Is Communion Figurative?

(George Brooks) #1

Continuing the discussion from If creation is unceasing, how are we to understand Genesis 2:1-3?:

I have been pondering what to do about the strong desire to avoid figurative interpretations unless the context particularly required it.

@Mike_Gantt ,
Do you think the Gospel of John 6:54-60 is figurative?

In John, chapter 6, we read:
"54 Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day.

55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.

57 As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me.

58 This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.

59 This is what he taught at Capernaum in the synagogue.

60 After hearing it, many of his followers said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’"

(Mike Gantt) #2

If you think this strong desire resides in me, I cannot understand why. I have given more than ample reasons in various comments on this site to demonstrate that I don’t have this desire. On the contrary, I have long held to the old line, “We don’t always take the Bible literally, but we always take it seriously.”

Yes. In fact, the Gospel of John can be read as an extended account of how Jesus’ disciples were constantly misunderstanding Him because they kept assuming He was speaking literally when He was speaking figuratively.

An a priori commitment to either a figurative or a literal meaning, however, prejudices interpretation.

(George Brooks) #3


I see less of a reason to take Jesus’ words on his flesh and blood as figurative than the reasons you use to insist on a literal interpretation of Gen 2:1- 3 !!!

(Mike Gantt) #4

I actually don’t see a literal-figurative divide in Genesis 2:1-3. It’s just describing what God is doing, and since God is spirit, I can’t see it. I just have to accept it. On the other hand, in John 6:54-60 Jesus is using physical expressions to teach a spiritual reality. You can take Him to be speaking physically (literally) or spiritually (figuratively). It seems obvious to me that a spirtual interpretation is required but apparently a lot of His listeners weren’t able to take His words in any sense but physical…and this led to their abandonment of Him.

(George Brooks) #5


Don’t you find it ironic that the Catholic Church, which takes these words as quite literal, is also one of the churches who most accepts human evolution as literal as well?

(Mike Gantt) #6

No. I find their self-preservation as the common factor in both positions.

(Phil) #7

Reminds me of an observation someone made, that the miracle is not that wine is changed into blood, but rather that Christ’s blood (symbolizing life and sacrifice) was changed into wine, that we can freely partake of.


So why can you not apply a spirtual interpretation to Genesis 1? You appear to be stuck in the “any sense but physical” mode.

(Mike Gantt) #9

I really do not see Genesis 1-3 as a choice between a spiritual or physical (figurative or literal) interpretation. I see the text as expecting to be understood historically. The question then becomes, “How is the history being presented?” or “In what literary form is the history being expressed?”

The reason I have not, at least not yet, accepted one of the OEC interpretations is because I have not yet come across one that has fewer problems than a straightforward historical narrative - albeit one written in very lyrical prose.

As I have said, I am willing to consider “day” in Genesis 1 as an indefinite period rather than a 24-hour period. (I do not, by the way, consider this as a choice between taking “day” figuratively or literally, but rather a choice between taking “day” as 24 hours or as an indefinite period of time, as in “day of the Lord.”) The biggest problem for me is Genesis 2:1-3 which conflicts with the idea of progressive creation, which I think is an aspect of all OEC cosmologies I have studied. (By the way, I also do not see this passage as offering a literal-figurative choice; the passage is about God and there is no anthropomorphism present so I either accept by faith what it says about a God who is spirit or I do not.)

I hope you can appreciate that saying “I take Gen 1 (or Gen 1-11) spiritually (or figuratively)” is not communicating very much. If you want me to take Gen 1 spiritually (figuratively) then name or describe the spiritual (figurative) interpretation you hold and maybe it will make sense to me. That’s what I came to BioLogos to find, but most people just say “Plenty of dishes on that menu, just pick one” - which tells me they’re more sure of what they don’t believe the Bible says than they are of what it does say. At least, @Bill_II has a single point of view he sticks to and is willing to explain.

(George Brooks) #10


That is a fine and grand sentiment. It’s one frequently offered (using the very same words! “self-preservation … the common factor”) for why Evangelical seminaries in America produce so many young people, ignorant about the nature of Science, who yet consider themselves expert enough in science to accuse molecular biologists of being frauds.

Perhaps it is an an irony, inside an irony, running on the engine of falsehood.

(system) #11

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.