Protestantism: Denial of the Incarnation
The Incarnation and the Eucharist are one and the same mystery, and they are accepted or are denied together. “You must eat my body and drink my blood or you have no life in you” says Jesus. Many who followed Him left. “This is a difficult teaching; who can follow it?”
To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!”
Does God work in the world, in the lowly things of creation? Catholics accept that He did and does. Protestants, in general, claim that they believe in the Incarnation, but deny that God works in the world. Grace merely covers sin in a legal exchange; we are not truly renewed and made to be good. Christ said “Take and eat, this is my Body,” but most say “this is a symbol; God isn’t really here.”
Whom do we follow?
- Jesus, that abstract Man that makes you feel good about the fact that you are one of His chosen? Not the Man that said “He that endures to the end will be saved.”
- Jesus, who stands in legal exchange for us and we remain filth? Not Jesus who said “You must be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
- Jesus, who abolished the law? Not Jesus who said “I came not to abolish but to fulfill. Not a dot, not an iota will pass away.”
- Jesus, who says it doesn’t matter what we do, as those things flow from faith but have no bearing on our salvation? Surely not Jesus who said “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” on the basis of what they did and did not do.
- Jesus, the man who said he offered us a mere symbol of the last supper, a communal meal to repeat when we wish? Not the Jesus who said “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.”
- Jesus, who said that we are justified by faith apart from works? Not Jesus who said “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
But why should one be surprised? Throughout history, the truth of God becoming man, really existing and working in this created world, really giving grace not in some abstract way but by His actual existence among us in a material, visible way., has been denied repeatedly. It is the one heresy that never goes away, from the moment that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Soon thereafter, Ignatius of Antioch would have to warn the Christians of this denial:
- “Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.” –Letter to the Smyrnaeans“, paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.
This was followed by the Arians, who denied Jesus was really God. When this was resolved, Nestorianism rose to take its place, claiming the divine and human natures do not make up one person. Heresies followed where the divine nature absorbed the human, then the human nature had no soul of its own, then it had a human soul but no separate will of its own. After all this was finally corrected through the Church, Icons were smashed, for although Christ was finally admitted to be a real Man as well as true God, no Image could represent Him. Once this heresy was corrected, you no longer have Christ present in the Eucharist. Of course, with the usual exception of the Iconoclasm that often exists there, protestant will point at all the above as “obvious errors,” blind to their own adherence to simply one more form of the same thing: “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Immanuel, God with Us, is simply unacceptable to the human mind. It was, no doubt, difficult even for the faithful, and Peter said not “I understand” but “to whom shall we go?”
Jesus said not “take and understand, take and comprehend,” but “take and eat.”
The recent video, but by no means recent phrase “I love Jesus, and hate religion” and related nonsense coincides with this perfectly. In other words, I accept the abstract Jesus, not the Incarnate one. I accept the one that loves me from “out there,” not the one that is with me “always, even to the end of the age.” I love the abstract Jesus that lets me worship him based on my own feelings. Not the Jesus who said “When you pray, pray like this.” Who did not say “if you fast” but “when you fast,” and “when you bring your gift before the altar”…an altar is a place of sacrifice, and the only sacrifice acceptable to God is His Son on the cross: the Eucharist at the Mass is all He could have been referring to here.
The protestant reformation is often said to be about sola Scriptura or sola Fide, but these are erroneous assumptions. They are symptoms, they are signs. They are the coughing and wheezing of a body in poor health. But they are not the original disease. The sickness is denial of the Real Presence of Christ, presently in the Eucharist, but ultimately in Nazareth and on the Cross. No “God with Us,” no “Immanuel.”
A separate absurdity of those who deny “religion” is the fact that none seem to know what “religion” actually is. This is worth examining at length, and so I will not do so here. I will let a short “definition” suffice for now:
“Religion on its subjective side is essentially, but not exclusively, an affair of the will, the will to acknowledge by acts of homage man’s dependence on God. Objective religion comprises the acts of homage that are the effects of subjective religion, and also the various phenomena which are viewed as the manifestations of good will by the Deity. We may distinguish in objective religion a speculative and a practical part. The speculative part embraces the intellectual basis of religion, those concepts of God and man, and of man’s relation to God, which are the object of faith, whether natural or supernatural. The practical part comprises the acts of homage whereby man acknowledges God’s dominion and seeks His help and friendship, and the extraordinary religious experiences viewed by the worshippers as manifestations of Divine good will.”
Those who “hate religion” usually hate this last piece, “The practical part,” for, because of their abstract view of Christ and His salvation, versus the very real concrete view of one who truly accepts “Immanuel,” the practical, the this worldly, obviously disappears. Religion and the Incarnation. The Eucharist and the Incarnation. Both or neither. The Incarnate Son of God and the Eucharist (the same presence, Immanuel) or neither.
You cannot have Jesus without Religion. You cannot have the Incarnation without the Eucharist. And if you do not, “you have no life (zoe, divine, eternal life) in you.” Those are the words of Jesus, the one who “walked among us” and “is with us, even to the end of the age.”