…why should we offer poison instead of life-giving food to our tender children?
– John Calvin condemning paedocommunion

Each of us has spent significant time the past couple of years warning brothers and sisters in Christ against Moscow’s promotion of their paedocommunion schism. We’ve decided it’s time to revisit our warnings here at Warhorn. The schism should not be simply the subject of private warnings, but also public warnings and condemnations. This is for the restoration of the unity of the Church, but also for the protection of the souls of the sheep God has entrusted to us for feeding and protection.

The past few decades, many godly have joined the work of exposing this schism’s errors theological and historical, but even more pastoral and exegetical (Scriptural). (see links at the end of the article)

As pastors with years of familiarity with this schism, here are some pastoral warnings.

Like Romanism, the practice of paedocommunion is a contagion. Conservative Reformed families happen upon the practice, but having never heard the Biblical exposition of 1 Corinthians 11, they simply think, “This is so nice! Families sitting together in worship and sharing the meal with their kids. I want this for my children, too.”

This family has not gone through any conversion of principle. They simply have never been taught Scripture’s warnings about the abuse of sacraments. In this connection, do note that the CREC’s practice is not the largest practice of paedocommunion among us. Much more often, little children today are communed by churches that are Baptist and broadly Evangelical where the deepest thoughts about children partaking are along the lines of, “How wonderful it is for the young ones of the church to be included! Because why not?”

If you’re in one of these churches, watch the little kids take communion next time, then realize these little ones have never been baptized into Christ’s Church. We should tremble at our presumption in the administration of God’s holy things.

So again, paedocommunion is not so much taught, as caught.

A number of my friends have converted to Roman Catholicism (Tim speaking). Several of them are graduates of the seminary my brothers and I attended (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), so they have been well-educated exegetically (Doug Stuart, Gordon Fee), historically (Richard Lovelace, Nigel Kerr), and theologically (David Wells, Roger Nicole). Despite their new Romanism, though, these men are not normally committed to Rome’s dogma. They simply prefer Rome’s culture.

Ask them (as I have) what they think of Mariolatry, prayers to the saints, the infallibility of ecumenical synods, transubstantiation, Medjugorje, Vatican stews, works of supererogation, the treasury of merit, and masses for the dead? In response to the inquiry, they give a cavalier dismissal on the order of, “You know, Tim, I don’t spend time thinking about those things.”

This has also been their response when I push them to study the doctrine of justification, asking them to read Buchanan’s The Doctrine of Justification. Having taught it several times in New Geneva Academy, I consider Buchanan’s work maybe the best exposure of Rome’s sacramental mercantilism. But no, they don’t study the doctrine of justification. As my Dad was wont to put it about converts to Canterbury and Rome, “It’s smells and bells.”

Like converts to Rome, converts to Moscow aren’t converted theologically, but culturally.

Usually, they know Moscow has been big into Federal Vision. People have a vague memory of something happening with that, but nobody ever really knew what it was all about or how to explain it, so who cares? Theonomy and post-millennialism get all the glitz now. 

If they’re asked about Moscow’s practice of paedocommunion, it’s not uncommon for New Saint Andrews folks to respond that they aren’t personally committed to paedocommunion, but they’re not opposed to it, either. They’ve never bothered to study the issue.

Many NSA and CREC people like Moscow’s cultural and political commitments, so they’re not going to fuss over Moscow’s doctrinal and sacramental errors.

Former baptists are particularly susceptible. Falling in love with sacramental assurances concerning their covenant children, they first baptize them, then blithely move on to communing them.

Back in 1979 at Gordon-Conwell, I was talking with a fellow student of baptist background. Walking across campus one day, my friend turned, and giving me a conspiratorial smile, he said, “Well, if we’re going to baptize babies, we should give them communion too!”

This is how Baptists think.

Other than a deficient attempt at getting our former Presbyterian Church in America to approve paedocommunion written by Rob Rayburn, which our General Assembly roundly rejected, there has been an absence of plausible exegetical, let alone doctrinal or historical, arguments by those practicing and promoting Moscow’s error.

There has been no absence, though, of men of faith opposing Moscow pastorally, historically, theologically, and Scripturally. We too have given ourselves to this work (again, see below). We have condemned Moscow’s desperate attempts (following Jeff Meyers’s lead) to obfuscate and deny the plain meaning of the text of 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.

Read, study, and heed our warnings. Don’t be fooled by Moscow’s embellishments, digressions, and poetical puff pieces passed around by the church officers in their association.

Moscow is presently at a crossroads.

They’ve long practiced paedocommunion. To Moscow and its compatriots, it’s been what a capella Psalter-only is to Reformed Presbyterians: their raison d’être.

Forming the heart of their sacramentology, paedocommunion has swallowed Moscow’s ecclesiology and theology. It’s always this way. In the end, the error never serves the whole, but the whole serves the error. Schism is not a function of the mass of healthy tissue, but that tiny cancerous growth it hides.

Anyone inclined towards the opinion that sacraments don’t matter has never read the Bible or church history.

Recently, there has been an initiative among Moscow’s associates to be more forthright, constitutionally, that paedocommunion defines their association. However, this initiative has spawned some pushback. Some would prefer to keep paedocommunion a gentleman’s agreement not explicitly stated. In this connection, it’s always been noteworthy Moscow has declined to state paedocommunion as an exception to the Westminster Standards, as another presbyterian association has forthrightly done.1

We’ve put out there on social media that we’re relieved Moscow’s CREC is finally considering being truthful in stating that paedocommunion is their association’s fundamental commitment.

Back in 2011, prior to the Founding of Evangel Presbytery, our congregation in Bloomington, Trinity Reformed Church, was considering whether we would join Moscow’s CREC. So we invited my lifelong family friend, Doug Wilson, to come and speak to the congregation. Following Lord’s Day worship, the pastors, elders, and Doug fielded questions from the congregation as they weighed this decision.

Hundreds were present, and things were going swimmingly until near the end when a congregant directed his question to Doug. He asked whether, if we joined Moscow, our elders would be required to serve the Lord’s Supper to infants and toddlers of a CREC family who moved to Bloomington and joined Trinity?

Doug’s response had not an iota of nuance: Yes, our elders would be required to administer paedocommunion to the infants and toddlers of that family.

Doug didn’t realize it at the time, but I was flabbergasted by his response. So was our session and congregation. It was the end of us uniting with Moscow.

Later that week, Doug and I talked. I told him his answer to the congregant’s question—yes, your session would have to administer paedocommunion to families coming into your church from other CREC churches—had determined the firm rejection by our congregation of joining the CREC.

In that same call, I also said his answer had contradicted his Moscow/CREC Bylaws. He was surprised, so I read him the pertinent text from his Bylaws. Also,  I said to him that I found it telling he and his CREC brothers didn’t bother taking any exceptions to their Westminster Standards concerning their practice of paedocommunion, whereas RCJR and his fellow Covenant Presbyterian Church officers were forthright in taking the exception.

Readers must understand how thoroughly paedocommunion defines Moscow, although many would choose to hide or deny it.

In a recent promo video for the denomination, the current CREC Presiding Minister Uriesou Brito makes this telling statement:

We have convictions that are very unique to the Reformed tradition—convictions that include the participation of our children in the life of the church; the opening of the table for those very children because unto such belong the kingdom of heaven.

At this point in their history, whether Moscow and its congregational associates will state this commitment publicly is still being debated. Certainly, the straightforward thing would be to admit who they are and what they do and believe.

Yes, there are some people in association with Moscow who don’t believe or practice paedocommunion just as there are some people in this or that Reformed Presbyterian congregation who won’t die on the hill of a capella Psalter-only. Understand though that these are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Here at Warhorn and Evangel, what we are committed to is faithfully opposing Moscow’s error in such a way as to guard the souls of our Lord’s sheep.

Sacraments are always as serious as death and Hell. Genevan Reformed Protestants have always, and still, agree the Biblical administration of our Lord’s sacraments is one of the three marks of the true Church:

The Notes, therefore, of the true Kirk of God we believe, confess, and avow to be, first, The true preaching of the word of God; into the which God has revealed himself to us, as the writings of the Prophets and Apostles do declare. Secondly, The right administration of the sacraments of Christ Jesus, which must be annexed to the word and promise of God, to seal and confirm the same in our hearts. Lastly, Ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered, as God’s word prescribes, whereby vice is repressed, and virtue nourished.2

The sacraments can’t be more serious for you, your family, and your loved ones. Reformed Protestants have always agreed, condemning paedocommunion as a violation of the Biblical administration of the sacraments.

Five centuries ago, John Calvin declared the uniform condemnation of Moscow’s paedocommunion:

Furthermore, they object that there is no more reason to administer baptism to infants than the Lord’s Supper, which is not permitted to them. As if Scripture did not mark a wide difference in every respect! This permission was indeed commonly given in the ancient church, as is clear from Cyprian and Augustine, but the custom has deservedly fallen into disuse. For if we consider the peculiar character of baptism, surely it is an entrance and a sort of initiation into the church, through which we are numbered among God’s people: a sign of our spiritual regeneration, through which we are reborn as children of God. On the other hand, the Supper is given to older persons who, having passed tender infancy, can now take solid food.

This distinction is very clearly shown in Scripture. For with respect to baptism, the Lord there sets no definite age. But he does not similarly hold forth the Supper for all to partake of, but only for those who are capable of discerning the body and blood of the Lord, of examining their own conscience, of proclaiming the Lord’s death, and of considering its power.

Do we wish anything plainer than the apostle’s teaching when he exhorts each man to prove and search himself, then to eat of this bread and drink of this cup? A self-examination ought, therefore, to come first, and it is vain to expect this of infants. Again: “He who eats unworthily eats and drinks condemnation for himself, not discerning the body of the Lord”. If only those who know how to distinguish rightly the holiness of Christ’s body are able to participate worthily, why should we offer poison instead of life-giving food to our tender children? What is that command of the Lord: “Do this in remembrance of me”? What is that other command which the apostle derives from it: “As often as you eat this bread, you will proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”? What remembrance of this thing, I ask, shall we require of infants when they have never grasped it? What preaching of the cross of Christ, the force and benefit of which their minds have not yet comprehended? None of these things is prescribed in baptism. Accordingly, there is a very great difference between these two signs, as we have noted in like signs also under the Old Testament. Circumcision, which is known to correspond to our baptism, had been appointed for infants. But the Passover, the place of which has been taken by the Supper, did not admit all guests indiscriminately, but was duly eaten only by those who were old enough to be able to inquire into its meaning. If these men had a particle of sound brain left, would they be blind to a thing so clear and obvious?

It troubles me to burden my readers with a heap of trifles. Nevertheless, it behooves us to make short work of the specious reasons which Servetus, not the least among the Anabaptists — indeed, the great glory of that tribe — girding himself for conflict, decided to bring forward…

2. [Servetus] objects, that Christ’s symbols were instituted for remembrance, in order that everyone should remember that he was buried with Christ. I reply that what he has contrived out of his own head needs no refutation; indeed, what he applies to baptism rightly refers to the Sacred Supper, as Paul’s words show: “that each one examine himself”; there is nowhere any such thing said of baptism. From this we conclude that those who, because of their youth, are not yet capable of examination may rightly be baptized…

8. He objects that they must be fed spiritual food if they are new men. The answer is easy: by baptism they are admitted into Christ’s flock, and the symbol of their adoption suffices them until as adults they are able to bear solid food. Therefore, we should wait for the time of examination, which God expressly requires in the Sacred Supper.

9. Afterward, he objects that Christ calls all his people to the Sacred Supper. Yet it is clear enough that he admits none but those who are already prepared to celebrate the remembrance of his death. From this it follows that infants, whom he vouchsafed to embrace, remain in their distinct and proper rank until they grow up, and yet are not strangers. He objects that it is monstrous for a man, after being born, not to eat. I answer: souls are fed in another way than by the outward eating of the Supper; therefore, to infants Christ is nonetheless food, though they abstain from the symbol. But the case is different in baptism, by which only the door into the church is opened to them…

12. He claims further that all Christians are brothers, but that, to us, children are not of that number so long as we keep them away from the Supper. But I return to that principle that only those who are members of Christ are heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven; then Christ’s embrace was the true token of adoption, by which infants are joined in common with adults, and that abstaining from the Supper for a time does not prevent them from belonging to the body of the church. Indeed, the thief converted on the cross did not fail to become a brother of the pious, although he never came to the Supper.

But it is no wonder that those reprobate spirits, as if agitated by a frenzy, drag in the crassest absurdities in defense of their errors. For God justly avenges their pride and obstinacy by such irrationality. I trust I have made plain how weakly Servetus has supported his little Anabaptist brothers. (Institutes; IV.16.30-31)

In the shadow of Federal Vision, it would seem wise to side with John Calvin, would it not? He has five centuries of church fathers grateful for his exegesis of Scripture.

 

LINKS

Redefining things… (2005)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2005/06/redefining-things
An examination of “paedo-faith.”

Home from the CREC… (2008)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2008/11/home-crec
An encouraging visit with CREC brothers and some criticisms

A liturgical reform to make Reformed liturgical renewalists gnash their teeth… (2012)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2012/06/liturgical-reform-make-reformed-liturgical-renewalists-gnash-their-teeth%E2%80%A6
Do you notice, as I have, that modern Reformed liturgists who are scrupulous over weekly ‘Eucharists’ and ‘Covenant Renewal’ flow charts have no heart for fencing the Table?”

Superstitious sacramentalism is a danger within the Reformed church… (2014)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2014/05/superstitious-sacramentalism-danger-within-reformed-church
“…the intensity of commitment and drawing fellowship lines on the basis of paedocommunion is at least a parry, if not a thrust, in the direction of a reordering of emphases and priorities in Reformed worship.”

Leithart’s future-end of Protestantism IX: liturgy and ritual will lead the way… (2015)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2015/01/leitharts-future-end-protestantism-ix-liturgy-and-ritual-will-lead-way
“The choice is clear: either we will continue to emphasize robes, sacramental efficacy, and liturgical formalism, or we will return to preaching the Word of God in humble reliance upon the Holy Spirit.”

Leithart’s future-end of Protestantism X: F-V men accuse opponents of being hamfisted and stupid… (2015)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2015/04/leitharts-future-end-protestantism-x-f-v-men-accuse-opponents-being-hamfisted-and
“F-V’s deconstruction of Reformed doctrine centered on sacramentology.”

Worship wars: Jeff Meyers and Peter Leithart have won… (2015)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2015/11/worship-wars-jeff-meyers-and-peter-leithart-have-won
“When men and their wives, seeking the hope of Heaven for their children, choose a church for its practice of infant communion and weekly administration of the Eucharist, the battle is over.”

Calvin on Covenant Renewal, Federal Vision worship… (2015)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2015/11/calvin-covenant-renewal-federal-vision-worship
“To the Covenant Renewal Worship, Federal Vision men, both weekly communion and paedocommunion are confessional issues…”.

Covenant Renewal Worship, Federal Vision men abuse Zwingli… (2015)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2015/11/covenant-renewal-worship-federal-vision-men-abuse-zwingli
“Two things they may object to (even not knowing they were hearing Zwingli’s liturgy) are things where Zwingli is right: namely, Zwingli’s repudiation of special attire for the celebrant and the faithfulness of Zwingli’s warnings of danger to participants who don’t eat and drink by faith.”

Precisely what is paedocommunion and why does Calvin condemn it… (2015)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2015/11/precisely-what-paedocommunion-and-why-does-calvin-condemn-it
Rayburn’s point in saying this is not to warn readers that our Reformed fathers condemned paedocommunion, but rather to dismiss their condemnation under the reasoning that they had not given the practice proper consideration. After all, ‘in most cases’ they had not ‘ever discussed it.’”

From Yale’s Edwards manuscripts, this response to the paedocommunionist novelty… (2016)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2016/02/yales-edwards-manuscripts-response-paedocommunionist-novelty
“Because modern proponents of infant communion (commonly and confusingly called “paedocommunion”) including most notoriously Jeff Meyers (PCA), Peter Leithart (CREC), and Rob Rayburn (PCA) make the same arguments made by Edwards’s opponents centuries ago…”

Paedocommunion (1): Introduction… (2016)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2016/02/paedocommunion-1-introduction
“This is an introduction to a series of posts on paedocommunion, the practice of communing at the Lord’s Table children who have not yet confessed their faith and been examined by their pastor or the elders of their church.”

Paedocommunion (2): permission or requirement… (2016)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2016/02/paedocommunion-2-permission-or-requirement
“Those of us holding to the historic Protestant and Reformed liturgy and administration of the Lord’s Supper understand 1 Corinthians 11 to prohibit the practice of paedocommunion.”

Paedocommunion (3): when proper discernment requires no discernment… (2016)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2016/03/paedocommunion-3-when-proper-discernment-requires-no-discernment
“Jeff Meyers’s novel exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11 subscribed to by paedocommunionists leaves them convinced that, when the rest of the Covenant community is partaking of the Lord’s Supper, regardless of age, for a member of the Covenant community to abstain is sin.”

Paedocommunion (4): a house divided… (2016)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2016/03/paedocommunion-4-house-divided
Those who require discernment on the part of the child before he can partake in the Supper have already rejected the reasoning of a large part of the paedocommunionist camp.”

Paedocommunion (5): George Knight’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34… (2016)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2016/04/paedocommunion-5-george-knights-exegesis-1-corinthians-1117-34
“Some have been convinced by Jeff Meyers’ simplistic and novel exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11 in which he concludes that the only sin that text warns us against is the sin of disunity by not having absolutely everybody in the church partake of the Lord’s Supper. His position can be summed up by his astounding statement: ‘I don’t believe that this passage requires an inward act of contemplating and evaluating one’s sins.’”

Paedocommunion (6): infantile desires are neither discernment nor a confession of faith… (2016)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2016/04/paedocommunion-6-infantile-desires-are-neither-discernment-nor-confession-faith
“…we will turn our attention to Side B. Typically, the qualifications they require consist merely of the child ‘being able to tell he is part of the group.’ This view presents several problems.”

The good father: a church with Biblical sacraments… (2016)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2016/07/good-father-church-biblical-sacraments
The father does not preside over baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The church owns these sacraments and delegates their administration to their pastor.”

Bitterness, crackpots, and Joe Sobran… (2016)
https://baylyblog.com/blog/2016/09/bitterness-crackpots-and-joe-sobran
“The FV guys’ contrarian, oppositional nature damages their discernment. If you think that Jews are secretly pulling the strings behind the scenes, dousing us with chemtrails and stealing our precious bodily fluids, when somebody comes along and says ‘Let’s do paedocommunion! The Bible demands it!’ or ‘Death is Good!’ or ‘in her conflict with King David, Michal was right!’ your mind doesn’t have the braking mechanism that makes you say, ‘I’m not sure about this, are you sure this isn’t wrong???’”

Quarantine, worship, and the Lords’ Supper (2020)
https://warhornmedia.com/2020/05/18/quarantine-worship-and-the-lords-supper/
“We have been too eager to make common cause with former baptists in their newfound affirmation of covenantal headship. Having not corrected paedocommunion born of their newfound enthusiasm, we now find this error entering the historic Reformed church, and with it this error’s natural companions of father’s administering household communion and pastors’ abandonment of those historic warnings at the Lord’s table universally repeated for five centuries of Reformed worship, now.”

Precisely what is paedocommunion, and why does Calvin condemn it (updated version, 2022)
https://warhornmedia.com/2022/03/14/precisely-what-is-paedocommunion-and-why-does-calvin-condemn-it/

Evangel Presbytery’s Directory for the Worship of God | 61. The Lord’s Supper, section 1 “General Provisions of the Lord’s Supper” (2024)
https://bco.evangelpresbytery.com/directory-for-the-worship-of-god.html#the-lords-supper
Paedocommunion—by which is meant the admitting of covenant children to partake of the Lord’s Supper either by virtue of their baptism alone or before a credible profession of faith has been expressed to their session by giving evidence of the necessary ability to examine themselves (1 Cor. 11:28) and to judge the body rightly (1 Cor. 11:29)—shall not be practiced. Scripture’s command to judge the body rightly shall be understood to require of the communicant an intellectual understanding of the significance of Christ’s sacrifice on his behalf. The novel interpretation in which that command is understood merely to require the communicant to refrain from disrupting fellowship within the visible church is rejected.

“Given that God’s Word does not lay out a specific age for their admission to the Lord’s Supper, the ages at which covenant children are admitted to the Lord’s Supper will vary. Nevertheless, baptism, a credible profession of faith, a demonstrated ability to recognize and be sorry for their sins and to understand and express what Christ accomplished for them by His death on the cross shall always be required before the session admits covenant children to the Table.”


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References
1In contrast to Moscow’s CREC, the similar paedocommunion association called Covenant Presbyterian Church is conscientious in declaring their exception. Their Constitution IIB1c reads: “WCF 29:7 – Worthy Receivers of the Lord’s Supper: We add that ‘worthy receivers” may also include the baptized children of baptized parents who profess the true religion.”
2The Scots Confession, Chapter 18 – Of the Notes by Which the True Kirk Is Discerned From the False and Who Shall Be Judge of the Doctrine.

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