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Unread 08-12-2016, 02:12 AM   #1
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May the unbaptized receive Communion?

Hey all,

As an Orthodox Christian, for me, the answer to the question posed in this thread is a resounding "No", based on pretty much the Church's consensus on the matter for the last 2000 years. But it occurs to me that it's a question which isn't really firmly resolved in Scripture, or at least not Scripture alone (which is fine, because Orthodox folks don't believe in Sola Scriptura ).

However, if one were going to make a 'Scripture alone' argument for whether or not the unbaptized may approach the Communion table, how might one do it, without resorting to clarification from, say, St. Justin Martyr's First Apology in 155, in which he makes the answer to the question at hand explicit ("And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined")

(This question came up in a conversation with my priest the other day in which he mentioned that, during his days as a member of the Plymouth Brethren denomination before he was received into the Church, he prevailed upon his assembly to open up the Communion Table to unbaptized persons, since there was no chapter-and-verse forbidding such a thing)

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Unread 08-12-2016, 02:31 AM   #2
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I would ask whether baptism is part of salvation. If it is, then I would lean toward "probably not." The CoC would agree that communion is for baptized believers. After all, it is "declaring the Lord's death" until he returns, and baptism is "being buried with Christ." I think the two are very much connected.
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Unread 08-12-2016, 11:07 AM   #3
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May the uncircumcised receive the Passover?

or, in Tim Keller's analogy, May the faithful have sex before marriage? (baptism is covenant entrance; communion is covenant renewal or fidelity pledge -- likewise marriage is covenant entrance, and sexual union is an act of pledged fidelity)
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Unread 08-13-2016, 02:33 AM   #4
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I would say yes.

sent from Fiji by coconut mail.
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Unread 08-13-2016, 05:33 PM   #5
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I would ask whether baptism is part of salvation. If it is, then I would lean toward "probably not." The CoC would agree that communion is for baptized believers. After all, it is "declaring the Lord's death" until he returns, and baptism is "being buried with Christ." I think the two are very much connected.
I have been in the independent churches of Christ my entire life. They definitely believe it is something intended for believers but I have never been in a situation where I have seen someone refused communion. I'm sure it happens.

"Unfencing the table" is actually one of the things that the movement began over.
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Unread 08-13-2016, 05:43 PM   #6
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I have been in the independent churches of Christ my entire life. They definitely believe it is something intended for believers but I have never been in a situation where I have seen someone refused communion. I'm sure it happens.

"Unfencing the table" is actually one of the things that the movement began over.
There's a way to fence the table without explicitly refusing it to someone in particular. Like, self-selecting out given what the pastor's instructions are in the service.

I myself took communion before being baptized, as has someone else who was not even a Christian. I take these instances as disobedient or disrespectful given what Scripture says about the act of partaking the altar of Christ's body, if not worse -- drinking judgment upon ourselves.
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Unread 08-13-2016, 06:17 PM   #7
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There's a way to fence the table without explicitly refusing it to someone in particular. Like, self-selecting out given what the pastor's instructions are in the service.

I myself took communion before being baptized, as has someone else who was not even a Christian. I take these instances as disobedient or disrespectful given what Scripture says about the act of partaking the altar of Christ's body, if not worse -- drinking judgment upon ourselves.
I have refused communion in the past when I was struggling with certain issues. I think we all should examine ourselves before participating. However, I don't believe it is my place to tell someone else that they shouldn't be participating.
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Unread 08-13-2016, 07:39 PM   #8
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I have refused communion in the past when I was struggling with certain issues. I think we all should examine ourselves before participating. However, I don't believe it is my place to tell someone else that they shouldn't be participating.
Well, there might be the rub. There is a standard and we should examine ourselves in light of that standard (discerning the body), but we can't know or judge exactly whether or where someone else is on that. Instead, the pastor ought to proclaim the standard (say, "you must be a baptized member of a gospel believing church, and in good standing with that church" or "if anyone of you has an offense against your brother, be reconciled first, then come and partake", or what have you). Exception obviously being whether the person is being formally excommunicated.

At that point, I would think explicitly refusing a particular person is necessary. Indeed, it's the point.
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Unread 08-14-2016, 06:20 AM   #9
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Well, there might be the rub. There is a standard and we should examine ourselves in light of that standard (discerning the body), but we can't know or judge exactly whether or where someone else is on that. Instead, the pastor ought to proclaim the standard (say, "you must be a baptized member of a gospel believing church, and in good standing with that church" or "if anyone of you has an offense against your brother, be reconciled first, then come and partake", or what have you). Exception obviously being whether the person is being formally excommunicated.

At that point, I would think explicitly refusing a particular person is necessary. Indeed, it's the point.
We do something similar every Sunday. We sort of "lay down the law" but we leave it to each person's individual conscience. I have never been part of a local body that had removed someone from fellowship. I don't know how we would handle that if it ever happened.
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Unread 08-19-2016, 02:53 AM   #10
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Hey all,

As an Orthodox Christian, for me, the answer to the question posed in this thread is a resounding "No", based on pretty much the Church's consensus on the matter for the last 2000 years. But it occurs to me that it's a question which isn't really firmly resolved in Scripture, or at least not Scripture alone (which is fine, because Orthodox folks don't believe in Sola Scriptura ).

However, if one were going to make a 'Scripture alone' argument for whether or not the unbaptized may approach the Communion table, how might one do it, without resorting to clarification from, say, St. Justin Martyr's First Apology in 155, in which he makes the answer to the question at hand explicit ("And this food is called among us Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined")

(This question came up in a conversation with my priest the other day in which he mentioned that, during his days as a member of the Plymouth Brethren denomination before he was received into the Church, he prevailed upon his assembly to open up the Communion Table to unbaptized persons, since there was no chapter-and-verse forbidding such a thing)
IMO, it would have to be a very special case scenario for me to think it appropriate. In short, I think I can conceive of a highly contrived scenario in which I would deem it appropriate, but only in such a scenario where baptism was impossible owing to some form of incarceration, medical issue, etc.
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Unread 08-23-2016, 10:30 PM   #11
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My initial response woudl be to ask--why?--why does this person want to take communion when they have not been baptized?

While I may not agree with all the reasons given above--there is a connection--and ordinarily I would agree that to take part in communion the person should be baptized.

I say ordinarily as I don't see either baptism or Communion as salvific--they are not required for salvation--but they are connected to believers & are matters of obedience.
So the Piper quote above does make a lot of sense.

I do believe in fencing the table in the sense of fencing it for only those who have professed faith in Christ before God and men.
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Unread 08-23-2016, 10:49 PM   #12
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Where did anyone quote John Piper?
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Unread 08-24-2016, 07:44 AM   #13
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I think he meant Keller?
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Unread 08-25-2016, 11:41 PM   #14
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I think he meant Keller?
oops--yes, I meant Keller.
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Unread 08-29-2016, 05:11 AM   #15
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There's a lot here! Thanks for all your replies, everyone.

When I started this thread, I suppose my aim was to figure out if there's a way that, apart from the tradition handed down by the Church and to some extent, those who split off from her (like the Roman Catholics, from whom the Protestants sprang) through the ages that one could arrive at the notion that only the baptized may be communicants.

You're right, of course, that it's pretty clear from the typology presented in the Scriptures: Circumcision ; Baptism >> Passover ; Circumcision. Even so, there are some, like Dogfood apparently, who would disagree. Presumably, he has what he feels is a good Biblical case for permitting the unbaptized to be communicants, though he hasn't articulated it here.

The question I want to drive home is one of authority. To wit: what does 'the Bible as our final authority' actually mean, when anyone can simply have an understanding of the Bible which is different on some point or another from his pastor's, and run off and start his own denomination?

St. Ignatius of Antioch - writing in about 107 - speaks of being able to identify where the Church is and where it is not - to wit: the Church are those who call themselves Christians who are in communion with the local Bishop ordained from the succession of the Apostles.

He writes:
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See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church. —Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ch 8
In other words, Ignatius could point to a local gathering of Christians and justly say "there is the catholic Church" because he knew that gathering of Christians to be governed by duly-ordained presbyters (i.e. priests - the English word 'priest' is derived from 'presbyter') in communion with and answerable to the Bishop (in the case of Antioch at the time, namely, himself!). He could go to Smyrna and say "There is the Church, they answer to Bishop Polycarp". He could go to Rome and ask the Church there who their bishop is - "Alexander", they would answer in Ignatius day. And all of these men could trace the hands that were laid on them back to the Apostles themselves, and through them to our Saviour.

The question I put to you all, then, is this: how, within the shape of sola scriptura within which one can simply go elsewhere if he disagrees with his pastor on some issue, do you preserve Ignatius' mark of catholicity? How does an excommunication in a denomination like the PCA get enforced in the Southern Baptist Convention or the Evangelical Free Church or the ELCA? (In theory, an Orthodox bishop would be able to send his brother bishops the photograph, or, in times before photographs, simply the name of some very notorious person, and the presbyters would reject that person for Communion. One supposes he could go and join the Arians or something, but then it would be very clear that he were outside the Church).

How, in other words, do you preserve that mark of unity of no person 'doing anything connected with the Church without the bishop' -- without bishops? If a man - say, a new believer (we Orthodox would call him a catechumen - 'one who receives instruction') was impatient with being denied access to the Sacrament before his baptism, could he not simply run off and join another church, under a Protestant ecclesiology?
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