Do Baptists have Sacraments?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Tom Butler, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
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    In another thread today, a poster used the word "sacrament" to describe the Lord's Supper. I always thought that sacraments were supposed to carry some saving efficacy. Most Baptists believe they don't, so why do we keep hearing Baptists call the LS a sacrament?
     
  2. Joseph M. Smith

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    I think it is because we do not live in a vacuum, and our people have heard sacramental language from other churches and have uncritically adopted it. Similarly, another factor may be that, in my experience, our churches now include people who were raised in a variety of other traditions, and they bring their language and sometimes their theology with them. In the church I served as pastor, we had everything from former Catholics to former Unitarians (no "sacrament" language from the latter, however).
     
  3. reformedbeliever

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    Isn't chicken a Baptist sacriment? I love to sacrifice chicken on the grill....... with lemon pepper and butter. Sacrifice a baked potato with that and a salad....... yummmm! I better go eat breakfast.
     
  4. Brandon C. Jones

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    Hello Tom,

    I would be among those Baptists that employ the word sacrament to speak of the Lord's Supper and Baptism. To be sure, some people may think that the word itself involves some sort of "saving efficacy" as you put it, but that is not what the word means or why the church employed it in the past. The word comes from "mystery" and if I recall it precisely means an outward sign (or symbol if you like) of an inward grace.

    I prefer the word because I think it is a better description of Baptist views than "ordinance." I don't quibble with those who avoid the word sacrament, but I do think Baptists have a knack for purposely avoiding things because they may look too "Catholic." Unfortunately, they can avoid meditating on some marvelous things like partaking of the Lord's Supper and Baptism and how the experience of performing these acts give the person some grace by participating in them (feeling the water bury them as a token of dying with Christ; crunching on the bread that represents His body and feeling the wine that represents His blood go down the throat to nourish him; meditating on what these things represent). I'm not arguing for a Tridentine "ex opere operato," but I am saying that Baptists of all people should enjoy how the experience of performing actions themselves should lead to mysterious and grace-filled experiences. After all, we only allow believers to partake of them.

    I could perhaps clarify what I'm saying by appealing to the sacrament of the Word. I don't think Baptists have ever abandoned this sacrament. Sure, Baptists usually avoid the word sacrament, but they listen to the preaching the Word and read it and by doing so can experience nothing other than mysterious and grace-filled experiences. God speaks to them in the Word and presents things to them in the Word that He would not have otherwise without their attentive listening, reading, and meditating. People in the Christian tradition included the Word as a sacrament for precisely this reason. Baptists today still use the Word in this way, but avoid the terminology. The Reformed tradition, for one, will even speak of the Lord's Table as the "visible Word."

    Well I've probably written too much, but that is my point of view.
     
    #4 Brandon C. Jones, Nov 15, 2007
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  5. Tom Bryant

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    I might not be understanding you, but wouldn't doing something negate the concept of grace? Grace is a free gift of God, not the result of my works.

    I do agree with your general point that in our attempt to de-Catholicize ourselves, we may lose some of the mystery of our faith. I never call the Lord's Supper an "ordinance". While I understand the meaning it makes it sound like we're doing it out because it's a law and not because we're remembering the death of our Savior.
     
  6. Tom Butler

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    I understand what you're saying, but you and I both know that it is not the understanding of most Baptists. You are the first Baptist I've ever heard describe it as an outward sign of inward grace. While no Baptist would hold to its saving efficacy, nor communion as a "means of grace," that is exactly the understanding of Catholics, Episcopalians and I think of some Protestant denominations.

    If you have ex-Catholics in your congregation, the use of the term sacrament means something to them entirely differently from your meaning. Unless, of course, you have instructed them properly.

    My point is that our terminology should be as precise as possible, and to avoid confusion wherever we can.
     
  7. Tom Butler

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    Just curious, but what do you call baptism and the Lord's Supper?
     
  8. Jkdbuck76

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    We call them "ordinances".



    Baptists sacraments include:
    polyester clother and covered dishes and fried chicken.
     
  9. Brandon C. Jones

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    Hello Tom Bryant,

    I don't think this undermines grace as a gift from God. Surely God has chosen to use different things as "means of grace" and perhaps the greatest among them are the Word and Sacraments. Baptists emphasize God using the experience of the action itself while other branches of Christianity emphasize God using the action itself with varying degrees in between. This borders on splitting hairs, admittedly, but I think it is a wise distinction to make when discussing this.


    Hello Tom Butler,

    I don't think my view is unique in the Baptist tradition, especially our forefathers from two to three hundred years ago in England. For further reading let me recommend two voumes from Paternoster's excellent series "Studies in Baptist History and Thought": First is Baptist Sacramentalism (a fine collection of essays edited by Cross and Thompson) and the second is More Than a Symbol: The British Baptist Recovery of Baptismal Sacramentalism by Stanley K. Fowler (Fowler's thesis is a little bit overstated and there are helpful critiques in subsequent editions of The Baptist Quarterly). Even Baptists in the past like Gill and Spurgeon, while using the word ordinances, have quite a "sacramental" understanding of baptism and the Lord's Supper when you study what they say about them.

    I think Baptists should endorse the sacraments as a means of grace and explain what that means to clear up any misconceptions whether they be Baptist or Roman Catholic misconceptions. There is nothing wrong with saying they are "means of grace" without having a hint of what you call "salvific efficacy." I would appeal again to my discussion of the Word above.

    As for precision, I can't think of a more precise term for baptism and the Lord's Supper than sacrament, but it may just be preference. When I think of ordinances, I think of the official acts of city councils not mystery or signs of inward grace. Too often we talk of obedience and what the ordinances are not rather than relishing and meditating in what they are, in my opinion.

    BJ
     
    #9 Brandon C. Jones, Nov 15, 2007
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  10. TCGreek

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    Well put. :thumbs:
     
  11. Tom Bryant

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    Tom,
    We simply call them symbols. I may use that term in talking to preachers who understand baptist-speak. :laugh: But with our people, many of whom have no background either Christian or Baptist, i will say that "Jesus gave us 2 very powerful symbols that he wants us to obey. Baptism is a symbol that we do once because salvation is once and for all. The Lord's Supper is a symbol that we repeat because we want to remember the price Jesus paid for our salvation."

    Brandon,
    We would disagree about the means of grace in regards to the baptism and the Lord's Supper. I certainly would not combine the Word of God and, to use your word, the "sacraments" as a means of grace, as if they are of equal power and value.
     
  12. saturneptune

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    Well, congrats Brother Tom, you hit this nail on the head. I think nothing is lost by making ourselves distinctive from the Catholics or any other denomination that may think the Lord's Supper is anything other than a symbol. Even if it just hints of adding something to grace, or even hints at "saving efficacy", then the word ordinance is the one that is proper. It might just be a word, but, it can give others the wrong idea.

    Brother Tom, this has got to be added. I would think that being the closed communioner that you are, you would be all for calling the Lord's Supper a sacrament, since you must believe the elements are going to regenerate the 60% of the church members that have not darkened the door in years.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
    #12 saturneptune, Nov 15, 2007
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  13. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
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    Again, what you mean by "means of grace" and the Catholic understanding are likely two different things. The Catholic Eucharist is sacramental and definitely is considered a means of grace.

    My own view is that "means of grace" is another term which has been carried over from the Reformation by Protestants. We ought to be very careful about re-defining it for Baptist purposes. Your own congregation may be up to speed on your definition, but if you used that term in my part of the world, you'd get blank stare.
     
  14. Tom Butler

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    Being the pragmatic, seeker-sensitive guy that I am, if that'll get 'em in the door, I'm all for it. Problem is, we'd probably have to take it to them. They never showed up when we had the LS at the church. Maybe that's because we didn't tell them it's help them get saved, or maybe stay saved. Ah, that must be it.

    (Everybody, saturneptune is needling me, and his comments are part of a running inside joke. And so is my response. I tell you, when I push the right hot buttons, he reacts like Pavlov's dog. He just cannot resist)
     
  15. Tom Butler

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    I think you have found the right word. Symbols is descriptive and precise.
     
  16. Tom Butler

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    I'd quibble over polyester clothes since they're mostly out style, thus don't qualify as sacraments any more. But covered dishes and fried chicken fit the mold perfectly since they never go out of style.

    We've replaced the polyester with another sacrament at our church--the fish fry.
     
  17. Plain Old Bill

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    OK so now what do I do with all my bell bottoms? Sacraments and ordinances, I've heard it both ways for the same two "last supper" and "Baptism".
    I think it's a case of you say po tate ohs and I say po tot- ohs.:godisgood:
     
  18. Tom Butler

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    Hang on to those bell bottoms. They'll be back some day. I'm holding on to my 1970s neckties, waiting for them to come back in style.

    We may pronounce potatoes differently, but they still refer to the same thing Sacraments and ordinances have two different meanings.
     
  19. EdSutton

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    What does how one pronounces a 'tater' have to do with anything? And since I'm not 'ordained', but only an ordinary layman, doesn't this mean I'm a "common-tater"? :D :laugh:

    'Course, this might be a bit different, depending on how you actually spell "pota...!" :laugh: [​IMG]

    Ed
     
    #19 EdSutton, Nov 16, 2007
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  20. Tom Butler

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    Chasing a rabbit here--uh, tater. Ed, since you're a Kentuckian, you know about Tater Day in Benton, KY in the spring. Big community event. But somehow, it would not quite be the same to call it Potato Day. Same with the ordinances--somehow calling them sacraments just doesn't seem the same.
     

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