Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Real Presence, the Incarnation and so called "Empirical Evidence"

The doctrine of the Incarnation teaches that Jesus is the God-Man. He is not the God-man like I am German-English-Irish though, his way of being God-man is different from your typical American mutt. Regarding my composition, each "group" contributed something to the whole person, me. It might even be possible to separate the different strands which come from each group--blood chemistry etc. In the case of Christ though, it is not as though he is part God and part man so that we can separate the man from God--which would be Nestorianism, but that the person of Jesus Christ is God, such that to shake hands with him is to shake God's hand, to eat with him is to eat with God etc. He is not 50/50, but one person who is God and Man at the same time, indivisible, yet not mixed.

Now, I see an analogy between this and the RP. The bread and body of Christ are united in such a way so the bread is the body of Christ, even if we cannot detect it, just like we can't detect the divinity of Jesus Christ if we eat with him, or shake his hand.

Now, some "Reformed" types claim that the Real Presence is empirically falsified, because if we look at the bread, taste the bread, chemically examone the bread we will find bead and no body. I think this is the wrong question, however. If we want to be empirical the question is, not whether we can discern the body of Christ physically, but whether we can discern the effects of the body of Christ. For instance, Medieval people could discern the effects of infection, but could not always discern the cause of infection. In other words, the only "empirical" evidence was the effects, not the cause. This did not cause them to deny the reality of infection, far from it. Through experience they even learned to mitigate the effects. Later in history, we learned more details about infection, that they are caused by bacteria or viruses. In other words, the cause of the infection was later "revealed" through investigation. So, in a like manner, the RP was revealed, not only in Christ's words of Institution, but by their effects on those who profaned the Sacrament. This is true even though, like bacteria and viruses, we cannot now see the cause with our senses, we don't know how his body is present, but sometimes we can see the effects, including sanctification and the increase of faith and godliness. And like the "revelations" of science, God will reveal all things to us in his good time. But in the mean time, it is not correct to assert that we have no empirical evidence, what we have is enough evidence to believe, which should be sufficient this side of eternity.

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