Transubstantiation vs. Consubstantiation vs. Memorialism vs Reformed?

Question
Can you briefly describe the differences between Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, Memorialism and the Reformed views of the Lord's Supper (Table, Eucharist, Communion. Meal, etc).
Answer

The Lord's Supper is referred to by numerous phrases: (1) The Lord's Table, (2) Communion, (3) Meal, (4) Eucharist, (6) Mass, (7) The Body and Blood of Christ, (8) Love Feast or Agape Feast, (9) Breaking of Bread, and (10) Divine Liturgy, etc. There are essentially four views of the Lord's Supper: Transubstantiation, Consubstantiation, Memorialism, and Reformed.

Transubstantiation

This is the view of the Roman Catholic Church. During the ceremony called the Mass, Catholics believe the elements of bread and wine of the Lord's Table are changed in substance into the literal flesh and blood of Christ, even though the elements appear to remain the same. This is also referred to as "The Real Presence of Christ."

Catholics believe that the phrases "this is my body" and "this is my blood" are to be interpreted literally, not metaphorically (Matt 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-23;1 Cor 11:23-25). This is incorrect for a number of reasons: (1) Moses wrote, "But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood" (Gen 9:4-6; cf. Acts 15:20, 29). Therefore, Jesus would have violated his own Word, if the literal interpretation is to be taken. (2) In Matthew 26:29, after the institution of the Meal, Jesus still considered the "fruit of the vine" to be the "fruit of the vine" and not his literal blood. (3) At the institution of the Meal, Jesus was not dead yet. Therefore, if the words are taken literally this would have been a form of cannibalism. It would be cannibalism each and every time the Meal is partaken. (4) The Catholic church take the words too literally, after all Jesus is not literally "light" (John 8:12), a "door" (John 10:9), a "vine" (John 15:5), or a "Lamb" (John 1:29, 36). If he was then how could he also literally be "wine" and "bread" all at the same time? Pantheism? (5) Catholic Mass crucifies Jesus over and over again, however, the Bible states that Jesus gave himself for a once and for all sacrifice (Heb 10:10, 12, 14). (6) If the word "cup" is used by Jesus figuratively of the "wine," then why would we interpret the "wine" and "bread" in the same pericope in a different sense?

Consubstantiation

This is generally accepted as the Lutheran belief on the Lord's Supper, though all Lutherans are not pleased with the phraseology. The reader will note the use of "con," instead of the Catholic "trans." "Trans" means "change," (the wine changes into blood) and "con" means "with" (the blood is with or co-exists with the wine). So, Lutherans argue that the bread remains real bread and the wine real wine, but the physical presence of Christ is there also, "in, with, and under" the elements. Other than semantic (language) differences it is difficult to see any other real difference between this view and the Catholic's Transubstantiation. This view is incorrect for many of the same reasons as Transubstantiation is.

Memorialism

This view is attributed to Ulrich Zwingli. It maintains that there is no real presence of Christ at the Lord's Table, but the Meal is only a memorial of the atonement purchased by Christ (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:23-26). They assert that the bread and wine remain as bread and wine at the Meal. However, this view observes a real absence of Christ during the Lord's Supper?

Reformed

This view is attributed to John Calvin. It maintains that the Lord's Supper is both a remembrance (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:23-26) and that there is a spiritual presence of Christ (1 Cor 10:16-17) at the Lord's Table. While the phases "Do this in remembrance of Me" (1 Cor 11:24, 25) and "on the night He was betrayed" (1 Cor 10:23) point to the fact that the Lord's Supper is a "remembrance" of the Lord's past atonement, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 point to the fact that it is more than a mere remembrance:

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation [Greek, koinonia, meaning fellowship] in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation [koinonia] in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

So, when believers drink the cup and eat the bread, the whole body of Christ is therefore joined to the Lord in deep spiritual fellowship. By faith those "in Christ" partake of the body and blood of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit who pours the life of Christ into them. There is spiritual nourishment (John 6:53-57) and union (1 Cor 10:17) as believers participate by faith in the Lord's Supper. Christ is present with believers at the Table (spiritually, not physically). So, this view assists us in understanding that the Lord's Table is a rich symbolic covenantal meal, but not another sacrifice. This view is the correct view of the Lord's Table.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).