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).

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What He Must Be…

The Rev. Voddie Baucham is becoming more and more well-known. He has several videos on Youtube, one of which has to do with Sarah Palin and family values, and another one is a discussion about theodicy. He is becoming the African-American John Piper. Now he has written a book (not his first book) about young men and marriage. This is certainly an issue that cries out for our attention, for how many real men are there out there? How can we raise godly young men? How can we find godly young men for our daughters to marry? Voddie has some excellent ideas on this.

I think what I appreciate most about this book is its balance. On the one hand, there are very high ideals. On the other hand, there is grace. There isn’t just a list of things he must be if he is to marry my daughter, and then no thoughts on how to achieve that. It is not just a checklist that makes it all but impossible for any men to fit the bill. The last chapter is indicative of this concern: “Can’t Find One…Build One.” There is a very healthy recognition that no man is going to have all these things down pat before marriage. And yet, this does not diminish anything from the high standards that should be set.

Another balance that Voddie achieves well is on the issue of method. There are lots of conservatives out there who think that the bride can be obtained if the method is all in place. Voddie sees the problems with, say, dating, but does not go over to the other extreme of arranged marriages. He argues that the parents should be involved in helping the daughter to find an appropriate mate. There are very good reasons for this, the most important being that a young woman seldom has the ability to see red flags to the same extent that the parents can. It is hard for her to evaluate objectively.

Yet another fine balance he achieves is that of the criteria for evaluation. We’re not looking merely for a good leader, or a good Christian, or something else, but a conglomerate. Fathers should therefore be very concerned about the doctrine that a potential son-in-law holds.

I have only one very small criticism of the book. In the last part of the book, Voddie has an admirable discussion about racism, about which I completely agree. However, I think it might also have been helpful to point out that inter-racial marriages will have some extra cultural issues to work out that an intra-racial marriage would not have. It is certainly no bar to inter-racial marriage, but it is a concern. There are cultural differences between black people and white people (and also among all other cultural groups). And while those differences are no bar to marriage, they should be addressed so that potential mates are on the same page.

I intend to have my daughter(s) read this book as well as my sons. I think it is a very helpful book that addresses a very real need in the church today. And, unlike many books, we are not merely shown the problem, but also how to fix it. Voddie is an extremely clear communicator with lots of helpful to-the-point illustrations. It is an easy book, but by no means a shallow book. May it have a wide audience.

Coming Soon: One of the Best Expository Commentaries Ever

I have been told by a reliable source that this commentary will be one of the very best expository commentaries ever written on any book. Coming soon in April.

On the Duties of Uncles and Aunts

Has it ever struck you that most uncles and aunts seem pretty detached from their nephews and nieces? The duties are not well-defined. The impetus to help raise the nephews and nieces is mostly obliterated by a sense that it might be seen as interference (and surely, sometimes it is!).

But it seems to me that a proper understanding of the covenantal structure of the family would place uncles and aunts in a much closer position to help than, say, daycare. After all, uncles and aunts are descended from the grandparents of the nephews and nieces. Maybe a slightly broader (or deeper!) view of the covenantal structure (not headship, obviously, as the father is the head) would dictate a closer involvement.

Most relationships between uncle/aunt and nephew/niece seem to rely mostly on the nephew/niece initiative. Why should this be? Is there no telephone? Is there no internet? Is there no such thing as gifts? I can testify that every time I have gotten involved in the lives of my nephews and nieces, not only have the parents been grateful, but also the nephews and nieces have been grateful. Our culture is rootless enough as it is without this fragmentation of the larger family that tends to happen.

I believe that the Bible hints at a larger involvement. One could profitably look at the house structure of families (one room added on whenever a new family starts), and the importance of uncles and aunts (even in a negative light, such as Jacob and Laban) in the biblical narrative.

I would therefore like to challenge us to be much more involved in the lives of our nephews and nieces. This is especially true of those nephews and nieces that become ours by marriage. They are not to be treated in any different way than the blood-line nephews and nieces.

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