My latest contribution to the MennoNerds vlog concerned the issue of sacraments, where I and my cat friend Kafka argued that they don’t exist:
Now, some of you may get a knee-jerk reaction when you hear that, so let me clarify what I mean. I’m not saying that things like communion, baptism and anointing of the sick don’t exist or that we shouldn’t do those things, there are clear Biblical commands prescribing us to practice that. But the Bible doesn’t call them “sacraments”, and neither should we. In the video, I briefly describe the origin of the term and how the definition of “sacrament”, which in turn decides what should be included in the category, is completely arbitrary and man-made.
Think for yourself: why isn’t helping the poor described as a sacrament? It’s not because Jesus isn’t telling us to help the poor, because He is. It’s not because helping the poor isn’t a visible sign of invisible grace, as the classical sacramental definition goes, because it is. Let’s face it, the reason why baptism and communion are included in a category that historical churches have found very important whereas helping the poor, evangelism and the Lord’s prayer has been excluded from said category, is because the founders of those sacramental categorizations subjectively thought that some Biblical commands were more important than others. I’ve written more about this here.
Recently a pastor here in Sweden published an article in one of the Christian newspapers warning for the charismatic influences of Bethel Church, Hillsong and New Wine. One of his points was that we don’t meet God directly, but the primary way we encounter Him is through the bread and wine of communion, and so he exhorted charismatic churches to be more “sacramental”.
But the New Testament doesn’t place more emphasis on communion than Spiritual gifts, the argument could actually be made for the contrary. Sure, one could say that churches that lack communion should do it more since it’s a Biblical practice, but this man seemed to think that communion is intrinsically more important than charismatic gifts and represent God’s presence in a better way, and that is not a Biblical thought.
On my Facebook wall a few friends of mine have given counterarguments to the video’s thesis. They say for example that my brief historical lecture of how the concept and linguistic meaning of sacrament has developed over the centuries does nothing to show why we shouldn’t talk about sacraments today. But the purpose of the historical review is to show how the categorization of sacraments is arbitrary and unbiblical, Jesus and the apostles didn’t use the same sacramental category as sacramental Christians use today – they didn’t even have a word for it!
Another one responded that the word sacrament is analogous to the word trinity, which isn’t found in the Bible but describes Biblical truth. But while we can find Scriptural support for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being God, there’s nothing in the Bible that suggests that baptism and communion belong to a certain category from which other Biblical commands are excluded. Thus, there’s no need for the church to be “sacramental”, it should strive towards being Biblical.
Also check out my other MennoNerd vlog where I argue that communion is a real meal: