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Sacramental theology has to be understood in the context of ecclesiology, in the context of the doctrine of the church. That’s not always the way that sacramental theology has been understood. Many of the debates about the Lord’s Supper, for example, seem to be based on a forgetfulness that the Church is present at the Lord’s Supper. The debates have been about the mode of Jesus’ presence in the bread and the wine. All of those questions are important questions, but they all can be asked without even considering the fact that the Church has gathered at the Lord’s Table to do something. All of those questions assume that our only concern with the Lord’s Supper is the bread and the wine set out on the table. In order to understand sacraments properly, we have to put the sacraments within that ecclesial context, within that liturgical context. If we don’t, we are liable to ask bad questions and come up with bad answers. In laying out that primary point, in this course, we will look at first the question of, what are sacraments? Are sacraments signs, are they symbols, are they something else?

Author Bio

Peter J. Leithart (born 1959) is an American author, minister, theologian and senior fellow of theology and literature as well as dean of graduate studies at New Saint Andrews College and holds a doctorate from Cambridge University. He was selected by the Association of Reformed Institutions of Higher Education to be one of the organization’s 2010–2012 Lecturers. He is the author of commentaries on the Book of Kings and the Book of Samuel, as well as a Survey of the Old Testament.