Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Scott Bullard on Eucharist, Unity, and Baptists

Continuing a series of occasional posts calling attention to recent doctoral dissertations by Baptists and others in the broader free church tradition working at the intersection of ecclesiology and ecumenical theology:

Scott W. Bullard is Chair of the Humanities Division and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Judson College in Marion, Alabama. His dissertation "A Re-membering Sign: The Eucharist and Ecclesial Unity in Baptist Ecclesiologies" (Baylor University, 2009) was supervised by Barry A. Harvey.


This dissertation argues for the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, as a vital basis of the church’s unity as the body of Christ. It focuses especially on the theology of James Wm. McClendon, Jr., who, though a member of a largely non-sacramental (“free church”) tradition, nonetheless insists upon Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and that through the Eucharist God “re-members” the church as the body of Christ. While the study lauds McClendon’s foresight and direction, it also argues that he ultimately shies away from a sacramental understanding of the Supper and that he skims over the unitive function of the Eucharist. Added to the discussion, then, are two voices from outside the free church tradition: Henri de Lubac, a Catholic, and Robert Jenson, a Lutheran. Together with McClendon, these twentieth century figures and their theologies have had an enormous impact on contemporary discussions about ecclesial unity. In a final chapter, therefore, the study illustrates how they have influenced a number of contemporary Baptists dubbed “new Baptist sacramentalists,” a younger group of Baptist theologians who offer a fresh approach to the ongoing puzzle of the church’s disunity through the Eucharist.

Posts in this series:

Jeffrey Cary on Jenson, Williams, McClendon, and free church ecclesiology

Aaron James on language, Eucharistic identity, and the Baptist vision

Scott Bullard on Eucharist, Unity, and Baptists

Derek Hatch on Mullins, Truett, and de Lubac

Jonathan Malone on Baptists, Ordination, and Catholic "Sacramental Consciousness"

Cameron Jorgenson on "Bapto-Catholicism"


  1. Does the work include anything from William J. Abraham? Specifically, Canonical Theism: A Proposal for Theology and the Church.

  2. Mark, the full text of the dissertation is available online in PDF--click on the hyperlinked title.

  3. Comment from Uncle Jim…a simple layman
    Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah, the Son of the living God, as prophesied;
    • Was born of a virgin
    • Lived a sinless life
    • Bore our sicknesses and infirmities
    • By whose stripes we are healed
    • Was crucified
    • Died
    • Was buried
    • Rose from the dead on the third day
    • Walked among men for 40 days performing more signs and wonders than could be recorded
    • Ascended to heaven
    • Is seated at the right hand of God continually making intercession for the saints (not the just Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals,……)
    • And will come again
    • There is no other name given under heaven which by we must be saved

    While we are instructed to test the word, I fail to see where we are “commissioned “ to invest our existence in a competition among the religious intelligentsia rather “go into all the world …..”
    The words of Jerry Clower come to mind “ We’re complicatin’ the gospel.” And we’re educatin’ the Holy Spirit out of divinity programs all over the world.

    I admire Scott more than I can convey and appreciate the work he did to meet the requirements to earn his degree. I trust that the bulk of his information was God inspired and not whom he quoted that determined the veracity of his dissertation.

    Can we just say “good job” and get on with the task at hand…taking the gospel into all the world and making disciples of those who gladly receive the Word of God.