Re: sacraments

Paul Arveson (
Mon, 10 Feb 97 08:47:38 EST

In message <> Murphy writes:
> Paul Arveson wrote:
> > There IS a test for the presence of a spiritual influence:
> >
> > "If any man's will is to do His [God's] will, he shall know whether
> > the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority."
> > (John 7:17)
> >
> > The point here is that God's spirit does have a powerful influence,
> > but this influence is not directly physical, such as spirits as
> > portrayed in movies, by new age charlatans, by illusionists, or
> > by natural scientists who, like the scribes of old, are looking for
> > some kind of a 'sign'.
> >
> > There is one reliable kind of 'Spirit detector'. It is the human
> > spirit, or heart, or will. Jesus claims that if our hearts, or our
> > wills, are aligned with God's will, then we will know it. We will
> > achieve verification of Jesus' claim of authority directly.
> >
> > Too bad if this doesn't fit our modern expectations of verification
> > in the philosophy of science. Too bad for philosophy, that is.
> Without disagreeing with what Paul has said as far as it goes, I
> think it's necessary to say something further. N.B. that this comes
> from a Lutheran standpoint - not that I'm trying to pick denominational
> quarrels, but it avoids wasting time if preconceptions are set out at
> the start.
> The Holy Spirit works in a saving fashion _normally_ through
> means, rather than directly, the means being Word & sacraments. I.e.,
> we have the promise of the salvific presence of Christ when the gospel
> is preached & when baptism & the Lord's Supper are celebrated. This
> doesn't mean that the Spirit can't work in other times & places, but
> there's no promise of it.
> Thus proclamation & sacraments are signs that the Spirit is at
> work. Whether anybody will become or remain saved at that point is
> another matter - & that's more where Paul's comments come in.
> There's a close correspondence with the way God works
> providentially in creation. In the vast majority of cases, God works
> mediately, though natural processes. God may work immediately in a
> miraculous fashion, but you'd better not count on it.
> George Murphy
> There is a close correspondence with the way God works
> providentially in creation.


As a Presbyterian, I too agree with our confessions that acknowledge the
sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. But I think we agree that
the Word is the key 'channel' -- that is the Bible, especially the
Gospels. And not as magic formulas or mantras, just as narrative records
of what Jesus said. I tend to be very down to earth in these matters,
because I don't want people in this modern culture to misunderstand,
and possibly also because that is my own experience. I became a
believer not by attending church (which I did as a child), but through
a Bible study conducted by street evangelists.

To me, the most important historical fact about the sacraments is that
Christians (including Calvinists) killed each other over their different

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
Code 724, Signatures Directorate, NSWC
9500 MacArthur Blvd., Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
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