When talking about Baptist views on the Lord’s supper we must begin by recognizing that there is no official Baptist Position on the LS.
Traditionally Baptists have not been confessional, thus Baptists have much freedom in deciding how they understand the LS. Thus in speaking of the “Baptist position” it is more accurate to speak of “Baptist positions.” Michael Haykin (in Baptist Sacramentalism) shows how this is so by examining the history of what Baptists have believed regarding the LS over the centuries. He says that “from the beginning of Baptist testimony in the 17th century there has never been unanimity with respect to the nature of the Lord’s Supper and that no one perspective can justly claim to have been the dominant tradition.” Although this is true, there have indeed been trends to which position Baptists have gravitated towards.
Prior to the 19th century, the most prominent tradition had been the one associate with John Calvin. For instance the 2nd London Confession of faith states that Christ is spiritually present, and that believers spiritually feed upon Christ crucified. In the 18th century a Calvinistic view remains, however the LS as a memorial act is also stressed. However it is during the last quarter of the 18th century that the LS as primarily a memorial begins to gain momentum. Eventually it gains such prominence that “Zwinglianism emerges as the chief contender for a blanket description of Baptist attitudes to the Lord’s Supper.
Since it is recognized that the majority view among Baptists today is a Zwinglian view, next time we will take a look at two Baptist theologians who hold such a view about the LS. To avoid caricaturizing the Baptist position we shall look at two different theologians, one which has established himself among conservatives and another which has not. They are Millard Erickson and James McClendon Jr.