A Set of Secret Handshakes

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My apologies to Lane, who gently nudged me into a response. I had for some reason missed his two earlier posts and was politely waiting around for him to get back to business. But alas, it was me who needed to get back to business, and I have nothing exculpatory to say. This post should catch us up. In order to attract a little more attention to this esoteric theological topic, and perhaps generate a few more comments, I will try to figure out a way to bring Sarah Palin into it. And I guess I just did.

One of the things that Venema does is make a distinction between the original Passover departing from Egypt and the annual commemorative Passovers established in the law. He acknowledges that it is possible that kids partook in the original event, but that the evidence is much more dicey when talking about the annual Passovers.

I actually have only two points to make about all of this, and it shouldn’t take too long. The first is that we have to see the Lord’s Supper as the fulfillment of all the rites and types of the Old Testament, and not just a fulfillment of Passover. This means that the participation of the children in Israel is undeniable on the prophetic side, although their involvement was clearly not distributed evenly. This relates to a good point that Lane made, a request that I am willing to meet him halfway on. “In my opinion, this argument (that exclusion of infants from the Lord’s Table in effect excommunicates them) is the very weakest argument from the PC side. It really needs to be shelved.)

Everything hinges on why they are excluded. The males of Israel had to appear before the Lord three times annually (Dt. 16:16; Ex. 23:17; Ex. 34:23). This did not exclude the women and children because those women and children were represented in the worship of God through their family head. So I grant that represented covenant members are not excluded (excommunicated) simply because they do not partake of something individually. I am all about covenant representation. I grant also that to say that a non-partaking, represented covenant member is “excommunicated” is overheated language, and ought to be dropped.

But this only applies to those who are represented. What about covenant members who are excluded because they are presumed to be unconverted? If six-year-old Suzy is told that she can’t have bread and wine yet because her father represents her at the Table, but that as she grows into greater maturity she will certainly be included herself, this keeps her involved through representation — like the family heads of Israel used to do. But if she is excluded because the elders have to wait and see if she is a child of the devil or not, then this has very little to do with how the people of God in the Old Testament thought. And it is de facto excommunication.

Another point that needs response is that “PC arguments prove too much.” “With regard to the manna, even non-believers were allowed to participate. Presumably, not even PC advocates would allow professed non-believers to the Table.” Lane is certainly right that I wouldn’t allow a professed non-believer to the Table — Christopher Hithens, say, who is to this day a baptized covenant member. A problem parishioner, let us call him. But aside from excluding rank rebellion, I guess I am willing for the PC argument that “proves too much” to go ahead and prove that much. The manna was clearly bread from heaven, typifying Christ. The water from the rock was spiritual drink that came from the Rock that was Christ, accompanying them throughout their time in the wilderness.

This is an enormous subject, and I can only fly over it here. But in the Old Testament, “Gentile” is not the equivalent of “non-believer.” Gentiles could be saved, and remain Gentiles, and with no spiritual obligation whatever to become Jews. Think Melchizedek, Jethro, Naaman, et al the others. With the universalization of Israel in the Church now, those outside the Church do have an obligation to become “Jews,” which is a change. So Israel did have a large mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with them, but there is no reason to describe these folks as “unbelievers.” Why did they come? Why did they risk death at Pharaoh’s hands? Believing is as believing does.

And so I grant that uncircumcised Gentiles partook of the manna, and drank the spiritual drink that was provided to them. Rather than saying that this proves that nonbelievers partook, I would prefer to say that it shows that they were in fact believers, God-fearers. And the periodic rebels who defied the God who was sustaining them with manna and living water, well, they were unbelievers who were partaking. And Paul uses this undeniable fact to warn the Corinthians. “Look at what happens to unbelievers who partake of the covenant signs without true faith. Look at that.”

But the modern evangelical Church, having reduced the sacraments to a set of secret handshakes, say, “Look at what? I don’t see anything.”

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