Children and the Lord's Supper
Good book on a tough topic
One tough topic pastors deal with from time to time is the issue of, can a child observe the Lord's Supper? This is what Children and the Lord's Supper talks about. This book was edited by Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan. There were many contributors to this book, which made this book very theological.
The book starts off with how the Lord's Supper has taken over the Passover, and discussing the theology behind the Lord's Supper. George W. Knight III takes an exegetical look at 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, which is read almost every time I have observed Communion at different churches. The end of the book deals with what a church is to do to deal with this issue, which every leader in the church needs to read a discern how to deal with this issue.
Very good book on a tough subject. Every church leader and parent needs to read this book.
December 29, 2011
A Definitive Collection of Essays on the Table
Addressing those in attendance at the Desiring God 2008 National Conference, Pastor Mark Driscoll, in his lecture entitled Ã¢ÂÂChrist, Controversy, and Cutting WordsÃ¢ÂÂ, delivered an aside on a peculiar topicÃ¢ÂÂ¦paedocommunion. He said:
Ã¢ÂÂI 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 Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm willing to fight over this issue.Ã¢ÂÂ I said, Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm not.Ã¢ÂÂ Some people wonÃ¢ÂÂt fight for anything. Some fight for everything.Ã¢ÂÂ
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 LordÃ¢ÂÂs Supper.
Formatted as a collection of essays on the topic, Children and the LordÃ¢ÂÂs 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 Ã¢ÂÂthe admittance of a covenant child to the LordÃ¢ÂÂs Supper on the basis of his descent from at least one professing ChristianÃ¢ÂÂ (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 LordÃ¢ÂÂs Supper as it relates to Passover. Bryan Estelle in his essay, Ã¢ÂÂPassover and the LordÃ¢ÂÂs Supper: Continuity or Discontinuity?,Ã¢ÂÂ and Iain M. Duguid in Ã¢ÂÂChrist our PassoverÃ¢ÂÂ provide the reader with an excellent study in the relationship of the LordÃ¢ÂÂs 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 Ã¢ÂÂfar from merely fulfilling the Passover meal, actually fulfills the entire sacrificial system. Jesus fulfills the whole sacrificial order, not just the Passover.Ã¢ÂÂ
Continuing, George W. Knight III examines 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 in his essay, Ã¢ÂÂ1 Corinthians 11:17-34: The LordÃ¢ÂÂs Supper: Abuses, Words of Institution and Warnings and the Inferences and Deductions with respect to PaedocommunionÃ¢ÂÂ. (Talk about a title reminiscent of the PuritansÃ¢ÂÂ¦). 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 PaulÃ¢ÂÂs instruction.
Derek W. H. Thomas in, Ã¢ÂÂÃ¢ÂÂNot a Particle of Sound BrainÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂa theological response to paedocommunionÃ¢ÂÂ 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 Ã¢ÂÂPaedocommunion and the Reformation Confessions.Ã¢ÂÂ 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 LordÃ¢ÂÂs Supper in and of themselves.
Before the concluding chapter, Nick Needham looks at the patristic sources for evidence of paedocommunion in Ã¢ÂÂChildren at the LordÃ¢ÂÂs Table in the Patristic EraÃ¢ÂÂ. Though the documentation is Ã¢ÂÂthinÃ¢ÂÂ, 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 Ã¢ÂÂÃ¢ÂÂOnly for His BelieversÃ¢ÂÂ: Paedocommunion and the Witness of the Reformed LiturgiesÃ¢ÂÂ. Those he examines include, but are not limited to: Roman Catholic (backgrounds), CalvinÃ¢ÂÂs Catechism and Liturgy (c. 1541), The First Prayer Book of King Edward VI (1549), and John KnoxÃ¢ÂÂs Genevan Service Book (1556). Through his examination, Beeke shows that these voices are unified in that Ã¢ÂÂChrist has appointed this food only for His believers.Ã¢ÂÂ
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 LordÃ¢ÂÂs Supper.
With the content in view, I want to include a few remarks regarding the helpful nature of this volumeÃ¢ÂÂ¦ 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 LordÃ¢ÂÂs 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 DuguidÃ¢ÂÂs essays are exemplary studies in biblical theology. As such, itÃ¢ÂÂs worth noting that Estelle engages a good amount of the work of Ridderbos, Hodge, and Vos within his discussion.
Overall, Children and the LordÃ¢ÂÂs 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 LordÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
December 28, 2011
Lots to learn from this book
I just finished reading'Children and the Lord's Supper, edited by Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan. Christian Focus Publications once again generously sent me a free copy of the book with the intention to review it.
This book is a collection of essays addressing the issue of paedocommunion. It is written from a Reformed perspective, which is important for those who may read this who are from a non-denominational perspective, i.e. like me. It's important to know that, because the issue of paedocommunion is a natural outflow of the reality of infant baptism. My church does not subscribe to infant baptism, and thus does not deal with the issue of children and the Lord's Supper in the same way. That being said, I learned a great deal from this book about the Reformed position of both baptism and the Lord's Supper. Ultimately, each author who contributed said something which I, from a non-denominational perspective, can agree with: the Lord's Supper is meant for those who are in the faith already, and can properly examine themselves before they partake. Each author supported the view that in light of the fact that a small child -- not to mention an infant -- cannot examine him/herself, they are not invited to the table. The authors all also presented the reality that membership in the church does not necessarily imply full participation in all aspects of church life. I think that is something that I can learn from in my own context. The final chapter of the book, by Waters and Duncan, asked the reader to evaluate how we regard children in the church, how we disciple them, and how we prepare them for the eventuality of taking the Lord's Supper. I found that very helpful. In my own local church, we allow a child to partake of the Lord's Supper based on their profession of faith in Christ. It has been my experience that sometimes, a child of five years old who says they have been converted, may in fact not be converted as later life bears out. I wonder if perhaps we ought to be more diligent about ascertaining that fact before we start making asssumptions. This book was a good reminder of the need to continually be teaching our young children and not making assumptions about their faith.
The book addressed the issue of paedocommunion from a number of vantage points: from the hermeneutical position, from its relationship to the Passover meal, from the theological perspective, the church history perpspective, and the liturgical perspective. Their goal was to adequately describe why paedocommunion is not a biblical practice, and I believe they accomplished that well. I especially enjoyed Derek Thomas's explanation of the theological aspects of the question. I knew very little about what a "covenant child" was before reading; after reading his contribution, I feel like I understand much better.
The book has the Mentor imprint on it, indicating that it is for advanced readers or pastors. I think many people would find it readable, but it is more work reading than other books I have read. When one of the authors brought in literary theory as it relates to the language of the Passover, and then proceeded to allude to Northrop Frye, I had to smile to myself. I recently read a work by Frye about literary theory, and knew what he meant, but I did wonder how many people know about Frye's literary theories. I don't think my pastor has even heard of him. That being said, however, I found the whole book an excellent one, and highly recommended to anyone who wants to seriously examine the issue of children at the Lord's Table.
December 26, 2011