Text, Tone and Tension

I recently had a conversation with a Calvinist regarding the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As most of you know, That’s the Catholic Doctrine of Transubstantiation, a doctrine held by the entire Christian world until the advent of Protestantism in 1517. Even then, one major Protestant figure, Martin Luther, was not content to jettison the doctrine. He created a variation of it in which the bread and wine still changed to the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Another major player in Protestantism, John Calvin, created an entirely new concept where the bread and wine were mere symbols of the body and blood of Christ.

The purpose of this blog is not to argue the merits of the three (or more) possibilities. I just wanted to relay how that conversation, between two guys who promised not to offend and to be civil, went straight down a rabbit hole.

Although the Church believes in Sacred Tradition, I find it fun to debate with Protestants using only Scripture. I spent thirty seven years as a devout Protestant so, although I’m no theologian, I can find my way around a Bible.

We were debating the sixth chapter of John, a chapter where Jesus clearly defines and introduces the doctrine of transubstantiation. My Calvinist friend, running from the clear Scriptural truth, insisted that it could not be. It didn’t make sense.

The beauty of the Gospel is that NOTHING makes sense. Would God become a human and be born of a virgin? Could a bit of bread and several fishes feed thousands? Could a man once dead be commanded to walk from a grave? Could the Son of God do the same? It’s all ludicrously true.

He then cited an early philosopher, honestly mistaking his work with that of Clement of Rome, to show that the influential Clement did not hold to the Real Presence. I gently pointed out the case of mistaken identity and he became angry, calling the conversation off, because I was too “emotionally invested” in Catholic doctrine to see the truth. We had a conversation that lasted over the course of several days that ultimately went down in flames because we failed to understand each other.

There’s a great example I like which points out how careful you need to be when putting your own inflection to someone else’s written word. I heard it, I think, from Charles Swindoll. It has always stuck with me. It’s the simple sentence, “I didn’t say you were stupid.”

There’s no inflection in writing except where the reader places it. Let’s conquer that by using capitals. Please trust that I am not shouting. Take “I” didn’t say you were stupid, with emphasis on the first word. ┬áIt’s possible that you are stupid. It’s possible people are talking about it. But, I haven’t said it.

I DIDN’T say you were stupid is a straight up denial. Sort of. It doesn’t rule out the possibility I may say it in the future.

I didn’t SAY you were stupid. I thought it. I’ve accepted it as common knowledge. I just didn’t verbalize it.

I didn’t say YOU were stupid. It’s your mother who is the real dummy.

I didn’t say you WERE stupid. It’s an oncoming thing. No way is your stupidity relegated to the past. It isn’t that you were stupid. It’s that you are stupid right at this very moment.

I didn’t say you were STUPID. But, let me tell you, being stupid would be the least of your problems. Your big problem is that you are ugly. Oh, and you smell really bad. But I didn’t say you were stupid.

Facebook is often hard for me because I frequently misread the intent of a post. I will admit that, for me, joy is fleeting and gloom is permanent. And, because of that, I often place a negative reading on an innocuous comment. I hope you don’t do that too.

It’s important for me to remember, for my Calvinist friend to realize and maybe for you to remember also, that only the reader and not the writer can control how a sentence is read.

Let’s read each others words with the best intent.

One Reply to “Text, Tone and Tension”

  1. This should be required reading before anyone joins any group on Facebook. But frankly, so should a remedial course in English spelling, grammar and punctuation.
    There. I said it.

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