More On Liturgy

church sanctuary

A friend of mine pastors a young church plant in my hometown about two hours northwest of Little Geneva. Though I am not a little thankful that Traverse City finally has a faithful and sane Reformational outpost, I have been routinely struck at how a church such as Redeemer Presbyterian has taken root while the ground around here seems stonier than ever.

Dan has always insisted that what makes Redeemer’s expression of worship characteristic and distinguished is her weekly communion. That may be why when the local experimenting evangelicals who visit (which include several of my own family members) conclude that “it’s way too Catholic.” But I have always wondered if the liturgical expression there has just as much to do with that.

Under the guidance of John Meuther, who suggested he develop the thesis of it being the fourth mark of the true church, Dan has recently finished a little pamphlet which takes up the topic of worship. After spending thirty-some pages rendering a diagnosis of the contemporary landscape, he begins to offer a biblical-historical perspective which includes a treatment of just what is meant by liturgical reform and renewal. It isn’t as reductive and underdeveloped as taking down the big screens and adopting a flinty countenance, some modern version of Zwinglian white-washing. It actually has to do with adopting fixed liturgical forms—with a smile. Gasp.

Obviously, it is quite fraught as to cause. But after suggesting that today’s disdain for liturgical form could be a carry-over from the late medieval abuses which had devolved into a “complicated, mystical and allegorized mass,” he writes,

The answer for the reformers was not to abandon liturgy but rather to return to the simple, faithful, and rightly motivated orders of worship. The great reformer John Calvin is often painted as one who advocated places of worship being stripped bare and worship services that were devoid of liturgy while focusing almost exclusively on the word read and preached.

He then quotes Frankie Schaeffer as Schaeffer recounts his trek from Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy,

If we were Reformed Presbyterians, we stuck to our Calvinist tradition—church consisted of four white walls and a lengthy sermon—and ‘worship’ was the feeling you got if the sermon was good.

Unfortunately, I know exactly what he is talking about. I can attest that the trail-heads of Rome, Canterbury and even Constantinople can be quite tempting in the midst of the stark barrenness of low-church Protestantism that seems more low than church. But if Nicholas Wolterstorff is right that truer forms of Calvinist Protestantism really do know how to balance “proclamation” and “worship” in liturgy, it could be that “Frankie spent too much time in Hollywood.” In other words, given to caricature and some sensationalism, modern interpretations on historical data are not always the most reliable. Calvinists aren’t really low-churchers.

After all, does the following, coupled with the fact that he desired weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper (of which he also said, “I’d rather experience it than understand it”), really sound like a man who would prefer three-songs-and-a-lecture to make sure the gospel be not obscured:

I highly approve of it that there be a certain form…from which the ministers be not allowed to vary: that first, some provision be made to help the simplicity and un-skillfulness of some; secondly that the consent and harmony of the churches of the churches one with another may appear; and lastly, that the capricious giddiness and levity of such as affect innovations may be prevented.

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103 Responses to More On Liturgy

  1. mboss says:

    Zrim,

    My church has communion once a month. When the idea of weekly communion was brought up at adult Sunday School, it went nowhere. Most people thought weekly observance would make communion seem less special. I wasn’t sure why the same logic wouldn’t apply to the sermon or gathering for worship. Nevertheless, I’m still glad I’m fed more than four times a year.

    Mike

  2. Danny Hyde says:

    Zrim,

    Sorry to say, but that concluding quote that Daryl Hart is so found of quoting (ex., in Recovering Mother Kirk) has nothing to do with liturgy. Calvin is actually writing to the Duke of Somerset about a confession of faith, not a liturgy.

  3. Chris Donato says:

    Interesting, and somewhat related, link:

  4. David R. says:

    But the last sentence in Baird’s citation of the quote suggests that Calvin meant liturgical forms too:

    “Therefore there ought to be a stated Catechism, a stated form of prayer, and administration of the sacraments.”

  5. Zrim says:

    Mike, I’ve never heard a good argument against weekly communion. The “less special” one is perhaps one of the worst. But my favorite is that it’s too Roman Catholic. During the Reformation the Roman church observed it once a year.

    Dan, c’mon, can’t you be a just a wee bit post-modern in your interpretation?

    Chris, thanks, I hope I get some time to read your link.

    David R., thanks for providing us a way not to have to be post-modern in our intrepretation.

  6. Weekly Supper? Check.
    Wine. Check.

    Absolution. Unchecked.
    Singing of Psalms. Unchecked.

    Bummer. 😦 Can’t win ’em all.

  7. Zrim says:

    Vic,

    No, but I’d make a suggestion.

    Recently our church was in the process of filling her pulpit. The candidate I favored (who was finally deemed too controversial) got into a wrangle over wine with our search committe/council. He was public about wine. This bothered most. It went into a small controversy during the interview. I was frustrated because, while I agree with him, I thought it was the wrong discussion: I’d rather fight over the frequency of the cup than the content of the cup.

    Redeemer TC provides both wine and Welch’s. Not ideal, but if it gets me weekly communion that’s a hill I’m willing to loose.

  8. I’d rather fight over the frequency of the cup than the content of the cup…Redeemer TC provides both wine and Welch’s. Not ideal, but if it gets me weekly communion that’s a hill I’m willing to loose.

    Amen.

    We had this fanatic come to our church for a few weeks who was insistent we use unleavened bread only and inciting controversy with the body over it–he also claimed he was disturbed by the women wearing thong underwear–how he was able to see that scares me, seeing as no woman in our church wears inappropriate attire to worship. Let’s just say he wasn’t welcomed by us. I know I’m getting off point.

    By the way, I’m working my way through Given For You by Keith Mathison again this year. It is simply a maginificent work for anyone curious about this practice.

  9. mboss says:

    “But my favorite is that it’s too Roman Catholic.”

    Probably not an uncommon objection from those coming out of or heavily influenced by broader evangelicalism, which tends to portray Rome as the boogie-man for all the wrong reasons.

    Both of these objections – it loses its specialness and it’s too RC – grow out of the underlying premise of most Evangelicals that anything routine and formulaic is undesirable because it gets in the way of my direct, subjective encounter with God.

    Weekly Supper? Nope
    Wine? Nope
    Absolution? Usually
    Singing of Psalms? Not a chance

    1/2 out of 4 isn’t bad. Right?

  10. Zrim says:

    Vic, getting one’s panties in a twist over someone else’s panties makes me laugh. It’s like people who love to hate reality TV–they don’t know it, but they are participating in the craze they are complaining about, only in a negative way.

    Mike, my view is that what really separates evangelicals and Roman Catholics is simply high church versus low church. They both essentially share the same theology, piety and practice in principle–they just apply if differently.

  11. mboss says:

    On that note, one of my favorite parts of Horton’s book “Putting the Amazing Back into Grace” is when he suggests the altar call is the evangelical version of the mass.

  12. Zrim says:

    Me too–that is if it weren’t for my personal rule against “favorites.” It was a bit baffling at first, but it makes a lot of sense.

  13. Pingback: Water Is Thicker Than Blood

  14. Danny Hyde says:

    David R. and Zrim,

    You are relying on Charles Baird’s rendering. I am looking at Calvin’s letter to Somerset (22 Oct. 1548) as it is in front of me right here. Read the sources, not the secondary sources. Calvin is telling Somerset that without a form of faith, i.e., a Catechism, the church cannot stand. Sure, Calvin had a liturgy and forms of prayer, but this quotation from Baird is not about that. Right doctrine . . . wrong text!

  15. Chris Donato says:

    Question: is true covenant renewal taking place among the ecclesia without the covenant meal? If not, what’s going on every first day of the week in most churches? Is it an authentic gathering/assembly?

  16. Zrim says:

    Danny,

    OK, you win. I still think Reformed liturgy is awesome.

    Chris, I don’t think weekly tabling is of the essence of Reformed orthodoxy; I just think it is the natural biblical and historical conclusion. One argument I have heard against weekly is that it makes those who table weekly think something essentially less-than is happening elsewhere. That seems like another bad argument for various reasons.

    What I am waiting for is an argument that weekly is somehow bad for me when I do it. If it’s not, why am I not doing it? And it seems odd for those whose tradition ordains men in the “ministry of Word and sacrament” to serve the former every week and the latter once a month (or less). In light of such practical infrequency, maybe it would be better to say they are ordained in the ministry of the Word?

  17. Chris Donato says:

    Exactly. “Word AND sacrament,” when looking at the (majority of the) Reformed tradition, actually looks like “WORD (and sacrament).”

    Surely weekly tabling isn’t of the essence of Reformed orthodoxy. But is it not of the essence of Christianity? That’s my question.

  18. Danny Hyde says:

    Zrim,

    I think Reformed liturgy is awesome, too. But you already knew that!

    What I can’t stand, though, is the patchwork liturgies such as the one at the church you linked. What is the difference between that PCA and an Episcopal church? He wears vestments, which Reformed and Presbyterians have never worn; there are no Psalms sung, which is one of the defining marks of a Reformed church historically-speaking, and he uses the Lutheran form of confession. Why?

    Anyways, we have enough resources in the Reformed tradition that we do not need to adapt ourselves to playing high church.

  19. Zrim says:

    Chris, I understand. But when I hear “Reformed” I think “Christianity,” and vice versa. I guess I’d rather just ask for a good argument against weekly tabling than suggesting more than is warranted. Maybe I’m wrong though.

    Danny, very fair points and ones I’ve wondered myself. Dan may use a Lutheran form because he grew up Lutheran; that’s more an explanation than a justification (pun intended). Even so, not all of us live under the proximate influences of something WSCAL. Some of us exist out in the sticks and are doing the best we can. And given what else TC otherwise offers, Redeemer is way ahead of the pack. Like, way. It even has a yahoo named R.Scott Clark coming out in September to speak at presbytery.

  20. Chris Donato says:

    Well, I think the ramifications demand we answer the question. I’ve kind of made up my mind as to the importance of Communion, so for me the question is what are we doing as an assembly if that meal doesn’t make up half of it?.

  21. Zrim says:

    I think we’re leaving a bit hungrier than we should be, that’s for sure. That works for fat people at literal tables, but it makes no sense for leaner ones at the Lord’s.

    But if you want to say it’s of the essence of Christianity I don’t know why you can’t say it’s of the essence of Reformed theology, piety and practice. I’d be more willing to agree if you could first tell me what’s the difference?

  22. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    As you know, I am not a weekly guy. And I choose simple and orderly over liturgy any day. That may be another post coming. But as to the argument that “those who table weekly think something essentially less-than is happening elsewhere,” the reality is – that is exactly what is happening. I hear it all the time. Now, if you are correct then it should be happening. But 500 years of reformed history should not so quickly be shoved aside. And Chris, the efficacy of the Sacrament does not depend on its frequency, that is a Romanist idea if I may be frank.

  23. Chris Donato says:

    No, really, that’s not my point, of course. The frequency isn’t tied to efficacy. The frequency is wrapped up, indeed, is part of the very fabric of the assembly itself. To meet is to eat, just as to eat is to meet. The same could (and should!) be said about the service of the Word, of course.

    And, since this doesn’t seem to be a particularly Reformed thing to say, Zrim (as history makes plain), I thus see a distinction between the tradition and the faith—on this point.

  24. I’m of the mind that nature determines frequency. Not only the nature of the sacrament itself: functioning as an instrument through which the Holy Spirit freely effects grace in the heart of the believer, but the depraved nature of the sinner being sanctified by the sacrament.

    The argument goes thus:

    1. Sinning saints are in dire need of God’s grace.
    2. God’s grace resides in the person and work of Christ.
    3. The Holy Spirit effects this grace through the Preaching of the Word and the Sacraments.

    If the above is true and biblical, what better reason than to administer the sacraments as often as the church gathers for worship. Sinning saints in dire need of God’s grace and his sanctigying work ought to be busting the church doors open clamoring for the W&S every Lord’s Day.

    Or said negatively, have we become so self-sufficient as to scorn the grace presented to us in the Supper?

    No non-weekly proponent would ever admit this of course, but it seems to be the rational conclusion.

  25. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    But as to the argument that “those who table weekly think something essentially less-than is happening elsewhere,” the reality is – that is exactly what is happening. I hear it all the time. Now, if you are correct then it should be happening. But 500 years of reformed history should not so quickly be shoved aside.

    What I don’t quite understand is why what someone thinks is or is not happening elsewhere is any ground to not table weekly.

    I mean, it’s like saying, “That school over there teaches math this way. My teachers think that if we aren’t doing that we are behind the 8-ball. Therefore, we will not teach math that way.” Huh? If teaching math that way is superior, what difference does it make what anyone thinks about what others do or don’t do? The question is whether a practice superior, not the opinions of people about other people.

    And as far as history goes, my suspicion is that it went that way not in small part to Calvin’s city officials. He wanted at least once a week, they said no. I wonder if they had said yes if we’d even be having this discussion. Mark another one up for 2K.

  26. Rick says:

    Pass the Bread and Wine!

    I want the deal sealed after I clearly see Jesus Christ placarded before my eyes as crucified in the preached word. The sacrament is the best sermon illustration there is. Bring it!

    Weekly supper: Not checked.
    Wine: A fruity grape drink that is wine-colored. No dice.
    Absolution: Not quite. Declaration of Pardon.
    Psalm Singing: 4 out of 5 songs in the Morning usually. 2 or 3 out of 5 in the Evening usually.
    Robe: Nope.

    O.H. saint Hyde filling our Puplit in May: Check. So Absolution and Robe on that day.

    Joining late and didn’t read all the comments. Carry on.

  27. mboss says:

    Zrim,

    I don’t know if you’ve experienced this, but what’s your take on the formularies read in the Dutch Reformed tradition that call for self-examination during the week prior to the Supper? Granted, it’s good to have that Biblical reminder to avoid eating and drinking judgment on myself. But it came across (to me) that I had to be morose in order to take the Supper (or at least look morose) when I was joyfully anticipating eating the bread and drinking from the cup.

  28. Rick says:

    mboss,

    you are talking about “Dutch Holy Week”

    I did a post on this. I’ll try to find it.

    ***Here it is. From over a year ago.

  29. mboss says:

    Wouldn’t weekly communion also cut into the other means of grace occurring on Sunday morning – the choir, the special music, the testimonies, etc?

  30. mboss says:

    Rick,

    Thanks. As with many things, I am late to the dance. I shall retreat to that post and refrain from further comment.

  31. Rick says:

    boss, The nature of blogs is that things get read and then are soon forgotten. That’s why Zrim is on to something brilliant when he re-posts. Most folks aren’t the wiser.

  32. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    If the practice is superior, then I agree, who cares if other churches do not get this right. But we are told to have an eye to not being so different than the other churches (I Cor 16, 14:33, 36) as if we are the only ones who have figured it out.

    And as I said in my paper, if you are going to make people feel restless and discontent in their churches because they are not fully being fed each week, you’d better be sure the Bible teaches weekly.

  33. Todd says:

    “Sinning saints are in dire need of God’s grace.
    2. God’s grace resides in the person and work of Christ.
    3. The Holy Spirit effects this grace through the Preaching of the Word and the Sacraments.

    If the above is true and biblical, what better reason than to administer the sacraments as often as the church gathers for worship. ”

    Victor,

    There are two problems I see with your reasoning above. One, it sounds like you are making God’s grace into something like a substance. God’s grace is already ours in Christ. Grace is objective.

    And again, the sacrament does not give you more grace the more you take it. The Passover meal was not only efficacious as a means of grace the few moments a year the Israelites partook. The Israelites could think back upon the meal and be strengthened as to its meaning all year. it was a means of grace to them all year. You are not going to have more of the Spirit, more spiritual growth, more love, more kindness, etc… if you partake weekly but me monthly. That is a dangerous view of the Supper, and why our forefathers for 500 years were not convinced weekly communion was necessary.

  34. Zrim says:

    Mike,

    You’re take on Dutch Holy Week, I think, is spot on. And bada bing on communion cutting into man-pmade sacraments.

    Todd,

    So it comes down to you simply not being convinced that there is a sound biblical-historical case for weekly tabling. I think there is; making others feel discontent isn’t something I worry about then. And the point of weekly tabling, to my mind, isn’t to convey “we have it all figured out.” I mean, the mega-churches could turn that argument right around and fault us for not looking just like every other big-tent revivalist circus show (big or small). In point of fact, I get that all the time from my evangie family when we worship at Redeemer when up. If we are to look the same, that sounds like a Romanist argument to me.

    Speaking of, I’m not sure Vic is suggesting what you think he is. If he is, I agree. But I think he’s simply saying that, by the Spirit, faith is being affirmed in the sacraments after having been created by the preaching of the Word. Grace attends both Word and sacrament, doesn’t it?

  35. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    Hate to be on opposing sides of such a good 2k comrade, but such is life. Yes, it starts with not seeing a sound argument for weekly, but then it moves toward the ramifications of believing it is necessary.

    Paul did warn us to follow the practices of the other churches and avoid the temptation of “having it all figured out.” I know many churches misuse this idea, but that doesn’t make it something we should not take seriously. I don’t mind a church going to weekly communion, but I don’t see it done very often in a way that doesn’t give the people the impression that it is necessary, and therefore cause doubt as to the health and benefits of most reformed churches who happened to be non-weekly.

    Grace attends word and sacrament, but there is a clear priority of the Word over the Supper in the New Testament. We should never think that a gospel sermon is less effective if it does not end in a sacrament. And faith is affirmed by the sacrament outside of the actual partaking, not just when it is held and digested.

  36. Zrim says:

    Comrade,

    Well, it sounds like you may have an experience I don’t. It could be, maybe, that you perceive others going about this in the wrong fashion because you don’t agree fundamentally. It’s a ntaural human tendency to demand higher standards of implementation, looking for everything to be done just right, or else the whistle will be blown. My wife and I do this all the time with each other (since we have two very different perspectives so often): if I decide to piant something she doesn’t think needs painting I tend to “get it all wrong,” think I “know it all, my way is better than hers,” blahblahblah. No, I painted it well (and she knows it)and never said I knew more than her, she just didn’t think it needed to get painted in the first place.

    And why can’t evangelicals accuse us of being know-it-alls because we have a liturgy different from theirs, or that we have confessional forms? Couldn’t the medievals have accused the reformers of trying to be different for it’s own sake?

  37. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    We should never think that a gospel sermon is less effective if it does not end in a sacrament.

    What should we think when a gospel sermon does end in a sacrament? It’s all good and well to make the point that a gospel sermon is no less effective if it doesn’t end in a sacrament, but what exactly is going on when it does? And if what it does is something as vital as affirming previously created faith, what’s the problem doing that all the time? But if it’s less than what we confess, I guess I can see why it’s negligible, perhaps even just a rote ceremony we go through once a month (or less).

    My view isn’t that the sacrament has priority over the Word, rather that they work in vital conjunction with each other. But it seems to me that if one presumes they do not have a reciprocal relationship one might tend to presume that he who does is mistakenly prioritizing one over the other. Surely some do this. But not all of us who are for greater frequency do this by virtue of being for a weekly table.

  38. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    Like I said, if you are convinced the Bible teaches the importance of weekly communion, then it doesn’t matter what your people think of other churches who do not. Otherwise, it is important. Changing to weekly is different from adding a guitar to the piano accompaniment. It is a serious change. People will wonder why. If the Bible doesn’t deem it necessary, will that idea be clear to your people? If it does, how do you explain how so few of you have seen this?

    I know you don’t think sacrament has priority over the Word, but we must remember that they do not have equal priority. The Supper is only mentioned in one epistle. Never once in the pastorals. The centrality of preaching is everywhere. If weekly is necessary, or your word, “vital,” in affirming faith, why did the Apostles neglect to tell us?

  39. Todd, this being a mere blog you do yourself an injustice by not reading Given For You by Keith Mathison (see link above), if you have not already. The first chapter alone is more than worth the $12 bucks it’s priced at.

    Just some food for thought:

    1.Against the view that the W&S can be separated: For Calvin, the word and the sacraments are inseparably joined, and the sacraments generally accomplish that which the word accomplishes–being different means to the same end…he also points out that the word alone does not have its intended effect apart from the sacrament. (p.8) Also see the comment below.

    2. Against a “magical view of the sacraments: The sacraments are used in this way by God, we are not to place our confidence directly in them. They are instruments, and so they have value insofar as God uses them as his instruments…[they] do not, in and of themselves, impart grace. Instead like the word of God, they present Christ to us. (p.9)

    3. Against the view that Christ and his grace is not the substance of the sacrament: “Christ is the matter or (if you prefer) the substance of all the sacraments; for in him they have all their firmness, and they do not promise anything apart from him…[they] have effectiveness among us in proportion as we are helped by their ministry sometimes to foster, confirm, and increase the true knowledge of Christ in ourselves; at other times, to possess him more fully and enjoy his riches.” (p.12 as it quotes from Institutes 4.14.16). Further, “They do not bestow any grace of themselves, but announce and tell us, and…ratify among us, those things given us by divine bounty. The Holy Spirit…is he who brings the graces of God with him, gives a place for the sacraments among us, and makes them bear fruit.”

    4. Most crucially, “The concept of union with Christ is crucial to Calvin’s doctrine of the LS. Unless the connection is understood, very little of what he says about the LS makes sense…in this union there takes place what Calvin calls a ‘wondrous exchange’ made by the boundless goodness of God, whereby Christ takes upon Himself what is ours, and transfers to us what is His own…For Calvin, we are initially united to Christ in connection with baptism, and we grow in this union in connection with our partaking of the
    Eucharist
    ” (p.19)

    Having an understanding of Calvin’s view, you would see why he desired to partake of the Eucharist as often as the church met for worship.

    Do yourself a favor, pick up the book!

    (ps. in light of the following comment, I’d rather be viewed as one who thinks he has it “all figured out” then to deprive the people of God of such amazing grace.

    “If God choose to add anything to his word, it ought not to be regarded as a virtue to reject this addition as superfluous. It is no small insult offered to God, when his goodness is despised in such a manner as if his proceedings towards us were of no advantage, and as if he did not know what it is that we chiefly need….While we believe the word of God, we ought not to despise the aids which he has been pleased to add for the purpose of strengthening our faith…What then is the use of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper? Must they be regarded as superfluous? Not at all; for any one who shall actually, and without flattery, acknowledge his weakness, of which all from the least to the greatest are conscious, will gladly avail himself of those aids for his support. We ought indeed to grieve and lament, that the sacred truth of God needs assistance on account of the defect of our flesh; but since we cannot all at once remove this defect, any one who, according to his capacity shall believe the word, will immediately render full obedience to God. Let us therefore learn to embrace the signs along with the word, since it is not in the power of man to separate them…Fanatics of the present day disregard Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and consider them to be childish elements. They cannot do this without at the same time rejecting the whole gospel; for we must not separate those things which the Lord has commanded us to join.” Calvin’s Commentary on Isaiah 7:12)

  40. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    Again, fair points all. And I agree it is a serious change, as serious as a church that tables weekly going to monthly (or less).

    But I am still interested in what you say actually happens when the sacrament accompanies the Word. If you say it is to confirm faith, why do that infrequently?

    And if we table once a month (or less), do we not need justification for even that, and, if so, what is that justification? After all, Reformed follow the prescriptive principle for elements of worship. I guess I still don’t understand the resistance here. It seems fairly obvious what is to be gained, so what is to be lost by communing frequently?

    Also, doesn’t infrequency actually promote the over-realization you fear? I mean, if we are only tabling once a month (or less) it would seem to suggest that the sacrament is an extra-ordinary instead of ordinary means of grace. You only observe something infrequently if it is extra-ordinary, like a birthday. It would seem to me that the more often we partake the less we inflate its meaning.

  41. <a href=”http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=104
    “Weekly Communion by T. David Gordon

    Zrim, I think you second Gordon’s sentiments here

    I am middle-aged and still have never encountered a theological or biblical argument for annual communion; I have never read such an argument for quarterly communion or monthly communion. There are annual, quarterly, or monthly habits; but no arguments. – T. David Gordon

  42. Zrim, can you fix that linkage I attempted?

  43. Todd says:

    Victor,

    Read the book a couple of years ago. Why would you assume I have never read it- because I don’t but his conclusions? You also know Mathison favors paedocommunion – which should make his view of the Supper at least a bit suspect.

  44. Todd says:

    That’s “buy” his conclusions

  45. Todd says:

    “But I am still interested in what you say actually happens when the sacrament accompanies the Word. If you say it is to confirm faith, why do that infrequently?”

    Because it is sufficient to confirm faith regardless of the frequency – as long as there is some level of frequency.

    “I guess I still don’t understand the resistance here.”

    The resistance is the faulty assumptions weekly advocates are making to justify weekly partaking. And I never thought the “weekly doesn’t keep it special” argument of non-weekly was a very sensible argument, so I am with you there.

    As soon as you support weekly by suggesting “more grace” for those who partake than monthly, you are moving in a dangerous direction. If that is the case, offer it daily.

  46. Zrim says:

    As soon as you support weekly by suggesting “more grace” for those who partake than monthly, you are moving in a dangerous direction. If that is the case, offer it daily.

    Again, I wonder if you’re hearing something that isn’t there. Maybe it is for some, but I don’t recognize my viewpoint in the “more grace” argument. That’s an extra-ordinary argument. Mine is an ordinary one; weekly frequency is actually more congruent with an understanding of “the ordinary means of grace.” If the elements are ordinary, then their mode (read: frequency) of administration seem to be as well. Actually, anything less than weekly is a move toward a “more grace” argument.

    So since my argument isn’t “more grace” every day makes little sense to me. My view here is within a context of a Sabbatarian one: there is only one day a week reserved for holy activity.

  47. Zrim says:

    Vic,

    Yes, I think Gordon is right on. There are no arguments for infrequency really, just habits. When I ask my elders why we only table monthly I get habit answers. Don’t get me wrong, habit is a good thing, but in this case it doesn’t work.

    I’ll see what I can do about your link, tied up at the moment.

  48. Chris Donato says:

    “Mathison favors paedocommunion…”

    What Keith favors is younger children taking part in the meal, not infants. It’s hardly suspect to consider the practices of most Reformed churches arbitrary when their children reach some magic age and are then funneled through some class to help them learn that the gospel isn’t all that easy to understand.

    And again, Todd, the point of frequency cannot be separated from the gathering. Daily partaking is not relevant (though certainly not sinful), in my view, precisely because it is being disassociated from the worship of the people of the new covenant (on the first day of the week), and because, as you rightly point out above, grace isn’t a substance.

    Moreover, the assumption also seems to have taken hold here that the Supper itself is to be totally identified with the Passover meal, while no thought is given of its association with the covenanting meal eaten at the foot of Sinai.

  49. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    Victor wrote above “ps. in light of the following comment, I’d rather be viewed as one who thinks he has it “all figured out” then to deprive the people of God of such amazing grace.”

    This is the problem. Clergy do not “deprive” people of grace when they administer monthly over weekly. So for 500 years God’s people have been deprived of such grace, but now a few get it and are finally feeding their people as they need. Sorry, my view of God and the gospel does not allow me to go there.

    Do you see the danger?

  50. mboss says:

    I think the arguments from habit, “specialness”, or whatever are invoked because (warning, over-generalization) no one has bothered to educate the laity about the sacraments for a long time. Kind of like if we presume the gospel for too long, we start to ignore it or disbelieve it, if we presume the sacraments (the visible gospel, so to speak) without explaining (i.e. catechizing) what’s going on, they seem less important and infrequent participation isn’t as big a deal.

    I grew up in Reformed circles and I was 18 when I first heard a pastor explain Calvin’s approach to the Supper. He didn’t make it any more complicated than it had to be. Before that, all I really knew was that transubstantiation was bad.

    I like Rick’s point from earlier: at a time when we’re captivated by drama, reinactments, and illustrations, how better can we dramatize Christ’s sacrifice but by the Supper?

  51. Zrim says:

    Victor wrote above “ps. in light of the following comment, I’d rather be viewed as one who thinks he has it “all figured out” then to deprive the people of God of such amazing grace.”

    This is the problem. Clergy do not “deprive” people of grace when they administer monthly over weekly. So for 500 years God’s people have been deprived of such grace, but now a few get it and are finally feeding their people as they need. Sorry, my view of God and the gospel does not allow me to go there.

    Do you see the danger?

    Todd,

    Yes, I see the danger. But it seems dependent on how you are interpreting things. Maybe Vic overstated things. This comes back to my point that one is likely getting faulted for less than careful expression because another doesn’t fundamentally agree. I don’t think Vic is saying anything Gnostic, but probably it’s because I fundamentally agree with him. But there are all sorts of beliefs we’d agree on even if some of us state them imperfectly.

    Try a thought experiment: switch out Vic’s point of reference (weekly tabling) with any other uncontroversial practice, like evangelizing. You know as well as I do plenty of people accuse us of “having it all figured out” as we witness to the truth. So what? And is it inappropriate to suggest that not evangelizing is to “deprive people of amazing grace”?

  52. Danny Hyde says:

    Rick said:

    Weekly supper: Not checked.
    Wine: A fruity grape drink that is wine-colored. No dice.
    Absolution: Not quite. Declaration of Pardon.
    Psalm Singing: 4 out of 5 songs in the Morning usually. 2 or 3 out of 5 in the Evening usually.
    Robe: Nope.

    O.H. saint Hyde filling our Puplit in May: Check. So Absolution and Robe on that day.

    I chuckled when I read this. Thanks for the laugh . . . and I’ll see you on May 10th.

  53. Todd says:

    Chris,

    very few paedos includes infants too young to swallow in their arguments. The basic paedo belief is that baptism gives one a right to partake of communion, opposed to a credible profession approved by the elders of the church. In that basic sense Keith is paedo, and as much as I am against paedo is a much as I would suspect any paedo’s understanding of communion. It would be like asking me if I would trust a theonomist’s take on the kingdom. I would be suspicious from the start.

    And what you call arbitrary the church has historically called catechizing and pastoral care. Of course sessions approach each case separately, because people are different. There is nothing arbitrary about that – that is ministry. Some children are ready younger, others aren’t.

    And you may be reacting to a practice in churches you’ve seen that are different from mine. We are not reformed (Dutch), we are Presbyterians. We do not require the memorizing of a catechism, but we use the catechism for teaching the children. If the child can explain the basics of the faith in his own words, that is fine. And Calvin always tied the Supper to the ability to hear the Word preached, so we ensure the child can hear and explain the basic thrust of the sermons. Same with adult converts.

  54. Todd says:

    “Try a thought experiment: switch out Vic’s point of reference (weekly tabling) with any other uncontroversial practice, like evangelizing. You know as well as I do plenty of people accuse us of “having it all figured out” as we witness to the truth. So what? And is it inappropriate to suggest that not evangelizing is to “deprive people of amazing grace”?”

    Zrim,

    It’s one thing to look out upon the silliness that is modern evangelicalism and see how we need be different. It is another to look upon the tiny amount of churches that actually preach the truth and worship reverently and suggest most of them have gotten it wrong. Now you are treading on some dangerous waters.

    On an unrelated note, you have convinced me of the inappropriateness of using the word “cult.” for false religionists. It was inconsistent with my 2k views.

    Thanks

  55. Chris Donato says:

    Todd, I was just hoping that you understood paedo arguments. Having taught Keith’s children in communicants class, whatever his basic beliefs are, he fully submitted to the church’s case-by-case, child-by-child approach to admission to the table (wherein a profession of faith is proffered in front of an elder at the class’ end).

    The Presbyterians I’m familiar with still waited much too long, in my opinion, to put the children forward (by which I mean tweens). I consider that suspect.

    But all this is beside the point: 1) biblically, how do you separate the gathering from its meal? 2) especially in light of the related point, what do you do with the idea that the new covenant meal is as associated, if not more so, with the magnificent ratification described in Exodus 24:1–18 than with the Passover? And do you see the practical ramifications for new covenant worship if this is the case?

  56. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    It is another to look upon the tiny amount of churches that actually preach the truth and worship reverently and suggest most of them have gotten it wrong. Now you are treading on some dangerous waters.

    Hold up now. I don’t think I have ever suggested what you seem to be implying. If I have it was a mistake, and you are right. But I do think there is good and better practice amongst the faithful. If you want to intrepret that as something cavalier and reckless, well, I can’t help that. But I still say frequent (weekly) tabling is just better practice than infrequent.

    Re the word “cult,” all right! That’s almost as lonely an argument as public education advocacy and states’ rights. Almost.

  57. Todd says:

    Chris,

    I understand that Keith submitted his view to his denomination – he makes that clear in his book. (For me, I never understood the “holding an exception but not teaching it” view of G.I. Williamson, I think that is a violation of conscience, but that’s just me.) But his book clearly looks favorably on paedocommunion, irregardless of his practice.

    1.) The same way they did in the OT. They often gathered to hear the Word, as Jesus did in Luke 4:31ff. Yet they did not partake of a sacramental meal every Sabbath when they gathered.
    2.) Did the meal of Ex 24:1-18 reoccur every time they gathered to hear the Word? What Ex 24 pictures is our reality in the NC, whether we celebrate the Supper weekly or monthly.

  58. Todd says:

    “But I do think there is good and better practice amongst the faithful. If you want to intrepret that as something cavalier and reckless, well, I can’t help that. But I still say frequent (weekly) tabling is just better practice than infrequent.”

    Zrim,

    I can handle you thinking frequent is better than infrequent, but I’m not sure that is all that is being communicated. Read back over the posts here, and ask yourself, If I was visiting this blog for the first time, and I read this thread, would I get the sense from the pro-weekly advocates that weekly communion was not vital to spiritual life, but only better than more infrequent?

    And if I go by the calls I get from people who have come from weekly churches to our community, most think weekly is vital to their spiritual life, and therefore non-weekly churches like ours just won’t do. Maybe the need is better and more humble communication when weekly proponents explain their position to the people.

  59. Todd says:

    “Todd, I was just hoping that you understood paedo arguments.”

    Chris,

    What don’t I understand? Or are you using “understand” as a synonym for agree?

  60. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    I am not sure why those who hold to weekly cannot also say it is vital to spiritual life. I mean, what else should we say? When you observe how do you understand it–less than vital? If so, what’s the point?

    Well, what’s wrong with these poepl calling you? Don’t they know they at least get solid 2K teaching even if they don’t get the table weekly? See, I can compromise. But, seriously, I am not sure how you can fault people who think their previous practice served vitality. The question is, How does infrequency serve it? So far as I can tell, you haven’t answered that. You’ve just been telling us frequenters we may have our views but don’t get too excited about it. Is that how you give your kids Christmas gifts? Ouch.

  61. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    I have already answered the question how infrequency serves vitality. First, monthly isn’t exactly infrequent, in the common use of the term. But, either way, I have already said spiritual vitality is not dependent on weekly vs. monthly, so neither serves it in that sense.

    And there is a difference between vital and helpful, or vital and better. I think it is better to have a S.S. program than not, but I would never say S.S. is vital to spiritual life.

    I don’t mind people calling me. It’s when they hear we are not weekly and that is the end of the conversation – that is discouraging. Nothing on pastoral care, gospel preaching, 2k philosophy, service opportunities, fellowship, etc…

    You get my point, I think.

  62. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    The other problem with thinking weekly is vital is one of the sufficiency of Scripture. Something so vital to our spiritual well-being as weekly communion, yet the Apostles fail to mention it clearly in the Epistles to us? You are starting to sound like my Pentecostal friends! (Said in good spirit!)

  63. Zrim says:

    I have already answered the question how infrequency serves vitality. First, monthly isn’t exactly infrequent, in the common use of the term. But, either way, I have already said spiritual vitality is not dependent on weekly vs. monthly, so neither serves it in that sense.

    What would be infrequent to your mind, quarterly, yearly? And is infrequent bad? If so, why? I think it is bad because it does one of two things: it either diminishes efficacy or ironically suggests that the sacrament is more than it is (read: magic) because it is only done infrequently. It just seems to me that, given the wide options, weekly is the perfect, regular and ordinary (and diligent) use of the means of grace that keeps at bay both magic and a loss of efficacy.

    And there is a difference between vital and helpful, or vital and better. I think it is better to have a S.S. program than not, but I would never say S.S. is vital to spiritual life.

    Apples and grapefruit. Sacraments seem much more in the confessional ballpark than Sunday school. Again, are you ordained in the “ministry of Word and Sunday School”? No, “Word and sacrament.” Besides, Sunday school is an evangelical invention that Old School Presbyterians were suspicious of.

    I don’t mind people calling me. It’s when they hear we are not weekly and that is the end of the conversation – that is discouraging. Nothing on pastoral care, gospel preaching, 2k philosophy, service opportunities, fellowship, etc…

    Wow, really? Seriously? I’ll take your word for it. But that seems really odd to me. But if that is really what you get, I understand where you’re coming from. If it helps, weekly for me resides along with everything else and doesn’t rise to that sort of weird veto level.

    The other problem with thinking weekly is vital is one of the sufficiency of Scripture. Something so vital to our spiritual well-being as weekly communion, yet the Apostles fail to mention it clearly in the Epistles to us? You are starting to sound like my Pentecostal friends! (Said in good spirit!)

    And you’re starting to sound like my Baptist friends who want a verse telling us to baptize our kids. One good shot deserves another. You’re fun to fight with, Todd. My younger brother is named Todd. We don’t fight anymore, but sometimes I miss it.

  64. Todd says:

    “What would be infrequent to your mind, quarterly, yearly? And is infrequent bad?”

    As often as you do this means just that. Yearly seems to violate the idea that we are to do with some frequency, because a person is on vacation and he can go to or three years…

    “I think it is bad because it does one of two things: it either diminishes efficacy or ironically suggests that the sacrament is more than it is (read: magic) because it is only done infrequently.”

    I don’t think monthly diminishes efficacy, as I have already argued, I think that is a Romanist idea. Anf my congrgeation would no more think it was ,magic than yours.

    It just seems to me that, given the wide options, weekly is the perfect, regular and ordinary (and diligent) use of the means of grace that keeps at bay both magic and a loss of efficacy.

    And there is a difference between vital and helpful, or vital and better. I think it is better to have a S.S. program than not, but I would never say S.S. is vital to spiritual life.

    Apples and grapefruit. Sacraments seem much more in the confessional ballpark than Sunday school. Again, are you ordained in the “ministry of Word and Sunday School”? No, “Word and sacrament.” Besides, Sunday school is an evangelical invention that Old School Presbyterians were suspicious of.

    I don’t mind people calling me. It’s when they hear we are not weekly and that is the end of the conversation – that is discouraging. Nothing on pastoral care, gospel preaching, 2k philosophy, service opportunities, fellowship, etc…

    Wow, really? Seriously? I’ll take your word for it. But that seems really odd to me. But if that is really what you get, I understand where you’re coming from. If it helps, weekly for me resides along with everything else and doesn’t rise to that sort of weird veto level.

    The other problem with thinking weekly is vital is one of the sufficiency of Scripture. Something so vital to our spiritual well-being as weekly communion, yet the Apostles fail to mention it clearly in the Epistles to us? You are starting to sound like my Pentecostal friends! (Said in good spirit!)

    And you’re starting to sound like my Baptist friends who want a verse telling us to baptize our kids. One good shot deserves another. You’re fun to fight with, Todd. My younger brother is named Todd. We don’t fight anymore, but sometimes I miss it.

  65. Todd says:

    “What would be infrequent to your mind, quarterly, yearly? And is infrequent bad?”

    As often as you do this means just that. Yearly seems to violate the idea that we are to do with some frequency, because a person is on vacation and he can go to or three years…

    “I think it is bad because it does one of two things: it either diminishes efficacy or ironically suggests that the sacrament is more than it is (read: magic) because it is only done infrequently.”

    I don’t think monthly diminishes efficacy, as I have already argued, I think that is a Romanist idea. And my congregation no more thinks it is “magic” than yours.

    “Apples and grapefruit. Sacraments seem much more in the confessional ballpark than Sunday school.”

    No, not apples and grapefruit. The comparison is not between S.S. and the Sacraments, but S.S. and a certain frequency practice. And S.S., not the actual circumstance, but the fulfilling of our calling to teach and catechize, is part of our calling.

    “And you’re starting to sound like my Baptist friends who want a verse telling us to baptize our kids. One good shot deserves another.”

    Well, the NT’s silence concerning political matters means much, as should lack of specifics on sacrament frequency, that is, if II Peter 1:3 and 3:15 are true.

    “You’re fun to fight with, Todd. My younger brother is named Todd. We don’t fight anymore, but sometimes I miss it.”

    Well, I don’t have a brother named Zrim, oh, yes I do – you.

  66. sean says:

    All,

    Really interesting back and forth on frequency. Todd this doesn’t happen in your particular church so please don’t take it personally. Quite frankly, and with not a little solidarity with Zrim’s complaint about being far removed the influence of WSCAL along PCH, the best practical argument I know of for weekly supper and it’s relation to vitality, is not one of complementing the word preached but saving us from it.

  67. Chris Donato says:

    Todd wrote: “What don’t I understand? Or are you using “understand” as a synonym for agree?”

    I simply meant that it was clear you understand paedo arguments. I’m arrogant, but not that arrogant.

    Regarding the biblical-theological questions above:

    1) I think we all generally misunderstand what took place every Sabbath in the old covenant. It was a day of rest primarily. Worship was that which occurred on those days all the people gathered in Jerusalem at the Temple. And there, they sacrificed and ate, which means that…

    2) Yes, every time the people renewed covenant with Yahweh, they sacrificed and ate. Now, if what goes on every time the people gather to worship (not rest) is at least in some sense a renewal of the covenant, then eating the new covenant meal each time sounds appropriate, no?

    You wrote: “What Ex 24 pictures is our reality in the NC, whether we celebrate the Supper weekly or monthly.”

    Absolutely. But at the risk of sounding Romish to the Zwinglian, given the God-ordained efficacy (not, of course, ex opere operato) of his means of grace, why would you not what that objective reality made visible to you (after having hear it) every time you gather with all the saints to worship your covenant God? Why would you not seek the assurance he offers therein? Why would you not want to partake of that future marriage feast in some sense here and now precisely when it’s most appropriate so to do (which implies frequency, nay, demands it)? This is one of the big things he gives us for our salvation, and thus I cannot fathom why we wouldn’t avail ourselves to it.

  68. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    Well, we’ll always have that nasty 2K virus to share. Long live Stuart Robinson.

  69. Todd says:

    Sean,

    I got you – sad reality that is.

    Chris,

    I get it now, I thought when you said you were hoping I understood paedo arguments that you were disappointed that I didn’t. Sorry.

    Zrim,

    In a nutshell, I believe the Supper is an element, the exact frequency is a circumstance. I read you as wavering between those two.

    On a 2k note, if you haven’t already, you’ve got to read Frank Scaeffer’s memoir “Crazy for God”
    His insights into the religious right as he worked closely along side them are priceless, as well as his exposing of Dobson, Falwell and Robertson, and the weakness and strengths of his parents. It would make for a great blog discussion.

    peace,

    Todd

  70. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    I perused CFG at Borders last time I was in Ann Arbor. It looked fairly delicious.

    What’s funny is that my pastor friend mentioned in the post-proper is, how shall I say, weak on 2K. (In fact, I was told I likely would never be called to elder at Redeemer since I public school my kids; since I am passive-aggressive I mentioned it was only because St. John Vianni’s was full and the Montesorri School was too far away.) It grinds me something fierce but doesn’t keep me from thinking less of Redeemer. In the same way, that your church doesn’t table weekly only means you need to be better persuaded (!).

    See, some of us weekly-ers aren’t totally nuts, just the crazy ones are.

  71. Vic says:

    Todd,

    I believe the Supper is an element, the exact frequency is a circumstance.

    Analyzing your statement, I asked myself these two questions?

    1. Do you apply the same logic to all the elements? Why or why not?

    2. Is a worship service an defective, as opposed to an effective, worship service if all the elements are not present?

    The second question is an actual question I have not pondered to date, and maybe you and the guys on the blog can be of help. I will do some research. But in the meantime can you answer the first question for me?

    Thanks bro.

  72. Zrim says:

    Vic,

    You beat me to it; I had the same thought: could we not also then say we sing once a month, preach twice a month and pray every quarter?

    While reasons are subject to speculation, my sense with Todd is that there is an abiding hesitant posture toward the table.

  73. Vic says:

    One thing is clear in my mind of which I am firm: weekly communion at least bases itself on apostolic example (Acts 2:42), though skeptics want clear commands much to the like of baptists with paedobaptism (see Zrim’s allusion above) while all other options (biweekly, monthly, quarterly, etc) rest on man’s whim and arbitrary nature.

    I still haven’t seen a response to Calvin commentary on Isaiah 7:12, and probably won’t see one anytime soon.

  74. Todd says:

    “Do you apply the same logic to all the elements? Why or why not?”

    The sacraments are different. Baptism as a means of grace is rarely a part of every worship service, for obvious reasons. And yet when it is observed it is an effective means of grace. But it is a good question. I do see in I Cor 12-14 basic elements of prayer, singing, and of course teaching/preaching. The Supper, at least among the Corinthians, did not seem to occur during the worship time proper at all, but during their fellowship meals/love feasts.

    I am getting to the end of CFG where Shaeffer describes his run-ins with the new home school movement (he calls them anti-american) and working with North and Rushdoony, whom he calls nutcases, and that Francis Sr. agreed with that assessment.

  75. Todd says:

    “While reasons are subject to speculation, my sense with Todd is that there is an abiding hesitant posture toward the table.”

    Zrim, if that is the case, then the same must be said for Berkof, Hodge and all the Princeton men, as well as almost all Reformed and Presbyterian pastors for the last five hundred years. I got a better idea than trying to find some deep psychological discomfort with the Supper. We just don’t think the Scripture commands weekly, and thus it is not necessary. It really doesn’t go much deeper than that.

  76. Goodness gracious! I wish blogs would provide an edit button.

    Todd,

    The sacraments are different. Baptism as a means of grace is rarely a part of every worship service, for obvious reasons. And yet when it is observed it is an effective means of grace. But it is a good question. I do see in I Cor 12-14 basic elements of prayer, singing, and of course teaching/preaching. The Supper, at least among the Corinthians, did not seem to occur during the worship time proper at all, but during their fellowship meals/love feasts.

    I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but let me give you some things for consideration and tell me what you think:

    1. From the book Reverence & Awe on Elements (p.149):

    “There are a host of texts in the NT that provide sufficient guidance on proper elements of worship, either from apostolic teaching…or from apostolic example…Acts furnishes us with a helpful outline: ‘They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.’ Here we have several keys to worship: the Word, prayer, sacraments, and a collection (koinonia). Other NT texts reiterate that these four elements characterized the worship of the early assemblies of the church on the Lord’s Day and that God approved of them. In explaining this text, T. David Gordon writes: ‘It is not difficult to conclude that the elements which are anticipated by our Lord’s instructions to the disciples, which are observed in the churches under apostolic oversight, which are regulated by inspires epistle, are the ministry of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, spoken and sung prayers and praises, and collections for the relief of the saints.‘ Gordon is echoing Calvin himself, who wrote, ‘no meeting of the Church is held without the word, prayer,the dispensation of the Supper, and alms.’ Institutes 4.17.44

    2. You keep mentioning that the Reformed church in the last 500 years have predominantly not celebrated weekly communion, (to their own fault I may add):

    The book goes on to say (p.150),

    “…Presbyterian and Reformed churches have traditionally celebrated the supper quarterly. Recently, however, many churches are accelerating the frequency of observance, not simply because of the early church’s practice but also because of the benefits of the Lord’s Supper itself.

    You see, the intent of Calvin and the Reformed churches was to imitate, as far as it is biblical, the practice or the early, and apostolic, churches.

    The logic goes thus:

    a. It was the intent of the Reformation to return to the practice of the early church, with a mind to sola scriptura.
    b. The early church’s worship contained all the elements alluded to in this post, as per Acts 2:42.
    c. Therefore, the Reformed church’s worship then and now ought to have these elements.

    (Of course you may go on to disagree with the interpretation of Acts 2:42, by then the ball would be on your court to provide a counter-interpretation)

    If this is the logic one is working with, why would you fault us “weekly tablers” for thinking “we got it all figured out”? Wouldn’t it be rather an honest attempt to go back to the early church practice and if valid wouldn’t you want to join the “weekly tablers”?

    What do you think?

    (By the way, this has been a helpful conversation from my perspective)

  77. Zrim says:

    if that is the case [that less-than-weekly seems to have a resistance to the table], then the same must be said for Berkof, Hodge and all the Princeton men, as well as almost all Reformed and Presbyterian pastors for the last five hundred years. I got a better idea than trying to find some deep psychological discomfort with the Supper. We just don’t think the Scripture commands weekly, and thus it is not necessary. It really doesn’t go much deeper than that.

    Todd,

    As Vic suggests in citing Reverence and Awe, the genius of Protestantism is that it balances a high view of tradition with a fallible one. So I appreciate giants like the Lion of Princeton having their views here, but they are still subject to scrutiny.

    And I’ll stop trying to psycho-analyze your side of the, ahem, table if you dispel the high mystery that renders the second, third and fourth Sundays of the month somehow different from the first. If you have to justify why you table once, don’t you also have to justify why you don’t the other three? I really don’t see how you can do that without ironically suggesting that the sacrament is more than it is since you seem to observe an ordinary means of grace in an extra-ordinary manner.

    The sacraments are different. Baptism as a means of grace is rarely a part of every worship service, for obvious reasons. And yet when it is observed it is an effective means of grace. But it is a good question. I do see in I Cor 12-14 basic elements of prayer, singing, and of course teaching/preaching. The Supper, at least among the Corinthians, did not seem to occur during the worship time proper at all, but during their fellowship meals/love feasts.

    Baptism depends on births and conversions, so its irregularity makes sense. But tabling is not subject in the same way. If baptism is an “effective means of grace,” why can’t we speak of tabling the same way when arguing for weekly without being accused of slouching toward “magic” or Romanist notions? And if you don’t even see the Supper happening during stated public worship, why do you even do it on the first of the month? Shouldn’t you be doing it after the stated worship and during the potluck?

  78. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    I’ll answer those questions in a bit, but why not the Supper after the evening sermon also?

    todd

  79. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    “So Calvin came to the conclusion that ‘the Lord’s Table should have been spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually.’”

    I have always thought that “at least once a week” could suggest exactly what you ask. Indeed, why not? But I’m nothing if not reasonable instead of greedy…I’ll settle for just the AM service.

  80. Todd says:

    “If baptism is an “effective means of grace,” why can’t we speak of tabling the same way when arguing for weekly without being accused of slouching toward “magic” or Romanist notions? And if you don’t even see the Supper happening during stated public worship, why do you even do it on the first of the month? Shouldn’t you be doing it after the stated worship and during the potluck?”

    Zrim,

    I’ll let you have the last word because I’d rather enjoy the Robinson thread. It is not very often one of my theological heroes is being discussed.

    As for your question above, the potluck communion, or whatever you want to call it, is there in Corinthians. You just need to fit that into your system. And weekly communion is not in itself Romanist. But when I hear people say, I need weekly because I need more grace, that is a Romanist idea. And I was speaking of baptism as an effective means of grace for the rest of the church watching, not really the one participating (I should have made that clear). When they witness a baptism it is effective to remind them and strengthen them in their faith, but it’s effectiveness in that manner is not dependent on frequency. It is not like the more baptisms I witness the more grace I receive or the stronger I am a Christian. It is sufficient no matter how often.

    Again, I am not objecting to your desire for weekly communion. I am objecting to weekly being “vital” (your word) to our spiritual lives. Besides the lack of support for this idea in the Scripture or confessions of the church, you are asking me to believe that for some reason God has withheld this vital knowledge from his people for at least 500 years until recently, and guys like you and Gordon and Darryl have discovered a long lost practice that is vital for our spiritual lives. I mean, I usually love Darryl’s stuff, but please forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical.

    And I’d be curious if you could find another example where Calvin compromises on a practice or belief that he thought was vital to the church, like he abiding with monthly communion. I think you overstate Calvin’s position in other words.

    Peace,

    Todd

  81. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    I cannot fault a fellow skeptic. But I won’t apologize for thinking the sacraments are vital to nurture Christian piety (just as vital as worship generally and preaching and prayer specifically). And if they are vital I still see no reason not to partake of them as often as we meet. All I have seen from your side of the table is a reliance on habit at best and a faulting of weekly arguments instead of why infrequency is better at worst.

    I still don’t know why you table when you do (first Sunday) nor why you don’t when you don’t (second, third and fourth Sunday), other than to say you don’t want to be like us and think the sacraments are actually vital, nor fall into that trap of presuming that you “have it all figured out” (whatever that really means). By that logic, maybe we should dispense with creeds and confessions since they seem to imply that we have it all figured out. In other words, you seem to be boxing at shadows.

  82. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    Okay, I can’t give you the last word if you end that way! It is unfair to suggest that because I don’t think weekly is vital that I don’t believe the sacraments are vital. You are taking a huge swipe at most Reformed Christians for hundreds of years. Not for me. Why monthly instead of weekly? For one, as a circumstance, it is like asking why start at 9:00am instead of 10:00am? Tradition works for me. And if weekly leads people to believe one must either celebrate weekly or they don’t really believe in the sacraments, I’ll stick with monthly.

  83. Chris Donato says:

    Todd, in an email conversation with Keith on this subject, he asked me to post the following:

    “My intent in [Given for You] was not to advocate paedocommunion. My point was simply to state that from my perspective, the arguments for PC had not always been adequately dealt with by critics of PC. My perspective is as one who came out of a Baptist background, so that probably influences the way I look at these arguments, but there’s a difference between saying that I think the PC arguments need to be taken more seriously and saying that I advocate PC. I think the PC advocates raise good questions sometimes. I don’t think they raise unanswerable questions.

    On the plus side, I think the PC arguments are being dealt with more thoroughly now. See for example Venema’s new book on the subject.”

    ###

  84. Zrim,

    Maybe you can ask Todd to provide sources of Reformed writings that treat the frequency of the LS as a circumstance, it won’t be hard to find since there are 500 years worth of writings.

    From my understanding of Reformed theology, piety, and practice the only valid circumstances are time and place of worship.

  85. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    I’m not saying that monthly tablers don’t see the sacraments as vital. I’m allowing that you do. My question is, if they are vital why should they be abstained from three Sundays of four. And so far the answer seems to be, “Because weekliers think we think the sacraments aren’t vital, I don’t want anyone to think I’ve got things all figured out and that’s how a lot of us have done it for hundreds of years.”

    But then you say it is a circumstance. That works, I suppose, if one agrees we can compare frequency of sacraments to what time to meet. But I don’t. How often to table seems just plain different from what time to gather. Indeed, if it were so circumstantial I don’t know what all the fuss is. You seem to think sacraments are important enough to take the cues of Reformed history. Are you as aware of the average meeting times down through history? I’m not prepared to say frequency is an element, but to cast it as circumstance seems problematic.

  86. Todd says:

    Victor,

    You can actually ask me yourself, unless my non-weekly is so repugnant to you that you cannot address me directly.

    The Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God

    “The communion, or supper of the Lord, is frequently to be celebrated; but how often, may be considered and determined by the ministers, and other church-governors of each congregation, as they shall find most convenient for the comfort and edification of the people committed to their charge.”

    Communion was an element, weekly was not. The churches have been following this Westminster understanding for 500 years. The burden of proof is on you to prove them wrong.

  87. Thanks Todd!

    Since you had preferrably addressed me through Zrim, I thought my posts weren’t coming up for you, or much worse, I was repugnant to you.

    As for the WDPW, I see where it says the LS is “frequently to be celebrated” but I don’t see the reasons why (at least in the excerpt provided), much less that it is a circumstance.

    I think that the Early Church’s practice, guys like Calvin & Nevin(and Gordon, Hart, Mathison, et al) did a fine job of proving them wrong so I’ll desist from doing that.

    If you disagree, that’s fine we can leave it at that. No love lost.

    🙂 Thanks.

  88. Todd says:

    Victor,

    Oh – don’t know why that came about originally. No, I wasn’t offended by you. Thanks.

    Chris,

    Keith still does not say which side he is on. Is he or isn’t he? (sounds like a certain South Park episode)

    Zrim,

    Is there a third option besides element or circumstance?

  89. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    The Directory clearly leaves frequency open to debate (which what we are doing a bit of). It doesn’t seem to settle whether it is an element or circumstance though. That classification yet escapes me.

    You suggest that the onus is on us to prove a large portion of Reformed practice wrong. I am not sure my point is to “prove anyone wrong” so much as to find a good argument for anything less than weekly. Again, yours seems a reliance on habit. And I know I sound like a broken record, but I want to know why you table when you do and why you don’t when you don’t: what is special about the first Sunday that isn’t true about the other three? Why do you sing, pray and preach every meeting, but table only a quarter of the time?

  90. Todd says:

    Chris,

    I don’t remember Keith saying anything critical in his book against the paedo position (again, not the Eastern orthodox infant position but children partaking by virtue of baptism instead of profession). All he says is to submit to the church if paedo. But if he is not paedo, why is he not paedo? It is interesting that when you look at reviews of his book on Amazon, most think he is paedo. (I understand people can assume things wrongly, but he takes strong stands throughout the book on other issues concerning the Supper, and yet on this issue takes no real stand.) Here are a few excerpts from the reviews:

    “Makes a good argument for wine in the Meal and even for paedo-communion.”

    “Three other books to consider: NT Wright’s The Meal Jesus Gave Us; Peter Leithart’s Blessed are the Hungry; and Robert Letham’s one (Letham gives a counter-balance to Mathison on the Paedo-communion stuff).”

    “Toward the end of his argument for paedo-communion…”

    Now, after we clear this up, maybe we can get Keith away from that post-millennial stuff… 🙂

  91. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    Why monthly – tradition of the OPC, which works for me, frequent enough – and puts emphasis on Word over sacraments, as it should be. (My reasons)

  92. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    OK. But I understand the Word and sacraments to be reciprocal (i.e. the Word is spoken and creates faith, the sacraments affirm faith). I don’t see that one should be emphasized over the other, rather they follow a logical priority and are complimentary.

  93. Z,

    You’re not the only one:

    “Wherefore, let it be a fixed point, that the office of the sacraments differs not from the word of God; and this is to hold forth and offer Christ to us, and, in him, the treasures of heavenly grace…the sacraments, as we lately observed, (chap. 13 sec. 6; and 14 sec. 6, 7,) are to us what messengers of good news are to men, or earnests in ratifying pactions. They do not of themselves bestow any grace, but they announce and manifest it, and, like earnests and badges, give a ratification of the gifts which the Divine liberality has bestowed upon us…The Holy Spirit, whom the sacraments do not bring promiscuously to all, but whom the Lord especially confers on his people, brings the gifts of God along with him, makes way for the sacraments, and causes them to bear fruit…We maintain, that whatever organs [God] employs detract nothing from his primary operation. In this doctrine of the sacraments, their dignity is highly extolled, their use plainly shown, their utility sufficiently proclaimed, and moderation in all things duly maintained; so that nothing is attributed to them which ought not to be attributed, and nothing denied them which they ought to possess.

    Institutes 4.14.17

    It’s interesting to note that Calvin in this particular section warned against having too high a view of the sacraments, while we seem to be arguing against having a low view of the sacraments.

  94. Zrim says:

    Vic,

    Perhaps. But I actually have had the sense that I have been arguing against something of a latent “too high view.” It seems to me that when infrequency is maintained it can only really suggest that the sacraments do something more than for which they are ordained. This seems a variation on the “it’s special” argument.

    It is my view that the more frequent, regular and ordinary a thing is employed the less we are prone to think too highly of it. Think of how often your mind strays during the typical sermon, singing and praying.

    I contrast my experience at our regular church here in GRR where we observe monthly with Redeemer where they observe weekly. The liturgy here has an explicit undertone of specialness, as if everything is revolving around the table in preparation, etc. At Redeemer, the liturgy presumes the table as just another part of the service. Here, everything gets shortened up (including the sermon) so everything can make way for the involved liturgical form for the sacraments. There, it’s a seamless garment, as it were, where Word and sacrament compliment each other. In other words, frequency equals ordinary (as in “ordinary means of grace”) while infrequency nurtures extra-ordinary.

  95. Victor says:

    Z,

    You make a valid point. I agree. Calvin was talking in particular about the papists, who observed the LS yearly.

  96. Todd says:

    “Here, everything gets shortened up (including the sermon) so everything can make way for the involved liturgical form for the sacraments”

    Yes, if that is happening, weekly makes sense. But that “if” is not the usual, at least not in OPC circles.

    Good discussion and debate – thanks.

    Todd

  97. Zrim says:

    Todd, word to your mother. You too, Vic.

  98. Z,

    Invoking a Mexican’s mother in an argument does not promote amicable results.

  99. Todd says:

    Jewish mother even worse!

  100. Zrim says:

    Ha!

    Well, tell yo’ mama’s it’s just white boy 80s slang for, “Yes, I quite agree, good chap.” Hmmm, my inner WASP just showed up.

  101. Chris Donato says:

    In Italian terms, you’d already be swimmin’ with the fishes.

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