Monday, June 09, 2014

Paedocommunion


I'm going to venture a few comments about the paedocommunion debate.
i) From what I can tell, many proponents are affiliated with the Federal Vision. At the same time, I think the case (such as it is) for paedocommunion is logical separable from the Federal Vision.
ii) It's easier to argue for paedocommunion if you already embrace paedobaptism. If, by contrast, you're a Baptist or Anabaptist who espouses credo-baptism, then you can oppose paedocommunion on the same grounds.
I'm not saying paedobaptism entails paedocommunion. But objections to paedocommunion tend to parallel objections to paedobaptism.
iii) On a related note, contemporary Presbyterians typically argue that the children of believers are entitled to the covenant rite of baptism because they are covenant children. If you are a covenant child, then that entitles you to the covenant sign. But that logic plays into paedocommunion.
iv) From what I've read, the stock objection to paedocommunion is that it violates what is required of communicants in 1 Cor 10-11. However, it's tricky for a paedobaptist to make that argument:
a) Baptists typically object to infant baptism on the grounds that all the explicit examples of NT baptism specify adult baptism. Paedobaptists typically counter that this reflects sample selection bias. In the nature of the case, the NT church was dealing with converts to Christianity. A missionary setting. So accounts of NT baptisms naturally select for adult converts. That doesn't preclude infant baptism. Just that underage children aren't converts. 
But if we accept that argument, then the same argument can be redeployed in reference to 1 Cor 10-11. The emphasis on faith and self-examination is simply a reflection of sample selection bias. Paul is talking about converts to Christianity. Underage children fall outside the sample group under review. 
b) Another difficulty is that paedobaptists typically regard parents or sponsors as proxies for the child, inasmuch as they exercise faith in the child's place. But, of course, that argument is transferable to paedocommunion.
c) A complication with making the communicant's intellectual aptitude a condition of receiving the Lord's supper is the case of the developmentally disabled, or elderly Christians who are going senile. 
For instance, one duty of deacons is to bring the Eucharist to shut-ins or nursing home residents who can no longer receive communion in church. But is there a cut-off when dementia reaches the stage where a Christian now lacks the mental competence to make a credible profession of faith?
Of course, it could be argued that if the Eucharist ceases to be meaningful to the communicant, why give it to them? But, then, it's not as if baptism is meaningful to babies. 

9 comments:

  1. Have you ever looked at To a Thousand Generations by Doug Wilson? That is the best case I have seen thus far for infant/child baptism. It doesn't make any of the appeals covered here and uses a firmly scriptural framwork.

    If you have seen it, I wonder what are your thoughts on it?

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  2. One potential argument against paedocommunion may be a simple reductio of sorts. If the criteria for communion is the same as baptism, then why not just one sacrament? Or, why not baptize everyone every Sunday, or conversely, offer communion once in each parishioner's lifetime? Put that way, the discontinuity becomes clearer.

    "Credocommunion" is a misnomer for many reasons, not the least of which is that the requirements for partaking exceed a mere profession of faith.

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    1. Communion and baptism represent different truths. How would saying the same individual should receive both be reductive?

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    2. “Communion and baptism represent different truths. How would saying the same individual should receive both be reductive?”

      It’s reductive if the argument for paedocommunion (PC) boils down to this: if you baptize infants, the same should be given the Lord’s Supper. If PC advocates acknowledge that these represent different truths (and to my knowledge, PCers do), there's an acknowledged distinction and use - yet by using the same principle for the application of both, it is then neatly ignored.

      This is especially clear when exegetical considerations are taken into account; obvious things including frequency and manners. Baptism is only required once, where the Lord's Supper is to be observed with regularity.

      With baptism, not much is given as far as manners go, except with regard to officers "doing" the baptizing (with water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

      On the other hand, the Lord's Supper has much direction given to the manners involved with the sacrament - not in the mere "administration", but in the partaking.

      To put things a bit crudely, paedobaptism is something administered to a passive recipient. The Lord's Supper requires active participation with ground rules not present with the baptism of a baby to a believing parent(s).

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  3. I argue for both basis a verse of Scripture and some thoughts about teaching and the ease of learning we see from babies and infants when their teachers, parents and siblings interact with them as they grow. If this is true how much better then, it seems to me, to Baptize and bring them to the table as soon as possible knowing full well (the Righteous shall live by Faith) the Holy Spirit can communicate with them even in the womb and bring upon them conviction!

    Here's the verse: Psa 8:2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

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  4. I think Paul Jewett in "Infant Baptism & The Covenant of Grace" makes the point, in compelling fashion, that almost every argument made to support paedobaptism can also be made to support paedocommunion. Holding to one while rejecting the other displays an internal inconsistency, to which point iv is the common rejoinder (which I think you rightly dismiss).

    Holding to both paedobaptism and paedocommunion forces one to hold to a hyper-covenantalism.

    Steve, are you now a baptist? If not, how do you justify holding to paedobaptism while rejecting paedocommunion?

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    1. My position is somewhat eclectic:

      i) I'm Zwinglian. So my presuppositions are the polar opposite of the Federal Vision.

      ii) I also think the category of "covenant children" reflects hypercovenantalism. Here's a good analysis:

      http://www.westminsterconfession.org/the-doctrines-of-grace/historic-calvinism-and-neo-calvinism.php

      iii) I incline to paedobaptism for sociological reasons:

      http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-in-group.html

      iv) I don't reject paedocommunion. However, as a Zwinglian, I don't think denying communion to children denies them the means of grace. So I don't think they have much to gain or lose either way on that score. (I'd say the same thing about adult communicants.) If they don't partake of communion (or baptism), they aren't missing out on very much.

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  5. The ultimate "FV" voice is quite Zwinglian:

    http://www.hornes.org/mark/2011/10/peter-leithart-on-his-non-dualist-zwinglianism/

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2014/06/what-happens-in-holy-communion.

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    1. Given FV views on the efficacy of the sacraments, that's the antithesis of the Zwinglian position.

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