How Google Helps Us Understand the Lord’s Supper: An Analogy of Location and Real Spiritual Presence

Zac HicksWorship Theology & Thought4 Comments

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.

4 Comments on “How Google Helps Us Understand the Lord’s Supper: An Analogy of Location and Real Spiritual Presence”

  1. I have never thought about the parallel here. Great post!! It's interesting how easily we accept the truth of these tangible ideaologies, but dismiss the reality of God being able to exist simultaneously on many experiential levels (that is our flesh/ intellect in rejection).

    I hope you don't mind if I just flat rip this off as a tool for communicating to my students here at CALG?!? Enjoyed this brother…thank you for the thought!

  2. This analogy actually supports the Lutheran understanding of the Lord's Supper, as detailed in the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord:

    "The one body of Christ has a threefold existence, or all three modes of being at a given place. First, the circumscribed corporeal mode of presence, as when He walked bodily on earth, when He occupied and yielded space according to His size. He is not in God or with the Father or in heaven according to this mode…, for God is not a corporeal space of place…

    Secondly, the uncircumscribed, spiritual mode of presence according to which He neither occupies nor yields space but passes through everything created as He wills. He employed this mode of presence when He left the closed grave and came through closed doors, in the bread and wine in the Supper, and, as people believe, when He was born in His mother.

    Thirdly, since He is one person with God, the divine, heavenly mode, according to which all created things are indeed much more permeable and present to Him than they are according to the second mode… You must place this existence of Christ, which constitutes Him one person with God, far, far beyond things created, as far as God transcends them; and on the other hand, places it as deep in and as near to all created things as God is in them. For He is one indivisible person with God, and wherever God is, He must be also, otherwise our faith is false."

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