Virtual Sacraments by S. M. Hutchens

Virtual Sacraments

To a friend in the ministry who, with respect to "virtual communion," notes that "we're not physically together online. That makes me wonder . . .":

This unease seems to be pretty much the universal complaint, where complaint there is, and I think it will ultimately kill virtual sacraments among serious Christians. There are always people who will leap upon any new practice (1) that gives them comfort or some other advantage, and (2) for which a logical argument can be confected—like serving gluten-free "bread" at Communion. This case rests upon the question of whether an ethereal electronic connection of persons is in essence the same as a connection across a space of plain air or in a shared meal. (It is raised with artificial amplification of the human voice, and continues with greater intensity in transmission by wires or airwaves.)

The yes or no—and it must be a "yes" or "no"—rests upon a shared pastoral intuition for which there is no strictly empirical demonstration. (In general, the judgment of the Church has been that voice amplification is acceptable for delivery of divine discourse, but this is not a theologically un-laden question, and I would not blame anyone who refused it. I myself do not normally listen to sermons on radio, television, or computer, and admit this is more a matter of taste than conviction—but where does this "taste" come from?)

That we are uneasy with virtual sacraments is all the proof we will have, but the dis-ease points to a reality beyond itself, and before which we also wonder whether we may be bound to appear and give cause. That is why your "wondering" is significant, especially when it is shared by so many men of spiritual responsibility who are collectively making the decision, "This far and no further."

S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!

Online
Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.


more on ministry from the online archives

33.5—September/October 2020

Killing Homicide

on Missing Fathers & Redemption in Prison by Bob Perry

32.1—January/February 2019

Role Reversals

Sex, Women's Ordination & the Rejection of Hierarchy & Equality by James A. Altena

32.4—July/August 2019

Pastor Prime

on a Steady Presence in an Unsteady World by Preston Jones


more from the online archives

28.1—January/February 2015

Altered Matrimony

on State Impositions & Church Acquiescence by Stephen Baskerville

34.1—January/February 2021

Jeremiah Revisited

Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Rod Dreher by Hans Boersma

21.6—July/August 2008

The European Disunion

Benedict XVI on the Crisis of Faith & Reason by Samuel Gregg

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

00