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Baptism to a Thousand Generations?

October 8, 2017 1 comment

SummaryUpon the basis of how circumcision was administered, historically, the reformed practiced that the distant offspring of a believer were entitled to baptism, even if their immediate parents were unbelievers, apostates or excommunicates. Modern paedobaptists have rejected this practice, resulting in an inconsistency in their appeal to circumcision.


Joe Anady of the Confessing the Faith podcast interviewed former URC member and WSC graduate Mark Hogan about his change in beliefs from paedobaptism to credobaptism. In Part 3, Hogan mentions one of the inconsistencies that contributed to his change of mind. During seminary he read William Perkins arguing (from the basis of Israel) that the baptism of the believer’s offspring was not limited to the first generation, but extended down the line to include even offspring whose immediate parents were wicked. Hogan found no consistent answer for modern Presbyterianism’s rejection of this logic and practice. Gavin Ortlund explained this point was part of his change of mind regarding the baptism of infants as well.

Circumcision is given in Genesis 17:9 to “you and your seed [offspring, descendants; Hebrew zerah] after you, for the generations to come.” The individuals in view here are the intergenerational descendants of Abraham. The faith of an Israelite child’s parents was not what determined the child’s right to circumcision; it was the child’s association with the nation of Israel. In other words, the lines of covenant throughout the Old Testament weren’t drawn around individual believing families, but around the national family of Abraham. It wasn’t the “children of believers” who had the right to the sacrament of initiation, but the “children of Abraham.” So, given paedobaptist presuppositions, why not baptize the grandchildren of believers, too? If we’re really building off continuity with the Old Testament precedent, why stop at one generation?

Why I Changed My Mind About Baptism

Nehemiah Coxe made the same point in 1681.

The promises previously given to Abraham for his natural offspring involve those in remote generations as much as those immediately descended from him. And in some respects they were made good more fully to them than to the others… It was not Abraham’s immediate seed, but his mediate, that became as numerous as the dust of the earth and took possession of the land flowing with milk and honey…

The right of the remotest generation was as much derived from Abraham and the covenant made with him, as was that of his immediate seed, and did not at all depend on the faithfulness of their immediate parents. Thus, the immediate seed of those Israelites that fell in the wilderness under the displeasure of God were made to inherit the land of Canaan by virtue of this covenant with Abraham. They never could have enjoyed it by virtue of their immediate parent’s steadfastness in the covenant…

[I]f I may conclude my concern in this covenant is such that by one of its promises I am assured that God has taken my immediate seed into covenant with himself, I must on the same ground conclude also that my seed in remote generations will be no less in covenant with him, since the promise extends to the seed in their generations.

Covenant Theology From Adam to Christ, p. 90, 97, 106

Perkins

The reformed generally were in agreement with this point and put it into practice as part of their national understanding of the church. The quote that initially gave Hogan pause is from Perkins’ 1604 commentary on Galatians 3:26-28.

Thirdly, it may be demanded, whether the children of wicked Christians, that is, of such as hold in judgment true religion and deny it in their lives, may be baptized? Answer. They may. For all without exception that were born of circumcised Jews (whereof many were wicked) were circumcised. And we must not only regard the next parents, but also the ancestors of whom it is said, “If the root be holy, the branches are holy” (Rom. 11). Upon this ground children born in fornication may be baptized, so be it, there be some to answer for them besides the parents. And there is no reason that the wickedness of the parent should prejudice the child in things pertaining to life eternal.

Lastly, it may be demanded, whether the children of parents excommunicate, may be baptized? Answ. Yea, if there be any beside the parents to answer for the child. For the parents after excommunication remain still (for right) members of the Church, having still a right to the kingdome of heavens out of which they are not cast absolutely, but with condition, unless they repent: and in part, that is in respect of communion, or use of their liberty, but not in respect of right or title: even as a freeman of a corporation imprisoned, remaines a freeman, though for the time he hath no use of his liberty.

The Works of William Perkins, v. ii, 232

(Note the erroneous reading of Romans 11 that is necessarily required. Perkins must interpret the root not as Abraham, but as every believer. Every believer thus has their own tree of which they are the root down to a thousand generations.)

Calvin

Perkins was just repeating what previous reformers concluded. In 1559, Scottish Presbyterian John Knox wrote to Calvin asking “whether it be lawful to admit to the sacrament of baptism the children of idolaters and excommunicated persons before their parents have testified their repentance.” Calvin replied

Respecting the questions of which you ask for a solution, after I had laid them before my colleagues, here is the answer which we unanimously resolved to send

[I]n the proper use of baptism the authority of God is to be considered, and his institution ought to derive its authority from certain conditions, one of the first things to be considered is who are the persons that God by his own voice invites to be baptized.

Now God’s promise comprehends not only the offspring of every believer in the first line of descent, but extends to thousands of generations. Whence it has happened that the interruption of piety which has prevailed in Popery has not taken away from baptism its force and efficacy. For we must look to its origin, and the very reason and nature of baptism is to be esteemed as arising from the promise of God. To us then it is by no means doubtful that an offspring descended from holy and pious ancestors, belong to the body of the church, though their fathers and grandfathers may have been apostates. For just as in Popery it was a pernicious and insane superstition, to steal or forcibly abduct their children from Jews or Turks, and forthwith to have them baptized; so likewise, wherever the profession of Christianity has not been altogether interrupted or destroyed, children are defrauded of their privileges if they are excluded from the common symbol; because it is unjust when God, three hundred years ago or more, has thought them worthy of his adoption, that the subsequent impiety of some of their progenitors should interrupt the course of heavenly grace. In fine, as each person is not admitted to baptism from respect or regard to one of his parents alone, but on account of the perpetual covenant of God; so in like manner, no just reason suffers children to be debarred from their initiation into the church in consequence of the bad conduct of only one parent.

Calvin’s Lat. Corresp., Opera, ix. P. 201; Calvin, John. Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters vol. 7; edited by Henry Beveridge. Edmonton, Canada: pp. 73-76. via BaylyBlog

Rutherford

In the 17th century, this practice was challenged by Congregationalists who argued “we do professedly judge the Calvinian Reformed Churches of the first reformation from out of Popery, to stand in need of a further reformation themselves.” They argued that excommunicants are not members of the church and that only the immediate offspring of communicant members may be baptized. In response to this pressure, and to defend the national church model, Scottish Prebyterian and leading member of the Westminster Assembly Samuel Rutherford again argued from Abraham and Israel.

Therefore there was no more required of the circumcised but that they were Abraham’s seed according to the flesh, and by that same reason, there is no more required of infants that they may be baptized but that they be born in the Christian church… Now if God be the God of Abraham’s seed far off and near down, to many generations, the wickedness of the nearest parents cannot break the covenant, as is clear… These are to receive the seal of the covenant whose forefathers are in external profession within the covenant.  For God commands not Abraham only to circumcise his sons, but all parents descended of Abraham to circumcise their seed: the seed of Abraham carnally descended to all generations… We desire to know whom God forbade to be circumcised that were carnally descended of Abraham?  Or show us example or precept thereof in the Word.

But, say they: drunkards, murderers, sorcerers, swearers, and ignorant atheists, both fathers and mothers, whose children you baptize, do not profess the faith, for in works they deny and bely their profession.

Answer: 1. Then you will have the children of none to be baptized but those whose parents are sound and sincere professors in the judgment of charity. But so Joshua failed who circumcised the children of all professing themselves to be Abraham’s sons carnally, though Joshua knew and was an eye witness that their fathers did deny and bely their profession.

On The Baptism of the Children of Adherents

New England Congregationalists

In 1662, the New England Synod stated

Partic. 5. It is requisite unto the membership of children, that the next parents, one or both, being in a covenant. For altho’ after-generations have no small benefit by their pious ancestors, who derive federal holiness to their succeeding generations in case they keep their standing in the covenant, and be not apostates from it; yet the piety of ancestors sufficeth not, unless the next parent continue in covenant, Rom. 11.22…

If we stop not at the next parent, but grant that ancestors may, notwithstanding the apostacy of the next parents convey membership unto children, then we should want a ground where to stop, and then all the children on earth should have right to membership and baptism.

Modern Presbyterians

Modern presbyterian denomoinations that have rejected the unbiblical national ecclessiology of their forefathers have also rejected this unbiblical practice of the baptism of infants down to the thousandth generation.

For a child to be presented for baptism, at least one parent must be a communicant member of the Church… Only parents who are communicant members of the Church may be permitted to take parental vows.

OPC DPW 3.1.a

 

One of the few modern defenders of this practice, Gordon Clark, explains the logical implications of this modern abandonment of reformed tradition.

Does the Bible require or prohibit baptisms to the thousandth generation? If it does, and if a generation is roughly thirty years, a thousand generation from the time of Christ would include just about everybody in the western world. Then the church should have baptized the child of an intensely Talmudic Jew whose ancestor in 50 B.C. was piously looking for the Messiah. Or, George Whitefield should have baptized Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Tom Paine, as children, because one of their ancestors played a small role in the Reformation. Strange as this may seem to many, it ought to have been done if the Bible so teaches.

Some very eminent theologians have so held. The strictest view has not been universal; it is more American than European. The view that only the children of professing parents should be baptized seems to have been the result of colonial revivalism [and/or the rejection of a national church model]… as it… tended to view the ideal church as consisting entirely of regenerate persons… The logical result is the Baptist position; but in Presbyterianism it stopped short at requiring faith of the parents who wanted their children baptized. But if it did not result in Baptist practices, it involved a change in the theology of baptism.

-Gordon H. Clark. What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 1192-1194). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

The problem with the modern pratice (as Perkins, Calvin, Rutherford, and the reformed argued in the past) is that circumcision was not administered in this way. This great inconsistency led Hogan and Ortlund to change their minds regarding the proper recipients of baptism.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider this matter.

See also:

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Does 1689 Federalism require “Regeneration Goggles”?

August 17, 2017 Leave a comment

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

 

 

Jesus on “All Shall Know Me”

August 8, 2017 1 comment

John 6:35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

Note Jesus’ emphasis on “all.” All that are elected will come to Christ and all of them shall be raised on the last day. To prove this he quotes Isaiah 54:13 “And they shall all be taught by God.” He says this prophecy refers to election, the effectual call, and regeneration – and thus also perseverance. Calvin notes “As to the word all, it must be limited to the elect… he fastens on the general phrase, all; because he argues from it, that all who are taught by God are effectually drawn, so as to come… Hence it follows, that there is not one of all the elect of God who shall not be a partaker of faith in Christ.”

Isaiah 53 describes the suffering messiah. 54 describes the covenant of peace he brings.

9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10 For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
11 “O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.

What is the cross reference for v13? Jeremiah’s teaching on the New Covenant (31:33-34; cf Hebrews 8:10-11). “No longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,‘” for they shall all know me,” from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. Jeremiah and Isaiah were prophesying about the same thing. On 6:45 Calvin says “this teaching of God is the inward illumination of the heart.”

Therefore, according to Jesus, the New Covenant of Peace is made with the elect, chosen and called by the Father and given to Christ as mediator of the New Covenant to intercede, preserve, and raise on the last day. “They shall all know me” refers to the elect and it is fulfilled in the present.

Is 54:13. Quoted by the Saviour (Joh 6:45), to prove that in order to come to Him, men must be “drawn” by the Father. So Jer 31:34; Mic 4:2; 1Co 2:10; Heb 8:10; 10:16; 1Jo 2:20. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Verse 13. – All thy children shall be taught of the Lord (comp. Isaiah 44:3; Jeremiah 31:33, 34; Ezekiel 11:19; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17, 18, etc.). Christians are all of them “taught of God” (John 6:45 1 Thessalonians 4:9). The “anointing,” which they have from the Holy Ghost, “teaches them, and is truth, and is no lie” (1 John 2:27), and causes them to “know all things” (1 John 2:20). Pulpit Commentary

Owen on Hebrews 8:11 explains

The knowledge of the LORD may be here taken, not objectively and doctrinally, but subjectively, for the renovation of the mind in the saving knowledge of God…

The instructive ministry of the old testament, as it was such only, and with respect unto the carnal rites thereof, was a ministry of the letter, and not of the Spirit, which did not really effect in the hearts of men the things which it taught. —The spiritual benefit which was obtained under it proceeded from the promise, and not from the efficacy of the law, or the covenant made at Sinai. For as such, as it was legal and carnal, and had respect only unto outward things, it is here laid aside…

The proposition is universal, as to the modification of the subject, “all;” but in the word aujtw~n, “of them,” it is restrained unto those alone with whom this covenant is made…

Obs. XXIV. Where there is not some degree of saving knowledge, there no interest in the new covenant can be pretended…

Obs. XXVII. Persons destitute of this saving knowledge are utter strangers unto the covenant of grace; for this is a principal promise and effect of it, wherever it doth take place.

Augustine likewise recognizes that it refers to the elect.

What then is the import of the “All, from the least unto the greatest of them,” but all that belong spiritually to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah,—that is, to the children of Isaac, to the seed of Abraham? For such is the promise, wherein it was said to him, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called; for they which are the children of the flesh are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed…” (Rom 9:7-12) This is the house of Israel, or rather the house of Judah, on account of Christ, who came of the tribe of Judah. This is the house of the children of promise,—not by reason of their own merits, but of the kindness of God. For God promises what He Himself performs: He does not Himself promise, and another perform; which would no longer be promising, but prophesying. Hence it is “not of works, but of Him that calleth,” (Rom 9:11) lest the result should be their own, not God’s; lest the reward should be ascribed not to His grace, but to their due; and so grace should be no longer grace which was so earnestly defended and maintained by him who, though the least of the apostles, laboured more abundantly than all the rest,—yet not himself, but the graceof God that was with him. (1 Cor 15:9-10)

“They shall all know me,” (Jer 31:34) He says,—“All,” the house of Israel and house of Judah. “All,” however, “are not Israel which are of Israel,” (Rom 9:6) but they only to whom it is said in “the psalm concerning the morning aid” (Ps 22) (that is, concerning the new refreshing light, meaning that of the new testament [covenant]), “All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; and fear Him, all ye the seed of Israel.” (Ps 22:23) All the seed, without exception, even the entire seed of the promise and of the called, but only of those who are the called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28) “For whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Rom 8:30) “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed: not to that only which is of the law,”—that is, which comes from the Old Testament into the New,—“but to that also which is of faith,” which was indeed prior to the law, even “the faith of Abraham,”—meaning those who imitate the faith of Abraham,—“who is the father of us all; as it is written, I have made thee the father of many nations.” (Rom 4:16-17) Now all these predestinated, called, justified, glorified ones, shall know God by the grace of the new testament [covenant], from the least to the greatest of them.

The Evolution of Reformed Paedobaptism

August 8, 2017 9 comments

The following stages of reformed paedobaptism can be discerned in history.

  1. Baptism presumes inherent holiness in adults and infants.
  2. Baptism is based on external holiness and therefore does not presume inherent holiness in adults nor infants.
  3. Infant baptism is based on external holiness, but inherent holiness is required to remain in the church as an adult.

1. Baptism presumes inherent holiness

Early in the reformation, Luther taught that conversion, faith, and salvation occurs at baptism. The reformed rejected this and argued that baptism was only a means of grace to those who had faith, not to all who received it. Lutherans were right that baptism signified conversion, faith, union with Christ, but not all who receive the sign have the thing signified. We cannot know which is which, so we presume that those who receive the sign have the thing signified. In the case of adults, this presumption is based upon their profession of faith. In the case of infants, this presumption is based upon God’s covenant promise. Ursinus said

[S]ay our [Anabaptist] opponents, the church ought to be satisfied with a profession of faith. This we admit, and would add, that to be born in the church, is, to infants, the same thing as a profession of faith. Faith is, indeed, necessary to the use of baptism with this distinction. Actual faith is required in adults, and an inclination to faith in infants… [I]nfants have the Holy Ghost, and are regenerated by him… In as much now as infants are fit subjects for baptism, they do not profane it as the Anabaptists wickedly affirm.

Baptism, which requires faith, is not profaned because the Holy Spirit can and does work faith (or the inclination of it) in infants.

2. Baptism is based on external holiness

Fast forward a hundred years to the Westminster Assembly where “The Grand Debate” between Congregationalists and Presbyterians took place. The Assembly was filled with Puritans who wanted to “purify” the Church of England from corruption – including corruption of the Lord’s Supper. Some have called these men “disciplinarians” because they advocated barring unworthy participants from the Lord’s Supper.

Within this context, Congregationlists argued against the national church, saying the reformed had not reformed enough. They said the national church was filled with adult “known unbelievers” who should not be considered members of the church – and therefore their children had no right to be baptized. This would nullify the national church model, wherein birth in the country granted one a right to baptism (their baptism was used as a birth certificate).

Presbyterians, continuing in line with the “magisterial reformation” sought to defend the national church, but this required a shift in belief about baptism and the church. The only way “known unbelievers” could remain members of the church and have their children baptized is if faith (actual or an inclination) was not a prerequisite for baptism and church membership. They argued that the covenant promise only referred to “external,” “federal” holiness, not to “inherent” holiness and faith. Thus there was no basis to presume infants or adults in the church had saving faith, and therefore no reason to exclude them. “Known unbelievers” were not allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper (they were not “communicant members”), but they were still members of the church.

Debate on the floor of the Assembly is recorded in the Minutes. Thomas Goodwin (Congregationalist) argued

I do not know what distinction you will make betwixt federal and real holiness. It is such a holiness as if they die they should be saved. Whether a holiness of election or regeneration I know not but I think it is they have the Holy Ghost… I do not affirm that they are actually saved, but we are to judge them so.

Stephen Marshall, a Presbyterian, responded

I conceive we are not bound to judge that they are saved, for if so, that I must judge of them all singly that they are saved, I have no warrant. It is sufficient to believe in the general, that the infants of believing parents are federally holy.

Goodwin responded that “I am thy God and the God of thy seed” refers to inherent holiness. In one of his books, Rutherford argued that it did not.

If the root be holy, so also are the branches (Rom. 11:16).  Now this holiness cannot be meant of personal and inherent holiness, for it is not true in that sense.  If the fathers and forefathers be truly sanctified and are believers, then [it would follow] are the branches and children sanctified and believers.  But the contrary we see in wicked Absalom born of holy David, and many others.  Therefore, this holiness must be the holiness of the nation, not of persons…

[If the Congregationalist view is correct] it will follow that God speaks (Gen. 17) only to Abraham and his sons by faith (according to the promise) and only to believers.
But God speaks to all Abraham’s sons according to the flesh:
Because [otherwise] God should speak an untruth: that He were a God by real union of faith to all that are commanded to be circumcised.  For He commanded thousands to be circumcised to whom He was not a God by real union of faith…

But I fear that these who will have none baptized but the children of believing parents aim at this: that the faith of the father is imputed to the children (which indeed reverend Beza does maintain).  Or something worse: that infants are not to be baptized at all, seeing they oppose the places that we cite for the lawfulness of baptizing infants.

He concludes

We are against Separatists who will have the number of aged persons that are members of the church and the number of those who are to be admitted to the sacrament [of the Lord’s Table] equal.  We think multitudes are members of the visible church, and must be hearers as known unbelievers, who are not to be admitted to the sacrament [of the Lord’s Table].

This became the standard Presbyterian view. The visible and invisible church were formally separated and corresponded to an external covenant and an internal covenant. Bannerman summarized it thus:

As the Church invisible, it consists of the whole number of the elect, who are vitally united to Christ the Head, and of none other. As the Church visible, it consists of all those who profess the faith of Christ, together with their children…

This external relationship, in which the members of the visible Church stand to Christ, as having been brought into a Church state from out of the world, has been often spoken of by theologians under the name of an external covenant or federal relationship…

[T]he principles in regard to the visible and invisible Church already indicated have a very important bearing on the question of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of Infant Baptism… [T]he doctrine of the visible Church and its external covenant relationship to Christ, lays the foundation for those views of Church membership which justify us in regarding the infants of professing Christians as entitled to share the communion and privileges of the Church.

3. Infant baptism is based on external holiness, but adult membership presumes inherent holiness

In time, most Presbyterians (especially in America) came to reject historic Presbyterian ecclessiology (the national church). They followed the Congregationalists and held that a presumption of inherent holiness was required for membership in the church. But, with regards to infants, they still maintained that they should be baptized on the basis of an external, not inherent, holiness. Therefore infants should not be presumed to have inherent holiness, like adult members are. As R. Scott Clark explains “A baptized member is a sort of provisional membership. They are members but they are so with the expectation that they will make profession of faith [when they grow up].” The PCA Book of Church Order added a provision (56-4.j) not included in the original Directory of Public Worship.

By virtue of being children of believing parents they are, because of God’s covenant ordinance, made members of the Church, but this is not sufficient to make them continue members of the Church. When they have reached the age of discretion, they become subject to obligations of the covenant: faith, repentance and obedience. They then make public confession of their faith in Christ, or become covenant breakers, and subject to the discipline of the Church.

Thus modern reformed paedobaptism is a hybrid of the two above views. It rests upon a dichotomy between infant and adult membership. They are not members on the same basis. William Cunningham candidly admitted

It has always been a fundamental principle in the theology of Protestants, that the sacraments were instituted and intended for believers, and produce their appropriate beneficial effects only through the faith which must have previously existed, and which is expressed and exercised in the act of partaking in them…

[I]t is quite plain to any one who is capable of reflecting upon the subject, that it is adult baptism alone which embodies and brings out the full idea of the ordinance, and should be regarded as the primary type of it…

We have no doubt that the lawfulness and the obligation of infant baptism can be conclusively established from Scripture; but it is manifest that the general doctrine or theory just stated, with respect to the import and effect of the sacraments, and of baptism as a sacrament, cannot be applied fully in all its extent to the baptism of infants… [I]nfant baptism is to be regarded as a peculiar, subordinate, supplemental, exceptional thing, which stands indeed firmly based on its own distinct and special grounds…

Some men seem to shrink from laying down the position, either that the sacraments, or that baptism, should be held to be intended for believers, and of course to require or presuppose faith and regeneration, because this leaves out and seems to exclude the case of infant baptism… The giving undue prominence to the special case of infant baptism, is very apt to blind men’s eyes to the strength of the evidence, that baptism in its general import and object – that is, adult baptism in its legitimate use – implies a profession of faith in Christ, and can therefore be rightly received and improved only by believers…

[T]he full and adequate idea of a sacrament, as exhibited in adult baptism and the Lord’s Supper, does not directly and thoroughly apply to the cast of infant baptism.

In this way modern Presbyterians oppose the idea that infants are presumed regenerate. Cunningham notes “neither parents nor children, when the children come to be proper subjects of instruction, should regard the fact that they have been baptized, as affording of itself even the slightest presumption that they have been regenerated.” Of course, the problem with this view is obvious: it teaches two baptisms, not one.

4. A Return to 1.

More recently, some paedobaptists have recognized how divergent this modern view is from the original and how much ground is has conceded to baptists. They see the modern view of infant baptism as little more than a “wet dedication.” The Federal Vision movement is in large part a reaction to this. They consider modern Presbyterians to be much more in line with Baptists. The FV is contrary to the Westminster Confession and is not strong on historical theology, but others have likewise recognized the divergence and have pushed for a return to the original (#1) view outlined above. For example, in a Reformation 21 article, Mark Jones argued for Thomas Goodwin’s view. These men are ruffling the feathers of modern Presbyterians who hold to #3. Of course, as Rutherford and other Presbyterians argued, #1 ultimately forfeits the grounds for infant baptism at all.

5. Meredith Kline

We can also throw Meredith Kline’s new formulation of infant baptism into the mix (see here and here). He said the reformed have been wrong to base infant baptism on God’s promise (what he calls “a confusion”) because that promise is only to the elect. Infant baptism is not based on God’s promise. Rather, it is just simply a result parental authority over children. As long as our children live “under our roof” they are Christians and should be baptized. He said “One on this approach doesn’t face all of the awkwardness and embarassment that we make the basis of their being baptized because they are holy in Christ.” He said “The baptists are right there. Their criticism of the traditional Presbyterian argument is correct.”

Conclusion

So when you are talking to a paedobaptist, make sure to find out which one of these views they hold (they are probably unaware of the distinctions). There is quite a variety out there today and disagreements become much more convoluted & intricate than the above. Obviously this just provides some categories and contours for analyzing the issue. It’s not exhaustive. Hopefully this brief sketch will help make sense of some of the claims and the views you may encounter. It also illustrates how infant baptism has always been a practice in search of a theology.

For further reading:

A Twitter Exchange on Galatians 3:16

Galatians 3:16 is not an easy verse to understand. It has stumped many, many theologians. Paul’s argument, however, is actually very simple. He is making a distinction between the seed in Genesis 13:15 & 17:8 and the seed in Genesis 22:18. And he is, thereby, making a distinction between the promise made to the seed in 13:15 and 17:8 and the promise made to the seed in Genesis 22:18. The promise that in Abraham’s offspring (singular) all nations of the earth shall be blessed (note Gal 3:8) is different from the promise that Abraham’s offspring (plural) will inherit the land of Canaan. To see this argued and explained more fully, please see here.

The following was an exchange with Brad Mason (Heart & Mouth blog). I thought it was useful in showing 1) that the paedobaptist has no coherent, logical explanation for how Paul could possibly be making an argument from the text of Genesis, and 2) that their argument that all Abrahamic promises were only made to Christ contradicts their claim that the Abrahamic promises were made to Abraham’s children, and thus to ours. Note Paul’s logic:

  • P1 The “offspring” in the text under discussion cannot mean both offspring plural and offspring singular (law of contradictionlaw of excluded middle).
  • P2 The text says offspring singular.
  • C Therefore the text does not say offspring plural.

The paedobaptist simply cannot affirm Paul’s syllogism (as we see below).

I did my best to format this to make it readable.


Who was the Abe Cov’t made with? Christ (Gal. 3:19). What was the sign of this Cov’t? Circumcision. Circumcision was the OT sign of Christ.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 3h3 hours ago

I’m assuming that’s a typo and you meant Gal 3:16?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 3h3 hours ago

Riffin’ off of 19, “until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made”

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 3h3 hours ago

So, just to be clear, you would say that the promise of Gen 17:7-8 was made to Christ, not to Abraham’s children?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 3h3 hours ago

To his children, by means of the Mediator, Christ.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 3h3 hours ago

Paul’s argument in v16 rests on mutual exclusivity. Was it made to Abraham’s children (plural) or to Abraham’s child (Christ)?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 3h3 hours ago

To Christ, and through Christ to Abe’s children, or also Paul contradicts himself in Rom 4, or Moses is wrong in Gen. 17.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 3h3 hours ago

So the promise says both “and to offsprings” referring to many, and “to your offspring” (singular) referring to Christ?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 3h3 hours ago

Paul’s point is not that the promises were not to Abe’s offspring, or we’d have hundreds of false statements in the Bible, even from Paul…

.. His point is that Christ is the primary recipient of these promises, and that He is the means to all the plural offspring receiving…..

…the promises, and therefore receiving the “sign” of the promises.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 3h3 hours ago

What is Paul denying in v16? “It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many,”

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 3h3 hours ago

Not himself, God, or Moses, that’s for sure.
19h19 hours ago

What is Paul denying in v16? “It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many,”

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 2h2 hours ago

It seems clear to me that we either have to assume Paul contradicts himself, Moses contradicts himself, or that the point is that Christ …

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 2h2 hours ago

…is and always was the sole means of anyone receiving the promise.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 2h2 hours ago

It seems to me you can’t answer the question. What is Paul denying in v16? “It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many,”

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 2h2 hours ago

It is obvious he is denying plural; what is not as obvious is what he is intending to mean by this, given that he himself often uses plural.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 2h2 hours ago

Is Paul making an argument from the text of Genesis?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 2h2 hours ago

Gen 13:15 (very next verse identifies the seed as numerous as the stars and sand)

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 1h1 hour ago

What is Paul denying Genesis 13:15 says?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

I don’t think he is. In vs. 8 he quotes Gen. 22:18. I think is welding them to make the point that the plural is and always was via the….

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

…singular, Ot and NT. Ergo, Gentiles are not excluded, which was his point from ch. 2 on.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 1h1 hour ago

What text is Paul referring to when he says
“It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many,”
?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

Closest would be Gen. 22:18, though cannot be abstracted from the others and he does not specify.

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

How about I go Socratic. Do you think his point was to exclude the plural seeds from the promises expressly given to them?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

Is his point still Gentile inclusion as in tge first half of tge chapter, or has he changed his point?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

Does he call the plural seed sons but under a guardian in the same context because he is attempting to exclude them?

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 1h1 hour ago

What is Paul denying Gen 22:18 says?
“It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many,”

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

That the promises are not via Israel, such that the Gentiles need to be circumcised to recieve them. The promises, OT and NT, are via Christ

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

The Jews made themselves the door to the Gentiles. That is why Paul wrote the letter.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 1h1 hour ago

You’re not answering the ?. What is Paul denying Gen 22:18, specifically, says?
“It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many,”

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

Is his point still Gentile inclusion as in the first half of the chapter, or has he changed his point?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

Does he call the plural seed sons but under a guardian in the same context because he is attempting to exclude them?

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 1h1 hour ago

You keep jumping 15 steps ahead. Slow down. Let me help:
Paul is denying that “offspring” in Gen 22:18 is a plurality. Agree?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 1h1 hour ago

As I have said, yes.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 1h1 hour ago

So the original text of Gen 22:18 refers to a single descendant. But the text of 13:15 and 17:8 refer to a plurality of descendants. Agree?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 59m59 minutes ago

No. I think all of them are speaking of a plurality via a singular. Can’t separate Gen 22 from 12, 13, 15, and 17, & especially not Rom 4:16

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 54m54 minutes ago

So Paul is not making an argument about what the text of Genesis says?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 52m52 minutes ago

He is making an argument from Gen, taking the collective term as singular, w/out thereby excluding the plural and contradicting himself …

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 52m52 minutes ago

…and the texts from Moses.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 51m51 minutes ago

So when he denies that it is plural, he is not denying that it is plural?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 50m50 minutes ago

He is saying that the collective is summed up in the singular, who is Christ. Or he is contradicting himself and Moses.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 45m45 minutes ago

The collective is summed up in the singular, such that the two are not mutually exclusive? Text is both singular and plural?

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 43m43 minutes ago

It is, and treated as such by both Moses and Paul.

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 17m17 minutes ago

And the original point was that Gal 3:19 says the promise was made to Christ, and the children of Abraham recieved the sign of Christ.

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 16m16 minutes ago

The intricacies of how Paul uses the singular/plural is beside the point, especially since I began the argument by saying that the promise..
17h17 hours ago

…was to Christ. That was a premise of my argument. If that’s where you want to land, we are already there. The difficulty of how Paul ….

…uses a singular collective term to get there is just another discussion. We’re already there!

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 15m15 minutes ago

lol. No brother, it’s the entire point.

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 13m13 minutes ago

You’re not hearing me. I’ve granted from the start that the promise was to Christ. So, start there and make your point. I’m not willing….

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 12m12 minutes ago

…to involve Paul or Moses in contradictions in order to interpret his path to the singular, especially since it has been granted from ….

Brad Mason‏ @AlsoACarpenter 12m12 minutes ago

…the start.
17h17 hours ago

I suppose we could have this same discussion from Rom 4 which uses plural seed throughout and to much the same end.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 4m4 minutes ago

1. Paul’s argument from the grammar of singular vs plural is not “beside the point.” It is very much the point.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 4m4 minutes ago

2. “Or he is contradicting himself and Moses” Your assumptions are severely stunting your analysis.

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 4m4 minutes ago

3. In the original text, Gen 22:18 refers to a single offspring, unlike 13:15 and 17:8 https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/tb/seed_alexander.pdf and https://www.academia.edu/5312741/_Galatians_3_16_What_kind_of_exegete_was_Paul_

Brandon Adams‏ @brandon_adams 3m3 minutes ago

4. Thus Paul is making an argument about the promise to bless all nations (Christ) vs the promise of Canaan (Israel).
5. Israel and the land of Canaan are applied typologically to speak of Abe’s spiritual offspring & heaven.
17h17 hours ago

None of that is in Galatians, nor does Paul conclude that from his arguments, nor is that what he is arguing for. You have imported all …

…of that into the text. Paul is making a specific argument in those chapters, and never says any of that. It is about Jew & Gentile and…

…the place and purpose of the Law, explicitly.

At the very least, you cannot say you understand Paul’s argument if you come to completely different conclusions than does Paul.

32m32 minutes ago

1. Since you have no explanation of Paul’s line of argumentation regarding plural vs singular, you have no leg to stand on brother.

2. This is the only logical and grammatically possible explanation for Paul’s argument that has been offered 

34m34 minutes ago

3. The OT scholars I linked to who make this argument were not importing 1689 Fed. They were just reading the text.

4. All of what I said is in Galatians, and yes Paul does conclude that (see 4:21-31). Thank you for the exchange. It has been useful.

Categories: abrahamic covenant Tags:

Samuel Renihan on New Covenant Union

July 4, 2017 5 comments

In Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and Biblical Theology (found in the volume Recovering a Covenantal Heritage), Micah and Samuel Renihan explain New Covenant union with Christ.

Jesus Christ has been and always will be the federal head of the covenant of grace/New Covenant. To be federally united to him you must be 1) promised to him outside of time in the covenant of redemption and 2) brought into union with him in time by the Holy Spirit.

The Son was the one elected by the Father to win the redemption of the elect. All of this is accomplished in the New Covenant, which is the historical climax of the covenant of grace. To be in the covenant of grace/New Covenant, you must be united to Christ, its federal head.17

Since the covenant of grace is the retro-active application of the New Covenant, if we posit that Christ is the mediator of the covenant of grace, we can only understand the terms of his role as mediator, and our relation to him as such, through the way that he is presented in the New Covenant. That Christ is the mediator of the covenant of grace, the New Covenant, no Reformed theologian denies. Thus, in line with New Testament doctrine, the only way to be under Christ’s federal headship is to be united to him by the Holy Spirit. This union finds its roots outside of time as we are chosen in Christ in the covenant of redemption and is applied to the elect in time by the Spirit, begun in effectual calling and consummated in the faith of the believer. Apart from saving faith there can be no union with Christ, because the Spirit does not indwell any except the elect, those who have been justified by faith.18 Christ is the one and only federal head of the covenant of grace, the New Covenant. Federal headship is never mediate, thus none can enter the covenant other than those who are directly or immediately under his federal headship by the Holy Spirit.19

17 Cf. WLC 57-59.

18 Cf. Acts 2:38, Eph. 1:13.

19 Cf. WLC 65-69.

[…]

To bring this to a conclusion, a right understanding of the membership of the covenant of grace is founded on the covenant of redemption and the New Covenant. Those who are in the covenant of grace are those who were promised to the Son by the Father in the covenant of redemption, won by the Son’s life, death, and resurrection, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, uniting them to their federal head, Jesus Christ. Laying claim to Christ and his benefits is a serious matter, and as Scripture shows, only those who have saving faith can truly make that claim. There is no external federal relation to Jesus Christ. In terms of membership or qualification, there are no distinctions in the body of Christ, that is, the church. All are sons of God through faith, under one head, indwelt by one Spirit. “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9). In spite of the false professions, unbelief, and lies of apostates, God knows his own, Christ knows his sheep, and the Spirit of adoption knows the children of God.26 The covenant people of God are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). The glorious New Covenant does not look to the Old for its pattern and people but stands on the eternal foundation of the covenant of redemption and comes to the elect as a covenant of grace, purchased, mediated, and eternally kept by “our great God and savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people” (Titus 2:14).

26 Cf. 2 Tim. 2:19, John 10:27, Matt. 7:15-23, Rom. 8:16.

See also:

Keach on Inconsistent Congregationalists

June 24, 2017 6 comments

In the 17th century, three main reformed camps were the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, and the Baptists. The Presbyterians believed in a national church. Congregationalists believed the church consists of people who had been saved out of the world (the nation) who then gather together in congregations. No one was considered a member of the church until they had made a credible profession of saving faith and was thus admitted to the Lord’s Table. Baptists were Congregationalists who rejected infant baptism.

Keach recognized a great inconsistency in the Congregationalists. In fact, it was specifically this inconsistency that led to a controvery in New England, resulting in the Synod of 1662. The Congregationalists were faced very practically with Keach’s dilemma. They could not answer it, so they abandoned a key Congregationalist tenet and turned back towards a Presbyterian view, which did not restrict membership to those who had been called out of the world. This is known as the Half-Way Covenant.

As for our Brethren, called Congregational, I cannot tell what they mean by contending for the Practice of Pædo-Baptism, nor do I well know what their Sentiments are about it: they agree (as I do understand) with us (and other Christians,) that Baptism is an initiating Rite or Ordinance; now if their Infants are in Covenant with themselves, and are made visible Church-Members by Baptism in Infancy, and until by actual Sins they violate their Right and Privilege, abide Members thereof.

(1.) Then I would know whether they have their Names in their Church-Book, or Register, as Members? And

(2dly,) Whether they ever Excommunicate (or bring under any Church Censure) such of their Children who fall into scandalous Sins, or actual Transgressions, or not?

(3dly,) If not, what kind of polluted Churches must thir’s be, who have not purged out such corrupt Members?

The truth is, I see not how Infant Baptism is consistent with any Church State, unless it be National; and no doubt, the first Contrivers or Founders of it, devised that way for the Progress of that they call the Christian Religion, and so opened a Door, that Christ shut, when he put an end to the National Church of the Jews.—Therefore I wonder at our strict Independants, considering their Notions, (knowing how their Principles differ from; and their Understanding or Knowledge of Gospel-Church Constitution exceeds others) for Baptism does not initiate into their Churches, it seems by their Practice; unless their Children, when baptized, were thereby made Members with them.

Keach, B. (1693). Sermon III. In The Ax Laid to the Root, Parts I & II (Vol. 2, p. 34). London: John Harris.

(Note that modern Presbyterians, in abandoning the national church model, have followed largely in the path of Congregationalism)