Why Lutherans don’t believe in consubstantiation

While browsing through the bookstore at Concordia Publishing House at my final board meeting, I came across a book entitled Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Counterpoints: Church Life).  It featured a Roman Catholic, a Lutheran, a Calvinist, and a Baptist reflecting on each tradition’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper, with each participant also responding to that understanding.  It was a good format for theological debate.  Anyway, David Scaer ably presented the Lutheran position.  I appreciated his explanation of why the term “consubstantiation,” which the Catholics and the Reformed say is what Lutherans believe is rejected by Lutherans themselves.

The term, he says, indicates that there are two “substances” in the Lord’s supper.  That, however, keeps them apart, as two separate things.  The Lutheran confessions speak rather of a “sacramental union.”  The bread and the wine are somehow united to Christ’s Body and Blood.  Thinking in terms of “consubstantiation” misses that entirely. (As does “transubstantiation.”  The Roman Catholic participant in the forum did not realize that Lutherans hold such a high view of the Sacrament.  Actually, it could be argued that Lutherans hold a higher view than Roman Catholics do.)