The Exegesis of Scott Brown and the NCFIC

Recently, Scott Brown has penned another piece in the Christian Post. Again, I have to be amazed at how good these folks are at marketing. However, it also shows what the NCFIC considers to be strong exegetical evidence. Part of it is their hermeneutics. However, the other part of it is that they are simply seeking to force the Bible to view the issue of age integration as important, when the text of scripture simply does not. Scott Brown begins with a discussion of Ephesians 6:1-4:

This article is focused on the first point – the setting of the meeting of the church.

In the first two verses, Paul is clearly speaking to children. These are the children who are in the meeting of the Ephesian church and are hearing the letter read. Paul uses a Greek grammatical form called the “vocative of direct address.” He is directly addressing the children in the meeting of the church. This makes it an obvious fact that children were present in the meetings of the early churches.

In his commentary on Ephesians, William Hendriksen explains it this way:

The apostle assumes that among those who will be listening when this letter is read to the various congregations the children will not be lacking. They are included in God’s Covenant…, and Jesus loves them….Were Paul to be present with us today he would be shocked at the spectacle of children attending the Sunday School and then going home just before the regular worship service. He has a word addressed directly and specifically to the children. (William Hendriksen, “Exposition of Ephesians” in Galatians and Ephesians: New Testament.

We need to understand that the meetings in the early church included babies who were cutting teeth, eight-year-old boys who were wired for movement, and budding teenagers being tempted by the worldliness of the world. The children were not in age-graded Sunday schools, but were in the midst of the meeting, and were taught side by side with everyone else. The meetings of the early church were conducted with a full complement of relationships.

Now, I am very suspicious of that quote from Hendrikson. As Shawn Mathis has shown, the NCFIC is not exactly fair with their quotations of figures from history. Not only that, if we understand this text correctly, there is a way that Hendriksen’s statement can be understood without understanding it to support the NCFIC.

Brown has made two errors in this analysis, one minor, and one major. The minor error is something I will not dwell on too much, and that is that this is not a “vocative of direct address.” Indeed, it is not a vocative at all! It clearly has the article, and thus, is what is called a “nominative of address.” There are certain times, because of the fact that the nominative is identical to the vocative in most cases, that the nominative came to be used for the vocative [Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. pgs. 56-59]. Hence, you end up finding these forms with articles [which have no vocative form] that are used in the place of a vocative. It is a relatively common construction. This is only a minor error, and doesn’t really affect the meaning of the passage. Hence, I will not dwell on it.

The second error, however, is much worse. Brown’s argument hinges a mistake in Discourse Analysis. One of the areas in which discourse analysis has been useful is in helping linguists to see the role that the medium plays in the understanding of a passage. For example, the discourse found in Homer’s Iliad or the Qur’an will be different than an discourse of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice because one is discourse which is oral in character [and only written down later], and another is discourse that is written in character. This has lead to all kinds of discussions of the affects of literacy on a society, which, while interesting, would be veering off onto a tangent. More on topic, Barbara Johnstone, in her excellent textbook on Discourse Analysis, mentions the study of Kittay on the rise of literacy during the Middle Ages:

Kittay shows that in the course of the Middle Ages, writing moved from being part of an activity that involved spoken words from the beginning (dictation) to the end (reading aloud) to being an activity in its own right, an activity that did not have to involve speaking, or the idea of a speaking originator, at all. Thinking of writing as detached from the circumstances of speech means that it is possible to analyze written words in retrospect. This eventually made possible the practice of scholastic argumentation, academic discussion about the true meanings of texts based on the kind of close analysis which is only possible when discourse exists in a permanent visual form. This, then, is an oral practice based on writing, something which would have been impossible at the beginning of the Middle Ages, when written practices were based on speaking [Johnstone, Barbara. Discourse Analysis. Second Edition. Blackwell Publishing. Malden, MA. 2008. p.203]

The point is that, as written discourse becomes more prevalent, it tends to take on a life of its own. More specifically, discourse is conceived as a much more fossilized and permanent form of communication, and thus, is open for academic argumentation. What this establishes is the fossilized nature of written discourse. Even when written discourse is read, that does not turn it into oral discourse. There is a sense in which, as a society becomes more literate, so does the sophistication of their written discourse.

What does all this have to do with Scott Brown’s argument here? The problem is that Brown has failed to distinguish between written discourse that is eventually read aloud [such as a letter], and purely oral discourse. There are major differences that make this argument highly suspect. For example, let us say that a letter came to your household while you were not home, and it was addressed to you and two other members of your household. One of the other members to whom it is addressed could very easily open the letter and read it. Then, upon seeing who the letter is addressed to, he would assemble you, and the other person to whom it is addressed, and read it aloud to both of you. In a similar fashion, those who received Paul’s letter to the Ephesians could have easily read it first, seen that the children were addressed in it, and immediately set up a time to read the letter in which the children could be present to hear the apostolic instruction. This possibility cannot be ruled out, given the fact that we are dealing with written discourse.

It is in this vein that I would understand what William Hendriksen is saying. He is not saying anything regarding the issue of age integration; he is speaking about those who would have children simply go to Sunday School, and *never* participate in worship with the rest of the congregation. The point that Hendriksen would then be making is that Paul didn’t think it a big deal to expect churches to have certain times when everyone was together as a congregation so that the word of God could be taught. Hence, he is dealing with those who *never* have the children together with them to worship, and is not saying that Paul is condemning all age specific education.

The strange thing is, I would say that the whole congregation should be involved in worship service. However, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue of age integration. It has to do, instead, with the fact that the Bible demands that all people be under the preaching of the word of God. No exception is made for children, or anyone else for that matter. Still, given the basic confusion of various mediums of discourse, this argument is simply a terrible argument, and one I would never use to prove my point, even if it only related to public worship.

The Bible makes it clear that meetings for worship, instruction and discipleship were age integrated. Further, there is no indication from Scripture that children were ever removed from these kinds of meetings. But, in our culture, it is often automatic and comprehensive. Contrast the normal meetings of our churches with the normal practices of the meetings recorded in the Bible. Here are just a few:

• The Time of Moses: Deuteronomy 31:12-13;
• The Time of Nehemiah: Nehemiah 8:1-3, Ezra 10:1;
• The Time of Jesus: Matthew 18:1-5, 19:13-15; and
• The Time of Paul: Ephesians 6:1-4, Col 3:20.

I want to take a look at all of these passages, and see if we can really substantiate what Brown is saying here. First of all, Brown is leaping sometimes across the entire Hebrew Bible here, and saying that this is “the normal practices of the meetings recorded in the Bible.” The gaps are *way* too wide to establish that this is the “normal meeting.” Worse than that, if we examine these texts, we find that no significance is given to the ages involved. Let us go through these texts one by one. First we will examine Deuteronomy 31:12-13. I don’t believe Brown has adequately divided the discourse to this passage. The actual section starts back in verse 9:

9. Then Moses wrote this law, and he gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi who carry the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel.

10. Moses then commanded them, “At the end of seven years at the appointed time, the year of remission of debt, on the Festival of Booths

11. When all Israel comes before the Lord your God in the place he will choose, you chall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.

12. Call together the people, the men, the women, the children, and your sojourner who is in your gates, so they will hear and learn, and fear the Lord your God, and will be careful to do all the words of this law.

13. And children which do not know shall hear and learn to fear the Lord your God all the days you live upon the land which you are crossing over the Jordan to possess [translation mine].

One of the interesting things about extending the discourse out this far is that verses 12 and 13 are now talking about the annual reading of the law at the Festival of Booths. The point is that *all Israel* [v.11] is to come, and hear the law of the Lord every year in the Festival of Booths so that they will learn to fear God, and keep his commandments. Keep in mind that the book of Deuteronomy is, not only Moses’ final marching orders to Israel in the form of a summary of the law, but it is also the end of the people wandering in the wilderness because of their covenant unfaithfulness. The people have pledged to follow Yhwh, and yet, they forgot about him. Thus, this regular reading of the law seems to be a reminder to the nation of Israel [v.11] of their covenant obligations to Yhwh.

This is important because the reason why you have women and children mentioned here has nothing to do with the issue of systematic age integrated discipleship. It has to do with a public reminder to all of Israel of their covenant before God, because *all Israel* “the men, the women, the children” etc. are under the covenant of God, and are to be reminded publically of their covenant obligations to him. Hence, the text has nothing to do with “programmatic age ‘segregation;'” all it is showing is that the children were under obligation to obey the covenant as much as the adults were, and everyone else in Israel was. That is why they were all called upon to listen to the law.

The next text Brown brings up is Nehemiah 8:1-3:

Nehemiah 8:1-3 And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel. 2 Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. [NASB]

The historical context is the key to this passage. In Nehemiah 7, the walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt [v.1], and Israel is returning to the land of Israel [v.6ff]. It is after this that you have the people gathering to hear the word of the law after seventy years of exile. Again, the context is similar to the one in Deuteronomy 31 where what we are dealing with are covenant obligations, and the public reminder to Israel of her obligations to Yhwh. The reason why children are included has nothing to do with some command to set up age integration as “the normal practices of the meetings recorded in the Bible.” All Israel [including the children] came to this particular hearing of the law because it involved the reminding of Israel of their covenant obligations to Yhwh. To read into it the notion that this is setting up some kind of systematic practice of age integration in discipleship is utter, complete, and total eisegesis.

Ezra 10:1-5 Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly. 2 Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3 “So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. 4 “Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act.” 5 Then Ezra rose and made the leading priests, the Levites and all Israel, take oath that they would do according to this proposal; so they took the oath.

Again, the key to this passage is its context. This is the beginning of an entire discourse of mourning by the nation of Israel for their sins and their breaking of the covenant of Yhwh. Obviously, since the context is dealing with covenantal sins of the nation as a whole, then all those who are part of the covenant are going to present [children included] just as all reminders of Israel’s obligation to Yhwh as a nation found in the previous passages we looked at are going to include all those who are part of the covenant including the children. What this is showing is not just that some people in Israel have repented, but that everyone in Israel is repenting and mourning for their sin. Again, the covenantal nature of these passages makes it absolutely impossible to apply these texts to systematic age integrated discipleship, because there were specific covenantal reasons mentioned in the text for why it is that children are included. To apply them to this issue is a total abuse of these passages.

Matthew 18:1-5 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

If you are trying to figure out what this text has to do with anything, you are not alone. I suppose one could argue that the “receiving” of a little child could be understood as age integration, but such would be total eisegesis, because the next verses say:

Matthew 18:6-7 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

Notice, the reception of children is in the context of treating them well, and caring for them, rather then causing them to stumble, and thus harming them. The text simply has nothing to do with the issue of age specific education. It has to do with humility, and whether we treat with honor and respect the least among us. To read into that some notion of systematic age integrated discipleship is, again, the furthest thing from Jesus’ mind!

Matthew 19:13-15 Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.

Again, if you are wondering how this text even begins to be relevant to the issue of systematic age integrated discipleship, you are not the only one. I suppose that one could argue that forbidding the children from coming to Jesus is equivalent to age specific education but, again, such would be horrible eisegesis. These children are brought to Jesus for his blessing, and what they are being hindered from is not the adult sunday school class, but from the blessing of Christ. If we kicked children out of the church, and never let them in the door, or if we treated them like second class citizens, then you might have an argument. However, again what we see is just how far Scott Brown’s understanding of these passages is from the intent of the author.

Colossians 3:20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.

I imagine the argument here would be similar to that of Ephesians 6:4, and hence, the above refutation would be relevant here.

For further study, see the following passages where it is mentioned that children were present in meetings of God’s people.

In Joshua 8:35, Joshua built an altar to the Lord in Mount Ebal of whole stones over which no man had ever laid an iron tool. He read “all the words of the law.”

There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them (Josh. 8:35).

Again, let us look at the context of this passage, and we will see a familiar theme:

Joshua 8:32-35 He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel. 33 All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. 34 Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.

Notice, again, a covenantal context where we are dealing this time with the blessings and curses of the covenant. This is especially interesting, since this episode occurs after the sin of Achan, the defeat of Israel, the stoning of Achan, and the conquering of Ai. Hence, again, there is a public reminder of the covenant obligations that everyone as a nation has to Yhwh including the children which is why the children are mentioned as present. Again, in all these texts we have seen, the purpose of the assembly has been to publically remind the people of their covenant obligations before Yhwh, and we have seen that, because children are likewise under these obligaions, they are included in the assembly. Has zip, zero, nada to do with whether systematic discipleship should always be age integrated.

Joel 2:15-16 describes a time of repentance of the people where all were to gather-even the bride and bridegroom on their wedding day.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room (Joel 2:15-16).

Again, it is almost sad to see this, but, if we look at the context, we see the reason why children are included here:

Joel 2:12-18 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; 13 And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil. 14 Who knows whether He will not turn and relent And leave a blessing behind Him, Even a grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God? 15 Blow a trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber. 17 Let the priests, the LORD’S ministers, Weep between the porch and the altar, And let them say, “Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not make Your inheritance a reproach, A byword among the nations. Why should they among the peoples say, ‘Where is their God?'” 18 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land And will have pity on His people.

Again, we are dealing with the threat of punishment from God for the people’s violation of their covenant obligations. The children were under obligation to keep the covenant too, and hence, if national repentance were to occur, even they would have to mourn and weep for the sins of their people. This is hightened by nursing infants, the bridegroom coming out of his room, and the bride out of her bridal chamber. This is so important that human marriage must be put on hold so the people will mourn and weep for their sin. However, again, it is dealing with the breaking of the covenant, and the mourning of the people for their sin. Because children had these obligations, of course they are going to be part of the public mourning.

Hence, we have seen that Scott Brown has engaged in a gross abuse of the Biblical text. He has completely abused certain New Testament passages, and, in the Old Testament passages, he has proven nothing more than that the children of ancient Israel were part of the covenant, and hence, were present at the public reminders of their covenant obligations to God, and public mourning and wailing for the sins of the people. It is a gross abuse of the text to say that this has anything whatsoever to do with systematic age integrated discipleship, as that is not the context of any of these passages at all!

Hence, after seeing this gross misuse of scripture, it is amazing to see this statement by Scott Brown:

I. Which way is more biblical?
Should children be in the meeting of the church, alongside their parents? If you only had the Bible, what would you conclude about what to do about childcare? Is there any evidence of childcare services to support the worship and instruction of God’s people? Do the apostles ever allude to a nursery or Sunday school? Are there any commands relating to the subject? Are there any examples to follow in Scripture for this area?

Let us answer these questions one by one:

“Is there any evidence of childcare services to support the worship and instruction of God’s people?”
Yes, the fact that the church is commanded to teach, and these are means by which the church teaches.

“Do the apostles ever allude to a nursery or Sunday school?”
Does the law of God ever allude to railings at the edge of the upper deck of a baseball stadium, or national holidays such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?

“Are there any commands relating to the subject?”
I will use Scott Brown’s own words against him here: Are there any commands relating to polygamy?

“Are there any examples to follow in Scripture for this area?”
Are there any examples of bringing water up from a well using plumbing, or serving only bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper to follow in this area?

Because Scott Brown’s hermeneutics do not take into account the field of pragmatics, he ends up imposing his own agenda on the text. Now, instead of the text being about children having convenantal obligations, it becomes about systematic age integrated discipleship. Instead of churches reading of the letters of Paul in a context where the church makes sure children are present to hear the apostolic address to them, you end up thinking that Paul assumes that almost all the time children are present. Statements about humility and caring for the least among us, and statements about not forbiding children from receiving the blessing of Jesus are turned into something about systematic age integrated discipleship. Why does this take place? It is because Scott Brown and the NCFIC will not allow the text to have its own intent. They have made up an agenda based upon the problems current in the church, and have imposed that agenda onto the the text. When you don’t consider authorial intent, and you rely instead on things like “examples,” “patterns,” “principles,” etc. which themselves have intention, then there is a danger of imposing your own intent and agenda upon the text. The NCFIC has bulldozed off that cliff. The simple answer to Scott Brown is that the issue of the ages that are present in systematic discipleship is not a concern of the Bible, and hence, if all we had was a Bible, we wouldn’t be concerned about this issue at all. It has only come up as an issue because the intent of these texts, determined by their context, has been ignored.

Why have children in the meetings of the church?
The question would be a strange one for people in the year 1700 since they always had their children with them during worship. It was normal. The question would not have come up because people were used to keeping their children with them.

The question would also have been an unusual one for people in the early church. The early church met in homes with all present and Jesus made it clear to His disciples that children were always welcome.

Again, Shawn Mathis has totally blown this apart. Please, if anyone in the NCFIC has any integrity, stop using this simple falsehood. It totally dishonest for you to continue to parrot it. Also, as we have seen, Jesus’ statement is not about setting up programs based on age; it is about taking care of the least among us, and not keeping them from the blessing of Christ.

The question would be a strange one for people in Israel. We have many Old Testament references that record children present during major events where God’s Word was being communicated to groups of people. The Old Testament writers make mention of this without explanation. It was simply too normal.

Of course, we have already seen the utter abuse of the Hebrew Bible, which confuses some kind of system of discipleship based on age with the public reminders of obligations that children had as part of the people of God. In *every* context Brown has mentioned, the intent has been to stress that the children, along with the rest of the people, had these covenant obligations, and does *nothing* to suggest *anything* about systematic age integration. It is only “normal” to Scott Brown, because he has brought this concern to the text, and is not looking for the intent of the text based upon its context.

It is obvious that the normative practice for Israel and the early church was to integrate children into the gatherings of the people. Further, nowhere do we find a trace of teaching or example of our modern age-graded approach to the church.

Well, as we have seen, far from being “obvious” that “the normative practice for Israel and the early church was to integrate children into the gatherings of the people,” such a suggestion is downright ludicrous given the context the text sets up for each of these passages. I would also add this little stinger, and that is, even if you could find a couple of passages where the context didn’t explain why children were present, you will still have to 1. show that the text lays some significance to the fact that children were present and 2. show that this significance is something that is in the context of something universally binding. Not only that even if you could find a couple of *examples* where the context did not explain why the children were present, it would still not establish a pattern. Patterns can only be made to bind if you can show that such is the intent of the passage. Very clearly, in the cases Scott Brown has brought up here, it is not.

Further, nowhere do we find a trace of teaching or example of our modern railings at the edge of upper decks, or our practice of the Lord’s Supper as only bread and wine. I know this is silly, but you get the point. All you need to do is find examples of application of the text of scripture that do not have a trace of teaching or an example in the text, and you refute this argument, because it ignores the intent of the text. Suffice it to say that I hope this post has shown that the NCFIC is simply not exegetically based. It is based upon a reaction to problems in the church which are then forced back upon the text. Let us all learn to understand the agenda of the *text* so we do not make these same mistakes.

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7 Responses to “The Exegesis of Scott Brown and the NCFIC”

  1. Shawn Mathis Says:

    Adam: I have Hendrikson’s commentary (but do not know what page he references). Even so, the quote itself tells us more than Mr. Brown may be aware of:

    “Were Paul to be present with us today he would be shocked at the spectacle of children attending the Sunday School and then going home just before the regular worship service.”

    Mr. Hendrikson does *not* dismiss Sunday school but is concerned that children are *only* attending SS and missing public worship. I, too, would share that concern.

    As for his knowledge of history, you are correct. If he would simply stick with “public worship” he would be correct: children did attend–but in Puritan New England they *sat separately from their parents*! Would Mr. Brown tolerate this? Not from all his rhetoric.

    But Mr. Brown used the broader (or more ambiguous) term “meetings of the church”. In that he is wrong.

    thanks for keeping an eye on this.

  2. otrmin Says:

    Shawn,

    This website:

    http://anglicansablaze.blogspot.com/2012/05/is-your-church-like-early-church-where.html

    lists p.258 as the source. In fact, what is odd is that it is quoted exactly the same as Scott Brown did. I don’t know if that would help in tracking it down.

    This is the first time I have seen anyone from this movement actually lay out their case using scripture, and, not only was I unimpressed, I was concerned about the way the participation of children was completely ripped from the context of the author, and placed into the context of the NCFIC agenda. The context of covenant obligations, the care and blessing of children, and having situations where children and adults met together, was replaced with the notion that all age specific education was sinful. The reason the author gives for children meeting together with adults was completely ignored in favor of the promotion of the NCFIC agenda.

  3. Shawn Mathis Says:

    As you recall, LCQ 99 points to a proper use (given the context) of any given command in the Bible. So, with a didactic passage, such as Titus 2:3ff. we see that these are suggestive not exhaustive of what God requires (only older women teach younger? No, older men too, and different ages, different circumstances, etc). That is the significant difference. Even if the FIC got the context right they would get the intent wrong.

  4. Shawn Mathis Says:

    Duet. 31 is interesting because it establishes the presumption that the church has a duty to instruct here members, including her children. In fact, it seems to assume that the children will not (or may not?) know the law and that this annual reminder is important for them.

    The seven year cycle is gone but the requirement to teach the members is not and in fact this knowledge (and presumably the means to knowledge, instruction) is multiplied in the NT era as promised by Is. 11:9: “For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea.”

  5. otrmin Says:

    Shawn,

    As to the first issue, you are right that context is only one factor in intent. There are several so called “felicity conditions” which must be met in order for a speech act to be successful. Clearly, given the background of the recognition of the wisdom that older members can have in the faith [something that is all over the wisdom literature] the emphasis is upon the church making good use of such gifts in the teaching of the younger generation. It is not meant to be a normative command as to how discipleship must be done *at all times.*

    As for Deuteronomy 31, I guess I am not as sure that it establishes the presumption that the church has a duty to instruct its members. While the church certainly does have that duty, I have been debating whether instruction is a proper application of that passage. The Hebrew term used in verse 11 is קרא, which simply means, in this context, “to read.” On the other hand, the text very clearly indicates that, because of the reading children will learn [למד]. Hence, through the reading of the covenant obligations, the children will learn what their obligations are to God [v.12]. Bringing that into today’s context, given that we are so far removed from the writing of the Torah, some commentary is needed in the form of teaching.

    Still for me, when I look at this passage, I cannot escape the covenantal nature of the passage. The reason why all Israel, including the children, were called to listen to the reading of the Torah is because these were all those who were under covenant with Yhwh. Hence, the intent of the passage is not to set up some pattern for how systematic discipleship is to be done, and such is utter, complete, and total eisegesis. The intent is to give God’s people regular reminders of what he asks of them, to fear him, and to keep his commandments. Children should be included in that, because they are part of God’s people.

  6. Shawn Mathis Says:

    Ironically many of these passages assume a Presbyterian framework: the inclusion of children in the Covenant!

  7. otrmin Says:

    Shawn,

    Absolutely. While I am not entirely certain of my position on Baptism, this is one of the reasons why I believe Presbyterianism is the most consistent with Biblical teaching. The inclusion of children in the covenant is something which, until shown to be consistently overthrown by further revelation [i.e., the NT], must be allowed to stand.

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