My Answer to
Three Questions on Church Authority, Baptism and Communion.
1. Regarding Church authority, whose
teaching should be trusted as authentic, accurate and without error?
afraid that, humanly speaking, we always want all these things 'cut
and dried' but I fear it is not like that and rarely has been. The
answer to your question is that it is the teaching of Jesus and the
apostles which are authoritative and without error. I think the
patristic writers ( the 'Church Fathers' ) did their best with that
and made great efforts to keep heresy and error out of the Church but
- as we all know - errors of various sorts certainly did eventually
get in. This was inevitable, it is the human element. But the main
message about the sacrifice of Christ and how repentant believers
can be saved by His blood has mostly not been impaired except among
the cults and sects. You seem to want me to say that a particular
church or denomination has been given total authority but I say that
only the teachings of Jesus and the apostles have full authority.
This, of course, is the main
difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestanitism; The Church
of Rome believe that they have been granted full authority in these
matters and that their traditions have equal authority with
Scripture, but Protestantism says, 'By Scripture Alone.'
Is Baptism Regenerative or not? Is it a rite of initiation
into the Church or not? How important is it? The 'Church Fathers'
seemed to teach that baptism was essential.
baptism was ( and is ) important and yes, you could call it a rite
which is symbolic of regeneration, since it pictures the sacrifice of
Christ, the dying of our old selves and being 'born again' in Christ
as Christians as well as the new life of the resurrection (Romans
6:3-10; Colossians 2:12). But I reject the teaching of 'baptismal
regeneration' ( no salvation without baptism ) because the New
Testament itself shows it to be erroneous: the thief on the cross was
saved without baptism and every authentic Christian minister
encourages death-bed repentance and acceptance of Christ believing
that such people will be saved, although no baptism will have
occurred. If we say that baptism equals salvation that means
that we teach salvation by works ( in other words, we ourselves can
do something which will require God to save us ). I am not entirely
sure about the early Fathers on this point but there seems to be a
little variation between them; some mentioned baptism more than
others. My article on baptismal regeneration is here:
How about Eucharist? Were the 'Church Fathers' not overwhelmingly in
support of the view that the Eucharist is truly and substantially the
real body and blood of Jesus Christ and that it is a sacrifice?
am far from convinced that they "overwhelmingly"
taught this, but they certainly saw it is being very important. You
seem to be referring to a view which came in later. But ultimately I
must be guided by the superior authority of Jesus and the apostles
here rather than the patristic writers ( however much I admire them
and regularly return to their writings).
offered Himself as one sacrifice which is sufficient for all sins.
Hebrews 10:14. No re-sacrifice is therefore necessary. Yes, we are
told that Christ is present in communion and many of us have
experienced the wonderful peace of being in the presence of Christ
while taking the bread and wine. But I am not convinced by the Roman
Catholic teaching of transubstantiation which insists that the
bread and wine literally become Christ's body and blood.
the way, some Roman Catholics insist they have been misunderstood on
this point and that the mass is not a "re-sacrifice" except
to the degree that people are reminded at every mass of the one
supreme sacrifice and so that reminder can be seen as a
're-sacrifice' in that particular sense. That is the argument used on THIS Roman Catholic website article.
A. Brace, 2006.