H1N1, Nasty Viruses, the Common Cup, Jewish Heredity and Reason Versus Faith

A few days ago I pulled a long quote from Pastoral Meanderings and now have included the link to his post.

At the risk of being a one-note Betty, he posted todayregarding the Common Cup and disease tranmission, including summaries of actual, honest-to-goodness medical studies. It is excellent, and you should read it.

But I have one thing to offer.

Isn’t it funny how a pastor can tell a person, “You cannot get sick from drinking the blood of Jesus Christ,” and people will wonder. But when a scientist says, “The probability of disease transmission using a common cup at religious services is as close to zero as possible and presents no genuine risk to participants,” people believe them? Why is it that medicine often carries more cache than theology?

Here is another example. I am Jewish. I was raised culturally as an American of German/English descent, and baptized as a Lutheran six weeks after I was born. But several years ago my mother discovered that her direct maternal great-grandmother was a German Jew who was buried in the Jewish Cemetary in her village near Hanover. Jews trace heredity through the mother, and through the mother alone. She’s Jewish, so I’m Jewish, but my children are not. In other words, even if my father was named Saul Moishe Goldstein, if my mother didn’t have a Jewish mother, I would not be Jewish.

But what about genetics? What about the liklihood of Tay-Sachs disease? From a scientific view, I have so little Jewish DNA that it’s no issue at all. I mean, if we were talking other races, I wouldn’t even mention it. If my great-great-grandmother on another branch were Chinese, would that make me Chinese? I would hardly think so.

But according to the Jewish theological understanding, I am 100% Jewish. Jewish mother, Jewish children. End of story. This understanding is not quitementioned in Scripture, but the basis is there. Rabbis teach this based on such passages which forbid Israelites from marrying non-Israelite women. The thought became that the women were the important ones who passed on the heredity of Abraham. From a Christian perspective, I see nothing in the New Testament that would refine this teaching, except of course that all nations are now blessed by Jesus Christ, and all people may call Abraham “Father,” by faith and not by blood. It does not contradict the issue of  heredity, but includes all gentiles as descendants of the Father of Faith.

So which view is correct? The Theological View or the Scientific View? Am I all Jew or just 1/64th? Or whatever that percentage would be? Personally, I really don’t care “how Jewish” I am. In Christ there are niether Jew nor Greek (Gal. 3:28).

But there is a serious issue here. Who are we going to believe? Does theology and the teaching of Scripture direct my mind and describe reality, or does modern science give the ultimate answer? There is no reason they cannot sit side-by-side in this case: I am Jewish (apostate in the Rabbi’s eyes, of course), and have little to no risk of transmitting Tay-Sachs.

But the question remains. Does science inform us best, and we all breathe a sigh of relief when it doesn’t come right out and contradict Scripture? Do we live and think scientifically or theologically?

This is not the issue of creationism versus evolution. One can think of creationism scientifically, like all the Creation Museum, apologists out there who believe one can proove Creation and give scientific explanations for the miracle of this lonely planet. It’s scientific thinking, not theological. It is the same scientific thinking that the new Lutheran Study Bible engages in when it explains the plague of blood as a toxic algae bloom.

I cannot solve the reason versus faith argument. At least not in this brief blog post. But I do leave you with these questions:

Will science inform you best about the nature and reality of the Common Cup and the Sacrament, or will Scripture and faith?

What if there were studies that proved that communicable diseases were passed via the common cup? That participating in the Lord’s Supper put your health at risk?

What if it were scientifically proven that the hosts transmitted communicable diseases? That even removing the host from the paten yourselftransmitted disease from the person who put their fingers in the paten before you? What if medical studies proved that there is no realistic way of receiving Communion at a public worship service without the likely possibility of transmitting disease?

Would you believe that or would you believe Christ who says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”? Would you believe the CDC or would you believe Christ who says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53 ESV)

4 comments on “H1N1, Nasty Viruses, the Common Cup, Jewish Heredity and Reason Versus Faith

  1. What if medical studies proved that there is no realistic way of receiving Communion at a public worship service without the likely possibility of transmitting disease?

    I have thought about this…what if the test results from the Holy Eucharist at my parish came up TNTC (too numerous to count)…loaded with pathogens. What would that mean? Not much. Christ gives us His pure Body and precious Blood for LIFE eternal. Eating and drinking to one’s detriment isn’t about swine flu in the cup. If science analyzed the contents of the Eucharist, science would find bread and wine…not DNA. Likewise with the infectious pathogens and virus particles. Besides, Christ is the ultimate disinfectant…unlike hydrogen peroxide or formaldehyde, Christ can actually cleanse us from our sins!

    1. Wess–the order has already been placed. However, I’m sure that if, after reading it, you are unhappy–and especially if you throw down the “False Doctrine” trump card using the phrase “higher criticism” you’ll get your money back. I’d back you on that one 100%

      However, I’ve heard an alternate explanation/defense of that study note, and don’t have a copy of it myself, so perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned it at all until I’ve seen it. But I’ll be turning to Exodus not long after it’s in my hands 🙂

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