Not one but TWO covenants with Abraham?

Discussion in 'Covenant Theology' started by Pergamum, Jul 14, 2017.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I have been reading up on 1689 Federalism which purports to be the Baptist answer to Covenant Theology. I am a baptist and so, of course, I really, really tried to like it. But the more I read it, the more and more problems I see with it. Quite frankly, reading their rebuttal to Covenant Theology almost makes me want to go full Presbyterian.

    For instance, in Denault's book on the "Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: he writes that there is not one covenant with Abraham but two. Others writers repeat this as well, that there is a physical covenant and a spiritual covenant. That there is a physical people and then there is a spiritual people. This seems like warmed-over Dispensationalism-lite.

    Denault writes, "The padeobaptist refused to separate the dualities of the Abrahamic covenant in order to preserve their model of the covenant of grace which integrated these dualities… Their system was self sufficient, but it could not harmonize itself naturally with the Biblical data, and, in particular, to the fact that there was not one, but two covenants in Abraham” (loc 1863, 1929).

    But all the promises were given to Israel. Period. Some were grafted into Israel. Some were cut off.

    Also, Romans 4:11 says that Abraham is the father of all the faithful and seems to deny this two-covenant approach (though I'd love for someone here to more fully expound that).

    "11 And he received mthe sign of circumcision, na seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that ohe might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also."

    There seems to be dual elements perhaps, but not two covenants.

    Why are baptists insisting upon this?
  2. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    Not to be critical or unfair in any way, but I believe the answer is what you alluded to in the first paragraph; I don't think it's possible to NOT adhere to the dual covenant structure with Abraham and also remain Baptist (please do correct me fellas if I'm wrong here).
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Most speak of dual elements in the one covenant. But not two Abrahamic covenants (a physical one and a spiritual one).

    I am baptist and I do not believe there were two covenants with Abraham but only one covenant with dual elements in it.
  4. Timotheos

    Timotheos Puritan Board Freshman

    Can you give me 1 quote form a Baptist and reformed who holds to 2 Abr. Cov.? The dichotomy in the Abr. Cov. is there, no doubt. And I would argue that Paul is making that case in the allegory of Gal. 4. But Coxe never said that. I don't recall Denault saying that. Do you have a quotation?

    Edit: I just saw the quote you provided by Denault. Is this from his newer edition? His book is not to propose 1689 federalism per se but to compare 17th century particular baptists w/ their paedobaptists counterparts. So he is noting an observance that may or may not be valid (and even up to date).

    Also, have you read anyone other RB on the Abr. Cov.?

    Here's a place to start: The Abrahamic Covenant in Reformed Baptist Perspective
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  5. Timotheos

    Timotheos Puritan Board Freshman

    By the way, there are some reputable scholars who argue exegetically for 2 Abr. Cov's. Peter Williamson in his Sealed with an Oath does piggybacking off of T. D. Alexander. Gentry and Wellum deny this view, although they maintain the dual force in the Abr. Cov.

    As far as the dichotomy is concerned, perhaps it is better not to think in terms of physical and spiritual (a la Dispieism), but typological and fulfillment. And no Dispie would say what RB say, that the church is eschatological Israel and the Israel of God. So no fear of dispieism at all.
  6. Timotheos

    Timotheos Puritan Board Freshman

    So I now stand by what I said earlier maintaining that even Denault did not pose 2 different Abr. Cov. Here is the context of what you quoted:

    The "2 covenants" you mentioned were in regard to the allegory of Gal. 4 not the Abrahamic Cov. itself. This is what I was arguing on the other thread about this.

    So again, 1689 federalism is not about 2 Abr. Covs. They do, however, maintain a dual nature or dichotomy of the Abr. Cov.
  7. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Graduate

    Which would be different then the Presbyterians Reformed viewpoint regarding this topic, correct?
  8. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior

    Very simplisticly, 1689 Federalism of that stripe see a covenant of circumcision that is no longer in force. Presbyterians argue it is still in force but the sign has changed to baptism.
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Denault writes, "The padeobaptist refused to separate the dualities of the Abrahamic covenant in order to preserve their model of the covenant of grace which integrated these dualities… Their system was self sufficient, but it could not harmonize itself naturally with the Biblical data, and, in particular, to the fact that there was not one, but two covenants in Abraham” (loc 1863, 1929).
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    You write, "The dichotomy in the Abr. Cov. is there, no doubt. And I would argue that Paul is making that case in the allegory of Gal. 4."

    Can you explain how Galatians shows this?
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Do all Reformed Baptists belive that. Are there different camps?

    Is it possible to say that baptism replaces circumcision as a Reformed Baptist?
  12. Timotheos

    Timotheos Puritan Board Freshman

    Context is important, as I quoted above the very same thing I now quote again:
    "It is in this way that the Baptists understood that there were two covenants with Abraham, not two formal covenants, but a promise that revealed the Covenant of Grace followed by the covenant of circumcision. In light of Galatians 4.22-31, the theologians of the 1689 considered that the two covenants that came from Abraham (Hagar and Sara) were the Old and New Covenants. The covenant of circumcision, Hagar, corresponded to the Old Covenant; a covenant of works established with the physical posterity of Abraham. The covenant of the promise, Sara, corresponded to the New Covenant; the Covenant of Grace revealed to Abraham and concluded with Christ and the spiritual posterity of Abraham (Ga. 3.29)." Kindle Locations 1922-1927

    When Denault says "two covenants in Abraham" as you quoted him, I believe the context makes clear he is not talking about the actual Abr. Cov. being 2 covenants but the 2 covenants that arose as a result and play out in the Gal. 4 allegory: the OC and the NC.
  13. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior

    I could have sworn there was a book like that and it was referenced here. I have been looking and cannot find it. I will let you know.
  14. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior

    Covenant Theology - A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God's Covenants
    Greg Nichols
    I think that is it.
  15. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    There are different "camps." Sam Waldron taught something more like what Presbyterians hold--one covenant of grace spanning OT and NT.

    I don't think a Reformed Baptist would say baptism "replaces" circumcision. Maybe "take the place of" with an emphasis that the target and purpose of the sign is different.

    I'd say, in extremely summary fashion, that the covenant of circumcision looked ahead to Christ while baptism looks back at Christ. So, in that sense, they are not functionally identical. Christ is the center of focus as he is the center of history.

    One other thing, I've been "keeping these things in my heart" for more than 4 years, pondering and working through them. I'm not satisfied with the 1689 Federalist or even (what I understand) the Particular Baptist take on it. I keep going back and reading Owen on Hebrews, and keep working through types and Scriptures. I'm close to a formulation I can accept, but I would not presume to publish it until I had some sustained time to organize it.

    Such is life, some of these things require more reflection than mere thought.
  16. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior

    A review says he is a Shepherdite somehow....
  17. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Is a Shepherdite one who adopts the views of Norman Shepherd? I'm pretty sure Greg Nichols is not one of those....
  18. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior

    Just mentioning. I could not tell you. I do not want to slander the man at all. I have noticed some who tend to drift toward antinomian tend to play the Shepherd card often.
  19. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks Trent!
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
  20. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I would love to read any tentative notes that you have.

    I am also not satisfied with the current batch of books explaining 1689 Federalism. They seem to stress discontinuity too much.

    I'd love also to read anything by Dr Waldron as well if you can point me to any links.
  21. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Graduate

    The traditional Baptist approach to these discussed items here would indeed tend to see that the New Covenant in some sense was more of a brand new work then a Presbyterian would see it as being, and that is why I posted on a different thread why there seems to be almost 2 differing Covenant theologies at play between Reformed baptists and Presbyterians on many of these issues.
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Is the guy credobaptist? I don't recall knowing any Shepherdites who are credo.
  23. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior

    I apologize. The review was junk as I read on. All he did was exgete lectures from Shepherd and try to connect the dots to Nichols because he not a 1689 Federalist. A very poor reviewer indeed.

    Perg, I am thankful for your threads on the subject. I have also read a little bit on 1689 federalism and have rejected it. I think good points are made that we as CoG people need to study more on but the whole Galatians allegory thing to build a foundation on, I find lacking.
  24. Ben Zartman

    Ben Zartman Puritan Board Freshman

    As an RB, I say that baptism in the NC answers to circumcision in the OT. The old and new covenants aren't opposites, or two different tries at the same thing--the new covenant is the reality that the old was prefiguring. The old covenant had a meal--the Passover--to which the Lord's Supper answers, though the NC meal is far more simple and meaningful, and is applied differently. Likewise baptism, a sign of the NC, is far more simple and meaningful than circumcision, and also applied differently.

    David, your assessment is wrong: regardless of what many who call themselves Baptists think (and there's as many different flavors of baptists are there are of presbyterians), the traditional baptist approach (see the LBCF, chapter 7), is that God revealed the Covenant of Grace first to Adam, and developed it--singular--by different means, until Jesus came, who is the subject and reason and cause of all things. So we see the New Covenant as the fruition of the Old--same tree, all grown up and bearing glorious fruit. Or you can think of the old covenant as an arch under construction, surrounded by scaffolding, its final form only half-discernible through the clutter of the builder's impedimenta. But once the keystone is dropped in, the scaffold is removed, and the arch is revealed in it's full glory--the same arch that was under construction, but fully realized.
  25. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    That is a perfect example of the WTS East vs WTS West dynamic that I referred to elsewhere. Nichols is an admirer of John Murray, from what I understand. Waldron is an admirer or Murray and Robertson, I think. The "1689 Federalist" guys are admirers of Kline, Horton, etc. and the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies is headquartered at WSCAL. Jeffrey Johnson's "The Fatal Flaw" is replete with quotations from "The Law is Not of Faith."

    I haven't read him and know him only by reputation, but I doubt Nichols is really a huge fan of Shepherd. (But you never know. I know of at least one who is influential in Calvinistic Baptist circles, but the man I'm thinking of is not a Reformed Baptist and has denounced confessional RBs in the harshest terms.) I'd also be surprised if the one lodging the Shepherdite complaint isn't the proprietor of the 1689 website. I think he is basically a Clarkian and a Klinean, more or less. My guess is that it is latching onto what he thinks is the implication of what Nichols teaches on some point.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  26. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    While David's response may be somewhat imprecise, he is quite correct that the nature of the New Covenant is one of the major differences, if not the major difference, between Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians. See James White's essay on the newness of the New Covenant in the Reformed Baptist Theological Review, for example. I think I'm safe in saying that Baptists of all kinds will charge that paedobaptists have a hard time explaining what is new about the new covenant. I've never seen a Baptist hem and haw around when asked that question, even those who believe in one covenant, two administrations.
  27. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    The essays that I think you are referring to are included in Recovering a Covenantal Heritage, published by RBAP, in chapters 11 and 12. He interacts mainly with The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism, published by P&R.
  28. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I looked at the ToC of that book the other day. This essay, and perhaps a few others, date to previous years. I think the White essay was originally published 10-12 years ago, prior to the promotion of the "1689 Federalism." I think it may have been available online at some point.

    I've seen it said that White is a "20th Century Reformed Baptist" and that he really hasn't looked into this issue. Since he's now charged with being a "useful idiot" for Islam, among other things, he's got bigger fish to fry at the moment.
  29. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    I agree about White, however, just to clarify, Recovering a Covenantal Heritage is not a book about 1689 Federalsim, per se. It is an attempt to correct the problem that covenantalism of any stripe has pretty much been swept aside in Baptist theology since the age of Revivalism. This is the more important issue to my mind, and I think the 1689 Federalists agree.
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  30. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Right. I would agree as well. I had mentioned it because it is touted as one of the two or three books to read if you want to understand "1689 Federalism." With the exception of White, all of the contributors in that book are either "1689 Federalist" (Renihan, Denault, Johnson, Barcellos) or else their position is unknown to me. (My guess is that anyone writing about Owen is "1689 Federalist.")

    Even though RBAP's position (assuming RBAP=Barcellos) is 1689 Federalism, they do publish books by authors like Crampton who either don't address the issue of the Mosaic Covenant or who might be of the "20th Century" mindset. (I saw one of the "1689" men say that Crampton hadn't really delved into that. That's another book on my long list to read.)

    All kinds of Baptists can advance arguments against paedobaptism that other Baptists will certainly agree with. Certainly that's not the same as having a covenant theology or some other "positive" theology of your own. Interestingly, about 8-9 years ago when I switched from paedo to credo, in a marathon thread that I admittedly unnecessarily and prematurely instigated because I felt that the PB (since I was a mod at the time) deserved an accounting for my change, I was charged (by some Presbyterians and maybe even some Baptists) with not having a "schema." My "schema" was basically what Waldron and Malone and other "20th Century Reformed Baptists" have taught as I understand it--one covenant, two administrations. (Some, especially those who were never Baptists or who never went through a RB phase, were perhaps unfamiliar with that terminology.) I think the charge came largely because of my half-baked opening post which was long on assertion and short on argument. But I think it was also repeated much later as well.

    I'm pretty sure I asserted that the substance of the covenant was the same but that the administration was different. That's why I thought "The Fatal Flaw" came across like modified NCT when I read it a few years later. Had it not been for the appendix affirming the perpetuity of the Moral Law, I'm not so sure that I wouldn't have just put it in the "NCT, other" category since, not having read Barcellos, Renihan, Coxe, etc. I was under the impression that all RBs affirmed "one covenant, two administrations."

    Over the years I've considered reading through that thread again to see if I still agree with myself. I know Randy certainly disagrees with what he posted there (this was back in his Baptist days) and perhaps some others have made some modifications to their theology as well. It is sobering to realize now that some who posted there who seemed to be running well are not even evangelical anymore. Maybe some do not even claim to be Christian anymore.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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