Archive for the 'The Sacraments' Category

The Reformers’ Basic Objection

March 15, 2010

The Reformers’ basic protest can be summarized in the words of Adolf Harnack: rightly did they rebel against the Catholic sacramental system, he says, since “it was rooted in the fundamental conception that religion is an antidote for the finiteness of man, in the sense that it deifies his nature.” And by the revolutionary force of the Reformation principles “the axe was laid to the root of the whole Catholic sacramental concept”—that is, the mediation of grace through what he calls “the magic of the opus operatum.”

Francis Clark, Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Reformation (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1960), 105.

Two Sacraments

March 5, 2010

Baptism and the Eucharist are the sacraments of the Church, for they are given to Christ’s flock as signs and seals of His twofold activity in and among them: of joining them to Himself in the union of faith, and nourishing them to Himself in the union of faith, and nourishing them by the communication of His own new humanity. In the Christian life these are two elements: the absolute element of once-for-all death and burial related to the Cross of Christ, and the ongoing growth in grace related to the Risen Man. The sacraments signify and seal these two realities, that is, the Mystery of Christ Himself.

Joseph C. McLelland, The Visible Words of God (Grand Rapids: MI, Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1957), 138.

The Case For Infant Baptism

February 14, 2009

JLTLCI grew up in traditional non-denominational evangelicalism where baptism was performed only when a child makes a public profession of faith. I can still remember being baptized when I was nine years old. I remember standing in the baptism pool with my pastor speaking into the microphone and announcing to the congregation that baptism is something that Jesus commanded us to do and that the purpose of our baptism was to display the individual’s commitment to Christ. I had never heard of the covenant of grace or signs of initiation into the covenant. If you had told my that churches baptized babies I would have thought you were crazy. I had not even really heard about infant baptism until I was in college. I remember thinking that it seemed quite strange since it would be impossible for an infant to make a profession of faith in Christ. But I remember a friend I respected saying that the biblical argument was actually quite strong for infant baptism. Daniel Hyde’s Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children gives  a clear, concise, and strong argument for infant baptism.

Being an individual new to confessional Reformed theology, piety, and practice,  this book was a timely read for me.  About three weeks ago I actually just witnessed my first direct experience of infant baptism when a few couples at the Reformed church I am now attending had their babies baptized.

Hyde does a great job of clearly laying out the theological framework for why Reformed churches practice baptism. The book was clear and plainly written and quite irenic. I liked how Hyde dedicated one of the early chapters to clarify some of the terms that he would be using in the book. Hyde writes that “historically speaking, Christians and the Protestant Reformers understood baptism as the visible initiation into the Church of Jesus Christ by means of the outward sign of water.” Further, similar to circumcision, baptism is the sign of initiation into a covenant relationship with God. God is a covenant making God and deals with his people in covenants. The covenant of grace was first announced in the garden in Gen 3:15 and was proclaimed through the prophets. God made a tangible sign of the covenant of grace with Abraham (circumcision) and God commanded Abraham to circumcise his son, Issac, prior to any profession of faith from Issac. Therefore, Issac was circumcised on the eighth day. The sign of circumcision is a bloody sign that typologically points to the death of Christ on the cross.

Hyde basically summarizes the argument for infant baptism on pages 42-43. He says that God’s covenant promises are unchangeable and that he promises to include the children of believers in he covenant in the OT. Further, both the OT and NT are clear that children of the believers are included in the covenant. Therefore, if the children are in the covenant they should not be denied the sign of baptism showing that they are in the covenant.