The Lutheran Doctrine of Holy Communion

The Lutheran doctrine of Holy Communion is not consubstantiation. I made the mistake once of referring to the Lutheran doctrine of Holy Communion as consubstantiation to a Lutheran in a discussion forum. I was told by the Lutheran that the Lutheran Church does not have a name for their doctrine of Holy Communion. Lutherans just state the Real Presence.

Did you go by the name of George Yurich on CARM?

Yes, many Lutherans do make this claim. But stating a claim doesn’t make it true, though. And I’m saying this as a Lutheran priest. The idea of consubstantiation states that in the Eucharist the substances of bread and wine are (really) present together with the substance of Christ’s body and blood. That is ALL it says. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you then take a look at what the Formula of Concord teaches concerning the Eucharist,* we see that it states that “in the Holy Supper the two substances, the natural bread and the true natural body of Christ, are present together.” Can anyone explain the difference between saying that the substances of bread and wine are (really) present together with the substance of Christ’s body and blood, and that “the two substances, the natural bread and the true natural body of Christ, are present together”? I see none. The claim, by some Lutherans, that they don’t believe in consubstantiation comes off, then, as pure sophistry.

  • It should be noted that I don’t hold the Formula of Concord to be a binding confession. In the Church of Norway, and in the vast majority of Lutheran churches in Europe, only these five confessions are binding: the three ecumenical creeds (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed), Confessio Augustana, and Luther’s Small Catechism.

Father K is a tremendous source for Lutheran history, especially in Northern Europe. Peruse his blog if you ever want some good insight into Lutheran spirituality. But I disagree with him wholeheartedly when it comes to what to label the Lutheran understanding of the Lord’s Supper.

The vast majority of Lutheranism (and certainly all Lutherans who profess a binding, *quia *subscription to the Book of Concord) objects to the term ‘Consubstantiation’ even more strongly than to ‘Transubstantiation.’

If Lutherans are asked to give a term to their belief in the Real Presence, the term they use is ‘Sacramental Union.’ It explains that Christ is truly present without attempting to give an Aristotelian explanation for “how” this occurs, which both Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation may do, whether intended to or not.

My view is not novel or reconstructionist. It is the plain and clear historical teaching of Lutheranism all the way back to Luther and the Gnesio-Lutherans (“Genuine” or “Real” Lutherans) like Martin Chemnitz, who said:


When we confess that we believe in the true, real, and substantial presence of the body (and blood) of Christ, in no way do we imagine either an impanation or consubstantiation or a physical confinement or a local presence or the hiding of a particle underneath the bread or the conversion of the essence of the bread into the body or the permanent joining of the body to the bread outside the use of the supper or a personal union of the bread and the body.


So where did Consubstantiation come from? Well, Crypto-Calvinists invented the term to confuse Lutherans into accepting the Calvinist/Reformed view of the Supper. It wasn’t so different from a group of political operatives infiltrating opponents’ campaigns to cause disruption.

Sources for good reading:

Some Lutheran thoughts on the heterodox notion of consubstantiation.

Hutter: When we use the particles ‘in, with, and under’, we understand no local inclusion whatever, not transubstantiation or consubstantiation.” “Hence is clear the odious falsity of those who charge our churches with teaching that ‘the bread of the Eucharist is literally and substantially the body of Christ’, that ‘bread and body constitute one substance…’

**Andrew Osiander: ** “Our theologians for years long have strenuously denied and powerfully confuted the doctrine of a local inclusion, or physical connection of the body and bread, or consubstantiation. We believe in no impanation, subpanation, companation, or consubstantiation of the body of Christ; no physical or local inclusion or conjoining of bread and body, as our adversaries, in manifest calumnies, allege against us.

Mentzer: There is no local concealment of Christ’s body, or inclusion of particles of matter under the bread. Far from us be it that any believer should regard Christ’s body as present in a physical or natural mode. The eating and drinking are not natural or capernaitish, but mystical and sacramental.”

John Gerhard: “On account of the calumnies of our adversaries, we would note that we do not believe in impanation, nor in consubstantiation, nor in any physical or local presence.”
“We believe in no consubstantiative presence of the body and blood. Far from us be that figment. The heavenly thing and the Earthly thing in the Lord’s Supper are not present with each other physically and naturally.

**Musaeus: ** On the question, by what mode (quo modo) that which we receive and eat and drink in the Holy Supper Christ’s body and blood, we freely confess our ignorance.

**Carpsov: ** When this presence is called substantial and bodily, those words designate not the MODE of presence, but the OBJECT. When the words in, with, under, are used, our traducers know, as well as they know their own fingers, that they do NOT signify a CONSUBSTANTIATION, local co-existence, or impanation. The charge that we hold a local inclusion, or Consubstantiation, is a calumny. The eating and drinking are not physical, but mystical and sacramental. An action is not necessarily figurative because it is not physical.

Sasse: It is impossible to define Luther’s doctrine as consubstantiation. Even the words ‘in the bread’, ‘with the bread’, ‘under the bread’, or ‘in, with, and under the bread’, were never regarded by Luther as more than attempts to express in these old, popular terms inherited from the Middle Ages the great mystery that the bread is the body, the wine is the blood, as the Words of Institution say.

Krauth: Consubstantiation. The charge that the Lutheran Church holds this monstrous doctrine has been repeated times without number. In the face of her solemn protestations the falsehood is still circulated. It would be easy to fill many pages with the declarations of the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and of her great theologians, who, without a dissenting voice, repudiate this doctrine, the name and the thing, in whole and in every one of its parts. In the “Wittenberg Concord,” (1536,) prepared and signed by Luther and the other great leaders in the Church, it is said: “We deny the doctrine of transubstantiation, as we do also deny that the body and blood of Christ are locally included in the bread.” …The manduction is not a thing of the senses or of reason, but supernatural, mysterious, and incomprehensible. The presence of Christ in the supper is not of a physical nature, nor earthly, nor Capernaitish, and yet it is most true.”


…This doctrine of Consubstantiation, according to which there are two factors, viz.: the material bread and wine, and the immaterial or spiritual body of Christ united or consubstantiated in the consecrated sacramental symbols, does not differ in kind from the Popish doctrine of Transubstantiation, according to which there is, indeed, but one element in the consecrated symbols, but that is the very body and blood of Christ into which the bread and wine have been transmuted.” Nothing is more difficult, than for a thinker or believer of one school, fairly to represent the opinions and faith of thinkers and believers of another school. On the points on which Dr. Shedd here dwells, his Puritanical tone of mind renders it so difficult for him to enter into the very heart of the historical faith of the Church, that we can hardly blame him, that if it were his duty to attempt to present, in his own language, the views of the Lutheran Church, he has not done it very successfully. From the moment he abandons the Lutheran sense of terms, and reads into them a Puritan construction, from that moment he wanders from the facts, and unconsciously misrepresents.

Yes I did use the alias George Yurich on CARM.

Luther did not use the term consubstantiation to describe the Lutheran doctrine of Holy Communion. The true term to describe the Lutheran doctrine of Holy Communion is sacramental union.


So do you still not believe in Catholic doctrine, yet remain in the Catholic Church because you like the Saturday vigil so you can go shopping on Sunday? :rotfl:

I never stated I do not believe in any Catholic doctrines. Yes I still attend Saturday Vigil Mass but I no longer go shopping on Sunday as I also attend the local Baptist Church in the small town I reside in(where I moved to 20 miles away from my previous town). I started to attend that Baptist Church on Sunday morning last September because I have a Baptist lady friend there. Catholics are permitted to attend a Non Catholic church on Sunday as long as they attend the Saturday Vigil Mass at the local Catholic parish.

Ok well nice to see around again.

God bless

JonNC. I came across this (below) in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Luther arbitrarily restricted Real Presence to the moment of reception

Here it is in context . . .

The permanence and adorableness of the Eucharist

Since Luther arbitrarily restricted Real Presence to the moment of reception (in usu, non extra), the Council of Trent (Sess. XIII, can. iv) by a special canon emphasized the fact, that after the Consecration Christ is truly present and, consequently, does not make His Presence dependent upon the act of eating or drinking. On the contrary, He continues His Eucharistic Presence even in the consecrated Hosts and Sacred particles that remain on the altar or in the ciborium after the distribution of Holy Communion. In the deposit of faith the Presence and the Permanence of Presence are so closely allied, that in the mind of the Church both continue on as an undivided whole.

Is that a mistake?

I don’t want to mischaracterize the Lutheran religions.

(It seems to contradict Luther’s own “The Adoration of the Sacrament”.)

You know from our prior discussions my Dad was a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran (who later became Catholic). I recall a lot of discussions with Dad, but I don’t remember him commenting on this Lutheran issue of “the moment of reception”.

Thanks in advance JonNC.

God bless.


To be honest with you guys, I don’t see a difference between the usage of the term consubstantiation and the sacramental union.

In both cases I am just reading you guys saying that Christ is physically present in some form with the elements, but that the elements themselves don’t entirely change.

Then when you use terms like “local” and “non-local” presence, my little brain can’t handle it. What’s the actual difference?

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

You are correct, that is not in keeping with Luther’s “The Adoration of the Sacrament”.
It is a misrepresentation. Luther was not a receptionist. Neither was Chemnitz. There is a story about a spill from the chalice once where Luther knelt down and lapped up the spill.
Now, there have been those who have floated the idea of receptionism, but it is not orthodox Lutheran teaching. It is heterodox.



How do Lutherans and for that matter Anglicans, harmonize the Holy Eucharist with NO ministerial priesthood in various Lutheran and Anglican ecclesial communions?

I had not been in a Lutheran synod that did so ( see Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession), and my experience with Anglicanism is that the belief in the necessity of the priesthood is even stronger, at least in terms of an insistence on apostolic succession.


True. Motley as the Anglican species is, ordination is the ordinary mode.

(Real) Lutherans believe only a properly called (and ordained) man is to administer the Sacrament. As Jon noted, Article XIV is unambiguous on this point. So this is not the point of disagreement between Lutherans and Catholics.

Where Lutherans differ from Roman Catholics is in measuring what, exactly, constitutes a proper call and ordination. Obviously, Lutherans don’t measure themselves by Roman Catholic standards.

(Real) Lutherans believe only a properly called (and ordained) man is to administer the Sacrament.

Thanks for your input here steido01.

But I am not asking about who can “administer” the “Sacrament” (Catholic laity frequently “administer” the Sacrament as extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist).

I am more concerned with WHO can confect it.

Catholics assert ONLY ministerial priests (priests and bishops) can transform bread and wine both into the body, blood, soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are taught specifically that deacons and lay people (among the priesthood of all Baptized believers) do not have the ability to do this (irrespective of if they wanted to or not).

Since there is no ordained ministerial priests, native to various Lutheran ecclesial communities (or for that matter, in the Anglican communities for quite some time), I was wondering what YOU taught about WHO can confect the “Sacrament” in such communities?

Thanks in advance.

From article 14 (emphasis mine) . . . .

The Fourteenth Article, in which we say that in the Church the administration of the Sacraments and Word ought to be allowed no one unless he be rightly called . . . .

There again is the term “administer”.

Then despite a lack of clarity on who can confect this, The Book of Concord seems to appeal to Tradition on this (but Tradition would teach only ministerial priests can confect the Bleesed Sacrament).

. . . . Then For we know that church discipline was instituted by the Fathers, in the manner laid down in the ancient canons, with a good and useful intention. . . .

Am I missing something here of what my Lutheran friends teach?

I am not attempting a polemic here. Just clarification.

Again, many thanks.

I’m curious what you mean when you say there is no ministerial priesthood among Lutheran and Anglican traditions within the Church. I am not aware of a time when there was not, in either tradition.

When the term administered is used, the intention is to preside at, or celebrate the sacrament. Administer here doesn’t mean distribute. Within both Anglican and Lutheran traditions within the Church, laity assist the pastor/priest in the distribution, but it is the ordained pastor/ priest that celebrates and presides at the altar, speaks the verba, etc.

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