Saturday, March 31, 2012

Are Waters/Duncan et al Borrowing from the Baptist Playbook?

Matthew Claridge (a Baptist) did a review of the Ligon Duncan/Guy Waters edited book Children and the Lord's Supper. Right away, I wondered why a Baptist would be interested in this book. After all, the only reason I could think of is to identify perceived inconsistencies in the paedobaptist position. I can't judge Claridge's motives, but it definitely looks like Claridge found what he may have been looking for.
The book is very learned, convincing, and comprehensive in its critique. Nonetheless, as a baptist, I cannot help but notice the irony of the whole discussion. In many cases, it is as if the authors must draw from a Baptist playbook to make their case against paedocommunion.
I would love, in the future, to move point by point through Claridge's review, but for the moment I have a singular point I wish to make. Claridge's logic could be turned around. It is actually the paedocommunionists (hereafter PCs) who borrow from the Baptist playbook. Let me explain.

The Baptist holds one sacramental commitment (among others, of course) in common with the PC; namely: without distinction, all members of the covenant community are permitted to partake of all the sacraments. The Baptist and PC alike believe that once someone is admitted to the covenant community, they may be admitted to the table. This was not so, however, with the Westminster Divines. I quote, now, the Westminster Larger:
Q. 176. Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree?

A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, in that the author of both is God; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant, are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming.

Q. 177. Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ?

A. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ, in that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ, and that even to infants; whereas the Lord’s supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.
I won't belabor this point, but it is obvious to me that the Westminster Standards are not friendly to PCs. It is clear that the divines understood that there were significant differences between the two sacraments. Both Baptists and PCs throw up their hands and say, "If they're in the covenant, they should receive all the sacraments." The Westminster Divines caution us, however, that this thinking is not so. While I am aware that the scripture proofs were not in the first drafts of the Standards, it is nevertheless significant that the authors of the WLC did point to 1 Cor. 11:28-29 as their scripture proof for their teaching on this. It is clear that their understanding of this passage differs quite a bit from, say, a PC understanding of this passage.

Is it really Baptistic to say that one must be capable of heeding the Scriptural warning against partaking wrongly? After all, it is the other views which leave little room for the subtlety involved in the WLC's explanation of the sacraments and how they differ. Why use a sniper rifle when you can drive a steam roller?

To my mind this is simply Pauline ecclesiology. So I would counter to Claridge that if he is right, then there are plenty of 'Baptisty' hermeneutics to go around. If PCs are thrilled by Claridge's detection of Baptist plays in Children and the Lord's Supper, they should look for Baptist moves in Daddy, Why Was I Excommunicated? as well.

(This post originally identified the author of the review as Chris Cooper, which was incorrect. It has been updated to reflect the correct author. My apologies to Chris Cooper.)


  1. Adam,

    I did not write the review, and it does not express my views. Matthew Claridge is its author. I am a staff editor for Credo Magazine and posted the review as editor. I completely understand why you would think that I am the author, because it says "by Chris Cooper" at the very top. However, this just means that it was posted by me. Before the review itself and at the end of the review, it says that Matthew Claridge actually wrote the review. Could you delete my name from your post? Thanks.


    Chris Cooper
    Staff Editor
    Credo Magazine

    1. My apologies, Chris. I corrected the post. A little more reading on my part would have solved that error. No more blogs at 11 o'clock at night.

  2. Adam,
    You seem to be basically denying that anti-PC arguments are baptistic, because the WLC denies PC. That may be fair historically, but I don't think it's really the issue. What if the WLC is itself baptistic in this regard? It doesn't argue for its position, it just asserts it - on the ground that infants are not "of years and ability." That, basically, is the baptist argument against infant baptism.

  3. Daniel,

    It does not seem to be that you are rightly understanding Adam's argument. His argument, in essence, is that both baptists and PC hold that the two sacraments should be viewed as identical with regard to those who receive it. In other words, both groups argue that if a person is a proper recipient of one sacrament (or ordinance) they ought to be able to receive the other one. In this, the baptists and PC agree.

  4. In reality, Daniel, my argument is that Baptistic inklings can be derived from both the PC and the anti-PC positions. The existence of Baptistic tendencies in both positions cancels out any appeal to Baptistic tendencies in either position. I guess I could have spelled that out even more.

    The credo-communionist agrees with the baptist that communion is only for believers.

    The paedo-communionist agrees with the baptist that communion is for all members of the visible church.

    Baptism, baptism, everywhere!


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