“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” – John 6:54
Occasionally, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss this passage with other Evangelicals. During our conversation I have mentioned that Rome uses this passage as a proof text for its doctrine of Transubstantiation. Transubstantiation, Rome asserts, occurs when the priest consecrates the bread and wine during the Mass. At that time, the bread and wine are changed into the actual body and blood of Christ. Rome teachers that, when its adherents partake of communion, they are eating and drinking the actual body and blood of Christ. I’ve said these things supposing that Rome’s teaching on transubstantiation is at least somewhat understood by Evangelicals. As it turns out, I was wrong.
But not only was I surprised to find that, at least in some cases, Protestants did not realize just how radically the Romanist position on the Lord’s Supper differs from what the Bible teaches, I also found a fairly deep-seated unwillingness on the part of Evangelicals to believe what Rome, by its own admission, has taught for centuries.
For a non-Catholic, grappling with Roman Catholic doctrine can be more than a little frustrating. Part of this is Rome’s historic practice. The Church is fond of making thunderous dogmatic statements. But when asked to back them up, the questioner is often met with double-talk and obfuscation. For example, Rome has declared in no uncertain terms that the pope is infallible when speaking ex-cathedra. But ask Rome for its list of infallible papal statements, and you’ll get the runaround. But this is not so in the case of transubstantiation. Rome has made quite clear what she believes on this subject, and there really should be no question about it in the minds of Evangelicals. Consider the following statements from Rome,
If anyone shall deny, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are verily, really, and substantially contained the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but shall say that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.
– Council of Trent, Session 13, Cannon I.
If anyone shall say, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and shall deny that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the wine into which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.
– Council of Trent, Session 13, Cannon II