Thursday, January 3, 2019

What does the Salvation Army believe about Sacraments?

The views in this article do not necessarily represent the positions or opinions of the Salvation Army, it's partners or affiliates.  The statements made belong solely to those making them.

The Salvation Army has a unique viewpoint on the practicing of sacraments. Today we’re going to explore the viewpoints of the church in general and then consider and understand the unique viewpoint of the Salvation Army in the administering and practicing of sacraments.  The Salvation Army’s long held belief is that there is no particular outward observance (such as water baptism or the eating of bread and wine) necessary to inward grace, and God’s grace is freely available and accessible to all peoples in all places everywhere (The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine, 2013, p. 296).  Additionally, the Salvation Army affirms the freedom of salvationists to share in communion and water baptism at other Christian services (The Salvation Army Handbook of Doctrine, 2013, p. 296). 
In Across the Spectrum (Boyd & Eddy, 2009) the authors outline two primary viewpoints of the Lord’s Supper, the spiritual presence viewpoint and the memorial viewpoint (p. 215-226).  This dichotomy could be further broken down to four categories: Transubstantiation (the Roman Catholic viewpoint), Consubstantiation (the Lutheran viewpoint), the Reformed view (Calvinist viewpoint), and the Memorial viewpoint (Protestant evangelical, Baptist, E-free, etc).  The Roman Catholic view sees the body and blood of Christ as physically present in the wine and bread, but it cannot be tasted or seen physically.  The Lutheran and Calvinist viewpoint both are variations of the “spiritual presence” of Christ in the wafer and wine, with Lutherans leaning toward more physical presence and Calvinists leaning more toward a spiritual/dynamic presence. The viewpoint of many protestant denominations is the memorial viewpoint, that the elements of the sacraments are symbols only. The practicing of the Lord’s supper and water baptism are then seen as representative outwardly of inward realities of Christ in salvation and being reborn in the washing of the Holy Spirit.  In regard to water baptism, there are two primary viewpoints regarded by the Across the Spectrum book, those being “the believer’s baptism” viewpoint and “the infant baptism viewpoint (Boyd & Eddy, 2009, p. 214-225).  Some Christian’s (protestants) believe only a believer who is old enough to have made a personal decision for Christ should be baptized (the believer’s baptism) while other Christians (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox) believe that infant baby’s should be baptized and then brought up in the faith through catechism and confirmation (the infant baptism viewpoint). 
Now that we’ve explored the larger universal church viewpoints on the sacraments, let us consider the Salvation Army’s viewpoints on sacraments in greater detail.  According to Call to Arms (2014) a resource for soldiership training in the Salvation Army, the Salvation Army’s viewpoint on the sacraments is unique in the church, and in fact is only shared by one other subset of the universal church, known as Quakers.  Most protestant denominations see the sacraments according to the memorial viewpoint, and thus see sacraments as symbols.  The Salvation Army and Quakers took this even further to mean that since these practices are only symbols, they are not intrinsically necessary to salvation (Call to Arms, 2014).  The non-practicing of sacraments was instituted to emphasize the importance of each believer individually encountering Christ (Call to Arms, 2014).  Each Christian individually must see their need for real, internal salvation, rather than adherence to rigid sacramentalism.  The Salvation Army in effect sees the practice of the Christian life as an expression of the true sacrament: A lifestyle of obedience to Christ.  In other words, the Salvation Army sees the way a Christian lives as a “set apart” holy life before God. This is then a true expression of living a life of sacraments. Therefore, the Salvation Army does not actively practice sacraments like water baptism, the taking of the Lord’s supper through wafers and wine, confirmation, ordination, last rites, or other practices typically considers sacraments by other church denominations (Call to Arms, 2014).

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you think the Salvation Army’s viewpoint on sacraments is correct? Were you baptized or did you take bread and wine in other churches prior to the Salvation Army? How did those things impact your experience of salvation?
2. Why do you think the Salvation Army wanted to make it clear that salvation was about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not outward symbols?
3. Do you think the best interpretation of Luke 22:17-20 sees the bread and wine as the institution of a sacrament or a symbol of an inward reality? Explain your answer.
4. Read 1st Corinthians 11:17-34. What is the biblical principle in this passage in regard to eating together in fellowship?
5. If you were attending a different church service would you be able to partake of the bread and juice during the giving of sacraments?  Why or why not?
6. How can you live a lifestyle of sacramental set-apartness toward God almighty? Think practical weekly activities.
7. If you were a Salvation Army officer would you be free to baptize or administer the bread and juice as a sacrament? What about as a “love feast”? 

Bible Gateway. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2018, from
Boyd, G. A., & Eddy, P. R. (2009). Across the spectrum: Understanding issues in evangelical theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
Call to Arms: Soldiership Training for the Salvation Army. (2014). Retrieved October 11, 2018, from
Salvation Army. (n.d.). Why does The Salvation Army not baptise or hold communion? Retrieved October 11, 2018, from