Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Sacraments--"Earning Salvation"?

As mentioned in my last installment, there is a charge that the Sacraments are somehow added to the Gospel, and therefore a different Gospel. Something that must fist be brought to attention is that the Sacraments not an exclusively Catholic doctrine. Thats right. The attack on the Sacraments are not simply an attack on Catholicism, but an attack on the vast majority of Christianity. The two main differences are the nature and the number of the Sacraments. Catholics, of course, recognize exactly seven. The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes that there are at least seven. Even most Protestant denominations (Baptist and Fundamentalist Evangelicals tend to be the exceptions) that there are no sacraments, but there are two ordinances. Before this discussion on the nature of the Sacraments, and what they are and what they are not, it is necessary to have a definition of a Sacrament. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted by the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions. (1131)
There are some things of which to take note. First sacraments are signs. A sign is something which represents something else. Some signs, like exit sins, are merely informative, but other signs, like wedding rings, carry a deeper significance. This deeper significance is the kind of sign that a Sacrament is. It represents something deep and profound and mysterious about our faith in Jesus Christ. We call them "efficacious" because they bring about a specific result. Baptism is a ritual washing, and it has the effect of washing away original sin, as well as personal sin and all temporal punishment due this sin. A normal bath or shower is not capable of this result, but is only possible through the sacrament.
Next, a sacrament was instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church. All of the Sacrments are mentioned is Scripture, although some are more difficult to find than others. This will be dealt with in detail in future posts, as a detailed description is beyond the scope of this short article.
My final point is that the sacrments are signs tht actually do something. The important thing to remember is that it is God that is the actor. The person receiving the sacrament is doing nothing but making himself avialable. The minister of the sacrament is doing something insofar as he is an instrument of God. I willl use baptism as an example. The person being baptized isn't doing anything. He is simply presenting himself to participate in the sacrament. The minister of the baptism is also not doing anything under his own power. If it was simply a human action between minister and catechumen, all that would happen is the catechumen would get wet. God, using the minister as an instrument, cleanses the catechumen of sin. It becomes clear that the sacraments are not work, because it is God that is doing everything.

No comments:

Post a Comment