I’ve been reading through The Oxford Handbook of Sacramental Theology. Unfortunately, on account of the history of Christian doctrine the phrase “sacramental theology” can send shivers down the spine of a protestant evangelical. In light of this book’s actual content a more helpful description would be to call it a “theology of the sacraments”. The book has a truly ecumenical line-up of authors contributing chapters (e.g., Anglican, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Evangelical, Methodist, Mennonite, and, yes, Roman Catholic). This means, inevitably, that sometimes chapters will have divergent views regarding the identity and nature of the sacraments (or ordinances if you prefer that term). However there is much to be gleaned from traditions different from our own. There is a veritable smorgasbord to feast on and it will stimulate and enrich your thinking about the sacraments. The book is organized into sections covering biblical, historical (patristic, medieval, and reformation through today), dogmatic, philosophical and theological categories.
Here is a few sample quotes that I found particularly thought-provoking:
“Strikingly, the fourth gospel omits the words of institution altogether, an omission which has attracted various explanations…perhaps a more promising explanation is that John intended the footwashing of John 13 to be understood as a parabolic reenactment of the Eucharist…On this theory, if the Eucharist commemorates and gives concrete expression to Jesus’s self-giving unto death, the fourth evangelist may well be interpreting sacramental participation as a call to selfless acts of humble service, exemplified iconically in Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet.” (Nicholas Perrin, 54)
“The symbolic action presents divine testimony” (Michael Allen, 288)
“In the eucharistic liturgy, the church journeys to the kingdom that is to come to enjoy the first fruits of the new creation. The church thereby discovers the kingdom is not some other, spiritual world, but this world of eating and drinking transfigured in resurrection life. By its participation in the Eucharist, the church becomes a sign of the coming kingdom, a real-life preview of what the world will be.” (Peter J. Leithart, 640)
I especially enjoyed the following chapters:
1. R.W.L. Moberly, “Sacramentality in the Old Testament”
3. Craig A. Evans and Jeremiah J. Johnston, “Intertestamental Background of the Christian Sacraments”
4. Nicholas Perrin, “Sacraments and Sacramentality in the New Testament”
5. Edith M. Humphrey, “Sacrifice and Sacrament: Sacramental Implications of the Death of Christ”
6. Richard Baukham, “Sacraments and the Gospel of John”
8. Luke Timothy Johnson, “Sacramentality and the Sacraments in Hebrews”
19. Michael Allen, “Sacraments in the Reformed and Anglican Reformation”
39. David Brown, “A Sacramental World: Why it Matters”
41. Peter J. Leithart, “Signs of the Eschatological Ekklesia: The Sacraments, The Church, and Eschatology”
But there were also excellent chapters by Scott Swain, Geoffrey Wainwright, Dennis Olson, David Lincicum, Everett Ferguson, Andrew Louth, George Hunsinger, Peter Galadza, Gordon Lathrop, and Catherine Pickstock.
The following is a list of key resources for a theology of the sacraments:
Bibliography for a Theology of the Sacraments
- Beasley-Murray, G. R. Baptism in the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1973.
- Boersma, Hans. Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry. Eerdmans, 2011.
- Brown, David. God and Grace of Body: Sacrament in Ordinary. Oxford University Press, 2011.
- Byars, Ronald P. The Sacraments in Biblical Perspective: Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church. Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.
- Cavanaugh, William T. Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ. Wiley-Blackwell, 1998.
- Chan, Simon. Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community. IVP Academic, 2006.
- Danielou, Jean. Bible and the Liturgy. University of Notre Dame Press, 2002.
- Davison, Andrew. Why Sacraments? Cascade Books, 2013.
- Gerrish, B. A. Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin. Wipf & Stock Pub, 2002.
- Schmemann, Alexander. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy. 2nd Revised & enlarged edition. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1973.
- ———. The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom. Translated by Paul Kachur. St Vladimirs Seminary Pr, 2003.
- Thompson, Philip E. Baptist Sacramentalism: Edited by Anthony R. Cross. Wipf & Stock Pub, 2007.
- Torrance, James B. Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace. IVP Academic, 1997.
- Wainwright, Geoffrey. Eucharist and Eschatology. Order of Saint Luke Pub, 2002.
- Wright, N. T. The Meal Jesus Gave Us. Westminster John Knox Press, 2015.
- Zee, Leonard J. Vander. Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Recovering the Sacraments for Evangelical Worship. IVP Academic, 2004.
- Zizioulas, John D. The Eucharistic Communion and the World. Edited by Luke Ben Tallon. Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2011.