My Intinction Paper

I have written a paper on intinction for the Palmetto Presbytery. It might be of some interest to a few of my readers, especially given the current BCO amendment being voted on by the Presbyteries. Intinction is the practice of dipping the bread into the wine during the Lord’s Supper. My paper is historical, exegetical, and systematic-theological in its approach. The full paper is available here.


  1. Tom Troxell said,

    December 18, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Lane, thanks = I’ll comment after reading it.
    Also, good work on the new issue of The Confessional Presbyterian.

  2. Jeff said,

    December 18, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for this. Just in time, as there is a church in PA that my brother-in-law is attending that is now practicing this.

  3. Reed Here said,

    December 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Interest to a few of us? Nah, just more lame stuff! ;-)

    Seriously, saw it this morning on The Aquila Report, read the first two paragraphs and said to myself, “Stoopid Lane! Now he’s added another thing to my readin list I just gotta git to!!”

    Good stuff brother. Have downloaded it for closer reading later on. Thanks for your hard work, and especially the irenic setting of the piece.

  4. Bill Campbell said,

    December 18, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    In your last paragraph, you say, “Secondly, if our standards are so crystal clear, then why are we having this debate? And why are some churches practicing intinction?”
    I would suggest that our standards are crystal clear, and the reason we’re having this debate and grappling with several other issues in the PCA at this juncture is that we have (and are) licensing men for the ministry who do not uphold their vows, who, perhaps, find after further exposure to the culture they intend to reach that some flexibility with regard to subscription to the Standards would come in real handy right about now, and who are not held accountable by their presbyteries.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    December 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Bill, thanks for the comment. There is always a possibility that someone might not be upholding their vows. I would certainly agree that it is happening with regard to some issues in the PCA. However, as the historical portion of the paper pointed out, I don’t believe that the Standards were aimed at specifically excluding this particular view. Now, I certainly don’t believe that any early Reformed church practiced intinction. There is no evidence of it whatsoever. That means that it simply wasn’t on the radar at all. If that is so, then surely a clarification such as this amendment would be a helpful thing, don’t you think? Plus, I do not want to assume anyone’s motivation for why they might be practicing intinction. With regard to intinction, now is the time for debate, clarification, and teaching, not necessarily judicial action.

  6. Joel S said,

    December 18, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks for this. I’ve posted it on my blog as well. In my experience, most TEs and REs that I’ve talked over it with have simply never thought through it, which is not a knock against them, as I hadn’t really either until it first appeared on my radar a little over a year ago.

    I hope that your paper will stimulate some good thinking and discussion of the issue.

  7. andrew said,

    December 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    “Firstly, intinction was not practiced anywhere in Christendom except for the Greek Orthodox Church at the time of the Westminster Assembly. The Greek Orthodox were hardly regular targets of the divines’ polemics. Although there would be a few of the divines who might have known
    about the practice, it was definitely not on the radar screen at the time of the Assembly.”

    Agreed, though this could be said of paedocommunnion as well, which rears its head in LC 177. Anyone know if the minutes shed any light on Q177, or if a move away from medieval/Geneva’s custom of 10 to a later age had begun at this point?

    A well put together paper, I must say.

  8. andrew said,

    December 18, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Scrap no. 7 – I see the answer.

    Paedocommunion would have been around in a hypothetical sense in anabaptist arguements, whereas intinction doesn’t have so obvious and impact on other issues.

  9. stuart said,

    December 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Thanks for your work on this, Lane! I appreciate the time and effort that goes into writing a paper like this. I also appreciate the approach of seeing this issue as something less than an attack on the gospel but something more than assigning intinction to the category of adiaphora. For what it’s worth, I not only believe this is the right approach, I also agree with your stance on the issue itself.

    It will be interesting to see where this intinction debate goes.

    Once we open the can of worms, we can’t get them all back in . . . and once we start addressing issues like this, the door is open to question all kinds of practices. Not that I think such examination is a bad thing (I don’t), but I believe we are naive if we think that once we “settle” this issue of intinction that we will have reached the end of the matter. In fact, I think if intinction is banned in the PCA, such action will be the beginning of all kinds of things being evaluated.

    As Tevye said, “One little time you pull out a prop, and where does it stop? Where does it stop? Where does it stop?”

    On the other hand (I’m obviously channeling my inner Tevye today), if the PCA votes to allow intinction, I believe it will be harder for us to say “no” to the next fad that comes down the pike. I’m not usually one to jump to the worst case scenario slippery slope conclusions, but I think there is some validity in being concerned about what type of argument will ultimately win the day in this debate. I have yet to hear or see a good biblical defense for the practice of intinction. There are, however, lots of pragmatic concerns floating around out there that favor the practice. Which side of the biblical/pragmatic divide we land on will say a lot about who we are as a denomination and where we are going.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    December 19, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Stuart, you could be right. However, I find lots of Reformed theologians who have said that leavened/unleavened is adiaphora, and that wine/grape juice is also adiaphora, but no one says that intinction is so. To me it seems that intinction is in a different category than that. Plus, I’m not sure but what we shouldn’t examine those issues anyway. What could it hurt? That we would examine the Bible’s evidence again in order to conform more closely to what the Bible says about the Lord’s Supper? I think that would be healthy, as long as we avoid two extremes: becoming too nit-picky, which I think is a bona fide temptation; or throwing up our hands on every matter and saying that nothing matters. My sense is that the biblical data on the intinction issue is of a different category than the others mentioned above.

  11. stuart said,

    December 20, 2012 at 9:58 am

    No argument here, Lane. Personally I would enjoy having the discussion of wine/grape juice, leavened/unleavened bread on the table (no pun intended) for our denomination. Furthermore, I welcome biblical reflection on any of our practices as a church, even if it means doing away with a practice that has become something of a fixture.

    My main reason for bringing up how this issue may bring about further evaluation of our practices was not to say “let’s not do it”, but to say “let’s be ready for the possible discussions to come.” I may be wrong, but I think the real issue here is not intinction per se, but the way we as a denomination understand and apply the Regulative Principle.

    As you know, there are various opinions about how the Regulative Principle should be applied. The PCA, for better or for worse, has allowed a broad view of the RP for some time now. My guess is that those advocating intinction do not think they are violating the RP because they have taken the broader view. If we decide to tighten up our approach to and application of the RP, then we may have to ask some other hard questions about our practices.

    Again, not that I think such a re-evaluation would be a bad thing. It’s always good to go back to the Scriptures to see if we what we are doing really fits. My question is “how far are we really willing to go with this kind of evaluation?” It’s one thing to say “what YOU are practicing is not biblical” . . . it’s another thing to be willing to recognize that what I am practicing is not biblical. I hope we are all willing to recognize that possibility.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2012 at 10:34 am

    There is much wisdom in what you say, Stuart. I hope people will listen.

  13. Ryan said,

    December 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    a lovely clear presentation thank you – however from what I have seen locally, intinction is a symptom of a much more degenerative disease – the ever increasing rise of counter reformation contemplative practices. Is it just me who has noted this? is it a causal link ? or am I barking up the wrong tree as usual?

  14. December 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for the paper, Lane….

    Re. the topic Stuart began…. If we insist as a denomination on disallowing intinction then we simply must also visit the issue of grape juice/wine. I understand some Reformed theologians may have said this is adiaphora… but, seriously, talk about giving in to a cultural fad!… There is no sound exegetical argument that can be made for using grape juice. At least the intincters are concerned for use of a common cup (you might disagree on whether or not the common cup is important, but at least they have reasons for thinking it is.)

    And, too, should we disallow intinction, we ought also to begin discussion concerning ammending the BCO to specifically prescribe two distinct blessings for the bread and cup, as this was clearly the practice of Christ (it’s there in every account in the Gospels). And, further, a discussion about the significance of a common cup–or at least using actual cups rather than itty bitty baby plastic thingies–ought to begin in earnest, too.

    More importantly (and either way), the denomination should also begin taking seriously underlying principles of Reformed sacramental theology and liturgical praxis. Part of the problem with all this is that we just haven’t taken the sacraments (or worship!) seriously enough for far too long.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I hear you, Jonathan, and I would not be averse to revisiting those issues at all. The only point I’m making is that Reformed authors in the past have not put them in the same kind of category as you do here. The research I did on this indicates to me that intinction is a matter concerning the manner of presenting the Lord’s Supper. The issue of grape juice/wine is an issue concerning the substance of what constitutes a proper sign. I certainly agree that we haven’t taken worship very seriously for far too long.

  16. December 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I understand that. But I do think that we should be careful to not draw too strict a distinction between proper manner of presentation and what constitutes a proper sign. The reason I do not agree with intinction (even though I am, at least right now, for liberty on the matter… though I do appreciate your paper) is precisely because I think the actions of both eating and drinking are, properly speaking, proper outward *signs* of communion, just as are the elements of bread and wine.

    If you buy the Augustinian/Calvinist “outer–>inner” sacramental theology (as the Reformed in large part have), then everything involved in the outward rite is a sign, which the inward minister (the Holy Spirit) uses for the edification of the elect.

    And, just for the sake of clarity, my point isn’t necessarily that I think we need to ban both intiction and grape juice (or little bitty baby cups, for that matter). It’s just that I don’t buy the notion (even though I grant a certain precedent in more recent strands of the tradition) that one practice is, or should be considered, in principle more acceptable (or deviant) than the other. In other words, I do think it would be wrong to single any one practice that differs from the apostolic norm and not at least begin discussion about reforming other practices which have long been accepted.

  17. Cris Dickason said,

    December 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Jonathan @ 14
    >> a discussion about the significance of a common cup–or at least using actual cups rather than itty bitty baby plastic thingies–ought to begin in earnest, too <<

    Please, brother! Whether plastic or glass (as at my church), they are Shot Glasses, are they not? Watch your brothers and sisters next time, how many knock back that shot glass of juice or wine like the Duke in a western saloon!

    Thanks for sharing your work, Lane!


  18. December 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Cris… They are not nearly as large as shot glasses.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Ryan, thanks for your assessment of the paper. You may be right. I am hesitant at this point to make a comment, simply because I don’t want to read motivations into anyone’s actions on the intinction issue. There could be more than one reason why a church would start doing it.

  20. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    You’re welcome, Cris. I’m glad you found the paper edifying.

  21. Cris Dickason said,

    December 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Has there been a parallel interest in this in the OPC (or other NAPARC federations)? I know Lane & Reed are PCA, but I still have a gap in my recent OPC history. Just before my 18-year Canadian Reformed Exile (a joke of course), the OPC was looking into Paedocommunion, but I’m not aware of an intinction question in the OPC?

    RE in the OPC (previously same in CANRC)

  22. December 28, 2012 at 8:16 am


    I just wanted to stop by and tell you that you did a great job with this paper. Though I disagree with some of the conclusions, it was brotherly and scholarly, pastoral and academic. Well done.


  23. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Cris, I feel sure I would have seen something about it if the OPC had dealt with it in any kind of direct way. I haven’t seen a thing.

    Justin, thank you. I tried especially hard to be irenic, and I’m glad this is coming through.

  24. Mary Kathryn said,

    December 29, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Lane – I’m late in getting back to this, but enjoyed your paper (I read parts) and, as usual, your gentlemanly tone in it. I appreciate your desire to avoid assessing motivations. It should be noted that different churches may have begun using intinction for different reasons. Some PCA churches are started by folks from other denominations who are not astute on such things. One church we attended used it for a few months while we were there. I liked that the congregants were more involved and had to approach the elders. I liked standing in a line together in the aisle of the church; it seemed to make us feel like a body of hungry believers, waiting for the Bread of Life. I was glad, however, when the practice was quietly curtailed.

    Two points in the comments rang true to me: 1) we reformed folk don’t take the sacraments very seriously because we don’t like any whiff of hocus-pocus, and 2) the trend toward broadly spiritual contemplative religion has invaded our churches. A willingness to try any practice that advances such contemplation for church members, is pretty common. Pastors and elders don’t really know how to counter such ideas, even if they’re willing to.

    Again, thank you for our hard work!

  25. January 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    […] My Intinction Paper « Green Baggins – […]

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