Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dabney: Only Credible Professors May Partake of the Supper

That this sacrament is to be given only to credible professors, does not indeed follow necessarily from the fact that it symbolizes saving grace; for baptism does this; but from the express limitation of Paul, and from the different graces symbolized. Baptism symbolizes those graces which initiate the Christian life: The Supper, those also which continue it. Hence, while the former is once applied to infants born within the covenant, to ratify their outward membership, in the dependence on the gracious promise that they shall be brought to commence the Christian life afterwards; it would be wrong to grant the second sacrament to any who have not given some indication of an actual progress in spiritual life.

-R.L. Dabney Systematic Theology Chapter 42


  1. Shouldn't we just withhold food from children altogether then, since they "are not willing to work"?

  2. PS: Are you sure you have that chapter reference right? I couldn't find this quote.

  3. Well, it's from chapter 42 of this version:

    It's in the section headed "Who May Partake?"

    Also, "D Hoff" (we tend to appreciate real names here) is it your belief that there is a correlation between able-bodied individuals who refuse to work and children who are incapable of discerning the body?

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  5. Daniel Hoffman. Walker would have known me from "D Hoff" ;)

    Why do you assume "if anyone is not willing to work, neither shall he eat" only applies to "able-bodied individuals"? There is no such limitation in the passage.

    Of course it only applies to able-bodied individuals, but that's my point. I don't believe discerning the body is some kind of fence, it's something Paul told the Corinthian adults who were abusing the Supper to make sure they do, and in context "judging the body rightly" means recognizing the whole church as the body of Christ, rich as well as poor. If little children can't meet whatever requirement is supposedly given in this passage, I'm not sure they can commit the sin that's in view either.

  6. Daniel, given what you've said, would it be fair to say that you disagree with this statement from Dabney? "Baptism symbolizes those graces which initiate the Christian life: The Supper, those also which continue it."

    Not to make Dabney any sort of test for truth, but I'm very interested in your view of the efficacy of the sacraments. Because if you think that your child is actually RECEIVING Christ when he takes communion (apart from faith), I could definitely see someone being upset if he doesn't get to participate in the table.

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  8. I think the statement by Dabney is making too hard and fast a distinction. Baptism and the Supper overlap at least to the extent that both signify union with Christ (Rom. 6:3, 1 Cor. 10:16). If you are going to give an infant a sign which symbolizes union, why deny a sign that symbolizes communion? Can you have one without the other?

    I don't think anyone receives Christ apart from faith, but I am not sure we're competent judges of the professed faith of a young child. If we acknowledge their covenant membership in baptism, I see no justification for withholding the covenant meal if they want to participate. The covenant meal has meaning precisely in its corporate aspect, because it's communion with the body of Christ, the church. If children are part of the church, the church's meal belongs to them.

  9. Question, Daniel. If it's possible that our covenant child has faith, then is it also possible that our covenant child does not have faith?

    If our covenant child does not have faith, then they may be within the covenant community, but it is actually unloving for us to give the Lord's Supper to someone who does not desire it, true? If there was a man with "Locked-In Syndrome" in our church, would it be loving for us to simply assume he believes and give him communion if he has never made a profession and who may just as well HATE the elements each time they are given?

    In other words, it is unloving to presume that someone has faith because they may just as likely NOT have said faith. Why presume that they DO have faith?

    It seems like paedocommunion advocates, in some ways, want to argue, 'what's the harm?' and in your case, you're saying, 'we can't judge the heart of someone incapable of profession' and I'm saying we need to be careful who we give communion to, especially if they are not capable of verbally giving the profession of faith - that faith of which makes the sacrament efficacious and which brings judgment on them if they don't have faith. If they are capable of being God's friend as a toddler, then they are also capable of being a God-hating enemy, as well.

    You may well say that we can't judge faith in the child who is baptized, but notice that there are no warnings against wrongly baptizing anyone in the NT. And yet Paul reserves strong language for those who partake of the supper wrongly. The two do not have parallel applications and uses.

    The conversation always seems to come down to 1 Corinthians 11 and Paul's restrictions on communion. You've been saying that children are not in view in Paul's discussion. But if we're all agreed on the following four propositions:

    A) faith is a necessary element
    B) not having faith and then partaking brings judgment
    C) we can't judge the faith of very young children
    D) partaking wrongly brings judgment

    then it does emphatically NOT follow that we ought to in our ignorance give the supper to a potentially unbelieving person, the state of whose soul the elders cannot discern.

  10. Daniel,

    I would also like to add that you, just as Dadney, have made a distinction between those who receive baptism and those who receive communion. You said, "I see no justification for withholding the covenant meal if they want to participate." So, we baptize all covenant children, regardless of their "want," but, in your view, we only communion those who "want."

    First, how is this view substantially different from the quote? In both, there is a distinction between those who are baptized and those who take the Lord's Supper. Your requirement for communion is a "want" and Dabney's is a credible profession of faith.

    Second, where is the Scriptural warrant for only allowing covenant children who "want" to partake partake? 1 Corinthians seems to give the requirement that you must be able to rightly discern the body of Christ to partake. You have argued that this does not apply to children, but where is this notion that only covenant children who want to partake should?

  11. Josh,

    I don't mean to set up "want" as a requirement. I'm just assuming that kids in the church will want to. I wouldn't force feed it to a kid who didn't want it. What I'm arguing is that as part of the covenant community, they have a right to the covenant meal. What do you think "rightly discerning the body of Christ" refers to, and why do you think this functions as a kind of "you must be this tall to ride this roller-coaster" type of thing for young children who presumably have no involvement in the sins described in 1 Corinthians 11? Remember, after all, that when the Supper was first instituted it isn't clear that Jesus even withhold it from Judas (John can be read to suggest that Judas didn't eat, but the synoptics and Luke especially imply that he did).

  12. Adam,

    Yes it's possible a covenant child does not have genuine faith. I don't see how the question about the locked-in man is very relevant. If he says he's a believer and acts like one, we should give him the Supper; if he secretly hates it, who would know but him and God? God is his judge. If he professes unbelief but wants the Supper, that would make no sense and I wouldn't give it to him.

    If the wording in my earlier post implied otherwise, let me say that I am not necessarily presuming genuine faith in a child if I give them communion. If they profess and there is no solid reason to reject that profession (and I don't think merely being young and immature counts as a solid reason), they should be encouraged to partake. I think the Supper can foster a seed of faith like the word can. I don't see why the Supper needs to "presume" faith any more than baptism does.

    I'm not arguing "what's the harm?" I'm arguing that there is MORE harm in withholding it the Supper from children, IF you accept infant baptism. To deny paedocommunion creates a two-tier church, and teaches children that they have no communion with God or his people until they reach a certain age and pass a bar-exam.

    The warnings are against adults who have been flaunting economic superiority and getting drunk. If a child does those things the warnings apply to him as well. But I just can't see 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 as a prohibition on children. Reading it that way jars with everything else in the Bible. I would parallel this to manna in the wilderness (John 6:32-33, 1 Cor. 10:3-4), and it was precisely the adults, who knew better, who continued in rebellion and unbelief, who were not allowed to enter Canaan, while the children "who had no knowledge of good and evil" (Deut. 1:29) ate the manna and were allowed to enter.

    I don't think Paul gives "restrictions." He tells abuser to shape up, and then eat. This is not the same as a child who barely comprehends what's going on in the first place.

  13. The point of the Locked-In Syndrome example is that such a man is incapable of communicating faith or (for lack of a better term) un-faith. Our ability to discern belief in such a person is totally neutral. Just as in the covenant child who has not been examined before the elders.


    Daniel: "I don't see why the Supper needs to "presume" faith any more than baptism does."

    I quote WCF 27.3:

    "The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither does the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that does administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers."

    Apart from faith, the sacrament is a curse, as I will show below. So the supper does presume faith, or else it holds no efficacy and becomes a curse to the partaker. If children are meant to be given the sacraments, then these warnings would be for them as well.

    Daniel: "I'm arguing that there is MORE harm in withholding it the Supper from children"

    Let me quote WCF 29.7:

    "Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament; yet, they receive not the thing signified thereby; but, by their unworthy coming thereunto, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation."

    I know that this "two-tier church" seems troublesome, prima facie, but are you concerned at all about the conceivably greater problem of causing some children to eat and drink judgment upon themselves, therefore making them guilty of the body and blood of the Lord?

  14. But where do you get the idea that the elders need to "examine" a covenant child before he/she can partake in the first place? Even if you want to push the "examine yourself" requirement on children (and the word is dokimazo, it really means "prove" in the sense of passing muster with regard to the abuses the Corinthians have been guilty of, not introspection), it refers to one examining oneself, not to being examined by others.

    And I agree that apart from faith sacraments are a curse. But if you want to apply this to restricting children from the Supper, you'd better restrict them from baptism as well, because it also is a curse to unbelievers.

    I also deny that merely being a young child is the same as being "ignorant and wicked" as described in WCF 29.7. I would again refer to the parallel with manna and Deuteronomy 1:29.

    Am I concerned about causing some children to "eat and drink judgment on themselves"? Yes, but 1) I don't think it's my call to make. If I am acknowledging their covenant membership in baptism, they have a right to the covenant meal unless they show evidence to the contrary. I don't know what that would look like in a child except in some kind of express statement of unbelief. 2) In any case I don't think the Supper is dangerous for children nearly as much as it is for unbelieving adults. Compare the wilderness generation, again.

  15. Where do the scriptures say that baptism is a curse to the unbelieving?

  16. A curse in the sense that it's an aggravation of guilt, at least. It's a covenant privilege, and to have it and then reject it is worse than to have never had it and reject it.

  17. Daniel,

    You asked, " why do you think this functions as a kind of "you must be this tall to ride this roller-coaster" type of thing for young children who presumably have no involvement in the sins described in 1 Corinthians 11?"

    I don't think it functions like that at all. First, I think the examine clause applies to everyone, not just children. If a 40 year-old does not examine the body rightly, they ought not partake. Second, this examining is not a physical restriction, but a spiritual one. Your comparing it to a hight requirement is pretty far off the mark.

  18. But you are treating it like a height requirement, because you are treating it as a restriction/standard that young children are (in your view) inherently unable to meet.

    And again, what do you think "discerning the body" means in this context? My view is that the "body" here is the body of Christ, the church, and since the sin in view throughout is lovelessness and flaunting of economic/class distinction, judging/evaluating the body means recognizing unity in Christ, along the lines of James 2:1-13. Paul is saying, recognize that the Supper is a statement about the church being one body with Christ, and that for all of you alike, he is everything. I don't think this rules out children. They are simply not in view in either the sins Paul is rebuking or the correctives he is laying out. In fact, if they are part of the body, to exclude them would be to be guilty of the very sin being condemned.

  19. PS: Since 1 Cor. 11 has the only material in the Bible that could even remotely be construed so as to exclude children from the Supper, imagine this scenario:

    If you accept infant baptism, you presumably believe it began in Acts, in the time of the apostles. Naturally, if these children were seen as part of the covenant people, they would have shared in the covenant meal, since Jesus' original institution of it says nothing at all about exclusion, much less of children. Then comes Paul, rebuking a church where people are flaunting their wealth and getting drunk, and he says, "Look, you all need to recognize the body of Christ that you are despising by your behavior, and get back in line. Prove yourselves, and then partake so that you don't eat and drink judgment."

    And the Corinthians say, "Wow, we do need to shape up. Ol' Paul's rebuke was pretty sharp, and this meal seems pretty dangerous, guess we'd better excommunicate all our children."

  20. Daniel: "A curse in the sense that it's an aggravation of guilt, at least. It's a covenant privilege, and to have it and then reject it is worse than to have never had it and reject it."

    The curse of unbelief for the baptized is the same as all unbelief. It is to be outside of Christ, which is an awful curse to be sure, but the Scriptures never promise a more severe punishment for the unbelieving baptized.

    On the contrary, even if your interpretation of 1 Cor. 11 is completely spot-on, you still must admit that there is a unique threat involved in partaking of the Lord's Supper in a wrongful way (however we might define it) which has no baptism parallel.

    After all, are there any verses where Paul tells people, "Some have become sick and even died from receiving the sacrament of baptism wrongly"? Is there even a HINT of this sort of warning with regard to baptism?

    Also, I should mention that I do not feel you adequately answered my question of why one would expose their child (whose faith is inscrutable) to the sorts of threats involved in 1 Cor. 11.

    "For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died." (1 Corinthians 11:29-30 ESV)

    It is entirely possible that you don't think God would visit this judgment upon a child who partakes wrongly. But if you do so (regardless the reason), then I would argue you have created another sort of two-tier church where one class of individuals does not have to discern the body (again, leaving the meaning of that phrase open) when partaking and another class does. Now, I don't find the two-tier argument against my view to be that troublesome, but clearly you do or you wouldn't have made the charge.

    I'm not sure that would be your response. Maybe you think it's worth the risk, but if I thought my child might become sick or even die because of partaking wrongly, I would want to first ensure that to the best of my knowledge they were partaking in faith.

  21. Also, is it really excommunication if you're clarifying rights and privileges which they never had a right to in the first place?

  22. Well yes, I admit I can't think of any particular curse associated with unbelieving baptism. My point was a more general one, which I think is biblical, that the more privileges one has, the greater one's accountability. And baptism is certainly a privilege.

    In 1 Corinthians 11:27ff, though, I don't think the threat is against failure to perform some kind of pre-partaking examination per se. Paul is speaking to people who have been abusing the Supper (and that's what their "unworthy" partaking consists of), and tells them to "prove themselves, and so eat" - because anyone who eats and drinks "without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself." What he is saying is that some of them being sick and dying is a result of their abuse of the Supper, and they need to correct this, to "prove themselves," and doing that consists in "discerning the body [of Christ]." There is no mental ritual in view that someone needs to undergo before partaking. If the children are not guilty of the abuses Paul condemns, there is no introspection or special act of discretion that this passage compels them to perform. In other words, the dangers of sickness and death would be dangers for a child who is abusing the Supper, not for a child who simply doesn't understand very well what it all means. If that is not an adequate answer to why we would "expose our children to the danger," I would say what I said before: If they are in the covenant, they have a right to the meal. It isn't our prerogative to keep them away.

    I would worry about my child partaking wrongly if they were getting drunk, if they were flaunting themselves against and despising others in the church, or otherwise blatantly rebellious - not if I simply didn't think they were mature enough to perform some act of adequate mental comprehension.

    I don't think either you or Josh have explained what you think "discerning the body" and "examining oneself" actually means.

  23. Is it your belief, Daniel, that the sickness and death which Paul is citing is a natural consequence of over-eating or over-drinking, rather than a supernatural judgment?

    [You'll get an answer to your question about discerning the body tomorrow when I have more time on my hands.]

  24. "Is it your belief, Daniel, that the sickness and death which Paul is citing is a natural consequence of over-eating or over-drinking, rather than a supernatural judgment?"

    No. I've never heard that, does anyone take that position? I do think it's worth noting that the judgment in view though does not seem to be condemnatory or unto damnation, it's judgment in order to prevent the Corinthians from being "condemned along with the world." It's a fatherly chastisement, not a disowning.

  25. Studying the Lord's Supper is what led Gary Crampton to adopt credobaptism. You can read about it in his book <a href=">From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism</a>

  26. Daniel,

    As I understand it, there are only two options for understanding what "discerning the body" means. On the one hand, it could mean understanding the body of Christ and having a love for her, as you have stated your view is. I'm not particularly opposed to that interpretation.

    On the other hand, it could mean understanding what communion means. I tend to view the passage that way, but this is not a hill I would die on.

    The problem for your position, Daniel, is that in both cases, children can't do it. Children are neither capable of understanding the body of Christ, nor are they capable of understanding communion.

    I am personally quite satisfied based on our discussion so far that there is a difference between the administration of baptism and communion. You seem to be assuming that the two are very similar and are applied in similar ways, which is just not the case. Here are the differences I can think of that neither of us would contest:

    1) There are differences in the threats of wrongly partaking of both.

    2) There are differences in the frequency of both.

    3) There are differences in the symbolism of both.

    4) There are differences in the elements of both.

    These are just a few examples. They are similar in that they are both sacraments and instituted by Christ, but as Dabney says above, Baptism represents the graces which begin the Christian life which happens once, and communion represents an ongoing spiritual growth.

  27. "The problem for your position, Daniel, is that in both cases, children can't do it."

    Maybe I didn't make my position clear enough. To say "discerning the body" means "understanding the body of Christ and having a love for her" is a reasonably accurate summary of what I think. But my point has been that this is laid down by Paul as a corrective to people who have been abusing the Supper. This means that the Supper is about recognizing/acknowledging and loving the body of Christ, and acting in a way that grossly contradicts that is an abuse that may bring God's chastisement. But this whole problem is one that in the nature of the case can hardly be said to have young children in view.

    The Supper is (largely) about loving the body. Can children love the body? Of course, in a childlike way, and they can certainly be taught to, admonished to, and trained to, and the Supper might be one of the best ways of doing that.

    You said, "Children are neither capable of understanding the body of Christ, nor are they capable of understanding communion." I just don't see "understanding" as a necessary pre-req for a child whose understanding is inherently limited. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that simple age/mental-capacity is a barrier to salvation or anything having to do with salvation.

    Maybe we'll just disagree on this because we're reading the passage differently. I just see no mental litmus test in view, and don't think what is said applies to children unless they can be shown to be guilty of the sins being considered.

    As far as the list of differences you gave, I don't see how any are relevant to the question of paedo-communion. I already said what I think about #1. If communion represents "an ongoing spiritual growth" (and sure it does), do children not need that?

  28. I was intending to show that there is not a 1:1 ratio between baptism and communion. If there were... well boy, that would make all of this discussion easier!

    "If communion represents "an ongoing spiritual growth" (and sure it does), do children not need that?"

    Yes, they do. If they have the new birth and ergo partake in faith. If they don't... well, we've already discussed our differences there. The consequences are very serious in Paul's opinion. I still feel like you would want to protect your child from sickness and death involved in wrongly partaking.

    Let me ask it this way. If it is possible for a child to partake rightly, then is it also as a corollary, possible for a child to partake wrongly?

    If it is possible, then can they understand Paul's warning about partaking wrongly, so as to avoid such a fate?

  29. Well like I said, I think partaking wrongly consists - at least in this context - in positive abuse of the Supper, not in an inherent and natural mental immaturity that makes a kind of introspective psychological self-diagnostic impossible. Partaking rightly, for a child, is partaking soberly as a member of the covenant community, without manifest rebellion, with the child being instructed as is age-appropriate. The meal is communal; it's a communal remembrance, and the fact that some young members don't comprehend it all yet is no more reason to exclude than it is to exclude them from a Christmas dinner because they don't understand Christmas yet. The point is, I would not think my child is in danger of partaking wrongly unless I saw manifest rebellion or abuse in them.

    "If it is possible for a child to partake rightly, then is it also as a corollary, possible for a child to partake wrongly?"

    I guess, if you ask it that way; but again I am not seeing "let a man examine himself" as a mental-check over that everyone has to perform as a rite of passage. It is a specific warning and corrective to people who have been abusing the Supper.

  30. PS: Wouldn't your same reasoning apply to the mentally handicapped, or older people who have become senile?

  31. Would you give communion to someone who was mentally handicapped to the point that they were unable to make a credible profession of faith/un-faith, Daniel?

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  33. If they were faithful church members, yes. It's sin that brings danger and chastisement, not mental inability.

  34. At this point, I am quite certain this is a dead-end question. In ANY other context, would you ever construe the word "discern" as something other than a mental act?

  35. Well the question is not really about the word "discern," it's about the word "diakrino" which can mean "distinguish," "differentiate," "consider," and even "doubt." It has a pretty wide range, and in 1 Cor. 11:29 failure to do it appears to consist in "despising the church of God" (v.22). If a child is exhibiting an inclination to despise the body, I'd warn him/her to "discern the body."

    It's a "mental act" if by "mental act" you mean treating the body of Christ as it ought to be treated - in mind and deed, so mental in that sense I guess.

  36. "It's a "mental act" if by "mental act" you mean treating the body of Christ as it ought to be treated"

    In other words, it is a mental act if, by mental act we mean a physical act. Right?

    All of those ranges of meanings you listed in 1 Cor. 11:29 connote a mental reflection. "distinguish," "differentiate," "consider," and "doubt." These are all matters of mental reflection, and yet to make your case you must understand this word in an even wider sense - connoting not only reflection, but action, as well. As you said earlier, "There is no mental ritual in view that someone needs to undergo before partaking." So given the range of meanings for 'diakrino,' which one best fits the context? If you were doing a translation of the text, what word should be used here?

    I guess what bothers me the most about this is that you concede that 'diakrino' at least in some sense, connotes a sort of mental act, but when you clarify what you mean by mental act, you say "treating the body of Christ as it ought to be treated." Dealing with the broader context, you're doing great. I'm certainly with you as far as your view being a legitimate broader understanding of the passage. But when you get down to the particulars, you're restricted in how you can understand 'diakrino' because you've already excluded the pre-meal mental ritual as being what Paul's talking about. Paul can't be talking about mentally preparing/examining yourself before partaking. He has to be talking about not sinning when you partake.

    Paul says, at the barest, that partaking rightly means to "discern [or differentiate, or consider]" the body of the Lord. And yet you have said that partaking rightly means "partaking soberly as a member of the covenant community, without manifest rebellion." I understand that you're getting the wider definition from the broader context, but you are doing linguistic gymnastics with 'diakrino' here in the process. To partially quote the great Christopher Walken, "I got a fever, and the only cure is more diakrino!" We need some discernment, differentiating, and consideration in your explanation of the passage because diakrino demands it.

  37. I don't know enough about you, Daniel, to know whether you are under the secondary authority of the Westminster Standards, but it does seem that the Shorter Catechism sees the 1 Cor. 11 warning differently than you do.

    "Q. 97. What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?

    A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves."

  38. Young's literal translation has this for 1 Cor. 11:27-30,

    "So that whoever may eat this bread or may drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, guilty he shall be of the body and blood of the Lord: and let a man be proving himself, and so of the bread let him eat, and of the cup let him drink; for he who is eating and drinking unworthily, judgment to himself he doth eat and drink - not discerning the body of the Lord. Because of this, among you many are weak and sickly, and sleep do many."

    I think I would translate the word "diakrino" the way the NET does: "For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself." Or maybe I would use "without considering."

    I do think the meaning of the word is secondary. Words get their specific sense from their context. But even if you want to go with something more esoteric like "discern," I still think it's mostly beside the point because what is in view is correction for adults who have done specific abuses. The Young's translation I think makes this clear. "Not discerning the body" is the sin being committed - despising the church.

    Here's a question: Paul's instructions here have arisen because of a situation in the Corinthian church. Without this situation or one like it, there is no reason to think Paul would lay down a rule in the other churches that one must "discern the body" in some abstract sense. Such a thing wouldn't even make sense without a situation of abuse to give it meaning. I still have not seen a satisfactory explanation of what you think "discerning the body" means in this passage. You said you think it refers to "understanding what communion means" - but that needs to be filled out quite a bit. Does one need to be familiar with the Medieval debates on transubstantiation? The real vs. spiritual presence debate, how the New Covenant relates to the Covenant of Grace and covenants in the OT? And does this mean you're understanding "body" in 11:29 to refer to the bread itself and not the church?

    You said, "We need some discernment, differentiating, and consideration in your explanation of the passage because diakrino demands it."

    I think I've given it. To paraphrase, "Whoever eats and drinks in the way you bunch have been - getting drunk, flaunting your supposed superiority to the shame of the poor, etc - eats and drinks judgment on himself, because you are not considering/rightly regarding the body of Christ."

    I am not ordained, so not directly under the WSC, but yes I think I would take exception to Q.97 if it's understood in way that makes children inherently unqualified by the mere fact of their being children.

  39. Actually, I have for the most part agreed with your discussion of the context of the passage in question. There is most definitely a situation where communion is being taken in an abusive way. Clearly there is disorder in the service, there is drunkenness happening, and there is even gluttony happening at the table.

    When we get to 1 Cor. 11:29, Paul's command is perfectly in line with this context. He is telling the people that if someone take communion without realizing what it is he is doing, without thinking about it first, without "discerning the body" (in other words, considering what the meal means, which is the root of these problems around the table) then they eat and drink judgment upon themselves.

    See, my understanding of the passage is that Paul is getting at the root of the problem in 11:29, not just the abuses that result. The root of the problem is that the people are coming to the table without consideration of what the table represents, what the table means. Your interpretation of the passage has Paul getting straight at the abuses, and my interpretation has a lack of discernment of what the meal means as the root of the abuses.

    I do appreciate that you are concerned to be Biblical in your approach to this. However, I think that taking exception with Q.97 may involve a domino effect. The WCF is a systematic document, and all of the doctrines are tied together. I think that if you take exception with Q.97 you will end up taking exception with others as well, particularly Q.91 and Q.96. In the end, the result will be a quite divergent understanding of the church, the sacraments, and the status of children within the covenant community from what the original divines envisioned. But then again, I'm somewhat of a strict subscriptionist, so of course I see those problems.

  40. "See, my understanding of the passage is that Paul is getting at the root of the problem in 11:29, not just the abuses that result."

    I think this is a good and helpful distinction, and I don't disagree. Failure to "discern the body" can certainly foster abuse. I still don't see it functioning as a fence or barrier, though. Children should be given the meal when they're able to eat, and taught what it means and taught about the body of Christ *as they regularly partake.* I just don't think it follows that they are barred from communing until they come to a level (what level?) of understanding that will hopefully prevent partaking "unworthily" in the future. Do our children not learn manners and deference and family functioning and all those things precisely at places like the dinner table?

    The Supper is supposed to manifest the nature of the church (1 Cor. 10:17), and if we withhold it from children until they demonstrate some level of theological understanding (again, what level? Isn't childlike faith enough? Why not?) what we are saying about the church is that it is not a place for children because their mental capacity and ability to think abstractly is not as great as that of an adult.

    It seems to me that the inevitable conclusion - if in PRINCIPLE we withhold the sign of communion with Christ from children - is to say that they in principle can have no communion with Christ, and that is unacceptable. If they can have communion with Christ, how could the sign of that be unfit for them?

    Or, put it this way: If failure to discern the body is the root of the abuses and not a synonym for the abuse itself, it is clearly a CULPABLE failure to discern, and NOT at all equivalent to the simple, natural, and innocent ignorance of a young child. [Sorry for the all caps, how do I do italics?]

    Maybe I'm blind to the implications of what I'm saying, but I don't see how I'd have to take exception to WSC 91 or 96.

  41. Daniel,

    In Q. 96 it says that by receiving the bread and wine "the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood"

    Q. 97, which you said you may have to take exception to enunciates what is meant by "worthy receivers." So if you take exception with Q. 97 it seems that in good conscience you must also take exception with 96 since you do not agree with what the WSC defines as a "worthy receiver."

    Reading over Q.91 I think my argument may be a stretch, trying to include 91 as something you should take exception with, so I retract the claim. It was an overreach.

  42. Eh, I'm not sure about that. I guess it depends on your view of subscription. I don't have a problem with Q.96 as it stands, or even really if you import the definition of "worthy" from Q.97. I would just say, in that case, that Q.96 is not saying all that could be said.

  43. You've been a gentleman, Daniel. Is it just me, or has the conversation wound down? Maybe we'll have more interactions in the future.

  44. Aye, and you too, good sir.

    Yeah that's probably about it, and I'm sure we will.


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