Transubstantiation. Consubstantiation. Non-substantiation. Which “substantiation” is it? How, if at all, is Christ present in the Lord’s Supper? I have my opinions, but this post won’t answer that. I simply want to point out a brilliant analogy from digital media which may help us understand how portions of each “substantiation” view may have merit and truth. John Jefferson Davis, in his wonderful book Worship and the Reality of God, illumines our understanding of how Christ is present to us in the Eucharist by musing over how Google is present to us:
“With respect to the concept of real-virtual presence (as a possible analogy for ‘real spiritual presence’), consider the question, Where is the homepage for Google located? The answer to the question is not as obvious as it may seem. It is true to say that the homepage of Google is located now, even as we speak, on the screen of the laptop computer on my desk. It would also be equally true that the Google homepage is located simultaneously on the screen of every computer in the world that is currently connected to that address; the Google screen is in a real sense ubiquitous. On the other hand, it might be argued that the homepage really is located inside a computer server of the Google corporation in Mountain View, California; this Is the location of the ‘original’ Google screen. Could not all three answers be plausibly true?”1
Of course this doesn’t solve the issue or settle the debate. But sometimes, in hairy philosophical conundrums, an analogy from everyday life helps illumine the plausibility of several positions which seem mutually exclusive. Think of it like we think of analogies of understanding the Trinity. Some point out H2O’s tripartite existence as a solid, liquid, and a gas. When the analogy is pressed too hard, it breaks down. But, to some degree, the analogy shows that three unique things can separately exist yet be of one substance. It helps us wrap our minds a bit more around the Trinity. Similarly, Davis’s Google analogy helps us to wrap our minds around different types of “present-ness.”
1John Jefferson Davis, Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence (Downers Grove: IVP, 2010), 162.