Step-Children.... In the covenant?

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JonathonHunt

Guest
I hope I'm not opening a can of worms here, but I had an interesting thought.

I am a Baptist, but I am very intrigued as to what interpretation Presbyterian brothers would put on my situation.

I have a step-son. My (now)wife was never married, and unsaved, and had an unhappy relationship with a man some years ago. The only good result was a son, now aged 6.

He still sees his Dad. Now his mother is saved and married to me. He is my step-son. Under the laws of our country neither I nor his father has any legal rights regarding him, only his mother.

Now in the eyes of Covenant Theologians - is he in the covenant... or not? He has two believing parents, but not biologically.

I know its academic from my point of view but it has been baking my noodle for a few days now!
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Jonathan:

This question is the one that keeps baking in my mind, too. People in the OT circumsized the entire household, without regard to age or even relation: if they fell under the headship of those who made the commitment to the covenant community, they were circumsized. In the NT, the "household" baptisms that are often used to demonstrate infant baptism must also have included servants, older children, even possibly dependent adults. It is just as reasonable to suppose that these were unbelieving as to suppose unbelieving infants. If I accept infant baptism, which I am not closed to but still am very unconvinced of, I can't see my way around accepting it in this way: that all those who fall under the household headship of the one who makes the commitment to Christ are also then in whatever facet of the covenant community unbelievers are in-- set apart as Joshua's family was, by his determination to serve the Lord. But I don't think this is the standard position, and from different responses I have had on the board, I think it is very unorthodox Presbyterianism in our day. But I don't understand why this is, when circumsion and early baptism, if it included unbelievers, were practiced in this way?
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
[quote:28a32c2076][i:28a32c2076]Originally posted by a mere housewife[/i:28a32c2076]
Jonathan:

This question is the one that keeps baking in my mind, too. People in the OT circumsized the entire household, without regard to age or even relation: if they fell under the headship of those who made the commitment to the covenant community, they were circumsized. In the NT, the "household" baptisms that are often used to demonstrate infant baptism must also have included servants, older children, even possibly dependent adults. It is just as reasonable to suppose that these were unbelieving as to suppose unbelieving infants. If I accept infant baptism, which I am not closed to but still am very unconvinced of, I can't see my way around accepting it in this way: that all those who fall under the household headship of the one who makes the commitment to Christ are also then in whatever facet of the covenant community unbelievers are in-- set apart as Joshua's family was, by his determination to serve the Lord. But I don't think this is the standard position, and from different responses I have had on the board, I think it is very unorthodox Presbyterianism in our day. But I don't understand why this is, when circumsion and early baptism, if it included unbelievers, were practiced in this way? [/quote:28a32c2076]

MHW,
I will attempt to address your concerns. I will post them seperately.

MHW: People in the OT circumsized the entire household, without regard to age or even relation: if they fell under the headship of those who made the commitment to the covenant community, they were circumsized.

Scott: Yes

MHW: In the NT, the "household" baptisms that are often used to demonstrate infant baptism must also have included servants, older children, even possibly dependent adults.

Scott: Yes, again.

MHW: It is just as reasonable to suppose that these were unbelieving as to suppose unbelieving infants.

Scott: Yes, but an outward profession of faith IS NOT a prerequisite to being IN the covenant community.

MHW: If I accept infant baptism, which I am not closed to but still am very unconvinced of, I can't see my way around accepting it in this way: that all those who fall under the household headship of the one who makes the commitment to Christ are also then in whatever facet of the covenant community unbelievers are in-- set apart as Joshua's family was, by his determination to serve the Lord.

Scott: This is based upon your misunderstanding of CT. The premise is based upon Gods promise, not the illicit faith of men. Many a professing man hath claimed Christ yet have fallen away, "having loved this present world and departed unto Thessalonica......" On the other side, many a child raised in a covenant home from infancy, hath proved faithful to Gods promises and their parents faith in that promise.

MHW: But I don't think this is the standard position, and from different responses I have had on the board, I think it is very unorthodox Presbyterianism in our day.

Scott: In fact, you are correct in someways. Presbyterianism today is not true Presbyterianism. It is present day evangelical soup. It is not orthodox; it breaks much of the regulative principle and disregards the jots and tittles of scripture and the beloved WCF. The "standard" position, which is orthodox, which is historic and assuredly biblical, is not part of this day. So, on this point you are correct.

MHW: But I don't understand why this is, when circumsion and early baptism, if it included unbelievers, were practiced in this way?

Scott: If I am understanding your question, it is, and was this way, because God implemented it and what God commands is done!

[Edited on 3-9-2004 by Scott Bushey]
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Scott, thank you for your reply, and for going through it so well.

What I am asking is basically why is baptism in paedo churches not practiced as widely as circumcision in the OT, or, if unbelievers were involved, as widely as baptism was in the NT? For intance, if a couple has an elderly aunt living with them, and two foster children, and two biological children, and one infant when they come to Christ--why is only the infant baptized into the covenant community with them? If the paedobaptist position is correct-- if the head of household can say for his household as regards the covenant community, as for me and my [i:68d09dd5c4]house[/i:68d09dd5c4] (not just my infant or even my biological children, but everyone under my household authority) we will serve the Lord-- then shouldn't the aunt, the foster children, and the two older biological children also be baptized regardless of whether they are believing? That is such a radical thing to say, but why? It was the practice of circumcision, and, if unbelievers were involved, of NT household baptism.

My own thoughts are that it is because this position does not mesh with PR: Paedo baptists seem to rely on promises made in the language of "you and your children" as much as on the continuity of practice between circumcision & baptism or the command to baptize believers' households into the covenant. The promises do not mention aunts, servants or foster children. So PR does not apply to them, and paedo's can't baptize the household while their position rests so heavily on PR. Is this correct?
 
J

JonathonHunt

Guest
Paul, thanks for your reply. Very interesting. I feel some Bible Study coming on!

Would be interested to read responses to MHW's comments (thanks for your reply MHW!) about inconsistency in paedobaptism. I suppose this is down to inconsistency in presbyterianism today? (Not saying that all presbyterians are inconsistent!)
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Jonathan...

Yours is a peculiar situation and one that requires much thought.

My initial reaction is that if you desire to baptize your stepson into the covenant, then you must formally adopt him. Until then, he has not been "redeemed" by you.

In the OT, a situation like yours would be very cut and dried because the father (in this case, you) would have "purchased" your wife and her son. He would be yours and you would be his father even if his biological father still has visitation rights.

But in our day, you do not have authority over the son in the eyes of the legal system. Before God, you are the head of the household. But under the civil authority, you are head of your wife only. As I said, in OT times you would have no problem because the ecclesiastical realm and the civil realm had already solved this in your union with your wife. But because the state does not recognize the boy as your son, you should adopt him to make the civil transaction complete. Then, I would say that you would be perfectly fine with baptism.

As a side to MHW, I do not think it is right to speak in hypotheticals about the covenant or about baptism. I think each situation is unique and needs to be handled in the light we have been given. Therefore, I will no longer debate hypotheticals because they are not helpful. Baptism is not academic and requires the approval of the church. This approval is upon precedent to be sure, but that does not mean that in each case it is always the same. We need to be careful setting man-made precedent in this area, especially with hypotheticals. Each situation must be examined.

In Christ,

KC
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
KC,

I perfectly understand about not debating hypotheticals, and I am sorry if my question came across in the way of wanting to debate. I am not looking for a debate: I wish I could represent how much I am not looking for a debate! I am not putting the question forward as a challenge, but as something that really confuses me and that must be dealt with before I could accept the premises of paedo-baptism: the inconsistency I feel in it is not a hypothetical. I would not even voice the question if it were not sincere because I don't enjoy controversy over this issue.

If it helps not to put it terms of a hypothetical, then the question would be:
Why is the paedo baptist practice limited to biological children (in most places only infant children) of the household, when circumcision was not, and NT household baptism would reasonably have included more than young, biological children?

[Edited on 3-9-2004 by a mere housewife]
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Heidi...

I would not say that it is limited to biological children.

If the father has adopted the child, there should be no problem, just as in the OT, the children would be adopted. If a hired servant or a slave were in the house, all would be circumcized. Why? Because the federal head owned them while they were with him.

In our day and age, we do not do these things. The closest example is adoption.

And, adopted children should be baptized because they will be disciples.

In Christ,

KC
 
J

JonathonHunt

Guest
KC

How I'd love to adopt him. How I'd love it if he never saw his God-hating father again (yes, even though he may be distressed by it). How I want to protect him from the damage inflicted on him spiritually every other weekend.

I can't do any of the above - his father would have to approve an adoption and surrender his rights - which is never going to happen.

What I can do is entrust the lad to the hands of Almighty God in prayer. Doesn't sound so difficult to do, does it? But it is, sometimes, so hard to trust when emotion is so raw, when care is so strong, when convictions are so real.

Yet, He has granted me the opportunity to minister to a young life, and He has granted that young life to hear the gospel of grace. His way is perfect.

I hope I did emphasise that I am a baptist, and so the question was partly hypothetical - but the whole matter intrigues me greatly.

I did have another thought - if someone is converted late in life, say at 80, do their children, say, aged 50, enter the covenant ?
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
[quote:c4f7cfb1e9]
MHW: If I accept infant baptism, which I am not closed to but still am very unconvinced of, I can't see my way around accepting it in this way: that all those who fall under the household headship of the one who makes the commitment to Christ are also then in whatever facet of the covenant community unbelievers are in-- set apart as Joshua's family was, by his determination to serve the Lord.

Scott: This is based upon your misunderstanding of CT. The premise is based upon Gods promise, not the illicit faith of men. Many a professing man hath claimed Christ yet have fallen away, "having loved this present world and departed unto Thessalonica......" On the other side, many a child raised in a covenant home from infancy, hath proved faithful to Gods promises and their parents faith in that promise.

MHW: But I don't think this is the standard position, and from different responses I have had on the board, I think it is very unorthodox Presbyterianism in our day.

Scott: In fact, you are correct in someways. Presbyterianism today is not true Presbyterianism. It is present day evangelical soup. It is not orthodox; it breaks much of the regulative principle and disregards the jots and tittles of scripture and the beloved WCF. The "standard" position, which is orthodox, which is historic and assuredly biblical, is not part of this day. So, on this point you are correct.

MHW: But I don't understand why this is, when circumsion and early baptism, if it included unbelievers, were practiced in this way?

Scott: If I am understanding your question, it is, and was this way, because God implemented it and what God commands is done!
[/quote:c4f7cfb1e9]

Scott,

I am not quite tracking with you here. Are you saying that when a person becomes a believer everyone in the "household" including old Uncle Joe that lives with the family, along with every other adult in the "household" is required to be baptized even though they do not believe? Would a profession of faith be required for those adults who actually do believe?
 
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