Paedobaptist questions

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BlairCan

Puritan Board Freshman
Hey!

I’ve recently been doing a lot of reading/learning about Paedobaptism and leaning that way. I’m almost there :)
I still have a few questions though, that I can’t seem to find answers to (probably just not good enough research on my part...). Any answers/discussion would be awesome.

1) Should baptized children partake in communion, regardless of their age? I went to a PCA church once and they were explaining that children were to be baptized and considered part of the covenant community, but they weren’t allowed to partake in communion until a certain age, which just seemed a tad bit inconsistent to me. As far as I can see, the WCF doesn’t touch on this unless I’m missing something. Is it just assumed that they should/shouldn’t? Is it a decision the parent should make as far as when their children should?

2) Is there a certain age infants should be baptized? Is there some sort of an age limit, so to speak? Or a time when it's too late? I don't, of course, mean just carelessly neglecting it and waiting even if one knows it should be done early. Say for example, someone had children and either a) wasn’t a paedobaptist or b) wasn’t a Christian at all. So when their children are a few years older and the parent becomes a Christian, or changes their views on Baptism and becomes a Paedobaptist, should they then baptize the children?

I had another experience in which a friend of mine was starting to lean towards Paedobaptism. He had a son though, who was 7 or 8 I believe, and he wasn’t sure what He should do if He ended up settling on Paedobaptism. Another Paedobaptist actually told him he shouldn’t baptize the child, unless the child made a profession of faith and they were sure it was genuine.

Again, this just seemed inconsistent to me and him. But then again, the WCF says “infants.”


3) In Acts 15, why didn’t Paul say something along the lines of “Cicumcision is out, baptism is in” ? I know that’s not the bigger issue there. I know the point is that they were adding to their salvation, and circumcision nor baptism can save you.
But it still seems to me at some point, if many Jewish Christians were still practicing the Old Covenant sign, that Paul or somebody would just come out and clearly tell them that there is a new sign. I’ve heard that it was just known and assumed and didn’t need to be said…but it obviously did need to be said if they were circumcising and baptizing.

I’m not sure if that last one even made sense. There is an overload of information swarming around in my head and I’m trying to organize it all. Any answers would be stellar. Sorry if this was already posted somewhere....Thanks in advance!
 

anotherpilgrim

Puritan Board Freshman
Regarding 3.
In Acts 15 (and in other places in the NT where keeping circumcision comes up), those who were practicing circumcision were practicing it as a means of additionally keeping the Mosaic Law. From Paul's response to it, it seems like they weren't really getting the concept of circumcision as the Old Covenant sign, but seeing it as obedience to the Mosaic law.

So, I think attempting to tell them that baptism was now the covenant sign, would run the risk of them attempting to keep baptism still as part of the Mosaic Law (or in that works-righteousness way). So, without addressing the underlying problem of attempting to still keep the Mosaic Law (works-righteousness), that connection of circumcision and baptism as the sign of the New Covenant would have been lost on them.

There is an overload of information swarming around in my head and I’m trying to organize it all.
I totally relate to this! I've been purposefully studying this topic for a while now and still feel this way! =)
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
1) No, baptized children are not admitted to Table, until they are of age to "examine themselves," as Paul makes plain 1Cor.11:28.

The Standards agree:
WSC Question 97. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?
Answer. It is required of them that worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

WLC Question 177: Wherein do the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper differ?
Answer: The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper differ, in that Baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ, and that even to infants; whereas the Lord’s Supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.

Admission to the Table is a matter of church discipline, and is under the oversight of the Session. It is not a matter of parental discretion.

As for this seeming to be "inconsistent," it's only inconsistent if there is a presumption that both signs of the covenant serve the very same ends, and belong necessarily to the same persons. This is a Baptist presupposition, but not a Ref/Presbyterian one.


2) If a child is objectively under his parents authority, and does not have his own voice (see Jn.9:21), then he is a potential candidate for baptism. I would think a 7 or 8 year old would be a uncontroversial candidate for baptism. It might be that a 7 or 8 year old should just profess his own faith (ask his own parent, and his elders, to judge). It is more difficult when a child reaches his teen-years. In many societies, that's when the age of majority comes (age 13 is when Jesus came of age). But in any case, I know of no church that would baptize a decidedly unwilling participant, even one ostensibly under his/her parent's authority. This one has the marks of a rebel.


3) It is unhelpful to ask why a thing "isn't said," when you think perhaps (under similar circumstances) you would have said something on point. As it is, you don't know what might have been said, but was not recorded.

If, as you admit, the question isn't directly germane to the issue Act.15 is addressing, it is doubly doubtful that an extraneous point (were it made) needed mentioning. Jews circumcised for religious reasons, which were also cultural reasons. And after there is no more need to circumcise religiously, I can tell you that there is a powerful impulse to conformity within groups, and for fathers to have sons that "look like" themselves. Barring some reason introduced for overturning the old custom, there was no reason to tell the Jews to abandon their distinctive mark. Jews were never asked/told to STOP circumcising their males.

Jews were circumcised already. And then they were baptized. The issue was never whether later cultural Jews should abandon circumcision for baptism, but what value they saw circumcision having. And as a consequence, the question arose whether the Jewish contingent in the church was going to make the Gentiles get circumcised, along with getting baptized. Because Gentiles had been getting baptized even though they weren't circumcised and weren't planning on it. And they were being treated no different from the Jews who had both (and some Jews thought this was a bit much). The right answer to the Jew isn't "baptism replaces circumcision." Because that's not their "issue." It is just as bad for a Christian to make baptism a matter of pride in the same manner as the previous Jewish attitude to circumcision.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Blair
1) Should baptized children partake in communion, regardless of their age? I went to a PCA church once and they were explaining that children were to be baptized and considered part of the covenant community, but they weren’t allowed to partake in communion until a certain age, which just seemed a tad bit inconsistent to me. As far as I can see, the WCF doesn’t touch on this unless I’m missing something. Is it just assumed that they should/shouldn’t? Is it a decision the parent should make as far as when their children should?
It's no more inconsistent than circumcised Israelites not partaking of the Passover until they were twelve or thirteen. Maybe around this age is when baptism should be administered on personal and credible profession of faith, rather than on the basis of the credible profession of faith of the parents.

The Lord's Supper has a higher standard of admission than baptism: an accredited profession of faith, although for practical purposes, when an adult comes to the Session to be baptised, he also usually believes he should start partaking of the Lord's Supper also, so the Session may examine him in that light.
 

BlairCan

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks guys!

I feel like an idiot, as far as the first question is concerned. That answer is really obvious...or "plain" as you put it. What was I thinking?

I guess what was strange to me was that once they hit a certain age (say, when everyone turns 10) it was allowed, and it doesn't seem to me like that's a good way of doing it seeing that everyone matures emotionally/spiritually at a different pace. What age is old enough to examine yourself? Does the church pick a specific age or look at each person individually?

And really, what qualifies as being able to really examine yourself? Is it sincerity we are looking for?
I mean, honestly a 6 year old could understand the meaning of the Sacrament and could fully, genuinely believe in Christ's death and resurrection, and understand (maybe in simpler terms?) what it all means for him and people of God. Young kids can have pretty sincere faith. Is that the requirement?
I know it says to be worthy. But what makes someone more worthy than completely trusting in Jesus? Is a sincere adult more worthy than a sincere little kid?

This one has the marks of a rebel.
Who?


Jews were circumcised already. And then they were baptized. The issue was never whether later cultural Jews should abandon circumcision for baptism, but what value they saw circumcision having. And as a consequence, the question arose whether the Jewish contingent in the church was going to make the Gentiles get circumcised, along with getting baptized. Because Gentiles had been getting baptized even though they weren't circumcised and weren't planning on it. And they were being treated no different from the Jews who had both (and some Jews thought this was a bit much). The right answer to the Jew isn't "baptism replaces circumcision." Because that's not their "issue." It is just as bad for a Christian to make baptism a matter of pride in the same manner as the previous Jewish attitude to circumcision.
Oh, okay! I was thinking something along those lines. I knew that wasn't the issue at hand...I guess I shouldn't have narrowed that specific question down to that spot in particular.

I, of course, didn't mean to imply that I would have said something else or handled the situation differently/better than Paul. It just seemed to me like it would come up there or at some point, but as you pointed out that wouldn't have been the best time. I was just using Acts 15 because it showed that they were still circumcising their children, regardless of their reason for it. My point was that if early Jewish Christians were still circumcising and baptizing their children, wouldn't Paul point out that circumcision is no longer necessary? Aside from the issue of pride, wouldn't he still want to make it clear at some point that circumcision was part of the Old Covenant and Baptism is part of the New?

Or, does Col. 2:11-12 make that clear enough? Or do just the functions of both signs make that clear enough?
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
I guess what was strange to me was that once they hit a certain age (say, when everyone turns 10) it was allowed, and it doesn't seem to me like that's a good way of doing it seeing that everyone matures emotionally/spiritually at a different pace. What age is old enough to examine yourself? Does the church pick a specific age or look at each person individually?
It's typical for a covenant child who grew up in the church to become a full member, admitted to the table by the church's elders, after making a public profession of faith (sometimes called "confirmation"). In Presbyterian circles, the age at which this happens should depend on the kid's spiritual maturity. Parents, elders, the young person himself and sometimes a Sunday school teacher or someone of that sort will all have a hand in the timing of this. There may be a class to complete so that several kids profess faith at the same time as they finish the class and are examined. But the elders are the final arbiters. They accept each person, individually, into full membership and admittance to the table based on their examination of that person's spiritual testimony.

That's in a church that fences the table carefully. You'll also find churches that are lax about enforcing who participates, so that as a practical matter the communion-taking decision is left in the parents' hands. But that's really not how it's supposed to be done.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
What age is old enough to examine yourself? Does the church pick a specific age or look at each person individually?
As you say, the issue is individual, person-specific. That's not to say that a general time-frame could not possibly be utilized, with regard to a certain population. The "bar-mizvahs" of today are rites of passage (at age 13) that correspond to the arrival of Jews of Jesus' day at the age of majority.

Hence, Jesus is examined (as were most 12-year-olds) by elders, in anticipation of the Law's requirement that all adult males attend Israel's religious feasts 3X a year. The sons asked their fathers for about 10 years, "What mean ye by this service?" And when they could give the answer themselves (as judged by the elders), they showed they were able to answer that question when it is put to them.


And really, what qualifies as being able to really examine yourself? Is it sincerity we are looking for?
...But what makes someone more worthy than completely trusting in Jesus? Is a sincere adult more worthy than a sincere little kid?
Historically, the churches of the Reformation used catechism as a measure of religious knowledge/awareness. Objective criteria such as age and knowledge are tools that elders (and parents) should use, in order to give them some reason to hope that LittleJohnny or BittyBetty is ready for the responsibility of communicant membership.

Communion participation isn't just a "privilege" of membership. It is a privilege, but with privilege comes responsibility. And the big responsibility is a measure of personal government. We expect little children to be reckless and irresponsible. We should expect the more mature to show it.

The other "responsibility issue" is the duty of the elders. Like parents, they look after Jesus' sheep and lambs. Since misuse of the Supper is potentially deadly, these men who "watch for your souls, as men who must give account," are bound to guard the Table--from interlopers, from those under censure, and from those who do not know what they are doing or what materials they fiddle with.

Worthiness is a category with subsections. Can a person examine himself? What does it mean to examine oneself? How much knowledge is a "good enough grasp" of spiritual things? What are some examples of this knowledge? What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it merely a matter of birth? If a person has been baptized, is that all it takes to come to the Lord's Table? What about the baptized person who's been put under discipline? What is the Table? Explain its elements. Who is in charge of the Table? Who can administer the Supper? Who can serve that meal? What are the responsibilities of one who would partake of the Supper? Are there any other church-duties to which a communicant member is expected to heed? Etc.

It seems pretty obvious to me that a person who expects to participate in the Table should be able himself to give reasonable answers to every one of these questions.

As for the sincere adult, vs. sincere kid, I'll put to you an analogous question: Is a sincere patriotic adult a "more worthy" American than a sincere patriotic child? I hope you'd say "no way." So, should the child be 1) given a driver's license, 2) allowed to vote, 3) armed for military service? Why not? Do we think that saying a child isn't ready for those things means we think they are worth less than the grown up? So, if we say that "worthiness" is a measure that means different things to different ages or different capacities (as we judge such things), that's not the same thing as saying a person with less responsibility or more maturing left to do is not as "good as" someone who has attained further development.



"This one has the marks of a rebel."
Who?
My comment has reference to the youth who refuses to follow his parent into the faith (and be baptized). Sorry, there's no reason to grab him by the neck and mark him with baptism. If he isn't a docile recipient, then we'd judge him not a good candidate for being a part of the church, an identity that involves submission not only to parents, but also to the teaching of the Bible and the officers of the church (when and where appropriate).



if early Jewish Christians were still circumcising and baptizing their children, wouldn't Paul point out that circumcision is no longer necessary? Aside from the issue of pride, wouldn't he still want to make it clear at some point that circumcision was part of the Old Covenant and Baptism is part of the New?

Or, does Col. 2:11-12 make that clear enough? Or do just the functions of both signs make that clear enough?
Actually, the NT does say--frequently in Galatians--that circumcision has no more profit, spiritually. That statement alone is pretty blunt, but it's still more diplomatic than telling a Jew that he shouldn't circumcise under any criteria.

To tell the Jews to just "quit already" is equivalent to telling them to drop their nationality and culture as well. But if the apostles don't tell this Gentile community or that one to "quit being Greeks, or Libyans, or Galatians," why should they have a special comment for the Jews? I think the NT is abundantly clear that circumcision as a religious rite belongs to the old order, and that baptism has a corresponding place in the new order.

Finally, we don't even know if or how often the very things you wish were included in the NT (assuming their truth for the moment) were, in fact, said to this one or that, but were not recorded for our benefit. We have what we have, and we will come to our judgments on the basis of what IS present, and not what we think should have been included to (hopefully) make our judgments easier.
 

BlairCan

Puritan Board Freshman
My comment has reference to the youth who refuses to follow his parent into the faith (and be baptized). Sorry, there's no reason to grab him by the neck and mark him with baptism. If he isn't a docile recipient, then we'd judge him not a good candidate for being a part of the church, an identity that involves submission not only to parents, but also to the teaching of the Bible and the officers of the church (when and where appropriate).
I think we had a misunderstanding? At least my post wasn't talking about anything like that, but okay!



Anyways-Thanks guys!
 
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