Often times I’ve heard Catholics use 1 Corinthians 11:26-29 to say that the Eucharist must be the body and blood of Christ, because how could eating and drinking it unworthily condemn you if it was just a symbol?
When listening to Craig’s defenders class however (please, no genetic fallacies), I heard an argument that i hadn’t heard before about it. Basically, it was brought up that there was a problem in the Corinthian church in which people were getting drunk during the Lord’s supper, and so it would make more sense that not acknowledging the significance of it could still condemn you, even if it was just a symbol. This isn’t a positive argument against transubstantiation, but I think it undermines our argument.
I agree that the objection you raise is valid. However, the passage also says, “not discerning the Lord’s body.” Interpreted according to the plain sense, this would mean that the Lord’s Supper is Christ’s body. Now of course differing readings could be proposed or they could throw out the old “he’s only speaking allegorically!” but this is contrary to the obvious reading.
The burden is 100% on them, as they are the accusers. Notice that they are silent - crickets - on the identical belief of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Not to mention the belief in the presence of their own protestant brothers in the Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist communions, to mention a few.
Do they also attack them? Nah. Only the Catholic Church.
Notice, though, that there are two issues that Paul raises here: first, the ‘unworthy’ partaking in the Eucharist, for which Christians will have to “answer for the body and blood of the Lord”, and second, those who eat and drink “without discerning the body”, which brings judgment.
Now, with respect to the second issue, one might argue that “the body” that Paul is referencing is “the Body of Christ” – that is, the Church, not the Eucharist. In this interpretation, the people of the Church of Corinth were participating in the Lord’s Supper without taking into account how the way they participated (and the actions they took) were affecting the congregation negatively. In this way, then, we might say that Paul is talking about the Church having a certain sense of discipline in its celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
However, even allowing this interpretation, one does not avoid the notion of the first issue Paul addresses: “answer[ing] for the body and blood” when one participates in the Lord’s Supper unworthily. This seems unambiguous – if the Eucharist were only a symbol, how would we have to answer for Christ’s body and blood on a personal level, based on our personal worthiness? (Sure, it would make sense in the second issue – what we do publicly might scandalize others, and we need to be sensitive to the spiritual health of our fellow Christians; but not the first, which speaks to an objective, personal ‘worthiness’ and obligation.)
This isn’t a positive argument against transubstantiation, but I think it undermines our argument.
I would disagree. The first issue Paul raises, I would assert, supports our view that the Eucharist is the True Presence of Christ! (Transubstantiation, by the way, is just the explanation of ‘how’ it happens, not ‘what’ the Eucharist is. What you’re asserting is undermined, then, is the Catholic doctrine of the True Presence. )
If it is just a symbol, just a human ritual with no metaphysical effect, how could it condemn you? Mere symbols do not do that.
Also, from your Catechism:
1385 To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves for so great and so holy a moment. St. Paul urges us to examine our conscience: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself."218 Anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion.
First, can I point out that this is not a healthy, productive, or charitable attitude to communication? Yes, a Protestant who says that Catholics ritualise excessively is the one making the claim, and so, in a formalised debate, ought to be the one to justify that claim, but you will get much farther with people by treating them as friends than by treating them as enemies. (Funny, I remember someone else saying something along those lines, some time ago…)
Notice that they are silent - crickets - on the identical belief of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Not to mention the belief in the presence of their own protestant brothers in the Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist communions, to mention a few.
Do they also attack them? Nah. Only the Catholic Church.
Um, actually, no. We Anglicans do get attacked for beliefs in things like the Real Presence, saints, etc.
Quite often, the form of the attack is to lump us together with you Catholics as “believing in man-made rules and rituals rather than the Word of God (as interpreted by my pastor)”, but, yeah, it happens a fair bit.
The Church in Corinth had many problems - disunity and factions, disorder at Mass, immorality and others. Drunkenness at Church is one of the issues Paul addressed in his letters to the Corinthians.
For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. (1 Corinthians 11:21-22)
Paul is pretty straight forward here. He does not like it at all. But it changes nothing about the Eucharist. It is still Jesus.
Even taken at face value, which I am always reluctant to do with such arguments, not having seen evidence about getting drunk on the wine from another source, it’s not much of undermining [EDIT: and since this is disputed, I guess taking this undermining at face value would probably not be a good idea]. As you say, it just provides a possible different scenario with no evidence that that scenario is correct - but since transubstantiation isn’t built upon a single bible passage and sola scriptura is false anyway, it’s not something I find terribly worrying.
Or to answer your title question: no. Clearly getting drunk off of transubstantiated wine would also merit a warning even more than getting drunk off of merely symbolic wine, so this gives no evidence whatsoever that the Catholic Church got that passage wrong. This alternate scenario (warning about abusing a symbol) does give a fig leaf to those who want to continue to say that we got it wrong, but it does not really do much otherwise.
This verse, when divorced from the entirety of scripture and Church history, isolated from context and privately interpreted by the ego, causes such pseudo-arguments to arise. It ignores vastly more than it considers.
Folks continually create new ways to interpret scripture, out of thin air, in order to either justify their new modern interpretation of something or to discredit someone else. It’s not new. It’s old, and tiresome. I would give little credence to these new “revelations.”
I guess that it is a given that those in error then project their error onto the Church. To paraphrase Saint Jerome and John Henry Cardinal Newman, “To be ignorant of history is to be ignorant of scripture.”
You should include verse 30 to make it even more stark. “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
This is the result of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Certainly not the result of a symbolic community meal.
And in verses 23 -26, Paul said he got this knowledge from Jesus himself. Remember he wasn’t at the Last Supper. Now why would Jesus tells Paul that the bread is his body, and the wine his blood and tells Paul to do it as a remembrance? And in verse 26
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the chalice, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” This is no symbolic meal teaching by Jesus or Paul. There is no unworthiness if it is just symbolic and you don’t fall sick or die for being unfit in consuming a meal.
If it is symbolic in nature, then Early Church Fathers would have mentioned it. But no. Some of the Church Fathers were disciples of the Apostles. Ignatius of Antioch(disciple of John, ordained by Peter) refers to the Eucharist as the “Flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ”. And many others. To prove it is symbolic, proponents must show evidence that it has always been symbolic and practiced in a manner consistent of a symbolic nature. Not concoct an interpretation of their own which fails all logic rules. i.e. people were getting drunk and therefore the meal is symbolic. What excellent logic!