A few years ago, I wrote this letter to Credenda/Agenda in response to their issue on paedocommunion. The issue contained some great stuff by Peter Leithart, and some other stuff by people who didn’t really understand paedocommunion and shouldn’t have been writing about it. Here’s what I wrote:
One thing still bugs me about the latest Credenda [C/A, 18.1]: all the kids described in the magazine – Nathan Wilson’s son, little Calvin Hurt, Grace Evans – are precocious, bright, cute little things whose charming expressions of their paedofaith are so winsome that they would probably inflict a nagging voice of self-doubt on the mind of any pastor who denied them the Supper. And that, of course, is why they were mentioned in the magazine.
We are in danger of giving people the impression that we give kids the Supper because they are precocious in their expressions of faith. No matter how far you lower the bar, unless the only requirement for coming to the Table is baptism, the focus is still on the achievements of the person coming to the Table. Is this supposed to challenge credocommunionists?
The Supper isn’t something we can achieve. The whole Presbyterian tradition of being admitted to the Table by the elders is false – whether the test involves memorizing the Larger Catechism or just nodding your head when asked if you love Jesus.
No one wants to write about giving the Supper to unloveable, bratty little two-year-olds who habitually squirm and kick and fuss in church; who have to be coaxed, cajoled, or even spanked into answering any catechism questions; who are liable to wad the bread up into a little ball, or throw it on the floor, or spill the wine out of its dinky medicine cup; who don’t have a pious bone in their bodies – kids, in short, who are everything that the credocommunionist thinks ought to be barred from the Supper. These are the kids that pose a challenge to our credocommunionist brothers. To give these kids the supper, one has to change one’s doctrine, not just lower one’s standards.
If we are to be real paedocommunionists, and not just low-bar credocommunionists like Virgil Hurt, then we must advocate for the terrible tots too. By all means, take them out of the service when they are misbehaving. But do not admit them to the Table. God has already admitted them by giving them to Christian parents and baptizing them. It is no pastor’s job to examine them at all.
Pastors must come to realize that they do not have the right, let alone the duty, of examining the infants of believers to admit them to the Supper, anymore than they have the right to refuse to baptize the infants of believers.
If we only confront such pastors with lots of cute communing babies – like so many Hallmark cards or advertisements for Pampers – then we are not challenging them at the crux of the issue: it is about wrongful usurpation of power and unbiblical judgment of others, not about the precociousness of any toddlers.
Yours for paedocommunion in the churches,
The response I got from the editor was impressive as an epitome of Moscow’s ability to miss the point and try to make their critics look bad at the same time. Wilson wrote that, “You’re wrong. The elders do have the authority to limit access to the table, which is what excommunication is. They also have the authority to suspend covenant members from the Supper as a means of discipline. Such suspension could be placed upon a businessman fleecing clients, or a two-year-old with the nickname ‘Beelzebub.'”
But I said nothing about excommunication or church discipline. My letter was about admitting people to the supper, not barring them after they have already been admitted. Wilson’s reply is like saying that baseball umpires have authority to call 3 strikes and say “You’re out!”, so of course they have authority to keep batters from the plate before any pitches are thrown.