Eph. 2:12 and "covenants of promise"

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mshingler

Puritan Board Freshman
In Eph. 2:12, Paul states that Gentiles were formerly "strangers to the covenants of promise." Does this refer to how the OT covenants promised and looked forward to the coming of Christ, which is now fulfilled, or does it mean covenants that promised, by grace, all the blessings of the Covenant of Grace? Is the new covenant, also, a "covenant of promise" in the same way, or is it more properly a covenant of fulfillment to which all the "covenants of promise" pointed through promises, prophecies, types and shadows?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Its a section on how God has now (NT) made "one from two," v15. Israel possessed the covenant-relationship with God, formally--theirs were the covenants, the adoption, etc., Rom.9:4.

Such covenants were "promise" in both senses: promise-vs-fulfillment (in Christ's advent); and promise (grace)-vs-law. I think Eph.2:12 is significant for showing that, whatever the legal-character presented on the surface of the Sinaitic covenant, all God's covenants with fallen man contain the Promise and are oriented (truly, properly) toward Christ. The giving of the law could not annul a covenant made by promise, Gal.3:17, it could not supplant it; all it could do was supplement it for a season--be a temporary glory-overlay for specific redemptive purposes--until the time for such demonstration was complete and it was set aside. The core article of faith remains all along.

I think the NC is the ultimate promise-covenant, not only because it fulfills the previous promissory arrangements; but also because there are still promises attached to it: promises that will be delivered immediately to all who have hope in Christ in this life; and promises that remain to be fulfilled in the Second Coming, and the New Heavens and Earth.

:2cents:
 

mshingler

Puritan Board Freshman
I might be wrong, here, but I think the differences between the baptist and paedobaptist views of the covenants would be pretty well reflected in how one interprets this verse and that phrase, "covenants of promise."
Baptist: The covenants of the Old Testament were "covenants of promise" because they contained the promise of the coming new covenant/covenant of grace. The new covenant is, properly, a covenant of fulfillment.
Paedobaptist: All the covenants are, essentially, "covenants of promise" because they administer the covenant of grace wherein God's blessings are promised on the basis of grace.
That's, no doubt, an oversimplification though. The paedo. would see, as reflected in Bruce's post, progression and fulfillment in the nc, while the baptist would see application of the nc blessing even under and through the covenants of promise.
 

KeithW

Puritan Board Freshman
(This post is not meant to fully answer your question, but to simplify some of the terminology, and point directly to the context of Eph. 2:12. It will not go into the covenant of grace, or Jesus' relationship to any of the covenants.)

The relation of covenants to promises seems to get lost in books I've read on the subject. A covenant is a binding arrangement between two parties which involves one or more promises. So every covenant in the Old Testament where God makes a covenant with men involves promises. (Sometimes He adds conditions and sometimes not. The covenant given through Moses had conditions while the covenants made with Noah or Abraham were unconditional.)

Paul starts with that the "covenants of promise" made in the Old Testament were to Israel. Here he uses the words "covenants" and "promises".

ESV said:
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Rom. 9:3-5)
Then Eph. 2:12 in your question is in this context.

ESV said:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
(Eph. 2:11-16)
The context here is that Gentiles were excluded from the Old Testament "covenants of promise". And that through Jesus Christ us Gentiles are now no longer separated from those covenants.

The book of Hebrews gives commentary on the difference between the first / old covenant and the second / new covenant. Speaking of Jesus,

ESV said:
Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Heb. 8:6)
Peter calls these, "exceeding great and precious promises". (KJV: 2 Pet. 1:4) Hebrews goes on to say about the relation betwen the old covenant (Moses) and the new covenant,

ESV said:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says:

"Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Heb. 8:7-13)
The new / second covenant makes the first covenant old, obsolete, and it is ready to vanish away.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
That's, no doubt, an oversimplification though. The paedo. would see, as reflected in Bruce's post, progression and fulfillment in the nc, while the baptist would see application of the nc blessing even under and through the covenants of promise.

It would concern me to see an issue like this become a meta-hermeneutic for deciding the meaning of individual statements. That would place the cart well and truly before the horse.

Theologically, though, it would seem to me to be irrelevant. However one takes the verse we still have infants of believers whose faith was given and guided under these covenants of promise, and these covenants are seen as having some degree of continuity into the New Testament administration which now includes the Gentiles. The new revelation of Eph. 3 is inclusive of the Gentiles, not exclusive of infants.
 

mshingler

Puritan Board Freshman
The background for my original post is having recently read, "The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology" by Pascal Denault and, also, listening to a baptism debate where Fred Malone calls the Abrahamic covenant, "A covenant of promise through which the covenant of grace was promised and administered." I'm not saying that the way one interprets this verse or a few other scattered references should determine one's covenant theology. Just that, one's interpretation here probably says a lot about someone's covenant theology. If I have understood Denault's book correctly, he would say these were covenants of promise, in distinction from the covenant of grace itself, formally, whereas the new covenant would be the covenant of grace fulfilled or at least formally ratified. In contrast, Hendriksen, in his commentary, refers to the "covenants of promise" as multiple reaffirmations of the one covenant of grace, which is a covenant of promise, because it contains God's promises received by grace - particularly the promise: "I will be your God."
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I don't think it matters in the end. The antipaedobaptist who holds to the doctrines of grace still teaches that elect infants are saved under the covenant of grace. What he does with the connection between Old and New Testaments is irrelevant once it is accepted that infants are saved by grace in both Testaments. His distinctiveness is not found in his view of covenant theology, but in the relationship of the church and ordinances to the covenant of grace.
 

Nomad

Puritan Board Freshman
His distinctiveness is not found in his view of covenant theology, but in the relationship of the church and ordinances to the covenant of grace.

If I understand what you're saying correctly, I would have to disagree with the first part of your statement. Particular Baptist covenant theology is the driving force behind our view of the relationship of the church and ordinances to the covenant of grace and ultimately to the rejection of paedobaptism.
 
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brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman
If I have understood Denault's book correctly, he would say these were covenants of promise, in distinction from the covenant of grace itself, formally, whereas the new covenant would be the covenant of grace fulfilled or at least formally ratified.

Yes Mike you are understanding Denault's summary of the particular baptist position correctly. And yes, you are correct to note that this has obvious implications for credo vs. paedo, despite Matthew's opinion to the contrary.

As Denault mentions, Owen also held the same view that you summarized, which may be helpful for you to get a fuller answer to your question:

3. In the last place, the apostle tells us whereon this establishment was made; and that is ejpi krei>ttosin ejpaggeli>aiv, —”on better promises.” For the better understanding hereof we must consider somewhat of the original and use of divine promises in our relation unto God. And we may observe, —

(1.) That every covenant between God and man must be founded on and resolved into “promises.” Hence essentially a promise and a covenant are all one; and God calls an absolute promise, founded on an absolute decree, his covenant, <010911>Genesis 9:11. And his purpose for the continuation of the course of nature unto the end of the world, he calls his covenant with day and night, <243320>Jeremiah 33:20. The being and essence of a divine covenant lies in the promise. Hence are they called “the covenants of promise,” <490212>Ephesians 2:12; —such as are founded on and consist in promises...

And this is the first thing that was to be declared, namely, that every divine covenant is established on promises.

(2.) These promises are said to be “better promises.” The other covenant had its promises peculiar unto it, with respect whereunto this is said to be “established on better promises.” It was, indeed, principally represented under a system of precepts, and those almost innumerable; but it had its promises also, into the nature whereof we shall immediately inquire. With respect, therefore, unto them is the new covenant, whereof the Lord Christ is the mediator, said to be “established on better promises.” That it should be founded in promises, was necessary from its general nature as a covenant, and more necessary from its especial nature as a covenant of grace. That these promises are said to be “better promises,” respects those of the old covenant. But this is so said as to include all other degrees of comparison. They are not only better than they, but they are positively good in themselves, and absolutely the best that God ever gave, or will give unto the church. And what they are we must consider in our progress. And sundry things may be observed from these words: —

Obs. VIII. There is infinite grace in every divine covenant, inasmuch as it is established on promises. —Infinite condescension it is in God, that he will enter into covenant with dust and ashes, with poor worms of the earth. And herein lies the spring of all grace, from whence all the streams of it do flow. And the first expression of it is in laying the foundation of it in some undeserved promises. And this was that which became the goodness and greatness of his nature, the means whereby we are brought to adhere unto him in faith, hope, trust, and obedience, until we come unto the enioyment of him; for that is the use of promises, to keep us in adherence unto God, as the first original and spring of all goodness, and the ultimate satisfactory reward of our souls, <470701>2 Corinthians 7:1.

Obs. IX. The promises of the covenant of grace are better than those of any other covenant, as for many other reasons, so especially because the grace of them prevents any condition or qualification on our part. —I do not say the covenant of grace is absolutely without conditions, if by conditions we intend the duties of obedience which God requireth of us in and by virtue of that covenant; but this I say, the principal promises thereof are not in the first place remunerative of our obedience in the covenant, but efficaciously assumptive of us into covenant, and establishing or confirming in the covenant. The covenant of works had its promises, but they were all remunerative, respecting an antecedent obedience in us; (so were all those which were peculiar unto the covenant of Sinai). They were, indeed, also of grace, in that the reward did infinitely exceed the merit of our obedience; but yet they all supposed it, and the subject of them was formally reward only. In the covenant of grace it is not so; for sundry of the promises thereof are the means of our being taken into covenant, of our entering into covenant with God. The first covenant absolutely was established on promises, in that when men were actually taken into it, they were encouraged unto obedience by the promises of a future reward. But those promises, namely, of the pardon of sin and writing of the law in our hearts, which the apostle expressly insisteth upon as the peculiar promises of this covenant, do take place and are effectual antecedently unto our covenant obedience. For although faith be required in order of nature antecedently unto our actual receiving of the pardon of sin, yet is that faith itself wrought in us by the grace of the promise, and so its precedency unto pardon respects only the order that God had appointed in the communication of the benefits of the covenant, and intends not that the pardon of sin is the reward of our faith.

This entrance hath the apostle made into his discourse of the two covenants, which he continues unto the end of the chapter. But the whole is not without its difficulties. Many things in particular will occur unto us in our progress, which may be considered in their proper places. In the meantime there are some things in general which may be here discoursed, by whose determination much light will be communicated unto what doth ensue.
First, therefore, the apostle doth evidently in this place dispute concerning two covenants, or two testaments, comparing the one with the other, and declaring the disannulling of the one by the introduction and establishment of the other. What are these two covenants in general we have declared, — namely, that made with the church of Israel at mount Sinai, and that made with us in the gospel; not as absolutely the covenant of grace, but as actually established in the death of Christ, with all the worship that belongs unto it.

Here then ariseth a difference of no small importance, namely, whether these are indeed two distinct covenants, as to the essence and substance of them, or only different ways of the dispensation and administration of the same covenant...

4. These things being observed, we may consider that the Scripture doth plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way, as what is spoken can hardly be accommodated unto a twofold administration of the same covenant...

5. Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than a twofold administration of the same covenant merely, to be intended. We must, I say, do so, provided always that the way of reconciliation and salvation was the same under both. But it will be said, —and with great pretense of reason, for it is that which is the sole foundation they all build upon who allow only a twofold administration of the same covenant, —’That this being the principal end of a divine covenant, if the way of reconciliation and salvation be the same under both, then indeed are they for the substance of them but one.’ And I grant that this would inevitably follow, if it were so equally by virtue of them both. If reconciliation and salvation by Christ were to be obtained not only under the old covenant, but by virtue thereof, then it must be the same for substance with the new. But this is not so; for no reconciliation with God nor salvation could be obtained by virtue of the old covenant, or the administration of it, as our apostle disputes at large, though all believers were reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, whilst they were under the covenant.

As therefore I have showed in what sense the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,” in this distinction and opposition, so I shall propose sundry things which relate unto the nature of the first covenant, which manifest it to have been a distinct covenant, and not a mere administration of the covenant of grace: —

You can read this section from Owen here http://www.prayermeetings.org/files/John_Owen/Hebrews_8.1-10.39.pdf (starting around page 72, and more specifically on 79)

You can also see an outline if you wish here http://www.1689federalism.com/owen/demo/owen.html (v6 -> A More Excellent Ministry -> Proof -> Office of Mediator -> of a better covenant -> "On better promises")
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Owen did not hold to the same position, as has been shown on this board numerous times.

As noted with regard to the status quaestionis between paedobaptists and antipaedobaptists, you still have elect infants saved under the covenant of grace. The point of difference is a specific idea of the church and the administration of ordinances. This is evident from the fact that there are antipaedobaptists holding the same ecclesiology but with very different ideas on the relationship between the Testaments, some adhering to a covenant theology of continuity very similar to the WCF and some going to the extreme of ultra-dispensationalism. It must be recognised that there have been antipaedobaptists who have accepted the Shorter Catechism and made no alteration in its covenant theology but only modified the statements relating to the administration of baptism. This alone should give one pause before making a specific view of the relationship between the covenants a "distinctive" of antipaedobaptist thought.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Interestingly, the Greek has the definite article there - "covenants of the promise." As far as I know, on the old ASV and, oddly, the NIV translate the definite article in Ephesians 2.12.
 

mshingler

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks Brandon. I've been through Owen's commentary on Heb. 8ff. before, but probably need to go back to it again to review. I have some issues with the view that's set forth by Denault and 1689federalism, although I'm still processing it all and trying to refine my own viewpoint and understanding of the covenants. My main points of disagreement, for now anyway:
1. God made 2 covenants with Abraham or, at least, a covenant that divides into two streams, involving an earthly people/earthly promises and a heavenly people/spiritual promises. When I read this section of the book, my first reaction was to think, "That sounds eerily like the Scofield dispensationalism I learned years ago - God has 2 peoples, 1 earthly people (Israel) and 1 heavenly people (the church). I realize it's not dispensationalism, but it sure seems like there's an overlap at this point.
2. Mosaic covenant = covenant of works.
 

mshingler

Puritan Board Freshman
Matthew,
Regarding the differing views among reformed baptists, I think what I observe is a lot of reformed baptists re-examining their confession and moving away from the more "mainline" paedobaptist view of covenants. i.e., clarifying and refining their own distinctive view of covenant theology. Of course, there are still disagreements and differences among baptists as their are among paedos. I guess, at this point anyway, I fit in the category you mentioned of adhering to a continuity that's closer to the WCF. In fact, when I taught through the 1689, I had to note a few places where I preferred the wording of the WCF over the 1689. I think that those who embrace a 1689 federalism are not saying that this the baptist view, but that this view stands behind the confession and more naturally leads to a baptistic view of church ordinances, though one can hold a different view of the covenants and still be baptist. You just have to get there by a little different route.
The debate I listened to with Fred Malone would represent the view that's closer to the WCF, and it's interesting that he called the Abrahamic a "covenant of promise, through which the covenant of grace of promised and administered." Denault et. al. would drop the "and administered," if I'm not mistaken, although they would agree that those saved under that covenant (Abrahamic) were saved by virtue of the covenant of grace that was being promised.
I'm still working at refining and clarifying my own understanding.
 

mshingler

Puritan Board Freshman
I think the article is irrelevant, as it is an instance of Apollonius' canon. Whenever the head noun in a genitive noun construction has the article, the genitive noun will usually also take the article and vice-versa. The article appears with "promise" only because the word "covenants" is articular.
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman
Owen did not hold to the same position, as has been shown on this board numerous times.

Owen DID hold to the same position, as has been shown on this board numerous times.

Lee Gatiss is familiar with the claim that Owen's covenant theology supports a credo baptist position. He calls it poppycock.

I call his posts poppcock (because they are). He is utterly unfamiliar with the claim (he did not read the book he is denouncing).
https://contrast2.wordpress.com/201...ing-about-debating-owen-round-473-lee-gatiss/

https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/owens-promisedestablished-covenant-of-grace/

Mike:
1. God made 2 covenants with Abraham

To clarify, we would not say that there were 2 covenants made/established with Abraham. I recognize this can be misunderstood. We would say that there was one covenant made with Abraham, and we would agree with Owen that
When God renewed the promise of it [the new covenant] unto Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but it was with respect unto other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely under the old testament it consisted only in a promise; and as such only is proposed in the Scripture, Acts 2:39; Hebrews 6:14-16. The apostle indeed says, that the covenant was confirmed of God in Christ, before the giving of the law, Galatians 3:17. And so it was, not absolutely in itself, but in the promise and benefits of it. The nomoqesi>a, or full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only, and a promise under the old testament

Mike:
God has 2 peoples, 1 earthly people (Israel) and 1 heavenly people (the church). I realize it's not dispensationalism, but it sure seems like there's an overlap at this point.

Correct. There is overlap on this point, but only superficially. The essential tenet of dispensationalism is not that there are two peoples of God, but that these two peoples have two eternal destinies. That we deny. The idea that physical Israel were "God's people" in a different sense from spiritual Israel is recognized by many paedobaptists.
Jonathan Edwards:
That such appellations as God’s people, God’s Israel, and some other like phrases, are used and applied in Scripture with considerable diversity of intention… And with regard to the people of Israel, it is very manifest, that something diverse is oftentimes intended by that nation being God’s people, from their being visible saints, visibly holy, or having those qualifications which are requisite in order to a due admission to the ecclesiastical privileges of such... That nation was a typical nation... So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace; and so is sometimes represented as a marriage-covenant.

Owen:
Answerably unto this twofold end of the separation of Abraham, there was a double seed allotted unto him; — a seed according to the flesh, separated to the bringing forth of the Messiah according unto the flesh; and a seed according to the promise, that is, such as by faith should have interest in the promise, or all the elect of God… It is true, the former carnal privilege of Abraham and his posterity expiring, on the grounds before mentioned, the ordinances of worship which were suited thereunto did necessarily cease also.

For more, see https://contrast2.wordpress.com/201...d-of-Christ-physical-israel-spiritual-israel/

2. Mosaic covenant = covenant of works.

I realize that's a big issue, so I won't comment here, though I would strongly encourage you to re-visit Owen on the question.
 
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Nomad

Puritan Board Freshman
Lee Gatiss is familiar with the claim that Owen's covenant theology supports a credo baptist position. He calls it poppycock.

John Owen was never a Baptist - Reformation21 Blog

John Owen: still not a Baptist - Reformation21 Blog

It's sad to watch Mr. Gatiss dig his heals even deeper into his error after Brandon and others have demonstrated that he's just plain wrong. That is "poppycock." No one is saying that Owen was a Baptist, but he articulated a view of covenant theology that is unmistakably in line with 17th century Particular Baptists. Nehemiah Coxe, probably the co-editor of the 1677/1689 LBC, says the following in his work on covenant theology:

That notion (which is often supposed in this discourse) that the old covenant and the new differ in substance and not only in the manner of their administration, certainly requires a larger and more particular handling to free it from those prejudices and difficulties that have been cast on it by many worthy persons who are otherwise minded. Accordingly, I designed to give a further account of it in a discourse of the covenant made with Israel in the wilderness and the state of the church under the law. But when I had finished this and provided some materials also for what was to follow, I found my labor for the clearing and asserting of that point happily prevented by the coming out of Dr. Owen's third volume on Hebrews. There it is discussed at length and the objections that seem to lie against it are fully answered, especially in the exposition of the eighth chapter. I now refer my readers there for satisfaction about it which he will find commensurate to what might be expected from so great a learned person. Nehemiah Coxe - Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ, Preface to the reader, p. 30
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
It's sad to watch Mr. Gatiss dig his heals even deeper into his error after Brandon and others have demonstrated that he's just plain wrong.

Those of us who have watched previous discussions play out probably have a different motive for our sorrow.

http://www.puritanboard.com/f31/question-baptist-covenant-theology-63822/

http://www.puritanboard.com/f31/whats-new-about-new-covenant-71338/

http://www.puritanboard.com/f31/how-many-reformed-understandings-covenant-grace-there-78854/
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
From a couple of Puritan scholars who take a sober look at Owen's Covenant theology:
This chapter will look specifically at John Owen’s covenant schema, with particular attention to the role of the Sinaitic or Mosaic covenant and its relation to the covenants of works and grace. By focusing specifically on Owen and the details of his thought, the hope is that he can be placed more accurately within the larger taxonomy of Reformed thinking on this issue. The evidence suggests that Owen’s covenant theology cannot be labeled by terms such as “dichotomous” and “trichotomous.” While these terms may prove helpful in other cases, Owen’s theology of the covenants is so complex that any attempt to label him in this way inevitably misses some of the nuances of his thought.

Beeke, J. R., & Jones, M. (2012). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (p. 294). Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books.

Owen’s most detailed exposition of the old and new covenants flows out of his comments on Hebrews 8:6. However, in his exposition of Hebrews 7:9–10, Owen’s language may cause a great deal of confusion, especially given what has been said above. Quoting his words will make this potential problem apparent:

There were never absolutely any more than two covenants wherein all persons indefinitely are concerned. The first was the covenant of works, made with Adam, and with all in him. And what he did as the head of that covenant, as our representative therein, is imputed unto us, as if we had done it, Rom. 5:12. The other is that of grace, made originally with Christ, and through him with all the elect. And here lie the life and hope of our souls,—that what Christ did as the head of that covenant, as our representative, is all imputed unto us for righteousness and salvation.72

How should this statement be interpreted? One possibility is that Owen changed his definition of covenant as he moved from Hebrews 7:9–10 to Hebrews 8:6. Do his comments on Hebrews 8:6 reflect his more mature covenant theology? It is hard to see how a writer as theologically and intellectually sophisticated as Owen would so quickly change his opinion and understanding of what constitutes a biblical covenant. More likely, however, Owen’s observations on Hebrews 7:9–10 refer to general soteric principles rather than specific exegetical details. In other words, Owen uses “covenant” in two ways: one in a more general sense; another that is more specific and takes into account the exegetical requirements for what constitutes a biblical covenant (i.e., it must also be a testament). Speaking generally, then, Owen can say, without contradicting himself in his later comments on Hebrews 8:6, that the principle of representation (Rom. 5:12) manifest itself in the two Adams so that the only hope of salvation (for the elect) rests in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. In this sense—and against Rehnman’s contention—Owen is better understood as a dichotomist rather than a trichotomist.


Beeke, J. R., & Jones, M. (2012). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (p. 302). Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books.

Now, one may disagree with this conclusion but one has to do more than any of the following:

1. Simply label men as dishonest who have spent a great deal of time studying Owen but come to differing conclusions.

2. Simply rest one's case on Owen's commentary to the Hebrews. The note above about Owen's exegetical fidelity is very important and there are larger Reformed methodologies at play than what appears on the surface if one simply spends all their time in Hebrews and becomes an expert on Owen's theology of Hebrews. It is quite like "Pauline" scholars who claim that Paul has one theology in Ephesians and another in Romans or another Epistle or a totally different theology than James. One has to take into account the entire body of material as well as the methodology of the time. The point about Owen believing that a biblical covenant also had to be a testament to qualify as a biblical covenant has some nuance that needs to be unpacked and simply claiming to have Owen nailed down on Covenant theology because one knows everything he wrote in a exegetical commentary on Hebrews is not the same thing as saying they have nailed down Owen's systematic view of the Covenant of Grace.

3. Simply point to Particular Baptists who claim they are just agreeing with the learned Owen on the matter. Look, these guys were intelligent just like studied men are on both sides of the issue today. If we are having trouble sorting out Owen on this issue then it's not surprising if men in his own time had the same problem:

Given the complexity of Owen’s position, one may sympathize with Anthony Burgess’s statement that on this point of divinity he found “learned men … confused and perplexed.”73

Beeke, J. R., & Jones, M. (2012). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (p. 302). Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books.

In other words, let us all grant that there are learned men here and confusion and perplexity about Owen is not surprising so a dose of both humility and charity is in order when trying to press him into service for a particular position.
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman
In other words, let us all grant that there are learned men here and confusion and perplexity about Owen is not surprising so a dose of both humility and charity is in order when trying to press him into service for a particular position.

Absolutely. But that's a two way street. You need to be open to the possibility that baptist scholars have interpreted Owen correctly while others have not.

simply claiming to have Owen nailed down on Covenant theology because one knows everything he wrote in a exegetical commentary on Hebrews is not the same thing as saying they have nailed down Owen's systematic view of the Covenant of Grace.

Note the inconsistency here. Beeke and Jones quote Owen's exegetical commentary on Hebrews 7:9-10, treat it as systematic theology, and use it to interpret Owen's commentary on 8:6. Let's be consistent. Owen's exegetical commentary includes systematic theological statements.

The evidence suggests that Owen’s covenant theology cannot be labeled by terms such as “dichotomous” and “trichotomous.” While these terms may prove helpful in other cases, Owen’s theology of the covenants is so complex that any attempt to label him in this way inevitably misses some of the nuances of his thought.

I agree! Which is why I don't label him as dichotomous or trichotomous and have never argued for that. I agree with this conclusion:
Owen’s covenant theology must be appreciated both against the backdrop of the broader Reformed theological tradition and on its own terms if his covenant theology is to be accurately understood and assessed. In Owen’s case, the customary labels may not be helpful in describing the thought of one who produced his own “minority report” among the various interpretations of the seventeenth-century orthodox Reformed.

Beeke, Joel R.; Jones, Mark (2012-10-14). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Kindle Locations 11913-11916). . Kindle Edition.

I think people on this forum need to take note of that particularly.

There were never absolutely any more than two covenants wherein all persons indefinitely are concerned. The first was the covenant of works, made with Adam, and with all in him. And what he did as the head of that covenant, as our representative therein, is imputed unto us, as if we had done it, Rom. 5:12. The other is that of grace, made originally with Christ, and through him with all the elect. And here lie the life and hope of our souls,—that what Christ did as the head of that covenant, as our representative, is all imputed unto us for righteousness and salvation.72

How should this statement be interpreted? One possibility is that Owen changed his definition of covenant as he moved from Hebrews 7:9–10 to Hebrews 8:6. Do his comments on Hebrews 8:6 reflect his more mature covenant theology? It is hard to see how a writer as theologically and intellectually sophisticated as Owen would so quickly change his opinion and understanding of what constitutes a biblical covenant. More likely, however, Owen’s observations on Hebrews 7:9–10 refer to general soteric principles rather than specific exegetical details. In other words, Owen uses “covenant” in two ways: one in a more general sense; another that is more specific and takes into account the exegetical requirements for what constitutes a biblical covenant (i.e., it must also be a testament). Speaking generally, then, Owen can say, without contradicting himself in his later comments on Hebrews 8:6, that the principle of representation (Rom. 5:12) manifest itself in the two Adams so that the only hope of salvation (for the elect) rests in the second Adam, Jesus Christ. In this sense—and against Rehnman’s contention—Owen is better understood as a dichotomist rather than a trichotomist.

Beeke, J. R., & Jones, M. (2012). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (p. 302). Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books.

1. Owen does not deny that the Covenant of Works with Adam was a biblical covenant. He simply said that the specific covenant spoken of in Hebrews 8 was "a covenant and a testament" and therefore the Old Covenant was not referring to the Covenant of Works w/ Adam.
Owen’s first concern is to show that the covenant made with Adam (i.e., the covenant of works), though not “expressly called a covenant,” but still containing the nature of a covenant (e.g., promises and threatening, rewards and punishments), “is not the covenant here intended [in Hebrews 8:6ff.].”25 The reason the covenant of works cannot be intended is because Hebrews 8 speaks of a “testament” (diatheke). The old in Hebrews 8 is both a covenant and a testament, and “there can be no testament, but there must be death for the confirmation of it, Heb. ix.16.”26

Beeke, Joel R.; Jones, Mark (2012-10-14). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Kindle Locations 11741-11746). . Kindle Edition.

He also said the Old Covenant in Hebrews 8 was not the Covenant of Works because (2) that covenant has ceased and (3) Israel never absolutely under the power of the Covenant of Works. In other words, he is making theological deductions and arguments about general soteric principles, not just "specific exegetical details".

This is the covenant of works, absolutely the old, or first covenant that God made with men. But this is not the covenant here intended; for, —
1st. The covenant called afterwards “the first,” was diaqh>kh, a “testament.” So it is here called. It was such a covenant as was a testament also. Now there can be no testament, but there must be death for the confirmation of it, <580916>Hebrews 9:16. But in the making of the covenant with Adam, there was not the death of any thing, whence it might be called a testament...

2dly. That first covenant made with Adam, had, as unto any benefit to be expected from it, with respect unto acceptation with God, life, and salvation, ceased long before, even at the entrance of sin. It was not abolished or abrogated by any act of God, as a law, but only was made weak and insufficient unto its first end, as a covenant. God had provided a way for the salvation of sinners, declared in the first promise... as a covenant, obliging unto personal, perfect, sinless obedience, as the condition of life, to be performed by themselves, so it ceased to be, long before the introduction of the new covenant which the apostle speaks of, that was promised “in the latter days.” But the other covenant here spoken of was not removed or taken away, until this new covenant was actually established.

3dly. The church of Israel was never absolutely under the power of that covenant as a covenant of life; for from the days of Abraham, the promise was given unto them and their seed. And the apostle proves that no law could afterwards be given, or covenant made, that should disannul that promise, <480317>Galatians 3:17. But had they been brought under the old covenant of works, it would have disannulled the promise; for that covenant and the promise are diametrically opposite. (74-75)

2. There is not actually any contradiction to resolve. Owen said "There were never absolutely any more than two covenants wherein all persons indefinitely are concerned." Since for Owen the various post-fall covenants prior to the New Covenant did not concern all persons indefinitely, there is no contradiction to resolve. (For example, Owen notes regarding the Mosaic Covenant "as unto what it had of its own, it was confined unto things temporal." It was a covenant specifically with Israel regarding life in the land of Canaan, with Moses as it's mediator/head - not Christ, thus it was a separate covenant from the Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace, but it did not concern all persons indefinitely so Owen does not have it in mind in that comment).

3. Owen spends a great deal of space in his Hebrews 8:6 exposition specifically addressing how to work out the question of how the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace relate to the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant. It's basically the whole thrust of his 150 pages
With respect hereunto it is that the Lord Christ is said to be the “mediator of a better covenant;” that is, of another distinct from it, and more excellent. It remains unto the exposition of the words, that we inquire what was this covenant, whereof our Lord Christ was the mediator, and what is here affirmed of it. This can be no other in general but that which we call “the covenant of grace.” And it is so called in opposition unto that of “works,” which was made with us in Adam; for these two, grace and works, do divide the ways of our relation unto God, being diametrically opposite, and every way inconsistent, Romans 11:6. Of this covenant the Lord Christ was the mediator from the foundation of the world, namely, from the giving of the first promise, Revelation 13:8; for it was given on his interposition, and all the benefits of it depended on his future actual mediation. But here ariseth the first difficulty of the context, and that in two things; for -

[1.] If this covenant of grace was made from the beginning, and if the LORD Christ was the mediator of it from the first, then where is the privilege of the gospel-state in opposition unto the law, by virtue of this covenant, seeing that under the law also the Lord Christ was the mediator of that covenant, which was from the beginning ?

[2.] If it be the covenant of grace which is intended, and that be opposed unto the covenant of works made with Adam, then the other covenant must be that covenant of works so made with Adam, which we have before disproved.

The answer hereunto is in the word here used by the apostle concerning this new covenant: nenomoqe>thtai, whose meaning we must inquire into. I say, therefore, that the apostle doth not here consider the new covenant absolutely, and as it was virtually administered from the foundation of the world, in the way of a promise; for as such it was consistent with that covenant made with the people in Sinai. And the apostle proves expressly, that the renovation of it made unto Abraham was no way abrogated by the giving of the law, Galatians 3:17. There was no interruption of its administration made by the introduction of the law. But he treats of such an establishment of the new covenant as wherewith the old covenant made at Sinai was absolutely inconsistent, and which was therefore to be removed out of the way. Wherefore he considers it here as it was actually completed, so as to bring along with it all the ordinances of worship which are proper unto it, the dispensation of the Spirit in them, and all the spiritual privileges wherewith they are accompanied. It is now so brought in as to become the entire rule of the church’s faith, obedience, and worship, in all things.

This is the meaning of the word nenomoqe>thtai: “established,” say we; but it is, “reduced into a fixed state of a law or ordinance.” All the obedience required in it, all the worship appointed by it, all the privileges exhibited in it, and the grace administered with them, are all given for a statute, law, and ordinance unto the church. That which before lay hid in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hid in God himself, was now brought to light; and that covenant which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was now solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ. It had before the confirmation of a promise, which is an oath; it had now the confirmation of a covenant, which is blood. That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar unto it, is now made the only rule and instrument of worship unto the whole church, nothing being to be admitted therein but what belongs unto it, and is appointed by it. This the apostle intends by nenomoqe>thtai, the “legal establishment” of the new covenant, with all the ordinances of its worship. Hereon the other covenant was disannulled and removed; and not only the covenant itself, but all that system of sacred worship whereby it was administered. This was not done by the making of the covenant at first; yea, all this was superinduced into the covenant as given out in a promise, and was consistent therewith. When the new covenant was given out only in the way of a promise, it did not introduce a worship and privileges expressive of it. Wherefore it was consistent with a form of worship, rites and ceremonies, and those composed into a yoke of bondage which belonged not unto it. And as these, being added after its giving, did not overthrow its nature as a promise, so they were inconsistent with it when it was completed as a covenant; for then all the worship of the church was to proceed from it, and to be conformed unto it. Then it was established. Hence it follows, in answer unto the second difficulty, that as a promise, it was opposed unto the covenant of works; as a covenant, it was opposed unto that of Sinai. This legalizing or authoritative establishment of the new covenant, and the worship thereunto belonging, did effect this alteration.
(77-78)

Thus for Owen, the solution is that the Covenant of Grace was not a covenant until Christ's death. Beeke and Jones are incorrect when they say:
The evidence suggests that Owen does not simply equate the covenant of grace with the new covenant. For example, Owen writes, “When we speak of the ‘new covenant,’ we do not intend the covenant of grace absolutely.”36...

For Owen, the covenant of grace only formally becomes a covenant through the death of Christ (Heb. 9:15–23), although this sacrifice had been decreed from before the foundation of the world. As a result, the new covenant, promised in the Old Testament, is not the promise of grace, but the actual “formal nature of a covenant” through its establishment by the death of Christ.40 The new covenant, then, is the fulfillment of the covenant of grace, but also distinguishable from it by virtue of being a testament. Hebrews 8 has, therefore, special reference not to the covenant of grace, but to the new covenant specifically.

Beeke, Joel R.; Jones, Mark (2012-10-14). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Kindle Locations 11785-11789). . Kindle Edition.

They have misunderstood Owen's comments. Owen does use "new covenant" and "covenant of grace" interchangeably. When he says "absolutely considered" he is not opposing the new covenant to the covenant of grace, he is opposing the covenant of grace promised vs the covenant of grace established. Nowhere does Owen say the new covenant is distinguished from the covenant of grace because the new covenant is a testament. Note how Owen uses "new covenant" and "covenant of grace" interchangeably.

that covenant which had invisibly, in the way of a promise... all this was superinduced into the covenant as given out in a promise... the new covenant was given out only in the way of a promise... Having shown in what sense the covenant of grace is called “the new covenant,” in this distinction and opposition to the old covenant, so I shall propose several things which relate to the nature of the first covenant, which manifest it to have been a distinct covenant, and not a mere administration of the covenant of grace.

Again, the distinction Owen makes is not between the covenant of grace and the new covenant, but instead between the covenant of grace (the new covenant) promised and the covenant of grace (the new covenant) established.

Owen rejects the one substance/multiple administrations view of the covenant of grace in favor of a promised/established view of the covenant of grace. And this is not simply in reference to the Mosaic Covenant but to all covenants in the bible:
2. When we speak of the “new covenant,” we do not intend the covenant of grace absolutely, as though that were not before in being and efficacy, before the introduction of that which is promised in this place. For it was always the same, as to the substance of it, from the beginning. It passed through the whole dispensation of times before the law, and under the law, of the same nature and efficacy, unalterable, “everlasting, ordered in all things, and sure.” All who contend about these things, the Socinians only excepted, do grant that the covenant of grace, considered absolutely, — that is, the promise of grace in and by Jesus Christ, —was the only way and means of salvation unto the church, from the first entrance of sin. But for two reasons it is not expressly called a covenant, without respect unto any other things, nor was it so under the old testament. When God renewed the promise of it unto Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but it was with respect unto other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely under the old testament it consisted only in a promise; and as such only is proposed in the Scripture, Acts 2:39; Hebrews 6:14-16. The apostle indeed says, that the covenant was confirmed of God in Christ, before the giving of the law, Galatians 3:17. And so it was, not absolutely in itself, but in the promise and benefits of it. The nomoqesi>a, or full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only, and a promise under the old testament; for it wanted two things thereunto: —

(1.) It wanted its solemn confirmation and establishment, by the blood of the only sacrifice which belonged unto it. Before this was done in the death of Christ, it had not the formal nature of a covenant or a testament, as our apostle proves, Hebrews 9:15-23. For neither, as he shows in that place, would the law given at Sinai have been a covenant, had it not been confirmed with the blood of sacrifices. Wherefore the promise was not before a formal and solemn covenant.

(2.) This was wanting, that it was not the spring, rule, and measure of all the worship of the church. This doth belong unto every covenant, properly so called, that God makes with the church, that it be the entire rule of all the worship that God requires of it; which is that which they are to restipulate in their entrance into covenant with God. But so the covenant of grace was not under the old testament; for God did require of the church many duties of worship that did not belong thereunto. But now, under the new testament, this covenant, with its own seals and appointments, is the only rule and measure of all acceptable worship. Wherefore the new covenant promised in the Scripture, and here opposed unto the old, is not the promise of grace, mercy, life, and salvation by Christ, absolutely considered, but as it had the formal nature of a covenant given unto it, in its establishment by the death of Christ, the procuring cause of all its benefits, and the declaring of it to be the only rule of worship and obedience unto the church. So that although by “the covenant of grace,” we ofttimes understand no more but the way of life, grace, mercy, and salvation by Christ; yet by “the new covenant,” we intend its actual establishment in the death of Christ, with that blessed way of worship which by it is settled in the church.

3. Whilst the church enjoyed all the spiritual benefits of the promise, wherein the substance of the covenant of grace was contained, before it was confirmed and made the sole rule of worship unto the church, it was not inconsistent with the holiness and wisdom of God to bring it under any other covenant, or prescribe unto it what forms of worship he pleased. It was not so, I say, upon these three suppositions: — ..."

http://www.prayermeetings.org/files/John_Owen/Hebrews_8.1-10.39.pdf

Make sure to read “DOLPHINS IN THE WOODS”: A Critique of Mark Jones and Ted Van Raalte’s Presentation of Particular Baptist Covenant Theology, Samuel Renihan in the 2015 JIRBS (coming out very soon). http://www.rbap.net/jirbs-2015-article-titles/
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Note the inconsistency here. Beeke and Jones quote Owen's exegetical commentary on Hebrews 7:9-10, treat it as systematic theology, and use it to interpret Owen's commentary on 8:6. Let's be consistent. Owen's exegetical commentary includes systematic theological statements.
There is not an "inconsistency" here. I cannot quote the entire Chapter of the book for copyright reasons. Have you read it? They make broader application about Owen's theology that goes much further afield than Owen's commentary in Hebrews and this is but one section. Their citation of Hebrews 7 was to make 2 points:

1. Owen's theology on this is complex.
2. To point out a seeming inconsistency. In other words, if Owen is so "cut and dry" as some would make him then he would be contradicting himself. What they're trying to demonstrate in a Chapter that covers far more than simply Owen's Hebrews commentary, is that he uses Covenant in both soteric and exegetical ways and those distinctions must be kept in mind.

Regarding the rest, Brandon, I'm sorry to say that I agree that good men can disagree but I still see you completely focused upon 150 pages of Owen's work. I think your perspective is skewed toward this single source and assumes that a man cannot communicate one way exegetically in a manner differently when he is doing systematics. Were you to demonstrate your case by moving outside of the Hebrews commentary then you might be able to be more persuasive but I don't really see any evidence you have done much in the way of investigation of Owen's broader theology other than quoting and re-quoting Owen on Hebrews 8.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Absolutely. But that's a two way street. You need to be open to the possibility that baptist scholars have interpreted Owen correctly while others have not.

Incidentally, let me respond to this. In all honesty, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about this issue until it arises and I don't spend a lot of time reading blog articles and counter blog articles.

Let me say this with as much advice as you're willing to receive but you seem to have a huge chip on your shoulder about this issue. I hadn't read the Gatiss article until yesterday and noticed that your response to his article in a title is: "Baptists Couldn’t Possibly Know What They’re Talking About".

Seriously?

Is it really a "Love it or Leave it" mentality? Is that the only dialog that's possible when two sides differ about Owen?

I think it goes without saying that Presbyterians that think they know Owen's theology and have studied him probably differ over the issue when some Particular Baptists claim that Owen has a Covenant Theology that is more amenable to the Particular Baptist position.

Your approach is sort of scorched earth. I really don't lose any sleep over whether or not Owen may have even been a trichotomist. It's not as if, were I convinced tomorrow, that I would need Owen to be convinced that the WCF is dichotomous. Even Jones and Beeke call Owen a "minority report" and I'm certain there are elements of Owen that people even within the paedobaptist spectrum use to buttress idiosyncratic views that do not accord with Reformed confessions. I know and am convinced of what my Church confesses so I can profit from Owen without making him "my own".

My concern here is to permit healthy dialog and that includes an ability to handle Owen that doesn't simply say "...you guys are just all wrong and the reason you won't listen is because you think Baptist don't read!"

I respect the research you've done on Hebrews 8 but I simply do not see the broader concerns about Owen's overarching theology addressed that moves beyond Hebrews 8. I'm asking you to interact with it not because I think you're an idiot but because I haven't seen you address Owen beyond Hebrews 8 and answer the broader historical scene, Puritan methodology, whether exegetical and soteric language might differ, etc.

In other words, is the sense that disagreement equates to dismissal so overarching that even a request that you interact with a broader question simply seen as a charge or ignorance? It is not intended to be a charge but a request that you interact more broadly with the material presented.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
However complex Owen's position was, he taught the administration of the covenant of grace in the Old Testament, which effectively disqualifies him from being classified with this so-called "distinctive" of "Particular Baptist" thought. Whatever else he taught regarding the new covenant does not negate his clear assertions which align him with the unified covenant theology of the Westminster tradition. The volume by Beeke and Jones explores the thought of Owen in relation to the Mosaic covenant, and considers the issues to be complex on this particular point. This is a different question to the one being discussed here. As noted in previous threads, even if the Mosaic covenant were regarded as something different from the new covenant, Owen still taught the covenant of grace was administered from the time of Adam's fall, and he taught this in plain and simple terms.
 

mshingler

Puritan Board Freshman
I've had little time to interact in this thread, but have tried to follow the discussion. I'm certainly not an Owen scholar. That said, my impressions, from his Hebrews commentary, at this point include:
1. He did believe the covenant of grace was being administered under the Old Testament covenants.
2. He sought to do justice to the "newness" of the new covenant without undermining the essential unity of the covenant of grace throughout history. The new covenant was not simply a renewal of the Mosaic covenant.
3. He saw the "betterness" of the new covenant vs. the old covenant primarily in the circumstances in which the visible church exists in history. When the covenant of grace was administered in the form of a promise, it was through or under another covenant arrangement that included burdensome regulations and forms of worship that, in and of themselves, didn't bring eternal life. They were suited to a time when the covenant of grace was administered in the form of promise vs. the form of fulfillment. Evidently, for Owen anyway, this didn't lead to the conclusion that infant baptism was an imposition of old covenant forms of worship into the new covenant administration.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Some more food for thought regarding Owen.

I don't know if this has occurred to anyone else but the whole "Owen's theology of the Covenants logically leads to antipaedobaptism" seems to have a significant issue and that's the credibility of Owen himself as a scholar if the inference of Owen's theology is, in fact, contrary to Owen's own conclusions.

On the one hand, Owen is appealed to because he is the "Prince of the Puritans" and his theological mind is so keen that we paedobaptists ought to seriously consider the implications if the inference of his Covenant theology inevitably leads to antipaedobaptist conclusions.

On the other hand, Owen is seen as unable, as a theologian, to recognize that the inference of his Covenant theology inevitably leads to antipaedobaptist conclusions.

If the latter is true then is the former true? Perhaps, after all, Owen is not a terribly careful theologian and, if we can't trust him to arrive at conclusions then can we really trust his Covenant theology?

Let me make another observation that I've noted for some time as I've interacted with my Reformed Baptist brothers over the years and it is whether the "Newness" of the New Covenant, as conceived by RB's, inevitably leads to antipaedobaptism.

I think RB's often neglect to note that the Westminster Standards note that the Covenant Grace is made with Christ and the elect in Him. We do not confess that the children of believers are "in Christ" either in the OT or in the NT simply because they are the recipients of the sign.

Much ink is spilled (or keys typed) arguing for the New Covenant being with the Elect alone as if that establishes, convincingly, that this would mean that the children of believers should not be baptized. It is often overlooked that simply "professing Christ" is not the same as being "in Christ" and so the notion that the elect alone participate in the NC does not make a "closed door" case for the baptism of professors alone. Why? Because profession is not election.
 

mshingler

Puritan Board Freshman
We do not confess that the children of believers are "in Christ" either in the OT or in the NT simply because they are the recipients of the sign.

Much ink is spilled (or keys typed) arguing for the New Covenant being with the Elect alone as if that establishes, convincingly, that this would mean that the children of believers should not be baptized. It is often overlooked that simply "professing Christ" is not the same as being "in Christ" and so the notion that the elect alone participate in the NC does not make a "closed door" case for the baptism of professors alone. Why? Because profession is not election.

I would actually agree that this RB argument is not the best case for baptism on profession alone. My own understanding, at this point (and I'm obviously still working some of these things out more clearly in my own mind) is probably closer to the paedobaptist view of covenants than most RB's. I believe that the Old Testament blessing promised upon the children of believers is still relevant, in some way, under the new covenant (Jer. 32:39; Ps. 25:13). I don't see circumcision as tied to a covenant of works or the Mosaic as a covenant of works. I also don't see the temporal, earthly promises to Abraham and his seed as merely "typical" of heavenly and/or spiritual. Certainly there were typical aspects, but I think the land promise and inheritance was more like a temporary downpayment/pledge - a partial and temporary fulfillment suited to the people of God under the old covenant, before the fuller revelation with the coming of Christ. There are points where I prefer the WFC's explanation of covenants better than the 1689LBC.
On the other hand, it seems to me that the paedobaptist starts from the presupposition that the Abrahamic Covenant was the covenant of grace, period. Hence, there's a direct line drawn from circumcision to baptism, without considering if circumcision belongs, absolutely, to the covenant of grace, or if it belongs to an historic covenant through which the covenant of grace was administered. So, I guess that, in my mind, the argument against infant baptism is less about arguing that the new covenant only includes the elect. It's more about the nature of the Abrahamic covenant and the exact relationship between circumcision and the covenant of grace, as well as how one distinguishes the covenant of grace from any particular administration of the covenant.
Not sure if I'm able to say exactly what I mean here. This is my understanding at this point, but I'm open to learning and understanding better.
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman
Rich,

Have you read it?

Yes, hence the quotes. I addressed their argument above. If you can find anything I did not address, then bring it up and I will be happy to address it.

2. To point out a seeming inconsistency. In other words, if Owen is so "cut and dry" as some would make him then he would be contradicting himself. What they're trying to demonstrate in a Chapter that covers far more than simply Owen's Hebrews commentary, is that he uses Covenant in both soteric and exegetical ways and those distinctions must be kept in mind.

See above.

I think your perspective is skewed toward this single source and assumes that a man cannot communicate one way exegetically in a manner differently when he is doing systematics.

That argument is growing old. It has been addressed (see above).

Even Jones and Beeke call Owen a "minority report" and I'm certain there are elements of Owen that people even within the paedobaptist spectrum use to buttress idiosyncratic views that do not accord with Reformed confessions. I know and am convinced of what my Church confesses so I can profit from Owen without making him "my own".

What do you mean "even". My entire point is that Owen is a minority report because he rejects the WCF on this point. I'm glad you're convinced of what your church confesses. That's entirely irrelevant. I'm also convinced of what my church confesses and can do so without Owen. The question is the proper interpretation of Owen.

In other words, is the sense that disagreement equates to dismissal so overarching that even a request that you interact with a broader question simply seen as a charge or ignorance?

It is not a "request". It is a dismissal that has been persistent for years. I have engaged with the broader question every time it has been raised.
  1. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/owens-promisedestablished-covenant-of-grace/
  2. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/201...ing-about-debating-owen-round-473-lee-gatiss/
  3. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/201...theyre-talking-about-debating-owen-round-472/
  4. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/gag-order-the-puritanboard/
  5. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/mcmahons-misrepresentation-of-john-owen/
  6. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/of-infant-baptism-owen-analysis/
  7. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/iron-cant-sharpen-iron-without-honesty/
  8. http://www.puritanboard.com/f31/whats-new-about-new-covenant-71338/index2.html#post914162
  9. http://www.puritanboard.com/f31/how...nant-grace-there-78854/index3.html#post999874


I don't know if this has occurred to anyone else but the whole "Owen's theology of the Covenants logically leads to antipaedobaptism" seems to have a significant issue and that's the credibility of Owen himself as a scholar if the inference of Owen's theology is, in fact, contrary to Owen's own conclusions.

Sometimes it takes both time and a little heat to get someone to see the logical conclusions of a position. Owen was fantastic. Owen was not perfect. But notice two different issues: 1) Understanding Owen's covenant theology on it's own terms and how it was a rejection of the WCF position, and 2) Debating whether or not that covenant theology logically leads to a rejection of infant baptism on covenantal grounds.

I think RB's often neglect to note that the Westminster Standards note that the Covenant Grace is made with Christ and the elect in Him. We do not confess that the children of believers are "in Christ" either in the OT or in the NT simply because they are the recipients of the sign.

Much ink is spilled (or keys typed) arguing for the New Covenant being with the Elect alone as if that establishes, convincingly, that this would mean that the children of believers should not be baptized. It is often overlooked that simply "professing Christ" is not the same as being "in Christ" and so the notion that the elect alone participate in the NC does not make a "closed door" case for the baptism of professors alone. Why? Because profession is not election.

You're missing the point. Infant baptism is defended upon covenantal grounds. When that covenant theology is demonstrated to be unbiblical, then the grounds for infant baptism are removed.

See Samuel Renihan's "The Case for Credobaptism" @ The Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals blog: The Case for Credobaptism | Place for Truth - Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals



Matthew,

"he taught the administration of the covenant of grace in the Old Testament"

As did particular baptists.

"Whatever else he taught regarding the new covenant does not negate his clear assertions which align him with the unified covenant theology of the Westminster tradition"

That’s called the Winzer magic wand. A man can expressly reject and argue against the WCF tradition, but with the Winzer wand, that turns into an affirmation and agreement.

"As noted in previous threads, even if the Mosaic covenant were regarded as something different from the new covenant, Owen still taught the covenant of grace was administered from the time of Adam's fall, and he taught this in plain and simple terms."

Yes, just like the particular baptists.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
That’s called the Winzer magic wand. A man can expressly reject and argue against the WCF tradition, but with the Winzer wand, that turns into an affirmation and agreement.

Did you consult with a 6 year old to help frame this response? Again, Brandon, it's the scorched earth approach. You claim to be held in derision but have you nobody in your life whom you respect, that can explain to you that dialog on the issue need not be acerbic?

I'm bowing out except for moderation because I just don't have time for this right now.
 
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