Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #72

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

I hope everyone has a wonderful and holy Christmas Season and that the New Year brings each of you and your families abundant blessings!

Janel and the kids and I are going up to Huntsville to spend a few days with my Mom and brother and sisters – I hope you are able to spend some quality time with your loved ones as well.

I’m going to be taking at least two weeks off, maybe three, from writing this newsletter, so don’t be looking for the next issue until sometime in mid-January. This will hopefully allow me to get some of the necessary end-of-year accounting and bookkeeping done for the Bible Christian Society and for the crisis pregnancy center I work for as Finance Director.


This week I’m just going to do a Q&A (haven’t had one of those in a couple of months or so). The first question is on the Eucharist – Is it cannibalism? The second question is about the Catechism – Why do we need a Catechism when we’ve got the Bible?

In the first question, I get into some philosophy. Well, philosophy is not something I can say I am well grounded in. So, if there is something on the philosophical end that doesn’t sound quite right to someone, or could be said a little bit better, please let me know. I know what I mean, but, again, since I’m not all that grounded in philosophical terms, it might not come out as I intend it to.



Is there a particularly good reasoned defense you use when told that we are practicing cannibalism [by eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood in the Eucharist]?




At the bottom of this email are a couple of quotes I found on catholic.com (Catholic Answers website), which say basically the same thing in response to that question. I would add to these quotes by saying that it helps to understand something of the philosophical underpinnings of transubstantiation in order to realize why receiving the Eucharist is not cannibalism. However, one should always note when asked about this that the early Christians were accused of the same thing…cannibalism. I wonder why? Possibly because they taught that in the Eucharist one eats and drinks the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ? In fact, many were put to death by the Romans for the crime of cannibalism…very interesting, don’t you think?! So, again, if someone ever accuses you of cannibalism, start off by saying that you stand with the early Christians in being so accused.

In philosophy, everything essentially has two parts to it…the accidents and the substance. The accidents (a philosophical term) have to do with what something looks like, what it feels like, what it tastes like, what it sounds like, etc. In other words, the accidents have to do with what the senses perceive. This is true of anything. So, the “accidents” of a human being are our skin, our bones, our hair, our coloration, etc. The “accidents” of a cow are its color, its four legs, its udder, its hide, its bones, etc. The accidents of a chair are its legs, its seat, whether its wood or plastic or metal, etc. The accidents of bread are its texture, its taste, etc.

Then there is the substance of a thing. What is the “it” that makes us human? Is it the atoms that compose the accidents of our body? No. Those atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. that make up our body could have just as easily been part of something else…a lake, the sky, a turtle, a bird, a rock, etc. So, what is it that makes us human? If its not the accidents of our being, then what is it? Is it our soul? Well, every living thing…plants and animals…have souls (although not all souls are the same). So, what is it that makes our souls human…what is it that makes us human? What is the “it,” the “thing,” that makes us human beings? It is our substance. Now, maybe someone with a degree in philosophy can give you some sort of explanation on substance, but I can’t. It is basically just the essence of our beings.

So, back to transubstantiation. The accidents of the bread and wine remain, but the substance of the bread and wine has been changed. The substance of the bread and the wine has been changed…it has become the substance of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This is why it is not cannibalism…cannibalism would be to eat the accidents of a human being…not the substance (the substance would be gone if the person was dead). So, when we take the Eucharist, we are eating the substance of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, but not the accidents of His Body and Blood. We are eating the accidents of bread and wine, while consuming the substance of Christ. Is it an intuitive thing? Not really. But, that is where faith comes in. From an everyday worldly point of view, it seems a bit out there. But, from a philosophical point of view, it is not an unreasonable thing. It is not counter to reason…it simply goes beyond the point that reason can take us to.

Miracle of the water into wine – change of both accidents and substance.

Miracle of the loaves and fishes – change of accidents (5 loaves and 2 fish into many loaves and fishes); but no change of substance – still bread and fish.

Miracle of the Eucharist – change of substance; but no change in accidents.

Hope that helps.


P.S. Below are the two quotes from catholic.com:

1) Catholics don’t believe Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist is such that the consumption of the Host entails cannibalism. Christ’s body and blood aren’t present naturally, but supernaturally, under the appearances of bread and wine. This mode of presence rules out cannibalism. It’s accurate to say that while Christ’s presence is real and substantial, the mode of consumption, the way in which we eat his body and drink his blood, is, in a sense, spiritual (though not merely symbolic). When the host is consumed, the physical process of eating affects only the accidents of bread, not the substance of Christ’s body and blood, which are beyond our power to injure. Catholics, then, truly unite themselves spiritually to Christ who is really, substantially present, and they do so in a way which involves the bodily act of eating, even though the physical aspects of this process affect only the sign or accidents of bread.

2) Cannibalism is when one individual physically eats the human flesh off of another’s body. Catholic or not, the words in John 6 do sound cannibalistic. Even a Fundamentalist would have to say that he eats the flesh of Christ and drinks his blood in a symbolic manner so as to concur with the passage. By the same allowance, Catholics eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood in a sacramental way. Neither the Protestant nor the Catholic appears to be doing anything cannibalistic, though. It would have been cannibalism is if a disciple two thousand years ago had tried literally to eat Jesus by sinking his teeth into his arm. Now that our Lord is in heaven with a glorified body and made present under the appearance of bread in the Eucharist, cannibalism is not possible.


I had a friend of mine ask me why Catholics need a Catechism when there is the Bible? How would you answer that?

Why do we need a catechism, when we have the Bible? Well, I would ask the person who asked you that question, a few questions of your own. Like: Why do we need preachers, if we have the Bible? Why do preachers give sermons on Sunday at churches all over the world, when we have the Bible? Can the preachers tell us something about God that we can’t read for ourselves in the Bible? Why do we need seminaries to train ministers, when we have the Bible? Can the seminaries teach their students something that they can’t read for themselves in the Bible?

Ask that person if they have ever gotten some insight about God by listening to someone preaching a sermon on a Sunday morning…an insight that they didn’t get from their own personal reading of the Bible. I think they would probably have to answer yes. And that pastor or minister probably learned something about God in the seminary they attended…something that they didn’t get from their own personal reading of the Bible.

In other words, each of us learns from others about the Word of God. We don’t just learn about God’s Word from our own personal reading of it. For example, ask this person if they believe in the Trinity. Ask them if they believe that God is one god, but three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of which is fully God. If they say, “yes,” that they believe that, ask them where it says that in the Bible…it doesn’t! Ask them if they believe that the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbolic re-enactment of the Last Supper. If they say, “yes,” that they believe that, ask them where it says that in the Bible…it doesn’t! Oh, they might take you to a passage here or there and say, “See, this passage means such and such…” Well, that’s their interpretation of what it means. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that the Lord’s Supper is merely a “symbolic” re-enactment of the real thing. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are saved by faith “alone”. Oh, it says we are saved by faith, or by believing, which Catholics believe 100%, but nowhere in the Bible does it say we are saved by faith “alone” or by believing “alone”…those passages do not exist. Yet, people believe in salvation by faith alone. Why? Because they have relied on someone else to teach them something about the Bible.

So, what does all of that have to do with the Catechism? Well, the Catechism is kind of like a bunch of Sunday sermons on all the various parts of the Faith compiled into one big book. It is a compilation of 2000 years of Christian wisdom and teaching. It doesn’t take the place of the Bible, but it helps folks make sense out of the Bible. It helps folks better understand the Word of God. Again, the Catechism puts 2000 years of Christian teaching in one place. If one takes the time to read the Catechism, they will notice hundreds upon hundreds of Scripture quotes. They will notice hundreds upon hundreds of quotes from the Early Church Fathers. They will notice hundreds upon hundreds of quotes from Church Councils. In other words, they will see 2000 years of gathered wisdom. In the back of the Catechism, there is a scriptural index that contains 32 pages of scripture references…32 pages!

In Acts, chapter 8, we have the story of an Ethiopian eunuch, a very educated man (he was the Treasurer for the Kingdom of Ethiopia), a religious man (he had traveled all the way from Ethiopia to worship in Jerusalem), and he was reading the Bible while riding in his chariot. Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And how does the Ethiopian respond? Does he say, “Of course I do, I have the Scriptures and the Scriptures are all I need to understand anything about God?” No! The Ethiopian answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” That’s what the Catechism is…it is a guide – a guide given to us by the Magisterium of the Church – to understanding the Word of God, a guide to a better understanding of the Christian Faith. It is the Apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42); it is Philip explaining the Scriptures to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:30-31); it is the traditions that Paul taught the early Christians by word of mouth and by letter (2 Thes 2:15); it is the teaching that Paul commanded Timothy to teach to others who would then teach others (2 Tim 2:2); it is all these things and more.

The Catechism does not take the place of Scripture nor does it contradict Scripture or “add to” Scripture or any such thing. It complements Scripture. It helps us to better understand Scripture. So, for the Catholic it is not a question of going by either Scripture or the Catechism, it is a question of going by both Scripture and the Catechism, since the latter does not contradict the former…it helps to explain it and deepen our understanding of it.

In Conclusion

Again, I hope all of you have a holy Christmas Season and a blessed New Year!

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Apologetics for the Masses