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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






30 August 2005

Transubstantiation and Holy Communion


Q: I was wondering if Martin Luther found it distasteful or blasphemous when Catholics worshiped the host (which they did in the belief that Christ dwelled within the communion wafers). In other words, was this one of his beefs with the concept of Transubstantiation?

Agnus DeiA: The veneration of the host — especially in Corpus Christi festivals and parades — was one of Luther’s complaints. However, he never denied that it truly was the body of Christ. His problems were that the doctrine of Transubstantiation was arrived at by philosophy rather than the plain words of Scripture.

Luther didn’t concern himself much whether the bread and wine were actually changed into the body and blood of Christ and only the outward appearance remained (Transubstantiation) or if the bread and wine were “vehicles” under which the body and blood were also fed to the communicants.

His complaints were more that unbiblical, speculative reasoning stood in the place of Jesus’ plain words. Christ said “eat” and “drink,” not “save,” “worship,” or “parade around.” Luther and the Lutheran Church don’t try to explain the words, “This is My body … this is My blood.” We’ve given them thankful acceptance and eat and drink as He bids us do in the Lord’s Supper.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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