Some Areas of Agreement

Doug and I are showing some signs that there is some ground at least, on which we can meet. I had to laugh at his dragging in Sarah Palin to the discussion (see, I can do it, too!). His waiting for me reminds me of the definition of infinity I came across a while back: two Midwesterners, one going north, and one going east, meeting at an intersection.

We agree that the Lord’s Supper is the fulfillment of various feasts and rituals, not just Passover. Venema agrees with that as well. What conclusions we draw from that may go out like two different tangents from a circle, but we do agree there.

We also agree that we should not presume a child to be unregenerated. I never presume that. However, I do not presume the other way, either. How many in the church have shown themselves to be unregenerated? Maybe even more than half, if you include all denominations of the visible church. The question is this: how should we treat children? Do borrow Doug’s own language in the Strawbridge book on infant baptism, we do not regard our new infant as the newly arrived Amalekite sitting at the table (a phrase I have always liked). Nevertheless, we still have to stress repentance and faith for each person. What is required for being present at the Lord’s Table?

Is representation part of the Lord’s Supper? Could we go that route? I am of two minds. I have never considered this particular question before. On the one hand, it feels right. Federal headship is absolutely the way to go on quite a few things, and this would fit right in with that. On the other hand, the requirements for participation in 1 Corinthians 11 seem to me to be addressed to all who would participate. We can say that small children can participate by watching and learning. But of course, that isn’t the same as actually eating and drinking. Is it true, then, that the only way of considering non-participating children as not excommunicated is by seeing them as represented by federal participation? I am not so sure about this. The federal principle is very strong indeed when it comes to baptism. Indeed, covenantal continuation and federal headship are the linchpins of the argument for baptizing children, and in so doing, we reckon them as part of the visible church. Is this not sufficient all by itself for saying that children are not excommunicated? Why would participation in the Lord’s Supper, whether actual or representative, be needed over and above baptism to say that they are part of the visible church? Besides, I thought excommunication was related only to sins that force the church to expel said member. This could not happen (or at least, it is extremely rare if not non-existent) or be said to happen about children. I think I understand the concern here: the concern is to make children feel included in church. This is entirely laudable. We don’t want them to feel excluded. But we can still say something like this: “Here is something special to which you can look forward,” just as we might say that about driver’s licenses, or voting, or drinking.

As to unbelievers partaking, the confessional position has always been that unbeliever do not partake of the thing signified in the Supper, since faith is necessary for proper partaking of the Supper. Is this Doug’s position? There are certain signs that say no, but it would be nice to clarify.

This Just In

The third volume of this important series is now out. Included in it are important articles by Ligon Duncan on covenant theology, Rowland Ward on subscription to the confessions, Donald MacLeod on the New Perspective, and Chad Van Dixhoorn on the Westminster Assembly at work, although all the articles will be well worth the read. A complete table of contents is available by clicking on the “sample pages” link available from the first link provided above. This is essential reading for those interested in the Westminster standards, especially is placing their work in historical context, as well as noting the assembly’s relevance for today’s debates.