Staying Ahead of the Curve in Little Geneva

David Strain at Letters from Mississippi makes some interesting observations about what Reformed Baptists and Federal Visionaries have in common.

My question has always been, to the extent that Federal Visionaries are also typically paedocommunionists, and to the extent that paedocommunionism is simply the mirror sacramental error of credo-baptism, why don’t we see more of those who call themselves “Reformed Communionists”? Maybe it’s just a matter of time before the Association of Reformed Communionist Churches of America secedes from the Confederation of Reformed and Evangelical Churches and formally comes into being, eventually making “a Communionist” as much a household term as “a Baptist.”  Until then, there is at least one church I recently passed that seems way ahead of the game. But did anyone think about the fact that the abbreviation for this local communion is, I don’t know, a bit unsettling?

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12 Responses to Staying Ahead of the Curve in Little Geneva

  1. John Harutunian says:

    I’m going to guess that what you mean by Credo-baptism is the practice of baptizing infants on the basis of their parents’ adherence to a creed? (As opposed to their claiming a conversion experience, identifying with a Covenant community, etc.) What do you think should be the ground of an infant’s -or adult’s- baptism?

  2. Zrim says:

    By credo-baptism I mean the belief that only those who make a credible profession of faith should be baptized, which categorically rules out the infants of believers. So “the practice of baptizing infants on the basis of their parents’ adherence to a creed” correlates more to paedobaptism than credo-.

    The ground for an infant’s baptism and an adult’s is the same, faith. But for the infant it is faith on the part of his/her parents. (That faith makes their children holy and baptism marks them as members of the covenant.) For the adult it is faith on his/her own part.

  3. John Harutunian says:

    Thanks for the explanation. Since I’m a paedobaptist myself, the disagreement within my camp lies between a)most Reformed, who see in baptism a covenant sign analogous to circumcision, and b)high-church sacramentalists who see it as the actual agent of regeneration.
    A perspective which might serve as a meeting ground for these two groups would be: When the words, “This child is now regenerate” are spoken over the baptized infant, “regenerate” is to be understood in a presumptive and formal (rather than substantial) sense. The child is to be raised as a Christian, and indeed regarded as a Christian, unless he/she gives strong evidence otherwise. The specific time of regeneration, i.e., the exact moment at which the child exercises saving faith, is known to God alone.

  4. Zrim says:

    John, being in the “a” camp myself, the qualified words about being regenerate are hardly comforting; they are very confusing. But I could more or less live with the rest of it. The less part is what to do with “regarding a child as a Christian” but disallowing him from the table until a credible profession is made.

  5. John Harutunian says:

    Good point regarding paedocommunion. I’m not sure how I feel the issue. I think a case could be made for it using a Passover analogy (similar to the analogy between the Old Covenant sign of circumcision and the New Covenant sign of baptism). One would then conclude that since believers’ children of all ages partook of the Passover meal under the Old Covenant, believers’ children of all ages are welcome to the Eucharistic table under the New Covenant.
    In any case, I think that the rationale for regarding a baptized child as a [presumed] Christian is strong for this reason: Children growing up in Christian families are taught to pray, and to worship God in church (or Sunday school). Most important, they are taught to ask God’s forgiveness if they have committed sin -having done so, they are then assured that God has forgiven them. (I think even a Baptist parent would agree to this.) Non-Christians cannot do these things. Hence the concept of “presumptive regeneration.”

  6. RubeRad says:

    John, if you haven’t thought about the paedocommunion issue before, you should start with RSC’s 10-part review of Cornel Venema’s book (Part 1 here) — or maybe that 10-part review is even longer than the book, so just read the book instead!

  7. David Cronkhite says:

    Call me practical, but the use of wine in the sacrament seems to me to be a clue that the supper is not meant for children. Also, as the classical argument goes, lamb in the passover is never food for infants. In those two things a simple man such as myself can see God’s mercy in teaching the church in plain speech.

  8. John Harutunian says:

    Excellent points, David.
    RubeRad, despite my feelings about Scott Clark’s Exclusive Psalmody stance(!), I took your suggestion and read his review. Overall, I found it convincing. I would question a couple of points.

    “The sacraments are auxiliaries, appendices to the preached gospel.”

    I realize we’ve been through this before; I think it bears repetition: Any given preached sermon is a _man-made expression_ (I simply don’t see how one can get around this). Just as are liturgies and rituals. But in the sacrament -as in the Bible- God communicates to believers directly, without human intervention (assuming one accepts the doctrine of verbal inspiration, as I do).

    “[Rome] makes the Scripture the product of the church. That’s exactly backward. The church is the product of the divine Word. The Word is not the product of the church.”

    But insofar as humanly speaking, the Church wrote the Bible, it is! Further, when the Bible uses the term “Word” (“Thou has magnified thy word above thine own name”, “Forever is thy Word settled in the heavens”, etc.), what is intended can’t be a reference to the 66 canonical books of the Bible as such -since most of them had yet to be written when the verses in question were penned.

    It would be helpful, wouldn’t it? to have a clarification of the relationship between the terms “Word” and “Scripture” as used in the Reformed tradition.

  9. John Harutunian says:

    To make my first point more clearly: How can something instituted by Christ -the Eucharist- be a mere appendix to something manmade -a particular sermon?

  10. Zrim says:

    David, I don’t have a categorical problem with children at the table. My problem is with allowing anyone, young or old, at the table without making a credible profession. True, ordinarily most children aren’t ready to make a credible profession, but I don’t think that means children, by virtue of being children, are exempt. In our former church we had a child (about 9, I think) communed after being examined and making a credible profession. But she was something of an extraordinary case.

    Also, while I appreciate the social idea that alcoholic consumption is a way to privilege adulthood over adolescence, I don’t think it works as well theologically. If, for example, my own children were extraordinary cases and made profession of faith now (ages 8 and 12), I would actually encourage they consume wine since I think that is the appropriate content of the cup. So, no consumption generally in their common lives until they earn adulthood, but every week they may and should have a shot of wine.

  11. Zrim says:

    John, first I believe the view RSC espouses is more “sola scriptura” than “exclusive psalmody.” IOW, we aren’t restricted to only the Psalms, but to any inspired Scripture, which means singing the NT as well as the Psalms. For an interesting Reformed take against EP, see T. David Gordon:

    Second, re the relationship between ecclesia and scriptura, what RSC is getting at is that the churches of the Reformation have always argued that the church is creatura verbi, a creation of the Word. Here is something by Horton that might help:

    The Reformers and their heirs agreed that the church has an essential role in maintaining the truth, but is not the author or source. There is a divinely instituted teaching office, but it obtains its fallible authority from the infallible Word. Of course, God’s Word was at first delivered by oral tradition and was only later committed to writing. None of these Reformation theologians held that the Bible as we now have it preceded the church! However, the Reformers argued that the Word of God preceded both Scripture and the church. As proclamation, the Word created the church, and now we have a written deposit of this normative as well as saving truth. So there was a time when sacred tradition and written Scripture were two media of one revealed deposit, but this situation no longer obtains in the post-apostolic era. The critical question for us is whether the non-inspired traditions of ordinary ministers of the church can be equated with the revelation given through the extraordinary ministry of prophets and apostles.

  12. John Harutunian says:

    Zrim, you’re right about Scott Clark; I was confusing his position with that of John Murray. And thanks for the reference to T. David Gordon’s article, which I found excellent. I’d add a few points to it:

    1. The similarity between song and prayer in the Bible has a historical explanation (one which I’m particularly aware of since I happen to be a musicologist): A hard line of demarcation between speech and song is pretty much a post-enlightenment Western phenomenon. EP-ers impose this on the first-century world of the Bible. For example, the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, whose melody dates back to the 15th century, lacks some basic features which we today associate with music: a pattern of strong and weak beats, and -if sung as originally written- harmony, which if it were present would create a clear sense of tension and resolution. (Hence the music has a floating, ethereal quality.) This is of course what is called chant -it’s halfway between speech and song. And it was basic to the worship of both Israel (as led by a cantor) and the NT Church.

    2.It seems fairly critical to the EP position that all of the Psalms be placed into the category of “sung praise”. But of course many of them are laments (e.g., Psalm 88).

    3. Psalm 22 opens with David’s heart cry, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And of course Christ spoke these words on the cross, on behalf of, and indeed in the stead of, His covenant people. It’s one thing to say that these words may express the heart cries of believers as they pass through times of trial. But to suggest that God has commanded His people to say or sing them to Him in worship, i.e., to imply that He has forsaken them when He in fact never forsakes His people -this is as unbiblical as worship can get.

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