Does 1689 Federalism require “Regeneration Goggles”?

Critics of 1689 Federalism often caricature baptists as claiming to know who the elect are. This does not follow from any 1689 Federalism belief. We agree with the reformed “judgment of charity.” Based upon a credible profession of faith, we judge (with charity) a person to be saved. The only difference is that we do not believe that being born to a professing parent is sufficient warrant to charitably judge a person to be saved.

The following is a rather revealing Twitter conversation demonstrating 1) that there is nothing radical about baptists on this point, and 2) that some (many?) paedobaptists haven’t really thought through this issue.

AKA: Why I am not a baptist.

Notice in the final row where Denault explains the need to discern who is in the invis church to identify the visible. This isn’t a strawman

Aug 10

 Discern = judgment of charity based on a credible profession of faith. No different from paedo for those “of age.”

The chart says that the visible church is identified by a credible profession of faith, that’s not how reformed identify the visible church.

Aug 10

 I’m sorry, you’re really confusing me. Can you please clarify?

Maybe you can tell me what you aren’t getting.

Everything you’ve said in the above replies. How do you think the reformed identify the visible church?

Aug 10

via baptism, WCF 28.1 “Baptism is …not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church”

Aug 10

How do you understand WCF 25.2?

I’d have to look at what they intended by it, but I assume “professing christian” would include baptised.

Aug 10

However, what a thing is, and how you identify a thing are not the same thing.

What role does a credible profession of faith play, in your understanding?

Aug 10

It’s a means to determine if someone outside the covenant is serious about entering into it.

It wouldn’t make sense to baptize someone into the church who has no real interest in joining.

So credible profession just means “Wants to join the church”?

Aug 10

 with all that entails, yes.

“just means” sounds like it’s trying to make church membership into a small thing.

Aug 10

What is required for someone to be a communicant member?

For someone to be made a communicant member they have to publicly profess their faith and be baptized.

OPC DPW IV.B.1 says they must “give evidence of conscious saving faith in Christ.” Do you agree?

Ah, you’re talking about someone who is already a member. Yes, but this wouldn’t make them any less a church member.

It’s a protection against judgement for misusing the supper.

How does it protect? What would be misuse?

Eating or drinking without discerning the body, because of sin.

Sin in this instance would be lack of saving faith?

that could be an example, though I don’t think it’s the only one.

Does the public reception into full communion entail a judgment of charity that the person has “conscious saving faith in Christ”?

I think that’s fair, otherwise, what’s the point of fencing the table

Does making said judgment of charity require “regeneration goggles”?

non communicant members are still church members, the assumption is still that they are church members…

…but that they have some sin that requires repentance. The Q isn’t about regeneration. The only time it /might/ be is excommunication.

Does judging a person to have saving faith mean judging that they are regenerate?

It seems to me this is exactly the problem I was pointing out, you really want this to be about something invisible, and behind the scenes.

I’m saying that it isn’t, and a judgment of charity is exactly the kind of thing you use when you *don’t* know.

Ben, I honestly think you’re unnecessarily pushing yourself into a weird corner in this thread, becoming a polar opposite without good cause

Maybe so, my original point was, and remains that trying to ‘see’ the invisible church to identify the visible isn’t helpful.

I guess I’d just say I find that argument (baps try to see invis church) a straw man, realizing you wouldn’t agree.

Reconstructing the vis kirk w/ infant inclusion as primary deconstructs the system & is source of unnecessary polarizing to ur own hurt.

Aug 10

Aug 10

He says visible = ppl we have “reason to believe” are in invis. It’s not speculation or stating absolutes to connect prof of faith to regen

Would you say that Ref/Pres do the same thing, but just with different standards for ‘reason to believe’?

What do you think the different standards are?
For instance, a person might say that being born in a christian home *is* reason to believe they are in the invisible church.
In that case, you’d say baptists and ref’d are baptizing for the same reason.
This gets hairy because of disagreement about presumptive regeneration. But in that case, yes (see Utrecht 1905 Synod for example)
Yeah, personally, I’m not a fan of answering the regeneration question at all, as you could probably tell from my answers.
WCF 28.1 says baptism is a sign and seal of regeneration. OPC DPW IV.B.1 says public profession = “you have accepted God’s covenant…
promise that was signified and sealed unto you in your infancy by holy baptism.” To receive prof of saving faith = to judge regenerate.
Ben, can you acknowledge 1689 Fed view does not require “regeneration goggles”?
I don’t think I used those words in this convo, I think there is an over-emphasis on the invisible, but only use that phrase in jest.
Nor do I think baptists think they know who the elect are.
To clarify your view: how can you judge someone to have saving faith without judging them to be regenerate?

I received no reply to the last question, so I asked it again 2 days later.

To clarify your view: how can you judge someone to have saving faith without judging them to be regenerate?

I received no reply, so I asked again 2 days later. And again 2 days after that. I asked 4 times over the course of a week and was never given a reply.

Note this statement from an 1857 issue of the Princeton Review

And this statement from Hodge in an 1858 Princeton Review.

In sum, there is nothing radical about 1689 Federalism’s view of church membership.

For more on this, see



6 thoughts on “Does 1689 Federalism require “Regeneration Goggles”?

  1. Armen Nazarian

    Hey Brandon.
    I came upon this quote by John Spilsbury I thought was fitting for the comment section of this article.

    “Not that I intent in the least to deny salvation unto infants, no, I am so far from this, that I testifie against all such doctrine, nor yet affirme all infants to be saved, neither doe I know among infants, which shall be saved, and which not, therefore I leave it as a secret thing to God, until he makes the same appeare by some visible effect of faith, which onely gives a visible right unto any ordinance of the New Testament: and therefore I cannot see by the Gospel, how infants voyde of visible faith, should have visbile right unto the priviledges of grace; neither ought they to be admitted thereunto, as hath been proved; and also for these, and the like reasons following” (A treatise concerning the lawfull subject of baptism… 1643)


  2. markmcculley

    Scott Clark–Haykin has exaggerated the unity between the Reformed and the Baptists of whom he is thinking.

    Scott Clark continually exaggerates the unity between Reformed paedobaptists. Scott Clark acts as if all credobaptists deny any distinction between a visible congregation and the elect.
    But I would argue that there is more difference between Scott Clark and Peter Lillback about visiblility than there is between credobaptists who agree to a visible/ invisible distinction.

    (For one reason not all the elect havet yet been called and gathered—not all in the congregation are necessarily elect, and some elect are perhaps not members of the visible congregation)

    When talking to credobaptists and “federal visionists”, Scott Clark presents his own “covenant theology” as the only alternative, without acknowledging the differences between John Murray and Meredith Kline, or between Mike Horton and Herman Hoeksema.

    Despite great differences between credobaptists, our common concern is that people are flattening the covenants into one “the covenant”. Many do this by mixing “grace” ((condescension ) into the covenant with Adam before the fall. But other “the covenant” theologians are flattening only all the post-fall covenants into one covenant in order to argue their case for infant baptism. This is not something Lutherans or Augustine did. This flattening of covenants may in some cases (Kline) cherry-pick out certain features of “the covenant” as being legal or Mosaic intrusions, but the flattening almost never acknowledges that circumcision was a legal condition of the Abrahamic covenant. It reads circumcision as a promise of grace, not only to Abraham but to an uncertain number of his slaves and his ethnic children, but almost never as a possible curse (greater jeopardy). And then by inference Reformed paedobaptists get a conditional promise of grace in baptism, which is supposedly the fulfillment of circumcision. (even though Galatians and Colossians 2 could have “easily resolved” everything by teaching this but those texts do not).

    For somebody who is so certain that we can’t be certain about many things, Scott Clark is certain that some non-elect belong in the covenant with Abraham means that some non- elect belong (for a time) in the new covenant. Most “covenant theology” folk say that belonging to the new covenant includes a larger number of persons than those who are elect to justification before God.

    But some of us argue that the new covenant is only for those who are effectually called and justified. And this argument is not “easily resolved” by ignoring what some credobaptists have been arguing since (at least) the 1642 London Baptist Confession. Nor is the argument “easily resolved” by ignoring the vast diversity between one “the covenant theology” and another.

    Why bother with this discussion? What does it matter? We all agree that we do not know with certainty who are effectually called and justified. But what we do not agree about is if the new covenant has more persons than those who are justified (notice that I am not using the “regenerate” category here, as most credobaptists would, but I am saying that “all who are justified are effectually called” and I am agreeing that we do not know with certainty who is effectually called), So what’s the practical difference?

    Scott Clark needs to do more than continually redescribe credobaptists (repeating his own caricatures) . Why does he insist that some of the non-elect are “in the covenant”? Why is it important for Clark and Horton to say that the “only reading” of Hebrews is that some apostates were “in the covenant”? Why not say instead–well we thought that they were “in the covenant”? And why . after all their talk about the difference between Moses and Abrahm, are they still saying “the covenant” without saying which covenant ?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. markmcculley

    Douglas Bond, Grace Works P and R, 2014 p 92—“There are those today who encourage their congregations to tear out the page between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. Zealous to avoid the error of dispensationalism, these men make the continuity of the covenants the foundation of their preaching. But I wonder if it is a foundation that is able to support the scandal of grace. If we care about the distinction between law and gospel…then we will train our ears for those who don’t seem to want to keep the distinction between the old and new covenants.Their insistence on “the continuity of the covenants” may prove to be a code phrase for confusing law and gospel. Where there is a merging of the old and new covenants, it will never be the law diminished by gospel. It will always be the gospel fatally diminished by the law.”

    Peter Lillback–“ How can Calvin’s claim that the only difference between the two covenants is with respect to the extent and power of the Spirit’s work explain covenant-breaking?”

    Lee Irons—“Mark Jones fails to mention this, but the treatise by Flavel wasn’t on justification but was part of a debate over paedobaptism. The credobaptist,had argued that the new covenant or the gospel covenant is absolute or unconditional—a position that was even held by some paedobaptists, most notably John Owen…. I happen to agree with the paedobaptist (Flavel) against the credobaptist in this particular debate.

    Lee Irons—“Flavel’s entire discussion of the various meanings of the word “condition” has to do with paedo- vs. credo-baptist debates over covenant theology, e.g., questions like whether the Abrahamic covenant of circumcision was the same in substance with the new or gospel covenant, and whether the new covenant is conditional. The precise question of the role of faith in justification is not directly in view

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