1689 Federalism Revisited

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Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Thanks for this update on your studies Harold. I'm glad you are striving to understand the issue as best you can and make your own informed decision. May God bless your efforts.



I'm curious where this idea stems from. 17th century particular baptists were very conscious of the fact that they had a distinct covenant theology, so in that sense it was "considered a thing." They wrote numerous works on the subject, so persecution was a not a distraction from this topic.

Just a minor note.
Would you be able to explain just how the Old and the new Covenants were in discontinuity towards each other then?
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
Brandon,

So, the criticism has been made here (and also other online venues) that 1689 Federalism is just a contrived attempt to craft a covenantal identify that is separate from paedobaptist covenant theology. How do you respond to that?

Since the criticism is nothing more than conjecture about other people's motives, there isn't really much to respond to. When I began studying covenant theology, I found that I did not agree with the paedobaptist version of it. I eventually found out that the conclusions I was coming to through my study of Scripture actually lined up with what 17th century particular baptists concluded from their study of Scripture. During that time, 90% of the reformed baptist resources I consulted held a modern Westminster-influenced view. I didn't agree with that view so study and discussion was a bit frustrating. 1689Federalism.com was created to help people in a similar situation to me by providing them with a clear presentation of a particular view with further resources to study.

Pergamum asked why not just call it baptist covenant theology. Because that does not adequately distinguish between the two above views. In order to have fruitful theological conversation, labels representing distinctly defined views are necessary. Of course, no label is ever perfect. "1689 Federalism" has the disadvantage of conveying the mistaken view that only "1689 Federalism" is confessionally permissible. However, with the necessary qualifications, I feel the label is a helpful one and I have not been offered anything better by critics.

So, in sum, I don't understand how providing resources for a historically distinctive covenant theology and providing it with a label to aid in theological discourse amounts to "a contrived attempt to craft" an identity separate from paedobaptists (since historically there was, in fact, a baptist covenant theology distinct from paedobaptist covenant theology). Baptists are not obligated to agree with it. I think that the Westminster-influenced version still has substantial arguments against paedobaptism. I just don't agree with it biblically. Hope that helps.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Since the criticism is nothing more than conjecture about other people's motives, there isn't really much to respond to.
Unfortunately, judging other people's motives is an effective tactic. It can shut down honest questioning. That is why knowing the origins of 1689 Federalism is helpful. It will not stop skepticism but at least it addresses it head-on with a dose of honesty. People can believe what they want to believe.

Pergamum asked why not just call it baptist covenant theology. Because that does not adequately distinguish between the two above views. In order to have fruitful theological conversation, labels representing distinctly defined views are necessary.

Agreed.

Baptists are not obligated to agree with it. I think that the Westminster-influenced version still has substantial arguments against paedobaptism. I just don't agree with it biblically. Hope that helps.

It helps quite a bit. Thank you.
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
(5). Do you believe the New Covenant IS the Covenant of Grace and do you deny that the Covenant of Grace is broader than the New Covenant?

One of the most criticized parts of Baptist Federalism is how the Covenant of Grace operates. Rich Barcellos states that the Covenant of Grace was promised in the Old Testament but not formally covenanted until the New Covenant. Another way of saying it is that the Covenant of Grace is the New Covenant, so the Covenant of Grace could only have been promised in the Old Testament but not inaugurated. I think this is a basic agreement among Baptist Federalists.

So Old Testament believers were added into what covenant?

Are OT believers added into the New Covenant, which had not yet come? Or the Covenant of Grace? If the New Covenant is the same as the Covenant of Grace, there is no place for OT believers to be added into until after Christ's work. And if they are added into the Covenant of Grace during OT times, then how can we say that the Covenant of Grace is not yet in effect until the New Covenant, because obviously members are being added to it, even in the OT. It seems very much in effect because every believer from all time periods are addded into it.

I still reject 1689 Federalism over these issues:

(1) The fact that OT believers actively participate in the blessings of the Covenant of Grace even while being in the OT.

Thus they were not merely participating in a promise but the actual presence of the Covenant of Grace.

The substance of the New Covenant must be active even in the OT or else OT believers have no Mediator. In effect, they are participating in the blessings of the New Covenant while living in the OT, so why not simply say the Covenant of Grace was active in the OT for the Elect?

Were the OT saints added into it when Jesus rose from the dead and took captivity back with Him unto heaven?

So the Church proper did indeed get started up on the day of Pentecost?

I wouldn't be opposed to saying that the covenant of grace was active and operative in the lives of Old Testament saints as they were regenerated, called, justified, idwelt, sealed, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit by efficacy of that which the Old Covenant typified and promised. However, if by active and operative you mean that each covenant was a formal administration of the Covenant of Grace as in classic Westminster Covenant Theology, that is the whole point of contention since we would see the Old Testament covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic) as being legal covenants pointing out sin and the necessity of righteousness, bearing the line through which the Messiah would come, and bearing a typological relationship to the New Covenant and the Church, even though intrinsically those covenants were related to life in the land of Israel among the physical seed of Abraham.

Did the OT believers in the coming Messiah actually experience the Spirit in the same fashion we do today after Pentecost happened, or did God remit their sins, but did not have them all indwelt as all of us now under NC are?

The position of 1689 Federalism is that the New Covenant was operative during the Old Testament, such that OT saints were united to Christ and saved by it (including being indwelt by the Holy Spirit). I will quote from the FAQ section at 1689Federalism.com "Did the Covenant of Grace Exist During the Old Testament?"
1689 Federalism teaches that only the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. Neither the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, nor Davidic covenants were the Covenant of Grace. Neither was the Covenant of Grace established in Genesis 3:15.

The question then naturally arises: Did the Covenant of Grace exist during the Old Testament? The 1689 Federalism answer to this question centers around the meaning of “established”/”enacted” (Hebrews 8:6).

First, the 2LBCF states in 7.3 that “it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality…” Among its references on this particular statement are Hebrews 11:6, 13 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him… by faith Noah… by faith Abraham… All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Rom 4:1, 2, &cWhat then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'” and John 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Thus when we identify the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant alone, we do not exclude those who lived before the establishment of the New Covenant – notably Abraham – from “the grace of this covenant.” Nor do we believe that they waited to receive this grace until the death of Christ. In sum, this New Covenant of Grace was extant and effectual under the Old Testament, so as the church was saved by virtue thereof.

How can we affirm this while at the same time holding that the New Covenant of Grace was not established until the death of Christ? In the same way that we can affirm that Abraham and other OT saints were covered by the blood of Christ prior to Christ’s actual death on the cross (2LBCF 8.6). Christ promised the Father he would fulfill his work in the Covenant of Redemption, thus securing the redemption of the elect. Thus it was a guaranteed certainty that the OT saints could “take to the bank.” In other words, the New Covenant was effectual prior to the death of Christ as an “advance” on it’s formal establishment in the future (similar to the way a person can receive a cash advance on their paycheck prior to payday).

There is more to the answer. See the rest here: http://www.1689federalism.com/faq/did-the-covenant-of-grace-exist-during-the-old-testament/


If the Covenant of Grace is effective in the OT and it saves, and if OT believers were living in its reality, and it is thus operative in the OT, why not say simply say the Covenant of Grace was inaugurated in Genesis 3:15 and has come to fulfillment or consummation in Christ?

For the same reason we don't say that Christ died in Genesis 3:15 - because he didn't. It was a future historical event that sinners benefited from before his death. The New Covenant was formally established in the death of Christ. (See the quotes from Berkhof in the link to the full FAQ answer).
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
"The Spirit applied the various benefits of the New Covenant to Old Testament saints via the Old Covenant, which considered in of itself (abstracted from the typological and subservient relation to the New Covenant) was a covenant of works, but because of that subservient role pointed forth to the substance that it was merely a shadow of."

But many 1689ers speak of the Old Covenant as only bringing death. But here you write that the OT saints are saved "via the Old Covenant"?

Question for you though: Could those types and shadows have been means of grace to convert the elect, apply Christ's life and death to them, give grace to them, and strengthen their faith in Christ?

According to 1689 Federalism, the Old Covenant did not promise eternal life, not even upon the condition of faith in Christ. That was simply not part of the covenantal agreement. That was part of the covenantal agreement of the New Covenant. How then were OT saints saved?

The CoG is union with Christ, from which regeneration, faith, justification, sanctification flow. Was the Covenant of Grace "administered" during the time of the OT - i.e. did OT saints receive those things during their life? Yes, of course. We confess that in LBCF 8.6. How were these blessing "communicated" or "administered"? "y those promises, types, and sacrifices." In what way did these things communicate salvation? By "reveal[ing], and signif[ying]" Christ. It is a matter of revelation. Promises, types, sacrifices revealed information about the Messiah. They revealed the gospel (news). God gave some people hearts to understand this proclamation of the gospel. Thus, through this proclamation of the gospel (general call), OT saints were saved (effectual call).

Does that mean the Old Covenant was an administration of the Covenant of Grace? Well, that depends entirely on what is meant. If it just means that the Old Covenant, through type and shadows, revealed the gospel of the coming Messiah, then yes, the Old Covenant "administered" the CoG. But that's not what is meant by "an administration of the CoG." What is meant is that the Old Covenant WAS the CoG. Paedobaptists distinguish between the substance (essence) and the accidents (non-essentials) of a covenant. They say that all post-fall covenants ARE the CoG. They are the same in essence. Their only difference is how they look (the accidents). They equate "administration" with "accidents" and thus the administration changes, but the essence of all the covenants is the same. This is what is meant by saying the Old Covenant was an administration of the CoG. This is what Particular Baptists rejected. They did not reject that OT saints were saved through the revelation of Christ in types and shadows of the Old Covenant. They rejected the erroneous conclusion that therefore the Old Covenant WAS the CoG. The Old Covenant was not union with Christ. The New Covenant is. The Old and the New do not simply differ in their outward appearance. They differ in their essence because the conditions and rewards differ (temporal life in Canaan upon condition of obedience to Mosaic law vs eschatological life upon condition of faith in Christ).

The OPC Report on Republication acknowledges the difference between the subservient covenant's understanding of types and shadows vs Westminster's understanding. I would recommend reading those pertinent paragraphs and footnotes. In addition, here are two further resources:
https://contrast2.wordpress.com/201...Darznr1qFIhiiqahlU7-_yvyG8iwV_OV7X5nZCzAXvll0

https://pettyfrance.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/we-all-have-our-types/

I hope that helps clarify things. If not, please let me know.
 

Stephen L Smith

Administrator
Staff member
I think that the Westminster-influenced version still has substantial arguments against paedobaptism.
Brandon, if we ignore the actual Baptist vs Paedobaptist debate for a minute, do you think chapter 7 of the 1689 Baptist Confession has some strengths not found in the Westminster Confession ch 7?

Note 1689 Confession 7:3
"This covenant is revealed in the gospel. It was revealed first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation through the seed of the woman. After that, it was revealed step by step until the full revelation of it was completed in the New Testament. This covenant is based on the eternal covenant transaction between the Father and the Son concerning the redemption of the elect. Only through the grace of this covenant have those saved from among the descendants of fallen Adam obtained life and blessed immortality. Humanity is now utterly incapable of being accepted by God on the same terms on which Adam was accepted in his state of innocence."

A beloved paedobaptist, Vos, in his insightful essay "The doctrine of the covenant in Reformed Theology" argues for a covenant theology funded on the pactum salutis, historia salutis and the ordo salutis.

More to the point, do you think the 1689 Confession 7:3 shows the relationship between the pactum salutis, historia salutis and the ordo salutis with more clarity than does the Westminster Confession?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Since the criticism is nothing more than conjecture about other people's motives, there isn't really much to respond to. When I began studying covenant theology, I found that I did not agree with the paedobaptist version of it. I eventually found out that the conclusions I was coming to through my study of Scripture actually lined up with what 17th century particular baptists concluded from their study of Scripture. During that time, 90% of the reformed baptist resources I consulted held a modern Westminster-influenced view. I didn't agree with that view so study and discussion was a bit frustrating. 1689Federalism.com was created to help people in a similar situation to me by providing them with a clear presentation of a particular view with further resources to study.

Pergamum asked why not just call it baptist covenant theology. Because that does not adequately distinguish between the two above views. In order to have fruitful theological conversation, labels representing distinctly defined views are necessary. Of course, no label is ever perfect. "1689 Federalism" has the disadvantage of conveying the mistaken view that only "1689 Federalism" is confessionally permissible. However, with the necessary qualifications, I feel the label is a helpful one and I have not been offered anything better by critics.

So, in sum, I don't understand how providing resources for a historically distinctive covenant theology and providing it with a label to aid in theological discourse amounts to "a contrived attempt to craft" an identity separate from paedobaptists (since historically there was, in fact, a baptist covenant theology distinct from paedobaptist covenant theology). Baptists are not obligated to agree with it. I think that the Westminster-influenced version still has substantial arguments against paedobaptism. I just don't agree with it biblically. Hope that helps.

You wrote:

"Since the criticism is nothing more than conjecture about other people's motives, there isn't really much to respond to."

It is not mere conjecture, I have heard these very things said several times, (1) That Presbyterians did not get their doctrine from the bible but invented it to defend Pedobaptism, and (2) We need to develop our own covenant theology to distingish us from the Presbyterians. There needs to be a uniquely baptist covenant theology.

Several RBs have stated these things to me directly.

Also, in Denault's book he states that Presbyterians have become servants to their system of covenant theology instead of following the bible due to their doctrine of baptism. For instance, he writes, ""the paedobaptist approach not only did not use the New Testament to interpret the Old, but did the exact opposite" (Loc 1320).

And again, "“The padeobaptist refused to separate the dualities of the Abrahamic covenant in order to preserve their model of the covenant of grace which integrated these dualities… Their system was self sufficient, but it could not harmonize itself naturally with the Biblical data, and, in particular, to the fact that there was not one, but two covenants in Abraham” (loc 1863, 1929).

Here is another quote:

“Presbyterian federalism was an artificial construction developed to justify an end: paedobaptism. We do not think that this laborious theology was the result of a rigorous and disinterested application of hermeneutical principles. We rather believe that it was the consequence of an age-old practice, which became the ultimate instrument of social uniformity in Christendom and which was inherited by the Reformed Church, namely, paedobaptism. Paedobaptism was the arrival point of Presbyterian federalism because it was its starting point” (Loc 2388).

I am not "conjecturing" anything; I have had multiple Reformed Baptists state to me directly, and, it is clear from Denault's book, that many 1689 Federalists believe that Prebyterians concocted all of their covenant theology as a means to defend pedobaptism. And 1689 Federalism is a way for us to develop our own uniquely baptist version of Covenant Theology.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
OT believers participated in the blessings of the work of the Mediator:
Grace was administered during the Old Covenant. But 1689 Federalists assert that there was no Covenant of Grace during that time.

So how was grace administered in the Old Covenant? Being saved by promises IS an administration of grace. The Covenant of Grace was active because grace was active. OT believers were not promised to be saved; they were actually saved. We see Moses and Elijah on the Mount talking to Jesus.


Not a monolithic movement:
Among 1689 Federalists there is much variation. And Denault even tweaked his book between the first and second editions. So I believe the movement is evolving.

Denault's book was successful in that he set out to show that baptists held to forms of covenant theology, but not in a way Presbyterians did. However, even the current writers defending 1689 Federalism vary widely on several key points. It was not as if a complete doctrine was preserved from the start by all of these baptists. They were grasping at how to view the covenants in a way that did not lead to pedobaptism. And they got different results.

I am a baptist. But I see no reason we cannot focus on the unity of the Bible and state that God's plan of grace started from Genesis 3:15. All believers were united into Christ and the end goal was always union with Christ.

1689 Federalism focuses on the discontinuity. That is what I don't like about it.


Trying to seize the theological high-ground: Jockeying for position

I wil also reiterate that I think there is also a fair amount of jockeying for the high ground by the 1689 Federalists, starting with their name. They've already claimed the confession....they are the ones who truly hold to the 1689...and they've labeled those folks who see more continuity as holding to an outdated "20th Century Reformed Baptists Coventalist View" - as if they were a small mere blip on the historical radar screen and they, in contrast, are the true upholders of the Baptist standard.

It is a clever tactic in branding. They are the real thing, but the baptists we've listened to from the 1950's to the year 2000 or so held to "20th Century Reformed Baptist Covenantalism."

Of course, that is like referring to "Medieval Baptists" as a unified group. Sure, there were groups that asserted baptism by immersion in the Middle Ages, but these often held to Catholic views on the mass and some even retained the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. These groups were not united and were not upholding some traditional Baptist standard, they were stumbling forward trying to figure out the truth.

In the same manner, those baptists of the 17th Century were not the upholders of our baptist covental identity, but were similarly just trying to ascertain how they could hold to covenant theology and not be pedobaptists.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
The Olive Tree Analogy in Romans 11 favors continuity:

In Romans 11 we see the imagery of 1 tree with different branches. There were not two trees but only 1. Unity and continuity are the main ideas. The discontinuity comes into play when some branches are broken off and others are grafted in to replace them.

This imagery favors the Reformed view of unity. Baptists who stress discontinuity often do not do justice to this 1 tree imagery. The Dispensationalists create two trees, Israel and the Church. And, if I am fair to 1689 Federalists, they would say the OT was like a support or maybe stakes to hold up the tree and are now no longer needed because that tree stands on its own and the stakes and supports are no longer needed.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Stephen:


Here is the Visible Church/Invisible Church distinction:

I say this as a baptist: many baptists err and do not admit this distinction.

On earth we have the visible Church. But we do not know for sure who the Elect are. The Elect only comprise the invisible Church.

But in Denault's book he says that God's people are believers only (page 92). However, the Bible speaks of the Church in the wildnerness and God says "Let MY people go" in reference to all the Hebrews. The Invisible Church is always within the Visible Church.

Many baptists do not acknowledge this distinction and state that baptism is a mark of salvation.

However, we all know that not 100% of those baptised are saved.

Spirit baptism is what saves. Thus Spirit baptism is the mark of being a member of the Invisible Church and water baptism is a mark of being in the Visible Church. We hope there is a close correlation and that all those within the Visible Church are elect...but they are not.

This was always the case all through the Bible. Paul, when speaking to Gentile believers, speaks of these OT Israelites as "our fathers" even (I Cor. 10, first part). This shows a fundamental unity between the OT and NT. And we all drank from the same spiritual Rock...that is, Christ. They all (even the unbelievers) benefitted from Christ outwardly.

Therefore, it is okay (even as a baptist) to admit that not all in the Church are the Elect. Unbelievers sit under the blessings of the covenant and live better lives because they are under the covenant even if they are not the Elect and are not strictly "in" the Covenant.


The images given for the Visible People of God are (1) The Tree in Romans 11 containing branches that are cut off and others grafted in, and (2) Vine and Branches. Notice that Christ speaks of some branches of the vine being cut-off and burned. This is only possible if the vine is referring to the visible assembly of the saints.

Thus, there is great continuity between the OT and NT regarding this topic.

Baptists assume that the OT allowed for a mixed company of believers and unbelievers in the same body. But there is also a mixed company within the NT church. We try to guard against it, but there are still false professors in the Visible Church. Just like the OT people of God.
 
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RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
You wrote:

"Since the criticism is nothing more than conjecture about other people's motives, there isn't really much to respond to."

It is not mere conjecture, I have heard these very things said several times, (1) That Presbyterians did not get their doctrine from the bible but invented it to defend Pedobaptism, and (2) We need to develop our own covenant theology to distingish us from the Presbyterians. There needs to be a uniquely baptist covenant theology.

Several RBs have stated these things to me directly.

Also, in Denault's book he states that Presbyterians have become servants to their system of covenant theology instead of following the bible due to their doctrine of baptism. For instance, he writes, ""the paedobaptist approach not only did not use the New Testament to interpret the Old, but did the exact opposite" (Loc 1320).

And again, "“The padeobaptist refused to separate the dualities of the Abrahamic covenant in order to preserve their model of the covenant of grace which integrated these dualities… Their system was self sufficient, but it could not harmonize itself naturally with the Biblical data, and, in particular, to the fact that there was not one, but two covenants in Abraham” (loc 1863, 1929).

Here is another quote:

“Presbyterian federalism was an artificial construction developed to justify an end: paedobaptism. We do not think that this laborious theology was the result of a rigorous and disinterested application of hermeneutical principles. We rather believe that it was the consequence of an age-old practice, which became the ultimate instrument of social uniformity in Christendom and which was inherited by the Reformed Church, namely, paedobaptism. Paedobaptism was the arrival point of Presbyterian federalism because it was its starting point” (Loc 2388).

I am not "conjecturing" anything; I have had multiple Reformed Baptists state to me directly, and, it is clear from Denault's book, that many 1689 Federalists believe that Prebyterians concocted all of their covenant theology as a means to defend pedobaptism. And 1689 Federalism is a way for us to develop our own uniquely baptist version of Covenant Theology.

I'll add one more and say this was exactly my motive six years ago when I studied Federalism--it was all about having a slam-dunk covenantal argument against paedobaptism. It wasn't just one motive, but it was front-and-center.

I can say about my current view that even if I found that it didn't lead to baptism of infants I'd still never give it up for the love of God and the grace of Christ that shines in it.

According to 1689 Federalism, the Old Covenant did not promise eternal life, not even upon the condition of faith in Christ. That was simply not part of the covenantal agreement. That was part of the covenantal agreement of the New Covenant. How then were OT saints saved?

The CoG is union with Christ, from which regeneration, faith, justification, sanctification flow. Was the Covenant of Grace "administered" during the time of the OT - i.e. did OT saints receive those things during their life? Yes, of course. We confess that in LBCF 8.6. How were these blessing "communicated" or "administered"? "y those promises, types, and sacrifices." In what way did these things communicate salvation? By "reveal[ing], and signif[ying]" Christ. It is a matter of revelation. Promises, types, sacrifices revealed information about the Messiah. They revealed the gospel (news). God gave some people hearts to understand this proclamation of the gospel. Thus, through this proclamation of the gospel (general call), OT saints were saved (effectual call).

Does that mean the Old Covenant was an administration of the Covenant of Grace? Well, that depends entirely on what is meant. If it just means that the Old Covenant, through type and shadows, revealed the gospel of the coming Messiah, then yes, the Old Covenant "administered" the CoG. But that's not what is meant by "an administration of the CoG." What is meant is that the Old Covenant WAS the CoG. Paedobaptists distinguish between the substance (essence) and the accidents (non-essentials) of a covenant. They say that all post-fall covenants ARE the CoG. They are the same in essence. Their only difference is how they look (the accidents). They equate "administration" with "accidents" and thus the administration changes, but the essence of all the covenants is the same. This is what is meant by saying the Old Covenant was an administration of the CoG. This is what Particular Baptists rejected. They did not reject that OT saints were saved through the revelation of Christ in types and shadows of the Old Covenant. They rejected the erroneous conclusion that therefore the Old Covenant WAS the CoG. The Old Covenant was not union with Christ. The New Covenant is. The Old and the New do not simply differ in their outward appearance. They differ in their essence because the conditions and rewards differ (temporal life in Canaan upon condition of obedience to Mosaic law vs eschatological life upon condition of faith in Christ).

The OPC Report on Republication acknowledges the difference between the subservient covenant's understanding of types and shadows vs Westminster's understanding. I would recommend reading those pertinent paragraphs and footnotes. In addition, here are two further resources:
https://contrast2.wordpress.com/201...Darznr1qFIhiiqahlU7-_yvyG8iwV_OV7X5nZCzAXvll0

https://pettyfrance.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/we-all-have-our-types/

I hope that helps clarify things. If not, please let me know.

I understand. My work schedule won't allow me to interact as I would like (I'm a tax professional), so as Coxe deferred to Owen on the New Covenant I'll defer to @Pergamum. I don't think I'd answer much differently than him.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I'll add one more and say this was exactly my motive six years ago when I studied Federalism--it was all about having a slam-dunk covenantal argument against paedobaptism. It wasn't just one motive, but it was front-and-center.

I can say about my current view that even if I found that it didn't lead to baptism of infants I'd still never give it up for the love of God and the grace of Christ that shines in it.



I understand. My work schedule won't allow me to interact as I would like (I'm a tax professional), so as Coxe deferred to Owen on the New Covenant I'll defer to @Pergamum. I don't think I'd answer much differently than him.
And we can also note that Owen wrote a tractate supporting infant baptism from his covenant theology, so it still amzes me that Owen is still the go-to guy for 1689 Federalists. He's been hijacked, I think.
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
I am not "conjecturing" anything; I have had multiple Reformed Baptists state to me directly, and, it is clear from Denault's book, that many 1689 Federalists believe that Prebyterians concocted all of their covenant theology as a means to defend pedobaptism. And 1689 Federalism is a way for us to develop our own uniquely baptist version of Covenant Theology.
Well said! I hear the same. Another interesting thing I hear from the 1689 Federalist are references to John Owen’s CT, yet Owen was a Paedobaptist. That seems to detract from their so called “strictly baptist” version of CT.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I am not concerned about why "Bob" studied this or "Jane" studied that. I am only 5'10", so I am not about to slam dunk anything. I also do not consider one author to be the fulcrum on which a whole theology pivots. Somewhere in all this discussion is the pursuit of truth. That is all I care about, to have the best understanding I can of covenant theology. Anecdotal accounts of what certain people are doing is just noise that distracts from the substance of the teaching.

Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Junior
Well said! I hear the same. Another interesting thing I hear from the 1689 Federalist are references to John Owen’s CT, yet Owen was a Paedobaptist. That seems to detract from their so called “strictly baptist” version of CT.

Has it ever occurred to you to find out why Reformed Baptists admired John Owen's covenant theology, despite knowing full well that he was a committed paedorhantist?
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
I am not concerned about why "Bob" studied this or "Jane" studied that. I am only 5'10", so I am not about to slam dunk anything. I also do not consider one author to be the fulcrum on which a whole theology pivots. Somewhere in all this discussion is the pursuit of truth. That is all I care about, to have the best understanding I can of covenant theology. Anecdotal accounts of what certain people are doing is just noise that distracts from the substance of the teaching.

Sent from my Pixel 2 XL using Tapatalk

Slam-dunk reference is from my post, so forgive me if there's even an inkling of suggestion that this is what I think you are doing--far be it from me! We're probably hijacking your inquiry anyway, and I bear some responsibility, so please forgive me. For me though, that was my motive, and in some ways the 1689 Federalism was marketed as the answer to the paedo covenant theology. But then again, that's not reason to think the original proponents of 1689 Fed were doing the same. And as said before, it's an attempt to harmonize New Testament teaching with the whole of Scripture and see Christ throughout. Whether I agree with the conclusions, it's good to have the discussion for that reason.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Slam-dunk reference is from my post, so forgive me if there's even an inkling of suggestion that this is what I think you are doing--far be it from me! We're probably hijacking your inquiry anyway, and I bear some responsibility, so please forgive me. For me though, that was my motive, and in some ways the 1689 Federalism was marketed as the answer to the paedo covenant theology. But then again, that's not reason to think the original proponents of 1689 Fed were doing the same. And as said before, it's an attempt to harmonize New Testament teaching with the whole of Scripture and see Christ throughout. Whether I agree with the conclusions, it's good to have the discussion for that reason.
Brother, all is well. My "5' 10"" comment was an attempt at humor. I just do not buy into the idea that 1689 Federalism was concocted just to oppose paedobaptist CT. Even if some are motivated by that, I am not.

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Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
Has it ever occurred to you to find out why Reformed Baptists admired John Owen's covenant theology, despite knowing full well that he was a committed paedorhantist?

1) Well of course...it should be a given, especially for those on PB, that we are always concerned with the question of "Why". I assume you care about the "why" as well brother. My understanding is that SOME RBs uphold Owen because they like his version of CT though they differ on his conclusion of Pro-Paedo. My point being that the 1689Federalist advocate their version of CT as being more biblical and a better stance against Pro-Paedo vs. what they label "20th Century Reformed Baptist CT"...which I see as inconsistent, because it would seem one of there "go to" guys (Owen), as @Pergamum stated, was Pro-Paedo.

P.S. To my Baptist brothers who hold to a more Westminster form of CT.....you should reject the label of "20th Century Reformed Baptist" because your CT existed WELL before then. Further there are differences in interpretation of the 1689 regarding Chapter 7. in my opinion, the 1689Federalist over complicate the plain reading of 7.3. If they saw so much separation between Noah, Abraham, David.......WHY:cool: did they make no mention of it in their confession (or foreword) if it was "supposedly" being used to show a CT view differing from Westminster (outside of baptism, which they did clearly distinguish)?


I think this is an important discussion for Baptist, because it would seem 2 camps are forming within RBs.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Bill,

How do you interpret Ephesians 2:12 "the covenants of promise."?

It seems all the covenants were described as covenants of promise and not merely law and they were meant to adminster grace. Therefore, we cannot say that the Mosaic Covenant was a Covenant of Works, the law was given by grace and the need for a Mediator was shown.

These covenants are all multiple re-affirmations of the Covenant of Grace leading up to the New Covenant in Christ.
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
So neither group ever gives a explanation in this dialogue. I agree this is very unhelpful.



A good read. I do not see how anything I said contradicts this article. In fact this article supports what I stated. Which is that 1689federalist embrace John Owens' CT and reject is Pro-Paedo position. This proves my claim that it is possible to hold to the "1689federalist" form of CT (largely) and still be pro-paedo.

Where is @Ben Zartman when you need him:):detective:
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Junior
^^^ Did you miss the takeaway that John Owen's CT in his Exposition of Hebrews undermines and contradicts the defense he'd given for the paedo position earlier in his life?
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
^^^ Did you miss the takeaway that John Owen's CT in his Exposition of Hebrews undermines and contradicts the defense he'd given for the paedo position earlier in his life?
No I did not miss that part, but I do not feel right in affirming that Mr. Owen contradicted himself. He is dead and I do not wish to conclude in this manner. Which area was he wrong then........his CT or his position on Paedo? RBs will likley say with Paedo, because that makes it seem that Mr. Owen was clearly a baptist he just somehow did not know it. I affirm his view of CT differed from Westminster in areas. I further affirm that he was a convinced and conflicted Paedobaptist. That is as far as I will go. I have no respect for saying a dead man is somehow in the anti-paedo camp, when his own writings prove otherwise. Bottom line Mr. Owen is PROOF that a 1689Federalist view of CT has not ALWAYS historically concluded with an anti-paedo position. In other words I am fine with 1689federalist claiming Owen for their camp, but I do not see it as a benefit to them as much as they do. I digress.
 
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Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
The rallying around Owen by Baptists probably stems more so from the fact that he gives such a learned defense of a covenant theology that closely approximates 1689 theology, he was a friend and defender of the toleration of Baptists, and he was one of the strongest bastions of orthodoxy in an age of declension from justification by faith alone, true gospel holiness, and all orthodoxy that we enjoy in the confessional world. We can argue over the logical implications of where Owen's views led, but that is secondary to the previous reasons of the promotion of Owen among 1689'ers.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
1) Well of course...it should be a given, especially for those on PB, that we are always concerned with the question of "Why". I assume you care about the "why" as well brother. My understanding is that SOME RBs uphold Owen because they like his version of CT though they differ on his conclusion of Pro-Paedo. My point being that the 1689Federalist advocate their version of CT as being more biblical and a better stance against Pro-Paedo vs. what they label "20th Century Reformed Baptist CT"...which I see as inconsistent, because it would seem one of there "go to" guys (Owen), as @Pergamum stated, was Pro-Paedo.

P.S. To my Baptist brothers who hold to a more Westminster form of CT.....you should reject the label of "20th Century Reformed Baptist" because your CT existed WELL before then. Further there are differences in interpretation of the 1689 regarding Chapter 7. in my opinion, the 1689Federalist over complicate the plain reading of 7.3. If they saw so much separation between Noah, Abraham, David.......WHY:cool: did they make no mention of it in their confession if it was "supposedly" being used to show a CT view differing from Westminster (outside of baptism, which they did clearly distinguish)?


I think this is an important discussion for Baptist, because it would seem 2 camps are forming within RBs.

Grant,
You wrote:

"To my Baptist brothers who hold to a more Westminster form of CT.....you should reject the label of "20th Century Reformed Baptist" because your CT existed WELL before then. Further there are differences in interpretation of the 1689 regarding Chapter 7."

Yes. As I have said above, I believe this is a jockeying for position. They've essentially labeled themselves as THE confessional and historic position (even though they disagree among themselves and ALSO the 17th Century baptists).

I don't think they mean to be disengenius, but they nevertheless are self-promoting themselves as THE position to take. What is more, they seem to say that there is one "Confessional" position.

You also write:

"I think this is an important discussion for Baptist, because it would seem 2 camps are forming within RBs."

I have come to the sad conclusion that it is the nature of the Reformed Baptist movement to split into camps and argue about minutiae until they split.

I think there is a way to promote discussion that is helpful about how baptists view the covenants, but it won't happen.

Here is a link that is typical of the manner in which this subject is often addressed: https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/james-white-doesnt-know-what-1689-federalism-is/

In the linked blog, first we have the provocative title: "James White doesn't know what 1689 Federalism is"

Then we have the description: "Dr. White’s response was very clearly an articulation of the modern or “20th century Reformed Baptist” view, as opposed to the 1689 Federalism view." Notice the labeling and the divison into camps.

Viewed positively we could say that the discussion is causing us to look deeper.

But, in reality, what is happening is this: whereas there were no divisions before, now we are suddenly being placed into camps. "He is obviously a 20th Century Reformed Baptist...whereas I hold to the historic stream of traditional baptist thought as reflected in the 1689 Confession." This all rubs me the wrong way.

And again (and I think this is a valid point) the world around us burns. But as Western civilization sinks into the dust-bin of history at least the Reformed Baptists will have orderly arranged these small details of covenant theology.

Also, I am naturally suspicious when any Christian group claims to have "rediscovered" some "lost doctrine" of the Bible. Has God left his church without the truth for all these millenia? (For this very reason I have re-examined my own position as a baptist many times. Why weren't there baptists in the early church?) I acknowledge that theology can move forward and develop, but when something springs forth suddenly, it should cause us suspicion. And the 17th Century is still recent in the overall age of the Church.

Also, while the framers of the 1689 took out key phrases of the WCF's chapter on the Covenants, the 1689 confession does still state, "it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace." 1689 Federalists then state that the Covenant of Grace is equal to the New Covenant. But why does the 1689 even retain the language of the Covenant of Grace and not merely replace the phrase "Covenant of Grace" with "New Covenant" if these two things are one and the same thing? It is essentially a redundant phrase in 1689 Federalism if the Covenant of Grace IS the New Covenant and nothing more.

I think the 1689 Framers were essentially concerned with merely denying pedobaptism and did not desire to give us a complete alternative covenantal system in the confession. It is therefore a leap to claim that there is a "1689 confessional" position besides denying that covenant theology leads to pedobaptism.

...and why not ditch the whole "Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace" schema anyhow and change it to "Covenant of Works/New Covenant" if the Covenant of Grace IS the New Covenant?
 

Smeagol

Puritan Board Graduate
Grant,
You wrote:

"To my Baptist brothers who hold to a more Westminster form of CT.....you should reject the label of "20th Century Reformed Baptist" because your CT existed WELL before then. Further there are differences in interpretation of the 1689 regarding Chapter 7."

Yes. As I have said above, I believe this is a jockeying for position. They've essentially labeled themselves as THE confessional and historic position (even though they disagree among themselves and ALSO the 17th Century baptists).

I don't think they mean to be disengenius, but they nevertheless are self-promoting themselves as THE position to take. What is more, they seem to say that there is one "Confessional" position.

You also write:

"I think this is an important discussion for Baptist, because it would seem 2 camps are forming within RBs."

I have come to the sad conclusion that it is the nature of the Reformed Baptist movement to split into camps and argue about minutiae until they split.

I think there is a way to promote discussion that is helpful about how baptists view the covenants, but it won't happen.

Here is a link that is typical of the manner in which this subject is often addressed: https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/james-white-doesnt-know-what-1689-federalism-is/

In the linked blog, first we have the provocative title: "James White doesn't know what 1689 Federalism is"

Then we have the description: "Dr. White’s response was very clearly an articulation of the modern or “20th century Reformed Baptist” view, as opposed to the 1689 Federalism view." Notice the labeling and the divison into camps.

Viewed positively we could say that the discussion is causing us to look deeper.

But, in reality, what is happening is this: whereas there were no divisions before, now we are suddenly being placed into camps. "He is obviously a 20th Century Reformed Baptist...whereas I hold to the historic stream of traditional baptist thought as reflected in the 1689 Confession." This all rubs me the wrong way.

And again (and I think this is a valid point) the world around us burns. But as Western civilization sinks into the dust-bin of history at least the Reformed Baptists will have orderly arranged these small details of covenant theology.

Also, I am naturally suspicious when any Christian group claims to have "rediscovered" some "lost doctrine" of the Bible. Has God left his church without the truth for all these millenia? (For this very reason I have re-examined my own position as a baptist many times. Why weren't there baptists in the early church?) I acknowledge that theology can move forward and develop, but when something springs forth suddenly, it should cause us suspicion. And the 17th Century is still recent in the overall age of the Church.

Also, while the framers of the 1689 took out key phrases of the WCF's chapter on the Covenants, the 1689 confession does still state, "it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace." 1689 Federalists then state that the Covenant of Grace is equal to the New Covenant. But why does the 1689 even retain the language of the Covenant of Grace and not merely replace the phrase "Covenant of Grace" with "New Covenant" if these two things are one and the same thing? It is essentially a redundant phrase in 1689 Federalism if the Covenant of Grace IS the New Covenant and nothing more.

I think the 1689 Framers were essentially concerned with merely denying pedobaptism and did not desire to give us a complete alternative covenantal system in the confession. It is therefore a leap to claim that there is a "1689 confessional" position besides denying that covenant theology leads to pedobaptism.

...and why not ditch the whole "Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace" schema anyhow and change it to "Covenant of Works/New Covenant" if the Covenant of Grace IS the New Covenant?
:agree:
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
In this past thread ( https://www.puritanboard.com/thread...s-between-the-1689-and-modern-rb.93344/page-3 ) Randy states the following:

"Rich Barcellos told me that there were various views and the 20th Century view is one of those that did exist during the 17th Century among Baptists. He did note that he believed the majority position seems to have been the 1689 Federalist position."


My response was as follows:

"This admission that all strands of Covenant Theology have been among baptists for years and that "20th Century Baptist" covenant theology can also be found among 17th Century Baptists confirms my assertion that a lot of this is Baptist Identity Politics for lack of a better phrase.

Groups are jockeying for position and branding themselves as THE true baptists, "1689 Federalism" trying to gain the high ground by claiming a name that sets them up as the REAL preservers of confessional baptist doctrine. Which of course is ironic because many of them get so mad when folks like R. Scott Clark try to deny them the title of "Reformed"..."
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
Pergamum, I want to be completely open and candid with you: Your angst in this thread makes it very hard for me to read and respond calmly. Would you be willing, for my sake, to tone down the rhetoric and state your questions or concerns in a different manner? Otherwise, due to my own weakness, I may not be able to continue in this discussion. Here are some verses I'll post for all of us to keep in min:

Proverbs 15:1
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:18
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Proverbs 30:33
For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.

P.S. To my Baptist brothers who hold to a more Westminster form of CT.....you should reject the label of "20th Century Reformed Baptist" because your CT existed WELL before then.

Grant,
I am completely open to using a label other than "20th Century RB." Feel free to offer up another one. So far no one has done so.

Who do you have in mind when you say that view existed well before the 20th century?

Yes. As I have said above, I believe this is a jockeying for position. They've essentially labeled themselves as THE confessional and historic position (even though they disagree among themselves and ALSO the 17th Century baptists).

I don't think they mean to be disengenius, but they nevertheless are self-promoting themselves as THE position to take. What is more, they seem to say that there is one "Confessional" position.

Brother, you seem to be ignoring what I have already stated above. 1689 Federalism does not claim to be the only confessionally acceptable view. Please stop misrepresenting us. Please see Does the 2nd London Baptist Confession only permit 1689 Federalism? in the FAQ section of the site.

Regarding the 17th century baptists, what works have you read on the subject? Have you read Samuel Renihan's dissertation? Anyone wishing to comment on 17th century particular baptist covenant theology needs to read it. He notes "The second complementary branch of argumentation was the identity and nature of the covenant of grace. The Abrahamic covenant was made known to Abraham. Andrew Ritor, John Spilsbury, Christopher Blackwood, and William Kiffen, Hanserd Knollys, and Benjamin Coxe established this argument in the early 1640s. For the rest of the seventeenth century it was expanded by the Particular Baptists with considerable continuity and minimal diversity... In light of the diversity of the Reformed covenantal tradition, it is noteworthy that there is a marked lack of diversity in the Baptist tradition. (326-7)"

Here is a link that is typical of the manner in which this subject is often addressed: https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/james-white-doesnt-know-what-1689-federalism-is/

In the linked blog, first we have the provocative title: "James White doesn't know what 1689 Federalism is"

Then we have the description: "Dr. White’s response was very clearly an articulation of the modern or “20th century Reformed Baptist” view, as opposed to the 1689 Federalism view." Notice the labeling and the divison into camps.

Viewed positively we could say that the discussion is causing us to look deeper.

But, in reality, what is happening is this: whereas there were no divisions before, now we are suddenly being placed into camps. "He is obviously a 20th Century Reformed Baptist...whereas I hold to the historic stream of traditional baptist thought as reflected in the 1689 Confession." This all rubs me the wrong way.

The purpose of the title was simply to let people know that White had not yet studied the position. People thought he held to 1689 Federalism but were confused when he made statements in a debate on baptism contrary to the position. It was confusing people who were trying to understand the position. The intention of the post was to clarify that he did not hold to 1689 Fed. However, it would have been inaccurate to say he rejected the position because he had not studied it. He was not even aware of it. So that's why I chose the title. As I clarified in the post itself, it was not meant in any way as derogatory towards White. Just a statement of fact to clear up confusion.

Again and again, your concern seems to be the fact that different views are being identified as different views. Why is that such a terrible thing? Should we say there is no difference between paedobaptism and credobaptism for the sake of unity? Should we say there is no difference between dispensationalism and covenant theology for the sake of unity? Making distinctions is just part of the wharp and whoof of theology. If it is something you object to, perhaps theological forums aren't the best place for you?

If your concern is only that those who hold to 1689 Federalism are trying to win the discussion by an appeal to historical authority, then I agree with you that is distasteful and wrong. But that is definitely not what I myself or others have done. The issue for me has always been what Scripture teaches. The appeal to history is merely a helpful aid. The intention of that post was not to say that White was wrong because he disagreed with the 17th century view. It was merely to point out there was a difference between his view and that - in order to therefore have a meaningful discussion about which view is correct.

Also, I am naturally suspicious when any Christian group claims to have "rediscovered" some "lost doctrine" of the Bible. Has God left his church without the truth for all these millenia?

I really have no idea what this is about. The claim is that the baptist covenant theology known as 1689 Federalism was held in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th century (Pink) before it was lost in the mid-late 20th century. ~50 years is not "all these millenia." Furthermore, from my studies I have found the early church writings on covenant theology to be much closer to 1689 Federalism than Westminster. So you shouldn't have anything to be suspicious of in this case.

Also, while the framers of the 1689 took out key phrases of the WCF's chapter on the Covenants, the 1689 confession does still state, "it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace." 1689 Federalists then state that the Covenant of Grace is equal to the New Covenant. But why does the 1689 even retain the language of the Covenant of Grace and not merely replace the phrase "Covenant of Grace" with "New Covenant" if these two things are one and the same thing? It is essentially a redundant phrase in 1689 Federalism if the Covenant of Grace IS the New Covenant and nothing more.

Because 1689 Federalism agrees with the concept of "the Covenant of Grace" (salvation through covenant union). Perhaps you would have worded things differently if you were in their shoes.

I think the 1689 Framers were essentially concerned with merely denying pedobaptism and did not desire to give us a complete alternative covenantal system in the confession. It is therefore a leap to claim that there is a "1689 confessional" position besides denying that covenant theology leads to pedobaptism.

The claim has never been that the 2LBC provides a "complete alternative covenantal system in the confession." Again, you have misunderstood (or have been misled by some). 1689 Federalism does not claim to be the only acceptable 2LBC position.

Further there are differences in interpretation of the 1689 regarding Chapter 7. in my opinion, the 1689Federalist over complicate the plain reading of 7.3. If they saw so much separation between Noah, Abraham, David.......WHY:cool: did they make no mention of it in their confession (or foreword) if it was "supposedly" being used to show a CT view differing from Westminster (outside of baptism, which they did clearly distinguish)?

Grant, I'm unclear what you are trying to argue here. Is it your claim that 17th century particular baptists did not have a covenant theology distinct from Westminster? Or is it your opinion that that difference was not reflected in any way in the 2LBC? Or are you just saying that it was not articulated in detail? As mentioned above, 1689 Federalism does not claim that the 2LBC lays out 1689 Federalism in precise and complete detail. Its statements are left broad with the detailed outworking found in their other writings. Their other writings simply explain why there is any difference at all between WCF and LBCF on these points.
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Sophomore
OT believers participated in the blessings of the work of the Mediator:
Grace was administered during the Old Covenant. But 1689 Federalists assert that there was no Covenant of Grace during that time.

So how was grace administered in the Old Covenant? Being saved by promises IS an administration of grace. The Covenant of Grace was active because grace was active. OT believers were not promised to be saved; they were actually saved. We see Moses and Elijah on the Mount talking to Jesus.

Brother, you seem to have skipped over my comment above yours. Please take a look https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/1689-federalism-revisited.97308/page-3#post-1189296
 
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