Some friends have asked me what places in the Westminster Standards I feel are necessary for PC advocates to take an exception to. It is quite a long list, actually, because it is not merely the age of the participant that is important, but also how the people have to partake of the Lord’s Supper. So, here are the places I feel it is necessary for a PC advocate to take an exception (although almost none of them take an exception to these places).
WCF 27.3 tells us that the grace is not conferred by any power in the sacrament itself (even rightly used!). Rather, it depends on the work of the Spirit that brings with it the promise of benefit to worthy receivers. The definition of worthy receivers is plain elsewhere in the standards.
WCF 29.7 also says “worthy receivers.” Worthy receivers cannot be ignorant or in flagrant sin, according to other parts of the WS. In the same section, it also says “(Christ as) really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance.” This implies that He is not present to those who have no faith. Now, I think it is possible for an infant to have a seed faith and be regenerated from the womb. But I do not think we can assume that. The PC position argues that Christ is present even to the ignorant.
WCF 29.8 says that ignorant and wicked men do NOT receive the thing signified. Paedo-communion requires the exact opposite with regard to the ignorant, because infants are presumably ignorant of what the Sacrament means. In the same section, it also says that all ignorant persons are unfit to enjoy communion with Him, and they are not to be admitted to the Table.
WLC 168: basically, this entire question and almost every part of it is set against the PC position. 1. Again, the language of “worthily communicate” rules out infants here. 2. “have their union and communion with him confirmed” means that their union and communion have to have at least some visible signs exhibited previously to their participation, or else the elders cannot fence the table. 3. “testify and renew their thankfulness” implies an active thanksgiving, impossible for an infant. 4. “mutual love and fellowship” also has to do with an active (in the context everything is active, not passive) expression, not an ignorant expression of love.
WLC 169: the confession obviously interprets 1 Corinthians 11:24 in an active remembering sense when it says “in thankful remembrance.” This cuts quite against the normal PC interpretation of the passage which says that the Supper itself is a memorial, and there is no need of active remembrance for infants. Given the context of the fact that it is given “to the communicants” (therefore to all of them), it seems to me more than reasonable that this is what it means for all the congregation who participate, and this is how all are to participate.
WLC 170: This question states that the body and blood of Christ are “spiritually present to the faith of the receiver.” Given also the key phrase “worthily participate” again in this question and answer, it is apparent that the body and blood of Christ are not present to those with no faith. Again, I do not deny the possibility of some kind of seed faith (although I certainly do not presume regeneration), a more mature faith is definitely in view here. Also in this question it says “while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.” Can one really receive all these benefits without knowing that they are receiving them?
WLC 171: This entire question has to be ditched by the PC advocate, since absolutely none of this kind of preparation is possible for an infant. There are about 13 distinct acts required in this question, none of which an infant has the ability to perform. The question itself is worded in such a way “they that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper” to exclude the interpretation that says that only adults have to do this. No, it is all who receive the Lord’s Supper that have to do these actions.
WLC 173: Again, this passage tells us that the ignorant are to be kept from the sacrament. It is important to note that ignorance is quite a separate category from “scandalous.” I say this because many PC advocates argue that it is a hendiadys: “ignorant scandalousness.” But a hendiadys is usually connected by the word “and,” not the word “or.” Therefore, it is unlikely that that is the case here.
WLC 174: This entire question has to be ditched by the advocates of PC as well. I count 15 distinct actions (again required of ALL those who participate), none of which an infant is able to perform.
WLC 175: Same as 174, with 12 distinct actions required of the participant afterwards, none of which can be performed by an infant.
WLC 177: Now at last we finally get the one place where most PC advocates actually do take an exception, and this is certainly the most obvious place they have to take an exception. “only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves” certainly rules out the PC position.
WSC 91: this plainly says that the sacraments are only of benefit to those who by faith receive them. Otherwise, they are judgment. This is true both of baptism and of the Lord’s Supper.
WSC 96-97: again we have the “worthy participation” language. See the WLC questions above for more detailed argumentation. I believe that all these places are against paedo-communion, because it details exactly how ALL participants are to behave and what they are to do so that they will be participating worthily. In short, it is not just the age of the participants to the Lord’s Supper that is at issue. It is also how the Supper is to be taken. In fact, this issue is almost more fundamental, because it actually gets at the very substance of the sacrament itself.
I only want to add one more comment here about ordination of PC advocates, and trust me when I say that I mean no offense to my Baptist brethren here. In the PCA, since we have a different administration of baptism than the Baptists do, it is right and fitting that a Baptist minister should not be ordained in the PCA (or OPC, or any other denomination that practices paedobaptism). This is also true vice versa. Paedobaptists should not be ordained in a Baptist denomination. This is because our honest differences about the Sacrament of baptism are mutually exclusive and would lead to much friction if in the same denomination. We both believe that the other denomination is wrongly administering the Sacraments (although it is primarily an issue of degree, not of the mode itself). This does not mean that we should “unchurch” the other opinion. It does mean, however, that we must (normally) worship apart for the very sake of unity.
My point is this: if advocates of the WCF will not ordain a Baptist minister in their denomination, then why should we ordain PC advocates in our denomination? PC, according to advocates of the WCF, is an equal and opposite error (sort of a mirror-image error, actually, if you think about it) to credo-baptism. If we would not ordain credo-baptists in the PCA, then why should we ordain PC advocates? Both positions are equally against the Westminster Standards. Why, therefore, does the PCA and OPC somehow view PC as somehow more confessional, or at least less anti-confessional than credo-baptism is? It cannot be covenantalism, since there are plenty of non-dispensational Baptists out there who love covenant theology (even if we believe they do not apply it consistently). This is why I will never vote to ordain a PC advocate in my Presbytery.