In a previous “Theology Thursday” post in 2004 to my friend’s blog (here), I wrote about what I summed up as three big differences between Presbyterians and Baptists explaining why I was changing churches. I summed up the differences to three points:
Different Hermeneutics, different views of the Covenants, and different applications of the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW). Please read that blog post before you read further, in order to understand what follows. Again, go here first, then come back. I’ll wait…
So I’m told by most of my Baptist friends that I summed up the differences pretty well.
But as I continue my studies in Covenant Theology it makes much more sense to me to think of the covenants since the Fall of Adam (before the Fall, the Covenant of Works. After the Fall), as one single progressively revealed Covenant of Grace. Including the New Covenant.
This was never adequately explained to me during my days as a Presbyterian. It was just, “We baptize babies because we’re Presbyterians.” Gimme a break, defend the practice from Scripture or else just shut up. Besides, the word Presbyterian is a reference to a church’s polity, not it’s doctrine. My own SBC Church is “presbyterian” in that regard for goodnessakes.
What changed first was the hermeneutic, “good and necessary consequence” over “necessarily contained,” after I read the Apostle Paul’s use of the former in his Epistles. For example when he’s writing to Gentile Christians at Corinth and describes the children of a believing parent, “as it is, they are holy (1st Cor. 7:14).” He’s applying a principle from the Old Covenant (Moses) to the children of Gentile believers!
Which led to the view of all the Covenants since the Fall as “different administrations of the one single Covenant of Grace, which includes the New Covenant. It is new with respect to Moses, not completely new altogether without relation to the Mosaic covenant, which remains “everlasting … throughout your generations.” Not just a national covenant or an ethnic one, but part of the larger Covenant of Grace, reaching it’s fullest expression in the New Covenant (Christ).
And if (since) the Covenant sign was applied to covenant children under the Mosaic Covenant, so a sign is to be applied to the children of believers under the New Covenant (by “good and necessary consequence”), commanded as to the RPW.
That’s just a very brief summary of course, using the points I made in the old blog post describing the differences. Beyond that there are books and lecture notes by R.C. Sproul, R. Scott Clarke, and Larry Wilson – Reformed theologians you’ve probably heard of. One of Larry Wilson’s articles, here, also has a point-for-point approach that clarified how Covenant Theology is applied by his Presbyterian denomination.
I actually think I finally understand the doctrinal/biblical reasons for “covenant baptism” as well as believers’ baptism. And it makes so much sense to me now that I can’t dismiss it anymore as “some left-over relic of pre-Reformation Romanism.” There are important theological reasons for the practice, it seems to me, and I may find myself at odds with the London Baptist Confession. I would choose the Westminster Confession over the LBC.
Is that a problem for me? Will this jeopardize my good-faith membership at my current Baptist Church? Even if not, should I consider a church that more fully embraces the doctrinal position my studies have led me to? I wonder. So I shared it with one of the Elders, a good friend, and the leadership of the church is considering what to do about if anything. They may restrict me from teaching, which would probably, effectively, force me to look for another church, or they may try to “convert” me, I don’t know. I’m kinda okay with it either way.