A Paper Plate Tied to the Chest

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Just a few quick comments on Lane’s latest post so that we can continue to work through Venema’s book.

Lane says that baptism “means” inclusion in the visible church, according to the Confession, and that all the other stuff (regeneration and so forth) only applies when the individual baptized has the thing signified. Lane goes on to say that the Lord’s Supper is said to “seal all benefits thereof unto true believers.” But how is this any different? Both sacraments have an external meaning, and both of them have an inner significance that is true only when the recipient is a worthy receiver. Baptism means inclusion in the visible church. The Lord’s Supper is to be observed in the Church as a perpetual remembrance. This aspect is public and visible, and the reprobate (who are part of the visible church) participate in that observance. They don’t have the real deal in their hearts any more than they do with their baptism. But they do have the covenantal obligation to live in accordance with their baptism (which they are not doing) and in accordance with the oath they are renewing with each observance of the Supper (which they are also not doing). Lane still hasn’t shown how baptism does anything different with regard to the visible church than the Lord’s Supper does. I think this distinction of his is a non-starter.

Lane’s second point has to do with excommunication and the experience of children. Before replying to this one, I do want to acknowledge the possibility that the rhetoric of some paedocommunionists has been overheated at this point. Exclusion of children from the Supper does not amount to excommunication — that depends entirely on why and how they are excluded.

I think Lane has misconstrued my position at this point. He says, speaking of his own upbringing, “So, whatever that church was doing, it was not subjecting me to any of the horrible things Doug is saying always accompanies credo-communion churches’ treatment of their children.” I am not saying this always happens — I am saying that it regularly does. But I am quite prepared to cheerfully acknowledge that there are sons who say they won’t go work in the vineyard, and who then go out and bust a gut in the hot sun all day. And Jesus identifies that as obedience, over against the son who had the theology down, at least when it came to what you were supposed to say to your father.

Not to put too fine a point on it, there are credo-comm churches that are healthy spiritual communities, and the kids generally feel a part of it, and are glad to be a part of it. There are credo-baptist churches that are the same. And there are paedo-comm churches where the kids are being boiled in what was intended to be their life’s milk. Put another way, I would far rather be brought up in a godly baptist household (as I was) than to be brought up in an ungodly VanTilian, postmillennial, Calvinistic, paedocomm, presbyterian household. But of course, there are more choices than just those two.

I was once speaking to a baptist acquaintance about what he did when his children voluntarily prayed, when in his stated view their prayers were necesarily hypocritical, and was relieved to find out that he “didn’t spank them.” But another time a friend of mine (who was in the process of becoming paedobaptist) was having a conversation with a fellow elder in a reformed baptist church, and they were standing in the hallway of the church. The other elder was making the point that little children were God-haters, and he was pressing the point home when Sunday School let out, and as the children streamed by, my friend saw that one of the kids had a paper plate tied to his chest that said, and I quote, “I love God.” Many Christians, God be praised, are far better Christians than they are theological logicians. Because of this, they bring their children up to love the God they love — regardless of what polity says they ought to be doing. But others insist on the polity, and not on the love.

So Lane never felt excluded in the credo-comm church he grew up. And I never felt excluded in the credo-baptist church I grew up in. But let me correct that — to the extent I felt excluded, it was because I knew myself to be a sinner, and I thought it was perfectly appropriate for the church to exclude someone like me. But I am convinced that I responded this way because of the godly environment I was surrounded by at home. Whatever the case, and whatever they thought of me, these were my people.

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