Welcome, welcome, welcome, to this, my new blog. I spend a lot of my time talking theology with people and thought this would be a good way of having broader wider conversations. So first things first what is Word, Sacrament and Charism? These three things are what I believe to be essential pillars of my faith in Jesus Christ. This page is all about ‘reforming catholic’ theology something which perhaps not many of you would be aware of.
The word of God is a complicated idea and for many different people this means many different things. If you asked me what I think the bible is I probably, rather flippantly, would say that the bible is the infallible word of God which was breathed out by the Holy Spirit and written in the hand of mainly men. But that creates a few problems one of which being: God is truly infallible but humans are fallible. So a perfect and infallible God is inspiring fallible humans to write an infallible book. Would a God who is entirely perfect make spelling mistakes? No, but we know the Bible’s original manuscripts contain bad spelling. Some people say you cannot take the bible to be the word of God; this doesn’t sit comfortably with me as this means they go to a church where they hear people preaching from a book (the bible) which could be lying to them.
As part of being a Reforming Catholic I take the words of St Paul to St Timothy to be my guide on the holy scriptures he says “[a]ll scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16 NRSV). This brief phrase used by the apostle gives us marvellous insight into how we can allow the scriptures to guide us and shape us. Over and over again Jesus in Revelation says that “these words are trustworthy and true” which is essentially what Paul is saying to Timothy he’s basically saying that whatever you read throughout the entire canon of scripture can be believed because the Spirit inspired it.
A central part of the worship of the Christian Church for its entirety has been participation in the sacraments. But how many are there? What is the nature of a sacrament? When should we practice the sacraments? Who should lead us in sacramental worship? These questions and many more have all been disputed throughout the life of the bride of Christ and perhaps will not be reconciled till we see Christ seated on the throne.
In the meantime I will discuss what I believe about the sacraments briefly. I believe in the historical view of the sacraments, that is, I believe in 7 Sacraments that is: Baptism, Confession and absolution, Holy Communion (also called the Eucharist, also called the Lord’s supper, also called the mass), Confirmation, Anointing of the sick, Holy Matrimony (marriage) and Holy Orders (Ordination of Deacons and Priests). Some will be totally shocked and appalled that I am writing there are 7 sacraments, this I believe to be the scriptural view, most consistently historical view and therefore the most reasonable view.
Baptism is the act of initiating a person as a Christian. Jesus commands his disciples to make disciples and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is a clear command of Christ to perform this sacrament. The reason why baptism is a sacrament is there is a clear outward sign (the water). The inward grace is receiving the Holy Spirit; Jesus says we must be born again of water and spirit. Baptism in and of itself is not a way of gaining salvation there is nothing magical about the water. But someone who has been born again of the spirit would choose to be baptised if he/she is able to.
Confession and Absolution
This is one of the sacraments widely disputed as to whether or not it is a sacrament. My argument for it being a sacrament is Jesus clearly commands his disciples in John 20:21-23 to receive peoples sins (hear confession) and when the do that person’s sins are forgiven (absolution). The outward sign here is the person saying their sins and the listener saying their sins are forgiven. The inward grace is that all sin was paid for once and for all on the cross by the spilling of the most precious blood of Christ Jesus all who truly repent and believe are already a part of the inheritance of Christ, so once again the sacrament is not a magic wand but something a true believer would take part in.
The sacrament of Holy Communion is something I could talk about all day is probably one of the largest areas of theology. For most of 2000 years Christians have been gathering to receive the Eucharist. Jesus commands his disciples to take bread and wine which is his body and blood and to do so in remembrance of him. The outward sign is the broken bread and the wine outpoured, the inward grace is receiving the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. All Christians have received the body and blood of Christ. The Eucharist serves as both a reminder and a continuation of the mystery of justification. I was forgiven, I am forgiven, I am being forgiven, and I will be forgiven.
Confirmation is the sacrament of the laying on of hands. In the New Testament when people wanted to receive the Holy Spirit the bishop, elder, church leader would lay hands on said person and pray that the person would receive the Holy Spirit. The outward sign is the laying of hands, in the inward grace is receiving the Holy Spirit. In the modern sacrament those who have been baptised receive the laying on of hands from their bishop to receive the Holy Spirit.
In the book of James we are taught that if anyone among us is sick then they should be anointed with oil. If we believe the bible to be a book that can be used for setting doctrine then the epistle of St James is the perfect place to set a doctrine on this sacrament. The outward sign is the oil which represents the anointing power of the Holy Spirit to heal the sick. The inward grace is the charism (gift of the Holy Spirit) of healing.
Marriage is a concept which goes back to the earliest human civilisations the earliest mentioning in the bible of this sacrament is in Genesis with Adam and Eve, whether or not we take Genesis as being literal or not is beside the point because what we have here is God affirming through the scriptures that marriage is one of the callings for his creation. Not all must be married St Paul affirms the gift of celibacy. But for those who do this most ancient of sacraments is given to them. The outward sign in marriage is living together in righteousness, sexual union and children. The inward grace is that God binds together man and wife in union with him.
Holy orders is the sacrament in which God grants the gift of the Holy Spirit unto whom the church has discerned who ought to be ordained as Deacons, Priests or Bishops (other names for these titles are used depending on denomination.). Throughout the New Testament when a new leader, bishop or elder is ordained other elders gather around him and lay hands on him. The outward sign here is the laying on of hands; the inward grace is receiving the Holy Spirit as well as becoming a part of the apostolic succession of the one holy catholic and apostolic church.
The Charismatic movement has had a radical transformation on the church in recent history but the central point of the Charismatic movement are the charisms of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, these gifts such as prophecy, tongues, healing and leadership are given to the church to build up the church. Many have claimed that the charisms of God are not for today and were only until the bible\ was completed. However I wholeheartedly believe that God wants to pour out spiritual gifts on his church to enable them to do his work on earth. Some gifts will pass away when Christ comes again but until that day I believe the church will receive charisms.
- The Basics of the Christian Faith, Part Iv: the Sacraments, the Seven Great Means of Grace (prayers4reparation.wordpress.com)
- The Gift of Ecclesial Ministry (ubiquelucet.wordpress.com)
- Dr. Peter Kreeft on the Need for Sacraments (integratedcatholiclife.org)
- The Word Is Better than the Sacrament (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- so what about…sacraments? (onpreaching.com)