Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We heard from Rome, now from the CTCR. . .

The LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) provides study documents, opinions and statements on theological issues. Established by the Synod in 1962, the commission provides guidance and leadership in the areas of theology and church relations -- something formerly done through the seminary faculties.  The Commission was not established by the Synod to function as a kind of “Roman curia” or “ecclesiastical Supreme Court” that issues final answers to all kinds of questions. Nor is it charged with responsibilities of ecclesiastical supervision or doctrinal review of materials produced by Synod entities.  Its reports and opinions have weight but no official authority; they are not the official positions of Synod until adopted in Convention. 

Piggybacking upon my post of yesterday regarding the position of Rome with regard to the elements used in the Lord's Supper, the CTCR represents guidance but, without the sanction of the Convention, its documents do not have authority to regulate practice in the LCMS.  Nevertheless, from the CTCR of the LCMS regarding the elements:  

There is scholarly consensus that our Lord employed the earthly elements of bread and wine in His institution of Holy Communion. [17]

a. The Bread

The Greek word for bread in the New Testament texts, artos, is generic. It applies to bread in general. [18] While Greek has a more restricted term, azumos, for unleavened bread, it is not found in any of the New Testament accounts of the Lord's Supper.

The fact that unleavened bread was used in the Passover and that the three evangelists set the time for the Lord's Supper "on the first day of [the Feast of] Unleavened Bread" would strongly suggest the use of unleavened bread in our Lord's original action (Matt. 26:17; cf. Mark 14:12 and Luke 22:7). Therefore we have reason to conclude that unleavened bread should also be used today.

Since the Scriptures are silent on the source of the bread, it may be baked from the flour of wheat, rye, barley, or other grains. While the form of distribution should reflect reverence for the elements, there is no specific guidance on the size or shape of the wafer or portion.

b. The Wine

All four accounts of the Lord's Supper speak of "the cup." The content of this cup was most definitely wine. The references in Matt. 26:29 and parallels to the "fruit of the vine" would not have suggested anything else to Jesus' listeners than the grape wine of the Jewish Passover ritual. [19]

In 1 Cor. 11:21 there is corroboration that the early Christian church understood wine for "fruit of the vine." Some of the Corinthians, sadly, had abused the Holy Supper by becoming drunk.

The color, type, or origin of the grape wine is a matter which Christians can select in accord with their situation.

In the oft-cited pastoral circumstance of an alcoholic communicant, the counsel of foregoing Communion for a period of time or the action of diluting the wine with water (perhaps done at the Lord's Supper itself) are preferable. In the extreme situation where even greatly diluted wine may lead to severe temptation, no fully satisfactory answer, in the opinion of the CTCR, can be formulated. The counsel of completely foregoing Communion is clearly unsatisfactory. In this situation, too, the actions of diluting the wine with water or intinction would be preferable. The substitution of grape juice raises the question of whether the Lord's instruction is being heeded.

Luther's openness to Communion in one kinds is difficult in view of confessional texts which strongly urge the Biblical paradigm of both kinds, though the Confessions do not address the extreme situation.

A similar pastoral problem is posed by those rare instances where a severe physical reaction is caused by the elements (as, for example, when the recipient is concurrently taking certain medications, or is simply allergic to one or the other of the elements). The pastor, in such cases, will surely stress the Gospel's power and total effectiveness in the individual's life and patiently seek a practical solution that both honors Christ's word and satisfies the desire to partake in the Lord's Supper.

[17] Representative of such a consensus are the following commentaries: A. Schlatter, Der Evangelist Matthaus (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1948), pp 741-45; William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), pp. 504-09; I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), pp. 792-807; C.K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), pp. 264-70; Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, trans. Norman Perrin (Philadelphia Fortress Press, 1966), pp. 41-88.
[18] Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 110.
[19] "Fruit of the vine" is, exegetically, synonymous with wine. Cf. H. Buechsel, "genema," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, I (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1965), p. 164; W. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974), pp. 508-09; H. Seesemann, "oinos,"  Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, V (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1967), p. 164; Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to Mark (London: St. Martin's Press, 1966), p. 547.
I might add that the unleavened bread of the Passover, Matzo, matza or matzah (Hebrew: מַצָּהmatsa; plural matzot) is unleavened flatbread.  Matzo that for Passover is plain, from flour and water only, but the flour may be wheat, spelt, barley, rye, or oat.  The CTCR appears to acknowledge this in part but Rome is more restrictive, wheat only.  In any case, it would be a stretch to include rice or other grains which were unknown for the Passover at the time of Jesus.  In any case, the report of the CTCR is descriptive and offers guidance without the authority to require conformity.  Yet, in both the CTCR and Roman instruction the common theme is that we do not add but detract from the Sacrament when we depart from the forms of our Lord's institution.  That said, it is clear that Lutherans are not reading the CTCR report (or, in the case of the ELCA, their own official instructions on the means of grace) and presume the freedom to do what works for them.  Clearly, this is not beneficial for the larger church and actually detracts from our confidence in and our appreciation for the Lord's Supper (and it remains His and not ours).

I repeat:  I am not in a position to say that such Sacraments that violate form or matter are not Sacraments but anything that would draw our confidence away from the Word of Christ that we are receiving what He promised is not a good thing but a grave abuse of the Sacrament.  No pastor or parish has the right to determine what works best for them in this regard.  While we do not have the same structures as Rome does, the District President is clearly locally responsible for episcope, supervision of doctrine and practice and this is something every DP needs to deal with.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised the 1983 CTCR document "Theology and Practice of the Lord's Supper" hasn't been voted on and approved by a convention. It is a profoundly concise, confessional statement of orthodox Lutheran doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Bread and wine for the Sacrament and no exceptions.

Carl Vehse said...

Anonymous: I'm surprised the 1983 CTCR document "Theology and Practice of the Lord's Supper" hasn't been voted on and approved by a convention.

One would have to check the subsequent conventions to see if the 1983 CTCR document was ever approved by a specific convention resolution. If it were approved as a doctrinal statement (which I don't think it was) it would have to be sent out for synod-wide congregational approval (Bylaw 1.09c).

Ted Badje said...

This all hinges on whether Luther's Small Catechism is taught totally and faithfully in the congregations. The people of the congregations should be able to see which practices stray from the word of God.