Precisely what is paedocommunion, and why does Calvin condemn it

Also continental reformed of the three standards of unity kind, generally meaning Dutch here in the US.

About the Passover, like I said, regardless of which side one comes down on concerning any distinction between the sacramental and non-sacramental Passover, it’s a simple fact that the infants these guys commune at the Lord’s Table did not eat the Passover lamb. So can they be said to have participated in the Passover? Either yes or no. If yes, then so do babes-in-arms held by mothers eating and drinking the Lord’s body and blood at His table. If no, then their non-participation is identical to babes-in-arms held by mothers eating and drinking the Lord’s body and blood at His table. Further, everyone can agree the baby who pats his belly and head is a fair representation of the baby at the Passover table who lacks the capacity to wonder or ask “why do we do these things.” Love,


Deuteronomy 16:16-17 certainly sheds light on Luke 2:41-42. It makes sense that a male who had come of age would now be required to appear before the Lord with the prescribed assemblies, but I’m still not seeing this to infer that everyone else was barred from general attendance. To return to the example of Elkanah, he continued going up to Shiloh at the appointed times – he was required to. But Hannah and Samuel remained behind until the boy was weaned. The fact that the man was required does not necessarily mean the family was excluded.

This point that MW makes in that thread is interesting, but it doesn’t seem decisive:

They were to ask, What mean ye by this service? a question which normally excludes the questioner from the activity.

Well, maybe?

"Dad, why are ye baking a cake tonight?
“Because it’s your mother’s birthday, son.”

That doesn’t mean the son doesn’t get to eat the cake.

Here’s another question. In 2 Chronicles 30 and 35, at the Passover celebrations of Hezekiah and Josiah, there is no language that suggests that the only people in attendance are males. Rather, the references throughout seem to be more generally referring to the people, the assembly, the congregation, etc. Now I haven’t studied every Hebrew word in these chapters, and I know we gotta watch out for gender neutering in our modern woke Bible translations, but even the King James uses these terms. These passages are some of the most verbose we have in their descriptions of how the Passover was kept, and they seem to suggest heavily that it was the whole of the people who were participating. Am I wrong?

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The fact that only adult males were direct participants in the Passover sacrifice is well-attested in Jewish scholarship (and I believe can be inferred from the whole of Scripture - specifically the instructions in Deut. 16). I don’t have a citation at the moment, but Edersheim has written as much.

The main thrust of my point is this: in order to participate in the Passover in a fully sacramental sense, one had to be present at the Temple (not even just in Jerusalem) for observation and commemoration of the sacrifice. Given that adult males only met the requirements for Temple admission, we can conclude that only adult males partook of the Passover in the same sense that communicant members of the NC participate in the Supper - regardless if others were in “general attendance” - and the pro-paedocommunion argument from “continuity” falls apart.

I’ll add that I do agree with Ben that the case from continuity is a second-tier argument anyway; Paul’s command is clear enough.


I would be interested in reading some of the references to Jewish scholarship that you refer to. I don’t know that I am seeing the inference from the whole of Scripture that you’re seeing. I would want to be careful to divide between the kinds of practices that arose in Jewish tradition as doctrines of men, as opposed to what is made plain in the Scripture.

Even if we grant the notion that the males are participating most “fully,” I still can’t find any textual basis for concluding that the Passover meal – either in its first observance in Egypt, or any observance thereafter – was exclusive only to males. It is clear that the Lord required the men to appear before Him as heads of households, clans, and tribes, or as sons of the law in their own capacity, but the testimony of Scripture still reads pretty clearly to me that the whole congregation of Israel participated in the meal itself. It was observed under male headship, with the males representing the people in a federal sense, but that didn’t make the wives and children any less participants.

I appreciate that. Any Baptist would agree with you that we need appeal no further than the New Testament to refute the paedocommunionists. Continuity between the covenants would never need to enter the discussion for us, since, of course, we Baptists don’t see continuity between the Old and New Covenants the same way the classically Reformed argue.

That’s what makes this so interesting. The argument from continuity seems to be at the bedrock of the Reformed argument for paedobaptism. Calvin anchors the practice of paedobaptism in the appeal of continuity between circumcision and baptism. Then he anchors his rejection of paedocommunion in the appeal of continuity between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.

I applaud Calvin’s consistency here, and it seems to be the only way this works. I don’t see how I can affirm continuity between circumcision and baptism without also affirming continuity between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper.

If I could be convinced that there is clear, biblical foundation for Calvin’s appeal to the latter, then honestly, it would make me immensely more sympathetic to the former. It might even make me a presbyterian.

Focus on the nature of participation rather than the participants, as I’ve been asking. Back out of wanting a silver bullet of sex and age and rest where Calvin calls us to rest, which is the nature of examination and discerment and body.

For paedobaptist, the sacraments are not intrinsically linked. This realization was very helpful to me in figuring out why I remain credobaptist. For me, I cannot unlink baptism and the supper - they walk hand in hand. Since I cannot clearly see (though I can state) the paedobaptist view, then I know that I am not a paedobaptist.

I think many of our former credobaptist brothers have leapt too early into paedobaptist waters without realizing that the views are different not just in mode and time, but in the distinction between them. Because they have not properly entered into a paedobaptist view regarding this distinction, they must logically go to paedocommunion. It turns out they never understood the reasons why they gave up credobaptism.

(I do not wish to enter into a defense/counterdefense of whether paedobaptism or credobaptism is true. I’m just trying to point out the common feature of paedocommunionists being former credos.)


Speaking as a Baptist, this is where I rest. The New Testament texts concerning the need to examine oneself and discern the body give me all the firepower I believe I need against paedocommunion. The New Testament clearly presupposes that a person has a level of cognitive ability and understanding before they would be admitted to the table.

However, when a Baptist attempts to rest in the same way upon the New Testament texts concerning the connection between faith and baptism (e.g. Acts 2:41), the response from the presbyterians seems to be, “Well yeah, but you see, there’s continuity between circumcision and baptism, so there’s more to it than what you see plain in the New Testament.”

Shouldn’t the argument of continuity be just as cogent for the one as it is for the other? Calvin seemed to think so.

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From Alfred Edersheim’s The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book 2, Chapter 10:

In strict law, personal observance of the ordinances, and hence attendance on the feasts at Jerusalem, devolved on a youth only when he was of age, that is, at thirteen years. Then he became what was called ‘a son of the Commandment,’ or ‘of the Torah.’ 3 But, as a matter of fact, the legal age was in this respect anticipated by two years, or at least by one.4 It was in accordance with this custom, that,5 on the first Pascha after Jesus had passed His twelfth year, His Parents took Him with them in the ‘company’ of the Nazarenes to Jerusalem. The text seems to indicate, that it was their wont6 to go up to the Temple; and we mark that, although women were not bound to make such personal appearance,7 Mary gladly availed herself of what seems to have been the direction of Hillel (followed also by other religious women, mentioned in Rabbinic writings), to go up to the solemn services of the Sanctuary.

Edersheim is considered one of the most qualified and reliable Jewish historians to date. We don’t get doctrine from extra-biblical sources, but historical context gives clues as to pattern and precedent.

We fundamentally disagree. No observation of /participation in sacrifice = no “full participation.”

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I appreciate the quote. I will look into this author more.

I hear you. Just show me the Scriptures, brother. :slight_smile:

You’ve appealed to “inference from the whole of Scripture,” and made reference to Deuteronomy 16:16-17, which I spoke to. If the inference is supposed to be obvious, surely there are some more specific texts that can be brought to bear?

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I think this touches on a key point in this whole debate as well that is often overlooked: the difference in how the two groups read the Bible.

Presbyterians (on the whole) appear more comfortable making deductions and employing “good and necessary consequence,” while our Baptist brethren are uncomfortable baptizing their children, for example, without an express Scriptural command or depiction. In that same vein, I am comfortable drawing a parallel between the typological sacrifice of Passover and the signed as sealed sacrifice commemorated in the Supper, as well as the attestation in Deuteronomy 16 that the festival sacrifices were only to be handled by adult males, to rule out infant communion on the grounds of continuity, even though I can’t find a verse that says makes this claim explicitly.

I would lovingly suggest that you are struggling with the Westminsterian view’s consistency because you are thinking “Baptistically.” As Pastor @joehelt put very well above, the reason why so many former credos become pro-paedobaptism and pro-paedocommunion because they don’t put on the hermeneutical glasses needed to see that affirmation of one for infants doesn’t necessitate acceptance of the other.

Some paedobaptists think my claims about an all-adult-male “complete” Passover are spurious. Even if I am wrong on that point, we only affirm continuity in baptism because Scripture teaches it - not because we just love to be consistent. Believing Scripture teaches continuity between circumcision and baptism and not Passover and the Lord’s Supper is no less “inconsistent” than affirming the regulative principle but rejecting Theonomy.


Well said, dear brother. I regret signing onto what you have written, but this thing about reading the text literally and not going beyond what we see as the literal meaning is what often derails brothers in Christ, which is why often I mention Jesus rebuking His Disciples for thinking He was talking about bread when He was talking about sin. Anyhow, thank you for this. Love,

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I’m grieved that this is where the conversation concludes. Here I am, a Baptist, striving to understand the hermeneutic employed by my Westminsterian brethren, but the conclusion is, “Well, you need to start by employing Westminsterian hermeneutics.” Got it. :slight_smile:

@tbbayly’s article cites Calvin, making a specific appeal to continuity between the Passover and the Lord’s supper.

Circumcision, which is known to correspond to our baptism, had been appointed for infants. But the Passover, the place of which has been taken by the Supper, did not admit all guests indiscriminately, but was duly eaten only by those who were old enough to be able to inquire into its meaning. If these men had a particle of sound brain left, would they be blind to a thing so clear and obvious?

The article concludes:

The magisterial reformers knew the Anabaptists’ arguments and condemned them on the basis, not of tradition, but Scripture.

I’m not skeptical, but I desire to learn more about what Calvin means. So I came here looking for some help to close the gap to understand the Scripture that allegedly undergirds what Calvin says. I’m met with harrumphing and condescension.

Tim says he’ll leave it to Ben and Joseph to be the patient ones to explain. Then Ben comes along and disagrees with Calvin… :slight_smile:

Again, I’m accused of not doing the very thing I’m asking you folks to help me do. Calvin, in the quoted text, appears to make the connection in continuity that seems like it would be key to helping me understand presbyterian hermeneutics concerning the sacraments.

Then ya’ll spend the rest of the time alluding vaguely to inferences that I would see clearly if only I were less baptist – the very thing I’m asking you to help me with.

I’m almost sorry I asked anything.

Dear Jason,

Please don’t take offense. Neither Jackson nor I were being condescending. Trust me. And I apologized at being irritable at the question, explaining why I find it difficult to go over these well-worn tracks again. It should not insult you for reformed men who practice the baptism of households to explain those who don’t by pointing to their hermenutics, particularly when I, for instance, have been an advocate and worked alongside credobaptists for decades. Does that count for nothing in your judgment of my charity toward you?

Nevertheless, as I have said to brothers I work with day in and day out, one of the most difficult things in theology is the matter of the discontinuity and continuity of the covenants, as Edwards said. And it’s my own judgment that it comes down to Baptists having a rigid view of hermeneutics, wanting to have silver bullets of texts to explain everything. I think I perceive that here in your resistance, as I see it, in moving from participants to participation. Am I wrong? I may well be.

Is it wrong for me to say so?

No. We’re men and we say what we think knowing and trusting that this leads to growth in our knowledge of truth. We are not rude in saying it, but we know the point might elicit the taking of offense. But you must understand that every single day of our lives, pastors elicit expressions of offense taken by souls we love and care for.

So persevere, dear brother. This is not social media. It’s Sanityville and men. If I have hurt you once more today, I do apologize, but it was absolutely not my intent. So forgive me without imputing false motives to me, please. With real love,


Yes, Joe; precisely, as I have tried to explain to Doug many times. All of us would be helped (as I have been) by reading Bannerman on the sacraments in his two volumes on the church. They are as sympathetic to credobaptist concerns as possible without giving up the Biblical doctrine of household baptism. Love,

I heard James White say this almost exactly on his podcast a year or so ago.



If it makes you feel better, sometimes I wish I could go back to being a Baptist just so I could avoid thinking through and having to explain what you have asked us to explain.

Concerning rhetoric, in a previous debate about vaccines, I appreciated you accusing me of being a naturalist/materialist in my defense of Covid vaccines. I didn’t respond to you because I think you landed a fair punch; it is a temptation of mine. You did not change my mind about the vaccines, but as regards my character, you don’t know the half of it!

I appreciated your contributions here, and hope you continue keeping me honest.


I do and will trust your word, sincerely. Thank you.

I am not insulted that my hermeneutics would be questioned. I came into this discussion already well-aware that baptists and presbyterians exhibit different hermeneutical tendencies. The feeling of insult comes from the fact that in this discourse, I have readily admitted that my hermeneutics may well be the problem. But rather than being met where I am at, I sense that the answers amount to something of a loop. “If you want to understand reformed hermeneutics, start by understanding reformed hermeneutics.” Both baptists and presbyterians are just as capable of being self-congratulatory in their critiques of one another, and it frustrates sincere attempts to learn.

Yes, I do know you have long worked alongside credobaptists. Your charity both toward baptists, in general, and toward me, personally, throughout our interactions is not in question, and I am thankful for it. I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of your love, and I bear no chip on my shoulder.

Your acknowledgement of the difficulty, at the very least, helps to affirm my sanity. Thank you.

You may well be right. This is what I am trying to get help to explore in the subject matter at hand of Calvin’s comment. It has long been my read – as I’ve tried to get a handle on the schisms between reformed baptists and presbyterians – that baptists appeal more strongly to watertight exegesis, whereas presbyterians are more apt to be content to take the peripheral “sense” of something they see in the Scriptures, and will allow the testimony of church history to amplify that sense to give it weight. Is that a fair summary?

Applied to the matter of Calvin’s statement in this excerpt then, it seems to me that the presbyterian is content to say that when Calvin asserts that the Passover “was duly eaten only by those who were old enough to be able to inquire into its meaning,” what he is actually doing is just making a general appeal to a peripheral sense he gets from Exodus 12:26, coupled with the testimony of the history of Judaism.

I, as a baptist, with my rigid hermeneutics, take issue with that, as I find the words “was duly eaten only by those who were old enough to be able to inquire into its meaning,” to be a very closed statement. Only by those? Really? Only? Where’s that at?

I agree with Calvin’s general point in calling attention to the fact that baby’s didn’t eat the Passover, hence the sympathies I expressed in my initial post on this thread back in March. I’ve learned a lot from my reformed brothers – and you specifically, Pastor Bayly – about being able to take and appreciate the general equity of a thing. So hopefully you’ll give me a little credit. But I do believe specificity in hermeneutics still matters.

I do understand this about the work of pastors, and I am thankful for it.

I am thankful for this admonishment, and I will bear it in mind. I do forgive, and ascribe no false motive.

Thank you for your reply.

Pastor Bayly is spot on. I meant no offense and was not intending to shut down or obscure discussion with a pejorative. I was (believe it or not) just trying to help.

As a former Baptist, Reformed Covenant Theology didn’t really click with me until I dug deeply into my presuppositions with which I approached the text. How “new” is the New Covenant, really? How much did the Pharisees get right about Moses and Abraham? What is the focal point of the Abrahamic Covenant and the sign of circumcision? Should the Bible be read “left to right,” or should we grant a primacy to the New Testament in a way contrary to the “flat” Westminsterian covenantal structure?

All these were questions fundamental to my understanding of the paedobaptism (and consequentially paedocommunion) question took much contemplation and reflection, much more than a single Internet thread will allow, and that do not have verses and passages answering them. So when I hear “just show me the Scriptures” in a discussion such as this, I’m reminded of myself, having wished that someone would have pointed out to me sooner that the question is ultimately answered by how one reads the Bible rather than a few isolated Pauline verses or the household baptisms in Acts. I simply wanted to point this truth out, hoping it would save you from the frustration of thinking “how do those Presbyterians just insert ideas in Scripture?”

There’s also a polemical background to the paedocommunion issue specifically that may have not been made clear enough in this thread. Most “vanilla” Presbyterians have little patience for the doctrine, hence the “matter-of fact” opposition you’ve seen. It has been roundly rejected since the magisterial Reformation (and really before that by Rome), its re-introduction into the mainstream is novel and faddish, it obliterates the solemnity of the sacrament, and it ultimately leads to false assurance of right standing before God. When someone asks about paedocommunion, I am once again reminded that there are “Reformed” men who actually hold this view and are attempting to persuade others to do likewise, and that there are others claiming I would advocate feeding poison to children if I want to be a real Presbyterian.

Of course, none of this is your fault. You came asking honest questions that deserve honest answers. I think we in this thread have tried our best to give them, though maybe not to your satisfaction. There are certainly better men than me to explain my position. I had just hoped to steer the conversation in the most fruitful possible direction.


I appreciate these words, and the reminder of the need to be thick-skinned.

After all, we’re going to need thick skin to repel all those needles the government is going to want to stick in us.