John Colwell presents a robust sacramental theology for Protestant churches. He maintains that a doctrine of the Trinity leads us to conceive of God’s gracious engagement with his creation as one that is mediated through that creation. And this lies at the foundation for an understanding of the sacraments. Colwell further argues that the Church and Scripture confer context, definition, and validity on all other sacramental events.
Following an introduction that briefly reviews the development of sacramental theology, the book begins with an exploration of God’s Triune identity and the implications of this doctrine for the gracious and mediated nature of God’s relatedness with the world.
A central section follows in which a doctrine of the Church and a doctrine of Scripture are expounded in response to this understanding of the gracious and mediated nature of God’s relatedness. Both Church and Scripture are identified as conferring context, definition, and validity on all other sacramental events.
The final section reconsiders the seven Sacraments of the Catholic tradition in the light of an understanding of sacramentality developed in the first two sections of the book. The Sacraments are discussed from a Baptist perspective but with a committed ecumenical intent and an underlying awareness of the contemporary British and North American context within which the Church exists and Scripture is heard.
[This] is a remarkable effort, and would be even if it failed. As it is, it is carried through with wide scholarly range, conceptual sophistication, and wit.
—Robert Jenson, Formerly Senior Scholar for Research at the Centre for Theological Inquiry, Princeton, Professor Emeritus of Religion, St. Olaf College, Minnesota
We live in strange ecclesial times. Who could have anticipated a wonderful book on sacraments by a Baptist theologian? But John Colwell has done nothing less than write an extraordinary constructive account of sacramentality that anchors the sacraments in the very nature of God… Highly recommended for Catholic and Baptist alike.
—Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School, North Carolina
A remarkable achievement, exploring a sacramental theology which is both evangelical and thoroughly catholic… a lively, pungent, sometimes provocative account which is grounded in pastoral and personal experience and draws on a deeply scholarly grasp of both historical and modern theology… practical theology as it should be done.
—Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford, and Principal of Regent’s Park College, Oxford
Not just the splendid Protestant text book on the sacraments that we have needed for many years, but also a profound reflection on the doctrine of God, on grace and on revelation. Only on this kind of basis can we ever develop sensible visions of Church ecumenism.
— Philip Endean SJ, University of Oxford, and editor of THE WAY
Dr. John E. Colwell is Tutor in Christian Doctrine and Ethics at Spurgeon’s College, London.