Tuesday, 17 February 2009

My book on the Lord's Supper

Since I mentioned my book in the previous blog, further details about it can be seen here.

In this post, I will include the foreword by Douglas Kelly and the endorsements (in alphabetical order) on the cover.

Foreword by Douglas Kelly (Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)

It is my pleasure to write this foreword for my long-time friend, Malcolm Maclean, both out of high esteem for him and his ministry, and also out of excitement over this much-needed volume on the meaning and practice of the Lord’s Supper.

Over my many years as a theology professor, I have longed for a clearly written volume of modest size on the subject of the Lord’s Supper. My desires have been that it would start off with fair-minded Biblical exegesis of crucial passages; that it would look honestly (while avoiding bitterness or exaggeration) at the different (and competing) understandings of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper among the major Christian traditions; and that finally it would state attractively, but humbly (with awareness of conceptual limitations of any viewpoint), the insights of John Calvin on the spiritual presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.

I have wished for something like this, not only as a professor, but also as an ordinary church-goer. For at times, I am disappointed at being told at communion services what is wrong with the non-Presbyterian views, and then there is a ‘full stop’ before the elements are passed out. I wonder, do these ministers have no idea what Scripture actually teaches about how the risen Christ is using the Lord’s Supper to strengthen the bonds of union with himself? I will be surprised if Malcolm Maclean’s new book does not greatly help them get beyond the mere negative critique of defective views, into something beautifully positive and full of life for the congregation of believers, as well as seekers.

All of these long-desired things, I have – to my great pleasure and gratitude – been given in this work of Malcolm Maclean. I normally do not like preparing forewords to books. But this one was an exception: I could barely put it down! While it is fairly and soberly written with academic care, somehow it is beautifully and intriguingly written, so that it keeps you wanting more, and will simply not let you go until you have finished it.

Malcolm Maclean adds something in addition to the points I had for years desired in a book on communion, and I am glad he did so. He ‘earths’ the theology and practice of the sacramental life that is based upon faith in the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, in the experience of the Reformed Churches in Scotland for the last 500 years. His account of sacramental Calvinism in Scotland does not pass through rose-tinted glasses. It combines appreciation with necessary, realistic critique. But somehow, it all comes alive, and leaves one hopeful for the future of local churches, who are determined to minister fruitfully Word and sacrament in their own generation and culture.

This book will become a required text in the course I teach each year on ‘Church and Sacraments’ at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte.

Endorsement by Dr. Iain D. Campbell (Free Church of Scotland,Back, Isle of Lewis)
Malcolm Maclean’s study of the biblical basis, historical development and practical administration of the Lord’s Supper in our churches is a rich blend of scholarly analysis and pastoral insight. The question of what Jesus is doing in the Lord’s Supper rather than what we are doing challenges the subjectivism that drives much of our practice, and restores a much needed emphasis on the Supper as a means of grace. This study is highly recommended.

Endorsement by Mark Johnston (Grove Chapel, London)
Few things are more precious in the ordinary life and experience of the church than the sacramental meal instituted by Christ. Yet few things are more poorly understood and appreciated by his people. Round the Lord’s Table we not only meet with Christ and hear his voice – which is true on every occasion his people gather in his name – but we also commune with him. In the language of the Book of Common Prayer: here his people ‘feed upon him by faith in their hearts with thanksgiving.’

Malcolm Maclean has done the church of the 21st Century an enormous service by providing a resource that opens up the meaning of sacrament so helpfully. He not only unpacks its significance as he explores its theology, but by looking at the past he also makes us think again about the practicalities of how it should be celebrated. All who long to benefit more fully from the Lord’s Supper will do well to read these pages.

Endorsement by Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas (Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi)
A veritable tour de force on the theology and practice of the Lord’s Supper in Scottish Presbyterianism which will be of interest to the entire church. Maclean’s handling of the subject is comprehensive and sure-footed, delving into practical areas of frequency and observance as much as the theological principles which underpin the Communion Service. A timely and important book that will aid in the rediscovery of importance and function of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the life of the church.

1 comment:

dowboy said...

Looking forward to seeing it Malcolm. It's a great subject.