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  • « Don't Mess With The Gospel | Main | The Christian's Reasonable Service »

    Question About the Validity of Arguing for Paedo-Baptism from Colossians 2

    Question from a Baptist friend considering arguments for Reformed paedo-baptism:

    "Where I am struggling is that, aside from Col. 2, there does not seem to be any connection between circumcision & baptism. Col. 2 seems to be talking about spiritual circumcision (which was in th Old Covenant and happened only to the elect) and spiritual baptism (raised through faith in the powerful working of God). Such a baptism is effectual through the gift of faith.

    The pattern that I see in Redemptive History is that our parameters for 'spiritualizing' a shadow, sign, or type is the scriptures in precept or principle. I definitely see linking 'spiritual circumcision' with 'spiritual baptism', but does that give us license to do the same with their physical counterparts? If so, then it would stand to reason that such must happen to only the males at eight days and to avoid such would result in removal from the covenant which it signifies. The argument is proposed that there is no male or female in Christ, but that is in clear reference to salvation..."

    My Answer:

    I think you're underestimating the importance of the link between baptism and circumcision in Col. 2, and unnaturally divorcing the sign from the thing signified in both circumcision and baptism. God has always chosen to seal and signify his covenant realities with physical signs, and it is dangerous and presumptuous for us to think that we may assure ourselves of the realities signified while spurning the signs which God has condescended to provide us with as seals of the grace he freely gives. How can we know that we are possessors of spiritual baptism, by which we are united to Christ? Only by this, that we have gone through physical baptism, and our hearts are firm in faith that what God has promised to us and solemnly testified to in that sign he has been faithful actually to give. It is reckless and arrogant to say that we are spiritually baptized when we have never been physically baptized.

    The same thing was true of circumcision. While many received physical circumcision without faith, and so never truly had spiritual circumcision, yet, the sign itself was so important that, if one never received it, he could not be counted part of God's covenant. Physical circumcision plus faith equaled true, spiritual covenant membership -- but no one could presume to be a spiritual covenant member without faith working together with the sign, nor could one be a member with faith apart from the sign. It is the same with baptism -- although many baptized persons lack faith and therefore have no spiritual covenant relationship, baptism is nevertheless a very important sign and seal -- in short, it is always illegitimate to say, "I have spiritual baptism," while refusing physical baptism.

    I say all this only to say: if what was signified by both signs are identical, so that the one who has spiritual baptism is the same as the one who had spiritual circumcision; then the signs themselves are identical, so that the one who was given physical circumcision is the same as the one who is to be given physical baptism. This is because the sign cannot exist apart from the thing signified (that is, spiritual baptism/circumcision). The very nature of a sign is to point to and affirm a reality, and it is meaningless to speak of a physical sign as its own thing, apart from what is signified. Otherwise, it would not be a sign at all, which by its very definition means, something pointing to something else. This is important -- if the thing signified is the same in circ. and bap., as Col. 2 makes clear (that is, if they who have been spiritually baptized have been spiritually circumcised), and if the physical sign cannot be divorced from the spiritual reality, as it is evident it cannot, then the identity of those who have spiritual baptism/circumcision unequivocally demands the identity of those who have received the physical sign which does nothing but point to that identical reality.

    This means that it is thinking wrongly to suppose that baptism is a "spiritualizing" of circumcision. Both baptism and circumcision have a "spiritual" meaning already; and both are, in themselves, physical signs pointing to that same spiritual reality. Physical circumcision did point to spiritual circumcision, and all who had faith, and were marked by that physical sign, possessed the spiritual reality; but now, physical baptism points to the same spiritual reality, so that, all who have faith and are marked by the sign have the same spiritual reality.

    So then, you cannot say that circumcision was spiritualized -- but because of Col. 2, you must say that the spiritual reality it signified is now signified by something different -- namely, baptism. In other words, the sign changed, because of the monumental nature of what happened when Christ actually accomplished redemption -- but the spiritual reality remained the same. You may ask, "Why did the sign change?" -- and I say, ultimately, answering that question doesn't matter, it just matters that God, by clear testimony, did in fact change the sign. Perhaps it is meaningful that once Christ, the promised Seed, who came by the organ of circumcision, through Abraham, David, etc., actually was "cut off" in a bloody death, a bloody sign was no longer appropriate. Perhaps, it was helpful to give a sign applicable to males and females alike, to reinforce the spiritual truth that there is no male or female in Christ -- but whatever the reason, I find it sufficient that God has so commanded.

    It is clear all throughout the NT that baptism is the sign of covenant inclusion, just as circumcision had been. They who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven are marked by baptism -- when adult pagans embrace the gospel, they are brought into the Kingdom, and sealed by the sign of baptism. So the question is, "Who may be considered Covenant members, who possess the Kingdom?". But all throughout history, that answer is, "The Promise is to Abraham and his seed" -- As Peter says, "The promise is to you and your children". If God has always included children in his covenant, and if he has always signified that by giving them the physical sign which signified the spiritual reality which Col. 2 calls the same thing whether it's spiritual baptism or circumcision -- then it is clear that covenant children, who, in Jesus' own words, possess the Kingdom, must be marked by the physical sign that seals this reality. If God has always called children of believers covenant members, and if the covenant made with Abraham cannot be negated (Gal. 3), then the Covenant which fulfills the Abrahamic promise (which ours does, read the end of Gal. 3), cannot withdraw the covenant sign from children. If the Law, which came 430 years after, could not invalidate any of the Abrahamic promises, then the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, viz. the New Covenant, cannot invalidate any of those promises either. And one of the promises is membership in the covenant to children. But if they are covenant members, then it is impossible to withhold the covenant sign from them.

    I'm probably rambling a little, but this is my basic point: A.) Col. 2 undeniably links spiritual circumcision and spiritual baptism, in such a way that the latter replaces the former (those who have spiritual baptism have been spiritually circumcised, not the other way around); B.) Physical circumcision and physical baptism by their very natures are signs, and therefore cannot exist except to testify to the realities which they seal; C.) Therefore, since the physical signs do nothing but signify the exact same realities, then the clear presumption is that they must be administered in the same way, unless God provides clear directives for doing differently (as he has, for instance, by clearly demonstrating that baptism should be given to women).

    Consider this scenario: King John the seventy-sixth has determined to show who has access to his palace by putting a stamp on their right hands. He tells his minions whom to stamp, and they stamp everyone according to his instructions. Some ungrateful wretches never enter his palace even though they have the stamp, because they don't think the guards will let them in anyway -- but it is certainly true that no one who tries to come in without the stamp will ever get past the guards.

    Well, one day, King John decides to update his system, and tells his guards that, instead of a stamp, they are to give a card that can be swiped electronically. The stamp will mean nothing anymore, so anyone who has only a stamp will get nowhere -- but, the card signified exactly the same thing: that its possessor has access to the palace, and can get in with no problem if he believes enough to go there and knock at the door. But John is feeling generous, and says, "Although previously, I only gave the stamp to males, and let the females in their families come in along with them, now I want to give the card to males and females alike".

    That's all he says. Now, when he makes clear that the reality signified by the card is the same as the reality signified by the stamp; and when he had previously made clear who should receive the stamp; is it not only reasonable to suppose that the same persons who had received the stamp now ought to receive the card? And even if, in his grace, he decided to expand and give the card to women, does that mean that, with no instructions from King John, the minions should decide to limit those who received the card, and withhold it from the young children that John had already given the stamp to? No, John first said who should have the reality symbolized by the stamp; then he said he wanted to change the symbol to a card, without indicating that he wanted to limit those who possessed the reality; therefore, it would be presumptuous not to give the card to those whom John had commanded to receive the stamp. In the same way, it would be presumptuous for us not to give baptism to those whom God had previously marked as covenant members by circumcision, indeed, to those whom he himself has said possess the Kingdom, access to which is now symbolized by baptism.

    Hope these rambling thoughts help!

    Posted by Nathan on August 5, 2010 12:37 PM

    Comments

    Hey guys,
    I hear Baptist contesting whether there is a connection between circumcision and baptism a lot, but I really don’t think it’s a make or break issue in the credo vs paedo debate. I could be missing something, but let me explain. I myself am a Baptist who is on the more reformed side of things (if you where to classify me in a camp I would most likely be closes to the New Covenant Theology camp). I attend a Southern Baptist Seminary so I am in contact with far more credo-baptist than paedo-baptist, so I can vouch from personal experience that Baptist really get hung-up a lot on whether there is a connection between circumcision and baptism. As a more reformed Baptist I definitely see a connection between circumcision and baptism. To me, the clear connection between the two is the fact that they are both covenant signs. For me the real question is not whether there is a connection between the two (because I see a clear connection) but whether this connection automatically implies paedo-baptism over credo-baptism. I really don’t think the connection between the two automatically implies paedo-baptism. What I really think it comes down to is how you answer the question of what qualified infants to be members of the Abrahamic covenant and if those same qualifications apply to the New Covenant. If I understand the arguments correctly Covenant theologians take the perspective that the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant were only directly intended towards the Spiritual Seed or the elect of the National of Israel. The non-elect were considered members of the covenant because they partook of the promises in an overflow manner do to their household or communal association with the Spiritual Seed. The concept of covenantal membership through household or communal association would also extend to infants. The Dispensationalists take the perspective that the Abrahamic Covenant was purely nationalistic in nature and that all the promises equally applied to all Israelites. Due to the nationalistic nature of the covenant any infants born into the nation of Israel would have been automatically considered covenant members. The New Covenant Theologians would argue that the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant should be viewed in two categories the first being physical promises and the second being spiritual promises. The physical promises were nationalistic in nature and would apply to all within the nation of Israel and the spiritual promises concerning the Messiah and the salvation that He would bring would only apply to the Spiritual Seed or the elect of Israel. Due to the nationalistic nature of the physical promises infants born into the nation of Israel or any person brought into the nation of Israel would have been considered covenant members. It seems to me that if Covenant Theology is right in the fact that household or communal association with the Spiritual Seed is what qualified infants as members of the Abrahamic Covenant, then it would make sense that the idea would carry over into the New Covenant in the form of infant baptism. However if New Covenant Theology or Dispensationalism is right in the fact that the nationalist nature of the Abrahamic Covenant (whether particle NCT or full DSP) is what qualified infant as members of the Abrahamic Covenant, then that would not carry over in the New Covenant since there is no nationalist promises contained within the New Covenant and there would be no reason for infant baptism. I have read a lot of article where credo and paedo guys are debating one another and they rarely bring these issue up. They spend their time debating over things like whether the baptism accounts in Acts support credo or paedo baptism. I really think if the two sides want to get at the heart of their disagreement they need to concentrate on the nature of the promises contain within the two covenants and how the nature of the promises affect membership qualifications. I would love to hear some feedback.
    Thanks,
    Perry

    Hi Perry,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I think you're right, that this particular issue is not, in and of itself, the very crux of the dispute -- it just happens to be a question I was asked, and so it was the question I dealt with.

    Now, as far as your position goes, I think it fails to do justice to the nature of the Abrahamic Covenant and the "big picture," redemptive-historical unfolding of God's plan in the bible. Circumcision was given to seal this one truth, that God would be the God of those who were circumcised, and they would be his people (see Gen. 17). That is the essence of salvation. Anyone who was circumcised, bore the outward seal indicating eternal, redemptive realities for him -- just as anyone baptized carries that same seal. Of course, when it is not mingled with faith, it is inoperative, but that's another issue.

    I agree that there were typological features inherent in the entire history, worship cultus, etc., of Israel -- but it was not such that you could divide up "national" promises from "spiritual". All the promises were "spiritual" promises given visible expression through "visible"/"national"/"typological" means. The Mosaic administration of the Covenant, which was the pinnacle of the typological, was not sufficient to bring all of those promises to fruition -- it was intended to make an entire nation of people belonging to the Lord -- but most of those people ended up rejecting him, and finally that whole administration was set aside, and a better was brought forth. But the intention is the same -- to make a royal nation, belonging to the Lord. Are there still impostors, who bear the covenant signs? Yes, but those signs still designate all who carry them as a nation of those who are redemptively joined to the Lord.

    I could go on and on, but it would open up a very lengthy discussion. But let me just ask you one question: When Peter proclaims the gospel in Acts 2 and ends by saying, "The Promise is to you and your children," he is obviously referring at some level to the Abrahamic promise, and applying it, as it had always been applied, to believers and their children. Now, what "part" of that promise [assuming you can divide between national and spiritual) was Peter saying still had application to the seed? If the national, which seems to be your contention (the Abrahamic promise had national implications which the infant seed partook of), then Peter is saying that all believers possess the spiritual promise, and hence should be baptized -- and that their children, although not "baptizable," that is, not Christians in possession of the "spiritual" promise, nevertheless are citizens of the national, Jewish state, which has been set aside. A bizarre conclusion! But if you say that Peter was not speaking about the "national" side of the promise there, but rather the "spiritual," then you have to arrive at the conclusion that, possessing the spiritual benefits promised to Abraham, they ought to be baptized. But I don't think you can divide the Abrahamic promise into national and spiritual anyway -- all that the promise contained -- that believers and their seed would be a nation of God's people, received its first, typological, imperfect fulfillment under Moses, and its last, better fulfillment in Christ, in whom we have all, who are Abraham's children by faith, received all the blessings promised to him, and been made a kingdom of priests to our God.

    I glad you brought up Act 2:39 because I find the difference in approach to this verse by paedo and credo theologians very interesting. Each side clearly approaches this verse from a different starting perspective and different presumptions causing each side to see this verse as great verse to support their argument.
    I’m not a very good writer so I apologize if this is hard to read or if it is too long. I don’t have the opportunity to dialogue with true Covenant Theologians very often so I really appreciate your willingness to reply to my previous post.
    I can definitely sympathizes with the Covenant perspective here and see how the wording in Act 2:39 “For the promise is to you and your children” can cause a natural linkage within the mind to Gen. 17:6 where God tells Abraham “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants.” The langue is very similar and the audience is Jewish so it makes sense. If you’re starting from the perspective that household or communal association can qualify an individual as a covenant member, I understand how the next mental connection would be that Peter must be making a link here implying that both covenants involve parents qualifying their children as covenant members.
    I also see the validity of the credo approach to this verse. One of the main things I really like about the credo approach is that they really do a good job of addressing the direct context of this passage. The Covenant theologians that I have encounter usually cite the first half of verse 39 and then begin connecting it to the Abrahamic Covenant. The main context of this passage is Peter sharing the gospel with a group of Jewish men in which he concludes with “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord will call.” So what is the promise? The promise is “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This is the promise that is to Peter’s audience, to us, their children, to our children, to all that are far off, to all whom the Lord will call. The key is that the promise is not apart from repentance. Therefore it makes sense to me that Covenant membership would not be apart from regeneration. When I read Act 2:38-39 together and don’t skip verse 38 the credo approach to this verse and to baptism in general is far more persuasive to me. I just don’t see household or communal association leaping from the page here in Acts 2:38-39.
    Another thing that bothers me about the paedo approach to this verse is that it assumes that Peter’s Jewish audience would have had the household or communal association perspective in mind and that they would have naturally link Gen. 17 and Peters sermon together in that way. However, I think from looking at the Gospels and Acts it appears to me that most 1st century Jews greatly misunderstood a lot of the OT. It seems to me that most the first century Jews mistakenly had what we today would classify as a dispensational view of the Abrahamic Covenant. Most 1st century Jews clearly thought that their physical linage is what qualified them as children of God. I really don’t think Peter’s audience would have had this idea of household or communal association for covenant member in mind, because they would not have even had the idea of a Spiritual Seed in mind. Paul was blowing the doors off of what a lot of the 1st century Jews believed about the nature of the Abrahamic Covenant in Romans Ch. 9 and Galatians Ch.3 where he writes about the concept of a Spiritual Seed.
    I think we would both agree the prophets of the OT understood the concept of the Spiritual Seed, but I don’t think the average 1st century Jew would have even thought about this idea. If my church history knowledge is correct, the idea of New Covenant membership coming through household or communal association didn’t even show up within Christianity until Zwingli came long some 1500 years after Peter’s sermon. Before Zwingli, Augustine’s argument that the children of the elect were born with faith was the accepted explanation for infant baptism. Zwingli was the real pioneer of the “Faith of Another” argument. I say all that to drive home the point that I think assuming Peter’s audience thought that Covenant membership came through, either being of the Spiritual Seed or having association with the Spirit Seed is a big assumption.

    Perry,

    Yes, I've heard that interpretation of Acts 2:39 before, but suffice it to say, I'm not convinced. It seems to make a very awkward Greek expression -- I, at least, cannot think of any other place in the NT, or even any early Christian Greek writings, in which any statement just given is immediately referred to simply as "the promise". It seems much more natural to me to see Peter as referring to "the Promise" that his audience would have been well aware of by virtue of their history and the nature of the sermon. But that's a long discussion.

    And besides, the strength of the argument for Reformed paedo-baptism by no means stands or falls upon the strength of that one text alone. The themes are deep and strong in scripture that the promise made to Abraham included in its very essence life in the presence of God; that those who were joined to God by covenant were marked as possessors of that promise; that those who were marked as possessors of that promise included the seed of believers; that the promise which was given unilaterally, to Abraham and his seed, could not later be reneged in full or in part, to any interested party (e.g. covenant children), on the basis of any later covenant (Gal. 3). Your contention that, from the beginning, the Promise was carved up, and the children were given only the paltry, "national," non-eternal and non-salvific parts of it demands serious support from scripture which I don't think anyone will find.

    Feel free to continue commenting, and I'll try to respond as I have time, but I can't make any guarantees. I'm busy, and the way these conversations tend to progress, moving from one relatively tangential point (e.g. the nature of baptism in Col. 2) to another (e.g. the referent of "the promise" in Acts 2:39) promises an almost interminable string of possible continuations, if we continue in the same vein -- and I don't have an almost interminable string of the requisite moments to continue the dialogue. Having said that, though, I do appreciate your fair and charitable contributions.

    Oh, but one more thing -- I think your history is a little simplistic at best and positively wrong at worst, but even granted some grain of truth, baptism wouldn't be the only thing that received some further clarity of motivation in the Reformation era. And furthermore, the whole "infant faith"/"faith of another" ideas are by no means the two mutually exclusive potential justifications of infant baptism that encompass the entire possible set. In fact, I would dare say that other means of explaining most paedo-baptizers' justification for their decision are rather more common in Reformed circles. I could point you to some good literature on that point, if you're interested.

    Nathan

    Nathan,
    I really appreciate your willingness to dialogue with me on the issue. I definitely understand and agree that time constrains can often times becomes an issue with these types of conversations. I would really love to read or listen to any debates between Covenant Theologians and New Covenant Theologians if you know of any on the web. The New Covenant perspective really hasn’t gone main stream yet so it is a little hard to find debates where it is represented. A lot of people have heard about New Covenant Theology, but not a lot of people know much about the argument yet. I really expect that the New Covenant approach will again a lot of popularity in the upcoming years, especially among Baptist. I attend a Baptist seminary so I can speak from personal experience that a lot of Baptist around our campus don’t fully agree with Dispensationalism or Covenant Theology and fill that they are somewhere between the two views. This why I predict New Covenant Theology will pick up a lot of support in the future. I’m a regular reader of the Reformation blog and I really appreciate all the work that you, John, and all the other contributors put into the blog, it’s truly a blessing.

    Thanks,
    Perry

    God has always chosen to seal and signify his covenant realities with physical signs

    Can you please clarify the difference in your mind between a sign and a seal? I see this phrase used a lot, but most often it is used in a way that suggests a seal is the same thing as a sign.

    Thanks.

    Also,
    So the question is, "Who may be considered Covenant members, who possess the Kingdom?". But all throughout history, that answer is, "The Promise is to Abraham and his seed"

    You can say "all throughout history" only if you want to ignore Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:1-13. You could also throw in Romans 11:1-24 to demonstrate that there is discontinuity when it comes to the question of who is a member of the covenant.

    As Peter says, "The promise is to you and your children".

    Actually, that's not what Peter said. You placed a period where there is none in Scripture. Peter continues: and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

    The promise Peter is speaking of is: If you repent and turn to Christ, you will be forgiven. If Acts 2:39 is grounds for baptizing infants, then it is also grounds for baptizing "all those who are far off" regardless of age or profession.

    As Perry alluded to, I find it rather frustrating how paedobaptists interpret the word "promise" in the Bible as always meaning the same thing: the one single covenant promise that has always been the same forever. That hardly does justice to any of the contexts that the word "promise" is used in, and it explicitly contradicts Hebrews 8:6 which says that the promises of the New Covenant are different from that of the Old Covenant, not the same. Even John Owen acknowledges that Ephesians 2:12, for example, doesn't mean all the covenants had the same promise. Thus is will hardly suffice to see the word "promise" in Acts 2 and read "Abrahamic promise" when the promise Peter has in mind is very clearly provided in the immediate context: repent and be saved.

    covenant children, who, in Jesus' own words, possess the Kingdom, must be marked by the physical sign that seals this reality.

    Serious? So every single child of a believer has always been saved? Or are you going to abandon your monergistic Calvinism at this point and say they were in the Kingdom but have fallen away?

    I'm sorry if I sound rude, but it boggles my mind how great exegetes who can so clearly defend Calvinism against so many Arminian misinterpretations of texts can be so blinded on these points.

    I recommend reading Gary Crampton's new book "From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism"

    Perry,

    Sorry, I don't know of any good debates on that topic. Thanks again for your calm and thoughtful approach!

    Brandon,

    Let me suggest that the reason it "boggles [your] mind how great exegetes who can so clearly defend Calvinism against so many Arminian misinterpretations of texts can be so blinded on these points," may be that you don't have a very mature understanding of the issues involved. The nature of your questions and arguments shows that you have only a superficial understanding of the case that responsible paedo-baptists have really made from the bible, so what is mind-boggling to you may actually have very solid scriptural reasoning behind it, when properly understood. A good general principle is that, if a sizable consensus of respectable theologians have a firm commitment to a certain doctrine, it is only fair to hear their reasoning and really understand it before passing judgment so strongly. I'm not saying you can't be opposed, but to marvel at their blindness before you fully understand their reasoning is precipitate.

    Take your first paragraph, for instance: Jer.31/Heb. 8 clearly does not assert any discontinuity between the Abrahamic and New Covenants, unless you believe that the Abrahamic Covenant was inaugurated on Mount Sinai. A quick reading of the actual text should be sufficient to disabuse you of that notion. In fact, Paul's reasoning in Gal. 3 argues eloquently against your Jer. 31 idea, in that it makes clear that the Covenant made on Sinai could never abrogate the promise given to Abraham, of which we all who share in his faith have become heirs. And that promise in its very nature included children. You may have reasons for using Jer. 31 as an argument for credo-baptism. I've discussed that very question at length with some sound-thinking credo-baptists. But your way of making unilateral assertions on that point without even recognizing that there may be different ways of dealing with those texts is not helpful for advancing a discussion.

    Your accusation that I placed a period where scripture places none is also off a little. It's incorrect grammatically, for one thing -- if you look back, you'll find that I placed a comma after that quotation one time, and placed a period after the end quotation mark another time (indicating that the end punctuation was my own, and not part of the quoted material). If the insinuation is that I'm somehow trying to deny what is taught in the next phrase, all I can say is that I'm not. I'm very much in support of the biblical doctrine of the call of God, his secret election, etc.

    Your suggestion that baptizing babies logically means that every single child of believers has always been saved is not very compelling to me either. Do you think every adult ever baptized has really been elect? If not, your own case for credo-baptism must fall by the same stroke. The question of apostasy in the covenant is an intricate question that has bearing both on apostasy in the case of adult converts and apostasy in the case of those who have grown up in the covenant community. It is no more difficult to find an answer for the latter than it is for the former. The real question, rather, is what criteria God has given for the Church to pass her formal judgment that such and such a person, in her eyes, is in covenant with God. And Jesus' clear statement that the infants being brought to him possess the Kingdom is a rather compelling piece of evidence.

    Oh, yes, to answer your first question, the terms "sign and seal" come from Romans four, and do not have the same precise significance. A sign is something which points to something other than itself -- in this case a visible rite which points to invisible covenant realities -- and a seal is something carrying an authoritative confirmatory force, similar to a signature in today's culture.

    I could keep going point by point, but I'm not sure how helpful it would be. I apologize if I'm coming across as a little too snippy. I don't object to your questions, but I do think the way you come across, as an expert who has so far surpassed all paedo-baptists in knowledge that you can marvel at their blindness, is not going to help you keep a beneficial conversation going. Just a thought for you to consider.

    Nathan

    Nathan,

    Thanks for your gracious reply. I didn't deserve it.

    ---may be that you don't have a very mature understanding of the issues involved.---

    Nope, that's not it.

    ---The nature of your questions and arguments shows that you have only a superficial understanding of the case---

    Far from it. In fact, your response to me suggests perhaps it may be you who only has a superficial understanding of the case. Perhaps you don't understand the inherent and unresolved contradictions in your view. Have you read Henry Blocher's contribution to the "Always Reforming" volume? He notes:

    "Closely related is the issue of the two sides of the covenant. It has been a thorn in the flesh of many covenant theologians. Leaving aside the monopleuric/dipleuric polarity (although it is not foreign to that debate), the delicate question has been, Who, exactly, belongs to the covenant? Louis Berkhof’s account, a model of candour, reveals a degree of embarassment. ‘The great majority’ of Reformed theologians, he writes, mantain that God ‘entered into covenant relationship with the elect or the elect sinner in Christ – and this, ‘in spite of all the practical difficulties involved’; they did so ‘in the light of Scripture’: ‘Reformed theologians found abundant evidence that fundamentally the covenant of grace is a covenant established with those who are in Christ.’ Yet, at the same time, they wished to include the children of belivers, among whom there are a number of non-elect, after the promise ‘You and your seed.’ W. Brakel cut the Gordian knot and ‘virtually’ excluded the non-elet, but he was the exception. T. Blake, still bolder, distinguished ‘between an external and an internal covenant.’ Most tried to soften the difference and spoke of sides or aspects, of essence and administration, of the covenant ‘as legal relationship’ and ‘as a communion of life’ (with G. Vos). H. Bavinck wrote of unregenerate and unconverted persons that are in foedere (in) but not de foedere (of); it is a titillating detail that P. Marcel just switches the prepositions: will these children of of the covenant enter into the covenant?"

    His chapter is very worth reading.

    ---A good general principle is that, if a sizable consensus of respectable theologians have a firm commitment to a certain doctrine, it is only fair to hear their reasoning and really understand it before passing judgment so strongly.---

    Which I have done. I have heard it and I have passed judgment - just as many before me have done.

    ---Take your first paragraph, for instance: Jer.31/Heb. 8 clearly does not assert any discontinuity between the Abrahamic and New Covenants, unless you believe that the Abrahamic Covenant was inaugurated on Mount Sinai.---

    You misunderstood me. I apologize for not being clear. What I was talking about was "Abraham's seed" that you appealed to. Jer 31 and Heb 8 teach that only those who are born again are members of the New Covenant. This is what Owen argues for in his commentary on Hebrews.

    It is insufficient to say the promise has always been to Abraham and his seed because Abraham had two seeds. To which was the promise of the heavenly kingdom made? If you believe it was made to his spiritual seed then you have no basis for including physical offspring of believers. If you believe it was made with his physical seed then you are as confused as the Jews of Paul's day. It is necessary to understand the two-level fulfillment and the dual seed of Abraham. You conflate the two where you please. See Owen here http://contrast2.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/the-oneness-of-the-church-john-owen/

    ---if you look back, you'll find that I placed a comma after that quotation one time, and placed a period after the end quotation mark another time (indicating that the end punctuation was my own, and not part of the quoted material).---

    Thanks for pointing that out. I missed it.

    ---Your suggestion that baptizing babies logically means that every single child of believers has always been saved is not very compelling to me either. Do you think every adult ever baptized has really been elect? If not, your own case for credo-baptism must fall by the same stroke.---

    Again, you have missed my point. No, my case does not fall by the same stroke because I do not believe baptism brings one into the New Covenant - you do.

    ---The question of apostasy in the covenant is an intricate question that has bearing both on apostasy in the case of adult converts and apostasy in the case of those who have grown up in the covenant community.---

    There is no such thing as apostasy from the New Covenant. Being part of the community of the church does not make one a member of the New Covenant. John Samson recently posted on your blog a sermon from James White titled "The Reality of Apostasy" - yet James White forcefully denies that apostasy is from the New Covenant. Read starting around page 9 in part 2:
    http://www.rbtr.org/RBTR%20I.2%20The%20Newness%20of%20the%20New%20Covenant.htm

    http://www.rbtr.org/newnessofcovenantwhite.pdf

    ---The real question, rather, is what criteria God has given for the Church to pass her formal judgment that such and such a person, in her eyes, is in covenant with God.---

    Yes, but our judgment does not make a thing so. Just because someone professes to have faith, and we believe them and baptize them does not therefore mean they are in the New Covenant. They are only in the New Covenant if they actually have faith.

    ---a seal is something carrying an authoritative confirmatory force, similar to a signature in today's culture.---

    Right. And so who's signature was Abraham's circumcision? What was being authoritatively confirmed, and by whom?

    Brandon,

    You seem to have taken offense at my suggestion that you don't have a very mature understanding of the issue, so I'll retract that. Let me rephrase myself -- it is irresponsible to make strong and sweeping assertions about how mind-bogglingly wrong a great deal of respectable theologians are without demonstrating that you have a mature understanding of the issue. Maybe you know a lot about it, I don't know. But if you do, and if you want to disagree so strongly with solid theologians, it is only fair to explain why you disagree with them, and not just take passing potshots. Saying, " it boggles my mind how great exegetes who can so clearly defend Calvinism against so many Arminian misinterpretations of texts can be so blinded on these points," without engaging the exegeses of these men, is simply unfair. If you're going to make an accusation of blindedness against respectable exegetes, then you'd better only do so after seriously engaging them. And you did nothing of the sort. I'm still not sure I can believe your claim to have a mature understanding of how these men you cavalierly dismiss have understood the issue, when your response shows that you haven't even understood my own brief article. I don't understand how you can make this false statement: "No, my case does not fall by the same stroke because I do not believe baptism brings one into the New Covenant - you do" when I clearly stated this in the article you're addressing: "While many received physical circumcision without faith, and so never truly had spiritual circumcision, yet, the sign itself was so important that, if one never received it, he could not be counted part of God's covenant. Physical circumcision plus faith equaled true, spiritual covenant membership -- but no one could presume to be a spiritual covenant member without faith working together with the sign, nor could one be a member with faith apart from the sign. It is the same with baptism -- although many baptized persons lack faith and therefore have no spiritual covenant relationship, baptism is nevertheless a very important sign and seal -- in short, it is always illegitimate to say, "I have spiritual baptism," while refusing physical baptism."

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