Featured Paedo-Baptism Answers What exactly IS a covenant child?

Discussion in 'Paedo-Baptism Answers' started by Pergamum, May 14, 2019.

  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks.

    Still thinking about this...

    Some descriptions make it sound like the baptism actually does something to the child. Like a magic potion or something.

    If Baby A is baptized and dies later and his parents are Christian and Baby B dies unbaptized and his parents are pagan, then is there a difference between those two babies?
     
  2. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

  3. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    It might help to compare to what the Baptist brothers and sisters do. Addressing the magic potion bit... maybe a personal testimony would help.

    No good Baptist parent will presume their children will be saved without means. They don't consider their children members of the church, but neither do they think that they're only as likely as any other child out there to be converted. Godly Baptist parents know that they must use means for the conversion of their children. Prayer, Bible teaching, family worship, discipline, oversight of pastors. No Baptist views these things as magic in themselves to convert the child, and know that it's only the power of God making the means effective that will convert the child. Yet they dare not neglect any means God has given them.

    We simply acknowledge there is one more means for the salvation/edification of the child: church membership, represented by baptism. Rather than having the children on the outside of membership and discipling him, we count the child as one of our number and disciple him or her from that stance. I can't imagine that makes only a small difference in the thinking of a child. And I would argue that the Baptist brothers and sisters substantially treat their children like church members anyway, baptism being the one exception. Prayer, oversight, Sunday schools, addressing sermons to them, obeying Deuteronomy 6 (addressed to parents for their children who were members of the OT church), in some cases instructing them as though they were Christians... those things are given to professing member adults. We don't give those things to the unconverted, or in the same degrees anyway, or with the same sense of responsibility. When one is in membership, all these things will put our obligations even to our own children at an unprecedentedly high level.

    I can tell you, when I began to see my children in this way, it changed how I saw my parenting. It increased my love for my children, it increased the weight of the responsibility, and it enlivened my faith in the use of the means of grace for the conversion/edification of my daughters. I saw them as ones that God possesses for Himself, myself as a steward, and when we baptized them I was as a father saying, "They are your children. You claimed them. Do as you will with them." I did not become passive--I saw the work of parenting as more crucial than ever! Didn't I love them before? I did. Wasn't I discipling before? I was. Yet my soul was augmented in its labors for them anyway.

    Not only that, it gave me a deeper love for the children at my church. In my mind as a Baptist the children were outsiders. Really, they are. Or they're informally in because of proximity, but are formally outside. But when you see them as insiders, and see God would have you treat them that way, you are all the more diligent to make sure the means of grace have some impact on them. You see them as God's in a special way, therefore you are the more careful to love them, interact with them, help them understand Sunday School lessons or what they heard in the sermon, it creates a connection between us and them. And you have greater faith that these things will become effective to them, because you see God has already marked them out as disciples. It makes a big difference.

    Notice, not because of the baptism itself, but because of the God who gave it to them. Not because they are church members as though grace was given ex cathedra, but as those subject to the oversight of the church God will use such means. The very same as an adult.

    Are we performing the same actions as the Baptist parents? All of them, with one added. Do Baptist parents love their children? Very dearly. But my own experiences teaches that it makes a great difference to the child to be taught as one considered among our number rather than as one who is on the outside. The church membership communicates that God has brought that child very close to Himself in a way that He hasn't for others. And the more kindness God shows, the more incentive to repent, or the more incentive to continue believing and repenting (Romans 2:4).

    And I would argue, the discipleship of children, Genesis 19 "commanding his children after him" and Deuteronomy 6 find their basis in the fact that they are counted as church members. So, the discipleship of children in Baptist churches has an OT precedence. And it's another reason we hit on Ephesians 6 "in the Lord", as though they know him. Because they just may. So when Baptists disciple their children, far as we're concerned they're doing it on the grounds of the Abrahamic Covenant, not only because of Ephesians 6 and other NT passages.

    So, we don't attribute any inherent virtue to preaching, though preaching must still happen. There is no inherent virtue in bread and wine, but we expect Christ to communicate His benefits through them. Church membership itself grants no power to an adult, but discipleship of a man outside the church is simply not the same as one who is a member of the visible church. So in baptism, we put no power in the sprinkling of water, but seeing as Christ has given it to children, we'll acknowledge the status he is given them, and by faith disciple our children accordingly.

    Sometimes a personal witness helps. God bless you in all your praying and pondering.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2019 at 7:09 AM
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  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    WCF:

    "....baptized into the visible Church;[2] but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace,[3] of his ingrafting into Christ,[4] of regeneration,[5] of remission of sins,[6] and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life..."

    So if baptism is a sign and seal of ingrafting into Christ and of regeneration and remission of sins, it appears there is a presumption of regeneration towards the children of believers. Not merely trusting that they will be saved one day, but proclaiming that they are already ingrafted into Christ, regenerated, and having their sins already remitted. Seems a bit premature.
     
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    That is a very good explanation. Thanks. It makes more sense now.
     
  6. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    It is applied efficaciously when a child grows to profess Christ. The language shows confidence in God’s love for His people; the church. Obviously it doesn’t guarantee a child’s future salvation, but God will save His own; that is a promise.
     
  7. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Maybe it was a PCA church. BCO 56-3 "Some other responsible person".
     
  8. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I came to see that you also can't presume a child is unregenerate- God could grant them the new birth when they're very young. So we treat them as church members! Paul wasn't being presumptious when he addressed a command to the children in Ephesians 5. Following that model, we instruct them in everything in the Lord as those able to listen and understand (at their age and level).
     
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  9. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    I don't feel as if I presume anything more than I would of anyone else in the church. In fact, I presume less with a child who has yet to profess faith, because I am still looking for that profession to happen and when it does I take it as a sign of progress in discipleship and evidence that the person seems to be regenerated. It would be a mistake to presume too much. Good Presbyterians are always steering their children toward profession of faith and looking for signs of conversion.

    But it is also a mistake to presume too little. How can I disciple a child while treating him as one whose current status with God has him headed for an eternity in hell? How can I teach a child to love God if we presume that? How can I train him to trust his Father, or to treasure God's Word, if we presume that both the Father and the Word currently speak judgment upon the child?

    Deuteronomy 6:20-25 is instructive for this. There is every presumption that the children begin life as part of the community God has saved, and that they ought to be instructed as if they belong. Yet there is no presumption that anyone will remain in such a blessed status if they reject God and his commands.

    There is always both presumption and uncertainty. Even most Baptists treat their kids with this understanding.
     
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks. Great explanation. I will consider it.
     
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    It is applied efficaciously when a child grows to profess Christ, but ineffectually in the other cases. The key is that the child grows to profess Christ. Why not wait until then?
     
  12. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Perg is quoting Jonathan, and Jonathan maybe that sentence isn’t put quite accurately. Efficacy isn’t tied to a profession of faith. The Spirit works as he wills in making the seal of baptism efficacious. An infant or younger child may already be regenerate when baptized. There is a charitable assumption because that’s what we’re commanded to do with one another- regard each other as church members, including the least of these disciples. Any RE or TE please be sure this was stated right.
     
  13. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Hey Jeri, how would this be different from 'presumptive regeneration'?
     
  14. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    I would say it is 'applied efficaciously' prior to the child confessing; the confession is the fruit of regeneration and most likely conversion. Again, 'presumingly'.
     
  15. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

  16. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Jack writes:

    Agreed. Regeneration vs conversion.
     
  17. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    @Jeri Tanner @Pergamum @Scott Bushey

    Yes! Good idea to give more nuance. I think I worded things in an assuming way. The work of the Spirit clearly precedes profession.

    So why not wait? Because we believe the Bible to set a precedent and that God commands us to obediently baptize our little ones. The distinction between how we view the church visible/invisible and how Baptists do also plays a factor. Children (baptized, of course) are addressed as part of the body and we disciple them in the hopes of the Holy Spirit’s work in their hearts unto salvation.
     
  18. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    We don't normally see regenerate-but-unconverted folks out there. A born again person ain't walking around out there faithless. Faith is the bridge which unites us to Christ. Except for babies who die in infancy, I don't think it was wise to hypothesize that our children are regenerate but lack conversion.
     
  19. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    How could u qualify that statement? It is immeasurable.

    I see no struggle. Regenerates have seeds of faith. 'Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God'. Regeneration allows for assent, when the information is received.
     
  20. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Moderating: please await discussion on the topic of presumptive regeneration, especially as applying to regenerate but unconverted, to a new thread (begun tomorrow!). Your moderators will appreciate the rest from off topic discussion on this Lord’s Day.
     
  21. B.L. McDonald

    B.L. McDonald Puritan Board Freshman

    This has been an interesting thread and I've been trying to follow along best I can in hopes of learning more about how Presbyterians view covenant children.

    If a Presbyterian Church baptizes an infant of one or more believing parents it serves as a sign and seal of the covenant of grace and the child is regarded to be a "covenant child." Correct? At what point does the status of that child change should he/she be shown not to be predestinated unto life and never effectually called out of their state of sin and death? If the child is shown later in life to be a reprobate and by God's eternal purpose, and for his glory, a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction does there come a point in the person's life where they are no longer to be viewed as a covenant child?

    I appreciate any insight you all can offer to help me understand these things. I'm interested in learning more.
     
  22. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    The short answer is that we should treat the children of believers (as this thread has revealed, not all the Reformed like the term "covenant children") in the same manner that we treat other members of the visible church. In the judgment of charity, we should expect that they will ultimately be saved, though, of course, they may turn out to be Esaus rather than Jacobs.

    Expectant regeneration seems to be the via media between the potential formalism of presumptive regeneration and presumptive unregeneration, which basically treats the children of believers as baptised pagans.
     
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I have more questions, but will hold off for a day or two. Thanks for the answers thus far.
     
  24. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Hopefully the assumption is that they might be regenerate. The judgment of charity is in treating them as members of Christ’s body, just like we would with another adult member.
    I associate myself with the DR’s remark above.

    When @Jeri wrote:

    An infant or younger child may already be regenerate when baptized. There is a charitable assumption because that’s what we’re commanded to do with one another.
    I trust it was to guard against presumptive non regeneration. However, the phrase “charitable assumption,” I’d imagine, caught Scott’s eye, therefore, his clarifying question.

    I hope Jeri meant, we are to regard infants as needing to trust in Christ, just like we’re to regard baptized adults as having that same need. We cannot sooner know whether an adult has closed with Christ relative to a little one who has heard and understood the gospel. Neither can we know who is regenerate. The charity we might extend needs to be walled in by certain principles, I’d say.
     
  25. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If we admit the household principle of Scripture and believe that God is faithful to ordinarily bless the children of believers, don't all pedobaptists believe in a form of presumptive regeneration? They are counted as members of the church, after all, and given one of the signs. Sounds like a presumption of regeneration to me.
     
  26. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    No more than did Abraham presume when giving to both Isaac and Ishmael the seal of righteousness by faith, aka. circumcision.
     
  27. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    hmmmm....good point.
     
  28. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    In this case, Abraham was being obedient to the command itself; he knew that the covenant was with Isaac.
     
  29. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, he knew something of Isaac’s status in the covenant, but Abraham was obedient to the One who gave the command. Ishmael still received the sign, as did the rest of Abraham’s house. Ishmael’s future was less known to Abraham and still he received the sign. Ishmael received a level of care and blessing from God.

    Yes, obedience; it still is a covenant with God that, if broken, exposes you to thorough judgment.

    Noah passed through the deluge as a kind of baptism; the world was judged by drowning. Israel passed through the Red Sea with dry feet; Egypt’s fierce men were washed away. Same act has implications for blessing and curse.
     
  30. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    For the record, though, I'm actually with Pergy in suspecting that conversion is usually simultaneous with regeneration or follows very quickly.
     

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