As I have watched the intinction debates unfold, both on the floor of General Assembly and in cyberspace since then, it has seemed that often times, both sides are talking past or around each other. So I created this chart that may be helpful in the discussion.
The area marked “1” is the physical stuff of communion. Things like do we use wine or juice. What counts as bread and what doesn’t. Gluten-free? Should we use a common cup or many cups. How should the table be set. The PCA has a huge diversity of practice in this area. Almost every church, for practicality or theology, does this differently.
The area marked “2” could be called sacramental action. How do we distribute and take the elements. Do we come forward or stay seated? Do we pass plates? Do we take the bread and wine separately or use intinction? This is where the debate currently lies in the PCA. The top line in the chart corresponds to a traditional means of taking communion. The bottom represents intinction.
The red lenses on the boundary between “2” and “3” represent the signs themselves as we receive them. In the case of the top line, a separate bread and cup. In the case of the lower line, bread dipped in wine.
The final area, “3” is the thing that the sacrament points to. In the case of the top line, it points directly to the last supper (and by extension the eschatological feast). When we take communion this way we can easily remember the way Jesus dined with His disciples on the night on which he was betrayed. This form of communion then only points to the cross by extension. On the other hand intinction symbolizes the cross, where we are reminded of Christ’ blood soaked body. We are secondarily pointed back to the last supper.
The debate, thus far is all about area “2” and our sacramental action. The difficulty is that a number of folks, myself included when I first realized there was even a question about this, accuse those who stand against intinction of an inconsistently atomistic reading of the text. They argue, it says “drink”; intinction isn’t drinking (an area 2 argument). Others respond, it says “wine”; why do you use juice? (an area 1 argument). This seems to be a well meaning red herring.
It seems to me that area 1 is going to have tons of varied opinions and arguing here is vain. What I am suggesting is that we talk about the things that our sacramental actions symbolize and signify. What are they pointing to. We need to discuss more about “body” and “blood” and that will inform the way we use eat/drink/bread/wine.
What do you think?