Sacra-licious

My web research reveals two main groups of beliefs about what exactly are sacraments: Catholic and Protestant:

Catholic:

  1. Baptism
  2. Confirmation
  3. Reconciliation
  4. Eucharist (Communion)
  5. Anointing of the sick (related to “last rites”)
  6. Holy Orders (Priests(/Nuns?) only)
  7. Matrimony (No Priests allowed here!)

These wordings came from here, but a much longer discussion (more about the general nature of sacraments than details of the sacraments themselves) can be found at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Denominationally Protestant:

  1. Baptism
  2. Communion

The Baptist Faith and Message, which appears to act as the confessional statement of the Southern Baptist Convention lumps Baptism & Lord’s Supper together, and calls baptism an “ordinance”, but doesn’t use the word “sacrament”. Apparently Baptists are uncomfortable with the Catholic/salvific overtones of the word “sacrament”, and they prefer “ordinances”.

Presbyterian: From the Westminster confession WC XXVII–XXIXand catechism, WSC 93-97.

Lutheran: If you google “Lutheran sacraments” you will find that there is apparently some debate about whether “Confession and Absolution” is officially a sacrament. Maybe various flavors of Lutherans think differently. In Luther’s Small Catechism, the section “Confession” is sandwiched uneasily between “The Sacrament of Baptism” and “The Sacrament of the Altar”. Also, it appears that the term “Sacrament” is overloaded to mean Sacraments generally, or Communion specifically.

Episcopalian/Anglican, Methodist: The “thirty-nine articles” of the Anglican churches and the “twenty-five articles” of the Methodists are related documents, and they both contain this statement, which sums up pretty well the difference between the Catholic and Protestant lists of sacraments:

Those five commonly called sacraments, that is to say, confirmation, penance, orders, matrimony, and extreme unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel; being such as have partly grown out of the corrupt following of the apostles, and partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not the like nature of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, because they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

Note the criterion of being “ordained of God”, hence also the term “ordinance”.

Now for the interesting part: A randomly-sampled non-denominational, evangelical, contemporary, charismatic, church claims this list:

  1. Baptism
  2. Communion
  3. Ordination
  4. Marriage
  5. Baby dedication
  6. Anointing with Oil

Due to the (by definition) lack of doctrinal documentation/accountability of non-denominational churches, the church in question was randomly sampled from all churches for which I have some written evidence of a set of accepted sacraments. That written evidence consists of the 6/9/02 final exam for “God’s Covenants”, in which my answer to bonus question #3 received full credit:

3. List five of the six sacraments (ordinances) of the church

Baptism, Baby dedication, Marriage, Communion, Ordination

Note that the 6th (to be found in the course materials) is

Anointing with oil

First, let’s note the obvious and surprising fact that this list looks a lot more similar to the Catholic than the Protestant list. On the other hand, the use of the parenthetical “(ordinances)” displays a Baptistic deprecation of the term “Sacrament”.

Second, let me ask the obvious question: how is Baby Dedication a sacrament or ordinance? Did God ordain that we are to dedicate our babies? Are we supposed to donate our children to the church when they are weaned? And why does Dbalc say (and I quote, so you can search the comments here):

A baby dedication is not a sacrament

And a final question (since I’m in the mood to pick a fight): how can you get a straight doctrinal position from an organization that doesn’t believe in categorizing doctrine? How do you deal with a church that, for all practical purposes, believes that how you feel about what you believe, is more important than knowing exactly what/why you believe?

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31 Responses

  1. I think you may need to qualify or explain what you mean by this

    how can you get a straight doctrinal position from an organization that doesn’t believe in categorizing doctrine? How do you deal with a church that, for all practical purposes, believes that how you feel about what you believe, is more important than knowing exactly what/why you believe?

    Especially that last question.

    Maybe DBalc, AlbinoHayford or Carl J. can weigh in with their respective (fully orbed) doctrines of what a sacrament actually is. That would, I think, be an absolute necessity for any discussion.

    One last question before I had back to the gym for some final training for this fight: what happened to foot washing – shouldn’t that be a sacrament?

  2. To clarify, I am pre-emptively complaining about anticipated responses to my questions about sacraments of the form

    Arguing about doctrine is a waste of time — let’s just all love Jesus!

    As for foot washing, it certainly looks like an “ordinance instituted by Christ”, but I guess it was left out of W(S)C because it doesn’t meet the back half of the definition: “by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.” Maybe also because it doesn’t have an OT/covenental basis, it is considered more of an illustration of a commandment (serve one another), and it just looks like it might be eligible for sacrament because it is a symbolic act.

  3. It is important to understand what is meant by ‘sacrament’.

    My understanding of what a sacrament is: ‘A human or earthly action through which God has determined, chosen, or created to channel or release grace’.

    I believe that the entire word sacrament has at its basis the belief that the ‘release of grace’ occurs irregardless of the faith of the one performing the sacrament as well as the one upon or for whom it is being performed. Thus, what matters is that God has determined it (the sacrament) to be the channel of grace.

    Therefore, when one baptizes an infant, it is not dependent on the infant’s faith, but the sacrament itself…same with ‘last rites’ etc. For example, a priest is not supposed to perform the sacrament of ‘last rites’ on someone who dying without that person ‘confessing’…BUT, if he did perform it…it would have to ‘work’ no matter what.

    The entire discussion on ‘sacraments’, and the subsequent ‘ordinances’ thing is simply residual Roman Catholic imititation.

    In accurate, Biblical ‘Charismatic, non-denominational’, reformation, etc. Churches…THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SACRAMENT! To hell with the anti-christian remants of Catholic clothes…we are the Church, the Body of Christ.

    The concept of ‘sacrament’ is unbibilcal in that all that we do must be of FAITH and there is no earthly event or action that can by-pass or circumvent FAITH…not even the Lord Jesus’ work Himself could do anything without the presence of FAITH.

    Now, I know that the so-called Baptists call their ‘sacraments’ ordinances…but to even do that is to give an inch to Catholic system…they say ‘sacrament’ we say ‘ordinance’! Why even go down that road?

    THERE ARE NO SACRAMENTS IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH…just Spirit and faith-filled OBEDIENCE!

    At best all that we as a non-denominational (“due to the (by definition) lack of doctrinal documentation/accountability of non-denominational churches”) can do is to preach the Word and believe for the Holy Spirit to do His thing!

    Interesting that ‘non-denominational’ churches are described as having a lack of doctrinal documentation and/or accountability. Accountability to whom? The modern Pharisees who determine ‘righteousness’ or ‘orthodoxy’? Give me a break!

    All such talk sounds like and usually is, talk of Bible School/Seminary weenies who are bored…’they search the Scriptures’…etc.

    To ‘request a list of our church sacraments’ is like someone requesting your qualifications for priesthood and then judging you for not having them! We don’t believe in priests and we do not believe in sacraments! Our definitions of church do not flow out of the paradigm set by the Catholic Church…we simply use the Scriptures to tell us what we should have and do and be as the Body of Christ…and there ain’t nothing in there about ‘sacraments’

  4. Whoo — I hooked a big fish now! Thanks for joining in — note that I also replied to your entry into the CCM Smackdown.

    How can you say both of these things?

    My understanding of what a sacrament is: ‘A human or earthly action through which God has determined, chosen, or created to channel or release grace’

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SACRAMENT!

    It appears that you are equating God’s grace with His salvation, trying yet again to raise that tired straw man so you can look good by knocking it down. Is it not God’s grace that any of us (Christian or not) are alive right now, rather than vaporized in punishment for our sins? Is it not God’s grace that all of us (Christian or not) enjoy a marvelous creation, with many things (air, water, food, love, sex, marriage, children, plants, animals, mountains, music, art, science, March Madness, etc.) that nourish us and bring us happiness?

    In your church, do baptism and communion truly have no signifigance over other biblical mandates? Would you not counsel more strongly a brother who decides not to get (re-)baptized, than one who decides not to, say, make his wife wear long hair and a headcovering? Or who would rather abstain from alcohol than take a little wine for his stomach problems?  Or who doesn’t wash anybody’s feet? 

    To ‘request a list of our church sacraments’ is like someone requesting your qualifications for priesthood and then judging you for not having them!

    Well I don’t know about you, but I can give you not only what I consider sacraments (baptism & communion), and why (because they are mandated by Christ, and they have special covanental, redemptive meaning (relationship to circumcision and passover)), but also my qualification for priesthood.

    In any case, in a town with only two churches, it sounds like you would rather belong to mine than LWC, because they maintain six sacraments, and we only claim two. And I hope Dbalc will weigh in with an official position statement for LWC.

  5. Hi Davie – It’s great to hear from a brother in Christ – out of the distant past. How is Sherie (Sherry) doing? I will never forget watching her husband (who somehow managed to get in the BMT orchestra on the trap set) encounter a waltz beat for the first time in his life. The look on his face as he was trying to figure out what was going on in ‘It’s Beginning to Rain’, while not priceless, was worth more than all the money I paid at BMT in 7 years of tithing.

    Just one question about this

    THERE ARE NO SACRAMENTS IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH

    your adding of the adjective ‘CHRISTIAN’ before the word church seems to suggest that a church which has sacraments is not a CHRISTIAN church. Is that what you are saying? Or are you saying that by virtue of the definition you gave above

    A human or earthly action through which God has determined, chosen, or created to channel or release grace

    that there is no such thing happening during these practices and therefore churches that do them are not operating in reality? And, yet, somehow in spite of being so deceived, these churches are still truly Christian churches? Or something else?

    Not to chase a rabbit trail, but I am having difficulty figuring out this statement

    not even the Lord Jesus’ work Himself could do anything without the presence of FAITH.

    Since both the Father and the Holy Spirit have no problem doing all kinds of things without the presence of FAITH, it seems your argument, which purports to dissolve sacramental efficacy to actually DO anything, needs to be re-worked or, once you consider all the data, be dropped entirely.

    I urge you to read the above in as non-polemical tone as possible. I am learning my ‘be nice’ lesson – so consider all this I write as from ‘one beggar to another’.

  6. “To hell with the anti-christian remants of Catholic clothes…we are the Church, the Body of Christ.”

    “All such talk sounds like and usually is, talk of Bible School/Seminary weenies who are bored…’they search the Scriptures’…etc.”

    Davie, you bring up some interesting points. However, I would encourage you to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit…of whom you believe must “do His thing.” “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Gal 5:25-26.

    This is also a two way street…our brother ruberad does have a streak of abrasiveness in some of his comments (i.e, “since I’m in the mood to pick a fight) as well. It is certainly his right to write as he pleases in his own blog but that does not give us as readers the license to respond uncharitably and resort to unhelpful name calling.

    I think it bears noting something that you wrote… in the context of trying to distance yourself from the Roman Catholic Church and implying that those of us who believe that sacraments are found in the Scriptures are holding onto Roman Catholic doctrine…here is your statement that you may want to revisit:

    “THERE ARE NO SACRAMENTS IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH…just Spirit and faith-filled OBEDIENCE!”

    Perhaps you do not realize it but that is a very Catholic statement…God and man working together with equal footing in the scheme of things.

    This statement also confuses justification with sanctification. Faith is not a work of obedience. Faith is a gift from God (Eph 2) and is only the instrument through which we receive our right standing before a holy God.

    Nor is obedience to be equated with faith. Obedience is simply our grateful response to who God is and what he has done for us in Christ (Titus 3:3-8 notice that our obedience is to be worked out in light of what Christ has done for us!). Obedience flows out of faith and is not in any way meritorious (Rom 4:5;Eph 2). Only Christ’s obedience on our behalf is meritorious for our salvation (Gal 4:4-5).

    I think that in order for there to be profitable discussion about the sacraments we must first make sure our understanding of who does what in salvation is in accordance with Scripture. Our understanding of the doctrines of Salvation will influence our understanding of the Lord’s table and baptism.

    Perhaps I have misunderstood your words. It would be helpful if you clarified what the Spirit (God) does in working salvation and what man does in salvation (if anything). This would go a long ways toward helping us understand where you are coming from regarding your beliefs about the Lord’s table and baptism.

  7. Thanks for jumping in Brad! Everybody else, click on Brad’s name above, and just look at that picture. Does that look like

    a Bible School/Seminary weenie who is bored

    ?

    And if you read this post of his, you will be blessed. What a powerful testimony of our weakness, and God’s strength, in trying times.

  8. Wow! No Sacraments…that is an incredible claim. Sacraments were essentially all that Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph had in their lives. The written Word was not even issued until the time of Moses. These Sacraments, however, somehow managed to “keep” these heroes of the faith faithful without any written Word. (Let me qualify, I believe that God is primarily responsible for keeping them faithful, but I am drawing a constrast to the importance of the written Word for believers today.) Not only is the claim of no Sacraments arbitrary, it belittles or diminishes the value that God has assigned to the Holy Sacraments given to bless His people.

    By what authority do we discard 6000 + years (OT & NT) of “tradition” placing great importance on the use of Sacraments. This, however, demonstrates a very dangerous problem with non-denominational/charismatic churches. They somehow think that they have the liberty to recreate the wheel and follow their “spirit-led” impressions. This practice of adhering to perceived “special revelation” is worse than the problem with the Roman Catholic Church. At least Rome has a history and one head. The non-denominational/charismatic movement have less history and many heads.

    Finally, Baby Dedication, a Sacrament…I can vouch for reubarad on this one since I was in the same class as he was.

  9. I want to put some nuance on Mike S’s points about tradition. Growing up in a non-denominational “tradition” (anti-denominational, really), the prevailing atmosphere was suspicion of all tradition, which does indeed cause/allow them to “recreate the wheel” every generation. One man, one Bible, which implies anything in the Bible you can’t figure out yourself is not really worth understanding. And that is certainly wrong.

    On the other hand, the Romans elevate tradition to co-equal to scripture. Try this search of the online catholic encyclopedia for the phrase “from tradition” and see how many times “proof from tradition” or “argument from tradition” shows up. This is as far from “One man, one Bible” as you can get — especially considering the historical Catholic desire to keep Every Bible away from Everyman. This of course is also wrong.

    In the middle, we have the Right Way (and what a coincidence — it’s what I believe!). We do not discard the gifts of wisdom that God gave to those before us, but use their writings to give us a leg up in understanding scripture. That’s not to say we swallow them whole: Luther believed that infant baptism actually imparted salvation. Calvin, I am given to understand, still believed in the Immaculate Conception (Mary’s sinlessness). But where it counts (the five solas, TULIP, WC/WSC, etc.) the Reformed Tradition is a blessing from God to us today, and we should not ignore it — although nor should we worship it, or elevate it above scripture.

  10. Thanks for the invite to this most recent rant of yours rube. Unfortunatley I found that my participation in the last detracted from many of my responsibilities so you really won’t get much out of me this time around. However I can’t sit by and let many false characterizations go by either… I am not sure at what point all of your negative perceptions of LWC and BMT began or for that matter what motivated them, but I think the record should be set straight that they are merely your opinions and not realities. It’s fine if you want to secure yuor current position as the best position if that makes you feel better, but is it really necesssary to try to destroy every conflicting opinion for you to get to that point of security? If so just take the short version and call every other belief a false church. and criticize eveythign that comes out of them.

    Your link to LWC doesn’t help your cause because it makes no mnetion of of the many sacrements you believe they beleive in. I looked all over it and failed to find it. Nor did I find an “anti-denominational” tilt. Any objective reader will see that. Oh yeah and this.. “How do you deal with a church that, for all practical purposes, believes that how you feel about what you believe, is more important than knowing exactly what/why you believe?” Is just more evidence of the unobjective angle that prevents you from actually getting anywhere in your debates. With your final question you made it clear that you will reject any defense of a contrary postion on the basis of their subjective, feelings based, nature. My question is… How do you deal with you? I’ve determined the best approach is to ignore your debates. Sorry.

  11. I think the spirit of all this (in spite of the frequent polemical tone) is in obedience to this command: “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

    I did put in a plea for an expansion of Ruberad’s “How do you deal with a church . . . .”

    I still want to learn how non-denoms define sacraments, how they decided what are and what aren’t and how generally they see themselves fitting in with historical Christianity, confessions, etc. I get the feeling from Davie Copp that he wants to distance himself as much as possible from historical Christianity and everything the church has stood for over 2000 years.

    Also, I think it is patently obvious that being non-denominational is in itself (in other words, by definition) a statement against denominations. No documentary proof of any other kind is necessary. Once again, the problem has to do connotation. How much polemical baggage does one import with the phrase ‘anti-denominational’? Possibly a lot more than necessary.

    I have a good friend from seminary who broke off from the MacArthur organization and has guided his church into as Reformed a position as possible. He then decided, even though he was loaded down with pastoring his church and running a children’s elementary school, to attend seminary. His reason? He simply felt that as a leader it behooved him to train himself in the word of God as much as he could.

    I will ask him if his non-denominational church is going to try and align itself with a denomination. It ain’t an easy thing to do. You have to demonstrate conformance to and knowledge of a lot of doctrinal stuff. You also must be willing to submit to authority (Hebrews 13:17) and to the denomination’s church polity.

    I really don’t buy the ‘I’m too busy’ bit. As pastors, it should take 5 minutes to state your understanding of what a sacrament is, what your church teaches they are etc. If it takes longer than that, there is something wrong.

  12. Your link to LWC doesn’t help your cause because it makes no mention of of the many sacrements you believe they believe in. I looked all over it and failed to find it.

    Well, that’s kind of the point. For denominational churches, it was quite easy to get a cohesive doctrinal statement, because such a beast exists, and the attitude of a denomination is that they are eager to share their doctrines with the world. The only way I could know that LWC claims Baby Dedication as a sacrament (which would certainly be enough to make me steer clear if I were church-hunting) is by the contents of the Covenants class materials, which are (a) not publicly available, and (b) are not a concise doctrinal declaration (since they are (naturally) more suited to being a course outline). On the other hand, you claim that Baby Dedication is not considered a sacrament (and you are in a position in which your judgements can be expected to line up pretty closely with any official position), so I have to wonder why LWC doesn’t have a consistent doctrinal stand. Why is this? Because it is too hard, or because nobody cares? In either case, again I want to steer clear.

    But of course, coming up with a systematic theology is indeed a very hard thing to do, which is where belonging to a denomination comes in handy. You can leverage the collective wisdom of many generations of God-fearing Christians, who faced all the same questions we do (for indeed, there is nothing new under the sun).

    If so just take the short version and call every other belief a false church, and criticize eveything that comes out of them.

    Davie “NO SACRAMENTS IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH” Copp, I think he’s talking to you.

    Nor did I find an “anti-denominational” tilt.

    Well, not on the webpage, of course, but in the attitudes and beliefs that are drilled into everybody in the church. Statements like

    anti-christian remants of Catholic clothes…Our definitions of church do not flow out of the paradigm set by the Catholic Church

    equate denominationalism with catholicism and thus heresy! These particular statements are excessively inflammatory (and I’m sure in a lovingly brotherly way), but the sentiment is the lingua franca of the non-denominational church (or at least the one I grew up in): denominations are as old, stodgy, dead, lacking in the Holy Spirit, and just plain heretical as the RC itself. Denominationalists are just wannabe Catholics. That’s what I believed, as a product of LWC, and I know I didn’t come up with the idea myself!

    BUT, since you are not anti-denominational, and do not deny that I am a Christian, and since I am not nearly anti-non-denominational enough to deny that you are my brother in the Lord, I confess that I sinned in that I was “looking for a fight”, and that caused my tone to become unnecessarily attacking. Please forgive me.

    Still, however, I would like to politely and humbly ask you to explain how it is possible to teach that Baby Dedication is a sacrament?

  13. I don’t beleive that Baby Dedication is a sacrament. But I think you explained how it could be taught as one when you referenced a “baptistic deprecation” of the word sacrament. The above anonymous is mine but was done from a computer that didn’t automatically put in my name. Sorry.

  14. No worries, mate.

    Looks like you need to update your Covenants Class materials then!

    I think terminology is getting in the way. Obviously DC has some real emotional issues when he hears the word “Sacrament”. So how if I ask this way:

    Is there anything especially meaningful about Baptism and Communion in the way they were mandated to us? Are these commandments somehow set apart from, say, anointing with oil, or “do not murder”?

  15. My supposed ‘polemical’ and non-fruit of the spirit tone has caused all involved to not actually read what I wrote…let me, in a nice ‘christian manner’, try to summarize my point.

    A sacrament, as I understand it to be, and I think would be agreed upon by the ‘church’ that created the word ‘sacrament’ and the principle behind it…is an action done that releases the grace of God regardless of the ‘heart/faith’ position of the one upon whom and for whom it is being done. BY THAT DEFINITION…there can be no ‘sacraments’ in a Christian church.

    A ‘sacramental’ view of the Lord’s Supper then worries about mice eating crumbs that fall from the ‘bread’. Why? Because from a sacramentalist point of view, the bread IS the Body of Christ by the very fact that bread in the ‘sacrament’ is so regardless of extrinsic thing. My point is, let the mice eat the ‘host’, elevated or not, BECAUSE THE MICE HAS NO FAITH and so for him, it is just…bread.

    Now…does God Himself act upon men and women without the presence of faith in them? Of course…However, we would not say that God is a sacrament (although in reality, maybe Jesus Christ Himself is the one and only sacrament).

    Using the above definition, water baptism cannot be a sacrament according to the Scriptures. Why? Because if the one being baptized does not have faith, the act of water baptism does nothing!

    So why do we baptize, or get baptized? BECAUSE THE LORD COMMANDED IT and we OBEY in FAITH. That does not make Water Baptism a sacrament, but an act of faith-filled obedience.

    This is precisely why evangelical churches changed the name from sacrament to ORDINANCES…They understood the definition of sacrament and wanted to distance themselves from that definition.

    This was another of my points…why have ORDINANCES as a replacement of SACRAMENTS? Why not just have obedience to the commands of the Lord and Scripture and leave it at that?

    The idea that “Sacraments were essentially all that Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph had in their lives” is wacky. (Sorry, but ‘wacky’ isn’t that harsh). Paul tells us that Abraham had the Gospel preached to him…they had the Living Word communicating to them. Moses did what He did for ‘Christ’ according to the writer of Hebrews. All of the OT heroes did what they did and were what they were BY FAITH…with no ‘sacramental’ wafer even near them.

    Faith, without obedience is no faith at all…So obedience (even to a so-called sacrament) without faith is no obedience. This is Paul’s point in Romans 1.5 when he speaks of the ‘obedience of faith’.

    Even the Mosaic ‘sacrificial’ acts, which would be the closest thing to a Biblical idea of ‘sacrament’, were made null and void if they were done without a corresponding heart position of faith.

    Hope that clarifies what I am trying to say.

  16. You continue to rail against a definition of "Sacrament" which represents unbiblical (Catholic) doctrine. Your means of reacting to this is to avoid the term, changing it to "Ordinance" or "Faith-filled obedience". The Reformed approach is to reclaim the term with a biblical meaning.

    So I am with you that the Sacrament of Baptism does not confer Salvation.

    I am with you that the Sacrament of Communion does not involve Transsubstantiation (have at it, mice — but have fear, unbelieving human partakers — how's that for an example of God acting on people without faith who partake in a Sacrament?).

    I am with you that we baptize and get baptized, because God commanded it.

    I am with you that we partake of the Lord's supper — in remembrance of Him, because He commanded it.

    I am with you that "God does Himself act on women and men without the presence of faith in them"; in particular by His Grace, granting them the faith to believe unto salvation. But I think I believe more than you in that God does something special and mysterious to us as a result of partaking in Sacraments; this sets them apart from "faith-filled obedience" to other commands (like "turn the other cheek", "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church", etc.). This distinction is why the need for a term like "Sacrament" to set them apart.

    The original intention of my post was to examine historical variety in sacramental language (understanding that common terms are used with sometimes subtly, sometimes radically different meanings by various groups), and note with surprise how one modern evangelical church had arrived at a definition that was quite surprisingly much closer to Catholicism than one would guess from its historical roots. And especially to question the inclusion of Baby Dedication. For this doctrinal blooper, you are not answerable Davie (unless by some magical coincidence your church's doctrinal training materials match).

  17. Well I think we are moving to a closer position of agreement…

    I agree that Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (which I take to be the regular and/or weekly ‘activation’ or ‘doing’ of the one-time act of Water Baptism), are set apart as that ‘faith-filled act’ which releases something of God and His grace. No doubt.

    My primary point is that if faith is not present in the act of Water Baptism then its only water and nothing happens. (I hope you see that I have generously left open the door for the present ‘faith’ to be in the Baptizer and not necessarily the Baptizee. However, if you approach that door, I will have to slam it shut in defense of sola scriptura!).

    Now with regards to the Lord’s Supper/Table. If someone without faith eats the ‘bread’ of a communion service…nothing happens. Its just bread. BUT (hang on), if a regenerated believer (one with faith) eats of the Table of the Lord in an unworthy manner…that is a problem and very dangerous in that they eat judgment to themselves.

    It is the very presence of FAITH in the disobedient believer that releases the judgment of God on that unworthy partaker.

    That cannot occur to a non-believer in that he/she is already under the full judgment/wrath of God. Eating the ‘bread’ of a communion service does nothing good or bad for the person.

    Why? Because we are not ‘sacarmentalists’…we do not believe that in and of themselves the ‘elements’ are ‘the body and blood of Christ’…even if the bell has rung and they have been ‘blessed’. This is where Luther and Zwingli parted ways. (Although I believe Calvin tried to walk the middle ground).

    My beef with ‘evangelical churches’ (I use the term ‘beef’ loosely and in no way consigning them to hell) is that their inclusion of ‘Ordinances’ is simply their way of trying to not be ‘Catholic’ while at the same time hanging onto ‘things’ created by the Catholic Church.

    I suppose the dialogue gets ‘messier’ when it is not Water Baptism we are talking about, or even The Lord’s Table.

    As far as Baby Dedications go…We do them more as an act of ‘prophetic prayer’ asking for God’s care, direction, covering, and will to be accomplished in the child’s life.

    Peace!

  18. Can anyone direct me to some sources that help to explain the modern evangelical church’s view of the so-called sacraments? I am desiring to engage this view and I need a source that speaks for the whole of the movement. Is there any such united spokesman for this?

  19. The “modern evangelical church” being as amorphous and decentralized as Al Qaeda, by definition no such united spokesman would exist. However, I think it’s pretty clear that modern evangelical churches are all baptistic, so maybe you can start with the SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message (linked above). Or maybe you could look up baptism in your copy of Finney’s Systematic Theology (or have you burned it)?

  20. Bruce, just like our Jewish brethren, if you get 3 evangelicals in a room, you will have 11 opinions. We agree that Jesus died and rose again for our sins, and that we are saved by grace through his blood, but as to goose-stepping, brown-shirted throught the streets of academia holding aloft one tome of doctrine and practice, other than the Bible, NO THANKS! Good luck in your search for evangelical papacy.

    I can tell you what I think, though. We don’t call them sacraments, we call them ordinances, and we teach 3: water baptism, marriage, and communion. Of the three, marriage is the weakest, and some of my colleagues also include foot-washing and fasting (but I think that’s stretching it).

    Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary mentions, “1 a: an authoritative decree or direction: ORDER b: a law set forth by a governmental authority; specif: a municipal regulation 2: something ordained or decreed by fate or a deity 3: a prescribed usage, practice, or ceremony…..”

    We consider “ordenances” to be a practice or ceremony set up by Christ and the Apostles for regular observance by the church.

    Hope this helps.

    Your Spiritual Gandalf,
    Jim

  21. One more clarification. I think a major difference I have with those who are glued to Calvin’s Institutes is that for me: “Sola Scriptura” and “exegisis” trumps “systematic theology” A theology prof of my cousin, Dr. Mcquilkin, once said, “It is easier to go to a consistent extreme than to stay in the center of biblical tension”, and I think that we still “see through a glass darkly” and can’t explain some apparent contradictions. I’m all for reading books by Christian thinkers and academics to put some intellectual muscle into our faith, but I’m always wary of somebody’s “system” who has figured it all out for me.

    This is why, when I come to predestination texts, I preach them with my whole heart, just as they read. And when I reach texts that say, “God is not willing that any should perish,” and “whosoever will may come,” and “He died for the sins of the whole world,” I preach those with my whole heart too. God has not given me permission to remove the Biblical tension that exists between the two concepts.

    I enjoy a wide spectrum of teachers and preachers. I admit I really like a lot of what John Piper says in “Desiring God” and “Let the Nations Be Glad,” but then Pastor Jack Hayford is second to none in his explanation of the Holy Spirit’s gifts. I believe, like Paul, that “Apalos is mine and Peter is mine too.” I listen to Pastor Doug’s podcasted sermons in my Pioneer Inno, and I listen to John Piper’s sermons, Bishop Patterson’s sermons, and my Baptist buddy, Trevor’s, sermons as well.

    So when we come to the ordinances of the church, we’ve got ours, but I certainly wouldn’t burst a blood vessel over another preacher having his set – as long as he can show me some Bible, we can agree to disagree.

    Your Spiritual Gandalf,
    Jim

  22. So, the short answer is you don’t have a reference for me.

    I enjoy a wide spectrum of teachers

    Just not those brown-shirted ones? How do you decide which ones are the brown-shirted ones?

    What didn’t you like about the Institutes? I haven’t read it but plan to one of these days.

  23. Ok, you made me laugh, although it would have been funnier to see your sarcastic facial expression.

    I would define “brown-shirted” ones as those weenies who come up with their own set of airtight doctrines, or institutes, if you will, based on their favorite theologian and sometimes executioner, if you will, and then judge everyone else as “pro” or “con” their hero. That is super-irritating. To illustrate this, let’s say I “figure out” all the mysteries of the Scripture and write, what seems to me, to be an airtight set of propositions and doctrines in a cool book. Many people follow me and begin to call themselves, “Ostians”, and challenge others to either refute or embrace their new “Ostian” belief system.

    No, I don’t want to be defined by one guy or one group’s set of doctrinal manifestos. Let’s just stick with “Christians” and keep our book of choice, The Bible, considering all other books to be fallible and disposable.

    As to what I don’t like about Calvin and his institutes, I just don’t have the time right now to list all my objections.

    Your Spiritual Guru,
    Jim

  24. Well maybe since he hasn’t read the institutes (nor have I), and you’re accusing him (and me?) of being “glued to Calvin’s institutes”, and you apparently have read the institutes, you could give us a few hints…

    I can tell you what I think, though. We don’t call them sacraments, we call them ordinances, and we teach 3: water baptism, marriage, and communion. Of the three, marriage is the weakest, and some of my colleagues also include foot-washing and fasting (but I think that’s stretching it).

    So who is this “we” and who are your colleagues? Who do you consider yourself in (non-)denomination with? And what color are your shirts? (And how did marriage become an ordinance? I thought an ordinance was an “an authoritative decree or direction”, something applicable to all Christians)

  25. Bruce,

    Isn’t the “evangelical” spokesman now advocating a new reformation comprised of “deeds not creeds”? Don’t hold your breathe, but I don’t think the chances are very likely that you will find someone that really cares about a biblical understanding of the sacraments. I hope I am wrong.

    Albino Hayford,

    For all your criticism of Calvin and the Institutes, have you actually read it? Well, I have read it cover to cover and think you would be pleasantly surprised that there tons of biblical references. Also, there is no chapter or section titled the five points of Calvinism. These were actually developed about 50 years after Calvin’s death.

    You know what really irritates me is the cavalier and arrogant disposition that asserts that Reformed orthodoxy is not biblical or practical for today. Rather than build on hundreds of years of reflection and analysis provided by godly men, these people would rather reinvent the wheel (an extreme example would be Joseph Smith). Equipped with nothing but their Bibles and a misunderstanding of what it means to be “spirit-filled” they become self-proclaimed exegetes of the Bible.

    Another irritating thing is non-confessional Churches who assert that they only believe the Bible. This is so dishonest, since they obviously have certain understandings and presuppositions about the Bible. Why not summarize what you believe in a confession, so that people can know where you are coming from?

    Do you actually believe that the Bible has contradictions?

  26. Wow…touched a nerve, eh? No, Reuben, I’m not accusing you or Bruce of being or doing anything. I was just letting off a little steam from being in two other e-mail newsgroups and hearing a daily dose of Calvinism spooned up by koolaid-drinking “true believers” who can’t imangine Christianity or the Scriptures without Mr. Calvin. I don’t think I ever put either of you two in that grouping.

    The “we” in my comments is our church, “Iglesia Biblica” or “Biblical Church”. We are non-abominational; oops, I meant “non-denominational”.

    The only book we hold up as the final source of true doctrine and practice is the Bible. The Calvinists that I know would call themselves Bible-believing Christians, then quickly add, “Reformed Calvinists” to the statement. You can almost imagine them finishing the “Gloria Patria” like this: “Calvin without end, Amen.”

    I told you that marriage was probably the weakest of our “ordinances”, but we include it because God made a HUGE deal out of it in the Garden of Eden, so it is an institution that predates the law, and still stands today.

    Ok, are you Mike Samudio, my old friend from San Diego? I think the last time we hung out was at a Halloween party you hosted at your place for the youth group. Glad to hear from you again. If you are not Mike Samudio, my apologies.

    Yes, Mike, you will be giddy to hear that I have read, your boy Calvin’s institutes. I treat Calvin like every other preacher/teacher/scholar…I take the good and leave the bad… Unfortunately, a lot of the Christians that have become overly-enamored with his teachings tend to swallow the whole enchilada, if you know what I mean. Many of my Calvist friends tell me, “How dare you partially appreciate Calvin! How dare you accept 1 or 2 points and not the whole TULIP!” Almost like you’ve got to totally embrace Calvin as your interpreter of Scripture and dump him in the garbage. Sorry, koolaid drinkers. I don’t accept his whole system, but I do appreciate his emphasis on God’s sovereignty.

    It’s interesting you characterize anit-reformed Calvinists as arrogant and cavalier, when I find many Calvinists to exhibit those exact attitudes. You mention Joseph Smith. I think what makes that cult scary is their dependency on several other “holy books” to explain their religous system. Every time I talk to Mormons, they run to “The Book of Mormon” and “The Pearl of Great Price”, and “The Doctrines and the Covenants”, because, of course, we can’t talk about doctrine without bringing those tomes to the table. Brigham Young said, “Whent the living prophet speaks, your thinking has been done for you.”

    Let me try to explain this a little more directly, since I may be having trouble communicating my thoughts. Ask this question of Reformed Calvinist adherents (man, “Bible-believing Christian” just sound so much better, doesn’t it?: If Calvin had never been born, or if you had never heard of John Calvin, and had just read the Bible for yourself, would you still be capable of learning from the Scriptures, with the Holy Spirit as your guide? Is Calvin fallible just like any other preacher/teacher/scholar, and does every modern day preacher have to agree with all his conclusions to be considered “orthodox”? Your answer will determine just how much of a Christian you are or how much of a koolaid-drinking extremist you are.

    As to us being “non-confessional”, I’m not sure that’s true. We have a statement of faith, based on the Bible, like most churches do, but we don’t define ourselves based on somebody else’s teaching or dogma or institutes. (re-read my thoughts on “Ostianism” — I guess Mike S. is an “Anti-Ostian” from now on).

    If it will help you sleep at night, I don’t disagree with anything in the Apostle’s Creed, but I don’t make our church members memorize it. We do however, memorize lots of Scripture in our new believers’ class.

    Finally, I do not believe the Bible has contradictions, but it does contain many things that I do not understand, and neither did Calvin. I still have to preach “the whole counsel of God” even if presents tension between Scripture. It’s not my job to “figure it all out and understand God completely”. That would be like putting whale sperm in a tadpole, since I am not God.

    Anyway, love you guys…wish we lived closer…still cheering for the Padres.

    Seeking more Jesus and less Calvin,
    Jim

  27. Sorry, Mike. You are indeed Mr. Samudio, but I was confusing you with Mr. Synodinas. My bad. I checked out your wordpress blog; represents a lot of work; I like your stuff on Mormonism.

    Jim

  28. Here is an excerpt from a Christianity Today article in September’s issue – “Young, Restless and Reformed” that seems to speak to my point, about de-emphasizing Calvin and his institutes, and lifting up Jesus and the Bible. The article is extremely complementary to Reformed Christians, but this portion echoed my thoughts:
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/september/42.32.html

    Scripture Trumps Systems

    Evangelicals have long disagreed on election and free will. The debate may never be settled, given the apparent tension between biblical statements and the limits of our interpretive skills. In addition, some will always see more benefit in doctrinal depth than others.

    Those fearing a new pitched battle can rest easy. That’s not because the debate will go away—for the foreseeable future, the spread of Calvinism will force many evangelicals to pick sides. And it’s not because mission will trump doctrine—young people seem to reject this dichotomy.

    It’s because the young Calvinists value theological systems far less than God and his Word. Whatever the cultural factors, many Calvinist converts respond to hallmark passages like Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. “I really don’t like to raise any banner of Calvinism or Reformed theology,” said Eric Lonergan, a 23-year-old University of Minnesota graduate. “Those are just terms. I just like to look at the Word and let it speak for itself.”

    That’s the essence of what Joshua Harris calls “humble orthodoxy.” He reluctantly debates doctrine, but he passionately studies Scripture and seeks to apply all its truth.

    “If you really understand Reformed theology, we should all just sit around shaking our heads going, ‘It’s unbelievable. Why would God choose any of us?'” Harris said. “You are so amazed by grace, you’re not picking a fight with anyone, you’re just crying tears of amazement that should lead to a heart for lost people, that God does indeed save, when he doesn’t have to save anybody.”

  29. I’ve actually already read that article (here, from a friends’ blog — put him on your blogroll if you want to be kept abreast of news pertinent to the Christian), and I thought it was great. Here’s another quote from the same article, which I also find to be tremendously encouraging:

    Baptist and Reformed

    Starting in 1993, the largest Protestant denomination’s [Southern Baptist Convention] flagship seminary quickly lost at least 96 percent of its faculty. SBC inerrantists had tapped 33-year-old Al Mohler to head the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which until then had remained open to moderate and liberal professors. Mohler addressed the faculty and re-enforced the school’s confession of faith, derived from the landmark Reformed document, the Westminster Confession.

    “I said, in sum, if this is what you believe, then we want you to stay. If not, then you have come here under false pretenses, and you must go,” Mohler, now 45, said. “As they would say, the battle was joined.”

    Indeed, television cameras and news helicopters made it difficult for Mohler to work for a while. He still isn’t welcome in some Louisville churches. That’s not surprising, since no more than 4 faculty members—from more than 100—stayed with Southern after Mohler arrived.

    Now it’s hard to believe that less than 15 years ago, Southern merited a reputation as a liberal seminary. Mohler has attracted a strong faculty and spurred enrollment to more than 4,300 students—which makes it the largest Southern Baptist seminary. But SBC conservatives may have gotten more than they bargained for in Mohler. The tireless public intellectual freely criticizes perceived SBC shortcomings, especially what he considers misguided doctrine. Oh, and Mohler is an unabashed Calvinist. His seminary now attracts and turns out a steady flow of young Reformed pastors.

    As in many other areas (like reading the Bible), what is needed is a balance. What is the right way to combat overintellectualism and dry, dead Christianity? Infuse bible study with more life application. What is the right way to combat anti-intellectual, liberal, compromising Christianity? Renewed dedication to doctrine, theology, and sound biblical exegesis (and the confessional tradition is a huge head start in this direction).

    FWIW, if I was forced to pare down to 5 points around which theology should be built, I’d choose the five solas over the 5 petals of TULIP. But since I’m not forced to, I’ll stick with solas, petals, Westminster standards, Apostle’s & Nicene creeds. Someday I’ll probably get around to reading (and probably confessing) Heidelberg, Belgic, … and maybe even the Institutes!

  30. Albino,

    Yes, it is me Mike Samudio no longer stained in the sin nor at enmity with God. That’s surpising that my Mormonism stuff interested you? I didn’t think you would like it all that quoting from Calvin and all.

    I’ll have to catch up with the rest later.

    take care

  31. Albino,

    I can’t speak to the Reformed guys that you know, but I know for myself and everyone that I have met at seminary thus far, the Scriptures are upheld way more than John Calvin. Thus, I support your statement about lifting up the Scripture over any fallible source. I just don’t see any true reformed people doing what you accuse them of doing.

    I don’t want to get into a debate over calvinism vs. arminianism, however to assume that there is no resolution between these obviously opposed points of view, embraces relativism in my opinion.

    Apparently you are a big fan of Bill O’reily with your references to kool-aid drinkers?

    Mike S.

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