George Kalantzis and Marc Cortez. Come, Let Us Eat Together: Sacraments and Christian Unity. IVP Academic, 2018. See here to purchase the book.
The basis for this book is lectures that were delivered at the 2017
Wheaton Theology Conference, by theologians with Protestant, Roman
Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox backgrounds and affiliations.
The sacraments divide a lot of Christians. There are Christians who
believe that the “real presence” of Christ is in the Eucharist, as the
bread and the wine in some manner become the body and blood of Christ.
There are other Christians who do not believe in the real presence,
seeing the bread and the wine as symbolic, and the Lord’s supper
primarily as a memorial service. Some Christians believe that communion
should be open, offered to everyone; other Christians hold to closed
communion. There are Christians who accept the baptism of infants,
while other Christians deem such a baptism to be invalid, upholding the
baptism of believers alone as legitimate.
A key question that looms in this book is, with all of these
divisions, how can the church be one body? Some contributors,
particularly some of the Catholic ones, are rather pessimistic. They
believe that Catholics must not share a communion service with
Protestants who reject the concept of the “real presence,” for both have
radically different understandings of communion. Other contributors
look for an element in their own tradition, past or present, that may
permit them to build bridges with Christians who have different views.
For instance, an Eastern Orthodox contributor proposes that perhaps
understanding all of the mechanics of communion is not necessary for the
communion to be efficacious to a believer. A Baptist states that
earlier Baptists had a stronger sacramentalism than the symbolic,
memorialist view of the Eucharist that Baptists later embraced, a
sacramentalism that believes that God is present in the sacrament and
that the sacrament conveys divine help.
In the process, this book discusses the importance of communion, as
well as other topics. One essay focuses on the importance of loving the
body of Christ (the church) when taking communion. Another, drawing
from John Chrysostom and John Wesley, wrestles with the tension between
taking communion in a state of spirituality, and taking it out of a need
for Christ due to one’s inherent unworthiness. Another contribution
mentions the scholarly debate about whether the risen Christ’s breaking
of bread in Luke 24:30 pertains to the Eucharist; more than one
contributor highlights the importance of the preaching of the Word
preceding communion, as occurs in Luke 24, where Jesus opens the two
men’s minds to the Scriptures, before breaking bread with them. There
was a chapter about how the Lutheran emphasis on grace influenced
Christian art in Italy, including the art of Catholics.
The book also had anecdotes, which personalized it, and yet the
anecdotes served to raise profound questions. For instance, there was
the story of one contributor, who had an idea to serve oreos and apple
juice to other young Christians for communion, and the Catholic woman
who later became his wife questioned that practice.
One has reason to be pessimistic that the differences within
Christendom can be overcome or resolved, yet this book does well to ask
if there are bridges that can be built. The book is also edifying and
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
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