Exceptions Required to be Taken for Paedo-Communion

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by greenbaggins, Jun 16, 2009.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    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.
  2. A.J.

    A.J. Puritan Board Junior

    Good observation. Thanks.
  3. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Lane, no offense taken by this Baptist brother.
  4. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    One possibly off-topic question. Would the WCF then be construed to teach that the 'mentally incompetant' should be barred from the table?
  5. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    The question is debated, Brad. Obviously, no one wants to be unkind to the elderly Alzheimer's patients. It might be argued that elderly folks do know what the Lord's Supper means, and are therefore in a different position from infants. However, on the reverse side, it could also be argued that unless a person is with it at the time, they will not receive the benefit. I agree with the latter position. At the same time, great care and caution must be exercised to make sure that we do not unnecessarily take people away from the table.
  6. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    OK, so what are the criteria that establishes that a person is 'with it'?

    I personally find myself to be minimally more 'mentally competent' (if at all) than an Alzheimer's patient or an infant when I think of my condition before the God who holds all the universe together.

    What about Downs Syndrome brothers?
  7. Seb

    Seb Puritan Board Junior

    Hey Lane,

    Since it's being debated in my denomination - Have you got anything like this in a Three Forms of Unity flavor? :)
  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    What, if I may be permitted to ask, is the benefit that is alleged for those who are in these categories? Does the Supper "work" somehow when faith is not actively engaged by the participant? If we say "yes", then we are adopting a Romanist stance toward the sacrament.

    As a Parent, would you allow your Downs Syndrome child (say, age 29) to ride on "Space Mountain" if you had reason to question a) his ability to "get with" the ride, or b) his safety, for any reason?

    Just because you plan to ride it, and perhaps he wants to "be with you," and participate--are those reasons "enough" to permit, no even to INSIST, on putting him on that ride?

    Taking Communion is an act of discipline. So is barring a person. If a person isn't even capable of understanding what we're doing, it is not a "censure" simply to wait--until heaven, perhaps--before this person will be in a position to fully participate (for the first time, or again after a while).

    Supposing the person was once able to understand, but has lost the ability? I imagine maintaining for a while his participation would be a good thing. But once again, at some point, "parental" shepherding must take over from our sentimental attitudes.
  9. sealdaSupralapsarian

    sealdaSupralapsarian Puritan Board Freshman

    Good sirs,

    I see where the Confessions deal with the idea of "Worhty Receivers." I certainly affirm the WCF in all of it's greatness and accuracy but again, there are weakness in many confessions we all adhere to. So I don't understand where they received the concept of a "Worthy Receiver" when all are unworthy except by Grace. Thus, if it is Grace Alone (A Sola) then how must then we appreciate the absolute Truth that it is indeed by Grace Alone we can approach the table with a clear conscience as long as we (emphasis on we/Church) are not in the same sin Paul accursed the entire Church of Corinth of.

    Was Judas a worthy receiver at the institution of the Supper? The Lord said he was a Devil yet he still received. :think:

    If Repentance is not necessary for the child before Baptism (An anabaptist argument) then why must the child repent/examine him/herself before the Table Christ welcomes all who are in Covenant with him to?

    I am certainly open to correction on this issue. Ordination of Eldership is definately up to one's personal convictions. I for one would never vote for an Elder who is not married with Children. Or an Elder who has been divorced, especially not one who is remarried. All that the WCF allot for. Therefore, again, the confessions in my opinion have their limitations and are to be used as a Guide. Yet to use them as Dogma in questionable or at least debate worthy instances is unfair in my opinion.

    I mean, the first time I said PC I was hit with the agrument of CALVIN DISAGREES WITH YOU. Okay, I disagree with Calvin on a few things as well. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary is one of many. So again, I don't advocate starting a rebellion but dialogue. If that's not attainable then I'll just keep my mouth shut on here.

    Grace and Peace,
  10. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    One caution to either side of the discussion: always be very careful when converting an adverb (ἀναξίως) into an adjective (ἀνάξιος). Whereas the adverb expresses the quality of the action, the adjective expresses the quality of the actor.
  11. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    The confession is not used to settle debates beyond what is allowable in our churches who have subscribed the same. We refer to them because we believe they are faithful to the scriptures.

    The argument against any being worthy receivers is facile and a mere sophistry, though I do assume you do not intend it as such. "Worthy" is a word with multiple meanings, and we need to understand in which sense it is being used.

    Baptism and the Supper are not the same thing, and are dispensed upon different grounds. Regarding the Supper, we have the clear scriptural testimony that a recipient is to examine themselves; baptism comes with no such requirement in scripture.

    Also, regarding paedocommunion being the practice of the church for eight or ten centuries, one of our own PB Members, Matthew Winzer, has written an article which I would encourage you to read.
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    See "The True History of Paedo-Communion," The Confessional Presbyterian 3 (2007) 27-36. Issues available at The Confessional Presbyterian
  13. sealdaSupralapsarian

    sealdaSupralapsarian Puritan Board Freshman

    Does Judas Iscariot fit either?

    -----Added 6/16/2009 at 02:23:49 EST-----

    Good sir,

    An understandable rebuttal. However, please call my attention to where I asserted that baptism and communion are the samething. Indeed, they are the two sacraments recognized by the Church (Non Catholic) but I would never say they are the samething. However, I do believe we are warranted by Scripture to administer the sacrament to all participants of the Covenant. If our children are not participants in the Covenant (We can certainly hass out what it means to be a participant of the Covenant) then what are they?

    If examining is a requirement to partake in the Sacrament of Communion then what is the person to examine themselve of is the question that needs to be answered. Also, I'd like to also add whom that person could be representing. Here is where the topic is quite up in the air. Does a man represent his household or does the house hold members represent themselves? Where did the discontinuity come from here? Very good questions to a healthy and edifying discussion.

    Grace and Peace,
  14. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation


    In lieu of engaging in this line of questioning at the present time, I would very much encourage you read the article above; and to also check out from the library Venema's recent book, Children at the Lord's Table? It may be found here. That will be a good place to start understanding the Reformed (read: Biblical) answer to PC; and if after doing so there are still aspects of our practice and belief which are still unclear, many will be more than pleased to help.
  15. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    Thanks, Bruce, for an honest and reasonable answer. I'd rather hear that than some of the waffling I've heard in the past about mental capacity.

    In the past I was pretty much convinced of PC, but determined to submit to my Elders. In recent years I have been mulling the distinction between baptism and the supper; that one is done to the believer whereas the other is done by the believer. I haven't hashed out all the ramifications (I can be pretty slow), but am tending more towards credo-communion.
  16. sealdaSupralapsarian

    sealdaSupralapsarian Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you Good sir. I'll definately take a look and may order the book. I'm certainly as stubborn as an ox in my beliefs but I'm much more of a searcher for Truth than a one settled in my own. So, the reformed answer to PC is a bit of a jump for a practice found within the Church many of us would say had at least somethings right.

    Thus perhaps a Critical analysis to PC would be better verbiage in my opinion. If one were to stick consistently with Reformed not including PC then good bye Luther for transubstantiation view of the supper...in my opinion...

    Grace and Peace,
  17. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    Luther's not Reformed. He had an incorrect view of the Lord's Supper, and of baptism, and connected with this he also denied the perseverance of the saints. On these issues arose (for the most part, RPW and other issues notwithstanding) the divide between Lutherans and the Reformed.
  18. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

    Just to clarify, a downs syndrome person may be able to read books at a second or third grade level and many can certainly understand being a sinner who needs a saviour, and also needs the body of Christ.

    I understand the point being made, but please do not randomly apply it to downs syndrome. Such persons are not necessarly ignorant or vegetative or without a love of God and the church. They may be of far sweeter and purer temperment than all the other adults taking communion.

    If you want to really throw gas on the fire, lets talk about people on psych drugs that in addition to dulling anxiety and depression, also dull the conscience. Do you really want a dulled conscience at the supper? Can such a person truly judge themselves? Where are you going to draw lines? I've been in churches with scores of folks on antidepressants, whose mood is mellowed but whose underlying (understandable due to childhood rape) anger or unforgiveness or whatever has not been even remotely dealt with. I'd sooner have a child take it than some of the women I've known on SSRIs. Just my opinion.
  19. sealdaSupralapsarian

    sealdaSupralapsarian Puritan Board Freshman

    Well from the Presbyterian's I've been around Luther was the spark of the Reformation though he had sparks before him. He was the hinge of the swing. I agree that Luther wouldn't be considered reformed but shouldn't we give ear to all beliefs on the spectrum of Sola Scriptura from which Luther comprised. Many Lutherans don't even hold consistent to the Book of Concord especially when it comes to the Doctrine of Justification.

    I will always consider Luther a Reformer and you'd be the first one I know to deny he was a reformer. Maybe not reformed in our stricter sense of the term but certainly a reformer.

    Calvin's ecclessiology was very unreformed in our sense but he gets the Label.

    Grace and Peace,

    -----Added 6/16/2009 at 04:05:24 EST-----

    If you think that's fire on the Gas. What about Pregnant mothers or Nursing mothers? Should they be excluded from communion?

    I Love responses to this question. Always entertaining...LOL...

    Grace and Peace,
  20. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    It would help if you listened to what I said: "Luther isn't Reformed".

    That's a very different thing than saying he's not a reformer, which he clearly was.

    I also beg to differ on Calvin's ecclesiology - I don't know where you get the idea that his ecclesiology was unreformed.

    At any rate, none of this has much to do with the question at hand. PC is distinctly out of bounds according to the Westminster Standards (as would transubstantiation be, or dispensational premillenialism, or a host of other ideas). We who subscribe to these confessions hold them to teach accurately the doctrines found in Scripture - and when ideas like PC explicitly contradict the Standards, it is not because the Standards are a golden calf, but because they accurately teach what Scripture teaches. PC fails that test, and as Lane has pointed out, requires a HUGE set of exceptions to the Standards.
  21. sealdaSupralapsarian

    sealdaSupralapsarian Puritan Board Freshman

  22. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I have a special needs child who at age 5 clearly shows an interest in Christ and a great love for the church. Should he continue on a similar trajectory, I would have great confidence in his going before the session to be examined for communicant membership when he is older.
  23. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    Sorry, you're incorrect in that. The terminology that is commonly used
    is that Lutherans derive their theology and practice from Luther/Melancthon,
    and Reformed derive theirs from Calvin and his direct followers and
    associates. You might not like the terminology, but it is what it is - and the
    onus is on you to prove the contrary position. Sorry about that.
  24. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Seal, I appreciate your zeal, but there are quite a few historical misunderstandings floating around. First, the distinction between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of the reformation is almost as old as the Reformation itself; there were major political and theological conflicts between the Lutheran and Reformed. This is not something up for question. It's basic fact.

    Technically, if you want to push the point, check out the Directory for Publick Worship for mention of the Doctor.

    Supralapsarianism is not out of bounds according to the standards; one has even recently argued in an article that they are implicitly supralapsarian according to the model of Samuel Rutherford, though this certainly up for debate. Either way, they avoid explicit statements on the lapsarian issue. Also, Postmillenialism is allowable by the Confession. Do not take this in a condescending manner, but it seems there are a few basic things you may need to learn about both what the Westminster Standards teach, and what they are designed to do and be.

    I of course cannot speak for Todd, but yes, I fully subscribe the 1647.

    Finally, there are Theonomists on the board; at least Reformed denomination interprets the Confession (though I believe wrongly) to be Theonomic. Some issues are more antithetical to Reformed theology and piety than others: PaedoCommunion is deemed one of them.
  25. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

    One can be Reformed without holding to the Ecclesiology of the Westminster Standards. It might do to study some history of the Reformation and the various branches of the Reformed churches before making statements as you have above. You also should study the Westminster Standards and do a search for "Doctor".

    I don't know where you get the idea that any of these positions contradict the
    Westminster Standards.

    Yes, I do.

    I've already mentioned this above. I don't think theonomy is a contradiction of the standards, and even if it is, it is not the same as PC, which requires a WHOLESALE different understanding of the covenant and the sacraments. The differences associated with the PC position are essentially the same as the differences Baptists would hold with respect to the Westminster Standards - they are VERY different (which is why the Baptists have a different confessional standard).

    Frankly, I just think that's a strange opinion, but nothing to worry about with respect to the confessional standards.

    Never said that PC'ists should be thrown out. I am arguing that they should recognize that their position contradicts the standards, and (on this board at least) be willing to not promote it. The PCA allows elders to hold to PC, but they may not teach the position. We have the same kind of policy here for it and other significant exceptions to the Standards.
  26. sealdaSupralapsarian

    sealdaSupralapsarian Puritan Board Freshman

    Where am I insisting anything about the liberal Lutherans of today and who they follow? I'm only dealing with statement of Luther being a Reformer but not Reformed. How is that not a contradiction? So it begs the question of who follows who. What is reformed and what is a reformer?

    Did you miss my other questions to you?

    Do you agree with the entire WCF?

    Are Theonomist, Post Mill, and Supra's out since the Confessions teach otherwise?

    Do you believe that Lawyers and Doctors should hold an office in the Church as Calvin?

    Grace and Peace,

    -----Added 6/16/2009 at 04:37:48 EST-----

    Goodsir Todd,

    Please hit me up on PM so we can continue this discussion. I don't want to violate what has been asked of me. Thanks for the dialogue. I believe there is much learning I can do from your points.

    Grace and Peace,
  27. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist

  28. A.J.

    A.J. Puritan Board Junior

    Sir, many will dispute your assumption here. If infants did not actually partake of the Passover meal in the OT (which you seem to deny), then there is no reason to find any "discontinuity" in the NT. It doesn't exist. That is, if the Passover meal was originally eaten only by people who could examine themselves and understand the meaning of the sacrament (Exodus 12:26, 43-48; Numbers 9:1-14; Deuteronomy 16:1-8; 2 Chronicles 30:1-8), and if the Lord's Supper has come in place of the Passover, then the Lord's Supper is only for those who can examine themselves and discern the Lord's body and blood (1 Cor. 11:27-30). There is no discontinuity in the first place. Wasn't this the pattern followed by Christ and His apostles themselves? Christ instituted the Lord's Supper during the Feast of Unleavened Bread/Passover and there were no women and children with them (Luke 22:1ff.). Unless the paedocommunist argument begs the question, he must first prove from the Passover passages that infants did partake of the Passover meal. If the controversy is to be examined from a thoroughly covenantal perspective, then it is the paedocommunist who must assume the burden of proof as to whether the partaking of the Passover meal in the OT included infants.

    What I am saying is that some Reformed scholars (notably Francis Nigel Lee and Richard Bacon) will not concede the point that infants partook of the Passover Meal in Exodus 12. There is simply no conclusive evidence from the passage. Moreover, roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and wine do not appear to be suitable food for babies. (Wine for nursing infants?) I notice that some anti-paedocommunist Reformed theologians have taken a quite different approach in the reading of Exodus 12. But in any case, both groups of scholars have arrived at the conclusion that the Bible does not teach paedocommunion and that the Reformed confessions therefore have been correct in rejecting this dangerous practice.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2009
  29. Robert Truelove

    Robert Truelove Puritan Board Sophomore

    When I did my lectures critiquing paedocommunion from the subject of institutional passover, I argued two points against paedocommunion...1. There is no solid proof that infants or women actually partook of the 1st passover. 2. Either way, it provides little proof for the issue of who was to partake of the institutional passover. The repeated examples and inferences that it was only adult males who partook of the institutional passover are numerous.

    If anyone is interested, the lectures are available for free on sermon audio...

    SermonAudio.com - Anti-Paedocommunion - The Significance of Passover (Sacraments Series - Part 6)

    SermonAudio.com - Anti-Paedocommunion - 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (Sacraments Series 7)

    The first demonstrates that only adult males partook of the institutional passover and the later is a direct response the the paedocommunion interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11.

  30. Whitefield

    Whitefield Puritan Board Junior

    A point of information: Does the issue of paedocommunion concern only infants or does it include children (e.g., a 7 year old)?
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page