Full Text for Confessions 2- Volume 31 - What Is A Sacrament? (Video)

a ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS LC2 31 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800 825 5234 www.captionfirst.com *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> DAVID: The next section of the catechism moves into the sacrament of holy baptism. But I would like to insert a question about sacraments in general. Roman Catholics hold that there are 7 sacraments, don't they? And the eastern orthodox also say that there are 7, I think. Even reading our own confessions seems to raise the question about confession absolution as a sacrament. This leads me to ask: Isn't the decision of what to regard as a sacrament a human choice? If not, why the many differences among Christian churches? >> DR. KOLB: You're absolutely right, David. The word "sacrament" occurs almost never in the New Testament. And, when it does, sacramentum is the Latin word in the Latin translations, the Vulgate, for instance, and earlier predecessors. When it does, it really translates the Greek word "mystery" in another sense than we use the term "sacrament." The word went through a number of evolutions. And by the Middle Ages, it had come to designate a special kind of act that brought special kinds of blessings. But in a variety of definitions still the church formulated differing lists of sacraments. Augustine had one list. And it wasn't until fairly late in the church's history in the 13th century, that the final list of 7 sacraments was agreed upon. And the working medieval definition was that it was a sacred act in which the Holy Spirit accomplished some kind of a blessing. The medieval view of the sacrament did not closely link the concept of a conversing God, a God who is speaking with his people, and the concept of sacrament. But rather it was simply a tool, an instrument in God's hands to do something so that the concept of faith in relationship to the sacrament wasn't so important. What was important was that God is acting here. And that's where the term that we often see in Protestant polemic against the Roman church, especially in Luther and the length the concept of ex opere operato became important. Ex opere operato meant originally that God is acting here independent of the human reaction. And that's a good point. That's a point that we make too. That God's word is valid even when the human being in the mystery of evil is able to resist it or reject it. But, by the 16th century, that concept of the sacraments working ex opere operato actually had become a kind of code word for a magical view of the sacrament that simply dismissed the importance of faith completely. And so the 7 sacraments were seen to bring spiritual benefits even if you didn't come to them in faith. You could you didn't even have to receive the body and blood of Christ. You could simply come to the mass and be there. And there was a certain spiritual radiation that somehow would bless you. And all of that Luther and his followers rejected because they saw the term "sacrament" in a little different sense. They saw the sacraments as visible forms, we might say with Augustine, visible forms of the word of God. And what that means is that God is still in conversation with us. He's still speaking to us. He's doing his recreative will through the sacraments as one form of the word of God. And so the Lutherans generally defined the sacrament, the term "sacrament" as something that Christ had commanded, something that had external means such as the water of baptism or the bread and wine which carry the body and blood of Jesus Christ or, in the case of absolution, the laying on of hands. And then, thirdly, in addition to the command of Christ and the external elements, there's the promise of Christ that delivers the forgiveness of sins. Those three elements go into the Lutheran definition of a sacrament. And that's why Lutherans and Roman Catholics or orthodox Christians have a different list because they have a slightly different definition of what a sacrament is. There were other Protestants who reacted against this magical view of the sacrament, the ex opere operato view of the sacraments, more strongly, more radically and left behind any thought that God is actually working through a sacrament. Particularly the Anabaptists came out of movements that were prominent throughout the Middle Ages. I shouldn't really say prominent. They were prominent in the minds of people. But they actually didn't command large followings. They didn't command a continuous following. But the same cluster of ideas popped up again and again in little groups that wanted to protest against the decadence of the church, against the abuse that the clergy visited upon the laypeople. And these groups that finally became the Anabaptists of the 16th century were biblicistic. They revolted against nonbiblical laws and nonbiblical traditions. They were moralistic. They read those parts of the Bible that talked about good works, but they didn't really grasp salvation by grace through faith. So they were biblicistic and moralistic. They were generally anti clerical, because the clergy were the symbols of the church's oppression. And because the clergy gained their power from their exercise of the sacraments, from their being able to give the people sacramental grace, they were largely anti sacramental. And finally, they were millenialistic. They believed that Christ would return soon to bring about a thousand year reign often with their little group of believers at the head of that new kingdom of Christ. So they didn't like the word "sacrament" at all, people like the Anabaptists. They believed that God through Christ had instituted the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. But those weren't God's actions. They weren't tools and instruments of God's power but were simply things that we did to express our faith and our commitment to God. So you get a fairly broad definition or broad use of the term "sacrament." And for Lutherans, the term "sacrament" then was woven into our understanding of God's word as the instrument of God's recreating power. So what the sacraments do, as we'll see when we look at the texts in a few moments what the sacraments do is actually what the spoken word does, what the written word does, what the word does when it also then comes in sacramental form.