Paedocommunion Answered

By Cornel Venema. He has a book forthcoming at RHB. To whet your appetite here’s an interview with the Christ the Center guys.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Scott,
    I shall have to listen to this. More so, since I have an M.Th student writing a dissertation on this subject. I’ve always thought that paedocommunion was the logical consequence of paedobaptism, otherwise one has succumbed to the baptist view of the church as exclusively comprising the regenerate. I think some traditions (Anglican and Methodist) have paedocommunion entirely apart from the FV framework.

    • He’s got a book coming out from RHB in March or April.

      Funny, it always seemed to me that paedocommunion is essentially a Baptist mistake (in the States, most paedocommunionists are ex-Baptists who still think like Baptists) since paedocommunion makes both sacraments do the same thing. This is what the Baptists do. In their system Baptism is the sign of renewal and initiation. When they adopt paedobaptism they carry the same thinking with them and they try to smush the sacraments together from the other side making the supper the sign of initiation.

      The classical Reformed writers weren’t stupid (they knew about paedocommunion) or inconsistent. It’s just that they weren’t Baptists! They recognized that Baptism is the sign of initiation into the visible community and the supper is the sign of covenant renewal. Petrus van Mastricht called Baptism the sacrament of initiation (this is typical 16th and 17th-century Reformed language) and they supper the “sacrament of nutrition.” Yes, I know, infants and children need to be “nourished” and they are, in the preaching of the Word.

      • It is instructive to distinguish between covenant initiation and renewal. It does not necessarily follow that covenant children are barred from covenant renewal. The Baptist error of denying covenant initiation where due does not warrant the error of denying covenant renewal where due. Denying covenant renewal where due is a similar error to the Baptist error. Allowing covenant renewal where due is opposite to the Baptist error regarding covenant initiation.

  2. Scott,

    Our little congregation has it’s share of difficulties but thankfully, so far, this hasn’t been one of them.

    I listened to the podcast earlier today so I was pleased to see this post. The entire discussion is very beneficial but one of the things I found interesting was at the very end of the interview when Dr. Venema answered a question regarding the ordination of someone who takes an exception to the confession on the point of paedocommunion. I thought that, in light of your treatment in RRC of how ministers and officers in the church subscribe to the confessions (quia vs. quatenus), this was a good example of subscription in the context of this particular issue. Dr. Venema admits that he hasn’t given much thought to the question of a ministerial candidate taking exception on this point, but he does verbalize the need for a high view of the corporate nature of the churches & confessional subscription. He suggests that if, for matters of conscience, a minister takes a differing position but is willing to remain quiescent to the judgments of the broader assembly and the confession without advocating a different view, that is more acceptable than someone who is pushing an opinion contrary to one held by the churches in a particular denomination. This approach doesn’t force another’s conscience. And it also requires a humility and fraternal submission on the part of the minister-in-question.

    I can see how it could become a slippery slope and an entry for diverse and competing views but it is also important to be able to have honest discussion without compromising conscience or subscription. At any rate, I thought that particular point was a nice way to cap off a very fruitful discussion and one which, it seems, will need to be addressed increasingly by elders in the churches. I think this is especially true as evangelicals (whose roots I share) who mostly come from Baptistic backgrounds move toward being reformed and are innitiated into covenant theology and paedobaptism. There is a need to patiently engage the tradition and understand the full-orbed continuity/discontinuity nuances which have been addressed for centuries through the reformed confessions.

    • I haven’t finished listening to the interview yet, but my first reaction is to turn to the minutes of Synod 2005:

      “The confessions to which the URCNA subscribe (the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort) accurately summarize the teaching of scripture in, for example, 1 Cor 11.24-25; 28. Thus our confessions, in harmony with the scripture, require that the Lord’s Supper be administered only to those who have publicly professed their faith, in the presence of God and His holy church.”


      1. The validity of this statement

      a. In the Three Forms of Unity (particularly the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism), we confess the purpose, participants, and manner of partaking of the Lord’s Supper in such a way as to make clear that a personal and understanding faith is a prerequisite for coming to the Table of the Lord (BC, Articles 33, 35; HC, Lord’s Days 25, 28, and 30).

      b. For the purpose of consistorial supervision of the Lord’s supper the church order applies our confessions by stipulating that those who partake must first express their faith via a public profession Church Order 43-45).

      2. The value of adopting this statement

      a. A central point of debate over paedo-communion is whether the Confessions provide a definite standard on this issue.

      b. Because this issue concerns the churches at large, it should be addressed by the collective wisdom of the federation’s broadest assembly.

      c. The adoption of a statement clarifying this matter would uphold the Confessional basis for our Profession of Faith, thereby promoting unity in truth among the churches.

      My concern about ordaining a paedocommunionist is that he demonstrates, in my view, significant confusion about the nature of the sacraments.

      Second, paedocommunion, in my experience, never comes alone. Why does the candidate hold PC? Is he a federal visionist? Is he on his way to Greek Orthodoxy? Why would we want to ordain a man as a candidate for ministry in our churches who holds views that are at variance with our confession? What’s the point? If a fellow wishes to teach PC let him go to Moscow.

      Maybe there are good reasons for being tolerant on this, but I don’t know what they are. We were tolerant of the Shepherdites for a long time and look where that got us.

      If we have a statement on creation in the URCNA, to which we hold our candidates, surely we can expect them to hold our view on Holy Communion! The latter is more of the essence of being Reformed than the former and yet we adopted a statement at Synod Escondido which is now binding. If we can bind consciences on the language one may use in the URCs on creation, why not on the Supper?

  3. Good points. I wasn’t really advocating toerance on this issue. I thought Dr. Venema’s comments were good launching points for discussion on the subscription issue. And I guess that’s why I said it could be a slippery slope (or a recipe for disaster.)

    It’s one thing to have a congregant hold this view and pastorally bring them along to the orthodox reformed position and another, altogether, to have a minister hold it. Especially since, as you point out, holding to paedocommunion doesn’t come in a vacuum.

    Thanks for the Synod 2005 statement. That’s pretty clear and demonstrates the necessity of ecclesiastical unity to preserve the gospel within our churches.

  4. Dr. Clark,

    Thanks for this. It’s interesting to note as well that when the Lord Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He and His apostles were celebrating the Passover. And yet they were not celebrating it with their families which is what to be expected if the paedocommunionist’s argument is true! There were only thirteen of them in the room. Either the Lord Jesus was disobedient here or He was doing something that has been normative for God’s covenant people since they left the land of Egypt. The first option obviously cannot be true.

  5. Scott, I read John Murray on “Christian Baptism” and I couldn’t understand what he was saying on this. Was he merely exploring the idea of paedocommunion before dismissing it, or was he genuinely considering the possibility of Reformed churches practising it?

  6. Scott,

    Thanks for the heads up. I’m delighted that Dr. Venema is writing this book both because of his skill as an exegete and also because he is so clear as a writer (both his style and his careful argumentation).

    With respect to the issue of subscription, we in the OPC have normally allowed Ministers to take an exception on the question of paedo-communion (it was actually the majority report from one of our study committees!), and to the best of my knowledge this has not caused any significant problems. I would be cautious about being too quick to link paedo-communion with the Federal-Vision, since we had advocates for the former before anyone heard of the later (e.g. To the best of my knowledge, G.I. Williamson, one of the authors of the OPC report recommending paedo-communion, is no fan of the Federal Vision).


Comments are closed.