Reviews - What do customers think about Baptist Sacramentalism: Studies in Baptist History and Thought?
Are Baptists and Sacraments Compatible? Oct 20, 2008
Most Southern Baptists assume that "Baptists" and "sacraments" are not compatible. After all, we use the term "ordinance" to separate ourselves from those who see baptism and the Lord's Supper as a means of grace. We hardly ever take the Lord's Supper (once a quarter, usually, if the church remembers "to remember"), and unfortunately, we don't baptize as many as we would like.
But a recent volume of the Studies in Baptist History and Thought, Baptist Sacramentalism, features a collection of essays that show how sacramental theology is not only compatible with Baptist theology, but has been a vital part of Baptist history.
There are many interesting essays in this book. Timothy George's "The Sacramentality of the Church: An Evangelical Baptist Perspective" shows why Baptists shy away from the term "sacrament" and the extreme sacramentalism of the Roman Catholic Church. Tim Grass and Ian Randall, both from Spurgeon's College, contribute an essay describing the beliefs of Charles Spurgeon regarding baptism and the Lord's Supper. Many would be surprised to know that Spurgeon had a robust sacramental theology of the Lord's Supper.
I found Stan Grenz's chapter "Baptism and the Lord's Supper as Community Acts" to be a helpful way of steering through the debates over "ordinances" versus "sacraments." And Michael Haykin's essay on the way many Baptists throughout history have adopted the Calvinist understanding of "spiritual presence" is especially illuminating.
Overall, this book is an important contribution to the discussion of sacramentalism in Baptist life. If anything, one comes away with a profound respect for the diversity of beliefs among Baptists in our brief history regarding what happens at the Lord's table and in the baptismal waters. I hope that the younger generation of Baptists (of which I am part), who are beginning to rediscover our sacramental heritage, will avoid the mystical extremes of other denominations and ground our understanding in biblical theology.