Sunday, April 4, 2010


Lately, I keep running into articles that attempt to refute consubstantiation in an attempt to disprove what Lutherans believe about the Lord's Supper. The big problem with this approach is that Lutherans do not believe in consubstantiation. Lutherans do not subscribe to any philosophical construct when it comes to explaining the Lord's Supper whether it be consubstantiation, transubstantiation, or any other kind of substantiation you can think of. Lutherans simply refuse to explain the ins and outs of how we receive body, blood, bread, and wine in the Lord's Supper. Consubstantiation is the teaching that the body and blood join together to form a third substance as do the blood and wine and that the body and blood are present in a natural manner. The Book of Concord clearly states: We “do not believe that the body and blood of Christ are locally enclosed in the bread, or are in some way permanently united with it apart from the use of the sacrament ...” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, VII, 14; Tappert, p. 571)

As far as I can tell, most of the supporters of consubstantiation lived between the 9th and 12th centuries. One of the supporters of consubstantiation was John Duns Scotus (1265-1308). It seems that Calvin noticed similarities between the teachings of Luther and Scotus on the Eucharist and erroneously jumped to the conclusion that Luther taught consubstantiation. This error seems to have perpetuated itself through various Reformed systematic theologies.

Who does teach consubstantiation? I am unaware of any church body that currently teaches consubstantiation. There could be some Anglicans out there that teach it but no denomination that I know of teaches consubstantiation.

Another common belief among Reformed folks is that Lutherans teach the medieval doctrine of ubiquity. This is also explicitly rejected in the Formula of Concord: "We reject and condemn as contrary to the Word of God and our simple Christian Creed…that the human nature of Christ is locally extended to every place in heaven and earth” (Ep VIII, The Person of Christ, Antitheses, 10; cf. SD VIII 92).

If someone is interested in refuting what Lutherans teach about the Lord's Supper it would be better to at least gain some understanding of what Lutheran's actually teach about the Lord's Supper. The best place to start is the Book of Concord. It's never a good idea to attempt to refute a position based on rumors about the position.


Rev. Steve Swets said...


Likely the seeming confusion comes in with the definition of the work "consubstantiation." If Lutherans believe that Christ's true body is WITH the sacrament, that sounds an awful lot like consubstantiation.

A teaching of the real physical presence of Christ in some way, is where the Reformed would say the Lutherans never went far enough in distancing themselves from Rome. Even as it shows in the Missouri Synod Lutheran article here:

Blessings to you and yours.

Chuck Wiese said...

Rev. Steve:
But words have meanings and in order for there to be consubstantiation there would have to be two substances which join together to form a third substance and Lutherans would have to teach that we receive the body and blood in a natural way. Lutherans don't teach either of these things and so they simply do not hold to anything that would make them consubstantiationalists or consubstantalantalists or supercalifragilistic...

Anyhow, whatever the position we take it should never be done simply out of a desire to distance ourselves from Rome. Romaphobia has led people into all kinds of silly things. It is true that Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox all teach that we actually receive the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper. It is also true that Lutherans believe that the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox do have the Lord's Supper while Lutherans believe that the Reformed do not.

I'm not going to get into what the Eastern Orthodox believe about the Lord's Supper since I'm not even sure I completely understand it and you seem to keep different answers depending upon who you talk to. But from a Lutheran perspective Baptists, Reformed, Roman Catholics, and many others suffer from the same fundamental problem in regards to the basis for their doctrine of the Lord's Supper. The Lutherans are the only ones that base their beliefs about the Lord's Supper upon the words of institution. The Roman Catholics base their position on Aristotelian philosophy. The Reformed base their position on misguided Christological concerns based on a neo-orthodox reading of Chalcedon.

From a Lutheran perspective the Reformed have not gone far enough in distancing themselves from Rome because they do not simply trust in the Words of Christ just as papists do not.

danielnheisner said...

Since Lutherans teach "in, with and under" shouldn't the proper word be"incumsubstantiation?"