Years ago, a close and lifelong friend handed me a postmillennial book, saying I needed to become a postmillennialist. A couple weeks later, we were talking on the phone and I told him I thought his postmillennialism wasn’t a function of Scripture, but his optimism.

It’s common for postmillennials to respond in kind, dismissing those who disagree with their millennarianism as merely pessimists.

Maybe they’re right.

Anyhow, both sides attribute the other side’s eschatology to character or personality, and there’s no question this intense battle over obscure and ambiguous texts of Scripture is a helpful reminder to us all how the Fall has corrupted our reason and intellect. Original sin misleads our hermeneutics, and not merely our morals.

Moving on, what sort of connection is there between postmillennialism and, say, sacramentology?

Postmillennials and paedocommunionists worship together. They are one and the same man. As members of the postmillennial, paedocommunionist CREC say, themselves, it would be difficult for anyone to join them in worship without being postmillennial. Thus, recently, the CREC’s presiding minister posted a paean to the CREC, saying:

Our postmillennialism is deeply embedded in our lives. This is more than a preference for historical optimism. Postmillennialism is how we see the Bible moving. It is far from a mere academic discussion. In fact, it would not be easy to function happily in the CREC without that eschatological predisposition.

He added:

Our paedocommunion practice is fundamental to our existence as a whole.

He goes on to share with those who have not yet joined the CREC what a splendid, dynamic, much-sought-after group of congregations they are, calling readers to join up. Taking him at his word, let’s examine the nature of the doubling down he and his pastor-friends testify they share as the center of their identity: they are postmillennial and paedocommunionist.

My thesis stated to my friend fifteen or so years ago was that his own postmillennialist fervor was a function of his optimism. Interesting, isn’t it, how the CREC’s presiding minister himself also explains their postmillennialism in terms of “optimism,” while claiming it isn’t a function of personality, but a descriptor of their view of the trajectory of history. It is “historical optimism,” but then he adds that it’s “more” than “historical optimism.” He’s right.

Moving to his sect’s paedocommunion liturgies, any examination of his fellow CREC pastors’ words spoken at their weekly observance of the Lord’s supper demonstrate their thralldom to this optimism. Having worshipped with the CREC and paedocommunionists a number of times, here are words I’ve never heard in their liturgies:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. (1Corinthians 11:27-32)

CREC paedocommunionists, we are told, are also postmillennialists, and it’s my observation they speak entirely positively at the Lord’s table just before administering the body and blood of our Lord.

But from the Scripture text above, let us recall these elements taken without examining oneself and properly discerning our Lord’s body cause members of Christ’s church to sicken and die. That is if we believe the Apostle Paul’s warning.

Do we? It’s a serious question. Do you and I believe that sacrament of the Lord’s supper is dangerous, or have we slumbered into complacency and optimism in our habits and words, handling these holy things in a posture of chipper presumption; “It’s all good!”

For five centuries, reformed Protestants all united in condemning paedocommunion have also been united in using these or similar words at the Lord’s table while serving the elements of bread and wine. Here, for instance, they’re found in the Scottish Book of Common Order:

Dearly beloved, As we are now about to celebrate the Holy Communion of the body and blood of Christ, let us consider how St. Paul exhorteth all persons to examine themselves before they eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a truly penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy sacrament (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink His blood; then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us; we are one with Christ and Christ with us), so is the danger great if we receive the same unworthily. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

Therefore I warn all who are not of the number of the faithful, all who live in any sin against their knowledge or their conscience, charging them that they profane not this holy table.

And yet this is not pronounced to exclude any penitent person, how grievous soever his sins have been, but only such as continue in sin without repentance.

Examine your own consciences, therefore, to know whether you truly repent of your sins, and whether, trusting in God’s mercy, and seeking your whole salvation in Jesus Christ, you are resolved to follow holiness, and to live in peace and charity with all men.

If you have this testimony in your hearts before God, be assured that your sins are forgiven through the perfect merit of Jesus Christ our Lord; and I bid you, in His name, to His holy table.

And although you feel that you have not perfect faith, and do not serve God as you ought; yet if, by God’s grace, you are heartily sorry for your sins and infirmities, and earnestly desire to withstand all unbelief, and to keep all His commandments, be assured that your remaining imperfections do not prevent you from being received of God in mercy, and so made worthy partakers of this heavenly food.

For we come not to this supper as righteous in ourselves, but we come to seek our life in Christ, acknowledging that we lie in the midst of death. let us, then, look upon this sacrament as a remedy for those who are sick, and consider that the worthiness our Lord requireth of us is that we be truly sorry for our sins, and find our joy and salvation in Him. United with Him who is holy, even our Lord Jesus Christ, we are accepted of the Father, and invited to partake of these HOLY THINGS WHICH ARE FOR HOLY PERSONS.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

Beloved in the Lord, attend to the words of the institution of the Holy Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ, as they are delivered by the holy apostle Paul (I Cor. xi. 23-26): “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.”

Etc.

Back in sixteenth century Geneva when John Knox was the pastor of the English language congregation, these were the same words he used in his administration of the Lord’s table. They were also the words used by John Calvin.

So from the beginning, the Reformed Protestant church condemned paedocommunion as well as administering the Lord’s supper with both serious and extensive warnings and threats and serious and extensive encouragements and promises.

Today, postmillennial paedocommunionists only give serious and extensive encouragements and promises.

For decades in our every-other-week observances of the Lord’s supper at the conclusion of our two worship services each Lord’s day, those same words above from sixteenth century Geneva were precisely what our pastors used at the table of our Lord. And recently at this same Trinity Reformed Church, its current pastor, Jody Killingsworth, used these words.

These words are not necessary for faithful Lord’s supper administration. These words are not required of pastors of our Evangel Presbytery. But over decades, all of us have come to love these words—and more, the wonderful balance, the Scriptural proportionality, of God’s “yes” and “no” which they faithfully communicate to the flock of God as we approach the sacrament.

Again, no one is required to read these words passed down to us across the centuries, but we are required to refuse the administration of paedocommunion and we are required to give serious and extensive warnings at the table, along with serious and extensive encouragements. (It’s worth mentioning that Trinity Reformed parents are asked to bring their little ones forward with them so the pastors and elders stationed on each side of the table can pray and lay hands on, to bless, all the little ones as part of the Lord’s table administration.)

Now then, why do postmillennial paedocommunionists never fence the Lord’s table with Biblical warnings bearing any resemblance to those used by Knox and Calvin?

The optimist is the man who can’t bear to say “no,” and the man who can’t bear to say “no” is the man who can’t bear conflict.

But isn’t the CREC known for engaging in conflict? Weren’t they the ones during Covid who protested by singing maskless in front of their county courthouse? Aren’t they known for their relentless criticism of civil authorities? What is this if not conflict?

Yes, of course this is conflict, but not where conflict is most difficult and most critical. Opposing civil authorities is easy compared to opposing one’s own church members. The Apostle Paul suffered much more at the hands of his own church family than at the hands of the outsiders, especially the Jews and the Roman civil authorities. Note that after listing his many sufferings outside the church—stonings, beatings, whippings, jailings, etc.—he ends the list by stating what was most painful for him. Going from the lesser to the greater, he ends his list with:

Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. (2Corinthians 11:28)

The Apostle Paul never stops writing in defense of himself across his letters to the churches. And why? Was it because the Jews and Romans were bad mouthing him?

Not in the least. It was because the Christians were bad mouthing him. The attacks on him inside the church were constant. But again, why?

He himself explains it:

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)

The faithful pastor is the man who never stops warning those souls inside—not outside—his congregation.

Now then, back to postmillennialists’ paedocommunion sacramental liturgies.

Do their words as they administer the Lord’s supper warn their sons, daughters, and brothers in Christ against neglecting or refusing to examine themselves, and thus not properly discerning the body of our Lord? Do they refuse to keep in careful attention the sickness and death meted out to God’s people by God in loving discipline as they administer their paedocommunion?

Earlier today, I was talking to two young daughters in the faith about how painful conflict in families and churches is, and how God sends us this pain to sanctify us. I went on to recount how, recently, I had been looking at old pictures of my brother Danny’s bloated face as a five-year-old dying of leukemia. Looking at the pics left me in tears. I was his four-year-old brother and, until he got leukemia, we were cheerful and joyful together. But soon after those pics were taken, he died.

Explaining how I wondered at the time whether it was my father or mother’s sin that caused God to take Danny’s life, I explained to the girls that each night after Danny died during family devotions prayer time, I prayed out loud to God, “Dear God, would You please raise Danny from the dead?”

Explaining the agony this would have caused my father and mother, I told them that they had never asked me to stop. Going on, I said suffering is God’s discipline, and that by faith our Heavenly Father never fails to produce suffering’s fruit of sanctification and righteousness. In adults, but also in little children.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s my observation postmillennial paedocommunionists have difficulty acknowledging and warning of God’s discipline; not His discipline of the world, but His discipline of us, our wives, and our children. That’s why warnings are missing from their administration at the Lord’s table.

So now, let me say for myself what I said to my dear young daughters in the faith: Nothing in my life has been as formative and faith-strengthening as the death of Danny (and my other brothers).

The man of faith does not deny danger and suffering. He affirms God’s judgments, shedding tears, mourning, and grieving. Then he confesses his faith:

The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:9-13)


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