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Well, there goes half our pastors….

April 13, 2009

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul writes about the requirements for elders and deacons. One of the requirements is that an elder must have faithful children.

“4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”

Now, you might be thinking “it doesn’t say that the children must be faithful, only that the elder must manage the household well.” Well, if I only had these verses to go off of, I would agree that it seems that way, but I could still make the obvious conclusion that an elder must be Christian, therefore, his household must be Christian. Fortunately, though, Paul tells us exactly what an elder’s children should look like in Ephesians 6.

“1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

If a Christian father’s duty is to raise Christian children, then how much more for an elder and his children? Now, we could take the scenic route on this explanation by saying that a child who is consistently unruly and a disruption in his household is obviously not saved, because he is not displaying the fruits of his salvation – which is due either to his flat out rejection of his father’s teaching, or else due to his father’s neglect at training his child. Either way, that father should not be an elder. But it seems pretty basic to me – Fathers, if you wish to be an elder, you must have faithful children.

Now, notice it doesn’t say anything about fathers keeping his children submissive (having faithful children), when they reach the age of accountability. When Paul is writing to fathers in Ephesians and potential elder fathers in 1 Timothy, it is implied that their children are Christians, because he is writing to Christians in both cases. The implication is that the children of believers are believers too. After all, the passage does say “Children obey your parents IN THE LORD.” Some may want to speculate here, and try to say that these particular children were of the age of accountability… oh, say 7 or 12 (who knows?), but that’s not in the text. The obvious implication is that the children are old enough to hear instruction. There is not one case of a child coming to a mature moment of conversion in the Bible, but there are numerous accounts of salvific blessings for the believer and his children. In fact, I would point to Ephesians 6 as a clear example of this implication. The command is not “Children, once you make a profession of faith and are baptized, obey your father and mother…” Their faith is already implied.

So what am I getting at here? Well, my point is that there are many pastors out there who are disobeying this command. They are elders in the church, but their children are not Christians. First, you have the baptistic pastor who has not had his child baptized yet, because he hasn’t made a mature profession of faith yet. He has little pagans running around his house. That’s an unruly household, if you ask me. Then there’s the paedobaptist pastor who did have his child baptized, but refuses to give them communion. Refusal to the Lord’s table is nothing less than excommunication – church discipline – for the baptized. So he doesn’t just have little pagans running around his house… he has little apostates running around.

Now, I say this a little tongue-in-cheek, because I know that the Bible teaches that our children are believers, and in most cases, the above mentioned pastors practice this in actuality – if not doctrinally. They are inconsistent, though. And the scary thing is that there are some out there who try to be consistent. I’ve heard of one pastor who discourages his flock from teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer because God doesn’t hear the prayers of the unrighteous children. And I had a friend in seminary who refused to teach his little boy the song “I Am A C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N” because he was afraid he would be teaching his son to lie. Ugh!

So pastors, get with the program and either have a Christian household – according to God – or step down and wait till you have a Christian household – according to you!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2009 8:30 am

    Hi, Brian. I agree with much of what you write here. But I also think some of it is overstated, like, for example, “the implication is that the children of believers are believers too.”

    “Believer” is probably not the best moniker to slap on believers’ babies. No doubt, children of those in covenant with the creator God are themselves heirs of the covenant (which baptism itself symbolizes, if not effects in a certain sense). Thus, it might be more prudent to say that “children of believers are also members of the covenant.” What’s the big deal? Well, just like in ancient times with the nation of Israel under the old covenant, all Israelites were born into covenant with YHWH, but not all remained in covenant. Then, as now, a remnant theology remains. And so, I think, our children ought to be treated in the same manner — as members of the covenant — yet while maintaining a parental vigilance against apostasy, etc. This means that some evangelism does indeed go on in the home.

    Nonetheless, I think your criticisms of the Baptist househould, even if they could be softened, are worth mentioning. Regarding the paedobaptist who does not cram bread and wine down his infant’s throat, however, I do think the good bishop over in Durham said it best: “Babies need to learn table manners before they can take regular part.” Learning requires deliberate practice, and deliberate practice requires some age, even if it’s young, like 5-ish or thereabouts.

  2. April 20, 2009 5:51 pm

    Hey Chris,
    Actually, I do prefer the term “believer.” For one, that is the language that is used in the Bible… well, at least the sense of the word. Psalm 22 and 71 both use words like trust, leaned, relied, etc. The point being that the covenant relationship is reciprocal. Also, I prefer “believer” because this is how a child of the covenant would have thought of himself – being a worshipper of God from his beginning and using these very Psalms as his songbook to the Lord. This is how he was told and trained to think. With that said, that is why I don’t like the term “member of the covenant,” although I do believe that is true in the way you describe it. Many a covenant parent does not view their children as the Bible views them and I tend to think that their understanding of covenant is faulty. So, because they believe they’re confessional, they’ll use confessional language like “”covenant member,” but they don’t practice it in reality.

    As far as communion, I assume you’re stating your position by the term “cram” :). I’m certainly not condoning force feeding, but as soon as they’re able to eat they should partake of communion, which usually means by the first year. I love ye olde Bishop, but I prefer this quote: “Baptism is the way into the family; the Eucharist is the family meal.”

  3. April 21, 2009 10:22 am

    For my part, I don’t see much of a difference between an infant communing and a toddler communing. The deliberate eating implied (I think) in the Supper means at least a few years need to be taken into account. Again, Table Manners and all. No doubt, baptism is integral to participation in the Eucharist, but so is confession (broadly understood, as in Rom. 10:9, for example).

    That said, of course the covenant relationship is reciprocal, and it’s precisely because of the threat of apostasy that I maintain the balance here with respect to both theology and practice. Presumptive regeneration is one thing; becoming a “believer” by virtue of baptism ex opere operato is quite another. For the life of me, I can’t distinguish what you’re saying above from the latter. I want to say it, believe me, but it seems to be based more on some kind of hyper-covenantalism than biblical-theological constructs. I’m just sayin’…

  4. April 21, 2009 4:12 pm

    I agree that it’s deliberate eating (and drinking), but I believe it’s deliberate on Jesus’ behalf. The Eucharist is something He initiates – like baptism. If confession is essential to communion, and communion is essential to being “in Christ,” then what are our children from the time of their baptism to the time that they can properly confess their sins (however one defines it)? I think this is where the command to train our children in the Lord comes into play – as well as the OT commands. I understand that my 18 month old does not understand how to confess properly (at least according to my understanding), but I also am training her into the act of corporate – as well as personal – confession. She may not be able to voice a prayer yet, but she knows to fold her hands at the dinner table before we eat, and she knows to get on her knees during corporate confession and during our family worship. She also gives the heartiest AMEN in the congregation – maybe because that’s the only thing she knows how to say. I also know that she doesn’t understand all the implications of the Eucharist, but she’s been participating for over a year now and she has learned the “table manners” appropriate for her age. She may not be able to sing the Gloria Patri or the Doxology, but she does lift her hands up at the appropriate times because she participates in the worship of the church – as opposed to going to nursery or children’s church. Besides, I can find no biblical warrant for withholding communion from our young-un’s. Mature responses are required from mature Christians – and there’s many levels of maturity according to the Bible – but it is clear that communion is for the body of Christ and He commanded the body to partake. I understand the good intentions of trying to preserve the table or keep our children from drinking judgment upon themselves (or whatever the argument may be), but the problem lies in a faulty understanding of children and their standing in Christ. After all, you can historically trace the demise of paedocommunion to the Roman Catholic institution of transsubstantiation – can’t have those clumsy kids spilling Christ’s blood now – followed by the very Western view of a mature profession of faith as the only true mark of salvation.

    As far as baptism goes, I think my view is the biblical-theological construct, as opposed to a systematic-theological construct, which I believe you’re conveying. I really take no issue in what you’re saying, I agree with the WCF with very few exceptions, but the Bible teaches us about who God is and what He does in salvation – which is where the WCF is helpful – and then it teaches us how to view and speak to the church. Do I believe in baptismal regeneration? No. But I do believe that by virtue of their baptisms my children are Christians, and they are to be trained, spoken of, spoken to, and viewed as such. If that muddies the systematic theologies and confessions of faiths out there, so be it. I’m just sayin’… 🙂

  5. April 21, 2009 7:19 pm

    Brian,

    We’re closer than you might imagine on this stuff. I do consider myself a paedocommunion advocate of the “soft” kind (using Venema’s recent distinction here). I do think a confession of faith (again, a la Rom. 10:9) is integral to participation in the meal. And the earlier, the better.

    I’ll try not to be too terribly offended that you hoisted me up on the WCF train, but that’s neither here nor there (as I am neither here nor there). You do mention, and perpetuate, however, an interesting myth (to my mind). And that’s the supposed wedge between “systematic” theologies and “biblical” theologies. At its core, systematic theology intends to collate biblical theology and say something, er, systematic about it. The fact that some have failed in this endeavor is beside the point. At least give the benefit of the doubt to, say, the Westminster Assembly (since you brought them up) that what they were all about was indeed collating biblical-theological constructs together into a cohesive system. You may disagree with the systematic product, but it’s because, ultimately, you disagree with the biblical theology lying underneath it. In other words, at least consider that the systematicians who may disagree with you are doing so on biblical-theological, or exegetical, grounds, not philosophical, systematic, etc.

  6. April 21, 2009 8:24 pm

    I gotcha…. and I appreciate the fact that we are pretty close. I apologize if you took any offense. In my mind, as I’m responding, I’m thinking of the other guys who read my blog who have a harder time grasping what I’m saying. As one friend said the other day “You sound like an alien with some of the stuff you’re writing.” 🙂 oh well. One of my favorite paedobaptist arguments is Poythress’ in regards to lowering the age of profession of faith – which I apply to paedocommunion as well. My argument is not with the softy’s, but the hardy’s (not Frank and Joe), whether it be presby’s like Duncan or baptist’s like Dever, who keep raising the bar higher and higher.
    As far as the systematic/biblical distinction, I probably should’ve said pastoral theology instead. I agree about the intent of the Westminster Assembly, but I do denote a difference in the more systematic language of the WCF, as opposed to the more pastoral language of the Larger and Shorter. I appreciate the differences, as well, remembering the context in which it needed to be written. I suppose when you mentioned that I sounded like I might be talking about baptismal regeneration, I automatically think of the Westminster Cali guys and the Greenville guys who have been on a witch hunt the past few years, and I get a little defensive. Sorry.

  7. winepressfilms permalink
    April 30, 2009 10:04 pm

    Brian and Chris,

    A few more random references of note on the paedofaith side:

    “‘Hear, O Israel, Yhwh is OUR God, Yhwh alone. And YOU shall love Yhwh YOUR God with all YOUR heart, and with all YOUR soul, and with all YOUR strength’ …You shall teach these words diligently to your children….” (Dt 6)

    “For AS MANY OF YOU AS WERE BAPTIZED INTO CHIRST have PUT ON CHRIST…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal 3.27,29)

    “Do you not know that ALL of us WHO HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST JESUS were baptized INTO HIS DEATH? …For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom 6.3,5)

    “47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate [passover]” Ex 12.47

    “There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.” (Dt 12.7)

    Blessings,
    Luke Welch
    http://winepressfilms.com
    http://saintluke.wordpress.com

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