What do I think of John Armstrong’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
We often think that the table of the Lord should be where we find unity. In an ideal world, this would be so, but we do not live in that ideal world. Unfortunately, it seems that when we come to the Lord’s table, even when we get there, we get into a debate about what is going on. We might as well learn to understand each other.
In this book, we get the views of a memorial view more in line with the Baptist tradition, the Lutheran view, and the Roman Catholic view. All come together with a mutual respect displayed for one another and in conversation. Each states his view to have it critiqued by the others.
I find myself more in line with the Baptist view. Many of the others honestly seemed to be incredibly similar to me and at times seemed hard to understand. All sides did strive to engage with Scripture to show the points they were arguing.
One aspect that surprised me was how little interaction there was with the early church. I remember Thomas Aquinas being cited at times, but I don’t remember people like Justin Martyr or Tertullian or others. It would have been good for some to try to give further demonstration that their view was the view of the original church that way. This was especially a shock when it came to the Roman Catholic position.
Many of these also addressed practical questions. Who can come to the table and how often should we come to the table? What about children at the table? All of these are important questions, but at the end, I am left with another question that might seem odd, but hear me out.
What practical difference does all of this make overall?
I am not against understanding what Jesus said and better making sense of it, but am I to think that you will not live a devout and holy life if you hold to the Memorial view as opposed to the Lutheran view? Is there anything in the text that indicates that unless a priest or a pastor says the right words or whathaveyou over the elements, that they do not become the body and blood of Jesus?
When we read the text, the text tells us in 1 Corinthians to examine ourselves. God will provide on His end, but we need to make sure that we are treating His gift properly. Most of the Christians today do not seriously think about the Lord’s Supper. While this is a shame, there is one right thing. They do it because Jesus told them to do it. If it drives them to live a holier life, all the better.
Also, I really don’t see churches today observing what I think is the Lord’s Supper anyway. Most of us have what my wife has called “The Lord’s Snack.” When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, there were people going home hungry and some getting drunk. How many people are going to take a little piece of bread or a wafer and say “I couldn’t eat another bite!” or get a little bit of wine and go home drunk as a skunk?
For us, it’s also individualized. In some Protestant churches, you can get the elements individually wrapped for you. In all branches, what I have seen is something very individualistic. A priest or pastor presides and people come up one by one and receive the elements that way. There is no unity. There is no need for you to know the person behind you or in front of you. In the ancient world, a meal was a communal experience. That is not going on in our churches today.
I am not against us striving to understand what Jesus said all the better, but I do hope we return to a table of unity soon. When we exclude fellow Christians from the table, I just consider this tragic. If we are all going to partake of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb together someday, should we not learn to partake of the table put before us together today?