Paedo-Baptism Answers Critique of Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and Biblical Theology (Renihan)

Discussion in 'Paedo-Baptism Answers' started by Stephen L Smith, Jan 1, 2020.

  1. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    @RPEphesian @timfost and other paedobaptist friends

    Following on from a similar thread, I thought I would start a fresh thread because I have been interested in this article for some time. Dr Sam Renihan and his brother Micah presented this essay few years ago at the Westminster Seminary (Cal). It is unique because it links Covenant Theology, Biblical (Historic-Redemptive) Theology together with the Abrahamic covenant etc and basically follows the argument of the 1689 Baptist Confession 7:2 and 7:3.

    I am open to a paedobaptist critique. If you have not seen this before it may be wise to read it 3-4 times before responding because the essay packs a lot of theology into each paragraph! It is a theologically serious essay.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2020
  2. Timotheos

    Timotheos Puritan Board Freshman

    I've always thought that this was one of the best presentations of 1689 federalism.
  3. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    @Stephen L Smith ,

    Just wanted to let you know that I read the article. I have a number of things to say about it but will need to find some time to do so.

    Thank you for sharing and hopefully I'll be able to comment in the near future.
  4. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    @Stephen L Smith

    I admit, being asked to review an essay like Renihan's is a bit daunting. Both these men are far better read than me and know more than me. High respect is due to them for their learning and service. I'll probably look goofy, saying that, to try and comment anyway. For what limited time I have, here are my thoughts.

    In one part, I feel as though if you work on the questions in the other thread, some of this will come into focus. So I still encourage you to think through those questions.

    I actually read this essay maybe two years ago now. They start off by saying the AC is primarily in reference to national and temporary promises, and that is the significance of circumcision--but does that even make sense in light of the New Testament data, when the clearest referent of the rite is the righteousness of Christ received by faith? Isn't that the substance of the Covenant of Grace, that those who believe on Christ will receive His righteousness? Didn't circumcision preach righteousness by faith to Abraham? Didn't the Spirit use it to confirm Abraham's faith like baptism ought to do for the true believer? That's exactly what the Household Baptist camp calls "administration." I kinda feel like the 1689 Federalist needs to both try to keep this word and get rid of it. They don't want to call the AC an administration, yet it still needs to be admitted that salvation is being delivered through it. Calling it types and shadows doesn't help. the Paedo agrees. They are not Christ. Yet Christ is delivered through them.

    And if that's the significance of the sign, does it make sense to say that the substance of the AC is merely national and physical, and that the relationship is merely external, when God has become Abraham's God through Christ, and when the New Testament says that by Abraham's acts of faith he became a friend of God?

    But suppose that we can say that the CG is the NC, and not the AC, and that the NC is retroactively applied, and let's suppose that the AC and Mosaic are all primarily temporary and physical... isn't the AC still the channel through which the NC blessings are coming to the elect who lived before Christ? Isn't that still administration? And can't we still say that this is the primary purpose of the AC--as the means to draw in the elect? And if the Covenant of Redemption is driving this all, isn't that more reason to say that the words "God to you and your offspring after you" do not have primary reference to physical seed in external relationship to God; but rather inward and spiritual?

    Then can't we go a little higher and say that what God has in view with the land, the children, the victories, the cities, the ordinances, the sacrifices, the circumcision, the passover, the Levitical priesthood, triumph over physical enemies and rest on every side--that through all of these, God meant to use those to draw in and confirm the faith of the elect at that time? Isn't that still administration?

    The ultimate things accomplished in the elect before Christ are not physical and external, but spiritual and inward. That view alone seems to reach the height of the purpose of the CoR.

    The more I think about this, the much less threatened I think the Paedo view is by the idea that the CG is just the NC retroactively applied.

    (I may have just discovered to myself why well-studied paedobaptists feel no threat from John Owen's Covenant Theology)

    They say of the New Covenant, "the parties of the New Covenant are no other than God and Christ, and the elect in Him." This has never been an issue for the Household Baptist.

    Q 31. With whom was the Covenant of Grace made?
    The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the Second Adam, and in Him with all the elect as His seed.

    The Standards acknowledge in Question 61 the visible church is all who profess the true religion, along with their children, but the invisible church in Q 64--the true church--are the elect in every age. The WLC is also clear that not one redemptive benefit is owed to a member of the visible, whether professors or their children, but they only go to members of the true church, the elect, at the time they believe.

    As for the idea that you essentially silo the covenants and their terms from one another, forgive my parroting... Romans 11 :). Whether the AC and NC are both the CG, or the NC is the CG applied retro, the NC era saints come into the olive tree of the Jews. There isn't a new tree altogether, and there's not an altered membership structure.

    As for the ending quote by Hodge, I really do wish the Baptist brothers would stop trying to use quotes by Paedobaptists to make it look like we have an unsettled anxiety about our position. Seems like in almost half of all credobaptist polemics you also get infamous BB Warfield quote about how we essentially admit we have no NT proof for our position. I'm more settled on the Scriptural grounds of this position than I was of credobaptism. Seriously, the image painted by hashing up these quotes and then ramming paedobaptist quotes against each other like we agree on nothing just does not accord with reality.

    I'll probably find my thoughts incomplete upon review, but I've written with what time I've had. It's good to be stretched on this a few times over. God bless your studies.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
  5. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    This short reply may be the extent to which I can interact with the article. I'll try to be succinct.

    1. The Renihan brothers tread a fine line on defining what the three OT covenants were in relation to the CoG. They want to deny that these covenants were administrations of the CoG but maintain that they were "a Covenant of Grace" (omitting the definite article). If it was a CoG but not the CoG, we necessarily have two Covenants of Grace. In fact, some of their argumentation for this resembles that of Tobias Crisp in his defence for two Covenants of Grace. Their careful definitions, I don't believe, get them out of this conundrum.

    2. Many of the errors in this document proceed from separating the AC from the CoG. For example, they accentuate the differences between OC and NC, specifically focusing on the NC spiritual aspects and relating it back to the CoR to show it's superiority. I'm not denying the superiority if the NC, but not for their reasons. In separating the OC from the CoG, they are able to focus on the external aspects which bolsters their contrast to the NC. They do this while disregarding a) OT facts surrounding the OT household and b) NT reaffirmation of Abraham's role in the NC. (More below.)

    3. They focus the AC on his "offspring." This explicitly denies both OT and NT data. First, Abraham's household received circumcision. The majority of them were slaves, not offspring. Second, the NT doesn't abrogate the AC, but further establishes it. "Many nations" it not a NT spiritualizing of the OT data, but quite literally requoting Gen. 17. If only physical offspring was in view in Genesis, "many nations" wouldn't even make sense. Hebrews 2:17 says, "For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham." Who is this seed? The household of Abraham (Rom. 4:11-16). The land promises of the MC are not so inseparably intertwined with the AC that the abrogation of the MC also abrogated the AC. Scripture is clear in this regard.

    4. By separating both OC and NC, they make the case for only looking to the NT for understanding the NC through its own "covenant-canon." Again, their separation is contrary to scriptural data that establishes the AC as perpetual. Circumcision was always a physical sign that spoke to a spiritual reality (see Deut. 10:16, 30:6, Rom. 2:29, etc.). Every attempt to make the OC physical and to physical offspring is contradicted by data from both testaments.

    5. Linking the AC with land promises is a classic Baptist blunder, at least in the regular construction. Abraham had eight sons, but only one son through promise. The land promise was not extended to seven of his circumcised sons. But are land promises only pertinent to OC believers? No! Both OT and NT establish that the "meek will inherit the earth" (Psalm 37:11, Matt. 5:5).
    I believe when these points are considered, the article quickly implodes. I hope this helps...

    Blessings on your studies!
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2020
  6. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you Jake for your insightful and gentle response. I'll make a few responses, questions and 'disagreements' but I mean it in the context of wanting to learn and theologically stretching myself.
    Jake, make reference to NT data. You may be aware there is a Credobaptist questions thread going now. They will say to you if you want to talk about NT data, the NT consistently links baptism to repentance and faith. In other words the NT order appears to be repent and believe the gospel, take the righteousness of Christ received by faith THEN be baptised. In other words I am not sure what your argument is trying to achieve.
    You are right. The 1689 Federalists do not like the word administration which can make their argument confusing. I also think it weakens their argument that they are Reformed.
    Yes, I am wondering if this is where Paedobaptists understand a truth better than Baptists - the visible invisible church distinction. Baptists aim to have a 'pure' church and baptise only believers. In reality they do not have a pure church as no pastor can infallibly know the heart.
    I looked at this passage carefully because my dispensational family use it to defend their view of a future for national Israel. But when I look carefully at the passage it has all to do with sovereign election not national identity as such. Eg, foreknew v11 (cf foreknew 8:29); "a remnant according to God's gracious election" v5; God's choice v 28 etc [all from NASB]. So should not the one olive tree be understood in the broader sense of God's electing choice, not 'believers and their seed'. Note: I am not seeking to debate, just trying to work this out. I did wonder if one needs to consider Rom 9:6ff as basically arguing for the visible invisible church distinction.
    Thank you again for your encouragement. I admit I have been going 'back and forth' in my arguments. Its just that I am trying to think things through.
  7. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I understand all 1689 Federalists argue there is ONE CoG running through the whole Bible. Because they don't like the word administration, this is what causes the confusion I think.
    Tim, a Baptist would ask how you establish this argument. Looking at Heb 2:17 in context, the seed of Abraham are the elect, believers, those whom Christ has made a propitiation for their sins etc. Baptists say that if one considers the superiority of the New Covenant, the seed of Abraham are believers. I guess I am trying to get my head around the historic-redemptive significance of this.
    Thanks for the encouragement. I am trying to make these comments, not with an attitude of debate, but with a willingness to learn.
  8. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Be sure I don't doubt your willingness to learn. It's a big subject. So much to write, and my thoughts again are probably not as full as they can be. But here goes.

    You said to give data from the NT. The credo idea is that we don't get our data from the NT, but the OT. I'll take a moment to prove this isn't the case. But let me illustrate my point about circumcision by analyzing the logic that both systems use:

    Baptism is a spiritual sign of blessings in Christ (Romans 6) ->
    Spiritual signs can only go to those who possess the signified reality ->
    Therefore, the sign does not go to infants who have not professed

    Circumcision is a spiritual sign of blessings in Christ (Romans 4:11, Col 2:10) ->
    Spiritual signs can only go to those who possess the signified reality ->
    Therefore, the sign does not go to infants who have not professed

    My argument is that the same grounds on which baptism is denied to infants would also deny it to Ishmael and Esau. To get around this, in order for Baptist theology to work then circumcision must be primarily about temporary land and promises. And I am saying, the New Testament itself does not support this view of circumcision or the Abrahamic Covenant.

    Thus the appeal to the spiritual nature of baptism does nothing for the credobaptist argument.

    New Testament priority?
    Credobaptist: The Old interprets the New -> Hebrews 8 interprets the Old Testament -> Therefore the Old Covenant is carnal and temporary, but the New is spiritual

    Paedobaptist: The Old interprets the New -> Romans 4:11 and Colossians 2:10 interpret the meaning of circumcision -> Therefore the significance of circumcision is spiritual and not carnal

    Yet in the Baptist arguments, despite using the same method of interpretation, it will be insisted that circumcision is physical and carnal in significance.

    Argued another way:
    In the New Testament we see that faith and repentance preceded baptism ->
    Therefore, only those who believe and repent are baptized.

    Problem: Faith and repentance also preceded the circumcision of Abraham, and he would not have been circumcised were it proven by his life and conduct that he were an impenitent man.
    Proof: Romans 4:11 says it was given to Abraham as a sign and seal to him. Sign = it preaches Christ's righteousness by faith. Seal = Used by the Spirit to assure him that he possesses the reality.

    The Baptist says you start with New Testament baptism. I do the same: I see baptisms of faith and repentance, and I also see baptisms of entire households. At this point the Baptist will dive into an Old Testament passage to prove that no children were baptized--Hebrews 8, which is just Jeremiah 31 in Greek.

    For a sample of just how much the New Testament actually plays in the view of a Household Baptist:

    • The Baptist says that if you start with the New Testament you will we are in an absolutely different covenant per Hebrews 8. If I start with the New Testament, I will get a different conclusion. Hebrews 8 and 2 Corinthians 3 speaks of the Mosaic as discontinued, but Hebrews 6, Romans 11 and the book of Galatians 3 speak of the Abrahamic not as discontinued but as delivered and continuing.
    • The Baptist says that if you start with the NT you will see that we are a distinct people from the Jews. I start with the NT, and there is Romans 11. [The olive tree can't be referring to the elect - How are elect persons getting cut off?]
    • The Baptist starts with the NT and practically denies a visible/invisible distinction and states that no unbeliever is part of the church, visible or invisible. I start with the NT, and I see threats In Hebrews of a curse against those who apostatize who, at the time of writing, are spoken of as though they belonged to the church. And I agree with you--Romans 9 gives a visible/invisible distinction. It also means the distinction existed in the AC, thus the visible/invisible is nothing new to the NT.
    • The Baptist says if you start with the NT, you see that Israel was physical and temporary. I start with the NT, I see in Romans 11 they share the same source of life as the NT church--Christ. I see in 1 Corinthians 10 the head and guide and lifegiver of Israel was Christ. And the New Testament comments on circumcision militate against such a conclusion.
    • The Baptist says if you start with the NT that you will see that there are no covenant blessings for the children of believers. Yet go to the Gospels and see Christ putting his hands on infants (brephos) and blessing--not just praying--for them. Christ cannot just be praying for them, but is doing something the disciples could not.
    • The Baptist says to start with the NT and you will see that baptism is a spiritual sign with spiritual significance, and signatory of savings graces, and the nature of it demands it cannot go to someone who has not professed. I start with the NT, do a study of circumcision, and see that circumcision is a spiritual sign signatory of spiritual benefits as well. So I argue, if the spiritual nature of baptism means it should not be given to infants, then circumcision should not have been given to Ishmael.
    I could probably do much more. All this to prove, the NT is critical to the Paedo position, and provides the basis of our understanding of Old and New. Of course, it will be said that almost none of these passages mention baptism. Yet still, the Credobaptist still does a lot of work to make sure these theological aspects fit their theological structure. Which I think amounts to an admittance that their ramifications cannot be ignored in the discussion.

    But I've noticed something strange about the Baptist argument. On one hand the Credobaptist materials will say we go to the Old Testament because we know we don't have any New Testament support, but when they quote our arguments from the New Testament it gets explained as though we are just clutching at straws and stringing together uncoordinated pearls. Not everyone does that. But if you read some works on the subject or listen to some classic Sunday School materials that is really what you will hear.

    I've browsed the thread referenced, and it's obvious the brothers are Scripturally conscientious in their conclusions. Though, reading through the reasons listed for ultimately settling on exclusive Credobaptism, none of them move me.

    It's been said there by a few that they tried to become paedobaptists and just couldn't because the Scriptural data didn't permit it. I became a paedobaptist when I wasn't really looking to change. In fact I did much more to fight inclination to change. The New Testament nearly threw the view on me all at once when I took just a cursory glance at Romans 11 for my routine morning devotions. I was intentional that the Scriptures and not tradition would be my determinant. My wife and I earnestly prayed and searched the Scriptures, and before deciding I probably read more Credobaptist materials than Paedobaptist. The time spent in Scripture, far as I remember, excelled the reading of either. Scripture was our final authority, and on the authority of Scripture and on the authority of the New Testament we changed.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2020
  9. RickG

    RickG Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for this discussion. I'm finding it most helpful. I will be re-reading this over several times to let these thoughts sink in. Very useful.
  10. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior


    Again, thank you for this discussion. In responding, I'm not seeking to be combative in any way. In fact, I find the tone here even edifying, which is why I'm comfortable with this discussion on the Lord's Day. Whichever way you go in the end on this issue, I'm hoping that the whole conversation sharpens everyone involved.

    I do understand. I think the article did a decent job connecting the OC to the CoG, but I'm not sure if it ever really stated what the OC was. Perhaps I've missed it. If so, please let me know so that I can accurately understand this position.

    We agree that the seed is the elect. Profession itself does not make one elect, and neither does being of a household of faith. Profession is an external and visible indicator that one is a regenerate elect person. It may not depict reality as we've all seen those with a profession fall away as we've also seen baptized babies grow up and leave the faith. Likewise, belonging to a household of professing believers is an external and visible indicator of belonging to the church, which is the elect of God.

    When Paul (Col. 3:12) or Peter (1 Pet. 1:2) refers to the church as the elect, did this mean that every person to whom they spoke was elect? No! Without rehashing external/internal distinctions, I want to point you to the fact that we always look at external/visible indicators to try to understand internal/invisible realities. The Credo has taken an external profession as the ultimate indicator of one's inclusion in the NC, and neglected the other external indicator of the household (unless all members of the household are of age to profess). This is a theological leap and fails to see the continuity of the OT/NT household, in which the qualifications for inclusion were never abrogated under the NC but further established.

    Let's face it-- both positions look to something external to place one within the visible church. Both positions sometimes call someone elect when in reality they may not be. But, as I understand it, Credos do not have a comprehensive theology that accounts for the visible/external and in this failure have an over-realized eschatology that cannot account for tares among the wheat.

    The seed of Abraham are the elect as we both agree, but those who we call elect (the church) are not all individually elect. How can we get around this dilemma without internal/external distinctions?

    I hope this is helpful... Please let me know if I can further clarify.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
  11. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I can say a hearty Amen to that.
    I think you are right. The fact that the 1689 Federalist wants to use Reformed language, yet they want to deny the term 'administration of the covenant of grace' (they seem to think this gives too much ground to the paedobaptist!!) is what causes the confusion. I don;t think the confusion is on your end.
    Yes. I think you are right. I think the complexity of this arises from the argument of the Reformed Baptist that one cannot be both in the C of W and the C of G. The argument is that the non elect will always be in the C of W, and (their argument goes) it is wrong to put infants into the C of G in any sense without clear evidence of a true profession of faith. This appears to me to be where the debate lies. In other words, for the Reformed Baptist, if someone makes a profession of faith, is Baptised as a believer, but later rejects the truth, that is proof he was always in the C of W.
    Tim, I can understand this is a theological leap. I probably need to reflect more on the Household concept. Thank you again for your insights.
  12. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hello Stephen & friends,

    I was pleased to see this thread—and will read the essay— and comment on it.

    What brought me to this forum was to ask if anyone has read Pascal Denault's, The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology (which is big at the 1689 Fed site), and knew of a published critique of it?
  13. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Must be something about our profession. The discussion about Baptism can be a little taxing. ;)
    This may be an opportune time to discuss Rom 4:11. You said earlier you were considering discussing it. What is the significance of this verse for a Paedobaptist covenant theology vs. a Baptist covenant theology?
    Yes, I acknowledge I have not really been convinced by the Baptist responses to the apostasy passages.
    Important point. Yes, if Christ was a Baptist He would pray for them, not bless them!
    That reminds me, I was recently reading Eph 6:1 "Children, obey your parents in the Lord," and thought to myself that language sounds very covenantal. No evidence the children had repented and believed, yet they were to obey their parents in the Lord.
  14. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Please do. Would appreciate your insights.
  15. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    That was a key verse for me. I wasn’t really looking to decide on paedobaptism but I saw without wanting or meaning to that the children of the church were addressed as members of the church. Things began to click.
  16. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Could you expand this please?
  17. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Just another thought Tim @timfost and Jake @RPEphesian . I know the apostasy passages in Heb 6 and 10 are key passages in this discussion. I see a new commentary on Hebrews by Charles Hodge has just been published by Banner of Truth. Hodge is esteemed for his balanced exegesis, combined with good theology and rich pastoral application. I wonder how he handles these passages?
  18. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    I wrote this a couple years ago on a related thread and it seems relevant:

    Many Epistles address the household clearly as wives and husbands, slaves and children (see Eph., Col., 1 Pet.). If children were not included in the household, why would they be addressed as saints ("To the saints who are in Ephesus...", "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse...", "To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father...")?
  19. Regi Addictissimus

    Regi Addictissimus Completely sold out to the King

    The new Hoge is not an actual commentary. It contains exegetical lectures and sermons. As Hebrews is my favorite portion of Scripture to study, and I hope to do work in it eventually, I collect commentaries on it. If you give me some time, I will share what a few commentators have written on these verses.
  20. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I think you're catching the picture--the NT is not so indubitably in the Baptist camp as portrayed. And certain passages, without interpretation according to Baptist covenant theology and being allowed to speak for themselves, begin to say something entirely different.

    For circumcision, my point is this: Neither faith and repentance of the recipients of baptism, nor the spiritual realities signified by baptism, are any proof that they may not be given to infants. To say it is not given is one thing; to say it may not be given is another.

    The reason is because Abraham repented and believed, and was circumcised. His household was then circumcised. The repent-believe-baptize pattern of the NT proselytes follows the repent-believe-circumcise pattern of OT proselytes, of whom Abraham was the first. I wrote in other places, it makes no sense that a man would dare enter a nation that stones idolaters and adulterers, and demands full-hearted allegiance to God in Deuteronomy 6, without taking seriously he had better really fear God. Repent-believe-circumcise.

    Some Baptist systems of theology say that nothing more was required to be an Israelite than circumcision. Faith and repentance were not needed. I say, it would be unbearable for an ungodly man to live in Israel. Not only was holiness demanded, but holiness was enforced by God Himself. No point getting in if you're not ready to really be holy.

    Circumcision also blows up the Baptist scheme because the Baptist argues that baptism is a spiritual sign (burial and resurrection in Christ) while circumcision is temporary and about physical promises.

    Not a true statement.

    Romans 4:11 - "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised."

    Circumcision wasn't given to Abraham only to ensure him of the temporary promises. Christ gave circumcision to Abraham as a sign and seal to assure him that believing on Christ, he really was saved and redeemed.

    Let's make it more stark. What does the New Testament say about circumcision?

    What does baptism signify? Death to sin, life in Christ.
    What does circumcision signify? Death to sin, life in Christ.

    Baptism - Romans 6:2–3 - How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
    Circumcision - Colossians 2:11 - In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.

    What is baptism? Christ's blood shed so we might die to the power of sin.
    What is circumcision? Christ cut off so that the power of sin might be cut off.
    What is baptism? A sign of consecration unto God by the blood of Christ.
    What is circumcision? A sign of consecration to God through the cutting off of Christ.

    From these passages alone, what is the significance of circumcision?
    - Man is cut off from God by sin
    - Man by faith has all of his sins cut off and forgiven
    - Man through Christ is cut/consecrated holy unto God
    - Man through Christ cuts off the dominion of sin
    - Man is cut/marked as a possession of God. "I will be your God, and you will be my people."

    Brother, my writing is inevitably going to dwindle. My tax season soon will start and I will be mostly a goner from the forums for the next three months. But let me encourage you, consider the questions posed in the other thread and mediate on them. Even do it with the three that I listed. We can write many things, we can read many books, though a deeply-meditated familiarity with the Scriptures will decidedly pull you one way or another.

    I don't think I feel "taxed", but perhaps a little enlivened. Circumcision and baptism both bring us to the Gospel, to Christ, and to the glorious covenant by which we are elect seed in Him. Blessings :)
  21. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, I understand it is a smaller work compared to his other commentaries. Here is a fascinating interview with Dr. Bill VanDoodewaard about his discovery of the Hodge manuscripts and compiling them into a book.
    Thank you. Look forward to it.
  22. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I have a bit of trepidation in answering for fear of using any imprecise language. So others feel free to correct anything if misspoken. So it was the “in the Lord” aspect of the children’s obedience that arrested my mind. Widows may remarry, only “in the Lord.” This clearly meant that Paul was assuming the widows to be Christian, who are to marry only another Christian. Children likewise are to obey “in the Lord.” Paul expected the children also to obey as Christians. I was pretty astonished. What was a Christian, and the called, and a saint, terms used by Paul when addressing the church?

    Paul isn’t sloppy about election so I knew that he couldn’t know, and so wouldn’t think, that every member in the church at Ephesus was elect, or already born again. So I realized he was addressing the church, including the children, as members of a group consisting of Christian individuals but not necessarily elect individuals: the same group as the widows, indeed the same group as the whole church (the saints) he was writing to. Since this group couldn’t be known to consist solely of elect members of the invisible covenant of grace, I saw that this group- the widows, the children, all the saints who are in Ephesus- must consist of all those members in good standing of the visible church there.

    By the way this hugely elevated visible church membership for me. It increased the fear of the Lord regarding it. Which has remained a great blessing and such a help and steadying influence.

    So I saw that the adult members in good standing of the church were then, just as now, called saints and Christians by virtue of a judgment of charity. And the same judgment of charity was extended to the children of the church, by virtue of their belonging to the same group as their believing parents. They were also members of the group addressed as called and saints.

    So now seeing that children of believers were considered church members, baptism fell into place. There is a little paradigm shift where you see things differently in Scripture, like when you first see the doctrines of grace. There was now this stream of continuity with God’s care for households, and the initiation of children into the same “group” their parents are members in- the visible membership of the church, which is also known as the visible administration of the covenant of grace, with all its rights and privileges, and expectations of obedience “in the Lord” from OT to NT.

    The huge, really wondrous news flash for me was: baptism didn’t mean what I had thought it meant. This was a wonder and a delight for me for quite some time, as it quite elevated God’s fatherliness, tenderness, sovereignty, power... praise the Lord.
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  23. RickG

    RickG Puritan Board Freshman

    I can't wait for a little more time to read and think over the excellent and interesting points being raised in this thread. So helpful to me, as I too grapple with these issues.

    I too am but a 'babe' in this, so please bear with me, as my thoughts are only early thoughts, and I have much work to do going forward! Like Jeri, it too was a paradigm shift in thinking, that takes on the form of almost an awakening of viewpoint, as you say, much like coming to the doctrines of grace for the first time. I say that, only to point out that it is not something that necessarily falls into place simply, nor easily, and I almost wonder, if one needs to be immersed in it, much like being thrown in the deep end of the pool!

    I would not have had to grapple with this, if I was not 'forced' to face this, having attended a church now for two years which holds these views. And it was not until I was 'immersed' for sometime, that I began to see things quite differently. To me, i found I had to spend time in that atmosphere, and I can see quite well why, looking in, it appears difficult to understand or perceive how these viewpoints can be adhered to initially. Long held views do very much require long exposure to others, or else cannot be grasped. At least, that was my experience.

    Like Jeri, key verses revolved around the state and commands to children, especially, for me, 1 Corinthians 7:14, and children being made holy. I had always found it difficult to grasp the place of children, knowing that there was something 'special' about them (based on a verse such as this) and I often saw that child dedications rightly recognised this. Infant baptism, and the joining of this verse in the Covenant context, saw the dots being joined much more strongly.

    I attach here my kind of 'summary' of my early thinking and how I came to hold my current views, after grappling with this issue early on. Please know, these are just simplistic bullet points of the key verses/concepts that challenged me the most in my early journey, and are far from complete, being that I wrote them some time back. I compiled this initially to show my thinking to others who may have wondered about how my viewpoint changed within about 18months at that particular time.

    I realise it may not contribute directly to the question at hand, but perhaps, might help someone browsing the thread, who is in my position. However, I know full well, that there is no substitute for grappling with these issues oneself personally, rather than in a purely detached manner.

    Attached Files:

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  24. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Tim I can see your argument clearly but am not sure why you put the word elect in bold letters. To a Baptist that would prove too much. Paedobaptists (rightly) say Baptists do not baptise the elect, they baptise professing believers. I understand these passages in Ephesians, Colossians etc to acknowledge the church consists of professing believers (you may include in that believers and their children if you are a paedobaptist) but it seems to me to be problematic if you equate the elect with 'believers and their children'?
  25. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I believe I am getting the point now :) Baptists want to equate OT circumcision with temporary land promises but you are saying there is a spiritual aspect that goes far deeper - as you have argued in the above posts.
    I can see a caution here on how this argument is structured. If you link this to infant baptism and say "Christ gave circumcision to an infant as a sign and seal to assure him that believing on Christ, he really was saved and redeemed" it seems to me you will open the door to a rather dangerous form of presumptive regeneration. I guess this has been my caution all along in coming to grips with paedobaptism. Don't worry, I won't jump to conclusions here. I am soon going to read Bavinck's "Saved by grace" - I have been told he deals with this in a particularly helpful manner.

    Jake, I have greatly appreciated your insights. I know the busy tax season will soon be upon you so I will minimise my questions and do more of my own study of this. May Romans 15:13 be an encouragement to you as you head into another tax season.
  26. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Agreed. It would be a big stretch to say that by using the term "in the Lord" Paul believed the children were elect. Obviously the term has bigger covenantal implications as you rightly argue.
  27. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Exactly what I am arguing about circumcision. In fact, your interpretation of the NT falls short unless you hold such a view. Baptist Covenant Theology doesn't jive with what the NT itself says about all these things.

    When I was a Baptist I was most concerned that paedobaptism results in presumption. Though, if Genesis 17 has anything to say to baptism, then it must be concluded that it does not result in presumption, because who got circumcised? Ishmael. God said plainly the covenant would not be established with him. And a few chapters later he is persecuting the child of promise. So Genesis 17 itself forbids presumption of salvation in our children.

    So, there is no need at all to diminish the true spiritual qualities of any prior covenant in order to shield ourselves. It was God who gave the ordinance, and determined who would receive it. Abraham didn't raise any objections, and neither should we. As Jonathan Edwards said in a different baptism controversy, "Christ is the best judge as to the tendency of his ordinances."

    Thank you for the encouragement. It hasn't gotten too busy yet, but it's ramping up. I might not cease all interactions, though they will be limited. Whatever you decide, may the Scriptures be your first and primary source, and may God bring you to a full conviction from an accurate and thorough knowledge of His word.
  28. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    For a person to call another person "elect," it has to be based on something other than divine knowledge. God knows who the elect are infallibly, outside of time, and even when an elect person is an enemy of Christ. God could call Saul the persecutor elect, but the church could not have done so until after his conversion. The church can call someone elect, however, when that person is of the household of faith.

    In short, Peter could call his readers elect based on external indicators-- they show evidence of election and he regards them as such. If some were to fall away in that same number, Peter would not have to rescind his statement.

    Does that help clarify?
  29. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Yes and No :) I am not sure that it clarifies in the Baptist vs. Paedobaptist debate. I can understand in a church you may consider adult believers elect based on external indicators. Reformed Baptists do that. But my question was how could you bold the word elect above if you were arguing infants were in the covenant household. You don't know if they are elect based on external indicators.
  30. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Hi Jake, I'll try to make this brief by teasing out this clarification.

    I said
    You replied:
    I did wonder, looking back at this, your expression "that believing on Christ" is the important qualifier. An infant may be baptised, not believe on Christ, and clearly be reprobate. Another infant may be baptised, believe on Christ and be among the elect. Thus it is dangerous to presume.

    Scripture itself provides these warnings
    2 Cor 13:5 "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves." and
    2 Pet 1:10-11 "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
    My pleasure. I personally know what stress is like in the busy tax season (The New Zealand Tax department requires a certain percentage of tax returns to be filed by a specific month of the year and that can really put pressure on staff to perform). I love that verse because it is encouraging that God is the God of hope, and that He will fill us with all joy and peace. All glory to His name!

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