Funny that he can say that and still defend baby baptism. His defence of baby baptism in his Systematic Theology doesn’t hold water to me (pardon the pun). He just isn’t consistent.
Then again I’ve never liked the word “sacrament” – too many connotations of something that transmits “grace” in someway as if grace is a substance or a power rather than an attitude of God towards us. All the “means of grace” discussion in Berkhof leaves me trying to work out how he really differs from roman catholicism.
Berkhof would be miles apart from RC. They might both baptise babies, but how each would explain what happens would be quite different. Which lands back at, to me at least, the position seeming hopelessly inconsistent. I agree, grace is not a substance to pass out like your allowance. But, as we think about different means of grace, they all bring us into fellowship/communion with Christ, who is full of grace. God gives grace (to the humble at least), but we cannot separate grace from the one in whom it comes, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I was being a bit facetious – sorry. I know there is a big difference with the RC position. However I still draw back a bit from the idea of “sacraments” just because of the associations of the word with sacramentalism etc.
I’m also not that keen on the expression “means” of grace – it still seems to imply that these are conduits through which “grace” is transmitted. I think I prefer the idea that I read once of these practices (ordinances? )being “means of growth” perhaps.
In his Summary of Christian Doctrine Berkhoff defines a sacrament as “…a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, in which by sensible signs the grace of God in Christ is represented, sealed, and applied to believer, and they, in turn express their faith and obedience to God.” I am ok with the representation bit but when it comes to sealing and application I wonder. Even if he says that they need faith to be effective he still seems to be putting some power, some effect in the sacraments themselves.
I’m nitpicking – lots of Berkhof’s stuff is great.