Posted by: mattcolvin | July 28, 2011

All Evangelical? Or just 99.44%?

Doug Wilson took the time to respond to my post criticizing his view of whether and when and how the church ought to admit children to the Lord’s Table.

I think his response indicates that I was correct about his errors.

In my post, I said that the difference between Wilson’s definition of faith and mine affects “how we think about the senile, the retarded, the mentally incapacitated, and babies in utero.” In his reply, Wilson raises the example of a man in a coma, stating that his incidental inability to eat is not the same as excommunication:

“If I administer the Supper to [a person in a coma who cannot eat], I am making claims about the power of the Supper “raw” that I do not wish to make. And if I refrain, I am making no statement that excludes him. And so I would refrain.”

But Wilson and I are agreed that inability to chew is irrelevant to formal exclusion from the Supper; it is a practical problem only. So it is irrelevant to the question of whether babies (who can chew) need to be thinking about something in order to be “admitted.” The real question is: What about an adult who can chew, and has been baptized, but can’t talk or think about Jesus because he has been injured in the brain? If the man can eat, but can’t think very well, then your withholding the Supper from him does indeed make a statement that excludes him. It makes a statement about the nature of the requisite faith. (The reference to “the Lord’s Supper raw” also implies something about the nature of faith and the way the sacraments work. Apparently they become “cooked” only when we think about them.)

I say that such a retarded or brain-damaged man should still receive the Lord’s Supper if he can eat. He is part of the body of Christ, and to be treated as such. As far as I can tell, Wilson thinks he shouldn’t get the Supper. Why not? Presumably because he isn’t thinking the necessary things. And that looks gnostic to me. But perhaps I am wrong, and Wilson would give the Supper to such a injured person. I hope he would. It is rather close to the core of what it means to treat the less presentable and weaker members of the body of Christ with special honor.

Who’s walking in accordance with the Gospel now?



  1. […] ADDENDUM: Wilson has replied. My response to his reply is here. […]

  2. Matt, the reason I give my babies communion right after their baptism is the same reason I bring them to the Font in the first place: God has promised to be a God to me and to my children, and I believe that. When I put that crumb of bread in her mouth and that drop of wine on her tongue I am telling the world, “This child is in the household of God.” It is a self conscious prophetic utterance to a world full of competing gods (like the State) who want to own my child body and soul.

    • See, Wilson would say that you are implying something about the Supper’s operation on the soul of your child by doing that: he thinks that you believe it works “raw” without faith. And my answer to that is, “You’re right. It does work without what Wilson calls ‘faith.'” Because what Wilson calls faith is a faculty, an organ, a thing inside people. That’s gnostic, I don’t care how much he denies it. It’s astonishing to me that he doesn’t feel the force of his concession that Israelite babies in Egypt were saved by the Passover blood even though they were asleep.

      That’s why he has a problem with what you do for your babies right after their baptism. He pretends to be all cool, saying that he’s not worried about the babies, but about the adults. He believes you’re immature because you’re not waiting until the Supper has at least a chance of being apprehended by the thing that he calls “faith.”

      This is why I call Wilson a credo-communionist with very low standards. He is attempting to evade the real force of paedocommunion, the thing that riles up every Baptist: namely, paedocommunion is a frontal attack on the gnostic conception of faith that is the common distinguishing characteristic of American evangelicalism.

      I’m not sure whether to quarrel over this word “Evangelical.” Wilson thinks it means, “Committed to the doctrine of salvation by an implanted faculty of faith.” And I grant that in America, it does mean that. So by that definition, Wilson is more evangelical than I am. But it OUGHT to mean, “Committed to the gospel message that Jesus is Lord of all.” And the latter entails that we ought to give communion to babies who belong to Jesus. By the Biblical definition of the gospel, I am more evangelical than Wilson is, because the gnostic gospel of salvation by an inner spark is not the Biblical gospel at all — even when we wrongly call that spark “faith”.

  3. You seem to be right about this gnostism. By referencing my “maturity” he seems to be saying I haven’t arrived at the gnosis. Fact is, I think the bread is bread and the wine is wine: but it is HIS bread and wine. What I embrace is not the mysticism but the promise: He is my God and Saviour, and we all are his people because he SAID he was. Christ is present in the supper because WE are there, gathered as his people, sitting at his table, eating his passover meal, confessing to the world that he is the Messiah, and no one else. We confess that He is the Man who sits in the throne of Yahweh. When I eat the bread and feed it to my baby I am saying to the world that I am part of the People of God, my family all of my babies are part of his tribe, and he is our king. It is just like my house. I wash my children because I love them and they are mine, I feed them because they are mine. In doing this, and having it done to them, they are learning a new way of being human: they are learning how to be Butlers. Our everyday mundane activities teach them how to live together in love as Butlers. The Supper is like this. The training begins when they are babies, they understand bread and wine, because they get it at home. Before they can hang any proposition on their logistic framework, they can understand that Jesus their King is like their daddy and mommy he washes them and feeds them. Their life in the Church is just like their life at home. The liturgy is the same, the sacraments are the same. They are learning a new way of being human, they are learning how to live in love in the tribe of little Christs.

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