Monday, March 07, 2005

Infant Communion

There is a resurgence of those advocating infant communion. This is not confined to Federal Vision advocates. It really seems to be a teaching that is catching on. A book is in the works with a collection of essays by various authors discussing Paedocommunion. It includes James Jordan, Tim Gallant, Jeff Meyers (all Federal Vision men), and R.C. Sproul Jr.

Tim Gallant has an article about how one can hold to the Three Forms of Unity and believe in Paedocommunion. His argument is that the Heidelberg Catechism does not address the issue of infants at all. He claims that question 81 is who “ought” to come to the Supper, not who “may” come. Thus, infants may come, but are not required. They are also not specifically forbidden to come in the following question, thus, children are allowed. Or at least one can claim to hold the Heidelberg Catechism without exceptions and still in good conscious hold to the practice of giving infants communion. He also uses his explanation of I Corinthians 11 to rid himself of the self-examination clauses in the Belgic and Heidelberg.

Not addressing any of his Biblical exegesis, the whole essay seems to me a search for loopholes in the Three Forms of Unity. “How can one sneak kids into this?” appears to be the question that drives the essay. I know that Gallant is sincere in what he is doing and saying, but he really seems to be changing the meaning of the Heidelberg to mean what we want it to say rather than what it says, or what the author meant it to say. The only quote I need to give you all is one from the author of the catechism, Ursinus. It can be found in his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pg. 434. Here he is speaking of the differences between baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

They differ as it respects the persons to whom they should be administered. Baptism is administered to all who are to be regarded as members to all who are to be regarded members of the church, whether they be adults or infants; the Lord’s Supper is to be given to none except those who are able to understand and celebrate the benefits of Christ, and to examine themselves.

It seems clear that Ursinus, who wrote the catechism, felt children were to be excluded from the Supper in his catechism. Wouldn’t it be more honest just simply to say, “I take exception to question 81”?


Andrew McIntyre said...

I agree. The paedocommunionists have some good arguments. However, they should be completely honest and admit that their position is not in accord with the confessions. What the confession says should not be the point of contention, for it is a matter of historical fact. The argument should rather revolve around whether the exception will be tolerated. I believe the RCUS has officially decided that it is unacceptable; however, other Reformed denominations are still working through the issue. As they do so, they ought to respect the integrity of the Three Forms of Unity and Westminster Standards.

Peace to you,


Matt said...

The fact that Ursinus was a credocommunionist does not mean that we need to take HC 81 as requiring credocommunion. We do not subscribe to any man's private theologoumena, not even those of the authors of our confessions. We subscribe to the words of the confessions themselves. The HC, unlike Westminster, is very careful not to go beyond the Bible's language when talking about the Supper. Thus, if 1 Cor. 11 does not say anything against paedocommunion -- does not, indeed, say anything about it at all -- then Heidelberg 81 poses no more problem for the paedocommunionist position, for the same reason.

As for whether Tim needs to take an exception, what would that accomplish? He explains that he agrees with the language of the HC on the issue, and he says what he thinks that language means. It is up to his church to decide whether they think he is within acceptable bounds. So far, they've said "no."

Remember, Tim does think that the church needs to change Question 80 of the HC. So it is not that he has any scruples about suggesting that the catechism is wrong. Rather, I expect he wants to maintain the catechism's wording in Q 81, and honestly does not think that it conflicts with paedocommunion.