[#] from the Comments ...

I said:
||} "The Jew can call me his brother in a
||} meaningful way, and we can both call
||} Abraham our father in a meaningful way
||} and not be boxed into the idea that an
||} inheritance is necessarily handed down by
||} the flesh but is instead rightly sen as being
||} handed down in the Spirit, and by the
||} Spirit."

To which Theo replied:
| This is a false dichotomy. I affirm that the
| inheretance is handed down in and by the
| Spirit. I also affirm that, for the most part, he
| does so predictably. That is, according to the
| promise He made to families, way back in
| the day.

It is here that you equate, in a 1:1 correlation, the covenant with Abraham and the New Covenant – and the covenant with Abraham is not the New Covenant.

Is it?

If it is, all Baptist theology needs to be rethought. If it is not, then all the Auburn Ave. theology needs to be rethought – because it is based on a mistaken premise.

| [shameless_plug]As far as your other points,
| well taken. But I will remind you that this is
| your blog, and these are all comments on
| your post. So in a very real way, the burden
| of defense rests on you. I'm just taking pot
| shots. Now when I (eventually) cross-post
| this on my blog, feel free to come on over
| and return fire. If you're interested, I already
| posted my Harry Potter thing over
| there.[/shameless_plug]

Dude: they don't call me "centuri0n" because I'm afraid of a little dust and spittle. But the best defense is a good offense – and a good offense doesn't allow itself to be worn down.

Lay on, MacDuff.

| I'm going to paint with broad strokes here.
| When we start to do things like assert that
| the New Covenant is just another way of
| saying the roles of the individually elect, we
| end up in a very difficult position such as
| the one you describe somewhere above; that
| of even attempting to separate or distinguish
| along these lines. Anyone who has tried will
| quickly find a problem: it's so darn difficult
| trying to read God's mind.

Nobody has to read God's mind – unless one is trying to say something like, "God makes promises to families, and keeps covenants based on inheritance rules." I don't think Baptist theology tries to read either the mind of the apparent believer or the mind of God. What it does is take at face value – as we are told to do in Scripture – the confession of faith of the believer and do what should be done to all believers – which is baptize them.

Presby theology does not disagree that all believers – all who make a confession of faith – should be baptized. To attempt to dismantle Baptist affirmations for the baptism of believers is to simply ignore that Presbyterians agree with that as a starting point.

The problem, however, is that there are two major disputational points:
(1) the acceptable modes of baptism (immersion only or immersion/sprinkling)
(2) the proper candidates for baptism (confessing believers or believers & their children)

I am trying to stay focused on the second problem, and am arduously avoiding the first because I think that a lot of Baptists would be angry with me for saying that we have our heads in the sand when it comes to immersion. Arguing about whether or not we can read God's mind or any confessing person's mind is to argue against something which we both (allegedly) believe is true.

| Fortunately, God does not require this of us.
| Nor does He require us to make judgments
| about anyone's election. These are the secret
| counsels of God. God does not relate to men
| this way, in terms of election. He relates to
| man in terms of covenant. He always has.

What covenant, for example, did God have with Namaan? How about Lot – what covenant did God have with Lot? Abel? See: I think the view that God's relationship with man is "covenantal" is somewhat correct in that God always keeps His word. When God promises something, it's not just some "I'll do my best" assurance: it is money in the bank.

But to take that truth, and to try to make it into a statement that all of God's interaction with man is inherently through the formal covenants overlooks all the people God interacted with outside of the formal, Jewish covenants.

And it also overlooks the fact – the fact exposed in Romans and Hebrews, among other places – that the "old" covenant(s) were not intended to save. The salvific nature of the New Covenant places it in a class by itself.

| Your comments above continue to assume
| the same equasion of "covenant member"
| with "individually elect" that I am denying.

Yes. I agree.

| At the same time we say that not eveyone in
| the covenant will be in heaven, we can say
| that we have every expectation that the
| covenant member next to me will be in
| heaven. Why? Because God is faithful to
| His promises.

That is because you do not equate the New Covenant exclusively with the atoning work of Christ. That doesn't mean I think you deny the work of Christ, btw: it means that, as I understand it, you thing that the New Covenant has two distinct parts that are nice when they are both present, but both parts are not necessarily present.

In you view, as I understand it, the New Covenant:
(1) Establishes the Church as a visible body, and
(2) Establishes the Elect in Christ for salvation

In my view, the New Covenant first establishes (you might not like that word; I'm not sure I do) the salvation of the elect – it saves those it was intended to save. But because this salvation is not merely eternal in the platonic sense but real, actual salvation that results in a new birth, the effect of the New Covenant in the elect is the establishment of the church.

And you might rightly ask: "cent, then why are there obviously some non-elect members of the visible church?" I think the answer is transparent: the church is not infallible, and like any group of human beings, some get in who aren't really good members. They don't really meet all the criteria, but they talk a good enough game that they get the nod.

It's not really that theologically-complex. The tares are sown among the wheat. That doesn't make them wheat.

| But sometimes full-fledged covenant
| members, heirs of those promises, fall away.
| This is not unique to either covenant.

The irony of this statement is not that I would agree with you (although that is ironic) about falling away from the Law. The irony is that I think you miss something important about how many fall away from the Law: All fall away from the Law. All. Every Jew up through Christ was a covenant breaker: all have sinned, all have fallen short of the Glory of God. All.

So the serious problem with trying to draw the equation between Old and New Covenants is that there were no non-covenant breakers in Israel. None. In that, what can we say about how many covenant breakers there might be or ought to be under the New Covenant? If there is a correlation, exactly what comfort can we take in that correlation?

| Any Israelite who died under God's judgment can
| be considered an example.

I apologize for breaking up your interesting argument here, but this is again another problem with your assertions: which Israelite(s) died having kept the covenant by never breaking the Law? Was there one? There were none.

In that, no one was ever saved by the Law. Do you see why this is such a critical part of this discussion? When we rightly say that Abraham was saved, for example, Hebrews is clear that he was not saved by the covenant of the circumcision but by faith. It is the New Covenant that saves Abraham, not the Old, and in that we cannot make statements like the one you make above or complete below. No Israelite ever died justified by the Law: they only died justified by faith.

| And several New
| Covenant writers appeal to those very things
| to warn New Covenant Christians against
| such rebellion against God.
| 1 Cor 10:1-12
| Hebrews 3:12-4:16

I happen to agree that this warning is critical for those who are inside the church to take, as Paul says, for instruction. Now why would I do that, given that I think that those who are saved by the New Covenant are necessarily the elect? Because there are those who are inside the church who are not necessarily in the elect. Think about the paradigm I have outlined, above: the New Covenant first establishes the salvation of the elect; the effect of the New Covenant in the elect is the establishment of the church. The source of the church is election, but the scope of the church extends beyond the elect because of the actual effect of church – the establishment of community.

Some are inside the community who, frankly, don't belong there. It is not our duty to flush them out like hair in a clogged sink. It is our duty to make sure we are not one of them.

Let me make a confession here: I struggle with sin. I know that's a surprise as you read this godly blog, but I have a new-birth-life-long struggle with some sins. Some fell away when I was saved – like boozing and fiscal stupidity. With other sins I have had massive improvements but no final victory. And, God willing, because faith is working in me and through me, I will have final victory over sin through Christ who is in me.

When I read 1Cor 10:1-12 and Heb 3:12-4:16, I know what Paul is talking about. And it is my prayer that I will not be lazy and hard-hearted toward my sin as they were in the desert – that I will not grumble against God but seek His deliverance.

Some who are in the church will fall away: no doubt. The question is if they were ever in the New Covenant, and I think the answer is no. I look forward to reading your Biblical case that I am wrong.

| These parallels are drawn and then these
| writers warn that God judges His people,
| sometimes with damnation. By "His people"
| we are to understand a special relationship
| that is goes beyond the Creator/creature
| relationship.

And that saving relationship is only expressed from faith to faith, and is manifest in the New Covenant, which cannot fail to save.

| Hebrews warns us that the curses of the New
| Covenant are even more dreadful than the
| curses of the Old (10:26-31).

I always find this use of Heb 10 fascinating. How do these verses relate to vv 19-25, immediately preceding in this passage?

| Peter warns of
| false prophets who will spring up from
| "among you" who will deny the "Master
| who bought them" and in so doing, "bring
| swift destruction upon themselves (2 Peter
| 2:1)."

No doubt. Where else in the NT is the verb "agorazo" used to mean salvific saving? Why is this construction different, do you think? Why would that matter?

| Paul tells Timothy that if a man does
| not keep his own covenant obligations
| by providing for his family, he is worse than
| an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5: .

Paul doesn't actually use the word "covenant" here, does he? You read that into the passage because Paul is talking about a man's immediate family. That's an assumption, not a fact.

| These passages and others (Hebrews 6)
| clearly indicate that membership in the New
| Covenant has requirements and that it is
| possible to lose this membership and that
| very, very badly.

I think that if you read all the way through verse 8 in Heb 6, you come away with more information than you use here, and what you leave out changes the meaning of what is here said about "falling away".

| This is my position and I hardly think one
| can say that is does not require
| "demonstrating the work of faith."

I think that (to paraphrase what Doug Wilson has astutely said over the last couple of weeks) you believe that we let them in and then check their credentials as the party progress – that is, we show ample grace to all who come, including the children, and then check the fruit of the works over time. That's fine: the question is if the price of admission is so (and I am sorry to use this word) cheap.

You do not ask for a demonstration of faith prior to baptism, and that is my objection. I really admire the "high" version of Presbyterian polity for its grasp of accountability inside the church. I wish Baptists would examine it more closely. That is not my objection to the issue at hand.

My objection is that baptism is for the confessing believer only. Issuing baptism based on pedigree (again, an unfortunate term, but it conveys my meaning) ignores the definition of baptism – the actual rite as it was performed and described, not our inductive reasonings about baptism based on who we think received it -- in the NT.

| Faith without works is dead and a dead faith
| is a good way to land yourself outside the
| covenant. This is the basis of the practice of
| excommunication, a practice which goes
| back as far as there has been a covenant to
| belong to. Paul refers to this in places such
| as 1 Corinthians 5. This describes the
| process of putting a full-fledged covenant
| member out.

Well, again, you conflate "visible church" with "covenant" without warrant. Certainly 1Cor 5 talks about how to handle church disciple. It doesn't say anything about covenant membership.

| But all this is not to say that the purpose of
| church discipline is to separate the wheat
| from the chaff. Actually, since we're on the
| subject, I would argue for that parable as an
| example of what I mean. The field is the
| New Covenant. It has wheat and weeds that
| look just like the wheat. Since the wheat
| represents the individually regenerate (as
| seen by their final destination, God's barn),
| the only conclusion is that, since God
| explicitly tells his farmhands *not* to
| undertake the task of full separation, that
| chaff is every bit as much "in the field" as
| the wheat, at least until the judgment.

The "farmhands" are the angels in the parable you are citing, not the elders and pastors.

| Now, since you want to claim that "adult
| baptism was by far the rule as late as the
| third century," and since we're already
| throwing up block quotes from church
| fathers, I feel obligated to contribute:
| "The custom of our mother church in
| baptizing infants must not be . . . accounted
| needless, nor believed to be other than a
| tradition of the apostles."
| ~Augustine (354-430)
| "For this also it was that the church had
| from the Apostles a tradition to give baptism
| even to infants. For they to whom the divine
| mysteries were committed knew that there is
| in all persons a natural pollution of sin
| which must be done away by water and the
| Spirit."
| ~Origen (185-254)

No doubt some infants were baptized. The question is if all infants were baptized, and Augustine is a good example of one who was not.

And I hope I have kept this discussion between the ditches.