Archive for the ‘Communion/Lord's Supper’ Category

Hyde, Daniel R.. Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims. Orlando, Fla.: Reformation Trust Pub., 2010. Print.

Reformation Trust provided this copy for a honest review on my part, so here it is:

Rev. Hyde offers readers a primer on the history and doctrine of the Reformed Church, focusing mainly on the 3 Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dordt).

The Good:

Although an Evangelical Baptist, I am indebted to the 3 forms more than any other confession, catechism, or doctrinal formulation. I welcome with joy this brief book which introduces many to a heritage that is little-known in the broader American Evangelical Church.

Rev. Hyde takes great care to represent Reformed theology as a religion of the heart and mind. Hyde states,

“God has established an inseparable connection between truth and godliness. If truth remains in our heads but does not proceed to dwell in our hearts and find expression in our conduct, then we are no different, James says, than the devils (James 2:18-19).”

 Many have criticized Reformed theology as being arrogant and cerebral. While there are some who may unfortunately represent the Reformed heritage in such a way, this certainly is unrepresentative of the whole. Hyde commends Scottish Presbyterian John “Rabbi” Duncan’s quote, “I’m first a Christian, next a Catholic, then a Calvinist, fourth a Paedobaptist and finally a Presbyterian. I cannot reverse the order.” Hyde reminds us that we are first Christians, and secondly catholics. Catholic in the sense that we affirm solidarity with the church behind us, the church around us, and the church ahead of us.

Hyde also reminds us that Reformed theology highlights the importance of Sanctification. While many may first think of God’s sovereignty and Justification as key Reformed doctrines, the Reformers cared just as much about holy living. Hyde notes:

“Our Reformed fathers focused heavily on holy living. The volume of teachings they devoted to sanctification in their confessions and catechisms is striking. The Heidelberg Catechism devotes forty-four of its 129 questions and answers, more than one-third of its material, to sanctification, while the Westminster Larger Catechism devotes an impressive eighty-two of 196 questions and answers (42 percent) to this subject. By this emphasis, the Reformed churches declared that Calvinism is no mere religion of “head knowledge,” and we cannot live as if it makes us the “frozen chosen,” as we are sometimes derisively known. It is a religion of head and heart.”

The last emphasis that I found helpful was Hyde’s treatment of the Church and the centrality of the means of grace through Word and Sacraments. He reminds us that,

“It is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then, that creates the people of God. The gospel not only saves us from our sins and the wrath of God, it places us in vital union with Jesus Christ and other Christians. Thus, the church is the fruit of the gospel; it is not our own creation, but a creation of the triune God of grace.”

The Bad: (more…)

As a father and former child myself, I have found myself searching the Scriptures more and more lately in developing a Biblically grounded theology of children. The Church has been doing this for years and there is hardly any consensus on how exactly our children are initiated into the full membership of the Church community. Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Anglicans, and so on all have varying convictions on these matters. I am not attempting to resolve this doctrinal matter in its entirety, but do want to commend the following quotes from C.H. Spurgeon (from “Spiritual Parenting”)  as something that I trust we can all get behind and seek in the life of our children and Church. Enjoy.

Importance of training children in the faith: “Parents sin in the same way when they omit religion from the education of their children. Perhaps the thought is that their children cannot be converted while they are children…Let us expect our children to know the Lord. Let us from the beginning mingle the name of Jesus with their ABC’s. Let them read their first lessons from the Bible…But let us never be guilty, as parents, of forgetting the religious training of our children. If we do, we may be guilty of the blood of their souls.”

The sin of low expectations: “Another result is that the conversion of children is not expected in many of our churches and congregations. I mean, that they do not expect the children to be converted as children. The theory is that if we can impress youthful minds with principles which may, in after years, prove useful to them, we have done a great deal. But to convert children as children, and to regard them as being as much believers as their seniors, is regarded as absurd.”

The sin of cynicism: “Another bad result is that the conversion of children is not believed. Certain suspicious people always file their teeth a bit when they hear of a newly-converted child: they will have a bite at him if they can. They very rightly insist that these children should be carefully examined before they are baptized and admitted into the church. However, they are wrong in insisting that only in exceptional instances are they to be received. We quite agree with them as to the care to be exercised, but it should be the same in all cases, and neither more nor less in the cases of children.”

I highly commend these words from Spurgeon. I want to reaffirm over and over again how important it is for us to train the little ones in the Way, the Truth, and the Life. God has ordained instruction as the primary means whereby our children are brought into a faithful relationship with the Father (Deut. 6:4-9). Studies show that our children’s capacity for learning is amazingly high between infancy and 5 years.  Our children’s most tender years are also the most pliable. Their sense of identity and worldview are pretty much solidified by 18-20 years of age. Why is then that many parents have abandoned instructing their kids, instead saying, “I don’t want them to believe just because I believe and taught them. I want them to grow up and then find out for themselves what they believe.” This type of thinking is deadly. We wouldn’t dare keep our children from math, literature, etc because we would rather them grow up and decide whether they want to learn or not. We wouldn’t dare refrain from teaching our children the danger of running into the street and touching a hot stove. How much more then should we be guiding our children into eternal truth for their eternal good? (more…)

Robert Rayburn states at his Church’s website:

“We do not practice paedocommunion here at Faith Presbyterian. We get as close to it as we can, the rules of our church being what they are, but a profession of faith is still required in the PCA for participation at the Lord’s Table. So, we take professions of faith much sooner than used to be the norm; and, happily, many, many other PCA churches are doing the same. And that is alright. If it takes some years, as it will, to convince the church that the practice of many centuries is in error, so be it. Our little children, having come to the table at five years of age or so, will not remember a time when they did not come, of a Lord’s Day, to eat the bread and drink the wine that Jesus Christ their Savior has provided for them by his body and blood. And in its own mysterious way, that Supper will, by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, do its work in nourishing their faith in Jesus Christ.”

The irony in all of this is that I serve a “baptist” Church where we would be willing to baptize someone as young as 5. In fact, my daughter was recently baptized at the age of 5. She is a full communicant member of Christ’s Church and entitled to the Supper as a believing member of His Body. While Kira is still my daughter and I have a huge role in nurturing her faith, as do all Covenant parents towards their children, we gather as fellow believers in one household on the Lord’s Day. Yes, there are many household(S) gathered, and yes, God speaks to the Church in respect to our gender and roles, but we receive the Supper as ONE Body. This is why all believers should be served the same portion and in the same manner.

Anyhow, Kira (my daughter) receives the Supper because she herself is a believing Covenant member. She does not receive it because she is born to Covenant parents…she herself is a member who is also accountable to the elders in our Church. I, as her father, am not allowed to use my own discretion from Supper to Supper on whether she is worthy. I can’t unilaterally withhold the elements from her. I would have to bring any concerns I have before the elders. So Kira is still in the jurisdiction of the home, under my care, but she is also individually accountable to the elders as a believing member.

Anyhow, there is some irony in that our kids can potentially be communed as early as the children in Robert Rayburn’s Church. Of greater irony is the fact that children can potentially become baptized communicant members in our “baptist” Church earlier than in most all “Reformed” Churches. It is somewhat comical that I find myself telling paedo-communion folks who visit our Church that there wait in our fellowship would be shorter than in the local “Reformed” churches (go figure), with the exception of one local CREC body. We’re closer to paedo-communion at age 5 than some of the Reformed bodies that are closer to 15 for full communicant status.

I’ll shelf this entry under the category, “The Mysterious World of American Evangelicalism”. I think it fits there 🙂