A re-membering sign : the Eucharist and ecclesial unity in Baptist ecclesiologies.




Bullard, Scott W.

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This dissertation argues for the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, as a vital basis of the church’s unity as the body of Christ. It focuses especially on the theology of James Wm. McClendon, Jr., who, though a member of a largely non-sacramental (“free church”) tradition, nonetheless insists upon Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and that through the Eucharist God “re-members” the church as the body of Christ. While the study lauds McClendon’s foresight and direction, it also argues that he ultimately shies away from a sacramental understanding of the Supper and that he skims over the unitive function of the Eucharist. Added to the discussion, then, are two voices from outside the free church tradition: Henri de Lubac, a Catholic, and Robert Jenson, a Lutheran. Together with McClendon, these twentieth century figures and their theologies have had an enormous impact on contemporary discussions about ecclesial unity. In a final chapter, therefore, the study illustrates how they have influenced a number of contemporary Baptists dubbed the “new Baptist sacramentalists,” a younger group of Baptist theologians who offer a fresh approach to the ongoing puzzle of the church’s disunity through the Eucharist.