Debates abound on the subjects of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Is Christ actually with, in, and under the sacraments? Do we literally hold the body of Christ when we break the bread? Do the waters of Baptism wash away sin or are they simply a physical portrayal of that act which the Holy Spirit does in us? These questions and others are addressed with a discerning eye in this new addition to the 40 Questions Series, 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
This volume addresses two topics which have caused rifts in the church for centuries. These biblical doctrines have also caused pastors to lose their pulpits in favor of one view over the other. Since that’s the case, how do we navigate the troubled waters of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper? To begin with we can begin by asking questions of those views opposing ours. We can ask for clarification and definition of terms instead of bringing down a hammer of judgement on those who hold views not our own.
John Hammett begins at the very basic level of the doctrines. What are they? He helps the newcomer to understand the terminology of Sacrament and Ordinance. Some began to object to the term sacrament, says Hammett, “because of its association with Catholic views, which they thought threatened the doctrine of justification by grace through faith” (23). Even among those who use sacrament there is a plurality of what is exactly meant by the term and what practices are covered under that term.
One of the sections I thought most helpful was the section explaining denominational views on these doctrines. It’s helpful for those who think they know the differences to see what exactly happens in the services of those who may be right down the street from them. It’s always a good idea to not caricature the views of other churches when trying to explain their varying doctrines. John Hammett does well to steer clear of that error.
Another helpful section is the Reflection Questions at the end of each chapter. They offer the reader a deeper understanding of the material through reflecting on it and analysing the text. I can see how this section would be perfect for small groups or bible studies. It certainly caused me to stop and think through some of the issues I thought I had nailed down in my mind.
Overall, 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, is a great tool for those just starting to think about the issues. It’s also a tool for those who have been jaded by what they thought was right instead of what the scriptures say. The whole 40 Questions series is a very helpful intro into the doctrines and thought patterns of the whole spectrum of ideas that encompass Christianity.