Archive for the ‘Sacraments’ Category

Well, whatcha know.

Yesterday, at the PCA General Assembly being held in Dallas, they had a colloquium on sacramental efficacy. Wonder what brought that on?

anyway, here are the papers that were presented.

And here you can listen to the audio of all the presentations.

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In his discussion of the Nicene creed’s statement “one baptism for the remission of sins,” T. F. Torrance explains what it means to be baptized into Christ:

“In baptism we are united to Christ through the Holy Spirit in such a way that we partake of the whole substance of the gospel, for all grace and truth are embodied in him. We may recall the point made by Irenaeus in this connection, when he claimed that the incarnate Son is called and actually is, ‘Salvation, Savior, and Saving Activity‘ and that thus he is ‘salvation made flesh.’ In other words saving grace is not something detached from Christ which can be dispensed at will, but is identical with Christ in the unity of his Person, Word, and Act. It is through the one baptism which we have in common with Christ, or rather which he has in common with us, that we share in all that God has in store for us. Because baptism is one (the baptism with which Christ was baptised for our sakes, and the baptism in which we are given to share in all that he was, is, and will be) to be baptised is much more than to be initiated into the sphere where forgiveness is proclaimed and dispensed in the Church. It is to to be ‘delivered out of the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.’ It is to have our frail, transient existence taken up into Christ himself in such a way, that without any loss to our creaturely reality but rather with its perfecting through his Spirit, it is united to God and established in union with his eternal reality.” (The Trinitarian Faith, p. 297)

So. Jesus is Salvation made flesh [all life is in Him and apart from Him there is no salvation; grace and forgiveness are found in Him alone]. The Spirit unites us to Jesus through baptism, uniting us with His body, the Church, which is the kingdom, house and family of God, the community of faith, the assembly of the saints, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. So when Peter says, “baptism now saves us” he is saying “Jesus saves us.” By baptism the Spirit of Jesus unites us to the Church. The Church is the body of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is Salvation made flesh.

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What is Regeneration?

The word “regeneration” for most of us today refers to that one-time, unseen, inner moment when the Holy Spirit flips the switch and brings us from death to life. We’ve heard time and again, “Regeneration precedes faith. Regeneration precedes faith. Regeneration precedes faith.” And therefore if anyone should start using the word “regeneration” and “baptism” in the same sentence, he would quickly find himself in hot water.

But where does this modern definition of “regeneration” come from? How has the Church and her scholars traditionally used this term?

John Calvin seems to have a pretty broad definition for the word –

In Institutes III.3.9, he says “I interpret repentance as regeneration whose sole end is to restore in us the image of God… [then he lists a number of verses we normally associate with sanctification – 2 Cor. 3:18, Eph 4:23, Col 3:10]… this restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year; but through continual and sometimes even slow advances.”

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(this is taken from a lecture given at the Bucer Institute on Flannery O’Connor; thanks to Doug Jones, Peter Leithart, and others who’ve helped me to appreciate her even more than I did already)

One of the things we see throughout Flannery O’Connor’s writings is the truth that God works in and through the physical and material. God works through fire and water; bulls and peacocks; cats and grandmothers; and, of course, ultimately through His Word read and proclaimed, and in the waters of baptism, and by the bread and wine of the table. The prominence of this reality in her writings was intentional not accidental. She was attacking  the gnosticism of the modern Church; the denial that the material and physical can be means by which we commune with the Lord.

For too many of us, bread is simply bread, wine is only wine, water is merely water and nothing more. Bread and wine can never be the means by which we commune with Christ and feast upon His body and blood. Water can never be the means by which the Spirit brings us into communion with the Trinity. The Church must only be an assembly of people who profess the same theology, it can’t be “the body of Christ.” Not really.  (more…)

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