Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reformed vs Southern Baptist: Sacraments & Ordinances

[This is now the third article interacting with a series of posts by Les Puryear (www.lesliepuryear.blogspot.com) in which he compares and contrasts what he considers to be the "traditional" Southern Baptist position and his concept of "Reformed" Baptist.]

With regard to the Lord's Supper and Baptism, Puryear claims that Reformed Baptists classify those functions of the church as "sacraments" as opposed to the traditional view of them as "ordinances."

First, there is the lingering problem with the assessment that Reformed Baptist thought is truly what Puryear says it is. Puryear seems to propose that every person with whom he has spoken who claims the mantle "Reformed Baptist" views the Lord's Supper and Baptism as sacraments. Yet I have not met one who believes this. Rather than reconsidering his characterization of Reformed Baptists, however, Puryear insists that those who claim to be Reformed but who reject the sacramental perspective are not really Reformed, after all, but are merely "Calvinist" Baptists.

Patronization is alive and well, it seems, and one also finds that there are many distinctions without differences, especially in the blogging world.

Second, it is not altogether certain that a thing cannot be both an ordinance AND some sort of platform for grace. That is, it is certainly true that the physical act of being submerged in water is not the mechanism of saving grace to the believer. Baptism is certainly the believer's outward profession of the inward change that God has wrought in him through Christ. But is it ONLY that?

By disfavoring the term 'sacrament,' Baptists reject the sacerdotal baggage that comes with it, nameley, that the 'sacrament' of Lord's Supper and Baptism is necessary for grace. Southern Baptists reject the notion that should a believer miss partaking in a given 'sacrament,' that he will in some respect be cut off from gospel privileges.

But to reject the 'necessary for grace' view of sacerdotalism does not require us to view Baptism and the Lord's Supper are bare human acts with no relation to grace.

Would not everyone agree that witnessing Baptism as part of our corporate worship, and in that act being reminded that God is still raising men from death to life through Christ, is somehow 'gracious' to the one witnessing it?

And would not everyone agree that participating in the Lord's supper -- and in so doing not only being reminded that the body and blood of Christ were given up for our trangressions and justification, but also 'participating' (Gr. 'koinonia') in the body and blood (1Co10:16) -- is somehow 'gracious' to the participant?

Reformed Baptists do not believe that the ordinances convey saving grace. But it is unwise to suggest that neither do they convey any sort of sanctifying grace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I appreciate you responding to Mr. Puryear. When someone re-defines what he thinks the tradition of the SBC is to fit their own view they are putting on display their own lack of education in this area.
You are more patient and gracious than I.

I copied and pasted this from my site:

“Ordinance” vs. “Sacrament”
There are some who believe that early Covenantal Baptists were opposed to the word “sacrament” (e.g., Tom Nettles, “Teaching Truth, Training Hearts: The Study of Catechisms in Baptist Life“) however it has been demonstrated that early Covenantal Baptists used the two terms interchangeably, cf. Baptist Sacramentalism, Baptist Sacramentalism 2 and More Than A Symbol. See also Sam Waldron, “A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith”, page. 338 “If sacrament to us is just a reverent and convenient way of speaking about the only two ordinances Christ which make use of physical emblems, then we may find it a useful word.”