Old on the Supper: Eucharistic and Frequent

 

Another feature of Vermigli’s sacramental theology is his profound appreciation of the biblical theology of thanksgiving. Vermigli liked to use the word eucharist in referring to the sacrament, because that word emphasized that the Lord’s Supper is a feast of praise and thanksgiving. As Vermigli understood it, one of the cardinal actions of the liturgy is the Eucharistic prayer, in which the church gives thanks in joyful profusion for God’s mighty acts of creation and redemption. Vermigli, like the other Reformers, very much opposed making the sacrament into a sacrifice. To be sure, the sacrament is a memorial and thanksgiving for Christ’s sacrifice. To be sure, Christians, having received the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice, owe to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving and the offering of their lives to his service, but it is by Christ’s sacrifice alone that our salvation has been won. Vermigli distinguished carefully between a propitiatory sacrifice that saves us from our sins and a Eucharistic sacrifice that gives thanks to God for the salvation God has already granted us. Our giving of ourselves to his service, our giving of alms, our self-dedication are entailed by Christ’s obedience sacrifice of himself, but these responses must not be confused with his sacrifice…

…For a Reformed theologian, any tradition, including the Reformed tradition, needs to be measured against Scripture to determine whether it is of value. It is Scripture that has authority, and the tradition has authority only when it is based on Scripture. We need to evaluate and reevaluate the tradition and then emphasize those elements in it that are most solid. In any tradition there are elements that played a significant role because of the needs of the day, but in a few generations no longer seemed meaningful. In every tradition, there are the marks of compromises with the culture. There are things the religious leaders would have liked to have done but which the state would not permit or the people would not support.

A particularly good example of this was the way the Reformers wanted to restore to the church the weekly Communion of the faithful. In Strasbourg Bucer and his colleagues tried to get the whole population of the city to come to one celebration of the Lord’s Supper at the cathedral each Lord’s day. Unfortunately the Reformed pastors of Strasbourg were never able to bring about that reform. A similar thing happened in Geneva. Calvin wanted a weekly celebration of Communion in Geneva. Evidently the faithful, who had been accustomed under the old order to receive Communion but once a year, just could not make that kind of transition, and so quarterly observance became the rule. In Geneva Communion was celebrated only four times a year: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the first Sunday in October. That was an advance over the medieval custom, but before too long, Reformed churches were stuck with a tradition that was not “according to Scripture.” Alexander Campbell tried to set that matter in order at the beginning of the nineteenth century. We need to get back to that reform again.

Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to Scripture (pgs. 135 and 163)

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45 Responses to Old on the Supper: Eucharistic and Frequent

  1. "Michael Mann" says:

    I take it that the primary point of this is the frequency of communion. Having said that, it is another aspect that jumps to the forefront for me. It is the positive, thankful, celebratory aspect I see here that is too often missing in the reformed (I am reformed, btw) practice of communion.
    The approach I often see is as if communion is running through a gauntlet or as if the partaker are about to be injected by a very large needle.
    Though there is properly a sober core to taking communion, our meditations are properly about receiving Christ, reflecting on the gospel, reflecting on our being called out of the world into the Christ’s church, and expecting blessing because we are participating in the sacrament he has ordained! It should be a cause of great joy and encouragement. This aspect, I think, should be emphasized a bit more than is typically done.

  2. Zrim says:

    Michael,

    Verily, verily I say unto you that “Miami Vice” was completely awesome. I miss it.

    This is a good point. What you describe is something of my experience amongst some of the Dutch Reformed. It seems that at least part of the reason for the infrequency is to afford the faithful enough time to carry on a rather dreadful self-examination between observances. So if we went weekly then the funeral procession would be constant, and who wants that? Plus, “that’s what the Catholics do.”

    In any Reformed/Presbyterian church I have been in where the practice was weekly I have always observed the ability to balance reverence and awe with joyful celebration. If anything, infrequency seems to nurture, as you suggest, the “gauntlet syndrome.”

    (My pastor was recently relaying his trip to Scotland where the Presbyterians celebrate yearly. His cousin said not to come that week, as every night the week prior the town is taken up with preparatory services and so he would not be avaliable to socialize. Despite his own pious observance, etc., he was a lowly “adherent” while only the elders who were “communicants” would ultimately be able to take the means of grace. The whole scene he painted seemed positively medieval.)

  3. "Michael Mann" says:

    Nice pick up on “Michael Mann,” Ztubbs! I always say, if you must have a vice, it may as well be a Miami Vice.

    I have to say I don’t get real excited about the frequency of communion issue. There is no command per se as to fequency, and credible arguments can go both ways. One could say that weekly communion, depending on the religious background and sensibilities of the partaker, could tend to make it either a blase’ routine or could give the impression that there is something magical going on in communion, thereby unduly diminishing the regular preaching of the word. I think a session has to study the scriptures, consider their traditions, consider their flock, and make the decision that seems best.

    Usually when vehemence combines with a position that is not clearly a scripture-mandated position, I wonder what is really going on, and what is usually going on is not a good thing. So if someone has a weekly communion practice and has reasons for it, I am fine with it. But when someone wants to shout it from the rooftops and from that roof look down upon those with a less frequent communion, I just don’t get it. It can be like the charismatics from my young adulthood who were always trying to get me to speak in tongues. But I never spoke in tongues and I don’t currently understand the drive that unites everyone from you and Dr. Clark (I think) to Doug Wilson that weekly communion is a front-burner issue.

  4. Zrim says:

    I just learned recently (on the back of a coaster of a Hollywood themed restaurant) that Jimmy Smits was the original Tubbs but was killed off in the pilot because he wasn’t thrilled about where he thought the role would take his career. Judging by Don Johnson’s and Philip Michael Thomas’s careers, I think he was onto something.

    I have to tell, I have yet to see as credible arguments against weekly as I do for weekly. Usually they amount to what you suggest: “It will become routine or convey something magical.” I don’t understand the modern prejudice against routine, and the magical jazz seems to ironically presuppose magic on behalf of the interlocutor. Oh, and don’t forget the latent religious bigotry of “It’s too Catholic.” Actually, per Old, it’s Roman-medieval to go with infrequency (as in once a year). Ironically, when modern think of the weekly Roman Mass they are seeing Geneva’s desire for reform on this one in practice.

    Re reasons, I think it’s Keith Mathison who has made the point that infrequenters are actually the ones who rely more on argumentless tradition than frequenters rely on the pure sentiment you suggest. And that is what Old is getting at in the post in those last two paragraphs. I appreciate your caution and parallel to Charistmatica, and the point is very well taken, but frankly I’ve yet to see that spirit conveyed by frequenters.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If you are in, say, a Presbyterian church in the United States, is there a weekly tradition to look back to? Aren’t most weeklies the ones who are changing the tradition of their local churches?

    With regard to Calvin and Geneva, I will accept for the sake of argument that Calvin wanted weekly communion. But that was one man, albeit a brilliant, profound man who was truly “the man.” Still, the *church* of Geneva said “no” to weekly communion. And that is the tradition that was established. Presumably Calvin made his arguments then submitted to the church when the church didn’t agree with him. Isn’t an act of the church more important than the unadopted opinion of one man in the church?

  6. "Michael Mann" says:

    BTW, “Anonymous” was me.

  7. RubeRad says:

    I had always heard that it was not “the church” that stood in the way of Calvin’s desire for weekly communion, but “the city council”.

    I would also like to note that if you add up total number of episodes of Miami Vice I have seen, plus the number of Lethal Weapons and Beverly Hills Cops’, you will get a number that is one less than the number of times per year that a Mennonite has communion.

  8. "Michael Mann" says:

    Interesting numerology, Rube, but you should have a more biblical starting point. Like, if you start with 153 fish and subtract a CENTurion, you have 53 left, from which you subtract MONOtheism for a total of 52 communions per year since fish were passed around in the miracle of the fish & loaves just like communion is passed around. Now let me pause to catch my breath after that long sentence.

    In truth, Miami Vice was happenin’ until people figured out it was just an average cop show hiding underneath cool colors and a contemporary soundtrack. Maybe some parallel could be made between that and contemporary worship? But enough profundities for one post…

  9. RubeRad says:

    HA! Nice numerology yerself! Reminds me of how the inimitable Camping arrived at May 21 2011 as the date of the rapture. (Or A. W. Pink’s spiritual arithmetic of the Bible)

  10. Anonymous says:

    It is curious to me that Old says “the Reformers” wanted weekly communion, as if the sum total of the reformers consisted only of Calvin and Bucer. (The inclusion of Campbell is disturbing for anyone that knows the theology of Campbell.) The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of the reformers, and the church at large, rejected weekly communion. It is naive to think that the church rejected weekly communion simply because the Geneva council did not allow it. The reformers were very meticulous in their study and examined everything in light of scripture. There is simply no concrete scriptural evidence that warrants weekly communion. In fact, when the sacraments are examined from the Bible as a whole, the evidence suggests a less frequent observance. The passover (which nearly all reformed scholars agree was replaced by the Lord’s Supper) and several of the seasonal feasts were highlight ordinances, to bring remembrance of the things God had done. They were not performed weekly or more often.
    The supper is a highlight ordinance. Since the OT saints had less knowledge than the NT saints, would it not make sense for them to have these ordinances more often than the NT saints? The reformed church is a consensus church – its doctrine does not depend on a single man or group of men (we are not called the Calvinian Church). The reformed tradition was formed by many elders examining the scripture to determine what was right and that has been handed down to us today. The Consensus Tigurinus was a great document (signed by Calvin) summarizing the majority report of the reformed church. But many weekly communion advocates reject it, saying that it really did not represent Calvin’s views. But Calvin loved the church more than his personal opinion and fought its unity, and the CT established that unity. Some say that Calvin demanded weekly communion, but he did not. He stayed in the church his whole life without it – he did not start his own church so that he could practice weekly communion. So I agree with Michael, that making this issue of prime importance in the church (in fact, it has made some churches and movements quite sectarian on this issue) is not healthy for reformed churches.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It that Old in the picture? What is he doing with his hand – blessing the elements? And what’s up with the candles? Looks a little “too Roman Catholic” for me.

  12. Zrim says:

    Michael and Anon,

    You points about individuals and ecclesiastical consensus are very well taken. But it’s worth noting that majorities and correctness don’t always go together. It’s pretty awesome when they do, but it’s a question of correctness before consensus. Kuyper made no bones about disagreeing with “Calvin, the Confessions and our Reformed theologians” when he made his case to revise Belgic 36.

    There is simply no concrete scriptural evidence that warrants weekly communion. In fact, when the sacraments are examined from the Bible as a whole, the evidence suggests a less frequent observance.

    Well, there’s Acts 2:42. But whatever else can be said, one question I always have with weekly interlocutors is this: if you have communion once a month then what warrant do you have to abstain the other three? And maybe you could get more specific about what you mean that “the evidence suggests infrequency”? What scriptural evidence is there for what is essentially, “Now, be sure you regularly deprive yourself of the means of grace”?

    But Calvin loved the church more than his personal opinion and fought its unity, and the CT established that unity. Some say that Calvin demanded weekly communion, but he did not. He stayed in the church his whole life without it – he did not start his own church so that he could practice weekly communion. So I agree with Michael, that making this issue of prime importance in the church (in fact, it has made some churches and movements quite sectarian on this issue) is not healthy for reformed churches.

    I stay in a church without it as well and don’t demand anything, I just pipe up when asked. And nobody is suggesting that weekly communion is “of the essence” such that it becomes of prime importance. Would you say the same thing to believers in a weekly church who thought infrequency was important enough that they sought to plant a church based on infrequency?

    Frankly, I just don’t understand why anyone would want to deprive himself of the visible Word any more than the invisible Word. If it’s a means of grace on the first Sunday of the month (or whenever) then isn’t it also a means of grace on the second, third and fourth? And if so, why in the he he heck would you want to deprive yourself of it?

  13. Todd says:

    “Frankly, I just don’t understand why anyone would want to deprive himself of the visible Word any more than the invisible Word. If it’s a means of grace on the first Sunday of the month (or whenever) then isn’t it also a means of grace on the second, third and fourth? And if so, why in the he he heck would you want to deprive yourself of it?”

    Zrim,

    I’ll take a shot at answering this, though I always have respected your reasons for loving the Supper.

    First, your verb “deprived” assumes too much. It assumes that the efficacy of the sacrament depends at least partly on its frequency, which we non-weekly’ers deny. As Michael noted above, the Passover was efficient as a means of grace once a year – it would not have been any more valuable to the Israelites twice a year.

    The communion which the elements symbolize is always ours in Christ. “Deprive” suggests that that communion is somehow lacking or deficient if the Supper isn’t taken weekly, which would then raise the question of the Lord depriving us – in the sense that Scripture does not command weekly as a necessity.

    The danger I have seen is that Christians who begin weekly become convinced that it is a necessity, which does diminish the power of the Word, as well as introduce the idea of weekly churches above non-weekly (weekly being the ones who do not deprive us of soul nourishment.)

    And certainly we have seen both in Israel and church history the danger of heightening the value of the physical where it becomes in peoples’ minds a channel of grace (Pole with the snake, cross, baptism and Supper in RC and Lutheran circles, etc…). So I think the Reformers as a whole were wise to avoid that temptation and not go weekly.

  14. Zrim says:

    First, your verb “deprived” assumes too much. It assumes that the efficacy of the sacrament depends at least partly on its frequency, which we non-weekly’ers deny.

    Actually, I assume that efficacy simply depends on use. If something isn’t used it is not as efficient as it could be, right? My broom is effectual to clean my floor, but not when I leave it in the closet. I suppose if I want my floor clean once a month then taking it out and using it once a month makes it effectual once a month. But if I want my floor clean every week, then…

    The danger I have seen is that Christians who begin weekly become convinced that it is a necessity, which does diminish the power of the Word, as well as introduce the idea of weekly churches above non-weekly (weekly being the ones who do not deprive us of soul nourishment.)

    Again, if we’re going by experience I simply haven’t seen that.

    But I understand in theory how this can be (even the reality), but that seems like avoiding potential dangers simply because they’re possible, like saying, “It sure seems like people who get married diminish the power of their relationship; they seem bored. Let’s stay single.” And I could just as easily say, “Churches that choose infrequency become convinced that it is a necessity, which diminishes the fact that the visible Word would enhance (instead of diminish) the power of the audible Word, as well as introduce the idea that non-weekly churches are above weekly churches (non-weekly being the ones who don’t make it magic).” See? Your argument seems to based on the potential problems of the other guy, which has its place, but every since we’ve ever discussed it it has always seemed pre-dominant.

    And certainly we have seen both in Israel and church history the danger of heightening the value of the physical where it becomes in peoples’ minds a channel of grace (Pole with the snake, cross, baptism and Supper in RC and Lutheran circles, etc…). So I think the Reformers as a whole were wise to avoid that temptation and not go weekly.

    Again, I get the potential danger argument, and it’s certainly valid, but it sure seems way too overdone. What about prayer? Should we only pray once a month for fear of people becoming too dependant on prayer and not working? That can happen, it does happen, but is that really a reason to limit weekly or daily prayer? The list of examples, both sacred and common, seem to be endless, of people horribly over-realizing things, but how is that any reason to diminish the practice of a fundamentally good thing? I still don’t get it.

  15. The Apostle Paul speaks in 1 Cor. 11:26 of the Eucharist as a proclamation of the gospel encompassing both the first and second advent of Christ. As a church member, I would much rather proclaim that glorious truth often rather than seldom. I can hear it through Word and assist in proclaiming it myself through sacrament – what better way to spend a Lord’s Day, even every Lord’s Day?

  16. Todd says:

    “But I understand in theory how this can be (even the reality), but that seems like avoiding potential dangers simply because they’re possible”

    But the potential danger is why Paul himself did not baptize people (I Cor 1:14), so there is nothing wrong with such wisdom. Also, as was said by another, in the Old Covenant sacraments were always irregular ordinances, the reading and hearing the Word a regular ordinance. The later synagogue practices – hearing the Word each Sabbath, but not administering the OT sacraments each sabbath. No reason why that pattern should change in the NC.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Zrim,

    After all is said, weekly communion advocates usually end their debate with the argument “Why would’nt you want to take it weekly?” which is an experiential argument, not a scriptural one. The idea is that since it is a means of grace, then we should want it more often. This is basically saying that the more one partakes, the more one benefits – simple arithmetic. One then could argue that our leaders are negligent because they offer it only once a week. (Calvin did say “at least weekly”) Why not every day, or three times a day, or every hour.? Just think of all the benefit we could store up. This kind of thinking is carnal and not spiritual. This stems from the fact that weekly communion advocates emphasize the objective work of God in the Supper over the faith of the believer, hence they downplay or even eliminate self-examination. The reformed fathers have emphasized self-examination from the beginning, because they recognized that faith and a proper frame of mind is essential to any benefit received. They also recognized that the benefit of Supper is not limited to the time it is received. Calvin himself taught this. The benefit of the Supper should last us some time, since the Word is preached weekly, and since the same Christ is also received (in the same way, that is spiritually) through the preaching of the Word (Calvin again).

    Also, Paul severely warns us against misuse of the Supper and exhorts us to examine ourselves.
    I fear that many taking communion weekly have fallen into a ritual. I know weekly communers love to mock this argument, but that is exactly what Paul is talking about. I have been in a weekly communion church where people use the time of the word of institution as break time to go to the restroom, but get back in time for the elements. Many partaking are cold and unloving, not even recognizing the existence of those not in their circle of friends. Calvin once called off the regular communion service (quarterly) because he felt that there were many who were not prepared.

  18. Zrim says:

    Anon,

    This is basically saying that the more one partakes, the more one benefits – simple arithmetic.

    Like I suggested to Todd, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that as one partakes one also benefits. It follows, then, that as one doesn’t partake one doesn’t benefit. If you partake on the first Sunday of the month, you benefit on the first Sunday of the month. If you refrain the other three then you don’t benefit on those three. I don’t see how it doesn’t then follow to say that if you don’t partake it suggests you don’t see the need for benefit. Simple logic.

    Why not every day, or three times a day, or every hour.? Just think of all the benefit we could store up. This kind of thinking is carnal and not spiritual.

    Phew, good thing that’s not my thinking then. But not everyday because God has only called us to the means of grace once a week—not every hour of every day. You’re thinking of the pietists who downplay weekly and ecclesiastical worship and seek spiritual nurture at every moment, which is why they have all sorts of parachurch activities and Christian subculture (including Wednesday night activities, or “the second-mid-week Sabbath”). Think eeevangelical small-groups or yesteryear’s Methodist canticles. No, I say we “get true religion” once a week and then go out in our six days, which are mostly characterized by common activities (making some room for personal or family worship).

    The reformed fathers have emphasized self-examination from the beginning, because they recognized that faith and a proper frame of mind is essential to any benefit received.

    And by “self-examination” you mean that long, drawn out and pietist dive inward to gaze at one’s spiritual navel, where many surface with all that guilt about how unworthy they are, maybe partaking in a gloomy and put-on spiritual state for all to see? No thanks, I’ll take the raised chin and outstretched hands with the lights on so I can see the visible Word being given to me for the complete remission of all of my sins. Did you miss my point above about how infrequency-so-we-can-really-truly-examine-ourselves seems to nurture a less-than-thankful heart and more an overly introspective piety?

    Also, Paul severely warns us against misuse of the Supper and exhorts us to examine ourselves.

    That’s the argument for credo-communion (and against paedocommunion), which I heartily affirm, not the argument against frequency.

    I fear that many taking communion weekly have fallen into a ritual.

    I think we need to distinguish between ritual and ritualism. Ritual is actually a good thing, but ritualism is bad. And just because some have fallen into ritualism is no argument against proper ritual. Again, lots of people fall into divorce and adultery—does that mean there is something wrong with marriage?

    I have been in a weekly communion church where people use the time of the word of institution as break time to go to the restroom, but get back in time for the elements.

    That’s highly unfortunate and gives frequency a black eye. But I’ve never seen that. If I did, I would suggest it needs immediate and forthright correction.

    Many partaking are cold and unloving, not even recognizing the existence of those not in their circle of friends.

    This seems a tad overblown in order to make your point. But I’ve heard the same thing from unbelievers about believers, and it’s used as an excuse to reject Christianity.

  19. Todd says:

    “It follows, then, that as one doesn’t partake one doesn’t benefit. If you partake on the first Sunday of the month, you benefit on the first Sunday of the month. If you refrain the other three then you don’t benefit on those three.”

    Zrim,

    This is where I believe your thinking is flawed. The benefit of the sacrament goes beyond the time it is taken. The Passover meal did not only serve as a means of grace once a year, but all year. They were to remember the meal and its significance and benefit from that all year long. As long as communion is not so irregular that you cannot remember taking it, the benefit is the same whether weekly or monthly or quarterly. Our communion with Christ is not enhanced the moment we receive and digest the elements, and the Word of God is not lacking in its effieiency to grow us in grace if it is received apart from the visible elements.

  20. cath says:

    Zrim,

    I’m coming to this late, and boringly, to make a pendantic point or two about the Scottish presbyterian situation. It isn’t as bad as it sounds.

    In more “old-school” congregations, communion can be as infrequent as yearly or half-yearly, and there are preparatory services Thur-Sat (different theme each day), plus a thanksgiving service on Mon: the traditional Scottish Communion Season.

    But as far as I’ve experienced it, visitors are welcomed – not, obviously, to socialise instead of attending the services, but there’s plenty socialising, food, fun, and fellowship, in between all the services, for five days in a row.

    This is decidedly the ‘traditional’ setup though (don’t ask how far back the tradition goes) and fewer and fewer congregations still observe the whole five-day festival. I would hazard the view that most people, including those who are most passionately in favour of the five-day system, know that it’s a cultural/traditional practice which is not essential to retain.

    And even though any given congregation would celebrate communion only once or twice a year, in practice there have usually been plenty opportunities for members of the congregation to have communion more frequently. The practice, made possible by our presbyterianism, of travelling to neighbouring (or distant) congregations to share in their communion season was vastly more popular even twenty years ago than it is now, meaning that many church members could be at the Lord’s Table maybe as often as every other month — and this contact/fellowship between congregations was encouraged and seen as a good thing.

    The adherent/communicant thing is a bit different though. Elders vs non-elders isn’t really the relevant distinction here. Communicants are obviously people who partipate in the Lord’s Supper: adherents are everybody else who attends. Back in the days when churchgoing was a much more popular practice, some adherents would have no real right to sit at the Lord’s Table – made no profession of being saved, took little interest in doctrine, showed no attempt to live a godly life. Other adherents might be people who were afraid of making a public profession of faith (either because they weren’t sure if they were saved, or from some more cowardly disinclination to publicly identify themselves with other believers; in either case you have to realise that the ‘adherent’ phenomenon might well not make sense out of a particular social/cultural context). It’s a sensitive issue for several reasons, not just because the concept that sitting at the Lord’s Table might be a matter of trepidation for any reason is rather alien to many observers/commentators in the wider Christian world, but also because any given ‘adherent’ could belong anywhere on the range from mindlessly dutiful church attender to spiritually exercised anxious soul, and all that stuff is very personal.

    Thus I have earnestly laboured some points for information and general edification, and since I have no problem either with my own congregation’s twice-yearly five-day extravaganza, or with argument’s for more frequent communion, I’ll now just retreat back to listening to your discussion.

  21. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    I see your point. But it seems premised on the notion that the sacrament is somehow extraordinarily special (such that its effect lingers on and on in ways the audible Word doesn’t, which is weird since I recall the audible Word every day).

    Your side seems to always charge this side with making it an extraordinary element of worship. But it seems to me that frequency makes it rountine and ordinary precisely because we don’t conceive of it in extraordinary terms. This is one of the ironies to me about your criticisms.

  22. Zrim says:

    Cath,

    I want to read through your comment. But it’s dinner time, so I will have to come back. Wait, I had dinner last night…maybe I can just recall what I had and it should suffice. That’s a joke, Todd. Sort of.

  23. Todd says:

    “Wait, I had dinner last night…maybe I can just recall what I had and it should suffice. That’s a joke, Todd. Sort of.”

    Out here in the Mountain West it’s too early for dinner – but since we are using food analogies, your beef then should be with the Lord, who only prescribed OT physicals signs of the covenant on special and irregular occasions (festivals), and did not prescribe the need for weekly communion in the New Testament for our spiritual nourishment. Mmmmm…chicken. (Homer joke)

  24. cath says:

    Is there a correlation between communion habits and commenting practice? short and frequent versus once in a blue moon & oversized.

    Since there really isn’t a right or wrong answer on how frequent communion should be, practices are going to vary legitimately from place to place. All I wanted to say, although I needed lots of words to say it, was that the way of the old-fashioned Scots might not be ideal, but the reality is healthier than rumour would have it.

  25. Paul Manata says:

    “For a Reformed theologian, any tradition, including the Reformed tradition, needs to be measured against Scripture to determine whether it is of value. It is Scripture that has authority, and the tradition has authority only when it is based on Scripture. We need to evaluate and reevaluate the tradition and then emphasize those elements in it that are most solid.”

    What I find interesting is how this is at odds with what R.S. Clark gives us in his RCC and his critiques of John Frame and his comments on subscriptionism. Zrim, do you side with Clark or Vermigli here?

  26. Paul Manata says:

    Or, Hughes Oliphint Old, sorry!

  27. Zrim says:

    Thanks, Cath. For what it’s worth, I do think there is much to be gained from Scottish Reformed piety (hey, it’s where golf was invented, and everyone knows that pissed off walking is the sport of all pilgrims).

    I just think that when it comes to this issue there is much more to be gained by the “emerging” American confesional Reformed.

  28. Zrim says:

    Mmm, red meat, “it’s what’s for dinner.”

    Well, he didn’t prescribe monthly either. But what you need to keep in mind is that weekliers don’t come at frequency from a prescriptive view. It’s a matter of adaiphora. I wouldn’t say that your infrequency is out of accord, but you seem to be suggesting that those who do are at least flirting with it. I just think frequency makes sense.

  29. Zrim says:

    Paul,

    Maybe you could be more specific on how you think Clark in RCC is at odds with sola scriptura (that is what you’re suggesting, right)?

    But I think Old is right on here, and I can’t think of anything that Clark has said/written that would take issue with it.

  30. Todd says:

    “I wouldn’t say that your infrequency is out of accord, but you seem to be suggesting that those who do are at least flirting with it. ”

    I would say it is unwise, but not unbiblical.

  31. Zrim says:

    Well, I’ve framed frequency in terms of adaiphora. In my experience, when something is adaiphora, and the response is “It’s not wrong but it’s unwise,” it usually signals a sort of soft legalism to me.

    Bear with me, Todd, but educational choice is adaiphora, and when the Reformed retort is that I’m not doing something necessarily wrong by public schooling but unwise it reminds me of my Baptists who say the same thing about substance and worldly amusement. Both seem to want the luxury of saying something without saying it. If you want to refrain instead of participate, fine, but your “unwise” conclusion of my participation makes me as nervous as when Reformed educationalists or Baptists say it of my other choices.

    But maybe you don’t think frequency is adaiphora?

  32. Paul says:

    Steve, no, I’m not suggesting that Clark is at odds with sola Scripture. I’m referring to his discussion on the matters I specifically mentioned in my comment. I assumed you were familar with the literature and the back-n-forth. So wait until I get to my sources and I’ll supply you with the quotes.

  33. Todd says:

    “But maybe you don’t think frequency is adaiphora?”

    Zrim,

    You could say the same about Paul, who thought it unwise to baptize given the potential dangers. Is it legalistic to counsel a pastor that it is unwise to only meet with women in the church in public? Don’t forget, it has been the consensus of the Reformed church for 500 years that weekly was unwise and unnecessary, so it is hardly my personal prejudice.

    On an unrelated note – took my 11 year old and his friends to the amusement park today for his birthday. You know you are getting old when not only riding the rides make you dizzy, but even watching others ride the the rides make you dizzy.

  34. Paul says:

    So, Steve, for starters, do you view Old as espousing quia or quatenus here? And, Old seems to say that a Reformed theologian could lodge an objection to tradition if he thought it were unbiblical. However, RSC says that no Reformed theologian could lodge an objection to the confession unless he renounces that confession. In other words, he says that there can be no *Reformed* objection to a *Reformed* confession. Old seems to imply otherwise. Do you not read him that way?

  35. Zrim says:

    Paul,

    I’m not sure Old is trying to make a quia or quatenus point necessarily, so it seems to me fairly speculative to say either way. That said, it sounds pretty quatenus-y to me.

    And could you tell me where precisely RSC says that “no Reformed theologian could lodge an objection to the confession unless he renounces that confession”? Is that in RRC? I’m not doubting you, but I want to be sure before I suggest that that doesn’t seem to align very well with lauding Kuyper (or the CRC) for revising Belgic 36.

  36. jedpaschall says:

    Paul,

    I am looking forward to those sources. I wish I were more familiar with the quia/quatenus discussion. The only exposure I have had to date is in RRC, and I am not sure I follow him here.

  37. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    You could say the same about Paul, who thought it unwise to baptize given the potential dangers.

    But wasn’t Paul’s situation sort of extraordinary, that is to say there were certain factions going on? I’m not so sure it’s useful to take an extraordinary example to make the point for an ordinary consideration.

    Is it legalistic to counsel a pastor that it is unwise to only meet with women in the church in public?

    Well, no, not necessarily. But, to take from the above point, should I advise you to meet with women only in public simply because I once met one in private once and it went badly? Maybe you have had plenty of successful experiences meeting women privately for counsel. Does it make sense for me to say I had a bad experience and to then expect you to ignore your historical success and radically change your practice? Or does it make more sense for you to take my experience into serious account as you re-evaluate yours? Meeting with women is a necessary element to a pastor’s set of duties (taking communion), but how he does it is adaiphora (frequency of taking communion).

    Don’t forget, it has been the consensus of the Reformed church for 500 years that weekly was unwise and unnecessary, so it is hardly my personal prejudice.

    Yes, I am quite familiar with this point by now. But, again, there are those in our history who thought otherwise. Don’t you think it’s possible that a consensus can get it wrong? That’s part of the beauty of parliamentary procedure: minorities can be right and majorities can be wrong.

    Re rides, dizziness and old-dom, I bought my wife a new car today. I took it out for a spin tonight and looked through the moonroof at the stars and got a little turn in my stomach, then I turned the Stones down because it felt too loud.

  38. cath says:

    Golf, shortbread, and real whisky.

    You guys really owe us.

  39. Zrim says:

    Mmmm, shortbread, the breakfast of champions.

  40. cath says:

    Er, no. That would be porridge.

  41. Todd says:

    “I bought my wife a new car today. ”

    What’s a new car?

  42. Paul Manata says:

    “I’m not sure Old is trying to make a quia or quatenus point necessarily, so it seems to me fairly speculative to say either way. That said, it sounds pretty quatenus-y to me.”

    I don’t think he’s making that point, but what he says bears on that point. And, yes, you’re right about how it sounds, contra Clark.

    “And could you tell me where precisely RSC says that “no Reformed theologian could lodge an objection to the confession unless he renounces that confession”? Is that in RRC? I’m not doubting you, but I want to be sure before I suggest that that doesn’t seem to align very well with lauding Kuyper (or the CRC) for revising Belgic 36.

    I never said Clark was consistent. Anyway, he says it indirectly when positively citing Murray (p.11) and he says it directly on p.25. If a Reformed theologian thinks that something is unbiblical in the Confession, he is not giving a *Reformed* criticism anymore. He must renouce the confession (because why hold to a confession you think unbiblical, says Clark, and, coupled with his quia, the point follows pretty straightforwardly).

  43. Zrim says:

    Paul,

    I see now where you are coming from.

    Back to your original question, then, which seems to be “are you quia or quatenus,” I would say that I am more the latter than the former. But I’m not quatenus in the Reformed evangelical sense, which seems to be a way of distancing oneself from understanding the confessions as “authoritative and binding.”

  44. John Arnst says:

    I would not agree that Bucer trying to compel the whole city to participate is a good thing. This smacks of Sacralism. Viewing the church in terms of cities or nations corrupts it.

    As far as frequency, it seems those who downplay the Supper tend to either have a very abstract ecclesiology or are a bit superstitious about it.

    As far as those who insist on frequency…they too may suffer from superstition, though not necessarily. It is the visible Word, covenant renewal, we can’t do it enough. We should have it Wednesday night, Sunday night, whenever we meet.

    Covenantally it is everything. Visibly it is salvation.

    Eternally/Invisibly it is the regenerated heart that matters, the supper can add nothing.

    But we can’t tell who is regenerate. We have to persevere. The Visible and thus Sacramental is normative and in that sense it is necessary and beneficial.

    Take the Supper in faith. It is the Bread of Life, but if you think the bread is saving you…think again.

    Look at the Old Testament Sacraments. Did they save? Well, no…but in a sense yes. If you trusted merely in the ritual without a regenerate heart they became curse. But you couldn’t say, well since I know the externals don’t REALLY matter..I can just neglect them……that didn’t exactly fly either. In terms of the Visible Covenant…the Sacraments are essential, in fact if someone ignored them they would be put out…and visibly speaking lose salvation.

    This will probably be misunderstood. The Sacraments are nothing….and everything.

    I really appreciate the discussions on this site. There’s a healthy atmosphere and spirit at work.

    John A.
    Protoprotestant

  45. RubeRad says:

    I really appreciate the discussions on this site. There’s a healthy atmosphere and spirit at work.

    Hey thanks John — we sure don’t hear that often! (I think maybe we should have it framed)

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