Essential presupposition of covenant theology?

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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Rich, what's the definition of "objective"? What about in the case of excommunication from the church? Is it not the case that that person has been removed from the visible kingdom? If I'm not wrong, Presbyterians believe that it is not one's baptism per se that marks him out as belonging to the covenant community, but his continued membership in the local church and the common confession of faith. That covenant status, by implication, is only objective at the time that the conditions are being met. However, it can be rendered undone through unfaithfulness within one's lifetime, as was the case with circumcision.
One does not have to wonder whether or not he is baptized. That is what I mean by objective. Visibly, the person is made a member of the Kingdom of God. Yes, he may rebel and shrink back but there is no presumption that no membership or responsibility to continue belonged to the individual.

It is objective in contra-distinction from a subjective apprehension of Baptist theology: "Did I have real faith when I was baptized? Golly, I don't know. When I was baptized as an adult I held to an Arminian soteriology. Maybe I was never really baptized." or even "I know I believed the right things when I was baptized but this heinous sin I've committed leads me to doubt whether or not I had real faith when I was baptized. Maybe I was never really baptized." Ultimately, the tenor on the reality of baptism in Baptist CT rests on the subjective experience of the individual.

I would also ask of the scriptures, whether it sees baptism in this 'ideal' sense. In most cases that I can think of, the mention of baptism is coupled inseparably from their status as united with Christ and saved. One can cite Simon the sorcerer who was baptized but doubtfully converted, (although he might have been, we don't know). One thing is for certain, he was immature and was disciplined. If unconverted, Scripture would say of Simon, "they went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." (1 Jn 2:19). This sounds a lot like what you think Baptists would say. But interestingly, in Simon's case, it is still affirmed by Luke that "Simon himself believed and was baptized" (Ac 8:13). Thus his baptism was still justifiable because he believed.
No, not every time that Baptism is spoken of it necessarily speaks of union with Christ. The Romans 6 sense of the term certainly does to the point where the baptism being spoken of is a spiritual identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. Paul there speaks about baptism in a way distinct from the actual administration of physical baptism. In other parts, baptism is spoken of in its external administration - men rejoice at the news (and by all external indicators believe and repent) and they are baptized. Yet, it is abundantly clear as well from other portions that even men that Paul labored in the ministry with fell away.

Clearly, then, there is a connection between the sign of baptism and the thing signified but it cannot be said that because a person receives the sign that he necessarily possesses the reality. You can find in Scott's post that connection. Physical baptism is sacramentally related to spiritual baptism in that God has instituted it and promises that He attends to the Promises announced in it. The Holy Spirit gives the graces it signifies to the elect and this is why the timing of baptism and its reality does not depend upon the subjective experience of the recipient. Again, it is God's speech and not ours.

In Simon's case we cannot fully conclude that simply because the text states that he believed that it is speaking of true faith and repentance. There are several examples of "judgments of charity" in the Scriptures where people are assumed to be Christians on the basis of their profession. It's the way the Church must operate. One does not have to infer that Luke was given special revelation concerning the true nature of Simon's faith. Imagine what the Church would be like if we all walked around saying to one another: "You say you believe the Gospel but I have no way of knowing that infallibly so I won't ever say 'Dennis believes the Gospel'".

I'm not sure how baptists treat a backslider or one who is excommunicated, who comes back , but I imagine it's similar to how a Presbyterian church would treat him. A second baptism is not necessary.
Again, that depends. If his initial conversion is not seen as genuine (or the person himself comes to that conclusion) then baptism is not seen as having occured and, in Baptist thinking, no "re-baptism" occurred because the person was never baptized.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
The factor of subjectivity and emotions

I'm also realizing how inadequate it is to say, "scripture is so clear," because there are plenty of very intelligent and godly thinkers who simply differ on this point, and it implies that the other is foolish - which I don't think is the way of love. I'd like to even move this thread in the direction of subjective reasons to believe in credo vs. paedobaptism. As I mentioned before, intellectual arguments are helpful, but subjective personal reasons are very compelling as well. I hear glimmers of it coming through at times, eg. paedo: a desire to consider one's baby a Christian, a member of the covenant; credo: a desire to mimic Jesus in his adult baptism. These are deep-rooted associations in our hearts that we want to be so and act as presuppositions which control our thinking as well. would anyone admit to any subjective, or emotive reasons for their position?

No doubt these motives play a big role in some cases, even if it goes unrecognized on a conscious level.

There's a former member of this board who used to have Baptist views but within the past year or so has adopted Presbyterian views. His simply not liking the Baptists in his area and a disdain for Bible Belt "Baptist culture" in general played a big role, as he admits. When you ask him why he switched about all he can say beyond his distaste for Baptists is that he agrees with the WCF.

As I noted earlier, in retrospect, subjective reasons played a large role in my adopting paedobaptist views. At that time, I was so immature (even though I was in my early 30's!) that unless a church had all the I's dotted and T's crossed and strictly followed what they professed to believe, I couldn't (or wouldn't) join. The Orthodox Presbyterian congregation in my area met that description, whereas the Baptist churches tended to use revivalist and pragmatic techniques and usually held dispensational views. The more Calvinistic Baptist churches were marked by division and infighting that lasted for many years or else had serious problems with their ecclesiology and other areas of theology. Even then I "halted between two opinions" for a year or two because I wouldn't join a Presbyterian church until I was convinced of paedobaptism. That seems to be your dilemma as well, especially if you are engaged in mission work alongside this Presbyterian church.

Some might say that emotions played a role when I switched back because it happened soon after sitting in on a Presbytery meeting that was a fiasco, in my view (as well as in the view of some of the presbyters.) I think it's fair to say that it played a role in my reexamining my views at that time. But after much reflection, I don't think it was determinative, especially since there were compelling reasons to stay, including a possibility of being nominated for office and thus having the opportunity to change things over time. A few weeks ago I saw that Presbyterian pastor. He said "All that over a Presbytery meeting" and we had a good laugh about it. But since that time I've arguably seen worse things in some baptistic churches and haven't switched back despite the fact that I'm generally more comfortable with Presbyterian worship.

In many cases, making these kinds of doctrinal shifts results in heartache and losing fellowship and ministry opportunities. I think Randy (puritancovenanter) would probably agree that things would be simpler for him if he were to be convinced of paedobaptism. He's been in Presbyterian churches for many years although he is a convinced credobaptist. It's the same with me as well as many others who do not have a Baptist work in their area that is sound in faith and practice.

Many Baptists in the past suffered persecution for opposing paedobaptism. Likewise, many Presbyterians, especially the Covenanters, suffered persecution because they would not submit to the worship and government of the Church of England. Today, many Calvinistic Baptists (especially those who are covenantal and who hold to some semblance of the Regulative Principle of Worship) find that they are quite limited when it comes to ministry opportunities.

Making these kinds of decisions can often lead to division and hard feelings with parents and friends. Those who have become convinced of paedobaptist views no doubt can cite lost ministry opportunities and perhaps even intolerance on the part of family members and friends as well. (See the recent "Former Arminian coming out as Calvinist" thread for examples.) In these cases, in which some kind of hardship is the result of making a doctrinal shift, often subjective feelings have little or nothing to do with it since, aside from doctrinal conviction, there are often compelling reasons to remain in one's current church or denomination.

There are certainly differences between Western (perhaps most especially, Anglo/American) and East Asian culture, with the latter tending to be more communal as you note. But I hope the above examples illustrate that there is nonetheless often a lot on the line in Western society when contemplating this kind of change.
 
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steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for the weighty responses Brothers, and thanks Chris for your honesty and real-ness in sharing your own and others' experiences.

Some thoughts.
1. in response to the definitions of "objective", I sense the reluctance to assign baptism to say something of the person baptized, and in its place, it is emphasized that baptism is essentially a witness to The Faith, a gospel proclamation, and a call to repentance and genuine faith. Question: why would these things be applied to certain individuals, and not everyone? We all agree that the gospel is rightly proclaimed to all and is urged upon all - why limit the application of the sign to some? Surely, it must be admitted that there is some degree of congruency between the sign and its rightful host. The argument from circumcision is replete with this language:
Why does the sacrament come after faith in Abraham, and precede all intelligence in his son Isaac? It is right that he who, in adult age, is admitted to the fellowship of a covenant by one from whom he had hitherto been alienated, should previously learn its conditions; but it is not so with the infant born to him. He, according to the terms of the promise, is included in the promise by hereditary right from his mother's womb. Or, to state the matter more briefly and more clearly, If the children of believers, without the help of understanding, are partakers of the covenant, there is no reason why they should be denied the sign, because they are unable to swear to its stipulations. Inst. 4.16.23
Yes, it's true that the gospel figured in the sign is objective, but when deciding who the sign should be given to, how is subjectivity avoidable? It seems clear that there must be some reason why the sign is applied to certain ones, and that reason, says something about their identity.

2. I agree that the decision to be baptized is ultimately subjective - for the one baptized and the church. However, I think it's a bit of a misunderstanding (perhaps caricature?) that Baptist's seek signs of election and despairs at the fact of not being infallibly sure. I'd like to know what method the Presbyterian undertakes to ensure that an adult is ready for baptism. It'd be interesting to see if there are any significant differences?

3. Simon's case, even if certain that he was reprobate, in interesting in Luke's comment that "he himself believed and was baptized" - don't you think? The story seems very embarrassing for the apostles, regardless of baptismal position, because here's a guy who was welcomed into fellowship after a successful response to the preaching of the gospel, gets baptized, and ends up reprobate a few short sentences later. Why mention that he believed and was baptized when the outcome is so counterintuitive? It's as if Luke is not so much bothered with the ultimate outcome, but is simply eager to highlight the correlation that's in line with his theme throughout Acts: people are believing the gospel and being baptized. This is instructional in our current discussion. We don't need to fret about not knowing people's hearts infallibly; signs of faith are sufficient.

4. on subjective reasons: I'll tell you what makes RCT so appealing to me right now. Its elegance. I see in it a seamless thread, moving through the Old and New Testaments, and through the witness of church tradition, this hermeneutical stance that there is undisturbed continuity in all God's dealings with man. As for the Baptist position: I was baptized on confession of faith and still remember it vividly. Blessed day. Couldn't imagine denying that experience to anyone.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
OP by Dennis
Essential presupposition of covenant theology?

I'm looking for THE essential presupposition that undergirds covenant theology from both the Reformed and Covenant baptist perspective.

Quote from Dennis
I'm also realizing how inadequate it is to say, "scripture is so clear," because there are plenty of very intelligent and godly thinkers who simply differ on this point, and it implies that the other is foolish - which I don't think is the way of love. I'd like to even move this thread in the direction of subjective reasons to believe in credo vs. paedobaptism. As I mentioned before, intellectual arguments are helpful, but subjective personal reasons are very compelling as well. I hear glimmers of it coming through at times, eg. paedo: a desire to consider one's baby a Christian, a member of the covenant; credo: a desire to mimic Jesus in his adult baptism. These are deep-rooted associations in our hearts that we want to be so and act as presuppositions which control our thinking as well. would anyone admit to any subjective, or emotive reasons for their position?

I think the OP is essentially wrong-headed. This is essentially a matter of biblical interpretation - not unargued presuppostions - like all Covenant Theology.

People have to just decide which hermeneutic and exegesis is sound, or more sound.

The Presbyterian teaching that the covenant is united in including children in its administration as we move from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, is argued from Scripture like anything else, and isn't a presupposition in that sense. In particular we believe that although we have left the Old Covenant behind, we haven't left the Abrahamic Covenant behind, the New Covenant being a phase or administration of the Abrahamic Covenant.

I believe there are nuances among Reformed Baptists - as among Presbyterians. E.g. I heard that John Gill did believe that children of believers were in a sense in the covenant, but didn't believe in their baptism on the basis of the Regulative Principle of Worship.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
I think the OP is essentially wrong-headed. This is essentially a matter of biblical interpretation - not unargued presuppostions - like all Covenant Theology.
People have to just decide which hermeneutic and exegesis is sound, or more sound.

True, this is ideal. But consider that many (including myself) are not adequately well versed in the intricacies of the doctrine to be able to weigh each argument fairly (though threads like this are very helpful to that end!). However, this doesn't keep most unlearned people from having very strong convictions about either position, and those reasons would have to come from something more primal and subjective. My suspicion is that it's present is almost all cases - deep down, more than we'd like to admit. Although it's not ideal, it's reality. If it were out in the open, at least we can be honest about it and deal with its merits.

I believe there are nuances among Reformed Baptists - as among Presbyterians. E.g. I heard that John Gill did believe that children of believers were in a sense in the covenant, but didn't believe in their baptism on the basis of the Regulative Principle of Worship.
I'm very much in this camp, although I don't know enough about the RPW to make it the basis for the omission. I'm convinced of the special place that covenant children, as well as covenant spouses have in God's eyes.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
1. in response to the definitions of "objective", I sense the reluctance to assign baptism to say something of the person baptized, and in its place, it is emphasized that baptism is essentially a witness to The Faith, a gospel proclamation, and a call to repentance and genuine faith. Question: why would these things be applied to certain individuals, and not everyone? We all agree that the gospel is rightly proclaimed to all and is urged upon all - why limit the application of the sign to some? Surely, it must be admitted that there is some degree of congruency between the sign and its rightful host.
Baptism is administered to those adults who profess faith and repentance and to the children of believing parents. The "degree of congruency" is that God has commanded that such be baptize. That's all the creature can ever possibly act upon. As for its "congruency" between sign and thing signified:
2. There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

3. The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorising the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.

Any attempt to draw a line from "genuine faith" (known by God alone) and the administration of baptism is a violation of the Word of God that command we do not do this.

2. I agree that the decision to be baptized is ultimately subjective - for the one baptized and the church. However, I think it's a bit of a misunderstanding (perhaps caricature?) that Baptist's seek signs of election and despairs at the fact of not being infallibly sure. I'd like to know what method the Presbyterian undertakes to ensure that an adult is ready for baptism. It'd be interesting to see if there are any significant differences?
I don't know who you believed made a caricature of the Baptist position but I have seen quotes from particular Baptists of the past that do insist on signs of election. Nobody has stated that they "despair" of being infallibly sure. The point is that the significance of baptism for a Baptist is always tentative because, if the person discovers later he didn't believe what he ought, the validity of the initial baptism may be called into question because ultimate validity rests on whether or not the person had genuine faith at the time of baptism. It is a fact, and not a fabrication, that the re-administration of baptism is part and parcel of Baptist practice if it is is the judgment of the local congregation and/or the individual that he was never "really" baptized to begin with.

You completely miss the point when you ask how a Presbyterian Church would decide to baptize. It might look precisely the same and the method for examination may be identical. The point is that an adult would only be baptize ONCE in a Presbyterian Church even if that individual concluded that his profession was false when he was baptized. The WCF states:
6. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinancy the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.
There is no such statement in the LBCF because it is against Baptist theology on this point.

3. Simon's case, even if certain that he was reprobate, in interesting in Luke's comment that "he himself believed and was baptized" - don't you think? The story seems very embarrassing for the apostles, regardless of baptismal position, because here's a guy who was welcomed into fellowship after a successful response to the preaching of the gospel, gets baptized, and ends up reprobate a few short sentences later. Why mention that he believed and was baptized when the outcome is so counterintuitive? It's as if Luke is not so much bothered with the ultimate outcome, but is simply eager to highlight the correlation that's in line with his theme throughout Acts: people are believing the gospel and being baptized. This is instructional in our current discussion. We don't need to fret about not knowing people's hearts infallibly; signs of faith are sufficient.

First, I didn't state he was reprobate. I merely pointed out that we don't know. I think it would only be "embarrassing" for the Apostles if they believed they ought to only baptize those they believe are elect and certainly regenerate. The Apostles had special revelation when their office demanded it but know the inscrutable things of God was not granted to them. This is why I pointed out that Paul labored with ministers of the Gospel who later turned from the faith. Nowhere do we see a preoccupation with certainty regarding the elect status of the visible Church in the NT. The hidden things belong to the Lord. My point all along has been that a judgment of charity is sufficient and a profession of faith and evidence of belief is sufficient.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
The point is that the significance of baptism for a Baptist is always tentative because, if the person discovers later he didn't believe what he ought, the validity of the initial baptism may be called into question because ultimate validity rests on whether or not the person had genuine faith at the time of baptism. It is a fact, and not a fabrication, that the re-administration of baptism is part and parcel of Baptist practice if it is is the judgment of the local congregation and/or the individual that he was never "really" baptized to begin with.
...
The point is that an adult would only be baptize ONCE in a Presbyterian Church even if that individual concluded that his profession was false when he was baptized.

Hmm. If this is true that time is a factor and a second (or third, fourth...) baptism is actually practiced in Baptist churches, then I find this problematic. Any Baptists care to comment from experience?
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
The point is that the significance of baptism for a Baptist is always tentative because, if the person discovers later he didn't believe what he ought, the validity of the initial baptism may be called into question because ultimate validity rests on whether or not the person had genuine faith at the time of baptism. It is a fact, and not a fabrication, that the re-administration of baptism is part and parcel of Baptist practice if it is is the judgment of the local congregation and/or the individual that he was never "really" baptized to begin with.
...
The point is that an adult would only be baptize ONCE in a Presbyterian Church even if that individual concluded that his profession was false when he was baptized.

Hmm. If this is true that time is a factor and a second (or third, fourth...) baptism is actually practiced in Baptist churches, then I find this problematic. Any Baptists care to comment from experience?

When this is the case, it's usually because the candidate for baptism was not properly examined in the first place. This especially the case with young children. Some children will want to be baptized because one or more of their friends are being baptized. Others will get caught up in the enthusiasm of things like Vacation Bible School, where ignorant but usually well-meaning teachers and leaders will encourage them to be baptized on the slightest evidence of any spiritual interest even though they have little knowledge of sin, etc. Some may be encouraged or pressured by their parents and will want to please them. This kind of situation with what is basically a late stage paedobaptism accounts for a very large percentage of rebaptisms in Baptist churches.

The kinds of churches I'm writing about here are not Reformed or Calvinistic Baptist churches but are Arminian or even semi-Pelagian in many cases. There are a lot of unorthodox and sub-biblical Presbyterian and Reformed churches too, but they are often in different denominations because of their connectional polity.

Part of the problem is the "altar call" system that many non-Reformed churches use. If someone comes forward and prays the "sinners prayer" or whatever, in a lot of churches (again, non-Calvinistic churches) a lot if pressure is going to be brought on the pastor to baptize within a few weeks. Unfortunately, some pastors are basically hirelings or weaklings who are unable or unwilling to stand up to those elements in the congregation in those cases.

If someone has been baptized multiple times, my guess is that in most cases it has been in several different congregations where the pastor(s) may not know that much about the candidate's background and may be remiss in probing further. The candidate may not always be forthcoming with how many times he's gone under. Most Baptist pastors I know, even those who would not be considered that sound by PB standards, will know something is wrong if someone has been baptized 3 or 4 times and will attempt to ascertain if it was a case of backsliding, etc.

The examination of baptismal candidates in Baptist churches should have little or no difference with the examination of "covenant children" in Pres/Reformed churches for partaking in the Lord's Supper or of adult baptismal/church membership candidates in those churches. Some Presbyterians favor letting young children come to the table via an "age appropriate" profession, whereas many will want to wait until the child is in his teens. You have the same issue in Baptist churches with regard to how long to wait for baptism. Historically baptism tended to be delayed until the mid-teens.

Many Presbyterian churches, especially those who are of a more liberal persuasion, are not properly ordered either. On the other hand some that are otherwise conservative practice paedocommunion (or would like to if it was allowed by their denomination) but I don't think that's the case with anyone here on the board, at least not within the past 5-7 years or so in the wake of the Federal Vision controversy.

The danger in Baptist (or baptistic, even if Baptist isn't in the name) churches that are in decline from a doctrinal standpoint is for people to assume they are saved because they were baptized, prayed a prayer, walked the aisle or whatever. The danger for Presbyterian and Reformed churches who are in doctrinal downgrade is to assume that those who are baptized are saved. I've known people who grew up in those kinds of churches who were converted in their teens or 20's but were told by their liberal pastor that they were already saved, etc. You will not find these issues with people on the PB generally, but it can happen in the more "mainline" congregations of either persuasion.
 
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Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I'm very much in this camp, although I don't know enough about the RPW to make it the basis for the omission. I'm convinced of the special place that covenant children, as well as covenant spouses have in God's eyes.

The argument from the RPW is basically that there is no explicit warrant for infant baptism in the NT. Earlier Baptists tended to strongly stress the no explicit warrant argument. Now, more often you will see emphasis on the nature of the New Covenant, that it is differently administered than the Old.

This view (no explicit warrant) is really not that different from those who argue for a cappella exclusive psalmody because they can't find instruments or uninspired songs in the NT. Those who are going to argue thusly ought to be Baptists too. :) (That's a little off-topic, but a worthy topic for consideration at a different time.) Singing was a big issue early on in the modern Baptist movement as well.

I know very little about Gill so I can't comment about Richard's report about his view. But if you are convinced of a special place for "covenant children" then you are not far from being a paedobaptist. My knowledge is by no means exhaustive, but I've never known anyone who held to such a view who didn't either abandon it later or else eventually become a paedobaptist.

Baptists believe that children in Christian homes have great privileges in growing up in a Christian home and in sitting under the ministry of the word. Such privileges carry a lot of responsibility compared with those who have not been as exposed to the truth. But the idea that children of believers are included in an outward administration of the covenant of grace is foreign to Baptist thought. That's the Reformed paedobaptist view. There may be some Baptists today who will say something like that, but to my knowledge that view has little or no attestation in Baptist history.

There aren't many consistent Baptists on the board anymore, or at least not many who are inclined to devote a lot of time to dig in and post about it here. I think you'd benefit from reading some Reformed and Historic Baptist writings on this issue so that you can have a clearer picture about what Baptists believe. I may post some links for you a little later.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Interpretation is the key

I think the OP is essentially wrong-headed. This is essentially a matter of biblical interpretation - not unargued presuppostions - like all Covenant Theology. People have to just decide which hermeneutic and exegesis is sound, or more sound.

I agree with this. While many good points have been made, I think the thread may have become more complicated than it needed to be and some of the posts have put the cart before the horse.


The Reformed paedobaptist view was stated succinctly by B.B. Warfield in The Polemics of Infant Baptism

The argument in a nutshell is simply this: God established His Church in the days of Abraham and put children into it. They must remain there until He puts them out. He has nowhere put them out. They are still then members of His Church and as such entitled to its ordinances. Among these ordinances is baptism, which standing in similar place in the New Dispensation to circumcision in the Old, is like it to be given to children.

Note that Warfield states that children of church members are entitled to its ordinances. But he like all sound Presbyterians don't admit unprofessing covenant children to the Lord's Supper. (There are only two ordinances.) in my opinion this is inconsistent and the very wording of that sentence is prima facie evidence of it. But we Baptists say that it is a happy inconsistency compared to the practice of paedocommunion, which was widely practiced in the early church and continues to be the practice of the Eastern Orthodox churches to this day.


The following is not succinct, (it's so long it would probably be easier to print it) but since I was reading it the other day, I thought I'd post the following from C.H. Spurgeon. Since Dennis has been asking for Baptist input, I feel somewhat justified in dumping all of this from Spurgeon into this post.

Spurgeon's interlocutor is the Puritan worthy Thomas Watson and his Body of Divinity, which Spurgeon valued very highly and republished. These are excerpts from an appendix on baptism that Spurgeon put into his edition of Watson's book.:

We maintain that the only proper subjects of Christian baptism are believers in Christ, those proselyted to Christ, disciples of Christ; or, since we have not, and are not required to have access to the heart, those who make a credible profession of faith in Christ.
This we believe to be taught in the divine precept, "Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations, baptizing them in [into] the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you;" and to be confirmed by the record, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."
In understanding this passage, if we follow order, where above all places the most precise order might be expected, we must understand Christ's will to be, that we first make disciples, then baptize, etc. That order is not here to be regarded it devolves on the opponents of order to prove. In making disciples, the communication and the acceptance of truth, the teaching and the receiving of the good news, are requisite. After this and baptism, teaching is not to cease, "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Nor is there anything in the passage demanding another interpretation.

We admit that in accordance with human phraseology, the word "disciples" is used in Scripture in application not only to those who were really, but also to those who were professedly disciples. Yet assuredly the Saviour did not wish his apostles, nor does he wish us, to make hypocrites; although not having access to the heart, we may sometimes baptize the unworthy, as Philip baptized Simon. This inevitable fallibility we deem no more condemnable in ourselves than in the evangelist. From this necessary weakness of humanity, we may not only sometimes receive the unworthy to baptism and the Lord's Supper, but may also induct such into the highest office in the church of Christ. We are not justified for this reason in altering the import of a disciple of Christ, solemnly and explicitly given by the Saviour himself.

The tendency of paedobaptism, as we could clearly show, is to pervert the import of a disciple of Christ, by teaching that an unconscious babe, that a child who can answer certain questions, yea, that a man or woman known to be ungodly, may, by baptism, become a disciple of Christ! Thus while certain conformists, [i.e. Church of England--CP] maintaining justification by faith, are inconsistently teaching that baptism regenerates and converts into a child of God, certain nonconformists, [i.e. the Reformed--CP] maintaining the divine truth of salvation by grace through faith, teach that baptism disciples to Christ! A correct interpretation of discipling excludes infants from the commission.

According to this natural import of Christ's words, namely, that we are to disciple to him, to baptize into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to teach obedience in all things to Christ's commands, we further conceive the apostles must have understood Christ, on account of the baptism they had already witnessed and practised. They knew not, so far as we are aware, any other baptism than John's, and that of Jesus through themselves. Were we to bind with the Bible all the Rabbinical lumber and all the condemned (or approved) Jewish traditions that the world contains, we should, while dishonouring the sufficiency of inspired writ, be in the same destitution of evidence that the apostles knew of any other baptisms than those recorded in the oracles of God. John "baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him who should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus, (Acts xix. 4.) They "were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mark i. 5.) It was a baptism "into repentance," as this was the state professed by them while confessing their sins and being baptized.

Until our Lord's commission, the Scriptures speak of no baptism from heaven in addition to John's, except that of Christ by means of his disciples. Concerning this the inspired record is, first, that "He baptized" (John iii. 22), and secondly, that "He made and baptized more disciples than John, though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples." (John iv. 1, 2.) He baptized disciples. He made AND baptized them. The instruction from this baptism can only be in favour of first making disciples, and then baptizing them. The whole of divine revelation respecting every baptism from heaven which the apostles had previously witnessed or practised, confirms our belief that they would certainly understand Christ's words according to their natural import already indicated.

We finally maintain that our view of the commission is correct, because the apostles so understood it, as their subsequent conduct and writings abundantly evidence. Peter on the day of Pentecost first preached the gospel of Christ, and then taught the anxiously enquiring to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They must change their minds, having been unbelieving in regard to Jesus as the Messiah and Saviour, and on this faith in Christ, to which God's Spirit was drawing and helping them, be baptized, thus in obedience to Christ, avowing their belief in him as the Messiah and their Saviour. And after further exhortation and instruction from Peter, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."

The next record of baptism thus reads: "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done."
The next recorded baptism is that of the praying "brother Saul," whom the Lord had met on his way to Damascus. The next recorded baptism is that of Cornelius and "his kinsmen and near friends," of whose baptism Peter judged all would approve, since while hearing Peter's words of divine instruction the Lord had baptized them with the Holy Ghost, and they were heard to "speak with tongues, and magnify God."

The next baptisms on record are those at Philippi and Corinth, adduced by Mr. Watson as proving that the apostles, in baptizing "whole families," baptized "little children" and "servants" (p. 381). We admit that, in Lydia's case, we have the record that "she was baptized, and her household," and the previous record respecting her, "whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul," while nothing is said respecting the character of "her household." This proves not that Lydia had either husband or child. The household of this "seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira," might consist wholly of servants. Silence here neither proves nor confirms anything in favour of paedobaptism. Having no record respecting the character of this household, we are bound to believe that apostolic practice here accorded with previous and subsequent apostolic practice.

The next baptism, that of the jailor "and all his," is one from which infants are clearly excluded. Paul and Silas "spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house;" and after baptism, "he set meat before them and rejoiced, believing (having believed) in God with all his house." The next record is equally explicit, and opposed to the baptism of infants or unbelievers. "And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord, with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized." The baptism of "certain disciples" at Ephesus, of whom we read, "And all the men were about twelve," equally refuses its aid to the baptism of infants; while "the household of Stephanas," of whom Paul says, "They have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints," cannot be brought to the rescue of our opponents.
But to another refuge the advocates of paedobaptism usually resort. Hence, in answer to the question,​
"How does it appear that children have a right to baptism?" we read, "Children are parties to the covenant of grace. The covenant was made with them. 'I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.' Gen. xvii. 7. 'The promise is to you and to your children.' The covenant of grace may be considered either, 1. More strictly, as an absolute promise to give saving grace; and so none but the elect are in covenant with God. Or (2.) More largely, as a covenant containing in it many outward glorious privileges, in which respects the children of believers do belong to the covenant of grace," and "cannot justly be denied baptism, which is its seal. It is certain the children of believers were once visibly in covenant with God, and received the seal of their admission into the church. Where now do we find this covenant interest, or church membership of infants, repealed or made void? Certainly Jesus Christ did not come to put believers in a worse condition than they were in before. If the children of believers should not be baptized, they are in worse condition now than they were in before Christ's coming"​
In this extract from Watson, God's gracious covenant with Abraham, or one of God's covenants with him, is styled "the covenant of grace." But the covenant of grace commenced with Adam, whether we restrict it to "the elect," those chosen to salvation, or regard it "more largely" as referring to "outward glorious privileges." Again, God's covenant with Abraham was not a covenant with the elect of mankind, nor with the whole race, nor with Abraham and the elect descending from him, nor with Abraham and exclusively the children of believers, nor with any children for the sake of their parents, excepting Abraham's own children.

Nor can the Pentecostal promise of Peter be proved to have any connection with, or reference to, the Abrahamic covenant
, admitting that, as some promises resemble others, this and the immediately following may remind us of the predictions that in Abraham and his seed all the nations and all the families of the earth shall be blessed. That all Abraham's descendents were elected to salvation no one believes; nor is it less apparent that the children of wicked parents received the token of the covenant, as well as the children of believing parents; and in every instance beyond that of Abraham's children, not from filial relationship, but from relationship to Abraham.

"The sons of David," as says Dr. Halley, [a congregationalist paedobaptist contemporary of Spurgeon's--CP] "were circumcised according to the same law, and therefore, for the same reason as the sons of that worshipper of Baal, Ahab, and of that wicked woman, Jezebel." Nor was the covenant of God with Abraham and his seed a covenant with his seed as infants, but with his descendants. If the token of the covenant had been disobediently neglected, it might at any age, and irrespective of character in its recipient or the parent, be performed from relationship to Abraham. Not one of Abraham's natural seed is another Abraham, nor is one believer. But all believers may be spoken of as the (believing) children of faithful Abraham. That God graciously entered into covenant with all Abraham's descendants for his sake, and instituted a sign to be fixed on every male, is no evidence that God has entered into covenant with the natural children of every believer, and with each child for the parent's sake, and that the baptism of male and female infants of believers is the appointed sign of this covenant. Where is such a law but in the writings of Paedobaptists?

The "covenant interest" of "the children of believers" as such, or of "infants" of believers, or the "church membership of infants," and "the seal of their admission into the church," giving to the word "church" any idea resembling its New Testament use in application to the church, or a church of Christ, needed not to be "repealed or made void," because they had never existed. If God's covenanting with Abraham and his seed, and instituting the sign of circumcision in males, proves the church membership of the seed of Abraham, it proves an Ishmaelitish as well as an Israelitish church of God, and a church to which ungodly adults, equally with the infants of believers, belonged. If circumcision is the seal of admission into the church, there has been not only a Jewish church, but an Edomite, a Moabite, an Ammonite church. Did Episcopalians and all others who believe a church of Christ to be "a congregation of faithful men," always speak consistently with this, we should hear less of any nation at any period, or of any building in any place, as a church. Why should we not, except where the idea of assembly exists, after the manner of inspired writers, speak of those who anciently enjoyed the divine favour, as saints, as the people of God, as those that feared the Lord, as the righteous, etc., instead of confoundingly speaking of the church before the flood, the patriarchal, the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, the Jewish (etc.) church?

The children of believers, if not baptized, are not in "a worse condition" than were the circumcised children of believers before the Christian dispensation.
Grace is not, and never was, hereditary. The "sons of God" have ever been those "born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." In every age have men become "the children of God by faith." This faith has been stronger, and has shone more conspicuously and gloriously, in some than in others; but "without faith it is impossible to please" God, and it ever has been (Heb. xi., 6, etc.). The application of this to those only who are capable of believing, none can doubt. It is equally clear that the faith of some must have had reference to a Messiah to come, and of others to a Messiah who had appeared. We doubt not that the children of believers, they and their parents being spared, have had, and to the end of prevailing and parental ungodliness will have, advantages not possessed by the children of unbelievers. Parental piety superadded to parental affection necessitates this. Nor can there be hindrance--we shall not now speak of the encouragement and help--from him who has left it on record, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

We believe that the circumcision, not only of male adults, but of male infants, was divinely enjoined, and that the unconsciousness of the latter constituted no hindrance to an accomplishment of the design of this institution; and we doubt not God's right, if he had seen it good, to institute a rite under the Christian dispensation that should embrace the unconscious, both males and females; but we deny the shadow of evidence that he has so enacted. The existence of circumcision from Abraham proves it not.

Nor are we taught that baptism is in the place of circumcision, although in some things there is a resemblance in one to the other. The antitype of circumcision, or spiritual, Christian circumcision, is the renewal of the heart. Rom. ii. 28, 29; 1 Cor. vii. 19; Gal. vi. 15; Phil. iii. 3; Col. ii. 11. The apostles and elders gathered together in Jerusalem, to consider the necessity of circumcision, which some of the baptized Jewish believers maintained, drop not a single hint to the erring, that baptism is in place of circumcision. The apostle of the Gentiles, warning the Colossian believers, and rebuking those in the churches of Galatia who held the destructive error, instead of teaching that baptism occupies the place of circumcision, teaches that Christian circumcision, the circumcision of Christ, is a circumcision "without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh." Nor is there in the fact that all children, or all the children of believers, are of "the kingdom of God," a particle of evidence that God has commanded their baptism.

The Scriptures which speak of baptism, recording its appointment, its practice, its nature, design, or benefit, are those from which its divinely approved subjects can be learned. These speak of confession of sin, repentance, faith in Christ, discipleship, a good conscience, as characteristic of the baptized. Not a word is recorded respecting parents or others as proxies for "the child's personal engagement" (p. 381). Ourselves, our children, and all we possess, are God's property; and with all, as "his servants," God has a sovereign right to deal. The duty of baptism is not learnt from this fact, but from the revelation of God's will.

Contra the paedobaptist assertion of federal holiness from 1 Cor. 7:
The apostle Paul, speaking of the marriage bond, when one partner has become a Christian, and the other remains an unbeliever, teaches a sacredness in the children and the unbelieving partner that forbids a dissolution of the connection; but, while attributing the same holiness to the children and the unbelieving partner he says not a syllable implying a "right and title to baptism" (p. 382). Everything really included in parental dedication is as much the privilege of the Baptist as Paedobaptist. It is a benefit to the child when no deceptive substitute has been performed on him, preventing, or helping to prevent, his personal, conscious, voluntary, and acceptable obedience to God's command.

The obtaining by infants, through baptism, of entrance into the church, of "a right sealed to the ordinances," that is, to the Lord's Supper, etc., and of "the tutelage of angels to be the infant's lifeguard," may be in the imagination of Paedobaptists; but these are not in the word of God, any more than that baptism is to elected infants "a 'seal of the righteousness of faith,' a layer of regeneration, and a badge of adoption" (p. 380). Not only are the Scriptures silent respecting infant baptism, but every record relating to baptism, forbids its existence in apostolic times, and its right to a subsequent existence. Nor does Irenaeus, or any of the earliest fathers, say one word favouring the supposition of its existence, notwithstanding the inference that is drawn by some of the Paedobaptists from one passage in Irenaeus. What authority has a practice that can but be proved as possibly beginning to exist at the close of the second, or in the early part of the third century? For Tertullian, dissuading from the baptism of children, may not refer to infants. The existence of infant baptism in the third century is certain. The existence in the third, and in the preceding century, of sentiments on the efficacy of baptism, and of various practices which have no foundation in Holy Writ, is easily and abundantly proved. But neither infant baptism nor any other practice could be sanctioned by evidence of existence in the age immediately succeeding the apostolic period, or existence in apostolic times, if destitute of apostolic sanction; and especially if opposed to, and destructive of, what is divinely enjoined. The fact that inspired writers, in recording baptisms, except where the baptism of parents and other members of the family take place at the same time, say nothing as to parental piety, accords with and corroborates our view of baptism as a personal and voluntary profession and engagement. Every record of baptisms in Holy Writ, and every reference to baptism, is a confirmation of believers' baptism as the "one baptism" for parents and children, for every generation, and for all alike, to the end of time.

Instead of exalting believers' baptism above measure, we say in the words of our honourable and Rev. brother Noel, "It is not separation from the church of Rome, or from the church of England, nor a scriptural organisation, nor evangelical doctrine which can alone secure our Saviour's approbation." They who speak of infant baptism as a putting of the child's name in a will by the parent, need to be reminded of God's prerogative, and of the character of his government as revealed in the words: "All souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." Who, believing this testimony, can also believe that unbaptized infants are "sucking pagans," while those kindly baptized through parental influence are sucking Christians?
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
The Reformed paedobaptist view was stated succinctly by B.B. Warfield in The Polemics of Infant Baptism


The argument in a nutshell is simply this: God established His Church in the days of Abraham and put children into it. They must remain there until He puts them out. He has nowhere put them out. They are still then members of His Church and as such entitled to its ordinances. Among these ordinances is baptism, which standing in similar place in the New Dispensation to circumcision in the Old, is like it to be given to children.

I think this is a good and succinct summary of the Paedobaptist position, packaged with its fundamental assumption: continuity in all dispensations. One could also note another presupposition in that the Church was established in the days of Abraham. Here's my question: was there not a covenant of Grace from the beginning, and a church in existence prior to Abraham? Is the Abrahamic considered the beginning of the covenant of grace and thus the type for all covenant administrations, and why?
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
The Reformed paedobaptist view was stated succinctly by B.B. Warfield in The Polemics of Infant Baptism


The argument in a nutshell is simply this: God established His Church in the days of Abraham and put children into it. They must remain there until He puts them out. He has nowhere put them out. They are still then members of His Church and as such entitled to its ordinances. Among these ordinances is baptism, which standing in similar place in the New Dispensation to circumcision in the Old, is like it to be given to children.


I think this is a good and succinct summary of the Paedobaptist position, packaged with its fundamental assumption: continuity in all dispensations. One could also note another presupposition in that the Church was established in the days of Abraham. Here's my question: was there not a covenant of Grace from the beginning, and a church in existence prior to Abraham? Is the Abrahamic considered the beginning of the covenant of grace and thus the type for all covenant administrations, and why?

Dennis,

Maybe the Spurgeon quotes were a bit of an overload. You asked for some Baptist input and maybe I threw a little too much into one post. I posted a lot today, so it would be a good idea to take some time to take it all in. Some of the language from Spurgeon may be a little old, but nonetheless I think his main points are probably clear enough. If not, let me know. He also packed a lot of information into a relatively short space at times. Some of his allusions may need some unpacking or further elaboration if it's not clear with the first reading.

With regard to the beginning of the covenant of grace (COG) Spurgeon notes that the covenant of grace began with Adam and the protoevangelion after the fall in Gen 3:15. I think that he makes good points about physical circumcision not being analogous to baptism, the Abrahamic covenant, the baptisms in the NT, the relationship between discipleship and baptism, federal holiness (1 Cor 7) and a number of other issues. Because he was largely responding to Watson's section on baptism in his Body of Divinity (which to my recollection is still an excellent presentation of the Reformed paedo view) Spurgeon's article addresses most if not all of the usual paedobaptist arguments.

Spurgeon also notes that the Reformed paedobaptist view has some significant discontinuities from the OT practice of circumcision as well. Circumcision didn't necessarily have anything to do with the faith of the parents, for example. Every male in the nation was to be circumcised. (This was the practice in many of the state churches in the Middle Ages as well, where refusal to present one's children for baptism was considered a criminal offense.) There was certainly a call to believe, but circumcision was performed regardless. That's not the case with paedobaptists today, at least not in confessional Reformed churches where those presenting their children for baptism have to be communicant members in good standing. The Reformed paedobaptists have an argument for their practice and of course Baptists have a different opinion. It's good that we are free to disagree over this issue today and still part as friends. The principal of Spurgeon's school for preachers was a Presbyterian.

You can follow the links I posted to see the whole articles from Warfield and Spurgeon. I found it interesting to see that Warfield argues that Baptist views are the logical conclusion of Puritanism! :pilgrim:

The 1689 LBCF states that the church consists of the elect in all ages. Thus, there is continuity here also with regard to the covenant of grace. The Baptist position is that there is one covenant of grace but that the outward administration of the covenant is different in the New Covenant.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
1) The CoG is as old as the proto evangelium (Gen.3:15). The church, as such, begins to take shape, Gen.4:28 (see Calvin's comment loc.cit.: "...the face of the Church began distinctly to appear, and that worship of God was set up which might continue to posterity").

2) It is quite a bit of time, but not that many chapters from the first pages of revelation to Abraham (Gen.12)--the first chs. being the necessary prolegomena. Genesis itself, taken as a whole, is the prolegomena to the formation of the Israelite nation in Exodus. The vital thing is the pivotal role of Abraham, as the first "main character" in the story of Israel. In this role, he is dubbed by none other than Paul as "the father of the faithful" (Rom.4:11).

The formal setting forth of the details of God's covenant awaits the entrance of Abraham. It is with him that God formally enters covenant. The whole covenant-making episode is literally stretched out over chs. 12-17 (and we could even take it down to ch.22). Inaguration (ch.12), ceremony (ch.15), sign (ch.17), fulfillment (typological) and succession (ch.22; cf.26:24). In terms of Abraham's life-experience, the whole episode (from Ur to Moriah) is probaly around 50 years; but all that is telescoped into eleven redemptively charged chapters.

But there isn't anything like this presentation anywhere prior to Abraham, and truly nothing formally comparable until the Exodus, and Sinai. After Moses, only the ministry of Christ supersedes in formal and detailed witness another covenant inauguration, etc. So, basically we say that the Bible itself draws our attention to Abraham, and explains his significance, and his relation to the after-developments.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
The formal setting forth of the details of God's covenant awaits the entrance of Abraham. It is with him that God formally enters covenant. The whole covenant-making episode is literally stretched out over chs. 12-17 (and we could even take it down to ch.22). Inaguration (ch.12), ceremony (ch.15), sign (ch.17), fulfillment (typological) and succession (ch.22; cf.26:24). In terms of Abraham's life-experience, the whole episode (from Ur to Moriah) is probaly around 50 years; but all that is telescoped into eleven redemptively charged chapters.

If paedobaptists view the Abrahamic covenant as a kind-of finished package that forms the framework for the CoG, then it is understandable to have an 'Abrahamic hermeneutic' to Scripture's main covenantal theme. Thus, his narrative becomes the scaffolding or model for our covenanting with God in Christ: God told Abraham to include his household - therefore Christ calls us to include our household, etc. However, I see that Baptists view the Abrahamic story to be a work in progress and the covenant to be an "open system" that waits for and looks to Christ to bring about its epilogue and determine its final shape. Once reading the NT and becoming convinced that union with Christ is salvific, this becomes the scaffolding for the CoG. Thus, the CoG is with the elect.

But there isn't anything like this presentation anywhere prior to Abraham, and truly nothing formally comparable until the Exodus, and Sinai. After Moses, only the ministry of Christ supersedes in formal and detailed witness another covenant inauguration, etc. So, basically we say that the Bible itself draws our attention to Abraham, and explains his significance, and his relation to the after-developments.

More study on my part is definitely needed, but Hebrews and other NT writings names two main covenants: the old (in Moses) and the New (in Christ). Abrahamic is a main character in that he's the ancient type that points to the solution (Christ) and the means (faith), and it is essential that he precedes Moses temporally in order to knock down the works righteousness of Judaism. But I'm not convinced that he really stands out as a self-contained model that is trying to claim the spotlight and set the tone. Therein is another way the two systems differ: is Scripture drawing us toward Abraham, or away from him?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
he argument from the RPW is basically that there is no explicit warrant for infant baptism in the NT. Earlier Baptists tended to strongly stress the no explicit warrant argument. Now, more often you will see emphasis on the nature of the New Covenant, that it is differently administered than the Old.

This view (no explicit warrant) is really not that different from those who argue for a cappella exclusive psalmody because they can't find instruments or uninspired songs in the NT. Those who are going to argue thusly ought to be Baptists too. (That's a little off-topic, but a worthy topic for consideration at a different time.) Singing was a big issue early on in the modern Baptist movement as well.

Matthew 28:18-20 is an explicit command to baptize disciples. The objection assumes an un-Biblical restriction of the definition of disciple as "adult professor". Christian parents are commanded to disciple their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Abraham is the birth of the visible - set apart - Church and Nation (Israel of God, Galatians 6:16).

The period from Moses to Christ is the childhood of Israel when she needed picture books and a particular childhood discipline.

The period from Christ to the Eschaton is the adolescence, adulthood and old age of the Church/Israel as she incorporates all nations into her commonwealth.

Before Abraham the Church was there but she was in embryo.

The naming of the Church as "Israel" doesn't stop with the end of the Old Covenant period, which is further evidence of continuity.

Also - as has been pointed out - Abraham is called the father of the faithful, and the covenant is portrayed as organic rather than atomistic, with branches being engrafted into the Olive Tree, as they were from the time of Abraham onwards (Romans 11).

The Baptist view of engrafting into the covenant is that there is a sudden change, when John the Baptist comes on the scene, from familial and organic to individualistic and atomistic, but this goes against e.g. the Apostle's analogy of an Olive Tree.
 
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Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter VII
Of God's Covenant with Man

I. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant.[1]

II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works,[2] wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity,[3] upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.[4]

III. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,[5] commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved,[6] and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.[7]

IV. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.[8]

V. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel:[9] under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come;[10] which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah,[11] by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.[12]

VI. Under the Gospel, when Christ, the substance,[13] was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper:[14] which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy,[15] to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles;[16] and is called the New Testament.[17] There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.[18]

God's covenant has always been based on the substance of by grace, through faith (in Christ's righetousness alone). This was (is) true Old Testament, New Testament, Old Covenant, New Covenant.

It has always been about Christ.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
If paedobaptists view the Abrahamic covenant as a kind-of finished package that forms the framework for the CoG, then it is understandable to have an 'Abrahamic hermeneutic' to Scripture's main covenantal theme. Thus, his narrative becomes the scaffolding or model for our covenanting with God in Christ: God told Abraham to include his household - therefore Christ calls us to include our household, etc. However, I see that Baptists view the Abrahamic story to be a work in progress and the covenant to be an "open system" that waits for and looks to Christ to bring about its epilogue and determine its final shape. Once reading the NT and becoming convinced that union with Christ is salvific, this becomes the scaffolding for the CoG. Thus, the CoG is with the elect.
I think RCT tends to look at the various stages of development not as a "finished package," but as an "organic development." Observe the distinction in the contrasting metaphors:
1) A construction metaphor: a building going up, which at different times and in different stages is more or less incomplete.
2) An organism metaphor: a tree is in a seed, sprout, sapling, fully mature trunk-and-branch. Or, a butterfly is in an egg, larva, pupa, mature wing​
In (2), saying we have a "finished package" at any time prior to maturity is missing the point, if the "point" is the butterfly at the end. On the other hand, each "stage" of organic development is not like first, a hole in the ground, followed by one story that rises upon another, while gaps wait for insertion of doors and windows, etc. Organically, the OAK is in the sprout. To speak of this as "scaffolding" is trying to describe one metaphor using the language of another. These are really two different developmental models.

Warfield once described the RCT view as beginning with a very dimly-lit room, but still filled with all the furniture. Living in that room under the earlier conditions requires a considerable amount of extraneous information, habits of movement, explanations for various items that must take into account a vital, missing frame-of-reference. Only when the sun comes up, and the lights and electricity are turned on does everything in and about the room show its appointment, and fitness for an age of light. The conditions are vastly different, but its still the same room.

RCT would have a hard time agreeing with the assertion that the Abrahamic or Mosaic stages are (on RCT's view) a "finished" package or system, when then-current conditions do not allow for the perfected, mature expression of the CoG in Christ. The same objection holds whether the darkend room or the organism is the illustration in view.

"Scaffolding" that is removed/discarded as no longer relevant may work well as illustration in the other, construction metaphor, but is not useful in the RCT scheme as I've described it. The abandonment of the chrysalis or the eggshell/seed-pod works considerably better, and also intimates a further organic association with the developmental principle. Those things are not simply props, but are an important part of the stages themselves that belong organically to the whole.

More study on my part is definitely needed, but Hebrews and other NT writings names two main covenants: the old (in Moses) and the New (in Christ). Abrahamic is a main character in that he's the ancient type that points to the solution (Christ) and the means (faith), and it is essential that he precedes Moses temporally in order to knock down the works righteousness of Judaism. But I'm not convinced that he really stands out as a self-contained model that is trying to claim the spotlight and set the tone. Therein is another way the two systems differ: is Scripture drawing us toward Abraham, or away from him?
The question, as has been noted many times, is to accurately describe the relationship of the "intermediate" stage of Moses--which is also the immediate preceding stage--to the stage of the New Covenant. Hence, Hebrews (following Jeremiah) calls the former "old" in relation to the "new."

It cannot be said that this description, rising out of the latter half of the OT and affirmed in the NT, precludes or subsumes the existence of all temporally-prior OT covenant-arrangements within the "Old" administration. Your above reference to Abraham in the context of the "Old Covenant" underscores a significant, salient difference in our apprehension of Abraham's place. Abraham, in our understanding, is NOT an "Old" (read, "Mosaic") figure, in his own right. Old-Covenant-Israel certainly "claimed" him, and viewed him as an "Israelite," just as I argued in an above post that we as Christians "claim" Abraham as a Christian.

It is in this way that Paul, especially, appeals to the example of Abraham. Not (!) as a "Mosaic" covenant adherent, but as the prototype not so much of later, intermediate stages, but more of the present stage.

The main problem in understanding Sinai (the true "old" covenant) is that it has so many elements that are fit only for its own era. It truly is exemplified by "temporary" qualifiers. However, we do not think Abraham's covenant is likewise overwhelmingly cumbered with such things. So, yes, we think that Scripture orients us toward Abraham in a way that is fundamentally distinct from how we relate to Moses.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Indeed Bruce. A careful reading of Hebrews will show the organic connection between even the Old and New Covenants. God purposefully instituted what the author of Hebrews calls an "imperfect" Covenant at Sinai with sacrifices and a priesthood that were meant to shadow a Priest who would perfect forever those who drew near. One cannot escape the admonitions in Hebrews where we are repeatedly told to see the saints in the Old Testament as example to us of shrinking back in disbelief. What possible example could they serve if the organic connection did not exist? What point of contact do we have with believers in the OT if, in fact, the people of the OC were not pursuing the same manner of salvation we are pursuing? Certainly they could not be said to have looked to the blood of bulls and goats to take away their sins and cleanse their consciences. The very impermanence and imperfect nature of the OC system was meant to convey a longing when the worshiper would have access to God with a cleansed conscience.

Now, some Baptists are likely to note the impermanence spoken of the OC by the author of Hebrews but the author does not assign impermanence to the Promise made to Abraham but the priesthood, Temple, and sacrifices that served pedagogically to point to Christ. What passes away is not the Promise but types and shadows that would reveal to the people the need for Christ. When the full revelation of God came in the person of Christ, the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects were fulfilled and passed away. What did not pass away was that which cannot be shown to be attached to impermanent sacrifice and priesthood and that is that God would be God "...to you and your children...."

Spurgeon cavils unconvincingly that Peter's words at Pentecost have no connection to an Abrahamic Promise what a people who would have fully known what his predetermined conclusions militate he dismiss out of hand. Over and again, he represents the Baptist position that is dissonant from the structure of the CoG that was wont to call all who were in the Covenant to press in with believing and contrite hearts. There's was the privilege of the Word and Sacraments of God that encouraged them with the Promise of rest.

By impoverishing discipleship in the OT, they impoverish themselves as fully understanding the nature of dsicipleship and contemn the means of grace that God graciously gives by way of condescension to the creature.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Abraham is the birth of the visible - set apart - Church and Nation (Israel of God, Galatians 6:16).
I think God had his visible people before Abraham. They were identified as those who "walked with God." Also, as Spurgeon points out above, circumcision did not only create an Israelite church, but Ishmaelite, Edomite, Moabite and Ammonite church as well. Although covenant unfaithfulness is cited as the reason where these nations went wrong, isn't it also right and more theologically accurate to say they were simply reprobated before they had done anything right or wrong? What was the distinction between Israel and the nations but election? And in Paul's argument in Rom 9, how do we distinguish the Israel within Israel except by election?

The naming of the Church as "Israel" doesn't stop with the end of the Old Covenant period, which is further evidence of continuity.

I would ask whether the NT conception of Israel is meant to be the mixed community of faithful and unfaithful, or is this Israel more idealized? Whom does Paul call the Israel of God, but those who are blessed because they "walk by this rule"?

It seems to me that Scripture itself foresees a narrowing of those who are The Circumcision, the Israel of God, and this happens by election. If there is any sense in which circumcision can become uncircumcision (like Ishmael and Esau), then it's not absurd to think that in the unfolding of God's covenantal plan and the narrowing of his people, those who might otherwise be "entitled" to circumcision by heredity vainly receive it.

Now, as a corrective, I am convinced that Abraham does not belong to the Old, but remains as our example. The degree to which we view him as our example is reflective of our positions. The Baptist views him as the example of faith. In his circumcision, what he received subsequent to his faith is emphasized over what he performed on his household. The Baptist might argue that this same priority is reflected in the NT. All mentions of Abraham in the NT concern his personal faith in God's promises with almost nothing said about his circumcising of his children. Paedobaptists take his entire life as an example - both what he did in believing God and receiving circumcision and the circumcision he performed on his house. I can see the argument that can make this seem valid: the promises of God that Abraham believed concerned his offspring, thus the whole package should be received on our end. But back to the discussion above, in the fullness of revelation, who are the true descendants of Abraham and who is true Israel? - those who are in Christ (Gal 3:22, 26, 29).
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
as Spurgeon points out above, circumcision did not only create an Israelite church, but Ishmaelite, Edomite, Moabite and Ammonite church as well.
Without speaking at all for Richard, or any point of his, the above is a preposterous statement, to say the least. Who are the covenant-mediators of the "Ishmaelite church," the "Edomite church," etc.? If the covenant mediator is only found in the household of Abraham, and his designated successor, Isaac, then there is no other authority other than his under whom circumcision (as a sign of God's unique covenant-dealings) is dispensed.

Where are these nations cited for "covenant unfaithfulness"? And what covenant is that? What is the "reprobation" of a nation? Election of one man and one nation that springs from that man (a "corporate" election) for the purpose of bringing about a world-wide redemption plan, through the perfect Mediator--this is not parallel to individual election to salvation.

Dennis, it sounds to me, in the end you've come back to this idea that it should be possible for men to identify the elect. How is it any easier to do this in the NC era that it ever was in earlier ages? How are you going to escape having a church that is a mixed community, this side of heaven? You've eliminated a class of "sign-bearers" (infants of believers) from the NC, which you claim ensures some slight % increase in overall purity (proof?). Assuming (for the sake of argument) that this goal is realized, at what price is this achieved? I'll spell out the cost: some of the elect, formerly identified with the church, are now repudiated until they offer some "proof" of their own worthiness, if they live so long.

Plainly, in days gone by it was a mark of generosity on God's part to include some reprobates marked, for the sake of the elect in the same category. And now, in the age of the Spirit, are we going to put new emphasis on subjective criteria ahead of objective, and human demonstration/achievement, and err on the side of caution? Is this not a recipe for elitism?

Humanly dispensed signs are no reliable indicator of one's elect-status. To quote Warfield again, "No rite enters into the essence of Christianity." The signs simply perform "pointing" functions in an imperfect world, for imperfect people, in an imperfect way. Observe more modest and objective purposes for such signs, and they function very well.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Without speaking at all for Richard, or any point of his, the above is a preposterous statement, to say the least. Who are the covenant-mediators of the "Ishmaelite church," the "Edomite church," etc.? If the covenant mediator is only found in the household of Abraham, and his designated successor, Isaac, then there is no other authority other than his under whom circumcision (as a sign of God's unique covenant-dealings) is dispensed.

I think Spurgeon was concluding what many of us conclude (perhaps by misunderstanding?), that Abrahamic circumcision was an automatic entry into the covenant. I agree there was a delineated successor, and this was determined by election.

Where are these nations cited for "covenant unfaithfulness"? And what covenant is that? What is the "reprobation" of a nation? Election of one man and one nation that springs from that man (a "corporate" election) for the purpose of bringing about a world-wide redemption plan, through the perfect Mediator--this is not parallel to individual election to salvation.

We can only really speak of the individual's reprobation, which, from past conversations seems clear that Ishmael and Esau are considered out of the covenant because of their wickedness. I'm not sure about national reprobation, but if covenants (and expulsion from covenant) work federally from the parental head, it's not too much of a leap is it? If individual election and national election is made too distinct, think about the implications for Rom 9. Objectors to predestination often make the case that this is not a reference to individual election, but national.

Dennis, it sounds to me, in the end you've come back to this idea that it should be possible for men to identify the elect. How is it any easier to do this in the NC era that it ever was in earlier ages?
I think this is a separate question which I haven't dealt with yet. It would be important to first explore what the Israel of God means in the final revelation of the New Testament (whether ideal or mixed). If a narrowing of the concept of the NC church has occurred in the NT, then that would be the place to start.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
We can only really speak of the individual's reprobation, which, from past conversations seems clear that Ishmael and Esau are considered out of the covenant because of their wickedness. I'm not sure about national reprobation, but if covenants (and expulsion from covenant) work federally from the parental head, it's not too much of a leap is it? If individual election and national election is made too distinct, think about the implications for Rom 9. Objectors to predestination often make the case that this is not a reference to individual election, but national.

Dennis,

This conversation is frustrating because you're all over the map. I'm not sure you've even understood the basic ideas that are driving the thinking on this. Your question stabs at the heart of a thinking that tries to extend our limited understanding of the hidden things of God and draw unwarranted conclusions from that understanding. As Bruce is noting, your thinking is fundamentally Baptist. You try to work from the things hidden instead of the things revealed. Notice how the Baptist reasons primarily in this debate by arguing for a perfect and unbreakable New Covenant and then concludes from that, not a positive warrant, but an implied warrant that people that are least likely to break the Covenant ought to be administered baptism. Thinking about the Covenants is completely driven by consideration of who is elect and who is reprobate. Discipleship is driven primarily by a concern to minimize the number of reprobate in the Church. You can see the fingerprints of this thinking throughout Spurgeon. Even while admitting he has no access to hidden things, he reasons in light of them and then makes an illogical leap that children of believers endanger the purity of the local Church, which is to reflect the perfection of the New Covenant as much as possible. The children are spoken of as "sucking pagans" because they have not yet achieved the intellectual capacity to prove to man's capacity whether or not they may infallibly judge whether he's worthy to be tentatively called a disciple.

Where does Paul or any apostle ever even approach children in such a fashion? Where do the Scriptures even approach the subject of discipleship or Church life on the basis of "discerning election" as the basis for baptism? The thing I find most fascinating about the way Baptists speak about their own children as "sucking pagans" is how dissonant that is from the NT, which is not only completely silent in ever calling the children of believers pagans but, to the contrary, commands their training in the fear of the Lord. In fact, this is an area of inconsistency for if the Baptist truly believed that their sucking pagans were like every other adult pagan then they would not train them in the things of God. By this happy inconsistency, they say the children have some sort of "privilege" as pagans born into a believing household that the spouse who belongs to that house does not (as much as they say that the child is just like the unbelieving spouse). The children are forced to go to Church and hear the sermon (why not a room to separate the known pagans from the worshippers of God). They are taught to sing (why are pagans singing Christian songs?) and to pray (why are pagans praying to a Holy God they hate?). They are brought into the interior life of the body of Christ where all other unbelievers are kept out of. In the end, the Baptist can only think in the ideal of his child as a pagan but, in practice, treats him in every way as a disciple in his training and admonition and repeated calls to repentance and faith.

Your question about election and reprobation of individuals and nations points again to a preoccupation with connecting the dots of election or reprobation for people. The fact that you seem to miss is that the hidden things belong to the Lord and the revealed things to us.

God's election is not conditional. Federal election does not mean that he looks at Rich and then decides to federally create a group of people federally united under Rich to say that everybody after him is in a special status.

The pattern in the OT is the same as it is now: "If Today, you hear His voice do not harden your hearts." Those that forsake the Lord die in the wilderness and are cut off from the rest He offers. He creates His Church by His Word and provides teachers (Levites) and priests to provide instruction and sacrament that the people of God might draw near to Him in faith. He commands parents to teach things to the children that they might draw near in faith. Nowhere does God satisfy Himself that the purposes of biology are being served but the repeated condemnation of the Lord is the adultery of leaving a tender and faithful Husband.

Now, when Esau apostatized, it's not as if everything happened in a vacuum and there was no historical Esau because He existed in the hidden counsel of God alone. No, he rebelled against the Covenant. He forsook the things of the Lord and sold his birthright. As much as Spurgeon wants to say that he had to have belonged to another people at all times, the Book of Hebrews uses him as an example for US! Certainly not for us?! How can Esau be an example? The sign in his flesh had nothing to do with a need to draw near to God in faith. Did it? After all, God knew Esau was reprobate so how could He later use him as an example of the dangers of shrinking back in disbelief? God never wanted him to believe. Baptist theology has no category for an Esau tasting of heavenly things and treating the grace of God as a thing to be despised because it reasons that we can think like God and know that Esau's reprobation means that he never really tastes of or participates in a Covenant that is meant to signify that the righteous shall live by his faith.

This, I fear, is the most dangerous aspect of Baptistic Covenant theolgoy because it idealizes all the dangers of shrinking back in disbelief. The creature assumes he can reason like the Creator and tries to organize all His thoughts around what God decreed about him. He's either elect and immune from the threats in Hebrews or he is reprobate and he can do nothing about it. What cannot be conceived is to live in the light of the things revealed and that a visible Covenant that has imperfect men, women, and children who are blessed to be a part of a visible Kingdom that hearkens them to trust in a Redeemer King-Priest and threatens with consequences should they shrink back. What cannot be conceived is the idea of daily encouragement that people press in by faith because, after all, we no longer tell anyone in this new ideal to "know the Lord". What cannot be conceived is that God is God with sign and substance and we are the creature. We don't live by the decree, we live by things revealed.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
think Spurgeon was concluding what many of us conclude (perhaps by misunderstanding?), that Abrahamic circumcision was an automatic entry into the covenant. I agree there was a delineated successor, and this was determined by election.
I'm prepared to grant him his primary assumption, although the implications of it seem to me untenable and incongruent with many other of his own affirmations drawn from Scripture. But when his reasoning, which is predicated on his own grounds and superimposed on alternate practice, is presented as if it were a natural conclusion of the (disagreeable) theological commitments that ostensibly undergird that alternate practice, I must object.

All I'm asking is that in the present discussion, we refrain from pointing to such allegations which manifestly lack development out of RCT presuppositions. Internal critiques attempt to show inconsistencies and instability arising from incompatible postulates or relations. Even before I knew Spurgeon had argued thus, I had given you (by PM) the very same explanation, in greater detail answering a different question, as I gave here by way of retort.

"You can't get there from here," is an answer to an old joke, but it has relevance to the present analysis. Spurgoen's conclusion (that we have a quagmire) may look like troubles are only a few meters to the side from where I'm going along, but you are looking at both me and them from the vantage point of the overpass, and I'm speeding along on the limited access freeway. YOU can get there, going out of your way and thankful this swamp isn't up anywhere near your lane; but the fact that I could careen off MY road and end up in the swamp is no reason to presume that end as a necessary or likely scenario, given the basic engineering of my system.

We can only really speak of the individual's reprobation, which, from past conversations seems clear that Ishmael and Esau are considered out of the covenant because of their wickedness. I'm not sure about national reprobation, but if covenants (and expulsion from covenant) work federally from the parental head, it's not too much of a leap is it? If individual election and national election is made too distinct, think about the implications for Rom 9. Objectors to predestination often make the case that this is not a reference to individual election, but national.
My questions grew out of the terms you chose. You wrote: "these nations went wrong, isn't it also right ... to say they were simply reprobated?" Assuming you meant what you said, you might be paralleling a positive choice of the Hebrew nation with the non-selection of every other nation--and calling that reprobation.

The parallel to salvific-election breaks down quickly, because many are saved (not one person); nor are the many saved only out of the singled-out nation. Likewise, not every member even of the aforementioned "hostile" nations were individually reprobated. Caleb is my favorite (former) Edomite. So, any talk of national "election" and "reprobation" must of necessity be carefully qualified, so that only the particular illustrative or pedagogical intent (typology) of such speech is legitimized.

The issue of Rom.9 interpretation arises 1) from misunderstanding Paul's intent for developing his gospel-rehearsal along those lines, 2) from a priori resistance to the doctrine of individual-election, and 3) from conceding far too much legitimacy to the party-pride of the Jewish nation--James.2 is a much needed tonic.

Suffice to say that I think Paul's point in Rom.9 is partly to dispel the myth that Israel, the nation, was chosen unto salvation-by-association. But mainly, the point is to encourage individual Christians who have doubts about the security of their salvation. I don't think its a true Calvinistic interpretation of the text to understand Paul to be spending any time whatever perpetuating into the present age the idea of corporate-election. Rom.9-11 is not an excursus on national Israel.

It would be important to first explore what the Israel of God means in the final revelation of the New Testament (whether ideal or mixed). If a narrowing of the concept of the NC church has occurred in the NT, then that would be the place to start.
I guess, my thinking is that the question isn't whether Israel-of-God is "ideal or mixed" in our present age of the New Testament (which no one who believes in the still-future Second Coming admits is the final revelation, btw).

Rather, the question is whether Israel-of-God is National or International. Because whether in the present age, or any previous age, the issue of "mixed or ideal" has never been absent.

So, are we dealing in the NC with a fundamental matter of "widening" or "narrowing" of church-concepts? What trajectory does the book of Acts set? Are we dealing with expansion or contraction? Is this new wine or old?
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
I apologize for being all over the place in the posts and direction of conversion, but thanks for sticking it out. I really am learning a lot here! Perhaps a simplified summary of how things are shaping in my mind, as well as final questions are in order.

1. It's very difficult for me to square what it means to be "in Christ" with the categories within RCT. "In Christ", to me, is a full union, an unconditional election performed, a limited substitutionary atonement paid, being baptized in the Holy Spirit, etc; all objective realities fully efficacious by grace alone, which scripture generously lavishes on the believer. In RCT, however, there is this vague sense in which one unites with Christ externally, is brought into an administration of the covenant of grace, is given promises of God being one's God, of being received by Christ, but is able to fall away finally. In my limited knowledge on the whole matter, perhaps I am reacting because it seems 'not very Calvinistic'. This idea of the new covenant as a conditional offer, rather than a completed one-sided irresistible gift, is odd to me.

2. Subjectively, when speaking of and viewing children born into Christian homes, I lean away from the "sucking pagans" view. Being born into a Christian and being treated and named as such makes much more sense.

3. Yes, it is impossible to identify the elect and as noted, this poses a problem to baptist practice. But I see it as a problem for Presbyterians as well. Granted, the theology behind the practice is different, but there is still an attempt to identity gracious working in the heart of the adult professor that comes forward for baptism. They are still examined thoroughly, and this implies a search for signs of grace in that person. I really have not gotten into this topic (sorry if it seems that way) as it's not my primary concern, although I appreciate the responses..

Boiling it all down .. here's my final question:

What makes the new covenant better, when the way of being in covenant with God is the same as in all ages past - stipulations, conditional promises, blessings, curses?
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
wait, one last thing - which came as a surprise. Matthew McMahon's "Simple Overview of Covenantal Theology" argues that Acts 2:39 ("promise is for you and your children ...") is not meant for Gentiles, but Jews. Peter is showing how the Abrahamic covenant is being fulfilled for Jews and carries on in NT preaching. Ideas of Gentile inclusion into covenant comes later, but this is not an explicit text for it. If true, how can this be used as a proof-text for covenant theology? Doesn't this hurt the RCT argument?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Boiling it all down .. here's my final question:

What makes the new covenant better, when the way of being in covenant with God is the same as in all ages past - stipulations, conditional promises, blessings, curses?
.

Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter VII
Of God's Covenant with Man

....

V. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel:[9] under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come;[10] which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah,[11] by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.[12]

VI. Under the Gospel, when Christ, the substance,[13] was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper:[14] which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy,[15] to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles;[16] and is called the New Testament.[17] There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.[18]

The new covenant is much better, in many ways!

One is that the promises are explicitly fulfilled in our Lord. We are not under the ceremonial law nor the civil law given Israel as a standard for righteousness. God's people in the Old Testament had to keep the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the civil law given Israel- all of it, as a standard of righteousness. Think of what an impossible task that was, we are free from that now.

Plus, we have the complete revelation of God's Word to go by now... a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

We have the full measure of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, leading us into all truth and guaranteeing, as a deposit, our salvation.

The new covenant is far, far better.

Praise God for it!

---------- Post added at 09:42 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:30 AM ----------

In RCT, however, there is this vague sense in which one unites with Christ externally, is brought into an administration of the covenant of grace, is given promises of God being one's God, of being received by Christ, but is able to fall away finally.

You'll continue to get some good, deep answers to this.

The visible church (professed believers and their children) is not quite the same as the invisible church (spiritually regenerate). As in Old Testament Israel, not all Israel was saved, so it is in the visible church.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
1. It's very difficult for me to square what it means to be "in Christ" with the categories within RCT. "In Christ", to me, is a full union, an unconditional election performed, a limited substitutionary atonement paid, being baptized in the Holy Spirit, etc; all objective realities fully efficacious by grace alone, which scripture generously lavishes on the believer. In RCT, however, there is this vague sense in which one unites with Christ externally, is brought into an administration of the covenant of grace, is given promises of God being one's God, of being received by Christ, but is able to fall away finally. In my limited knowledge on the whole matter, perhaps I am reacting because it seems 'not very Calvinistic'. This idea of the new covenant as a conditional offer, rather than a completed one-sided irresistible gift, is odd to me.
You don't have to work very hard for this. In RCT, being "in Christ" is vital union with Christ. This comes by faith. Full stop. There is no special category for a person who is sort of "in Christ" in a certain sense. We do not consider visible Covenant membership as constituting a type of union with Christ. What you are confusing again, as being "Calvinistic", is the idea that we need to some how act in visible and historical situations what God knows about eternal and hidden things. Again and again and again, THE HIDDEN THINGS BELONG TO THE LORD.

It is NOT "Calvinistic" to say: "Well, union with Christ is what Baptism signifies and so we'll baptize those that have union with Christ....."

Why?

BECAUSE THE HIDDEN THINGS BELONG TO THE LORD.

It is Calvinistic to realize that God does unite to Christ by faith and a means He uses toward that end is baptism but again and again we have to distinguish between what the Church can see and declare through Baptism and how God uses Baptism in the hidden counsel of His will.

I'm convinced that your confusion over the issue (at least the way you express it) is due to the fact that you have read us describing something but you haven't really understood it. You keep falling back on a Baptist dichotomy about baptism belonging to the elect but then having no way to actually histoically institute such a practice (nor a Biblical warrant that commands or restricts Baptism to the elect).

Let's start with the WCF on Sacraments. I want you to read and re-read even as I attempt to explain this:
I. Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him: as also to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.
First, Sacraments are signs and seals of grace that are instituted by Christ. You can see two aspects here. Sacraments have a purpose as a sign and this has to do what is visible and discernible to us as creatures. They also have a sealing function and this is going to do with things that God is doing through them that we creatures may see fruit of but cannot infallibly "see".

Notice that Sacraments serve two purposes. First, they put a "visible" difference between those that belong to the Church. Note that they're instituted by Christ to do this. This is one purpose of a Sacrament that is ALWAYS, ALWAYS accomplished. Every baptism, regardless of what we know about the true spiritual state of the person baptized, puts a visible difference between those that belong to the Church and the world. We know a person is in the Church when they're baptized.

Secondly, it solemnly engages the person to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word. Again, regardless of true spiritual status, the person is put into the visible service of the King. Now, he might be an unfaithful servant at heart but that does not remove the obligation. It's sort of like a person who becomes a citizen and then later commits treason. His treason does not remove the fact that he was a citizen but it is because he was a citizen that he's a traitor. We don't let a person off the hook for treason because he says "Well my heart was never really in it." In other words, in his heart, a person may never have had the fealty of being a servant of Christ but, externally, he can be (and will be judged) because he owed that obedience by his visible and solemn admission to the Kingdom.

II. There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.
This is simply stating that what we can see or feel or touch has a spiritual reality behind it. That reality is secured by God but is meant to encourage us. We can see and feel the waters of baptism and have our minds lifted to the spiritual reality that God has promised. As surely as you feel this water wash the filth of your flesh, so surely will God wash away the sins of all who believe. It is not a "working of the works" but is meant to stimulate and excite faith in us as Christ is manifest through physical means. We are not gnostics.

I
II. The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.
Notice that the "grace which is exhibited" depends "upon the work of the Spirit". That is to say that the spiritual graces that are signified by Baptism depend upon the Sovereign work of the Spirit. It does not depend upon the timing of the person who presents himself or our certainty of his salvation. It does not depend upon the mode or the piety and intention of either the baptizer or the person baptized. It belongs to God. God commands the baptism and then promises that I will determine who I will grant the graces that it signifies to. Our job is to baptize those He commands us to baptize and then we leave it up to Him to be God for efficacy. Do you see now why we can say that baptism can be related to Romans 6 even if we know that it does not confer it?

Baptists, by convincing themselves that they're being more careful about baptizing the elect, think they're getting closer to the hidden things by doing so but they're missing the point of baptism where God says to the Church to baptize and that every baptism has a real significance independent of what we know about hidden things. He then works through the things we see to apply spiritual things according to the counsel of His will and not ours. We don't concern ourselves with guessing at Who God elects. We use the means of grace as Christ has instituted them and let God be sovereign.

3. Yes, it is impossible to identify the elect and as noted, this poses a problem to baptist practice. But I see it as a problem for Presbyterians as well. Granted, the theology behind the practice is different, but there is still an attempt to identity gracious working in the heart of the adult professor that comes forward for baptism. They are still examined thoroughly, and this implies a search for signs of grace in that person. I really have not gotten into this topic (sorry if it seems that way) as it's not my primary concern, although I appreciate the responses..
It poses zero problem because our Covenant theology is not built on an un-Biblical premise that God is concerned that His Church only admit into the visible Church those they are pretty sure are elect. When we look to baptize an adult professor we will look for repentance and faith and discern, as near as we can, that his faith is genuine but we are doing so for a different reason.

Baptist view: God is concerned that only those that the Church thinks are elect be baptized. Let's look for the best possible fruit to ensure we don't baptize anyone who is not elect.
Biblical view: God has commanded the baptism of those who have a credible profession of faith and repentance. The Church is not to concern itself with who it thinks are most likely elect. That's up to God and He never commands us to live in light of His decree.


What makes the new covenant better, when the way of being in covenant with God is the same as in all ages past - stipulations, conditional promises, blessings, curses?
Briefly:
1. The fullness of the revelation of God in Christ.
2. A Great High Priest who learned obedience as Messiah and entered into His Priestly Office by His death. He ever lives to make intercession for His people and perfects forever those who draw near to him.
3. The promise of the Holy Spirit.
4. Bold access into the heavenly sanctuary through the veil of Christ.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
more boiling ...
WCF VI. Under the Gospel, when Christ, the substance,[13] was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper:[14] which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy,

WCF is very clear as to how it's better. But, to clarify, when it says "... more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy" this applies to everyone who is a covenant child, regardless of election, right? I guess this would be in line with the RCT reading of Hebrews re: tasting the heavenly gift, the blood that sanctified them, etc., where all of these spiritual realities are able to be undone by apostasy. I'm realizing how one's reading of Hebrews can be the deciding factor in this CT debate.

The visible church (professed believers and their children) is not quite the same as the invisible church (spiritually regenerate). As in Old Testament Israel, not all Israel was saved, so it is in the visible church.
But everything that is given to the invisible church inwardly and eternally, is pronounced on the visible church externally and temporally, if I understand it correctly. The union of sign and signified is ideal, is it not? And this language of "all or nothing" - none of this middle ground stuff - is what Baptists like. The mixed church (on earth) is not something that Presbyterians can view as non-ideal or incidental or wish-it-were-not-this-way. It is God's design for the earthly church and must therefore be ideal in that sense.

Baptist view: God is concerned that only those that the Church thinks are elect be baptized. Let's look for the best possible fruit to ensure we don't baptize anyone who is not elect.
Biblical view: God has commanded the baptism of those who have a credible profession of faith and repentance. The Church is not to concern itself with who it thinks are most likely elect. That's up to God and He never commands us to live in light of His decree.

If it's true that Baptist try to look for election infallibly (having never been to a Reformed Baptist church, I can't comment), then I would be tempted join you in scoffing at that attempt. To be charitable, I'd like to think they practice the latter "Biblical View", with the presupposition that a credible profession of faith and repentance equals election, as best as can be determined by humans.
 
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