A summary of where I am at on Covenant Theology

Discussion in 'Covenant Theology' started by Pergamum, Jul 15, 2017.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    If you've been keeping track of the posts on the PB these two weeks you've probably noticed that I've been posting lots of questions on Covenant Theology lately.

    The reason why is this:

    I am a Reformed Baptist. But many Reformed Baptists have told me that (1) I should adopt 1689 Federalism. And (2) I've had several folks this past year call me a "deepwater Presbyterian" or my theology as "immersed presbyterianism." And some have said that (3) my current set of beliefs is inconsistent as a baptist. Finally, (4) I had one person tell me that 1689 Federalism was THE baptist position and there were not other ways to interpret the data from a baptist perspective.

    Presently if the 1689 Federalism position is THE consistent baptist position I need to rethink being a baptist. If this is where it leads, then it seems to (1) stress the discontinuity of the OT and NT too much, (2) make the OT primarily about physical things and physical peoples and not primarily spiritual realities which culminate in Christ.

    Here are my current beliefs (as a Reformed Baptist):

    -The Bible is one book, of primarily spiritual things. It is not about natural things, or natural promises.

    -Following Adam's Fall into sin, the Covenant of Grace was immediately revealed to Adam in Gen. 3:15.

    - All OT believers participate in the Covenant of Grace. It is an active reality because people were being saved by it, even in the OT.

    -The Covenant of Grace does not equal the New Covenant. The New Covenant is the culmination of the Covenant of Grace. Those OT "covenants of promise" were also part of the Covenant of Grace in that their chief purpose was to point to Christ and not to deal with some physical tribe of people.

    - The Mosaic Covenant was not merely a "ministration of death" but merely so due to unbelief. It also contained gracious promises and types of Christ. There was grace in the law.

    -This Covenant of Grace is one covenant with many different dispensations, which all point primarily to Christ and culminate in the New Covenant. Eph 2:12 calls these the "covenants of promise" and therefore, are not primarily about the physical nation of Israel but the Promise of Christ, the True Israel, into which all of God's people are incorporated into.

    -God doesn't have two people, a physical seed and a spiritual seed. God had Israel. Believing Gentiles were grafted in; unbelieving Jews were cut off. But though there are different types of branches, it is all one tree. God's OT promises dealt with this one Israel, we cannot divide up the promises into physical and spiritual Israel.

    -Galatians 4 is not contrasting Sara and Hagar with some supposed covenant with Hagar, but is contrasting the Abrahamic Covenant with the Mosaic? (I need more help on this issue).

    - The signs of the covenant which place a person into the external administration of the covenant are not guarantees of salvation. Thus we cannot baptize only saved people. We only baptize those, to the best of our knowledge, our actually in the internal administration of the Covenant (IN Christ). Presbyterians trust that the general promises to the children of believers is enough while baptists also want to see actual professed faith. I do agree that there is, in fact, a general promise to the children of believers.

    Now for some questions:

    What else am I missing? Where am I wrong?

    Can I be a consistent baptist with my beliefs above?

    Is there another possible position as a baptist without adopting 1689 Federalism?
  2. BG

    BG Puritan Board Junior

    It sounds to me like you are becoming a Presbyterian
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  3. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I would agree. The main points of paedo-baptism are all there, especially the points about not needing to have a credible profession for baptism, and the unity of the various administrations of the covenant of grace. The only thing missing for you to become a paedo is a recognition that baptism replaces circumcision, and the last plank falls into place. This depends on the exegesis of Romans 4 and Colossians 2, which ought to be your next step.
  4. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Actually one thing is a bit confusing about your points. What do you mean by internal administration? Usually people talk about external adminstration or internal substance.
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I guess I mean external administration and internal substance. Unbelievers who are false professors and baptist in baptist churches who are members but really not saved are "in" or "under" the external administration of the Covenant of Grace (the preaching and sacraments) but are not "In" the Covenant truly for they are not "in" Christ.

    If I do believe that baptism replaces circumcision why can't I be a baptist? If the New Covenant is better than it will be purer and not just anyone with a Christian family can gain the signs of the covenant but only those who also profess.

    What do Reformed Baptists believe about baptism replacing circumcision? The OT physical types had NT spiritual fulfillments right? So if baptism replaces circumcision, we would have a physical type replaced by a physical sacrament instead of pointing to a spiritual reality? This is not advancement. Instead, it seem circumcision of the flesh was to typify circumcision of the heart that the True Israel of God possess. Don't Presbyterians believe this also, though? What am I missing? Perhaps this is not so much a replacement but an analagous relationship between circumcision and baptism?
  6. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    What paedos believe is that circumcision and baptism both work in exactly the same way. Both are physical signs pointing to spiritual realities. The only difference is a redemptive-historical one between a bloody prefiguring sign and a bloodless post-figuring sign. While it is perfectly true to claim that the NT covenant of grace is purer, that does not exclude children from the administration of the CoG. Jesus said that the kingdom of God (I take this to mean both subtance and administration, as it can mean either salvation or access to the means of salvation) belonged to infants. That is the word used, not even small children. If the kingdom of God belongs to children, then on what basis could the sign of the administration of the CoG be refused to them? It is possible for even infants to be regenerated (John the Baptist, for instance, seems to have been regenerated from the womb). If baptism need not be tied to a profession of faith, then it is tied to covenantal promises. The parents make the profession of their own faith as a belief in the covenantal promises of God.

    The ultimate juggernaut argument for the paedos is the position of children regarding the covenant. There is no indication that children have suddenly become completely detached from the covenant. And as Calvin woukd argue, if baptism works the same way as circumcision, then any argument used against infant baptism would also have to be levelled against infant circumcision.
  7. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    If you believe baptism replaces circumcision, then you ought to be at the place that you believe in infant baptism. For Abraham it was believer's circumcision, but for his sons it was infant circumcision. If baptism replaces circumcision, how can you deny that the sign should thus be given to infants?
  8. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The two biggest issues for you would appear to be those involving just how much of a continuity there are between the Old and new Covenants, and just how much of the Old Covenant promises were a mixture of the physical and the spiritual blessings from God, as how much of them were conditional and unconditional in nature and application.
    Based upon your posting here, would suggest that you go to the logical conclusion and become a Presbyterian Christian, as their understanding on these issues are much closer to yours now then Baptist ones would now be.
  9. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Just for clarification, you seem to have skipped a step in the presentation of your reasoning. Circumcision was given to male infants so baptism should be given to male and female infants?
  10. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Does water baptism now correspond to the circumcision of infants though?
  11. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I do not presume to answer for Jon, but the usual answer given by Presbyterians to this question is that the promises have expanded in scope in the NT. Just as the outward administration is no longer limited to Israel but now includes Gentiles, so also the sign is not given only to the males but also now to the females. Of course, females were included under the sign in the OT by virtue of male headship in the home.

    This is, indeed, how Presbyterians would interpret Colossians 2 and Romans 4.
  12. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    What Scriptures do they use or it by necessary consequence of their understanding of CT?
  13. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Ken, it would definitely be "good and necessary consequence."
  14. Timotheos

    Timotheos Puritan Board Freshman


    Here is an observation. Take it or leave it.

    You're definitely in study mode. That's a good thing. Don't ever stop. And inquire from guys who know this stuff, as you've been doing here. I've not been in the 1689 federal camp very long, so I'm still sorting myself out as well.

    However, I am not trying to learn about it from hacks like me. I'm going to modern scholars and the particular baptists themselves. Don't just read Denault, although that is a good place to start. Read the Coxe/Owen book. RBAP has a lot of good stuff. Founders or Free Grace Press as well. From there, you can springboard into many great resources.

    My point, do more research. Base your decision (which is a serious one) on more than just the interaction and exchanges here. Read multiple view points. I just finished Horton's book on CT. Now I'm on to Recovering a Covenantal Heritage. That has helped me go to other sources (journals and books) that I plan to continue to read. It has even given me a dissertation idea, should I decide to make this my area of focus.
  15. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    Just join the darkside of the consensus of the Church Catholic ;)
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  16. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Sophomore

    I just read the whole thread and think we should rename it - Pergamum’s Progress

    Also, thanks to Rev. Keister (greenbaggins) for his smilling face. He almost always brings a smile to mine.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
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  17. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Well. both you and I have had some considerable changes in how we view theology since we first started interacting. and seems that our brother is on his way now also.
  18. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Both Baptists and Presbyterians are forced into their views regarding both the church and water baptism due to our views regarding just how to implement Covenant theology from the perspective of the scriptures.
  19. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Puritan Board Junior

    Ed wisely suggested you should go on Pergamum's Progress :D To help you on this journey I would suggest a careful reading of these books:
    1. The Divine Covenants by AW Pink. I think Pink wisely navigates a helpful path for a Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and was aware of old debates among the early Particular Baptists.
    2. Recovering a Covenantal Heritage: Essays in Baptist Covenant Theology. This has an indepth coverage of key issues from a 1689 Federalism position.

    Both books nicely compliment each other.
  20. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    I am not forced into a view based upon a perspective of a certain view of Covenant Theology or Ecclesiology. I am personally forced into my understanding based upon the Whole Counsel of God. That means the Holy Bible is my guide. Not a view of Covenant Theology. I have gained a lot of ground through the years when I have compared Scripture with Scripture and allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. Just a heads up. I don't agree with you.
  21. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Randy, I think he was referring to the Reformed paedobaptist's conclusion that baptism includes female as well as male infants because of good and necessary cosequence. Maybe I am not understanding him.

    I do not think the credobaptist must use good and necessary consequence in regards to the gender of baptism recipients.
  22. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    How did my answer not answer either accusation(question mark).
  23. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    As an old Reformed Baptist who became Reformed years ago I understand how things have been abrogated due to fulfillment and how things have been implemented due to fulfillment.
  24. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    I was not accusing you of anything. I thought I was trying to clear up a misunderstanding where there was no misunderstanding. My bad.
  25. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Now you are revealing how bad grammar has ruled the day. LOL. Just picking on you.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
  26. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Moderator

    Perg, for what it's worth, your understanding that the sacraments are "covenant signs" is also at odds with 1689. The authors carefully removed any specific mention of "covenant" from those chapters on the sacraments for a reason (compare to the 1646 WCF). It's interesting that John Gill didn't even view baptism as a sign of visible church membership, but something to be done based upon an individual's profession of faith, and was a prerequisite before he could even seek to join a church. I don't know how modern Baptist scholars deal with those issues. But for 1689, the sacraments are not covenant signs and seals but ordinances for beleivers. Others please correct me if I am misreading the situation.
  27. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    No argument from a 30 year RB hear. Good question.
  28. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    They are signs, but not seals.

    LBC Capter 29

    Paragraph 1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him;3 of remission of sins;4 and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.5
  29. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Also the 1644 says...

    To this Church He has made His promises, and given the signs of His Covenant, presence, love, blessing, and protection...

    Particular Baptists were pretty consistent with their rejection of the idea of a seal.
  30. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Freshman

    I have long been hesitant to join this august board, feeling I had nothing constructive to add, but felt the need to jump in for this one. Pergamum: your summary in the first post describes accurately what we baptists believe in my corner of the Reformed Baptist world. I don't know what 1689 federalism is, but if it's different than your summary, we don't hold to it.
    I would say we are as close as to Presbyterians as can be, save that we differ in church polity, and we differ in who are the proper recipients of baptism.
    Simply to state our position (knowing this is not the place for a baptism debate), we believe that in the New Covenant (which as has been pointed out is an administration of the CoG, just like the Old Covenant was), only those who are regenerate are in covenant with God. In the Old Covenant you were a member by physical birth, but that did not assure salvation--the OC had among them as visible members both the regenerate and the un-. In the New Covenant you are member ONLY by the New Birth, which is one of the Better Promises on which the NC is founded--all who are in covenant with God know Him savingly, and it is a covenant that cannot be broken, which the old one could.
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