The Citizenship Analogy, Again

Just a brief response to Doug’s thoughtful post here.

Doug says that my citizenship analogy (that just because an infant does not partake of communion does not mean that his membership in the visible church is questioned; and that this is analogous to citizenship in the US, where infants are not allowed to drive even though they are full US citizens) is faulty because communion is not primarily a matter of physical ability. I would say that indeed communion is not just a matter of physical ability. It takes spiritual discernment as well. All the more reason why infants should not partake! I would use his argument the other way. If it were merely a physical thing to do, then any infant that can eat solid food should participate. As we know, communion is not just a physical thing. For the paedo-communion argument to work, communion must become passive other than the bare eating.

But what is the mark of belonging to the visible church? Is it baptism, communion, or both? We have to be careful here. I affirm that the only necessary sign for belonging to the visible church is baptism. But what then of the visible/invisible church distinction? Obviously, not everyone who partakes of communion is regenerate. However, it is the duty of the church elders to fence the table as best they can. This involves judging fruit. If by their fruit you will know them, then elders need to judge by fruit (to the best of their ability: no one can know the heart of another person perfectly) whether a person should be admitted to the table or not. The question then becomes this: is the Table the sign of the visible church or the invisible church? Which unity does it signify? No doubt PC advocates will accuse me here of bifurcating the church into two churches simply by asking the question. But if that is the case, then the entire distinction between visible and invisible is moot. I would argue that it is the sign of the invisible church, even if some partake who do not belong to that invisible church.

This claim involves understanding the nature of covenant theology. If the covenant of grace is properly made with Christ and the elect seed in Him, then when Christ said that this was the sign of the new covenant in His blood, then the body and the blood signified by bread and wine are signifiers of the essence of the covenant of grace. Baptism is the sign of the administration of the covenant of grace (since it is given regardless of a profession of faith), not the essence of the covenant of grace. This argument could be fleshed out a great deal more, but here it is in bare outline.

34 Comments

  1. Andrew said,

    May 10, 2009 at 1:02 am

    This is very peculiar.

    Baptism is indeed a sign of membership/administration of the covenant, but the Confession also teaches that communnion also puts “a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world” (WCOF 27.1).

    More importantly, baptism is a sign of the recipient’s “ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins” (wcof 28.10). How are these not of the essense of the covenant?

  2. Gianni said,

    May 11, 2009 at 2:47 am

    “But what then of the visible/invisible church distinction? Obviously, not everyone who partakes of communion is regenerate. However, it is the duty of the church elders to fence the table as best they can. This involves judging fruit.”

    Hello and thanks for your helpful blog. As a Reformed Baptist, I guess I see all these things from the wrong perspective. However I would say that you do not fence the table from a baptized person because he doesn’t positively display fruits of conversion (how many fruits are enough?), but more properly because he doesn’t repent when under church discipline. So it seems to me that you have a double standard when you are fencing the table.

  3. David Gadbois said,

    May 11, 2009 at 3:15 am

    For the paedo-communion argument to work, communion must become passive other than the bare eating.

    In the last article, Lane mentioned that paedocommunists are not alert to how their view overturns the whole confessional understanding of the Supper, not simply in taking exceptions to secondary bits and pieces scattered here and there, but the whole understanding of what the Supper actually *is* in its essence. This point is further proof of that fact – the paedocom view sees infants feeding on Christ by merely feeding with the mouth. The Belgic Confession explicitly denies this. We feed on Christ by faith. Article 35 is a direct rebuke to this superstitious view. Although originally intended as a shot at Romanists and Lutherans, it also lands a direct hit on the paedocom view as well.

    But what is the mark of belonging to the visible church? Is it baptism, communion, or both?

    The paedocommunionists raise this question because they hold that the primary function of the Supper is to demonstrate church unity. We should insist that this is flatly false, and therefore the question is wrongheaded. The Supper exists for us to intensify our mystical union with Christ first and foremost. So it exists only secondarily as a covenant boundary marker, and therefore it is not an absolute boundary marker as the paedocoms would have it. We are not excommunicating anyone by witholding it from members *during limited periods of time, outside of due season and ability*. Paedocommunionists would do well to drop that line of argument and move on. As I’ve beaten to death in previous threads – even the die-hard paedocoms are constrained to admit that there are circumstances in which it is not appropriate to grant the Supper to non-excommunicated adult members. The Supper is a boundary marker, but it is not an absolute marker.

  4. Matt Beatty said,

    May 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    David,

    If the supper is meant to “intensify our mystical union with Christ first and foremost” and we deny this means of growth (that is what it is, isn’t it?) to our our covenant children who are presumptively “holy” according to St. Paul, then in what direction do we appear to be leaning? With the Apostle or away from him?

  5. tim prussic said,

    May 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Pr. Lane, yer totally a bifurcator.

    This is interesting to me: “I would argue that it [the Supper] is the sign of the invisible church…” It seems to highlight the weakness of v/iv analysis. *Clearly*, the sign of the Supper is given to the visible/historic/militant church. That there are requirements to partake (even on the Credo-Com view) does not somehow restrict it to the invisible church, for baptism has requirements, too! One sacrament is not the visible church and the other for the invisible, but both are for both… and here’s how (I think).

    Since the sacraments are signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace, they are not only for blessing but also for cursing. Those externally connected with the church (part of the V, but not IV), who partake of the sacraments are not blessed in that partaking (in the final analysis), but cursed. Those who are both externally connected and also have the heart of the matter, that is, a saving connection with Christ Jesus through faith, are blessed through the sacraments (discipline is seen as a blessing for these folks). See, with a working covenantal notion of the sacraments, one need not restrict along V/IV lines with respect to the sacraments themselves, but rather with respect to the persons partaking and the effect that God bring upon that person through the sacrament.

    David, there’s a lot to commend your last paragraph of #3; thanks for writing it, but let’s talk about the first one.

    You wrote: “the paedocom view sees infants feeding on Christ by merely feeding with the mouth” – this is *very* silly and misleading. Work with me here: Is baptism a blessing without faith? Do we partake of Christ savingly through baptism without faith? Is there a spiritual benefit in hearing the preached word if that hearing is not mixed with faith? No, no aaaaand no. Do we baptize our infants? Do we believe they partake savingly of Christ (in part) through that baptism? Do we instruct them every Sabbath by having them hear the preaching of the word? Yes, yes, aaaand yes. What gives?

    No PC thinks that simply stuffing bread and nasty American grape juice in our little one’s mouths benefits them spiritually anymore than simply sitting their little ears in front of a preacher or having an ordained elder sprinkle them with water in the Triune name. We instruct THROUGH all these means unto faith and understanding. PCs don’t pit the Supper against the other means of grace and say to our children: “STOP. This one requires faith… for the other ones yer okay, though.” I think your caricature of the PC position at this point is well beneath your usual level of excellence, David.

    Word and Sacrament require faith to be of benefit. Let us, therefore, be diligent to train our little ones up from their infancy in that faith THROUGH Word and Sacrament.

  6. David Gadbois said,

    May 11, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Matt said If the supper is meant to “intensify our mystical union with Christ first and foremost” and we deny this means of growth (that is what it is, isn’t it?)

    Yes, but top sirloin is also a means of (physical) growth and nourishment, but that doesn’t mean we give it to toothless 1 year olds. We give various means of growth in due season according to our children’s ability.

    Tim said Work with me here: Is baptism a blessing without faith? Do we partake of Christ savingly through baptism without faith?

    This line of reasoning is precisely what we will not grant. The Supper is NOT like baptism in too many important ways for this kind of argument to work. Yes, both are sacraments. But speaking of ‘spiritual benefit’ in the abstract obscures the particular blessings that belong to each respective sacrament. In baptism there is no eucharistic presence of Christ for the subject to receive. In baptism God is putting his covenant sign on us unilaterally. The essential nature of the respective sacraments forces the distinction between the active participation in the Supper and the passive participation in Baptism. Feeding is active. Being subject to someone else pouring water on you is passive.

    Ironically, it is the paedocom position that has a low view of the Supper. By ironing out the discontinuities between the Supper and baptism, the Supper’s true nature as an active spiritual communion with Christ, whereby our mystical union with Him is intensified, is diminished. The Supper has its own unique, distinct dignity and form of blessing from baptism. Indeed, it has greater glory in its spiritual intimacy than baptism.

    Do we instruct them every Sabbath by having them hear the preaching of the word?

    Not necessarily. I don’t have a problem with putting infants in the nursery until the Word is at least somewhat intelligible to them. I don’t believe they are being given the Word unless the Word is intelligible (or else we could just have the sermon in Latin). Again, we give our children various means of grace *in their due season*.

    We instruct THROUGH all these means unto faith and understanding.

    This won’t get any traction with Heidelbergers. The Word creates faith, the sacraments confirm it.

    And once again, I can’t emphasize it enough – communing with the risen Christ is the main point of the Supper. Not instruction.

  7. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 11, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    We give various means of growth in due season according to our children’s ability.

    So, what are the means of growth for a 1 year old? He or she is in the nursery, so is not exposed to the Word. He or she is not at the table, and so is not communing with the risen Christ. I’m just interested to know what those means are.

    So, the main point of the supper is “communing with the risen Christ,” but it’s no big deal to withhold it from people on a regular basis? And that’s a high view of the Supper? Hm.

  8. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 11, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    And it’s not our view of the Supper that’s low. I would agree with you completely on the central purpose of the Supper. I’d say we have a higher of God’s covenant mercy toward the littlest of His own: communing with the risen Christ, being nourished in their mystical union–these promises and for us and for our children, too.

  9. tim prussic said,

    May 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Working backwards, David:

    Don’t make a false dichotomy between communion and instruction. We are instructed through communion, but in a different way than we’re instructed through the Word. The one more experiential and the other cerebral, to be sure. Each thing according to its own nature.

    You Heidelbergers seem a little too compartmentalized on the issue of faith being created ONLY through the Word. I think the Bible gives a *priority* to the ministry of the Word in regeneration and the creation of faith (WCF 14:1), but the grace of ingrafting into Christ, regeneration, and remission of sins are all really conferred though the ministry of baptism (WCF 28:1, 5). I certainly don’t see the air-tight compartments that you assert, rather I see ordinary tendencies in keeping with the varied natures of W & S. I think we Westminsterers are more balanced.

    Active vs. passive – I’m quite ready to grant this distinction, which is why I’m not a strict PC. My rhetorical questions above were prompted by your assertion that PCs see “infants feeding on Christ by merely feeding with the mouth,” which is (in my experience with PCs) simply a caricature. That’s what I was zeroing in on. And the common necessity of faith for ALL of the means of grace was mentioned not to erase the distinctions of their particular natures, but demonstrate the absurdity of your caricature. PCs assume (maybe believe’s a better word) faith and aim at increased faith and knowledge.

    David, do you think that, say, a 4-year-old can make a credible profession of faith and thus participate in the Supper?

  10. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    He or she is in the nursery, so is not exposed to the Word.

    Depends on the nursery program, right?

  11. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 12, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Jeff, I suppose if the church has some kind of intercom that pipes the sermon into the nursery, then they are. But otherwise, even with Bible stories, etc., the infants are not being exposed to the preached word in the assembly, which is the Reformed view of the the word as a means of grace.

    What’s wierd is that I agree with David G. that communion is first and foremost about, well, communion rather than instruction. But for some reason I have this odd idea that communion with Christ is for infants, too, by grace alone.

  12. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Joshua, I’m not fully disputing you but I’m surprised that “the preached word in the assembly is the Reformed view of the word as a means of grace.”

    (1) What do you mean, and

    (2) Is that consistent with WCoF 1.7,8 ?

    Jeff Cagle

  13. David Gadbois said,

    May 12, 2009 at 11:34 am

    So, what are the means of growth for a 1 year old? I’m just interested to know what those means are.

    At 1 years old, the child is growing physically and mentally (acquiring language skills, etc.) so as to be able to receive the Word and Supper. That shouldn’t be shocking – the same can be said of children still in the womb.

    So, the main point of the supper is “communing with the risen Christ,” but it’s no big deal to withhold it from people on a regular basis? And that’s a high view of the Supper? Hm.

    It is highly prejudicial to put it in terms of “witholding” it from so and so. Saying that we are witholding the Supper from infants is like saying we withold pole vaulting from infants. They simply don’t have the faculties to do it, so you’re not keeping them from anything they could otherwise do.

    And, yes, as high a view as we have of the Supper, we confess that it is not absolutely essential. God’s grace is sufficient. The Supper is merely one *means* of grace.

    I’d say we have a higher of God’s covenant mercy toward the littlest of His own: communing with the risen Christ, being nourished in their mystical union–these promises and for us and for our children, too.

    This continues to assume precisely what the paedocom view has wrong – that the Supper is a passive nourishing rather than an active, concious, engaged, responsive communion with Christ. Christ gives and we feed – by faith, and not just with the mouth. Infants simply do not have the faculties for this.

    Tim said Don’t make a false dichotomy between communion and instruction. We are instructed through communion, but in a different way than we’re instructed through the Word.

    Sorry, the Bible just doesn’t teach that that is what the Supper is for. It is koinonia in Christ’s body and blood.

    but the grace of ingrafting into Christ, regeneration, and remission of sins are all really conferred though the ministry of baptism (WCF 28:1, 5).

    If you are taking the position that baptism is a regenerating ordinance, that is certainly a disputed interpretation of WCF 28. Lane has covered baptism’s efficacy as a sign and seal and the WS on this blog before. It seems to me if we index our understanding of what it means for baptism to be a sign and seal to the actual biblical language found in Romans 4 (regarding Abraham’s circumcision), it is impossible to conclude that this means baptism/circumcision creates faith. No – it was a sign and seal of the righteousness Abraham already had by faith before he received the sacrament.

    My rhetorical questions above were prompted by your assertion that PCs see “infants feeding on Christ by merely feeding with the mouth,” which is (in my experience with PCs) simply a caricature.

    The only way to avoid this implication is by positing the existence of infant faith. But if you do that, then you have to start tinkering with what we confess about saving faith (evacuating the notitia from faith). That’s a lot of tinkering just because these folks want to prop up a baby-centric theology.

    David, do you think that, say, a 4-year-old can make a credible profession of faith and thus participate in the Supper?

    Maybe. Can a 4 year old affirm the Apostle’s Creed in a meaningful way? Perhaps in rare cases. More likely around 5-6 y.o., I would think.

  14. David Gadbois said,

    May 12, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Joshua said Jeff, I suppose if the church has some kind of intercom that pipes the sermon into the nursery, then they are.

    Are we blessed by the preached Word through mere audio osmosis, or do we have to attentively and comprehendingly hear it? If so, then I can go attend the means of grace merely by filling the pew in a Dutch language service, regardless of the fact that I know 3 Dutch words.

  15. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    But if you do that, then you have to start tinkering with what we confess about saving faith (evacuating the notitia from faith). That’s a lot of tinkering just because these folks want to prop up a baby-centric theology.

    The alternative seems to be to start tinkering with justification through faith alone, which some find hard to accept. On your account, infants and the mentally disabled are saved not through faith but through God’s direct decree (and, they are “regenerated” per the Confession, but with no subsequent faith as a result).

    Granted that we’re between a rock and a hard place, but it seems better to me to say that notitia, fiducia, and assens are marks of saving faith rather than the components of saving faith.

    Just to push the point further, if we make fiducia a component of saving faith, then don’t we open the back door for salvation by works?

    So for me, at least, the desire to prop up a baby-centric theology is really secondary, or less, than the desire to retain faith as the sole instrument of reception of God’s grace.

    I’m asking these questions to understand your position better.

    Jeff Cagle

  16. greenbaggins said,

    May 12, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Actually, Jeff, the problem with fiducia is easily solved once we realize that we can distinguish between a once-for-all instantaneous entrustment versus a day-by-day walking-by-faith entrusting. The former is a component of justifying faith, while the latter flows from the former.

  17. tim prussic said,

    May 12, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    David, since when is koinonia not instructive? Paul’s *using* the koinonia in 1 Cor 10 TO INSTRUCT the people enjoying that koinonia how to do it safely and beneficially. David, it seems like your mental categories are so rigid that it makes you unable engage – you’ve set what’s very clearly a false dichotomy between divine instruction and fellowship with God to the point where different emphases won’t even suffice. You seem like you need to have completely distinct and separate categories in order to handle these ideas. This is a serious weakness, brother. This weakness is evident all around, as I hope to demonstrate below. I hope you come to see that.

    This same weakness applies in the way you handle Word and Sacrament. You can’t have God in any way granting *through* baptism what he signifies *in* baptism, because you’ve set up very rigid mental categories. I think I can offer a pretty good explanation how God works through both the ministry of the Word and that of baptism to accomplish things like ingrafting into Christ, regeneration, and the remission of sins, but I fear my words would be wasted, as they wouldn’t conform to your hard-and-fast categories (which, I think, are clearly deficient).

    You preclude infant faith in the same sort of way, which is to say, by way of theological categorizing. But, look at this. I can *prove* infant faith from Scripture (Lk 1:40-44; Ps 22:9-10). I can show conclusively that God has worked that way in the past. That simple fact destroys your theological categories as absolute. It also reveals that you’re actually the one tinkering through your rigid theological categories.

    The funny thing is, David, that I mostly agree with your theological categories. I think they are fairly standard Reformed categories. The problem is the unbending and inflexible way you hold and use them.

    Finally (and in a less accusatory tone), what’s your reason for imposing the Apostle’s Creed on children as requirement for enjoying sweet (and instructive) koinonia with their Savior? A simple yet egregious error of so many Credocoms is that they can’t have a young child believe as (brace yourself) a young child. CCs so often want to have 10- or 15-year-old faith (or better, understanding) in a 5-year-old Christian. They want to have the kid reading chapter books before they’ll let him sit on his Heavenly Father’s lap to enjoy the koinonia of flipping through picture books, not knowing that that koinonia itself will aid him in progressing toward the chapter books. The attempt to raise the bar too high too fast actually inhibits growth, as it takes away a major means of growth, that is, the Supper.

  18. David Gadbois said,

    May 12, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Jeff, your concern to uphold JbFA is a good concern, but I also want to stick as close to the biblical data as possible. Everywhere we are said to be saved ‘by faith’, faith is a conscious and penitent trust in the person and work of Christ. It is never said to be a latent faculty or a trust without knowledge of Christ. Faith saves precisely because it grasps onto Christ’s righteousness.

    Whereas the Bible definitively speaks on the nature of faith, it does not so speak on the salvation of infants. There are only a few fleeting verses that indicate that they are, but gives us no clue as to *how*. I prefer to remain silent where the Bible is silent.

    (and, they are “regenerated” per the Confession, but with no subsequent faith as a result).

    This isn’t quite right. I would agree that they are regenerated, and even have subsequent faith – but WCF is ambiguous as to the timing of this. This could happen at the moment of death or just before. I would of course say that any infant who went to be in the presence of the Lord is born again and certainly has faith in Christ, but it is doubtful that the infant followed the normal regeneration-faith-repentance-conversion-justification ordo salutis on the mortal side of eternity.

  19. David Gadbois said,

    May 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    David, since when is koinonia not instructive?

    That can certainly be an effect, but that is not what it *is*. Here ‘instructive’ would be a predicate adjective, not a predicate nominative. It is secondary to the actual fellowship itself. Gnosis may come from koinonia, but gnosis is not koinonia.

    Paul’s *using* the koinonia in 1 Cor 10 TO INSTRUCT the people enjoying that koinonia how to do it safely and beneficially

    But the koinonia was still koinonia before Paul had occasion to use it for pedagogical purposes.

    You can’t have God in any way granting *through* baptism what he signifies *in* baptism

    In *any* way? Really? It depends, of course, on what way you have in mind.

    If you mean baptism holds out the offer of eternal life in Christ, reinforcing the Gospel as exposited in the preached Word and so forth, leading us to receive the Gospel promises by faith, then yes, God certainly does work through baptism in that way.

    I can *prove* infant faith from Scripture (Lk 1:40-44; Ps 22:9-10).

    Luke 1 only says that the infant leaped for joy upon hearing Mary’s voice. It does not say nor imply that this constituted or presupposed saving faith.

    Psalm 22 is not a slam dunk either. First, note the translation difficulty (Calvin followed translations that rendered it “trust in my mother’s breasts.”). Second, vs. 9 may just be a poetic, hyperbolic way of saying that David trusted God from a very young age.

    I can show conclusively that God has worked that way in the past. That simple fact destroys your theological categories as absolute.

    Even if so, so what? I do believe in miracles, I just don’t want to normalize miracles.

    Finally (and in a less accusatory tone), what’s your reason for imposing the Apostle’s Creed on children as requirement for enjoying sweet (and instructive) koinonia with their Savior?

    Well, they would have to know who that Savior is first, wouldn’t they? They need to know the basics of the Gospel and the Christian religion. The Apostle’s Creed is about the most basic summary of it there is.

  20. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 12, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    …but it is doubtful that the infant followed the normal regeneration-faith-repentance-conversion-justification ordo salutis on the mortal side of eternity.

    I can certainly agree to that, especially if you toss in sanctification. :)

    Jeff Cagle

  21. andrew voelkel said,

    May 12, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    The apostle Paul acknowledged that their were both genuine members and non-genuine members in the Corinthian church(1cor 11:18-19); nevertheless he asserted that all should eat together:
    “when you come together to eat, wait for one another…so that when you come together it will not be for judgement” (1cor 11:33-34).
    Are we waiting for the baptized body when we come together to eat, or are despising the church of God and humiliating those with nothing?

  22. tim prussic said,

    May 12, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    David, thanks for the response.

    Gnosis is not koinonia, but the Supper is not exclusively koinonia. Seeing the bread broken TEACHES us something. Chewing and swallowing the elements, taking them into our bodies together TEACHES us something. Even the very koinonia itself teaches us. Once again, I think it is an issue emphasis, not rigid categories.

    As to infant faith, you sound like you’re pretty committed to the notion that such a thing is, at best, highly irregular (or, a miracle, as you put it), which is odd and troubling to me. What was John leaping for joy about, David? Does the text need to say, “John believed,” or can we add two and two? Clearly, the passage is about Mary and the blessed fruit of her womb stepping into the room. There’s no way to avoid the fact that John has some notion of the presence of the Savior, at which he responded with joy. Vss 9 and 10 of Psalm 22 are largely parallel – God brought the Psalmist forth from the womb, trusting in him as his God from the beginning – clear as a bell, the two together. Following Calvin, I would confess that I don’t know how God does this, but I trust that he does it, and often. However, simply because my mind can’t understand how God accomplishes something certainly does not make it a “miracle,” nor does it make it uncommon. You simply assume both, which is an unfortunate assumption, especially for your covenant children.

    As to the Apostle’s Creed issue, I think most of the concepts of the Creed would be necessary, but the Creed itself would not. In other words, the verbiage of the Creed is more advanced than a simple understanding of the matter of the Creed. That said, I’ve been working with my first son since he was three on memorizing the Creed… it’s tough going, but worth the effort.

  23. David Gadbois said,

    May 12, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Gnosis is not koinonia, but the Supper is not exclusively koinonia. Seeing the bread broken TEACHES us something.

    That doesn’t mean that is the primary purpose. No one is denying the pedagogical utility of the Supper, but it is entirely secondary. I don’t spend time with my wife every evening because I’m hoping to learn something in particular. I sometimes might, but the main purpose is to build and intensify our relationship through fellowship and experiential acquaintance – intensifying our union together.

    And it is telling – in the case of my interactions with my wife, it presupposes a pre-established relationship and knowledge of her. And so it is with the Supper – it presupposes that the communicant already know their Savior and have laid hold of his Righteousness.

    As to infant faith, you sound like you’re pretty committed to the notion that such a thing is, at best, highly irregular (or, a miracle, as you put it),

    Well, one would more expect David (as divinely appointed king, Messianic type, and prophetic oracle) to be privy to a special inworking of the Holy Spirit and recipient of special revelation, and the case would be similar for John the Baptist in his prophetic role. We ought not automatically normalize everything that is true of them.

    As for Luke, I think Hendricksen’s exegesis is spot on and does not go beyond the text:

    Rather it would seem that verse 44 (in connection with verses 40-43) states and implies only the following: (1) Mary greets Elizabeth. (2) Elizabeth hears the greetings. (3) The fetus within Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy. (4) Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit. responds to the greeting. In her enthusiastic exclamation she calls Mary ‘the most blessed woman’ and expresses surprised joy that the one whom she designates ‘the mother of my Lord’ is honoring her with a visit. (5) She interprets the movement of the babe within her womb as being a sign of its joy, this very joy being the evidence to her of ‘the Lord’s’ presence in Mary’s womb. See further on 1:67.

    In our interpretation it is probably not safe to penetrate any deeper than this, or to accept the possibility of propositional religious knowledge on the part of a fetus of approximately six months. That at this stage of its development it already has all the nerves it will ever have and is normally able to react to stimuli is well known. In view of verse 15 it should be added that in some mysterious manner, incapable of further analysis, the Holy Spirit was already actively present in the soul of Elizabeth’s child. Further than this we cannot go.

    As for Psalm 22, your comment neither resolves the translational issue nor the open possibility that David is using poetic hyperbole, as is common throughout the Psalms and even this very chapter. There simply is not enough to go on here to establish a doctrine.

    You simply assume both, which is an unfortunate assumption, especially for your covenant children.

    It is hard to see how. Indeed, the worst fallout, from a practical standpoint, if I am wrong is that I teach my children the Gospel when they somehow already have faith straight out of the womb. There is no evil in being redundant and reinforcing what they already know. But if I am indeed right, and my kids need to be taught the Gospel in order to come to faith, then what I am doing is vital. Indeed, I can ask with Paul how can they believe in whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

    Your view, on the other hand, suffers from two problems. First, it is in the awkward position of being empirically false. Children don’t come out of the womb already knowing the Gospel and knowing the person and work of Christ. And to say that saving faith is something less than this is simply outside the pale. Second, if your view is false then one’s catechesis (if one is consistent with one’s principles) will either be lax (due to the presumption of faith) or misdirected (assuming that our children need to grow in knowledge of Christ rather than come to saving knowledge of Christ).

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 13, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Lane (#16): Interesting point about fiducia. Is that a classic distinction?

    David G.: If you’re willing, I’d like to explore this idea a bit further. You said,

    Everywhere we are said to be saved ‘by faith’, faith is a conscious and penitent trust in the person and work of Christ. It is never said to be a latent faculty or a trust without knowledge of Christ. Faith saves precisely because it grasps onto Christ’s righteousness.

    Whereas the Bible definitively speaks on the nature of faith, it does not so speak on the salvation of infants. There are only a few fleeting verses that indicate that they are, but gives us no clue as to *how*. I prefer to remain silent where the Bible is silent. I would agree that [elect infants dying in infancy] are regenerated, and even have subsequent faith – but WCF is ambiguous as to the timing of this. This could happen at the moment of death or just before. I would of course say that any infant who went to be in the presence of the Lord is born again and certainly has faith in Christ.

    Given that the faith and salvation of infants is not directly addressed by Scripture, so that we are exploring tentatively, here are four questions:

    1. Do the Biblical data give stronger support to the proposition

    (1A) “All who are justified, are justified through faith alone”, or to the proposition

    (1B) “Saving faith always consists of notitia, assens, and fiducia“?

    I’m not speaking only of bare words (which would favor the first, of course) but of concepts.

    2. Likewise, do the Scriptures give enough information to decide between

    (2A) Saving faith consists of the three components notitia, assens, and fiducia, or

    (2B) Saving faith always exhibits the characteristics of notitia, assens, and fiducia, when possible. (e.g., in the case of the thief on the cross, fiducia was not demonstrable)

    That is, are the three characteristics of the essence or of the symptoms of saving faith?

    I ask this because Calvin’s discussion of saving faith touches on these characteristics, but does not make them a part of the definition of saving faith (Inst. 3.2). And, Calvin leaves open the possibility of infant faith in his discussion of regeneration of infants, John the Baptist, and elect infants who die (Inst. 4.16.17-19):

    For if fulness of life consists in the perfect knowledge of God, since some of those whom death hurries away in the first moments of infancy pass into life eternal, they are certainly admitted to behold the immediate presence of God. Those therefore whom the Lord is to illumine with the full brightness of his light, why may he not, if he so pleases, irradiate at present with some small beam, especially if he does not remove their ignorance before he delivers them from the prison of the flesh? I would not rashly affirm that they are endued with the same faith which we experience in ourselves or have any knowledge at all resembling faith, (this I would rather leave undecided)…

    (3) Referring to the quote above, do you agree with Calvin here? If so, what term would you use to describe the “small beam of illumination”?

    (4) Your last sentence is interesting. What do you have in mind when you say that “any infant who went to be in the presence of the Lord is born again and certainly has faith in Christ”?

    Jeff Cagle

  25. tim prussic said,

    May 13, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    David,

    The reason we’re even still talking about the SECONDARY emphasis of teaching in the sacraments is because I mentioned that you should be careful with a false dichotomy between koinonia and instruction in the Supper and you responded thusly: Sorry, the Bible just doesn’t teach that that is what the Supper is for. It is koinonia in Christ’s body and blood. This was the rigid catagorizing I’ve been trying to highlight this whole time. The Supper’s “for” all kinds of stuff, but primarily koinonia. After all our words, we concur that the various ministries of Word and Sacrament have different emphases. Good, now we can totally be friends!

    As to Hendricksen, all he does is rehearse the data of the text. No analysis, no ties to covenant promises, no theological work done… not too impressive. I think there’s more to say, but we don’t want push it too far. I’ll do some homework on Lk 1 and Ps 22 and possibly get back later today or tomorrow. Suffice it, for now, to say that the translation issue doesn’t appear to be at all significant. If it is, please show me how it is. That the passage is hyperbolic and should not be taken literally seems probable. But even in that case, the images used (at the breast and from the womb) indicate VERY early, like from the beginning. To push that as late as 5 years or later wouldn’t do justice to the meaning of the text, even if hyperbolic.

    Essentially your criticism of Reformed parenting (as I see it) sounds just like any number of responses I’ve had from Baptists (not that I think you’re a Baptist). A consistent Reformed parent, one that *actually* believes that God has called their children in Christ to salvation, is every bit as diligent to teach the Gospel form top to bottom (thus, they’re not lax). They teach the Gospel in such a way as it make sure the child knows that God himself has included the child in this wonderful salvation (evidenced and sealed in their baptism), and that God calls the child daily to faith and repentance (thus, they’re not misdirected). I think you do far more damage to a 2- or 3-year-old by assuming they don’t believe what they tell you they do, than by feeding and directing that toddler faith. God, faith, sin, repentance, et al is viewed from the inside as a covenant child. Their faith needs to be tended carefully to grow… that’s why they need the Supper.

  26. David Gadbois said,

    May 13, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    As to Hendricksen, all he does is rehearse the data of the text. He does a bit more than that, but my point is that one must ask what the *necessary* implications of a text are. Infant faith is certainly one explanation, but it is not a logically necessary one. That’s the problem.

    And it occurred to me that this example of John the Baptist wouldn’t even be an instance of normal saving faith. I mean, I have saving faith, but that doesn’t mean that I could recognize the divine presence of Christ through the muffled voice of his mother Mary if I could transport back in time and have witnessed the same scene. If indeed John had made this recognition, it is certainly miraculous and well beyond the capacity of normal saving faith.

    A consistent Reformed parent, one that *actually* believes that God has called their children in Christ to salvation, is every bit as diligent to teach the Gospel form top to bottom (thus, they’re not lax)

    But you are saying more than merely that God has outwardly called our children to salvation, you are saying that they already possess it. They supposedly already have faith and are already thereby justified, so your pedagogy will be geared toward growing in faith rather than coming to faith.

    They teach the Gospel in such a way as it make sure the child knows that God himself has included the child in this wonderful salvation (evidenced and sealed in their baptism), and that God calls the child daily to faith and repentance (thus, they’re not misdirected).

    There is always something amiss when folks lapse into vague talk about being ‘included…in salvation.’ What precisely does that mean? You really mean that they are already saved, in the sense that they are born again, have faith, and are already justified. No need to come to faith, just grow in faith. Whereas I would say they are included in God’s covenant and visible church, whereby the offers of grace are extended to them in the Gospel through the administration of Word. They need to lay hold of Christ’s righteousness, and only then have we laid a basis for them to grow in sanctification. That’s why we teach our children through the Catechism’s pattern of guilt-grace-gratitude. You want to jump straight to gratitude (i.e. sanctification).

    I think you do far more damage to a 2- or 3-year-old by assuming they don’t believe what they tell you they do

    Our children tell us they know who the Lord Jesus is, and about his substitutionary, propitionary sacrifice on the cross, and resurrection for our justification straight out of the womb (or at least, when they begin talking), before we teach them those facts? Really? That would be something to see, if you could demonstrate it.

    Their faith needs to be tended carefully to grow… that’s why they need the Supper.

    Sure, but the issue at hand is how faith is *created* (step one) so that we may begin to grow that faith by the Supper (step two).

  27. tim prussic said,

    May 14, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    David,

    As to John, what’s necessary is that the baby was joyful. There’s something going on in that baby that God’s doing. Are God-haters “joyful” in the presence of the Savior? No, joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Joyfulness in the presence of Christ is what kind of response, David, one of belief or one of unbelief? You might respond that these categories are imposed on this text, but they are the most fundamental and universal categories in the Bible – do you believe or not? Belief bears fruit, as does unbelief. We see fruit in the baby, specifically named, which fruit is a fruit of faith. This business with baby John fits into broader considerations of the strength of the covenant, the promises of the covenant made to children and to the parents that factor in here.

    As to the rest of your pedagogical notions: are our children saved, I mean really? David, can we really believe the promises of God to our children? Do you tell your children that Yahweh is their God, that, though they’ve sinned, Christ redeems them, and that *you all together, your whole family* must everyday believe on the our King and Savior, Jesus Christ, and learn more and more to serve him faithfully? Do you rear your children IN faith or simply toward faith? Every Baptist does the latter. Once again, you either believe the covenant promises of God to your children or you don’t. Which is it? They way you answer that question, I think, will have a great deal of impact of your children’s spiritual life.

    Guilt, grace, gratitude, BTW, is not the hallmark the conversionistic paedobaptist. I (believing my children are regenerated, called, brought into living fellowship with God through Jesus Christ from the womb) deal in guilt, grace, and gratitude ALL DAY LONG with them, but I do it in the context of belief. I believe over them the promises of God and, in that context, train them to believe the very same promises. That is, as I see it, the foundation of covenantal pedagogy.

  28. David Gadbois said,

    May 14, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Are God-haters “joyful” in the presence of the Savior? No, joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Joyfulness in the presence of Christ is what kind of response, David, one of belief or one of unbelief?

    It would certainly be a sign of belief, but 1. I still continue to doubt that the reason for John’s joy was Christ’s presence (again, we are missing *necessary* implication of the text) and 2. even if I am wrong on that count, the point is that John’s experience cannot be normalized, since his miraculous perception of Christ’s presence is not an ordinary characteristic of saving faith. We can’t just reason ‘well, it happened to John, so it can happen to anyone’ when one considers all of what is actually happening in the event. We don’t universalize the supernatural perception John experienced, so why universalize his (infant) faith?

    David, can we really believe the promises of God to our children?

    Speaking in generalities about ‘promises’ isn’t going to get us anywhere. God hasn’t promised us that all of our children are saved, nor that He would save them straight from the womb.

    Do you tell your children that Yahweh is their God, that, though they’ve sinned, Christ redeems them

    I tell them Christ will redeem them if they lay hold of His righteousness.

    Yaweh is their God, of course, but God is a God of wrath as well as redemption. Even a God of covenantal wrath.

    Once again, you either believe the covenant promises of God to your children or you don’t. Which is it?

    Again, just more rhetorical appeal without actually stating what God has actually and specifically promised in Scripture.

    Guilt, grace, gratitude, BTW, is not the hallmark the conversionistic paedobaptist

    But if our children already have faith, then there is no reason to teach guilt, grace, and gratitude *in that order*. They already know guilt and grace if they have faith, so plop them down in the gratitude section right from the get-go. Get them to work mortifying their sin. The gratitude section is, after all, the section that deals with sanctification, so if our children are already justified they should get to opt out of the first 2 sections like good honors students (since saving faith and justification are covered under the ‘grace’ section). Yes, your point that we are sanctified by a continued acknowledgment of guilt and grace is true, but then we are just making guilt and grace subsections of gratitude.

    Your view, in short, fails to distinguish between faith as an instrument of justification and sanctifying faith. Yes, Christ and his finished work are the object of faith in both cases (your point on this is well-taken), but in sanctifying faith we approach God as someone who is already a friend, and as a judge who does not impute sin to us. In justifying faith, we come to God as ones who need to beg God to be transformed from a state of wrath to a state of mercy. Or, as the order of our Catechism frames the matter, from a state of guilt to a state of grace. In that order.

  29. tim prussic said,

    May 14, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    David, the problem I see is that I cannot substantively distinguish your position from that of a good baptist parent… honestly. Please give me some specifics on how your parenting differs from that of a *good* and diligent baptist father. I don’t mean this as any kind of slur to baptists. They are often godly parents who nurture their little ones in the Lord, but they do so from a different theologico-practical basis, which might rightly be called conversionistic.

    Brief note on covenantal blessing and cursing: Certainly Yahweh’s a God who makes covenants that include both blessings and curses. The earthly/temporal dispensation of the Covenant of Grace is that way (which includes the New Covenant), or at least so I believe. However, we have here an issue of emphasis, again. Yahweh didn’t call a people unto himself to the end of cursing them, but to the end of blessing them. Thus, the emphasis and general purpose God’s covenant with us and our children is blessing not cursing. A good covenant parent will stress the blessings and remind of the possible curses. He won’t get caught in the middle of the two, not knowing which way to go.

    Your theological distinction between justifying and sanctifying faith is wonderful for theological analysis, and I quite agree with it. The experience of a covenant child, however, might not be well-defined by our theological categories. In my church, I can point to scores of kids that NEVER REMEMBER not loving Christ. They can’t point to a conversion experience, but they’re clearly converted. They don’t know when faith was created in them (and neither do their parents), but they know that it was. Where’s our theological distinction in their life and experience? Can they pin-point the experiential distinction between justifying and sanctifying grace? I say they cannot and, indeed, (experimentally speaking) they ought not. My expectation is that my children simply grow up knowing and loving Christ. We deal with sin daily, we repent daily, and we turn to Christ daily. We look in the Scripture at the *specific* promises of God, and I tell my children those promises are to them in Christ from their heavenly Father. I both instruct and model faith grabbing onto those promises. I sit them on my knee and say, “Isn’t it wonderful what Yahweh OUR God has done for US! He’s brought US out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage in our King and Savior, Jesus.”

  30. David Gadbois said,

    May 15, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Please give me some specifics on how your parenting differs from that of a *good* and diligent baptist father.

    I suppose not that different, partially because baptists themselves aren’t consistent with their beliefs – they don’t actually treat them as if they were strangers to the covenant.

    they do so from a different theologico-practical basis, which might rightly be called conversionistic.

    Well, if by ‘conversionistic’ you mean that we want our children to consciously lay hold of the covenant offers of grace that they learn through the ministry of the Word and catechesis, sure. I don’t believe covenant children skip conversion in the ordo salutis. Nor is it some subconscious non-event.

    In my church, I can point to scores of kids that NEVER REMEMBER not loving Christ. They can’t point to a conversion experience, but they’re clearly converted.

    Sure. But simply because we can’t remember learning certain things that we learned when we were very young doesn’t mean that we never consciously learned it. Just because I can’t remember ever not knowing X doesn’t mean I knew X from the womb.

  31. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 15, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Here is a great article about bringing the Gospel to covenant children:

    http://www.hnrc.org/files/covenant.pdf

    I’d like your thoughts as it relates to paedocommunion.

  32. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    From the article mentioned above:

    They overestimate the covenant relationship. Specifically, some
    parents overestimate the significance of their children’s bap-
    tismal membership in the visible church. They view the covenant
    as a replacement for the regeneration and conversion of their
    children. This is particularly true of those who adhere to
    Abraham Kuyper’s view of covenant children called “presumptive
    regeneration.” Kuyper taught that the covenant warrants
    the presumption that children of believers are regenerated from
    earliest infancy and possess saving grace unless they later reject
    the covenant.
    The fruits of presumptive regeneration are tragic. Parents who
    presume that their children are regenerate by virtue of the
    covenant see no need to tell their children that they must be born
    again. William Young calls this view “hyper-covenantism,”
    because the relation of children to the covenant is exaggerated to
    the point that the covenant relation replaces the need for personal
    conversion. As Young points out, “Doctrinal knowledge and ethical
    conduct according to the Word of God are sufficient for the
    Christian life without any specific religious experience of conviction
    of sin and conversion, or any need for self-examination as to
    the possession of distinguishing marks of saving grace.”

    Isn’t paedocommunion a practice rooted in “hyper-coveantism” which results in more tragedy?

  33. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

    A continuation of the above article:

    Consequently, what our Reformed forefathers called experimental
    religion is deemed largely superfluous. Ultimately,
    though Kuyperian neo-Calvinists may not like to admit it, religious
    life becomes grounded in external church institutions and
    activities rather than in the soul’s communion with God. “A system
    for breeding Pharisees, whose cry is ‘We are Abraham’s children,’
    could hardly be better calculated,” Young concludes.

    Paedocommunion, in my opinion, is just another external church institution that breeds Pharisees. It is a practice that distorts the doctrine of justification by faith alone and thereby should be viewed not as a granted exception but as false teaching.

  34. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 16, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Lauren (#32, 33):

    Given that I am not PC but have sympathies in that direction, my first thought about the article is that Beeke’s heavy-hitting point has no basis in fact:

    The fruits of presumptive regeneration are tragic. Parents who
    presume that their children are regenerate by virtue of the
    covenant see no need to tell their children that they must be born
    again. William Young calls this view “hyper-covenantism,”
    because the relation of children to the covenant is exaggerated to
    the point that the covenant relation replaces the need for personal
    conversion.

    We would agree that “parents who see no need to tell their children that they must be born again” are ridiculous; but the majority of parents who believe in some kind of presumptive regeneration are not in this category.

    It is striking that John MacArthur makes the same ill-founded argument against infant baptism. I’ve forgotten his exact wording, but he claims that parents who baptize their children as infants have no need to tell their children that they must be born again. According to him, infant baptism produces churches filled with people who think they are Christian, but aren’t. So for MacArthur, you and Beeke just aren’t taking your argument far enough. “Get out there and baptize your kids right!”

    It’s a seductive but ungrounded argument. How does Beeke know this about parents? Has he done a controlled study? You see what I mean: there’s no basis in fact for presuming to know what parents do or do not teach their children.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to say this: Churches that teach the Gospel will be more likely to have believers in them.

    That’s it. Infant baptism, paedocommunion, presumptive regeneration — all of these are secondary to this question: In the pulpit, on a regular basis, does the pastor clearly present Christ as the savior for sinners, and encourage people to look to Christ as their only hope for both justification and also sanctification?

    Jeff Cagle


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: