Home > 1689 federalism, General > An Unguarded Paedobaptist

An Unguarded Paedobaptist

I know very little of T. David Gordon beyond his essays in “By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification” and “The Law is Not of Faith”. From these essays I gather that he is someone who speaks his mind, and perhaps bombastic (he compares John Murray to the drunk uncle no one wants to talk about). The main thrust of his essays is that Murray departed from the reformed tradition by not acknowledging great discontinuity between the Mosaic and New covenants. He makes several good points, but he tends not to realize that he is not arguing against Murray so much as the WCF tradition.

I enjoyed his response to the oft-used argument that paedobaptists use: For God to say he will be God to someone necessarily implies a soteriological relationship.

Murray (and his followers) implicitly believe that the only relation God sustains to people is that of Redeemer (which, by my light, is not a relation but an office). I would argue, by contrast, that God was just as surely Israel’s God when He cursed the nation as when He blessed it. His pledge to be Israel’s God, via the terms of the Sinai administration, committed him to curse Israel for disobedience just as much as to bless her for obedience. In being Israel’s God, he sustained the relation of covenant suzerain to her; he did not bless or curse any other nation for its covenant fidelity or infidelity. In this sense, he was not the God of other nations as he was the God of Israel. (p 120 “By Faith Alone”)

But a more interesting comment comes later in a footnote:

I would like to indicate that I think his [Murray’s] view ought to be given due and serious consideration because of Murray’s stature within the Reformed tradition, and because of his otherwise orthodox views on most matters. For this reason, while I think his view is unbiblical, and therefore confuses our effort to understand the Bible, and while I think he has retained the wrong thing and jettisoned the right thing from the tradition, I think we should discuss his views for a few generations.*

*I am perfectly happy with retaining the covenant of works, by any label, because it was a historical covenant; what I am less happy with is the language of covenant of grace, because this is a genuinely unbiblical use of biblical language: biblically covenant is always a historic arrangement, inaugurated in space and time. Once covenant refers to an over-arching divine decree or purpose to redeem the elect in Christ, confusion is sure to follow. Thus, in my opinion, Murray kept what ought to be discarded and discarded what ought to be kept.

(p 121 “By Faith Alone”)

No objection here. Let’s call the covenant of grace what Scripture does: the new covenant!

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Categories: 1689 federalism, General
  1. February 25, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Would you disagree with Gordon’s assessment of Murray? And would you further say Gordon’s view is actually out of accord with WCF?

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    • February 25, 2013 at 7:16 am

      I don’t tend to trust much of what I read in The Law is Not of Faith, and he seems like the least reliable of those. For example, after describing Murray as the drunk uncle, he claims Murray never wrote a single thing on Galatians because he couldn’t make any sense of the two covenant discourse from Paul. The Kerux review of TLNF points out that’s just not true, that Murray lectured and wrote on Galatians and Gordon just never bothered to consult those.

      I haven’t read much of Murray, so it’s hard to say. But I do think Gordon way overstates his case. And yes, I believe Gordon’s view is out of accord with WCF.

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  2. MikeD
    February 26, 2013 at 7:50 am

    From a relatively unstudied point of view always had trouble saying that Esau was in the covenant of grace, especially in light of Romans 9. I suppose it’s possible I lack nuance which is always nice for blending categories and such.

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