Question about Protastents "Symbolic Baptism"? Then why cant everything else be symbolic?


I have a family member who believes Baptism to be symbolic (no grace or holy spirit)which got me thinking, what are some things that Protestants believe not to be symbolic, but are along the same lines and in MY interptation under their belief of sola scripture could be symbolic?


This “protestant” believes that baptism is a sacrament, not symbolic. The Eucharist is not symbolic, confession is not symbolic. Christ’s ressurection is not symbolic, neither was Mary’s virginity.



The idea that baptism is only symbolic is not from sola Scriptura, it is from rationalism.

Scripture is clear that baptism forgives sin, that it saves us, indeed that it unites us in Christ’s death and in his resurrection.



Well, pretty much everything in my opinion. I had an argument with a liberal relative of mine a couple of years ago who was arguing that the literal Virgin Birth isn’t important. I actually found it useful to draw on sacramental theology in explaining why I think the actual event is intrinsic to the spiritual meaning of the event. And I realized even more clearly than before how much the liberal Protestant spiritualization of the faith builds on and continues the low-church Protestant spiritualization of certain aspects of the faith.



But your church service is only “symbolic” of his death.


Meaning: We don’t have, in Catholic opinion, a valid priesthood?
Or: we don’t have refer to our “mass” as a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrafice?



I’m sorry, I should have clarified, but I mean both.


From my understanding there are many Protestant Churches that view Baptism as a Sacrament; Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Methodist (I may be missing a few). However, Baptists (a close friend of mine is Baptist), Protestant evangelicals, and Protestant fundamentalists view Baptism as just a symbol (correct me if I am wrong).


Evangelicals are a very broad and diverse group. They include members of just about any denomination. So many of us do see baptism as a Sacrament.

Also, “Episcopalian” is a term applied to certain specific local branches of Anglicanism–it’s not something separate.



Regarding orders, that remains a difference of opinion. We view our clergy properly called and ordained, and therefore, valid, the Catholic view notwithstanding.
As for our service, for us there is no symbolism in our order of confession and absolution (both public and private). There is no symbolism in the consecration of Holy Communion - the bread and wine become the true and substantial body and blood of Christ. And even the Catholic Church recognizes our trinitatian Baptism.

The OP’s question was what does our “protestant” faith believe to be not symbolic. There was no reference to “in relationship to Catholic teaching” in his question. We’re both aware of the difference of opinion in this matter.



With some of the things the Episcopal Church has done lately, is it fair to say that it is heading toward “something separate” from the rest of the Anglican Communion?


BTW, Edwin, I really enjoy many of your posts. You speak very well.

Also, to the extent that this post is off the OP’s topic, sorry.


Possibly. But in that case you would have to say that many of the conservative Anglican bodies in the U.S., which make a point of not being Episcopalian, are already out of the Anglican Communion. Whether the Episcopal Church will be “kicked out” of the Communion remains unclear–I think it’s unlikely at this point. It is however quite possible that the more conservative provinces throughout the world will themselves break away from Canterbury. The Archbishop of Canterbury is trying very hard to prevent any schism. But he (and all of us) may have to choose at some point.




Hasn’t the decision basically been made already without people even realizing it.

By that I mean it seems to me that all the Anglican Universities went the way of “modern” scholarship and higher criticism of the Bible years ago, and with that basic denial that the Bible is different than other books, it opened the door to basically making the Bible an ever changing book.

For example: Homosexual sex forbidden, well that came from the cultures, not from God. No women priests, same thing. To use a couple of examples. It doesn’t seem to me that everyone is drifting at the same rates but as far as I can tell holding to the inerrancy of the Bible seems to be almost an unusual position among Episcopalean professors.

I apologize if I am wrong, but I look at the long standing institutions like Oxford and Cambridge and it seems to me that the battle was lost a long time ago, just a lot were not aware of it. Now you have generations of priests taught by those institutions who went out and taught generation of parishioners and it all seems a bit late now to try and put the horse back in the barn. Especially since I am not aware of any group that is fixing things on the academic level. Maybe you are, and I would be glad to hear of it if it is happening.





We may disagree on the basic question. I think that fundamentalist Protestantism is dead wrong in claiming that Biblical inerrancy is somehow the key issue. I recognize that you are not saying this, and I share your concerns about aspects of modern higher criticism. However, if you are not approaching these matters as a strict inerrantist, then there are signs of hope. There’s a lot of interest these days in the history of Biblical scholarship. N. T. Wright has created a mammoth body of scholarship arguing for a “historical Jesus” who is recognizable in terms of orthodox Christianity. Richard Bauckham has done some very similar things, as I understand. The outlook in OT scholarship appears to be bleaker (if I were starting out all over again I might go into that field, but I was too scared and went into church history instead). The most hopeful sign there is “canonical criticism” and some of the “literary approaches,” and the more general upswing in respect for traditional exegesis.

In other words, I don’t see this as an either/or, with modern historical criticism being thoroughly bad and the root of all evils. The Bible *is *a human book written under divine inspiration, and I think there’s room for both “exceptionalist” and non-exceptionalist scholarship, both of which are valid (in other words, yes it should be possible to study the Bible as if it were any other book, but Christians should not confine their use of Scripture to such an approach).

I do think that a lower view of Scripture obviously leads to all sorts of theological problems, but I don’t think there is some clear-cut view of Biblical authority which orthodox people affirm and pro-homosexual folks deny. (Many of the pro-homosexual folks argue that the Bible does not condemn the kinds of homosexual relationships they are advocating, for instance.)



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