TS/MC: We believed a scholarly book on the Lord’s Supper was needed among Baptists, and didn’t see a recent work that examined the issue biblically, historically, theologically, and practically. We hope that such a book will be a catalyst for renewal in the theology and practice of the Supper among Baptists in the academy, in the pulpit, and in the pew.
2. Who is the book written for?
TS/MC: The book is written for students of scriptures and for pastors. Our hope is that pastors especially will be interested in the book, for the Lord’s Supper is celebrated regularly (or should be!) in our churches. It is easy to begin to take the Lord’s Supper for granted and to fall into patterns without reflecting deeply on what we do or why. The historical chapters are vital here, for we are not the first Christians, and we can learn much from those who preceded us. It is also valuable to reconsider the teaching of the biblical text on the Eucharist, so that we are refreshed in the scriptures. As pastors gain a fresh sense of the significance of the Supper, our hope is that this directly impacts the life of local congregations.
3. What is the purpose of the book?
TS/MC: The book has several purposes. We want readers to be exposed to historical views of the Lord’s Supper, to reflect on Communion biblically and theologically, and to think about the practical outworking of the Supper in our churches. Through a careful examination of these various issues, a picture emerges of the Supper as a central part of the ongoing life of the church and of the Christian, as a means of sanctification and perseverance, and even as a means of evangelism.
4. Were there any significant differences between the contributors of the book?
TS/MC: There are some interesting differences. For instance, not all the contributors agree about whether we should practice close or open communion. The chapters by Van Neste and Wills are especially interesting in this regard. Also, there is no complete agreement on how often the Eucharist should be celebrated. Some think it should be celebrated weekly; others that it should be celebrated often, though weekly observance is not required. It seems that there is also some difference about whether Christ is spiritually present in a special way at Communion. Of course, what we mean by Christ’s spiritual presence is itself debated, but there seems to be some difference on this matter. Various Baptists leaders and theologians have historically come down on opposing sides on these points, such as the issue of who is admitted and the question of the presence of Christ, but there has been room in the Baptist camp for both sides. We hope that it will remain so today.
5. What were some of Ray Van Neste’s practical implications on the Lord’s Supper?
TS/MC: Van Neste argues that a general lack of appreciation for ritual and symbolism have lead to the devaluing of the significance of the Supper in the life of the church, and so he suggests that they instead have a vital role to play if the church wishes to obey scripture. Other points that he highlights are that the celebration of the Supper should be just that – a celebration – rather than a joyless observance; that Christians should not abstain from the Supper due to a sense of unworthiness; and, perhaps surprisingly to some, that the Supper should be celebrated weekly in the regular gathering of the church. However, he puts forward the last point as a point of useful practice rather than as a biblical mandate.
6. Are there any other books on the Lord’s Supper that you would recommend?
TS/MC: For those who want a quick survey of a variety of positions, there are two books that lay them out – The Lord’s Supper: Five Views (IVP) and Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper (Zondervan).
The chapters for the book are as follows:
Introduction: Tom Schreiner/Matt Crawford
1. The Lord’s Supper as a Passover Meal: Andreas Kostenberger
2. The Last Supper in the Gospels: Jonathan Pennington
3. The Lord’s Supper in Paul: Jim Hamilton
4. Communion in the Early Church (200-500): Michael Haykin
5. Communion in the Carolingian Era (500-1000): David Hogg
6. The Roman Catholic View of Transubstantation: History and Evaluation: Greg Allison
7. The Lutheran View of Communion: History and Evaluation: Matt Crawford
8. The Calvinist View of Communion: History and Evaluation: Shawn Wright
9. The Zwinglian View of Communion: History and Evaluation: Bruce Ware
10. Soundings from Baptist History: Greg Wills
11. The Lord’s Supper: A Theological Appraisal: Greg Thornbury
12. The Lord’s Supper: Practical Implications: Ray Van Neste
Epilogue: Tom Schreiner/Matt Crawford