Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Credo-Baptism: Analysis of Covenant Discontinuity

There are two main arguments for the paedo-baptist position and both of them are built on the idea of a continuity between the Old and New Testaments. That means that if there is no covenant continuity then the paedos are doomed and credo-baptism is the necessary result. The premise proved to be well founded however, and as a consequence I am fairly convinced that Scripture make the case that the framework established in the Old carries through to the New. On the other hand there are three arguments for the credo-Baptist that require discontinuity, and if a discontinuity can be established then the paedo-baptist is done for. So can we make the case that the Apostles understood the New Covenant to be introducing a discontinuity in redemptive history that necessitates excluding infants in the New Covenant? Let's take the arguments made in the previous posts in turn.  

First, I’m quite certain that the Apostles were not dispensationalists, and that we can rule that out as a valid explanation for the discontinuity right now. Dispensationalism requires God to wipe out the rules in every age, but if you don’t assume this as a foundational premise and instead try to establish it through evidence you won’t be able to do it. Firstly because there's no verse that explicity says this, which is necssary to the literal interpretation of dispensationalist hermunitic, and second because there is no verse that requires it by good and necessary consequence. Thirdly Dispensationalism should be ruled out because I've not seen any pro-dispensationalist websites or articles don’t even attempt to prove the fundamental premise of discontinuity, as they just put it forward as self-evident, which tells me that it is hard to find if it even exists. Fourthly because Jesus indicates the opposite when He says He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. John affirms the need for obedience to the law in his epistle. Paul appeals to the law to make his case. Nowhere is the law abolished, but everywhere we see the law is “a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path.

Further, dispensationalism is not internally consistent as a system. It can’t account for times when the New Testament seems to pull a quote wildly out of context such as, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.” For had Matthew been a dispensationalists he’d never have said this, knowing that there’s no sensible, literal meaning in the Old Testament on which to justify twisting the meaning of Hosea in that way. But Matthew did say that, and because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, Matthew must be something much closer to a covenant theologian than dispensationalist. There are other problems too, like how there’s a literal thousand year period of imprisonment for with Satan (a spiritual being) who will be bound by physical chains and cast into a physical pit. Or Joshua 23:14 which says, “…ye know in all your hearts and souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” because that takes away the need for the millennial kingdom to make up for the incomplete promises given to Abraham. 

And if that’s true then we can’t assume the Jews were an earthly people receiving earthly revelation from God and then disconnect their revelation from the spiritual to get the discontinuity we need. The Jews were a people to whom were entrusted the good news of Christ, and later, the person of Christ Himself, they were not merely a nation to whom God wanted to move into Caanan. Hebrews 12 indicates that the heroes of the faith looked forward to both the work of Christ and His heavenly kingdom, not a physical inheritance.

So then if we don’t have dispensationalist grounds for a discontinuity in redemptive history that justifies reshaping our understanding of covenant inclusion, can we get a discontinuity from the Particular Baptists and Jeremiah 31? Doesn’t the fact that this is a new covenant indicate a new essence rather than just a new form? 

Not really. The Scriptures are pretty clear that covenants were given to support and strengthen our understanding of Christ, and that they’re not identical to salvation—which means covenants are to salvation what the take-home box is to a pizza. It won’t work to say that the covenants in the Old Testament were simple promises that did nothing substantial, while the covenant in the New Testament is a glorious equivalent to salvation, because you can’t justly have multiple ontological definition of the word covenant and pick whichever one is most convenient. Stated differently, you can’t assume a discontinuity which requires two different definitions of covenant, and then use two different definitions of covenant to prove the discontinuity. Either the Old Testament has covenants or the New Testament does, but without continuity they can’t both have covenants in them.

What about the fact that the New Covenant is unbreakable according to Jeremiah 31? Doesn’t that indicate a massive shift has happened and that a huge change was introduced in redemptive history? To a limited extent, yes. But what’s more likely, that the New Covenant is unbreakable because from now on God only lets those who will persevere until the end into His church, or that His Son has become the second Adam, added to Himself a human nature, and stands as our perfect priest before His Father for all eternity? Which makes more sense as to why the New Covenant won’t be broken: God kicks out the immature, or God makes the covenant with Jesus? One is an extrapolation, the other is explicitly affirmed by the book of Hebrews. But even granting that the un-breakability of the New Covenant is not about Christ, and it is about us, there’s not enough strength in that to get to a massive discontinuity. Just because the Old Covenant said ‘if you obey then you will be blessed’ and the New Covenant said ‘I will bless you’ doesn’t mean you can conclude that the inclusion of infants into the covenant is finished.

The other unworkable thing about Jeremiah 31 providing the grounds for the discontinuity is that the New Testament doesn’t denote the word new in New Covenant with the radically, substantially, totally, never-before-seen-new indicator neos that the discontinuity requires. Instead Scripture indicates the New Covenant is new in the sense of being more glorious, more freeing, more inclusive, more clearly set forth, more full of good news, with the Greek word kainos. It’s the Kainos Covenant in 1 Cor 11:25, 2 Cor 3:6, Heb 8:8, 8:13, 9:15. It’s the Neos Covenant only in Heb 12:24 where the writer speaks of blood that actually absolves sins. So the New Covenant is substantially different in that the blood shed by the sacrifice works this time, otherwise, there’s the same concepts of signs, boundaries, seals, family headships, promises, meal, fellowship as before. The New Covenant is therefore a refresh of an existing thing, except for the blood of Christ—and that’s not enough to establish the discontinuity the credo-baptist requires.

As a credo-baptist I'm trying to be fair and impartial here, but this isn't encouraging. If you don't assume covenant continuity but demand the proof for it the paedo-baptist has a ready answer, but if you don't assume a discontinuity and demand the proof for it the credo-baptist has no answer. At least, I have been quite unable to think up or uncover an answer in my readings. So I'm going to stop this and move on to examining the historical data.

Next: which side the historic record favors

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