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.

19 Comments

  1. August 22, 2007 at 9:08 am

    It is positively painful to read Wilson on Warfield, but I am no longer the least bit surprized by Wilson’s flights of fancy. I have come to expect it.

  2. Mark T. said,

    August 22, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Lane and Gary,

    You have completely misunderstood Wilson’s interpretation of Warfield because you are a couple of Enlightenment, rationalistic, Gnostic, pietistic TRs, and if not for this grid’s scales blinding your eyes, you would know that Wilson is correct. B.B. Warfield is not confessional because Wilson says he’s not, and we need Pastor Douglas Wilson of Moscow, ID, to interpret Holy Scripture, the WCF, the TFU, and all things holy for us or else we shall all perish in darkness.

    Thank you.

    But seriously, Wilson’s alternative universe of make believe has placed all anti-FVers at a distinct disadvantage. How do you respond to a man who simply fabricates tales out of thin air? Why does he have enough credibility that intelligent men, such as Lane, engage his falsehoods when it is obvious that he is a deceitful man who will say anything it takes to keep himself in the conversation?

  3. stewart said,

    August 22, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Lane, do you agree with Mark T. that Wilson is a “deceitful man”?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    August 22, 2007 at 10:24 am

    I am not going to make a judgment call on that, one way or the other. How about reacting to my exegesis?

  5. stewart said,

    August 22, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Wow….unbelievable.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    August 22, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Wow, that’s a really…great…rhetorical point there, Stewart. I can’t believe I haven’t seen the error of my ways so much earlier. The FV guys call for caution on the part of the critics. I exercise it. Therefore, you whine and complain that I didn’t dance when I did. So, I say it is too early to tell regarding Wilson, and that I would not make such a comment at this time, and you think that means I believe Wilson is deceitful. That eisegesis is so large, I wonder how you can even hold it up. Try not to be stupider than you normally are, Stewart.

  7. stewart said,

    August 22, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Breathtaking.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    August 22, 2007 at 10:41 am

    I have respect for the debating power and reasoning skills of many people in the FV, such as Xon, DW, Leithart, Horne, Meyers, Wilkins, Barach (this is not a complete list, but guys like this). You have yet to show any logical argumentation for any position, Stewart. You come onto my blog, and ridicule everything I’m doing, saying that I’m doing it only for my own self-aggrandizement (you read my heart motives so easily), and yet you offer absolutely zero counter argumentation. So, I don’t have any respect for you. Until you show me that you can fence, why should I fence with you?

  9. stewart said,

    August 22, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Lane, if someone asked you if you thought your mom was a liar, and you said, “I am not going to make a judgment call on that, one way or the other.” would she be justified in being a little upset with you?

  10. Mark T. said,

    August 22, 2007 at 10:45 am

    Stewart,

    Lane called Wilson to account for misrepresenting Warfield, and Wilson, according to his MO, ignored him. Here, once again, we see Wilson has misrepresented Warfield for reasons I cannot explain apart from deceit or total incompetence. And since I do not believe Wilson is incompetent, I attribute his representation to guile.

    If this offends you, I am not sorry. However, if you can offer another plausible explanation, I welcome your correction. But please remember that “plausible” the operative term.

    Thank you.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    August 22, 2007 at 10:47 am

    I think I know my mother a bit more than I know Wilson. The problem here is that it is very difficult to judge whether someone misrepresented Warfield deliberately or not. That Wilson misrepresented Warfield, I have argued. But whether he was deliberate in doing so is a whole ‘nother question.

  12. stewart said,

    August 22, 2007 at 11:07 am

    “The problem here is that it is very difficult to judge whether someone misrepresented Warfield deliberately or not”

    That’s exactly the problem. And that’s exactly why you should make a judgment of charity toward another brother in Christ. Lane, when you don’t stand and defend a brother in Christ from charges like this, you’re still saying something, especially about yourself.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    August 22, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Stewart, reread number 6.

  14. pduggan said,

    August 22, 2007 at 11:39 am

    The rainbow and passover aren’t the only contexts. There’s also the grain offering (!) where the term “memorial” portion is used.

  15. pduggan said,

    August 22, 2007 at 11:40 am

    “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.”

    That’s stupid. The pig contacting it is defiling it.

  16. greenbaggins said,

    August 22, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    My point is that the covenant with Noah has no linguistic data to prove it as a background. The only thing that possibly links the two is a single word “remember.” But since remembering can be done either by God or by men, it doesn’t solve the issue. The Passover background of the OT is definitive. The grain offering background is quite a stretch. Even if it is in the background, why is “memorial” there a subjective (God remembering) deal? Could that not also be an objective.

    The point of the pig illustration is not about the pig, but about the Hasmonean. The Hasmonean did not have to set foot in the sanctuary to defile it. Not stupid.

  17. pduggan said,

    August 22, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    What defiled thing (like the pig) contacts Christ in communion? The Hasmonean had to use a pig to do it without contacting the temple.

  18. David said,

    August 23, 2007 at 5:45 am

    “But, like any blessing, it can be distorted into something it is not. Witness the apple in the garden in The Magician’s Nephew.”

    I like CS Lewis too, but using a fictional story to “prove” your point seems odd.

  19. kjsulli said,

    August 27, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    One thing I thought I’d point out: the rainbow was not a sacrament.


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