Saturday, March 16, 2019

Debating the sacraments

On the question of the sacraments, Baptists are at a tactical disadvantage. There will always be people who are drawn to sacramental realism because they like the idea that infant baptism creates the presumption that their child is now heavenbound. Or that weekly communion is a quick fix. Spiritual shortcuts have a psychological appeal for many people. We see that in Baptists circles, too, where the "sacrament" of the altar call is functionally equivalent to Catholic sacraments. The primary exception is Reformed Baptists, who are more consistent. This is one reason why debates over credo/paedobaptism make so little headway. It's not just an exegetical question but a psychological question. In that respect, the Baptist position is an uphill climb. Sacramental realism has perennial appeal for many people.

Notice that what I've said is irrelevant to truth and evidence. I'm just making a sociological observation. Theological debates often stall because the underlying motivations are psychological. And there's not much that can be done about that. 

It's like ecumenists who have a deep yearning for "unity". They seem to be temperamentally wired to long for "unity", or a sense of continuity with the past. That's why some of them convert to Catholicism–drawn by the mystique of Christian unity and continuity (even though Catholic reality is something else entirely). 

I'm not saying this is a reason to forego debates over the sacraments. But we should have low expectations about achieving progress in that direction. It's more a case of peeling away occasional individuals. 

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