Moore, O'Conner, and the Baptist View of The Lord's Supper
Christ’s Presence as Memorial
Russell D. Moore
Novelist Flannery O’Connor was at a dinner party when “the conversation turned on the Eucharist.” In response to a comment from the ex-Catholic intellectual Mary McCarthy in which she said she thought of the bread of Communion as a pretty good symbol, O’Connor said, “Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.”
Many Christians can sympathize with O’Connor’s reflexively Catholic dismissal of a “symbolic” view of the Lord’s Supper. And, in one sense, she is exactly right. If the bread and the wine are simply “symbols” — along the lines of a contemporary corporate logo — whose point is to remind us of a significant historical event, then the Lord’s Table really isn’t all that defining for Christian identity.
But this, of course, is not at all what Baptists and others in the broad Zwinglian tradition have meant when we have affirmed that the Lord’s Supper is a “memorial meal,” or an ordinance of Christ. In order to understand the Baptist view, we must take into account the biblical pattern of signs, and how it relates to the role of proclamation for the creation and sustenance of faith. But in order to recapture the meaning of the so-called “memorial” view, more than just understanding is in order. Churches must consciously reclaim the Lord’s Supper as a central aspect of the church’s identity in Christ.
Sign up complete.