My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Every year Wheaton College holds the Wheaton Theology Conference, in which a specific subject is delved into by a host of scholars and writers. Then the papers from the conference are tidied up, published and presented for a larger audience. "Come, Let Us Eat Together: Sacraments and Christian Unity" are the papers presented at the Twenty-Fifth Wheaton Theology Conference (2017), bound together in a 250 page softback. This volume is edited by George Kalantzis, a professor of theology and director of The Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies at Wheaton College, and Marc Cortez, also a professor of theology at Wheaton College. The manuscript is mildly technical but can be profitable for laypersons and professionals alike.
"Come, Let Us Eat Together" has authors from across the Christian spectrum: Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist, Anglican, Lutheran, and more. The focus of the book is to "seek to discuss the topic of Christian unity specifically as it relates to the sacraments" (5). The dialogue is civil, informative, thought-provoking, and fertile. A few of the authors seem to run out of steam midway through their essays, or try to stretch their particular topics into areas that barely fit the subject. But most remain on task, honorably and intelligibly addressing their material.
I personally found two chapters to be the most helpful. Thomas Weinandy's essay, "In Persona Christi," makes clear how the Catholic Church views the Priest, in lieu of his ordination, the place of the sacraments, and the uniqueness of the Eucharist. Of the other sacraments, "a priest manifests Christ's priestly presence within the Church and within the world". Whereas in the Eucharist "Christ is not only present simply through his power, but he is also present in the fullness of who he actually is as the risen Savior and Lord, that is, both in the offering of himself as the one saving sacrifice and in his truly being present under the sacramental signs of bread and wine" (55). This all brings Weinandy to conclude that he does not see any way, presently, for Catholics and Protestants to eat together at the same table/altar (64). Then there was Paul Gavrilyuk's chapter "The Eschatological Dimension of Sacramental Unity". Gavrilyuk dives into his Orthodox stream explaining the distaste many in his tradition have for ecumenism. He further explains the tension among the Orthodox, between dogmatic minimalism and dogmatic maximalism, when they insist on the necessity of holding to the true faith as essential to intercommunion. But it was Gavrilyuk's work on the eschatological dimension of the sacraments with regard to unity that was most heartening. As the author observes, to "the extent to which baptism and Eucharist connect the believers with Christ and render them participants in the kingdom of God, partial intercommunion is already a reality...In baptism and the Eucharist we are already partially eschatologically united despite being historically divided" (177). Beyond these two writers, the editors, Kalantzis and Cortez, should be commended for their notable insights.
"Come, Let Us Eat Together" is a decent collection of essays, especially for those who yearn for the day when the Father will answer his Son's prayer in John 17, that all of his people will be one so that all the world will know that the Father sent the Son. Throughout there are useful insights and observations to be personally gleaned, as well as plenty of fodder for group discussions. It's a book I can recommend.
Much thanks to IVP Academic for the free copy of the book used for this review. The comments and observations made herein are all my own. They given freely and without any diktats from the publisher, SCOTUS, or Homeland Security.
The book can be picked up here: Come, Let Us Eat Together
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