03 April, 2006

Babies at the Lord's Supper

Paedo~communion is a doctrine that seems to be closely connected with the New Perspective on Paul. The new perspective teaches that Paul did not have a problem with the legalism of the Judaisers in the Galatian controversy, but the problem was with the refusal of Peter to commune as a Jew while Gentiles were present. It was not a Soteriological problem in the eyes of the New Perspective, but an Ecclesiological one. The idea of paedo~communion (administering the Lord's supper to infants or children who are able to eat solid food, at the discression of the parents) in the mind of those who promote it, is that since the Church is the new Israel then all of the rules of feasts from the Old Covenant apply. Logically, this leads to the New Perspective which does not have a problem with the legalism (which they call nomism) of the Judaisers, but allows for these 'cultural differences'.

Paedo~communion is attempting to maintain the continuity of the two covenants, but it is at the expense of some of the discontinuity that the New Testament writers show to exist between the covenants. As much as I love to read Douglas Wilson and the crew at Credenda Agenda, I believe that some of his latest theological hobby horses will prove to be nothing more than a Trojan horse full of heinous error.

21 comments:

Andrew Duggan said...

That is quite a mixed metaphor. How many theoglical hobby horses does it take to make one heinous-error filled Trojan horse anyway?

In any case, you do realize that you are dangerously close to identifying yourself with a community of people that has no hope that their own works of righteousness will earn them a final justification on the day of judgement, don't you?

Nate said...

Andrew

I am not sure I know what you are talking about.

Fill me in.?

edwardseanist said...

Andrew, are you refering to the New Perspective and the Federal Visionists?

Nate said...

I am Old Perspective in respect to Paul and I have Presbyopia when it comes to the Federal Vision.

shawn said...

Hey Nate,

I noticed you didn't spend much time dealing with the theological problems of "Paedo-communion".

Let me start it out by saying, there is nothing inconsistent between the ol' Sacrament of Passover, and the Lord's Supper today. That which appears to be discontinuity, when under closer examination see that the discontinuity comes in the great divide between the Hebrews Passover, and the Judaiser's Paedo-Communion

Those who did not show an ability to examine themselves or to discern the LORD's Body did not actively participate in the Passover, but passively.

Exd 12:26 And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?

Also, in the practice of Paedoe communion itself you have parents that serve their babies, as opposed to them as members taking the cup and drinking, and taking the bread and eating.

Just as those Hebrews, who should have been teachers were still required to be taught again, and needed the milk of the Word, so it is with our babies of the Covenant.

Even the light of nature doth teach that those not fit to eat food, but drink milk only are also not fit to eat spiritual food, but to wait till move past the milk of the Word and become skillful in the Word of Righteousness.

shawn said...

Hello Andrew,

You say... "In any case, you do realize that you are dangerously close to identifying yourself with a community of people that has no hope that their own works of righteousness will earn them a final justification on the day of judgement, don't you?

I find that it is hard sometimes, especially when you don't know the person commenting, to determine if one is using sarcasm, or intends to be soberly serious.

So I will not credit or miscredit you in your comment.

I will say though that the Scriptures do not teach of a final Justification - as far as I am aware. And to position ourselves close to any doctrine of Scripture is always dangerous but also the very best place to stand firmly.

Maybe you could clarify your comment. Thanks.

Mark said...

Heh. Knew you'd like this one. It's a rather interesting argument, one which is unfortunately marred by appeals to sentiment. Not that I have anything against sentiment - it's a good thing that we should all have - I think it's oftentimes abused in these arguments.

That being said, I think the padeo-communionists raise a few important questions. Their strongest argument is the one relating to baptism - what does it mean to be baptized and in the covenant? It seems that the traditional view does embrace a sort of halfway-covenant, one that doesn't really have any Scriptural warrant.

Now, that being said, they are also running against the Reformed traditions and confessions. And while we certainly want to avoid the error of Rome, namely elevating our standards to become equal or greater than Scripture, they still carry a lot of weight. So anything that runs contra the confessions should be analyzed very carefully.

I'm already running long, but two more points. Firstly, unless I missed it Credenda didn't deal with eating and drinking judgement unto ourselves. Secondly, there were definite cases where they were reading their view into Scripture, especially when it came to discerning the body. Their explanation of that was a wee bit convoluted. Still, they raise some excellent questions, and if nothing else it forces us to rethink why we do things the way we do.

Andrew Duggan said...

I think when you boil it all down, the NPP/AAPCT/FV condenses down to the concept that one's identity as a member of the community of God's people by his baptism and his continued faithfulness in participating in the sacrament of the Eucharist together with the good works he does by the Spirit are at least part the basis of one's acceptance as righteous before God on the day of Judgement. I know many if not all who hold to that theology would disavow that condensation, but never-the-less, that's how I see it.

Having said that, my point was, to in a way as similarly understated as your post, to compliment you on speaking out against the NPP and the other errors that flow from it such as paedo-communion.

I don't think it can be denied that the NPP/AAPCT/FV types place some emphasis on one's identity with/membership in the church (aka the community of God's people), or as you pointed out in your post, in referring to Ecclesiology. Whether or not they admit it, unfortunately for them, they form a community of people that trust that their own works of righteousness, in their faithfulness will be at least part the basis of outcome of the day of Judgement. For many of that theological persuasion, if one is in the community, he is saved. If one is outside then he is lost.

You will notice that community/group I referenced in my first comment have no hope that their own righteousness will earn them a final justification. So putting it all together, that paragraph was my apparently too understated way of saying that you (I think) are among those who don't trust in themselves that they are righteous, but instead put your hope and trust in Christ alone and his sacrifice and in his righteousness.

Nate, you would agree, I think, that your only hope for acceptance before God is the righteousness of Christ (in his keeping the moral law in his active obedience during his earthly life in his state of humiliation) imputed to you and received by faith alone, and Christ's having paid the penalty of your sins in his sacrificial death, and washing them away with his shed blood and broken body.

Penultimately, along the lines the idea that if ignorance is bliss, then 'tis folly to be wise if justification is by membership in church and by continued faithfulness and obedience and participation in the Eucharist, then 'tis dangerous to trust in Christ and his righteousness alone.

Finally lest anyone be unaware of what if ignorance is bliss, then 'tis folly to be wise means, it means that ignorance is not bliss, in fact, and ignorance is not even good, because it is not foolish to be wise. Accordingly, therefore, it is not only not dangerous to trust in Christ and his righteousness and sacrifice alone, but it is, in fact, the only way of salvation.

Clearer?

Andrew Duggan said...

As a quick follow up to my most immediately previous comment, I would like to add that my last paragraph, if not the entire comment, although sounds rather condescending, I added for absolute clarity. Since blog comments are very public and it is not inconceivable that there are some who may see that as they are surfing that don't know what "ignorance is bliss" really means.

What I mean to say, is that it was not my intention to be condescending in the least. Also let me say that if I misunderstood your post, I apologize as I mean no offense to you.

In my original comment, I was merely trying to use the language of the NPP/AAPCT/FV in saying something antithetical to their theological position (as I understand it). I was hoping more to be ironic than sarcastic.

Notliberal said...

I ran across these people in Cleveland. I always found it amazing to watch them stuff bread down the throats of newborn babies. Two thousand years of Christian history and these people think their small little group is the only one to get things right. Hogwash!

edwardseanist said...

Not Liberal says, "Two thousand years of Christian history and these people think their small little group is the only one to get things right. Hogwash!" I agree with his sentiments, and I think the statement could also be applied to the NPP.

shawn said...

In my original comment, I was merely trying to use the language of the NPP/AAPCT/FV in saying something antithetical to their theological position (as I understand it). I was hoping more to be ironic than sarcastic.

Thanks Andrew. I actually took your words for this very meaning, but I did not want to assume, incase you were being sincere - which then I would try to presuade you in charity that this is not the Biblical doctrine of Justification.

shawn said...

Hey Mark

I'm not for bashing a group just because I may disagree with them, and I definately try not to bash others without even dealing with their positions. So thanks for your comments.

That being said, I think the padeo-communionists raise a few important questions.

Could you provide a couple others. I do deal with the Baptism topic below.

Their strongest argument is the one relating to baptism - what does it mean to be baptized and in the covenant?

Though this is an interesting question. It seems a more relevant one is What does it mean to be admitted to the Lord's Supper?

Firstly, unless I missed it Credenda didn't deal with eating and drinking judgement unto ourselves.

How I have seen it dealt with is by way of comparing the "Repent and be baptized" qualification. Just as infants can't repent yet are admitted to be baptized, so also they are not yet able to examine themselves, yet would be admitted to the table.

Their explanation of that was a wee bit convoluted.

Be careful not to accuse. How was it convoluted?

Thanks.

stephanie said...

i'm a reader, not a poster :) but i had to chime in.. i have six children, ages 10, 7, 5, 3, 19 mo and almost 1 mo. The four oldest have prayed to ask God to guide them and help them to make good decisions, and for Jesus to save them from their sin (which they acknowledge, to whatever amount they are capable) - i've always been kind of scared of these times, when they come, because i don't want to push anyone, least of all my children, to make a promise they don't understand or can't keep. BUT those children who have willingly entered into God's covenant, in my opinion, *should* take communion, if their conscience is no impediment - and yet children who are older who have not made that commitment, probably should not. I think it boils down to each individual's relationship, and not a specific age. But i'd love to hear why i'm wrong :)...

Mark said...

Shawn - I think the baptism question is just as important as the Lord's Supper question. The first asks what it means to be a part of the covenant, the second what the Supper is and how one is admitted to the table.

The word "convoluted" may have been the wrong choice. Their basic position was that in denying the supper to children, the elders were failing to discern the body. I'll grant that it may be correct, but it seems a bit of a stretch. But then, I've grown up with a different set of assumptions on the matter.

I think Stephanie's questions raise a very important point - what of kids who profess their faith at an early age? We're inclined to doubt the authenticity of their professions, yet I'm not sure we have a solid basis for doing so. Which leads into one of the padeocommunionists arguments, namely, are we making intellectual assent a requisite for partaking of the Supper? What's involved in self-examination? Is it beyond the ability of children to understand? I'm not saying that they're right, but I think a study of these issues would be beneficial.

Oh, and Steve's right - trying to cram the Supper down a baby's mouth is absurd. I doubt Hebrew moms force-fed their kids sheep meat at Passover, so there's really no warrant force-feeding the Supper.

shawn said...

Hey Mark, thanks for the reply.

are we making intellectual assent a requisite for partaking of the Supper?

This is exactly what I mean regarding the question what is the Lord's Supper. Though Baptism is an initiation/passive Sacrament - you receive it being ALREADY a member of the Visible Church, The Supper is an active/probationary sacrament - meaning you have to have the ability to examine yourself.

This examination would prove you NEED to have a certain degree of knowledge and intellectual agreement.

This was the same in the Passover - you did not eat of it, just because you could eat, but after being properly catechised, AND UNDERSTOOD THE CATECHISM - Exd 12:26.

Our own confession understands this principle and puts forward that the Supper is inappropriate for those who are ignorant - because they can't discern the Lord's Body, or examine themselves.

I think the right answer as far as admission is there needs to be a bar - a minimal amount of knowledge and understanding one has, whether a new Christian convert, a little child, or new to the Reformed Faith.

That bar has been understood in Reformed Churches as their catechismal standard. For Presbyterians it would be the Shorter Cat.

If you would like to see the example my church has it is at:
Lord's Supper Exam

In Covenanted times they would examine your children at age 9 - if they passed, great! But if they needed work, the elders could tell the child's parents where they needed work.

Then again at age 12 they would be examined - it was understood that the parents would have taken the elder's earlier direction.

If it was necessary they would examine again at 14.

Now remember, in their context they catechised their children in Church each Lord's Day as well.

Oh, and Steve's right - trying to cram the Supper down a baby's mouth is absurd. I doubt Hebrew moms force-fed their kids sheep meat at Passover, so there's really no warrant force-feeding the Supper.

True, imagine the theological implications - You can only be fed Christ, not by faith, but by parental assistance. Yikes!

Another interesting question is whether the women and children under age 13 even partook of the Passover meal. - I doubt it.

Mark said...

I think that the only qualm I'd have with the covenanted approach is that choosing to examine them at age nine seems a bit arbitrary. There are five-year-olds who know and understand the catechisms, unless there's a Biblical basis for waiting until they've reached a certain age (bar mitzvah!) I don't think there's any reason to make age a requirement for profession.


Reg. women and children under 13 - Exodus 12:3-4 refer to getting a lamb for a household. And it goes on to say that if it's too much for one house, to have the neighbors over and let them dig in.

Exd. 12:26 does emphasize catechizing children. But it's also a one-question catechism.

Anyhow, it's a very practical thing to be discussing. I love being challenged to think these things through, which is one of the reasons why Nate's blog rocks so much.

Casual Commentator said...

"In Covenanted times they would examine your children at age 9 - if they passed, great! But if they needed work, the elders could tell the child's parents where they needed work.
Then again at age 12 they would be examined - it was understood that the parents would have taken the elder's earlier direction."

Then there are those historic theological figures of a more thoroughly antiquated sort, predating Westminster, who make statements in the line of if congregant's children are not able to give a thorough account of their beliefs at age ten, there's still time enough to discipline the parents.

"In Covenanted times..."
When the sign of the covenant started to be administered to believers and their seed?

Nate said...

Casual Commentator:

I am slow sometimes....


did you just say something?

Anonymous said...

I lean toward 'age appropriate' communion participation.

For those of you who don't, how do you answer you children when they ask why they can't participate. I cannot imagine saying to my child, "because even though you think you understand and claim to love Jesus you really don't get it. When you understand "better" then you can be part of the body of Christ"

Anonymous said...

I came across this blog surfing and thought I'd throw two cents in to the paedocommunion dialogue...
I think its interesting that sermons aren't rated PG,AA, or R, but that kids can still sit under that "means of grace", though I'm sure their developing vocabularies struggle with words like sanctification...
As well, setting a "spiritual bar" and requiring communicants to attain a certain "level" of understanding, and to "work" at it until they "passed" seems to miss the point of grace...after all, did the disciples really understand what was going on? It seems to me that setting standards using that language like that communicates a works righteousness.