Church: The Eucharist is not bread and wine, but the body and blood of Jesus, according to his own word.
Protestant: So then, you’re saying the Eucharist is bread and wine.
Church: No, I’m…
Protestant: So since you believe the Eucharist is bread and wine, you’re saying God is bread and wine.
Church: No. I’m saying that there is no brea…
Protestant: So you teach that the Eucharist is God, Man, bread and wine.
Protestant: Man! I am *hammering* you with my brilliance! It’s amazing nobody for 2000 years thought of this till I came along.
Protestant: No need to thank me. I was obviously born for this hour, to lead the Church out of this amazingly simple mistake they’ve been making for two thousand years. Now let me tell you what you believe about the Trinity. You’re never gonna believe it!
Memo to Protestants eager to save Catholics from the Catholic faith. Before refuting something, find out if the thing you are refuting is what the person you are refuting believes. Begin by finding out if the belief you are refuting is even in the same galaxy as the person you are speaking with.
Here’s the deal with the breezy “Obviously the Church is wrong and the Eucharist is just a symbol and I can tell that by a brief glance at my Bible” line of argument:
In the first thousand years of the Church you simply cannot find anybody who regards the Eucharist as “just a symbol”. Everybody understands it as the body and blood of Jesus. The reading of Scripture you regard as “self-evident” (essentially Zwinglian) is an extremely late and obviously divergent view from what *every* apostolic Church—not just us dread mackerel snappers, but Orthodox, Coptic, Chaldean, Indian—*every* apostolic Church understood Jesus to mean for 2000 solid years. That view is traceable not only back to people like Ignatius of Antioch, who heard John with his own ears, (as well as multiple other Fathers, with *nobody* taking the Zwinglian view) but to the plain meaning of Scripture itself: “This is my body. This is my blood. If you receive unworthily, you are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. This bread is my flesh, etc.” Indeed, even many early reformers such as Luther and the Anglicans are much closer to Catholic belief about the Eucharist than your crackers and grape juice “symbolism” view.
So, what you are asking me to believe is that *everybody* everywhere in the ancient Church—north, south, east, west, across the entire ancient world from India to Spain and from Scotland and Norway down to Egypt—all of them—were so massively stupid that they could not grasp that Jesus was obviously speaking symbolically and they—all of them—stupidly concluded that this obviously symbolic language really meant that it was the body and blood of Jesus. You are asking me to believe the apostles were epically bad teachers who spent some fifty years teaching the gospel, only to reap of harvest of moron so dumb that they couldn’t tell the difference between a symbolic piece of bread and the body of Jesus. You are asking to believe that you are 2000 years smarter and have just figured it out, along with a tiny minority of fellow Protestants.
I’m also to believe that the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout history, including people who heard the apostles with their own ears, made such a bone-headed and illiterate blunder with no record of anybody ever saying, “Dude, Jesus was just using a figure of speech. Learn to read!” And all this happened without these same bone-headed Christians ever declaring that Jesus had a doorknob for a nose, or that Jesus was covered with wool because he was literally a Lamb, or that Jesus was made of asphalt because he was the Way. In short, you are asking me to be believe all Christians everywhere were massively stupid about the Eucharist (until you came along) but no Christians anywhere were massively stupid about all the other symbolic things Jesus said. They could figure out that Jesus not literally a door, a road, or a shepherd, but they could not understand that the bread and wine were just symbols–till you.
Excuse me if I think your stupendous arrogance is blinding you to the possibility that you haven’t thought things through clearly. The simple fact is, if Jesus and the apostles wanted to teach a purely symbolic view of the Eucharist they could and would have done so very easily. Indeed, it is was in their interest to do so since, as John 6:66 makes clear, the doctrine of the Eucharist as the flesh and blood of Jesus was massively offensive. But they did not. And the proof of that? The fact that nobody, anywhere, understood the Eucharist to be a symbol once the apostles were done founding the first generation of Churches.
Think again, and abandon the amazingly vain supposition that wisdom was born with you.