Most recently added: Venema On Covenant Radio: A Brief Response to An Interview on Paedocommunion, by Tim Gallant. Added April 30, 2009.
What is Paedocommunion?
Paedocommunion is the practice of giving the Lord's Supper to baptized children, even apart from a coming-of-age ritual such as confirmation or profession of faith.
Paedocommunion was the universal practice of the Church until the late medieval period (c. 1200). It is attested at least as far back as Cyprian (c. 250), and is witnessed throughout the centuries following (e.g. in Augustine, Leo the Great, etc.). [For a "Catena of Quotations" from the Early Church, click here.]
Articles of Note
History of Paedocommunion, by Tommy Lee. Numerous citations of original sources in the Early Church illustrate paedocommunion's venerable history.
You and Your Son and Daughter, by Mark Horne. Discusses the implications of the inclusion of children in the old covenant's sacramental and communal meals.
Examination and Remembrance, by Tim Gallant. Sets forth the 1 Corinthians 11 themes of "remembrance" and "self-examination" in their biblical context.
Nonetheless, the practice dropped off in the Western Church. This was due to a combination of factors (such as superstition regarding the sacramental elements, and the view of the bishop as the conveyer of the Holy Spirit, so that confirmation could not be conducted by a mere priest at baptism, but had to be accomplished by the bishop). (For more, see Lee's article, linked at right.)
Biblically, paedocommunion is supported by the status of children within the covenant. Even as God counted Abraham's offspring as His own, and therefore required that they be circumcised (Gen. 17), so too Jesus assumes a priestly role in relation to the children of new covenant believers, and calls them the heirs of the kingdom (Matt. 19:13-14).
What is perhaps most surprising is that many (indeed most) who hold to infant baptism nonetheless reject paedocommunion. They suggest a cleavage between the two sacraments. Biblically speaking, however, the two sacraments are tied together very closely. Baptism incorporates one into Christ and His Church (1 Cor. 12:13). Meanwhile, the Lord's Supper is precisely the meal of the Church. The Church is the one body together precisely because it partakes of the one bread together (1 Cor. 10:16-17).
Consequently, just as the children of the old covenant were admitted to the sacramental communal meals of the OT (such as Passover), so too the children of the new covenant belong at the table of the Lord. This is the position of a growing number of Presbyterian and Reformed scholars and pastors, who are recognizing the profound biblical foundation that underlay the historic practice of paedocommunion.
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