Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Calvin: The Eucharist As Heavenly Banquet

Here's a fascinating blog entry by scholar Peter Leithart. He explains how Calvin saw the Eucharist as a heavenly banquet:

"Paul says that just as Jesus is seated in heavenly places, so also in Him we are seated in heavenly places. We shouldn't think that someday in the postmillennial future, Christians will begin to rule. We should instead realize that we rule now. This is a strange kind of rule, a rule that no one else acknowledges, a rule that is not based on power or apparent influence, a rule that can appear to have very little effect on the world around us. But the gospel says that it's true, and we have to live in terms of what God says is the case and not in terms of what we can see is true.

"And that is part of the glory of this table. Calvin raised the question of how we can feed on Christ when He's in heaven and we're on earth, and one of his answers was that the Spirit catches us up to heaven to be with Christ. This is no earthly table; this is a heavenly table, where we sit to eat and drink in the kingdom of God. But sitting is also the posture of rule, the posture of kings, the posture of judges. Because of Jesus' ascension, this is a table for kings and queens, princes and princesses. This is a table for those who have, in Christ, ascended to heavenly places and entered the heavenly tabernacle. Because of Jesus' ascension, we have been given a kingdom, the right to eat and drink and the authority to judge the 12 tribes of Israel."


St Pio said...

Fascinating! Would it then be correct to say that Calvin's main objection to the traditional eucharistic teachings was the metaphysical emphasis it received?

Michael Barber said...

I think so, but you'd have to ask someone who knows Calvin better than I do.

Mike Burgess said...

to st pio:
I think we run the risk of painting with too broad a brush if we attempt to discern Calvin's "main objection to the traditional Eucharistic teachings," but I will say that several factors seem to have contributed.
First, Calvin's philosophical makeup was heavily influenced by Nominalism, Scotism, and the pagan Seneca. Volumes have been written on the deleterious effects these had on his thought, but it does seem to bolster your contention regarding the metaphysical aspects of Eucharistic teaching. This leads to a second point: practice, as opposed to teaching, was of great concern to Calvin. He, despite his faults, seems to have been rather pastoral and was concerned to direct his flock away from impious practice(s). I wonder sometimes which influenced him more: his philosophical rejection of Thomist categories such as "substance" or his "practical" desire to guide his followers? A book you might find interesting is "The Clearest Promises of God." It's all about the development of Calvin's Eucharistic theology. A decent college library or interlibrary loan should make it available free.