Sam Storms Feels Mark Dever is Confusing on the Lord's Supper

In the comments section of Sam Storms’ contribution to the baptism debate is a comment that is too good to leave there. Here is what the commentator said:

Adrian,

I think Sam might be misunderstanding Mark’s position. He keeps referring to the idea that Mark would deny a [paedobaptist] (visiting his church, maybe even speaking in his pulpit) access to communion. Hence Sam writes:

“One more thing should be noted. In his recent post, Dever indicated that he planned on having an Anglican and a Presbyterian preach from his pulpit in the near future. In the comment section of his blog, one person said: ‘The implication . . . is that there are people whom you are happy to have in your pulpit but not at the Lord’s Table. That seems a little odd.”

Yes, it does. But Mark is in print saying something entirely different:

“Questions of visitors coming occasionally to the table may be separated from the question of Christians regularly coming as members under the care and guidance of that particular congregation. Such occasional communion may be considered as similar to occasional pulpit fellowship, or other kinds of Christian cooperation between congregations that may not agree on secondary matters, but that would agree on the primary issue of the gospel. On the issue of pulpit fellowship with those who have not been baptized as believers, see Dagg, Church Order, 286—298. Dagg concluded that it was not inconsistent for a Baptist congregation to allow someone to preach to it and yet for the congregation to deny that same paedobaptist minister membership in their Baptist congregation.”

Mark Dever, “Baptism in the Context of the Local Church” from Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, footnote 16. p. 341.

To use Sam’s analogy, Mark may occasionally have a paedobaptist visit his church and preach (and/or take communion). This is an expression of fellowship and togetherness! But he wouldn’t have them come and preach weekly, nor would they join his church, nor would they be allowed regular, consistent continual attendance at the table.

Sam may still not agree with Mark’s position, but it seems he needs to state it more carefully before he attacks it,

Or, am I the one that’s getting this wrong?

Tom (promiseskept.wordpress.com)

Sam Storms has replied as follows:

Tom,

Thanks for your comments on my article. There appears to be some confusion on the point you raised. I’ve actually written to Mark for clarification on his view, and if it becomes clear that I’ve misrepresented what he believes, I’ll make immediate corrections in what I wrote.

But in the meantime I should point out that both Mark and Al Mohler were quite clear in their public comments at the T4G forum that a paedobaptist would not be permitted to participate in the Lord’s Table at their churches. You rightly point out that the footnote in Mark’s article appears to suggest that he might allow “occasional” participation by a paedobaptist. But this creates problems of its own. What constitutes “occasional”? Once? If once, then why not twice? If twice, then why not three times? Who draws the line and on what basis? It quickly becomes rather arbitrary, does it not?

It seems to me that if a paedobaptist is EVER disqualified from the table (simply for being a paedobaptist), he/she is ALWAYS disqualified from the table. Whatever it is that makes their subsequent and repeated presence at the Table unbiblical and wrong would make their initial and even “occasional” presence unbiblical and wrong.

What do you propose be said to a paedobaptist who has been granted access to the Table once or twice and then comes a third time? “I’m sorry, sir/madam, but although we didn’t regard your convictions as worthy of disqualification before, now we do. You weren’t in sin by partaking of the elements before, but you are now. Furthermore, although WE weren’t in sin by allowing you to partake before (on ‘occasion’), we would be in sin if we let it continue.” Is this really what we glean from the NT concerning celebration of the Table?

So, my point is simply that if a paedobaptist is welcomed by God to the Table once, he/she is welcomed by God at all times (assuming, again, that he/she is not under discipline). Otherwise you put the credobaptist in the rather awkward (and what seems to me unbiblical) position of compromising on his/her convictions out of compassion or friendship, but only once or twice, i.e., only “occasionally,” and then expecting them to do what they really believe is right and closing the Table to any further participation by paedobaptist believers.

The bottom line is this. If you believe the Bible forbids that a paedobaptist should be granted access to the Table, then abide by your convictions. Aim for consistency. Don’t try to make everyone feel better by saying, “Well, for the sake of ‘fellowship’ and in order to avoid giving offence to those we regard as ‘friends,’ it’s o.k. this one time. And maybe we’ll stretch it to twice, but after that we’ve got to stand firm on what we believe is biblical.”

Again, thanks for your comments. I hope this helps bring some clarity to the issue.

Sam Storms

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, a writer, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he serves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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