Thursday, August 23, 2007

Revivalism's Infection: Grapejuice

Robert Latham, an OPC minister, wrote an excellent little book entitled The Lord's Supper, in which he notes the bad habit of serving grape juice in lieu of wine at the sacrament by the same name.

The widespread use of this alternative drink in the Protestant (esp. the PCA) sacrament is telling. Biblical instruction is clear on this point; both the Gospels and an epistle of Paul tell us to use wine. The use of wine in the sacrament is not an inference from scripture, we are directly told that the Lord used wine. Apparently though temperance and revivalism are ready rivals for sola Scriptura's mandates.

I often get in this debate with my fellows in the PCA, and have attended congregational meetings on the subject. The most common objection is that we might offend those with an uncontrolled inclination for the bottle. I note that in scripture Christ's students were offended by His own teaching on the matter, exclaiming, "this is hard teaching, who can accept it? (John 6:60)" Offensive indeed.

Alternatively, I hear that some people are pregnant or for whatever reason would have to pass up on one of the two elements if we used wine. Yet, wine it is to be. Wine is not grapejuice. Wine creates a particular sensation, and grapejuice quite a different one. We are not addressing the difference between Coke and Pepsi, but between a drink that gives a warmth in the chest (as if you can feel the Grace of the Sacrament entering you) and a drink that makes your cheeks pucker and your head want to shake at its tartness. Did Christ choose wine only because it is the same color as blood? Could he have just as easily chosen tomato paste? The distinctives of wine are relevant, and the Biblical teaching is clear. Let the reins of tent revivalism be loosed!


TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I always said, if we're going to be sacrilegious why not use milk & cookies?

It was always offensive to me to use grape juice for communion. I heard one pastor literally change the words of Christ in preparation for communion "then Christ took the juice and..."

I admire the OPC for using the correct elements. I wonder, do they use unleavened bread? Do they actually break the bread?

I've been to one OPC service and a have a good friend who is an elder in the OPC.

Thos said...

I don't know that all OPC churches use the correct elements, but I'm confident that if grapejuice is ever used there, it is used far less commonly than in the PCA. I do not know either if they use unleavened bread, though I would venture to say it is mixed practice. Their Book of Church Order, which would regulate such behavior, is silent on those questions. It does say: "After prayer and thanksgiving the minister shall take the bread and, having broken it, give it to the people..." So the minister does break the bread, though the tense used in their BCO leaves the impression that it could be pre-broken. Latham (in the book I referenced in this post) says that leavened or unleavened does not matter, as the meal is not a replacement for the Passover. Also, the Eastern Church uses leavened bread still, and the Western church only switched as the idea of transubstantiation grew.

I've read elsewhere (I wish I could remember where) an interesting defense of the use of risen bread. Leaven was in use amongst the Jews throughout the year, and yeast was only used once annually (because of its expense), after passover. The "leaven" was morsels of the prior loaf used to allow culture to grow (think yogurt, if you will) in subsequent loaves, making them rise. The passover fast from the use of leaven symbolizing the purification of the people from sins. Flat bread for two weeks, then new yeast. Anyway, this unknown author's point was that all bread we eat today is made with fresh yeast, so no one eats actual "leavened" bread.

Christ took the [juice]? Hmm. This reminds me of an addition of a word to the NIV I just saw... let me make a new post...

Amy said...

No, Christ chose wine because of the type of offering He was making, and because He was not of the Levitical priesthood, but of the order of Melchisedek, which goes back to Genesis. Throughout the OT there are different kinds of offerings, and the offering of bread and wine was an offering of thanksgiving, translated into the Greek as eucharistia. :)

Abraham returns from victory, and Melchizedek (Gen 14:17-20; Heb 7) makes an offering of bread and wine.

Blood offerings were for guilt or sin offerings (Lev 7), cereal offerings were not made because of sin, but to give thanks to the Lord for what He has done. David makes this kind of offering in 1 Chron 16. There is a burnt offering first to cleanse them of their sins; once they've been cleansed of sin they are able to make the cereal offering.

At the Last Supper, Jesus offers Himself in thanksgiving for victory (cereal), and on the cross to conquer sin (bloody death on the cross). Even though many Catholics are trying to worm out of it, receiving the Eucharist when not in a state of grace is a grave offense against God. Paul tells us that receiving Our Lord in such a way is to eat and drink our own damnation (1 Cor 11:23-29)

Grape juice? I think not!

Amy said...

Latham (in the book I referenced in this post) says that leavened or unleavened does not matter, as the meal is not a replacement for the Passover. Also, the Eastern Church uses leavened bread still, and the Western church only switched as the idea of transubstantiation grew.

In the early Church (and even the Apostles) it didn't matter - they used either leavened or unleavened. It was around the 9th or 10th century that most of the Eastern Rites went with leavened bread, and the Latin Rite went with unleavened. Now that it's been part of the tradition of each for so many centuries, it's illicit but not invalid (it's unlawful but still the Eucharist).

Thos said...

Amy brings in depth by reminding me of the O.T. sacrifices prefigurative of Christ's ultimate sacrifice.

If Christ is actually offering real bread and wine at the Last Supper as a non-Levitical priest (instead of having an important meal), then the "this is my body" comment in scripture could be Him prefiguratively tying his bodily sacrifice to that actual bread offering. That would cut against those words being literal, since their primary meaning was to make a figurative tie between the actual bread and the coming bodily sacrifice.

Anyway, before Christ: Wine. From Christ: this Wine is my Blood. After Christ: Wine (which the Church believes is Blood, in varying ways). After 19th Century American Revivalism: Grapejuice.