A Sidekick's Blog

Covenant Theology from a Baptist Point of View | February 4, 2014

In my continuing search for a Reformed church to join myself to, I have found a “Founders” church. It’s a Southern Baptist church listed among those who are dedicated to preserving the doctrines of grace, recovered from obscurity and buried in Roman Catholic superstitions. Now largely “lost” again in these days of Christian science-fiction, book and seminar sales, mega-churches, and prosperity teaching.

Being a good Presbyterian boy I naturally have to question some of the things Baptists do differently from Presbyterians, with particular focus on the theological reasons for those differences. The trite little “pat answers” I’ve gotten, even from Baptist pastors I have interviewed, have focused not on the theological reasons for denying paedobaptism, for example, but on Baptist tradition, on a weak transliteration of the Greek word baptizo, and on a little pamphlet with such vague sweeping statements that it can be interpreted a zillion-and-four different ways.

Until I found this little link, doing some Googling and Binging and Yahooing. I offer it as a resource for other “questioning Presbyterians” like me who require sound biblical grounds to support any theological position. It is not downloadable, nor can it be copied without permission (which I haven’t got yet), so here is the link:

http://www.reformedbaptist.net/renihan-presentation

I have summarized what I believe to be the author’s position below. At face value I must admit that if his conclusions are correct, it eliminates two big issues for us Presbyterians:

I. Firstly the whole “Federal Vision” teaching which has crept into the PCA is completely incompatible with this view of covenant theology, and,

II. It addresses a few inconsistencies with Presbyterian practice which have sat smoldering on the back burner of my conscience just nagging at me.

A. Why do we baptize infants but not allow them at the Lord’s Table
until they can articulate their faith in an adult manner?
(FV answers that objection by turning the Reformation on it’s head!)

B. If we’re interpreting New Testament sacramental practice “backwards”
(letting the Old type-and-shadow define application of the New substance),
then let’s baptize babies and worship on Saturday instead of Sunday.

As an officer in my PCA church I was required to take some theological training. I was taught that “the Reformed view” (read: the Presbyterian view) of covenant theology describes the Old and New Testaments as different administrations of the same covenant – the Covenant of Grace. Correct me in comments below, please, if I summarize the article wrong. But I’m reading this article to say that:

I The Old and New Testaments are two separate covenants, the Old type-and-shadow prefiguring and preparing the way for the New, the substance. The Old Covenant had separate administrations, each with it’s own covenantal conditions:

A. Adam
B. Abraham
C. Moses
D. David

II. The New Covenant applies to the family of faith, rather than to physical descendants, and has one administration, one Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus. It is the substance depicted in the Old covenant, and applies spiritually and eternally.

III. Many of those under the Old Covenant participated in the New as well, knowing that the Old was type and shadow of substance to come (Hebrews 11:10-16). They received justification, sanctification, and will inherit the New Heavens and New Earth by the same means we all do under the New Covenant – by faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone. But the Old Covenant was not all-inclusive. It was restricted to one family, or one nation, one race, one earthly kingdom. Under the New Covenant there are no distinctions of race, gender, nationality, or language.

IV. Applying the Regulative Principle of Worship according to this view of separate covenants forbids infant baptism because the participants of the New Covenant are not physical descendants of a covenant people, but spiritual descendants of Abraham by faith in Christ. And since faith requires an object, and the object of our faith requires confession, infants are therefore ordinarily not members of the New Covenant.

Food for thought, good meaty stuff to chew on a for a few days before I start the next barrage of questions for my Reformed Baptist brethren. Comment is invited and encouraged!

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1 Comment »

  1. Robin,
    I believe you are correct in your interpretation of the author’s position.I am leaving you with my view of the Reformed Baptist position of infant baptism. Most of what I write is to be found in a book called “Covenant Theology, A Baptist Distinctive, edited by Earl Blackburn.” Starting at a point at the end of the quote by B.B. Warfield on page 14 of your presentation I offer:
    The first objection is that there is a hermeneutical flaw. How can a distinctively NT ordinance have it’s fullest- nay, it’s only foundation- in OT scripture? This is contrary to any just sense of Biblical Theology and against all sound rules of interpretation. If you allow OT examples to alter NT principles regarding the church you have opened the door to Rome’s atrocities.
    Secondly, there is a theological flaw. Baptists believe that every covenant made with man since the Fall is unified in it’s essence.In all ages there has been one rule of life – God’s moral law. The gospel by which Adam was saved is the same by which we are saved. Paedobaptists have unconsciously recognized a difference between the OT and the New with respect to the constitution of the church and subjects of their ordinances. In the Old Covenant, adult sons and servants were circumcised, and thus incorporated into the visible church.Now, only the infants of believers are baptized.In the Old, children came to the Passover at a very young age. Now small children are not admitted to the Lord’s Table. Whence the change? Much more could be said here.
    Thirdly, there are exegetical flaws in paedobaptist theology. Many have reasoned that infants of believers were circumcised in the Old Covenant therefore, infants of believers should be baptized in the New. In Abraham’s case faith preceded circumcision of his children but this cannot be said to be the rule of the Old Covenant rite. There were times when faith in the subjects of circumcision or in their parents was all but ignored. In the time of Joshua, an entire nation was circumcised in a day. There was no concern for personal election or personal faith.It was a sign of belonging to an elect nation. Circumcision was never withheld because a parent had no faith.
    There is much made of “thee and thou seed” in Gen. 17 seeing NT counterpart’s as the offspring of believers. But, look at Rom. 4, 9, Gal. 3 ,4 , especially 3:7 and see that believers, and believers alone are the seed of Abraham.
    I’ll stop now. Sorry to be so long.
    Roger Alexander
    Sojourner

    Comment by Roger Alexander — February 6, 2014 @ 6:31 pm


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