The Time-Point of Faith

Doug’s response to me is here. It seems to me that the main point of Doug’s argument is that my statement regarding the nature of the Sacraments actually works better in the PC camp than in the non-PC camp. In other words, if the point of the Sacrament is that it accompanies the Word (and we both seem to agree that it does), then we should be giving children the Sacrament, thus allowing them to grow into the proper understanding, rather than waiting until they can demonstrate such an understanding. More of an answer below.

We are bringing the logic of courtroom verification into the rearing of children. Nothing against courtroom verification in its place, but that’s not what we should be doing here. Christian nurture is more like breastfeeding than it is like grilling a hostile witness.

I’m not entirely sure where this comes from, however. The language of grilling a hostile witness is certainly not commensurate with any examination of prospective membership that I have ever seen. We certainly do not take the stance “non-Christian until proven otherwise.” This language would assume that which needs to be proven: it assumes that refusing the ignorant from the table is the same (practically speaking) as excommunication. As I argued from my own experience (which Doug did not seem to contest), I felt absolutely zero sense of excommunication. I wonder if this argument about excommunication comes from Doug’s Baptist background, which. Baptists tend to talk about their children as if they were pagans before profession of faith. This view of children is not prominent in covenantal Presbyterian churches. As I grew up, I learned that the Supper was a special thing, something to be taking very seriously, that solemn kind of gladness that C.S. Lewis talks about in the Chronicles of Narnia. But there is a fence around the table that children need to climb. And the church elders need to see them able to do that. I think where Doug and I differ is how high that fence is, what the nature of that fence is, and how athletic the children have to be in order to do that.

There is an important difference between the Word and the Sacrament that comes into play at precisely this point. That difference is that the immediate consequence of not understanding the Word is less serious than a non-understanding participation in the Sacrament. The warnings for not heeding the Scripture are just as dire, but more long-term. There is a sense in which the Word has the leisure to work long-term on people. It can take years before the Word really starts to penetrate people. And the Bible seems to allow for that. The Word can have a “wearing down” effect. It gradually wears down our defenses, and gradually penetrates bit by bit over time. However, the effect of the Sacrament is slightly different. Faith is necessary for the Sacrament to have its effect. If faith is not present, the negative effect is more immediate than with the Word. To a certain extent, these questions cannot be resolved until the exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11 takes place. For it is there that we find the consequences of incorrect participation in the Sacrament. The question becomes this: does ignorance of the Sacrament constitute illegitimate participation, and what exactly constitutes ignorant participation? These two questions are at the heart of the debate, I believe. In differing answers to these questions, we find the various positions ranged across the spectrum.

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153 Comments

  1. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 29, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Lane, as I pointed out in a previous comment, the issue is not whether you felt excluded, but whether the church was actually excluding you. The conversation is preceding so nicely that I almost don’t want to bring this up, but the “objectivity of the covenant” is part of what’s going on here. The sacraments are part of how God comes to us extra nos–He has promised that He is working powerfully and effectively there, even if we don’t feel like He is.

    And again, the fact that eating the bread and drinking the cup are said to be “communion” in Christ–how does that not make exclusion from the supper some form of excommunication, being outside the communion?

    Third, I’m not sure that the text gives us grounds to say that the consequences of wrongly participating in the supper are always immediate–they may have been for some in Corinth, but do we really have grounds for saying all of them? Don’t Matt. 7 & 25 make it likely that some will participate wrongly in the supper for years before finally being judged?

    BTW, I’m not fully convinced of PC. I’m just asking questions…

    Also, Jeff C. and I have been going back and forth a bit on the previous post for this topic about the degree of Platonism still present in Calvin. I would still like to have a post from you to kick off some discussion on what development in theology should look like and how it should proceed–Calvin’s residual Platonism is one area that I think should be examined on those lines.

  2. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 29, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    I’m also asking whomever will listen an open-ended question about how Matt. 18:2-3 (7 paral.) fit into this question. Jesus calls adult to be converted and become like children to receive the kingdom–but do we reverse this, by keeping children out to some degree until they are like adults?

  3. Andy Gilman said,

    May 29, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    “And again, the fact that eating the bread and drinking the cup are said to be “communion” in Christ–how does that not make exclusion from the supper some form of excommunication, being outside the communion?”

    Joshua, I’m not trained in the law and have never taken the bar exam in Minnesota. Would you say that I have been disbarred in the state of Minnesota?

  4. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 29, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    No, but I would say that you are not allowed to practice law in Minnesota, which puts you in exactly the same position as one who has been disbarred. Plus, on what grounds would you think you have a right to practice law in Minnesota?

    The parallel is that covenant children have the same status relative to the Supper (the “communion”) that apostates do. And it gets back to whether the Supper is an intrinsic right of citizenship in the civitas Dei, like, say, equal protection of the laws, or an accidental one, like a driver’s license or practicing law.

  5. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 29, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    And the Supper isn’t a bar exam. It’s food.

  6. Jack Bradley said,

    May 29, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Lane, I’m glad it wasn’t your experience, but if the average parishioner in the average OPC, URC or even PCA church succeeds in actually getting an audience with the elders to interview his six, seven, eight, nine or even ten-year-old child for admittance to the Table, I can pretty much guarantee you that you would hear something very close to “the language of grilling a hostile witness.” I experienced this with my kids several years ago in an OPC church, and I think it would be the norm (again, assuming an audience would even be granted). I very much appreciate the ongoing discussion you are having with Wilson on this thread.

  7. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 29, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Joshua (#1):

    And again, the fact that eating the bread and drinking the cup are said to be “communion” in Christ–how does that not make exclusion from the supper some form of excommunication, being outside the communion?

    I’m not comfortable with the label of “excommunication” for two reasons:

    (1) The truth of the label actually hangs on whether or not PC is the correct position. If it is, then non-PCers have wrongly withheld communion from their children and thereby inadvertently “excommunicated” them — but without actually taking a disciplinary stance toward them.

    But if PC is incorrect, then non-PCers have rightly withheld communion while training them to receive its benefits. On this account, non-communing members are “members in training” or something like that, rather than being “excommunicants.”

    (2) The Church’s stance towards excommunicants is one of reclaiming an impenitant reprobate. Non-communing members are never, even in “vipers in diapers” kinds of churches, treated as ones who have caused scandalous offense and are worthy of censure.

    (They’re just totally depraved like the rest of us :) )

    And really, the emotional freight of “excommunication” comes from its censorious connotations. These connotations simply don’t apply to the non-PC practice.

  8. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 29, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Jeff, notice that I said “some form of excommunication, being outside the communion.” And that is glossed by #4: the issue is that covenant children are placed in the same status relative to communion with Christ (again, see the close connection made in 1 Cor. 10:16) that apostates are. Certainly there are different processes of getting them there, but the status is still that of being separate from what the NT clearly calls “communion in the body of Christ,” and that’s what I was focusing on.

    I just try reading “holy covenant children” into the list of those warned from the Table: “the scandalous, the profane, those who are persisting in any hidden sin…and holy covenant children…” Doesn’t seem to fit.

    And it does come back to the view of the Supper: is it a non-essential, like a driver’s license or law license, or is an essential right of citizenship, like equal protection of the laws? I would say that it is the latter, on the basis of a) 1 Cor. 10:16-17 and b) the covenant meal background of the OT.

  9. Andy Gilman said,

    May 30, 2009 at 8:29 am

    No, but I would say that you are not allowed to practice law in Minnesota,…

    Right, and unexamined children or adults are not allowed to participate in communion in reformed churches.

    …which puts you in exactly the same position as one who has been disbarred.

    Not at all. Someone who is now “disbarred” had been previously admitted to the bar and now carries with them the disgrace of having done something unethical or illegal. Saying that the exclusion of unexamined children or adults from communion is a “form of excommunication” is simply to bring emotion and sophistry into the debate, along the lines of saying that reformed people are “starving their children and not allowing them to ‘feed on Christ!'”

  10. Zrim said,

    May 30, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    And the Supper isn’t a bar exam. It’s food.

    Good point. The bar exam analogy is good, but it may also reveal the subsuming intellectualism in our non-PC ranks.

    Even so, I’m not and never have been licensed in the state of Michigan to prepare food (or administer fermented drink) for public consumption. Am I really “in exactly the same position” as one who has been stripped of his license to prepare and administer food and drink? Or, what if I walk into an establishment with no means to pay. Is the refusal to serve me really inappropriate?

    Non-PCers, Joshua, are not really starving anyone. We just don’t want any needless run-ins with the law or to have anyone end up washing dishes when he could savor a good meal.

  11. Andrew said,

    May 31, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Lane,

    I am heartened to hear of your personal experience, but I wonder at this statement:

    “Baptists tend to talk about their children as if they were pagans before profession of faith. This view of children is not prominent in covenantal Presbyterian churches”.

    Thornwell, however, had exactly that view. Your probably know his awful
    remarks in that regard:

    “It is clear that while they [covenant children} are in the church by external union, in the spirt and temper of their minds they belong to the world”

    He taught the church was to treat them “precisely as she treats all other impenient and unbelieving men – she is to exercise the power of the keys, and shut them out from the communnion of saints”.

    This is explicit, full-blown presumptive unregeneration! We could dismiss these as churlish and fringe ravings, but did not Thornwell carry the day, decisively, against Hodge on this topic?

    I have little practical experience of presbyterianism in the U.S, but I have certainly not heard of any widespread repentance of these views. Even some of the postings on this blog (see the one on Samuel’s ‘conversion’) indicate that the ghost of Thornwell still haunts the church.

  12. Zrim said,

    May 31, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Baptists tend to talk about their children as if they were pagans before profession of faith.

    Actually, I think this statement seems quite inaccurate at best, perhaps uncharitable at worst. I think it’s more accurate and charitable to say that credo’s, thankfully, don’t actually treat their children as poorly as their system seems to imply. They treat their children like children of the covenant, but their system gives them no ground on which to do so. They are functional paedo’s, dysfunctional credo’s.

  13. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 31, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Andrew (#11):

    Even some of the postings on this blog (see the one on Samuel’s ‘conversion’) indicate that the ghost of Thornwell still haunts the church.

    Just a word of defense for Todd B. and Dr. White. Though they both took the opposite position from me in that debate, stating that Samuel did not know the Lord salvifically prior to God’s call in the night, nevertheless neither man appealed to a Thornwellian principle to do so.

    It was simply a matter of weighing the usage evidence of “know the Lord” over against local context.

    Granted, I still disagree with them ;-)

    But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the discussion was a principled one over exegesis, and not an attempt to let Thornwell in by the service door.

    (In fact, I would venture to guess that Dr. White is friendly to the notion of presumptive regeneration if properly qualified, no?)

  14. Pete Myers said,

    June 1, 2009 at 3:16 am

    12, Zrim,

    I appreciate your wish to be irenic to our baptist brethren, brother. However the strength of the statement you quote isn’t all that heavy, nor is it that inaccurate,

    Baptists tend to talk about their children as if they were pagans before profession of faith.

    In my experience this is absolutely true. Almost every baptist I know gets very tetchy if I said that my children are “Christians”.

    And 1 times in every 4, I will be denounced as being Roman Catholic.

  15. Zrim said,

    June 1, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Pete,

    Well, if we’re going by experience, which the statement seems to be, mine isn’t yours or Lane’s at all.

    My credo’s don’t get tetchy about me calling their grandchildren Christians, they get squeamish about my having baptized and subsequently catechizing them. But mine, for all their misguidance, aren’t quite as misguided as to render my practice “Roman Catholic.” Well, maybe behind my back they do. To my face it’s just a perplexion as to why I’m nurturing (true) religion instead of grooming their inner life. I think mine know enough to know that charging Romanism is simply to reveal their ignorance. Maybe mine and yours should get together for lunch.

  16. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 1, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Once again, my point was the current status of the person in question relative to the supper: both are forbidden to participate. I granted that the process was different, and I will grant that that gives greater disapprobation to one who has been removed from a position.

    Zrim, you are in the same position: the position of not being allowed to distribute.

    I’m not trying to use “rhetoric” (in the empty sense). I’m simply trying to explain the PC perspective on the gravity of non-inclusion of infants.

    So, if PC is off the mark to say that CC is starving the children, how to non-communicant children feed on Christ?

  17. Zrim said,

    June 1, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Joshua,

    You clearly have a point, that those stripped of privileges are “in the same position” as those not stripped. But the very things you are granting, which is to say context, seem to have much greater bearing on the literal reality of being “in the same position.” That my oldest doesn’t go to school because she was expelled is just different from my youngest not going to school because she is 2-years-old. Does that really need to be torturously picked apart?

    But your question, So, if PC is off the mark to say that CC is starving the children, how to non-communicant children feed on Christ? seems to assume something I think is hasty. Is there no room for growing up first? Whatever happened to allowing human beings to slowly mature and others being patient with their growth? I mean, one might as well ask me of my 2-year-old, “Hey, when is she going to start learning and being a student?” Relax, some other things surely must come first, shouldn’t they?

  18. Andrew said,

    June 1, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Jeff,

    Sure. I didn’t mean to say that all who understand Samuel to be converted at in that passage necessarily have deficient views of the covenant. For example Todd, whom you mentioned, though disputing the term ‘presumptive regeneration’, quite forcefully defended the substance that we ‘treat our children as Christians’. And as was pointed out in the discussion, even if the point were proved exegetically, it would not prove a bean as to how we should treat our children.

    Still, passages are not brought up at random for disinterested discussion, and Reed thought it disproved presumptive regeneration (admittedly things were complicated in that the post targeted the FV, but if it worked against it it also worked against the moderate reformed view of presumptive regeneration).

    One could of course posit a third way of agnosticism on the matter, which is what I think Lane espouses. But in practise one would still have to treat your children as something: one would pray with them or not.

  19. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 1, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    But what comes before feeding on Christ in the Christian life? What is more basic to Christian life than union with Christ? It just seems odd that we would put off the central reality of the Christian life…

  20. David Gadbois said,

    June 1, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    What is more basic to Christian life than union with Christ? It just seems odd that we would put off the central reality of the Christian life…

    Since the Supper is not exhaustive, co-extensive, nor the sine qua non of union with Christ, it is not that odd. The Supper is *a* participation in the body of Christ.

    The Supper confirms our faith and intensifies an already-existing union with Christ.

  21. Todd said,

    June 1, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    # 18

    Whenever I hear my name mentioned I perk up – at home it usually means I am in trouble, or my wife wants to buy something expensive.

    Andrew, as long as we distinguish “treat” from “presume” we are fine. Even when we have to ex-communicate a member, we do not presume the eternal state of his soul. But the Lord instructs us to treat that person like a tax-collector. I have no idea if he is really regenerate or not. He may respond to the discipline demonstrating his true faith.

    With my children, I have no biblical reason to treat them as unbelievers, they are members of the church. But I do not presume they are regenerate either. There is no biblical promise that God will elect all, 80%, half of the children of believers. All we are told is that God gives them special priveleges and responsibilties as members of the visible church, so I treat them as such. When they are ready to understand and appreciate the significance of the Supper is another matter entirely.

  22. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 1, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Fine, David. Then how is that union with Christ enjoyed by an elect infant? And how does the church recognize and nurture that?

  23. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 1, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    And Greek doesn’t have an indefinite article. So you really can’t make the “a” of “a participation” emphatic. Nothing else in the NT is said to be fellowship–not prayer, not the preaching of the word, nothing. The cup and bread are said to “be fellowship.”

  24. David Gadbois said,

    June 1, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Then how is that union with Christ enjoyed by an elect infant? And how does the church recognize and nurture that?

    The church nurtures the child through the preached Word, catechesis, and Sacrament (in this case, baptism). You keep making demands as if those just aren’t good enough.

  25. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 1, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    This gets back to the relation of word and sacrament. The word promises, the supper seals that promise, and enacts that promise. Catechesis? I have the impression that you’re from a 3FU background–Heidelberg Q&A 1 has the child learning, first of all, that he or she belongs to Jesus Christ…but participation in his body and blood is not for them? Baptism has already signified and sealed their union…but now they don’t participate in the continuation of it? I’m just not seeing how this makes sense, that’s all.

  26. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 1, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    And if the child has sufficient intellectual ability to hear the word and respond in faith (otherwise it does no good), then why haven’t they the intellectual ability to participate in the supper in faith? My point there is that the same criterion some hold against infant participation in the supper means they don’t participate in the word, either.

  27. Zrim said,

    June 1, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Joshua,

    Like David suggests, you keep asking the wrong question. You keep asking, “Why can’t my 2-year-old learn her times tables with the third graders?” In the ordinary course of things two-year-olds cannot grasp multiplication. But nobody begrudges a child who is extraordinary the opportunity to exercise his/her capacity if it is so expressed. I, for one, have no problem coming to the Table with a child simply because s/he is a child. Ignorance is what it turns on, not age.

    But what you are suggesting is tantamount to having all 2 year-olds join the third graders when times tables is being introduced, otherwise we are presuming 2 year-olds can’t learn times tables and “isn’t that just awful?” Huh? Instead of insisting that “children are kept from participating in Word or union, etc.,” why not look at this from a standpoint of due nurturance? It’s not that “2-year-olds can’t learn times tables” so much as “there’s a time for everything in due season.”

    By the way, this will get me in trouble with Todd, but your concerns, as hasty as they are in this debate, can be salvaged for arguments for weekly communion (or, “at least once a week,” as Calvin put it). The more children see that they are held back from something clearly a good thing the more incentive they may have to do what it takes to participate: become instructed and examined in order to join us. I very much understand and appreciate wanting our children to join us, but that’s no good reason to leapfrog what is clearly necessary. Still, all good things in due time and with patience.

  28. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 1, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Nothing else in the NT is said to be fellowship–not prayer, not the preaching of the word, nothing.

    Is that correct? For example, in Philemon 6, does “fellowship” refer to communion?

  29. Jack Bradley said,

    June 1, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Zrim, Speaking of two-year-olds, Poythress has made a convincing case for profession of faith at just that age:

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_articles/1997Linking.htm

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_articles/1997Indifferentism.htm

  30. David Gadbois said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:51 am

    This gets back to the relation of word and sacrament. The word promises, the supper seals that promise, and enacts that promise.

    I’m not sure what relevance this has to your case.

    Heidelberg Q&A 1 has the child learning, first of all, that he or she belongs to Jesus Christ…but participation in his body and blood is not for them?

    Yes, I am a member of a URC.

    HC 1 also implies that Christ is the conscious hope of the catechumen – they actively trust in the person and work of Christ. He is their only hope in life and death. If they know and confess this, then they are well on their way to partaking of the Supper, and may very well be ready.

    Baptism has already signified and sealed their union…but now they don’t participate in the continuation of it? I’m just not seeing how this makes sense, that’s all.

    Unless you advocate that we give children communion the microsecond after they are baptized, then both sides must admit that there is due season for the confirmation of their union and faith. You want to frame the issue in terms of a narrow cross-section of a child’s life – ‘you are denying X from little Billy because you don’t give X to him NOW’. But with regard to physical food we don’t feed our children at all points that we have opportunity to feed them, we feed them generally when they are hungry. And when they express that they have become hungry for Christ, then we give them the Supper as well.

    And if the child has sufficient intellectual ability to hear the word and respond in faith (otherwise it does no good), then why haven’t they the intellectual ability to participate in the supper in faith?

    This somewhat equivocates in the use of ‘child’. Are we talking about an infant or a 3 year old? In the case of the infant, I don’t believe they can hear the Word and respond in faith. That’s why I don’t have any problem with nurseries for the youngest of children. They need to develop language skills in order to comprehend the Word. Hearing the Word involves comprehension, not simply auditory hearing. Or shall we just have our sermons in Latin and say that us non_Latin speakers have been fed the Word?

    As for somewhat older children who can comprehend the Word> the Word creates and therefore does not presuppose faith> The Supper confirms an already_existent faith and therefore does presuppose it>

  31. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 2, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Zrim, it’s only the wrong question if the Supper is like a times table. But a central point of PC is that it’s not, but it’s like food. So when you say “but there’s a time for due nurturance,” my response is, “exactly.” The times table doesn’t produce growth…food does.

    Jeff, there are places where “fellowship” is left undefined, so there are other aspects to fellowship. But the only place where “fellowship” is used as a predicate (“X *is* fellowship”) is in 1 Cor. 10. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing else to fellowship, but it does mean that the Supper is central, so much so that it can be said “This is fellowship in Christ’s body.”

    David, my point was that the Word is, to some degree, incomplete without the sacrament, a point which I’ve argued with others elsewhere. That is, you say that children can enjoy union with Christ through the word, but I’d say that that is incomplete…but that’s a different line of argument.

    So, as soon as they can consciously say HC 1, they should be ready for communion, it seems to me. That means that catechism and Supper go together, along with the Word. So, before cognition, at which point come Word, sacrament, and catechism, how do children fellowship with Christ?

    Oh, they don’t. Rather, they should be in the nursery, because clearly only those with sufficient intellectual development are permitted to come to Christ…So, baptize ‘em, then stick ‘em away in a back room until they’re smart.

    Speaking of which, I don’t see why giving them communion a microsecond after baptism is necessary–it’s not feasible temporally. The wait is not for them to attain a certain intellectual level, but because time takes time. And when are they hungry for Christ? Since they are born in sin, they are hungry for him immediately. But don’t feed them until later. I know, there’s a equivocation here on “hungry”–does it mean “objectively hungry,” i.e., in need of food, or “feeling hungry”? I mean the former.

    My point overall was that CC defenders say “Stop saying we don’t nuture our children! Stop saying they don’t have communion with Christ!” And I ask: “How do they participate in that, then?” Answer: “Through Word, catechism, and baptism.” And I respond: “Ah, but you’ve made all of those dependent upon the same intellectual level that the Supper is on.” That’s all.

  32. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 2, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Zrim, you need to look back at your own agreement in #10; notice that subsequent to that, you have always compared the Supper to some kind of intellectual activity (going to school, learning the times table). So, either I have a point against the intellectualism, and you’re falling into that same intellectualism, or else you need to embrace the intellectualism, like David G., and retract your agreement with me.

    And, by the way, my concerns aren’t “hasty”–I’ve been thinking and reading about this for a couple years. For you to label my concerns thus is complete speculation.

  33. Pete Myers said,

    June 2, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Can I jump back in?

    Josh… can you justify the charge of “intellecutalism”?

    What I mean by that is, that, of course credo’s require a certain amount of intellectual capacity and understanding before allowing there children to the supper. But that doesn’t become a bad thing simply by adding “-ism” onto the end of it.

    I could throw my own “-ism” back and say that pcs are downplaying the role of truth in the gospel by undermining the mind in a sacrament that explicitly involves the mind (baptism does not involve the mind in the same way, it’s passive). So, I could throw the term “anti-intellectualism” your way.

    But… I reckon that neither of the terms really help that much. So can you justify your use of an “-ism” beyond simply enabling you to make the cc position sound negative (because – we all admit – it does involve the intellect, that’s the point!).

  34. Jack Bradley said,

    June 2, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I think Poythress’ articles (which are not arguing for Paedocom, but for very young profession of faith) help us grasp what is meant by “intellectualism”:

    “It is easy to put improper emphasis on intellectual and verbal apprehension of the truth. When we look at children, we naturally hope that their intellectual apprehension of God’s truth will grow, and that their faith will come to maturity. We encourage such growth. Our hopes and our encouragement are quite proper. But if we equate intellectual maturity with the essence of faith, we change salvation from a free gift into the property of those with proper intellectual credentials.”

    “Since Christian faith is primarily trust rather than intellectual mastery, even a young child can give a credible profession.”

    The Christian faith is primarily TRUST rather than intellectual mastery, or even intellectual maturity. Psalm 22:9: “You are He who took me from the womb; You made me trust You at my mother’s breasts.”

  35. David Gadbois said,

    June 2, 2009 at 11:15 am

    That is, you say that children can enjoy union with Christ through the word, but I’d say that that is incomplete

    Perhaps it is in a sense incomplete. But that isn’t the point. The point is that it is sufficient.

    So, before cognition, at which point come Word, sacrament, and catechism, how do children fellowship with Christ?

    Again, baptism is a sacrament. Their incorporation into Christ’s covenant and covenant community.

    Rather, they should be in the nursery, because clearly only those with sufficient intellectual development are permitted to come to Christ

    Is listening to an incomprehendible sermon (from the child’s standpoint) really ‘coming to Christ’? I don’t think audio osmosis is what Jesus had in mind. Jesus had the little children come to him in order to lay hands on them and bless them (a passive exercise, as with baptism), not for them to hear a sermon.

    The wait is not for them to attain a certain intellectual level, but because time takes time.

    Unless you take the EO view of communing infants during the same service as their baptism, you are stuck in the same position. Reformed paedocommunionists at least wait until there is some ability for the child to willingly consume the elements. So even here there is a level of *ability* that is a precondition of taking the Supper.

    And all of the paedocommunionist charges of credos ‘excommunicating’ their children can be turned right around on them. You guys need to remember to throw the grenade after you remove the pin.

    And when are they hungry for Christ? Since they are born in sin, they are hungry for him immediately. But don’t feed them until later

    By the same logic we should commune children outside of the covenant, since they are also born in sin.

    Being ‘hungry’, in this context, would mean a concious, faith-driven longing for Christ. Hunger is more than having an objective need, it is a ‘hungering and thirsting for righteousness.’

    And I ask: “How do they participate in that, then?” Answer: “Through Word, catechism, and baptism.” And I respond: “Ah, but you’ve made all of those dependent upon the same intellectual level that the Supper is on.”

    Not baptism.

  36. Todd said,

    June 2, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Jack,

    It is not about intellectual mastery of anything, it is understanding the gospel; but also, agreeing to the exclusive Lordship of Christ and demonstrating true repentance that befits the gospel. Ignoring these important definitions of salvation leads to easy believism. The gospel includes these truths:

    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as his own life, he can’t be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry his cross and follow me can’t be my disciple.”
    (Luke 14:26&27)

    “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)

    Is a three year old really ready to hate his parents in comparison to loving Christ? Is a two year old ready to take up his cross? This has nothing to do with whether young covenant children are regenerate or not, which many undoubtedly are. The question is – when is a child ready to understand what following Christ entails and commit to forsaking all to follow Christ because of the gospel? It was the seriousness of the exclusive Lordship of Christ that caused Calvin to wait until children were at least in their teen years before taking the Supper.

    , nature of the gospel. The problem is that communing children at such young age communicates easy-believism.

  37. Todd said,

    June 2, 2009 at 11:35 am

    # 36 – oops – sorry for the repetition at the end

  38. Jack Bradley said,

    June 2, 2009 at 11:44 am

    And, Psalm 71:5-6: “For You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon You I have leaned from before my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb.”

    Some have tried to escape the implications by inferring that these passages are something like David’s private prayer journal, and as such, non-normative. But of course the Psalms are the very public, normative, covenant liturgy of the Church.

  39. Jack Bradley said,

    June 2, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Todd,

    Your reaction to easy-believism does not really make contact with the issue. The issue is how are we to view our covenant infants–as believers or as unbelievers. If you are going to address that issue with questions such as you ask–“Is a three year old really ready to hate his parents in comparison to loving Christ? Is a two year old ready to take up his cross?” I’m simply going to ask the same question of *you* Are you REALLY ready. . .??

    I can only reiterate Poythress’ words, which, as your post demonstrates, need reiteration upon reiteration:

    “When we look at children, we naturally hope that their intellectual apprehension of God’s truth will grow, and that their faith will come to maturity. We encourage such growth. Our hopes and our encouragement are quite proper. But if we equate intellectual maturity with the essence of faith, we change salvation from a free gift into the property of those with proper intellectual credentials.”

  40. Todd said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Jack,

    HI Jack,

    Our covenant children are in a covenantal relationship with God, which does not necessarily mean a saving relationship. Presbyterianism distinguishes the two, baptists do not. Our children’s salvation is demonstrated by biblical repentance and faith, laid out in Scripture.

    You asked if I was really ready. The definition of discipleship (i.e., being a Christian) is laid out by Jesus himself. If I wasn’t ready I would not have professed Christ.

    I believe you are confusing the bestowment of salvation, which is pictured in baptism, with the response to that salvation, which is pictured in receiving the Lord’s Supper.

    As our children wait to take the Supper, they are being taught the seriousness of discipleship, of professing the Christian faith. It is good for them. And when they do choose to partake when they are older, they understand what they are committing to. The same with church membership vows.

  41. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Pete, it was Zrim who referred to intellectualism in #10.

    David, let me say AGAIN that I am not convinced of paedocommunion–I have now said this half a dozen times at various places in these last few posts on PC. So, it’s not “you guys.” What I am doing is trying to lay out the PC case as strongly as possible at a point where I think they have some points worth thinking about: i.e., the inclusion of even infants in the body of Christ, and what that looks like in the church.

    So, here we go round the mulberry bush…

    If baptism includes the infant, what does it include them in? The covenant community. And how do they participate in that? Not by hearing the word, not by receiving the supper, not by catechism…So, we baptize them, placing them in the covenant, and then, as the church, do nothing to nurture them until they meet our intellectual standard.

    I’m not saying that hearing a sermon with no understanding is coming to Christ. But I think you’re assuming that the whole point of the worship service is the sermon. I don’t agree. I hold to the “covenant renewal” understanding of the service (expressed by, among other, Mike Horton, so that we don’t assume some kind of FV adherence), in which the entire set of actions and words are performative. The assembly is meeting with Christ, even if we’re not paying attention or sleeping through it. So, the infant can participate with the covenant community passively by being present in worship, rather than stuck in the back room. The benediction, for example, is not just some nice words. It is God actually placing a blessing on His people…so the infant can participate just as much in that, since adults are just as passive as infants. This is a little tangential, though, since it more has to do with whether infants should be placed in the nursery for the whole service…

    The difference is in what kind of ability we are requiring, which has to do with the nature of res. The supper is food, not a lesson, not an exam. So, the ability required is the ability to receive food. And, if I were to accept PC, I would not be opposed to having infants commune once they are baptized, even if with just a crumb and a moistened fingertip. I wasn’t going after that issue, though: you said that to be consistent, PC has to give communion a “microsecond” after the baptism. Well, only if the whole congregation takes communion a microsecond after the baptismal rite, which is temporally impossible. I simply meant that PC isn’t being inconsistent if we let, say 20 minutes pass, if that’s when the whole congregation take communion, because there we’re not waiting for the child to reach some standard, but simply for the appropriate time in the service for the body to commune together.

    And my logic would not require communing the children of non-believers, since I have repeatedly said that the meal is for those who belong to Christ. I am allowed to say A and B as the conversation changes, and your reductio ad absurdum simply doesn’t follow at all.

    Again, on baptism: so, we include them, give them the sign and seal of forgiveness of sins, etc., and then…?

    And Todd, I recall from somewhere that Calvin actually said that parents should be ashamed if their children aren’t ready to received the supper by the time they are 10–but I don’t have reference for that. I’ll try to find one…if I can’t, then I’ll retract.

  42. Jack Bradley said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Todd, I fully agree that “Our covenant children are in a covenantal relationship with God, which does not necessarily mean a saving relationship.” But I think you are the one who is guilty of a baptistic confusion of categories when you set the terms defining credible profession of faith: hating parents, taking up the cross, i.e., mature discipleship.

    Again, Poythress: ““When we look at children, we naturally hope that their intellectual apprehension of God’s truth will grow, and that their faith will come to maturity. We encourage such growth. Our hopes and our encouragement are quite proper. But if we equate intellectual maturity with the essence of faith, we change salvation from a free gift into the property of those with proper intellectual credentials.”

  43. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    On #40, Todd, what Biblical basis do you have for saying that the Supper pictures response, rather than bestowal? “This my body, given for you…” certainly pictures bestowal.

  44. David Gadbois said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I can only reiterate Poythress’ words, which, as your post demonstrates, need reiteration upon reiteration:

    Knowledge of the person and work of Christ is not an intellectual credential. It means that our faith has Christ as its object. All of this flaccid rhetoric about the CC position entailing intellectualism needs to stop.

    What we object to is evacuating the notitia of faith and calling it ‘faith’ as a pretext to commune infants. This is not what we confess concerning the nature of saving faith. It is an ad hoc doctrine with no exegetical support.

  45. Zrim said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Joshua,

    Zrim, you need to look back at your own agreement in #10; notice that subsequent to that, you have always compared the Supper to some kind of intellectual activity (going to school, learning the times table). So, either I have a point against the intellectualism, and you’re falling into that same intellectualism, or else you need to embrace the intellectualism, like David G., and retract your agreement with me.

    And, by the way, my concerns aren’t “hasty”–I’ve been thinking and reading about this for a couple years. For you to label my concerns thus is complete speculation.

    My point about the “subsuming intellectualism” doesn’t preclude using intellectual analogies. Just as there is a difference between being simple and being simplistic, there is a difference between being intellectual and intellectualism. Lutherans, as they bar anyone who has not divinized the correct metaphysics of the body and blood, are pretty good examples of intellectualizing the Table. We Reformed have tendencies to do this. But that doesn’t mean using intellectualized analogies is verboten.

    My point about “hastiness” has nothing to do with how long someone has thought about anything. It has to do with the nature of an argument. The PC argument, at least as far as you have represented it here, is hasty. The rush to the Table, running roughshod over intstruction because “otherwise children are kept from feeding on Christ” is hasty. I’ll even give you 20 more years to mull it over, and if you still think this way you are still being hasty.

  46. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I don’t think anyone is actually evacuating the notita. They’re just doing with the Supper what the tradition does with baptism: the efficacy of the sacrament is not tied to the moment it is administered. The idea is that the Supper is part of what grows them up into that mature faith–notita, assensus, et fiducia.

    And it strikes me that the same argument could be and is used against paedobaptism:

    “What we object to is evacuating the notitia of faith…as a pretext to baptize infants, etc.”

    Which means it gets back to the difference between the supper and baptism…again.

  47. David Gray said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    So what is the CC position on the Lord’s Supper for adults with limited intellectual capacity?

  48. Pete Myers said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    #41,

    Ok, sure, let’s ditch the intellectualism discussion, it’s a red herring anyway.

    To engage with your comment, I think this is the nub of the issue:

    Paedocommunionists think that credocommunionists have misunderstood that children really are included in the covenant, and therefore the debate is about what the true status of infants is in the covenant. But credocommunionists think that paedocommunionists have misunderstood the nature of the sacrament of communion, and therefore the debate is about that.

    When paedocommunionists challenge credocommunionists who don’t believe in presumptive regeneration… this is a right challenge to give. If credocommunionists aren’t giving their children communion because they believe their children aren’t truly part of the covenant, then credocommunionists are being inconsistent with the fact that they have baptised them. (I realise there’ll be ccs on the blog who disagree with what I’ve just said – I’ll leave you to defend your own corner!)

    But, so much of the paedocommunionist argument fails to properly disconnect what they think about their children from what they think about communion. Part of taking the communion is an “exam”, but that doesn’t mean that I have been on tenter-hooks for ages about my child’s covenant status until they take communion.

    Communion requires a certain level of self examination. That’s not all there is to communion, but it just seems like this aspect of communion is being unecessarily dismissed because it can be made to sound like children who are too young to perform that self-examination are somehow not Christians.

    All credo-communionists are saying is that they’re not mature Christians. At least, that’s all Calvin and Witsius say on the matter.

  49. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    But you have repeatedly used *only* intellectual analogies in your responses. Exclusive concetration on intellectual standards and models is, I would suggest, a characteristic of intellectualism.

    And what you mean is not that the argument is hasty, but that the action we are considering is hasty: that we are arguing for haste to the table. That’s not the same thing as an argument being hasty.

  50. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Pete, the question of self-examination is part of the discussion. The PC exegesis of that passage will no doubt be brought up in time, and most likely dismissed as eisegesis by many without much consideration. Hopefully, it will be more carefully treated than, say, Deut. 16:16.

    The summary is, I think:
    -the nature of the admonition to the Corinthians is specific rather than general
    -dokimazo is basically about “proof,” an external demonstration, rather than an inward look, which fits into the themes of Corinthians and Paul’s use of dokimos/adokimos as public and communal, rather than private and internal (cf. 1 Cor. 11:19).

    Overall, the PC exegesis seeks to place the specific text in a broad context: going back to the OT festivals, considering how those apply in the NT, looking at Paul’s overall themes to Corinth, etc. I’ve found a number of their points along the way helpful, even if I’m not sure about the conclusion on 11:28.

  51. Todd said,

    June 2, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    # 43 The Lord’s Supper is for believers who knowingly receive the elements, undestanging their significance; the act of receiving and partaking is an act on our part in response to the gospel we already believe. The Lord bestows, yes, but through a sign that we understand and believe first. That of course is not the case with infant baptism.

  52. David Gadbois said,

    June 2, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    So, we baptize them, placing them in the covenant, and then, as the church, do nothing to nurture them until they meet our intellectual standard.

    Really, ‘nothing’ to nurture them? Why isn’t simply raising babies *as* babies nurturing? Feeding them, clothing them, and so forth. And of course we are training them to learn the language and mental skills they need in order to receive the Word with understanding. No small thing, I’d say.

    You seem to be so caught up with us ‘doing something’ at every stage. I’m not sure where this unbiblical demand is coming from. God is working in his own time, and at points he calls us to certain duties to aid in the spiritual growth and health of our children. But at the end of the day God’s grace is sufficient, Joshua, it really is.

    And, please, do I really have to rebut prejudicial language about “our intellectual standards”?

    The difference is in what kind of ability we are requiring, which has to do with the nature of res. The supper is food, not a lesson, not an exam. So, the ability required is the ability to receive food.

    The problem is that the Supper is not just physical food. Faith is the hand and mouth of our soul in the Supper. So I would agree that the only ability required is the ability to receive *this kind of food*.

    And my logic would not require communing the children of non-believers, since I have repeatedly said that the meal is for those who belong to Christ.

    Back to the original point – a hunger for Christ implies more than spiritual need, but a spiritual desire. A hungering and thirsting for righteousness, as the Bible puts it.

    Again, on baptism: so, we include them, give them the sign and seal of forgiveness of sins, etc., and then…?

    I am not sure what dilemma you think this question exposes for the CC position.

    I guess my answer would be something along the lines of ‘give them the sign and seal of forgiveness and then exercise a modicum of patience for them to come to learn about the person and work of Christ’.

  53. David Gadbois said,

    June 2, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Joshua said The idea is that the Supper is part of what grows them up into that mature faith–notita, assensus, et fiducia.

    That’s not just mature faith, that’s the very definition of saving faith in the Heidelberg. And, again, the Supper *confirms* that saving faith, so presupposes its existence. You are making the Supper do what the Word does, which is to create faith.

    And it strikes me that the same argument could be and is used against paedobaptism:

    “What we object to is evacuating the notitia of faith…as a pretext to baptize infants, etc.”

    Inasmuch as we don’t make faith a requirement for baptism (and therefore don’t need to modify its definition), how does this hold at all? Baptism is a passive, objective ordinance – God puts his sign and seal on us regardless of our subjective condition. This is true whether or not we later receive the promises offered in baptism by faith or not.

  54. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    One of the elements that has not entered this discussion yet is the nature of God’s providence both in our effectual calling and also in our ongoing perseverance. Without keeping this element in the background, we risk exaggerating the consequences of the view opposite our own.

    Grant for a moment that infants may have faith.

    If so, we agree that this would be an exceptional work of God’s grace that operates outside the normal means of the Word as the instrument of the Spirit to produce faith (cf. Rom. 10).

    Alright then, what kind of nurturing should we provide in order to be responsible overseers for them, to train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

    Beats me. Clearly, normal preaching is not an obvious route to take, since small children in all likelihood will not understand adult sermons. Nor is communion an obvious route to take, since there seems to be a gap between the sign and the understanding of the thing signified.

    At the end of the day, don’t we have to rely a bit on God’s providence, catechizing as they seem to understand, and trusting that God is able to cause growth?

    Immediately someone might jump to an extreme and suggest that we eliminate all means of grace for all people, since God is always sovereign; and of course this would be foolish. Word and sacrament are a matter of command.

    But in the case of children and the mentally disabled, in which it is difficult to see how the normal means of grace would function, it seems like there ought to be room to see that both PC and non-PC practices are not baneful.

    For on the one hand, God’s choosing of an individual cannot be thwarted by the practice of paedocommunion. Those who raise the spectre of “children sitting in the pews thinking that they are Christians” don’t balance that fear with the recognition that in the end, God calls whom he calls. And the others, if they remain in the church, will almost certainly deceive themselves, regardless of our practices. The real concern is to retain gospel preaching in our churches.

    And on the other hand, God’s work of sanctification is not so fragile that it can be thwarted by withholding communion from a child, so long as the other elements of catechism and Bible teaching are in place. The real concern is to maintain healthy nurture.

    Certainly, let us continue to see whether PC or non-PC is a matter of good and necessary inference. But in the meantime, can we rest comfortably in the knowledge that spiritual growth is not a mechanical function of the means?

  55. Todd said,

    June 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Jack # 42 Unless you come up with a non-biblical definition of discipleship, the passages on following Christ, hating father and mother, taking up your cross, define what it means to repent and believe in Christ, as well as live the Christian life. These are not requirements for only mature believers, as if there can be Christians who are not disciples.

    Joshua # 41 From Herman Selderhuis biography of Calvin

    “Calvin also learned (in Strasbourg) that there ought to be a definite moment of decision between baptism and the Lord’s Supper. `No one may be allowed to Christ’s Holy Supper who has not professed his or her faith.’ To this end, children were examined four times per year to trace their progress. `For although they in a certain manner actually profess their faith every Sunday in the catechism service, they may nevertheless not participate in the Lord’s Supper until in the pastor’s eyes it is clear that they have progressed far enough in the principle points of faith.’ To sum up, in Calvin’s view one also needed flying lessons in order to fly. In his church, the final test could be taken during one’s teen years.”

  56. Andrew said,

    June 2, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Todd,

    Yes.

    I recognize the importance of the distinction to you, so I will be careful not to ascribe presumptive regeneration to you. At the same time, anyone I have heard agree with term ‘presumptive regeneration’ simply means by it that we treat our children as Christians (pray with them, worship with them, encourage them in Christ, warn them against sin etc.). I certainly would not claim to know the state of their heart.

    But, whatever term we use, we are on a different planet to Thornwall and co, which I think was Jeff’s point.

  57. Pete Myers said,

    June 2, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    #49 Joshua

    I think there’s a reason why people have “only” used intellectual analogies so far in this discussion, Josh, and that’s because it’s the intellectual aspect of communion that is the distinctive between the pc and cc positions.

    On the Presumptive Regernation issue

    I think I can see that in Presbyterian circles PR is a bit of a “dirty word”. What I mean by it is:
    a) My wife professes faith.
    b) My son is too young to profess faith, but is in the covenant (outwardly) because we profess faith.
    c) I can’t truly know the heart of either my wife nor my son. But I think they’re both Christians, and feel very, very confident that they’re both regenerate inwardly members of the covenant, on the basis of them both being members of the covenant outwardly.

    The reason I keep raising this, is, paedocommunionists keep responding to a credocommunionist non-presumptive position. But the paedocommunionist position is not proven by doing this. There are those of us who take a presumptive position, and are credo-communionist… because the key issue is not the status of our children, it’s the meaning of communion.

  58. Jack Bradley said,

    June 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Todd wrote: “… hating father and mother, taking up your cross, define what it means to repent and believe in Christ, as well as live the Christian life. These are not requirements for only mature believers, as if there can be Christians who are not disciples.”

    Well said, brother. These are not requirements for mature believers only. But you seemed to be saying, previously, that they are for mature believers only–as contrasted with young covenant children.

    My fundamental burden is to maintain that our children, FROM BIRTH, are to be regarded (regarded, not posited) as Christians. This is saying no more than our own Westminster Directory for Public Worship:

    “That the promise is made to believers and their seed; and that the seed and posterity of the faithful, born within the church, have, by their birth, interest in the covenant, and right to the seal of it, and to the outward privileges of the church, under the gospel, no less than the children of Abraham in the time of the Old Testament; the covenant of grace, for substance, being the same; and the grace of God, and the consolation of believers, more plentiful than before: That the Son of God admitted little children into his presence, embracing and blessing them, saying, For of such is the kingdom of God: That children, by baptism, are solemnly received into the bosom of the visible church, distinguished from the world, and them that are without, and united with believers; and that all who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce, and by their baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh: THAT THEY ARE CHRISTIANS, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized: That the inward grace and virtue of baptism is not tied to that very moment of time wherein it is administered; and that the fruit and power thereof reacheth to the whole course of our life. (Emphasis mine)

  59. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 2, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Ad 52:

    Notice, David, I said “as the church.” The home is not the same thing. Or does the church, as the church, change diapers, etc.?

    I’m not caught up with “us doing something.” Rather, I am concerned that we understand and apply the truth of our childrens’ baptisms: they belong to God, from then on. So, what does that look like? How do we as the church treat those children as belonging? How do we act on a faith that what God says about them is true? I have seen far too much ignoring of this in even Reformd circles (children going to the nursery, then bringing toys to play with in the service, reaching their teens and still using the service as art class, etc.). So, this is the concern: that we treat covenant children as covenant children, all along.

    And please, don’t take that sort of lecturing tone to me on “God’s grace is sufficient, it really is.” Where have I said anything that calls the sufficiency of God’s grace into question, please?

    Notice, I did not say “intellectualist standards.” I”m not sure how “intellectual standards” is prejudicial–your whole point has been that there are certain standards of intellect that must be met: comprehension, self-examination, etc.

    Ad 55:

    Okay, Todd. Is there a reference given to Calvin’s own writings where he gives the age?

  60. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 2, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Pete, I grant that. My point was simply that Zrim seemed to agree that there was a “subsuming intellectualism,” but then using only intellectual analogies.

    I, on the other hand, would use nearer analogies, of meals, etc. The point we’re arguing over is how intellectual the supper is.

  61. Pete Myers said,

    June 2, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    #58 Jack,

    My fundamental burden is to maintain that our children, FROM BIRTH, are to be regarded (regarded, not posited) as Christians.

    I agree with you on this statement. But I’m a credo-communionist.

    Just to be clear, I don’t think paedocommunion is a balanced response to when people posit, rather than regard, their children as Christian.

    Is it worth teasing that out together?

  62. Pete Myers said,

    June 2, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    #60

    Ok. Though, as usual with these discussions, there are a couple of issues that are overlapping.

    What are your thoughts on the intellectual “requirements” for taking the supper.

  63. Zrim said,

    June 2, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Joshua,

    Rather, I am concerned that we understand and apply the truth of our childrens’ baptisms: they belong to God, from then on. So, what does that look like? How do we as the church treat those children as belonging? How do we act on a faith that what God says about them is true? I have seen far too much ignoring of this in even Reformd circles (children going to the nursery, then bringing toys to play with in the service, reaching their teens and still using the service as art class, etc.). So, this is the concern: that we treat covenant children as covenant children, all along.

    We bring them to church, we catechize them there and at home, we pray with and for them.

    I agree with you, that certain things are no substitute for better forms of religious nurture. But where you seem to want to reslove this in a hasty manner (bring them to the Table) my point is that catechism is the answer to play time, church on Sunday is the answer to mid-week pseudo-spiritual exercises.

    My point was simply that Zrim seemed to agree that there was a “subsuming intellectualism,” but then using only intellectual analogies.

    I, on the other hand, would use nearer analogies, of meals, etc. The point we’re arguing over is how intellectual the supper is.

    You’ll recall I originally used food and beverage analogies (#10), then also used intellectually-based ones. But the point about underlying intellectualism is really just a side-bar (not a red herring, Pete). You’re pressing it too far. The larger point being made in the diversified examples is that two people who do not commune may be “in the same position” but the reasons for that are more important in explainng that; that paedocommunion is to run roughshod over instruction; that it is to miss completely that there are better, more biblical (and historical) ways to guide covenant children to the Table.

  64. Todd said,

    June 2, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Jack, # 58

    Since the Westminster divines, who wrote the directory, were not paedo, I’m not sure how quoting it helps your case.

    Bavinck is helpful here: “Although Baptism and the Holy Supper have the same covenant of grace as their content, and although both give assurance of the benefit of the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Supper differs from Baptism in this regard that it is a sign and seal not of incorporation into but of the maturation and strengthening in the fellowship of Christ and all His members.” (Our Reasonable Faith, p. 542)

    Also Calvin: (Inst. IV, 16, 30).

    … that there is not greater reason for admitting infants to baptism than to the Lord’s Supper, to which, however, they are never admitted: as if Scripture did not in every way draw a wide distinction between them. In the early Church, indeed, the Lord’s Supper was frequently given to infants, as appears from Cyprian and Augustine (August, ad Bonif. Lib. i.); but the practice justly became obsolete. For if we attend to the peculiar nature of baptism, it is a kind of entrance, and as it were initiation into the Church, by which we are ranked among the people of God, a sign of our spiritual regeneration, by which we are again born to be children of God; whereas, on the contrary, the Supper is intended for those of riper years, who, having passed the tender period of infancy, are fit to bear solid food. This distinction is very clearly pointed out in Scripture. For there, as far as regards baptism, the Lord makes no selection of age, whereas he does not admit all to partake of the Supper, but confines it to those who are fit to discern the body and blood of the Lord, to examine their own conscience, to show forth the Lord’s death, and understand its power.

    Though in Calvin’s time some came forward for first communion at 10 years old, that was usually the earliest, and that assumed many years of catechism instruction, and kids were looked upon as adults earlier than now. The norm seemed to be that in the teen years young people first professed their faith.

  65. Pete Myers said,

    June 2, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Zrim,

    Ok… sidebar/red herring – I don’t even know the difference between those two!

    What I’m sensing here is that Zrim, Josh and myself are all currently convinced of credo-communion… that we all see the positives in the arguments from paedocommunionists… that we all feel there are genuine things we would like to critique about the current state of the Reformed world on these sorts of issues, but without moving outside it’s historical framework (because we believe it’s biblical).

    Who is actually a genuine fully persuaded paedocommunionist here?

  66. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 2, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Todd #64:

    The norm seemed to be that in the teen years young people first professed their faith.

    Is there a distinction between when children come to faith and when they can express their faith in adult terms?

    Likewise, how much expression of faith is required in order to be eligible for communion? For example, if a 5-year-old knows that Jesus died for her sins, has she expressed saving faith?

  67. Pete Myers said,

    June 2, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    #66

    Is there a distinction between when children come to faith and when they can express their faith in adult terms?

    Yes. I think so.

    There’s a young lad in our church who says he loves Jesus, and shows many signs of a regenerate heart, etc. etc. He doesn’t understand why Jesus died though. He finds it hard to explain. His parents are concerned that means he might not be “converted” yet.

    Err… he’s 3.

    In my opinion he shows lots of signs of being a saved sinner but he’s three. He trusts Jesus, but can’t explain why or how, or anything – because he’s three.

    I think there are further distinctions also. I think that while a 6 or 7 year old might be able to articulate the gospel quite clearly, whether they’re emotionally mature enough to do the internal reflection required to come to the supper is far less clear.

    So… as backwards as this sounds… I’m a presumptive regenerationalist who thinks that children should probably be brought to the supper later than Lane does! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

  68. Jack Bradley said,

    June 2, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Todd,

    I’m quoting the divines to clear up the question of how we are to view our children. Their lack of support for paedocom is beside the point. I think that they were inconsistent, as was Calvin, in the implications of their view of covenant children as Christians.

    I think one of the things that hindered them was their understanding of “discern the body”. I think the entire context clearly refers to the Corinthian believers failure to properly understand that in their eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper they participate in the body of Christ: the covenant community of believers. It does not mean discerning Christ’s body in the bread and cup in some theological sense.

    Speaking of the mystery of Christ’s presence in the sacrament, Calvin himself said, “Now if anyone should ask me how this takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either the mind to comprehend or my words to declare. . . . I rather experience it than understand it” ( Institutes 4.17.32).

    And that also addresses Pete’s example of the three-year-old: “He trusts Jesus, but can’t explain why or how.” He trusts Jesus. I reiterate Poythress: “Since Christian faith is primarily trust rather than intellectual mastery, even a young child can give a credible profession.”

    Understand, while I am still persuaded about paedocom, I know that many are not, and yet may become persuaded–hopefully in reading Poythress’ masterful papers–of very young profession of faith.

  69. Todd said,

    June 2, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Jeff,

    It is not about expressing their faith in adult terms, or whether a 3 year old can be a sincere believer. It is about being of an age where they can both understand and accept the implications of the gospel, including the passages on discipleship. If you wouldn’t ex-communicate a 3 year old because he really doesn’t understand that he is apostacizing, then that child is not ready to profess for himself the implications of the gospel and take the Lord’s Supper while heeding the Scriptural warnings.

  70. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 2, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Todd (#69):

    I appreciate the way in which you emphasize the normative nature of Mark 8 and the Sermon on the Mount.

    At the same time, I wonder what relationship you see between age and accepting the implications of the gospel. Does a thirteen-year-old understand what it means to leave houses and spouses behind?

    Also, what do you make of Jesus’ reception of children on the grounds that (a) such is the kingdom of God, and (b) if anyone does not receive the kingdom like a child, he cannot receive it at all?

    For my part, I would not excommunicate a three-year-old because nothing he could say would persuade me that he had made a determined rejection of the gospel — which is what apostasy is.

  71. Zrim said,

    June 2, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Jack,

    It seems to me that a logical and necessary implication of paedocommunion is that it should be an ordinary occurance, not extra-ordinary. While, as I have said, I have no problem at all with children at the Table per se, I think what bothers we credo-communionists is the implication that uninstructed and affirmed children should likely be the norm.

    You are correct that there is profound mystery to faith. Calvin’s noting he’d rather experience the Supper than understand it is immensely instructive for us. We do well to not over-emphasize the intellectual aspect of faith to the exclusion of assent and trust. But, contrariwise, I don’t think it is careful to turn around and neglect intellectual acumen for the sake of assent and trust. Call me greedy, but I’d prefer to safeguard all three aspects of true faith.

  72. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 2, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I realized that #70 is dancing around the issue. Permit me to be more direct.

    Let’s grant that, as Jesus says, His disciples must take up their cross and follow Him.

    At the same time, we do not make “taking up one’s cross” a membership vow.

    We *do* require them to vow to “endeavor to live as becomes a follower of Christ.” And we know that this entails “taking up one’s cross.” But many do not fully understand this when they first come to faith, even as adults. And we do not require adults to have a full-orbed understanding of this in order to partake of communion.

    My concern is that we not recapitulate the early (2nd – 3rd cent.) church’s withholding of membership until the catechumen proved himself. For them, this led to perfectionism and voluntary martyrdom.

    In our American times, setting the bar for membership very high has tended to focus the believer on his own personal qualities and psychological state, rather than on the grace of Christ. The result in the Puritan community was disastrous; the 2nd GA was even worse.

    I think we agree that we don’t want to end there!

    So I’m not comfortable with making “understanding and accepting the implications of the passages on discipleship” a prerequisite for receiving communion. That’s not because I favor “easy believism”, but because communion is about receiving Christ’s grace for our sin, not about affirming our discipleship.

    What do you think? Does your session require a clear articulation of the cost of discipleship in order to receive someone as a member?

  73. Todd said,

    June 2, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Jeff,

    You flavor the argument with the terms “fully understand” and “clear articluation.” We would not expect either of one becoming a communicant member. But we would never allow an adult to become a communicate member that shows no evidence that he understands the gospel and its call to take up his cross, and that he has taken up his cross. Nothing about fully or with complete articulation, but just what it means to be a Christian according to the Bible. This applies to adults or teens wanting to become communicants.

  74. Andy Gilman said,

    June 2, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Contrary to the reformed confessions, paedocommunionists believe that ignorance should not be an obstacle to any baptized child’s participation in the Lord’s Supper. What do they say about those who are scandalous? Should the adult member who is an adulterer participate in communion? If not, why not? It seems to me that all of the arguments being advanced by the paedocomms could just as easily be applied to the adulterer. Are you going to deny the adulterer food? The adulterous member is in desperate need of the grace bestowed by the word/supper. Will you deny him the supper which completes the word? The adulterous member is just that, a member, and the Lord’s Supper is “an intrinsic right of citizenship in the civitas Dei.”

  75. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 2, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Todd (#73):

    You flavor the argument with the terms “fully understand” and “clear articluation.” We would not expect either of one becoming a communicant member.

    You’re right; I did indeed introduce that flavor. I wasn’t trying to prejudice the argument so much as suggest that “understanding” is a continuum — so that two reasonable people might disagree about how much understanding is required in order for someone to properly partake of communion.

    Is that fair?

  76. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 3, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Zrim, your analogy in # 10 was not of the Supper to a meal, but rather of the Supper to a liquor license, which is much more like an exam. So just because you mention food doesn’t make food the central analogy…

    And I’m not trying to press the “intellectualism” thing too far–Pete initially demanded that I justify the charge of intellectualism, but I wasn’t even the one who brought it up, so I was trying to clear that up to some degree.

    Todd, I would like to know what you make of the passages Jeff refers to in #70. I’ve asked that in various places as well. You seem to be turning that on its head and saying that a child can’t receive the kingdom (the burden of discipleship).

    Andy, the arguments do not apply to the adulterer because he has actively rejected the life of the covenant. And he *is* held to a certain standard of understanding, examination, etc., because he is an adult. In case anybody’s paying attention, I have never argued against *any* intellectual standards for participation, but rather for standards that fit the maturity of the covenant member in question. An adult should be held to appropriate standards, but appropriate standards for a child are not the same as for an adult.

    Todd, I’m not clear why you’re making those discipleship verses normative for participation in communion. Besides, I would suggest that the Supper itself calls us to that very thing…but circumcision called the infant as he was growing up to the circumcision of the heart, and baptism calls one to die to the sinful nature. So, a sign that applies to something that should characterize an mature adult can still be applied and given to a child.

  77. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 3, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Again, on Andy’s question: it’s the social contract–also known as covenant. If one, by his life, shows that he has no intention of actually living according to the standards of the community, then he *forfeits* those rights. So, the difference is like that between an infant born as a citizen and an adult criminal: the latter has freedoms and rights removed that are there for the former, because the latter has broken the covenant. A citizen has intrinsic rights until he forfeits them by a refusal to abide by the life-norms of the community.

  78. David Gadbois said,

    June 3, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Joshua said And please, don’t take that sort of lecturing tone to me on “God’s grace is sufficient, it really is.” Where have I said anything that calls the sufficiency of God’s grace into question, please?

    The last several thousand words of postings from you have been aimed at showing that there is some inherent deficiency or neglect if the church doesn’t exercise some active duty toward children during the very narrow cross-section of their lives in between baptism and their ability to comprehend the Word.

    The implication is that the Supper being administered to these young children might be the ‘solution’. Or at least there must be *something* we (as the church) can and should do, you have continually demanded. But I deny that there is a ‘problem’, God’s grace is sufficient during this transitory stage where there is no normal means. He has not equipped the church with additional means of grace to bridge this stage, so God’s grace continues to reside in our children and uphold them outside of (immediate) churchly means. If this is conceded then your objections and demands evaporate.

    I know you wouldn’t deny the sufficiency of grace, but my point is that if one were really consistent with that then one wouldn’t get as caught up in the means. Your arguments presume that they are very nearly to be regarded as absolutely necessary. If you drop that presumption, then your arguments along this line have little force.

    Notice, I did not say “intellectualist standards.” I”m not sure how “intellectual standards” is prejudicial–your whole point has been that there are certain standards of intellect that must be met: comprehension, self-examination, etc.

    Your exact phrase was ‘our intellectual standards':

    First off, it the CC position is true, they are not *our* standards, they are God’s standards.

    Second, to frame it as an intellectual standard rather than as an intellectual ability or capacity is to give the impression that it is like some academic standard or IQ test. Yes, comprehension of the person and work of Christ does presuppose a certain cognitive and intellectual capacity, but the intellect is only an incidental means. The main point is that Christ is the object of faith.

    It would be like me accusing Reformed paedocommunionists (in distinction from the EO practice) of making infants wait until they can meet ‘their physical standards’ (the precondition of being able to engage in normal mastication). I disagree with their practice, but that is certainly an unfair way for me to label their position.

  79. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 3, 2009 at 5:41 am

    David G (#78):

    If I may:

    Would you grant that some extreme CC positions amount to setting an intellectual or perhaps “spiritual” standard? For example, churches who require complete assurance before partaking? Or churches who will not allow communion until substantial portions of the Catechism have been memorized?

  80. Todd said,

    June 3, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Jeff # 75

    The OPC communicant membership vows

    3. Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your sovereign Lord and do you promise, in reliance on the grace of God, to serve him with all that is in you, to forsake the world, to mortify your old nature, and to lead a godly life?

    4. Do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government of this church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life, to heed its discipline?

    I think the PCA vows are similiar. There is some level of ability and committment required to take these vows. He or she needs to really understanding what they are vowing before God. This is not sommthing that should be rushed or pushed on little kids. Are 4 year olds really understanding and submitting to the church discipline process of vow # 4? Are they really ready to forsake the world as in vow #3?

    Yes, every case is different, and the bar can be rasied too high, but there is no danger allowing children to wait until they are old enough to truly understand what they are binding themselves to before God. Now, there must be proper insturction of God’s covenantal love for them as children so they do not misunderstand the signifance of not taking the Supper yet, but if the proper teaching is present it can only help to go slowly with professions. The same applies to adult professions.

  81. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 3, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    …there is no danger allowing children to wait until they are old enough to truly understand what they are binding themselves to before God.

    Within reason, I agree with you.

    Now to turn it around: What danger would you see in treating young professions of faith as genuine, assuming that the proper teaching is present?

  82. Andy Gilman said,

    June 3, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Joshua said:

    Again, on Andy’s question: it’s the social contract–also known as covenant. If one, by his life, shows that he has no intention of actually living according to the standards of the community, then he *forfeits* those rights. So, the difference is like that between an infant born as a citizen and an adult criminal: the latter has freedoms and rights removed that are there for the former, because the latter has broken the covenant. A citizen has intrinsic rights until he forfeits them by a refusal to abide by the life-norms of the community.

    Maybe we’ll have to disagree about the definition of an “intrinsic right.” I think you mean privilege.

    Forgive me if I’m not up to speed on your views, I haven’t been closely following this blog of late, but your argument appears to be, on this point, that participation in communion is a privilege which the Bible grants to all those who are free of scandal, whether adult, child or infant. Though you say there are different standards for adults and children, you haven’t given any examples of when an infant or child might be denied the privilege of participating in communion. So I have to assume you have only one standard for exclusion, i.e., scandal.

    In Lane’s post he says:

    The question becomes this: does ignorance of the Sacrament constitute illegitimate participation, and what exactly constitutes ignorant participation?

    Contrary to the paedocommunionists, the confessional, reformed position is that the Bible denies the privilege of communion to the scandalous and to the ignorant. If the confessions are to be revised by paedocommunionists, shouldn’t they focus on where the confessions misinterpret the Bible? Instead, what I see in this thread, is argument which begs the question. It is assumed in the paedocommunionist arguments that the Bible grants the privilege of communion to all except the scandalous, and then more arguments are built upon that disputed assumption. If the Bible also forbids the ignorant from participation in communion, it is not a valid argument to say; The supper is food which infants and children need, to feed upon Christ lest they starve!, or, Word and sacrament necessarily go together, therefore to withhold the sacrament from the ignorant is to withhold the Word from the ignorant, or, participation in communion is essential to union with Christ.

  83. Jack Bradley said,

    June 3, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Todd asks: “Are 4 year olds really understanding and submitting to the church discipline process of vow # 4? Are they really ready to forsake the world as in vow #3?”

    I answer: No. They do not adequately understand. And no, they do not adequately know what it really means to forsake the world. And neither do you or I adequately understand. None of us have adequate knowledge or adequate commitment. But God feeds His sheep where they are, even, especially, the little ones. “For of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

    The PC view is that it is the entire profession of faith paradigm which is problematic for covenant children.

    Rob Rayburn (http://www.faithtacoma.org/content/2008-01-13-am.aspx):

    “…the Bible never treats the church’s children as unbelievers until and unless they prove that they are. We might mention here the simple fact, more important than I think is usually recognized, that never in the Bible do covenant children “join the church,” as adolescents or young adults, as if they had not fully belonged to it before. They didn’t in the OT and they don’t in the New. Our practice of two-tiered church membership, longstanding as it is, it must be admitted is a tradition only. It is founded on no teaching of Holy Scripture, no precept and no example.”

  84. Todd said,

    June 3, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Jack,

    If adults do not even adequately understand what it means to forsake the world, how do you determine a credible profession of faith for adult converts? Why even have membership vows then if no one can adequately understand and commit to them?

  85. Pete Myers said,

    June 3, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    #83-84

    Jack, you’re using the word “adequate” ingenuously there.

    Todd means by “adequate profession” a profession that is outwardly adequate to meet the required standards set down in scripture for taking the supper. From the context, this is – I think – very clear.

    You are now picking up the word “adequate” and making out that Todd is talking in eternal, perfect, divine, ultimate standards. But he isn’t.

    There is a sense in which a man being put forward for ministry can be “adequately holy” for the task, and another man be “inadequately holy” for the task. However, nobody would be claiming that somehow the first guy was meeting the law’s perfect standard. That’s not what’s being meant by “adequate”.

    Unless Todd can use the term in the way he intends to use it, you will never understand him, and you’ll both just get sidetracked.

  86. Todd said,

    June 3, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Jeff,

    I missed your two questions

    “Also, what do you make of Jesus’ reception of children on the grounds that (a) such is the kingdom of God, and (b) if anyone does not receive the kingdom like a child, he cannot receive it at all?”

    The teaching there is about dependance and humility. And again, no one is suggesting little kids cannot be believers. We are talking about Biblical requirements and purpose for the Supper.

    “What danger would you see in treating young professions of faith as genuine, assuming that the proper teaching is present?”

    Ones I already stated – encouraging children to make vows before God that they do not really understand, and presenting a view of the faith to others that ignores the exclusive Lordship passages.

  87. Zrim said,

    June 3, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Jack,

    They do not adequately understand. And no, they do not adequately know what it really means to forsake the world. And neither do you or I adequately understand. None of us have adequate knowledge or adequate commitment. But God feeds His sheep where they are, even, especially, the little ones. “For of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

    While you seem to have a nice grasp on the latter two aspects of true faith (assent and trust), one that I appreciate, I still seriously wonder what you understand about the first aspect, namely knowledge. It’s almost as if you have no category for it. I know that someone like Doug Wilson is content to have children point into the sky to demonstrate the “fear and knowledge of the Most High,” when asked who made them. Is that something you also would be satisfied with? If so, are we who think that constitutes the beginnings of such fear and knowledge being too picky?

  88. Jack Bradley said,

    June 3, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Brothers, I take your point. “Adequately” is not a concise enough term to describe what I am trying to describe. I do believe in membership vows. I do not believe that membership vows should be tied to admission to the Table for covenant children.

  89. Jack Bradley said,

    June 3, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Zrim,

    I do have a category for knowledge, I my previous postings of Poythress made clear: “When we look at children, we naturally hope that their intellectual apprehension of God’s truth will grow, and that their faith will come to maturity. We encourage such growth. Our hopes and our encouragement are quite proper. But if we equate intellectual maturity with the essence of faith, we change salvation from a free gift into the property of those with proper intellectual credentials.”

  90. Zrim said,

    June 3, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Jack,

    Again, I think you and Poythress make pretty good points and ones very much worth consideration for we credo-communionists. What I still don’t understand (so to speak) is what is so wrong with letting the things of catechesis take their ordinary course. What’s the rush?

  91. David Gadbois said,

    June 3, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    I do have a category for knowledge, I my previous postings of Poythress made clear

    Inasmuch as that quote doesn’t actually mention knowledge explicitly, it is hard to see exactly how you conceive of knowledge/notitia of faith. If you are trying to say that this is something that happens when ‘faith comes to maturity’, then you haven’t conceived of it as our confessions do. Knowledge is of the essence of faith, not just a nice, optional feature of faith some time down the road.

    Poythress is criticizing the idea of ‘intellectual maturity’ as being of the essence of faith. This cannot be used as ammunition for the paedocommunion advocate since knowledge is not the same thing as intellectual maturity. They are not interchangable, nor does knowledge presuppose intellectual maturity.

  92. Jack Bradley said,

    June 3, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Zrim,

    I’m all for catechizing covenant children. But I would ask the question, why the wait? How much do they need to know? I appreciate the example Poythress gives:

    “What is credible depends on the person and the circumstances. Suppose that a college professor and a mentally retarded adult come before church leaders to be examined. The mentally retarded adult may give only a very simple statement of faith, ‘Jesus died to take away my badness. Now he is alive. He loves me. He promises to take me to heaven.’”

    Would you be in favor of allowing this as a credible profession from a retarded person? I have little doubt that you would. Why? Because “what is credible depends upon the person and the circumstances.” So we would, and do, admit such a person (and many fully functioning adult new converts with such a profession) to the table, but demand that our covenant children give a much fuller, deeper answer before they are admitted to the Table. To me, and to Poythress, that is a deep disconnect.

  93. Jack Bradley said,

    June 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I don’t quite follow the second part of your post, David, but regarding the first part, how does this not mention knowledge explicitly?:

    “When we look at children, we naturally hope that their intellectual apprehension of God’s truth will grow…”

  94. Jack Bradley said,

    June 3, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    I very much appreciate Todd’s thoughts on the covenant from his masterful sermons on baptism:

    “But we should always speak to our covenant children as Christians. That is why we do not attempt to get our kids to say a prayer to accept Christ. Instead we catechize (instruct) our children in the faith that is already theirs.

    . . . For children under Christian parents, obedience to their instruction about the Lord is the means by which their faith in Christ is gradually nurtured. As the children grow older, their faith will take on a maturity of its own apart from their parents.

    Covenant children possess direct promises because of the God-ordained connection between faithful covenant nurture and the children being raised to believe. Children who are still under the authority of their parents are promised the eternal inheritance if they submit “in the Lord” to the gospel instruction of their parents, or in the case of a single Christian parent, of that parent.

    We know that young children will believe what their parents teach them. If the parents teach faith in Christ, the children will believe in Christ. The question is, is that faith legitimate or illegitimate? Is it accepted by God, or do we not take it seriously because after all, they are only believing what their parents taught them?

    It is legitimate faith. God delights in those prayers of your two-year-old. He bids our young children to come to Him, and to address Him as their heavenly Father. We should be careful not to question our children’s faith, unless they are purposefully walking in rebellion and unbelief. What if I came to you every time you sinned and said, “Are you sure you are a Christian?” As with all in the church, we treat our baptized children as believers until they prove themselves otherwise. Christ is theirs, don’t keep them at a distance from Him.”

    http://www.opcfw.com/sermons/baptism_1.html

    http://www.opcfw.com/sermons/baptism_2.html

  95. David Gadbois said,

    June 4, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Jack said I don’t quite follow the second part of your post, David, but regarding the first part, how does this not mention knowledge explicitly?:

    “When we look at children, we naturally hope that their intellectual apprehension of God’s truth will grow…”

    Saying ‘I hope my child’s apprehension of X grows’ already presumes that they have some knowledge of X. It means they already have *some* basic apprehension of Christ that will be nurtured unto further apprehension. Growing faith and knowledge is not the same thing as creating faith or knowledge.

    The author of Hebrews tells us straight out what progression to maturity is about:

    Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment

    So basic knowledge of the person and work of Christ – the ‘elementary teachings’ is presupposed in the case of one progressing to maturity. While this presupposition could be applied to fairly young children (precisely Poythress’ point), it cannot be applied to infants who haven’t even developed the language skills to be taught these elementary teachings concerning Christ.

    So all of this leaves me continuing to wonder why you find ammunition against the credocommunion position in Poythress’ article. You keep repeating citations from the article as if you’ve found an obvious silver bullet against CC, but your aim is a mile wide of the target. This is only possible by your seeming conflation of elementary knowledge of the person and work of Christ with mature apprehension. Or perhaps I could be wrong about your intention, in which case I wonder if you’d draw a direct line between anything Poythress said and how this challenges the credocommunion position rather than simply repeating your previous citations.

  96. Pete Myers said,

    June 4, 2009 at 2:26 am

    What is the normal requirement for coming to the supper? A credible profession, or a mature profession?

    I believe it’s a mature profession… so arguing that a 2 year old can make a credible profession isn’t enough to come to the supper.

    In the case of the very severely mentally handicapped, I actually think there’s a case for saying they shouldn’t be admitted to the supper either (or be brought forward for the ceremony of confirmation). This is out of love for them. It would be too dangerous for them to be brought to the supper. Now, I haven’t thought this through rigorously, I’m actually not sure what to do. But I think it unwise to dismiss out of hand the possibility that it would be the mature, wise and pastoral thing to keep the very severely mentally handicapped from the supper.

    Equally, the very severely mentally handicapped wouldn’t be made to attend a mid-week Bible study, nor would I take them door-knocking, or involve them in other aspects of evangelism involving apologetic argument. This is because it would be unfair to them. Someone who is severely mentally handicapped could be seriously hurt if they were put in the evangelistic firing line in that way. I would seek to include them in as much of the fellowship as possible, but, we would naturally protect them from aspects of church life that it would be unfair/unhelpful/damaging to expect them to participate in.

    The Lord’s Supper may (possibly) be one of those aspects of church life.

    Ironically, since credo-communionists here are very concerned about the potential judgement that the supper can bring… I actually think that the credo-communionist position stems from a higher view of the supper than the paedo-communionist position!

  97. Zrim said,

    June 4, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Would you be in favor of allowing this as a credible profession from a retarded person? I have little doubt that you would. Why? Because “what is credible depends upon the person and the circumstances.” So we would, and do, admit such a person (and many fully functioning adult new converts with such a profession) to the table, but demand that our covenant children give a much fuller, deeper answer before they are admitted to the Table. To me, and to Poythress, that is a deep disconnect.

    Jack, it seems to me that a mentally impaired person is an extraordinary example, while the question of children is ordinary. Using an extraordinary phenomenon as ground or a pattern for an ordinary practice doesn’t seem at all kosher.

    But you are correct, to keep a mentally impaired person from the Table simply because of his/her impairment (as in the case of children, simply because they are children), seems equally un-kosher.

    But, still, each case must be handled on its own terms. I think Pete is onto something when he points out that one of our CC concerns is the protection of sinners, stemming from a high view of the sacrament. If it can be determined that a mature knowledge is not present, which is to say that is ignorance is present, it is best to leave it alone; the chances of harming a sinner are too great. I am not sure how one determines these things for the severely impaired. But, like I aid, reaching for the extraordinary just doesn’t help our ordinary questions.

  98. Todd said,

    June 4, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Jack,

    While I appreciate the compliment, I doubt if anything I ever write could be labeled “masterful.” Again, treating our children as Christians, and not doubting their sincerity just because at 2 years old they say they love Jesus, is different than saying at 2 they are ready for the Table. I think one of the the differences here is that you seem to think, even regarding the retarded, that that person is missing out on some benefits of Christ work if he is not receiving the Supper, which suggests an almost sacerdotal view of the Supper. The elect retarded man is not missing out on Christ if he is not partaking of the Supper, and neither is the 2 year old covenant child. God’s grace is sufficient for their particular state and ability for that time. No one is depriving the ignorant of Christ by withholding the Supper, and if my papers on baptism in any way helped move you to a PC position, then I may rethink the wording I used.

  99. Reformed Sinner said,

    June 4, 2009 at 7:40 am

    #96,

    Dear Peter – how would you define a “mature confession?” What would that look like in your Church? Do they have to take a “Supper test” with Biblical and theological questions? By the number of times they heard sermons? Their church attendance records?

    My point is how would you identify adults who have “mature confession” versus “immature confession” and would you bar confessing adults from the table if in your opinion they have “immature confession”?

  100. Jack Bradley said,

    June 4, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Todd,

    I saw your sermons well after coming to a PC position. I site them for the same reason I have sited Poythress: to seek to persuade regarding very young profession of faith. I think they do serve that end, even though you do not. But, sincerely, they are some of the best writings I have seen on baptism.

    David, I’m still honestly not following your train of thought, but I hope that the above answers your question about my use of Poythress. I made it clear earlier that this is the reason I cite his paper: to persuade about young profession of faith.

    Pete and Zrim, I appreciate your candor and consistency regarding your view of the Supper, which would fence from the table a retarded person with such a profession. All I can say is that your view of I Cor. 11 is seriously flawed. But I think it is typical, and the primary reason why the typical age of profession/communion in the OPC/URC/PCA is around 15 or so.

  101. Jack Bradley said,

    June 4, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Oops. Make that: “cite” “cited” :)

  102. Zrim said,

    June 4, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Jack,

    All I can say is that your view of I Cor. 11 is seriously flawed. But I think it is typical, and the primary reason why the typical age of profession/communion in the OPC/URC/PCA is around 15 or so.

    I abide the CRC, where professions of faith follow the issuing of a driver’s license and college degree. Just a little elbowing of my fellow CCers there.

  103. Jack Bradley said,

    June 4, 2009 at 9:15 am

    I appreciate that candor as well, Zrim. I remember in a URC church I regularly filled the pulpit for, one Sunday witnessing this passage from non-communicant to communicant membership, when several teens answered the communicant membership questions. It was obvious that High School graduation was the actual qualification for communicant membership.

    Not saying that’s true of any other URC/CRC church, but I would not be too surprised. But I have seen and heard of evidence in the OPC that many churches are reexamining, and gradually lowering, what has been the default communicant age.

  104. Pete Myers said,

    June 4, 2009 at 9:32 am

    #99 RS,

    I wouldn’t define “mature confession” primarily in terms of knowledge, but more in terms of capacity, or … well the best word is “maturity”.

    When I’m talking about a “mature” faith, I’m not talking about a well seasoned, experienced maturity like that necessary to become an elder. There’s a sense in which we use the term “mature Christian” to talk about people who so understand the, and it is so “rooted” in their souls/experience that they could face lots of things and still be at real peace.

    Instead, I’m talking about the maturity of mind that is obviously different between a 6 year old and a 36 year old. A 6 year old can throw a big wobbly tantrum, and scream and shout… however this tantrum is far less serious than if a 36 year old guy threw a big wobbly tantrum and screamed and shouted. The reason is not because the 36 year old guy knows more, or has been a Christian longer, it’s because his mind is more mature, we instinctively know that it’s more “normal” for 6 year olds to do that sort of thing – not to be able to control themselves – because their minds are not yet mature.

    So, a 6 year old who has been a genuine Christian for 6 years, and knows the gospel inside out, and can recite the catechism, can still have an immature mind compared to a 36 year old guy, who’s only just become a Christian and been baptised, but still can’t join all the dots, and is confused about God’s sovereignty in election, etc. etc. I’m not talking about maturity as in capacity for knowledge, or maturity as in an experienced period of time living out the gospel. I’m talking about a measure of maturity of ability to understand oneself and the consequences of one’s actions and behaviour.

    Now, as it happens, because the gospel is what the gospel is, when a child understands the gospel inside out, etc. then I would expect their mind to be maturity faster than it would. In other words, the gospel would teach the child to “grow up” in that kind of emotional/self-understanding/reflective/behavioural maturity.

    But, basically, if a child is still of an age when you would allow them to “get away with”, or be “more lenient with” behaviour that they couldn’t do as an adult… then I’m still already drawing the distinction between the immature and the mature.

    For me, the big test of whether a Christian child is ready to come for confirmation is whether they can basically “hang out” with the adults without being obviously childish. Not many 6 year olds fall into that bracket, I’m sure some do, but it’s very, very rare.

  105. Jack Bradley said,

    June 4, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Pete,

    Wow. I wouldn’t even know where to begin…

    I’ll be offline most of the day, but look forward to catching up on the discussion tonight.

  106. Reformed Sinner said,

    June 4, 2009 at 9:56 am

    #104 Peter,

    Like Jack said in #105… wow. So in short, adults gets the benefit of the doubt because they are adults – so naturally their brains “matured” and they understand the consequences of their actions better. The child, naturally are “immature” and they wouldn’t understand the consequences because they are a child. So for a child to be table-ready, they need to act like adults, think like adults, behalf like adults, before they are even table-ready.

    Wow. Like Jack said I don’t even know where to begin but to be honest I’m late for a weekend conference so I’ll see you later, but once again, WOW

  107. Zrim said,

    June 4, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Pete,

    So, a 6 year old who has been a genuine Christian for 6 years, and knows the gospel inside out, and can recite the catechism, can still have an immature mind compared to a 36 year old guy, who’s only just become a Christian and been baptised, but still can’t join all the dots, and is confused about God’s sovereignty in election, etc. etc…

    Now, this may classify as what I mean by fellow CCers making more work for our view than should be. What you seem to be suggesting is that an adult always beats a child by virtue of his adultness. You really seem to be subjectifying things here: how do you honestly deny communion to someone who “knows the gospel inside out” and replace the grounds with arguably esoteric speech about “im/maturity” and “childishness”? So he who doesn’t know the gospel inside and out but can comport himself is ok, but he who does know the gospel inside and out but still likes animal crackers and cries easily when he loses sight of his mother gets by-passed? Huh?

  108. Todd said,

    June 4, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I’m not quite sure I’m tracking with Pete, but unless we want to rewrite our membership vows, we are going to have to admit there needs to be a certain level of awareness and maturity before taking those vows. If my 11 year old says she is in love, I would say, “you really are not mature enough to understand love yet, that’s called infatuation.” It seems unfair to recommend that young children make vows to forsake the world for Christ and submit to the church discipline process when they are not ready to understand the significance of those vows. It is the same with adult converts. Just because a person understands Jesus died for their sins doesn’t mean they are ready for communicate membership. We look for a life that demonstrates they have counted the cost as Jesus himself advised and want to serve him. We go very slow with adult converts also, maybe not as slow as the early church, but I think they had the right idea in general of the seriousness of the vows.

  109. Pete Myers said,

    June 4, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Hang on guys… hear what’s actually being said.

    You guys are reading immense amounts into my words that isn’t there.

    Adults get the “benefit of the doubt“!?!?! What “doubt”? What “benefit”? Do I have to say this AGAIN??? I am a presumptive regenerationist, I do not doubt my son’s (who’s 1) salvation, just as I don’t doubt my wife’s.

    An adult always “beats a child“??????!!?!! What the heck do you think communion is? Whatever it is, it isn’t a competition, at least I don’t think so.

    Look, there is an unfair set of paedocommunionist presuppositions that are being brought to this discussion. Let’s blow some things out of the water:
    1) Communion is not a test. Credocommunionists do not believe communion is a test. If you think credocommunionists think that communion is itself a test… then stop and listen again.
    2) Communion is not safe. Communion is not a de-facto blessing. Communion does not bless everybody in the covenant. It is possible to be in the covenant and die because you took communion. Communion is dangerous.
    3) Scripture sets down requirements for covenant people to come to communion. In other words, not everybody in the covenant can come to communion simply by way of being in the covenant. The requirements for baptism are requirements for someone who isn’t a covenant member to become a covenant member. But the requirements for coming to communion are requirements that sit on top of covenant membership.
    4) There is an intrinsic difference between children and adults. We all know there is. We all behave like there is. In every aspect of church life we make distinctions between children and adults. This intrinsic difference is witnessed to in scripture.
    5) Making distinctions between children and adults is not “damaging” to children. In fact, we make these distinctions because we love children, and because we have a responsibility to children.

    That is not all there is to be said about communion. Those aren’t the only things I think about communion. But they are some key issues that seem to be dismissed, ignored, or just not factoring in people’s thinking properly.

    Now, let me put this on the other foot to the paedocommunionists: We credocommunionists withhold communion from children because we love children, because we are protecting children from something that could be horribly damaging to them due to their immaturity.

    The analogy of a credocommunionist holding back communion from his child as being effectively excommunicating his child is simply far more emotive than it is logical. Let me offer a similarly emotive response to illustrate this: When paedocommunionists give their children communion, they are putting them in harms way while wearing a blind-fold. They are giving them a sacrament that could kill them, without knowing if their child is capable of evening meeting the requirements necessary to take it.

    Now, if you read those words in bold, and you say “awww, come on, be reasonable… God doesn’t expect kids to examine themselves? He wouldn’t judge a kid with weakness, or illness or death because they had the wrong mindest in coming to communion!” … if that’s what you’re thinking… then you’ve just demonstrated that you agree with the credocommunionist argument! You’ve just demonstrated that you don’t believe that it’s reasonable for kids to be held up to the standards of 1 Cor 11v27-32. After all… it’s unfair on them isn’t it?

    The pc argument is built on emotive assertion after emotive assertion. It treats the requirements for coming to communion as though they were simply requirements to demonstrate covenant membership.

    My intention here is simply to try and cut through some of this sillyness. I only offer these sorts of emotive arguments for cc to try and demonstrate the sillyness of emotive arguments against cc. I’m not intending to be inflammatory, but I recognise the nature of putting forward an emotive argument is that it will inevitably feel inflammatory. I hope you understand, though, my reasons for doing so are simply to demonstrate the fallacies of the opposing position, rather than to “raise the stakes”.

    Rest assured, I gave my 1 year old communion a few times last year, but I do not believe the Lord will judge him for where his reflection was inappropriate (by the way, I’ve been seeing what look like evidences of regeneration since he was a few weeks old. I don’t doubt them.). But precisely because I don’t think the Lord will hold him accountable if he hadn’t reflected properly before taking the supper is exactly the reason why I realised I shouldn’t be giving him the supper.

    If I don’t think 1 corinthians 11v27-32 applies to my son, then neither does 1 corinthians 11v23-26.

  110. Pete Myers said,

    June 4, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    #108 Todd,

    Dead simple… to track with me, I’m arguing this:

    A kid is a kid, an adult is an adult. There is a difference. That difference is called “maturity”, and it is that sense of the word “maturity” that makes all the difference to whether or not they can meet the requirements of 1 Corinthians 11.

  111. Zrim said,

    June 4, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Todd,

    I agree with you. My point all along has been that we should understand all of this in terms of an ordinary course of things, not extraordinary.

    But Pete seems to be categorically denying any extraordinary possibility that a child can grasp the gospel by virtue of being a child. But rarity is not the same as never. If there can be a gifted and talented program in a school for kids who grasp what their peers, and even adults cannot, I don’t see why children should be categorically denied the Table out-of-hand. Pete succinctly lays down what seems to be objective grounds for communion (“knows the gospel inside and out, “etc.) and then seems to deny it based upon some subjectivist ground of “childishness.”

    I agree that in the ordinary course of things children likely will not grasp the gospel sufficiently and that we do well to be content and patient with them. But I disagree that extraordinary things can never happen.

  112. Pete Myers said,

    June 4, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Pete seems to be categorically denying any extraordinary possibility that a child can grasp the gospel by virtue of being a child

    No, no, not what I said.

  113. Todd said,

    June 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Zrim,

    I agree – I have seen a few extraordinary cases in extraordinary circumstances. There are some children in special cases that are forced to suffer for Jesus and willingly do. We as a session would always leave room for such exceptions to the norm.

  114. Pete Myers said,

    June 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Pete succinctly lays down what seems to be objective grounds for communion (”knows the gospel inside and out, “etc.)

    Precisely the opposite of what I said.

  115. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 4, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Todd (#108):

    We go very slow with adult converts also, maybe not as slow as the early church, but I think they had the right idea in general of the seriousness of the vows.

    Your seriousness is much better than theirs was.

    The desire for seriousness in the early church was driven by fear. They believed that a Christian who sinned lost his salvation. This eventually led to the practice of penance; but before that practice developed, the early church took the stance that it was better to keep a saint out than to let a sinner (or possibly, a traitor) in. Better to delay baptism o the death-bed than have someone sin after he is baptized, argued Tertullian.

    There are striking similarities between the arguments you’ve advanced and his argument for delaying baptism:

    And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary—if (baptism itself) is not so necessary that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, “Forbid them not to come unto me.” Let them “come,” then, while they are growing up; let them “come” while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the “remission of sins?” More caution will be exercised in worldly matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with divine! Let them know how to “ask” for salvation, that you may seem (at least) to have given “to him that asketh.” For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred—in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom—until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence. If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay: sound faith is secure of salvation. — Tertullian, On Baptism, “Of the Persons…”

    You and I are miles away from the early church’s view of salvation, so our seriousness about the church vows comes from a different source altogether. For my part, the seriousness of the vows comes from a recognition of the seriousness of Christ’s work for us: since Jesus’ love for us is single-minded, He calls us to a single-minded love in response. Would you agree?

    But now, preserving the seriousness of the work of Christ involves two different factors. Not only are individuals obligated to take up their cross, but we corporately are obligated to preserve the unity of the Spirit (the fifth vow in the PCA). Communion is a reflection of this, which is why Paul criticizes the Corinthians not for allowing sinners to eat, but for eating in a manner that despises one another and breaks the unity of the body of Christ.

    Would you agree with me that, in addition to preserving the seriousness of the vows, we ought also to avoid preventing Christians from communion, to the extent possible? That’s the issue that drives me — the need to preserve both the seriousness of membership vows and the seriousness of the unity expressed in communion.

    It’s one thing, I think, to refuse communion to a one-year-old who shows no spiritual interest (so far). It’s another to say to a seven-year-old who says, “I’m saved because Jesus died for my sins”, to say, “You can’t be serious. You don’t understand what you’re saying”, and to delay communion for that one.

    Can you appreciate the balance I’m appealing for here?

  116. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 4, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Todd (#86):

    JRC: “Also, what do you make of Jesus’ reception of children on the grounds that (a) such is the kingdom of God, and (b) if anyone does not receive the kingdom like a child, he cannot receive it at all?”

    TB: The teaching there is about dependance and humility.

    Yes, that is certainly there. But is that all? Murray points out (“Christian Baptism”) that the little children are not mere props, but that Jesus says something directly about them: that the disciples are not hinder them coming to Him, and that the kingdom of heaven includes ones like them. (Which I think we agree on, if I’m tracking with your next sentence…)

    TB: And again, no one is suggesting little kids cannot be believers. We are talking about Biblical requirements and purpose for the Supper.

    Exactly so. And given that the Bible does not explicitly specify an age, it seems like there is a certain amount of liberty in deciding on specific requirements, so as to balance the seriousness of the vows and the seriousness of unity with fellow Christians.

  117. Jack Bradley said,

    June 4, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Very well said, Jeff: “Paul criticizes the Corinthians not for allowing sinners to eat, but for eating in a manner that despises one another and breaks the unity of the body of Christ. . . And given that the Bible does not explicitly specify an age, it seems like there is a certain amount of liberty in deciding on specific requirements, so as to balance the seriousness of the vows and the seriousness of unity with fellow Christians.”

    Again, very well said, Todd: “It is legitimate faith. God delights in those prayers of your two-year-old. He bids our young children to come to Him, and to address Him as their heavenly Father. We should be careful not to question our children’s faith, unless they are purposefully walking in rebellion and unbelief. What if I came to you every time you sinned and said, “Are you sure you are a Christian?” As with all in the church, we treat our baptized children as believers until they prove themselves otherwise. Christ is theirs, don’t keep them at a distance from Him.”

  118. Todd said,

    June 4, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Jeff,

    I’m not big on historical generalizations like yours. I don’t think it is accurate to say the early church believed a Christian who sinned lost their salvation. Have you read Cyprian on this? Yes, that thought was present but it was also much debated. Nor do I think it is fair to say fear drove their careful catechism instruction. I think they understood better than us what it meant to confess Christ, the costs were more obvious, given persecution, and they wanted the catechumen to know what he was professing and the possible implications. It’s just more complicated than you present it. Like I said, I think they went too far, but I think the pendulum has swung too far the other way in encouraging young children to take their vows. And I don’t think holding off communion keeps anyone from Christ if it all is explained properly. And yes, I do agree there is liberty, and the Lord is merciful to overlook our mistakes on this.

  119. Zrim said,

    June 4, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Pete,

    An adult always “beats a child“??????!!?!! What the heck do you think communion is? Whatever it is, it isn’t a competition, at least I don’t think so.

    That was me, your fellow CCer, who used that phrase in response to you. No, I don’t think communion is a competition. It was just my admittedly awkward way of saying that it sounds like you’re saying in #104 that “adultness” is by default superior to “childness.”

    I have to admit, I am also having a hard time tracking with you. Sorry. (You say what you do about credo-communion, but you gave communion to your 1 year old son, but in retrospect you don’t think it was harmful. I don’t get it. If you stopped you must have stopped because you correctly think the potential for harm is too great. Isn’t that like saying you let him eat paint chips, realized that was a bad idea, stopped letting him eat paint chips, but you don’t think that his past eating of paints chips did any harm because of your ignorance and his at the time? Seems like a case of denial. Why can’t you just say he may have been harmed?)

    But I do have a question for you: do you think it is possible to unnecessarily intellectualize true faith, and, if so, what do you think that looks like?

  120. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 4, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Todd (#118):

    I’m perfectly content with your last sentence.

    I have read some Cyprian, but I’m not sure to which you refer. Do you have in mind his writings against Novatian and his opinion concerning those who denied Christ under torture?

    …but I think the pendulum has swung too far the other way in encouraging young children to take their vows.

    I think one of the reasons this issue is not more easily resolved is that we all see various practices around us that strike us as not quite right.

    In my case, in our church, several late teens had still not become communing members — that’s fixed now. As a result, some of my thoughts are a reaction to my situation. I know of no church that encourages young children (say, under 10 y.o.) to take their vows.

    I imagine that the situation in your neck of the woods is probably different if you’re perceiving a pendulum swing in the direction of something I’ve never seen.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  121. Jack Bradley said,

    June 4, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Brothers, I have to follow this up–apart (somewhat) from the question of covenant children: are you really ready to bar from the table a retarded person with this profession: “Jesus died to take away my badness. Now he is alive. He loves me. He promises to take me to heaven.”

    I can only assume this means you would also bar a longtime communicant who becomes senile–such as Van Til did the last last several years of his life. Would you have barred Van Til, who would not even been able to articulate this profession. If so, would if be because you would be protecting him?

    I know it’s an extraordinary case, but these are the kinds of cases elders have to deal with.

  122. Todd said,

    June 4, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Jack,

    In “retarded” I was assuming someone who could not even articulate any words; the confession you gave above may be adequate depending on the situation. And I don’t ever remember a situation of a senile man or woman- when they are so senile they cannot even listen to a sermon or articulate sentences they are rarely able to come to services, so that is a new one for me.

    Jeff, yes, it is becoming more common for 4-8 year olds to be encouraged to become communicant members in churches I am familiar with, so I am reacting to something a bit different.

    Thanks also,

    Todd

  123. Jack Bradley said,

    June 4, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Thanks, Todd.

  124. Pete Myers said,

    June 5, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Jack,

    Nobody’s really interacted with my position. Meaning it’s either so badly argued nobody understood it, or it’s so nonsensical nobody bothered to argue with it, which is fair enough!

    But, the sort of “maturity” I think someone needs to be able to bring to the table isn’t an intellectual maturity, it’s a self-awareness type of maturity. Only the very seriously mentally handicapped could not manage this.

    But, even then, if communion had become a very important part of a Chrsitian’s life by that stage (thinking Van Til), and it was part of a godly life-pattern, I think there would be more scope for giving communion to such a person. This wouldn’t have been the case with children, though, as they’re growing up into that kind of maturity, rather than painfully regressing from it.

    Btw… we use the term “mentally handicapped” where I’m from, as the term “retarded” has negative connotations.

  125. Jack Bradley said,

    June 5, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Pete,

    It’s probably more a lacking on my part, but I am finding it difficult to understand your position. I’ll be away from my laptop today, but will catch up later.

  126. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 5, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Nobody’s really interacted with my position

    Sorry Pete. I don’t think you were being ignored so much as being given space to carry on a conversation with Jack.

    My own thought is that I take partial issue with this:

    Communion is not safe. Communion is not a de-facto blessing. Communion does not bless everybody in the covenant. It is possible to be in the covenant and die because you took communion. Communion is dangerous.

    I don’t actually find support for this in Scripture. *Sin* is dangerous. The Corinthians were physically punished because they came to communion in a contemptuous way. But it’s not the communion that is the danger. Rather, it is contemptuously abusing communion that is the danger.

    Which is more dangerous: to be disciplined physically, or to lose one’s soul? Of course that’s a rhetorical question, but I’m asking it so as to draw attention to what we really fear here.

    Do we fear that God will blast our children if we allow them to take communion too early?

    If so, then is that fear well-grounded in the understanding that God will not let any of His elect perish without first coming to faith?

    And, is that fear well-grounded in Biblical precedent?

    See, if communion is “dangerous”, baptism is equally “dangerous” — those who receive it and apostasize are held to a fearful judgment (says the author to the Hebrews). Yet we do not hesitate to baptize our children for fear of this judgment — because we have confidence in God’s promise, and because we recognize that baptizing them will not alter God’s decrees (cf. Acts 2.39).

    I am pretty firmly a CC-ist on the basis for the need for self-examination.

    But I would strongly encourage us not to be CC-ist on the basis of a perceived fear of accidentally doing communion wrongly.

    Yes: we should strive to partake worthily.

    Yes: we should follow the regulative principle in our worship practices.

    No: we should not see the worship elements themselves as a danger.

    We see many instances in Scripture of God “fencing” various worship elements against abuse. But all of those are in response to flagrant contemptuousness:

    * using communion to divide the church
    * turning the bronze serpent into an idol
    * turning circumcision from a symbol of cleanness into an absolute presumption of God’s favor
    * deliberately ignoring God’s commands about the incense.

    The only instance I can think of that might rise to the level of punishment for an accident is the death of Uzzah when he touched the ark.

    No doubt, some PC-ists motives are in fact contemptuous of communion, just as some CC-ists motives are probably contemptuous of the unity of the body (speaking hypothetically and not in reference to anyone here).

    But in the main, when I read PC arguments like Rob Rayburn’s piece, I’m struck by their desire to stay within the regulative principle and to argue from Scripture for their practice — even as I disagree with their position.

    Do you think PC is a contemptuous abuse?

  127. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 5, 2009 at 10:54 am

    The discussion has gone on from where I last came in (been grading finals), and clearly David and Andy think my position is absolutely absurd. I suppose I’ll make one final attempt not to be misinterpreted, but then I don’t really see the point in continuing.

    I actually do think that there is some sort of neglect if the church isn’t thinking actively about how to include or bring up children as covenant members between baptism and adult profession. Call me crazy if I think that six year olds being allowed to play with their Spiderman toys during the church service is problematic in their training as church members. I don’t know that PC is the solution to this, but it at least has the virtue of making us consider how the church is treating its youngest members. But, if you don’t think there’s any problem with this, then our perspectives won’t match particularly well, and you’ll just dismiss my concerns, as you have.

    On the question of grace and the necessity of the sacraments, David, I have not said that the sacraments are necessary. But I might come very close to that, since, if one concedes that the sacraments are unnecessary, then it’s not just PC concerns that vanish. If the sacrament are just superfluous extras, then it doesn’t become clear why anyone needs them or should participate in them, especially in a modernist, pragmatist perspective in which our churches should be doing fun and exciting things, like puppeteering and dance, rather than something unnecessary and apparently useless, like having communion frequently. So, I’ve never said or assumed that the sacraments are necessary. I would say the sacraments are vital, however: it is the the Word and sacraments that God has committed and bound Himself to be present to His covenant people. Some folks in our OPC congregation awhile back expressed doubt that the Holy Spirit was present in our worship. Their grounds? Apparently, they and their children didn’t feel stirred enough emotionally by the preaching and singing. I reacted pretty strongly to this: one of the great comforts is that God is present in the Word and sacraments, whether I *feel* that way or not. So, it seems to me that the life of the church doesn’t consist in feelings, etc., but in the very things that God has established. Can God work through incomplete means? Absolutely–if someone dies alone in the desert, but repents and turns to Christ at the last moment, his lack of baptism will not keep him out of the presence of God. But the church has been given the means of grace to use, and we can’t just shrug them off…and it is the latter danger that I see and am concerned about in the modern church (even in certain Reformed circles). So, if I am emphasizing the centrality of the sacraments, in particular the Supper, it is because of this concern, not because I think they are sine qua nons (or, probably, sine quibus non), but because I think the danger is that they are viewed as unnecessary.

    Note that I’m not saying you think that. We all bring our own experience of problems in the church to our approach to the solutions, and emphasize different ideas accordingly. That’s what I’ve been doing, and I apologize if that’s not been clear enough. So, when you say:

    “I know you wouldn’t deny the sufficiency of grace, but my point is that if one were really consistent with that then one wouldn’t get as caught up in the means.”

    I have heard that exact sort of principle used to argue against any discussion of the practice of communion: should we have it more frequently? Should we use wine? Where should it be in the service? “Oh, that stuff’s not really practical. What we really need in the life of the church is a fun youth group!” But God didn’t ordain youth groups–He did ordain the Supper. So which one is more “practical” to be thoughtful about? I think we’d agree on that.

    I’m still not sure why the “intellectual standards” comment is such a big deal. How do we determine the level of their intellectual capabilities? We have standards that we expect them to meet. And again, the various analogies that have been used have been like an academic standard: a bar exam, for example, or a math table. So, there has been an element of academism present here. And you’re committing the fallacy of emphasis: I didn’t emphasize *our* to distinguish them from *God’s*–that’s just how you read me.

  128. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 5, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Re #82:

    Andy,

    You say:

    “you haven’t given any examples of when an infant or child might be denied the privilege of participating in communion.”

    Actually, no one has asked me, so I’m not sure why this is such a problem.

    “So I have to assume you have only one standard for exclusion, i.e., scandal.”

    I haven’t answered a question that hasn’t been asked, so you can assume my postion, even though you “aren’t up to speed on my views”? That’s an interesting and, may I say, very creative approach to logic and argument.

    What I have been trying to do is present the case as built from the other side: what is the nature of the Supper and why would it be important for covenant children to be welcomed at the table simply by virtue of their covenat status (i.e., baptism)? These are what I see as the strong points of the PC position: recognizing the importance of the Supper as central to the life of the church, not just an “appendix,” and taking seriously that Christ calls the children to himself and the Holy Spirit states that the promises belong to them, too.

    As I’ll say for like the twentieth time, I’M NOT CONVINCED OF THE PAEDO- COMMUNION POSITION. But I think some of their concerns have a great deal of weight, from what I have seen in various Reformed churches:

    -a minimizing of the Supper
    -a minimizing in the spiritual training of children

  129. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

    By the way, Lane has moved on in Venema’s book to talk about the OT background to the PC argument. I’ve posted several criticisms of Venema’s discussion, and no one has interacted with those. I’m not saying it’s important just because it’s mine, but since I think all agree that the question eventually comes down to the biblical teaching, we should focus on the exegetical issues. Another strong point I find in the PC position is a more global and overarching BT approach to the question than simply focusing on 1 Cor. 11. That doesn’t mean that starting from the OT proves their position, or that no one else takes that route, just that I’ve seen it more in their writings, and I think it is a valuable perspective.

  130. Pete Myers said,

    June 5, 2009 at 11:58 am

    #126,

    Jeff. I was deliberately “over stating the case” there in terms of communion not being “safe”.

    That was to try and demonstrate that it’s possible to present exaggerated emotive arguments against pc, because some of the arguments against cc are exaggerated emotive arguments.

    I don’t think I made that consistently clear in my comments though. I wrote them a bit too quickly, and I don’t think they’re fully “cooked”… which was what I was tongue-in-cheek acknowledging when I said:

    Nobody’s really interacted with my position. Meaning it’s either so badly argued nobody understood it, or it’s so nonsensical nobody bothered to argue with it, which is fair enough!

  131. Pete Myers said,

    June 5, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    But cheers for pulling me in because you didn’t want me to be lonely Jeff, that was very kind!

  132. Andy Gilman said,

    June 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Joshua said:

    I’m still not sure why the “intellectual standards” comment is such a big deal. How do we determine the level of their intellectual capabilities? We have standards that we expect them to meet. And again, the various analogies that have been used have been like an academic standard: a bar exam, for example, or a math table. So, there has been an element of academism present here. And you’re committing the fallacy of emphasis: I didn’t emphasize *our* to distinguish them from *God’s*–that’s just how you read me.

    The bar exam analogy had nothing whatsoever to do with an “academic standard” for admission to the Lord’s Supper. It was meant to show the emotional character of the paedocommunionist show of argument, which says that to deny the Lord’s Supper to children is to excommunicate children. Refusing to allow children to participate in the Lord’s Supper cannot be characterized as “excommunication,” any more than refusing to allow an untrained and unexamined lawyer the right to practice law can be likened to being “disbarred.”

    I could just as easily have used the example of voting. We don’t allow our children to vote in America until they reach a certain age. Does that mean that American children have been “disenfranchised?” No, voting in America is a privilege, not an “intrinsic right of citizenship.” In order to exercise that privilege one must be a citizen, AND be 18 years old, AND not be a felon, etc.

    The paedocommunionists bring in the word “excommunication” because of the emotional weight it carries, but it is sophistry to do so and it requires that they beg the question by assuming the very point which is under dispute, i.e., that the only Biblical requirement for participation in the Lord’s Supper is baptism.

  133. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 5, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I have explained about 9 times why and how I have compared excommunication to the prevention of baptized infants. My argument is not intended to be emotional–it has to do with the status of infants in the covenant, as stated by their baptism, and the nature of what is signified by the Supper, which is communion with Christ (1 Cor. 10:16-17).

    I’ll say again: participation in union with Christ (and I mean the the actual spiritual benefit here) is not some additional extrinsic privilege to covenant membership, like voting or having a driver’s license (one can still be a citizen without either of those things). Rather, participation in union with Christ is of the essence of the covenant, like equal protection of the laws. So, why is the sign and seal of that essence of the covenant not of the essence of the visible covenant, but rather extrinsic and additional?

    I do not think that the voting analogy, or the driver’s license analogy, are in fact analogical to the actual role of the Supper and what it signifies.

  134. Andy Gilman said,

    June 5, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Joshua said:

    Andy,

    You say:

    “you haven’t given any examples of when an infant or child might be denied the privilege of participating in communion.”

    Actually, no one has asked me, so I’m not sure why this is such a problem.

    “So I have to assume you have only one standard for exclusion, i.e., scandal.”

    I haven’t answered a question that hasn’t been asked, so you can assume my postion, even though you “aren’t up to speed on my views”? That’s an interesting and, may I say, very creative approach to logic and argument.

    I wasn’t trying to put words in your mouth, but was just laying out my assumptions, based on the arguments advanced so far. If you were a paedocommunionist, what standards would you use for excluding someone from the Lord’s Supper?

    The reason I asked for a standard is because, in this thread, all of the arguments in favor of paedocommunion would apply equally to the scandalous adulterer. In reply to my query about the adulterer you indicated that the adulterer would not be allowed to commune, and the standard you gave was:

    If one, by his life, shows that he has no intention of actually living according to the standards of the community, then he *forfeits* those rights. So, the difference is like that between an infant born as a citizen and an adult criminal: the latter has freedoms and rights removed that are there for the former, because the latter has broken the covenant. A citizen has intrinsic rights until he forfeits them by a refusal to abide by the life-norms of the community.

    So the requirement for participation in the Lord’s Supper which you gave at that point is that one must “live according to the standards of the community,” or “abide by the life-norms of the community.” And we know that you would apply this standard in a way that would exclude the adulterer. In other words, you would apply it to the scandalous.

    Since you have criticized my “creative approach to logic and argument” for making the assumption that scandal is the only standard you would apply, in excluding someone from the Lord’s Supper, it would seem that you have some additional standard. Can you tell me what that is?

    And doesn’t the standard for exclusion you have given thus far contradict the other arguments you are making in this thread? For example, in other posts you say, “the supper is food,” and “So, if PC is off the mark to say that CC is starving the children, how do non-communicant children feed on Christ?,” and “the Word is, to some degree, incomplete without the sacrament.”

    But will you starve the adulterous member of the covenant and deny him the ability to feed on Chirst? Will you withhold from the adulterer – who is clearly in need of the convicting and converting power of the Word – the complete Word?

  135. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 5, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Andy, would baptism, in the law school analogy, be like enrolling in law school? So that it doesn’t really confer anything, but only puts the student in the position of beginning to learn how to evenually be a lawyer?

    And I also don’t think that a law exam/practing law analogy is in fact analogous to what the Supper actually does. It’s not a test, it’s a meal. Jesus’ intructions were not “Explain,” or “Write an essay on,” but “Eat” and “Drink.” How about we make analogies that are actually from the same realm of life as the actual comparand?

  136. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 5, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    I’ve already addressed your last paragraph, in the very section you quoted, so I’m not sure why I should need to do so again. I will expand, though, since I may not have been clear on how the Word is incomplete without the Supper.

    The Supper does not apply the convicting and converting power of the Word, but rather the forgiveness and communion. So, if the adulterer repents, then, yes, he should be welcomed to the table. But, then he wouldn’t be a scandalous adulterer–I take this to mean unrepentant and continual. The Supper is not for such a person, since the Supper is life in Christ, it symbolizes the inheritance, and adulterers do not inherit.

    I would include vincible ignorance in those who are kept from the table. If there is a person who is a visitor and is known to be an unbeliever, then that person should be kept from the table. See? All you had to do was ask.

  137. Pete Myers said,

    June 5, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    #135 Josh,

    The supper does involve a test. There is a self-examination that must be performed prior to the supper being taken.

    The requirements for coming to the Supper are put upon covenant members, and are therefore requirements over and above covenant membership.

    So there is an essential difference between baptim and communion in that baptism is administered to those who simply meet the same criterion for who is in the covenant (either personal faith, or born to covenant parents), whereas communion is administered to those who meet a particular set of requirements over and above simply being covenant members.

  138. Jack Bradley said,

    June 5, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    “… whereas communion is administered to those who meet a particular set of requirements over and above simply being covenant members.”

    This is the fundamental disagreement. PC says that there should not be a set of requirements over and above simply being covenant members for admission to the table–and that these over-and-above requirements in effect turn the covenant meal into something that is earned rather than freely given.

  139. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 5, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Pete (#137):

    I agree with you. But Rayburn would say, “Yes, there is a requirement of self-examination — for those who are in danger of partaking in sin like the Corinthians. But for those who cannot sin in this manner (i.e., children), there is no self-examination required.”

    In other words, self-examination is not an intrinsic requirement of the supper, but a Good Idea lest one fall into sin.

    How would you respond to this line of reasoning?

  140. Jeff Cagle said,

    June 8, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Jack (#138):

    I have sympathy for the view that covenant membership ought to convey covenant meal participation. But it does appear that 1 Cor 11 requires some kind of self-examination as a prior condition to eating. Do you disagree?

  141. Pete Myers said,

    June 8, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    #139 Jeff,

    Sorry, Jeff, I only just noticed your response.

    That is the same line of reasoning that we use against baptists. The reason why it doesn’t apply to communion is because the requirements for communion are requirements put over and above covenant membership… therefore drawing a distinction between covenant membership and covenant meal participation (to use your own words from your own comment!)

    To make the point a bit more starkly… we have good theological reasons for saying that the requirements for baptism only apply to adults, and should not apply to children. We don’t have those good theological reasons for saying the same of communion. In fact the opposite, scripture in many places teaches that there is a distinction between the immature and the mature.

  142. Jack Bradley said,

    June 8, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Jeff, I’ve posted this Rayburn link a couple of times, but this time I’ll paste the most relevant section (http://www.faithtacoma.org/sermons/Exodus/Exodus13.12.1-49.Jun19.05.htm):

    1. First, Paul isn’t talking about paedocommunion in 1 Cor. 11; he isn’t even discussing the general requirements for participation in the Lord’s Supper. He is addressing a sinful corruption of the Lord’s Supper practice of the church in Corinth. What he says there has to do with that issue. He would have had to say more than he said before we could take him to mean that covenant children were excluded from the Lord’s Supper by what he said. When he says to the Thessalonians that “he who does not work should not eat,” without a conscious thought we know he isn’t telling us to starve our children. He’s not talking about children there. And when Peter says to the congregation on Pentecost that they should repent and be baptized, the Reformed (and virtually all of Christendom) have known that he did not mean to exclude covenant children from baptism. When 1 Cor. 11 is your primary, if not your sole argument in favor of withholding the sacrament from covenant children, you don’t have much of an argument.
    2. Second, Paul doesn’t say anything in 1 Cor. 11 that the prophets of the OT didn’t say before him. He said that hypocritical participation in the worship of the church offended God and that the Corinthian Christians should repent and obey. They should not think the Lord’s Supper any good to them if they are not willing to live a holy life. But Isaiah and Jeremiah and Amos said that and said it as emphatically as Paul ever did. But, as we shall see, we happen to know that in the ancient epoch children did participate in the covenant, the sacramental meals. So when Isaiah said that his contemporaries should examine themselves and then should eat, he had no intention of excluding the children as a class. Why should we think that Paul intended to if Isaiah didn’t and Jeremiah didn’t and Amos didn’t when they said the same things Paul says in 1 Cor. 11?
    3. And, third, even if, for argument’s sake, we were to take Paul as meaning that little children should examine themselves, well, then, let them do it. The assumption seems to be that little children are incapable of spiritual acts and are therefore excluded, in the nature of the case, by Paul’s requirement that there be active mental and spiritual engagement with the meaning of the Supper on the part of those who participate. This point is often made as an argument against paedocommunion by Reformed authorities. But mental and spiritual life, as we all know, is a continuum and has very early beginnings as the Bible artlessly acknowledges when it speaks of a person “rejoicing” in his mother’s womb, or trusting in the Lord at his mother’s breasts, or knowing the Scripture from his infancy. A weaned covenant child should already be beginning to reckon with the meaning of Christ and his salvation and the implications of faith. Both the understanding and the practice of faith are continuums and their beginnings are, we are everywhere taught in Holy Scripture, ordinarily found very early in the life of covenant children. As the Word is given to a covenant child and its truth established in his heart, the sacrament naturally comes alongside to contribute its share to the establishment and maturing of faith. We teach our little children, our very little children to say “Our Father…” We teach them how to pray. We teach them that Jesus is their savior. We teach them to confess their sins to Him. We teach them that the promises of the gospel belong to them. We teach them that Jesus is their Savior. Why then, for what reason, on the basis of what biblical teaching or principle, then, would we require them to wait years to eat their Savior’s meal?

  143. Jack Bradley said,

    June 8, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    This one should work:

    http://tinyurl.com/mbrjrz

  144. Jack Bradley said,

    June 8, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Leonard Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper:

    “Now if anyone should ask me how this takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either the mind to comprehend or my words to declare. And, to speak more plainly, I rather experience it than understand it” ( Institutes 4.17.32).

    “In this statement of faith we can also see the importance Calvin places, with Luther, on the plain and simple meaning of Christ’s words. He takes them as a promise with Christ himself fulfills through the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The proper stance of the believer in partaking of the Supper is not therefore to meditate on Christ’s presence and sacrifice, but to receive it in faith as a child receives its mother’s milk.” [end Vander Zee]

    This is why I think Calvin was inconsistent in his view that young children are not qualified to receive the Supper. Here he says that he rather experiences than understands the Supper, and to receive the Supper in faith as a child receives its mother’s milk. He just wasn’t connecting his own dots!

    I think we must especially remember that Jesus made it clear that the way to maturity is through child-like faith: Mt 18:1-5. Jesus’ declaration that this “little child” exemplifies the life of a kingdom disciple tells us that little covenant children must exercise a level of faith, even though they may not be able to grasp the preaching of the Word in anywhere near the depth of an adult. But a “little child” can trust Him.

    I also am concerned about the argument that many CC’s make: “What’s the hurry, because they’re not missing out on anything. They get the same grace through the Word”, etc. My response is: then let’s all become Baptist memorialists.” But the historic reformed view of the Supper is that it truly is a means of grace—a means of spiritual nourishment—not wholly distinct from the Word, but certainly not identical with the Word.

    The Supper is receiving Christ as a child receives its mother’s milk: a means of grace, of spiritual nourishment—and as such, I maintain, particularly suited for “little children.”

  145. Jack Bradley said,

    June 8, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    The “mother’s milk” metaphor was of course Vander Zee’s, not Calvin’s directly, as my words seemed to imply.

  146. Zrim said,

    June 9, 2009 at 6:29 am

    Jack,

    I also am concerned about the argument that many CC’s make: “What’s the hurry, because they’re not missing out on anything. They get the same grace through the Word”, etc. My response is: then let’s all become Baptist memorialists.” But the historic reformed view of the Supper is that it truly is a means of grace—a means of spiritual nourishment—not wholly distinct from the Word, but certainly not identical with the Word.

    Again, I have much sympathy for your views here. But don’t you think it’s a bit hasty to suggest that we CCers should “just become memorialists” simply because we place an accent on (biblical) patience?

    When it comes to the Word, I teach my own children to exercise the most important muscle in Christian discipleship–their ears. I’m not interested in them (or me, for that matter) becoming little erudite students but rather Christian disciples. The former demands furious note taking during a sermon, the latter simply sitting and listening. Arguably, the latter is much more demanding as it is not our nature by default. The art of listening is the device of disciple-making.

    It seems to me that, when it comes to the sacrament, the rush to the Table is similar to furious note-taking when it comes to the Word. I don’t readily understand either phenomenon. Why is everyone in such a dither to lap up grace with their own hands instead of letting the Host of heaven slowly imbibe it on our behalf?

    And, by the way, the grace that is sufficient for my children to wait until they are ready is the same grace that helps me take my own advice as an adult to put my hands in my lap and take up my ears.

  147. Jack Bradley said,

    June 9, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Zrim,

    I have sympathy for your views as well. But you’re really not making contact with my concern about becoming “memorialists.” Yes, we need to teach them to exercise their ears, to better grasp this means of grace (and I especially appreciate your concern about “furious note-taking”). But we also need to teach them that the sacrament of the Supper is a means of grace as well. And the best way to teach them this is to give it to them (along with age-appropriate instruction along the way). I don’t see that as a “rush to the Table.” I see it as full-bodied discipleship.

    But, again, what I run across are reformed folks who are so concerned about “waiting until they are ready” that, in practice, they become practical memorialists–assuring everyone that children really aren’t missing anything–implying that the Supper really isn’t a means of grace.
    So it is not surprising that, far from a “rush to the Table”, the reformed norm is a crawl to the Table.

  148. Zrim said,

    June 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Jack,

    But in the same way, it is implied that children not at the Table are “missing something,” which seems to imply they need to get there quickly. I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest that “absent children aren’t really missing anything.” Rather, baptism and instruction have an eye toward the Table.

    Perhaps they both comport under “rationalism,” but I think it might be more careful to say that “abiding intellectualism” helps explain what is going on with some of us before “practical memorialism.” I think there is a better corrective to rationalism than paedocommunionism.

  149. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 10, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Pete,

    Actually, the question is whether there is a prior self-examination. Tim Gallant has looked at the theme of “proving” (dokimazo word-group) in the Corinthian correspondence–it is more often dealing with public and corporate categories than introspective ones.

    http://www.paedocommunion.com/articles/gallant_examination_and_remembrance.php

    Furthermore, the closest parallel syntactically in the NT to v. 28– imperative verb, kai outos, and a second imperative–is found in Gal. 6:2, where the first imperative is essentially the means by which the second one is done: “fulfill the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens.” Thus, the syntax can be taken to be two simultaneous events, not necessarily one as the precondition for the other. On this view, Paul would be telling the Corinthians to take the Supper in a manner that demonstrates who each one is: i.e., part of the one body, not individuals (thus resuming his teaching from 10:16ff). “Prove yourselves (publicly & communally) yourselves by eating and drinking.” Thus, the Supper provides a correction to the problem Paul identifies in v. 19: the Corinthians were trying to show who was “approved” by dividing themselves up (cf. ch. 3–the Corinthians were apparently over-realized in the eschatology of the Supper, establishing their own divisions rather than waiting for the day of the Lord, 3:13 w/ 11:19), while the proof was in the eating of the Supper as the one body of believers for whom Christ had died (cf. Eph. 4:14-22).

    And, by the way, none of this requires PC–one could still take the diakrino verbs of 29 & 31 to require sufficient cognition as to prevent young children…

  150. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    June 10, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Re #148:

    So, “absent children are missing something” is false? Your argument seems to says this:

    If they are missing something, they should get to the table quickly.
    But they shouldn’t get to the table quickly.
    Therefore, they aren’t missing something.

    But you wouldn’t want to say “absent children aren’t missing anything”? How can you say “they aren’t missing something” but not say “they aren’t missing anything”?

  151. David Gadbois said,

    June 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Sometimes we say we are ‘missing something’ whether that something is according to our need or not.

    Are infants ‘missing something’ because we don’t feed them New York steak strip? Sure they are. They don’t get to taste and digest some really wonderful, unique food. But do they need it? No. They have other means of physical nourishment. So in another sense they aren’t missing anything. That is to say that they aren’t missing anything that is necessary or essential to where they are at in their present season in life.

    The real question that should be asked is ‘what is necessary?’ The sacraments are not ‘necessary’ in an unqualified or absolute manner. It is the same with physical nourishment – one may say that solid food is normally necessary for proper physical nourishment in human beings. One cannot reasonably expect to go through life for extended periods without it. But that does not mean that it is necessary for nursing infants. Breast milk is sufficient nourishment for that particular station in life. What is ‘necessary’ is variable.

    To concede this is not to make solid food out to be a ‘superfluous extra’. Drinking milk is the means by which infants are nourished *unto* eating solid food. Just as baptism, catechesis, and the preached Word are means by which children are prepared for the Supper.

  152. Zrim said,

    June 10, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Joshua,

    Re #150, along with what David offers I would also add that I am a strong proponent of weekly communion (for those properly communicant, young or old). This is for various reasons, but one is that I really do think we are “getting something” at the Table. Something “really is happening” and I fail miserably to grasp why anyone would willingly keep themselves from the Table at least three Sundays a month. I’m with Calvin that we should table “at least once a week.”

    But, at the same time, I don’t abide a Reformed church that is anywhere near seeing it this way. Thus I don’t get what I think I should be getting every week, but only once a month. Yet, I also don’t think of myself as “missing out on something” to such an extent that I search out a Reformed church that tables weekly. I do know of only one local Reformed church in Grand Rapids that tables weekly, and I know of one 2.5 hours north of here that does as well. But I don’t rush there. That would seem, amongst other things, reckless.

    Rushing children to the Table would be like me and my family rushing to that Reformed church that tables weekly.

  153. Pete Myers said,

    June 11, 2009 at 3:15 am

    #149 Josh,

    Thanks, that’s food for thought.

    I’m running out of steam on this particular discussion, so, I’ll take what you say on the chin, and maybe return to fight another day mmwwwahahahah!


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