Sacramentalism and the CREC

On FB, some of us have been warning God’s people against the CREC’s nascent, incipient, or full-blown (take your pick) sacramentalism most visible in their confessional commitment to paedocommunion. Both CREC and non-CREC men and women have had responses, and to one of those (likely CREC) responses, I wrote the following just now:

No sacramentalist has ever thought he was. Read Scripture’s many condemnations of it and see if the orthodox (reformed) rabbis thought Jesus had a point. Listen to paedocommunionists and see if they warn their children that God hated Esau and that not all Israel is Israel and that there is the circumcision of the flesh and the circumcision of the heart, and so the baptism of the flesh and the baptism of the heart.

Almost twenty years ago, I warned longtime and dear brother that his theology (then full-bore Federal Vision in its early stages) would lead to sacramentalism and Rome. It was clear to me then, and even more clear to me now. Read Rob Rayburn’s essay on covenant succession which really started the F-V disaster. Read Schenck’s book which was the long version inspiring Rob’s short piece. No warnings of Jacob and Esau.

Read Luther and Calvin: their sacramentology required constant warnings against ritual and ceremony—warnings which the CREC men I’ve known for decades make no slightest habit of giving. CREC men show their sacramentalism in a significant way by never fencing the table. Compare their words at the table to Calvin’s. It’s mindblowing how opposite they are. Hundreds of their table exhortations are online and all of them are variations on the theme of “don’t fear and don’t sin in faithlessness by not coming. Celebrate the joy of grace in this meal and come, worrying not yourself about discerning the body. If you have learned our innovative and historically novel take on the exegesis of the Apostolic table warnings of 1Corinthians 11, you’ll finally realize all the Reformers were wrong and we’re right—that to fail to discern the body is to not come. So come! Don’t be faithless; come!!”

To non-CREC men reading here, let me say that I’ve been watching the CREC longer than most, and the evidence of the confessional nature of their paedocommunionism is so very clear. Take, for instance, one of their top leaders writing about one of the members of his parish who was recently released from prison, but prohibited by the civil authorities from coming to Lord’s Day worship. He explained to his readers that it was still all good because he and his fellow elders were sending men studying to become ministers over to the man’s house Monday evenings to give him the Lord’s supper.

This was a telling thing for him to say, partly because of how clear it was that he didn’t know what he was saying (which I called and explained to him). First, across Reformed sacramentology and polity, it belongs solely to men ordained to Gospel ministry to administer the sacraments. Not fathers. Not unordained seminary students, as my friend had naively done.

Second, my friend had not spoken of provding the preaching of God’s Word those Monday evenings, but only the administering of the sacrament. I explained to him that Reformed Protestants have always forbidden the celebration of the Lord’s Supper unless combined with and flowing from the preaching of God’s Word. Protestants are willing to have the preaching of God’s Word without the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but never the celebration of the Lord’s Supper without the preaching of God’s Word. But my friend was sending his unordained students over to make sure his repentant sheep got his weekly sacramental grace, not through the preaching of God’s Word, but the eating and drinking of the bread and cup.

Now then, look at the whole story and ask yourself what could be more an indication of an unbiblical doctrine of the sacraments than these errors enumerated above? What a mishmash.

I have other examples from the CREC’s community life I have observed, but those not cloudy in their perceptions don’t need more. CREC men are friends with each other and tell us neither they nor their friends are sacramentalists, and that’s the end of it for them. Someone once said that the man who considers only a few things has an easy time making up his mind.

Most Reformed men today trust themselves and heed no warnings. They don’t need them. They’re smart and fully capable of thinking for themselves.

Their commitments flow with their relationships and they don’t believe in doctrinal discipline. Had they been alive to see and hear the Apostle Paul confronting the Apostle Peter about whom he sat with at the church meals, it’s my conviction they would have rebuked the Apostle Paul for straining at gnats and being dogmatic and divisive.

Machen was convinced church men today would have been scandalized by Galatians if they didn’t know it was canonical when they first picked it up and read it.

In so many areas of theology today, our only standard is “Can’t we all just get along?” But souls are at stake with truth and falsehood and error—souls our Lord purchased with His Own precious blood.

You know, my reading this morning was in 1Timothy 4, and these words struck me: “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”

Note carefully that Timothy persevering in teaching truth and opposing error is a means of salvation to himself, but also his sheep.

With love,

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A continuation just posted on FB:

In the debate over the paedocommunion error below, one brother made some points which I here respond to. I quote his comment in its entirety:

Dear (brother),

Let me try to respond to your own points you make.

You write, “Your concerns are all valid.”

If it doesn’t offend you, let me say twenty years ago talking to my friend at the top of the CREC, they were “concerns.” Since then, speaking at Moscow and CREC events, attending their meetings nationally and locally, and reading and writing for many years online starting at Baylyblog and continuing on Warhorn, dealing carefully with the paedocommunion error in what I believe are definitive ways, and then responding to those who disagreed, all of it accumulating so those close treatments amounted to likely more than 10,000 words, our concerns have now become deep convictions. Scripture requires us to treat them so.

You write, "But you’re still unnecessarily boxing out a reformed approach to young-child-communion.” We are simply and firmly confessing biblical sacramentology, brother, and condemning unbiblical sacramentology which has enticed so many former baptists and evangelicals.

You write: "The benefits are only appropriated by faith — not through digestion or lineage.” This is what you confess, but not what we have seen and read and heard from most paedocommunionists. We have closely observed this practice for two decades now, and have been anything but quick to judge the fruit of this error.

You write, "self-examination can start at a very young age (as does faith).” We have affirmed this over and over again. This is not the issue. Calvin examined and invited to the table young children even down to eight years old, and we do the same. What we deny is that self-examination is unnecessary with children, which is the clear teaching of the CREC men we know and have fellowshipped with. As the Scriptures demand in 1Corinthians 11 and Protestants have always affirmed, those coming to the table must examine themselves. Period. CREC men deny this. They repeatedly claim that the only confession of faith required of wee ones coming to the table is that they are able to pat their head and rub their stomach. And if that’s their acceptable confession of faith, we know they mean it when they loudly and repeatedly confess their novel exegesis of 1Corinthians 11 which denies the text requires self-examination of partakers. We believe what they say is what they believe, and we know it is their practice. No one can fault us for taking them at their own words.

You write, "‘real presence’ = subjective presence, not objective presence.” So far as I know and have seen, this has never been the issue at the center of the CREC error. Real spiritual presence is what we all teach, I believe.

You write, “‘profession of faith’ as rite of passage is a tradition (good or bad) not a scriptural command. (I think this is a hard one for you to get your mind around!).” When you say “rite,” the word connotes formalism and ritualism and age of accountability stuff, the dangers of whiich I think I understand quite well and have risked my pastoral call warninng against in my first call in Wisconsin. Immediately I dispensed with this practice which had been constant for many years in my parish. Since then we have never, in any church I’ve served, stopped warning against this dangerous doctrine and practice.

If rather you are denying the necessity of confession of faith for the elders of every church inviting souls to the Lord’s table, I simply point to that and say I understand you completely, and you are completely wrong. Even your own men claim their elders in their CREC churches grant admission to the Lord’s table upon confession of faith, then claiming patting the head and rubbing the stomach is a sufficient confession of faith by a toddler. So yes, even they demand a confession of faith to come to the Lord’s table. Would you oppose them in this commitment of theirs?

But if you would even go so far as to deny that any confession of faith is ever required of those joining Christ’s Church, I simply cede the floor to you, not having any idea how to respond to someone opposing what is so universally taught across all of Scripture. What consitutes such a confession is a difficult matter, but that it is necessary and ubiquitous across Scripture and Church history is incontrovertible.

You write, "ex opere operato = bad.” No one disagrees, yet it is our considered judgment this is precisely what the errors of paedocommunion and federal vision and liturgical practices inculcate. This is one of the central reasons for our denunciation of paedocommunion, and it’s our observation that a tree is known by its fruit, and not just what it reports as its own genus and species.

You write, "no intinction.” I find it humorous you draw the line firmly here, but nevermind. We have enough on our plate already.

You write, "I wish you and Andrew would leave this alone. I genuinely hope you do.” Well of course you do. We condemn your use of the saraments as unbiblical and you think we should stop condemning it. What I think you don’t get is that we believe your practice is very dangerous to God’s sheep, and we have vowed to protect them. We are shepherds and it’s of the essence of the shepherd’s duties to warn the sheep against false doctrine and practice.

You write, "I would not have rebuked Paul for being divisive.” You think you wouldn’t have and I also think I wouldn’t have, but I am unsure about myself, and maybe about you, also.

You write, "The infighting on the Internet is simply brimming over.” The internet is a wonderful forum for warning God’s sheep against false doctrine and practice. If you think not, do what I have repeatedly requested of men complaining that we’re being needlessly divisive over the sacraments: please read our many thousands of words biblically exposing this dangerous error of paedocommunion which are linked below.

Your use of the pejorative, “infighting,” in connection with our exposing the false doctrine and practice of paedocommunion reveals again your dismissal of our biblical arguments as something amounting to dyspepsia, irritability, jealousy, bitterness, censoriousness, and so on. This only works for men who hold to this error. It doesn’t begin to take our concerns as principled and serious.

Finally, the sacraments have always been fought over because they are the interface God has ordained between faith and life, physically marking those who belong to Him as His Own. That paedocommunionists can’t get their heads around the divisiveness of their practice within God’s Church today, but claim those condemning it are the divisive ones, is predictable. Those being condemned in their doctrine and practce always condemn those condemning them for being divisive and censorious and nitpickers. As Rome viewed Luther, Knox, Bucer, Calvin, etc. As the people of Northampton viewed Edwards. As the Donatists viewed Augustine. As the priests viewed the Old Testament prophets proclaiming that those with circumcised foreskins lacked circumcised hearts. As the Pharisees viewed our Lord when He told them they were not children of Abraham, but had the Devil as their father. As the Judaizers viewed the Apostle Paul, and so on… And let’s not forget how the Corinthians would have responded to the Apostle Paul’s rebuking them for not examining themselves before coming to the Lord’s table, but rather living in pride, incest, lawsuits, etc. which led to their judgment by God in sickness and death.

With love,

PS: My wife is concerned that the pat the head and rub the belly confession of faith is unknown, and CREC men would be sceptical that it’s factual. Given that it was said to us directly by a top man there, and others have heard him say it, and I have told him personally that this is wrong, I don’t hesitate to repeat it and will continue to do so assuming what the CREC knows of and doesn’t condemn is what it accepts. I don’t think, given the prominence of this man, that it is uncharitable to repeat his illustration from within his own family in defense of paedocommunion.

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I’m not on FB and haven’t seen the debate, but thought I would chime in. The following is based somewhat on a conversation I had today with men in my church, which is part of Evangel presbytery.

My opposition to paedocommunion really started in observing the manner of life and faith among the elementary age covenant children of a Reformed church where paedocommunion was embraced. A culture of strong presumptive regeneration has consequences. One of them, ironically, is that the importance of the Lord’s Supper itself is not too well understood or properly catechized, and this among children who, elsewhere, would be accustomed to high academic standards. They can conjugate Latin verbs, but they lack ready answers about what the Lord’s Supper is or what it means. Paedocommunion leads to a lack of reverence and a muddying of waters about sacred things. Clarity is lacking because age appropriate boundaries are being blurred.

An error in one thing tends to pop up elsewhere. Children who are ushered into privileges appropriate to those of an older age, or given a privilege without having to earn it as part of a process of normal growth, tend to cross other lines they ought not cross, lacking a proper respect for age, believing themselves to be wiser or more experienced or more worthy than they truly are. They don’t cross these lines knowingly, rather their parents drive them into it, likely their mothers leading the charge.

It’s a sad thing but real.

Besides the developmental concerns, I think it is safe to say that paedocommunion does not lead to children who love Jesus more, desire greater personal holiness, or who strive against sin. Rather, trusting in sacraments tends to blunt personal piety.

I reflected on the subtle differences in upbringing a paedocommunion church would form in my own children contrasted with what I had been raised with in a plain vanilla evangelical home. I then took steps to place my family in a church where heart religion would be taught.

Second, conerning sacramentalism…

I am a repenting sacramentalist. I’m geared to love aesthetics and ritual. Even though I am a member of a non-sacramentalist church in a non-sacramentalist presbytery, self awareness leads me to say that I am still inclined to it, and would return to it if I could. Short circuiting salvation through sacraments lowers my blood pressure. It’s living on Easy Street. If I could prove from Scripture that sacramental grace and participation were all I needed to reach heaven, I would be there in a heartbeat. No fuss no muss.

In confessing this, I’m nothing special, and neither is sacramentalism, as a sin, anything special. Ho hum really. Yawn inducing. It’s warned against in Scripture because all of God’s people across time fall into it. How can we say we are immune to it? Are we so much smarter, or further along in our sanctification, than the people in the Bible, or the people who lived in the 16th century?

Firm denials that we are sacramentalists, and a denial that we are tempted by it, or exhibit even a hint of it, strike me as suspicious. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Naysayers will say I’m focusing on negatives, or that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ll put my ritualist credentials up against anybody’s.

Finally, fruit matters. Always has. Always will. About paedocommunion, the wise observe, heed, reflect and avoid.

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Over the years, as I’ve encountered one crisis after another in the life of the church, I’ve gained an appreciation for the cheesy, simple song, Old Time Religion.

All of us are sinners, deserving of God’s wrath – each of us, individually, for our own sin. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved from the wrath to come.

Sin. Righteousness. Judgment. Freedom from the power and penalty of sin. Freedom from death. Freedom from the wrath of God. The righteousness of Christ accounted to us through faith alone. Justified fully by the blood of His cross. Joy everlasting, with a down payment (with trials) even in this life.

These plain vanilla truths are sweeter than life itself, and are worth every pain to protect. The family recipe must not be tampered with, and must be proclaimed to every generation.

It was good for Paul and Silas
It’s good enough for me

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I am a little confused by your dislike of Schenck’s book. I certainly believe that children should confess faith before taking the Lord’s Supper, and that the Lord’s Supper ought to be fenced. I also realize that not all Israel is Israel and that there are Esaus as well as Jacobs. At the same time, we have God’s promise to be the God of our children and the responsibility of parents to bring their children up in the Lord. The whole “vipers in diapers” perspective on the church’s children is not biblical, and Schenck was right to argue against it. The book was a fairly standard Reformed treatment as I recall.

Dear Michael,

Rob Rayburn’s popularization of Schenck in his short article on covenant succession was the seminal work out of which the Federal Vision schism grew. As Doug Wilson said, “It’s all about the children.” Implementing the substance of his essay, Rayburn fought to reverse the Protestant and Reformed condemnation of paedocommunion, but he lost. Those of us in his denomination, the PCA, refused to split off from our Protestant and Reformed fathers, creating sacramental schism. So consider carefully how foundational Rob Rayburn’s popularization of Schenck, and to some degree Schenck himself, were to the creation of both the awful Federal Vision errors and the paedocommunion schism.

Now please do not condemn me for saying “error” and “schism.” On both matters, the Federal Vision and the paedocommunion men were working diligently to change orthodox doctrine and practice, so if they were right they were reformers (as all of them were quite candid in describing themselves), and if they were wrong, they were errorists and schismatics.

The Protestant and Reformed church has heard their arguments and rejected them, fulsomely. I have heard them carefully and agree with the full Protestant and Reformed church in her repeated judgments. The CREC has decided to embrace these errors, whether that embracing is done corporately by agreeing not to condemn these errors or discipline them, or congregationally and individually by holding and practicing these errors.

Now then, what has been the fruit of their acceptance within their church union, or their confession and practice themselves, of these errors?

As we’ve said repeatedly, compare the historic fencing of the table by Protestant and Reformed fathers to what the CREC men practice and/or tolerate within their fellowship, and it’s immediately clear that the embracing of the sacramental schism of paedocommunion has led the CREC in a sacramentalist direction in which the table liturgies of the historic Protestant and Reformed church have come under the ban of these Federal Vision paedocommunionists.

I have written this again and again, asking readers to actually compare the table liturgies of both the French and English congregations in Geneva (used by Calvin and Knox, respectively), but I have never gotten a single response to this challenge. Some of the leading paedocommunionists have their liturgies and table exhortations up each week and it’s the work of a moment to compare and contrast them to this liturgy used by both Calvin and Knox 500 years ago:

The Order of the Lord’s Supper
The maner of the Lordes Supper

The day when the lordes supper is ministered which commolye is used once a monthe, or so oft as the Congregation shall thinke expedient, the minister vseth to saye as followeth.

Let us marke deare bretherne, and cosider how Iesus Christ did ordayne unto us his holy supper according as S. Paule maketh rehearsall in the II chap. of the first Epistle to the Cor. I haue (saith he) receyued of the lorde that which I haue deliuered vnto you, to witt, that the lorde Iesus the same night he was betrayed toke breade, and when he had geuen thankes, he brake it sayinge. Take ye, eate ye, this is my bodie, which is broken for you: doo you this in remebrance of me. Likewise after supper, he toke the cuppe, sayige. This cuppe is the new testamet or couenat in my bloude; doo ye this so ofte as ye shall drinke therof, in remebrance of me. For so ofte as you shal eate this bread, and drinke of this cuppe, ye shall declare the lordes deathe vntill his cominge. Therfore whosoeuer shall eate this bread, and drinke the cuppe of the lorde vnworthely, he shalbe giltie of the bodye and bloud of the lord. Then see that euery ma proue ad trye hym selfe, ad so let hym eate of this bread ad drike of this cuppe, for whosoeuer eateth or drinkethvnworthelye, he eateth and drinketh his owne damnation, for not hauinge due regarde and consideration of the lordes bodye.

This done, the minister proceadith to the exhortation.

Dearely beloued in the lorde, forasmoch as we be nowe assembled, to celebrate the holy communion of the body and bloud of our sauiour Christ, let vs consider these woordes of S. Paule, how he exhorteth all persons diligently to trye and examine the selues, before they presume to eate of that bread, ad drinke of that cuppe.

For as the benefite ys great, if with a truly penitent hart, and liuely faith, we receyue that holy sacrament (for then we spiritually eate the fleshe of Christ, and drinke his bloude, the we dwell in Christ, ad Christ in vs, we be one with Christ, and Christ with vs) so is the dauger great, if we receyue the same vnworthely, for then we be giltie of the bodye, and bloud of Christ our sauiour, we eate ad drike our own danation, not considering the lordes bodye: we kidle godes wrath agaist vs, ad prouoke him to plague vs with diuerse diseases and sundry kindes of death.

Therfore if any of you be a blasphemer of God, an hinderer or slaunderer of his worde, an adulterer, or be in malice or enuie, or in any other greuous cryme, bewaylle your synnes, and come not to this holy table: lest after the takynge of this holy sacramet, the diuell entre into you as he entred into Iudas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you, to destruction, bothe of bodye and soule. Iudge therefore your selues bretherne, that ye be not iudged of the lorde: repent you truly for your synnes paste, and haue a lyuely and stedfast fayth, in Christ our sauiour, sekinge onely your saluation in the merites of his death, and passion, from hensforth refusinge, and forgettinge all malice and debate, with full purpose to liue in brotherly amytie, and godlye conuersation, all the dais of your lyfe.

And albeit we fele in ourselues muche frailtie and wretchednes, as that we haue not our faith so perfite, and constant, as we ought, being many tymes readye to distruste Godes goodnes through our corrupt nature, and also that we are not so throughlye geuen to serue God, neyther haue so feruent a zeale to set forth his glory, as our duetye requireth, felinge still such rebellion in our selues, that we haue nede dayly to fight against the lustes of our fleshe, yet neuertheles seinge that our lorde hath dealed thus mercifully with vs, and hath printed his gospell in our hartes, so that, we are preserued from falling into desperatio and misbeliefe: and seing also that he hath indued vs with a will, and desire to renownce and withstand our own affections, with a longing for his righteousenes and the keping of his commaundementes, we may be now right well assured, that those defautes and manifolde imperfections in vs, shalbe no hinderance at all against vs, to cause him not to accept and impute vs as worthie to come to his spirituall table.

For the ende of our comming thyther, is not to make protestation, that we are vpright or iuste in our liues, but contrariwise, we come to seke our life and perfection, in Iesu Christ, acknowledging in the meane tyme, that we of our selues, be the children of wrath, and damnation.

Let vs consider then, that this sacrament is a singuler medicine for all poore sicke creatures, a comfortable helpe to weake soules, and that our lord requireth no other worthines on our parte, but that we vnfaynedly acknowlege our noghtines, and imperfection. Then to the end that we may be worthy partakers of his merites, ad moste comfortable benefits (which ys the true eatinge of his fleshe, and drinkinge of his bloud) let vs not suffer our mindes to wander aboute the consideration of these earthlie, ad corruptible thynges (which we see present to our eies and fele with our hades) to seeke Christ bodely presente in the, as if he were inclosed in the breade or wyne, or as yf these elembentes were tourned and chaunged into the substaunce, of his fleshe and blood.

For the only waye to dispose our soules to receiue norishment, reliefe, and quikening of his substance, is to lift vp our mindes by fayth aboue all thinges worldlye and sensible, and therby to entre into heauen, that we may finde, and receiue Christ, where he dwelleth vndoubtedlye verie God, and verie man, in the incomrehensible glorie of his father, to whome be all praise, honor and glorye now and euer. Amen.

The exhortation ended, the minister commeth doune from the pulpet, and sitteth at the Table, euery man and woman in likewise takinge their place as occasion best serueth, then he taketh bread and geueth thankes, either in these woordes followinge, or like in effect.

And so, here then is the Church of Scotland version we used at Trinity Reformed Church during my years serving there:

SCOTTISH BOOK OF COMMON ORDER.

PART III.

THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS AND OTHER ORDINANCES OF THE CHURCH.

The Order for the
Celebration of the Lord’s Supper,
or Holy Communion.

The Prayer after Sermon being ended, the Minister may give this Exhortation–

Dearly beloved,–As we are now about to celebrate the Holy Communion of the body and blood of Christ, let us consider how St. Paul exhorteth all persons to examine themselves before they eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a truly penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy sacrament (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink His blood; then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us; we are one with Christ and Christ with us), so is the danger great if we receive the same unworthily. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Therefore I warn all who are not of the number of the faithful, all who live in any sin against their knowledge or their conscience, charging them that they profane not this holy table.

And yet this is not pronounced to exclude any penitent person, how grievous (So, for instance, Fred, here I’d paraphrase on the fly, “No matter how wicked/bad his sins may be/have been”) soever his sins have been, but only such as continue in sin without repentance.

Examine your own consciences, therefore, to know whether you truly repent of your sins, and whether, trusting in God’s mercy, and seeking your whole salvation in Jesus Christ, you are resolved to follow holiness, and to live in peace and charity with all men.

If you have this testimony in your hearts before God, be assured that your sins are forgiven through the perfect merit of Jesus Christ our Lord; and I bid you, in His name, to His holy table.

And although you feel that you have not perfect faith, and do not serve God as you ought; yet if, by God’s grace, you are heartily sorry for your sins and infirmities, and earnestly desire to withstand all unbelief, and to keep all His commandments, be assured that your remaining imperfections do not prevent you from being received of God in mercy, and so made worthy partakers of this heavenly food.

For we come not to this supper as righteous in ourselves, but we come to seek our life in Christ, acknowledging that we lie in the midst of death. let us, then, look upon this sacrament as a remedy for those who are sick, and consider that the worthiness our Lord requireth of us is that we be truly sorry for our sins, and find our joy and salvation in Him. United with Him who is holy, even our Lord Jesus Christ, we are accepted of the Father, and invited to partake of these HOLY THINGS WHICH ARE FOR HOLY PERSONS.

The alms may then be collected, and appropriate sentences of Scripture may be read.

THE HOLY COMMUNION.

The Minister then gives out a psalm or hymn, and while it is being sung, the Minister and Assistants bring in the elements and place them on the Communion Table…

An honest man with even some familiarity with the Federal Vision error and paedocommunionist schism as they are practiced in churches today would not hesitate to say the above historic Protestant and Reformed table liturgies are somewhere between inimical and anathema to those holding and practicing the errors given birth to by Rob Rayburn’s popularization of Schenck’s “covenant succession.”

So first, we observe the fruit of the Rayburn/Schenck version of covenant succession in Federal Vision and it’s sacramental manifestation in paedocommunion, and we carefully note and warn that this fruit is bad, giving birth to liturgies uniformly lacking anything approximating the historic table exhortations written and adopted by those fathers who put their lives on the line by warning God’s sheep against the “idolatrous” Roman mass.

There is a logical decay in doctrine and table liturgy for our Lord’s supper among these brothers holding to (or tolerating in their denomination) the unbiblical version of the promise of covenant succession as Rayburn popularized and Schenck argued it, originally, and it’s clear to those of us willing to weigh and judge these errors although they are taught and practiced by brothers in Christ we have long loved and respected.

So yes, dear brother, just as you say, I too have always believed that "children should confess faith before taking the Lord’s Supper, and that the Lord’s Supper ought to be fenced.” But to say these things in a time when the words “confess faith” have been redefined so that they mean a toddler rubbing his belly and patting his head, and the table being “fenced” has been redefined to mean endless repetitions of weekly happy-clappy cheerleading routines summed up as "Come! Come! Come! Don’t hesitate! Isn’t it wonderful??!? COME!!!” shows that what two men mean when they both say they believe “children should confess faith” and “the Lord’s Supper ought to be fenced” is often things almost diametrically opposed to each other.

You continue, "I also realize that not all Israel is Israel and that there are Esaus as well as Jacobs,” but it is this precise declaration of the doctrine of Scripture concerning the firmness of God’s decrees both positive and negative related to the descendants of his covenant people that Schenck and Rayburn most certainly did not teach or warn against. Instead, the overwhelming message of both men was that if your children did not walk with God by faith, it was due to your failure as a father.

This is not in any way “fairly standard Reformed treatment” of the significance and application of God’s covenant promises to His covenant people, and I must again say that it is this context that gave birth to both Federal Vision’s errors and the departure of Federal Visionists from historic administration of the Lord’s table through both paedocommunion and the silencing of table warnings used by their fathers for the past five centuries.

You write, "The whole ‘vipers in diapers’ perspective on the church’s children is not biblical, and Schenck was right to argue against it,” but I never have heard of such a view of little ones inside either presbyterian or baptist (reformed) circles, nor was this the view Schenck was putting forward. His fellow Presbyterians did not view little ones as vipers, spiritually. What was at issue was the degree to which children were members of the church, and therefore subject to (or able to enjoy the privilege of) the discipline of the elders?

There was a book of essays on covenant succession Canon issued back some twenty or so years ago in which I have an essay explaining the context of the debate over the proper place and treatment of children of the church in American presbyterianism. I commend it to you.

But finally, what I would remind readers of is that taking out the warnings “Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated” and “not all Israel is Israel,” along with the distinction between the circumcision of the foreskin and the circumcision of the heart (which Scripture warns of so constantly), in what one claims to be an explanation of the Biblical doctrine of covenant succession is not. At all.

Love,

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this was a duplicate of what appears below caused by the realities of posting while driving through Germany…

trying to delete this duplicate post…

Pastor Bayly,

Thank you for the clarification on the issue of paedocommunion. I have been conflicted on that issue and your explanation was helpful as to why CREC is headed down a dark road.

But I was wondering if the same principle applied to having paedo and credo baptists in the same presbytery. Were Calvin or Knox fine with differing opinions on that issue? Or did they also see something that could cause division and a similar path to what the CREC has taken. I am not sure what I think, so that is why I was asking your thoughts.

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So after that work writing the above, the response can easily be understood to run in the direction of “you’re just as bad because you worship and fellowship with credobaptists.” Immediately, two likes. I’m not being evasive or pushy in making this observation, but sincere. I’ll eventually respond to the question, which I think is legitimate concerning the orthodoxy of myself and Trinity and Evangel, but responding to my words in this way moves the discussion away from the critically important points I tried to explain. Love,

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Tim,
Thanks for your reply. I agree with you on all the points you make regarding the Reformers, Fencing the Table, and Rayburn’s interpretation of Covenant Succession etc. It’s been some time since I read Schenck’s book so I’ll have to go back and take a look it; I don’t remember it being as problematic as you indicate. I recently read a very positive review of the book by David Engelsma (certainly no Federal Visionist or paedocommunionist), and perhaps that’s affecting my memory of it.

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You misunderstand the like, dear brother.

The like was not “Ahha! He’s got him! Take that, Bayly!”

The like was, “This is a question that I look forward to hearing Tim answer, because he always has useful thing to say about it, and it’s a topic dear to my own heart, with many practical ramifications as I think about the life of my own church, the influence that Moscow has in my own church, and my longing to pursue general unity among reformed baptists and presbyterians.”

Sanityville likes are not like Facebook likes.

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Well said. I stand corrected, but remember I can’t see who the likes are from, also unlike FB. Love

If you click the number next to the heart symbol, it will expand and show you who did the liking.

That way you can know exactly who your fans are overtime, and which people to hold a grudge against. :smiley:

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Weird. Never knew you could click the number instead of the heart. Thanks.

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Dear Jason and Michael,

Several things might be mentioned as particularly helpful in explaining our decision to worship and fellowship together across this divide, within the same presbytery and congregations.

First, if the reason most (not all) present Reformed presbyteries and congregations do not worship together in one congregation across this divide is that the officers believe this disagreement is somewhat analagous to how it presented itself in the time of Luther and Calvin, we would not have the cooperation across the divide we observe on the part of these same men in every other way. Observe their constant sharing in seminary training (for years, Westminster Escondido served Reformed Baptists), publishing, writing, conferences, and even the worship of their general assemblies (Al Mohler preaching at the PCA GA worship and communion service in Louisville, for instance). This seemed right to us. None of us would hesitate to invite Charles Spurgeon to preach to our congregations were he available and willing; nor John Piper, for that matter. Why everything but the worship and membership and fellowship of the local church if, in fact, the division is truly analogous to the division of five centuries ago?

Clearly, almost no one today acts as if the division is analogous to the division at the time of the Reformation; and therefore, it is reasonable to assume they don’t believe it is, either. So what is the difference allowing us to share fellowship despite our division in this matter today?

Mainly, it is today’s anabaptists’ acceptance of civil authority. Those who read Reformation history realize the Anabaptists then and the anabaptists now are a different breed of cat. Neither John nor Al are leading a pitchfork rebellion against President Biden, nor are they accusing their friends Lig and Tim K. and Bryan and Joel and Marvin and Jim Boice of being halfway reformers unwilling to go all the way. So there’s a rapprochement, and truthfully, it is approved by both sides.

But again, if this rapprochement is everything but membership and worship in particular congregations and presbyteries, why not particular congregations and presbyteries, also?

Second, I’ve often said to PCA officers who are friends that our credobaptist souls in Trinity Reformed would likely be better at explaining the Biblical grounds for infant baptism than their paedobaptist souls of their own congregations, and they haven’t argued with me when I’ve said it. This demonstrates the thorough understanding of both positions that prevails when we love each other and are united in the same fellowship and congregation.

Third, it’s commonly known in the PCA that many pastors and elders are only halfway convinced of paedobaptism, having only stated that they don’t deny the arguments from Scripture in favor of paedobaptism (thus gaining approval to serve as pastors and elders). I know several myself who were credo while in our congregation, but when they moved were only able to find in a PCA church a satisfactory home; and after a while these men became elders there in their new PCA home. So naturally, we ask why require them to say they have changed their position instead of allowing them to hold to their former position? We’ve found it better to allow them freedom of conscience in this matter while working to grow their understanding of Biblical (paedo) baptism. Smile.

Fourth, almost all the movement has been to paedobaptism. Simple statement of fact, and it’s happened without (I’m in Germany now, remember) sturm and drang. Peaceably, without anyone accusing anyone else of divisiveness. Let the truth out itself instead of forcing men to give their formal assent while remaining unconvinced?

Fifth, having the discussions and arguments irenically within one fellowship really does help everyone grow in their understanding of the Biblical doctrines of the sacraments, the covenant, and the necessity of regeneration.

Sixth, and most importantly, this only works because every officer must affirm that the covenant promises to our children continue in the new covenant, and are not left behind. “And thy house.”

Is this helpful? Questions, criticisms, and comments are welcomed. Love,

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That is helpful. Thank you.

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Helpful as always, Tim, thank you.

Regarding your first point, I certainly see that the rapprochement exists and has been approved by both sides. But are you saying that you think Calvin and Luther would have agreed to the rapprochement, if the Anabaptists of their day were as “docile” as modern baptists?

As you mention the connection of civil authority, it gets me to thinking. As I read Calvin, I do get the vibe sometimes that a lot of his attitude toward his contemporary Anabaptists had to do with their unhinged views on civil authority, maybe even moreso than their exegesis itself. Do you think he would have had more tolerance of credobaptist exegesis, as relates to baptism itself, if it wasn’t joined at the hip with the whole of the Anabaptist “package?”

Thanks.

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That sort of rapprochement existed after the English Civil Wars, at least to a large part. Not so much to have TRC’s arrangement in a single congregation, but certainly between ministers. I’m sure that had to do in large part with decades of credobaptist insistence and demonstration that their doctrine was substantially the same as paedobaptist reformed churches.

Continental anabaptists in the sixteenth century were opting out of society with several of their views - they would have looked like Waco to us. Their exegesis on baptism may have looked similar to a modern day Baptist’s, but almost nothing else was the same.

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Post the Civil War, IIRC, both the Presbyterian Church in England and the nascent Reformed Baptist witness were on the wrong side of the authorities, and remained so for some years. Could someone confirm please?

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