Friday, February 19, 2010

Be careful who you declare to be cut off

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in again…

Ah, my old friend paedobaptism. I try, I really do try, to let sleeping dogs (or infants who are suddenly dribbled with water) lie. Then all of a sudden, minding my own business, I run across something and just have to speak out. Les Prouty posted two essays on baptism, one from Dagg on the Baptist perspective and one from Benjamin Shaw of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary on the paedobaptist perspective. Mr. Shaw’s essay, Thoughts on Infant Baptism, ponders the question of what value is there in baptizing an infant

A question often asked of those who argue for infant baptism is, “What good does it do the infant?” Those who ask this question generally think they have nailed the defender, as there is no obvious benefit to the infant. The infant hardly seems to be aware of what is transpiring, let alone being aware of any benefit. Many who were baptized as infants, coming to faith as adults, desire to be baptized as adults, rationalizing that their baptism didn’t mean anything to them.

Mr. Shaw then launches into an explanation of why that perfectly valid question misses the “true meaning” of baptism. The truly disturbing part of the essay comes a few paragraphs later and it was this doctrinal stance that prompted me to write this post.

God takes the covenant sign seriously. Thus a child, who would otherwise be a member of the covenant people, God considers him to be no part of the covenant people if he does not have the sign of the covenant. So a child of believing parents who is not baptized is considered by God to be none of his. It matters not how much care the parents may lavish on the child, or how much they may teach him the Bible. They have disobeyed God on one point, and their children are cut off.

Wow. Isn’t that a dangerous line of reasoning? God cuts them off based on the action or rather inaction of their parents? It seems that Mr. Shaw is creating a division here between the elect and the covenant community. In other words, you can be elect and not be part of the covenant community one the one hand and on the other hand one can be part of the covenant community and not be in the elect. I really don’t understand how you can seriously say that someone is part of the New Covenant community and yet that person will spend an eternity in hell.

I have to wonder though, if a child is one of God’s elect, is that child elect based on receiving baptism as an infant? If an infant that is born of believing parents is not baptized, are they “cut off” from the covenant community regardless of being born-again later? The language Mr. Shaw uses sounds very sound and reasonable but when you start to dig into it, you find that there are troubling implications when faced with the stark reality of the New Covenant.

The argument is that circumcision is the sign of membership in the Abrahamic covenant and baptism is the sign of membership in the New Covenant. Mr. Shaw points to Colossians 2: 11-12 as evidence of the linkage between circumcision and baptism. There is of course a problem with that argument as evidenced by what the text actually 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. (Col 2: 11-12)

Now a cursory examination of this text might give one the impression that circumcision=baptism more or less. Is that what is going on here? Certainly not. I would argue that there is a linkage here that is unwarranted. It is pretty clear that even when the New Testament is speaking of circumcision, when it comes to the New Covenant community it is speaking of the circumcision of the heart. That is Paul’s point in Colossians 2, not that we should treat physical circumcision and baptism as one and the same. Physical circumcision was a type and shadow of the inward change that would be wrought in believers. In fact, physical circumcision is spoken of in an almost negative light (see Galatians). Likewise, we were “raised with him through faith”. That is not indicative of water baptism at all but rather baptism of the Spirit. Water baptism does not correspond neatly to circumcision as the paedobaptist would argue, instead physical circumcision corresponds to circumcision of the heart (see Ezekiel 36: 26-27).

What is the basis for covenant membership in the New Covenant (you know, the one that is called “New” and “not like the old” for a reason)? It is not water baptism. We need to of course look at the New Covenant, originally prophesied in Jeremiah 31 and affirmed as being mediated by Christ in Hebrews 8:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31: 33-34)

The overall error here is failing to recognize that while the covenants have many similarities, they are not the same in purpose, mediation and administration simply by virtue of being a covenant. The covenant with Adam is not the same as the covenant with Abram. The covenant with Moses is not the same as the New Covenant. They are all part of the grand scope of redemption but they cannot be viewed as being virtually indistinguishable other than name. The heart of the New Covenant is the forgiveness of sins. There are none who are still in their sins who are in the New Covenant community and there are none who are forgiven of their sins who are outside of that community, water baptism not withstanding. The defining mark of the New Covenant community is not parentage or physical signs, it is faith that stems from an internal change. What is really ironic is that infant baptism flies smack in the face of the core fundamentals of Reformed theology, the idea of election, monergistic regenerations and effectual calling. My Reformed paedobaptist brothers will stand firmly for the core doctrines of Reformed theology on the one hand and then essentially sidestep them in defending infant baptism. When Christ “instituted” the Lord’s Supper, He was quite specific about this:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26: 26-28)

The New Covenant is in His blood, a blood that is poured out for the forgiveness of the sins of His elect. There are clearly non-elect children of believers and if you follow Reformed theology, especially particular or limited atonement, it naturally follows that His blood was not shed for them. As such, they are not beneficiaries of the New Covenant promise and in no way should be given the sign of that very covenant. Galatians 4: 21-31 seems applicable here as well regarding the idea of two covenants, one physical and one spiritual. Paul is directly dealing with the Jewish influence in the churches in Galatia who are insisting on applying the sign of physical circumcision to Christians. Paul is adamant about this:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

If you are saying that water baptism corresponds to circumcision, then you might as well say neither baptism nor unbaptism counts for anything. In Christ Jesus, the Savior and the mediator of the New Covenant, what counts is faith. Not water baptism, not physical circumcision, not parentage, not church membership.

This is so pivotal. I would not argue that this should be a point of separation between brothers at all, but baptism is an important and hotly contested doctrine. What is being described here by Mr. Shaw seems to be, taken to its logical extreme, a cutting off of people from the covenant community of God not based on their status as one of the elect or based on being born-again, but instead based on the action or inaction of their parents. That certainly was true in the Old Testament (see Genesis 17:14) but it has no warrant in command or example in the New. Those who are, following the admonition of Genesis 17: 14, not circumcised will be cutoff but again, the defining characteristic of the New Covenant is that we are circumcised in the heart, not a circumcision made with hands and baptized by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, not by water baptism.

We are not saved by water baptism nor are we in or out of the New Covenant community of Christ based on being water baptized either as an adult or as an infant. This idea of two churches, one a “visible” church with people in the covenant community who are not elect and another, “invisible” church, is an error and has no place under the New Covenant administration. I remain convinced, ever more so the more I study it, that infant baptism is a holdover from Rome, one of the areas that the magisterial Reformers left “unreformed”. Taken as a series of unrelated proof texts, infant baptism can be marginally defended but when you examine the role of water baptism in the grand scope of Scripture, especially in light of the New Covenant and the contrast between the external “types and shadows” that prefigured the New Covenant and the New Covenant internal changes (circumcised hearts and baptism of the Spirit), there simply is no Scriptural justification for “baptizing” infants.

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27 comments:

April said...

You knew I would comment on this, right? :)

I'm not going to say too much here, because I'm not really up for a debate about the whole issue (which could take quite some time, I'm sure!). I just want to point out that if you look at the Old Testament, God *always* desired heart circumcision. Yes, he instituted the physical sign of circumcision, but that was never enough. Look at Hebrews 11. Obviously circumcision was not inconsequential--it was a big deal to God, for reasons that we may not even understand. But it was always faith, not circumcision, that saved. Nevertheless, God did cut off those who did not have the sign of the covenant. I'm not saying that is still the case now. That's somewhat of a new concept to me, and I'll have to read that article and study the issue (which I actually plan to do). BUT (and I'm not saying that you're necessarily saying this), we can't say, "God wouldn't cut people off because of their parents' actions," because He did. He may not do that now--like I said, I need to search that one out. But God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. I guess I feel like the slippery slope of that line of thinking is that it could lead to the O.T. God=mean and N.T. God=nice sort of thinking.

One thing I'm curious about from the credo perspective, is what is the purpose of baptism? (And I ask this as someone who was a staunch credo up until about a year ago.) The party line has always been that we do it out of obedience to the scripture, but also because Jesus set the example for us. But can we compare Jesus' baptism to ours? Does the immersion picture of being buried--dying to sin--and being raised to newness of life, apply to Jesus' baptism? Kind of an unrelated question, but it's one that's been swimming around in my head for a while, and this brought it back to my mind.

Steve & Paula said...

That is utterly ridiculous, and so outside of the Scriptures!!
Rome has done her job well.

Paula
(beating head against brick wall)

Les said...

Arthur, on the iPhone. So more later. But till then, you said:

"In other words, you can be elect and not be part of the covenant community one the one hand and on the other hand one can be part of the covenant community and not be in the elect."

Are you suggesting that credobaptism solves this dilemma? In Baptist circles, are there not elect persons who are not recognized to be part of your church (we would say covenant) community? Conversly, are there not persons who ARE part of your community who are not elect? I.e. Baptized persons, church members but not elect?

More later.

Arthur Sido said...

April,

It is absolutely true that God is unchanging but we also see that God’s always had as His endgame the New Covenant which brings forgiveness in His Son. He says in Jeremiah 31 that this New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant and in Hebrews 8:13 we read In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. So clearly the Old Covenant is no longer in effect, it is obsolete and replaced. This is my same way I look at the dispensational arguments about the land promise, that promise is obsolete because there is a new and better promise.

Circumcision was an outward identifier that was a boundary between national Israel and the pagans around them. Under the New Covenant, there is neither Jew nor gentile, male or female, slave or free for we are all one in Christ Jesus. All who have been baptized by faith into Christ are the heirs of the promise to Abraham, not just national Israel and not based on parentage or on physical circumcision (Gal 3: 27-29). The Old Mosaic covenant with a nation, a land, a tabernacle/temple, a human priesthood, etc. was all a shadow of a better promise to come, the promise given to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ (Gal 3: 16-18)

As far as why do we baptize? We baptize out of obedience and example, obeying the command to make disciples and baptize them and the example in Scripture of people being baptized after coming to faith. Not so much the example of Christ but the example of the church and the baptism of people who respond in faith to the preaching of the Gospel. That is the great Achilles heel of paedobaptism, the utter lack of command or example to support it in the New Testament which leaves defenders of infant baptism in the awkward position of using the Old Testament to explain the New instead of the other way around.

The covenant continuity argument in circumcision is the best defense of infant baptism but I think that when you step back and look at it big picture, it is incredibly weak.

(I like your new thumbnail pic!)

April said...

Arthur,

Thank you for responding so respectfully. I think it's really easy to confuse error with idiocy, and I don't feel like you've done that. Obviously, you believe that I am in error in my paedobaptist beliefs, but I believe that you feel like we disagree as brother/sister in Christ. There are times when I am made to feel like some idiot Catholic wannabe by some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I appreciate that you do not treat me that way, even though you adamantly disagree with my position. (Also, thanks for the pic compliment. The other one was a few years old, and the new one was just taken on our anniversary trip.)

It's hard for me with baptism, because I've been in both "camps" and I see the weaknesses and strengths in both positions. I arrived at my current position after *much* study and prayer, but knowing how much error I was in previously (on other issues), I have tried to keep my mind just open enough that it wouldn't destroy my faith if I were to be shown I was wrong. So I do believe in covenant baptism, but I always leave the door cracked. Does that make sense?

Jonspach said...

To the comment about Rome doing her job well, infant baptism was practiced long before Rome became "Rome".

The flaw in the credo position that I often see is using Jeremiah 31 as the sole proof text. Jeremiah 31 certainly reflects a fulfilled state of the New Covenant, but it refers to the end of days when Christ has returned and the New Covenant has been fulfilled entirely. We see the same gradual fulfillment from other covenants. We're in the last hour (1 John 2:18) but Christ has not returned yet.

To say that the New Covenant was immediately fulfilled is to ignore other passages of Scripture that give specific warnings to those who would treat the blood of the covenant as unholy(Hebrews 6:46, Hebrews 10:26-29). Those warnings suggest one of two things - that Christians can lose their salvation (false) or that people can be in covenant with God and break that covenant to their own peril.

Other than the baptism posts, I think your blog is spot on & truly enjoy reading it. Best Regards!

Aussie John said...

Arthur,

Excellent article and response.

We also submit to baptism as a willing public testimony of what we have experienced in our becoming a believer in Christ and His finished work. There is also the symbolic portrayal of Rom.6:4 and Col. 2:12.

I have known some who are convinced of the need of baptism, but refused because of the "public spectacle" of how they would look coming out of the water.

Les said...

Paula,

"That is utterly ridiculous, and so outside of the Scriptures!!
Rome has done her job well."

It is one thing to have a different interpretation than I (and John Murray, Robert Reymond, B. B. Warfield, R. C. Sproul, Pierre Marcel, Merideth Kline, Randy Booth, Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabny, J. H. Thornwell)have. It is quite another, and unwarranted, to smear all of us with Romish theology. Reformed paedobaptism, whatever else you may think about it, is nowhere near Rome and is arguably not ridiculous (though surely a different interpretation than yours).

Arthur Sido said...

Jon,

In response, I would say that credobaptists don't use Jeremiah 31 as our sole proof text. There are myriad direct commands and examples that support believers baptism, something even paedo churches practice for adult converts. No one argues that we shouldn't baptize adult believers.

The question becomes whether we should also baptize infants. When the case is made, as by Mr. Shaw, that we should, based on covenant continuity and the baptism-circumcision link, I would turn to Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8 to point out the discontinuity between the covenants. The infant baptism case in the New Testament relies solely, I would argue, on the linkage between physical circumcision and water baptism, a linkage that I think is absent.

Arthur Sido said...

April,

I certainly understand what you are saying. I would ask this: what is the hermeneutic you use for the rest of the Bible? In other words, do you consistently apply the same principles for coming to your understanding of baptism that you do for the rest of the Bible? Most of us, in both camps, apply general principles like Scripture interprets Scripture, clearer passages interpret more obscure and the New Testament reveals what the Old Testament conceals as we interpret Scripture. We recognize that major features of the Old Testament like the temple, the sacrificial system, a people defined by race, etc. have been replaced or fulfilled in Christ. It just seems to be that in paedobaptism the general hermeneutical procedures have been set aside for one doctrine. We are supposed to define the New Testament in this one instance by the Old and I don’t find that to be a valid interpretative principle. I know this is an overused statement, but I think the clear and natural reading of the New Testament nullifies any argument for infant baptism. I also understand the arguments in favor of paedobaptism, I just don’t find them convincing.

Arthur Sido said...

Les,

Are you suggesting that credobaptism solves this dilemma? In Baptist circles, are there not elect persons who are not recognized to be part of your church (we would say covenant) community? Conversly, are there not persons who ARE part of your community who are not elect? I.e. Baptized persons, church members but not elect?

I would not limit someone's membership in the covenant community based on their membership in a local church. In other words, while there are almost certainly people we gather with on Sunday that are not elect, they are not part of the covenant community because by the very nature of the covenant community (i.e. being born-again) they cannot be. The "visible church" is a poor gauge of who is or is not part of the covenant community. Where we gather, anyone who is a professing believer is welcome to gather with us and to break bread with us.

Jonspach said...

But again, such a view that no one is part of the covenant unless they are elect renders Paul's warnings against trampling upon the covenant as pointless.

I don't mean to imply that Jeremiah 31 is the only proof text my credo brothers have, but with it they do draw from a poisoned well. You're forced to take Jeremiah 31 as fulfilled right now (in spite of NT scriptures & the context of Jeremiah 31 itself suggesting otherwise) or the argument begins to break down. Paul himself views it as a future event when he refers to it in Romans 11 when he speaks about the mystery of the Jews' salvation... right now? No. But when the "fullness of the Gentiles has come" which he doesn't seem to believe to have happened at the time of his writing.

The paedo-baptist can affirm the NT passages that deal with adults coming new to the faith being baptized & it can affirm Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 6 & other passages dealing with New Covenant transgressors. My credo friends seem to take Jeremiah 31 from a believer's baptism perspective and then make it fit. This isn't a sound hermeneutic and once that is acknowledged, things break down (or at least that's what I've observed from former credo-baptists I know).

Now, none of that addresses why paedo-baptists believe what they believe, but I think the credo-baptist interpretation isn't nearly as cohesive or free of eisegesis as my credo friends suggest it is.

Les said...

Arthur,

Two things: 1) How do you define “covenant community” and “local church.” Am I correct to assume you are speaking of the invisible and visible church?

2) We are always back to our differing understandings of the nature of the new covenant. Most credos insist that it is pure and has no unbelievers in it. Most paedos insist the opposite (not completed yet). Really with those two very different interpretations, credos and paedos will never agree on the proper recipients of baptism.

Arthur Sido said...

Jon

I think you might be understating the reality of the New Covenant. Clearly Christ inaugurated the NC, it is in effect now. He is currently the mediator of it currently. The old is fading away even as the writer of Hebrews was writing. Certainly there are some fulfillments yet to happen in the New Covenant, but let’s look at the promises:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:33)

Is this not the regeneration of the heart (See Eze 36), i.e. regeneration that proceeds faith? All Christians have experience this blessing.

And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Again, who are God’s people? Are not those who are in Christ Jesus? Paul wrote in Galatians 3: 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

For the believer, our sins are forgiven. There is nothing more to do. We are already in that state.

Are there more believers to come, more elect to be regenerated and enter into the covenant? Certainly, otherwise God would have brought this world to an end long ago. But for those who believe, what we are eagerly awaiting is not the New Covenant, it is the return to be with Christ. The promises of the New Covenant are already in place for the believer. It is the basis for our unity, our fellowship and our community. It is also the basis for receiving the sign of baptism. Jeremiah 31 by itself is not a defense of credobaptism, that is also ably accomplished by the commands and examples in the NT. What Jeremiah does show is that the paedobaptist who appeals to circumcision as a defense of infant baptism is misunderstanding the covenants.

Arthur Sido said...

Les,

I make no distinction between the visible and invisible. There is one covenant community, at least spoken of in terms of a covenant, that is the church universal. The "local church" is a visible expression of the church gathering. I don't think there is Scriptural warrant to see one covenant community of all believers and another, exclusive one of only certain believers who form a distinctive local church gathering.

Les said...

All,

I just posted something which is helpful (IMO) in this debate.

http://faithandlife.posterous.com/did-the-apostolic-church-baptise-babies-antho

Arthur Sido said...

Les, I think that is a helpful article (probably not for the reason you do though!)

Les said...

Yes, I'm sure of it.

Jonspach said...

When is a covenant not a covenant? If possible read that line with the voice of the Riddler from Super Friends. ;)

I've felt that the credobaptist view ignores the context of Jeremiah (a hermeneutic error)and reads into the NT passages relating to the New Covenant with that hermeneutic error in place. I think also the passage "not like the covenant I made.." is understood with a heavy dose of eisegesis in order to strip out the very structure of what a covenant is, hence the opening question.

In a somewhat unrelated note, I am curious how you reconcile Hebrews 10:28-29 without resorting to the "hypothetical" argument, which has obvious exegetical flaws or the argument that it means the elect can lose their salvation (which is demonstrated as false throughout the Scriptures)?

Arthur Sido said...

Jon,

The writer of Hebrews clearly identifies salvation with Jeremiah 31 in Hebrews chapter 8-10 and also speaks of it as a present reality. I think you are using a difficult passage to try to override a number of clear ones. Here is a great quote regarding the "warning passages" in Hebrews:

Another objection raised by paedobaptists relates to the warning passages….One recent book on paedobaptism indicates that the warning passages played an important role in the authors adopting a paedobaptist position, and the argument from the warning passages is regularly adduced in the book to support infant baptism. According to this reading, not all in the new covenant community truly know the Lord. Such a reading of Hebrews faces severe problems exegetically, for now (if this position is followed) some who have the law written on their heart and who have received forgiveness of sin (Heb 10: 16-18) are not truly forgiven. Paedobaptists who defend this view drive a wedge between those who are elect and those who are forgiven of their sins. Apparently not all of the latter enjoy the former! Now one can even be a partaker of the Holy Spirit (Heb 6:4), and not belong to the elect. Perhaps we will be pardoned if we argue that such paedobaptists would be more consistent if they agued that those who are saved can lose their salvation. (Schreiner & Wright, Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ)

In trying to dismantle the present reality of the New Covenant, aren't you in essence suggesting that there are those who are forgiven that are not really forgiven? That seems completely inconsistent with Reformed theology.

Jonspach said...

I'm truly enjoying the conversation. =)

In trying to dismantle the present reality of the New Covenant, aren't you in essence suggesting that there are those who are forgiven that are not really forgiven? That seems completely inconsistent with Reformed theology.

This is a post hoc argument. You're assuming that your interpretation of the covenant is true without engaging in challenges to that assumption, just as the author you quoted did the same. Clearly, reformed paedobaptists do not believe that all who are in the New Covenant are forgiven. The scriptures indicate the same. To suggest that the historic teaching of the majority of the reformed faith is one that holds you can be forgiven but not forgiven is to bring out a straw man.

If a paedobaptist points out that the Scriptures as a whole point to a New Covenant which is in effect but not fully realized and that said covenant currently includes the elect and covenant breakers (as is the stipulation for every covenant), the usual reply deals not with those texts, but rather with a reaffirmation of what is being presumed, as if repeating it often enough will make it so.

I agree that Hebrews 10:16-18 is an accurate depiction of the New Covenant right now... for the elect. You yourself acknowledged that there are unfulfilled aspects of the New Covenant so why dismiss Scriptures that suggest this is one of them that will be fully realized in Christ's return to judge those who trampled his blood underfoot? “The Lord will judge his people.”

What the covenental credo brothers do is ignore the context of books like Hebrews. They Rope off 10:16-18 from the rest of the chapter. Ignore that it was written to Jews who had an understanding of what a covenant is and was. Fail to see the clear parallel the author draws in Hebrews 10:26-31 - a warning to covenant breakers now applied to the church. “The Lord will judge his people.”

Note - this isn't a proof for paedobaptism. Paedobaptism is more clearly understood with a proper understanding of the New Covenant.

This is addressing a limited understanding of the New Covenant that allows one to take descriptive events and treat them as universally prescribed in favor of one that is not at odds with the plain meaning of the Scriptures. The reformed paedobaptist can affirm Hebrews 10 in toto while remaining true to context and perspecuity. It is the reformed credo position's failure to do this that led me to affirming paedobaptism when I first examined the issue. It is a deficiency that remains as much as I can tell.

Our presuppositions re: the New Covenant are going to lead us to credo or paedo views, I just think the paedo view is much more consistent with the Bible as a whole and doesn't require wholesale redefinitions of what a covenant is.

John Mark Harris said...

Infant baptism is always a philosophical argument - Christians should use inductive Biblical studies to come to their positions.

There is nothing in the NT to overturn the convention of baptism as it was used in Jewish life (before Jesus) as is then applied to the NT church.

It's for proselytes who come to faith, it was never used for children until after the first century - PERIOD.

it may be a tradition, but it's not Biblical.

John Mark Harris said...

to claim that Jer. 31 has not been realized or is somehow parallel or existing at the same time as the Old Covenant is a blatant display of the ignorance of Hebrews 8-9.

The Old Covenant is obsolete.

Again, if you don't like it when someone quotes verbatim the words of the Bible because it goes against your (philosophical) position, perhaps you should change your position, or change your Bible.

I choose the Bible. The Old Covenant is made obsolete by the new.

Arthur Sido said...

Jon,

Clearly, reformed paedobaptists do not believe that all who are in the New Covenant are forgiven.

In doing so, you are forced to reject what the New Covenant says. Hebrews 8:12 says For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Your argument is that it doesn’t mean what it says.

You are again saying that people can be in the New Covenant, which has as a promise the forgiveness of sins, and yet not be forgiven. That completely unravels what the New Covenant explicitly states. You are taking a passage that is difficult to interpret and using it to override what the New Covenant clearly states. Unlike the Mosaic covenant, which had a “do this and be blessed, do this and be cursed” relationship, the New Covenant is all about what Christ has done for us. We are beneficiaries of the New Covenant, not partners. We do not make the New Covenant nor do we break that same covenant. You are linking someone who is in the assembly of the church as being in the New Covenant and that the person who then is shown to be a false professor has broken that covenant and is therefore not forgiven. Being in a local church does not make one part of the New Covenant. That idea fits neatly into the paedobaptist view of baptism and the church, but it is without Scriptural support. Hebrews 10: 26-31 either is dealing with those who give an outward appearance of being in the church and are later to shown to be false or it means what the Arminian would say, that someone can lose their salvation. The New Covenant is clearly a covenant of salvation. To say that someone can go into and out of that covenant is to implicitly say that someone can lose their salvation. The New Covenant is NOT LIKE the Old, i.e. it is not a conditional covenant. God makes us His people. He writes His law upon our hearts. He forgives our sins. We are His people by virtue of being born again, not by being baptized as an infant or being members of a local church. When God regenerates our hearts and we turn through the gift of faith to Jesus Christ, we are forgiven of our sins and justified in God’s sight. Our sins are remembered no more. The only way to enjoy that promise is to be born again and no one who is truly born again will ever fall away. It is therefore impossible to be in the New Covenant where our sins are forgiven and then out. It all is linked together: election, regeneration, effectual calling, justification and it is all linked together under the umbrella of the New Covenant. That is not merely my interpretation of the New Covenant. It is expressly what the New Covenant promises.

Jonspach said...

I would respond by pointing out that the author of Hebrews denotes that the consummation of the New Covenant has not yet taken place, but is to take place at the return of Christ (Hebrews 9:28). It has been inaugurated, but the consummation is not complete.

Jeremiah 31 describes a time which has not yet fully come to pass. We do still need teachers because not all of us who are to be in the house of Israel know the Lord. Not yet. We're encouraged to teach by the apostles because the consummation has not yet come. To pick what you think if fully consummated and what is not is to be arbitrary and is an exegetical fallacy.

Every passage dealing with the New Covenant treat it as something that has been initiated, but has not yet come to full fruition. Romans 11, the entire book of Hebrews, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.

We both agree that Hebrews 10: 26-31 doesn't meant that one can lose their salvation. You say that it refers to false professors - that special punishment will be dole out for those who falsely profess faith in God. I see the clear allusions toward covenant breaking intended by the author.

You're right in saying that Reformed paedobaptists hold that you can be in the New Covenant but not saved -- this is the implication of the Scriptures as a whole. Hebrews is no more or less difficult to understand than Jeremiah 31, they're both saying the same thing regarding the inauguration and future consummation of the New Covenant. The author of Hebrews clearly lays out the special punishment that will be metered towards those who have made an appeal to God for a good conscience and have instead trampled the blood of Christ under their feet.

When you mention that the New Covenant is not like the old, you assume that to mean that it is not a Covenant (unless you're going to the conditional v. unconditional argument - which has fallen out of favor given our better understanding of Covenants of the time). Rather the Hebrew language indicates that this New Covenant cannot be annulled as the Covenant it was contrasted with was. I recommend Christ of the Covenants or Prophets of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson which provides a careful exegis of that passage indicating that is not what the author intended. You're reading into the text. Also, we've always been the beneficiaries of the covenants, never partners. To suggest that any covenant is a partnership is to misunderstand the Suzerainty-Vassal reality of what these covenants are.

I agree with much of what you write. I agree with how we're saved. I agree with what you say the New Covenant promises. But I say again, you're interpreting the Scriptures post hoc from a baptist perspective. Doing so causes you to ignore the context again and again when it disagrees with your conclusion. You mentioned that the view fits neatly within paedobaptism views and I would agree, for our God is not a God of confusion. As for Scriptural support, it's there, you just don't agree with it. ;)

Let me say thanks again for being such a gracious host through this blog. I am enjoying the sharpening. These are the sorts of conversations that allow for a copious biblical knowledge of doctrine. I am indebted to you for your participation.

Arthur Sido said...

Jon,

Just real quick. I will address some other issues tomorrow but for tonight. You said:

I would respond by pointing out that the author of Hebrews denotes that the consummation of the New Covenant has not yet taken place, but is to take place at the return of Christ (Hebrews 9:28). It has been inaugurated, but the consummation is not complete.

Is that what Hebrews 9: 27-28 about? No.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Heb 9:27-28)

NOT TO DEAL WITH SIN. He has already dealt with sin, He as already made propitiation for our sin. There is a difference between soteriological consummation, which I would argue has already happened, and eschatological consummation when Jesus brings all things to an end. Christians under the New Covenant are forgiven. Are His people. Have His law written on their hearts.

More tomorrow.

Jonspach said...

John Mark, no Reformed Paedobaptist discounts or ignores Hebrews 8-9. We affirm everything the author says in those passages. It is the credo baptist that makes an unwarranted distinction with Hebrews 10 that the author does not. The author continues speaking about the New Covenant and never gives a single indication that he is no longer speaking about the New Covenant when reaching verse 19 and the warning to covenant breakers that follow. This distinction is read into the text by the credo baptist without warrant out of a desire to maintain a post hoc argument.

I understand that covenant theology can be a bit off setting to the dispensationalist, but suggesting that covenant theologians such as Calvin, Edwards, etc. aren't aware of Hebrews 8-9 (and 10) is jejune and hardly a reasoned argument. Calling paedobaptism only "philosophical" is a straw man, and does not engage the texts offered in its defense.

Arthur, my point in regards to Hebrews 9:27-28 was not to suggest that salvation had not yet happened, only to illustrate that the author of Hebrews recognized that the New Covenant as something not fully consummated. This is only to illustrate that a Covenant's promises are just that - promises. No where are we told nor is it inferred that the promise of a Covenant need to be instantly and fully realized in order to be true. In the Abrahamic Covenant God did not immediately fulfill his promise.

The promises have been partially fulfilled - yes. The elect do have the word written on their hearts. This is to be expected. A circumcised heart was desired in the Old Covenant as well - and people were saved in the Old Covenant exactly how they're saved in the new.

This is all covenantal theology 101 - the argument for infant baptism stems from an understanding of the Covenant of Grace and the subsequent covenants that followed (including the new). I believe that covenant theology provides the best way to understand the Scriptures and it leads one to the acceptance of infant baptism -- from Scripture. This is why the overwhelming majority of Reformed theologians are paedobaptist (though certainly not all).

Had I a dispensationist presupposition I would certainly also be a credo baptist. I understand completely their view -- while both sides are guilty of assuming they know what makes the other side tick, in general I've found that Reformed paedobaptists I know have a better understanding of the credo position than credo's do of the paedo (hence all the straw-men, Rome calling, dismissive arguments calling it tradition, philosophy, etc.)

That said, I do enjoy these debates. They have always served to strengthen my belief & understanding of what the Scriptures teach regarding covenants and baptism. I pray the same is true for you, though we don't agree.

In an unrelated note - did you ever get a copy of Modern Warfare 2?