By John Marroquin

Introduction

The purpose of this two-part article series is to refute the errors in the book titled The Forgotten Attributes of God by Dr. Peter Sammons. The book has several sections wherein Dr. Sammons misrepresents Catholic teachings and practices to strengthen his assertions. The first part of this series is linked below.

Part 1

Like the previous entry, this article is organized according to chapters within The Forgotten Attributes of God, and in each section I have further broken down the argument to provide historical, traditional, and scriptural context for why the challenged teachings and practices are normative and do not align with Dr. Sammons’ assertions. Unless otherwise noted, all scripture will be derived from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation. My goal is to present a defense of the faith as St. Paul calls us all to do in 1 Peter 3:15:

15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect; (NASB Bible, (2007))

1. Impassibility & Omnipresence

In the two chapters titled Impassibility and Omnipresence respectively, Dr. Sammons makes several claims that require addressing, starting on page 112 when Dr. Sammons wrote the following assertion:

“When Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”, we should not think His human body is now omnipresent (as Roman Catholics and Lutherans assert concerning the Lord’s Supper, teaching that Jesus is omnipresent according to His human nature).”

The assertion made by Dr. Sammons that Roman Catholics believe Jesus is omnipresent according to His humanity is inaccurate. To start, Catholics mostly use Matthew 28:20 to refer to the deposit of faith as a whole (sacred tradition and sacred scripture), apostolic succession, the availability of Christ through prayer, and also to His prophesied name Emmanuel “God with us”, not strictly to his presence in the Eucharist. Additionally, Catholics do not believe in the communication of divine properties to Christ’s human nature. There is no confusion or comingling of His divine and human natures.

On Page 128, Dr. Sammons makes another assertion regarding Catholicism:

“The Lord’s Supper (communion) is often an area in which people discuss this theological issue [Christ’s Presence]. Roman Catholics believe Jesus’ human nature is actually present in the elements of the eucharist during the Mass. The bread and wine are thought to be converted into His literal body and His human blood in this ritual (known as “transubstantiation”). But this confuses the distinction of his properties, the distinction of natures, by asserting that the human body can be omnipresent.”

This is a misrepresentation of Catholic Teaching. Dr. Sammons is not the first to arrive at this conclusion based on a misunderstanding of the earliest teachings about the Eucharist. During the 1st and 2nd centuries, the idea that Christians were cannibals and eating literal human flesh was propagated by the pagan Romans as an excuse to persecute Christians. Saint Justin Martyr wrote his First Apology to counter these claims, and to clarify that Christians are not eating literal human flesh and do not believe the bread and wine is turned into literal flesh and blood. The presence is not literal, rather it is sacramental.

Catholic Conception of Sacramentality

Catholics believe that Christ is sacramentally present in the Eucharist. Sacramentality in this case means physical and unmediated presence. In no other way than the Eucharist does God make His presence available (post- Incarnation and resurrection) in a physical and unmediated way. His omnipresence in the rest of creation is real but is not sacramental.

God’s presence is direct and physical in the Eucharist. His body was limited by physical locality before the resurrection. Post-resurrection, however, He no longer has that limitation. Rather, Christ was multilocal, and He continues to be multilocal. His glorified humanity is at the right hand of the Father, but it is not necessarily affixed there.

Ubiquity

Dr. Sammons asserts that both Lutherans and Catholics hold to the total ubiquity of Christ in His human nature. Martin Luther and the Swabian Lutherans believed this, but Catholics do not. Luther asserted that Christ’s human nature had been deified, and that His body was in the Eucharist as it was elsewhere. This assertion bordered on the heresy of monophysitism, and is a misinterpretation of the concept of communicatio idiomatum (the communication of properties), the sharing of attributes across one nature to the other.

Chemnitz and the Saxon divines called Luther’s view a monstrosity, and taught that only a relative ubiquity, depending on Christ’s will (hence called volipraesentia, or multivolipraesentia, aka multilocation), who may be present with His whole person wherever He pleases to be or has promised to be. Unknowingly, Chemnitz and the Saxon divines were in alignment with and defended Catholic beliefs.

Scriptural foundation for the concept of multilocation

Catholics believe Christ becomes truly present in His body and blood (human nature) because of multilocation. The idea of multilocation, also known as bilocation, is addressed several times in the New Testament, especially involving Christ’s flesh and blood resurrected body. These instances were not spiritual theophanies, but rather Christ appearing in the fullness of the Hypostasis. As depicted in Luke 24:38–43, Jesus was a real physical being when He asked the apostles to touch His wounds, and He ate a fish in front of them. Further examples of this presence are below:

  1. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:11–18)
  2. Jesus appeared to the women returning from the empty tomb (Matthew 28:8–10)
  3. Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12,13; Luke 24:13–35)
  4. Jesus appeared to Peter (Luke 13:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5)
  5. Jesus appeared to his disciples, in Jerusalem (Mark 15:14–18; Luke 24:36–49; John 20:24–29)
  6. Jesus appeared to his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 28:16; John 21:1,2)
  7. Jesus is seen by 500 believers at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6)
  8. Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
  9. Jesus appeared to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16–20)
  10. Jesus appeared to his disciples (Luke 24:50–53)
  11. Jesus appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:3–6; 1 Corinthians 15:8)

Catholics believe that the superabundant presence of the human nature of Christ in the Eucharist via multilocation is prefigured in the feedings of the 5000 and 4000 in Matthew 14:16–21, and Matthew 15:32–39 respectively. This is emphasized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1335:

The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through His disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of the unique bread of His Eucharist, (church, C. (1997)).

Ultimately, from the Catholic perspective, the Eucharist is only possible with a fully human, fully deity Christ. The miracle of the Eucharist does not annihilate His humanity, nor does it pit His human nature against His divinity. Like many other propositions that lead to misunderstanding between Catholics and protestants, this is a “both/and”, not an “either/or”.

Distinctives in Presence — Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed Thought

I want to take the opportunity to highlight the differences in beliefs held between the various denominations that I have thoroughly studied.

Catholic Distinctives

The real presence of Christ has been held by the early Church and the Church fathers since the beginning of Christendom. The achievement of the Real Presence of the Eucharist is through the miracle of Transubstantiation.

1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”

1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.

1413 By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651). (#1376–77; 1413) (Church, C. (1997))

Transubstantiation is derived from Aristotelian metaphysics, which deals in the concepts of substances and accidents, and is described in more detail in Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae:

“For it is evident that every agent acts according as it is in act. But every created agent is limited in its act, as being of a determinate genus and species: and consequently the action of every created agent bears upon some determinate act. Now the determination of everything in actual existence comes from its form. Consequently, no natural or created agent can act except by changing the form in something; and on this account every change made according to nature’s laws is a formal change. But God is infinite act, as stated in I:7:1; III:26:2; hence His action extends to the whole nature of being. Therefore He can work not only formal conversion, so that diverse forms succeed each other in the same subject; but also the change of all being, so that, to wit, the whole substance of one thing be changed into the whole substance of another. And this is done by Divine power in this sacrament; for the whole substance of the bread is changed into the whole substance of Christ’s body, and the whole substance of the wine into the whole substance of Christ’s blood. Hence this is not a formal, but a substantial conversion; nor is it a kind of natural movement: but, with a name of its own, it can be called “transubstantiation.”

(Question 75. the change of bread and wine into the body and blood of christ. SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ (Tertia Pars, Q. 75). (n.d.)).

In basic summary, the substance (essence) of bread and wine is replaced with the full body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ at the moment of consecration, although the accidents (physical attributes) of bread and wine remain. The Eucharist will always look, smell, and taste of bread; if you take it to a laboratory, it will not be distinct from an unconsecrated host. Rather, the change is to its substance, so that it is in essence truly Christ.

Lutheran Distinctives

Much like the Catholic Church, Luther also professed a physical and true presence in the host, and a sacramental presence as well. The difference in belief is that Lutherans believe Christ does not become the articles of communion (bread and wine), but rather that He is subsumed by the articles. Essentially, Christ is above, below, around, and within the communion, so rather than it being a full, true and real presence, Christ shares the essence of Bread and Wine. Outside of the Lutheran Church, this change is called “Consubstantiation.” Consubstantiation is the belief that rather than a change of the substance, it is an amalgamation of the substance of bread, wine, and Christ. Within the Lutheran church this change is called a “sacramental union”. This also ties into the Lutheran idea of ubiquity, which was contended against by Phillip Melanchthon, which became more prominent between one change to the Augsburg Confession to another:

● Edition of 1530: “Concerning the Lord’s Supper, they teach that the body and blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed (communicated) to those that eat in the Lord’s Supper; and they disapprove of those that teach otherwise.”

● Edition of 1540: “Concerning the Lord’s Supper, they teach that with bread and wine are truly exhibited the body and blood of Christ to those that eat in the Lord’s Supper.”

Johann Eck was the first to call attention to the change, in a conference at Worms, 1541. Debates followed, and the Ubiquitarian controversy arose, the question being: Is the body of Christ in the Eucharist, and if so, why? The Confession of 1540 was known as the Reformed doctrine. To this Melanchthon, with his adherents, subscribed, and maintained that Christ’s body was not in the Eucharist. For, the Eucharist was everywhere, and it was impossible, they contended, for a body to be in many places simultaneously.

(Ubiquitarians. CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Ubiquitarians. (n.d.)).

In the Formula of Concord the idea of a purely divine presence of Christ is rejected:

(32) 13. That Christ is present with us on earth in the Word, the Sacraments, and in all our troubles, only according to His divinity, and that this presence does not at all pertain to His human nature, according to which also, as they say, He, after having redeemed us by His suffering and death, has nothing to do with us any longer upon earth. (The formula of Concord ~ epitome. · BookOfConcord.org. (n.d.)).

Note that this is directed sharply towards the Reformed Heidelberg Catechism, which shows how clear the distinction between reformed and Lutheran beliefs is.

Reformed Distinctives

Unlike either Catholics or Lutherans, Reformed do not believe in a physical presence in communion, instead adhering to a spiritual (pneumatic) presence. John Calvin according to his Tracts, stated the following regarding the spiritual presence:

Now, if it be asked whether the bread is the body of Christ and the wine His blood, we answer, that the bread and the wine are visible signs, which represent to us the body and blood, but that this name and title of body and blood is given to them because they are as it were instruments by which the Lord distributes them to us. This form and manner of speaking is very appropriate. For as the communion which we have with the body of Christ is a thing incomprehensible, not only to the eye but to our natural sense, it is there visibly demonstrated to us. For as the communion which we have with the body of Christ is a thing incomprehensible, not only to the eye but to our natural sense, it is there visibly demonstrated to us. Of this we have a striking example in an analogous case. Our Lord, wishing to give a visible appearance to His Spirit at the baptism of Christ, presented Him under the form of a dove.

Some reformed have delved into the memorialist mindset of Ulrich Zwingli, wherein the communion is strictly symbolic rather than having any presence at all.

Summary

As stated in Part 1, Dr. Sammons’ baseless allegations regarding Catholic beliefs do nothing but spread mistruths and harm efforts of fulfilling Christ’s call for Christians to be one. I am wounded to see that this is the stance taken by Grace Community Church as a whole, and that graduates of The Masters Seminary appeal to triumphalist platitudes and slander when speaking of other sects of Christianity, most especially against the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

To reiterate, The Catholic Church does not hold to the idea of total ubiquity of the human nature of Christ as asserted by Dr. Sammons. In reality the Church upholds the deposit of faith in accordance with sacred scripture and tradition. Ludwig Ott makes a very applicable statement in the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

[Luther] explained the possibility of the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ by the aid of the untenable Ubiquity Doctrine, according to which the human nature of Christ by virtue of the Hypostatic Union, has a real share in the properties of the Deity, and thereby also in the omnipresence of God. [372, emphasis added] (Ott, L., Lynch, P., & Bastible, J. (2018)).

This ubiquity stance mentioned above is rejected by Catholicism, and is bordering on Monophysitism that was put down in the First Council of Nicaea in 325 (that Christ was divine (consubstantial (ὁμοούσιος) with the Father), and human (was incarnate and became man)), in the Council of Ephesus in 431 (which emphasized that Christ was one person, not two persons (divine and human)), and the Council of Chalcedon in 451 (Christ is two natures (divine and human) within one person). The ability for Christ to be multilocal is in no way contradictory to scripture or tradition, and is not a divine trait, leaving His natures intact. The substantial change to the articles of communion is not a literal transmutation, rather it is a change of the substance brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Despite Dr. Sammons’ assertion the miracle of the Eucharist is not a literal change, we are not eating human flesh and drinking human blood during the Mass. This is not a corpse that we are partaking of either, as in cannibalism, rather this is the living body, blood, soul, and divinity made apparent to us in a way that does not diminish Christ, but enhances our spiritual life. As shown above there is no confusion of Christ’s properties, and this has been the prevailing belief in Christendom up until the novelties of the protestant reformation. John 6, 1 Corinthians 10, 11, and the writings of the church fathers such as Saints Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Cyril of Jerusalem wrote of this presence. Even Origen held to the real presence.

We must always appeal not only to scripture, as good Bereans should, but also to history whenever we review or seek to understand any doctrines put forward. As Saint Vincent of Lerins said, “All possible care must be taken that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.” Ultimately that same faith is the faith of our fathers, the faith of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

References

church, C. (1997). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vatican.

The formula of Concord ~ epitome. · BookOfConcord.org. (n.d.). https://bookofconcord.org/epitome/

John, & John. (1898). St john damascene on Holy Images (Pros Tous Diaballontas Tas Hagias Eikonas): Followed by three sermons on the assumption (koimēsis). Thomas Baker.

Lumen gentium. (n.d.). https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

NASB bible. (2007). . Hendrickson Publishers Inc.

Ott, L., Lynch, P., & Bastible, J. (2018). Fundamentals of catholic dogma. Baronius Press.

Question 75. the change of bread and wine into the body and blood of christ. SUMMA THEOLOGIAE: The change of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ (Tertia Pars, Q. 75). (n.d.). https://www.newadvent.org/summa/4075.htm

Sammons, P. (2023). The forgotten attributes of god: God’s nature and why it matters. CLC Pub.

Ubiquitarians. CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Ubiquitarians. (n.d.). https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15117a.htm