Books are some of the best friends a pastor can have. How to know which friends to have is quite difficult, for as the inspired Preacher said, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Every so often I recommend three books for pastors on a given topic, hoping the suggestions might hone your book budget.
Today I offer suggestions on books about The Lord’s Supper. One little known truth today about the Reformation is that the Supper was the most common topic of discussion. Yep, more than sola Scripture or justification by faith. Protestants and Roman Catholics alike spilled more ink over the Supper than any other aspect of Christian faith and life.
It must be a telling test, of some kind, that few notable books on the Supper have been published in recent memory. Nevertheless, here are a couple titles well worth your time.
The Lord’s Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread by Robert Letham. There is a lucidity in Letham’s writing that alone makes his work worthy of your attention. The volume is brief (75 pages), but it is not short on truth for feasting. Letham breaks down the topic into four parts: 1) Biblical Foundations of the Lord’s Supper, 2) The Lord’s Supper in Church History, 3) The Supper in Reformed Theology, and 4) The Lord’s Supper in Practice. The ordering seems the most natural way to go about it and the brevity ensures the work is free from undue monotony that can plague the older works. If you read only one work, start here.
Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper by Keith Mathison. In many ways this book is the anti-Letham. It’s long (over 350 pages), has a funky ordering, and the liberal footnoting gives it an undeniably “academic” feel. But patient reading will be rewarded. One cannot truly understand the various views of the Supper if he doesn’t understand the mediating position of Calvin, so this is a vital read. Part 3, “Theological and Practical Issues”, I think is the most helpful part of the book. Grab a copy, diligently chip away at it, and see if your view of this means of grace is not enriched.
What is the Lord’s Supper? by Richard Phillips. I suggest this booklet in P&R’s “Basics of the Reformed Faith Series” because it is probably the one your church members would most likely read . Phillips lays out “the biblical institution of this sacrament, the theological issues surrounding it, and the pastoral considerations for administering and receiving it.” The argumentation is clear, attention to Scripture sound, and care to deal with common questions commendable. A useful discipling tool.
The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes edited by Schreiner and Crawford. Definitely the most extensive articulation of a traditionally Baptist understanding of the supper. Like all edited volumes, some chapters are better than others, but you can pick around according to personal interest and not lose out on much of the flow.
Incarnation and Sacrament: The Eucharistic Controversy Between Charles Hodge and John Williamson Nevin by Bonomo. What is this you ask? Quite possibly the most forgotten, yet significant, ecclesiastical debate of the 19th century. It’s impossible to understand the prevailing American view on the Supper today apart from this controversy. Seriously.
Check out my past suggestions in the “3 Books Every Pastor Should Read” series here.