Debating Reformed Eucharistic Theology

I’m pleased to announce that volume 2 of The Mercersburg Theology Study Series, edited by Linden J. DeBie and entitled Coena Mystica: Debating Reformed Eucharistic Theology, has just been published by Wipf and Stock Publishers.  You can read more about the Study Series, of which I am serving as General Editor, and which aims to print at least 13 volumes of the writings of Nevin, Schaff, and their colleagues over the next few years, at our website.

This is one of the most exciting volumes in the whole series, bringing to light material that has never been seen before by most scholars, let alone the general public, in an easily accessible form that enables comparison of two rival models of Reformed sacramentology.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Here’s what some leading scholars and historians had to say:

These are essential documents pertaining to one of the most important theological debates in American history. They remain of great interest today for not only deepening how Reformed churches might understand the Lord’s Supper in accord with Calvin, but also for the possibility of Reformed ecumenical convergence with churches from which they have long been divided. . . . The editors have performed a great service to theology and the church. —George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary

This debate on the Lord’s Supper is by no means of narrow denominational interest only; for Hodge and Nevin represent doctrinal and sacramental views that are ardently defended to this day—not least in ecumenical discussions. We thus have here a welcome and instructive addition to what is already proving to be a useful series of carefully introduced and edited texts. —Alan P. F. Sell, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

No theological debate in nineteenth-century America displayed more erudition, logical acumen, and knowledge of European scholarship than the clash between Hodge and Nevin over the sacraments. The editors of this volume not only provide stunningly good introductions, but they also arrange the material in an ingenious way that deepens our insights into the issues and enables us to easily follow the discussion. —E. Brooks Holifield, Emory University

Too often in contemporary theology . . . the Eucharist is identified with its Zwinglian variant, according to which the sacrament is largely a spiritual memorial. In the nineteenth century, this view was championed by Charles Hodge, who eschewed the higher sacramentalism of Calvin. By contrast, his erstwhile student John Williamson Nevin attempted to restate the higher Calvinistic account of communion. The battle of journal articles that ensued, reprinted here for the first time since the nineteenth century, is a window into this debate. Oliver Crisp, Fuller Theological Seminary

One thought on “Debating Reformed Eucharistic Theology

  1. Wayne Johnson

    I’ve just received my copy of Quest for Reformed Catholicity and l plan to read that before wading into Eucharistic Theology. In the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) today, the theology of Nevin and Schaff is viewed very negatively, so this should be interesting. Schaff left the battlefield early, moving to Union Theological Seminary. Nevin stayed and gets the blame for a variety of ills, including introducing the doctrine of purgatory in the seminary, for example. Toward the end of his life, he wandered off into the Swedenborgian mist, after toying with the idea of joining many of his students in converting to Romanism. When the Reformed Church split, the conservatives left Mercersburg theology behind, continuing as the Reformed Church in the United States. The liberal wing became the United Church of Christ. Frankly, it’s going to be difficult to consider the notion that either Nevin or Schaff represented Reformed orthodoxy, but I will try to give it a fair read.

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