Saturday, April 24, 2010

Have a Blessed Lord's Day, Here's Morsel From a Puritanical Preacher

A little wine and bread for your travels. The following is an excerpt from David Dickson a 17th century preacher used by the Lord in great seasons of grace in Scotland, here he speaks of the practical nature of the doctrine of election:

"The doctrine of election and reprobation is a doctrine which may be safely taught and propounded unto people, albeit men say it should not be meddled with, because (say they) it makes some men despair, and others become careless what they do. I answer, let God make an answer for his own doctrine, who has commanded us to teach it...The apostle says boldly, the election obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

Would Christ have propounded this doctrine if it had been dangerous? Therefore we oppose to such carnal men, secure sleepers in sin, this doctrine of Christ and his apostles, clearly set down in scripture. Let none take offence at this doctrine, for Christ's sheep will hear his voice, and if any will startle away, let them go...This doctrine is a strong attractive to draw back those who are fallen in error or vice, that they lie not in it, for this doctrine forces such men to turn to God, or else, to take on the name of reprobates...

It is a doctrine meet for this age, wherein God is mocked and blasphemed by the lewd lives of those who are called Christians, to tell them, that they must either turn to God, or take home with them these black tidings, that they are vessels of dishonour, fitted for destruction. This doctrine is very needful to put men to their decisions; and yet it condemns not a man to hell presently, who is lying in sin; but it tells him, that there are some elect, who will come home, and some reprobate, who will not come home.

Therefore, if a man be elect, albeit for the time he be a deboshed villain, this doctrine will serve him for the third and last summons: for when he hears that he must either quit his sinful courses, or have no portion with God, presently he must resolve, I will renounce my old lovers, my uncleanness, worldliness, and turn in to God, and seek a covering to hide my vileness. This effect will this doctrine work in the elect."
(Select works of David Dickson quoted by Iain Murray in Puritan Papers Vol 1)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Covenant Baptism and The Regulative Principle: A Response to Dr. Fred Malone

I recently came across an article by Dr. Fred Malone who is one of the contributors to the Founders Ministries Baptist site while perusing the Monergism page. In this article Dr. Malone argues that covenantal baptism is out of step with the regulative principle of worship. the article in its entirety can be found here.

I will give a brief response to the arguments put forward by Dr. Malone in the following blog post. I begin by quoting Dr. Malone's opening statement of his article:

"Baptists often reject Presbyterian infant baptism by showing that the Paedobaptist ("infant Baptist") brand of covenant theology erroneously allows "good and necessary inference" from Old Testament circumcision to overrule the only positive institution of baptism in the New Testament, namely, that of disciples alone."

I can heartily agree with Malone's designation that baptism is a sacrament for disciples. Malone however, in making this statement massages an assumption upon the reader that children are some how excluded from being disciples. Scripture teaches fathers to, "not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph 6:4)

It is the task of fathers to discipline their children in the Lord, children of believers are to be brought up in the context of Christian discipline. This of course means that children of believers are Christian disciples (one under Christian discipline) and as our good friend Mr. Malone has asserted baptism belongs to such as these.

Dr. Malone continues on and argues that covenantal infant baptism fails to fall under the parameters of the regulative principle of worship. Thus, every time an infant is baptized the regulative principle is being violated. He further assert:

"Baptists have held historically to the very same regulative principle of worship, though many have forgotten that today. In fact, we ultimately practice "the baptism of disciples alone" because of it. I am convinced that one reason that some Baptists are becoming Presbyterians is because Baptists do not understand the regulative principle any more."

I am not certain that it is the regulative principle that pushes individuals to a credo-baptism alone position, so much as a misreading of the regulative principle (If said Baptist even cares about the RP) that takes it as some sort of Biblicistic maxim requiring every doctrine and practice to be spelled out in black letters and 18 point font. I also would argue Credo-Baptists are moving to Covenantal or Paedobaptism because covenant theology fits with the inclusion of children of believers as members of the visible church because as Dr. Malone just said, disciples should be baptized.

The regulative principle is summed up in the confession and cited by Malone as follows:

"the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture (WCF 21:1; )." [emphasis his]

Dr. Malone then makes the connection to infant baptism saying,

"It should be noted that the only sacraments which are approved as elements of worship are those which have been "instituted by Christ" himself, not by "good and necessary inference."

Who is inventing new sacraments? Dr. Malone is moving from P1 of his argument to P10 without doing the math in between. Dr. Malone continues to refer to 'good and necessary inference' as though that statement is meant by covenantal baptists to stand on its own. This strikes me as either lazy research on Dr. Malone's part or a deliberate attempt to give a less than full representation of the views of paedobaptists giving his argument an edge.

The statement in question is shorthand for the reality of the covenant that the children of believers are included in the covenant of grace (Acts 2:39). Furthermore, given the inclusion of children throughout the old covenant in its signs both in circumcision and passover, and the subsequent correlation by Paul of circumcision and baptism as signs belonging to covenant members (Col 2:11-12), and the talk of "household" baptisms in (Acts 16:15), the designation of the children of believers as "holy" by virtue of being raised in a godly home (1 Cor 7:14), but that's not all, Christ Himself clearly rebuked the baptist inclination to excommunicate children (Mark 10:14), given all of the above one can see children of believers are part of the covenant.

I would argue that the household baptisms in Acts indeed are consistant with a covenantal baptist approach. The Credo-Baptist assumes that everyone baptized under the umbrella of "household" have raised their hands, walked aisles, given secret handshakes, and signed pledge cards to Jesus prior to their baptism. I however believe many of these individuals were probably children who were going to be discipled by a believing parent(s) and thus should have the mark of a disciple/covenant member.

(Timeless advice from Charles G. Finney)

So, while there are no scriptural passages stating, "Go and baptize babies you silly Arminian!" one inductively or through inference based upon the ubiquitous inclusion of children in the covenants concludes that they should as covenant members have the sign and seal belonging to covenant members, namely, baptism. If Malone wishes to reject infant baptism because it is based upon an inductive argument, and thereby does not conform to an uber strict rendering of the regulative principle he will by the same standard and logic, if he were to be consistent, close off much more than infant baptism to the life of the Church, but more on that in a bit.

Dr. Malone does note that the confession provides for more flexible reading than I would say he is giving the RP in church life under the RP:

"The regulative principle has always included "that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed" (WCF 1:6). However, these circumstances of worship are always limited to time, place, order of worship, length of worship, language, pews, air conditioning, etc., issues which are common to any human society (see The Westminster Confession of Faith, by G. I. Williamson, 161). They have never included new uncommanded activities such as those mentioned above."

I do wonder about the time of worship though, should we not worship the resurrected Lord on Sunday, or the Lord's day? At anyrate the following sentence we come to Dr. Malone's entusiastic declaration of "Checkmate!" to the paedobaptist:

"Christ's institution of baptism, in its mode, meaning, and subjects is to be regulated by the Word of God. Yet, as Baptists and Paedobaptists agree, the only subjects of baptism which can be conclusively determined by Scripture are professing disciples. Infants are included only by "good and necessary consequence," a normative addition which is never commanded in the Bible. The practice of baptizing babies violates the regulative principle."

Well, as Malone is rising from the table after his exuberant declaration of "Checkmate!" he notices out of the corner of his eye his queen being taken by virtue of an oversight on his part. That oversight in this discussion is simply that if we apply the regulative principle in such a way as Dr. Malone is arguing, i.e. barring arguments from biblical inference/induction, we lose the inclusion of women in partaking of the Lord's Supper, instruments should not be used in church worship, women should wear head coverings, the pet notion that baptism must be by immersion, the baptismal waters must be no warmer than 40 degrees, and lastly the grape juice communion advocates are seen for the pietistic charlatans they are (which I don't really mind).

All of the above doctrines, and ecclesiastical practices are reached through inference or inductive reasoning from the scriptures with the exception of our icy water baptistic friends and the grape juice transubstantiationists. So, if Malone wishes to do away with covenantal paedobaptism because the reasoning used to reach it is inductive and somehow inductive reasoning is not in conformity with the regulative principle, Dr. Malone likewise needs to bar women from partaking of the Lord's supper, return to wine in communion (which I would heartily encourage), and remove all instruments from corporate worship.

Something tells me that Malone would hesitate to do these things. Could it be that he has an inductive exegesis/hermeneutic that arrives at the inclusion of women at the table and the use of instruments in worship?

Dr. Malone concludes with the following warning about using inductive reasoning:

"I am convinced that the "good and necessary inference" which establishes infant baptism, has opened the door to other difficulties within the Reformed and evangelical Christian world. Theonomy, paedocommunion, and more recently, stated applications of the regulative principle of worship which in fact have transformed it into the old normative principle, are three such examples.

Or could it be that infant baptism was always based upon the normative principle instead of the regulative? That is my conclusion. Perhaps we all, Presbyterians and Baptists alike, need to recommit ourselves to the biblically based regulative principle of worship and follow it where it leads us."

(To the left is yours truly with our 3rd covenant child Magdalena Grace, after her baptism)

I am uncertain as to how Theonomy has anything to do with the regulative principle, but as far as paedocommunion goes I say yes and amen, let it be so. Lets stop excommunicating covenant children, but rather let us echo our Lord who was "indignant" with those trying to bar children from being brought to Him and charged His disciples saying, "Let the children come to Me and do not hinder them for of such belong the Kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14)

My final point comes to this, the regulative principle of worship and scriptural inductive reasoning are not in conflict, that is simply Malone's unqualified assertion, and if he took it seriously he on the same principle needs to fence women off from the Lord's table. That said, let him who is without inductive scriptural arguments cast the first stone.

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 19th, 1775 and True Patriotism

April 19, 1775, marks the beginning of the American War for Independence. Valiant men and women stood together in the face of tyrants seeking to confiscate their firearms. Many of the stories of the individuals joining the fray are truly endearing.

"British Marine Maj. Pitcairn ordered them,” Lay down your arms, ye rebels, and disperse!”

The militiamen began to disperse (but not disarm), when a shot was fired. Without orders fro their officers, the British troops fired into the militiamen. A few militiamen returned fire. Afterwards, 8 Americans were dead and 10 more wounded. One British soldier and one horse had been wounded. The British officers regained control of their troops and reformed ranks. They fired a victory volley and resumed their march to Concord.

At Concord, hundreds of militiamen were gathering in response to the alarm raised by Revere and the other post riders, assembled on Punkatasset Hill overlooking the town. The Rev. Wm. Emerson instructed the militia “Let us stand our ground. If we die, let us die here.”"
(From the RWVA page)

In that time dwellers in Massachusetts refused to be disarmed, today it is illegal for you to carry or have a firearm in Massachusetts without a lock on your gun. Today, most preachers would not join with Rev. Emerson but would rather start yelling something along these lines, "Romans 13! Submit! Romans 13! Turn in your guns! Romans 13!"

To give a taste of much of the intellectual mood of the times I quote from Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty!" speech, as most of the speech is unfortunately unknown apart from the last line.

"If we wish to be free -- if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending -- if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak -- unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?

Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable -- and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, "Peace! Peace!" -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"

Patrick Henry - March 23, 1775

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right."

"A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice."
-Thomas Paine

Well would we do to heed the maxims of Henry and Paine, these were men who swam upstream and that is why they are still read. These men are examples of what real patriots look like, real patriots are not flag wavers and sycophants for the current regime. In our modern context a real patriot opposes the "Patriot Act" a real lover of freedom rejects "Operation Iraqi Freedom" or any other Orwellian contortion the state invents to put a nice frosting on their cake of lies.

Today, modern "Tea Party" goers support the centralized state, the problem for them by and large is that Barak Obama doesn't have an (R) next to his name. The problem isn't statism in general but Democratic statism. Just like how those on the left suddenly are fine with torture and wars of aggression as the problem wasn't the principle of just war but that the commander in chief heading the wars of aggression and torture camps didn't have a (D) next to his name. How few true patriots there are today, God raise up more men and women of Henry's caliber.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lord's Day Helping From the Puritans

The following is from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the creation of Eve:

Yet man being made last of the creatures, as the best and most excellent of all, Eve's being made after Adam, and out of him, puts an honour upon that sex, as the glory of the man, 1 Cor. xi. 7. If man is the head, she is the crown, a crown to her husband, the crown of the visible creation. The man was dust refined, but the woman was dust double-refined, one remove further from the earth.

2. That Adam slept while his wife was in making, that no room might be left to imagine that he had herein directed the Spirit of the Lord, or been his counsellor, Isa. xl. 13. He had been made sensible of his want of a meet help; but, God having undertaken to provide him one, he does not afflict himself with any care about it, but lies down and sleeps sweetly, as one that had cast all his care on God, with a cheerful resignation of himself and all his affairs to his Maker's will and wisdom.
Jehovah-jireh, let the Lord provide when and whom he pleases. If we graciously rest in God, God will graciously work for us and work all for good.

3. That God caused a sleep to fall on Adam, and made it a deep sleep, that so the opening of his side might be no grievance to him; while he knows no sin, God will take care he shall feel no pain. When God, by his providence, does that to his people which is grievous to flesh and blood, he not only consults their happiness in the issue, but by his grace he can so quiet and compose their spirits as to make them easy under the sharpest operations.

4. That the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved. Adam lost a rib, and without any diminution to his strength or comeliness (for, doubtless, the flesh was closed without a scar); but in lieu thereof he had a help meet for him, which abundantly made up his loss: what God takes away from his people he will, one way or other, restore with advantage.

In this (as in many other things) Adam was a figure of him that was to come; for out of the side of Christ, the second Adam, his spouse the church was formed, when he slept the sleep, the deep sleep, of death upon the cross, in order to which his side was opened, and there came out blood and water, blood to purchase his church and water to purify it to himself. See Eph. v. 25, 26.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Let the Children Come to Me and do not Hinder Them..." A Colloquel on Covenantal Communion

Our oldest daughter Geneva who is approaching the age of 5 recently posed the question to me, "Dada next Lord's Day after church maybe we can have children's Lord's Supper with orange juice and crackers, that would be a good idea right?" This statement of my daughters has come after years of me staying her hand as she reaches for the body and blood of Christ.

My daughter seems more astute than most claiming to be covenantal in their thinking, she knows that she is being excluded from an aspect of being a Christian.

She is being raised in as best we can a Christian home, she sings hymns glorifying Jesus Christ unprompted by us, she is being chatechized and is halfway through the catechism book we are using (Based off the WCF shorter catechism), she sits through the Lord's Day service and participates, she has been baptized and this supposedly brought her at least objectively into the Church, all of that said, why do we deny children like my daughter from receiving Christ?

Why do we treat them like unbelievers?

Now some reading this will say "Ah but that's an emotional argument." Very true, we are emotional beings, it's part of the imago dei. We are not just brains trapped in bodies, and the body is only good for shuttling our brains to the next stop to be filled with information. That is a form of Manichean philosophy. We come to hear the word preached affectionaly, bodily, and intellectually.

So yes, what is said above is an argument from the affections, our argument must be more than that but not less. These affections are to be rooted in my faith in the covenant keeping God who told us that His promise is for my daughter Geneva (Acts 2:39) and my grand children to come. Do we believe this? If we do then why do we treat our children as though the promise is NOT for them by denying them the sign(s) Christ gave us of His promise?

I will lay out a biblical rational for covenant communion as in the end that is what will matter. Firstly, I will discuss the nature of the covenants, secondly the nature of the covenant signs, and lastly the primary argument for restricting children from the table.

I. The nature of the covenant.

1. Covenantal Signs Point to Objective Inclusion In the Covenant People.

We see throughout the Bible that God is a covenant making and keeping God. God set up the covenant with Abraham (Gen 17) and this covenant was for both Abraham and his children. He further gave a sign of the covenant that all members of the covenant were to receive.

Were all who received the sign possessing mature understanding and faith? No, it was to be administered to them at 8 days old. Were all who received the sign faithful? Again, no, Esau is a prime example of someone who had grown up under the blessings of the covenant, yet he cast off all the riches that were set before him. The fact remains that he was part of the people of God objectively.

Later, we see the renewal of the covenant under Moses and the introduction of the covenant sign of passover pointing tangibly to the deliverance God had wrought for his people (Ex 12). This was done in the familial context. Each household would partake of the covenant sign annually. This no doubt included the children of believers (Ex 12:4,). Furthermore, one had to have first been circumcised to partake of the supper (Ex 12:48).

Again were all who partook of this meal faithful? At least outwardly they were, yet we know that many fell in the wilderness having the signs of the covenant and even partaking in Christ Himself (1 Cor 10:1-6). They were objectively part of the covenant but not subjectively.

This is all well and good and at this point most would give a hearty Amen, as this is really the distinction between the visible and invisible church. However, the issue comes when we don't stop here, and we begin to play baptism cops and Lord's table police erecting yellow "Do not cross" police tape around children isolating them from the rest of the body. But more on that in a little bit.

My point thus far is that there are signs God has given that grant objective inclusion in the covenant people of God, we call these sacraments. They in themselves do not save us or make us the people of God, rather they link us to the body of the saved.

2. Children Part of the Covenant.

The inclusion of children in the covenant is explicit throughout the old testament. The promises were for the faithful and their children. We see this replete throughout Biblical history.

"Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children--
how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, 'Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so."
(Deut 4:9-10)

"Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time." (Deut 4:40)

"and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul," (Deut 30:2)

This is but a sampling of the fact that children in the old covenant were to be raised in the faith, this was not an exercise for grownups only. They had the sign of being part of the covenant people, circumcision, they partook of the covenant meal, passover, and their continued faithfulness was expected.

By way of summation the old covenant God instituted was multi generational, all family members were participants in the major sacraments and believing parents were to raise their children in the teachings of God with the expectation that their children would also own this faith passing it on to their children.

3. The New Covenant Also for Children.

"They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever.
I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore."
(Ezek 37:25-26)

This passage clearly references the new covenant and the reign of Christ (the forever David), and this covenant is again for believer's children's children.

To point to new testament references although much more can be said of the old testament references I have already cited Acts 2:39 where Peter in preaching declares that the promise God has established through the work of Jesus Christ is for the children of believers.

"For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."(Acts 2:39)

The children of believers or one believing parent are called "holy" by Paul.

"For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." (1 Cor 7:14)

Fathers in the new covenant like fathers in the old are to bring their children up in the faith, or disciple them:

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph 6:4)

And John rejoices over the children of believers being raised in the faith:

"I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father." (2 John 4)

Now, with all of that said, the children of believers have the promise, they are holy, they are being discipled and faith is the expectation of all of these labors. This is what we mean by covenant children, they have blessings being showered upon them that the drunken atheist's children up the street do not have. They are children growing up in the covenant, and I would argue we should treat them as such.

II. The Covenant Signs

1. Baptism

I started with the nature of the covenant and its inclusion of children (even infants) because that is how the logic to covenantal baptism and communion progresses. I don't want to appear to be smuggling infants into the "household" baptisms in Acts, although I see them as consistent with paedobaptism because of my covenant theology presuppositions. The Baptist has his own set of presuppositions that stands in front of passages about household baptisms instructing the reader to, "Move along people, nothing to see here, move along folks."

So what then is the nature of the new covenant signs of baptism and the Lord's table? Well with baptism we see it is commanded in the great commission.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," (Matt 28:19)

Who are the subjects of the baptism which Christ commands? Those being discipled.

I have already cited the fact that a believing Father is disciple his children (Eph 6:4), my question than is shouldn't a disciple be baptised? Furthermore, the promise is clearly said to be for them and the sign of objectively being a member of the covenant people of God is baptism.

Here I return to the baptism cop analogy, the Baptist seeks to bar unregenerate individuals from receiving the sign of Baptism. In the case of adults with rather dubious professions I can cheerfully agree with this approach. Yet, when it comes to children of believers effectively they are seeking to separate the wheat and the chaff and attempting to make the visible and invisible church synonymous. In order to do this they have for all intensive purposes excommunicated the children whom Peter said the promise was for (Acts 2:39).

My hangup with all of this is that such a prohibition on the inclusion of children is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Given the emphasis time and again that children are part of the covenant the onus is on the credo-ist to show where children are barred. Obviously, we are not going to baptize an individual who is a professed unbeliever. He is unclean by profession. However, the children of believers are called clean and holy by virtue of being raised in the faith (1 Cor 7).

Furthermore, Christ Himself rebuked those Baptist disciples of His who would bar parents from bringing their children to Christ:

"And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them." (Mark 10:13-16)

In short, the Bible tells me not to treat my children like infidels, so I don't, and they are baptized.
For those demanding where is infant baptism EXPLICIT in the Bible you will not find it. The Reformed have argued on the principle of covenant theology and the inclusion of children within the covenants and that included the signs. Why would the new covenant treat children less welcomingly than the covenant children who walked under types and shadows in the old covenant?

For those for whom this still is not enough and yet require explicit infant baptisms in the Bible before letting the little Children come, I would ask you to be consistent and also bar women from the Lord's table as there is no explicit partaking of the Lord's table by women in the Bible.

2. Covenantal Communion

Covenant children should be treated as such. We Presbyterians would assent to this at least on paper but wind up in the same place as the Baptist in regard to our children This is where I think we have failed in the Presbyterian church sacramentology. Essentially we are baptists with wet dedications of our children. If the Baptist will not baptize their children because they haven't made a "credible profession" we likewise don't treat our children as covenant members and excommunicate them for the same reasons as the Baptist.

Douglas Wilson has this to say on the matter:

"I found myself in a Reformed world that was (but for that bit of water) baptistic. Baptistic in worship, baptistic in ecclesiology, baptistic in its revivalism, and baptistic in its approach to the Table. In some ways, I would even argue that the Reformed churches could be even more baptistic than the baptists. Once I was baptized in my Southern Baptist church, I was admitted to the Table right away. In many cases, kids in baptist churches are admitted to the Table years before their counterparts are admitted to the Table in Reformed churches.

In light of the conversionist requirements that are often placed on covenantal kids, it sometimes appears that they might as well be unbaptized. But please note I wrote “conversionist,” which is not the same thing as disparaging the need for true conversion. True conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, and not the work of his ecclesiastical handlers." (Credenda Agenda vol 18)

For myself I have seen children 10 years old and well into their teens not taking the table, many of these I know would make a profession of faith. Yet, for whatever reason either the eldership or parental neglect to bring them to the table they are not participants. I find this to be simply scandalous.

As for making a profession before the elders prior to partaking of the table, sure that makes sense in the case of a recent adult convert as does profession prior to baptism, it however does not with a covenant child. The Papists have 1st communion for children at age 6 after they have answered some questions. Not only are we imitating them in this but we are doing a poor job as I have seen teenagers I know were believers let the elements pass.

Again, lets stop treating our children like unbelievers. Let us honor their baptism and treat them like covenant members, let us bring them to Christ.

III. Some Objections I Have Heard Addressed

So children are part of the covenant, again this is all well and good in the Reformed circles, the issue arises than over the Lord's table. It has been insisted upon that the Lord's Table is different than baptism. One needs to understand what is going on in order to partake, after all 1 Corinthians 11. I have found this sort of response to covenant communion to be similar to how people will just start saying "Romans 13...Romans 13" when I start talking about the state as if the mere referring to Romans 13 tells us to sit down shut up and take it...hard.

Well to understand how to apply a text the context is vital so lets review the context in 1 Cor 11 on the table of the Lord:

"But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat.

For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not."
(1 Cor 11:17-22)

What are the problems we see here? Well 1. Divisive behaviour 2. Selfish gluttony at the expense of others. 3. Drunkenness.

This is the context and it is this that Paul is rebuking. Are they remembering the Lord's death when some are gorging themselves and getting drunk while others go without any food? Absolutely not. This context must be remembered in light of Paul's further exhortations to reverence in the partaking of the table. It is difficult to imagine this scenario arising today given the advent of the little thimbles of grape juice most churches have.

(For the record I think this is a leftover from the Methodist holiness movement needing to be rejected, we need to return to wine. Read Keith Mathison's "Protestant Transubstantiation" for more on this.)

Furthermore, were children at these love feasts? I would think so, it is hard to imagine believing parents going to the meeting hall for dinner and shuttling the kids to Joyce the pagan's house for babysitting/dinner because they "Weren't ready to be brought to Jesus". Furthermore, in all that Paul lays out about the table in the following verses he nowhere prohibits children partaking.

This talk of feasting brings up the connection of the Lord's table with passover. In the passover feast the whole family participated, it indeed was "Safe for the whole family". It was during the passover feast that Christ instituted the Lord's table.

I have received a few responses to this, 1. The children didn't participate in the passover feast by eating it, they were just allowed to ask questions. Again, this is as difficult to believe as the barring of children from the love feast. So the kids are in the corner eating Spaghetti O's asking what mom and dad are doing with the lamb the herbs and the cups. Something tells me this is an ad hoc rescue.

2. Jesus instituted the supper AFTER the passover was completed, the table was different from the Passover. This is based on the "and when they had finished eating" aspect of the table. Again, this fails to understand the nature of the passover Seder. The Seder did not stop at the consumption of the food, there were cups to be passed still. Regardless, the Lord's supper was instituted the night of passover and the continuity of the 2 covenants was made clear.

But some will insist that children do not understand what is going on and therefore should not participate. My question to the one saying this is, "Do YOU understand what is going on?" Furthermore, how much did the disciples understand that night Christ instituted the table? Hours later ALL forsook Him.

Christ knew how tottering their faith was, yet He said, "Take and eat."

IV. Conclusion

I have not reached these conclusion about paedocommunion without some time of reflection. I was first introduced to these ideas about 4 years ago and I eventually settled for some rather Baptistic thinking about 1 Cor 11 barring Children. In studying covenant theology paedocommunion has continued to rear its head blowing raspberries at me.

Lastly, in a recent discussion over Baptism with a Baptist friend he pushed me in my covenant theology asking, "So why don't you give your children the Lord's Table?" My only response was well, that's a good question.

Given the covenantal nature of Reformed Baptism it doesn't make sense to bar covenant members from participating in one the signs of the New Covenant, namely, union and trusting in Christ's substitutionary death.

So by way of closing, I want to come full circle and say to Geneva, Caleb, Magdalena and any other covenant child we shall one day raise I say to you that the promise is for you, Christ calls you to, "Take and eat this is my body given for you."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Comment Filtering...Why The Hammer Has Fallen

For the last several months I keep receiving comments that are not only irrelevant material but unsavory. These undesired comments are probably from one blighter who can not take a hint from all the previous deletions. Simply put, I do not wish this stuff on my blog and I therefore from here on out will check the comments prior to their appearance on my blog.

I can assure those who disagree with anything I write that their comments will NOT be censored. I welcome disagreement, even sharp disagreement, I frankly don't even censor for foul language as long as it is somewhat on the issue in the post. I want to make clear this new policy is not for you who disagree, but rather for the obnoxious spammer.

Hope all understand,


Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday in Art

What is "good" about the most unjust act in the history of the world? The only Man who was entirely guiltless was put to death as a malefactor, in what sense can we say that this is "good"? It becomes good when we see Him in our stead, forsaken that we might never be left, and dying that we might live. The heart is that this is substitutionary, Christ died in our place. This substitutionary nature of the death of Christ seen in the following pieces of art by Michelangelo and Rembrandt.

(To the right is Michelangelo's "Pieta" this piece Michelangelo intended to go on his tomb)

Here we see a sculpture of Michelangelo's with Nicodemus and Mary holding the deceased body of Christ. What is unique about this? Notice that Nicodemus' face is more detailed than any other portion of the sculpture, it is believed that Michelangelo placed his likeness on Nicodemus. This illustrates the truth that it was out sins, in this case Michelangelo's that Christ died for. We personally are connected with the death of Christ.

(To the left is a close up of Michelangelo's "Pieta" sculpture so you are able to observe the detail Michelangelo put into the face of Nicodemus.)

Next, we see the famous Crucifixion painting by Rembrandt. Here again we see there is an oddity in the work of art centering on the death of Christ. Firstly, notice the individual raising the cross with a painter's Beret on. This of course is none other than Rembrandt, again announcing that it was for my sins that Christ was crucified.

Note secondly, that the lighting is solely on Christ and Rembrandt who is crucifying Christ. Rembrandt clearly wants to make the connection that the man in the painter's cap (himself) put Christ to death.

The message was clear in Rembrandt's mind (who was a reformation based artist), I put Christ to death with my sin, just as truly as the Roman soldier in time and space.

It is this simple truth in all of it's fullness that should break in upon us afresh each time we read the accounts of the death of Christ in scripture, namely, that he died in my place. It was my sin that held Him there.

I am the Judas consciously betraying Him when I sin, I am the Pilate who is more concerned with myself than my God, I am the crowd shouting for His death when I am swept up with the spirit of the age, and I am the Peter every time I am ashamed of the gospel. We must see ourselves this way, we must let him wash our feet or we have no part in Him.

"The whole life of a Christian should be nothing but praises and thanks to God; we should neither eat nor sleep, but eat to God and sleep to God and work to God and talk to God, do all to His glory and praise."

—Richard Sibbes