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Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Sophomore
In extra-ordinary circumstances where a sacrament may not be performed in the exact way that Christ prescribed, ought a church to forego the sacrament (or that part of it) or ought principled accommodations be made which keep the essential, spiritual principles of the sacrament?

In the Reformation and puritan era, the Lutherans (the Biblicists of their day) answered the former; those Churches reformed according to the Word of God: the latter.

This new page documents this in detail. The Intro will walk you through the issues and show you from the light of God’s Word and Nature why the reformed position is right. Add further knowledge and understanding to your faith, seeking to please Him in walking more closely according to his Will.

 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
We had no wine and bread in the jungle sometimes. We used bread-like sago and cool-aid or orang-aid. As close as we could get. My conscience is not troubled by it. Jesus used common elements so the common man could always partake. To say jungle folks are barred due to different eco-system and geography seems contrary to the intention of Jesus.
 

Alexander Suarez

Puritan Board Freshman
In extra-ordinary circumstances where a sacrament may not be performed in the exact way that Christ prescribed, ought a church to forego the sacrament (or that part of it) or ought principled accommodations be made which keep the essential, spiritual principles of the sacrament?

In the Reformation and puritan era, the Lutherans (the Biblicists of their day) answered the former; those Churches reformed according to the Word of God: the latter.

This new page documents this in detail. The Intro will walk you through the issues and show you from the light of God’s Word and Nature why the reformed position is right. Add further knowledge and understanding to your faith, seeking to please Him in walking more closely according to his Will.

Good day Travis,

I hope you and yours are well.

This may be of historical interest to take into account in the above description: John Ley in his letter notes the below authors (non-Lutherans) sided with the former opinion (i.e., "forego the sacrament"):

Bish. [Arthur] Lake in his Serm. on Mat. 26. v. 26, 27. par. 3.165. So hold also some of the Doctors of the reformed Churches.

Kind regards,
 
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Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Alex, thanks for the notice.

I was aware he does reference some, and I am aware of other reformed theologians that held to such. Turretin, quoted on the page says that persons not able to take the wine, simply ought to abstain from that part of it, while bringing the cup to their lips.

But that was by far the minority view in the reformed, not just by my researches but also according to persons such as Campegius Vitringa and De Moor. There is almost always going to be some diversity in such things in history, but yet I have found many major reformed professors arguing the analagous view as the reformed view, contra the (dominant) Lutheran view, whereas I have not found one reformed person making such a claim for the abstaining view.

If persons feel they ought to abstain, then I would not be one to press that, other than seeking to inform them more about it if they are so willing.

As far as accurately representing the history of it in my Intro, I did make the statement at the beginning: "The dominant answer of the Chuches reformed according to the Word of God was that principled accomodations could, and should, be made."

Blessings friend.
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
Well Travis, I will go ahead and say that I believe the bread and the wine are elements of the Lord's supper, and there should be no substitutions made. I've looked over the site via the link you provided, but don't see specific info on the "Churches reformed according to the Word of God" that took the view you're espousing-- which churches were they, and which ministers?
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Senior
Whether or not later Lutherans took an opposing view, Luther himself went so far as to say,

I don’t wish to be baptized thus. But I don’t care about the element, whatever one may have. Indeed, it’s enough to speak the words. Let the children be committed to our Lord God. The baptism itself is of no concern to me. Besides, the Word is the principal part of baptism. If in an emergency there’s no water at hand, it doesn’t matter whether water or beer is used. [LW 54:61]

Dr. Jacob: “Should a child be baptized with wine? I hear that such a thing happened,” etc.
Dr. Luther: “If it’s done, it’s done by accident. So in this instance what happened was that in an emergency the poor women laid hold of wine, thinking it was something else. That child shouldn’t be baptized again because when I take something to be something—when I think it’s water, even if it really is something else—there’s no danger at all. Under the papacy priests often elevated water instead of wine. [LW 54:425]
Letter to Nicolas Amsdorf; January 11, 1546.
...He who has partaken of an unconsecrated wafer has not sinned; for his faith has saved him, because he believed that he received the true sacrament, and trusted in God's Word, just as he who believes is baptized, although he who baptizes him plays with the ordinance, or uses some other fluid for the purpose.
 

Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Well Travis, I will go ahead and say that I believe the bread and the wine are elements of the Lord's supper, and there should be no substitutions made. I've looked over the site via the link you provided, but don't see specific info on the "Churches reformed according to the Word of God" that took the view you're espousing-- which churches were they, and which ministers?
Hi Jeri,

Regarding ministers and churches that took the view the webpage espouses: virtually every quote and article cited on the page so held to the dominant reformed view, and I found no articles otherwise, though Alex linked one above.

But these were not simply any ministers, Calvin and Beza speak of it being the common practice where they are in Geneva and Swtizerland. They advised such to missionaries in Brazil. Beza's Theological Letters were published and widely read.

Many of the Latin articles (if you look at the titles) were written by professors of reformed theology in various nations, speaking on behalf of their reformed Churches contra the Lutherans, in standard manuals of polemical theology, and made no qualms about using terminology such as, 'The Reformed hold...'

Campegious Vitringa and De Moor, both give extensive bibliographies documenting the dominant reformed view, and sometimes mention exceptions. I could go on at length, but I am simply reduplicating information that is on the webpage if you look through the titles and consider their historical context.

Blessings.
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks for the reply, Travis. I searched through all your links and couldn't find anything from Calvin or Beza saying that substituting other ingredients for the elements was the practice in Geneva and Switzerland.

I'll search through again, but so far what I read were quotes from various worthies speaking to various circumstances, but none saying it's ok to change the elements of the Supper. I appreciate the principles mentioned with quotes and Scripture to back them up, but again they didn't explicitly have to do with the elements of the Supper.

Are you largely basing your view on propositions you put forward in numbers 5 and 6 of your Reasons for the Reformed Dominant View Under 10 Principles:

5. Christ could have, theoretically, chosen other things besides bread and wine for Communion; yet bread and wine are commonly prevalent and fulfill the spiritual principles Christ instituted for Communion. If Christ chose these elements for their suitability (which He did), then their suitability is that which grounds their use in the sacrament. So Beza, Theological Letters, Letter 2, p. 28 (mid).

Maccovius below, in an article in Latin, argues rightly that the form, or essence of the sacrament consists “in the analogy of the sign to the thing signified”. This was the dominant reformed view.

6. The spiritual takes precedent over the external and material. To reverse this, or to hold them as equal is a serious error in theology generally. The external and material in the sacraments is only given significance because of, and through, the Word, specifically the words of institution, which explain the rites, provide their warrant and authority, and is that which makes them what they are: holy things in their holy use unto the Lord.


I don't see, in denying that the elements of the Supper can be substituted, that #6 applies. Is the external and material taking precedent over the spiritual in insisting that the Lord has prescribed the elements of communion? And does a true necessity exist to change them due to a Providential lack of bread and wine. We know that there can be a true church and grace even if communion is only taken rarely. It also seems usually possible to get bread and wine somehow into almost any place, though it may not be as frequently as one would like.

I think of Jesus' words, "As often as ye do it." There's no command to have communion on any set schedule, and his words seem to grant freedom to recognize that there may be providential hindrance sometimes in having it.

Thoughts so far. :)
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Did you mean Geneva, Switzerland.

I don't think Geneva and Switzerland are two different countries :)
I think that the distinction is intentional. There were differences between Geneva and other cantons. Bern, for instance, claimed power to mandate man-made holy days.
 

Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Sophomore
ent over the external and material. To reverse this, or to hold them as equal is a serious error in theology generally. The external and material in the sacraments is only given significance because of, and through, the Word, specifically the words of institution, which explain the rites, provide their warrant and authority, and is that which makes them what they are: holy things in their holy use unto the Lord.

I don't see, in denying that the elements of the Supper can be substituted, that #6 applies. Is the exter

Friends,

I am sorry, I just don't have time to reiterate what can already be read on the webpage.

Switzerland is bigger than Geneva. Beza's Letter 25, quoting Calvin is linked on the webpage. Every detail I have mentioned here on the PB or in the Intro on the webpage is more than sufficiently, and rather copiously, documented on the webpage itself. And if you are serious about the subject, getting familiar with the resources on the webpage will do persons a world of good.

Blessings.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
What the sources Travis has helpfully gathered for us are saying is simply a subset of what we might call the "irregular" principle of worship, which is an important adjunct of the regulative principle of worship, but which is often overlooked. That is, the Scriptures themselves teach us (hence this is not in any sense opposed to the RPW but grows out of it) that sometimes the normal rules of worship need to be set aside, in exceptional circumstances. Among the proof texts cited in Travis' sources are Numbers 8 (the "second chance passover", a month later than required by the law), and the poor man's sin offering in Leviticus 5:7, which does not involve the shedding of blood. Other examples would include working on the sabbath to get an ox out of a ditch, from which the reformed derive the wide principle of the allowability of "deeds of necessity and mercy" on the Sabbath. This is why we do not have Sabbath elevator settings on hotels owned by Reformed people. Of course, wisdom is required to apply the irregular principle: it is not an excuse for laziness or laxness on our part, but it acknowledges that in a fallen world it is not always possible to follow God's law in worship exactly.

The specific question is whether the elements of communion are so fixed that only bread and wine may serve, or if under "extraordinary" circumstances some other suitable substitutes may be used. The latter was the historic view of the Reformed. No, the youth group retreat does not count as extraordinary circumstances, to allow for coke and pizza as "elements". It may be, Jeri, that you are right and in most conceivable circumstances bread and wine are sufficiently available that there are very few "extraordinary" circumstances. Based on Perg's experience, I would be okay with thinking that a tribal village in the jungle somewhere might fit the bill, but that would properly be the role of Presbytery to advise on.

Usually, in the Biblical examples, "extraordinary" stems from a potential conflict between two Biblical principles. In the case of the "Second chance passover" (Num. 8) the issue is that people in an unclean state could not partake of the passover. Not partaking of the Passover meant excommunication. Yet you could be unclean simply because granny died yesterday and someone had to bury her. It is striking that the Lord's answer is bigger than Moses' question, including even people traveling on a journey. They could celebrate the Passover exactly as specified in the law, just one month later (note: not whenever they wanted, or simply because they didn't feel like the passover on the regular schedule). It was a way to allow people to do their best to keep the law while acknowledging the difficulty of life in a fallen world.

The conflict in the case of communion elements has to do with the choice between substituting other elements and not taking communion, perhaps for an extended period of time. Since the Reformed view encourages "frequent" communion (see Westminster Directory of Public Worship), it is undesirable (unBiblical!) for Christians not to be able to receive the elements for an extended period of time (perhaps ever in our jungle scenario). It is therefore judged to be better to celebrate the Lord's Supper "irregularly" than not at all. There are limits on how irregular this can be - the sources do not encourage administration of the sacraments by anyone other than an ordained minister.

Just as different people are going to disagree about what constitutes a work of necessity and mercy on the Sabbath, so people may disagree as to what constitutes a sufficient emergency to substitute alternate elements (or to go away from a common loaf and common cup, etc). But the principle of irregular worship is clearly a Biblical one, and these sources show how historically Reformed people have wrestled with it in this specific case.
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
What the sources Travis has helpfully gathered for us are saying is simply a subset of what we might call the "irregular" principle of worship, which is an important adjunct of the regulative principle of worship, but which is often overlooked. That is, the Scriptures themselves teach us (hence this is not in any sense opposed to the RPW but grows out of it) that sometimes the normal rules of worship need to be set aside, in exceptional circumstances. Among the proof texts cited in Travis' sources are Numbers 8 (the "second chance passover", a month later than required by the law), and the poor man's sin offering in Leviticus 5:7, which does not involve the shedding of blood. Other examples would include working on the sabbath to get an ox out of a ditch, from which the reformed derive the wide principle of the allowability of "deeds of necessity and mercy" on the Sabbath. This is why we do not have Sabbath elevator settings on hotels owned by Reformed people. Of course, wisdom is required to apply the irregular principle: it is not an excuse for laziness or laxness on our part, but it acknowledges that in a fallen world it is not always possible to follow God's law in worship exactly.

The specific question is whether the elements of communion are so fixed that only bread and wine may serve, or if under "extraordinary" circumstances some other suitable substitutes may be used. The latter was the historic view of the Reformed. No, the youth group retreat does not count as extraordinary circumstances, to allow for coke and pizza as "elements". It may be, Jeri, that you are right and in most conceivable circumstances bread and wine are sufficiently available that there are very few "extraordinary" circumstances. Based on Perg's experience, I would be okay with thinking that a tribal village in the jungle somewhere might fit the bill, but that would properly be the role of Presbytery to advise on.

Usually, in the Biblical examples, "extraordinary" stems from a potential conflict between two Biblical principles. In the case of the "Second chance passover" (Num. 8) the issue is that people in an unclean state could not partake of the passover. Not partaking of the Passover meant excommunication. Yet you could be unclean simply because granny died yesterday and someone had to bury her. It is striking that the Lord's answer is bigger than Moses' question, including even people traveling on a journey. They could celebrate the Passover exactly as specified in the law, just one month later (note: not whenever they wanted, or simply because they didn't feel like the passover on the regular schedule). It was a way to allow people to do their best to keep the law while acknowledging the difficulty of life in a fallen world.

The conflict in the case of communion elements has to do with the choice between substituting other elements and not taking communion, perhaps for an extended period of time. Since the Reformed view encourages "frequent" communion (see Westminster Directory of Public Worship), it is undesirable (unBiblical!) for Christians not to be able to receive the elements for an extended period of time (perhaps ever in our jungle scenario). It is therefore judged to be better to celebrate the Lord's Supper "irregularly" than not at all. There are limits on how irregular this can be - the sources do not encourage administration of the sacraments by anyone other than an ordained minister.

Just as different people are going to disagree about what constitutes a work of necessity and mercy on the Sabbath, so people may disagree as to what constitutes a sufficient emergency to substitute alternate elements (or to go away from a common loaf and common cup, etc). But the principle of irregular worship is clearly a Biblical one, and these sources show how historically Reformed people have wrestled with it in this specific case.
Thanks Reverend Duguid. I do see and get the application of mercy and charity in an extenuating circumstance surrounding the Lord's Supper such as were mentioned, like those rare instances where someone can’t take the elements of communion due to a physical issue, or even charity and patience with a mental, or mistaken moral, issue.

But I suppose it comes down to whether one is convinced that the elements of bread and wine are not to be altered, and that there is no command regarding frequency of the Supper, and that God’s people do not suffer any lack of grace and goodness from the Lord if providentially hindered from participation in the Lord’s supper. (But all prayer should be made and means sought to acquire bread and wine.)
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I apologize that I don't have time to dive into this and so if this has some way been addressed, again apologies (I'm indexing a book which is miserable work, and just taking a brief break), but do want to ask if the commanded elements of bread and wine are not sacrosanct in necessity, why isn't office treated the same way, since they are both of divine institution? What makes the office not alterable in necessity (say, all the men folk on the island got killed), but the elements prescribed for God's worship alterable?
 

Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Sophomore
I apologize that I don't have time to dive into this and so if this has some way been addressed, again apologies (I'm indexing a book which is miserable work, and just taking a brief break), but do want to ask if the commanded elements of bread and wine are not sacrosanct in necessity, why isn't office treated the same way, since they are both of divine institution? What makes the office not alterable in necessity (say, all the men folk on the island got killed), but the elements prescribed for God's worship alterable?
Chris,

Regarding the issue of office, this is from the Intro on the webpage:

"– The sacraments are not to be administered by non-ministers.ª A reason for this (besides others) is that a lawful call from Christ to the public ministry is of the essence of the sacrament, insofar as sacraments are public ordinances, and the minister is a representative, and picture, of Jesus Christ in the sacramental actions.† An extraordinary call to the ministry may be allowed, but does not normally occur, nor is normally warranted, in regular circumstances.​

In the island scenario: I would say celebrating the sacraments would only be allowed if there was an extradordinary call upon a person to the ministry of the Word, which should then be confirmed by the people (and then it would no longer be so extraordinary, but more ordinary).

I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that an extraordinary call of a person to the ministry is always a life-long thing; that is, there are not temporary extraordinary calls. That is, not just anyone on the island will administer the sacrament, as needed, but then not be a minister the rest of their life (with their attendent duties).

If there were not an extraordinary call of someone on the island to be a minister, then, given no other possibilities, I would think the sacraments should not be celebrated, but the remaining persons should simply use the means of the word privately and socially.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
I think that the distinction is intentional. There were differences between Geneva and other cantons. Bern, for instance, claimed power to mandate man-made holy days.
My comment was a little tongue in cheek. It is fascinating that some cantons in Switzerland were more influenced by the Reformation than others.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
I apologize that I don't have time to dive into this and so if this has some way been addressed, again apologies (I'm indexing a book which is miserable work, and just taking a brief break), but do want to ask if the commanded elements of bread and wine are not sacrosanct in necessity, why isn't office treated the same way, since they are both of divine institution? What makes the office not alterable in necessity (say, all the men folk on the island got killed), but the elements prescribed for God's worship alterable?
Chris,
That is a great question, and I think in principle a good one to discuss (and one that different people might come to different conclusions about). I think the Biblical principles revolve around the inseparable linkage of word and sacrament, so there has to be preaching alongside the sacrament. If you insist that only ministers preach, as historically many of the Reformed tended to say, then you can't have the sacrament without a minister. Second, there are considerations of church discipline: baptism and the Lord's Supper are not private ceremonies but make statements about people's ecclesial status.

It's not clear to me why a two-office person could not argue that if there is legitimate preaching (a seminary student? a ruling elder licensed by presbytery to preach?) and appropriate oversight (ruling elders), the sacraments might not be extraordinarily administered. Of course, that presupposes the circumstances are genuinely extraordinary and no minister can be found, which is unlikely in the Majority world.

However, that's not necessarily the case on the mission field. Before I went to seminary I was a missionary in Liberia, where I preached in a number of different churches (extraordinary in its own way, but not uncommon in Reformed circles). One day I preached at a small church on the Firestone Rubber plantation, which had been founded by Anglicans and therefore believed in paedobaptism. It was now supplied mainly by missionaries, all of whom except for me were credobaptists. When I arrived, I was asked if I would perform a baptism. Demonstrating my theological ignorance, but also being aware of the value of the sign and seal of the covenant, I wasn't sure what to do. In the end, I met with the family, who had a clear profession of faith and understanding of baptism; the leaders of the church affirmed the family's membership in good standing. It felt like an Acts 8 moment: "Here is water; what is to prevent baptism?" I went ahead and baptized the child.

With the benefit of hindsight, and much more theological study, I understand the complexities of what I did more clearly. There are no easy solutions. In a Presbyterian setting, I think I would prefer to have had a ruling elder administer the sacrament after I preached. Perhaps with some searching I could have found an ordained paedobaptist to administer the ceremony, though that would not have been easy. What I did was certainly irregular, at the very least, and probably wrong in the eyes of many on this Board. But it illustrates the fact that there are circumstances where things just aren't as neat and tidy as we would wish.
 

Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Iain,

I have very much appreciated all of your remarks, and thank you for them.

Regarding the question of whether all who can preach (in ordinary or extraordinary circumstances) can administer the sacraments, the consensus of reformed orthodoxy was 'No':

1. The articles in the three links I linked in a reply to Chris above take up that question, and they make no exceptions for the sacraments being administered by a non-minister out of 'necessity'.​
2. The WCF states that only ministers are to perform the sacraments, and yet WLC 158 does not say that about who may preach, but rather: "The word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office," which leaves the door open to licentiates and those extraordinarily called.​
3. 2 Chron. 29:34-35 says that the Levites, who by office could not perform sacrifices, yet, in necessity, "did help them, till the work was ended". Yet helping and assisting under the authority of another is different than doing it all oneself, with one's authority.​
4. Rutherford gives the reason for all this, as quoted on my originally posted webpage above:​
The Due Right of Presbyteries (1644), pt. 1, pp. 454-455​
“2. There is no such moral necessity of the sacraments as there is of the ministry of the Word, and consequently of some use of the keys where a scandalous person may infect the Lord’s flock. For where vision ceases the people perish, but it is never said, where baptism ceases the people perish; and therefore uncalled ministers in case of necessity, without ordination or calling from a presbytery, may preach and take on them the holy ministry and exercise power of jurisdiction, because the necessity of the souls of a congregation in a remote island requires so, but I hope no necessity in any [of] the most extraordinary case requires that a midwife may baptize, or that a private man remaining a private man may celebrate the Lord’s Supper to the Church without any calling from the Church.”​
Hope this may be helpful as to further considerations on the topic. Blessings.
 
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