An Introduction to the Paedo Communion Debate

As promised, this is the first installment of the debate on paedo-communion. The book that is to be the basis of our debate is now available, for those who wish to read the chapters for themselves. It may be a little while before Doug has a chance to respond. I am not sure where he is in the reading of the book.

First up are a couple of disclaimers and distinctions (which is, of course, the main business of Reformed theologians, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Hey, where are you all going?). First of all, this debate is not a continuation of the Federal Vision debate that I have concluded with Doug. Paedo-communion is a distinct, though related issue. The reason this disclaimer is important is that there are quite a few proponents of paedo-communion who have nothing to do with the Federal Vision, and there is at least one FV advocate (Steve Schlissel) who does not hold to paedo-communion. We must be clear on this point. The reaction of Reformed denominations is also important to remember here. While the Federal Vision has been repudiated by many denominations, paedo-communion still finds advocacy among some in Reformed denominations, though the practice has not been allowed. The impetus to discipline folks for holding to PC (which is hereafter my abbreviation for paedo-communion) is much less than for FV teachings, since it is generally recognized that, while contrary to the confessions, it is a less serious and central challenge to the confessions than the FV is.

On to Venema’s first chapter, which is an introduction to the question. He starts with noticing the way people put things. His example is the rhetorical question that is the title for Leithart’s book, Daddy, why was I excommunicated? He states that this title is “an answer masquerading as a question” (p. 1). Quite so. I am quite sure that Leithart intended the title to function that way. To Venema’s mind, this raises the question of the basis on which anyone should be allowed to the table. He summarizes the traditional position well:

Therefore, the only thing preventing such children, or any others, from coming to the Table is the absence of an appropriate response to the invitation. All believers who properly answer the “R.S.V.P.” that accompanies the overtures of God’s grace in Christ are welcome to come to the Lord’s Table.

At the beginning of any good book, the author defines his terms. Venema notes the importance of distinguishing between what he calls a “soft” view of PC, which holds that younger members of the covenant may participate upon a credible profession of faith, and a “strict” view, which believes that any child who is physically able to participate may do so.

It seems to me that Venema very fairly states the ultimate and summary argument of PC: “that there is only one basis for admission to the Table of the Lord, namely, membership in the covenant community” (p. 3). However, Venema is not willing to concede to PC the language of “covenant Communion.” This is because the historic view says that those who participate are covenant members. Therefore, “to treat these terms (Venema means ‘covenant communion’ and ‘credo-communion’, LK) as incompatible is another form of ‘begging the question’” (p. 4). With regard to the two distinct positions, Venema asserts that his focus will be on the “strict” view, delineated in the previous paragraph.

The rest of the chapter is a summary of the main lines of argumentation that PC advocates use. I assume that there is no particular order of importance to the number of the arguments (except that Venema seems to have intended to answer them in this order as well). Firstly, there is the historical argument, which says that PC only stopped because of the doctrine of transubstantiation (why have children spill the blood of God?). Secondly, that admission to the covenant is the only necessary basis for admission of children to the covenant. Thirdly, that the connection of the Lord’s Supper with the OT Passover (which supposedly admitted children to it) indicates that the recipients of both ordinances should be the same. Fourthly, a particular exegetical argument regarding 1 Cor 11, which argues that the chapter in question does not forbid children from the Table.

Update: Doug has emailed me saying that we can expect his first post on this subject around Tuesday of next week.

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204 Comments

  1. March 19, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Therefore, the only thing preventing such children, or any others, from coming to the Table is the absence of an appropriate response to the invitation. All believers who properly answer the “R.S.V.P.” that accompanies the overtures of God’s grace in Christ are welcome to come to the Lord’s Table.

    Isn’t this the same way Baptists would reason about paedo-baptism?

    Therefore, the only thing preventing such children, or any others, from coming to the baptismal font is the absence of an appropriate response to the invitation. All believers who properly answer the “R.S.V.P.” that accompanies the overtures of God’s grace in Christ are welcome to come to the baptismal font.

    So, since infants can not properly answer the “R.S.V.P” that accompanies the overtures of God’s grace in Christ are not welcome to come to the baptismal font.

    My point is that right out of the gate we reason like Baptists when we do not allow the little children to come unto Christ.

  2. March 19, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    [...] Debate The debate that I am going to have with Doug Wilson on paedo-communion has commenced. The basis for the debate is Venema’s new book on the subject, which is now available. [...]

  3. greenbaggins said,

    March 19, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Patience, Bret! Venema will answer that whole paradigm in time. You should buy the book if you’re impatient! ;-)

  4. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 19, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    I don’t have the book in front of me, so maybe these questions will be dealt with indepth in later chapters:
    Do PCs regard being in the covenant and being a believer as being the same? Is that why they advocate PC?

    My understanding is that the OT Passover was given to a physical earthly nation chosen by God. The Lord’s Supper is intended for those members of God’s chosen spiritual kingdom. Do PC’s recognize that distinction? If so, would that not change the recipients to only those who are members of God’s spiritual kingdom – believers only? Then the question becomes how do we know that young children are believers? Covenant status? Baptism? Credible profession of faith?

  5. March 19, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Hey Lane ….

    You offered a quote from Venema, and I responded.

    I thought that is what the comments section was for. : )

  6. greenbaggins said,

    March 19, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Bret, I know that. I was just saying that Venema will answer that. But one’s questions will not be answered all at once.

    Lauren, there are many reasons why people hold to PC, not all of which are FV in character. Mostly, it comes from an understanding of the covenant that sees only one tier of membership.

  7. Patrick said,

    March 19, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Is Venema assessing both the “soft” and “strict” view or just the “strict” view in this book?

  8. March 19, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    “Do PCs regard being in the covenant and being a believer as being the same? Is that why they advocate PC?

    I’m sure there is not a unified response that all paedo’s would subscribe to.

    Speaking only for myself, I would say that all those in the covenant should be regarded as believers until such a time as they disavow the Lord Christ and so are excommunicated from the covenant.

    “My understanding is that the OT Passover was given to a physical earthly nation chosen by God. The Lord’s Supper is intended for those members of God’s chosen spiritual kingdom. Do PC’s recognize that distinction? If so, would that not change the recipients to only those who are members of God’s spiritual kingdom – believers only? Then the question becomes how do we know that young children are believers? Covenant status? Baptism? Credible profession of faith?”

    My understanding is that the OT circumcision was given to a physical earthly nation chosen by God. Baptism is intended for those members of God’s chosen spiritual kingdom. Do paedobaptists recognize that distinction? If so, would that not change the recipients to only those who are members of God’s spiritual kingdom – believer infants only?

  9. David Gadbois said,

    March 19, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    The “Daddy, why was I excommunicated? ” sort of rhetoric is irritating and silly. I touched on this in a comment in the other thread, but do we consider it excommunication when we do not give the Supper to someone in a coma? Or are we being remiss in not putting the bread and wine down their feeding tubes? Is it excommunication if, say, one were to fall into a deep sleep during the sermon and, unable to be roused, the elders don’t give the Supper to such a believing power-napper?

    It is true that the elders of the church exercise the keys of the kingdom (church discipline) by the use of discernment and selectivity in distributing the Supper. The logical fallacy is in assuming that *all* exercises of discernment in distributing the Supper are exercises of church discipline.

  10. David Gray said,

    March 19, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    >I touched on this in a comment in the other thread, but do we consider it excommunication when we do not give the Supper to someone in a coma?

    I’m not a PC advocate but there certainly is a difference between not taking the supper on account of age/status and not taking the supper because you are physically incapable of doing so.

  11. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I am trying to comply with your restrictions regarding this debate. You mentioned four reasons for PC so my questions are related to two of those reasons.

  12. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 19, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    That’s a great question but l think GB would like for us to stay on track with PC.

  13. Paul M. said,

    March 19, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    So, David, are you actually implying that breast milk is not a sacrament?! Or, are breast-fed infants excommunicated? Poor things. Not only must we fix that, but I think allowing my 9 yr old to vote, pay taxes, and drive is also a good idea. In other words, a future book title might be: “Daddy, why am I treated like a felon?”

  14. David Gray said,

    March 19, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    >So, David

    Who are you talking to?

  15. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 19, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Does a child actually think that? Don’t you think we are putting our own adult thinking onto the child? Get real, guys – excommunication at age 4? I grew up in a presbyterian church where it was the custom to wait until you were 12 and attended confirmation class and then became a member of the church in order to take your first communion. We as children looked forward with great anticipation to that special time in our lives. We never felt deprived or left out before then and we certainly had no sense of feeling “excommunicated”. I would also add that Jesus was twelve years old when he came to the temple for the first time to celebrate the Passover. Does that have any significance in this discussion?

    There has got to be something more to communion for the PC – some special kind of grace that makes PC seem necessary. What is it?

  16. sarah-luvvom said,

    March 19, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    If admission to the covenant is the only necessary basis for admission of children to the covenant (the Lord’s Supper), then does he believe this same thing for adults?

  17. Bret said,

    March 19, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Yes, it was a great question. It was a great question intending to show that your questioning was reasoning in a baptist like manner about communion. It was a question, where the implication was that we ought not to reason about the restriction of paedo-communion the way that a baptist reasons about the restriction of paedo-baptism. It was a question intending to suggest that maybe if we reason that way we are closer to being baptist then we are to being Reformed.

  18. Bret said,

    March 19, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Well, David if cognitive awareness is the standard by which we give communion then the saint w/ Alzheimer’s is in the same position as your person in a coma. If cognitive awareness is the standard then the covenant child who has down’s syndrome is in the same position as your Rip Van Winkle. Should people with Dementia and Downs syndrome not be given the table for the same reasons as the comatose and our sleepy?

  19. David Gadbois said,

    March 19, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Bret, to answer your question briefly, no, they shouldn’t. Here is a report from the good folks in one of our sister classis (classes?):

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

  20. David Gadbois said,

    March 19, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    David Gray, as long as the comatose person can digest food, they are capable, even if it is by the rather extraordinary means of using a feeding tube.

  21. David Gray said,

    March 19, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I think you’re stretching the point a bit to equate a child’s hand with a feeding tube.

  22. David Gadbois said,

    March 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Really? What makes one intrinsically better than the other? If no faith or even awareness is necessary, they are both just physical means of consuming physical elements, so are no different in principle.

    BTW, I wonder why you spend so much time and cyber-ink sawing off branches you are ostensibly sitting on.

  23. March 19, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    [...] on Paedocommunion Posted on March 19, 2009 by Bryan Maes Rev. Lane Keister has made his first post in a blog debate with Rev. Douglas Wilson concerning the communing of young children.  This will be [...]

  24. David Gadbois said,

    March 20, 2009 at 12:36 am

    As a postscript, I should mention that Downs syndrome is not necessarily an impediment to understanding the Gospel and expressing faith. We have several in our congregation, it just happens, who are communicant members.

  25. David Gray said,

    March 20, 2009 at 3:34 am

    I love gravity…

  26. Larry said,

    March 20, 2009 at 6:24 am

    The use of the term “excommunicated” in this discussion has long struck me as dishonest, or as ignorant at best. To be “excommunicated” is to be _ex communio_ — outside of the visible church (functionally regarded as a Gentile or tax collector, i.e., as an unbeliever). But, first, that is by no means the status of baptized covenant children who have not yet professed their faith in historic Reformed and Presbyterian practice. They have the great privilege of growing up *inside* the visible church — an arrangement that is designed to bring them personally to close with Christ. Second, we can also see that this is either a dishonest or an ignorant use of the term “excommunicated” if we compare the case of a communicant member who has fallen into sin, and as a censure of church discipline is “suspended” from the Lord’s Table. That member *may not* come to the Lord’s Table while he is suspended, but he has *not* been “excommunicated.” He is not _ex communio_ — he is still a member of the visible church. (Lest someone hastily jump to a wrong conclusion, covenant children are not “suspended” from the Lord’s Table in historic Presbyterian and Reformed practice; they have not yet been admitted to it. But to pursue that is to jump ahead in this discussion.)

  27. March 20, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Lane,

    As you probably know, we interviewed Dr. Venema, over at Christ the Center, in regard to this book. If anyone is interested in listening to the interview you can find it at http://reformedforum.org/category/guests/cornelis-venema/.

  28. March 20, 2009 at 7:10 am

    David,

    Thanks for the link and thanks for your gracious reply.

    My overall point continues to be that we should not reason about keeping children from the table in the same way as baptists when they reason to keep children from the waters of Baptism.

    You said that we would not give the sacrament of the Eucharist to someone comatose. By that same reasoning would we not give baptism to a covenant child who was born comatose?

    I agree that Downs syndrome is not necessarily an impediment to understanding the Gospel and expressing faith but it certainly could be. Does your postscript imply that in order for someone to take communion they must understand the Gospel and express faith? If so, that is all the Baptists are asking for in their reasoning on children and baptism.

    Thanks David for your time,

  29. greenbaggins said,

    March 20, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Sarah (#11), that’s a good question. If PC advocates do not wind up answering that question, then keep asking it.

    David Gray, I am pretty sure that Paul M’s comment was a light-hearted reply to David Gadbois. We should be clearer on this, folks, since there are several David’s who regularly comment on this blog.

    Nick, thanks for the link. I did not know that our interview (I was on that interview, if you recall!) was already up and ready, but thanks for the link.

    Bret, to answer your question, the Reformed world firmly believes that Israel is the OT church, and the church is the NT Israel. They are organically related, and are both part of the one true church of Jesus Christ.

    Patrick, Venema is only addressing the “strict” view.

    Lauren, my comments had been directed to Bret, and not to yourself.

  30. March 20, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Lane,

    Thanks for that clarification. In my 20 years of pastoring Reformed churches it was something I’d never come across before.

    Secondly, could you clarify why you think that Sarah’s question is a good one. I’m not sure I understand it’s profundity.

  31. greenbaggins said,

    March 20, 2009 at 8:29 am

    What Sarah is getting at is whether a profession of faith is ever necessary, even for adults, if the PC position is correct.

  32. David Gray said,

    March 20, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Even if PC were correct one is still left with the command in Romans to confess with the tongue that Jesus is Lord…

  33. March 20, 2009 at 8:43 am

    “They have the great privilege of growing up *inside* the visible church — an arrangement that is designed to bring them personally to close with Christ.

    If, in Baptism, the covenant status of Children as being in covenant with Christ has been ratified, then why would they need to later “close with Christ” any more then those baptized as adults need to constantly “close with Christ?” It seems you are assuming that covenant children who have had their covenant status ratified in baptism should be dealt w/ as strangers and aliens to the covenant who need to come into the covenant (close with Christ) as opposed to dealing with them with the assumption that they are members of the covenant whom Christ has closed w/.

  34. March 20, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Sarah – Lane,

    To bad Sarah’s name wasn’t Penny. That would’ve been a fantastic opening.

    Naturally, a profession of faith would be necessary for adults who were strangers and aliens to the covenant. Our children are not strangers and aliens to the covenant. Those who are afar off that the Lord our God calls will enter the covenant upon profession of faith and Baptism and then will have the table opened to them. Conversely, if our children ever refuse to make a profession of faith from the time they first are able till the time they are old and gray that will be reason for Church discipline.

    I still don’t get the profundity of the question but I’m probably missing something.

    I have read that early Catholic missionaries to Colonial America used to tie up non professing Indians and throw them into rivers in order to baptize them. Maybe that is somehow connected to this question.

  35. March 20, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Really? What makes one intrinsically better than the other? If no faith or even awareness is necessary, they are both just physical means of consuming physical elements, so are no different in principle.

    If no faith or even awareness is necessary, then infant baptism is just using physical means of getting somebody wet. It obviously cannot have any effect.

  36. Larry said,

    March 20, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Bret,
    Thanks for your comment. Please consider: why do you suppose it is that you think that “it seems [that I am] assuming that covenant children who have had their covenant status ratified in baptism should be dealt w/ as strangers and aliens to the covenant who need to come into the covenant (close with Christ) as opposed to dealing with them with the assumption that they are members of the covenant whom Christ has closed w/?” Dear brother, please consider whether you might be overlooking some options (as in the historic Reformed and Presbyterian understanding of covenant children) and thus forcing a false dilemma. There are reasons why our fathers saw the wisdom of distinguishing the church as visible from the church as invisible. Along similar lines, there are reasons why theologians such as Berkhof and Vos saw the wisdom of distinguishing being “under the covenant” from being “in the covenant”? Consider, for example — both Jacob and Esau were circumcised covenant sons, under the covenant. They were not “strangers and aliens,” but they grew up in the pale of the visible church with its means of grace. But that did not mean they both “closed with Christ” and had a saving knowledge of God, did it? Similarly, the Holy Spirit says (through the apostle Paul): “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Rom 2:28-29). In the same way we can say: “For no one is a Christian who is merely one outwardly, nor is baptism outward and physical. But a Christian is one inwardly, and baptism is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” It is a great privilege to grow up in the church as visible — it is by no means being a stranger and alien — but for that very same reason it implies the responsibility personally to embrace the Christ of the covenant.

  37. March 20, 2009 at 9:50 am

    In regards to the administration of the sacraments to those unable to partake physically, the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican) has this rubric attached to the Communion of the Sick which might prove helpful in its pastoral application:

    But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, or for want
    of warning in due time to the Minister, or by any other just impediment,
    do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood,
    the Minister shall instruct him, that if he do truly repent him of his
    sins, and steadfastly believe that Jesus Christ has suffered death upon
    the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly
    remembering the benefits he has thereby, and giving him hearty
    thanks therefore, he does eat and drink the Body and Blood of our
    Saviour Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he does not
    receive the Sacrament with his mouth.

    FWIW: I am not Presbyterian, but Reformed Episcopal (formerly Baptist), and my journey echoed some of what Brett is saying about Baptistic thinking. My denomination does allow PC, but time (unfortunately) does not currently exist for me to participate fully in this discussion.

    Some food for thought though, I have noticed a general trend in the argument that may or not be valid, but it seems that those advocating PC tend more to a Patristic theological basis tempered to varying degrees by the Reformers, while the opponents of PC tend more to a Reformation theology tempered just a little or none by the Early Fathers. Granted this is only anecdotal and based on personal experience, but thought I’d toss it out there for consideration anyway. If this is the case it is unlikely that there will be any agreement because the underlying basis for the argument and understanding of covenant is different. Augustine and Calvin were similar, but not the same.

  38. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 20, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Isn’t this the same way Baptists would reason about paedo-baptism?

    So interestingly, both the Baptist argument and the PC argument rely on a symmetry argument (hat tip: David Gadbois, though I disagree with the “rationalistic” characterization).

    If, as David G. argues, the symmetry is either not warranted or else is shown to not exist, then the PC argument is cut loose and can stand on its own merits.

    But if not, then it’s either Baptist or PC for all of us.

    So one of the central points of argument that I hope to see between Lane and Doug is whether symmetry between the sacraments is a warranted and sound position.

    Jeff Cagle

  39. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 20, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I think “excommunicated” was chosen because it has a better ring than “suspended from the sacraments”, which is what Leithart meant.

    I agree with you — it’s certainly inflammatory rhetoric. I think Leithart would argue that it’s necessary inflammatory rhetoric, etc.

    Jeff Cagle

  40. Paul M. said,

    March 20, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    David Grey,

    My post appeared later in the thread than when I posted it. Initially it would have been one down from Gadbois’ comment. Also, the reference to his reference of the book _ Daddy Why Was I Excommunicated_ seemed to me to supply the context required for judging which David was being referenced, but since the post was held in moderation that may make the context point a wash. Anyway, it was in reference (and lighthearted reference as Lane said) to Davod Gadbois’ comment. I’m not paedocommunion. But then, I’m not a new convert to paedobaptism or covenant theology, I’m not a zealous teenager or other cage-staged level of Calvinist, and I don’t find it necessary to be “wild” or “hip” or “edgy” or “rebellious.” This seems to be sufficient for removing a lot of the motivation for me to affirm paedocommunionism.

  41. Frank Davies said,

    March 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Did children partake of the “spiritual meat” and “spiritual drink” described in 1 Corinthians 10 v 1-5? They did. And all this right before a discussion of the supper.

    Secondl, I hope the debate addresses the Half-Way Covenant of New England Puritanism.

  42. Frank Davies said,

    March 20, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Just so we are clear, in 1 Corinthians 10 v 1-5 Paul says the manna from heaven in Exodus 13 is Christ. And all of Israel partook of that, otherwise they would have all died.

    This whole section is a good defense of both Paedobaptism and PC because. They were all baptized and the all ate the same drink we do. And, yes, this includes children.

  43. Todd said,

    March 20, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Frank,

    There is a difference between a metaphor and a sacrament. The water from the rock and the manna were metaphors; i.e., pictures, not sacraments. Apples and oranges.

    Todd

  44. Paul M. said,

    March 20, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Frank Davies,

    Both 17 and 18 seem insufficient to ground paedocommunion. I’m unsure how your argument is supposed to work.

    Here’s some initial thoughts I have:

    i) Is the exegetical intent of I cor. 10:1-22 to address the proper receptients of the Lord’s Supper? Not obviously. Rather, the intent of the illustration seems rather clear. I highly doubt that Paul is trying to teach us about the proper subjects of either communion or baptism here (see New Testament Commentary on the Old for elaboration on the intent of the allusion to Ex. 13, p.722).

    ii) If, as you say, the manna was the only food there was to eat, then this situation appears a little disanalogous. Of course, to survive, the young children would have to eat the food. I suppose if the food supply in America dried up I might be guilty of giving my kids some of the communion bread. Would I be a “paedocommunionist?” Hardly. Seems the main point of the manna was for physical survival.

    iii) Seems to me Paul is pointing to patterns the Corinthians are to avoid rather than practice. The warning is about falling into idolatry. Seems the food link and the idolatry link more properly belong to Paul’s discussion of Corinthians and eating food at pagan temples.

    iv) Paul also recalls the golden calf story. Were the one and two year olds worshiping the calf? Why not? It says “all the people.” Common sense seems to imply that the little kids were not. So if they’re out there, why include them here? Inded, why are Calvinists so quick to think “all means all” when it comes to texts like these? Or perhaps you believe in universal atonement?

    v) If the “they” that ate it is all of the Israelities, then is the “they” that gathered the manna “all” of them too? Little 1 yr. olds gathering manna?

    vi) The repeated references to various incidents (not all of which the children or all Israel participated in) in Israel’s history seem to imply the intent is not to teach about the proper subjects of communion.

    vii) “No these things took place for us as examples….” Seems like it would have been the perfect time for Paul to say, “….for the proper subjects of communion.” But he did not say that.

    viii) Your argument seems to be: all the people of Israel did X, therefore all the people of Israel today should do X. But of course how you get to the *should* from the *did* is a mystery.

    ix) In ch. 11 Paul talks about men and women and head coverings, he *then* talks about the Lord’s supper. Are you saying that vv 1-16 give us a clue as to who the proper subjects are for the Lord’s supper? If not, then since this reasoning is sufficiently similar to your reasoning in 10, you must deny your own argument due to a refutation from logical counter-example.

  45. Andrew said,

    March 20, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Sarah,

    Yes, I would say the basis is the same – membership of the covenant/church.

    Though, of course, every PCer says that the individual (child or adult) must be a member in good standing. This would rule out an adult living in open sin, which would include a failure to profess Christ as saviour.

    But you are right – I would allow, say, a severely mentally diasabled adult to partake, while a credocommunionist would refuse.

    Hope this seems consistent, even if not agreeable to your current views

  46. Andrew said,

    March 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Made a reply at 11 above to Sarah, but in case anyone (like me) is still coming to terms with the new system, the gist is -

    PC gives communion to children because they are members in good standing. An adult who does not profess Christ is not in good standing at all, but is living in rebellion (and should be disciplined).

    So one can both hold to PC and expect a profession from adult recipients.

  47. Frank Davies said,

    March 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Todd,

    Exodus 13 was a sacramental meal according to 1 Corinthians 10, not just metaphors.

    3They all ate the same spiritual food 4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

  48. Frank Davies said,

    March 20, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Paul,

    “Your argument seems to be: all the people of Israel did X, therefore all the people of Israel today should do X. But of course how you get to the *should* from the *did* is a mystery.”

    Well, this is not really my argument. Let me try again. I admit I bad a this.

    Exodus 13 was a sacramental meal, a meal in which all members of Israel partook. This meal they ate was Christ. It was communion. This is therefore a valid pattern that can inform us about the practices of our new testament sacramental meal, which is really the same meal, at least according to Paul. It’s not that far fetched to see a pattern worth following here.

    I’ve also noticed something curious about this whole debate. The burden of proof falls upon the anti-PCist to prove why covenant member in good standing should be excluded from the covenant meal, not the other way around. It sounds like the only way you will be persuaded is if I show you a text that says, “Children can take communion.” Is that the case?

  49. Andrew said,

    March 20, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    PS

    Does anyone know the quickest way of getting the book in the UK? Juts order from the States and patiently wait, I suppose?

  50. March 20, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    “Consider, for example — both Jacob and Esau were circumcised covenant sons, under the covenant. They were not “strangers and aliens,” but they grew up in the pale of the visible church with its means of grace. But that did not mean they both “closed with Christ” and had a saving knowledge of God, did it?

    No, and I don’t know, in the sense of 100% certainty, that Christ has closed with the children of the covenant today. I also don’t with 100% that Christ hasn’t closed with the children of the covenant. But I must fall off in one direction or the other. So, I believe it is incumbent to believe that all the promises in Christ are “yea and Amen”, and that includes the promises made in the waters in Baptism. As such, I should extend the judgment of charity to children of the covenant and believe that Christ has closed with them until they reveal otherwise by disavowing the promises of the covenant. As such, just as Esau partook of the passover meal, so covenant children today should be invited to the covenant meal.

    Similarly, the Holy Spirit says (through the apostle Paul): “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Rom 2:28-29). In the same way we can say: “For no one is a Christian who is merely one outwardly, nor is baptism outward and physical. But a Christian is one inwardly, and baptism is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” It is a great privilege to grow up in the church as visible — it is by no means being a stranger and alien — but for that very same reason it implies the responsibility personally to embrace the Christ of the covenant.”

    I agree that children should be raised to embrace Christ. Part of that is teaching them the promises that Christ has made to them in Baptism. I agree that there is a distinction between the outward administration and the inward reality. I merely insist that the judgment of charity should be given to covenant children that the sign and the thing signified were both received in Baptism. If they, like Esau, eventually despise their birthright the keys will be exercised against them.

    Thanks for your gracious conversation Larry.

  51. David Gray said,

    March 20, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Paul N.

    Thanks for explaining so much.

  52. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 20, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    There is a difference between a metaphor and a sacrament.

    But the sacrament does contain an element of metaphor, yes? Baptism contains a metaphor for washing away of sins; Communion contains a metaphor for feeding on Christ.

    So one of the followup questions is, “How far does the metaphor extend?” If we have Passover and Manna as two types of the work of Christ, and children were permitted at both, then would we not be truer to the metaphors to permit children at the NT metaphor of communion* also?

    OR

    Is there something discontinuous about the NT metaphor that separates it from the types? And can we argue that discontinuity without doing damage to our theology of the covenant?

    I think those are the issues that would be helpful to settle.

    Jeff Cagle

    * Not merely a metaphor, of course …

  53. Todd said,

    March 20, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Frank,

    How was the manna a sacrament? The bread pictured the spiritual provision ours through Christ, but a sacrament? You are using the term “sacrament” more broadly than its typical definition, aren’t you? In that sense almost every type of Christ or Christ’s blessings in OT Israel becomes a sacrament – land of Canaan, rain, etc…

    Todd

    Todd

  54. Frank Davies said,

    March 20, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Todd,

    Take it up with Paul. “spiritual food” and “spiritual drink” and “and that rock was Christ.” It sounds like they were receiving Christ spiritually to me. So how is is not a sacramental meal? Not trying to be cheeky. I know back and forth can get frustrating when two people are not in person. Thanks for the on going discussion.

    Frank D.

  55. Paul M. said,

    March 20, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Frank Davies,

    I find your # 21 response currious. I mentioned your argument from 1 Cor. 10 (which references Ex. 16) and you refer me to an argument from Ex. 13 as the correct argument. Not sure how we got there. I was addressing your argument from 1 Cor. 10, you hadn’t made the one from Ex. 13.

    Technical issues aside, I’m afraid I don’t find appeal to Ex. 13 very cogent either.

    You say, “Exodus 13 was a sacramental meal, a meal in which all members of Israel partook.”

    I wouldn’t say that “all” the members partook. But, let’s say we go with your reasoning here. The passage also says that “all” the assembly killed the lamb. is it your contention that 1 and 3 yr. olds where out with the rest gutting baby lamb?

    We read directions on how all are to eat. Eat it fast, standing up, shirt tucked in, sandals on, staff in hand. Is it your contention that 2 yr. olds were wearing their Osh Kosh sandals while holding their Fischer Price staff in their hand? or does “all” not mean “all” anymore?

    Did they eat it “fast?” Why think these 2 yr. olds any different than ours today? I don;t know about you, but I’d wager that the kids were throwing “sacramental” lamb at their brothers and sisters while also making food finger paitning out of the “Christ” they were feeding on.

    This, plus my other considerations, make me uncomfortable to recommend your case as any better than other PC cases I’ve heard.

    Moving on to your other point. You write:

    I’ve also noticed something curious about this whole debate. The burden of proof falls upon the anti-PCist to prove why covenant member in good standing should be excluded from the covenant meal, not the other way around.

    I deny the burden is on me. In fact, I deny that young children and women partook of the OT meals. So, from my perspective, I think PCers have the burden. So, it’s not like I’m denying continuity. In fact, I’m saying that you;re denying it.

    So, I’d say you can ask Moses &c. why they didn’t allow members in good standing to partake of covenant meals.

    Menstrating women were still in good standing, yet were unclean to eat. Same with men who had touched dead things. So it’s not obvious that “being in good standing” implies “you get to eat regardless.”

    Moreover, what about 1 day old infants on forumla since their mother’s milk is bad. They are “members in good standing” are they not? Do you force feed them the elements, then? Again, it is not obvious that “member in good standing” necessitates “you are not excluded for whatever reason.”

    So, your claim would need refinement. After said refinement you would then need to deal with the arguments I would give for the conclusion that only men and catechized boys partook (probably after 12 yrs. old, as some extra-biblical talmudic sources even attest).

    Lastly, you ask,

    “It sounds like the only way you will be persuaded is if I show you a text that says, “Children can take communion.” Is that the case?”

    I’m unclear why “it sounds like” that. How did I give that impression? Did I even imply that? I merely gave reasons for supposes that the exegetical intent of 1 Cor. 10 isn’t to teach on the proper subjects of communion. So, no, it’s not the case. I argue in good coventant theology fashion, as well as claim that the PC is bereft of any positive exegetical case. Seems to me the PC house of cards is built on the faulty premise that young kids partook of the meals in the OT.

    Furthermore, to complicate matters more, suppose you can get through my initial case about the lack of children. I also have up my sleeve arguments that would show discontinuity *even if* they partook in the OT.

    So, from where I’m standing, the PC has to climb mount improbably. Assuming they can make it up the mountain and demonstrate kids partook (as I would spell out the argument), the climb down may be just as dangerous since I’d offer arguments showing discontinuity between both the subjects of the sacrament nad the sacrament itself – thus ruining the case for continuity.

  56. Jerry said,

    March 20, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    They were sacramental

    WCF 27.5 The sacraments of the
    old testament, in regard of the
    spiritual things thereby signified
    and exhibited, were, for substance,
    the same with those of the
    new.1)
    1) 1 Cor. 10:1-4

  57. Lee said,

    March 20, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Lane,
    I am looking forward to the debate and I clearly need to get the book. So, I thank you although my wallet does not. However, I am wondering about this statement:

  58. Frank Davies said,

    March 20, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks for putting up with my disorganized arguments. Like I said, not good at this sort of thing. but Let me get clarification. You deny that children partook of the meal in Exodus 13? Israel was starving in the desert and the God gives them food to live. And the children don’t eat any of it? Really?

  59. Lee said,

    March 20, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Sorry about that. Accidental click of the “submit” button.
    The statement I am wondering about is this: “the impetus to discipline folks holding to PC . . . since it is a less serious and central challenge to the confessions than the FV is.”

    Does PC not fundamentally change the nature of the sacrament? Does it not come up with an entirely new way of receiving benefit from the sacrament? If cognition, recognition, and confession are not required in the PC view then is it not making the sacrament “convey grace” rather than a means of grace? How is that not a central and serious challenge to the confession? How is it not a return to a sacerdotal system, which the Reformers thought a fairly serious problem?
    I was wondering if you could expand on that statement a bit for me.

  60. Paul M. said,

    March 20, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Frank,

    I thought you meant ex. 12.

    Why do you appeal to 13? How does that back up your argument from I Cor. 10? How does it undercut or rebut the other points I made from I Cor. 10?

    I don’t deny the children ate manna in Exodus 16. But I think I showed that that is irrelevant to proving “therefore children should partake of the Lord’s supper.”

  61. Andrew said,

    March 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Lee,

    Just one point. In your comment you talk throughout of the sacraments requiring ‘cognition, recognition and confession’.

    Do you mean to apply this to both sacraments – I know comments here can be brief and need unpacking? If so, how would you defend paedobaptism?

    Or would you distinguish between how baptism and the Supper work? But if you do that, you can at best say that Pcer’s treat communion like baptism, which may be incorrect, but could hardly be ‘unReformed’ or dangerous.

  62. greenbaggins said,

    March 20, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Lee, I was referring primarily to what is the case among Reformed denominations. I was not prescribing what we should do. I have yet to vote to ordain a PC advocate. However, we would surely agree that the recipients of the Lord’s Supper is not as central to the Gospel as, say, election or justification. I do agree that the understanding of the Sacrament (for PC advocates) is faulty in how it works (especially in denying that the subjective element is necessary).

  63. Larry said,

    March 20, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Thank you for your gracious conversation as well, Bret. What if we start where we agree? Children of believers are members of the covenant community. As such they ought to receive the sign of covenant intiation, baptism. As you say, our covenant children should be raised to embrace Christ. Part of so raising them is to teach them what their baptism means. In their baptism the Triune God puts his Name and claim on them: “My child you belong to me. My child, give me your heart.”

    Now then, to delay their admission to the Lord’s Table until their “confirmation” in the covenant by public profession of faith is not to “excommunicate” or “suspend” our dear covenant children. Our Lord Jesus Christ offers all his blessings to them — Abraham Kuyper said that their place is set for them at the Lord’s Table — and surrounds them with the means of grace designed to deliver those blessings to them. As Dr. Venema aptly puts it: “The only thing preventing such children, or any others, from coming to the Table is the absence of an appropriate response to the invitation.”

    Nor is to delay their admission to the Lord’s Table until their they profess their own faith to imagine that they must have some sort of crisis conversion experience. It is instead to recognize that God has designed children to grow into their various responsibilities and privileges in life. Thanks to his grace and faithfulness, we pray and expect that generally their faith in Christ will also mature in them. But the wisdom of the church has been to ease them into the various privileges of the church out of concerns that arise from other issues, one of which is indeed the “worthy manner” of which God so gravely warns us in 1 Cor. 11. Their public profession of faith and admission to the sign of covenant continuation, the Lord’s Supper, is a way to recognize and rejoice in their maturity.

    If we do this according to the scriptural teaching summarized in the Confession and Catechisms — and I admit that in practice there are indeed many shortcomings that need correcting — this is not to keep them *from* Christ; it is to lead them *to* Christ. To regard this historic approach to be some sort of undermining of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ is to miss the point. And to regard paedocommunion to be the solution to those practical shortcomings is — I fear — a dangerous mistake … dangerous because presumption is always dangerous.

    But I’m getting ahead of the game. I should wait to hear the discussion between the Revs. Keister and Wilson.

  64. Andrew said,

    March 20, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Lee,

    A couple of other points (not that I am zealous for debate, but am keen to have a calm debate on a matter I think we need not divide over).

    - some paedocommunionists believe that infants have faith (citing eg. Ps 22:9-10), and that they recieve christ through faith at the Table (see Infant Faith in the Psalter, Rich Lusk, in The Case for Covenant Communnion). I apreciate you think this unlikely, but there is no heresy.

    - if you read the WCOF on the sacraments, it lists other things which happen at the sacraments (e.g. putting a difference between the church and the world). This can happen at paedocommunion as well. A paedocommunionist could argue that his practice is warrented and useful without even raising the matter of grace being conveyed, or transferred at all.

    - it may be helpful to ponder the Confession’s reflection that the efficacy of baptism is tied to the moment of administration: a paedocommunioist could happily argue that something similar can occur in communnion, and in doing so would not challenge the centrality of faith at all – indeed would be affirming it

    - finally, in terms of discipline, I think one would need to be much firmer than saying something like ‘ if I defended paedocommunion on such and such a ground, the logical consequence would be a denial of ‘x”. Your fellow PC member might defend the practice on other grounds. He might deny the consequences and affirm x (in which case he may be inconsistent, but not heretical).

    It would be better to discipline when you had clear examples of the chap denying x, in which case that would be the crime, not paedocommunion.

  65. Lee said,

    March 20, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Andrew,
    I do indeed distinguish between how the Lord’s Supper works and how baptism works. I do think we probably disagree about whether or not the incorrectness of thinking that the two work the same is dangerous and unreformed. However, I am open to hearing more thoughts about this as I am hoping to understand where PCers are coming from more during this debate.

  66. Lee said,

    March 20, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Andrew,
    Thanks for you excellent points. I too hope that we can have a calm debate, and I hope that my first comment did not come across as ‘uncalm’ (if that is even a word). If I might, I would like to add some quick thoughts.
    – Even granting faith in infants does not remove the problem. The Supper must still convey grace to strengthen the faith rather than serve as a means of strengthening it. The infant can do nothing to use the means provided in the Supper. Thus, if the Supper gives a benefit to a faith possessing infant, it still must be inherent in the idea of eating itself.
    - I have not thought of the Supper as merely putting a difference between the believer and the unbeliever. Do any PC advocates hold to this position? That would be interesting to know?
    - A PCer may indeed argue that the moment of efficacy of the Supper is not tied to the moment of administration, but it is an interesting point that the WCF states that about Baptism, but does not repeat that point about the Supper. Thus, arguing it may indeed be a challenge to the Confession.
    - If someone denies the logical consequence of his position you are right he is inconsistent, but not heretical. However, he has no logical reason to not be heretical. That is a dangerous place to be, and a dangerous place for a pastor to be. Yet this is a theoretical discussion about discipline. I was thinking more about pastors holding to a position than a laymen in the pew. I think we agree that the families of the church ought to obey the position of the church, which ever it is.

  67. Tom C. said,

    March 20, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Bret as a minister in the Christian Reformed Church do you admit infants to the table in spite of what the CRC teaches?

  68. Tom C. said,

    March 20, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Only if they were circumcised. Females were not admitted to the Passover observance because they were uncircumcised. These are two different issues, so please do not add to the confusion already running rampent.

  69. David Gadbois said,

    March 21, 2009 at 1:33 am

    Bret, should I interpret your response as a tacit endorsement of feeding-tube Communion?

    But to answer your point, the question is not *can* God work through the Supper in the same way as He does through baptism (where the recipient is passive) but *does* He – has He promised to? Or does the ‘take, eat, remember, and believe…’ nature of the Supper make it intrinsically different and asymmetrical with baptism in its character. If we deny this, then all sorts of absurdity are permissible and even obligatory, including contriving methods of communing unconscious and comatose saints, or even infants in the womb.

  70. David Gadbois said,

    March 21, 2009 at 1:43 am

    Bret, you said You said that we would not give the sacrament of the Eucharist to someone comatose. By that same reasoning would we not give baptism to a covenant child who was born comatose?

    That is unless, of course, the requirements for the Supper are different from the requirements of baptism. The ‘you’re reasoning like a Baptist’ stuff breaks down if indeed there is asymmetry between the two sacraments.

  71. March 21, 2009 at 6:50 am

    David,

    I agree there is asymmetry. I don’t agree that the asymmetry means we can reason like a baptist about the Table. You have to establish the asymmetrical differences allow us to reason like a Baptist on the issue of the table. You cannot do that for Scripture does not teach, “Do not bring the children to the table.”

    If the Word gives us all of Christ and if the table is dependent upon the Word and if we give our children the Word and if the only difference between the Word and the table is that in the table we get Christ better (Calvin — “It is indeed true that this same grace [offered in the table] is offered us by the Gospel, yet in the supper we have more ample certainty, and fuller enjoyment of it …”) then why would we not give them the sacrament that is dependent upon that which we are already giving them?

    It doesn’t make sense Dave. We give our children Baptism. We give them the Word. Both of theses proclaim the Gospel promises to them and yet we withhold the table from them because they haven’t involved themselves in a decisionist revivalist model that has them “asking Jesus into their hearts.”

  72. Todd said,

    March 21, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Frank,

    A sacrament is a sign and seal of a covenant. What covenant was the manna a sign and seal of? Did the Isrealites know it was a sacrament? Why not? Was manna a sacrament like the Passover? What did eating the manna seal?

    Thanks,

    To

  73. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 21, 2009 at 11:34 am

    An important question: Is the Lord’s Supper to be administered only to believers?

    If yes, then do PC’s view covenant children by virtue of being born in a covenant family as believers? Does this mean that an individual can be saved by one of two means – 1- be born once into a Christian home (inherit salvation). 2- if not born in a Christian home, be born again by faith alone in Jesus Christ.

    If yes, then is there or was there ever a time in the life of a covenant child when they are viewed as totally depraved – when according to Romans 3:23 they fall short of the glory of God? If so, when? Every Sunday right before communion?

    Here is an observation that ties in with this. Our family helped to start a school in our church back in 1997. The school was named Covenant Christian Academy. Years later after we left, the name was changed to Covenant Classical Academy. When we inquired about the change, we were told that “covenant” and “Christian” were redundant – both words carried the same meaning.

    If that is true, then I see no reason why covenant children should not take the Lord’s Supper. If that is not true, then are we not dealing with a serious problem here – not a secondary issue but a primary issue dealing with justification by faith alone?

  74. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 21, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    If yes, then is there or was there ever a time in the life of a covenant child when they are viewed as totally depraved – when according to Romans 3:23 they fall short of the glory of God? If so, when? Every Sunday right before communion?

    Yes, that is an interesting problem. I would be interesting in knowing how denoms that practice PC handle membership vows, since children don’t take those vows upon entrance to the church. Do they at any point have to actually affirm to the rest of the body, “Yes, I believe the Gospel?”

    But now, let’s consider also the flip side. Was there ever a time in John the Baptist’s life when he would be considered “totally depraved”?

    And also, do we cease being “totally depraved” in our flesh when we become Christians? Or rather, do we receive the Spirit when we become Christians, and He wars against the flesh?

    Jeff Cagle

  75. Andrew said,

    March 21, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Lauren,

    You are probably correct in assuming that most PCer’s believe we should treat our children as Christians. They would be happy to pray with them or share communion – in short to treat them as brothers, as well as children.

    But while I appreciate you disagree with this you must recognize that this is a standard Reformed practice especially among the first generations of Reformers. In America, Presbyterians did not adopt presumptive unregneration until Thornwall and his campaign to change the church order just before the civil war. If someone here advocating credocommunion, or neutral, could confirm this as historically factual, it would be helpful.

    This does not mean that it is right of course, but it does mean we must be slow in attacking it as an assault on JBFA – i.e. the antiquity and prominence of those who held to it demands a certain amount of respect. These were not FVer’s or New perspective people – they were dying for JBFA!

    Following from that, neither they, nor Pcers today believe salvation is inherited at all, or comes on any different basis from an adult conversion.

    The covenant infant, if saved, is regenerated by the Spirit on the basis of Christ’s atoning work. Calvin said the child then has ‘seed-faith’; others might say faith is exercised as the child’s rational abilities develop.

    When people talk about God saving in families, they do not mean that family membership is the basis of that salvation; they mean that God has graciously promised to gather his people from our among our children.

    P.S

    This is not meant as being snooty, but as an example of how we must be careful and charitable in our judgements, and be aware of the vagaries of internet conversation, your post talked of being ‘born again by faith’.

    That sounds a lot like the Arminian scheme where we believe, and are regenerated as a result. The Reformed would say we are regenerated by grace, and justified by faith.

  76. Andrew said,

    March 21, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Jeff,

    I don’t belong to such a denomination, and would also be interested in the practice.

    I suppose making such a vow when recieving voting rights at say 16/18 would be one way.

  77. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 21, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    The Heidleberg Catechism asks in question 2:
    What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort (see Q1)?
    Three things:
    First, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

    Is the covenant child exempt from knowing these things at an early age and therefore, qualified to partake of the Lord’s Supper? At what age should they know? When were covenant children ever delivered from their sin? Before time began? When they were conceived?

    How does their status square with Scripture that says:
    Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me (Ps. 51).
    And:
    …For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: There is none righteous, no not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God (Rom. 3:9-11).

    How can covenant children partake of the Lord’s Supper when they have not reached an age where they can know the misery of their sin, understand deliverance, or even thank God for it when the Bible tells us clearly that no one seeks after God – no, not one!

    Don’t these verses make it clear that covenant children – just like the Jews – are born sinners just as the Gentiles are? How can one read those verses and still presume or view covenant children as saved? Where is the exemption for covenant children when “none” is repeated three times and applied to both Jews and Greeks?

    Heidelberg Q8 asks:
    But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?
    Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.
    When is a covenant child born again? He can’t be born again before he is born. He has to be born first and the bible is clear that a child – covenant or not – is born so corrupt that he is totally unable to do any good and is inclined toward all evil. How can anyone who is that corrupt be a worthy receiver of the Lord’s Supper?

    For those of you who believe that water baptism saves, are you presuming that before then, the covenant child is a lost sinner? I just don’t see how one can have it both ways. A child has to be saved from something at baptism. What is that something?

    The Bible says that a person must be born again by the Spirit to be deliivered from their sin and become a member of God’s kingdom. Jesus says that no one can know when or where the Spirit goes. Yet, some claim that the Spirit works efficaciously at the time water baptism is administered. How can both claims be true?

  78. David Gray said,

    March 21, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Lauren,

    You answer seems to imply rejection of the WCF teaching on the fate of elect infants. Do you accept or reject what the WCF teaches in this matter?

  79. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 21, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    How do we come to believe? By grace, not of ourselves (Eph. 2:8-9). Acts

    Being married to a Chinese “Gentile” Christian and reading Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-21, it is my understanding that God promises to gather His people from all the nations – the same promise He made to Abraham. And the same promise he made to those who would receive His Spirit in Acts 1:8.

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the church fathers, but even they would agree that the authority of Scripture should reign supreme over the views of men. I am just not convinced that paedocommunion coupled by presumptive regeneration of covenant children is in harmony with Scripture at all.

  80. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 21, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I meant to insert Acts 16:29-32 states the necessity of believing in te Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. The act of believing is God’s grace. Also note that it wasn’t until the jailer’s household heard the word of the Lord that they were saved as well.

  81. David Gadbois said,

    March 21, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Bret said I agree there is asymmetry. I don’t agree that the asymmetry means we can reason like a baptist about the Table.

    Again, it is not ‘reasoning like a baptist’ if the asymmetry between the sacraments includes differences in the requirements and mode of partaking in the benefits. Merely saying that you agree there are some differences does not address the point.

    And again, the rhetoric of ‘reasoning like a baptist’ is the same sort of irritating rhetoric as the ‘Daddy, why was I excommunicated.’ It begs the very question at hand. And it convinces no one except the already-converted.

    and if the only difference between the Word and the table is that in the table we get Christ better

    Well, we would deny that that is the only difference. That is overly simplistic. Especially for us Heidelbergers, we believe the Word creates faith whereas the sacraments confirm it (HC 65) – baptism prospectively, the Supper retrospectively.

    It doesn’t make sense Dave. We give our children Baptism. We give them the Word.

    See above. I’d only add that even in the matter of baptism and the Word, even those are given in their due season. Most *infant* children are either in the nursery or, if they are in the service, they sleep through the Word which they can’t comprehend anyway. I don’t believe we are ‘giving’ them the Word through osmosis.

    yet we withhold the table from them because they haven’t involved themselves in a decisionist revivalist model that has them “asking Jesus into their hearts.”

    This is a silly straw man not worth answering.

  82. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 21, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    I accept what the Bible teaches, David.
    It seems like every time you can’t find any defense from the Scriptures for your viewpoint, you seem to throw the WCF at me. What do you think? Do you think that the Bible passages shared in my comments above conflict with the WCF? If so, should I reject the Scripture in favor of the WCF?

  83. David Gray said,

    March 21, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    No, when your interpretation of scripture differs from the interpretation of scripture of the WCF then you should seriously consider whether your interpretation of scripture is in error. Or whether you understand the scriptures in a way compatible with the reformed faith, at least on that issue. We all agree that scripture is inerrant. What is in question is interpretation of scripture not scripture’s authority. I don’t think you have a higher view of scripture than the men who gave us the WCF.

  84. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 21, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    In what way is my interpretation of Scripture in error with the WCF? Of course elect infants are saved. Non-elect infants are never saved – they remain in their sin and must pay the penalty which is death. Are you saying that elect infants were never at any time in their short lives sinners in need of Christ’s forgiveness and deliverance? If they were never sinners, then what were they saved or delivered from?

    Is there any possibility that your interpretation of the WCF is in error?

  85. David Gray said,

    March 21, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    When I say the WCF states that elect infants are saved that’s pretty much a direct quote requiring minimal interpretation so it seems unlikely I’m in error on that particular assertion.

    Lauren some infants die in childbirth. Others die within minutes of birth. Are none elect? If some are how do they meet your standard of reaching “an age where they can know the misery of their sin, understand deliverance, or even thank God for it”? The Bible seems to teach that infants can be regenerate in the womb. That would seem compatible with the WCF. It does not seem compatible with an understanding that says salvation requires an intellect capable of understanding a variety of conditions which can only be understood, as you describe it, when you reach a particular age.

  86. ReformedSinner said,

    March 21, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    So when David says in Psalm 22:9 that God made him trust Him at his mother’s womb what does that mean? Since David obviously isn’t old enough to hear and comprehend the Words of God as an infant, and therefore he couldn’t be saved at that point in his life as credo-people believe.

  87. ReformedSinner said,

    March 21, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    correction, mother’s breasts, not womb, sorry

  88. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 21, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Well, you can count me definitely out of the group who believes that water baptism saves ex operato.

    You ask,

    The Heidleberg Catechism asks in question 2:
    What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort (see Q1)?

    First, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

    I don’t disagree with the larger point that one must be born again to be saved, but the HC is not asking in this question, “What must I do to be saved?”, but “What must I know to have the assurance of my salvation?” (note question 1 and also the prooftexts that accompany question 2).

    So yes, in order to have assurance, I have to know some things. But many who are saved don’t have full assurance of that fact; HC#2 is not relevant to the question of infant salvation.

    HC question #60 makes your point, however:

    How are thou righteous before God?

    Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ…

    And this leads to the puzzle that David Gray and David Gadbois have solved in opposite manners.

    If salvation is necessary for all, and if true faith is the only means of taking salvation (which points we all agree to), then by what means can an infant be saved, who dies prior to the ability to understand the preached Gospel?

    David Gray solves this by an appeal to “infant faith” — that God does a miraculous work in some infants to give them the ability to intuitively believe the content of the Gospel, without words.

    David Gadbois solves this by appealing to election — God has chosen them, so they’re saved.

    For my part, I prefer the “infant faith” solution, for two reasons:

    (1) We have at least one instance of infant faith in John the Baptist, and
    (2) The appeal to election either side-steps the question of mechanism, or else it introduces a new means for people to be saved: to be elect and saved outside of having faith.

    That said, I can’t say that the Scripture resolves this issue. We know just enough to say that we don’t really know!

    * David’s still-born son was saved.
    * John the Baptist was delighted to be in the presence of Jesus while still in the womb (both!).
    * The only Scripture-given means of salvation is faith.
    * All need salvation since all inherit Adam’s guilt.

    How do you put those four facts together?

    Jeff Cagle

  89. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 21, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    What must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Acts 16:29-32.

    How much clearer of a resolution can Scripture be? There is only one way to be saved. And, that one way applies to everyone. Don’t you think we are playing spiritual gymnastics with a small handful of particular cases? Some are building a whole system of soteriology on John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb.

  90. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 21, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Don’t you think we are playing spiritual gymnastics with a small handful of particular cases?

    No, I can understand why it might look that way, but that’s not my intent.

    Far from being a small handful, there are millions of infants who die each year. We all know someone who has lost a child. The Confession (10.3) says that elect infants are regenerated. (And when the Confession was written, the numbers were even larger, since mortality rates were much higher prior to the 20th century.)

    On your account so far, (1) one must believe to be regenerated and saved, and (2) infants are incapable of belief. If I put those two together, then I would have to conclude that infants cannot be regenerate, no?

    So something additional needs to happen here: either we need to deny that infants can be saved and conclude that WCoF 10.3 is wrong, or else we need to relax (1) or (2)*. It’s not a matter of mental gymnastics, but of serious pastoral care and of understanding an important aspect of human salvation.

    The BCO (Appendix D, 6th Ed.) has a Child’s Funeral Service. That service expresses every confidence that the dead child is with the Lord. Why? On what grounds?

    Jeff Cagle

    * Actually, many Arminians take a different approach: they deny that children are guilty of sin until an unknown “age of accountability” — but I assume that we agree that this is a non-starter.

  91. Andrew said,

    March 22, 2009 at 4:21 am

    Lauren,

    My initial point is not the rightness or wrongness of your posistion, merely than when making out that others hold some sort of grevious errors, you need to realise you are taking on a large swath of the Reformed church.

    Also, you sound ever so FV when you try to pit the confessions against Scripture!

    I am more than happy to discuss the the Bible’s teaching directly on how we treat our children, though it is slightly off topic.

    Firstly, though to answer the texts you raise. You have to realise that the verses you quote on the necessity of profession and belief aren’t proving anything, since they are adressed to adults. They can be understood in a similar way as “Believe, and be baptized” or “Whoever does not work should not eat” – we do not then starve our children.

    Secondly, the verses talk about salvation as a whole. They do not talk about regeneration. If they did make faith a precondition of regeneration, the Arminian case is established (I am assuming you are reformed; if not, ignore that line of thought).

    Thirdly, no one denies the child still has a sinful nature (which explains Ps 51). It is also true that he is naturally cursed, wicked, so all the verses about that are not a problem for the covenant posistion.

    Whether Gods regenerates at conception or waits some hours, I do not know. I am happy to allow some time if it helps you make sense of certain Bible passages. The point is moot – the question is how we treat them, and there is no Biblical example of any covenant child being treated as unregenerate until making a profession (except perhaps the disciples refusing to let the children come to Christ).

    And there is plenty of positive evidence to the contrary, but that will have to wait, as I have to go to church …

    Have a good Sabbath!

  92. David Gray said,

    March 22, 2009 at 5:19 am

    >Also, you sound ever so FV when you try to pit the confessions against Scripture!

    I pointed that out and it wasn’t well received. But it is pretty obvious.

  93. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 22, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Do we evangelize our covenant children before allowing them to partake of communion?

  94. Andrew said,

    March 22, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Not if by evangelising you mean presumptive unregeneration.

    But of course we urge them (as we do all Christians) to trust in Christ, to ask for forgiveness of sins and so on. But this is ongoing through their lives, not a precondition of communion.

  95. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 22, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    Can covenant children lose their salvation?

  96. Andrew said,

    March 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Not if they are truely saved to begin with.

  97. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 22, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    I’m surprised nobody pointed out my error yet :)

    In the classic ordo, regeneration precedes faith, so (1) should read:

    (1) one must believe to be justified and saved.

  98. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 22, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    When do covenant children enter the covenant of grace – before they come to faith in Christ or after they come to faith?

    One pastor friend of ours was invited to guest preach in a PCA church but he was told by an elder not to incorporate a gospel message on salvation in his sermon because covenant families and their children were members of the church and already saved. Is this the accepted teaching of the PCA and how would you respond to this elder’s directive?

  99. David Gadbois said,

    March 22, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    David Gadbois solves this by appealing to election — God has chosen them, so they’re saved.

    Correct. I would only add, by way of elaboration, that the Canons or Dordt tie the salvation and election of infants who die in infancy to their covenantal status, whereas WCF says that these infants are regenerated, although it is ambiguous as to the timing of regeneration.

    The appeal to election either side-steps the question of mechanism, or else it introduces a new means for people to be saved: to be elect and saved outside of having faith.

    I would rather point to an extraordinary means of salvation in the case of extraordinary circumstances rather than redefine the nature of faith to make things ‘fit’. The Bible simply never talks about faith as merely a latent psychological/spiritual faculty devoid of knowledge content and trust.

  100. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 22, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    We heard a very powerful statement in the sermon today that for me expresses my deep concern for the church’s mission as it relates to this whole idea of covenant presumption, paedocommunion, baptismal regeneration and all the rest. This statement I believe should break the hearts of every covenant parent:

    A father of a prodigal daughter made this confession: We (the parents) raised her in the church, but we didn’t raise her in Christ.

  101. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Andrew:

    I’m having a hard time time following your thought here.

    On the one hand you lump evangelizing with presumptive regeneration. What am I missing in what you are saying? Why would we evangelize someone we presume is regenerate? How do evangelizing and presumptive regeneration go together?

    On the second part of your comment, as well, I’m confused. How is what you are saying we are to do with our children (and all who sit in the pew) differentiated from what we are to do in evangelizing. How is urging the presumed regenerate to trust in Christ (et.al.) different from urging the presumed unregenerate to trust in Christ (et.al.)?

    Maybe I’ve missed what you’ve said before. If so, would you mind clarifying for me? Do you understand being in covenant to be equal to being regenerate? I.e., do you believe children of professing believers, are to be presumed regenerate? If so, do you recognize or not recognize the internal/external distinction with regard to being in covenant?

  102. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Lauren:

    One of our members this morning shared with me a telling line from country-western song. The gist is the question a mother has for the man courting her daughter, ostensibly a Christian because he’s been baptized, professed his faith, and joined the Church.

    “I don’t care if you’ve been under the water (baptism). I want to know if you’re under the blood (regenerate).”

    I admit to not tracking with what distinctions Andrew is making. So not to put thoughts to his words he does not intend, I will observe that he suggests a distinction in how we call folks to believe on Christ, a distinction between those outside the Church and those inside the Church.

    Again, it maybe that Andrew does not intend this. If so, I will thank him for merely sparking my comment here.

    I find it dangerous to observe and maintain a distinction not found in Scripture. Paul to be sure had two modes of “evangelism”. To those inside the Church (OT Jews) he said them to believe on the God whom they professed faith in – and be saved in Christ. For those outside the Church (pagan Gentiles)he said to them to believe on the God whom they did not profess in – and be saved in Christ.

    Yes, some nuances of differences here. Yet the faith which receives Christ initially in regeneration is the same faith which continues to receive Christ in the Christian life.

    Further, I’m not sure how one gets around the repetetive call for one, at some point in one’s life, to offer a profession of faith (Rom 10:9 ff., numerous passages in Acts).

  103. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I respect that position. Clearly, something exceptional needs to happen here.

    I would prefer to preserve JBFA in all cases. I think of notitia, assens, fiducia as a metric (or operational definition) of true faith, not as a philosophical definition per se. But I need to do more research on the history of the three-fold definition.

    Jeff Cagle

  104. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 23, 2009 at 10:49 am

    One pastor friend of ours was invited to guest preach in a PCA church but he was told by an elder not to incorporate a gospel message on salvation in his sermon because covenant families and their children were members of the church and already saved. Is this the accepted teaching of the PCA and how would you respond to this elder’s directive?

    Absolutely not! I would decline to speak (if possible), or else package the Gospel in such a way as to be above reproach.

    But preaching should be, IMO, Christocentric always, so I can’t even conceive of (valid) preaching that is separated from the Gospel.

    Not only so, but the presumption that all church members are (certainly) saved and therefore not in need of Gospel preaching is entirely unwarranted. It is an exaggeration of the judgment of charity AND a failure to realize that the Gospel is central to sanctification as well as justification.

    When do covenant children enter the covenant of grace – before they come to faith in Christ or after they come to faith?

    The first part of the question can be answered from man’s point of view or from God’s; the second part is from God’s point of view only.

    So from man’s point of view, covenant children enter the covenant of grace at birth. Whether they are legitimate members or not depends on election (see: Esau).

    A lot of our problem in this thread stems from failing to distinguish the two points of view: What We See vs. What God Sees.

    Jeff Cagle

  105. David Gray said,

    March 23, 2009 at 10:53 am

    As Calvin observed if you want God as your father you must have the Church as your mother.

  106. David Gray said,

    March 23, 2009 at 10:55 am

    >But preaching should be, IMO, Christocentric always, so I can’t even conceive of (valid) preaching that is separated from the Gospel.

    Amen.

    Of course I wonder if the elder is being fairly represented here. To someone who embraces decisional regeneration the Reformed position might sound something like that.

  107. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 23, 2009 at 10:59 am

    What is that supposed to mean?

  108. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 23, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Well, yes, I wondered if there were a misunderstanding also. The only legitimate statement I could imagine making is “Don’t have an altar call at the end of your message”, which I would imagine doesn’t happen in PCA churches anyways (right?!)

    Jeff Cagle

  109. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 23, 2009 at 11:14 am

    That one cannot legitimately claim God as father and spurn church membership. Calvin was speaking in opposition to Anabaptists, who held that membership in the Invisible Church was the only thing that mattered.

    Jeff Cagle

  110. David Gray said,

    March 23, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I knew an English minister (Baptist) who was lectured by an American that he didn’t preach the Gospel because he didn’t give an altar call.

  111. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2009 at 11:40 am

    David:

    Agreed. I think the point of the line, at least my use of it, can be sumned up this way:

    Just because you’ve claimed the Church as your mother, don’t assume you have God as your Father.

    Some of us in these circles seem unaware that a right opposition to decisional regeneration does not require an absolute opposition to calling for a profession of faith.

    That is, after all, why we are called by God to exercise the external call to faith. And we do profess that it is such external call that God ordinarily uses as the means of implementing the internal call.

    Thus in Acts 2, Peter preaches (external call), many profess faith (Acts 2:41), calling on Jesus (Acts 2:21), and are saved.

    Note, interestingly, the inclusion of covenant children in this (Acts 2:39.)

    I don’t think you disagree with me here David. I do want to suggest that some (not necessarily you) seem so bent on avoiding the errors of decisional regeneration, that they make an equally egregious error and do not call on folks, in covenant and out of covenant, to call on the name of the Lord Jesus, and be saved.

  112. David Gray said,

    March 23, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Pastor DePace,

    I think Jeff got it right. It is certainly true that being in the Church does not inherently mean that God is your Father but the quote does seem aimed at the opposite error, that one can have God as Father while not being in the church.

    I agree that all men should be exhorted to place their trust in Christ and His finished work, whether they are part of the visible church or not. The Gospel is for a lifetime and beyond, not just till we get someone to sign on the dotted line.

  113. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    David:

    Yep, I’m with you and Jeff.

    I guess I’m only trying to maintain the emphasis that Lauren has made here (one she has been pretty consistent on here and on other posts), and one which Andrew’s comments are at least unclear on (and which others have been pretty consistent in missing) the point that I’ve made.

    It seems as if you responded to an implication in my use of the lyric, althought one that is not necessary, nor intended in what I said. If it is alright with you (your intentions in view), I’ll take your comment as a helpful clarification of what I am not saying, and ask Lauren and others to do likewise.

  114. Andrew said,

    March 23, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Reed,

    Fair question, and apologies for the lack of clarity.

    Firstly, we ‘evangelise’ the presumed regenerate (children or adult), because in any congregation there is the possibility that there are hypocrites or self-deceived. And so one might say something like ‘Make sure your faith is genuine’. Such warnings are also the means of preserving those who are regenerate in the faith (by making them vigilant against the wiles of Satan).

    This seems to me the only way to understand the various warning passages of the NT with falling into Arminianism, or adopting an FV posistion.

    Addressing someone who is not a Christian is done differently – you would not ask them to look at the genuineness of their faith, for instance. You might say “You are dead in sin, and enemies of God”, somthing I would not say to my minister or other church members.

    Another difference might be a matter of balance – the Christian must also be assured and comforted, whereas that cannot happen with the unbeliever.

    When looking at it in terms of the covenant, I think that we should treat all members in good standing as brothers in Christ (though membership does not at all ensure salvation). Covenant membership only equals regeneration in the sense that we treat others as regenerate; for the individual himself, he must examine his own relationship with faith. Other than applying this to younger members, I don’t see how anyone could disagree with this – How would life in a congregation be possible if we went around unable to treat each other as Christians?

    I recognize that some are faithful members and some rebels; that some are genuine and some false; that some have the true heart and some only a ritual – which is what I presume you mean by visible/invisible.

    Hope this helps – I am happy to clarify anything, if you wish.

  115. Andrew said,

    March 23, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Reed,

    The problem is that I quite agree with you!

    One must offer a profession of faith, though I would say that should be constant and always available rather than a one-off. There is no getting around that, though I am not sure would would – someone who defended nominalism, i suppose, if there are such people.

    And of course both church member and church member need the same faith in the same person.

  116. Andrew said,

    March 23, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Perhaps it would help if I were to emphaize that profession is an vital part of the Christian life/church membership/covenant membership.

    If we are faced with someone who has being baptised, or has certain ‘churchy’ connections (such as the suitor in the song), but who has no marks of grace or no profession of faith, that person in rebellion. Their life means that we do not treat them as regenerate at all. Our evangelising conversation is essentially the same as that of an outright pagan (other than that they might no more, or that we might want to say that turning their back on the external privledges they have had makes their situation worse).

  117. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 23, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks, Reed, for your input.
    When we refer to “the Church” are we referring to the visible or the invisible church? If it is the invisible chuch, then those who are “inside” the church are saved, whereas those “outside” the church are not. But, if we are only referring to the visible church, then it seems to me that we need to evangelize both covenant children and those outside the covenant who are members within the visible church. For both groups need to come to Christ in faith through the preaching of the Gospel. It is my understanding that there is only one way of salvation. I find no Bible passage that gives evidence of the teaching that covenant children are born trusting in Christ and do not need to be evangelized. I find that teaching to be abhorrent and in a sense spiritually dangerous and abusive.

  118. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Could I ask for a definition of decisional regeneration?

  119. Zrim said,

    March 23, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    “I don’t care if you’ve been under the water (baptism). I want to know if you’re under the blood (regenerate).”

    Reed,

    Beyond wincing at taking theological cues from perhaps one of the worst forms of popular music known to man (!), I do hope you can appreciate how bothersome it is to those of us who take a churchly piety seriously to suggest sympathy with such a low view of the sacraments. I track with your points here about the importance of individuals responding to the gospel call: I quite agree that “a right opposition to decisional regeneration does not require an absolute opposition to calling for a profession of faith.” But I don’t think we have to decide between exercising an external call to internal faith and the discipline of public, corporate religion. I think they can co-exist and for the better. I realize this is an involved discussion, but I happen to think that what can get lost in all this is the simple distinction between the old-fashioned notions of churchly piety and various new ways of conceiving how to balance individual and corporate piety.

    Just because you’ve claimed the Church as your mother, don’t assume you have God as your Father.

    True enough. But by the same token just because someone has claimed God as his Father doesn’t mean God is his Father.

    Full disclosure: I am no more an advocate of paedo-communion than I am of credo-baptism. It may be premature, but I often wonder if the modern creature known as the (credo) Baptist who claims much friendliness to confessional Reformed orthodoxy will be matched by post-modern creature calling himself the (paedo) Communionist who claims the same sort of proximity to historic Calvinism.

  120. David Gray said,

    March 23, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Was John the Baptist unregenerate in his mother’s womb?

  121. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 23, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    When I refer to “the Church”, I am referring to a single entity that is known differently by God and by man. The Invisible Church is the Church as seen by God; the Visible, as seen by man.

    Those who are “inside the invisible church” are, as you say, saved.

    Those who are “inside the visible church” may well be saved, but are not necessarily saved — whether they’ve made professions or not.

    So the Visible Church always needs to be evangelized.

    What about our children? They belong to the Church. They *may* or *may not* be believers. Thus, we should evangelize them; but we should not treat them, presumptively, as if they do not believe simply because they haven’t yet articulated the Kennedy questions correctly.

    We don’t know what or how kids think. My three-year-old prays to God every night. She knows why Jesus died on the cross. Is she a believer?

    I can’t tell with certainty. I will continue to explain and teach the gospel to her, and I will encourage her to think of herself as saved by grace through faith. I am taking a two-pronged approach because I don’t know the state of her heart. But I do know that she is a member of the Church — as far as I can see.

    So Lauren, I would put to you again the question above:

    If there is only one way to be saved — being justified by grace through faith, and
    If children are unable to believe,

    Then how can elect children dying in infancy be regenerated and saved?

    Jeff Cagle

  122. David Gray said,

    March 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Jeff,

    You are spot on.

  123. March 23, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    David writes,

    “Again, it is not ‘reasoning like a baptist’ if the asymmetry between the sacraments includes differences in the requirements and mode of partaking in the benefits. Merely saying that you agree there are some differences does not address the point.”

    Bret,

    Quite to the contrary David it does address the point because the differences lie in the sacraments and not in the qualifications for the sacraments. I quite agree that Baptism is the singular ratification service of covenant membership and that the table is the repeated service that confirms our faith. Here we find the asymmetry. What I do not agree with is that the qualifications for participating in these asymmetrical sacraments are different. So, because the asymmetry between the sacraments does not include differences in the requirements and mode of partaking in the benefits I can say that you are reasoning like a Baptist to insist that they do. I can insist this because you can locate nothing in Scripture that supports your contention that qualifications for the sacraments differ. I can insist this because when you begin to reason about the differing requirements for the table quite apart from explicit Scriptural injunction you reason with a Baptist like hermeneutic.

    David writes,

    “And again, the rhetoric of ‘reasoning like a baptist’ is the same sort of irritating rhetoric as the ‘Daddy, why was I excommunicated.’ It begs the very question at hand. And it convinces no one except the already-converted.”

    Bret,

    For the life of me, I can’t see how my observation that you are reasoning like a Baptist is begging the question. The question is … “Who should be allowed to the table.” You have no Scripture that you can appeal to that explicitly teaches, “Only those who have a certain cognitive ability and understanding level can come to the table.” So, absent that kind of explicit Scripture you begin to reason about who can come to the table and as you reason you reason the same way the Baptists do when they approach the question of, “Who can come to the Baptismal font.” Frankly, I don’t care if you find my observation of your baptist hermeneutic tendencies to be irritating. You’re protesting that you don’t reason like a Baptist doesn’t make it not so.

    Secondly, you have to know there is no way you can know how much persuasive power the observation that credo-communionists argue like a Baptist has. Speaking only for myself it was a very convincing argument in my movement from credo-communion to paedo-communion. I believe it will continue to be convincing until someone can show how its just not so — something I’m afraid you’ve not done yet David.

    Dave writes,

    “Well, we would deny that the only difference between the Word and the table is in the table we get Christ better. That is overly simplistic. Especially for us Heidelbergers, we believe the Word creates faith whereas the sacraments confirm it (HC 65) – baptism prospectively, the Supper retrospectively.”

    Bret responds,

    Well far be it from me to question you “Heidlebergerians.” So, instead I will quote one of your own — Herman Bavinck,

    “While this communion (with the whole person of Christ) does not come into being first of all by the Supper, for Christ is the bread of our soul already in the Word, it is nevertheless granted ‘more distinctly’ in the Lord’s Supper and sealed and confirmed in the signs of the bread and the wine.

    But maybe you would say that Bavinck is being overly simplistic as well?

    Dave offers,

    “I’d only add that even in the matter of baptism and the Word, even those are given in their due season. Most *infant* children are either in the nursery or, if they are in the service, they sleep through the Word which they can’t comprehend anyway. I don’t believe we are ‘giving’ them the Word through osmosis.”

    This is just an ignorant statement on your part. You can’t know if “most infant children are in the nursery or are sleeping in the service.”

    Second, did you not speak to your children until they could comprehend or did you speak to your children knowing that by speaking to them they would eventually comprehend?

  124. March 23, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    (1) Those who possess the thing signified also have a right to the sign

    (2) Children who can receive the grace of regeneration (as is evident from Baptism) can also be nurtured in their spiritual lives without their knowledge.

    (3) Christ is the Savior of the whole church, including the children, and feeds and refreshes all of its members.

    (4) The demand for self-examination (I Cor. 11:26-29) is not intended by the apostle as a universal requirement.

    Musculus — Loci Communes

  125. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 23, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    WCF 10-3 Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word.

    There are two groups of elect people that God regenerates and saves by Christ who are not outwardly called by the ministry of the word. Those who die in infancy and those incapable of being outwardly called. The WCF does not qualify the elect as being children of believing parents. The elect are those who are effectually called by God – period.

    I am getting from some here on this post that the elect are presumed to be the children of believing parents. This is where I have the problem – where in Scripture does it say that all children of believing parents are presumed to be elect?

    WCF 10-2 wipes out any presumption by stating:
    This effectual call (described in 10-1) is of God’s free and special grace ALONE, not from anything at all forseen in man; who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

    What this communicates to me is that we cannot presume children to be elect or non-elect on the basis of being born to believing parents. Yes, as covenant children they are given the promises, but the receiving and the possessing of the substance of those promises is totally the work of God alone – when and where and how He pleases. If our children survive infancy and are capable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word, then we need to make sure that they hear the Gospel – that evangelism is included in their Christian nurture.

    Are children of believing parents saved whether they die in infancy or grow to maturity? If they are elect – yes. They will be effectually called by God’s free and special grace.

    If my child dies in infancy, can I presume that he is elect and will be saved? No, as much as I would love to believe it – no. Nor can I presume he is not elect. I can’t presume anything. Instead, I have to trust in the wise and holy counsel of God’s eternal decree.

  126. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 23, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Where is the biblical support for statement 4?

  127. March 23, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Luther commented on whether 1 Cor. 11 meant that baptised children should be barred from the table (LW Vol. 54, p. 58):

    When in 1 Corinthians Paul said that a man should examine himself, he spoke only of adults because he spoke of those who were quarreling among themselves. However, he doesn’t here forbid that the sacrament of the altar be given even to little children.�

    And though he would disagree, I think Calvin’s defense of paedobaptism over against the Baptists fits especially well here. Credo-baptists argue that infants can’t repent, therefore they should not be baptised until they can demonstrate that they are regenerate and have can articulate a confession of faith. But here’s what Calvin said: (and the same reasoning would apply in making I Cor. 11 a unqualified universal)

    But I will make their fallacies palpable even to the blind, by a very plain similitude. Should any one insist that infants are to be deprived of food, on the pretence that the apostle permits none to eat but those who labour, (2 Thess. 3: 10,) would he not deserve to be scouted by all? Why so? Because that which was said of a certain class of men, and a certain age, he wrests and applies to all indifferently. The dexterity of these men in the present instance is no greater. That which every one sees to be intended for adult age merely, they apply to infants, subjecting them to a rule which was laid down only for those of riper years.

    Of course, it is incumbent upon those who believe it is a unqualified Universal requirement not to just assume that is what the passage teaches but to actually prove that is what the passage teaches. If they can do it, they can only do it to their own satisfaction.

  128. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 23, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    OK, but that doesn’t answer the question. Sorry to be a pest, but do you think that elect infants are saved apart from faith, or do you think that faith is not necessary in the case of children dying in infancy?

    Either answer is OK; I just want to understand where you’re coming from. So far, what you’ve said about faith and salvation is irreconcilable with infants being saved at all.

  129. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 23, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    You have quoted Calvin and Luther but you have not given me any Scripture. I think it is incumbent on those who do not think it is a universal requirement to prove their viewpoint. For the Scripture is clear and any exceptions are not found in Scripture but in the imaginations of men.

  130. March 23, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    LOL ….

    LOL ….

    Yes, the Scripture are quite clear. The quite clearly do not teach credo-communion.

    I gave you both Scripture (I Cor. 11) and interpretation of Scripture.

    Actually, the burden of proof lies upon those who disavow paedocommunion to prove that those in the covenant by baptism shouldn’t be nourished not only by the Word but also by the table.

  131. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 23, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Bret,

    I’m sure you’re familiar with Calvin’s argument against PC:

    This distinction is very clearly pointed out in Scripture. For there, as far as regards baptism, the Lord makes no selection of age, whereas he does not admit all to partake of the Supper, but confines it to those who are fit to discern the body and blood of the Lord, to examine their own conscience, to show forth the Lord’s death, and understand its power. Can we wish anything clearer than what the apostle says, when he thus exhorts, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup?” (1 Cor. 11: 28.) Examination, therefore, must precede, and this it were vain to expect from infants. Again, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” If they cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord’s body, why should we stretch out poison to our young children instead of vivifying food? — Calv. Inst. 4.16.30

    What do you think accounts for his distinction between the two sacraments? And would you grant that this distinction is plausible? Or do you think Calvin was in error in making such a distinction?

    For my part, I think the language of 1 Cor 11, “Let a man examine himself, and then let him eat …” is designed to guard against unworthy eating. Unless we could have a high level of confidence that a given recipient is not eating unworthily, I would be reluctant to set this command aside and say that it does not apply to some class of individuals.

    Jeff Cagle

  132. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 23, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Asking for Biblical support is worthwhile, but dismissing Calvin and Luther should not be done lightly. We stand within an exegetical tradition that, among other things, guards us from taking Scripture and going nutty places with it.

    That’s why, though I want to ultimately appeal to Scripture directly, I would also encourage reading Calvin. His chapter on paedobaptism (Inst. 4.16) has some things to say about infant membership in the covenant and infant faith that are relevant to the current discussion.

    Jeff Cagle

  133. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 23, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    “We invite all believers who have put their trust in Jesus Christ to share in our communion time.”

    Any objections to this church’s invitation to the Lord’s Supper?

  134. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 24, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Paedocommunion is one of the practices of the outward religion of the Pharisees. It is a practice that sets out to deceive young vulnerable children into believing that they are saved when they are not. It is a parasite that feeds off of and distorts the Reformed doctrine of the covenant. It attempts to dismiss NT self-examination because that would bring personal conviction of sin – the true condition of the soul. Paedocommunion is part of a false religion of works – nothing else.

  135. March 24, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Actually Lauren, I’m glad you said that because it gives me some room to express my convictions that heretofore I’ve been trying to keep to myself out of a sense of decorum.

    Credo-communion is one of the practices of pelagian religion. It is a practice that sets out to deceive young and old alike that they are saved when they might not be. It is a parasite that has fed off of the Church since paedocommunion was surrendered in the 9th century due to loopy notions of transubstantiation. Credo-communion attempts to dismiss the NT warnings against works salvation by subtly suggesting that God cannot save us until we add our ability to understand our salvation. Understanding, in credocommunion arrangements, thus becomes a work whereby we must add to grace in order to be saved. Credocommunion is part of a false religion of works — nothing else.

  136. March 24, 2009 at 9:19 am

    What do you think accounts for his distinction between the two sacraments?

    700 years of tradition. The same tradition that had him believing in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

    And would you grant that this distinction is plausible?

    Yes … absolutely it’s plausible. Something not plausible wouldn’t have stuck for 500 years.

    ” Or do you think Calvin was in error in making such a distinction?

    Calvin made an understandable error. We shouldn’t keep following.

  137. JPC said,

    March 24, 2009 at 10:03 am

    well said, Bret.

  138. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 24, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Aside: Calvin never positively defends Perpetual Virginity. He criticizes Helviticus for over-reading a passage in Matthew, but he doesn’t turn around and defend PV. The Catholic apologists have made too much of Calvin on this one.

    Jeff Cagle

  139. Jamie said,

    March 24, 2009 at 10:44 am

    On the use of “excommunication” of children in debate, a real life case study;

    My oldest daughter was at the table by the time she was seven or so, in the baptist church from which we came. When she was nine, we went to a reformed church where she was not allowed to partake any more. She communed previously, and then was kept from communing. Is that not what excommunication means?

  140. J.Kru said,

    March 24, 2009 at 11:03 am

    My daughter understood at 18 months that she was not receiving the bread; as we received it, she reached out and tried to take it. By 2 years she was clearly articulating that we eat be bread because Jesus loves her, and he died, for sins, and he rose again.

    If the sleeper sleeps through the Supper, he knows why he didn’t receive it. If the comatose doesn’t receive the supper, he knows why he didn’t receive it. But a 2 year old wants to know why she can’t receive the bread and wine, and I don’t have a great answer. Because she doesn’t believe in Jesus, to whom she prays and blows kisses? Because her profession of faith isn’t credible?

    What should I tell her?

  141. Todd said,

    March 24, 2009 at 11:10 am

    J.Kru,

    You might first ask her if she can explain what the sermon was about. The Supper must be a compliment to the preached Word. At 2, if she can summarize the sermon, the Bible passage it was taken from, and her desire and plan to believe/apply it, you have an extraordinary child.

    Todd

  142. J.Kru said,

    March 24, 2009 at 11:20 am

    >>Is the covenant child exempt from knowing these things at an early age and therefore, qualified to partake of the Lord’s Supper?

    Yes, because it is understood that if they had the ability to speak or understand, they would speak or understand these things. A question for you: When Paul writes in 2 Thess 3 that “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.,” are covenant children exempt from this Scriptural command and still allowed to eat?

    >>At what age should they know?
    At the age at which they can know the difference between this and the contrary.

    >>When were covenant children ever delivered from their sin? Before time began? When they were conceived?
    Yes to both questions, and “we don’t know” to both questions. In your view, when was a covenant child delivered from their sins?

    >>How does their status square with Scripture that says:
    Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me (Ps. 51).
    -Note that this is David speaking; a covenant child, raised faithfully in the fear of the Lord. No Jewish woman ever gave birth and had her friends say, “Oh, what a beautiful little Philistine.” No Jewish mother ever treated her child as an enemy of God until such a time that they grew up and accepted YWHW in their heart.
    So to answer your question, their status squares with David’s status. Every believer, from birth or by adult conversion, recognizes a habitual turn toward sin in his or her own heart.

  143. J.Kru said,

    March 24, 2009 at 11:31 am

    That would be weird, because we don’t ask adult members what the sermon was about. Exactly what kind of bar are you setting here? Seems like a pretty high one.

    In fact, there is an elderly woman who always asks, after the service, “Now honey, tell me what that sermon was about, because I didn’t understand it.” I try to sum it up as best I can. I suspect it’s an issue of a hearing aid combined with the normal confusion that often sets into the elderly mind. Perhaps we should bar her from the table? Or maybe offer spot checks in the line to receive the supper: “You there – quickly now, don’t look at your notes… how do you plan to apply today’s sermon? Summarize the Bible passage.”

  144. Todd said,

    March 24, 2009 at 11:47 am

    J.Kru,

    If the child cannot understand the sermon, why would she be able to understand the explanation of the Lord’s Supper, which is really a mini-sermon? No one is suggesting a full grasp and memory of every sermon point. And if there was no ability or interest in applying the Word that is heard, why fence the Table at all?

    Todd

  145. Reformed Sinner said,

    March 24, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    So Lauren, care to give a Scripture passage on why I should take this paragraph of yours seriously since you didn’t cite any Scripture?

  146. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 24, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Thank you for expressing your convictions. If your religion is a mere corporate business, then your convictions on paedocommunion would fit right in as one of the vast privileges of being a member of a great ecclesiastical corporation. It matters little what you are and what you feel. Paedocommunion relieves you of the responsibility to try and examine yourself by your feelings. Do you belong to the one true visible corporation? That is the question.

    But if your faith is eminently a personal business between yourself and Christ, it will not save your soul to be an outward member of any ecclesiastical body whatever, however sound that body may be. For such membership will not wash away your sin or give you confidence in the day of judgment. There must be personal faith in Christ – personal dealings between yourself and God – personal felt communion between your own heart and the Holy Spirit. Have you this personal faith? Do you have this felt work of the Holy Spirit in your soul? This is the great question. If not, you will be lost.

  147. David Gadbois said,

    March 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Quite to the contrary David it does address the point because the differences lie in the sacraments and not in the qualifications for the sacraments.

    But that is the very issue under debate. If you are wrong in that statement, and there are differences in mode of participation (and therefore in requirements of participation) then it is not ‘reasoning like a baptist’. In other words it is only ‘reasonong like a baptist’ if we accept your premise. But if we accepted your premise, then we’d be paedocommunionists, wouldn’t we?

    I can insist this because when you begin to reason about the differing requirements for the table quite apart from explicit Scriptural injunction you reason with a Baptist like hermeneutic.

    The requirements of participating, in both the case of baptism and the Supper, follows from the nature of the respective sacrament and mode of participation in the sacrament. The ‘take, eat, remember, and believe…’ nature of the Supper points to active participation. The whole idea of eating and drinking implies active participation, and thus faith is the requirement by good and necessary consequence. Whereas in baptism the water is poured on us by someone else, and the subject is passive. God unilaterally puts his sign on those who belong to the covenant. If a baptist starts reasoning like this, he wouldn’t remain baptist for long. You can object to my reasoning here, and I’m sure you do, offer rebuttals to my reasoning all you want – but it is not accurate to label it as ‘baptist’, even if wrong.

    Secondly, you have to know there is no way you can know how much persuasive power the observation that credo-communionists argue like a Baptist has. Speaking only for myself it was a very convincing argument in my movement from credo-communion to paedo-communion.

    Speaking for myself, I’m astonished at how some folks can be blinded by such transparent circular reasoning. I really thought at first that you were just scoring rhetorical points by saying that, but I am surprised that you would even set forth such a simple logical fallacy as persuasive.

    But maybe you would say that Bavinck is being overly simplistic as well?

    Bavinck didn’t set that point forward as the only distinction, so no, he isn’t being overly simplistic.

    Second, did you not speak to your children until they could comprehend or did you speak to your children knowing that by speaking to them they would eventually comprehend?

    I don’t equate language pedagogy with spiritual/theological pedagogy. Language delivers concepts and meaning, including theological concepts. So comprehension of the latter requires some proficiency in the former.

    That being said, children do learn both roughly simultaneously and should be taught both simultaneously. So that they can understand the Gospel *eventually*. At the beginning, ‘mommy’, ‘daddy’, and ‘bottle’ are the most abstract concepts that can be communicated.

  148. David Gadbois said,

    March 24, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    By 2 years she was clearly articulating that we eat be bread because Jesus loves her, and he died, for sins, and he rose again.

    First, I note that at this point we aren’t talking about *paedo* communion. A walking, talking 2 year old is not an infant. This would still be credocommunion.

    Second, if a 2 year old can, in some extraordinary cases, articulate this sort of profession in Christ, perhaps they can also be taught at least the Apostle’s Creed and Christ’s spiritual presence in the Supper. That might be a reasonable bar.

  149. Dan Seitz said,

    March 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I am fearful that this “debate” will largely be an unsatisfying dual monologue. I hope it doesn”t and will pray toward that end.

  150. Reed Here said,

    March 24, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Andrew:

    For the sake of the record here, let me acknowledge your responses and clarifications. I appreciate them and agree with your points.

    I guess the initial misunderstanding lies more with me than you. I tend to see less of a distinct line between the “evangelization” of a pagan/professed believer living in sin and a professed believer living in righteousness. To both I offer gospel and the sole resource for their needs. To be sure, the applications differ, in correspondence to the categorical difference in the needs (regeneration vs. sanctification). Yet to both, it is Christ and Him crucified that we offer.

    Thanks agains for clarifying.

  151. Reed Here said,

    March 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Zrim: sounds like I may have stepped into one of your “sacred” pastures. I don’t disagree and didn’t intend anything I was saying to juxtapose the elements you are concerned not be juxtaposed.

    Sorry for my confusion.

  152. Reed Here said,

    March 24, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Lauren:

    You’ve been doing well to offer discussion based on Scripture, and asking questions of those you disagree with to respond in kind. I caution you, however, to not fall into the error of mere assertion. I recognize that comments from others will encourage such responses (I know I’ve failed oiften in such a manner). Yet I encourage you, try to refrain from that weakness.

    Bret:

    You seem interested in making your assertions, and then giving short-change to seriously posed questions back. Contrary to your assertion, you’ve not offered a level of argument and interaction comparable to those discussing with you. Rather you offer quippy comments back, showing either disrespect or disinterest in seriously engaging your opponents.

    Thus your taking advantage of Lauren’s opinion comment is both inappropriate and unkind to those of us who disagree with your position, yet are willing to engage you respectfully.

    You should have maintained decorum instead of demonstrating how little you respect those who disagree with the PC position. Taking advantage of an “opportunity” smacks of merely taking advantage of others, not acting out of love for them.

    Please, dial it back.

  153. March 24, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Funny, Reed, the people over at IronInk where I am cross posting find my arguments all together at a level of argument and interaction comparable to those discussing with me. More then that they find my arguments superior to those discussing with me. Indeed, over at IronInk they find those disagreeing to be those offering quippy comments while showing either disrespect or disinterest.

    I guess there is just no accounting for taste.

  154. Reed Here said,

    March 24, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Brett:

    There is nothing funny about it. Your disregard and disrespect for your opponents is sad and a demerit on your profession of faith. I regret coming off strong, yet it seems that the wisdom of answering a fool according to his folly applies here.

    Please understand Bret, I actually do think better of you. I was hoping my comments would encourage a more Christlike response. Surely you can do better than offer comments which merely belittle. If not, then consider your notion of decorum. I agree with you that such is often the better choice for the sake of our witness to Christ’s honor.

  155. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 24, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Thank you, Reed, for your admonition. Let me make sure I understand the restrictions so that I do not over step my bounds. Are you stating that I should not make any assertions but only ask questions to further the discussion? If I change my assertions to question form, that would be acceptable?

  156. David Gadbois said,

    March 25, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Let me comment on Wilson’s first response to Lane, which everyone should read.

    It seems odd to me that his own church’s practice is to commune 1-year olds as long as they can point to the sky when asked ‘who made you.’ This is most bizarre. On one hand, this isn’t quite paedocommunion, in that he is looking for a profession, of sorts, from the communicant – it is still credocommunion. On the other hand, this ‘credocommunion’ approach relies on a greatly truncated profession. What a spectacle this must be to see parents coaxing vague responses out of children who cannot even speak. He gets point for creativity, though, in my book. But let’s put the most positive spin on this we can – let’s say that the one year old can have true apprehension of God’s existence. Say the one year old is even aware that he has been baptized, what exactly could the one year old conceivably understand concerning the significance of baptism and the Gospel. God’s existence is part of general revelation, after all. It is no surprise that a child would know this, whether taught or untaught on the matter. The Gospel is special revelation. A one year old cannot meaningfully grasp that he needs to trust in the Messiah who was born of the Virgin Mary and suffered under Pontius Pilate as a propitiation for their sins.

    Now we should admit that one does not have to be very old to grasp the basics of the faith. A 5 year old could probably meaningfully affirm the Apostle’s Creed and understand the significance of the Supper. But a one year old? Come on. The communing of a one year old ought to be a strong indication that superstitious ideas of the Supper are at work.

  157. Reed Here said,

    March 25, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Lauren:

    Thanks for your gracious response. Yes, the question form is actually what I was trying to encourage. You ask “If” and then allow the individual to apply the position you are describing to themselves. Or, if they believe you are not describing their position, you’ve graciously given them the opportunity to effectively interact with you.

    I do note that this is actually what you did, asking questions of Bret and allowing him to affirm, deny or clarify. I thought it wise in light of his response to you to encourage you to not respond in kind.

    Thanks for appreciating the concern.

  158. jared said,

    March 25, 2009 at 8:33 am

    David Gadbois,

    You say,

    It seems odd to me that his own church’s practice is to commune 1-year olds as long as they can point to the sky when asked ‘who made you.’ This is most bizarre.

    This is quite a mischaracterization. Wilson is recounting a particular instance what his church practices regarding children and communion, not requiring anything other than being “of age” at one year old. The “as long as” in this statement is completely unwarranted and a gross reading into of Wilson’s position/practice. You say,

    Now we should admit that one does not have to be very old to grasp the basics of the faith. A 5 year old could probably meaningfully affirm the Apostle’s Creed and understand the significance of the Supper. But a one year old? Come on. The communing of a one year old ought to be a strong indication that superstitious ideas of the Supper are at work.

    So a one year old cannot have salvation, at least that is the (theo)logical conclusion of this statement. If this isn’t the “baptistic” thinking that Doug has been accusing TR’s of then I don’t know what is.

  159. David Gadbois said,

    March 25, 2009 at 9:48 am

    The “as long as” in this statement is completely unwarranted and a gross reading into of Wilson’s position/practice.

    Oh? Then what is the purpose of the ‘sign language catechism’, as Doug puts it? If this was not a functional profession of faith, then I’d ask what the basis for communing the 1 year old and not the 6 month old?

    So a one year old cannot have salvation, at least that is the (theo)logical conclusion of this statement. If this isn’t the “baptistic” thinking that Doug has been accusing TR’s of then I don’t know what is.

    I thought ‘baptistic’ thinking was assuming we only baptize ‘saved’ people.

  160. J.Kru said,

    March 25, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Todd, your question is a simple one, and easily answered. She can understand the Lord’s Supper far more easily because the words of institution are the same every week, as is the fencing. They are easily reviewed and rehearsed week after week, whereas the sermon is different. Not to mention the words of institution are about 60 seconds long, and the sermon is 30-45 minutes.

    Now that I’ve answered that, you can explain to me how you suggest we go about ensuring adults are worthy to take the Supper.

    David – thank you for responding.

    According to Dr. Venema, it is actually “soft paedocommunion.” I am addressing the belief that a child must be, say, 14 years old. It seems to me that churches which insist that a 12 year old is the youngest member who can credibly be determined to have faith make assurance of faith of the essence of faith itself, and thus deny the confession.

  161. Todd said,

    March 25, 2009 at 11:46 am

    J.Kru,

    It seems you are separating the preached Word from the Supper, instead of seeing the Supper connected to the sermon. This is where we disagree.

    Todd

  162. J.Kru said,

    March 25, 2009 at 11:53 am

    The supper calls to remembrance Christ’s death, seals the benefits of His death, provides spiritual nourishment, provides further engagement in the duties owed to God, and is a bond and pledge of the mystical body and her communion with Him.

    That seems neither superstitious nor unimportant, for children certainly are a part of the mystical body, are they not? If not, we really have no business welcoming them into the visible church through baptism. And they certainly need spiritual nourishment and encouragement, do they not?

    The WCF, at least, does not indicate that the Lord’s Supper remembers the Apostle’s Creed, the virgin birth, or who was politically responsible for His death. It indicates that it proclaims his death.

    I am certainly open to correction, but I fail to see how faith becomes “real” when one goes from the knowledge that “Christ died for my sins” to the knowledge that “Jews put political pressure on Pontius Pilate to crucify Christ, which he instructed some Roman soldiers to carry out, and they did, which was for my sins.”

    To add requirements of knowledge of the virgin birth, apostles creed etc. seems to add to what Scripture says about the supper.

  163. David Gray said,

    March 25, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Pastor Bordow,

    You are right to tie the Supper and the Word. Excellent reason for observing the Lord’s Supper when the Word is preached.

  164. David Gadbois said,

    March 25, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    The supper calls to remembrance Christ’s death

    And how can a 1 year old (who can only communicate in vague hand gestures) do this in even a basic way that is meaningful? The Supper is, of course, more than a remembrace of Christ’s death, but it is not less than that either, as the paedocommunion position would entail.

    The WCF, at least, does not indicate that the Lord’s Supper remembers the Apostle’s Creed, the virgin birth, or who was politically responsible for His death

    That is beside the point. The point is whether or not a child can give a credible profession of faith, which entails affirming the basics of the faith. The Apostle’s Creed is a basic summary of our faith.

    I fail to see how faith becomes “real” when one goes from the knowledge that “Christ died for my sins” to the knowledge that “Jews put political pressure on Pontius Pilate

    The point of the Apostle’s Creed mentioning Pontius Pilate is not to make Pontius Pilate part of the substance of faith, but rather to locate Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection in real-life history, in real time and space. It affirms the historicity of Christ’s person and work, and guards against various errors and heresies. Christ was not like Zeus or pagan gods, who existed in a mythical other-world, nor did Christ “rise from the grave in our hearts” like modern liberals would have us believe.

  165. J.Kru said,

    March 25, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    David –

    >>>>That is beside the point. The point is whether or not a child can give a credible profession of faith, which entails affirming the basics of the faith.

    No, that actually IS the point. You asked the question, “what exactly could the one year old conceivably understand concerning the significance of baptism and the Gospel.”

    And then you asserted that the answer to that question is ‘virtually nothing,’ (that’s not a quote, that’s my summary of the unspoken answer to your rhetorical question) because “A one year old cannot meaningfully grasp that he needs to trust in the Messiah who was born of the Virgin Mary and suffered under Pontius Pilate as a propitiation for their sins.

    I am asserting that a 1 year old can in fact understand the meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, in a very rudimentary manner.

    >>>The Apostle’s Creed is a basic summary of our faith.

    Sure, but there are many basic summaries of our faith. The WSC is one. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. “Jesus is Lord.” Just because it is A basic summary does not mean that it is the ONLY summary.

    It is a fine summary for an adult. But unless you want to say that there is no such thing as a faithful young child, you’re going to have to acknowledge that “credible” will change, depending on whether you’re talking to a young child, an elderly adult with a weakened mind, a new convert from New Age, a handicapped teenager or an 18 year old who grew up in the church.

    >>> . . .but rather to locate Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection in real-life history, in real time and space. It affirms the historicity of Christ’s person and work, and guards against various errors and heresies. Christ was not like Zeus or pagan gods, who existed in a mythical other-world, nor did Christ “rise from the grave in our hearts” like modern liberals would have us believe

    The beauty here is that there is no child (who has been faithfully taught by his parents) who would suggest that Christ’s work was ahistorical, mythical, or only ‘in our hearts.’ In my experience, they believe the literal truth of the Gospel.

    Let me ask 2 more questions.
    1. Is every infant and young child by definition faithless?

    (if your answer is “no”,)

    2. How could a young child possibly demonstrate their faithfulness in your view?

    And finally, I’m going to respond to your #45, which will be below this one –

    You seem to have this view that if you want to give babies and toddlers communion, you just leave them to their own devices. Of course he asked his grandson questions. It doesn’t mean that he would deny spiritual nourishment if his grandson didn’t quite follow along. It means that he was training a child in the way he should go. Nothing contradictory there.

  166. J.Kru said,

    March 25, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    I think there is great pastoral wisdom in tying the supper and the sermon together, but I don’t see it demanded by Scripture, so I cannot demand it either.

    Where do you see it in Scripture?

  167. Andrew said,

    March 25, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    David,

    I think you have misread Doug on this. As I understand it, he is not saying that the child was given communion because of his profession (my means of hand signals), but that the child was already being given communion at that age.

    The reason for the illustration is to illustrate a percieved weakness in the CC posistion. It is all very well to argue that a profession is necessary, but most reformed churches go far beyond that and delay long after a profession. So even if Venema’s defence turns out to have any merit it will not be a defence of the practice of Reformed churches.

    Doug’s point is that his congregation has children taking from about the age of a year (on the grounds of covenant membership); at this stage some sort of profession is sometimes possible. Would Venema object to this because Wilson has the wrong explanantion (covenant membership rather than profession), or becuase of the age of the child?

    It is, of course, possible to drop some wine into a child’s mouth at an earlier age. I don’t think Doug would say this is wrong on theological grounds, simple as a matter of practice (such practical reasons being good or bad, I don’t claim to know).

    The main purpose of the sign catechism, is, I imagine, part the general attempt of the parents to bring up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

  168. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 25, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Paedocommunion fits right in with Doug Wilson’s view of the church. If his view of Christianity and the church is that of an ecclesiastical corporation, then paedocommunion is a privilege that should be offered to church members who may or may not have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Under the corporate church paradigm the sign and the substance are one and the same.

    It does not matter whether the communicant has any head-knowledge of Christ, even though it is my belief that an unknown Christ is no Savior.

    It does not matter if the communicant has any heart-faith in Christ as His Savior. A lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ – a real intelligent confidence in Christ’s blood and righteousness and intercession is not necessary. For, according to this church paradigm, all baptized people are considered members of Christ by virtue of their baptism – even though the Bible forbids us to say that any man is joined to Christ until he believes. Simon Magus was baptized, and yet was distinctly told that he had no part nor portion in this matter, for his heart was not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21). But no matter.

    In the corporate church paradigm, it does not matter if the work of the Holy Spirit cannot be seen in a communicant’s life. It does not matter if a person knows nothing experientially of the sanctifying, renewing work of the Holy Spirit.

    If the outward signs are the only requirements for church membership, then those who in reality are without Christ are eligble to receive communion at any age.

    Just as an aside – I am utterly dumbfounded at the depth of theological insight that is attached to a couple of hand signs. I can’t believe how the father of modern classical education has turned the nature of learning on its head.

  169. J.Kru said,

    March 25, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    >>>paedocommunion is a privilege that should be offered to church members who may or may not have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Doesn’t everyone have this problem with communion? Don’t even baptists offer communion to church members who may or may not have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ?

  170. David Gadbois said,

    March 25, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Andrew, fair enough. But I would wonder what the justification is for not including 6 month olds.

  171. John said,

    March 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Lane: You write, “The Reformed world firmly believes that Israel is the OT church, and the church is the NT Israel.”

    If that’s the case, then what about godly, believing Gentiles in the time before Christ? Were they required to be circumcised and join Israel? That certainly doesn’t appear to be the case, and I’d be glad to see a Bible verse that says so.

    On the contrary, we find many believing Gentiles in the time of the Old Covenant, including Naaman the Syrian, Jethro the father-in-law of Moses, Obed-Edom the Gittite who cared for the ark, many of David’s warriors including Ittai the Gittite and Uriah the Hittite, as well as Cornelius in Acts. The Bible clearly states, too, that Gentile sojourners were allowed to present offerings without first having been circumcised.

    It seems clear to me that these men were not in the same position as someone today who professes faith in Christ and claims to love the Lord but refuses to join the church of Jesus Christ. These godly Gentiles did not refuse to join Israel; they were never required to do so.

    Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding your point.

  172. Rich Hamlin said,

    March 25, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Who was it that needs to dial it back again?

  173. David Gadbois said,

    March 25, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I am asserting that a 1 year old can in fact understand the meaning of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, in a very rudimentary manner.

    And how is that? How could you, say, make a ‘sign language catechism’ for a 1 year old that communicates the realities of sin, death, propitiation, resurrection, and Christ’s spiritual presence in the Supper?

    Sure, but there are many basic summaries of our faith. The WSC is one. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost.

    WSC covers more ground than just the basics. Conversely, Peter’s sermon is not even a basic summary (it already implicitly assumes the tenents of Israel’s monotheistic religion).

    After describing the nature of true (saving) faith in Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 21, HC 22 then addresses the content of saving faith and asks “What then must a Christian believe?”

    A. Everything God promises us in the gospel.
    That gospel is summarized for us
    in the articles of our Christian faith—
    a creed beyond doubt [i.e. the Apostle's Creed],
    and confessed throughout the world.

    Whereas my Presbyterian brethren might point to the 4 points of the “Sum of Saving Knowledge” as an alternative. I won’t quibble on the matter, but either way you go you are dealing with concepts that, while basic and uncomplicated, are beyond the meaningful comprehension of a 1-year old, and even more undoubtedly beyond their ability to articulate and affirm back to the elders of the church meaningfully.

    But unless you want to say that there is no such thing as a faithful young child…

    How young? No reason a 5 year old can’t comprehend and affirm the Apostle’s Creed. Same goes for many who have mental handicaps.

    The beauty here is that there is no child (who has been faithfully taught by his parents) who would suggest that Christ’s work was ahistorical, mythical, or only ‘in our hearts.’

    Maybe they think Jesus is just like Santa Claus or perhaps lives with Barney the Purple Dinosaur in the TV. Who knows, since a 1 year old can’t explain the matter one way or another.

    1. Is every infant and young child by definition faithless?

    Again, how young? When they become of age with the mental ability to comprehend the Word, the Word creates faith. They don’t come out of the womb already knowing the Gospel.

  174. jared said,

    March 25, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Focusing on any supposed purpose of the sign language catechism in Wilson’s particular illustration is a red herring. The point is that a one year old is, in many cases, quite capable of understanding they are being excluded from some or another activity. I would posit that could a 6 month old (or younger) do so then they, too, would be admitted at Wilson’s church.

  175. ray said,

    March 25, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    As a supposedly reformed minister … the least you should do is read why our forefathers who were officebearers… thought it wise to have a profession of faith before one partakes … the way you speak shows a despising of this … your usually level headed … but here you are promoting a weak and unhealthy stance for the congregation … including the one you serve under Christ… and it shows in your response … your appeal that credo communion is pelagian ranks right up there with … “daddy why was I excommunicated” …. as the weakest and most pathetic stances for advocating paedo communion. I shake my head at the stupidity of such statements.

    Supposedly… distinctively reformed men as yourself should know better … pew sitters who have professed the faith before Christ and the congregation… partake for reasons you have not alluded to. Time to reread a solid reformed church commentary of the church order for some insight. As a CRC minister … you know of what church order commentary I speak of.

  176. J.Kru said,

    March 25, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    David – how do you italicize? That would be helpful.

    >>>Maybe they think Jesus is just like Santa Claus or perhaps lives with Barney the Purple Dinosaur in the TV. Who knows, since a 1 year old can’t explain the matter one way or another.

    That’s my point exactly. Little children think that Kermit and Barney and Santa are all real and literal. That’s an excellent example, thank you. We have to teach them that Santa ISN’T real, and Kermit IS a puppet, but we don’t have to modify their thinking with regards to Jesus.

    Your comments about which document would be the “sum of saving faith” further illustrates my point. You can argue about which one is correct, but Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

    That’s the sum of saving knowledge in Scripture, not the Apostle’s creed.

    Then I read Matt 21.16, where Jesus says, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” from Psalm 8:2.

    And it occurs to me that praise (to God) does not come out of wicked unbelievers, but true praise comes from believers and lovers of God ONLY. And, by the way, Jesus says that praise comes out of their MOUTHS – those mouths filled with bottle and breast. They’re certainly not talking, but clearly Jesus seems to think that they can, in fact, praise Him. With their mouths. That don’t speak.

    So I can only conclude that according to Scripture, only the regenerate praise God. And babies give praise to God, according to Jesus. With their mouths. And if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.

    I’m seeing saved, regenerate, worshipping babies in the Bible.

  177. jared said,

    March 25, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    You can follow this link here (if the moderators will allow the link) for some basic HTML tags that work in most blog comment sections.

  178. David Gadbois said,

    March 25, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    The point is that a one year old is, in many cases, quite capable of understanding they are being excluded from some or another activity

    Then it is an exceedingly weak point. Infants are excluded from drinking coffee, beer, and many other things that others are not. Perhaps the infants are just hungry. Perhaps even just plain envious. No matter – the point is that the motivation of the infant is not to feed on Christ in the Supper.

  179. J.Kru said,

    March 26, 2009 at 12:01 am

    sweet

  180. David Gadbois said,

    March 26, 2009 at 12:55 am

    You can argue about which one is correct, but Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

    But that already presupposes so much – that they know who ‘Jesus’ is, that they know what it means for Him to be ‘Lord’, and they they understand death (and, indeed, sacrificial death as payment for *our* sin in this context) and resurrection. The must know who the God is who raised Jesus. This verse references a much wider historical and theological context to establish its meaning.

    To put it in a more technical formulation – just because a passage says ‘if you believe X and Y you are saved’ does not mean that X and Y are summaries of the faith. For instance, I John 4 says that ‘every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God’. This does not mean that one is an orthodox Christian as long as one affirms Christ’s true humanity. Then even Arians would be orthodox.

    Then I read Matt 21.16, where Jesus says, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” from Psalm 8:2.

    Yes, and Jesus’ application should alert us to the fact that this kind of literalistic application (and perhaps even interpretation) of the Psalms passage is not warranted. He applies the passage to *articulate* children who could coherently express ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’ Those could not have been 1 year olds. And note Hendriksen’s commentary on the passage:

    Jesus is quoting these words according to the LXX version. He is telling the chief priests and the scribes that children sometimes speak the truth; better still, that God takes even the incoherent prattle of babes and sucklings, in order out of such material to prepare praise for himself. The implication is: God is also using for his own glory the shouts of the children who are now saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’

    In other words, just because God uses or ‘prepares praise’ for himself through such means does not mean that infants intend praise by their ‘incoherent prattle.’ Many glorious things in creation speak of God’s glory and are, in an important sense, to his praise, whether or not there is intentionality behind it or not.

  181. David Gadbois said,

    March 26, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Also, I note in passing that this sort of paedocom agenda diminishes the orthodox distinction between general and special revelation. The Gospel is revealed only through special revelation, through the Word. It is not the innate knowledge of general revelation.

  182. Reformed Sinner said,

    March 26, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Adults vs. Children/Toddlers/Infants: are we really that much smarter and better equip to respond to the Gospel?

    In all these posts I’ve read it comes down to one major emphasis: adults can understand the Gospel fine, the kids do not; the Gospel inheritly has some details that only a complex educated mind like adults can enjoy, kids cannot; hence, adults can enjoy communion fine, kids cannot.

    First off, Clarity of Scripture. We believe that the Scripture is clear for any person to read and comprehend. They will TRULY know the Gospel as plainly as it is revealed in Scripture. Judging by the reading of this thread I think we are ready to make an addendum to the doctrine of Clarity of Scripture: not for the simple minded (which I don’t believe is what the Reformers have in mind, they are convinced anybody, as long as they can read, can understand the Gospel CLEARLY and TRULY. Yes, even children.)

    Second, any pastor will tell you the frustrating part about pastoring is not teaching the Gospel, but the flock abusing and misusing the Gospel. To follow Machen’s viewpoint – any distortion of the Gospel is foreign of the Gospel, it’s not percentages but it’s either/or – either it’s the pure Gospel or it’s something else. From this stand point: adults are no better than children in their understanding and responding to the Gospel. In fact, I would go further to say adults generally distort the Gospel more than children with simple faith: Jesus loves me yes I know, for the Bible tells me so. However, the real argument is if the judge of reception of communion is on a person’s “right” comprehension of the Gospel, then NOBODY qualifies to eat and drink it, nobody.

    If we truly believe in the Clarity of Scripture, if we truly believe in Total Depravity and the FULL redemptive assistance of the Holy Spirit in all ares of our lives, if we truly believe that children can also enjoy the FULL blessings of the Holy Spirit, and if we truly believe in Calvin’s take on the LORD’s communion (it’s not Christ to us but us to Christ with the Holy Spirit’s lifting), then paedocommunion is as fully consistent with our tradition and Scripture.

    Lauren Kuo made the comment that unknown Christ is no savior. I would say yes and any kind of distorted Christ in all of us adults heads today is no savior either. The only savior is the Holy Christ seated at the right hand of God, and NOBODY in this world can fully/truly/really know Him WITHOUT the redeeming power of the Holy Spirit – in which I believe ALL PEOPLE of God enjoys: adults and kids. The argument about knowledge of our savior ultimately breaks down at any level because it’s not about level of mental competence, but rather it’s about totally submitting to the wisdom of Christ and the redeeming power of the Holy Spirit.

    When Paul speaks directly to children in Ephesians, reminding them to obey the Commandment to respect their parents, Paul fully expects them to understand and comprehend that Commandment the same way as adults understand them: by the salvation of Christ and the help of the Holy Spirit. Paul did not qualify himself when he speaks to children, Jesus did not forbid the children from going to Him, I am wondering why today we are trying so far to do something that’s (in my humble opinion) foreign to the Scripture, and the Gospel.

  183. Zrim said,

    March 26, 2009 at 10:27 am

    RS,

    I share your concern for intellectualism. Those of us on the anti-PC side of the table seem slow to acknowledge our tendency to set up a sort of classicist system that excludes children simply because they are children. And we can be slow to recognize that faith is, as you suggest, profoundly simple while also profoundly inscrutable. Jesus did say that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who have child-like faith.

    But the point really isn’t that we expect all to be erudite theologians. The point is that the two sacraments have two different functions; they act to bookend faith. The first—baptism—is God’s initiation to us by grace alone. The second—Supper—is a response to initial grace. It’s actually very Reformed to think in terms of the dialogical principle here. God bids, we respond. But one cannot respond unless and until the heart (read: the intellect, the affections and the will) has been moved, by definition. This can happen at age two or ninety-two. But it simply has to happen before the second sacrament may be rightly employed if we understand that sacrament to be a function of response.

  184. jared said,

    March 26, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Just as a matter of clarification, this is what Jesus actually says:

    And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. – Mark 10:13-16 (emphasis mine)

    Of course, PC advocates might prefer Luke’s version (Luke 18:15-17) since he says “babies” (brephos) instead of “children” (paidion).

  185. Todd said,

    March 26, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Luke 18:15-17 is a much better argument for infant baptism than PC. To lay hands on the babies was for Jesus to place his name on them; which is what baptism symbolizes, not communion.

    Todd

  186. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Those of us on the anti-PC side of the table seem slow to acknowledge our tendency to set up a sort of classicist system that excludes children simply because they are children. And we can be slow to recognize that faith is, as you suggest, profoundly simple while also profoundly inscrutable. Jesus did say that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who have child-like faith.

    Well-said.

  187. jared said,

    March 26, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    It works both ways. If the kingdom of God belongs to infants/children then there is no excuse for denying them the heavenly meal.

  188. jpc said,

    March 26, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    “To lay hands on the babies was for Jesus to place his name on them; which is what baptism symbolizes, not communion.”

    Yes, you paedocommunion guys: Jesus places his defining name on that which is not to be in communion with him.

  189. David Gadbois said,

    March 26, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Jared said If the kingdom of God belongs to infants/children then there is no excuse for denying them the heavenly meal.

    You act as if that is a self-evident, airtight deduction. Let’s hear real argument around here, folks. Same goes for you, JPC.

  190. john k said,

    March 26, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    zrim,

    What support from Scripture, confession, or systematic theology would you cite for this expression and application of the difference between the sacraments?

    Don’t the two sacraments both exhibit grace and call for the response of worthy receiving (W. Conf. 27:3)? The “dialogical principle” cannot be parceled between the two ordinances, but both parts (bidding and response) are present in both sacraments.

    At least for adult converts, faith is not “bookended,” but is prior to both sacraments. For converts, baptism is certainly a response to grace—the grace of the Word.

    It is more plausible to argue that the initiatory sacrament can be received purely passively (even though some receive it actively), and therefore can be given to infants; while the nourishing sacrament can be received only actively, and therefore is legitimately given only to those who can respond.

    But your concern about intellectualism seems to me to be halfway to paedocommunion, since the anti-pc position is usually that worthy receivers must know on a mature level the state of their hearts, and be able to tell the elders about it credibly—because, although the heart may be moved at age two, it cannot at that age really know it has been moved, or give a credible account of having been moved. Also, that a two year old cannot actively feed on Christ in the heart. Finally also, that a two-year-old cannot commit to, and take responsibility for living the Christian life.

  191. Zrim said,

    March 27, 2009 at 8:05 am

    john k,

    But your concern about intellectualism seems to me to be halfway to paedocommunion, since the anti-pc position is usually that worthy receivers must know on a mature level the state of their hearts, and be able to tell the elders about it credibly—because, although the heart may be moved at age two, it cannot at that age really know it has been moved, or give a credible account of having been moved. Also, that a two year old cannot actively feed on Christ in the heart. Finally also, that a two-year-old cannot commit to, and take responsibility for living the Christian life.

    I think as Gadbois has rightly pointed out, it helps to define our terms. A child at the table isn’t paedocommunion simply because s/he is a child. A child who has shown a credible profession of faith is an example of credo-communion (or at least should be). PC is when we treat the sacrament of communion like we do baptism. In other words, an ignorant infant is both baptized and allowed at the table. But while ignorance doesn’t hamper the efficacy of baptism it does the table. Ignorance may attend children or adults, so it is inappropriate for either an ignorant child or adult to come to the table.

    I find your assertion that children cannot have true faith or take responsibility for living the Christian life a pretty good example of the intellectualism to which I referred. I agree that a credible profession of faith is required. I just don’t understand why children are assumed unable to do this. The only thing I can come up with is that you think children are different kinds of human beings. But I’m only a half-way intelligent adult at best and understand a lot less than I do understand—why am I allowed at the table? I’m with Calvin who said he’d rather experience the supper than understand it.

  192. March 27, 2009 at 11:23 am

    [...] An Introduction to the Paedo Communion Debate March 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm (Communion, Covenant) [...]

  193. Andy Webb said,

    March 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    About four years ago we did a conference on the Sacraments entitled “Signs of Redemption” and as part of that conference we had three Reformed Seminary Profs – Dr. Mark Herzer, Dr. Nick Willborn, and Dr. Bob McKelvey do a presentation on this subject entitled “Paedocommunion – History, Overview & Critique.” It has helped me a lot over the years in responding to questions on the subject -

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=83105144017

    Also of interest and directly applicable to this topic was the lecture “Children of the Covenant – What is the Status of the Children of Believers?” –
    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?sid=83105131541

  194. Reed Here said,

    March 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks Andy.

  195. Todd said,

    March 27, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    JPC,

    Your silly sarcasm aside, the parents of Israel did not need to keep bringing their babies to Jesus every week so he would bless them again and declare them His over and over, this only needed to happen once, which is what baptism signifies, that God has placed his name on the children of believer(s) and called them his. This does not need to be repeated. Communion is different, which is why it is repeated. Thus the Luke passage has traditionally, and rightly so, been an argument for infant baptism, not PC.

    Todd

  196. john k said,

    March 27, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Zrim, thank you for the reply.

    We are free to use terms as we like, but I think most credocommunionists do see children at the table as paedocommunion. They deem children unable to make a credible profession of faith because the definition of a “profession” involves being able to take responsibility for the profession.

    I stated credocommunion arguments not because I agree with them, but because I wondered how you could be for credocommunion while rejecting credocommunion arguments. I was thinking of arguments I’d seen from Leonard Coppes, for instance. But perhaps (on Professor Venema’s definitions) your position is really “soft” paedo-communion, willing to set the bar lower for “credible profession” than reformed churches historically have done. I just wanted to understand your position, but there’s no obligation to clarify it further if you’d rather not. If “soft” paedocommunion counts as credocommunion for you, I’m not interested in disputing the definition.

    My comment was prompted more by your distinction between the two sacraments.

  197. Zrim said,

    March 27, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    John k,

    I recognize my views in what Venema calls a “modified” view of the historic practice. Soft PC implies sympathy to an ignorant partaking at the Table, for which I have absolutely none.

    Not all credo-communion arguments, I think, are good. I am only compelled to be beholden to good arguments, not arguments that are merely associated with credo-communion. I think we CCers need to be more cognizant of our inherent tendency to intellectualize. After all, if things can be intellectualized, and we agree that is a bad thing, then what would be an example of it if not the assertions that children are unable to have true faith or take responsibility for it, etc.? Frankly, I find those assertions really quite preposterous (I’d say offensive, but I try to avoid the culture of the offended as best I can). It seems to me that PCers are in a rush to get kids to the rail and they run roughshod over instruction, etc. But just because they do this is no reason too raise a hand and claim kids are somehow les than human and unable to have true faith. I’m at ease with the normal course of things where most kids don’t come to the rail until somewhere in the vicinity of adolescence-to-young-adulthood. That’s just normal, and there’s a lot to be said for the slow process of maturing. But I get ill-at-ease with the idea that they are by-passed because the rest of us have such low views of kids.

    Re my distinction of the two sacraments, this has always been my Reformed understanding. I cannot quote chapter and verse for you as you asked, sorry. But it’s not too unlike being asked to cite references for the sola’s.

  198. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Well, I’d start with Calvin. He is (like Zrim, and like me) a believer in infant faith, but he denies paedocommunion on the basis of 1 Cor 11.

    Jeff Cagle

  199. john k said,

    March 28, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Zrim,

    Thank you for graciously replying. I appreciate your interest in holding the best arguments and position. This will be my last post here. I see we’ve made the thread go to a second page.

    [First, from your earlier posting:] The first—baptism—is God’s initiation to us by grace alone. The second—Supper—is a response to initial grace.

    This is not a Reformed understanding if it means to deny that both sacraments consist of grace and response. No chapter and verse can be found for such a denial. But I see in the “Strict or Soft” thread that you did not intend to make this denial.
    the normal course of things where most kids don’t come to the rail until somewhere in the vicinity of adolescence-to-young-adulthood.
    I think this practice displays intellectualization misapplied.
    PCers are in a rush to get kids to the rail and they run roughshod over instruction
    This assumes that instruction is necessary for covenant children prior to the Supper. I don’t see PCers neglecting instruction of children of all ages. They just don’t hold to this assumption. I’m inclined to agree with them.
    I find those assertions really quite preposterous
    I see them circulated in all seriousness even in this forum. The assertions go hand in hand with the idea that children may well have recognizable faith, but are still unfit recipients, and don’t really need the Supper because they have baptism and preaching. Children must first attain to “years of discretion,” as also for marriage (see the Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God).

  200. ReformedSinner said,

    March 29, 2009 at 9:58 am

    This thread has degenerated from infant communion to any communion by children. Calvin was strictly speaking about infant communion, not lumping all children in general. I challenged this thread many times that at what age can a “person” be legally allowed to take the communion in your views. 10? 12? 15? 18? Ignored. Not to mention what kinds of answer will you allowed as a demonstration of “understanding” salvatioin? Is it enough to say “Jesus loves me yes I know for the Bible tells me so”, or do you expect a perfect understanding of original sin, sinful nature, repentant, full knowledge of Gospel, and the work of the Holy Spirit? If yes do you subject the same tests to adults and if adults failed the test do you deny them communion? To ask it simply, do adults need to pass 1 Corinthians 11 like you quoted? If yes, please show me a test with what questions do you ask them?

    If we take 1 Corinthian 11 in strictest sense than I bet at least 50% of adults in congregations can’t take the communion. If we take it in a loose sense than children have as must fundamental understanding about salvation as adults do.

    This to me is the biggest problem of denial of paedocommunion – the second step is so artificial and lack Biblical guidance that I don’t see how this can be “more biblical” than what the Church has traditionally followed and have done.

  201. ReformedSinner said,

    March 29, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Second part answer: regarding Calvin. What to make his pointing denial of paedocommunion of Book 4:16:30?

    1) Calvin is not responding to Reformed paedocommunionists in Book 4:16:30, He was condemning the Anabaptists who postulated paedocommunion as a way of defeating arguments for paedobaptism. In fact, besides interacting with Anabaptists and destroying them, Calvin elsewhere has little to say about paedocommunion.

    The fact is Reformers talk so little about paedocommunion that causes the heirs of the Reformation to have no good reason to reconsider the tradition we inherited from the medival Church. Calvin, Luther and others are usually quiet when they don’t have a major problem with many practices inherited from medieval Church. They are not as emphatic about the topic as John Huss.

    The point is in 4:16:30 it is too little data to conclusively conclude Calvin is this stinch anti-paedocommunion-ist. People have too often made the mistake of equating Calvin’s Institute with Calvin himself. While the Institute represents his master-work, but many theologians and scholars over the years have reminded us the Institute is not Calvin, he is a much richer and broader man than that, and in this case I think the same logic applies.

    2) We notice that the majority of the paragraphs in 4:16:30 are Calvin’s assertions more than arguments. It seems he’s doing eisegesis: asserting that there’s a “requirement to discern the Lord’s body” for infants and toddlers which begs the question, why such requirement exists specially for infants and toddlers.

    Calvin has already step a lot of time on passages on baptism that state “one must repent before being baptized”. Why are these passages not applying to infants/toddlers and infant baptism is allowed? This is strictly the Baptists viewpoint – infants can’t so they can’t be baptize. My own view: Calvin really didn’t have any Reformed paedobaptists to deal with (thus no need to articulate the doctrine further) but Calvin was simply snapping at Anabaptists enemies (and most times not really too seriously judging by his wordings and writing style.)

    Calvin’s text on children didn’t take the Passover is a gross under-performance of his usual excellent exegetical concerns. The text shows parents are to answer their children about passover, but not as catechism or a “requirement” children must master before they partake. The text simply states: the children asks, the parents answer. Nothing more about children needing to reach a certain level of understanding before permission to participate.

    In the Bible God specifically only forbid uncircumcized to take the Passover. If understanding is so crucial a factor why not include them? Calvin asserts young circumcized men are also prohibited, bu again it’s his assertion, lack of Biblical support.

    Another agument is that modern anti-paedocommunionists quite commonly now claim it is distinctively paedocommunionist error to tie Lord’s Supper to Passover. They admit children partake in passover by virtue of “covenant people of God.” But now the Lord’s Supper is “different.” Funny this is actually an about face in the presence of Calvin’s arguments – another reason we are to reconsider Calvin’s stance on this matter.

    In light of this and the anti-paedocommunionists about face on Calvin (and yet still say Calvin is their master), John Murry has an interesting paragraph on this issue:

    “It is objected that paedobaptists are strangely inconsistent in dispensing baptism to infants and yet refusing to admit them to the Lord’s table… At the outset it should be admitted that if paedobaptists are inconsistent in this discrimination, then the relinquishment of infant baptism is not the only way of resolving the inconsistentcy. It could be resolved by going in the other direction, namely, that of admitting infants to the Lord’s Supper. And when all factors entering into this dispute are taken into account, particularly the principle involved in infant baptism, then far less would be at stake in admitting infants to the Lord’s Supper than would be at stake in abandoing infant baptism. This will server to point up the significance of infant baptism in teh divine economy of grace. (Christian Baptism, pp. 73-74.)

  202. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Hi RS,

    Sorry to have ignored you. I thought you were speaking to others.

    My own view is low-bar communion: that acceptable expressions of faith ought to be measured in a developmentally appropriate way. You can get a fuller sense of it here.

    Does that answer your question?

    Jeff Cagle

  203. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Followup. RS, you said,

    If we take 1 Corinthian 11 in strictest sense than I bet at least 50% of adults in congregations can’t take the communion. If we take it in a loose sense than children have as must fundamental understanding about salvation as adults do.

    In our church, the standard for children and adults is pretty much identical. They need to show evidence of understanding and affirming the membership vows. Our session tends to spend a bit more energy trying to sort out “faith” from “legalism”, but beyond that, the requirements are not overly intellectually strenuous.

    Jeff Cagle

  204. Zrim said,

    March 29, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Is it enough to say “Jesus loves me yes I know for the Bible tells me so”, or do you expect a perfect understanding of original sin, sinful nature, repentant, full knowledge of Gospel, and the work of the Holy Spirit? If yes do you subject the same tests to adults and if adults failed the test do you deny them communion? To ask it simply, do adults need to pass 1 Corinthians 11 like you quoted? If yes, please show me a test with what questions do you ask them?

    If we take 1 Corinthian 11 in strictest sense than I bet at least 50% of adults in congregations can’t take the communion. If we take it in a loose sense than children have as must fundamental understanding about salvation as adults do.

    I wonder if part of the problem is that some credo-communionists apply an adult bar to children, which tends to make it impossible for children. But it is hard for me to believe that plenty of adults give “childish” answers to examination and are allowed at the Table simply because they are adults, while children give “child-like” answers and are rendered unfit simply because they are children. In other words, to be intolerant of children giving child-like answers and tolerant of adults giving childish ones seems like a double-standard that never helps much.


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