This semester I am taking an independent study with Dr. Amy Davis Abdallah called “Worship: Ancient and Future.” It is a class that is normally taught in the classroom, but Dr. Davis and I have followed the classroom-style course schedule in the independent study format. Recently, though, we have taken the course in a completely different direction than it normally goes. We have created a summative paper that is personalized to me. For this paper I sent out a list of survey questions by email to as many pastors from different denominations as I was able to reach in order to find out their views on worship, baptism, and communion. I am also researching the creeds, catechisms, and other theological writings from each denomination to find out what they say about these subjects. I will then compare the statements of the pastors with what I find in their respective denomination’s foundational texts, and I will compare the views of the different denominations with each other. So far this assignment has proven to be very interesting.
There are some denominations that consider baptism to be necessary for salvation, and there are some that consider it to be a public declaration of the salvation that has already taken place. There are some denominations that view the bread and wine used in communion as containing the real presence of Jesus Christ, and there are some that view them as symbols of Christ’s blood and body that are to be used in commemorating Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.I have noticed a distinct trend in each denomination: those denominations that believe that baptism is required for salvation also believe in the real presence of Christ in the communion elements, and those that believe that baptism is a public declaration of faith also believe that communion is solely commemorative. Among the former group are Lutherans, the Reformed Churches of America, Presbyterians, and Episcopals, and among the latter group are Baptists, Pentecostals, and the Evangelical Free Churches of America (this list is representative rather than exhaustive). Churches belonging to the denominations in the former group usually practice infant baptism, and churches belonging to those of the latter group usually baptize only those who are old enough to profess their faith.
I am grateful to be able to see the views and opinions of the different denominations. I was baptized Baptist and I grew up Pentecostal, so until now I never had an opportunity to see and understand what the former group believes. I honestly thought that only Catholics baptized infants, so it came as a surprise to see that other Protestant denominations hold firm to this practice. I had never even heard of the real presence of Christ being in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper until I started taking this class. I never realized how drastically different the doctrines of the different sects of the same Christian faith could be. The encouraging thing, though, is that every denomination placed Jesus at the center of baptism and communion, and every denomination considered these activities to be forms of worship.