Why I think most debates on the Lord’s Table miss the point – Ian Packer

October 2, 2008

In September Ian Packer discussed his paper Why I think most debates on the Lord’s Table miss the point or An Immodest Proposal for the Practice of the Lord’s Table: Toward a Neo-Anabaptist Recovery of the Ancient Christian Meal for the ‘People of the Way’ in a Postmodern, Australian Context: A Theological Primer


This brief study of the practice of the Lord’s Table comes from a systematic theology perspective and does not aim to be a comprehensive nor merely descriptive treatment of all relevant biblical material. Nevertheless, its grounding in a re-reading of the biblical material suggests that much systematic theological discussion has been shaped by misleading questions. Within the limits set, this paper seeks to introduce and illuminate various theological issues surrounding or arising from historical and contemporary discussion of the Lord’s Supper (or “Lord’s Table”/ “Holy Communion”/ “Eucharist”). Thus various theological, philosophical, methodological, contextual, and cultural questions are raised as well as issues of theological ethics, and their connection to some wider ecclesiological understandings in systematics/ dogmatics.

My main contention in this paper is that much systematic discussion of the Lord’s Supper is dominated by reactions to medieval Roman Catholicism and that a radical, ‘critical primitivist’ approach is required in order to recover important elements of Christian practice. Emboldened by the Reformation examples of Luther, Zwingli, and the Swiss Anabaptists, and 20th Century theologians Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, I move toward an ‘evangelical’ (gospel-shaped) revision of ecclesial practices along with a challenge to the idea of these practices as ‘sacraments.’ Some implications for Christian practice today are also briefly outlined. 

For a copy of Ian’s paper please email Theology and Praxis.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: