Flee Moscow's paedocommunion

New Warhorn Media post by Joseph Bayly:

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Timely and helpful for me, thanks. You all have helped me stay with credocommunion while becoming a paedobaptist. I’m still in a Baptist church and am trying to determine where this leads me. I will work through the linked posts, but can you help me with this?

If a church rejects full paedocommunion (i.e., communing a newly-weaned infant) and even calls it “weird”, but will commune a 3 or 4 year old on simple profession, are they the ones I should be concerned about? Is this a time to flee, or exercise caution?

I can come up with a spectrum of about 5 options on communing children. I think I heard somewhere that Rayburn identified 7, though I haven’t read him. I’m trying to figure out where the danger really begins. I understand it lies with the ability of baptized children to examine themselves and discern the body of Christ. Where has the Reformed church determined that ability begins?

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Who comes to the Table is a judgment call God has put in the hands of the elders and pastors of the church. We don’t require proof of regeneration (nor do we presume it). A credible profession of faith, as judged by the church officers, is required because we dare not be blithe about who comes to the Table. An extraordinary 4-year-old could indeed have the ability to examine himself, grieve over his sins, and trust in Christ by faith for the forgiveness of those sins. But, if a church as a matter of course allows (or, requires) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6-year-olds to come to the Table, I’d say they are not shepherding those children. They are putting them in danger by force-feeding them the meal based upon the wishful thinking of mommy and daddy over and against a demonstrated ability to recognize and be sorry for their sins and take them to Christ by faith.

Meanwhile, as they happily observe but refrain from the Lord’s Table, our children have vast spiritual blessings that come to them through life in the Body—teaching, discipline, worship, reading, and prayer to name a few.

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Curious if you all would speculate that the sickness rates of the children in Moscow are higher than that of a similar demographic church that doesn’t perform paedo-communion. Or perhaps I am taking Paul’s warning too literally?

I don’t think you’re taking it too literally. It’s a common question, normally used to scoff at the idea that this could be “dangerous.” I’m curious if those asking this question would believe any church anywhere outside of Corinth has had people get sick because of their failures related to the Lord’s Supper.

To say that I believe some sickness and even deaths occur today because of a failure of people to examine themselves and partake rightly is simply to say that I believe the Bible. But as I said, many people seem to reject this as even a possibility. There is no fear of God before their eyes.

To say I believe this is more likely to happen in a church that encourages unexamined participation is to say that I believe in simple cause and effect. Does that mean that the rates of sickness and death have to be higher? No. Asking the question why has this child died is a painful question because it always requires a father to examine himself and see whether it is because of his own sin or failure in some way. But are we going to ignore the possibility of a lack of discipline from the father leading to the death of the son in the physical realm? Well, of course we are… but we shouldn’t. Nor should we in the spiritual realm.

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One of the most clear and concise arguments against paedocommunion I have come across is in Murray’s Christian Baptism. See pages 76-79, point number 7.

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@Jay_Simon, many Iowa churches, particularly in the GARBC circle, are effectively paedocommunion, though from an anti-Reformed perspective. It’s still sacramentalism, even if it is a low-church variety.

But they’re usually not belligerent about promoting and defending it the way CREC types are. There’s a difference between doing something naively and doing so stubbornly. The one who has been warned and continues in the same practice, even to the point of doubling down on it despite the lack of historical or exegetical precedent, is the more dangerous person.

I think that’s the point of this article. It’s not so much about the precise age of the communicant, it’s more about the humility of the pastors/elders; it’s more about their ability to submit themselves to the scripture and the church.

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Thanks for this article.

That discourse from Calvin against Servetus is etched deep into my mind from when you (Tim) cited it in another article back in 2022 and the lively discussion we had here on Sanityville about it (link). I’ve found nothing written that more succinctly captures the substance of the topic than what Calvin writes there.

I still do find Calvin’s reference to the Passover meal there to be exegetically problematic, where he asserts it was “duly eaten only by those who were old enough to be able to inquire into its meaning.” Studying out that line of thought for a few weeks was a helpful exercise for me which, in the end, served to galvanize my commitment to credobaptism.

However, setting that particular point aside – which was really only a secondary point to Calvin’s immediate argument against Servetus, regardless of what implications it would have in a broader discussion about continuity and credo vs. paedobaptism – his dealing with communion itself is just a straightforward standing upon the plain language of 1 Corinthians 11 which neither a Reformed baptist nor a presbyterian should have any grounds to dispute.

To put it another way, Calvin’s discourse here should serve as a satisfactory answer to the “why don’t you commune them” objection raised by Servetus and often echoed by modern baptists, even if it falls short of persuading them to become paedobaptists. Meanwhile, Moscow has effectively answered the “why don’t you commune them” objection with, “Hold my beer.” The response from Reformed baptists and presbyterians on this point should be the same. New Testament Scripture settles it plainly for both without appealing to continuity differences.

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@MattShiff your comment spooked me because I’m holding that book in my left hand this morning while reading this thread on my phone in my right :joy:
I’m only on page 21 but now I have more motivation to keep reading!

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Would you all be interested in a formal debate with someone from Moscow on the topic?

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I’ve been ruminating over this and have a few scattered thoughts:

  • Paul clearly states that the unguarded communion is physically poisonous. It is right to condemn parents who are physically poisoning their children, the same as if they were ritually feeding them rat poison.
  • I would not be hesitant to presume that the children of Moscow suffer more physical ailments/death - that this does not grind on the consciences of those Elders and parents aware of the controversy when they suffer through such things is perplexing.
  • A random point, but the fact that unguarded communion can have such deleterious physical effects reenforces in my mind that there is something physical going on with the elements of the Lord’s Supper - it is not purely symbolic in Zwinglian sense.
  • As a credo-baptist, I was previously content with what I viewed as a theological dispute that, while important, did not reach the level of warranting serious contention with paedo-baptists. But now I am beginning to wonder… While scripture is annoyingly quiet on the issue and therefore has no explicit warnings, I cannot help but ask if baptizing babies does not carry the similar negative spiritual and physical effects on children. That is a whole other can of worms not to be delved in on this thread I suppose.

Purely Presbyterian has a few good against against paedocommunion as well.

Speaking for myself, we’ve been writing formally against this for decades. If men want to engage specific points, we’re always eager to respond. But men haven’t engaged the arguments we’ve made. A debate cuts the learning cycle down to no study and just give a listen for a few minutes. After years opposing this schism led by Moscow, I’m convinced it needs to be fulsomely condemned, publicly. Not provided a platform for its eisegesis and argumentum ad populum talking points. Love,

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Quick comments, John. First, if parents force food or water on their barely-self-conscious child, whatever judgment God gives physically would be more likely to fall on the moral agent, maybe? Second, if one were to be able to see the true convictions of most of us, how many would be found to believe that men and women today are getting sick and falling asleep because of their failure to discern the body? How many of us actually think about and fear this judgment ourselves at the Lord’s table?

Which leads us back to the really important matter of ex opere operato, which is to say sacramentalism. Everything about reformed weekly practice of the Lord’s table with paedo reeks of the same heresy that the Reformers endlessly condemned in their work, and both Luther and Calvin equally so. The past forty years has seen a whole-hog movement into formalism, ritual, ceremony, sacerdotalism, and sacramentalism—and as always, accompanied by the terrible decline of preaching on every single level.

It’s my conviction that the most serious evidence for this, my charge, is the putrid state of Lord’s table fencing. Someday, it’s my hope and pleading to God that we move on from talking points about kids’ capacities and our Lord’s blessings of kids lacking capacities to the idolatry of the Roman Catholic mass taking over Reformed worship, robes and all, with only a gentle avoidance of transubstantiation. Love,

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I’ve been reading Pilgrim’s Progress again recently. Reminds me of Formalist and Hypocrisy scaling the wall as a shortcut onto the Way, rather than going through the Wicket-Gate. I always appreciate this illustration.

Christian: Gentlemen, whence came you, and whither go you?
Formalist and Hypocrisy: We were born in the land of Vain-glory, and are going for praise to Mount Zion.
Christian: Why came you not in at the gate which stands at the beginning of the way? Know you not that it is written, that he that comes not in by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber?
Formalist and Hypocrisy: They said, That to go to the gate for entrance was, by all their countrymen, counted too far about; and that, therefore, their usual way was to make a short cut of it, and to climb over the wall, as they had done.
Christian: But will it not be counted a trespass against the Lord of the city whither we are bound, thus to violate his revealed will?
Formalist and Hypocrisy: They told him, that, as for that, he needed not to trouble his head thereabout; for what they did they had custom for; and could produce, if need were, testimony that would witness it for more than a thousand years.
Christian: But, said Christian, will your practice stand a trial at law?
Formalist and Hypocrisy: They told him, That custom, it being of so long a standing as above a thousand years, would, doubtless, now be admitted as a thing legal by any impartial judge; and besides, said they, if we get into the way, what matter is it which way we get in? If we are in, we are in. You are but in the way, who, as we perceive, came in at the gate; and we are also in the way, that came tumbling over the wall; wherein, now, is your condition better than ours?

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Yes, the thing you won’t find sacramentarians quoting, let alone preaching, is “they are not all Israel who are from Israel,” and “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29). Helpful quote, brother. Love,

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Some thoughts

  • What underlies the sacraments is whether or not Christ’s ministers care for the souls of Christ’s sheep. Calvin, Bucer, and other reformers fought vehemently for the Church to be able to discipline its members instead of the magistrate (see Calvin’s Company of Pastors, and Greschat’s bio of Bucer, especially pages, 211-225, if you can find a copy). They wanted the Church to have its ordained right to say “no” to congregants because they cared about their souls. Why would the reformers fight for church discipline if all they wanted to do was say “yes” all the time? Paedocommunionists on the other hand only want to say “yes.” And they paint credocommunionists as not loving the children in the church and squelching their faith because they say “no.” But if all we do is give children our “yes” then are we loving them? My 1 year old son gets told no far more often than he does yes… In reality, credocommunionists do say yes quite often as @adionne pointed out above: “our children have vast spiritual blessings that come to them through life in the Body—teaching, discipline, worship, reading, and prayer to name a few.” (I would also add Baptism to this list if you’re paedo). I often wonder if/when children who have received communion from infancy are ever refused the elements by the ministers/elders. At what point do they hear “no”?

  • Key to the whole discussion is an understanding of what the Lord’s Supper is. How many Christians could explain what the Lord’s Supper is/does/doesn’t do/significance? How many in Evangel churches could articulate an orthodox understanding of the sacrament? Maybe it is a majority, maybe a minority? Do we need more catechesis/Sunday School lessons/sermons on the sacraments?

For help on this point, besides Calvin’s Institutes, there is Ryle’s work Knots Untied. This is his Evangelical defense against Rome and its corrupting the Church of England. We can learn much from it in this regard. Here’s a quote from his chapter The Lord’s Supper,

I own to a strong and growing conviction that error about the Lord’s Supper is one of the commonest and most dangerous errors of the present day. I suspect we have little idea of the extent to which unsound views of this sacrament prevail, both among clergy and laity. They are the hidden root of nine-tenths of the extravagant Ritualism which, like a fog, is overspreading our Church. Here, if anywhere, all Christian ministers have need to be very jealous for the Lord God of hosts. Our witness must be clear, distinct, and unmistakable. Our trumpets must give no uncertain sound. The Philistines are upon us. The ark of God is in danger. If we love the truth as it is in Jesus, if we love the Church of England, we must contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints in the manner of the Lord’s Supper. p184

Some other good works on the sacraments that come to mind: Bruce’s sermons, and Bannerman (thank you Warhorn for putting this up!)

  • Last thought, I came across some old Scottish catechisms written specifically for children before admittance to the Supper: The Little Catechism (16 questions), Craig’s Short Catechism (96 questions), and The ABC Catechism for Young Children (36 questions). All three predate the Westminster Catechisms. They show the earnest care and love the Scottish church had for its youth. I can share the full texts sometime. Found these in Thomas Torrance’s The School of Faith. (I cannot believe how helpful he is despite his hyper-Barthianism…whoduthunk?)
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Paedocommunionists’ hero James Jordan claims: “Infants and small children participated in the Lord’s Supper in the Western Church until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.” (Jordan, “Theses on Paedocommunion”)

Jordan’s statement is false.

“There is not one piece of evidence, amidst the voluminous writings of the fathers, to suggest that infants participated in the church’s celebration of the Lord’s supper. …One fact is certain: there is no basis for the practice of paedo-communion in the patristic writings.” (Matthew Winzer, “The True History of Paedo-Communion”)

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Here’s some linguistic gymnastics from Peter Leithart (following Joachim Jeremias) on “remember” in 1 Cor 11:25: In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Used in this sense, the word implied that “something is brought before God” and this something is intended to encourage God to remember and act. This usage of “memorial” language is found in the Septuagint (Leviticus 24:7; Numbers 10:10), and in the New Testament at Acts 10:4 (though here the Greek is eis mnemosunon; cf Leviticus 2:2, 9, 16). The first covenant sign, the rainbow, was a memorial for Yahweh, by which He was reminded to remember His covenant (Genesis 9:8-17). Such an interpretation of the Eucharistic words is at least linguistically possible and theologically plausible. On this understanding, “remembrance” is not a subjective state of the participants that accompanies the celebration of the meal; it is the effect of “doing this.”" - Peter Leithart, A Response to George W Knight’s article “1 Corinthians 11:17-34: The Lord’s Supper,” in The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision, page 302

Notice Leithart 's efforts to nullify the active requirements of Lord’s Supper participants (remember, discern body, examine). He is willing to allow “remember” to have a broad depth of meaning so long as it is “linguistically possible” and “theologically plausible.” Will he do the same for the word examine (δοκιμαζέτο) in verse 28? We don’t even have to go to the Septuagint, for Paul uses the same word in 2 Cor 13:5, a letter written to the same church: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine (δοκιμάζετε) yourselves!”

Douglas Jones wrote an excellent article on this interpretation back in 1955: ἀνάμνησις IN THE LXX AND THE INTERPRETATION OF 1 COR. XI. 25. Here is his conclusion:

The sum of the matter is this: that the objection to the usual translation of ι Cor. xi. 25 does not withstand scrutiny; that common usage would suggest the usual translation while analogies for the alternative translation are found to be inadequate; that the Passover context would at once suggest the usual translation and require explicit redirection to permit any other. With some relief one feels freed of an interpretation which, if regarded as the primary and exhaustive meaning of our Lord’s command, seems to come near to transforming the community , of disciples and therefore the Church into some sort of mediator between God and his Christ, presenting to the divine memory at every Eucharist the story of his obedience and sacrifice that God may remember him and so effect his vindication at the last day. However fruitful may otherwise be the idea of a divine remembrance which is nothing less than the Father’s final vindication of the Son, it seems that our Lord laid the duty of remembrance firmly upon his disciples and upon those who, through their word, believe on his name.

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I have an almost physical reaction to listening to Peter’s endlessly precious linguistic dances and prances that is closely matched by my reaction to the same when listening and reading Jim Jordan. When men are as devious in their suggestions and wonderments and postulations concerning what are plain texts of Scripture, I never want to hear or read them again, and I never stop warning Christians against them.

Doug’s response to me is “but Jim’s brilliant.” I respond that the brilliance of error is no mitigating factor. As a matter of fact, it renders the error even more damnable. Love,

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