Friday, December 30, 2011
Book Review - Children and the Lord's Supper
Children and the Lord's Supper is a collection of essays addressing the issue of (as you can probably guess) children's participation in the Lord's Supper. Specifically, the book provides a critical assessment of the doctrine of paedocommunion, defined as "the admittance of a covenant child to the Lord's Supper on the basis of his descent from at least one professing Christian parent." Edited by Guy Waters and Ligon Duncan, Children and the Lord's Supper offers both a rebuttal to pro-paedocommunion arguments as well as a defense of the historic Reformed position that covenant children should be admitted to the Lord's Table only after providing a credible profession of faith. The collected essays address the topic from Biblical, theological, historical and pastoral standpoints.
The book is released under the Mentor imprint of Christian Focus Publications, indicating that its intended audience includes pastors, seminary students, and other serious readers. The book would also be most appropriate for those examining the issues from within the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions, as the historic Reformed confessions form a starting point for much of the book's arguments. The book's contributors include a number of respected Reformed authors, including Derek Thomas, Joel Beeke and Cornelis Venema (in addition to Waters and Duncan). The collected essays address topics including the nature of the link between the Lord's Supper and the Passover, the application of the critical "self-examination" passage in 1 Corinthians 11, an examination of relevant portions of the Reformed Confessions and liturgies, and a survey of historical evidence for the practice of paedocommunion in the Patristic era.
I would recommend Children and the Lord's Supper to anyone looking for a succinct defense of the traditional Reformed view on admission of children to the Lord's Supper. Those outside the Reformed tradition will also benefit from reading the book, particularly the essays on the Passover, 1 Corinthians 11, and the history of the practice in the early church. For non-Reformed readers, the essays dealing largely with the confessions and Reformed liturgy may be interesting but not as helpful in evaluating the practice of paedocommunion. (Admittedly, I have not read much in the way of pro-paedocommunion literature, especially the works critiqued in this collection, so I will have to defer to others to indicate whether the pro side has been fairly represented.)
Personally, the issue of children and the Supper is one I have not firmly settled in my own mind, and instead of settling the matter, Children and the Lord's Supper gave me further food for thought. I am a member of a Presbyterian church, so I do hold the Reformed confessions in high esteem. Yet they aren't infallible, so I would have appreciated if the book had spent more time examining the relevant Biblical texts than it did. I also found the historical survey most interesting, as it pointed to a diversity of practice in the early church. Perhaps this points toward a way forward on the issue of children and communion? Either way, the book provides a great starting point to a conversation on an important topic, and I look forward to hearing the other side present their case.
(Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for writing a review. I was under no compulsion to provide a positive review.)