In Defense of Intinction: A Response to Joe Thorn

Intinction

I highly respect Joe Thorn as a preacher, and his podcast “Doctrine & Devotion” is one of the better Christian podcasts out there despite the some of the less than pointless banter between he and his brother in arms, Jimmy Fowler. However, I’m writing this article because Thorn published an article on the Doctrine & Devotion blog entitled, “Sip It, Don’t Dip It.

In his article, Thorn makes an attempt to dissuade Christians from practicing the Lord’s Supper via intinction.  For those of you who don’t know, intinction is the practice whereby you take the bread, dip it into the wine, and eat it. Apparently, this is an offensive practice within the ranks of the Reformed community, and until I read Thorn’s article and did the research, I didn’t realize that this was such a big deal.

Goals

First of all, I’m not writing this response to say that intinction is the only valid way to partake of the sacrament. That would be just as preposterous as saying that the only valid way to partake of the eucharist is by eating the bread first, and then drinking the wine. I’m simply defending the practice as being equally valid with the other ways in which the body of Christ has been known to partake throughout the ages.

Secondly, I’m going to kindly overlook the irony of a Baptist telling me that I shouldn’t ‘immerse’ the bread into the wine.

What I hope to accomplish is to start a conversation that might allow Joe Thorn and those who agree with him to reconsider their position of intinction as invalid. I could care less whether they personally practice intinction or not, but I feel holding to such a rigid position marginalizes brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to such a practice.

A Review of the Article in Question

Thorn starts out his article by saying that “rightly administering the Lord’s Supper is one of the marks of a true church.” Right out of the gate, Thorn is by implication stating that churches that practice intinction are not true churches because clearly he does not believe that this is a way to “rightly administer” the Supper.

As you continue reading the article you’ll find that Thorn has given us three reasons that he believes we should “sip it, don’t dip it” and I’ll examine all three of these reasons.

  1. The Command to Eat and Drink
    • Thorn brings up an interesting point that there seems to be a separation in distributing and partaking of elements, but we have to ask ourselves if our Lord’s thought process behind this was because He foresaw the alleged evils of intinction down through the annals of time, and He wanted to make sure to prevent such a catastrophe by keeping the elements of the meal separate, or are the authors simply giving unfolding the events as they happened?We have to be careful not to read into the text what is not there, and what Thorn seems to be reading into the Gospel accounts is a command to separate the elements. In his paper on Scripture’s Normativity, Grant Gaines shares with us a couple of thoughts from N.T. Wright concerning the use of Scripture which I find relevant.

      “As N. T. Wright reminds us, the Bible “is not a rule book; it is a narrative.” [1] To attempt merely to gather a collection of all the transcultural principles from Scripture is to “belittle the Bible” because it implies “that God has, after all, given us the wrong sort of book and [that] it is our job to turn it into the right sort of book by engaging in these hermeneutical moves.” [2]

  2. The Significance of the Blood Separated from the Body
    • Notice what Thorn says here:

      “Just as the Paschal lamb was sacrificed, its blood being poured out in death, so Jesus presents the Lord’s Supper as a separation of blood and body. This separation itself signifies death and points explicitly to the death of our Savior.”

      This is going to probably sound more flippant than how I intend for it to be, but if the Lord’s Supper is simply a representation (as most Baptists would assert), then why does it matter? I mean if we’re saying that when Christ said, “This is my body” he actually meant “This is a representation of my body” then why would it bother Thorn for someone to practice intinction?

      If we continue reading this section, we see Thorn again reading something into the text of Scripture that isn’t there. He argues that the Apostle Paul talks about the elements being separate and distinct in 1 Corinthians 10. If that’s the case, then let’s look at it. I’ll even play ball and look at it in the ESV.

      “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, ESV

      Paul certainly mentions the elements separately, but is this an explicit command for them to be taken separately? I’m not so sure. I think to say that this is a command for the elements to be taken separately is awfully akin to the Appalachian Pentecostals who believe that Mark 16 is a command to take up serpents and drink poison. I don’t see a command here. I simply see a statement about participating in Christ by partaking of the Supper.

      However, Joe Thorn is adamant that “each taken separately is a “participation” in Christ.” By implication, he seems to be saying that the elements taken separately is not a participation in Christ. So, if it’s not a participation in Christ, then what is it? Well, the Apostle Paul seems to tell us in the 21st verse of the same chapter.

      “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” – 1 Corinthians 10:21, ESV

      So, if the Paul is addressing intinction here (which he’s not) then that would mean that those who participating such a practice are eating and drinking at the table of Satan. I’m confident that Thorn did not mean to imply such a thing about well-meaning brothers and sisters, but that’s what happens when you read something into the text of Scripture that isn’t there.

  3. The Regulative Principle Cautions Us
    • This third and final reason that Joe Thorn gives us assumes that the Regulative Principle even works to begin with.For those of you who don’t know what The Regulative Principle is, the Westminster Confession of Faith defines it in these terms,

      “But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.”

      This means that we are to worship God only in the ways in which He has prescribed and not “according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan.” Sounds good, right? The problem is that Jesus Christ Himself did not follow the Regulative principle, as David and Tim Bayly point out here:

      “Scripture tells us that Jesus went to the synagogue in Galilee on the Sabbath as was His habit, and there publicly read the Word of God, explaining Isaiah’s significance to the assembled people. In any Reformed church such action would be viewed as the the height of worship. Yet where in the Old Testament do we find express biblical warrant for synagogue worship? Where is routine public worship outside the realm of temple worship and public feast days positively commanded?”

      Seeing as how Jesus didn’t observe this Puritanical practice, I’m not so sure that it’s useful for us to observe it either. Therefore, it’s not a valid reason to keep the elements separate in the Supper.

Concluding Thoughts on the Article

Joe Thorn concludes the article by trying to say that we are commanded to (in his words to “eat” and then “drink.” I find it humorous how he puts the the word “then” in there. It’s kind of like how one might put “a representation of” in between Jesus’ words, “is” and “my” in His statement, “This is my body.”

The last paragraph concludes with Thorn telling that us that “thought this isn’t a practice over which one should break fellowship with a church, it is a practice that should be evaluated by the word of God and replaced with a separation of the elements.” So, basically he’s saying “don’t divide, just do it this way.” While I agree that it’s not issue to divide over (because my own home church doesn’t even practice intinction), I don’t think it’s an issue that needs to be addressed in such manner as to imply that those who practice intinction are not “rightly administering the supper.”

Why Does it Matter to Me?

If you read Rev. Lane B. Keister’s paper, then you’ll see that intinction was a practice that was probably introduced in the 3rd or 4th Century as a way for those who were physically ill to receive the Lord’s Supper without great danger of spilling the elements.

When I get the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament at a congregation that practices intinction then I am reminded that I am sick and in need of a Savior. I am reminded there is healing for me when I “participate” in Christ because He has said, “This is my body” and “this is my blood.” He is there. He may not be there in the that our Romanist friends say that He is there. I do not believe that the broken bread and the poured out wine is a sacrifice as they do, but I’m driven to believe that Christ is there in a very real sense.

But, when I partake of the Supper at a congregation that doesn’t practice intinction, the Supper is equally valid and equally special for me because I’m reminded just as elements are given to me separately so too was the suffering of our Lord given to Him separately. First, His body was beaten and tortured, then His blood was spilled, and just as the natural eating of bread gives life the body so does the death and resurrection of Christ bring life to the soul.

____________________

  1. N. T. Wright, “How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?,” Vox Evangelica 21 (1991): 10.
  2. Ibid., 13. Elsewhere Wright states that “biblicistic proof-texting” is “inconsistent with the nature of the texts we have.” See N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God vol. 1 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 140. Wright contrasts the problematic approach of principlizing with what he considers to be a better way forward: “Rather than trying to filter out the actual arguments that Paul is mounting in order to ‘get at’ the doctrines that, it is assumed, he is ‘expounding,’ I have stressed that we must pay attention to those larger arguments and to the great story of God, the world, Israel, and Jesus, giving special attention to the ‘Israel’ dimension, within which the cross means for him what it means for him.” See N. T. Wright, “Reading Paul, Thinking Scripture,” in Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible: How the New Testament Shapes Christian Dogmatics, eds. Markus Bockmuehl and Alan J. Torrance (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 70.
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A Mental Buffet // 5 Aug 2017

Mental Buffet

 

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul. This week’s mental buffet includes articles from Martin Luther (no he’s not back from the dead for a blog post), Garry Vanderveen, Jason K. Allen, and Octavius Winslow.

Luther’s Last Word on Predestination – Martin Luther

“God did not come down from heaven to make you uncertain about predestination, to teach you to despise the sacraments, absolution, and the rest of the divine ordinances. Indeed, He instituted them to make you completely certain and to remove the disease of doubt from your heart, in order that you might not only believe with the heart but also see with your physical eyes and touch with your hands. Why, then, do you reject these and complain that you do not know whether you have been predestined? You have the Gospel; you have been baptized; you have absolution; you are a Christian.”

 

The Lamb’s High Feast: Good Reasons for Weekly Communion – Garry Vanderveen

“The visible centre of the Church’s worship must not be left as a blank space for long periods of the year. Calvin, accordingly, declares himself in favour of weekly communion. “All this mass of ceremonies being abandoned, the sacrament might be celebrated in the most becoming manner, if it were dispensed to the Church very frequently, at least once a week.” “It was not instituted to be received once a year and that perfunctorily (as is now commonly the custom).” He, indeed, goes the length of saying that “we ought always to provide that no meeting of the Church is held without the Word, prayer, the dispensation of the Supper, and alms”; and he calls the custom of communication once a year “an invention of the devil”. “The practice of all well ordered Churches should be to celebrate the Supper frequently, so far as the capacity of the people will admit.”

 

Eight Tips for Veteran Preachers – Jason K. Allen

“One of the benefits of expository preaching is that it anchors the sermon in the text of Scripture, not current events. The Word of God is perennial, never needing to be updated or improved upon. At the same time, faithful preaching brings the Word of God to bear, actually pressing it upon the lives of the hearers.”

 

The Glory of the Redeemer in His People – Octavius Winslow

“He is glorified in the progressive holiness of His people. “The kingdom of God is within you,” says Christ. The increase of this kingdom is just the measure and extent of the believer’s advance in sanctification. This is that internal righteousness, the work of God the Holy Spirit, which consists in the subjugation of the mind, the will, the affections, the desires, yes, the whole soul, to the government and supremacy of Jesus, “bringing into captivity,” says the apostle, “every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Oh, you who are “striving against sin,” longing to be “conformed to the image of God’s Son,” panting to be more “pure in heart,” “hungering and thirsting for righteousness,” think that in every step which you take in the path of holiness, in every corruption subdued, in every besetting sin laid aside, in every holy desire begotten, Christ is glorified in you! But you perhaps reply, “the more I strive for the mastery, the more I seem to be conquered. The more strongly I oppose my sins, the stronger my sins seem to be.” But what does this prove? it proves that “God is working in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” -that the kingdom of God is invading the kingdom of Satan- that the Spirit dwelling in the heart is warring with the flesh. It is truly remarked by Owen, that “if a believer lets his sins alone, his sins will let him alone.” But let him search them as with candles, let him bring them to the light, oppose, mortify, and crucify them, they will to the last, struggle for the victory. And this inward warfare, so graphically and touchingly described in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, undeniably marks the inhabitation of God the Holy Spirit in the soul.”

Till He Returns,

Logan

A “Yuuuge” Mental Buffet

Mental Buffet

 

I’ve been slacking off on the mental buffets so I decided to make up for it with this one…

 

Is My Repentance Enough? – Chad West

“Every choice I make affects me and those around me. The physical consequences of my actions might well echo down the hall of the rest of my life. Worse, it’s an affront to God. But our imperfect repentance doesn’t keep the gift of God’s love from washing us clean. His forgiveness isn’t based on how perfectly we get the grammar, or how well dressed we are when we present it to our Father. Forgiveness is based on the finished work of Jesus, not how well we repent.
Of course I’m not saying to half-do it. But I don’t think I’m talking to people who want to half-do it. I’m talking to people who are sincerely sorry for their sins—so sorry they can’t imagine their screw-ups can be made right.”

 

Discovering Liturgy – Heidi Johnston

“Not only does this intentional practice train you heart towards thankfulness, it also teaches you to see differently. I am beginning to realise how much discipline it takes to cultivate a moment by moment awareness of God’s presence in all things and I am grateful for the new place good liturgy has come to play in this ongoing battle.”

 

It’s Gospel Law the Way Down – JDK

“You see, the distinction between law and gospel is not related to grammar, semantics, or even theology, but power: the gospel silences the accusation, curse, and demand of the law. Now, this is not, as some will be quick to say, the (impossible) heresy of anti-nomianism, as if we could somehow will away the demand of the law, or simply be freed from it’s accusation. It is, instead, when G-D becomes Father, when Moses and Elijah disappear and only Jesus remains, when this “true saying that is worthy for all people to receive, that Christ Jesus came to save sinners,” is heard, then he/she is one whom the Son has set free, and is free indeed (Jn 8:36).”

 

Keep Christianity Weird – Joshua Kinlaw

“Christianity’s sheer familiarity has desensitized us to its radicalness. Hurtado aims to show how the “odd” became “commonplace,” by surveying the first three centuries of the Jesus movement. In fact the very concept of a book can be traced to early Jesus followers. The “bookishness” of the movement is one of the “distinctives” Hurtado describes, which helped make a ragtag group of Jewish schismatics into a global institution. It also offered a radically new way of thinking about three things: identity, religion, and morality.”

 

Protestant Priestcraft – Douglas Wilson

“But know this—wine for the world is not the same thing as wine for the priest only. Bread for the world is the grace of God that challenges priestcraft everywhere—whether those “priests” are Protestant or Catholic.”

 

Education, Gospel, and Freedom – Rod Rosenbladt

“In this short lecture, Dr. Rosenbladt tackles modern education and how it has transitioned from what educational institutions were originally established to do in early American history to the institutions that they are today, and how that relates to basic Christian doctrine and individual liberty.

This lecture was presented on Monday, October 2015 as the first of Concordia University Irvine’s CUI Bono lecture series for the academic year.”

 

Why do we gather for corporate worship? Five essential reasons – Brian Croft

“When a congregation collectively sits under the preached Word, a level of accountability is established and nourished among the hearers to urge each other to go and apply that sermon. A greater obligation to “do something” with the Word preached and to rely on one another for help and strength to obey it exists in this kind of community life that is not present when we listen in isolation or hop churches depending upon who is preaching that week.”

A Mental Buffet // 30 Mar 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul.

After Great Pain, Where Is God? – Peter Wehner

“I’m no theologian. My professional life has been focused on politics and the ideas that inform politics. Yet I’m also a Christian trying to wrestle honestly with the complexities and losses in life, within the context of my faith. And while it’s fine for Christians to say God will comfort people in their pain, if a child dies, if the cancer doesn’t go into remission, if the marriage breaks apart, how much good is that exactly?”

 

There is a Crack in Everything. That’s How the Light Gets In. – Matt Johnson

“God is at work despite the pee-drenched straw, the stubbed toes, and the waiting around in funeral parlors. When your life is in the crapper, when your church is torn apart by wolves, God is present even when you can’t see it, or feel his presence.”

 

The Plow of God – Douglas Wilson

“God plows his people. He deals with us, and He deals with us here in the Supper. He deals with sin in the Supper.”

 

A Mental Buffet // 2 Mar 2017

the-new-you

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul.

Covenantal Presence – Douglas Wilson

“Christ is not present for the one who has faith, but absent from the one who does not have faith. Rather, He is present covenantally for both.”

 

Why the American South Would’ve Killed Spurgeon – Christian George

“Southern Baptists ranked among Spurgeon’s chief antagonists. The Mississippi Baptist hoped “no Southern Baptist will now purchase any of that incendiary’s books.” The Baptist colporteurs of Virginia were forced to return all copies of his sermons to the publisher. The Alabama Baptist and Mississippi Baptist “gave the Londoner 4,000 miles of an awful raking” and “took the hide off him.” The Southwestern Baptist and other denominational newspapers took the “spoiled child to task and administered due castigation.”

 

God Knows What You Need in Worship – Nick Roen

“Every week, a miracle happens. The Spirit of God that dwells within applies the truth of God’s word to the hearts of his children. By God’s word of truth, we are sanctified (John 17:17), conformed more and more into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). He takes the same truth proclaimed among us and applies it to our hearts in ways that only he can.

He is our Helper who brings to our remembrance the truth of Christ at the precise moment that we need it most (John 14:26). After all, he knows what our hearts need better than we do (Jeremiah 17:9–10), and the Spirit himself helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).”

 

Praying with the ‘Holy Apostles’ – Kevin DeYoung

As an individual Christian wanting to pray more effectively, and as one who must lead others in prayer, I’ve benefited from many of the forms and patterns handed down by our fathers in the faith. One example—and one that I’ve used from time to time in our churchwide prayer meetings—comes from the fourth-century work The Constitution of the Holy Apostles.

 

Symptoms of Legalism: Playing the Spiritual Comparison Game – Stephen Altrogge

“When I compare my moral achievements to someone else and then get satisfaction from the difference, that’s legalism! I’m basically saying, “God, thank you that I’m more righteous than that person!”

Honestly, it’s a wonder God doesn’t smite me.”