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Opening a new can of worms...

Lindsey wrote me an e-mail, saying, "I'd like to see some sort of blog discussion about paedocommunion [i.e., infant communion]." We here at Of Bald Men and Bears aim to please our readership, so here we go!

If you are unfamiliar with the issue, allow me to give a brief explanation. Baptists, of course, say that baptism should be withheld from any who cannot make a profession of faith. Then, they withhold communion from any who are unbaptized, so only believers are partaking of the Lord's Supper. This is especially important because Paul writes, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:27).

For Presbyterians, however, the waters of this issue are a bit muddier since we baptize on the grounds of covenant membership, not professed belief. So, just as infant Hebrew boys were circumcised, we baptize the infants of Christians. Circumcision and baptism make up one set of the covenant signs (sacraments) that God has given to his people as an assurance of his covenant promises.

But here's where the problem comes in: the other set of covenant signs that God gave his people are the Passover feast and the Lord's Supper. There is no particular indication that very young children were excluded from Passover, and the only requirement seems to be that the boys/men were circumcised (Ex. 12:48). So, many Presbyterians argue that baptized children should be allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper as soon as they are capable.

Other Presbyterians, however, point back to 1 Cor. 11:27 to note that small children are incapable of preparing themselves for communion; therefore, it is highly likely that they might partake in an unworthy manner, and therefore would be eating and drinking judgment on themselves (1 Cor. 11:29). The Westminster Confession of Faith, and therefore the Presbyterian Church in America, take this stance.

As for me, I've given some measure of thought to this issue, but I don't know that I have a strong opinion either way. So, for the time being, I'm content to submit myself to the authority of the Westminster Confession and accept their interpretation as the proper administration of the Lord's Supper.

That said, I have heard one good argument that might push me in the other direction: I don't know where I heard this, but someone somewhere made a point that Paul, in 1 Cor. 11, is writing about unworthy partaking of the Lord's Supper rather than unworthy partakers. So, he is writing against those who would stuff themselves on the bread and get drunk on the wine, even while some go without. He is not, technically speaking, writing about people with unrepentant sinfulness in their lives.

So, there are two important questions to ask: (1) Does what Paul says extend in its significance to exclude people with sin who come unrepentantly to the Table? and (2) If so, to what degree must covenant children be able to consciously repent before being admitted to the Table?

And, with that, let's open the floor to discussion.

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I'm a Presbyterian pastor (part-time at the moment), and when I went through the exams and interviews for ordination at Presbytery, I took an "Exception" to the Westminster standards because I believe that when a child is old enough to reach out and take, it is wrong to slap his little hand and say "no, you don't understand." Well, the one thing he *does* understand is that everybody else gets some but he doesn't, and that is not what the covenant meal is designed to do. The kid belongs to Jesus by his baptism. So feed him already.

By the way, my "exception" only means that I am allowed to believe something contrary to Westminster -- it doesn't mean I can practice it in my church.

There's lots of good stuff at this site:
Tim Gallant who runs the site has also written an excellent book "Feed My Lambs". It is killer.

And if you really want the full story, read "Paedofaith" by Rich Lusk. Awe. Some.

I lean paedobaptist and paedocommunion. I think they sort of go hand-in-hand for consistency. The Lord's Supper replaced the feasts in the way that baptism replaced the cleansing rituals, and children (as you pointed out) were allowed to take part in the feasts. The Cor. passage is the only one that might suggest a change in administration, and given that Paul was not addressing the issue of children in it, I think it's a weak argument against paedocommunion.

A little historical tie-in: I'm reading Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden and find it interesting that Edwards was thrown out by the Northhampton congregation for requiring "heartfelt evidence" of conversion for full church membership, and then wanted to restrict communion to full-professing members and baptism only to children of full-professing members.

I get the impression that Edwards' position was the typical practice in colonial New England, but Northhampton was a special situation in which the whole town had been accustomed under the previous minister to entitlement of anyone having their children baptized and partaking of communion (as long as there wasn't overt scandal in their life.) This openness of the church and sacraments sounds a little (from what I've read) like the views of the some of the Federal Vision proponents.

I like the idea of confirmation. That a child, having been baptized as an infant and raised in good faith by their parents, affirms their belief after being catechized, and with that takes their first communion.

But I also see that denying a child of the covenant the Lord's Supper until that point is not necessarily biblical. Shouldn't communion be something that is taught to children even as they are participating? This is a longtime practice of the Eastern Orthodox church, and then they give wine to infants, and bread and wine to children are able to take it.

Keith (aka The Presbyteer) made an interesting point about exceptions to the WC. Is it wrong to practice paedocommunion if you believe in it, if your church does not?

Is it wrong to practice paedocommunion if you believe in it, if your church does not?

If your church doesn't allow the practice, don't do it. The Bible says submit to your elders. If paedocommunion becomes a huge issue, then submit to your elders and ask them to let you move to a church that does practice paedocomm. After the elders get over the shock of a member who *asks* to leave (instead of just disappearing), they'll bless your departure.

I would advise this article in terms of the exegetical issues. The context of I Corinthians 11 is unity in the body, and the body that is to be discerned is the assembled Church not Christ's mystical presence. If that were the case who would be willing to say they had properly discerned it, regardless of age?


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