A Directional Error

The NT Interprets the OT, Not the Other Way Around
(A hermeneutical error suggesting both the weakness of Theonomy and paedo-communion)

I was recently blessed to attend this year’s Twin Lakes Conference. While perusing the book store, I was further blessed to stop and have a conversation with Dr. Guy Waters (RTS, Jackson.)

As such conversations will, we wandered over a number of topics. One comment from Dr. Waters particularly stuck with me as related to a number of subjects we’ve discussed here. I thought it might be worth bringing up and seeing if this is relevant to the rest of you.

With Dr. Waters’ permission, here is a summary of this part of the conversation:

We had been discussing the recent conversations here on Theonomy and paedo-communion. I asked Dr. Waters what he thought was the seminal error in these two positions. He responded that it appeared to him to be a hermeneutical one. Specifically, he thought that both positions make the same directional error of interpreting the NT in light of the OT, rather than the other way around.

I find this is a valuable insight. On the one hand, it is not to say that the OT plays no role in the interpretation of the NT. Rather it is to say that Theonomy and padeo-communion have this role out of balance. The NT’s interpretation is not subservient to the OT. Nor is there a one-for-one reciprocal relationship between the NT and OT, as if they have equal influence over one another.

Rather, consistent with the teaching in such passages as Matt 5:17, Col 2:16-17, and the book of Hebrews as a whole, the OT is subservient to the NT. When it comes to interpretation we might say that the NT is authoritatively determinant of what the OT means.

It appear to me that this is not how Theonomy and paedo-communion proceed. In the case of the first, Theonomy appears to not reckon sufficiently with what Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law means for the nature of the continuity/discontinuity of the Law in this dispensation (era). With reference to paedo-communion, one particular way this error shows up is seen in affirming too high a degree of continuity between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.

Again, the error is addressed by paying closer attention to how the NT rules over the interpretation of the OT. I’m not suggesting that Theonomic or paedo-communion brothers necessarily disagree with this hermeneutical principle. All I’m suggesting is that their application of it is less than consistent with the Bible’s own.

- Reed DePace

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238 Comments

  1. Scott said,

    July 19, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    That interpretative framework- interpreting the New Testament in light of the Old is also a main problem with dispensationalism.

    Dispensationalism says the Old Testament prophecies govern New Testament interpretation whereas covenant theology says the Old is interpreted in light of the New. The “last word” is more authoritative, being made with the hindsight of the Old. That’s more logical.

    As this other topic shows, that can have some profound consequences.

  2. rfwhite said,

    July 19, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Reed/Scott: it occurs to me that allegations of “directional errors” are fodder for debate in a number of areas. In addition to the ones you mention, I’m reminded that reformed baptists often allege a directional error by paedobaptists.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    July 19, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Scott, while I agree with your post, I myself would be a bit hesitant to use the phrase “more authoritative.” The OT and NT are equally authoritative. But the NT does interpret the OT authoritatively.

    Dr. White, you are hitting on the exact point here. Credobaptists accuse people such as myself not only with directional interpretative error, but also with inconsistency with applying it in one case, but not in the other. Of course, PC advocates do the same.

  4. jared said,

    July 19, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Reed,

    You say,

    With reference to paedo-communion, one particular way this error shows up is seen in affirming too high a degree of continuity between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.

    Except that I think for PC it is more an issue of continuity of covenant status than it is of continuity between a particular rite/ritual. Are infants members (in good standing) of the covenant people? Does 1 Cor 11 necessarily exclude the participation of infants via some mental capacity? As in the other thread, it seems to me that such an interpretation is more the result of presuming that infants aren’t allowed than it is an exegetical extraction from the text itself. Andrew and I have both pointed to similar passages where one cannot make the same conclusion even though the same language is used (see his #64 and my #10 from the previous thread). Why this passage and not those?

  5. rfwhite said,

    July 19, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    greenbaggins/Reed: Assuming that the various parties accept the determinacy of the NT, it seems that almost all debates about the teachings of Scripture become about the weight of the evidence, the burden of proof, and the relative historical novelty of doctrinal conclusion. The standard of proof is not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but “the preponderance of the evidence.”

  6. Pete Myers said,

    July 20, 2009 at 2:31 am

    I would also be a little hesitant to use the phrase “The NT is more authoritative than the OT”. Though I recognise you probably wrote those 4 sentences in that first comment quickly!

    It seems we could helpfully point out two extreme positions when it comes to the relationship between new and old revelation.

    The first extreme is the Muslim one – the believe that new revelation is more authoritative than old revelation. A statement they use to explain why there are contradictions in the Qu’ran. In any instance when Allah says one thing, and then says something else contradictory, the doctrine of abrogation applies, and the new revelation is the one that carries Allah’s authority. That is very different to Christian Covenant Theology. Though, a much milder form of this is prevalent in Evangelical churches across the globe (e.g. much of the argument for antipaedobaptism). It is this much milder form of this error that drives a lot of guys sympathetic to Reformed thinking into the next error…

    The second extreme is the one Reed is engaging with in his post. The hermeneutic that is so convinced (rightly) that we read the Bible forwards – i.e. that we must remember to put the NT in it’s OT context, that the OT is overemphasised to the point of essentially abrogating what the NT clearly says. The plain meaning of NT passages are then made to mean different things, because that’s what “context” dictates.

    I suggest the language needed to find the right line between the two positions is the language of clarity and light. Yes we read the NT in the context of the OT, but we do that in the knowledge that the NT provides more light than the OT. Meaning when you read the NT, and then go back to the OT you go “ah, of course, that’s what that prophecy means…”

    The first error reads the NT, goes back to the OT, and now has to explain the rather jarred discontinuity. The second error reads the OT, goes to the NT, and comes up with a whole range of different positions on a long grey line from “slightly Jewish” to “Galatian heresy”… and it’s interesting that there are as many positions on the line as there are advocates of this second hermeneutic.

    Only in classical Covenant Theology is the OT allowed to play a full and complete role as the context of the NT, yet the NT is firmly recognised as the clearer of the two dispensations.

  7. Scott said,

    July 20, 2009 at 6:53 am

    rfwhite said,

    “greenbaggins/Reed: Assuming that the various parties accept the determinacy of the NT, it seems that almost all debates about the teachings of Scripture become about the weight of the evidence, the burden of proof, and the relative historical novelty of doctrinal conclusion. The standard of proof is not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but “the preponderance of the evidence.”

    It’s interesting you mention this approach.

    Initially, this was the way I resolved Calvinism v. Arminianism from Scripture. A preponderance of Scripture was on the side of Calvinism, the doctrines of grace, so it was more reasonable to believe that was what the Scripture was teaching.

    But, over time, as I looked at Scripture in context and in light of the clear interpreting the unclear, it became a “clear and convincing” standard (something like a 70-94% case). Unclear scripture became clear in the light of clear Scripture. The analogy of faith was particularly helpful in resolving this. At this point, it moved from something I could “accept” to something I could “receive.”

    When one gets to “beyond reasonable doubt” one might be looking at 95% plus, something like statistically certain.

    Maybe that is the way to look at this here.

  8. Scott said,

    July 20, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Jared said,
    “Are infants members (in good standing) of the covenant people? Does 1 Cor 11 necessarily exclude the participation of infants via some mental capacity?”

    It’s interesting how you would phrase the question.

    One way we might look at this is that children of believers are set apart to a position of privilege as sons and daughters of at least one believing parent and as having ordinary access and exposure to the church and the ordinary means of grace.

    It does not necessarily mean they are saved, but is based on the parent being saved. This is a somewhat different basis for membership in the visible church. It’s not based on the child’s “good” standing in their own right, but that of their parents- that’s how an infant child is a member of the covenant community.

  9. rfwhite said,

    July 20, 2009 at 9:19 am

    7 Scott: I appreciate your reminder of the “clear and convincing” standard in addition to the “preponderance” standard, especially in conjunction with the analogy of faith. It is better to make all of these matters explicit.

  10. Reformed Sinner said,

    July 20, 2009 at 9:59 am

    There is a third error: reading NT despite of the OT, which is done very commonly nowadays. While in principle I agree with Dr. Waters’ take that NT interprets OT, but we must not forget OT informs on the NT. Both are needed as an organic whole and no one exist purely to serve the other. I would even hesistant to use the word “subservient” the same way “more authority” is used, because “subservient” too easily denotes superiority/inferiority even if it’s not intended.

    Christianity is not a religion of NT subset OT, but religion of the whole Bible.

  11. Andrew said,

    July 20, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I would agree that ‘more authorative’ is an unfortunate phrase. Perhaps the traditional principal of clearer Scripture interpreting more obscure Scripture is useful. Often this will mean that the New reveals the Old, since there is less symbolism and pictures, more ‘direct’ teaching, as it were.

    On the other hand this seems to me a very muddled effort to understand/critique paedocommunnion. I would be more than happy to defend paedocommunnion from the NT alone. Indeed, I would be happy to do it from I Cor 11 alone (not perhaps conclusively, but with a strong degree of probability).

    PCer’s do not deny that God can change his covenant, that he is free to make participation more restrictive. They simply cannot see this being demonstrated from the New Testament at all.

    If someone shows that I Cor 11 cannot be understood like the text ‘Believe, and be baptized’ or ‘Whoever does not work should not eat’, I am quite prepared to change my mind on the matter.

  12. Jack Bradley said,

    July 20, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Reed,

    Here’s a helpful excerpt from Todd Bordow’s sermon, “Why Do We Need the Lord’s Supper?”

    “To begin our look at the sacraments, we must begin in the Old Testament, and there we find the Word of God and the sacrament working alongside one another. By the way, if you are not used to the word “sacrament,” the word simply means “sign,” or “symbol.” A sacrament is a visible sign representing a spiritual truth.

    In the Garden of Eden Adam received the Word of God and was also given a visible sign of that Word. Adam received God’s promise of life if he obeyed, and God’s warning of death if he disobeyed. God placed a tree of life in the midst of the garden. Here was a visible sign of that life Adam would receive upon his obedience. Thus God used both Word and sacrament to communicate to His people.

    You will also notice that this first sacrament consisted of food, the fruit from the tree. Throughout the Bible the most intimate act of fellowship is sharing a meal. This is still true in many cultures today. The sacrament of the fruit of the tree of life pointed to the glorious communion Adam and those he represented would have with God when he passed his probation.

    We should not be surprised that when the nation of Israel was formed Word and sacrament worked alongside each other. The Word of God’s redemption through the blood of a lamb came to Israel through Moses. Then Israel was instructed to share a sacramental meal laden with spiritual meaning; i.e., the Passover. The Passover was to be a regular, perpetual meal for the people of God. The lamb they partook of would serve as a visible sign of their redemption from Egypt. This lamb would also cause Israel to look ahead in anticipation for the Lamb of God who would truly take away their sins. The Passover always went alongside an explanation as to the significance of the meal, thus Word and sacrament working side by side.

    And again this sacrament revolved around eating. Eating the Passover meal signified fellowship with God through the blood of the lamb. The Passover also signified fellowship with one another. The Passover was never celebrated in isolation; families ate together. Thus we do not celebrate the Lord’s Supper in isolation, but as we unite in public worship we as the family of God partake together. This aspect of the sacrament is too often overlooked. In I Cor 11 the problem in Corinth was that some in the congregation were taking the Lord’s Supper apart from any regard for their brothers and sisters. They were not even willing to wait for them to arrive to partake together. Paul takes this very seriously, for the sacramental meal signifies our unity with one another. This is what Paul means when he warns us to judge rightly the body of Christ. We dare not partake if we do not have any consideration for our fellow brother and sister, who are also members of Christ.

    . . . Now as we come to the establishment of the Lord’s Supper in the NT, we come bringing all of our theology from the OT with us. Only then can we understand the Supper’s true significance. The Lord’s supper is the fulfillment of all these other sacrificial meals.

  13. Todd said,

    July 20, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Jack,

    I have mentioned this before, but you know my understanding of the Supper does not support PC or the need for weekly communion. Just making sure. A yearly Passover was sufficient to go along with the regular teaching of the Word. And also, like any of our sermons from ten years ago, we may have changed or nuanced our views over time. When I reveiew my sermons from ten years ago, I think, “what a poor preacher.” Hopefully ten years from now…

  14. Jack Bradley said,

    July 20, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Understood. I do really appreciate your sermons and other writings, brother.
    I mean that sincerely.

  15. jared said,

    July 20, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Scott,

    Re: #8

    You say,

    This is a somewhat different basis for membership in the visible church. It’s not based on the child’s “good” standing in their own right, but that of their parents- that’s how an infant child is a member of the covenant community.

    I’m not sure such a sharp distinction can be drawn between “covenant people” and “visible church”; they seem to refer to the same set of individuals. An infant who has been baptised is no less a member of the covenant (and, thus, no less a member of the visible church) than an adult.

  16. Scott said,

    July 20, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Scott said,
    “This is a somewhat different basis for membership in the visible church. It’s not based on the child’s “good” standing in their own right, but that of their parents- that’s how an infant child is a member of the covenant community.”

    Jared said,
    “I’m not sure such a sharp distinction can be drawn between “covenant people” and “visible church”; they seem to refer to the same set of individuals. An infant who has been baptised is no less a member of the covenant (and, thus, no less a member of the visible church) than an adult.”

    On one level you are right- both believing parents and their children are members of the covenant community, that is the visible church. But the point is the basis is different. One is a position of privilege by birth, the other by credible profession of faith in our Lord.

    Children are presented for baptism based on the faith of the parents, not their own. That’s not the case with the Lord’s Supper- the means of grace is received by the faith of the individual.

    Those differences play out in a logical parallel requiring examination for a credible profession of faith before partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

  17. Moe Bergeron said,

    July 21, 2009 at 10:38 am

    A question that needs to be asked is simply this: How does a child, or any person for that matter, enter into the New Covenant established and sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ without a circumcised heart? If the child or person, even if born to “heart circumcised” believers, does not know the circumcision of the Holy Spirit upon their own heart, then they are in not in the new covenant and remain under the wrath of God. As long as covenant and entrance into the covenant is defined in unbiblical terms then the error will continue to delude christian parents in believing their unsaved children are in the covenant when they are still bound for hell.

  18. jared said,

    July 21, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Scott,

    You say,

    On one level you are right- both believing parents and their children are members of the covenant community, that is the visible church. But the point is the basis is different. One is a position of privilege by birth, the other by credible profession of faith in our Lord.

    Except that the basis really isn’t different. The basis for both is the promise of God. That one has such a position by birth and the other by “credible profession” is a matter of accidents (in the Aristotelian sense). They are both baptised with the same baptism. That the infant is incapable of accepting or rejecting his baptism is a separate issue; for all intents and purposes (e.g. participation in the Supper) they are both in Christ. You continue,

    Children are presented for baptism based on the faith of the parents, not their own. That’s not the case with the Lord’s Supper- the means of grace is received by the faith of the individual.

    I don’t believe this is accurate. Children are presented for baptism because they are children of believing parents (or at least of one believing parent). The basis of the baptism, then, is the child’s covenantal standing by virtue of having covenant parents. In other words, it is not based on the faith of the parent(s), rather it is based on the promise of God. The same is (or should be) true of the Supper. One participates because one is a member of the family. The grace received in the Supper is not different from the grace received in baptism, though I will grant that it is received differently. The individual must actively participate in the Supper (which a one year old is more than capable of doing, in most cases) in order to receive the benefit. To require an examination for a credible profession of faith from an infant has no basis in Scripture whatsoever. In 1 Cor. 11 it is clear that Paul does not have very young children in mind and to infer that because of this he is banishing them from the table until they are able to do so is rather fine eisegesis. This argument is not substantially different from the charge credo-baptists level at paedo-baptists.

  19. Jack Bradley said,

    July 21, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Well said, Jared. Reminds me of Warfield’s “The Polemics of Infant Baptism”:

    “No man can read the heart. As a consequence, it follows that no one, however rich his manifestation of Christian graces, is baptized on the basis of infallible knowledge of his relation to Christ. All baptism is inevitably administered on the basis not of knowledge but of presumption. And if we must baptize on presumption, the whole principle is yielded; and it would seem that we must baptize all whom we may fairly presume to be members of Christ’s body. In this state of the case, it is surely impracticable to assert that there can be but one ground on which a fair presumption of inclusion in Christ’s body can be erected, namely, personal profession of faith. Assuredly a human profession is no more solid basis to build upon than a divine promise.”

    http://www.lgmarshall.org/Warfield/warfield_infantbaptism.html

  20. rfwhite said,

    July 21, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Jared: I’m wondering if you can expand a bit on your view. If one participates in the Table because one is a member of the family, why is it proper for church officers to fence the Table or to suspend members from the Table?

  21. Scott said,

    July 21, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Jared said,
    “That one has such a position by birth and the other by “credible profession” is a matter of accidents (in the Aristotelian sense).”

    No-

    not accident, Aristotelian or not. One professes actual faith, the other does not. That’s different (even to Aristotle).

  22. jared said,

    July 21, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    rfwhite,

    You ask two different questions but I believe I can answer them both with one response. I’m not entirely certain it is proper for church officers to fence the Table from any covenant member who isn’t under discipline. Of course I do believe it is proper to fence it from unbelievers (be they in the covenant or not) for the very same (or at least very similar) reasons that others want to fence children from it: unworthy participation and the consequences thereof. Is this helpful to you as far as my understanding is concerned?

  23. jared said,

    July 21, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Scott,

    You missed the point. The infant and the professing adult are both members for the same reason: they both are recipients of God’s promise(s) to Abraham.

  24. Scott said,

    July 22, 2009 at 5:17 am

    Jared,

    Guess we are just not seeing the same thing at all. An adult is a member by profession and vows, an infant child is a member by birth.

    The promise to save is directed at one who believes, e.g. a professing adult, this is not automatically directed at the infant child of a believer. While there is great hope to believe God will save them, we may not presume that on God.

  25. rfwhite said,

    July 22, 2009 at 7:09 am

    22 Jared: Ok, you’ve commented on fencing the Table. What about suspension from the Table: is it proper for church officers to suspend members of the family from the Table?

  26. jared said,

    July 22, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Scott,

    No, they are both members by baptism. The promise to save is made to the one who believes and to their children. This is the very reason we baptise infants in the first place, is it not? The promise of salvation is made to those who are faithful, but nowhere is such salvation put forth as a prerequisite for participating in the Supper. The Supper is a meal for the family and children are just as much a part of that family as adults.

    Now, I don’t believe membership is exclusively via baptism (after all, Abraham was considered righteous before being given the sign) but that is typically the case amongst paedo-baptists and should be normative.

    rfwhite,

    The Table is, I believe, rightfully withheld only from those who are being disciplined. Excommunication is an outright withholding and I believe there are circumstances in which one need not be excommunicated but could still be admonished not to participate on account of being unrepentant.

  27. David Weiner said,

    July 22, 2009 at 11:27 am

    jared,

    Please forgive me for barging in on your conversation with Scott; but, you touched on an important issue.

    You said: “The promise to save is made to the one who believes and to their children.”

    My reading of what Scripture says is: “The promise to save is made to the one who believes and to their children who believe” And this, of course, includes Jew and Gentile alike.

  28. rfwhite said,

    July 22, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    26 Jared: thanks. So, taking into account the proviso you have attached to communing at the Table, would you modify your statement — “one participates because one is a member of the family” — in any way? If so, how?

  29. tim prussic said,

    July 22, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks for the post, Reed. I’ve finally gotten around to reading it!

    I think your analysis (brief as it is) lacks punch. I’m a theonomist and I became one by studying – ready for this? – the New Testament. I’m sympathetic with the PC position and I’ve never really studied the connections between Passover and the Lord’s Supper. My sympathy stems from a strong notion of inclusion of children in the covenant community (which, no doubt, stems from the OT).

    These matters (and the hermeneutical issues underneath them) are very complicated. The relationship between the OT and NT has many facets falling into various categories: continuity, discontinuity, amplification, etc. Your brief analysis may give us a place to start talking, though.

  30. jared said,

    July 22, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    David Weiner,

    My translation of Genesis 17 doesn’t seem to add the stipulation of belief for the inclusion of children. I suppose you are thinking of Galations 3? Those children who mature into unbelief bring upon themselves a worse punishment than those who are not members of the covenant at all. They know better and still refuse to believe. But until they are openly rebellious, why should we not presume their salvation given their covenant status? In other words, why should we not presume they are believers until they demonstrate their unbelief? Or is this a courtesy we can extend only to those who are capable of credibly professing their belief? I don’t remember reading anything about that either.

    rfwhite,

    Sure; how about “one participates because one is a member of the family, unless that member is being disciplined.”?

  31. Scott said,

    July 22, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Jared said,
    “No, they are both members by baptism. The promise to save is made to the one who believes and to their children. This is the very reason we baptise infants in the first place, is it not? The promise of salvation is made to those who are faithful, but nowhere is such salvation put forth as a prerequisite for participating in the Supper. The Supper is a meal for the family and children are just as much a part of that family as adults.”

    This whole reasoning seems cock-eyed.

    Baptism does not “make” someone a member of the visible church.

    The promise of salvation is not conditioned upon our faithfulness. It is based on Christ’s righteousness.

    The Lord’s Supper is not a meal for “the family.” It for those who are Christians, not merely members of the visible church.

    Glad that you later admit membership is not “exclusively” by baptism. Getting baptized doesn’t “make” one a Christian any more than going into a garage makes him an automobile- it’s God sovereign plan, according to the good pleasure of His will to change one’s nature and give him saving faith (in Christ’s righteousness alone).

  32. jared said,

    July 22, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Scott,

    Thanks, but I rather like the way I am currently seeing things. It seems more in line, on the whole, with what Scripture actually says. As to your points,

    (1) See WCF 28.1 where baptism “not only” makes one a member of the visible church, but also does some other pretty important things. This is why we don’t baptise people more than once.

    (2) I didn’t say salvation was conditioned upon our faithfulness, I said it was promised to those who are faithful (that’s a reference to the “P” in the defunct TULIP model). There’s a difference.

    (3) Christians are “the family” so it is a meal for the family. That you think “Christians” and “members of the visible church” are two different people groups should tell you something’s wrong with how you’re thinking.

    (4) Getting baptised does make one a Christian in the same way that getting circumcised (or being under the headship of one who was circumcised, in the case of women) made one a Jew. The idea of going into a garage making you an automobile is not an analogous situation. I agree that God’s sovereign plan, according to the good pleasure of His will, is the key factor. It was His will that I be born into a Christian family. It was His will that I be baptised as an infant. It was His will that I continued to grow and mature in the admonition of His Son. It is His Son’s righteousness that is mine via the adoption I grew up in and took hold of as my own. It is His gift of faith that enabled me in all these things and continues to do so. It is also according to His plan that I’ve never doubted my salvation, largely because I know it has been accomplished by His Son and that the only part I play is the result of what He has already done. I’m not sure how any of this negates what I’ve been stating all along.

  33. rfwhite said,

    July 22, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    30 Jared: thanks. So is it correct to say that one need not be excommunicated to be a non-communicant?

  34. jared said,

    July 22, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    rfwhite,

    I would say that is correct, yes. One needs to be either (1) under church discipline in some severe form or fashion (including but not limited to excommunication) or (2) not a member of the covenant. I think these two categories are broad enough to cover all those who should not be admitted to the Table. I would, here, also point out that (2) clearly does not apply to children and, I should think in most cases, neither does (1).

  35. David Weiner said,

    July 23, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Jared,

    I offered that the statement

    “The promise to save is made to the one who believes and to their children who believe”

    was more Scriturally correct than the one in your comment. Do you agree?

    My translation of Genesis 17 doesn’t seem to add the stipulation of belief for the inclusion of children.

    Neither does mine.

    I suppose you are thinking of Galations 3?

    Not really; although Paul does state ” For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Actually, I was thinking of Acts 2, although it really isn’t important what I was thinking about. Just, whether the original statement ought to be modified or not.

    Those children who mature into unbelief . . .

    Nobody matures into unbelief. With only a few possible exceptions, we are all born lost.

    In other words, why should we not presume they are believers until they demonstrate their unbelief?

    I understand that the question of how to treat covenant children is driving a lot of discussion here. And, it a serious and emotion filled issue. Nevertheless, the only promise of salvation of which I am aware has nothing to do with covenant membership. It’s ‘Sola Fide.’

  36. rfwhite said,

    July 23, 2009 at 8:29 am

    34 Jared: thanks again. So is it correct to say that, in your view, those who place children in the non-communing category must have (wrongly) concluded that children are under church discipline? If so, for clarification, which degree of church discipline?

  37. jared said,

    July 23, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    David Weiner,

    I do not agree that the comment you offered is more Scripturally correct than the one I offered. You say,

    Actually, I was thinking of Acts 2, although it really isn’t important what I was thinking about. Just, whether the original statement ought to be modified or not.

    Since Acts 2:39 agrees with my comment, I don’t think my comment needs to be modified. To be clear, the comment in question is “The promise to save is made to the one who believes and to their children.” Acts 2:39 says “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” And here the promise is “forgiveness of your sins” and receiving “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (from verse 38). You continue,

    I understand that the question of how to treat covenant children is driving a lot of discussion here. And, it a serious and emotion filled issue. Nevertheless, the only promise of salvation of which I am aware has nothing to do with covenant membership. It’s ‘Sola Fide.’

    This doesn’t address my question; I will indulge you nevertheless. The promise of salvation has everything to do with covenant membership, since only those who are true (i.e. eternally elect) members of the covenant will be saved. Moreover, this salvation is not by faith alone; it is by acceptance in Jesus, by having an effectual calling, by being sanctified by the Holy Spirit and, summarily, by persevering in this state of grace (see WCF 17.1). Neither is this perseverance of my own doing, rather it is dependent on the decree of election (see WCF 17.2). Justification is by faith alone, but it is “ever accompanied with all other saving graces” and “works by love” (see WCF 11.2). It is continuing on in this that results in eternal salvation, and none of it happens outside the covenant (whether one is physically baptised or not).

    rfwhite,

    I would not say that is correct, in my view. I would say that those who place children in the non-communing category are making an ontological category mistake. It is obvious that we differ on who can properly be denied the Supper. I believe there are only two categories of people who should be kept from the Supper: (1) non-members of the covenant and (2) those under that special discipline of the church. So those who are keeping covenant members that don’t belong to either of those categories are making a category mistake. Of course one need only to add an extra category in order to capsize the entire paedo-communion armada, or so some opponents seem to believe. The problem is I don’t think this third category can be logically derived from covenant theology or from Scripture.

  38. Scott said,

    July 24, 2009 at 5:25 am

    Jared said,
    “(2) I didn’t say salvation was conditioned upon our faithfulness, I said it was promised to those who are faithful (that’s a reference to the “P” in the defunct TULIP model). There’s a difference.”

    Your terminology is confusing.

    Salvation is not in any way promised if we are faithful (by works). It is not conditioned on our being “faithful.” Your words make it sound as if it is.

    As sinners, how could be possibly be perfectly “faithful”?

    It is by God’s grace, accessed through faith in Christ’s righteousness alone. It is not in any way conditioned on anything other than the sovereign good pleasure of the will of our God.

    You describe salvation as if it is conditioned on us somehow, being “faithful.”

    The “P” of the TULIP acronym is for perseverance. That perseverance is evidence of what God did by giving believers a saving faith that bears out in the believer’s life over time. That evidence is never perfect, because we are not perfect, that occurs only in the state of glory.

    Not sure what you mean… “TULIP” is not defunct.

  39. David Weiner said,

    July 24, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Jared,

    Thank you for answering my question very directly. Also, you are correct that I did not answer your question, the reason being that I don’t understand it. I think the question to which you are referring is

    But until they (covenant children) are openly rebellious, why should we not presume their salvation given their covenant status?

    If you are interested in an answer then I would have to know what you mean by ‘their covenant status.’ Additionally, if you would indicate which of the several covenants in Scripture you have in mind that would also be helpful.

  40. jared said,

    July 24, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Scott,

    You say,

    Salvation is not in any way promised if we are faithful (by works). It is not conditioned on our being “faithful.” Your words make it sound as if it is.

    I apologize if my terminology is confusing. I will try to be more clear. Salvation is “the goal of your faith” (1 Pet. 1:9), it is something we have now only in promise (and only those who are truly elect). Salvation is contingent only upon God’s eternal decree but it is brought about via saving faith. This is a faith that is accompanied by works. It is a faith that perseveres. Let’s recap. Salvation is the result of faith being worked out in love throughout the believer’s life. The decree, upon which salvation rests, is what produces faith, justification, sanctification and glorification. Salvation is the result of perseverance, which is to say it is the result of remaining faithful, which is to say it is the result of faith being worked out in love until the end. And to be perfectly clear, being faithful is not a meritorious work. I don’t earn my faithfulness any more than I earn my justification, or earn my sanctification, or earn my glorification. Jesus has accomplished and is accomplishing all of it from beginning to end.

    You say, “As sinners, how could be possibly be perfectly “faithful”?” but this is a red herring. I’ve said nothing about being “perfectly” faithful. You continued,

    It is by God’s grace, accessed through faith in Christ’s righteousness alone. It is not in any way conditioned on anything other than the sovereign good pleasure of the will of our God.

    I agree with the first sentence and I’ve said nothing to imply otherwise. Your second sentence is somewhat misinformed. While it is true that Salvation is contingent upon nothing else but the sovereign good pleasure of God, it is conditioned by what necessarily accompanies saving faith. You continue,

    The “P” of the TULIP acronym is for perseverance. That perseverance is evidence of what God did by giving believers a saving faith that bears out in the believer’s life over time. That evidence is never perfect, because we are not perfect, that occurs only in the state of glory.

    I’m very well aware of what the acronym stands for. I am also of the opinion that it is a flawed and rough expression of a soteriology that is extraordinarily nuanced and intricate in its details. The fact that we are even arguing about this is evidence enough in my estimation. TULIP is quick and dirty, and it’s also why the large majority of evangelicalism dislikes Calvinism; or at least the system of theology they believe TULIP represents. Horton’s Putting Amazing Back Into Grace isn’t the first or only recent book that attempts to recast the doctrines of grace in a more articulate and relevant manner.

    David Weiner,

    What I mean by “their covenant status” is that children, by virtue of their being born into a covenant home, have the same external covenantal attributes that their believing parents have. This includes (but is certainly not limited to) the presumption of their salvation.

    Also, as far as I know, Reformed theology teaches that there are only two covenants. One broken by Adam and one fulfilled in Jesus. I’m not aware of any systematic theology in which one is able to be a member of the former. I suppose if one were a full-blown Pelagian, perhaps. And in case this isn’t clear enough then I am indicating that I have in mind what is commonly called the New Covenant.

  41. Scott said,

    July 25, 2009 at 5:36 am

    Jared said,
    “I apologize if my terminology is confusing. I will try to be more clear. Salvation is “the goal of your faith” (1 Pet. 1:9), it is something we have now only in promise (and only those who are truly elect). Salvation is contingent only upon God’s eternal decree but it is brought about via saving faith. This is a faith that is accompanied by works. It is a faith that perseveres. Let’s recap. Salvation is the result of faith being worked out in love throughout the believer’s life. The decree, upon which salvation rests, is what produces faith, justification, sanctification and glorification. Salvation is the result of perseverance, which is to say it is the result of remaining faithful, which is to say it is the result of faith being worked out in love until the end. And to be perfectly clear, being faithful is not a meritorious work. I don’t earn my faithfulness any more than I earn my justification, or earn my sanctification, or earn my glorification. Jesus has accomplished and is accomplishing all of it from beginning to end.”

    That’s much better, much more clear after your full explanation.

    I still would not agree with ” Salvation is “the goal of your faith” (1 Pet. 1:9), it is something we have now only in promise (and only those who are truly elect)” because it makes it sound like we don’t really have salvation. Believers do actually have salvation, that is eternal life right now. It is more than a promise, it is reality right now because if a believer dies right now, He goes to Heaven.

    Yes, (full) redemption is a process, but salvation is more than a goal, more than a promise though it is both of those. Because of Christ, it is real… right now. To God be glory for that.

  42. GLW Johnson said,

    July 25, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Jared
    Goodness gracious!! You ought to go read Calvin’s anaylsis of Trent because you are echoing Trent!

  43. Scott said,

    July 25, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Jared said,
    “I’m very well aware of what the acronym stands for. I am also of the opinion that it is a flawed and rough expression of a soteriology that is extraordinarily nuanced and intricate in its details. The fact that we are even arguing about this is evidence enough in my estimation. TULIP is quick and dirty, and it’s also why the large majority of evangelicalism dislikes Calvinism; or at least the system of theology they believe TULIP represents.”

    That is your opinion about “TULIP.”

    I do not agree.

    TULIP is not flawed, nor is it defunct as you say. Michael Horton does not say it is defunct, either- he uses the acronym to explain the concepts more fully.

    The reason some do not “like” it is because it is a God-centered and as self-centered sinners, we tend not to like that- that salvation is totally out of our hands and totally dependent on God. Really, that’s an Arminian influenced one verses a Calvinist one, and it is used to define generally an important part of differentiating “broad evangelicalism” from reformed theology.

    It is interesting that in defending paedocommunion you would need to discount the “five points” (TULIP)- a doctrine summary that has proven useful for hundreds of years, and is central to the Westminster Confession, and other historic creeds.

  44. David Weiner said,

    July 25, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Jared,

    OK, the covenant you are assuming is the New Covenant and you see it teaching the presumption of salvation for the children of those with whom that covenant was made. Given that, I really don’t see the need for your question. Obviously, one with this belief would treat covenant children as having salvation until they openly (not sure what that means?) rebel.

    Nevertheless, I still have some confusion. I thought the New Covenant is between God and the House of Israel? Are we (believers) members of that household? Not only that but I can’t seem to find in the covenant description the part about ‘presumption’ regarding children. Can you help point me to that Scripture?

  45. rfwhite said,

    July 25, 2009 at 9:42 am

    37 Jared: if children are indeed counted in a third category, I would agree with your analysis. If, however, they are not in a third category, then the issue turns on what the church’s ministry of discipline is to non-communing members. So that our interaction doesn’t take us even further off the topic of this post, I’ll just suggest PCA BCO 28 as one example.

  46. jared said,

    July 25, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Scott,

    There is really nothing in comment #41 for me to disagree with. Again, I suppose, I was being unclear. While salvation is the goal of one’s faith, it is not only a goal but a present reality via promise. That’s what I was trying to say. I agree that if we die now we go to Heaven; however, my eschatology does not allow me the liberty of saying it is at that very moment when we obtain the complete fulfillment of the promise of salvation. My understanding is that full salvation includes a redeemed body. It is also my understanding that redeemed bodies aren’t given out until after the final judgment. It is, further, my understanding that the final judgment is not an atemporal event (i.e. we aren’t whisked away to the final judgment upon shedding this mortal coil). All of this to say that I agree with you saying salvation is a present reality. I was not intending to exclude that present reality by saying we have it only in promise.

    Also, I didn’t say Michael Horton says TULIP is defunct, and I know that the book I referenced is an elucidation of the doctrines of grace as they are summarized by TULIP. And yes, it is my opinion; I will readily concede that. You continue,

    The reason some do not “like” it is because it is a God-centered and as self-centered sinners, we tend not to like that- that salvation is totally out of our hands and totally dependent on God. Really, that’s an Arminian influenced one verses a Calvinist one, and it is used to define generally an important part of differentiating “broad evangelicalism” from reformed theology.

    I agree, the reason some don’t like it is because it is a God-centered presentation of salvation. The reason most don’t like it is because they don’t understand it. I am of the opinion that the reason they don’t understand it is because TULIP is not a good presentation of the system it is summarizing. It’s like a Power Point show done for those who already understand and agree with its suppositions. It is because of this that I say it is flawed, not because I disagree with any of its theological content. Which brings me to your last point,

    It is interesting that in defending paedocommunion you would need to discount the “five points” (TULIP)- a doctrine summary that has proven useful for hundreds of years, and is central to the Westminster Confession, and other historic creeds.

    It would be interesting if it were true or even close to being accurate. I certainly don’t need to discount the “five points” in order to maintain my opinion of TULIP (which is but one expression of those points). Nor do I need to discount the points in order to maintain a paedo-communion view. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, I believe the majority of Protestant paedo-communion advocates are thoroughly Reformed.

    GLWJohnson,

    I’m pretty sure I’m not echoing Trent. But, just in case, can Calvin’s analysis be found online?

    David Weiner,

    You say,

    I thought the New Covenant is between God and the House of Israel? Are we (believers) members of that household? Not only that but I can’t seem to find in the covenant description the part about ‘presumption’ regarding children. Can you help point me to that Scripture?

    I will try to clear up some of your confusion. The New Covenant is between God and His Son who is representing the “House of Israel”. We (believers) are, indeed, members of that household via grafting (see Romans 11:13-21). As for the presumption of salvation, it is all anyone can have of other members of the covenant. The only person’s salvation I can have assurance of is my own. For everyone else in the covenant I presume they are unless they demonstrate otherwise by the way they live. To make a long story short (though I suppose it will have to be stretched out at some point, won’t it…), if you are a member of the covenant then you are my brother (or sister) and I am to treat you as such. That is, I am to treat you as though you are saved by the same grace that saved me, otherwise you wouldn’t be in the covenant. Is it possible you aren’t saved? Sure, but that’s not supposed to be my starting point with fellow members. Children are not an exception to this in spite of what our sacramentology might teach.

    rfwhite,

    Thanks for pointing me to the BCO, it gets at my very contention. The title of that section is that third category. The only non-communing members there should be are those under serious discipline for being unrepentant. But in the PCA there are three categories of membership. There are non-communing members, communing members, and excommuned members (whether formally or by serious admonishment). In my estimation that first category has absolutely no theological or Scriptural basis. If you are baptised you belong in the “communing members” category unless you have been excommunicated (again, whether formally or practically). BCO 28.3 gets to the problem of it by noting that baptised children still need “to enter upon all privileges of full church membership.” I don’t believe Scripture allows for such a nuanced understanding of covenant/church membership.

  47. Paige Britton said,

    July 25, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Regarding that debated “third category” in the BCO (“non-communing members”), where does chatechesis fit into the PC debate? What is the point of catechetical instruction, if not to give the officers of the church a reasonable level of trust that a person is making a credible profession of faith? And is the very early evidence of catechesis in the ancient church significant here? Did the early (post-apostolic) church understand the celebration of the Supper to be a “family” meal, or a meal shared by professing believers?

  48. rfwhite said,

    July 25, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    46 Jared: your comments show that the crux of your disagreement with credocommunion is in your understanding of church discipline, not in your understanding of the Table.

  49. Jack Bradley said,

    July 25, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Paige,

    Here’s a helpful paper that I think answers your question about the early church understanding of the Supper: http://tinyurl.com/tbjja

  50. jared said,

    July 25, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    rfwhite,

    So what say you about BCO 28.3? Where’s the warrant for having a two-tiered membership structure?

  51. GLW Johnson said,

    July 26, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Jared
    Actually you are.Your reference to Gal. 5:6 sounds much like Trent’s interpretation-to which Calvin gave this stinging response.”It is worthwhile to remark their stupidity. When they quote the passage of Paul,’Faith worketh by love,(Gal.5:6) they do not see that they are cutting their own throats.For if love is the fruit and effect of faith,who sees not that the informal faith which they have fabricated is a vain figment? It is very odd for the daughter thus to kill the mother! But I must remind my readers that this passage is irrelevently introduced into the question -(N.B. Jared)-about justification ,since Paul is not here considering in what respect faith or charity avails to justify a man,but what is Christian perfection; as when he eslewheresays,’if a man be in Christ he is a new creature’, (2Cor.5:17)” See ‘The Selected Works of John Calvin:Tracts and Letters’ ed. and trans. Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet (rpt, Baker 1983)p.119.

  52. GLW Johnson said,

    July 26, 2009 at 6:48 am

    That is vol.lll. There is seven volumes in the set.

  53. David Weiner said,

    July 26, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Jared,

    Thanks for trying to clarify. And, I do agree with much of what you say, really. On the other hand, I’m still not out of the woods yet. For example, I mention the New Covenant and the House of Israel and you respond that Jesus is representing the “House of Israel.”

    I really can not imagine in what sense you mean this? One possible interpretation is that we can just ‘replace’ the term ‘House of Israel’ with Jesus in Jeremiah 31? However, If I do that I get statements that, at least on the surface, seem inappropriate.

    For example, verse 31:33 becomes ‘ 33 “But I will make a new covenant with (Jesus) after I plant (Jesus) back in the land,” says the LORD. “I will put my law within (Jesus) and write it on (Jesus’) hearts and minds. I will be (Jesus’) God and (Jesus) will be my people.

    Clearly, a simple cut-and-paste is not what you had in mind. Thus, a selective cut-and-paste would seem to be required to support your view. Where is the Scriptural guidance on how to do this?

  54. rfwhite said,

    July 26, 2009 at 11:36 am

    50 Jared: since you have already conceded that one need not be excommunicated to be a non-communicant (see 34 above), I’m not sure why you ask me to justify the claims of BCO 28. The reasoning for which you ask is, in principle, the same as that which you have conceded. Perhaps it would help to read BCO 28 in tandem with BCO 27, which summarizes the church’s formative and corrective ministry of discipline. “All baptized persons, being members of the Church, are subject to its discipline and entitled to the benefits thereof.”

  55. jared said,

    July 26, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    GLWJohnson,

    I don’t recall explicitly referencing Gal. 5:6, which of my comments are you thinking of? Moreover, I would need more context than what you provided from Calvin. I whole-heartedly agree that “faith working by love” has nothing to do with contributing to justification. I’m not even sure what that would look like. In the context of Galatians it is because we have been set free in Jesus that faith is so able to work. In other words, it’s because we have been justified (and regenerated) previously that faith is so able to work. Those works don’t contribute to justification, rather they are supposed to be evidence that it has actually occurred. I don’t think Trent and I stand together on this point.

    David Weiner,

    One could make a pretty solid case for seeing Jesus both as the true Israel and as representing Israel in the New Covenant. In the New Covenant, Jesus is representing Israel; He is the Great High Priest (see Heb. 7-8 where this passage in Jeremiah is quoted) who offered Himself as the once and final sacrifice for the people. It is also true that Israel is the chosen nation (or “son”) of God and that Jesus is the true Son of God (i.e. the true chosen One). I don’t know what translation you’re quoting there, but I see nothing about being “planted” back in the land. Even so, such language could be descriptive of the death and resurrection of Jesus. My OT theology isn’t up to snuff so the Scriptural rubric for understanding when to interpret prophetic references like that isn’t something I am prepared to lay out in detail. Others, far more learned than I, in the Reformed tradition would be better resources in this regard (people like Dr. Johnson, Dr. White, and Rev. DePace to name just a few who frequent these very pages).

    rfwhite,

    I didn’t concede without qualifications that one need not be excommunicated to be a non-communicant. It would help put things in perspective if we understood “non-communicant” as a negative description. Moreover, BCO 28-4 is very clear about adult members who aren’t communing: “they should be warned of the sin and danger of neglecting their covenant obligations.” And this is to those who aren’t censured. In BCO 27-2, does the “benefits thereof” refer to membership or to discipline? If the former then it is wrong to withhold the table from children and there’s a contradiction with BCO 28-3 where we see that children aren’t (for some undisclosed reason) considered “full” members. If the latter then the logical conclusion is that children are being unjustly censured (see BCO 30-3). BCO 28-2 paints the picture well: the Session is to encourage parents “guide their children in the catechising and disciplining of them in the Christian religion” but what about feeding them at the communal table? That seems important to me, you know, that food thing.

    Sorry, I’m really not trying to be belligerent or disrespectful; it just seems odd and inconsistent to me.

  56. rfwhite said,

    July 26, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    55 Jared: to be sure, you didn’t concede without qualification that one need not be excommunicated to be also non-communicant. My point is that the qualification you have attached militates against the theory you yourself are advocating. We’ve already agreed that your intial assertion — namely that one participates in the Table because one is a member of the family — was not true. We have agreed that the Table is not open to all members indiscriminately; rather it is open to members who meets certain qualifications.

  57. Scott said,

    July 26, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Jared said,
    “My understanding is that full salvation includes a redeemed body. It is also my understanding that redeemed bodies aren’t given out until after the final judgment.”

    It sounds like what you mean here is redemption, as a process. Redemption involves a glorified body, which Christ gives after His second coming.

    But we do possess salvation and speak of it in the ordinary sense that it is very real from the moment it occurs- that when one dies in Christ, he goes directly into the presence of the Lord.

    We ought not even possibly confuse that precious, blessed hope. (It’s part of the “TULIP” you say is flawed and now defunct- I do not agree with your assertions on that at all).

  58. David Weiner said,

    July 26, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Jared,

    Sorry for that quote. I usually use the NASB which would have then been: Jer. 31:33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with (Jesus) after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within (Jesus), and on (Jesus’) heart I will write it; and I will be (Jesus’) God, and (Jesus) shall be My people.

    Turns out I got the quote from the NET which I usually find pretty good. In this case, they are doing some interpretation by adding the part about the land and not sticking to the text! Sorry, for that unnecessary confusion. Nevertheless, we have the same problem if ‘House of Israel’ is replaced in the New Covenant description.

    I most certainly have no question in my mind about Jesus being the Great High Priest for all of us (believers). Nevertheless, I still don’t know how you can say that the New Covenant was made with Him and not the House of Israel. So, I still have to ask in what sense you mean that when we are talking about God making the New Covenant, you can say that Jesus ‘represents’ the ‘House of Israel.’

  59. Paige Britton said,

    July 26, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Re. #49, Jack,
    Thank you for directing me to that helpful historical overview of paedocommunion. The issue obviously has a complicated and highly emotional pedigree. I am not ready to concede that the years of silence before the 3rd-c. references to PC indicate that the practice was so common that it wasn’t even worth mentioning. I do wish to look through that missing window, back to the time of the changing of the guard, when those sober-minded elders mentioned in Titus had to strike out into new territory and define what would be the practices of the church (since the details of such practices are not exactly provided in bulleted outlines in the Epistles). When the leaders combined what was revealed with what they considered godly wisdom, did they err on the side of inclusion of infants, or on the side of catechesis, the better to protect the infants & children from partaking unworthily of the Supper? Which is really the question before the church at any age. Lacking that wished-for connection with an age that still remembered the apostles, we’re kind of afloat on a sea of best-guesses (including the BCO-28’s third category). What the article particularly alerted me to is the possibility that either answer can arise out of a context of superstition, popular opinion, emotion, and/or otherwise bad theology. Happily, we have the Green Bagginses of the world to help us avoid such errors.

  60. GLW Johnson said,

    July 27, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Jared
    You wrote in comment #40 ” Salvation is the result of faith being worked out in love throughout the believer’s life.” This is right out of the FV playbook-but it is also in harmony with Trent in that it blends justification with sanctification. Again, listen to Calvin’s assessment of Trent.
    ” The whole dispute is as to the cause of justification. The Fathers of Trent pretend that it is twofold, as if we were justified by forgiveness of sins and partly by spiritual regeneration; or, to express their view in other words, as if our righteouness were composed partly of imputation, partly of quaility” (p.116) On the next page he adds ,” Forhowever small the potion attributed to our work (i.e. even our faithfulness) to that extent faith will waver, and our whole salvation be endangered.”

  61. Jack Bradley said,

    July 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Jared,

    I’ve appreciated some of your qualifiers, but I am also concerned about such a summation of salvation: ” Salvation is the result of faith being worked out in love throughout the believer’s life.”

    I disagree that this is “right out of the FV playbook”, whatever that means, but taken by itself, I don’t think it is a helpful summation of salvation.

  62. jared said,

    July 27, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    rfwhite,

    You say,

    We have agreed that the Table is not open to all members indiscriminately; rather it is open to members who meets certain qualifications.

    Actually there was only one qualification. The member needs to be in good standing. I see, now, where I have been miscommunicating as far as the BCO is concerned. I have been understanding discipline as equivalent to punishment. Under this model if a child is being disciplined he is, then, being punished. Discipline, of course, has a much wider variance than this; please forgive me for not being more clear. So then, given this, let me amend my initial assertion: All members of the family should participate in the Supper except those being punished (or censured, if you prefer). Is that more helpful in clarifying my position and point(s) of contention?

    Scott,

    I don’t feel as if we really disagree at the moment, except for the TULIP issue. I will concede that “defunct” is a bit harsh (and unrealistic from a pragmatic standpoint) but I stand by my position that it isn’t exactly the best foot forward in presenting the doctrines of grace (which I am in favor of, in case that hasn’t been made clear).

    David Weiner,

    You say,

    I most certainly have no question in my mind about Jesus being the Great High Priest for all of us (believers). Nevertheless, I still don’t know how you can say that the New Covenant was made with Him and not the House of Israel. So, I still have to ask in what sense you mean that when we are talking about God making the New Covenant, you can say that Jesus ‘represents’ the ‘House of Israel.’

    It occurs to me that, perhaps, you misunderstand the role of the High Priest. What does a mediator do if he doesn’t accurately represent the parties who are at odds to each other? Jesus perfectly represents God to us because He is God. And He perfectly represents us to God because He is man. And I say the New Covenant is made with Jesus because He is the federal head of the “house of Israel”. He’s the only one worthy of the task. There are a couple of books I’d recommend for further reading: (1) The Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson and (2) Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two? by David Holwerda. I’m not trying to shirk my responsibilities here, but this ground has been adequately covered by Reformed scholars far more learned than I (not that I’m learned, really).

    GLWJohnson,

    Except it doesn’t blend justification and sanctification. Rather it does make a distinction between justification and salvation. In other words, I’m not equating the two. Justification = salvation is not the way of it; salvation involves much more than just justification. I can keep my comment #40 and agree with everything Calvin says in your quoting of him because Calvin is talking about justification in particular and not salvation in general. Justification is not caused by anything but saving faith. My comment may be right out of the FV playbook, but it is also (oddly enough) right out of Scripture as well (1 Cor. 13 and 1 John 4 come immediately to mind). Without love faith is nothing; in fact, it is dead and false if it does not love. It is entirely plausible that James had this passage in mind when he was writing the part of his letter we find recorded in chapter 2. Justification that is not accompanied by works (that is, by love) is no justification at all. And that is straight out of the WCF (11.2). So am I safe from Trent yet?

    Jack Bradley,

    The “FV playbook” comment is just Dr. Johnson’s confusing of FV (Federal Vision) theology with Catholic Theology. At any rate, what is not helpful about such a summation? I think it’s pretty concise while at the same time it could be unpacked in spades. I mean, there’s a lot of content here that could be exhumed. It’s also straight from Scripture, as Dr. Johnson has pointed out and as I didn’t even realize when I originally wrote it (see Gal. 5:5-6).

  63. rfwhite said,

    July 27, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    62 Jared: for our mutual understanding, by referring to members meeting “certain qualifications” (plural), I also actually intended no quantification, only a colloquial expression for the fact that the Table is for members who are qualified as distinct from members per se. I get your point about your understanding. I’m not sure, however, that we have communicated. The issues I’m pushing are qualification precedes Table participation and that qualification is described in terms of the church’s ministry of discipline in its formative and corrective expressions. Member qualification is not a matter of the member’s age or minority. Rather it seems more proper to say that it is a matter of the member’s response to the discipline of the Word. Due to the lateness of the hour, I’ll have to leave it off here.

  64. GLW Johnson said,

    July 28, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Jared
    You are simply digging yourself a deeper hole. Go read the entirety of Calvin’s ‘Canons and Degrees of The Council of Trent, with the Antidote’ in vol. lll of the set I previously cite.

  65. David Weiner said,

    July 28, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Jared,

    I do not think you are shirking your responsibilities; you have been most gracious to respond as you have. And, I may indeed misunderstand the role of the High Priest. But, that was not the question. Jeremiah addresses Israel as the recipient of the NC promises; it does not address Israel’s representative. Why in the world would Jesus need to have God’s Law placed in His heart??? God details the land of Canaan; He does not describe the world. Brilliant men (and I mean this most respectfully) have explained all of this ‘detail’ away with a ‘richer’ fulfillment. Yes, we have a richer fulfillment; but, that does not negate what God said.

    I looked over the Holwerda book you recommended. It is filled with this sort of approach. Let me just quote one of his statements. “The land is still the actual land under our feet, but now it refers to the entire created earth.” Then he adds a note: (note 2 on page 179): “However, the real debate is not about “spiritualizing” in this sense, but about whether God must fulfill the promises under the particularistic restraints of the Old Testament even after these promises have already experienced a richer, universal fulfillment.”

    The OT did not impose particularistic restraints (whatever they might actually be?). It was God who said what He was going to do under the New Covenant. If we can not trust that God meant ‘the House of Israel’ when He so clearly stated that, then how in the world are we to trust that there is a resurrection body waiting for us? Maybe He doesn’t actually mean ‘us’ but some other group of people of whom we are not yet aware? (I know that is over the top; but, I hope the point is not lost.)

  66. jared said,

    July 28, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    rfwhite,

    Thank you for your continued interaction. You say,

    The issues I’m pushing are qualification precedes Table participation and that qualification is described in terms of the church’s ministry of discipline in its formative and corrective expressions. Member qualification is not a matter of the member’s age or minority. Rather it seems more proper to say that it is a matter of the member’s response to the discipline of the Word

    I quite agree that qualification precedes Table participation. If you aren’t a member at all or aren’t a member in good standing then you shouldn’t participate. But as far as I know those are the only two qualifications we can justify biblically. This has been my argument all along. Are baptised children members in good standing? Yes. So why deny them the Table? Moreover, shouldn’t participating in the Supper be a part of their discipline? I’m “stealing” a bit from Wilson on this point, but why isn’t (or shouldn’t) the Table be included as part of our raising our children in the admonition of the Lord? I’m curious, now, do you think Jesus would have staid the hand of an “unapproved by the Session” child? I recall the disciples being rebuked at least once for preventing them just from touching Him. How much greater would that rebuke be for not letting them feed on Him?

    GLWJohnson,

    I’ll see if I can request a set from my local library. I can’t afford the $70 price tag from CBD and I haven’t been able to find an easy-to-navigate version online. I can’t imagine there’s anything I’ll disagree with in his assessment of Trent. You are, of course, entitled to disagree with that imagining all you want, but so far you have not demonstrated anything of substance other than that on justification Calvin and I see eye to eye.

    David Weiner,

    Misunderstanding the role of the High Priest, may I suggest, is directly related to “the question” you asked and directly related to why my points have been lost on you. The whole of your comment here bears this out. That “richer fulfillment” doesn’t negate what God said, it explains what God said. This isn’t the thread for exegeting prophecy, suffice it to say that the author of Hebrews confirms this passage in Jeremiah is referring to the person and work of Jesus. Holwerda is right, the debate isn’t about spiritualizing the OT prophets, rather it’s about whether God is going to fulfill those prophecies in the way you seem to think He will in addition to the way He has fulfilled (or is fulfilling) them in Jesus.

    It is important to keep in mind that in the OT we find shadows of the reality brought to light by Jesus and the NT authors. Typology and symbolism play huge roles in how we understand and interpret Scripture. But, again, this isn’t the thread for such a discussion and I fear we have strayed far enough off topic as it is.

  67. GLW Johnson said,

    July 29, 2009 at 5:50 am

    Jared
    Would you admit that your theological sympathies are with the Federal Vision? And ,contrary to Jack ( how are things in Moscow, ID. Jack?), your statement in #40 is indeed ‘right out of the FV playbook’. To whit, Doug Wilson-“We must constantly remember that we have a natural and very dangerous tendency to immediately assume that keeping the covenant is accomplished by some menas other than faith working its way out in love, which is the only thing that genuine faith can do, then the condition that God has set for the fulfillment of His promise.” RINE, p.186 This is NOT harmnious with Calvin.

  68. Reed Here said,

    July 29, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Jared: hopefully being understood to be playing off the respect we have for one another in previous exchanges, I think you need to consider whether or not you’ve been all that clear in many of your posts here.

    You know you’ve been repeating FV phrases and arguments here, arguments that we’ve debated and then agreed upon clarifications that removed their onus for those of us who disagree with the FV. Yet here you repeat some of these, and then build upon them, and then seem oblivious to the concerns of others.

    Saying faith is a “cause” of salvation, and its consummation at that, without any qualification – c’mon dude, you know that is at best sloppy language. Here I think Dr. Johnson is being rather gentle. I do not think your sympathies lie with the FV. Rather, given what I’ve read here it seems you’ve put in much more study and have more or less agreed with him. You even seem to have adopted the FV’s characteristic of unqualified language that can only be called equivocation.

    I’ve read your arguments here and in the past – you are dissembling when you ignore Dr. Johnson’s challenge. Salvation – as you’ve been using it here in an unqualified manner – is tatamount to justification. Hence Dr. Johnson’s Trent comparison is appropro.

    With a punch in the arm, another “c’mon dude,” I know you are a better thinker than this – I’ve seen you write better. :-)

  69. jared said,

    July 29, 2009 at 9:15 am

    GLWJohnson,

    Sure, I’ll admit that. I’ve never tried to imply otherwise or hide the fact that I’m sympathetic to the Federal Vision (especially as advocated by Wilson). Also, while Doug’s quote may or may not be harmonious with Calvin, I am not Doug and we aren’t talking about the same thing. I would disagree with Doug that it is us who keeps the covenant since the covenant is made between Jesus and the Father. We are in it only in as much as we are in Jesus. Now, maintaining that relationship is a matter of faith working out in love but even this perseverance is not of our own doing and, thus, cannot be considered. It would be helpful, Dr. Johnson, if you could actually take into account what I am saying rather than just blowing me off as a Wilsonite.

    Reed,

    Maybe a few declarations of my own can help clear some things up. I would like to preface this by noting I have not contradicted any of these declarations, or been vague or ambiguous about any of them in this thread thus far.

    1. I do not believe that salvation and justification are synonymous even though we often speak as if they are. I have, throughout the course of this thread, made this clear.

    2. I do not believe that my works contribute anything to the justification I have by faith (and that alone, lest I should boast).

    3. I do not believe that justification and sanctification are synonymous even if I believe they occur at the same time in the life of the believer. I am, here, speaking of definitive sanctification.

    4. I do not believe justification is worked out along with progressive sanctification. Justification occurs once while progressive sanctification happens throughout the life of the believer.

    5. I do believe that salvation is a “now-but-not-yet” affair.

    6. I do believe that salvation involves the whole life lived, and necessarily so given the nature of saving faith. This means that works contribute to my salvation even if they do not contribute to my justification. Moreover, they only contribute to my salvation in as much as God has given them to me. In other words, the works that contribute to salvation are not my works but works God has given me to do, they are His works being accomplished through me.

    What else do I need to declare? Where else am I supposedly playing the FV equivalent game? I’m always more than happy to clarify, you know this. Also, I never said that faith is a “cause” of salvation. I said that salvation is the result of faith worked out in love throughout the believer’s life. There is no salvation without faith, there is no faith without love, and there is no love without action. Also, Dr. Johnson has not issued a challenge; he has merely asserted that Calvin and I would be at odds on the issue of justification. See my response to him in #55 and notice him ignoring it completely. I once again explained myself to him in #62 and yet he blithely pressed on; and you are on his side? Kindly show me where I have disagreed with Calvin at all in this thread as far as justification and salvation are concerned.

    Which brings me to another point. Dr. White and Scott are the only participants in this thread who have maintained any sort of substantial dialog with me given the actual topic. Would you and/or Dr. Johnson care to engage on that front?

  70. Reed Here said,

    July 29, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Jared: no, no need for me to respond on topic, as I agree that you, Scott and Dr. White are doing a fine job of this (although I think you may not be hearing eveyrthing Dr. White has been saying; I think you’ve missed some necessary inferences, and/or contradicted your own position – but you and Dr. White are working that out.)

    Yes, the first few times you made some statements to Scott (I believe) that lacked clarity, knowing you and your convictions I filled in the blanks for you, and assumed as you’ve declared here. In fact, my challenge is not that you need to make a lengthy list of declarations.

    Rather I thnk you’re being dismissive of Dr. Johnspn’c challenge, while you could have easily both satisfied him while denying the challenge. The issue boils down, in this particular instance, to the relation between salvation and justification. I’m with you on your delcarations. I think, however, if you had clarified, “salvation as a category comprehending all of the ordo salutis,” Dr. Johnson’s caution would have been recognized as a help to your argument, not merely a challenge.

    This is why I tried to characterize my comment as one bud punching another in the arm. I’m not trying to argue with you, merely asking you to consider that it is right for someone to raise a caution flag when we say such things, without one or tword of clarification, as “faith is causitive to salvation,” (not intending to direcly quote, but rely the impact of what you wrote.) There are simple and clearer ways to say what you want to say.

    It is always appropriate for those called to rightly handle the word to accept such admonishment. I was only commenting to hopefully help you see that Dr. Johnson has a point, even if the point only sticks due to lack of clarity, friend.

    Back to topic?

  71. jared said,

    July 29, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Thanks Reed, you are ever gracious even in the face of my impatience and ever pending aggrivation. ;-)

  72. Reed Here said,

    July 29, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Jared: thanks for your graciousness. Don’t let me fool you though. I’m just a bone head whose learned to catch myself (usually ;P )

  73. rfwhite said,

    July 29, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    66 Jared: I’m glad we agree that qualification precedes Table participation. You ask: “Are baptised children members in good standing?” and then answer, “Yes.” You go on to raise additional good questions for discussion. If I’m not mistaken, however, before we answer the question of the baptized child’s standing, we have to answer the question of how do the officers of the church make the determination of good standing. To assert that baptized children (or adults) are “in good standing” begs the question as to how that determination is made.

  74. pduggie said,

    July 29, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    I wonder if sabbath keeping, psalmody, and the WCF’s chapters of oaths and vows flow from the same “error”

  75. rfwhite said,

    July 29, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    66 Jared: I suspect we all feel the force of your appeal to Jesus’ reception of children. Certainly, I agree that Jesus emphatically endorsed the actions of parents who brought their children to Him that they might submit them to His ministry (e.g., Matthew’s words, “that He might lay His hands on them and pray,” reflect the parents’ intention to submit the children to Jesus’ ministry for discipleship. They are thereby His disciples). Jesus endorsed such actions when He ministered on earth; He does the same now as He ministers from heaven through His church on earth. When Jesus received children under His ministry while on earth, He reasserted both the promise and the warning of God’s covenant: He said that the kingdom would be granted to those who received it like a child, and He also said that it would be withheld from those who did not so receive it. The substance of Jesus’ ministry of discipleship was the discipline of the Word in its promises and warnings. Today, as He receives parents and their children under His ministry through His church and its officers, He continues through them to declare promise and warning to His disciples, the membership of the covenant community. It seems to me that we’re wrestling with the relationship between Jesus’ continuing ministry of the Word from heaven through His church and its officers and the ministry of sacrament. In other words, what is the relationship between the church’s ministry of the Word and the church’s ministry of sacrament? And, in that light, who is in good standing to receive the sacrament of the Supper?

  76. Reed Here said,

    July 29, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Paul: ah, such eruditeness compels me to offer an equally insightful response: yep, you’re on to something ….

  77. rfwhite said,

    July 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    74 pduggie: ditto what Reed said. We should develop a catalog of debates that center around this directional issue.

  78. Jack Bradley said,

    July 29, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Things are good here in Moscow, GLW. Thanks for asking.

  79. pduggie said,

    July 29, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Here’s the thing: sabbath and vows and psalmody are firmly rooted in confessional presbyerianism. It muddies the waters considerably to decide that the WCF authors had such a systemic problem in their view. Maybe they did. bu it raises the question of “who are the radicals” in these debates.

    Its a sad day when my cousin has to write into New Horizons to tell someone who claims that singing Psalm 51 is “not New Testament” is out to lunch :)

  80. David Gray said,

    July 30, 2009 at 4:24 am

    >it raises the question of “who are the radicals” in these debates

    Spot on.

  81. jared said,

    July 30, 2009 at 7:24 am

    rfwhite,

    I can agree with your assessment in your comment #66. How is “membership in good standing” determined? I’ve never really given that question much thought, just sort of taken it for granted I guess. I’ve always assumed that if no form of punishment is being enacted/enforced then members simply just are in a state of “good standing.” Kind of like how the American justice system works; you know, innocent until proven guilty kind of thing. Is that mistaken? And if not, why wouldn’t such a standing extend to those recently baptised babes? You continue,

    I suspect we all feel the force of your appeal to Jesus’ reception of children. Certainly, I agree that Jesus emphatically endorsed the actions of parents who brought their children to Him that they might submit them to His ministry (e.g., Matthew’s words, “that He might lay His hands on them and pray,” reflect the parents’ intention to submit the children to Jesus’ ministry for discipleship. They are thereby His disciples). Jesus endorsed such actions when He ministered on earth; He does the same now as He ministers from heaven through His church on earth.

    So my question is, what do you suppose Jesus thinks when His church denies His children His instituted meal? It’s clear that Scripture places a weighty emphasis on the importance of children in the covenant, beginning with Eve and culminating in the birth of Jesus Himself. It seems to me that this should affect how we come to a passage like 1 Cor. 11 and how it relates to those children (e.g. should we really see this passage as prohibitive/exclusive of them).

    It seems to me that we’re wrestling with the relationship between Jesus’ continuing ministry of the Word from heaven through His church and its officers and the ministry of sacrament. In other words, what is the relationship between the church’s ministry of the Word and the church’s ministry of sacrament? And, in that light, who is in good standing to receive the sacrament of the Supper?

    Yes, I agree that this is what we are wrestling with. Children should be receiving the Word primarily through their parents and secondarily through the Church so I don’t see that necessarily entering the picture as far as “good standing” is concerned. It would be an issue if the parents were not fulfilling their obligations on this front. Besides, there is certainly no restrictions placed on who can receive the ministry of the Word. The ministry of the Word is extended to everyone regardless of their standing (saved or unsaved, censured or not, etc.).

    This, of course, differs with how the sacraments are to be administered. I have always understood the case to be that the Supper is to be administered to all members who aren’t being formally or informally censured. It has already been pointed out that the PCA, in this vein, actually has a tiered structure for membership. That is, one is not (cannot be?) a “full” member until they make a public profession of faith (and all that that entails with session approval, interviews, etc.). To my knowledge this is practically the only thing preventing covenant children from participating in the Supper (in the PCA). Does this imply that these “partial” members aren’t members in good standing? Or, rather, does it logically follow that they aren’t? Or maybe they aren’t really members at all and we largely are just practicing wet dedications? And where does this tiered conception of church membership come from anyway? Maybe I’m thinking too simplistically but Scripture and covenant theology seem to favor PC more than CC, at least on the surface.

  82. rfwhite said,

    July 30, 2009 at 9:24 am

    81 Jared: I think we’ve isolated two key questions for our purposes: what does it mean to be in good standing, and who makes that determination?

    It looks to me that you are presuming that children hold title to the Table by virtue of their covenant membership. But you have already agreed with me that covenant membership, while necessary, is not sufficient for Table participation. Covenant members and Table participants are not coextensive: covenant members must also be in good standing to be Table participants. So, it is only the member’s “good standing” qualification that is both necessary and sufficient for admission to the Table. How do church officers make the determination of good standing?

    As for how the ministry of the Word relates the ministry of the Sacraments, don’t we agree that not every hearer of the Word is eligible to receive the Sacraments? Who, then, of the hearers of the Word is eligible for baptism? for the Lord’s Supper?

  83. rfwhite said,

    July 30, 2009 at 9:30 am

    81 Jared: let me take my point in 81 one step further. In answering the question, “how do church officers make the determination of good standing?” it strikes me that we have to agree that it is not enough for church officers to determine “good standing” by assessing if the individual is a member of the covenant community.

  84. Jack Bradley said,

    July 30, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Dr. White wrote:

    “it strikes me that we have to agree that it is not enough for church officers to determine ‘good standing’ by assessing if the individual is a member of the covenant community.”

    Of course paedo-coms agree that this is true. Who would argue otherwise? Elders dealing with a discipline issue, for instance, are not to be satisfied with a person’s membership in the covenant community. But this is of course not the pertinent question in our discussion. The question is: what should constitute *full* membership in the covenant community?

    The OPC Majority Report in favor of paedocommunion is helpful here:

    http://tinyurl.com/lqrjnu

    “What is the paradigm for admission to the church and to the Lord’s Table? Much confusion in theory and practice has arisen in the Reformed churches because of a failure to appreciate the true paradigm for admission into the sphere of covenant blessing. While Reformed churches universally confess the biblical warrant for, and propriety of, infant baptism, there is often confusion among them which arises in seeking to apply the categories of adult conversion to the case of a covenant child (especially in infancy and early childhood).

    . . . a rite of “public profession of faith” – analogous to that made by the adult convert – is imposed as a requirement on covenant children to insure that they can (at last) be seen and treated in the categories of adult conversion. In practice, the covenant privilege of participation in the Lord’s Supper is accordingly withheld from the covenant child until such an “adult-style” profession of faith (conversion?) takes place. While little or no biblical warrant for such a procedure can be found, the practice is maintained because of the “paradigm problem.” If adult conversion is the norm for admission into the church, then the place and demands made of covenant children must be seen in terms of that pattern.

    We propose that this scheme needs to be turned on its head in order for the biblical pattern to be seen, appreciated, and imitated. The norm for entry into the covenant should not be adult conversion, as over against the nurture of children within the covenant. Ever since the inception of the covenant in the days of Abraham, the gracious saving promise of God has been made to the “seed” of the faithful (Gen. 15:4-6;17:5-7; etc.), who in turn receive the promise to their seed after them (Deut. 5:2, 3; cf. Ps. 128:5, 6). God’s covenant is maintained through families from generation to generation.
    Accordingly, we would expect children born within the covenant to receive the sign of baptism, which identifies them as the people of God, and fully members of the covenant community. They would be nurtured by the promises and precepts of God which are the presuppositional norm for covenant living (Deut. 6:7ff.; Pvb. 4:1-9).

    Expressions of love and faithfulness to God, as well as loyalty to the people and institutions of the covenant, would be a dawning, growing, maturing experience for the child as a member of the covenant. The privileges of the covenant belong to him as they do to his elders. They provide for his nurture and discipline in the faith, as well as to serve for the expression of his covenant faithfulness to God. As he grows the direct jurisdiction of parents gives way to the oversight of the elders in bearing the responsibility for his discipline within the church. When he finally attains adulthood, and marries and begets children, the process begins again. This is the paradigm for entry into, and growth within the covenant. Covenant children are not an anomaly within the Church. They are not “semimembers” until the day they are examined and approved (like adults), before they can enter into full standing in the church.

    . . . It is inappropriate, more, it is unbiblical, to judge the children of the covenant by the categories which are descriptive of (and normative for) adult converts from paganism.”

  85. rfwhite said,

    July 30, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    86 Jack Bradley: thanks for the citation. If you think that I have been arguing for “applying the categories of adult conversion to the case of a covenant child” when it comes to his eligibility for the Table, we have failed to communicate. As your citation suggests, the question before us is, what is the operative paradigm for Table participation? Jared asserted and then backed off from his claim that covenant membership qualified one for admission to the Table. Do you want to reassert that claim and advance new argumentation?

  86. Jack Bradley said,

    July 30, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Dr. White,

    The failure to communicate was mine. My apologies for not following your conversation with Jared closely enough before weighing in.

    Any argumentation I would advance at this point is along the lines of the OPC Report: that there is a “paradigm problem” “because of a failure to appreciate the true paradigm for admission into the sphere of covenant blessing.” [admission to the Lord's Table]

    This is what the paedocommunion position is all about–a different paradigm: covenant membership alone should be the ground of admission to the Table for covenant children, as expressed in OPC Majority Report:

    “To withhold the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from covenant children who are not ‘covenant-breakers,’ but who have not satisfied the extrabiblical requirement for a ‘public profession of faith,’ is without warrant from the Word of God, and is detrimental to the spiritual well-being of Christ’s ‘little ones’ (cf. Lk. 18:16,17), who, like all the people of God, depend upon the means of grace (including this sacrament) for their growth in a vital and fruitful life of faith.”

    This is the “paradigm problem.” The Profession of Faith paradigm “needs to be turned on its head” according to the majority report, which faithfully represents the paedo-com position: nurture comes before profession. Part and parcel of nurture is the Lord’s Supper, as the Report says:

    “In the Word made (sacramentally) ‘visible’ our faith is more fully instructed and nurtured. God is the Master Pedagogue who not only speaks in true and clear words, but is also able to give concrete expression to His truth in a vivid use of metaphor, symbol, parable, object lesson, etc. (cf. the teaching method of the Old Testament wisdom literature, etc.).

    The sacraments, as visible words, are one means by which God has taught his people throughout their history, and that continues in the case of the new covenant sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Of all the features of the teaching ministry of the Church, the sacraments, in their unique visible/action quality are among the best suited to the instruction of covenant children. The abstractions of the faith are made concrete in the elements and action of the sacrament. This is especially true of the Lord’s Supper, where the elements and actions are directly and closely representative of the spiritual realities they exhibit.”

  87. rfwhite said,

    July 30, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    86 Jack Bradley: your issue is with Jared as well as with me. Jared, whose sympathies are doubtless with your paedocommunion view, has already agreed that the Table is not open to all members indiscriminately; rather it is open to members who are qualified. (Perhaps we were wrong to agree on this point, but we did. Or, at least, I believe we did.) That said, if you go back to comment #75, you will find that he and I have been jousting about the paradigm quesiton. You and I substantially agree on the relevance of what you call (the report calls) the pedagogical paradigm and what I might call the disciple paradigm (it is I who invoked the identity of covenant members as the disciples of Christ). You’ll get no argument from me that the Supper is part and parcel of nurture, aka discipleship. Where we differ is in the criterion for giving or denying the Supper to any covenant member, child or not. If covenant membership alone should be the ground of admission to the Table, then how is that any member is ever denied the Supper?

  88. Jack Bradley said,

    July 30, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Okay, I think I’m getting up to speed, Dr. White. Thanks for your patience.

    When you ask: “If covenant membership alone should be the ground of admission to the Table, then how is that any member is ever denied the Supper?”

    My response is: I thought we were addressing the issue of covenant children, in particular. Your question seems to be addressing abstractions.

    I hope we would all agree that, as I wrote previously, elders dealing with a discipline issue, for instance, are not to be hindered by a person’s membership in the covenant community when discipline calls for covenant members being suspended from the Table (while remaining covenant members).

    Please correct me if I’m missing something, but this doesn’t really make contact with the issue I thought was before us: the criteria for a covenant child’s admission to the Table.

  89. rfwhite said,

    July 30, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    88 Jack B: I believe you are missing the point of my question: are any members other than children granted admission to the Table only because they are members of the covenant community? If not, then the admission of children to the Table only because they are covenant members is the abstraction here, isn’t it?

  90. Jack Bradley said,

    July 30, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I do see the point of your question, Dr. White. The answer is, no, we do not grant admission to any others only because they are members of the covenant community (for reasons such as church discipline). But this remains an abstraction in this discussion because the whole discussion is about whether very young covenant children rightly fall under the same admission criteria as older children/adults. I freely grant the truth of the abstraction while continuing to contend that young covenant children should not be squeezed into the parameters of the abstraction.

    That is really what the entire OPC Majority Report is contending against as well:

    “We are not arguing that faith is more necessary for the right participation of an adult in the Lord’s Supper than in the case of a child. We are rather addressing the question of how that faith should be expected to manifest itself in each case, and the criteria the church should use in evaluating that faith with respect to the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It is inappropriate, more, it is unbiblical, to judge the children of the covenant by the categories which are descriptive of (and normative for) adult converts from paganism.

    . . . Faith in the covenant child will more likely express itself in a growing understanding of God, his promises, and the gracious relationship that exists between God and his people. It will feed upon the training received from the Word of God, and will be confirmed and strengthened by a proper use of all the means of grace. Repentance will be a daily part of the experience of the covenant child both as a sinner and as a recipient of God’s saving mercy. Obedience to God and loyalty to the people of God and the institutions of the covenant will be manifest in a covenant child’s development toward maturity and service in the church.

    Against this background, admitting young covenant children to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper ceases to be problematic. Further, the imposition of the additional demand (besides Baptism) for a rite of “public profession of faith” appears all the more arbitrary.”

  91. rfwhite said,

    July 31, 2009 at 7:38 am

    90 Jack B: since the point about abstraction seems an unprofitable pursuit, I’ll just say that I don’t share your view that “the whole discussion is about whether very young covenant children rightly fall under the same admission criteria as older children/adults.” Indeed the citation you provide from the report answers the question quite explicitly: the criteria are in point of fact the same. Note: the issue “we are … addressing,” says the report, is “the question of how that faith [note: the faith necessary for the right participation of the adult] should be expected to manifest itself in each case, and the criteria the church should use in evaluating that faith with respect to the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” So, according to the citation, the Table participant, regardless of age, should manifest faith and its accompaniments (repentance, obedience, loyalty). What, then, are the criteria and who makes the determination that they are manifested?

  92. Jack Bradley said,

    July 31, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Dr. White,

    I have maintained, with the OPC Report, that covenant membership alone (as signified by baptism) should be the criteria for admission to the Table. But this does not mean that faith is not present. As you point out: “according to the citation, the Table participant, regardless of age, should manifest faith and its accompaniments (repentance, obedience, loyalty).”

    Yes. “Regardless of age, should manifest faith.” I quote again the same section of the report:

    “Faith in the covenant child will more likely express itself in a growing understanding of God, his promises, and the gracious relationship that exists between God and his people. It will feed upon the training received from the Word of God, and will be confirmed and strengthened by a proper use of all the means of grace. Repentance will be a daily part of the experience of the covenant child both as a sinner and as a recipient of God’s saving mercy. Obedience to God and loyalty to the people of God and the institutions of the covenant will be manifest in a covenant child’s development toward maturity and service in the church.”

    [In the current practice] “We do not judge the faith and faithfulness of covenant children on an ongoing basis by criteria appropriate to the recognition of a growing and deepening life of faith, but rather we seek to erect some standards for examination and “professing faith” which will satisfy us that their use of the Lord’s Supper will not prove ineffectual (i.e., become a curse to them).”

    So, faith is taken into account, but the criteria by which we evaluate that faith is “appropriate to the recognition of a growing and deepening life of faith…”

    This is part of the paradigm shift that paedocom seeks: elders who “judge the faith and faithfulness of covenant children on an ongoing basis by criteria appropriate to the recognition of a growing and deepening life of faith.” Elders who recognize that part and parcel of a growing and deepening life of faith is admission to the sacrament of the Supper.

  93. rfwhite said,

    July 31, 2009 at 11:59 am

    93 Jack B: so help us understand: if this is the shift in paradigm for which you advocate, how is paedocommunion not a species of credocommunion after all?

  94. Jack Bradley said,

    July 31, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Dr. White,

    I tried to make a clear distinction in my previous post: I have maintained, with the OPC Report, that covenant membership alone (as signified by baptism) should be the criteria for admission to the Table. But this does not mean that faith is not present.

    For covenant children, we should presume (no apologies for that word-see Warfield excerpt above) that there is faith present, but that this faith is not the basis of admission to the Table. Covenant membership (signified by the mark of the covenant: baptism) is to be basis of admission.

    Now, faith either grows and evidences itself or there is no true faith. The presumption may not prove accurate. This is when the elders are able to legitimately judge continued eligibility for continued access to the Table. No problem with credocommunion at this point. But at the headwaters of their life in the covenant community, covenant children have the right, by birth into the covenant, to this means of grace: the continuing faith-nurturing sacrament.

  95. rfwhite said,

    July 31, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    94 Jack B: thanks. If elders examine a covenant child and do not find faith or faithfulness in him, and they do not admit him to the Table, are they not saying that covenant membership alone is not sufficient for admission to the Table?

  96. Paige Britton said,

    July 31, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    re. #94 & 95: Hmm…Which is harder to do, to say “No” to a young communicant after having said “yes,” or saying “No” first and “Yes” later? Not that pragmatics should entirely guide our exegesis & practice, but maybe there is a bit of practical wisdom behind the desire to delay admission to the Table.

    The first option raises lots of sticky questions, too, like, “How long do the elders wait till they decide that the communicant is ineligible for continued access to the Table? Maybe it’s just a phase he’s going through…”

  97. Jack Bradley said,

    July 31, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Dr. White,

    Yes. That’s what the elders would be saying at that point: covenant membership is not enough–just like they would be saying to any confessing believer–as in a discipline case, as I mentioned before.

    Again, no problem with credo-communion at that point.

  98. jared said,

    July 31, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    rfwhite,

    I apologize for the delay in my responding. I have priorities (both of them younger than 2 years old) which prevent me from participating as much as I’d like. I’m sure you understand. So, Re: #82:

    I believe the questions you note at the beginning here are, indeed, two key questions. The answer to both appears straightfoward in my mind (at least being in the PCA), but I am open to suggestion. For a covenant member to be in “good standing” they need only to be free of indictment. By default, then, all members are in “good standing” unless determined otherwise by the session. This means that [typically] all recently baptised individuals, regardless of their age, are now members in good standing and, thus, entitled to the Table. I think I’ve pretty much covered both your comments in this response, short though it is. At least, here’s a place where we can begin discussing those key questions.

    As an aside, I also think part of the problem is how the meal is celebrated. A tiny bread wafer and not even a third of a shot glass of grape juice (or wine, if you’re a member of one of those too few and far between churches)? Hardly worthy of the designation, and that’s being extremely polite. But, I digress.

  99. Jack Bradley said,

    July 31, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Well, Paige, no one ever said an elder’s job was going to be easy :)

    I know that you know this, but “which is harder to do?” and “practical wisdom” are really not the issue. The issue is, which is more more biblical?

  100. rfwhite said,

    July 31, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    97 Jack B: So it is false to say that “covenant membership alone (as signified by baptism) is the criterion for admission to the Table.” There are actually two criteria: both covenant membership and the manifestation of faith with faithfulness.

  101. Jack Bradley said,

    July 31, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    No, it’s not false. The OPC report maintains that paedocommunion is based on covenant membership alone as the criteria for admission, and that this covenant membership carries with it the presumption that faith is present. The manifestation of that faith (or lack thereof) will come *later* as the child grows:

    “These covenant children are expected to manifest repentance for sin, faith in Christ, love for God and His commandments, obedience, and loyalty, yet these characteristics must be seen and evaluated by the elders in terms of day-by-day living, and maturation as a child is nurtured in the Word of God by his family and the whole covenant community. If such growth in covenant faithfulness is not forthcoming, then the child is and ought to be subject to the biblical discipline of the church.” (OPC Report)

  102. rfwhite said,

    July 31, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    101 Jack B: ah, yes. The ol’ future tense. I should have said this: So it is false to say that “covenant membership alone (as signified by baptism) is the criterion for admission to the Table.” There are actually two criteria: both covenant membership and the presumption of faith.

  103. rfwhite said,

    July 31, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    98 Jared: no need to apologize. On your digression about how we celebrate, I share your preference.

    101 Jack B: one other point. It is interesting to notice that, according to the report as you have cited it, what separates its PC position from the CC position is the presumption of faith. Please summarize how you defend the presumption of faith.

  104. rfwhite said,

    July 31, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    98 Jared: can you describe how covenant membership of a child relates to good standing? Would the covenant membership of a child imply his good standing? If so, why or why not?

  105. Jack Bradley said,

    July 31, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    “There are actually two criteria: both covenant membership and the presumption of faith.”

    If you want to frame it that way, I can live with it :)

  106. Jack Bradley said,

    July 31, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Dr. White asked: Please summarize how you defend the presumption of faith.

    I really can’t say it any better than does Robert Rayburn, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Covenant Children, Covenant Nurture and Covenant Succession:

    http://www.faithtacoma.org/doctrine/covenant.aspx

    Excerpt: “By virtue of their sacramental initiation, of the requirement of their presence at renewals of the covenant (Deut 29:9­15; Joel 2:16), of their being addressed as among the saints and as part of the church with corresponding obligations (Eph 1:1; 6:1­3), of their holiness (1 Cor 7:14), of the kingdom of God being theirs (Matt 18:13­15), they are members of the church. All the more, given the presumption of early faith, they meet the requirements of church membership.”

  107. rfwhite said,

    August 1, 2009 at 6:34 am

    105 Jack B: actually, I’m just following your lead, JB. Like Jared, you have back-tracked from your opening assertion that the child’s covenant membership alone gives him admission to the Table. Through discussion, you made it clear that covenant membership is necessary but not sufficient for admission: it must be accompanied by the presumption of faith. Despite the sweeping rhetorical flourishes touting the biblical superiority of paedocommunion in the report on which you rely, the difference between paedocommunion and credocommunion, as you have presented it anyway, reduces to the difference between the presumption of faith and the manifestation of faith.

  108. rfwhite said,

    August 1, 2009 at 6:48 am

    106 Jack B: as we can see, there is no summary of a biblical defense of the presumption of early faith in the citation you provide. I don’t doubt that it appears elsewhere in Dr. Rayburn’s paper.

  109. Jack Bradley said,

    August 1, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Dr. White wrote:

    “the difference between paedocommunion and credocommunion, as you have presented it anyway, reduces to the difference between the presumption of faith and the manifestation of faith.”

    Yes. And that is the paradigmatic difference between credo and paedo.

  110. jared said,

    August 1, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    rfwhite,

    Re. #104

    If we define “good standing” simply as “free from indictment” then it’s pretty straightforward how a covenant child relates to good standing, i.e. he has it. As we have already agreed, covenant membership and “good standing” are not coextensive; but “good standing” is something one can have simply by virtue of membership. It seems to me, like in the U.S. justice system, covenant members are “innocent until proven guilty” of a sorts. Just as a U.S. citizen is born “innocent” (under the law), so covenant members are initiated into a “good standing” upon their admittance. I suppose that “good standing” could stand a better defining but I cannot find any official definition in the BCO. I know the term has its typical usage amongst formal organizations and their members; but the Church is not a formal organization like your Home Owners Association is an organization. You don’t have to pay any dues in order to become a member of the Church, they have already been paid in full by the Head. Did I answer your questions? Probably not satisfactorily, but I believe we are making progress nonetheless.

  111. jared said,

    August 1, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    rfwhite,

    I almost forgot the digression! Do you think if we celebrated the Supper as an actual meal that it might change our perspective about leaving the kiddies out?

  112. rfwhite said,

    August 1, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    109 Jack B: I’m not persuaded that the paradigmatic difference between credocom and paedocom is the presumption that faith is present. Rather, at least in our discussion, the paradigmatic difference is in the definition of a covenant member. That is, from the report citations you have provided, a covenant member is defined by the presumption that faith is present in him. Covenant membership is coextensive with faith. What is the biblical evidence for this?

  113. rfwhite said,

    August 1, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    110-111 Jared: It is certainly understandable that we would refer to one’s legal standing to define “good standing.” And yet, when the reference is God’s law, does that reference lead us to conclude in favor a child’s innocence or guilt? Granted our doctrine of original sin, to wit, that our children are conceived and born in sin and therefore are subject to condemnation, do we, as parents, not acknowledge our children’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit? What bearing, if any, do such questions have on our definition of “good standing”?

  114. Jack Bradley said,

    August 1, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    God’s covenant established with Abraham, Gen. 17:7, and reaffirmed repeatedly throughout Scripture, is biblical evidence enough that covenant children are to be accorded the presumption of faith.

    Hughes Oliphant Old, The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite, 133ff:

    The Reformers were quite willing to admit the existence of faith in children before the development of understanding. . . The simple childlike trust which children have before the age of reason is precisely the kind of faith which Jesus held up as exemplary to His disciples. . . Before children are able to make a reasonable judgment or even a conscious decision, they can have faith as a gift from God. This faith is a trusting and loving inclination toward God. Faith is something deeper than either the reason or the will. It is something which, by the grace of God, the Spirit plants within us.”

  115. rfwhite said,

    August 1, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    114 Jack B: thanks for the conversation.

  116. Jack Bradley said,

    August 1, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you, Dr. White.

  117. jared said,

    August 1, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    rfwhite,

    Re. #113,

    Great questions. To the first, it depends on whether or not the child is a member of the covenant. If they are, then we presume that Jesus’ atoning work has washed them as it has washed the rest of us. Why else would we baptise them? We don’t baptise them because we hope they will become believers someday, we baptise them because they are already believers having been born into the faith. So as to God’s law they have been baptised into Christ, into His death and resurrection; have they not? They are in “good standing” just as you and I are in this regard, are they not? As for needing the cleansing blood of Jesus and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, are we adults so sanctified as to not need it? So as parents we do, indeed, acknowledge our children’s need just as much as we acknowledge our own. And to the last question, well that’s the issue isn’t it. We still don’t have an agreeable definition of what “good standing” is, do we? I see you, here, trying to work in God’s law as a kind of “membership due” but even this doesn’t escape the reality for those who are “supposed” to be non-communicants. I still see no warrant for keeping them from the table. They aren’t being indicted by anyone and they haven’t broken God’s law any more than the rest of us. To require these very young “not-yet-full” members to “examine themselves” is (1) nonsensical given their faculties and (2) not implied or warranted at all given the text from which the requirement has been taken (1 Cor. 11).

    What else is there for someone to have “good standing”? Can you offer some substance here for me? If it’s not just being free of indictment and it isn’t some “membership dues” equivalent, what is it supposed to be in reference to?

  118. john k said,

    August 2, 2009 at 12:24 am

    (101, 105, 109) Jack, could it be you have in mind continuation in the sacrament while Dr. White is pressing the basis for admission to the sacrament as “presumption of faith” (in paedo) and “manifestation of faith” (in credo)? Are you back-pedaling on your post #94?

    If admission is qualified on both covenant membership and faith, then those who see “infant faith” as uncertain (because of original sin, e.g.), or simply too far inferior to the faith required by the Supper, will never be able to accept paedocommunion.

    By distinguishing admission and continuance, children can be admitted to the sacraments because of the covenant, without regard to their personal possession of faith. I’ll look again at the OPC report, but I was taking the quotes presented here as a presumed expectation of faith in children who are continuing in the covenant, and are being nurtured.

  119. Paige Britton said,

    August 2, 2009 at 6:09 am

    #99, Jack,

    Thanks for the interaction and your presumption of knowledge on my part!

    Yes, I do know that we are aiming for the “more biblical” defense here. But to borrow a phrase from Packer on paedobaptism, since paedocommunion is neither illustrated nor prescribed nor forbidden in the NT, everybody is starting from the same point of having to establish a theological defense for either practicing or not practicing PC. I’m going out on a limb here in this company, but I think that it’s possible to end up with a fair and reasonable attempt to explain each position biblically, without one of the two explanations being clearly “more” biblical than the other – though of course we will want to press (and rightly so) that the one we favor explains the biblical data best! The reason I am willing to entertain the possibility of something of a “draw” between the biblical arguments here is that I see a number of other factors weighing in when it comes to preferring PC over CC or vice-versa, and these factors seem to reflect the application of wisdom, experience, and reason to the issue, in addition to careful exegesis & theologizing.

    For example, both sides take into account the childhood process of learning and growing up in faith to a mature expression of belief, something that is not spelled out in detail in the NT (though of course it is suggested (2 Tim, etc.) – my point is that both sides elaborate on this process based on lived experience). My comment (#96) about the difficulty presented to the elders when such faith does not appear to manifest itself in a young communicant raises a question about the practicability of PC over CC. It seems to me possible that a persuasive element of the CC argument is the experienced reality that faith matures and manifests itself over time, and that given this fact of life, the wiser and kinder approach to admitting young ones to the table is “wait and see.” The alternative – admitting every baptized infant carte blanche from the beginning, and later having to decide how and when to exclude some of these young people from the feast – seems to me unnecessarily complicated and potentially harmful. But of course you and Jared can and do argue the same thing in reverse! I am just thinking that we really can’t set aside the **implications** of the biblical arguments, which are often matters of practical, experiential wisdom rather than direct revelation, when deciding which position is more persuasive.

    In a clumsy attempt to wrap around to Reed’s opening salvo, I’d even go so far as to suggest that it isn’t the “Directional Error” that is the deciding factor in the PC/CC debates, but the application of godly wisdom by the officers of the church to the whole picture of biblical data, theological reasoning, and the experienced reality of (among other things) the maturation and expression of personal faith in a baptized covenant child. Since the charge of a “Directional Error” can just as well be turned on the paedobaptists, I can’t see that this is a more persuasive plank in the CC counter-argument than the observation that wisdom might do well to err on the side of “wait and see.”

  120. rfwhite said,

    August 2, 2009 at 7:39 am

    118 John K: your comments are helpful, at least to me. When I first read the excerpts that Jack cited, I saw so much to agree with about the nuturing of faith, I had to say what I did in 87, namely that “You’ll get no argument from me that the Supper is part and parcel of nurture, aka discipleship.” Of course, the crux of that agreement is that faith is there to be nurtured. As someone has pointed out to me, Jack B has already acknowledged that the manifestation of faith is necessary, and this acknowledgement is itself a concession that the presumption of faith is not sufficient for continual admission to the Table. It is sufficient for initial admission only. Jack would presumably agree that, if the manifestation of faith is not ever necessary, then church officers have no basis ever for invoking 1 Cor 11 and fencing the Table, much less suspending from the Table. In the end, then, the paedocom has to abandon “admission by presumed faith” in favor of “admission only by manifested faith.” So much for admission by covenant membership.

  121. rfwhite said,

    August 2, 2009 at 7:58 am

    117 Jared: your comments presume that to be a covenant member is to be saved. If Rom 9-11 teach us anything, they teach us that covenant and salvation are not coterminous. So, at their covenant baptism, I presumed my children’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, not their possession of those benefits.

    118 Paige: I appreciate your comments very much. The wisdom to which you have referred is called for precisely at the point where the church officers pass from “presuming that faith is present” to “examining whether that faith is in fact manifested.” That examination is inescapable for both sides in this debate.

  122. jared said,

    August 2, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    rfwhite,

    I, likewise, presume you are saved because you are a covenant member. Being a covenant member entails being in Jesus, which entails faith, which entails salvation. I have said elsewhere that the only persons salvation I can be 100% sure about is my own; everyone else’s I must presume until otherwise demonstrated (and even then there is often responsibility to attempt bringing them back into fellowship). It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) surprise us when our children come to the point of making a “public profession”, it is their baptism producing the fruit of which it is a sign and seal. I can agree that salvation and covenant membership are not coterminous; it is not detrimental to my position to do so.

    Let me make this explicitly clear: we should not baptise unbelievers. In other words, we should not baptise those whom we do not presume to be saved or, at least, those whom we do not presume to have faith (whether personally or federally). It is because your children are covenant children that they possess the cleansing blood and renewing grace. If they are elect then they will continue on in the faith (i.e. in their possessing of those blessings) eventually obtaining the goal thereof (this is why we shouldn’t be surprised when they make their public profession). If they are not elect then their baptism will only bring them greater condemnation on the day of judgment. In either case, upon baptism they are, then, members in good standing as far as I can tell.

    Dr. White, if it helps, john k’s last paragraph in #118 nicely sums up how I see things. I think continuance should be contingent upon nurture and not absently based on the fact that one has initially been admitted. I also don’t think initial admittance should be denied (or postponed) until continuance can be “assured” (via public profession, etc.), that isn’t how nurture functions. You give them what they are worthy of until they are no longer worthy of it or until they are in danger of being unworthy. On the same plane, we cannot judge the condition of another man’s soul, though we can (and ought to) judge his current trajectory. It seems to me that once we are able to judge one’s trajectory, that is when we can rightfully fence the Table.

  123. Jack Bradley said,

    August 2, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Dr. White wrote:

    “Jack B has already acknowledged that the manifestation of faith is necessary, and this acknowledgement is itself a concession that the presumption of faith is not sufficient for continual admission to the Table. It is sufficient for initial admission only. Jack would presumably agree that, if the manifestation of faith is not ever necessary, then church officers have no basis ever for invoking 1 Cor 11 and fencing the Table, much less suspending from the Table.”

    Yes. I do agree, as you yourself note here. And I agree with the manifestation of faith eventually becoming necessary. How many times do I need to say that I have no problem with credo-communion, at the appropriate point? Of course the manifestation of faith is necessary at the appropriate point. But the manifestation of faith is not necessary *initially*, as you also note above.

    Your following statement, however, is a total disconnect: “In the end, then, the paedocom has to abandon ‘admission by presumed faith’ in favor of ‘admission only by manifested faith.’”

    Why would I have to do that? The conclusion does not follow the premise, the premise which you yourself accurately describe: “the presumption of faith is not sufficient for continual admission to the Table. It is sufficient for initial admission only.”

    Bingo. “Presumption of faith. . . sufficient for initial admission only.” Now, why do I have to abandon *admission* by presumed faith?

    Is it because I (gladly) concede that admission does NOT remain on the basis of presumed faith, but eventually on the basis of manifest faith? Of course. Otherwise, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, how could we bring appropriate discipline to covenant members? But, again, your conclusion does not follow your premise.

    One more time: Yes, I agree, that the *manifestation* of faith is necessary, at the appropriate point. Now, it is up to the elders to determine what the appropriate point is. No problem with any of that. No problem with credo-communion at that point. I hope that is finally clear.

    Big problem, however, admission to the Table by manifested faith of covenant children, i.e., the “wait and see” mentality by elders: “Well, let’s just wait and see how this kid is going to turn out—before we feed him, before we offer him a primary means of grace for his spiritual nourishment.”

    Big Problem. And another aspect of that big problem is that it engenders an atmosphere of suspicion around our covenant kids. You think kids don’t pick up such an atmosphere? Think again.

    Think about it. “Wait and see.” Rather than, “nourish and see.”

    Is it any wonder that the elders are still “waiting to see” when the covenant child is now a teenager? No wonder at all. The norm, in fact. I know of more than one Reformed minister who is still “waiting to see” when their children are well into their teen years. But they’re just being consistent with their “wait and see” mentality and atmosphere. And, let there be no doubt, with that mentality you’ll see plenty to reinforce the “practical wisdom” of continuing to fence your covenant kids from the covenant meal: every episode of sin and rebellion. No shortage of those as they grow up. And no shortage of those from communicant grownups in good standing. Hmm.

    Dr. White wrote: “You’ll get no argument from me that the Supper is part and parcel of nurture, aka discipleship. Of course, the crux of that agreement is that faith is there to be nurtured.”

    Yes. It is indeed the crux of the argument. We are going to presume one way or the other. Presumption is unavoidable. We either presume that there is faith to be nurtured, or, we PRESUME that there is no faith to be nurtured.

    I am glad, Dr. White, that I’ll get no argument from you that “the Supper is part and parcel of nurture, aka discipleship.” I actually have gotten plenty of argument from reformed elders over the years about this. They’ll bend over backwards to deny it, as they continue to deny the Supper to covenant children.

  124. rfwhite said,

    August 2, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    122 Jared: Three observations.

    In the same paragraph, you state that “being in covenant … entails salvation” and that “salvation and covenant membership are not coterminous.” Please explain how these two statements are not contradictory.

    When you affirm that “we should not baptise those whom we do not presume to be saved or, at least, those whom we do not presume to have faith (whether personally or federally),” how are you not reasoning like a credobaptist?

    By affirming that “upon baptism [our children] are, then, members in good standing as far as I can tell” you beg the question of what constitutes “good standing” and how it is determined.

  125. rfwhite said,

    August 2, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    122 Jared: You assert, “I also don’t think initial admittance should be denied (or postponed) until continuance can be ‘assured’ (via public profession, etc.), that isn’t how nurture functions.” I’m puzzled: who says “that isn’t how nurture functions”? Why can’t nurture involve denying someone a privilege until such time as they meet certain conditions?

  126. Jack Bradley said,

    August 2, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Geerhardus Vos, Shorter Writings, 263-265 (asterisked words italicized by Vos):

    “Beza writes: ‘The situation of children who are born of believing parents is a special one. They do not have in themselves that quality of faith which is in the adult believer. Yet it cannot be the case that those who have been sanctified by birth and have been separated from the children of unbelievers, do not have the seed and germ of faith. The promise, accepted by the parents in faith, also includes their children to a thousand generations. . . If it is objected that not all of them who are born of believing parents are elect, seeing that God did not choose all the children of Abraham and Isaac, we do not lack an answer. Though we do not deny that this is the case, still we say that this hidden judgment must be left to God and that *normally, by virtue of the promise, all* who have been born of believing parents, or if one of the parents believes, *are sanctified*.’”

    “Ursinus says: ‘infants. . . Paul calls them holy (I Cor. 7), and God says to all believers in the person of Abraham that He will be their God and the God of their seed. . . Our continual answer to the Anabaptists, when they appeal to the lack of faith in infants. . . is that the Holy Spirit works regeneration and the inclination to faith and obedience to God in them in a manner appropriate to their age, always with it understood that we leave the free mercy and heavenly election unbound and unpenetrated.”

    “Junius argues against the Anabaptists: ‘We call it false to argue that infants are completely incapable of faith; if they have faith in the principle of the habitus, [principle of grace] they have the Spirit of faith. . . For we maintain that in infants too the presence of the seed and the Spirit of faith and conversion is to be ascertained on the basis of divine blessing and the evangelical covenant.”

    I think this sheds further light, not only on the possibility of infant faith, but on the close connection I continue to make between presumed faith and covenant membership.

  127. rfwhite said,

    August 2, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    123 Jack B: I apologize that my statement — that “In the end, then, the paedocom has to abandon ‘admission by presumed faith’ in favor of ‘admission only by manifested faith’” — prompted consternation. All I was pointing out was that, at some point in the child’s life, the terms for his admission to the Table change from presumed faith to manifested faith. The terms of the child’s admission are not consistent throughout the life of the child.

    Interestingly enough, you observe this: “Is it because I (gladly) concede that admission does NOT remain on the basis of presumed faith, but eventually on the basis of manifest faith? Of course. Otherwise, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, how could we bring appropriate discipline to covenant members?”

    Now we’re getting somewhere. Can you explain why this question applies to the child’s continual admission to the Table and not to his initial admission to the Table?

  128. Jack Bradley said,

    August 2, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    Dr. White wrote: “Can you explain why this question applies to the child’s continual admission to the Table and not to his initial admission to the Table?”

    With all due respect, dear brother, if I haven’t been able to express that to your satisfaction by this point, I don’t hold much hope of doing so now.

  129. Reed Here said,

    August 2, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Jack, no. 128: with equal respect, you’ve not yet said anything that particularly addresses this issue. I’d hope you might consider that what you’ve perceived is a pointed response has been anything but.

    P.S., I’m the one who made the comment to Dr. White about the inconsistency in what you’ve said concerning this topic. Please, try again, why is there a difference between the initial admission to the table, and the ongoing participation, and how do you remove the appearance of contradiction?

  130. rfwhite said,

    August 2, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    128 Jack B: I regret it if I have tried your patience or have contributed to your consternation. But Reed is right about my intention at least. I aim to ask a new question, one that you haven’t addressed. Indulge me, please.

    You acknowledge that there is a change in the terms for continued admission to the Table over the course of the child’s life. Okay. You then ask, “otherwise, … how could we bring appropriate discipline to covenant members?” What I’m hearing is this: It is evident that you are concerned to bring appropriate discipline to covenant members for continued admission to the Table. The question I intended to ask was this: are you concerned to bring appropriate discipline to covenant members for initial admission to the Table? If so, what is the appropriate discipline for initial admission to the Table?

  131. Jack Bradley said,

    August 2, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Reed & Dr. White,

    Maybe sleeping on it will help me see that I haven’t already answered this. I’ve got a morning commitment, but will get back to you as soon as possible.

    And the apologies are mine, for my impatience and consternation.

  132. jared said,

    August 2, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    rfwhite,

    Re. #124,

    (1) We speak and see from our perspective, not God’s. We know a little bit about God’s perspective (what He has deigned to reveal to us in His word) but we cannot see or judge from it. When our eschatology becomes fully realized then the two will be coterminous. In the end only the eternally elect will be in the covenant. But that is not the case right now and that is why it’s possible for covenant membership to negatively affect one’s spiritual condition (e.g. their membership culminating in greater judgment). So while covenant membership entails salvation it certainly does not necessarily guarantee it in every individual case. My point, here, is that we don’t start out by presuming a covenant member is unsaved. I could have been more clear about this, I apologize.

    (2) Because paedobaptists, unlike credobaptists, presume their children have salvation/faith by virtue of being born to covenant parents. That is, we believe the child is federally represented via the believing parent(s) and, thus, is “qualified” to receive baptism. This is one of the areas in which I think the Federal Vision critique is spot on, an area in which I sympathize with them. Let me try tp say this more clearly. We don’t baptise infants only because the parents are covenant members but because children are also, themselves, covenant members.

    (3) In fact I don’t do any begging of the sort. You have not contested, at all, my definition of “good standing” and who determines it. According to the way “good standing” has been defined, it is by inaction on the part of the session that all members of the church are in good standing. Since baptism is what initiates church membership, by default, then, infants (and adults) are in good standing unless the session determines otherwise.

    Now, the PCA has an unjustified provision for this situation; namely that they don’t acknowledge children as “full” members until they make a public profession. Methinks there’s a little credobaptist thinking that has slipped through the presbyterian cracks on this point. At least the credobaptist is consistent, they view both sacraments as privileges which one must “earn”. They understand (rightly, I think) that if one is baptised then one should have a seat at the Table (excluding those being punished, of course).

    Re. #125,

    You say,

    I’m puzzled: who says “that isn’t how nurture functions”? Why can’t nurture involve denying someone a privilege until such time as they meet certain conditions?

    I say that isn’t how nurture functions. But I’m not in the habit of denying my children food either, so maybe I’m out of the loop? I quite agree that nurture can (and does) involve denying a privilege until such a time as certain conditions are met; I just disagree that eating is one such privilege. The objection can be raised that the Supper is a special kind of meal to which I offer the reply: all the more reason to include everyone. Well, everyone who isn’t being sat in the corner… Oh, and being born and unable to talk isn’t a good reason to sit someone in a corner while everyone else is feasting. I hope I don’t have to explain why on this one.

  133. rfwhite said,

    August 3, 2009 at 7:29 am

    132 Jared: it is clear that your patience with my questions has worn too thin. Perhaps you will respond differently if someone else takes up my side of the discussion.

  134. jared said,

    August 3, 2009 at 9:44 am

    rfwhite,

    Not at all; I don’t feel exasperated in the least. I’m just sort of boggling over being the only one answering questions even though I know I’ve asked a couple of good ones. Let me take this little break to rephrase and re-ask them:

    1. What do you think “good standing” means? How does one obtain/maintain it?

    2. Are baptised children members of the covenant yet not members of the church? what is the warrant for having a partial/full structure for church membership?

    3. How does Jesus’ treatment of children play into the credocommunion position?

    4. How does one extrapolate that Paul’s “requirements” from 1 Cor. 11 apply across the board to all members including those members who aren’t capable of meeting the requirements? This seems to be the only place in Scripture where such a thing is done.

    I do appreciate our interaction, Dr. White. Though it may not seem like it, it has helped me to understand the credo position more deeply while at the same time requiring me to be more clear about my own position. If you still desire to pass the mantle, as it were, I certainly will not hold it against you. I’m sure you have more important matters upon which to spend your time than bantering with someone as obstinate as myself.

  135. Paige Britton said,

    August 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    In #123, Jack wrote:
    “Big problem, however, admission to the Table by manifested faith of covenant children, i.e., the “wait and see” mentality by elders: “Well, let’s just wait and see how this kid is going to turn out—before we feed him, before we offer him a primary means of grace for his spiritual nourishment.”

    This is just an informational question, so please don’t take it as somehow judgmental: Is there a difference between, say, a PCA understanding of “means of grace” and an OPC understanding of it? I am wondering if maybe there is in the OPC/paedocom argument that Jack expresses here (that an infant or young child would be denied “a primary means of grace for his spiritual nourishment” if kept from the Table) an understanding that the child can only be “nourished” if he partakes of this meal? Does this make the meal something more than a PCA understanding would expect it to be? Is the OPC understanding that sharing in the meal brings nourishment, or that sharing in the meal *plus faith* brings nourishment (thus presuming faith in the child communicant)? Why are catechesis & a bringing up in the nurture & admonition of the Lord not effective sources of “nourishment”? And is Christ’s desire to nourish the church (Eph. 5:29) somehow stymied by all those churches that do not practice paedocommunion?

    Jack, if you can stand another question, you also write about the troublesome trend of “waiting to see” if a child manifests faith, noting that this can end up being a perpetual waiting game, since any child (or adult) is up and down in their “episodes of sin.” I see your frustration with the “practical wisdom” approach – it does not seem very practical from that perspective. But I am puzzled, because this is exactly the point that I would expect the paedocom approach also to be loaded with frustration and difficulty – just how and when do elders identify the difference between rocky adolescence and an obvious lack of faith? Does the paedocom understanding mean, do you think, that more grace is extended to a child because he has been considered a believer from the beginning, so that the rocky times are more likely to be identified as the normal struggles of a Christian, rather than (in the opposite view) yet more data that convince the elders to keep on waiting and watching?

  136. Todd said,

    August 3, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Paige,

    The PCA and OPC take the same stance against PC. A majority report can simply mean on a certain committee thirty years ago at a GA three men were PC while two were not, but the OPC clearly rejected that majority report, and as far as I know at least 95% of OPC officers are against PC.

    Todd

  137. jared said,

    August 3, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Todd,

    Is that like how 95% of PCA officers are against FV?

  138. Paige Britton said,

    August 4, 2009 at 4:48 am

    #136, Todd,
    Okay, thanks for straightening me out about the OPC — what I mean to ask (of anybody who knows) is, are there two understandings among Reformed folks regarding the “means of grace,” at least when it comes to the Supper? It seems that the PC interpretation, that a child would lack nourishment if not fed on the Supper, is in some way a ” higher” view of the Supper than a CC view, which does not seem worried about neglecting the children’s nourishment.

    Is the difference merely that PC folks presume faith in a baptized covenant child, and CC folks do not? So that the view of the Supper is the same — partaking it in faith = nourishment — but the view of the participants is different?

    But does this mean that CC folks necessarily presume *unbelief* in a baptized child? I find this hard to fathom (though this might just show up my ignorance of CC), since common sense would say that we just don’t know. But if in ignorance of the child’s spiritual condition CC folks feel safe denying him the Supper, doesn’t this suggest that PC and CC proponents interpret the efficacy of this means of grace differently?

  139. Todd said,

    August 4, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Paige,

    I think you have hit the nail on the head. We do not know whether the child is elect. The difference is in our belief in the efficacy of the Meal. This is why the Reformed and Presb. churches have opposed PC since the Reformation. If the only argument for PC is the inclusion argument, it wouldn’t be so bad. The inclusion argument is that covenant children should be included in the whole worship service. So some might argue that even though children cannot sing the songs or understand the sermon, by being there in worship they are a part of the life of the church, and get used to it as they grow up; the same being true of communion. While I don’t think that inclusion in everything is necessary at that young age, it to me is a liveable argument.

    But notice that the PC arguments on this thread go beyond inclusion – they move to feeding or starving children. Somehow the Supper feeds children spiritually even before they can understand and demonstrate saving faith. As much as the PC advocates deny it, they are moving in a sacerdotal direction with this thinking. The Supper is giving grace apart from understanding. The Supper especially, given it’s active element, must be received with faith and understanding to be effectual, or it becomes superstition. Calvin’s quotes below might help:

    “This distinction is very clearly pointed out in Scripture. For there, as far as regards baptism, the Lord makes no selection of age, whereas he does not admit all to partake of the Supper, but confines it to those who are fit to discern the body and blood of the Lord, to examine their own conscience, to show forth the Lord’s death, and understand its power. Can we wish anything clearer than what the apostle says, when he thus exhorts, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup?”

    If they cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord’s body, why should we stretch out poison to our young children instead of vivifying food? Then what is our Lord’s injunction? “Do this in remembrance of me.” And what the inference which the apostle draws from this? “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” How, pray, can we require infants to commemorate any event of which they have no understanding; how require them to “show forth the Lord’s death,” of the nature and benefit of which they have no idea? Nothing of the kind is prescribed by baptism. Wherefore, there is the greatest difference between the two signs. This also we observe in similar signs under the old dispensation. Circumcision, which, as is well known, corresponds to our baptism, was intended for infants, but the Passover, for which the Supper is substituted, did not admit all kinds of guests promiscuously, but was duly eaten only by those who were of an age sufficient to ask the meaning of it, (Exod. 12: 26.) Had these men the least particle of soundness in their brain, would they be thus blind as to a matter so very clear and obvious?” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 16, Section 30)

    “Whoever approaches the Sacrament with contempt or indifference, not caring much about following when the Lord calls him…, pollutes it…. To pollute…, is intolerable blasphemy…. St. Paul denounces such heavy condemnation – on all who take it unworthily (First Corinthians 11:29). For if there is nothing in Heaven nor on Earth of greater price and dignity than the body and blood of the Lord – it is no slight fault to take it inconsiderately and without being well prepared!… If we would worthily communicate in the Lord’s Supper – we must, with firm heart-felt reliance, regard the Lord Jesus as our only righteousness.”

    “What mockery would it be to go in search of food – when we have no appetite! Now, to have a good appetite, it is not enough that the stomach be empty. It must also be in good order – and capable of receiving its food.
    Hence, it follows that our souls must be pressed with famine and have a desire and ardent longing to be fed – in order to find their proper nourishment in the Lord’s Supper…. To fancy Jesus Christ enclosed under bread and wine, or so to conjoin Him with it as to amuse our
    understanding there, without looking up to Heaven – is a diabolical reverie!”
    (Calvin’s 1540 Short Treatise on the Supper of Our Lord)

  140. Paige Britton said,

    August 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Todd,
    Thank you, that clarifies things for me regarding positions on the Sacraments in this debate. (Though I regret that Calvin is not more reticent to clarify his personal feelings about his opponents!)

    Hey, if anybody (from either p.o.v.) has any Further Reading suggestions on this topic, I’d love to know of any authors, books & articles that come to mind.

    Thanks, all, for this interesting discussion.

  141. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 4, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    “But notice that the PC arguments on this thread go beyond inclusion – they move to feeding or starving children. Somehow the Supper feeds children spiritually even before they can understand and demonstrate saving faith.”

    Actually, neither of the PC advocates in this discussion have made this move in the argument. It might be better in this context to deal with Jack and Jared directly, as not a few participants are doing, than to “notice” arguments that haven’t been made here.

    “As much as the PC advocates deny it, they are moving in a sacerdotal direction with this thinking.”

    Let’s try a little experiment:

    “Baptism especially, given it’s active element, must be received with faith and understanding to be effectual, or it becomes superstition.”

    Wouldn’t this be the case? Does baptism all by itself, without faith, do any good? No. So how do we make this argument against PC without it also applying formally against PB?

    And, like David Gadbois in the previous thread, you’ve simply asserted a superstitious or sacerdotal foundation to PC thinking without actually demonstrating it. None of the argument advanced here shows any sort of superstition, so again it is helpful to deal with what is said rather than attribute motives.

  142. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 4, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Similarly, the instruction is very clear “Repent and be baptized,” but we admit children to baptism without their having done the first part of that. Why is the command in 1 Cor. 11 different?

  143. Jack Bradley said,

    August 4, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Dear brothers,

    I’m convinced that Paedocom is an outgrowth of consistent covenantalism. Consistent covenantalism entails continuum. As opposed to a baptistic conversion model, covenantalists hold to a continuum understanding of the faith of covenant children. We’re not concentrating on the moment of regeneration, although we believe there must be a moment. We’re concentrating on catechizing rather than converting. We realize that conversion may well happen during catechizing, but that is not the focus. The focus of catechizing is nurture and admonition.

    Nurture and admonition presume faith. I hope we all agree on that. That should not be in the least controversial. Again, presumption is not assertion. We are not asserting that they have faith. But we are presuming that they have faith in catechizing, nurturing, admonishing our covenant kids. Of course we are presuming, unless we offer these things presuming that the Word is going to return void.

    So, we are presuming some level of faith in covenant children—from earliest days. Paedocom says: since we are presuming faith in nurturing/catechizing our children from earliest days, let’s be consistent, and provide this primary means of grace/nurture from earliest days. Let’s be consistently covenantal.

    We are not being consistently covenantal in our practice of fencing the Table from covenant kids. We are baptistically demanding the manifestation of their faith, rather than seeing our covenant responsibility to nurture their faith—faith which we are already presuming in catechizing them.

    And what, particularly, is that manifestation of faith supposed to look like? That’s a serious question. What qualifies as a sufficient manifestation of their faith? This is where so many want to drag in I Cor. 11. Okay. Let’s grant the point, for the sake of argument. Let’s say, even though I think the entire context is against it, that “discerning the body” means a sufficient understanding of the person and work of Christ. Remember what Calvin, in the context of the Lord’s Supper, said about the sufficiency of his understanding of the person and work of Christ: “I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare. And to speak more plainly, I rather experience than understand it.” [Inst. IV 17.32]

    Now, back to the question: What qualifies as a sufficient manifestation of faith for covenant children to be granted access to the Table? What, specifically, are we waiting to see?
    OPC Report: “We are not arguing that faith is more necessary for the right participation of an adult in the Lord’s Supper than in the case of a child. We are rather addressing the question of how that faith should be expected to manifest itself in each case, and the criteria the church should use in evaluating that faith with respect to the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. . . From the perspective of this covenant-nurture paradigm, conversion, repentance, faith, obedience, and admission to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the case of covenant children need rethinking. These need not be tied closely to certain age, nor to an identifiable experience or event. Rather they are seen as existing and growing over years. . . Faith in the covenant child will more likely express itself in a growing understanding of God, his promises, and the gracious relationship that exists between God and his people. It will feed upon the training received from the Word of God, and will be confirmed and strengthened by a proper use of all the means of grace.”
    Consistent covenantal continuum: “faith should be expected to manifest itself. . . in a growing understanding of God. . .”

    I hope it is clear that this consistent covenantalism answers my supposed inconsistency in maintaining the legitimacy of a difference between the initial admission to the table, and the ongoing participation. “Faith should be expected to manifest itself.”

    As the Report goes on to say: “The adult convert [which would also encompass the category of ‘maturing covenant child’] is then obligated to live an ongoing life of faith and obedience, and, should he be found delinquent in doctrine or life, he is subject to the discipline of the Lord, administered within the church (formally) by the elders. Such discipline may include suspension or expulsion from participation in the Lord’s Supper (Mt. 18:15-20;1 Cor. 5:6-8).”

    Last, I do appreciate Joshua’s exposing Todd’s misunderstanding/Red Herring.

    And one Calvin quote deserves another (Commentary on Genesis 17:9):

    “…a sacrament is nothing else than a visible word, or sculpture and image of that grace of God, which the word more fully illustrates. If, then, there is a mutual relation between the word and faith, it follows, that the proposed end and use of sacraments is to help, promote and confirm faith. But they who deny that sacraments are supports to faith, or that they aid the word in strengthening faith, must of necessity expunge the name of covenant.”

    Again, I so much appreciate Dr. White’s words: “the Supper is part and parcel of nurture, aka discipleship.” Let’s be consistently covenantal and apply the truth of this to the nurture and discipleship of our covenant children.

  144. Todd said,

    August 4, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I wrote:

    “But notice that the PC arguments on this thread go beyond inclusion – they move to feeding or starving children. Somehow the Supper feeds children spiritually even before they can understand and demonstrate saving faith.”

    Joshua responded:

    “Actually, neither of the PC advocates in this discussion have made this move in the argument. It might be better in this context to deal with Jack and Jared directly, as not a few participants are doing, than to “notice” arguments that haven’t been made here.”

    Yet Jared wrote in # 66

    “I’m curious, now, do you think Jesus would have staid the hand of an “unapproved by the Session” child? I recall the disciples being rebuked at least once for preventing them just from touching Him. How much greater would that rebuke be for not letting them feed on Him?”

    You be the judge.

    And none of you have refuted Wilson’s accusation that CCers are “starving children.” I guess it’s never below the belt if DW says it.

  145. David Gadbois said,

    August 4, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Joshua said And, like David Gadbois in the previous thread, you’ve simply asserted a superstitious or sacerdotal foundation to PC thinking without actually demonstrating it.

    I think it is obvious to most why Todd and I would say that. But to spell it out – it is simply a necessary premise of the paedocom position. If active faith is not required in the Supper, then one can participate in the Supper and commune with the risen Christ simply by physically eating the elements. That is a thoroughly superstitious premise. The PC position needs this premise in order to reach the conclusion that infants should be included since they are capable of participating in this manner (ie. they can chew food).

    Now, to be fair, there is a contingent of PCers who are uncomfortable with this line of reasoning. They will admit the necessity of faith, but then shore up their position by cobbling together an equally superstitious view of infant faith. Usually this manifests itself in a view of ‘faith’ that does not include notitia as a constituent, essential element of faith. This contradicts both our confession and the biblical testimony on the nature of faith.

  146. Jack Bradley said,

    August 4, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    David,

    You are certainly entitled to that opinion. You are of course indicting these Reformers (114, 126) of a superstitious view of infant faith.

    Paige, in answer to your earlier question: “Does the paedocom understanding mean, do you think, that more grace is extended to a child because he has been considered a believer from the beginning, so that the rocky times are more likely to be identified as the normal struggles of a Christian, rather than (in the opposite view) yet more data that convince the elders to keep on waiting and watching?”

    Yes.

  147. David Gadbois said,

    August 4, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Joshua said “Baptism especially, given it’s active element, must be received with faith and understanding to be effectual, or it becomes superstition.”

    Wouldn’t this be the case? Does baptism all by itself, without faith, do any good? No. So how do we make this argument against PC without it also applying formally against PB?

    First, baptism and the Supper aren’t interchangable since, as Todd noted, the latter has an active element to it. Baptism is passive.

    Second, yes, in baptism one is formally received as a member of the visible church, with or without faith. It does do some good.

  148. David Gadbois said,

    August 4, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Jack said Consistent covenantalism entails continuum. As opposed to a baptistic conversion model, covenantalists hold to a continuum understanding of the faith of covenant children

    You speak as if this is an obvious tautology. Believing that children are members of the covenant does not entail believing anything in particular about their faith.

    Nurture and admonition presume faith. I hope we all agree on that. That should not be in the least controversial.

    I don’t agree. Nurture and admonition create faith as well, so don’t necessarily presume faith.

    You are certainly entitled to that opinion. You are of course indicting these Reformers (114, 126) of a superstitious view of infant faith.

    1. Yes, I’m quite aware that various Reformers believed in infant faith. This doesn’t change my assesement. Some superstitions die hard.

    2. Very often the older views of infant faith were really referring to ‘seed faith’, which is not an equivalent category to saving faith (which included knowledge, assent, and trust). In other words, they didn’t let ‘seed faith’ substitute functionally for saving faith. Which probably explains why they weren’t paedocommunionists.

  149. Jack Bradley said,

    August 4, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    David wrote: “Believing that children are members of the covenant does not entail believing anything in particular about their faith.”

    I assume then that you would not be comfortable with Calvin’s children’s catechism:

    Q. My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?
    A. Yes, my father.
    Q. How is this known to you?
    A. Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    David, it is a reformed commonplace that the children of believers are to be treated as Christians on the strength of the promise and mark of the covenant and their membership in the covenant community. I think it’s safe to say that this entails believing something in particular about their faith.

  150. watchblack said,

    August 4, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    FYI, here is a link to a letter/article I wrote for my congregation (OPC) explaining why we do not practice paedocommunion:

    http://patrickspensees.wordpress.com/2009/08/02/a-pastoral-letter-on-paedocommunion/

    Patrick

  151. David Gadbois said,

    August 4, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    David, it is a reformed commonplace that the children of believers are to be treated as Christians on the strength of the promise and mark of the covenant and their membership in the covenant community. I think it’s safe to say that this entails believing something in particular about their faith.

    I don’t think so. In this context ‘Christian’ is an equivalent category to ‘visible church’. Some people in the visible church don’t have faith.

  152. David Gray said,

    August 4, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    >I don’t think so. In this context ‘Christian’ is an equivalent category to ‘visible church’. Some people in the visible church don’t have faith.

    So when Calvin says “My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?” he’s just referring to the visible church?

  153. David Gadbois said,

    August 4, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    David Gray said So when Calvin says “My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?” he’s just referring to the visible church?

    Well, yeah. Being a member of the visible church is a significant fact, and not just a nominal category or label.

  154. jared said,

    August 4, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Todd,

    Re. #144,

    How about let me be the judge? I don’t think denying children the Supper is necessarily starving them. They are fed spiritually in other ways (e.g. godly parenting), but that should not be used as an excuse to deny them this important part of their nourishment. So, in fact, I have not made the argument you are accusing me of and neither would I, therefore, agree with Wilson’s position in this regard.

  155. Jack Bradley said,

    August 4, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    David,

    Your “member of a visible church” reading is facile. Calvin is obviously presupposing the presence of faith, and training the child to presuppose the same, or else he would be *misleading* the child being catechized.

  156. Todd said,

    August 4, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Jared,

    So we could be starving them, but not necessarily. Okay, a bit nicer I guess. But you said children feed upon Christ in the sacrament even before notitia, that is the argument I am accusing you of.

  157. Jack Bradley said,

    August 4, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Todd,

    I, for one, plead guilty as charged. Children feed upon Christ in the sacrament even before notitia.

    If you say that some recognizable form of notitia must be present for there to be genuine faith, you must also say that all infants dying in infancy are damned, because they don’t have the notitia.

  158. Todd said,

    August 4, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Jack,

    How is Christ communing with that one year old apart from notitia? How is that child receiving the blessings of Christ through/by the sacrament?

  159. Jack Bradley said,

    August 4, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Todd,

    A related question: Could a Van Til feed upon Christ in the sacrament, after he became deeply senile?

  160. Jack Bradley said,

    August 4, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    And what about those infants dying in infancy without notitia?

  161. David Gadbois said,

    August 4, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    Jack said Calvin is obviously presupposing the presence of faith, and training the child to presuppose the same, or else he would be *misleading* the child being catechized.

    How is Calvin ‘obviously” presupposing any such thing? That could only be established if Calvin explicitly expounded upon his use of the term ‘Christian’ at this juncture.

    How would a child be mislead by establishing his Christian identity on the basis of his baptism? I don’t follow.

    If you say that some recognizable form of notitia must be present for there to be genuine faith, you must also say that all infants dying in infancy are damned, because they don’t have the notitia.

    Unless of course God should save infants based on His electing will outside of the normal means of faith.

  162. jared said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Todd,

    A lot nicer, if you think about it. There’s nothing “superstitious” about what you’re accusing me of either, now that it’s clarified some.

  163. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Yes, David, you don’t follow.

  164. GLW Johnson said,

    August 5, 2009 at 7:58 am

    watchblack #150
    Very good explaination on your blog. But I see that our friends on the other side of this issue have avoided it altogether which makes sense seeing that they can’t argue their position by appealing to the WCF.

  165. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 8:00 am

    GLW,

    I suppose we could interact with every point of Patrick’s paper, but in light of the discussion thus far, it would be rather redundant.

  166. GLW Johnson said,

    August 5, 2009 at 8:07 am

    JB
    You would admit-Doug Wilson has- that your position is completely out of harmony with the WFC?

  167. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Yes, of course, particularly in light of WLC 171. In a broader sense, however, I think it is true to the entire system of doctrine. I think the divines were inconsistent here, understandable as this inconsistency was at that historical juncture.

    I can see that statement opening up a whole new dimension of the discussion, but that’s all I’m going to say about it for now.

  168. GLW Johnson said,

    August 5, 2009 at 8:38 am

    JB
    Please- That tack has been taken down through years by the New School Presbyterians and likes of Charles Briggs who didn’t like what the Confession said about thi or that and in their infinite wisdom charged the divines with being confused and therfore inconsistent. You are the one guilty inconsistency.

  169. Paige Britton said,

    August 5, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Backing up more than a little bit, my questions (#135 and #138) regarding a PC understanding of the means of grace in the Supper, raising the issue of whether there are different interpretations of the means of grace between PC and CC proponents, were based on these statements made by Jack:

    (#123) Big problem, however, admission to the Table by manifested faith of covenant children, i.e., the “wait and see” mentality by elders: “Well, let’s just wait and see how this kid is going to turn out—before we feed him, before we offer him a primary means of grace for his spiritual nourishment.” …Think about it. “Wait and see.” Rather than, “nourish and see.”

    Todd’s confirmation (#139) of my puzzlement over the view of the sacrament that Jack suggests here has sparked some consternation. I’ll agree with Joshua Smith (#141) that in Jack’s comment, at least, there is no direct statement about nourishment v. starvation — and yet, intentional or not, there is enough of a dichotomy presented here in Jack’s words to have raised the question in my mind, which is striking because I am a total newcomer to the topic. Obviously Todd & David Gadbois have more background than I do in this discussion, and as it appears to be an old point of contention, they have maybe filled in some blanks in a way that others might not have done.

    Again, I would be glad to read more on both sides. I am beginning to piece together what the PC view is of the spiritual harm CCers do by fencing children from the table, though I begin to suspect this is a question that different PCers would answer differently. Jack’s comment seemed to suggest that it is to him a serious difference, as if between nourishment and starvation (even though these antonyms were not used), and for this reason I asked for clarification.

  170. Todd said,

    August 5, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Jack,

    Are you going to answer the question in # 158?

  171. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 9:24 am

    As soon as you answer 159 & 160.

  172. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 9:26 am

    GLW,

    Do you broad-brush everyone who sees any inconsistencies in the Westminster Standards with the likes of Briggs?

  173. Todd said,

    August 5, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Jack,

    You assert that people can feed upon Christ in the Supper without notitia, I ask you how, and you cannot answer directly? Hmmm… If someone in your church asked you the question, what would you say?

  174. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Hmm. . . what would you say if someone asked you my questions?

    I’m really not trying to be cute, Todd. I’m going to answer. But I think it would be instructive to have your answers first. Do you have answers?

  175. Todd said,

    August 5, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Jack,

    Okay – I’ll bite – If a man is so senile that he cannot understand language anymore, then if he is sitting in a worship service but not understanding the sermon, no, the sermon is not nourishing his soul – the same with the Supper. Your turn.

  176. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Wow. I appreciate your candor, brother: functional excommunication. Better yet, out the door with the senile, since they’re just taking up space.

    Okay. I believe my view can account for both a Van Til and an infant. Infants (and the senile) may possess faith in spite of their verbal inability to articulate it. Ordinarily, of course, paedo-faith will grow into intelligent, propositional, articulated faith. But notitia is not the essence of faith. The essence of faith is trust–relational trust.

    We Calvinists need to be careful not to exalt notitia above fiducia. You, no doubt, will say that we cannot have trust without notitia. I disagree, as did these Reformers, obviously. I find it significant that many of the Reformers went on the record in their belief in paedo-faith. Paedo-faith is not just a potential (seed) faith, it is faith appropriate to the personhood of the child.

    Let’s not lapse back into the Greek view of the primacy of the intellect. I think that is what Calvin was getting at in that quote–that one (even a Calvin) does not understand a mystery, one experiences it.

    Todd, I hope you know me well enough to know that I’m not “a Christian mystic”. Drives me crazy when believers say that. I have no room for the theological laziness that hides behind such a moniker. But I’m with Calvin on this one: “I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare. And to speak more plainly, I rather experience than understand it.”

    For this reason, I think Calvin is a bit inconsistent elsewhere regarding qualifications for the Table—being overly cognitive and not fully relational.

    Our covenant children have the ability to receive Christ’s blessing at the table every bit as much as the infants (brephos) in Matthew 19 could receive His blessing. They can trust Him every bit as much as David, in Psalm 22: “You made me trust while on my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon You from birth.”

    I’d still like to hear your answer regarding infants dying in infancy.

  177. Todd said,

    August 5, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Jack,

    You have not really answered the question. You explained that covenant infants *can* have faith, and thus *can* receive Christ’s blessings at the Table. My question was not, *can* they, but, *how*? How do they receive the blessings of Christ through the Supper. How does Christ communicate these blessings is the question.

  178. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Todd,

    I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare.

    Please do answer the other question.

  179. Todd said,

    August 5, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Jack,

    First of all, how you come to the conclusion that because a man cannot understand a word a preacher says he is not benefitting from that sermon, that saying that functionally ex-communicates that man is beyond all logic. As far as infants dying in infancy, if you are asking if they can be elect and go to heaven, the answer is yes. If you are asking if infants benefit spiritually if someone forcefeeds them the bread and wine, the answer is no.

  180. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Aside from the caricature (forcefeeds), I appreciate the answer, Todd. Glad to know that dying infants are saved without notitia.

    Of course we wouldn’t want to say they can receive a blessing from Christ (other than salvation) apart from notitia , would we?

    I would be interested in how do you do explain the blessing of Matthew 19.

  181. Todd said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Jack,

    In Matt 19, the blessing on the infants did not at that moment mystically transfer salvivic, spiritual grace to the infants. His blessing was the blessing of being chosen to be raised in the visible church, with all its privileges (Rom 9:4). This is why the reformers used Matt 19:15 as a proof-text for infant baptism, not paedo-communion. Suggesting that infants receive salvivic, spiritual blessings from Christ through the sacraments, dare I say it, is a Roman idea, not a Protestant one.

  182. David Gray said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    >I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare.

    That strikes me as very much like Calvin…

  183. jared said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Todd,

    You say,

    His blessing was the blessing of being chosen to be raised in the visible church, with all its privileges (Rom 9:4).

    With the obvious exception of the privilege of the Supper I guess?

  184. David Gadbois said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Jack said Wow. I appreciate your candor, brother: functional excommunication.

    It is actually a common policy to exclude the senile from communion in Reformed churches. See, for example, the report published by churches of my own denomination:

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

    Since we don’t see the Supper as a mark that runs in lock-step with church membership, there is no ‘functional excommunication’.

    But notitia is not the essence of faith. The essence of faith is trust–relational trust.

    That’s not what we confess about faith in HC 21.

    The problem is that if there is no notitia then Christ is not the object of faith. This is light-years away from the biblical conception of faith.

    Let’s not lapse back into the Greek view of the primacy of the intellect.

    The belief that the intellect is, among other things, required in saving faith does not mean it has primacy. Your view is that not only does the intellect not have primacy, it is not required at all.

    Of course we wouldn’t want to say they can receive a blessing from Christ (other than salvation) apart from notitia , would we?

    You are missing the point. In exceptional circumstances (like an infant death) God uses exceptional means to save His people. We don’t normalize the condition of lacking faith on this account.

  185. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Todd,

    It appears that Calvin has a more immediate view of the benefits of this blessing than you allow for.

    Calvin commentary on Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16:

    “This narrative is highly useful; for it shows that Christ receives not only those who, moved by holy desire and faith, freely approach to him, but those who are not yet of age to know how much they need his grace. Those little children have not yet any understanding to desire his blessing; but when they are presented to him, he gently and kindly receives them, and dedicates them to the Father by a solemn act of blessing. We must observe the intention of those who present the children; for if there had not been a deep-rooted conviction in their minds, that the power of the Spirit was at his disposal, that he might pour it out on the people of God, it would have been unreasonable to present their children. There is no room, therefore, to doubt, that they ask for them a participation of his grace; and so, by way of amplification, Luke adds the particle also; as if he had said that, after they had experienced the various ways in which he assisted adults, they formed an expectation likewise in regard to children, that, if he laid hands on them, *they would not leave him without having received some of the gifts of the Spirit.*

    . . . He declares that he wishes to receive children; and at length, taking them in his arms, he not only embraces, but blesses them by the laying on of hand; from which we infer that his grace is extended even to those who are of that age. . . Infants are renewed by the Spirit of God, according to the capacity of their age, till that power which was concealed within them grows by degrees, and becomes fully manifest at the proper time.”

    [asterisks mine]

    I’m still interested in what you do with Psalm 22. What does “trust” mean there?

  186. David Gadbois said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Jared said With the obvious exception of the privilege of the Supper I guess?

    It is not an exception at all. Some priveleges simply come in their own season.

  187. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    “God uses exceptional means to save His people.”

    I couldn’t have said it any better, David.

  188. Todd said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Jack,

    The Psalm 22 verse has been dealt with many times on this list, I don’t need to return there. What is your argument against the Roman Catholic view of infant baptism, that Christ washes away their original sin though baptism? Is it not possible in your view?

  189. David Gadbois said,

    August 5, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Jack said I’m still interested in what you do with Psalm 22. What does “trust” mean there?

    Of course you know I believe this passage is an example of poetic hyperbole.

    But let’s consider if David really did know and trust God savingly. That would entail that Yahweh was the object of that trust, so there was notitia involved. In Psalm 22 Yahweh is the object of that trust.

    But it would entail more than simply knowledge of God as Creator, but knowledge of God as Redeemer, specifically a knowledge of God as Redeemer in the coming Messiah. But this goes beyond general revelation or anything that can be said to be innate knowledge. That would be special revelation, meaning that David would have had to have special revelation miraculously implanted with this knowledge even from the womb.

    You can say that this was an exceptional circumstance (since David held prophetic as well as kingly roles), but there is no warrant for normalizing this experience. Romans 10 tells us that a preacher is required for us to hear the Gospel and come to faith.

  190. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    David,

    Calvin doesn’t share your hyperbolic view. Commentary on Psalm 22:9-10:

    “We ought to regard it as an established principle, that as God never wearies in the exercise of his liberality, and as the most exuberant bestowment cannot exhaust his riches, it follows that, as we have experienced him to be a father from our earliest infancy, he will show himself the same towards us even to extreme old age. In acknowledging that he was taken from the womb by the hand of God, and that God had caused him to confide upon the breasts of his mother, the meaning is, that although it is by the operation of natural causes that infants come into the world, and are nourished with their mother’s milk, yet therein the wonderful providence of God brightly shines forth. This miracle, it is true, because of its *ordinary occurrence*, is made less account of by us.

    . . . And although he does not immediately endue babes with the knowledge of himself, yet he is said to give them confidence, because, by showing in fact that he takes care of their life, he in a manner allures them to himself; as it is said in another place, “He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry,” (Psalm 147:9.)

    Since God anticipates in this manner, by his grace, little infants *before they have as yet the use of reason*, it is certain that he will never disappoint the hope of his servants when they petition and call upon him.”

    [asterisks mine]

  191. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Todd,

    So now I’m so closely identified with the RC view of infant baptism that I have to refute it? I don’t think so.

  192. Todd said,

    August 5, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Jack,

    Both you and the RCs believe that Christ grants salvivic blessings through the sacraments apart from noticia. If you don’t want to explain how your view is distinct and opposed to the RC view, that’s up to you.

  193. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    that’s up to you.

    Thanks.

  194. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Rayburn, PCA Minority Report in favor of paedocommunion:

    “Cf. Psalm 22:9. Though in this case Murray is speaking of infant baptism, the following words may well be even more appropriate with respect to paedocommunion. ‘It is objected that infants cannot understand the meaning of that which is dispensed. Of course they cannot. But that they derive no benefit from baptism or that it is not the divine method of signifying and sealing blessings to them is by no means a proper inference. The same objection would apply to circumcision and would impinge upon the wisdom and grace of God who instituted it. The same objection, if valid, would apply to Christ’s blessing of little infants. This objection, in fact, rests upon the iniquitous assumption that all blessing is contingent upon conscious understanding of its import on our part. Are we to say, for example, that it is of no avail to the infant to be born and nurtured in a Christian family simply because the infant has no conscious understanding of the great blessing that belongs to him in the care, protection, devotion, and nurture of Christian parents?… The means of grace are the channels along which the saving and sanctifying grace of God flows. To be in the channel of grace by God’s appointment is of deepest consequence. It is only worldlywise calculation and not reasoning inspired by the recognition of the methods of divine grace that can find force in this type of objection.’ J. Murray, Christian Baptism pp. 74-75.”

    “Perhaps this consideration accounts for the fact that Murray is more tenacious in his defense of infant baptism than in his opposition to child communion. ‘At the outset it should be admitted that if paedobaptists are inconsistent in this discrimination, then the relinquishment of infant baptism is not the only way of resolving the inconsistency. It could be resolved by going in the other direction, namely, of admitting infants to the Lord’s supper. And when all factors entering into this dispute are taken into account, particularly the principle involved in infant baptism, then far less would be at stake in admitting infants to the Lord’s supper than would be at stake in abandoning infant baptism.’ Op. cit., p. 77.”

  195. Reed Here said,

    August 5, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    A cautionary warning to all:

    > Pretentiousness is inappropriate. Some of y’all need to back up a step.
    > Presumption of inferences is inappropriate. Some of y’all need to ask before you argue.
    > Preening is inappropriate. Some of y’all sound like you’re getting to ask for a smack down. :-)

    I recognize this is a hard subject, one which we hold sincere convictions upon. Unless you’re willing to argue for anathematizing your opponent, consider that your words need to reflect your presupposition that your opponent is your brother for whom Christ died.

    I’m deliberately not targeting anyone personally. No, I’m not targeting y’all generally. Consider yourself in my shoe store and consider whether or not you’ve tried on some of these unflattering styles. I’ll be glad to help anyone put those back in the “to be trashed” bin.

  196. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you, Reed. I take these words to heart.

  197. David Gadbois said,

    August 5, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Jack,

    First, you’ll have to do better than quote Calvin. As someone who takes systematic and exegetical theology seriously, Calvin’s opinion on a text stands or falls on the merits of his argument.

    Second, you’ll notice that Calvin takes a completely different view from you – he takes the view that the ‘trust’ is in reference to ‘his mother’s breast’. Not trust in God.

    And the grammatical antacedent of the ‘miracle’ he refers to is the ‘wonderful providence of God’ in the natural operations of the birth and nourishment of infants.

  198. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    David,

    I think you’re misreading Calvin here regarding “mother’s breast.” And what do you do with the immediately following verse: “I was cast upon *You* from birth. From My mother’s womb *You* have been my God.”

    I’d also be interested in your take on Murray’s understanding of Psalm 22.

  199. David Gadbois said,

    August 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I think you’re misreading Calvin here regarding “mother’s breast.”

    Look at how he translated that line. There is a grammatical ambiguity in the Hebrew, and most translators translate it ‘trust in You [Yahweh]‘. Calvin, however, translates it so that ‘mother’s breast’ is the object of trust.

    Being ‘cast’ onto God is a bit ambiguous a phrase as to precise meaning. The thing that is certain, however, is that it in this case it is passive. It is not “I cast myself on you”, but “I was cast…”

    And acknowledging that God is ‘my God’ even from the womb may simply mean that God was giving special providential care to David as a covenant child, not that David recognized or trusted God as such when he was an infant.

  200. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    David,

    I think that in your parsing you are missing the plain meaning.

    As Murray points out, “mother’s breasts” is of course a reference to being “nurtured in a Christian family”, but he also ties it to “Christ’s blessing of little infants.” All to say, “The means of grace are the channels along which the saving and sanctifying grace of God flows.”

    There is real “saving and sanctifying grace” flowing at that time, to that child.
    And it’s a commonplace to say that the Psalms, being the prayer book of the Bible, are normative for God’s covenant people. Psalm 22 is not to be read as the exception, but rather as the rule.

  201. Todd said,

    August 5, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Jack,

    The question is not whether God in his sovereign good pleasure can grant saving influences and blessings onto an infant. The question is whether he does this through the sacraments.

  202. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Yes, that is the question. My answer is, Yes.

    WCF 29.8: Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament, do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive, and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death.

    WLC Q. 161. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
    A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

  203. David Gadbois said,

    August 5, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    There is real “saving and sanctifying grace” flowing at that time, to that child.

    That’s a creative spin on it, but the fact is that there is no mention of means of grace in Psalm 22. The fact that God gives special providential care to covenant children does not entail that they have yet obtained ordo salutis benefits.


    And it’s a commonplace to say that the Psalms, being the prayer book of the Bible, are normative for God’s covenant people. Psalm 22 is not to be read as the exception, but rather as the rule.

    The normativity of the Psalms does not make the experiences of the Psalmist normative per se. The messianic psalms, for instance, are an example of rather exceptional experiences and attributes.

  204. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    “The messianic psalms, for instance, are an example of rather exceptional experiences and attributes.”

    David,

    Psalm 22 is clearly messianic, yet scholars like Murray have no problem applying it as the normative experience of covenant children. I’m sure you will agree that Christ Himself, in his full humanity, needed to be nurtured in a believing family. Surely you would agree that this was a means of grace, even to Jesus Himself.

  205. john k said,

    August 5, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Calvin’s response to an Anabaptist argument for faith before baptism (citing the Scripture, “faith comes by hearing”) is that this only reflects God’s usual method of calling people. Calvin doesn’t deny God’s ability to “irradiate at present with some small beam” even infants, but also says he “would not rashly affirm that [infants who are called from this life] are endued with the same faith which we experience in ourselves, or have any knowledge at all resembling faith (this I would rather leave undecided)” (Inst. 4.16.19).

    The common Reformed view is that saving faith (as defined in W. Conf. 15) is not required for Baptism, but that such faith is required for initial admission to the Supper. It is curious to find apparent agreement here that, before initial admission to the Supper, faith is present. (I don’t recall seeing a PC argument here is that faith is required, but my impression is that that has been assumed.) The discussion has therefore turned to whether infants do indeed have faith; whether it is the right kind of faith for the Supper; whether “saving faith” is required; and whether we can be sure about it.

    Since faith is not the only forerunner or prerequisite for initial adult admission to the Supper, I wonder whether the discussion will turn to whether infants have sorrow, repentance, assurance, love, thankfulness, joy, and commitment (or the “seeds” of these)?

    We don’t require either “saving faith” or “seed faith” on the part of an infant to qualify for baptism. Belief in infant faith or “seed faith” is not required by the Westminster Standards, the 3FU, or the customary commitment of any Reformed church (that I am aware of). To argue for PC on the basis of the presence of faith seems an unfruitful approach toward those who do not see, and are not required to hold to, infant faith.

  206. john k said,

    August 5, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Sorry… “Of Saving Faith” is in Westminster Confession 14.

  207. Jack Bradley said,

    August 5, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    John,

    I’m about to leave for a four hour class, but will try to get back to this first thing tomorrow morning.

  208. David Gadbois said,

    August 5, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Psalm 22 is clearly messianic, yet scholars like Murray have no problem applying it as the normative experience of covenant children. I’m sure you will agree that Christ Himself, in his full humanity, needed to be nurtured in a believing family. Surely you would agree that this was a means of grace, even to Jesus Himself.

    I can agree concerning the need for nurture, but that is a different issue than the normativity of the presence of faith in infants.

  209. GLW Johnson said,

    August 6, 2009 at 5:39 am

    JB
    Assertions like the one you made about the WFC being inconsistent on the subject of paedocommunion is just that -an assertion and nothing more. You haven’t established the slighest proof other than you don’t like what the WCF says about the subject.What else about the WFC do you find out of step with your views? I suspect that much of what is associated with the Federal Vision will surface.

  210. Todd said,

    August 6, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Jack,

    You are going to have to answer the RC question eventually. I don’t know if you are still a minister, but if you are, I’m sure you’ll get this from one of your parishoners. You believe God bestows salvivic benefits unto infants mysteriously through the sacraments of the church. Roman Catholics believe the same. Explain the difference. Why is your view so right and theirs so wrong?

  211. Jack Bradley said,

    August 6, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Todd,

    Your use of the word “mysteriously” is ominous, as if it were also to be associated with RC. Are you saying there is no mystery involved in the sacraments?

    BTW, I’m still a minister, with the CREC. I’m presently teaching Jr & Sr High History and Bible at Logos School here in Moscow, and preaching here and there.

  212. Jack Bradley said,

    August 6, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Some more Scriptures regarding paedo-faith:

    Matthew 18:1-5:
    “At that time the disciples came to Jesus,saying, ‘Who the is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ The Jesus called a little child (paidion) to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly,I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children (paidion),you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child (paidion) is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child (paidion) like this in My name receives Me.’”

    Jesus sets a child before His disciples to teach them who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and, that unless we become as children, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. According to Jesus, children are the possessors of the kingdom and the very exemplars of faith. This is said plainly in the next verse. 18:6: “But whoever causes on of these little ones (micron) who believe in Me to sin. . .”

    “these little ones who believe in me.”

    2 Timothy 3:14, 15: “But as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood (brephos) you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

    The word ‘childhood’ is translated from ‘brephos': infancy. (NIV: “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures.”)

    1 John 2:12,13: “I write to you, little children (teknon), because your sins are forgive you for His name’s sake… I write to you, little children (paidion),
    because you have known the Father.”

    That John changes the word in verse thirteen is signficant, and leads to an accepted interpretation that the little children referred to are actual infants.

    Ps. 71:5-6: “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.”

  213. Todd said,

    August 6, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Jack,

    I was going off your comment that explaining how the sacrament benefits infants is a mystery too lofty for your mind to comprehend. So how would you answer the question.

  214. GLW Johnson said,

    August 6, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Jb
    The list of texts that you cite are breath takingly unsuited for paedocommunion position that you are trying to establish. Do you really think 1 John 2: 12-13 is addressed to kids on the playground?

  215. Jack Bradley said,

    August 6, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Brothers,

    I know there is more to be said, but I’ve got to move on for now. Thank you very much for the iron-sharpening discussion. I would like to leave with some helpful excerpts from some discussion on this blog back in 3/08, from Xon:

    “…if you adopt the position (that infants by definition cannot have faith), then every infant who goes to Heaven represents an exception to sola fide. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, except when we’re not. . . This really sells sola fide short, if you ask me. Again, it sets up a system in which different people are meant to relate to God in different ways, rather than salvation always being by grace through faith. That strikes me as problematic on its face, but I suppose some will disagree. This view removes faith as a fundamental element of how people born in sin are to relate to God: it is possible to relate (positively) to God in some other way than by wholeheartedly trusting in Him?

    . . . I believe that infants have faith, in the form that they are able to have it. I don’t insist on an intellectualized notion of notitia as a sine qua non of saving faith. Notitia, certainly, presupposes the ability to apprehend with the intellect. I just don’t think that notitia is a necessary requirement of saving faith. I don’t think faith is necessarily intellectual in nature. It is necessarily intellectual when the person matures to the point that their intellect is “activated”. Once a person attains intellectual ability, it is impossible to “trust” without intellectual apprehension. But the proper meaning of “faith” (trust) allows for those who have not yet attained (or who have lost through age or injury) intellectual apprehension to have faith).

    . . . Perhaps worrying about “understanding” is what is mucking this up: but that all depends on your definition of “understanding.” If “understanding” means notitia, propositional apprehension, then certainly infants have no understanding. But, infants do have faith, and so notitia must not be an absolute sine qua non of faith. Thus, infants have faith sufficient for salvation, and we are back again to asking why they need to have something MORE in order to receive the sacrament that symbolized the unity of all saved people? The unity of all saved people, yet if you don’t have propositional knowledge of that unity then you don’t get to be involved in the unified activity? It don’t compute, man!

    Where does this distinction between “sacramental” and “saving” faith come from? Saving faith means trusting upon God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. That includes trusting Him when He says “Here is a way in which I am specially present for you.” How can you have “saving” faith without having “sacramental” faith? Sacramental faith is just saving faith placed in a sacrament.

    [Amended in a later post: There’s a bad sentence up there: “Sacramental faith is just saving faith placed in a sacrament.” That should be something more like this: “Sacramental faith is just saving faith exercised when God is present through the sacrament.”]

    Or are you distinguishing differently? Perhaps (this seems more likely, now that I think about it) you just mean “faith sufficient for salvation” and “faith sufficient for partaking in the sacrament.” But again, where does the notion arise that these are different? If you have faith sufficient for salvation, and if the sacrament is a means of God’s favor that is given to symbolize the unity all people who have saving faith have in one another, then I just don’t see how it can even occur to us to think that you can have faith sufficient for the former (salvation) but not sufficient for the latter (the sacrament of unity between the saved)

    . . . I still don’t think it is “fair” to presume of infants that for them (even though they have saving faith!) to partake of the sacrament that symbolizes the unity of the saved would be like handling liquid nitrogen without gloves. What? God zaps little ones who trust in Him because they dare to participate in the united life of His covenant community? It doesn’t make sense, on its face. How is an effort to pariticpate in the life of the unity a “failure to discern” that unity? It is those who try to divide the Church up that are failing to properly paritcipate in the unity of the Church, isn’t it? Infants do not divide the Church in this way, and so there is nothing to be skeptical about in their participation in the Church’s unity.

  216. Paige Britton said,

    August 6, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I’m sorry if Jack has left this thread (though I’m impressed with his perseverance thus far!), because I would appreciate his assessment of this. But here is my attempt to summarize what we’ve come to:

    Note the mix here of scriptural, theological, and experiential threads.

    1. Notitia (head-knowledge) alone is insufficient to save (James 2:19), but must be accompanied by fiducia (self-giving trust) and normally manifests itself in visible winsome works (I say “normally” because we could imagine a believer who is conscious, but trapped in a paralyzed, mute body, and whose work of prayer is unknown to us).

    2. It is suggested in Scripture that fiducia alone (or accompanied by the tiniest little bit of knowledge, such as the name and love of Jesus) is an appropriate & salvific response for a child (Mark 10, Ps. 22, 2 Tim. 3:15), but will normally grow into fuller notitia with instruction and experience. (Here I am meaning by “fiducia” a self-giving trust, as a child would have for her caregivers. Certainly this can develop from a starting place of intellectual understanding — I can explain to a child that he may trust me — but it can just as well develop the other way around, as the child accepts me with, well, *childlike* simplicity.)

    3. It is possible to lose the capacity for understanding or articulating notitia (e.g., “a senile Van Til”) while still retaining fiducia (e.g., a childlike warmth towards Jesus & his people).

    Do you think everyone could agree on the above? But at this point paedobaptists divide regarding the Supper:

    • PC: The faith of infants (fiducia) is presumed, based on God’s promises in baptism “to your offspring” (and likely based on more than this as a child grows and demonstrates an affection for Jesus at her young level of understanding). Entry to the Supper is then based on this promise-based presumption of faith. Fiducia is thus the faith-requirement for admission to the Supper. But later notitia is normally looked for and encouraged to grow. (And those who because of developmental delays or physical problems never reach notitia, or who lose it later, are welcome to the Supper because of the original presumption of fiducia.)

    • CC: Fiducia in infants & children is not denied, but the seriousness of the Supper seems to call for notitia as well (1 Cor. 11). In the case of someone who has long demonstrated notitia but has lost it due to physical causes, the elders would need to exercise wisdom regarding his or her participation.

    Am I close to summarizing everybody’s position? If so, then it would seem that the bottom-line difference between PC and CC (at least as Jack & Jared have expressed it here, not venturing into the FV arena) is not the efficacy of the sacraments (and questions of superstition, sacerdotalism, and ex opere opera), but simply that CC folks judge that notitia is necessary and PC folks believe that simple fiducia is sufficient (at least, in normal cases, initially) for safe participation in the Supper.

    As far as I can tell, this is a judgment call based (on both sides) on a fair attempt to interpret the Scriptures, with the sticking point being 1 Cor. 11:27ff. But when the two sides face off and start to see superstition on the one hand and starvation on the other, it’s easy to overlook the humble beginnings of the disagreement (at least as it is understood among Reformed believers). Am I on the right track?

  217. Todd said,

    August 6, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Jack,

    So you are refusing to answer the big question?

  218. Todd said,

    August 6, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Paige,

    While I appreciate your attempt to summarize the discussion as an in-house debate among reformed brothers, there is a reason that the Reformers saw PC as un-orthodox. Arguing for saving faith in infants changes the Biblical definition of saving faith, summarized in WCF XIV:II. And suggesting that God promises to apply ordo salutis benefits to infants through the sacraments is simply not Protestant.

  219. David Gadbois said,

    August 6, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Jack, if you adopt a definition of infant faith that excludes notitia, then *of necessity* this means that Christ is not the object of faith. How is this biblical faith?

  220. David Gadbois said,

    August 6, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Todd, I agree with your statement on the fact that this is not an in-house Reformed discussion. And that’s not just due to a lack of charity on our end.

    Keep in mind where PC must logically end up in practice if it is at all consistent with itself (if, indeed, this isn’t going on already, which wouldn’t surprise me). PC churches are going to discipline members of their church who don’t give the Supper to their infant children. Why shouldn’t they? They are ‘starving’ them, ‘excluding’ them, and ‘excommunicating’ them.

    And, after all, it is the Reformed practice to discipline members who don’t baptize their infant children, so this would be the logical flip-side of that.

    That practice is coming, if it is not already here.

  221. David Gray said,

    August 6, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    >And suggesting that God promises to apply ordo salutis benefits to infants through the sacraments is simply not Protestant.

    Are Lutherans Protestant?

    >it is the Reformed practice to discipline members who don’t baptize their infant children

    Certainly not in the PCA!

  222. Paige Britton said,

    August 6, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks, Todd, didn’t mean to bypass the WCF. Just thought I’d give it a shot. I appreciate the correction.

  223. john k said,

    August 6, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Paige,

    Some are willing to see the three elements of saving faith as in a ladder of increasing importance: notitia (mere knowledge of something), assensus (belief or conviction of its truth), and fiducia (heart reliance on it). Others see them as intertwined and inseperable: notitia is a knowledge that is convinced and relies; fiducia is a reliance that knows and is convinced.

    In answer to your question, therefore–no, not everyone accepts that notitia and fiducia can be separated as in your outline.

    While the OPC and PCA reports in favor of PC deal with the exercise and growth of faith in young children, neither one grounds initial admission to communion in presumed child faith. The OPC report argues that the covenant relation admits children to baptism, and baptism admits them to communion “when they are physically able.” PCA minister Robert S. Rayburn is particularly clear in his discussion, grounding PC in the Reformed doctrine of the church.

    Of course, you ought to read also the two OPC, and one PCA reports against PC.

  224. Paige Britton said,

    August 7, 2009 at 5:50 am

    Thank you, John! That is very helpful. I’ll catch up on that reading.

    If I can try once again to articulate my understanding, it looks like anytime PC advocates want to include pre-verbal / barely-verbal children in the Supper, the logical conclusion of that inclusion is sacramentalism — that is, that the Supper effects some good in them in the absence of notitia.

    Also, it seems that you are saying that, at least in the reports you mention, it is covenantal inclusion that admits a child to the supper, not a presumption of faith. How does this description compare with the discussion in this thread, which has dealt a lot with whether or not an infant can have faith? Has the presumption of faith been brought up to defend against the charge of sacramentalism?

    Finally, in a credocommunion view, I guess there would be a stretch of time when a verbal child may have the desired notitia (informed faith), and may (if elect) be well along in her personal path of ordo salutis, and yet because of the custom of her church be several years out from communicants’ class and participation in the Supper. While I guess the child’s family always has the option of having an early conversation with the elders about this, what is the theological reasoning behind the CC view that this gray area is okay, and will not harm (or “starve”) the child in her progressive sanctification if she waits to become a communicant member later with her peers?

    Thank you, brothers, again, for helping me work through to an informed understanding.

  225. Paige Britton said,

    August 7, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Okay, one more question. Has anyone ever written on the upside-down development of faith that I suggested earlier, where fiducia (heart reliance) in a childlike way *precedes* notitia, at least the notitia that comprehends sin, substitutionary atonement, and the knowledge of the specific benefits of grace? I did not mean to advocate an objectless fiducia, but only to suggest that the *goodness* of Jesus, as encountered personally by the children he met in his days on earth, and as encountered ever after in the stories we tell of him, might captivate the heart prior to catechesis. I think I am not mistaken that others have confirmed that this is the entry point into heart-reliance for some — so would we be willing to call this kind of faith “saving,” or still insufficient because it lacks a developed notitia? (I am not meaning by this question to be polemical, just curious!)

  226. rfwhite said,

    August 7, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    224 Paige: You ask, While I guess the child’s family always has the option of having an early conversation with the elders about this, what is the theological reasoning behind the CC view that this gray area is okay, and will not harm (or “starve”) the child in her progressive sanctification if she waits to become a communicant member later with her peers?

    To that question, George Knight’s comments below might prove somewhat helpful, even if they are not complete (in his essay, “1 Corinthians 11:17-34: The Lord’s Supper: Abuses, Words of Institution and Warnings with An Addendum on 1 Corinthians 10:16-17”):

    … the confessional standards clearly say that the grace [promised in baptism] is “not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered” but that it is “conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time” (WCF, 28.6). It is just this clear point that has brought Presbyterian and Reformed leaders to evaluate baptized infants when they reach the “years and ability to examine themselves” to see whether that grace has wrought faith in them and brought them to be able to examine themselves and discern the Lord’s body. The Lord’s Supper in particular is given to nourish the faith of the recipient and to encourage his growth in grace. Thus it is only rightly given to those who have true saving faith. Thus the Presbyterian and Reformed churches have always patiently waited to see God’s grace at work in a young person before admitting him to the table. …

    … Surely an earlier admission of our baptized covenant youth is a much better way to handle the concerns of the paedocommunionists than the arguments and proposals that they have put forward against the standards and practices of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, and the Word of God.

    For what it is worth, echoing Dr. Knight’s last sentence above, let me offer a personal anecdote. When I was a participant in the 2003 colloquium on Federal Vision theology, one of the most memorable moments came when the advocates of paedocommunion at that event expressed their gladness at hearing the critics of paedocommunion tell of their keen desire that the admission of covenant children to the Table should come as early as possible.

  227. Jack Bradley said,

    August 7, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    I really appreciate your sharing this anecdote, Dr. White.

  228. rfwhite said,

    August 7, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    227 Jack B: in case you didn’t catch it, notice too that Dr. Knight endorses the view that the Supper is given “to nourish” the recipient’s faith.

    May we go back to the earlier (!) discussion of texts such as Ps 22.9? Seeking to understand your reading of such texts, how would you justify your claim that this is “the normative experience of covenant children,” that, for example, Ps 22.9 is the rule? I suppose what I am asking could be framed with these questions: How do you put together your claims about the normative experience of covenant children with the historical narratives of the Pentateuch which bearing witness to God’s division of Abraham’s seed from the womb into elect and reprobate (Isaac and Ishmael; Jacob and Esau)? That is, that which is normative is a division of the seed. Perhaps another angle would help: how do we know that David’s statement in Ps 22.9 is “normative for covenant children” and not “normative for the elect”? If you have already addressed these questions on this string and I need to catch up, don’t repeat yourself; tell me where and I just go back. Thanks.

  229. Paige Britton said,

    August 7, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    226 Dr. White: Thank you for those thoughts. That sounds like a wise solution. I noted in the PCA’s position paper that “the paedocommunion advocated in the minority report might be described as “communion for little children,” since it does not wish to make a case for providing communion to infants on the breast.” Though in this case the paedocommunion view was concerned with raising the age of admission because of the practical problem of chewing, it is really also a move towards an age of verbal understanding — although I would bet that the phrase “as early as possible” in your anecdote would take us a bit past the competent chewers of toddlerhood. :)

  230. rfwhite said,

    August 7, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    226 Paige: Yes! Just to fill out the details as best I remember, I remember that the critics emphatically resisted the “rising 6th grader” model as arbitrary.

  231. Jack Bradley said,

    August 7, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Dr. White,

    I honestly don’t have time to reengage the discussion. The best I can offer right now is Rayburn’s paper on covenant succession, where he deals with Psalm 22 as well as Esau:

    http://www.faithtacoma.org/doctrine/covenant.aspx

  232. rfwhite said,

    August 7, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Jack B: In Dr. Rayburn’s paper, two references to Esau and two citations of Ps 22 appear, without anything helpful on the questions posed in comment 228. Perhaps there is another paper to examine. I see more clearly now above that David Gadbois attempted a similiar line of discussion on the claim that Ps 22.9 reflects the normative experience of covenant children. Seeing comment 215, I’ll not reengage you on it.

  233. john k said,

    August 7, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Paige,

    You address me, at least in part, so, to your three main paragraphs (#224), and to #225:

    1) Not every version of PC believes “that the Supper effects some good in [‘pre-verbal/barely-verbal children’] in the absence of notitia.” PC is consistent with believing merely “that the Supper effects some good for them in the absence of notitia.” I think the latter escapes the charge of sacramentalism (defined as any view that makes saving grace in Christ automatic through the sacraments).

    2) Yes, there is apparent agreement in this thread that covenant membership is not sufficient for either initial or continued admission to the Lord’s Supper. Presumption of faith has been brought up here as an alternative to doubt about the regeneration and faith of covenant children, and as a sufficient reason for admitting children to the Table. So far, it has not satisfied those who believe PC is sacramentalism because children don’t have faith.

    3) In the CC view, sacraments are not necessary for the faith of young children because children have the Word to trust in. (I think both CC and PC agree that the Word is primary; there are no sacraments without the Word.) Baptism says little for certain to covenant children until they make profession of faith, since we don’t know which children are elect. Having the Word, the Supper has no more to give them at this point.

    4) J. Gresham Machen and Herman Bavinck both have fairly short books on faith. I know of nothing as you describe. Some 19th century Germon modernist writers might fit, but they are unreliable, to sat the least. The faith and the knowledge of the truth God uses in someone’s life might well be less than the fullness. But that can yield only limited comfort and assurance, right? It’s hard to imagine that the beginnings of true faith won’t be prompted to look for fuller knowledge and assurance. Faith worthy of the name is the fullness described in the Scriptures and confessions.

  234. Paige Britton said,

    August 8, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Thanks again, John K.! I appreciate that you took the time to consider my questions. Your responses are very helpful.

  235. rfwhite said,

    August 8, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    134 Jared: in response to your questions …

    1. What do you think “good standing” means? How does one obtain/maintain it? As I understand it, to be “in good standing” means that one qualifies by a discernibly right response to the ministry of the word in its promises and warnings to have the church officers minister the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to him.

    2. Are baptised children members of the covenant yet not members of the church? what is the warrant for having a partial/full structure for church membership? In my view, yes, baptized children are members of the covenant community, the visible church. The warrant for having a non-communicant/communicant (aka, partial/full) structure for church membership is the same as that which attaches a condition(s) for admitting any member to the table. Membership is necessary but not sufficient for table fellowship.

    3. How does Jesus’ treatment of children play into the credocommunion position? My view is as follows: Jesus emphatically endorsed the actions of parents who brought their children to Him that they might submit them to His ministry of kingdom discipleship (e.g., Matthew’s words, “that He might lay His hands on them and pray,” reflect the parents’ intention to submit the children to Jesus’ ministry). Jesus’ treatment of children from heaven through His church on earth today is consistent with His treatment of children while He was on earth. That is, when Jesus received children under His ministry while on earth, He discipled them as He did their parents by announcing both the promise and the warning of God’s covenant: He said that the kingdom would be granted to those who received it like a child, but that the kingdom would be withheld from those who did not so receive it. By so ministering His word to His people, Jesus carefully avoided any confusion of His disciples’ external standing with that wrought by God’s electing grace. Today, as the church receives children under its ministry on Jesus’ behalf, the church should disciple them as it does their parents by continuing to declare His covenant word, promising the kingdom only to such as receive it by faith and warning such as reject it that consuming fire awaits them. The church should not, as Jesus did not, confuse the external standing of children and their parents with that wrought by God’s electing grace.

    4. How does one extrapolate that Paul’s “requirements” from 1 Cor. 11 apply across the board to all members including those members who aren’t capable of meeting the requirements? This seems to be the only place in Scripture where such a thing is done. As I’m sure you know, the extrapolation of the 1 Cor 11 requirements to all members is based on indicators such as the text’s explicit general and generic expressions “whoever eats … or drinks …” and “anyone who eats and drinks ….” The considerations that relate to those members who are incapable of meeting these requirements are not different but are the same as those they face in responding to other requirements in Scripture, not least the gospel itself. I’m thinking enough is said by affirming with the WCF that God is certainly able to regenerate and save all elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleaseth.

  236. Jack Bradley said,

    August 10, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Dr. White,

    One “last” post. (where have we heard that before from me?)

    I do, again, appreciate your desire to see covenant children confess faith as soon as possible, even from a I Cor. 11 perspective. I’ve posted these two articles from Poythress here before. He makes a very persuasive argument for very young profession of faith:

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

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

  237. rfwhite said,

    August 10, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    236 Jack B: I agree that VSP’s articles were very helpful in sorting through issues that arise in connection with professions of faith among children.

  238. Paige Britton said,

    August 10, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Thanks, Jack, from me, too. There’s nothing like a good dose of Poythress for gaining (or regaining) perspective on things.

    Dr. Poythress’s two articles are basically addressing (and seeking to correct) the baptistic practice of waiting rather long for professions of faith before baptizing children, and he says almost nothing about the Supper. But given the idea mentioned here by Dr. White earlier, about resisting that arbitrary “rising-6th-grader” model of admission to the Table, Dr. Poythress’s insights about childhood faith are pretty relevant to this thread. (I doubt if credocommunion advocates would be quite willing to grant his logical extensions from the faith of 4-year-olds to the faith of infants and pre-verbal toddlers, though.)

    I was delighted to find that the idea I have been trying haltingly to articulate here, that faith might begin as something that looks more like fiducia (heart trust) than notitia (knowledge of propositions), is Dr. Poythress’s observation, too. (I did only mean to suggest it as a description of a *child’s* possible early entry into faith, not an adult’s, and I would never want to make what Dr. Poythress calls the “indifferentist” error of failing to continue the child’s instruction towards a more informed understanding of her faith!) Here is one of the couple of places he describes this (from the first article Jack listed, on “Indifferentism”):

    “Something about the nature of genuine faith also becomes evident through these reflections. Genuine faith, saving faith, includes in its mature and adult form vigorous intellectual apprehension. As adults, we believe many facts and many truths about God and about his promises to us in the Bible. But faith is genuine long before intellectual apprehension reaches its completion. Faith in Christ is trust in a person, not merely assent to a system of doctrine. Trust in a person normally includes some knowledge about the person–propositions. But the ability verbally to articulate such knowledge varies with age and verbal skill.”

    This is really all I meant to say, but I also found it interesting to play with the Latin. :)


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