Score, Lee

Lee has decisively answered Jim Jordan’s ridiculousness here. See especially his devastating answer to Jordan’s completely wrong assessment of the RCUS. Can you say tu quoque?

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The Lord’s Supper

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming of Wilson, Wilkins, and Leithart. Next up is chapter 12 of RINE, entitled, “The Lord’s Supper.” This is certainly not a misnomer, contrary to the chapter entitled Sacerdotalism.

The first issue up to the plate is the issue of “remembrance.” The phrase “do this as my memorial,” or “in remembrance of me” occurs twice in the NT. There is grammatical ambiguity there. The exact phrase is  εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν. The question is whether the pronoun “my-me” is acting like a subjective genitive or an objective genitive. Of course, the pronoun itself is accusative. But that does not solve the question, since accusatives can function as a subject in other constructions (with the infinitive, for example). For non-Greek readers, the question is this: is God doing the remembering (subjective), or are we doing the remembering (objective)? The grammar of the passage is ambiguous. The question must be decided on other grounds. Wilson appears to agree with Barach’s interpretation that the background is the rainbow-covenant God made with Noah, wherein God wanted to make sure that He would remember His covenant that He made with Noah (see pp. 109-110 of RINE). In fact, it would be interesting to know whether Barach or Wilson first came up with the interpretation. The first person in scholarship to hold the subjective view of the pronoun appears to be Joachim Jeremias (as almost all modern commentaries deal with the issue in the 1 Corinthians passage). Commentators have not followed Jeremias, by and large. The reason why Jeremias is incorrect (and Wilson/Barach, too, by the way), is that the background is not the rainbow-covenant God made with Noah, but rather the Passover itself. All Reformed folk agree that the Lord’s Supper takes the place of Passover. Therefore, there are bound to be areas of continuity and discontinuity between the two. By the way, it is important to recognize that Jeremias does not argue from the rainbow covenant: only Wilson/Barach do. However, the answer for both positions is the same: Exodus 12:14 and Deuteronomy 16:3. The point of the Passover was so that the people would remember what God had done. The original Hebrew of the former passage contains this key phrase וְהָיָה הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה לָכֶם לְזִכָּרוֹן, translated καὶ ἔσται ἡ ἡμέρα ὑμῖν αὕτη μνημόσυνον, which plainly indicates that it is the people who are to do the remembering. The Hebrew pronoun (“you”) indicates the subject of the infinitive “remember.” Translated, it says “for you to remember.” The dative in the Greek translation can be translated as a dative of advantage (“day of remembrance for your benefit”). The Greek here is unambiguous as to who is doing the remembering, however. It is quite simply the people who do the remembering. Of course, it is even easier to see in the Greek and Hebrew of Deuteronomy 16:3, where the second person plural is built right into the verb for remembering.

Now, the question of who is doing the remembering does not solve the question of who should partake of the Lord’s Supper, obviously. If I have argued that the OT background in the Passover indicated that the people did the remembering, and yet children partook of the Passover, then the same argument could be used for 1 Corinthians and Luke 22. I would argue the exclusion of infants from the Lord’s Supper on other grounds, therefore, than this phrase of who is doing the remembering. It is rather the self-examination of which Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians that is the deciding factor (I am not going to deal with that here, however: see this post for a bit more. There is a small (or maybe not so small!) cottage industry growing up around the exegesis of that passage).  

Again, Wilson pastes Warfield, and again gets him wrong. He claims that “the language of the Confession is very strong, and it is utterly inconsistent with the Warfieldian view that saving grace is not mediated.” First of all, Wilson’s statement is ambiguous. Is he claiming that saving grace comes to us in the Supper? Because he then goes on to say that true believers are nourished by the Supper. Well, if they are nourished as true believers, then they are already saved, and the grace that comes to us in the sacrament is a confirming grace. Three guesses as to who wrote the following:

What is done in the two feasts is therefore precisely the same thing: Jesus Christ is symbolically fed upon in both (he means both the Passover and the Lord’s Supper)…All who partake of this bread and wine, the appointed symbols of his body and blood, therefore, are symbolically partaking of the victim offered on the altar of the cross, and are by this act professing themselves offerers of the sacrifice and seeking to become beneficiaries of it. That is the fundamental significance of the Lord’s Supper…by which we testify our ‘participation in the altar’ and claim our part in the benefits bought by the offering immolated on it.

Time’s up. That was Warfield (SW I, pp. 333, 336-7). Warfield claims that we are symbolically partaking of the victim. That doesn’t sound like someone opposed to saying that the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. It would certainly have saved Wilson some embarassment had he actually looked up Warfield’s views in the only place in his writings where he deals with them directly, rather than rely on a book that is not fundamentally about sacraments in the first place. Warfield’s view is confessional.

It is refreshing to see Wilson’s honesty in his treatment of WCF 29.8. Wilson thinks this section needs some revision. Wilson believes that both the believer and the non-believer receive something at the Supper, and that what they receive is the thing signified. It is just that the believer receives it for blessing, and the non-believer receives it to cursing (pg. 114). He argues that the non-believer cannot defile what he has not received. I beg to differ on this point. Is it not possible for someone to defile something without even coming into contact with it? If your Hasmonean decided to throw a pig into the sanctuary of the Jews, he would have defiled it without necessarily stepping foot into it. It is quite possible, therefore, to defile something without actually having what is defiled. But also, I think the meaning of the Supper is blessing, not curse. Paul never says that those unworthy partakers actually receive what is signified. He says that they partake of the cup of the Lord (this is plainly the sign), but because of their unworthiness, they do not receive the thing signifed (an unworthy manner). That in itself is a curse. Maybe it’s just semantics here. However, there is an important principle here, and that is this: we do not want to preach that the Lord’s Supper is a curse. It is fundamentally a blessing. But, like any blessing, it can be distorted into something it is not. Witness the apple in the garden in The Magician’s Nephew.

The last point to be addressed is Wilson’s read on ignorance (pg. 115). On what basis does he claim that the ignorance addressed in WCF 29.8 is only a culpable ignorance? LC 173 says that the ignorant or the scandalous are not to be admitted. This is surely the same meaning as the DPW on the celebration, which says “The ignorant and the scandalous are not fit to receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” Plainly, the ignorant and the scandalous are two separate categories. There is therefore no indication that infants are to be excluded from the category of ignorant. I think if we are honest, we have to say that the WS exclude infants from communion.