Rome: A sacrament is the normative means by which grace is given. It works
"ex opere operato" (by the work that has been worked). The sacraments not
only point externally to salvation; they contain and bestow the salvation
Reformers: A sacrament is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual reality. The spiritual reality does the work, not the sacrament itself, but the sacrament helps to effect the spiritual work it signifies.
Anabaptist: A sacrament is a visible memorial of a spiritual work that has already taken place.
Salvation Army: All the sacraments are entirely spiritual and require no visible memorial. Conversion is "baptism" and a Justice of the Peace suffices for marriage.
The first three views agree that both the spiritual (invisible) and visible parts of a sacrament are required. The disagreement is over which is the cart and which is the horse. The Salvation Army view is, in my view, heretical. But some Protestant teachers put them just barely within the pale of orthodoxy.
Rome: the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, and thereby
give spiritual nourishment to the believer.
Lutheran: the body and blood of Christ are received spiritually along with the bread and wine.
Reformers: the body and blood of Christ give spiritual nourishment to the believer. The bread and wine are an outward and visible sign of this inward reality, and help the believer to receive this spritual nourishment.
Anabaptist: Christ gave his body and blood on the cross to give us spiritual life. We partake of this spritual nourishment every day. We commemorate this divine gift with bread and wine in obedience to His command.
There are good arguments for including, for instance, marriage as a sacrament since while Christ does not institute it, He confirms it. However, counting more than two is anathema for the Reformed tradition, and counting more or less than seven is anathema for Rome.
Rome also teaches that souls in Purgatory "atone" for their sins. However, this is temporal atonement. Sin has temporal as well as eternal consequences, and an early death is not necessarily an early graduation.
However, Rome further teaches that the living can pray for the dead in
Purgatory, and even offer atonement for the sins of the dead in Purgatory.
This is the real conflict with Protestants. The conflict is lessened somewhat
when we realize that this "atonement" is for the temporal punishment of
sin, not atonement for the guilt of sin.
This work by Stuart David Gathman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.