A summary of where I am at on Covenant Theology

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Just join the darkside of the consensus of the Church Catholic ;)
That is a temptation. If the Church believed it for many long centuries, then it must not be dismissed lightly. But the Catholic system since the early centuries had infant baptist tied to salvation and believed in some form of baptismal regeneration. Should I join that consensus, too?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I have long been hesitant to join this august board, feeling I had nothing constructive to add, but felt the need to jump in for this one. Pergamum: your summary in the first post describes accurately what we baptists believe in my corner of the Reformed Baptist world. I don't know what 1689 federalism is, but if it's different than your summary, we don't hold to it.
I would say we are as close as to Presbyterians as can be, save that we differ in church polity, and we differ in who are the proper recipients of baptism.
Simply to state our position (knowing this is not the place for a baptism debate), we believe that in the New Covenant (which as has been pointed out is an administration of the CoG, just like the Old Covenant was), only those who are regenerate are in covenant with God. In the Old Covenant you were a member by physical birth, but that did not assure salvation--the OC had among them as visible members both the regenerate and the un-. In the New Covenant you are member ONLY by the New Birth, which is one of the Better Promises on which the NC is founded--all who are in covenant with God know Him savingly, and it is a covenant that cannot be broken, which the old one could.
This is not yet an august board. It is still July.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Pergamum,

Here is an observation. Take it or leave it.

You're definitely in study mode. That's a good thing. Don't ever stop. And inquire from guys who know this stuff, as you've been doing here. I've not been in the 1689 federal camp very long, so I'm still sorting myself out as well.

However, I am not trying to learn about it from hacks like me. I'm going to modern scholars and the particular baptists themselves. Don't just read Denault, although that is a good place to start. Read the Coxe/Owen book. RBAP has a lot of good stuff. Founders or Free Grace Press as well. From there, you can springboard into many great resources.

My point, do more research. Base your decision (which is a serious one) on more than just the interaction and exchanges here. Read multiple view points. I just finished Horton's book on CT. Now I'm on to Recovering a Covenantal Heritage. That has helped me go to other sources (journals and books) that I plan to continue to read. It has even given me a dissertation idea, should I decide to make this my area of focus.

To be truthful, I am growing suspicious of these RB books, because they are written to push an agenda. They have an ax to grind. Their polemics seem to be clouding their exegesis. The more they write, the more I am turned away from it. Some of it is their tone....as if paedos are so stupid that they overlook the clear implications of Scripture. Or that paedos love to baptize their babies so much without biblical reasons, that they will create an entire theological construct in order to defend this one pet doctrine. Many Presbyterians/Reformed are also similarly partisan and unfair to their oppoenents (R. Scott Clark, for instance), but I see a spate of baptists writings doing the same thing (and I am sure I have also done the same).
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I have long been hesitant to join this august board, feeling I had nothing constructive to add, but felt the need to jump in for this one. Pergamum: your summary in the first post describes accurately what we baptists believe in my corner of the Reformed Baptist world. I don't know what 1689 federalism is, but if it's different than your summary, we don't hold to it.
I would say we are as close as to Presbyterians as can be, save that we differ in church polity, and we differ in who are the proper recipients of baptism.
Simply to state our position (knowing this is not the place for a baptism debate), we believe that in the New Covenant (which as has been pointed out is an administration of the CoG, just like the Old Covenant was), only those who are regenerate are in covenant with God. In the Old Covenant you were a member by physical birth, but that did not assure salvation--the OC had among them as visible members both the regenerate and the un-. In the New Covenant you are member ONLY by the New Birth, which is one of the Better Promises on which the NC is founded--all who are in covenant with God know Him savingly, and it is a covenant that cannot be broken, which the old one could.
Ben,

Maybe I need to get to know you Bristol, RI Reformed Baptists better. Can you PM me and we can connect via Facebook and email?
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
In the New Covenant you are member ONLY by the New Birth

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

Hi Ben,

The problem is that we do not know who has been born again. Many tares will grow up in the Church along with the wheat.
In verse 7 from 1 Samuel above, Samuel is not being rebuked by the Lord for his looking only at the outward appearance. Rather, the Lord is stating what the case is between men and men. We do NOT know what is in another man's heart. Period.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
That is a temptation. If the Church believed it for many long centuries, then it must not be dismissed lightly. But the Catholic system since the early centuries had infant baptist tied to salvation and believed in some form of baptismal regeneration. Should I join that consensus, too?

No you should not, because it is not biblical. I think everyone should know why they don't believe in baptismal regeneration, and why the Bible does not teach it. That is what is owed to that position. A foeman worthy of the steel, as it were. After all, some passages, read too carelessly, might seem to suggest it. But just because you want to reject the church's decision on this does not mean that you need to reject its position on something else. It is most definitely not a slippery slope from paedo-baptism to baptismal regeneration, and the history of Reformed theology demonstrates this pretty clearly.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I have long been hesitant to join this august board, feeling I had nothing constructive to add, but felt the need to jump in for this one. Pergamum: your summary in the first post describes accurately what we baptists believe in my corner of the Reformed Baptist world. I don't know what 1689 federalism is, but if it's different than your summary, we don't hold to it.
I would say we are as close as to Presbyterians as can be, save that we differ in church polity, and we differ in who are the proper recipients of baptism.
Simply to state our position (knowing this is not the place for a baptism debate), we believe that in the New Covenant (which as has been pointed out is an administration of the CoG, just like the Old Covenant was), only those who are regenerate are in covenant with God. In the Old Covenant you were a member by physical birth, but that did not assure salvation--the OC had among them as visible members both the regenerate and the un-. In the New Covenant you are member ONLY by the New Birth, which is one of the Better Promises on which the NC is founded--all who are in covenant with God know Him savingly, and it is a covenant that cannot be broken, which the old one could.

Welcome to the board, Ben. If you are half the man your brother Ruben is, then we are in serious trouble. Just kidding.

You say we differ only in polity and recipients of baptism. There is, however, a third difference in terms if covenant theology, and it is a biggy: paedos believe in a distinction between the essence of the covenant and its administration. Belonging to the essence is basically the same as what you claim for the covenant as a whole. But the administration allows for people who might be unsaved to still belong to the covenant in some way. Since paedos believe that baptism is tied to the administration and not the essence, we believe both that children ought to be baptized, and that there is no reason to assume regeneration on the part of all who are baptized.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
No you should not, because it is not biblical. I think everyone should know why they don't believe in baptismal regeneration, and why the Bible does not teach it. That is what is owed to that position. A foeman worthy of the steel, as it were. After all, some passages, read too carelessly, might seem to suggest it. But just because you want to reject the church's decision on this does not mean that you need to reject its position on something else. It is most definitely not a slippery slope from paedo-baptism to baptismal regeneration, and the history of Reformed theology demonstrates this pretty clearly.
ok. Fair enough.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Is there another possible position as a baptist without adopting 1689 Federalism?

Yes. There wouldn't be an argument if it weren't. Your views aren't out of accord with the 1689, a fact that the leading lights of "1689 Federalism" have readily acknowledged. The confession is broad enough to allow for both views.

This is also sort of a Baptist version of the constant Presbyterian warring of WTS East vs WTS West, etc. But all of them remain Presbyterian and not something else. In this case, it is simply that the Barcellos and Renihan (and Johnson and Denault) "team" is the one that is doing all of the publishing right now.

Why not try to talk to Waldron, Malone or some of the others that they are reacting against? Some of those men are now in retirement, I think, but this issue has certainly come before them and I'm sure they'd be happy to discuss it. (Their books are also readily available.) In those FB threads, you've been talking to a bunch of cage stagers, a couple of authors who at best disagree with others in their own camp at certain points (how our mutual friend came to endorse the other fellow's book is beyond me) and then one man who has more credentials than all of them put together who seems to agree with you, more or less.

In your OP it seems you setting up Presbyterianism vs what you find in a FB thread, even though the latter may be somewhat representative of one side of today's conversation. To the extent that you're doing that, you're forcing a false choice, in my opinion.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Yes. There wouldn't be an argument if it weren't. Your views aren't out of accord with the 1689, a fact that the leading lights of "1689 Federalism" have readily acknowledged. The confession is broad enough to allow for both views.

Why not try to talk to Waldron, Malone or some of the others that they are reacting against? In those FB threads, you've been talking to a bunch of cage stagers, a couple of authors who at best disagree with others in their own camp at certain points (how our mutual friend came to endorse the other fellow's book is beyond me) and then one man who has more credentials than all of them put together who seems to agree with you, more or less.

In your OP it seems you setting up Presbyterianism vs what you find in a FB thread, even though the latter may be somewhat representative of one side of today's conversation. To the extent that you're doing that, you're forcing a false choice, in my opinion.

As always, Chris, you are super helpful. Thanks. Can you help point me to links where the other more traditional view is expounded. I like Malone's book and most everything Dr Waldron writes. My troubles only began when I began to be told that I really needed to believe in 1689 Federalism because it was THE baptist position, lest I be merely an "immersed Presbyterian."

Also, why the recent reaction? Why the cage-stage 1689 Federalists? If you'd like to PM or email me so you can talk more freely, I would welcome that.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
As always, Chris, you are super helpful. Thanks. Can you help point me to links where the other more traditional view is expounded. I like Malone's book and most everything Dr Waldron writes. My troubles only began when I began to be told that I really needed to believe in 1689 Federalism because it was THE baptist position, lest I be merely an "immersed Presbyterian."

Also, why the recent reaction? Why the cage-stage 1689 Federalists? If you'd like to PM or email me so you can talk more freely, I would welcome that.

FYI, I added another paragraph to the post of mine you just responded to.

Very quickly in response to the last paragraph, Johnson and Denault published their books around the same time that Brandon Adams set up that 1689 website, and RBAP published several more books. They've gained an audience, including some who are newly Reformed and have found something to hang their hat on.

I think there is a fair amot of Waldron material online. Maybe there are some Greg Nichols lectures online. There are probably a good many RB preachers on Sermon Audio that I'm unaware of. But most of the heavy lifting from that camp is probably in written form, including Waldron's book, Malone's book, David Kingdon's OOP and hard to find book, etc.

I had never read the Coxe/Owen book and was frankly shocked that Barcellos and others liked "The Fatal Flaw" which read to me like a cross between NCT and RB teaching. But the only modern stuff I had read was essentially "20th Century Reformed Baptist" which probably includes even Jewett despite the latter's stance as a more or less "progressive" evangelical.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
FYI, I added another paragraph to the post of mine you just responded to.

Very quickly in response to the last paragraph, Johnson and Denault published their books around the same time that Brandon Adams set up that 1689 website, and RBAP published several more books. They've gained an audience, including some who are newly Reformed and have found something to hang their hat on.

I had never read the Coxe/Owen book and was frankly shocked that Barcellos and others liked "The Fatal Flaw" which read to me like a cross between NCT and RB teaching. But the only modern stuff I had read was essentially "20th Century Reformed Baptist" which probably includes even Jewett despite the latter's stance as a more or less "progressive" evangelical.

Were they coordinating their efforts or each working independently and following a baptist zeitgeist? I am friends with Jeff and we've talked some on this issue. I love him dearly. I just haven't been able to embrace these views yet. I am certainly prejudiced and biased to WANT to like these views....I also want a distinctively baptist theology. But it hasn't happened. And it seems the desire for such an identitiy has caused some writers to point out too much how wrong the Reformed are. The theology of these baptist brethren seems to be a reimagining of the paradigm.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Here is Waldron on the '1689 Federalist' movement from the 5th edition of his book on the 1689 Confession, Chapter 7, footnote 2:

In the almost 30 years since I wrote this discussion of the covenant of grace a great deal of historical study has been focused on the subject of the covenants in Reformed or Particular Baptist tradition. This has given rise to what is known as 1689 Federalism. There is much of value in this viewpoint. A number of my friends are prominent in this movement. The defense of the covenant of grace given here, however, distinguishes it from the New Covenant. It is content simply to say what the Confession says-that the covenant of grace is fully revealed in the New Covenant. It does not affirm, what 1689 Federalism affirms, that the New Covenant is the covenant of grace. This, of course, raises the problem I have mentioned in my exposition. How then can the covenant of grace be equated with the New Covenant- if the covenant of grace is a covenant which overarches all of history? Attendant upon this question is another. If the covenant of grace is the New Covenant, how were men saved before the New Covenant was put into effect by the blood of Christ (Heb 7:22)? The response of 1689 Federalism to this is that men were saved by the promise of that covenant of grace before it was actually ratified by the blood of Christ. Thus, Old Testament saints, I suppose, were saved by the grace of the covenant of grace before the inauguration of the covenant of grace. I think my friends' position is consistent with the 1689 Confession. I am not, however, ready to affirm it and have remaining questions about it. I think my explanation here is also consistent with the wording of paragraph 3 which says only that "the full discovery thereof (the covenant of grace) was completed in the New Testament. Samuel E Waldron; A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, 5th Edition, pg. 128.

For what it is worth, I agree with Waldron on this.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
There is, however, a third difference in terms if covenant theology, and it is a biggy: paedos believe in a distinction between the essence of the covenant and its administration.

Can you define what you mean by a 'biggy'? What would be an example of a 'small' difference between Reformed Presbyterians and Baptists?
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
paedos believe in a distinction between the essence of the covenant and its administration. Belonging to the essence is basically the same as what you claim for the covenant as a whole. But the administration allows for people who might be unsaved to still belong to the covenant in some way.

That's a very helpful way to explain it, but not all paedos hold to that distinction. The Schilderite community does not, but sees the covenant alles of niets.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Colossians 2:11-12
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

It seems there is some correlation between circumcision and Baptism. It is called a sign and seal in Romans. In Ephesians we are sealed in reference to our Regeneration. I don't see a problem calling Baptism a sign and seal as circumcision was to Abraham.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
It is called a sign and seal in Romans.

"And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:" (Rom 4:11)

It is my understanding, and correct me if I am wrong, that the writers of the LBC would say Romans 4:11 says circumcision was a seal to Abraham as the father of the faithful, but not necessarily to each and every male who was circumcised thereafter.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Interestingly, Hercules Collins, a signer of the LBC 1689, retained the 'sign and seal' language in his own 'Orthodox Catechism'.

Q. What are the sacraments?

A.: They are sacred signs, and seals, set before our eyes, and ordained of God for this cause, that he may declare and seal by the the promise of his Gospel unto us...
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Were they coordinating their efforts or each working independently and following a baptist zeitgeist? I am friends with Jeff and we've talked some on this issue. I love him dearly. I just haven't been able to embrace these views yet. I am certainly prejudiced and biased to WANT to like these views....I also want a distinctively baptist theology. But it hasn't happened. And it seems the desire for such an identitiy has caused some writers to point out too much how wrong the Reformed are. The theology of these baptist brethren seems to be a reimagining of the paradigm.

They were working independently, at least Jeff was. (I don't know how well known or connected the French Canadian Denault was with Reformed Baptist leaders prior to the publication of his book.) As seen with the intro and endorsements of "The Fatal Flaw," Jeff was connected with Tom Nettles and Richard Belcher, but not the West Coast guys (e.g. Barcellos and Renihan, IRBS) as far as I know. I'm not that familiar with Nettles' views, but apparently Jeff was in contact with him for quite a while as he worked through the issues writing his first book. I remember him saying at one point that he was surprised at the positive reception of his book in some quarters. I don't think that he dreamed of being at the forefront of some "1689 Federalism" movement. (As I recall it, he hardly refers to the confession or older writers at all.) But he is influenced by Klineanism (Horton, Fesko, etc.) as they are, so the affinity is no surprise. The "20th Century RB" men are more influenced by WTS Philly, such as Murray and Robertson.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

Hi Ben,

The problem is that we do not know who has been born again. Many tares will grow up in the Church along with the wheat.
In verse 7 from 1 Samuel above, Samuel is not being rebuked by the Lord for his looking only at the outward appearance. Rather, the Lord is stating what the case is between men and men. We do NOT know what is in another man's heart. Period.
The NT seems pretty clear that we can know them by their fruits, and Peter thinks people should be baptized after "the answer of a good confession." Sure, tares will slip in among the wheat, because ministers will make mistakes in examining a candidate, but the Baptist ideal is that only believers who have a convincing testimony should be baptized.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Welcome to the board, Ben. If you are half the man your brother Ruben is, then we are in serious trouble. Just kidding.

You say we differ only in polity and recipients of baptism. There is, however, a third difference in terms if covenant theology, and it is a biggy: paedos believe in a distinction between the essence of the covenant and its administration. Belonging to the essence is basically the same as what you claim for the covenant as a whole. But the administration allows for people who might be unsaved to still belong to the covenant in some way. Since paedos believe that baptism is tied to the administration and not the essence, we believe both that children ought to be baptized, and that there is no reason to assume regeneration on the part of all who are baptized.
Thanks, Lane. I can't aspire to even half the theological heft of Ruben, since I am only an amateur theologian, and of lesser intellect and duller reading skills. "Surely I am more brutish than any man."
Your third difference I had simply included mentally with the second, since the recipients of baptism issue grows directly out of it. But I agree that it is perhaps the biggest difference in our views of the covenants. We hold to the notion of a regenerate church membership, where ideally (again, tares will slide in--our pastors are only human) everyone who is a member of the external administration of the new covenant is partaker of the essence--it is one of the things that make it better. But surely that has been the major division between paedos and credos since the Reformation.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Can't figure out how to PM...stand by while I figure it out. New here.

I believe a PM is called a "conversation" now. There has been a recent major change to the board's format, so some of us veterans continue to use old terminilogy. In the past you had to have a minimum number of posts (maybe 25) in order to send PMs, but I don't know if that is the case with the new conversation feature.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Can you define what you mean by a 'biggy'? What would be an example of a 'small' difference between Reformed Presbyterians and Baptists?

Lol. I guess I just meant it is a foundational one. It hadn't been mentioned by Ben. One small difference would be that Baptists often call deacons "trustees," and elders "deacons."
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Lol. I guess I just meant it is a foundational one. It hadn't been mentioned by Ben. One small difference would be that Baptists often call deacons "trustees," and elders "deacons."

I wonder if you are referring to mainstream Southern Baptists or other types of Arminian Baptists. I've never seen any kind of overtly Calvinistic Baptist church do as you describe. More commonly, if they have trustees, they are the same as the deacons.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
The NT seems pretty clear that we can know them by their fruits, and Peter thinks people should be baptized after "the answer of a good confession." Sure, tares will slip in among the wheat, because ministers will make mistakes in examining a candidate, but the Baptist ideal is that only believers who have a convincing testimony should be baptized.

That's a good point about the "fruits," and I agree. I was responding to what seemed to be absolute language when you said, "In the New Covenant you are member ONLY by the New Birth." But I now see that you know that "tares will slip in among the wheat." This is the same as I believe. I guess the by your word in all caps "ONLY" that you were speaking theoretically.

Thanks for writing back.
 
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Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
The signs of the covenant which place a person into the external administration of the covenant are not guarantees of salvation. Thus we cannot baptize only saved people. We only baptize those, to the best of our knowledge, our actually in the internal administration of the Covenant (IN Christ). Presbyterians trust that the general promises to the children of believers is enough while baptists also want to see actual professed faith. I do agree that there is, in fact, a general promise to the children of believers.

I would agree. The main points of paedo-baptism are all there, especially the points about not needing to have a credible profession for baptism, and the unity of the various administrations of the covenant of grace.The only thing missing for you to become a paedo is a recognition that baptism replaces circumcision, and the last plank falls into place. This depends on the exegesis of Romans 4 and Colossians 2, which ought to be your next step.

Lane, I'm not sure that Perg is quite to the point you seem to think he is with regard to a credible profession, although I can see how his statement about "general promises" to the children of believers can be confusing and is perhaps a point of tension that needs to be ironed out. It seems to me that he still believes that a credible profession is prerequisite to baptism and I think he's stated as much at least once in this thread.

I have heard it claimed (by Buswell and maybe Shishko?) that Spurgeon taught that there was some sense that children of believers were in sort of a covenant relationship that nonetheless did not warrant baptizing them, but I don't know what terminology they or he used when referring to this. (I don't have my copy of Buswell's ST handy, but he refers to this somewhere in his discussion of baptism, possibly without citation.)
 
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