Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry, Hans Boersma

© Very Rev. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

Boersma_HeavenlyParticipationHans Boersma holds the J. I. Packer Chair in Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, B. C. Every once in a while I come across a book that challenges me in ways I never thought of. For me, this book is something of a paradigm changer, not quite as much as Philip Lee’s Against the Protestant Gnostics, but in that vain. He associates the Incarnation with creation and the sacraments in ways that seem obvious but are challenging.

He discusses early fathers, medieval fathers, protestant reformers and their views of the Incarnation. Moreover, he analyzes modern writers, how the Son of God, adding to Himself creation, makes the created sacraments real. In my Christology course, I’ve been making connections with the Person of Christ in Colossian 1 with the sacraments, where He is the creator of all that is, and thus is “firstborn” over all creation, but also a few verses later “firstborn” over the Church. He is the one by nature and the other by Incarnation. Thus our participation with God is real, not just external, or nominal. Here are several good quotes:

Thus, people experience participation in heavenly realities—in the eternal Son of God Himself—nowhere as gloriously as in the Eucharist itself. Heaven and earth, nature and the supernatural come together in the real presence of Christ on the altar. In a very important sense, the general sacramental ontology—the participation of natural, created existence in the Christological anchor—provides the basis for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (p. 57).

Yes, creation truly participates in its eternal Christological anchor; but this participation is strictly a gift of grace and in no way erases the Creator-creature distinction (p. 71).

If there is no sacramental participation of creation in God’s being, created objects have no inherent relationship to each other or to God (p. 83).

Boersma says that from the twelfth century to the Reformation we have a “shift from theological method from a sacramental entry into the mysteries of God to a syllogistic mastering of rational truths” (p. 159). It seems to me that both are needed, but there is danger in thinking that if we just show up for Mass, we have God; or if we master doctrine in the frontal lobe, we have God. (Rome would be the first view and Gordon Clark or Dutch Reformed the latter.)

This work is only about 200 pages, and has deep thoughts throughout, especially on Plato and Aristotle. Highly recommended but not for those who don’t like to think. AMEN. Ὡ