Another Word on NPP

An acquaintance of mine made this comment in relation to N.T. Wright, justification and the New Perspective on Paul which I think is a good summary. I thought I’d share it.

Wright begins with the premise that first century Jews did not hold to a works gospel, and therefore Paul’s aim in Romans and Galatians was to show that Gentiles could be admitted as church members apart from observing the Jewish practices of circumcision, sabbaths, food laws (his aim was not to explain the basis for salvation). The Jews were correct that by God’s covenant they were already saved, so the law was about staying saved in response to God’s mercy, which means that the final justification of believers will regard the whole life of the Christian. That is the NPP in 1 paragraph.



From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism Book Review: Part 5

Chapter 7
There isn’t much to discuss from Chapter 7 which is on some New Testament foundation for paedobaptism. 1 Corinthians 7:14 comes up as well as Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20 which are the passages in which Paul addresses children in his letters. Nothing really noteworthy to discuss.

Chapter 8
Much of this chapter reiterates already established points from earlier chapters such as the membership of the New Covenant. It is worth noting that Crampton discusses the distinction between Israel in a physical aspect and the spiritual one. Such as promises made of a physical land which was to be passed from generation to generation, but at the same time there were spiritual promises made to the true church within the Abrahamic Covenant. Status into this covenant was granted to persons without regard to their spiritual condition.

Crampton takes and excellent quote from Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology well worth posting. Grudem states,

We should not be surprised that there was a change from the way the covenant community was entered in the Old Testament (physical birth) to the way the church is entered in the New Testament (spiritual birth). There are many analogous changes between the Old and New Covenants in other areas as well. While the Israelites fed on physical manna in the wilderness, New Testament believers feed on Jesus Christ, the true bread that comes down from heaven (John 6:48-51). The Israelites drank physical water that gushed from the rock in the wilderness, but those who believe in Christ drink of the living water of eternal life that He gives (John 4:10-14). The Old Covenant had a physical temple to which Israel came to worship, but in the New Covenant believers are built into a spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:5). Old Covenant believers offered physical sacrifices of animals and crops upon an altar, but New Testament believers offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5; confirm Hebrews 13:15-16). Old Covenant believers received from God the physical land of Israel which He had promised to them, but New Testament believers receive “a better country, that is a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16). In the same way, in the Old Covenant those who were the physical seed or descendants of Abraham were members of the people of Israel, but in the New Testament those who are the spiritual “seed” or descendants of Abraham by faith are members of the church (Galatians 3:29; confirm Romans 4:11-12).

In all these contrasts we see the truth of the distinction that Paul emphasizes between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. The physical elements and activities of the Old Covenant were “only a shadow of what is to come.” but the true reality, the “substance,” is found in the New Covenant relationship we have in Christ (Colossians 2:17). Therefore, it is consistent with this change of systems that infant (male) children would automatically be circumcised in the Old Covenant, since their physical presence in the community of Jewish people meant that they were members of that community in which faith was not an entrance requirement. But in the New Covenant it is appropriate that infants not be baptized, and that baptism only be given to those who give evidence of genuine saving faith, because membership in the church is based on an internal spiritual reality, not on physical descent.

So there is continuity and discontinuity within the covenants.

Chapter 9
Chapter 9 is full of great information so ibid, ibid, ibid. I believe this chapter conveys the greatest arguments against the paedobaptist position.

When taking all of what the WCF and the Catechisms have to say on the sacraments, such as the seals “confirm our interest in him”, and baptism is “to be a sign and seal of engrafting into Himself, of remission of sins by His blood, and regeneration by His Spirit; of adoption and resurrection unto everlasting life”,you would have to say that from a biblical standpoint it is not reasonable to say that an infant’s baptism confirms his interest in Christ, that he’s been engrafted into Christ, has remission of his sins, is regenerate, is to be considered an adopted child of God and is one who has been promised a resurrection unto eternal life.

Crampton gets into discussing the Covenant of Grace. This would be defined as the covenant which God eternally made with Christ and all of the elect in Him. The Larger Catechism question 162 says that, “a sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his His church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of His mediation.” Now explain this, if water baptism is a sign that one is in the covenant of grace (if this is what the definition truly means, as perhaps this could be pointing toward the benefits rather than that one possesses the benefits) why administer the sacrament to an infant incapable of professing faith? If it is a seal, which attests to that truth that they are within the covenant, how could you apply this to infants (unless it is only a seal to the true elect)?

Are children, infants, members of the Covenant of Grace? You cannot say yes, that they are elect and in the Covenant of Grace without believing in presumptive regeneration. Herman Bavinck says,

For no one can deny baptism to children except he think that they stand outside the covenant of grace… Whoever administers baptism… to children acknowledges that they are in the covenant [of grace] and share all the benefits of it.”

The Heidelberg Catechism says children of believing parents are “in God’s covenant [of grace] and are His people.”

Here is something I found interesting as well. Observe how Geerhardus Vos discusses this,

There are two phases of the Covenant of Grace, (a) a legal or external phase, and (b) a vital or spiritual phase. We may think of these two phases as two circles, one within the other – an outer and an inner circle. Every child born of believing parents is in the outer circle, the legal or external sphere of the Covenant of Grace. But only those truly born again are in the inner circle, the vital or spiritual sphere of the Covenant of Grace. Some people born in the external sphere the outer circle, are non-elect persons and never come to Christ. Every one that is of the elect will, at some time in his life come into the inner circle, the vital or spiritual sphere.

Now I have great respect for Vos, but here he just redefined the Covenant of Grace to meet his presupposition that infants of believing parents are in the covenant and should be baptized! Now he says the Covenant of Grace includes the non-elect. If the Covenant of Grace is with the elect in Christ, then there cannot be an external aspect to it.

In respect to children being within the “covenant community”, Crampton makes a very nice point on page 96,

…there is a sense in which one may speak of the children of believers who attend the worship services, who are taught the Bible by their parents and church officers, etc., as being in a “covenant community” (Were not the “uncircumcised” female children under the Old Covenant part of a “covenant community”?). In the same sense non-believers who attend the worship services on a regular basis, who listen to the message preached, etc., are also in a “covenant community.” This says nothing, however, with regard to the baptism of such “covenant community” persons. Baptism symbolizes new birth, not merely membership in a “covenant community.”

One last thing I wish to note from reading this book is that there is a lack of mention of the regular practice of baptizing infants in the early post-apostolic writings. They all seem to speak of confessor baptism. Some of these are the Epistle of Barnabas (c. AD 120-130), The Shepard of Hermas (c. AD 150), Justin Martyr (c. AD 150), and the Didache (c. AD 90-125). Then there is Tertullian which spoke as an opponent of infant baptism (which also makes known it was being practiced at this time). Venema states that,

It is indeed certain, that Paedobaptism was practiced in the second century; yet so, that it was not the custom of the church, nor the general practice; much less was it generally esteemed necessary that infants should be baptized…Tertullian [200 A.D.] has nowhere mentioned Paedobaptism among the traditions of the church, nor even among the custom of the church that were publicly received and usually observed, nay, he plainly intimates, that in his time it was yet a doubtful affair. For in his book On Baptism (chapter 18), he dissuades from baptizing babies, and proves by certain reasons that the delay of it to a more mature age is to be preferred; which he certainly would not have done, if it had been a tradition and a public custom of the church, seeing he was very tenacious of traditions; nor had it been a tradition, would he have failed to mention it… It is manifest, therefore that nothing was then determined concerning the time of baptism; nay, he judged it safer that unmarried persons should defer their baptism… Nothing can be affirmed with certainty, concerning the custom of the church before Tertullian; seeing there is not anywhere in more ancient writers, that I know of, undoubted mention of baby baptism.

I would highly recommend this book for an excellent view of the credobaptist position.

From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism Book Review: Part 4

Well, this is part 4 of my planned 3 part series on the book “From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism”, but oh well.

Chapters 5 and 6 take time to look at the baptisms in the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles. I’m not going to talk about each one but there are a few interesting points I’d like to point out.

In the command from our Lord in Matthew 28:19-20,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Crampton claims that this demands disciple baptism. I quote from page 55,

“Baptizing them [autous]” cannot refer to “all nations [ta ethne]” because ta ethne is neuter whereas autous is masculine. Rather, it is “disciples” (mathetes) who are to be baptized, mathetes being a masculine noun, which is supposed and contained in the verb used in Jesus’ command to “make disciples” [matheteusate].

I’m not a Greek scholar, my knowledge of that language is very limited and I haven’t thoroughly studied this passage enough to really give a confident critique either way on it, but feel free to do so and comment here about it. Crampton goes into more detail about this passage and what Scripture categorizes as a disciple, so I do suggest picking up the book for this.

Then of course is the famous Acts 2:37-2:41 passage. So much could be said on this passage alone to fill post after post. Crampton does not speak much on this passage surprisingly which is a bit disappointing. I will recommend for a good discussion on this the debate between James White and Bill Shishko which I linked in my second post of this review.

In the discussion on Acts 8, he does bring up a nice point about why children are not mentioned, but again I’m not a fan of these arguments.

When he begins dealing with some of the household baptisms, I greatly appreciate his section on Lydia. It is mentioned that nothing in the passage suggests that Lydia, who traveled 300 miles from her home, who felt the liberty to invite men into her house, was married or had children. She was probably a business oriented woman who was either single or widowed whose household consisted of servants or dependents she has living with her.

Crampton later asks if the 1 Corinthians 10:2 were used for proving infant baptism, then logically verse 3 should also be used to prove infant communion as well as mixed participation between believers and unbelievers in communion. Though it may also be argued that this is speaking of the “fathers of Israel”.

This will be something I’ll be studying more in the near future when I begin reading up on the Federal Vision. There will be a book review coming up also dealing with Federal Vision.

From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism Book Review: Part 3

As promised, here is the rest of my review on Chapter 4 of “From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism”.

Crampton notes that it is important to realize the typological nature of the nation of Israel. Jonathan Edwards says about Israel,

That nation was a typical nation. There was then literally a land, which was a type of heaven, the true dwelling-place of God; and an external city, which was a type of the spiritual city of God; an external temple of God, which was a type of his spiritual temple. So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny. And the covenant by which they were made a people of God, was a type of the covenant of grace; and so is sometimes represented as a marriage-covenant. God, agreeably to the nature of that dispensation, showed a great regard to external and carnal things in those days, as types of spiritual things. What a great regard God did show then to external qualifications for privileges and services, appears in this, that there is ten times so much said in the books of Moses about such qualifications in the institutions of the passover and tabernacle services, as about any moral qualifications whatsoever. And so much were such typical qualifications insisted on, that even by the law of Moses, the congregation of the Lord, or church of visible worshippers of God, and the number of public professors of the true religion who were visible saints, were not the same. Some were of the latter, that were not of the former.

He then relates this idea to baptism, “to affirm that the children of believing members of the church of Jesus Christ have a right to New Covenant privileges just as the males under the Old Covenant had an inheritance right to Canaan, is virtually to assert that they have an inheritance right to heaven. It is the credobaptist’s argument that the promised inheritance of salvation is made to the spiritual seed of Abraham, that it is believers and not believers and their physical seed.

As expected, another common dispute is brought up, Acts 2:38-39. This is again, another argument I don’t wish to go into great depth into discussion right now but advise anyone studying baptism to study both sides of this argument.

To conclude Crampton’s thoughts on the relationship of circumcision and baptism is stated in this analogy from William Einwechter,

All who were identified as Abraham’s seed in the Old Testament administration received circumcision and all those who re identified as Abraham’s [spiritual] seed in the New Testament receive baptism.

From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism Book Review: Part 2

In this second part of my review of the W. Gary Crampton’s, “From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism” I will speak on the next three chapters.

Chapter 4
In this chapter, Crampton begins discussing the relationship between circumcision and baptism and states that there is no place in Scripture is it declared that baptism replaced circumcision. He makes a couple arguments of “if there were a time when this point could have been made…” or “why didn’t he say…” which I’m really not fond of so I won’t be commenting on those.

Crampton later says, “to assert that children of believing parents in the New Covenant era should be baptized because the male children in Israel were circumcised, is to be guilty of reading the Old Testament in the New.” With this I would agree, if this were the sole argument for infant baptism. Seeing this point though as only part of the argument and how it relates to the overall covenantal structure of redemption gives more credence to the paedobaptist view.

He then goes on to explain how circumcision was not restricted to those who made a genuine profession of faith and how the entire nation was circumcised in one day without any concern for personal faith (Joshua 5:2-9). What he ultimately is getting at in this portion of his book is that today (most) paedobaptists would not claim that if you had a butler or maid living in your household, you should baptize them. Nor would you wait until the eighth day to baptize your child or your unbelieving 13-year-old child. All these were done under circumcision in the Abrahamic Covenant. Also related to this, if baptism replaces circumcision then why should be baptize females?

Crampton then mentions one of the critical disagreements between paedobaptists and credobaptists and that is the idea that throughout the majority of the Old Covenant community, “knowing the Lord” was not a requirement to membership in the covenant. The Old Covenant was a breakable covenant, while the New Covenant is unbreakable. The non-believers under the Old Covenant were a part of Israel de jure (by law), while unbelievers under the New Covenant may exist in the church, but only de facto (by practice).

What follows logically in this argument would be why children should be included into the church de facto, which I’m not going to get into at this time.

The author then argues that circumcision, among other things, was a mark which gave members of the Abrahamic Covenant a right to their inheritance of the land of Canaan. The fact that the sign was administered to the male reproductive organ conveys the idea that the inheritance was passed on through the generations by physical birth. Notice how a man who suffered damage to his sexual organs was not allowed to join the congregation of Israel (Deut. 23:1). Inheritance was passed down through the male progeny which is why this sign was given to males.

Again, circumcision was more than just a sign of the covenant for a physical land.

Let’s look at what Paul has to say on the matter. In Romans 4:16-17 he writes, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, As it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations…’”  Here, the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant is salvation by grace thru faith. Paul repeats this thought in Galatians 3:8. “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In you shall all nations be blessed.” According to Paul, the Abrahamic Covenant was the gospel preached beforehand to Abraham. The fulfillment of the covenant promise, “In you shall all nations be blessed,” is the justifying of the heathen by grace through faith. Therefore, it is not difficult to see that the Abrahamic Covenant was more than just a mere land deal. This could be expounded upon so much more but I intent not to do so.

Crampton then proceeds to state that baptism is no where called a seal and that the seal of the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit. If I’m not mistaken I believe I’ve heard James White make this case in his debate with Bill Shishko. It’s a very good debate and I highly recommend it. You can find it on the AOMin website

To explain how paedobaptists affirm baptism as a seal, I think the best explanation comes from Thomas M’Crie’s “Lectures on Christian Baptism”,

Be pleased, then, to mark the sense in which we understand the word seal as applied to baptism. The term is used in three senses in Scripture. The first is in the sense of security, as when a person seals a letter. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” (2 Tim. ii. 19.) The second is in the sense of distinction, as when a merchant puts his seal on his goods to appropriate and distinguish them. “In whom after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph. i. 13.) The third is in the sense of confirmation, as when a seal is affixed to a charter or bargain. “And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.” (Neh. ix. 38.)

Now, in applying the term seal to the ordinance of baptism, it is not either in the first or second senses here noticed that we are to understand it. It is not used in the sense of securing the person, or of distinguishing him from others. Baptism is not an assurance of salvation to any, or a pledge of sonship. In this sense it is the Spirit alone that is the seal of God’s people. It is in the third sense only, namely, in that of the confirmation of a deed, that we use the term in relation to baptism. It is the seal which God has been pleased to append to the charter of his covenant. It is not like the signet which Pharaoh put on the hand of Joseph as a badge of distinction, or like the ring put on the hand of the penitent prodigal in token of acceptance; it is rather like the signet by which King Ahasuerus sealed the letters which saved the Jews from destruction.

Thus, while baptism viewed as a symbol has a relation to the grace of the covenant, viewed as a seal it stands related to the covenant itself. We must carefully distinguish between the grace of the covenant, and the covenant of grace. Baptism is the sign, but it is not, properly or directly, the seal of regeneration; it symbolizes the blessing, but it seals the covenant. By keeping this distinction in view, you will save yourselves from a world of confusion. By not attending to it our views have been sadly misrepresented. The distinction is very obvious. As a symbol, the ordinance addresses itself to the senses; as a seal, it appeals to faith. As a symbol, it is a badge of distinction from the world; as a seal, it stands related, not to the person, but to the covenant. A seal implies something spoken or written; and the design of baptism as a seal, is to confirm the faith of the Church in God’s written Word, in his everlasting covenant with her. It is the visible pledge added to the verbal promise. And where is the inconsistency of supposing that God may ratify his word by an outward symbol? Has he not “confirmed his promise by an oath, that by two immutable things, wherein it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation?” And why not also confirm it by a seal? All bonds and covenants are thus confirmed, and God never made a covenant yet without a seal. The tree of life was the seal of Adam’s covenant, the rainbow was the seal of Noah’s, circumcision was the seal of Abraham’s, and baptism is the seal of Christ’s.

In accordance, therefore, with the very design of a sacrament, as well as with the uniform doctrine of the primitive church and of our reformers, we maintain that baptism is not merely a symbol of spiritual grace, but is the seal of God’s holy covenant. And remember it is God’s seal. It is not the baptizer’s, nor the baptized’s, but God’s only. Its validity is independent of man’s act. God delivers the promise signed and sealed, presenting it to all, and saying, “Here is my salvation: behold the seal of the King!” And there it stands, sealed and sure, whether we accept or reject it. “If we believe not, he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself.”

This portion of my review has turned out much longer than I had anticipated. I had hoped to discuss the next three chapters of the book in this one post but I’m only halfway through discussing some key points found in only one chapter! I will continue this review at a later date. Check back later this week for more.

Terminology Tuesday: Session One

My wife was reading through my blog and suggested the idea of doing “Terminology Tuesdays” in response to my post about me desiring to post theological terms to help readers learn more about theology. I agreed it would be a good idea to do so.

What I think I will attempt to do is post a few terms that correspond to what I’m currently reading in order to post my book reviews or what I may be currently studying.

As I am currently re-reading through W. Gary Crampton’s book, “From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism”, I thought I could post a few terms relating to baptism.

Paedobaptism – The practice of baptizing the infant children of professing members of the the New Covenant. This is usually done by sprinkling or pouring though immersion is sometimes done (usually in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches). The word “paedo” is Greek for “child”.

Credobaptism – The practice of baptizing only those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, hence the word “credo” which is the latin term for “I believe”. This is also where we get our word “creed” from.

Aspersion – Relating to baptism this is the act of sprinkling with water.

Affusion – Relating to baptism this is the act of pouring.

Immersion – Relating to baptism this is the act of dipping the one being baptized under water.