Dr. R. Scott Clark continues to study the relationship between Reformed theology and Baptist theology as expressed by modern and seventeenth-century adherents of the Second London Confession. Dr. Clark has recently written a post relating to the groups’ views on the benefits of Christ’s work being appropriated by Old Testament believers.
I would prefer not to reengage on this subject, especially since I’ve already written about it. However, I will reengage briefly because comments on Twitter and on Dr. Clark’s post itself express acceptance of the differences as they are portrayed by Dr. Clark.
2LCF 8.6: “Work” vs. “Price”?
Dr. Clark notes that 2LCF 8.6 modifies the wording of WCF 8.6 from “work…wrought” to “price…bought,” but doesn’t make much of this difference.
On the chance that some might read these two as teaching a doctrinal difference, you need to understand why the language was changed. Behind this change is the covenant of redemption, which is confessed in 2LCF, but not WCF (which is not to say WCF rejects it).
As WCF/2LCF 7.1 state, obedience or work is meritorious for rewards in the context of covenants. How was the work of Christ meritorious? 2LCF 7.3 and 8.1 affirm that the covenant of redemption is the context for Christ’s redemptive work. The language of 2LCF 8.6 derives not just from the theological category of covenantal merit, but more specifically from 1 Cor. 6:20 and 7:13 which state that we were “bought at a price.” So, 2LCF 8.6 makes a precise assertion that Christ’s work on the cross was a meritorious and efficacious “price” by which we were “bought” in the context of the covenant of redemption.
Now, lest we think that this change in 2LCF 8.6 represents some kind of difference between Reformed theology and the Particular Baptists, we must understand that other Reformed Christians taught the same truths, for example, John Norton in the 1650s. Notice his assertions about Christ’s obedience being “a price, i.e. a ransom.”
2LCF 8.6: “Communicated”?
More to the point, Dr. Clark contrasts WCF and 2LCF 8.6’s use of the language of the “virtue, efficacy, and benefit” of Christ’s work being “communicated to the elect in all ages.” Dr. Clark prefaces his discussion with this,
…it has also become clearer to me that the Reformed and Particular Baptists can use the same language or similar language and yet mean different things by it.
Then he asks,
What, however, do the PBs mean by communicate as distinct from what the Reformed mean by it?
Dr. Clark quotes Nehemiah Coxe, myself, and my brother, and concludes,
In short, when we [the Reformed] say communication we mean “communing.” When the PBs say communication they seem to mean “the transmission of information.”
The argument that 2LCF 8.6 means something different from WCF 8.6 is what most concerns me in Dr. Clark’s post. 2LCF 8.6’s assertion of the benefit of Christ’s work being “communicated” to the elect in all ages means the exact same thing as WCF 8.6. But Dr. Clark’s post states that they mean something different. To read 2LCF 8.6 and emerge with the idea that “communicated” simply means “the transmission of information” requires the assumption of something underlying the text.
I appeal to any reader of 2LCF 8.6 to answer this question: “Does 2LCF 8.6 confess that the elect in all ages appropriated and received and enjoyed the benefit of Christ’s salvific work?” Yes, it absolutely and undeniably does. If so, why would one assume that the Particular Baptists mean something different?
As I mentioned already, Dr. Clark quotes Coxe and myself to prove the point. I am glad that Dr. Clark is reading Nehemiah Coxe. However, (and I may be wrong about this), I believe that Dr. Clark’s assessment is skewed because he has not finished Coxe’s work. I don’t mean that Dr. Clark would agree with Coxe if he finished the book, but would understand it better. Why? The final chapter of Coxe’s work is entitled “The Mutual Respect of the Promises made to Abraham.” In this chapter, Coxe distinguishes but also relates types and antitypes in God’s covenantal dealings with Abraham.
The State of Israel after the Flesh being typical; The Israel of God among them, were taught to look above, and beyond their external priviledges, unto those things that were shadowed by them, as set before their Faith in the promises of Grace by Christ; and so to live upon the Grace of that Covenant, which their outward State, and Covenant of Peculiarity [i.e., the Abrahamic Covenant] was subservient to; And unto them, all these things had a spiritual, and evangelical Use, which being their principal End and Intent, a fair Occasion is ministred for such an Intermixture of the Promises of Typical, with those of real Blessings, as we have now had under Consideration; Because of the Covenant of Grace, and that of Circumcision have their mutual respect, as the Type to its Antitype.
Notice that Coxe says that the “principal end and intent” of types was “a spiritual and evangelical use.” However much Nehemiah Coxe (or myself) may distinguish types and antitypes, types are never not types.
It is my opinion that Dr. Clark misrepresents the differences between Particular Baptist and Reformed Christians because he unsympathetically reads our treatments of typology and wrongly attributes to them an almost Anabaptist hyper-discontinuity.
Typology is the True Test
All of this may seem confusing. Am I denying all differences between the Reformed and Particular Baptists? No. Rather, I am insisting that they be rightly understood and stated.
The question is not whether the benefits of Christ were communicated to the elect in all ages. We both affirm this.
The question is not whether the benefits of Christ were communicated to the elect before the incarnation through types. We both affirm this.
The question is, whether types had their own function and reality that is distinct, but not divided, from their antitypes. The Particular Baptists affirm this. The Reformed tradition has varying (and in many ways opposing) trajectories on this question.
Sticking to the question itself, consider a few brief examples:
|Circumcision||Separation from the nations|
|Canaan||A blessed land|
|Tabernacle||Sacrificial system/God’s presence|
|Sacrifices||Restoration to ceremonial holiness|
|Bronze Serpent||Deliverance from snakebites|
It was entirely possible to participate in those realities without faith. Now, our Reformed brothers will reply at this point that the same remains true today. There are some who say “Lord, Lord, did we not…?” and they will be condemned eternally. There are those who participate outwardly without inward faith. Yes, of course. But that’s not the issue here.
The issue is that even if one participated in the items mentioned in the table above, without faith, they still had something entirely real in which they were participating. If you were circumcised, you inherited Canaan. If you offered animal sacrifices, you were restored to ceremonial holiness. If you lifted up your eyes to the bronze serpent, your snakebites were healed. The Israelites are criticized and condemned for living like this without ever looking beyond such types, but the life they lived and the ceremonies they performed were nevertheless real.
It is the identification and recognition of these types as possessing their own initial meaning and function distinct from their antitypes that establishes the key difference between us. As Coxe said, the elect looked “above and beyond” the types to the antitypical realities. But I fear that we are rarely heard beyond the initial point. We distinguish the type from the antitype and we become Anabaptists in the eyes of some.
It is worth noting that though typology is the true test of where differences lie between Particular Baptists and other Reformed Christians on these questions, 2LCF 8.6 (and the rest of the Confession) does not get specific. It simply states that the virtue, efficacy, and benefit of Christ’s redemptive work was applied to and received by the elect in all ages through types.
- 2LCF 8.6 and WCF 8.6 teach the same thing, though 2LCF 8.6 is more specific about Christ’s work as a “price.”
- Describing 2LCF’s or the Particular Baptists’ understanding of typology merely as “the transmission of information” is inaccurate.
- The most accurate and profitable way to describe or discuss differences between Reformed Christians and Particular Baptists in this area is to discuss the extent to which types are distinct from their antitypes and the theological consequences that follow.
For those who wish to read further, I describe the role of typology in the Particular Baptists’ covenant theology (and its roots in a branch of the Reformed tradition) from a historical-theological standpoint here. I argue for my views on typology from an exegetical standpoint here.