Paedocommunion & Rigor

Most proponents of paedocommunion are also practitioners of the Trivium. Their approach to children when it comes to education seems to contradict their convictions about children approaching the Lord’s Table. They hold forth a grammar stage in a child’s education which could correspond to a catechism stage preceding their profession of faith. Once they are taught to parrot and memorize, it is only in their middle-school years that they begin to assimilate that information with logic…then only in high-school when they have the skills to use those tools to think rightly.

But when it comes to their spiritual maturity, there is no such course for the children of paedocommunionists. They simply take a pat on the belly or an ability not to throw a tantrum during the distribution of the Lord’s Supper as a confession of faith as sophisticated and knowledgeable as any adult’s. No grammar and logic stage.

They end up with rigor in the formation of the intellect and a decided lack of rigor when it comes to spiritual formation.

When I challenge paedocommunion, the consist rebuke I receive is that I am doing damage to my children by being too rigorous. In fact, they accuse me of refusing to give my children Christ…as if catechism, and exhortation, and the preaching of the Word, and the children’s education, and discipleship within the home, and etc…all count for nothing.

What gives? Is Matthew 19:14 the only passage that applies to children coming to the table or do Jesus’ words in 1 Cor. 11:23-34 add some rigor and direct explication of those sweet words of Matthew 19:14?

Help me out here, brothers…


I’m hardly an expert when it comes to paedocommunion, and I don’t personally know any church or family that practices it.

I have, however, done a very small amount of reading on the subject, and another common passage I’ve seen cited is 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, particularly vs 17

Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.

The application made is that since the children of believers are covenant church members, they are part of the “one bread” and so should receive the Supper. One author put it, “All who are bread should get bread.” (Slightly paraphrased)

Although not convincing, I think this is a much stronger scriptural argument than just relying on Matt. 19:14.

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We practice paedocommunion. Not sure what the problem is with it, unless I misunderstand the term. My son was two(ish) when we first gave it to him. Every time I asked him what the bread was, what the juice was, and what that meant for him. He answered, and then ate and drank.

Dear Alistair, the problem is that it’s unbiblical and thus condemned by the Protestant and Reformed church. Did you not know that? Paedocommunion is a modern innovation promoted (almost entirely) by former baptists who think that, because they’ve changed their mind on baptism, it makes sense to give their infants the Lord’s Supper, also.

It doesn’t—as Calvin clearly explains in his “Institutes” and as the Church since then has taught. There are many problems with paedocommunion pastorally and theologically, but the thing I find discouraging is how razor-thin is the understanding of the church’s historic teaching against this practice by those who adopt it.

The sacraments do not belong to fathers or their families. They belong to the Church, and Her officers have an obligation to explain to those who receive them what Scripture teaches about them—both their blessings and dangers.

Anyhow, Merry Christmas to you and yours, brother!

A short piece from Baylyblog with link from Calvin.

An excerpt from Thomas Shephard.

A number of posts on the subject I’ve written through the years.


No, I did not know that.

I’ll have a read of your articles. Christmas has finished here so I have the time.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Same to you, dear brother. Unbelievable weather here today. Bright sunshine and about 55 which, if we’re not going to have snow and sledding, is a nice consolation prize.


I’ve coincidentally been reading a lot on this topic lately. There are some thoughtful defenders of the practice who have clearly done extensive homework and hold their position with a sort of honesty that I respect. I have seen some very careful analysis of 1 Corinthians by Tim Gallant for example, which deserves a considered response but - again, from what I’ve seen - is answered (if at all) with a sort of scornful hand-waving. I’d be very interested in reading a point-by-point response to his book.

Then, there are the people who seem to embody what you’ve sketched out, and seem to carry a more practically Roman view of Holy Communion.

I’ve read Calvin at length on this, more than once, and would not call his defense bulletproof. He alludes to paedocommunion as an early Church practice that rightly died out. The Fathers didn’t write to my understanding much on PC in that much of our knowledge of what the Church did regarding Communion in the earliest days are based on asides, things that aren’t said, and allusions. It seems that Baptism was the more crucial sacrament; in the early Church there was a widespread belief that it was Baptism that washed away sins, and so it was generally avoided until someone thought they were going to die, Tertullian and Augustine have insights on this.

Where I’ve sort of circled round to, is that the means and method of the sacraments is just not the heart of the Church. Many of us if we walked into a church in the early 200s in Turkey would probably find all kinds of practices we’d call aberrant today. What I think it comes down to is; is God’s Word preached in its fullness? Are people walking in increasing obedience? It is probable Andrew that the sort of people you are talking about, who are not arriving carefully at their position on PC, are probably not thinking carefully about other, arguably more important things as well.

(That does not mean there’s not a legitimate discussion to be had on it, and a very interesting one.)

Merry Christmas!

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For example, many of them consider the Lord’s supper to be the height of the service and the one essential. One church I know of was without a pastor for some time. Their regular choice for pulpit supply wasn’t even reformed. Why go with him? Because he allowed their practice of communion to continue each week.

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I asked the original question because I think the paedocommunionist’s process in the education of their children betrays the cheapness of their approach to spiritual things. Why the contrast? I think the thought of any of their children being unsaved is something they will not allow, thus the bar must be lowered. I just posted this comment under an FB post where I’m arguing with a number of paedocommunionists (and presumptive regenerationists, which may be most paedocommunionists):

It is my conviction that many who hold to presumptive regeneration (which really makes baptismal regeneration superfluous) and paedocommunion do so for the simple reason that they will not accept God’s statement that He loved Jacob and He hated Esau, even before they had done anything good or bad so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand. In other words, the thought of their children being like Esau is so objectionable and unfair to them, they’ve adjusted their theology in order to instruct God. That’s the very temptation that leads to all sacramentalist schemes.

If you must hold to paedocommunion, do so only after having familiarized yourself with the arguments and writings of those churchmen, long-dead, who condemned it.

“If you must hold to paedocommunion…”… Whatcha talking about…?

I’m referring back to Pastor Bayly’s comment, linking to his own writings and mentioning the writings of other fathers of the church who have condemned paedocommunion.

The modern day proponents of PC demonstrate that they have not read extensively the old writings against their position. They claim to have been misunderstood and ignored through centuries of church history. They want to have the last word without reading the first word. They want to tear the fence down without understanding why it was put up. They want to hold their position based on it’s seeming persuasiveness, without having to do the work of listening to arguments and weighing evidence.

I would respect them more if they did read those writings, stop complaining about being ignored, misunderstood or not answered, and simply acknowledged that yes, there’s a large body of work in church history condemning my position, but here’s why they’re wrong. My position is contrary to most of what has been taught, but here’s why I’m right.

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Agreed, brother. They do make an appeal to history, specifically to the early church. But an appeal to the early church (not apostolic church) seems to be a strike against the practice, given the quick rise of sacramentalism during that time.

I would say the pervasiveness of sacramentalism at the time, which is the reason paedocommunion is so linked to sacramentalist errors today.

I would add that people who believe in paedocommunion or want paedocommunionists to be accepted into orthodox Reformed communions always have an aberrant approach to the text of 1Corinthians 11. When one compares their explanation of the meaning of the texts with historic Protestant views, you feel sort of like you’ve just finished listening to an Arminian explaining Ephesians 2 or Romans 9. You find yourself wanting to draw a modesty panel over them until they come to their senses. Which is to say the only argument needed against paedocommunion is 1Corinthians 11. Read Calvin. Read any historic Reformed pastor on it and decide if they were all wrong. On 1Corinthians 11.

As for whether the sacraments matter much (don’t mean to belittle the question putting it that way), we have to remember that our doctrine uniquely reveals itself in our sacramentology because it’s there that flesh and spirit meet. Meaning can be fudged with words, but no so much with water and bread and wine. I’m very sorry to have had to divide with dear friends over their embracing of paedocommunion, but very serious things are at stake—starting with the wellbeing of the souls of our precious lambs. Really, paedocommunion today is the recrudescence of the New England Puritans’ halfway covenants and I believe Edwards was right to lose his job opposing them. Check out his arguments and see how thoroughly they deal with paedocommunionists’ same errors today.

As for who has done their homework, if you read my posts on this subject, one of the things documented there is the way early paedocommunionists like Rob Rayburn misrepresented the Reformers’ condemnation of the practice. As usual, it is the innovationists who fail to read the Reformers and respond to them. Merry Christmas!

For helpful series on paedocommunion by Son Joseph, start here.

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Although I haven’t read it, I’ve heard that Cornelius Venema’s Children at the Lord’s Table? is a very thorough look at paedocommunion arguments, with even some pro-pc guys saying it dealt fairly with their arguments. Also, it apparently deals with the history of the practice in the Church, the Refomers’ views, and 1 Corinthians 11 in depth.


Venema, it is said, “demonstrates the validity and value of having covenant children partake of first communion subsequent to their personal profession of faith.”

The question isn’t whether there is validity and value in those professing their faith communing at the Lord’s table. I mean really! Have any of us grown tired of the endless mincingness of Reformed men opposing doctrinal error in our time?

The question is whether Scripture permits those who do not profess faith communing at the Lord’s table. If so, Edwards was a schismatic when he was booted from Northampton and Calvin was a schismatic when he condemned the practice, also. The paedocommunionists’ arguments against the Church are veneer-thin, especially in their treatment of 1Corinthians 11. Don’t waste time on them. There’s no gold in them-thar hills. Love,

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Like I said, I haven’t read it, only heard good things about it.

However, I don’t think it’s fair to knock a book or author based on something the publisher says about the book. Maybe the book actually does deserve your criticism, I don’t know, but then it should be based on what Venema actually wrote.

The Venema is helpful; I’m rereading it now. But, like Tim points out, most academics pull their punches when it comes to the most important part: warning the sheep.

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How many books by modern Bible scholars does a man have to read before he knows the genre? By definition, helpful books pull their punches. Can anyone imagine what Bondage of the Will or Galatians would read like written by one of us today? Then again, maybe it’s that we don’t have any significant doctrinal error we must oppose? Just choices between variant readings of Scripture. You name it, we’ve minced it.

BTW, no publisher shoves any description down the mouth of an author. Nor any bio. Authors should always be understood to be responsible for their marketing copy.

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Yep. Helpful, not devastating like Bondage of the Will.

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