Thursday, 27 March 2008

Arguments for paedocommunion - a response (3)

The substance of my argument isn't, I believe, affected because Joseph's necessary clarification does not make a material difference. When we examine the kind of "ownership" which Christians, through their union with Jesus, have of the earth, it still fits into the category I was talking about.

Israel were promised and possessed the land of Canaan in an absolute historical and outward sense. What I mean by that is that their king was the sole lawgiver in the land, and no-one else had any legitimate territorial claim. Accordingly, the Israelites moved in and carried out God's justice against those who defied God's word - they were evicted! The space was literally sacred space; and the unholy were forbidden.

There is a sense in which we can say similar things under the New Covenant, but only by "spiritualising" the language. We don't mean that we can legally evict Mr. Smith next door from his plot of land and annex it to our own property, because the fellow isn't a believer. Christians are indeed carrying out a conquest of the nations - using preaching, persuasion and prayer. The nations belong to Christ, and those who refuse to bow the knee are indeed usurpers of his kingly prerogatives; but the literal right to physically possess the space they occupy is not given to Christians. I really hope we agree on that!

What this means is that in some sense, the "privilege" has contracted. Jesus' kingdom is where Jesus is served as king; and that territory will not be co-extensive with the whole earth until the second coming. Until then, it is the Lord's will that the wheat and the tares - the ungodly and the righteous - will grow together side by side until the final separation takes place at the end of the age (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). The only way to not keep company with fornicators, covetous people, extortioners, idolaters and other enemies of God is to leave the world altogether (1 Corinthians 5:10). Unlike the Old Covenant, there is no "sacred space" that belongs to the church, and is not occupied by the world.

Hence I think that this "expanded" covenant privilege is still of the kind I was talking about. Our children today have the gospel taught to them, woven into their upbringing, are invited to feast upon Christ in it - a privilege which transcends that of mere physical eating, an automatic privilege which has fallen away. In the same way, Christians are promised that they shall inherit the earth, and indeed we already do, and this is being partly realised "on the ground" in the present age and will be perfected when Christ returns - but the "privilege" of space that is ours, always ours, only ours in the sense that Israel had it, has fallen away as part of the scaffolding that is now rendered obsolete.

Old Covenant Judaism was a territorial religion, but not an expansionist one. The evil scourge of Islam is a territorial religion, and an expansionist one, in a violent, protectionist way. I think that Joseph's comments are likely to cause confusion as to the difference between Islam and Christianity.


Anonymous said...

Hi David!

I disagree. I believe that all benefits have been expanded under the New Covenant -- land benefits included. The land promise to the Church is just as far-reaching as it was to Israel . . . even moreso!

Read more here:

David Anderson said...


Thanks for dropping by and for the interaction.

I agree and disagree. Firstly, I agree. I can see in your response that you tie in the argument quite closely to your eschatology. I agree that it is promised that Christians will inherit the earth. It's all ours - one day we will be able to look for the wicked but not find them anywhere (Psalm 37).

However, all Christians of all eschatological persuasions can agree with this. I saw that even with a very strong postmillennial eschatology, you were still relegating the actual possession to the future. You were still arguing on the basis of something that isn't so now, but will be in future.

As such, I don't think you've really touched the substance of my argument, which concerned what the Jew could say on the day of Pentecost. If your argument depends on something that's true over 2000 years in the future (whether in the eschaton or before it), then the argument isn't really touching what I said and isn't relevant to the original argument quoted which has the Jew talking about what he possesses here and now.

But in any case, I could just re-work the argument and use a different example - e.g. a physical temple, a visible priesthood. These were all covenant privileges which the coming of Christ transcended and abolished by replacement. The Jew who argued that they ought to be added to rather than replaced is refuted in the book of Hebrews, and essentially I think the fictional Jew you had who was making arguments for paedocommunion comes into the same category: he failed to see that the lost "privilege" was replaced by something far better, and to focus on the thing lost instead of the thing far better is to fundamentally skew the relationship of the covenants and ultimately the glory of Christ and the perfection of what he has now brought in.

Kind regards,

David Anderson said...

Reading my own comment, the terminology of fulfilment would be better for me to use than replacement, but I trust the point is clear.