Monday, 24 March 2008

Bad arguments for infant communion (part 7)

Part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six.

If we're going to think clearly about the actual nature of the New Covenant, we need to face the "you can't have your cake and eat it" problem.

Professing Calvinists, such as the paedo-communionist writer whose words we started out with, have faced up to this problem when talking about the sovereignty of God in salvation. Given that universal salvation is a Biblically incorrect teaching, there are only two possibilities for the death of Christ. Either Christ made a perfect atonement for a limited number of people so as to guarantee their salvation, or he made an incomplete atonement for all people though without guaranteeing the salvation of anyone in particular.

Either the atonement perfectly saved the elect, or it made everyone savable without definitely saving anyone. It was perfect in power, or universal in scope - but not both. You can't have your cake and eat it. Charles Spurgeon memorably summed it up like this:
Now, beloved, when you hear any one laughing or jeering at a limited atonement, you may tell him this. General atonement is like a great wide bridge with only half an arch; it does not go across the stream: it only professes to go half way; it does not secure the salvation of anybody. Now, I had rather put my foot upon a bridge as narrow as Hungerford, which went all the way across, than on a bridge that was as wide as the world, if it did not go all the way across the stream. (
It's the same with the New Covenant. Either the New Covenant is perfectly salvific though with a restricted membership, or it can have a wide membership but still leave its members' salvation in doubt. Either Christ can perfectly mediate on behalf of all and only those who are in covenant with God through him, or he can mediate on behalf of a much larger number, but with a mediation that's only partly effective. Unless you embrace an error such as baptismal regeneration, such that all of those who go through the right automatic ritual get to heaven, you can't have it both ways.

In my view the sacramental theology of Reformed advocates for paedo-communion is at odds with their Calvinism, and needs further reforming. There's one thing I'm sure of - that the Scriptures teach a perfect mediation on behalf of Christ. Thus, I believe that Spurgeon's article is not only good in refuting Arminianism. I can say also that automatic infant covenant membership is like a very wide bridge with only half an arch. It doesn't go across the stream, but only half-way; you join the covenant and Christ becomes your covenant mediator, but sadly can't promise that he won't end up dropping you in the middle of the river. I would rather put my foot upon a bridge as narrow as Hungerford bridge (which if you've seen the other posts this last few days you might have guessed I've paddled under!) which goes all the way across. I'd rather have our Jewish friend sad because his children don't get to join in quite as early as they used to do. Rather that than have them fill their faces yet knowing that they, like I, were after all only members of a covenant which at last might leave us lost. Another faulty covenant like the one that went before, having an imperfect mediator and imperfect promises.
"Thank You, Lord Jesus, for fulfilling the OT Feast of Pentecost on this glorious day today! For many years my family and I have celebrated the Feast of Pentecost in Your Presence, rejoicing before You, in eager anticipation of today. Thank You, Lord, that my little children can also be filled with this same Holy Spirit as they also are taught the gospel and believe it, and come into covenant union with the perfect Mediator, Jesus Christ. Thank You Lord that, unlike the days before, everyone in this covenant knows the Lord and will enjoy him forever and that this promise is not restricted to one tribe or nation, but is given freely to everyone, young and old, who believes. Thank You, Lord!"
(The end!)

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