A discussion recently ensued when a Baptist brother claimed the following:
Another point I want to make is that every parent eveywhere is responsible for raising their children up in the LORD. It matters not if they are regenerate or not. We are all going to be held accountable for how we all discipled our children. It doesn’t take some kind of doctrinal Covenant inclusion to do this. In fact I think it is rather deceptive to teach a child they are in a New Covenant relationship with God when they may be strangers to the covenant. It neglects the nature of what the new Covenant is. A Covenant made based upon the forgiveness of sin and knowing the Lord. Not like the one that the early church fathers could break. It is an unbreakable Covenant.
I addressed my response to Baptists:
1. Baptists keep talking about an overarching presumption that, in telling children they are in the New Covenant, they can “rest on their laurels”. It’s like we’re saying: “Son, presume you are Elect and you have nothing to go to God for and say: ‘Save Me!'”
In so doing, Baptists are actually projecting the problem with their own presumption. Dr. Clark called it confusing decree and administration. As I noted before, what are you telling someone if you say:
a. The New Covenant is with the elect alone.
b. We only baptize those we have “maximal confidence” are elect
c. We are baptizing YOU, the man who just confessed Christ.
In essence, you are giving him an unwarranted presumption. In fact, I was just listening to Gene Cook and John Goundry say the other day that Preachers only have to tell those outside the NC to “…know the Lord” (i.e. repent and be baptized) because we don’t tell those in the NC that because that’s been fulfilled. Notice the presumption – they are baptized = they are in the New Covenant = they are elect.
This gets very confusing because I know if I press Gene on this he’s going to admit that he doesn’t know who’s in the NC so the exercise of who you can and can’t say “know the Lord” to becomes quite impossible. Do you see how Baptists can tie themselves into knots on this point if they actually thought about it? Yet, if you go back and read even portions of this thread we have people arguing that we should have people telling the Church: “Oh, I’m elect, the Holy Spirit told me so”.
Thus, I think the presumptive problem lies with the nature of Baptistic baptism and trying to find a nexus in the perfection of the New Covenant. It is not really fair for you to ascribe the presumption you have for the people you baptize with the hope and promise that we have for those we baptize.
2. Sadly, I feel a sense in which you are missing the very power and weight of the Gospel to convert. Romans 6 is part of the Gospel by the way. Notice what you guys keep saying about “presuming” on the part of sinners. Why do you think a reprobate man is going to presume any less for a Law passage (do this and live) than He is about a Gospel passage. If a man is dead in His sins and trespasses then he presumes upon everything. The Pharisees had presumption of the Law down pat as well as the threat of hell. They just deceived themselves that it didn’t apply to them.
It is my conviction that passages like Romans 6 can actually convert the soul. They feed hungry Christian souls. I think you guys worry too much about the reprobate presuming upon Grace and not enough about feeding Grace to the elect you have in your midst. Even as we sneer at Roman Catholics who say: “Don’t teach that kind of stuff because it’s a license for liberty”, we don’t preach it openly because we’re afraid (like them) that the wrong people are going to get the wrong idea. Worry about the right people getting the right idea more! Feed them this stuff. Stuff them with it! One-third of Romans is this stuff. It’s not merely doctrinally interesting but it is the basis for the ethics.
3. I love this point that Dr. Clark cited:
74. Are infants also to be baptized?
Yes, for since they belong to the covenant and people of God as well as their parents, and since redemption from sin through the blood of Christ, and the Holy Spirit who works faith, are promised to them no less than to their parents, they are also by Baptism, as the sign of the Covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the Old Testament by Circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is instituted.
See, again, the problem I see is that it is the Baptists who presume too much. You guys presume, by your profession, that you’re elect and so you turn a wary eye toward the young’uns who haven’t. First, you shouldn’t be presuming upon your profession. Second, you should be seeing that everyone visible in your midst needs the kind of Grace I was just talking about.
You worry too much about the bad apples and you punish the whole crowd. You can’t figure out who to punish so you punish every child calling him unregenerate while claiming regeneracy for the adults. Where does such presumption come from? I’m not saying not to tell kids to repent but tell adults to repent too. Tell everyone to repent where Paul does. The Gospel is bouncing off the walls of your Church as you proclaim it to man, woman, and child. Stop worrying about who is elect among you and deal with the visible assembly in your midst. Let the Holy Spirit do its work but don’t preach with one arm tied behind your back. Preach the whole counsel of God and where it says “repent” tell everyone and where it says “rejoice” then proclaim it as the Word does. And let God sort out the rest.
Don’t even destroy the simplicity of the Gospel by demanding that solid, intellectual assurance that you want all adults to express. If a brother is struggling with assurance don’t impoverish him with “try harder” to determine if you’re elect. Focus him upon the Cross. Tell him that it’s as simple as believing. Do you believe Christ died for sin? Do you believe Christ raised Him from the dead? Believe! Proclaim Romans 8 to him. If he’s reprobate then that’s his problem but if he’s elect then let it feed him and establish him!
But stop impoverishing the flock by playing to the fear of the lowest common denominator.
After I posted this I got a response from a dear brother in the Lord who is a Baptist elder. He felt my words were intende to deny the fact that Baptists understand that Romans 6 is part of the Gospel. My extended remarks are as follows:
I think you need to take the position as a whole and not parse the issue and take it personally. I had to sum up a lot of people’s thoughts. I was unspecific because I wasn’t aiming it at a Baptist but a line of thinking that begins with the assumption that NC=elect -> Profession which necessarily excludes those who are too young to profess in a mature fashion.
There is then an underlying assumption that if you treat the immature as if they are spiritually minded that it will lead to presumption and that it is deceptive to teach them anything other than the condemnation of the Law. I repeatedly hear from Baptists (in general) that the only status that children have is that they are in Adam and unregenerate. They claim this on the basis of the child’s profession. Conversely, those that are professors are presumed (too much I think) to be regenerate on the basis of profession. There is an unhealthy mix of presumption about regeneration for professors and unregeneration for non-professing (young) members).
I wasn’t denying you believed all about Romans 6 and the Gospel in general. Please forgive me as I can understand how some of it came off as patronizing. I’m sorry to you and other Baptists if I sounded pejorative or condescending. I was trying to connect to the underlying concern in the OP, pull together some disparate posts, and draw it all out. I wanted to move from our common base of understanding regarding the Gospel and move to how the manner of Baptism and the way you talk about visible members actually undermines the program of the Gospel. In some aspects it is meant to sting (in a loving way) to get some to understand why the Reformed paedo baptizes into discipleship and not to declare of a person – this one is elect and this one is not.
The shoe fits for some or all aspects better than others, but credo-Baptism as an overarching system, in the way it treats the young – presuming them to be unregenerate – witholds an aspect of the Gospel from them. That witholding of the Gospel to the young is of the nature of Romans 6. It assumes that the only thing a child needs to hear is that they need to repent of their sins. On the other hand, it might see that adult professors don’t need to hear as much about repentance of sins (because after all they’ve professed). My view is that ALL in the visible Church need the full orbed presentation – professors or too immature to profess. The full presentation will mature and convert babes and the full presentation will mature and convert adults.
In the end, where the shoe fits, wear it. Your frustration is mine. As I stated in another thread, the Baptist view is very eclectic (even though you guys are all supposed to be 1689 LBCF) and some argue in different ways. I’m sorry that you feel slighted when I have to refer to a strain of Baptist thinking that is, in the main, representative of the issue. Conversely, Reformed paedobaptists are pretty monlithic in the understanding of the issue. Regardless of the aspects that you believe fit tightly or not, you have to answer for the reasons why you don’t baptize the young and why you believe profession alone is the arbiter of when discipleship begins. The difficulty in nailing down where Baptists fall on these issues communicates to confusion in the pews and why, when a Baptist calls up Pastor Gene Cook on the Narrow Mind he has no idea how he can possibly train his child in the fear and admonition of the Lord without training the child to obey the Law as a Pharisee might vice a motivation that focuses on love for God (Romans 6).