Select Counterpoints with the New Geneva Podcast

I recently listened to the New Geneva Podcast’s Case for Infant Baptism (Part 1).

The podcast is both a positive presentation of a case for infant baptism as well as a response to various Baptist criticisms or questions. A portion of the interaction is specifically identified as relating to 1689 Baptists, and I wanted to respond briefly on a few points.

The hosts focus in on the key difference between 1689 Federalists and Reformed paedobaptists, namely that the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants are not the covenant of grace. Angela and Ben noted that credo and paedobaptists agree that salvific benefits won by Christ in his sacrificial death reach back in time. Angela expressed that she had not received a sufficient explanation of how the benefits of that sacrifice were administered to believers in the Old Testament if the Abrahamic covenant was not the covenant of grace.

What must be discussed at that point is typology (and the unhelpful ambiguity of the language of administration), and I would suggest two posts that seek to explain, in brief, the perspective of 1689 Federalism (or at least my own perspective) on such a question:

Soft Rain on Tender Grass

We All Have Our Types

I would also like to point out that the argument was already expressed by Scott in the podcast, when he said that “the covenant of grace was administrated through the Mosaic covenant, but it [the Mosaic covenant] was not the covenant of grace itself.” We would make the same move with regard to the Abrahamic covenant.

This, of course, brings us to another area that was discussed, namely passages such as Romans 4 and Galatians 3 and the argument that Jeremiah 31 contrasts the new covenant with Moses, not Abraham. I hope to address these passages in another post, soon. But for now, I simply want to point out that Romans 4:11, quoted in the podcast, contains ambiguities that the translator/interpreter must clarify.

καὶ σημεῖον ἔλαβεν περιτομῆς σφραγῖδα τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῆς πίστεως τῆς ἐν τῇ

and sign received circumcision seal of the righteousness of faith that in the

ἀκροβυστίᾳ (Rom. 4:11)

uncircumcised/uncircumcision

This passage does not say, necessarily, that circumcision was the sign of the righteousness of faith that Abraham had while uncircumcised. Romans 4:11a needs more argumentation than the English translations provide in order to substantiate some of the points made in the podcast. But podcasts are podcasts, not journal articles. So I’m not criticizing a lack of exegesis, just pointing out for now that the translation appealed to in the passage is debatable, and therefore so is the theological point drawn from it.

Lastly, Isaiah 54:13 was appealed to as being another new covenant promise along with Jeremiah 31, a promise that explicitly speaks of children.

Isaiah 54:13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.

However, this fails to realize that the prophets project the future in the language of the present. More so, this fails to realize that Jesus quoted this passage and applied it to say that being taught by God means hearing the voice of the Son and believing in him.

45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me–
46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. (John 6:45-47)

So, yes, Isaiah 54:13 belongs with the Jeremiah 31 promise that all God’s people will know the Lord and be taught by him, because Christ is the heart and head of the covenant, and all who are in the covenant are those who heard his voice and believed in him. And we are to regard people as in covenant based on the same.

John uses these promises in the same way in 1 John 2:20-27,

20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie– just as it has taught you, abide in him.

In context, the meaning is that all of Christ’s people have a saving knowledge of him, and false teachers claiming to have secret knowledge necessary for Christianity automatically invalidate their claims of authenticity.

For our purposes, an appeal to Isaiah 54:13 must explain Jesus’ use of it, and I think that the way it was used in the podcast failed to take that into account.

I hope that this interaction will help to particularize and sharpen some of the dialogue between us. I appreciated and enjoyed part 1.

John Clark, Phraseologia, 65

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Willingly Embracing a “Dark Providence”

Willingly Embracing a “Dark Providence”

In a recent research trip, I read and enjoyed this letter from one Independent congregation to another. Perhaps you will enjoy it, too.

“31 July, 1732

The church of Christ at Stainton to the church of Christ in Limestreet in London, sendeth greeting.

Whereas you have been pleased to call the Reverend Mr. John Atkinson, our Pastor, to the office of a teaching elder amongst you, and he hath accepted that your call, we beg leave to tell you in all humility, that we fear our loss in his removal will not easily be made up. It appears to us a dark providence, oh that the Lord in his abundant goodness would brighten it up to us.

The soundness of his doctrine, and the inoffensiveness of his life, hath not only been instructive and directive unto us, but also hath given a check to the erroneous and profane around us. However, being persuaded that he hath a prospect of being much more serviceable in his Master’s work among you, than he could be here with us, we do at your desire dismiss the said Mr. John Atkinson from being a member with us, unto you the church of Christ in Limestreet London, and do heartily recommend him to that special blessing of the Lord, and sincerely wish him much success amongst you. May you be a mutual blessing to one another.

And seeing we have thus denied ourselves, to serve our Redeemer’s interest among you, we hope you will affectionately remember us at the throne of grace, and be helpful to us in our deficiency to support the gospel amongst us.

We have fixed upon a minister, that we hope is likely to preach the truths of the gospel unto us, and to adorn them with an holy life and conversation. His name is Mr. John Kirkpatrick, a Schoolman. He is to come to us in a little time. We humbly desire you would please to stand up for us at the congregational fund, and allow us, if you think fit, something besides from your own stock. Whatever it is, we will be thankful. We remain your brethren in Christ.”

Jeremiah Marsden’s Characterizations of Dissenters in 1683

We interrupt our regular programming (of nothingness) to bring you a portion from Jeremiah Marsden, alias Zacharias Ralphson, An Apology for God’s Worship and Worshipers (London: n.p., 1683), 229-231. You can see a short description of his life, here.

Marsden’s treatise advocates freedom of worship for dissenters of all kinds. My interest is in his description of Presbyterians, Independents, and especially of the Particular Baptists. Marsden knew the Particular Baptists well, being invited to pastor at the Broadmead Bristol church, and being imprisoned with Hercules Collins and Francis Bampfield in 1683. Bampfield’s and Marsden’s deaths in prison were the impetus behind Collins’ publication of Counsel for the Living, Occasioned from the Dead. Marsden was buried in Bunhill Fields with around 5,000 in attendance at his funeral.

Marsden, An Apology, 229-1Marsden, An Apology, 229-230Marsden, An Apology, 230-231Marsden, An Apology, 231

Items of note, regarding the Particular Baptists:

  1. Marsden splits the Anabaptists between those who hold free will and those who do not. This is the standard General/Particular division.
  2. Marsden acknowledges that there is significant doctrinal overlap between the Particular Baptists, the Independents, and the Presbyterians.
  3. Marsden uses the label “partial historians” to refer to those who attach an “odium” to the Particular Baptists by connecting them to continental Anabaptists.

Marsden was prone to extremes himself, being connected with the 5th Monarchy movement. But his comments offer interesting characterizations of these groups. The Presbyterians want to be Anglicans, if only the Anglicans would let them (let the reader understand). The Independents want to be left alone. The Particular Baptists want to be known on their own terms, doctrinally and practically, rather than being viewed through the lens of a false genealogy.