Friday, October 24, 2008

Protestants believe in Sacraments

I am currently reading a wonderful book titled, More Christianity by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. Before you jump to conclusions and think that this is a rebuttal for C.S. Lewis book, Mere Christianity, let me first explain that Fr. Longenecker has the utmost respect for the work of C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis admits himself that he attempts in his book to discuss the core of Christianity. Fr. Longenecker instead is discussing more which complements and adds to the mere without taking anything away from it.

Something that I read in this book made me think. Fr. Longenecker proposes that most Christians outside of the Catholic faith, believe in sacraments. Now, being a Protestant for 30 years and never hearing the term sacrament used outside of the Catholic Church, made me suspicious of what he was talking about.

He goes on to explain that sacraments operate on 3 levels - mental, spiritual and physical. Sacraments are physical things in nature that has a spiritual and mental effect. For most Protestants that read this, they will agree that they have seen ministers use holy oil to anoint the sick or heal the injured. Why do we do that, if we do not truly believe that God can work through physical means? Is there power in the oil? Is there power in the hands of the minister? Not without God there is not. Therefore we do believe that God can work through physical means to give us His grace. Just because we never referred to the anointing of oil as a sacrament, does not mean that we do not believe in sacraments altogether.

Catholics and Protestants are very much alike. Catholics believe in sacraments, and so do Protestants. The one sacrament that we both believe in, without question, is the power of the Holy Cross. God used a physical means in order to provide His Grace for all people.

I originally believed that Protestants do not believe in sacraments. I am starting to agree with Fr. Longnecker in saying that it is not that Protestants don't believe in sacraments, it is just that Catholics believe in more sacraments than Protestants. It is not out of the Protestant's realm of possibility that God can dispense His grace through physical means - therefore, I do believe it is possible for Protestants to accept the sacraments that Catholics believe in. These sacraments include (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, Holy Orders, Reconciliation, Last Rites).

What do you think? Do you think that Protestants believe in sacraments?


Anonymous said...

Yes, I think protestants do believe in sacraments. We may not use the term as frequently, but we do use it certainly for baptism, Eucharist, and marriage.

Carlus Henry said...


Thanks for contributing. I love to hear and see some new faces on this blog.

I could not agree with you more. However, I want to make sure that you understand something about sacramental theology, just so you can see how huge this fact really is.

According to Calvin and many of the other Reformers, man is totally depraved. One of the beliefs was that miracles have ceased and that God does not use the physical means in order to give his grace. However, like I suggest in the post, Catholics and some Protestant groups believe that God does use physical means to give grace. This is absolutely contrary to many of the Reformers belief.

Catholics believe that through the Sacraments, God gives us His Grace. Especially in the ones that you mentioned. During the Reformation, many of these were reduced to pure symbolic in nature and without power. The fact that some Protestants now believe that these things once regarded as symbols by the leaders of the Protestant Reformation is huge leap.

That is why I wanted to write this post. This is one of those commonalities that are often overlooked between Catholic and Protestant Theology. Also, it is interesting to observe through history the evolution of the Protestant faith in order to regain some of those beliefs that were lost in the Reformation.

Belteshazzar Mouse said...

Hello Dave! Good to hear from you again!

Good post. I was surprised to see the reference to annointing the sick and then the use of the term Last Rites.

The Sacrament of Annointing of the Sick is no longer referred to as Last Rites, since the name does not truly reflect the intent or use of the Sacrament. Although Catholics offer Annointing of the Sick for those that are dying, it is not reserved only for the dying. I have received the Sacrament as have many other people I know that are not known to be dying soon. It is one of the Sacraments that can be received many times.

The Sacrament has its roots in James 5:14-15 and Mark 3:16 among others.

Viaticum, what was once referred to as Last Rites, involves Reconciliation, Eucharist and Annointing of the Sick. The name Last Rites probably comes from the Latin Extreme Unction (literally final annointing), which probably referred to the last sort of annointing rather than annointing before death.

If there is anyone that has never seen an annointing, or anyone in need of annointing, Holy Spirit Church is offering Annointing of the Sick this Wednesday at the 10:00 AM Mass.