Saturday, July 27, 2013

Consolidated article: God, the Author of Sin and Metaphysical Distanciation: A Brief Rebuttal of Vincent's Cheung Theodicy

The consolidated article refuting Vincent Cheung's errant theodicy has been done and can be found here.

The New City Catechism: An Analysis [Consolidated Article]

I have finally consolidated the different parts of the analysis of the New City Catechism, and added a conclusion to it. The final document can be found here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Video: Rosario Butterfield's Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

[HT: Heidelblog]

The problem of Charismatism and African syncretism

Pastor Conrad Mbewe has posted an interesting blog post on one reason why Charismatism has grown so much in African culture, namely that Charismatism does not challenge traditional African spirituality but merely baptizes it with a veneer of Christianity. An excerpt:

Many explanations have been given for the explosion of the Charismatic movement in Africa. Many have seen this as a powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit. Whereas there is probably more than one reason, I want to add my own observation to this for what it is worth. In this blog post, I do not refer to the old conservative form of Pentecostalism once represented by the Assemblies of God churches. I have in mind the current extreme form that is mushrooming literally under every shrub and tree in Africa. How can one explain this phenomenon?

I think that one reason why the Charismatic movement in Africa has been like a wild bushfire is because it has not challenged the African religious worldview but has instead adopted it. It has simply baptised it with Bible verses and Christian words that previously meant something totally different.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Creationism, the Age of the Earth, and the problems with opponents of YEC

It has been some time, but Bill Evans had written a response to Al Mohler's presentation promoting Youth-Earth Creationism (YEC) on his blog [HT: The Aquila Report]. While there are a lot of interesting things that can be said in response, chief of which is that Mohler is a popularizer not an expert in YEC, I would like to focus on one particular aspect of the conversation concerning Creation and the Age of the Earth question — that of studious ignorance and non-interaction with the YEC position.

As someone who has read YEC literature and am convinced of the YEC position, I have been exposed to and was taught the Framework position at Westminster Seminary California, in which I am a student. There is of course nothing wrong with studying what other positions are. In fact, it was an interesting experience in and of itself reading [M.G.] Kline and others. The problem however is the almost total ignorance I have found of the YEC position, something that I have seen is extended to much of the Reformed world, or at least those segments that think themselves part of the Reformed intelligentsia.

Such ignorance of the YEC position is seen everywhere. The portions of the creation reports of both the OPC and the PCA are woefully inadequate, the authors in the the Three Views of Creation are nobodies in the YEC community and I have seen few if any interact with the scholarly work done by any of the actual YEC intellectuals! In WSCal, the only major YEC they mention is E.J. Young, and while not denigrating Young, Young is no YEC scholar! He is a OT scholar, not a YEC scholar, and the two are not the same! One does not have to be an expert in the YEC position after all to be an OT scholar.

In Evan's articles, the usual stuff are paraded before us, all without any interaction with YEC answers. Now, the YEC answers may or may not be correct, but it is totally unscholarly that Evans should post the usual objections to YEC claims while not interacting with answers provided by those who actually defend YEC. Non-interaction with the YEC position is preaching to the choir, and would certainly fail to convince YECs like me who actually know the arguments for YEC.

First of all. Evans claimed that the rationale for YEC is to slam the door shut on Darwinism. While that is certainly a beneficial result of YEC, Evans failed to realize that there are YECs, like me, who are YECs because they believed Scripture teaches it, not because of any perceived reaction(s) against Darwinism. Secondly, Evans repeats the usual "scientific consensus" concerning the Age of the Earth, failing totally to interact with the criticisms of the dating methods in the scientific literature of the YEC scientists. As a non-scientist, Evans should not be taking sides in the scientific debate unless he interacts with the scientific arguments. Furthermore, to rely on "consensus" to argue for truth is fallacious, for the "scientific consensus" changes over time. Does Evans really want to tell us that Christians ought to have defended geocentrism based upon the "scientific consensus" during the Medieval period? Evans commits here the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum. Evans also has taken a realist epistemic view of Science, totally ignoring the seismic shift in the philosophy of science that Thomas S. Kuhn brought about.

Thirdly, Evans shows himself totally ignorant of YEC claims concerning the age of the earth and the fossil record. It is simply astounding that Evans speaks about the "apparent age of the earth," since YEC scientists deny such a thing. The earth does not come with an age tag! There is no apparent age, just faulty dating methods that claim to tell us the age of the earth. Fourthly, Evans confused common grade with science, as if General Revelation is equatable with the findings of "Science" (whatever that means). The problem is that there is no such thing as "Science," defined as an impersonal set of natural truths about the world. As both Michael Polanyi and Thomas Kuhn (though coming from different angles) have pointed out, there are only scientists doing experiments in a discipline that people call science. Scientists are NOT people following the "scientific method" (which eliminate all biases) to find the brute empirical facts! General Revelation is true and infallible, but our interpretation of General Revelation (in the scientific enterprise for example) is fallible and often false.

Fifthly, Evans produced the same canard about death before the Fall, ignoring the fact that YECs generally distinguish biological death from the the death of the nephesh chayah. Now, whether that is a good explanation is beside the point here. The point is that: one should not caricature the position one is critiquing. Nobody claims that there was no plant death or bacteria death before the Fall, and for Evans to think that is the YEC position further shows those opposing YEC have no idea what they are talking about.

Sixthly, and lastly, Evans assumes a certain interpretation of the ANE creation myths, and the worldview they supposedly had. Such a view of course is not new. The idea that those dim-witted ancients were idiots coming up with mythological tall tales, and those cosmologies were total myths by those ignoramuses, comes from liberal scholarship. That there were works like the Ennuma Elish and the Gilgamesh Epic is besides the point. The point is: How should these works be interpreted? The mainstream interpretation adopted by lots of those opposing YEC is that the ancients think in terms of myths of gods and goddesses, but why should we think such was the case? Why should we think there were such things as "ancient cosmologies" that the ancients invented for the purpose of proclaiming the superiority of their god(s)? Why can't those "ancient cosologies" be seen as the distorted versions of the truth subsequently written down by Moses? Why can't we see that those ancients really believed those events actually occurred? The Sumerians probably believed Gilgamesh and Enkidu actually existed, and that those events described in the Gilamesh Epic actually happened in the times of their ancestors, even though YECs would say the Epic itself was a distorted story of Noah and the Flood event.

The problem with Bill Evans, as with many of those opposing YEC, is that seldom if at all do they actually interact with YEC scholars. Popularizers such as Al Mohler are easy targets, but it would be actually helpful if those opposing YEC actually interact with the position itself, not build a plethora of strawmen and light them on fire for all to see.

The Regulative Principle and the issue of culture

On the 9Marks blog, Trip Lee has posted an interesting article concerning the Regulative Principle as it relates to culture, reflecting on the similarities and differences in worship of his church in America, compared to the church in Zambia, Africa [HT: The Aquila Report]. His main point is that the Regulative Principle will ensure much similarity in worship, but also it allows for much diversity as well. As he puts it,

While our churches should not be innovative in the content or the components of our services, the way we carry those things out is, to some degree, up to us. Scripture gives us the “substance” and the “elements,” but within broad biblical guidelines, the forms are flexible.

Now, as a non-white non-European person, I do think that culture does play a part in the way Christians worship. I do not think that the whole world should worship with one uniform Scottish Psalter (and translations into different languages) from the 17th century with its corresponding liturgy. Nevertheless, that does not mean that one can re-cast the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) as one sees fit, and then claims diversity is allowed under the RPW based upon one's interpretation of it.

We see immediately that Lee has an interesting idea of the RWP. In his scheme, the "elements" merely refer to events as a composite whole, thus "praise," "sermon" etc. Those events as a composite whole are "elements," while the manner of doing those events, the "forms," are totally flexible. Thus, the forms, are "accidents" like a "six-piece band of talented musicians" and who knows what instruments and musicians were used in the Zambian church?

The issue is not whether diversity is allowed under the RPW. I for one am under no illusions that the manner in which people worship is shaped in some measure by culture(s), which may be good or bad. To go back to a 17th century Scottish Psalter with its "thees," "thous," and "ye's" and language that is not understandable by anyone without a working knowledge of 16th century English literature in this modern age is ridiculous. There is after all nothing sacrosanct about the 17th century, or the Scottish culture of the 17th century. But that does not mean that one can drive a truck through the RPW as if regulation merely applies to events as a composite whole.

The Regulative Principle is a regulative principle. Forms are not totally neutral, and are to be regulated by Scripture as well. If anyone claims that form is totally neutral, why shouldn't anyone sing a psalm a capella with a heavy metal "melody" and "beat"? So on the one hand, against those like Lee who sees the Scriptures as allowing for any form, this counter-example is enough to disprove his assertion that the RPW does not govern forms. On the other hand, for those who are fastidious about applying the RPW under a strict Aristotelian taxonomy about "elements" and "accidents," this also is a counter example. Asserting exclusive psalmody and no instrumentation solves nothing, because the underlying assumptions are still very much based upon an early modern European cultural framework. Again, is there anything wrong with singing Psalms 2 with a heavy metal beat? What "elements" and "accidents" categorization could solve the issue of beat and accompanying music? What Aristotelian category does the "metrical rhythm" fall under? Or should we just chant the Psalms? Oh wait, chanting does have a beat too! Asserting the "wisdom" category does not solve the problem for the usage of Aristotelian taxonomy, for if we have "elements" and "accidents" only, where does "wisdom" fit in? And if we say wisdom is required to reject heavy metal beat etc, then the usage of Aristotelian taxonomy is only seen to be self-serving in the interests of conserving white conservative Caucasian cultural preferences, for why is wisdom used to reject heavy metal beat, whereas CCM are rejected in toto even when some of them are paraphrases of Scripture and even if they are sung a capella?

Against those who broaden the RWP so that it becomes almost like the Normative Principle, and against those who restrict the RPW so that it becomes the mere rationale for cultural imperialism, we should strive to see and apply the RPW afresh. The RPW is a regulative principle, and thus it governs all parts of worship. It is a regulative principle, and not law. Against those who claim that forms are flexible, the RPW informs us that forms are also to be governed by Scripture. No part of worship can be said to be free from what Scripture has said. At the same time, the RPW does not give us the exact forms to use; it is not a law, but a principle. There can be thus diversity in forms, but a diversity that occurs as people govern their worship with its forms according to the Scriptures. How that looks like will defer in various social and cultural contexts, but each church needs to wrestle with what Scripture teaches concerning forms as it reforms its worship according to Scripture.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 12

The Church

Heidelberg Catechism:

Q54: What believest thou concerning the "holy catholic church" of Christ?
A: That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.

Q55: What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?
A: First, that all and every one, who believes, being members of Christ, are in common, partakers of him, and of all his riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.

New City Catechism:

Q48: What is the church?
A: God chooses and preserves for himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another.

What is the church? In this age of radical individualism and anti-institutionalism, having a question on the church is probably a good thing. Christians are not called to salvation and then they can choose to join or not join the church after all.

When we examine the New City Catechism here though, its ecclesiology has more in line with Baptistic ecclesiology than Reformed ecclesiology. It speaks of the church as compromising of all believers. Nowhere in here is there an acknowledge of the difference between the covenant community, and the elect, and certainly nothing is spoken of the children of believers. One can be excused if one looks at this answer and think that the Church is comprised of adults alone.

Moreover, the focus continues to be on us, instead of God. Now certainly believers and their children join the church by a profession of faith, but even then the Church begins with God. It is God who gathers His Church, not people joining together to form the Church. In this regard, the Heidelberg Catechism's answers are better, since the focus is on God first, not the gathering of people.

Christ's ascension and end-times

Heidelberg Catechism:

Q46: How dost thou understand these words, "he ascended into heaven"?
A: That Christ, in sight of his disciples, was taken up from earth into heaven; and that he continues there for our interest, until he comes again to judge the quick and the dead.

Q47: Is not Christ then with us even to the end of the world, as he has promised?
A: Christ is very man and very God; with respect to his human nature, he is no more on earth; but with respect to his Godhead, majesty, grace and spirit, he is at no time absent from us.

Q49: Of what advantage to us is Christ's ascension into heaven?
A: First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as the head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we "seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth."

Q50: Why is it added, "and sitteth at the right hand of God"?
A: Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that he might appear as head of his church, by whom the Father governs all things.

Q51: What profit is this glory of Christ, our head, unto us?
A: First, that by his Holy Spirit he pours out heavenly graces upon us his members; and then that by his power he defends and preserves us against all enemies.

Q52: What comfort is it to thee that "Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead"?
A: That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head I look for the very same person, who before offered himself for my sake, to the tribunal of God, and has removed all curse from me, to come as judge from heaven: who shall cast all his and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall translate me with all his chosen ones to himself, into heavenly joys and glory.


Q37: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A: The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.

Q38: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
A: At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity

The New City Catechism:

Q49: Where is Christ now?
A: Christ rose bodily from the grave on the third day after his death and is seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling his kingdom and interceding for us, until he returns to judge and renew the whole world.

Q50: What does Christ’s resurrection mean for us?
A: Christ triumphed over sin and death by being physically resurrected, so that all who trust in him are raised to new life in this world and to everlasting life in the world to come. Just as we will one day be resurrected, so this world will one day be restored. But those who do not trust in Christ will be raised to everlasting death.

Q51: Of what advantage to us is Christ's ascension?
A: Christ physically ascended on our behalf, just as he came down to earth physically on our account, and he is now advocating for us in the presence of his Father, preparing a place for us, and also sends us his Spirit.

Q52: What hope does everlasting life hold for us?
A: It reminds us that this present fallen world is not all there is; soon we will live with and enjoy God forever in the new city, in the new heaven and the new earth, where we will be fully and forever freed from all sin and will inhabit renewed, resurrection bodies in a renewed, restored creation.

The New City Catechism deals with the end time by focusing on Christ first and foremost, for Christ is the guarantor of our resurrection. His resurrection and ascension is of benefit to us, and in this the NCC does a good job in focusing our attention to these. The NCC also does a good job in speaking of the goodness of matter, and that we will live in "renewed, resurrection bodies" in the new heavens and the new earth, not in the Elysian Fields.

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 11

The Sacraments:

Heidelberg Catechism:

Q65: Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits by faith only, whence does this faith proceed?
A: From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.

Q66: What are the sacraments?
A: The sacraments are holy visible signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof, he may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel, viz., that he grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.

Q67: Are both word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?
A: Yes, indeed: for the Holy Ghost teaches us in the gospel, and assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ which he offered for us on the cross.

Q68: How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant, or testament?
A: Two: namely, holy baptism, and the holy supper.

Q69: How art thou admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to thee?
A: Thus: That Christ appointed this external washing with water, adding thereto this promise, that I am as certainly washed by his blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, I washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away.

Q70: What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?
A: It is to receive of God the remission of sins, freely, for the sake of Christ's blood, which he shed for us by his sacrifice upon the cross; and also to be renewed by the Holy Ghost, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and unblamable lives.

Q71: Where has Christ promised us, that he will as certainly wash us by his blood and Spirit, as we are washed with the water of baptism?
A: In the institution of baptism, which is thus expressed: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost", Matt.28:19. And "he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.", Mark 16:16. This promise is also repeated, where the scripture calls baptism "the washing of regenerations" and the washing away of sins. Tit.3:5, Acts 22:16.

Q72: Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
A: Not at all: for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost cleanse us from all sin.

Q73: Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism "the washing of regeneration," and "the washing away of sins"?
A: God speaks thus not without great cause, to-wit, not only thereby to teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as we are externally washed with water.

Q74: Are infants also to be baptized?
A: Yes: for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God; and since redemption from sin by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult; they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the christian church; and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, instead of which baptism is instituted in the new covenant.

Q75: How art thou admonished and assured in the Lord's Supper, that thou art a partaker of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross, and of all his benefits?
A: Thus: That Christ has commanded me and all believers, to eat of this broken bread, and to drink of this cup, in remembrance of him, adding these promises: first, that his body was offered and broken on the cross for me, and his blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes, the bread of the Lord broken for me, and the cup communicated to me; and further, that he feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, with his crucified body and shed blood, as assuredly as I receive from the hands of the minister, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, as certain signs of the body and blood of Christ.

Q76: What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?
A: It is not only to embrace with believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become more and more united to his sacred body, by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding "flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone" and that we live, and are governed forever by one spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.

Q77: Where has Christ promised that he will as certainly feed and nourish believers with his body and bleed, as they eat of this broken bread, and drink of this cup?
A: In the institution of the supper, which is thus expressed: "The Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and: said: eat, this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying: this cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For, as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." 1 Cor.11:23-26. This promise is repeated by the holy apostle Paul, where he says "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." 1 Cor.10:16,17.

Q78: Do then the bread and wine become the very body and blood of Christ?
A: Not at all: but as the water in baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, neither is the washing away of sin itself, being only the sign and confirmation thereof appointed of God; so the bread in the Lord's supper is not changed into the very body of Christ; though agreeably to the nature and properties of sacraments, it is called the body of Christ Jesus.

Q79: Why then doth Christ call the bread "his body", and the cup "his blood", or "the new covenant in his blood"; and Paul the "communion of body and blood of Christ"?
A: Christ speaks thus, not without great reason, namely, not only thereby to teach us, that as bread and wine support this temporal life, so his crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink, whereby our souls are fed to eternal life; but more especially by these visible signs and pledges to assure us, that we are as really partakers of his true body and blood by the operation of the Holy Ghost as we receive by the mouths of our bodies these holy signs in remembrance of him; and that all his sufferings and obedience are as certainly ours, as if we had in our own persons suffered and made satisfaction for our sins to God.

Q80: What difference is there between the Lord's supper and the popish mass?
A: The Lord's supper testifies to us, that we have a full pardon of all sin by the only sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself has once accomplished on the cross; and, that we by the Holy Ghost are ingrafted into Christ, who, according to his human nature is now not on earth, but in heaven, at the right hand of God his Father, and will there be worshiped by us. But the mass teaches, that the living and dead have not the pardon of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is also daily offered for them by the priests; and further, that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and therefore is to be worshiped in them; so that the mass, at bottom, is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.

Q81: For whom is the Lord's supper instituted?
A: For those who are truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy; but hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts, eat and drink judgment to themselves.

Q82: Are they also to be admitted to this supper, who, by confession and life, declare themselves unbelieving and ungodly?
A: No; for by this, the covenant of God would be profaned, and his wrath kindled against the whole congregation; therefore it is the duty of the christian church, according to the appointment of Christ and his apostles, to exclude such persons, by the keys of the kingdom of heaven, till they show amendment of life.


Q91: How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A: The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Q92: What is a sacrament?
A: A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

Q93: Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?
A: The sacraments of the New Testament are, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

Q94: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Q95: To whom is Baptism to be administered?
A: Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

Q96: What is the Lord’s Supper?
A: The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

Q97: What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?
A: It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

New City Catechism:

Q43: What are the sacraments or ordinances?
A: The sacraments or ordinances given by God and instituted by Christ, namely baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are visible signs and seals that we are bound together as a community of faith by his death and resurrection. By our use of them the Holy Spirit more fully declares and seals the promises of the gospel to us.

Q44: What is baptism?
A: Baptism is the washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; it signifies and seals our adoption into Christ, our cleansing from sin, and our commitment to belong to the Lord and to his church.

Q45: Is baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
A: No, only the blood of Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit can cleanse us from sin.

Q46: What is the Lord’s Supper?
A: Christ commanded all Christians to eat bread and to drink from the cup in thankful remembrance of him and his death. The Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the presence of God in our midst; bringing us into communion with God and with one another; feeding and nourishing our souls. It also anticipates the day when we will eat and drink with Christ in his Father’s kingdom.

Q47: Does the Lord’s Supper add anything to Christ’s atoning work?
A: No, Christ died once for all. The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal celebrating Christ’s atoning work; as it is also a means of strengthening our faith as we look to him, and a foretaste of the future feast. But those who take part with unrepentant hearts eat and drink judgment on themselves.

The New City Catechism, being a New Calvinist production, is expected not to mention anything regarding infant baptism. True enough it does not. However, on the concept of a sacrament and the description of the two sacraments, how do they compare with the Reformed catechisms?

The New City Catechism question 43 defines sacraments as "visible signs and seals that we are bound together as a community of faith by his death and resurrection." Here we see a Zwinglian view of the sacrament propounded, as opposed to the Calvinist view. The sacrament symbolizes our faith, which is expressed as believes in a "community of faith." The "sealing" aspect of the sacraments come about by our right use of them (in our true profession of faith).

The Calvinist view, as taken up by the Reformed catechisms, is that a sacrament refers to God's promises to us, not our pledge of faith to God. That is why there is nothing in the Reformed catechisms about "bound together as a community of faith." Everything stated there is about what God will do for us, not what we pledge to God. Is joining a church important? Definitely, but the Church is not God. We are saved through and into the Church, but not by the Church. As in the language of the WSC, it is God in the sacraments who takes Christ and the benefits of the New Covenant and "represent, seal and apply" them to believers. The direction is always God to us in the sacraments, not us to God.

The Zwinglian view of the sacraments is carried over into the NCC's take on baptism. In NCC 44, baptism is stated as "our commitment to belong to the Lord and to his church." The Reformed catechisms however focuses our attention on God and His "divine pledge and sign" (HC 73), or just switch to the passive tense as describing what happens to the ones baptized (WSC 94).

When it comes to the Lord's Supper however, the New City Catechism does well. It certainly does not have the details as the Reformed catechisms, but it does speak of the Supper being a covenant meal bringing us into communion with God and with one another. It is certainly not as clear on Christ's presence in the Supper, but it is decent enough.

The NCC does a terrible job when it takes the Zwinglian position, and does a decent job otherwise. As with all the other sections so far, there is some good to the NCC, but also some serious flaws in it.