Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

Doug Wilson and I have agreed on a formula for our debate on paedo-communion, which will be starting soon. We will both comment on a chapter of Venema’s new book on the subject, and then we will respond to each other. Look for it to start next week, most likely. Note that the book is scheduled for arrival at RHB on March 16. There is some confusion on the website, which also seems to say that the book is available today. Doug and I will delay starting the debate until people can have some time at least to have the book in their hands.

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110 Comments

  1. Beth Nagle said,

    March 12, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Look forward to it!

  2. Stephen Welch said,

    March 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks for the information, Lane. I hope this will prove helpful in understanding the FV position. I am not aware of many books out their on paedo-communion except Richard Bacon’s, What Mean Ye By This Service? Is your recommendation the best resource on the subject?

    I did notice that Westmister is also recommending Schenck’s book, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant. Have you read it and if you have what are your thoughts on it? He does regard the children of believers as regenerated. I was just curious because of the discussion in the thread on Children At The Lord’s Table.

  3. jared said,

    March 12, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    If you want an FV perspective on paedo-communion you could always pick up a copy of “The Case for Covenant Communion” edited by Gregg Strawbridge. Tim Gallant (one of the contributors to Strawbridge’s book) has his own book called “Feed My Lambs”. I also understand that Peter Leithart has a book about the Lord’s Supper and while it isn’t structured to be a argument in favor of paedo-communion specifically, I would be quite surprised if it didn’t come up somewhere on the pages.

  4. GLW Johnson said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I do hope for once the FV folks will openly admit that this is not part of the Reformed tradition,i.e. none of the Reformed confessions sanction their position. This is ,strictly speaking ,an innovation and a NON-Reformed position.

  5. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:48 am

    >I do hope for once the FV folks will openly admit that this is not part of the Reformed tradition,i.e. none of the Reformed confessions sanction their position.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve read Pastor Wilson say something to that effect…

  6. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:55 am

    What are you expecting them to clarify their position and state what they actually believe? Do not hold your breath.

  7. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Say something to what effect, David that there position is not sanctioned by the Reformed confessions? Where has Wilson stated that paedo-communion is not sanctioned by the confessional standards? That needs to be in ‘red’ print.

  8. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:59 am

    >Say something to what effect, David that there position is not sanctioned by the Reformed confessions?

    It has been awhile but as I recall it was a statement that he understood paedo-communion was not a mainstream Reformed position. Which is fair. It has had occasional advocates, it got a majority report in the OPC (voted down by GA) but isn’t sanctioned by the confessions or catechisms.

  9. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Ok, I understand your clarification but to say it is not a mainstream position is not the same as saying it is not in accord with the confessional standards. It did not have a majority view in the OPC. There may be a small minority in the OPC like there is in the PCA, but it is still regarded as not in accordance with our confessional standards.

  10. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:12 am

    >It did not have a majority view in the OPC.

    What I was meaning to say is that the Majority Report from the study committe was pro-paedo-communion. The GA adopted the minority position.

  11. Michael Saville said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:46 am

    When I was serving in the PCA, I registered my exception to the Westminster Standards on this point and it was received by my presbytery as an exception. That’s what everyone else in my presbytery who believed in paedocommunion did. We are all aware of WLC 177. For me, there was never any question of whether this was an historic Reformed position–I knew it was not the view of the Reformers, Puritans, Dutch Reformed, or American Reformed churches. If you read the PCA minority report, this is acknowledged to be the.case. The question is not whether or not it is the historic Reformed position (it isn’t), but whether or not it is biblical.

    Looking forward to the debate.

  12. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Michael, thank you for clarifying this point. Yes, it can be taken as an exception but it cannot be taught and practiced within the PCA. I appreciate you recognizing that it is not an historic Reformed position, but there is no Biblical warrant for it.

  13. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Stephen, After reading Bacon’s work I would suggest a read of Mark Horne response which can be found here (Part one; Part two).

  14. Andrew said,

    March 13, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Lane,

    This sounds very good. A humble suggestion, to be disgarded if unhelpful:

    Given the prior engagements between yourself and Doug, some will see this as part of the FV debate. If you were able to point out that paedocommunion does not entail any FV distinctive, this would certainly bring clarity to the discusssion. It might also cool passions, which would ensure that both sides give and recieve a fair hearing.

    .

  15. Andrew said,

    March 13, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Stephen,

    If available online, you might want to look at the Credenda issue on paedocommunion. D. Wilson has a thoughtful article, where he clearly acknowledges that paedocommunion is not taught in the Reformed creeds.

    However, he goes on to argue that the posisiton is derived from other confessional beliefs. It is not then, for him, a choice between reformed and non-reformed practice, but a matter of resolving an inconsistency in our heritage – i.e which reformed belief is given precedence.

    This seems both honest and fair to me.

  16. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 13, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Where has Wilson stated that paedo-communion is not sanctioned by the confessional standards? That needs to be in ‘red’ print.

    Testing … 1 … 2 … 3 …

    Paedo-communion is not sanctioned by the confessional standards.

    Jeff Cagle

  17. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 13, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Nope, it stripped the color attribute from my <font> tag. :(

  18. Uri Brito said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Good point Andrew,
    G.I. Williamson is in favor of Paedocommunion. My assumption is that he would oppose FV distinctive. So, whether one holds to paedocommunion or not, this does not entail one’s commitment to a covenantal vision (FV). See http://www.hornes.org/theologia/1988-opc-study-committee/majority-report-in-favor-of-paedocommunion

  19. Stephen Welch said,

    March 14, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Hello, Uri. Yes, to hold to paedo-communion does not mean that necessary embraces the heresies of FV. The paedo-communion view has been a small minority among Reformed people and is not accepted practice in any Reformed denominiations with the exception of the CREC and the CRC (Covenant Reformed Church). There may be congregations outside these two groups that embrace it, but they would be small splinter groups that have broke from a Reformed denomination. R.C. Sproul, Jr. at one time held to paedo-communion and still does as far as I know, but could not practice that view within the RPCGA, when he was in that denomination. The FV guys picked up on this view, so that is why it is becoming more popular. You will not find the paedo-communion view even among evangelical Lutheran or Anglican denominations.

  20. Andrew said,

    March 14, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Yes, paedocommunion does not entail FV, nor does it imply, as far as I can see, any other doctrinal difference with Reformed theology.

    It is helpful as well not to overstate the issue – paedocommunion is not mentioned in the WCOF, being only mentioned in passing in the LC.

    No Reformer thought about it at lenght (dealing with it, if at all, as an arguement made by anabaptists), so there is little to zero historical case against it.

    So even if one is not eventually persuaded of congregational communion, we shouldn’t make out differring brethern to be in grevious err – the issue seems to be one where we can legitimately disagree.

  21. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I was planning on making this distinction between paedo-communion and the FV, for I know several paedo advocates who are not FV.

  22. Andrew said,

    March 14, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Lane,

    Thanks, and apologies for telling you the obvious – I was just observing the heat generated from the last post on paedocommunion, and wondering how much was an FV crossover.

  23. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    No need to apologize. It’s a good point, and one that bears repeating rather often, as a matter of fact. Overlap (since most FV’ers are paedo) but not identity.

  24. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 14, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    I guess the question that needs to be explored is what is the Biblical premise behind the practice of paedocommunion? Is there one? And, is paedocommunion practiced for different reasons by those who are not FV?

  25. Matt Beatty said,

    March 15, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Lauren,

    Are you really so predisposed to think the Doug (and his minions) have no biblical warrant for the practice? That they just got together one night and said, “What we need is some new theology… but not the kind that is biblical.”

    Several men in the OP church I attended for years were oblivious to the fact that Williamson – and scores of men currently serving IN GOOD STANDING in their churches and who have little/no sympathy for the so-called FV – actually believe paedocommunion to be biblical. Didn’t seem to matter to these guys as they blasted away at the “heretics” who believe such things. Is it Reformed? No, not technically. Not yet, anyway.

    Stephen – there are paedo advocates in both conservative Lutheranism and Anglicanism – for the latter, see Matthew Mason’s recent article (2007?) in THE CHURCHMAN – a mainstream evangelical Anglican publication.

  26. Andrew said,

    March 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Lauren,

    I live in the UK and don’t fully understand the whole FV thing, though I am sympathetic to paedocommunion (independantly of and prior to learning of that movement). I definately don’t want to start the debate now – I would like to read Venema’s book and hear whatl Lane has to say.

    But, yes, paedocommunnion is usually defended on grounds without reference to FV. And I think Steve Schissel, an original Auburn Avenue speaker, denies paedocommunion – so it cuts both ways.

    The paedocommunion arguement is very simple (but don’t dismiss it because of that). Our children are part of the visible church . The Lord’s Supper expresses the unity of the church. So we would expect all members of the church to be given it, UNLESS there is good reason otherwise.

    So the paedocommunionist then looks at the reasons credo-communionists give, and decides if they are sufficient to met this standard. So we spend time in looking at exegesis (or relevance of that exegesis) of I Cor 11, or considering the claim that children did not eat the passover, etc.

    For me, the counterclaims of the credocommunist are at best ambigous and so don’t justify excluding part of the church from the very thing which expresses the unity of the church. I quite understand that you do find these arguements persuasive, and I don’t want to fire the starting pistol yet!

    But hopefully you can see, that (even if if not ultimately correct), paedocommunion starts with the common heritage of all Reformed believers and then prayfully wrestles with the application of that, paying close attention to passages which other believers find a problem.

    In short: Reformed believers trying to apply Reformed theology in a Reformed way. They may be wrong, but surely we can discuss the issue in a spirt of interest and good-will?

    And likewise, of course, we on this side of the fence should recognise the goodwill of the credocommionist, and the important fact that credocommunion is the de facto historic practice of Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

  27. Ron Henzel said,

    March 15, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Now, Matt, that was quite unnecessary.

  28. Vern Crisler said,

    March 15, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I don’t see any harm in family communion. The arguments I’ve read against it parallel the same arguments baptists make against paedo-baptism. Baptists are probably snickering in their sleeves everytime they hear anti-paedo-communion arguments coming from Presbyterians.

    I also don’t see any harm in making children wait, i.e., credo-communionism. (Same with baptism.) The NT doesn’t issue any commands on age requirements either for baptism or communion. Unfortunately, presbyterians and baptists elevate these issues to a level of importance that simply cannot be inferred from, or justified on the basis of, New Testament teaching.

    Other important teachings, such as 6 day creationism or the worldwide Flood, are mocked or denied outright by some churchmen, who strain at confessional, ecclesiastical, or sacramental gnats and swallow humanistic camels.

    Vern

  29. David Weiner said,

    March 15, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Andrew,
    Like you, “I don’t want to fire the starting pistol yet!” But, something you said caught my eye.

    The Lord’s Supper expresses the unity of the church.

    Since you were referencing the visible church in the previous sentence, I assume you still are in this statement. If so, then I wonder what ‘union’ you are talking about. Because I can’t see how saved and unsaved can have ‘union’ remembering their savior when He is only the savior of some of them?

  30. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 15, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I was simply putting forth a few questions that I would like to see discussed for the upcoming debate. I really would like to know and am looking forward to it. You misread my motives.

  31. Gabe Martini said,

    March 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    “Because I can’t see how saved and unsaved can have ‘union’ remembering their savior when He is only the savior of some of them?”

    …we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
    1 TIMOTHY 4:10

  32. Gabe Martini said,

    March 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    I wouldn’t want to see it called “Family” communion, unless you understand the “family” as being God’s family, or the Church, the re-created humanity in Christ Jesus. This isn’t about familial headship, really, it is about the unity of the Church (call it “visible,” if that helps make sense of it within your range of abstract constructs).

  33. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Thank you for your viewpoint. You raise a few other questions that I would like to see discussed in the upcoming debate. Is communion only for those individuals who have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ? Or, is it for church members as a corporate body – regardless of whether or not they have been born again? What is the purpose of communion – is it primarily to express the unity of the church as a corporate body? Or, is it to remember Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of those who have personally and individually put their trust in Jesus as their Savior – those who have been born again by the Spirit?

    And, another set of questions are related to elders guarding or fencing the Table. What are they supposed to be guarding it from if paedocommunion without a public profession of faith is allowed? In other words, with the exception of those who are under church discipline, what would be the job description for fencing the Table?

  34. Gabe Martini said,

    March 15, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    What you call being “born again” is understood differently by a vast array of Christendom. The Puritan or evangelical concept of being “born again” as a one-off crisis conversion is a novelty and rather recent, in Christian history. We all know this, and should all at least acknowledge it. That doesn’t mean it is WRONG, necessarily, but we must be willing to agree that not all Christians understand or explain things the same way.

    That being said, it is held by many that to be born again is to be part of the regeneration or the “new creation” that is the Church — humanity re-created in Christ Jesus. Given that, anyone that visibly and faithfully sets themselves apart as part of such a body (i.e. through Baptism) has joined in this new creation. This doesn’t speak to their condition of “heart” as you might call it, but it IS justification — for some within Christianity — to refer to these people as not only Christians but people worthy of communion and full fellowship within God’s people / the Church.

    To respond to your latter question, there should be no fencing of the Table on a “regular” basis. Fencing is the extreme exception, not the norm. Ex-communication means being cut-off from Communion with the Church — i.e. with Jesus Christ himself. It is spiritual death / execution. We should not willingly abstain from Communion, as that signifies that we no longer identify with Christ or his people. That is a tragedy, and should not be determined by the whims of people’s emotions nor should there be times when we abstain from the Table so that we can sort things out or get our lives in order. On the contrary, these are the times when we need Christ and his nourishment and his people the MOST.

  35. Andrew said,

    March 15, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    David,

    Fair point – yes, the unity must be of the visible church for the arguement to be reasonable.

    I agree that it is impossible to see unity in terms of a shared spiritual experience – some would not actually have had that experience.

    The unity I see expressed is simply the unity of being members of the visible church – i.e the visible church is one (or should be).

    That the Lord’s Supper has reference to the visible church seems fair to me: I I would cite WCOF 25:3 -

    “Unto this catholic visible Church Christ has given given the ministery, oracles, and ordinances of God”;

    and WCOF 27:1 -

    “Sacraments …put a visible difference between those that belong unto the church, and the rest of the world”

    Biblically, the whole arguement of I Cor 10 and 11 concerning healing divisions in the church and the sin of presumtion depends on the visible church being the one in view (since no member of the invisible church will fall away).

    I understand that ‘union’ has been a controversial term re:FV, and I am certainally not wanting to make any suggestions of that sort.

    Hope the above seems orthodox!

  36. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Lauren,

    For those of us who think the WCF has it right how do we judge who is elect?

    >What is the purpose of communion – is it primarily to express the unity of the church as a corporate body? Or, is it to remember Christ’s death on the cross for the sins of those who have personally and individually put their trust in Jesus as their Savior – those who have been born again by the Spirit?

    Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

    >What are they supposed to be guarding it from if paedocommunion without a public profession of faith is allowed? In other words, with the exception of those who are under church discipline, what would be the job description for fencing the Table?

    Obviously you’ve just described their primary function re members under discipline although they might be in a position to prevent others if they had knowledge which would render such a judgement appropriate. Additionally some Reformed churches will not allow anyone who is not a member to take communion without a prior interview. Not a bad idea.

  37. Andrew said,

    March 15, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    lauren

    Thanks for those thoughts. I don’t want to get to ahead of the discussion, or give ‘authortative’ answers when I am still considering the matter, and I am sure there are others who might have things clearer.

    So I wouldn’t answer at lenght (unless you want me to), but I don’t think the we have to always choose between the options. I totally agree that the Supper is to remember the personal sacrific of our own saviour – we are to think on and give thanks for our own salvation. But I don’t see that that contradicts with communion also expressing the unity we have with others in the congregation.

    People have different views on fencing – I was brought up with, and probably agree with you view. The elders should exclude non-members and those under discipline. There should be no such thing as a church member whose life and profession is inconsistent with taking communion – if there is, he should be under discipline. But you may differ – K know that historically in the churches of our Scottish brethern, communion was seen as an act for the ‘elite’, and only some of otherwise good, sound regenerated Christians took communion.

  38. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 15, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Lauren,

    As a non-PC-ist (but one sympathetic to their concerns), I’ll play devil’s advocate and offer up answers.

    1. Is communion only for those individuals who have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ?

    Communion, like church membership and baptism, is rightly for and has benefit to believers in Jesus only. Only a believer has a right to belong to the church. Only a believer has the right to claim the promise of baptism for himself.

    However, church membership and baptism are extended to all who profess faith and to their children. In the first case, professors of faith have offered up solid evidence (but not infallible) that they have the right to the sign.

    In the second case, God has ordained salvation for families, so that being a child of a believer is *sufficient* evidence (but not infallible) that the child has the right to the sign also.

    (If anyone wants to dispute the strength of the second case, let him argue against the right of Esau to be circumcised.)

    A PC-ist will simply run this argument to its logical conclusion: if children of believers have a right to the first sign of baptism, then they also have the right to the second sign of communion.

    2. What are they supposed to be guarding it from if paedocommunion without a public profession of faith is allowed? In other words, with the exception of those who are under church discipline, what would be the job description for fencing the Table?

    I don’t know how fencing works in your church, but in ours, we proclaim the words of ordinance and invite anyone who is a member in good standing of an evangelical church to partake (BCO 58-4). The actual decision to take or not take is left to the conscience of the individual.

    A PC-ist would then argue: a child is a member in good standing of this very church. Thus, 58-4 is in conflict with 57-1. He would argue either (a) that the standard of “requiring a public confession of faith” is a *higher* standard than what we apply to adults visiting from other congregations, or (b) that children who actually have faith would be developmentally unable to make their faith publicly known.

    The PC-ist would contend that it would be better to admit ten unbelieving children than to exclude one believing child: “Let the little children come unto me.” (And the Lord didn’t require a public profession of faith from them, either!)

    Taking off the devil’s advocate’s cap, I want to repeat again that in most cases, the practice of PC or non-PC is of little harm unless pushed to a weird extreme. PC will not change the elective status of one single soul, especially as part of a robust discipleship program in a church. Non-PC will not drive a child from the church, unless done in a way as to discourage that child from becoming a communicant member.

    Likewise, allowing some unbelieving children to partake of communion is undesirable, but not scandalous — it is no worse than the universal Christian practice of allowing unbelievers who make a credible profession of faith to partake.

    Now for some, PC is a scandal. When they look at children who are partaking of communion, they assume that these children, on account of their youth, are incapable of being believers. Thus, they assume that the church has countenanced communion to ignorant unbelievers in contradiction to BCO 58-2.

    My own opinion is that this assumption (youth = unbelief) is too strong. In my experience, many very young children, including my own, express a trust in Jesus that should be taken seriously.

    Jeff Cagle

  39. David Weiner said,

    March 15, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Andrew,

    Hope the above seems orthodox!

    How did you know that I am a member of the orthodox police? Seriously, you are doing just fine.

    Since I trust that God is in control and thus the way the churches are is His doing, I have no problem with our striving for unity in the visible church. I just couldn’t let your comment pass without trying to make the point that there is unity and then there is unity of the kind that only the elect can share.

  40. Uri Brito said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Stephen, but you will find paedocommunion discussed and practiced in Reformed Episcopal Churches.

  41. David Weiner said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Jeff,

    If anyone wants to dispute the strength of the second case

    I really don’t want to dispute anything with you. Nevertheless . . . .

    God has ordained salvation for families, so that being a child of a believer is *sufficient* evidence (but not infallible) that the child has the right to the sign also.

    The only way I can make this fit in my mind is to amend the first part to “God has ordained fallible salvation for families” and I am sure you didn’t mean that?

    If anyone wants to dispute the strength of the second case, let him argue against the right of Esau to be circumcised.

    Circumcision was not a right that Esau had; it was a command that God gave to Abraham in Gen 17:10 “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.”

  42. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Hi David,

    My statement was (unintentionally) ambiguous, and you were right to point out the problem.

    JRC: God has ordained salvation for families…

    DW: The only way I can make this fit in my mind is to amend the first part to “God has ordained fallible salvation for families” …

    What I didn’t mean was, “God has ordained that everyone in a family is saved”, which the words could be interpreted to mean.

    Instead, I meant that “God has ordained that salvation often runs in families.” or that “The family unit is ordained by God to be a means of propagating salvation.”

    It was a statement about statistics and norms rather than a statement about absolutes. Sorry to have been unclear.

    JRC: If anyone wants to dispute the strength of the second case, let him argue against the right of Esau to be circumcised.

    DW: Circumcision was not a right that Esau had; it was a command that God gave to Abraham…

    Wouldn’t we say, “both”? A whole lot of privileges, including both spiritual and physical ones, came attached to circumcision. Esau had the external right to these by virtue of circumcision. Of course, he forfeited the intrinsic right to these by virtue of his unbelief.

    What I’m trying to do is to drive a consistent line between what we know (external) v. what God knows (intrinsic). In my view, the FV solution and the “credo-baptist” solution improperly mingle these in different ways, each inconsistent in a different place.

    Jeff Cagle

  43. David Weiner said,

    March 15, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Jeff,

    OK, your statement about families and salvation was about statistics and norms. Since we don’t know who the elect are until they die (yes, I realize we are capable of good guessing and we should use a judgment of charity on this side of eternity) do we really have these statistics? For, I can not find any rationale for God choosing anybody other than His good pleasure and glory.

    Yes, there were indeed a lot of positive fall out from being circumcised. I was only quibbling with it’s being a ‘right.’ The blessings of having been circumcised were a ‘right.’ And, as you well know, one of those ‘rights’ was not salvation.

    If you have the inclination, I would like to know what you believe the credo-baptist inconsistency is? No problem if you feel it to be a rabbit trail to be avoided here.

  44. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 15, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    I can see that this is going to be one interesting debate. Getting agreement on our terms will probably be the first hurdle to overcome.

    Here are some other questions to be raised:
    My understanding of the traditional Reformed view is that the Lord’s Supper is to be administered often for the spiritual nourishment of believers, and so only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.
    Why do PC-ists object to this view that one must be able to examine themselves, grasp the culpability of their sins and the work of Christ for redemption, and be capable of exercising their faith before taking communion?

    Do PC-ists believe that there is no distinction between the sign (the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper) and the thing signified – since they are one and the same?

    Do PC-ists believe that the Lord’s Supper offers a different grace than the Word of God, such that unless infants and small children receive the Lord’s Supper, they are being starved of grace?

    Do PC-ists believe that God’s grace is conveyed through the sacraments ex opere operato – by the act performed?

  45. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 16, 2009 at 6:04 am

    It’s OK. I’ll say more later, but for now, think about the numbers.

    In the OT, what percentage of the saved were from the biological line of Abraham? Probably 99.99% or higher.

    In the NT era in which we live, what percentage of the saved come from a Christian lineage? Harder to say, but greater than 50%.

    So now consider again your statement, “For, I can not find any rationale for God choosing anybody other than His good pleasure and glory.”

    Yet, He does give a partial rationale: “I will be a God to you and your descendants.” God’s kindness to Abraham is extended to Abe’s family *for the sake of Abraham.*

    If God gave no consideration to families at all, then election would be equally distributed around the globe. Empirically, that’s not the case!

    So both Scripturally and empirically, I have to say that salvation runs in families: being a descendant of a Christian makes it statistically more likely that you will be a Christian, too.

    The mistake comes in assuming that being the descendant of a Christian is a sufficient cause of one’s being a Christian oneself. This is the Romans 2 error, and Nicodemus’ error also. “You must be born again!”

    Jeff Cagle

  46. David Weiner said,

    March 16, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Jeff,
    I really do value the way you support your positions. Keeping that in mind, I must say that if I were faced with making a serious decision, the argument here would not help me. I feel the same way as you do; but, that is not a statistical argument for or against the family. We simply do not know the ‘reason’ why God elects anybody. The Biblical story focuses on a sliver of humanity. Yes, a very important sliver that yielded the Savior. Nevertheless, that record leaves us statistically starved with regard to humanity as a whole.

    Kindness, as in to Abraham and his family, and election have to be considered synonymous for the argument to hold, it seems to me. And, Scripture does not link the two in any explicit way. So, each of us is ‘free’ to interpret loosely. Not exactly what you would accept in your science classes, I assume.

    I don’t want to proof text this discussion; but, Jeremiah 7:23 makes it very clear (probably only to me!) that the idea of God being a God to Israel was not about salvation. It was about blessing. That is unless one can actually earn salvation by works and I know we agree on that one.

    I read Barna reports and so I know there are lots of statistics. But, do we really know the geographical distribution of election? I think we are dealing with a lot of anecdotal data here. Certainly not double blind sort of stuff.

  47. Vern Crisler said,

    March 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Gabe, I have no idea what you are talking about. The term “family” communion means the whole family participates (including children). It’s the same as “family” baptism — baptism of whole families (including children).

    Vern

  48. David Gadbois said,

    March 16, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I think the paedocommunion case rests on one large false presumption and overlooks two pivotal features of the Lord’s Supper.

    First, it is rationalistic in its assumption that there should be symmetry between baptism and the Lord’s Supper – if you qualify for one, you qualify for the other.

    And the case overlooks intrinsic elements of the Supper.

    1. That we partake of Christ in the Supper by an active, cognitive faith that has Jesus as its object. The Reformed have been zealous to guard against superstition in the Supper, so when pressed to explain the mechanism by which we partake of Christ in the Supper, the answer has been ‘by faith.’ This does not make the Supper only a memorial (though it certainly is not less than a memorial either, as the paedocom position would entail!). That just points to the fact that the Spirit uses certain means in communicating Christ and His benefits to us in the Supper. It answers the question, ‘since Christ is not bodily present, how are we feeding on Him?’

    This is no minor point. If we concede the paedocom position, we have to chuck the majority of what we confess in Article 35 of the Belgic Confession. It is worth quoting at length:

    We believe and confess that our Savior Jesus Christ has ordained and instituted the sacrament of the Holy Supper to nourish and sustain those who are already born again and ingrafted into his family: his church.
    Now those who are born again have two lives in them. The one is physical and temporal– they have it from the moment of their first birth, and it is common to all. The other is spiritual and heavenly, and is given them in their second birth; it comes through the Word of the gospel in the communion of the body of Christ; and this life is common to God’s elect only.

    Thus, to support the physical and earthly life God has prescribed for us an appropriate earthly and material bread, which is as common to all as life itself also is. But to maintain the spiritual and heavenly life that belongs to believers he has sent a living bread that came down from heaven: namely Jesus Christ, who nourishes and maintains the spiritual life of believers when eaten– that is, when appropriated and received spiritually by faith.

    To represent to us this spiritual and heavenly bread Christ has instituted an earthly and visible bread as the sacrament of his body and wine as the sacrament of his blood. He did this to testify to us that just as truly as we take and hold the sacraments in our hands and eat and drink it in our mouths, by which our life is then sustained, so truly we receive into our souls, for our spiritual life, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Savior. We receive these by faith, which is the hand and mouth of our souls.

    Now it is certain that Jesus Christ did not prescribe his sacraments for us in vain, since he works in us all he represents by these holy signs, although the manner in which he does it goes beyond our understanding and is uncomprehensible to us, just as the operation of God’s Spirit is hidden and incomprehensible.

    Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what is eaten is Christ’s own natural body and what is drunk is his own blood– but the manner in which we eat it is not by the mouth but by the Spirit, through faith.

    In that way Jesus Christ remains always seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven– but he never refrains on that account to communicate himself to us through faith.

    2. That the Supper both confirms the preached Word and derives its meaning and significance from the preached Word. To the extent that infants cannot comprehend the preached word, the Supper cannot perform its proper function.

  49. Chris Zodrow said,

    March 16, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    David,
    Truly, I do not see how your conclusions follow from the premises (Article 35). In fact, the exact opposite could be argued from these lines. Here is why: faith is a gift of the Spirit, and transcends, although it includes the intellect. An infant, if born again, and we presume this to be the case when they are baptized, has faith as a seed within them. We know it has not reached a rational state of understanding in regards to the particulars, but they have it nonetheless. Thus, they too can be nourished by the bread and wine, as Christ ministers to them as much as any adult (perhaps even more so– “Thou shalt not commit Adulthood!”)
    It would be remiss to suggest that faith is not present when the Holy Spirit is.

  50. Matt Beatty said,

    March 16, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Ron,

    I apologize (to Lauren and all) if I misread her motives. I have to say (and I’m saying this with a smile and a giggle – you’ll have to trust me) that for Lauren to plead the “Oh, I’m really just interested in seeing these two brothers interact on a timely issue” perspective seems… well… funny.

    And for you, Ron, to jump in with “that was unnecessary” knuckle-slap given your history on this blog? Even funnier. I haven’t bothered to keep up with GB in a long time for precisely this reason. I don’t know why I gave up on that idea and came back.

  51. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 16, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    David,

    Likewise, your gentlemanliness and attention to Scripture make conversations a blessing.

    Let’s talk Scripture first. I used the phrase, “God’s kindness”, but it was a paraphrase of what the Scripture says: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”

    We might think that “be your God” is meant in an external religious sense. But in fact, it is specifically salvific. The promise to “be your God” only extends to the believing remnant; the others are cut off completely (think here of OT law AND Rom 11).

    We see how the promise plays out in, say, Hosea, in which the unfaithful are “Lo-ammi”, but the remnant is “sons of the living God.” This is actually strewn throughout the prophets. Here is Zechariah:

    “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the LORD. “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”

    God’s claim on someone as “His own” is relational; it is salvific.

    So for God to claim Abraham’s seed as His people, for the sake of Abraham, is to say that He extends salvation to Abe’s descendants for the sake of Abraham.

    This is obviously not a *sufficient* condition for salvation. Nor is it a *necessary* condition for salvation — after all, “the nations” will become His people. But it is a *contributing factor* to election, and that’s contained in the covenant promise to “be a God to your descendants after you.”

    More could be said here. Paul links the promise to be their God to the need for justification and federal headship in Galatians 3.

    Let’s talk numbers. You’ve argued, correctly, that we can’t measure the effect of family lineage on election directly, because we can’t see how many people are actually saved.

    This is true. But there are two ways to skin the mathematical cat here. We *do* know that all who are believers will (normally) participate in Christ’s church. So it’s safe to say that those outside the church are for the most part outside of Christ also.

    So if we measure those outside the church and compare their parentage, we then have a measure for

    ~Xian –> ~from a Xian family, which then allows us to indirectly measure the effect

    from a Xian family –> Xian

    (as a statistical likelihood *only*).

    Jeff Cagle

  52. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    P.S. I’ll think more about Jer. 7 and return to it later.

  53. Gabe Martini said,

    March 16, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    “Why do PC-ists object to this view that one must be able to examine themselves, grasp the culpability of their sins and the work of Christ for redemption, and be capable of exercising their faith before taking communion?”

    I would say, briefly, that to “take and eat” IS the act of faith, and that NO ONE is capable of “truly” discerning the breadth and depth of what occurs during Communion. It is beyond us to comprehend these things with any fullness, which is why they’re a mystery. The point is faith and looking to Christ, not myself and my “unworthiness”… We look to Christ with hope and faith, not fear and doubt.

    “Do PC-ists believe that there is no distinction between the sign (the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper) and the thing signified – since they are one and the same?”

    I think “sign” and “thing signified” discussions are over-the-top in the theoretical or abstract realm of thought. Nothing to be gained by delving into these issues with any detail. Communion IS WHAT IT IS; i.e., we partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ to our salvation through the faithful taking and eating/drinking of it. Of COURSE it is through the work of the Holy Spirit and by faith.

    “Do PC-ists believe that the Lord’s Supper offers a different grace than the Word of God, such that unless infants and small children receive the Lord’s Supper, they are being starved of grace?”

    They aren’t necessarily being starved of grace or damned, but they ARE being effectively cut-off and excommunicated. In other words, they’re being TAUGHT that they’re outside of the Church or outside of Christ, rather than being taught from birth to trust in Christ and place their faith in him and his work completely, whether through prayer, worship, the Word, or Sacraments. They’re being TAUGHT to doubt their salvation, to EXPECT a “conversion experience,” to feel OUTSIDE of God’s people, when no sane Reformed person would view their children so harshly, but through credo-communion we treat them and teach them in such a (in my opinion) deplorable way. We foster unbelief in this, I believe.

    “Do PC-ists believe that God’s grace is conveyed through the sacraments ex opere operato – by the act performed?”

    Again, this is a little too theoretical and abstract for me. I don’t even know how to respond to this… I don’t think Communion “conveys” a “thing” called “grace.” In Communion we are — by faith — identifying ourselves with Christ, his work, and his people. Period. It is that simple. Either you’re part of his people — the Church — or you aren’t, as far as we’re concerned. God’s point of view is never — and can never — be discerned or known by us, save for what he has written in his word, and his word tells us to take and eat, and to believe in him from the womb or from our mother’s breast. We are to be raised as faithful people of his covenant if we’re graced enough to be born into a Christian family. We should celebrate this, not shy away from it and attempt to convince our children that they need an “added,” extra-Biblical “experience” to become TRULY Christian or TRULY part of the REAL Church that is “invisible.” Again, this fosters unbelief and doubt, in my opinion, NOT child-like faith which is to be our STANDARD BEARER, per Jesus.

    Just some brief thoughts.

    Take care.

  54. Gabe Martini said,

    March 16, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    I must have mis-read you. My bad.

  55. Rich Hamlin said,

    March 16, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    David G.,
    Your assertion is that the assumption of symmetry btw. the Lord’s Supper & Baptism is a wrong one. You then bring two points to support this view, but neither of these show any asymmetry.

  56. Vern Crisler said,

    March 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    David, I don’t think the selection you cite proves anything one way or another. In addition, it reemphasizes the sheer stupidy of the Belgic confession on one point, namely that we eat Christ’s “natural” body. Nonsense.

    Vern

  57. David Gadbois said,

    March 16, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Guys, you are both going to have to do way better than this by way of response. Try something a tad more compelling than bare assertion.

    Rich, you don’t even follow the structure of my argument. The latter two points were intended as separate points from my charge of rationalism, not as supporting points.

    And, indeed, it is a driving assumption on the paedocom side that such symmetry exists. My point is that it is rationalistic to simply *assume* it (as great heaps and mountains of their rhetoric do) rather than to find warrant for this proposition in Scripture.

  58. David Gray said,

    March 17, 2009 at 4:24 am

    Yes, we are so brilliant we can recognize the “stupidity” of the Reformed confessions. A lot Baptistic thought it still brought to the table.

  59. Ron Henzel said,

    March 17, 2009 at 4:44 am

    Vern,

    That is a very unfairly distorted reading of BC35. Pray tell, how did you arrive at it?

  60. David Weiner said,

    March 17, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Jeff,

    This is a tough one. For although we see much of this similarly; yet there is a thread of difference that runs throughout the discussion. Anyway, I believe I am trying to hear you so that if I am wrong I can correct the error. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

    You mention Romans 11. We have touched on this before and I know we agree on much of what is there. It just seems to me that as the idea of the children of believers is brought in we are saying that we really do have an idea of how God chooses. For example you say “But it is a *contributing factor* to election.” But, Paul says: “How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (By the way, I just hate it when somebody throws a Bible verse at me to prove some point!!!) So, do we really know that ‘family’ is a criterion that God uses to select my daughter Jane and not my reprobate neighbor’s daughter, Janice?

    If we take “God does not desire that any should be lost” out of context we can easily get to universalism. But, thankfully, neither you nor I has done that. We both believe that all the promises regarding salvation are only to those who are elect. We can call these the believing remnant (a perfectly good Biblical term) if we wish; but, why not just call them by the simpler term. Well, because it lets us move into the sphere of the ‘family.’ Let me hasten to say that I am not criticizing; I just see it as a snare.

    But in fact, it (“be your God”) is specifically salvific.

    We agree on this when the caveat is included that it only applies to the elect members of the larger group being addressed. But, in the case of Genesis 17:1-11 I can see no such caveat. What do you see there that I am missing? A circumcised male and his family were included in the covenant blessings regardless of his being ‘reprobate.’ He did not have to be elect to get in. And, he and his family also shared in the judgments when the nation was disobedient. Nevertheless, the blessings of the covenant did not include salvation; at least I don’t see it in Gen 17.

    God’s claim on someone as “His own” is relational; it is salvific.

    So for God to claim Abraham’s seed as His people, for the sake of Abraham, is to say that He extends salvation to Abe’s descendants for the sake of Abraham.

    This is obviously not a *sufficient* condition for salvation.

    This is where I really get confused. Yes, we can both see that it is not a sufficient condition. We know that there are those who, before salvation, do not have this familial connection to Abraham. What, then, is the support for saying that it is a condition at all? And, by the way, aren’t we talking about conditions for election and not salvation.

    TO THE NUMBERS:
    First, I have no numbers; only impressions. So, none of the following statements ought to be taken as precise.
    First I think this is your argument:
    1. Christians are in church.
    2. Churches have families as members.
    3. Families bring their children to church.
    4. Children in church are saved.
    Thus, children of believers are more likely to become Christian than children of the reprobate.

    Let me add some thoughts:
    1. In addition to saved families there are also reprobate families in church.
    2. In addition to families there are also single people in church.
    3. All Christians are children of somebody.
    I am the child of reprobate parents and I am in church without saved children there too. (Too old to be considered a child but a child nevertheless.) As a statistic of one, I conclude I can’t prove the thesis by logic that God has an election bias toward the children of believers. Sorry if I am just being dense.

    ps. Are you taking the Zechariah passage you quoted as applying, at least in some sense, to today?

  61. Reformed Sinner said,

    March 17, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Vern,

    I take it you have a problem with this passage: “Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what is eaten is Christ’s own natural body and what is drunk is his own blood– but the manner in which we eat it is not by the mouth but by the Spirit, through faith.”

    I’m pretty sure the whole context denies the Transubstantiation understanding of Aquinas. Rather, it seeks to be faithful to the Biblical text when Jesus says: “This is my body…” and “This is my blood…”, Jesus is not making a metaphor there no matter how you try to slice it. In which, I think the BC makes a very good explanation to balancing this with the Spiritual fulfillment of Christian life through “eating and drinking” Christ as we eat and drink earthly food for our physical body.

    Not sure why you are so upset here.

  62. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    But, in the case of Genesis 17:1-11 I can see no such caveat. What do you see there that I am missing?

    Actually, I would interpret Gen. 17 in the context of the rest of Genesis. Having given the promise to “the descendants of Abraham”, we promptly have examples of descendants of Abraham who do not receive the promise, for whom God is not their God: Ishmael and Esau.

    Likewise, the Law provided that anyone who disobeyed the Law flagrantly in various ways was “cut off” from his people.

    So whatever Gen 17 means, it does *not* mean “to every single one of your descendants without exception.”

    So the caveat that you desire is present; it just goes unstated in Gen 17 (but illustrated in the rest of Gen and indeed the OT).

    That being the case, your argument has run

    (1) There is no caveat, so
    (2) Gen 17 applies to all descendants of Abe regardless of election, so
    (3) Gen 17 is referring to temporal blessings.

    We can see from the example of Esau and others that (2) is false; so (1) must not imply (2), and (3) does not follow.

    Does that make sense?

    Jeff Cagle

  63. Stephen Welch said,

    March 17, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    There may be individual Anglicans or Lutherans that hold to infant communion, but my point was that this is not standard practice. The confessions and articles of faith do not teach such a doctrine. Generally in these two groups one is either confirmed or admitted to the table after instruction. In Lutheranism children are catechized and instructed before approaching the table of the Lord.

  64. Andrew said,

    March 17, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    David,

    Interesting points. I would suggest a response like this:

    i) Rationalistic assumption

    The assumption is not Baptism, therefore Lord’s Supper, but church membership therefore inclusion in the activities of the church (unless there is good reson otherwise). You may have good reasons otherwise, but surely the expectation of inclusion is not unreasonable?

    ii) The necessity of faith

    a) The point, and the BC is spot on, but not really relevant. We agree this is how it works with an adult – this does not prove that something cannot happen with the mentally inactive.

    You agree that justification by faith is true; you do not, I presume, deny the possibility of justification to infants.

    You would, presumably, not deny that the same thing could be said of the adult believer in baptism – that it is an act of faith, looks to Christ, etc. Yet that is not a bar to infant baptism. (I am not arguing a correspondance between baptism and the Supper, merely citing baptism as an example of how the abilites of the recipients of a sacrament can vary).

    The WCOF teaches the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the time it is administered – might we not say the same of communion – that the child can look back in faith to his being fed by Christ from earliest infancy?

    Also, the assumptions we are making assumes a very individualistic approach – me and Jesus. And while this is important is is far from the only thing. We partake as part of the body, communing with each other. I cor 10-11 specifically highlights this aspect of communion. Paedocommunion at the very least would have a point because it would:

    a) teach the rest of the congregation that we approach as a congregation, not just as indiviuals.

    b) it would testify of grace through and through – even as helpless infants God was working out our salvation.

    And on the matter of superstition, it was the Fourth Latern Council (the same which introduced transtubstantation) would banned paedocommunion, at the same time as denying the cup the the laity. And it was the Hussites who fought (literally) to restore communion to children. A two year old bathed in crumbs sort of removes the ‘magic’ of the thing.

    Necessity of the Word

    As above, really – the fact that it works this way for adults does not prove it must work that way for children.

    As well, the biblical suggestion seems to be that infants have faith (see Paedofaith, by Rich Lusk, or Calvin on ‘seed-faith’).

    I would also add that you arguement would seem do demand that we deny children ever partook of the passover (unless you argue for radical NT discontinuity, which might be difficult to explain to you baptist friend when on that topic). Personally this suggestion seems to me act act of despair. As a matter of interest, does anyone know of any Christian who has understood Exodus in this way in the last 2000 yrs?

    And finally, you have a best established communion for a child on 3-4. Perhaps, if this were the practice, there would be little arguement over extending it a year earlier.

    Hope that sort of makes sense. Kind of condensed for the sake of space and time. In brief, there are several answers we can give as to the point of the Supper which neither fall into Romanism or demand excluding the most vunerable parts of the congregation.

  65. Vern Crisler said,

    March 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Unbelievable. Jesus is not allowed to use metaphor, right? That was Luther’s argument, too, though he used plenty of metaphors in trying to explain his own view. The use of “natural body” is a misuse of language unless it means physical. In fact, the Belgic confession (and Calvin) give us paradox, whereas Jesus himself said his words were not about the flesh.

    I’m not upset, just flabbergasted.

    BTW, David, you are the one making the assertion that the Reformed confessions excluded children from communion. And yet you provided no argument, just a citation that proves nothing.

    Vern

  66. Ron Henzel said,

    March 17, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I think W. Robert Godfrey sums up Calvin’s thinking on this subject in a way that also helps us understand the Belgic Confession:

    How can Christians feed on the body and blood of Christ when Christ is in heaven? Calvin answered that the Spirit of God unites to Christ. Christ did not descend into the bread, but the Spirit lifts the believer up to heaven: “What, then, our mind does not comprehend, let faith conceive: that the Spirit truly unites things separated in space” (4.17.10). For Calvin the Supper is a spiritual communion, not in the sense that Christians commune with a disembodied Christ, but in the sense that by the action of the Spirit they commune with the whole, real Christ.

    ["Calvin, Worship, and the Sacraments," in Hall and Lillback, eds., A Theological Guide to Calvin's Institutes, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 377]

  67. David Weiner said,

    March 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Jeff,

    You are one persistent, saved, brilliant, Biblical scholar. And, you aren’t making this easy for me!

    Does that make sense?

    I sure wish I had a simply answer for that question.

    Regarding the three items you list:

    1) agree. Now there may be another passage that explains this passage as actually having such a caveat. I would welcome your pointing that out to me. But, at this point, I can’t see the caveat here.

    2) Not exactly. There is a covenant defined here. The first part of Genesis 17 leads to the conclusion that it applies to all of the males in Abraham’s line. But, right away in verse 21 God adds the detail about Ishmael not being in the line that falls under this covenant. Of course, it later narrows even further with Jacob.

    Abraham followed the covenant by circumcising Ismael; but, it didn’t matter if Ishmael passed this on to the men under him. Ishmael and his descendants were not included in this covenant. (Aside: would you then conclude that nobody in the line of Ishmael was elect? Doesn’t that lead to the conclusion that no Palestinian Arab has ever been saved? If this is not the case, then what does it actually mean for God to not be one’s God if that person’s descendants can be elect anyway?) Also, nothing that I can find in the Bible says that Ishmael was or was not elect. Nor, can I find where God said that He was not Ishmael’s God. Certainly, God blessed him greatly after this point in time.

    3) agree.

    So, based on this, (1), (2), and (3) are fine when we see how God made the addition of the narrowing of the line starting with Ishmael in verse 21. A narrowing that does not tell us who is and who is not elect, however, among the physical descendants of Abraham. And, by the way, how was it that Abraham was saved in Genesis 15:6 without this covenant being in place?

    I guess what it comes down to is that you interpret ‘covenant’ and ‘to be God to you’ in Genesis 17 as referring to salvation. Even though we can agree that Genesis 17 does not have the words to spell out election, you believe it is really talking at a deeper level about election and salvation? Without a parallel passage that makes this clear it is left up to the cleverness of the interpreter to read the passage as broadly as he/she may desire. I guess I am just not sufficiently clever.

  68. David Gadbois said,

    March 17, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Vern said you are the one making the assertion that the Reformed confessions excluded children from communion. And yet you provided no argument, just a citation that proves nothing.

    I think most folks picked up on the problem – infants can’t exercise the faith, which is the necessary mechanism of partaking of Christ in the Supper according to the Belgic.

  69. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 17, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    I’m glad I was able to give you a laugh and a smile, Matt. Most FV folks don’t react that way to my comments. :-)

  70. David Gadbois said,

    March 17, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Chris, “we” all don’t presume that an infant is born again when they are baptized. A perusal of the recent conversations around here on the topic will show a diversity of opinions.

    I don’t believe there is any such thing as faith, in the biblical and confessional sense, that does not have the person and work of Christ as the notitia. When the Bible talks about saving faith, it refers more to an inclination, disposition, or latent faculty. It refers to faith that both knows and trusts in Christ actively. Faith is more than rational, of course, but it is not sub-rational. And Romans 10 asks “how will they believe” in the gospel without someone sent to deliver the preached Word?

  71. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    We may have come to the end of this discourse, though I still owe you an account of Jer 7. Just to clarify one point:

    Aside: would you then conclude that nobody in the line of Ishmael was elect? Doesn’t that lead to the conclusion that no Palestinian Arab has ever been saved?

    No — because a statement about statistics and partial causes is not absolute. In fact, we know from Scripture that a BIG theme in the New Covenant is the inclusion of previously excluded peoples (Eph 2). And the means for that is evangelism.

    So even though I think God’s election is statistically centered around families, I do not by any means exclude the election of those outside of families.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

  72. Vern Crisler said,

    March 17, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    OK David, but by way of reductio, you’d have to be opposed to infant baptism, too, since infants cannot exercise the faith. Baptists can tu quoque you all the way down the line.

    Vern

  73. David Gadbois said,

    March 17, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Not really, since the mode of participation in baptism and its benefits is not the same. There is no Eucharistic presence to ‘receive by faith’ in baptism. The sign of the covenant given in baptism is unilaterally given, whether received willingly or not.

  74. Rich Hamlin said,

    March 17, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Well, if your two separate points don’t show asymmetry, then how can they show that the two sacraments should be applied asymmetrically? Obviously, if the same things can be said of Baptism, then you didn’t prove anything. In fact, you’re right that I would assume symmetry unless Scripture shows otherwise. Additionally, for starters, there is the obvious example of the two most obvious parallels: circumcision & Passover. Scripture refers to both sacraments as applying to the whole visible church. E.g., You are one loaf. It is asymmetry that has to be assumed, or exegeted. Paedocommunionists don’t buy the main-line Reformed reasoning from 1 Cor. 11 as applying to children. Paedocommunists (like myself) do indeed see faith as absolutely necessary to make right use of either sacrament. We also don’t see either sacrament as having its meaning or significance without the underpinning of the preached Word. Both sacraments are for the growth in grace of the believer (and both are used as such in the N.T. writings). The Trinity is present in both.

    We see our children as Christ’s disciples, needing to be trained in God’s ways and to put their faith in Christ as he has revealed himself in his Word and visible Words.

    Obviously, in your mind, these are all mere assertions. However, I’m trying to help you to see why you’re not convincing anyone. You’re not dealing with the assumptions that force us to believe that children should be at the table.

  75. David Gadbois said,

    March 17, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    church membership therefore inclusion in the activities of the church

    “Activities of the church” is too vague. There are many ‘activities of the church’ that do not involve all of the church’s constituent members.

    We agree this is how it works with an adult – this does not prove that something cannot happen with the mentally inactive.

    The whole idea of ‘feeding’ on Christ implies active and willing participation. We are not force-fed. So if we do not ‘feed’ on Christ by faith in the case of infants, how do they feed on Christ? By eating with the mouth? The Belgic specifically excludes that. How then are they participating? There is no way we can come away from John 6 and the Gospel narratives of the Last Supper and believe that ‘eating and drinking’ is a passive exercise.

    BTW, this also reads an exception into the Belgic where none is mentioned. It does not limit the requirement to adults. It does not qualify its statements on the matter.

    You agree that justification by faith is true; you do not, I presume, deny the possibility of justification to infants.

    I believe in the election of infants who die in infancy, but I don’t believe that infants who live through infancy are justified until they hear the Gospel and come to faith. I see no justification for tinkering with the biblical and Reformed ordo salutis in such speculative and ad hoc ways to prop up overinflated views of covenant children.

    Also, the assumptions we are making assumes a very individualistic approach – me and Jesus

    No it doesn’t. It assumes that the Supper is more than an individual activity, but certainly not less than one either.

    As well, the biblical suggestion seems to be that infants have faith (see Paedofaith, by Rich Lusk, or Calvin on ’seed-faith’).

    You aren’t going to get a lot of fuzzy responses by mentioning Rich Lusk around here. As for Calvin’s ‘seed faith’, even granting that such a latent faculty exists, it does not qualify as the saving faith that the Bible and our confessions define, which includes cognitive knowledge and trust in the person and work of Christ. ‘Seed faith’ lacks notitia.

    I would also add that you arguement would seem do demand that we deny children ever partook of the passover

    We can grant the participation of CHILDREN in the passover without granting the participation of infants in the passover. Also, see Lane’s recent post ‘Children at the Lord’s Table” on the historical issues of the passover.

    Perhaps, if this were the practice, there would be little arguement over extending it a year earlier.

    The space of a year is the difference between being able to at least understand the Apostle’s Creed, internalize it spiritually, and affirm it in a meaningful way and not. Most paedocom churches are satisfied with parents who prod an affirmative answer to ‘you love Jesus, don’t you, Johnny?’; even though they could coax the same answer to ‘you love the Teletubbies, don’t you?’

  76. David Weiner said,

    March 18, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Jeff,

    We may have come to the end of this discourse, . . .

    I guess we have.

    In the past, the fact that we had come to a wall had been clear to me. But, this time I missed it. I was still very interested to know what it means for God ‘to be a God to a people’ as the Bible may explain it and where this might be. Or what it means for ‘God being a God to a people’ as just a partial cause of election? And, all of this in the face of God making it so clear that the only reason he elects somebody is for His own pleasure and glory; no other causes, partial or otherwise, having been revealed to us. So I am a little surprised and disappointed that you have had enough.

    One final point. I hope you were not offended by my attempt at humor regarding quoting Bible verses. I can now see that you might have thought I was referring to what you had done. Actually, I was referring to what I had just done.

  77. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Oh, I’m happy to continue; I misconstrued the “persistent” part. :)

    Ishmael is probably my weakest example because it could be argued that he wasn’t a “genuine” child of Abraham anyways.

    Much more clear is the case of Esau. So I’d like your thoughts about him, as well as those who are “cut off” from their people. These have met the requirements you set out (physical birth, physical sign), and yet they are cut off for a different reason: they don’t believe. So for example, Esau is described in Heb 12.16 as “godless” — not simply that he rejected physical blessings, but he was in unbelief.

    It seems to me, then, that this forces us to conclude that belief is a requirement to properly belong to the covenant. This is made explicit in Romans 2:

    A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. — Rom 2.28-29a

    If we see belief as a requirement, unstated but implied in Gen. 17, then several different features come into focus:

    (1) Why did God reject so many Israelites along the way, even though they were physically descended from Abraham? Unbelief. They didn’t meet the requirement of belonging to the covenant.

    (2) Why did Jesus have to die on the cross for Jews? Because justification is necessary to be a child of God — and Jews as much as Gentiles need justification. One might be tempted to separate the issue of being a child of God and being a child of Abraham, but notice how closely Paul links them in Galatians:

    Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” — Gal. 3.6-8

    and again,

    You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. — Gal. 3.26-29

    and also Ezekiel:

    “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman’s monthly uncleanness in my sight. So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the LORD’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.

    “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.

    ” ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezek. 36.18ff

    Notice how closely Ezekiel links “being righteous” with “being God’s people.” For Ezekiel, salvation is necessary in order to be God’s people.

    Even the promise to the physical descendants of Abe in Romans 11 is still conditioned on faith: “And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”

    BUT

    The only problem with my analysis is that it creates a puzzle: If faith is a condition for properly belonging to God’s covenant, then why were unbelieving physical descendants allowed to remain in the land and make such a mess of things? Doesn’t that prove that even lousy unbelieving physical descendants were “God’s people”?

    And it turns out that the answer is No, because God was extending patience towards those not his people (see Hos. 1.9) for the sake of the remnant. Just as the tares are kept in the world and the church for the sake of the wheat, so also the unbelieving Israelites were suffered for a time, NOT because they were “God’s people” in reality, but because they were the community in which the remnant lived. And when the time came, God rooted them out according to the consistent word of the prophets.

    Additionally, there was a distinction between “God’s people in reality” — what God saw — and “God’s people in the eyes of men” — what men were able to see.

    The latter set was large, and depended on outward signs like circumcision and adherence to the law. The former set was smaller and depended on genuine faith.

    So the puzzle is solved by appeal to two ideas:

    (1) God’s patience means that He suffers those not His people to live as if His people, and
    (2) “God’s people” according to sight are different from “God’s people” according to reality.

    Jeff Cagle

  78. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 8:00 am

    So following up, I think Jer. 7 is of a piece with what I’ve analyzed above.

    Why does God provide this warning to them? Because He is patient. Why does God threaten to bring an end to them (vv. 32-34)? Because they are not meeting the condition of faith. Why will they not listen (vv. 27-28)? Because they are not elect.

    Being kicked out of the land is a loss of physical blessing, but it is not merely a loss of physical blessing — it is a symbol that God is not their God; that they are damned.

    Jeff Cagle

  79. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 8:02 am

    So just for clarity:

    Vern, do I understand correctly that you believe in infant baptism, but take a more Zwinglian view of communion?

  80. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I would also add that you arguement would seem do demand that we deny children ever partook of the passover … As a matter of interest, does anyone know of any Christian who has understood Exodus in this way in the last 2000 yrs?

    Yes. John Murray argues in “On Christian Baptism” that the wording of Ex. 12.26 indicates that the children did not participate (placing weight on “you” over against “we”).

    I’ve seen the argument somewhere else from an earlier source, so I don’t think it was original to Murray.

    Jeff Cagle

  81. Vern Crisler said,

    March 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Hi Jeff,

    Yes. But as I said, the NT doesn’t elevate these issues to the level of importance that some Christians ascribe to them. In fact, the NT hardly discusses them at all. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for us.

    Vern

  82. Reformed Sinner said,

    March 18, 2009 at 11:13 am

    That’s helpful (knowing you take a Zwinglian view of communion) and why you’re hostile to the phrase “natural” ascribed to communion. I thought Calvin was pretty clear already, but then again you do take the Zwinglian view so… Anyway, not here to debate you, just wondering why you’re so hostitle to BC 35.

  83. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 11:17 am

    It’s interesting to me that Protestant divisions have occurred almost entirely over two issues: (Non)freedom of the Will, and sacraments.

  84. David Weiner said,

    March 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Jeff,

    I’m happy to move away from Ishmael and on to Esau. Though, I’ll have to do some refreshing; for at the moment, I am very fuzzy on the details.

    In the mean time, I’d like to just respond (with no proof) to where you ended.

    So the puzzle is solved by appeal to two ideas:

    (1) God’s patience means that He suffers those not His people to live as if His people, and
    (2) “God’s people” according to sight are different from “God’s people” according to reality.

    Great jumping off point! Great solution to the puzzle. The trouble is that I feel a thesis length response bubbling up; not good!

    It seems to me that Gen 17 describes a group of people who are called God’s people. And, God says that they will get a bunch of blessings if they only circumcise, an activity that did not require any faith. I know, a statistically invalid single data point, that when I was circumcised my parents were simply following a tradition. As I have said, they were reprobate. I don’t know how to describe what is Gen 17 other than temporal blessings in response to a ‘work.’ I simply don’t see any reference to eternal things or faith, for example. On the other hand, it seems offensive to talk about God’s people being reprobate. And, we know that Abraham’s offspring included a fair share of reprobates.

    For me, the solution is to see that there are different covenants. And, the definition of ‘God’s people’ is used to identify the group in question and not to give an absolute definition. The Abrahamic Covenant is not the same as the New Covenant; the people referenced in each covenant are not the same people, although there is some overlap in a Venn diagram sense.

    Now, since Adam, all people are “lousy unbelieving physical descendants.” None have faith; none are righteous; none are God’s people in the sense of having first been declared righteous. All will sin (leaving out the infants for a moment) and deserve eternal separation from God.

    Nevertheless, God tells us that He has elected some for His good pleasure and glory to salvation. This election has nothing whatsoever to do with faith in Jesus Christ. It is ‘salvation’ that depends on ‘election’ and its instrumentality is faith. In fact, I make the bold statement that we humans have absolutely no idea what this election depends on other than God, Himself. Yes, we can try to look at the situation as it presents itself to us and infer (statistics) what we think has been going on; but, it has to be just speculation. For, God has not revealed it to us and that must mean (at least to me) that we aren’t supposed to be trying to figure it out in our own wisdom.

    So, when we look at all of the bizarre things that have transpired (regarding Israel, for example) we try to make sense out of the data. And, we try to figure out why He did this or why he waited to do that or why He didn’t do the other, etc. The answer is right there. He was in control of all of it and He did what would give Him the most glory and it didn’t depend on what any of us might choose.

    Sorry for the sermon. Just got carried away. Back to Esau.

    OK, Esau does not remind me of anybody in my church. God’s dealings with him and his descendants seem to be consistent with a lack of his election. As you say, he would have seemed to have met the requirements I listed. Yet, not so. In the same way that Ishmael seemed to meet the requirements we find God telling us later that he didn’t. Why? Because this has to do with the Abrahamic Covenant and not the New Covenant and God chose Isaac for the line leading to the Savior. In the case of Esau, God chose Jacob, a scoundrel. We have no idea why. What we have is that God hated Esau. What in the world does that mean? I, for one, have no idea; but, I do know it had nothing to do with what he had already done or, in fact, would ever do. If Esau had accompanied his parents to church wouldn’t we have said that there was a higher probability of his being saved than some other kid who wasn’t in church. Actually, in his case, the probability was zero. We just would have gotten it wrong in his case. But, as you have pointed out, that is the nature of statistics when brought to a specific case.

    Both of these men fit the description of ‘God’s People’ if the definition covers those belonging to the larger group because of physicality and also circumcision. Certainly not if we include election in the definition. But, we don’t know who is elected. So, were there others in Israel who were circumcised and in the line of Isaac and Jacob and not elect. I would venture to say YES. Are there those in the church today who also fit this ‘sort’ of description? YES.

    When Paul talks about the real ‘Jew’ he is simply making this point. God created the Jews, all of them. But, He did not elect all of them. Same for the gentiles. The one’s He did elect, Paul calls the ‘inward’ Jew or the spiritual child of Abraham. These are just different ways of describing the elect. And, this does not depend on parentage; it depends on God’s sovereign choice.

    The Ezekiel passage you quoted makes no mention of faith. It is all about what God is going to do. And, He gives no reasons or requirements for the people He is going to save other than His displaying His glory and holy Name.

    I think we are converging?

  85. Reformed Sinner said,

    March 18, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    In other words the fundamental division is in our understanding of the Gospel and how it applies in our lives.

    If your tone suggests Protestants are fighting needless battles then I disagree. Just this past sunday we invited a guest speak that spoke about how “if you don’t try to obey God, you will lose your election and no longer in God’s grace. Therefore try to be good Christians.” Immediately 5 families came up to me afterwards and voice their fear that they no longer find the Gospel comforting but burdensome and they fear that one day they will lose it all if they “make a mistake at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

  86. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    How about “tragic battles” rather than “needless battles”?

  87. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Just want to be clear on one point that we seem to agree about: election is not caused by faith. That is, God does not look down the corridor of time and see who will believe, and then choose them in response.

    Rather, faith is an inevitable result of election.

    As such, it is therefore a *necessary condition* for being a part of God’s people, a way to measure who belongs and who does not. All who have faith are children of Abraham; all who do not, are not.

    But the language of necessary condition does not imply causation in any way. By saying “God’s covenant is conditioned on faith”, I am not saying “being elect is caused by faith.” Rather, I am saying that without faith, one cannot participate in the covenant.

    Jeff Cagle

  88. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 18, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I wouldn’t consider myself hostile to the BC, just opposed. Considering the matter historically, it must be understood that the question of physicality had dominated the entire matter for nearly 800 years by the time of the Reformation. While the Reformers were able to recover a great deal, they did not recover everything–they were still men of their time who brough to the table a certain set of terminology and categories. That is what I see in the Reformed and post-Reformed positions and considerations on the Supper. I’m not convinced that the main point of the Supper is the body per se (i.e., the actual skin and muscle tissue) or blood per se (i.e., the red blood cells, hemoglobin, et al.).

    It seems to me that we need to more thoroughly re-read the issue of the Supper in light of covenant participation, speech-act understanding, etc. This is what Leithart’s book does so well (I don’t know if David VanDrunen at WSC still recommends it, but he did when I was there): he points out that the conversation has been about the elements (i.e., the bread and wine), but that the Supper is more than that–it is about people doing something. That, in fact, was the issue at Corinth, not the relation of the blood to the wine: the problem was that the ritual was being done in a way that denied the unity of the body and thus the sacrifice that was made for that body to be one (cf. Eph. 2:11-22).

    Thus, we still need to shake off the medieval near-sightedness that focuses just on the substances and look at the actions that are involved, which means our reflection needs to go beyond the confessions.

  89. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    It seems to me that Gen 17 describes a group of people who are called God’s people. And, God says that they will get a bunch of blessings if they only circumcise, an activity that did not require any faith … I don’t know how to describe what is Gen 17 other than temporal blessings in response to a ‘work.’ I simply don’t see any reference to eternal things or faith, for example.

    Well, I guess I have several questions:

    (1) What do you make of Gen. 15.6, both in terms of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 15 and 17 are the same covenant, yes?), and in terms of its central place in the theology of justification?

    For my part, I understand Abe to be receiving the covenant promises by faith.

    (2) Why are those blessings subsequently yanked for circumcised people who disobey the law?

    (3) How did foreign women, such as Ruth, come to be a part of the covenant people?

  90. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    For me, the solution is to see that there are different covenants. And, the definition of ‘God’s people’ is used to identify the group in question and not to give an absolute definition. The Abrahamic Covenant is not the same as the New Covenant; the people referenced in each covenant are not the same people, although there is some overlap in a Venn diagram sense.

    Yes, this is the core difference: how do we create a mental structure of the diverse ways that God has acted over time? Is it multiple covenants, OR is it one covenant with multiple administrations?

    If we say, “one covenant”, then we have to ask an important question:

    (1 Cov 1) Why does the Scripture speak of an Old and a New covenant?

    On the other, if we say “multiple covenants”, then we have to ask several important questions:

    (MCov 1) Why does the Scripture appear to mingle the covenants so freely?

    * Believers in Christ are said to be “Children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise.”
    * Recipients of the Mosaic Covenant are told that they are being given the land “for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
    * The sign of the Mosaic Covenant is the same as the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.

    and so on.

    (MCov 2) Why are the Gentiles, who formerly were excluded from Israel, now included into Israel:

    Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. — Eph. 2.11-13

    (MCov 3) What is “the promise” that Paul speaks of in multiple places?

    (MCov 4) Why do we see no hint in the New Testament of separate covenants each running their course throughout history?

    Jeff Cagle

  91. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 18, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    So, if elect infants dying in infancy are saved, they must be justified, right? And if they are justified, they must be justified by faith? But, you have defined saving/justifying faith as including notitia…so, either the infant’s faith does not save (and they are saved by something else), or else saving faith does not categorically require notitia…And notice I say “categorically” (“without exceptions or conditions”): faith requires whatever notitia is proper to the maturity of the one exercising the faith.

    On a related note, what do we do with senile adults? The mother of a friend of mine was a faithful Christian for most of her adult life, but now she can’t understand the Bible, nor can she understand intellectually the preached Word. Has she lost her salvation? Should the church treat her as one who has? If we do not permit her communion, then we are treating her as if she is under discipline, as if she is apart from Christ. But she does not meet the intellectualist’s requirements for an active faith…

    A couple of issues might come up with this:
    1) You might call it an appeal to pity, the fallacy made by documentary film-makers, who take one story that evokes pathos and use it as an argument for a whole policy. My response would be that I am offering an example of an entire category which we have to deal with in the church, so I can generalize the question: what do we do with anyone who has lived as a faithful Christian, yet now is cognitively incapable of a high level of intellectual activity? We cannot ignore the actual people of God in order to make our theology fit. In the same way that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, the Supper was given for God’s people, not the people for the Supper. That means that we must consider all types of saints and how our particular constructions or applications of doctrine affect them.

    2) You might say that her life of faith is evidence of true and saving faith, so that we should still admit her on the basis of that. Fine, just so long as we’re clear that that requires us to modify the criterion: a participant in the Supper does not have to have present evidence of the ability for notitia at the time they are receiving the Supper (if there are mitigating circumstances that impair them).

  92. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    I’m not sure how the assumption is rationalistic. It might be mistaken, but I’m not sure how this assumption of symmetry indicates “the doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth.”

    And I’m not sure they do simply assume it: they argue from the analogy of the Passover, or from the natual analogy of the human family and the nature of food–all of which may be faulty arguments, but aren’t rationalistic.

  93. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 18, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I’m curious, David, what you consider to be the force of Acts 2:39. It seems to me to indicate God revealing that His promise–which I take to be of eternal life–is for the children of those who believe. Now, certainly His unconstrained election is the decretal source of that promise. The promise is granted only to the elect…but we are specifically told here that that has something to do with the children of believers. Perhaps we shouldn’t call it a condition of election, but the way God’s election works, which we know because He has said so.

  94. David Weiner said,

    March 18, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Jeff,

    Just want to be clear on one point that we seem to agree about: election is not caused by faith.

    Absolute agreement.

    As such, it (faith) is therefore a *necessary condition* for being a part of God’s people,

    I am still troubled here; but, I think it is just semantics and not substance.

    Being one of God’s people, in Genesis 17, seems to only require a relationship with Abraham and obedience to circumcision. Faith is not mentioned as part of the requirement. Then we get to the Mosaic Covenant (Jeremiah 7:23, for example) and the stated requirement of obedience is expanded quite a bit. But, again, faith is not mentioned. We get to the NT and faith is center stage.

    However, we know that a reprobate is not going to obey God and thus can not be called one of God’s people. Through the instrumentality of faith they receive the declaration of righteousness and are then one of God’s people. And, of course this won’t happen unless they were one of the elect. So, I think you have finally gotten through to me!

    My summary: God talks to people as if they can do what He requires of them to be one of His and warns them of the consequences of not following through. But, until and unless He specifically changes a person, and He only does that for the elected, then they can not become one of His.

    I think we agree on who are God’s people.

  95. David Weiner said,

    March 18, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Jeff,

    Well, I guess I have several questions:

    (1) What do you make of Gen. 15.6, both in terms of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 15 and 17 are the same covenant, yes?), and in terms of its central place in the theology of justification?

    God gave Abraham saving faith. Through his faith in God, Abraham was declared righteous (Justified). Yes, I think Gen 15 and 17 are talking about the same covenant. Gen 15:6 is not part of the Abrahamic Covenant, though. Only because Abraham was justified (v15:6) could he fulfill his part of the covenant (obedience). And, of course, we know that it was Jesus who actually fulfilled that obedience for Abraham. For all that Abraham could do in his humanity vis-a-vis obedience would not be good enough to merit the promises of the covenant.

    (2) Why are those blessings subsequently yanked for circumcised people who disobey the law?

    The blessings required total obedience and only the justified ones could do this (through Jesus). I fully agree with you now that just because God delayed judgment, should not lead us to believe that He was blessing the Israelites for being His people. There were probably some that He saved; but, most were reprobate, their punishment was just being delayed, and they were not ever God’s people.

    (3) How did foreign women, such as Ruth, come to be a part of the covenant people?

    She was elect, etc. etc.

  96. David Weiner said,

    March 18, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Jeff,

    Is it multiple covenants, OR is it one covenant with multiple administrations?

    After Adam all are reprobate, separated from God. I can say with you that there is one covenant that deals with how all people of all ages can move from reprobate to justified. However, I would not call this the New Covenant of Ezekiel 31.

    (1 Cov 1) Why does the Scripture speak of an Old and a New covenant?

    I don’t know why; but, I do see several (more than two) separate covenants described and named as such. The stipulations of all of these are just different. However, if one were to fulfill their part of each of these, then they would have had to have first been declared righteous.

    (MCov 1) Why does the Scripture appear to mingle the covenants so freely?

    The context of each particular passage leads to the identification of the specific covenant (or administration) that is in view. Yes, there are differences in details between them; but, there are also a lot of similarities, particularly vis-a-vis our part in all of the covenants. So, we see the word ‘promise’ repeated over and over again and can conclude that there is one promise in view. And, in the sense of salvation, there is one promise. But, at another level of detail there are many different promises.

    (MCov 2) Why are the Gentiles, who formerly were excluded from Israel, now included into Israel:

    You quote Ephesians 2:11-13 with this question. In that passage I see that the gentiles had been excluded from citizenship in Israel and that the gentiles have now been brought near (to what?). But, it does not say that the gentiles were now included in Israel.

    (MCov 3) What is “the promise” that Paul speaks of in multiple places?

    I’d have to take them one by one to answer this.

    (MCov 4) Why do we see no hint in the New Testament of separate covenants each running their course throughout history?

    But, I do see that. Yes, there is one program of God glorifying Himself and redeeming fallen man. But, He has chosen to do this in different ways with different sets of people. If one were to see only one ‘people of God’ in Scripture, then it would be easy to see only one covenant. Again, all the covenants have Jesus as THE essential ingredient and so it is not that hard to see them blurred into each other. I know this is a significant gulf between us. Let me just ask this: In the OT, were the saved people indwelt by the Holy Spirit? In the NT, are the saved people indwelt by the Holy Spirit? Is that not a difference worth dwelling on?

  97. David Weiner said,

    March 18, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Joshua,

    Regarding Acts 2:39 you say:

    . . . His promise–which I take to be of eternal life–is for the children of those who believe.

    I agree with you that the promise is eternal life. What I can not understand is why so many people seem to stop reading the verse after the word ‘children.’ The whole verse is: “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

    So, yes, the promise is for the ones standing there, their children, and ALSO all the rest of humanity who are then not in possession of eternal life. BUT, even this is not enough for there is a proviso stipulated right after this list. The promise is for all these people, provided that God calls them individually. And, He is only going to do that for the elect.

    Also, you say that the promise is for the children of believers. Nowhere in the verse do I see any believers. The promise is for ‘you’ etc. Well, if the ‘you’ are already believers then why are they being promised eternal life? Sorry, but I just can’t see that the verse stresses children, let alone children of believers.

  98. Vern Crisler said,

    March 18, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Right Joshua, though I’m no fan of Leithart. It seems that medievalism is still a problem in Reformed thinking, and not just with FVists.

    For a long time Christians have excluded one another on the basis of issues that the New Testament hardly talks about. Yet at the same time, Reformed teachers could deny major portions of the Bible (Genesis) and no one bats an eye.

    Go figure.

    Vern

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    JRC: Why does the Scripture appear to mingle the covenants so freely?

    DW: The context of each particular passage leads to the identification of the specific covenant (or administration) that is in view.

    I was asking a different question. Not, “Why are the covenants so similar?”, but “Why are the covenants entangled with each other?”

    Looking at the passages we’ve already considered:

    * Paul appears to give the status of Child of Abraham to believers in Christ. Membership in one covenant grants membership in another.

    * Likewise, membership in the Abrahamic Covenant granted membership in the Mosaic Covenant. With the same sign, even.

    And so on.

    So it’s not that the covenants are similar, but we can use context to sort out which one is in view. Not at all. Instead, Scripture appears to confound our desire to separate the covenants by splicing them together, granting membership in one by virtue of another.

    You quote Ephesians 2:11-13 with this question. In that passage I see that the gentiles had been excluded from citizenship in Israel and that the gentiles have now been brought near (to what?). But, it does not say that the gentiles were now included in Israel.

    Hm. Well, suppose you didn’t already have a well-established understanding of covenants, and you read this verse “as if for the first time.”

    Could we reasonably read Paul as saying, “You used to be excluded from the membership of Israel, but now — you still are”? Is it not the “plain meaning” of the text that our status has changed from “not citizens” to “citizens”?

    (3) How did foreign women, such as Ruth, come to be a part of the covenant people?

    She was elect, etc. etc.

    Very true. But I mean, “By what means?” Faith is the means of inclusion into the New Covenant, circumcision into the Abrahamic (in your understanding). So by what means was Ruth included into the Abrahamic Covenant?

    Why do we see no hint in the New Testament of separate covenants each running their course throughout history?

    But, I do see that.

    Well, OK. But where specifically in the NT?

    Let me show my hand on this question. My break with dispensational theology began in the summer of ’93, when I sat down with a friend of mine and we purposed to find specific pre-trib pre-millenial eschatology in the Scripture. We couldn’t do it; both of us reasonably well-read Bible students armed with Strong’s. We both found that pre-trib pre-mill was possible, but nowhere positively affirmed in Scripture.

    I would like to (friendly-ly) challenge the notion of multiple covenants. Let’s clear the table and start from the ground up: where do we see in the Scripture a positive affirmation that the New Covenant is separate from the Abrahamic? Or, is that position an inference only? And if an inference only, then what are the Scriptural grounds for that inference? Are they necessary grounds, or possible grounds? Are there passages that might argue against those grounds?

    Jeff Cagle

  100. Reformed Sinner said,

    March 19, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Vern,

    Interesting. With what you said yet you have no problem bashing the people who believes in the BC or Calvin’s take on the relationship between natural-Spiritual in the communion and calling them foolish right here in this forum.

    So which is it, since you are disproving the Christians who believe in BC/Calvin as “foolish”, and if you believe in that then aren’t you at the same time excluding them? I’m sure you won’t deny them from going to your church, but when the question arises in a church where you preside I take it that you have no problem telling them that they are wrong, which is of course fully within your right and belief.

    My frustration with the common folks understanding of denominationalism is that people assumed divisions are a result of hate and fighting. That is too superficial understanding of the history of the development of the Protestant church. It’s pragmatic and practical to have denominations. It eases infighting and quarrels within the Church. Denominations phenomeon didn’t just happen after the Reformation. From day one the church has been arguing with each other who interpret Jesus’ teachings perfectly right, and although they didn’t officially split, but each local church has their own set of believes and doctrines not unlike our modern day denominational differences, and the universal church leadership (made up by heads of various churches) tolerated the uniqueness of expressions of local churches as long as they don’t go over to heretical teachings. Alexandrian Christians were not forced to say 100% the same thing as Antioch Christians and in turn they don’t say 100% of the same thing as Greek-speaking Christians, Latin, Syriac, Arabia, etc. They are not denominations by name, but they are denominations in category with many minor differences on Salvation, Church piety, Christian Life, miracles and miraculous gifts, etc. In depth look at the church in any generation will realize modern day denominalism is nothing new, but merely the new expression of the same categorical problem of differences shared and preferred by Christians since the beginning of Church Age.

  101. David Gadbois said,

    March 19, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Rich said Well, if your two separate points don’t show asymmetry, then how can they show that the two sacraments should be applied asymmetrically?

    The point is that in doctrine and exegesis you don’t get to assume either way. You don’t get to ‘start’ by putting the burden of proof on the other side.

    Scripture refers to both sacraments as applying to the whole visible church

    That isn’t a given. If you’ve perused Greenbaggins, you would know that the historical case regarding the passover is not a slam dunk either way. See Lane’s recent posts.

    Paedocommunists (like myself) do indeed see faith as absolutely necessary to make right use of either sacrament.

    But this requires the acceptance of an ac hoc doctrine of seed faith. But biblical faith is not devoid of the notitia of the Gospel.

  102. Reformed Sinner said,

    March 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I am not a Reformed-fighter in any sense, and I don’t share some people’s celebration of “Reformed Militant” attitude as if that’s a virtue for all times instead of a necessity burden for men at critical times.

    However, I appreciate theological discussions (battles if you want.) They sharpen our understanding of God’s Word and remind us we are far from perfect.

    Even if you believe in Zwingli’s take on communion. Obvious Zwingli was offended by the teaching of communion by others, offended enough that he took the time to spend a lot of time to study the Scripture, formulate his ideas, defends them, teaches them, and bash others on them. If he simply took the attitude some of us think is the “preferred way”, avoid any tragic or needless battles, then we wouldn’t get Zwingli’s thoughtful challenges and questions against Luther or Calvin’s take. As a result we also wouldn’t get Luther and Calvin’s to pour so much energy to answer Zwingli’s challenges and their wonderful insights on communion.

    Like it or not, the reason we can all sit here and enjoy the fruits of the Reformed giants on the theology of communion: no matter if you prefer Luther’s view or Calvin’s view or Zwingli’s view, is because many years ago these three men “fought a needless battle”

    Enjoy the fruits, but don’t criticize the method the fruits is bore from. It won’t be this tasty without many people in the past taking the issues very seriously and personally.

  103. David Gadbois said,

    March 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Josh, in this context “rationalism” would mean giving logical induction priority over exegesis. There is something about symmetry that gives logicians warm warm fuzzies – nice, clean, balanced logical categories. Better yet, if it shifts the burden of proof.

  104. David Gadbois said,

    March 19, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Josh said And if they are justified, they must be justified by faith? But, you have defined saving/justifying faith as including notitia…so, either the infant’s faith does not save (and they are saved by something else),

    Indeed. That ‘something else’ is the divine pleasure and promise of God, operating without mediating agency or instrument.

    On a related note, what do we do with senile adults?

    http://auxesis.net/polity/administration_of_the_lords_supper_to_shut-ins.php

    The report (from the fine folks in one of our sister classis) concludes that we should not give the Supper to those who are mentally impaired beyond the ability to express active faith.

    It would be incorrect to say that those who became impaired because of dementia or senility lack or have lost faith, but rather are unable to exercise it. None of us, for that matter, can exercise faith when we are asleep, by way of comparison. We don’t give the Lord’s Supper to people who are asleep, even if we know they are believers who have true faith. So we would treat the mentally impaired the same way we would, say, treat someone in a coma.

  105. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 19, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I’m confused. I think we’re both confused. I never said “needless.” (as far as I can remember).

    Anyways, the reason I said “tragic” is not because men took issues seriously, but because they sometimes lost sight of the dual task of the church – to preserve unity in the bond of peace, while simultaneously guarding the truth.

    There is a straight line from Luther at Marburg, banging his fist on the table and shouting “You have a different Spirit!”, to the failure of German and Swiss Protestants to present a united front against the Catholics, to the stalemate of the 30-Years’ War, to the Peace of Westphalia, to the secularization of Europe today.

    In God’s providence, Luther and Zwingli’s contention was necessary, but it was also tragic: a triumph of the sin nature that turned vigorous discourse into an occasion for splitting the Church.

    Jeff Cagle

  106. David Weiner said,

    March 19, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Jeff,

    All your posts are superb (I really mean that); but, this one is even better. I would like to just respond to the Ephesians 2 question. It seems easy; and then I will look into the other parts of your comment.

    Is it not the “plain meaning” of the text that our status has changed from “not citizens” to “citizens”?

    What I see here is first a description of the status of a group of people identified as gentiles. What then follows is a description of the status of the individual gentile who has received Christ. It is initially not about individuals; but, rather the group, in contrast to the group of people who were called Israelites (who were just a segment of those who came from Abraham; which is, of course, where the separation began.)

    So what do we learn about the gentiles (before the cross):
    1) you were at that time separate from Christ,
    2) excluded from the commonwealth of Israel,
    3) strangers to the covenants of promise,
    4) having no hope
    5) without God in the world

    And these 5 items are summarized in the passage as their being “formerly far off.” Up to the cross, God had given the nation of Israel lots of promises and information (e.g., the Mosaic Law). He had not given this to all humanity equally. That does not mean that an individual gentile might not have known about the Mosaic Law or may have even tried to keep part of it. It just means that as a group, God had not given these things to them. Of course, each of the 5 items deserves about a book’s worth of explanation (particularly the word ‘covenant’ which as you can see is plural!); but, fortunately for you, I won’t subject you to that pain. (insert smiley face here) But, one thing I have to say about the description: it is not primarily about Israel. Israel is only mentioned as part of the description of the gentile’s pre-cross situation.

    What does the passage say about their current status? Well, first of all it does not say anything about the status of the group. It only addresses the status of the individual saved gentile. And that is that they:

    1) have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

    Brought near to what? What does one get when they are saved? Jesus. Not, a part of Israel, the nation. Does saved Israelites also have Jesus. Of course. That is a similarity; but, it does not erase the differences.

    What do you think about this explanation?

  107. David Weiner said,

    March 19, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Jeff,

    Paul appears to give the status of Child of Abraham to believers in Christ. Membership in one covenant grants membership in another.

    You make two points here and I would like to deal with them in turn.

    Regarding your first statement, let me list the points that seem germane regarding this passage in Galatians 3. Please do not hesitate to point our where I speak in error (I could not be more serious in this request.):
    1) The passage is aimed at the ‘foolish’ Galatians who have been bewitched (led astray?). Paul is writing this to straighten them out. About covenants? Not at all. That is not what the context is about.
    2) The issue is works or faith; how was it that they received salvation?
    3) He chides them for being ‘so foolish.’ You began by the spirit; are you going to finish by works? “Of course, not” is the right answer. Faith is the start and also the finish.
    4) “Hearing with faith” is the specific answer that he gives.
    5) Now, as any good teacher would, he backs it up with a specific example. “Even So” (kathos could also be translated as ‘according as’ or ‘just as’ or ‘even as’) introduces the example of Abraham. Paul uses Abraham as proof that there has never been any other way of salvation than by grace through faith. Paul shows that even the OT teaches justification by faith. (By the way, Paul makes exactly the same argument in Romans 4:1ff. Again, the context in Romans is justification by faith and really is not dealing with covenants.)
    6) Now we get to verse 7 and ‘therefore.’ This is the conclusion that Paul has been building to. “Here’s the punch line you foolish, bewitched Galatians.”
    7) So what does ‘sons’ mean? For, that is the problem, right? So what could huios mean?
    a) immediate (or even more distant) male child (note, not female daughter),
    b) a person of any age (or gender) for whom there is a special relationship of endearment and association,
    c) person of a class or kind (i.e., in this usage ‘like Abraham’ in the sense of sharing some characteristic),
    d) figuratively – one who is a disciple or follower of someone, with the implication of being like the one whom he follows, and
    e) a member of a socio-political group with some presumed ethnic relationship (i.e., in this case with Abraham).

    8) I assume you have no trouble with v9 where Paul reiterates his point and simply says that those who are saved now are blessed ‘with’ ( sun can also mean ‘along with’, ‘in company with’, ‘together with’) Abraham. No ‘familial’ reference here that I can see.

    So, this passage teaches me that gentiles are saved and live by faith and not works just like Abraham. It was that way in the OT and is that way now. These people are being confused by the Jews concerning works vs faith. Paul is trying to get through to them on a very basic and specific issue. He is not trying to make a grand announcement that Israel has now become the church. That’s deep; these people are ‘bewitched’ and ‘foolish’ and not ready for that kind of theology.

    Well, I can see that I will need more work to rightly address your second point. So that will have to wait a few days since I’ll be driving the seniors on a bus trip tomorrow. Enjoy the respite.

  108. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 20, 2009 at 10:44 am

    The flaw in the argument is that it places the burden of proving notitia on one’s communication processes. Unfortunately for this, thought can occur without outward expression — either intuitively or else in mental words.

    Thus, it bars people from the Sacraments *not* because they don’t have notitia, but because they lack the ability to prove that they have notitia.

    I’m not comfortable with that. It presumes “guilt” (metaphorical term — no moral guilt implied) rather than presuming “innocence.”

    Jeff Cagle

  109. Stephen said,

    March 21, 2009 at 6:24 am

    If it is being practiced this is new and violates their own articles and confessional standards.

  110. David Weiner said,

    March 21, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Jeff,

    Membership in one covenant grants membership in another.

    * Likewise, membership in the Abrahamic Covenant granted membership in the Mosaic Covenant. With the same sign, even.

    After much thought about how to address your questions here, it seems to me that starting with ‘membership’ is the best approach. So, here goes.

    According to my reading of Galatians 3:16, the promises were spoken to (made to) Abraham and Jesus. Another way of saying this is that God made the AC with Abraham and Jesus. God, for example, did not make the covenant with the nation of Israel. At this point in the discussion, I don’t see how I could add clarity to the role of God, Abraham, or Jesus by adding a term like ‘membership.’

    As to the content of the covenant, some applied to individuals and some to groups of people. I would say that these individuals/groups were ‘recipients’ of the promises included in the covenant. I can see how the term ‘membership’ could be applied to these recipients; but, again, I don’t see how that clarifies the term recipients (of the covenant promises).

    Another term that enters the discussion is ‘covenant people’ or ‘people of the covenant.’ Again, it seems to me that discussing covenants with regard to a) the people with whom the covenant was made and b) the people who are the recipients of the covenant promises would foster more clarity.

    So, how does one become a type a) or type b) person or group? Only by God specifying their role in a specific covenant. And, that He has done quite well with regard to all of the covenants which He specifically makes in Scripture. Thus, I would have to respectfully disagree with the statement that ‘membership in one covenant granted membership in another.’ That is not to in any way take away from the fact that national Israel was made promises in both the AC and the MC. However, in the AC God made the covenant with Abraham and not national Israel and in the MC God made the covenant with national Israel and not Abraham. Similarities and differences existing without any conflicts.

    You asked about Ruth, I misunderstood the question, and you responded with:

    “By what means?” Faith is the means of inclusion into the New Covenant, circumcision into the Abrahamic (in your understanding). So by what means was Ruth included into the Abrahamic Covenant?

    Ruth became part of a group (national Israel) identified as a recipient of promises in the AC by marrying a member of the group (actually, she did this twice). She also may have been a recipient of the AC blessings promised to ‘all families’ by God giving her saving faith. (Ruth 1:16 may show this; but, I don’t see it specifically spelled out in Scripture.)

    I’d also like to clear up any misunderstanding that I gave you as to how one gains inclusion in the AC. Your statement above shows that I gave the impression that it was circumcision. That would have been an error on my part; circumcision did not gain one entrance to the AC. It was simply a sign of who was included in national Israel (e.g., it was not a sign of the promises involving ‘all the families’). National Israel was, of course, one of the recipients of promises in the AC. I’d like to just point out that circumcision came many years after the institution and a few reaffirmations of the covenant itself.

    Now we get to the real question:

    where do we see in the Scripture a positive affirmation that the New Covenant is separate from the Abrahamic?

    First, I would not say that the NC is ‘separate’ from the AC. What I would say is:
    a) The covenant that we call the NC is specified in Jeremiah 31:31-34. (I certainly don’ t expect any disagreement on this? I do expect disagreement with what follows. (insert sad smiley face))
    b) The NC is made with national Israel. The recipients of the promises of the NC are national Israel.
    c)The foundation of the NC promises is the death (blood) of the Savior. The covenant could not be instituted (even though it was described long before) until Christ died and paid for sin.
    d) Sorry for what I have to say next; but, the church is not now receiving the blessings of the NC. The church is receiving the blessings of the AC (in Abraham, all the families of the earth shall be blessed).
    e) To enable these blessings to flow to all people while Israel still awaits the blessings of the NC, God made a new creation, the church, Jew and Gentile in one body. This body receives those salvific blessings, because of the self same cross as was required to institute the NC, through faith in Jesus. Or, as Ephesians 3:6 says: “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members (with the Jew) of the body (the church), and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus (AC promise to all the families of the earth [which would include the Israelites also!]) through the gospel.

    So, my specific answer to your question is ‘no.’ There is no reason to expect a ‘specific affirmation’ of separation. And, the reasons given above explain why that would not be required. Furthermore, the definitions of each covenant make it clear that they are not the same covenants.

    The church is receiving the blessings of the AC because Jesus has paid the price of sin for ‘all the families of the earth’ and God created a new group, the church, a mystery, to receive these blessings. The new covenant only relates to Israel, although the death was also required for the enactment of that covenant. The fulfillment of the NC will have to wait for the second coming.

    I’ll bet that there are just a few things in the above that you would like to point out as being not Scriptural. I am anxious to see what you have to say.


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