Monday, April 27, 2015

Protestantism is about 'word', and not sacraments, right?

Many former officers listed as a principle reason for resigning from ministry in the Army was their strong disagreement relative to the Army’s firm stand on the sacraments. Scores of excellent Salvation Army reading material has come forward throughout the years from some of our finest and most respected theologians, some (semi-warm) pro and others con, from the Founder on down. However, I doubt that it’s a debate that will ever abate.

While stationed in Moscow, Russia with my wife we were privileged to recruit, train and enroll more than 200 soldiers during our two year pioneering tenure. Almost 100% of them were Orthodox Russians, at least in name, and would expect the two sacraments of baptism and communion to be essential publicly exercised symbols of faith, and argued vehemently that they must be included in any Salvation Army rite of passage if they were to become Salvationists. Consequently, with valuable input and agreement from an initial number of recruits we settled on what constituted an acceptable form of the sacraments to link the 1,000 year old Orthodox tradition with the Russian Salvation Army’s own, from the years 1917-1923 and 1990-91. And the church grew – 

When, just 21/2 years later the expat officer leaders flipped and moved the Russian SA into one with mostly Dutch, Norwegian, Australian and American strains, the cultural divide became strained and growth stalled. Evangelism that embodied cultural relativism was sacrificed for ex-pat political ambition.
The Orthodox Metropolitan, Moscow 1991, in conversation with Captain Kathie Ljungholm and General Eva Burrows on the Army's welcome, purpose and intent in Russia.

I will share my view on this disappointing turn of events at another time.
Sven Ljungholm

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Phillip Cary of Eastern College has argued, “Protestantism cannot carry through its own deepest intention – to put faith in the word of Christ alone – without a Catholic doctrine of sacramental efficacy.”

That will sound counterintuitive or worse to many Evangelicals. Protestantism is about word, and not sacraments.

Cary is right, though. That’s a big claim, and this is a small article. So let me narrow and sharpen the point. Instead of “No sacraments, No Protestantism,” let’s say “No baptism, No justification.” That should get some attention. Why would a Protestant say there’s some crucial connection between baptism and justification?

The Bible, for starters. Paul links justification and baptism. The Corinthians had been the kind of people who do not inherit the kingdom, but Paul tells them they are no longer such people because “you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Does “washing” refer to water baptism? It seems so, since the whole passage is embedded in a baptismal formula: “you were washed . . . in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The shift from what the Corinthians “were” to what they “are” is marked by their baptismal washing, which is both a sanctification and a justification.
Paul actually uses the word “baptize” with “justify” in Romans 6. Whoever dies, Paul writes, is “justified from sin” (v. 7). (That’s what the Greek says, though your English Bible may translate the verb as “freed.”) When does one die to sin? Paul has already told us: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death” (vv. 3–4). Through baptism, we die to Adam and brought to life in society with Jesus. Paul calls that transition from the reign of Death to the reign of Life a “justification,” and it happens at baptism.
End part -1-

Peter Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute Birmingham, Alabama.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sven, I'd rather read more about your pioneering work and who were the successors that let us all down. And where are they serving now?
I'll read the sacraments debate at another time.
SA soldier and historian