I’ve just read the section on the Lord’s Supper in Louis Berkhof’s A Summary of Christian Doctrine and I have a question for those who practice infant baptism. Berkhof was a paedobaptist, a professor of theology and is probably best known for his Systematic Theology.
Berkhof addresses the question of who can take the Lord’s Supper and writes,
“The Lord’s Supper was not instituted for all indiscriminately, but only for believers, who understand its spiritual significance. Children, who have not yet come to years of discretion, are not fit to partake of it.” (p147)
I don’t think there’s anything too surprising here, but here’s my question. Why is it OK to baptise those who have no idea of its spiritual significance but then deny them communion because they don’t know what that signifies? That doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?
Is communion a more important sacrament that requires understanding and faith on the part of the partaker, whereas baptism of an infant requires neither?
“The grace that is received in the sacrament does not differ in kind from that which is received through the instrumentality of the Word. The sacrament merely adds to the effectiveness of the Word and to the measure of the grace received. The enjoyment of its spiritual benefits depends on the faith of the participant.”
A few more questions here, I assume that Berkhof would have to argue that the enjoyment of the spiritual benefits of baptism obviously doesn’t depend on the faith of the participant. The grace of baptism, then, works in two quite different ways, one effects those who are baptised because they have repented and believed and one for those who haven’t but one day might.
Berkhof however links the receiving of the Lord’s Supper to the hearing of the Word, but surely that should also apply to baptism? I hear the word to ‘repent and believe’ on the Lord Jesus Christ and my response to the Word is baptism. So why is the Lord’s Supper linked to the hearing and faith response to the Word but baptism can’t be, or at least not in the case of infants?
Any thoughts, because I’m not sure I can see it.