A Christian Theology of Catholic Sacraments
And Mixed Marriage
I'm reading about church architecture in American Religion551 by Mary Farrell Bednarowski who has selected three places of worship for illustration: Congregational Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and Judaism transplanted to American soil. The Colonial Church of Edina is an example of "The interior arrangement of the meeting house reflected the Reform belief that the preaching of the Word took precedence over the sacramental aspects of worship. Thus it was the pulpit, not the altar, that dominated. Instead of an altar, meeting houses made use of communion tables that resembled the domestic variety--another attempt by the Puritans to demystify the act of worship and to dissociate themselves from Catholicism, either Roman or Anglican. ...
"Within the interior of The Abbey and University Church of St. John the Baptist, it would be difficult to find a more striking contrast of theological traditions articulated than with the Colonial Church of Edina. In this building it is the altar, not the pulpit, that predominates: 'Immediately the converging of folded concrete walls, the pitch of the ceilings and balcony, the position of choir stalls and pews point to the altar, the place of the Holy Sacrifice and the Eucharist.' The two monks who wrote the booklet that describes the theological significance of the church could not have made it any plainer: 'The altar which represents Christ is the most sacred place, the magnetic and architectural center of the congregation.' Designed by Breuer and made of white Vermont marble, the altar is meant to be a large rock and this to represent the stability of the Church. The pews and the monks' choir stalls are arranged so that the altar is visible to all. The pulpit is off to the right side of the congregation, easily visible, but not a focal point until someone stands in it.
... "In the case of Mount Zion Temple, Kampf sees both the exterior and the interior as articulating the traditions and symbols of Judaism. ... There is no denying the power of this architectural statement of a vast space that 'unites and dwarfs both those who conduct and those who participate in the service.' In Mount Zion Temple it is not the altar or pulpit that is central but the Ark, which contains the Torah scrolls and whose importance is accentuated by the series of steps leading up to it."
If you were to look at my own church, it is the musicians' stage that dominates the view in which the pulpit is lost in the clutter until the musicians retire and the preacher takes his place. We have no special altar for communion, not that I've noticed, and it is more a case of us being squeezed by the building than dwarfed by it. If music is central, then I suppose calling the first service traditional because the music is traditional is at least consistent with our architecture. On the other hand, when the musicians do retire, it is not an altar that is exposed or an Ark inhabiting some vast space, but a pulpit to which we give our attention. And isn't this supposed to be, like, a restoration church? Restoration churches pay attention to what the Bible says, at lest as much as if not more so than other Protestant churches, am I right? When the musicians do sit down, we have a word of exhortation or edification, then we have communion, and then a sermon. I think the idea of the restoration movement is that Protestant churches were on the right track, but they hadn't gone far enough. It was not music they were deficient in so much as understanding primitive Christianity and the Bible. If such is the case and if we can allow that once we've got the music down pat, we've still got to take care of proclaiming the word, let's look at finishing the job Luther started.
I'm reading about theology in church history:
If sacramentalism is undercut, then sacerdotalism is bound to fall. Luther in one stroke reduced the number of the sacraments from seven to two. Confirmation, marriage, ordination, penance, and extreme unction were eliminated. The Lord's Supper and baptism alone remained. The principle which dictated this reduction was that a sacrament must have been directly instituted by Christ and must be distinctly Christian.
A lot of any theological differences I have with other Christians are neither here nor there--"not of tremendous import." A sticking point with Luther was penance which he did not eliminate altogether. I clash with other Christians at times over the issue of mixed marriage which I believe is entirely sanctified even when a Christian enters into it fresh, but I haven't eliminated marriage between two believers from my belief system, no more than Luther utterly abolished penance. Contrition was considered useful in penance, as in remarrying (I Tim. 5:11-12) the younger widows should not remarry having begun to wax wanton against Christ, because they have cast off their first faith, but (I Cor. 7:39) "she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord," that is, in keeping the faith. The attitude part and state of the heart, we are fine with. It's when confession was institutionalized that Luther raised an objection, and I do when churches force believers to consider marriage only to another believer.
Luther's drastic disagreement of theology had to do with absolution. He felt that man should not go beyond declaring what God has decreed in heaven, not try to force God to ratify what man has ruled on earth. And I too feel that we on earth should only acknowledge that God has decreed a mixed marriage to be sanctified, not rewrite our Bibles to say we are forbidden to enter into such a marriage and expect God to enforce the prohibition we made.
I think the priesthood of all believers should include resting in the calling wherein we as individuals were called, not having to slip into the calling with respect to marriage that the minister went through in selecting his mate to be an adjunct to his ministry.
But Luther's rejection of the five sacraments might even have been tolerated had it not been for the radical transformation which he effected in the two which he retained. From his view of baptism he was to infer a repudiation of monasticism on the ground that it is not a second baptism, and no vow should ever be taken beyond the baptismal vow.553
At my baptism I vowed to follow Christ, that is make Him my Lord. If I ever get married, I will vow to forsake all other women for my bride. My baptismal vow did not mean I forsake all nonchristians for consideration as a mate, because the Lord does not require that. I just have to not forsake my first love: the Lord.
Most serious of all was Luther's reduction of the mass to the Lord's Supper. The mass is central for the entire Roman Catholic system because the mass is believed to be a repetition of the Incarnation and the Crucifixion. When the bread and wine are transubstantiated, God again becomes flesh and Christ again dies upon the altar. This wonder can be performed only by the priests empowered through ordination. Inasmuch as this means of grace is administered exclusively by their hands, they occupy a unique place in society.
Just as from a Protestant viewpoint Catholic theology too closely identified the mass with the physical reality of the crucifixion, so I feel some brethren too closely confuse mere sporting with one's girlfriend as actual physical fornication. No, such sporting is not to be confined to a rite that a priest must give one permission for when he tells the groom he may now kiss the bride, but it establishes a presence during the courtship process, both preparing one for marriage and helping in the selection process.
I'm not even trying to go beyond some very basic theology here, but I think the translators of the NIV were messed up in the head when it came to certain family type matters, so that to use their book as an authority in spiritual matters gives it the imprimatur of a reliable reference in boy-girl matters, and we aren't supposed to accept somebody as a great authority in the church when he is messed up regarding family issues. That a great many in my TV viewing congregation like the NIV and use it doesn't change that.
Paul's statement that there must be sects in order that the elect may be recognized, etc. [I Cor. 11:19], does not mean that one must therefore not take defensive measures against them. For Christ, our dear Lord, himself says, "Offenses must come."[Matt. 18:7] Nevertheless, all Christians, each according to his status and ability, should endeavour to prevent all such offenses. For just as it is the nature of Satan and his servants to sow offenses, so it is the practice of Christ and his servants to gather them up and throw them away. [Matt. 13:39, 41] There must be sects because Satan exists. But we must not respond with silence .... For the true servants and stewards of God are recognized when they, wide awake and diligent, offer resistance. [Cf. Luke 12:37, 42] When, by contrast, the unfaithful, lazy servants sleep and are not watchful, the enemy comes and sows tares among the wheat. [Matt. 13:25]
I don't see it that I have to concede to a popularity contest that our little group in history takes up with a strange Bible version, so I should just go along without protest. We've a reliable KJV that could easily be used in a traditional service.
The monk went on to assure me that in the very words of the Gospel there lay a gracious power, for in them was written what God himself had spoken. 'It does not matter very much if at first you do not understand, go on reading diligently. A monk once said, "If you do not understand the Word of God, the devils understand what you are reading, and tremble." ... St. John Chrysostom writes that even a room in which a copy of the Gospels is kept, holds the spirits of darkness at bay, and becomes an unpromising field for their whiles.'
The KJV is effective even if in a dialect we're not used to, but the NIV holds the very whiles of the devil.
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Copyright © 2005, Earl S. Gosnell III
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