A Hidden Assumption in the Paedo-Communion Position

I wrote a blog post last year on how many places in the Westminster Standards (and the PCA’s BCO) that are contradicted by the paedo-communion system. Paedo-communion is contrary to our system of doctrine and strikes at the vitals of religion. Sacraments are not adiaphora. They proclaim the gospel. Issues about the sacraments are gospel issues, therefore. The Reformers understood this much better than we do today, probably because of the implicit Zwinglianism (and worse) infecting the church at large. Most of the Reformers did not agree with Zwingli on the nature of the Lord’s Supper.

What I wish to do in this post is to examine a usually quite well-hidden assumption in the paedo-communion position concerning the benefit of the Lord’s Supper to those who do not participate. The assumption is implicit in the title of Leithart’s book, Daddy, Why Was I Excommunicated? The hidden assumption is that (in the credo-communion position) the Lord’s Supper has not only no benefit for those not old enough to participate, but actually causes harm to children when they do not participate on the basis of their age. The harm caused is usually phrased in terms of the exclusion they feel when they see others participating but they cannot.

I want to challenge this assumption rather strongly. The nature of the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of the gospel of our Lord’s death until he returns (1 Cor. 11:26). Anyone who sees it without participating can potentially benefit from it, because it is gospel proclamation. It has been known to happen that people are sometimes converted by seeing what they are missing. Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper is a great opportunity for teaching people. Everyone who hears that teaching can benefit from it. So, not only is minister preaching the gospel through the sacrament, but he is also teaching the congregation about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.

What effect will that have on the young child who cannot yet participate? Well, he will have the gospel preached to him such that conversion might happen. Further than that, he will learn about the Lord’s Supper. Both of these things should help create a longing for that communion. This creation of a longing for deeper communion with the Lord can be the very thing that prepares him to receive the Lord’s Supper properly. So, far from excommunicating our children, we are preparing them for that communion.

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95 Comments

  1. Mark B. Hanson said,

    December 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I am not sure how “hidden” this assumption is – I remember reading some of Doug Wilson’s posts on paedocommunion, and he was pretty explicit about the youngest’uns feeling left out.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    December 5, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Fair point, Mark. I guess the thing that was hidden was more about the objective harm that exclusion brings, rather than the subjective harm that the child supposedly experiences. Some PC advocates actually believe that credo-communion guys are abusing children by not letting them partake. That is not usually stated outright, though.

  3. December 5, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Good post, Lane. In addition to your points, I think that putting children in the position of eating and drinking condemnation to themselves is the real child abuse with PC. Paul’s inspired criteria and warning could not be more specific.

  4. RubeRad said,

    December 5, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    strikes at the vitals

    For the lay reader, that means “kicking at the nuts”

  5. Roy said,

    December 5, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Put your table where your mouth is: demand that Communion Tables have not only “rememberance” but also “proclamation” in letters on their sides.

    ‘Course I make that comment tongue in cheek. Nothing at all about said table in scripture. But I wonder if adding the message would lead pastors to, well, preach to the children, declaring/explaining the sacrament.

  6. Josh Bentley said,

    December 5, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    I’m only a layman in the PCA. However, I think any man who believes credo-communion is wrong (not just that paedo-communion is allowable) should not serve as an elder in a church that holds to the Westminster Standards.

    I have seen churches approve men as elders who privately support paedo-communion but who agree not to teach it publicly. Some of these men believe that credo-communion is actually unbiblical. For instance, Jeff Meyers has written that people who don’t allow paedo-communion are guilty of disobeying I Cor. 11 (see Biblical Horizons #47).

    Making these men elders is a problem, even if they keep their views a secret. After all, these men are responsible for administering the sacraments. This responsibility forces them to choose between violating their consciences and violating their oaths of office. I don’t think churches should put men in that position, and I don’t think men should want to be in that position. It’s really an issue of integrity.

  7. Mark B said,

    December 5, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Amen, Lane (and Bob and Josh)

  8. roberty bob said,

    December 5, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Are the baptized infants of Christian-faith-professing, communicating parents to be regarded as Christians by virtue of their membership in the covenanted community of Christian believers?

    Or, are these baptized infants not yet Christians until they come of age and repent, and are converted to Christ, and make public profession of their faith?

    Those of us who allow for our baptized children to eat and drink at the Lord’s table do so on the belief that baptism is the union sacrament in the same way that marriage is (see John 3:22-35 where Jesus is the baptizer, and where baptism is shown to be the bridegroom’s embrace).
    Our baptized infants have union with Christ. Their baptism is the sacramental ceremony which effects that union — even while these infants are unaware. These infants now have all the standing that they need to enjoy true communion — table fellowship — with Christ.

    Oh, but these little ones will not know what they are doing? They need to be converted first, and profess their faith.

    So, then, why were they baptized — wed to Christ — against their own knowledge and will? Someone, it seems, believed some awfully mighty promises . . . .

  9. pilgrim said,

    December 6, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Just a point of clarification here–are we defining paedo-communion as simply allowing children of believers to partake of the Lord’s Supper, or is it broader.
    I would hold to it being what I outlined above.

    Or is it being used to say that even if a child has made a credible profession of faith and they take the supper that that is paedo-communion, and therefore wrong? If so, what is the age?

    I’ve seen it used both ways and others.

    I disagree with paedo-communion if it means allowing children of believers to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
    I do believe though that children who have made a credible profession of faith can be admitted to the table. however that should be up to their parents first, and the session second, with both being required.

    I do not hold that to be paedo-communion, but credo-communion, although I have heard it referred to as Paedo-communion.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    December 6, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Bob Brenton, welcome to my blog. In answer to your comment, I would say that you ascribe quite a bit more to baptism than I do. Spirit-given faith is what unites us to Jesus Christ, not baptism. Otherwise, we have to redefine union with Christ as something that is often temporary and losable, since many baptized apostatize. I typically liken baptism to an engagement ring (not marriage). The engagement ring speaks of promises which may or may not already be fulfilled. The session has to guard the table by allowing only those with credible professions of faith to come to the table. Marriage is faith-union, not baptism. Baptism is the sign that points towards Christ, but only faith-union connects the sign with the thing signified.

    Pilgrim, the exact age is not at issue in my post. That there are shades of opinion on PC is easily discernible. For the purposes of the post, I define PC as administering the LS to children who cannot understand what is going on or examine themselves according to the biblical prescription in 1 Cor. 11. It is not tied to a specific age. There are 5 year olds I have met who can understand what the LS is and what Jesus did for them, and there are 15-year olds I have met who don’t have a clue.

  11. Bob B said,

    December 6, 2013 at 10:56 am

    How does one defend a non-PC position in light of the Church being the new Israel, and the Lords supper being the extension of / fulfillment of the Passover which represented it?

    Are we to make the assumption that Jewish children are not really Jewish until the bar mitzvah? Was not the Passover meal shared with all the people of God regardless of age?

    Our Lord Jesus instituted 2 sacraments that the Church universal holds to. Baptism and the Lords Supper. What is the defense of holding the second of those (the Lords Supper) hostage by the non-sacramental practice of ‘profession of faith’?

    Why is it that we accept a stranger to come to church and partake in communion without question, but our own children are barred from the table? If the stranger is trusted enough to rightly judge the state of his soul, why do we not trust that our children’s souls are held safe by Jesus?

    What is the logical position one should take with the mentally handicapped individual who might never be able to give a credible profession. Are they barred for life from the table based on their inability to understand? What justification would be used to allow them but not the children?

    Even more so, why can’t the table be used as a tool specifically for young children to train them to examine themselves. Perhaps we should be in the practice of barring our own children if we know them to be in unrepentant sin rather than barring them because they haven’t said the right words to the board of elders.

    Jesus commanded that the little children be allowed to come to him. I can’t think of a better way to break that commandment than to hold a non-PC position.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    December 6, 2013 at 11:13 am

    The Lord’s Supper is not the fulfillment of only the Passover. Many other passages and feasts are in typological connection to the Lord’s Supper. The typological connections are much more complicated than you are making out here. I refer you to Venema’s book and also the Waters/Duncan volume for references.

    The issue is not whether they are truly Christian (they can be truly Christian in the womb, as John the Baptist indicates). The issue is how the session fences the table. To do that, they need a credible profession of faith. This is what the pastor does for guests as well. He fences the table so that guests will know whether they can partake or not.

    “Holding hostage” is quite the rhetorical language there. The session is seeking to prevent people from eating and drinking judgment on themselves. Or maybe you don’t think the ignorant should be kept from the table (as our standards state).

    With regard to the mentally handicapped, that would have to be taken one case at a time. There are many shades of diseases, and much wisdom is required.

    As to using the table to teach children, that is precisely what I advocated in the post.

    Jesus’ command to let the children come to Him was not used in the context of the Lord’s Supper. You need to make an argument, not just an assertion, that Jesus’ command is not fulfilled by preaching the gospel, which certainly calls on children to go to Jesus. Furthermore, a call to catachesis and training in righteousness is bringing the children to Jesus, precisely so that they will understand and be able to make a credible profession of faith.

    You have not answered my previous arguments.

  13. Bob B said,

    December 6, 2013 at 11:13 am

    The harm caused is usually phrased in terms of the exclusion they feel when they see others participating but they cannot.

    When the Passover happened there was very clear understanding in the minds of all Israel what was happening. The angle of death went door to door and killed all first born children. Who was spared? Those houses who participated in the shedding of animal blood and marked their door. They were commanded to do this, and commanded to eat the meal afterwards. You identified with Israel by participation (even some of the believing Egyptians were spared by participation, and fled with the Israelites).

    One of the things that brings humans together in a group is the ability to eat together. In a catered party, the ‘help’ doesn’t eat with the guests. Jesus speaks in these terms, come to the feast and eat – we gain something when we eat together. A powerful punishment for an unruly child is to expel them from the dinner table, or require that they eat alone – why? Because to eat together is to be in union with one another.

    That is why the exclusion they feel is real, and why it can’t be dismissed as ‘an opportunity for teaching’. When you receive and they don’t, you are sending the message that you are ‘in’ and they are ‘out’. What have they done to be ‘out’? Nothing.

    Do you make your children eat dinner separate from you? Why not? Are they a part of your family or not? If they can be held dear by you as your children and counted as a part of your family, even with your imperfect love as a parent – how much more so can they be held and counted as a part of God’s family with his perfect love.

    The question is then, if God invites his family to eat at his table, why are you being a stumbling block to his youngest family members?

  14. Bob B said,

    December 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

    With regard to the mentally handicapped, that would have to be taken one case at a time. There are many shades of diseases, and much wisdom is required.

    You dodged that question. There is no principled way to allow the handicapped and not the child. Most sessions just give the nod ‘their old enough’ and feed the handicapped… which is fine except for the inconsistency of not feeding them while they were a child.

    If you are to take your fencing of the table seriously, by what justification do you allow someone who is outside your denomination to partake? Surely a Baptist would be allowed at your church? Why doesn’t the PCA go the route of the Orthodox or the RCC and fence it to their communion only?

    You believe that a proper fencing is baptism + profession of faith + current belief (except in case of the handicapped – need more explanation here).

    The RCC believe that a proper fencing is baptism + conformation + member of the RCC + recent confession + fasting an hour before +++

    I believe a proper fencing of the table is baptism + current belief (if able) or deferment to the grace of God (if unable).

    The warning about eating / drinking unworthily is about the current belief portion, not about profession of faith (or conformation or whatever – a one time act). After all, it is the Lord’s table, not the PCA’s table, and a one time profession 20 years ago doesn’t reflect the state of your soul today or determine weather or not you should partake today.

    Not only that, our current belief doesn’t need to be 100% correct either – we don’t need to know if the Baptist’s understanding is correct, or the Pentecostals, or the PCA’s or the OPC’s – the Grace of God is sufficient to cover my unbelief or misbelief… and even my lack of ability to believe (in the case of the child or handicapped).

  15. greenbaggins said,

    December 6, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Bob, I did not dodge the question. You are lumping all together in one category a vast array and variety of conditions that cannot be evaluated except by the method of one case at a time. A person who has bipolar disorder, for instance, or who is suffering from paranoia might still be able to understand what is going on at the table. A person who is suffering from dementia might not. Your challenge is way too broadly stated.

    And then, to lump those people together with children, whose understanding may not have developed, is another gratuitous move. Why would you lump them together?

    As to the question of guests, I have already answered that: the pastor fences the table at the actual celebration, and then leaves it up to the guest to understand whether they are invited or not. Of course, the pastor needs to be clear. I believe this is a better practice than issuing tokens, like the Scots did, or examining every guest before communion, which is quite often very impractical.

    Of course our belief doesn’t need to be 100% correct. Whose is? Did you see me claim otherwise anywhere in either the comments or the post? If you did, then you are seeing things.

  16. Jack Bradley said,

    December 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Lane, your concerns have been addressed multiple times from the Paedocommunion camp. Here are just two good examples, from Rob Rayburn.
    You may have legitimate issues with him on the other front, but I would like to see you interact with these materials more specifically, as you have time.

    http://www.faithtacoma.org/content/2008-01-13-am.aspx
    http://sermons.faithtacoma.org/Exodus/Exodus13.12.1-49.Jun19.05.htm

  17. Bob B said,

    December 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    And then, to lump those people together with children, whose understanding may not have developed, is another gratuitous move. Why would you lump them together?

    My apologies. I should have been more precise. Normally when the issue of the mentally handicapped comes up in the context of fencing the communion table it involves those with the type of handicap that lowers their intelligence and ability to learn certain things – like down’s syndrome – that puts them in a perpetual ‘child like’ state. You could call that a hidden assumption, which I should have made more clear.

    To deny such a person from the table based on the inability to give a ‘profession of faith’ is an injustice. The table is beneficial to such a person, even if the elders can’t discern weather or not there is true belief. To deny them the table is a misuse of the position of authority over the weakest among us. The same goes for denying the table to our children.

    It seems we are in agreement that baptism is required (a post in our fence). The issue is of the requirement to examine ourselves.

    First of all, the requirement is to examine OURSELVES – not the elders examine the youth. It is an on-going examination, not a one time event – so one could be OK to partake today, but not tomorrow based on that self examination.

    If you turn this into a pastoral examination, then you run into inconsistencies- why examine for profession of faith, but never again? Why not examine everyone every week?

    The question is also what to do with those who cannot examine themselves (children / mentally handicapped). You say ‘bar them from the table’. I say the Grace of God is sufficient. Given that Jesus has a soft spot for the poor, the weak, and the young among us – I think my position is more in line with his teaching.

    The Bible puts the examination passage immediately after rebuking the church for specific abuses (eating / drinking too much, not observing it rightly). I don’t believe that the examination is meant to prevent children, but rather to prevent abuse by adults.

  18. Reed Here said,

    December 6, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Bob, exceptions to the rule do not make the rule. Lanes’s position is based on his understanding of a Scripture. You are just perpetuating the kind of shrill emotional appeal argument his post is challenging. Prove from Scripture examination passage does nt apply to children. Leave aside the exception characterizations that only serve as character (position) assassination. They do no actually advance your case.

  19. roberty bob said,

    December 7, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Good Day!

    “Spirit-given faith is what unites us to Jesus Christ, not baptism.” — GB

    The baptism forms which are typically used in Reformed churches include the reciting of God’s covenant promises “to be the gracious and faithful God of” person presented for baptism. This, in effect, amounts to wedding like vows expressed from God’s side. Reformed Christians acknowledge that those infants presented for baptism are as yet unable to confess their faith; that will have to wait until they attain understanding and show evidence of such Spirit-given faith in their lives.

    Baptists, who also hold that Spirit-given faith unites the believer to Christ, withhold baptism until such time as such faith is in evidence. Their view is consistent: the union sacrament — baptism — ought not be administered to a person until a credible profession of faith is in evidence because Spirit-given faith is what unites a person to Christ.

    I think that baptists actually believe that baptism is the union sacrament (they would call it an ordinance) of a wedding-like nature, which is why they insist that the bride must be ready and able to say her vows. I cannot imagine a baptist holding the view that the rite of baptism is kind of an “engagement” ceremony — as Green Baggins maintains — due to the fact that the (baptist) bride is always ready to say her vows, to respond to the vows and promises that the heavenly bridegroom gives. I can, however, imagine a Reformed baptizer of infants being unwilling to ascribe wedding-like significance to the baptism sacrament due to the fact that the bride is not yet ready to say her vows.

    The John 3 passage cited in my opening post — where John the Baptizer ascribes to Jesus the Baptizer the honorific title of Bridegroom as he embraces his Bride in the waters of baptism — has convinced me, a Reformed Christian, that baptism is indeed the “union” sacrament with wedding-like significance. Those of us who baptize infants ought not water down this significance by holding that these infants have not received the Bridegroom’s Embrace. Reformed churches receive the newly baptized infant into its membership; the infant is regarded as now belonging to Christ. The church regards the little one as a Christian, nurtures that little one in the Christian faith, and expectantly waits for the day when that little one will speak for herself of the Spirit-given faith she has received.

    But to say that the Bride is only engaged, but not wed, at baptism sounds weak in light of the John 3 passage. I would assert that in baptism every bride gets wed.

    If wed, then fed.

    If union, then communion.

  20. andrew said,

    December 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    The difficulty is that no one would disagree with this post. God, being sovereign, might well use credocommunion to bring about a positive outcome.

    And, of course, a baptist could make similar comments about the positive consequences of children being denied baptism.

  21. roberty bob said,

    December 8, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    “. . . he [the church-going, baptized into Christ, covenant child] will have the gospel preached unto him such that conversion might happen.” – GB

    So, then, the baptized child of faithful believing covenant parents is in need of conversion.

    Does this mean, then, that the church is to regard the baptized child as an unbeliever, or an idolater until such time as he shows signs of a conversion from such ungodliness? Or, do you mean by conversion that the baptized covenant child comes to the mature realization that he is by nature a son of Adam, corrupted by the Fall, and that his only hope for salvation is to receive the saving grace that is offered in Christ, the second Adam?

    My guess is that the conversion you are looking for is that mature realization that comes from being nurtured in the Christian faith, and the receiving of Christ as Savior and Lord on that basis. You are waiting for the baptized child to respond affirmatively in faith to the covenant promises made to him at his baptism. That would be the point of his conversion, I gather.

    The paedo-communionists would also be praying expectantly for that time to come, but would not regard the baptized child in the meantime as one who is without Christ in his life; after all, he is a member now of the body of Christ, having been baptized into Christ. Therefore, he is in no danger of eating or drinking in an unworthy manner unless he does so with known public sin in his life [yes, even a young covenant child can come under discipline!]. On the contrary, his coming to the Lord’s Table does the same for him as for his adult parents: it proclaims to him all the more clearly and powerfully the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I have held this view of the two sacraments the moment that I converted from being a baptist to being reformed — that takes me back to 1980 — long before the Federal Visionistas started tearing it up.

    Wonders never cease.

  22. greenbaggins said,

    December 9, 2013 at 6:43 am

    Bob, lots of pc advocates like yourself assume that because of credo-communionism, we are treating our children like pagans. Nothing could be further from the truth. First point, everyone needs the gospel, Christians and non-Christians. We never outgrow our need for it. Therefore preaching the gospel to children makes absolutely no assumption about their actual state. I believe that children can be regenerated from the womb. I even think that it is fairly common (which would, incidentally, preclude regeneration at baptism in such cases). However, I do not make the assumption that they are regenerated either. They could be, or they might not be. Regardless of which state a child is in, the gospel is still what they need. I treat them like part of the family unless they show plainly that they are not. It is time for pc advocates to stop assuming that everyone who does not share their opinion is de facto baptistic.

  23. Zrim said,

    December 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

    It would be interesting to know what the PCers here think it means to eat and drink judgment unto one’s self. So far, that CCers exercise caution in order to avoid inviting judgment unto covenant children seems uncharitably interpreted as a form of hatred instead of love. But is it really hatred to keep a child who hasn’t learned to sufficiently navigate himself across a street from doing so? Maybe he thinks so, but one would hope other adults would be able to see it’s actually a form of love.

    But another assumption that tends to reveal itself in this discussion is that there are only two classes of persons, believer and unbeliever. But the third category is covenant child, those who are set apart as holy in ways other persons aren’t. And it’s the black and white assumption that addles both credo-baptism and its mirror error paedo-communionism and manifests itself in different ways. In the former, only professing persons should be baptized and since infants can’t do that then they are to be kept from the font; in the latter, baptized persons are assumed to be regenerate and should be rushed to the table. But orthodoxy understands that it’s possible to be at once marked by baptism but not yet affirmed as a believer, letting time and the Spirit work. Which is why orthodoxy has always understood the two sacraments to work as a kind of book ends: marked in baptism (God initiates to sinner), nurtured through catechesis, affirmed at the table (sinner responds to God). IOW, both CB and PB seem to be a sort of sacramental fundamentalism which can’t conceive of a third way of relating to the covenant.

  24. roberty bob said,

    December 9, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for your reply, GB.

    My contention is that baptism, the union sacrament, is the only thing required for admission to the Lord’s Table. Baptized children enjoy the same covenant standing (membership in the body of Christ) and ought to be granted the same privilege to partake of the communion meal.

    I have noticed that the baptists are consistent in their practice of only admitting persons into church membership who profess their faith and testify of a regenerating conversion experience. From a baptist point of view it makes no sense to administer baptism to an infant because the church cannot yet know whether regeneration has occurred; nor has the child as yet professed his faith

    The reformed who baptize infants but fence them from the table until they give evidence of a regenerative conversion and a profession of faith seem to be saying something similar to the baptists, namely, that we don’t yet know where our baptized infants stand with regard to Christ and their salvation. We may think that this one or that one is regenerate, and has true faith, but there is not enough evidence to know for sure. Therefore, we will not put the child or the church at risk by granting his access to the table. This position and practice is not a baptist one, per se; it only hold the same concern in common with them.

    The practice of granting table access to baptized children is based on the belief that these baptized babies have standing: the Lord has named them and claimed them as his own — adopted them into his family. So, they are to be regarded by the church, the family of faith, as the little brothers and sisters who need the gospel (both in Word and in Sacrament) as much as the big brothers and sisters do. These little ones are made disciples of Jesus — taught to pray, to obey, and sing of their love for Jesus and trust in his redeeming blood. There is no reason to wonder whether these little ones have faith unless they, at some stage, show by their words and actions that they are bent on rebellion against Christ. Growing baptized children who choose not to come to faith and follow Jesus will have to be disciplined for their own good. There may come a time when the elders put up a fence around the table in order to ex-communicate one who persists in wrong-doing. All the other baptized children are seated at the Lord’s Table. They have a seat with their name on it all of the time. They are always invited. They do not have to sit silently while their older brothers and sisters eat and drink . . . and wonder what they are missing.

  25. Mark B. Hanson said,

    December 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    It strikes me that paedocommunion folks have a particular problem that applies only obliquely to credocommunion types: What happens if the child never makes a credible profession of faith? Is such a person allowed to continue communing indefinitely, as long as there is no chargeable offense?

    Or is there a point at which the elders of a church that practices paedocommunion say, “profess or be excommunicated”? I ask this because I have never seen an answer. How far (how long) does benefit of the doubt extend there?

    A similar problem can arise in a credocommunion congregation when a person who credibly professed faith while young changes his / her mind when older. But if there is doubt, the elders can (and should) ask during visitation whether he / she still believes what was once professed. And in the general scheme of things, such an issue will either be spotted by behavior and addressed in discipline, or it will be found (or solved) when he / she transfers membership.

  26. Bob B said,

    December 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    “It would be interesting to know what the PCers here think it means to eat and drink judgment unto one’s self.”

    1 Cor 11 says what it means to eat and drink judgment on oneself. Go read it. The short answer is don’t be a glutton or drunkard with the Lords Table, but leave food for others so that all may share the table together. One could expand this to mean don’t eat / drink while in unrepentant sin, but only an unreasonable and harsh interpretation would lead one to believe that it includes the baptized children of believers.

    “But orthodoxy understands that it’s possible to be at once marked by baptism but not yet affirmed as a believer, letting time and the Spirit work. ”

    I’m not sure where you are getting your orthodoxy from. The early church practiced PC. In fact, the Orthodox church (which has probably the best claim to ‘orthodoxy’) practices PC. It is only a few shards of the reformation that abandoned PC.

    I do find it humorous that you are arguing the Baptist position which is quite the deviation from accepted orthodoxy. The Baptist errors lead to treating all children as needing a conversion (preferably with a conversion testimony), not to mention viewing all credo-baptisms as invalid. No church camp is complete without an alter call to give your life to Christ and a dip in the local lake. Lets get some power team in here and convert our children!
    http://www.thepowerteam.com/
    (yes – I have actually seen their performance, and no I did not respond to the alter call).

    “Bob, exceptions to the rule do not make the rule. Lanes’s position is based on his understanding of a Scripture. You are just perpetuating the kind of shrill emotional appeal argument his post is challenging. Prove from Scripture examination passage does not apply to children. Leave aside the exception characterizations that only serve as character (position) assassination. They do no actually advance your case.”

    I don’t mean to make it an emotional appeal. Go read the passage in question. In context the command is limited to those abusing the elements via gluttony, drunkenness, and excluding others from partaking due to there not being enough. vs 17-22 “I hear you are all abusing the table in these ways – gluttony, drunkenness, not leaving enough for others”, vs 22-32 “this is the table, don’t eat and drink unworthily”, vs 33-34 “make sure you eat before hand so that you don’t do the things I heard about in vs 17-22″.

    One could argue that the command be expanded to ‘living in sin’, but there is no clear argument that it applies to children at all. The ‘emotional’ appeals about the mentally handicapped just point to the inconsistency and shameful treatment of those who should be receiving but are to weak to defend themselves. Is this not the same error that was being addressed in 1 Cor 11? The exhortation there was to make sure that there was food and drink enough for all, and that all receive it (especially those who have ‘nothing’, the poor, the weak, the children maybe?)

    Even the judgment that you are trying to avoid your children coming under (by eating and drinking unworthily) is not a judgment unto damnation, but a judgment as discipline. By preventing the eating (even unworthily) you are preventing the opportunity for both the beneficial aspects, as well as the opportunity for God to discipline if they DO eat unworthily.

    vs 28-32 “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.”

    The fact that the early church agrees with my assessment means that the ‘proof’ is on your side as you are advocating for the deviation from orthodoxy – why do you insist on depriving children the communal supper?

  27. roberty bob said,

    December 9, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Bob B,

    Looks like you forgot to bring something to eat and drink for today’s lunch, so you had to resort to talking about eating and drinking.

    Get that nose of yours back on the grindstone!

  28. john k said,

    December 10, 2013 at 3:26 am

    Lane, how is an assumption of harm is “hidden” in the title of Leithart’s book? He’s asserting it.

    It’s possible to find harm in the exclusion of non-communicants at the Supper, and nevertheless agree that there are benefits for non- and ex-communicants (as well as communicants) in seeing and hearing the sacraments administered.

    The sacraments were given “to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world” (WCF 27:1). Who belongs to the visible Church? Why should we not expect the two sacraments, as much as possible, to give the same answer?

    It seems disrespectful to the sacraments if, in order to validate non-communicant membership, we minimize either of them by saying, “baptism is like a marriage engagement,” or, “communion is a privilege, like having a driver’s license”).

    I do admit that, unless there is infant-in-arms communion, paedocommunionists administer the two sacraments to slightly different groups of people. The range of difference, however, is less than in non-pc.

  29. Steve Tipton said,

    December 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    Bob,

    There are a number of things that I find problematic in your posts, but others here are addressing those. I would like to consider set of statements you made in two posts wherein you attempt to connect union and water baptism through the use of John 3. I have to say that I do not think your position follows from what is stated in John 3. It seems that you are confusing the occasion that gave rise to John’s disciples’ question with the larger context of John’s answer.

    First, the occasion arose because Jesus was engaged in what might be called John’s “signature move” (he was called John the Baptist, after all!). Their concern was that those who might otherwise have come to John to be baptized were now going to Jesus instead. John’s response is not suggesting that baptism is a “Bride-groom embrace”, but that his ministry as a whole was preparatory for Jesus’ ministry as a whole. Don’t forget, John did more than baptize, as did Jesus.

    Second, how does Jesus administering baptism demonstrate that baptism is the “bride-groom’s embrace”? What is Jesus doing that is different than what John did, what Peter and Paul (et. al.) would later do (leaving behind for the moment the discussion of whether John’s and Jesus’ baptism was even the same as Christian baptism)? Further, if the act of baptism is the “bride-groom’s embrace”, then why was John baptizing at all? It is proper for the best man to keep the bride company, for him to instruct her with godly wisdom and to call her to repentance, but is it proper for the best man to “wed” the bride? I know that I would have been very upset to come upon my best man and find him in an intimate marital act with my bride-to-be! If your connection is correct, Jesus would have needed to rebuke John for his baptism, rather than undergoing it himself.

    Third, if baptism is the “bride-groom’s embrace”, and this is shown to be such by Jesus being the one administering baptism, then how does that transfer to baptism by a minister? And if it does transfer to baptism by a minister, why was John’s baptism not the same as what Jesus was doing? In other words, if what I do during a given baptism is “the bride-groom’s embrace” (i.e., Jesus as the bride-groom embracing the person being baptized), then why would John need to decrease? Would not John need to continue his ministry of baptism, because it does not matter who baptizes, Jesus is embracing as the bride-groom?

    Fourth, if what you assert is the case, why is this not made explicit in any of the apostles’ teaching on baptism? I affirm that they speak of union and baptism, but this is easily understood by the connection between the sign and the thing signified, rather than the ex opere operata view you seem to be suggesting. What they do not say is that we are to link water baptism with the idea that Jesus has now married the person baptized.

    Fifth, why do you have trouble with engagement language? Both from the parables of Jesus (such as Matthew 25:1-13) and the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19) we see that the actual marriage ceremony and celebration is something that occurs at Jesus’ second coming. The WSC describes baptism as our “engagement to be the Lord’s” (which, admittedly, may not be formal “marriage” engagement, but it does mean “appointment, commitment, plan, promise”). There seems to be an “already/not yet” confusion here. There is a real appropriateness to the language of engagement (particularly as engagement was viewed in Jesus’ day) to the already/not yet status of the church as the bride of Christ.

  30. Ron said,

    December 10, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    This is the best piece I’ve seen on this subject. A few excerpts can be found below, but I would encourage reading it all. It’s quite succinct.

    The Passover fulfilled promises made to Abraham and also laid groundwork for the Mosaic covenant at Sinai. The essential unity of the covenant of grace traced back to Genesis 3 and fulfilled in Christ implies that the Passover was part of the larger covenantal process. Therefore, we must not assign too much weight to the Passover when seeking to understand the Lord’s Supper. In the book of Hebrews, Christ’s death is viewed primarily in terms of the new covenant. A fleeting reference to the Passover is found in Hebrews 11:28, where it is mentioned merely as one among many faith-events in the Old Testament. Although the Passover anticipated the Lord’s Supper, the true linkage between these feasts is the cross of Christ and its covenantally defined atonement.

    It has been the practice of societies to give children legal status without encumbering them with the legal responsibility to sign covenants and contracts. Their inability to personally covenant or renew a covenant does not imply any lack of covenantal status, privilege, or responsibility. A child of the new covenant is no more displaced from the covenant by being kept from the Lord’s Supper than an American child ceases to be a citizen because he is not allowed to vote. The child’s parents have taken covenant vows at the child’s baptism. If they or a sponsor cannot make such commitments with discernment, then this sacrament should also be withheld.

    The nurturing aspect of the Lord’s Supper has sometimes been used to suggest that we are letting our children go hungry. But there is much more to the Lord’s Supper than nurture. A fellowship dinner is where children may participate in a meal that they can understand, without facing the weighty responsibilities of a covenant renewer. Any lesson of nurture that might suggest to the young that the Lord’s Supper is snack time will hardly help cultivate the sacramental discernment that is essential to proper observance of the ordinance.

  31. john k said,

    December 11, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Covenant renewal was part of the meaning of Passover observance, as well as of other ordinances; therefore, covenant renewal in the Supper is no bar to children partaking.

    Voting is not enough to distinguish citizens and non-citizens. The Lord’s Supper does mark the difference between the church and the world.

    The Supper is not merely “snack time,” but as a means of grace it meets us according to our capacity. Should we give up baptizing infants because our young children might see it as “wash time”?

  32. Ron said,

    December 11, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Covenant renewal was part of the meaning of Passover observance, as well as of other ordinances; therefore, covenant renewal in the Supper is no bar to children partaking.

    John K,

    I’m not sure that response addresses the author’s point. As was written in the article, “While consecration and religious devotion were certainly part of the Passover meal, the element of covenant renewal was not as pointedly present as in the Feast of Tabernacles, much less the Lord’s Supper. It was at the Feast of Tabernacles that the law was read every seven years in the year of release (Deut. 31:10–13), and this feast played a major part in the life of discerning covenant renewers in Nehemiah’s day (cf. Neh. 8:2, 14; 10:28).”

    In any case, the popular link to the Supper being the Passover meal is not convincing to me. Did the Last Supper occur the night the Passover was celebrated, or was the Passover celebrated the day after the Last Supper? (John 18:28) Also, Jesus’ sacrifice (the day after the Last Supper) is referred to in Scripture as our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7) but not the covenant meal the night before. Finally, there does seem to be a closer link to the covenant meal of the Lord’s Supper in the meal eaten by Moses and the elders in Exodus 24. Moses even says, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you…” That is strikingly similar to Jesus’ words “This is my blood of the New Covenant.” When faced with those points plus the strict warnings that presuppose discernment I must reject the practice.

    Voting is not enough to distinguish citizens and non-citizens. The Lord’s Supper does mark the difference between the church and the world.

    Whether or not the Lord’s Supper marks the difference between the church and the world is the issue of debate and, therefore, may not be assumed.

    The Supper is not merely “snack time,” but as a means of grace it meets us according to our capacity. Should we give up baptizing infants because our young children might see it as “wash time”?
    No one suggested that it is merely snack time, or not a means of grace.

  33. Ron said,

    December 11, 2013 at 10:06 am

    John K,

    I neglected to tie all this together. Jesus Christ fulfills all the shadows and ordinances of the OT. Accordingly, His Supper may not be indexed only to the Passover meal, which of course anticipated the blood of the covenant. Hence SJ’s point in the article, that we mustn’t place undo emphasis upon the Passover alone. That would be hasty, especially in light of the points made above.

  34. Ron said,

    December 11, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Reading some passages today it occurred to me that there is yet another strikingly similar aspect with the Lord’s Supper to that Sinai event. At Sinai those present saw a vision of the Lord and from Luke’s account of the post-resurrection Supper we read that “their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.” Again though, I’m not wanting to suggest that the covenant meal at Sinai (which uses a simiar blood-reference as the Last Supper and includes a vision aspect as did Luke’s post-resurrection Supper) is to be taken as an exact one-to-one correspondence to the Lord’s Supper. My point is (merely) that there seems to be ample reason not to draw too much from the Passover with respect to all the various aspects of the Lord’s Supper, like who may attend. There are enough differences to give us pause, not the least of which is the exhortation to examine oneself. It’s on top of that I draw attention to the similarities of the Sinai covenant-meal.

    Thanks to the moderator who linked the referenced article to the word “this” as opposed to the entire post! :)

  35. john k said,

    December 12, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Ron,

    When Pastor Stuart writes that “covenant renewal was not as pointedly present” in Passover, that is still a statement that it is present. Yet he asserts that it is precisely covenant renewal that makes the Supper inappropriate for children. (He mentions “their inability to personally covenant or renew a covenant.”) Let us grant that the Supper fulfills more than Passover. But if children are now excluded, it must be on a basis other than covenant renewal. Covenant renewal did not exclude children from Passover. Pastor Stuart has not shown that there are levels or degrees of covenant renewal, or that the New Covenant heightens the nature of a vow.

    All agree, I think, that covenant children develop in their understanding of the obligations of the covenant. The paedocommunion claim is that children can be renewed, as well as initiated, in their covenant obligation, while having a small ability to understand.

    Whether or not the Lord’s Supper marks the difference between the church and the world is the issue of debate and, therefore, may not be assumed.

    I was drawing from the Westminster Confession, which says that the sacraments were given “to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world” (WCF 27:1). Granted, the confession does not draw a PC conclusion from this assertion.

    No one suggested that it is merely snack time, or not a means of grace.

    Pastor Stuart writes that the argument for PC from Christian nurture is inadequate because paedocommunion “might might suggest to the young that the Lord’s Supper is snack time,” and in this way fail to “cultivate… sacramental discernment” in them. This is an unfair critique, since all of us face the task of cultivating a proper regard and use of the sacraments in the young. Should we stop baptizing infants because the older brother of 3 or 4 years might see it as “wash time”?

  36. Ron said,

    December 12, 2013 at 7:18 am

    When Pastor Stuart writes that “covenant renewal was not as pointedly present” in Passover, that is still a statement that it is present.

    John K,

    Yes, but that misses the point I believe. That x is present in y does not mean that all who are permitted to participate in y also can (i.e. have the ability to) participate in x; surely, nothing controversial there. Indeed, there can be other aspects of y that can be enjoyed without the ability to participate in x. That’s what we find with the Passover, or so it’s argued I believe. Yet when we come to the Lord’s Supper, the point I believe is being made is that covenant renewal, which requires understanding (the will), is at the heart of the sacrament. We might say it’s mostly all about x, unlike the case that was being made for the Passover. Not only is the Supper all about x so to speak but, also, there are grave warnings attached to participating in the Supper without understanding or being able to participate in x (unlike with the Passover, where x, so it is argued, is more incidental).

    At the very least, I hope you can see that it’s not logically invalid to argue that x is sufficient to disqualify infants from getting anything out of the Supper if they’re incapable of x. Not only would there be nothing remaining (after x) of which to participate in; there are also grave warnings attached for only going through the motions of x, which is all an infant can do. On that basis the credo-communion conclusion rests. The point of the article was addresses the misuse of the Passover as proof for infant communion.

    The paedocommunion claim is that children can be renewed, as well as initiated, in their covenant obligation, while having a small ability to understand.

    “Children” is vague. Let’s talk about infants. Are you saying that infants have a “small ability to understand?” If so, then we’re likely at an impasse. If you agree that they don’t understand, then your point undermines PC – your position. Notwithstanding, even if infants could understand, how would the elders asses the understanding of infants in order to discharge their pastoral responsibility to ensure within reason that infants would not be eating and drinking damnation to themselves? What are elders to do when it comes to infants that cannot be examined or heed the warnings? (Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that the accent should be on “take-eat” and that 1 Corinthians 11 is overdone in many communion services. Nonetheless, infants do not meet your requirement as stated above, and infant communion undermines pastoral oversight.) Pointing to the faith of the parents as with baptism is fallacious, which I won’t take time preempt.

    I wrote above: “Whether or not the Lord’s Supper marks the difference between the church and the world is the issue of debate and, therefore, may not be assumed,” to which you replied:

    “I was drawing from the Westminster Confession, which says that the sacraments were given “to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world” (WCF 27:1). Granted, the confession does not draw a PC conclusion from this assertion.”

    I agree with you, the Confession does not draw a PC conclusion, which is why that particular use of the Westminster standards is irrelevant to this discussion on infant communion because the visible difference the Sacraments make is apart from infants partaking of the Supper, per those same standards. In other words, whatever is meant by 27.1 precludes PC on the basis of WLC 177.

  37. roberty bob said,

    December 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    About that Bridegroom’s Embrace from John 3:22ff. . . .

    This is the only account from the 4 Evangelists which show Jesus in action as a baptizer. John the Baptizer’s friends draw this activity to his attention, thinking that the news of Jesus infringing on his domain would disturb him. John, however, is not the least bit jealous; he is rejoicing that the promised one — the one greater than he — has now appeared.

    Here is how John assesses Jesus appearance as baptizer. In John’s eyes, Jesus is the Bridegroom. All those going over to Jesus to be baptized have been given to Jesus from God in Heaven; they are the Bride being given [in marriage] to the Bridegroom. John, who is the Friend [or Best Man] of the Bridegroom is overjoyed at the sight!

    John, as baptizer, has played his part in preparing the Bride for Jesus, and he is thrilled that Jesus has now come to receive the Bride that Heaven has given him.

    My question, then, is whether there are biblical grounds for baptism to be constituted as the “union” sacrament, that rite which unites those who are baptized to Jesus Christ. I think that this John 3 pericope shows baptism to be a sacrament of unifying import. As of yet, I have not made acquaintance with a Reformed or Presbyterian denomination that denies the doctrine that those who have been baptized are joined to Jesus in some significant way. Typically it is said that the baptized is made a member of the church, or of the covenant, or adopted into the family of faith.

    It seems that everyone agrees that the baptized — including baptized infants — have standing or status in the church. Beyond that, it is a question of what permissions, especially with regard to baptized infants, ought to be granted. Most notable is the permission to eat and drink at the Lord’s Table, which is the church’s “communion” sacrament.

    Some of us believe that baptized children should not have to wait until they come to a mature understanding of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and profess faith that is based on that advanced knowledge, before they come to the Table. We believe that the grace-laden claim of our little ones at their baptism is sufficient cover for them to come. We believe that our little ones will hear and see and taste the Gospel more truly and clearly by being invited and included at the Table. We see no danger of unworthy partaking in this involvement. We see only the abounding of heavenly blessings.

    Those who are wed get fed.

    Those in union enjoy communion.

    I know. This is all problematic.

  38. roberty bob said,

    December 13, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    The commenter of #29 thinks that roberty bob is confused about the John 3 passage where Jesus the Baptizer is clearly identified by John the Baptizer as the Bridegroom who is receiving in baptism all those whom Heaven is giving to him.

    Commenter #29 seems to think that there is no Bridegroom on the scene whatsoever because the Bridegroom isn’t due to appear until Christ’s second coming; the Bride of Christ cannot be acknowledged as such until she is revealed her glorified splendor. And yet, there she is in John 3 — at the baptismal waters where Jesus the Bridegroom is receiving her. Yes! My sermon on this great happening is entitled, Baptism, the Bridegroom’s Embrace! Apparently the clear-minded #29 sees no Bridegroom, no Bride, no Embrace; only a Best Man who ought to be stewing in a jealous rage. Unbelievable!

    The Gospel makes a clear differentiation between John’s baptism and our Lord’s baptism; while both are administered with water, only Jesus baptizes with the Spirit and with fire. This indicates that the baptism of Jesus will have a power and efficacy that John’s baptism lacks. John understands this, and therefore points to go to Jesus for the greater blessing.

    Commenter #29 think that the baptismal theology of roberty bob is suggestive of an ex opere operata salvation accomplishment in the life of all who are baptized. What can I say? Notice these astonishing claims for baptism: “be baptized and wash your sins away (Acts 22:16); “he saved us by the washing of rebirth [the regeneration] and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5); “all of you who were baptized have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Baptism surely appears to result in cleansing, rebirth, spiritual renewal, being covered in Christ. Is roberty bob supposed to deny, then, that these salvation-y benefits are given to infants when they are baptized? Is roberty bob supposed to plead ignorance on the grounds that infants are incapable of showing evidence of having received any salvation benefits?

    Why not regard all the baptized as cleansed and clothed, reborn and renewed? Anticipate the day when each one of these shows and tells the wonderful truth of it. In the meantime, regard each baptized child as belonging to Jesus . . . the Bridegroom!

    What’s the problem?

    Right. Some fall away and forsake the faith.

    And that makes the astonishing claims of baptism untrue?

  39. Steve Tipton said,

    December 14, 2013 at 10:47 am

    I am always leery of those who refer to themselves in the third person…

    Bob, you need to re-read what I wrote.

    I did not say that there was no Bride-groom in John 3. Rather, I the point of my post is that I do not think that your connection between what John says and what Jesus is doing is enough to suggest baptism is “the bride-groom’s embrace”. In a general and rhetorical sense, perhaps. But in such a way that you can say that everyone who is baptized is united savingly to Christ? No. There is still a huge step in your logic that you have not demonstrated.

    The fact that some fall away does not make Scripture’s astonishing claims of baptism untrue. It makes your astonishing claims of baptism untrue. Because Scripture also says that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus, that none who are given into Christ’s hands will be snatched out, that Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him. Rather than pit certain portions of Scripture against others, the Reformed tradition has sought to reconcile them. Thus, we distinguish between the sign of the sacrament and the thing that is being signified. Not everyone who receives the sign receives what is signified by it.

  40. roberty bob said,

    December 14, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    So, you are saying, Steve Tipton, that baptism is not the sacrament of our union with Christ, and that baptism does not effectually accomplish anything; it only points toward a cleansing, a clothing, a regeneration that may or may not eventually occur.

    If baptism unites at all, it does not unite savingly.

    Now I understand.

    Thank you.

  41. greenbaggins said,

    December 14, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Typical. For guys like you, if baptism doesn’t unite someone to Christ, then it doesn’t do anything. Ever heard of false dichotomy?

  42. roberty bob said,

    December 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    The water of baptism is a sign of the cleansing from sin, which will occur whenever Christ through the Holy Spirit is pleased to cleanse from sin. When the actual cleansing by the Holy Spirit occurs — whether before, during, or after baptism — faith comes alive in the person so cleansed. This faith is that which unites the now believing person to Christ. The baptism signifies that faith-union, but does not effectuate it. In the case of infant baptism, the church should expect some lag time between the sign being given and the faith-union occuring. [I do believe this, by the way.]

    I just want to know if guys like you view baptism as the sacrament of our union with Christ. What is the status of the baptized infant on account of him being baptized? [I'm not here to pick an argument.] Does baptism only signfify what may happen at some point by God’s grace? Or does it go further and actually seal [make certain] what God promises in baptism? Or does the sealing come at that point when the Holy Spirit brings forth faith?

  43. roberty bob said,

    December 14, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Here are two quotes attributed to John Calvin:

    “Baptism is the sign of the initiation by which we are received into the society of the church, in order that, engrafted in Christ, we may be reckoned among God’s children.”

    “We must realize that at whatever time we are baptized, we are once and for all washed and purged of sin for our whole life.”

    What do guys like you make of these sayings? Does Calvin regard baptism as only a sign of union with Christ or does he also imply that all baptized persons are to be reckoned [regarded as, counted] among God’s children by virtue of having been engrafted in [united with] Christ?

    I’m trying to figure out where the hang up is between guys like me and guys like you. That’s why I’m here. I’m thinking the issue that separates us is the lag time between the infant’s baptism and the point at which the gracious promises are clearly seen to have taken effect: the grown up infant professes his or her faith.

    My time on this site is nearing an end. It is this post only that intrigues me.

  44. Mark B said,

    December 14, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    @bob 42

    This comment is closer than your previous, but there still seems to be the (fatal) problem of the wrong underlying assumption. Baptism is a sign and seal given to us by God, wherein God assures the recipient that He (God) will be faithful to his covenant promise to unite to Christ (and preserve) those who have faith in Him. You seem to be assuming (correct me if I’m wrong) that baptism is something that the minister does to the recipient, whether infant or professing believer. The same error is expressed here:

    “When the minister pronounces a child baptized, he is authorized to announce, based on these passages and others, God’s own acceptance of the child as saint, son of God, righteous one. Unlike the preached word, unlike even the absolution, this declaration is specific, particular to the child. The minister, as a servant of Christ acting in Christ’s name, names the child baptized as a child of God. By that very declaration, the minister also calls the child to give himself wholly to Jesus, trusting Jesus to preserve him and obeying Jesus’ commands. So, baptism is a declaration “this child is forgiven, righteous in the sight of God for Jesus’ sake.” ” (for more of this error see “The Baptized Body” by Leithart)

    The minister baptizes someone, but it is God who unites the person to Christ. So, yes, baptism is ” the sacrament of our union with Christ”, but the pronouncement the minister makes is a declaration of God’s covenantal faithfulness. Baptism (getting someone wet and making a pronouncement) does not itself seal [make certain] saving faith.

  45. Ron said,

    December 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Or does it go further and actually seal [make certain] what God promises in baptism?

    RB,

    Is that what you think the seal of baptism does, ensure regeneration and union with Christ? If so, can one lose his salvation in Christ?

  46. roberty bob said,

    December 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Thank you, Mark B.

    In my experience it is always an ordained minister doing the baptizing. I don’t see this action as the minister doing something to the recipient of baptism to “save” him then and there on the spot.

    All of the baptisms in which I have taken part or observed in various Reformed churches have highlighted God’s covenant promise to “be your God” and remain faithful. I understand that the baptized child needs to hear the Gospel of his salvation and come to faith in Christ. The church’s long-standing tradition of having young people make a public profession of their faith is wholesome and worthwhile.

    Nevertheless, all of the baptisms in which I have taken part or observed have also emphasized that the baptized person — infant or older — is now received into church membership as a child of God belonging to Christ. “Little ones to Him belong!”

    So, the assumption guys like me make is that the sacramental rite of baptism is effectual — it effects, or does some thing — in some way. In the case of infants, who come to a conscious awareness of their faith at some later date, we can expect that they will consider themselves having been cleansed from the sins, forgiven, clothed with Christ, adoped into God’s family, and so forth. Does this mean, then, that baptism is sort of a prolonged event for the infant: it starts with the promises of God [God saying "I will"] and comes to completion with the profession of faith where the young person says Amen ["yes, I believe; therefore, I am saved!] to the promises?

    Is it the case, then, that the sign comes first and the seal comes later on at profession of faith? Only then it is safe to say that this one is a saint, a son of God. Only then may this signed and sealed saintly child be invited to the Lord’s Table for communion.

    The minister who declares that God has now accepted this little baptized one as God’s own [adopted] child is jumping the gun! No one should assume this to be true until evidence of saving faith is presented.

    Is that what I’m hearing you say?

  47. roberty bob said,

    December 14, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Ron, at #45

    The baptism forms with which I am familiar speak of baptism as a sign and seal. I have raised the question of when the act of sealing occurs.

    I don’t think that I have flat out stated that every baptized infant is regenerated on the spot while the water was sprinked on them and the triune name spoken over them. There are many baptized infants who grow up and show no evidence of God’s regenerating power — being born anew / from above.

    I have baptized chidren, all of them adults now. My wife and I have always reminded ourselves and our children that we are a Christian family, and therefore we will do what our Lord commands and flee from what our Lord forbids. Two have professed their faith and strive by God’s grace to follow Jesus. Another has professed his faith but appears to have forsaken Christ. Another has not yet professed faith, but may yet do so.

    No, I do not believe that baptism ensures regeneration or guarantees one’s final salvation. That does not dissuade me, however, from saying to all of my children that we are a Christian family, and to encourge all to manifest the Christian graces in their daily living. Why? As far as I know, they all belong to the Lord. Even if one has fallen [for now], we pray for his recovery. Do I regard this fallen on as God’s child? You bet I do! Is this fallen one saved? God only knows.

  48. Ron said,

    December 14, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    No, I do not believe that baptism ensures regeneration

    RB,

    Good. Now with that settled, what seems to be the problem?

  49. roberty bob said,

    December 14, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Ron,

    My problem is that while I do not believe that baptism ensures regeneration or guarantees final salvation, I do believe that God has accepted my baptized infant children as his very own children; they are cleansed, forgiven, clothed with Christ. Everything that the Bible ascribes to baptism, I affirm to be true for my baptized children.

    Yes, I say to all of my children that you are Christ’s very own; therefore, you must believe in his name and trust him for your salvation. The Lord met you at the waters of baptism and named you and claimed you. You are family. Come to the Table of the Lord. Give your life and your love to him. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!

    My problem — well, maybe it’s not my problem — is that I am in error.

  50. Mark B said,

    December 14, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Is an unsaved person cleansed of their sins?
    Is an unsaved forgiven their trespasses?
    Is an unsaved person clothed with Christ?
    Is an unsaved person accepted as a child of God?
    To say that someone receives these things which only the regenerate receive based on baptism is why it’s difficult to not see you as expressing baptismal regeneration.
    I’ve interacted with you under the assumption that you are honestly trying to understand the reformed position, not trying to push an FV agenda. Assuming that the former is true, I would point out that the FV system is a parallel soteriological system to the reformed system, so if you are approaching this subject from an FV background, this conversation will have some difficulties. For example, we will both be using many of the same words, but meaning different things by them, which creates a lot of confusion. In other words, there isn’t one simple point where the “hang up is between guys like me and guys like you” I guess I’m wondering how this conversation can move forward profitably?

  51. Ron said,

    December 14, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    I do believe that God has accepted my baptized infant children as his very own children; they are cleansed, forgiven, clothed with Christ. Everything that the Bible ascribes to baptism, I affirm to be true for my baptized children….

    JB,

    I think you would do well to distinguish between (i) what you affirm to be true, even by biblical precept (i.e. affirming according to what God’s word instructs you to affirm), and (ii) what God knows to be true. In other words, that you are to regard your children as in Christ because they are members of the visible church is not to be equated with God’s understanding of their actual position in Christ. Let’s go slowly here…

    You have stated that (a) baptism does not ensure regeneration or final salvation and (b) that you accept baptized infants as forgiven. Both those beliefs are agreeable to Reformed thought. So far, so good. Where you go astray is that you believe that God accepts baptized infants as forgiven, but doesn’t that contradict what you already said, which is that baptism doesn’t ensure forgiveness? In other words, you admit that there are baptized infants that will never be saved. They are truly always in Adam and outside of Christ. So, do you really want to say that God has “accepted [your] baptized infant children as…forgiven…”? If one is not elect in Christ and will perish in the end, in what sense does God accept that person as forgiven?

    My problem — well, maybe it’s not my problem — is that I am in error.

    The “problem” as I see it is not distinguishing between the visible and invisible church – true Israel and Israel according to the flesh. That we are by precept to consider the visible church as in Christ does not mean that God does.

  52. Ron said,

    December 14, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    RB, sorry for calling your JB. :)

    Good Lord’s Day,

    Ron

  53. roberty bob said,

    December 15, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Thank you Mark and Ron.

    Ron at #51. So, it is good and right to REGARD my children as in Christ because they are members of the visible church, which is what I do. But how I REGARD them may not, in fact, EQUATE with their ACTUAL position, because God knows something that I don’t know, namely, that a particular baptized child of mine is not a child of His. [That is what I think I'm reading here.]

    Right. God alone knows whether any particular baptized child will come to faith and persevere in that faith all the way to the end. God can see what I can’t see: the INVISIBLE church, the full number of chosen ones who persevere to the end. I can only hold in my view the VISIBLE church and regard the baptized child as being in Christ by virtue what . . . ?

    I would say, by virtue of God’s gracious disposition to “be God for” believers and their children. I believe that God is faithful as promised. A particular baptized child of mine may act unfaithfully and fall away. A grown up faith-professing adult child may even fall away at some point.

    So, then, at what point can you be sure that a younger baptized child in the 5-13 year range is regenerate? Can you pinpoint it? What if you think that you know, and pinpoint it, and find out later that it mightn’t have been so? Well, then, there is ex-communication. I know. But haven’t you assumed based on what was VISIBLE to you that there was evidence of faith in the fruit of that child’s life?

    I’m coming at this from an FV position, which is the way I understood Calvin in making my first acquaintance with him in the late 1970s. The FV people did not talk me into my FV position. The Reformed camp has had plenty of them in the fold from the Reformation until now. I don’t expect to bring anyone over the the FV side. There are points of interest in the theology of baptism and communion that I am trying to explore and resolve for myself and for a few people who are close to me. I’ve tried to be assertive, probing, and inquiring — arguing just a bit without being argumentative.

    All the Best

  54. roberty bob said,

    December 15, 2013 at 1:13 am

    “That we are by precept to consider the visible church as in Christ . . . .”

    So says Ron @ #51

    . . . which is why I consider the baptized infants, being of that visible church, as in Christ.

    So, with respect to their standing, or position, we regard these little ones as Christian and hold them dear as brothers and sisters.

    Am I going to fast and too far here?

    I am not presuming to know anything about them being regenerate or elect because it is not my place to know what God only know of His invisible church.

    So, then, I can regard these baptized infants as “in Christ” without having to know whether they [yet] have been regenerated unto a saving faith.

    I think that is what Ron @ #51 is logically implying. If so, he is in agreement with me.

  55. Reed Here said,

    December 15, 2013 at 8:51 am

    RB: how do you coordinate 1Co 11 (discerning one’s relationship with Christ) and Rom 10 (professing the faith in your heart with your mouth)?

  56. Ron said,

    December 15, 2013 at 9:07 am

    I would say, by virtue of God’s gracious disposition to “be God for” believers and their children. I believe that God is faithful as promised. A particular baptized child of mine may act unfaithfully and fall away. A grown up faith-professing adult child may even fall away at some point.

    RB,

    Do you really believe that God’s “promise” pertains to those not chosen in Christ? What FV does not grasp is the theology of Q&A 31 of the WLC, which teaches that God’s covenant of grace is made with the incarnate Christ and in him with the elect. FV misses that God establishes his covenant with the elect alone but would have it administered to all professing believes and their children. Remember when Abraham pleaded with God that he might walk before God – i.e. establish his covenant with Ishmael? God said NO, yet God still commanded that Ishmael receive the mark of the covenant. The promise was for Isaac, not Ishmael, just as it was for Jacob and not Esau. Romans nine and Galatians 3 is the theology of Q&A 31, which builds upon Genesis 12-17. This “promise” of which you speak is just that, a promise. It’s a promise of salvation and being a promise it comes to fruition. God is faithful to his promise. Who are the children of promise in Romans 9? The promise is made with the elect, per Scripture. Yet as you rightly see, we are to regard “covenant children” as those to whom the promise pertains.

    You might get a bit further if you deal with Mark B’s post #50. In a word, you would do well to reconcile his questions with your understanding of covenant “promise” and what you mean by “God is faithful as promised.” You see, Reformed theology reconciles these contradictions you have by distinguishing between the establishment of the covenant and its outward administration.

  57. roberty bob said,

    December 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Responding to Reed @ #55 . . .

    In 1 Corithinans 11 the Apostle Paul gets on the case of the Church in Corinth for tolerating some rude Table Manners at their fellowship meals; the early arrivers — most likely the wealthier members — went ahead with their eating and drinking before the poorer latecomers — the day-laborers and slaves — arrived, leaving little food for them. Under these conditions, it was was impossible for all the members of this local body of Christ to enjoy a true communion meal. The gross mistreatment and neglect of the poorer, needier members made a mockery of the sacramental meal which aims at building Christian community around the self-giving love and atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Those who fail to [or refuse to] discern the body — accept and care for all those who are members of the body of Christ — even as they partake of communion meal will inevitably be eating and drinking in an unworthy manner.

    I believe that Paul’s reference to discerning the body has more to do with rightly acknowledging, accepting, and including our Christian brothers and sisters than it does with having the competency to give an accurate explanation of who Jesus and how he saves his people by his atoning death and life-giving resurrection. The upshot is that Paul’s exhortation to rightly discern the body is a challenge to adult members who should know how to better behave than it is a barrier to prevent children who have not yet attained the capacity to discern the body from partaking of the communion meal.

    The Romans 10 passage speaks of the urgent necessity to believe that word of faith — that gospel testimony proclaiming the risen Christ as Lord. Those who believe in their heart that God has raised him from the dead, and profess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord — yes, all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

    How do I coordinate 1 Corinthians 11 with Romans 10? The great commision given to the Church is preach the gospel to every creature, so that all who hear will be pressed to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and so be saved. In evangelism, the saved will be added to the number of believers and unite with their brothers and sister in the body of Christ to love and serve the Lord together.

    What about the baptized children of faith-professing adult parents? These little ones must also believe the gospel that is preached unto them so that they will call upon the name of the Lord, and so be saved. The promise that this will hold true is given to them at their baptism. So, a faithful church will lead their baptized covenant children to Jesus that they may have a saving knowledge of their Savior and Lord.

    Does this mean, then, that baptized infants are unsaved until that time they are given the capacity to understand the gospel and call upon the name of the Lord? I do not know quite how to answer. I would never say to Christian parents whose baptized infant met with death that they had no grounds for hope because their little one had not come to a saving faith. I believe God holds these little ones in His safe-keeping because he has named them and claimed them as His own.

    I do not believe that a grown child’s profession of faith is a prerequisite for coming to the Lord’s Table. These little ones are members of the body of Christ in all the years leading up to their profession of faith.

  58. roberty bob said,

    December 15, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    To Ron @ #56 . . .

    We really do not know what will become of every individual baptized infant now, do we? Nevertheless, the sure promises of God are spoken in the presence of each baptized infant and to all the faithful attending the baptism.

    Some baptized persons — perhaps many — will in time show by their words and deeds that they are in rebellion against Christ, and are rejecting the offer of life held forth in the Gospel. You and I do not know whether a particular baptized Christ-rejecter will persist in his rebellion to the very end. Until that end comes, God’s faithful promises are ever before him. They pertain.

    Those who die in rebellious unbelief shall not receive what was promised.

    When we baptize infants, we speak the promises. Our not knowing the ultimate status [elect / non-elect] does not prevent us from speaking the promises. The promises pertain, even though some — or many, as the case may be — will not receive what was promised.

  59. roberty bob said,

    December 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    On the matter of how the not-as-yet-faith-professing covenant child is to be regarded, I find 1 Samuel 3:21, 26 insightful. The boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord, and continued to grow in stature and in favor with God and man. This same pattern is put forth as the childhood pattern of our Lord Jesus in Luke 2:52.

    The covenant infant / child grows up in the presence of the Lord, and continues [by God's grace] in that growth unto a favorable maturity.

    The covenant infant / child brought up this way of faith is not thought to be unsaved during those formative years. He is being brought up in God’s House and belongs to the Lord.

  60. Ron said,

    December 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    RB,

    It seems to me that this covenant promise of which you speak is something other than “I will be your God and you will be my people.” As you yourself describe it (or dance around it), the covenant promise of salvation is not a promise at all to God’s people that will come to pass but rather a conditional offer of salvation predicated upon faith, in which case it would equally apply to those outside the baptized, visible people of God! Such an offer applies to all men everywhere. So much for the promise(s) of God (e.g. Ezekial 36) that do come to pass because they are made to the true Israel of God. And so much for the covenant of grace being established with the elect in Christ.

    As I see it you’re engaged in a movement that opposes systematic theology, which is why its biblical theology is just as lacking. You can neither do justice to the analogy of Scripture nor the Confession. FV is not Reformed in any sense of the word. So let’s not pretend it is. It’s not even evangelical when taken to its logical ends.

    Until you interact with the passages and questions that are before you, put forth by much more than myself, there’s not much chance of this discussion progressing further.

  61. roberty bob said,

    December 15, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    OK. So, the covenant promise is only rightly spoken to the elect, who are members of the invisible church because it is only in the elect that the promise takes effect.

    Am I hearing you say that a minister is in error to proclaim to the visible church — that mix of elect and non-elect — that anyone who believes in / trusts in Jesus for salvation will find God faithful and true to his promise?

    Are you saying that when a minister preaches the Gospel to the visible church that must not put forth God’s promise and call for repentance and faith because only the members of God’s invisible church of the elect will see God’s promise come to pass?

    So, you have unconditional election. I understand that. But do not the elect come to saving faith by believing the promise fulfilled in Jesus.

    How do you would you preach to the unchurched, the unbaptized, who are not [yet] in Christ? Would declare what God in Christ has done to rescue and redeem Adam’s fallen race? Would you proclaim the covenant promise to those who are far off, and say that the God will be found true to this promise when you trust in His name?

    That’s how I would preach..

    If I read the charge you have put against me, Ron @ #60, I gather that you would preach this only to the elect of the invisible church.

    You are not at all like the Reformed I went to school with back in the day. Not at all.

  62. Ron said,

    December 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    RB,

    I would suggest going back and reading my posts a bit more carefully.

  63. roberty bob said,

    December 16, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    No Ron.

    We speak different languages, and I’m just not getting the hang of what you and the crew are saying.

    I’ve raised a range of questions, but have heard precious few answers.

    I say good-bye to the green baggins blog.

    I have no need to return.

  64. Ron said,

    December 16, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    RB,

    Please, let’s not get emotional. All I ask is that you help me understand these two mindsets of yours.

    Mindset 1:

    I do believe that God has accepted my baptized infant children as his very own children; they are cleansed, forgiven, clothed with Christ.

    Mindset 2:

    Right. God alone knows whether any particular baptized child will come to faith and persevere in that faith all the way to the end…

    Does God accept any baptized infant as “cleansed, forgiven, clothed with Christ” (mindset 1) who does not come to faith (from mindset 2)?

    On what basis does God accept as forgiven one who is not united to Christ?

    You say we’re speaking different languages, but from what I have read the Reformed are speaking one language and the FV are speaking at least two in opposition.

  65. roberty bob said,

    December 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    That’s better.

    When my children were baptized, I believed all that the Gospel and Epistles ascribe and promise in baptism — that this baptism is FOR the forgiveness of sins, that it signifies the washing away of sin, and that the baptized are said to be now clothed with Christ. I also know that at the baptism is administered in God’s Triune Name; the child is marked out as one of God’s own (as I understand it) and received into the membership of the church, which is the body of Chirst.

    In believing this I am not asserting that the infant child is eternally saved. I am not saying that the child has faith. God alone knows where the child stands. I am saying that I believe that the child, having been received into the body of Christ,is now regarded as a child of God. For me, it is no stretch at all to say that God accepts this baptized infant as cleansed, forgiven, clothed with Christ. The child is to be brought up to believe that the promises put forth in baptism are true, and to believe in — put his faith in — our Lord Jesus Christ who cleanses, forgives, and clothes him.

    What I’m picking up from you is that to claim that God accepts these little baptized ones is in error because the child has not professed faith yet; God only accepts those who are His by election. Only the Elect come to faith, and obviously not all the baptized come to faith. Thus, it is presumptuous to take the position that God accepts any particular baptized infant as cleansed, forgiven, clothed . . . until faith appears.

    My question, then, for you would be: What is the fitting term to define the relation of the baptized infant to Christ? My guess is that you would say something like this: he is a covenant child not yet come to faith; or he is a covenant child for whose salvation we are praying; maybe you would say that he is baptized, but as yet lacking faith, and therefore unsaved.

    I believe that baptism is the union sacrament. I haven’t heard you disagree with that. What I am hearing is that baptism isn’t complete until the baptized child repents, converts, and professes faith. At that point, then, you can confirm the cleansing, forgiveness, and union with Christ. So, baptism, then, is the union sacrament — a union that the baptism rite signifies, a union that is sealed when the baptized person becomes a believer in Jesus.

    My final question: I hold to what you have bracketed as Mindset 2. Could you kindly re-word what I’ve said in the Mindset 1 bracket so that is reconciles with Mindset 2. How would you put it?

  66. Ron said,

    December 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    In believing this I am not asserting that the infant child is eternally saved.

    RB,

    When you say things like “eternally saved” it seems to suggest that you believe one can be saved in another sense, which is common to FV. I don’t impugn you with this, I’m just not sure what you think on that matter. In any case, since there is no other life than everlasting, why not just say “saved” rather than “eternally saved.” It sounds as if apostates lose their salvation when you speak that way, especially in light of other things I’m reading regarding how God “accepts” as forgiven based upon water baptism, which would imply that if one denies his baptism later he then loses God’s forgiveness. Just thought I’d mention it, but let’s not lose focus on what’s below. :)

    I am saying that I believe that the child, having been received into the body of Christ,is now regarded as a child of God.

    That is not a point of contention with Reformed theology if by “the body of Christ” you mean the visible church. As I have (repeatedly?) said, we are to regard those in the corporate church as in Christ. (I might add that as a general rule we should consider those outside the corporate church as outside Christ.)

    For me, it is no stretch at all to say that God accepts this baptized infant as cleansed, forgiven, clothed with Christ.

    That is the point of contention. What does it mean that God “accepts” the non-elect as in Christ when they remain at enmity with God, outside of Christ? Read on…

    What I’m picking up from you is that to claim that God accepts these little baptized ones is in error because the child has not professed faith yet;

    It’s not a matter of them professing faith yet. It’s a matter of whether they are united to Christ. God accepts in Christ those who are in Christ, even if they’re not yet in the visible church.

    Thus, it is presumptuous to take the position that God accepts any particular baptized infant as cleansed, forgiven, clothed . . . until faith appears.

    It’s not about the evidence of faith; it’s about existential union with Christ, the only ground God can accept one in Christ – one must be in Christ, truly, to be accepted in Christ by God.

    My question, then, for you would be: What is the fitting term to define the relation of the baptized infant to Christ?

    From whose perspective, ours or God’s? From our perspective, we are to regard them as in Christ (even though they must at some point improve upon baptism with a credible profession of faith and show no doctrine and / or lifestyle that is incongruous with that profession). In other words, faith and practice must not undermine profession. Yet fom God’s perspective it’s purely ontological – they’re either in Christ, actually, or not. Notwithstanding, the church is to regard them as in Christ, which is why they are to be baptized. Their standing in the eyes of the church precedes baptism.

    My guess is that you would say something like this: he is a covenant child not yet come to faith; or he is a covenant child for whose salvation we are praying; maybe you would say that he is baptized, but as yet lacking faith, and therefore unsaved.

    Nope, which is why I asked you to go back and read what I wrote more carefully. Maybe you might also consider going to my blog to read the most current post. You may contact me through the blog if you’d like to talk. I won’t publish your post should you include a phone number.

    What I am hearing is that baptism isn’t complete until the baptized child repents, converts, and professes faith. At that point, then, you can confirm the cleansing, forgiveness, and union with Christ.

    Let me be most clear here. That forgiveness is confirmed upon profession does not suggest that the status of forgiveness was not already to have been formally granted by the church in baptism. That’s the Reformed position though “Reformed” churches are better in their written documents than in what they communicate (see my blog post). After all, we usually hear things like “Timmy is joining the church…” upon being admitted to the table, which is tragic.

    My final question: I hold to what you have bracketed as Mindset 2. Could you kindly re-word what I’ve said in the Mindset 1 bracket so that is reconciles with Mindset 2. How would you put it?

    I don’t understand what you’re asking.

  67. Bob B said,

    December 17, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    “From whose perspective, ours or God’s? From our perspective, we are to regard them as in Christ (even though they must at some point improve upon baptism with a credible profession of faith”

    If you regard them as Christs – why not feed them at the communion table?

    How can you presume to ‘improve’ on the sacrament of baptism with the non-sacramental rite of profession of faith? Surely that which our Lord instituted is sufficient.

  68. Ron said,

    December 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    If you regard them as Christs – why not feed them at the communion table?

    Bob B,

    The short answer is because I believe examining oneself is a prerequisite for the Supper but not for being in Christ. You should know that I believe that from the thread, which makes me think that you think your question exposes some theological inconsistency or blind spot.

    How can you presume to ‘improve’ on the sacrament of baptism with the non-sacramental rite of profession of faith? Surely that which our Lord instituted is sufficient.

    Come now, Bob. It’s hard to take you seriously. Surely you recognize the equivocal nature of your rhetorical question, or are you unfamiliar with the term “improve upon” in this context. The term makes perfect sense even in a Roman Catholic context, so certainly it does in its sister faith, Federal Vision.

  69. Ron said,

    December 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Bob B,

    Most FV folk claim to be in line with the Westminster standards, which includes the Larger Catechism. So, naturally I just asssumed that the term was a familiar one and its doctrinal import accepted. But since you either don’t agree with the teaching or are unfamiliar with the phrase, please consider WLC 167.

    Question: “How is our baptism to be improved by us?”

    Answer: “The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.”

    So, when one “improves upon” his baptism among many other things he grows in his understanding of what baptism signifies and seals. One’s profession of faith is an indicator that one has improved upon his baptism by growing in understanding of those things pertaining to salvation etc.

  70. roberty bob said,

    December 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    So, you are saying, Ron, that the status of the baptized infant is “in Christ” and “forgiven.”

    We are in agreement on that.

    You answered my big question. Thanks.

    But for you, this status does not mean that God has accepted his baptized infant as His own — unless, of course, he is one of the Elect.

    I’m getting the hang of it now. Thanks.

  71. Ron said,

    December 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    RB,

    How does one being washed in water without being washed in the blood placate the wrath of God, without which God cannot be reconciled?

  72. Ron said,

    December 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    RB,

    All I’ve gotten from you is that you don’t like Reformed theology, but you have yet to deal with the passages of Scripture that have been presented, in particular Romans 9 as it refers to “children of promise,” the very appellation you want to index to all baptized children – the very Jewish way of looking at things that Paul had to correct.

    To add insult to injury, below are questions from various posts that you have not answered.

    50. Is an unsaved person cleansed of their sins?
    Is an unsaved forgiven of their trespasses?
    Is an unsaved person clothed with Christ?
    Is an unsaved person accepted as a child of God?

    51. If one is not elect in Christ and will perish in the end, in what sense does God accept that person as forgiven?

    64. On what basis does God accept as forgiven one who is not united to Christ?

    66. What does it mean that God “accepts” the non-elect as in Christ when they remain at enmity with God, outside of Christ?

    71. How does one being washed in water without being washed in the blood placate the wrath of God, without which God cannot be reconciled?

    I’m sure many of us would be happy to labor with you, but you have shown yourself uninterested in offering a defense of your own position, let alone an internal critique of the Reformed tradition.

  73. roberty bob said,

    December 17, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us from all unrighteousness; the believer trusts in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

    The unsaved person is un-cleansed, un-forgiven, un-clothed, and un-accepted — dead in his sins.

    The non-elect who perishes in the end is in no sense forgiven, for he has rejected the gospel which holds forth forgiveness to repentant sinners.

    God does not accept the non-elect as in Christ when the remain at enmity with God.

    Being washed in the water without being washed in the blood is of no avail.

    I do not hate Reformed theology.

    Reformed Churches baptize the infant children of professing Reformed parents, and regard these little ones as having some kind of standing before the Lord that unchurched, unbaptized infants do not have.

    I’m not trying to win a war against you guys. I’m not interested in defending a position. I’m trying to find a term that best describes the standing or place of the baptized infant before the Lord. The little fellow has been baptized into Christ. That is something. But I don’t know how his life is going to play out. If he is not one of the Elect, he is outside of Christ and unsaved — having nothing of which baptism promises. Only the Elect, the Children of Promise are forgiven.

    So, the status of every baptized infant is “in Christ and forgiven.”
    But that status must be confirmed by a credible profession of faith.

    Having status alone is insufficient for table communion; being confirmed in that status will suffice. The paedo communionists claim that status alone is acceptable. Why might that be?

  74. Ron said,

    December 17, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    RB,

    One can believe in PC without swallowing the heresies of FV. The debate over PC vs. non-PC does not turn on the question of the infant’s status. It never has.

  75. Jack Bradley said,

    December 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    RB, Of course this debate turns on the question of the infant’s status. It always has. The issue has always been that credo-communionists do not take the covenant child’s status seriously enough.

    Roberty Bob wrote: “I’m trying to find a term that best describes the standing or place of the baptized infant before the Lord.”

    I think you’ve done very well in describing a baptized infant’s standing/status, Bob. Here are some more helpful thoughts (from both PCists and non-PCists):

    Peter Leithart, The Baptized Body:

    P. 22: “Rites and ceremonies are not mere window-dressing added to an occasion that could take place without ritual and ceremony. Rites accomplish what they signify.”

    P. 23: “Rites do not recognize a status that already exists; they place a person in a new status.”

    P. 24: “To call the sacraments “rites,” therefore, is to emphasize that they actually accomplish and do things, changing status, altering personal identity, and expressing God’s favor.”

    P. 78: “Baptism delivers from one “culture,” the culture of Adam into a new “culture,” the culture of the last Adam. Baptism strips off the culture of flesh and inducts us into the culture of the Spirit.”

    Donald Baillie, The Theology of the Sacraments, P. 85:

    “The sacrament of baptism brings the child into a new environment, the environment of the Church of Christ, which Calvin, following Cyprian, called the Mother of all who have God as their Father. In that sense the baptism even of an infant is, as the Westminster Confession puts it, “an engrafting into Christ”, who lives in the church which is His body.”

    Leonard Vander Zee, Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, P. 43:

    “When the New Testament writers do speak of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they speak of them in surprisingly powerful and active ways. . . In Galatians 3:27-28 Paul makes the remarkable claim that in our baptism we are now ‘clothed with Christ’ and therefore part of a new community. . . Through baptism God redefines us, telling us who we are, and making us who we are.”

    Bavinck, Vol. 4, pp. 505-506:

    “And just as by baptism they entered into communion with Christ, so they also entered into fellowship with his church, which is his body. For by one Spirit they have all been baptized into one body (I Cor. 12:13; Rom. 12:5). In Paul’s view, water baptism is simultaneously a Spirit baptism, not a baptism with the spiritual gifts of glossolalia and prophecy, but with the Spirit as the principle of a new life. Baptized people are new, spiritual, people.”

    Now, neither Bavinck, nor any of these others—is saying that “new, spiritual, people” = head-for-head elect.

    As Bavinck puts it, (and Leithart and Meyers clearly agreed with this sentiment in their trials) Vol. 4, P. 487: “There is not a single confession according to which the operation of [saving] grace *always* coincides with the sacrament.” [emphasis mine]

    Nevertheless, their standing/status (children and adults)—by virtue of their baptism—is: Christian. (As the Westminster Directory for Public Worship clearly states as well.)

    PC is convinced that this status entitles children to the Lord’s Table. I find John Murray’s statement on the issue quite interesting and illuminating:

    “It is objected that paedobaptists are strangely inconsistent in dispensing baptism to infants and yet refusing to admit them to the Lord’s able … 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, that 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.” –Christian Baptism, pp. 73-74

  76. Jack Bradley said,

    December 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Ron, I should have addressed that to you, not RB.

  77. Ron said,

    December 18, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Of course this debate turns on the question of the infant’s status. It always has. The issue has always been that credo-communionists do not take the covenant child’s status seriously enough.

    JB,

    Your assertion is logically fallacious on at least two fronts. That an infant is to be considered in Christ does not logically imply he must be considered capable of the Supper any more than he is to be considered capable of good works. You’ve begged the crucial exegetical question of whether the infant is even capable of performing what is required for the Supper. Secondly, assuming for argument’s sake that the PC position is correct, it is equally fallacious to conclude that CCs “do not take the covenant child’s status seriously enough.” After all, faulty exegesis on the part of PCs would not logically imply a lack of serious consideration of the status of covenant infants, especially since CCs are to regard covenant infants as Christians, holy in Christ. Consequently, your charge is merely an emotive one.

    I can only wonder if the lurking stalwarts of FV are being shamed by the showing of the FV advocates on this site.

  78. Jack Bradley said,

    December 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Ron, I don’t think you’re really making contact with the issue, but I trust others will.

  79. Ron said,

    December 18, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Jack,

    I have so very little to work with. You recently argued: “If x should be considered y, then y must be allowed to z.”

  80. Ron said,

    December 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Actually, you argued If x should be considered y, then x (by virtue of y) must be allowed to z.”

  81. Jack Bradley said,

    December 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Ron, how about interacting with just the Murray quote. What do you make of it?

  82. Ron said,

    December 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Jack,

    It’s seems to be a polemic against a somewhat common argument levied by some credo-baptists. It is aimed to quickly difuse an objection so to get back on track. It goes like this… Some credo-baptists will argue that if infant baptism is biblical, then so must be paedocommunion. The paedbaptist who rejects paedocommunion can simply respond to the objection to infant baptism by noting that such an alleged inconsistency on the part of paedobaptists does not logically refute the practice of infant baptism. In other words, not practicing paedocommunion for reasons of inconsistency cannot falsify the practice of infant baptism.

    I take the remainder of the quote to simply mean that paedocommunion is not as bad as withholding baptism from infants.

  83. Ron said,

    December 18, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Jack,

    I just pulled the book the Murray quote comes from. He went on to note that there is no evidence that infants partook of the passover… you do, I trust appreciate, that he rejected infant communion. Not sure why you would appeal to that quote.

  84. Jack Bradley said,

    December 18, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Ron, yes, I understand the context – and I of course know that Murray was not pro – Paedocommunion. My point is only that he would make allowance for it – as an alternative, if necessary, to refute the credo – Baptists charge of inconsistency. I find that interesting, and significant, primarily because he must not agree with the standard CC objection to PC: Self-examination, or potential damnation.

  85. Mark B said,

    December 18, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Quoted above:
    Peter Leithart, The Baptized Body:
    P. 23: “Rites do not recognize a status that already exists; they place a person in a new status.”

    Yessss, of course. Status before God couldn’t possibly be based only on the finished work of Christ, it needs the mumblings of a FV priest wanna-be. At least Rome is clever enough to come up with an apostolic succession – duly ordained priesthood scheme to base their similar nonsense on. Some more Leithart:
    “The minister, as a servant of Christ acting in Christ’s name, names the child baptized as a child of God.”
    OR, perhaps the minister declares the covenant promises of God? I have to agree with Ron @77, this conversation is really lagging….

  86. Jack Bradley said,

    December 18, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Mark, Really? If you’re that dead-set on such silly caricature, I don’t think there is much hope for dialogue.

  87. Ron said,

    December 18, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Jack Bradley wrote:

    My point is only that he would make allowance for it – as an alternative, if necessary, to refute the credo – Baptists charge of inconsistency. I find that interesting, and significant, primarily because he must not agree with the standard CC objection to PC: Self-examination, or potential damnation.

    Jack,

    The last thing I want to do is point out further fallacies. Doing so brings me no pleasure whatsoever. In that spirit please receive that your conclusion does not logically follow from the premises. Murray’s point that inconsistency between pb and pc wherein he assumes pb is true and pc is false neither establishes error nor speaks to the reason for the justification for the denial of pc. You’re assertion is from silence and in this case formally baseless. I’m truly sorry.

  88. Jack Bradley said,

    December 18, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    John Murray: “. . . 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.”

    Ron, I do not follow your logic. But I do follow the logic of this statement. Murray, while not holding this view, clearly implies that PC is a viable view, “. . . when all factors entering into this dispute are taken into account, particularly the principle involved in infant baptism.” Which obviously implies that could not buy into the standard CC critique of PC: the ability of self-examination.

  89. Ron said,

    December 19, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Jack,

    Murray merely spoke of the lesser of two evils, or if you prefer the lesser of two wrongs. “Far less would be at stake in admitting infants to the Lord’s Supper than… abandoning infant baptism.”

    Your conclusion is too grand given your single premise. You have argued thusly:

    Premise 1: Far less would be at stake in admitting infants to the Lord’s Supper than… abandoning infant baptism

    Therefore: Ability of self-examination is not required for the Supper

    Your conclusion exceeds the scope of your single premise. How do you logically derive Murray’s denunciation of a self-examination requisite from his comparison of wrong practices? Please be specific and don’t just tell me he does.

  90. Jack Bradley said,

    December 19, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Ron asked: How do you logically derive Murray’s denunciation of a self-examination requisite from his comparison of wrong practices?

    By two words, Ron: “far less”

  91. Ron said,

    December 19, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Jack,

    Not that you care, but that’s not an argument. It’s not even a bad one.

    Let me put this another way for you. I for one (and possibly many other credo-communionists visiting here) agree with Murray that it is more hazardous to withhold baptism from a covenant infant than to permit such a one to come to the table. That is to say, many believe that “far less would be at stake in admitting infants to the Lord’s Supper than… abandoning infant baptism.” Your task is to show how my sharing that sentiment with Murray implies that I do not believe that communion requires self-examination.

    I regret to inform but you’re arguing by what is called false disjunction, which involves assuming that two premises are contradictory when they’re not. You assume that to affirm p means to deny p* because you assume that p is not compatible with p*:

    p: “far less would be at stake in admitting infants to the Lord’s Supper than… abandoning infant baptism”

    is not mutually exclusive to

    p*, “one must be able to examine himself to come to the table.”

    Accordingly, affirming p does not imply the denial of p*. Accordingly, one may consistently affirm both p and p*.

    Simply saying “By two words, Ron: ‘far less'” does not get you out from under this logical bind in which find yourself entangled; Murray or anyone else can affirm both propositions most happily.

  92. Jack Bradley said,

    December 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

    “Your task is to show how my sharing that sentiment with Murray implies that I do not believe that communion requires self-examination.”

    No, Ron, that is not my task. You may believe whatever you, illogically, like. My task is to show that Murray cannot say “far less” and still logically hold that self – examination is required.

  93. Ron said,

    December 19, 2013 at 11:56 am

    My task is to show that Murray cannot say “far less” and still logically hold that self – examination is required.

    Great, Jack. Do take up the task. Prove that “Murray cannot say ‘far less’ and still logically hold that self-examination is required.” Oh, I’m sorry you. You already did that here: “By two words, Ron: ‘far less'” :)

    I think even Leithart would run for cover if he thought your use of Murray represented his views.

  94. Jack Bradley said,

    December 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Ron: Prove that “Murray cannot say ‘far less’ and still logically hold that self-examination is required.” Oh, I’m sorry you. You already did that here: “By two words, Ron: ‘far less’” :)

    Thanks for the concession, Ron. Glad you finally see my point.

  95. saintrose8 said,

    April 11, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Okay, so I know that I’m an unlikely commenter, but please bear with me. I’m a Catholic convert coming out of a paedocommunion tradition. I love paedocommunion because to me, it brings to life Jesus’ request that the little children be brought to Him. I don’t so much care if my kids feel “left out” or not, because they should learn patience and that the world doesn’t revolve around them. But I can’t get past Jesus wanting the children to come to Him and saying not to forbid them. To me, it seems like ultimate obedience to the words of Christ when we bring our children to His table. Anyways, our parish is Latin rite Catholic & thus our kids must be able to repent of their sins (sacrament of penance) before being admitted to communion.
    What would you say scripturally speaking to convince me that it’s not disobeying the words of Christ to keep children from partaking of the Lord’s body and blood?
    Also, I know appeals to early church tradition aren’t quite as important in the reformed tradition, but it seems that this was the tradition in the Catholic church for a long time until some liturgical abuses in the middle ages (which ironically, may have somewhat provided the impetus for the protestant movement) and is still the tradition of the Eastern churches, both Orthodox and Catholic eastern rites. Augustine is quoted explaining that the practice did occur and commending it. Do you think this (credocommunion) is just an area of development which the Christian community at large has adopted due to more advanced philosophies regarding the development of children/ rationalism? Is this whole debate somewhat an issue of primitivism vs development of doctrine/ practice?
    Thanks. Sorry for the long post and questions.


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