Indifference is not characteristic of the liturgy
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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

More on Receptionism

The latest print issue of Gottesdienst is about the Lord's Supper, reverence, and a special focus on refuting receptionism. Which brings to mind the time I almost got kicked out of a call for not being a receptionist. That's probably a little melodramatic, but not much. It's a long story how it got that bad - a story that starts with a 1955 CSL grad, Creative Communications' Christmas service with a tag-team Verba between pastor and congregation, and my intrepid request that we not use it. The story continues with me be harangued in front of the DCE as a witness (poor guy - a really nice fellow), the circuit counselor being called in. . . well, you get the point: when you graduate from the sem, try to avoid being an assistant pastor.

But there were two very good things to come out of it. First, I found support in the most unlikely of places: a seminary professor (and a chap climbing the Synodical bureaucratic latter, but who was, at that time, able to lend only moral support). The prof actually volunteered to do a phone conference with me, the angry party, and the circuit counselor. This, friends, is a rare seminary professor and for this act of kindness and steadfastness he has earned my deepest respect and thanks. And let me tell you - it was like a magic spell: once I said this prof would talk to us about it, the guy backed down post haste and the danger passed. He, the circuit counselor, and I had a nice talk - didn't need the prof to speak after all.

The other good to result was that I really had to dig into this topic. I found Teigen's indispensable book, looked at Sasse again, read the concise smack-down of receptionism by Scott Murray, talked with folks in the know etc. All that led me to produce a study document which you can read here, if you like.

Here I want to include just this brief quotation from what I wrote after reading all those fine works.

The Very Minor Confession

"83] However, this blessing, or the recitation of the words of institution of Christ alone does not make a sacrament if the entire action of the Supper, as it was instituted by Christ, is not observed (as when the consecrated bread is not distributed, received, and partaken of, but is enclosed, sacrificed, or carried about), but the command of Christ, This do (which embraces the entire action or administration in this Sacrament, 84] that in an assembly of Christians bread and wine are taken, consecrated, distributed, received, eaten, drunk, and the Lord's death is shown forth at the same time) must be observed unseparated and inviolate, as also St. Paul places before our eyes the entire action of the breaking of bread or of distribution and reception, 1 Cor. 10, 16.

"These paragraphs have been misquoted out of context to allow for receptionism. Some say that since the Formula says that the entire action of the Supper is needed for a valid Supper, then the presence of Christ is not effected until the last part of that action is observed. In saying this some Lutherans have again fallen into Aristotelian theories of form and action. However, the text itself tells us what the text means: what is excluded here is the Romanist practice of "consecrating" elements for the sole purpose of Corpus Christi processions or the papal "sacrifice of the Mass" [without the intention of ever consuming the elements]. Since these "celebrations" do not intend to follow Christ's institution, they are not the Lord's Supper merely because they ape the Words of Christ. Likewise, a group of Satanists gathering to mock the Lord's Supper would not have the Lord's Supper even if they recited the Words and distributed and ate the "consecrated" elements.

"Also the paragraphs have been badly misinterpreted through a basic mistake in logic. The paragraph says that "If the entire action of the Supper as instituted by Christ is not observed, then the recitation of the Words alone do not make the sacrament." The error in logic may be easily seen:

Let A be: The entire action of the Supper as instituted by Christ is observed.

Let B be: The recitation of the Words alone do make the sacrament.

The Confessions state: If not-A, then not-B.

The paragraph does not say anything at all about a celebration in which the whole action of the supper is to be carried out. As we have seen above, in such a celebration it is indeed Christ's Word alone which produces the Real Presence. To conclude otherwise from these paragraphs is to make the following error:

Given: If not A, then not B.

Given: A. Therefore: not B.

A further example of the same error may help make this clear:

Let A be: this ice cream is above 32 degrees F

Let B be: this ice cream is melted.

Given: If this ice cream is not above 32 degrees F, then it is not melted (If not A, then not B).

Given: The ice cream is above 32 degrees F (A). Therefore: it is not melted (not B).

Clearly this is faulty reasoning."

Pr. H. R.8 Comments