Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Optatus and the sacrament of baptism


In the COMBOX of the previous thread, our Reformed brother in Christ, Ken Temple, wrote:

Here is an area that I would like to understand better, that is, the ex opera operato ideas and when they started and who came up with it. That seems to be later than the first 3 centuries. Am I right in that the issue came out more when Augustine was debating with the Donatists? 4th and 5th Centuries onward. (Ken Temple, March 7, 2009 – 10:11 AM)

The next day (in the same combox) I responded to Ken with the following:

Me: From my studies, I am pretty much in agreement with the consensus of patristic scholars who believe that the CFs of the first three centuries linked baptism with regeneration (and the forgiveness of all previous sins). The efficacy the Eucharist is not nearly as clear-cut.

Augustine’s debate with the Donatists primarily concerned the status of the administrator of the sacraments, and not their effects. (David Waltz, March 8, 2009 – 12:01 PM)

To which Ken replied:

But they did not use the formula, "ex opera operato" - when did that phrase first come into use and by who?I thought I heard someone in a church history lecture say it was Optatus (??). (Ken Temple, March 8, 2009 – 3:53 PM)

Now, I remembered that Optatus, bishop of Milevis, in his treatise, “Against Parmenian the Donatists”, had devoted an entire chapter to the issue of baptism. This morning, I pulled Mark Edwards’ translation (Optatus: Against the Donatists) down from the shelf and reread chapter five. I also was able to find a much older translation by O. R. Vassall-Phillips (The Work of St. Optatus Againsit The Donatists). And finally, I tracked down the work in Mignes’ Patrologia Latina (volume XI). The following quotes from the above three mentioned works is THE locus classicus from Optatus’ pen concerning the issue of ex opera(e) operato*, as it pertains to the sacrament of baptism:

When therefore you see that all who baptize are agents, not masters, and the sacraments are holy through themselves, not through human beings, why is it that you claim so much for yourselves? (Optatus: Against the Donatists, trans. Mark Edwards, 1997, p. 103.)

Since therefore you see that all who baptize are labourers, not lords, and that the Sacraments are holy through themselves, not through men, why do you claim so much for yourselves? (The Work of St. Optatus Againsit The Donatists, trans. O. R. Vassall-Phillips, 1917, pp. 219, 220.)

Cum ergo videatis, omens qui baptizant, operarios esse, non dominos, et sacramenta per se esse sancta, non per hominess, quid est, quod vobis tantum vindicates? (Migne, PL, XI. 1052, 1053.)

Though Optatus does not use the phrase ex opera(e) operato, he does use an equivalent: sacramenta per se esse sancta, non per hominess (the sacraments are holy in/through themselves, not through men).

Concerning this particular passage, O. R. Vassall-Phillips, writes/quotes the following:

Harnack writes of these words (History of Dogma, v, p. 42) : ' This is the famous principle of the objectivity of the Sacraments, which became so fundamental for the development of the dogmatics of the Western Church, although it could not be carried out in all its purity in the Roman Church, because in that case it would have destroyed the prerogatives of the clergy.' It is difficult to see what Harnack had in his mind when he wrote this last qualifying sentence. Nothing can be more certain than that the Roman Church has always taught, without any limitation or qualification whatsoever, that the efficacy of the Sacraments is always and everywhere independent of the virtues or vices of those who administer them. (The Work of St. Optatus Againsit The Donatists, trans. O. R. Vassall-Phillips, 1917, p.220 – footnote 1.)

And earlier, he penned:

…it is a most striking and moving fact that this old Father of the Church bears his express and unequivocal witness not only to the necessity of union with the Cathedra Petri, but also to most of those Catholic Doctrines so violently assailed in the days of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer, Knox and their associates, and still denied on all sides around us.

For example, St. Optatus affirms explicitly the truth of Baptismal Regeneration; again and again makes reference to the Sacrifice of the Altar ; states the doctrine of the Real Presence in words that are incapable of any misunderstanding ; insists on the sacredness of the Holy Chrism ; writes of the adornment of altars for the offering of the Sacrifice ; refers to the ceremony of Exorcism before Baptism ; appeals to deutero-canonical Books as to authentic Scripture ; takes the continuance of Miracles in the Church for granted ; and is quite express in his references to cloistered Virginity and the difference between the Commandments of God and Counsels of Perfection. Sometimes indeed he is so modern in his expressions (or at least his words are so directly applicable to our modern circumstances) that when we first read them we rub our eyes and ask ourselves Can it be a Catholic writer of the fourth century, whom we are reading, not one of the twentieth ?
(Ibid., Preface, xi, xii.)

In ending, I would like to recommend to all that they take the time to read Optatus’ entire work. I suspect that many will ponder, along with Vassall-Phillips, whether they are reading a “a Catholic writer of the fourth century”, or one from “the twentieth?


Grace and peace,

David


*The following is a working definition for the Latin phrase ex opera(e) operato:

(Lat. “from the work done”) In Roman Catholic tradition, the view that the efficacy of a sacrament depends on it being a valid sacrament and not on the spiritual goodness of the one who administers it. It seeks to emphasize a sacrament as an objective pledge of God’s grace.” (Donald K. McKim, Dictionary of Theological Terms, pp. 97, 98.)

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

*awaits a response*

I suspect it will sound something like...

(after a quote from such renowned patristic scholars as William Webster and Jason Engewer)

"He we see where this Optatus character departs from biblical doctrine and invents yet another heresy that continues to plague the Romish 'church' to this very day!!"

Yeah...

BC

Fred said...

such sweet words: sacramenta per se esse sancta, non per hominess

Ken Temple said...

Ok, so the Latin of Optatus is not exactly “ex opera operato”, but something close to it.

So, when and who made the first exact “ex opera operato” statement and when did it first come into its full expression in history in the RCC ?

There is nothing in the Optatus' quotes you provide that is necessarily contradictory to a biblical or reformed understanding of baptism either.

The problem with the modern RCC view of ex opera operato is that it gives a “magical” and “mechanical” understanding of baptism, ordination, the Lord’s supper when a priest says the right formulas and words over somtheing. Optatus does not indicate any of that.

Baptism is only effective "through faith" - Colossians 2:12

Since an infant cannot repent and believe/trust Christ to save him from his sins; infant baptismal regeneration is wrong.

Optatus says baptism is holy in itself, which is fine by itself - I believe my baptism was holy and valid because I was expressing faith in Christ, and joining with a local church and I had already repented and believed. Those baptized in water in the formula of the Trinity ( Matthew 28:19) should not feel their baptism is invalid if later it is discovered that the minister was living in deliberate secret sin or, as in the case of the Donatists objections, ordinations and baptisms by ministers who later handed over Bibles or offered a salt offering to Caesar to avoid death. The point is that the objectivity of that baptism is still good and valid.

The problem is that the later RCC developed it beyond what Donatist says here into something "mechanical" and almost magical, by the priest saying the right words, etc.

We see a beginning concept, but not the exact words or full RCC of ex opere operato here. I wonder where the first instance of the exact phrase is and when it was; and when was the full blown doctrine first articulated?

It is unbiblical in the later development, but compatible in its bare words with Protestantism today.

(the other stuff you listed may be; even so; if Optatus truly is expressing the modern RCC doctrine of modern times, then, if he was unbiblical, then he was wrong; and was one of the first innovators of the beginning of false doctrine.

However, in the Historical context of the Donatist controversy and their over-reaction to past sins or lapsed in persecution actions of ministers, much of what he says about the validity of some ordinance in the church is true. The main point is that members should not stress out or be overly introspective or doubtful about their baptism or ordination because of the character of the minister, discovered later in time.)

Ken Temple said...

The problem is that the later RCC developed it beyond what Donatist (oops - should have been Optatus) says here into something "mechanical" and almost magical, by the priest saying the right words, etc.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

You posted:

>>So, when and who made the first exact “ex opera operato” statement and when did it first come into its full expression in history in the RCC ?>>

Me: I don’t know for sure when the precise phrase was first used.

>>There is nothing in the Optatus' quotes you provide that is necessarily contradictory to a biblical or reformed understanding of baptism either.>>

Me: I think you should read the entire chapter when you get a chance. For now, here is a bit more from Optatus’ pen:

“It remains to show that you have praised Baptism in such a way as to bring forward many things which tell both for you and for us, but some thing that tells against you. Whatever we share with you is in favour of both. For this reason does it favour you, because from us you went out. Thus, for example, you and we have one ecclesiastical discipline, we read from the same Scriptures, we possess the same Faith, the same Sacraments of Faith, the same Mysteries. With reason, therefore, have you praised Baptism, for who amongst the Faithful is unaware that the one Baptism is life for virtues, death to evil deeds, birth to immortality, the attainment of the heavenly kingdom, the harbour of innocence, and (as you too have said) the shipwreck of sins ? These are the blessings conferred upon every believer, not by the minister of this Sacrament, but by the Faith of him who believes and by the Trinity.” (The Work of St. Optatus Againsit The Donatists, trans. O. R. Vassall-Phillips, 1917, p. 218.)

>>The problem with the modern RCC view of ex opera operato is that it gives a “magical” and “mechanical” understanding of baptism, ordination, the Lord’s supper when a priest says the right formulas and words over somtheing. Optatus does not indicate any of that.>>

Me: I must disagree. At the end of my opening post, I provided this:

“(Lat. “from the work done”) In Roman Catholic tradition, the view that the efficacy of a sacrament depends on it being a valid sacrament and not on the spiritual goodness of the one who administers it. It seeks to emphasize a sacrament as an objective pledge of God’s grace.” (Donald K. McKim, Dictionary of Theological Terms, pp. 97, 98.)

Since the RCC accepts any Trinitarian baptism as valid, much of your disagreement seems a bit skewed.

>>Baptism is only effective "through faith" - Colossians 2:12>>

Me: An adult convert must have “faith”.

>>Since an infant cannot repent and believe/trust Christ to save him from his sins; infant baptismal regeneration is wrong.>>

Me: This is where (IMHO) Reformed infant baptism gets a bit sticky. However, one Reformed author (Rich Lusk) sure seems to be on the right track in THIS ESSAY.

>>Those baptized in water in the formula of the Trinity ( Matthew 28:19) should not feel their baptism is invalid if later it is discovered that the minister was living in deliberate secret sin or, as in the case of the Donatists objections, ordinations and baptisms by ministers who later handed over Bibles or offered a salt offering to Caesar to avoid death. The point is that the objectivity of that baptism is still good and valid.>>

Me: This is the Catholic position…

>>The problem is that the later RCC developed it beyond what Donatist says here into something "mechanical" and almost magical, by the priest saying the right words, etc.>>

Me: Once again, since the RCC accepts any Trinitarian baptism as valid, I cannot help but feel that you are in a real sense overstating the case.

>>We see a beginning concept, but not the exact words or full RCC of ex opere operato here. I wonder where the first instance of the exact phrase is and when it was; and when was the full blown doctrine first articulated?>>

Me: Once again, I don’t know for sure. If you (or anyone else), are near a library which has access to the Patrologia Latina full text database (HERE), you should be able to find the first instance. Unfortunately, the nearest library to me that has access is a 3 hour plus drive (one-way)…


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

Ken said:

...the other stuff you listed may be; even so; if Optatus truly is expressing the modern RCC doctrine of modern times, then, if he was unbiblical, then he was wrong; and was one of the first innovators of the beginning of false doctrine.

Boy was my prediction way off or what???

Ken Temple said...

These are the blessings conferred upon every believer, not by the minister of this Sacrament, but by the Faith of him who believes and by the Trinity.” (The Work of St. Optatus Againsit The Donatists, trans. O. R. Vassall-Phillips, 1917, p. 218.)

Great quote. Sounds Protestant.

Ken Temple said...

I found this:

opus operatum; ex opere operato

A technical phrase used by theologians since the 13th century to signify that the sacraments produce grace of themselves, apart and distinct from the grace dependent upon the intention of the person conferring the sacrament; the latter effect is designated by the phrase ex opere operantis.

The phrase is first found in the writings of Peter of Poitiers (c.1130-1215),

"The act of Baptism is not identical with Baptism because it is an opus operans while Baptism is an opus operatum."

The phrase was not in general use in the time of Saint Thomas but it was officially adopted by the Council of Trent and used to signify the objective character of the sacraments as producers of grace in opposition to the subjectivism of the Reformers. According to Trent, therefore, the term opus operatum signifies that the correct use of the sign instituted by Christ produces the grace irrespectively of the merits of either minister or recipient (ex opere operantis), though the intention of conferring the sacrament is required in the minister and the intention of receiving in the recipient, if he be an adult, for a valid and worthy reception of the sacrament. For the council clearly states that the sacraments "confer Grace on those who do not place an obstacle thereunto."

New Catholic Dictionary


http://saints.sqpn.com/ncd06116.htm

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Nice find! Thanks much...


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

David,

The best definition of ex opere operato that I am aware of is the one that is given in the Catholic Catechism, paragraph 1128. It brings out a dimension of the notion that is missed in most discussions. The efficacy of the sacrament is that it is the work of Christ.

In the traditional discussions it was placed in contrast to the phrase ex opere operantis. operantis is a present active participle in contrast to operato which is a perfect passive participle. Thus the phrase ex opere operato means that the efficacy of the sacrament is from a work having been done by Christ rather than from the work presently being done by the minister or the recipient.

The mark of the sacrament is given to all who receive it by divine power; the grace is received with the mark unless an obstacle to it is placed by the recipient.

In a sacrament the minister of God speaks the Word of God in the name of God; and God does what He says He is doing through the finished work of Christ now being applied.

Bill Zuck

David Waltz said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks much for the information. This understanding of the CC seems to have been held quite early in the Church. And, once again, the disagreement between the Donatists and Catholics was not over the efficacy of the sacrament itself, but rather, the conditions upon which the sacrament of baptism was considered valid.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken Temple said...

From the New Advent Website:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13295a.htm#III

Under: Sacraments; Catholic Doctrine

"Against all innovators the Council of Trent declared: "If anyone say that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify, or that they do not confer grace on those who place no obstacle to the same, let him be anathema" (Sess. viii, can.vi). "If anyone say that grace is not conferred by the sacraments ex opere operato but that faith in God's promises is alone sufficient for obtaining grace, let him be anathema" (ibid., can. viii; cf. can. iv, v, vii). The phrase "ex opere operato", for which there is no equivalent in English, probably was used for the first time by Peter of Poitiers (d. 1205), and afterwards by Innocent III (d. 1216; de myst. missae, III, v), and by St. Thomas (d. 1274; IV Sent., dist. 1, Q.i, a.5). It was happily invented to express a truth that had always been taught and had been introduced without objection."

An official anathema is placed by the Council of Trent on those of us Protestants who say that grace is not a substance that can be "conferred" on anyway; and the sacraments do not cause grace.

" . . . confer grace on those who place no obstacle to the same, let him be anathema"

Babies have an obstacle - they cannot understand that they are sinners; they cannot repent; they cannot trust Christ to save them; therefore, this doctrine is unBiblical, goofy, and actually is not at all what Optatus actually says in the quotes you provided.

He says what our position is, that it is valid by faith alone. "by the faith of him who believes and by the Trinity" (Optatus, see above)

Notice what the Council of Trent is contrasting; it is contrasting "grace being conferred on the person ex opere operato" vs.
"faith in God's promises is alone sufficient for obtaining grace"

This is where the mechanical and magical understanding seems to be communicated. I remember over at Dave Armstrong's site something like this being communicated: "it even confers and causes grace even if the recipient does not have faith".

I want to study it more, though. The mechanical and magical nature is communicated by the whole emphasis on the physical ceremony, the priest, the externals, the water, etc.
"If anyone say that grace is not conferred by the sacraments ex opere operato but that faith in God's promises is alone sufficient for obtaining grace, let him be anathema"

David Waltz said...

Hello Ken,

Sorry about the tardiness of my response to your last comment, but I somehow ‘missed’ your post. You wrote:

>> From the New Advent Website:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13295a.htm#III

Under: Sacraments; Catholic Doctrine

"Against all innovators the Council of Trent declared: "If anyone say that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify, or that they do not confer grace on those who place no obstacle to the same, let him be anathema" (Sess. viii, can.vi). "If anyone say that grace is not conferred by the sacraments ex opere operato but that faith in God's promises is alone sufficient for obtaining grace, let him be anathema" (ibid., can. viii; cf. can. iv, v, vii). The phrase "ex opere operato", for which there is no equivalent in English, probably was used for the first time by Peter of Poitiers (d. 1205), and afterwards by Innocent III (d. 1216; de myst. missae, III, v), and by St. Thomas (d. 1274; IV Sent., dist. 1, Q.i, a.5). It was happily invented to express a truth that had always been taught and had been introduced without objection."

An official anathema is placed by the Council of Trent on those of us Protestants who say that grace is not a substance that can be "conferred" on anyway; and the sacraments do not cause grace.

" . . . confer grace on those who place no obstacle to the same, let him be anathema">>

Me: Catholics, Lutherans, many Anglicans, and a few Reformed folk believe that the sacrament of baptism contains/conveys the grace which it signifies (i.e. baptismal regeneration/new birth).

>>Babies have an obstacle - they cannot understand that they are sinners; they cannot repent; they cannot trust Christ to save them; therefore, this doctrine is unBiblical, goofy, and actually is not at all what Optatus actually says in the quotes you provided.>>

Me: I think you need to take this up with a large number of your Protestant brothers first.

>>He says what our position is, that it is valid by faith alone."by the faith of him who believes and by the Trinity" (Optatus, see above)>>

Me: You need to read Optatus a bit more carefully, faith is but one of the necessary conditions needed for an adult baptism to be valid; Optatus did not believe that baptism was valid by “faith alone” (nor did the Donatists).

>>I want to study it more, though. The mechanical and magical nature is communicated by the whole emphasis on the physical ceremony, the priest, the externals, the water, etc.
"If anyone say that grace is not conferred by the sacraments ex opere operato but that faith in God's promises is alone sufficient for obtaining grace, let him be anathema">>

Me: While you are studying, keep in mind that an ordained Catholic priest is not necessary for a baptism to be considered valid, but belief in the Trinity by the one being baptized (adults, of course), and the use of the Trinitarian formula by the one administering baptism are both necessary.


Grace and peace,

David

Ken Temple said...

Me: Catholics, Lutherans, many Anglicans, and a few Reformed folk believe that the sacrament of baptism contains/conveys the grace which it signifies (i.e. baptismal regeneration/new birth).

But the Lutheran, Anglican views are still quite different than the Roman Catholic view.

"a few Reformed folk" - Presbyterians ? - I never heard of that - I understand they believe it is a sign of the child entering into the covenant community, the church. Some say they become "members of the body of Christ", but it seems like a contradiction to me. It seems to be sort of "prophesy" of the faith and regeneration that hopefully comes in the future with the child, if they are taught right, in the faith.

Ken Temple said...

Me: You need to read Optatus a bit more carefully, faith is but one of the necessary conditions needed for an adult baptism to be valid; Optatus did not believe that baptism was valid by “faith alone” (nor did the Donatists).

Just looking at the quotes alone you provided, Optatus only says it is effective by "faith and the Trinity".

These are the blessings conferred upon every believer, not by the minister of this Sacrament, but by the Faith of him who believes and by the Trinity.” (The Work of St. Optatus Againsit The Donatists, trans. O. R. Vassall-Phillips, 1917, p. 218.)

Ken Temple said...

Me: While you are studying, keep in mind that an ordained Catholic priest is not necessary for a baptism to be considered valid, but belief in the Trinity by the one being baptized (adults, of course), and the use of the Trinitarian formula by the one administering baptism are both necessary.

Add: "and in or by water" (sprinkling or pouring or immersion)

Is it the same for the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist? Is a priest necessary for that?

Why or why not? and why the difference?

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for responding; you said:

>>But the Lutheran, Anglican views are still quite different than the Roman Catholic view.>>

Me: I personally would say somewhat different, rather than quite different (and would add that some Anglicans have a view that is virtually identical to the Catholic and Orthodox take.)

>>"a few Reformed folk" - Presbyterians ? - I never heard of that>>

Me: In my March 15, 2009 6:58 AM response (in this thread) I provided a link to an essay by a Reformed/Presbyterian author who espouses baptismal regeneration.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

>>Just looking at the quotes alone you provided, Optatus only says it is effective by "faith and the Trinity".>>

Me: I provided a link to the entire work in my opening post, and shall urge you (and others), once again, to read the entire chapter on baptism (as well as the whole book—it is not that long).


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

>>Is it the same for the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist? Is a priest necessary for that?

Why or why not? and why the difference?>>

Me: The Catholic and Orthodox view is that the Eucharistic offering must be consecrated by a bishop or presbyter/priest who has been properly ordained for it to be valid. As to the why, I just have not read enough on this issue yet to give you a reasoned response…perhaps later, the Lord willing…


Grace and peace,

David

Anonymous said...

There is the possibility of urgency with regard to the reception of baptism, that does not seem present with regard to the other sacraments. Ordinarily, it is conceded that Church law reserves to Her priests the privilege of administering the Sacraments.

But with regard to baptism, ordinarily because of danger of death, it has always been permissible for anyone to act in the priest's place. St. Thomas explains this in the Summa: "It is due to the mercy of Him "Who will have all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4) that in those things which are necessary for salvation, man can easily find the remedy. Now the most necessary among all the sacraments is Baptism, which is man's regeneration unto spiritual life: since for children there is no substitute, while adults cannot otherwise than by Baptism receive a full remission both of guilt and of its punishment. Consequently, lest man should have to go without so necessary a remedy, it was ordained, both that the matter of Baptism should be something common that is easily obtainable by all, i.e. water; and that the minister of Baptism should be anyone, even not in orders, lest from lack of being baptized, man should suffer loss of his salvation."---III, Q. 67, art. 3

With regard to the authority to consecrate the Eucharist he explains why, if anyone can baptize using the proper words and matter, anyone cannot consecrate the Eucharist: "The sacramental power is in several things, and not merely in one: thus the power of Baptism lies both in the words and in the water. Accordingly the consecrating power is not merely in the words, but likewise in the power delivered to the priest in his consecration and ordination, when the bishop says to him: "Receive the power of offering up the Sacrifice in the Church for the living as well as for the dead." For instrumental power lies in several instruments through which the chief agent acts." ---III, Q. 82, art. 1

We of course reject any notion of a magical quality to be associated with the sacraments. The actions to which God had pledged Himself by use of the sacraments are the ordinary ways of salvation for all men. Although we freely acknowledge that God willingly uses extraordinary means to save all men, it is presumptious in us to assume He will do so, and we are to use all reasonable precautions to provide access to the ordinary means of salvation, the Sacraments of the Church, beginning with baptism. St. Thomas has a response to the objection that non-sacramental remedies for spiritual ills are equally available to all, and makes sacramentalism unnecessary: "In the use of the sacraments two things may be considered, namely, the worship of God, and the sanctification of man: the former of which pertains to man as referred to God, and the latter pertains to God in reference to man. Now it is not for anyone to determine that which is in the power of another, but only that which is in his own power. Since, therefore, the sanctification of man is in the power of God Who sanctifies, it is not for man to decide what things should be used for his sanctification, but this should be determined by Divine institution. Therefore in the sacraments of the New Law, by which man is sanctified according to 1 Corinthians 6:11, "You are washed, you are sanctified," we must use those things which are determined by Divine institution."---III, Q. 60, art. 5

Rory

Anonymous said...

Greetings David,

And also to your readers.

I have only just discovered your blog this week, so I am a "Johnny-come-lately" to this topic. My apologies if everyone has moved on with regard to the topic. But in the hopes of some continuing dicussion on something I feel to be somewhat important, I am posting my thoughts.

I have discussed ex opere operato with Ken before. After reading his comments, I can only conclude that I am missing at least some thrust of his argument and ask for clarification. I understand that Ken fears we Catholics use the concept as some form of magical incantation. If that were true, I would be concerned myself! Understanding that fear, I can interact with him and his questions. What I do not understand, is the seeming preoccupation with when the phrase was first used. So, David, with your permission, I will address the rest of these comments to Ken in the hopes of being able to better understand him (should he desire to provide clarification).

Ken, it appears to me that a main concern for you is when the phrase ex opere operato was first used. And it seems to me that if you are able to show that the phrase was first used relatively late (circa 1200AD), then you can claim it to be a modern innovation and not a part of the historical church. It also seems that when we show you someone from the ancient church (e.g. Opatus) who used the same concept, but not the exact same wording; you will reject that so as to be able to maintain that the concept is a modern innovation.

If so, then would that not also be true for say the Five Solas? When were they first formulated? Certainly post reformation. While you may tell us that you can find them all in the Bible, the Bible does not have them all concisely stated - all together - in the same manner as the Reformed state the formulation of the Five Solas. If you say that the Five Solas are not a modern innovation because the concept is much older, in spite of the relatively recent concise formulation; then please do the same with the concept behind ex opere operato. Maybe it's the engineering education in me, but I'd much rather discuss either of those on the merits of the concept rather than the first time someone captured them into a catch phrase. However, if I am misinterpretting you, please clarify and explain why the first utterance of the phrase is important (as opposed to the concept behind it), so that I can better understand your thoughts.

I have always thought that the best means to relay the concept of ex opere operato to a protestant is to use the idea of marriage. Prior to the ceremony the couple is not married. Both protestants and Catholics believe that in this case activities such as sexual relations are sinful. Even the night before the wedding. Simply put, the couple is not yet joined. It is possible that they may never be joined.

Yet after the ceremony, the couple is joined. Their relationship is forever and fundamentally changed. And the change is not the superficial allowance of physical relations. Instead it is a substantial change. The two become spiritually "as one." If 1 Cor 7:14 shows that through marriage, grace may come to an unbelieving spouse (they and their children are "made holy" by the relationship to the believing spouse), then how much more will grace abound in a marriage where both husband and wife believe? The Proverbs 31 Wife tells us that the blessings will be bountiful.

But note that without the wedding ceremony, the marriage does not take place. The substantial and grace-filled change in the couple's relationship does not occur. But when it does happen - when the marriage does take place - who joins the couple? The priest or minister? No. The couple themselves? Again, no. It is God, Himself, who performs the joining of the couple (Matt 19:6, Mark 10:9) and dispenses His Grace into their relationship. No one believes that the wedding ceremony is a "magical incantation" which brings this about. However, all Christians believe that the wedding is necessary for the two to become married. The work works

What I found very interesting, Ken, is that the last time I mentioned this idea to you; you answered by saying that you believe that God honors marriages. The clear reading of the Scripture shows that God joins the couple. He is the causal agent in the marriage. This is an active role, where honoring is a passive role. I do not understand why you had to change the words of Scripture in this manner in your response to me.

In His Name,

Jamie Donald

David Waltz said...

Hello Jamie,

So nice to 'see' a new face here at AF. I really enjoyed your post, and hope that Ken is still checking in.


Grace and peace,

David

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