Paedo-Baptism Answers What exactly IS a covenant child?

Discussion in 'Paedo-Baptism Answers' started by Pergamum, May 14, 2019.

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  1. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Indeed, the Jews had the inside track. And yes, their unbelief cannot undo God’s faithfulness to the Israel of God, the elect to whom the promises pertain - the children of promise.
  2. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    How isn’t this taking away with one hand what you’ve given with the other? You allow a child to be a member of the “covenant community,” but a child is a member of the covenant community only if a professing parent has such status. Moreover, you allow infants to be part of the “household of faith” when in fact they cannot yet exercise faith, even should they have the seed of faith.
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  3. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    If baptism replaces circumcision, then it can be argued that when a worthy child is refused baptism, that’s tantamount to the child breaking covenant. Genesis 17:14
  4. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    Children of the covenant, DUH!
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The Catechisms clarified it for you? What did you stumble over, and what particularly about the Catechisms clarified this issue for you?
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    That makes sense.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Three scenarios:

    Family A: The Smith family take their kids to church every Sunday. They baptized their babies. They later catechize the kids. But later in life, after the kdis are grown and move out, Mr and Mrs Smith fall away from the faith and apostasize.

    Family B: The Johnson Family is baptist and take their kids to church every Sunday but do not baptize their kids until they make their own credible profession of faith. They catechize their kids, too (skipping those pedobaptist parts). The Johnson family remains true to the faith despite their many faults and the kids move out. When he is an old man Mr Johnson concludes that Presbyterianism is correct and credobaptism is wrong.

    What are the practical differences in blessing betwen the Smith kids and the Johnson kids? Which are covenant children? Both?

    If the status depends on the faith of the parents, what if the parents prove to be false-believers?

    Family C: The Doe Family do not believe. They don't even like church. But they think it is good for the children. So they attend church every Sunday and even baptize and catechize their kids, even though they do not believe any of it themselves. The parents are not believers nor are they members, and the children are never made members of the church. The kids move out.

    What is the status of the kids from Family C?
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    What is a "worthy" child? Are they not all born sinners?

    Is the worth due to an accident of birth (having Christian parents)? Or in sitting under the administration of the covenant of grace (the visible church)? Or in them owning the faith for themselves (credobaptism)?
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thank you. This is helpful.
  10. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    How many unbelieving parents go to the trouble of catechizing their kids?
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I've known some parents who have invited church members over to instruct their kids in the bible even though they did not believe or were too busy at work. And VBS Vacation Bible Schools receive kids all the time whose parents are otherwise uninterested in church.
  12. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I know you didn't address this to me, but I've spent a lot of time in the Larger Catechism, so I'll throw in the whole section on the Covenant of Grace with some commentary. I'll say too that along with @Reformed Covenanter and his comment you are replying too, and the article by @RWD in post #14, I'm almost amazed I didn't catch this in the WLC either.

    The Catechism is clear here in Question #31 that the non-elect has no title to the benefits of the Covenant of Grace. The only recipients of its benefits are the elect in Christ. The elect are Christ's covenant children, the true Israelites and children of the promise in Romans 9. No one else. But even then, no title is given to them until as shown in Question #32 that they come to have faith in Christ, in which all the covenant blessings become theirs'.

    Questions #33-35 are simply commentary on how God administers the Covenant of Grace to His elect in time. In the time before Christ there are certain ordinances to teach, represent, seal and apply the benefits to the elect (circumcision, passover, etc.), then when Christ came the same Covenant of Grace is administered to the elect, but with different ordinances--preaching, baptism, Lord's Table. These are not two different covenants with different substantiae, but one covenant delivered in two different forms.

    Yet despite the Abrahamic and Mosaic being for the sake of the elect, nonetheless the sign of the covenant was given to the children of believers. The exclusivity of the definition of the church, or the restriction of covenant children per Question #31 to the elect in Christ, apparently has no bearing at all on who is to be circumcised in WLC #34 even though the Abrahamic was meant to bring salvation to the elect in the time before Christ. If it does not restrict the subjects of circumcision, it does not restrict the subjects of baptism.

    Looking at the article in post #14, it now makes wonderful sense how it can be said that the Abrahamic Covenant is established with the elect only. After all, if the purpose of the Abrahamic Covenant was to bring about the One Seed, Jesus Christ, then it makes sense that the Abrahamic Covenant and all the Mosaic institutions are aimed at the salvation of the seed in Christ in the time before Christ.

    Thus, it is not necessary to define the church in such a way as to include unbelievers, nor is it necessary to define covenants in such a way that unbelievers are in covenant with God. John Murray was critical of those who made the attempt to do so. I wonder if the church has often been defined in Presbyterian circles in such a way to try to grasp the visible/invisible distinction, or purportedly remove a Baptist argument. Now I see so clearly, it doesn't matter.

    @Reformed Covenanter forgive me if I stole your thunder. I couldn't help writing now that I've seen this.
  13. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    While I agree with the general thrust of your post, Jake, the visible-invisible church distinction is a confessional position (Westminster Confession 25.1-2). Still, I think a lot of what drives a certain form of conditional covenantalism that divorces the covenant of grace from election is a well-meaning desire to remove Baptist objections to infant baptism, such as you are presuming all the children of believers are elect, and so forth.
  14. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Only sinners are worthy of baptism but not all sinners. A child is worthy given a parent who professes faith and is a member of a true church.
  15. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I see where you are going, and yes, I think your correction is needed. I suppose I had in mind speaking of the visible/invisible in such a way that you'd almost think that the hypocrite is a mere step short of being the true church, or speaking of the church in a way where the result is there is lack of urgency about the true condition of the unconverted child who has been baptized, or the unconverted professing adult. As though the difference between the church united to Christ and those enjoying only outward benefits is not a big thing.

    What do you have in mind when you mention conditional covenantalism?
  16. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    I’m glad you found the piece useful.

    Regarding a couple things you said, although the non-elect within the visible church do not partake of redemption in Christ, they are under God’s special care and governance. This was true for unbelievers during Israel’s time of wandering in the wilderness and is true today. God is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe. Temporal blessings intended for the elect spill over to the entire visible church. (See privileges of visible church in WLC.)

    You note, “no title is given to them [the elect] until as shown in Question #32 that they come to have faith in Christ, in which all the covenant blessings become theirs.”

    We might want to keep in mind that God’s means of appointment for bringing one to union and communion with Christ is itself a blessing of the promise. In other words, it’s not as though the blessings to the elect begin after conversion. The blessing of effectual calling, the gift of faith and the grace of repentance are all covenant blessings that precede pardon.
  17. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

  18. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Those from families A and B are all covenant kids, part of Christ's church, from the time they were born. The difference is that the Baptist kids did not receive the sign until they were older. As a practical matter, they missed out on that part of God's witness in their lives. We can usually expect God to use that witness to strengthen their faith, assurance, and comfort in him—though we still have much confidence in God's goodness to them if, mistakenly, they were denied the sign.

    The fact that some of the parents may apostatize later in life has no bearing. The kids were brought into the church community on the basis of the parents' profession of faith, not on the basis of anyone being elect (who can know that).

    Family C is an odd one because you have to wonder how the kids got baptized if the parents are not church members. That should not have happened. Presumably, though, the parents in some way professed faith in Christ even though they do not actually believe. And belonging to the church (and receiving the outward sign of baptism) comes by way of such a profession—your parents' profession if you are a child.

    In that case, the kids were part of the visible church when they were young. But as a practical matter, if I am speaking to these unbelieving kids once they are adults, how much difference does it make if I say "You are an apostate covenant child who needs to return to Christ" or if I say "You are a sinner who was taught much about Christ and needs to come to him." I am more likely to say the second, not wanting to base my argument on something that person believes was all a sham. But if he does come to Christ, I will rejoice that the outward promises received in his baptism, which should not have happened, have been proven true inwardly after all.
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    How does having the sign administered to covenant children strengthen their faith if it was done to them as babies? What if their parents just lie to them and say, "Ya, I got you baptized" since the kid doesn't remember it anyway? Is there a real substantial difference if the kid actually got baptized as a baby or if the parents just told him that he did? What does baptism do objectively?
  20. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    I have a picture of one if that helps.
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  21. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    The issue is not so much with the term conditional. Even the likes of David Engelsma does not object to the use of "condition" with respect to the covenant of grace in an improper sense of a means/requirement, not in the proper sense of moving or meritorious cause.

    As I see it, once you divorce the covenant of grace from election, there is a strong temptation to see the faith of the covenant child as the determining factor in whether or not they will keep the covenant. The promise of the covenant of grace, in this formulation, is less "You shall be my people and I will be your God" and more "You might be my people and I might be your God."

    I realise that I am explaining things in a very crass way, but before the penny dropped regarding the Westminster Larger Catechism's teaching on the covenant of grace and election, I could gain very little comfort from the promises of the covenant of grace if many of those who are really in the covenant of grace end up going to hell.
  22. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    So, you are currently looking in a mirror describing yourself. How interesting. You certainly got the old part correct. :judge: ;)
  23. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    How many what if scenarios does it take? I’m not trying nitpick or be rude; I’m just curious if you have more questions about your own situation besides these hypothetical questions. Obviously there are nearly an infinite amount of variables that could be introduced, but you ultimately have to profess Christ and believe it in your heart. All the various situations need to end there.

    I have an interesting story in this. My mother has always, unbeknownst to me, held to covenant baptism. I was baptized as an infant. I didn’t know this until two years ago. I was baptized at 17 after a pretty radical conversion. I was a rebel of extreme measure from 13 to 17. We lived in a rural area for most of my upbringing. There weren’t any solid churches that held to covenant baptism, so, when I would go, we went to baptistic churches. I never knew any other view and that is to the fault of my mother not teaching me. I don’t necessarily blame her too much since she was fighting this alone (my dad only recently became a believer) and she was trying to figure things of faith out.

    My second baptism was completely unnecessary! I improved the baptism I already had. All the variables listed in my story, and the many that weren’t, ultimately culminate in my need to have confessed Christ. It’s that simple.
  24. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Hey now...there's lots of old Mr Johnsons out don't need to be me. Maybe I am asking for a friend, right.
  25. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I got LOTS MORE hypotheticals where that came from!

    Your first baptism really didn't seem to do you much good. It was only after you exercised credobaptism that you began to make real spiritual progress, it sounds like.
  26. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    Here is an image of covenant children in their natural habitat.

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  27. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I don't have to have a specific memory of some act by my parents--a secular act for that matter--to have my confidence in them strengthened by ex post facto awareness of it. "O, you changed my diaper when I needed it? Thanks, Mom!" If I say that when as a 5yr old, I see her changing my newborn sister's diaper, I believe in her even more than I did 2min earlier.

    As for lies, it should go without saying that no confidence is well-founded on falsehood. If you believe a lie at one time, having that lie exposed can be shattering. Our culture thinks nothing of lying to kids about lots of things, starting with the Tooth Fairy and Santa; and thinks it does no harm, when the untrustworthy parents are exposed. May not be as bad as when they divorce, and prove the lie about their wedding vows, but still.

    So of course there's a huge difference between an actual baptism, and lying about a baptism. The actual baptism is intended to strengthen faith, as one receives a sign or mark of God's claims. Churches impose the divine "watermark" on his physical creations, which are found in some collection or other that is declared to be his property. The ideal is that those who have that mark are also to manifest they are his spiritual creations also.

    When I contemplate the baptism given me, I recognize it as emblematic first of God's promise to believers through the gospel. And second, as indicative of my parent's prior commitment flowing from their faith in that God and his gospel, the beginning of their labors under God to bring me up in the faith of the God of Promise. They placed me before the ordinary means, and prayed for the effect of those same, conveyed to me through my sensory inputs--especially hearing, but also including the visual and other senses.

    Baptism is an ownership mark. How seriously we take it (however old we are when we receive it) is a measure of our regard for Him whose sign and seal it is.
  28. J.L. Allen

    J.L. Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    I can hear David Attenborough narrating now. Dial up the BBC...
  29. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Well, lying to your kids is not something you can do and expect it to be helpful. But I think maybe the gist of your question is: Does a child's baptism contain some inherent power or grace from God apart from any awareness, or does all the benefit come from knowing God has put his sign on you?

    That's a heady question. I am reluctant to say with too much certainty that I understand the mind of God when it comes to how he decides to pour out the blessing of faith on his children. But I am most comfortable speaking of the benefits of baptism in the second way: it is helpful to us as we remember and ponder it.

    I say this because baptism is a sign and a witness, and such things are given primarily for our conscious benefit. God does not need signs to remember that he is a faithful God, but we do need the help of signs. So God intends for us to know that we have been baptized, and we can expect him to use this knowledge in us to strengthen our faith.

    Of course, there are odd cases like Jonathan's. Can Jonathan look back and say that even though he was not aware of his baptism, God ended up honoring the promises received in baptism by granting Jonathan faith or strengthening his faith? I think Jonathan can say that with thanksgiving for God's behind-the-scenes faithfulness. He can say that in much the same way he might say God blessed him and strengthened his faith because, while he was unaware, his mother prayed for him. Exactly how God remains sovereign yet truly responds to prayer is a mystery, but there is a sense in which we can say that prayers offered for us while we were unaware may be used by God, in his wisdom, to strengthen us. I cautiously suspect it may be the same with a child's baptism.

    But this does not give us warrant to treat baptism as a dose of magic water any more than we could treat prayer as a magic incantation and expect our presumption to bring blessings. And the common, visible-to-us way that God blesses us by our baptism is through our reflection on it. So this is where our primary focus ought to be.
  30. littlepeople

    littlepeople Puritan Board Freshman

    Much the same as with those who are baptized later in life. Whether through the providence of parents, or the providence of life-events; it's God who seeks us and finds us and washes us. It's also Him who keeps us.

    As far as the proper subjects and your various cases presented, I would say if you are in a position to instruct and compel someone to prayers, catechism, obedience, public worship; then you are in a position to baptize that same person. They are partaking in the same visible/time-and-space thing you are outwardly (covenant). Not applicable would be temporary situations or against someone's will.

    I'm not sure if this is addition is helpful to you in this free-for-all, but that's my thoughts.
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