Puritan Gems

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Examining Baptist Misunderstandings Concerning the Covenants

I may be too busy to open this particular can of worms now, but...

There have been some interesting blog debates recently concerning the subject of infant baptism. (See here, and a whole series on the subject here).

One encouraging sign is that more and more Baptists are coming to the realization that Baptism is to the New Covenant what Circumcision was to the Old Covenant. Colossians 2:11-12 spell that out pretty clearly. The difference now, it appears, is the nature of the covenants themselves and who was included in them. While I have no hopes of settling this 400 year old debate this side of eternity, I thought that it would be worthwhile to examine some of the objections that have been offered concerning the inclusion of children and infants into the New Covenant.

1.) Judas at the Supper, but Not Included in the New Covenant.
This is a correct observation, but doesn’t adequately explain why Judas was presented the Lord’s Supper. Jesus very clearly established the Lord’s Supper as the continuing sign of the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), and proceeded to give it to one (Luke 22:21) that He acknowledged was “a devil”(John 6:70). Likewise, Simon Magus (Acts 8:13) was baptized by Peter, yet was unregenerate (Acts 8:20-23). Just stating that these men were not in the New Covenant does nothing to support the Baptist argument, but does just the opposite. They are faced with the reality that two men in Scripture were given the sign and seal of the New Covenant who, by their own admission, were not part of the New Covenant. Since this is a biblical reality, why would we exclude the holy children of believers from this practice?

2.) There are no specific verses in the Bible commanding infant baptism.
This is both presumptuous and arbitrary. It is presumptuous because of the thousands of baptisms that occurred in the New Testament, such as the 3,000 baptized on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41), no age is given for the object of Baptism. While it’s fair to state that Paedobaptists have no basis for assuming that any of these 3,000 were infants, it is equally true that Credobaptists have no basis for assuming that all 3,000 were professing adults.

It is arbitrary because the “specific verse” standard is selectively applied. Most churches who reject infant baptism have no problem holding a “baby dedication service”, despite the fact that there is no scriptural warrant for such practice. There are no examples in Scripture of women partaking of Communion, yet allowing such today is all but a universal practice.

The commandments to go and baptize are sufficient enough to warrant infant baptism. It is up to the Baptist to show why the holy children of believers (1 Cor. 7:14) should be excluded from this commandment. I dare say that “there are no specific verses in the Bible forbidding infant baptism.”

3.) Going to Church Doesn’t Put You in the New Covenant.
Again, a true statement, but it was equally true in the Old Covenant. While the Baptist hopes to use this observation to establish that the New Covenant was only for the elect, he fails to see that the Old Covenant was only for the elect also. Just having the DNA of Abraham did not put a person in the Old Covenant.

“…For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, …" (Romans 9:6-7)

Yet it cannot be denied that the sign and seal of the Old Covenant was given to infants (Genesis 21:4), despite the fact that this Covenant was only for the elect. Why change it in the New Covenant? Both the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant are prone to admitting false converts. Just as the Old Covenant had it’s Esau, the New Covenant had it’s Judas. Neither were in Covenant with God, yet both were given the sign.

4.) Paedos equate those in the new covenant with the visible church, and Credos equate those in the new covenant with the body of Christ.
Again, this is not true. Paedos equate the New Covenant with the elect, just like the Old Covenant. The Credo, on the other hand, wants to reserve the sign and seal of the New Covenant for the elect only. This, of course, results in quite a few problems. First of all, if this assumption is true, then we could never rightly baptize anyone. How do we determine if a candidate for baptism is truly elect, for that ultimately is the credobaptist standard? How do we know if a profession of faith is genuine? If salvation (referring to those within the Bride of Christ) is the prerequisite for baptism, then how do we determine who is a member of this bride? If the answer is that merely a profession of faith is what is required for adult baptism, then one must agree with the covenantal view of the visible church. If not, then what?

Second, it is clear from Scripture that the signs and seals of the New Covenant were applied to unsaved people in the visible church, which I have already noted.

Thirdly, Baptist theology fails to adequately explain the fact that God views the children of believers as “holy”, whereas the children of pagans are “unclean” (1 Cor. 7:14). What does the term “holy” mean here, if not being set apart in the New Covenant? While Baptists make the assumption that a profession of faith is evidence of regeneration, the Paedobaptists makes the assumption that the children of that household are elect as well, for they are God’s children up until the time when and if evidence shows otherwise. Of course, it’s quite possible for both assumptions are wrong, but I’m waiting for the Baptist argument to show how we can truly know who is among the elect.

5.) "Circumcision was applied to babies in the Old Covenant, because they were in the Old Covenant, as it was with the physical nation of Israel. But the New Covenant is made with individual believers of the Spiritual nation of Israel."
As I demonstrated earlier, the Old Covenant was not given to the physical nation of Israel, but to the elect only. And again, how do we determine who is a member of the Spiritual nation of Israel?

6.) The New Covenant “is not conditional and performance based like the Old Covenant with the physical nation of Israel.”
This was a surprising statement from a Calvinist brother. I won’t presume what he meant by “performance based”, but the Abrahamic Covenant was never based on works. The only Covenant that was based on works was the Adamic Covenant, and even that covenant was full of grace and sealed by the work of God Himself. Besides, the Scriptures are quite clear that God chose Jacob over Esau “in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call” (Romans 9:11). Furthermore, Abraham himself “…received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith…” (Romans 4:11). The Doctrines of Sovereign Grace are not just a New Covenant Reality, and neither should the sign and seal of that grace be denied to the children of believers.

7.) The New Testament pattern is that Baptism is performed only on those who have professed their faith.
Correction: The New Testament pattern is that Baptism is performed on those who have professed their faith, as well as their entire households (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33-34, Acts 18:8, 1 Corinthians 1:16), just like the Old Covenant. In particular, Acts 16:34 has been the object of some questionable renderings, but the correct translation suggests that the entire household of the Philippian jailor was baptized, because “he had believed in God”. While it may be possible that all of his household consisted of professing adults, it is quite clear that the basis for their baptism was his own belief in God.

In conclusion, Baptist theology cannot seem to make the case as to why children in the New Covenant should be treated any differently than those of the Old Covenant. If they insist that Baptism should only be performed on the elect, then they must offer a better method of determining who the elect are other than that of a profession of faith and being born in a Covenant household.

Check out the Baptism debate between James White and William Shishko.

Part I

Part II

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ten ways to help the American Church cease to stink

OK, some of these may be a bit over the top, but I have to give a hearty "AMEN!" to his descriptions.

From The Detergent Church: Salt and Light or Slop and Tripe? by Doug Giles.

1. Get men who dig being rowdy back in the pulpit.

2. Could we have some sound doctrine, por favor?

3. Preach scary sermons (at least every fourth one).

4. Get rid of 99.9% of “Christian” TV.

5. Quit trying to be relevant and instead become prophetic contrarians, I’m talking contra mundus, mama!

6. Put a 10-year moratorium on “God wants you rich” sermons (yeah, that’s what we need to hear nowadays, you morons, more sermons about money, money, money!).

7. Embrace apologetics and shun shallow faith.

8. Evangelize like it’s 1999.

9. Push lazy Christians to get a life or join a Satanic Church. (Ouch!! I said some of these were over the top).

10. Demand that if a Christian gets involved in the arts that their “craft” must scream excellence and not excrement.

I could add many more, but this is a good starting point.