Means of Grace

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Michael Doyle

Puritan Board Junior
I have been given the charge to read Grudems Systematic Theology. I have found many things disagreeable in the text. The latest area of struggle is in his means of grace within the church chapter.

He says,
"in the history of the discussion of 'means of grace within the church' some theologians have restricted them to three: The preaching of the Word, and the two sacraments (baptism and the Lord`s supper)."

He then in his footnotes gives clarification to whom he is speaking,
This is the position of Louis Berkhoff, systematic theology, pp604-6. He calls these three means, "objective channels which Christ has instituted in the church", but the significant criterion in Berkhoffs thinking appears to be the fact that these three are the special functions administered by the ordained clergy: Berkhoff calls these "the official means of the church of Jesus Christ.", and later says, "As the official means of grace placed at the disposal of the church, both the Word and the sacraments can only be distibuted by the lawful and properly qualified officers of the church. In this way, he clearly restricts the "means of grace" to those means administered by the ordained clergy.

Having said that, he goes on in the footnotes to explain his concern with Berkhoffs position.

Although those who follow Berkhoff on this point could argue that this procedureis wise And serves the interest of maintaining good order in the church, we may ask whether in fact this restriction carries overtones of "sacerdotalism," the view of the Roman Catholic Church (and to a lesser degree, the Anglican Church) that there is a special priesthood of ordained people within the church who have a special authority or ability to extend God`s grace to people in the church.

Now he goes on to say that the threefold means of grace which is understood in reformed traditions is limited. He says that, "it would seem more helpful to list all of the many varied activities within the church that God has given as special ways of receiving His grace day by day and week by week." His list is such:
1. Teaching of the Word
2. Baptism
3. The Lord`s supper
4. Prayer for one another
5. Worship
6. Church discipline
7. Giving
8. Spiritual gifts
9. Fellowship
10. Evangelism
11. Personal ministry to individuals

all these are available to believers within the church. The Holy Spirit works through all of them to bring various kinds of blessings to individuals. Therefore, departing from the much shorter list usually given in Systematic Theologies, I have decided to call all of these "means of grace" within the church.

I need help working this out. Are these 11 means of grace? I have subscribed to the Word and the sacraments as the true means of grace. Am I mistaken or is Grudem taking liberties and wrongly identifying these activities? What is it that sets apart the 3 traditional means of grace?

:popcorn:
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Grudem is not "Reformed", so why should we expect him to agree with the Reformed view on the means of grace?

He takes a certain slant on the Reformed Reformation. He (like many) thinks the Reformed and Lutheran didn't go far enough in many different areas. In this, he is more an heir of the Radical Reformation, although he is predestinarian.

He says "I decided..." to call those many things "means of grace." Great. So anytime I want I can redefine a term to include more things to fit a new definition that suits ME. So now folks like yourself can be confused about what that term means in connection with historic Systematic Theology? That's irresponsible.
 

Michael Doyle

Puritan Board Junior
Bruce, I dont understand the "heir of the radical reformation." Is this in respect to his position of this doctrine?
 

Jimmy the Greek

Puritan Board Senior
As Bruce mentioned, Grudem is not Reformed, nor is he Consfessional. He is assocated with the Vinyard Movement and is a continuationist regarding spirital gifts. In my humble opinion, the fact that he holds to the Calvinistic TULIP has unfortunately given him a pass among many Reformed folk. I find him to be pretty faulty in some areas.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
If I remember correctly, the phrase "means of grace" is not used in Scripture in connection with the Sacraments. However, a very similar expression is used in regards to something on Grudem's list:

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.


I think it's perfectly acceptable to use "means of grace" to speak about the sacraments, because they are channels by which God communicates grace to the hearers. But, there are many other ways that God does this. Why should Grudem be criticized for enumerating them?
 

Michael Doyle

Puritan Board Junior
Are you suggesting the question is corrupt communication? I am merely attempting to establish truth from error, not trying to defame anyone. There is no sin in finding disagreeable theology and discussing it, is there?
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Just so you know, many truly Reformed include prayer as a third means of grace along with Word and Sacrament.

It is funny you bring this up as we had a huge discussion about this before Christmas at my church and I read Grudem as well as some Word/Sacrament people.

My own personal conclusion which I think is biblical even if not technically confessional is that we should go with the book of Acts and the four basics of the church there- apostles doctrine (word), breaking of bread (sacrament), fellowship ( fellowship being a somewhat economic term that involved sharing, not just talking to people and hanging out), and prayer. That would be four.

Grudem's list of 11 for the most part fits into the list of four main things from the book of Acts with the exception maybe of evangelism.

I would think among most Reformed churches when you go to a service you hear the preached word, have communion on some regular basis, have confession of sin and prayer, and during the week have fellowship in some way, and everything on Grudem's list is operating in the church as a whole. The problem is churches where you go to church and have a testimony time and then a drama and a secular dance, and word and sacrament and prayer all get shoved into a corner.

Yeah, Grudem isn't technically Reformed on this how he words it. But does he have any conflict with scripture and the things God uses as means of grace to His people? No.

I really don't like the way he gives the 11 equal weight though, as if spiritual gifts and teaching the word are ordinarily equal. That is where charismatics went off the wall.
 

Jimmy the Greek

Puritan Board Senior
I apologize for my earlier post. Perhaps it was off the mark, especially since I was responding to my feelings on Grudem in general and not necessarily as related to the OP. :(

Let's just say I would rather invest my reading of a Sys. Theol. in Reymond.

:2cents:
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Are you suggesting the question is corrupt communication? I am merely attempting to establish truth from error, not trying to defame anyone. There is no sin in finding disagreeable theology and discussing it, is there?

Not at all, Michael.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

My point was that the Scriptures speak of good Christian communication as "ministering grace." So, if someone were to make a list of "means of grace," why not include that? If "means of grace" means "channel for grace," then why should Grudem be criticized for making a list of things in Scripture that communicate grace. Obviously, if the list includes things that don't communicate grace, then it is in error.
 

ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
I by no means want to sound like I am defending Grudem because I am sure we end up in very different places from each other. However, this language from the Westminster Larger Catechism should be borne in mind

Question 154: What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?

Answer: The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.
 

Michael Doyle

Puritan Board Junior
Acually Adam, that position from the WCF is more in line with Hodge`s systematic theology than Grudem`s. Prayer then becomes the only element of dispute here.

Is this debate really just a matter of semantics? I dont want to be splitting hairs, I am just always finding myself frustrated in Grudems work.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Then, we are going to have to speak with MORE words in order to make proper distinctions. How are we going to distinguish between the ordinary means whereby God communicates his grace to us in his institution, the church--the one place for them, and the extended or ancillary means that take the basic communal activity and reach out?

God works in the Word and sacrament, and Prayer is the essential human response to those divine acts, all centered on worship. Now, we can take the Word out with us (now, in the days of the printing press and all that) but ages ago it was never, and in many places the world over it still isn't, possible to take the Word out with you if it hasn't been read and preached to you.

The sacraments stay in church; we can only take their effects away with us. And we can worship alone with prayer. But we can't have church without prayer.

Then if you see what else Grudem has added in, you see that he has now called something else "worship", and church discipline is made into a "means of grace" instead of a "mark of the church", and "fellowship"--is that receiving or is it acting? There's "every-member-ministry" again, confusing our categories.

Why must we put all things into a single basket? We separated the terms and the ideas in the 16th/17th centuries so that we could speak more clearly about them.

So at the very least, we need to separate "major" and "minor", or somehow show that "the Word, sacraments, and prayer" are unique and special and VITAL to the Christian life...

Or else we're going to have people deciding that they can get everything they need for Christian spirituality from someplace other than the church gathered. Or the church gathered will offer alternatives to the "major-ordinary" means. The things God says are the most vital will be replaced by whatever we happen to feel best "ministers" grace to us in our lives. And this is what has already happened in the evangelical church generally, and in many cases in the Reformed church also.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Bruce, I wouldn't have any problem making different categories. Grudem wants to show that grace is communicated in lots of different ways. That's a valid point. You want to show that not all means of grace are alike. That's a valid point.

As Rev. King posted, the WCF uses the word "especially." If Grudem feels the need to enumerate some of the "non-especially," is that so bad? I do agree that some demarcation between categories needs to be made, so that a person isn't left thinking, "I'll choose fellowship rather than Word as my MoG today."
 
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