Slicing It Lengthwise

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Just a quick response to Lane’s latest, and then we can continue to move on through Venema’s book. I believe that the issues Lane raises here are really worth pursuing, and I hope we do that as our discussion proceeds.

Lane says that baptism belongs to the administration of the covenant of grace because it does not require a profession of faith. The Lord’s Supper, on the other hand, is a signifier of the essence of the covenant of grace. At any rate, this is what I think he meant when he said, “then the body and the blood signified by the bread and wine are signifiers of the essence of the covenant of grace.” Grammatically his sentence means that the body and blood are the signifiers, but since that doesn’t make sense, I think he must have been referring to the bread and wine. In response to this, I would encourage everyone to read the first comment on Lane’s post — the Westminster teaches that the Lord’s Supper places a visible difference between the saints and the world (WCF 27.1), making it an administrative sacrament, and baptism signifies ingrafting into Christ and regeneration (WCF 28.10), which makes baptism, on Lane’s calculus, a sacrament of the essence of the covenant of grace. It seems to me that this way of parsing the sacraments — one for the visible church and one for the invisible — is going to run us into hopeless contradictions and tangles, both scripturally and confessionally.

The elders of the church should certainly fence the Table — but they should also fence the Font. We ought not admit anyone to either without scriptural warrant. And when we admit people to the two sacraments, we should know that each sacrament has an outward administrative and covenantal aspect, and each of them has an inward spiritual and essential core. I think that Lane has sliced the thing lengthwise when he ought to have cut it across.

Last thing. Lane argues that because communion is not just a matter of physical ability, and takes “spiritual discernment as well,” this is all the more reason why infants should not partake. But he assumes that “spiritual discernment” can develop naturally and unimpeded in a situation where a child is growing up into spiritual consciousnes of inclusion, all while being excluded from communion with the people of God. In this situation, he is being taught that he is out, and that he has to prove something in order to be allowed in.

Now this does not leave a child in a neutral place. Every moment of every day we are either teaching our children to believe or to doubt. They might “feel like” they love Jesus and His people, but the elders doubt it. So do the parents. So does the BCO. “I should probably doubt it too.” The kid may be pardoned for drawing that conclusion.

Every Saturday night I ask my grandkids certain Sunday worship prep questions. Do you love God? Yes, they all yell. Are you baptized? Yes. Is Jesus in your heart? Yes. Will you take the Lord’s Supper tomorrow? Yes. Now no Reformed folk can really object to these sorts of personal questions without also objecting to the Heidelberg. “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” “That I . . .”

The reason for this controversy is that the following morning we act like we believed their answers. We do that by giving them the bread and wine. Now if you make them say these things, but then you refuse to believe the answers through the sacrament, then how can you expect them to believe the answers? You are just doing a catechism drill. You are insisting that they speak high and lofty words indeed. But at the end of the day, as we all know, “I’m just saying these things.” Nobody acts like they are true. “Why should I?”

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