If the PCA standards are so crystal clear, why are we having this intinction debate? Why are some churches practicing intinction? The proposed amendment to the PCA Book of Church Order would serve to clarify the theological symbolism of the sacrificial character of Christ’s death, which is what our distinct sacramental actions of eating and drinking are meant to proclaim.
Introduction: What Is At Stake?
The Reformers commonly spoke of three marks of the true church: the gospel faithfully preached, the sacraments faithfully administered, and church discipline properly carried out. Intinction, which may be defined as the practice of dipping the bread into the wine during the administration of the Lord’s Supper, affects one of the three marks of the church, i.e., the correct administration of the sacraments. No one in the debate would claim that the gospel is at stake. Nor would anyone claim that the Lord’s Supper becomes null and void through the use of intinction. What this paper will attempt to prove is that the issue at stake is neither more nor less than the clarity of the sign of the Lord’s Supper. As such, it is an issue that cannot be ignored.
However, no church or teaching elder that currently practices intinction in our denomination should feel that they are under attack because of this practice. No church should be run out of town on a rail on this basis. If proponents of the change to the PCA’s BCO should be victorious, all that would be required is a change in practice. These comments are offered for two reasons: 1. The temperature of the debate should be low. There is no need for heat in what should be a collegial and brotherly debate. 2. The issue needs to be seen in its proper context, as neither a gospel-level issue (a hill on which to die), nor an issue to be ignored (as if it were an attempt to prescribe, say, the shape of every Reformed church building).
There are issues which do not jeopardize the gospel, and yet still require attention. We need to be biblical in our approach to worship, and it is always healthy to ask questions concerning practices of worship as to their biblical legitimacy, especially given our historical roots in the Reformed tradition, which has always upheld the regulative principle of worship.
This paper will assume the regulative principle of worship as the Westminster Standards have defined it. WCF 21.1 says, “But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions, of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.”
WLC 109 goes further in its description: Q. What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?
The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.
This paper will first trace the history of the practice of intinction, and then examine the relevant biblical practices to come to the conclusion that intinction is not a Reformed practice, and that it is also unbiblical.
Lane Keister is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Winnsboro, S.C.