Friday, November 21, 2008

A baptist view of the Lord's Supper?

Lane Keister (a PCA pastor currently serving CRC and an RCA churches in North Dakota) and Doug Wilson (a CREC pastor and Federal Vision proponent from Idaho) have resumed their blog debate over Federal Vision theology. I'm going to going evaluate the whole of either of their positions here and I also don't want to recommend that you run over to Green Baggins (Keister) or Blog and Mablog (Wilson) to check it out, it isn't really worth your time (so I'm not linking to the relevant posts, if you'd really like to read them then just google those blogs or look in my blog list to the left and you can find them).

What caught my attention was a recent statement by Wilson that Reformed believers who reject paedocommunion (the practice of allowing baptized covenant children to come to the Lord's table and partake as soon as they are physically able to receive the bread and wine) are baptistic in their approach to the Lord's Supper. By this he means that those who reject paedocommunion draw the same line with regard to the Lord's Supper that Baptists have drawn with regard to baptism. Wilson does allow that this is not strictly baptistic, as we allow people to approach the Table on the basis of a credible profession of faith and not on requiring some "proof" of regeneration, but does argue that it is still a baptistic view of the Lord's Supper.

The question is whether or not this charge is accurate. I would argue that it should be turned around. One of the (many) problems with a credobaptist approach is that is confuses the sacrament of identification with the covenant people of God with the sacrament of spiritual nourishment for the body. That is to say that baptism and the Lord's Supper do not serve the same purpose in the life of the believer. Baptism is the non-repeated sacrament whereby someone is indentified with Christ and brought into the fellowship of his covenant people. According to Scripture we hold that covenant children are to be given this sacrament. The Lord's Supper is the oft-repeated sacrament whereby the Spirit lifts us up so that we remember what Christ has done for us, are blessed by Christ's fellowship with us, enjoy communion with Christ as the Spirit lifts us up to him, publicly proclaim again the Lord's work on our behalf, and anticipate his coming again and the day when we will feast with him in the Father's house. Credobaptists confuse both the requirement and the purpose of these two sacraments and mix them together so that the Lord's Supper becomes dominant over Biblical baptism.

I would hold that paedocommunionists make the same error in the opposite direction. Like credobaptists they refuse to remember that there are differences in the requirements and purpose of the two sacraments. Instead of the Lord's Supper they make baptism dominant. The Lord's Supper ceases to be the Spiritual nourishment of Christ's body as explained above and becomes another confirmatory seal and obligation just like baptism. To be sure a person's baptism as an infant may be a part of his profession of faith wherein a Session receives him as a communicant member but it is not the whole of that profession of faith in the doctrines of the church. Wilson ought to respect what the church has believed and practiced for two thousand years as delivered to us by the Lord and his Apostles and allow each sacrament to stay in its proper place.

Those of you who are curious about the New Perspective on Paul or Federal Vision Theology and how it relates to our Confessions and Scripture should look at the statements put out by the General Assemblies of the PCA (PCA GA Ad Interim Committee Report) and the OPC (Report of the Committee to Study the Doctrine of Justification). I would also highly recommend John Fesko's book, Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine.

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