A 'Baptist Hermeneutic'?

Discussion in 'Credo-Baptism Answers' started by Kaalvenist, Nov 12, 2008.

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  1. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    Many that I've read or heard from the Reformed Baptist camp these days argue and emphasize that Jeremiah 31 (and Hebrews 8), the nature of the new covenant, regenerate church membership, etc. are the strongest points in defense of credobaptism vs. paedobaptism. For example, the book "Covenant Theology from Adam to Christ" features two works -- an early baptistic book by Nehemiah Coxe, and John Owen's commentary on Hebrews 8, arguing for regenerate church membership. In fact, John Owen's commentary on that chapter, and related passages in Hebrews, seems to be frequently appealed to by Reformed Baptists in defense of their principles. I've discovered what could possibly be a problem in such argumentation, however:

    John Owen was a Paedobaptist.

    The early Independents, such as John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, Joseph Caryl, Cotton Mather, and others, maintained regenerate church membership, as distinguished from the "mixed multitude" view of the Presbyterians; but they did not understand that to vitiate their adherence to infant church membership and baptism. It seems that to maintain credobaptism, one must maintain a hermeneutic divergent from the Independents and other Reformed Paedobaptists -- that is, that such a principle (regenerate church membership) ought to be applied to the infant children of believers, so as to exclude them from church membership and baptism. I personally have come to regard the question of regenerate church membership, and the interpretation of Hebrews 8, as almost inconsequential, in comparison with this point: whether or not this "Baptist hermeneutic" is biblical.

    Has anyone from the Baptist camp ever dealt with this more foundational question, whether in writing, preaching, etc.?
  2. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Just a point of clarification - John Owen's covenant theology and doctrine of the church is very similar to the Reformed Baptist position. The traditional paedobaptist position is closer to Witsius and Samuel Rutherford.
  3. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Another thing - you will notice in the book "covenant Theology from Adam to Christ" that Coxe was going to write on the New Covenant after he had written on the covenants from Adam to Abraham. However he regarded John Owen's work on Hebrews so highly, that he felt he had no need to write further. Hence I think it appropriate that Coxe's and Owen's section on the new covenant were put together in one book.
  4. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    Your first post makes an excellent point that it would do many Baptists well to digest. Exclusively regenerate church membership is perfectly compatible with paedobaptism, if one can presume the regeneration of the infant in question.
  5. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    I know. The early Independents and the early English Calvinistic Baptists both maintained regenerate church membership, but only the Baptists concluded from thence the exclusion of infants from baptism. I am simply saying that, because of this state of things, it doesn't do the Baptist much good to defend their exclusive credobaptism by simply arguing for regenerate church membership, without likewise arguing for their unique hermeneutic, since other Paedobaptists have maintained regenerate church membership without altering their commitment to paedobaptism in the slightest. Are there any Baptist works out there that defend this hermeneutic?
  6. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    Or if one believes that such "rules" ought to be applied to adults, and not to infants -- 2 Thess. 3:10 has often been cited in this regard.
  7. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    The point of the book "Covenant Theology From Adam To Christ", by Coxe and Owen is to demonstrate that "it is very possible, even requisite, to formulate an exegetically based Covenant Theology that upholds the centrality and continuity of God's plan of redemption through the ages without falling into the deduction that infant baptism must attend that doctrine." (From the introduction, pg.2)

    It is not a defense of credobaptism, per se, nor is it a textbook on the 'baptist hermeneutic'.

    As for your 'foundational question', I don't understand what it is. Could you state the question directly?
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    If the foundational question is about regenerate church membership and whether or not it is biblical then practically any Baptist polemic on the proper subjects of baptism will necessarily address the topic. It goes without saying that from the Presbyterian point of view that this hermeneutic is regarded as unbiblical, just as Presbyterian practice on the mode and subjects of baptism is regarded as unbiblical by Baptists.
  9. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    Actually, that's exactly what I'm saying is NOT the foundational question.

    The foundational or fundamental question at odds between Paedobaptists and Credobaptists is not regenerate church membership. This is demonstrated by the fact that the early Independents (Owen, Goodwin, et al.) maintained regenerate church membership, while they also argued vociferously for paedobaptism.

    Therefore, the fundamental question is not the interpretation of Hebrews 8 or related passages -- since this is only adduced to prove regenerate church membership, and therefore falls foul of the previous objection.

    The fundamental question is the hermeneutic one employs. If one comes to the conclusion of regenerate church membership (I haven't, but just supposing), should that conclusion be applied to infant children? Is regeneration (or evidence thereof) simply a requirement for adults capable of making a profession of faith; or is it in fact a sine qua non of church membership, to be rigorously applied to everyone we might suggest ought to be members of the church, including the infant children of believers?

    Or, to put it another way: Paedobaptists generally believe that we ought to be guided by different rules of receiving members into the church, regarding either adults or infants. Credobaptists believe that the exact same rules guide the reception of both; and because infants cannot perform what is required of adults, they are thereby excluded.

    It is this principle which I am terming "the Baptist hermeneutic," because it seems to be the fundamental point at odds between Paedobaptists and Credobaptist: not whether Hebrews 8 teaches regenerate church membership, but whether that is even relevant to the case of the infant children of believers, as such... whether regenerate church membership should be understood and interpreted (that's the hermeneutic) so as to inferentially exclude infants from being church members, and receiving the sign of being received into church membership (baptism).

    Does anyone know of any Baptist work that treats of this point?
  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor


    How do the Independents differ from the Presbyterians on this issue? Is it simply the use of the term regenerate church membership? Unfortunately I'm not familiar with the views of the Independents and how they differed from the Presbyterians other than that they favored independency. Is it perhaps that they looked for some evidence of conversion before one became a communicant member and the Presbyterians of the day did not necessarily require that?

    To get back to your question, based on what you have written above I think the difference would be that the "Baptist hermeneutic" sees no Biblical justification for a two tiered membership i.e. communicant and non-communicant members.
  11. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Baptists do not rely exclusively upon Heb 8 for their convicions concerning 'regenerate church membership'.
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