Children At the Lord’s Table?

Cornelis Venema has written what is only the second book-length defense of the non-paedo-communion position (Leonard Coppes wrote the first). Venema’s book is up-to-date, irenic, yet confessional. I realize that is practically a contradiction in some people’s minds. Nevertheless, Venema has achieved the impossible. I would especially encourage all paedo-communion advocates to read this book, as it is fair, detailed, without caricatures, and Biblical. I believe it will scratch a lot of people exactly where they itch on an issue like this.

I especially appreciate his argument concerning the Passover. He makes a distinction between the initiation of Passover, wherein all Israelites participated, and the subsequent celebrations of the Passover, which required only male members to celebrate. Venema’s care is evident here, for he argues not that women and children were excluded from the subsequent Passovers, but only that their participation was not required or forbidden. This makes the argument from Passover to Lord’s Supper (as paedo-communion advocates use it) ambiguous and uncertain. Venema argues strongly here:

It is gratuitous to assume that enjoyment of the privileges of the covenant was dependent on all members of the covenant community participating to the same extent in the Feast of the Passover (p. 68).

Indeed. Venema is also careful concerning the catechetical exercise listed in Exodus 12. Many opponents of paedo-communion use this argument to say that small infants could not participate since they could not ask the question. Venema says, “The presence of this catechetical exercise in the Passover rite does not argue conclusivelyfor or against the participation of infants and younger children…the children of the household participated in the Passover rite in different ways, depending on their maturity and ages” (p. 70).

228 Comments

  1. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 7, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    This is probably in Venema’s book, but it is my opinion that the connection between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper needs to be re-examined in light of New Testament teaching. We need to remember that all those (with the exception of three people) who participated in the Passover including the women and the children died in the wilderness. They all died because of their unbelief.

    Those who advocate paedo-communion usually advocate it for two reasons. First, they operate on the faulty premise of what is called covenant presumptive regeneration. They assume their children are saved unless they prove otherwise – which really can’t be proven at all until their so-called “final justification” (another faulty doctrine). The problem is one has to die physically to “prove otherwise”, so the visible church never really knows on this side of heaven what eternal condition they are really in). But because of presumptive regeneration, it makes sense to these paedo-advocates that covenant children are saved and should therefore participate in the Lord’s Supper. This practice, however, is no different from the Old Testament Passover because it does not bring faith into the equation. So, as a result, children who participate in the Lord’s Supper will, like the OT wilderness children, die in their sins if they are never evangelized and come to faith in Jesus Christ. This is why I believe paedo-communion is a very dangerous misleading practice.

    A second reason paedo-communion is advocated is because the Lord’s Supper is viewed by some as being more than what the Lord teaches. Instead of being a remembrance of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for the redeemed sinner, communion wrongly becomes what is called “covenant renewal”. In covenant renewal, the participant receives grace to persevere in faithful obedience to God’s covenant and law. Once again, this practice does not rise above the level of the OT Passover, for it leaves out faith and actually adds works of obedience. Again, paedo-communion not only makes sense to covenant renewal proponents, but it is also seen as being necessary for “presumptively saved covenant children” to persevere in faithful obedience to the law. Whenever you add works to the gospel of grace, you kill the gospel of grace. Paedo-communion is, in my opinion, a dangerous practice rooted in false teaching.

  2. David Gray said,

    March 7, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Lauren,

    I’m sorry you are at odds with the WCF over the Lord’s Supper, which clearly teaches that the sacrament is a means of grace. It is also a standard Reformed practice to treat children as elect until they give reason for doubt (although this is an area of greater historical division than the first). Finally a great many adults who take the Lord’s Supper will die in their unbelief.

    Having said that I think the Venema quote given above is very powerful. But then I’ve never supported paedo-communion.

  3. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    …irenic, yet confessional. I realize that is practically a contradiction in some people’s minds.

    And logically necessary in others’.

  4. March 7, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    I’d advise reading Vos’ classic essay on the covenant in Reformed theology, which evinces that nearly all the 16th century Reformed affirmed presumptive regeneration and baptized precisely on the grounds that they were confident that infants of Christian parents were regenerate. Calvin indisputably held this view.

    It may be wrong, but it cannot be dismissed by a hand’s wave or key stroke.

  5. thomasgoodwin said,

    March 7, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    “nearly all the 16th century Reformed affirmed presumptive regeneration”

    Andrew,

    I haven’t checked who Vos adduces, but that statement is not wise. First, that’s not true; neither is it true in the 17thC when it was debated at the Westminster Assembly. Moreover, the term “regeneration” had a somewhat different, more fluid, meaning in the 16thC than it does today. You may realize that, but many don’t. Thus, if I were you, I would qualify such language.

    Mark

  6. March 7, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Mark,

    Let me invite you again to check Vos. Of course, I know how Calvin used the term, but in the context in which he used it as a defense of infant baptism he denoted the same sort of supernatural internal change on the identical grounds of which we baptize adults, i.e., we baptize all and only those whom we presume to be “born again”:

    http://www.forerunner.com/puritan/PS.Calvin_baptism.html

  7. March 7, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    I note that the Vos article (which many years ago persuaded me of infant baptism) is here:

    http://www.biblicaltheology.org/dcrt.pdf

  8. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 8, 2009 at 5:25 am

    Can anyone give me Scriptural evidence of presumptive regeneration?

  9. GLW Johnson said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:31 am

    Andrew
    Have you read James Dennison’s ,’The letters of Geerhardus Vos’ (P&R,2005)? Note especially his letters to Bavinck and Warfield regarding Kuyper on “presumtive regeneration”. In these letters he expresses amazment at Kuyper’s position and says that this is very problematic. The recently reeased English translation of Bavinck’s ‘Saved By Grace: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Calling and Regeneration’ (Reformation Heritage Books,2008) gives a detailed analysis of this debate and better reflect’s Vos concern-and position- than what you are saying.

  10. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:42 am

    >Can anyone give me Scriptural evidence of presumptive regeneration?

    Does this mean you’ve embraced the WCF’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper?

  11. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Beza writes: “The situation of children who are born of believing parents is a special one. They do not have in themselves that quality of faith which is in the adult believer. Yet it cannot be the case that those who have been sanctified by birth and have been separated from the children of unbelievers, do not have the seed and germ of faith. The promise, accepted by the parents in faith, also includes their children to a thousand generations. . . . If it is objected that not all of them who are born of believing parents are elect, seeing that God did not choose all the children of Abraham and Isaac, we do not lack an answer. Though we do not deny that this is the case, still we say that this hidden judgment must be left to God and that normally, by virtue of the promise, all who have been born of believing parents, or if one of the parents believes, are sanctified (Confessio hristianae Fidei, IV, 48).

  12. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Ursinus says: “This is sure and certain, that God instituted his sacraments and covenant seals only for those who recognize and maintain the church as already made up of parties of the covenant, and that it is not His intention to make them Christians by the sacraments first, but rather to make those who
    are already Christians to be Christians more and more and to confirm the work begun in them. . . . Hence, if anyone considers the children of Christians to be pagans and non-Christians, and damns all those infants who cannot come to be baptized, let him take care on what ground he does so, because Paul calls them holy (1 Cor. 7), and God says to all believers in the person of Abraham that He will be their God and the God of their seed. . . . Next let him consider how he will permit them to be baptized with a good conscience, for knowingly to baptize a pagan and unbeliever is an open abuse and desecration of baptism. Our continual answer to the Anabaptists, when they appeal to the lack of faith in infants against infant baptism, is that the Holy Spirit works regeneration and the inclination to faith and obedience to God in them in a manner appropriate to their age, always with it understood that we leave the free mercy and heavenly election unbound and unpenetrated”

  13. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Junius argues against the Anabaptists: “We call it false to argue that infants are completely incapable of faith; if they have faith in the principle of the habitus, they have the Spirit of faith. . . . Regeneration is viewed from two aspects, as it is in its foundation, in Christ, in principle, and as it is active in us. The former (which can also be called transplanting from the first to the second Adam) is the root, from which the latter arises as its fruit. By the former elect infants are born again, when they are incorporated into Christ, and its sealing occurs in baptism” (Theses Theologicae, LI, 7).

  14. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Many thanks to Andrew Sandlin for the links…

  15. GLW Johnson said,

    March 8, 2009 at 8:13 am

    DG
    I fail to see how any of the things you cited address the question of padeo-communion-or provide a direct link via presumptive regeneration.

  16. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 8:16 am

    >I fail to see how any of the things you cited address the question of padeo-communion-or provide a direct link via presumptive regeneration.

    I’m not addressing paedo-communion nor do I support it so I’m unlikely to in the future.

  17. GLW Johnson said,

    March 8, 2009 at 8:27 am

    DG
    Isn’t that the subject of this post?

  18. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Pastor Johnson,

    Yes it is but most of the comments haven’t addressed it and I was responding to that discussion as you did in comment eight. And actually comment seven from Lauren sounds rather FV in suggesting we set aside our confessions.

  19. March 8, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Gary, I’m not arguing that Vos embraced PR, only for the validity of his description of its embrace by the earliest Reformed. I agree with Vos that a large number of the later Reformed (including GV himself) apostatized from that view, and the citations that David has kindly offered — which, by the way, could be multiplied — verify Vos’s historical scholarship.

    The earliest Reformed believed that infants of Christians shared with them the quality, if not the quantity, of faith.

    And they baptized both (proselyte) adults and (Christian) children on the grounds of that presumed faith.

  20. GLW Johnson said,

    March 8, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Andrew
    You need to read the Vos letters. He addressed everyone of the issues you just raised. Have you read the book by Bavinck that I referenced?

  21. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 9:34 am

    >And actually comment seven from Lauren sounds rather FV in suggesting we set aside our confessions.

    Actually this was a bit sloppy, Lauren seems to be setting the confessions at odds with Scripture.

  22. rfwhite said,

    March 8, 2009 at 11:32 am

    David Gray, you may be right in what you say about Lauren’s statement but could you tell us specifically where in it that you believe it is at odds with the WCF on the sacrament as a means of grace?

    Lauren Kuo, do you affirm or deny what the WCF says about the Lord’s Supper and its teaching that it is a means of grace?

  23. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    She suggests that participants don’t receive grace to persevere in faithful obedience to God’s covenant and law. Presumably nobody holds that we receive grace in order that we be faithless and disobedient. If the caveat is made that she means that it must be taken in faith then it is meaningless as all reformed, FV included, teach that it must be taken in faith in order to be a means of grace. In which case she is merely stating a truism and it seems odd to feel the need to do so.

  24. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 8, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    WCF 29:7 states that “worthy receivers” of the Lord’s Supper do inwardly by faith really and indeed, spiritually feed upon Christ crucified and all the benefits of his death. It goes on to state that the body and blood of Christ are really but spiritually present to the faith of believers in this ordinance.

    The question is are infants, toddlers, and young children who are “presumptively regenerated” by virtue of their parents’ believing status – are they considered to be “worthy receivers” of the Lord’s Supper? Is the body and blood of Christ really but spiritually present in a presumptively regenerated toddler?

    Heidelberg Catechism Q 81 asks:
    Who are to come to the Lord’s Table?
    Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life.

    The question again is, can a presumptively regenerated infant, toddler, or small child truly sense displeasure with himself because of his sins? Can he truly even begin to understand and embrace a trust that his sins are pardoned and that his continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ? Does an infant have a true desire to strengthen his faith and lead a better life?

    If the answer is no or even probably not or most unlikely, then are we not misleading that child and putting him in great danger when we allow or encourage him at such a young age to come to the Lord’s Table? For the Heidelberg goes on to state that: Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however, eat and drink judgment on themselves. Are we not putting these children in danger of being hypocrites and eating and drinking judgment on themselves? I know this may sound extreme, but I believe that the practice of paedo-communion is spiritual child abuse.

    There has to be another meaning attached to the Lord’s Supper that is both unbiblical and anti-confessional for those who see the necessity of paedo-communion. I believe it has to do with this false notion of presumptive regeneration combined with baptismal regeneration, and covenant renewal which is in essence a false gospel of works.

    Romans 10:9-10 states that a person is justified and saved when he believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord. I would ask again, can a presumptively regenerated infant, toddler, or small child give a credible public profession of faith?

    Doug Wilson and his classical school cohorts know that young children begin their learning in what is called the poll parrot stage. As poll parrots they memorize a lot of information and are able to recite facts and imitate. For example, a child can memorize and recite the capitals and states but have no clue what a capital or a state really is. Yet, when it comes to understanding the meaning and significance of the Lord’s Supper, all of a sudden the paedo-communion advocates take these same little ones out of the poll parrot stage and have them take a flying leap into the logic and rhetoric stage of learning. Suddenly, reciting “Jesus Loves Me’ becomes a persuasive and credible profession of faith!

    Now where am I setting the confessions at odds with Scripture?

  25. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    >Romans 10:9-10 states that a person is justified and saved when he believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord. I would ask again, can a presumptively regenerated infant, toddler, or small child give a credible public profession of faith?

    So you believe in the damnation of all covenant infants who die prior to their developing and using the ability to articulate such a confession? You are standing in territory that even Lutherans and Baptists don’t inhabit, let alone the Reformed.

    >I believe it has to do with this false notion of presumptive regeneration

    You, given your beliefs above, may find it false but it is the approach with the oldest Reformed pedigree, held by men who took the Scriptures at least as seriously as yourself.

  26. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    >Now where am I setting the confessions at odds with Scripture?

    Oops, missed this one. Well when faced with historical reformed teaching you ask for proof texts and immediately above your use of Romans is to wage war on what the WCF teaches, which clearly allows for the salvation of elect infants who cannot confess or articulate what you believe to be required.

  27. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 8, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    P.S. I definitely affirm the WCF’s teaching on the Lord’s Supper and definitely believe that it is a means of grace for “worthy receivers”.

  28. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 8, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    David, you have yet to give me confessional or Scriptural references. Where does the WCF teach what you claim it teaches? I have the WCF right in front of me – can you give me the reference?

  29. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 8, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    I am talking about partaking of the Lord’s Supper. God determines when a person is saved. We all pray for our children to come to faith in Christ at a very early age. We pray for them even in the womb. My children came to faith in Christ at a very young age but they did not partake of the Lord’s Supper until they were able to make a credible profession of faith. Waiting to come to the Lord’s Table is not an act of damnation but an act of faith, love, reverence, and humility before the Lord. And, as parents, it is our duty to take every precaution to insure that our children become worthy receivers at the Lord’s Table.

  30. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    >Where does the WCF teach what you claim it teaches? I

    X.III. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

  31. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    >I am talking about partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

    Above you were talking more broadly than that. If you want children to wait to partake in the Lord’s Supper until they can make an oral confession I have zero problem with that.

  32. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Also from the Canons of Dordt:

    1.17: The Salvation of the Infants of Believers

    Since we must make judgments about God’s will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.

  33. Stephen Welch said,

    March 8, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks Lauren for your helpful thoughts on this, but let me say that the Lord’s Supper is more than a remembrance but as the Westminster Confession of Faith teaches it is a renewal of our covenant vows. Christ does nourish His people at the table, so that we may go forth to fulfill our vows. The sacraments are means of grace. How else would it be required of us in receiving the sacrament to renew our covenant with God and our love for the saints (Larger Catechism Questions 174 and 175).

  34. Stephen Welch said,

    March 8, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Lauren, David was addressing as I did in my response to you that the Lord’s Supper is a covenant renewal. You did state that the Lord’s Supper is only a remembrance or memorial, which is not what is stated in the Westminster Standards.

  35. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Larger Catechism:

    Question 174: What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the time of the administration of it?

    Answer: It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fulness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.

  36. rfwhite said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    David, fair enough. I was wondering if it was her suggestion or your inference. It’s good we take care in stating denials and affirmations and about inferring denials from affirmations or affirmations from denials. It may be a truism for you and me to say that the sacraments are means of grace when received in faith. In today’s discussions about sacraments, I’m finding I can’t take anything for granted, but it’s good to ask before I accuse.

  37. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Exactly, Dr. White. It strikes me as premature to assume that Lauren is at odds with the Confession simply because her language may not have been guarded.

    I am reminded of the distinction we make in the Sessional records: “exceptions of substance” v. “exceptions of form.” Lauren’s comments below indicate that hers was an exception of form only.

    Jeff Cagle

  38. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I should point out (as a low-bar communion guy myself) that Lauren’s position articulated here is precisely in line with Calvin’s:

    LK:

    Are we not putting these children in danger of being hypocrites and eating and drinking judgment on themselves? I know this may sound extreme, but I believe that the practice of paedo-communion is spiritual child abuse.

    JC:

    Can we wish anything clearer than what the apostle says, when he thus exhorts, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup?” (1 Cor. 11: 28.) Examination, therefore, must precede, and this it were vain to expect from infants. Again, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” If they cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord’s body, why should we stretch out poison to our young children instead of vivifying food? — Inst. 4.16.30

    Jeff Cagle

  39. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    That is the part of Lauren’s comments which aren’t drawing objection. I don’t think anyone here has argued for paedo-communion.

  40. rfwhite said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    SW, help us out. Where did Lauren state that the Lord’s Supper is “only a remembrance or memorial”? I would agree that it is more than a remembrance, but it is in fact a remembrance, that is, “the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of himself in his death” (WCF 29.1), right?

  41. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    There are two senses in which one might use the words presumptive regeneration, and we don’t find these two senses clearly distinguished always in the sources.

    (1) “Presumptive regeneration” could mean that we presume that children born of believers are certainly or probably regenerate because of their birth into the covenant (OR, by virtue of baptism).

    I think it’s clear that John 8.31ff and Romans 2.17-29 argue against this position.

    OR,

    (2) “Presumptive regeneration” could mean that ought to treat our children as believers, admitting that we can’t speak to the state of their hearts. We admit that children can be called prior to the onset of cognitive and expressive ability (cf. John the Baptist), and that children of believers are further sanctified (1 Cor 7), so we treat them as legitimate members of the covenant.

    I’m persuaded that Beza’s comment and Ursinus’ also (cited above by DG) fall into that category. What I hear in those quotes are that we have an obligation to honor the covenant membership of our children by treating them as members — rather than as prospective members — of the body.

    So the Scriptural basis for “presumptive regeneration (2)” is 1 Cor 7.14: “…Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. ”

    This passage obligates us to view our children as sanctified — set apart, legitimate members of the Church in its visible aspect (WCoF 25.2).

    So why not paedocommunion? My only holdout is 1 Cor 11.28 and 31. On my understanding, a self-examination is required that little ones cannot perform.

    But I will say this: children are not likely to be guilty of the sin of the Corinthians, so that the threatened condemnation is probably not directed at them.

    Nor is communion truly poisonous to any except the non-elect — for whom there is no hope anyways (and to whom baptism is equally lethal).

    So Paedocommunion ranks almost last on a list of errors, somewhere below pre-trib rapture and somewhere above mis-identification of Paul’s thorn in the flesh.

    It cannot change the eternal destiny of a child, and it represents a good-faith effort on the part of some to honor the membership of a covenant child in the church.

    Jeff Cagle

  42. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Well she did state:

    “Instead of being a remembrance of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for the redeemed sinner, communion wrongly becomes what is called “covenant renewal”.”

    This places her out of conformity with the Larger Catechism and suggests from the way it is phrased that a remembrance is all that it is. If she didn’t mean it in that the way she used the English language rather badly in this instance.

  43. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Jeff,

    I think I tend to read the citations as you do but if one is raising one’s children properly is there going to be a difference in behaviour by the parent between 1 & 2? Either way you need to continually point them to Christ, to the cross and to God’s promises and their need for (as Luther reminds us) daily repentance. This will be done at the level they can understand at a given time but if you are someone who’s looking for a confession of Christ before treating your child as regenerate you ought not to stop doing any of those things after the child’s confession. It isn’t as if once the child confesses Christ that you should stop teaching and catechizing.

  44. rfwhite said,

    March 8, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    To state that the LS is a remembrance and that it is not a covenant renewal as taught by the FV is not to state that the LS is only a remembrance or memorial and not a covenant renewal as taught in the WS, right?

  45. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    To phrase it as she did is to suggest that it is only a remembrance. And if you want to dissociate yourself from the FV aspect of covenant renewal it would be wise to acknowledge that it IS a covenant renewal and draw the appropriate distinctions.

  46. rfwhite said,

    March 8, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    David, you are right, of course, that it would be wise to phrase things so as not to suggest that the LS is only a remembrance. And it would be wise to acknowledge that it IS a covenant renewal and draw the appropriate distinctions. It would be wiser still not to draw inferences that do not necessarily follow from a person’s assertions.

  47. David Gray said,

    March 8, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    >It would be wiser still not to draw inferences that do not necessarily follow from a person’s assertions.

    If they logically follow from it I would tend to differ with you.

  48. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 8, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Well, I think parents ought to be clear in their minds what’s going on. “Presumptive regeneration (1)” is a lot simpler — but wrong — and people tend to gravitate towards simple ideas.

    But I agree with you: we ought to be preaching the gospel to all and not presuming that covenant status, or profession of faith, is a final and dispositive proof of regeneration.

    And, if PR(1) were correct, then it would actually make sense to “move beyond the gospel” with our children, since we would believe that they are probably regenerate. It was the error of the Pharisees.

    Jeff Cagle

  49. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 8, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    I have a real problem with presumptive regeneration. So far, no one has given any Scriptural evidence of presumptive regeneration. The problem I have with it is that it implies that a person is saved by virtue of being physically born into a covenant family. In other words, like the Jews, they inherit salvation from their parents. They are considered to be in the covenant by virtue of their first birth. That is Old Testament teaching not New Testament teaching.

    NT teaching requires a second birth – a spiritual birth – in order to enter into the covenant. This second birth is solely the work of the Holy Spirit. Neither the parents nor the work of the visible church can make this spiritual birth happen. John 3 makes this clear.

    Once again, where is the Scriptural evidence for presumptive regeneration?

  50. David Gadbois said,

    March 9, 2009 at 12:30 am

    It is ironic that some in the FV orbit would be sympathetic to a doctrine of presumptive regeneration. The orthodox baptize on the basis of something *objective* (the covenant) rather than the subjective (regeneration), as the PR crowd do. We do not baptize on a premise that is frequently false. Berkhof, in his ST, writes:

    Dr. Honig, who is also a disciple and admirer of Kuyper, is on the right track when he says in his recent Handboek van de Gereformeerde Dogmatiek: ‘We do not baptize the children of believers on the ground of an assumption, but on the ground of a command and an act of God. Children must be baptized in virtue of the covenant of God.’ Presumptive regeneration naturally cannot be regarded as the legal ground of infant baptism; this can be found only in the covenant promise of God. Moreover, it cannot be the ground in any sense of the word, since the ground of baptism must be something objective, as the advocates of the view in question themselves are constrained to admit.

  51. David Gray said,

    March 9, 2009 at 3:18 am

    >I have a real problem with presumptive regeneration.

    As Jeff Cagle defined it do you mean case 1 or case 2?

  52. David Gray said,

    March 9, 2009 at 3:19 am

    >The orthodox baptize on the basis of something *objective* (the covenant) rather than the subjective (regeneration), as the PR crowd do.

    I guess everybody here is orthodox then. Very good!!

  53. rfwhite said,

    March 9, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Thanks, DG. ‘Nuf said.

  54. Stephen Welch said,

    March 9, 2009 at 8:13 am

    In addition to my earlier reply not all those who hold to presumptive regeneration would advocate paedo-communion. Paedo-communion is not held by any denomination perhaps with the exception of the Covenant Presbyterina Churches, which is a new breakaway from the RPCGA and the CREC.

  55. Stephen Welch said,

    March 9, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Lauren, I don’t know that anyone in this thread is advocating paedo-communion. You are correct that only those who have professed faith in Christ are admitted to the table of the Lord. I did respond to your first comment that the Lord’s Supper is a covenant renewal. This does not go against the teaching of the Westminster Standards. The term covenant renewal is not native to the Federal Visionists.

  56. Stephen Welch said,

    March 9, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Hi, Fowler. Lauren in the first response to this thread stated, “Instead of being a remembrance of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for the redeemed sinner, communion wrongly becomes what is called “covenant renewal.”
    My response was that the Lord’s Supper is more than a remembrance according to the Westminster Standards. The Supper is a time for renewing our vows. Christ does nourish his people in the sacrament. The idea of covenant renewal is not something that is particular only to those who advocate paedo-communion. There are many like myself in keeping with the confessional standards, that believe communion is a covenant renewal. I think we have to be extremely careful in reacting to the Federal Vision or the advocates of paedo-communion that we do not throw out good language because they may use it. I hope this clarifies my response to Lauren’s reply.

  57. Stephen Welch said,

    March 9, 2009 at 8:46 am

    I went back and read Lauren’s first response three times and did not see where she was making a distinction between renewal according to the Westminster Divines and renewal according to the Federal Vision. I realize that the Federal Vision does teach many errors, but I am not sure we want to react against the language of covenant renewal because of the federal vision. I think it would be helpful for Lauren or others to define what they mean by covenant renewal. I am not sure what Doug Wilson or other Federal Visionists mean by that term.

  58. Stephen Welch said,

    March 9, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Yes, you are correct David. We are not disagreeing with Lauren on objecting to infants coming to the table. I think we have to clarify what the argument is in this thread.

  59. Stephen Welch said,

    March 9, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Thank you for your response, Lauren, but you did not address the issue of covenant renewal. If you are affirming the Westminster Standards, and I am not assuming you don’t, what does it teach about covenant renewal?

  60. Stephen Welch said,

    March 9, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Thanks, Jeff for clarifying this point. I thought the thread was on paedo-communion, but somehow this got in the mix. We have to define presumptive regeneration and how it has been understood. Some argue for it based on historical reformed thinking and others argue against it based on historical reformed thinking. Are we reacting against the term because of the federal vision? I am only asking the question for my benefit. I have reacted strongly to John Murray’s view of presumptive regeneration because of what it conjurs up in my mind, but Murray was not the first one to hold to this view. As a former papist who almost entered the priesthood I believe that baptismal regeneration is a heretical doctrine, but this is not what some have in mind when they use the term. Lewis Bevens Schenck in his book The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant argues for presumptive regeneration but rejects baptismal regeneration. These are not the same. The Federal Vision seems to embrace more of a baptismal regeneration view.

  61. GLW Johnson said,

    March 9, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Lane
    Something is technically wrong here with this set of comments.

  62. Stephen Welch said,

    March 9, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Yes, I found that some of the replies are out of sequence. Welcome to the technical age :-)

  63. David Gadbois said,

    March 9, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Apparently you skipped over Andrew Sandlin’s comments regarding PR.

  64. ray said,

    March 9, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I too … have a problem with presumptive regeneration… all of us …including our children are born totally depraved.

    Hope is not presumption. The hope that lies within me is not based on presumption.

    Children ought not be at the Lord’s Supper Table. We have 4 children and yesterday … they sat in the pew … witnessing their parents … along with the rest of the professing congregation… actively partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

    On Sunday mornings when the Lord’s Supper is to be administered (4 times year by us)… after breakfast devotions… I go through with the children … the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 28-30 which questions and answers deal with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The oldest is 10 … the youngest 7. They understand why they cannot actively partake… they witness the truth nonetheless. They will continue with their catechism training up until the age of 17 studying the Heidelberg catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort by their parents at home and also the church/congregational catechism classes with the other children of the congregation… and the Lord willing and by His grace alone … they will answer honestly the questions asked by the consistory/council of the hope(not presumption) that lies within them… with a view to their Profession of faith before Christ and Him crucified and risen …and His Church.

    I presume nothing. As their parents were instructed of the Lord… at the baptism of each 4 of the children …we promised we would instruct the children when they came to years of discretion to the utmost of our power. We raise them… and by God’s grace we have raised them in that hope.

    They were … as their parents and their siblings on both sides, there cousins…and their grandparents on both sides … all baptised. I presume nothing.

  65. greenbaggins said,

    March 9, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Gary, I instituted a new feature of WordPress that allows people to respond to a comment and have their comment immediately under the comment to which they are responding. So the most recent comment may not be at the bottom anymore.

  66. greenbaggins said,

    March 9, 2009 at 11:58 am

    David Gray, it seems to me that you have tended to over-read Lauren’s comments a bit. I don’t see what you’re saying about her views in what she says. It might behove you to be a bit more careful.

  67. David Gray said,

    March 9, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    >David Gray, it seems to me that you have tended to over-read Lauren’s comments a bit. I don’t see what you’re saying about her views in what she says.

    You might note I’m not the only one who read her comments that way.

    > It might behove you to be a bit more careful.

    That is undoubtedly always true…

  68. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 9, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I don’t use the term “presumptive regeneration” because of its confusing heritage. When others use it, I try to discern what they mean, but I prefer to speak of a “judgment of charity.”

    My guess is that the Federal Vision re-sensitized some of us to the issues involved, but I really don’t understand the relationship between FV “baptismal regeneration” and PR(1) or PR(2). It may not be a univocal term among FV adherents.

    Jeff Cagle

  69. Reed Here said,

    March 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Jeff: possibly an equivocal term in the FV?

  70. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 9, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Two observations:

    (1) The FV claim is that baptism is based on and accomplishes something “objective”, not subjective. Since I am opposed to the FV doctrine of “the objective covenant,” I won’t defend their claim. Nevertheless, they might not feel the bite of the criticism that their doctrine is based on something subjective.

    (2) Presumptive Regeneration (2) as defined above is utterly objective and is identical to the doctrine of Judgment of Charity (which term I prefer).

    It does *not* presume something subjective on the part of children of believers (as PR(1) does). Instead, it presumes that the children are legitimate members of the visible church and should be treated as such. That’s boilerplate Confession.

    Jeff Cagle

  71. Stephen Welch said,

    March 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks, Jeff. I am not sure that those who hold to presumptive regeneration are saying that there is something subjective. My understanding of the classical Reformed covenantal view is that children of believers are baptised with the promise that God will be our God and we will be His people. There is more than simply a sign of cleansing from sin. Charles Hodge believed that all infants dying in infancy are regenerated. I do not agree with Mr. Hodge on this point, but he is presuming that all infants are regenerated. There is nothing subjective in the infant that is taking place. Perhaps we are misunderstanding how it has been used by men like Calvin. We presume that an adult who makes a profession of faith and is baptised is regenerated, but many times they fall away. It would almost seem that we cannot presume that anyone is regenerated. I agree that the term, presumptive regeneration carries alot of baggage. I am not sure this is a good term to use considering it is not language you will find in the Westminster standards.

  72. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Lauren, I have a problem with the term presumptive regeneration exactly for the reason that you state: it insinuates salvation based on birth. As you can see above, I think the Scripture rejects this notion (most emphatically in John 8).

    With you, I agree that salvation requires a second birth.

    That said, the Scripture also says that our children are “holy” by virtue of their birth. And the way that some Reformed theologians have chosen to express this idea is to use the term “presumptive regeneration.” I don’t like the term; I don’t use it. But when I see it in the literature, I usually interpret it as PR(2) above rather than PR(1), because I am convinced that PR(2) is what they mean (or ought to mean!).

    So what does 1 Cor 7.14 mean, in your view? And why are children members of the visible church, if our only perspective on them is their total depravity? How should we treat them so that their membership in the visible church is validated, and at the same time communicate to them that faith, personally appropriated, is required for them to claim the name of Christ?

    This is the central problem of Reformed churches!

    The Baptists have it easy: they deny the existence of the Visible Church (except as a bare human organization) and simply shut the door to children, except in the sense of providing opportunities for the children to receive the gospel and become members.

    It’s a attractive solution because of its simplicity, but it requires denying that our children are holy (and it creates a host of other problems relating to church discipline).

    My own solution is a judgment of charity. Specifically, I treat children as legitimate members of the church. And, I interpret their statements of faith at face-value, rather than looking for theological precision that is beyond their age. At the same time, I communicate to all of them (not presuming that I know their hearts!) that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God.

    That seems to me to be the best way to resolve the confusing tension between the holiness of our children and their total depravity.

    What is your solution?

    Jeff Cagle

  73. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Ray, far be it from me to criticize the raising of your children. I’ve resolved never to give dogmatic child-rearing advice until my kids are 25.

    What do you make of the thought that in a Baptist church, your kids would be walking the aisle at the age of 10 and receiving communion?

    Jeff Cagle

  74. Andrew said,

    March 9, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I shall certainly get this book. It would be excellent to read a balanced and thoughful response to paedocommunnion.

    But taking the arguement cited, is it not enough for the paedocommunion case if we agree that children had the option of taking it in the OT? Given that we expect greater freedom and liberty in the New Testament, we surely need strong and clear evidence to restrict this privledge?

    And as a general point, is it not reasonable (I am not dogmatic) that we should treat the archtypical event as more ‘authoritative’ than the particularities of how it was observed under the Mosiac covenant?

  75. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    I have not mastered Lane’s new reply mode, so I am sticking to the old way. Jeff and Ray, thank you for your comments and questions.

    The very fact that children of believing parents are members of the covenant and others are not suggests that there is something different about their status before God. But what the difference is is the question, for quite obviously the answer we give will have a direct bearing on the way we educate and nurture our children.

    Some theologians have taken the position that children of believing parents should be presumed to be regenerate (presumptive regeneration). They contend that these children should be treated as though they were already Christian. They claim that we must accept the children of believing parents as presumably God’s children, on the basis of the covenant promise of God. According to this view, the task of the Christian parent and educator is to nurture the Christian life already begun. This task includes allowing them to come to the Lord’s Table as presumably “worthy receivers”.

    This theory that covenant children are to be treated as though they are already Christian, however, is not without some rather difficult problems. The promise of God is not unconditionally given to all the seed of Abraham. Paul makes this clear in Romans 9:6-8. Thus, the children of God (those who are elected to eternal salvation) are called from within a chosen people (the entire membership of the covenant). In the history of redemption the inner group has sometimes been larger, sometimes smaller, but there has always been a remnant. All members of the covenant receive the promise of salvation and participate in the benefits of the covenant in much the same way as the Israelites benefited from being members of the nation of Israel. Salvation, however, becomes a reality only in the lives of the elect (Rom. 8:11).

    We can and should, therefore, treat all children of believers as members of the covenant with all the privileges and obligations this entails. But, we CANNOT and SHOULD NOT treat all children of believers as though they were already Christians at birth, and thereby neglect our most solemn responsibility to lead them to Christ.

  76. David Gray said,

    March 9, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    >But, we CANNOT and SHOULD NOT treat all children of believers as though they were already Christians at birth, and thereby neglect our most solemn responsibility to lead them to Christ.

    We should point our children to Christ whether they have confessed Him yet or not just as our ministers should point us to Christ. We should remind our children that the life of the Christian is to be one of daily repentance whether they have confessed Christ or not just as our ministers should remind us of the same thing. I think the reformers were right in this matter and that it is very difficult for Americans to shake loose of their revivalistic, decision oriented Christian culture which encompasses them.

  77. David Weiner said,

    March 9, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    As an outsider, I would not dare to comment on the reformed view of paedo-communion. However, 1 Cor 7:14 seems to be a source of some questions. I would like to offer a few thoughts that I presume are already well understood by most here; but, since they have not been voiced, I thought I would do so:

    1. The passage is a presentation of Paul’s views; not, commands from God. I don’t fully understand the distinction; but, apparently Paul thought it important enough to make the point.
    2. The passage deals with mixed marriages, i.e., one saved and one unsaved member.
    3. The saved person causes the unsaved person to be sanctified (whatever that means it does not seem to mean ‘saved’ or ‘justified’ or ‘redeemed’ etc.)

    Does this ‘sanctification’ then mean that the unsaved spouse is a member of the covenant?

    4. Likewise, the saved person causes the same result for the children. They are sanctified.

    So, do the children have the same or a different status vis-a-vis the covenant from the unsaved parent?

    One last point, it would seem risky to decide based on this passage anything regarding the children of two saved parents. And, there is probably the complication of the children who are born before and after both parents have been saved. . . .

  78. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 9, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    As a parent, would you want to presume your child is saved or would you want to know that your child is saved? I praise God that I KNOW my children are saved. Each of my children did make a decision for Christ. That decision was the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts as they were nurtured in the Lord. At some point, a person has to come to know the misery of his sin and his need for deliverance. Presumptive regeneration never allows room for that child to come to terms with that reality.

    Do you believe in eternal security? Presumptive regeneration keeps a person guessing about his relationship with the Lord. There is always the possibility that he has presumed wrongly. There is no true peace or secutity in presumption. It is also very deceptive. How many church members are out there presuming they are saved because they were born in a Christian family, were baptized, and became church members?

  79. ray said,

    March 9, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Hey Jeff, we break it down for them…milk and meat together.

    If I may so bold as to say that you have already given dogmatic child rearing advice to your children… simply by reading and teaching about Christ to them or having them read it. There questions are many.

    Age 10 is too young to be receiving communion… they should still be busy with catechism. I have read enough distinctively reformed history and church order commentaries … not to sweep aside … the candid and wise advice and decisions of forefathers that struggled with the same thing we discuss today.

  80. David Gray said,

    March 9, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    >As a parent, would you want to presume your child is saved or would you want to know that your child is saved? I praise God that I KNOW my children are saved. Each of my children did make a decision for Christ.

    It sounds as if you are presuming they are saved.

    >At some point, a person has to come to know the misery of his sin and his need for deliverance.

    Given how you describe these things you make it sound as if you don’t accept the teaching fo the WCF on elect infants.

    >Presumptive regeneration never allows room for that child to come to terms with that reality.

    That is incorrect, a genuine Christian should lead a life of repentance where he knows these things, not as part of an un-biblical style of decision making. Was Paul saved when he made clear his misery caused by his sin? Of course he was, he’d been regenerate for some time when he wrote about that.

    >Do you believe in eternal security?

    I believe in the perseverance of the saints.

    >Presumptive regeneration keeps a person guessing about his relationship with the Lord. There is always the possibility that he has presumed wrongly.

    The scriptures teach us that there are many who believe they are saved (and presumably many parents who know that their children are saved) while still these are damned. The WCF teaches it is possible to know but not in a decision oriented context. Neither were the Puritans prone to that error.

    >How many church members are out there presuming they are saved because they were born in a Christian family, were baptized, and became church members?

    I don’t know but in general that would be because their parents failed to teach them faithfully, just as a parent might be tempted to fail to teach their children faithfully because they know their children are saved because they made their decision. I’ve seen far too much of that in evangelical circles.

  81. ray said,

    March 9, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Actually David … I would strike down number one… on the basis that this is God’s Word regardless if done through the apostle. That is dangerous to me.

  82. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 9, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Are you saying that one can never know in this life whether or not they are saved – they can only presume but not know for sure? What a sad cruel joke!

  83. David Gray said,

    March 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    >Are you saying that one can never know in this life whether or not they are saved – they can only presume but not know for sure? What a sad cruel joke!

    Well the WCF certainly doesn’t teach that parents can know their children are saved. It does teach that assurance is possible for a believer but indicates that often it can be a very long road to that point and nowhere does it offer the false comfort of a decision as the basis for that assurance.

    How do you deal with the scriptures where Christ tells of many who will believe they were His followers but are sent to damnation? Presbyterians like Dabney didn’t ignore that text because they found it uncomfortable.

  84. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 9, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Hi David,

    I would agree with you that “sanctified” here does not mean “definitely saved” (and certainly doesn’t mean that in the case of the unbelieving spouse!).

    It might be helpful to distinguish “What we believe to be true” from “How we ought to act.”

    The basic difference between PR(1) and PR(2) is that PR(1) makes an assumption about what is true of the heart; PR(2) makes a declaration about how we ought to treat people.

    Let’s take an area that you and I agree on: the case of the Jews between the time of Abraham and Christ. We agree that only a remnant of Jews were God’s people in heart, the remnant who did not bow the knee to Baal.

    At the same time, all were admitted to worship (until such time that they broke the Law flagrantly).

    So while a faithful priest could not know the heart of a worshiper bringing a sacrifice, he nevertheless had to “presume” that this one was rightfully bringing a sacrifice — without evidence to the contrary. There was a presumption of salvation, but it was not by any stretch absolute.

    In fact, we could argue that the Pharisees got themselves into trouble by “over-estimating” their salvation. And at the same time, we could also argue that the Essenes got themselves into trouble by “under-estimating” the salvation of their fellow Jews, by demanding additional evidences of salvation that were not warranted by Scripture.

    I think the situation is similar here. We make different kinds of presumptions about salvation. When someone comes to our service and shares communion, we “fence the table” — and then take his word at face value. It’s a presumption of salvation based on verbal testimony. When someone makes a profession of faith, we make inquiry and then accept his answers as genuine. Again, it is a presumption of salvation.

    What does the presumption consist of? Certainly, it is not an absolute judgment of the man’s heart. Rather, it is a statement about how I should treat the person. And, perhaps, a statistical judgment about likelihood of salvation.

    If we could think statistically here instead of in absolute terms, it would reduce the general theological barrier between paedo-baptists and credo-baptists. Then, we could see that the “presumption of salvation” that we make about others upon their verbal testimony is in the same family as the “judgment of charity” that we make about the children of believers.

    The difference is quantitative, not qualitative; I have more reason to believe the salvation of one who makes a profession of faith, but I have some reason to believe that the child of a believer is likely to be saved. And in fact, if that child dies, that “some” is treated as “enough.”

    Jeff Cagle

  85. David Weiner said,

    March 10, 2009 at 5:28 am

    ray,

    Of course all of 1 Corinthians is God breathed. Nevertheless, what exactly do you find strikable in #1. above? The only danger I can image here is if one were to incorrectly interpret 1 Cor 7:12. So far, I don’t see either one of us doing that.

  86. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 10, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Yes, a different question is the extent of “not I but the Lord” — does that cover the imperative in 7.12 only, or does it extend to the rationale in 7.14.

    I would argue that it extends only to the command, and that v. 14 is appealing to a ground that is jointly accepted between the two.

    Jeff Cagle

  87. David Weiner said,

    March 10, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Hi, indeed, Jeff,

    I believe you said somewhere (actually it was in your reply to #22; but that is as close as I can get in this new world!) “that children of believers are further sanctified (1 Cor 7), so we treat them as legitimate members of the covenant.” I assume that this means that we treat them as saved.

    Then in responding to #35 you seem to focus on how we should deal with those who are members of the covenant. I believe we have agreed on a judgment of charity approach in the past. If one professes belief, then we should treat them as such until ‘evidence’ raises the possibility of another reality.

    However, I was attempting to highlight in #35 another question. The main point in addressing 1 Cor 7 was that I don’t see how to conclude from that passage that children of believers are part of the covenant before profession. Also, I think I understand and agree with your qualitative vs. quantitative distinction in this regard. So, I raised the question: Is the unsaved husband of 1 Cor 7 also a member of the covenant?

    You believe that water baptism (like circumcision) gains one’s entrance to ‘the covenant.’ (I don’t hold this; but, that is not something that I was addressing in #35.) I am also fairly sure that you accept that not all baptized children are, in fact, ultimately saved. The question I was trying to raise with regard to 1 Cor 7 was: How does one get from what is provided there (i.e., the unsaved spouse (who most likely has not received water baptism) and the children (who have one unsaved parent and who may or may not have received water baptism) are sanctified) to the children of believers being members of the covenant?

  88. David Weiner said,

    March 10, 2009 at 7:44 am

    I agree. As an aside, I think that all that Paul means by this clarification, is that he was unaware that Jesus had specifically made this statement or given this command. Regardless, the letter is Scripture in every ‘jot and title.’

  89. rfwhite said,

    March 10, 2009 at 9:00 am

    David Weiner, would something like the following interpretation be more consistent with your take?

    The basic idea in 1 Cor 7 to be this: though Paul commends celibacy as preferable to the marriage covenant (1 Cor 7:7, 32), the marriage covenant is still approved by God and should be maintained by Christians unless certain circumstances (which the apostle discusses) dictate otherwise. The Corinthians’ problem was this: The Corinthians had misapplied Paul’s commendation of Christian celibacy as reflected in 1 Cor 7:1: “It was good for a man not to have sexual contact with a woman” (cf. ESV; NIV text is wrong; NIV footnote is right). The Corinthians had erroneously concluded that marriage was no longer a lawful state — that is, a divinely approved state — for Christians to be in, and they were taking steps to get out of what they had come to regard as “that unlawful state of marriage.” Paul’s response in 7:1-16 is therefore that, even though celibacy is preferable to marriage, God still approves of marriage, and Christians should stay married unless certain circumstances dictate otherwise.

    In 7:2-7, Paul says the marriage covenant and the fulfillment of marital duties are necessary and good for some believers. In 7:8-9, Paul commends celibacy and approves the marriage covenant for believers who are widowers and widows. In 7:10-11, Paul instructs believers married to believers not to divorce one another (why? Because marriage is a lawful state for Christians). In 7:12-16, Paul instructs believers married to unbelievers not to divorce their unbelieving spouses and not to contest the unbeliever’s departure.

    In the above summary is the case, then the point of 7:14 in its context would be along these lines: in 7:14 Paul states a basis for his instruction in 7:12-13. Specifically, he reflects on the relationships established in a family by the marriage covenant. His point is that believers should not initiate divorce from unbelievers because their marriage covenant was not annulled by their conversion.

    To make his point, Paul first looks in 7:14a at the relationship between husband and wife. He is saying, “You believers who are married to unbelievers should not divorce your unbelieving spouses, and the reason I say this is that your unbelieving spouse has been sanctified in relation to you, in association with you, in union with you.” In other words, Paul is saying, “The sanctity of the marriage covenant you made with your spouse before you became a Christian did not end once you became a Christian. The marriage covenant between you and your unbelieving spouse is still sanctioned by God and His law; it is still holy.”

    To clench his point about the husband-wife relationship, Paul looks in 7:14b at the relationship between parents and children. He is saying, “I can give a reason I know your conversion did not annul your marriage vows and that reason is this: if your conversion had annulled your marriage vows, your children would be unclean; but, since your conversion did not annul your marriage vows, they are holy.”

    Now the focus becomes, what do these words “unclean” and “holy” mean here? Acts 10:9-16, 28 seem to provide an analogy of the “unclean/holy” distinction. The meaning of the “unclean/holy” distinction, then, would be this: “to be unclean” = “to be someone with whom it is unlawful to associate”; “to be holy” = “to be someone with whom it is lawful to associate.” A relevant OT illustration of this distinction might be Ezra 10:3, 19, 44, where, interestingly enough, both wives and children are involved as in 1 Cor 7.

    Anyway, back in Corinth, some Corinthians had evidently concluded that it would be unfaithful to Christ to continue in their marriages to unbelievers, because that would mean they would be continuing in unlawful (divinely disapproved) associations. Overall, Paul intends that Christians should stay married unless certain circumstances dictate otherwise. And the application to the children of 1 Cor 7:14 would be along these lines: Paul is saying, “if your conversion had annulled your marriage vows, then your children would be people with whom you should not associate; but, since your marriage is still intact, they are people with whom you should associate.” To put it another way, “your conversion did not annul the sanctity of your husband-wife relationship; if it had done that, the same would apply to the sanctity of your children. If the root (husband-wife bond) had been unclean, then the branches (the children) would be unclean too. But, since the root is still holy, then the branches are holy too.”

    If the view expressed above is closer to your own, then the payoff would be that those of us who are paedoabaptist (or, as the case may be, paedocommunionist) have to turn to other passages and considerations for support. What do you think?

  90. ray said,

    March 10, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Hey David, thank you for the reply. I was concerned with how it could be interpreted in light of how other commentators have treated the verse as the case with John Calvin of verse 12:

    “But why is it that Paul speaks of himself as the author of these regulations, while they appear to be somewhat at variance with what he had, a little before, brought forward, as from the Lord? He does not mean that they are from himself in such a way as not to be derived from the Spirit of God; but, as there was nowhere in the law or in the Prophets any definite or explicit statement on this subject, he anticipates in this way the calumnies of the wicked, in claiming as his own what he was about to state. At the same time, lest all this should be despised as the offspring of man’s brain, we shall find him afterwards declaring, that his statement are not the contrivances of his own understanding. There is, however, nothing inconsistent with what goes before; for as the obligation and sanctity of the marriage engagement depend upon God, what connection can a pious woman any longer maintain with an unbelieving husband, after she has been driven away through hatred of God?”

    Thanks, again for clarification

  91. Reformed Sinner said,

    March 10, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I do not want to sound like I’m against you, as a father I struggle with issues like this too.

    For one I am glad your children made the decision to accept Christ as savior. However, my question is how did you treat your children before they made the confession of faith? Did you treat them as pagans that lives with you? Did you forbid them to pray with you because as pagans God doesn’t hear their voices? Did you have to evangelize to them about the Gospel before you can get them to trust in the Gospel?

    When I pray with my kids everyday, even from toddler years, I struggle with this issue. Why on earth will God hear their voices? How on earth can God’s teachings have meaning to them when they are sinners that suppresses truth like Paul says in Romans 1? Should I not spend time on catechizing them before I spent time to convert them? These are honest questions all Christian parents need to ask and seek answers.

    At the end the only answer (for me) is covenant faithfulness. Children, in God’s covenant family, in God’s covenant blessings, are giving the Holy Spirit as the regenerate do, to be able to response to God’s teachings, to be able to pray to God through Christ, to be able to enjoy the gifts of the Holy Spirit, all without the need to “convert” first. This is God’s mercy, and this is God’s honor and glory. Infant-baptism is a recognition of that blessing, not a faith baptism.

    When Paul teaches to children that they should follow the Commandment of respecting parents, I doubt Paul is only talking to children who have “confessed and baptized” and all other children need not apply, but rather Paul’s speaking to all covenant children of God’s covenant Church, and it applies to all.

    Finally, I always find the argument at “what age” a children is qualify to confess and be baptize silly, and whatever number the church comes up with is arbitrary at best.

  92. David Weiner said,

    March 10, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Dr. White,

    As I have come to expect from you, there is no possible way in which I can improve upon (or even come close to matching) the excellence of your comment. I truly thank you for your reply.

    I had seen the connection to the Acts Passage; but, do not see as strong a connection to the Ezra passage. No matter. You have explained my view to me better than I could have ever hoped to have done myself.

    If I may raise one concern. As I consider your comment it seems that the marriage covenant is the key for you as regards the sanctification of the unsaved spouse or child. I still see it somewhat differently. It is the fact of the one saved spouse that results in the sanctification of the other spouse and also the children. The unclean party to the marital or parental relationship is sanctified by the saved party and not by the marital covenant in and of itself.

    At any rate, the bottom line (only with regard to this thread) is that this passage does not seem to support a view that infants should be treated as members of the covenant in a manner similar to that of a professed believer. And that is so, even though the profession should ultimately turn out to have been an error. The sanctification (or, holiness) here is much different from that associated with justification. Moreover, based on your exposition, it seems that this holiness is such as applies to those in relationship with a saved spouse or parent in that limited relationship and not as it relates to, for example, the wider church body. Hopefully, I have not done damage to your presentation.

  93. Roger Mann said,

    March 10, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    What does the presumption consist of? Certainly, it is not an absolute judgment of the man’s heart. Rather, it is a statement about how I should treat the person. And, perhaps, a statistical judgment about likelihood of salvation. If we could think statistically here instead of in absolute terms, it would reduce the general theological barrier between paedo-baptists and credo-baptists. Then, we could see that the “presumption of salvation” that we make about others upon their verbal testimony is in the same family as the “judgment of charity” that we make about the children of believers.

    Excellent point…which concisely summarizes one of the primary reasons why I switched from being a credo-baptist to a paedo-baptist! God’s promise regarding our children, while not being “absolute” (e.g., Jacob & Esau), ought to be in the same “judgment of charity” category as our estimation of those who profess faith in Christ. As you correctly point out:

    The difference is quantitative, not qualitative; I have more reason to believe the salvation of one who makes a profession of faith, but I have some reason [i.e., God’s promise, a very good reason] to believe that the child of a believer is likely to be saved. And in fact, if that child dies, that “some” is treated as “enough.”

    By the way, even though I don’t always agree with you, I appreciate the way you consistently provide thoughtful, fair, and even-handed commentary.

  94. Roger Mann said,

    March 10, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I praise God that I KNOW my children are saved. Each of my children did make a decision for Christ.

    Lauren, what if (God forbid!) one of your children turns away from the faith they now profess later in life?

    “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” 1 John 2:19

    Do you “KNOW” for a certainty that this cannot possibly happen with any of your children? If the answer is no, then isn’t your confidence in your children’s salvation in some respects a presumption — just like it is with those who have confidence in their children’s salvation before they openly profess faith in Christ?

  95. rfwhite said,

    March 10, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    35 David Weiner, you are right that, in the exposition I posted — which I hasten to add is incomplete for reasons I’ll mention below — the holiness-sanctification of spouse and child is a function of a covenant. The holiness-sanctification of each is the same: it is that of God’s sanction; and the covenant is that of marriage, not of grace. In all this, it is vital to keep in mind that Paul’s starting point is the Corinthian error, which might be paraphrased as “God has taken His sanction off of sexual contact between man and woman” (cf. 7.1). What their error meant for Christian marriage and even for a spiritually mixed marriage had to be corrected by Paul.

    What I would hasten to add is that there is another step to take in considering the theological implications of 1 Cor 7.14 and that is to answer the question, what is the relationship between the covenant of marriage (and its fruit), especially one that is spiritually mixed, and the covenant of grace? As you’d appreciate, it’s there that the relation of family, church, and sacrament has to be analyzed.

  96. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 10, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    I have written these things to you…so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13
    A preacher once wrote, “We ought not to walk around like a question mark with our heads bent over, but like an exclamation point! We should not be saying, “I hope I’m saved,” but I KNOW I’m saved!”

    Let us draw near with a true heart in FULL ASSURANCE of faith.
    Hebrews 10:22
    God in His Grace, gives us full and blessed assurance of being welcomed into His presence – an assurance each of us can enjoy in this life.

    Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power…and with MUCH ASSURANCE. 1 Thess. 1:5
    If you have genuine salvation, you should know it. And, if it is real, thank God you can never lose it.

    The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16
    The witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is not an emotional feeling. Our emotions are located in the shallowest part of our nature, but salvation is indeed the deepest work of God. He will not do the deepest work in the shallowest part. A true believer with this witness in his heart is never at the mercy of a false teacher or an unbeliever who has an argument.

    This is the promise that He Himself made to us; eternal life. 1 John 2:25
    I love this story:
    In 1937, as the Golden Gate Bridge began to rise hundreds of feet above the icy, swirling waters of San Francisco Bay, the workmen were afraid for their lives. Some of them fell and drowned -23 in all. So management decided to build a safety net underneath the workers at a cost of $100,000. But it ended up being a great saving, because the work went 25% faster and only ten more men fell from the bridge – each of them into the safety net. Why could these people work with so much more productivity? Because of their security! And that’s the way it is in the Christian life.

    Gentlemen, when we take away the spiritual safety net of assurance and eternal security from the children of God, we have Christians who constantly live their lives in fear and condemnation. Their lives are never productive, never producing the spiritual fruit of love, joy, and peace.

    This is why I am so vehemently opposed to the false gospel of the Federal Vision with all its trappings of presumptive regeneration, baptismal regeneration, paedocommunion, covenant renewal, faithful obedience to the law, and all the rest. It is a gospel of works and offers no eternal security. It produces the works of the flesh. It is designed to keep people in fear and under the control of a few sick-minded church leaders who lust after power.

    Ok, I will get off my soapbox. Fire away!

  97. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:19 am

    >This is why I am so vehemently opposed to the false gospel of the Federal Vision

    As noted above you don’t seem very at home with the WCF either. More like an E Free approach.

  98. Ron Henzel said,

    March 11, 2009 at 6:49 am

    David,

    Are you denying that the WCF teaches assurance of salvation and affirming that it teaches baptismal regeneration and paedocommunion?

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 11, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Thank you for the kind words. Praise the Lord!

    Jeff Cagle

  100. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 8:25 am

    >Are you denying that the WCF teaches assurance of salvation and affirming that it teaches baptismal regeneration and paedocommunion?

    No on all counts. But I am saying it doesn’t teach something like:

    “I praise God that I KNOW my children are saved. Each of my children did make a decision for Christ.”

    If you can show me where the WCF teaches assurance of salvation for parents let me know. BTW if you’d read what I’d written above in response to this you’d know I specifically affirmed that the WCF teaches that assurance can be had BY THE BELIEVER, not the believer’s parents.

  101. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 8:25 am

    >If you can show me where the WCF teaches assurance of salvation for parents let me know.

    Aside from the death of elect infants.

  102. Ron Henzel said,

    March 11, 2009 at 8:45 am

    David,

    You wrote,

    >If you can show me where the WCF teaches assurance of salvation for parents let me know.

    Aside from the death of elect infants.

    But if our children make credible professions of faith, does anything in the WCF preclude us from saying to them, “…in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation….” (Heb. 6:9, ESV)?

  103. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 8:47 am

    >But if our children make credible professions of faith, does anything in the WCF preclude us from saying to them, “…in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation…

    Absolutely. But I won’t kid myself that I “KNOW” that they are saved. Parental assurance is not taught. The most we can hope and pray for is parental encouragement and hope.

  104. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I need to remember to use those reply buttons. Sorry…

  105. Roger Mann said,

    March 11, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Gentlemen, when we take away the spiritual safety net of assurance and eternal security from the children of God, we have Christians who constantly live their lives in fear and condemnation. Their lives are never productive, never producing the spiritual fruit of love, joy, and peace.

    I agree with both Scripture and the Confession that believers are eternally secure (WCF 17) and may personally have an “infallible assurance” (WCF 18.3) of their salvation. But wouldn’t you agree that when considering the salvation of others (to include our children who die in infancy and those who reach a level of maturity to profess faith in Christ) we must rely upon a “judgment of charity” or “presumption” that they are saved? Isn’t it true that some people falsely profess faith in Christ?

    “Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions: of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation; which hope of theirs shall perish…” (WCF 18.1)

    This is why I am so vehemently opposed to the false gospel of the Federal Vision with all its trappings of presumptive regeneration, baptismal regeneration, paedocommunion, covenant renewal, faithful obedience to the law, and all the rest. It is a gospel of works and offers no eternal security.

    I agree wholeheartedly…with one minor caveat. I believe that God’s covenant promise regarding our children gives us biblical warrant to “presume” that our children who die in infancy are regenerate and justified by the blood of Christ, and that those who grow to maturity will be converted and granted the gifts of repentance and faith (with the recognition that there may be Esau’s among our children). So, in that regard, I believe that “presumptive regeneration” may be viewed as biblically sound.

  106. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Well stated.

  107. greenbaggins said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:18 am

    David, you are reading into Lauren’s comments again. Without going into the specifics, you have to realize that Lauren has been through a lot with regard to the FV. You need to stop pestering her. This is the second time I have mentioned this.

  108. Ron Henzel said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:26 am

    David,

    You wrote:

    But I won’t kid myself that I “KNOW” that they are saved. Parental assurance is not taught.

    But the word that the author of Hebrews used in 6:9 for his assurance that his audience was saved (πείθω) is the same one that John used when he wrote, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure (πείθω) our heart before him” (1 John 3:19, ESV). And 1 John 3:19 is one of the WCF prooftexts for the statement that sincere believers “may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace” (WCF 18:1). So it appears that the Scriptures teach that just as we can have a well-grounded assurance of our own salvation, we can similarly have a well-grounded assurance of the salvation of others, and I don’t know of anything in the Westminster Standards that contradicts this.

  109. Clay Johnson said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Sounds like you should settle who bears the burden of persuasion before you will get beyond where you both are on this, Ron and David. As for me, Scripture seems to provide good support for WCF 18.1 – that as a believer I can be assured that I am in a state of grace – but this is a Word to Spirit to me line of communication. I don’t know anywhere in Scripture that would allow me to justifiably infer that I can be reassured in the πείθω sense about the state of grace of another, even one of my children. He is the one who searches the mind and heart of everyone – not me of others. Of course, this doesn’t mean you cannot have a high degree of confidence about the faith of your children, even by many of the same means that one gains assurance about one’s own state of grace. The type of knowledge I can have about my own state of grace is categorically different than the type of knowledge I can have about the state of grace of any other human.

  110. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:49 am

    >You need to stop pestering her.

    I’ve not been rude in any way. Apparently responding courteously counts as “pestering.”

  111. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 9:51 am

    I think the course of this discussion says a lot.

  112. greenbaggins said,

    March 11, 2009 at 10:26 am

    David, it’s not the tone that I’m concerned about, but the constant questioning of Lauren’s confessional credentials. For instance, you are reading into her statements about being sure of her children’s salvation. You’re reading an absolute assurance into that, as if Lauren thinks that because they said they made a decision, that therefore she has ironclad proof of their salvation. You simply assumed that. It is as if you are looking for holes to punch in her armor.

  113. greenbaggins said,

    March 11, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Unlike this comment of yours, David.

  114. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Pastor Keister,

    Am I so really unfair to read it that way when she writes the word knows in all caps? How should I read that? And when I read it that way she could easily have said she didn’t mean it but that wasn’t how she responded.

    I recognize the sorts of statements as they were commonly made in the sort of Baptistic churches I was raised in and in their way are at least as deadly to children’s spiritual health as an overemphasis on the presumption of salvation for covenant children.

    Roger Mann made much the same points I did. Nobody is doing her any favours if they think that those statements are wrong but won’t say so for whatever reasons. If you want me not to respond to any errors she makes I’ll respect your request as obviously it is your blog (provided she doesn’t actually address something to me again).

  115. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 10:35 am

    No it was meant to say a lot as well, just in a measured and courteous way. I’m glad you think it has meaning. Please see my comments above.

  116. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 11, 2009 at 10:43 am

    When we compare word usage, we have to be sensitive to the fact that different authors may use the word differently. The author to the Hebrews has some idiosyncrasies that may prevent us from reading πείθω in the same way that John uses it.

    Likewise, πείθω may admit to a range of meaning. Compare Paul’s usage in 2 Cor 5 to his use in 2 Tim 1 to Luke’s use in Acts 6 and 16.

    Jeff Cagle

  117. greenbaggins said,

    March 11, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Why would you assume that she meant anything other than that the evidence all points in one way? Why assume a Baptistic sort of decisional statement, when she has been in Presbyterian churches for years? I guess I think you’re not being sensitive enough to someone who has been burned badly by the FV.

  118. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 10:54 am

    >Why would you assume that she meant anything other than that the evidence all points in one way? Why assume a Baptistic sort of decisional statement, when she has been in Presbyterian churches for years?

    Well for one I don’t know that she’s been in a Presbyterian church for years. And I took her words at face value because that was how she said them. She said she knew (all caps) because they’d each made their “decision” for Christ. Am I so out of my mind to read a decisional emphasis in that? Pastor what she said is what I heard for years in the churches I and my family inhabited and I’ve seen the skids to backsliding greased by those kinds of phrasings for my own flesh and blood.

    >I guess I think you’re not being sensitive enough to someone who has been burned badly by the FV.

    You might be right and I will try and give that due consideration. But lots of people are burned in lots of ways in a fallen world.

  119. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 10:56 am

    >Well for one I don’t know that she’s been in a Presbyterian church for years.

    This should have read “didn’t know” rather than “don’t know” as I’m not doubting your word.

  120. Roger Mann said,

    March 11, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Roger Mann made much the same points I did.

    Just to be clear, I’m not exactly sure what Lauren meant by some of her statements. I was asking pointed questions in the hope of getting some clarification from her. She may or may not agree with the points I/we raised. I honestly don’t know. Hopefully she’ll find the time to respond soon and clear things up.

    I’m certainly not accusing Lauren of being in error or deliberately trying to read more into her comments than are warranted. But, for what it’s worth, I don’t think that David’s reading of her comments is unreasonable or out of the realm of possibilities. Again, I hope she posts a clarification when she finds the time.

  121. Ron Henzel said,

    March 11, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Jeff,

    You wrote:

    When we compare word usage, we have to be sensitive to the fact that different authors may use the word differently.

    Well, of course: this is a given in exegesis.

    The author to the Hebrews has some idiosyncrasies that may prevent us from reading πείθω in the same way that John uses it.

    I think you need to be more specific in order to make a case for a difference.

    You wrote:

    Likewise, πείθω may admit to a range of meaning. Compare Paul’s usage in 2 Cor 5 to his use in 2 Tim 1 to Luke’s use in Acts 6 and 16.

    Here is the range of meaning according to BibleWorks:

    assure(1), confident(3), convinced(7), followed(2), have confidence(2), having confidence(2), listen(1), obey(3), obeying(1), persuade(4), persuaded(8), persuading(1), put…trust(1), put confidence(1), put…confidence(1), relied(1), seeking the favor(1), sure(2), took…advice(1), trust(2), trusted(1), trusting(1), trusts(1), urging(1), win…over(1), won over(2).

    As you can see, the vast majority of the time the word is related to the concepts of sureness, confidence, or persuasion. I don’t have time right now to investigate the minority of instances (4) in which the word is connected to obedience, but I’d be surprised if they were not related to the notions of sureness, confidence, or persuasion.

    I looked at your references in 2 Cor. 5 and 2 Tim. 1, but I don’t see how they affect the affinity between the references in Hebrews and 1 John. Meanwhile, I could not locate your references in Acts. It would be helpful if you supplied the verses along with the chapters.

  122. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 11, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I don’t have time right now to investigate the minority of instances (4) in which the word is connected to obedience

    Yes, those are not in the scope of the issue at hand.

    The “range of meaning” to which I referred is subtle in the case of this word.

    In Acts 5.40, (Sorry about the bad refs. above- Acts 6 was a slip, and Acts 16 was a different Greek word), Gameliel persuades (επεισθησαν) the Sanhedrin to let the men go. Here, “persuade” means “influences their course of action.” We see a similar meaning when the chief priest “persuades” (επεισαν) the crowd to clamor for Barabbas.

    In Luke 20.6, the people are “persuaded” (πεπεισμενος) that John was a prophet. Here, “persuade” means “thinks that.”

    In 2 Tim. 1.5, Paul is “persuaded” (πεπεισμαι) that Timothy has true faith. Here also, “persuaded” means “thinks that”; and yet Paul’s level of certainty about Timothy is higher than the peoples’ certainty about John.

    In 2 Cor 5, Paul and friends “persuade” (πειθομεν) men. Here, “persuade” means “bring to faith.” The level of certainty here is even higher: Paul wants to engender full confidence in Christ.

    Now where does all this take us? That “persuasion” is not always at the same level of certainty. That’s a large part of the range of meaning I was referring to, and the level of certainty involved is determined by context.

    Now come back to Hebrews.

    (Aside: I think the burden of proof lies on the part of someone who wants to argue that two authors are using the same word in the same way, rather than on the part of someone who doubts this fact. Since the author to the Hebrews is a different author, you require at least a minimal argument to demonstrate that he uses πείθω in the same way as John.)

    Nevertheless, the author to the Hebrews is known to express both persuasion and doubt about the salvation of his audience. On the one hand, he argues that he sees fruit that persuades of salvation in 6.9.

    On the other, he fears that they may fall away (10.19 – 39).

    I know that we share the belief that Hebrews does not teach losable salvation!

    So the only other conclusion is that the author to the Hebrews does not have an infallible assurance of their salvation, of the type described in the Confession; nor even of the type that John wishes for his readers to have (1 Jhn 2.3, e.g.).

    So I would say that Hebrews uses πείθω to mean “I have confidence that…”, whereas John is speaking of certainty.

    Jeff Cagle

  123. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 11, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I accidentally replied at the wrong level. See #47.

  124. Ron Henzel said,

    March 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Jeff,

    I think your basic methodology here is good. We certainly need to examine the context in which each instance of πείθω occurs, and try to be sensitive to nuances. I do, however, think you go just a bit too far in assessing burden of proof with respect to making judgments about how different authors use the same word. I would be more comfortable with simply saying that each instance must be examined in its context in light of the word’s overall semantic field, and leave it at that. After all, it may very well be that some words show little or no variation of meaning across multiple authors, and we have to allow for that possibility.

    I discern the cornerstone of your argument to come when you write, “That ‘persuasion’ is not always at the same level of certainty.” But how can this be demonstrated? I understand you to be seeking to demonstrate it from the broader context of Hebrew 6:9 when you write, “Nevertheless, the author to the Hebrews is known to express both persuasion and doubt about the salvation of his audience,” and later you clarify that you’re referring to 10:19-39 as the place where he expresses those doubts. This leads to what I perceive to be the bottom line of your argument: that the author of Hebrews describes a level of persuasion (which he has for the salvation of his audience) that is lower than what John describes.

    Now I’ll present my problems with this reasoning. First of all, it seems to me that you are deriving an equation from Hebrews that goes something like this: persuasion + doubt = low(er) level of persuasion. My problem with this is that what you’re actually describing is something like “semi-persuasion,” and I do not find that meaning anywhere in the semantic field of πείθω, and if I’m correct about this, you’ve committed fallacy #4 in D.A. Carson’s list of word-study fallacies: “Appeal to unknown or unlikely meanings” (Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed., [Grand Rapids, MI & Carlisle, UK: Baker & Paternoster, 1996], 37-41). Is it possible that in this one book of the Bible alone, out of all ancient Greek literature, we find this meaning? I suppose, but it’s extremely unlikely.

    Secondly (and to some extent this point overlaps my previous one), to read πείθω in Hebrews 6:9 as allowing for some lower form of persuasion or assurance than the kind John refers to does not seem to be supported by a straightforward reading of the text. I appeal to someone who was familiar with ancient Greek as a native speaker, John Chrysostom (c. 347–407), who wrote of this verse:

    Moreover, he did not say, We think, or, we conjecture, or, we expect, or, we hope, but what? (Ver. 9) “But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”

    [“Homilies on Hebrews,” in Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series One, Volume 14, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, reprinted 2004) 415.]

    In other words, Chrysostom thought that the author of Hebrews used a pretty strong word when he chose πείθω.

    A (much) more recent analysis is delivered by Paul Ellingworth, who comments on the grammar and context of πείθω:

    The perfect suggests a state of having been convinced by evidence. The nature of this evidence is stated in general terms in v. 10, and in more detail in 10:32-34, following the second stern warning. The present πειθόμεθα in 13:8 [sic.: it should be 13:18] suggest rather an inner conviction. The construction πείθω + acc. [which we find in Heb. 6:9], meaning “be convinced of something,” is regular.

    [The Epistle to the Hebrews, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI & Carlisle UK: Eerdmans & Paternoster, 1993), 329. Cf. also William Lane’s 2 volume commentary on Hebrews in the Word series (Dallas: Word Books, 1991), in which he translates πείθω as “we remain sure,” 1:130, 143. ]

    There does not appear to be any indication of persuasion mixed with doubt in the Greek text. But what about your point that the author expresses doubt about his audience’s salvation later on in the book? This leads me to my third point.

    I don’t know which to look at first in order to make this point, 6:9 itself, which is the text under consideration, or 10:19-39, the passage to which you appealed, so I’ll choose the latter since you brought it up.

    Nowhere in 10:19-39 does that author say that he doubts his audience’s salvation. His discourse does not even take on a negative tone until v. 26, when he begins by presenting a warning in the form of a condition (“For if we go on sinning willfully…”), he reminds them of God’s judgment from the Old Testament as well as their former zeal, and he admonishes them not to throw away their confidence but to persevere. I agree with Calvin that this passage refers only to apostates, but nowhere does the author imply that he thinks his audience were about to apostasize, and, in fact, v. 39 is an obvious reprise of 6:9, in which he expresses his confidence that they will not. When he writes, “But we are not of those who shrink back…”, the “we” includes the audience (cf. Lane, ibid., 2:306, and Ellingworth, ibid., 557).

    So why did the author warn his audience so forcefully about apostasy if he didn’t think they were about to commit it? Well, regardless of his reason, I think that Heb. 6:9 contains a direct statement from the author that he did not intend his warnings to be taken as implying that he doubted their salvation:

    But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.

    He knew that his words could be misinterpreted in this way, and he wanted to dispel any such misunderstanding. He says this long before he gets to 10:26-39, and there’s no reason to believe that he changed his mind about them in the intervening passages.

    Of course, that still leaves the question of why he chose to warn them of a sin they would never commit. I believe the author explains this in verses 11-12, when he says that wants them to shake off their spiritual sluggishness and show diligence. As Calvin writes on 6:9: “…he gives them this warning because he has good hopes of them and wants to bring them to salvation. From this we conclude that it is not only the unbelievers who are to be chided sharply and forcibly, but even the elect themselves, the very ones whom we reckon among the sons of God” (Hebrews and I and II Peter, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, vol. 12 [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, reprinted 1989], 78). In other words, the elect will ultimately persevere, and yet one of the means the Holy Spirit uses to ensure the ultimate perseverance of the elect is to warn them against falling away.

  125. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I think it is rather ironic and perhaps a little contradictory? that parents can presume their children are regenerate at birth before they give a public profession of faith. But after they make that profession, all of sudden parents are not in any position to presume anything about their child’s eternal status. The most we can do is to extend charity and give them the benefit of the doubt? I am feeling some cognitive dissonance.

    Once again, I will state that I KNOW (DG) that my children are saved. Let me clarify and explain. I know they are saved not by their mere profession of faith given years ago, but because the Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit that they are children of God. Secondly, Jesus tells us to look for the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. I have seen that fruit – I see transformed lives – I see them grow to become more Christ-like as they mature in their faith. They have a true desire to be Christ’s disciples and to share the Good News with their friends. They obey Christ – not out of fear of having their FV branch chopped off – but out of love for their Savior. They and their parents both know that Christ will finish the job He has started in transforming them to be like Him. We have His Word on that.

    Lane, I appreciate your sensitivity. I would like to add, however, that any concern over FV doctrine should be directed towards those who are still caught in the FV trap either by their ignorance or by the fact that many of the FV elders who keep their congregations in bondage to their political corruption remain unchecked and unchallenged by the denomination.

  126. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I respectfully disagree, Dr. White:
    One difficulty is that in 1 Cor., Paul nearly always uses the “hagios” word group (particularly the verb) to refer to those who are part of the covenant community (see, e.g., how this is set up in 1:2 as a dominant theme, repeated in 6:11). The only place he doesn’t is in 7:34, where an unmarried woman is “holy”–and there it means “particularly dedicated to the service of the Lord,” not “acceptable to associate with.”

    Furthermore, the structure of the argument is that the holiness of the children is in fact one of the premises, not the conclusion of the argument. The conclusion needs to be in support of Paul’s instruction not to divorce in vv.12-13, since that is the issue in question. For Paul to argue to the conclusion that the children were holy from the premise that the spouse is holy doesn’t make sense, since then he would be using a premise that is in debate (the status of a spouse) to prove a conclusion that no one is talking about (the status of the child). So, the argument is more like this:
    1. If D, then U(s). If you were required to depart from your spouse, that would indicate that he or she is unholy. (This is implied in the connection between vv.12-13 and v. 14)
    2. If U(s), then U(c). If your spouse were unholy, then your children would be unholy.
    3. ~U(c). But your children are, in fact, holy.
    4. Therefore, ~U(s). Therefore, your spouse is not unholy (i.e., has been sanctified). (2 & 3, modus tollens)
    -Therefore, ~D. Therefore, you do not have to depart (1 & 4, modus tollens)–and that’s the issue at stake that needs to be proven.

    What’s interesting is why Paul could assume his audience would agree with #3 (and he had to assume this in order to use it as an unargued presence).

    Certainly, v. 16 indicates that there is range of sanctification spoken of here, but it seems to me to fit well under the general idea of being set apart into the Christian community. In the ancient world, if one spouse joined a community, then in some sense the whole family had to live under the rules of that community, and, in fact, this was one reason for a divorce. But if the unbeliever did not want a divorce (I take divorce, not simply departure, to be in view, as the key verbs can certainly mean: cf. vv. 10-11, where chorizo and aphiemi are both normally taken for divorce), then that meant he or she was content to be governed by the rules of this new social community (which affected, as we can see from just the letter to the Corinthians, sexual interaction, food and meals, participation in the city or neighborhood festivals, etc.).

  127. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    If you don’t want to hear from me at a minimum don’t address me. That seems reasonable.

  128. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Even if we take 6:9 in a strong sense, it is imporant to look at what has persuaded him. It is actually their work and their love that have persuaded him, not their confession or some hidden knowledge from the Holy Spirit. I don’t see any support here for knowing about someone else’s state the same way that we know about ours (testimony of the Spirit of adoption, for example), and certainly bare confession never is a grounds for confidence.

  129. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Just curious where you find in Scripture that the HS testifies with our spirits concerning someone else’s adoption. I don’t see Rom. 8 reading that way at all…but Paul might speak like that other places.

  130. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 11, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Ron, thank you for your cogent and gracious reply.

    I would not push πείθω to mean “semi-persuasion.” Rather, I would say that genuine persuasion can be stronger or weaker.

    The interesting thing about Chrysostom is that he seems to incorporate an element of doubt in with the assurance:

    For what does he say? We speak not these things, as having condemned you, nor as thinking you to be full of thorns, but fearing lest this should come to pass. For it is better to terrify you by words, that you may not suffer by the realities. — Chrs. Homilies on Hebrews, 6.8

    and again,

    “We desire,” he says, and we do not therefore merely labor for, or even so far as words go, wish this. But what? “We desire” that you should hold fast to virtue, not as condemning your former conduct (he means), but fearing for the future. — ibid, 6.11-12

    It all seems to turn on one’s understanding of the warnings. If they are hypothetical, and used by God to stimulate perseverance, then we are free to take πείθω in a strong sense in Heb 6.9.

    If on the other hand we take the warnings in Hebrews as directed towards those who make outward profession and have the benefits of being in the church, but might not possess true faith, and which warnings are used by God to stimulate true faith in some, then πείθω must be of a weaker sense in Heb 6.9.

    Since my baseline interpretation of the warnings is the latter, I tend to think of πείθω in the weaker sense there.

    Out of curiosity, how many people would you say that you have “certain persuasion”, of the “infallible” sort mentioned in the Confession, that they are saved?

    Jeff Cagle

  131. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 11, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    David,
    I always welcome your comments; please accept my apology if I have offended you..

  132. David Gray said,

    March 11, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    >I always welcome your comments; please accept my apology if I have offended you..

    Lauren, you haven’t offended me even slightly. I just was under the impression that Pastor Keister didn’t want me to interact with you. But if you have no objection…

  133. Zrim said,

    March 12, 2009 at 9:04 am

    I’m also curious, Lauren, how the Spirit testifies to one’s own about another.

    And when it comes to a more accurate understanding that the Spirit only testifies to one’s own, isn’t there yet a difference between an “infallible assurance” and an “absolute certainty”? I don’t see much room being given from you for the reality of doubt. After all, if the opposite of faith isn’t doubt but sight then it must be that faith includes both assurance and doubt. Indeed, it seems to me that the very essence of assurance presumes doubt, for who needs to be assured but he who doubts?

    I realize that, instead of just going by what you write, everyone is supposed to know all the details of your experience with FV (!), but I tend to think things like blogs are extremely limited mediums and we can only go by what is written; I’m not much convinced of the “you don’t know him/her” response when it comes to these sorts of conversations or their media. It seems way “more Pentecostal than Presbyterian,” as it were. That said, I have to go with Gray here. What you write sure seems to convey two things: (1) infallible assurance is the same as absolute certainty (and by extension, doubt has little to no place with faith), and (2) we can have that not only for ourselves individually but also for others. Your language generally seems not too unlike that I knew as a broad evangelical and actually quite alien the Old Life Confessional Presbyterian language.

  134. Richard said,

    March 12, 2009 at 10:44 am

    God has promised that he shall be the God of our children (Gen. 17 &c.) and so we should presume that they are regenerate until such a time that they demonstrate otherwise.

  135. Richard said,

    March 12, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Hi Jeff,

    I would say that 1 Cor 11 is irrelevant to this debate in that, even if it were talking about self-examination, not all preconditions are in all places applicable to all, i.e. the command to believe and be baptised applies to adults not infants.

    But if the children of believers are within the covenant of grace, which they are, then they automatically have the right to eat the meal of that covenant. After all, every Israelite ate of the manna which was a sacrament foreshadowing the Supper.

    They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

    Personally I find Matthew Mason’s Covenant Children and Covenant Meals: Biblical Evidence for Infant Communion quite convincing.

  136. Richard said,

    March 12, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Lauren, what counts as a “credible profession of faith”? Can you provide a biblical definition of what constitutes as worthy reception?

    You seem to be making the baptist error and reserving the sacraments for the elect alone.

  137. David Gray said,

    March 12, 2009 at 10:57 am

    What do you think of the Venema quote that Pastor Keister provides at the top? I think it may be the most telling remark against paedo-communion I’ve seen.

  138. David Gray said,

    March 12, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Richard,

    Given that most Reformed over the centuries have been against paedo-communion, including Calvin, how do you term opposition to the practice to be a “baptist error”? She may possibly be guilty of baptist error in another matter but here, surely, she is smack dab in the center of the Reformed mainstream.

  139. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 12, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Zrim,

    It seems to me that we need to go back to defining faith; the best place to start is Hebrews 11:1-3.
    Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

    Notice that faith is defined as “substance” and “evidence”. Faith deals with spiritual realities – with spiritual facts. Do you believe that God (who can’t be seen) created the world? Do you know that to be a fact? By faith, you can say with certainty, yes – yes – yes! If you can’t, then the question is, where is your faith in the truth of God’s Word?

    In the same way, by faith, I know for certain that my husband and my three children are Christians. I know that when they die, I will see them in heaven. That is a spiritual reality. That’s what faith is – I can’t see it, but by faith, I can! Isn’t that wonderful good news?! What did Jesus say to doubting Thomas? “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Then He said, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” Isn’t that amazing? You and I are blessed today!

    How is that alien to the Confession?

  140. Richard said,

    March 12, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Which one? Personally I don’t find Venema’s argument to be very conclusive.

  141. David Gray said,

    March 12, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    The direct quote in the original post.

    Certainly you must concede that within the Reformed tradition paedo-communion must be regarded as a novelty.

  142. Richard said,

    March 12, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    David, in reading Lauren’s posts I have seen an implicit aasumption that the sacraments are to be given only to those who are the elect, i.e. it is the logic of the baptist transposed to the subject of the Supper.

    Hence I prefaced this statement with two questions which you are free to answer:
    (1.) what counts as a “credible profession of faith”?
    (2.) Can you provide a biblical definition of what constitutes as worthy reception?

  143. Richard said,

    March 12, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    David; firstly, the Passover is only a minor argument in my mind and I fail to see how Venema’s argument really works, in that of course “the children of the household participated in the Passover rite in different ways” but that does not mean infants should not partake of the Supper. Secondly, I would focus my argument on 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 and the Manna in the Wilderness. Thirdly, of course within the Reformed tradition paedo-communion may be regarded as a novelty but so what? The Reformed churches strove to be biblical and in line with early practices, the real question is (1) did the early Church practice paedocommunion? And, (2) is the practice biblical? On both grounds I would say “Yes”. That “Reformed tradition” runs contrary to both the witness of the early Church and the Scriptures themselves.

  144. David Gray said,

    March 12, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    I’ll take that as conceding my point. I’m not saying one can’t make an argument for paedo-communion. My denomination had a majority report in favour of it (although voted down at GA). However within our tradition historically there is almost no support for the idea.

  145. Richard said,

    March 12, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    David, speaking frankly – I am a little worried that you are content to hide behind “our tradition” especially when our tradition has always been about going back to the biblical witness and reforming current practices in light of it.

    Venema’s argument is an interesting one, his overall point I would not dispute, but let’s be honest, it ain’t exactly a blow for paedocommunion. He admits that children participated in the Passover rite and admits that this was to varying degrees; now, can he demonstrate that children who could eat the lamb were not allowed to? Of course not.

  146. Ron Henzel said,

    March 12, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Jeff,

    You wrote:

    I would not push πείθω to mean “semi-persuasion.” Rather, I would say that genuine persuasion can be stronger or weaker.

    But when you mingle persuasion with doubt, you inevitably have something less than genuine persuasion. I don’t see how you can say that the author of Hebrews simply had a “weaker” genuine persuasion of his audience’s salvation when it “incorporate[s] an element of doubt.” I don’t think the Greek word πείθω can be stretched to mean such a thing, nor do I believe the English phrase “genuine persuasion” can be so accommodating.

    If someone came up to me at a bowling alley, for example, and told me that he just bowled a perfect game of all strikes, and I told him that I was genuinely persuaded he was telling the truth, but that I had an element of doubt, I don’t think he would believe that I was genuinely persuaded—and with good reason. The same goes if we were speaking Koine and I used the word πείθω, but then told him that I had a doubt (διαλογισμός), or was doubting (διακρίνω) him.

    Let’s have a reality check here. In English, the word “doubt” means:

    1 a: uncertainty of belief or opinion that often interferes with decision-making b: a deliberate suspension of judgment
    2: a state of affairs giving rise to uncertainty, hesitation, or suspense the outcome is still in doubt
    3 a: a lack of confidence : distrust b: an inclination not to believe or accept a claim met with doubt

    Likewise, the Greek verb (διακρίνω), when used to refer to doubt, means, “to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt,” and the noun (διαλογισμός) means “hesitation, doubting.” I don’t think it makes any sense, either in English or in Greek, to speak of “genuine persuasion” that nevertheless has “an element of doubt.” James describes the person who entertains even a small “element of doubt” in his prayers as one who is “like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” I think you’re trying to combine two concepts that cannot possibly be mixed.

    As for the two citations from Chrysostom you present, which come from the context of the citation I supplied earlier: I think it makes far more sense to read them in light of his comments on 6:9 rather than the other way around. If you don’t mind me repeating it here, he wrote:

    Moreover, he did not say, We think, or, we conjecture, or, we expect, or, we hope, but what? (Ver. 9) “But beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”

    In other words, Chrysostom specifically and emphatically ruled out the idea of taking πείθω in some “weaker” sense—which, as I’ve also pointed out, is not a meaning that is available in the word’s semantic field.

    So now premises you have established would seem to create a logical conundrum, since you seem to see Chrysostom as interpreting the warnings “as directed towards those who make outward profession […] but might not possess true faith” (since you see him as retaining “an element of doubt”), and yet that, according to you, should lead to taking πείθω in the “weaker” sense. But Chrysostom makes it abundantly clear that he takes it in the “strong” sense—or, as I see it, the only sense the word actually has—of full, genuine persuasion. So Chrysostom actually undermines the logical basis you present for your conclusion.

    For the purpose of this discussion, I don’t think it matters whether the warnings of Heb. 6:1-8 were hypothetical in nature; at least it does not seem to directly affect the interpretation of Heb. 6:9, where the author expresses confidence in his audience’s salvation. If the warnings are not hypothetical, then I think the only conclusion that a straightforward reading of 6:9 allows is that they’re about people outside the author’s audience. At the very least, they’re not about the people he addresses in v. 10-12. As you can see in v. 11, he was not exhorting them to attain salvation, but to attain “full assurance,” which they could not expect to do in their slothful condition.

    You wrote:

    Out of curiosity, how many people would you say that you have “certain persuasion”, of the “infallible” sort mentioned in the Confession, that they are saved?

    While I believe it is true that the Bible does not speak of the testimony of the Holy Spirit within us testifying that others are sons of God, nevertheless we have abundant testimony from, for example, John, in his first epistle, that he was writing to his audience so that they could know that they were the sons of God. He wasn’t just telling them how to know; he repeatedly assured them that they were true Christians (e.g., 1:12-14).

    I don’t have any evidence that the Westminster divines would put this kind of assurance, the assurance of someone else’s salvation, on a par with personal assurance, but I do not think we need to speak in terms of certainty and infallible assurance when it comes to others; I think it’s enough to speak of “well-grounded assurance” of the sort that the authors of Scripture themselves displayed.

  147. Zrim said,

    March 12, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Lauren,

    Yes, I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible, etc. But don’t you think that is different language than, “I know it to be a fact that God created the world!”? It would seem to me that one utters the former by faith, the latter by sight. One is, as you suggest, spiritual, the other is natural.

    I quite agree with you that this all turns on how we understand the nature of faith—that’s actually my point. But when Jesus tells Thomas to “not be unbelieving but believing” I don’t think that helps make the case that belief is more absolute certainty than infallible assurance.

    I’ve never been to England. If, while standing in line waiting at the gate someone asked me how it is that I think I will end up in a real place called England in a few hours my answer wouldn’t be, “I know for a fact that England exists!” It would be more like, “I have no reason to significantly doubt that all I have heard about England is true, and I fully expect my trip to be a success. True, I have not seen England with my own eyes, but that’s OK.” This is actually how most people function each day, trusting in things they cannot see, and it is the nature of true faith.

    Again, though, I am curious how one can be absolutely certain about the inward reality of another? I am absolutely certain that my children were baptized, respond to my catechesis and that they attend Sabbath services. I expect that when they one day stand and give a profession of faith that I will be absolutely certain I see them physically doing that, joining me in line and waiting expectantly for their pilgrimage to be consummated. But if I don’t even speak in sight-language for myself, but rather faith-language, how is it that I can speak sight-language for them?

  148. rfwhite said,

    March 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    JWD Smith, I appreciate your thoughtful interaction. If I have time for more discussion, I’ll respond.

  149. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 12, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Hi Richard,

    It’s entirely possible that self-examination is not directed towards children.

    (Aside: Let’s keep it to “toddlers and above”, rather than “infants”, since the latter should not be partaking of communion for health reasons (food allergies, inability to digest, etc.))

    For example, Matt Colvin argues that δοκιμαζετω means “prove oneself” as in, “exhibit oneself blameless of sins towards the church.” The exam is external, not internal.

    Others such as Rob Rayburn argue that the scope of δοκιμαζετω is limited to self-examination concerning sins towards the church.

    In either case, children would not be ordinarily capable of such sin, so they should not be disqualified on the sole basis of 1 Cor 11.28.

    The first argument is wanting, IMO. A study of the uses of δοκιμαζω shows that each instance refers to a testing of the qualities of something.

    Used reflexively, δοκιμαζετω εαυτον ought to mean a self-test, rather than a self-demonstration as Colvin would have it.

    Colvin’s argument turns on the distinction between introspection and “extrospection”, arguing that δοκιμαζω is always the latter, a demonstration of the qualities of something.

    However, the root meaning of the δοκιμαζω word group is “testing” — cf. James 1.3, 12. It is a determination, not a demonstration, of the qualities of something. The self-test therefore results from the object of the verb, not its root meaning.

    The parallel usage in 2 Cor 13 clinches the case for me, in which the Corinthians are commanded (once again!) to test themselves to determine whether they are in the faith. Here, δοκιμαζετε εαυτους is appositive of πειραζετε εαυτους, “look at yourselves.”

    The second argument is much more attractive. If indeed the self-examination is directly and restrictively tied to the specific sins of the Corinthians, then there can be no objection (IMO) to paedocommunion proper.

    But in fact, two different sins against communion are in view in 1 Cor. Chapter 11, of course, deals with horizontal offenses against fellow members of the body. Chapter 10, on the other hand, deals with vertical offenses of idolatry, by participating in the worship of idols AND communion as well.

    I think it is therefore possible, and made more likely by 2 Cor 13, that when Paul says “examine yourself”, he is speaking of two different qualities: the quality of being rightly related to the Body of Christ, and the quality of being rightly related to the Head.

    I’m not so sold on this argument that I think paedocommunion is a big deal one way or the other, but 1 Cor 11 remains for me an obstacle to endorsing the practice.

    Jeff Cagle

  150. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 12, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    But when you mingle persuasion with doubt, you inevitably have something less than genuine persuasion.

    No, now you’re assuming what is at issue: does “assurance” always mean “perfect assurance”?

    Your dissatisfaction is that I’m adding doubt to assurance and making it non-assurance. But that would only be true if “assurance” always means “complete assurance without any doubt.”

    I don’t think it does. I think that assurance as used in Scripture comes in different degrees, and I’ve adduced examples to support this.

    (Compare: is “red” no longer red if it has any degree of green in it?)

    And to add to the confusion, you yourself speak of “infallible assurance” as different from “well-grounded assurance”!

    I think we’re getting wrapped around an axle over the meaning of words. Can we leave it here?

    Jeff Cagle

  151. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 12, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    As a follow-up, we agree that the sacrament of communion is of benefit only when combined with faith.

    Because of this, I question the benefit of paedocommunion. Not that toddlers can’t have faith! But I wonder whether they can have the specific content of faith that correlates to communion.

    One additional point to consider is the distinction between children and the mentally disabled. In the first case, communion is simply a matter of time: at some age, the child will grow up and be admitted to the table, whether at 2 or 20. There is a question of wisdom as to when that should be, but we all agree that the day will come.

    In the case of the mentally disabled, many will *never* make the kind of profession of faith ordinarily required to be received to the table.

    What then should we do with these? I would argue that here we should err on the side of “judgment of charity” and receive them, reasoning it would be better to receive ten sinners to communion than to refuse one saint forever.

    Jeff Cagle

  152. Ron Henzel said,

    March 12, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Jeff,

    You wrote:

    No, now you’re assuming what is at issue: does “assurance” always mean “perfect assurance”?

    No: this is something that you introduced. And now you’ve even introduced a new adjective (“perfect,” which is not even used in WCF 18)! It has never been at issue as far as I am concerned. I believe it is a red herring. I have only spoken of well-grounded assurance.

    You wrote:

    Your dissatisfaction is that I’m adding doubt to assurance and making it non-assurance.

    Exactly! I’m glad you understand my position, even though you choose to not interact with the reasons I’ve given for it.

    But that would only be true if “assurance” always means “complete assurance without any doubt.”

    Which, of course, it does, and I have provided ample argumentation for this (all of which you have ignored), but you cannot seem to accept it. I contend that this is what πείθω always means. I have provided the lexical data. You have provided passages that actually do not bear on the meaning of πείθω, and in my judgment fail to prove that the author of Hebrews entertained any doubt about his audience, and thus I contend you have not demonstrated any reason to add a new meaning for πείθω to the lexicon.

    You wrote:

    I don’t think it does. I think that assurance as used in Scripture comes in different degrees, and I’ve adduced examples to support this.

    As I see it, you have only submitted texts that you believe imply doubt, but which, as I have explained, actually do not. You have not interacted at all with my explanations, so all I have left to do now is refer you back to them.

    (Compare: is “red” no longer red if it has any degree of green in it?)

    I find this irrelevant. (Compare: apples and oranges.)

    And to add to the confusion, you yourself speak of “infallible assurance” as different from “well-grounded assurance”!

    Of course you’re confused! That’s because I’m speaking of a type of assurance (assurance about others) which, while obviously indicated in Scripture, is different from the type spoken of in the WCF (assurance about one’s self). Thus I have consistently framed the discussion in terms of the biblical data while you have consistently tried to shoehorn the discussion into the WCF, where it’s not even mentioned.

    So this is the source of the confusion: you keep trying to force assurance about others into the same mold as assurance about one’s self, so that if we call it “assurance” it must in your opinion meet the same criteria as the kind of assurance spoken of in the WCF. And I’m telling you that it’s not in the same category, thus it does not have to meet the same criteria. Ergo, it does not have to be “perfect,” or “infallible,” but only well-grounded.

    Nevertheless, just because we call it “well-grounded” does not mean that it contains any more of “an element of doubt,” or is even any less “perfect” than “infallible” assurance.

    I think we’re getting wrapped around an axle over the meaning of words. Can we leave it here?

    Fine by me!

  153. Ron Henzel said,

    March 12, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I apologize for goofing up the formatting of the previous comment. I was in a hurry; now I gotta run!

  154. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 12, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    What you seem to be describing is the visible church. which limits my faith to what I can see and experience in the visible church – water baptism, partaking the wine and the bread, reciting the catechism, warming a pew. Pagans can do all those things – and remain completely unchanged.

    Yet, this is the practice of the Federal Vision. They believe that the distinction between the visible and invisible church is invalid since each and every member of the visible church is said to be God’s elect and saved. They believe that the visible signs of the sacraments are in and of themselves reality. That is why they advocate paedocommunion. They believe that small children are being starved of grace by not being allowed at the Lord’s Table.

    Jesus said that those who worship Him must worship Him in truth and in spirit. He also tells us that His kingdom is not of this world – it is spiritual – invisible. Paul exhorts us in Galatians to walk in the Spirit. Earlier he writes, that in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything but faith working through love. In other words, visible symbols in and of themselves are useless. Outward visible religion is useless without faith working through love. And yet, the Federal Vision wants to limit its members to a mere outward religion of works and ceremonies. All the other religions of the world practice the same.

    While we are on the subject of outward religion, I would like to throw out some questions regarding the changes in form of worship when the Federal Vision took over our former church. I would really like to get your input.

    Before the FV, the pulpit was center stage, symbolizing the centrality of the Word of God.
    After the FV came, the pulpit was moved to the side and the communion table was placed in the center and elevated. Why the change?

    Before the FV, the communion table was positioned on the same level as the congregation and the minister stood to the side of the table. This signified that the minister was not the priest but like all the rest of the congregation was a redeemed sinner.
    After the FV, the table was elevated and now became the communion altar. The minister positioned himself behind the table and in the center apart from the rest of the congegration. Why the change?

    Before the FV, no symbolic church colors were draped over the furniture; nor were robes or clerical collars worn by the minister. The atmosphere communicated the importance of worshiping God in spirit and in truth without the outward distractions and once again preventing the minister from replacing Christ as our only mediator.
    After the FV, all these outward trappings were added. Why the change?

    Before the FV, there were no kneeling benches of any kind. The reasoning behind this was that when the members kneeled to pray, they were facing the minister leading the service. And no man was to bow before any man.
    After the FV, kneeling pads or benches were added. When the congregation kneels to pray and worship, does the minister also kneel and bow along with them?

    Just wondering. Before the FV, we had a very beloved and respected ruling elder who was so careful about the form of worship. But after he suddenly went home to be with the Lord, the FV elders made their move and things definitely changed.

    Jesus said in John that we must worship Him in spirit and in truth

  155. David Gray said,

    March 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    >Before the FV, no symbolic church colors were draped over the furniture; nor were robes or clerical collars worn by the minister.

    Pretty much all the Reformers wore robes and when I attended church in Scotland ministers still wore robes. There were good theological reasons for the robes but now we haven’t the concerns that the Reformers had.

    >The minister positioned himself behind the table and in the center apart from the rest of the congegration.

    This is common practice in non-FV reformed churches.

    There is quite a bit more that could be said but it might discomfort Pastor Keister.

  156. Zrim said,

    March 12, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Lauren,

    Forgive the bluntness, but it seems to me that you have FV-on-the-brain. (Not to trivialize it, but my impression is that you had at least as much a particularly trying experience with some personalities as false teaching.) I don’t recognize anything I am saying in any way related to FV. I have no sympathies for the notion that “ visible signs of the sacraments are in and of themselves reality… paedocommunion” or that “small children are being starved of grace by not being allowed at the Lord’s Table.”

    My impression of the FV is that it seems to actually take considerable issue with Old School notions. Amongst many other things, it is impatient with what it perceives to be an admixture of under-realized piety and over-confident assurance in outward and institutional religion. Oddly, it is actually very New School, just with a lot of Old School dress. It has replaced a New School emphasis on experience with a neo-New School emphasis on sacraments. What I am trying to convey is what I understand to be an Old School posture, and I don’t recognize anything Old School about the FV.

    Nevertheless, instead of suggesting anything too uncharitable, it may be better to say that my only point is that your language wrt to faith and assurance seems to likely be a way to try and lend force to assurance (and that’s a good thing), but then also may flirt with a tendency toward overstatement. The danger in overstating is that it can actually, ironically, nurture less assurance instead of more. In other words, to say “It’s a fact that God made the world!” or “I KNOW my family is saved!” instead of “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible” or “I know my Savior lives “ can smack of less faith.

  157. Stephen Welch said,

    March 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    This seems to rage a lot of controversy among Reformed people, Richard. I have struggled with this issue as well and am having to look at it again. Many including myself, have reacted against John Murray’s position on this, but others including Charles Hodge have argued for the same position you have just stated. Perhaps the problem lies with equating the regeneration of infants with baptismal regeneration, which are two different positions. I am wondering if some of this controversy may be a reaction against the FV position on children in the covenant. I am only posing these thoughts and thinking through this issue.

  158. Ron Henzel said,

    March 13, 2009 at 4:07 am

    Every time people begin to toss around the phrase “absolute certainty” I worry that it will degenerate into half-informed quarrel about philosophical foundationalism (which, ironically, began with the presumption of the validity of doubt).

  159. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Jeff,

    In response to your second comments; (1) this begs the question of what is the biblical definition of that specific content of faith that correlates to communion? This is somewhat answered by, (2) I would see the issue of mentally handicapped people as a good argument in favour of paedocommunion. Why? Well we have the promise from God that he will be the God of our children.

    If children can have faith then there is no reason to forbid then to go to Christ and receive the Supper.

    With regards to δοκιμαζω, I don’t have a great deal to add to your comments, suffice it to say I can’t see it as excluding children.

  160. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Lauren, you have identified the real problem with the FV. They fail to distinguish between the visible and invisible church and confuse the sign with the reality. This is why the FV is on the road to Rome. They are falling into the same trap as the papists. The Scriptures teach that the sign of a true believer is faithfulness and perseverance. The Lord does not secure covenant breakers or promise eternal life to those who are unfaithful, but he perseveres the saints. Christ as our federal head is faithful and does keep His own.

  161. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 7:58 am

    This is almost tedious beyond description so hate me if you will but who actually asserts what you say the FV asserts? I think the FV has made errors and the better reports (such as the OPC) provide some good examination but exaggerating their positions for effect is not honourable.

  162. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:01 am

    I wouuld agree, David. The wearing of clerical collars and robes is not exclusive to the FV or the position of the communion table. Anglicans have generally used the communion table in the center and The 39 Articles would certainly reject any papist “Mass” or sacerdotal view of the sacrament. Most ministers in the Free Church of Scotland wear the collar and a preaching robe. I think we have to be careful that we don’t overreact because of abuses.

  163. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Perhaps you need to go and read some of the FV men and find that it is out of accord with the Reformed creeds and confessions. It has nothing to do with the new school division at all.

  164. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Ron, can you elaborate on your response. I am not sure what you mean.

  165. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Jude describes false teachers as “sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit” (Jude 19). The Federal Vision definitely has errors, it has caused a lot of division, and it is definitely a doctrine “of the senses” with its whole emphasis on the visible church. So, perhaps, Zrim, you are right – when it comes to the Federal Vision, I am beating a dead horse. For, the unspiritual can never understand spiritual realities. According to Paul, the spiritual reality of the cross is foolishness to the unspiritual – “who are perishing”. But to the spiritual – “who are being saved”, it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:17).

  166. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Lauren, bear in mind that the PCA GA ruled that “we view NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ.”

  167. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:05 am

    David, where is that stated in the PCA GA ruling? The PCA did not address that we should refer to them as brothers. The issue was that the positions of the FV are not in harmony with the standards and that the Presbyteries are to follow the PCA on this matter. If a person denies the imputation of Christ’s righteousness or justification by faith alone he is an apostate.

  168. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:07 am

    >David, where is that stated in the PCA GA ruling?

    It is in the report approved by the GA.

  169. Zrim said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Stephen,

    I realize it has nothing to do formally with New School. My point is that, from its implicit biblicism to its inabaility to properly distinguish in/visible, FV seems as impatient with Old School notions as New School was. The shared space seems pretty obvious.

  170. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Which is why I used quotation marks. The report had its problem but it wasn’t as extreme as a lot of anti-FV people are in some of their statements.

  171. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:10 am

    In the PDF I saw it was on the third page, lines 13-14.

  172. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:15 am

    They are making the same mistake that Rome makes. This is why some FV advocates are becoming more like papists. Scott Hahn and Marcus Broady are two papists who converted to Rome as a direct result of Norman Shepherd’s teachings. There is no connection with old school or new school. This is an entirely different debate.

  173. Zrim said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Lauren,

    Maybe it’s my unspiritualness, but you’ve lost me, sorry. I’m still just waiting to hear how the Spirit testifies to one about another. I’ll settle for an admission that doubt is a continuous reality for believers, even as they pray for its scattering.

  174. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:19 am

    My point is that we cannot regard someone as a brother or sister who denies the gospel. This is clearly in line with any Reformed teaching. I regard the FV guys as “neo-papists.” I voted for the PCA ruling but I do not find it to be strong enough. I believe the RCUS made a stronger ruling on this.

  175. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Many in this discussion are not extreme on the FV, David. You are missing the point of the concern.

  176. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Yes, but then you are not in conformity with the understanding of your church. Maybe you’re right as PCA GA rulings and positions aren’t scripture but that’s why others are free to find the report flawed in other aspects. The PCA says they are brothers in Christ. I think that should be taken seriously, particularly by people who invoke the report with some regularity.

  177. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Apparently noted FV sympathizer Lig Duncan missed it as well.

  178. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:27 am

    David, how is Ligon (not Lig) a sympathizer. You are making a strong accusation, so you need to explain it.

  179. David Gray said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Stephen, that was tongue in cheek. Pastor Duncan’s anti-FV position is widely known to extremely hard core and I’ve had that vouched by personal friends of his. If he’s prepared to say that FV proponents are brothers in Christ maybe you should reflect on your position.

  180. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Lauren, I think your history is a little off kilter. Perhaps you should keep in mind that even in some of the most Reformed congregations the minister will wear special clothing, the Geneva Gown.

    In the congregation I attend we kneel for communion, stand to recite the Creed and during the Gospel readings and the minister wears vestments. This is no less than what Cranmer and Bucer thought acceptable and I doubt you will accuse either of them as being FV or anti-Reformed.

    It would be daft to condemn all FV efforts for litugical renewal, some are most welcome.

  181. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Thanks, Richard. Great point.

  182. Ron Henzel said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Stephen,

    Actually, the whole “absolute certainty”/”foundationalism” thing tends to pop up more in discussions about the Emerging Church, which is more comfortable with postmodern ambiguity (translate: spineless and deceitful indecisiveness) than theological or moral conviction. However, it remains true that as soon as you begin talking about “absolute certainty” it becomes necessary to define it conceptually, which inevitably leads to a discussion of philosophical categories and concepts. Can we be as “absolutely certain” about even our own salvation as we are of, for example, the law of gravity? (Of course, David Hume would have argued that we can’t even be certain about that.) These are the kinds of rabbit trails I think it would be better to avoid when discussing the doctrine of assurance.

  183. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:47 am

    David, whilst some who advocate PR argue that we baptise infants because they are regenerate not all do, I myself am a case in point. We baptise infants on the ground of God’s covenant to be our God and the God of our children, that promise of God is the ground for presuming our children to be regenerate until they provide evidence otherwise, i.e. it’s a judgement of charity. This sits, more or less, in line with the Anglican formularies for in the baptismal rite the declaration of being regenerate follows baptism rather than preceeding it.

  184. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Lauren, I am a Christian and I need to be led to Christ daily!

  185. Ron Henzel said,

    March 13, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Richard,

    For salvation?

  186. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Indeed, for salvation though if you meant justified then…

  187. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Thanks, Ron for the clarification. I agree with your point. Much of these things are rabbit trails and are best left unsaid.

  188. David Weiner said,

    March 13, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Richard,

    Please don’t misunderstand my question. For, I ask it in all sincerity and out of ignorance. What Scriptures support (sort of directly, if possible) the idea that God has made a covenant with Joe/Jane Christian to be the God of their children?

  189. Ron Henzel said,

    March 13, 2009 at 11:51 am

    That’s what I meant: for justification.

  190. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Hi David,

    The following is taken from this:

    It is a glorious truth indeed that our God is a covenant God. In Genesis 17:7 God declares of himself “I will establish My covenant”. This gracious covenant that God establishes is founded in eternity and realised within history. It was made with Christ and with all the elect in him and is a relation of the most blessed communion and intimate friendship between the triune God and his chosen people in Christ Jesus (Revelation 3:20; 21:3). It is this unconditional covenant, this relation of friendship, that God establishes and he does so with believers and their children. Hence God declares in Genesis 17:7 that “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you”.

    From the Old Testament we find that God has established his covenant with believers and their seed or, as Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Hoeksema puts it, ‘in the line of continued generations’ and therefore infants are included in the covenant of God. This is found in Genesis 17:7 where it says “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations”. As we look back into the Old Testament we find God’s covenant being realized in an unbroken line from Adam to Christ through Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Israel, Judah and David.

    This continues in the New Testament hence St. Peter declares in Acts 2:39 that “the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Notice the parallel between the covenant formula of “to you and your descendants after you” in the Old Testament and “to you and to your children” in the New Testament.

  191. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Then no.

  192. David Weiner said,

    March 13, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the response. I was aware of the Abrahamic Covenant and also the fact that many of his ‘children’ were merely physical and not also elect, spiritual children. So, when God said that He would be their (and their children’s) God, He must have meant something different than that He would save them all?

    Also, I read the ‘as many as the Lord our God shall call’ of Acts 2:39 to indicate that the promise of salvation is to all the elect and not to single out the children of saved parents. So, in answer to my original question, are you saying that Joe/Jane Christian should look to Acts 2:39 to see the covenant that God made with them to save their children?

  193. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 13, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    David is correct in stating that the PCA General Assembly in their report regards the false teachers of the Federal Vision as brothers in Christ. And, he is correct in saying that we should conform to the PCA dictate.

    That is why in our neck of the PCA woods, my husband a PCA teaching elder was given the choice of conforming to the dictate or facing discipline from his presbytery. To him there was no choice but to conform to the Scriptures – not to the dictates of men. He chose to leave the PCA because based on the actions of his presbytery, he had no confidence that the PCA leadership was commited to the truth of the Gospel. The children and I are so proud of his courageous stand for the truth. And, we are so grateful to God for His loving faithfulness to our family.

  194. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    David,

    He must have meant something different than that He would save them all?

    Of course we need to factor in election, so I am not saying God promises that all our children will be elect.

    are you saying that Joe/Jane Christian should look to Acts 2:39 to see the covenant that God made with them to save their children?

    Yes, as well as Deut. 30:6 “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”; Isa. 59:21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.”; Jer. 32:39 “And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:”

  195. David Weiner said,

    March 13, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the additional Scriptures. They do indeed contain beautiful promises. It is about how they relate to Joe and Jane that I am still confused.

    You said: “so I am not saying God promises that all our children will be elect.” OK, this is what is so confusing to me. What exactly is the promise to the saved parents’ children who are not elect? And, following that, how is this promise different from that to the children of unsaved parents. By the way, my parents were not elect and I am.

  196. Richard said,

    March 13, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    David,

    Not to be presumptious but are you a Baptist? If you are then I would suggest a read of Therapeutica Sacra: Chapter 6: Of the Covenant of Grace by David Dickson and Children in the Administration of The Covenant of Grace by Thomas Shepard.

    Now as for your question;

    What exactly is the promise to the saved parents’ children who are not elect?

    The promise is directed to the parent(s) not to the children. The promise concerns their children but is obviously conditional upon repentance and faith. So how are we to treat our children? What are we to believe about them? Well Head I, Canon xvii. concerns “The Salvation of the Infants of Believers” and reads:

    Since we must make judgments about God’s will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.

    Here the principle is laid out that until we know otherwise we should presume the regeneration of our infants.

    Does that help? :-)

  197. rfwhite said,

    March 13, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    David and Richard,

    It seems to me that there’s at least one assumption in your interaction that needs to be examined: Is the covenant of grace, in any of its administrations, reducible to being an administration of saving grace to the elect? Isn’t the covenant also an administration of judgment to the reprobate? To put it in a catch phrase, can’t we say, “the promises are to you and your children—and so are the warnings!” Isn’t this is the sum of what Peter says in his sermon in Acts 2? Warning: “Men of Israel, you’re liable to judgment” in 2:22-36. “What shall we do?” in 2:37. Promise: “Repent … for the forgiveness of your sins and … the gift of the Holy Spirit” in 2:38-39. God — who is God to you, men of Israel, and your children — is your and their Judge for unrepentance, unbelief, and the fruit thereof, but He is also your and their Savior through repentance and faith.

  198. David Weiner said,

    March 13, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Richard,

    You asked: “Not to be presumptuous but are you a Baptist?”
    First, please don’t be concerned about my taking offense at anything you might say. Second, I would be delighted to answer the question if only I knew what the criteria are for being a Baptist. (Nevertheless, as soon as I finish this comment, I am off to read those papers you suggested!)

    You said: “The promise is directed to the parent(s) not to the children.” This is a quibble on my part but doesn’t Acts 2:39 say “For the promise is for you and your children . . .”? Aren’t the ‘you’ and the ‘your children’ equal recipients of whatever the promise might be?

    Then you add: “So how are we to treat our children?” This is an excellent question (I mean that very seriously); but, I don’t yet see how the answer will lead to the Scripture which shows God making a covenant with Joe/Jane Christian to save their children?

  199. David Weiner said,

    March 13, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Dr. White,

    Yes, we seem to focus more on the blessing side of things. For me, it comes down to God having sovereignly elected some to eternal life and others as vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. Both types are created for his pleasure and glory. (And, some of each group never reach old age or, in fact, birth.) Certainly, I wish to believe that MY children (what about MY sister or brother or mother or uncle etc.?) have a better chance of being saved than somebody else that I don’t even know. But, I just don’t see where God has given us any idea of what His criteria are in comprising these two groups.

    So, I agree with you that there is much more to any administration of the covenant of grace than just saving the elect.

  200. Stephen Welch said,

    March 13, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Lauren, I was not aware that your husband was a PCA teaching elder. After hearing your account and looking at the website of a congregation in his former presbytery I understand a little more of your situation and why you responded in the way you have. I did look again at the recommendations of the Study Committee Report on FV, which was passed by the 35th General Assembly, and it did not recommend that we regard FV proponents as brothers and sisters in Christ, if they deny the gospel, which many have. I am very sorry for the difficulty your husband had in standing for the truth and commend him for his stand. Obviously there are some in his former Presbytery that are sympathetic to the FV, so this may explain why he had difficulty. May the Lord continue to bless you and your family.

  201. Richard said,

    March 14, 2009 at 4:24 am

    rfwhite: I certainly think that one purpose of God is that the covenant is an administration of judgment to the reprobate, in that those who are covenant children but reprobate will come under a harsher judgement that those not in that position.

  202. Richard said,

    March 14, 2009 at 4:39 am

    David: My point was simply that the spoken word was directed to the adults rather than the children. So whilst the promise does indeed concern them, the statement “the promise is for you and your children” is directed to the parents.

    The Puritans spoke of God drawing his elect from the seed of believers. God’s election runs primarily through the lines of continued generations, though I certainly would not discount conversions from non-Christian households.

    By Baptist I was really asking if you believe in baptising infants , but enjoy the reading. You may wish to check out Thomas Goodwin on Covenant Children, this consists of Book V of Thomas Goodwin’s 1682, Discourse of Election – “Election in the ordinary course of it, runs in a line of succession from believing parents to their posterity.” It contains a superb discussions of I Cor 7.14, asserting free grace even when God ordinarily elects the children of believers, and of how covenant children are to be regarded and treated.

  203. David Gray said,

    March 14, 2009 at 6:12 am

    The report says, a direct quote, “we view NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ.”

    Of you respond I would challenge you to use a direct quote as well. Otherwise it is fluff.

  204. David Gray said,

    March 14, 2009 at 7:23 am

    And actually, unless you think the study committee was very heterodox, they would not call them Christians if they were denying the gospel. Consequently it is logical to infer that the study committee says they are not denying the gospel. That still leaves plenty of room for error on the part of the FV and should satisfy all but the most bloodlust-ridden anti-FV sorts.

  205. Richard said,

    March 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I thought you may be interested in this from the BBC: ” Atheists call for ‘debaptism'”

    (HT: Daniel Newman)

  206. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 14, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    As I stated before, we chose to go with the teaching of Scripture regarding false teachers and not with the political views of a fallible study committee. The PCA is free to choose to take any stand they want regarding false teachers. And, we are free to choose to leave the PCA over matters that violate our conscience.

  207. rfwhite said,

    March 14, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    JWD Smith, I have a question about your analysis of the argument in 1 Co7.12-14.

    You say, “If U(s), then U(c). If your spouse were unholy, then your children would be unholy.”

    I have this question: If the covenant of grace is between God, believers, and their seed, then how can the conclusion of #2 follow from the condition? That is, isn’t it the case that the children of one believing parent are holy whether the other parent is holy or unholy? Is the holiness of the believing parent’s children negated if the other parent is unbelieving?

  208. Todd said,

    March 15, 2009 at 8:33 am

    David,

    I think you are confusing theology with people’s eternal state in your statement above. True brothers can deny the gospel in particular statements or actions, and yet still be true brothers. When Paul rebuked Peter in front of the Galatians, it was because of his actions which were in essence denying the gospel. When Jesus told Peter “Get thee behind me, Satan!”, Peter in his statement about Jesus not going to the cross was denying the gospel. Peter was a brother in the Lord. True Christians can err this way.

    Todd

  209. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Pastor Bordow,

    Thanks, that’s an interesting point. If I follow you correctly denying the gospel then is not apostasy? If not, what is? When Paul rebuked Peter I never understood it to be because Peter was denying the gospel. Peter was in error but a lot of errors fall short of the charge of denying the gospel, at least as I’ve been taught. I guess I don’t fully understand your thinking on this point.

    Dave

  210. Gabe Martini said,

    March 15, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    What “Pagan” takes communion, worships God, and attends Church regularly? All of these actions are faith, and I don’t know of any pagan that would enjoy, desire, or even fake the desire to partake of communion or sing psalms. By all means, doing such things would make one NOT a “pagan.” This characterization is entirely vacuous and abstract.

  211. Gabe Martini said,

    March 15, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    An emphasis on the unity of God’s people is sensuous? How so? This seems a little bizarre to me, no offense. The unity of the visible Church is experienced or represented through worship, prayer, fellowship and Communion with one another, all in the name of Christ and with love and thanksgiving before God. What is un-biblical or “sensuous” about this? And “spiritual” doesn’t mean invisible or immaterial; that’s an unfortunately commonly proposed enigma of modernism or maybe post-modern thinking. Spirit doesn’t mean Casper the friendly ghost-like. It has a very real, very rubber-meets-the-road, very shaped-by-Christ, very shaped-by-God’s-Word character.

  212. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    When Peter was rebuked by Paul, he saw the error of his ways and humbly corrected himself. We did not see that kind of attitude or behavior demonstrated by Federal Vision proponents. Instead, they went right on teaching the errors listed in the report and attacked those of us who disagreed with them. They maliciously sought out ways to discipline and bring my husband down in order to keep their cover. Their behavior was not the behavior of a brother in Christ. And, we came to the conclusion that it was impossible to partner with them in the Gospel – you can’t have peace and unity without the truth.

    I would like to ask – how important is the truth of the Gospel? How precious is the truth of Jesus Christ to you personally? How many errors in the Gospel should we tolerate? How does God view error? Can we honestly look our children in the eyes and say to them, “I know that what you have heard over the last few months is false teaching, but that’s okay because false teachers according to our denomination are our brothers in Christ and we need to keep the unity and the peace.” How can we ever expect our children to know, treasure, and honor God’s truth in their lives when every week we hypocritically allow the Gospel to be trashed with error?

  213. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    >Instead, they went right on teaching the errors listed in the report and attacked those of us who disagreed with them.

    But you yourself don’t accept the report, isn’t it a bit much to use the report as a cudgel if you don’t accept it yourself?

    >They maliciously sought out ways to discipline and bring my husband down in order to keep their cover.

    Anyone who thinks malice is limited to the FV is I think a bit naive. I think the Bayly’s have written well on the subject of church discipline…

    >How many errors in the Gospel should we tolerate?

    I am sufficiently aware of my own failings that I would not want God to only accept those without error. Neither you nor I could meet that standard. Giving both you and myself the benefit of the doubt we don’t know what our errors are or we would repent of them but then the fact that we don’t know what they are should drive at least a little humility and a little charity towards those who also confess Christ.

  214. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    David,
    The report listed nine errors of the FV and recommended that those elders who teach and/or hold these views make them known to their sessions. The response from these FV elders has been to continue to teach these errors and to deny to holding these erroneous views. This is a blatant disregard and disdain of the denomination’s approved report. No one in leadership has challenged them. As a minister of the Gospel, as one who took a vow to uphold and defend the truth, how could my husband or any Christian remain silent and continue to minister effectively in a house that is divided by error?

    I agree that none of us has a corner on the truth – we are all growing and maturing in the faith. We all should be humble and teachable. But if a leader is deliberately teaching error that misleads and causes others to go astray, he needs to be rebuked. And, if he still continues in that error, he should be forced to step down from leadership – he needs to be removed from the pulpit. For his actions and attitude are not that of a brother in Christ.

  215. Ron Henzel said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    David,

    You wrote:

    But you yourself don’t accept the report, isn’t it a bit much to use the report as a cudgel if you don’t accept it yourself?

    Unless I’m mistaken, the only part of the report Lauren has rejected is the part that refers to FV and NPP teachers as brethren in Christ. It is not inconsistent to reject that part of the report and yet agree with its overall critique.

    You wrote:

    Anyone who thinks malice is limited to the FV is I think a bit naive.

    And anyone who would interpret Lauren’s words in this way is making his prejudice against her painfully obvious.

    I think the Bayly’s have written well on the subject of church discipline…

    Are you making a specific accusation here? I’ve read the Bayly’s recent post on this topic, and if you’re trying to apply it to the Kuo’s case I think you’re treading on very thin ice.

    You wrote:

    […] Giving both you and myself the benefit of the doubt we don’t know what our errors are or we would repent of them but then the fact that we don’t know what they are should drive at least a little humility and a little charity towards those who also confess Christ.

    Ah! The fist of judgmentalism wearing the velvet glove of evasion while trying to pound humility into someone else! I’d like to say it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that, but reading the comments directed at Lauren here recently, well…

  216. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    >But if a leader is deliberately teaching error that misleads and causes others to go astray, he needs to be rebuked. And, if he still continues in that error, he should be forced to step down from leadership – he needs to be removed from the pulpit.

    I’ll go along with that. And there are procedures within presbytery for pursuing that. Given the statement of principles from the GA it should now work its way out without people trying to jump the process so that we ensure justice is done.

    >For his actions and attitude are not that of a brother in Christ.

    I won’t go along with that. All my brothers in Christ sin. Sisters too. If you want to criticize them that is a much more reasonable position than to conclude they aren’t brothers in Christ. Which, at least, the study committee seemed to grasp.

  217. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    >It is not inconsistent to reject that part of the report and yet agree with its overall critique.

    Yes it is.

    >Are you making a specific accusation here? I’ve read the Bayly’s recent post on this topic, and if you’re trying to apply it to the Kuo’s case I think you’re treading on very thin ice.

    Obviously not. If you understood the Bayly’s on this point then you’d not say that. I’m specifically NOT prejudging the matter. Can you say that?

    >The fist of judgmentalism wearing the velvet glove of evasion while trying to pound humility into someone else!

    Ah the silly bone of specious argument.

  218. Ron Henzel said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    David,

    From the very beginning of your interaction with Lauren on this post you have demonstrated a clear and consistent unwillingness to treat Lauren’s statements with understanding and fairness. I see no reason why she should take anything you say to her on this matter seriously.

  219. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Ron,

    You’ll understand if I don’t find your protestations in this matter to be credible. She would do well to take them seriously. Your apparent indifference to things pertaining to Reformed doctrine in some of these matters is a bit surprising. It makes me curious where you are coming from…

  220. Ron Henzel said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    David,

    You’ll understand if I don’t care what you think about me. Those who have not behaved indefensibly do not need to defend themselves. I’m coming from exactly where Lane was coming from in his multiple remonstrances of you earlier.

  221. David Gray said,

    March 15, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    >You’ll understand if I don’t care what you think about me.

    Understood and reciprocated.

  222. Zrim said,

    March 15, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Actually, Ron, I am using the term “absolute certainty” in the way Scott Clark might when defining QIRC (Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty):

    “The search for absolute certainty through finding the one fact, truth, or explanation of reality which gives coherence to all other facts or phenomena…QIRC is the pursuit to know God in ways he has not revealed himself and to achieve epistemic and moral certainty on questions where such certainty is neither possible nor desirable.”

    My point is just that something like “I KNOW that God created the world for a fact!” seems appreciably different from “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible,” especially since the latter is creedal language. The former sounds like something approaching QIRC. I think it interesting that Clark, in chapter 2 of RRC, names “6/24 creation as a boundary marker” as a prime illustration of the rise of QIRC, along with FV.

    I’m not trying to connect uncharitable dots, simply point out some interesting shared space. QIRC doesn’t seem to allow for a category of doubt, and neither do Lauren’s words. I understand faith to be attended by both assurance and doubt and the opposite of sight. I’ve indicated that I would settle for an admission that doubt is a constant reality for believers. Of course, if I get that then my next question would be to wonder if the “I KNOW for a fact!” language might need to be tweaked in light of it.

    (Like I have said, my only interest has been to take Lauren’s words as written here. I have no idea what “the Kuo situation” is. It looks as though it has turned into an in-house discussion over it though, by folks in-the-know and others trying to be, which then devolves into, well, what it is.)

  223. Todd said,

    March 15, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    David
    (I miss the days when I could cite the number of the post I am responding to. I’m still confused by the new format).

    When Peter denied the Lord three times he was a believer. When Peter would only eat with the Jews in Galatia, he in his actions was denying the truths of justification, which is why Paul goes on in Galatians 2 to explain justification immediately after rebuking Peter. When I was a fairly new believer I preached my first sermon, and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It was all law and no gospel. I needed to be corrected by a more mature believer, and I was. That particular sermon denied the gospel, though I was a sincere believer at the time. So there is denying the gospel in the ultimate and permanent sense, which is apostasy, and denying the gospel in one particular teaching or action, which Christians can do. So saying a certain teaching of FV denies the gospel is not making a judgment of the soul of the person teaching it. An obvious example – Arminianism taken to its logical conclusion denies the gospel, but there are many sincere Arminian believers. Does that help?

    Todd

  224. David Gray said,

    March 16, 2009 at 5:29 am

    >Does that help?

    Pastor Bordow,

    I understand your position now. Most of the pastors I’ve known would have a less expansive definition of what constituted denying the gospel but defining it as you do your position makes sense.

    Dave

  225. Lauren Kuo said,

    March 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I guess we need to end this discussion by agreeing to disagree.
    I’m just sorry and sad to see a denomination that we so much loved and respected for so many years deteriorate into apostasy under the weight of this false teaching.

  226. chris zodrow said,

    March 16, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I understand many of the objections to allowing your child to participate in the Lord’s Supper, all of which I have found to be not incredibly convincing. But I have a question that is less a scholastic one than maybe a common sense one: “what can it hurt?” if it is a source of blessing, what can it hurt?

    Sincerely,
    Chris

  227. March 16, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    […] Read the rest here.  […]

  228. christopher said,

    March 17, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Maybe this will get through the ceramic filter, maybe not. But what in the world does FV have to do with paedo-communion? I am not FV, but my children have taken the Lord’s Supper since they were able, and in a PCA church.

    Why deny children the blessing of Christ? Are your children heathens? Are they pagans? Do you pray with them? Do you tell them that Christ is their Lord? Were they baptized? Are they part of God’s kingdom or outside of it? And, if they don’t get to do it, why do you? Are you more worthy because you can “think” about it more clearly? Is a rational observation the basis of receiving it, then why baptize them?

    And, even if you don’t agree, are you willing to give others the freedom to do so?
    What does it hurt? Can’t it only do good to the little ones?


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