2011 Report: Faith Formation

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To discuss the 2011 report from the Faith Formation Committee, post your comments here.

Here is a brief look at some of the info the report contains:

The Faith Formation Committee recommends that there be changes added to the Church Order to guide how to best address the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Among the word changes that could be added include:

  • "Baptized members shall be encouraged to make a public profession of faith with the use of a prescribed form in a public worship service."
     
  • "All baptized members who come with age- and ability-appropriate faith in Jesus Christ are welcome to the Lord's Supper and called to obey the scriptural commands about participation in an age- and ability-appropriate way under the supervision of the elders."
     
  • "Each congregation shall determine the appropriate age at which a confessing member shall receive such privileges and responsibilities."

Take a look at the report, discuss with others and offer your comments below.

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Participant

I think this is a great report. I guess I just have one question really: What does "age and ability appropriate faith in Jesus Christ" mean?

Found a copy of Fred Klooster's translation of Ursinus' Larger Catechism, which I think predates the HC.  The HC is the binding confession of the CRC, not the larger, but it was interesting to read Ursinus' answer about who is to be admitted to the Lord's Supper:

319 Q And who are to be admitted to them?

A To baptism,

both adults,

who rightly confess the basics

of the Christian faith

and lead a life

worthy of a Christian,

and also infants

who are born to those

whom the church recognizes

as believers.

To the Lord’s supper, however,

only adults

who are able to examine themselves

and who demonstrate this

in confession and life. 

Participant

The problem with Ursinus' Larger Catechism here is the problem that I have with our historical stance on this, and the same problem we all (as Reformed People) have with our Baptist friends' theology: The kind of statement above (whether about Lord's Supper or about Baptism) is based on an arbitrarily drawn human line in the sand. Here are a couple of examples pointing to why this kind of thinking is problematic:

1) Seeing as we testify to the fact that God is ultimately unfathomable and His wisdom is so far above our own which of us can truly claim to actually be able to, in a substantially different way from children, really examine ourselves. On a scale of 0-Infinite (0 being just born and Infinite being God) We're all a LOT closer to the 0 than we are to the infinite. So who are we (or who is Ursinus for that matter) to say that a child is not capable of adequate self examination, but an adult is?

2) We also have the issue of those who will NEVER be able to reach whatever kind of "age of discernment" we might set, mentally. I don't mean to make an argument from exceptions, but it remains worthy of note that, to some degree allowing mentally disabled folks to participate in Lord's Supper (something I'm wholly in favour of) points out the absurdity of cutting off those who are children on the grounds that they don't understand enough.

3) Another issue we have to face with Ursinus here is that, as we believe it to be the case with Baptism, we have no evidence to say that the disciples and/or the early church excluded little children from Communion. In fact the evidence seems to point to the small home churches of Acts and the early church being, for the most part, inclusive family affairs. Not only that, but we also have the Biblical pattern laid out, in both the case of circumsicion and the passover, that children were to participate. Not only that, but we also have Jesus' example of inviting the little children to come to him and his testimony that "to such as these belong the kingdom"

4) We also lastly have the issue that there are two errors we can fall into here: We can err on the side of too much constriction and "hedging the table" too much, or we can err on the side of too much generosity. Church history since the time of Constantine has generally (in my opinion) erred on the side of too much constriction in this respect (just look at the physical "shape" of the sacrament and compare it to what the early church seemed to celebrate as an example of this constriction). But a wise friend of mine once said to me that it is almost always better to err on the side of generosity than otherwise. If we're going to make a mistake (as we probably will, being who we are) then I, for one, would rather make it on the inclusive end of things.

in His service,

 

Dan.

 

 

As I have tried to understand the issue and the proposed changes, what I think is the essential change is that the discernment of faith that has historically been the task of the elders is being shifted to being the responsibility of the parents. Is that accurate?

Participant

Daniel I think you got it right, we are reformed with respect to baptism and arminian with respect to Lord's Supper.  We baptize infants without their knowlege of what is going on but on the covenantal inclusion via parents of faith, but when it comes to communion, we require discernable faith before one can be accepted.  If a child growing up in a congregation has been welcomed into the Body of Christ as a part  of it via the only rite of entrance into the Body given in Scripture, then why do we not allow them to grow up participating in the communal meal of the Body of believers.  I think we get hung up on the 1Corinthians 11 passage that by having infants receive communion, those infants will eat and drink judgment on themselves,  a poor understanding of the passage but one driven by our long standing wording of the older forms of Lord's Supper.  As if the Lord was concerned with those who didn't quite get all the theology of the Lord's Supper rather than with those who flaunted the reality of community and unity in the Body of Christ.  Perhaps our poor performance as a denomination in retaining our youth into their adult years in the CRC has something to do with our making worldly distinctions among ourselves as in Corinth, ours being excluding children and youth from the Lord's Supper.  And as some "fell asleep" among that congregation as a sign of the discipline of the Lord, so we lose our youth as a result of our "failure to discern the Body" in our context.  I welcome a greater inclusiveness of all the members of Christ at the table of the Lord.  Otherwise we might as well wait with baptism until we discern faith as well. 

Participant

 

 

Thanks for the affirmation, Colin. I couldn't agree with you more! ;-)