Thursday, February 17, 2011

Great Steven Paulson Quote on the Absolute Omnipresence of Christ

From his excellent book Luther for Armchair Theologians, my old teacher Dr. Steven Paulson writes on the absolute omnipresence of Christ:

"Luther is even willing to pause for a minute and talk about Christ's body being wherever Christ is- and that means everywhere present! Of course, this makes human reason and its buff, free will feel crowded out of the world."

In other words, human reason that lusts for self-justification through imaginary free will, is "crowded out" of the world when it recognizes that Christ is all-present "for you." If the gracious God found in the flesh of Jesus reigns and is present everywhere, the human person loses all their power to establish themselves before God by their good works. There is no distance from this incarnate God within which they can use their free will in order to move towards him. They can only accept in faith that Christ is all-present and gracious pro nobis.


  1. Excellent selection, excellent point!!!

  2. I don't remember the citation, but I recall Dr. Nagel teaching on Dr. Luther saying that Christ is indeed everywhere, even in the trees, but only in the Gospel and the Sacrament has He promised to be there "for you."

    That is, you can't go take a bite out of a tree to eat Jesus' body, even though He is present there, but you must go to the Sacrament, for that is where He has promised to be found.

    Any thoughts?

  3. Rev. Ehrhard, thanks for reading!

    Yes, I don't think that Dr. Paulson is suggesting that we should look for him beyond the Word and sacrament. In fact I know.

    I think the point is that through Word and sacrament we are confirmed in faith in God's work pro te. This means we trust God in all things and therefore perceive through faith Jesus, as the God who has become gracious by being made flesh, working everywhere for our good and our salvation. So, in a sense, through the Word and sacraments we become aware of this omnipresent grace present in our whole lives in creation. I think that this is very clear from Luther's discussion of the first article in the Catechisms. Creation is a gift and a grace we recognize in light of the gift of salvation in Word and sacrament.

  4. Omnipresent grace is an interesting concept. There is a distinction between Jesus gracious working and the means of grace. Jesus works graciously through all things but only in the means of grace are we promised salvation.
    Another way Jesus omnipresence overturns free will. If Jesus human body is omnipresent then reason is undone. It is a poor judge of reality and is a poor fit with the real. Free will absolutely needs reason. It only makes sense to speak of free will in the context of rational deliberation between various options. If humans are not basically rational beings then there is no basis for free will. If reason is a blind guide in divine things there is not a place for free will in things above.

  5. Again, thanks for writing! I've been checking in for the past few weeks and have found the topics stimulating (if a bit controversial :) ).