Shooting Fish in a Barrel

John Fea is back (it’s been a while) with an explanation of why he energetically criticizes the David Bartons and Robert Jeffresses of the evangelical world:

My approach to critiquing Jeffress, the Christian Right, and the court evangelicals is structural in nature. It is fitting with my vocation as a historian. Theologians and pastors are probably better equipped to make a direct biblical case for why Jeffress’s Christian nationalism is idolatry and harmful to the witness of the Gospel. Greg Boyd, Richard, Hughes, John Wilsey, and others have already made such a case. I encourage you to read their books. But early American historians are best equipped at taking a sledgehammer to the foundation of Christian nationalist politics.

So yes, I do get “bent out of shape.” Maybe I am obsessed. Somebody has to be. We need good American history more than ever. Christian historians have a public role to play in such a time as this.

My problem with this at one level is that John does not seem to acknowledge the optics or signaling. If he criticizes these evangelicals, then his readers will know that he is not that kind of evangelical — though I think his readers are way smarter than that and that no one confuses Messiah College with David Barton U. (or even Liberty U.).

But the bigger objection is that John only goes after evangelicals when they do this and not the entire enchilada of American Protestantism. To read John’s blog, you might receive the impression that only the Religious Right has engaged in a crass Christian nationalism (as if a refined Christian nationalism exists). But what about when mainline Protestants engage in the kind of civil religion that evangelicals advance?

Consider President Obama’s remarks while welcoming Pope Francis:

You call on all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to put the “least of these” at the center of our concern. You remind us that in the eyes of God our measure as individuals, and as societies, is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture’s call to lift up the poor and the marginalized, to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity – because we are all made in the image of God.

You remind us that “the Lord’s most powerful message” is mercy. That means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart – from the refugee who flees war torn lands, to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life. It means showing compassion and love for the marginalized and the outcast, those who have suffered, and those who seek redemption. . . .

Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example. And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency. All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true and right. But I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better. You shake our conscience from slumber; you call on us to rejoice in Good News, and give us confidence that we can come together, in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just, and more free. Here at home and around the world, may our generation heed your call to “never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!”

Maybe you agree with President Obama’s policies and Pope Francis’ teaching. But what is this “we” and “our” of which POTUS speaks? How is that anything but a mixing of Rome’s religion with America’s political norms?

And what about FDR’s “speech” that informed citizens of America’s involvement in the D-Day operations (June 6, 1944) — get this — in the form of a prayer?

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom. . . .

Wow!

No matter how big Jeffress’ congregation is and no matter how many Americans Barton may reach with his materials, neither can hold a candle to the kind of resources POTUS brings to bear on the nation and the world. Can Barton or Jeffress make war? I don’t think so.

So why not go after the nationalism that informs American officials who actually use force legitimately and send American soldiers to battle?

Why not also cease treating President Trump as if he is unworthy of presiding over a righteous nation? If Trump’s critics actually had a different moral standard rather than an expectation that POTUS should conform to Christian morality, they might become less indignant. Plenty of reasons to oppose Trump without Christian ones.

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53 thoughts on “Shooting Fish in a Barrel

  1. First, I see nothing wrong with Fee’s statement. Historians who judge people like Barton, are judging their attempts to do history. Why you make that an issue of civil religion, I don’t know.

    Second, what if we replaced the term ‘civil religion’ with ‘civil morality,’ would you object?

    Thrid, it is Trump’s mental health, or at least his constant use of lies, that makes unfit to serve.

    Finally, the question you asked at the end about nationalism and officials and the legitimate use of American force is confusing. For doesn’t the use of the word ‘legitimately’ imply that reason for the use of force is morally justified?

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  2. Curt,

    Legitimate use of force comes from God’s ordaining the sword. You’ve read Rom 13.

    Historians who judge Barton as swatting at flies. Barton is not serious. Obama is.

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  3. D.G>,
    That they legitimately have the power of the sword does not imply that their every use of the sword is legitimate. Romans 13 does not condone every use of the sword by those who have have the power of the sword. If you disagree, we could discuss the issue from an inductive approach taking historical examples.

    As for Barton, I fully agree with you that he is not a serious historian, but he is an influential one. That is a reflection on the audience that receives him.

    As for Obama, how different is he from any other President who follow the maxim: America must be praised!

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  4. Curt, since Paul wrote about God’s ordaining power in the context of Nero, your bar for legitimate use is really really high. Way higher than indicated by the indignation typical of the left.

    Barton is not influential. Keller is influential. The Times ridicules the former and praises the latter. If you don’t see that, how discerning is your outlook? Oh, that’s right. You’re a socialist.

    Sure, Obama is not different from any POTUS. But the mainstream media billed him as exceptional. You know, exceptional POTUS for exceptional nation.

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  5. D.G.,
    I have never specified my bar for the the legitimate use of force so why the comparison with the Left? All I wrote is that just because those in charge have been given the power of the sword, that doesn’t mean that their every use of the sword is right.

    BTW, Barton is very influential, just not in your circles. If memory serves, I went to school with him and remember him from college. In those charismatic circles, he is very influential. Being praised by the Times isn’t the only measure of being influential. If you doubt that, then come with me to homecoming or travel and visit the non-confessional fundamentalist churches especially in the South and Southwest.. Barton makes them feel good about being American and about wanting a Christian nation. In other circles, Keller is very influential especially in more cosmopolitan and intellectual settings.

    I agree that the MSM built a pretty high pedestal for Obama. But us socialist/leftist types were discerning enough to see the hype. Glad you could despite being a conservative.

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  6. Curt, there’s Stalin. You still won’t own him. He was pretty forceful.

    Non of those non-confessional fundamentalist churches are reading John Fea or any other evangelical historian with a Ph.D.

    Why do you defend Fea’s obsession with Barton but mock mine with Keller? That’s right. You’re a leftie.

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  7. Did he ever get around explaining why he doesn’t direct his pen at far more influential pseudohistorians like Zinn? Wouldn’t have anything to do with mood affiliation would it?

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  8. Is “Jesus is Lord ” a fact? Or is it the case that the commands of Christ are only for those who believe His opinions?

    Does ” two kingdoms at once” thinking involve two wills of God thinking?

    Are the two wills of God what God has commanded and what God has predestined? (to Adam, do not sin, but Adam will sin)

    What does that “two will” distinction have to do with one law for Christians, but different laws for people who are not Christian?

    Or worse, what does the distinction between God’s decree as law and God’s decree as history planned have to do with
    one law for Christians in private or in church, but different laws for Christians in public or when collaborating with non-Christians?

    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article126073069.html

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  9. On Jan. 16, George Bush asked Billy Graham to come to Washington, D.C., but did not say why. “They put me in the Lincoln Room and all of a sudden there came a knock at the door. There was Mrs. Bush in a wheelchair . She said, ‘How about rolling me up to the Blue Room to watch some TV?’ ” They turned on CNN and watched the beginning of the air war against Iraq. “Then the President came in, and we had prayer together,” Graham says. At dinner the three of them prayed again. And then, Graham says, just before Bush spoke to the nation, they prayed a third time “that God would help him say the right thing and give him wisdom.” Graham says his friendship with Bush does not extend into offering advice as it did when Richard Nixon was in the White House. “Watergate was hard for me,” he says. “Because I never really dreamed Nixon would use language like that. That was the thing that shook me. I never heard him use a swear word. When all that stuff came out, I just felt it was a Nixon I didn’t know. But we’re still very good friends. In fact, I just talked to him last week.”

    http://watergate.info/1994/04/27/billy-graham-remarks-at-nixon-funeral.html

    Billy Graham–“I believe that Richard Nixon right now is with Pat again in heaven….He never wore his religious faith on his sleeves, but was rather reticent to speak about it in PUBLIC. He could have had more reasons than most for not attending church while he occupied the White House when there was so many demonstrations and threats going on. But he wanted to set an example. So he decided to have services most Sundays in the White House — a small congregation, a clergyman from various denominations. And I remember before one of the first services that President Nixon had at the White House, Ruth and I and two of our friends were in the PRIVATE quarters with him. I’ll never forget the President sitting down on the spur of the moment of an old, battered Steinway that they had there, playing the old hymn, He Will Hold Me Fast, For My Saviour Loves Me.”

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  10. Mark,

    Gonna give this a shot as an invitation to further discussion.

    MM: Is “Jesus is Lord ” a fact?

    Yes.

    MM: Or is it the case that the commands of Christ are only for those who believe His opinions?

    No. All are under Law in Adam (Rom 1 – 5). The jurisdiction of the church in deciding cases of law and in particular excommunication extends only to its members (1 Cor 5 – 6.11, esp 5.12-13)

    MM: Does ” two kingdoms at once” thinking involve two wills of God thinking?

    Only tangentially.

    MM: Are the two wills of God what God has commanded and what God has predestined? (to Adam, do not sin, but Adam will sin)

    Yes. Decretal and prescriptive wills are the usual theological terms.

    MM: What does that “two will” distinction have to do with one law for Christians, but different laws for people who are not Christian?

    Nothing at all, since there are not different prescriptive laws for Christian and non-. Rather, there is one law for Christians and non-. There are two different jurisdictions in which that law is applied and enforced. Within the church, there is authority to decide questions of interpretation of Scripture; hence, Scripture is freely used as the source to understand God’s law. There is also authority to excommunicate, but not to kill; hence, the church excommunicates.

    In civil society, there is not authority to decide interpretation of Scripture, so the use of Scripture is withheld or at least sharply downplayed for the magistrate. [This will probably become a big topic of discussion]. There is authority to wield the sword (Rom 13), so the sword is wielded. But there is not authority to excommunicate.

    MM: Or worse, what does the distinction between God’s decree as law and God’s decree as history planned have to do with one law for Christians in private or in church, but different laws for Christians in public or when collaborating with non-Christians?

    See above. There are not two laws; hence the question becomes vexed.

    But since there are two different jurisdictions, Christians might well act differently within the church or within civil society. Three examples:

    (1) Within the church, a Christian will prefer to bring disputes before a court of the church and not civil society (Rom 6). In civil society, a Christian has no such preference; indeed, the church cannot claim jurisdiction over a non-believer.

    (2) Within the church, a Christian will demand under the RPW that all teaching be grounded sola scriptura. Outside of the church, no such demand is needed, nor even desired. Nevertheless, the Christian will in all jurisdictions prefer the word of God to the word of man.

    (3) Within the church, a Christian will consider all people to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Outside the church, they are neighbors only. Hence Gal 6.10: Do good to all, especially those of the household of faith.

    In all cases, there is one Law, being obeyed according to the context of a particular jurisdiction.

    Notice that “different contexts” do not make “different Law.” It is lawful for a Christian to eat meat sacrificed to idols in the context of brothers who understand that meat is only meat; it is not lawful in the context of brothers who view the act as idolatry and are tempted thereby. One Law, two contexts.

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  11. Thanks, Jeff. So
    1. there is only always one “moral law” and God gave “the substance of” that “moral law” to Adam before Adam sinned, and we can always tell what that “unchanging moral law” is in every covenant because whatever changes is not “the moral law” and what does not change is not. So which day the sabbath is not “the moral law” but Sabbath always is. Because God’s positive or ceremonial laws do not reflect God’s unchanging nature, but God’s “moral law” cannot change because they do come from God’s holy character.

    2. Since Christ is redeemer, Christ cannot be law-giver. And Christ is not only redeemer but also creator and as creator, Christ would never legislate anything new other than correct distortions of the “moral law” as revealed to Abraham or to Moses or to Adam. Therefore polygamy was never the “moral law” for David or Jacob, but killing in war is “moral law” because the death penalty was given to Noah in a secular (“common grace” or “eschatological intrusion”. pick your cherry) context which had nothing to do with redemptive grace….

    3. The continuity is implicit. Even though Christ may welcome Gentiles into His kingdom in a broader way than we could see in the older “administrations” of “the covenant”, certainly Christ would never narrow all the promises to one promise fulfilled in Christ . Certainly Christ would never narrow “the covenant” by teaching that “the covenant” was now only for those presumed to be justified before God. Even though Christ strips the Roman Caesar’s occupation of Israel of divine pretensions (disarms the powers) , certainly Christ would never question the jurisdiction of Rome in this age in such a way as to make it a legitimate for the Roman Caesar to execute Christ for perceived sedition. An attack on the temple complex would be like the iconoclasm of Protestants destroying images and not bringing in newborn family members for registration by water ritual. As long as the church advises the state, the state can be Christian without the state being the church.

    DVD–Matthew 5::17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” A common reading of this verse in my own Reformed tradition is that Jesus is about to clarify the Mosaic law in response to Pharisaical corruption of Moses.9 While this reading has the virtue of guarding against denigration of the Mosaic law, it is NOT an adequate interpretation of Jesus’ words. This reading fails to reckon with the radical, eschatological newness of the coming of Jesus and his kingdom http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/bearing-sword-in-the-state-turning-cheek-in-the-church-a-reformed-two-kingd

    Calvinist was a real Calvinist—“The magistrate, if he is godly, will not want to exempt himself from the common subjection of God’s children. It is by no means the least significant part of this for him to subject himself to the church, which judges according to God’s Word ” (Institutes, 4.11.13)

    Calvin–We are taught, also, what is the nature of this kingdom; for if this kingdom made us happy according to the flesh, and brought us riches, luxuries, and all that is desirable for the use of the present life, this kingdom would smell of the earth and of the world; but now, though our condition be apparently wretched, still our true happiness remains unimpaired. We learn from it, also, who they are that belong to this kingdom; those who, having been renewed by the Spirit of God, contemplate the heavenly life.

    Calvin– Yet it deserves our attention, likewise, that it is NOT said, that the kingdom of Christ is not in this world; for we know that the kingdom of Christ has its seat in our hearts…But, strictly speaking, the kingdom of God, while it dwells in us, is a stranger to the world, because its condition is totally different….But here a question arises, Is it not lawful to defend the kingdom of Christ by arms? For when Kings and Princes are commanded to kiss the Son of God, (Psalm 2:10-12) not only are they enjoined to submit to his authority in their private capacity, but also to employ all the power that they possess, in defending the Church and maintaining godliness.

    Calvin–I answer, first, they who draw this conclusion, that the doctrine of the Gospel and the pure worship of God ought not to be defended by arms, are unskillful and ignorant reasoners. Secondly, though godly kings defend the kingdom of Christ by the sword, still it is done in a different manner from that in which worldly kingdoms are wont to be defended; for the kingdom of Christ, being spiritual, must be founded on the doctrine and power of the Spirit…. Yet this does not hinder princes from accidentally defending the kingdom of Christ; partly, by appointing external discipline, and partly, by lending their protection to the Church against wicked men.

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  12. Robert, sarcasm alert. I do believe that Christ is lawgiver. “This is my Son—listen to Him.” We must not flee from Christ’s law and run to what the tradition has selected from Moses and Noah.

    Luke 6: 31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great…

    Martin Luther—“If the faults of any magistrate must be tolerated, it is those of the secular, rather than the ecclesiastical authority; among other reasons, because the ecclesiastical authority, unlike the secular, does not come from God” (“Against Latomus,” LW 32, 146)

    https://lutherantheology.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/luther-on-magistrates/

    If we were to agree that Jesus Christ is Lord over Christians even as Creator, would this mean that we want “redemption to swallow up creation” What does that mean? Would Christ as lawgiver make us universalists who think that all human creatures will be redeemed? Would Christ as lawgiver make us worship with the presumption that all who are visible when the clergy “adds the word” are redeemed?

    But if Christ is Lord as Redeemer but not as Creator, does this mean that Christ’s kingdom is only in our hearts but not in our public conscience so we don’t have to be pacifists? Some versions of “a theology of the cross” teach that since Christ’s kingdom is not here on earth yet, it is not treason for us to kill for our other kingdom

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  13. D.G.,
    Luxemburg, a Socialist contemporary of Lenin, certainly didn’t “own” Lenin in the way you are using the word. And she wouldn’t own Stalin either becaue Stalin was Lenin on steroids. Even Gorbachev, who likes Lenin, doesn’t own Stalin. In fact, my challenge to some Stalinists was met with a “don’t know.” I asked them how many people on Stalin’s Central Committee were workers. If you knew Marxism, you would know why that is a very pertinent question.

    BTW, Keller isn’t Barton and vice-versa. I see little to nothing that is even redeemable in Barton’s history. I see Keller as a mixed bag while you, by equating him with Barton, apparently see nothing of value by how you write about him. If you were fair and balanced, I wouldn’t care. I guess that means that I am challenging you to fox-news it up on Keller.

    BTW, I have only read one thing by Fea on Barton and that was here. I have read what seems to be a countless number of your criticisms of Keller.

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  14. McMark, I like that. “Accidental.” Christian princes don’t know what they are doing. That’s why we don’t trust them (even when they are Bishops of Rome).

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  15. Curt, powers of discernment alert. The comparison to Keller was actually a compliment. He’s more important than Barton.

    But all you see is negativity.

    Have you noticed the log in your own eye?

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  16. D.G.,
    All I see is negativity? Really? THat is despite the fact that I have fully agreed with a couple of your posts and have said a few times that people could learn things from your 2kt. And that doesn’t include that I said you have important stuff to teach about Church history. So all I see is the negative?

    You play too many games.

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  17. MMC: 1. there is only always one “moral law” and God gave “the substance of” that “moral law” to Adam before Adam sinned…

    Yes

    MMC: …and we can always tell what that “unchanging moral law” is in every covenant because whatever changes is not “the moral law” and what does not change is not. So which day the sabbath is not “the moral law” but Sabbath always is. Because God’s positive or ceremonial laws do not reflect God’s unchanging nature, but God’s “moral law” cannot change because they do come from God’s holy character.

    I would say that can always tell is pushing too hard. I would argue that it is clear that certain ceremonies are not to be repeated (Heb) and that certain moral principles are not to be abrogated (eg: Paul’s citation of decalogue in Eph 6). In between, there is substantial room for debate.

    Taking the Sabbath issue, Luther argued that the whole Sabbath was a ceremony pointing to our resting from our own good works in Christ. The Reformed world disagreed.

    So distinguishing the two is a matter of careful exegesis, not a simple one.

    MMC: 2. Since Christ is redeemer, Christ cannot be law-giver.

    I don’t follow the reasoning. If God is both just and the justifier of those who believe, why can Christ not be both law-giver and redeemer?

    MMC: …And Christ is not only redeemer but also creator and as creator, Christ would never legislate anything new other than correct distortions of the “moral law” as revealed to Abraham or to Moses or to Adam.

    I don’t know about that. Is it, or is it not, “new” to observe that the whole law hangs upon loving God and loving neighbor? Intellectual property lawyers might have to weigh in.

    MMC: 3. The continuity is implicit. Even though Christ may welcome Gentiles into His kingdom in a broader way than we could see in the older “administrations” of “the covenant”, certainly Christ would never narrow all the promises to one promise fulfilled in Christ . Certainly Christ would never narrow “the covenant” by teaching that “the covenant” was now only for those presumed to be justified before God.

    I’m assuming sarcasm (irony) here. The continuity is explicit, taught in Rom 4 and 11, Eph 2, Gal 3. When Paul says

    What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise … If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    (Gal 3)

    he seems to be unequivocal.

    So I would argue that continuity is explicit, and any claim of discontinuity beyond the outward forms (a la Hebrews) needs to shoulder a full burden of proof.

    MMC: Even though Christ strips the Roman Caesar’s occupation of Israel of divine pretensions (disarms the powers) , certainly Christ would never question the jurisdiction of Rome in this age in such a way as to make it a legitimate for the Roman Caesar to execute Christ for perceived sedition.

    Not following here. It was Pilate, not Caesar, who ordered the execution. The Gospels present Pilate’s decision as venial cowardice, not legitimate response to sedition. And Christ does not question the jurisdiction of Rome. In fact, he even upholds the jurisdiction of the temple leaders, while still criticizing them at a personal level.

    MMC: An attack on the temple complex would be like the iconoclasm of Protestants destroying images and not bringing in newborn family members for registration by water ritual. As long as the church advises the state, the state can be Christian without the state being the church.

    The temple is done away with per Hebrews. That has nothing to do with infant baptism. And states cannot be Christian, so …

    In re Calvin: That’s a huge discussion. The question on the table, I suppose, is whether we can decouple the theology of infant baptism from the theology of theocracy. I affirm, you deny. So far, no major points have been scored.

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  18. August 10, 2017 at 7:14 am
    dgh—McMark, have you gone over to the Constantinian dark side?

    mcmark–As long as I have commented on this blog, my position has not changed. I have always NOT been the two kingdom Mennonite others want me to be—I have never agreed that it’s legitimate for anybody to regard the commands of Jesus about war (or sex) as being only for some people. I have always been “theonomic pacifist”—since my graduate school paper on Bahnsen and Gary North and Falwell written for Don Durnbaugh..

    But the problem in communication has not only been that people think they already know what a pacifist is supposed to look like (this is for me, but not for everybody, and thank god that other people will kill for me).

    The problem is that my sarcasm often attempts to show the link between mono-covenantalist continuity with war and “infants in and out of the covenant”. While people like Jeff see (but do not agree) where my argument is attempting to go, other people don’t see the caricature and (in charity) affirm some of what I mean to be ironic. Sure, this is a blog but the failure to communicate is mine.

    Can we “decouple the praxis of infant water from theonomy”?

    1. Properly defined, “theonomy” is my own position. I disagree with “two kingdoms at once” and “one kingdom is good for some” and “the other kingdom is good for others” But of course the majority who comment here presume “secular neutrality” and oppose “one kingdom only” (be it governed by Mosaic norms or by the Sermon on the Mount).

    I do know the theonomists and have read much of what they have written. I know the difference between those who put the family in first place (Rushdoony) and those who put the sacramental church in first place (but James Jordan and Leithart don’t call themselves theonomists anymore). I remember reading Bahnsen ( a long time ago now) explaining that keeping the church and state jurisdictions distinct is an old testament thing to do, and that it doesn’t entail saying that the state is not Christian. “By what standard”? While I disagree with Bahnsen about the Mosaic covenant being the standard for (for this age, not about the other nations in that age), I agree with Bahnsen that “natural law” is not the standard that legitimates the state. And of course I would make a distinction between submission to Pilate and participation with Pilate.

    2. I am certainly NOT saying that all who do infant water have the same paradigm—as in “if you do infants, you must be theonomist to be consistent”. , I don’t do infants, yet I am “theonomic” in that I think everyone is commanded to believe the one and only gospel, and in that way to enter the one and only kingdom of Christ. The only hope for anyone is salvation by Christ the mediator of the one new covenant.

    3. Indeed, one of my repeated points is that those who practice infant water as Augustine did do NOT agree with each other (or with Augustine) about the nature or need of the practice. Some who do infants are eager to say ” we do believers also” or even to say ” we are not going to discipline anybody who refuses to bring infants or even attempt anymore to eliminate that sin”. In short, even though what argument for paedobaptism you hear still depends on what paeodbaptist you talk to (the same goes for credobaptists) , and how she finds her argument in the confessions, I do think that since the amendment to the confessions whereby the magistrate stops serving the one and only church, there has been quite a bit of “evolution” in the doctrine.

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/the-evolution-of-reformed-paedobaptism/

    Brandon Adams—“We can throw Meredith Kline’s new formulation of infant baptism into the mix. He said the reformed have been wrong to base infant baptism on God’s promise (what he calls “a confusion”) because that promise is only to the elect. Infant baptism is not based on God’s promise. Rather, it is just simply a result parental authority over children. As long as our children live “under our roof” they are Christians and should be baptized. Kline– this approach doesn’t face all of the awkwardness and embarassment that we make the basis of their being baptized because they are holy in Christ.” ….So when you are talking to a paedobaptist, make sure to find out which one of these views they hold There is quite a variety out there today”

    Ursinus–Infants have the Holy Ghost, and are regenerated by him

    Rutherford–if the root be holy, so also are the branches (Rom. 11:16). Now this holiness cannot be meant of personal and inherent holiness, for it is not true in that sense. If the fathers and forefathers be truly sanctified and are believers, then are the branches and children sanctified and believers. But the contrary we see in wicked Absalom born of holy David, and many others. Therefore, this holiness must be the holiness of the nation, not of persons…

    Mark Jones—The indicative comes before the imperative, even for our children. Asking them to obey becomes a form of moralism if there is no gracious indicative present

    Mike Horton—. God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. … The word proclaimed and sealed in the sacraments is valid, regardless of our response, but we don’t enjoy the blessings apart from receiving Christ with all of his benefits. ..To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong?

    John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent the grace from reaching them.”

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  19. Matthew 3: In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” … . 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees!

    Luke 4:5 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon

    John 4: Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph ….20.Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, yet you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem .21 Jesus told her, “Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem

    Jeff, monocovenantal continuity is not what’s taught in Ephesians 2, or Galatians 3 or Romans 3:31 or Romans 4 or 9 or 11

    Ephesians 2: 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, in order to create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 in order to reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

    In Ephesians 2, Paul is not dividing the law from its curse, or saying only that the curse has been abolished. What has been abolished is “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances”. Ephesians 2 speaks the opposite of the way it should if it were teaching that “the curse of the law” and “the law” were two different things.

    While the Reformed distinction between law and curse lays the emphasis on the curse in Ephesians 2, the emphasis in context of Ephesians 2 is the law itself.

    While the Reformed distinction between law and curse lays the exclusive emphasis on the law in Romans 3:31, Paul’s point in Romans 3:31 accentuates the curse.

    The emphasis of Ephesians 2 is on the code, the “commandments expressed in ordinances”. Instead of separating out the curse from the code, Paul actually writes of the abolition of the commandments themselves. This can be seen from the statement itself, and also from the context which speaks of the joining of jew and gentile into the body.
    It is impossible to maintain that only the curse itself is that which divides the two groups, since both are under the curse equally. No, the curse divides God from humans. What stands between jew and gentile is the mosaic covenant law itself.

    Think of the parallel in Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. The “record of death” against us is the same as the “legal demands” against us. . Colossians 2: 16 goes on to say: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” It is more than the removal of the curse that the law-satisfaction of Christ’s death at the cross achieved. Nobody anymore has to do what the Mosaic covenant commands to be done.

    Distinctions between jurisdictions was often used by Roman Catholics against the Reformers, when the topic was justification by including our law-keeping. Calvin would not allow the Romanists this distinction in order for them to say that only some kind of our works were not a condition of salvation. The ceremonies of Moses picture the way out from both the curse of the Mosaic law and from the Mosaic law . The ceremonies that damn are also ceremonies that prefigure Christ’s death and salvation (even in the time of Moses) by the new covenant.

    -John Owen, comments on Hebrews 8:6-13—No man was ever saved but by virtue of the NEW COVENANT, and the mediation of Christ in that respect. The Sinai covenant thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. The old covenants were confined unto things temporal. Believers in the gospel were saved under the old covenants but not by virtue of the old covenants.

    Even though John Owen was a congregationalist paedobaptist, most paedobaptists would not agree with John Owen about the lasting life of the age to come being only by means of the new covenant. Not only do paedobaptists disagree between themselves, but also some paedobaptists keep thinking in such a way as to come to disagree with what they wrote earlier. Irons argues that Kline changed his mind about the nature of covenants, and about new covenant promise.

    http://www.upper-register.com/papers/BOC-compared-with-KP.pdf

    Lee Irons: Exegetical study of Paul’s teaching on the Law has convinced me that it is impossible to separate the stipulations of the Law from the sanctions… The believer nevertheless continues to sustain a relationship to the Law in Christ. Otherwise, if the Law itself has been abolished in an ontological sense, we would be saying that the merit of Christ has also been abolished. Thus, as Paul argues so eloquently in 1 Cor. 9:21/Rom. 7:1-6, we have died to the Law, not in order to be anomos, as if we were now widows without a husband, but in order to be ennomos Christou, married to another.

    Jeff, I do want to continue a conversation. I am going away for a wedding , and hope to return next week to Galatians 3 and to Romans 4, 9 and 11

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  20. Christian nationalism…What does the government say about that? It is easy to find out, first, get a coin and notice the inscriptions stamped on it and to the other billions made likewise, all there by Federal law.

    1. Liberty. Perhaps this is well defined by an old 1752 Government action, the purchase of the Liberty Bell. Notice the inscription “Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof.” Lev. XXV v X.
    Liberty, in this context, is not a freedom to do anything, it is tied to general Biblical moral teachings.

    2. In God We Trust. Has been stamped on every coin for over a century, and each coin as it is made represents another government sanction of this high theological doctrine. Might be best to read the Declaration’s ‘Supreme Judge’, and ‘with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence’ clauses within their 1776 meaning for context.

    3. Coin Dating. What does the number mean? Year 2017 of what era? In the ancient M.E. world, the numbering of years is tied to the start and reign of a King. Further, this helps define the word ‘God’. To what God on U.S. coinage does the motto refer ? The U.S. Constitution has the answer:
    ‘done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven’. Note the adjective ‘our’ tied to ‘Lord’, same personal application as ‘our President’.
    It used to be commonly noted as ‘Anno Domini.’ only in reference to Jesus Christ.

    The ‘Year of our Lord’ dating is still used in Federal Election Documents, as seen in Connecticut’s 2016 Presidential Elector’s Certificate:
    ‘In Witness Whereof, we have hereunto set our hands.
    Done at the Capitol, in the City of Hartford, and the State of Connecticut on the
    first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, being the nineteenth day of
    December in the year of our Lord two thousand and sixteen.’

    Pennsylvania still notes A.D.: ‘on the twentieth day of January, A.D. 2017,’
    https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/2016/certificates-of-vote.html

    So there we have it, Federal sanction of the connection between Christ and Government, every time a coin is stamped, or a document signed.

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  21. @ McMark: Have a good time at the wedding. I am glad that your position is becoming more clear in my mind. I do confess that up until this past year, I read you as a Mennonite. Pacifism, credobaptism, anabaptist arguments against paedobaptism.

    One point of clarification: The term “monocovenantalism” refers to the belief that the covenant with Adam is of the same substance with the covenant of grace, but under a different dispensation. That view, held by *very* few in the Reformed community, is not under discussion here.

    I am arguing for a standard “bicovenantal” view — CoW in the garden, CoG thereafter.

    Re 3: Adams tells a tidy story in which, conveniently (sarcasm alert!), the Reformed world since Luther has shifted in the Baptist direction: Church has become successively decoupled from the State; baptism has become less and less a means of grace and more and more a sign of faith.

    Reading Adams, one simply wishes that the Reformed would reform all the way and become baptists, yes?

    But is his historical theology accurate? Here, we need to be critical readers and ask some tough questions. In particular:

    (1) Was Ursinus’ view that infant children of believers have an inclination to faith representative of Reformed consensus?

    (2) Is it true that at the Westminster Assembly, Presbyterians, continuing in line with the “magisterial reformation” sought to defend the national church, but this required a shift in belief about baptism and the church. The only way “known unbelievers” could remain members of the church and have their children baptized is if faith (actual or an inclination) was not a prerequisite for baptism and church membership.?

    (3a) If true, is it the case that this shift occurred at the Westminster Assembly, or did it occur earlier?
    (3b) If false, what connection did the view taken by the Assembly have to Reformed thinking of the previous 100 years?

    (4) Is it true that Reformed thought shifted in modern times so that Infant baptism is based on external holiness, but adult membership presumes inherent holiness?

    (1) Was Ursinus’ view that infant children of believers have an inclination to faith representative of Reformed consensus?

    Here, we might consider three individuals: Oecolampadius (Unterrichtung, 1527), Zwingli (von der Taufe, 1529), Calvin (Institutes, 1536) and the French (1559) and 2nd Helvetic (1562) Confessions.

    Without multiplying quotes (let the reader be diligent!), each of those affirms that children are to be baptized because they are included within the church because of the faith of their parents.

    One example:

    15. Such is the value of the promise given to the posterity of Abraham,—such the balance in which it is to be weighed. Hence, though we have no doubt that in distinguishing the children of God from bastards and foreigners, that the election of God reigns freely, we, at the same time, perceive that he was pleased specially to embrace the seed of Abraham with his mercy, and, for the better attestation of it, to seal it by circumcision. The case of the Christian Church is entirely of the same description; for as Paul there declares that the Jews are sanctified by their parents, so he elsewhere says that the children of Christians derive sanctification from their parents. … And, indeed, if we listen to the absurdities of those men, what will become of the promise by which the Lord, in the second commandment of his law, engages to be gracious to the seed of his servants for a thousand generations? Shall we here have recourse to allegory? This were the merest quibble. Shall we say that it has been abrogated? In this way, we should do away with the law which Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfill, inasmuch as it turns to our everlasting good. Therefore, let it be without controversy, that God is so good and liberal to his people, that he is pleased, as a mark of his favour, to extend their privileges to the children born to them.

    — Calv Inst 4.16.15.

    The point here is that Ursinus actually stands as an outlier among Reformed thinkers. Contra Adams, early Reformed teaching mostly held that infant baptism was grounded in the faith of the parents, which gave the children the right to the covenant.

    Ursinus is an exception; so is Luther and Lutherans after him, who hold that the act of baptism creates faith in the child.

    (2) Is it true that at the Westminster Assembly, Presbyterians, continuing in line with the “magisterial reformation” sought to defend the national church, but this required a shift in belief about baptism and the church. The only way “known unbelievers” could remain members of the church and have their children baptized is if faith (actual or an inclination) was not a prerequisite for baptism and church membership.?

    We’ve already seen that the faith of the child, actual or inclination, was not a requirement in the mainstream of Reformed thought. But is it true that at the Westminster Assembly, faith of the parent became no longer a prerequisite? Adams cites Goodwin, Marshall, and Rutherford; Goodwin claims that children of believers are to be regarded as saved. Marshall claim that the faith of the parents is necessary. Rutherford dissents (against Beza) and claims that it is unnecessary for parents to be actual believers. (but see also Roland Ward, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant, who argues that Rutherford is possibly misunderstood).

    Adams then claims that Rutherford’s view became the standard view.

    Well: What did the final product of the assembly say?

    Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized. — WCF 28.4 That would be Marshall, not Rutherford.

    Adam’s error here is odd, to say the least.

    (3b) If false, what connection did the view taken by the Assembly have to Reformed thinking of the previous 100 years?

    This has already been answered, but to sum up: While there are minority views among reformers (eg.: baptism creates faith, per Luther; infants have seed faith, per Ursinus), the consensus expressed in various confessions is that children of believers have a right to and interest in the Covenant.

    (4) Is it true that Reformed thought shifted in modern times so that Infant baptism is based on external holiness, but adult membership presumes inherent holiness?

    Adams alleges that the Reformed view has shifted, citing William Cunningham (~1840), concluding that

    In this way modern Presbyterians oppose the idea that infants are presumed regenerate. Cunningham notes “neither parents nor children, when the children come to be proper subjects of instruction, should regard the fact that they have been baptized, as affording of itself even the slightest presumption that they have been regenerated.”

    Three problems with this, one logical and two historical. The logical problem is of course that Presbyterians do in fact presume that infants are, or at least have a good probability of being, elect hence regenerate in God’s timing. But their presumptive election is not based upon the fact of baptism, but on their federal inclusion as covenant children. Adams slips up by eliding Cunningham’s careful statement “neither parents nor children should regard the fact that they have been baptized as affording the slightest presumption that they have been regenerated” into a sloppy one: “neither parents nor children should have the slightest presumption that they have been regenerated.”

    Adams would have done well to consider the contemporaneous debate on the other side of the pond. In 1859, Hodge took issue with Thornwell over the exact question of whether covenant children should be considered members having not yet made a profession of faith.

    Since we cannot determine with certainty who is regenerate, we are left to receive
    into membership those who credibly profess the true religion—and their children. He [Schenk]
    quotes Hodge again:
    “When, therefore, we assert the church membership of the infants of believing
    parents, we do not assert their regeneration, or that they are true members of Christ’s
    body; we only assert that they belong to the class of persons whom we are bound to
    regard and treat as members of Christ’s Church. This is the only sense in which even
    adults are members of the Church, so far as men are concerned”. (p. 129, 130)
    This means that the concept of presumptive regeneration is true for adults as well
    as infants. For adults who join we presume they are regenerate because of their
    confession of Christ; and for infants who join we presume they are regenerate because of
    the promises of God to believing parents.

    — Steve Smallman, reviewing LB Schenck, The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant.

    Notice the subtle distinction: We do not assert regeneration of covenant children, just as we do not assert the regeneration of adults who make a profession. Instead, we presume it, fallibly. It is worth checking out Hodge’s chapter 20 of Systematic Theology Vol 3, “The Means of Grace” for a fuller discussion.

    Now. It *is* true that in America through the Puritan Congregationalists came a more forcefully revivalistic view of church membership. The New Side Puritans tended to be of a mind that only those making a credible — *very* credible — profession of faith could be members, and that view affected Thornwell and even Presbyterians to this day. So Adams gets some credit for noticing a shift.

    But in terms of “solid theologians”, the consensus has continued to be that children of believers are to be treated as Christians until demonstrating otherwise, or at the least, the lawful heirs of the promises of the Covenant. Thus Hodge, Berkhof, also Murray and Pratt.

    Conclusion: Adams blew it. It may have been that he was too eager to see Reformed theology evolving to his own position, so some other factor may have been at work. But it seems indisputable that from the beginning until now, Reformed theologians have held that children of believers are presumed heirs of the covenant, and are to be treated as Christians, and are to be baptized on that basis.

    This is not to say that all Presbyterians’ beliefs match those of the prominent theologians. But it does point out that Adams’ thesis of an evolution of thought in the church is untenable.

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  22. D.G.,
    Yes, you are playful. But some play to have fun with others while others play while trying to make of others.

    And btw, why be suspicious because I agree with you on some points?

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  23. D.G,
    I see that i need to edit my second sentence.


    while others play by trying to make fun of others.

    Of course, the latter group looks down on those they make fun of.

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  24. No, Rusty does not agree with me. “General Bible teachings” are not the “law of Christ.” The law of the new covenant is not the law of the Mosaic covenant. Killing the enemies of one of your two kingdoms is not loving your enemies.

    Jeff–The term “monocovenantalism” refers to the belief that the covenant with Adam is of the same substance with the covenant of grace, but under a different dispensation. That view, held by *very* few in the Reformed community, is not under discussion here.

    mcmark—If you didn’t understand that my pacifism comes from the law of Christ, Jeff, what did you think I was doing focusing on the discontinuity between covenants (for example, in my argument on Ephesians 2) ? The only way you could think I was Mennonite was to simply label as “anabaptist” or “revivalist” or “evangelical” all credobaptists.. And if you are going to stipulate that the term “monocovenantalism” has nothing to with and cannot be used to describe the flattening of all covenants after Adam’s sin into “one substance” called “the covenant of grave”, then you simply have not taken the time to think about the case I have made (quoting John Owen) against the identity of the Abrahamic covenant with the new covenant.

    I am not sure how “few” follow John Murray in his confusion of the law given to Adam before sin with the gospel, but I agree with you that this one confusion of law and gospel is “not under discussion”. But what is very much “under discussion” is the value of saying that all covenants after sin are “substantially” the same and therefore “the covenant of grace.” Part of that discussion is the nature of the new covenant, and if that’s only about Christ the mediator and His elect. Another part of that discussion is about if the confusion of the Abrahamic covenant with the new covenant leads to law/gospel confusion.

    Brandon Adams does not need me to argue his position (nor are Brandon and I agreed on all points) , but Jeff you are not even taking into account what Reformed folks like Irons or Gordon have argued. did you even read what DVD wrote about Matthew 5:17?

    David Gordon –“I am perfectly happy with retaining the covenant of works, by any label, because it was a historic covenant; what I am less happy with is the language of the covenant of grace, because this is a genuinely unbiblical use of biblical language. Biblically, covenant is always a historic arrangement, inaugurated in space and time. Once covenant refers to an over-arching divine decree or purpose to redeem the elect in Christ, confusion Is sure to follow.
    Covenants in the Bible.doc –
    http://www.tdgordon.net/theology/covenants-in-the-bible.doc

    (3a) If true, is it the case that this shift occurred at the Westminster Assembly, or did it occur earlier?
    (3b) If false, what connection did the view taken by the Assembly have to Reformed thinking of the previous 100 years?

    If all you are saying is that sometimes people on all sides teach their side of the narrative in a too tidy fashion, I would agree, and would even love to hear you own version of the story. But if you are really denying that there are at least three ways to get to infant water, then I would be even more interested in your explanation about the difference between Augustine/ Luther rationales and the case from circumcision. Or the difference between Edwards and his grandfather, between puritan separatists and those who don’t worry about parent’s testimonies and confessions and who concern themselves only with regular duties to attend to the rites of conversion.

    But it’s not going to help anybody now to quote those who wrote “let it be without controversy” and who then turned over those who disagreed to the magistrates to be separated from the nation. Sure there is continuity with the Abrahamic practice in that, but there is also failure to pay attention to the “absurdities” of the Lutherans who also resorted to the magistrate but not to the mono-covenantal apologetic. All you have is assertion that those who disagree with you are ‘the exception”.

    Jeff–But their presumptive election is not based upon the fact of baptism, but on their federal inclusion as covenant children

    mcmark–Again I don’t presume to speak for Adams, but I would say that it makes no difference to me ultimately if you water because you presume they are in “the covenant” (not the one with the elect alone, but the one covenant tradition has built using bits of all the covenants after sin), or if you say they are now in “the covenant” because they were watered. I have heard it put both ways–Jones and Horton suggest that God would have nothing to say by way of command to those not watered, but I would think the majority might argue that credobaptists sin because they do not water their children even though their chiildren are born in “the covenant” (before water)

    Janice Knight — “Orthodoxies in Massachusetts: Rereading American Puritanism–: Thomas Hooker, Thomas Shepard, Peter Bulkeley, John Winthrop, and most of the ministers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony…. described his covenant with human beings as a conditional promise. They preached the necessity of human cooperation in preparing the heart for that promised redemption, and they insisted on the usefulness of Christian works as evidence of salvation…. Perry Miller lamented that this group developed structures of preparationism and an interlocking system of contractual covenants that diminished the mystical strain of piety he associated with Augustinianism.”

    Janice Knight—” Originally centered at the Cambridge colleges, the second group was led in America by John Cotton, John Davenport, and Henry Vane. Neither a sectarian variation of what we now call “orthodoxy” in New England nor a residual mode of an older piety, this party presented a alternative within the mainstream of Puritan religious culture. In a series of contests over political and social dominance in the first American decades, this group lost their claim to status as the “official” religion in New England. Thereafter, whiggish histories tell the winner’s version, demoting central figures of this group to the cultural sidelines by portraying their religious ideology as idiosyncratic and their marginalization as inevitable. “

    John Owen, comments on Hebrews 8:6-13—No man was ever saved but by virtue of the NEW COVENANT, and the mediation of Christ in that respect. The old covenants were confined unto things temporal. Believers in the gospel were saved under the old covenants but not by virtue of the old covenants.

    Charles Hodge–It is to be remembered that there were two covenants made with Abraham. By the one, his natural descendants through Isaac were constituted a commonwealth, an external, visible community. By the other, his spiritual descendants were constituted a church. The parties to the former covenant were God and the nation; to the other, God and His true people. The promises of the national covenant were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant (i.e., the covenant of grace), were reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the [national] covenant were circumcision and obedience to the law … There cannot be a greater mistake than to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace, and the commonwealth founded on the one with the church founded on the other.” Church Polity, 1878, 66

    Sam Renihan–The language of administration is extremely nebulous and problematic. While the use of administration in the WCF includes the notion of “getting thing A to person B,” its use of “Administration” refers more fully to “a diverse manner of dispensing, and outward managing but the covenant was still one and the same…”

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  25. D.G.,
    And you aren’t so often wrong? Or you can only be wrong when we agree? Why insist on using put downs to to answer questions especially when those put downs are merely claims. No doubt I am wrong about some points, but how often in contrast with you is another issue. Why be such an elitist?

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  26. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a practicing Reformed confessionalist admit that they might be wrong about any systematic, biblical or social theological issue. They always appeal to their confessional statements so why should they admit personal responsibility for any error they may be hanging on too? At least that is what I think they think about that. If you have issues with some of what is written in the confessions than you are considered idiosyncratic. I probably should keep my comments to myself though. I always find the discussions between McMark and Jeff Cagle to be captivating reading.

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  27. McM: The only way you could think I was Mennonite was to simply label as “anabaptist” or “revivalist” or “evangelical” all credobaptists..

    I seem to have offended you. Please be assured that “Mennonite” was not a perjorative, and not associated in my mind with either “revivalist” or “evangelical.” Rather, it was simply a provisional hypothesis as to where you are coming from, a hypothesis that would either be confirmed or falsified by additional information.

    As it turns out, it was falsified.

    But again, there were no negative connotations associated with the term. **plays final desperate card** Some of my friends are Mennonites.

    McM: And if you are going to stipulate that the term “monocovenantalism” has nothing to with and cannot be used to describe the flattening of all covenants after Adam’s sin into “one substance” called “the covenant of grave”, then you simply have not taken the time to think about the case I have made (quoting John Owen) against the identity of the Abrahamic covenant with the new covenant.

    Why would you assume that disagreement stems from failure to take time to think? 😛

    I forgot … DGH doesn’t like emoticons. 😛 😛 :P. Fixed it.

    But seriously, “monocovenantalism” is a well-established theological term, in distinction from “bicovenantalism.” Your case is interesting and on-going, but it isn’t nearly enough yet to overturn established vocabulary of Reformed theology. We aren’t *that* important!

    McM: …you are not even taking into account what Reformed folks like Irons or Gordon have argued. did you even read what DVD wrote about Matthew 5:17?

    Yes, I did. Clicked the link, read the article.

    Despite my failings, I do make an attempt to read you carefully, sometimes even twice.

    McM: I would say that it makes no difference to me ultimately if you water because you presume they are in “the covenant” (not the one with the elect alone, but the one covenant tradition has built using bits of all the covenants after sin), or if you say they are now in “the covenant” because they were watered. I have heard it put both ways–Jones and Horton suggest that God would have nothing to say by way of command to those not watered

    It matters to me. One of the practical pastoral imports of covenant theology is that we can assure parents with confidence and a straight face that they may have confidence that their dead infants are with Christ, just as David had confidence about his dead son.

    That confidence is not based upon a prior action of baptism.

    McM: Jones and Horton suggest that God would have nothing to say by way of command to those not watered

    I’d be interested in looking at the citations on that. Are those the exact words, or do they say “outside of the church”? Notice that the visible church includes children of believers — baptized or not.

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  28. Denying that all the covenants after sin are one “the covenant of grace” is a well established credobaptist thing to do, not to be confused with “dispensationalist” Zionism.. You can keep on saying that the only way the word “mono-covenantalism” is permitted to be used is by defending “covenant of works” and “the Abrahamic covenant is one administration of the covenant of grace” as the only two covenants, but that’s not going to convince folks like John Owen who know that it’s not only the Mosaic covenant which is older and different than the new covenant.

    Since you seem to have actually read Irons and Gordon (neither of them pacifist or credobaptist), I would welcome your comments on their questioning the flattening of covenants (except the first with Adam) into “the covenant”.

    David Gordon – I am less happy with is the language of the covenant of grace, because this is a genuinely unbiblical use of biblical language. Biblically, covenant is always a historic arrangement, inaugurated in space and time. Once covenant refers to an over-arching divine decree or purpose to redeem the elect in Christ, confusion Is sure to follow.

    Perhaps some who sometimes read my comments will have already seen the Horton quotation.

    Mike Horton— “God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not….To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? ”

    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/kingdom-through-covenant-a-review-by-michael-horton

    Sam Storms —Horton contends that the blessings listed in Hebrews 6 re experienced neither by the “saved” nor the “unsaved” but by those persons who belong to the covenant community but who have not come to saving faith in Christ. I find this entirely unpersuasive. There is no indication in the New Testament that anyone was regarded as a member of the New Covenant (as promised in Jeremiah 31 and instituted by Christ at the last supper) apart from a personal, conscious act of faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. …

    Mark Karlberg quotes Hoekema—-“To be sure, all infants are under the condemnation of Adam’s sin as soon as they are born. But the Bible clearly teaches that God will judge everyone according to his or her works. And those who die in infancy are incapable of doing any works, whether good or bad.” Mark Karlberg responds– “This view appears to be something less than consistent Calvinism. Is not the basis of salvation the sovereign, electing purpose of God in Christ, rather than any consideration of human performance either in the case of adults or infants? (review of Created in God’s Image in Karlberg’s Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective, p 328)

    David Engelsma—Mike Horton affirms that God promises saving grace in Christ to every baptized baby. For a Reformed theologian, it is the same as to affirm that God promised saving grace to Esau in his circumcision. This affirmation implies that God failed to keep His promise and that His grace is resistible and ineffectual. Whatever the reason, grace does not realize itself in one to whom God is gracious. If God promises saving grace to both Esau and Jacob, as Horton affirms, but the promise fails because of Esau’s unbelief, then the conclusion necessarily follows that grace succeeded in the case of Jacob, not because of the Christ’s death for Jacob but rather in the sovereign power of grace enabling Jacob to accept the grace and thereby meet the “conditions of the covenant”.

    Irons–The distinction between the covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption is relevant to the argument for infant baptism. If the covenant of grace is folded into or equated with the pactum salutis, it is hard to avoid the implication that the covenant of grace is made only with the elect. Many covenant theologians have had difficulty trying to harmonize this with their view that the children of professing believers are also members of the covenant, even though we do not know if they are elect. Typically, the solution has been to distinguish between “internal” and ”external” membership in the covenant of grace. Kline isn’t happy with this solution and argues rather that the membership of the covenant of grace is a larger circle than the circle of election.

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  29. Mark Jones—“Asking our children to obey becomes a form of moralism if there is no gracious indicative present.”

    Genesis 15: 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. 14 However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions.

    Genesis 17: 23 Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house or purchased with his money—every male among the members of Abraham’s household—and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskin on that very day, just as God had said

    mcmark–Abraham did not make a mistake by obeying God’s command to circumcise both his sons and also his slaves. But infants who do not grow up in a family are not exempt from God’s law. Nor are infants who grow up outside an Abrahamic family excluded from God’s promise to justify all those who believe the gospel. God’s gospel does not depend on being able to define “family” or “national homeland”

    When circumcised Esau sins and asks for forgiveness from God, can I assure Esau that his sins are forgiven if he dies while in infancy (before catechism and confirmation)?

    Since Ishmael was circumcised after infancy, can I assure Ishmael that he should obey His Lord and Creator because Ishmael was included in the grace of the Abrahamic covenant?

    On what grounds do I ask Esau to forgive Jacob? Because it is the thing we need to do for us to get along together in our “second kingdom” in which we kill pagans or Christians for the sake of our own pagans and Christians?

    Should Esau forgive in the same way that Christ has forgiven Esau?

    Can Esau sing “Messiah loves me, this I know” (“To him I belong perhaps not by election and perhaps not after infancy,
    but it’s more likely and possible for me than others that Messiah will wash away my sins”) or does that song fail to pass the regulative principle?

    When Esau prays during family worship, does Esau have any right to call God his “heavenly Father”?

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/08/27/they-are-not-all-israel-who-are-of-israel/

    Romans 9: 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenantS, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promiseS. 5 The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent came the Messiah, who is God over all, praised forever.Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s children

    Matthew 3: In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” … . 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees!

    Luke 4:5 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon

    How can you shoot fish who are outside your barrel? Does that mean that the shooter is in the same barrel as those he shoots?

    Carl Truman—”If your (church) has a low view of the Lord’s Supper, if it sees it as merely a symbol which recalls the events of Calvary, then I would suggest that there will be no such thing as an effective means of discipline in your congregation. To suspend somebody from the Lord’s Table in an environment where the Lord’s Supper is symbolic gesture (alone) is scarcely a serious sanction. Only if the Lord’s Supper is held to be a means of grace will suspension from the sacrament be regarded as a serious and sobering matter. “

    Carl Truman—“With Trump in the White House, Christian colleges have four, maybe eight, years in which the cultural and political tide might not flow as strongly against them as it did under Obama. Now is the time to organize, externally and internally.”

    Scott Clark–“I cannot see how those congregations that deny baptism to the children of believers can be regarded as true churches, since they lack one of the marks….There is one standard for the Western church prior to the Reformation and another standard after. Once the Word had been recovered by the Reformation’s pure administration of the sacraments, there is no excuse to corrupt the administration of baptism by denying it to the children of believers.
    …I am happy, however, to come out out of church into the common hallway to talk with folk from other traditions, e.g., Baptists and Pentecostals….”

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  30. @ McM: Your use of monocovenantalism doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I would suggest that three terms be employed here: monocovenantal (to describe Barth and Shepherd), bicovenantal (to describe Calvin, Turretin, Westminster), and multicovenantal (to describe Owen).

    If it’s fair to distinguish your view from dispensationalism, then it’s fair to distinguish mine from monocovenantalism.

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  31. @ McM: There are a large number of ideas emanating from your quotes. Let me try to summarize what I think I’m seeing, and you can tell me whether I’m fairly representing your points. In addition, I get lost at certain points, so perhaps you can clarify.

    (1) Gordon and Owen show that there are some within the Reformed world who recognize that there are more than two covenants described in Scripture.

    (2) Horton, Jones, and Trueman(1) illustrate the contradiction between a covenant of grace and an external membership in that covenant. That is, if individuals (eg Esau) could externally belong to the covenant of grace, and yet not be justified nor sanctified, then the covenant of grace would function as a covenant of law to them. This is a contradiction; hence, external membership is impossible.

    (3) Storms, Karlberg, and Engelsma demonstrate from a baptist, Klinean, and hyperCal perspective, respectively, that external membership in the covenant is illusory; only election is determinative.

    (4) I’m not sure about the intent of the Irons quote. He is talking about a completely different topic, the pactum salutis between Father and Son before the foundation of the world. This leads him to suggest that Kline doesn’t like an “internal”/”external” distinction in the covenant of grace and wants to solve the problem a different way: to say that the covenant of grace is larger than election. This different way clearly conflicts with Karlberg the Klinean in (3). So … where are we going here?

    (5) Likewise, I’m not sure about the intent of Trueman(2) and Clark. Help?

    (6) Then follow a large number of rhetorical/sarcastic questions by McMark, and I get really lost as to the points being made. For example, you ask,

    Can Esau sing “Messiah loves me, this I know” (“To him I belong perhaps not by election and perhaps not after infancy, but it’s more likely and possible for me than others that Messiah will wash away my sins”) or does that song fail to pass the regulative principle?

    So this would seem to be making a point about assurance of salvation: Esau’s (supposed) external membership in the covenant is no guarantee of his salvation; hence, he cannot sing the song. Thus, once again, external membership means nothing.

    But if we are looking for guarantees of salvation, then neither does making a profession of faith, feeling saved, or judging one’s own faith to be salvific give a guarantee. The hypocrites in Jesus’ parable are shocked, shocked that He never knew them.

    So what could little Esau and little Jacob sing? If they need mathematical assurance before singing, then they have to keep mum entirely.

    So I’m not at all sure that I’ve understood the point of the question.

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  32. It’s the whole system of sacramental theology that is tied to covenantal theology that I think McMark is arguing against. The continuity of the Old and New Covenants was what Covenantal and Sacramental theology intended to explain and give a rationale for. However, the question has to be asked did they really succeed in doing so if the Old Covenant has been abolished. Is the only alternative found in dispensationalism?

    Sacramental and Covenant theology inherently cause an unintended confusion of law and gospel that leads to determining elect and non-elect by participating in the sacraments and being in or out of the covenant of grace (that is a replacement word for the Gospel). It neglects to determine elect and non-elect by an understanding of what the Gospel is. It replaces the doctrine of God’s Sovereign and Just electing grace with a lot of confusing covenantal and sacramental terminology. That is what I see as the gist of what is being argued about. I’m sure I may not be seeing all the implications of what is really going on.

    A question I have is whether 2K social theology is somehow tied to and a logical extension of Sacramental and Covenant theology. I’m not sure if it is or not. I think McMark has argued in some of his writings that Sacramental theology is really an argument about social politics.

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  33. I’m still not clear on the question of the death of infants and young children and how to deal with that objection to credobaptism.

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  34. JY: It’s the whole system of sacramental theology that is tied to covenantal theology that I think McMark is arguing against. … Sacramental and Covenant theology inherently cause an unintended confusion of law and gospel that leads to determining elect and non-elect by participating in the sacraments and being in or out of the covenant of grace (that is a replacement word for the Gospel).

    Yes, I take that as the thrust of McM’s argument also.

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  35. McMark, to directly answer your question -John Owen, comments on Hebrews 8:6-13—No man was ever saved but by virtue of the NEW COVENANT, and the mediation of Christ in that respect. The Sinai covenant thus made, with these ends and promises, did never save nor condemn any man eternally. The old covenants were confined unto things temporal. Believers in the gospel were saved under the old covenants but not by virtue of the old covenants.

    Even though John Owen was a congregationalist paedobaptist, most paedobaptists would not agree with John Owen about the lasting life of the age to come being only by means of the new covenant.

    Some time ago, I attempted over at Green Baggins to explain how it is that baptism’s efficacy is not tied to the moment of administration. My points were that baptism is a visible sign of God’s promise to cleanse by the Spirit; that promise is received at the moment of faith; and thus baptism is efficacious at the moment of faith, whether the baptism is actually performed before, during, or after the moment of faith.

    In other words, I was trying to argue a subtle point, that efficaciousness with regard to sacraments does not mean the usual cause-effect “I did this action (baptism) and this was the result (cleansing)”, but rather that the sacrament and the promise are tied in such a way that when the promise takes effect, the sacrament has also.

    That point was not well-received, perhaps because not well-explained. David Gadbois in particular thought that I was talking about a “time-traveling sacrament” that could be efficacious before the moment of administration. And if we were talking about usual cause-effect, he would have a point. (as it turns out, we aren’t; sacramental efficaciousness is symbolic and not mechanical).

    Well, I say that to say this: Owen has a time-traveling problem.

    He wants Abraham to be justified “by virtue” of the New Covenant (or NEW COVENANT, as the case may be). But, the NEW COVENANT does not exist in Abraham’s time. This creates an obvious problem: If the promises and benefits do not yet exist, how can Abraham receive them?

    I would suggest that any proposed solution to this question will necessarily smuggle the benefits of the NEW COVENANT back into the Abrahamic, so that for practical purposes, the Abrahamic becomes the New in all but name.

    But I think we’ll have to get there slowly.

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  36. Jeff– Esau’s (supposed) external membership in the covenant is no guarantee of his salvation; hence, he cannot sing the song. Thus, once again, external membership means nothing.

    mcmark—-Just what is at stake in the external and invisible distinction? I myself agree to that distinction when it comes to a visible congregation. I only disagree with the distinction when it is used to say that the new covenant itself includes more than those elected to the life of the age to come. God’s promises to Abraham are not all promises to anybody else. The Abrahamic covenant includes many who are “nationally elect” but also never elect to justification before God.

    The point of the Horton and Jones argument is that children cannot even be properly instructed in the law unless they be assured that they are Christians, justified before God, children of God forever. So, on the one hand, only those in “the covenant” can be threatened. But on the other hand, children born in “the covenant” avoid “dead works” because they are already assured of God’s grace (until and if they stop believing)

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/06/daddy-am-i-really-forgiven.php

    “Mark Jones as a puritan thinks presumption is a problem, but “we do converts also” does not think presumption is a very big problem in a world where the real problem is baptists acting like paedo parents but without the water. .

    Mark Jones–I have two three-year olds, one six-year old, and an eight-year old. And it occurred to me that I wouldn’t actually know how to raise them if I were not a Presbyterian. And let me just take this opportunity to inform sensitive readers that I know many Baptist families that raise their children remarkably well, even many in my own church.

    (mcmark–the pca does not discipline those who refuse to bring children to water, or even those who deny that the Lord’s Supper is what the Lord does (even the Lord might could kill people for denying that what is done is “the means of grace”)

    Mark Jones–1. When my children sin and ask for forgiveness from God, can I assure them that their sins are forgiven?
    2. When I ask my children to obey me in the Lord should I get rid of the indicative-imperative model for Christian ethics? On what grounds do I ask my three-year old son to forgive his twin brother? Because we should forgive in the same way Christ has forgiven us?
    3. Can my children sing “Jesus loves me, this I know” and enjoy all of the benefits spoken of in that song?
    4. When my children pray during family worship to their heavenly Father, what are the grounds for them praying such a prayer? Do non-Christians cry “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15)?
    5. Should I desire that my children have a “boring” testimony? . Is it not enough for them to simply say each day that they trust in Christ alone for their salvation? If my children were not Baptized, and were not part of the church, and did not bear the name Christian, I’m not sure what grounds I would have for worshipping with them…

    Mark Jones—Far from leading to a lazy form of “presumptive regeneration” (where children are not daily exhorted to repent), I believe that we must in fact hold our covenant children to HIGHER STANDARDS standards by urging them to live a life of faith and repentance in Jesus Christ, their Savior and Lord. Their water baptism, whereby God speaks favor to his children (“You are my child. With you I am well pleased”), demands such a life.

    How can you shoot fish who were not born inside your own barrel?

    In Ephesians 2, Paul is not dividing some of the Mosaic law into “the moral law” and then dividing law from its curse, or saying only curse has been abolished. Ephesians 2: 14 “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, in order to create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 in order to reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

    Meredith Kline argued that the reformed have been wrong to base infant baptism on God’s promise (what he calls “a confusion”) because that promise is only to “as many as who believe the gospel”, and there fore only to the elect. Kline argued that water baptism is simply a result parental authority over children. As long as our children live “under our roof” they are Christians and should be baptized. “One on this approach doesn’t face all of the awkwardness and embarassment that we make the basis of their being baptized because they are holy in Christ.” o when you are talking to a paedobaptist, make sure to find out which one of these views they hold (they are probably unaware of the distinctions). There is quite a variety out there today

    For the record, I never taught my children to sing “Jesus Loves Me”. Nor did I do dedications and vows. The Bible does not even tell me that Jesus loves me. None of us can have assurance without faith in the gospel. The promise to Abraham about having many carnal children is not the gospel.

    Matthew 7: 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I NEVER knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!

    Jesus tells us what many will say to him in that Day: First, they will acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ, addressing him as Lord. Not only will they say it once, they will repeat it: Lord, Lord. Next, they will ask Jesus a series of questions, calling the Christ Himself as a witness in their defense. Notice that they will not directly assert that they have done good works. They will speak in interrogative, not declarative, sentences. Because of this, their
    defense will actually be much stronger than their own mere professions would have been: They will call Christ Jesus himself to testify to the facts of their lives Some commentators have tried to dismiss the claims of these defendants
    by suggesting that they will lie or exaggerate, that they really will not have done what they will claim to have done. There is nothing in the text that supports such an accusation. That misinterpretation is a desperate device to evade what Jesus is telling us in this passage.

    The fact that many people will have done these things on Earth implies that these people are not mere professors, without works and without practice, as we may have concluded from our superficial reading of verse 21. They are not only showing up for the sacraments These people have many works, and they will call on Jesus himself to testify
    to their works on Earth. Theirs is not an empty profession. They will have been very active in church and in
    other religious activity. they have not been racists. They have saved money to give to the needy. These people will have done their works in the Trinitarian name They prophesy in Jesus’ name. They cast out demons in Jesus’ name;. They are not Muslims or secularists. Nor are they Jews, doing these things in the name
    of Abraham. These are not pagans ignorant of the name of Jesus

    The Bible teaches that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. But the Bible also teaches that many will not be justified by God or saved by God from destruction by God. If some of the non-elect were included in the new covenant by way of “external membership”, that status will mean nothing on judgment Day. The second death is not a “less worse” sanction than some other punishment. Even if you were born outside Abraham’s family, God commands you to believe God’s gospel and one of the blessings of the new covenant is that all for whom Christ died as mediator will believe God’s gospel.

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  37. McM: Just what is at stake in the external and invisible distinction?

    Two things. First, as you imply, both credos and paedos must at some point reckon with the fact that the church as God sees it does not look the same as the church as man sees it. This is both “common sense” but also a matter of Biblical teaching (eg: Matt 7.21, John 15, Matt 13.1 – 23).

    That has implications for the meaning of church discipline, church office, church membership, communion of saints, etc.

    We’ll probably end up spending some time here. One of the major causes of my shift from credo- to paedo- is that I saw far fewer internal inconsistencies with the paedo- side. In other words, while acknowledging that your points above have some legs, I still like paedo- as a more self-consistent theology that explains the Biblical text.

    Second, on the more pastoral side, people want to have assurance. They want assurance that they themselves are saved, that their lapsed friends are saved, that their dead infants are saved. Can we offer assurance, and on what ground? Paul offers assurance to the Philippians (Phil 1.6). The writer to the Hebrews offers assurance on the heels of stern warnings against apostasy (Heb 6.1 – 9). So offering assurance is a Biblical thing to do — and yet we cannot “see” the elect status of an individual.

    We need to be able to answer truthfully, yet with confidence. I would argue that a Hoeksema-style “election only” approach to the church undermines a confidence that God wants his church to have, and it opens wide a hole that pietism rushes to fill.

    So where you see covenant theology making room for legalism, I see the opposite. I my observation, it is the baptists — Calvinist or otherwise — who have a gravitational attraction to legalism, and who tend to play up the role of man’s agency in sanctification. Certainly, the Arminian types of baptists do this more strongly than the Calvinist, but that tendency is found in both.

    In my own personal history, learning covenant theology was my gateway out of a legalistic morass.

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  38. The only way out of assurance by works is faith in Christ’s death for the elect alone. I might agree with you about the “legalistic morass” you need to escape, but if you attempt to find assurance that Christ died for you in the Holy spirit enabling you to pass “the covenant conditions” found in the “warnings”, then you do not trust the promise that as many as believe the gospel about Christ’s death making the difference are those for whom Christ died. The works of those who do not believe the gospel are dead works, an abomination to God.

    There is more than one kind of “covenant theology”. Many varieties focus on a distinction between external and internal (not only in a church, but “in the covenant”) and those kinds of “covenant theology” tend to stress the sinner’s efforts in sanctification. (As Gaffin puts it, 100 percent God, plus 100 percent human now that you have received the “first aspect of justification.”)

    I do not agree with EITHER “conditional covenant assurance” or with Engelsma’s brand of “covenant theology. As I have indicated earlier, I reject dispensationalism (segregation of jew and gentile, more than one “gospel” ), but I do teach a covenant theology of multiple biblical covenants, so that the Abrahamic is not the Mosaic, and the new covenant is not the Abrahamic covenant. But even more important than one’s hermeneutic for reading the Bible is the question of finding assurance of our justification before the God who is a consuming fire. I do not find assurance in the presumption of having been born in some covenant that includes the non-elect. But neither do I find assurance in my not sinning so much as I used to.

    To use your phrase, Jeff, “confidence is undermined” when I am told that the “future aspect of my justification” depends on the Holy Spirit’s enabling me live in such an obedient way that I no longer need to know the difference between law and gospel.

    Gaffin—”Despite the exegesis of some Reformed commentators, this death to sin is almost certainly not to the guilt that sin incurs and justification. In view, rather, is a definitive deliverance from sin’s over-mastering power to being enslaved instead to God and righteousness. That Spirit-worked (7:6) deliverance, NOT JUSTIFICATION, grounds and provides the dynamic for the believer’s beginning to “walk in newness of life” (6:4), their being enslaved in their conduct to God and righteousness….This is the crucial soteriological truth that in the inception of the application of redemption, at the moment sinners are united to Christ by faith, they are delivered from sin’s enslaving power, from bondage to sin as master.

    And if my shaken confidence asks, how much sin can I be allowed without showing myself to be a slave to sin, the pastoral “offering of security in Christ” will turn into the accusation that I am “antinomian”.

    David Garner—“.In Christ the forensic and the transformative are ONE. Justification, sanctification, and glorification are ONE. Declaratory, transformatory and consummatory COALESCE….”

    Gaffin and Garner follow the path of Norman Shepherd, who tells us not to talk about election, but to talk about “covenant union” instead. And who can know or ever know if you might turn out to be one of the many non-elect in “the covenant”?

    You may accuse people like Engelsma who talk about election of being “hyper-Calvinist”, but in reality they rely on “presumptive regeneration” of infants born to certain families (in the barrel). Perhaps you would call it “being pastoral” but at least they don’t make scholastic distinctions between “the covenant right to justification” and “possession of justification”.

    http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/Pamphlet_109.pdf

    David Engelsma–. The Reformed tradition rejected mysticism just as heartily as it rejected salvation by works of the law. But Puritanism teaches that the way for a believer to get assurance is by a special, emotional, dramatic, datable, recognizable feeling. The public defenders of Puritanism tend to whitewash this aspect of their teaching. Puritanism does teach that you get this assurance from an extraordinary providence in your life. In which case, you do not base your assurance of salvation on Jesus Christ and faith in His promise. The result is that a majority of believers under that kind of teaching never get assurance, because they’ve never had that kind of experience.

    Engelsma–“Assurance of salvation is the normal spiritual state of mind of every believing child of God. It is not possible for a sinner to be justified by faith without assurance of justification than it would be for a condemned criminal to leave the court room in which he had heard a favorably disposed judge acquit him without knowing that he was acquitted.”

    Engelsma–“Any seeming assertion that assurance is of the essence of faith is weakened by Sinclair Ferguson’s defense of the dubious distinction regarding assurance between “the direct and the reflex acts of faith” and by his contention that assurance is “the fruit of faith” Ferguson seems to be content with faith’s essentially being only the assurance that Christ is the savior of sinners. That He is my savior does not belong to the essence of faith. That He is my savior is a certainty that comes, or may not come, later, as faith develops. However, when Reformed orthodoxy holds, with John Calvin, that faith essentially is personal assurance of salvation, the meaning is that the believer is certain that Jesus is his or her savior.

    Heidelberg Catechism, Question 21:
    What is true faith? True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart, that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God,
    merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits

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  39. McM: I might agree with you about the “legalistic morass” you need to escape, but if you attempt to find assurance that Christ died for you in the Holy spirit enabling you to pass “the covenant conditions” found in the “warnings”, then you do not trust the promise that as many as believe the gospel about Christ’s death making the difference are those for whom Christ died. The works of those who do not believe the gospel are dead works, an abomination to God.

    Who said anything about assurance through works?

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  40. Jeff, I am not following your thinking regarding election. You say this: “So offering assurance is a Biblical thing to do — and yet we cannot “see” the elect status of an individual.

    We need to be able to answer truthfully, yet with confidence. I would argue that a Hoeksema-style “election only” approach to the church undermines a confidence that God wants his church to have, and it opens wide a hole that pietism rushes to fill.”

    John Y: I don’t think anyone can know whether they are elect or not until they are believing the biblical Gospel. So, you cannot “see” the elect status of an individual you can only ascertain by an inquiry into what someone thinks the Gospel is. Why do you think an “elect only” approach to the church undermines confidence and opens a wide hole for pietism?

    Another comment you made stood out to me too. You said this: “Some time ago, I attempted over at Green Baggins to explain how it is that baptism’s efficacy is not tied to the moment of administration. My points were that baptism is a visible sign of God’s promise to cleanse by the Spirit; that promise is received at the moment of faith; and thus baptism is efficacious at the moment of faith, whether the baptism is actually performed before, during, or after the moment of faith.

    In other words, I was trying to argue a subtle point, that efficaciousness with regard to sacraments does not mean the usual cause-effect “I did this action (baptism) and this was the result (cleansing)”, but rather that the sacrament and the promise are tied in such a way that when the promise takes effect, the sacrament has also.

    John Y: What I understand you saying in that comment is that union with Christ takes place by the Spirit through the sacramental promise. There are a lot of question’s that come to mind with that comment. Will there be no cleansing if there was no baptism? Is “Spirit cleansing” union with Christ? When does the understanding of the Gospel occur? Is the sacrament considered the Gospel?

    This has been debated ad infinitum over the years at oldlife. Is union with Christ through legal declaration and imputation or does Spirit cleansing through sacramental promise have to take place first? Is that really an important question to try to answer? This just takes us back to posts at old life that I don’t think ever were really resolved with any kind of agreement between those who were arguing about when the union with Christ occurs.

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  41. Hi John,

    I take 1 Peter 3 to be a good template for understanding.

    Baptism, which corresponds to [Noah’s rescue], now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

    In isolation, the words “baptism now saves you” might easily be taken to mean that “the act of baptizing saves you.” But Peter heads off that understanding with what follows. Instead, baptism is understood as a promise of a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is then belief in that promise which saves.

    In other words, baptism is a liquid sermon, one that speaks the same promise as the Gospel. “Baptism saves” in exactly the same (improper) sense that “the Gospel saves” — not that the act of baptizing or the act of preaching confers grace ex opero operate, but that baptism speaks the same promise as the Gospel.

    Takeaway bullets

    * It is legitimate to say that “baptism saves”, since Peter does …
    * … But only qualified in the same way that Peter does.

    To answer your questions directly:

    * JY: JY: What I understand you saying in that comment is that union with Christ takes place by the Spirit through the sacramental promise.

    Union with Christ is not tied to the administration of the sacrament. It is tied to the Gospel promise, and takes effect when the promise is believed, whether before after or during baptism.

    * JY: Will there be no cleansing if there was no baptism?

    If there is faith, there is cleansing, with or without baptism.

    * JY: Is “Spirit cleansing” union with Christ?

    So this is tricky. Does baptism signify imputation and justification, or union and sanctification, or both together? I would rather not try to parse so finely and go with “both together.” I don’t the symbol is given in order to convey something particular about the ordo salutis. In other words, Reformed folk who think imputation precedes faith and those who think the other way round can agree that baptism signifies cleansing and the pouring out of the Spirit.

    * JY: When does the understanding of the Gospel occur?

    When effectual calling occurs, and thereafter throughout life.

    * JY: Is the sacrament considered the Gospel?

    The message of the symbol is the same as the message of the Gospel. The administration of the sacrament is not a substitute for preaching the Gospel.

    Does that help?

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  42. Jeff, I’m a bit miffed by your response but I suppose it follows from sacramental assumptions about the text in 1 Peter. As McMark has asserted on many occasions at oldlife, what if the meaning of the text in that passage and in Romans 6 is not about water baptism but about being baptized into the death of Christ by legal declaration and imputation by God the Father without the mediation of the church? It occurs when the Gospel is understood. The object of faith is the atoning work of Christ, not the sacramental promise. I’m not sure if that really makes a difference but it is a distinction.

    Peter uses the word “appeal” not promise in that text. And I take that to mean that you can appeal to God with a good conscience because you have been baptized into Christ’s death and therefore are dead to sin, i.e. lawlessness. It has been dealt with in a just way for God’s elect. That and that only cleanses the conscience.

    And I did notice that you ignored my inquiry about election. Again, I’m not sure if we are in agreement about what the Gospel is or not.

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  43. @ John: Whence “miffed”? Because of my response, or because of not responding about election (didn’t ignore, just waiting for McMark before going ahead), or because of something else?

    JY: what if the meaning of the text in that passage and in Romans 6 is not about water baptism but about being baptized into the death of Christ by legal declaration and imputation by God the Father without the mediation of the church?

    It’s an interesting hypothesis, but it’s rendered very unlikely by the use of the term “baptism”, and by Peter’s dual use of the term in 1 Peter 3. The “not this but that” exegesis struggles to explain why a particular term with a double meaning is employed.

    In other words, if Paul wanted to talk about imputation without getting the water symbol involved, he had vocabulary at his disposal to do so.

    Instead, he deliberately uses the word “baptism”, which incorporates the symbol together with the substance. The symbol is intended to stand for the substance, in a metonymy.

    JY: It occurs when the Gospel is understood.

    I’m OK with that, but “imputation priority” folk might disagree, wanting imputation to occur before the understanding of the Gospel.

    JY: The object of faith is the atoning work of Christ, not the sacramental promise.

    Certainly, just as the object of faith is not the preached Word (the symbol) per se, but the atoning work of Christ declared therein (the substance). Nothing I’ve said above should be taken to mean that we place faith in baptism as an agent of cleansing.

    JY: Peter uses the word “appeal” not promise in that text. And I take that to mean that you can appeal to God with a good conscience because you have been baptized into Christ’s death and therefore are dead to sin, i.e. lawlessness. It has been dealt with in a just way for God’s elect. That and that only cleanses the conscience.

    I would imagine that we agree that what saves us is not “appealing to God with a good conscience.” That is, I am not saved by my own recognition of a good conscience. I know that you are not saying that.

    Let’s walk through the verse closely, using ESV as a “standard default translation”

    God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

    First, observe that “baptism” corresponds to being brought safely through water. This reinforces my previous contention that water baptism is being referred to metonymically.

    And, baptism saves.

    By what action? Here, dative of instrument is used in parallel structure:

    Not as a removal of dirt from the body

    but

    as an appeal to God for a good conscience, …

    The appeal to God connects together with a promise from God. There can be no (meaningful) appeal unless there is a corresponding hope set forth. The baptism speaks that promise, and receiving it by faith consists of the appeal to that promise.

    To put it simply, the act of baptism tells us that God will cleanse our conscience; appealing to that promise is a synonym for faith. So the act does not cleanse, but speaks of that cleansing.

    If it’s OK, I’ll hold off on election until McM chimes in?

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