Against Presumptive Regeneration

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SEAGOON

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi All,

One expects the FV men to have nothing but disdain for the Old School Southern Presbyterian view of the status of the children of believers. To read them, one would think that the most obscene names that anyone can be called after "Baptist" are "Thornwell" or "Dabney". However, what I didn't expect, but perhaps should, is the degree to which Presbyterian pastors in the PCA and OPC have been willing to embracing a doctrine of presumptive regeneration in regards to Covenant children, and how popular Schenck's work defending that notion,
The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant, has become.

Therefore, against Schenck's work in particular and the notion of presumptive regeneration generally, I have just published an article entitled Contra Schenck on the Building Old School Churches blog.


The article necessarily also involves a defense of the Southern Presbyterian position on the status of the children of believers against 20th and 21st century caricatures of their position.

 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
This article provides a faithful warning against a dangerous teaching. That regeneration and conversion must be pressed upon covenant children as a clear and present duty is warranted from the example of our Lord, who regularly urged the covenant children of Israel to repent, be converted, and be born again. The only point I would add is that we must guard against going too far in the opposite direction and be careful not to fall into presumptive non-regeneration.
 

Gesetveemet

Puritan Board Sophomore
.


Freshman Bill's :2cents:


The idea that believing parents must presume the regeneration of all their children is unbiblical, unconfessional, and wrong.


The idea that infant baptism only sets children apart (externally) for a possible salvation in later years is wrong also.


Unfortunately in these later days some believing parents do not rear their children in godliness but rather, they try only to convert them.




In Peace,
William

.
 

SEAGOON

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi Matthew,

This article provides a faithful warning against a dangerous teaching. That regeneration and conversion must be pressed upon covenant children as a clear and present duty is warranted from the example of our Lord, who regularly urged the covenant children of Israel to repent, be converted, and be born again. The only point I would add is that we must guard against going too far in the opposite direction and be careful not to fall into presumptive non-regeneration.

I agree entirely, I note in the article that the idea that the Southern Presbyterians or Old Schoolers generally presumed that the children of believers weren't regenerate isn't true. Their response, and I believe the correct one is to bow out of the presumption game entirely:

Finally, please note that Schenck, caricatures the Southern Presbyterian position as a negative presumption. What this means is that Schenck, who presumes that the children of believers are regenerate, assumes that his opponents must presume that they aren’t. This is not the Southern Presbyterian position. In fact the Southern Presbyterian position was simply that of the Scots and Puritans before them, namely that the children of believers are:

1) Members by birth (not baptism) of the Visible Church

2) Part of the outward covenant of God

3) Subject to the inestimable privileges and responsibilities of being part of that community

5) Heirs of salvation and the promises of the Covenant if they close with Christ

They are what we have come to call, non-communing members of the church.

Also, Pergamum, you'll find my answer to your question in the thread Bruce mentions.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I have to confess to having not read much Berkhof beyond Summary of Christian Doctrine, but I was somewhat surprised to read this endorsement on Amazon

"We heartily recommend this splendid work. Dr. Schenck has rendered us a great service. . . . We hope that through it the Presbyterian Churches may once more acquire a true insight into the real meaning of the covenant and into the significance of infant baptism."—Louis Berkhof (1940)

But again I am not that familiar with Continental writers and maybe Berkhof is simply following Kuyper here.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
To me, the whole back-and-forth is evidence that there's always someone out there who doesn't think they other guy is walking the fine line fine enough. While the incessant carping can get wearisome, yet there is value in the exercise.

I'm not saying Schenck is right. On the whole, I'd probably be in large agreement with the Southrons. I am saying that each side sees someone to their left (or right) who is "too far" off the path, the right one which happens always to be where their feet are! Hmmmm... interesting...
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Their response, and I believe the correct one is to bow out of the presumption game entirely:

:up: This is very good advice for all. Thankyou Andy.

:agree:

Not every observation by Wilson has been off base regarding a criticism of some approaches to the visible/invisible Church distinction. Of course, his solution to the problem is to blur it but the initial criticism is valid.

He makes the point, for instance, that you would never preach: "I'm addressing this Scripture now to the invisible Church so all members of that Body please listen up...."

The solution is not then to say that all have union with Christ, in some sense, and some more than others but to quit talking that way in the visible Church.

It is enough, for the Biblical writers, that men and women are in the visible congregation for them to receive equal admonitions, warnings, promises, instruction, encouragement, etc....

Don't get me wrong: It is fundamentally important that we recognize that God's monergistic work is indispensible in the Church. It is also true that we ought to be calling men, women, and children to repentance and to bear fruit that evidences their faith in Christ.

Yet, always, the regenerate state of a man, woman, or child is not visible to us. Surely we have some reason for confidence in certain cases and alarm in others but never have warrant to form hard and fast conclusions.

After all, what man is so obviously converted that he no longer needs to neither hear the preaching of the Word convert the heart nor to feed upon Christ in the Lord's Supper or what man, who is racked by doubt, doesn't need the same?

Perhaps both are regenerate, perhaps the doubter is, perhaps neither are: what difference does that make in the Church's earnestness toward them?

I simply believe we need to spend more time heeding the things revealed:

Hebrews 4:1
1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

We're in this thing together as the Church and nobody that we're running with is too strong that we stop fearing for them or too weak that we leave them behind callously assuming they're unregenerate and so we're not going to help them keep up.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I simply believe we need to spend more time heeding the things revealed:

Hebrews 4:1
1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

We're in this thing together as the Church and nobody that we're running with is too strong that we stop fearing for them or too weak that we leave them behind callously assuming they're unregenerate and so we're not going to help them keep up.

Well noted, Rich, and it is something which needs to be well heeded.
 

G.Wetmore

Puritan Board Freshman
Their response, and I believe the correct one is to bow out of the presumption game entirely:

:up: This is very good advice for all. Thankyou Andy.

:agree:

Not every observation by Wilson has been off base regarding a criticism of some approaches to the visible/invisible Church distinction. Of course, his solution to the problem is to blur it but the initial criticism is valid.

He makes the point, for instance, that you would never preach: "I'm addressing this Scripture now to the invisible Church so all members of that Body please listen up...."

The solution is not then to say that all have union with Christ, in some sense, and some more than others but to quit talking that way in the visible Church.

It is enough, for the Biblical writers, that men and women are in the visible congregation for them to receive equal admonitions, warnings, promises, instruction, encouragement, etc....

Don't get me wrong: It is fundamentally important that we recognize that God's monergistic work is indispensible in the Church. It is also true that we ought to be calling men, women, and children to repentance and to bear fruit that evidences their faith in Christ.

Yet, always, the regenerate state of a man, woman, or child is not visible to us. Surely we have some reason for confidence in certain cases and alarm in others but never have warrant to form hard and fast conclusions.

After all, what man is so obviously converted that he no longer needs to neither hear the preaching of the Word convert the heart nor to feed upon Christ in the Lord's Supper or what man, who is racked by doubt, doesn't need the same?

Perhaps both are regenerate, perhaps the doubter is, perhaps neither are: what difference does that make in the Church's earnestness toward them?

I simply believe we need to spend more time heeding the things revealed:

Hebrews 4:1
1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

We're in this thing together as the Church and nobody that we're running with is too strong that we stop fearing for them or too weak that we leave them behind callously assuming they're unregenerate and so we're not going to help them keep up.

:banghead::banghead::banghead:

just because you assume that those who are in the church are regenerate does not mean that we don't preach the gospel. The Biblical writers do more than simply preach the gospel and warn people. There is a unity in the sign of the sacrament and that which is signified. When we see the sign we should assume that which is signified. This is the whole point of a sacrament. This is what we see in Scripture.

Rom. 6:3 Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Rom. 6:4 We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
Rom. 6:5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection;

Gal. 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.

1Pet. 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1Pet. 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

1Cor. 11:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.

There is a sacramental unity in Scripture. The sign is not the reality itself, but it does signify something. We are to view sacraments in faith, meaning when we see the sign we make the connection to that which is signified. Of course everyone in the church is not regenerate, but that should not make us doubt the sacrament. We should go on the assumption that those who have the sign have the reality, until they prove otherwise.

Calvin said:
“The first thing that the Lord sets out for us is that baptism should be a token and proof of our cleansing; or (the better to explain what I mean) it is like a sealed document to confirm to us that all our sins are so abolished, remitted and effaced that they can never come to his sight, be recalled, or charged against us. For he wills that all who believe be baptized for the remission of sins (Matt 28:19; Acts 2:38).”

“They who regarded baptism as nothing but a token and mark by which we confess our religion before men… have not weighed what was the chief point of baptism. It is to receive baptism with this promise: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).”

“For Paul did not mean to signify that our cleansing and salvation are accomplished by water, or that water contains in itself the power to cleanse, regenerate, and renew; nor that here is the cause of salvation, but only that in this sacrament are received the knowledge and certainty of such gifts”

“Baptism promises us no other purification than through the sprinkling of Christ’s blood, which is represented by means of water from the resemblance to cleansing and washing. Who, therefore, may say that we are cleansed by this water which attests with certainty that Christ’s blood is our true and only laver?”

“Through the gospel a message of our cleansing and sanctification is brought to us; through such baptism the message is sealed.”

Concerning Rom 6:3-4 Calvin writes
“Let us know, that the Apostle does not simply exhort us to imitate Christ, as though he had said that the death of Christ is a pattern which all Christians are to follow; for no doubt he ascends higher, as he announces a doctrine… that the death of Christ is efficacious to destroy and demolish the depravity of our flesh, and his resurrection, to effect the renovation of a better nature, and that by baptism we are admitted into a participation of this grace.”
and again. . .
“We put on Christ in baptism, and that we are baptized for this end -- that we may be one with him… we are then really united to the body of Christ, when his death brings forth in us its fruit; yea, he teaches us, that this fellowship as to death is what is to be mainly regarded in baptism; for not washing alone is set forth in it, but also the putting to death and the dying of the old man.”

“Lastly, our faith receives from baptism the advantage of its sure testimony to us that we are not only engrafted into the death and life of Christ, but so united to Christ himself that we become sharers in all his blessings.”

“It is strange that Westphal denies this right to infants (being regenerate before baptism), though without it he could not properly admit them to baptism. But while I acknowledge that we become members of the Church by baptism, I deny that any are duly baptized if they do not belong to the body of the Church. It is not ours to confer the sacraments on all and sundry; but we must dispense them according to the rule prescribed by God. Who authorized you, Westphal, to bestow the pledge of eternal life, the symbol of righteousness and renovation, on a profane person lying under curse? Were an Anabaptist to debate with you, I presume your only valid defense would be, that baptism is rightly administered to those whom God adopted before they were born, and to whom he has promised that he will be a Father. Did not God transmit his grace from parents to children, to admit new-born infants to the church would be a mere profanation of baptism.”

“We ought, therefore, to consider, that just as in the case of Abraham, the father of the faithful, the righteousness of faith preceded circumcision, so today in the children of the faithful, the gift of adoption is prior to baptism.”

“The offspring of believers are born holy, because their children while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, have been adopted into the covenant of eternal life. Nor are they brought into the church by baptism on any other ground than because they belonged to the body of the Church before they were born. He who admits aliens to baptism profanes it. . . . For how can it be lawful to confer the badge of Christ on aliens from Christ. Baptism must, therefore, be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is not the cause of half salvation merely, but gives salvation entire; and this salvation is afterwards ratified by Baptism.”
 
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wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
There is a sacramental unity in Scripture. The sign is not the reality itself, but it does signify something. We are to view sacraments in faith, meaning when we see the sign we make the connection to that which is signified. Of course everyone in the church is not regenerate, but that should not make us doubt the sacrament. We should go on the assumption that those who have the sign have the reality, until they prove otherwise.

Rather than presuming upon the activity of the Holy Spirit why not take a more biblically sound approach and consider a "judgment of charity" toward children as well as all those in the visible church?
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
As Contra_Mundum has repeatedly pointed out when this topic comes up, sometimes we create much ado about nothing due to semantics (I hope I have read you right Contra?).

wsw201's statement is rather interesting. It is a language I can live with. We treat them with a 'judgment of charity'. For me this would mean we don't presume regeneration BUT the statement is clearer to the point that we are not presuming unregeneration.

I could use this term with parents and emphasize the need to raise them faithfully, always pointing them to Christ, while looking for the fruits of life (not presuming it to be the case until the child goes 'all out heathen' on them).

There is a sacramental unity in Scripture. The sign is not the reality itself, but it does signify something. We are to view sacraments in faith, meaning when we see the sign we make the connection to that which is signified. Of course everyone in the church is not regenerate, but that should not make us doubt the sacrament. We should go on the assumption that those who have the sign have the reality, until they prove otherwise.

Rather than presuming upon the activity of the Holy Spirit why not take a more biblically sound approach and consider a "judgment of charity" toward children as well as all those in the visible church?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
:banghead::banghead::banghead:

just because you assume that those who are in the church are regenerate does not mean that we don't preach the gospel. The Biblical writers do more than simply preach the gospel and warn people. There is a unity in the sign of the sacrament and that which is signified. When we see the sign we should assume that which is signified. This is the whole point of a sacrament. This is what we see in Scripture.

I'm not precisely sure what you're banging your head for but if you stopped you might discern that what you just wrote and what I wrote are not mutually exclusive statements.

The point I was making is that the means of Grace are administered to all indiscriminately. In point of fact, who assumes in the Church that any are unregenerate? Certainly not I.

The point is that whether we believe a man extremely likely to be regenerate or another less likely, we assume the best. I've also argued using the judgment of charity language against the Federal Vision that assumes that Paul is addressing the entire congregation as elect because they must be so. It's a common form of address to address people on the basis of what they're called to be rather than using some sort of mixed address.

My point is that I focus on the things revealed and am diligent for myself and for everyone in the visible Church. I need not personally decree a brother regenerate or unregenerate in order to pray for all and work for all. I am also permitted to commonly address the congregation as "Beloved" or as "Saints" or even as "Elect" without any infallible guarantee that they are. I actually assume that what I'm teaching can be heard and understood with new minds and hearts that are not hostile to the Word of God and have repeatedly argued the same.
 
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