[#] In or out - just close the door

More from Doug Wilson's blog. For those who are not interested in the baptism discussion, you can go read about something that does interest you. I'm sure you can find something.

Pastor Wilson said:

| This said, understanding justification includes the
| need to be able to discern the body of the Lord. The
| besetting sin of evangelical and Reformed people is
| to be so tight that they exclude from the body those
| who ought not to be excluded (most notably, our
| children).

I will eventually get tired of saying this and go find something else to complain about, but I still have not seen a clear-cut case that those who do not do what Pastor Wilson's church does have excluded children from the body. Perhaps it will be cleared up by his example, below.

| The besetting sin of people in N.T.
| Wright's communion is the belief that someone who
| is a Druidic advocate of homosexual rights is a
| suitable candidate for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

... let me pause for a moment while I wipe the coffee that just shot out of my nose off my keyboard and monitor ...

| Both of these are a failure to discern the body, and
| both are therefore failures to understand justification
| in this corporate sense.

All things being equal, I would agree.

| In how many Reformed churches is it possible to
| hold back from the Table a ten-year-old girl who
| loves Jesus? Too many to count.

Let me say that, if this is the example by which the reformed who do not agree with Pastor Wilson are being chastised, the set of churches being represented is zero -- or, perhaps with some charity, restricted to a statistically-insignificant number of compounds found in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri (though not Kansas, because they are all godless) for the "really reformed".

I'm a reformed Baptist in a non-reformed convention. In fact, our convention is pretty much anti-reformed if we are to judge it by the sermons and statements of the men who have the most visible influence over it. Be that as it may, I am blessed to have a reformed pastor who is working through the Bible with our church to lay down the reformed foundation for what we believe as Baptists and how we ought thereby to live.

In that, there are no 10-year-old girls who would "discern the Lord's Body" but refuse or be refused for Baptism. None. In fact, if there was someone who came forward who said, "I get the Lord's supper, but I've never been baptized, and I don't want baptism but I want the Lord's supper," I cannot imagine that Pastor Wilson would have a hard time joining me in taking them to the back of the worship center for a few hours of intense, um, counseling with a very large Kin'Jaymes.

So to say that there are "too many to count" children who can discern the Lord's body but cannot sit at the Lord's table because [denomination] are too squeamish about baptism ... gosh! That's hyperbole at best!

| But we are all one
| loaf, Paul says, and his point should be applied this
| way -- all who are bread should get bread. But look
| at this girl (and she is a representative of many tens
| of thousands like her), and ask the question, "Who
| will lay a charge against God's elect? It is God who
| justifies." And the answer comes back -- "Why the
| session will!" The irony here is that it is the session
| which is not discerning the Lord's body -- the girl
| discerns it, knowing that this is "my church, my
| people, my Lord, and may I have some bread?" -- and
| so perhaps the session should suspend itself from the
| Table.

Again, I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that the obviously-elect children who demonstrate some understanding of Eucharistic typology and christocentric ecclesiology (even if they wouldn't say it that way because they don't have the words) are being kept out of the gates of Heaven because some bureaucratic Episcopoi can't see the forest for all these bloody trees.

This example is intended to clear up the concern I voiced about "which children?" and "in what way?" concerning the "being excluded", to be sure. But what it instead does -- because of the particulars it must demonstrate to make the point that Pastor Wilson here is trying to make -- is show that there are only a handful of Campingites and Pentecostals who would behave this way and that churches which are even marginally-reformed or even ashamed of being reformed don't chase children away from the table if they have been baptized.

| The one thing we must understand about the
| Table, the girl understands and the session doesn't.
| We are all one body, and all who are bread should get
| bread. The session says yes, we believe that you
| could love Jesus, but we have subsequent tests you
| have to pass before you get any bread. The session is
| failing to understand that she is clearly part of the
| justified people. They are treating her as unjustified,
| laying a charge against her though God has justified,
| and such behavior from Christian shepherds is not
| justifiable.

"Clearly", though, in what way? It is "clearly" because she demonstrates the fruit of the spirit, and not because we know that she has been baptized or not. In fact, I would propose that if this same girl wanted to partake of the table but refused to be baptized, she does not know what she thinks she knows about the Table.

So I ask this: do we – all of us as an aggregate body, not just Doug Wilson's flock or the SBC – admit people to the table that have not been baptized? And what about those who refuse to be baptized? If the answer is, "sorry, you're at the wrong wedding feast," then we agree in principle and we are dickering over details.

| But there is a ditch on the other side of the road.
| Someone like N.T. Wright would see the folly of all
| this, I believe, and would certainly amen what I have
| argued above. But discerning the Lord's body is a
| two-way operation. Not only must we see who is in,
| but we must also be able to tell who is not really in.

This is an extremely elegant point with which I agree whole-heartedly, but a corollary of this point is that we also cannot accuse people of "refusing" or "excluding" when, in fact, they simply have a different method of making their children members-in-training. A method, btw, which fits the view that baptism is for the repentant believer.

| The New Testament is filled with false brothers, and
| we are told how to identify them. The works of the
| flesh are manifest, Paul says, and those who live this
| way will not inherit the kingdom of God. This is not
| a form of higher math. We have learned to repent of
| that form of pietism that says, at the drop of a hat, "I
| don't that this person is really a Christian," and all
| because they cut me off in traffic once, or I saw them
| drinking a beer at a restaurant. Away with reading the
| hearts of others as though they were tea leaves! But
| the fact remains that this statement -- "I don't think
| this person is really a Christian" -- is a perfectly
| honorable statement to make, provided the standard
| for making it is biblical. I would not be willing to say
| it for violations of the schoolmarmish ethics that
| govern certain quadrants of the Church.

Again, I say Amen from my seat in the back row of the Baptist church.

| Nor would I
| be willing to say it for violations of the Ten
| Commandments, followed by repentance. Think of
| David. But I would be willing to say this sort of thing
| for those who live in high defiance of the law and
| gospel of God -- ecclesiastical officials who
| solemnize homosexual unions, who sponsor
| witchcraft seminars, who draft statements in favor of
| abortion, and so on. This kind of moral folly is
| pervasive in N.T. Wright's communion, surrounding
| him on every hand, and an old-guard southern
| Presbyterian can see the problem with this much
| more clearly than Wright appears to.

And this time I actually hear the gray-crowned couple sitting next to me in the pew saying, "Amen."

| It would be nice if we would learn to discern the
| body. Wouldn't it be glorious to find a church that
| accepted the little children (as Jesus commanded us
| to) and was able to do this without simultaneously
| accepting overt and manifest iniquity? And wouldn't
| it be nice to find a believing communion that took a
| stand against sin and evil without simultaneously
| taking a stand against the pre-teens? But alas, most of
| the church does not yet understand corporate
| justification. Fortunately, our salvation doesn't
| depend on this understanding -- after all, we are
| justified apart from works of the law.

It would also be nice somehow to avoid exaggerating what others are doing that we disagree with. Honest to pete, I am in no position or have any inclination to wag a finger at the pastor of a relatively-successful and (on a pass/fail basis) God-fearing church, so please do not read this as giving Pastor Wilson the angry-eyebrows. From a purely discoursive (discursive? Dialectical? Park-bench prattle?) standpoint, if this meta-discussion is ever going to get past the place where some (who are rightly chastised for allowing only one mode of baptism when that mode is, at best, one of a small set of choices) are demeaned for "excluding" their children from church, and the other side (who might be taking reasonable liberty with the text but then change it over to unreasonable demands for inclusiveness) are demeaned for everything from universalism to liberal carelessness and postmodern irrationality, we have to mark out the limits of intra-mural debate.

I'm just a layman in this discussion, and a second-stringer at that, but I see this as one of the most important issues in the theology of the Protestant church – and by that, I mean the theology of any church which is more than merely "not Roman Catholic" by default. This matter of how we treat baptism, how we perceive baptism, how we understand baptism, and how we accept baptism has the ability to tear down more walls than it builds, and all of those new walls are in the right places. But the discussion can't "get there" if those who disagree with us think, in some way, we are beggaring the cross or those for which it paid the price.