How Hostile Is Paedo-Communion to our Standards?

How hostile is PC to our constitution? The following places in the Confessional material and the BCO pertain to the issue. It must be remembered that all these statements must be interpreted in the context of a non-paedo-communion belief and practice, since our constitution has a firmly non-paedo-communion viewpoint.
Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter 27.1 tells us that sacraments “confirm our interest in him.” Sessions need to determine, according to their best ability to judge fruit, who has an interest in Christ, such that their interest can be confirmed. 27.3 states that there is “a promise of benefit to worthy receivers,” for the sacraments. Worthy receivers must refer to those who have faith. In the case of baptism, that faith can come after the sacrament, but in the case of the Lord’s Supper, the faith needs to come before the sacrament, in order for the receivers to be worthy. 29.1 states that the Lord’s Supper is to be “for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other, as members of his mystical body” (emphasis added). These actions are not possible for infants to perform. 29.7 again mentions “worthy receivers,” as well as something being presented “to the faith of believers.” Incidentally, the question of whether infants can have faith is irrelevant. The question is the faith of the person that the session has to determine. 29.8 explicitly state that ignorant men might receive the outward elements, but they do not receive the substance. An ignorant partaking is a condemnatory partaking. 29.8 clearly states this.

Westminster Larger Catechism: WLC 168 again states the necessity that people “worthily communicate.” It is also impossible for infants to “testify and renew their thankfulness” (from the same question). WLC 169 states that “thankful remembrance” is required, which is impossible for infants. WLC 170 again mentions worthy communication. They need to “by faith…receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death” (emphasis added). The entire content of question 171 is impossible for infants to perform. Question 172 is not as directly germane, but is still indirectly related. Question 173 tells us that all “who are found to be ignorant…may and ought to be kept from that sacrament.” Plainly the question of those who are ignorant is a distinct question from those who are scandalous, though both cases are discussed in the question. The reasoning here is simple: those who are ignorant cannot partake worthily of the Lord’s Supper. Question 174 describes the requirements of those while they participate, again requirements that infants and most young children are unable to perform. Question 175 tells us of the duties we have after we have participated, which are again impossible for infants and young children to perform. Question 177 is the obvious question that disagrees with the idea of paedo-communion in the phrase “and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.”

Westminster Shorter Catechism: Question 92 says that the benefits of the sacraments come to and are applied to believers. In the case of baptism, that can come before faith, but the session has to decide whether a person can be admitted to the table based on a credible profession of faith. Question 96 mentions worthy receivers. Question 97 is the most direct statement of what is required for worthy reception of the Lord’s Supper. Anything other than doing what that question requires is defined as eating and drinking judgment to themselves.

Book of Church Order: 57-1 state that “Believers’ children within the Visible Church, and especially those dedicated to God in Baptism, are non-communing members under the care of the Church.” Surely, PC advocates cannot agree with this definition of children. In 57-2, careful examination is required of sessions. This needs to be more than simply “Do you believe in Jesus?” Children who are two years old can be encouraged to the point of saying “yes.” But without further examination, it cannot be clear that the child actually believes. Although 57-4 uses the language of “recommended,” it is clear that PC advocates would say that it is not recommended that a public profession of faith be required. 58-2 states specifically that “The ignorant and scandalous are not to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.” PC advocates cannot possibly agree with this statement. 57-3 states that the people be “instructed in its nature, and a due preparation for it, that all may come in a suitable manner to this holy feast.” Instruction is therefore essential to the “suitable manner” in which people need to come to the Supper. Infants and small children are not capable of receiving this instruction.

In my opinion, any advocate of PC would need to take an exception to all of these passages in our constitution. It is not just the age of the recipients. It is a completely different understanding of the sacrament. The benefit comes completely differently in a PC understanding versus a non-PC understanding. The difference is this: the constitution and non-PC advocates believe that a subjective element is required for proper reception of the sacrament. PC advocates believe that benefit can come without any subjective element whatsoever.

One more point needs to be made. PC advocates in the PCA always agree not to practice it. However, in believing it, there is no way that they can agree with the sections in the BCO. We do not allow exceptions to the BCO. And it is quite gratuitous to assume that a person can be in conformity by merely practicing what the BCO states. In my experience, PC advocates almost never mention exceptions to the BCO. In my opinion, this is not honest.

RPR Committee

I’m in Review of Presbytery Records Committee meetings, starting yesterday, and going (probably) through Friday. We’re a little ahead of schedule. Please pray for us. We have many important things to consider, some of which will probably be debated rather strongly. Pray for light (instead of heat). This is VERY important work.

I Have Very High Expectations

Of this volume. The author has written a small but stellar commentary on Isaiah, which I read completely, and enjoyed every minute of it. I have also dipped into his Five Festal Garments, which is an excellent introduction to the Megilloth. In fact, the forthcoming commentary will almost certainly give Block and Davis a run for their money, and that is saying something!

A Great Opportunity

If you have been wishing that there might be a way to obtain the early church fathers in the original language, there is a solution for a little less than half the problem (order form is here). You can order the complete Greek Migne series here (I have not yet found a place to acquire the Latin series). If you desire to purchase an individual volume, the cost is 38 Euros per volume (a Euro is worth about $1.30 at the moment). If, however, you contract to purchase the whole set, the cost plummets to only 22 Euros per volume. They are flexible as to the number of volumes you get each month. There are 161 volumes in the set. I just received the first 8 volumes in the set, and they are beautifully bound, and Mr. Vasilatos George (the person I have corresponded with) was very polite and efficient. This is the real thing, folks. You can actually have the complete Greek Migne for a VERY reasonable price (I checked, and it is the first edition, which is vastly superior to the second edition). While it is true that the Corpus Christianorum is intended to replace the PG, the problem is that each volume is anywhere from 50-150 Euros, and they haven’t published everything yet. That series is really only practicably accessible in a library. Of course, you can also get the PG volumes online. However, if, like me, you don’t like reading your theology books in electronic form, then this is the way to go. If you decide to go ahead and purchase the set, please let the CPP know that you found them through me! I can get a small benefit on my own subscription if you mention that you found it through me.

Apparently…

The PCA is going to invite Biologos contributors to speak at our GA. I am at a total loss to understand why we would allow this. Biologos is not just about the age of the earth. They want to evangelize the PCA with the “good news” of biological evolution. Why are the powers that be allowing this? We have to go stretch the tent even further? Are we to believe that young earth creationists are complete, blithering idiots, now? Many, many scientists (bona fide scientists, the kind with strings of letters after their names) believe in YEC. Biologos offers a view of evolution that is completely incompatible with Christianity. Justification and imputation will go completely down the tubes, if we allow their view into our midst, thus contradicting the first Adam-last Adam Christology of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. “Welcome, wolves, to the flock. We’re so glad you’re here. Is there anything we can do to make your stay more comfortable? Can we serve you any mutton?”

Doctrinal Failures ARE Moral Failures

The title is my thesis in this post. This point might seem obvious, except that many people do not treat doctrinal failures this way. To prove the thesis is easy. A doctrinal failure leads people astray. Leading people astray is a moral failure. Therefore, doctrinal failures are moral failures. Scripturally, one can point to Acts 20:28-31 and the book of Jude (and there are many other passages as well).

But there are complicating factors, aren’t there? Consider these points: 1. every teacher is wrong on some points of doctrine or other; 2. there are degrees of failure, some of which would lead people to Hell, while others might only lead to confusion. How does one tell what kind of category governs a particular failure or not? And how does one judge how serious an error is? The Bible does tell us of a pattern of teaching, of sound doctrine. There is such a pattern. There is a faith once for all delivered to the saints. There is a pattern of sound teaching to which we need to conform. There is a system, in other words. The Westminster divines believed that they had codified that system in their standards. They were concerned to put the system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures down in a form to which the church could agree. Therefore, I believe that the Westminster Standards is the system of sound teaching described by Paul, and that it is the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Many folks would disagree with this, arguing that the system is much smaller than that. They might limit it to the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed. But there are many central things in the Christian faith of which those two creeds do not speak. For instance, neither the Apostles Creed nor the Nicene Creed speak of justification by faith alone. That’s pretty central. Neither of those creeds speak of the sacraments in any detailed way. Those are central to the very definition of the church. Now, the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed are very important, and surely everything that they DO address is certainly of the highest level of importance. But neither can be said to be a complete system, even when one takes into consideration the later expositions of the creeds. For Reformed folk, the best we have are the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity.

Take paedocommunion as a test case. If one believes that the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed are the only issues of importance, then one will judge paedocommunion to be a secondary matter. However, if the proper administration of the sacraments is a matter pertaining to the very definition of the church, then it is not a secondary issue. Paedocommunion is a doctrinal failure. Therefore, teaching paedocommunion is a moral failure.

This might outrage folks out there who are not thinking in these terms. But notice how different we usually feel about two hypothetical scenarios: if a pastor were embezzling funds from the church, or if he were falling prey to alcoholism and the Presbytery found out about it, firm steps would be taken to discipline that pastor, and rightly so. But so far, when a pastor is caught teaching unconfessional doctrine, practically no steps are taken, and when they are taken (usually under duress!), the situation is treated completely differently. The idea sometimes emerges that, even if he were teaching wrong ideas, and has “changed,” then it doesn’t matter whether he was teaching falsely before. That’s like saying that a pastor who was caught in having an affair can be given a free pass as long as he’s changed. The situations are identical. He has led people astray! Period!

The biggest problem right now is the “good ole boy” club syndrome. This is that teaching elders in the PCA are being given a free pass on their doctrine because “he’s such a nice guy,” or because he’s been there a long time, or because of some other social reason. We are forgetting the sheep in all of this. Sheep are being led astray, and because of our “good ole boy” syndrome, we are forgetting how serious a sin this is. And so, instead of exercising due diligence and following up problematic doctrine (such as the FV), we attack anyone who possibly, dares audaciously, in a totally unloving way, to actually bring up the remote possibility that there is an error somewhere in someone’s teaching! The whistle-blower is impugned, attacked and dredged through the mud, all in the name of love and charity, of course. Of course, if the issue were adultery, no one would even think of attacking the messenger. But doctrine is not being treated as a moral failure, but rather as a slight, insignificant “infirmity.” The Bible treats doctrinal failure much more severely than we do, and we are in big trouble because of it.

It’s Only a Matter of Time

Peter Leithart has opined on the reasons why he has not crossed the Rubicon, I mean Tiber. This post has generated considerable discussion, from the Romanists here, and from the Eastern Orthodox here, and from a Missouri Synod Lutheran here. Leithart has responded with an historical argument from the books of Kings here. That’s a lot of reading. The CTC folks, for instance, need to be reminded of what a blog post normally is.

I just want to make a few points about this discussion. Leithart says he agrees with the standard Protestant objections to Romanism and Eastern Orthodoxy, but that those reasons “are not the primary driving reasons that keep me Protestant.” What he bypasses here is a fundamental historical point: if the standard reasons are not enough to keep us separated from Rome, then we should go back to Rome, because the Protestant schism was sinful! A quick glance at the reasons that Leithart adduces, and the way in which the Romanists tear Leithart’s arguments to shreds should be enough to convince us that Leithart’s reasons are not cogent. He argues from historical accidents. “Our past Christian experience” is a mere historical “accident,” is it not? It is hardly a compelling reason for staying away from Rome.

Besides, I wonder if Leithart really holds to a doctrine of justification that is antithetical to Rome’s doctrine. By including definitive sanctification in the structure of justification, Leithart blurs the boundaries between justification and sanctification. In one of his articles on justification, he even admits that in formulating the doctrine the way he does, he is trying to bridge the ecumenical gap with Rome. Make no mistake: if the Reformers were wrong on justification and the doctrine of Scripture, then we should go back to Rome. Only doctrinal reasons are sufficient to keep away from Rome. In other words, with Leithart compromising the doctrine of justification, it’s only a matter of time before the Tiber sounds pretty attractive.

Great Article on Biologos

Oh, what a shame that we Christians are not prepared to endure even the smallest ridicule for the cause of Christ! As Kruger points out, however, it’s too late. Attempts to align ourselves with the so-called “assured results of science” are foundations built on sand. Read Kruger’s article. It is outstanding. He says everything I would want to say, only he says it in a much better way.

On Reading the Begats

Most of us have probably experienced the phenomenon: reading those portions of Scripture heavy on genealogy, resulting in the yawn or the rapid skimming. It seems like a waste of time, since these people have nothing to do with us, and lived thousands of years before us. Not so fast. Slow down and take a deep breath.

First point: the genealogies ensure the covenant succession of God’s people. I remember reading a story of a missionary who was sharing the Gospel with some tribe somewhere, and was getting nowhere. He stated the Gospel in the clearest possible terms, but the tribe simply wasn’t getting it, even after he learned the language well. Finally, he simply started reading to them different parts of the Bible. When he got to the genealogies, all of a sudden, there were mass conversions to Christianity. The missionary, stunned, asked the tribal leaders why it was the genealogies that had led to these conversions. The leader responded that they had genealogies going back only so far. They did not know the ultimate origins, and there were many gaps in their genealogies. But now that those gaps had been filled, they knew that the Bible was truth, and that the Gospel was true. This tribe was part of the covenant succession of God’s people now, and that factor was huge in their conversion to Christ. Never discount the power of God’s Word, even those parts that WE do not find particularly compelling!

Second point (and this goes right along with the first point): ALL Scripture is inspired by God and is useful. The problem is not with the text, but with our attitude towards it. If we take a minimalist approach to the genealogies, then we won’t be expecting to receive any edification whatsoever from it. If, however, we read prayerfully, then the Holy Spirit will guide us into the truth that that Scripture has for us.

Third point: we often do not read genealogies properly. When you read a genealogy that has names associated with particular stories, you are meant to recall the entire story. Genealogies are the Bible’s way of recapping what has come before. What is particularly effective about this is the organic connection of God’s people by covenantal generation. In fact, the story of those people IS our story!

Fourth point: whenever you read a person’s name in the Bible, never forget that your name is also written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life, if you trust in Christ Jesus. Suppose (hypothetically) you were reading the Bible one day, and saw your own name there, referring to you, and not to your namesake. Would that change your attitude towards that history? If you remember that your name is written down, everything changes. You will pay attention. You will see the connections of history, and the organic connection that the earlier generations have to us. You ARE reading your own genealogy: the genealogy of faith.

Great Sale on Recent Release

I happen to know that this book is being released first at WTS bookstore, AND that they are offering it for a whopping 50% off! The sale won’t last forever, so now is your chance to obtain what will surely be a standard reference work in the field. Notice also the deal you can get in ordering two or more of that volume (only $24 each for two or more copies). If you want to purchase the entire OT set or the entire NT, you can get the set for 50% off. I use this set regularly, and I think it has something that no other set has: a depth that comes from specialists concentrating on only one section of the canon.

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