The Christian life is pedagogical. From infancy this is much more primary but it is just as true of an adult coming to faith and beginning the journey. So, Christian parents raise their children in the Christian faith by teaching them the rituals of biblical faith. Only a reformed and presbyterian position makes sense of all of this however. This is the case because only the reformed position of the Bible’s view of sin, man, covenant, and the sacraments are consistent and so the covenant child is taught the truths of scripture as a disciple. A child of a non-reformed family cannot be a disciple until faith is professed but will be raised as a disciple nonetheless. Both families want their child to benefit from the communication of grace and both begin to do this as the child grows from infancy. Participation in the life of the church avails direction and tutelage for all; however, in both Baptist and Presbyterian circles they limit the participation in grace found in bread and the wine. They do this because they believe this rite is only a right of the mature. It is the purpose of this essay to argue that all of the Church’s rituals (regardless of age) belong to each and every one of God’s people and as such are of great benefit for those who have been baptised into the Name.
Jesus had a very, very strong reaction to his closest disciples who forcefully kept children from bothering their Master. He rebuked them severely and warned them not to keep the little ones from touching him, or being with him. This is the same reaction he would have today were he to see his pastors directly keeping children away from the table of bread and wine: “Do not hinder them from coming to me.”
There is no need to use time and space to argue or show how profitable it is to teach a child how to pray or sing, or worship God. Lessons learned in one’s infancy, toddledom, elementary years, and further on are always done with an eye to the future. That is, while the lessons learned will not always be fully understood and practiced well in youth, the expectation is that a person will grow in his ability to live out the things learned. And this is deemed most natural and matter of course. “Of course, Johnny will know more as he matures and grows up. We are planting seeds that will come to fruit much later.” All of this is Gospel centered which is to say, the truths of scripture that exalt Jesus as King and Saviour of his people are at the center of these instructions.
What is learned when a child learns to pray? He learns the Gospel. He learns of sin, and death, and God’s wrath and mercy. What happens when a child is taught to hymn to God? He learns the Gospel and how to sing prayers to God. What happens when a child (or adult for that matter) learns to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear his word preached? He learns the Gospel. The reader knows where this is going. When a child is kept from the table of Jesus, from what is he kept? He is kept from the Gospel which was freely given to him in his baptism.
Consistency demands that children who are not allowed to the table until a mature confession before men is made would not be allowed to participate in any of the rituals of the church. Indeed, his (latent) theology demands it. His active covenant theology opposes it, and, so, this makes him the foil of a good Baptist. But he doesn’t live this way. He lives contrary to his theology and so is as un-reformed as his Baptist brethren. This is so, because from a non-reformed position salvation is always cognitive. A person must have a certain understanding of x before y and z can be done. How much must a child understand in order to pray? Almost nothing. If anything, teaching a child to pray is the precursor to eating at the table: it’s all do as I say aping. The child apes his parent in prayer without really understanding what is going on. If the parent eats, but not the child, the child should then conclude, “Then why pray? If I am good enough for the one, then why am I not allowed the other?”
Here is the irony: the Baptist acts like a Presbyterian by teaching his child to worship before he is converted. The Baptist has no theology to teach him this, so he borrows from the Presbyterian. Therefore, a non-reformed parent who teaches his two year old how to repent and ask God for forgiveness (before he is “saved”) is actually acting like a reformed believer all-the-while denying the power thereof. However, the Presbyterian acts like a Baptist by requiring his child to jump through a hoop Jesus isn’t even holding.
Children ape their parents. A parent who sings has a child who sings. A parent who prays has a child who prays. A parent who celebrates the supper… The child instinctively apes his parent and this is the way God orchestrated it. But when the plate comes around with food and drink and the child reaches for it because that is what Mom and Dad are doing, he is barred. This places a disconnect in the social dynamic. Do I belong or don’t I? The sin of unintended consequence it this: that which the child naturally does and wants (which is to belong) begins to change and diminish. He eagerly, joyously wanted to participate but soon he stops reaching to belong because he has been shown that he does not. This results in now having to argue and persuade her to want to participate at a later point in life. What used to be natural has now become a battlefield of faith.
The benefit of communion is this: eating is belonging. What Jesus began in baptism, he maintains in communion. Paedobaptism introduces the child into the life of faith and he is tutored all along the way. Paedocommunion as much as baptism means the same thing for adult as child: eating is believing; eating is belonging.