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.

96 Comments

  1. Matthew Tringali said,

    May 16, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    I just posted this over on Doug’s Blog as well… and will also try here…

    Pardon the interruption, but does anyone know what happened to the http://www.federal-vision.com website? It appears to no longer be up and running.

  2. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Lane,

    Thanks for clearing up your position a bit. I’ve got to be honest, I was a little baffled by your earlier post on this. Just briefly, on this,

    The admission into the visible church happens without faith (or with faith, if the person is already regenerated)

    I’d add the other possibility (that I realise – from previous discussion – doesn’t represent your personal position, but nevertheless, I think can be fairly said to be a Reformed position) which is that some are admitted to the visible church with regeneration, but without faith (or if they do have anything resembling faith, it is at best some kind of “seed” faith, to put it in Calvin’s terms).

    Just adding this to remind that there are those of us whom are just as excited by the possibility of infant regeneration… indeed whom expect (don’t know, but expect) their children to be regenerate… but who don’t feel that entails (nor does it logically have to lead to) paedo-communion.

  3. May 17, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I also had the same church experience as Lane (oddly enough), except that I don’t believe I became a Christian until age 12. Therefore, there were 6 more years for me in which not to feel excluded.

    Adrian (Lane’s twin brother)

  4. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 17, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I would like to again share this wonderful website on bringing the gospel to our covenant children and get your thoughts as it relates to paedocommunion:

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

    Here is an excerpt:

    A biblical view of our covenant children would greatly
    enhance our attempts to evangelize them properly. Before
    explaining that, let us first examine two errors that many evangelical
    parents make today in viewing their covenant children:
    • 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.”7
    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.
    Other Reformed, evangelical churches hold slightly different
    views of the covenant, such as dormant regeneration or
    covenantal regeneration. But in practice, these also place too
    much weight on externals of the covenant. They also minimize
    the necessity of a new birth, a personal relationship with God,
    and self-examination in the light of Scripture.

  5. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 17, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    http://www.notafan.com Are we raising our covenant children to be fans or followers?

  6. Pete Myers said,

    May 17, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    #4 Lauren,

    I’ve used the term “presumptive regeneration” to describe my position before now… and the consequent discussions have led me to be unsure as to whether what I mean by the term is what others mean by the term.

    I baptised my baby boy, and due to his covenant inclusion I think he’s “probably regenerate”, and I expect him to grow up demonstrating the fruits of that regeneration. From that context, whatever label people want to give to it, just a quick comment on the quote you offer. I disagree with the following statements,

    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.

    and

    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.

    My wife and I are both adult professing Christians… we both think it’s important to regularly have the spiritual experience of conviction of sin. Having both grown up in baptist households, we’ve both had a number of experiences that seem like “conversion”. I can’t pin down which one is the one where the Holy Spirit actually regenerated me :)

    Part of my regular walk as a Christian adult is to have lots of moments of conviction of sin, and lots of moments where I seem to “get the gospel” in a way that I didn’t do so before.

    And so… the belief that my child is probably regenerate doesn’t necessarily, or logically, lead to me seeing “no need to tell my children that they must be born again”. I would say a parent that sees no need to their their children they must be born again has misunderstood discipleship itself, not the covenant promises to their children.

    As I said, I haven’t read Kuyper… but the more I hear this historical argument, the more I feel that it might be a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

  7. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 18, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Pete,
    I would encourage you to read the entire article to get the context of the excerpt I cited above. It is a wonderful article that teaches parents how to nurture their covenant children in the Lord. And, it gives a very balanced and what I think is a biblical view of covenant children without over or underestimating the covenant.

  8. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    The focus in PC is on what the church is visibly doing and declaring. Just because an individual didn’t “feel” excluded does not mean the church was not in fact excluding him or her. And I still don’t see how being kept from the “communion of the body” is not a form of excommunication. Anybody else see the same root word in there?

    “religious life becomes grounded in external church institutions and
    activities rather than in the soul’s communion with God.” This is exactly why I became Reformed: because God’s salvation is in fact *grounded* is something besides my communion with Him, i.e., what He has objectively accomplished in the death and resurrection of the Son, conveyed to me through His means of grace (like preaching, baptism, and the supper–wait, those are all church activities!).

  9. Pete Myers said,

    May 18, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    #7 Lauren,

    I do promise to have a read. But I think infant baptists in my circles (Evangelical Anglican in the UK) are generally more sympathetic to the presumptive regeneration position than North American Presbyterians.

    The other thing, is that we don’t have the luxury over here of being anywhere near as clear cut on secondary issues as you guys seem to be able to be. And, the (what I consider to be) false antithesis that either I shouldn’t feel confident about my son’s regeneration, or I have to be a paedocommunionist is a little annoying.

    The paedocommunion discussion is a discussion about the differences and similarities between the sacraments. This felt like a moment when scales dropped from my eyes when I got this, after reading Witsius a little more carefully and less rushed. Witsius actually engaged with a paedocommunist position in the Economy of the Covenants, and he explicitly argues that children are not being considered to be any less Christian than adults, it’s just that the sacraments don’t represent the same thing.

    On this particular occasion, I feel that Doug tends to make an argument that is stronger rhetorically than it is logically, and is in that regard a touch unfair.

  10. Pete Myers said,

    May 18, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    #8, Joshua,

    The credo-communionist position does, indeed, need to be expressed a little more subtly. But, so does the paedo-communionist criticism.

    Of course credo-communionists are excluding their children to a certain degree. Bare minimum we are excluding our children from the Lord’s Supper… so for us to say or imply that we are not in any way excluding our children is nonsensical. The discussion is about why, what it represents, it’s implications and it’s consequences.

    However… the paedo-communist who implies or says that the credo-communionist is not including their child in any way is also nonsensical. The credo-communionist position is obviously and clearly not the same as excommunicating children. There is a measure of analogy between excluding my child from communion and excommunication because both involve some element of exclusion… but that doesn’t prove anything, nor does it warrant the strong connection people draw between those who’ve been excommunicated for unrepenant sin, and children not being admitted to communion because they’re not mature enough yet.

    Also… I think that paedocommunionist logic has already been undermined by some things that Doug has already said. Doug has already acknowledged the essential principle of the distinction between the sacraments. He has said, in defence of his position, that small children raising their hands and making other gestures is an expression of faith… and because they do that, he will admit them to the Lord’s Table.

    A consistent paedocommunionist position, however, is the practice of the Eastern Orthodox whom place the elements into infants mouths who are even only a few weeks old. From stuff Doug’s written, that wouldn’t be his practice – but why? If we baptise infants within a few weeks, why don’t we give them communion within a few weeks – maybe even at the same service?

    I’ve greatly appreciated Doug’s writings on the family and raising children in particular… however the paedocommunionist position he holds to doesn’t stack up for me. And the way he argues for it is slightly annoying, as, there’s an excluded middle of me, and a number of my friends, who very much agree with his view of children, and the very real possibility of seed faith, but don’t see paedocommunion as a necessary consequence of that because we believe the sacraments to play different roles to each other.

  11. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 18, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Here is another excerpt that addresses the proper view of the covenant and what I believe is the strong argument against paedocommunion. It is my understanding that Doug views the church as a corporate entity substituting the externals for the real internal essence of faith. That is why he seems to regard a mere outward recitation of the catechism as an expression of real faith thereby qualifying a child to partake of communion.

    Properly Estimating the Covenant
    The covenant must be viewed neither as a substitute for regeneration
    and conversion nor as a matter of secondary importance.
    The covenantal relationship, which is confirmed in infant baptism,
    means the following to believing parents:
    1. Baptized children must be born again. Our Form for the
    Administration of Baptism tells us, “Our children are conceived
    and born in sin, and therefore are children of wrath, insomuch that
    [they] cannot enter into the kingdom of God except [they] are born
    again. Our children . . . therefore are subject to all miseries, yea to
    condemnation itself.”9 The Belgic Confession of Faith says:
    We believe that, through the disobedience of Adam, original
    sin is extended to all mankind, which is a corruption
    of the whole nature, and a hereditary disease, wherewith
    infants themselves are infected, even in their mother’s
    womb, and which produceth in man all sorts of sin,
    being in him as a root thereof; and therefore is so vile and
    abominable in the sight of God that it is sufficient to condemn
    all mankind. Nor is it by any means abolished or
    done away by baptism, since sin always issues forth from
    this woeful source as water from a fountain.10
    Baptism, the sign of one’s external relationship to the
    covenant, is not sufficient for our children’s salvation. Baptism
    affirms that the baptized child is placed under covenant privileges
    and responsibilities, but does not make the child a partaker
    of the saving, internal essence of the covenant. The external
    covenant relationship can be broken when a child grows to
    adulthood and abandons God’s Word and the corporate worship
    of His people. Baptized children must be linked to the internal,
    unbreakable essence of the covenant through the regenerating
    work of the Holy Spirit ( John 3:3-7). Only then shall they be
    given persevering grace for the rest of their lives.

    Without the Spirit’s sovereign, saving work, all our efforts to
    train our children covenantally will do no more than produce
    Pharisees on the one hand or rebels on the other. Grace is not
    automatically conveyed from one generation to another through
    baptism and faithful covenantal child-rearing. Samuel
    Rutherford, a Scottish divine who stressed the value of the
    covenant of grace, wrote, “Grace always runs in the covenant of
    God, but it does not always run in the blood of the veins.” Only
    the Holy Spirit can bless our efforts and grant our children a broken
    heart and a contrite spirit (Ps. 51:17).

  12. Pete Myers said,

    May 19, 2009 at 4:02 am

    Baptized children must be linked to the internal, unbreakable essence of the covenant through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit ( John 3:3-7).

    Amen to that!

  13. jared said,

    May 19, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Lauren Kuo,

    You say,

    It is my understanding that Doug views the church as a corporate entity substituting the externals for the real internal essence of faith.

    This is a gross mischaracterization of Doug’s view. That he views the church as a corporate entity does not exclude in any way, shape or form the reality of the internal essence of faith. In this instance you can have your cake and eat it too. In Doug’s estimation (and in Scripture’s) the internal essence of faith is necessarily shown externally in the life of the believer. This works at the corporate level as well. There’s no need to substitute externals for internals because they go hand-in-hand.

    Pete Myers,

    You ask,

    A consistent paedocommunionist position, however, is the practice of the Eastern Orthodox whom place the elements into infants mouths who are even only a few weeks old. From stuff Doug’s written, that wouldn’t be his practice – but why? If we baptise infants within a few weeks, why don’t we give them communion within a few weeks – maybe even at the same service?

    This wouldn’t be Doug’s practice because he would distinguish between the cognitive capacities of an infant only a few weeks old compared to one of twelve months old. The one year old knows “something’s up” when everyone but he is drinking and eating. It’s possible the three week old knows but he cannot clearly express such knowledge, hence the fence.

  14. Reed Here said,

    May 19, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Jared:

    That is Pete’s point exactly. Strictly speaking Doug’s position is a credo- position; he requires a profession of faith for participation communion.

    Not to question motives, we should note that Doug’s position in practice is merely a defective practice of the EO practice.

    The more seminal question involves two things: 1) why does Doug require any profession of faith, and 2) what constitutes a valid/credible profession of faith?

  15. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 19, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I simply don’t find the quotes you provide on the mark, Lauren. Nobody denies the need for regeneration, and nobody argues that salvation comes because of the bloodline. Salvation comes only because of the promise, but that promise is given to believers and to their children. So, faith believes that promise, and believes that it is for their children, because that’s what God has said. Now, there are appropriate caveats, etc. (e.g., Rom. 9), but those only qualify the basic promise.

    Furthermore, “mere outward recitation of the catechism as an expression of real faith” is a sufficient qualification for *anyone at all.* The elders of the church cannot read the hearts of anyone who presents themselves for communicant membership, no matter what their age. So what standard are we supposed to set? Do we have Holy Spirit decoder rings that show who has truly been rengenerated and who has not? No, we go by profession that is not contradicted grossly and high-handedly by the life.

    And I don’t think Jared has represented Wilson accurately. Wilson doesn’t seem to make the difference cognitive discernment, but rather physical ability: when the infant begins to partake of solid food, then he can partake of the Supper. Wilson’s even said, I think, that before then the nursing infant receives the Supper indirectly through the mother.

    The primary purpose of the Supper is to be eaten, not to be mediatated upon or looked at or studied. Thus, the only requirement for admission to the table is that you can eat.

  16. Pete Myers said,

    May 19, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Wilson does make a difference of cognitive discernment. Or at least, he has in the past. If not then there’s a lot of things he’s written that need clarifying for me.

    Reed is right when he summarises my argument. Wilson basically has a credo-communionist position, where the “credo” can happen very, very, very young. This is not a true paedocommunionist position.

    Reed is also right in saying that I am claiming Wilson has a doctrinal inconsistency… which is making no statement on his character (I personally think that Wilson engages in all his discussions in an exemplary fashion that I yearn to strive towards, it’s just on this I disagree with him).

    Can I just take a moment to point out the nice irony, that, on the issue of the differences between the sacraments, Reformed Baptists are therefore far closer to the Eastern Orthodox than Reformed Infant Baptists are. Reformed Infant Baptists have, in the large part, acknowledged the difference between the nature of the sacraments, but the EOs and the RBs do not see this difference. Since all the RBs I know personally pride themselves on being more “Protestant” than I am… I just want to savour this little gem. :D

  17. jared said,

    May 19, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Reed & Pete,

    Forgive my obstinate brain, but how is Wilson’s view not a “true” PC position? He allows infants to partake, isn’t that the only defining difference between PC and CC? The nebulous “soft” and “hard” distinction that Venema tries to tether out is strained at best, imo. That Wilson doesn’t “go as far as” the EO church says nothing of inconsistency on his part. The nature of the Supper, being different from baptism, seems to warrant drawing the line at least where Wilson has drawn it, i.e. at some cognitive awareness of what’s happening in the body. Of course this would all be very foreign in a church in which the children aren’t a part of the worship service at all until they are six or seven years old (or older).

    So to answer Reed’s questions: 1) because the Supper, unlike baptism, seems to require willful participation though certainly not complete understanding (which none of us have) and 2) it seems to me that the credibility/validity of the “profession” is up to the session as they felt led by the Spirit.

  18. Pete Myers said,

    May 19, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Hey Jared,

    He allows infants to partake, isn’t that the only defining difference between PC and CC?

    The issue is what are the reasons given for allowing infants to the Lord’s Supper. Let me see if I can make this as clear as possible:

    Eastern Orthodox Paedocommunion (or the simplistic rendering of it we’re using for our purposes) says:
    Baptism = passive & given to those whom are in the covenant of grace, this includes infants by virtue of their parents inclusion.
    Communion = passive & given to those whom are in the covenant of grace, this includes infants by virtue of their parents inclusion.

    Reformed Credocommunion (again, being simplistic) says:
    Baptism = passive & given to those whom are in the covenant of grace, this includes infants by virtue of their parents inclusion.
    Communion = active & given to those whom are not only in the covenant of grace, but whom are also able to “examine themselves”, “discern the Lord’s body”, and “shew (argue for, prove) his death”. The three qualifications I’ve just lifted straight from Witsius.

    The point is, that, the true paedocommunion position equates baptism and communion. Hence the denial of a child to communion is tantamount to denying their right to baptism. The reasons for baptising the child and the reasons for giving the child communion are the same.

    Doug’s position on the other hand seems to be a bit of a mash-up. Doug argues for administering communion to small children, because he can discern signs of faith in gestures and noises they make (admittedly among other reasons). But when he makes that argument, he is recognising the active nature of communion.

    (Heads up on another layer of complexity, however, is that sometimes from things Doug says, I think he seems to want to make baptism active also. And so, even though I’ve never heard him argue this, I think it would be consistent with things he’s said before, for him to argue that baptism and communion are both active and passive…. Which I’m not going to comment on, as, it’s a hypothetical argument that I’ve put in his mouth!)

  19. tim prussic said,

    May 19, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I agree with JWDS in #8 – the issue of “feeling” excluded is not the point; the issue is being excluded. I’m pretty sure my 4-year-old feels excluded, but I’m 100% sure that he is being excluded from *that* part of corporate worship (not all, but part – and an important part).

  20. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 19, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    More excerpts:

    Baptized children must be directed to Jesus Christ and His
    sacrifice as the only way of salvation. Christ’s cleansing blood,
    symbolized by the cleansing water of baptism, is the only way by
    which our children may be saved. Baptism teaches us and our
    children “to loathe and humble ourselves before God, and seek
    for our purification and salvation without [i.e. outside of] ourselves,”
    the Reformed liturgy says.11 Question 72 of the
    Heidelberg Catechism says, “Is then the external baptism with
    water the washing away of sin itself? Not at all; for the blood of
    Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost cleanse us from all sin”
    (Matt. 3:11; 1 John 1:7).

  21. Pete Myers said,

    May 19, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Lauren.

    Sister, I’ve got to confess to now being a little behind the curve on why you’re giving these excerpts to us. Thanks for putting the time in to look them up and select them, but, are you driving at a particular point, or, just wanting to get some relevant stuff into the comment thread, ‘cos you think it would be helpful for people to read as and when?

    Even though I believe in “presumptive regeneration” (looks over my shoulder again, conscious that what I mean by that term may be very different to what someone else hears by that term), I most certainly do not believe that the baptism I gave my son was the inward work of regeneration, or forced God to do that work ex opere operando.

    I baptised him, with the expectation that he’s either already regenerate, or very likely to become regenerate. I didn’t baptise him to make him regenerate.

  22. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 19, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    More:

    Baptism demands new, heartfelt obedience to God. As our
    liturgy says, a true covenantal relationship with God requires
    repentance and love toward God, faith toward our Lord Jesus
    Christ, and a lifestyle of separation whereby “we forsake the
    world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a new and holy life.”12
    We must teach our children that they are not allowed to bring
    their “baptized foreheads” into ungodly places, to bond with
    ungodly people, or engage in ungodly activities.
    We must also teach our children that being outwardly good
    and obedient also falls short of their covenantal obligation to
    God. We must shepherd their hearts, teaching them daily by our
    words and example that they are called to holiness of heart and
    holiness of life. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 that everything is
    to be sanctified. The call to holiness is an absolute, comprehensive,
    and exclusive call involving separation from sin and consecration
    to God from the heart. “My son, give me thine heart”
    (Prov. 23:26).13

    I do not believe that Doug Wilson and his followers agree or hold to the above views. Therefore, I believe they are false teachers.

  23. Pete Myers said,

    May 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Lauren,

    I would counsel a measure of temperance.

    “False teacher” can be a strong term.

    Pete

  24. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 19, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Pete,

    I am sharing these views as a response to Doug’s argument on paedocommunion. Paedocommunion is based on a certain false understanding of baptism. Communion requires a person to be a believer and a member of the church. So, the question before us is when does a person become a believer and on what basis?

  25. Pete Myers said,

    May 19, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    #24 Lauren,

    May I suggest that the question “when does a person become a believer and on what basis?” is not getting to the heart of this particular discussion.

    DW, Lane, and I all agree that:
    One only becomes a believer because they have been elected from eternity, and then the Holy Spirit has internally regenerated their heart.

    DW and I (and C Matthew McMahon, who heads up the Puritan Board) agree that:
    The children of believers are most probably regenerate from the womb, if not they’re very likely to become regenerate later. This is not certain, but just probable.

    Despite Doug’s confusing language about lots of different things, and despite other views that you may disagree with… what I’ve said there is actually what he believes.

    However, Lane, Matthew McMahon and I all agree that:
    Paedocommunion is not a Biblical practice.

    Lauren… it is just not a simple “goodies and baddies” issue. And Doug’s view of paedocommunion basically boils down to the fact that he doesn’t see a distinction between baptism and communion.

    Thank you for the quotations, sister, they were edifying to read.

  26. David Gadbois said,

    May 19, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Joshua said Wilson’s even said, I think, that before then the nursing infant receives the Supper indirectly through the mother.

    If that is indeed what Wilson has said, it is deeply superstitious. And, incidentally, it would exclude babies who are nourished by formula.

    The primary purpose of the Supper is to be eaten, not to be mediatated upon or looked at or studied. Thus, the only requirement for admission to the table is that you can eat.

    Joshua, you seem so fixated on eating with the mouth, rather than feeding on Christ by faith. This is not a Reformed view of the Supper.

  27. tim prussic said,

    May 19, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    David, you’re just being silly!!!

  28. David Gray said,

    May 19, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    >Joshua, you seem so fixated on eating with the mouth, rather than feeding on Christ by faith. This is not a Reformed view of the Supper.

    There is a Reformed view of the supper that does not involve eating with the mouth??

  29. David Gadbois said,

    May 19, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    David Gray said There is a Reformed view of the supper that does not involve eating with the mouth??

    Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what is eaten is Christ’s own natural body and what is drunk is his own blood– but the manner in which we eat it is not by the mouth but by the Spirit, through faith. BC 35

  30. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 19, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    If many of you believe that paedocommunion is not a biblical practice, then what is it?

    What is the source of this teaching on paedocommunion? If it is considered unbiblical how can one say its source is the Word of God?

    What does paedocommunion teach us to believe about Jesus Christ as Savior? If it is an unbiblical practice, then how can we expect it to give us an accurate true picture of Jesus Christ?

    How does the unbiblical teaching of paedocommunion communicate the true Gospel of Jesus Christ? If it is an unbiblical practice, how can it not distort and lead people astray from the Gospel?

    What does this teaching say about salvation – how a person is saved? If paedocommunion is an unbiblical practice, it must contradict salvation by grace alone.

    What does paedocommunion teach about living a holy life – being sanctified? Once again, if it is an unbiblical practice, it must put aside the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in a believer”s life. For the Holy Spirit only operates within the bounds of the Word of God.

    Why has paedocommunion gained acceptance in the reformed community if it is considered an unbiblical practice? What methods have been used to deceive people into thinking that this practice and teaching is biblical?

    What is the motive for this unbiblical practice? 2 Peter says the motive for all false teaching is covetousness – greed.

  31. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Lauren, is credobaptism also an unbiblical practice? I assume that as the wife of a Presbyterian minister, you would say “yes.”

    Then by your argument in #30, are all Baptists guilty of covetousness? Does their unbiblical practice prevent them from believing in salvation by grace alone? (Tell that to John Piper!) Does the Holy Spirit not do any work in Baptist churches because He can “only operate within the bounds of the Word of God”?

    Sometimes people are just wrong about things. Sometimes, they are wrong about things and unaware of it. As the Psalmist said, “Who can discern his own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.”

    Jeff Cagle

  32. Pete Myers said,

    May 20, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Jeff said it.

    What we’re now discussing, which is very important, and clearly needs some thought on all sides, is our doctrine of error.

    I would suggest that a thoroughly biblical doctrine of error acknowledges the huge complexities involved. This is especially important to everyone here, as, most of us are involved in some kind of responsible pastoral ministry… and having a very black and white view of error (you’re either right, or you’re a false teacher) can be pastorally devastating.

    I think that Lane probably has a few really good things to say on this, and, if one day he wants to post on how we approach error biblically (not just how to disagree well, but how to classify the importance of issues in different contexts), then we would all be blesed.

  33. David Gray said,

    May 20, 2009 at 3:14 am

    >Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what is eaten is Christ’s own natural body and what is drunk is his own blood– but the manner in which we eat it is not by the mouth but by the Spirit, through faith.

    I will be surprised to learn that the Belgic Confession calls for a Lord’s Supper devoid of eating.

  34. David Gadbois said,

    May 20, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I will be surprised to learn that the Belgic Confession calls for a Lord’s Supper devoid of eating.

    David, I admit that my response wasn’t fully explanatory, but only because I thought your original response was just a throwaway argument. To spell it out – you can’t point to anything I said which would imply that the Supper doesn’t involve physical eating. So this is a straw man. We do partake of the Supper by physical eating, but this element cannot stand alone without feeding on Christ by faith. We can’t participate in the Supper merely by going through the physical acts.

    This shouldn’t be controversial.

  35. David Gray said,

    May 20, 2009 at 10:47 am

    >This shouldn’t be controversial.

    It isn’t, that makes perfect sense.

  36. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 20, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    But we also can’t participate in the Supper by sitting there and thinking about Christ’s ascended body, or by looking at the elements. The way we feed by faith is to feed by the mouth. Look at the stuff–it’s ordinary bread and wine, blessed and handed to us by men who we know sin in various ways. How on earth can this earthly, ordinary stuff in any way communicate Jesus himself to us, and eternal life? Because God said so. I don’t see Jesus’ heavenly body, I don’t see his life becoming mine through faith, I don’t see his sacrificial death. But I believe that all those things are communicated to me through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Supper, even though all the things in the supper–bread, wine, people–remain entirely ordinary. So, the act of faith in this circumstance is the act of physical eating. The words of institution include the words “Take, eat…” not “here, look at…”

  37. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 20, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    If we don’t closely identify the physical act with the spiritual one, then we’re theoretically the same as the Quakers, who so separate the physical from the spiritual that the former is dispensible, indeed, improper. The only true feeding is the spiritual one–and I hear many Reformed saying much the same thing (not necessarily here, but we all bring into the discussion our concerns from a larger context).

  38. Pete Myers said,

    May 20, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    #37 Josh,

    You’ve rightly argued that the spiritual feeding occurs with the physical act (I think?). But just because the physical is an indispensible part of the sacrament doesn’t mean that the spiritual feeding isn’t the only true feeding.

    In the supper I’m feeding on Christ spiritually, but not physically. That doesn’t mean the spiritual act can occur separate to the physical (we can’t become all yoga like and have sessions where we “really imagine” feeding on Jesus, and pretend that we’ve genuinely had the Lord’s supper)… but I do only feed on Jesus spiritually.

    Otherwise I need some form of tran- or con- substantiation to explain it. (i.e. I need to be either RC or Lutheran)

  39. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 20, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Here’s my perspective on these questions:

    -What does paedocommunion teach us to believe about Jesus Christ as Savior?

    That he saves us without any action or merit of our own–like helpless children. That he meant it when he welcomed even infants that his disciples tried to keep away.

    -How does the unbiblical teaching of paedocommunion communicate the true Gospel of Jesus Christ?

    It says, as above, that the gospel is by grace alone: adults can no more earn it or make themselves worthy of it than a helpless infant.

    -What does this teaching say about salvation – how a person is saved?

    See the previous two answers.

    -What does paedocommunion teach about living a holy life – being sanctified?

    That the Holy Spirit works sovereignly according to his own purposes, not according to our view of maturity or ability, through the appointed means of grace: word, sacrament, and prayer.

    -Why has paedocommunion gained acceptance in the reformed community if it is considered an unbiblical practice? What methods have been used to deceive people into thinking that this practice and teaching is biblical?

    This is a fallacy of complex question. Even if it is wrong, it could have gained acceptance through some degree of well-intentioned mistake, rather than through deception.

    Nota bene: I’m not sure that I’m convinced of the PC position, but I can see a gospel-oriented motivation for it…

  40. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 20, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Comment 25 stated that four people believed paedocommunion is an unbiblical practice. I was following up on the implications of that statement.

    Pete, as you wrote, this is probably for another post discussion but I would like to know how error differs from the leaven that Jesus warns against in Matthew 16:6. It seems to me that He doesn’t leave much if any room for error and “unbiblical practices”. For He understands the grave danger that even the smallest tiniest error can do to the gospel. Should we not share the same concern and vigilance?

    Paedocommunion as an unbiblical practice is part of a much larger system of theological errors. Several times on this blog, I have referred to the 45 errors listed in Mid-America Reformed Seminary’s report, “Doctrinal Testimony Regarding Recent Errors” in May 2007. That report which Doug Wilson referred to as “dog breakfast” when it first came out contains a very comprehensive analysis of the errors of the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul. Section 1.6, in addition to Section 3.7 “Sacraments of the Covenant of Grace”, 3.7.2 “Efficacy of the Sacraments”, and 3.7.4 “Lord’s Supper” addresses the errors of paedocommunion and the theology behind these errors. Yet, this excellent report seems to have been largely ignored by the reformed community. One has to wonder why. Perhaps it carries with it the need to make some drastic changes in church leadership.

    The fact that Doug Wilson offensively referred to the report as “dog breakfast” must mean that it exposes more truth than he would care to admit.

    #31 Jeff
    My husband is no longer serving in the Presbyterian church. We left in 2008 when the errors of the Federal Vision invaded and took over our former presbytery, making it impossible for him to continue to minister in good conscience. He is now a fulltime missions pastor traveling on short term assignments to countries in Asia and Europe to teach and train Chinese church leaders.

  41. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Pete, my point is this: the physical act is a spiritual act. The question is which physical act? I’d say the taking, the receiving, the eating. The transubstantiation position would require digestion to receive the spiritual life. I’m saying the act of taking, considered simply, not according to the physical process of chewing, swallowing, digesting. Again, why do we both to take this bite of bread and drink of wine? Only because we believe that through this, God mysteriously and Spiritually–not physically–gives us the very life of Christ.

  42. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 20, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Lauren, you need to be careful, it seems to me. The WCF states that even the most perfect churches under heaven have some admixure of error: there’s no such thing as perfect theology or perfect practice. If any slight error meant a denial of the gospel, then we’re all in serious trouble, unless some of us have absolutely perfect theology. Who is willing to claim that? That doesn’t mean we just ignore errors, but it also means we don’t suggest that any error is a denial of the gospel. I can see how those who hold to PC could view it as strongly affirming the gospel of grace alone (as I tried to point out in 39).

  43. Pete Myers said,

    May 20, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    #39, Josh… I share your feelings. PC advocates can have very good gospel motives for their position, I simply disagree with it, but am sympathetic to the things they care about.

    #40 Lauren,

    I hope that one of the blog admins will see we would like a post on this, and maybe share their thoughts sooner or later. :)

    Here’s some points to ponder to start with, let me know what you think…

    George Gillespie (who’s worth a read) said:

    Heresy is neither to be so far taken at large as to be extended to every error which may be confuted by scripture, although, happily, such an error be too tenaciously maintained; nor yet is it to be so far restricted as that no error shall be accounted heretical but that which is destructive to some fundamental article of the Christian faith; if, by a fundamental article, you understand such a truth, without the knowledge and faith whereof it is impossible to get salvation.

    There are different perspectives you can take on error. You are putting forward an absolute perspective. Thinking in absolute terms… you are right. Every error is somehow connected to the gospel. Every error springs from our sin, which is a dethronement of the Lord God in our lives. Every error is deeply, deeply wrong.

    However… we can’t excommunicate people for every error, because, then there’d be nobody left in the church. Yet clearly there is some error that people must be excommunicated for, isn’t there? Because our Lord told us to.

    So already, we have a distinction between error that should lead to excommunication, and error that should not lead to excommunication.

    With more thought, and more reflection, I’d argue there are thousands of such distinctions. But that’s just something to get us started.

  44. David Gadbois said,

    May 20, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Joshua said So, the act of faith in this circumstance is the act of physical eating. The words of institution include the words “Take, eat…” not “here, look at…”

    And my point is this: how can infants fulfill the ‘remember and believe’ part? They can only do the ‘take, eat’ part. This reduces the Supper to merely eating.

  45. jared said,

    May 20, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Pete Myers,

    Re #18

    You say,

    The point is, that, the true paedocommunion position equates baptism and communion. Hence the denial of a child to communion is tantamount to denying their right to baptism. The reasons for baptising the child and the reasons for giving the child communion are the same.

    Suppose I reject this conception of paedocommunion? What if i conceive of paedocommunion in the same way that Wilson presents it? Why is it not possible to hold a position in which one advocates the baptism of very young children (e.g. infants with a certain cognitive awareness) and call that position “paedocommunion”? Because the EO conceive of it differently? Moreover I think the reasons for baptising a child and giving a child communion are the same but that doesn’t mean the two sacraments need to be equated.

    You say the issue is the reason(s) given for allowing infants so let’s hit that and see what we get. In the EO position (as you have simplified it) the only reason given (or needed) is the infant’s baptism. The Reformed position also uses the child’s baptism but also requires a more advanced intellectual (which I would distinguish from cognitive) grasping of their own faith and of the gospel before allowing one to participate. Doug’s view is similar to the Reformed view except that rather than requiring the more advanced comprehension he accepts (or requires) a more basic cognitive awareness.

    Last night, after dinner, I was talking with my family (my parents and my wife’s parents) about this. My father-in-law is a ruling elder at our church (a PCA church) and he seems to interpret the PCA’s stance as a “soft” paedocommunion view (left up to the session, of course) and Wilson’s view as a “hard” paedocommunion view. Yet here you and Jeff are telling me that Wilson’s view isn’t “true” paedocommunion which, in my mind, means his view shouldn’t have that label at all. So if Wilson isn’t credo or paedo, where does that leave him and those who agree with his drawing out of these things?

    And, just to be clear, I’m not entirely sure where I stand right now. I am definitely against the EO practice (and any view like it in which the elements are “forced” upon the participant) and I am also against any view with a hard and fast “age of accountability” fence. Doug’s view appeals to me because our children are members of the covenant and if they want to eat then why should we deny them? The credo view appeals to me because Scripture seems to indicate that more than simply (or mere) cognitive awareness is required before one should be “allowed” to participate. I think the PCA’s position is the most reasonable as it gives each church the flexibility to determine where the line should be drawn themselves.

  46. David Gadbois said,

    May 20, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Doug’s view appeals to me because our children are members of the covenant and if they want to eat then why should we deny them?

    If they are just hungry they should eat at home.

    If they are just envious that they don’t get to do what the big kids do, when simply give in?

    Surely the gravity of the Supper needs to be respected more than this.

  47. jared said,

    May 21, 2009 at 12:14 am

    David Gadbois,

    I am thinking that the gravity of the Supper needs to be taught, not denied. “You can’t have this because you don’t understand what’s going on” doesn’t seem like a legitimate excuse to me when you can, alternatively, allow them to participate whilst explaining to them what’s going on and all that goes along with such an explanation (as I imagine the Israelites did during the Passover). I agree that if they are merely hungry then they should eat at home (or they should eat the Cheerios we brought for just such a purpose). However, I also think there can be more than simple envy (or hunger) in a child’s desire to partake of the Supper. Children are a heck of a lot smarter than we typically give them credit for, even at a year old.

  48. Pete Myers said,

    May 21, 2009 at 2:43 am

    #45 Jared,

    Just to clarify what I’m trying to achieve… don’t get hung up on the labels.

    I’m trying to show that in the reasoning and explanation for paedocommunion that Doug gives he has already conceded the crucial point that credocommunionists need to build their case on. In other words, that, Doug’s position begins to become self-refuting if he took his arguments to their logical conclusions. The EO argument for paedocommunion is not self-refuting in this manner… and I’m trying to illustrate that difference by saying Doug is not a “true paedocommunionist”.

    Lane (& Witsius, and I) is(/are) basically arguing that communion and baptism are different, and that the difference that is entailed between them means that communion should be left until the child reaches a measure of maturity. (There are distinctions between Lane, Witsius and I, though, that I explained above, but don’t get hung up on them.)

    But on that point where Lane, Witsius and I agree, Doug has handed us the keys when he argues for infants taking communion because the infants are capable of meeting the requirements to take communion. He’s implying that the nature of the sacrament of communion is what we think it is.

    The EO’s argument basically makes baptism and communion passive.
    Doug’s argument basically make baptism passive and communion active.

    Since the credo-communionist argument is predicated on the position that baptism and communion are distinct because baptism is passive and communion is active, Doug’s already conceded the central point.

    As to the “soft”/”hard” distinction… that’s probably because your father in law is looking at Doug’s position from a different angle. It is possible for Doug’s position to one at the same time be closer to the Reformed position in one sense, and further away from it in another sense, all at the same time… because these issues are complicated.

    Hope that’s a little clearer :)

  49. jared said,

    May 21, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Pete Myers,

    So what it looks like is that Doug affirms that the sacraments are different (which they truly are) and, because of this, his position is inconsistent while yours (and Lane’s, et. al.) is not? What you’re saying is that Doug is “fooling himself”, as it were, to think that infants can actively (i.e. in the right way/manner) participate in the Supper?

    The soft/hard distinction is meaningless if the soft position “concedes the crucial point”. As others have already pointed out in other threads, the soft view is merely a “liberal” credo view in which infants are allowed to participate given some fancy “goo goo” profession. So if Doug is really a credocommunionist then the only inconsistency is his adopting of the paedo label and, in spite of that, he really is still soundly within the Reformed tradition.

  50. Reed Here said,

    May 21, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Jared:

    You’ve said, “So if Doug is really a credocommunionist then the only inconsistency is his adopting of the paedo label and, in spite of that, he really is still soundly within the Reformed tradition.”

    Well, not really. If we accept your summary here (I’m inclined to do so) I would demure on one significant point.If all this is so, then Doug’s position is actually seriously defective. The affirming the paedo-communion label is insignificant (confusing, but not all that detrimental.)

    However, his understanding of what constitutes a credible profession of faith is so woefully inadequate as to amount to nothing more than “winking” at this principle. In affirming and then offering a defective application of it, he belittles it to the point of meaninglessness. Such defect in ministry is always serious.

    Now, I’m not saying this is what Doug is consciously all about here. I have been writing from the conclusion point you and David are reaching.

    I will say that I do find the defect, whether intentional or not, present, and it is serious. It effectively makes moot the whole concept of the necessity of a profession of faith required prior to participation.

    No need to respond to me. YOu and David keep going. Just had a few extra words itching to jump off my fingers. ;-)

  51. David Gadbois said,

    May 21, 2009 at 10:24 am

    “You can’t have this because you don’t understand what’s going on” doesn’t seem like a legitimate excuse to me when you can, alternatively, allow them to participate whilst explaining to them what’s going on and all that goes along with such an explanation

    Even if you are going to give them this sort of crash catechesis, they are going to need to be able to communicate at a higher level than a 1-year old. The person and work of Christ and the meaning and purpose of the Supper are not immediate objects that we can point at like ‘mom’ or ‘bottle.’ And how can the elders verify their understanding?

    So if Doug is really a credocommunionist then the only inconsistency is his adopting of the paedo label and, in spite of that, he really is still soundly within the Reformed tradition.

    Not at all, because it involves necessarily truncating catechesis to absurdly vacuous levels, along with a correspondingly vague and substanceless profession. It would retain the technical label of ‘credocommunion’ simply by emptying what it means to make a profession of faith. Creative, yes, Reformed, no.

  52. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 21, 2009 at 10:31 am

    #42 stated, “Lauren, you need to be careful, it seems to me. The WCF states that even the most perfect churches under heaven have some admixure of error: there’s no such thing as perfect theology or perfect practice.”

    So, are you saying that Doug Wilson is in error, but we just have to excuse him because all churches and teachers are imperfect and have some mixture of error? Are we just to ignore Jesus’ warning in Scripture and use other churches as our standard? It seems like Israel chose to do the same thing when they rejected God’s rule and reign and demanded a king to judge them like all the nations (1 Samuel 8). Look what happened to them!

    #45 wrote, “I think the PCA’s position is the most reasonable as it gives each church the flexibility to determine where the line should be drawn themselves.”

    I believe the Bible describes this view pretty accurately in Judges 21:25: Everyone did what is right in their own eyes. We have seen the fruit of this “soft” view on error right here in Louisville where the PCA is dying. Even the children of the elders see the hypocrisy and have left for other churches.

  53. David Gray said,

    May 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

    >So, are you saying that Doug Wilson is in error, but we just have to excuse him because all churches and teachers are imperfect and have some mixture of error?

    Are you in error?

  54. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 21, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Re: #44

    “Remember and believe” are added by the tradition. Jesus said only “Take and eat.” I don’t think that our act of remembrance is in view: the Greek should be translated “this is my memorial”–as in the OT memorial offerings, like the bread of the presence. And as for belief, that gets back to the question of infant faith. If there are elect infants who die in infancy, then they are saved. If they are saved, then they are saved through faith. Thus, elect infants must have faith–though how that works is known to God alone. So, ought believers to believe that their infant children are elect? Yes, because of God’s promise (not because of genetics)–that’s why they are baptized.

    Re: #52

    Notice I said that we don’t just ignore errors, we address them. And I didn’t say that we excuse errors. My point was that you seemed to be taking any error, or unbiblical practice, as a denial of the gospel. That is too extreme: we have to address errors, yes, but in a way that recognizes, in humility, that no church or confession is perfect, and that it is possible to be genuinely mistaken about a belief or practice without having denied the faith.

    I wasn’t appealing to the example of other churches, but to the confession itself.

    Even if I were appealing to other churches, that’s not the same as appealing to the nations, since the universal church is Israel.

  55. David Gadbois said,

    May 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Jesus said only “Take and eat.” I don’t think that our act of remembrance is in view: the Greek should be translated “this is my memorial”–as in the OT memorial offerings, like the bread of the presence.

    But surely when Jesus said ‘take and eat’ it was referring to taking and eating *in faith*, not taking and eating like it was just more food – Paul’s application of Jesus’ words in Corinthians demonstrates this very point. And again this is reflected in our confessional understanding of feeding on Christ by faith in the Supper.

    I also note in passing that, under any interpretation, this would still rule out communing *passive* infants (the ‘eating’ is active, the parents just can’t stick the elements into the infants mouth).

    And as for belief, that gets back to the question of infant faith. If there are elect infants who die in infancy, then they are saved. If they are saved, then they are saved through faith.

    I deny the latter premise. There is no prima facie reason why God cannot save the elect outside of the normal means, including the preached Word and faith.

    Even granting the existence of infant faith, for argument, communing infants on this basis is still dubious if indeed infant faith is conceived of as a latent faculty (as some of the old Reformers conceived of it). The faith by which we partake of the Supper is a conscious, active faith by which we commune with Christ. When I am asleep, I still have faith, but I can’t exercise it, so I cannot partake of the Supper even if I could somehow be fed the Supper. This is why we also don’t try putting bread and wine down the feeding tubes of saints who are in comas.

    But the whole idea of infant faith ought to be rejected altogether – it simply is not consistent with what we confess concerning the nature of saving faith (that it includes notitia, HC 21) but also concerning the necessity of the preached Word to create saving faith (Romans 10).

  56. Pete Myers said,

    May 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    #49 Jared,

    I think you’re confusing what you’re trying to argue here. I’m not assessing whether Doug is in the Reformed tradition or not.

    All I’ve said, is that some of the reasons Doug’s given for holding to paedocommunion actually refute other reasons he’s given. Hence his argument is self-defeating.

    Doug says:
    1) Infants can take communion, because infants can profess faith – hence demonstrating that a prior profession of faith is necessary to take communion – which means communion and baptism have different requirements of the recipients.
    2) But then in responses to Lane, Doug keeps arguing that infants should be able to take communion because they are baptised – which logic only works if baptism and communion have the same requirements of the recipients.

    This is self refuting. Either his argument is built on the requirements for baptism and communion being the same, or being different.

    #50 Reed,

    Perhaps your statement can legitimately be softened a tad. For the sake of Jared hearing the substantive point, and not getting caught up in a potential overstatement of our case:

    While infant faith is certainly not adult faith, there is something that could possibly be described as “seed” faith in some children. And Doug is not wrong to interpret the signs he does as a profession of faith that has credibility to some degree… but the profession a 2 year old gives by lifting his hands is not credible enough to meet the requirements scripture lays down for the kind of profession which is a necessary prerequisite for communion.

  57. Lauren Kuo said,

    May 21, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    #53 wrote, “Are you in error?”

    Thank you for asking. I confess that I am in error. I had the mistaken idea that it is possible to arrive at truth with a group of theologians and pastors and laymen commited to the Gospel. But I realize that a blog is a totally inappropriate venue for such an enterprise. For, a blog only lends itself to pride and ego. The goal of a blogger is to win an argument – not to effect a change of heart. I started a couple of blogs of my own in the past but I was soon convicted that my motives were often selfish.. We all have a tendency to be control freaks and blogs seem to cater to that vice.

    I have followed Green Baggins pretty regularly ever since the Federal Vision controversy came on the scene. Rarely, if at all, have I read of anyone expressing a change of heart. Rather, the blog serves more as an opportunity to dig in one’s heels and throw a few more punches without getting banned in the name of logical theological discussion. The false teaching of the Federal Vision still continues to plague the church and Doug Wilson still remains “king of the hill” in the Federal Vision blogosphere.

    Blogs are like TV soap operas – very addictive, not very redemptive in content, and they often appeal to our base nature. I must confess that I have fallen for this blog addiction. By the grace of God I plan to change.

  58. Pete Myers said,

    May 21, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve got to say, sister, that I find your remarks in your last comment unfair, and well too strong. Sin soaks everything we do.

    Besides:

    Rarely, if at all, have I read of anyone expressing a change of heart.

    This is not true. I made a massive climb-down on my FV views back in December/January.

    Ask Reed or Lane. Both of them are certainly godly guys, and they will confirm I changed my mind on big FV views (paedocommunion being one). Actually people I disagree with are godly guys too. Josh, Jared, Gary, David… they all care deeply about things that they believe to be true. I’ve had my disagreements with all of them, but just because I disagree with them it would not be godly of me to simply dismiss them as pride-soaked because they didn’t change their mind to agree with me.

  59. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 21, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Faith is the alone instrument of justification. Thus, without faith, no one can be justified. But elect infants are certainly justified. Therefore, elect infants must have faith, or else there are exceptions to justification by faith alone.

    I’m not sure how infants eating is passive–you’d have been on better ground to argue that the command is to take, which is active, and could be taken to preclude the parents giving it to the children.

    Pete, I don’t see Wilson as self-contradictory. It seems he’s providing a two-pronged response, based on the distinction between “soft” and “hard” PC. He’s pointing out infant expressions of faith in order to say that “soft” PC is actually on the traditional side of requiring the expression of faith, but Venema seems to lump both brands of PC together under the heading of “unconfessional.” So, while he would be fine with giving a bit of bread and wine to an infant upon their baptism, he’s also saying that even if we require faith, that could still admit very young children to the table. It’s a “I hold A, but we’ll say, for the sake of argument, that B…”

    This is not to dodge the questions, but to put it a different way:
    How do elect infants commune with the risen Christ? Wilson, I think, makes a good point that the debate over PC (on which I’m not decided, by the way) brings out the focus on a question of who is in the body–and, I would add, on how we commune with God. That’s worth thinking about, I suppose.

  60. Pete Myers said,

    May 21, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    It’s a “I hold A, but we’ll say, for the sake of argument, that B…”

    Fair enough, Josh. If that’s actually the way Doug is using the arguments, then, he’s not being self-refuting. I hadn’t picked up on that thought, and thought that I’d heard him make both arguments at different times as though they were the actual case he was arguing for.

    If it is A or B… then which one does Doug hold to? The “soft” or “hard” view? (and please briefly clarify what you mean by those again, as, I think I’m getting a little lost on the distinction exactly).

  61. David Gadbois said,

    May 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Joshua said Thus, without faith, no one can be justified. But elect infants are certainly justified. Therefore, elect infants must have faith, or else there are exceptions to justification by faith alone.

    Well, that’s what I’m saying – God saves elect infants outside of the ordinary means, meaning this is an exception to justification by faith alone. Berkhof commented that while regeneration is absolutely essential to salvation, conversion and faith are not (they are only normally essential).

    And even if not, it would only apply to infants *dying in infancy*, we would not be pressed to impute faith to all infants.

  62. David Gadbois said,

    May 21, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    I’m not sure how infants eating is passive–you’d have been on better ground to argue that the command is to take, which is active, and could be taken to preclude the parents giving it to the children.

    Whoops, I didn’t catch this. I did not mean to imply that all infants eat passively. What I meant to distinguish was between infants who have the capacity to take and eat the elements themselves actively and younger infants who can’t even do that (the elements have to be directly fed to them passively by their parents) – the latter being more common in EO paedocommunion than in Reformed versions.

    Of course, that brings me to ask Reformed paedocommunionists who deny the sacrament to these younger children why they are excommunicating their children. Big meanies.

  63. Pete Myers said,

    May 21, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Justification by faith alone only applies to those whom are capable of faith. That’s a standard argument Reformed Infant Baptists have used for a long time.

    Calvin tries to make some headway of dealing with the quandary by postulating a form of “seed” faith – which he defines as being merely the “germ” of faith, but he very clearly doesn’t think it is faith.

    Witsius tries to describe the process of formation a child’s mind goes through, and what faith looks like at different levels of comprehension (that’s a fascinating read that is).

    Owen just flatly states that infants can be regenerate, and yet faith doesn’t come until years later.

    In my Anglican tradition, the baptismal service talks about parents professing faith on behalf of their children. This is a way of trying to demonstrate, that, the infants are not justified apart from faith. If they are regenerate and justified (i.e. if the outward sign of baptism is genuinely accompanied by the inner spiritual grace) then the child’s justification hasn’t happened apart from the presence of faith.

    Owen has an extended treatment of children dying in infancy. Essentially, when elect children die in infancy, I think Owen believes the ordo salutis in their case is:
    Election
    Regeneration
    Justification
    Sanctification
    Glorification

    Rather than the norm, which can applies to everyone who grows old enough to discern:
    Election
    Regeneration
    Faith and Repentance
    Justification
    Sanctification
    Perseverance
    Glorification

  64. jared said,

    May 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Reed, concerning #50, point(s) taken.

    David Gadbois,

    Re. #51

    I largely agree with you. This is a serious problem for Wilson’s view if a proper view necessitates something more than what a one year old is capable of providing or achieving.

    Lauren Kuo,

    Re. #52

    I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that “Whatever you say” is the only appropriate response I can give to you. I know of no PCA churches that would admit a one year old to the table, though I know of several (including the one I attend) which have no problems admitting, say, 4-6 year olds provided that the session approves their profession. What dark times these are for the PCA! As an aside, apparently I gave a fairly credible profession at the age of 4; maybe my soul is in danger of hellfire since obviously one so young cannot comprehend so great a thing as the gospel? I have this feeling that Jesus would likely rebuke a great many credocommunionists in the same manner that He rebuked His disciples for not letting the little ones come to Him.

    Pete Myers,

    Re. #56

    Ah, I see now. I still don’t think Doug is being inconsistent though because I don’t think, even in his recent responses to Lane, that he is saying that infants should be admitted to the table only because they are baptised.

  65. David Gray said,

    May 21, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    >I confess that I am in error. I had the mistaken idea that it is possible to arrive at truth with a group of theologians and pastors and laymen commited to the Gospel. But I realize that a blog is a totally inappropriate venue for such an enterprise.

    If you believe that is your only error you are in danger.

  66. Pete Myers said,

    May 22, 2009 at 1:45 am

    #64, Jared,

    You’ve slightly charicatured my critique of Wilson’s position there. May I just flesh it out…

    Wilson’s argument against Lane is “If children are baptised, then they should be admitted to communion.” Not only because they are baptised, but because the reasons for baptising them are the same reasons for admitting them to communion. i.e.

    P1: We baptise infants because they’re Christians
    P2: We give people communion because they’re Christians
    C1: Therefore we give infants communion

    That is Doug’s argument to Lane. And if he is asserting that as well as asserting that it’s ok for infants to take communion, because we can discern a profession of faith in them, then he is putting forward two arguments that refute one another.

    If one of the arguments Doug puts forward, however, is simply an accommodation for the sake of argument (in order to make the idea of paedocommunion more palatable), as Josh suggested, then his arguments do not refute one another. However, the two positions I describe above are positions that I think I’ve heard Doug genuinely make.

  67. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 22, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Ah. So salvation itself can be received without faith, but the sign of salvation cannot. That seems odd to me. PC opponents keep insisting that faith of a certain level is required for communion. But if such faith is not required for the res ipsa, why is it required for the sign? If the thing itself can be said to belong to the infant, on what grounds do we deny them the sign?

    I suppose that gets back to the question of whether the purposes of the sacraments are the same or different, right? Which is exactly the point at issue…

    As for the question of dying in infancy not requiring us to apply it to all children of believers, that’s a different problem. If we are asking what the grounds a Christian parent has for believing their child to be elect, the answer is:
    -for a living child, the promises of God (but those are apparently uncertain, since we don’t know what will happen to the children in the future)
    -for a child who has died in infancy, the promises of God…plus death.

    I just find it odd that the promises are not sufficient grounds to consider a child saved, but the promise plus death is…

  68. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 22, 2009 at 11:02 am

    “Soft” PC is called by other “low-bar” credocommunion. That is, it says that profession of faith is required, but at a level that is very basic, which perhaps a 1 or 2 year old could show. “Hard” is paedo the way that paedobaptism is: communion is a covenant privilege for all who have been baptized, unless they are (or ought to be) under discipline.

    Although I’m not sure I’m fully convinced of PC, if I were, it would be the latter. Union with Christ and His body, growth and nourishment in grace–these things belong to the children of the covenant, unless they are actively rebelling.

    Can I renew my question about how infants participate in Christ? If they don’t have the supper, can’t process the word, don’t exercise faith…How do they commune with the risen Christ?

  69. Pete Myers said,

    May 22, 2009 at 11:05 am

    the sign of salvation cannot

    It’s not just the “sign of salvation”.

    Josh, the reason why we think there are differences in the requirements for baptism and communion is because we think there are differences in what they signify.

    Here’s some of what the Anglican catechism (my denomination) says about the two sacraments:

    What is the inward and spiritual grace? (of baptism)
    A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.
    What is the inward part, or thing signified? (of communion)
    The Body and Blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper.
    What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby? (of communion)
    The strengthening adn refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the Bread and the Wine.

    The Supper is a sign of a mature faith. Baptism is a sign of regeneration.

  70. Pete Myers said,

    May 22, 2009 at 11:10 am

    #68 Josh,

    Going on those definitions, then the “soft-pc” position is self-refuting I think.

    How do infants participate in Christ? They’re united to him spiritually through the inward regeneration of the Holy Spirit. All of the most significant ways we commune with the Lord as adults involve the mind. But since children don’t have a developed mind, then they don’t commune with the Lord in those ways.

    That’s not taking anything away from those children, it’s just being realistic about the fact that they don’t enjoy the benefits of being adults – because they’re not.

  71. Andrew said,

    May 22, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Lane,

    I still find your suggestion difficult to square with the Confession.

    As I understand it, you say that baptism can operate merely as a sign, while the Supper is to work as a sign and seal.

    But WCOF says “baptism is … not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also, to be unto him a sign and seal …” (Ch 28:1). This seems to explicitly forbid your line of reason that drives a wedge between the sign and seal.

    Alternatively, if we accept the distinctionas relevant to the discusion, you have not shown that the Supper does not act as a sign. As you acknowledge, Ch 27 explicitly teaches that the Supper acts in putting a “visible difference between those who belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world”. I fail to see (though I may be being dull-witted here) how your further dinstinguishing of ‘broad’ and ‘narrow’ signs of difference get us anywhere.

    Nor does referring to the ‘mystical body’ or the spiritual activity of communion prove anything, since the Confession uses similar language about baptism.

    As an aside, has any theologian until this post (and I ask knowing only that I am very ignorant of church history) made this visible/invisible corellation between baptism and the Lord’s Supper? A negative answer would not at all rule out the possibility of it being true, but it might suggest that it is not terribly obvious, and that it might be more fruitful to see if we can’t find a more obvious way to attack PC.

  72. Andrew said,

    May 22, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Pete,

    Have enjoyed your contibutions on this blog, and it is good to see another Brit here! But, to quibble:

    ” … the reason why we think there are differences in the requirements for baptism and communion is because we think there are differences in what they signify”

    And:

    “The Supper is a sign of a mature faith. Baptism is a sign of regeneration”

    I appreciate one does not always have time to spell things out in detail, but you presumably do not actually mean the Supper is a sign of faith (as opposed to Christ’s body/death).

    The main arguement being advanced so far by the credocommunionists is that the Supper is different from baptism in how it is appropriated (i.e. by a mature, active faith).

    Is this what you are saying? Or are you also arguing a huge difference in what the sacraments symbolise? While I wouldn’t deny differences, both seem to me to speak of Christ and salvation, and thus, if anything, to suggest that the Sacraments are for all those in Christ.

    Just trying to clarify – usually, I am good at seeing both sides of an arguement, but have yet been unable to master the anti-credocommunion one. Just trying to work out whether I am being shockingly dumb on this (and am missing some pertinent arguement), or whether the CC posistion is indeed as flimsy as it seems.

  73. Pete Myers said,

    May 22, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Andrew…

    mea culpa…

    I think my phraseology you picked up on there was poor on my part.

    Just to help you get up to speed a little bit, though. In my opinion Lane and I are in slightly different places (David would be with Lane). I affirm presumptive regeneration, i.e. when I baptised my child I presume he’s already regenerate. In my personal opinion, some of Lane’s twisting and turning with Doug are because he does’t believe in presumptive regeneration, and the problems with his position are highlighted in conversation with a paecommunionist. In actual fact, Doug’s paedocommunionist position is a reaction to the view of children held by many presbyterians in NAPARC denominations for that very reason.

    I await for Lane to smack me down on that if he chooses to :)

    But back to my statement. Both the sacraments are a sign and seal of God’s grace to us, that is true. However, that doesn’t mean they signify exactly the same thing. Baptism in particular signifies regeneration. The Lord’s supper signifies Christ’s death and the new covenant in his blood.

    Baptism is a passive sacrament. Just like I am a passive receiver of the Spirit’s work of regeneration, so I am a passive receiver of baptism. I can be such a passive receiver before I have the capacity to think – indeed before I even have a brain! The Spirit can – and I’m sure we’ll discover he has – regenerated many, many children who die in the womb, even in the very earliest days of pregnancy. All Christian parents can have confidence about their children to die in infancy therefore.

    Communion is an active sacrament. This is the distinction that both Calvin and Witsius make between baptism and communion, and so I would recommend reading both of them (both of them do think through the question of paedocommunion, and Witsius engages with an actual paedocommunionist argument). Since communion is a sign of the covenant in Christ’s blood, it’s particular significance is our covenant fellowship with Christ and one another. Such fellowship is active, it requires my participation, and requires a certain maturity.

    The argument that comes back on that, is, that surely we are in total fellowship with our children, otherwise, we’re suggesting they’re some kind of “sub standard” Christian? Well… no, we’re suggesting they’re simply not adult Christians. They have been given the sign of regeneration (baptism), and so they are real and genuine members of the church… but would you have an accountability triplet with a 4 year old? Would you have all the toddlers join in with the adult mid-week Bible studies? No… these questions sound crazy, because they are. There simply does exist a difference between the infant and the mature, a difference which God designed, and then built into the sacraments.

    That’s put a bit more carefully… but I’d invite interaction. I realise that I’ve now put myself in opposition to just about everyone on this particular thread! :)

  74. Pete Myers said,

    May 22, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    I’m very very sorry
    The sentence:

    All Christian parents can have confidence about their children to die in infancy therefore.

    Should read:

    All Christian parents can have confidence about their children who die in infancy therefore.

    Sorry if even mentioning that issue is tough for certain people. And the typing failure was not helpful, sorry.

  75. jared said,

    May 22, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Pete Myers,

    Re. 66

    You say,

    Wilson’s argument against Lane is “If children are baptised, then they should be admitted to communion.” Not only because they are baptised, but because the reasons for baptising them are the same reasons for admitting them to communion. i.e.

    P1: We baptise infants because they’re Christians
    P2: We give people communion because they’re Christians
    C1: Therefore we give infants communion

    That is Doug’s argument to Lane. And if he is asserting that as well as asserting that it’s ok for infants to take communion, because we can discern a profession of faith in them, then he is putting forward two arguments that refute one another.

    I’m pretty sure Doug’s argument to Lane is both of these points in conjunction, not separate. Yes, we allow infants to commune because they are Christians (i.e. because they are baptised) but also (and this is the important part) because they have an adequate awareness of what’s happening in the worship service. And those that don’t have such an awareness aren’t permitted for the already accepted point that the Supper isn’t merely a passive receiving like baptism. Doug does not separate the two arguments as would be necessary in order to charge him with some flagrant inconsistency.

    In other words, Doug’s argument to Lane is that if infants are baptised and they are aware their being excluded, then we admit them to the table whilst continuing to teach them about what’s taking place. Here’s his view in short;

    “At Christ Church, we do not bring newborn infants to the Table, but the usual practice is to bring one-year-olds. Since the kids stay with us through the whole service, when the children start to notice they are being passed by, we begin the process of including them. Now is this strict or soft paedocommunion? We are assuming the children are to be full participants in the sacrament of communion as they are being taught how to partake.” (emphasis his)

    And again,

    “Now the strictest paedocommunionist is happy to wait until an infant is able to “take” the bread and wine physically. When they can chew, they can come — meaning that the only barrier is a practical one, not a spiritual or theological one. The practice we follow is very similar to this, with the additional stipulation that the child should be able to mentally “chew” as well, which we know they can do as soon as they notice they aren’t getting the elements. But we are not waiting on anything to arise from within them in order to determine if they are “worthy.” We have their baptism, and that is enough. We are simply watching them closely to determine when we can start giving their birthright to them. We don’t wait to hear a profession of faith from them. The Lord’s Supper is a profession of faith, and as soon as we can, we start having them make that profession, teaching them to do it with greater and greater maturity over time.” (emphasis his)

    Why the additional stipulation? Because the Supper is an active sacrament whereas, comparatively speaking, baptism is not. It seems to me that the argument you see Doug putting forth is not exactly the argument he’s actually providing.

  76. Andrew said,

    May 22, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Pete,

    Thanks. That was helpful. I am with you on ‘presumptive regeneration’ (though the term seems to have gathered negative conatations – I know people who undoubtedly believe it, but vehemently deny it). You may well have encourtered these points, but …

    Firstly, as far as your approach goes, I think it sets about things in an unhelpful way. In something so serious as excluding church members from a central part of church life, I would look first for a command to justify this. Then I would do my theology of what is happening.

    Or at least, I would say that one’s understanding of the sacrament would have to be absolutely complete, and completely rule out infant communion, and that that understanding itself (and only it), would have to be clear and obvious from Scripture) to justify taking such drastic steps.

    In other words, the burden of proof is very high for the credocommunist. Briefly:

    – when you say baptism is passive, this is true. But it is also true that Scripture sometimes depicts it as active (e.g. in baptism we ‘put on Christ’). It often relates it to activities as well – ‘Repent and be baptized’, or ‘Believe, and be baptized’. I would also say that baptism depicts forgiveness of sins, and again this is often seen in Scripture as a subjective experience reached through faith and prayer.

    – while we can speak of adults ‘feeding on Christ’, this does not preclude infants being fed by Christ. In everyday life, we speak of ‘feeding children (they are passive)’; this does not mean they do not recieve food. My point is simply that both baptism and the Supper can have active and passive viewpoints, and if a posistion depends on denying this, I think it shaky.

    – the arguement seems to demand denying the possibility of infant faith (but see Ps 22:9, Ps. 139). If God can present himself as a object of faith in the womb and early infancy, I fail to see why he cannot be present (or even, especially present) to that child at communion. Perhaps, you are not totally persuaded of paedofaith, but the CC posisition demands not just scepticism but absolute total blanket denial of the very possibility of the thing, for otherwise the child is communing with an active faith! Do you see my concern about making practice from dubious thological points, rather than theology from biblical practice?

    – alternatively, I am open to the possibility that since the epistles and gospels are written those with mature minds, the experience of the Supper is described as they experience it (i.e. with mature faith). This is, after all how we (I presume) respond to baptist appeals to verses that link baptism and active faith. I am open to saying that Christ gives the child grace without faith. Does this make me a papist? Not at all, since I would say it does not happen automatically or do all.

    – we need to examine whether the WCOF teaching that the good of baptism is not tied to the moment of administration can aalso apply to the Supper (Knox explicitly says this of the Supper in the Scots Confession). Can soneone not actively by faith be nourished by looking back with thanksgiving at God’s grace in sustaining his faith and grace from earliest infancy, including through the sacraments?

    – that while the infant/mentally disabled does not personally benefit, the congregation is blessed by his presence – a more fitting picture of dependance on grace would be hard to picture. And so PC increases the depth of the adult’s feeding on Christ.

    In short, the seems to me to be all sorts of ways for children to be beneficially included in Communion without teaching error or contradicting our theology of the sacrament as experienced by the adult. And given the otherwise clear and simple pressures towards PC (the OT background, the meaning of the sacrament as an expression of unity, etc) I would rather err on the side of caution by including children, resting simply in God’s power and mystery, than exlcuding people on what occassionally seems overly dogmatic and complex theologies.

    If you wanted to answer briefly, and save interaction on the substance to later you could:

    a) conceed the general point that the CC explanation of the sacrament/covenant/church is going to need to be so tight and comphrehensive as to exlude the above and any other possible alternatives;

    b) say whether you sincerely think anyone has advanced the CC sufficiently to claim this;

    c), or, deny that logically, the CC posistion need be so comphrehensive.

    Hope that wasn’t too convoluted- I can clarify if need be, or indeed, discuss it after some time to think – I must read Witius, if I can get my hands on him (embarrased looks at my impovrished bookshelves! Calvin I have read. The impression I got was that he was making a rhetorical reply to a hypothetical point by an ignorant and evil sect, and thus did not seriously consider the matter. Personally, I think that half an hour with D. Wilson, or G.I Williamson, or Huss would have had him persuaded! But that is hard to prove (until heaven, anyway)!

  77. Pete Myers said,

    May 23, 2009 at 12:30 am

    #75, Jared,

    Actually, Jared, I think you’ve just proven that Doug is being self-refuting!

    The point is not whether he makes the two arguments at the same time, or at separate times… the point is those arguments logically negate each other’s premises.

    If the argument is “accept children to the Lord’s Supper because they’re real Christians, which is proved in their baptism.” Then the premise is “Being real Christians is all that’s required to come to the supper.”

    If the argument is “accdept children to the Lord’s Supper because they can meet the requirements of the Supper by expressing real faith.” Then the premise is “Being real Christian’s and being able to express faith is what’s required to come to the supper.”

    It doesn’t matter when he makes the arguments. Logically they are incompatible with each other.

  78. Pete Myers said,

    May 23, 2009 at 1:13 am

    In something so serious as excluding church members from a central part of church life, I would look first for a command to justify this. Then I would do my theology of what is happening.

    Just because you see the importance, or the seriousness, of a particular side of the argument if the other is wrong doesn’t make your point. Credocommunionists would respond by saying that taking the sacrament inappropriately is dangerous, some people died because of doing that.

    The pictures we have in the Bible are, of someone nearly facing God’s judgement for withholding the initiatory sacrament (Exodus 4v21-26), and people facing God’s judgement for taking the sacrament of fellowship presumptuously (1 Cor 11v27-30).

    So, I’d be careful of building an argument by saying “If you’re wrong, it’s dangerous, therefore we should privilege my position with the burden of proof.”

    Or at least, I would say that one’s understanding of the sacrament would have to be absolutely complete, and completely rule out infant communion, and that that understanding itself (and only it), would have to be clear and obvious from Scripture) to justify taking such drastic steps.

    And so what you’ve done there is justify setting up a straw man!

    Since the Reformers considered paedocommunion, and rejected it, actually there is a fair burden of proof to be laid at the paedocommunionists feet. Lot’s of credo-communoinist work has been done already, that needs to be refuted first.

    I think I’ve demonstrated, that, trying to tip the balance of burden on the discussion isn’t actually the best way to begin to approach the question. Let’s build up a theology of Communion first, trying to be evenhanded in our treatment of the data, and then apply that to who can take communion.

    As to baptism being active:

    It often relates it to activities as well – ‘Repent and be baptized’, or ‘Believe, and be baptized’.

    This is the classic baptist argument. And the classic paedobaptist response is that such requirements can be shown to only apply to adults.

    My point is simply that both baptism and the Supper can have active and passive viewpoints, and if a posistion depends on denying this, I think it shaky.

    The active aspects of baptism only apply to adults. The active aspects of the Supper are so connected to the Supper, that they exclude infants.

    the arguement seems to demand denying the possibility of infant faith (but see Ps 22:9, Ps. 139).

    No it doesn’t. I’ve actually addressed this earlier in the thread. The possibility of infant faith does not need to be demonstrated for the paedocommunionist case… it is the adequate profession of faith that is needed.

    Incidentally, the reason why many Reformed denominations have some sort of a ‘Confirmation’, is that this is simply a publically recognised formal profession of faith. To be confirmed in the Anglican church, you need to demonstrate evidences of repentance, and to memorise the catechism, which is basically the 10 commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, a summary of the gospel, and a defence of infant baptism… a basic ability to articulate the faith of the church.

    This isn’t to deny some kind of infant faith. But infant faith in very young infants is certainly only some kind of ‘seed’ of faith, not fully fledged faith (understanding, assent, trust… seed faith is mostly just trust as best is possible).

    since the epistles and gospels are written those with mature minds, the experience of the Supper is described as they experience it (i.e. with mature faith)

    The requirements for the Supper are so wrapped up in what it means to take the supper that this argument can’t apply to the Supper as it does to baptism.

    I’m just asserting this, so that you’ve heard the argument and we can discuss it in more depth later. But since you wrote so much, I’m just trying to give you some sort of an answer without writing reams!

    we need to examine whether the WCOF teaching that the good of baptism is not tied to the moment of administration

    Baptism is something I completely receive (i.e. regeneration). Communion is something I participate in (i.e. fellowship), so this doesn’t mae sense.

    On everything you say after that point, you are doing this:

    I would rather err on the side of caution

    But, again, beware the fallacy of seeing the errors and dangers of one side of an argument very, very clearly, but not being able to see the errors and dangers of the side you’re sympathetic to. Of course you would love me to concede what you see as the “central” point, which I would simply say is your bias :)

    I used to be a paedocommunionist, Andrew, and the arguments aren’t as strong as they feel they are when you start trying to “think your way into the shoes” of Calvin and Witsius as they engage with the pc position.

  79. David Gadbois said,

    May 24, 2009 at 1:48 am

    Ah. So salvation itself can be received without faith, but the sign of salvation cannot. That seems odd to me.

    The problem, again, is that this ‘exception’ (of JbFA) only applies to infants *dying in infancy*, not to all infants.


    As for the question of dying in infancy not requiring us to apply it to all children of believers, that’s a different problem. If we are asking what the grounds a Christian parent has for believing their child to be elect, the answer is:
    -for a living child, the promises of God (but those are apparently uncertain, since we don’t know what will happen to the children in the future)
    -for a child who has died in infancy, the promises of God…plus death.

    Again, it doesn’t help to speak of ‘the promises’ in the abstract. What, precisely, has God promised? If the promises are conditional promises of salvation – conditioned on faith in Christ, then there is nothing ‘uncertain’ about the promises as far as God’s end is concerned. And if ‘the promises’ include the promise to unconditionally save children who cannot exercise faith who are in the covenant, as exceptionary cases, then there is no inconsistency.

  80. Pete Myers said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:09 am

    #79

    The problem, again, is that this ‘exception’ (of JbFA) only applies to infants *dying in infancy*, not to all infants.

    Actually, David, can I push you on that for a little more info. I think I’d be quite interested to hear your position on infants in a bit more detail.

    While I agree with the above statement, I think there are nuances behind it I’d like to tease out, and am very interested in thinking through the non-presumptive position.

  81. Andrew said,

    May 24, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Pete,

    Thanks for that. I don’t think I explained my predicament well, so I will have another bash. Believe me, I am not trying to construct straw men, just trying to understand CC as best I can.

    The CC arguement seems to me to be something like this –

    a) I Cor 11 forbids infants to come (albeit in an indirect fashion).

    b) That what we know of how we receive the Supper, or what we know it means, precludes children.

    You mention above the necessity of a profession, as well as an active faith. Since this is an external requirement, I am tempted to put this as part of an exegesis of a), which we shall leave till the blog posts get to I Cor 11.

    If this is an inadequete summary of CC (obviously it is inadequete, but in brief outline!), by all means pull me up.

    Now the problem I have with b), the arguement from how the sacrament works, is that it seems to demand an exhaustive theory of how the sacrament works.

    It is not enough to posit that we feed on Christ by an active mature faith. That does indeed happen, but that does not prove that infants are fed in the same way. God may fed them directly and exceptionally.

    It is even possible that nothing much happens to them at all, but that their inclusion is designed to enhance the feeding of the adult. Saying this does not deny the Reformed teaching on feeding by faith at all, so simply reiterating our theology on this subject or expanding on the nature and quality of this faith is irrelevant.

    I will not expand on the explicit senario’s, or elaborate on infant faith (if you can help me with this difficulty, my next line of defence would be that infant faith does allow for active participation, but I will leave that for now).

    I am just struggling with the methodology of getting from an understanding of how the sacrament usually works, to excluding the possibility that God can work in other ways. It might well be that I am correct here, but that I cor 11 or somesuch will still provide proof for CC.

    If I could offer a loose, and slightly ridiculous analogy:

    We are standing on top of a mountain, having walked several hours to get here (the mature experience of the Supper). We can see that the mountain is landlocked, and so we rightly laugh at our friend who claimed to have got here by boat (that is, we dismiss the papist theology). You, looking at us, and the experience of everyone on the mountain, want to go further. You say that you can only get here by walking, and conclude that children cannot be here. I concur that walking seems the normal method, but point out that a baby might have been carried up on an adult’s back, or drove up in a 4×4, or even dropped off by helicopter.

    In response, it is no good elaborate on the details of walking or showing me the trails on the map: you have to be able to show that there is no way a 4×4 can get up, and that an adult could carry a baby all the way up, and that a helicopter could not land here.

    Now as far as I can see no one has attempted that sort of exhaustive analysis of the Supper: I don’t even see how the human mind could do this. For example, how could one disprove, from the nature of the sacrament only, the possibility that the child’s inclusion is there for the primary benefit of the adult recipients?

    One might, of course, try to construct something from 1 Cor. 11 and ‘unworthy recievers’ but that is a different arguement that active/passive, etc.

    Do you undertand what I mean, even if you diasagree?

  82. David Gray said,

    May 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    >And if ‘the promises’ include the promise to unconditionally save children who cannot exercise faith who are in the covenant, as exceptionary cases, then there is no inconsistency.

    This sounds an awful lot like the “age of accountability” argument with a very thin veneer of covenant…

  83. Pete Myers said,

    May 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Andrew,

    I think I do understand what you mean.

    However, I think you’re committing somewhat of a logical fallacy. You’re argument is:

    1) Because we can’t understand the doctrine of the Supper exhaustively, we can’t understand it enough to know who can and can’t take the Supper.
    2) Given 1, we should “err on the side of caution”, and assume that caution means the thing that you feel particularly strongly about and allow people to the supper who may not be suitable, rather than the caution that scripture urges us to have, which, is if we take the Supper in an unsuitable frame of mind, people in the church could die.

    You are still trying to build a case for approaching the issue from your prejudice, rather than in an even-handed manner (that’s not a statement about your motives, rather what you’re trying to get me to do).

    Just briefly, in answer to 1, we can’t understand anything exhaustively, but scripture still requires us to make judgement calls in every area.

    And in answer to 2, well, I phrased 2 to try and demonstrate what I think your error is. If there should be any bias in approaching the question, it should be a bias to not let people come to the table unless you are absolutely sure it will be safe for them. Communion is dangerous is a legitimate application of 1 Cor 11.

    Nobody, however, died from not taking communion out of reverence for the sacrament, because they were unsure of what a suitable mind looks like.

  84. john k said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    it should be a bias to not let people come to the table unless you are absolutely sure it will be safe for them

    A bit of overstatement here? What church can give absolute assurance of safety to the communicants they admit?

  85. David Gray said,

    May 24, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    >What church can give absolute assurance of safety to the communicants they admit?

    Even LCMS don’t go that far…

  86. jared said,

    May 24, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Pete Myers,

    Re. #77

    You say,

    The point is not whether he makes the two arguments at the same time, or at separate times… the point is those arguments logically negate each other’s premises.

    Nonsense. And I can show you, you continue:

    If the argument is “accept children to the Lord’s Supper because they’re real Christians, which is proved in their baptism.” Then the premise is “Being real Christians is all that’s required to come to the supper.”

    False. There’s an important word missing from your presentation of this argument as far as Doug is concerned. If the argument is “accept children to the Lord’s supper only because they’re real Christians via baptism” the premise is “being baptised is all that’s required to come to the Supper”. Doug does not make this argument. Remember? There’s that whole “with the additional stipulation that they be able to mentally ‘chew’ as well” part of his view. You continue,

    If the argument is “accdept children to the Lord’s Supper because they can meet the requirements of the Supper by expressing real faith.” Then the premise is “Being real Christian’s and being able to express faith is what’s required to come to the supper.”

    I agree that the two arguments you present are incompatible. One can’t argue that baptism is the only requirement while at the same time arguing that one must also be able to express real faith. Clearly expressing real faith is another requirement, thus baptism can’t be the only one. These two arguments are quite obviously at odds so much so that someone with a B.A. in philosophy (which Doug has, in fact I believe he has a M.A.) would notice it very quickly. Read that second quote I have carefully. Baptism is all that’s required in order to participate in a worthy manner, not all that’s required to participate. You finish,

    It doesn’t matter when he makes the arguments. Logically they are incompatible with each other.

    Okay, but I still don’t think Doug is making two different (and incompatible) arguments. He’s making one argument that you, for some reason, are splitting into two.

  87. David Gadbois said,

    May 25, 2009 at 1:51 am

    This sounds an awful lot like the “age of accountability” argument with a very thin veneer of covenant…


    The thing is that the age of accountability doctrine is premised on Arminian assumptions. After all, they say, it just wouldn’t be fair for God to damn someone without giving them the chance to accept Christ (by using their free will, no doubt). One is only ‘accountable’ for their sin (and sinful nature) if one is given the option of accepting the Gospel.

    This is opposed to the conception of God sovereignly and graciously redeeming His elect by means of the covenant. In both the case of the adults and the infant dying in infancy, the basis of salvation is the same. God’s unconditional election and mercy. Both are saved by grace alone. By faith in Christ normally, but exceptionally without the subservient means of faith.

    I contend that this is a far more elegant solution to the problem than the ad hoc tinkering with the ordo salutis or redefining (trivializing) the definition of saving faith. There is absolutely no exegetical basis for this. Scripture does not provide us with an alternate ordo salutis that applies to infants than applies to adults. And it simply is not necessary to do so in order to assert that infants who die in infacy are elect and saved.

    It worries me that those who overinflate the status of our covenant children want to diminish any real conception of a transition from wrath/guilt to mercy in their lives. If so, then we should only allow adult converts in our congregations to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ in our worship services, since covenant children would not be able to say of themselves ‘I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.’ The Bible never portrays conversion as a non-event in the life of any saint. This is not revivalistic – it simply does not delete conversion from the ordo salutis

    And as for those who advocate infant faith, this view also suffers from a complete lack of exegetical basis. Everywher in Scripture that faith is said to save or justify, it is speaking of an active faith in the person and work of Christ. It saves precisely because it lays hold of Christ’s righteousness – it is the ‘appropriating organ’ by which we appropriate His righteousness to our account in the divine courtroom. It is not merely a ‘seed’ of faith, a latent faculty, or a non-exercised, trusting inclination. This view seems to reduce faith to ‘faithiness’, in the same way that truth is to Stephen Colbert’s ‘truthiness.’

  88. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 25, 2009 at 2:53 am

    David (#87):

    I respect what you want to do here. Reading your post brings me back to the questions I asked over here:

    Does the Scripture give more support to Justification through Faith Alone, or to a model of faith that *always* includes all three elements of notitia, assens, and fiducia?

    And, does Scripture give enough information to decide whether saving faith is in essence composed of notitia, assens, and fiducia, or whether rather those three elements are symptoms of saving faith?

    For my part, I have the exact same concern that you do: “Scripture does not provide us with an alternate ordo salutis that applies to infants.”

    In that light, can you explain why removing faith as the sole instrument of justification, and of positing regeneration of infants without subsequent faith, is consistent with the traditional ordo?

    It worries me that those who overinflate the status of our covenant children want to diminish any real conception of a transition from wrath/guilt to mercy in their lives.

    It would seem that this would be a concern then for any child who cannot remember a conversion event in his or her life, since such will have no “conception of a transition.” Given that we have plenty of Christians who psychologically have no memory of not believing in Christ, what would you say to these about their salvation? Would you want them also to refrain from singing “Amazing Grace”?

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

  89. Pete Myers said,

    May 25, 2009 at 4:00 am

    #86 Jared,

    Cool down a tad, eh?

    1) On the whole “bias” thing I am arguing that we don’t come to the question of pc with a bias in either direction. I think Andrew’s attempts to tip the playing field in his favour are part of the pc rhetoric. I don’t think he’s doing that maliciously, but it’s simply a presuppositional fallacy. We’d all like our interlocutors to start from where we’re starting at. I think we should attempt to deal with the question even-handedly (as I’ve said repeatedly)… and was simply pointing out that there is lots of reasons for tipping the playing field in favour of the other team, in order to try and encourage Andrew (and you now) to take a cooler, more even-handed approach.

    2) Throwing Doug’s qualifications at me and saying that “a guy with a degree like that wouldn’t commit the kind of fallacy you’re accusing him of” is not a helpful line of discussion. I think Doug’s a nice guy, I think he’s a clever and pastoral guy, and he’s a guy I’ve benefitted from immensely. However, that doesn’t stop him getting things wrong, nor does it stop me being allowed to step back and assess for myself where those areas might be. I do not have an anti-Doug axe to grind, and have been just as fed up of seeing people grind that axe as you are. I just disagree with him on pc, and am trying to demonstrate the reasons why I disagree.

    3) Crucially… Jared, you have conceded my key point in your comment. You have admitted that if Doug were making both of those arguments they would be logically incompatible.

    You have tried to defend his reasoning by arguing that if the great Doug Wilson is making both of those arguments, then the awesome Doug Wilson couldn’t possibly make such a logical error like that, therefore the two arguments must qualify each other, because they can’t possibly negate each other if Doug Wilson says them.

    That’s not actually an argument…

    There really is no need to be quite so defensive in the way you’re defending paedocommunion. I only point that out, because, the tone of your comment hints to me, slightly, that your defensiveness would make it difficult for you to properly appreciate the weight of the opposing argument. You’re doing a similar thing to Andrew, and not stepping back properly to assess what I’m actually saying on it’s logical merits alone.

    But, Jared, the way Doug argues the two points does not allow them to be compatible with each other in the way you state. You are retrospectively reading Doug’s argument in a particular manner.

    1) Doug argues that not giving an infant communion is effectively saying they are not a real Christian, because we are excluding them from something they have a right to as real Christians.
    2) Does Doug insist on a profession of faith before administering paedobaptism? No.
    3) Does Doug wait for infants to be able to make a profession of faith before administering communion? Yes.
    4) Is the child a Christian, who has faith, in between their baptism and their communion? Doug would answer – Yes.

    Therefore, by 4… Doug is clearly withholding communion from someone he believes to have faith and be a real Christian because they are unable to profess/article that faith yet.

    Which is exactly what credo-communionists believe, however we simply believe that scripture sets a higher bar for what a suitable profession of faith is. But when Doug criticises credo-communionists for withholding communion from real Christians – he is being inconsistent, because he already does the same thing.

  90. David Gray said,

    May 25, 2009 at 7:23 am

    >And as for those who advocate infant faith, this view also suffers from a complete lack of exegetical basis. Everywher in Scripture that faith is said to save or justify, it is speaking of an active faith in the person and work of Christ.

    How does this understanding deal with adults with very limited intellectual capacity? Are they an exception to the rule as infants are in your understanding?

  91. jared said,

    May 25, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Pete Myers,

    Re. #86

    Your first list:

    1) I agree, and I don’t believe I’ve tried to tip the argument either way. As I’ve said already in this very thread (see my short response to David in #64) I find the requirement of a “solid” profession of faith a rather difficult problem for the “soft” PC view and I find the “hard” PC view untenable as I do believe the Supper is an active sacrament. Personally I’m not sure Scripture requires a profession as solid as you (and Lane, et. al.) want. All I’ve been doing in this thread is attempting to “rescue” Doug’s view from being misrepresented. You, Pete, are maintaining that Doug has presented two incompatible arguments for his position. This is simply untrue. I provided two quotes from Wilson himself to support my understanding of his view and you have merely continued to assert that he’s making two incompatible arguments. More on this to follow.

    2) I wasn’t throwing Doug’s qualifications at you, as if they are the brick that could shatter your glass argument. I was pointing out that someone with Doug’s training (which I’m a bit familiar with having a BA in philosophy myself) would not make such incompatible arguments for the same issue. But he is a sinner and he’s not perfect, so I suppose I have to concede this tirade of yours. The inconsistency between the two arguments you see Doug making is glaring, like a supernova might be from several light years away (as opposed to several million). Fortunately Doug is not making the two arguments you see him making, rather he is making one argument with elements (and not incompatible elements either) from both arguments. Again, more to follow.

    3) Yes, I have happily and merrily granted that IF Doug were making those two arguments then he would be having some consistency issues. I have not, however, attempted to defend Doug’s use of those two arguments by gonging about his logical brilliance and perfection. Rather I have shown that he doesn’t make those two arguments at all. He makes one argument that could be separated and reworked as the two arguments you have presented, but his one argument is not inconsistent or incoherent.

    Now, you present a 4 point assessment of Doug’s position in order to further demonstrate/clarify your weighty argument. And as odd as it may seem, your assessment and conclusion are largely accurate. The only apparent difference between your view and Doug’s view is that you believe Scripture sets a higher bar for what can constitute a credible (or suitable) profession of faith. This, of course, is the real crux and issue. Doug is not criticizing the credo-communionist for withholding communion from real Christians. Such withholding is inevitable given the requirement of a profession of faith. No, the criticism comes because Doug thinks infants are capable of meeting that requirement and the traditional credo-communionist does not. In other words, Doug criticizes the traditional CC view because they are withholding communion from those who have, in his estimation, met the requirements for participating. And just in case this isn’t clear, let’s present it this way too:

    You say,

    But when Doug criticises credo-communionists for withholding communion from real Christians – he is being inconsistent, because he already does the same thing.

    No, because Doug criticizes credo-communionists for withholding communion from real Christians who meet the requirements for partaking (which is supposed to be a “no no” unless they are being punished). There is no inconsistency here. Doug does not withhold communion from anyone who meets the requirements for partaking. And, just to be extra extra clear, the requirements are (1) baptism and (2) profession of faith. Actually, looking back over Doug’s post(s), the second requirement isn’t even a profession of faith proper, it’s the “ability to mentally ‘chew'” as Doug sees the Supper itself as a profession of faith. Perhaps this can put him back in the “true” paedo camp?

  92. Pete Myers said,

    May 25, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Jared… the reason why Doug’s inconsistency appears “like a supernovae only light years away” is because I’ve brought clarity to it in this comment thread. That’s what interlocutors do when you dialogue with them… they demonstrate inconsistencies in thought that you didn’t notice. Retrospectively seeing those inconsistencies always appears more obvious in hindsight.

    Jared, right from his first post in discussion with Lane, Doug was demonstrating that line of logic that you insist isn’t there that baptism and communion are inseparably linked.

    Just look at the way he commends baptists for understanding the innate connection between the sacraments (emphasis mine):

    But for those, like me, who did come from a baptistic and evangelical background, a few words are necessary. When I was baptistic, I saw the connection between paedobaptism and paedocommunion — it was one of my arguments against paedobaptism. I could see no way to bring children to one of the sacraments and not the other. This is one of the reasons (incidentally) why Reformed Baptists often understand the paedocommunion case (and related issues) far more readily than non-paedocommunionist paedobaptists do. We will leave out of this discussion (for the nonce) those representatives of the pacifist anabaptist stream, who tend toward paedocommunism.

    Before this discussion with Lane, I’d also heard Doug make arguments for paedocommunion on the basis of the innate connection between baptism and communion.

    But, look, Jared. I see the paedocommunionist discussion as analogous to discussion between baptists and infant baptists. I don’t feel as strongly about it as you do. I certainly don’t want to upset anyone over it.

  93. Andrew said,

    May 25, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Pete,

    Thanks for your response. In my first post here, I may have spoken of erring on the side of caution, which is something I am in favour of. But that may have been unhelpful, as that is not my point.

    I am not trying to tip the balances, establish rhethorical posistions, etc. Indeed I not even being so ambitious as to try to win a discussion at all. My suggestion is entirely defensive, designed to answer the arguement that PC is ruled out because we have established the methodology of how communion works, and that methodology excludes children. When I suggest that there may be other methods (or even other purposes) that is entirely defensive: it does not neccessarily establish PC.

    It does, however, force a draw. We must then either consider in greater detail who has the burden of proof, or see if there are other arguements that are more decisive.

    I see there is a new post explicitly on this topic! It isn’t easy keeping track of interlapping threads, but better on this than the comment system recently abandoned!

  94. jared said,

    May 25, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Pete Myers,

    I haven’t said the sacraments aren’t connected, nor have I said otherwise for Doug’s position. They are inseparably connected. The problem isn’t with Doug’s logic or argument, it’s with your parsing of it. You, Pete, you are reading into Doug’s singular argument two different and incompatible arguments neither of which Doug is actually making. I don’t have a problem with you (or anyone else) being an interlocutor, but if you’re going to do it, do it right.

    The problem with Doug’s position isn’t some internal inconsistency or incoherency (especially one that you are reading into it), it’s with whether or not Scripture can support his understanding of the place/role of a profession of faith (or lack thereof) within the theology of the Supper. Now, I haven’t read the new post or comment thread yet, so I’m gonna go lurk over there for a bit.

  95. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 27, 2009 at 11:49 am

    “Scripture does not provide us with an alternate ordo salutis that applies to infants than applies to adults. And it simply is not necessary to do so in order to assert that infants who die in infacy are elect and saved.”

    But several people have done just that, in comments above. There is an alternative ordo salutis for elect infants dying in infancy, one which leaves out faith, as you yourself have said repeatedly. So, there is an alternative ordo for them. You can’t have it both ways.

  96. Pete Myers said,

    May 27, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    #94,

    Jared, I think it appears that we’re just gonna have to agree to disagree on this. I see these two incompatible elements in Doug’s reasoning, you don’t.

    But I think we both seem to be agreed that the substance of the pc discussion is about what level of profession is required for someone to come to communion.


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