Sunday, May 23, 2004
I have just finished listening to this debate on paedocommunion between Tim Gallant and Steve Schlissel. I will readily admit that I found Tim's argument by far the most persuasive (for some more of Tim's thoughts on this subject see his website, listen to this talk or, best of all, read his book). One thing that Schlissel brought up in the course of the debate was the fact that the Last Supper was celebrated with men only. He argues from this that women and children do not need to participate in the Supper. I find this utterly unpersuasive. Underlying this argument is a principle which one regularly comes across in Reformed arguments for such practices as paedobaptism. The principle is that the headship of the father of the family functions in exactly the same way in the new covenant as it does in the old. I have commented on this in the past and have argued that any argument for paedobaptism must pay careful attention to the fact that the Church reinvents the family. The biological family loses its exclusivity once it is brought into the Church. Just as the authority of the state does not exist in the same way in the Church (as the Church is the new nation), nor does the authority of the family (as the Church is the new family). What I am saying here is not the same as some of the arguments from 'sphere sovereignty' that some present. My argument is based on the Church as the eschatological society. This means that we should not place it on the same plane as other institutions of 'this age'; the Church is the order of 'the age to come'. The family will not exist in the same way in heaven, but the Church as the fulfilment of the family will. The Church is a reality-filled anticipation of this future (most especially in the Lord's Supper) and so our celebration of the Lord's Supper must demonstrate the manner in which the Church transcends the old family order as the family is fulfilled in Christ and the Church (cf. Matthew 12:48-50). I get frustrated by the familialism and patriarchalism that exists in some Reformed circles. I am happily single and do not want to be looked upon as a second-class citizen. Hey, in the Church even eunuchs have a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters (Isaiah 56) — give us singletons a break! In the Last Supper we see the heads of the new household and nation of the Church — the Twelve Apostles (Ephesians 2:19-20). Only they could have represented all the women and children in the Church in the manner that Schlissel's argument would seem to demand. The important thing is not that they were men or even husbands, but that they were members of the Twelve.