This is part 1 of a response to a blog written by a friend. My comments are in bold. His are regular type.
A Covenantal Hermeneutic. I have found that the root cause of disagreement between Credobaptists and Paedobaptists is the way in which we read the bible. One side presumes dis-continuity while the other side presumes continuity. The Credobaptist holds that all commandments and practices of the Old Testament are automatically discontinued in the church unless there is an explicit reaffirmation of such commandments and practices in the New Testament Scriptures. This can (respectfully) be called a dispensational hermeneutic. One problem with this approach is that it engenders arbitrarity. What happens when we do not find God’s prohibitions against bestiality explicitly repeated in the New Testament? (this is only one example among many). Does the Old Testament commandment still continue? But according to what consistent standard of interpretation?
While I appreciate the attempt to find the root cause of the issue, the presupposition made in the second sentence renders the rest of the paragraph obsolete. While it is true that there is some dis-continuity can be found between the old and new testaments, that doesn’t answer better reformed Baptist arguments, such as put forth by Pastor Doug Van Dorn in his book, “Waters of Creation”. Not all Credobaptists hold that all commandments and practices of the Old Testament are ‘automatically’ discontinued unless there is an explicit reaffirmation. Furthermore, it is hardly dispensational. As a credobaptist who holds to covenant theology and finds many errors in dispensationalism, this kind of over generalization does nothing for the argument. Having said that, it isn’t that one has to presume some discontinuity to begin with. When we read something like, “Behold the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, NOT LIKE THE COVENANT that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, ..” (Jeremiah 31:31-32 Emphasis mine) are we to presume that the New Covenant will be like the covenant made with the fathers or are we to presume that it will not be like that one? In as much as the spurious charge of “presuming” dis-continuity is made against credobaptists, one could easily be made against the paedobaptist that they view the Bible as if nothing at all has changed, that the continuity they hold to presumes that there is no dis-continuity whatsoever between covenants, that in fact Jeremiah was jesting when he wrote that the new covenant will not be like the old covenant. What he really means, according to paedobaptist logic is that it will be very much like the old covenant. This idea of replicating commands I’ve always found to be a weak argument in the first place.
Paedobaptists, on the other hand, are covenant theologians, and we argue for the exact opposite. We hold that all commandments and practices of the Old Testament are automatically continued, and therefore perpetually binding upon the church, unless of course such commandments and practices are explicitly abrogated in the New Testament Scriptures. The relevant example here would be the application of the covenant sign to our children. The sign of the covenant (circumcision) was explicitly commanded in the Old Testament to be applied to the male infants of God’s covenant people (Gen. 17:12). In the New Testament we find that the old sign of circumcision has been replaced by a new sign – namely the sacrament of baptism (Col.2:11-12). Now, although there has been a gracious extension of its application beyond the boundary of gender specificity (Gal. 3:28) there was never any abrogation of God’s original command to apply the covenant sign to our children. If there is, I have not found it. Therefore, our teaching is that we are bound to continue in that which God has not canonically revoked.
Again, a presupposition based on an over realized blanket statement. I am a credobaptist, and yet, I am a covenant theologian. Who knew? The author states that he believes all commands and practices of the Old Testament are automatically continued and binding on the church, unless those things are explicitly abrogated in the NT scriptures. But where is THIS practice in and of itself rooted in scripture? He then uses the “relevant” example of application of the covenant sign to our children. There are so many presuppositions taken for granted in that idea, that we need to look at the two most obvious. First, notice that he said “the” covenant sign to our children. This implies there has been, and only ever was, ONE covenant sign. Not only is this incorrect, but it does injustice to the entire Old Testament besides Genesis 17. Circumcision was in fact NOT “the” only sign of the covenant. It was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant, but what of the Noahic Covenant, or the Levitical Covenant (which is much more relevant to baptism since both involved water rather than cutting of flesh)? What of the rainbow? What of the covenant sign of baptism given to the sons of Aaron? So not only do we find it spurious at best to declare that there was only one sign, but the author talks as if there was only ONE covenant, the be all end all covenant made with Abraham. In so doing, he has ignored the covenant with Adam, Noah, David, Levi (Phineas), and for all intents and purposes, Mosaic (which he rolls under the Abrahamic).
Next, he presupposes – and yet does not actually prove – that the old sign of circumcision is “replaced” with the “new” sign of baptism. First, nowhere does Col. 2 state that one sign has been “replaced” by another. Nowhere. That’s a presupposition being placed on the text. Credobaptists don’t deny that there is indeed some overlap with the signs (as there are with all signs), but to say that overlap means one replaced the other is faulty logic. This is so for a couple of reasons. First, baptism isn’t a “new” sign. The author has completely (whether ignorantly or willfully) neglected the entire Old Testament teaching on baptism. Baptism existed in the Old Testament, (Ex. 29:4 for example and also, see the book of Hebrews) a fact that is conveniently set aside so that the paedobaptist can claim his “continuity” which turns out not to be proper continuity at all. Baptism, as has been argued by Van Dorn in his book, preceded circumcision. Not only that, but baptism and circumcision were practiced side by side in the law! Notice however, what Colossians 2:11-12ACTUALLY says. Does it say that in him you were also baptized which replaces circumcision? No. It says in him also you were CIRCUMCISED with a CIRCUMCISION made without hands. One important factor that the paedobaptist doesn’t like to acknowledge is that in true typology, identity is more important than overlap. Circumcision points to circumcision and is fulfilled by circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10:16; 30:6, Jer. 4:4) something it always was supposed to represent. Yet, somehow, it points to a completely different sign? A sign isn’t fulfilled if it merely points to another sign.
In addition, paedobaptists add to the text in Acts 2. Where does it ever say that this “new” (which as we have seen isn’t in fact new) sign is to be applied to our natural children apart from faith? It says that the PROMISE is for you and your children. It doesn’t say baptize you and your children. It’s almost as if they think PROMISE is spelled BAPTIZE. Yet, the promise there is for the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sin, neither of which comes apart from faith. It’s odd, that the author wants us to apply a covenant sign of faith to those who don’t profess it. I’m not in the habit of tying my shoes and then putting them on, but each to their own I suppose. Never is this sign of baptism given without some sort of profession of faith in the New Testament.
This is simply a matter of hermeneutics; because there is but one body (not two!) which has always served but one and the same God, through one and the same Lord, by one and the same Spirit, holding to one and the same faith, having one and the same hope (Eph. 4:4-6) we believe that it is only right (and consistent) to presume the continuity of every commandment of God unless He Himself has explicitly overturned it by further revelation.
This is fine if you read the Old Testament into the New, rather than let the New define the old. For example, this idea of “children”. In the New Testament, there are many examples of “children” referring not to infants or young ones, but rather BELIEVERS, who have professed faith, who have been born of God, and NOT of the flesh or the will of man. (See John 1:12-13)
Thus, to end this point, it’s a bit misleading to declare you believe in a covenantal hermeneutic when you trace everything back to only one covenant in the Old Testament. It would be better named the Abrahamic hermeneutic, as that’s the only covenant they seem to want to go back to.
Indeed, while the author has been persuaded, I remain convinced that a proper view of covenant theology, one that takes into account all covenants, and not just one and then applies it based on a faulty view of colossians 2, is credobaptism.