Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Children at the Table but Not at the Baptistry

I wanted to read Dr. Venema’s book Children at the Lord’s Table. So I went on Interlibrary Loan and typed in the title of the book. Silly me, I did realize that there were multiple books by the same title. I ended up getting the same titled book, but by a Disciples of Christ minister named John T. Hinant. And while I still plan to read Dr. Venema’s book, I am glad that I made the mistake. Hinant’s book was fascinating for several reasons even though I disagreed with his conclusions. Hinant is in favor of infants and children at the table despite the fact that the Disciples of Christ is an ‘adult only baptism’ church. I had no idea how far spread this movement had become until I read this book. Hinant argues that the right order of events is communion-confirmation-baptism. Hinant’s book is also interesting because it grew out of a poll by mail he conducted about the subject. Apparently communing unbaptized children is a fairly regular practice despite the fact that it is not supposed to be in the Disciples churches. Hinant also briefly touches on one major fact that I think is missing from the Presbyterian-Reformed debate and that is the confirmation aspect.

I do think that Hinant overstates the historical evidence for Paedo-Communion (PC). He fails to note the seeming objections of Origen, Clement of Alexandria as well as the Didascalia. He then also just sweeps out of hand the idea that Cyprian’s adherence to the practice might not be universal. Most of the rest of his historical proof is about young children, but clearly not infants. He then admits that as Confirmation was moved away from the moment of baptism so too did the taking of communion move away from baptism. Confirmation was necessary. Hinant called this a problem for Protestants who did not want to make Confirmation a sacrament since it barred access to a sacrament.

One other point that seemed to be the case in some of the quotes about infant communion is that they were linked to a reading of John 6 that required the eating of the flesh to be saved. Infant communion is inextricably linked to the idea that communion is necessary for salvation. Clearly the ancients who did adhere to this idea viewed it as necessary for eternal life that is why infants are argued for then and it is still the reason now. Sacramentalism is a prerequisite for the PC position.

Some of the quotes made me wonder if they administered the sacrament once to infants to get them “saved”, but was the communing continued? It was hard to tell from a lot of the quotes.

It was an educational book to see adult baptism only denominations allowing young children and infants to the Table. I still disagree with his book, but it was interesting to