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Robin #50459 Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:36 PM
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In my search I've been asking myself - and now the few Reformed Baptist folk I know - about Reformed Baptist polity, doctrine, and theology. My caution drives me to these questions since I tend to view church membership as something almost as sacred as a marriage covenant.

I blogged about it a little (here), and included a link to a really nice presentation about how covenant theology differs between Presbyterians and Baptists, which I then summarized briefly.

This is not to start a new Presbyterian-versus-Baptist debate on any subject! This is just about making sure I properly understand the Baptist position on covenant theology. So I'm asking my Baptist bretheren here to follow the link, read the little presentation, and compare it with my summary. Input is welcome and encouraged, from all Reformed brethren and sistren!

Thanks,
Robin

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Robin
If you view membership as very important, depending on the Reformed Baptist Church you are considering going to, membership may not be an option for you.
This is not always the case, but it is probably the majority position in Reformed Baptist circles that a candidate for membership must be baptized via emersion.
You previously said that seeing you were baptized via emersion years ago, it might not be a problem for you to become a member.
However, if I read you correctly it is more an issue for you.
Therefore, if you think the issue of Paedo is that important, I am not sure you would be happy going to a Reformed Baptist Church.
A few years back I did a fairly lengthily study on this issue and among the study material I read was John Owen on Covenant Theology. What I found quite surprising is that although Owen was definitely a Paedo-Baptist; it seemed to me that on many issues he was more in agreement with Reformed Baptists, than he was on Paedo-Baptists. I can’t think of any examples right off the top of my head (perhaps others might have some?), but I found that to be very interesting.
Another person I read was AW Pink; whom I found to be similar to Owen, yet he came out on the Credo side.
I also read a bit of John Bunyan, who was a Baptist, yet had no problem admitting Paedos into membership; provided their profession of faith was credible.
If there is one thing I regret about that particular study. It is I should have kept better care of all the notes from that study; because I have no idea where they are now. Sigh…
I guess I should end by saying, if you have not already done so, you should be very specific about what you view as essentials when you talk to the pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church in question.
Tom

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Thanks, Tom...

But I wasn't asking for advice on what I might be comfortable with, and I'm not so attached to paedobaptism that I'm unwilling to reexamine it.

What I'm asking for is for the Baptist brothers here to read this presentation and compare it with my "interpretation of it" here and then tell me if I have understood it correctly. That's all.

It is simply a view of covenant theology that is unfamiliar to me. I've never heard of it before, but apparently it has been around for centuries.

When you read my summary of the presentation you'll find that I have some very positive thoughts about it, and it seems to me that the Baptist position is less susceptible to the kind of interpretation that has led some Presbyterians towards the FV heresy. I also find it more consistent than the Presbyterian position with regard to the Lord's Supper.

Please have a look, just to tell me if I got it right.

Then I'll decide what is true. I don't really care if it's not comfortable. laugh


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Hi Robin:

Forgive me for coming into this late and not having time to catch up on all the posts in this thread. I used to be a member of F.I.R.E. (Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals) until last year for about 10 years. I haven't been actually pastoring since April 2012 and haven't been able to make their meetings so I left the fellowship.

If you are interested in finding a Reformed Baptist Church, you can go to www.firefellowship.org (FIRE) or www.founders.org (Founders of the SBC) or http://www.farese.com/rbcd (Reformed Baptist Church Directory). On the Founders Church List you'll have to watch what confessions they use because some non-Reformed Baptist SBC Churches put their Church on their too. Blessings!


Brother Bret Lovitz

Robin #50473 Thu Feb 06, 2014 11:16 AM
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1. The view espoused in the article by the Renihans is based squarely upon a view of the covenant which is now in hot dispute in the OPC and made popular by Meridith Kline and is mainly taught at WTS California. It is popularly known by several names, e.g., "Republication", "Two Kingdom", etc.

2. One of the major issues with this view is that it attributes "merit" to the old covenant/kingdom whereby those within that covenant were given 'rewards' for obedience/works and grace is either greatly diminished or altogether rejected.

3. It is because of this bifurcation (large discontinuity) between the old covenant and new covenant, that the credo-Baptist justifies their position. Put simply, for the credo-baptist the New Covenant means something totally or mostly different from the Old Covenant. Whereas the historic paedobaptist view of the covenant of grace is that the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant with its blessings having a new universality and spirituality.

4. Lastly, every truth has throughout history been distorted and used to formulate an error. FV, NPP, etc., take what I believe to be the truth concerning justification, sanctification, Reformed covenant theology and more and distort it and even deny it, yet as is typical of heretics, they confess to be consistent with those doctrines and that they are to be deemed "confessional". They love to quote from Calvin, Murray, and other notables in order to prove they are not teaching something different. But on close examination of those quotes, they are found to be taken out of context and that the quoted author(s) held to positions contrary to that which they are espousing. The point of this is that just because someone or a group of people have gone astray who profess to base their heretical view on orthodox theology is no reason to abandon or disparage the "faith once delivered unto the saints". grin


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Robin #50474 Thu Feb 06, 2014 2:32 PM
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LOL I can't help but be a little amused by the fact that I asked Baptists to respond to my interpretation of Baptist covenant theology and the only answer to my question comes from a Presbyterian!

I'm grateful though, thanks Pilgrim, it's a lot to sort out for me. I grew up under Dispensationalism, came to completely reject that in favor of Refomed (and Covenant) theology, and now I'm in a position where I need to examine the Baptist take on covenant theology because of my church situation. This is a "third option" that is completely new and foreign to me, yet not as though it were an attempt at compromize between the other two.

Much to think about and consider before I consider membership in the Reformed Baptist church I've been attending for a couple of months.

Thank you my friend! I do hope to hear from some of the Baptist folks here ON THE QUESTION I ASKED. Otherwise I'll simply assume I have understood the Baptist theology properly and go from there.

Semper Reformanda,
Robin

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Originally Posted by Robin
LOL I can't help but be a little amused by the fact that I asked Baptists to respond to my interpretation of Baptist covenant theology and the only answer to my question comes from a Presbyterian!
Actually, I am a Congregationalist (Edwardian) and adhere to the "Savoy Declaration", which for those not familiar with this confession, is nearly a word-for-word copy of the Westminster Confession, contra the section on church polity. grin

Yes, I will be very interested in any and all comments by our Baptist brethren in regard to your question, but even more so on their assessment of the Renihan article which again is grounded on the covenant theology espoused by Merideth Kline and influenced by some things written by Geerhardus Vos.


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Robin #50476 Thu Feb 06, 2014 6:33 PM
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Robin,
I may have been confused by the instructions you gave but I made my reply to your blog site.In short I said that you interpreted the article pretty much ,spot on. I then gave you my church's view, which is also my view, of the act of baptizing infants.
My only word of caution would be to ask the pastor for a specific answer as to how close the church adheres to the SBC's Baptist Faith and Message statement. The part I am speaking of here has to do with Original Sin.


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sojourner #50477 Thu Feb 06, 2014 7:34 PM
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Thanks, Sojourner.

Nice reply on my blog, and I appreciate it! Is it fair to say that the Baptist Faith and Message is "too non-specific" and open to all sorts of interpretation?

One reason I ask is that the big megachurch nearest my house is an SBC church that has a lot of money and pageants and concerts and such, but my former pastor grew upin that church and says he never heard the gospel in all the years he attended.

There are Dispensational SBC churches, Charismatic SBC churches, Reformed SBC churches - they seem to run the gamut yet they all claim the Baptist Faith and Message. Not to pick on the SBC, I'm just as quick to point out that even the apostate PCUSA claims the Westminster Confession of Faith! My question, I guess, is restricted to those Baptist churches that claim the London Baptist Confession as well as the Baptist Message.

Robin #50478 Thu Feb 06, 2014 11:17 PM
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Robin

I purposely didn't do what you asked, because I don't want to bite off more than I can chew.
Though part of me wants to answer it; another side of me said two things.
1. I don't have time to give the questions justice.
2. I am not even sure I can communicate what is on my mind effectively.

That might sound like a cop out, but I am being honest. I don't think I am the best person to answer your questions.
Sorry, if my last post wasn't helpful.

Tom

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Not to worry, Tom! I'm not disappointed or anything and I'm sorry if I gave that impression. And I'm in your shoes more often than not, feeling over my head in deep theological waters. But I love it! Immersion (pun intended) in theology is just so much fun! I know, I must be a little twisted to think so. laugh

I have heard from a few Reformed Baptists who assure me that I have correctly understood and summarized their position. I'm sure it varies all over the place just like it does among us Presbyterians, in spite of the pretty explicit language of the Confessions.

So on to the next question then: Do Reformed Baptists hold to one particular eschatology or are y'all like the Presbyterians where pretty much any eschatology is okay except Dispensationalism? And what to Reformed Baptists think of MacArthur's mixture of "Reformed" sotierology and Dispensational eschatology?

Thanks!
Still exploring (and always Reforming),
Robin

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Originally Posted by Pilgrim
1. The view espoused in the article by the Renihans is based squarely upon a view of the covenant which is now in hot dispute in the OPC and made popular by Meridith Kline and is mainly taught at WTS California. It is popularly known by several names, e.g., "Republication", "Two Kingdom", etc.

I've got a lot more reading to do it looks like!

Quote
One of the major issues with this view is that it attributes "merit" to the old covenant/kingdom whereby those within that covenant were given 'rewards' for obedience/works and grace is either greatly diminished or altogether rejected.

If one considers progressive revelation I'm not sure that is an accurate description. The "obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26) was surely as applicable in the Old Covenant as it is in the New. The "merit" was never in the person but in the object of that faith and demonstrated by their obedience. It was an "already and not yet" kind of faith which drove those who never saw the fulfillment of the OT promises, except through the eyes of faith.

Quote
It is because of this bifurcation (large discontinuity) between the old covenant and new covenant, that the credo-Baptist justifies their position. Put simply, for the credo-baptist the New Covenant means something totally or mostly different from the Old Covenant. Whereas the historic paedobaptist view of the covenant of grace is that the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant with its blessings having a new universality and spirituality.

Is that really an accurate representation of Baptist belief? While they certainly do assert that the covenants are different from one another with respect to membership in the covenant community (the family of Abraham vs the family of faith) and application (physical descendants vs spiritual descendants, different signs and seals and covenantal conditions), the paper I linked to most certainly asserts that the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old, and applies eternally and spiritually rather than temporally and phyisically. I know better than to charge you with misrepresenting the Baptist position, my friend, but please just elaborate on how you reached that conclusion from the presentation. Or from other sources, perhaps, which I'm not familiar with.

Quote
Lastly, every truth has throughout history been distorted and used to formulate an error. FV, NPP, etc., take what I believe to be the truth concerning justification, sanctification, Reformed covenant theology and more and distort it and even deny it, yet as is typical of heretics, they confess to be consistent with those doctrines and that they are to be deemed "confessional". They love to quote from Calvin, Murray, and other notables in order to prove they are not teaching something different. But on close examination of those quotes, they are found to be taken out of context and that the quoted author(s) held to positions contrary to that which they are espousing. The point of this is that just because someone or a group of people have gone astray who profess to base their heretical view on orthodox theology is no reason to abandon or disparage the "faith once delivered unto the saints". grin

Completely agreed on that point of course. We think we're so smart because we've got our theology so neatly spelled out in great detail in our Confessions, yet we can still be carried off into error - even lethal error - while all the while claiming compatibility and continuity with our Confessions, Creeds, and Catechisms. That is why I love this article on the Highway so much! And it fits right in with our other comments about "ruling elders" deferring to the "experts" that lead whole denominations astray.

-Robin

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Even though SBC churches are autonomous they are tied to the Convention through the Cooperative Program.It is the place where the churches tithe.That money then goes to support missions, seminaries, literature and many other programs.Churches are like people, some think their tithe is two percent, some five and some ten. This program caused me the most angst over the years.
It is fair to say that the Faith statement is non-specific in a lot of areas when compared to the LBCF or Westminster.To me ,at least, it is very specific when it speaks of "Man". It says that man fell from his original innocence and his posterity inherited a "nature" toward sin and as soon as he is capable of moral action he will become a transgressor. That is a denial of original sin, I believe.
If the church you are attending holds to the LBCF, no problem.
I have only met a couple of people in the Reformed circle who are Post Mill, all others are Amill.I have just come over to the Amill camp, having spent my entire adult life in total ignorance of any other end times view than Dispensationalism. I don't know anyone who agrees with John Mc Arthur.


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Originally Posted by Robin
I've got a lot more reading to do it looks like!
Re: "Republication" [of the covenant of works in the Mosaic covenant]... I can supply you with relevant reading material. grin

Originally Posted by Robin
Originally Posted by Pilgrim
One of the major issues with this view is that it attributes "merit" to the old covenant/kingdom whereby those within that covenant were given 'rewards' for obedience/works and grace is either greatly diminished or altogether rejected.
If one considers progressive revelation I'm not sure that is an accurate description. The "obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26) was surely as applicable in the Old Covenant as it is in the New. The "merit" was never in the person but in the object of that faith and demonstrated by their obedience. It was an "already and not yet" kind of faith which drove those who never saw the fulfillment of the OT promises, except through the eyes of faith.
I was referring to the "Republication/Two Kingdom" theory being taught at WTS Cal. and currently being investigated by the OPC. The Renihans are/were students there when they wrote the paper.

Originally Posted by Robin
Originally Posted by Pilgrim
It is because of this bifurcation (large discontinuity) between the old covenant and new covenant, that the credo-Baptist justifies their position. Put simply, for the credo-baptist the New Covenant means something totally or mostly different from the Old Covenant. Whereas the historic paedobaptist view of the covenant of grace is that the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant with its blessings having a new universality and spirituality.
Is that really an accurate representation of Baptist belief? While they certainly do assert that the covenants are different from one another with respect to membership in the covenant community (the family of Abraham vs the family of faith) and application (physical descendants vs spiritual descendants, different signs and seals and covenantal conditions), the paper I linked to most certainly asserts that the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old, and applies eternally and spiritually rather than temporally and phyisically. I know better than to charge you with misrepresenting the Baptist position, my friend, but please just elaborate on how you reached that conclusion from the presentation. Or from other sources, perhaps, which I'm not familiar with.
I do believe I have correctly represented the Baptist view. In no way would I consciously nor deliberately misrepresent it. IF I have, my sincerest apologies. I have publicly debated this baptist issue with some 'notables', e.g., John Reisenger (years ago) and written a major paper on the issue while at WTS (Philly) as well as being involved, much to my dismay, in debates here on the board on several occasions. So, I do think I have at least a reasonably good grasp of the subject.

Due to the time and space needed and my honest near total lack of interest any longer in debating this particular subject, I will not offer any further comments evilgrin... other than to say that the bottom line is:
1. Baptists insist that baptism belongs only to believers (an intenable positiion), which signifies the recipients faith and salvation.

2. Paedobaptists (me in particular) insist that baptism belongs to all who make a CREDIBLE confession of faith and their children, which sigifies how salvation is obtained from God, aka: the gospel, and is sealed to those who have been regenerated and believed upon Christ.

Summarizing, most all Baptists see baptism as being primarily a personal thing, e.g., "An outward sign of an inward reality" vs. Paedobaptists see baptism objectively and primarily as an outward declaration of the gospel.

If you are interested in listening to a debate between Dr. Robert B. Strimple vs. Dr. Fred Malone - WSC March 10, 1999, which I think fairly represents both sides, you can access them HERE, under the "Sacraments" heading.


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Robin #50483 Fri Feb 07, 2014 3:29 PM
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Thanks! I'll be digging into this deeply for a few days I think. Thank you for the links!

-Robin

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