The Historical Use of the Word Ordinance vice Sacrament

Discussion in 'Credo-Baptism Answers' started by Semper Fidelis, Jun 26, 2008.

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  1. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Given Stephen's claim that the Reformed Baptists have a Sacramental view of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, would somebody please provide some history on the very purposeful omission of the Sacramental language from the Westminister Confession of Faith and the use of the word Ordinance in its place everywhere found in the LBCF.

    I tried searching for some articles from Renihan on this but couldn't find any. I know the Baptist view is more Zwinglian on the nature of Baptism and the Lord's Supper but a further elaboration would be helpful for all to understand the difference.
     
  2. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    A gentle reminder that answers are from credo-baptists only in this forum.
     
  3. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    This thread demonstrates gives an example of a contemporary divergence of opinion on the topic:

    Baptists Discussing Reformation :: View topic - Baptists and Sacraments

    I know that with the Lord's Supper particularly that some "Reformed Baptists" have a Calvinistic view instead of Zwinglian. If I recall correctly the language of the LBCF certainly allows for that, even though it is called an ordinance. I don't have much time to look into this now but will try to post more later.
     
  4. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    I don't have materials handy right now either, but the use of the term is hardly historically monolithic. I found another blog post that summarized the use of the term historically--I don't know if the sources are accurate:

    Baptists and the ordinances, part 1 « Immoderate

    I also note that Thomas Goodwin used the term "ordinance" a lot. He meant it to mean directives or orders from God, but often connected them to the means of grace:

    http://ia301242.us.archive.org/0/items/goodwinsworks06gooduoft/goodwinsworks06gooduoft_djvu.txt

    And I have run across old Baptists who are not afraid of the term "sacrament." They use it to describe the Lord's Supper and Baptism, and use the term "ordinance" to include those, but also include preaching, regular observance of the Sabbath, and the regulative principle in general.
     
  5. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Does anyone have any information on, historically, why the writers of the LBCF distinctively cut this whole section from the WCF out of their Confession? Why not just re-word it to give their own definition? I would imagine there has to be some discussion and, perhaps, they liked the word Sacrament but, as somebody else noted, it had too much baggage from the well known use by the Puritans.
     
  6. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    There is some validity to this but some of this is spread to other parts of the confession. As for seals, RB's generally believe that the sealing is the work of the Holy Spirit, but generally do not have a problem with the sealing language when qualified.
     
  7. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    1. It is true that the framers of the 1689 confession used the word ordinance. However, the question has to be asked, did they use this word in such a way as to deny that baptism is a sacrament. The answer is clearly no. They used this word to emphasise that baptism is ORDAINED by God. In their private writings they used the word sacrament. In Coxe's book (recently republished) he makes good use of the word :). Compare also Malone's book on baptism. It is clear the framers of the 1689 were confessional sacramentalists.
    2. The 1689 confession 14:1 makes reference to the word, baptism and the Lords supper as means of grace. This is nothing less than the Reformed understanding of "Word and sacrament". Further, 30:7 clearly holds to sacramental language re the Lord's supper.
    3. Bavinck (Reformed Dogmatics 4:473) defines sacraments as 'visible holy signs and seals instituted by God so that he might make believers understand more clearly and reassure them of the promises and benefits of the covenant of grace, and believers on their part might confess and confirm their faith and love before God, angels and humanking'. Owen, Calvin and Witsius give similar definitions. This is precisely the Reformed Baptist definition.

    The true fact is Reformed Baptists hold a Reformed view of the sacraments.
     
  8. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    All well and good, but the question is what was going on in the minds of the writers of the LBCF regarding the term sacrament?

    :2cents:

    Rich, I have some of it buried in my notes from years ago (which aren't digitized). I'll try to find some references, but it will take me a while. I haven't thought of the issue in a long time and have forgotten everything.
     
  9. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    It may be that this is an instance similar to removing the GNC language in that it is not as big a difference as it may appear. Or maybe not. :detective: The WCF uses the term ordinance at times as well. It may be that the term sacrament was removed due to concerns over the possible misuse of the term. I do think the LBCF is Calvinistic on the Lord's Supper although others may disagree because the word sacrament is not present.
     
  10. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    It is necessary to point out that the bare use of "ordinance" does not indicate a preference for this term over the use of "sacrament." "Ordinance" is simply more generic and includes the Word and prayer as well as sacraments within its scope. Goodwin uses the word in this quotation in the same way that it is used in Shorter Catechism answer 88. In Goodwin's Works, vol. 4, p. 14, there is a definition of a sacrament which accords with the Westminster Confession: "our sacraments (which are the seals added to the word of faith) do primarily exhibit Christ unto a believer, and so, in him, all other promises, as of forgiveness, &c., are ratified and confirmed by them."
     
  11. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    According to Samuel Waldron, "sacrament" is omitted to take care not to be understood as attributing saving efficacy to these ordinances (Exposition, p. 338). I can remember J. I. Packer's Puritan lecture series making the point that the Puritans generally preferred the term "ordinance," but there was no evidence provided for it, and the Puritan tradition generally shows otherwise. I don't think the absence of the term in the 1689 Confession is decisive, but the other eliminated portions of the WCF tell us something important; e.g., the relationship between sacraments and the covenant of grace, the tie between the sign and thing signified, and the clear statement as to the efficacy of the sacraments. The fact that these are eliminated in the 1689 Confession clearly indicates that this Confession intended to teach something which approximated more closely to the symbolic view of the sacraments.
     
  12. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I should add there are 2 books that discuss this issue in real detail:
    * Baptist Sacramentalism: Studies in Baptist History and Thought Anthony R. Cross (Editor)
    *More Than a Symbol: The British Baptist Recovery of Baptismal Sacramentalism Stanley K. Fowler (Author)
     
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