From the Catholic Answers website:
Here at Catholic Answers, one of the most effective methods for countering attacks and clearing up misconceptions about the Catholic Faith have been our tracts. They have been around since the beginning of the apostolate and have resulted in many thousands of conversions. These tracts provide a real point of contact for someone in discovering the truths of the Catholic Faith.
There is a continuous onslaught of Catholics asking the C.A. apologist to explain why something they were told by a Protestant is not true. Catholic Answers biggest fear is that Catholics will be drawn away from the Catholic Church by listening to Protestants, and the tracts on their website play an important role in making sure that does not happen. So wouldn’t it be interesting if Catholics start asking their apologists to answer challenges to their tracts?
If the tracts are the go-to source for clearing up misconceptions, where will they tell them to go when the tracts themselves are shown to be deceitful? Now I’m not talking about misunderstanding or opposing interpretations I’m talking about very intentional well-crafted deceit. For example…
The tract, “Christ in the Eucharist” has some pretty glaring examples of dishonesty. In the beginning of the tract, they claim that they will be examining the last half of John chapter six. They launch into verse 30 and then immediately jump to verse 51. The tract never mentions or alludes to verses 31-50. The only verses examined were 30 & 51-65, hardly an examination of the second half of the chapter.
Immediately one should recognize that the tract is avoiding context. Political campaigns often use the tactic of out-of-context snippets to deceitfully influence the minds of the constituents. The same is true of this tract. For the sake of conciseness and keeping on point, I would not expect that each and every verse be examined. But to skip over 21 verses in the heart of the discourse as though it has no relevance to the topic is a blatant example of hiding the context.
When you read those verses, it becomes apparent why they don’t bring them up. Jesus reiterates over and over in the discourse that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. They do not want Catholics questioning the authority of the RCC based on the words of Jesus. But more to the point, they don’t want their readers to learn crucial information regarding the Jews and disciples to whom Jesus was speaking.
The tract talks about the disciples who walked away because of the harshness of Jesus’ words. It then rationalizes that they understood Jesus literally and correctly; otherwise, why would Jesus not stop them and explain the misunderstanding? It references Matthew 16 to demonstrate that Jesus always explained things to His disciples when there was confusion. So they ask, why not here? If the reader is familiar with the context of the discourse, they would know the answer to that question.
From the context we know that Jesus had followers who did not believe in Him. Their motivation was to find out if He might be the promised Messiah. In verse two we read: “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.” Then after Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish, we read this: “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Therefore, when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.” (V14-15) When they caught up to Him in Capernaum, Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”
He proceeded to then explain that the work of God is to believe in Him whom God set His seal. In verse 36 & 37 He made this explicit statement to them: “But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”
The tract tries to rationalize that the departing disciples left because they had a problem with His doctrine of eating flesh and drinking blood. But the context reveals to us that they had no interest in Jesus’ true teachings. The Scriptural context portrays them as false disciples who never believed in Jesus, but the Catholic tract portrays them as true disciples who developed a doctrinal issue they could not overcome. The Catholic teaching is clearly a contradiction to the Scriptural account.
The issue of dishonesty doesn’t end there; in fact, it gets worse. The tract moves into a defense using the early church…
Whatever else might be said, the early Church took John 6 literally. In fact, there is no record from the early centuries that implies Christians doubted the constant Catholic interpretation. There exists no document in which the literal interpretation is opposed and only the metaphorical accepted.
As much as I want to resist calling the author a liar, it’s simply illogical to assume that he or she was not aware of the facts when he or she wrote the tract. In fact, it’s obvious that he or she did understand the facts and chose to hide them.
The statement clearly conveys that throughout history the church has always believed what the Catholic Church teaches today about Christ in the eucharist. But that is not what the statement actually says. It’s a carefully crafted statement designed to convey an idea, while deliberately avoiding any explicit claim to its validity. That’s how you know it’s a lie.
The claim is that there is no record that implies anyone doubted the Catholic interpretation. It does not say there is any evidence that supports the Catholic interpretation. So if the interpretation did not exist, there could be no record of anyone doubting it. The fact that there were numerous heresies in the early church era, and no record of anyone doubting the interpretation, lends much more to the idea that the interpretation did not exist. This is especially true when considering the Gnostic view that all matter, including flesh, was evil.
The next sentence continues in the same vein – a continuation of an argument from silence. “There exists no document in which the literal interpretation is opposed.” Again, if there was no literal interpretation there would be no document opposing it. Well, actually, it just so happens there was a literal interpretation and there is a document that opposes it.
The literal interpretation was expressed by the Jews to whom Jesus was speaking in John chapter six: “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” The document opposing the interpretation comes from a third century presbyter named, Tertullian. Here is what he said regarding the Jews’ literal interpretation…
“He says, it is true, that the flesh profits nothing; but then, as in the former case, the meaning must be regulated by the subject which is spoken of. Now, because they thought His discourse was harsh and intolerable, supposing that He had really and literally enjoined on them to eat his flesh, He, with the view of ordering the state of salvation as a spiritual thing, set out with the principle, “It is the spirit that quickens;” and then added, “The flesh profits nothing,”— meaning, of course, to the giving of life. He also goes on to explain what He would have us to understand by spirit: The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. In a like sense He had previously said: He that hears my words, and believes in Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but shall pass from death unto life. Constituting, therefore, His word as the life-giving principle, because that word is spirit and life, He likewise called His flesh by the same appellation; because, too, the Word had become flesh, we ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life, and to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and to digest Him by faith.
Now, just before (the passage in hand), He had declared His flesh to be the bread which comes down from heaven, impressing on (His hearers) constantly under the figure of necessary food the memory of their forefathers, who had preferred the bread and flesh of Egypt to their divine calling. Then, turning His subject to their reflections, because He perceived that they were going to be scattered from Him, He says: The flesh profits nothing. Now what is there to destroy the resurrection of the flesh? As if there might not reasonably enough be something which, although it profits nothing itself, might yet be capable of being profited by something else. The spirit profits, for it imparts life. The flesh profits nothing, for it is subject to death.” (Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh: 37)
Tertullian presents a sharp contrast to the claim made by the Catholic tract. Here we have a very explicit rebuttal to a literal interpretation of John 6. Tertullian said they supposed that Jesus had really and literally enjoined on them to eat His flesh, which is exactly what the Catholic tract claims. But then Tertullian says that Jesus corrected them by saying It is the spirit that quickens; and then added, the flesh profits nothing. The Catholic tract denies that Jesus corrected them and dismisses the notion which Tertullian affirms; that is, it is the Spirit and Word that gives life.
So what did Jesus mean by “The flesh profits nothing”? If you look for that answer in the tract you will find something pretty incredible. Here it is.
<blockquote In John 6:63 "flesh" does not refer to Christ’s own flesh—the context makes this clear—but to mankind’s inclination to think on a natural, human level. "The words I have spoken to you are spirit" does not mean "What I have just said is symbolic." The word "spirit" is never used that way in the Bible. The line means that what Christ has said will be understood only through faith; only by the power of the Spirit and the drawing of the Father (cf. John 6:37, 44–45, 65).
Does this have a familiar ring to it? It sounds an awful lot like when they tell us to ignore our senses and believe by faith that the eucharistic bread is the literal body and blood of Christ. In fact, that is exactly what they are saying. Here the notion of transubstantiation is being forced on the words of Jesus and it makes absolutely no sense. Christians can reasonably debate whether Jesus was referring to His flesh or ours, but contorting His word to fit a doctrine that finds no basis in the context of the account is just absurd.
The Jews in the wilderness ate the manna and died. Catholics eat what they believe to be the literal body and blood of Christ and die. Why do they die? Because, as Tertullian put it, the flesh profits nothing and is subject to death. We do not gain eternal life by what we physically consume, but rather by what we spiritually consume. Jesus told the woman at the well, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Likewise in John 6, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” … “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”
Tertullian obviously understood that the words, “eat My flesh and drink My blood” were metaphors for believing in Jesus through His word, and abiding in Him through the Holy Spirit. “…to devour Him with the ear, and to ruminate on Him with the understanding, and to digest Him by faith.”
The tract asserts no document exists – when it clearly does. How about the fact that no document exists that indicates anyone had a problem with Tertullian’s assessment of John 6? And with regards to the claim that no document exists where only the metaphorical is accepted, how about Clement of Alexandria’s work, Paedagogus “The Instructor”? In reference to Jesus calling His blood “true drink,” Clement said this:
For those who are full-grown are said to drink, babes to suck. For my blood, says the Lord, is true drink. In saying, therefore, I have given you milk to drink, has he not indicated the knowledge of the truth, the perfect gladness in the Word, who is the milk? (Paedagogus 1:6)
The blood as true drink is purely metaphorical to Clement as he relates it directly to Paul’s reprimand of the Corinthians’ lack of spiritual growth. If his purely metaphorical teaching isn’t clear enough here, Clement makes it perfectly clear just a short time later…
“And if we who preside over the Churches are shepherds after the image of the good Shepherd, and you the sheep, are we not to regard the Lord as preserving consistency in the use of figurative speech, when He speaks also of the milk of the flock? And to this meaning we may secondly accommodate the expression, I have given you milk to drink, and not given you food, for you are not yet able, regarding the meat not as something different from the milk, but the same in substance. For the very same Word is fluid and mild as milk, or solid and compact as meat. And entertaining this view, we may regard the proclamation of the Gospel, which is universally diffused, as milk; and as meat, faith, which from instruction is compacted into a foundation, which, being more substantial than hearing, is likened to meat, and assimilates to the soul itself nourishment of this kind. Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: “Eat ye my flesh, and drink my blood; ” describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise. (ibid)”
You cannot get more non-literal than to say “distinctly by metaphor.” Had those been my words, Catholics would scorn me, but Clement’s teachings were met with nothing but adoration in his time.
So in the fantasy world of Catholic apologetics, historical document they don’t want you to see don’t exist. But in the real world they do exist, and what they contain destroys the so-called sacred traditions of Roman Catholicism.
A tract laden with deceptively crafted statements and blatantly baseless assertions cannot possibly be motivated by truth. The only motivation for producing a tract like this is to keep Catholics, with sincere questions about their faith, from leaving the Roman Catholic Church.
“Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (Jhn. 6:27)