Table or Altar?

Discussion in 'Worship' started by StephenG, Apr 30, 2016.

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  1. StephenG

    StephenG Puritan Board Freshman

    Any thoughts on whether Communion should be served from an altar?
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think most Reformed churches have not used altars because they may suggest a sacrifice. But say, for instance, a church used an altar to show that the Supper is a sacrifice of praise? In some cases, altars have similar or identical constructions to tables, and vise-versa. So does it really matter or is it just semantics? Also, does anyone know of any Reformed bodies that have used altars (besides, for instance, the Anglican tradition)?
  2. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    We've got no warrant for altars in NT worship. Christ's cross was the last altar.

    Sent from my C6903 using Tapatalk
  3. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    WCF refers to it as 'the Lord's table'. Chapter 29, Paragraph 8.

    I'm not sure that I'm willing to concede that point without significant qualifications.
  4. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    J.C. Ryle railed against what he referred to as the Popish tendency to refer to the table as an altar.
  5. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    It's a table. I don't get upset if someone decides to call it an altar, but "table" is much more accurate. The era of sacrifice is over. The era of feasting is upon us, with still more to anticipate.
  6. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    And he was anglican. :)
  7. Jake

    Jake Puritan Board Junior

    Well, it's awfully hard to sit around an altar and pass the elements about. It's called the "Lord's Table" for a reason (I Corinthians 10:21).
  8. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Indeed. But then so were most of the people he was railing against, so I guess it's a mixed bag when it comes to Anglicans.
  9. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Table....though most are placed at the foot of the Lectern or 'altar' if you will. :p
  10. StephenG

    StephenG Puritan Board Freshman

    So I suppose you would all say that altars are forbidden per the RPW? I can definitely see that. I'm not really for or against altars. I think, nowadays, it's mostly semantic.
    What about the sacrament being considered a sacrifice of praise?
  11. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    It's an important distinction to make because so many are ignorant of the finished work of Christ. If you want an altar, than transubstatiation is the correct understanding of what occurs there.

    We don't hear it as much now, but the same could be true if someone referred to our pastors as priests -- Christ intercedes for us, not a fallen human. There are significant doctrinal errors involved.

    I wouldn't push a single phrase too far. The overall teaching of scripture shows the completed work of Christ as our focus.
  12. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    That's why I didn't say it was completely wrong, just that it needed 'significant qualifications'.

    Big difference between Anglo-Catholics and low church Anglicans, and a lot of folks in between.

    I had more in mind some of the historical actions in connection with Edward, Elizabeth, and the Restoration, but I couldn't locate the information this afternoon when I was looking for it.
  13. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Here is what Ryle has to say about Anglicans referring to the table as an "altar."

    "Does the English Prayer-book warrant any Churchman in saying that the Lord's Supper was meant to be a "sacrifice", and that Christ's body and blood are "present" under the forms of bread and wine? Once more I reply, most certainly not! Not once is the word altar to be found in the Prayer-book: not once is the Lord's Supper called a sacrifice. Throughout the communion service the one idea of the ordinance continually pressed on our attention is that of a remembrance of Christ's death. As to any presence of Christ's natural body and blood under the forms of bread and wine, the rubric at the end of the service gives the most flat and distinct contradiction to the idea. That rubric expressly asserts the "natural body and blood of Christ are in heaven, and not here." Those many Churchmen, so-called, who delight in talking of the "altar", the "sacrifice", the "priest", and the "real presence" in the Lord's Supper, would do well to remember that they are using language which is entirely unused by the Church of England."
  14. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Hebrews 13:15:
    A sacrifice of praise is the singing of a Psalm. The Lord's Supper is in no sense a sacrifice.
  15. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    The altar was, of course. sometimes called "the table of the Lord" from where He "consumed" the sacrifices (e,g Malachi 1:7) but the Lord's Supper being a symbolic and spiritual sacrificial meal which refers to the sacrifice once offered up outside Jerusalem, nearly 2,000 years ago. requires a different table.

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  16. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    Our meetinghouse has no altar; just a communion table. The term altar is very problematic because it gives the idea that a sacrifice is being performed in the Supper. It is a meal. Meals are had around a table.
  17. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Good pun! :)
  18. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    Unfortunately, Rev. Winzer, I'm afraid that pun only works in your neck of the woods! It certainly doesn't here in the American South.
  19. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    No altar rails?
  20. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Actually, Anglican liturgy calls it a table. The Prayer of Humble Access expressly calls it a table.
  21. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Popery has never been hugely popular in the American South, so the joke would likely be lost on many.
  22. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Around here you would have to search for an altar rail. I don't think they even have them at the Catholic cathedral in downtown Dallas since they renovated. There is a Latin Mass parish that has them, and at least one Episcopal church.
  23. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Mainly just alter calls.
  24. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    The pun works just fine down here except perhaps among low church (or unchurched) folk who've never laid eyes on altar rails. It could be that I'm in Louisiana, which has a disproportionate number of Catholics due to the French influence, but I've seen rails in churches that aren't in predominately Catholic areas. I've seen them in Methodist churches and even an independent Bible church. The latter is in a heavily Catholic area, and it was all the more surprising to see it because people in those kinds of churches tend to be rather strongly anti-Catholic. (I'm not sure that they actually referred to it as an altar rail. Maybe they called it a communion rail or something like that. But the point stands.) I went to a Lutheran (LCMS) service a few years ago. They knelt, but I can't recall whether or not they had rails. I haven't been in an Episcopal church in decades. But my guess is that it is more likely than not that they would have one.

    Speaking of that Methodist church, it has an altar so large (and it is of such a shape) that you could envision animal sacrifices taking place there. But I'm still looking for that altar they keep talking about in Baptist and other revivalistic churches.

    In my humble opinion, this business of altars is pernicious and to be detested. We shouldn't have altars any more than we should have incense or the Holy of Holies. The term as it pertains to Biblical public worship shouldn't be on the lips of any Protestant, especially not a Reformed one.
  25. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    My mistake. I thought you were making a pun on "Ryle" and "rail" as sounding alike. Don't mind me.
  26. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    For what it's worth, I have never heard of altar rails, so what the brethren said above holds true.
  27. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I have heard of curtain rails, but hopefully no-one's rebuilding the tabernacle for their worship service.
  28. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Loss of altar rails post Vatican II is a big deal to traditional Catholics. For a very brief overview of the issue, see the Wikipedia article 'Wreckovation" It also ties into the fights over the Latin mass.
  29. MichaelNZ

    MichaelNZ Puritan Board Freshman

    I've seen an old picture of a Presbyterian church in my city with an altar rail - supposedly representing fencing the table. The church no longer has the altar rail.
  30. dudley

    dudley Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    A table, no altar! The scripture passages above clearly show that there is no more worldly priesthood or sanctuary, no more priest's office, no more earthly tabernacle, no more physical alter upon which to offer any sacrifice.
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