Monday, 26 May 2008

The New Covenant And Believers' Baptism

It seems that recently Dr. Tom Schreiner visited Oak Hill College in London, and some of his lecture material provoked blogged responses from supporters of the "Federal Vision" theology on the staff and in the student body of the college. In particular, they have been responding to the argument that the New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant - and therefore (by consequence) is a covenant made with the elect alone, and that therefore (by consequence) church membership and baptism are privileges for those who can give a credible profession of faith.

Lecturer David Field has put up six posts so far, though without mentioning Dr. Schreiner, here:
  1. Covenantal category confusion, disconnect, denial, and abstraction
  2. New covenant and antipaedobaptism
  3. New covenant and antipaedobaptism (2)
  4. "Our rule in adminstering of sacraments"
  5. "Our rule in adminstering of sacraments" (2)
  6. Covenant and election again
Plus in the midst of another post, this extraordinary comment in the context of the UK's parliamentary bill on human cloning and abortion: "More pointedly, what's the relationship between a church which excludes children from the life in the covenant and a nation which excludes the unborn from life in the world?" (here - the answer isn't spelled out for us but we assume that he raises the question because he thinks that the relationship is a strong one).

Dr. Field seeks to address what the Calvinistic Baptist typically feels is his strongest argument for baptising only those who give a credible profession of repentance and faith: the nature of the New Covenant as a perfect covenant in which Christ saves to the uttermost all those who come to him, unlike the Old in which many, though rightful members of the Covenant, yet fell short of actual salvation.

I'm glad to see this kind of interaction, because as I've commented before, it's all too typical to find that when infant baptists seek to argue against the Baptist position, they seem to hone in on refuting dispensationalism as if the two were one and the same, which leaves the Reformed Baptist profoundly unimpressed. The inevitable "answers to objections" sections in books written in favour of infant baptism rarely seem to touch the actual objections that a Calvinistic Baptist will have. So it's good to see an attempt to counter some actual arguments which those in the camp I'm in actually use - one of the values of actual face-to-face interaction with someone like Dr. Schreiner I suppose.

So, in a new series of posts I plan to review the arguments which Dr. Field and his students present. Stay tuned!

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