Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An Analysis of Reformed Infant Baptism

I dearly love Presbyterians. These brothers and sisters in Christ are co-laborers in the cause of the gospel. We owe them and their tribe very much for their vital contributions to Christian thought and life. Some of my heroes in the faith are Presbyterians. I have good Presbyterian friends and I value their friendships. I mean no offense to them in this post, but I do mean to outline what I regard to be the fatal errors in their doctrine of infant baptism (or paedobaptism) and respond to them.

1. The Covenant of Grace. 

The Presbyterian doctrine of the “covenant of grace” is the theological basis of their doctrine of infant baptism. They teach that after Adam's fall, the whole Bible is unified by one covenant of grace. They teach that the covenant of grace has the same substance (essence) and similar administrations (forms) throughout the Scriptures. The language of substance and administration is critical to understanding their view. They believe that the elect are redeemed by the saving “substance” of the covenant of grace, while the external and legal “administration” of the covenant of grace is mixed with the elect and non-elect by way of infant baptism. Here are what I regard to be some fatal errors of this teaching.

First, the Presbyterian doctrine of the covenant of grace undermines the efficacy of Christ's mediation and cross-work. Presbyterian theology teaches that Christ is the mediator of the covenant of grace. The book of Hebrews declares that Christ's mediation means that He reconciles His covenant people to the Father, that He is a testator who gives His blessings freely and unconditionally, and a surety who pays all their debts. Presbyterians must either explain how Christ can be the mediator of the covenant of grace for non-elect and unregenerate people (which will undermine His mediatorial efficacy), or they must explain how Christ can be the mediator of a covenant without being the mediator of everyone in that covenant (which will undermine His mediatorial efficacy).  If, they say that Christ mediates for those in the outward administration of the covenant of grace, they must explain how Christ's blood, signified by baptism, covers unregenerate people in the covenant of grace without effecting their salvation.  Any explanation they give will approximate Arminian definitions of the atonement. [March 1: Edited for clarity.]

Second, the Presbyterian doctrine of the covenant of grace confuses (joins together) the headships of Adam and Christ. Because Presbyterians include unregenerate infants within the covenant of grace, they diminish the headship of Christ in one of two ways. One, they may say that baptized infants are no longer in Adam and under the curse of the covenant of works, but are under Christ's headship in a way that might condemn them to hell. On this view, it is very hard to see how Christ's covenant is a “covenant of grace.” It is, rather, a covenant of grace/justification and wrath/condemnation, which is hardly a comfort or blessing to all who are in it. Two, Presbyterians may say that unregenerate baptized infants in the administration of the covenant of grace are “in Adam” (the covenant of works) and “in Christ” (the covenant of grace) simultaneously. These infants would be in the inward “substance” of the covenant of works, but the outward “administration” of the covenant of grace. Such a view would undermine the efficacy of Christ's atonement because it places unregenerate infants of believers under Christ's mediation, and under His blood, while affirming the child's condemnation in Adam.

Third, the Presbyterian doctrine of the covenant of grace ascribes saving power to the OT covenants of promise. But this is impossible since the OT covenants of promise, including the Abrahamic covenant, were established on the shed blood of animals and imperfect human mediators. The OT covenants of promise commanded their members to trust the Lord, to love the Lord, and obey the Lord.  But the OT covenants did not provide their members with the power to obey their commands.  The shed blood of animals and human mediators never gave grace needed for regeneration, justification, sanctification, and perseverance.  That only comes from the shed blood of Christ and His mediation.  The Presbyterian notion of a “saving substance” in the OT covenants is foreign to the Bible.

The historic Reformed Baptists had a better way. They believed there is only one covenant of grace, the same in its saving substance, running through the whole Bible, but they believed that this saving covenant is distinct from the OT covenants.

Hebrews 9:15 says, “Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” Notice several things about this text.

First, Christ's mediation of the new covenant is what redeemed sinners under the old covenant. Historic Baptists taught that the covenant of grace is identical to the new covenant. The covenant of grace, however, was “promised” under the old covenant, but it is now fulfilled in the death of Christ. It was progressively revealed under the old covenant, but it is now formally concluded and enacted through the death of Christ. The OT saints were saved by virtue of the new covenant promise “breaking in” to the old covenant (Rom 9:8; Gal 3:29; 4:23, 28). Old Testament saints were not saved by virtue of the old covenant, but by virtue of the promise of the new. Thus, there is only one covenant of grace, the same in substance from Genesis to Revelation.

Second, Christ's mediation in the covenant of grace saves all its members. Hebrews 9:15 says, “a death has occurred that redeems them.” Just a few verses earlier in Hebrews 9:12, we're told that Christ entered the holy places as the Mediator of the new covenant, “by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Earlier in Hebrews 7:22, it says, “This makes Jesus the guarantor [or surety] of a better covenant.” A surety is someone who fulfills the legal obligations of someone who cannot fulfill them. Christ's death effectuates the salvation of all those in this covenant. Who is in the covenant? Verse 15 says “those who are called” are in the new covenant.

Third, unbelievers were never in the covenant of grace (because of #'s 1 and 2). The covenant of grace was only made with the elect in Christ. It effectually saves all its members because they are under Christ's effectual mediation. Therefore, since unbelieving infants (and unbelievers of any kind) were not part of the covenant of grace under the old covenant, then neither are they part of the covenant of grace under the new covenant.

In conclusion, the Reformed Baptist doctrine of the covenant of grace avoids the problems of the paedobaptist while preserving the unity of the gospel throughout the Scriptures.

2. Hermeneutics.

Presbyterians claim to hold the Reformed hermeneutic of New Testament priority.  It's the same hermeneutic articulated by Augustine in the phrase, “The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.” Reformed exegetes agree that the New Testament has final authority over the interpretation of Old Testament passages. Reformed Baptists do not believe that Presbyterians apply our common Reformed hermeneutic consistently. Consider the following examples of our respective hermeneutical applications.

First, Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists agree in consistently applying NT priority with respect to some categories of promise and fulfillment.

 - The promise of a rebuilt temple to Israel (Ez 40-48) is fulfilled in Christ (Jn 2:19-21) and in the church (1 Pet 2:4-5).

- The promise of physical land to the descendants of Abraham (Gen 15:18-20) is fulfilled to Abraham's believing seed in the better country of the new heavens and the new earth on the basis of Christ's work (Heb 11:10, 13, 16).

Second, Presbyterians disagree with one another, while Reformed Baptists hold to NT priority in other categories of promise and fulfillment.

- Reformed Baptists believe that the case laws of Israel with their penalties (for example: Ex 22) are fulfilled with the coming of Christ because they have already served their purpose to protect the physical line of promise (Eph 2:14-15). Presbyterians are conflicted about whether the case laws of Israel should apply to the United States as theonomic reconstructionism teaches.

- Reformed Baptists believe that the OT Passover is fulfilled in Christ (1 Cor 5:7), and that NT revelation alone determines the participants of the new covenant ordinance of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:27-29). Presbyterians are conflicted about whether the infants of believers should be admitted to the Lord's Supper because they were admitted at Passover (Ex 12:24).

Third, Presbyterians reject NT priority in certain categories of promise and fulfillment, while Reformed Baptists consistently affirm it.

- Reformed Baptists believe that the promise to Abraham and his physical seed (Gen 17:7) is fulfilled in Christ. Galatians 3:16 says, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, 'And to offsprings,' referring to many, but referring to one, 'And to your offspring, who is Christ.” Reformed Baptists also believe that this promise is fulfilled in believers. Galatians 3:7 says, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” Presbyterians, like Dispensationalists, believe that the promise of a physical seed in the OT ought to govern our exegesis of the NT, rather than the other way around.

- Reformed Baptists believe that the sign of circumcision (Gen 17:11) is fulfilled at the cross of Christ and in “heart circumcision.” Colossians 2:11-12 says, “In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Presbyterians, on the other hand, hold that the meaning of the sign of circumcision is determinative of the meaning of the sign of baptism, rather than allowing the NT to determine the meaning of baptism and the fulfillment of circumcision. 

Therefore, the Presbyterian model inconsistently applies its own Reformed hermeneutic. In some cases, it allows the NT to determine the progressive unfolding of redemptive history. In other cases, it allows the OT to take priority over the NT. This model displays no governing hermeneutical basis for its divergent choices.

3. The Regulative Principle of Worship.

The confessions of both Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists affirm the Regulative Principle of Worship, which teaches that public Christian worship should only include commanded elements under the new covenant. Any elements of new covenant worship not instituted by the new covenant revelation are forbidden.

Baptists note that there is neither a command nor clear example of an infant baptism in the Bible. Presbyterians agree. Some Presbyterians appeal to household baptisms as an example, but they admit that the Bible is silent about whether these households included any infants. Therefore, Baptists conclude that infant baptism is forbidden as an element of public worship on the basis of the regulative principle of worship.

How do Presbyterians attempt to reconcile the regulative principle with infant baptism? Presbyterians take two approaches. One approach is to argue from the command of OT circumcision, but this violates the regulative principle, which teaches that only NC revelation can institute NC worship practices. Another approach is to argue that while baptism is an element of worship, the baptism of infants is a circumstance of worship, rather than an element. Circumstances as defined by the the Regulative Principle are things like “lighting,” “pews,” “language,” “air conditioning,” etc. It would seem to minimize paedobaptism (to the point of absurdity) to say that the “paedo” of “paedobaptism” is a mere “circumstance” of worship and not an element. 

Presbyterians also often say that both sides are arguing from “silence” on this point. But these are two very different kinds of arguments from silence. It is one thing to argue against believing a doctrine on the basis of silence. It is quite another thing to argue in favor of believing a doctrine on the basis of silence.

Reformed Baptists, however, do not have this problem. They note that Scripture only requires the baptism of disciples (Matt 28:19; Acts 8:12; etc.). Therefore, Baptists baptize disciples alone.

4. Serious Internal Inconsistencies in the Practice of Paedobaptism.

Reformed Paedobaptism has a number of serious internal inconsistencies. One of the tests of the truthfulness of any system is to examine it for its internal consistency. Consistency is a mark of truth, while inconsistency is a mark of error.

Reformed Paedobaptists claim that infant baptism is based on the OT “you and your seed” principle and on the OT practice of circumcision. The serious problem with this, however, is that they do not follow their principles, which undermines their argument from those principles. Reformed infant baptism does not resemble the inclusion of physical seed or circumcision in the OT. Consider the following examples.

Paedobaptists exclude unbelieving adult spouses from the covenant of grace, but under the old covenant, all those in the Israelite household, including both husbands and wives, were in the covenant, whether they believed or not.

Paedobaptists exclude household servants from the waters of baptism. But, in the old covenant, every male among you was to be circumcised, including servants, whether the servants believed or not. 

Paedobaptists look for a profession of faith from parents before baptizing their children. That is, they will only baptize the children of professing believers. But, that requirement is not revealed in either the OT or NT. Paedobaptists will not baptize the children of baptized church members, if those baptized church members are non-communicant members (as sometimes happens when those who have not come to assurance of their own salvation bear children). There is no revealed reason to do this.

Paedobaptists require adults to make a profession of faith prior to baptizing them, but no such profession was required in the old covenant. In the old covenant, the Israelites did not require a profession of faith from adults prior to their circumcision. Rather, every male among you was to be circumcised, regardless of age or profession.

All of this undermines the very basis on which Reformed Paedobaptists argue for the baptism of infants. Paedobaptists argue that infants should be incorporated into the covenant of grace on the basis of old covenant membership. If the old covenant had members that Presbyterians exclude from the covenant of grace, then their own argument is undermined. The old covenant included spouses, servants, adult children, and continued to include “you and your children,” regardless of belief. Presbyterians generally refuse membership to all of these. Therefore, the foundation of their argument is undermined.

In conclusion, Reformed Paedobaptism undermines the sufficiency of Christ's work in its doctrine of the covenant of grace, inconsistently applies its own hermeneutic, violates the regulative principle of worship, and undermines its own argument for infant inclusion by various inconsistencies.

22 comments:

  1. Thank you for this excellent synopsis of baptism and the covenant of grace.

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  2. http://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/the-mosaic-covenant-same-in-substance-as-the-new/

    Tom,

    I just haven't seen anyone discuss this. It is my discovery of what I know to be historical and something I don't believe the Baptists or Modern Day Reformers have considered. It is based upon the history of coming to grips with the Mosaic Covenant in my estimation. When I debated baptism and Covenant Theology before i was arguing against something called the minority view that has been so promoted in the last Century. Not the historical understanding of the Majority of the Westminster Divines. Rich and I have discussed this a bit. I think Joel Beeke's and Mark Jones' new book "A Puritan Theology" chapters 16 - 18 will be a beneficial read for everyone if they can get their hands on it. It discusses the Majority view and the Minority views which I think is something missing in this discussion.

    Your brother,
    Randy

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    1. Hi Randy,

      I appreciate your concern for accuracy. You and I have exchanged thoughts on this over a numbers of forums. I want to just encourage you to think outside of your own experience when commenting on this topic. Your own journey in understanding covenant theology does not necessarily mirror every baptist's journey. Just because you misunderstood some issues and have now come to understand them better does not mean every baptist misunderstands the issues.

      Tom's points apply equally to the minority and majority views. I have benefited greatly from men like Patrick Ramsey in understanding these different positions, but I still disagree with him when it comes to the text. Just because someone disagrees with the majority view of the Mosaic covenant doesn't mean they are ignorant of the view.

      Telling Tom he doesn't understand covenant theology just because he disagrees with the majority view is disingenuous and may be the result of applying your own experience to Tom's. As you encourage Tom to read paedobaptist covenant theology with more care, I would likewise encourage you to read Tom with more care, as I think you misunderstood him (as he clarified below).

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    2. Hi Brandon,

      Firstly, I know we have communicated a very limited amount on the Puritanboard but I am not sure it has been as extensive as you think. Thanks for the encouragement to think outside of my own experience. Where have I ever implied that anyone's journey has ever mirrored my discovery of Covenant Theology? Where have I stated that every Baptist misunderstands the issues because I didn't understand them?

      You make a statement that Tom's points apply equally to the minority and majority views. Maybe you might want to explain that a bit more clearly. As the arguments would have to be approached differently and addressed differently based upon which view is being discussed. For one, it matters because the Particular Baptist view is in line with the Minority view of the Mosaic Covenant so your accusation is not necessarily true. Tom and I did clear up some issues by phone and this blog looks a lot better than when I first read it. I can recognize the Paedo positions in it now. I haven't had time to review it sense we initially started this.

      Brandon,
      You state, "Just because someone disagrees with the majority view of the Mosaic covenant doesn't mean they are ignorant of the view." Well, there ya go. When did I say this? This kind of rhetoric is just out there and begs to rabbit trail instead of deal with the issues.

      I read Tom Carefully and see he took what I said to heart in how he rewrote this blog entry. A lot of what I had problems with were his statements concerning the Covenant of Grace and how the other Covenants are administrations of that Covenant. He was making a 1 to 1 correlation and that simply was not the best way to state things.

      Be Encouraged Brandon, We don't see as we will someday.

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    3. Hi Martin,

      Thanks for trying to clarify. I'm glad you and Tom were able to clarify some things. To further clarify, I was responding to this:

      "http://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/the-mosaic-covenant-same-in-substance-as-the-new/ ... I just haven't seen anyone discuss this. It is my discovery of what I know to be historical and something I don't believe the Baptists or Modern Day Reformers have considered...It discusses the Majority view and the Minority views which I think is something missing in this discussion. "

      You make a personal appeal to your experience of learning and then claim no baptists have addressed what you have learned. I have considered this and written about it on the Puritanboard, on my blog, and on the list. Sam Renihan has also addressed this issue on the Puritanboard and you interacted with him, so I know you read it.

      "You make a statement that Tom's points apply equally to the minority and majority views. Maybe you might want to explain that a bit more clearly."

      If you would like to point out any portion of Tom's post that you feel does not apply to the Majority view, I would be happy to explain why I think it does.

      Thank you for the reminder that we are sick pilgrims waiting to see the Lord in glory, struggling as best we can to grasp these things in the time being.

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  3. "Third, the Presbyterian doctrine of the covenant of grace ascribes saving power to the OT covenants of promise. But this is impossible since the OT covenants of promise, including the Abrahamic covenant, were established on the shed blood of animals and imperfect human mediators. The OT covenants of promise commanded their members to trust the Lord, to love the Lord, and obey the Lord. But the OT covenants did not provide their members with the power to obey their commands. The shed blood of animals and human mediators never gave grace needed for regeneration, justification, sanctification, and perseverance. That only comes from the shed blood of Christ and His mediation. The Presbyterian notion of a “saving substance” in the OT covenants is foreign to the Bible."

    This only illustrates that you don't understand Covenant Theology in my estimation. Even the New Testament says the Gospel was preached to these guys. Either Salvation was the same for the Old Testament Saints as it is for us or it wasn't. These are strawmen that are falsely attributed. You should read more Reformed writers and the scriptures than making these false claims. The promises were bound up in the Gospel even back in the Old Covenant which pointed to Christ. Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification is the same in both testaments. If not then no one in the Old Testament could have known God. The Natural man receives not the things of God.

    Please quit distorting the Covenant Theology of the Westminster Divines. Maybe you should read that Confession through and see what it says concerning the Old Covenant and the saints back then and how they are also partakers with us by the same Mediator and Christ who was slain from the foundation of the World. I don't know where you are getting your facts but they are not reflecting truth. JMHO. (Luk 24:27) And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

    (Joh 5:46) For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
    (Joh 5:47) But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

    (Heb 4:2)
    For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
    (Heb 4:3)
    For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

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    1. Brother R. Martin Snyder, thanks for your reply, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to clarify what I wrote. I find myself agreeing with all of your points; so, I'm not sure where the disagreement lies! One of the challenges in a short blog post is to say everything simply enough so that it can be understood, but precisely enough so that it isn't misunderstood. Please forgive any confusion.

      I strongly believe that OT saints were saved in the same way that NT saints are saved. They were united to Christ, their mediator, testator, and surety, regenerated in Him, converted, justified, sanctified, preserved, and glorified. They were saved by virtue of the covenant of grace, just as we are.

      My point in the paragraph you quote is that the OT covenants did not have *in themselves* the power of salvation. OT saints were saved by virtue of the New Covenant "breaking in" to the Old Covenant. And, the new covenant is identical to the covenant of grace. This is the view held by John Owen, the prince of the puritans, as well as many early Particular Baptist divines. I also believe that the OT covenants included types and shadows of Christ (in their history, priesthood, tabernacle/temple systems, sacrifices, etc.), which pointed all its members to Him for salvation by free grace through faith alone.

      I attempted to communicate this in the following paragraph:

      "First, Christ's mediation of the new covenant is what redeemed sinners under the old covenant. Historic Baptists taught that the covenant of grace is identical to the new covenant. The covenant of grace, however, was “promised” under the old covenant, but it is now fulfilled in the death of Christ. It was progressively revealed under the old covenant, but it is now formally concluded and enacted through the death of Christ. The OT saints were saved by virtue of the new covenant promise “breaking in” to the old covenant (Rom 9:8; Gal 3:29; 4:23, 28). Old Testament saints were not saved by virtue of the old covenant, but by virtue of the promise of the new. Thus, there is only one covenant of grace, the same in substance from Genesis to Revelation."

      By saying "Christ's mediation of the new covenant is what redeemed sinners under the old covenant," I intended that they were actually redeemed in the OC, just as we are actually redeemed under the NT. By saying, "Thus, there is only one covenant of grace, the same in substance from Genesis to Revelation," I intended to communicate that the saving "substance" of the covenant of grace is exactly as you have described.

      Brother, I do not see where we differ.

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  4. Here's some additional documentation to support some of the posts claims: 

Presbyterians affirm that Christ is the Mediator of the covenant of grace. WCF 7:4 says, "This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed." A "testator" is a kind of mediator (Hebrews 9:15-17). The point in question is how the covenant of grace can have a mediator, while not all in the covenant are under his mediation? Is there any other biblical covenant like that (Adam, Moses, David)? 





    One of the primary architects of Paedobaptist covenant theology said that infants were under the blood of Christ. John Ball writes, "Others proper to the members of the visible church and common to them, as to be called by the word, enjoy the ordinances of grace, live under the covenant, partake of some graces that come from Christ, which through their fault be not saving: **and in this sense Christ died for all that be under the covenant**" (A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace, p. 206). 



Historically, Presbyterians have had a difficult time with this issue. It was a huge controversy in the church of Scotland with the Marrow Men. Berkhof writes, "According to them all sinners are legatees under Christ's testament, not indeed in the essence but in the administration of the covenant of grace, but the testament becomes effectual only in the cause of the elect" (Systematic Theology, p. 398). In the same context, Berkhof goes on to say, "Several Reformed theologians hold that, though Christ suffered and died only for the purpose of saving the elect, many benefits of the cross of Christ do actually - and that also according to the plan of God - accrue to the benefit of those who do not accept Christ by faith" (p. 398-399). 



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  5. Also, I wanted to document that there has been Presbyterian confusion over theonomic principles. Consider that the original WCF 23:3 teaches, "Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; yet he has authority, and it is his duty, to take order that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all **blasphemies and heresies** be suppressed, all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed, and all the ordinances of God duly." This says that the government must punish "blasphemy." The prohibition against blasphemy comes in Leviticus 24:16, which is "case law" of the OT. The enforcement of case laws is a theonomic doctrine. I realize that American Presbyterians have excised this portion from the WCF. But it was in the original. Surely this proves at least that there was a controversy about it among Presbyterians. I did not say that all Presbyterians teach it.



    There is also contemporary evidence of confusion over paedocommunion among Presbyterians. RC Sproul, Jr. and Doug Wilson, for example., have created substantial controversy among Presbyterians that does not exist among Baptists. I submit that this problem exists among Presbyterians because of a confused and inconsistent application of their own hermeneutic. Contemporary PCA Presbyterians don't have this the problem, but it is a problem among Presbyterians, when they are considered as a larger group.

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  6. Great post! You need to do a series now... :-)

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  7. Some Presbyterians claim that 'Reformed Baptists' just ain't.

    Over at Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog, Tom Chantry has written that charismatic Calvinists are not truly Reformed.

    Now, Tom Hicks lays the groundwork for "Why Presbyterians are Not Reformed!" :)

    (They DO seem to drop the semper pretty quickly!)

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  8. Tom,

    Really a fine summary. I am especially fond of the "NC breaking in to the OC" motif but desire to see that hashed out with a little less metaphor in time to come. But as to your point about Presbyterians and the RPW: You said, "One approach is to argue from the command of OT circumcision, but this violates the regulative principle, which teaches that only NC revelation can institute NC worship practices." Would not this stricture also rail against the notion that the Lord's Day is the Sabbath? I'm working through the idea with some dear brothers and I just cannot see the connection, especially if we take your view as outlined in the above quote. It would have to be some wider, more general inference (if not deduction) from a covenantal scheme of the OT to the NT. Thoughts? Thanks

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    1. Mike,

      That's an insightful question about the Lord's Day as the Christian Sabbath. To my knowledge, historic Particular Baptists argued for the perpetuity of the Sabbath, not just on the basis of OT revelation, but because it is confirmed in the NT. For example, in Spurgeon's famous sermon, The Perpetuity of the Law of God, he argues from the NT that the Sabbath, along with all the other Ten Commandments, continues as a rule of life under the new covenant. I would make several points here.

      1. The explicit revelation of the NC tells us that God will "write" his "law" on our hearts (Jer 31, Heb 8). The Greek for "write" is literally "carve." The Greek for law is a plural noun: "laws," which means this does not refer to "torah" (singular for instruction). Hebrews 8's citation of the new covenant (Jer 31) comes in in the middle of a discussion of the tabernacle. What laws were carved and placed in the tabernacle? The Ten Commandments, which includes the Sabbath.

      2. The rest of the NT affirms the perpetuity of the moral law of God. In Matt 5, Christ says he has not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He then goes on to correct misunderstandings of the moral law of God. 2 Corinthians says that the law is no longer written on "tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Cor 3:3). What laws were written on tablets? Romans 13 lists laws from the OT Ten Commandments "and any other commandment" (v. 9). Evidence like this abounds.

      3. The negative NT statement about the Sabbath (Col 2:16) refers to the Old Covenant expression of the Sabbath in context, together with the positive laws that accompanied it. The negative NT statements about observing "days" (Rom 14:5; Gal 4:10) refer to Old Covenant feast days in context.

      So, the Old Covenant is abolished together with its particular expressions of the moral law, but the moral law itself (summarized in the Ten Commandments) is rooted in God's character and was present before the Old Covenant. We could show how all Ten Commandments were observed before the giving of the law at Sinai.

      Therefore, the Reformed Baptist argument for the perpetuity of the law is based on New Covenant revelation and God's eternal character, not the revelation of the Old Covenant.

      Thoughts?

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    2. Mike, the idea behind the metaphor, "NC breaking into the OC," comes from John Owen, affirmed also by Nehemiah Coxe and several of the other historic Particular Baptists. It says that under the OC, the NC took the form of a "promise" (Heb 9:15; Rom 4:13-15; Gal 3:16; Gal 4:21-28). It was not yet a formally established covenant. But with the death of Christ, the new covenant was "enacted" (Heb 8:6) and "established" (Heb 9:16). Under the OC, the "promise" of the new covenant saved sinners through Christ's mediation. The NC "promise" provided union with Christ, regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification. But the "enactment" of the NC after the death of Christ formally establishes the new covenant so that all of laws peculiar to that covenant come into force. New covenant church structure, polity, ordinances/sacraments, and public worship are all "enacted" with the death of Christ.

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    3. I’ll be sure to peep that Spurgeon sermon as I study. Would not the confirmation in the NT that you speak of remove objections from NC theologians? In fact, is not this their very hermeneutic regarding NC law. Namely, if an OT law is confirmed in the NT it is for the NC community? I take it you then would approach speaking with a NC theologian by showing that Sabbath observance is “in” the law of Christ?

      Very interesting as to your point 1! I really like the tight package that it implies, and I may be there with you real soon. Perhaps I should be satisfied with this probable inference based on your explanation (the pictorial language used), but I’m not convinced it is deduced. Maybe that’s not necessary in this case, but I’m hoping for it in this matter.

      “2 Corinthians says that the law is no longer written on ‘tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts’ (2 Cor 3:3)”

      As to this, and I’m overwhelmed having barely cracked open the passage (deep things indeed!), I’m not sure that’s what the passage says. Starting at 2 Cor 2:2, “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” While certainly relevant to the discussion and even your point, it’s not about what’s written in the Corinthians heart, but rather Paul’s (and those he identifies with?). Let me rephrase these two verses with what I think is the main point: “You Corinthians are a letter of Christ written on our hearts by the living Spirit, rather than our letter (of commendation) being that which is written on stone tablets.” He then goes on and says that that old letter was truly holy, but killing and condemning.

      “3. The negative NT statement about the Sabbath (Col 2:16) refers to the Old Covenant expression of the Sabbath in context, together with the positive laws that accompanied it.”

      I see what you are saying and this makes sense in light of, and only in light of many other prior commitments. Those are not fighting words about presuppositions ;-), but rather the assertion that the verse could very well mean to include the Sabbath (especially at a cursory glance it seems to say that) and then proceed from there to a NC view of the Decalogue, the Lord’s Day, etc..

      “We could show how all Ten Commandments were observed before the giving of the law at Sinai.”

      This is a strong point indeed, if established. I totally realize that this is probably not the place for it and I am blessed to be in a class for a few weeks with Barcellos now, so perhaps that will be forthcoming. To rephrase the notion, and give me some latitude here, are you saying that we could remove the part of scripture covering redemptive history from Moses to Malachi, and with that pre-Mosaic history and NT revelation we would have a case for the Christian Sabbath? In case there’s any doubt, that’s a genuine question not a point I’m trying to make.

      “Thoughts?”

      I’m excited for more. I suppose even given the pretty strong sentiment I have for saying the Decalogue is basically the moral law, I just can’t past the point of saying that the NT has enough explicit words or implications to get us a Sunday Sabbath. I’m tempted by the NCT view that, even if the Sabbath can be shown to be perpetually binding with regard to the substance, that the form of it need not be a day, but something more pertaining to a ceasing from labor in the truest/ultimate sense. The case for the Sabbath moving to Sunday, very much to me carries the same aroma as the paedobaptistic case. In particular, it was this then, and it’s this now. Nice parallels indeed, but can my conscience be bound by it? Thanks again for your labors.

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    4. Mike, these are again excellent thoughts. I would like to clarify a couple of things.

      I do not agree with the NCT hermeneutic of law. I would argue that we need to look at the whole Bible to see what commands us, but the NT has priority in determining this. I'm comfortable with Augustine's phrase, "The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed."

      You asked whether we could arrive at a "Sabbath law" without Moses to Malachi. Maybe we could, but I think it would be a much weaker argument. The Mosaic law displays the prominence of the Ten Commandments. I believe the Mosaic covenant is important in establishing what "moral law" is. In terms of the rest of Scripture (pre-Moses and NC), we need to see how God's moral law develops through biblical history, but the NT has final authority in bringing it into full light through Christ and His work. In my post above, I was trying to point out that, unlike the case laws of Israel, the NT *expressly speaks positively of the Ten Commandments* as a whole, and, though I didn't provide evidence for this, it speaks positively of the Sabbath in particular. Here's how I would build the argument for the Sabbath.

      1. Pre-Moses. God blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it in creation (Gen 2). The nation kept the Sabbath before the giving of the law at Sinai (Ex 16:23). Philip Ross shows that the whole moral law was in force before Sinai. No other gods (Gen 3:5, 22; Ex 15:11); no idols (Gen 35:2); do not take My name in vain (Gen 24:3); Sabbath (Ex 16:4-5, 23); honor your parents (Gen 25:34); do not kill (Gen 4:13-14); do not commit adultery (Gen 12:10-20; Gen 39); do not steal (Gen 30:37-43); do not bear false witness (Gen 12:10-20); do not covet (Gen 3:6; 4:3-9).

      2. Moses. God then codifies what was already written on the hearts of men (as evidenced from above and from Romans 2, which says the Gentiles who did not have the law did the law). The Ten Commandments were the only revelation God wrote with His own finger on tablets of stone. This is substantial in my judgment. God was making a point about the centrality and permanence of these ten laws above all the others (which also came from Him) but were written through Moses. The Ten Commandments were given at Sinai with fire, smoke, thunder, lightning, etc. You can't read the Pentateuch without seeing that God was making a strong statement when He gave them.

      3. New Covenant. The new covenant teaches that the law which was formerly written on tablets of stone is now written on tablets of human hearts (Heb 8). You very graciously disputed with my handling of 2 Cor 3, but consider this. Why were the Corinthians Paul's "letter of recommendation?" Why did the Corinthians confirm Paul's apostolic credentials? Verse 3 says it is because they had the Spirit. And what does the Spirit do but make men holy and thus conformed to His law? This is why Paul says, "And YOU show that YOU are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts." The Spirit had written the law on the tablets of their hearts to make them holy, not on tablets of stone. I do believe this is evidence for the Decalogue on the hearts of new covenant members.

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    5. 4. I don't think my reading of the apparently anti-sabbatarian passages of Romans, Galatians and Colossians is *based* on my larger theological system, or that I'm reading them a certain way because of that system, though it does assume that Paul recognized the difference between moral (permanent) and ceremonial (temporary) law.

      In Romans, Paul is dealing with eating meat offered to pagan gods of Rome (Rom 14:1-4) and with whether or not Christians may participate in pagan Roman feast days (vv. 5-6). Romans, a chapter on liberty, applies to whether we should observe pagan holidays, not the moral law of God. It's context and exegesis that drives this. Moral law, and the Sabbath law, are not in Paul's view at all. Those considerations are not in the context; rather, context points to pagan practices, not OT Jewish ones.

      In Galatians, once again, Paul is speaking to Gentile churches in Asia Minor who had been seeking salvation by pagan observances prior to their conversion (Gal 4:8-9). So, Paul tells them that by beginning to observed OT feast days, months, seasons and years for their justification, they are actually reverting to their former paganism. (God never gave the OT feasts for justification.) So, Paul writes, "You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I have labored over you in vain" (Gal 4:10). Here again with regard to "days and months and seasons and years," the context seems to be the various ritual days and feast days of the Jewish calendar, which were part of the cultural laws of Israel. The Sabbath does not appear to be in view at all, if we categorize each of the items in Paul's list according to the same class of thing.

      In Colossians, we have something similar. Paul said, "Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath" (Col 2:16).

      But does Paul mean that we are to pass *no* judgment in *any* questions of "food and drink?" What about the *moral* aspects of food and drink, such as gluttony and drunkenness (covetousness; idolatry)? It seems clear that Paul referring, not to the moral aspects of eating and drinking, but to OT ceremonial food laws. He was saying that no one should judge the Colossians for not observing the Jewish food laws.

      Festival and new moon confirm that this is speaking of Jewish feast days. The fact that Paul speaks of "a Sabbath" rather than "the Sabbath" with the definite article implies that he's thinking about the special "Sabbaths" that were observed in Jewish ritual law. And while this is a brief sketch of these things, I believe that contextual exegesis bears out these conclusions.

      Many blessings to you brother! Hope you enjoy your class with Rich Barcellos! Perhaps we will meet sometime.

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  9. Thanks very much for your informative, thorough, and gracious help. Some very solid points for further study. In all honesty I think much of the matter hinges on several foundational issues such as the three-fold division of the law, which intuitively seems undeniable (but also very tricky!). Gotta build from the ground up! Again, thanks, and blessings to you. I'm in Cali so anytime you're out this way drop a line to me or Brandon Adams over at Contrast and we can chop it up!

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  10. We LOVE to Baptize infants, because it gets the order right...'God's grace...before our 'faith'.

    Jesus commanded it...so He is in it. he never commanded us to do anything where He wouldn't be in it, for us.

    I have always found it odd that so many Christians believe that Christ is actually alive and living inside their hearts...but yet they just cannot believe that He is present in a bowl of water, accompanied by His Word of promise, in an act that He commanded be done.

    Oh well.

    Thanks.

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    1. Hi Steve, thanks for posting! It seems that baptizing infants isn't God's redemptive grace, since so many who are baptized end up pagans. Rather, when you baptize an infant, you're saying he's under the "grace" of church *law,* or the *legal* aspect of the covenant of grace. This puts your infants under more law than the pagan who has God's moral law revealed in his conscience. I think this gets God's law-order wrong and it places precious infants under a "yoke" just as circumcision was a yoke heavy to bear. God's order is (1) the convicting function of the moral law, (2) the gospel of free grace, and (3) then the guiding function of God's moral law and church law.

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  11. Tom,

    God is the One who does the Baptizing. His promises in it, are good and valid, even though we regularly walk away from them.

    This explains things so much better than I:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/faith.mp3

    Even though you may not agree with very much in it...I think you might want to listen, because you'll end up with a much better understanding of why we believe what we believe about Baptism.

    And you'll know more about it than do 90% of Lutherans, of which I am one.

    Thanks, Tom.

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  12. Pastor Tom,

    Thanks so much for this. I've been reading up on this issue for the last 9 months or so (being a new husband and first-time father, felt it important). Was prodded into studying this by a Presbyterian friend. I soon found that I needed to understand the Paedo's idea of Covenant Theology (and by extension the Sacraments) before I could really critique infant baptism.

    So I resolved to focus on reading only Paedo works, no baptist ones. In particular, John Murray, Pierre Marcel, Turretin, Cunningham, Witsius, Warfield, and a couple others. However, I've been mostly focusing on John Owen at the present, and combinded with all of the above, I've found pretty much the same issues you post here. In particular, Owen's "Death of Death" is quite persuasive (and devasting) of the Paedo conception of infants as belongiing to the
    "Covenant Community" (aka, Visible church....) - Owen's own reasoning raises both the inevitability of none but an Arminian resolution to this, as well as the contradictions and un-Biblical nature of it. Also, his Exercitation 6 in the Hebrews commentary is also quite conclusive in undermining the Circumcision-Baptism continuity. I find it interesting that Owens was at least nominally paedo-baptist, although I suspect he held to this quite lightly.

    Anyway, your entry here is thus far the best, most succinct statement I've found that meets the Paedo/Covenant theology on it's own ground and deals very well with its problems. Thanks for this. I have a bit more work to do before I get back to my friend, but this may be what I point him to.

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