesus as His little plaything. I told Him not to use me as a valuable toy children are content to look at but dare not touch, but to use me like a little ball of no value which He could throw on the ground, push with His foot, pierce, leave in a corner, or press to His heart if it pleased Him; in a word, I wanted to amuse little Jesus, to give Him pleasure; I wanted to give myself up to His childish whims. He heard my prayer.

At other times, however, Thérèse’s determination to serve God in the little details of the ordinary are quite mature and profound. In these places, they suggest a happy affinity with the “sacred ordinary” we also find in Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God.

Reformed and Catholic readers are well reminded that the sovereignty of God is ultimately a pastoral doctrine. The Dutch Calvinist, Abraham Kuyper, once wrote that “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” This confident reality underwrites our ability to abandon the willful pursuit of our own wills in favor of an active, involved, and considered self-offering to him. Nothing that we offer him is truly lost for in saying, “Not my will, but yours” we consummate the gift that is our very selves.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Knute Rockne the Great 1888-1931

Knute Rockne

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Notre Dame's legendary football coach, Knute Rockne. He was 43 and at the peak of his career, having just coached the Irish to two undefeated seasons. He had a 105-12-5 record in 13 seasons.

Friday, March 24, 2006

In Absentia...The Catacombs

Sorry for the recent dearth of posts. I have had some stuff up over at Reformed Catholicism, but other projects have sucked up my time...

Roman Catacombs

For those unawares, the Catacombs of Rome represent a fascinating window into earliest Christianity. I have never been to Rome and I am suprised at how deeply politicized every aspect of catacomb study has become, but this essay and this presentation represent a non-specialists guide to the state of the questions.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


I saw the parents tonight on television. To the extent that the information in this story is true, its hard to imagine a greater desecration of the Eucharist than denying it to an autistic child because he cannot swallow it wholly or entirely. Even on the most literal grounds, some molecules from the consecrated host remain in the child's mouth, but that's not the point.

Church denies Communion to autistic boy

Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 4, 2006 12:00 AM

The Catholic Church has told the parents of a 10-year-old autistic boy that, because the child cannot consume the host, he is not receiving Communion properly. Until he does, church officials say, he cannot partake of the church's most meaningful sacrament.

According to a letter from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, delivered to the Lake Havasu City family on Feb. 12, the boy cannot accept Communion in the Catholic Church until he can "actually receive the Eucharist, actually take and eat."

Because of his condition, Matthew Moran cannot swallow foods with certain textures.

So Matthew, who received his First Communion nearly three years ago in Pennsylvania, participates in Communion in an unusual way. As his father watches, the boy takes the Communion wafer and places it in his mouth. His father, Nick Moran, then removes it and consumes the host himself.

Otherwise, Matthew would spit it out, his father says.

Moran, who takes only the one host for himself, says it remains in the boy's mouth for several seconds.

He says the bishop's letter has caused anger, anxiety and frustration in his home.

"We are out of our minds over this," said the father, who with his wife, Dr. Jean Weaver, has two other children, one of them also disabled.

Phoenix Diocese officials contend that Matthew has not been prohibited from Communion, only that the bishop is "not able to approve the present practice," according to his letter. He offered assistance, which has come in the form of various hosts for Matthew to try, educational material and other recommendations for the parents, including respite care, in which trained personnel would look after the children while the parents took time for themselves.

"Matthew deserves to be able to take the Eucharist fully and completely," said Isabella Rice of the diocese Office on Disabilities and Pastoral Care. "As long as he is unable to do so, we will keep working with him."

The issue carries extreme importance for Catholics. Communion, a sacrament also known as the Eucharist, is the center of the church's worship life. In his letter to the family, Olmsted says, "The Eucharist is the great treasure of our Catholic faith."

Unlike other denominations with Communion, Catholics believe the hard wafer of unleavened bread, called a host, becomes the actual body of Christ when the priest consecrates a much larger host by holding it up and repeating the words of the Last Supper. The belief in the true presence of Christ results in prohibitions against consumption by those who are not Catholic, those who have not confessed serious sins and those who have not properly prepared.

The church's concern is that the host or wine not be desecrated in any matter. The key rule is that the recipient must "consume" the host before leaving the area of reception. The consumption rule is written in both the directions for the Mass, called the "General Instruction of the Roman Missal," and in a Vatican document called "Redemptionis Sacramentum," the "Redeeming Sacrament."

The bishop is the final authority for matters in his diocese, according to theologian William Cavanaugh of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

The diocese is not questioning Matthew's preparation or understanding of Communion.

"I took my son to CCD (religious education) classes for two years to prepare him," said Moran, a stay-at-home father. "He deserves it."

Moran also said his son realizes that he is doing something special. When he was not allowed to go to Communion on Feb. 26, "it was terrible," said Matthew's mother. "Matt screamed and cried because he did not get his Communion."

Matthew received his First Communion in May 2004 in Pittsburgh. His father says the Pittsburgh parish his family attended both recommended and approved the boy's method of receiving Communion. Phoenix officials say that is not true, based on their talks with Pittsburgh Diocese officials.

Pittsburgh officials declined to return phone calls. The Rev. Patrick Barkey, an assistant pastor at St. Bernard Church in Pittsburgh, where Matthew received First Communion, signed the boy's certificate but says he does not remember the family.

"This is a large parish, with 4,500 families," he said. "We have a large ministry to the disabled."

Moran said the Rev. Michael Deptula at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Havasu City, religious home to 2,500 families, was fine with the matter until recently.

It is another point of dispute. Moran says that his wife met with a church deacon and the pastor to discuss the question shortly after they arrived in town in June 2005 and that his son received Communion from Deptula many times before.

But diocese officials say the family never met with the pastor and had never approached him for Communion before Jan. 1, when Deptula told the parents that Matthew was not showing proper respect.

On that day, according to Moran, Matthew was not acting unusually. The family says it does not understand why the matter came to the bishop's attention. But Deptula contacted the diocese.

Deptula declined to return calls. Elaine Guitar, parish manager, said parish officials had no comment and referred calls to the diocese. Olmsted also declined to answer questions, assigning Rice from the disabilities office and Roz Gutierrez from the Office of Worship to work with Matthew and answer questions.

Rice said she never has seen a similar case. The closest would be people who are in vegetative states, in comas or near death. In those cases, a tiny flake of the host or a drop of wine often is given.

Matthew will not swallow even tiny amounts of the bread or wine, his father says.

Autism, a neurological disorder, manifests its symptoms in a variety of ways. Verbal skills and social interactions often are affected. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, the symptoms can range in severity, and each individual can be affected in different ways.

Autistic children frequently have difficulty eating certain kinds of food, among other disabilities. Moran says Matthew is extremely sensitive to certain colors and textures, and the boy eats and drinks only specific things.

Matthew has "moderately severe autism," his father said. "In spite of his disability, he is reading, doing math and making friends."

"How terrible, how difficult for the family," said Denise Resnik, board chairwoman for the Southwest Autism Research Center and the mother of a boy who is dealing with autism. "We often seek comfort in our religion, and it would be nice to think the church would support them to the best degree possible." Diocese officials said they are doing their best to accommodate Matthew's needs, including hosts that are thinner than the norm, thicker, even smaller. Moran says none of the hosts has worked. Matthew will not swallow even a tiny crumb of the host or a drop of wine with any regularity, frequently spitting them out, he said.

Rice and Gutierrez say they have had extensive talks and e-mail exchanges with the family. They admit their service to the family is hampered by distance. Lake Havasu City is about 200 miles from Phoenix.

The Morans responded that Deptula has barred employees of the parish, the only one in town, from speaking to them.

"How does the diocese intend to help us when (parish) employees are threatened with the loss of their jobs for speaking with us?" the parents asked. "Where is the effort and support from this church?"

Rice says the diocese is trying to remain true to church teaching on people who are disabled.

A document of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities," says, "Cases of doubt should be resolved in favor of the right of the baptized person to receive the sacrament. The existence of a disability is not considered in and of itself as disqualifying a person from receiving the Eucharist."

Nick Moran said he believes Olmsted is not following those guidelines in the case of his son.

In his letter, Olmsted says, "Just to touch it to one's tongue is not to 'take and eat.' In other words, it is not the reception of Christ in the Eucharist.

"So while your desire is for your son to receive Holy Communion, he is, in fact, only simulating doing so."

Roberto Dell'Oro, a theologian at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, says concerns about whether Matthew is consuming the host miss the bigger point.

"I'm sure God knows that (Matthew) is receiving Communion," said Dell'Oro, whose son has autism.

"The Eucharist is a symbol of deep sharing in love. It seems hypocritical to point fingers at these kinds of nuances. If the father is taking care of the host (so it is not thrown away or destroyed), then what is the big deal?"

That is the question Moran is asking.

"We didn't make this a major issue," he said. "They did."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Old Home Week - Straight Outa Muncie

As I said below, I'm from Anderson, but I actually lived somewhere between Anderson and Muncie. Home boyz can represent! Caution: Not for young ears.


Monday, February 20, 2006

First the Bad News and then the Good

I grew up in Anderson, Indiana. At one time it was a huge General Motors factory town and most everyone I knew was employed there. Since the early 80's, however, GM has been in decline and the town has fallen on hard economic times. Yesterday the New York Times did a story on Anderson. This is the bad news...

Company Town Relies on G.M. Long After Plants Have Closed

Now the good news is that Anderson has not been completely depleted of brains. This guy has recently begun to pull victory from the jaws of defeat like Joe Montana in the '79 Cotton Bowl. He's my hero for so many reasons...

Check out the interview:

Indiana Business Spotlight: I Power Energy Systems, LLC

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Great point from Chauvet

"The presence of Christ is indeed inscribed in the bread and wine" but "is not circumscribed there"

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Chuck Norris Facts

Hillarious site...

Great Article

Here's a great article from the Japery:

"On the Need for Ecclesiological Education Born-Again Yesterday"

Some choice quotes...

As Noll and many others have noted (confirming my own experience as well), “Most ex-Catholic evangelicals … were not well catechized, and often their Catholic experience was nominal, mechanical, or (in some instances) abusive; by contrast, many ex-evangelical Catholics reasoned themselves into Catholicism from articulate evangelical positions.” In other words, immature Catholics are more likely to become evangelicals, while maturing evangelicals are more likely to become Catholic.

Tradition must become inheritable, or always-already inherited, to be wholly itself. It must become a gift of givenness, given to the point of being so formative it is ineradicable even from minds that turn against it. It must be so given that it is liable to be taken for granted, in need of rethinking and renewal–but without schism and interminable question-filled “conversations.”

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Old Testament Survey

After a short hiatus (since July), I am active again teaching in the church. Our rector at Anglican Church of the Resurrection in St. Louis has graciously allowed me to offer a survey course on the Old Testament. I am calling the course, "The Hebrew Bible for Modern Christian Goyim." Fortunately, I have been blessed with what seems to be an excellent group of participants.

I have designed the course on a kind of sliding-scale format. Occasional attendees will benefit from a self contained lesson while more ambitious folks will have collateral reading so that the course will approximate a college-level offering.

Interested folks can check out the syllabus here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Cottage Industry...

Protesters Burn Danish Flag

It never occured me to ask before, but how do seething Muslims manage to come across the National flags they routinely burn? I mean, I would have no idea where to go to buy a Danish flag, but these folks seem to have a ready supply at hand.

This article explains how there's money to be made in protests:

Gaza Shopkeeper Stocks Up

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Taking the Bus to Canton

ND Bettis

Jerome Bettis said the Bus stops in Detroit at Super Bowl XV. I think there is one more stop in Canton, Ohio.

Thanks for the memories. This will always be my favorite from the '92 Sugar ("Cheerios") Bowl.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cheer, Cheer for Old Jerome Bettis!!

ND Bettis

I'm pulling for Jerome Bettis to win this year's Super Bowl. Cheering for the Steelers was made much easier when the team showed up in Detroit yesterday wearing Notre Dame Green with #6 on them (Bettis' number at ND).


Monday, January 23, 2006

New Audio Sermons

I have just added some new audio sermons from my time in the Peace Reformed Pulpit. These messages seem fairly relevant for these days...

Streaming: Peace, Purity and Unity: A Sermon on 2 Cor. 13:5-14

The download is here for you podcast types.

Streaming: When God Tells You to Jump in the Lake - 2 Kings 5. Download here

Streaming: The Others - Romans 1:1-17. Download here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's All About the Christology!!!

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

I guess I made it, but I don't know what the heck happened to Wayne.

December 5, 1971

I called the rectory in my home town today. I am somewhat embarrassed that I did not know this before, but the above date is my spiritual birthday. I was baptized on December 5, 1971 at St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church in Anderson, Indiana.

Many Christians can name the date of their evangelical awakenings. I suppose that I have had such experiences now and again over the years, but I have never been able to bring myself to name one of them as the date of my conversion. I have always said and written that my life as a Christian began with my baptism as an infant. Now I have a real space and time day to go with it.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Thoughts on the AMiA Winter Conference 2006

For a good time now I have been fearful of whether the African face of AMiA was the real deal. Not that I had any particular reason for this suspicion, mind you. The folks that I have met over the past couple of years in Chicago and now in St. Louis have been of exceptional quality and integrity. They have manifested a deep concern for the catholicity of the Church and fidelity to the Apostolic Faith. Put simply, I feel very proud and humbled to know such people. The concern was the manner in which the Mission came into being in the first place. Episcopalians have permitted so much revisionism to flourish under their aegis that one is rightly suspicious of the sudden retreat toward orthodoxy when a gay bishop is ordained. After all, if you can embrace all the other terrors of modernity, what could occasion the sudden exclusion except a pernicious homophobia?

Of course, I have long given up this fear when it comes to the AMiA folk that I know personally, but the question has remained when it comes to the broader organization. I already know that St. Louis and Chicago are the catholic strongholds of AMiA where other places give greater latitude to the “happy-clappy,” church growth element of American evangelicalism. I could stomach that as long as the Liturgy of the Prayer Book remained intact, but the bigger question was whether the realpolitick that drives more banal evangelical church practices drives the Anglican Mission’s ecclesiological self-understanding as well. Put simply, are the bishops of the so-called Global South really bishops, or do they merely function as a wax nose giving ecclesiastical cover to otherwise disaffected, maverick evangelical conservatives?

Fortunately, the Global South bishops are true bishops. Far from disconnected or ignorant of the specific cultural challenges in North America, they demonstrate a far subtler understanding of our situation than most of us are of there’s. Archbishop Datuk Yong Ping Chung of South East Asia addressed the gathered crowd in his opening night homily and felt no discomfort whatsoever in admonishing us as our bishop. Our Primate, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda demonstrated his ease with being in charge by extending the Liturgy an extra half-hour while inviting the other seven visiting primates to address us individually. Turning to the American missionary bishops, Kolini then told us that he has “never regretted laying hands on” the Rt. Rev. Chuck Murphy and the Rt. Rev. John Rogers. Now, it’s pretty hard to get at the flavor of these actions, but they communicated to me a certain comfort with ecclesiastical authority – not lorded over those under their charge, but humbly expressed without self-consciousness.

The general African flavor of AMiA also plays out in the manner that the churches relate to one another. Far from being beholden to the money that comes from the richer Western churches, the Africans have declared themselves in broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada despite the financial cost. In AMiA, there is certainly a monetary benefit to Rwanda and other African provinces, but there is no hint of our playing the role of condescending benefactors. Rather, it is they who consider us impoverished for the poor state of the Church in the West. One Archbishop told us of his conversion at the age of eighteen because of the efforts of Western missionaries. To paraphrase his comments, Americans had brought the light of the Gospel to that which was formerly called the “Dark Continent,” but now that a great darkness has settled on us, those to whom our grandparents had brought enlightenment were bringing a little of that light back to us.

If it is to be believed that in the next millennium the center of gravity in Christendom will shift away from Europe and North America to regions south of the Equator, AMiA stands to be a leader organization in the United States. AMiA is already working on the question of how to more closely integrate the theological and clerical formation of priests on both continents. Africa stands to benefit from the great Western theological tradition and the West stands to benefit from the development and appropriation of distinctive African theologies.
There are some 76 million Anglicans worldwide and the numbers will increase principally in Africa. Archbishop Bernard Molango of Central Africa told a small number of us that he is confirming at least a hundred new converts annually in each of the parishes of his diocese. Other of the bishops gathered confirmed this general sense that God is working powerfully in Africa.

I have long been concerned about the real power of Reformed Presbyterianism to really go the distance in the new millennium. Its confessional tradition, liturgical minimalism, and general suspicion of symbol, ritual, tradition, and embodied spirituality seem only appealing to rich white-folk. The problem, however, is the seeming absence of an alternative. Now, I am the last guy to buy into a fad or a sales pitch and I am generally post-cynical, but this week was truly amazing and it has stoked both my enthusiasm and imagination for what shape my vocation may take in the future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Calvin's Eucharist and Local Presence (Part 2)

In 1 Corinthians 11 the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that had failed to embody Christian koinonia. In that community, the eucharist had not yet been separated from the larger communal meal. Apparently when the Corinthian Christians came together, the meal would begin with the breaking of the bread, then each believer would “take out” (v. 21) his own meal to consume it without sharing (v. 21) or “waiting upon” (v. 33) others. This lack of mutual sharing, one getting drunk while another went hungry, underscored the social and economic inequities within the community and compounded the oppression of the poorer believers. The Apostle chastens them saying, "When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat." (v. 20). To paraphrase, St. Paul is saying, “You are celebrating a supper all right, but don’t deceive yourself into thinking that it is the Lord’s supper.” What is being described, then, is not a general instance of the manducatio impiorum, but the specific instance where a professing Christian congregation invalidated their eucharist by failing to discern their own identity as the ecclesial body of Christ. St. Paul looked at their foodways and saw no evidence that they had really understood the kingdom Christ was bringing into the world. The Corinthian church didn’t look like the Kingdom of God at all. It was as though Jesus had never been crucified. The scandalon is that this cognitive dissonance took place even as they communed in Christ’s sacramental body.

Should we wish to make the secondary application of this passage to general instances of the manducatio impiorum, it is important to keep the question of cognitive dissonance in mind. When St. Paul warns the Corinthian Christians regarding the “unworthy” or better “careless” reception of the eucharist, he is describing their failure to “discern” a body that is really and objectively present both sacramentally and ecclesiastically. If an unbeliever presents himself at the altar of a true Christian church, he objectively partakes of the sacramental body of Christ because he partakes in the objective presence of the gathered ecclesial body of Christ. Now it is true that an unworthy or careless participant in the eucharist, whatever his profession, eats and drinks only “judgement to himself,” but this is because of his failure to discern something that is objectively there. The ecclesial body and the sacramental body stand and fall together. For this reason, St. Paul says that unworthy participants are guilty, not of eating mere bread and wine only, but of “profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” Put simply, faith discerns the body and blood of Christ; it does not manifest them. The incarnation of the body of Christ is an objective reality and his being present is underwritten by the promise: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).

This manner of resolving the difficulty inherent in the question of the real presence has a real pastoral payoff and an inherent practical benefit. First, the notion that the real presence is restricted to those who receive with true faith would seem to annul the Reformed notion of sola gratia. As soon as the presence of Christ, and thus the validity of the eucharist, depends on the quality or character of our faith, we move from an economy of gift giving to an economy of exchange. Faith becomes the currency that procures the presence of Christ. This would not seem to represent a biblical understanding of how God manifests himself. To return briefly to prophetic conceptions of “day of Yahweh,” the sudden coming of the Lord to his temple is a given (Cf. Mal.3:1). While this coming of God may signal the advent of salvation or damnation—of vindication or desolation—the faithlessness of God’s people is irrelevant to his appearance. Indeed, when Christ fulfills the promise of Malachi it is in his “judgment” (contra “cleansing”) of the temple (Cf. Matt.21:12; Mk. 11:15; Jn.2:14-15). It is for this reason that prior to communing at table, our Book of Common Prayer prescribes the so-called “prayer of humble access” for the Priest who prays “in the name of all those who shall receive the communion:”
We do not presume to come to this, Thy table, trusting in our own righteousness but in Thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under Thy table. But Thou art the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord so to eat the flesh of Thy dear Son Jesus Christ and to drink His blood, that we may evermore dwell in Him and He in us.

As clergy we can never give the appearance that we are turning people back upon themselves or their spiritual own resources as the means of their healing. Better here on pastoral grounds to prefer the Formula of Concord’s construal of the presence of Christ to that of Calvin:
We believe, teach, and confess that not only the true believers [in Christ] and the worthy, but also the unworthy and unbelievers, receive the true body and blood of Christ; however, not for life and consolation, but for judgment and condemnation, if they are not converted and do not repent, 1 Cor. 11, 27. 29.

For although they thrust Christ from themselves as a Savior, yet they must admit Him even against their will as a strict Judge, who is just as present also to exercise and render judgment upon impenitent guests as He is present to work life and consolation in the hearts of the true believers and worthy guests.

We believe, teach, and confess also that there is only one kind of unworthy guest, namely, those who do not believe, concerning whom it is written John 3, 18: He that believeth not is condemned already. And this judgment becomes greater and more grievous, being aggravated, by the unworthy use of the Holy Supper, 1 Cor. 11, 29.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Calvin's Eucharist and Local Presence

Although the the Articles of Religion do not directly reference Calvin, their use of Augustine in Article 22 is nearly a direct quote from Calvin’s Institutes 4.17.34, [Battles Vol. 2, 1404]. Unfortunately this seems to represent a rather selective use of Augustine. While it is true that Augustine writes, “he who received the power of the Sacrament, not only the visible Sacrament; and indeed inwardly, not outwardly; and who eats with the heart, not who presses with the teeth” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, Tractate 26.12), Calvin is highly selective when he uses Augustine to support his doctrine. Elsewhere, Augustine is able to make the following affirmations that seem to affirm a local presence:

That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God is the Body of Christ (corpus est Christi). That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ (sanguis est Christi). Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend his Body and Blood, which he poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. (Sermones 227, PL 38)

Christ was carried in his own hands [Ferebatur enim Christus in manibus suis] when, referring to his own Body, he said, 'This is my Body.’ For he carried that body in his hands [Ferebat enim illud corpus in manibus suis]. (Enarrationes in Psalmos 33:1, 10, PL 36).

None of this is new, of course, but I'm starting to lose confidence with regard to Calvin's rejection of the local presence and in his treatment of the manducatio impiorum. I could use some help if anyone wants to set me straight.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Strike Three ... Throw this guy out!

Pat Robertson

This is one of those times where the scandal of a divided Christendom is particularly pressing.

For the handful of you who are yet unaware, Pat Robertson has recently gone on record attributing Ariel Sharon's stroke to the divine judgement of God for his trading away land for peace. Back in the Fall, of course, he was praying for the death of more Supreme Court members and advocating the assassination of a Venezuelan head of state.

It's too bad that we have allowed for a situation in which professed Christian leaders are accountable to no one for their words. Some mechanism should exist to inhibit him. Unfortunately, there is no umpire to call Robertson out on his third strike.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Epiphany Icon

The EPIPHANY, or the Manifestation of Christ
to the Gentiles.

God, who by the leading of a star didst
manifest thy only-begotten Son to the
Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know
thee now by faith, may after this life have the
fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.