5 Stars Out Of 5
A Definitive Collection of Essays on the Table
December 28, 2011
Kevin M. Fiske
Addressing those in attendance at the Desiring God 2008 National Conference, Pastor Mark Driscoll, in his lecture entitled "Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words", delivered an aside on a peculiar topic_paedocommunion. He said:
"I once had a guy who wanted to talk about paedocommunion. I told him you have more important things to do than argue about paedocommunion. He said "I'm willing to fight over this issue." I said, "I'm not." Some people won't fight for anything. Some fight for everything."
What is paedocommunion? Is it worth discussing? Is it a matter of urgency for the church? Can it be defended from the Scriptures? Does it have a history of observance in the church historic? These are a sampling of the questions Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan, with a host of Reformed scholars, seek to address in the 2011 Christian Focus Publications/Mentor release, Children and the Lord's Supper.
Formatted as a collection of essays on the topic, Children and the Lord's Supper seeks to examine paedocommunion exegetically, theologically, historically, with respect to contemporary scholarship, and in terms of its implications for the church, and particularly children in the church, today.
The book begins with a helpful introduction to the topic by Waters and Duncan. Defining paedocommunion as "the admittance of a covenant child to the Lord's Supper on the basis of his descent from at least one professing Christian" (that is, a child who has yet to make a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ), the issue is initially set within its current ecclesiastical context. Though remaining a minority issue, it has taken root within the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Reformed Church in America. Additionally, the Christian Reformed Church has been discussing the possibility of adopting the practice since 1984. Then a brief overview of the case against paedocommunion is offered, with special attention given to the pro-paedo literature and arguments of Peter J. Leithart, along with some pastoral implications.
The book then proceeds with two essays addressing the Lord's Supper as it relates to Passover. Bryan Estelle in his essay, "Passover and the Lord's Supper: Continuity or Discontinuity?," and Iain M. Duguid in "Christ our Passover" provide the reader with an excellent study in the relationship of the Lord's Supper to the Passover. Both authors do a particularly good job of demonstrating the particularities of the relationship between old and new covenants as well as the forward-looking new creational kingdom aspect of the Supper. Notably, Estelle argues that the Supper "far from merely fulfilling the Passover meal, actually fulfills the entire sacrificial system. Jesus fulfills the whole sacrificial order, not just the Passover."
Continuing, George W. Knight III examines 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 in his essay, "1 Corinthians 11:17-34: The Lord's Supper: Abuses, Words of Institution and Warnings and the Inferences and Deductions with respect to Paedocommunion". (Talk about a title reminiscent of the Puritans_). Knight, by thoroughly walking the reader through the 1 Corinthians pericope, demonstrates that the Table is only open to those who have made a credible public profession of faith and are able to understand and act upon the Apostle Paul's instruction.
Derek W. H. Thomas in, "'Not a Particle of Sound Brain' -a theological response to paedocommunion" takes on the issue theologically as it pertains to three strands of argumentation: sacramental, covenantal, and ecclesiastical.
Cornelis Venema then looks at the issue through the lens of the Reformed confessions in "Paedocommunion and the Reformation Confessions." Though obviously giving time to the issue at hand, this essay is particularly valuable as it gives the reader a crash course of sorts on a Reformed view of both baptism and the Lord's Supper in and of themselves.
Before the concluding chapter, Nick Needham looks at the patristic sources for evidence of paedocommunion in "Children at the Lord's Table in the Patristic Era". Though the documentation is "thin", as Needham puts it, he provides helpful primary source examples from the Cappadocian fathers, John Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine of Hippo.
Additionally, Joel Beeke looks at paedocommunion as addressed in the Reformed liturgies in "'Only for His Believers': Paedocommunion and the Witness of the Reformed Liturgies". Those he examines include, but are not limited to: Roman Catholic (backgrounds), Calvin's Catechism and Liturgy (c. 1541), The First Prayer Book of King Edward VI (1549), and John Knox's Genevan Service Book (1556). Through his examination, Beeke shows that these voices are unified in that â€˜Christ has appointed this food only for His believers.'
Finally, Waters and Duncan provide helpful pastoral discussions and perspectives as to how children are to be viewed and shepherded within the church. They conclude with a section addressing how pastors may understand, appreciate, and receive the Lord's Supper.
With the content in view, I want to include a few remarks regarding the helpful nature of this volume_ Initially, one of the great strengths of this book is the way in which it provides the reader with a rich, Reformed understanding of the Lord's Supper (and Baptism). The volume itself could be used as a primer on a Reformed perspective of both sacraments/ordinances even apart from its addressing paedocommunion. Thus, even if the reader has no specific interest in paedocommunion, this volume is still of value!
As well, I found the discussions pertaining to the continuity and discontinuity with the Passover to be some of the most engaging. Particularly Estelle and Duguid's essays are exemplary studies in biblical theology. As such, it's worth noting that Estelle engages a good amount of the work of Ridderbos, Hodge, and Vos within his discussion.
Overall, Children and the Lord's Supper is a great help as it relates to a Reformed understanding of the sacraments. The reader will benefit from a well-argued, well-researched, well-engaged study of paedocommunion along with an excellent series of arguments in opposition to the practice. It may be noted that any position argued effectively, must have thorough knowledge of its opponents argument/position, and communicate it credibly. The authors in Children in the Lord's Supper know the opposing argument and approach it with pastoral urgency and wisdom, careful exegesis, and a faithful call to a robust and biblically faithful sacramental praxis and care for covenant children.
I recommend it to you highly!
*As a part of the Christian Focus Blog Tour, the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of this book. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.