In a new book on Martin Luther called The Theology of Martin Luther I ran across an important point regarding his understanding of the Lord’s supper. Since I have often found the Lutheran position to be misunderstood I thought this was helpful. Barth writes, “Occasionally Luther uses the particle ‘in’ as well as ‘under,’ but never Melanchthon’s ‘with.’ The formula ‘under, with, in’ has only been used in Lutheran theology since the Formula of Concord. (240) Barth doesn’t go into any details about what the significance of Luther not using “with” but the words of choice for Luther were “in” and “under.” Thankfully, he does not describe Luther’s view as consubstantiation.
I thought this was also interesting. “Luther would rather have ‘only blood’ with the pope than ‘mere wine’ with the fanatics. It was important to him that Christ is really and bodily present, with all his gifts, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, and communicates himself there. The details of how we should conceive that reality may remain open. I ought not to ‘encircle’ God; we may well allow it to be said that it is in the bread, it is the bread, it is where the bread is, or whatever you wish. Over words we do not wish to argue, just so the meaning is retained that it is not mere bread that we eat in Christ’s Supper, but the body of Christ.” (239)
The book is a serious engagement with the theology of Luther. From what I’ve read of it it seems very accessible and well documented. The Theology of Martin Luther is from Fortress Press. It is a hardcover with 600 pages and sells for $39.00. It is translated by from the German edition by Linda Maloney.
Hans-Martin Barth is professor emeritus of systematic theology and philosophy of religion, Faculty of Protestant Theology, Philipps-University Marburg, Germany, and former president of the Evangelical Alliance. He is the author of many works including Dogmatic: Protestant Faith in the Context of World Religions, 3rd edition (2008) and Authentic Feel: Impetus to a New Self-Understanding of Christianity (2010).
Linda M. Maloney is the translator of many works, including Norbert Lohfink’s Theology of the Pentateuch (Fortress Press, 1995) and Gerd Theissen’s The Gospels in Context (Fortress Press, 1992).