I wrote a blog post last year on how many places in the Westminster Standards (and the PCA’s BCO) that are contradicted by the paedo-communion system. Paedo-communion is contrary to our system of doctrine and strikes at the vitals of religion. Sacraments are not adiaphora. They proclaim the gospel. Issues about the sacraments are gospel issues, therefore. The Reformers understood this much better than we do today, probably because of the implicit Zwinglianism (and worse) infecting the church at large. Most of the Reformers did not agree with Zwingli on the nature of the Lord’s Supper.
What I wish to do in this post is to examine a usually quite well-hidden assumption in the paedo-communion position concerning the benefit of the Lord’s Supper to those who do not participate. The assumption is implicit in the title of Leithart’s book, Daddy, Why Was I Excommunicated? The hidden assumption is that (in the credo-communion position) the Lord’s Supper has not only no benefit for those not old enough to participate, but actually causes harm to children when they do not participate on the basis of their age. The harm caused is usually phrased in terms of the exclusion they feel when they see others participating but they cannot.
I want to challenge this assumption rather strongly. The nature of the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of the gospel of our Lord’s death until he returns (1 Cor. 11:26). Anyone who sees it without participating can potentially benefit from it, because it is gospel proclamation. It has been known to happen that people are sometimes converted by seeing what they are missing. Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper is a great opportunity for teaching people. Everyone who hears that teaching can benefit from it. So, not only is minister preaching the gospel through the sacrament, but he is also teaching the congregation about the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.
What effect will that have on the young child who cannot yet participate? Well, he will have the gospel preached to him such that conversion might happen. Further than that, he will learn about the Lord’s Supper. Both of these things should help create a longing for that communion. This creation of a longing for deeper communion with the Lord can be the very thing that prepares him to receive the Lord’s Supper properly. So, far from excommunicating our children, we are preparing them for that communion.