Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is Paedocommunion a Reformed or Presbyterian Practice? James Jordan Says "NO"

In case you are not familiar with paedocommunion, it is the practice of allowing a child to partake of the Lord's Supper upon the sole condition of baptism.  This means that not only is a profession of faith not necessary to receive the sacrament worthily and as a blessing, the sacrament can be received worthily apart from faith and still communicate a blessing of grace.  This practice has been gaining popularity in Reformed and Presbyterian circles as of late.  But, is this a practice that is consistent with Reformed or Presbyterian theology?

In a recent moment of clear speech, one of the leading proponents of paedocommunion, James Jordan, says no.  Here are several clear statements from Jordan:
I’ve said for years that paedocommunion and non-pc cannot live together any more than infant and adult baptism. And by returning to pc, we drive back 1000 years, and definitely back before the Reformation.

Oh, it’s true enough: We depart from the whole Reformation tradition at certain pretty basic points. It’s no good pretending otherwise. I think the PCA is perfectly within its rights to say no to all [Biblical Horizons]    types. We are NOT traditional presbyterians. The PCA suffers us within itself, but we are poison to traditional presbyterianism. We are new wine, and the PCA is an old skin. So, for the sake of the people we are called to minister to, we do our best. But we don’t really “belong” there.

 I can’t really put feet on this, but I “feel” sure that the Reformation tradition is rationalistic precisely because it is anti-pc. Or maybe better, these are part of one complex. Being anti-pc was the greatest mistake of all the Reformers (except Musculus, and who cares about him?). This mistake is part of the heart of the Reformation; they knew about pc and rejected it.

But there’s no reason why the presbys should receive us, since sacramentally speaking we are NOT Reformed and NOT presbyterian.

I’m a little bit sympathetic with Duncan & Co. when they suspect some of you guys are not being honest when you try to show that you’re just good traditional Reformed guys. I guess it’s a good thing I did not make it to the Knox Seminary discussion, because I would have openly said, “I’m not on the same page as Calvin and the Reformation in these regards.” Showing that the Reformed tradition is wider and muddier than Duncan wants it to be is fine, but the fact is that if you believe in pc, you’re not in the Reformed tradition at all in a very significant and profound sense. No more than you’re Baptists.

I don't think it gets more clear than that.

Today in Church History: The First Reformed Liturgy of the Lord's Supper

On December 7, 1524, the Lord's Supper was observed from a Reformed perspective.  According to Hughes Oliphant Old, it took place at St. Martin's Church in Memmingen (South Germany) under the oversight of Christoph Schappeler.  Under the leadership of this preacher, the imperial free city of Memmingen committed itself to the Reformation early.  Schappeler arrived in 1513, and as early as 1522, he was preaching against the Roman Mass. 

Little is known about that first service other than that it was in the evening.  But what started that night would eventually lead to the development of the Memmingen Service Book of 1529, which was an attempt to arrive at a synthesis of the various existing Reformed liturgies.  The liturgy has been preserved:
Metrical Psalm
Prayer for the Grace of Praise
Epistle, 1 Corinthians 11
Gloria in excelsis
Prayer for Illumination
Gospel, John 6:47-63
Metrical Psalm or Hymn
Sermon or Communion Admonition
Prayer of Intercession
     for the necessities of the Church
     for the magistrate and all men
     Lord's Prayer
Prayer for Faith
Confession of Sin and Absolution
Words of Institution
     Metrical Psalms are sung during communion
Post-communion Admonition
Psalm 113
Ten Commandments
The major influences on this liturgy come from the liturgies from Basel, Zurich, Strasbourg and Constance.  One of the features present in the Memmingen Service Book was the "Dismissals."  This part of the liturgy was one of the few elements that was present in all the different liturgies that were used for developing the MSB.

The dismissal is what we today call "fencing the table."  During the dismissal, there would be an invitation and encouragement of the faithful to approach the Lord's Table, while the unbaptized and unrepentant would be warned to abstain from the holy meal, and often times, leave the service so that only the "faithful" would remain to partake of the Lord's Supper together.  The Reformers did this because they did not want the Lord's Supper degraded by having it offered to those who were not prepared--including covenant children.

The dismissal was an integral element in the Reformation of worship because it was an application of Church discipline within the worship service.  This was one way for the elders to exercise care in reforming more than the liturgy, but also the lives of those worshiping.  So important was this element, that Calvin was ready to leave Geneva rather than not practice it.  The dismissal was not the result of being mean-spirited or controlling, but was pastoral.  It provided an opportunity to call sinners to repentance and to protect those who were not ready from eating and drinking judgment to themselves.

The Reformation was more than just a recovery of theological concepts, but a reformation of worship practice that was based on that theology. It is exciting to remember what happened 486 years ago today. But we need more today than the excitement of a memory, we need the resolve to guard what has been passed along to us. Can we maintain the theology of the Reformation if we don't maintain the worship practices that flesh it out?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Handel's Messiah

As Christmas season is upon us, there is much music in the air that is typically only heard during this time of year.  One of my favorites is Handel's Messiah.  A few years ago, NPR aired a live performance of Messiah from the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and since then, they have provided that performance for free online.  You can listen to it here.  (When you follow the link to the performance, there is an introduction to the performance, the actual music begins around 9:30).

In addition to the audio, I have also found a couple of helpful resources on Messiah. First, there is a free guide online that provides you a "worship map" of the performance.  The worship map provides you the major parts, lyrics and scripture references to help you move through the entire score.  Also, another helpful guide has just been published in book form, Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People.  The publisher states:
Here you will find fascinating historical background to Messiah, including its unlikely inception, and learn about its reception and impact from Handel's day to our own. Calvin Stapert devotes most of his book to scene-by-scene musical and theological commentary on the entire score, demonstrating how the music of Messiah beautifully intertwines with and illuminates its biblical text. Through these pages Handel's popular and much-loved masterpiece will be greatly enhanced for listeners old and new alike. 
You can find a free Google preview of the book here.

If you don't have the time or desire to read the book, then you can simply download it and listen to it.  For this month, ChristianAudio.com is graciously providing it as a free download [HT: Jame Grant].  To download the book, you simply have to go here and click on "Download Now."