In case any Reformed confessionalists actually wondered, Justin Taylor has made it official that he is a credo-baptist and by implication that credo-baptism is the default position of the Gospel Co-Allies (despite the presence of Presbyterians in the Coalition). Have any of the Reformed Co-Allies actually raised a finger and applied it to a keyboard to protest?
To support his credo-baptist position, Taylor reprints an interview he conducted with Stephen Wellum, a professor of theology at Southern Baptist Seminary. Wellum attributes the infant baptist position to the Reformed doctrine of the covenant of grace:
. . .the “covenant of grace” is an organic unity across the ages, this entails—so the argument goes—that the people of God (Israel and the church) are essentially one (in nature and structure), and that the covenant signs (circumcision and baptism) are also essentially one, especially in regard to the spiritual significance of those signs. Furthermore, Reformed paedobaptists argue that since one cannot find any repeal in the NT of the OT command to place the sign of “the covenant of grace” upon covenant children, so the same practice should continue today in the church, given the underlying unity of the covenant across the ages. In a nutshell that is the Reformed covenantal argument for infant baptism.
The problem for Wellum (and Taylor) is that this conception obscures differences between the Old and New Testaments:
. . . the problem with the theological category—”the covenant of grace”—is that, if one is not careful, it tends to flatten the relationships between the biblical covenants across redemptive history without first allowing each covenant to be understood within its own redemptive-historical context, and then how each covenant relates to the other biblical covenants, and then how all the covenants find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. I have no problem in using the category “the covenant of grace” to underscore the unity of God’s plan of salvation and the essential spiritual unity of the people of God in all ages. But if it is used, which I contend is the case in Reformed theology, to downplay the significant amount of progression and discontinuity between the biblical covenants, especially as fulfillment takes place in the coming of Christ, then it is an unhelpful term. . . . In short, it is imperative that we do a biblical theology of the covenants which, in truth, is an exercise in inter-textual relations between the covenants which, in the end, preserves a proper balance of continuity and discontinuity across the canon in regard to the biblical covenants.
Actually, the covenant of grace as taught in Reformed confessions like that of the OPC has no trouble recognizing differences between the Old and New Testaments. In fact, the real flattening out took place when Baptists convened in London in 1689 to revise the affirmations of the Westminster Assembly and proceeded to delete important portions of the chapter (seven) on the covenant of grace, like the following:
4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.
5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.
6. Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the new testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.
Aside from differences between the Westminster and Baptist Confessions of faith, the bigger problem for credo-baptists is an impoverished view of the person. Everywhere in Scripture, God deals with his people not individualistically but corporately, hence the reiteration that God will save Abraham and his children, or the Philippian jailer and his household (which likely included relatives and servants), or even Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 7 that the children of a mixed marriage are holy because of the faith of the believing parent. The solidarity of persons with their families is at the heart of federal theology, with Adam as the head of the human race such that his sin is mine, and Christ is the head of the elect so that his righteousness is mine. As such, children of believing parents receive the sign of the covenant and now that Christ has come that sign is baptism.
Baptists like John Piper who defend male headship in the home should not have trouble with such a view of familial solidarity. But in point of fact Baptists do struggle with the covenantal objection to individualism and ironically embrace the modern view of human beings as isolated and autonomous selves. Of course, they can’t go all the way with such a chilling view of babies and their relationship to the household of God and so devise dedication as a way to bring children in by the back door. But one cannot begin to count the ways that dedication is a man-made contrivance, one of those examples of what Calvin called the idol-assembly line that exists in every person’s soul.
As an aside, Taylor’s post should put to rest the claim by the Young and Restless crowd that they are Reformed. Their position on the sacrament of baptism differs little from Anabaptist teaching. In fact, the Baptist requirement that paedo-baptists be rebaptized (hence ana-baptist) puts the teaching and practice of contemporary Baptists and Anabaptists into remarkable alignment. Does this mean that the Young and Restless or other Baptists are bad people? Of course, not. Does it mean they aren’t Christian? No. Does it mean that they should not claim to be Reformed? Well, duh!