Great Stuff — Theses on Infant/Toddler Communion

Found over on MercyJourney:



  1. The question of admission to the Lord’s Supper is addressed from the instituting words of the Lord which also disclose the purpose and beneficial use of the Sacrament.
  2. The apostolic teaching that a man is to examine himself (I Corinthians 11:28) cannot reasonably be interpreted as to exclude the noetic dimension of which infants/toddlers are not capable.
  3. Baptism is an absolute prerequisite for admission to the Lord’s Supper but it does not follow that all the baptized are categorically to be admitted to the Altar.
  4. Arguments for infant/toddler communion bypass the truth that in Baptism, we receive “victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, God’s grace, the entire Christ, and the Holy Spirit with his gifts” (LC IV:41-22, Kolb/Wengert, 461) as though the promise of Baptism remained unfulfilled without the Lord’s Supper. By waiting until children have been instructed, examined, and absolved before admitting them to the Lord’s Supper, they are not being deprived of Christ.
  5. Faith does not make the Sacrament but it is only by faith that the benefits of the Sacrament are received. Faith is precisely trust in these words “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” (SC). In the Small Catechism, eating and drinking are joined together with trust in the spoken word “given and shed for you.” The Lord’s Supper is given precisely to strengthen the faith of those who through the accusation of the Law recognize their sin and whose terrorized consciences acknowledge their need and desire the forgiveness of their sins. “For people are admitted only if they have first had an opportunity to be examined (explorati) and heard. The people are also reminded about the dignity and use of the sacrament – how it offers great consolation to anxious consciences –so that they may learn to believe in God and expect all that is good from God” (AC XXIV:6-7-Latin, K/W, 68) 6.
  6. The Lutheran Confessions assert that none are to be admitted to the Sacrament who have not been instructed, examined, and absolved. See LC V:1-3, K/W, 467; AC XXV:1-3, K/W, 73).
  7. Lutheran theology does not begin with a generic category of sacraments but works instead from the Lord’s mandates for Baptism and the Supper. Each has its own distinctive features. They are not interchangeable. It does not follow that arguments for the baptism of infants are to be applied for the communion of infants/toddlers.
  8. The Lord’s Supper is the new testament of the Lord not the new Passover. Hence it does it does not follow that because infants/toddlers were included in the Passover meal that they are to be communed.
  9. Evidence for the communion of infants/toddlers in the early and medieval church is there in some places but it is not clear that the practice was universal or when it was first practiced. Lutheran liturgical practice is not based on historical precedent but on the Lord’s mandates. Not all practices of the early church are to be emulated. Infant/toddler communion is one of those practices.
  10. Arguments for infant/toddler reveal a problematic hermeneutic of the Lutheran Confessions which undercut a quia understanding of confessional subscription.
  11. Luther may not be cited in support of infant/toddler communion. He knew of the practice among the Hussites and while he would not condemn them as heretics (those who deny the fundamental Christological and Trinitarian dogma), he did not accept their practice as correct.
  12. Infant/toddler communion is a novel practice in the Lutheran Church. In American Lutheranism, it gained traction only in the 1970’s fueled by particular aspects of the liturgical and ecumenical movements.
  13. The fact that children who have been instructed, examined, and absolved may be admitted to the Sacrament at a younger age than has been the general custom in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is not to be confused with the admitting of infants/toddlers to the Altar. Churchly and pastoral concerns for unity in practice are important considerations. But the communion of infants/toddlers is not an adiaphoron to be left up to individual parents, pastors, or congregations.


About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff — Theses on Infant/Toddler Communion — 107 Comments

  1. I encourage all to read Dr. Preus’ book, “Justification and Rome” chapter 10. Despite Pr. Voltattorni and Erichs objections, faith is talked about differently in the confessions. They may not want to distinguish between saving faith and faith in all points of doctrine, yet that is exactly what the Confessions do!! There is “fides justificans”, or justifying faith that is mentioned in the Confessions. But when the Confessions speak this way they are ruling out many other aspects of faith and making a distinction between saving faith and faith in all points of doctrine. For instance Preus points out:
    “When the Lutheran Confessions refer to “the faith that justifies” (fides justificans), they are speaking discretely and ruling out many aspects of faith and usages that are commonly found in Scripture and/or theological discourse. They are not speaking or thinking of faith as it relates to prayer (AC X), or hope (AP IV), or to the fruits of the Spirit (AC IV, AP IV, FC VI), or of faith as knowledge of theological matters (AC XX, AP IV). They are not referring to “general faith” (fides generalis) which holds to all the articles of the Christian doctrine.”
    This is an important distinction that Pr. Voltattorni and Erich refuse to make and yet our Confessions do. We can say on the one hand that other Christians have faith (fides justificans) and yet do not have faith (fides generalis) and hence why they are not worthy and admitted to the Lord’s Supper. This is also though why in the Catechism and Confessions that it is not justifying faith that makes one worthy to receive the supper, but general faith. Faith in all points of doctrine, specifically as the Catechism and Confessions repeatedly state, “…faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.'”
    By failing to see this distinction Pr. Voltattorni and Erich will only continue to go around and around in circles and have to go through linguistic hurdles to explain away what is clearly confessed.
    As it pertains to infant communion we know infants have fides justificans. We also believe that being raised in the Lutheran faith they likely have fides generalis as well which is why we did not condemn the early practice of infant communion, we erred on the side of grace that these infants did indeed have fides generalis. Yet as good practice we do not commune infants until they confess/profess that fides generalis.
    Maybe that just muddied the waters more, but I think the Confessions are much clearer than what some on here have been trying to twist them into saying.

  2. Rev. McCall,

    You are distorting the arguments you have been presented with, creating straw men.

    Neither Rev. Voltattorni nor I have denied that there can be a distinction made between fides qua and fides quae. However, distinctions do not require separation. Christ is God and Man, but we do not separate His divinity from His humanity. What I believe Rev. Voltattorni and I have argued is that you cannot separate fides qua from fides quae as you do – especially not in order to pretend that a child who has faith (fides qua) does not have faith in a true confession of divine doctrine (fides quae), lest you contradict the truth of Holy Scripture as we express it in Ap IV “To have faith is to desire and to receive the offered promise of the forgiveness of sins and justification” (Ap IV, 48). Fides qua and fides quae are two sides of the same coin. You don’t have one without the other.

    Now, one’s confession of faith may perhaps be corrupted by false teachings, as with Roman Catholics whom we would not commune. However, the faith of an infant (at least when it comes to a Lutheran infant who falls under the confession and teaching of his parents and church) has not yet been corrupted by human reason such that he could be guilty of making a false confession of the faith. The faith of infants is simple and true, which is why their faith is held up as the standard by Christ.

    Fides qua and fides quae may provide useful distinctions in certain contexts, but they are inseparable.

    If you want to argue against me, Rev. McCall, at least attempt to articulate my position accurately. Thus far, you have failed miserably.

  3. Didn’t know this thread was still going until I saw something on the “Recent Comments” section.

    Dr. Heidenreich, I seem to recall you being a favorite blogger of mine many years ago, but maybe you shouldn’t pounce on everyone who posts here as if they are a heretic, stop calling on logical fallacies (which I completely detest), and stop calling in your pastor to put up equally-lengthy posts. We’re all supposed to be on the same side here. You jumping in and doing the AHA…Gotcha! schtick is really tiring.

  4. How sad this discussion has become. It will be my last comment on the issue as it is apparent that no one desires to respond to my previous comments but instead uses my name to further speak on their position. How can any serious dialogue ensue in such a circumstance? And why has this site turned into mere argumentum ad hominem?

The issue here is not whether an infant can commune, but what is it that makes anyone worthy of the Sacrament. That is why this topic is of such importance. I am in no way opposed to distinguishing “saving faith and faith in all points of doctrine,” as it was put. The problem is not when we distinguish these two, but when we separate them.

    I just attended a conference last week wherein the Rev. Rolf Preus spoke to the necessity of not separating the Spiritual Eating of Christ from the Oral Eating of Christ. This is made clear in article VII of the FC. The two are distinguished but not to be separated in the life of the Christian. This is how our Confessions speak, “Worthiness does not depend on the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength, of faith. Instead, it depends on Christ’s merit, which the distressed father of little faith [Mark 9:24] enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith. Let the foregoing be said of the true presence and twofold partaking of Christ’s body and blood. These happen either through faith, spiritually, or also orally, both by the worthy and the unworthy.” FCSD VII 71-72.

    Those who eat of Christ spiritually (which we confess that even infants do) are worthy of Christ, for He has made them so. Those who partake orally, may be worthy or unworthy, this the FC defines as determined by faith. To take the word “faith” as used in the FC and to separate fides generalis from fides justificans is what is contrary to the Confessions, reading into it one’s own position. We cannot say that an individual has faith in some parts of doctrine but not all of it, as if doctrine may be divided. One cannot have faith in Christ Jesus, but not faith in the Father or the Holy Spirit. One cannot have faith in our Lord’s Resurrection but not faith in His atoning death. Indeed, one may not know of all aspects of doctrine, but never has the Lutheran Church made sure that every communicant have a knowledge of all points of doctrine prior to communing. How terribly burdensome if we did! Would anyone then, partake worthily if the Church submitted to such an understanding of faith? I for one cannot confess that I understand all points of Christian Doctrine enough. Luther said the same. Thus, we distinguish the two types of faith, but we do not separate them from each other, lest we either turn the rite of Confirmation (the study of fides generalis) into a Sacrament or into a work of man by which we are made worthy of Christ’s saving benefits offered in the Supper.

    We cannot say that “it is not justifying faith that makes one worthy to receive the supper, but general faith,” for that is to say that we can have faith that saves, without having an object of such faith. Then, our infants, our elderly who have forgotten their catechesis, or anyone with a learning disability have only emotionalism, a faith without a Christ.

    I’m content with agreeing that fides generalis makes one worthy of the Sacrament, for understood correctly, this cannot be separated from fides justificans as both being the work of the Holy Spirit, and because fides generalis cannot be denied to the faith of any believing infant, lest we contradict Scripture and Confessions.

  5. Pr. Voltattorni,

    Might I suggest you both use shorter paragraphs and smaller words. This website isn’t Logia or CTQ.

    Tim Schenks

  6. @Rev. Anthony R. Voltattorni #4
    You inserted yourself into this when you were either asked or decided on your own to jump in as Erich’s defender. I am correctly stating Erich and your position. You just said you are content with agreeing that fides generalis makes one worthy. Yet on page two, post 32, Erich says it is only simple saving faith that makes one worthy, which you defended him on! So which is it?! Both may be sides of the same coin, but if you or Erich or anyone else fail to properly distinguish between them you bring about the kind of confusion that you have. By failing to properly distinguish (not separate) fides justificans and fides generalis you open the door for infant communion, open communion and the whole works. That’s why when the Catechism speaks it is clear that it is “Faith in these words” (fides generalis) not simply fides justificans.
    The same as with Christ and his two natures, to use your example. While they should not be separated, we dare not confuse the two natures. That Chemnitz guy that Erich disagrees with on faith also wrote a huge book on that as well.
    You say: “We cannot say that “it is not justifying faith that makes one worthy to receive the supper, but general faith,” for that is to say that we can have faith that saves, without having an object of such faith. Then, our infants, our elderly who have forgotten their catechesis, or anyone with a learning disability have only emotionalism, a faith without a Christ. ”
    Not true! Saving faith does have an object, Christ. Now that person may be denying His presence in the Lord’s Supper and may not discern and recognize Him there, and yet have saving faith in Christ. Here again you blur the two and create confusion. In fact we can say that because general faith includes justifying faith. Fides generalis always includes fides justificans, but fides justificans does not always mean there is also full fides generalis. And even if elderly, or those with a learning disability do not discern Christ in the Sacrament (as my son with Autism may not) it does not mean they do not have justifying faith which trusts in Christ. Again, if I follow your logic and fail to distinguish (not separate, but distinguish) between the two sides of the coin then only those with full fides generalis will ultimately then be saved. Again, this is precisely why the Confessions carefully distinguish between the two sides of the coin. This is why we acknowledge that there are many Christians outside the Lutheran church, who while they may reject certain aspects of faith, fides generalis, they none the less have fides justificans and will be with us in heaven some day.
    Now we can argue about, “Does this mean others have fides generalis, but simply reject and deny certain parts of the faith?” Sure. I can agree with that. And it rightly keeps your coin intact. But now we are getting into a whole different area on a topic that has already been dragged out too long (of which I am certainly guilty).

  7. A bit late, but I should add that my comment that set some of you off in the first place was from the LARGE CATECHISM…

    “However, for the common people we are satisfied with the three parts,”

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