Great Stuff — The Lord’s Supper and “Abstract Thinking”

Found on Messiah, La Crescent MN, Pastor’s Blog by Pastor Matthew Lorfeld


Pastor-LorfeldOccasionally, when discussing catechesis, particularly when it comes to teaching the Lord’s Supper, an objection is raised.  It goes something like this:  ”Children really cannot understand the Lord’s Supper because they are not able to think abstractly until around ages 12-15.”  In fact, many use this reasoning to explain why we deny children the Lord’s Supper and why we delay formal catechesis (aka confirmation class).

But here’s the thing, the Lutheran teaching on the Lord’s Supper is about as concrete as you can get.  The idea of “abstract thinking” has been heavily influenced by the work of Psychologist Carl Jung.  He defines “abstract thinking” in his work Psychological Types:

There is an abstract thinking, just as there is abstract feelingsensation and intuition. Abstract thinking singles out the rational, logical qualities … Abstract feeling does the same with … its feeling-values. … I put abstract feelings on the same level as abstract thoughts. … Abstract sensation would be aesthetic as opposed to sensuous sensation and abstract intuition would be symbolic as opposed to fantastic intuition.

Another way to define abstract thinking is “a level of thinking about things that is removed from the facts of the “here and now”, and from specific examples of the things or concepts being thought about.”

In language “abstract thinking” takes the form of metaphor, simile, and allegory.  In pedagogy, we also use an “illustration” (which is why most children’s sermons are completely not age appropriate).

But let’s think about this.  Concrete thinking is concerned with “what is this right in front of me?”  Abstract thinking looks at something in terms of categories, systems, metaphors, etc.  The Lutheran teaching on the Lord’s Supper is simple.  Jesus takes bread, breaks it, gives thanks, gives it to his disciples and says “This is my body.”  In the same way with the cup, that is, the contents of the cup, he says “This is the new testament in my blood.”  Scripture teaches the bread and wine ARE Jesus Body and Blood.  This is at the concrete level.

In fact, it is abstract thinking that gets in the way.  We start to think since bread and wine are of different categories than flesh and blood, it can’t be.  So quickly reason jumps in and says “Jesus must have meant represents his body and blood,” of course, this is to say  that when Jesus says “This is my body” he really meant “this is not my body but something different.”

Of course, concrete thinking brings us back into the faith of children, who hear the words of the Lord and simply believe.  I will take that over abstract thinking any day.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff — The Lord’s Supper and “Abstract Thinking” — 38 Comments

  1. ” . . . concrete thinking brings us back into the faith of children, who hear the words of the Lord and simply believe. I will take that over abstract thinking any day. ”

    Amen to that.

  2. If some find holes in my logic or find this a bit rough and not fully flushed out, I would love to hear your thoughts. This was more of a mind dump than a well researched and documented article.

  3. From the LCMS FAQ:

    In the 1960s the Synod participated in a pan-Lutheran study of confirmation and first Communion. The recommendation of this study was that it would be appropriate to communion children at the end of the fifth grade, prior to Confirmation. In response to this study, both the Commission on Theology and Church Relations and the Board for Parish Education submitted recommendations to the 1973 convention of the Synod. These recommendations conflicted with one another, the CTCR recommending that the Synod retain its traditional practice of communing children after they are confirmed, and the BPS recommending the adoption of the inter-Lutheran study proposal. The Synod itself adopted a resolution in 1973 that basically left up to individual congregations the decision as to what practice they may want to follow. Two studies done subsequently by a Board for Parish Services (now District and Congregational Services) staff member in the late 1980s indicated that less than 20 percent of LCMS congregations adopted the study proposal and that this percentage remained virtually unchanged for nearly two decades. We have no evidence that an increasing number of congregations have adopted, or are considering the adoption of, the practice of early Communion in recent years. [Emphasis added]

    The 1973 resolution noted in the FAQ allows each congregation to make its own decision. Thus a LCMS church which retains the traditional practice of post-confirmation communion is not required to give communion to a pre-confirmand child from another LCMS congregation which adopted a pre-confirmation communion practice within their own church.

    BTW, although there was nothing specific about it in the BJS article: “Infants, our synodical catechism teaches – and correctly so – are not capable of such reflection and therefore must not be given the sacrament.” – Adopted by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, April 29, 1997

  4. Richard –

    I am not going into a long discussion about the Corinthians passages – context and many other considerations . . .

    Let me ask you this – explain how bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus. Do you know, besides saying “by the Word?”

    No, you do not, any more than does an infant, who grasps Baptism in the same manner – by faith.

    Confirmation – now there is a great “Catholic” subject . . .

    🙂 jb

  5. Uh, oh. Do we have some paedocommunionists (or even Bosphorus waders) scurrying out from under the 1997 CTCR document?

    This issue was previously discussed back in September, 2009, in the BJS thread, “Infant Communion and Open Communion.”

    If there really is a paedocommunion heterodoxy being practiced within the LCMS, the ACELC will need to add this to their Evidence of Errors documents on “Holy Communion.”

    Any one want to ‘fess up?!

  6. Richard –

    Open communion has nothing to do with what I asked you – plain and simple.

    Do not go wandering off the plantation or off on one of your soliloquies, ok? You are very, very good at squirming your way away from specific questions.

    I asked you a very specific question.

    Answer it.

    🙂 jb

  7. Worth some consideration.

    Martin Luther on the Rite of Confirmation:
    Especially to be rejected is confirmation, that deceitful mumbojumbo of the episcopal idols. It has no foundation in Scripture. The bishops are only deceiving people with their lies when they say that grace, a character, a mark are conferred in confirmation. It is rather the character of the beast, Revelation 13[:16–17]. A Christian should not, at the peril of his soul, base his faith on human fantasy, which will surely betray and deceive him, but only on the Word of God, who does not lie. (LW 45 p.8-9)

    In particular, avoid that monkey business, confirmation, which is really a fanciful deception. I would permit confirmation as long as it is understood that God knows nothing of it, and has said nothing about it, and that what the bishops claim for it is untrue. They mock our God when they say that it is one of God’s sacraments, for it is a purely human contrivance. (LW 45 p.24-25)

  8. Matthew –

    Good quote!

    The actual evolution of “confirmation” in Lutheran circles is rather amazing.

    However . . .

    I want Richard to explain how he is more worthy than any child to receive the Eucharist. That should be very interesting!

    Hint: He cannot, but he will try! He will have to undo the Gospel to do so.

    🙂 Pax – jb

  9. “Do not go wandering off the plantation or off on one of your soliloquies, ok”

    jb, you appear to have confused my earlier post as some kind of answer to your question. It wasn’t. And the phrase, “open communion,” are not my words but are included in the title of the 2009 BJS thread discussion infant communion.

    “Answer it.”

    Your question is not relevant to this thread.

    What I will say, which is relevant to a discussion of early communion, is that I agree with a 2007 opinion of Paul McCain that we are bound together to follow the practice indicated in our Lutheran Confessions of requiring children who are presented for first communion to have committed to memory the basic/primary texts of the Small Catechism, which are: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Confession, and the Lord’s Supper.

    The Lutheran Confessions also require “every father of a family to question and examine his children and servants at least once a week and to ascertain what they know of it, or are learning, and, if they do not know it, to keep them faithfully at it.”

    Where fathers of a congregation do not carry this out, it is unlikely that there will be children ready for earlier communion. Of course, there are exceptional children (and fathers), and thus instances where, following examination concerning this confessional requirement, a child might take communion at his church before being confirmed.

    Pastors who practice pre-confirmand communion outside of this confessional requirement have violated their sworn ordination vows, and congregations who allow such practices are rightly called Lufauxran.

    And I will state again that I agree with the position of the Missouri Synod that paedocommunion is not to be practiced.

  10. @Rev. Matthew Lorfeld. #7 : “Worth some consideration.
    Martin Luther on the Rite of Confirmation”

    To avoid misleading readers, it should be stated that in the quotes Martin Luther was discussing the problems and abuses of the Romanist Rite of Confirmation which was considered a sacrament. That is why Luther described it with the words Affenspiel (“monkey business”), Lügenstand (“fanciful deception”), and Gaukelwerk (“mumbo-jumbo”).

    Regarding the rite of confirmation in the Lutheran church, Luther stated as early as 1520 in “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church”: “Hence it is sufficient to regard confirmation as a certain churchly rite or sacramental ceremony, similar to other ceremonies, such as the blessing of holy water and the like.”

  11. Well, now . . .

    Richard . . . Paul McCain is not one to whom I have sworn my pastoral allegiance, so you have to understand that I consider his opinion but one of many that are merely advisory. He often has good things to say.

    My question is not relevant to the thread? Nice “squirm” there, Richard.

    You said: Direct quote!!!

    Uh, oh. Do we have some paedocommunionists (or even Bosphorus waders) scurrying out from under the 1997 CTCR document?

    This issue was previously discussed back in September, 2009, in the BJS thread, “Infant Communion and Open Communion.”

    If there really is a paedocommunion heterodoxy being practiced within the LCMS, the ACELC will need to add this to their Evidence of Errors documents on “Holy Communion.”

    Any one want to ‘fess up?!

    So Richard – please do not insult my intelligence. You have already wimped out on a mano-a-mano discussion in private, so please, stop your silly games. They work with those who are not prepared for your machinations, but you truly are small potatoes, as it were.

    Richard/Carl/George/Harold/Tom/ Dan – whatever you call yourself – you cannot even be honest about your own name, for crying out loud!

    What makes you more worthy of the Eucharist than a Baptized infant?

    Answer the question I asked, Richard.

    Are you more worthy than a βρέφος?

    No, you are not. Are you somehow more worthy, by your reason, more worthy to be fed the Bread of Life?

    Do you really wanna go there? I do not think you do. But if you think you do, I am well-armed and ready to do battle. I would rather, in a Gospel sort of fashion, you back away and reconsider how the Gospel applies to YOU.

    Therein lies the issue.

    Pax 🙂 jb

  12. @jb #11: Paul McCain is not one to whom I have sworn my pastoral allegiance

    But presumably you did swear pastoral allegiance to follow what Paul McCain referred to, that is, the practice indicated in our Lutheran Confessions.

  13. Man – Richard . . .

    Have you lost your mind?

    And will you tell me – point blank – that you you are more worthy than the βρέφος?

    You have failed to answer, as I noted you would do so originally, studiously avoided – well – to answer – are you more worthy of the Eucharist than a baptized infant?

    Are you, Richard? Answer the question. Quit your usual duck and weave routine. It is tiresome.

    Are you more worthy of the Eucharist than a baptized infant, Richard?

    Pax – jb

  14. Richard –

    You have refused, as has McCall – private correspondence via Matthew 18:15-17. Fine by me. I don’t sweat those who don’t get it That the most basic, God-pleasing manner of resolution is so repulsive to the two of you says much.

    Play with the ways of the world. That is your call. You claim all sorts of authority umtil you are called on it. Then, you bail.

    You do what you do and say what you say. The Lord God will hold you to account for all of it!

    Rail on, my man!

    Pax – jb

  15. jb, your posts have simply been snarky versions of the talking points in the document, “Truly Worthy and Well Prepared.” That document, and its spin on “truly worthy,” were more than adequately addressed and refuted by the CTCR’s 1997 Response, to which I provided a link back in Post #3.

    I recommend for your study that CTCR Response document, which also discusses (pp. 15-16) the minimum requirements to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.

    A rostered LCMS pastor who feels the need to practice paedocommunion or ignore confessional practices for early communion should first, in honesty, resign his synodical membership.

  16. Carl/Rishard – Whatever You Call Yourself

    You are so full of yourself.

    You still refuse to answer the question

    Did you notice that? I suspect you did not.

  17. Tim

    I did not make this personal. Strickert did. My wife has been over my shoulder!

    Richard imposes himself as some sort of authority about everything. He is both tiresome, and a troll in the truest sense.

    Truth is – despite his absolute failure to talk with me privately (his call)(like McCall’s) – Strickert pretends he is an authority – without qualification whatsoever.

    He refuses to answer direct questions. He fancies himself aboe reproach.

    He can quote copious Lutheran sources – BIG deal, so can you and me.

    It’s your site – you can moderate as you wish, but I am about to join the many who have said “sayanora.” If you think Strickert’s ramblings are worth it, that is your call.

    I’m done. Pax – jb

  18. Richard –


    You rarely do!


    Richard can you give me an straight-up answer?

    I think no.t- jb

    P.S. Richard, do not ever question my orthodoxy again. You exceed boundaries that are not YOURS to exceed. But you do not get it,

    Strike me off your list. You need to talk with your Pastor, Dude.

  19. @jb #19
    Wait a sec, what do I have to do with this?! And what in the world does Matthew 18 have anything to do with anything? You called me a docetist on some other post and never apologized and then asked me to talk with you in private. Now it has something to do with Matthew 18 and admonishing an erring brother?! All my posts with you have been public. Please post any “admonishing” you feel you have to do in public as well. I have no need to hide in private e-mails.

  20. I agree with the requirements stated in the Lutheran Confessions for the practice of early communion of children, and the Lutheran position of the Missouri Synod on paedocommunion: “Infants, our synodical catechism teaches – and correctly so – are not capable of such reflection and therefore must not be given the sacrament.”

  21. @jb #14
    Feel free to request my e-mail from BJS at any time. or ask Rick, he has it. 🙂 If you are so desiring to speak with me in private then go ahead. To make no effort on your part to do so and then to blame me for lack of communication seems a little dishonest.

  22. @Carl Vehse #22

    The “more worthy-less worthy” question is about the same as “Are you still beating your wife?” Or the question of paying taxes to Caesar. I wouldn’t attempt to answer the question, either. Or perhaps, I might consider a response similar to Jesus’ reply on the taxes question: “Those who are worthy may receive communion, and those who are not worthy should abstain.” Or is that response too abstract?

  23. @jb #20

    The term infant is typically applied to young children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months – Wikipedia

    I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant…(Genesis 32:10)

    Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:28, 29)  

    Pastor jb

    Is this a trick question?  Here is my simple, pewsitter reply for your correction.

    Neither an infant nor myself is “worthy” of such an unspeakable gift.  I’m no more “worthy” than an infant.    It seems to me, however, that it would be unwise to offer communion to an infant who cannot examine himself.

    Blessings on your ministry this Lord’s Day

  24. John –

    βρέφος speaks of the child from the womb to weaning.

    δοκιμαζέτω makes for a wonderful word study.

    The whole context of of Paul’s discussion in I Corinthians is usually ignored, or overlooked.

    I don’t ask “trick questions” . . . I expect folks to be honest and up front, because that is what I am as well. Straight shooter, no garnishments!

    Now, to be precise – I did not, in word one I wrote, suggest paedocommunion. Richard did. I asked him a very direct question on the “quality” of faith. What I have discovered along my journey on this old globe is that few folks like being pinned down to a specific question.

    Scroll all the comments, and notice – he never once answered my question. But that’s his problem, not mine.

    Thank you for the blessings on my morning efforts. My flock left forgiven, and they fed on Jesus. Doesn’t get better than that!

    Pax – jb

  25. Rev. McCall –

    You are a tough read.

    I did not specifically accuse you of anything – you imagining I did seems to be one of those cases that “if the shoe fits.” When I supplied my e-mail directly for you to contact me, you words were hardly appropriate in response. Very much not so!

    In other words, you blew me off.

    Now, a few posts above, you DARE chastize me for not contacting YOU?

    Meh. Pax – jb


    I used to wonder about the many Pastors who took a little vacation after the holidays…after Epiphany, or after Easter.

    More recently, I have begun to think that they should not only take vacation from the parish, but from all their electronic gadgets, too! There has been an edginess on here, and unwillingness to look for best construction.

    [I expect, OTOH, some of the Pastors would say this would be a wonderful blog if the laity confined themselves to listening!]

    Whatever! Could you, please, take the accusations and counter accusations off line?
    Peace? 😉

  27. @helen #29

    @Joe Strieter #30
    My apology to both of you for hijacking the thread and taking it off topic. I was simply enjoying the article and comments (Matt was a classmate of mine in undergrad at CUW and is a very fine scholar!) when all of a sudden I saw my name mentioned for no reason other than to cast me in a negative light (when I hadn’t even commented on this thread!) and I wished only to defend myself. Again, I apologize. Helen, you are perhaps right! I need to take a better Easter break than increased blogging! God’s Blessings!

  28. @helen #33

    Rev. McCall #31: “My apology to both of you …”

    “You were hardly the biggest problem on this thread. 🙁
    Forgiven! God bless!”

    Amen, and yea verily.

    I do not wish to offend you, Helen, but I do have one question: What is the intention/meaning of “God bless….” without an object? I’ve always been troubled by this phrase (or partial phrase), all the way back to Red Skelton. What would happen to “The Christmas Carol” if Tiny Tim had said merely, “God bless”? If one means to say “God bless you,” why not say that? It’s the same as “Love ya!” What’s the matter with “I love you?”

    OK, back to the thread/subject/discussion at hand.

    God bless you, Helen. (God bless you too, Pastor McCall). And in the immortal words of Tiny Tim……

  29. @Joe Strieter #34

    God bless you, Joe!
    God bless us, everyone!

    “God bless!” I suppose you could call it a “shortcut” like a “tweet” abbr. (altho I don’t “tweet”). 🙁
    Depending on the location, I might direct it at one or a crowd.
    But I’ll think about your question! 😉

    [“Love ya” might also mean one or more
    “I love you” usually is singular.] 🙂

    Then there’s Texian: God bless all y’all!

  30. @helen #35

    Thanks for your gracious response. My issue with the “shortcuts” is they seem impersonal to me, and somewhat offhand. One ought not to use them carelessly. Full employment of personal pronouns keeps it personal.

    ‘Nuff said.

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