Skip to main content

Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and Theological Method

Over at Jesus Creed Scot McKnight has an interesting post discussing elements of Chris Hall's book, Worshiping with the Church Fathers. The section under discussion is on the sacraments/ordinances, specifically baptism. Near the start of the post, McKnight brings up, what I think is an excellent point that I'd like to develop a little bit more.

How do we understand baptism and the Lord's Supper? Are they sacraments or ordinances? Much of Evangelicalism, at least those with baptist roots, tend to see them as ordinances. They are things that we are commanded to do by Jesus, therefore we do them. The Lord's Supper is an act of remembrance of the Lord's death and baptism is a public declaration of our faith that symbolizes our death to sin and new birth into new life.

Those who see them as sacraments invest them with more meaning. What Hall points out, very helpfully, is that sacramental theology is rooted in the incarnation. God comes near to us in matter (Read Scot's post if you want to know more about the origins of sacramental theology - I am going to go in a slightly different direction here). Thus, for some, baptism and the Lord's Supper go beyond being symbols. They're participatory acts. Christ is present in the elements of the Lord's Supper (some believe he's physically present, others believe it is his divine presence), and baptism is the act where we, in a real sense, participate in Christ's death and resurrection.

Ok, so where am I going with this? I think this case in interesting because it clearly demonstrates two common methods of doing theology. How far are we willing to go 'beyond the Bible' in formulating theology? I think that some of those who see them as ordinances do so out of a desire to be cautious in forming theology. They want to avoid going all that far beyond the explicit statements in the Bible. On the other hand, those who hold a sacramental view are more willing to make connections that aren't explicitly made in the biblical text. In my mind, this shows that there's very little possibility of someone moving from one camp to the other unless they have a shift in the way they do theology (to clarify, I'm not boiling down the debate to an issue of method, I'm simply pointing out how method is partially determinative). Therefore, until we as the church come to an agreement on method, there's little chance for agreement on the nature of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Even then we obviously won't have complete conformity, but at least we would all be playing on the same field.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Commentary Series Overview

When I write commentary reviews, one of my main goals is to assess how well the commentator hit the intended audience of the commentary and utilized the format of the commentary. This often necessitates cluttering up the post discussing issues of format. To eliminate that, I thought that I would make some general remarks about the format and audience of each of the series that appear in my reviews. Terms like liberal, conservative, etc. are not used pejoratively but simply as descriptors. Many of you are familiar with Jeremy Pierce's commentary series overview. If you don't see a particular series covered here, check out his post to see if it's reviewed there. I am making no attempt at covering every series, just the series that I use. Additionally, new series (such as the NCCS) have been started in the five years since he wrote his very helpful guide, so I thought that it might not be completely out of order to have another person tackle commentary series overviews. This…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:15-29

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! Fo…

Doctor Who: Rose Tyler - Traitor?

The end of season four was very, very controversial. When I first saw it, I felt cheated. I was angry. The more I think about it, the more I think I see what Russell Davies was doing. He is too good of a writer and the show is too carefully crafted for him to screw up Rose's character and the end of a four season storyline. So while the ending isn't strictly part of our series, it is tangentially related, and I've agonized over that scene in Bad Wolf Bay so much that I have to write about it. :)

To briefly set things up, near the end of the final episode of season four, there is a meta-crisis, that results in a part human. part Time Lord Doctor being generated. He has all of the Doctor's memories, and thinks and acts like the Doctor. However, importantly, he only has one heart and cannot regenerate. He only has one life to live. The meta-crisis Doctor brought full resolution to the battle fought against the Daleks, and in the process, wiped them out. Thus, the real Doc…