Friday, October 10, 2014

Renew the Table: A Pause and the Pragmatic Filter

Renew the Table is a series of thoughts and opinions concerning the renewal of the Lord's Supper. For more information please see Goals and Disclaimers

Before we continue I would like to pause for a brief second and look back along the path we've been marching. This will allow those of you who are just joining to catch up, and those who've been along the whole time a reminder of context. It will also allow me to properly set up the next installment.

Over the last few posts I think it is fair to say that I have sought to somewhat decimate the Memorialist view of the Lord’s Supper. My investigation began with observing the (quite stunning) infrequent practice of the Lord’s Supper among evangelicals and Southern Baptists in particular. I went on to investigate the root cause of a Memorialist view (the absence of Christ in the partaking) and the bad fruits it produces (i.e. infrequent observance). I then put forward my case that Scripture reveals that Christ is in fact present in the Supper and most recently finished up by exposing an often used, but quite flawed, argument for infrequent partaking that sidesteps the issue of whether Christ is present or not.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Even though we dipped into the theological perspective of Memorialism, what we are really dealing with is Functional Memorialism. Regardless of whether you adhere to it or not, you don’t have to fully embrace the theological viewpoint of a Memorialist to functionally act like one. A church might confess the presence of Christ in the Supper on yellowed paper but functionally reject the presence of Christ every quarter. This is because Memorialism offers no resistance to Pragmatism.

In an earlier post I said “the major fruit by which Memorialism devalues the Supper is that Memorialism produces an “it doesn't matter as long as we meet the bottom line” mindset. Christ commanded we do this in remembrance of Him. So long as we do it, that’s all that really matters. The stripped down mentality of Memorialism encourages the least amount of effort. The Lord’s Supper doesn't become a valuable part of worship so much as a box to be checked off. In this way, Memorialism is the prime option for pragmatists.” Elsewhere I have noted what I believe to be true about pragmatism; “When Man deems, in his own estimation, that a thing is no longer practical, necessary, or convenient he will, at all costs, do his best to rid the world of it.”

The offspring (or casualties) of these two “-isms” can be found in worship services across the land. The reason communion is so infrequent is because frequent partaking is 1) impractical 2) unnecessary, or 3) inconvenient. It may be one or all three of these (depending on who deems it so…), as long as we are meeting the bare minimum (do this as a memory) then everything else must pass through the Pragmatism Filter. Simply put, as long as we do it, it doesn't matter how we do it. All of a sudden, everything else is up for grabs. Questions like, “How often should we partake” take a tumble through the filter and we wind up with our answer: “As infrequently as possible”.

"My Body and Blood, simple as 1, 2, 3!" -said Jesus never
Frequency—despite my incessant drumming and/or beating of dead horses—is a relatively easy, mostly gentle topic that not too many people get worked up about. Honestly, I don’t think it would be quite hard to convince a group of Memorialists the benefit of more frequent communion. Of course the point isn't merely more partaking. We want a fuller, robust, and more biblically accurate communion. But on the surface I don’t think there would be a ton of pushback. But there is another casualty of this Pragmatic Memorialism that I think would be quite toxic to attempt to resurrect in many if not most of these churches. This would be the elements themselves. In particular, wine. Stay tuned.

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