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October 03, 2008


Mr. Boyd, I know that the tendency of Reformed world and life view thinking has been to try to see the relevance of Reformed teaching for all of life, to break down dualisms between the sacred and secular, and to see all of life whole. Your remarks about making THE table paridigmatic for ALL tables would seem to further this tendency.

And yet, I react with substantial misgivings. At the personal level, this feels so much like my own fundamentalist upbrining where we had to spiritualize everything because anything could be good only if it was spiritualized. So all the things I enjoyed at home or at school had to be given a religious umph to make them truly beneficial; on their own they were merely "worldly."

My modern day application of this problem is that your paradigm making takes away what is most significant and enjoyable about two different tables. When I'm in a pub (preferably smoking, but the fundamentalists triumphed on this one) with friends engaged in informal discussion about politics or sports or even theology, whether with believers or unbelievers, to try to make it spiritual is to take the fun out of it. And on the other side, to try to communicate at the Lord's Table the comaraderie and banter that exists at the pub is to miss another use of tables, one holy, one set apart, one speaking of a different kind of communion.

The other problem is that blurring the difference between common tables and holy tables seems to run into the error of the Corinthians who didn't seem to know the difference between what they were doing at church and at home.

This is why I think the search for an integrated world view has left us without recourse to the highly useful dualism, if not tripartatism, of the distinctions among the holy, the common and the profane. The common table at home or at the pub is good in and of itself because a gift from God as part of his creation; it promotes friendship and a certain kind of community. But the holy table of the Lord's supper is just that, holy, set apart, for a different purpose, one redemptive (in distinction from creational). To blur these distinctions is either to turn a really good time at the pub into a formal and stuffy affair; or to turn the serious business of the Lord's supper into a rave mass.


Thanks for your response. I certainly do not want to break down all aspects of the sacred/secular dualism, or better yet, the "general/special" dualism. That said, the lines between the two are often more of a perforation than a wall - like the distinction between church and kingdom; a true, real and important distinction, though not as neat as we would always like for it to be.

I certainly do not intend to "spiritualize" all tables. In fact, I feel no need to do so. All tables ARE spiritual, just as all of life is spiritual. And yet, this does not mean that all tables are the same. The contexts are different, as is the content, while similarities and relationships still abound.

My question to you is, "Does acknowledging the spiritual nature of all tables really threaten to turn the pub into a 'stuffy' affair? And, does acknowledging such really threaten to turn the Lord's Table into a 'rave mass?'" I have spent plenty of time in stuffy settings and rave masses alike, and I avoid both as much as possible now. But I find pub-time with friends to be anything but a raucous affair, and I find gathered worship to be anything but 'stuffy.'

Which brings us back to the very nature of the gospel, God entering into the real world in order to renew all things through his Son. The Word and Table proclaim this, and we go forth each week expectant, confident, that the God of the Table is the God of all tables...

To speak of the Lord's Table as paradigmatic for all Tables does not - in my estimate - equate all tables. It just suggests that the principles that apply to and uphold the one might actually do the same for the others, even while maintaining different purposes and contexts. In other words, the Table makes us expectant, presses us to live by faith, hope and love; to actually talk and eat and live as if God is near in Christ, and as if all of life falls under his Call in Christ Jesus.

If we acknowledge that "spiritualizing" all things into something sappy or stuffy is actually a form of false spirituality, does that move us more toward consonance in this area?


Good afternoon. Let me preface my comment by acknowledging that I am only 22 years old and fairly new to the PCA. I've just begun seminary and am hungry to learn as much as I can. I say all that to thank you for taking the time to ask me (a nobody) to clarify my comment.

I apologize from the beginning. I should have made these comments earlier in my original post. It was wrong of me to just post a quote with no commentary.

You asked me a question about quoting Pope John Paul II. To be honest, I quoted a Roman Catholic to be a little different and to grab people's attention. It seems to have worked :)

Here is the quote again:

"Lord Jesus, Who in the Eucharist make your dwelling among us and become our traveling companion, sustain our Christian communities so that they may be ever more open to listening and accepting your Word. May they draw from the Eucharist a renewed commitment to spreading in society, by the proclamation of your Gospel, the signs and deeds of an attentive and active charity,"

Another reason I quoted it was because I thought it was in line with our Reformed tradition to connect the Eucharist with the Word and the proclamation of the gospel. As Bill Boyd has articulated so well, reclaiming the importance of the table in worship does not diminish the importance of the Word. They go together. It was nice to see someone outside our tradition communicate this so beautifully.

Lastly, I used this quote because it highlighted a strong theological interest of mine: What are the communal and even societal implications of the Eucharist? I have been greatly impacted by William Cavanaugh, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Hans Urs Von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac in this regard (three Roman
Catholics and a Lutheran!) Pannenberg talks about a "eucharistic piety". I don't have any quick answers to this pregnant question. I would love to think through how coming together at the table transforms and empowers us to go back into our homes and communities with the gospel.

So there you go. I love the superhighway of Presbyterianism but like to take a few detours on the way-- I often need some fresh air and I love the interesting landscapes I come across.

Now I have a new question for you? Your latest comment responding to Bill Boyd seems to be grounded in the traditionally Lutheran "Two Kingdoms Approach" to the Christ and Culture question. Lately this view has been promoted by Kline, Horton and others at WSC. Is this the paradigm you are operating through?

Second question. In many of the responses to Boyd, several individuals have basically said that Boyd's suggestions for renewal would ironically lead to the very thing Boyd is warning us against: the devaluing of the Table. Some have argued that Boyd misses the solemnity and seriousness of the table. Biblically speaking, where do people find this idea that the Lord's Supper is a somber and serious time where we need to "introspectively" assess our sins?

Thank you so much for your time,

in Christ


Pastor Boyd, in today's response writes that the purpose of his talk is "to illustrate how an attentiveness to God's Word leads to an attentiveness to biblical modes of communication; in particular, images and metaphor." He views the Lord's Table as one of the central images. God surely uses metaphor abundantly in His revelation to us, and the words of Jesus in the instituting of this act of remembrance certainly point to a greater reality. But TE Boyd goes on to say, " The Table is truly transformative. Gathered worship serves as a paradigm for every gathering, whether we realize such or not." How can the metaphor function in this way? If our communing with the Lord is transformative, it is the work of the Spirit. To quote Calvin, the "means of grace" operates only upon those who have faith. I am sure TE Boyd knows and believes this. But the focus of his talk is on the human experience. Somehow our deprived senses need to be set free to revel and enjoy. He intends to "flesh out" our worship and make it richer; ironically, for me, he reduces the inexpressible wonder of the reality of the New Covenant to the experience of our five senses. The spiritual raality we enjoy is inward now; when Christ returns, it will also be outward. (This is not in the least to say that we do not revel and enjoy all the goodnesses of creation--it is just to put them in their place.) For now, it is our souls which taste and see the goodness of God, his fragrance delights our inward senses, until we overlow in praise. Read Spurgeon, read Jonathan Edwards, both of whom describe so well the going out of the soul in response to the beauty of our Savior. Indeed the mark of the Christian are these religious affections, these sensibilities of the soul that was blind until the Light shone in.
Here is a provocative bit from a catholic Christian, a non-Presbyterian, "Tomorrow mornng a priest will give me a little round, thin, cold, tasteless wafer. Is it a disadvantage--is it not in some ways an advantage--that it can't pretend the least resemblance (emphasized) to that with which it unites me? I need Christ, not something that resembles him." C. S. Lewis, in "A Grief Observed."

Bill: by making distinctions between pubs and the Lord's table, I was partly trying to argue against the casualness and informality that bedevils today's worship, whether in so called traditional or contemporary worship. This relates to a question of propriety, a sense we are also losing because of blurring settings. My hunch is that most people know that gathering in the presense of their risen Lord should evoke a different response and ethos than gathering with their friends at a pub. And by not making these distinctions we may border on violating the entire first table of the Decalogue. After all, the point of keeping things holy and doing things reverently is to avoid profaning holy things. Which is what happens if we blur the common (good) the holy (blessed).

BTW, I'm not sure what you mean by the distinction between church and kingdom. Our standards teach that the visible church is the kingdom of Christ.

Quique: thanks for your explanation. My own preference for a high view of the Lord's supper is to go to Reformed sources since Rome has so much baggage attending the mass.

As for me being a two-kingdom person, why, yes I am. But this is not a Lutheran view. The Reformed tradition has long maintained that from the distinction (sorry to keep making these) between creation and redemption follows other distinctions such as those between Christ's sovereignty as creator versus his sovereignty as redeemer. From this has followed a separation of powers -- the church's rule is spiritual, while the state's is physical. This also undergirds the Confession's teaching that the church is not to meddle in politics, because the church does not have jurisdiction to do so. As Calvin explained, anyone who can distinguish between body and soul can also distinguish between the powers ordained to govern those spheres. Likewise, not being able to make that distinction is to commit, in Calvin's words, "a Judaic folly."

Bill, I appreciate your reminding us that the Table is a place marking a perforation between two realms, and, Darryl, I appreciate your calling attention to the duality of those realms. You are both right. In part, the wonder of the Table is this: we neither drag Christ back down to earth nor “celebrate his absence,” but rather, as Calvin was inclined to put it, find ourselves drawn up by the Spirit and united to the Heavenly Christ. “I rather experience it than understand it,” Calvin confessed (Institutes 4.17.32).

I find if fascinating and relevant to this discussion that I Corinthians 10:31 says: "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." The immediate context around these verses (verse 27) speaks of eating a meal with unbelievers and the larger context certainly includes the Lord's Supper. It seems clear that ALL eating and drinking is to be done to the glory of God. His glorious presence is always in view in an overarching and comprehensive way. Yet the specific manner in which we give glory to God in the Lord's Supper in the context of corporate gathered worship will differ from family meals and other eating and drinking with friends and even unbelievers. And the one meal (Lord's Supper)done for God's glory is filled with the very empowering grace we need for all other meals to be conducted to God's glory as well. The weekly cycle into corporate gathered worship and then out into daily all of life worship is designed for God's glory, our transformation and God's mission in the world through us His people.

That is a great reminder, Reggie, and a wonderful synthesis. Thanks for weighing in.

Darryl, thanks as well for continuing the dialogue. I need to think more about the relationship between that which is "good" and that which is "blessed."

In terms of a Kingdom/Church distinction, I refer to the ongoing discussion about the nature of the two and the distinctions between the two. Do you personally draw any distinction between Church and Kingdom?

Bill: that's a big question about church and kingdom. I assume you mean kingdom of God, not the United Kingdom. And I assume you mean the visible church, not the invisible one.

I personally follow older Reformed figures, not more recent ones who blur the general kingdom of divine sovereignty over all things and the special kingdom of Christ's rule where every knee bows and every tongue confesses Christ as lord. In the general kingdom, Christ is lord as creator even over Saddam Hussein or Nero. I know that most American Protestants have assumed that the affirmation of God's kingdom means liberty, democracy, and free markets prosper. But in point of fact, God's ways are not American republicans', and he is lord and knows what he's doing even when he ordains powers that are tyrannical. (BTW, unlike the neo-Calvinists who want to take over every square inch for Christ's rule, paleo-Calvinists like Calvin himself were unwilling to rebel against the French monarch and so "transformationalize" Paris.)

In contrast, in the special kingdom of Christ, we are talking about the visible church. Hence the Westminster Divines wrote that the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ outside of which there is no ordinary possiblity of salvation (25.2).

I know the spirituality of the church doctrine is out of favor these days compared to the popularity of word and deed ministry and the drive to extend Christ's kingdom everywhere. But the spirituality of the church does preserve what Calvin and other old Reformed thinkers saw as the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom and ministry, which also guards against committing the Judaic folly of looking for Christ's rule in non-redemptives spheres, and which follows the regular biblical counsel not to put our trust in princes or the affairs of this world.

Christ is indeed Lord or king of all things, but he delegates his authority to lesser authorities. The state, the church and the family have limited spheres of power. Trying to keep the distinction between the holy and common in mind helps to reinforce those limits. (Ironicially, the most difficult question is not what the church's scope of authority is, but the family, since the latter's members conceivably may be under the rule of all three lesser authorities.)

I see the appeal of your view but it leaves me with a question. When the Consummation occurs will it be a radical shift not only in Christ's reign as experienced by Christians but also in the practical scope? I don't know if I'm asking this well, but I'm simply thinking of the grand narrative of Scripture and wondering if you view the Consummation as a sort of great disjunction wherein Christ suddenly and surprisingly (for most) takes over all realms, or if your view can harmonize with a view in which all of life is slowly being brought under the lordship of Christ and thus the Consummation will be a great fulfilling of what has begun but not an entirely different thing from what has already been? Again, I don't know if I'm asking the question clearly, but it just feels to me like on the spirituality of the church model there is a bifurcation between the already and the not yet that would seem to make the Consummation a bit "out of the blue" as opposed to the organic fulfillment of the shape of redemptive history. Sorry, this is a bit of a meandering question, but I hope you can help me out nonetheless.

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