Michael Horton on the Sacraments

b-host-wi.jpg I first came across Professor Horton’s classic work: Putting Amazing back into Grace several years ago in Pennsylvania while attempting to come to some conclusion on the debated topic of Predestination. Horton’s comments and humor were the perfect antidote to my synergistic background. It has been almost 6 years since then and I have now read articles and a few books by Dr. Horton on a host of issues. My growth into the Reformed tradition has led me to appreciate much of Horton on some issues (critique of modern evangelicalism) and to find some serious disagreement with his ideas on culture and kingdom. However, I have yet to find a troublesome comment on Horton’s view of the Lord’s Supper. I offer you some fascinating quotes from Horton on his contribution to the book: Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy:

“Too often, we see especially in modern American evangelicalism an individualistic and, frankly, gnostic piety that abstracts the soul from the body, the person from the church, and the church from the world. Despite our official theology (I speak here again as a Reformed Christian), in practice we have often downplayed ecclesiology (including the sacraments) in the interest of a one-sidedly inward, subjective piety that not only ignores the objectivity of Christ and his saving work but divorces the Spirit from the Father and the Son. The Reformers, I believe, would have found most of this entirely foreign or would have identified it with the ‘enthusiasts’ against whom they wrote so many treatises” (p. 166).

“As for the charge that in Reformation theology ‘Grace comes from God alone, not via anything earthly or man-made,’ the author [Vladimir Berzonsky] is grossly misinformed. Martin Luther and John Calvin spilled a great deal of ink against this spiritualist error of the radical Anabaptists. For the Reformers, God uses ordinary earthly means to deliver his grace. . . . God’s use of earthly elements as a means of grace is a major emphasis of the Reformers” (p. 186).

“Denial of the sacraments as efficacious ‘vehicles of grace’ is condemned by every Lutheran and Reformed confession. It may be that the author is judging magisterial Protestantism and subsequent evangelicalism by his own experience with various contemporary evangelical groups, especially Baptists . . . It is true, of course, that the Reformers did not regard the sacraments as occasions of synergistic cooperation leading to justification. It is precisely because they are God’s acts that they are means of grace and not means of human moral endeavor” (p. 188).

“While rejecting any univocal identification of the sign and the thing signified in the earthly elements, Calvin and the Reformed confessions developed a highly eschatological and pneumatological account of the union of sign and reality. . . . Calvin openly rejects Zwingli’s view, which separates the sign from the reality. . . . Regardless of whether one agrees, Calvin and his successors argued their case from the logic of Chalcedon and the reality of the distinct integrity and full hypostatic union of the two natures. . . . Calvin’s view, which became that of the Reformed and Presbyterian confessions, was what many have called ‘instrumentalism.’ In other words, the Reformed hold that the sacraments are not merely occasions for subjective faith and piety to act but were principally means of grace. The Westminster Larger Catechism calls them ‘effectual means of salvation’ (Q. 161)” (pp. 262, 263, 264).

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Quotes, Word/Sacrament. Bookmark the permalink.

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