We will never fully know, but the power is no less real because of our inability to explain it. It is nothing less than the mystery and the power of Jesus made real and made available to us. In our cerebral approach to religion, we often assume that the most important religious truths can always be reduced to words. But just as an art critic once observed about great art, the part of the sacrament that really matters is the part that will forever remain beyond the reach of explanation.
Sacraments are important, in part, because they take us where words cannot go. There are times when we can be particularly grateful that the presence of Christ is not something that can be grasped only by the intellect, that such a presence can be experienced by other means. A woman suffering from dementia who cannot hold a point in a sermon long enough for it to make any real difference can still hold the cup of blessing to her lips and receive the presence of Christ.
A child for whom theological explanations are about as incomprehensible as molecular biology can still receive the blessings of this table. Occasionally, I will hear someone say that children should not receive communion until they fully understand what it means. When I hear that I always think, "At what age is that? Who can claim to fully understand all that the sacrament means. John Calvin, after a long dissertation on the sacrament, summarized his understanding of Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper by saying, "I would rather experience it than understand it.
The Road Ahead
And to a startling degree, children know how to experience the sacrament. At an intergenerational worship service in our church, we have communion every Sunday and the children are always the first ones to the table, eager for the gifts of bread and cup. They somehow know that this is both a simple meal and, at the same time, something special, set apart, holy even. Children somehow "get it.
And who wouldn't rather experience communion fully than to understand it fully? How is Christ present in this meal?
We cannot fully know. Such close love is always a mystery. But his presence is no less real for all of our inability to explain it. What we can do is seek the mysterious blessings of the table and receive the palpable gifts of a palpable God. Let us pray. O God, let us be patient with all that is still mysterious and beyond the reach of our limited minds.
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What Jesus calls them, and us as Christians, to do can seem overwhelming, but Jesus encourages us that we already have enough faith to live out the challenging commands he's given us. Chris Girata helps us unpack a weird parable of Jesus in Luke All rights reserved. Each week Day1 radio formerly "The Protestant Hour" , hosted by Peter Wallace, presents an inspiring message by an outstanding preacher on the radio and online.
Learn More Donate. Join Day1. Martin Copenhaver The Rev. Topic Tags communion eucharist mystery. We cannot take confidence in that exceptionalism, for that would be a false confidence established on a very flimsy hope. In the conservative resurgence, the SBC was given a second chance, not a guaranteed future. It was not given a pass from history, or from the theological debates of the future. That being the case, Southern Baptists have to grow out of a posture of inherent defensiveness and move to a positive agenda that points to the glory of God in the comprehensive embrace of biblical truth and takes delight in confessing the faith.
We live in a day that is averse to theology and irritated by doctrine. If Southern Baptists find themselves being irritated by doctrinal questions, we will soon find ourselves sharing the fate of the mainline denominations — just slightly delayed.
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The tectonic plates of the contemporary theological landscape are shifting. Southern Baptists must accept the challenge of confronting these issues, not merely by defending against them, but by actually using contemporary debates to proclaim a theological reality that is firmly grounded in Scripture.
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Of first importance in this challenge is a full embrace of classical orthodoxy. For one thing, we must be unapologetic in speaking about tradition. Chesterton was not the first to invoke the "democracy of the dead.
Tradition — that backward glance at what Christians throughout the centuries have confessed and how they have understood the great doctrines of the faith — allows the dead to have a vote. We are not the first persons to read the Bible, nor are we the first to confess the Christian faith. We must therefore distinguish between tradition and traditionalism.
As Jaroslav Pelikan has noted, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living; tradition is the living faith of the dead. Moreover, fully embracing classical orthodoxy will require us to move beyond the issues of urgent and immediate debate to an embrace of the whole. The alternative is to be constantly dealing with peripheral matters and never with the center of the faith. Second, we need to return to a robust confessionalism. Just as Michael Walzer argues that there are "thin ethics" and "thick ethics," we might speak of thin confessionalism and thick confessionalism.
A thin confessionalism is one that is merely a matter of requirement — a signature and a statement of allegiance and subscription. Doctrine is a contract rather than a covenant. Thick confessionalism, on the other hand, understands that it is a privilege for a person to say, "I stand on these truths with this covenanted community.
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And as a matter of mutual accountability before God, and under the authority of Scripture, we join together to hold ourselves accountable to contend faithfully for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, even as we address the urgent issues of the contemporary hour.
Third, we need to seek a recovery of Baptist principles. On regenerate church membership, for instance, there has been too much compromise. Baptist ecclesiology is not merely a matter of church organization. It stands at the very center of the Baptist vision and goes to the very heart of our theology. When Baptist principles are compromised, everything is affected — including our understanding of the gospel, the work of regeneration, and the role of a covenant community as the congregation of faith.
Fourth, we must recover the discipline of theological "triage," a word normally associated with the emergency room. Patients are brought in with a great variety of injuries — sprained wrists, gunshot wounds, slight stomachaches, and spider bites. In that situation, someone has to make an evaluation of what is most urgent and what can wait.
Otherwise, confusion will reign. That triage nurse in the emergency room provides a good model for our theological debates. In the vast world of theological controversy, there are first-order issues, second-order issues, and third-order issues. Unfortunately, most of our time is usually spent dealing with secondary and tertiary issues, when we should be focusing our attention on the primary issues. Primary issues are those that distinguish Christians from non-Christians.
https://oxalpiesulo.gq I remember a student once asking Dr. Lewis Drummond how one should relate to Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ. Drummond replied, "You relate to them as lost people. Those who deny the bodily resurrection are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is a first-order issue.