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This Is My Body: A Peek at What I’m Reading for life: unmasked

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. (John 6:53-59)

Every time I read this part of the Gospel of John, I think, “Whaaaaaaaat???” It sounds stunningly Catholic. And also, just plain freaky. This week’s life: unmasked post is a vlog I recorded on these verses (RSS and email readers, click here to view on my webpage).

Click here to order your own copy of This Is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers The Real Presence.

We are all too aware of our differences. I’d love to see us seek out and learn from one another, from both the differences and those things we hold in common.

What do you love most about a faith tradition that differs from your own?

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  1. Thank you for taking a step towards redemption — and for reflecting honestly — on something that can be so baffling. I’m not Catholic, but I worked at a Catholic school for a time. It was challenging and a truly redemptive experience. As I learned, I was challenged to look deeper into my own faith (Protestant). I will always be grateful for the experience, and for the mutual celebration of what is the same in the two.

    • Thank you for your comment, Sarah. I would love to see us more readily acknowledge that we can learn from one another, both the similarities and the differences.

    • how is studying Catholicism a “step toward redemption?” If a person believes the gospel, she is redeemed. Jesus is the redeemer. His work is finished. We can’t add to what Christ has done. He is a perfect Redeemer.

      • Ray, I misspoke; thanks for your comment. I absolutely agree that redemption is finished and complete in Christ. The essence of what I meant to say was metaphorical — and, as I’m now seeing, misleading. Thanks for pointing this out.

      • Ray, words like redemption have multiple meanings and can be used in various contexts. By holding Sarah to YOUR personal and single interpretation of the word “redemption,” you entirely miss the point of her comment. Her point was that being among Christians who practiced their faith differently enabled her to have a kind of redeeming experience; ie. a renewal, a refreshing, a new perspective.

        By the way, Catholics also believe the work of redemption you’re referring to is finished and complete in Christ. 🙂

  2. I want to read that book now. I was raised Baptist, but one of my good childhood friends was Catholic and my mother always taught us that they were Christians as well so fortunately when I became an adult and heard teachers and others in our church speaking so ill of Catholics I wasn’t swayed by their thoughts.

    • It’s weird, my knee-jerk reaction to “my mother always taught us that they were Christians as well” is “Huh? Of course Catholics are Christians. They came first!” But when I think about it, I’m pretty sure I was taught they weren’t. Maybe I just didn’t listen well. 🙂

      • I don’t know that it was something that was expressly taught outright or more of an implied lesson I learned. As an adult and moving to a small town I have encountered people who are very damning of Catholics including a pastor’s wife who taught a Sunday School class and regularly bashed Catholics. I’ve also had someone say that if a person adheres strictly to the tenets of Catholicism that they are not a Christian. It frustrates me to no end.

  3. My best friend is Assembly of God converted to Catholic and I’ve learned so much from her about the beauty of the Catholic church. I always use a liturgical devotion (generally written by a Catholic priest) during the Lenten season and that has added to my appreciation for the depth of Catholic beliefs.

    Beautiful post, Joy, and so important that ALL – Catholics and Protestants alike – learn to accept one another and encourage each other’s faith walk, even when it is different from our own.

    • Exactly — we can learn from each other. There’s so much richness and depth in both both Protestant and Catholic practice that can be unifying, not divisive.

  4. “All I know about Catholicism I learned from Baptists, which … isn’t the best way to learn.” I laughed at that statement because it is perfectly accurate!

    I am SBC born and raised, but from the first moment I attended Mass with my best friend as a five year old, I felt pretty sure that I was meant to be Catholic. In fact, I’ve long said I am a heart-Catholic trapped in the body of an Evangelical.

    Thank you for sharing this insight on this puzzling and challenging passage from the Gospel. I really want to read this book!

  5. I’ve never thought that the ordinary rank and file in the Catholic church were automatically heretics. But what the Reformers reacted against in the 16th Century was largely heresy in the Catholic Church. And the Catholic leadership affirmed what the Reformers were trying to change. And this to this day as well. I agreed in my last FB post that we CAN learn from other traditions, but I am very cautious because of the obvious-there are a lot of errors out there. The Council of Trent ANATHEMATIZED any who affirmed Justification by Faith Alone. That stands today. This is one reason why I hesitate to look for guidance from the Catholic Church. They’ve anathematized the GOSPEL!
    I agree that all of us should look much deeper into the words of Jesus in John 6 and see exactly what links there are to his later institution of the Lord’s Supper, but it sounded like you may have been concluding from this tiny section of the book you are reading that Catholicism is okay. I don’t know if that is what you intended to say, but it’s what it sounded like. I didn’t hear enough in what you read to draw the same conclusion.

    • The Gospel isn’t justification by faith alone…that’s salvation. If you live in a way that turns that into the Gospel, then your existence must be the sort of narrow, terrible place that I abandoned several years ago.

      Christ came to do a lot more than just die for us so that we wouldn’t burn, and part of emulating Him requires a lot more than just “faith”. Not that faith means the same thing to us that it did 2000 years ago, either.

    • Ray, I added a couple sentences after the post to hopefully clarify a little more what my intention here was.

  6. Thank you, Joy, for recognizing me as a sister in Christ.
    Yes, I’m Catholic. Just as it is difficult for some Protestants to understand how we can believe a wafer and cup of wine become Jesus’s body and blood, I find it difficult to understand how Protestants can disbelieve that Jesus’s words create the very thing He is speaking. Still, that doesn’t mean we aren’t brothers and sisters in Jesus. After all, families disagree with one another all the time without disowning one another, don’t they?
    Thank you for reading Mark Shea’s book and trying to understand what we believe from our perspective.

  7. We’re all on a journey to finding joy in the every day life of Christ…we all have interpretations and although they vary from slightly to drastically..we believe in Christ and that’s what I look at.

  8. I was reading in the Catholic Encyclopedia and thought I’d share:
    Topic: Justification

    • You are trying to further an argument that isn’t happening, Ray. What do you feel that this is necessary? Who are you performing for? Do you feel that you must provide correction for these poor women, or something?

      • No thoughts of “poor women” here. Not sure what you’re getting at. I’m not performing for anyone. I have seen some who once embraced the gospel of grace in Christ investigate Catholicism only to abandon the faith they once embraced. Joy is a friend of mine and so I post here with a serious, loving concern. True, the topic here isn’t Justification by Faith alone. I disagree with Catholicism on their view of the Mass and their view of Justification. I brought it up as a caution.

        • I was reading on the “Sacrifice of the Mass” at the Catholic Encyclopedia. It’s long and deep. Yup, I still disagree.


        • Hey Ray, I’m a personal friend of Joy’s, too. But the way I express “concern” for her immortal soul is by loving her unconditionally and without judgment. I don’t feel the need to post “cautionary” comments on her site or try to start arguments with her readers. What you’re doing is attacking her in a passive-aggressive manner.

          If you were really and truly “concerned” for her? You would show a little respect for Joy’s intelligence and ability to discern her way through ANY question she has.

          Because that’s what true friends do.

          • Sorry I’m not a true friend…that I’m so judgmental and passive-aggressive…
            Joy knows I mean no disrespect for her or her intelligence.
            As for starting arguments with her readers… huh? I feel that I’ve not been able to speak my mind without others attacking me on this topic. I know that Joy welcomes responses from all readers (even me). I love Joy and her family and have not had any of the wrong motives assigned to me in my posts here.
            I am no fan of the Catholic Mass and have stated that. I didn’t think I had to agree and affirm everything in order to post here.

            • Oh dear.

              Ray, you don’t have to agree with everything I say. (It makes me laugh to even WRITE that. As if I could make you! Or you me!)

              I have to admit a teensy bit of delight that you’re actually reading Catholic catechism because of my posts. Is that bad? 🙂

              While I don’t understand all of Catholic teaching, and I don’t agree that all of it is the right or only valid teaching on a given topic, I weary of all the focus on differences. We do share so much in common and we can learn from each other. That’s what I was trying to get at.

              • Hi Joy! I certainly didn’t think YOU expect me to agree with everything you post. My comments were directed to Elizabeth. She made some unwarranted assumptions about me. Also, I have read on the Mass long before you posted this here. I have a copy of a Roman Catholic Missal that explains the service and meaning of the Mass. I agree we can learn much from other traditions. I think that we must use caution when studying a tradition like Catholicism that also has SO MUCH wrong with it.

    • I remember reading about the Catholic understanding of justification and sanctification and discovering they flip-flop from Protestants — instantly sanctified, justified over your lifetime. Totally disorienting.

  9. Thank you so much for respecting Catholicism enough to read the book and to want to understand the Catholic experience of the Eucharist.

    When I heard you say, “Catholics are not heretics or demon-possessed”, I laughed out loud, but then I realized that it is not funny – because I know a lot of Baptist churches do teach this about Catholics. (And other Protestant denominations as well.) After I laughed, I felt deep appreciation for this statement, because to believe this about a Catholic brother or sister because of what he or she believes about the Eucharist is just wrong.

    I am Catholic, but I do not feel I have to accept every thing that comes down from Rome because I am. And it is common for Protestants to believe that we are expected to be the Pope’s hand puppet. We have our own minds and our own consciences, and we live by them – but most importantly, we live by the life within us, the Holy Spirit, just as you (Protestants) do.

    Thank you again, Joy –

    • “I do not feel I have to accept every thing that comes down from Rome.” YES. This is definitely something I’ve heard from Protestants — that you have to fall directly in line with every teaching from Rome. It has been fascinating to meet Catholics who use their minds and consciences and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading — as a Protestant I didn’t think that was possible. Crazy, right?

  10. I was raised Catholic and we were taught Baptists were the devil. I grew up to become a born-again baptist only to find they taught Catholics were the devil. Good thing God himself saved me out of that miry mess. LOL

  11. The unity, yes, is lacking. We are better for seeking another vantage point and asking questions to truly understand. That is the kingdom here.

  12. We get that on the Nazarene side as well. “oh, so you must believe X”. How do you know? Everybody’s got their broad stereotypes that don’t necessarily apply well in practice.

  13. Oops…I posted my comment in the wrong place. Here it is!
    This is great, to the point, and dispels so many myths at once. Your summary was so shocking to me – is it really taught that Catholics are heretics or demons? I’ve always seen them as our forerunners of the faith…going where others refused to go for centuries now. I know some in my own family (former Catholics, ironically) have a huge struggle with priests as Fathers (and indeed Jesus said “call no man father but for me”) and the doctrine of reincarnate Eucharist (which they see as sacrificing Christ afresh each mass). I have struggled with the Eucharist in Catholic churches as through marriage I am now part of one great big Catholic family. My question, re-reading these verses and watching your vlog, is: What if Jesus offers Himself afresh as a sign to us, the still suffering? A sign of the great wonder that is transformation through suffering, a sign pointing to His finishing grace in accepting His cross?

    • I can’t do it justice, but the book talks about the eternality of Christ and about God’s existence outside of time, so that Mass doesn’t sacrifice Jesus again, it celebrates the eternal sacrifice of his body. Does that make any sense? It IS a mystery and a sign to us about the lengths God goes to mend what is broken in the world and in us. It was fascinating reading. I’d be happy to share the book with you – it’s very short and an easy read.

  14. I enjoyed your perspective on this topic Joy. I am Baptist, though I have not always been. The churches of my childhood were more ‘charistmatic’ in their teachings and I remember them having the mindset that pretty much everyone else was going to hell.

    I think there is much beauty and even comfort to be found in the traditions of the Catholic Church and other denominations even though I do not agree with all of their doctrine. I don’t necessarily believe everything Baptists teach either. We should seek out our common ground and connect on those levels instead of dwelling on differences.

    Ultimately, we are all sinners, and we all need a Savior.

    • Yes! If we are humble and teachable, we can find common ground and build from there. I fear the arrogance of being right about everything. It is blinding and hurtful.

  15. Growing up my extended family included Baptists, Presbyterians, and Catholics. I attended a Catholic school as a non-Catholic for three years in Houston and an Episcopal school for one year and change. We attended a wide array of Christian churches at one point or another. I remember the moment that most deeply marked me was kneeling at the altar rail taking communion at an Episcopal church. One of my first cousins married into a Jewish family and converted to Judaism. (Even before that, my family had had Jewish friends and had been to some Seders and other events.) We also had Hindu and Buddhist friends and explored those traditions too. I learned Tarot from my Mom as a child. The list goes on. I’m not sure it’s possible to have a childhood formation more thoroughly pluralistic than mine.

    With that said, I have two thoughts. First, Catholics are not the only ones who, at least originally, believed the bread and wine were the body and blood of Christ, at least in some sense. In fact, of the original reformers, only Zwingli took the strict memorial and representational view. So all the modern denominations that hold that view are fundamentally Zwinglian in nature. Moreover, it’s impossible to find any real trace of such a belief in Christian history prior to Zwingli. The belief originated with him. In my perspective, when studying a two thousand year old faith, that alone discredited it in my eyes. It was not only novel, but it contradicted all previous belief and practice going back to the earliest records we have from the first century. (And indeed, it takes quite a few intellectual jumps to twist Scripture so it conforms to Zwingli’s views.) Zwingli’s views were actually rooted in what, in his time, was the new secular divide — the idea that some things were of God and others were “ordinary” or had some sort of existence independent of God. His views have become increasingly popular as we have become an increasingly secular culture. Remember, the secular perspective is not essentially atheistic. Rather, it holds that some things are in God’s sphere and some things aren’t. Once you start from that assumption, it’s natural to hold that water is merely water, oil is merely oil, and bread and wine are merely bread and wine.

    One note I will make, Catholicism is not a “denomination”. Denominationalism is a Protestant thing. It began in Protestantism and belongs wholly to it. Protestants splintered from the first and have been splintering ever since — to the point where it’s hard to see how they will move forward over the next couple of generations. They are practically down to being a bunch of “churches of one” now.

    The better term when you look outside Protestantism is tradition. So one tradition, with its tens of thousands of denominations, is Protestantism. Another tradition is Catholicism, which is essentially the ancient tradition of the West. Another ancient tradition is Orthodoxy. You’ll get differing opinions about which tradition went astray according to whom you talk. Personally, I find the Orthodox case more compelling, but I also see some of the straits Rome was in during the later centuries of the first millenium and the actions they took as a result. Another tradition would be the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox churches. Theologically, modern Eastern and “Oriental” theologians have agreed they actually mean the same thing about Christ in the words they use, but communion is not yet restored. Looking back, the problems appear to be linguistic (those churches did not grasp the Greek nuances of Chalcedon) and political (they also tended to be Churches outside the Roman Empire) more than truly theological. Some would also call Anglicanism its own tradition rather than a Protestant denomination. I can see the merit in that.

    The differences really can’t be glossed over. The different traditions say different and often opposing or contradictory things about the nature of God, of man, and of Christ. They hold opposing views on what the Incarnation meant, what was accomplished on the Cross and in the Resurrection, and on the nature of the Church. A Calvinist’s view of the true nature of things is almost as different from that of an Orthodox Christian’s as they both are from a Hindu’s perspective. Now, I take a more C.S. Lewis view (which was also a view of the ancient Church). We can see where the Church is, but not where it is not. (Although today, it can be confusing to even see where it is.) Thus, even those who believe they serve Tash, may truly be serving Aslan instead.

    It’s complicated. It sounds like you’ve chosen to swallow the red pill. I’m not sure there’s a way back from that path.

    • I always learn something from your comments, Scott. thank you for clarifying the difference between “denomination” and “tradition.” I didn’t know what the right term was.

      I like C.S. Lewis more and more. His view of the atonement resonates much more with me than what my church teaches. I’ve not run across his view that we can see where the Church is but not where it is not. That’s a fascinating idea, and I think I agree with it. Does he go into that in depth in any particular book?

      I’m not sure what you mean about about taking the red pill. It’s been too long since I’ve seen “The Matrix” – I assume that’s what you’re referring to? Care to elaborate? Maybe in an email?

      • I thought I should mention it since Orthodox and Catholic readers listeners (assuming either) alike wouldn’t like being called “denominations”.

        His view of the atonement is essentially that of Athanasius. I have a series walking through “On the Incarnation of the Word” on my blog if you’re interested. I’m not sure where C.S. Lewis goes into it “in depth”. It kinda permeates his works (and is drawn straight from ancient Christianity). I was specifically referencing The Last Battle.

        The red pill is the one Neo took that woke him up from the Matrix. It’s the one he took to see how deep the rabbit hole goes. You’re asking the sort of questions which, if answered honestly, create the rabbit hole. I’m not sure you can unlearn the answers.

    • I’ve read a little of Augustine (4th Century) and it sounds like he wasn’t totally on board with the whole literal body and blood teaching of current Catholicism. If I remember correctly, he had more of a memorial view. I’ll have to look it up. If true, then the memorial view cannot be said to be strictly Zwinglian. Are you familiar with Augustine’s view on this? It’s been awhile since I’ve read any of his works. Just some food for thought.

      • St. Augustine’s view? While he went astray in a few areas (notably in his doctrine of original sin — in large part because he didn’t care for Greek), when it comes to the Eucharist, St. Augustine was a perfectly Orthodox Bishop of the Church of his era.

        A few samples.

        That Bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. Through that bread and wine the Lord Christ willed to commend his body and blood, which he poured out for us unto the forgiveness of sins. (Sermons 227)

        The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread [Luke 24:16,30-35]. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, becomes Christ’s body. (Sermons 234:2)

        What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice [wine] the blood of Christ. (Sermons 272)

        Of course, he wouldn’t have subscribed to the medieval Western Catholic theory of transubstantiation based on Aristotle’s categories of substance and accident. (I wouldn’t subscribe to transubstantiation myself, but I find a lot of people misunderstand it because they don’t understand Aristotle. I try to understand something for what it is before I decide if I agree or disagree.) But that theory was simply an attempt to explain in scholastic terms what the Church had always believed.

        I trace that belief through all the early fathers in a series that starts with the post below, if you’re interested. (Augustine is actually a rather late example.)



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