Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Short Review 9: The Lord's Supper

The Lord’s Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread, Robert Letham

This goal of this book is to bring back the sacramental mystery of the Lord’s Supper. Lamenting the modern Reformed misunderstanding of this ordinance of the Lord, the author concisely and consistently argues for the biblical basis and implication of this doctrine for the life of the Church today. There are four chapters covering the biblical data, the historical misconceptions, the Reformed understanding and the practical outworking of the Supper.

Surprisingly, there are some weak elements in a book that is exceptionally well on all other matters. His writing style is fluid and engaging; his explanation of the various competing views is accurate; he even points out that the Lord’s Supper does not solely rest on the Passover (p. 4). Accordingly, he rejects Paedocommunion. And his defense of John Calvin’s and the Confession’s view of the Supper is excellent. The Lord’s Supper is not a personal recollection of Christ’s suffering, but a real participation of sweet fellowship with Christ: true believers “inwardly, by faith, really and indeed,…spiritually, receive, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death” (WCF 29.7) (p. 45).

The weakness is not insurmountable: even when presenting his inclination for using a loaf and wine, as well as frequent communion, the author is charitable. His amiableness comes clearly to the fore while he succinctly describes his opinions (he clearly sees the frequency of the Supper as an issue of liberty). The arguments are not forceful or even airtight. Overall, these are tertiary matters without lasting impact in the broader concern of the book.

This introductory book is helpful in many ways, especially its emphasis upon the spirituality of the Supper and its significance in the Church’s vision of God: “The church’s worship is therefore communion with the risen Christ, in company with the angels and the church in heaven.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Better (Muslim) Trap

A few weeks back, I met with representatives of the second largest organized religion in the world. These Muslims gave a semi-professional visual & audio presentation. They were clear and succinct, answering questions before I brought them forth.

This was good for me and bad for them.

It was good for me because having these questions answered left more time for my brain to launch a counter-attack. It was bad for them because it left time for my brain to launch a counter-attack.

The primary thrust of their presentation was the claim that Islam means the "middle-way"--it is a system of moderation, neither communal or individualistic, communistic or capitalistic, realist or nominalist--they were right down the middle. And because of this (excessive?) moderation, they wished to meet the Christian audience upon a common ground of brotherhood, peace and love. Polemics were bypassed. Debate was eschewed in favor of a vanilla agreement upon these "universally human ideals".

Yeah, right.

Now, dear reader, you and I have both seen plenty of comedy shows and action thrillers wherein the hero verbally aces the protagonist. He sets up the question (which the audience sees as the obvious logical trap that it is), places the carrot and lures in the intended victim.

The victim is hopelessly caught.

Game. Set. Match.

It always looks easy on TV. I never could pull it off in real life. Or could I..?

I innocently queried the speaker: "In what way is 'brotherhood' a common concept between Muslims & Christians?"

"Well," sagely responded my the speaker. "we both agree that we are all human."

"Yes," I sagely responded, "but having differing concepts of God, we have differing concepts of man."

"True," the speaker cautiously responded, "but we both have prophets that we follow--in fact we accept Christ as a prophet."

"True," I boldly responded, "but our prophet is not merely a man, but God Himself. Thus, our brotherhood as believers is neither rooted in our common humanity, biology or mere men. It is rooted in the God-Man, Christ Jesus, He who unites those who believe in Him."


Another man jumped in to save the drowning speaker, "We both have 'brotherhood.' So, that is what we have in common."

"Communist believe in the 'brotherhood' of man as well," I calmly replied, "They use the word, but fill it with different content. Just because groups use the same word it does not follow that the same concept is employed."


Wearily, softly and feebly, the speaker finished the friendly debate: "You are correct. Our concepts of brotherhood are different..."


"....but we agree on other things."

"Oh, we can talk about love if you wish..." I smiled, patiently hanging the carrot high.