Did circumcision entail presumed regeneration?

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TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
Gen 17:9 And God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations.
Gen 17:10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
Gen 17:11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.
Gen 17:12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring,
Gen 17:13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.
Gen 17:14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."


Questions:

1. Was it appropriate for Abraham and his descendants to circumcise a slave "purchased with money", without first requiring a profession of faith, i.e. an adult foreign slave who was completely ignorant of God?

2. Is there a procedural prerequisite to circumcision given anywhere in the Torah (may be useful in answering #1)?

3. Would it be permissible to waive the normal profession of faith such as all Christian churches currently require for adult baptisms, and go ahead and baptize an unbelieving, or at least totally ignorant modern equivalent of the slave in #1?

4. If based on your answers above, circumcision and baptism are treated differently in some situations, then would you agree that the application of circumcision under the Old Covenant did not imply a presumption of regeneration?

5. Or, if "presumed regeneration" doesn't always require any visible evidence in adults, but can be presumed from their merely being within the salvific pale of the ministry of the church -- can we now baptize any unbeliever who comes under the regular preaching of the gospel and sits in our pews?
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
I do not understand question 1, you seem to be suggesting that God was in error when he instructed Abraham as it does not reconcile with Baptist theology?

Of course it was appropriate, God said so.
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
I do not understand question 1, you seem to be suggesting that God was in error when he instructed Abraham as it does not reconcile with Baptist theology?

Of course it was appropriate, God said so.

Oh no (regarding God being in error). But I have met people who suggest that an adult servant would be instructed first, then circumcised. That view I can understand. But a view that puts God in contradiction to himself, of course all of us will reject.
 
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Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
1. Yes. Members of covenant households are taken into the covenant by virtue of their head ('owner' in this case).

2. Not as far as I know. The closest thing, to my knowledge, would be the prescription that the male slaves could only partake of the Passover after they were circumcised. (Exodus 12:44)

3. Yes if we still had slaves (Acts 16:15).

4. There are bound to be differences between an Old covenant ceremony and its New covenant fulfillment because of custom, time, place etc. but the essential element (with regard to your question ) namely that circumcision, like baptism, points to regeneration but is not regeneration (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6). Of course as a paedobaptist the real central element is the nature of the covenant, not the personal salvific standing a person has before God. The latter is not.

Personally though, I don't think it matters how one answers the questions above - circumcision does not imply presumptive regeneration (Romans 2:28-29).

5. Even if one presumed regeneration one could only do so after having received circumcision or baptism not before, if (and that is again a big IF) circumcision and/or baptism presume regeneration.

We baptize who we baptize because of the manner in which God works through covenant families. Full stop. He started it in Adam and it follows from there. The promise of the seed was given to the woman even though many of her children were seed of the serpent. (Same for Abraham: Isaac AND Ishmael as well as Isaac: Jacob AND Esau etc.).
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
3. Would it be permissible to waive the normal profession of faith such as all Christian churches currently require for adult baptisms, and go ahead and baptize an unbelieving, or at least totally ignorant modern equivalent of the slave in #1?
3. Yes if we still had slaves (Acts 16:15).

Is the above answer confessionally compliant?

LC, Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.​

Is there room to baptize an adult unbeliever who is ignorant of God based on the above?
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
3. Would it be permissible to waive the normal profession of faith such as all Christian churches currently require for adult baptisms, and go ahead and baptize an unbelieving, or at least totally ignorant modern equivalent of the slave in #1?
3. Yes if we still had slaves (Acts 16:15).

Is the above answer confessionally compliant?

LC, Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.​

Is there room to baptize an adult unbeliever who is ignorant of God based on the above?

It is not compliant with Baptist confessions, whether you see this as a problem or not depends on whether you equate circumsicion with baptism and whether you make the assumption that when households were baptised such households considered entirely of professing adults.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
3. Would it be permissible to waive the normal profession of faith such as all Christian churches currently require for adult baptisms, and go ahead and baptize an unbelieving, or at least totally ignorant modern equivalent of the slave in #1?
3. Yes if we still had slaves (Acts 16:15).

Is the above answer confessionally compliant?

LC, Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?
A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.​

Is there room to baptize an adult unbeliever who is ignorant of God based on the above?

I would think that this Q&A assumes that the social situation of the New covenant church is no longer with us, which my answer assumes as well.

If it is deemed that my answer is outside of the 'confessional boundaries' then I will certainly correct it. On the other hand, though this may seem to be 'splitting hairs' I subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity which do not speak so explicitly (or seem to forbid my answer) on the matter.

BTW, I don't think that every paedobaptist out there would agree with me on this point either.

P.S. Someone has noted that my answer here may be misleading. I really meant to speak to the latter part of the question, not the former. If someone would not submit to baptism than I certainly would not think they be a proper recipient thereof even if they were being baptized under the headship of another.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Andrew,

1. Do you have children?
2. If you had servants living in your home, would you permit them to be practicing Voodoo worshippers and live among your children?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Andrew, scripture does not teach any presumption towards or prerequisite by the person being circumcised. Circumcision was a sign of an external covenant, but did not guarantee an internal effect. Over Israel's entire history the majority of those circumcised where not of faith. How can I make that statement? Matthew 22:14 "For many are called, but few are chosen." Circumcision was not administered based on a profession of faith. It was administered in the absence of such a profession on the part of the person being circumcised. Whether the individual was Israeli born, or a slave, circumcision was administered to all males in the covenant community.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
There's a partial answer here.

The command to initiate covenant children and even slaves into the visible covenant community (the visible church) is not premised upon the regeneration of those admitted. as Rev. Kok noted, circumcision and baptism are signs of what is true of those who believe and they are, to those who believe, seals (promises) that what was announced in the gospel is really true for them.

The question is: who is properly included in the administration of the covenant of grace in the church? God commanded that infant children of believers should be included into that visible administration of the covenant of grace and the Reformed churches understand that command, since it is associated with Abraham and not Moses (and hence not part of the Old Covenant; 2 Cor 3; Heb 7-10) to be perpetual and not temporary.
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
Andrew,

1. Do you have children?

Yes, thank God. I have two precious children. :^)

2. If you had servants living in your home, would you permit them to be practicing Voodoo worshippers and live among your children?

You raise a very practical point; but it's not legally binding for me as it was under the Old Covenant outworking of the Abrahamic covenant.

So my answer is that it would depend. Some of the Old Covenant restrictions are now lifted. For example, back in the book of Ezra unbelieving wives were sent away with their children; but today Christians are commanded by Paul to stay with a believing spouse, in ordinary circumstances. If one's spouse is an unbeliever, we presume the spouse could be a Voodoo worshipper etc., and the believer would still be commanded to remain.

Practically speaking, of course I would do my best to ensure that anyone under my roof at least kept quiet about their pagan religion, to protect my children -- and just because it's my house.

I do not believe that under the New Covenant I am obligated to expel unbaptized people from my house, and I think I have that on good authority (which again goes back to 1 Cor. 7).

-----Added 12/23/2008 at 08:14:21 EST-----

Andrew,

1. Do you have children?
2. If you had servants living in your home, would you permit them to be practicing Voodoo worshippers and live among your children?
I dunno, but I'm pretty sure Abraham wouldn't have put up with it. ;)

Very true. Abraham was commanded not to put up with having the uncircumcised in his house. And beyond that, it also seems reasonable to suppose that practicing pagans among the servants would have been required to at least outwardly reject their false worship and join in with the family worship.

But the question of the thread is whether there were prerequisites to adult circumcision.

-----Added 12/23/2008 at 09:33:42 EST-----


Thanks, Dr. Clark. (And thank you also, by the way, for writing in such an accessible style on your blog; I am sure it is useful to many people who are enabled to profit from it, beyond your academic peers.)

The command to initiate covenant children and even slaves into the visible covenant community (the visible church) is not premised upon the regeneration of those admitted. as Rev. Kok noted, circumcision and baptism are signs of what is true of those who believe and they are, to those who believe, seals (promises) that what was announced in the gospel is really true for them.

It is true that Reformed paedobaptist and Baptist alike do not know the heart. Both must formulate rules of practical church order based on their understanding of God's commands.

Nevertheless, it seems a fair statement to me that baptism is administered in both Reformed and Baptistic churches to those of whom regeneration is presumed. To put it crudely, the question is about how widely to cast the net of presumption.

The question is: who is properly included in the administration of the covenant of grace in the church? God commanded that infant children of believers should be included into that visible administration of the covenant of grace and the Reformed churches understand that command, since it is associated with Abraham and not Moses (and hence not part of the Old Covenant; 2 Cor 3; Heb 7-10) to be perpetual and not temporary.

... which you significantly expand on in your blog post linked above. I enjoyed reading it, and agreed with most of it.

However, there are some important points that can get lost in the framing of this view if we are not careful:

1. God's covenant with Abraham included both an outward, typical dimension, and an internal, spiritual dimension. We who are included in the Abrahamic Covenant in Christ have no part (that I'm aware of) in the outward, typical dimension.

For example:

External, typical -- God promised the birth of a son, a miracle baby who would be the true heir of the covenant (in contrast to the servant Eliezer of Damascus).

Internal, spiritual -- God ultimately intended a different "miracle baby" to be the true heir of the Covenant (in contrast to all the ethnic Jews who have ever lived).

Joh 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."​

-----------------------

External, typical -- God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham's descendants.

Internal, spiritual -- God promised Heaven to his people.

Heb 11:10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

-----------------------

External, typical -- God promised that he would make Abraham's descendants very numerous; he made reference to the "many nations" that would come from Abraham (Gen. 17:4), as well as to the "covenant line" / covenant nation ("through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned" (Gen. 21:12).

Internal, spiritual -- God's interest in the Covenant of Grace has always been in his elect, including many Gentiles and excluding many Jews.

Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.
Mat 8:11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,
Mat 8:12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

-----------------------

2. I often read the argument that the principle of infant inclusion must remain unless God explicitly sets it aside. However, it appears to me that God has done exactly that.

The way I read the command in Genesis 17, the obligation of circumcision rested on all Abraham's covenantal line. God clarified who were part of this line by renewing his covenant with Isaac and Jacob=Israel. But after the covenantal identity settles, if you will, on Israel, it seems to me that the essential command of circumcision is not directed at an individual based on who his immediate parents are, but rather who his forefather is. When God restored the Israelites to him during periods of covenant breaking, he was restoring descendants of Abraham.

In my view, having believing parents was the occasion, not the grounds of the circumcision of an infant. If an Israelite grew to maturity uncircumcised, due to having Baal worshipping parents, he was still under an obligation to the Abrahamic covenant because of his ancestry. He was still to become circumcised and turn back to God.

That some individuals from Gentile nations were grafted in doesn't change the above obligation based on physical remote descent.

The point is, this ethnic distinction, which was the fundamental grounds of circumcision under the typical, outward Abrahamic covenant, has been abolished. As it is now, being Jewish and $0.50... uh, make that $4.99... will buy you a cup of coffee in the Kingdom of God.

Nobody in Presbyterian churches today will assert a special covenantal obligation by remote descent. Today it is by immediate descent. It is not based on being a "son of Abraham", it's based on being a son of Brother Joe, or Charlie, or Tom. The occasion of circumcision has been changed into the grounds of baptism.

The thing is, being a "son of Abraham" is still the condition for inclusion in the internal, spiritual covenant. Therefore, under the clearer light of the New Covenant, God has cast aside the obsolete ethnic "dividing wall of hostility", and declared that the only sons of Abraham are those with faith. Inheritance of the covenant by physical descent belonged exclusively to the external, typical dimension of the Abrahamic Covenant, and is now obsolete.

And since circumcision (except for Abraham himself) was unlike baptism in that it generally was not a sign of a profession or possession of faith, but rather of obligation before God, we are not to use it to tweak the otherwise clear rules established in the New Testament for our baptism practices, whether we're talking about unbelieving adult servants or infants.


At least that's what I think... Sorry for being long winded. :^)
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Here are my answers:
1. Was it appropriate for Abraham and his descendants to circumcise a slave "purchased with money", without first requiring a profession of faith, i.e. an adult foreign slave who was completely ignorant of God?
What does it mean to "profess faith", and how does one do that? In those circumstances (quite alien from our own) I reckon it to mean something akin to following the beliefs and practices of that house. If you are in that house, you believe and practice according to the dictates of the head of that house.

Furthermore, why should we think that Abraham would "buy" a slave (and assuming a crass property-transaction characterized these relationships, wouldn't that be being a party to kidnapping?), who he first did not have some idea would be willing to learn and adopt the faith of this house?

I do not believe Abraham was the kind of person who mistreated his household. He was a minister of God and a preacher of the truth. Abraham first preached in Ur, where he persuaded his house (and his father and brother) to follow him as he followed God's Word to get out. The ones who came with him preferred to follow him to "who knows where" rather than remaining with family and familiarity in Ur. That's the Spirit of God at work.

Abraham certainly knew his obligation to instruct his household, and he would have explained to his servants the divine revelation concerning circumcision and its religious/spiritual meaning. "Men, this is what God requires, and this is why he requires it. Now, me first..."

It is beyond belief that Abraham would have cut on any of his servant-followers without their consent, or over their objection. Those who were not circumcised were "cut off from his people, he has broken my covenant" Gen.17:14. Abraham expelled Hagar and Ishmael. He sent his other children (of Keturah) away from Isaac. It certainly would not be inconsistent for him to send away a servant who didn't "fit in", religiously above all.

So, I have no problem with the presumption that there was a basic agreement to be instructed in the faith of Abraham. Nor can we allow that there were other religious practices allowed in Abraham's house. How much of a "profession" was this agreement? Well, that goes back to the substance of my initial query: in that ANE context, it seems that affirming the Lord of your Master was the duty of a servant.

2. Is there a procedural prerequisite to circumcision given anywhere in the Torah (may be useful in answering #1)?
Other than v.14? What else is necessary? If he refuses (persistently), then he must depart. The fact that he must be "cut off" implies that he must consent if he has the ability. Otherwise, the assumption would be that Abraham was a despotic Master, who cut the privates of his male residents, like it or not. Why would we think that? What in the life of Abraham makes us think that he would behave in that fashion? His 8-day old boys were not in any position to offer or withhold consent.

3. Would it be permissible to waive the normal profession of faith such as all Christian churches currently require for adult baptisms, and go ahead and baptize an unbelieving, or at least totally ignorant modern equivalent of the slave in #1?
Why would we want to waive it, even if we didn't think there was basic consent required for circumcision in the OT? Does the NT imply that basic prerequisite or not? If it does--and we all believe it does--then the question seems like a "leading" sort of question, since it implies that pig-ignorant people were frequently circumcised in the OT. THAT premise needs demonstration. ONE example will suffice...

4. If based on your answers above, circumcision and baptism are treated differently in some situations, then would you agree that the application of circumcision under the Old Covenant did not imply a presumption of regeneration?
What do YOU mean by "presumption of regeneration?" Depending on your answer, I would say that OT circumcision was NEVER on the basis of "presumption of regeneration." Who baptizes on the basis of "presumption of regeneration"? (Presbyterians don't baptize adults or infants on that basis).

And, so I don't leave you hanging, baptism's basis (in Presbyterian theology) is on the promise of God and his commandment.

5. Or, if "presumed regeneration" doesn't always require any visible evidence in adults, but can be presumed from their merely being within the salvific pale of the ministry of the church -- can we now baptize any unbeliever who comes under the regular preaching of the gospel and sits in our pews?
What is your hypothetical supposed to look like in the real world? This is just some fellow who comes to church, who says, "I don't believe any of this you guys do; I'm not a Christian; I'll be here all the time for several years; I promise to forget everything I hear as soon as I leave, weekly..."

The person you describe is unreal. How long does his pig-ignorance last? If he says, "I'm not a Christian," then he's no candidate for baptism. If a man comes to church, and sits under the preaching of the Word once, and he says "Now I'm a Christian," and he gives even meager evidence that he hears and believes whatever it is that God commands, why THEN should he WAIT for baptism?
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
Furthermore, why should we think that Abraham would "buy" a slave (and assuming a crass property-transaction characterized these relationships, wouldn't that be being a party to kidnapping?),

The "bought with money" part was mentioned in God's own command, so we can be reasonably sure it was practiced.

[off topic]But make no mistake, I am very happy to be an American living in the 21st century, when we've decided as a nation that we can do perfectly well without either monarchy, feudalism or chattel slavery.[/off topic]

who he first did not have some idea would be willing to learn and adopt the faith of this house?

You may very well be right. If I were Abraham, I would have interviewed an adult servant I planned to "recruit" for my staff. And surely no less important than "How are you with a sword?" would be "Will you be willing to abandon your previous religion?"

Of course, this rule was not just for Abraham, but for all his descendants in the covenantal line (Isaac --> Israel --> everybody from there on out, unless cut off).

We know that Abraham retained people of Damascan and Egyptian nationalities in his household; evidently he got his servants from the far corners of the Middle East. So the long and short of it is that it is likely that Abraham actually had to deal with this problem ("evangelizing" pagan servants).


What does it mean to "profess faith", and how does one do that? In those circumstances (quite alien from our own) I reckon it to mean something akin to following the beliefs and practices of that house. If you are in that house, you believe and practice according to the dictates of the head of that house.

Why won't any Christian church baptize an ignorant adult who lives compliantly in a Christian household? Why not "baptize first, instruct later"? You seem to have admitted that this was a proper order for circumcision of adult servants who were at least willing to go through with it. But confessionally (correct me if I'm wrong), Christian baptism cannot be applied to any adult who is ignorant of the gospel, no matter how good his attitude.

There seems to be a difference here between circumcision and baptism.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The "bought with money" part was mentioned in God's own command, so we can be reasonably sure it was practiced.
But I didn't say monetary transactions for persons/labor weren't practiced. I questioned whether righteous Abraham would be a party to KIDNAPPING, and the service of slaves who were treated (both before and after the "sale") as chattel. How many different forms of servant/labor purchase can you think of? I can think of several, besides chattel slavery.
who he first did not have some idea would be willing to learn and adopt the faith of this house?
You may very well be right. If I were Abraham, I would have interviewed an adult servant I planned to "recruit" for my staff. And surely no less important than "How are you with a sword?" would be "Will you be willing to abandon your previous religion?"
OK, if it isn't a matter of doctrine, then barring an offensive anachronism, it seems to me that we owe saints like Abraham the kindness of just this sort of expectation: of reasonable, decent behavior.
Of course, this rule was not just for Abraham, but for all his descendants in the covenantal line (Isaac --> Israel --> everybody from there on out, unless cut off).
I was sticking with your chosen Scripture passage, and so avoided bringing up a passage like Ex.12:44. There, we read that no "uncircumcised person" could eat the memorial Passover, a bought-person only when he had been circumcised. So, there were uncircumcised individuals of this category, for periods of time, short or long, in later Israelite society.
We know that Abraham retained people of Damascan and Egyptian nationalities in his household; evidently he got his servants from the far corners of the Middle East. So the long and short of it is that it is likely that Abraham actually had to deal with this problem ("evangelizing" pagan servants).
Again, what assumptions are we bringing to the text? We WILL bring them, so yes, we ought to think about them. The man Eliezer--shouldn't we assume he was a believer? Abraham's trusted servant, 24:2, wasn't he a believer? My point is, why should we even once assume that Abraham had such a "problem" as you have labeled the situation, namely acquiring slaves with which he would then circumcise, only to have later disputes over their religious preference? Do we ever read of any such conflicts? On what grounds should we assume them?
What does it mean to "profess faith", and how does one do that? In those circumstances (quite alien from our own) I reckon it to mean something akin to following the beliefs and practices of that house. If you are in that house, you believe and practice according to the dictates of the head of that house.
Why won't any Christian church baptize an ignorant adult who lives compliantly in a Christian household? Why not "baptize first, instruct later"? You seem to have admitted that this was a proper order for circumcision of adult servants who were at least willing to go through with it. But confessionally (correct me if I'm wrong), Christian baptism cannot be applied to any adult who is ignorant of the gospel, no matter how good his attitude.

There seems to be a difference here between circumcision and baptism.
1. I find it very hard to assume hypotheticals for which you give only the barest situational description. It is NOT as if we have the convenience of any such situation as you describe remotely within our own cultural experience. So the "all things being equal" approach is really terrible for me to try to picture. You and I don't even share enough mental furniture to make this happen within our paired educations.

2. Who is this "ignorant adult" in my house, over whom I exercise the kind of authority that Abraham, or even later Israelites, did? How would you further describe him/her? Is it my wife? My son? My dog-groomer? And why do you continue to paint him/her as both compliant and ignorant?

You seem to be saying that the moment I become an intelligent Christian convert (if I'm being consistent), then since Abraham immediately circumcised all his males (did he? that is, without their consent? or were there those who were "cut off"? if some were "cut off" then the "all" of 17:23 must exclude them), that I must baptize my 21 year old son, who lives in my basement, and never argues with me.

3. If you allow me even the briefest breathing room, then I now have an opportunity to instruct my son in my new-found faith. I now have an opportunity to offer him spiritual wisdom. Now, I've just told him the law and gospel. If I really do have Abraham's authority over my legally emancipated son (which I don't of course, because this isn't the ANE!), then, you know what, I suppose I WOULD have him baptized, with his consent, since apparently he was willing to become a Christian disciple. There is no minimum or maximum amount of knowledge to "baseline" a credible profession of faith. Look at how quickly, and on what succinct statements, professors were baptized in the NT (Ethiopian eunuch, Philippian jailer).

Mat.28:19-20 "As you go, make disciples ... by baptizing and teaching..." (participles of means). Make what you will of that order, it at least ISN'T "teaching them, then baptizing them." Actually, I think they are essentially simultaneous acts, although the one is punctilliar and the other a process. And "baptizing" is treated as the "door" to the faith, but not separate from "teaching". But you only baptize those persons who are the proper subjects! And this passage alone doesn't give us that specific information, beyond the post facto description "disciples."

Technically, the term "gospel" isn't even found in this text (see Mk.16:15). Rather, Mat.28 assumes that the gospel is preached as the introduction to the Christian faith, and the essential element of all subsequent Christian teaching. I don't see the correlation you insist that in order for me to be consistent, I must put baptism before the preaching of the gospel.
 
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R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
...it seems a fair statement to me that baptism is administered in both Reformed and Baptistic churches to those of whom regeneration is presumed. To put it crudely, the question is about how widely to cast the net of presumption.

What makes you say that? There were some early Reformed writers who taught infant faith but, by and large, by the late 17th century, most Reformed writers abandoned that argument as it essentially concedes the Baptist view. Some Kuyperians have advocated a version of presumed regeneration. The Conclusions of Utrecht (1905) were intended to resolve a late 19th-century dispute. Those of us who accept the historic internal/external distinction don't have to presume regeneration.

1. God's covenant with Abraham included both an outward, typical dimension, and an internal, spiritual dimension. We who are included in the Abrahamic Covenant in Christ have no part (that I'm aware of) in the outward, typical dimension.

Agreed, but we have to define the typological element carefully. It was chiefly the shedding of blood that was typological. The inclusion of infants in the administration of the covenant of grace was not inherently typological.

External, typical -- God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham's descendants.

We agree here. Hebrews clearly treats the land as typological.

Internal, spiritual -- God promised Heaven to his people.

Heb 11:10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Agreed.

External, typical -- God promised that he would make Abraham's descendants very numerous; he made reference to the "many nations" that would come from Abraham (Gen. 17:4), as well as to the "covenant line" / covenant nation ("through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned" (Gen. 21:12).

Is this purely typological/external? It has come true in Christ. Abraham is the father of many nations. Doesn't Paul essentially say this?

Internal, spiritual -- God's interest in the Covenant of Grace has always been in his elect, including many Gentiles and excluding many Jews.

Yes, but he redeems his elect through the external administration.

2. I often read the argument that the principle of infant inclusion must remain unless God explicitly sets it aside. However, it appears to me that God has done exactly that.

Really? Acts 2:39 is a terrible way to communicate that infants are no longer part of the administration of the covenant of grace. The "promise" is to believers and their children!

Nobody in Presbyterian churches today will assert a special covenantal obligation by remote descent. Today it is by immediate descent. It is not based on being a "son of Abraham", it's based on being a son of Brother Joe, or Charlie, or Tom. The occasion of circumcision has been changed into the grounds of baptism.

This argument strikes me as special pleading. You're not treating Abraham the way Paul does. You've got to find a way to marginalize him so as to set up a new covenant that is radically different from the Abrahamic covenant and the NT never does this.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
2. If you had servants living in your home, would you permit them to be practicing Voodoo worshippers and live among your children?

You raise a very practical point; but it's not legally binding for me as it was under the Old Covenant outworking of the Abrahamic covenant.

So my answer is that it would depend. Some of the Old Covenant restrictions are now lifted. For example, back in the book of Ezra unbelieving wives were sent away with their children; but today Christians are commanded by Paul to stay with a believing spouse, in ordinary circumstances. If one's spouse is an unbeliever, we presume the spouse could be a Voodoo worshipper etc., and the believer would still be commanded to remain.

Practically speaking, of course I would do my best to ensure that anyone under my roof at least kept quiet about their pagan religion, to protect my children -- and just because it's my house.

I do not believe that under the New Covenant I am obligated to expel unbaptized people from my house, and I think I have that on good authority (which again goes back to 1 Cor. 7).

Your sense of covenantal discontinuity sounds very dispensational. Abraham wasn't commanded to circumcise his slaves for ceremonial reasons. The idea that darkness has no communion with light is not an abrogated ceremonial thought. Provision is made for unbelieving family members due to circumstances that precede conversion but believers are yet prohibited from yoking themselves to unbelievers. Your view of a household is very atomistic and you would not only be foolish but double-minded to allow the worship of false gods under a roof that you headed. When Joshua proclaimed that his household would serve the Lord he was speaking in a way that transcends ceremonial cleanliness associated with the OC that pointed to Christ.
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
Provision is made for unbelieving family members due to circumstances that precede conversion but believers are yet prohibited from yoking themselves to unbelievers. Your view of a household is very atomistic and you would not only be foolish but double-minded to allow the worship of false gods under a roof that you headed. When Joshua proclaimed that his household would serve the Lord he was speaking in a way that transcends ceremonial cleanliness associated with the OC that pointed to Christ.

Hello Rich,

I'm not sure you have engaged with my point. 1 Cor. 7 tells us that an unbelieving spouse has been sanctified, in a way he/she apparently wasn't under the Old Covenant. Therefore, it would not always be foolishness to remain in a household with an unbeliever, but in fact often obedience. Unequal yoking can come about either through disobedience, or from one of two originally unbelieving spouses being converted (scripture certainly doesn't forbid marriage between two unbelievers).

I realize that there are some Christians who zealously declare they would cast any obstinate, unbelieving family member out of their house; but I don't find that to be in the spirit of:

1Co 7:16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?​

Where do you draw the line, Rich? Would you share your house with an unbelieving spouse? Son or daughter? Parent? (really interested to hear your response on that one...) Other relative? Non-relative who needed a place to stay?

Re: the other responses above, I'm still digesting and thinking, and Lord willing will post something later.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Provision is made for unbelieving family members due to circumstances that precede conversion but believers are yet prohibited from yoking themselves to unbelievers. Your view of a household is very atomistic and you would not only be foolish but double-minded to allow the worship of false gods under a roof that you headed. When Joshua proclaimed that his household would serve the Lord he was speaking in a way that transcends ceremonial cleanliness associated with the OC that pointed to Christ.

Hello Rich,

I'm not sure you have engaged with my point. 1 Cor. 7 tells us that an unbelieving spouse has been sanctified, in a way he/she apparently wasn't under the Old Covenant. Therefore, it would not always be foolishness to remain in a household with an unbeliever, but in fact often obedience. Unequal yoking can come about either through disobedience, or from one of two originally unbelieving spouses being converted (scripture certainly doesn't forbid marriage between two unbelievers).
I did interact with it. The requirement to put away spouses in the OC was ceremonial not moral. Read more carefully above as I anticipate the issue about unbelieving spouses.
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
What makes you say that? There were some early Reformed writers who taught infant faith but, by and large, by the late 17th century, most Reformed writers abandoned that argument as it essentially concedes the Baptist view.

That's interesting. I hadn't heard it said before that presuming [pre-existing] regeneration conceded the Baptist view. I have heard that about the opposite side of the road -- that presuming non-regeneration conceded critical ground to Baptists.

[friendly joke]Narrow must be the road of the Reformed paedobaptist apologetic![/friendly joke]

Some Kuyperians have advocated a version of presumed regeneration. The Conclusions of Utrecht (1905) were intended to resolve a late 19th-century dispute. Those of us who accept the historic internal/external distinction don't have to presume regeneration.

Maybe our terms should be clarified. From your Conclusions of Utrecht link above:

D. Presumptive Regeneration

And finally, in regard to the fourth point, presumptive regeneration, Synod
declares:

that according to the Confession of our churches the seed of the covenant, by virtue of the promise of God, must be held to be regenerated and sanctified in Christ, until upon growing up they should manifest the contrary in their way of life or doctrine;​
(emph. mine)

It would seem that this creedal tradition does indeed hold to presumed regeneration -- though without asserting a particular timetable for God's performance of it, and also freely admitting that "not all Israel are Israel". (Side note: The Utrecht document does also criticise as "less correct" the idea that presumed regeneration is a ground of infant baptism.) Perhaps the unknowability of the timetable is what you and Bruce above objected to in my use of the term "presumed regeneration"? Perhaps you felt I was overly generalizing the acceptance of the view posited by Kuyper and arguably Calvin that a "seed" of the Spirit's regenerative operation was already planted even in the infant of Christian parents?

If so, I should clarify that I do have a decent understand of the most common Presbyterian position here -- as Charles Hodge explains in his Systematic Theology Vol. III, 1.20.9, when drawing a contrast between the Protestant definition of the Church versus the "Puritan" definition. Presbyterians who are most consistent with their ecclesiological heritage do treat their infants and young children as if they are regenerate, believing it to be a reasonable expectation that this hope will be fulfilled by God. As such, their children's regeneration is "presumed" until shown lacking. That's all I meant. If there's a better word or phrase to express that idea, I will be happy to use it.

-----Added 12/27/2008 at 03:59:14 EST-----

Agreed, but we have to define the typological element carefully. It was chiefly the shedding of blood that was typological. The inclusion of infants in the administration of the covenant of grace was not inherently typological.

To the extent that there was an ethnic component to the covenant succession, we can indeed see strong typology in it, and consider it obsolete. God uniquely elected the children of Israel to bear the obligations and blessings of his covenant(s) until the coming of Christ, with few Gentile exceptions. Now, God has widened the extent of his gracious operations, and "commands men everywhere to repent". But we should not think of it as chopping off ethnic Israel, but rather of suddenly broadcasting to the world something that had been hidden. It is true that ethnic Israel (adult, child, and infant) were all "chopped off" the olive tree in a certain sense; but equally true is that every ethnic Jew has a free offer under the gospel to believe in Christ in faith, profess him before the church, and be received into the number of the people of God.

In the past, a special covenant obligation rested on those physically descended from Abraham via the chosen line, even by remote descent. Today, we discard the type, and retain the spiritual reality -- that those who have faith are children of Abraham.

There is no mechanism given in scripture for us to consider a child of Gentile parents to be a child of Abraham, except if we have a reason to believe that he possesses that same faith. (Recall the story of Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman, where Jesus hints at the revelation of New Covenant succession which his apostles would later explain further.)

-----Added 12/27/2008 at 04:08:01 EST-----

Really? Acts 2:39 is a terrible way to communicate that infants are no longer part of the administration of the covenant of grace. The "promise" is to believers and their children!

The promise is to your unbelieving neighbor's children, too. In fact, the promise is freely held out to everyone who hears the gospel. However, the fulfillment and actual receipt of the things promised is conditional on faith. Peter's intent in this statement was to encourage his hearers that this promise was not just a display of God's special favor toward Jesus' disciples, but rather a salvation that they also were to reach out and take hold of. Anyone who tries to use Peter's words to limit the scope of the free offer of the promises, or separate the benefit from the hearing of the message, is venturing onto shaky ground.

On a side note, the "children" of a Jew hearing Peter's sermon could reasonably be considered to include full grown adult progeny, as well as grandchildren and very remote descendants. It is easy for any of us to use special pleading in this discussion.
 
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R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
What makes you say that? There were some early Reformed writers who taught infant faith but, by and large, by the late 17th century, most Reformed writers abandoned that argument as it essentially concedes the Baptist view.

That's interesting. I hadn't heard it said before that presuming [pre-existing] regeneration conceded the Baptist view. I have heard that about the opposite side of the road -- that presuming non-regeneration conceded critical ground to Baptists.

It concedes the baptist point because it has it that only the regenerate may be baptized. Most Reformed folk reject that view and no Reformed confession teaches that view.

We don't baptize because we think someone is regenerate. We baptize because God has commanded that children of believers be recognized as members of the covenant of grace. We expect them to come to faith but we also catechize them, pray for them, expose them to the means of grace (public worship -- we don't or shouldn't segregate them in "children's church") and when they make a credible profession of faith before the elders we admit them to the table.

D. Presumptive Regeneration

And finally, in regard to the fourth point, presumptive regeneration, Synod
declares:

that according to the Confession of our churches the seed of the covenant, by virtue of the promise of God, must be held to be regenerated and sanctified in Christ, until upon growing up they should manifest the contrary in their way of life or doctrine;​
(emph. mine)

It would seem that this creedal tradition does indeed hold to presumed regeneration -- though without asserting a particular timetable for God's performance of it....

This is not quite right. The Conclusions of Utrecht, as I understand them, did not require that one believe or teach presumptive regeneration. The intent of the Conclusions was to explain how children were to be regarded. We do not regard our children as "vipers in diapers" or as little reprobates. We regard them as covenant children. It may be that, in the awful providence of God, that a child is an Esau and not a Jacob but we don't know that and we administer the sign and seal of the covenant of grace to all our children and trust the outcome to God.

When it says, "must be held" it simply means that we regard them as such until they prove otherwise. We don't actually confess or teach that all our children are regenerate.

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I deal with this in Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace.

God is certainly free to regenerate infants in utero or postpartum (and we certainly pray for it!) but we do not act on the presumption of regeneration. We don't know the secret work of the Spirit. We only know the promises and commands of God. We act according to what is revealed (Deut 29:29) and not according to what is secret.

Presbyterians who are most consistent with their ecclesiological heritage do treat their infants and young children as if they are regenerate, believing it to be a reasonable expectation that this hope will be fulfilled by God. As such, their children's regeneration is "presumed" until shown lacking.

I understand. The operative verb is "treat." "Presumptive regeneration" says that a covenant child is baptized on the basis that he IS regenerate and he not only is treated as if regenerate but he IS regenerate. It's the distinction between the judgment of charity and presumption. The latter is problematic. The former is a matter of Christian virtue.
 

TsonMariytho

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for the clarification of terms. I will still contend that there is very little, if any, practical difference between saying "presume regeneration" versus "hold to be regenerate". In both cases we probably wouldn't stake our lives on it, yet in both cases we do in fact operate on the basis of a semi-firm assertion that the child is regenerate.

For what it's worth, our kind host, Dr. McMahon, has no qualms about describing this as a presumption of regeneration. Here's a snippet that says it all, and you can also search for the partial text "presum" to find more.

From: A Catechism on Infant Inclusion in the Covenant of Grace

...their parents presume them to be regenerate, yet are actually regenerate by sovereign election at a time only God knows, if at all...

Dr. Rayburn of the PCA in Tacoma, WA states his personal dislike of the phrase "presumed regeneration", and (in my opinion) works very hard in the following paper not to use it. He ends up presuming that infants are Christians, presuming that they are members of the Church invisible, presuming "early regeneration", etc. He might as well "presume regeneration" and be done with it!

Covenant Children - Faith Presbyterian Church

In my opinion, it is not useful to claim to "hold" somebody to be regenerate without simultaneously claiming to "presume" them to be regenerate. There is just too much overlap in meaning there.
 
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