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.”

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