Are Children Assumed to be Saved?

Wilson has responded to my post on the covenant succession chapter in RINE. The real question is this: should we treat children as saved or as not saved? Should baptism and covenant status be enough for children to be treated as genuine members of the covenant or not? Douglas Wilson argues that baptism and covenant status really should be enough. As a result of being baptized, one is objectively joined to the covenant, and has covenantal union with Christ. Wilson and I have a genuine difference here. While I don’t believe that we should assume non-belief of our covenant children, neither should we assume belief. A brief story will illustrate.

My mother grew up in a liberal Presbyterian church in upstate New York. They kept on telling her that she was a Christian, since she belonged to that church. My mother would testify that she was nothing of the sort. A church that has lost the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments has no right to say that her covenant children are saved. If there be no means of grace present, then how shall the young direct their way? Does Rome have the right to say that her children are saved by virtue of their baptism? Would we agree with Rome? Wilson would like to call such baptisms sick, and in need of nursing back to health. Okay, and I don’t call Roman baptisms illegitimate. However, that is a distinct question from the salvation of the soul. Many baptized people go to hell. What I believe the church ought to do is constantly to preach the Word to baptized youngsters. If the child makes a profession of faith, great. The church should believe it (and the parents should believe it). Nor should the church require a violent conversion narrative. As was said in my earlier post, many children are surely regenerate from the womb. However, it is quite dangerous for the church to assume that all covenant children are regenerate from the womb. For then, questions about whether the child is truly saved or not will not be asked of the child. I wonder whether or not Wilson has functionally denied the visible/invisible church distinction by saying that baptism and covenant status are enough for the church to treat all its covenant children as saved. Publicly confessing that Jesus is Lord is a biblical concept, not a revivalist, individualist concept. And so is the visible/invisible church distinction. I agree with Thornwell’s three categories of people (pg. 340 of volume 4), even if I don’t think we have to assume that covenant children are of the world, as Thornwell puts it. But assuming that membership in the outward administration of the church implies also membership in the substance of the covenant is formalism in the bud, at the very least. Furthermore, there are statements in Thornwell that temper that quotation that is so disgusting to Wilson. For instance, Thornwell states, “They have been externally consecrated to God, and the Church is to seek that they may be likewise inwardly sanctified” (pg. 341). This is hardly objectionable, and implies that there is a difference between how the Church treats covenant children, and how the Church treats pagans. This is further implied from the previous page’s three categories of people. What Thornwell is really getting at is that a profession of faith is needed for the “inner sanctuary…Lord’s table.” Not to confess with one’s mouth (as Paul puts it in Romans 10) is a sin. Even if one did not treat access to the table as an issue of different kinds of membership, a member who was not actively confessing with his mouth Jesus as Lord would be in unrepentant sin, and should therefore be excluded from the table. The quotation that Wilson has gives the impression that there is no difference at all in how children of the covenant are treated from how pagans are treated. But this is manifestly not the case. I would consider my position to be in-between Wilson and Thornwell: children are part of the external administration of the covenant. They may be regenerated, or they may not be. The church should not assume either, but should steadfastly preach the Word, and believe what the child says without requiring either a violent conversion experience or nothing at all.   

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118 Comments

  1. Xon said,

    March 14, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Wilson clearly affirms that not all baptized people go to Heaven, so there is no conflation of the invis/vis distinction along those lines. Sure, he advocates “assuming” alll cov children are regenerate until they demonstrate otherwise–but this is just “j of charity” thinking, isn’t it? When we do this with adults, are we “in effect” collapsing the invis/vis church distinction? I don’t think so. So we can do it with the little ones, too.

    Publicly confessing that Jesus is Lord is a biblical concept, not a revivalist, individualist concept.

    Sure, but…

    1. Is confession only verbal? If it is not, then perhaps the child sucking at his mother’s breast, leaning wholly upon the people God has given to him for protection and nurture, trusting his entire body and soul over to another, is confessing that Jesus is Lord.

    2. If you are thinking of confessions as inherently verbal, then that’s fine ((1) might be a stretch, admittedly). But the Bible doesn’t teach that people who can’t confess verbally aren’t in the covenant. It teaches that if you’re in the covenant, you will (by faith) obey the terms of the covenant. Covenantal terms are different as you mature/grow up. Babies who cannot digest solid food are not forced to have communion in paedo-com churches, for instance. Likewise, we don’t expect infants to give verbal confessions that Jesus is Lord. But we do expect them to do the things that are appropriate for covenant members of their particular age/immaturity.

    The biblical teaching is not “All covenant members make verbal confessions,” as I’m sure you will agree. The teaching is rather “All cov members who are able to make verbal confessions make verbal confessions.” IOW, if a person is perfectly capable of speaking and thinking meaningfully, but they refuse to confess Jesus is Lord publically, then they will get booted out of the covenant. But we don’t boot babies for this failure, so I don’t see the point of you bringing this up.

    If your argument is that, since we can’t get a verbal confessoin from an infant, we cannot give them the same judgment of charity that we would give to an adult confessor, then that’s where I think your argument is weakest. You haven’t shown that at all. Infants do that which they are designed to be able to do. We presume of them that all is well unless and until they give reason to think otherwise. They should be in the same boat as any adult believer.

    If your argument is simply that we must remain diligent at preaching the Gospel, at stressing the need for every individual to be reconciled to God, etc. then of course you are dead on, 100% correct on that. But do you really think that Doug Wilson doesn’t do this? I’m not saying nominalism isn’t a problem–and it probably is even a genuinely more acute problem in more ‘liturgical’ churches that those churches have to guard against with care. (Just like the constant drive for a new authentic feeling of connection to God is a common temptation of “low” churches; or just as a temptation to reduce the faith to intellectual activity is a real struggle that “preacho-centric” doctrinal churches have to guard against. The fact that a certain style of worship or way of “doing church” has certain temptations with it doesn’t mean that form is automatically wrong. It just means we have to be careful. May all the faithful in all types of churches pray for one another against the special temptations that the Devil uses to lead us astray!) But the problem of nominalism, of course, isn’t just a problem with babies, it’s a problem with adults too. If a church is struggling with nominalism (i.e., I’m going to Heaven b/c I’m a member of the local wafer-juice-and-robe country club), then many of the adults are struggling with it, too. The question is why are we isolating children as some ‘special’ case to furrow our brow over, especially when Jesus clearly makes them ‘special’ in the other direction (examples of true faith, they are to be welcomed, etc.)?

    I REALLY should not be on here. But thanks for hearing me out.

  2. thomasgoodwin said,

    March 14, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I have been reading through the mins of the Westminster Assembly on this very issue. I don’t have time now, but I can tell you that Goodwin debated this issue at length. I’ll post on in it in a few days on my blog …. sorry for being vague, I have no time right now.

  3. magma2 said,

    March 14, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Wilson also wrote concerning RINE: “[Lane] has not found anything that would place me outside the pale of Reformed orthodoxy . . . .”

    John Robbins and I must have reviewed a different book? It is unfathomable to me that any Christian can read RINE and arrive at a conclusion other than Wilson is a very skilled false teacher who has replaced the gospel of Christ with a clever fraud.

    Do you agree with Wilson’s assessment of your review Lane? Do you consider Wilson within the pale of Reformed (Christian) orthodoxy?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2008 at 11:25 am

    A couple of things, Xon. The confession in Romans 10 is explicitly verbal. I really don’t know what else “with your mouth” can mean. I don’t think “with your mouth” includes a baby’s mouth at his mother’s breast. Secondly, you are assuming that it is either judgment of charity or boot them out. It is clear from the post I advocate neither. I advocate making no assumptions about infants. You argument about adults doesn’t wash simply because they are required to make a profession of faith and children are not. Children receive all the benefits of growing up in the church. I have never advocated treating them like pagans. Neither does Thornwell. The Bible teaches that the essence of the covenant is not just the promises but the actual bestowal of the ordo salutis. I realize this is a debated point. Nevertheless, it is my position. The essence of the covenant accrues only to the elect. Children belong to the outward administration of it.

    Here is my question: if we assume children to be elect until they show signs of not being elect, what constitutes signs that they are not elect? Complete and utter apostasy? But children reveal their corrupt little hearts very early in life. Conversely, people can stay in the church their whole lives and be hypocrites. If no preaching asks the question of whether everyone in the church is in fact saved (and, according to the FV, there is no reason to preach in this way, since everyone in the church is saved in some sense, at least), that is a tragic mis-assumption that is at the very heart of formalism.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2008 at 11:29 am

    My problem with Wilson lies in this: although Wilson says many things that are Reformed in a positive sense, he is not willing to reject the errors of the other FV proponents. Personally, I am willing to believe that Wilson holds to justification by faith alone, although he is too ambiguous on the aliveness of faith and its place in justification. He does hold to imputation. But he will not distance himself from any error of the FV, no matter how egregious. That is why, if Wilson were to apply for admission into the Presbytery of which I am a part, I could not vote to approve his transfer of credentials. What I have sought to show is that it is not enough to affirm the truth. One must also reject the errors. This is equally important to affirming the truth. That is my answer, Sean.

  6. HaigLaw said,

    March 14, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Very helpful. Thanks.

  7. Scott said,

    March 14, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Although I have not had formal theological training, this helped me understand this topic.

    Children of believers are “holy” not in the sense of being saved but in the sense of being set apart by a position of privilege.

    They have the benefits and blessings that flow from having at least one Christian parent and the fellowship of the community of believers.

    These are real blessings (e.g. hearing the Word of God, praying, benefiting from Christian care and nuture, etc.) but salvation is not guaranteed. It still depends on a sovereign act of God alone.

    GI Williamson, who authored the study guide for the Westminster Confession of Faith, said of whether children of believers are saved:

    We have reason to hope… but not demand.

  8. markhorne said,

    March 14, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    But Paul exhorts children to obey their parents in the Lord. If Paul thinks children are a question mark, then one would expect him to address them the way those who take this position do. But we don’t see any culture of child evangelism in the NT record.

    As I have written elsewhere:

    God promised that the children of believers belong to the Lord just as their parents do. God promised Abraham “to be God to you and to your children after you” (Gen 17.7). The Psalmist reiterates this foundational promise, singing: “the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children” (Psa 103.17).

    “And as for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from now and forever” (Isa 59.21).

    The bottom line here is that the Bible promises believers that God will be their God, that He will give them His righteousness, and that His Spirit will not depart from them. What more could anybody ask for? Our children are clearly promised eternal salvation. They are declared to be Christians, nothing less.

    Now, let’s be clear, these promises do not mean that our children will somehow end up in Heaven automatically whether or not they have faith in Christ. No, apart from faith no one will be justified. But they do mean that we ought not dismiss the fact that our small children love God and trust Jesus just as we have taught them to. Our little children are believers. We should take the claim of a child to believe in Jesus at face value. We should expect them to simply grow in the Faith from the time of infancy to adulthood.

    This expectation found its way into the inspired hymns of Israel’s worship: “From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou has established strength” (Psa 8.2). And again: “For Thou art my hope; O LORD God, Thou art my confidence from my youth. Upon Thee I have been supported from birth; Thou art He who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually in Thee . . . O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth” (Psa 71.5-6, 17). “Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother’s womb” (Psa 22.9-10).

    It is important to realize that these inspired Psalms are not simply the personal testimony of the psalmist. They are not some sort of extraordinary event which we can regard as exceptional compared to how the children of believers ordinarily come to faith in Christ. No, these Psalms were the corporate hymns of Israel’s public worship. The whole congregation of Israel (including the children!-see Joel 2.15-16) sang these Psalms in the presence of the Lord. It would be entirely illegitimate to say that faith from the womb was only meant for some exceptional cases. The regular use of these Psalms on the part of the whole congregation of Israel shows that the salvation of children from the womb was the general expectation.

    There are many hymns today about adult conversion from unbelief, yet there is not one Psalm which speaks of that subject. On the other hand, have you ever sung a modern Christian hymn that called for you to put yourself in the place of one who was regenerated in the womb? Our hymns show that we generally expect only adults to be converted. That general expectation is incompatible with God’s hymn book, the Psalter.

    To see some mainstream Reformed Orthodox testimony on this point:

    Francis Turretin & Benedict Pictet on Christian Infants

    INFANTS BAPTIZED AS BELIEVERS

    HOW TO ENCOURAGE OUR CHILDREN TO BELIEVE THE GOSPEL: The Covenant Vision of the Heidelberg & Westminster Catechisms Regarding Children and Baptism

  9. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    BOQ But they do mean that we ought not dismiss the fact that our small children love God and trust Jesus just as we have taught them to. Our little children are believers. EOQ

    Not necessarily, Mark. You have to equivocate on the word “believers” in order to make this work. Are you saying true, never-to-be-apostatizing believers, or just covenantal belief, whatever that means? The fact that not all children of believers grow up staying in the church means that not all children are believers. Besides, your arguments only work against Baptists. I am not Baptist.

  10. March 14, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Lane, I have trouble with the idea that we shouldn’t think of baptized children as either saved or not saved. I mean there is really no other alternative (ultimately) biblically considered. The only other category may be some agnostic (and possibly unbiblical) cloud of “I dunno”. The same cloud of doubt then could be applied to any marginal adult Christian who we invite to the Table all the time. Should we bar an 8 year old with strong faith, but no “public profession”, from the Table but continue to accept the persistent weak faith of a 40 year adult?

    I believe this is why FV’s claim you’re fundamentally baptistic in your practice, and by conseqence your theology. FV’ers practically speaking, assume covenant children to be regenerate unless they one day prove otherwise, by allowing them full access to the Table, etc. FV’s are then suggesting, like credo-baptist, most Presbyterian churches even though they concede infant-baptism, still withhold full covenantal status of their children until they demonstrate a satisfactory degree of repentance and faith; a historic distinction of baptist theology.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    David, I would answer by saying that we in fact do not know about our children who live. I would by no means say that a covenant child dying in infancy is going to hell. But of course that is not the issue. I would not bar any 8-year old who can give a credible profession of faith. I would put them through a new members class so that they can understand what the church teaches. I suppose I have to ask, “What do you mean by weak faith?” Someone who doesn’t regularly come to worship? I believe that inattendance is a disciplinable sin.

    And no one is Baptistic who believes in baptizing infants. Period. End of story. I am really getting tired of that one, as are all the PCA pastors who are critical of the FV but, of course, baptize infants.

  12. David Gray said,

    March 14, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    >And no one is Baptistic who believes in baptizing infants. Period. End of story.

    Pastor Keister,

    That strikes me is incorrect. No one who baptizes infants is a Baptist. Someone may well have Baptistic elements or tendencies without being a Baptist.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    David, there are those Baptists out there who are covenantal and have paedo leanings. What separates them? Whether they baptize infants or not. So, I’m sticking to my guns on this one.

  14. March 14, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I know it’s a tiresome accusation. But even I have for a long time felt that the sacraments belong together and that non-paedocommunion Presy’s aren’t being consistent. Baptism is the doorway to the Table.

    I think the FV would argue that by withholding Communion from baptized infants/very young children (not contingent on a seperate public profession) the non-FV Presby’s are being “baptistic” by waiting for open repentence and faith before allowing children to the Table. I’m not trying to accuse anyone of this, but this is how it is practice by the baptist.

    Can you (or anyone) show how a half-way covenantal status for the children of believers is sustained Biblically? Or, how someone who has been baptized should be barred from the Table except those that are under discipline?

  15. Dean said,

    March 14, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    All

    Two very good articles in the New Horizons on this subject this month by Prof Strange and Pastor Shishko.

    http://www.opc.org/nh9.html?article_id=544

  16. greenbaggins said,

    March 14, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    To be honest, David, paedo-communion is something I am only embarking on studying. I have the Strawbridge volume, and I will purchase the Gallant book at some time. Cornelis Venema is coming out with a book critiquing paedo-communion, so be sure to look out for that.

    At the moment, I would say that the visible-invisible church distinction helps here (you do believe that is biblical, right?). The profession marks the church’s recognition and judgment that the received person is a member of the invisible church. I would go to Romans 10:9 here to mark the importance of the confession. The passage is clearly something that is intended as instruction for the church, in order to be able to discern, as best as they are able, those who are saved. Plus, I am just plain and simply not convinced by the many arguments I have seen from the paedo-communion side regarding 1 Cor 11. I think that Knight’s contribution in the AATPAC book is quite good on the matter.

  17. lemonwaffle said,

    March 14, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I don’t know a whole lot about the FV debate, I’m new to the blog. But this was an interesting post.

    1. What is the warrant for separating infants who die in infancy and infants who do not die in infancy? It seems like we would have to say, “Little baby, we don’t know if you’re a child of God. Unless you die.”

    2. We NEVER know who is elect. A man could grow up in the church, be a missionary, and become apostate a month before his death. We would then say he wasn’t elect, even though his wife, church, and those he converted all though he was. We make a judgment, every time we speak of someone’s elect status. But since we don’t know the secret things of the Lord, we make the best judgment we can. I don’t see why that judgment wouldn’t be applied to babies. Jews certainly didn’t wait to see if their little children grew up to be Jews or Philistines.

    3. What about severely disabled children who will never be able to issue a credible profession of faith, even as adults?

    4. Why would church discipline fail to recognize an apostate child? If they refuse to repent, do not believe in Jesus, rebel against their parents, and do not submit to church discipline in these issues, then they would be excommunicated as apostates.

    5. You wrote, “Secondly, you are assuming that it is either judgment of charity or boot them out. It is clear from the post I advocate neither. I advocate making no assumptions about infants.” (Unless they die, I suppose.) I simply don’t see any Biblical category being offered for this, either in OT or NT. There is no “unknown” in my knowledge, although I welcome evidence to the contrary.

    Thanks, sorry if I’m reiterating anything that has already been dealt with.

  18. Andrew said,

    March 14, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Lane,

    Would you not agree that you treat adult members in good standing as regenerate? You might, for instance, call them ‘brothers’. But you would also recognise the possibility that some of those may be hypocrites. In other words you presume regeneration until shown otherwise.

    The same objection you raise against those who accept their children as brothers in Christ presents itself to yourself – if you accept fellow adult members as Christians, how do you deal with the possibility of hypocrites? But as Paul’s letters show you must be prepared to deal with the possibility of (real or apparant) apostacy.

    How do resolve this? And why can the same resolution not be used with regard to children?

    Personally, to both adults and children, I think we must accept them as brothers, and at the same time urge them to make sure their faith is real. This is certainly the Biblical pattern. Or I am missing something.

    P.S I have just started reading Greg strawbridge’s book tonight, and it seems highly impressive. Robery rayburn is particularily devastating. I particularily recommend his last essay on Covenant succession: it represents a non-FV posistion of the covenant, that is nonetheless strong, comforting and consistent. Even if you end up disagreeing, it is worth reminding ourselves that many FV ‘distinctives’ (paedocommunion, objective covenant) are found outside that movement. We should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    And now I must go as my own baby is crying!

  19. Kyle said,

    March 14, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    David McCrory, re: 10,

    FV’s are then suggesting, like credo-baptist, most Presbyterian churches even though they concede infant-baptism, still withhold full covenantal status of their children until they demonstrate a satisfactory degree of repentance and faith; a historic distinction of baptist theology.

    The problem here is that the historic Presbyterian position has been to bar children from the Table until they have been catechized and can credibly profess their faith. So this is NOT a Baptistic distinction.

  20. HaigLaw said,

    March 14, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    I tried to post this hours earlier, but it didn’t take, so I thought maybe the Lord didn’t want me to say this, but I see the discussion is still on a point I tried to make, so maybe the Lord does after all want me to make it.

    I’ve been hearing paedo-communion arguments for over 25 years, have never studied it carefully, but I think a major flaw is the “consistency” argument, which a lot of the points being made above boil down to.

    That is, we need to deal with infants as to both sacraments consistently. If we admit infants to one, we should admit them to the other.

    The reason I think this is flawed is that the Bible sets different rules for each. Baptism is administered to believers and their children (“you and your seed”). Communion is administered to those who acknowledge the Lord’s body, or, as we apply this — those who have a credible profession of faith.

    You can argue til you’re blue in the face that we can mistakes following those simple rules above, but we can make mistakes doing anything in the Christian life. You can ask — what about this? Or that?

    But you keep coming back to the two points, 2 paragraphs up. God has spoken. Maybe I’m too simple minded, but that’s how I see it as of now, subject to being taught the ways of God more fully.

  21. deb said,

    March 14, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    David: “Can you (or anyone) show how a half-way covenantal status for the children of believers is sustained Biblically?”

    Not sure if this is the same thing that I was thinking of when I first read Mr. Wilson’s comments about covenent = “union with Christ,” but..

    I do believe that there are many examples in the OT especially of children who were admitted to into the covenant community who were not necessarily of the saved remanent of Israel. Jacob and Esau always come immediately to mind. Esau was able to partake of the full benefits of the covenant community, but was ultimately not considered part of the true Israel.

    One of the other features of FV that I do not believe can be supported scriptually is that entry into covenant via baptism equals union with Christ. Just like circumcision did not guarantee salvation for every Jew, I believe we must be consistent and admit that baptism does not impute salvation for the Christian.

  22. magma2 said,

    March 14, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    That is why, if Wilson were to apply for admission into the Presbytery of which I am a part, I could not vote to approve his transfer of credentials.

    Like I said, I must have read a different book.

    That is pathetic Lane.

    Sean

  23. Ken Christian said,

    March 14, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Ref. 22 – Looks like magma2 couldn’t vote for Lane’s transfer of credentials (assuming he actually has a vote somewhere, that is). We’re all gonna be independents before it’s over.

    In all seriousness, gentlemen, I hope we will all very soon see the futility of questioning someone’s ministry credentials/orthodoxy because they’re not willing to condemn an individual to the same degree we are. Let’s get this discussion back to the approval/disapproval of doctrinal formulations, not persons. Lane and Magma’s disagreement over Wilson’s “Christianity” is case-in-point as to why debating over people simply will not end well.

  24. Tim Harris said,

    March 14, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    I don’t see that Sean questioned Lane’s credentials in #22.

  25. magma2 said,

    March 14, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    In all seriousness, gentlemen, I hope we will all very soon see the futility of questioning someone’s ministry credentials/orthodoxy because they’re not willing to condemn an individual to the same degree we are

    Ken, I completely agree with you.

  26. Ron Smith said,

    March 15, 2008 at 3:37 am

    Should baptism and covenant status be enough for children to be treated as genuine members of the covenant or not?

    Even R. Scott Clark has answered yes to this question here.

  27. lemonwaffle said,

    March 15, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Re: #20

    I think the answer to the “2 criteria” argument goes as follows:

    1. There are many criteria in the Bible that children do not meet, yet because of their age we don’t expect it of them. Paul telling the Thessalonians, “If any man (anyone) will not work, he shall not eat.” So the idea of examining one’s self is a matter of age-appropriate application.

    2. There is a very good case that “recognizing the body” refers to seeing the Body of Christ for what it is – including rich, poor, Jew, and Gentile. In this manner, to exclude little children from the table would be to fail to recognize the body.

  28. March 15, 2008 at 8:25 am

    […] is Lane’s response: My problem with Wilson lies in this: although Wilson says many things that are Reformed in a […]

  29. Roger Mann said,

    March 15, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Ronald Di Giacomo has written a very good blog post on this issue that seems to be a “mediate” position between what Lane is saying, and what Wilson and other FVist’s are saying. I’d be interested in hearing what you think about Ron’s position Lane. The link for the article is below:

    Children of the Promise or Little Vipers?

  30. markhorne said,

    March 15, 2008 at 9:31 am

    9. What Andrew said. I’m simply saying we treat all professing believers as regenerate unless we must use Biblical church discipline, and that baptize children are professing believers.

  31. haiglaw said,

    March 15, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Re: #14: “non-paedocommunion Presy’s aren’t being consistent.”

    What is the hermeneutic for consistency between the 2 sacraments?

  32. Andrew said,

    March 15, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Haiglaw,

    The arguement from consistency is a more developed than that Someone who believes in in paedocommunion would say that your reasoning for excluding children from communion is inconsistent with your reasoning for including them in baptism.

    We would all agree, I think, that in baptism we recognise/admit children to the church. Since they are members, it follows that they should be included in life of the church unless good reason is given otherwise. This is especially true of communion as one point of it is to help us recognise the unity of the body, and so we would expect all members to participate. Let me emphaise that – the burden of proof falls on those who want to exclude children. They must be able to provide clear and decisive evidence to overturn this expectation (as well as the Old Testament pattern of including children in the feasts). If they can’t, or if the matter is left ambigious, love and basic justice demands that we include them.

    You suggest that the Bible teaches that a profession of faith is neccessary before taking communion. Two points:

    a) At the very most, given Scripture’s teaching on how we view children and their faith, this might justify delaying communion until the age of 3-4.

    b) I presume you a refering to Paul’s exhortation to Corinthians about self examination when you talk of the Scriptural criteria for receiving the Lord’s Supper. But look at this:

    “Whoever does not work should not eat”

    You and I say this means that those capable of working must work. It is not relevant to those who cannot work.

    “Repent, and be baptized”

    You and I say that this means those capable of repenting must repent. It is not relevant to those who cannot repent.

    “Examine yourself, and partake of the Supper”

    I say this means that those capable of self-examination must examine themselves. It is not relevant to those who are not capable of self-examination. But you say it does include those not capable of self-examination.

    Can you explain why my interpretation is wrong? ? Are you able to show not only that your reading might be possible, but that mine is impossible? Because if both readings are possible, there is insufficient grounds for exclusion.

  33. deb said,

    March 15, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Any particular reason why my question/statement is ignored?
    You may think that I’m a simpleton (or just a woman), but I’ve gotta tell you, the idea that baptism = union with Christ (as stated in the original post here) seems to me to be a serious error. As RC Sproul mentioned just yesterday, the observance of the sacraments in the church should not be misplaced – that was a chief error of Rome, corrected by the Reformation. “Assuming” that baptism = union with Christ seems to go against the teaching of the scripture, the confessions and the reformation.

    In addition, I bring up the concept of “Covenent Theology” because there has been an assertion here several times that everyone who is admitted to the covenant is elect. And that is simply not true, am I not right?

  34. greenbaggins said,

    March 15, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I agree with you, Deb. :-)

  35. HaigLaw said,

    March 15, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    #32: Andrew said, “Let me emphaise that – the burden of proof falls on those who want to exclude children.”

    What hermeneutic shows that, sola scriptura?

    Let’s consider OT antecedents. The passover was the antecedent of the Lord’s Supper, and the youngest child had a role in asking why we do these things. Youngest, who could talk, would be a reasonable application. A babling, suckling infant cannot ask why.

    Your interpretation of examine yourselves renders the term meaningless as to a child who cannot do so. Grammatical-historical hermeneutics means plain meaning, and render nothing meaningless, at least.

    Going to other passages that do not apply to infants does not prove anything, or put another way, assumes the result.

    Make sense?

  36. March 15, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    Andrew,

    I say this means that those capable of self-examination must examine themselves. It is not relevant to those who are not capable of self-examination. But you say it does include those not capable of self-examination.

    Can you explain why my interpretation is wrong? ? Are you able to show not only that your reading might be possible, but that mine is impossible? Because if both readings are possible, there is insufficient grounds for exclusion.

    Easily. Both readings are not possible without twisting the text. I do not believe that yours is supported by the text. I answered this in detail here. Bottom line is that the Greek is clear and not conditional. If you cannot discern the body of Christ or examine yourself, you may not partake without incurring judgment.

  37. Andrew said,

    March 16, 2008 at 5:28 am

    Reformed musings,

    Thanks for that response, and for your detailed post. What you say seems quite plausible, and I am happy to agree with what you say about self-examination.

    What you don’t show, and what you must show, is that this applies to infants.
    Imagine you are discussing paedobaptism with a baptist. He has been refferring the the verse ‘Repent, and be baptized’. You point out that this is adressed to those capable of repentance, and does not address those incapable. He sends your a detailed exposisition of the word ‘repentance’ showing how far reaching true repentance is. You would probably agree with what he says, but point out that it is beside the point.

    Likewise, your thoughts on ‘self-examination’. Some have argued that self-examination has a lesser meaning, but that is not my point. My point is that is is irrelevant when thinking about those not capable of it.

    Haig law

    See above regarding Corinthians – I am not reinterpreting it, simply saying it does not address infants, and and given other examples of where you interpret the Bible in the same way. I am happy to give self-examination any meaning you would like.

    The reason the burden of proof is on you is not hermenutical. It is because you have conceeded that children a part of the church. You further believe (I presume) that the Supper expresses the unity of the church. We would therefore expect that all members are given it, unless shown otherwise.

    If your elders were to announce that all ginger haired people were barred from the Supper, it would not be enough for them to say that there is no explicit example of gingerhaired people eating the Supper in the NT. They would have to explain on what grounds they justified exclusion and division.

    Sometimes this can be done. One could given Biblical support for excluding those guilty of serious, ongoing sin. But where is the justification for children? Is the irrelevant verse about self-examination the best anyone can come up with?

  38. its.reed said,

    March 16, 2008 at 7:35 am

    Ref. #33:

    Deb:

    I don’t think anyone was intentionally ignoring you. You made statements, rather than asking questions. Nothing wrong with that, but here’s why maybe no one has responded:

    > Those of us opposed to the FV agree with with you. We’ve said the same thing here (more or less) on a number of other threads.

    > Those in support of the FV would say they agree with you as well (more or less), and that such language as “baptism = union” and “covenant membership = elect” has different meanings, i.e., one temporal (and temporary) and one spiritual (and permanent).

    > Those of us who are opposed to the FV would agree with you if you observe that this simply sounds like equivocation.

    I.O.W., it was just our own familiarity with the debate that led none of us to respond. Please do not think any were offering disrespect.

  39. David Gray said,

    March 16, 2008 at 7:59 am

    >Those in support of the FV would say they agree with you as well (more or less), and that such language as “baptism = union” and “covenant membership = elect” has different meanings, i.e., one temporal (and temporary) and one spiritual (and permanent).

    I think this demonstrates one of the biggest problems the FV has in areas, what seems to me as sloppy use of language. Elect being a good example. In theology, particularly reformed theology, it seems like “elect” has a very specific use and reference. However it can in theory be used in other areas. But given the common understanding it invites misunderstanding to use it in other areas and ways not commonly understood. Particularly when the concept that is to be communicated could be communicated without the alternate use of “elect.” And when dealing with the general lay population I think a writer or even more a minister must be careful to avoid that. My opinion for what it is worth.

  40. deb said,

    March 16, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks Lane and Reid. I think I see what you mean @ statement v. question.

  41. Kyle said,

    March 16, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    But where is the justification for children?

    They are ignorant. They are ignorant and not capable of judging rightly the body of Christ. Therefore, they are not to be admitted to the Table until they have been catechized and can express right understanding and discernment of the Lord’s body. That’s the justification. Scripture is clear that to partake of the Lord’s Supper worthily, one must examine himself. Your analogy to baptism does not hold here; repentance must be demonstrated in converting adults, but not necessarily in their infants and small children. This is because their children are baptized on the principle of federal holiness, just as with circumcision. But there is no principle expressed anywhere in Scripture that admission to the Lord’s Table is granted because one’s parents are holy in the Lord. Being able to rightly discern the body of Christ and one’s place in it, thus demonstrating one’s own holiness in the Lord, is the principle by which we are admitted to His Table.

    In my rather polemical opinion, paedocommunion is most often simply the reverse of Baptistic logic.

  42. March 16, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Andrew, RE #37,

    What you don’t show, and what you must show, is that this applies to infants.

    Actually, it’s the other way around. You must prove that it doesn’t. Application to people/groups comes from context. Children are not excluded in the context of 1 Cor 11. By the reasoning you present in #37, 9 of the 10 Commandments don’t apply to children, either. There’s nothing in either text that specifically states that they apply to those under the age of accountability, nor in almost all other imperative Biblical passages that we can cite. I doubt that you want to make the argument that the vast majority of the moral law doesn’t apply to children, but that’s the logical result of your argument. We don’t get to make convenient exceptions.

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 16, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Rayburn’s argument, BTW, is not that children are unable to examine themselves and therefore exempt.

    Instead, he argues that children are unable or extremely unlikely to sin in the way that Corinthians were sinning (i.e., coming to the Table and getting drunk; eating their fill before others arrived). Therefore, they are not in danger of provoking judgment upon themselves. And thus, he argues, they are not in the scope of people who need to examine themselves.

    Jeff Cagle

  44. Andrew said,

    March 16, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Kyle,

    Thanks for engaging. Although I am not persuaded, that is precisely the sort of arguement needed to justify anti-paedocommunion.

    If you could show that admission to the Supper was made on the grounds of a certin degree of intellectual activity, I would reconsider. But:

    i) the passge does not say self examination is the grounds we are admitted to the Supper: it is describing the proper sort of behaviour during it (for adults).

    ii) self-examination is not the grounds for admission, since Paul envisages some partaking unworthily. In Reformed practice, the elders oversee admission. They cannot do this on the basis of self-examination, since they cannot see what people are doing. So they must be other criteria for admission. Traditionally that has been membership (in good standing). Children have this.

    iii) As “whoever does not work should eat” only refers to those capable of working, we cannot rule out that “only those who examine themselves should eat” only refers to those capable of self-examination.

    I would humbly suggest that anti-paedocommunionists desist from flogging this dead horse. No matter what you do with the passage, it cannot be made to exclude children. We must find some other passage or principle, or perhaps, admit that we should rethink this one.

  45. Andrew said,

    March 16, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Musings,

    I am not sure I understand you. I am saying that we should assume inclusion unless there are reasons to think otherwise. This applies to both communion and the Ten Commandments. If you want to make a comparison with the Commandments, it seems to work like this –

    I am arguing that since children were part of Israel, the commandments given to Isreal applied to the children (= since children are part of the church, and communion is given to the church, they should be admitted).

    You are arguing that because infants are not physically capable of breaking the 7th commandment, they have no part in God’s law (=since children are physically incapable of self-examination, or the sin it guards against, they are to be excluded from the whole thing).

  46. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 16, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Andrew (#44):

    I would humbly suggest that anti-paedocommunionists desist from flogging this dead horse. No matter what you do with the passage, it cannot be made to exclude children. We must find some other passage or principle, or perhaps, admit that we should rethink this one.

    I’m a “low-bar communion” kinduva guy — got there after reading “Case for Covenant Communion”, in fact — so I have a lot of sympathy for this position. However, I would put forward the following thoughts about 1 Cor 11 that keep me from being a paedocommunionist:

    (1) There is a command that a man should self-examine before eating. While self-examination can be broadly interpreted to include “developmentally appropriate” self-examination (I read it in this way), nevertheless, there should be self-examination.

    (2) Rayburn argues that self-examination is limited to examination concerning outward behavior towards the corporate body. That is, he wishes to restrict self-examination to the “horizontal” dimension of corporate life, and exclude any consideration of “vertical” self-examination; that is, discerning whether one is in the faith.

    I think he has a excellent point that “partaking in a worthy manner” has referent to one’s manner of partaking, and not one’s own worthiness to partake.

    BUT, limiting self-examination to sins against the body is IMO unjustifiably narrow, for two reasons:

    (a) 1 Cor 10 explicitly states that partaking in the Lord’s Table means partaking in the body of the Lord himself — in *two* senses: receiving his body (v. 16, with allusion to the Last Supper) and participating in the corporate body (v. 17). This strongly suggests that the “horizontal” dimension of communion is linked to the “vertical”, and that therefore the self-examination possibly requires both dimensions.

    (b) No account is taken in Rayburn — and I think not in Meyers’ article either, but I’m fuzzy in my memory — of the self-examination exhorted in 2 Cor 13, which is clearly with reference to the “vertical.”

    Here’s the prize: if Rayburn’s take is correct, then the command to self-examine is no obstacle to children; they cannot offend in a way that requires self-examination.

    But if he is incorrect, if self-examination includes seeing if one is in the faith, then all partakers have a baseline obligation, and infants cannot meet it.

    (3) Finally, if we all agree that the benefit of communion comes through faith, which is the core teaching of the Confession concerning the sacraments, then it makes little sense to say that we *ought* to allow children incapable of connecting the eating with the believing.

    I’m not saying that little children can’t trust in God; I think they can. What percentage of covenant children have faith from the womb? I have no clue. But some do, I’m sure.

    However, there’s a large leap from “children can believe from the womb” to
    “children can receive the sacraments by faith.” That leap needs stronger justification than “Well, God can do it if he wants to.”

    IMO, in the case of infants, there is little harm in waiting until some profession of faith is made. I would want that to be at a young age, not middle or high school.

    (The case of mental handicapped people is different. Meyers’ strongest point in his article in “The Case for Covenant Communion” is that our reading of self-examination essentially excludes the mentally handicapped FOREVER. There really is something wrong with that.)

    So IMO, 1 Cor 11 is still a horse with a bit of life in it.

    Jeff Cagle

  47. March 16, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Andrew,

    I am not sure I understand you. I am saying that we should assume inclusion unless there are reasons to think otherwise.

    I agree that we don’t seem to be communicating. I guess that’s the nature and limitation of the impersonal Internet.

    It seems that we both agree that we should assume inclusion unless there’s good reason to do otherwise. I’m saying that there’s no reason here to do otherwise. Nothing in the text or its context precludes anyone from the requirement for self-examination to determine the body of the Lord before partaking of the ordinance.

    I have great respect for Dr. Rayburn, but I disagree that there’s any warrant here to think that the command is localized to the specific sins of the Corinthian church. We could write off a good bit of the Bible by using that technique. I’m sorry to say that I fear that this is a circumstance where paedocommunionists, with no malintent, mold the text to fit their presupposition going in. The PCA considered all the arguments, including Dr. Rayburn’s, and, in their collective wisdom, stuck with the orthodox view against paedocommunion.

  48. Kyle said,

    March 16, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Andrew,

    i) the passge does not say self examination is the grounds we are admitted to the Supper: it is describing the proper sort of behaviour during it (for adults).

    The passage says, “Therefore he who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and thus he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgement to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.” In order to judge the body rightly, he must examine himself. It follows that a ground for admittance to the Lord’s Supper as a worthy partaker is self-examination, which the Corinthians were NOT practicing. Note that I Cor. 11 does not say, “Let a man examine himself, and thus he and his household are to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” There is not a simple analogy to baptism as you have previously suggested.

    ii) self-examination is not the grounds for admission, since Paul envisages some partaking unworthily. In Reformed practice, the elders oversee admission. They cannot do this on the basis of self-examination, since they cannot see what people are doing. So they must be other criteria for admission. Traditionally that has been membership (in good standing). Children have this.

    Traditionally, if you want to go that route, it has been membership in good standing AND credible profession of faith. Thus children were to complete their course of catechesis and, after examination by the session, could be admitted to the Table. Now, obviously the elders cannot look into a man’s heart. But an infant or small child is not going to be capable of the self-examination, the awareness of his own place in the body of Christ, that is required to “judge the body rightly,” and thus to partake of the Supper worthily.

    iii) As “whoever does not work should eat” only refers to those capable of working, we cannot rule out that “only those who examine themselves should eat” only refers to those capable of self-examination.

    If you really want to know, parents are federally responsible for ensuring that their children are fed. The same does not apply to the Lord’s Supper.

  49. HaigLaw said,

    March 16, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Re: #48: Thanks, Kyle; that was helpful.

  50. Tim Harris said,

    March 16, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Does any paedo-communionist believe in paedo-excommunication also? I seriously doubt it, and have not met one willing to bite the bullet on that.

    It seems like some kind of “age of accountability” creeps into everyone’s system eventually.

  51. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 16, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    That’s an oblique comment, Tim. What do you mean?

  52. Seth Foster said,

    March 16, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Check out http://www.neh-walkingwithgod.blogspot.com . “Covenant Assumption or Biblical Assurance?”

  53. David Gray said,

    March 17, 2008 at 5:02 am

    >Check out http://www.neh-walkingwithgod.blogspot.com . “Covenant Assumption or Biblical Assurance?”

    That seems to be at variance with the historic reformed understanding. But a good reformed Baptist could sign up to it. I could have when I was a Baptist.

  54. David Gray said,

    March 17, 2008 at 5:07 am

    And anonymous blogs are problematic at best.

  55. David Gray said,

    March 17, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Also given that the anonymous blogger wishes to invoke the Heidelberg Catechism he should invoke specifically this:

    Question 74. Are infants also to be baptized?

    Answer: Yes: for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God; (a) and since redemption from sin (b) by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult; (c) they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the christian church; and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers (d) as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, (e) instead of which baptism is instituted (f) in the new covenant.

  56. HaigLaw said,

    March 17, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Re: #55: “since redemption from sin … is promised to them … as a sign of the covenant ….”

    Promised, as in applied now, or as in “train up a child…”?

  57. Ron Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Even Kline acknowledged that God’s promises are not election guarantees. We can believe God’s promises to our children but we can no more “assume” their eternal election than we can our own.

    What I mean by that is, the scripture doesn’t say to the Christian, “take it easy, you are in, you cannot fall short of God’s promises.” On the contrary, we get exhortations like “hold fast”, “take heed”, “don’t make shipwreck of your faith”, “be not haughty, but fear”, “see to it that you do not fall short of God’s grace”, etc.

    So the FV exhortation to the parent is not, “don’t worry, you can assume your child’s salvation because of their baptism. What’s on TV tonight?” The FV exhortation to the parent is, “Make diligent use of the means of grace and trust in God’s faithfulness to bless your labors as you train your child in Him.”

  58. David Gray said,

    March 17, 2008 at 10:10 am

    >Promised, as in applied now, or as in “train up a child…”?

    The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.

    Thus trusting the promises one ought to train up a child. One ought not obsess about the moment of efficacy, like those whose orientation is wholly around “making your decision”, but in teaching your child to wholly lean on Christ and His finished work and relying on what the WCF identifies as the ordinary means of grace as the child grows into their application.

  59. kjsulli said,

    March 17, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    HaigLaw, re: 49,

    You’re welcome. I’m glad it helps someone! ;-)

    Having been raised in the Pentecostal movement, where I partook of the Lord’s Supper without even having been baptized, I had a lot of confusion over the sacraments when I came to the Reformed faith. By God’s grace, I think I’ve worked out most of that confusion.

  60. March 17, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    The bi-covenantal (non-communicant) member status of baptized infants and children is unwarranted from an exegetical standpoint. Where do the Scriptures support the notion of a good standing “non-communicant” church member? Or the principle that elders or a minister should be about the business of continually evaluating the spiritual maturity of baptized covenant children as a “test” for when they can enter into communion with the overall church and only then being inivited to participate in the Lord’s Supper?

    If you’re going to place infants in union with Christ, which baptism expresses and symbolizes, you should not then turn right around and bar them from partaking in the spiritual nourishment that comes through communion with Christ, expressed through Communion. In short, either we should baptize and commune infants, or we should wait until faith and repentance become evident and do both. The Scriptures don’t seem to recognize any middle ground.

  61. March 17, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    David Mc., RE #60,

    So, you’d just cut 1 Cor 11 out of the Scriptures so that they’d better conform to your presupposition? The “test” isn’t imposed by the Session, but by God in the Scriptures.

    As to the Federal Vision definition of “union with Christ” vs. the historic Reformed view, well, that horse has been whipped until it’s soupy.

  62. lemonwaffle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    #50 Tim –

    I can’t imagine infant apostasy, but if you could describe it, I can respond.

    What do you do with an 8 year old who prefers his Buddhist neighbor’s god over Jesus? Or a 12 year old who mocks and hits his widowed mother? If they’ve never been admitted to the table, but they have been admitted to the Covenant via baptism, how does the church discipline them? Or does the church at all? Are they simply non-believers or are they apostate?

  63. Kyle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    David McCrory, re: 60,

    If you’re going to place infants in union with Christ, which baptism expresses and symbolizes, you should not then turn right around and bar them from partaking in the spiritual nourishment that comes through communion with Christ, expressed through Communion. In short, either we should baptize and commune infants, or we should wait until faith and repentance become evident and do both. The Scriptures don’t seem to recognize any middle ground.

    Interesting assessment. We know there were household baptisms. We know that baptism is analogous to circumcision. Were there household Lord’s Suppers? Did infants and toddlers commune at the Passover? (At best a disputed point!)

    We know that those who partake, if they are to partake worthily, must judge the body rightly, at least part of which involves self-examination, and that the one who does not judge the body rightly is subject to condemnation (and receives NO spiritual nourishment!). Are infants and toddlers capable of this? If not, why should we make them potentially subject to condemnation, or ourselves by willfully profaning the Supper?

    How are infants to partake of the Lord’s Supper? By the Eastern Orthodox method of intinction, mixing the bread and wine and spooning it into the infant’s mouth, which confuses the elements contra the Scriptural institution of receiving the elements separately?

    You’re reasoning like a Baptist in reverse. The Reformed understanding of the sacraments, as you must surely know, is not Baptistism in reverse.

  64. Ron Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    The best way to teach a child to discern the Body of Christ is not to remove him from it. When you exclude a covenant child from his Lord’s Table, you are teaching him that he is not part of the Body of Christ, which is in fact false. So, you are essentially lying to him and teaching him not to discern the Body rightly.

    It is disingenuous for the credo communionists to criticize paedos for not including young children in the context of 1Cor. 11. Yes, it is true that paedos hold that Paul’s exhortation for a man to examine himself was directed at certain individuals in the Corinthian Church who were misbehaving, but the credo communion position holds that the following verse is only talking about a contrived group of people called “communicant members”.

    1 Corinthians 10:17
    Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

    Are non-communicant members part of the one Body?

  65. David Gray said,

    March 17, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    >Are non-communicant members part of the one Body?

    When the church holds a vote should infants and toddlers vote? Should toddlers speak at church meetings? (infants tend to anyway)

    Withholding a function doesn’t cause them to cease to be members of the body.

  66. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Ron (#64):

    It is disingenuous for the credo communionists to criticize paedos for not including young children in the context of 1Cor. 11. Yes, it is true that paedos hold that Paul’s exhortation for a man to examine himself was directed at certain individuals in the Corinthian Church who were misbehaving, but the credo communion position holds that the following verse is only talking about a contrived group of people called “communicant members”.

    1 Corinthians 10:17
    Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

    Please be careful here. Inconsistency != disingenuity. On this issue, I would say that we’re all trying in good faith to practice communion as God intended it.

    Are non-communicant members part of the one Body?

    Well, that’s the rub. I would argue, Yes, from a normative perspective, all non-communicant members are part of the one Body in the sense that they are (a) sanctified (1 Cor 7.14) — that is, set apart to be holy, and (b) part of a covenant family, so that they *should* and *have every opportunity to* believe.

    But in terms of an existential perspective, addressing the motives of their heart, I would have to say on the basis of Rom 9 ref. Gen. 27 that the answer is No, not all covenant children are part of the Body.

    It’s not that the real answer is both Yes and No, but that our imperfect ways of knowing give us inconsistent answers. So we have a knowledge problem with respect to the Church: who belongs? It seems safest to me to handle that knowledge problem by sticking very close to the commands of Scripture and not arguing from general principles. The history of the Church is littered with failed attempts to over-purify or over-externalize the Church.

    And so I would say that we must hold 1 Cor 10.17 and 1 Cor 11.28 both as normative principles for our practice of communion. The first drives us to include as many as possible in our communion; the second defines what “possible” means: those who can examine themselves should participate. However, I would disagree with our typical practice on this point and say that self-examination ought to be developmentally appropriate.

    Jeff Cagle

  67. HaigLaw said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    It seem to me that the visible-invisible church distinction adequately answers these questions.

    It also seems to me that we presbyterians can debate the finer points of theology until the cows come home. I don’t know how you guys have time for job, family and this blog.

    Lemme ask you a practical question — which is more important:

    1. Debating the best method of apologetics in the finest Reformed Vantillian presuppositionalist manner, until we all become 99-44/100ths pure, like Ivory soap; or

    2. Actually witnessing to atheists-agnostics hopefully in this manner?

  68. Ron Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    When the church holds a vote should infants and toddlers vote? Should toddlers speak at church meetings?

    No, but neither should the women. They shouldn’t preach either. But those are activities specifically granted to leaders within the church. The Lord’s Supper is a “common” meal for everyone in the Church, as the scripture says.

    Notice how you did not even attempt to handle the scripture. 1 Cor 11:28 is supposed to make paedos shrink, but 1 Corinthians 10:17 can be dismissed.

    “FOR WE ALL PARTAKE OF THE ONE LOAF.” Do we really? Why, Paul? Oh because we are all part of one Body. So who shouldn’t partake of the Loaf? Oh, those who are not part of the Loaf – like the uncircumcised in Exodus 12:48 were not to partake of the Passover? Exactly.

    Exodus 12 is so clear, I always marvel at the gymnastics that have to be done just to keep covenant kids away from their Lord’s Table. Who was the meal for? “You and your children forever.” (Ex 12:24) And who was it not for? “No uncircumcised person may eat of it.” (vs Ex 12:48) Where is the third category?

  69. Ron Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Please be careful here. Inconsistency != disingenuity. On this issue, I would say that we’re all trying in good faith to practice communion as God intended it.

    Point taken, and thank you. I apologize for imputing malicious motives to brothers in Christ. You can replace “disingenuous” with “inconsistent” in my comment #64.

  70. Kyle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Ron, re: 64,

    The best way to teach a child to discern the Body of Christ is not to remove him from it. When you exclude a covenant child from his Lord’s Table, you are teaching him that he is not part of the Body of Christ, which is in fact false. So, you are essentially lying to him and teaching him not to discern the Body rightly.

    Are you disingenuous for portraying the traditional Reformed position in this manner?

    What we’re doing, if we’re doing it rightly and raising the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, is teaching the child that he must credibly profess the faith to which he is heir through Baptism, to be admitted to further privileges as a member of the church. We are teaching him to rely on Christ so that he may be admitted to the Table with a right understanding of Christ’s body.

  71. HaigLaw said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    I apologize for a problem with the link in comment #67, so here’s that post again:

    It seem to me that the visible-invisible church distinction adequately answers these questions.

    It also seems to me that we presbyterians can debate the finer points of theology until the cows come home. I don’t know how you guys have time for job, family and this blog.

    Lemme ask you a practical question — which is more important:

    1. Debating the best method of apologetics in the finest Reformed Vantillian presuppositionalist manner, until we all become 99-44/100ths pure, like Ivory soap; or

    2. Actually actual witnessing to atheists-agnostics hopefully in this manner?

  72. Ron Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    And so I would say that we must hold 1 Cor 10.17 and 1 Cor 11.28 both as normative principles for our practice of communion. The first drives us to include as many as possible in our communion; the second defines what “possible” means: those who can examine themselves should participate. However, I would disagree with our typical practice on this point and say that self-examination ought to be developmentally appropriate.

    Jeff,

    Thanks. I agree with you. I believe this is the paedo position. Young children can be taught on their level to identify with the family of God and thereby discern themselves to be part of the Body of Christ.

  73. Ron Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    What we’re doing, … is teaching the child that he must credibly profess the faith to which he is heir through Baptism.

    I know that is what you believe you are doing, but you may be teaching your children to doubt their place among God’s covenant people.

    We are teaching him to rely on Christ so that he may be admitted to the Table with a right understanding of Christ’s body.

    And I am teaching my sons and daughter to rely on Christ because He has admitted them already as a matter of pure grace. They didn’t have to pass a test. They learn that they are part of Christ’s body by partaking of it. A child can be taught to trust the Lord at His Table. Isn’t this the case with all of us. If the Supper is for the strengthening of our faith, it doesn’t make sense to say, “Your faith isn’t strong enough to partake.”

  74. March 17, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Ron,

    When you exclude a covenant child from his Lord’s Table, you are teaching him that he is not part of the Body of Christ, which is in fact false.

    I think that this statement is wrong on several levels. First, what you are teaching them is obedience to the explicit commands of Scripture, regardless of how much it doesn’t support some preconceived human notions. Second, you are teaching them the importance of the ordinances by not treating them as mere membership rituals. Third, your statement seems to gloss over the distinction between the visible and invisible church, thus blurring that important distinction to the children who see no distinction being made at the table despite the Scriptural command to make a difference there.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  75. Ron Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Lemme ask you a practical question — which is more important:

    1. Debating the best method of apologetics in the finest Reformed Vantillian presuppositionalist manner, until we all become 99-44/100ths pure, like Ivory soap; or

    2. Actually actual witnessing to atheists-agnostics hopefully in this manner?

    I’m not sure about debating the best way to debate, but with regard to the topic at hand (covenant children), I would say that both are vitally important, but keeping and guarding the sheep God has given you takes precedent over seeking more sheep, IMO. It does no good to be continually herding sheep into the fold when they just keep filing out the back gate. We need to keep our children.

  76. john k said,

    March 17, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    (David wrote, #65) >Withholding a function doesn’t cause them to cease to be members of the body.

    (Ron wrote, #68)>The Lord’s Supper is a “common” meal for everyone in the Church

    The WCF definitely supports seeing the Supper as more than some kind of function–it is one of the two marks that show the boundary between the church and the world: sacraments “put a difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world” (WCF 27:1). (Whereas a function like voting can legitimately be withheld from members because it doesn’t indicate who belongs to the body.)

    However, the result is that it seems valid to say that the Westminster Sandards draw two different boundaries for the Church by excluding some from the Supper on principle (as opposed to exclusion by default, such as, “infants can’t eat solid food”). I suspect, though, that many of the framers of the Standards would have denied that it was their intent and belief to promote two different boundaries to the church. Is it a good thing to posit two boundaries? If not, should the confessional language be revised? The (Congregationalist) Savoy Declaration deleted the phrase.

  77. Andrew said,

    March 17, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Jeff

    I have heard of a cat having nine lives, but a horse!

    I see your point, and your critique seems plausible. In practice, I suppose the diiference between us might be only a few months. I agree that whatever examination is referred to is one appropriate to the age of the individual, and that the most i Cor. 11 can prove is low bar communion such as you support. I am not sure I follow the horizontal/vertical disctinction (or more accurately, the purpose of it). Are you saying that greater spiritual or mental effort is required for one rather than the other?

    Rayburn’s arguement seems to be unneccessarily complex. Allow self-examination to be defined as exhaustively as people please. What I can’t understand is how anyone can say the the way we interpret ‘Repent, and be baptized’ or ‘don’t work, don’t eat’ is not a possible way of interpreting ‘examine yourself, and eat’. If this is even possible we are left with ambiguity, and so must look to broader concerns like Scripture’s teaching on the status of covenant children, the church, etc. I doubt many will be rushing to challenge paeodcommunion on those grounds.

    As far as the good of it, at the very least it presents a picture to adults of their spiritual helplessness and dependence on grace. I think it can be said to be good for the infants to, but will leave that for nother time, unless you think it is a major objection.

    Kyle

    I think we are at a stalemate. You quote the verse in I cor. 11. I ask whether the fact that it demands something that only an adult could do means that only adults are in view. I give the parallel verse about working and eating.
    Do you understand what I mean? I fear I may not be expressing myself clearly?

    I have not made any analogies with baptism, only a comparision with how we deal with baptistic proof texts. The grounds of baptism or the responsibility of parents to feed their children is neither here nor there – I am just making a comaprison with how we understand the language of these texts.

    Is there any explanation I could give or different approach i could try that would help us amake progress?

    Reformed Musings,

    Thanks for that. I agree that it is best to assume an inclusive interpretation of Scripture.

    So would you agree that if I cor 11 was not there we would assume the inclusion of children in the Supper?

    This is not a trick question – I assume you do, given what you have said, but there is no point in developing a longer discussion if we are disagreed on the basics.

    Tim,

    I am quite happy with excommunicating rebellious children. Indeed I think it one of the tragedies of our churches that we allow our children to walk away as if they were never part of it.

    Haig,

    I sympathize with your point. However, there is more to this discussion than paedocommunion. Along with paedocommunion goes (logically or instinctively) a certain view of children and there training. The aim is to have all our children mature into Christians.

    Some anti-paodcommunists have a similar practice; but some seem to believe in presumptive unregeneration. If we are right – that generational covenant succession is the norm, then something is deeply wrong in many Christian communities. Even from a head count of saved souls, if we could achieve generational faithfulness, that would lead more people to heaven than all our evangelizing seems to. Of course, if we were able to keep our own children, and evangelize as well … the earth would be Christ’s

    You are right about time, and I don’t normally write on blogs, but I think the issue of covenant succession is the single most important question we face, especially in the West (I write from the UK, where we are such a feeble minority). And so I would spend any amount of time talking about it with those genuinely interested.

  78. Ron Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    First, what you are teaching them is obedience to the explicit commands of Scripture, regardless of how much it doesn’t support some preconceived human notions.

    With all due respect RE Mattes, I do not see how a child who is incapable of discerning the body and thereby receiving blessing from the Supper can understand “obedience to the explicit commands of Scripture, regardless of how much it doesn’t support some preconceived human notions.”

    Second, you are teaching them the importance of the ordinances by not treating them as mere membership rituals.

    I believe I can teach my children the importance of the ordinances by partaking of the Supper with my children regularly, and it does not have to be mere ritual. I continually pray with them, catechize them, and exhort them to be joyous and thankful toward their Lord for His broken body and shed blood.

    Third, your statement seems to gloss over the distinction between the visible and invisible church, thus blurring that important distinction to the children who see no distinction being made at the table despite the Scriptural command to make a difference there.

    The invisible/visible distinction is itself invisible, so I don’t see how it can be used as a test for admittance to the Table. And again, if a child cannot comprehend the Body, how can they be taught this distinction? This makes little sense to me.
    It is my understanding that all visible members in good standing are to be admitted to the Table (1 Cor 10:17). But for some reason, through no fault of his own, the covenant child starts off in “bad” or at best “neutral” standing, and has to make his way to “good” standing via works. I don’t get it.

  79. Kyle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Ron, re: 73,

    I know that is what you believe you are doing, but you may be teaching your children to doubt their place among God’s covenant people.

    And you may be teaching your children to presume upon the grace of God. I don’t think we’re going anywhere on this train.

    Andrew, re: 77,

    I think we are at a stalemate. You quote the verse in I cor. 11. I ask whether the fact that it demands something that only an adult could do means that only adults are in view. I give the parallel verse about working and eating.
    Do you understand what I mean? I fear I may not be expressing myself clearly?

    The verse about working and eating isn’t parallel. I understand you’re attempting to make a grammatical point, but I don’t see how your point applies. That the command applies only to adults in the case of working and eating is hardly enough to show that the command applies only to adults in the case of partaking of the Lord’s Supper worthily. Do you see what I am arguing? The command is to partake of the Lord’s Supper worthily. Does the command to partake worthily not apply everyone who would approach the Table? But the Apostle says that worthy partaking means judging the body rightly (and the behavior that flows therefrom); and judging the body rightly means examining oneself. These things infants and toddlers are not capable of. They cannot, therefore, partake worthily, their baptism notwithstanding.

  80. Kyle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    I do want to ask the practical question of our paedocommunionists, though, of how infants are to eat the Lord’s Supper. I’m not sure how infants might eat bread? If it is by intinction (which is the practice of the Eastern Orthodox), this seems problematic to me as the Supper was instituted with the elements being blessed, distributed, and received separately: the bread first, the wine second.

  81. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Kyle and everyone (#79):

    But the Apostle says that worthy partaking means judging the body rightly (and the behavior that flows therefrom); and judging the body rightly means examining oneself. These things infants and toddlers are not capable of. They cannot, therefore, partake worthily, their baptism notwithstanding.

    How do you read “judging the body rightly”? Is it, as Rayburn and Meyers, a primarily horizontal judging of the body — that is, seeing the Church for what it is, the body of Christ? Or, is it primarily a vertical judging of the body — seeing the sacrament for what it is, a participation in Christ? Or both? Or some third thing?

    Also, how old does one need to be in order to judge the body rightly?

    And finally, what of “Let the little children come to me”? Does this passage have any bearing on communion?

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

    In ref. #80, I’m fairly sure that most PC’s draw a line at 6 mo. when solids can be safely taken in. The really consistent PCers would probably point out that many infants will receive the elements indirectly anyways. :)

  82. Ron Smith said,

    March 17, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    And you may be teaching your children to presume upon the grace of God.

    Is believing God’s promises presumption now? Is teaching my children to believe God’s promises presumption? The promised grace of God is really confered in baptism (WCF XXVIII.VI). I don’t think it presumptuous to actually take God at His word.

  83. Kyle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Jeff, re: 81,

    How do you read “judging the body rightly”?

    I suppose take it both “horizontally” and “vertically.” There is the recognition on the one hand that I am a member of Christ’s body: He died for me; there is the recognition on the other hand that I am a member of Christ’s body, which has other members: He died for us. In the sacrament, we participate in Christ as members of His body.

    Also, how old does one need to be in order to judge the body rightly?

    At least old enough to formulate thoughts into basic sentences. I wouldn’t draw a hard and fast line. Some children may very well exhibit the requisite capacity for self-examintion very early.

    And finally, what of “Let the little children come to me”? Does this passage have any bearing on communion?

    It has no immediate bearing. Jesus was not inviting children to eat a meal with him. What bearing would you give it?

  84. March 17, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Ron,

    I don’t think it presumptuous to actually take God at His word.

    Since not everyone who is baptized is saved, I wonder how far you can take your assertion. The Confession and Catechisms are clear that not everyone in the covenant of grace broadly considered receives the benefits of regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. How do you explain that to kids who are taught that they should assume they are saved from infancy because of their baptism? Their church and parents have been parties to them eating and drinking judgment to themselves. Think God takes that lightly? Obeying 1 Cor 11:28, 29 seems like a good idea since it is an explicit command given to the church.

  85. Kyle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    Ron, re: 82,

    Is believing God’s promises presumption now? Is teaching my children to believe God’s promises presumption? The promised grace of God is really confered in baptism (WCF XXVIII.VI). I don’t think it presumptuous to actually take God at His word.

    The promised grace of God is really conferred in baptism “to such … as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.” Not to all baptized children of believers.

    But while we’re quoting the Confession:

    “Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament: yet they receive not the thing signified thereby, but by their unworthy coming thereunto are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord to their own damnation. Wherefore, all ignorant and ungodly person, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table; and cannot, without great sin against Christ while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted unto.” (WCF 29.8)

    This is why only “such as are of years and ability to examine themselves” (WLC Q&A 177) may be admitted to the Table. They are to improve their baptism by growing in faith and knowledge, acknowledging themselves to be sinners and Christ to be the only name under heaven by which they may be saved, rather than presuming that their baptism makes them worthy.

    So, as I implied, if you want to accuse the traditional position of teaching children that they are cut off from Christ, you must deal with the reverse accusation: and this train won’t go anywhere much, I’m afraid.

  86. Kyle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Let me add, Ron, that the ethic in the traditional position is to encourage children to grow in faith in Christ and love of the brethren. It is not to cause them to doubt, but to encourage them to confirm their place in His body. We want children to come to the Table, but we want them to come with understanding that receiving the Supper is partipicating in Christ and in His body.

  87. March 17, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Kyle, Re #85 & 86,

    Well said.

  88. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Kyle (#86):

    It is not to cause them to doubt, but to encourage them to confirm their place in His body.

    Hm. At our church, there’s a real reason we call them “communicant’s classes” and not “confirmation classes.”

    Your mileage may vary, I suppose; I don’t recall anything in the standards about it.

    Jeff Cagle

  89. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Kyle (#83):

    JRC: And finally, what of “Let the little children come to me”? Does this passage have any bearing on communion?

    Kyle: It has no immediate bearing. Jesus was not inviting children to eat a meal with him. What bearing would you give it?

    Well, it strikes me that this verse is used as a part of the case for infant baptism both in the WCoF and also in contemporary defenses of the practice. The reasoning goes like this:

    Jesus was accepting infants (thus Luke) and rebuking the disciples for turning them away. He specifically states that infants like these belong to the kingdom of heaven (Murray points out that these were Jewish covenant children). Thus, goes the argument, we should not be turning away our children from baptism as if they were unbelievers and needed to demonstrate their faith before receiving the sign of the covenant.

    Now, unlike PCers, I think that the command to self-examination makes baptism and communion asymmetric in terms of practice.

    BUT

    I am persuaded that Jesus’ reasoning in Luke 18.15-17 means that we ought to be actively encouraging our young’uns to see themselves as belonging to the kingdom of heaven. Certainly not giving them blanket assurance; but encouraging them to see themselves as much a member of the visible Church as any adult. That persuasion drives me to my “low-bar” position.

    Jeff Cagle

  90. Ron Smith said,

    March 18, 2008 at 1:20 am

    Since not everyone who is baptized is saved, I wonder how far you can take your assertion.

    This far: Everyone who believes what God said at their baptism will be saved. This is why I am teaching my children to believe what God said at their baptism.

  91. HaigLaw said,

    March 18, 2008 at 6:46 am

    Re: #77 – Andrew said: “Haig, I sympathize with your point. However, there is more to this discussion than paedocommunion. Along with paedocommunion goes (logically or instinctively) a certain view of children and there training. The aim is to have all our children mature into Christians.”

    But I don’t think the issue is either presumptive election or not. You guys keep batting your proof-texts back and forth on pro or con- paedo communion, but missing the point regarding the visible and invisible church.

    Regardless of how carefully we guard the Lord’s table, there are going to be members of the visible church, who are not members of the invisible church, slipping by and partaking. We have not been given foolproof methods of discerning this.

    That’s why I think my time is better spent witnessing to atheists-agnostics. But my children are all grown and gone, and 3 out of 4 living faithfully for the Lord.

  92. Ron Smith said,

    March 18, 2008 at 9:05 am

    The promised grace of God is really conferred in baptism “to such … as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.” Not to all baptized children of believers.

    Right. And again, I didn’t say “all baptized children of believers”. Do you think the confession wants me to agonize over whether or not “grace belongs” to me or my children, or do you think I should have faith that it does? Can’t God’s promises be believed anymore?

    This is a common misconception I have seen repeatedly with regard to the FV exhortation for Christians to look to their baptism in faith and believe that they are saved (as Calvin himself exhorted children to do). This is not the same as saying, “all who are baptized are saved.” It is only saying that all who look to their baptism in faith are saved.

    Also, “promise” is not equal to “election guarantee”. God makes promises to all covenant children at their baptism. The promise of salvation even goes out to the whole world. But God’s promises work like this: One cannot receive the fruit of the promise unless he receives the promise itself by faith.

  93. kjsulli said,

    March 18, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Jeff, re: 89,

    I am persuaded that Jesus’ reasoning in Luke 18.15-17 means that we ought to be actively encouraging our young’uns to see themselves as belonging to the kingdom of heaven. Certainly not giving them blanket assurance; but encouraging them to see themselves as much a member of the visible Church as any adult. That persuasion drives me to my “low-bar” position.

    I do not think we are in substantial disagreement.

  94. Mike said,

    March 18, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Interesting question that was asked up there a few posts back …if the verse in I Cor. on examination wasn’t there would we still be having this conversation about whether children should or should be able to participate in the Lord’s Supper prior to confession of faith. I in fact asked that same question to George Knight and the Dr. Van Groningen when I was a student at Covenant Seminary and both of them looked at me with a quizzical look and said there wouldn’t be an issue at all. So I went one step further and asked what supporting text do we have for this understanding(that children can’t partake without self-examination) that is as explicit as many make this text out to be…since Scripture is its own best interpreter… and both of them said there isn’t one. With the text,in their opinion, we have a further explanation of the distinction between the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper…without it …nothing. In their opinion, Paul was clearly making a distinction between the two. I have personaly found this to be hard to swallow but I still respect these men and their opinions above many others.

  95. Ron Smith said,

    March 18, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    If you haven’t yet, take a look at the exegesis in the OPC Majority report in favor of paedocommunion.

  96. March 18, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Ron, RE #90,

    This is why I am teaching my children to believe what God said at their baptism.

    But no one is saved by what anybody said at their baptism. Perhaps better to teach children to believe that Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that they could never live, died the perfect sacrifice for their sins, and was raised again on the third day in vindication of His sinless life and perfect sacrifice, and that if they believe that in their heart and confess with their mouth the Jesus is Lord, God will credit Jesus perfect righteousness to them and grant them eternal life.

    The flip side of this is that parents and TEs who practice paedocommunion are causing their children to eat and drink judgment to themselves if they, at that time cannot (as virtually none will) discern the body of the Lord. That’s exactly what the verse says and thus this action seems unconscionable to me.

  97. March 18, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Ron, RE #95,

    The exegesis in the majority report is paper-thin compared with the minority report against paedocommunion, and fatally flawed in key aspects. They seem to minimize the importance of the command by localizing it, ignoring the fact that Paul says God was terminating the lives of some who partook of the Lord’s Supper unworthily. The issue doesn’t seem localized or trivial to God.

  98. David Gray said,

    March 18, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    >The exegesis in the majority report is paper-thin compared with the minority report against paedocommunion, and fatally flawed in key aspects.

    Sometimes committee reports are flawed… :)

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Bob (#97):

    The flip side of this is that parents and TEs who practice paedocommunion are causing their children to eat and drink judgment to themselves if they, at that time cannot (as virtually none will) discern the body of the Lord. That’s exactly what the verse says and thus this action seems unconscionable to me.

    That’s certainly Calvin’s argument, and it carries a lot of weight. If nothing else, it makes one think that we ought not practice PC just to be on the safe side.

    But now, note what kind of judgment Paul is referring to — that many of the Corinthians are sick and dying. It is not an eternal condemnation; in fact, quite the opposite. The judgment is temporal, so that the Corinthians will receive the Lord’s discipline and not be condemned along with the world.

    Would you say that there is evidence that the Lord is disciplining paedocommunion churches in this way? Or that infants are being disciplined by the Lord for participating in communion?

    The exegesis in the majority report is paper-thin compared with the minority report against paedocommunion, and fatally flawed in key aspects.

    I found that to be true of each report in parts.

    The strength of the MR was its reading of 1 Cor 11 in context; the weakness was its glossing over the command to examine oneself. Unless I missed something, the MR never addresses the exegesis of 11.28 directly. And several of the arguments amount to arguments from silence.

    The strength of mR#1 was its clear exposition of the traditional Reformed position and the insistence that “let every man examine himself” must have legitimate force. Its weakness was that it provided no solid argument to bolster the claim that self-examination is something that only adults can do. I found this sentence to be strikingly bold:

    Against those rites the command to “examine” requires mature sanctification from every participant. (2 a. (4) c)

    That’s just from nowhere exegetically speaking, and it sets the bar so high that many adults will not be able to participate.

    Also thin was the mR#1’s insistence that the Lord’s Supper is parallel to the whole OT system, but not particularly parallel to Passover. I suppose it was just a coincidence that Jesus held up part of the Passover meal and said “This is my body”? :lol:

    And note how the practices of Passover are disallowed as norms for the Lord’s Supper, but the practices of the sacrifices at the altar are considered completely transferrable, even though the connection between the sacrifices and the Lord’s Supper are much less obvious than the connection between Passover and the Lord’s Supper. (I’ll grant this: the sacrifices were the shadow of the Sacrifice to come, and the Lord’s Supper is the memory of the Sacrifice that was. But Passover can claim at least as much for itself as well.)

    The minority report is not convincing to those who do not already hold to its conclusions. Overall, it presents the Scriptures and asserts a certain reading of them without providing any persuasive reason for taking that certain reading over against other possible readings.

    What I have in mind, of course, is the reading of “let each man examine himself.” Coppes is determined that this must entail participation of post-pubescents only. But his case builds and builds and builds on an assumption that I don’t hold: that the Levitical sacrifices are the key to understanding the Lord’s Supper.

    I wonder what the discussion was like at the committee meetings; the report seems rather tense to me.

    Regards,
    Jeff Cagle

  100. Ron Smith said,

    March 19, 2008 at 3:31 am

    RE:96

    But no one is saved by what anybody said at their baptism.

    You are right. But in my defense, Elder Mattes, I did not say that anyone “is saved by what anybody said at their baptism”. I said they are saved through believing what God said at their baptism. Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s gracious covenant promises. That means that God says something about a child when they are baptized. All I do is teach my children to believe it.

    Perhaps better to teach children to believe that Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that they could never live, died the perfect sacrifice for their sins…

    Yes of course. If they believe what God said about them at their baptism, they will believe this too because baptism is a sign and seal of remission of sins. So naturally, I teach them to believe that their sins are forgiven because of Christ’s work on the cross for them and that their baptism was the promise of God to them that this is true of them.

  101. Ron Smith said,

    March 19, 2008 at 3:38 am

    RE: 99

    I suppose it was just a coincidence that Jesus held up part of the Passover meal and said “This is my body”?

    Add to that the title given Christ, “Our Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the fact that we are partaking of Him, and you have a pretty good parallel.

  102. Ron Smith said,

    March 19, 2008 at 3:58 am

    The flip side of this is that parents and TEs who practice paedocommunion are causing their children to eat and drink judgment to themselves if they, at that time cannot (as virtually none will) discern the body of the Lord. That’s exactly what the verse says and thus this action seems unconscionable to me.

    Children are nowhere in the context of the warning in 1 Corinthians 11:29, and a young child can be taught to discern the Body of Christ by believing that they are part of it. In the context of the verse, the people being excluded were not the ones failing to discern the Body, it was those doing the excluding. So, my children discern the Body more clearly than those who would remove them from their Lord’s Table.

  103. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 19, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Ron (#102):

    Children are nowhere in the context of the warning in 1 Corinthians 11:29, and a young child can be taught to discern the Body of Christ by believing that they are part of it. In the context of the verse, the people being excluded were not the ones failing to discern the Body, it was those doing the excluding. So, my children discern the Body more clearly than those who would remove them from their Lord’s Table.

    That’s Meyers’ argument in “The Case for Covenant Communion.” The question at issue is what it means to “discern the Body.” Does it mean “to recognize the church as the corporate body of Christ”? Or, does it mean “to recognize the sacrament as partaking of the body of Christ”? Certainly, your reading is the former. Coppes and Lillback both argue the latter.

    (For my part, Paul’s reasoning in 1 Cor 10.16-17 is sufficient justification for saying “both at once”).

    Jeff Cagle

  104. March 20, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    […] covenant children at the Westminster Assembly Lane and the very learned D. Wilson have debated an issue that is quite complex – the status of covenant children.   This was a debate at the […]

  105. March 20, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I think it is a red herring to throw small children into the mix. The issue is more concerning infants – the paedos, since the opposite position is credocommunion (and most would agree that small children can offer a credo of some sort, while that is not true of infants.

    I doubt there would be much scandal if FV churches were communing 4-5 years olds. Rather, what we are seeing is churches actively communing 1 year olds. The former may raise eyebrows, the latter is downright superstitious.

  106. Mark T. said,

    March 20, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    I know eyewitnesses who say they are force-feeding the elements into the mouths of newborns.

  107. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 20, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    …the latter is downright superstitious.

    I think that’s one of the elephants in the room in this discussion. Good point.

  108. David Gray said,

    March 20, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    >I know eyewitnesses who say they are force-feeding the elements into the mouths of newborns.

    People who are unwilling to provide their names are not reliable witnesses.

  109. March 20, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    RE #108,

    Objective truth is not dependent upon the name of a witness. A fellow officer related a similar practice in a PCA church to me last week. It’s happening, regardless of whose name you know or not.

  110. David Gray said,

    March 20, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    >Objective truth is not dependent upon the name of a witness.

    No but acceptance of testimony is.

    > A fellow officer related a similar practice in a PCA church to me last week.

    Odd given that PCA churches don’t permit paedocommunion. But I’ll take more seriously the testimony of somebody who is willing to put their name behind their words. If this officer is aware of such a unlawful practice then presumably he’ll be bringing it before the appropriate presbytery?

  111. March 24, 2008 at 1:10 am

    […] first is in a comment from reformedmusings over at Green Baggins. Upon my stating that we can teach our children to believe the promises of God made at their […]

  112. March 25, 2008 at 9:55 am

    […] was recently warned on this thread over at Green Baggins that I was teaching my children to “presume” upon God’s grace. My answer to that […]

  113. Rachel Brownlee said,

    March 25, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    I know this is an old post, but since Lane began with a story, I’ll share one as well. I grew up in a wonderful PCA church. I was baptized as an infant and made a profession of faith around the age of 8. I knew it was a serious thing. The only problem was that though I believed Jesus to be the Messiah, Savior of the World, I later began to doubt my salvation. In fact, around the age of 12 I was convinced that I was not saved. I had no real conversion experience, no story. I longed to be a Christian, to FEEL that I was part of Christ’s body. (I was taking communion at that time, though I often wondered if I should.) I did later become convinced that I was indeed one of God’s children, but only after fully realizing that there was nothing I could do to be saved. The truth was I just WAS. (Saved.) Christ did it all so long ago, and I see now that I was indeed saved before the foundation of the world.

    I have two sisters. One of my sisters still struggles TO THIS DAY with wondering about her salvation, thought the grace in her life is evident. My husband also was raised in a truly wonderful PCA church but likewise has doubted his salvation much of his life.

    I cannot tell you the grief that I went through, feeling as if I was outside of the covenant. I have children now and am refreshed and calmed to be able to tell them with faith, “Honey, Jesus died for you. He forgives you and accepts you. He loves us. He gives us good things. He even gives us His body for bread and His blood as drink that we might have life.”

    I do not believe that I am lying to my dear ones. I believe in God’s grace. I am so grateful to be married to a man who sees that the PCA, though wonderful in so many ways, is missing a beautiful part of the Covenant by denying the Table to little ones, thus starting them out in a position of doubt and ostracism.

    I understand that the PCA does so because of the its conviction that God’s Word prohibits giving the Lord Supper to babes and toddlers. However, I do believe that paedocommunion is wholly and wonderfully Biblical. I think it is so clear…The Passover was for families, baptism is for families, communion is limited to those who are living in step with God’s Word (as I believe nursing children and toddlers learning obedience certainly are). When God says “examine yourselves” He is not excluding children, but excluding those who are not manifesting Christ-likeness (children certainly manifest Christ-like trust and belief). However, I’ve read the back and forth of the posts and it is clearer now to me how hard this subject is to distinguish and how each of us is very much swayed by personal convictions.

    Let me just say, for what its worth, that growing up being excluded from the Table was painful and confusing. I was truly one of the Beloved, accepted and loved but felt that I must doubt because maybe I just hadn’t “examined myself” fully. Guilt is destructive and harmful. Grace is healing and hopeful.

    I commit to sharing God’s beautiful, gracious nature with my children gladly. I also commit to warn and discipline them in love should they turn from the Hand that so kindly feeds them. I praise the Lord for this discussion, though tedious it may be at times. May His will be done and His truth be found.

    With much love to all my brothers and sisters in Christ,
    Rachel Byrd Brownlee

  114. Scott said,

    March 26, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Rachel,

    Sounds like you are doing a lot right as a mother. God bless you for that.

    I have come to understand the Lord’s Supper as helping make us stronger in faith, a “means of grace.” This understanding has come to me later in life, as an adult, after many years of study and hearing Scripture. Seeing it that way never occurred to me as a child but I have come to understand it as a way of strengthening faith, with Christ spiritually present.

    My understanding of our denomination is not so much based on:

    “conviction that God’s Word prohibits giving the Lord Supper to babes and toddlers”

    but on the “rightly examining oneself” (as in understanding the Gospel and repentance). Making sure by “fencing the table” that participants are Christians and are able to examine themselves.

    Admittedly, this is a difficult task and we cannot know for sure. I think I was saved around age 6 and somehow, never have gone through the basic doubt of my salvation.

    I have doubted and struggled with many things, but somehow, by God’s grace not my basic salvation. I am aware many do.

    Guilt. I have found guilt to be one of the things God has greatly used in my life. Guilt that I am wrong before God. It has made it easier to admit I am not perfect and need to repent. Godly sorrow over wrong committed against a holy God, forsaking it (by God’s grace) and making restitution/reconciliation in as much as it is in your power.

    The process that begins with guilt can bring complete healing and a clear conscience and I think is an ordinary part of the Christian life (the process of repentance).

    I guess I see young children in our denomination being encouraged to examine themselves, submit to examination by the Elders to see what they are basing their faith on, and viewing the Lord’s supper as a privilege they can participate in more than something to fear not participating in.

    What you are telling your children seems in line with Scripture- the admonition to bring children up in the nuture and admonition of the Lord. Children benefit from a position of privilege having believing parents and a community of believers and that is the basis for the covenant relationship- “covenant children.” Many are and will be saved, but not all, as we are all so painfully aware.

    As GI Williamson says in his study guide for the Westminster Confession of Faith regarding salvation of our covenant children…

    We have reason to hope, but not demand.

    I think that is the basis for “fencing the table” in this way.

    Great post.

  115. Rachel Brownlee said,

    March 29, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for the response, Scott. I appreciate your encouragement and understanding that, though we interpret Scripture differently on this issue, we are both servants of Christ seeking to honor Him in all we do. God bless you as well.

  116. March 30, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    […] Are Children Assumed to be Saved? « Green Baggins […]

  117. Tim Harris said,

    April 15, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Jeff, sorry for ignoring your question in #51 for so long: I got involved in another thread and this one fell through the crack.

    I was alluding to the theme that was prominent, at least 20 years ago — maybe the focus has shifted since then — namely, that the traditional position of waiting until teenage before admitting covenant members to the table seemed to presuppose some kind of “age of accountability,” which notion is rationalistic, not scriptural. This was coupled with the idea that non-communicant members were de faco excommunicated.

    But then I noticed that (1) none of the paedo-communionists ever seriously entertained actual excommunication of an infant for whatever reason. Or, (2) if an infant was to be excluded on a particular occasion because, say, in the midst of throwing a temper tantrum during the service, that would be done on the discretion of the parents, not the elders.

    But (2) seems to be a confusion of parent-rule and elder-rule; and (1) seems to suggest that the despised “age of accountability” had crept back in through the back door!

  118. October 2, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    […] asked me then if I agreed with Wilson’s […]


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