Calvin on Covenant Renewal, Federal Vision worship...

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Responding to the post titled, "Worship wars: Jeff Meyers and Peter Leithart have won...", one brother comments:

Surely the issue is not how often, but simply "how"? Weekly communion is Reformed (Calvin). Communion without a sermon, communion which is somehow emphasized at the expense of the sermon, communion in which there is any adoration of the elements, any concern that "Jesus is being spilled," etc., communion which is understood and presented as repetition of the sacrifice of Christ—or anything approaching that—is not.

I respond: Most of the things you highlight have been Reformed commitments from the beginning. The pairing of weekly communion and paedocommunion have not. Each without the other would have less of an implication for Reformed worship than both together. And make no mistake about it: both together are a confessional issue to the Covenant Renewal Worship, Federal Vision crowd. Yet there's no precedent for it in Reformed sacramentology or worship.

Everyone likes to say Calvin was for weekly worship, acting as if that supports what the Covenant Renewal Worship, Federal Vision men have done to Reformed sacramentology and worship, but they miss the larger picture. Calvin was for weekly communion, yes; but Geneva's observance of the Lord's Supper was quarterly and Calvin didn't leave Geneva over it. In other words, for Calvin and the Geneva reformers, frequency of communion was adiaphora.

You'll never get the Covenant Renewal Worship, Federal Vision crowd to agree with Calvin on this. For them, weekly communion is anything but adiaphora. To them, weekly communion is a confessional issue and you'll know it because you'll watch as they drive from Geneva to Strasbourg every single Lord's Day to get their family...

to participate in worship where the Lord's Table is the apex of worship and is celebrated weekly.

Even if the churches surrounding them in Geneva celebrate weekly communion but bar their toddlers from the Table, they'll still drive from Geneva to Strasbourg every single Lord's Day if that's what's required to get their toddlers to be able to participate in the Lord's Supper by eating and drinking.

To the Covenant Renewal Worship, Federal Vision men, both weekly communion and paedocommunion are confessional issues if confessional issues are revealed by a man rejecting the churches in Geneva, instead traveling to a church in Strasbourg each week (which seems reasonable).

Despite their incessant protests to the contrary, there's a world of difference between Calvin's sacramentology and the sacramentology of the Covenant Renewal Worship, Federal Vision errantists. Calvin lived with quarterly communion. The Covenant Renewal Worship, Federal Vision men will not.

Weekly communion doesn't stand alone, but is pollinated by paedocommunion and the Old Testament sacrificial liturgy. Sure, arguments can be made for one of the three and the other two can seem like a good step to former Baptists who want to get as far away from their past as possible.

But is it no small thing to redo the simplicity of Geneva's liturgy with the preaching of the Word at its apex and communion administered quarterly with the Table fenced rigorously and children under eight barred from that Table, exchanging it for the complexity of Jeff Meyers's Covenant Renewal Worship liturgy ordered as a recapitulation of Old Testament sacrificial ritual with the Lord's Supper at its apex and communion administered weekly with the Table fenced rarely (if at all) and one and two and three-years-old forced to come to the Table by their pastors, elders, and fathers?

It sounds like sacramentalism. It looks like sacramentalism. It smells like sacramentalism. Yet they keep reassuring us that it is merely what Calvin, Bucer, and Knox believed in and would have practiced had they been allowed to. And they say it with a straight face, having the audacity of accusing those who expose their sacramentalism of being Zwinglian.

Let us conclude by noting that Calvinists and the Council of Trent agreed on one thing: they both condemned paedocommunion.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!