a review (part 4)

You’ve waited for weeks. It’s finally here! Part 4 of my review of Dick Blackford’s book!

As I said in my previous post, the greater portion of Blackford’s book is polemical. Beginning with chapter 6, excepting chapter 11, the remainder of the book contains a series of chapters in which Blackford attempts to refute various false teachings about the Supper, either real or imagined. To keep this post to a reasonable length, I’ll focus on just a few of them.


Chapter 6 is entitled “Denominational Ideas about the Elements.” Bro. Blackford uses this chapter to address “the doctrines of the mass, transubstantiation, consubstantiation, substitution, addition, and subtraction.”

Now, for starters, you may be asking yourself, “What the heck are addition and subtraction?” Good question, so let’s get to it.

1. The Mass

Blackford offers fairly conventional arguments against the mass — nothing really new to point out. What bothers me, and hopefully any other reader, is the sheer superficiality of it all. Blackford focuses in on the Mass as sacrifice and forgiveness of sins coming through the celebration of the Eucharist. His main source for Catholic teaching on the Mass is a text from 1876, along with two other inadequately cited documents that couldn’t be tracked down independently with the citations that he has provided. I get the sense that, if I were to give Bro. Blackford’s description of the Mass to a practicing Catholic, she probably wouldn’t recognize what she was reading. This is because Bro. Blackford doesn’t seem to really understand the Mass himself.

2. Transubstantiation

This is probably the most painfully embarrassing portion of the chapter for the reader. Bro. Blackford’s source here is Webster’s. Instead of attempting to understand Catholic teaching on its own terms, Bro. Blackford only to betrays the essentially Zwinglian perspective on the LS that he himself is (probably unconsciously) locked into. He writes,

“Did Jesus mean that the bread and fruit of the vine become his literal body and blood? Did he really teach cannibalism? This view fails to recognize a figure of speech known as a metaphor. A metaphor ‘makes an implied comparison between things which [sic] are not literally alike’… When he said ‘this is my body’ and ‘this is my blood,’ he meant the elements represent his body and blood.” (pp. 29-30)

You might think that if Jesus had meant “represent” he would have just said represent. It’s a good thing that we have men like Bro. Blackford to tell us exactly what Jesus meant!

More soon (yeah, I’m still not done…)

P.S. Let me know what you think of the new format.  I’m not totally sold, just testing it out.  I’ve quickly come to see, for instance, just how ungainly link categories can be.


4 responses to “a review (part 4)

  1. Well well well, Christopher, congratulations on the new look of your blog. I’m glad you don’t feel the need to copy me any more (:)). (Just kidd’n.)

  2. It looks very nice! 🙂

  3. Thanks for putting me in your blogroll. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a writer.

    WRT Mr. Blackford and his LS book. I think that the current Catholic Catechism should be the main source for Catholic teaching, but that’s just me. Was his source for Catholic teaching on the Mass Cardinal Gibbons’ “Faith of our Fathers”?

    Catholics still teach the Mass as a Sacrifice.

  4. I’ve known Dick for over 20 years, and he’s a good, well-intentioned man. In his defense, I will say the book likely is intended to be more of a workbook than an extended theological discourse. As such, it would be pitched at the level of the common auditorium class.

    That said, I agree that it sounds like some of his source material is a little questionable. There is a logic to transubstantiation that ties to Aristotelian understandings of matter. Of course it has the problem of not being Biblical, but one ought to understand it on its own terms in order to critique it properly.

    I attempted to address some problems with common approaches to the Lord’s Supper in an article I recently wrote for Focus Magazine, “This Is My Body”. You can read a couple of lines of it on their website: http://www.focusmagazine.org/

    You are correct in saying that the issue is not addressed often or well. In seeking to maintain what I believe to be a Biblical regularity (weekly) there has been a loss of focus in the true point of it. Ironically the Lord’s Supper has become sacramental in the worst understanding of the word.

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