Sacraments and Creation

In the last blog post I introduced a concept called “the sacramental worldview.” For the sake of

our discussion the “sacramental worldview” or “sacramental understanding of reality” refers to the Church’s body of biblically based doctrines and practices that views the created world as a means of mediating God’s grace to his human creatures.

The sacramental worldview keeps Christians from succumbing to the bookends of error in relating to the environment.  On one extreme is Gnosticism, which views the material creation as an unfortunate accident that must be overcome in order for the soul to be reunited with the immaterial god.  Thus material existence is at the very least an obstacle if not intrinsically evil.  Some forms of modern evangelical pietism express sentiments that are blatantly Gnostic in that they are deeply suspicious of the goodness of the material world, are uncomfortable with the implications of a Jesus who is fully human, and deemphasize biblical ordinances that depend on physical elements (such as Baptism and Holy Communion).  The unintended consequence of this view is a lack of reverence or even contempt for the physical world as God’s creation.

The other bookend of error challenged by the sacramental worldview is pantheism.  Pantheism, a characteristic belief of New Age and eastern spirituality, engages the natural world as intrinsically divine since “god is all and all is god.” The obvious consequence of pantheism is idolatry.

In contrast to both these heresies, the sacramental view acknowledges that creation is separate from God.  The universe is not God.  God is wholly other.  And yet, God intends to know and be known by his human creatures.  And while creation is distinct from the Creator, the physical universe God made is good and bears the marks of the Creator.  Although the cosmos is marred by the fall, God’s imprint cannot be erased.  Human rebellion has not unmade the world.  So St Paul can say in Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

The Sacraments are the Church’s constant reminder that the spiritual life does not mean a life that is solely an intellectual or emotional devotion to God.  Paradoxically, for Christians who follow the teaching of the Apostles, the spiritual life is something that one does with one’s body as much as with as one’s inner being.  The Sacraments continually remind the Church and the world of God’s sovereign choice to use physical means in order to restore fallen humanity and the cosmos marred by human sin.

Thus it should come as no surprise that the supreme acts of Christian worship are unapologetically physical acts.  This truth is itself rooted in the witness of Scripture:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)


The Rev Ben Sharpe is Rector of Christ Church in Winston Salem an Anglican Mission church that was planted a few years ago.

Ben has been married to his childhood sweetheart, Lisa, for 29 years. They are the parents of three lovely young women.

The Rev. Ben Sharpe has served in pastoral and church planting ministry for over 20 years. In 1995 he planted Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Fayetteville NC. In 2004 he and his family “came home” to the Anglican Mission in America. Ben received his undergraduate degree from the University of NC – Chapel Hill. He is a 1991 magna cum laude graduate (MDiv) from The Divinity School of Duke University.

Ben is deeply interested in early church history and sees our post-modern culture as significantly similar to the world the Church experienced for the first 400 years of the Christian era. He believes these connections offer direction for evangelism and discipleship in the 21st century.

Ben is an avid “section hiker” of the Appalachian Trail and claims his one athletic ability is carrying heavy objects over long distances. He also brews his own beer.

Most of all, Ben loves Jesus Christ, is passionate about the Gospel of salvation, and authentic Christian discipleship.

you can read more from his blog here

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Filed under Anglicanism, The Holy Spirit, theology

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