Westminsterians, Pretend I Am A Kindergartener

Discussion in 'Paedo-Baptism Answers' started by KMK, Jul 10, 2017.

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  1. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    For 10 years I have had the blessing of being edified by my participation at PB...with the exception of one doctrine: God's Covenant(s).

    Maybe it's me, or maybe a discussion board is not the best place to learn about this subject. But, just in case I am not the only one, I was wondering if my Westminsterian brethren could explain to me, in childlike terms, what is inaccurate/incomplete about the LBC Chapter 7:

    Paragraph 1. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to Him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.1
    1 Luke 17:10; Job 35:7,8

    Paragraph 2. Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace,2 wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved;3 and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life, His Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.4
    2 Gen. 2:17; Gal. 3:10; Rom. 3:20,21
    3 Rom. 8:3; Mark 16:15,16; John 3:16;
    4 Ezek. 36:26,27; John 6:44,45; Ps. 110:3

    Paragraph 3. This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman,5 and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament;6 and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect;7 and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.8
    5 Gen. 3:15
    6 Heb. 1:1
    7 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:2
    8 Heb. 11;6,13; Rom. 4:1,2, &c.; Acts 4:12; John 8:56

    I have no desire to argue about it, or encourage others to do so. That is why I placed this in the Paedobaptist Answers Only Forum.

    If the Baptists could please refrain themselves from responding in this thread it would be greatly appreciated. (If you want to start your own thread, be my guest.)
  2. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable Staff Member

    This should not be an issue. Given the rules of this sub-forum only answers from paedo-baptist believers are permitted. ;)
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2017
  3. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable Staff Member

    For starters, you might find the following useful:

    Attached Files:

  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Looked at in tabular fashion, http://www.proginosko.com/docs/wcf_lbcf.html one may instantly see that ch.7 is one of the most re-worked in the Baptist version. Some of Westminster's terms have been rephrased and repositioned in ch.6 (N.B. the first para).

    Both Covenant-Theology and Baptist-Covenantalism are more than "architectonic principles," more than an understanding of the internal framework or structure of biblical revelation. They can be those things. But above all, they are different hermeneutical grids or lenses by which the biblical data is reckoned with.

    This is one reason why CT is frequently contrasted with Disp-ism; in the end, these are two incompatible methods of reading the Bible. And I will say something similar about CT vs. BC: they have different starting points, different axioms. These differences are what ultimately prevent men equally committed to biblical authority in principle, to yet divide over important points of doctrine and practice; even if they stake out the same good ground on the heights of theology.

    I'm not sure that this is the kind of dispute that can be put into terms that will help a 5yr old discriminate between the options and choose wisely.

    The WCF expression "Of God's Covenant with Man" in ch.7 is a self-conscious statement regarding the radical unity of Scripture, the radical singularity of the people of God, and the radical oneness of the plan of Redemption. "Radical" I am using in its basic sense, the "root" or radix. Scripture is telling one story; the OT is not simply necessary background for the essential plot and characterization of the story starting in Matthew.

    The implication of this one-narrative, and how it appears to us that Jesus and the apostles (in word, deed, or epistle) treat the OT and relate to it, yields our view that the OT contributors to the arc of the plan are cast on the same basic level, and possess the same basic identity as those who occupy positions near the climax of the plan and beyond that moment in time.

    I have reckoned the distinction in the CT vs. BC views: describing the separation between the OT and NT as first (in the CT case), the marks of primary unity with some diversity obtaining between the people/government/time/place of the American Colonies and those same in the aftermath of the War of Independence; and second (in the BC case), the marks of some unity but primary diversity obtaining between the people/government/time/place of Old World Europe and those same crossed-over the Atlantic divide into the New World American national founding.

    In either case, both sides see and acknowledge continuity and discontinuity, and the overall importance and significance of the past upon the present. But the continuity between the Colony and the State (of the same name) has a certain character; which is quite different from the ancestral connections felt when the Englishman (of Frenchman, German, etc.) left one form of identity behind and became a colonial (or later an American).

    So I argue, that the CTer thinks of Abraham as key to the establishment of his kingdom, as (for example) Wm.Penn was to the colony that bore his name. With apologies to those who will misinterpret what I say as a brief for thinking of the USA as "God's nation," it's just an illustration. If one imagines (fantasizes!) the nation that emerged from the War of Independence as a kind of "fulfillment" of an earlier "hope" of "free and independent states" bound under its true and proper head (i.e. a new federal govt), one may see an analogy to the Tribes of Israel coming under its True and Proper Head, namely Christ in the NT. What is imaginary in the illustrative case is actual in the biblical case.

    But, as I see the BC case: the illustration of New World national founding is foreshadowed and hinted and hoped for by individuals and generations on the other side of the gulf of ocean. Men of old times dream, write, and plan, oriented toward an opaque future; of a time and a place when the limits of an Old Order kingdom will be transcended by a "fulfillment" of the best Christian or Enlightenment hopes found in a new nation, a rational constitution, a free people. In heart they are already there.... And looking back at them from this vantage point, we claim this Renaissance man, or further back that ancient Greek visionary as the true father of our country (Washington, eat your heart out).

    How do you read the OT, and connect it to the NT? That is the great question. As a CTer, I've tried to put what I think is a positive spin on an analogy I really suppose the BCer ought not object to (outside the dangers of mapping modern history onto biblical theology). I didn't pick the illustrations because "I'm a better American," or "This concept makes me look more patriotic than the other guy." Please. My chief interest is in illustrating corporate and ideological continuity or discontinuity, using a narrative of history to set the scenes.

    Is turning the page between OT and NT more like passage of the Atlantic Ocean, or more like crossing a bridge that connects two banks of a river?
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  5. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    So, you don't have a problem with what is taught in the LBC chapter 7, but it is incomplete? Or is true but meaningless because it doesn't have the right starting point?
  6. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I really like the way Bruce put it, and I doubt I could improve on his eloquence. I'd only like to add a slightly different (maybe more specific?) point that I see in the two confessional statements. With regard to covenantal theology, the WCF is very careful to make a distinction between the substance of the covenant (which is salvation in Christ), and the administration of the covenant (which includes people who do not participate in the substance of the covenant). This is connected to the visible/invisible church distinction. CT'ers believe that this helps us to understand what is happening in cases of apostasy, for instance: they possessed many benefits that belong to the administration of the covenant, and yet they never possessed the substance. This also helps us to understand how it is that children can be considered as part of the covenant community without necessarily believing that they are saved. I haven't read all the way through the LBC recently, but it seems to me that the LBC either does not make this distinction, or else mutes it.

    The question that then logically follows is whether the sign of the covenant is supposed to mark inclusion in the substance of the covenant (salvation itself) or inclusion in the administration. CT'ers believe that it marks inclusion in the administration of the covenant, like circumcision did in the OT. As far as I can tell (and forgive me if I misrepresent Baptists here, which is certainly not my intent, but is all too easy to do), Baptists regard baptism as the sign of inclusion in the covenant period, which is roughly equivalent to what CT'ers regard as the substance of the covenant. It marks salvation, in other words.

    Circumcision was obviously a mark of inclusion in the administration (though, of course, it always pointed to the spiritual reality of the circumcision of the heart), since Ishmael was circumcised, and many were circumcised who later apostatized. Circumcision did not occur upon confession of faith, but upon birth or adult inclusion in the administration of the covenant of grace. Of course, whether circumcision is a true sacrament of the OT that is now replaced by baptism is highly disputed between CT'ers and Baptists, but the point is that this is where CT'ers get the idea. Here is where we can insert Bruce's very fine discussion of the continuity/discontinuity point.

    Bottom line, I don't particularly find much that I disagree with in LBC 7, but I think it is incomplete, not including discussions of the administration. I think it assumes that covenant membership in the covenant of grace is always saving membership without any distinction. This would be discontinuous with the OT version of the CoG, as Bruce points out, whereas the CT'er posits continuity of substance and administration.
  7. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    If I were to talk to you in a similar fashion in the same way the LBC explains CT (and some other things), then I would have to say, with the utmost urgency on the topic, _______________________________________________.

    Incomplete sentences and thoughts in important theological and salvific concepts leave out the most _________________________________________________.

    (Isn't that just irritating when thoughts are not compl_________________________________________.)
  8. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree with Bruce and Lane. I can't find anything I would have to take away, but there are other things I think I would have to add. Kind of like if I was talking with someone I just met about some biblical doctrine and they made a statement that sounded good, but it was also sort of general and I need to ask more follow up questions to clarify: Okay, but are you saying this, or are you saying THIS?

    For instance: Is the LBC teaching that the Genesis 3:15 promise and subsequent manifestations of the covenant were indeed part of the Covenant of Grace? What does it mean that the covenant is revealed in the gospel? What does it mean that the full discovery was "completed" in the NT (what does that word completed mean)?
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