Church History and Paedo-Communion

The second chapter of Venema is a discussion of PC in church history. Venema, in this chapter, is addressing the argument for PC that history either favors or allows for PC in the practice of the church. Venema’s thesis statement is here: “The historical practice of the church encourages a reconsideration of the usual Reformed practice of restricting the Lord’s Table to those who are professing members of the church” (p. 11). I assume by “reconsideration” Venema means that the PC position should reconsider the traditional position and switch to it, although the sentence itself could be misinterpreted as saying that opponents of PC should reconsider their position. The two-fold argument from the PC side is that the preponderance of evidence is in favor of PC and that the main reason why PC was stopped was the introduction of unbiblical emphases into the church’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.

Venema’s first historical point is that the evidence for paedo-baptism is significantly more extensive than the evidence for PC. After examining Justin Martyr (he acknowledges but plainly disagrees with Leithart’s and Gallant’s interpretation of Justin’s statements), Clement (the reference in footnote 4 on page 13 is incorrect; it should be ANF 2:242, not page 243), Origen, and the author of Didascalia, he concludes that “the historical evidence stemming from the earliest period of the church’s history, therefore, provides no uniform testimony to a widespread practice of paedocommunion” (pp. 15-16). Venema does acknowledge that Cyprian is the first reference to the practice, but denies that this constitutes evidence for widespread practice.

It is only in the fourth and fifth centuries that PC became a normal practice of the church. Venema argues that it was Augustine’s view of the sacraments as conveying grace ex opere operato that led him to advocate the practice of PC (p. 18). It is generally acknowledged by all sides that the Eastern church practiced and still practices PC. Venema acknowledges that “the practice of Eastern Orthodoxy since the fourth century certainly lends support to the argument that paedocommunion enjoys the sanction of church history” (p. 19). However, this statement is immediately qualified: “The basis for the practice of Eastern Orthodoxy, however, raises questions concerning how this practice should be evaluated” (ibid).

On the Roman Catholic Church in the Medieval period, Venema acknowledges that the practice of PC did fade after transubstantiation kicked in (after all, one can’t have one spilling the blood of Christ, or letting bits of Christ’s body fall to the floor to be stepped on). However, when it comes to the Reformation, Venema argues that, although the Reformed tradition continued the practice of delay from the RCC’s Medieval period, “they did so for reasons that were consistent with their general understanding of the sacraments” (p. 22). In other words, not for the same reasons, contra most advocates of PC, who simply lump together Reformation orthodoxy with Medieval Catholicism, as if they did the same thing for the same reasons, or as if the Reformed never really examined why they did what they did. The Reformed argue that faith is necessary to gain benefit by the sacrament, and that baptism therefore differs from the Lord’s Supper. In other words, faith does not have to come first in baptism, but it does have to come first in a proper taking of the Lord’s Supper.

Venema concludes by saying that the introduction of PC into the church was concomitant with “dubious sacramental views” (p. 25), and that the Reformed were not continuous with Medieval Catholicism in terms of their reasoning for rejecting PC. Both of these theses argue substantially against the historical reasoning of PC advocates.

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18 Comments

  1. Scott said,

    April 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    A very “normal” looking church.

    Knowing what I now know of the regulative principle, and what scripture would have for us, I would “photoshop” out the flags and “portrait” of our Lord, with a disclaimer, of course.

  2. jared said,

    April 3, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Lane,

    You say,

    Venema’s thesis statement is here: “The historical practice of the church encourages a reconsideration of the usual Reformed practice of restricting the Lord’s Table to those who are professing members of the church” (p. 11). I assume by “reconsideration” Venema means that the PC position should reconsider the traditional position and switch to it, although the sentence itself could be misinterpreted as saying that opponents of PC should reconsider their position.

    Venema tells us, quite plainly, what is to be reconsidered: “the usual Reformed practice of restricting the Lord’s Table to those who are professing members of the church”. He is saying that limiting (or “restricting”) the Supper only to those who are professing members is something that should be reconsidered given historical practice. In effect he seems to be speaking to opponents of PC since they are the ones who do such restricting. It is not inconceivable that he is counting himself amongst those who should reconsider their “usual” practice.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    April 3, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Jared, your reading of Venema is not born out by the rest of the book. Venema is clearly opposed to PC.

  4. jared said,

    April 3, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    I don’t doubt that he is opposed to PC. But you can be opposed to PC and recognize a “usual practice” (i.e. restricting the Table only to professing members) that, perhaps, should be reconsidered given the testimony of history (in this particular case).

  5. Andrew said,

    April 4, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Lane,

    Are you certain the opening thesis concerning reconsideration is not the one Venema is respondinf to rather than defending? It would certainly read much easier that way.

  6. Andrew said,

    April 4, 2009 at 11:21 am

    I think the simplest option for the CC posistion is simply to acknowledge the historical novelty of the posisition, assert sola scriptura and move on. Otherwise the temptation is to make tenous and unwarrented claims, which inevitability affect the credibility of the whole case. For example:

    “It is only in the fourth and fifth centuries that PC became a normal practice of the church”

    Is this actually true? Is there any proof of this in any way whatsoever? Or is it simply the case that more evidence has survived as we get closer to our own time, which is something to be expected?

    Or this:

    “Venema argues that it was Augustine’s view of the sacraments as conveying grace ex opere operato that led him to advocate the practice of PC (p. 18). ”

    Augustine certainly believed in paedocommunion. He may even have believed it helped in the salvation of the child. But where do we learn of Augustine “being led to advocate the practice of PC”? This implies a movement in posistion, novel at least to Augustine. Where do we read of this development? If it were necessary for him to ‘advocate’ it, one might expect that others at the time opposed it. Is their any evidence for this?

    Is it not more accurate to say that Augustine treats paedocommunion as a normal practice and uses it in support of other arguements (e.g. in battling Pelaganian denial of original sin?)

    It is good that Venema acknowledges that the assault on paedocommunion was motivated by gross, papist errors. Unlike the unproven suggestion that paedocommunion developed as a result of false views of the sacrament, it is certain and documented that credocommunion grew as result of erroneous sacramentology.

    Moving to the Reformation, does Venema actually prove prove the suggestion “the Reformed never really examined why they did what they did” as a matter of historical fact? That is, is he claiming that the Reformers could have defended icredocommunion on the grounds that Venema does, or does he saying that they actually did so? Only the latter would be worth doing. Does he site any books by the Reformers on the topic? Any correspondence between them? Any conferences?

    To the best of my knowledge there is simply miminal Reformed discussion of the issue. Calvin has a passing section, but only as a reply to a hypothtecial suggestion from the Anabaptists – which hardly counts as serious consideration of the matter. Again it is only mentioned in passsing in the Larger Catechism. A few reformers said they didn’t see any harm in it, but didn’t press the issue. All in all, hardly a full response that would merit the term ‘Reformed posistion’ as opposed to Reformed ‘practice’, or ‘habit’.

    Also, does Venema mention at all the heroic struggle of the Hussites to restore paedocommunion? The fought (literally) to regain this right, and succeeded too, for several years. A Hussite hymn on the matter is as beautiful today as it was then:

    “You gave us his body to eat,
    His holy blood to drink
    What more could he have done for us?

    “Let us not deny it to little children
    Nor forbid them
    When they eat Jesus’ body.

    “Of such is the kingdom of heaven
    As Christ himself told us,
    And holy David says also:

    “From the mouths of small children
    And of all innocent babes
    Has come forth God’s praise
    That the adversary may be cast down.

    ***

    “Praise God, you children You tiny babes, For he will not drive you away, But feed you on his holy body.”

    The historical case does not, of course, prove CC wrong. But as Venema seems to acknowledge, the dubious origens of CC and the ancient heritage of PC should certainly temper the aggression of those who attack the paedocommunion posistion.

  7. Andrew said,

    April 4, 2009 at 11:22 am

    P.S Could I add that this is a different Andrew that the Theonomy one – not to distance myself fom him, or anything, just for clarity.

  8. Lee said,

    April 4, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    I have not read the Venema book, so I can’t speak for it. But I certainly think that the CC grounds historically are not dubious. In fact, they are at least as solid as the PC view. Lane states that Venema discusses Origen and the Didascalia. I am assuming he is referring to quotes like these.

    “Before we arrive at the provision of the heavenly bread, and are filled with the flesh of the spotless Lamb, before we are inebriated with the blood of the true Vine which sprang from the root of David, while we are children, and are fed with milk, and retain the discourse about the first principles of Christ, as children we act under the oversight of stewards, namely the guardian angels” (Origen. Homilies on the Book of Judges 6:2).

    “Honour the bishops, who have loosed you from your sins, who by the water regenerated you, who filled you with the Holy Spirit, who reared you with the word as with milk, who bred you up with teaching, who established you with admonition, and made you to partake of the holy eucharist of God, and made you partakers and joint heirs of the promise of God. These reverence…” (Didascalia Apostolorum, ch. 9, R. H. Connolly’s edition, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1929, p. 94)

    Apparently Clement of Alexandria, who even pre-dates the two mentioned above seems to be against PC. I am not sure what Lane is referring to on page 242 but earlier in that same book Clement has a very damning quote with regards to PC. “Those who are full grown are said to drink, babes to suck. ‘For my blood,’ says the Lord, ‘is true drink’” (Pedagogue 1:6: [quoting Jn. 6:55]. Pg.218 in Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 2).
    Clement is discussing John 6:55 and seeming to exclude infants and favoring teaching them up from milk to true drink.
    Thus at the very least when Cyprian is allowing PC in Egypt, CC is the common practice in Syria and Palestine. I feel no need to abandon the historical footing of CC. It is at least as strong as the PC claims.

    Your point about the Reformers not addressing the issue is completely wrong. Yes, Calvin does mention it off hand in the Institutes, but thought only “a particle of a sound brain” necessary to see that children should not partake of the Supper. Your hypothesis about the Reformers not mentioning revolves around the idea that they needed to address the issue of infants by name. Every reformer deals with the issue because they all discuss who should come to the table. Take Question and Answer 81 of the Heidelberg Catechism about “Who should come to the table of the Lord?” The answers is “Those who are displeased with themselves for their sins, yet trust that these are forgiven them . . .” This answer forbids children as even PC advocates would have to admit that children cannot do this. Thus, the Catechism does not need a question on the can children partake of the Supper. That has already been answered in the negative. You claim they never thought about children at the table because they never expressly rejected PC, but I say that the Reformers all thought about who was a worthy recipient of the Supper. They came to the conclusion worthy recipients had to express faith, examine themselves, and discern the body. This excluded infants and young children.

    So while I agree with you that we should hash this argument out with the principle of Sola Scriptura, I do not agree that history is against the CC position.

  9. Andrew said,

    April 5, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Lee,

    Thanks for the interaction.

    Regarding the Didascalia, I presume you are arguing the order is of signifigance. Peter Leithart responded this way, and seems to answer the objection well:

    “Such a reading makes far more of the passage than common sense warrants. There is no obvious reason to understand the arrangement of clauses chronologically, and to understand them in this way distorts the passage. If the order is ‘significant,’ then we also may conclude that the bishop looses from sins before applying the waters of regeneration, that rearing up with the word preceded teaching, and that all this preceded becoming partakers of the promise of God. It is far more probable that, in the understanding of the writer, the ‘loosing from sin’ took place in baptism, and that rearing with the Word and teaching are to be understood as synonyms. The passage does not provide an ordo salutis, but simply lists various dimensions of ministry of the bishop. If the passage is not chronologically arranged, it provides no clear evidence against paedocommunion”

    I can’t access Origen online, so will have to get back on that. But given his famous relience on allegory, I would not be surprised if by ‘children’ he refers to those newly converted from heathendom, undergoing instruction. This is certainly the meaning of the Biblical language he is echoing.

    I find the third quotation very ambigous – that infants suck while adults drink could equally well be understood as an explanation of why infants are allowed – Christ can be fed on with various levels of maturity.

    I stand by my comments on the Reformation. I do not deny CC was the practice, or that this practice is mentioned (in passing) in certain confessions, or that an explanation of the apparant problem was briefly given. I am simply saying that one looks in vain for anything more than a passing reference. There was no one seriously suggesting or practicing infant communion at the time: the idea was notional and hypothetical. Since a) there is no catholic consensus on the issue, and b) the reformers never developed any mature posistion on it, I object to it being made any sort of hallmark of Reformed orthodoxy.

  10. igasx said,

    April 5, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Lane,

    Do any of the PC advocates refer to the “seed of regeneration” in a Voetian sense or perhaps an implicit faith as a defense for PC?

    Does anybody know if Voetius dealt with the issue directly?

  11. David Gadbois said,

    April 7, 2009 at 12:34 am

    As I’ve mentioned before, the matter of paedocommunion is not just one that is rejected ‘in passing.’ We really would have to scrap all of Article 35 of the Belgic. Not just amend a few lines, but throw it out and start all over again. I don’t think paedocommunionists feel the real gravity of what they are proposing.

  12. Andrew said,

    April 7, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    David,

    If memory serves me right, your denomination sbscribes to the Three forms of Unity, so I quickly give way to your superior knowledge of them.

    But I am puzzled as to the difficulties you see in Art 35 for the paedocommunionist. The art does give a full and quite beautiful explanation of what takes place in communion. But it does not say that all this and only this can occur, which is what your arguement requires. One might compare Lord’s Day 45 – ‘Of Prayer’. It states that prayer is necessary for Christians, and goes on to explain all that is involved in it. On your way of reading one would either have to say that children cannot be Christians, or that it is wrong for children to pray/be taught to pray untill they have a credible professsion.

    Or perhaps you refer to the penultimate para.which mentions the necessity of self-examination. But the paedocommunnionist understands this as he understands the Scriptural language echoed in the art (and as we all understand similar commands such as ‘Repent, and be baptized’ or ‘do not work, do not eat’).

    In any case the credocommunist posistion struggles with aspects of the article too (not because de Bres was actually Pc, but because his theology, like all reformed theology, will naturally tend that way). It starts of by saying:

    “Jesus Christ did ordain and institute the sacrament of the holy Supper to nourish and support those whom he had already regenerated and incorporated into His family, which is his Church”

    This is exactly the paedocommunion posisition, and it is the CCer who wants to make additional requirements and exclusions.

    I don’t expect you to respond in an Anabaptistic fashion, but for any who might be reading, in Art 34. it is amde clear that children are regarded as regenerate and as members of the church.

  13. David Gadbois said,

    April 8, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Andrew,

    Prayer has different preconditions, but it still has preconditions. And, incidentally, infants are not capable of meeting those conditions either. There still needs to be cognitive awareness and intentionality behind prayer that infants cannot meet.

    Indeed, it is interesting to note that paedocommunionists don’t get nearly as worked up about paedoprayer. I thought since infants were baptized that means they shouldn’t be excluded from any means of grace (as Presbyterians hold prayer to be).

    The main point of my previous comment was this – the Article spends so much time talking about us partaking of Christ *by an active faith* that you cannot come away with the idea that partaking of Christ by faith is merely an incidental or circumstantial precondition. It is of the very essence of the sacrament. And infants simply are not cognitively and spiritually capable of exercising faith in this manner.

    So we must conclude that the Article should be rewritten completely if the paedocommunionists are right and receiving Christ by faith in the sacrament is merely one way of partaking in the sacrament.

    Article 34, BTW, says that children are members of the church but does not say or assume they are regenerate.

  14. Andrew said,

    April 9, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    David,

    I do indeed object to infants being excluded from prayer, if by that you meant exlcuding after they were able to speak. This is identical to my posistion on communnion – I object to exclusion after hey are able to eat.

    My point is simply that anyone able to meet the requirments of LD 45 for prayer would be able quite capable of self-examination, and doing what BC 35 speaks of. So we either exclude our children from praying untill they are 16, both pray and commune as little ones, or admit that these statements are addressing the mature act of prayer/participation to which we grow, and do not exclude children.

    On Art 34, it seems pretty clear to me that we treat our children as regenerate:

    “they [covenant children] ought to recieve the sign and sacrament of that which Christ has done for them”

    i admit that it is not clear on thegrounds of this statement – whether because it is generally true, or becuase we have a duty of love to treat fellow members of the church as Christian unless theey give evidence to the contrary.

    Fascinatingly, Art 34 says that in the OT children:

    “should be made partakers of the sacrament of Christ’s suffering and death shortly after they were born, by offering for them a lamb, which was a sacrament of Jesus Christ”.

    Fantastic stuff! It is hard to imagine de Bres being anything other than an entustiastic proponent of PC were he around today!

    Presbyterians might be interested in this from the Scots confession (1560), written by John Knox, which suggests the same criteria for admission to the Supper as D. Wilson seems to (desire for inclusion in the church):

    “As the fathers under the Law, besides the reality of the sacrifices, had two chief sacraments, that is, circumcision and the passover, and those who rejected these were not reckoned among God’s people; so do we acknowledge and confess that now in the time of the gospel we have two chief sacraments, which alone were instituted by the Lord Jesus and commanded to be used by ALL who will be counted members of his body, that is, Baptism and the Supper or Table of the Lord Jesus, also called the Communion of His Body and Blood.”

    The Scottish Confession of Faith (which seems an expanded version of the above – I am open to enlightenment), also says that the good of the Supper can occur retrospectively, which rebutts any arguement that PC precludes the use of an active faith in the blessing of Communnion:

    “Yea, and further we affirm, that albeit the faithful, oppressed by negligence, and manly infirmity, do not profit so much as they would in the very instant action of the supper, yet shall it after bring fruit forth, as lively seed sown in good ground. For the Holy Spirit (which can never be divided from the right institution of the Lord Jesus) will not frustrate the faithful of the fruit of that mystical action; but all this, we say, comes by true faith, which apprehends Christ Jesus, who only makes this sacrament effectual unto us. And, therefore, whosoever slanders us, as that we affirm or believe sacraments to be only naked and bare signs, do injury unto us, and speak against the manifest truth. “

  15. David Gadbois said,

    April 9, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    This is identical to my posistion on communnion – I object to exclusion after hey are able to eat

    Eat with the mouth or eat by faith? How does the Belgic say we feed on Christ in the Supper? Exactly.

    My point is simply that anyone able to meet the requirments of LD 45 for prayer would be able quite capable of self-examination, and doing what BC 35 speaks of.

    But at this point what we would be doing is still credocommunion, not communing *infants*. We can be sympathetic to lowering the age of communing children before their teenage years, while not going to the other extreme of communing 1-year olds.

    On Art 34, it seems pretty clear to me that we treat our children as regenerate

    The section you cite would support presumptive Election (that Christ died for them), not presumptive regeneration.

    Fascinatingly, Art 34 says that in the OT children:

    Not sure what it ‘fascinating’ about it or how it supports your rather wishful thinking about de Bres.

    And since Knox and the early Scottish Presbyterians weren’t paedocommunionist, can you hang such a heavy thesis concerning the Scots Confession on absolutizing the word ‘all’? It just means that all who belong to the body are commanded to partake of both sacraments, *in their respective seasons*. ‘All’ tells you whom the command concerns. Who, not when.

    also says that the good of the Supper can occur retrospectively, which rebutts any arguement that PC precludes the use of an active faith in the blessing of Communnion:

    This section makes no mention of retroactive efficacy. On the contrary, it talks of the subsequent effects of the sacrament: ‘yet shall it after bring fruit forth, as lively seed sown in good ground.’

  16. Andrew said,

    April 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    David,

    That Art 35 describes mature participation in the Supper is not doubted. The question is whether we can make that an exclusive explanation, and whether the explanation of how it typically works is meant to exclude the mentally disabled or young children. I have yet to see this explained, just as I have yet to see how I Cor 11 must be understood this way.

    The other passages I mentioned are not intended to show that the creeds teach PC, merely that this is the natural tendancy of Reformed thought. So de Bres writes that communion is for regenerate members of the church, which is exactly what the PCer says.

    You are correct that the immediate sentence preceeding infants in Art 34 could be understood to refer to presumptive election rather than actual regeneration, but the article has already explained that baptism also pictures regeneration. Now you could say than this refers to the mature experience of the adult convert and not the child, but this is precisely the sort of reading you rule out in Art 35!

    The ‘fascinating’ comment of the Confession is that children are made partakers of the ‘sacrament of Christ’s death and suffering’, that sacrament being the OT sacrifice of a lamb. Now if you were to ask anyone which sacrament in the NT fufills the OT sacrifices and points to the death and passion of Christ, most would respond with ‘commmunion’. Art 34 at least creates the expectation of paedocommunion, even if we later have to rebut that expectation.

    For me, at least, this is a novel arguement for infant baptism. We know the circumscision-baptism link. But de Bres argues that since children were included in the sacramental sacrifices of the OT, and these speak most plainly of Christ, there have a right to the sacrament in the New which speaks of Christ’ death.

    The strategic importance of this line of reasoning is that credocommunionists now have to explain why infants are now excluded from what they had in the New. Most CCer’s still have enough residue of covenant theology to be embarrassed at doing this – hence the frantic and absurd efforts to argue that the children sat watching Daddy and Mummy eat the passover lamb. At a stroke, de Bres has rendered the whole passover arguement redundant and forced the whole CC posistion to defend a blatantly discontinuity posistion.

    The point of the Scots confession quotations are these:

    i) the Lord’s Supper is equated with membership of the church, an obvious statement, but denial of which is essential to the CC posistion.

    ii) that the blessing of communnion is not tied to the moment of eating. I am not concerned to use the word ‘retroactive'; ‘subsequent’ is fine by me. But look at the statement again:

    “Yea, and further we affirm, that albeit the faithful, oppressed by negligence, and manly infirmity, do not profit so much as they would in the very instant action of the supper, yet shall it after bring fruit forth, as lively seed sown in good ground. For the Holy Spirit (which can never be divided from the right institution of the Lord Jesus) will not frustrate the faithful of the fruit of that mystical action; but all this, we say, comes by true faith, which apprehends Christ Jesus, who only makes this sacrament effectual unto us. And, therefore, whosoever slanders us, as that we affirm or believe sacraments to be only naked and bare signs, do injury unto us, and speak against the manifest truth. “

    Why, in a brief confession,spend time explaining how the good of communion is not tied to the moment of administration? The only explanation I can see is that this distinguishes the Presbyterian view from the papists and Zwinglians who are too concerned with the elements. As soon as the elements are consumed Christ’s body/the memorial vanishes.

    But Knox’s explanation is very relevant. He argues that the benifit need not be tied to the degree of mature faith exercised on the occassion of the Supper. Instead, the Holy Spirit works a ‘mystical action’ where seed is sown in the heart, which is later activated by faith. And to cap it all, he gives as a reason for the inactivity of faith ‘manly infirmity’, which is the very reason in paedocommunion!

    This is a tailor made explanation of how paedocommunion need not deny the centrality of faith, descend into papistry of memorialism. A seed is laid in the heart of the child, and as he comes to greater faith, that seed bears fruit in his life.

    I am not, incidentally committing myself to Knox’s view (as I think infants do have faith), but I am pointing out that paedocommunion fits very easily into his system. PC cannot then be dismissed as promoting some non-Reformed theory of the sacraments.

  17. David Gadbois said,

    April 13, 2009 at 11:04 am

    That Art 35 describes mature participation in the Supper is not doubted.

    But this reads into the Article a qualification that simply does not exist. The whole point of its exposition here is that this mode of participation *is of the essence* of the sacrament. Not that it is merely one way of participating. We don’t eat Christ with the mouth, as Romanists and Lutherans say. We eat by faith. Also important to note is that the Belgic does *not* make faith essential to baptism as it does with the Supper.

    So de Bres writes that communion is for regenerate members of the church, which is exactly what the PCer says.

    We can say that, too, but that still does not commit anyone to a specific *timing* of communion. Again, the issue of ‘who’ (in a general sense) is different from ‘when’.

    but the article has already explained that baptism also pictures regeneration.,/i>

    The fact that baptism pictures regeneration does not commit one to any specific view regarding the timing of regeneration.

    The strategic importance of this line of reasoning is that credocommunionists now have to explain why infants are now excluded from what they had in the New.

    Not if they receive the substance of it in baptism, rather than the Supper. There is no direct analogue of every ceremonial rite or sacrifice in the OT, so it cannot be assumed that the Supper is the NT counterpart of the lamb sacrifice given for infants. It wouldn’t fit very well, anyway, since a lamb *sacrifice* is not like partaking of a meal (as in the Passover, which *is* a direct analogue of the Supper). Having someone else make a sacrifice on your behalf is a completely passive rite.

    the Lord’s Supper is equated with membership of the church, an obvious statement, but denial of which is essential to the CC posistion.

    The Supper is not ‘equated’ with membership in the church. Saying ‘all in the church are commanded to do X in order to be counted as within the church’ is not making a literalistic equation. Again, a statement about *who* is not necessarily a statement about *when*. If you really are going to push a literalistic interpretation of the passage, then you would have to say that infants are not members of the church in the few days or weeks before they are presented for baptism.

    But Knox’s explanation is very relevant. He argues that the benifit need not be tied to the degree of mature faith exercised on the occassion of the Supper

    The fact that ‘the faithful’ are sometimes weak in faith does not negate the fact that they do indeed have faith and indeed still consciously exercise it, even if imperfectly. This is not a matter of ‘degrees’ of faith, but rather qualitative differences.

    And to cap it all, he gives as a reason for the inactivity of faith ‘manly infirmity’, which is the very reason in paedocommunion!

    You are trying to blur together weakness and imperfection of faith with ‘inactivity’ or non-existence of faith. Try again.

  18. Andrew said,

    April 16, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    David,

    Thanks for your response.

    I don’t have a lot to add on Art 35. Your believe that if we held to paedocommunion, we could not have it. I offer the counter example of myself quite happy to agree with both posistions. the question is a matter of interpretation – i.e is the Art making an exhaustive and exclusive explanation of the Supper, or is it describing the normal experience, and excluding only transtanstubation? I can’t think of anyway to prove my point other than to observe that when our theologians describe mature faith or the necessity of good works, we don’t insist that this or damnation is the only option for infants. I suspect, that were it not for the polemical context, you would readily acknowledge this in Art 35.

    It does not seem at all reasonable to me to say that credocommunion is simply a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘who’. The CCer will exclude the mentally disbaled church member all his life. So you still have to wrestle with thosose parts of reformed theology that link church membership and communion.

    With due respect, David, arguing that a lamb sacrificed (called by the BC a sacrament) is more like baptism than the Supper seems bizarre. You mention participation, which I will consider, but would you not conceed the otherwise astounding similarity?

    As for participation, the BC teaches that the infant ,without mature faith, is made a partaker of Christ’s suffering and death in this OT sacrament. Are you saying that something more than this happens in communion? Or do you say the infant already has this in baptism? But if the sacraments are essentially the same in meaning and effect, it becomes increasing difficult to see why we admit some to one and not to others. Perhaps it is the means, and not the subsence of what we recieve that you see the essential difference in. I can’t see a huge difference in ‘partaking’ of Christ, and ‘feeding’ on him, but I am open to instruction.

    As for Knox, he does not mention the exercise of faith at the time of communion at all! All he says is that there must be a regenerate heart and faith afterwards, a posistion eminently suitable to PC. Obviously the ‘faithful’ have faith at the time, in the sense that it cannot be totally absent – the point is that the specific ‘eating’ faith is exercised latter.


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