Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper | John H. Armstrong

The cover of Armstrong's Understanding Four Views on the Lord's SupperNo issue in church history has caused as many divisions as the Lord’s Supper.

Christians have not only done different things with the bread and wine, but have done terrible things to each other because of it. (Donald Bridge and David Phypers in Armstrong 12)

The four authors in this book are chosen for the positions they represent across the spectrum of belief:

  1. Russell D. Moore – Baptist – Memorialism
  2. I. John Hesselink – Reformed – Real (Spiritual) Presence
  3. David P. Scaer – Lutheran – Consubstantiation
  4. Thomas A. Baima – Catholic – Transubstantiation

On the Baptist side, the Lord’s Supper is a memorial meal. On the Catholic side, bread and wine become Jesus’ body and blood when the Priest utters the words of institution. The Reformed and Lutheran views are somewhere in the middle, but clearly lean toward each side. The Baptist and Reformed views share much in common, as do the Lutheran and Catholic views (ironically).

Moore is the expositor of the lot. Like a good Baptist, he stays close to the text. His view is far richer than “mere” or “bare” memorialism. For Moore, the Lord’s Supper is a sign which looks back to Jesus’ death, but also forward to his return. In this sense, the Lord’s Supper is victorious proclamation. Hesselink expounds Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper. In brief, Jesus is spiritually present when the elements are taken in faith.

Scaer is the toughest writer in the book. He knows what he believes and is the most forthright in stating it. He nuances the word consubstantiation and explains how the elements are mixed with the body and blood of Jesus himself. Scaer is the most concerned with language, words, definitions, and prepositions. Baima is the philosopher of the bunch. His attitude is conciliatory, but his views are exclusive. He begins with some inspiring paragraphs about God as Trinity and the hypostatic union of the Incarnation. From there, he moves onto explaining church dogma. He does a good job at simplifying the idea of substance and accidents in Aristotelian philosophy.

One final feature of this book is worth noting. There are two appendices which contain the various church confessions concerning the Lord’s Supper as well as significant quotes from various theologians.

If you’re unsure about what all the historical fuss is about, or if you want to think through what the Lord’s Supper means in your own journey of faith, read this book. Each author is interesting and passionate in both their views and in their responses.

—Russell D. Moore, I. John Hesselink, David P. Scaer, and Thomas A. Baima. Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper. Eds. Paul E. Engle, and John H. Armstrong. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007).

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