What happened to the sacraments?

I have had a theory for awhile about why Protestants don’t have or use all of the Sacraments. If I understand it correctly in the past they all did but in time dropped them here and there. Could this be because in the beginning the priests and bishops who left Catholicism did have valid orders and the sacraments did work. Then over time when the priests and bishops died and the lines back to Peter and Jesus vaniahed, that they stoped workng. So if the people and churches where not getting anything from the sacraments why not start believing that they are not needed and drop them. I see the same problem with Catholics that do not receive the Eucharist with a clean soul. They stop believing Jesus is truly present because if you recieve Him while in a state of sin more harm comes to you than good. They do not experience the power of the Eucharist and then can’t believe He is truly there.

Don’t think so. Most of the sacraments were jettisoned pretty quickly at the beginning of the Reformation. Tho I believe the Anglicans kept all of them.

There is no way to tell if a sacrament “works” - there is nothing to see, hear, taste, touch, smell. It’s a matter of faith.

But, there still must be an insurance that, that piece of bread on the altar is actually Jesus. Who ensures you that the sacrament is valid? Only the Church’s authority can insure you, and this is a matter of faith. You believe, because the Church is sure of this. If you believe only on the simple fact that it looks like it, like in an Anglican Church, where all the essential words and aspects look and sound right, then you are in peril of committing idolatry. You are adoring a piece of bread, though with all the good intentions you might have, it will hurt your soul. The Church has declared that the Holy Orders of the Anglican Church are invalid, for there cannot be insurance of apostolic succession among their bishops, which leads to invalid ordination of priests, which leads to invalid Eucharist.
There must be a way to tell. And it is only because the Church ensures us of this, on the promises and actions of Christ. It’s a matter of faith if you believe that bread to be the Body of Christ, it is not just a matter of faith for it to really be the Body of Christ.

As for OP, Luther was quite opposed against Catholic faith. He had several issues with the Church, but indeed not on all essential matters of the faith. The Babylonian captivity of the Church written in 1520, this is only 3 years after the famous 95 theses, wrote against the Catholic view of the Sacraments, and even removed Confirmation from the list, as considering irrelevant. He writes:* I wonder what could have possessed them to make a sacrament of confirmation out of the laying on of hands.* He was quite the champion of the Eucharist: Not one of the Fathers of the Church, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present. The real blow came, when Calvin and Zwingli started their own protestant reformations. They began to really hammer at everything Catholic. Interestingly, all these three characters were Catholic priests. One wonders!? :rolleyes: Calvin was the first to throw the Blessed Eucharist out of a church, and then spat on it, as did all present with him. The place is still marked to this day, and many as they walk by that place still spit there. Though many know not why.
So, as you can see, even Luther, though keeping some of the Sacraments, still rejected the Confirmation. And the view he had on how the Sacraments work, was quite different from the Catholic view.

Luther and the Lutheran reformers kept the main ones, the Eucharist, Baptism, and Confession. And the rest are present in our church, we just don’t call them sacraments.

I don’t think this quite works. For one thing, I"m not sure which sacraments you mean. The Protestant Reformers accepted only two sacraments: baptism and the Eucharist (though Luther early on also spoke of Penance as a sacrament, and private confession remained a Lutheran practice even though it was understood differently than in Catholicism). That doesn’t mean that they didn’t do the other things, of course: they celebrated marriage, they ordained, they practiced some form of confession (though only the Lutherans practiced private confession in a way that substantially resembled Catholic practice), they visited and consoled the sick and dying, and they confirmed young people who had arrived at an age where they could profess faith for themselves. But they didn’t define these things as sacraments.

With regard to the Eucharist, it’s true that Protestants have for most of their history celebrated this sacrament much less often than Catholics do. But many people don’t realize that medieval Catholic laypeople didn’t receive communion very often in the first place–typically once a year, maybe three times if you were devout. More than that was weird if not bordering on heresy, because it implied that you lacked a proper sense of your own unworthiness and need to prepare. Since the Protestants believed that the only point of the Eucharist was congregational communion, they only celebrated the Eucharist when people were willing to receive. That meant, typically, once a quarter, in some cases once a month (even once a quarter was a bit more often than the medieval norm). So they celebrated the Eucharist much less often, but people received communion about the same or maybe a bit more often.

Both Luther and Calvin advocated weekly or even more frequent communion. But they couldn’t persuade people to go along with it. (Zwingli and the Anabaptists, on the other hand, did favor infrequent communion because they saw the Eucharist in more symbolic terms, while Luther and Calvin saw it as a means of genuinely sharing in Christ’s Body and Blood, though Calvin spiritualized this more than Luther did).


I’ve never heard this, and it doesn’t sound like Calvin’s style to me, although he certainly did think the Mass was idolatry and told people that they couldn’t participate in it without sinning.

Could you give me a reference and/or more specifics (like when and where this event took place)?


I beg to differ -
Calvin was never a Catholic priest.

Calvin never was ordained in the Catholic Church

Quoting the Catholic Encycopedia

One wonders!? :rolleyes: Calvin was the first to throw the Blessed Eucharist out of a church, and then spat on it, as did all present with him.

I have never heard of this either. I would want to see this from a Protestant source, as a Catholic source would be gravely suspect.

I see the same problem with Catholics that do not receive the Eucharist with a clean soul. They stop believing Jesus is truly present because if you recieve Him while in a state of sin more harm comes to you than good. They do not experience the power of the Eucharist and then can’t believe He is truly there.

Forgive me if I don’t know how to do this correctly, I was trying to quote the above, but what do you mean by this quote? How does more harm come to a person?

This also does not work because Calvin strongly affirmed that Christ is spiritually present in the Eucharist.

The reason Protestants don’t use all the Catholic sacraments is that they do not see them in Scripture as things ordained by Christ (cite endless debates on CAF about whether they are). Sorry, the argument just does not work.

I think the basic reason is simply “We don’t see it in scripture.” I have read the dialogue between the Lutherans and the orthodox of the 16th century and its one of the incessant points that the Lutheran side would always bring up in their descent (of course the patriarch disagreed).

1 Cor. 11:27-29
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Here you go!

More information here.

No. That is not historically accurate at all.

I can recommend the book Dissent From The Creed. It is an excellent explanation of the heresies against the Faith.

That’s right–I should have pointed that out myself. In fact, there’s no record of his ever being ordained formally in any way, though he obviously was called by the community (initially by Farel, but later recalled by the Genevans after they kicked him and Farel out) and celebrated the Eucharist, as well as preaching, of course.

I have never heard of this either. I would want to see this from a Protestant source, as a Catholic source would be gravely suspect.

No, that’s the wrong way to look at it. This kind of confessional suspicion leads to all kinds of false forms of argument (like racking up quotes out of context from any historian on “the other side” who says something that makes your point). Certainly even the best scholars are biased, and scholars who admit something contrary to their bias are particularly trustworthy, but whether the source is Protestant or Catholic is much less important than whether the source is reliable or not.

For instance, while I frequently disagree with the bias and spin of the CE, it is a respectable (though very old) source that respects the facts. So if it were in the CE, while I’d want to look into it further, I would certainly accept that there’s some basis for the story.


You invite a discussion on how we approach historical documents, and the critical (in the narrow sense) evaluation of what is reliable. Is it reliable because I agree with it? Because it is old? Because it supports my position?

I used the CE here because I knew ‘the other side’ would likely accept it as authoritative, not because I would particularly. I would certainly not use it to establish the same point on say a Lutheran forum!

More specifically, I see my post could be read as advocating that I am suspicious of all things Catholic, and partial to all things Protestant. I’m not. In this case there is a spectacular charge being levied against M. Calvin, and it would require sure proof of a reliable nature for me to believe he did that. I could believe Calvinists have done it in their iconoclastic frenzies, but not Calvin. If he did this, he would have left us a long and angry defense of his actions. We well know of his dealings with Servetus. The Catholic spin is not, um, exactly the same as how the Reformed present it. There has been a lot of polemical material developed over the years that is not always truthful, some of which has been fabricated and is carried on orally, by both sides, when the truth is other. If he had done this, as I said, he would have recorded it.

The Reformed can hurl ECF quotes as well, I think, as the Catholics. I have found disappointingly shoddy work in favor of either position. Likewise historical documents, likewise narratives about those documents, as well as translations, etc. We have heard a bit on this from the Catholic side; I would like to hear a Reformed response beyond ‘I have never heard of this episode’. Perhaps someone can cite in the year X a Calvinist mob in the city Y burned church Z and committed this sacrilege. And it has been compressed into the idea that Calvin did this, “and here is the very spot”. I am sure you are aware of his cataloging of saints’ bones: how many arms, skulls, feet and so forth various saints had in various churches scattered around Europe. So I think, in that sense, there is some justification for some cynicism regarding undocumented sources.

Thanks I’ll lookup the book. I still wonder about the essence of my thought. If a church can not perform a valid sacrament then why offer it?

Which Protestant church believes that they cannot perform a valid sacrament?

Interesting theory, but in general, you are incorrect. Different Protestants accepted different numbers of sacraments based on their belief in which rites were explicitly ordained by Christ himself. The two most obvious ones were baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We have explicit commands from Christ himself in Holy Scripture that the Church is to make disciples in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Trinity. We also are commanded by Jesus to observe the Lord’s Supper until he returns. Therefore, Protestants universally retained these as sacraments. Other rites were harder to rationalize or identify as sacraments specifically ordained by Christ as such.

Also, you are assuming that all original Protestant clergy were ordained as Catholic priests. This is not historically accurate. There were Protestant clergy, especially leaders of the Radical Reformation, who assumed clerical roles without any prior ordination in the Catholic Church. There was widespread anti-clericalism in many places of Europe, so appropriating spiritual leadership without any prior connection with the Catholic hierarchy might actually have increased one’s credibility in the eyes of many people.

However, there was a group of radical Protestants led by Silesian noble Caspar Schwenckfeld who instituted a suspension of the Eucharist known as the Stillstand. Schwenckfeld believed in an almost Calvinist spiritual presence Eucharistic theology that distinguished between the inner and the outer Eucharist. However, Schwenckfeld believed that people must first be taught to properly understand and use the symbols, and this required mass catechization. Until mass catechization could be accomplished, the Stillstand or cessation of the sacrament was put into place. In the absence of the physical Eucharist, stress was placed on spiritual communion with Christ.

Of course, in the case of Schwenckfeldians, the rationale for Stillstand was never that their clergy could not perform a valid sacrament. They continued to perform baptisms, for example. The rationale was always the the Eucharist was so important that those who communicated needed to really and carefully understand what they were doing and what communion meant. In a time of widespread ignorance and in the wake of the Protestant Eucharistic Controversy, no one could seriously take for granted that the faithful truly understood what the real meaning of the Eucharist was.

It is impossible to address “Protestant” sacramental practice since it varies quite a bit. As others point out, Lutherans and Catholics agree on the sacraments, the Real Presence, infant baptism. Even the number of sacraments is the same if one allows Lutherans to call attention to baptism, confession and eucharist. The Augsburg Confession identifies holy orders, marriage, anointing as secondary sacraments.

Anglicans also make the distinction between the Dominical Sacraments, as specifically commanded of Our Lord, and the other five. OTOH, you can get Anglicans saying two only.

There’s a word for that.


:rolleyes: Because Protestant sources are never gravely suspect…

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