March 11, 2011

A friend posted an article on Paedocommunion on Facebook today by Pastor Patrick Ramsey that I thought was very good.  As I thought about this issue again, it occurred to me that I had not put my thoughts down on paper.  In sharing them with you I hope to accomplish two things:  (1) to be useful to my brothers and sisters and (2) to test my views in the crucible of the internet.


At issue is not simply covenantal membership, but what one thinks is the benefit of the Supper.   How is the Supper a means of grace?  For an infant to benefit from the Supper, there would have to be a kind of grace conveyed via the elements apart from a conscious act of faith.  This is, as far as I can see, the medieval belief that grace (divine transformative power) is infused into a person simply because the sacrament works.   In the medieval conception, so long as the recipient was not opposed to receiving grace, the sacrament would work.  Since infants cannot oppose the grace it would ‘work.’  In the Protestant conception, however, the sacrament is seen as stimulating our conscious faith.  There is no transformative power in the elements.  Rather the elements stir up the faith that is in us, so that it becomes more active.  The bread directs our thoughts to Christ’s broken body; the wine to his shed blood.  Their very physicality adds a dimension that is missing in hearing.  As we eat the elements, we have a sense that we are receiving Christ, that He is ours and we are his.  Thus, faith is nurtured and strengthened.  As the Word helps us to look upon Christ and so love and trust him, so do the sacramental elements.


Paedocommunionists and Federal Visionists (often the same persons) really have embraced a medieval, sacramental view of Christian existence.  Whether they practice their beliefs or not, they hold fundamentally different views of how the Gospel works.  Such views cannot be confined to the Supper.  They will intrude themselves throughout their teaching.   The medieval conception of the Gospel is brilliant and brilliantly wrong.  It is, as the Reformers taught us, Satan’s great masterpiece.  We know where this kind of teaching leads.  Have we ceased to understand Satan’s devices?  If I have misunderstood them, I would be very happy to hear them explain how the Lord’s Supper benefits their infant children.





  1. Travis Fentiman said

    Very clear thoughts. Thanks for the helpful breakdown.

  2. The first answer that springs to mind is in the form of questions: How does prayer benefit small children? How do sermons benefit those too young to take notes? Where in the Bible do you find that ONLY our conscious mind is stimulated? Is it not in our Protestant tradition that we seek to “bleed Bible” when pricked?
    I am not advocating an ex opere operato view of the sacraments, only that they are intended for the whole person, not merely the analytical, left-brained, and syllogistic.
    You would say, would you not, that infants out to be baptized? Everyone is saved by faith alone — our Protestant confession. Whose faith are baptized infants saved by? We must conclude it is their own, even if it is imperceptible to us. There is no Age of Accountability, only ages when the rest of us perceive what was there.

  3. Robert: You have made the connection between infant baptism and infant communion in a way that shows the logic of Federal Vision theology in connecting these two issues. I, along with the PCA and the Westminster Confession, disagree with your logic because we do not believe that infant children are saved by faith in baptism. “Whose faith are baptized infants saved by” – No one’s. Not yet, at least. Baptism places the sign and seal of the covenant of grace upon them and unites them to the visible church as the covenant community of God. It does not impart saving grace. In baptism, we as parents claim God’s covenant promises in hopeful anticipation of the day when we will see the fruit of these promises in expressed saving faith in our children. We do not presume that the application of water actually imparts the fulfillment of these promises. Rather, we wait for God the Holy Spirit to do the work of effectual calling (including regeneration) and justification by faith later.

    Your view, as I understand it from you and other federal vision people, is essentially the same as the Lutheran view. They, too, hold to justification by faith alone but also claim that God justifies infants in baptism. To those of us who hold to the historic Reformed faith, that view is self-contradictory and unbiblical, trying to hold the Reformation Gospel and medieval Catholicism both at the same time.

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