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?


I'm 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.'



2. 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.


Yes, 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:

http://www.ukapologetics.net/1baptismal.htm



3. 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?



I 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).

Jesus 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.
By 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.

Robin A. Brace, 2006.


UK APOLOGETICS