Infant Faith

One Additional Thought on Paedocommunion

Children belong at the table. I have argued for a decade that children of the covenant are recipients of all the covenant benefits. One significant benefit is the means of grace we call the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper. Baptism opens the ecclesiastical doors to the Lord’s Table.

I have for so long agreed with those simple statements that the more I interact with Reformation-minded Christians on this issue, the stranger and stranger it becomes. Yes, there are those confessional issues at hand, and there is the most famous Pauline passage in I Corinthians 11:17-34 that is used as an argument for opposing paedocommunion, but if the Reformed paedobaptist is open to considering the Bible afresh without his preconceived notions of what Paul meant, or allowing the text to take precedence over our cherished confessions, then I believe there is an opportunity to re-consider this important matter. As Tim Gallant observes, “no tradition and no confession may be treated as irreformable.”

I do not wish here to elaborate on the many exegetical issues involved. Some books like Tim Gallant’s Feed my Lambs and Strawbridge’s The Case for Covenant Communion do a fine job elaborating on the more technical discussions surrounding the issue at hand. My desire is to add just one theological point about the inclusion of children in the Psalter.

The Paedocommunionist position argues that children are to be not only included in the worship of the saints, but also that they are to be participants in the worship of the saints. And part of this participation means eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table with the body. To be in the body means to partake of the body. The Paedocommunion position is the natural consequence of paedobaptism. In fact, many come to paedocommunion by considering the logical necessities of paedobaptism.

The Psalter makes a fine case for the inclusion of little children in the ecclesiastical community of the Old Testament. Those of us who wish to apply a covenantal hermeneutic consistently conclude that they are to be also included in the New Covenant promises. If the New Covenant is more glorious and greater, then the NC continues to show favor to children of believers, and not take away that favor. Assuming that to be the case (and certainly this is a limited discussion among paedobaptists), then it is safe to conclude that the Psalter establishes a model of inclusion and not exclusion.

One text that is often overlooked in this discussion is Psalm 148. Psalm 148 is a doxological description of the celestial and earthly praise. God designs creation to display His excellencies and glory. But this glory can only be complete if children are in the picture. Children are also part of this great choir. Children, then, are involved participants in this cosmic refrain of praise. Creation is also involved and is sacramentally nourished by the hands of God. Far from an uninterested and uninvolved God, our God is deeply invested in the affairs of creation and so He sustains them with every good thing.

But at the heart of this chorus are old men and children (na`ar). Man plays a pivotal role in this worship scene. He is the homo adorans (worshiping being). 

We can then conclude that the Psalmist engages all sorts of people in the responsibility of praise. And if children are called to praise (Psalm 8:2-3), then they are called to be nourished as participants in that praise. In the Bible everyone who praises eats at some time. I am arguing that those who praise eat very early. When? At the moment they can eat and drink at their earthly father’s table, they should be able to eat at their heavenly father’s table. Simple in my estimation.

On the Death of Infants

“The children of believers are holy…by virtue of the covenant of grace in which they together with the parents are comprehended. Godly parents have no reason to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleaseth God to call out of this life in their infancy.”
— Decrees of the International Calvinist Synod of Dordt I:17 (1618).

The Eloquence of Infants

John Calvin observes:

“[I]nfants, while they nurse at their mothers’ breasts, have tongues so eloquent to preach his glory that there is no need at all of other orators.”

Babies Cannot But Trust

My good friend Mark Horne posted this short quote on the inescapable faith of infants:

Noelle Maria Donathan, born March 9, 2011 (Ash Wednesdsay), baptized March 27, 2011. To such as you belong the Kingdom of God. When Jesus told us we must become like children to inherit the Kingdom, I think I understand a little better what He meant. When I look at you, it’s plain that you are helpless. You cannot do anything but trust. You trust me and you trust your father, completely. You can’t do anything else. You simply must trust that whoever is holding you is not going to drop you or do anything harmful to you. It’s the essence of babies to trust. They are utterly helpless and depend upon adults for literally everything. That posture of reliance is what constitutes faith. You trust your father and me. And generally, you trust all adults, as evidenced by the general calm with which you tolerate being held by strangers.

Babies can’t do anything but trust others. So it should be obvious that you can’t do anything but trust Jesus, too. You are not old enough yet to know what independence is, nor to exercise it with respect to Jesus. You must trust Jesus. You can’t do otherwise.

That, I’m convinced, is the reason Jesus tells us we must imitate little children. Your faith is unquestioning and implicit. It is guileless.

read the rest: Noelle Maria Donathan: “To such belongs the kingdom of God.” « The Hinterlands.