Under this post, a dear brother writes to say he believes my concern about superstitious sacramentalism within parts of the conservative Reformed church is unwarranted. He writes, "I haven't seen anything resembling contending for superstitious sacrementalism..."
To which I respond...
Here at Clearnote Church, Bloomington we have always practiced communion every other Lord's Day, more frequently than Calvin's Geneva practiced it. Yet the intensity of commitment and drawing fellowship lines on the basis of weekly communion is at least a parry, if not a thrust, in the direction of a reordering of emphases and priorities in Reformed worship. And is that reordering not in a direction conducive to superstitious sacramentalism?
It seems inarguable to me, and thus I wasn't surprised to have a prominent F-V pastor describe to my brother David and me how he had to stop the women working in his church's nursery from bringing the children into the worship at the very end, so they could partake of the Lord's Supper. You respond that he told them they shouldn't do it, so what's my beef? I respond that their doing it is the thing to focus our attention on. What teaching and practice and emphases produce such an error?
We have a low hurdle for the elders' granting a place at the Lord's Table to our children and mentally handicapped. Yet the intensity of commitment and drawing fellowship lines on the basis of paedocommunion is at least a parry, if not a thrust, in the direction of a reordering of emphases and priorities in Reformed worship. This practice is largely unheard of across the centuries of Reformed worship, finding maybe its closest parallel under the practice of the Halfway Covenant by Solomon Stoddard's Northampton congregation. Edwards inherited this practice allowing covenant children to come to the Lord's Table without any profession of regeneration or fruit...
(although these covenant children were not toddlers and pre-teens).
Now, I don't write this to attack Paedocommunion, but only to point out that the closest parallel to it in the Reformed church in America came to pass under Solomon Stoddard who believed the Lord's Supper was a converting ordinance. In other words, superstitious sacramentalism. And honestly, I simply cannot conceive of any serious student of pastoral care and theology, whether pro or anti-paedocommunion, not admitting the practice tends in the direction of the danger of superstitious sacramentalism. After all, I admit the same with regard to paedobaptism—which I hold to firmly.
This list could go on. Based upon long familiarity with what I view as the fad of covenant renewal worship, it's my judgment this shibboleth of F-V and/or CREC pastors results in a reordering of of priorities in Reformed worship, from the centrality of the preaching of the Word to the centrality of the Lord's Supper pointed to by a liturgical superstructure worthy of Purdue's best engineering students. Thus a friend of mine recently had a conversation with a pastor who is a disciple of Covenant Renewal worship's flow chart who said to him with some pride, "I'm only preaching twenty minutes, now!" As in "this is a change for me and I'm greatly relieved and pleased with myself."
This list could go on.
When I begin to hear preaching with authority in the power of the Holy Spirit that leaves men more convicted of sin with more fear of God and a deeper call upon God for salvation and a more lovely and loving trust of the completed work of Christ, I will begin to wonder if I'm wrong in my judgments. Meanwhile, I am a pastor whose calling is to guard the sheep and there's no doubt in my mind that, as cheap grace is the main threat to Biblical faithfulness within Reformed ministry in the PCA, the decline of trust in the preaching of the Word and correlative growth in trust in liturgical superstructures and sacraments is the main threat to Biblical faithfulness within Reformed ministry in F-V, CREC, and Escondido congregations.
Thank you for your kind comments, dear brother. I hope you will not take this rejoinder as hostile. My brother and I have watched the movement from the Reformed church into Lutheranism and Rome for many years and have lost several friends and acquaintances to Rome's heresy. We are not excitable on this subject. We are experienced. We love Biblical faith as the Reformers recovered it.