NOTE: I originally wrote this review in 2009. However, ten years later, I’ve been hearing more about paedocommunion again. This book remains a valuable resource for combating this error.
Children at the Lord’s Table? Assessing the Case for Paedocommunion, Cornelis P. Venema, Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009. Hardcover, 199 pages, $25.00 USD.
Paedocommunion is a word that we’re hearing more often these days, mostly because of its connection with many of the figures associated with the Federal Vision movement. A few years back, one of those figures pointed out to me that no one has ever really written a book presenting a solid case against admitting children to the Lord’s Supper. He may have been right then, but I don’t believe he’s right any longer.
Cornelis Venema is well-known as a professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary and a United Reformed minister. In this book, he first outlines the arguments of Tim Gallant and others like him for the practice of paedocommunion. These arguments are primarily from Scripture, but there are also historical considerations.
In the chapters following, Venema considers these arguments. He examines the historical evidence and finds it to be inconclusive at best. He also adds a chapter looking at “Paedocommunion and the Reformed Confessions.” Several years ago, there was a case in the United Reformed Churches dealing with whether the Three Forms of Unity allow the teaching of paedocommunion. The answer was negative. Although Venema does not mention that particular case, he affirms the answer. However, most important of all is the Scriptural evidence. Venema examines the relationship between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper and points out that it is not as straightforward as many have made it out to be. In fact, there is a stronger connection between the Lord’s Supper and the covenant renewal meal in Exodus 24. Venema also gives an entire chapter to the crucial passage of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, concluding that the Biblical way to the Lord’s Table is through public profession of faith.
In the last chapter, the author also considers the relationship between covenant theology and paedocommunion, especially in view of the Federal Vision movement. Given these current issues, this is a helpful discussion. Equally helpful is the appendix dealing with covenant theology and baptism. Venema correctly outlines the promise and obligations of the covenant. Like Klaas Schilder, he distinguishes between two different aspects of the covenant of grace. There’s also a good section on whether the covenant is conditional or unconditional – though I do think that more explicit reference to union with Christ could have sharpened the argument here.
This is an excellent and timely book dealing with an important issue. It would be worthwhile to have it on hand in family and church libraries for when questions arise about paedocommunion. It’s also highly recommended for those who need to have a good understanding of this issue, i.e. pastors and elders.