How did Calvin view the Lord's Supper/ Real Presence?

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Jash Comstock

Puritan Board Freshman
What was Calvin's view of the Real Presence in the Supper? From the tracts and treatises I have read, it seems like he took a different view than many modern Prebyterians. Does anyone know more about this?


Puritan Board Professor
I suppose most modern presbyterians may view the Real Presence of the Supper, in that Jesus is spiritual present with His people at the Supper. We might describe that as, "Jesus has spiritually come down to where we are". I think that connotation is somehow there in the thought processes.

However, Calvin's view and the Biblical view (in my opinion), is that in the Supper (and generally speaking in public worship) we are spiritually present with Jesus before the throne of grace (in heaven). So we might describe that as, "We spiritually go up to where He is." Somewhat like how we are commanded to pray, "Therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace..."

I'm trying to think of the word Calvin uses to describe all of this, and I am thinking it is 'virtualism'. But I'm waiting for someone to correct me.

Historically, in liturgy this is shown through the sursum corda (Spelling?) Leader: "Lift up your hearts." Response: "We lift them up to the Lord." that was often done at the beginning or near the beginning of worship after the call to worship.


Puritan Board Sophomore
My own church teaches more in lines of Calvin, which as I misunderstand it is that Christians are spiritually present before Christ in heaven.


Puritan Board Graduate
Historically, in liturgy this is shown through the sursum corda (Spelling?) Leader: "Lift up your hearts." Response: "We lift them up to the Lord." that was often done at the beginning or near the beginning of worship after the call to worship.

The BCP has it right before the words of institution.


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
We affirm both the reality and (more importantly) the spirituality of the presence of Christ in the meal, and at the meal. The Standards of the Reformed churches do a good job of encapsulating and restating Calvin's views.

Here are two paragraphs of the Belgic Confession, Art.35:
...To represent to us the spiritual and heavenly bread, Christ has instituted earthly and visible bread as a sacrament of His body and wine as a sacrament of His blood. He testifies to us that as certainly as we take and hold the sacrament in our hands and eat and drink it with our mouths, by which our physical life is then sustained, so certainly do we receive by faith, as the hand and mouth of our soul, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Saviour, in our souls for our spiritual life.

It is beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ did not commend His sacraments to us in vain. Therefore He works in us all that He represents to us by these holy signs. We do not understand the manner in which this is done, just as we do not comprehend the hidden activity of the Spirit of God. Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what we eat and drink is the true, natural body and the true blood of Christ. However, the manner in which we eat it is not by mouth but in the spirit by faith. In that way Jesus Christ always remains seated at the right hand of God His Father in heaven; yet He does not cease to communicate Himself to us by faith. This banquet is a spiritual table at which Christ makes us partakers of Himself with all His benefits and gives us the grace to enjoy both Himself and the merit of His suffering and death. He nourishes, strengthens, and comforts our poor, desolate souls by the eating of His flesh, and refreshes and renews them by the drinking of His blood.

Here's the Westminster Confession, 29:7
Worthy receivers outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.
The Westminster definition is precisely sharper and shorter, but is only a condensed version of the same view found in the Belgic, there possessed of a kind of earnest affirmation of the historic Christian faith, but shorn of (late) Patristic and Medieval philosophical notions regarding the nature and work of "mysteries" and "essences."

But it also reflects the differences between what became the distinct Lutheran view, and the (genuine) Reformed view. The Lutherans insist on a corporeal or tangible presence attached to the elements--not the Roman transubstantiation view, but still a mediating view in which the partakers manducate and swallow the body and blood of the Lord (matter) in a physical or "corporeal" manner.

It is asserted by Lutherans that the Reformed view is indistinguishable from the "Zwinglian" or "memorialist" view. But this we deny, since we affirm a true participation in that body and blood, and do not engage at the meal in mere reflection on the death of Christ.
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