Dispensationalists Miss the Spiritual Aspect of the Covenants, but Paedobaptists Miss the Physical Aspects of the Old Covenants
Paedobaptists may claim that Abraham has “only one true seed–the spiritual seed”. But they still can’t let go of the fact that Abraham’s “carnal seed” were circumcised. Therefore, they still think that DNA has something to do with water baptism.
Those with DNA from Abraham were circumcised in the old covenant, and Paedobaptists say that those (in the first generation only) with DNA from Christian parents are to be baptized as infants.
Of course “biological descent from Abraham is never a sufficient reason for one to expect covenant blessings.” But paedobaptists say that biological descent IS ONE REASON to expect blessing.
WITHOUT biological descent, one had very little reason to expect blessing in the old covenant. I recall for you the rather strong language of Ephesians 2:12–”being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope…”
The new perspective not only neglects the law/grace distinction of the Mosaic covenant, but also fails to do justice to the “new individualism” of the new covenant. We do not get into the new covenant corporately by the cross, and then stay in individually by our works of faith, as NT Wright (with many others) would have it.
Not all of Israel is Israel or ever was Israel. God chooses individuals to be justified at the last day.
Of course conservative paedobaptists do “believe in” church discipline. They “abhor a nominal church.” Conservative paedobaptists only baptize infants of the first generation. They still attempt to determine if parents are believers before they will baptize their children. In this way, they attempt to avoid a nominal church, even if those now-believing parents were infant baptized by Unitarian Anglicans or Roman Catholics.
John Murray: “no organization of men is able infallibly to determine who are regenerate.” Of course. But then again, no presbytery can determine infallibly which parents are regenerate. And no preacher can infallibly preach God’s Word. And no magistrate can infallibly kill enemies. And no writer can infallibly free themselves of prejudice. We all know these things. How does that decide for us if a church includes the children of believers, or only those who profess regeneration?
Although more consistent paedobaptists practice infant communion, most paedobaptists have “criteria for adult membership”. The difference with baptists is finally not a less subjective claim to “certainty”; the difference is that paedobaptists have TWO kinds of church membership. So I ask you: does the new covenant have two kinds of membership?
It is simply not true that believer baptism encourage many rebaptisms during “crises of assurance.” It is true that believer baptism does advocate that those baptized have assurance of salvation.
But assurance–for credobaptists or for paedobaptists– should not be based on our continuing to meet “covenant conditions”. I Peter 3:21: “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Christ.” Gospel assurance does not come from a promise of ours to get busy and to keep working enough! “Dead works” come from that.
“Feeling that one must match the experiences of others” is not an error isolated to baptists. Believer baptism is no solution to a puritan produced (the practical syllogism) crisis of assurance: only the imputed righteousness of Christ can give us peace with God.
But a crisis of assurance can be a good thing!. It’s not a good thing to “join the church” without ever having a crisis of assurance. But if we follow the advise of Charles Hodges and Horace Bushnell, then our children will always presume themselves to be Christians.
Of course I know many paedobaptists who do not agree with Bushnell and Hodge! Nevertheless they makes any crisis of assurance less likely by putting into the covenant infants who do not profess salvation. Are the children of Christians to think of themselves as Christians from the beginning? Ask your local paedobaptist this question. And for extra credit, ask: Are the infants born to paedobaptists Christians in a better position after “water baptism” than the infants born to credobaptist Christians?
If someone has discovered that they did not become a Christian until after their “baptism”, then they are simply being obedient to God to disregard that previous ritual. You have to be prejudiced to call this “re-baptism”. Paedobaptists who do not practice infant communion shift the “crisis of assurance” to communion. Those who don’t know that they are justified are encouraged “to abstain”, at least in conservative paedobaptist groups.
It would be difficult for them to find this scruple in the old covenant with which they claim continuity. Passover was a family meal, with the children of the covenant included. But then again, the new covenant is different, and most paedobaptists’ practice of the Lord’s Supper shows that.
Yet many paedobaptist accuse all baptists of being some kind of “dispensationalist”. They accuse of us missing the spiritual dimensions of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. But they themselves miss the physical dimensions of the old covenants.
In Acts of course there is no second generation “born of Christian parents”. From this silence, some even infer that the second generation must have been baptized in their infancy. I am not against inferring but I would like to be rational in doing so. I get from this silence that Acts knows nothing of two kinds of baptism.
But Acts is not silent about one important matter: we read the record there of many Jews, who having already received the circumcision symbol of the old covenant, do not rest content with that infant symbol, but are water baptized after they believe. I infer, not from silence but from this clear pattern of events, that water baptism and circumcision are not only different, but also that water baptism is not a substitute for circumcision.
Circumcision has ended, not because water baptism has replaced it, but because Jesus has brought a new covenant.