Paedocommunion vs. the Church, & the Gospel: Part I


When a paedocommunionist tells his fellow paedobaptists that the Bible trumps tradition, he has shot himself in the foot.

Peter Leithart recently published a paper entitled “Paedocommunion, the Church, & the Gospel.” As always, he is worth engaging with. The problem I have with doing so is that his arguments are sound but his fundamental assumptions are not. This means that the house which he builds is constructed with great wisdom but is also, unfortunately, located on the sand of the sea. Not only is the tide coming in, but there is also a Jonahic storm on the horizon.

Baptists and paedobaptists have rational, logical objections to the opposing position. In such protracted debates, the answer is usually a third way. I believe that third way is inherent in the biblical theology of James B. Jordan. However, this third way requires a paradigm shift at a fundamental level, and pulls the rug from underneath his entire ecclesiology and sacramentology. So far, my friends seem unable to think outside of their current paradigm, so instead of actually dealing with my position, discussion gravitates back to the same old obsolete chestnuts. They do not seem to be able to free their minds from obsolete Old Covenant definitions and demarcations even for a moment. This is a pity, because many other people do. The Theopolis crowd themselves have worked out the solution to the age-old debate but strangely it remains incomprehensible to them.

So, although “Bully’s baptism” as a doctrine begins in Genesis 3 and cuts paedosacraments off at the root, I present some responses here to Peter’s paper. As with Jordan’s lectures on the subject, Leithart begins with the assumption of paedobaptism, so this paper is really an intramural debate. The sad truth is that the actual solution to the problem is not apparent to either side because the problem is paedobaptism itself, that erroneous thing that they are unwilling to question. There is an Old Covenant corpse in their Sanctuary and they are arguing over whether they should open the windows or use air freshener to deal with the nauseating smell. I find this extremely frustrating. The answer is quite simple. Get rid of the corpse. But they like the corpse, so this intramural disagreement merely concerns how much of this cadaver should be in the Sanctuary. Instead of refusing to play sacramental Weekend at Bernie’s any more, the Theopolis gents double down and become more consistent, but also more consistently wrong.

My responses are indented.


Paedocommunion, the Church, & the Gospel

Peter J. Leithart


Should young children receive the Lord’s Supper? Should we practice paedo-communion?

Before we address the question of paedocommunion, we must specify both what the question is and what sort of question it is. First, what is the question of paedocommunion? It is not in essence a question about the age of admission to the Lord’s table. Some who do not adopt the paedocommunion position would admit toddlers as young as a year-and-a-half. If, hypothetically, some means were invented to gauge the level of “discernment” in infants, and children who registered a “6” were admitted to the table, that practice still would not constitute paedocommunion. Nor is it a question about force-feeding bread and wine to newborns; though some churches give the elements to newly baptized infants, no Reformed advocate of paedocommunion, to my knowledge, has argued for this practice. Most Reformed theologians are content to wait until the child is able to eat solid food before he begins to participate in the Supper.

The specific practical question is, “Does baptism initiate the baptized to the Lord’s table, so that all who are baptized have a right to the meal?” Paedocommunion advocates, for all their differences, will answer in the affirmative. Nothing more than the rite of water baptism is required for a person to have access to the Lord’s table. Opponents of paedocommunion will answer in the negative. Something more is required—some level of understanding, some degree of spiritual discernment, some sort of conversion experience, and some means for the church to assess these attainments.

Leithart is correct about the age question. We are not given any guidance by the New Testament, since no cases of baptism of children raised in the church are recorded for us (although the example of Timothy is certainly related). However, despite Leithart’s understandable desire to reunite the sacraments, the very fact that infants can be sprinkled but not eat solid food presents a problem. In Israel, infant males (along with adult males) could be circumcised, whether conscious of what was happening or not. But infants could not eat the Passover. Many paedobaptists understand that participation in a meal implies that one is on the same page—in fellowship with—Christ. That is why they have divorced the sacraments from each other. Leithart is willing to redefine everything in order to marry them again, but it is not a marriage made in heaven.

The real question here is one that Leithart, in this intramural discussion, does not deal with, because it is outside of the arbitrary walls of his paper. This question is why was baptism divorced from “some level of understanding, some degree of spiritual discernment, some sort of conversion experience, and some means for the church to assess these attainments” in the first place? We can argue over the actual practice of assessment, but the examples we are given in the New Testament all include the desire to be baptized. This is why some paedobaptistic denominations invented “confirmation.” They had enough horse sense to realize that sprinkling a baby might be a “conversion” in a cultural sense, a fence around the kindergarten playground, but that God requires each of us to make Christ our own. When an infant who only made a “vow-by-proxy” comes of age and turns out not to be a Christian at all, the only hold over such a person is a parental one. One could say “Tarry Jew! The Law of Moses hath yet a hold on you” to an Israelite child, but a sprinkled teenager can simply tell his or her parents to get lost. That is where this shell game that paedobaptists play falls apart. Since paedobaptism is somehow “everything” (it divides flesh like circumcision yet is not circumcision, it is salvation yet only a promise of salvation, and it is obviously hereditary but somehow not “Judaistic”) despite the fact that its various assumed characteristics are as self-contradictory as intersectional identity politics, it cannot be questioned.

“Nothing more than the rite of water baptism is required for a person to have access to the Lord’s table.” Leithart himself does not believe this. For a person to be baptized, there has to be some familial link, or the authority of guardianship. Paul referred to all such natural ties as dung, since they were now obsolete. Even worse, although paedobaptists claim that not allowing children to partake in baptism or the table is “exclusive,” what they are doing by wrongly assuming that baptism puts one “into” the covenant instead of “into” the priesthood is excluding everybody else on the planet from the promises of the New Covenant. This is a very serious error, and it is based on some fundamental misunderstandings of what Jesus actually accomplished in His death and resurrection. He did not simply give the old order a bit of a wash and establish a new carnal divide. He took the old order to the grave and left it there. Leithart’s carnal (hereditary, familial, tribal) sacraments are a corpse in the Sanctuary.

Second, and more fundamentally, what sort of question is this? If it is merely a question about the admission requirements to the church’s ritual meal, then the question may be answered by straightforwardly applying a rule. If we narrowly focus on the question of who partakes when, we could admit children without adjusting any other doctrines or practices of the church. If it is only a matter of adding a few names to the guest list, then why is paedocommunion so stridently opposed by some within the Reformed world?

Leithart assumes that the church’s ritual meal is akin to the Passover. If that were the case, then I would agree with him. But the Jew-Gentile bipolarity was not replaced with a carnal cultural division between Christian families and non-Christian families. Jesus slew the Passover by fulfilling it and removing the demarcation of flesh. The “ritual meal” of the church is not the table of the households of men but the table of God. Only qualified legal representatives ever ate at God’s table (which is the entire point of Genesis 3) and yet Leithart is arguing that infants should be able to eat with God. This fact is the very reason why the establishment of the Levitical priesthood was required, yet Leithart is content to conflate the festal meals of national Israel (which are finished) with the “round table” that Jesus instituted for His royal priesthood. God took the Levites as legal representatives on behalf of Israel’s firstborn for this purpose. Even before the priesthood was established, it was only qualified legal representatives who dined on the mountain with Yahweh in Exodus 24. So far there has been no satisfactory response to this objection. Paedobaptists laugh at the ignorance of baptists concerning covenant theology (and rightly so), yet it turns out that they are only seeing what they are looking for. Both the New and the Old Testaments cut their covenantal theories to pieces.

Paedocommunion is not only about admission requirements narrowly considered, but, like paedobaptism, is linked with a whole range of theological and liturgical issues. It is not only about the nature of the Supper, but also about the church, baptism, and, most broadly, the character of the salvation that Christ has achieved in the world. The gospel is not directly at stake in the paedocommunion debate. Opponents of paedocommunion honestly and sincerely proclaim the gospel of grace, and I am grateful to God that they do. Still, the ecclesial and theological shape that the gospel takes correlates significantly with positions on paedocommunion, and the coherence between the gospel and the church’s practice is at the heart of this debate. The stakes are not so high as they were when Luther protested indulgences and the myriad idolatries of the late medieval church. But the stakesare high, very high.

Once again, the problem here is deeper than the limited arena of discussion that Leithart has set up. What does he mean by “admission requirements”?  The point of the removal of the Jew-Gentile divide was that access is no longer limited to those who “join the tribe.” It is open to everybody. This was prefigured in the feasts that were open to believing Gentiles. God always works through a mediatory architecture but unfortunately Leithart does not know what level he is on. Baptism is not about access in the way that circumcision was about access. Baptism is about access in the way that investiture as a priestly mediator was about access. To put it another way, baptism is not merely about those who have been “mediated for.” It is about those who have been mediated for who are willing to take a public vow to “pay it forward” and become mediators for others. The Sons of God are “peacemakers” who reconcile people to God. This also relates to the fundamental difference between Passover and the Lord’s table. Jesus and His disciples ate the lamb, whose death “mediated” for them before God. But in the Last Supper, Jesus transformed His disciples into human lambs, living sacrifices. Leithart’s conflation of Abraham (objective obligation) with Moses (voluntary service) means that he has not got the foggiest idea what the sacraments are for or what they actually do. They are vehicles of personal testimony, legal witness. Just as the Sermon on the Mount described the heart response of those who heard the “objective” Law, so the rites of the church are for those who respond to the Gospel. Does God love children? Yes. That is why He puts them in the care of trustworthy, accountable people. Baptism is for such people—those who have submitted publicly to the authorithy of Christ and His church and are therefore personally accountable to Christ and His church, and subject to church discipline. Baptism is not about being under authority and within the scope of God’s promises. Jesus did that for everybody on the planet at the cross. But still, here is this two millennia old Herodian corpse on Leithart’s altar, trotted out from the whited sepulcher of his obsolete Abrahamic covenant theology and propped up for some sacramental theater that claims to do what Jesus has already finished.

At the risk of oversimplification (and provocation), I will briefly pose the options on these wider issues:

Is the Supper an ordinance of the church (paedocommunion), or is it an ordinance for some segment of the church (antipaedocommunion)?

Because Leithart has conflated the priestly role of national Israel with the priesthood of the Aaronic line, he mistakes the division of roles within the New Testament assembly for a division of the church. There were divisions of roles within Israel. Again, look at Exodus 24. These demarcations were transformed, certainly, but the boundary around the outside of Israel was entirely destroyed at the cross. The obligation to Christ, and access to His promise, is global, thus paedobaptism is entirely redundant. Yet both baptists and paedobaptists somehow came up with the erroneous idea that baptism is the “boundary” of the covenant. There was no such boundary before the circumcision (all were accountable to God before the circumcision, for blessing or cursing) and all are accountable once again. I repeat, Exodus 24 institutes a “staff uniform” for legal representatives within the church—yes, a segment of the church. It does so without dividing the church. Leithart’s conflation of the boundary of the realm with the staff uniform is a huge problem. Even worse, denying a rite of investiture to the members of the New Covenant “priesthood of all believers” means that the “segment” that Leithart happily maintains is one of a robed clerical class, that wretched Aaronic corpse dressed up as though it is alive. And the actual rite of “royal priesthood” is denied to qualified saints. So, Leithart wears a robe (a figleaves substitute for baptism—I suspect that paedobaptists at some level know that they are liturgically naked before God), and the babies are sprinkled, but NOBODY in the entire congregation is actually baptized for service. This, I believe, is a terrible robbery. Even Israelite adults were given special robes of office in the book of Numbers, based on their personal vows to keep the Law of Moses. Leithart wants all the babies robed for office because he conflates blood with water.

Is the church the family of God simpliciter (paedocommunion), or is the church divided between those who are full members of the family and those who are partial members or strangers (antipaedocommunion)?

The problem here is that paedobaptists think that because somebody is a member of a human Chistian family, that automatically makes them a member of God’s family. But earthly fathers are only types of the Heavenly Father, just as circumcision of flesh was an object lesson concerning circumcision of heart. The Bible never conflates them, ever, yet Leithart does so with impunity. Jesus’s baptism made Abraham and his “stepfather” Joseph obsolete. The church is not divided, but all believing adults are “guarding cherubim.”

The answer to the question is that nobody is a stranger at church. It is open to all. But the sacraments are for the “staff,” the “ev-angelic” witnesses/administrators of the New Covenant. There were still various leadership roles within the church, but baptism is akin to the Nazirite vow, for “both men and women” who did not necessarily serve in the Sanctuary but who vowed to serve as an extension of the Sanctuary in “holy war.” Such a vow is always a voluntary act of faith. Surely this is what the church actually needs, but it has been usurped through the infantilizing of the sacraments as avenues of access rather than testimonies of self-sacrifice. When Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 13, “that which is perfect,” he means that which is full grown or mature. The sacraments are for the beginning of spiritual maturity and the holding of the prophetic office of the New Covenant “body.”

Did Jesus die and rise again to form a new Israel (paedocommunion), or did He die and rise again to form a community with a quite different make-up from Israel (antipaedocommunion)?

The nation of Israel was not set apart from the other nations by baptism but by circumcision. However, and this is key, the nation, when “full grown,” was set apart by baptism for service when it was mature. This was only possible as a nation, since Israel was baptized “into Moses.” So much for the type. The prefigurement of the antitype was the washing of the animal sacrifices and the individual members of the priesthood. So, again, the issue here is Leithart’s failure to understand the priesthood as an “Israel within Israel.” God works in fractals. The “blood boundary” of circumcision was dissolved so that “all bloods” are now included. There is no “hereditary membership.” All that remains is a community of priest-kings, a royal priesthood similar to that before the flood, but now including every faithful “Adam” and every faithful “Eve”—“both men and women.”

Also related to this is the utter failure to understand that the New Covenant sacraments pertain to faithful obedience in the Garden (Adam and Eve) but circumcision pertained to the subsequent cursing or blessing in the Land (the fruit of the Land and womb, Genesis 3 and Genesis 15). Presbyterians claim that their covenant theology supports the practice of one or two paedosacraments but it turns out that they do not even know the difference between the Covenant Oath (voluntary submission to heaven) and the Covenant Sanctions (God-given continuity and dominion upon the earth). Their own theology contradicts their sacraments.

So, what is the “new Israel” like? It is a resurrection body. The old Israel was “natural,” pertaining to the offering of raw flesh upon the Bronze Altar, which pictured the Land. The new Israel is “spiritual,” a body of elders whose faithful works are the fragrant offering upon the Golden Altar of Incense, the domain of “elders” who pray for, mediate for, the nations. These distinctions remain in our worship today, just as they existed in Israel. God works through mediators because He is triune. Paedosacraments are not triune. Like Cain, and Israel, they seize dominion before God’s time. Worse, they correspond precisely to the biblical definition of magic, or sorcery, which is the practice of attempting to obtain the blessings of God without prior obedience to God. I learned all this from paedobaptists, who somehow fail to make any of these “architectural” correspondences to the New Covenant rites.

Was this “more spiritual” Israel prefigured in the Old Testament? Yes. The nature of the nation after the exile was a sort of “halfway house” to the New Covenant, although it maintained the circumcison and the Law. Another example is the “school of the prophets” within Israel. The “members” of Christ’s body are all prophets. That obviously requires “some level of understanding, some degree of spiritual discernment, some sort of conversion experience, and some means for the church to assess these attainments.”

Did Jesus die and rise again to form the new human race (paedocommunion), or did He die and rise again to form a fellowship of the spiritually mature (antipaedocommunion)?

Did Jesus die and rise again to merely clean up and reinstitute the Jew-Gentile bipolarity, but making “New Covenant Jews” out of believing Jews and Gentiles, and “New Covenant Gentiles” out of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles? God forbid! “When faith came” the cultural separation became obsolete. There were Jewish believers and Jewish non-believers. This was with regard to personal faith. But there were also Gentile believers and Gentile non-believers. The Gospel gathered the believers from both of these carnal demarcations and destroyed them! That is why Paul says that both circumcision and uncircumcision became nothing. Likewise, paedobaptism and unpaedobaptism are nothing. Paedobaptism, as a devilish conflation of the natural and the spiritual, is nothing but circumcision in disguise.

So, “did He die and rise again to form a fellowship of the spiritually mature”? Yes. Most certainly. Unless you want to redefine what “fellowship” actually means, and it seems to me that paedocommunionists are willing to redefine everything that Christians hold dear in order to cling to their “household god.”

Does baptism admit the baptized into the covenant or symbolize his prior inclusion in the covenant (paedocommunion), or does baptism merely express a hope that the baptized one day will enter the covenant in some other fashion (antipaedocommunion)?

Everyone is already in the New Covenant, because Jesus’ rule is global. Once again, paedobaptists who major on covenant theology have utterly failed to think this through. If people are not in the covenant, they are not subject to sanctions of the covenant, either positive (blessings) or negative (curses). If everyone on the planet is not “in” the covenant (that is, under Jesus’ rule), then He cannot judge them. The “hear O Israel” was a limited obligation. The Gospel is not a limited obligation in any way. To claim that there is some kind of “Abrahamic fence” that still exists around a tribal body is anti-Christian. The “spiritual body” is not a cell, as natural Israel was. The church is a virus, one that does not retain the old demarcations but acts to indwell and transform them. To claim that the “new Israel” is tribal in some way is anti-Gospel.

Does the covenant have an inherently historical/institutional character (paedocommunion), or is it an invisible reality (antipaedocommunion)?

This is a false dichotomy resulting from a failure to comprehend the triune nature of reality. Genesis 1, 2, and 3 describe respectively the establishment of the physical world, the social order, and Man’s ethical responsibility. Father, Son, Spirit. To set the physical, social, and spiritual in conflict inevitably results in universalism, tribalism, or gnosticism. Covenant history itself then worked from the physical-global (Adam to Noah), to the social (the circumcision), to the ethical (Jesus’ complete obedience), and the same pattern is also at work in various ways within these eras.

But what everybody seems to miss is that, just as Genesis 3-5 work outwards again from the ethical failure of Adam to the social (Abel and Cain) and physical (the Flood) consequences, the entirety of human history does the same. Old Israel was a visible body with a spiritual goal—salvation. The church is a spiritual body with a visible goal—testimony to the nations. History is thus chiastic. So Leithart’s push to regard the church as a “visible” body is putting the cart before the horse. The kingdom of God begins with circumcision of heart through the hearing of the Gospel. Not only this, but the indwelling of the invisible Spirit in visible flesh is known through audible testimony. And the sacraments are all about testimony. The Apostolic Church turned not only the world upside down, but also turned the rites of the covenant right side up. Leithart is still living in the upside down. What he proposes is well-meaning but doomed to failure. “Making babies into Christians” through “magic”—a tribal or civic demarcation— is what led to the demise of Christendom 1.0. The church must be priestly before it is kingly. That was the case in Eden, in Israel, and in all covenant history. Paedobaptism is seizing kingdom before God’s time. It is the primeval sin imported into the New Covenant Sanctuary. Adam offered those who were still in his loins upon the altar of kingdom. So do paedobaptists. The altar of Christ is for living sacrifices. At worst, paedosacraments offer their children in a twist on Baalism. At best, it is an over-realized eschatology.

Does grace restore nature (paedocommunion), or does grace cancel our nature or elevate beyond nature (antipaedocommunion)?

This is a good question. But Leithart wants “supernatural” babies, and this is simply not the way God made the world. Adam was to be a child before heaven before God could make him a “mighty man” on the earth. Submission before dominion. Leithart knows that the natural precedes the supernatural, but he fails to understand that the supernatural is “office.” Adam and Eve should have been clothed with white robes as rulers of the kingdom of God on earth, but instead were given animal skins as reminders that, a failed king and queen, God Himself had humbled Himself to act as their priest. So Leithart’s conundrum vanishes like the “mist” in Ecclesiastes once the sacraments are understood as symbols of voluntary office. Immersion is the voluntary laying down of one’s life as a sacrifice for others. It is not only a “receiving” but also a “paying forward.” That is how God always works. Paedosacraments, like ancient Israel, are all “gimme” and no “freely give.” The ecclesiology is self-centered and parochial. If baptism is indeed the “staff uniform,” the New Covenant parish is “out there.”

Moreover, this natural-spiritual process runs right through the Old Testament. Esau was a Jew but Jacob was a “true Jew.” Esau was the natural man. Jacob was the “blameless” spiritual man. That is why Esau’s characteristics corresponded to the Bronze Altar of blood, and Jacob, the man of the tents, corresponded to the fragrant Altar of Incense. Thus, God invested him with authority and dominion. If baptism had existed then, Jacob would have been the baptized one. The sacraments are not about natural “roots” but about spiritual “fruits.” Leithart is fixated on the earthy but wants it to be heavenly. He needs to study trees. This is also why the Gentile believers were grafted into God’s priesthood as “fruitful branches,” instead of at ground level. Covenant history itself moved from roots to fruits. Leithart insists on conflating roots and fruits.

Does faith require conscious and articulable belief (antipaedocommunion) or is faith something of which infants are capable (paedocommunion)?

This is an interesting question, and both baptists and paedobaptists, as mentioned, have understandable objections. But both are wrong. On the one hand, we have paedocommunionists such as Leithart telling us that parents talking to babies means that babies can have faith in God (a ridiculous conflation of earthly fathers with the Heavenly Father), and baptists telling us that the faith of our children who have heard the Gospel cannot be trusted until they are in their teens. The solution here is that each person is a microcosm of covenant history. When Jesus was baptized, He revealed to us the Heavenly Father. As mentioned, His earthly guardians then became obsolete. Humanity, as Paul tells us, had graduated from the “guardians” and they were no longer needed. But paedobaptism is all about the guarded. It is thus the exact opposite of what God intended baptism for.

So, what am I saying? That “faith,” when it comes to children, is not the deciding factor at all. Baptism, like a knighthood, is an act of allegiance. It is both objective and subjective. It is a giving of authority to an individual, removing the mediated authority of parents or other earthly guardians. The individual then becomes directly accountable to church discipline rather than parental discipline. As discussed, it not only makes “confirmation” unnecessary but also removes the problem of individuals only having made vows “by proxy.” The Israelites were likewise held accountable at Sinai not for their circumcision but for their personal vows.

This also means that the question of “church membership” for the simple—those who are infants in their understanding and always will be—is irrelevant. Not everyone needs to be a “knight.” All are already included in the New Covenant, under the rule of Jesus, which means that the destiny of the simple and the still born is entirely up to Him. Problem solved.

The baptisms of my two daughters and my son were joyous occasions. It was a celebration of their faith, not of their parents’ fertility. The stripe of “credobaptism-as-delegation-of-authority-and-accountability” that I describe puts such pseudo-Baalism to death.

Like many theological issues, paedocommunion also poses the question of the relative weight of Scripture and tradition. The question is not what the Reformed tradition has taught on this issue; I concede that very few Reformed theologians have advocated paedocommunion. Nor is the question about Jewish custom, which opponents of paedocommunion often cite. (Why should Christians care what the Talmud says?) The issue is what Scripture teaches, and if we find that our tradition is out of accord with Scripture, then we must simply obey God rather than men, even if they are our honored fathers in the faith.

As mentioned, if Leithart has to resort to pitting Scripture against tradition, he has shot himself in the foot. His very understanding of the Scriptures is distorted by an erroneous tradition that has no basis in either the Old or New Testaments. So I say to him, as one of my fathers in the faith, obey God rather than men. Your desire for consistency only makes you more consistently wrong. Your baptism is all about men, not God. And your failure to understand that baptism washes an individual as a living sacrifice erases the role of the Christian not only as a receiver of Christ’s atonement but also a voluntary giver.

In the following parts of this essay, I focus on the ecclesiological issues raised by paedocommunion, which are simultaneously questions about the nature of the covenant, about the continuity of Old and New, about salvation, and about the gospel. Throughout, I am guided by an underlying assumption that the sacraments manifest the nature of the church. For centuries, sacramental theology in the Reformed and in other traditions has often focused narrowly on the effect of sacraments on individual recipients, and as a result, both the theology and practice of the sacraments have been horribly distorted. We should, in addition and even primarily, consider sacraments in an ecclesial context. The question should not only be what a particular rite does to me, but also what this ritual tells me about the community that celebrates it.

This is an honorable desire, and many paedobaptists claim that credobaptism is individualistic. The answer I will give is two-fold. Firstly, history works its way through the Creation Week. The “unity” that Leithart desires relates to the “land” and “fruits” of Day 3. In the big picture, that is Abrahamic, and those promises were fulfilled. The kind of “unity” that describes the New Covenant is Day 5—a heavenly host of individuals that miraculously move as one—like a school of fish or a flock of birds. As James Jordan tells us, this is pictured in the “silvery” smoke of the Incense Altar, which relates to Day 5, and to resurrection. This means that the “community” Leithart is trying to build is Babelic, the wrong kind of ascension. He is offering raw flesh on the Altar of Incense, the fruit of the womb instead of the fruits of the Spirit. Architecturally-speaking, this is as much as a stink in God’s nostrils as the Jews who insisted that Abraham was their father, so God must also be their father. Our theology of the sacraments relates to the ascension offering, the first of which was performed by Noah, the first man to do the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. If Leitharts wants to deal with distortion, he must begin with his own erroneous conflations. Our “community” is something that grows by spiritual osmosis, not by adding bricks of mud and straw.

According to Paul’s teaching, the Lord’s Supper embodies the nature of the church as a unified community. Because we partake of one loaf, we are one body (1 Corinthians 10:16), and because partaking of the bread and cup is a communion in Christ, it commits us to avoiding communion with demons and idols. The Lord’s Supper ritually declares that the church is one, and that this united community is separated from the world. This is why, according to Paul, the Corinthians were not actually performing the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians. 11:20).

Likewise, paedosacraments are not actually baptism or the Lord’s Supper. If we pretend that a natural “body” is a spiritual “body” through means of covenant “witchcraft,” we have failed to discern the body of Christ, which is a body of voluntary living sacrifices. As James Jordan teaches us, robes (akin to the investiturre of baptism) and wine are symbols of judicial maturity, knowing the difference between good and evil. Even their own wonderful guru contradicts himself in the sacraments by insisting that they are corporate in a “natural” sense. That is also the reason behind his erroneous insistence that the “regeneration” is not individual. As mentioned above, the new age is individual first (ethical) before it is a community (social). The separation is not tribal, and conflating the flesh with the Spirit is always a disaster. It is like the mixing of iron and clay. That is why paedobaptists divide baptism from the table by the “sword,” it is why they had the knives out for Federal Vision adherents, and it is also why Douglas Wilson and his followers have criticised the Jordan-Leithart branch of the Federal Vision. This insistence on the conflation of the natural and the spiritual means that the sword will never depart from their house. It will just cut them into smaller and smaller pieces.

From Paul’s perspective, the Supper and its practice provide a criterion for measuring and judging the church’s faithfulness to her calling and her Lord, and, conversely, the New Testament’s teaching concerning the church provides a criterion for assessing our sacramental life. The Supper is a ritual expression of our confession that the church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. We should ask both, “Does the church’s life measure up with what we say about ourselves at the table?” and “Is what we confess about the church manifest at the table?”

Once again, is our unity actually “spiritual” (and, as some from this camp have rightly told us, “spiritual” means “obedient”), or is it bound by a zombified circumcision, the living dead instead of the dead living? What paedocommunionists “manifest” at the table is “keep out” unless you join the tribe. What credosacraments testify is “repent and believe!” Paedosacraments are a rival, carnal Gospel. Sadly, those who insist on them cannot see this. They say one thing with their mouths and something totally contradictory with their rites.

Paul’s sacramental reasoning can be extended in many directions. We know, for instance, that the church is a body in which divisions of Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female have been dissolved (Galatians 3:28), and Paul severely rebuked Peter when his table fellowship failed to line up with this ecclesial reality (Galatians 2:11–21). A church that refuses bread and wine to blacks, or to whites, or to Asians, is lying about both the church and the Supper. More pointedly: Paul says that the church is a community where the weakest and most unseemly are welcomed (1 Corinthians 12:22–26). Does the Baptist refusal to baptize infants give ritual expression to that kind of church, or does it instead imply that the church welcomes only the smart and the strong?

No. We baptists love our babies. We just do not want them in positions of power. I can understand the desire to use “household baptism” (which inconsistently leaves out animals and servants) as a means of fighting against the secular attacks upon the autonomy of the biological family. But in an ironic sense paedobaptism does exactly what the globalist have attempted through promiscuity and same sex marriage—the direct vulnerability of every individual to ultimate power without any mediatory guardian. That is what baptism does. It makes one directly accountable to Christ.

So, does the church welcome only the smart and the strong? Well, the church is a royal priesthood. So, the actual question is “does the clergy welcome only the smart and the strong?” No. It welcomes those who believe and desire to serve, even unto death. Leithart’s “architecture” is (to coin a theological term) a hot mess.

At the same time, the sacraments must express what the church proclaims in the gospel. This might be approached from various directions. That Jesus broke down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles is part of the gospel, and so the Supper expresses the gospel when it welcomes Christians from every tribe and tongue and nation.

But paedobaptism simply creates a new Jew-Gentile division, a new tribe, a new “physical” nation. The power of the church is that it transcends, not recreates or replaces, those existing demarcations. Instead of calling all tribes to bow to Jesus, it becomes merely one more tribe among many.

The gospel announces that God has initiated a new creation in and through Jesus, and our practices and theology of the Supper must express the scope of that announcement. The gospel is about the grace of God to sinners who have no ability to crawl their way back to Him, and the way we think about and perform the Supper must be consistent with that. According to Luther, the Supper is the gospel, for in it our heavenly Father offers His Son to us through the Spirit for our life; the Supper is first and last God’s gift, God’s gift of Himself, to His people. But saying that and enacting that in our table fellowship are two different things.

This raises an important issue, and it explains the difference between the Adamic mandate and the Great Commission. All of history recapitulates the Creation Week. All of history until Christ was about “forming.” But the ministry of the New Covenant “spiritual Israel” is about “filling.” The kingdom of God is within us. It is comprised not only of our submission to Christ but our representation of Him in our witness. So, Luther was dead wrong. The sacraments of Luther and Leithart are stuck on the “forming” aspect of the work of God. In the sacraments, each individual proclaims that he or she is willing to be broken bread and poured out wine for others. Again, it is not about receiving but about freely giving what we have received. This is why paedosacraments are completely pointless. Jesus gives us His flesh and blood (the fruit of the womb) as bread and wine (the fruit of the land). But He does so not as a feast in our own natural households (the Bronze Altar) but as a “memorial taste of death” on the mountain in His supernatural household. Once again, read Exodus 24. It corresponds precisely with the pattern of “covenant renewal worship” found in the traditional Christian liturgy but it mistakenly takes all the children up the mountain as elders. It is not “triune.”

“…the Supper is first and last God’s gift, God’s gift of Himself, to His people.” No, that was Christ. In the Supper, His people give themselves to the nations. Christ is a better Moses, so all God’s people are prophets.

In short, the Supper and its practice provide a criterion for measuring and judging the church’s faithfulness to the gospel, and, conversely, the New Testament’s teaching concerning the gospel provides a criterion for assessing our sacramental life. Jesus frequently described His preaching as an invitation to a feast, a feast that He Himself celebrated with tax gatherers and sinners throughout His ministry and that He continues to celebrate with sinners in the Eucharist. The gospel thus provides a criterion for judging our admission rules for the table: Is the invitation to the table as wide as the invitation to repent and believe?

Now, Leithart conflates hospitality with the Lord’s table. These two tables are linked but distinct. We eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood at His table that we might then serve those around us at our tables. The opposite error is, of course, opening the Lord’s Table to anybody at all, which would actually make more sense if the Table “is” the Gospel. Confusion reigns.

Leithart states and asks, “The gospel thus provides a criterion for judging our admission rules for the table: Is the invitation to the table as wide as the invitation to repent and believe?”

There is no logic here whatsoever. Firstly, why not open the Table to all, since the Gospel is for all? Secondly, His “tribal” criterion says “keep out” unless you join this pseudo-hereditary order (this is why no genealogy of Melchizedek was recorded!) Thirdly, babies do not understand the Gospel, or repent, or believe. We can pretend that they do, but it is patently silly, and that is why Jordan-Leithart’s brand of paedocommunion is, as it become more consistent, a reductio ad absurdum.

We must think about baptism and the Supper in these (overlapping, if not identical) ecclesial and evangelical contexts if we want to grasp what is at stake in the paedocommunion debate. The question is not only who’s in and who’s out, but rather what our decisions about who’s in and who’s out say about the church we are and the gospel we proclaim. What kind of community are we claiming to be if we invite children to the Lord’s table, or, as is more commonly the case, what are we saying about the church when we exclude them? What do our ritual statements about the church say about the church’s relation to Israel and the character of salvation? Put our theologies and our sermons to the side for a moment: What gospel does our meal preach?

Agreed. But what is at stake? An hereditary sign says that the Abrahamic tribal-civic division is still in force, that the New Covenant is about the “seed” of the Land and womb rather than the “fruit” of the seed of the Gospel in the human heart, and that Christ has not yet come in the flesh. That is the obsolete “gospel” that paedosacraments preach, and it was a similar holding on to that which was ready to pass away that led to the destruction of Jerusalem. It is time to “put away childish things.” The covenant grew up and filled out. So must we.

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