Some Clarifications

Doug’s post raises two main issues, with which I will deal. The first is that he thinks my distinction between the two sacraments as having a focus on different aspects of the church (visible and invisible) will get us into hopeless contradictions. But notice his wording here. He thinks that I have split the church into visible and invisible when he says (thinking that he is portraying my argument) “one for the visible and one for the invisible.” But this isn’t quite what I’m getting at. Maybe I haven’t been clear. Let’s try again.

The confession itself makes this distinction between the visible and invisible church with regard to the sacraments. Notice that one is baptized “into the visible church” (WCF 28.1). This is what the sign means. You have to add to it the thing signified in order to have all the rest of what that section deals with. The sign and seal language belongs with all the benefits that come when a person has faith. The admission into the visible church happens without faith (or with faith, if the person is already regenerated). The Lord’s Supper, however, is said to “seal all benefits thereof unto true believers.” The language of “mystical body” in 29.1 also points this way. In response to Andrew, I will only say that both sacraments put a difference between the church and the world, but that section is not talking about just communion, but about the sacraments in general. Humankind in general is as distinct from apes as female humans are distinct from apes. Both show themselves to be distinct from apes. But that does not solve the question of whether they are both distinct in the same way. One is the broad category and the other is a narrower category.

The other main issue here is again the question of whether young children are, in effect, being excommunicated by not receiving the Lord’s Supper. I don’t know about Doug, but my experience was that the Lord’s Supper was something to which I looked forward as a privilege. I was received into full communicant status at age 10. I did not feel in the least “excluded.” The church included me in every other activity in which I could participate. It never even once occurred to me that I was being excommunicated by not being allowed to participate, nor did it occur to me that the church was somehow doubting my confession (I am fairly sure I became a believer at age 6) by not immediately allowing me to the table. So, whatever that church was doing, it was not subjecting me to any of the horrible things Doug is saying always accompanies credo-communion churches’ treatment of their children. I am an utter and complete exception to what he is talking about. I suspect I am not alone.