Word/Sacrament

A Holy Meal for a Holy Family

Paedocommunion is the climactic event of the covenant family. It is the first real sign of contrast with worldly practices. There are distinct differences in the familial structures of this world. The Christian family is even more distinct because it embraces a different calling. By investing in the catechetical development of children the home is enriched by a set of new visions; visions that are trans-generational. Furthermore, the home is restored to sanity and stability when the family in its ontological equal status partakes of the meal Christ offers to all who are invested into his body.

Alistair comments:

The practice of paedocommunion is a very powerful tool for raising children in true piety. The Eucharist teaches children the joy of being in God’s presence and the solemnity of eating Christ’s Body and drinking His Blood. The Eucharist teaches children the necessity of living lives shaped by penitence, faith and thanksgiving. If we allow children to participate in a manner that denies the reality of the Supper we do them no service.

Hindering a child from experiencing the presence of Christ is to equate them to the families of the earth who do not possess Christ’s perfect sacrifice. The baptized child is as much a part of the covenant family as his/her parents. Peter himself calls us a holy nation, a royal priesthood. Embracing Christ’s meal for the entire family affirms Peter and consecrates the covenant home.

Repentance and the Lord’s Supper

In a brief dialogue with Tim Gallant regarding who can come to the table, a couple comments have been raised that need clarification. Tim mentioned to me that “the biblical solution to this inconsistency, always, is to repent of the sin and come to the Table.” His reference is to my comment that those who are inconsistent with the table and those who are consistent may come to the table. Though there may have been miscommunication or misunderstanding, for the sake of clarification I do agree with Mr. Gallant’s assessment. My point from the beginning was that the evangelical argument that if people who are committed Christians are currently “not right with God”, therefore they should avoid the bread and wine is a misunderstanding of the basic purpose of the sacrament. In my understanding (and I am sure Tim would agree) repentance is essential to the table and only those who come are those who deem it important and repent. The warning is that those who partake of the Lord’s Supper and do not acknowledge the need to repent, and furthermore persist in their inconsistency with the Christian message is already in the hands of an angry God.

The table is for those who acknowledge their inconsistency and seek a commitment to a consistent Christian life (though consistency in no way entails “perfection). Once again I thank Mr. Gallant for his helpful insights in the comments section of my blog.

The Feeding of the Righteous

In a sermon I heard recently by R.C. Sproul Jr., he gave a brilliant and emotional defense of paedocommunion. But beyond the splendid element of his analogy was that of Communion being a refreshment for God’s righteous warriors. Accordingly, Sproul mentions that the spiritual life is a war: the families of the righteous versus the broken families of the unrighteous. As in the Old Covenant, when God defended his people against the wicked Canaanites, God once again defends his people by feeding them and preparing them for the battle. In the middle of a war, when both armies crave for replenishment, God’s people alone receive the food and the drink that gives them ultimate victory.

Patristic Fathers’ Quotations on Infant Baptism

With the prevalent discussion on Infant Baptist in the last few days at seminary I decided to post a link with several quotations testifying to the practice in the early church.

Part 5- Analysis of R.B. Kuiper’s The Glorious Body of Christ

Part of R.B. Kuiper’s genius is his ability to communicate profound truth concerning the church in a simple, but yet penetrating style. Kuiper is not only of Dutch origin, but he thinks like the marvelous Dutch scholars that preceded him, such as Abraham Kuyper. As a professor of Practical Theology, Kuiper embraces a sort of boldness in his writings that is not found very often in popular books addressing the church. As Sinclair Ferguson says of Kuiper in his distinguished Scottish accent: “He can certainly get you stirred up.” It is, I believe, his knowledge about the common life of the church, that gives his writings much credibility and substance.

The book covers a range of topics from the theology of the church to the persecution of the church. Kuiper stresses that the glory of the church is fundamental to its very nature. Though at times this glory is compromised in every way, shape, or form, the church remains glorious because God always has a remnant (as in the days of Elijah).

Kuiper’s constant emphasis on the catholicity of the church and his condemnation of sectarianism urges the reader to engage in his passion for true unity in the Spirit. He notes that genuine catholicity is “Biblical Ecumenism.” What is rather peculiar about Kuiper’s treatment of the church is his endorsement of a form of communism in the church of Jerusalem in Acts. This form he argues is diametrically opposed to Marx’s dialectic materialism, but nevertheless a form of communism. He summarizes both positions as follows: “For Unbiblical Communism Thine is Mine; in Biblical Communism Mine is Thine.” This refers to the charitable manifestation of the people in the early church as they reflected the love of Christ to one another through giving to the poor.

The strength of Kuiper’s book is that it carefully summarizes the many facets of the church in concise, but complete thoughts. Though at times I wish he delved more deeply in some subjects, the book accomplishes its goal in communicating a distinctly Reformed view of the church. On the other hand, The Glorious Body of Christ fails in interacting with the benefits of Kingdom growth. Kuiper presupposes certain passages to refer to the deterioration of the influence of the church in culture and at times even assumes its hastening end (pg. 48-49). Paradoxically, Kuiper speaks of culture in every respect being under the lordship of Christ (pg. 276) and at the same time speaks of the fruitlessness of such efforts. This is a constant theme in Dutch theologians (such as Van Til Common Grace).

Kuiper’s book has had a vast influence in Reformed circles in the last 50 years and shall continue to do so. His careful analysis of the evangelical crisis and his worthy remedies for the church serves as an enlightening analysis for the Glorious Body of Christ.

Ecclesiology and the Sacraments with Sinclair Ferguson

Here are a few of Dr. Ferguson’s lecture notes from the class I am currently taking with him at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando):

This topic is so key today because of the demise of the church in the West (Europe especially), and the growth of the church in the East (3rd world). The problem with the Evangelicals today is that the Church is simply an additional appendage to Salvation but that it is not important in the ongoing life of the Christian. For Jesus (as we will see), salvation to people was the instrumental means for the building of the church. It is not an incidental doctrine to Christ. But it is central to the entire Bible. My salvation is the means to an end-glory of God and of his Church.

The term “ecclesia” (church) only occurs twice in the gospels. Here in Matt 16:18, and 18:17. An argument is made by liberals that these two sayings are reworking by later writers who wanted to put these words in Jesus’ mouth. The infrequency of the words must then mean that the Church was not important to Jesus! They argue that the radical eschatology of Christ did not leave room for a continuing Church. He thought he was coming back. Thus, the Church evolves as a result of the failure of Jesus’ vision. Loisy said: “Jesus foretold the kingdom; and it was the church that came!” This is a prominent view of NT scholarship. CK Barrett said that Jesus didn’t envisage a period of history where a Church would have a place, but only an apocalyptic act of vindication. Thus, the authenticity of these two verses has been doubted.

(a)Responses
(i)The uniqueness of these statements suggest their authenticity in the teaching of Jesus. If the idea of the Church were an invention, it is more likely that their use of the idea in the editing would have been far more pervasive than it actually is.
(ii)Loisy’s formula doesn’t work. When we look at the rest of the NT, we see that the Church is not a replacement for the kingdom. Rom 14:17, Gal 5:21. The Church and the Kingdom exist in some kind of relationship with one another. Not viewed as synonymous with each other, but intimately related.
(iii)That which is denoted by “ecclesia” is completely consistent with the rest of Jesus’ teaching. So the infrequency of its use is inadequate grounds for ignoring it.

The Table of Judgment

Who is allowed to join the table? The answer to that question is everyone. The qualification to the “everyone” is those who believe. Children of believers must by definition be invited to the table. They should find security in the elements just like the children of Israel found security with the blood marks on their doors in Egypt. Further, faithful believers should find nourishment in the meal. They should yearn for it and desire it more than they desire their earthly nourishment.

Jonathan Edwards’ father-in-law permitted all to come to the table, both believers and unbelievers alike. This was a serious error that may have led many souls to destruction. Edwards on the other hand realized that the table was open for believers only–though at the same time Edwards failed to include covenant children– only for those who truly identify with the Christian struggle. Only those who understand the reality of sin and have fled subsequently to the sin-bearer. Christ invites all to come and take and eat, but those who have not been invited to the table MUST remain seated lest the table swallow them up in unbelief.

Douglas Wilson argues:

The Bible does not teach us that the Table must be protected from unfaithful people. Rather, the Bible teaches us that unfaithful people must be protected from the Table.

God has in His rich mercy extended a dangerous invitation. It is undoubtedly a double-edged sword: life or death. So, take and eat, this is my body and blood given for you.

Augustine on Faith

Augustine penned long ago that, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” Has anyone considered the grandeur of faith? It is fair to say that as finite creatures we have not encountered the presence of God as the saints do now embrace. Hebrews eleven highlights a bit of that splendor in a litany of verses that stress the present and the future of faith. Augustine breathed that experience when he looked ahead to the promise result of faith (Gr.pistos).

Though we see grimly, not in its entirety, we as believers take real glimpses into the face of God. In mercy and deed, we experience a reality that is now at work. We practice what James calls “true religion.” Communal love, communal sacrifice for one another, the feeding of the poor are simple ways in which we explore the “rewards” of faith. Most illuminating though, is the faith we receive when we are nourished in the meal. Yes, a meal that ushers us into the very presence of God. There, faith is at work in a mighty way. For by faith we have been saved and by faith we will be saved until the day when faith will no longer be necessary for we shall see Him as He is. When faith is no longer a necessity, the manifestation and the Person of unfaltering faith will be our guide for all eternity and with Him we will cherish the rewards of faith.

Keith Mathison on Why Evangelicals Must Recover sola Scriptura

The Evangelical church has not awakened readily to a fact that many Roman Catholic apologists have been quick to notice. The simple fact of the matter is this: the modern Evangelical doctrine of Scripture-solo Scriptura-is self-contradictory and fundamentally absurd. If applied consistently it is fatal to Christianity. A growing number of Evangelicals are realizing this, and because they have been told that solo Scriptura is the Reformation and Protestant doctrine, they are flocking to Rome and Constantinople in an attempt to maintain a coherent faith.If Evangelical Protestantism is to survive, if it is to regain its calling, it must reject the essentially man-centered doctrine of solo Scriptura. The Evangelical church cannot call Christendom to reform and to a return to apostolic Christianity by rejecting one of the fundamental tenets of apostolic Christianity. Why should we expect or even want those within Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy to reject institutional autonomy in favor of individual autonomy? Solo scriptura cannot result in anything other than doctrinal chaos.Instead of advocating chaos, the Evangelical church must regain an understanding of the Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura, which is essentially nothing more than the early Church’s doctrine of Scripture and tradition framed within a different historical context. The Church must affirm that Scripture is the sole, final, and infallible norm of faith and practice. And the Church must affirm that Scripture is to be interpreted in and by the communion of saints within the theological context of the rule of faith. Only by rejecting all forms of autonomy, institutional or individual, can any branch of the Church be in obedience to Jesus Christ the Lord. (Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura [Moscow, ID: Canon, 2001], pp.346-47)