The Theology of Sacraments Underlying Communion

We haven’t fully explored yet Venema’s underlying theology of the Sacraments (which I would argue is the historic Reformed position as codified in all the confessions of the Reformed churches).

Page 43 is essential for understanding this. He argues that “the insistence of the confessions that the recipients of the Lord’s Supper be professing believers arises out of their general teaching regardint the nature and power of the sacraments. (paragraph break in original) As noted in the foregoing, the Lord’s Supper, because it is a visible representation and confirmation of the gospel promise in Christ, requires the same response as the gospel on the part of its participants- faith. Neither the gospel Word nor the sacrament work merely by virtue of their administration (ex opere operato). Only by a spiritual eating and drinking by the mouth of faith does the sacrament communicate Christ to His people.” (emphasis original). At this point, it becomes evident that a rational understanding of the Sacrament becomes essential to a proper partaking, although it is not sufficient. We are not necessarily talking about whether a person has to understand the various views of Christ’s presence in the Sacrament. Rather, we are talking about the same reaction to the Sacrament as one should have to the Gospel preached in the Word. Therefore, the self-examination required is similarly limited: is the faith by which I would receive the Sacrament matching up to the faith that I receive by the Holy Spirit working in the Word? This is hardly morbid introspection, by the way.

As an aside, have you noticed how most FV proponents (as well as many non-FV PC advocates) always link the adjective “morbid” to the term “introspection?” You’d think it was a hyphenated word, from the sound of things. You’d think there was absolutely zero possibility of any kind of introspection of a non-morbid nature, if you believed these folks. And yet, if no introspection occurs at all, then how is one supposed to know and confess the sins of the heart? In Psalm 51, although David’s sins had an outward dimension, it is inner cleansing that he knows he needs. Similarly, when Jesus talks about the heart in Matthew’s gospel (chapter 15, for instance), this hardly teaches us to ignore what happens in our hearts. There is an undoubted danger in getting lost in the deepest recesses of our own hearts. This happens in depression, for example. However, the equal and opposite danger of formalized outward religion with nothing happening in the area of the heart is exactly what happened to the Pharisees. We must always connect our heart to the cleansing blood of Christ as problem to solution. It helps not one whit to focus overly much on either problem or solution. Rather, we must have a healthy examination of each and in roughly equal measure.

Back to the subject at hand, Venema concludes that the confessions teach that “all believers who are received at the Lord’s Table come in the same way and with the same obligations” (p. 45). These obligations include active engagement (p. 44). This participation is linked to the preaching of the Gospel, without which the Sacrament does not communicate grace. If this is true, then if a child cannot understand the Gospel, they will not understand the Sacrament either. This also relates to the issue of whether children are being deprived of nourishment. Venema notes that this charge against CC advocates would only be true if the children were being deprived of the Word (p. 48). In the next article, we will begin the real meat of the debate, which will be an examination of the exegetical arguments.

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105 Comments

  1. andrew said,

    May 25, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Lane,

    All of this is more or less true, but it doesn’t really land any blows on the PC posistion.

    I can quite easily agree that this is how the Supper is normally experienced: that this is the mature feeding we wish our children to have. I can therefore join you in dismissing papist theories.

    But this doesn’t show that God cannot feed his infants through their less mature faith. Nor would it rule out the possibility that infants are to be included, not for their own benefit, but for the deeper feeding of the rest of the congregation (by allowing a better symbolising of unity). As well, you might want to check out the Scots Confession, where John Knox says that the good of the sacrament, and the feeding by faith need not occur at the time of administration.

    In other words, there are a varity of possible explanations as to why God would see fit to include infants, none of which contradict our traditional Reformed explanation of the normal communion experience. You will know, I am sure, that Reformed people have had little difficulty in making exceptions for infants in our explanations of salvation and theology. David Gadbois (as an example of a learned and sound chap) even denies that infants are justified by faith, and no one responds that he thereby deviates from the Reformed understanding of justification.

    I think exegesis is a more solid base to form an arguement on, and look forward to your thoughts there.

  2. J.Kru said,

    May 25, 2009 at 11:31 am

    2 things:
    First, I don’t see what there is in Venema’s argument about the table that does not apply to the water. Take this for example:

    “Only by a spiritual eating and drinking by the mouth of faith does the sacrament communicate Christ to His people.”

    You could just as easily say that only by a spiritual washing of faith does the sacrament communicate Christ to His people.

    Secondly, what are you looking for that you expect to see in a 14 year old, but that you don’t expect to see in a 2 or 3 year old?

  3. May 25, 2009 at 11:35 am

    For that matter, is truly morbid introspection all that bad? It seems to me that people in the modern world, especially the USA, don’t think about death nearly enough. Surely there is a point beyond which we don’t want to cross, which is that point when we leave God’s grace out of the picture. Reflecting on death, though, can be a highly beneficial activity!

    ~ Adrian

  4. Pete Myers said,

    May 25, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    But this doesn’t show that God cannot feed his infants through their less mature faith.

    Why?

    One important thing that needs to be addressed is: “What’s the difference between adult faith and infant faith?”

    Infant faith (if it exists at all… and denying infant faith does not mean denying infant regeneration) is unconscious and unreflective, which actually supports Lane’s argument.

  5. Pete Myers said,

    May 25, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    You could just as easily say that only by a spiritual washing of faith does the sacrament communicate Christ to His people.

    The sacrament of baptism can be signing and sealing regeneration where faith isn’t present as long as actual regeneration is.

    The NT only talks about faith being synonymous with regeneration because it is in adults. Infants might be regenerate for years before they come to faith – the point is they’re not unbelievers during that time, they’re not capable of either.

  6. Andrew said,

    May 25, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Pete,

    Re.4

    I give paedofaith merely as example, not something crucial to the discussion. But a quick answer would be this. If paedofaith exist, then it seems to be what is referred to in Ps 22, where the infant is said to ‘trust’ and ‘hope’ in God. This is indeed active.

    We don’t know for sure the mechanics of how it works. But I don’t see how there can be trust without an object of trust, so I would suppose Christ, in his own way, makes his presense to the embyro/infant felt, who responds warmly. – something like John the baptist, perhaps.

  7. J.Kru said,

    May 25, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Pete – It sounds to me like you’re saying that there can be faithless, regenerate people. Is that fair?

  8. pduggie said,

    May 26, 2009 at 9:41 am

    At Tenth, we always say that the sacraments are given because of our “weakness and infirmities”. If we were stronger, the verbal word would be all we’d need. We’d understand it fully, and have no need to present it to our physical senses.

    So it would seem to me that someone might be unable to understand the gospel well enough merely verbally, and the more weak and infirm they were, the less help the verbal gospel would be to them

    But by presenting the gospel in the sacrament, their weakness and infirmity in the face of a merely verbal gospel is vitaited, and they then do encounter the gospel in the sacrament in a form that is comprehensible.

    Or is Tenth wrong for saying the supper is for our “weakness and infirmity” and really, its for strong and mighty Christians?

  9. Scott said,

    May 27, 2009 at 5:25 am

    “These obligations include active engagement (p. 44). This participation is linked to the preaching of the Gospel, without which the Sacrament does not communicate grace.”

    This seems to me a clear reason why members of churches that do not at least officially hold to the biblical gospel ought not be be given the Lord’s Supper. (Intuitively, it would seem there would be a parallel to baptism- but that would be another topic).

    Thanks for a clear explanation of these issues.

  10. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 27, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Re #*:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, Tenth is wrong. Jesus’ words were addressed to all, not just to the weak. But Tenth is in good company… Frankly, this is one of those places where Calvin himself was still mired in Platonism: true spirituality is necessarily non-physical. That’s halfway to Gnosticism, and most of the way to Quakerism’s view of the sacraments. Being physical is not a weakness. Many consider the the Tree of Life in the Garden to have be on the order of a sacrament of the Cov’t of Works, but that was before the Fall.

    On another note, the criterion for faith given by Jesus is that it is faith like a child’s, but we seem to be making a great deal of hay out of faith being non-child-like. It has to have a certain, adult level of reflection, comprehension, etc. But adults are called to be like children in their faith–how did we reverse this?

  11. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 27, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Sorry, that should be “#8″–I shifted and made in an asterisk!

  12. Pete Myers said,

    May 27, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    #6,7 & all interested,

    Owen imagines a regenerate child, who is “faithless”.
    Calvin imagines a regenerate child, who has some kind of “seed” faith.

    In my view, Psalm 22 (and other such passages), don’t prove paedofaith in the sense that, say, Lusk seems to understand it. I was initially convinced by Lusk, but, upon reflection feel that the passages he lists can’t bear the weight he puts upon them.

    I’d be very happy to discuss paedofaith with anyone who wants to, if it wouldn’t be too much of a deviation from these threads, and give my reasons for the above statements.

    My current position is that:
    a) Embryo’s can be regenerate.
    b) I presume the embryo’s of Christian parents to be regenerate.
    c) This presumption is so strong to the extent, that, if a Christian miscarries, she can have as much confidence of the eternal salvation of their child as a professing Christian friend in good standing with the church who dies.
    d) This presumption, is, I believe to be logically consistent with baptism (i.e. the sign of regeneration).
    e) This presumption in and of itself doesn’t necessarily lead to taking salvation for granted (there must be a failure in understanding discipleship to result in that)
    f) There may be such a thing as a “seed of faith” in infants, and foetus’s. Probably not in embryo’s, as they don’t even have brains. The Bible makes infant salvation certain (i.e. infant regeneration), but I think the Bible doesn’t answer all our questions about exactly what the subjective experience/response of salvation looks like internally in infants.
    g) Paedofaith is not necessary for infant salvation.
    h) Adult mature profession of faith is required to take communion. This requires more than an infant is capable of (i.e. understanding, reasoning, etc.)

    So, I’m perfectly happy with the idea of a regeneration infant, who then grows into their faith later, when their brain becomes capable of understanding. This sort of picture is only difficult if we insist on seeing things from an adult perspective and then “read that in” to a child’s experience of salvation.

    Elect children who die in infancy… it’s perfectly possible they could be regenerate, but never have grown up into faith.

    There we go… I invite interaction.

  13. J.Kru said,

    May 27, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Hi Pete –

    That sounds like a well-reasoned position. I think that “g” is the one I would camp out on as a difficulty. I’m don’t know you, so I don’t know your theology, but I’m assuming that you’re reformed. (Apologies if that’s not the case.) Within a Reformed framework, sola fide is all I see. I’m sure (again, assuming you are reformed) that you’re committed to that principle as well, but I think my reasoning is that the Bible never presents salvation in any way other than by grace, through faith. In other words, if I though a fetus (or can’t) have faith, then I wouldn’t think that they could be saved.

    So, salvation only ever being through faith, and infants being elect, leads me to believe that faith is necessary for elect infants, and that what needs to be changed is not my assessment of how salvation is worked (through faith) but my assessment of what faith is.

    I think I would think of “seed faith” more as “small faith” or “embryonic faith” – a seed goes into the ground and, in a very real sense, dies, and something new comes about. An embryo starts out as the same thing it will be when it’s a baby or adult – just less of it, and not as easy to recognize.

    Thanks for writing such a thoughtful post.

  14. Pete Myers said,

    May 27, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    #13,

    Thanks for such a kind response!

    Yes I consider myself Reformed. I also consider John Owen reformed, who doesn’t believe faith necessary for the salvation of infants (incapable of it in this case)! ;)

    I think that sola fide needs to be put in it’s context. What did it mean? Why was it being argued? etc. etc. If you want to discuss it, I’ll let you take a stab.

  15. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 27, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Joshua (#10):

    On another note, the criterion for faith given by Jesus is that it is faith like a child’s, but we seem to be making a great deal of hay out of faith being non-child-like. It has to have a certain, adult level of reflection, comprehension, etc. But adults are called to be like children in their faith–how did we reverse this?

    I’ve been thinking about this, also. It’s not a knock-down argument, but it is interesting that the gestalt of our discussions of faith are abruptly different from, or take no account of, Jesus’ words in Mark 10.15: “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” I’m troubled by that.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, Tenth is wrong. Jesus’ words were addressed to all, not just to the weak. But Tenth is in good company… Frankly, this is one of those places where Calvin himself was still mired in Platonism: true spirituality is necessarily non-physical…

    That’s a bold and broad critique! :)

    What do you think of this alternate account of Calvin’s view?

    We recall that the sacraments were of particular importance in the Reformation because of their special place in the RC theology of grace. It is my understanding that Zwingli, for example, took the position that he did precisely to swing the pendulum against “RC idolatry”; he vehemently denied the physical presence of Christ at communion on the grounds that it was superstitious.

    When we read Calvin on communion, what stands out is repudiations of Catholicism and Anabaptism.

    The key to Calvin and communion is Inst. 4.14 on the sacraments. Here he says,

    Akin to the preaching of the gospel, we have another help to our faith in the sacraments (4.14.1).

    The sacraments are not an inferior version of the Word, but another help to our faith. They are “for the weak” in the same way that the Word is “for the weak.” That is, having gained entrance into the kingdom and been justified, the sacraments address the parts of our mind that remain yet unconverted (Inst. 4.14.3).

    And he continues

    From the definition which we have given, we perceive that there never is a sacrament without an antecedent promise, the sacrament being added as a kind of appendix, with the view of confirming and sealing the promise, and giving a better attestation, or rather, in a manner, confirming it. In this way God provides first for our ignorance and sluggishness and, secondly, for our infirmity; and yet, properly speaking, it does not so much confirm his word as establish us in the faith of it. For the truth of God is in itself sufficiently stable and certain, and cannot receive a better confirmation from any other quarter than from itself. But as our faith is slender and weak, so if it be not propped up on every side, and supported by all kinds of means, it is forthwith shaken and tossed to and fro, wavers, and even falls. — Inst. 4.14.3

    Why is the word of promise so important to him here? Because he wants to vigorously deny that the sacrament can be effective of itself, without being attached to an antecedent promise (4.14.4). He thus directly thrusts against the RC practice of giving communion (or the bread part of communion!) without first announcing what the promise of communion may be.

    So what is the limitation of communion? It is not its physicality, as if Calvin were Platonic.

    Rather, the limitation of communion is the same limitation as the Word: namely, that it accomplishes what it accomplishes only through the direct agency of the Spirit, and never of itself:

    Wherefore, let it be a fixed point, that the office of the sacraments differs not from the word of God; and this is to hold forth and offer Christ to us, and, in him, the treasures of heavenly grace. They confer nothing, and avail nothing, if not received in faith, just as wine and oil, or any other liquor, however large the quantity which you pour out, will run away and perish unless there be an open vessel to receive it. When the vessel is not open, though it may be sprinkled all over, it will nevertheless remain entirely empty.

    We must beware of being led into a kindred error by the terms, somewhat too extravagant, which ancient Christian writers have employed in extolling the dignity of the sacraments. We must not suppose that there is some latent virtue inherent in the sacraments, by which they, in themselves confer the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon us, in the same way in which wine is drunk out of a cup, since the only office divinely assigned them is to attest and ratify the benevolence of the Lord towards us; and they avail no farther than accompanied by the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts, and make us capable of receiving this testimony, in which various distinguished graces are clearly manifested. For the sacraments, as we lately observed, (chap. 13 sec. 6; and 14 sec. 6, 7,) are to us what messengers of good news are to men, or earnests in ratifying pactions. They do not of themselves bestow any grace, but they announce and manifest it, and, like earnests and badges, give a ratification of the gifts which the Divine liberality has bestowed upon us. The Holy Spirit, whom the sacraments do not bring promiscuously to all, but whom the Lord especially confers on his people, brings the gifts of God along with him, makes way for the sacraments, and causes them to bear fruit.

    But though we deny not that God, by the immediate agency of his Spirit, countenances his own ordinance, preventing the administration of the sacraments which he has instituted from being fruitless and vain, still we maintain that the internal grace of the Spirit, as it is distinct from the external ministration, ought to be viewed and considered separately. God, therefore, truly performs whatever he promises and figures by signs; nor are the signs without effect, for they prove that he is their true and faithful author. The only question here is, whether the Lord works by proper and intrinsic virtue, (as it is called,) or resigns his office to external symbols?

    We maintain, that whatever organs he employs detract nothing from his primary operation. In this doctrine of the sacraments, their dignity is highly extolled, their use plainly shown, their utility sufficiently proclaimed, and moderation in all things duly maintained; so that nothing is attributed to them which ought not to be attributed, and nothing denied them which they ought to possess. Meanwhile, we get rid of that fiction by which the cause of justification and the power of the Holy Spirit are included in elements as vessels and vehicles, and the special power which was overlooked is distinctly explained. — Inst. 4.14.17

    It seems then that where Plato’s division was between matter and spirit, Calvin’s is between creation and Holy Spirit — he wants to emphasize the direct action of the Spirit in the sacraments and not leave their work to secondary causes.

    What do you think?

    Jeff Cagle

  16. J.Kru said,

    May 27, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Well, context is a good point. The Reformers were contrasting Romanish works and faith, not faith and paedowhatever.

    I guess to put it simply, I don’t see any indication in the Bible (Owen nonwithstanding) that suggests that salvation comes through anything except faith. Certainly, I’m standing on stilts to pick fights with giants like Owen, but before I could agree with even him, I would have to be convinced that the Bible offers some kind of other category by which salvation is applied. It may be there, but I’m not aware of it.

    So, while I am tempted to say,

    “my observations say a 8 celled baby with no brain can’t have faith, because you need a brain to have faith”

    I am constrained by Scripture to say,

    “since the Bible says that babies can be saved persons, and the Bible also says that faith is the only means by which anyone is saved, it must be that little babies can have faith. And if a little baby doesn’t have a brain, and yet can have faith, it seems that my definition of ‘faith’ needs to be bigger than it is.”

    ***
    A “bigger definition of faith” is a notably weak point, because I don’t actually have that definition. I’m not ready to pull out the “mystery” flag, because I haven’t yet done the hard work to figure that out. But it’s certainly a mystery to me at this point. Something along the lines of “relational trust.” I do know, for example, that my infant daughter trusts me and loves me, even though she doesn’t understand what it means to be a daughter; she has no knowledge of genetics or reproduction. She can’t even define “love.” But she knows I love her, she knows she’s safe with me and that I take care of her. I would venture to say that she knew this about her mother in utero.

    While all the “paedofaith” verses on their own don’t necessitate a paedofaith conclusion (as you mentioned above), they do seem to support these conclusions, and they seem to dissuade me from any other conclusion.

    Not wanting to make a stab with a dull point a series of stabs with multiple dull points, I’ll stop there – I think that sums it up.

  17. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 27, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Re: #15

    Jeff, I don’t consider that passage to be a knock-down argument, either, but I do think it needs to be worth considering, since so much of the discussion seems to revolves around all the cognitive acts of faith that only adults are capable of (see h of comment 12).

    As for your construal of Calvin, it’s all very nice, and Calvin is in many ways a huge improvement over earlier. But look at the very next part of 4.14.3:

    And here, indeed, our merciful Lord, with boundless condescension, so accommodates himself to our capacity, that seeing how from our animal nature we are always creeping on the ground, and cleaving to the flesh, having no thought of what is spiritual, and not even forming an idea of it, he declines not by means of these earthly elements to lead us to himself, and even in the flesh to exhibit a mirror of spiritual blessings. For, as Chrysostom says, (Hom. 60, ad Popul.) “Were we incorporeal, he would give us these things in a naked and incorporeal form. Now because our souls are implanted in bodies, he delivers spiritual things under things visible. Not that the qualities which are set before us in the sacraments are inherent in the nature of the things, but God gives them this signification.”

    And notice that the tone of the passage is pretty deprecatory–it’s too bad that we have these bodies, these animal natures, but God even helps us out with that. Sorry, but that’s Platonism 101. Your reading of Calvin is very nice, but this is one of the reasons theology didn’t stop in the 16th century. As much as the Reformers recovered, they were not without their blind spots, and I think this is one of them. Again, not that much of the rest of your explanation of Calvin isn’t right and agreeable. I just can’t force my reading of him to cover every blind spot or fit it into more amenable categories.

  18. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 27, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    In I.15.2, for example, Calvin refers to the body as a prison-house or as chains: ergastulum (and later in the plural). Interestingly, this is the word for the bondage in Egypt used in Ex. 6–which puts me in mind of Dante’s vision of the boat arriving at purgatory, in which the souls are singing Ps. 114, about the liberation from Egypt. Elsewhere, Dante sets out the traditional medieval view of the allegorical meaning of this text as signifying the liberation of the soul from the body. This puts Calvin right in line with the medieval Platonism that, while acknowledging the resurrection, puts most of its eggs in the “eternal-soul-going-to-heaven” basket.

  19. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 27, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    OK, I can see your point. How much of that is Plato and how much is Paul, though? We remember that Paul also speaks of “the flesh” and even “this wretched body of death” — but we also know that Paul uses those terms to refer to the sin nature.

    I would want to see a careful comparison of Calvin’s usage to Paul’s before being convinced that C was a Platonist.

    In the back of my mind is the thought that Calvin and the Reformers did so much to break down the sacred/secular divide, which is closely connected to Platonic categories, that it’s hard to imagine that he would surrender to Platonic categories here.

    Anyways, thanks for the stimulating thoughts.

    Jeff Cagle

  20. pduggie said,

    May 28, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Jeff and Joshuah: thanks for the feedback. I think Tenth would say were *all* weak, though. But it begs the question if we all are: weak in comparison to what.

    I still sometimes wonder if there isn’t something *to* platonism. Some truth. When Calvin says our “fleshly” life is us “creeping on the ground” that contrasts with, unspokenly, “soaring through the air”. The Spirit is analogized to wind and fire and birds, not rocks or dirt, for instance. Our analogies of mire and muck and achy bones point to the negative connotations of solidity and limited bodies, and their implied opposites to freedom and immateriality.

    Of course, we need other *physicial* analogies to comprehend the incompressibility of the Spirit/spirit, and that is significant.

    On Calvin, it seems to me he ignore a terteium quid

    “We must not suppose that there is some latent virtue inherent in the sacraments, by which they, in themselves confer the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon us, in the same way in which wine is drunk out of a cup, ”

    The sacraments aren’t the *elements*. There is no virtue in the elements. The only virtue in bread is to nourish the body. But the rite is not the element.

    Sharing a glass of wine with a friend is beneficial, but the virtue of it is not found in the element of the wine in the glass. Its the whole event: sharing-a-glass-of-wine-with-a-friend. You benefit from that, I’d hazard, ‘ex opere operato”. Calvin seems to forget the sacrament as a whole is not the single element of wine, or the single action of drinking. Its the whole shebang: church context, word of institution, action, elements.

    In a sense, this points in a more Zwinglian direction, though. Maybe that’s why Calvin doesn’t go there.

  21. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 28, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Jeff, I’m not saying Calvin was a Platonist all the way, just that his thought was still at certain points mired in that set of categories.

    Here’s the overall comparison: by “flesh” Paul means the sinful nature, not the body per se, and the body of death is such only insofar as it is sinful. Calvin at points seems to mean the body as such, as in I.15, where he is speaking about creation.

    pduggie (I have this impression that your name is Paul…), you have something of a point about the Spirit, but this is obviated by 1 Cor 15’s reference to a spiritual body, which the Greek world would have considered a contradiction in terms. There is nothing antagonistic about the material and immaterial: the goal is that they will be joined perfectly.

  22. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 28, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    And I think you’re right (rite?) on in the second-to-last and third-to-last paragraphs of 20: again, Leithart’s book Blessed Are The Hungry makes some crucial points on this (and was originally recommended to me in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit class as WSC!).

    As with the Platonism issue, it’s important to apply historical theology to our own tradition. The Reformers inherited centuries of reflection on the sacraments that focused narrowly on the relation of Christ actual tissue and hemoglobin to the stuff on the plate and the stuff in the cup. While they made important corrections, they did not seek out a new paradigm, it seems to me, which might be helpful to do. The whole Christ is present as Lord and Host, or perhaps as Guest…He is present as a person, not as simply biological substance or food (spiritual or physical). I’m not sure that even the 17th century confessions shook this paradigm…

  23. Pete Myers said,

    May 29, 2009 at 11:16 am

    #16 J.Kru
    In a nutshell, some points I’d put forward would be (I’ll add a more robust defence of the ones you want me to, but just for brevity):

    1) When the Bible talks about faith being necessary for salvation, it’s talking about adults (and implicitly adults who are capable of faith).
    2) This is supported by the way the Bible defines faith.
    3) It’s also supported by what the Bible says about children, and the implied age of accountability/reasonableness.
    4) When you dig beneath the surface of what the text is saying in these instances, you see that faith isn’t the “saving thing”, actually faith is synonymous with salvation, only because faith is the the result of regeneration.
    5) So actually, a more precise statement than “faith is necessary for salvaiton” is “regeneration is necessary for salvation.”
    6) Texts that seem to imply paedofaith, are solid evidences of paedo-regeneration, but not paedofaith. Take Psalm 22 for example. People often say today that they have “trusted Jesus all of their lives”, or “been a Christian all of their lives”. It would be slightly absurd to push that language to suggest that person must be saying that they are claiming to have had faith all their lives… all they mean is that they can’t remember a time when they didn’t trust in Jesus. Psalm 22 simply says “I’ve been a trusting Jew from the womb”… it’s not necessarily a claim, or statement, about what David’s capacity was as an embryo, it simply says that “the relationship I have before the Lord now is the same relationship I’ve had since the womb.”
    7) (This point is slightly technical) The Bible doesn’t directly cover a lot of subjects, so we have to decide what the Bible is saying about them by inferring it from what the Bible does say directly. In other words, build up a picture of the Bible’s logic and world-view, and use that to answer the questions we have that the Bible doesn’t address directly. This is systematic theology. The problem with the paedofaith/paedocommunion discussion, is, the pfs and pcs have suggested that their view isn’t a systematic inference from texts, but is directly taught from them. However their claims are systematic inferences, and so systematic responses are adequate to answer them.

  24. Richard said,

    May 29, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Joshua, I also loved Leithart’s Blessed are the Hungry especially the cosmic aspects of the eucharist. Do listen to Wright’s Space, Time and Sacraments if you haven’t yet.

  25. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 29, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Pete,

    What role does the passage regarding receiving the kingdom like a child play here? Certainly, “receiving the kingdom” is done by faith (thinking systematically here), and it is the child that is a model for that for the adults. But you seem to be repeatedly setting up the adults as the model for faith, which makes sense in one way–except for the fact that Christ himself reverses that.

    I’m not sure that 1-3 aren’t simply assuming what they set out to prove. You’d have to lay out the actual texts you’re thinking of…1 Cor. 13:11, perhaps?

    As for 4), you’d have to show that. Rom. 3:28 “a human being is justified by faith, apart from works of the law”? Faith there is certainly the “saving thing,” (i.e., instrument of justification) not “salvation.” Phil. 3:9, righteousness that come “through faith”–the righteousness is salvation, while faith is the “saving thing.” And so forth. There are places that work the way you say, but it is by no means all of them: faith is often the “saving thing” (i.e., instrument).

  26. Andrew said,

    May 29, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Pete,

    Good thoughts. Must say I appreciate your strong view of the covenant. If all professing presbyterians had it, I think this conversation would be moot – for me at least, PC is largely a proxy discussion of presumptive regeneration.

    I would emphaise that paedofaith is not essential to the PC posisition – it may be that children are included to enhance the sybolism for everyone, or as an aspect of christian nurture. Indeed, I held to PC before encountering paedofaith.

    I suppose the question is how much weight we can place on Ps 22. I could take your reading except that David specifically uses actives terms (‘trust’, ‘hope’) and gives them a specific time – in the womb, at his mother’s breasts. This seems a peculiar way to say that one cannot remember a conscious conversion experience. But if this does not seem the obvious reading to you, I can’t see anyway to prove it.

    I suppose I could say that you are admitting that Scripture uses the language of faith of an infant: whether making a techincal claim or not, it surely suggests we cannot rule it out, and that it is an entirely appropriate way to talk of our children.

    Incidentally, I quite agree that you can suppose salvation without faith in the case of a child – taking passages decribing the adult experience and making it normative of the infant is precisely the exegetical err of both credobaptist and credocommunionist!

  27. Pete Myers said,

    May 30, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    #25 Josh

    The children receiving the kingdom passage is teaching us that we receive the kingdom of heaven passively/dependently. This, I believe, directly contradicts the credo-baptist position… baptism is the sacrament that symbolism reception of the kingdom (i.e. regeneration), so to not baptise children until they can give an adequate profession of faith is implying that they are not members of the kingdom until they can give an adequate profession of faith. However, since that’s not what is being argued by credo-communionists, then it doesn’t contradict the credo-communionist position.

    I was just stating my position in my previous coment, Josh, not trying to prove it. Mainly because the biggest problem paedo-communionists seem to have here is that they can’t see a self-consistent credo-communionist position. So I was trying to outline what one of those looks like.

    I don’t deny that faith is the “instrument” of the application of justification. The reason I deliberately avoided that language, though, is that’s not what I mean when I talk about faith not necessarily being the “saving thing”. My point is this – why is faith the “instrument” of justification… only because we’ve first been regenerated do we lean on the Lord to justify us.

    #26 Andrew

    I suppose I could say that you are admitting that Scripture uses the language of faith of an infant: whether making a techincal claim or not, it surely suggests we cannot rule it out, and that it is an entirely appropriate way to talk of our children.

    I still think you are pushing language too far. Let me demonstrate the same thing the other way around using Romans 10v12-14

    1) We must call on the name of the Lord to be saved.
    2) We must believe in order to call on the name of the Lord.
    3) We must hear the Word in order to believe.
    4) Therefore infants in the womb can’t possibly be saved, as they can’t possibly have heard the Word.

    We all agree the above reasoning is wrong. However, it is exactly what many, many baptists would adamantly argue from Romans 10. In this case, we would all agree that they are pushing the language too far, despite the protestations those baptists would make that we are riding rough-shod over the language of scripture.

  28. Reformed Sinner said,

    May 30, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    A solid argument for paedocommunion at this link:
    http://www.reformed.org/sacramentology/index.html

  29. December 19, 2010 at 7:46 am

    The view expressed above is also the position taken by the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as well as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s treatise on the Lord’s supper. Cranmer argues that any real presence of the true body and blood of Christ is not in the bread and wine or even around or under the bread and wine. His view is that communion is a spiritual eating and drinking of the virtual body and blood of Christ in the heart by faith. The physical eating is merely bread and wine which even a church mouse could eat. Surely the church mouse is not eating the body and blood of Christ literally???? Cranmer argues that in fact we only call the bread and wine by the names of what they represent after they are consecrated by their holy use in the Lord’s supper: the body and blood of Christ. Thus, communion is a visual and physical sermon illustration with a physical chawing of the teeth and a drinking of the wine. This serves to unite the word (Scripture) with the sacrament. Those who eat and drink the body and blood (ie the consecrated and representative names of the elements) without faith eat and drink damnation to themselves.

    This is why the 1662 Book of Common Prayer has an extended exhortation in the service of the Lord’s Supper prior to partaking. The exhortation is to self-examination. Since children are unable to examine themselves until they are of such an age to be catechized and confirmed as members of the church, they should not partake of the Lord’s supper.

    DEARLY beloved in the Lord, ye that mind to come to the holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ, must consider how Saint Paul exhorteth all persons diligently to try and examine themselves, before they presume to eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament; (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood; then we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us; we are one with Christ, and Christ with us;) so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord’s Body; we kindle God’s wrath against us; we provoke him to plague us with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death. judge therefore yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord; repent you truly for your sins past; have a lively and stedfast faith in Christ our Saviour; amend your lives, and be in perfect charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of those holy mysteries. And above all things ye must give most humble and hearty thanks to God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for the redemption of the world by the death and passion of our Saviour Christ, both God and man; who did humble himself, even to the death upon the Cross, for us, miserable sinners, who lay in darkness and the shadow of death; that he might make us the children of God, and exalt us to everlasting life. And to the end that we should alway remember the exceeding great love of our Master, and only Saviour, Jesus Christ, thus dying for us, and the innumerable benefits which by his precious blood-shedding he hath obtained to us; he hath instituted and ordained holy mysteries, as pledges of his love, and for a continual remembrance of his death, to our great and endless comfort. To him therefore, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, let us give (as we are most bounden) continual thanks; submitting ourselves wholly to his holy will and pleasure, and studying to serve him in true holiness and righteousness all the days of our life. Amen. The Lord’s Supper

    The 39 Articles state a similar position in Articles 25-31.

    Article XXIX
    Of the wicked which do not eat the body of Christ, in the use of the Lord’s Supper
    The wicked and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as S. Augustine saith) the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing.

    Thanks for taking on the Federal Visionists on the theology of the sacraments.

    Charlie

  30. occidoxy said,

    December 19, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Communion ‘works’ by virtue of the status of the partaker, which is that of a “covenant member”. The partaker was made a member by the first sacrament, not ex opera operato causing regeneration, but truly creating a covenant bond. The two sacraments work in unison from different angles. You (and Venema) see baptism as only a promise, and therefore see communion as only a conditional seal of that promise. The sacraments are far richer than your “set ‘em up and knock ‘em down” approach.

  31. J.Kru said,

    December 19, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Do you think of covenant children as “the wicked?”

  32. December 19, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Communion with God only works if God grants one the grace to believe. The sacraments are visible signs of the Gospel and are only valid if the person who partakes is a believer. Those who partake unworthily are eating damnation to themselves. And the bottomline here is what Scripture teaches, not what you “think” should be the case with the sacraments. Last I checked Scripture is God centered, not centered on the “partaker” as the cause of anything at all.

    “Covenant children” are counted as elect until they prove otherwise. But you totally ignored the fact that 1662 Book of Common Prayer makes absolutely no provision for paedo communion. It in fact has a strict exhortation requiring self-examination prior to receiving the sacrament. And as Article 29 says, those who do not eat in true faith eat damnation to themselves.

    There is no Scripture that would even remotely allow for paedo communion. Paedo baptism is preceded by infant circumcision in the OT.

    For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (1 Corinthians 11:26-30 ESV)

    Charlie

    Charlie

  33. December 19, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I might also point out that the baptismal service requires the parents to train the child in the Scripture until they are of an age to make their own profession of faith:

    Then shall the Priest speak unto the Godfathers and Godmothers on this wise.
    D EARLY beloved, ye have brought this Child here to be baptized, ye have prayed that our Lord Jesus Christ would vouchsafe to receive him, to release him of his sins, to sanctify him with the Holy Ghost, to give him the kingdom of heaven, and everlasting life. Ye have heard also that our Lord Jesus Christ hath promised in his Gospel to grant all these things that ye have prayed for: which promise he, for his part, will most surely keep and perform. Wherefore, after this promise made by Christ, this Infant must also faithfully, for his part, promise by you that are his sureties, (until he come of age to take it upon himself,) that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God’s holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments. Publick Baptism of Infants

    The parents are the surety or “guarantee” that the child will, when he comes of age, renounce the devil, believe God’s Word, and obey God’s commandments. In other words, the parents stand in proxy for the child until he is able to do so for himself.

    There is no rubric anywhere in the Prayer Book advocating paedo communion, which would be odd since the Church of England has never practiced such a thing.

    Charlie

  34. December 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    The paedo baptist position does not require faith since it is a covenant sign. Communion, however, presupposes both faith AND self-examination, which necessarily excludes children who have not come of age.

  35. December 19, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw. Not necessarily anyway.

  36. David Gray said,

    December 19, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    >Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

    Your fight is with the WCF and scripture. I think you’re outmatched…

  37. December 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Where does the WCF connect regeneration with baptism? Sorry, but that’s nowhere to be found in the WCF.

    Furthermore, Scripture does not connect regeneration with baptism. Rather regeneration is connected with the direct action of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8).

    WCF 28 Of Baptism

    5. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,1 yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved, without it;2 or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.3

    ——————————————————————————–

    1 Luke 7:30 with Exod. 4:24-26

    2 Rom. 4:11; Acts 10:2,4,22,31,45,47

    3 Acts 8:13,23

    The Declaration of Principles of the former Reformed Episcopal Church says the same in the rejection of errors:

    Declaration of Principles
    of the Reformed Episcopal Church

    Adopted, December 2d, 1873

    i

    The Reformed Episcopal Church, holding “the faith once delivered unto the saints,” declares its belief in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God, and the sole Rule of Faith and Practice; in the Creed “commonly called the Apostles’ Creed;” in the Divine institution of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; and in the doctrines of grace substantially as they are set forth in the Thirty–nine Articles of Religion.

    ii

    This Church recognizes and adheres to Episcopacy, not as of Divine right, but as a very ancient and desirable form of Church polity.

    iii

    This Church, retaining a Liturgy which shall not be imperative or repressive of freedom in prayer, accepts The Book of Common Prayer, as it was revised, proposed, and recommended for use by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, A. D. 1785, reserving full liberty to alter, abridge, enlarge, and amend the same, as may seem most conductive to the edification of the people, “provided that the substance of the faith be kept entire.”

    iv

    This Church condemns and rejects the following erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to God’s Word;

    First, That the Church of Christ exists only in one order or form of ecclesiastical polity:

    Second, That Christian Ministers are “priests” in another sense than that in which all believers are “a royal priesthood:”

    Third, That the Lord’s Table is an altar on which the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered anew to the Father:

    Fourth, That the Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper is a presence in the elements of the Bread and Wine:

    Fifth, That Regeneration is inseparably connected with Baptism. The Traditional Reformed Episcopal Church

  38. December 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    BTW, God is sovereign over the covenant of grace. He makes the covenant with the elect. Those who are not part of the election do not receive anything from God regardless of the outward signs of the covenant.

  39. David Gray said,

    December 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    >>5. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,1 yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved, without it;2 or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.3

    Spot on. Read it and believe it.

  40. David Gray said,

    December 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    And contrast that statement of the faith with this:

    >>Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

    You may believe one or you may believe the other. You cannot rationally believe both.

  41. December 19, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    The fact is baptism and regeneration are distinct one from the other. This is why the sacrament is referred to as an “outward sign”. In other words, it signfies something else, another reality. Without the preaching of the Word–even for Luther–the sacrament is meaningless and without efficacy.

    Article XXV
    Of the Sacraments
    Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace and God’s good will towards us, by the which He doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm, our faith in Him.

    There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.

    Those five, commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

    The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, have they a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as S. Paul saith.

    Notice the text of the Article says that God works in us by His grace and His good will. The signs do nothing but rather signify and stand for the grace and good will of God. The visible signs are aids to our faith and assist us with tangible evidence and illustration of the Word of God working through God’s grace and good will. Those who partake of baptism or communion without truee faith bring damnation upon themselves.

    The WCF and Larger Catechism says pretty much the same thing:

    163. What are the parts of a sacrament?

    Answer: The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an outward and sensible sign, used according to Christ’s own appointment; the other an inward and spiritual grace thereby signified.1

    See also: WCF 27.2

  42. David Gray said,

    December 19, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    >>The fact is baptism and regeneration are distinct one from the other.

    Is a far cry from

    >>Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

  43. David Gray said,

    December 19, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Calvin’s Catechism:

    M. How are these blessings (forgiveness and regeneration) bestowed upon us by Baptism?

    S. If we do not render the promises there offered unfruitful by rejecting them, we are clothed with Christ, and presented with his Spirit.

  44. December 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    What is offered there? “Promises.” I do believe a “promise” is a doctrine, is it not? The Gospel promises are not conveyed by some magical transference in the elements–whether that be water, bread or wine. No, the Gospel promises are in the sacrament, being the visible preaching of God’s Word. Sacrament and Word go together because they are one and the same except one is preaching with the hearing and the other is a visible Word. The fact that you do not understand this is a telling reminder of the sinful propensity to idolatry.

    Sacraments are not idols. Rather they represent a spiritual reality that is partaken of in the heart and by faith. The sacraments point us to Christ, not to magical formulas, incantations, or mysterious presences in the elements.

    Charlie

  45. David Gray said,

    December 19, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    >>Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

    >>The fact that you do not understand this is a telling reminder of the sinful propensity to idolatry.

    Sorry but the fact that we Reformed Christians don’t accept the first statement doesn’t mean the second statement is correct.

  46. December 19, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Clearly the purpose of the sacrament is not a magical conveyance of grace flowing from the elements but rather as a visible sign of the spiritual reality behind the Gospel and the Word.

    Archbishop Thomas Cranmer on the sacraments:

    And although our carnal generation and our carnal nourishment be known to all men by daily experience and by our common senses; yet this our spiritual generation and our spiritual nutrition be so obscure and hid unto us, that we cannot attain to the true and perfect knowledge and feeling of them, but only by faith, which must be grounded upon God’s most holy word and sacraments.

    And for this consideration our Saviour Christ hath not only set forth these things most plainly in his holy word, that we may hear them with our ears; but he hath also ordained one visible sacrament of spiritual regeneration in water, and another visible sacrament of spiritual nourishment in bread and wine, to the intent that, as much as is possible for man, we may see Christ with our eyes, smell him at our nose, taste him with our mouths, grope him with our hands, and perceive him with all our senses. For as the word of God preached putteth Christ into our ears; so likewise these elements of water, bread, and wine, joined to God’s word, do after a sacramental manner put Christ into our eyes, mouths, hands, and all our senses.

    And for this cause Christ ordained baptism in water, that as surely as we see, feel, and touch water with our bodies, and be washed with water; so assuredly ought we to believe, when we be baptized, that Christ is verily present with us, and that by him we be newly born again spiritually, and washed from our sins, and grafted in the stock of Christ’s own body, and be apparelled, clothed, and harnessed with him in such wise, that as the Devil hath no power against Christ, so hath he none against us, so long as we remain grafted in that stock, and be clothed with that apparel, and harnessed with that armour. So that the washing in water of baptism is, as it were, a showing of Christ before our eyes, and a sensible touching, feeling, and groping of him, to the confirmation of the inward faith which we have in him. From

  47. December 19, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    From: The Remains of Thomas Cranmer

  48. December 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Reformed Christians are not Lutherans nor are they Roman Catholics in their view of the sacraments. The Consensus Tigurinus is proof enough that the Zwinglians were closer to Calvin than the Lutherans were to Calvin. Sorry if that bothers you.

  49. December 19, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    If baptism and regeneration are connected in any way, then why is it that there is an exception noted in the WCF? A visible sign is just that: a visible sign. The grace it signifies stands alone. That’s why the sign is not absolutely necessary. What IS absolutely necessary is FAITH.

    As I said before, if you do not understand this your view of the sacraments is not Reformed but something else. Lutheran maybe? Or even papist?

  50. David Gray said,

    December 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    >As I said before, if you do not understand this your view of the sacraments is not Reformed but something else. Lutheran maybe? Or even papist?

    Sometimes Calvin and the Reformed confessions look Lutheran or papist to a Baptist.

  51. December 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Well, no. I’m an Anglican:) Nice try, though. You must be a Federal Visionist or something:)

    hahahahah

  52. December 19, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I’ve posted several explanations of the Reformed view from an Anglican perspective. I’ve better things to do than argue with those who utilize the bait and switch fallacy. End of discussion with you, David.

  53. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Then consider and be edified by what Pastor Stellman wrote:

    Wednesday, January 06, 2010
    The Sign and the Thing Signified: Can You Tell Them Apart?
    In Reformed debates about baptism (especially when Federal Visionists are involved), the biggest issue that arises is the degree to which we can echo the New Testament’s language concerining the sacrament’s efficacy, and how much qualification we need to offer when we do it. Ironically enough, I was recently accused of sounding like a Federal Visionist because of an article I just wrote for Tabletalk in which I said things like, “Baptism accomplishes this” or “Baptism produces that.”

    Consider these exerpts from Calvin’s Strasbourg and Geneva catechisms:

    Question: How do you know yourself to be a son of God in fact as well as in name?

    Answer: Because I am baptized in the name of God the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

    Question: Is baptism nothing more than a mere symbol [i.e., picture] of cleansing?

    Answer: I think it to be such a symbol that the reality is attached to it. For God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts. Hence, both pardon of sins and newness of life are certainly offered and received by us in baptism.

    Now, everything in us is screaming that such language sounds way too Catholic (or Moscovite), but we must also admit that it also reflects the language of Scripture itself. Paul says that baptism unites us with Christ in his death and resurrection, Peter says that baptism saves us, and Ananias says that baptism washes away our sins.

    How, then, are we to talk about the efficacy of baptism?

    I maintain that the answer is found in properly relating the sign to the thing signified. If we can remember to carefully distinguish the outward sign whereby water is sprinkled on a person’s head, and the inward reality of the sinner being cleansed by the blood of Christ, then we can go ahead and speak of the one as if it is the other.

    There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other (WCF xxvii.2).

    Think of the sign and the thing signified like you would twins: It’s only after you’ve learned to tell them apart that it becomes safe to put them together.

  54. December 20, 2010 at 10:50 am

    What is it that appropriates the inward grace which the symbol represents? FAITH. Just as the Word of God without faith accomplishes nothing, so the sacrament without faith is an empty sign. In other words, without faith there is no sacramental union since the inward grace is NOT in the elements but in the heart of the believer when he partakes of the sacrament.

    To put efficacy in any “sacrament” when it is not accompanied by a believing recipient is to commit the Roman error of ex opere operato. I don’t personally care where you have published articles. The fact is the Reformed view is not that the sacramental elements or signs have any power apart from faith and the Holy Spirit working in the heart of the believer. Those who partake without faith eat to their own damnation. That, by the way, is in the consensus formed by the Reformed Confessions in general.

    Taking communion does not make one a Christian anymore than being baptized makes one a Christian. What makes someone a Christian is regeneration and true faith. Apart from election, regeneration, faith et. al. taking part in any sacrament is simply an empty sign.

    It is Christ Himself who feeds and nourishes our souls. If you have not Christ, you have no sacrament:

    Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury:

    Chapter 11 Christ Far Excelleth All Corporal Food

    The third thing to be noted is this, that although our, Saviour Christ resembleth his flesh and blood to meat and drink, yet he far passeth and excelleth all corporal meats and drinks. For although corporal meats and drinks do corporal nourish and continue our life here in this world, yet they begin not our life. For the beginning of our life we have of our fathers and mothers; and the meat, after we be begotten, doth feed and nourish us, and so preserveth us for a time. But our Saviour Christ is both the first beginner of our spiritual life, (who first begetteth us unto God his Father,) and also afterward he is our lively food and nourishment.

    Moreover, meat and drink doth feed and nourish only our bodies; but Christ is the true and perfect nourishment both of body and soul. And besides that, bodily food preserveth the life but for a time, but Christ is such a spiritual and perfect food, that he preserveth both body and soul for ever; as he said unto Martha: I am resurrection and life. He that believeth in me, although he die, yet shall he live. And he that liveth and believeth in me shall not die for ever. [John XI].

    Chapter 12 The Sacraments Were Ordained to Confirm Our Faith

    Fourthly, it is to be noted, that the true knowledge of these things is the true knowledge of Christ; and to teach these things is to teach Christ; and the believing and feeling of these things is the believing and feeling of Christ in our hearts. And the more clearly we see, understand, and believe these things, the more clearly we see and understand Christ, and have more fully our faith and comfort in him .

    And although our carnal generation and our carnal nourishment be known to all men by daily experience and by our common senses; yet this our spiritual generation and our spiritual nutrition be so obscure and hid unto us, that we cannot attain to the true and perfect knowledge and feeling of them, but only by faith, which must be grounded upon God’s most holy word and sacraments.

    And for this consideration our Saviour Christ hath not only set forth these things most plainly in his holy word, that we may hear them with our ears; but he hath also ordained one visible sacrament of spiritual regeneration in water, and another visible sacrament of spiritual nourishment in bread and wine, to the intent that, as much as is possible for man, we may see Christ with our eyes, smell him at our nose, taste him with our mouths, grope him with our hands, and perceive him with all our senses. For as the word of God preached putteth Christ into our ears; so likewise these elements of water, bread, and wine, joined to God’s word, do after a sacramental manner put Christ into our eyes, mouths, hands, and all our senses.

    And for this cause Christ ordained baptism in water, that as surely as we see, feel, and touch water with our bodies, and be washed with water; so assuredly ought we to believe, when we be baptized, that Christ is verily present with us, and that by him we be newly born again spiritually, and washed from our sins, and grafted in the stock of Christ’s own body, and be apparelled, clothed, and harnessed with him in such wise, that as the Devil hath no power against Christ, so hath he none against us, so long as we remain grafted in that stock, and be clothed with that apparel, and harnessed with that armour. So that the washing in water of baptism is, as it were, a showing of Christ before our eyes, and a sensible touching, feeling, and groping of him, to the confirmation of the inward faith which we have in him.

    And in like manner Christ ordained the sacrament of his body and blood in bread and wine, to preach unto us, that as our bodies be fed, nourished, and preserved with meat and drink, so (as touching our spiritual life towards God) we be fed, nourished, and preserved by the body and blood of our Saviour Christ; and also that he is such a preservation unto us, that neither the devils of hell, nor eternal death, nor sin, can be able to prevail against us, so long as by true and constant faith we be fed and nourished with that meat and drink. And for this cause Christ ordained this sacrament in bread and wine, (which we eat and drink, and be chief nutriments of our body,) to the intent that as surely as we see the bread and wine with our eyes, smell them with our noses, touch them with our hands, and taste’ them with our mouths; so assuredly ought we to believe, that Christ is our spiritual life and sustenance of our souls, like as the said bread and wine is the food and sustenance of our bodies. And no less ought we to doubt, that our souls be fed and live by Christ, than that our bodies be fed and live by meat and drink. Thus our Saviour Christ knowing us to be in this world, as it were, but babes and weaklings in faith, hath ordained sensible signs and tokens, whereby to allure and draw us to more strength and more constant faith in him. So that the eating and drinking of this sacramental bread and wine is, as it were, a showing of Christ before our eyes, a smelling of him with our noses, a feeling and groping of him with our hands, and an eating, chewing, digesting, and feeding upon him to our spiritual strength and perfection.

  55. December 20, 2010 at 10:56 am

    It is Christ Himself who preserves body and soul unto everlasting life. You can eat bread and drink wine with the church mice until you drop dead but to partake of the sacrament does not have any effect unless you are a believer. End of story.

    A sinner baptized without true faith is just a wet sinner. Regeneration comes from the Holy Spirit, not water. Water is the outward sign and without the inward grace in the heart of the believer, water is a meanless and empty sign. This is why the WCF says that the sign and regeneration are not inseparable.

    Charlie

  56. December 20, 2010 at 10:57 am

    It is no wonder that Federal Visionists are able to twist and distort if Mr. Gray’s understanding of the sacrament is the prevailing interpretation of the WCF.

  57. December 20, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Belgic Confession: Article 35:

    Now as it is certain and beyond all doubt that Jesus Christ hath not enjoined to us the use of His sacraments in vain, so He works in us all that He represents to us by these holy signs, though the manner surpasses our understanding, and cannot be comprehended by us, as the operations of the Holy Ghost are hidden and incomprehensible. In the meantime we err not when we say that what is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body, and the proper blood, of Christ.10 But the manner of our partaking of the same is not by the mouth, but by the Spirit through faith. Thus, then, though Christ always sits at the right hand of His Father in the heavens,11 yet doth He not, therefore, cease to make us partakers of Himself by faith. This feast is a spiritual table, at which Christ communicates Himself with all His benefits to us, and gives us there to enjoy both Himself and the merits of His sufferings and death,12 nourishing, strengthening, and comforting our poor comfortless souls, by the eating of His flesh, quickening and refreshing them by the drinking of His blood.13

    Further, though the sacraments are connected with the thing signified, nevertheless both are not received by all men; the ungodly indeed receives the sacrament to his condemnation,14 but he doth not receive the truth of the sacrament. As Judas and Simon the sorcerer, both indeed received the sacrament, but not Christ who was signified by it, of whom believers only are made partakers.

    A sacrament is not the elements. A sacrament requires three aspects: 1) The elements that signify. 2) A believing recipient 3) the inward grace of the Holy Spirit. If all three are not present, there is no true sacramental union. Of course, if you have #2 then #3 naturally follows. If no #2 then there is no #3 and #1 is an empty sign bringing damnation to the one receiving the sign.

    Of course, regeneration precedes faith.

    Charlie

  58. December 20, 2010 at 11:09 am

    The reality cannot be attached to the sign unless there is faith. That’s plain enough.

  59. December 20, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Calvin wrote the Consensus of Tigurinus and he specifically says:

    Article 7. The Ends of the Sacraments

    The ends of the sacraments are to be marks and badges of Christian profession and fellowship or fraternity, to be incitements to gratitude and exercises of faith and a godly life; in short, to be contracts binding us to this. But among other ends the principal one is, that God may, by means of them, testify, represent, and seal his grace to us. For although they signify nothing else than is announced to us by the Word itself, yet it is a great matter, first, that there is submitted to our eye a kind of living images which make a deeper impression on the senses, by bringing the object in a manner directly before them, while they bring the death of Christ and all his benefits to our remembrance, that faith may be the better exercised; and, secondly, that what the mouth of God had announced is, as it were, confirmed and ratified by seals.

    Consensus Tigurinus

    Surely you are not going to accuse both Thomas Cranmer and John Calvin of being “Baptists”?

  60. December 20, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Methinks your view is closer to the Federal Visionists than thou art willing to admit, Mr. Gray.

  61. December 20, 2010 at 11:19 am

    THE Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.

    And the Minister that delivereth the Cup to any one shall say,

    THE Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.

    Note well that the 1662 service for Holy Communion distinguishes between the sign and the remembering of what Christ Himself did for us.

  62. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 11:38 am

    >End of discussion with you, David.

    Sure…

  63. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 11:39 am

    >>>Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

    >>The reality cannot be attached to the sign unless there is faith.

    Which do you believe?

  64. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 11:54 am

    This is also very good from Pastor Stellman from the Ligonier Ministries website.

    From Eternity to Here

    by Jason Stellman

    Sometimes we Reformed paedobaptists spend so much time defending the confessional view of the status of covenant children that we forget that baptism is a much bigger topic than merely the mode or subjects of the sacrament. Sure, the sprinkling-water-on-the-baby’shead part is integral to the baptism discussion, but to focus solely on the mechanics and beneficiaries of baptism is to exalt the trees over the forest, or, to change the metaphor, to use the microscope to the exclusion of the telescope. To modify the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3, there’s a time to zoom in but also a time to break out the wide-angle lens.

    Peter’s words to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost have a much broader significance than we often realize: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38–39).

    In a word, what the apostle is inviting his hearers to do is something every bit as cataclysmic and profound as what happened to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy when they dared to venture through the back of that magical wardrobe into the strange, new world of Narnia. Baptism represents an intrusion of the age to come into this present world, a breaking-in of heaven to the here and now. As the waters are applied, the sky is split and the pavement cracks, and all that we once were is forever changed.

    The first thing that baptism accomplishes, claims Peter, is to give us a new past: “Be baptized … for the forgiveness of your sins.” The connection between baptism and forgiveness of sins is also made by Ananias in his instruction to the newly converted Saul of Tarsus: “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). It is echoed in the Nicene Creed’s statement that “we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” “Do you not know,” Paul asks the Romans, “that as many of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” In the same way that Christ “died to sin,” so we who have been united to Him participate in that death to all that once defined us.

    In addition to giving us a new past, baptism gives us a new family in the present. As Peter’s words in Acts 2:39 indicate, our earthly, familial ties are transcended — and in some cases trumped — by our baptismal union with “all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Despite our modern and gnostic desire to maintain our personal relationship with Jesus apart from the awkward and inconvenient tie to the church (filled as it is with actual — and often annoying — people), the fact is that we can’t have the Head without the body. Through baptism, we are ushered into the middle of a tale quite long in the telling, a saga having been spun for thousands of years. This redemptive drama began with a married couple, then grew into a family of eight, then a tribe under the leadership of a chieftain, then twelve tribes that grew into a nation ruled by a king, until it eventually expanded into a truly worldwide and catholic church with members from every kindred, tongue, people, and nation. Paul tells the Galatians that “as many of you as were baptized into Christ … are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:27–28). And furthermore, whenever God’s people worship, we do so in the presence of this great “cloud of witnesses” with whom we are summoned into God’s heavenly presence. Patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs, bishops and fathers — sinners and saints all— gather with us as we, together with innumerable angels in festal array, get a glimpse (albeit brief ) of the glorious banquet at which we will sit with the Mediator of the new covenant, whose blood speaks a more comforting word than that of Abel (Heb. 12:1, 22–24).

    Lastly, baptism bestows upon us a new future. “Be baptized,” Peter insists, “and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The Spirit is always spoken of in the New Testament in terms that hearken us forward to the new age, the age to come that began to dawn on Easter Sunday and will be finally consummated when Jesus returns. “You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” Paul writes to the Ephesians, “who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (1:13–14). The Greek word that is translated “guarantee” (arrabon, used in modern Greek for an engagement ring) denotes a down payment toward something that will be fully acquired in the future. Through baptism, God the Father marks us off as His own, bestowing upon us the Spirit of the age to come, whose role is to bring the dynamic of the “not yet” to bear upon the “already.”

    One of the ways this “not yet” bears upon the here and now is through the sacrament of baptism. Living the Christian life, therefore, is tantamount to living the baptized life, for this ancient ritual serves to pull the future into the present, effectively bringing the believer from eternity to here.

  65. Phil Derksen said,

    December 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    “…baptism bestows upon us a new future. “Be baptized,” Peter insists, “and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).”

    True, insofar as it goes. But my Bible clearly prefaces this statement concerning baptism with the command to “repent,” which in context is synonymous with “believe.”

  66. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    >But my Bible clearly prefaces this statement concerning baptism with the command to “repent,” which in context is synonymous with “believe.”

    Shockingly so does my bible. And I bet Pastor Spellman’s bible does to. Who’d have thunk it?

  67. Reed Here said,

    December 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Gentlemen, I’ve found it helpful to keep in view the biblical principle of sacramental union. This helps maintain that we must distinguish between the sign and the thing signified, while at the same time maintaining that thew signs are not empty, as the Spirit always uses them when responded to/participated in, via faith.

  68. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    >>Gentlemen, I’ve found it helpful to keep in view the biblical principle of sacramental union. This helps maintain that we must distinguish between the sign and the thing signified, while at the same time maintaining that thew signs are not empty, as the Spirit always uses them when responded to/participated in, via faith.

    Amen.

  69. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Phil, I was somewhat surprised by this: But my Bible clearly prefaces this statement concerning baptism with the command to “repent,” which in context is synonymous with “believe.”

    Often, that observation is followed with “and so we should only baptize people who have already made a profession of faith.”

    Where were you going with it?

  70. Phil Derksen said,

    December 20, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Jeff, in a discussion of how the efficacy of the sacraments relate to faith, to then only quote part of Acts 2:38 is unhelpful. I am not addressing the commonj credo insistence of sequence here, but rather the issue of “inclusion.”

  71. December 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    The signs are not empty if you have faith:) If you do not have faith, then the sign is empty and is not an efficacious communication of grace. That’s the consistent witness of Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Cranmer…. and even LUTHER. Without faith there is no real presence for even Luther. Word and sacrament are absolutely bound together.

    Sacramental “union” assumes a union IN the Believer as he communes with God IN the SACRAMENT, not the elements. And what IS a sacrament?

    Question. What meanest thou by this word Sacrament?
    Answer. I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.
    Question. How many parts are there in a Sacrament?
    Answer. Two: the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace.

    A Catechism: 1662 Book of Common Prayer

    The “spiritual grace” is given where? “To us” in the “sacrament” NOT in the elements themselves. That would be the Papist view. The sacramental union takes place in the “sacrament” and IN the hearts of believers, not in the elements. Church mice eat only bread and wine.

    This is not merely a memorial ordinance with “empty signs.” The signs are fully efficacious and objective presentations of the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual reality given only to believers in faith. Unbelievers eat damnation from empty signs because they eat not in faith.

    Charlie

  72. December 20, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    I believe grace is in the SACRAMENT and NOT in the SIGN itself. If you believe the sign has power in it you are a PAPIST.

    This is as plain as I can be about it. Your false choice stands revealed as false.

    >>>Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

    If you mean the water, you’re attributing to the “sign” what is not there. If you mean water as a sign of the sacrament, then regeneration is given to the believer through the sacrament itself and in the believing recipient’s heart. His soul is washed by the water of the word.

    Word and sacrament are not to be separated nor is faith divorced from the person receiving.

  73. December 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Any “reality” in the sacrament is a union in the believer who spiritually is washed with the Word or who spiritually eats the body and blood of Christ–i.e. participates in Christ’s atonement on the cross 2,000 years ago by accepting what Christ did for the forgiveness of sins.

    There is nothing “magical” about a sacrament. It is mysterious only in how God works in the believer through participation in the sacrament. There is no ex opere operato since the sacrament does no work. It is God working through an inward grace in the believer and made tangible through visible and objective signs/tokens.

  74. December 20, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    How convenient that you ignored what Calvin says in the Tigurinus:)

  75. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    >How convenient that you ignored what Calvin says in the Tigurinus:)

    The best way to know what Calvin thought is to read what Calvin wrote in items like the Institutes, not in a politically driven document driven by Zwinglian error.

  76. Reed Here said,

    December 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Charlie: I think you’re over-reaching in your comments, finding differences that do not exist between your comments and what the majority of the folks who comment on this blog believe.

    It might be helpful if you did not assume the need to begin with, and respond to every comment with a polemical style bordering on belligerency. In keeping with you quotation of the Reformed heavy-weights, might I ask you to at least review the Westminster Confession of Faith on Sacramental Union? I don’t think you’ll find there is anything in it (it’s only one sentence) that causes you heart palpitations, compelling you to throw out the “papist” slur.

    (Although I’m sure our “papist” friends who’ve been commenting here find it quite amusing that you’ve done so.)

    You’re barking up a tree that we’re not in brother.

  77. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I would not call the Consensus Tigurnus a “Zwinglian document” per se.

    Here is the statement on sacramental efficacy:

    Article 9. The Signs and the Things Signified Not Disjoined but Distinct.

    Wherefore, though we distinguish, as we ought, between the signs and the things signified, yet we do not disjoin the reality from the signs, but acknowledge that all who in faith embrace the promises there offered receive Christ spiritually, with his spiritual gifts, while those who had long been made partakers of Christ continue and renew that communion.

    Article 10. The Promise Principally to Be Looked To in the Sacraments.

    And it is proper to look not to the bare signs, but rather to the promise thereto annexed. As far, therefore, as our faith in the promise there offered prevails, so far will that virtue and efficacy of which we speak display itself. Thus the substance of water, bread, and wine, by no means offers Christ to us, nor makes us capable of his spiritual gifts. The promise rather is to be looked to, whose office it is to lead us to Christ by the direct way of faith, faith which makes us partakers of Christ.

    What can be said in criticism of the CT is that it is ambiguous. As a result, Charlie can say something provocative like

    (#72) I believe grace is in the SACRAMENT and NOT in the SIGN itself. If you believe the sign has power in it you are a PAPIST. (I think we’ve all noticed that Roger, for example, is not a PAPIST)

    and yet be consistent with the CT. Meanwhile Jason Stellman can cite Calvin saying

    Question: Is baptism nothing more than a mere symbol [i.e., picture] of cleansing?

    Answer: I think it to be such a symbol that the reality is attached to it. For God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts. Hence, both pardon of sins and newness of life are certainly offered and received by us in baptism. (Calv Geneva Cat., cited Stellman, cited Gray!)

    and also be consistent with the CT.

    I would suggest a couple of things:

    (1) First, it’s helpful to distinguish sacramental effect (or “efficacy”) from the usual cause-and-effect language that one uses in general. The mystery of baptism as a sacrament is that its effect is not tied to its moment of administration. By definition, normal cause and effect do not work like that.

    (2) Second, it’s helpful to remember that the effect of sacraments is tied to the promise that they represent. In baptism, the promises represented are the washing of sins and the outpouring of the Spirit.

    When faith occurs (at whatever time relative to the moment of baptism!), the things signified are accomplished: we are justified and regenerated. Those are the effects of baptism.

    And yet not in the normal cause-effect sense (“first, we did this; then, that happened as a result”); but because baptism speaks the promise that was believed. Baptism regenerated and justified in the same way that the Gospel regenerated and justified.

    So Charlie and Phil, I agree: no effect of baptism without faith. But I also disagree: baptism and regeneration are very much connected. The one signs the other, and when (if) we receive the promise by faith, the thing signed is attributed to the sign itself (WCoF 27.2).

    What I sense in some is a discomfort in saying “baptism justifies” or “baptism washes our sins away” or “baptism regenerates” — because language like that can and has been abused and twisted into a human cause-effect language, what we might call ex opere operato.

    But the cost with jettisoning the language “baptism washes our sins away” is that we put a wedge between the sign and the thing signified. If we insist that baptism does not justify, then what does baptism signify? Or else, what can the Confession possibly mean to say whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.?

  78. December 20, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Article 9 of CT makes it clear that any idea that confuses the sign with what is signfied is rejected. While I agree there is no disjoining there IS a distinction. Your concession that there is no direct cause and effect is concession enough for me that faith is the deciding factor here. Even in the case of infant baptism there is no direct cause and effect for regeneration since some of those infants are indeed reprobate and never follow through with owning the faith for themselves.

  79. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    So you now reject this error?

    >>Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

  80. December 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    @ Reed

    I take the polemical, belligerent style because in the Anglican neck of the woods your approach doesn’t work. You give an Anglo-Catholic an inch and he will take a mile. It seems to me that part of the problem with Reformed denominations these days is that everyone is so worried about being tolerant and fair that the water has started boiling and no one has even noticed.

    The only way to root out heresy is to use polemics.

    There is a reason the Consensus of Tigurinus didn’t win over the Lutherans. Luther couldn’t accept it because it is too Zwinglian if you want to put it that way. But Calvin and Bullinger did agree so that proves that those of you who insist on obfuscating the “distinction” between the sign and the thing signified are over-reaching in my opinion. And you’re giving ammunition to the FVs and the Tractarians.

    Cranmer plainly said that we call the bread and wine by the names of what they represent: the body and blood of Christ. When we chaw with the teeth we are eating nothing more than bread and wine but we call them the body and blood because by faith we are spiritually eating the true body and blood of Christ in the heart. The true body and blood is in heaven, not everywhere present as in the Lutheran view.

    Charlie

  81. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    >I would not call the Consensus Tigurnus a “Zwinglian document” per se.

    No, but it is infected with Zwinglianism.

    If you want to know what Calvin thought read Calvin. If you want to know what Calvin could exist with then check out the Consensus Tigurnus and the Augsburg Confession.

  82. December 20, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    @David Gray,

    Soooo we have to obey pope gray when we read Calvin. We must not read ALL of Calvin’s writings but only the ones that agree with your misguided reading of Calvin? Sorry, but no cigar:)

    It might be that Calvin didn’t hold the view you “think” he did. Otherwise, why would Calvin have written the Tigurinus? Obviously, because he believed it.

    Charlie

  83. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    >There is a reason the Consensus of Tigurinus didn’t win over the Lutherans. Luther couldn’t accept it because it is too Zwinglian if you want to put it that way.

    Luther couldn’t accept it because he died in 1546 and the Consensus was drafted in 1548 and finalized in 1551.

  84. December 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Calvin never signed the Augsburg Confession. But he DID write the Tigurinus with his own hand.

    Perhaps you would be happier as a Lutheran, Mr. Gray?

    Charlie

  85. December 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    It is not an error to maintain that the sign is not the grace. Your insistence on confusing the sign with the grace is to reject the distinction, Gray.

    Maybe you would be happier with the FVs?

    The reality isn’t the sign. It is something that God works in the believer in the sacrament.

    Charlie

  86. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    >It might be that Calvin didn’t hold the view you “think” he did. Otherwise, why would Calvin have written the Tigurinus? Obviously, because he believed it.

    The Tigurinus was a consensus document driven by political pressures. Which do you think most clearly reflects Calvin’s thinking on the sacraments; the Tigurinus or the Institutes and Calvin’s Treatise on the Lord’s Supper? And if Calvin was so Zwinglian on the Lord’s Supper why did Luther favorably comment on the Treatise?

  87. December 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    And by the way, I didn’t pick this fight with Gray. I just intend to finish it.

    Charlie

  88. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    >Calvin never signed the Augsburg Confession. But he DID write the Tigurinus with his own hand.

    Calvin subscribed to the Augsburg Confession.

  89. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    >I just intend to finish it.

    You remind me of a scene from the old series Sledge Hammer where Hammer instructs a fellow to finish himself off and the fellow obliges. Perhaps next you’ll explain that Luther refused to sign off on the Westminster Confession or join the OPC.

  90. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    >>It is not an error to maintain that the sign is not the grace.

    Of course that is not the same as your erroneous assertion that:

    >>Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

    Why not admit your error? It’ll do wonders for the conscience.

  91. December 20, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Calvin rejected the 1530 version of the Augsburg Confession and endorsed Philip Melancthon’s view in 1540 that the true body and blood of Christ are “exhibited” in the sacrament but are not actually in the signs or the elements. Christ is spiritually present in the sacrament but remember that the sacrament is to be distinguished from the elements. A sacrament is composed of two parts: the outward sign and the inward grace. The “inward grace” is not in the bread and wine or the water. It is in the heart of the believer.

    Call me a Zwinglian all you like but the fact is that THIS IS the Reformed position, which is why Calvin could agree with Bullinger and Zwingli but could not sign the 1530 version of the Augsburg Confession.

    No cigar, Gray.

    Charlie

  92. December 20, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I think Calvin told us what he thinks in the Consensus of Tigurinus. Do you think Calvin would write something that is basically a lie? That IS what you’re saying, Gray. Sorry, but I don’t buy your spin. Could you please define for us the meaning of the word “is”???

    Charlie

  93. December 20, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Well, if Luther commented favorably, why is it that no consensus was reached with the Lutherans but there WAS a consensus reached with the Zwinglians? OBVIOUSLY it is because Calvin’s views in the Treatise were more in line with the Zwinglians:)

    Duh.

    Charlie

  94. December 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Next you’re going to tell me that Calvin believed in the ubiquity of the body and blood of Christ?

  95. December 20, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Gray, that’s a nice spin on church history but Luther’s followers rejected the Consensus because they represented Luther’s thinking on the matter. That division stands to this day. So what’s your point?

  96. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    What John Calvin said when he was speaking for himself:

    17. THE INTERNAL SUBSTANCE IS CONJOINED
    WITH THE VISIBLE SIGNS.

    We must confess, then, that if the representation which God gives us in the Supper is true, the internal substance of the sacrament is conjoined with the visible signs; and as the bread is distributed to us by the hand, so the body of Christ is communicated to us in order that we may be made partakers of it. Though there should be nothing more, we have good cause to be satisfied, when we understand that Jesus Christ gives us in the Supper the proper substance of his body and blood, in order that we may possess it fully, and possessing it have part in all his blessings. For seeing we have him, all the riches of God which are comprehended in him are exhibited to us, in order that they may be ours. Thus, as a brief definition of this utility of the Supper, we may say, that Jesus Christ is there offered to us in order that we may possess him, and in him all the fulness of grace which we can desire, and that herein we have a good aid to confirm our consciences in the faith which we ought to have in him.

  97. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    >So what’s your point?

    That you are so badly informed that you assert that Luther rejected a document which was drafted and published years after his death.

  98. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    >>It is not an error to maintain that the sign is not the grace.

    Of course that is not the same as your erroneous assertion that:

    >>Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

    Why not admit your error? It’ll do wonders for the conscience.

  99. J.Kru said,

    December 20, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    This is madness. MADNESS!

  100. December 20, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I happen to agree with Schaff’s view: Creeds of Christendom: The Consensus of Zurich

  101. December 20, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Did Calvin Sign the Augsburg Confession?

    Calvin did sign the Augsburg Confession, but it was not the original version of this significant document, written in 1530, to which he affixed his name. Calvin approved a revision of the original Augsburg Confession, most especially with regard to the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, a compromise position authored by Philip Melancthon, perhaps Luther’s greatest aide and subsequent Lutheran theologian. Melancthon penned the revisions between 1540 and 1542. The original version had been acceptable to both those who remained faithful to the Papal party in the Church and those who held to Luther’s views in the Church. The language is indeed quite remarkable, and it is no wonder that Calvin objected.

    Here is the original version, written in 1530: “Concerning the Lord’s Supper, they teach that the body and blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat in the Lord’s Supper.”

    The revised version, written 1540-42 states, “Concerning the Lord’s Supper, they teach that ‘with’ bread and wine are truly exhibited the body and blood of Christ to those who eat in the Lord’s Supper.

    From: In Hoc Signo: Did Calvin Sign the Augsburg Confession?

  102. December 20, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    @David Gray

    Since what I said is not inaccurate, it is not an error: >>>>>Baptism and regeneration are in no way connected, btw.

    I clarified what I meant in subsequent posts. If you wish to misconstrue what I meant, be my guest. Clearly grace is not conveyed by water. It is conveyed by the sacrament. If that’s not clear enough for you and your Lutheran views, please excuse me. There is a distinction between the sign and the thing signified.

    Charlie

  103. David Gray said,

    December 20, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    From the Ligonier website:

    Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper

    by Keith Mathison

    John Calvin is widely considered to be one of the greatest theologians of the Reformation era. Many associate his name with doctrines such as the sovereignty of God, election, and predestination, but fewer are aware that he wrote extensively on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. The topic occupied many of his sermons, tracts, and theological treatises throughout his career. Calvin’s emphasis was not unusual. Among the many doctrines debated during the Reformation, the Lord’s Supper was discussed more than any other.

    By the time Calvin became a prominent voice in the late 1530s, the Reformers had been debating the Lord’s Supper with Roman Catholics and with each other for years. In order to understand Calvin’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, it is necessary to understand the views he opposed. Throughout the later Middle Ages and up until the sixteenth century, the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass was the received view in the Western church. Two aspects of the Roman Catholic doctrine require comment: Rome’s view of the Eucharistic presence and Rome’s view of the Eucharistic sacrifice.

    According to Rome, Christ’s presence in the sacrament is to be explained in terms of the doctrine of transubstantiation. The doctrine of transubstantiation asserts that when the priest says the words of consecration, the substance of the bread and wine is transformed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. The accidens (that is, the incidental properties) of the bread and wine remain the same. Rome also teaches that the Eucharist is a propitiatory sacrifice; in fact, the same sacrifice Christ offered on the cross. The Eucharistic sacrifice is offered for the sins of the living and the dead.

    The Reformers were united in their rejection of both aspects of Rome’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. They rejected transubstantiation, and they rejected the idea that the Lord’s Supper is a propitiatory sacrifice. In his book The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520), Martin Luther attacked both of these doctrines. Also opposed to Rome’s doctrine was the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli. However, although Luther and Zwingli agreed in their rejection of Rome’s doctrine, they were not able to come to agreement on the true nature of the Lord’s Supper.

    Zwingli argued that Christ’s words “This is my body” should be read, “This signifies my body.” He claimed that the Lord’s Supper is a symbolic memorial, an initiatory ceremony in which the believer pledges that he is a Christian and proclaims that he has been reconciled to God through Christ’s shed blood. Martin Luther adamantly rejected Zwingli’s doctrine, insisting that Christ’s words “This is my body” must be taken in their plain, literal sense.

    Martin Luther argued that although Rome’s explanation of Christ’s true presence in the Lord’s Supper was wrong, the fact of Christ’s true presence was correct. He offered a different explanation for the presence of Christ. In order to understand his view, however, a brief explanation of some rather obscure theological terminology is required. Medieval scholastic theologians had distinguished various modes of presence, or ways of being present. They used the term local presence to describe the way in which physical, finite things are present in a circumscribed place. Spiritual presence described the way in which spiritual beings (such as angels, souls, or God) are present. Because this term was somewhat vague, other terms were used in order to be more specific. Illocal presence, for example, described the way in which finite spiritual beings (for example, human souls or angels) are present, while repletive presence described the way in which an infinite spiritual being (God) is present.

    Zwingli argued that the only mode of presence proper to the human body of Christ was “local presence.” Therefore, according to Zwingli, Christ’s body is locally present in heaven and nowhere else until the Second Advent. Luther rejected Zwingli’s view, claiming that other modes of presence were proper to Christ’s human body — specifically the illocal mode of presence. Because Christ’s body can be present in an illocal manner, according to Luther, it can be present in the bread of the Lord’s Supper. In his Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper (1528), Luther argues that there is a “sacramental union” between the substance of Christ’s body and the bread resulting in a new and unique substance that Luther refers to as fleischbrot (“flesh-bread”). Thus, according to Luther, Christ’s human body is present in the Lord’s Supper supernaturally in a real and illocal manner.

    Calvin’s first significant contribution to the subject appeared in the 1536 edition of his Institutes, by which time the battle lines had already been drawn. He continued to progressively clarify and explain his doctrine of the Supper over the next two decades. Calvin’s doctrine of the Supper was very much influenced by Luther, but others were just as instrumental in shaping his approach to the subject. Among those whose influence is discernible are Augustine, Philip Melanchthon, Martin Bucer, and Peter Martyr Vermigli.

    Calvin followed Augustine in defining a sacrament as “a visible sign of a sacred thing” or as a “visible word” of God. The sacraments, according to Calvin, are inseparably attached to the Word. The sacraments seal the promises found in the Word. In regard to the Lord’s Supper, more specifically, it is given to seal the promise that those who partake of the bread and wine in faith truly partake of the body and blood of Christ. Calvin explains this in terms of the believer’s mystical union with Christ. Just as baptism is connected with the believer’s initiation into union with Christ, the Lord’s Supper strengthens the believer’s ongoing union with Christ.

    All of this raises a question. How does Calvin understand the nature of Christ’s presence in the Supper? According to Calvin the sacraments are signs. The signs and the things signified must be distinguished without being separated. Calvin rejects the idea that the sacramental signs are merely symbols (for example, Zwingli). But he also rejects the idea that the signs are transformed into the things they signify (for example, Rome). Calvin argues that when Christ uses the words, “This is my body,” the name of the thing signified (“body”) is applied to the sign (the bread).

    Calvin repeatedly stated that his argument with the Roman Catholics and with Luther was not over the fact of Christ’s presence, but only over the mode of that presence. According to Calvin, Christ’s human body is locally present in heaven, but it does not have to descend in order for believers to truly partake of it because the Holy Spirit effects communion. The Holy Spirit is the bond of the believer’s union with Christ. Therefore that which the minister does on the earthly plane, the Holy Spirit accomplishes on the spiritual plane. In other words, those who partake of the bread and wine in faith are also, by the power of the Holy Spirit, being nourished by the body and blood of Christ.

    This, of course, raises a second question regarding the mode by which believers partake of the body and blood of Christ. Zwingli had argued that to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ was simply a synonym for believing in Christ. Calvin begged to differ. He argued that the eating of the body of Christ is not equivalent to faith; instead, it is the result of faith. Calvin often used the term “spiritual eating” to describe the mode by which believers partake, but he is careful to define what he means. He asserts repeatedly that “spiritual eating” does not mean that believers partake only of Christ’s spirit. “Spiritual eating” means, according to Calvin, that by faith believers partake of the body and blood of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit who pours the life of Christ into them.

    Calvin also rejected the idea that we partake of the body and blood of Christ with the mouth. Not only Rome, but Luther and his followers, asserted the doctrine of oral manducation (that is, oral eating). According to the Lutherans, the body of Christ is orally eaten, but it is a supernatural or hyperphysical eating rather than a natural or physical eating. Both believers and unbelievers receive the body of Christ according to the Lutherans, although unbelievers receive it to their own judgment. Calvin denied that unbelievers receive the body of Christ at all. According to Calvin, the body and blood of Christ are objectively offered to all, but only received by believers.

    According to Calvin, the Lord’s Supper is also “a bond of love” intended to produce mutual love among believers. It is to inspire thanksgiving and gratitude. Because it is at the very heart of Christian worship, Calvin argued that it should be observed whenever the Word is preached, or “at least once a week.” It should be shorn of all superstition and observed in its biblical simplicity. Calvin considered the Lord’s Supper to be a divine gift given by Christ himself to His people to nourish and strengthen their faith. As such, it is not to be neglected, but rather celebrated often and with joy.

  104. Reed Here said,

    December 20, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Charlie: you are unnecessarily pugnacious and obnoxious. There are no Anglo-Catholics here. As to FV sympathizers, if you knew the history of this blog you would apologize with chagrin for so willingly and easily throwing around labels you use to simply demean and belittle.

    Yours is not a style of debate and interaction that we favor at this blog. Even when you appear to make a content laden statement, you merely throw out words in a proof-texting manner, demonstrating a style of debating that imitates serious intellectual inquiry, but merely attempts to disguise the weakness of the argument being made.

    I suggested to you that folks here are not as far from you as you are intent on assuming to support your attacking . You chose to ignore, even defend yourself.

    So be it.

    This is not your neck of the woods. Would that you had shown more respect for that fact. Your comments will now be placed on moderated status. If you do not change your tone and demeanor, you will simply not be welcome to post.

    I trust your sense of Christian propriety to NOT argue about this, and to humbly comply or merely cease top post. If you think this is unjust – then simply go away. Your unkind, uncalled for, undefensible behavior is no longer welcome here.

    Reed DePace
    moderator

  105. David Gray said,

    December 22, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I would just note that someone has bizarrely claimed that I claimed to work for Ligonier. As anyone can review the comments above will note I make no such claim. While I greatly appreciate the work done by Ligonier I have no relationship with them other than as someone who has benefited from their good work.


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