A Meeting Place for Evangelicals, Reformed, and Orthodox Christians

High Church Calvinism: Out on a Theological Limb?


Going out on a limb -- Credit: John Carrel


The Reformed tradition is evolving in interesting directions as people seek to recover the historic and liturgical church.

Two recent blog postings highlight this trend.



Refutation of Reformed Catholicism”  TsarLazar.com  (6 April 2012)

St. Olaf of Norway

The article is a critique and rebuttal of Philip Schaff’s attempt to integrate the Reformed tradition with the early church by means of a Hegelian synthesis.  “Tsar Lazar” is an anonymous writer who belongs to the Reformed tradition, but evinces strong sympathy for Eastern Orthodoxy.  The article provides a valuable corrective and challenge to the recent interest in Mercersburg Theology in Reformed circle, and especially to W. Bradford Littlejohn’s The Mercersburg Theology and the Quest for Reformed Catholicity.  In my review of Littlejohn’s book I noted that one shortcoming was the scant attention given to Schaff’s dynamic Hegelian approach to church history, an approach many Orthodox would find questionable.  Tsar Lazar may not be Orthodox, but he sure sounds like one!

Tsar Lazar discusses a major problem for both Roman Catholic and its Protestant offspring’s progressivism which is integral to Hegelianism: If the ‘Truth’ is really a future ‘Synthesis’ of what’s partly present now and a future antithesis; where is the plumb line of Christian truth?  Indeed, what is to prevent the most cherished Roman Catholic and/or Protestant theological construct or dogma from one day plunging down the hole of evolutionary flux? Including (as seen in most ‘progressive’ circles) the Faith once delivered to the Apostles?  For the Orthodox, what makes the Trinitarian and Christological formulations of Nicea, Chalcedon, and the Seven Councils true is the same thing that makes Holy Tradition true — Pentecost — the active presence of the Holy Spirit promised to the Church from the beginning.  It is the Truth Orthodoxy first received from the Apostles and has zealously guarded and handed down for centuries to the present day.

Below is Tsar Lazar’s searing critique of Schaff’s approach to historical theology:

Perhaps the most glaring issue with the Mercersburg theology is who gets to be the judge?  If Christianity is a historical process, then a number of questions follow: how can one judge a position outside of knowledge of the final result? This is a common critique of Hegel. If the truth lies in the next historical moment, how are we to properly evaluate the present moment? For the next moment will give us new knowledge on our current moment? We are left in a perpetual state of flux.

He concludes:

Philip Schaff and John Williamson Nevin are to be commended for steering countless Evangelicals and Calvinists away from certain American, reductionist accounts of Christianity. For example, Nevin’s portrayal of the Lord’s Supper is infinitely to be preferred to Charles Hodge’s spectral, memorialist view. Schaff is to be commended for calling attention back to the ancient roots of the church,  Yet, both of these men stop short from calling men to actually go back to the ancient church.  While Nevin says we feed off of the body of Christ in a “spiritual” sense.  These two men remove us from American reductions of the faith, and bring us one step closer to the ancient faith.  Unfortunately, they take us to the river, but do not cross it.  (emphasis added)

See also:  “An Analysis of the Mercersburg Theology”  TsarLazar.com  (28 December 2010)


Pastor Peter Leithart

On Not Being Afraid of Becoming Episcopalian”  Leithart.com (7 April 2012)

Pastor Peter Leithart explains why his church incorporated a number of liturgical practices into their Sunday worship to the point where a visitor might mistake it for an Anglican or Episcopalian church.


Leithart seems to be making this liturgical shift partly out of a concern for “wandering Evangelicals” looking for the historic church.  In a recent article for First Things he wrote:

Evangelicals move away to Constantinople or Rome at an alarming rate, often because they lose hope of finding even a glimmer of liturgical piety in Evangelical churches. They’re hungry, and they believe they have found where the banquet is happening. Luther and Calvin would be aghast, for in their eyes the Reformation was an effort to restore priestly food to all of God’s priests as well as an effort to recover the gospel of grace. 

I like what Leithart had to say about the Christian liturgy being rooted in the liturgy of the Jewish Temple.  Much of it supports what I wrote in the subsection “According to the Pattern” in another posting: “Orthodox Worship Versus Contemporary Worship.”

But what I found questionable was his claim that for much of church history the church was not “properly liturgical.”  Apparently what Leithart has in mind is the exclusion of the laity from the Eucharist.  He writes:

But this is not what the church has done historically. Catholic and Orthodox churches retain some of the exclusions of the Old Covenant. For many centuries, the Western church excluded the laity from the table altogether, conducted the Mass in a language that most did not understand, taught little of the Bible. Protestants, especially Reformed Protestants, quickly lost the sacramental side of liturgy, and Protestant worship became an inverted image of Catholic: For a Mass without Word, Protestants substituted a sermon-session without sacrament.

What is curious about this paragraph is that he first blurs, then indicts both the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox for excluding the laity from the Eucharist.  He does this by listing the damning evidence against the Catholics while saying nothing about the Orthodox.  As an Orthodox Christian I have two responses: (1) That’s not true! and (2) That’s not logical!  Historically, the Orthodox Church has not barred the laity from the Eucharist.  The Orthodox Church has welcomed the laity AND their covenant children to partake of the Eucharist.  My pastor urges parishioners to partake of the Eucharist frequently and speaks out against the notion that the Eucharist is only for special occasions like Christmas and Easter.  Indeed, access to the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist is far more open in Orthodoxy than it has been throughout the history of Protestantism.  Of course, it is natural for Pastor Leithart to blur or overlook this embarrassing fact of history.  Bottom line is that Leithart has no factual or logical basis for tarring Eastern Orthodoxy with the same brush used against Roman Catholics.

Pastor Leithart talks about his becoming “Episcopalian.”  The word “episcopal” means “having a bishop” or “being under the rule of a bishop.”  I would ask Pastor Leithart: Who is your bishop?  And how does he trace his apostolic succession?  From what I can see in his article, Leithart is still part of the Reformed tradition and retains the Presbyterian form of church governance without bishops or any pretense of apostolic succession.

I would like ask Pastor Leithart: Where do you stand with respect to the real presence in the Eucharist?  This is the heart of ecclesiology and worship.  There was a time in graduate school when I frequented a nearby Episcopal church.  It was a conservative high church Episcopalian parish in Berkeley, California.  Then one day I read William Ledwich’s The Durham Affair in which he cites a survey that found that over a third of the bishops in the Church of England denied the historicity of the Virgin Birth and nearly half denied the historicity of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  Initially, I wasn’t all that surprised by the findings of the survey having spent quite a bit of time with Episcopalians in Hawaii.  But one Sunday morning as I went up to receive Communion I reflected on the fact that by receiving Communion at All Saints in Berkeley, I was in communion with the liberal Episcopalian bishop across the Bay in San Francisco, and furthermore I was in communion with the liberal Anglican bishops across the Pond in England who denied the basic tenets of the Creed!  I stopped going there soon after.  One way out of this conundrum is to adopt a Zwinglian “just a symbol” approach to the Eucharist but this would involve a decisive break from the historic understanding of the Eucharist.  Leithart can import all sorts of Anglican aesthetics into his Sunday “Liturgy,” but where does he stand with respect to the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist?  Without the real presence in the Eucharist one will end up beautifying a weekly ritual.  In the article for First Things Leithart talks about the need for Evangelicals to recover the Eucharist, but I could not find any affirmation of the real presence.

I am not sure Leithart knows what it means to be “Episcopalian” in the full sense of the word.  Rather than look to the sorry mess in England, he should be looking to Antioch.  The ancient see of Antioch has its roots in the New Testament (see Acts 11:26).  Ignatius of Antioch wrote in one of the earliest post-apostolic letters:

Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints.  Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. (To the Smyrnaeans VIII)

Be careful therefore to use one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup for union with his blood, one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and the deacons my fellow servants), in order that whatever you do you may do it according to God.  (To the Philadelphians IV)

If Pastor Leithart claims not to be afraid becoming Episcopalian, he should consider becoming a real “Episcopalian,” that is, become Eastern Orthodox.  We have the historic episcopacy; we have the historic Liturgy with the aesthetic elements; and the Faith of the Apostles zealously guarded and handed down via Holy Tradition.  Patriarch Ignatius IV, the current patriarch of the Antiochian Orthodox Church stands in direct apostolic succession to Ignatius the author of the letters quoted above and who was a student of the Apostle John.  The Anglican option that Leithart seems to favor can only take one as far back to the sixteenth century to a ruthless Machiavellian monarch; the Eastern Orthodox option provides a historic link to the Apostles and the Apostolic Faith.  What is there to be afraid of about the Holy Orthodox Church?

See also: “Evangelicals at the EucharistRoadsFromEmmaus.org (23 March 2012)

Robert Arakaki


  1. david

    Hey Robert,

    Provocative stuff for sure, but my friend’s (Pastor Leithart) point is that he is not afraid of their Church’s liturgy being confused with Anglicanism — not that he’s unafraid of becoming one. He’s willing for their Liturgy to be confused Anglicanism — for a short season…by those who should learn better shortly.

    As for those actually leaving the Reformed Faith for Anglicanism, I must admit (given the state of this communion) it seem all to much like naive Independent Christian conservatives who opt for the Republican Party. They sincerely believe they’ve joined The Club with respectable membership in the political status-quo, only to later discover they’re in bed with systemic corruption from the top down that in some ways can be worse than the Democratic Party! Just saying…

    • robertar

      Hey David,

      Good point! Pastor Leithart never said that he was thinking of joining the Anglican communion. Perhaps he should have titled his article: “On not being afraid to look like an ‘Episcopalian.'” But I’m still interested in knowing where he stands on the real presence and the historic episcopacy.


      • Adam


        Have you read anything by Leithart on the sacraments? He’s written extensively on them. That ought to answer your question.

        • robertar

          Dear Adam,

          Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I looked on Pastor Leithart’s blog and was not able to find anything on the Eucharist or the real presence. I may have missed it. Your response is more of a teaser than an answer. It seems that you are more familiar with Leithart than I am. Maybe you can give us the answer as to where he stands on the real presence? That would be a big help.


  2. Tsar Lazar

    Hey Robert,

    A quick word of explanation. Some will challenge my likening to and reading of Hegel. It should bear note, however, that I am following Charles Taylor’s reading of Hegel and those who would challenge me must first challenge Taylor.

  3. Matthew N. Petersen


    A quick word on Leithart: He would point to the fact that for the Orthodox the Eucharist is celebrated in a different room that the congregation is not allowed to enter as an example of excluding the laity from the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not only reception, but also celebration, and though Orthodox theology strongly indicates that the laity are active in celebrating the Eucharist, Orthodox practice often does not, at least in the eyes of many Protestants.

    Regarding the Eucharist: I can’t see how to search the old PDF credenda issues, but I believe he has written quite a bit about the Eucharist in Credenda. Basically his position is that while the elements are not the Body and Blood of Christ, yet the Eucharist actually and in fact is our food, and communicates Christ to us, through the action of the Holy Spirit. Christ is in the eating, not in the elements themselves. Moreover, Christ is actually present at the Eucharist, but He is not physically present as food, but as host. We are invited to eat with Him, and so in eating with Him we are saved.

    • robertar


      Thanks for your input. The idea that the Orthodox laity are excluded because they are not allowed into the altar area is a new one for me. I never thought of the altar area as a separate room. I have never heard this criticism before. But my response would be but couldn’t the same thing be said about the restricted access to the pulpit in Protestant churches? Or can anyone go up and preach from the pulpit?

      Regarding the real presence, the best thing is to either hear from Pastor Leithart himself or read his publications. If what you wrote is accurate then it sounds like Pastor Leithart’s understanding of the real presence is very close to Calvin’s; and if so, then quite different from the Orthodox understanding of the real presence in the Eucharist.


      • Matthew N. Petersen

        I’m not sure the criticism is quite that they are not allowed in, but that they are not even allowed to see in. From my conversations with Leithart, I believe he roughly agrees with Jenson:

        Where icons are taken most seriously, their inappropriate use will probably be sheer proliferation. Surely the hypertrophy of the iconostasis in many Orthodox buildings, into a wall shutting out the people from the Eucharist, is very problematic: it is one thing for the biblically mandated action to be interpreted by intervening icons and quite another to be compelled to behold them instead of the action. After the fact the wall and its doors have of course been provided with spiritually ingenious justifying interpretations. [So Florensky Iconostasis 59-69, interprets the iconostasis as the cloud of saints between the visible world and the invisible, meaning the altar. Thus he turns the Eucharist into an interpretation of Pseudo-Dionysius, instead of the other way around.] But precisely Orthodox ecclesiology, centered as this is on the eucharistic work of the people of God, must outweigh these.

        In short, if you in some sense participate in the Eucharistic celebration, why are you shut off from the celebration itself, not allowed even to see it?

        I’m not sure where to find Leithart’s views on the Eucharist in writing, have you tried emailing him, I’m fairly certain he won’t read or comment on this blog–he doesn’t get involved in online discussions. Have you tried emailing him?

        Yes, his view is very close to Calvin’s, provided Calvin is understood to be Sacramental. (I believe there is some controversy about how sacramental Calvin is.) Dr. Leithart would want to be the sort of very sacramental Calvinist.

        • robertar


          Thanks for the clarification about the Protestant complaint about the iconostasis (icon wall). There’s some variety among Orthodox churches and jurisdictions when it comes to the iconostasis. The Slavic (Russia) tradition developed elaborate iconostases that extend from floor to ceiling completely sealing off the altar area from the nave (main area of the sanctuary). Some other Orthodox traditions kept to simpler iconostases. For example the Antiochian Village chapel allows the congregation to look into the altar area. The monasteries at New Skete in Cambridge, NY, apparently has a minimalist iconostasis. The Greek Orthodox parish I attend has an iconostasis that pretty much forms a solid wall BUT there is no solid door that shuts off the altar area from the main sanctuary. This means that I can see what is happening at the altar during the Liturgy. It also means that I can see altar boys yawning during the service!

          So as you can see there exist some variety in Orthodox iconostases. What Pastor Leithart and others are criticizing is probably the more extreme form in the Slavic churches. I don’t feel excluded at the Greek Orthodox services. Initially, I did feel a bit excluded when I visited the local Russian Orthodox parish but I noticed that from time to time the doors were opened one could see into the altar area. The main thing about the theological or symbolic rationale for elaborate floor to ceiling iconostases is that they are tradition with a small “t”, not capital “T” tradition. Icons are part of capital “T” tradition having been affirmed at the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

          But the main issue here is access to the Eucharist. The quote that you gave complains that people are shut off from the Eucharist. That’s incorrect as the Orthodox priest brings out the communion chalice in order to give the congregation Holy Communion. I’ve seen people line up for Communion, adults and children, babies carried in the arms of their parents. This is the norm for Orthodoxy. This cannot be said of many Protestant churches where one must be of a certain age in order to be baptized and given Communion.

          I’ve emailed Pastor Leithart and hope to hear from him about his understanding of the real presence.


          • robertar


            Just heard from Peter Leithart. Here’s what he wrote me:

            The summary is not far off. I do believe Jesus is Host; but He is Host and Food both. And I’d want to qualify the last sentence about being saved through eating. True, but I’d want to make sure that I work in passages like 1 Corinthians 10.

            My view of the real presence is basically Calvin’s: Jesus is “locally” present in His glorified humanity in heaven, but we mysteriously feed on Him through the agency of the Spirit.


          • Canadian

            Ah, yes. Calvin affirms that believers soar up to heaven to partake of Christ there.
            Poor localized and restricted Jesus. He is with us in divinity at the supper as host and food but not in his humanity???????
            Nestorius would be proud.

            John of Damascus helps here.
            “The body which is born of the holy Virgin is in truth body united with divinity, not that the body which was received up into the heavens descends, but that the bread itself and the wine are changed into God’s body and blood . But if you enquire how this happens, it is enough for you to learn that it was through the Holy Spirit…..and the wine and water are supernaturally changed by the invocation and presence of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ…….The bread and the wine are not merely figures of the body and blood of Christ (God forbid!) but the deified body of the Lord itself: for the Lord has said, “This is My body,” not, this is a figure of My body: and “My blood,” not, a figure of My blood.” Bk IV chXIII.

            Christ does not need to physically descend to change the bread and wine into his deified body and blood. So limiting the eucharist to a spiritual manducation is not compatible with Orthodoxy or scripture. Paul says in 1 Cor 10:15-16 that the “blessed” cup and bread are a participation in the body and blood of Christ and chapter 11:27 says that unworthy eating and drinking of said cup and bread is to profane the body and blood of the Lord.

          • Russ Warren

            I’m not sure how Christ being “locally” in heaven is such a problem. Since we (to use Schmemman’s language) “ascend to heaven” when we worship, we are where Christ “locally” is: He makes that hypostatically united presence known to us in the Reading of the Scriptures and the Eucharist (among other ways, here, I gather, is where the Orthodox understanding of icons really comes into its own). Since we are with the physical and spiritual presence of Christ, why is it such a jump to say that the bread and wine are the Body and the Blood? There doesn’t seem to be anything Nestorian about it (unless I’m completely misunderstanding). We partake of Christ the Host, the Victim and the Victor, really, truly, actually, because we are in heaven — seated with Him. At least from my vantage point, Calvin doesn’t seem to be far off here — nor particularly unorthodox.

            I’ve written some reflection on this here, if you’d like to see where I’m coming from.

            I do know that many Reformed have a problem with the “Real Presence” (although I’m not convinced having a problem with something denies its actual existence), but I think that stems from an inconsistency with our theology: the Reformed should be (and more and more are coming to be) robustly orthodox in this matter.

          • Canadian

            The Reformed choke on what is invoked of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox liturgy….”make this bread the precious body of thy Christ….and that which is in this cup the precious blood of thy Christ…..changing them by thy Holy Spirit”

            The feeding on Christ takes place by consumption of the changed bread and wine. That is why the associated judgement is in the act of eating. The elements become the body and blood of Christ, we are not transported to his locality in heaven. It would be Nestorian to say Christ is with us in divinity at the supper by his presence but not in his humanity. Now don’t misunderstand, as John of Damascus says above, it’s not that Christ descends at the eucharist but the Spirit does change the bread and wine into his body and blood nonetheless.

          • Russ Warren


            I don’t quite think we are understanding each other.

            I am Reformed, but those words don’t make me choke. You can be Reformed and affirm the Real Presence of Christ: it may not be common, but it is possible (and I would argue more consistent with Reformed theology).

            I agree that the elements are transformed (although I wouldn’t want to say “how,” i.e. trans- or con- substantiation), but I disagree that we are not transported to where Christ “locally” is. St. Paul affirms that we are “seated in the heavenly places with Christ,” St. John’s Revelation has him ascend to the throne room, and the Church (both the Reformed and the Orthodox — see Schmemman’s “For the Life of the World”) has historically affirmed that our worship is an ascent to God. So, we feed on Christ (Real Presence) in the place where He is “locally” present (in Heaven). The Nestorian charge doesn’t fit under this argumentation and there is nothing to “choke” on: there is only the life-giving Body and Blood to gratefully imbibe.

            In other words, if I am reading Leithart correctly, our heavenly Session with Christ means that we do not split the natures (which would be Nestorian), but rather we are present with the Christ, both in His human and divine natures, just as He is present to us at the same time and in both natures in the Bread and Wine.


        • Lurker

          Regarding the iconostasis:

          The closing of the Royal Doors symbolizes the closed door during the last supper. Who was allowed into this meal? What of the 70? Yet, only the 12 and Christ were present. This closing of the doors represents that image, however poorly I’ve explained it. For that reason, I don’t see a problem with a Russian iconostasis being what it is, obstructing the view of the faithful in that regard, as is the case in my OCA parish.

          I also want to note that I oftentimes serve in the altar and I have no qualms about the difference of viewpoint, being inside or outside of the altar. I don’t feel “left out” of any celebration or participation no matter where I am, no matter what Church I’m in (Russian with their high iconostasis, others that have lower or less obstructive ones). Also, I like it like that. The altar servers, myself included, are often moving around doing different things to help the priest and deacon. I find it distracting when I can see them moving around here and there, even when they keep movement to a minimum. Others’ experiences may be different. I can only give my own.


        • Canadian

          Hebrews 13:10 “we have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.”

          The church has an altar which not everyone has a right to eat from. But Paul warns the unworthy in 1 Corinthians precicely because they DO have access…..not to the altar which is behind the iconostasis, but access to what the priest brings off the altar and out to the people saying “with fear of God and faith and love draw near.”

    • david

      Hey Matthew, (I apologize for this being a bit long)

      It’s my understanding, having witnessed several Orthodox Divine Liturgies, that they see themselves, with their children, communing with Christ as they partake of the Bread and Wine – not mere observers. What seems to be the rub is they do not participate in exactly the same way as we do. Or, maybe the rub is that they don’t partake “equally” the Priest and attendants enjoying a different perspective. Of course similar charges might apply to Reformed and Anglican practices. Congregant are not ever granted identical status or privileges as Officiants. (We now “watch” as our Pastor eats and drink first, then “watch” him administer the elements to the Elders, then distributed to the Elders who in turn pass them to us congregants.) We are not “equal” but do not feel cheated, or mere observers in this.

      Your second paragraph per the Eucharist is exactly how I have believed for years, believing it essentially the view of Calvin & early Magisterial Reformers. We partake of Christ in and thru the elements in a mysterious way are indeed feeding on Christ/Word, not literally, but Spiritually.

      Whether this is right or wrong, can we grant to the Orthodox that this view…is NOT the view of the Church prior to the Reformation? This question is not only Historical, but also pulls in Robin’s prior articles about Gnosticism, and Protestantism’s gradual riddance of both “sacred space & sacred matter” and the de-spiritualizing of Creation. It is my understanding that the Orthodox (unlike Roman Catholics of the middle ages) did not attempt to say just “How” or “When” the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Christ…but believed it does so in Mystery (sacred-space & sacred-matter). If this indeed IS the historic view of the elements of the Early Church, Nicaea, Chalcedon and the Seven Councils – then do we no also have other related issues (problems?) with which to deal?

      In other words, understanding the Elements in the Eucharist is but one of several “Reformation-Changes”. It also point to pivotal difference in how we understand Pentecost and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit…leading the Church into all Truth. The Orthodox (feel free to correct me if I get this wrong anyone) believe the Spirit is always with the Church – but especially in a peculiar manner during the Era of the Apostles (I suspect most Reformed would agree here) as they Received The Faith…and then once Delivered It to the Saints.

      While most Protestants agree with a Pentecost/Spirit’s peculiar/extra-ordinary presence during the Apostolic era, we implicitly believe the Holy Spirit largely departed, leaving the visible Church sometime in the 1st Century after the Apostles died – to returned in the 14th-16th century to Reform the Church in Truth and lead Her away from Her corruption and superstitions. This too needs adjusting since many of us (Protestants) also allow for the Holy Spirit being “with/leading” Nicaea and Chalcedon and perhaps other Councils…and also in the Church’s evangelizing and toppling the pagan Roman Empire – while mostly as a corrupt and superstitious Church? The presence & absence of the Holy Spirits teaching/guarding of the Church in history is not so straight-forward.

      This short-hand summary could be better said & nuanced. But on the surface, it’s understandable how the Orthodox might see our view of Pentecost+Holy Spirit+Promise+History as more than a bit disjointed, discontinuous, and departing significantly from what the Church of the Seven Councils believed about these things. They might also connect these differences to our denying the mystery of Christ’s real presence in the elements, as believed by the Church from the beginning?

      I guess what I’m trying to say is, we really can’t isolate the “presence of Christ in the Eucharist” – from related issues which are connected. Some (Protestants and Roman Catholics) wish to believe the issues that separate them from the Orthodox are few…but complicated. Maybe. But is also seems increasingly true that some of our differences really have presuppositional roots in: “What did the Apostles and their heirs believe about Pentecost, the Presence & Promise of the Holy Spirit to and in the Church, History – and does what that Church believed for a thousand years really matter?

    • Karen

      Hmmm. That understanding seems to fly in the face of John 6: 48-58, doesn’t it?

      John 6:48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

      52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

      53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed,[h] and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

      • Karen

        Since it is physically showing up far removed, I’ll point out my first comment pertains to Matthew’s first April 11 post regarding Liethart’s presumed understanding of the Eucharist. Sorry, I didn’t read the follow up comments before posting, but perhaps it’s still useful to see what one of the most pertinent texts from Scripture actually says.

  4. Daniel

    I would second what John says, I occasionally serve in the alter too and for me the difference in viewpoint is not an issue, I feel a part of the Liturgy no matter where I’m standing. And like John said it can be distracting when everyone in the alter is visible.

    Also just a few quick note on the involvement of the congregation, the Priest can not preform the Liturgy by himself others must be present, the Eucharist is brought out before Communion in the Great Entrance, the Priest’s prayers are very much focused on the laity involved in the Liturgy; “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee on behalf of all and for all.”

    • robertar


      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I agree with you that the congregation’s participation is necessary for any Liturgy. I remember one time going to church during the middle of the week and seeing the priest’s face light up when I walked in. He was all by himself and could not start the service until a lay person showed up.


  5. John

    Hi Robert,

    For this coming Sunday: Christ is Risen

    Do you have any idea as to how the Protestants handle John 6:48-59?

    If anyone wants the origin of the doctrine of the “real presence”, then here it is.

    Are we not entitled to substitute (most of the time) the word ‘Protestant’ for ‘Jew” in vs 52?

    Are we game to follow this to its logical conclusion in vs 66?


  6. Raphael

    The iconostasis has never made me feel removed from the Eucharist. However, it has helped me to recognize the sacred nature of the Eucharist. Notice, that in the scriptures entering God’s presence is dangerous business! And in theEucharist we not only enter His presence but partake of His very body and blood! Considering the Divine nature of the Eucharist we should be in awe that there is only a iconostasis and not a steel wall.

    • robertar

      Dear Raphael,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! And greetings on this Holy Friday evening! Soon we will be celebrating Christ’s victory over death and the coming of new life in Christ.


  7. Karen

    Robert, if you hadn’t seen it yet, there’s an interesting recent mutual critique going on between Pastor Liethart and Fr. Andrew Damick of the “Roads from Emmaus” blog site, that may interest you and your readers:


    • robertar


      I am watching the conversation between Pastor Leithart and Fr. Andrew Damick with great interest. I think Fr. Andrew’s critique are excellent and I recommend that people visit his site.

      It may interest you that I once held a position very similar to Pastor Leithart’s but later found that position to be untenable. I’m planning to post something on this subject in the near future.


  8. Ewan W. Wilson

    I think most simple Christians, comparing the New Testament accounts of a very simple symbolical act of memorial AND, yes, special spiritual edification peculiar to the act of communing, would find the highly formalised, elaborately ritualised and minutely explained method of its working, all rather foreign to their experience.
    It would also strike one as obvious that Christ’s body has ascended to the heavenly sphere ( ‘Me ye have not always with you.’ ) and it cannot be omnipresent. We partake of bread and the fruit of the wine till the Lord come. A very ‘wooden’ understanding of language requires that we take Christ’s words in some ‘literal’ transubstantiating and so sacrificing sense, surely!
    I tend to favour the Calvin/ Williamson Nevin’s ‘slant’ on the Breaking of Bread over the elder Hodge’s but at the end of the day we are dealing with high spritual mysteries that should not be meddled into above what Scripture itself reveals for our edification.
    That does not mean we impoverish the sacrament’s peculiarly ordained spiritual power in the least.
    I also approve of a very ‘high’ view of the institutional church; there are too many ‘instant or rash separatists’ who effectively reduce the authority and purpose of the church to the point of negligibility. That was never the magisterial Reformers’ concept of ecclesiology- though neither was an absolutised visible church never requiring reform- often even radical reform to prevent it becoming a synagogue of satan as the Westminster Confession rightly warns!

    • robertar


      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I’m glad for your high view of the Lord’s Supper. You mentioned John Williamson Nevin. For a long time I identified with Mercersburg Theology and their understanding of the real presence which facilitated my transition to Orthodoxy. You might be interested in my blog posting on Mercersburg Theology from an Orthodox perspective.


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