Home > 1689 federalism, 20th Century Reformed Baptist View > James White doesn’t know what 1689 Federalism is

James White doesn’t know what 1689 Federalism is

James White is a tremendous preacher, teacher, apologist, and reformed baptist. I greatly value his ministry.

However, there is some confusion regarding his covenant theology. People have asked him before if he agrees with 1689 Federalism and he has said yes. However, I have suspected for many reasons, that he misunderstands the question, thinking it is simply a question about the 2nd London Baptist Confession, and that he doesn’t actually know what 1689 Federalism is.

That suspicion was basically confirmed in his recent debate on baptism with Gregg Strawbridge.

Strawbridge: “So the New Covenant only includes regenerate people in your point of view?”

White: “The New Covenant does, certainly.”

Strawbridge: “And is that distinctive of the new covenant?”

White: “That’s what Hebrews 8 says, yes.”

Strawbridge: “Was Abraham regenerate?”

White: “Of course.”

Strawbridge: “How so? He wasn’t in the New Covenant.”

White: “He’s in the covenant of grace. This is a well known position. We’re not saying that the only people who are regenerate were in the New Covenant. There were regenerate people under the Old Covenant. The point is that those individuals who were regenerate under the Old Covenant were called the remnant. There is never a remnant of the New Covenant.”

Strawbridge: “Is Abraham called the remnant in the bible?”

White: “No, but the remnant are those people in Israel who are differentiated from those who do not have a true faith.”

Strawbridge: “The remnant becomes part the later history of Israel when various things fall away. I believe that. But what I’m saying is that if what’s new about the New Covenant is regeneration–”

White: “No, it’s not. You’ve misunderstood our position. I’m sure you know that Reformed Baptists believe that there were regenerate people under the Old Covenant. The point was that the Old Covenant did not guarantee the regeneration of everyone that received that received its signs.”

Dr. White’s response was very clearly an articulation of the modern or “20th century Reformed Baptist” view, as opposed to the 1689 Federalism view. Which is completely fine, if that’s what he believes. But my suspicion has been that, because he is so busy, he’s simply unaware of 1689 Federalism and the covenantal heritage being recovered.

That suspicion was confirmed in his chat chan today:

brandonadams: In cross-ex Strawbridge asked White how Abraham was regenerated if he wasn’t in the new covenant. White responded by appealing to the covenant of grace under multiple administrations, stating that regeneration is not exclusive to the new covenant, but the extent of regeneration in the covenant is the difference…
[09:07am] DrOakley: I was totally amazed that he, a former Reformed Baptist, even asked the question.
[09:07am] brandonadams: why?
[09:07am] DrOakley: Because he should know better.
[09:07am] DrOakley: He should know we believe there were regenerate men before the cross! Good grief!
[09:07am] DrOakley: That would be like me asking him if he’s a Trinitarian or something. Just silly.
[09:08am] brandonadams: Dr White, have you had an opportunity to study 1689 Federalism yet?
[09:08am] • DrOakley stares
[09:08am] DrOakley: No, brandon, never heard of the 1689. What’s that?
[09:09am] brandonadams: i’m not asking if you’ve studied the confession. I’m asking if you’ve studied 1689 Federalism, which is a specific covenant theology that is different from modern reformed baptist covenant theology

[09:16am] brandonadams: Dr. White?
[09:16am] DrOakley: Yes?
[09:17am] brandonadams: Have you studied 1689 Federalism?
[09:17am] brandonadams: i’m just trying to find out if you studied and reject it, or if you haven’t had time to study it yet
[09:17am] DrOakley: Are you suggesting modern Reformed Baptists have misunderstood their own confession?
[09:17am] brandonadams: yes
[09:17am] DrOakley: I see.
[09:18am] brandonadams: And James Renihan says the same thing
[09:18am] DrOakley: No, I do not invest much time studying every little off-shoot idea out there, sorry. There are…many.
[09:18am] DrOakley: Can’t keep up with them all.
[09:18am] DrOakley: Is it a major movement?
[09:18am] brandonadams: yes
[09:18am] DrOakley: Lots of books on it?
[09:18am] brandonadams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvPoAnMGuGE
[09:18am] brandonadams: yes
[09:18am] DrOakley: I see.
[09:18am] DrOakley: Great.
[09:19am] brandonadams: http://1689federalism.com/
[09:20am] brandonadams: I’m asking because 1689 Federalism teaches that Abraham was a member of the New Covenant because regeneration is a blessing exclusive to the New Covenant. It rejects the multiple administrations view of the covenant of grace and identifies the new covenant alone as the covenant of grace
[09:21am] DrOakley: I see.
[09:22am] DrOakley: I would think the writer to the Hebrews would have mentioned such a claim.

I don’t blame Dr. White at all. He’s got a lot on his plate. But I just want to avoid confusion for people out there who have studied 1689 Federalism. James White does not hold to it. He does not know what it is. He may hold to it in the future, but at the present time, he holds to the modern reformed baptist view of covenant theology. His chapters as they appear in Recovering a Covenantal Heritage are consistent with 1689 Federalism, but it was written many years ago as a journal article and he has clearly not read any of the other chapters in the book (which, again, is totally fine – he’s busy).

  1. April 3, 2015 at 9:51 am

    “I would think the writer to the Hebrews would have mentioned such a claim.”

    I’m fairly certain that’s one of the major points of the entire epistle, actually.


  2. Hugh McCann
    April 3, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Brandon, White’s not the only confused and ignorant one out here.
    Will you make up a chart with
    the modern or “20th century Reformed Baptist” view
    the 1689 Federalism view,
    the 1646 WCF view[s],
    other pertinent Baptist views,
    and/ or Owen’s view?


    • April 3, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Hugh, see https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/non-dispensational-calvinistic-credobaptist-covenantalism-compass/

      and the venn diagrams at http://www.1689federalism.com

      1646 is the same as 1689. NCT tries to claim 1646, but they are misreading it. Owen is 1689 Federalism

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hugh McCann
        April 3, 2015 at 10:50 am

        Thanks, Brandon. If Owen (A) is 1689 (B)
        and 1646(C) = 1689 (B),
        then, is Owen 1646?


        • April 3, 2015 at 11:35 am

          1646 is sparse in what it says about covenant theology but insofar as it is consistent with 1689 federalism it is consistent with owen

          Liked by 1 person

      • Hugh McCann
        April 3, 2015 at 1:29 pm

        Thanks for the links and answers.


        • Hugh McCann
          April 3, 2015 at 1:32 pm

          And thus, acc. to your Venn, James White is “RB#2,” or, “Prog. Covenantal”?


        • April 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

          Actually probably prog covenantal since he holds to their view of the sabbath


        • April 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

          But would identify as rb#2


        • Hugh McCann
          April 3, 2015 at 1:36 pm

          Oh dear. *groan* And the Schreiner/ White sabbath view is….?


        • April 3, 2015 at 1:37 pm

          4th commandment fulfilled in Christ. No longer commanded to observe the weekly rest (unless I am mistaken or he has changed his view)

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Hugh McCann
    April 3, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Busy-ness is White’s excuse for not knowing what Gordon Clark taught, as well.
    But he knows it’s wrong – tho’ he has no time for it.
    Brandon, I believe your appreciation of White is misapplied.


  4. April 3, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Interesting absences in that log, brandon 😉


    • April 3, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      I didn’t feel including the rest would be edifying to anyone. What is present is the only point I was trying to make.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. April 3, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    For future reference, non-regulars who come in to log the channel, and post those logs in public are typically precluded from re-entry. I’m one of the channel admins, incidentally.


    • April 3, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      So scary. I’m already banned thoguh


    • Hugh McCann
      April 3, 2015 at 1:27 pm

      Are other allowed to view?
      If so, what is the link to this chat?


  6. April 3, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Wasn’t meant to scare. I was just letting you know how things work. When people abuse the fellowship channel to promote an agenda, it’s considered poor form.


  7. jonathan bennett
    April 7, 2015 at 2:41 am

    Brandon, just for clarification: you are saying the James White holds to a “fulfilled Sabbath” view? If so, my reading of him is much different.


    • April 7, 2015 at 6:07 am

      I’m not certain what he holds. I just know years ago when I was studying the issue he told a caller the best treatment of the issue was D.A. Carson’s edited “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day.” His comments were brief and he didn’t want to talk about it. I haven’t investigated beyond that.


  8. April 25, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    What do the Scriptures teach, is the only relevant question. Otherwise theology has become idolatry.


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