Presumptive Regeneration and other questions

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by arapahoepark, Mar 16, 2017.

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  1. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    I am tilting back toward the WCF again seeing more continuity in the covenants. However, I have a few questions on how covenant administration is distanced from the FV, in issues like presumptive regeneration, church visible, etc.
    In what sense is infant baptism and presumptive regeneration different than what the FV would say that all members are conditionally elected at baptism?
    Any good reads on issues like this?
  2. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

  3. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I would recommend William Cunningham, Historical Theology, 2:144-154; The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, 212ff, 'Zwingle and the Doctrine of the Sacraments;' and James Bannerman, Church of Christ, 2:106-121.
  4. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    I have Cunningham on my Kindle from Monergism, how would I look your section up?
  5. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I have no idea. If you are able to search, it is titled "sec. IV. -- Infant Baptism."

    I prefer pdf format, which provides a sense of dimension and physicality to the book and aids in referencing. I am fairly sure the books I mentioned are available at or googlebooks.
  6. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Ok found it!
  7. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore


    Baptism is not automatically effectual (in terms of imparting salvation)--just as circumcision, the covenant sign in the OT (Esau), wasn't automatically effectual. There's an important difference between the sign and the thing signified.

    Infants of believers are part of the visible church, but that doesn't mean they are part of the invisible church. The Reformed Church holds to the distinction the external covenant and the internal (external = visible church; internal = invisible).

    Bavinck says: "The covenant of grace is one and the external and internal sides of it, though on earth they never fully coincide, may not be split apart and placed side by side. Certainly there are bad branches on the vine, and there is chaff among the wheat; and in a large house, there are vessels of gold as well as vessels of earthenware. But we do not have the right and the power to separate the two: in the day of the harvest, God himself will do this." (V3, p232). He later (on the same page) uses the language of being "IN the covenant" verses being "OF the covenant." IE, all professing believers and their children are IN the covenant (externally)--but that is not the same as saying they are all OF the covenant (internally).

    Vos speaks a lot about this. A few quotes:

    "God, when He establishes the covenant of grace with a believer, appears as a giving, a gracious, and promising God. . . He further assures such believers that He is not only their God, but also the God of their seed. . .God has pledged to the members of His covenant His promises of regenerating grace for their seed as well. From their seed, He will call believers to Himself. And therefore, that seed is not merely under a conditional bond, but also under an absolute promise. . .Because God has thus established in the parents the covenant with the children, He has also given the promise that He will bestow the operations of His grace in the line of the covenant. He can also work outside that line and does so frequently. . .In accordance with His sovereignty, He can also make exceptions within the sphere of the covenant. However, if experience later shows such exceptions, we may not seize on them to say, 'God's covenant was powerless; His word has failed.' In such a case, we must always follow the rule of Paul in Romans 9:6-8: “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: 'through Isaac your descendants will be named.' That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” (Vos, V2, pp108-109).

    Vos goes on later: “Only in this way do we obtain an organic connection between being under the covenant and being in the covenant, between bond and fellowship. The former is, as it were, the shadow that the latter casts. The covenant relationship into which a child enters already at birth is the image of the covenant fellowship in which it is expected to live later. And on the basis of that expectation or, more accurately, on the basis of the promise of God that entitles us to that expectation, such a child receives baptism as a seal of the covenant. The child is regarded as being in the covenant. As it matures, it is again and again pointed out how it lives under the promises and how the reasonable expectation is that it will live in the covenant. The attestations of the covenant precede the substance of the covenant. These promises and this requirement as they apply to the child are precisely the means appointed by God as the way to be traveled, along which the communion of the covenant, the being 'in' in a spiritual sense, is reached. Being under the covenant not only precedes, but it is also instrumental [to being in the covenant].” (V2, pp109-110).

    Vos also has one other place where he deals with this question more extensively, in his, "The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology." In short, he says:

    “As far as we can discover, the leading spokesmen of Reformed theology are completely agreed on this. They all recognize that the church has received such promises for her offspring. They equally recognize that the consideration of these promises is the heart of the fruit of comfort which her view of the covenant offers. . . Here they collided with the discovery, as they also knew from the Scriptures, that not all belong to the seed of the promise. . ." So how to reconcile? Vos lists a few similar but distinct positions:

    a) "Beza writes: 'The promise, accepted by the parents in faith, also includes their children to a thousand generations. . . . If it is objected that not all of them who are born of believing parents are elect, seeing that God did not choose all the children of Abraham and Isaac, we do not lack an answer. Though we do not deny that this is the case, still we say that this hidden judgment must be left to God and that normally, by virtue of the promise, all who have been born of believing parents, or if one of the parents believes, are sanctified (Confessio Christianae Fidei, IV, 48).' "

    b) "In general Martyr agrees with him: 'We do not ascribe this (the enjoyment of the benefits of the covenant) to birth in the flesh as the principle and true cause, for our children's salvation is only by the election and mercy of God, which often accompanies natural birth. . . . This is not out of necessity, for the promise is not generally applicable to the whole seed but only to that seed in which election converges. . . . '

    c) "Others, especially the later theologians as we have already noted, expressed themselves less fearlessly and preferred rather to be satisfied with the general judgment that there is a seed for the Lord among the seed of believers, for whom the covenantal promises hold without limitation. Heidegger serves as an example: 'Not to all the children of believers particularly, but only to the elect baptism seals regeneration and the total contents of spiritual grace. Though it is good and proper to hope for the best for each one in particular according to the judgment of love, it is not permitted in regard to all collectively.' (Heppe, Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche, p. 496).”
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
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  8. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Isn't the infant baptism a sign to identify the child as being part of the community of faith, but does not save them, as they must receive Jesus through faith later on and confirm members of the Body of Christ?
  9. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    David, that sounds like a good summary to me. It's a sign to mark the child as a member of the visible church (IE, the covenant community), in earnest hope that that child, being taught the doctrines of the faith, seeing them lived out, and being soaked over in prayer, will in God's time embrace the covenant from the heart. For adults who come to Christ, the reality comes first, followed by becoming a member of the covenant community; for infant children of believers, they become members of the outward visible community first, expected that in God's time they will embrace the reality that the covenant represents and offers.
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