Defective, Diminished, and Truncated; a challenge to the FV on Baptismal Regeneration

This is a post offering a small challenge to the FV’s understanding of baptismal regeneration.

First, I recognize that the FV has denied it believes in the common misunderstanding of baptismal regeneration (BR). As described in the FV Joint Statement, I disagree with that BR position as well.

Second, the language here of the Joint Statement can be understood to mean that the FV does not reject all BR positions. Indeed, as one proponent demonstrates (outlining the “common” FV BR position), it is clear that the FV does indeed affirm a form of BR.

I have no intention to be pejoratively maligning here. You can take the most egregious of terms, and if you sufficiently redefine them, make them fit for use and agreement with Biblical truth.

No, I’m not interested in a detailed drawn out refutation of the FV BR position. Rather I want to offer one biblical challenge to it. Thus, for the sake of discussion here, I am going to deal with the FV on its own terms.

The FV’s BR position is best described as covenantal baptismal regeneration (their). That, not all baptized are presumed to be vitally regenerate (inwardly regenerated as in when the Spirit vitally unites the decretally elect to Christ). Rather they are to be presumed covenantally regenerate. Consistent with the FV’s “we-can-only-see-the external, i.e., covenantal” hermeneutic, the FV argues that the vital perspective does not come into play. All we have is the external, the covenantal perspective.

(I’m leaving aside the question of functional-equivalency, the appearance that the FV’s distinctionse between covenantal vs. decretal perspectives effectively disappear, so that the latter is in effect equivalent to the former).

Applying the FV’s BR position leads to the presumption that all baptized children are presumed (covenantally) regenerate. This (and some other reasons according to the FV) qualifies them for participation in the Lord’s Supper (LS). If the LS is for the Family of God, and baptized children are (covenantally) regenerate, then they are right recipients of the LS.

At least this is how the FV argument goes. Now to my challenge:

I think I’m safe in saying that the FV agrees that at least in terms of sacramental functionality, circumcision in the OT equals baptism in the NT. Given this, it would follow that if a baptized child in the NT is covenantally regenerate, then a circumcised child in the OT is also. (The FV support for padeo-communion from the OT practice of padeo-passover tangentially at leasts supports that this is a fair logical inference of the FV’s position).

Given this, then we should find evidence in the OT that circumcised children were presumed to be (covenantally) regenerate. Or at least, we should not find evidence challenging this presumption.

I refer you to 1 Samuel 3:7, “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD,”

This is the passage in which Samuel, under the age of 13 at least (possibly much younger, still pre-K) was called by the Lord to the ministry of a prophet. Here is a par excellent example of an OT covenant child. Not simply circumsized, but raised from weening (3 or 4) in the tabernacle as an “adopted” son of the high priest. If anyone could be presumed to be covenantally regenerate, it was Samuel.

It is interesting to note that the language here is unambiguous. No FV “covenantal perspective” reading is allowed. In view in “knowing the Lord,” is expressly the decretal perspective. Samuel did not yet know the Lord as his Redeemer who had decretally regenerated him.

Now unless the FV wants to borrow from our credo-baptist brothers a discontinuity between circumcision and baptism, I offer that this biblical text effective contradicts the FV BR position.

If Samuel was to expect decretal, vital-regeneration before it could be said that he “knew” the Lord, how can we say that we are not to expect the same for our baptized children?

This, coupled with Romans 10:9-17 (profession of faith), is why I teach my children, and our congregation, to expect a profession of faith, that moment when they are able to voice their own affirmation, just like Samuel, that they have heard the voice of the Lord.

Note that this balances the covenantal and decretal perspectives as well. Of course we cannot know that the baptized child’s profession of faith does indeedflow from decretal regeneration. Yet this is the Bible’s way of coordinating the decretal and the covenantal perspectives. Baptized child are expected to offer a profession of faith because this is what the decretally regenerate children of God do. That reprobate baptized children can do the same does not eliminate the value of requiring this from our children.

In that the FV (at least) ignores this requirement it robs our children of an act of faith that God blesses. In that it has our children come to the Lord’s Table without such requirement, the FV exposes our children to the disciple (judgment) of the warnings associated with the LS.

In that the FV presumes (covenantal) regeneration, and ignores the need for evidence of decretal regeneration, it proposes we raise our children in a defective manner, at best offering them a diminished and truncated faith.

Samuel would be shocked and saddened.

Reed DePace

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206 Comments

  1. James Grant said,

    January 10, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Reed,

    Is it possible to read this passage as Samuel not yet knowing the Lord in light of his call as a prophet? I am a Baptist pastor (we met once at Twin Lakes), so I am not arguing for a FV reading. I think you left out a crucial part of the narrative by not quoting the context of the verse because it goes on to say, “and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.” It would be just as valid, and I would even say a stronger case, to read this passage as Samuel’s call as a prophet, not some conversion experience. In fact, this is the passage for Samuel’s prophetic call. At the end of the chapter we have this:

    “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD” (1 Samuel 3:19-21).

    Several things about these concluding verses: 1) it concerns Samuel’s words not falling to the ground, hence his role as a prophet. That is connected to the fact that what the Lord revealed to Samuel earlier about Eli was fulfilled, which is directly connected to God’s revelation of Himself to Samuel in verse 7; 2) The Lord appeared again and revealed himself again to Samuel at a later point after whatever happened in verse 7. I think it would be a legitimate question to ask if that was a conversion experience again, because we have the language that is similar to the second half of verse 7 that you didn’t quote: “and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.”

    What do you make of the later part of verse 7, and its connection to verse 21? If we are talking about Samuel’s role as a prophet in verse 21, then why not in verse 7?

    Thanks…James

  2. January 11, 2009 at 7:27 am

    James’ comment above seems to raise exactly the right questions. I have also heard this reading of the passage put forward by James Jordan before, if I am remembering correctly. The reading that you seem to be following strikes me as one that squeezes the text into a certain Reformed theological grid, with insufficient sensitivity to the specifics of the text itself.

    I would also remark that a number within the FV avoid putting much weight on the continuity between circumcision and Baptism, for all sorts of good reasons. The works of the Law/faith antithesis in Paul is closely related to a circumcision/baptism antithesis. There are undoubtedly continuities, but the discontinuities are perhaps even more important.

  3. David Gray said,

    January 11, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Pastor DePace,

    You aren’t arguing that infants can’t be regenerate prior to their ability to articulate a confession of faith, are you? (not trying to pick a nit, trying to make sure I understand you correctly)

    Pastor Wilson, at least, has argued that the effect of baptism is not tied to the moment in time where the baptism takes place. This would be compatible with your reading of Samuel. As you state above the FV seem to be arguing for a presumption of how we are to regard children of believers because we can’t know. The obvious exception to this is divine revelation from the One who DOES know. In Samuel’s case we can know because God has revealed it. This is not generally true of our covenant children. I certainly desire a confession of faith from my children but as a parent I’m sure you appreciate that the nature and specificity of such a confession evolves and deepens over time with both teaching and development. It is right and proper for children to confess their Lord as they are able but I presuppose regeneration would precede such a confession (if given in truth) but I would not be in a position to judge how much earlier (in the womb to minutes prior).

    It looks to me from your argument that it is all about how we are to treat children of the covenant when we cannot know their elect state. Consequently Samuel’s example doesn’t help much because we only know there because God has revealed it (if revealed the state of my sons in the same manner then I would know with equal certainty). The only point that could be derived is that baptism doesn’t communicate its benefits at the moment in time that the baptism is performed. The WCF is clear on this and at least Pastor Wilson seems to be in agreement with the WCF on that matter.

  4. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 7:51 am

    James: good to hear from you. I did take into consideration this point. What you are saying is either it refers to conversion or it refers to calling as prophet. My point is not either/or. It is both. Calling is first to regeneration. What we have is a statement that Samuel had not yet effectually been called.

    To fit an either/or scenario, we would need to see something in the text that made it clear that Samuel already knew the Lord as redeemer, and that this passage was talking only about a deeper knowing, as if in view his relationship has now been made deeper. Such comparative language is absent from the text.

    A Scripture compared with Scripture exercise will show that in context here, the notion of “knowing” the Lord cannot mean “knowing him more fully.” No, th Scripture here is a both/and. Samuel was not fit for the call of prophet unless he also called into relation with the Lord.

  5. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Alistair: I’m mean no disrespect in my disagreement with you here. You’ve taken the either/or explanation and used it to deny the argument. As you can tell from my comment to James, I believe you are wrong.

    As to making this fit into a “certain Reformed theological grid, with insufficient sensitivity to the specifics of the text itself.”, I note for you that you have stated your conclusion without sufficient proof. Again, refer to my comments to James. Yes I have delt with the text.

    In fact, the certain Reformed theological grid is nothing more than the grid of Scripture itself. Do a study on the Bible’ use of “know” with reference one’s knowledge of God. It will show that the one to it is predicated, he knows God, means that he is in a redemptive relationship with God. This text, when it says Samuel did not yet know God is saying that the redemptive relationship was not yet there, but about to come (through what followed).

    As to the FV nuances of continuity-discontinuity, you mean like making the text fit into a certain Reformed theological grid? That you reference Jordan gives me reason for confidence that the FV fitting here is some of the best pretzel twisting ever seen.

  6. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 8:09 am

    David: you are correct. I am not dealing with the issue of either tie or timing. I recognize the FV’s claim here.

    I am familiar with DW’s explanation of a credible profession fo faith for children. Is it in RINE where he gives the example of a not-yet speaking child who he believes gives a credible profession of faith via signs like pointing upward?

    At this point in the debate we get into what is a credible profession of faith. With you, I am in agreement with development after profession. In fact, expressing my faith as a parent, once my child has given a credible profession of faith, I no longer urge that onto them. Rather (in addition to urging pursuing of sanctification) I urge them to seek of the Lord assurance of grace and salvation.

    We will probably disagree (grateful irenically, thanks David), but I find DW’s understanding here to be yet another example of the FV’s functional-equivalence problem. The notion of a credible profession of faith means nothing in a setting where a 1 year old can give signs that we say we can interpret with confidence before God. I’m not arguing that this is mere convenience; I do believe DW is sincere. I am saying that his belief in the need for a credible profession of faith is meaningless.

    Also note here that the FV lite vs. dark ale illustration comes into view. Most (all?) of the other Joint Statement signers would be to the darker shade in comparison to DW. Thus my argument here is relevant to him, and more so for the rest.

  7. January 11, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Reed,

    I fail to see that the text supports your claim about what ‘knowing the Lord’ means (and I am well aware of how the expression is used elsewhere in Scripture; this is something that I have looked at in the past). Although there are passages where the expression ‘did not know the Lord’ might imply that the person in question is still in unbelief (Pharaoh, Hophni and Phineas), even in such passages the meaning of the expression seems to be subtly different from the sense in which you are using it (perhaps suggesting more of a refusal to acknowledge the Lord). James has already identified elements of the context that seem to support the idea that ‘saving knowledge’ is not the issue here.

    In addition to this, we need to recognize that many of our soteriological categories do not operate in quite the same way within the OT. The idea of God’s changing a man’s heart and making them a new person is only explicitly seen in the case of Saul (1 Samuel 10:6, 9). Regeneration in the stricter sense is a new covenant reality that was not experienced under the old covenant order, as we enter into the resurrection life of the Spirit in the resurrected Christ, as the firstborn from the dead.

    The connection between knowledge of the Lord in a personal relationship and salvation, I suspect, is another case where this difference between the old and new covenants needs to be taken into account. Prior to the new covenant, knowledge of the Lord was mediated to a far greater extent by prophets and priests to people who didn’t have a ‘personal’ relationship with God in the sense that we think of it. A ‘personal relationship’ with God has a far greater significance within the new covenant order (e.g. Jeremiah 31:30-34).

    My point here is not to defend the FV. I am just a spectator on these disputes; the FV simply is not much of an issue in my context in the UK. Although my sympathies are far more closely aligned with the FV writers, I don’t want to identify myself with a so-called FV movement (and I am not even persuaded that there is such a thing outside of the minds of its opponents), as my theological position differs in a number of respects from that of FV writers.

  8. Andrew said,

    January 11, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Reed,

    Your challenge is easily met.

    I Sam 2:11; 18; 26 speak of Samuel “ministering to the Lord”, “ministerng before the Lord” and growing “in favour with the Lord”. The latter phrase expecially suggests that Samuel was regenerate. Remembering your suggestion that we compare Scripture with Scripture, do you have any counter-examples where the Scriptures talk of unregenerate persons growing in God’s favour?

    This background, and the rest of v.7, which you did not quote, seems to explain the meaning of the phrase ‘not knowing the Lord’ –

    “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him”.

    The fact that this passage, at best ambigous for your purpose, is the strongest you can produce, speaks for itself. Additionally, your challenge can be inverted – why, if covenant children were regarded as unregenerate, do we not have a pile of conversion experiences recorded in Scripture?

    There are also plenty of passages which suggest that covenant children were viewed as regenerate, which we can elaborate on if you wish.

    I also think you need to be tactically careful. The FVer’s point to passages where all church members are described as elect, saints etc to argue that this must in some sense be true of those addressed. Lane’s response, and I think it works, is to regard these as charitable judgements – i.e. we must assume the best about our fellow church members, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary. That this judgement of charity includes children is evidenced by that that a) we are not baptists and b) certain of the epistles explicitly address the children. But if you dismiss the judgement of charity, you will struggle i think to answer this FV challenge.

    And finally, it might be helpful, if you were to acknowledge that treating covenant children as regenerate is a traditional (if not actually the mainstream) Reformed perspective, not some sort of FV pecularity.

  9. James Grant said,

    January 11, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Reed,

    Thanks for the response. I don’t think you answered what I pointed out in the context, and you still didn’t address the later part of the verse, which you left out. I agree Scripture needs to be compared to Scripture, but I also think the context is crucial to your interpretation of a passage, and you left out the context with the second half of verse 7 (not to mention the previous chapter, as I point out below).

    You said:

    A Scripture compared with Scripture exercise will show that in context here, the notion of “knowing” the Lord cannot mean “knowing him more fully.” No, the Scripture here is a both/and. Samuel was not fit for the call of prophet unless he also called into relation with the Lord.

    That was precisely my point. The context is indicating that there is a progressive knowledge of the Lord going on here. The verse you quoted, verse 7, reads not just, “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD” but the passage goes on to say, “and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.” His knowledge of the Lord is directly connected to the word of the Lord being revealed to him.

    Samuel did not yet know the Lord
    the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him

    I think it is very difficult to get tom some kind of conversion experience here. The point of the verse is that Samuel not knowing the Lord is connected to the Word of the Lord not yet being revealed to him. I see no way to avoid that connection. Then it is strengthened by the end of the narrative in 1 Samuel 3:21-“And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.”

    Again, we have a statement about the Lord being revealed to Samuel by the Word. Samuel’s knowledge of the Lord grew, unless you want to place a strong wedge between knowledge and revelation here, which I am not willing to do.

    Along with this textual evidence, the previous post pointed out the broader context of chapter 2, where verse 26 says that Samuel grew in “favor with the Lord.” If he wasn’t “converted” until 3.7, then how can he grow in favor with the Lord. According to what you argued, how can an unregenerate person grow in favor with the Lord?

  10. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    All:

    You are arguing from an either/or scenario. None of you have addressed my point here.

    James, I did take into consider the point you made, including the latter verses. Yes, the context is that Samuel was being called to the ministry of the prophet. Your understanding requires a progressive reading of this verses, “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, as the Word who calls him to the ministry of prophet.”

    My point is that there is nothing in the text requiring your progressive reading. Further, the emphasis is not on degrees of knowing the Lord. The emphasis is on the “yetness” of knowing the Lord. I.e., the difference is not of degrees, but of yes or no; either one knows the Lord or does not know the Lord.

    Again, the broader context of Scripture will demonstrate that this usage of “knowing” is of a regenerative nature. Alistair’s comments do not change this.

  11. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Alistair:

    Your support is not to deny my understanding of knowing the Lord (you’ve generalized). Your support is found in the continuity-discontinuity issues you identify.

    Frankly, I think you over-read the discontinuities. The following list demonstrates “know” the Lord is to be understood from a regenerative perspective: Exod. 5:2; Jdg. 2:10; 1 Sam. 2:12; Isa. 19:21; Jer. 31:34; Hos. 2:20; 6:3; Heb. 8:11. Note that all these are in the OT as well.

    Discontinuities are seem in terms of the progress of the fulfillment of the plan of redemption. Discontinuities are not seen in terms of the individual’s experience of redemption:

    WCF 7.5

    This covenant [CoG] was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.

  12. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Andrew:

    You mean my challenge is erroneously met.

    Your first two references are simply in reference to Samuel serving in the tabernacle (1Sam 2:11, 18). Nothing here requires that he is regenerated in this service. If not for 1Sam 3:7’s explicit statement, you might have a point, especially from the perspective of the judgment of charity.

    Your second reference (1Sam 2:26) again does not discuss anything about Samuel’s regenerative status. You read into a silence you see here, eisegeting your presupposition. Again, 1Sam 3:7 requires otherwise.

  13. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Andrew:

    I appreciate the turn the tables attempt in your use of the judgment of charity. You’ve simply misapplied it.

    Of course we treat children with the judgment of charity, whether we follow the FV BR position or not. Under the FV, this judgment of charity is applied sans a profession of faith. Under the position informed by Rom 10:9-17, this charity judgment occurs after the profession of faith.

    So, sorry, but I do not think your arguments here apply.

    And no, I do not acknowledge that the presumption of regeneration sans a profession of faith is traditional (mainstream or otherwise). I’m aware of the historical debate, and that both positions are present in reformed history. I’ve seen enough data to observe that the minority position has been the presumptive regeneration position, no matter how formulated.

    This is the last I will respond to that issue here. This is not a matter of debate for me, and is an unnecessary distraction to the challenge I am offering.

  14. Pete Myers said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    #Alistair

    Hi! I’m also from the UK… good to see another Brit around here.

    #10, Reed,

    Errr… it does feel a little bit, in this case, like you may just be pushing the verse too far. So, the big issue of the passage is that God’s Word was rare in Israel (v1), and the writer of Samuel is making a big deal of the fact that – in the context of the nations downward spiral, God was taking an important initiative in revealing himself further, in order to do something new.

    v7 actually has the idea of Samuel not “knowing” the Lord tightly connected with “the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.”

    In a nation that’s forgotten the Lord’s voice, the Lord speaks to a boy who’s never heard the Lord speak before. While I recognise, that, regeneration fits very nicely (actually I agree with you), it’s an issue of – can that interpretation bear the weight you’re putting on it?

    For your argument to work, the idea of “knowing” has to be regeneration. I just wouldn’t want to put as much weight on that interpretation if there’s good reasons in the text to say the phrase simply means “didn’t know the Lord’s voice”, and I’m importing the meaning of regeneration from a word study. If you could provide a good exegetical reason that supports the regeneration reading – then your argument might be strong enough to put that much weight on it.

    So, while I agree that this is probably regeneration – it’s just too thin to build an anti-FV case on in my opinion.

    Sorry to disagree with you Reed…

  15. Pete Myers said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    #Reed,

    I like reading your comments. But when you give a long string of them, it’s hard to keep up!

  16. James Grant said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Reed,

    Will you please answer this question: According to what you argued, how can an unregenerate person grow in favor with the Lord?

    Thanks,

    James

  17. James Grant said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Sorry for not listing the reference, but that question comes from 1 Samuel 2:26 – “Now the young man Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man.”

  18. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    James:

    You are working overtime to miss things, it seems to me:

    You say,

    I think it is very difficult to get tom some kind of conversion experience here. The point of the verse is that Samuel not knowing the Lord is connected to the Word of the Lord not yet being revealed to him. I see no way to avoid that connection. Then it is strengthened by the end of the narrative in 1 Samuel 3:21-”And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.”

    Your reference to 3:21 merely strengths my point – again the Lord appeared. Contrasted with the prior appearance, that must have been the first. Again you are artificially limiting this to either calling to ministry or calling to regeneration. It is both.

    You say,

    Again, we have a statement about the Lord being revealed to Samuel by the Word. Samuel’s knowledge of the Lord grew, unless you want to place a strong wedge between knowledge and revelation here, which I am not willing to do.

    You are the one with the wedge, not me. I am affirming “knowledge” AND “revelation,” not either/or.

    You said,

    Along with this textual evidence, the previous post pointed out the broader context of chapter 2, where verse 26 says that Samuel grew in “favor with the Lord.” If he wasn’t “converted” until 3.7, then how can he grow in favor with the Lord. According to what you argued, how can an unregenerate person grow in favor with the Lord?

    Two thoughts, first: the covenantal context comes into view here. You are reading an inference into what I’ve said that is not there. In point of fact, it is an ordinary aspect of the CoG that those in covenant externally only are nevertheless in a relationship with God that has a degree of blessing to it better than those outside the covenant.

    Second, nothing in the text requires a strict chronological reading of 1Sam 2:26 and 3:7. In fact, the repetition in 3:1 of the lanaguage of 2:11 suggests that the author is actually taking us back to an event occuring prior to 2:26, expanding and giving details in 3:7 ff., of which 2:26 is a general review of the results.

  19. James Grant said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    WOW. You are working overtime to read your theology into the text, and I agree with some of your theology. It is just not here. You would be wise to find another passage to deal with FV. I do fear that you desire to deal with their theology is clouding your judgment here.

    But we can just disagree on this one brother.

    Grace–James

  20. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Pete:

    Sorry :) I try to break ‘em up, but that seems to only give me more excuse to wax not so eloquently.

    I’ll try harder.

  21. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Thanks James. Interesting it is still baptism. Glad it does not separate us.

  22. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Pete:

    No problem. Look up the references I listed for Alistair. Pretty strong conclusion – same construction, same kind of context.

    It seems to me that there is just too much willingness to say EITHER it refers to regeneration OR it refers to calling to ministry.

    Meanwhile, nothing in the context demands such bifurcation. Further, other Scripture illumines what it means to “know the Lord,” i.e., regeneration.

    Note that it is not prerequisite to “know the Lord” in order to be called to the ministry of prophecy. I refer you to Saul’s brief service in such ministry, the High Priests at Jesus’ trial, of God’s express use of unregenerate in said ministry. I.O.W., if we want to be sticklers about it, seems to me we’d have to say, IF we have to make a choice, regeneration is the choice with more Biblical support.

    But then again, I’m not the one saying let’s make a choice. Why these repetive arguments ignoring this response brothers?

  23. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Note Pete, the argument does not rest on this alone. In fact, it is better to say that this verse is illustrative of the foundational principle expressed in Rom 10:9-17. Does this passage teach that a profession of faith is the norm, the rule, for covenant children or not.

    I’m aware of the FV arguments that it does not. I find them yet more sophistry. 1Sam 3:7 illustrates this in a dramatic way.

  24. David Gray said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Pastor DePace,

    Re #13. I think you’re taking on a wide swath of the reformed world here, not just the FV advocates.

  25. January 11, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Reed,

    This is a forced reading of the text, if I ever saw one! It is precisely these sorts of exegetical gymnastics in the name of the confessional tradition that push people in the direction of the FV and other such movements.

  26. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    David:

    We’ve debated this here before (as you know). I’m comfortable (for example), as much as I appreciate from Abraham Kuyper’s ministry, that he was wrong in presumptive (baptismal) regeneration. I’m comfortable disagreeing with the FV as well.

    Scripture does not teach we presume regeneration for baptized children. We presume that God will keep His promise in baptism (to all whom it rightly belongs), and in response seek a profession of faith from them.

  27. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Alistair: I’m sorry you see it this way. I recognize your sincerity in your arguments. Please bear with me when I say that they exemplify the kind of sophistry regularly found in the FV.

    Shoot, this is a secondary topic within the FV. It is not of first order magnitude. If anything, if you are right (I don’t think so), my argument is just silly and easily ignored by the FV.

  28. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Alastair: I apologize for not spelling your name correctly. Thanks for ignoring that mistake.

  29. David Gray said,

    January 11, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Pastor DePace,

    I was simply trying to note that in this regard the FV is in the mainstream of the reformed tradition and you are not. I remember an essay by David Wells regarding how the views of Thornwell and other southern presbyterians on the status of covenant children were in a distinct minority in this regard (and his views seem to be in accord with yours). This isn’t to say you’re wrong (although I believe you are) but rather to note that while the FV may have views that are off the reservation how they view the status of covenant children in this regard doesn’t seem to be one of them.

  30. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Yes David, I did get that point. I could be wrong in my remembrance of the historical record, and you may be right. I don’t think so, but … :)

    My main point was that this issue is tangential at best to what I’m observing. I wasn’t trying to debate or argue with you anything else.

  31. David Gray said,

    January 11, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Understood…

  32. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 11, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Hi Reed,

    I’m not persuaded (yet) of your read on this passage. Let me explain why, and then perhaps you can enlighten me.

    In 1 Sam 2, Samuel enters in contrast to Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas. He is to be the “faithful priest” (1Sam 2.35) who leads and serves Israel.

    So, he grows up “in the presence of the Lord” (2.21). In contrast to Eli’s sons (vv. 22-25) who resist the word of the Lord through their father and act so as to bring public disgrace upon themselves, Samuel grows in favor with God and man (v. 27).

    All of this occurs prior to his calling in ch. 3. If we stop here, the picture that we have is of a young man who is under God’s favor and who lives in God’s presence.

    All of this now leads into Samuel’s calling:

    3.1 “The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli. In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions…”

    3.7 “…Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD : The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. ”

    What does this phrase “not yet know the Lord” mean, in the surrounding context? There is no indication that Samuel might possibly be an unbeliever at this point in the narrative. Rather, the phrase appears to mean that Samuel had not yet heard the voice of the Lord to know it as the voice of the Lord.

    The one argument against this, which is the one you raised, is that other uses of the phrase “know the Lord” refer typically to salvific knowledge of the Lord, as word study shows.

    And yet, we would agree that context is normally determinative over against bare word usage.

    Continuing in the context: we have no indication that Samuel experiences a conversion, or repentance from sin. In fact, quite the contrary: he receives a message for Eli and sons to repent.

    Then, the pericope ends with the confirmation of Samuel’s calling: “The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” (3.21)

    So it appears, contextually, that the phrase “know the Lord” in 3.7 does not have reference to salvation.

    What say you?

    Jeff Cagle

  33. Reed Here said,

    January 11, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Jeff:

    Do you see a parallel between 2:11-12 and 3:1? That is, do you see the introductory format of both?

    1 Samuel 2:11Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy ministered to the LORD in the presence of Eli the priest.

    1 Samuel 3:1 Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

    And then the contrast between 1Sam 2:12 and 3:7?

    1Sam 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD.

    1 Sam 3:7 Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.

    Why is it either/or? Why is it not both/and? It seems to me the first pair are both introductory, and mitigate against consecutiveness.

    But if even not, does not the contrast between the last two show it clearly? In view with Eli’s son’s is not merely that they did not prophecy. In view is that they are not saved.

    Why then must we insist that 3:7 only refers to calling to the office of prophet? Why cannot it not be consistent with the contrast with it’s immediate context, 2:12, and consistent with the broader salvific use of “know the Lord”?

    I.O.W., what in the text requires us to limit 3:7 to the idea that Samuel did not know God his prophet only? If the context of contrast with Eli’s sons (clearly dominant), and the broader context refers to salvation, why can’t this text refer to salvation, in order that Samuel might be fit for the ministry?

    I’m not sure why we’d need to see additional conversion details (repentance, et.al.). We clearly see faith, “speak Lord, for your servant listens.”

    It continues to interest me that I’m arguing for the broader reading, while everyone else argues for the narrower reading. Usually it’s the other way around :)

  34. Todd said,

    January 11, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    This is a tough one, but some possible thoughts in support of Reed’s interpretation:

    1. If the “not knowing the Lord” referred to Samuel not knowing his calling as prophet, or in not yet recognizing God’s voice, wouldn’t the text say, “Samuel did not know the Lord *because* the Word of the Lord was not yet revealed to him.” Yet the author makes two statements about Samuel that cannot mean the same thing, one, he did not know the Lord, and two, the Word had not been revealed to him.

    2. I Sam 2:12 is too close behind not to see a connection. Hard to imagine the Israelites hearing the same phrase so soon again and yet with such a different meaning. Why wouldn’t the author say, Samuel had not heard the Lord’s voice before as a reason for the confusion? “Knowing the Lord” is used so often for salvation or true belief that it’s hard to imagine it being used so differently here.

    3. Is there not some sort of negative value judgment in the fact that Samuel did not recognize the voice of the Lord, even after repeated revelations? Could this irony underscore the lamp of God going out in the Temple (v.3); underscore the whole mess that was Israel at the time, including her priests and prophets in training?

    4. Where in the Bible is not knowing one’s calling, or office, or even in recognizing God’s voice, ever described as “not knowing the Lord?”

    Thanks,

    Todd

  35. Pete Myers said,

    January 12, 2009 at 1:53 am

    #26, Reed,

    “Scripture does not teach we presume regeneration for baptized children.”

    Errrr… hang on. I think I disagree with this big time, Reed! Unless I’ve misunderstood you.

    I presume regeneration/salvation for my children, therefore I baptise them. I expect them to grow into a profession of faith, because I expect them to be already united to Christ.

    I realise that God may sovereignly choose not to do that. But their being born as infants to Christian parents is as good as an adult profession of faith in providing evidence for salvation, and therefore they get baptised.

    To repeat – as they grow up, my kids may prove themselves to never have been regenerate (I pray that won’t be the case!) – but at the moment I have good reason to say they are. That’s why I’m an infant baptist.

    Do you disagree with that, Reed? And if so – why are you an infant baptist!

  36. David Gadbois said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:57 am

    We don’t baptize on the basis of presumed regeneration. Kuyper got that one wrong (again, Berkhof’s response in his ST was right). We baptize infants “since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God”, as the Heidelberg puts it.

  37. Pete Myers said,

    January 12, 2009 at 5:24 am

    #36 David,

    But in virtue of their being included in the church of God, I have some evidence that they’re genuine Christians, do I not?

    Obviously, that evidence may turn out to be faulty.

    I certainly treat them as genuine Christians. I teach them to pray “Our Father…” I tell them not to sin, because Christ has died for them… I certainly can’t see how discipline works unless it’s on the basis of grace.

  38. Pete Myers said,

    January 12, 2009 at 5:29 am

    #36 David,

    I’ve got to say, this is a turn up for the books for me!

    I’m a UK Anglican Evangelical. The idea of the charitable assumption that our infants are regenerate is even in our liturgy. Not making this charitable assumption is exactly the sort of “baptistic thinking” that you guys get accused by the FV of doing.

    I’m not making a pop with that – I’m just surprised, that’s all.

  39. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Reed (#33):

    Thanks for your response. I have no problem with an either/or reading in principle. What is surprising, however, is that if 1 Sam 3 is recording Samuel’s conversion, it is entirely free of his repentance or conviction of sin.

    Rather, God’s word to Samuel contains a message of condemnation for Eli’s sin (and progenies’).

    Additionally, your reading would require that the phrases in 1 Sam 2 “grew up in the presence of the Lord” and “grew in favor with God” do *not* indicate salvation on his part at that time.

    So I am still a little hesitant about your reading [b]not[/b] because the passage must be “either calling or conversion”, [b]but[/b] because there’s little contextual support for conversion.

    Put it this way: Suppose Samuel were joining your church as a new member. And suppose at his meeting with the elders he was asked for his testimony, “I woke up one night and God gave me a message that you, Reed, are to repent of your sin.” — would you take that as a credible profession of faith?!

    :)

    Regards,
    Jeff Cagle

  40. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Ack! 1st para:

    “I have no problem with a both/and reading in principle.”

    and the square brackets should of course be angle brackets instead.

    Reed, I realized why I felt the need to test your reading a bit. If indeed this passage serves as an effective counter-example to covenantal regeneration, then it needs to be rock-solid.

    If an advocate of covenantal regeneration reads your account of 1 Sam 3.7 and says, “That’s a possible reading — but I don’t read the passage that way”, then the force of your reading as a counter-example drains away.

    The only way that your challenge works, then, is if your reading is the only possible one. Are you that certain of your reading?

    Jeff Cagle

  41. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Pete,

    David pretty succinctly points you in the right direction, namely that our confessional tradition teaches not presumptive regneration but a covenantal theology; our children are included in the covenant and thus are marked as such.

    We understand baptism to be God’s initiation of grace. We then promise to instruct them in the faith (read: catechism), hoping and praying earnestly that they will respond in kind (read: profession of faith), thus being welcomed at the Table. We don’t over-realize what happens in baptism (presumptive regeneration), not do we under-realize it (credo-baptism). The FV may accuse of “baptistic” thinking, but this is only because it has more in common with “Romanist” thinking. Broadly speaking, credos descend from a radical reformation that typcially accuses the paedobaptistic Reformation of not going far enough, and contrariwise, Rome conflates us with the radicals. In many ways, the specific question of baptism reveals how much of this in general is a warmed over debate between Romanists, Genevanists and Muensterists.

  42. January 12, 2009 at 8:11 am

    “the specific question of baptism reveals how much of this in general is a warmed over debate between Romanists, Genevanists and Muensterists.”

    Can’t we please just leave the cheese out of this, gentlemen?

  43. David Gray said,

    January 12, 2009 at 8:36 am

    >David pretty succinctly points you in the right direction, namely that our confessional tradition teaches not presumptive regneration but a covenantal theology; our children are included in the covenant and thus are marked as such.

    Thornwell and company are odd men out in our confessional tradition…

  44. David Gadbois said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    David Gray, it is a big mistake to confuse Berkhof and the HC with “vipers in diapers” types like Thornwell.

  45. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Zrim (#41):

    The thing is, though, that both David Gadbois and Pete M are correct. We do indeed baptize children because they belong to the covenant. And, we teach children to pray and worship because they rightly belong to the covenant — which fact means that we should treat them as Christians rather than as pagans.

    So for example, we don’t merely catechize our children hoping that it will bear fruit in profession of faith. If that were the case, then we would evangelize them like Baptists do.

    Instead, we catechize them and allow them to participate in worship because they rightly belong. They are “holy” in the sense of 1 Cor 7.

    There is a spectrum of belief wrt covenant children, with Luther representing one end of the Reformational teaching, and Thornwell representing the other.

    Here are two different takes:

    Rob Rayburn
    Joel Beeke

    Pete M, as you continue to investigate this, let me encourage you to separate out some different questions:

    (1) Why do we baptize our children?
    (2) What does baptism accomplish?
    (3) When does it accomplish this?
    (4) To what extent do we treat our children as if they are Christians?

    It is clear that if we answer (4) with an absolutist position, then we run the risk of either recapitulating the error of the Pharisees — covenantal nomism with circumcision (baptism) as the badge of inclusion, OR recapitulating the error of the Anabaptists — covenantal volunteerism, with baptism as the badge of one’s outward profession of faith.

    Keep reading!

    Jeff Cagle

  46. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    David G (#44):

    Exactly. There are more views than two.

  47. Todd said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Jeff,

    I never thought treating our covenant children as Christians and presuming they are Christians are the same thing; or are you suggesting they are?

    Todd

  48. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    No. 40, Jeff: not sure you and I are tracking together here.

    I understand you to be saying, the passage is not about conversion, rather it is about calling to the prophetic ministry.

    I am saying, it is about both. Further, I am saying that this is supported both from silence and from context:

    > Silence: nothing in the text requires the either/or reading. There is nothing expressly in the text that requires the inference that it is only about calling to ministry is actually a required inference. All the examples from the text you (and others have offered) do not necessity the inference.

    > Context, broader: it seems we agree that the common use of “know the Lord” is regenerative in understanding. Is it not a rule of Scripture interprets Scripture that a broader context usage applies only to the degree it is modified by the immediate context? If so, I refer you back to the silence point. There is nothing in the context to tell us to say, “everywhere it refers to regeneration, but here it cannot.” Therefore, it is immediately a reference to regeneration, in the application context calling to ministry.

    >Context, immediate: the contrast with Eli’s son (1 Sam 2:12) demonstrates the necessity of the “both” reading. In view is not a simply comment that the men were not regenerate. In view was that they were not regenerate, and therefore not fit for the ministry calling as priests. In other words, both regenerative status AND ministry calling are in view. This is exactly the contrast made with Samuel, both by the exact same word usage and the development of the contrasting storylines (Eli’s sons failure; Samuel’s success).

    As to the chronological necessity, that one cannot be said to grow in wisdom/stature with the Lord until one is regenerate, where does this rock solid principle come from? I recognize the logic of the inference. I’m not comfortable requiring one inference on the basis of another inference. Do you have some Biblical support?

    How about, “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jer 1:5)? How is it possible for God to “know” Jeremiah, to know him in terms of salvation before he was even created? Obviously the answers rests in the decree to election, here made personal. Admittedly, this is not 1-for-1 proof opposite your inference. It is categorically of the same kind that would challenge your assumption (that it could not be said of Samuel before conversion that he grew in God’s favor). Both see the anticipation of future result spoken of as present prior to the historicity of the result.

    I suggest that a covenantal notion is in view here. Samuel, as at least an external member of the Covenant is being spoken of in an anticipatory manner in1Sam 2:26 (et.al.), and in 1Sam 3 we have the particular development/fulfillment of that which is anticipated.

    More, I think you recognize the telescopic recapitulation reading of Gn 2:5-25 (narrowing in and focusing a particular aspect of Gen 1:1-2:4). I.e., there are not two different, contradictory creation accounts here, even though the language of 2:4 sure sounds like the author is starting all over again.

    I admit this is not necessarily the strongest argument answering your chronological concern. Yet I do think the language in 1Sam 2 demonstrates sufficient repetetive parallels with 1 Sam 3 that what very well may be going on is a telescoping recapitulation. 1Sam 3:1ff. is explaining why, when, how Samuel grew in favor with God.

    As to Samuel’s profession of faith Jeff, you’re making me laugh. In seriousness though, if it were not for the teaching of the NT, most effectively summarized on this point by Heb 1:1-2, as an elder in the OT Church I would be obligated to accept such testimony, and then expect Samuel to demonstrate the fruits of such conversion. And is this not what Eli does? ;-)

  49. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Nos. 35 ff., Pete: I do have sympathy with the questions you are asking. I did the same thing quite a bit as I was deepening my understanding of the nature of the covenant.

    Here is an example of the need for distinguishing what we mean by our terms, and making sure they are consistent with the Bible’s testimony. E.g., you say “genuine Christians.” Not to be smarmy, but one needs to explain what these terms mean, simply because the subject (baptism) requires it.

    You’ve been offered good advice on the direction of the answer for those of us who disagree with the FV. Let me just focus on a few.

    > Here we deal with the distinction between what is meant by being internally vs. externally in the covenant, visible vs. invisible. The FV does not like this distinquishing, wanting to not speak in this manner. (I’m not saying that they categorically reject it; but they do come close.)

    I refer you to the FV Joint Statement on baptism and you will see the kinds of language that demonstrates no distinguishing. What do you mean genuine or real, and how is that to be distinguished biblically, in terms of the NEVCM, and the EVCM?

    > The next step is to then apply your covenantal understanding. Fundamentally the FV and its critics apply the covenantal understanding differently. My point in this post is possibly the focal point where these differences are most critical.

    I treat my baptized children as external members of the CoG, with the concommital promise of better blessings than those not externally in-covenant with God. The initial blessing I seek evidence of in their lives is regeneration. I do this because the NT explicitly (the OT implicitly) makes this the next step. I do not assume they are regenerate until I have biblical warrant to assume that, to wit: until they have offered a credible profession of faith.

    Are they under the ministry of God better than those outside the covenant? Yes! God has given a promise to them (to all to whom it properly belongs) that He will apply to them, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Christ and his benefits, washing away their sins, cleansing them , i.e., regenerating them. I preach to them these truths and I call on them to seek the fulfillment of this promise. I do this because this is where God has called me to walk by faith.

    The critical difference lies in the timing of the assumption. To assume regeneration from birth contradicts the assumption that a profession of faith is called for. Some may minister via both principles, yet they offer a confused explanation of how God works. We should be surprised to find contention in our churches over this issue then.

  50. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Jeff,

    Re #45:

    I am with Todd. Treating children as members of the covenant and treating them as evidenced believers are distinct, otherwise, hop scotching over instruction and paedocommuion wins. We presume true faith will be granted until or unless we have reason to believe otherwise. Granted, it appears that we are treating them as those with evidenced true faith. But we really aren’t…yet. If we conflate our understanding of their covenant membership with true faith we make the errors of either the Romanists or the credo-baptists as they attempt to solve the mysterious tension.

    Moreover, equating what credos do with what we do is a problem. Thankfully, credos don’t really behave consistently even with their own system (read: treat their children like pagans and evangelize them). What they do is behave like paedos who don’t baptize and catechize in a whole different fashion. In all my time as a credo I never really saw children being evangelized.

  51. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    No. 50, SteveZ; yep my experience too. Seems to me we keep being challenged that is either/or, either treat your children as regenerate and therefore catechize them, or treat them as regenerate and evangelize them.

    Meanwhile the word tells parents to raise their children in the admonition of the Lord, via catechizing as an express application, because he will use that as a means of grace in their lives, to conversion or otherwise in sanctification.

    Simply silly to insist either/or when the Scriptures give us a simple way to express our faith in God’s promise to our children.

  52. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Todd (#47) and Zrim (#50):

    I think we are generally in the same ballpark here. My point was that it is possible to reject, say, “covenantal regeneration” and yet not be an anabaptist; it is possible to accept a “judgment of charity” and yet not be Lutheran. That’s all.

    What they do is behave like paedos who don’t baptize and catechize in a whole different fashion. In all my time as a credo I never really saw children being evangelized.

    I grew up in a Bible-teaching Southern Baptist church — the push to make a “personal profession of faith” was very strong. Not that it’s all bad! Quite the contrary. But it also has some weaknesses, and one of those is a schizoid view of children, a quasi-covenantal approach.

    Jeff Cagle

  53. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Reed,

    Re #51:

    Word. The quest to solve mysteries is a busy little task-master. And you can call me Zrim.

    Jeff,

    Re #52:

    In the same way, it is possible to reject Tradition 2 (or T3: Magisterium of the moment) without being a biblicist. (And it’s possible to embrace two-kingdoms without being a Lutheran.)

    True, it’s not all bad. But without it being grounded in baptism and with an eye toward communing it doesn’t make as much sense, unless privatized and individuated spiritualism is the point over against a public and churchly piety. Plus, Reformed don’t do “pushing” very well. That’s the revivalists.

  54. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Re 47

    Todd,

    Presumption of regeneration and treating our children as christians are identical – indeed, that would be my working definition.

    It is similar to the legal doctrine of presumption of innocence. The state treats you as innocent until shown otherwise.

    In practice the question is simple: would you pray the Lord’s prayer with your child, teaching them to approach God as father?

    If you would, you are, regardless of your theology, living out a mature and full view of the covenant . If you presume that our children are unregenerate, or agnostic on the matter, teaching them to approach God in prayer is an exerise in hypocrisy.

    And if we cannot pray with our children, then we are in the darker reaches of baptistdom, and should probably refrian from having children at all.

  55. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Andrew: good example of the either/or defective understanding I’m challenging.

    It is not hypocrisy to exercise my faith in God’s covenant promises to my children – and teach them to call on Him as Father in anticipation of Him bringing forth their cry of faith – consistent with the Scriptures.

  56. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Andrew,

    Re #54:

    And if we cannot pray with our children, then we…should probably refrian from having children at all.”

    Yeow. By your logic, then, American citizens shouldn’t walk into stores and buy stuff for their kids, lest they be wrongly accused of stealing (read: presumed guilty) when they tell their children the stuff is theirs before it is actually purchased at the register and deliberately grasped in their hands. That might keep the little vipers from bugging us at Target, but it’s not good American policy or Reformed practice…to say nothing of not doing much for populating the earth and church.

  57. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Reed,

    Your posisiton is it itself one of presumptive regeneration, albeit a rather peculiar one . You justify treating your children as Christians (by encouraging them to approach God as ‘Father’) because you hope/believe they will be regenerated. That is, you seem to be suggesting presumptive future regeneration.

    I am not too concerned with disagreeing, as our practice would then be the same.

    But the posistion seems impossible:

    You pray ‘Our Father’ with your son, treating him as a brother in Christ. Then you go on the internet and say you actually think he is not a brother at all. Something seems wrong. Were it an adult we would call it slander and backbiting.

  58. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    To clarify – I don’t mean you are actually abusing your actual children (if you have any of tender years); merely this is what your posistion entails.

  59. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Zrim –

    Treating God as one’s Father is behaving as a Christian, now. If you are a christian, good. If you are not, that it is evil. If you belive someone is not a Christian (i.e your two year old) you should not encourage them to approach God in this way.

    Your anaolgy would be better if we compared it to children eating stuff of the shelves before it is paid for – and I am quite happy to discourage that.

  60. Todd said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Andrew,

    Knowing that God has a special relationship with my children, distinguished from the world’s children, does not mean I assume they are regenerate. If you admit it is possible your children are unregenerate, and yet knowing this you still encourage them to pray, “Our Father,” how is that different from what we are doing? There is no promise in Scripture that children of Christian parents will be regenerated at all, let alone from birth or childhood. They are holy (I Cor 7:14) and set apart with great privileges and responsibilities; that’s all we know for sure. We cannot presume anymore than that.

    Todd

  61. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Andrew,

    How should our children approach God then: “My father’s Father who is in heaven…?”

    My wife lets ours eat off the shelf sometimes. All you do is show the cashier the barcode. She has yet to get arrested. I was agahst when I saw her do this. But that was when I was a credo. Shopping with Presbyterians is so much better.

  62. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Andrew,

    So what should our children pray, “My father’s Father who is in heaven…?”

    My wife lets ours eat off the shelves all the time. All you have to do is show the barcode to the cashier. She has yet to get arrested. I was aghast at this at first. But that’s when I was still a credo. Shopping with Presbyterians and smart moms is the best.

  63. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Andrew:

    No, I don’t believe I am doing what you say I’m doing. In fact, as I think of how I’ve shepherded my children, I know I am not.

    The problem comes down to an equivocation, a flattening of the word “Christian” as you are using it. It appears you are not recognizing, practically speaking, the distinction between visible/invisible. Not operating out of that presupposition, you can only hear me arguing for a confused (hypocritical) application.

    But with a fuller development and appreciation for the covenantal blessings belonging to those externally associated with the CoG, such confusion (appeareances of hypocrisy disappear).

    And no, I don’t think my position is novel. Your explanation of it is, but then I don’t believe you are accurately representing me :)

  64. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    And Andrew, in light of my contention that you are not accurately representing either what I’ve said or believe, you need to reconsider the application of such words as slander and backbiting. I too struggle with over-stating things at times, so I find it easier to be patient and gentle in response to such offensiveness.

  65. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    The problem, Todd, is that in practice, we go beyond telling our children of a ‘special relationship’.

    That would work like this: “Dear children, you are unregenerate and going to hell unless you repent. God has placed you in privledged circumstances to make it easier for you to do so.”

    It would not justify treating them as Christians – i.e. praying together as a family, telling them that Jesus died for them, singing in church together, or teaching them with reasons that presume a relationship with God (such as Paul does in Eph 6 – obey your parents ‘in the Lord’, or God does with the preamble and 5th commandment in Ex. 20).

    If I believe it is my duty to treat them as Christians, then all of these things are possible.

    You say:

    “There is no promise in Scripture that children of Christian parents will be regenerated at all, let alone from birth or childhood”.

    I assume you wish to clarify this by saying ‘not every child’ or something. Unless, of course, you are a baptist, in which case my apologies for assuming too much. Love demands I presume a fellow christian free of that error until proven otherwise … (I jest)

  66. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    No. 64: Andrew, in all seriousness and with respect, you speak with a consistency of one who either does not understand the other’s position at all, or does understand it, and chooses nevertheless to speak against it from one’s own preconceived convictions.

    Either:

    “I think this is what you’re saying, so I’m just going to assume it,” or

    “I really don’t care what you think you’re saying because I’ve already concluded you’re just wrong.”

  67. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Reed,

    Sure – I am not accusing you or anyone else of doing this to any individual, merely showing what the posistion entails. But given that we should live peaceably, accept my apologies. I substitute ‘inconsistent’ for ‘slander and backbiting’.

    I am also happy to work with two disctinctions of the word christian. But the activities I mentioned – praying, etc. are definitely those for the ‘genuine’ christian, no? So if you encourage someone in this you are accepting them as a genuine Christian, no?

    In practice the two do conflate – I cannot know the genuine Christian (child or otherwise); I belive I am to judge all outward Christians charitably – therefore I treat them all as genuine.

  68. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Reed,

    My responses are entirely genuine; I don’t fully understand your posisiton in that it does not seem coherent, but I am willing to think more – the fault is very possibly with my thinking.

    My responses, as far as I can see either answer ofochallenge specific points that have been made, no?

  69. Todd said,

    January 12, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Andrew,

    So if your position is that God doesn’t promise to save every covenant child, but often does, how does that help you out of your concern of treating possibly unregenerate children as believers? Christian parental upbringing, like preaching, is a means of grace, and we know God has promised to use both means for his purposes. We know no more than that. If a missionary can preach the gospel thirty years with one convert, than a whole bunch of good Christian parents can raise children that do not believe. But God still uses both for his purposes. I treat my young pre-profession children as believers because God instructs me to, not because I know or presume their inward state.

    Todd

  70. Richard said,

    January 12, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    The Canons of Dordtrecht: “we must make judgments about God’s will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included” and as a result “godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children”.

  71. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Andrew: thank you for your gentle and irenic responses to my challenges in the last few emails. I struggle to write clearly, and hopefully at the same time. This is often hard to do with someone whom you disagree with. I appreciate your proactive patience and help in doing so.

    I guess it comes down to what you mean by such terms as “genuine.” I hear you acknowledge a twofold use of such terms as “Christian.” Yet it sounds as if that distinction does not apply in the rest of your response.

    It is interesting that you belive the two do conflate. I do not. This in fact is an example of my primary criticism of the FV. Not saying you are coming from that perspective. Yet your critique hear has been consistent with that position.

    What we have are two different uses of the word “Christian”, one with reference to those merely externally, formally in the Covenant of Grace, and one with reference to those also internally in the Covenant of Grace.

    With reference to the act of presumption, the Bible teaches a difference pre- and post- profession of faith. If it were not for that, I would find myself agreeing with your position more easily.

    Accordingly, the Bible calls me to treat covenant children differently, to pray with them to our Father, and asking that he keep his promise pictured in their baptism. Like any newborn, the Bible tells me the next step for them is profession (Rom 10:9-17).

    Here is where some may be surprised, as I am an FV critic, but I do recognize that God offers covenant children better promises in the CoG than those outside the CoG, even from the external only perspective. I won’t take time to review those here. Previous posts here at GB can be searched for more on this.

    Suffice to say, it is an act of faith on my part to teach children to covenant call on God as Father, and to expressly teach them of their need to close with Christ. In age appropriate explanations I offer them:

    > The condemnations of all born of Adam,
    > The promises of God in Christ to all who call on him by faith, and
    > The special promises of God to work in the hearts of those who’ve received the sign/seal of baptism to bring to birth the very conversion out of which they first issue their cry of faith.

    Again, it is not an either/or scenario, and it is expressly not because God has commanded His people to respond thus by faith.

  72. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Andrew,

    Yours seems a fairly classic confusion of in/visible that places its accent on the invisible, then works out from there (whereas the Romanist places his accent on the visible and workd out from there). This is the Anabaptist error, of which there are many variations. Where Romanism produces complacency, what this error ends up doing is upturning inward stones and tearing up wheat with chaff, producing a lot of high octane questing after knowledge of absolute certainty (contra Dt. 29:29). It is discontent with not knowing what is invisible to the absurd point of suggesting believers perhaps ought not have children, or, if they do, perhaps not be allowed in the prayer circle.

    I realize there is a real protest against common sense these days, but step back and consider the absurdities your logic demands.

  73. David Gray said,

    January 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Pastors Bordow and DePace,

    In light of your beliefs regarding the children of believers how do/would you preach at the funeral of an infant, baptized or not, and what of God’s promises would you point to when counseling the parents?

  74. David Gray said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    “Zrim”,

    Actually Andrew makes more sense on this issue than you to me…

  75. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    “I treat my young pre-profession children as believers because God instructs me to, not because I know or presume their inward state.”

    Todd, I quite agree with you!

    If you see a significant difference between ‘treating children as believers’ and ‘presuming children are believers’, I am happy to go with the former.

    As I understand it, in law, ‘presumed innocent until proven guilty’ guides how the state treats one – i.e. you should be punished until shown otherwise. One could equally say, ‘treated innocent until proven guilty”.

    So, I shall adopt that terminology instead.

    I differ on the relationship between upbringing and a Child’s salavtion – I take Rayburn’s view (see the link above). But perhaps that is for another post!

  76. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Zrim,

    Apologies for the confusion: on no account do I believe any of those things, and I hate anabaptism.

    I was attempting a reductio ad absurdum of what I see as a baptistic/half-way covenant posistion, though I dare say you think I am the only one being absurd.

  77. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Reed,

    ‘Conflate’ was perhaps unfortunate. I mean merely that since we cannot distinguish who is visible/invisible, we have to treat them the same. God, of course, knows this at all times.

    Yes, if you could show that the judgement of charity of applies to professing members (of certain age I presume?) only, I would be in agreement. Though, if that were true, presumably Todd and I would be wrong in agreeing that we “treat our children as believers”.

    Romans 10 certianly speaks of the importance of profession; I can’t see though, how it tells us to treat professing and non-professing members (nor, which is the practical issue, where it tells us how to treat the professions of a two year old that he loves Jesus)

    But I do see places where Paul urges unity and love (i.e a judgement of charity) based on a common baptism (Eph4:2;5 and I Cor 1:10;13), which suggests it should be given to all those baptised ( N.B I am not saying anything about what baptism does).

    It also seems slightly odd to me to say that we should not show Christian love to the weakest members of the church (i.e infants). To avoid this charge your would have to argue that the duty of charitable judgment is not part of Christian love (e.g. love covers a multitude of sins), which would be surely n unhappy task.

  78. Andrew said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Second para should read “only applies to believers …”

  79. Todd said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Andrew,

    Yes, I see how “presume” can possibly have a range of meaning in this conversation that we might actually agree on, but don’t get me started on that “covenant succession” stuff of Rayburn – do you realize how damaging that is to good Christian parents? What do you like about it?

    Todd

  80. Lauren Kuo said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Regarding baptism, the following affirmations and denials by the faculty of Mid-America Reformed Seminary:
    Article 59
    We affirm that baptism is “a sacrament of our admission into the church, sealing unto us our new birth (and consequently our justification, adoption, and sanctification) by the communion which we have with Jesus Christ”; or “baptism is given as a pledge of our adoption; for by it we are grafted into the body of Christ, so as to be washed and cleansed by his blood, and then renewed in purity of life by his Holy Spirit. We hold, also that although we are baptized only once, yet the gain that it symbolizes to us reaches over our whole lives and to our death, so that we have a lasting witness that Jesus Christ will always be our justification and sanctification.”

    We deny that baptism saves us or in itself effectuates what it portrays and certifies.

    Article 60
    We affirm that the grace of baptism is “not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Spirit, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time,” namely, the elect.

    We deny that grace and salvation are so inseparably annexed unto baptism that all who are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.

    We also deny that in regenerating man, God does not bring to bear that power of his omnipotence whereby he may powerfully and unfailingly bend man’s will to faith and conversion; we deny that even when God has accomplished all the works of grace which he uses for man’s conversion, man nevertheless can, and in actual fact often does, so resist God and the Spirit in their intent and will to regenerate him, that man completely thwarts his own rebirth; and indeed, that it remains in his own power whether or not to be reborn.

    Article 61
    We affirm that it is a great sin to disregard baptism, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably attached to it that no person can be regenerated or saved without it, or that all who are baptized are “undoubtedly regenerated.”

    We deny that the efficacy of baptism is tied to the moment in which baptism is administered, for the imparting of saving blessing to which baptism points can precede, come after,or take place at the moment of baptism.
    ************************************************************************
    Would you agree with these affirmations and denials? If so, then you would have to agree that the Federal Vision advocates in their Joint Statement have turned the Reformation on its head. Doug Wilson refers to the above statements as “dog breakfast”. Would you agree with his analysis?

  81. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Andrew, yes our differences are relatively classic. I’ll not debate further, as I expect all either of us will do in this vein is reiterate our given positions.

    Thank you though.

    ============================

    David:

    I’m comfortable with: Head 1, Article 17 of the Canons of Dordt (nothwithstanding the challenge that some will make in terms of my understanding of federal holiness of covenant children):

    “Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; I Cor. 7:14).”

    Expressing my faith in God’s promises, I believe I have two children already resting in Jesus’ arms in eternity (miscarriages). I have urged the same to other parents. This is consistent the Bible’s teaching that covenant children are not little heathen, but promised to Jesus by baptism.

    =================================

    All:

    By the way, not getting anywhere near the substance of my challenge in these last series of comments. I think the differences here have been pretty well documented in past conversations. I’d like to get back to the particulars of my challenge. If no one is interested in doing that I’ll understand.

    I trust you will understand if I reserve my time at this point to not respond further to covering old ground.

  82. Todd said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Dave # 73

    Good question. For me, if it is the funeral of believers, I comfort the parents concerning the love of God toward his covenant children, as well as the goodness and trustworthiness of God, but I would also caution the parents, as tempting as it is to want to read the mind of God and know for sure the eternal destiny of the child, that we cannot do that, but God calls them to trust him in this tragedy, and he will never betray their trust. Then I preach the gospel at the funeral. As for the funeral of unbelieving parents, I preach the gospel and commit the spirit of the child into the hands of God, saying nothing more.

    Todd

  83. David Gray said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Pastors, thank you for your answers…

  84. Zrim said,

    January 12, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    David,

    Sorry to not make sense for you. But, as Reed suggests, Andrew’s project does seem pretty classic, even if he wants to paint it as some sort of experiment amongst Reformed believers (which I don’t follow myself), and therefore a bit of a project in futility.

    For my part, I’ll continue to shop like I always have, hope I never get pulled over by a cop with Andrew’s notions of civil rights, catechize my baptized children…and dial up pastor Bordow if I am ever in need of a Reformed funeral.

  85. David Gadbois said,

    January 12, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Article 17 of the First Canon of Dordt is the confessional basis (for us continental Reformed types) on which we counsel those who have lost children in infancy regarding the election of their children. But two things are noteworthy:

    1. it says that we “ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy”, it does not comment on whether we should doubt the salvation of live infants. We must understand these as distinct issues. No one here has advocated a position that would undermine legitimate consolation to Christian families who have miscarried or suffered the death of their infant.

    2. it grounds the salvation of infants who die in infancy in their status in the Covenant of Grace and federal holiness.

    Reed said By the way, not getting anywhere near the substance of my challenge in these last series of comments.

    Indeed! I’m getting a little tired of the emotional “but what about the children!?” card that is played in these debates. That is an old, worn tactic that political liberals play to justify their socialistic policies. I have little more patience for it when I see it being used to justify dodgy theology. It is a diversion.

  86. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Reed, am I correct in understanding that this challenge to the FV is particularly on the subject of paedo-communion? Or is there a deeper issue you have primarily in view?

    As it stands, I’m not clear how this is a challenge to the FV, though, since you state youself that the FV recognizes the difference between decretal regeneration and covenantal “regeneration.” Do FV churches never require a profession of faith? That seems odd, since they would need that as part of the external evidence that we have…

    Actually, thought, your example of Samuel could be taken as an argument for paedocommunion. Consider:

    Let’s agree on your view of “know the Lord.” What this means is that, while Samuel was still unregenerate, he “ministered before the Lord.” That is, he served as a priest, even wearing the clothing of a priest. What did the priests eat? Well, they ate the sacrificial meal. So, although not regenerate, and without a public profession of faith, Samuel ate the sacrificial meal. Why, then, ought New Covenant children to be excluded from the sacrificial meal because they have not been regenerate or made profession?

  87. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    David G., I wasn’t going to bring it up, but you have. You’re seriously going to say that we can believe in the promises of election for children who die in infancy, but not for live infants? On what grounds, besides the silence of Dordt on that particular point? The Biblical promises of the New Covenant do not distinguish between dead children and living ones: both are recipients of the same promises…

  88. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 12, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    So, because they are alive, we may doubt their election? That means that the grounds believing parents have for consolation is not the promises per se, but the promises plus death.

  89. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 12, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Reed, help me out on this one:

    “Scripture does not teach we presume regeneration for baptized children. We presume that God will keep His promise in baptism (to all whom it rightly belongs), and in response seek a profession of faith from them.”

    But what are those promises in baptism? Well, oddly, regeneration is one of them. So, what you are saying is “We presume that God will regenerate our children (if they are decretally elect),” etc. So, is it just a difference in chronology or verb tense? It’s okay to presume that God will regenerate them, but not that he has done so?

  90. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 12, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    And although I agreed with your view of 1 Sam. 3 for the sake of argument just above, Reed, I don’t actually agree with it, since I think you’re asking questions of the text that it was not really meant to answer.

    In some important way, regeneration is a New Covenant phenomenon–as in Jer. 31:33-34. Often, the OT is concerned with the historia salutis more than the ordo, and I think that is the case in 1 Sam. 3. “What does this text teach us about regeneration?” is a secondary question, which the narrative structure was not designed to answer.

  91. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Joshua: sorry, too many comments, and not enough time to respond. Just a few:

    > No. 86: Padeo-communion is secondary at best. Not in my view in this challenge.
    > No. 89: the issue is, upon profession of faith. As I assume you know, the FV assumes upon baptism. This example mitigates against that.
    > No. 90: heard this before. No offense intended when I say it appears to me as so much sophistry, arguing for a discontinuity over a continuity that is not there. Now if you said something like, “regeneration is incipient in the OT, expressly in the NT, with clear OT references that cannot be understood any other way”; and you were to agree with Scripture interprets Scripture, and you were to believe that salvation in the OT is that as in the NT, well then I would agree with you (agreeing with me :-)).

  92. Andrew Voelkel said,

    January 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    I have been sympathetic toward the FV on BR; but I thought they were simply saying that Baptism effectually and objectively makes one a member of God’s new creation, the church. If that is indeed the FV position on Baptismal Regeneration, then it has little to do with Westminsters concept of Regeneration. (those are two separate issues)

    On a related topic — our official position in the PCA is that children are members of the church by birthright (and not by baptism). But I have been struggling with that issue.
    Occasionally we have members in our congregation choose not to baptize their babies, and it seems a bit strange that those unbaptized children end up with the same “non-communing member” status that the baptized children have. So in our current system, there is essentially no difference between baptized and unbaptized babies.

    I think I would be in favor of letting Baptism, not birth, be the mark of church membership for the children of believers. And once kids are baptized, I think we should recognize them as fellow members (though weaker members) of the body, and we should be careful to “wait for them” at the table as Paul instructs in 1 Cor 11.

  93. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Reed,

    I’ll come back to the details for one more friendly round of dispute. Then I’ll quit, whatever the outcome — work and ministry are calling.

    In #48, you said,

    I understand you to be saying, the passage is not about conversion, rather it is about calling to the prophetic ministry.

    I’m open to a both/and reading in principle. But each aspect — conversion and calling — have to be established on their own merits. I think we agree that the “calling” aspect permeates both of these chapters. But what about the conversion aspect? You assert the following evidences:

    (1) “Silence: nothing in the text requires the either/or reading…”

    Since my challenge is not based on an a priori either/or reading, I’ll consider this moot. Otherwise, I would challenge the validity of an argument from silence. :)

    But you’re correct: nothing in the text requires an either/or reading as opposed to a both/and reading.

    (2) Context, broader: it seems we agree that the common use of “know the Lord” is regenerative in understanding. Is it not a rule of Scripture interprets Scripture that a broader context usage applies only to the degree it is modified by the immediate context?

    I think you’re saying that the common use of “know the Lord” is determinative unless overruled by the immediate context?

    If so I agree, tentatively. If Samuel’s narrative began at chapter 3, I would probably be more sanguine about your reading.

    The problem is that the immediate context appears to make the normal reading of “know the Lord” impossible. This, and not an artificial “either/or” approach, is the reason I’ve not accepted your reading so far.

    Here’s the big sticking point: Samuel “grows in favor with the Lord” in chapter 2. I cannot understand (appealing to the broader Biblical usage of the phrase “in favor with the Lord”) how someone who is unregenerate and therefore dead in sins could grow in favor with God. This is the point you would need to answer definitively to satisfy my objection.

    (3) Context, immediate: the contrast with Eli’s son (1 Sam 2:12) demonstrates the necessity of the “both” reading. In view is not a simply comment that the men were not regenerate. In view was that they were not regenerate, and therefore not fit for the ministry calling as priests.

    This is an interesting point. You are correct that there is a textual parallel between Eli’s sons in 2.12 and Samuel in 3.7:

    2.12: Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD
    3.7: Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him.

    It’s interesting, further, that the NAS translates the waw-consecutive in 3.7 as “nor”, which fits naturally with your both-and reading.

    But then, over against this is the whole sentence:

    2.12-13: Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD and the custom of the priests with the people. When any man was offering a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand.

    (The NIV, meanwhile, obscures the whole parallel by translating 2.12 as “they had no regard for the Lord” — which suggests that the NIV translators did not see the same parallel that you do. It then starts a new sentence with 2.13)

    Given that the verb “know” applies equally to the direct objects “the LORD” and “the customs of the priests with the people”, it becomes less clear that the author is talking about salvific knowledge of the Lord.

    UNLESS, the NAS translation incorrectly continues the force of the verb into 2.13a. Deciding that issue is above my Hebrew pay-grade.

    So now, as the exegete, I have to ask, “What additional evidence confirms or casts doubt on reading ‘know the Lord’ in 3.7 as evidence of Samuel’s lack of salvation?”

    Summary of evidence in favor:

    * The phrase is used in a parallel way in 2.12
    * The phrase is used to mean salvific knowledge almost everywhere else in Scripture (Judges 2.10 requires a slight stretch to fit that pattern).

    Summary of evidence against:

    * Samuel is growing in favor with God prior to 3.7; this is impossible for the unregenerate.
    * His encounter with God in chapter 3 is directed not at his own repentance but at the repentance of Eli. Thus, the narrative does not appear to be describing Samuel’s conversion, even a conversion in conjunction with his prophetic calling.
    * The parallel in 2.12 is marred by the second direct object in v. 13, which clearly cannot be the object of salvific knowledge, UNLESS the force of the verb yada’ does not continue into 2.13a.

    I think it’s a closer call than I thought at first. Your point about the parallelism is very interesting. However, I am still not thoroughly persuaded (and am awaiting your response to my objections).

    Finally, let me anticipate one possible issue as a “for further thought” thing.

    Suppose your reading is correct. Suppose that Samuel is decretally unregenerate while he is growing with favor in the Lord. Would not that very fact play into the notion of a covenantal regeneration?! That is, could not an FV supporter say, “Hey, here’s an example of someone who wasn’t decretally regenerated, but he was still ‘in some sense’ in God’s favor by virtue of his covenant membership through circumcision?”

    Let me be clear: I think the language of “baptismal regeneration” ought to be challenged. At minimum, it is pedagogically ill-favored. Therefore, I want your challenge to be as sharp as possible!

    Regards,
    Jeff Cagle

  94. David Gadbois said,

    January 12, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Joshua said I wasn’t going to bring it up, but you have. You’re seriously going to say that we can believe in the promises of election for children who die in infancy, but not for live infants?

    I think it is fairly common to get tangled up when we throw around terminology such as ‘the promises’ in the abstract, or ‘believing the promises’. What promise? God hasn’t promised to elect and/or regenerate all of our covenant children (that is empirically false). So we can only get to assurance of salvation in any given particular individual by considering the particulars of the covenant promises and how they apply to the individual case.

    ‘The promises’ also ‘belonged’ to Israel, after all (Rom. 9:4), yet we know that there were non-elect Esaus and Ishmaels. Indeed, most Jews were apostate, according to Paul. Having the promises, in other words, was no guarantee. The promises were not absolute, but conditional. That being the case, assurance can’t come automatically.

    What has God specifically promised? We do have record of God giving the promises unconditionally to infants dying in infancy (at the very least in the case of David and his son). If David had reason for this assurance (and without the aid of any apparent special revelation) then so can we. So the Canons enumerate this specific assurance since there is biblical support for it. That does not translate into blanket assurance for all covenant members.

  95. Pete Myers said,

    January 13, 2009 at 2:22 am

    #David, #Jeff, #anyone else on the baptism issue,

    Hey guys, sorry I haven’t been around only to let the conversation move on, and on, etc. etc. I’ve only skim read the last 50 responses or so.

    In 45 Jeff separated out some helpful questions, I’m gonna answer them

    (1) Why do we baptize our children?

    Because, God has made promises to us to be God to our children, and therefore they are covenantally holy and have a right to the covenant sign. Furthermore, we are to raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. I can’t see how raising them in the disicpline of the Lord means anything less than teaching them to look back at Christ’s death, and training them to walk in light of his grace to them first. Therefore, I baptise them, so that I can train them to fight sin by using Romans 6v1-4.

    (2) What does baptism accomplish?

    It signs and seals regeneration.

    (3) When does it accomplish this?

    Whenever that regeneration occurs, before, during, or after.

    (4) To what extent do we treat our children as if they are Christians?

    Well, my children could be regenerate in the womb, they could become regenerate at 15, or 25, or 55. Or they could never become regenerate (something I desperately pray won’t be the case). However, since being in the covenant is an outward sign to me of someone being a Christian, I take the charitable assumption that my child is a genuine Christian until they prove otherwise.

    But I’m approaching it with the same charity that I do adult professors at church. I don’t take anybody’s spiritual life for granted. So, while I’m charitably speaking to everyone in the church as though they are decretally elect (apply Ephesians 1 across the board, even to kids), I also encourage people to examine themselves, and their faith. In fact, I’d argue that this kind of pastoral approach is itself built into the sacraments.

    As I pointed out above, we treat the baptised as those who have died and risen again with Christ (Romans 6), but the supper encourages everyone to reflect on the genuineness of their faith and repentance.

    I guess – here’s the crucial pastoral point. While I can’t have assurance of my son’s salvation he can. The two errors I can commit as a parent are:
    (a) To give him a feeling of false assurance based on the wrong things.
    (b) To give him an unneccessary lack of assurance.

    This is, at least, what my Anglican tradition has taught me. David – how far away is that from you?

  96. Todd said,

    January 13, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Andrew # 92

    The visible church is not God’s new creation, though it’s not clear by your post whether you believe this or you are expressing the FV position. Children are not baptized into God’s new creation. And it is also important to understand that baptism does not make a child a covenant child, that is his by birth (I Cor 7:14), baptism is the public recognition of such reality. Without this distinction you will have parents rushing to get their babies baptized so God will *do* something to that baby, a dangerous slide toward Rome.

    Todd

  97. David Gray said,

    January 13, 2009 at 8:50 am

    >And it is also important to understand that baptism does not make a child a covenant child, that is his by birth (I Cor 7:14), baptism is the public recognition of such reality.

    Which is what the Westminster Directory for Public Worship states.

    >Without this distinction you will have parents rushing to get their babies baptized

    I’ve seen unfortunate Lutheran pastors counseling parents to baptize their own child in hospital if they seem in danger of dying lest the child be damned. Oddly enough Luther had a more reformed position on this issue.

  98. Reed Here said,

    January 13, 2009 at 10:23 am

    No. 93: Jeff, seems like we will disagree.

    I note you did not respond to my example of covenantal anticipation (with regard to Jeremiah), nor the telescoping example (with regard to the “2” creation accounts). Did you miss them, or not think them sound enough? (Either way is o.k.).

    I note in your summary you agree tentatively with the broader context informing the immediate context, as modified by the immediate context. I must admit to be scratching my head at the proofs you offer to say “only calling” and not “also regeneration.”

    The very issue with Eli’s sons is not simply that they were failing “externally” as priests, but there is nothing in view inwardly, nothing is in view about their internal state.

    An OT reader would read “did not know the Lord,” and then would connect the failure of calling with what the rest of the OT says knowing the Lord means. “Well of course they failed as priests; they did not know the Lord, i.e., they did not have a saving relationship with him.” Then comes along the NT reader and says, “we call that saving relationship regeneration.”

    Still Jeff, o.k. the surface point is the contrast between the failure of Eli’s sons with Samuel’s success in the ministry calling. Yet the text presents the seminal reason for this failure to be their comparative knowledge of the Lord.

    What your reading does is turn the phrase into a synedoche: “know the Lord” as in “calling to ministry.” Your reading says, “Eli’s sons did not know the Lord, that is they did not succeed as priests. Whereas Samuel did know the Lord, that is he did succeed as prophet.”

    Instead the text offers the cause (know the Lord) and effect (ministry calling). It reads, “Eli’s sons did not know the Lord, therefore they failed as priests. Samuel however, because he knew the Lord, succeeded as a prophet.”

    In view is the Lord as the reason for the difference. Your reading eliminates this element of contrasts and places all the emphasis on Eli’s sons or Samuel, making their “response” to their calling the reason for the difference.

    Sorry to push so far Jeff, as I’m beginning to imply things about your argument that I’m uncomfortable with. Still, I find myself more persuaded you have allowed an imbalanced emphasis on calling influence you to ignore the regenerative factor.

    It’s o.k. if we disagree.

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 13, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Re: the argument from Jeremiah — I collapsed that into your “broader context” argument concerning the meaning of “know the Lord.” Was that a mistake?

    Re: the recapitulation argument from Genesis — yes, I missed that. I will consider whether the text allows for a dischronologizing at this point.

    Re: imbalanced emphasis on calling — I’m not prejudiced in favor of “calling”; if the objections are satisfactorily met, then I’ll probably change my view.

    Perhaps as time permits, I’ll report back.

    Jeff Cagle

  100. Reed Here said,

    January 13, 2009 at 11:25 am

    No. 99, Jeff, yeah, I was saying something different with the Jeremiah. I was attempting to provide a parallel example where the Bible speaks regeneratively of a believer prior to his actual experience of regeneration. Knowing (regeneratively understood) Jeremiah before the womb means knowing him “as saved” prior to his creation.

    This is not a covenantal “judgment of charity” knowing, as if God were speaking without accurate knowledge of the state of Jeremiah’s (non-existent) heart. Rather it may best be described as covenantal “anticipatory” knowing, expressing God’s promise to effectively call Jeremiah to salvation/ministry calling. In other words, the anticipatory knowing of Jeremiah reinforces the guarantee that Jeremiah will be saved/called to the prophetic ministry.

    With reference to Samuel, it is possible that the “grew in favor” with the Lord speaks of the same thing; an anticipatory statement expressing the sovereign intentions of the Lord with regard to Samuel.

    I might at this point also sugges the same kind of anticipatory language is also used of believers in Eph 1:4. Cf., also Paul’s Gal 1:15.

  101. rfwhite said,

    January 13, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Reed, I’m still weighing what you say about 1 Sam 3.7, so I offer the following observations without agreeing or disagreeing. In consulting Tsumura’s NICOT commentary on 1 Sam 3, I was struck by his comments introducing 3.1-21: “… not only does v. 1 … function as a LINK [his emphasis] … to the preceding chapter, repeating the key phrase of 1 Sam 2:11 and 18, but many terms and themes are recapitulated in this chapter …”

    I realize, of course, that the recapitulation of terms and themes is not necessarily indicative of the recapitulation of events.

  102. Reed Here said,

    January 13, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    No. 101, Thanks Dr. White. I take the insight with a “hmmm…” :) I recognize it may work for or against what I’m arguing.

    As I’ve hopefully communicated, I’m open to being shown I’m over-reading or mis-reading the text.

  103. Andrew Voelkel said,

    January 13, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Todd #96

    Thanks for your thoughts. I thought that both FV & non-FV folks agreed that the visible church is God’s new creation. But thanks for the correction.

    You can see how confused all of this can be in light of what our confession says about the visible church and what some of our old hyms say, such as “The Church’s One Foundation”. This is an example of where Hymn lyrics can be objectionable. That hymn, like the scriptures, seems to blend the visible/invisible church distinction, noting that the “church” is, among other things:
    1) God’s new Creation
    2) Purchased by the blood of Christ
    3) in union with the triune God
    4) yet filled with both true and false believers (i.e. “false sons in her pale”)

    Reed:
    In reference to your comment,
    “it is also important to understand that baptism does not make a child a covenant child, that is his by birth (I Cor 7:14)” …
    I think we must acknowledge that the 1 Cor 7:14 text states that both the unbelieving husband and the children are “holy”. If we take “holy” to mean covenant members, then we would have to recognize the “unbelieving husband” as a covenant member as well, which we do not necessarily do.

    My current understanding of the NT leads me to believe that the marker of covenant membership is baptism. Yet, being a member of the covenant community does not presume personal regeneration nor is it absolutely necessary for salvation.

    The FV, as I understand it, does not presume covenant “regeneration” (i.e. being personally born again); rather, FV theology simply affirms true covenant membership for all who are baptized. –but I’ll have to go read some FV stuff again to verify that.

    blessings,
    Andrew Voelkel

  104. Andrew Voelkel said,

    January 13, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    sorry; didn’t mean to attribute quote to Reed in previous post.
    av

  105. rfwhite said,

    January 13, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Reed, in case you don’t have Tsumura handy, he cites as verbal and thematic recapitulation: 3.7 (did not know)// 2.21 (did not know); 3.13 (punish) // 2.10 (judge), 31 (cut off); 3.13 (blaspheme, did not retrain) // 2.29 (scorn); 3.14 (not be atoned) // 2.25 (mediate, intercede); 3.14 (sacrifice, offering) // 2.13, 15, 19, 29 (sacrifice).

  106. Todd said,

    January 13, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Andrew,

    Non-FV folk agree that the invisible church is God’s new creation. An institution, or unbelievers within it, have in no sense been made new in Christ. If you read the other verses of “The Church’s One Foundation” you see that they describe the Church sung about in v. 1… “Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth (v.2), the church with “false sons within her pale” (v. 4) those that shall “never perish (v.4),” and those in “mystic sweet communion” with God and fellow believers past and present (v.6), i.e., the invisible Church.

    Todd

  107. Andrew said,

    January 13, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Todd re96

    Not entirely sure about the new creation stuff, or what I said to deny or affirm it.

    I quite agree with you that baptism recognises rather than creates a child’s covenant status (though not sure I could argue it.)

    Given that I believe we must treat our children as christians from the moment of conception, baptismal regeneration holds zero interest for me.

  108. Andrew said,

    January 13, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Reed,

    It seems to me that textually most people here, including non-fv and anti-fv, although admitting that what you say about Samuel may be true, don’t think it has to mean that. But in an irenic spirit, let us grant your interpretation.

    You said:

    “Given this, then we should find evidence in the OT that circumcised children were presumed to be (covenantally) regenerate. Or at least, we should not find evidence challenging this presumption.”

    Are you are talking about how covenant children are viewed (I sensed above that you thought this a secondary issue, but it seems to be what you have written)?

    If so, then even if the text meant what you say, it would not prove your point at all, for it says nothing about how Samuel was viewed by Eli, or anyone else. It offers a direct, infallible insight, not available to those around him (perhaps supplied by an inspired Samuel in later years).

    It does not prove that those around Samuel should not have judged him charitably. All we are told is that men looked on him with ‘favour’, which hardly inclines to the sceptical view our covenant children.

    Or do I misunderstand your challenge?

  109. Reed Here said,

    January 13, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Andrew: yep, you’ve misunderstood. Pretty straightforward; I’m not that sophisticated.

  110. Xon said,

    January 13, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Reed,

    I don’t know if it’s too late to wade in here or not, but my question is to the logic of your initial post. I’ve read the comments (rather quickly, admittedly), and I don’t think I’m about to retread upon old ground.

    I must be missing something b/c in reading your post it’s not even clear to me what your challenge is.

    Let’s take it as a given that the 1 Sam. verse does indeed state explicitly that Samuel was not decretally regenerate at the time. What is the argument?

    P1
    P2
    .
    .
    .
    Pn
    C: Therefore, the FV BR view [presumptive covenantal regeneration of all baptized infants until there should be evidence to the contrary] is false/unlikely.

    Fill in the P’s for me. If we take Samuel’s unregenerate status as a given, then that is one of the P’s. What are the others?

    While I await your response, allow me to put it together as best I can from my own best understanding of your post. I have the actual premises and conclusions in bold, with the explanations of evidence in parentheses and normal font)

    P1: If FV BR is true, then for all OT people and at all times of their life, if a person is circumcised, then that person is covenantally elect. (given)
    P2: Samuel was an OT person and was circumcised. (given)
    P3: At a time after Samuel’s circumcision, Samuel was not decretally regenerated. (1 Samuel 3:7, purportedly)
    P4: For all OT people and at all times of their life, if a person is covenantally regenerated, then he is decretally regenerated (Application you make of 1 Samuel 3:7, i.e.: “If Samuel was to expect decretal, vital-regeneration before it could be said that he “knew” the Lord, how can we say that we are not to expect the same for our baptized children?” You are saying that decretal regeneration is a necessary condition for being covenantally regenerated. You cannot “know” the Lord in any sense, including covenantal regeneration, unless you have first been decretally regenerated. This is what you are saying in this quoted sentence, right?)
    P5/C1: At some time after his circumcision, Samuel was not covenantally regenerate. (Modus Tollens, P3 and P4)
    P6/C2: Therefore, Samuel was at one time both circumcised and NOT covenantally regenerated. (P5, restatement)
    P7/C3: Therefore, it is not the case that for all OT people and at all times of their life, if a person is circumcised, then that person is covenantally elect. (Existential Introduction, P6. I.e., if we know some particular thing has property x, then we can conclude that there is some particular thing (i.e., at least one) that has property x. If we know Santa Claus is jolly, then we also know that some people are jolly. Wording this as a negation, we know that it is not the case that all people are not jolly…)
    C4: Therefore, FV BR is false. (Modus Tollens, P1 and P7)

    That’s a first pass. I have put the argument this way because it has the virtue of being valid. One obvious way to question the premises is to use the “Doug Wilson” gambit of separating the time baptism is administered from the time the baptized person first receives any benefits from that baptism. We put that particular line of questioning to the side.

    The key to the whole thing, though, is P4. And P4 jumps out as coming from nowhere, logically. How does the 1 Samuel verse show that, b/c Samuel was not decretally regenerate, he was not covenantally regenerate either? Where is that in the text, or in the logical requirements of other premises in the argument? It just isn’t. In fact, the whole FV point is that things work the other way, all baptized people are covenantally regenerate (this is your own sense of “FV BR” that you identify at the beginning of your post), but not all baptized people are decretally regenerate. Assuming you are correct about continuity (so putting that discussion aside as well) b/w baptism and the Supper, then FV BR must also hold that all circumcised people in the OT were covenantally regenerate, but not all were decretally regenerate.

    In other words, no, P4 is false. A person can be non-decretally regenerate but covenantally regenerate. Indeed, this is one of the most central FV claims…baptism truly puts you into the covenant, but it does not guarantee that you are predetermined to stay there or to be faithful to the covenant. So P4 is really already a contradiction of the FV BR view, but it is an unsupported one. No evidence or argumentation has been given for anything like P4.

    You are arguing, in other words, from the example of Samuel being non-decretaly regenerate to him being non-covenantally regenerate, but there is no way I can see to draw that inference.

    Or, to put the apparent problem another way. FV BR does not have any problem with particular people in the covenant (i.e., covenantally regenerated) through baptism ending up outside the covenant (i.e., end up showing themselves to be non-decretally elect). And so it is not clear why the mere existence of Samuel as a non-decretally elect person after his circumcision would disprove FV BR, which allows (logically) for such people.

    But I also admit I might have your argument wrong. Part of my confusion, though, is the way you use your terminology of “covenantal” and “decretal” regeneration in conjunction with “presumption.” You write, for instance, of FV BR involving a presumption of covenantal regeneration. Well, that’s not accurate. FVers do not PRESUME covenantal regeneration for all baptized people; they, rather, ASSERT covenanatal regeneration for all baptized people. This is what puts the “BR” in “FV BR” as you explain it early in your post. Baptism makes every baptized person covenantally regenerate. But, not every baptizand is decretally-regenerate, so what about our children? The FV BR answer is that we PRESUME that all covenantally regenerate children are ALSO decretally regenerate, until forced to think otherwise by fruits, scandal, etc. But you talk about presuming covenantal regeneration, and you in several places write as though that is what you are trying to refute. But this is odd.

    Help thou my unbelief.

  111. Xon said,

    January 13, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    And anyone who knows quantified propositional logic knows that I left out some steps, but they are obvious steps and I am actually (contrary to how it might appear) NOT trying to get bogged down in the logical notation.

  112. Todd said,

    January 14, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Xon,

    What exactly does “covenant regeneration” mean? Is that a new term you have coined? I don’t remember ever seeing that term before.

    Thanks,

    Todd

  113. Reed Here said,

    January 14, 2009 at 8:43 am

    All: A comment from Dr. White got hung up in the pending que. See n0. 105.

    Dr. White, my initial response as I look at this list is that it seems to support an anticipatory/introductory function of 1Sa 2:26. Samuel’s growing in favor with the Lord here is not to be limited time wise, but is to be understood as comprising his whole childhood; and then 1Sam 3 follows as the initial exemplification of what it means he grew in favor.

  114. Reed Here said,

    January 14, 2009 at 9:39 am

    No. 110, Xon, the minute I heard you earned the doctorate I thought, “oh man, now there’s going to be no living with him.” :) Seriously, congratulations on the payoff to the hard work. My prayer is that God will prosper and bless your walk of faith in these efforts.

    Now to your logic (head spinning), help me figure out where I’ve miscommunicated.

    The only part I want to pay attention is your reference to covenantal regeneration. Assuming the FV hermeneutic (Todd, I think this will answer), this is simply another way of expressing what the FV means by ‘baptismal regeneration.” It is not a decretal viewing of things, but a covenantal viewing. Thus all those baptized are to be viewed as covenantally regenerate, without assuming this equals a decretally viewed regeneration (i.e., actual Spirit born-again stuff).

    If I’ve been fair here, for any critics scratching their heads, just accept this at face value for the time being. The FV insists that it does not view baptized children as necessarily decretally regenerate. Baptism is not a statement that says the Spirit has already been here to spiritually baptize, to apply Christ and all His benefits in the vital manner.

    Now Xon, as you know (to give some comfort to the critics), the criticism here is that the FV effectively eliminates the distinction between covenantal and decretal perspectives (functional equivalency). It says, “since we cannot know the decretal, then all we have to go on is the covenantal, – and therefore we must treat all covenantal as if it were decretal.” I admit the latter half will be disputed. But I think this is a fair summation of the nature of the debate. This is at least the grounds.

    My challenge here Xon is exclusively on the FV’s own terms. As I note, I’m not bringing up the functional equivalency and then attacking the FV BR position on the grounds of that assumption. No, I’m living with the FV’s notion of covenantal regeneration – treat all bapitzed children as if they are regenerate and on that basis grant them access to all priviledges of Church membership, including communion.

    Now my concern goes beyond the admission to the Lord’s Table. In fact, the dominant underlying concern of all my criticism of the FV is that it has a defective reading of covenant, and from this all sorts of confusion, imbalances and errors ensue.

    My sole object however in this post, was to see if the FV’s BR position squares with the testimony of Scripture. It has been argued against in the past on the basis of Romans 10:9-10, and responded to with sincere and well thought out arguments (in my opinion demonstrating merely consistency with the defective covenant hermeneutic).

    My contention is that 1Sam 3:7 cannot be fully understood from a convenantal only perspective. If we are reading of Samuel’s actual conversion (his decretal regeneration – I thnk we are), then this passage offers a serious challenge to the FV’s BR position.

    It is not true, in other words, that all we are to expect is the covenantal only perspective. Indeed, reading the “judgment of charity” from the perspective that the decretal cannot be in view, therefore is never in view (i.e., as the FV does), is just not the position of Scripture.

    Applying this, we rob our children of the decretal expectation, which they give evidence of in terms of a profession of faith. Samuel’s experience serves as an example to them that even at a tender age God can (and will in those He chooses) speak (decretally) to them.

  115. rfwhite said,

    January 14, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Reed, James G, Alastair R, and Jeff C raised substantive challenges to your appeal to 1 Sam 3.7. As I understand them, the counterclaim is that the knowledge that Samuel did not yet have in 3.7 is the knowledge that comes with his prophetic call. You have rejoined their counterclaim by citing the almost identical phrasing about the knowledge that Hophni and Phineas did not have in 2.12. They have rejoined your rejoinder by citing Samuel’s growth in the presence/favor of God in 2.21, 26. Some questions:

    To what extent is the characterization of Israel during the judges era relevant to understand the 1 Sam 2-3 redemptive-historical context? Specifically, is the starting point of the author, in part, to characterize Eli’s sons and Samuel as partakers in the fundamental spiritual condition of the judges generations: Judg 2.10, “there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel”? To what extent might the adverb “yet” in 3.7 be consistent with the text’s intent to engender hope that, though the nation is in a cycle of ignorance, God is not frustrated thereby from realizing His desire to have a people and a priesthood, even a nation of priests, who know Him?

    To what extent is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment (“a promise of long life and prosperity [as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good] to all such as keep this commandment”) helpful in explaining the text’s contrast between God’s disfavor toward Eli’s son’s and God’s favor toward Samuel?

  116. rfwhite said,

    January 14, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Reed,

    To add one detail to 115, if the book of 1 Sam engenders hope by telling the stories of Samuel and David whom God raised up to break the cycle of ignorance in Israel under the judges (exemplified in Eli’s sons and Saul), would those story lines confirm or deny your thesis?

  117. Xon said,

    January 14, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Reed,

    My puzzlement is here:

    My contention is that 1Sam 3:7 cannot be fully understood from a covenantal only perspective. If we are reading of Samuel’s actual conversion (his decretal regeneration – I thnk we are), then this passage offers a serious challenge to the FV’s BR position.

    It is not true, in other words, that all we are to expect is the covenantal only perspective. Indeed, reading the “judgment of charity” from the perspective that the decretal cannot be in view, therefore is never in view (i.e., as the FV does), is just not the position of Scripture.

    It is not clear to me how 1 Sam 3:7, even on your reading, is a proof against FV. The FV’s “covenant only” position, as you describe it, is that we only know whether a person is covenantally united to Christ, and we presume that all covenantally united people are also decretally united, unless and until they demonstrate otherwise.

    But this view is not refuted by our being told in 1 Sam 3:7 that Sameul did not yet know the Lord in the decretally-united sense (just accepting your interpretation as correct for now). We can know that Samuel was not decretally-united at time t because the Scriptures tell us that he wasn’t. Okay. So what follows from this? That it would have been wrong for a fellow Israelite at time t to presume that Samuel was decretally united to the Lord? But that doesn’t follow. The fact that P is false does not mean that it is unreasonable to believe P.

    Presuming someone to be decretally united to Christ so long as there is no proof to the contrary is not incompatible with dropping that presumption when presented proof to the contrary.

    ??

  118. rfwhite said,

    January 15, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Reed,
    I feel the force of Dr. (!) Xon’s comment in 117, at least as it impacts the way you have stated your argument. Your claim — aka “small challenge” — is that 1 Sam 3.7 disallows the FV perspective that, when it comes to circumcised/baptized children, “the vital perspective does not come into play. All we have is the external, the covenantal perspective.”

    Granted your exegesis of 1 Sam 3.7, the text would indicate that covenantal union is not necessarily coextensive with decretal union, and the application you would have us make is that we should communicate the same to parents and children today. Have I read this correctly?

    I would like to hear your comments on these questions: how did the author come by his knowledge of the spiritual condition of Samuel and Eli’s sons? Are we the readers able to have the same knowledge about our children that the author had of Samuel and Eli’s sons? If so, how? If not, where does that leave us? Perhaps you have answered these questions in this string already and I’ve lost track of where. If so, don’t repeat yourself; just tell me where.

  119. Reed Here said,

    January 15, 2009 at 10:39 am

    No. 117, Xon, I admit to being puzzled that my point seems to be eluding you.

    Do you affirm the need for a covenant child to offer a profession of faith, and that until such profession of faith is offered he is not to be presumed even covenantally regenerate? If you agree, then you disagree with the FV’s BR position.

    The 1Sam example is offered to demonstrate that a flat “covenantal only” hermeneutic is not consistent with the Scripture’s own presentation. I.e., it supports the view that we are to expect a profession of faith, and not to presume regeneration of any sort prior to this. If the text supports my usage (I maintain it does) then here God is presenting evidence (in principle) that the reformed opposition to any notion of BR is supported by Scripture.

  120. Reed Here said,

    January 15, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Nos. 115, 116, Dr. White, I admit to not being able to offer a quick opinion. I’d appreciate any insights you might offer.

    I find myself considering that I am reading this OT passage in terms of NT criteria, and believe I am on necessary ground to do so. I recognize that this NT into OT reading must be consistent with the redemptive-historical development. I will also admit that my usage here is best understand as an inferential application of the passage. That is, I am not suggesting that the main point of 1 Sam 3 is the usage to which I am applying it.

    Having said those things, I guess even as you bring up the contrast between priests who do not know Him vs. priests who do, I am reminded of where this promise is picked up in the NT, and explained how this is fulfilled in the NT Church, and that this fulfillment expressly has in view the Spiritual in-dwelling of the NT Church/believer, i.e., the decretal perspective, not merely the covenantal perspective.

    I find it even more telling that this priest contrast (even extended to David, bringing to view prophet-priest-king triunity of offices) rests on what it means to “know” the Lord. I refer folks back to simply the OT context for this phrase, one that almost consistently demonstrates that this is a decretal perspective, a vital, Spiritual birth regeneration is in view, not merely the external covenant only relationship.

  121. Reed Here said,

    January 15, 2009 at 11:13 am

    No. 118, Dr White:

    How did the author come by his knowledge of the spiritual condition of Samuel and Eli’s sons?

    Admittedly through the inspired author’s recording. I would also note that Eli’s knowledge of this is presented as an application of his knowledge of how God acts. He knew to tell Samuel what was actually occuring. He did not offer a, “well, I’m not sure, but let’s assume, it really doesn’t matter in the end since all we have is the covenantal perspective.”

    Are we the readers able to have the same knowledge about our children that the author had of Samuel and Eli’s sons? If so, how? If not, where does that leave us?

    No, readers are not. I do not believe that removes the challenge I’m offering to the FV. Remember, the challenge is how we are to view our baptized children, regenerate or not. Following their logic, the FV has (sometimes strongly) argued against the expectation a profession of faith from our children (as if this were merely a theological confusion growing out of the revivalistic evangelical culture that the FV disparages.)

    The expectation of a profession of faith rests primarily on Rom 1:9-10 (ff. 17). The FV has argued against the application of this passage to baptized children. Instead of urging them to seek the fulfillment of the promise of baptism (decretal regeneration), the FV would have us urge them to seek the fulfillment of the promise of sanctification.

    My point remains that we mis-minister (if you will) to our children when we skip the need for a “credible” profession of faith.

    The FV rests this BR position on their “covenantal-only perspective” hermeneutic: since we cannot see the decretal, we must function from the covenantal. An expectation of a profession of faith grows out the decretal perspective. (That we accept the profession from the covenantal perspective does not alter this).

    Samuel’s coming to “know the Lord” offers an example of a decretal perspective in terms of a baptized (circumcised) child. We see that even in Samuel’s life, there was no BR presumption.

    It could be argued (to come full circle) that this is merely tertiary to the passage, that the whole point is to contrast the calling of a Spirit-filled (regenerate) prophet with the spiritually dead (not regenerate) priests. I agree (remember, small challenge).

    And continue to point out the context of this tertiary insight and the inference we can draw from it; God does not speak from a covenantal-only perspective of Samuel. If all He wanted to do was note that one party (Eli’s sons) was not Spirited-filled, and one was (Samuel), He could have done so with covenantal-only perspective details.

    That He did not speaks to me that the FV’s hermeneutic is improperly flattened. God chooses to explain decretally, and calls on us to walk by faith decretally. In particular, we are called to urge on our children that they close with Christ, just like Samuel did. The FV wants us to presume that they already have, and go immediately urging them to grow with Christ.

    This seems to me to be poor shepherding.

  122. David Gray said,

    January 15, 2009 at 11:59 am

    No. 118 is pretty much what my first question was. And I don’t think that the above answer really answers the point, at least not to this poor layman.

  123. rfwhite said,

    January 15, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    120 Reed, earlier someone alluded to Jer 31 too, where there is a promise concerning the knowledge of the Lord. It may be true that Samuel’s eventual knowledge pertains only to his prophetic call, but I’m not convinced, especially if we all agree that the contextual counterpoint to Samuel’s eventual knowledge is the ignorance of Eli’s sons and it has nothing to do with a prophetic call. On the other hand, let’s say that Samuel’s knowledge does pertain to his prophetic call. I’m reminded that, beginnnig with Moses and continuing with the prophets after him, a prophet’s knowledge of God was seen as emblematic of the knowledge of God that should and would be democratized among all the Lord’s people indiscriminately (see, e.g., Moses, Jeremiah, and Joel). In that light, with the light of Samuel’s role in the ending of the historical cycle of the judges, it seems improbable that the author intends us to understand Samuel’s knowledge of God as specifically prophetic and not generally soteric (or at least also generally soteric).

  124. Reed Here said,

    January 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    No. 122: David, see my responses to Dr. White in no. 121. If that does not help, sorry.

  125. Reed Here said,

    January 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    No. 123, Dr. White: ok.

  126. David Gray said,

    January 15, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    >No. 122: David, see my responses to Dr. White in no. 121. If that does not help, sorry.

    I appreciate how you handle yourself in these matters…

  127. Reed Here said,

    January 15, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    No. 126: and I you David. I regret my failures. I’m grateful for Christ’s sufficiency. I’m encouraged to press on.

  128. rfwhite said,

    January 15, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    121 Reed, it seems to me that your comments in 121 illuminate a key presupposition: what does it mean to “function from a covenantal perspective”? Is it a presumption of promise only? Here’s what I’m trying to highlight. When Jesus received children under His ministry while on earth, He reasserted both the promise and the warning of God’s covenant: He said that the kingdom would be granted to those who received it like a child, but that it would be withheld from those who did not so receive it. Arguably, today, as He receives children under His ministry while in heaven, He continues to declare promise and warning, promising the kingdom to those who receive it by faith and warning those who turn away of consuming fire (cf. Heb 12:25-29 with 11:1-2, 6). Similarly, the apostles obligate believing parents to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition [training and instruction] of the Lord. The apostles expected parents in obeying this directive to teach their children to obey all that Jesus commanded, presumably including His command to repent and believe His gospel of the kingdom (Matt 4:12-17, 23; cf. Acts 2.38-39). The apostles’ instruction to children is in harmony with their instruction to parents. They obligate children to keep “the first commandment with [its] promise” of well-being and long life (longevity) on the earth. In this directive, the apostles clearly regard the children, like their confessing parents, as the Lord’s disciples, for they are teaching the children to obey his commandments and, moreover, that they are subject to His promises and warnings. To what extent is what I have just described the “covenantal perspective” under which we are to function?

  129. Reed Here said,

    January 15, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    No. 128, Dr. White:

    “Covenantal-only” perspective is my awkward way of trying to express the FV’s key hermeneutical principle. They argue, as you know, that the decretal cannot be known, the inward, vital, Spiritual status and relation of individual is actually only known (infallible) to the Lord (assurance notwithstanding). Gvien this, the FV argument goes, all that we as the Church have to function on is the covenantal perspective, that which can be seen externally, visibly.

    From this critical insight the FV builds most of its system (some inconsistencies notwithstanding). Thus arguments flow for the “real” experience of the benefits of the covenant of grace for all those externally in the Church, regardless of whether or not the same ones are vitally in the Church. In eschewing the visible/invisible distinction, the FV effectively says that decretal considerations do not come into play. It does not say that decretal = covenantal. It says since decretal is not knowable, covenantal is effectively decretal.

    Aside from the equivocation issue (the FV speaks about covenantal blessings as if they were effectively indistinguishable from decretal blessings), to me one of the critical issues is how this hermeneutic plays out in terms of interpreting Scripture.

    Glaring examples would be John 15 and the book of Ephesians. The FV, most clearly with the latter, eschews a decretal interpretation, and insists that Paul is addressing the Ephesian church without discrimination between Elect Visible Church members and Non-elect Visible Church members. Thus. the FV argues, all are addressed as “elect”, “sealed”, etc., throughout the whole book.

    This hermeneutic it seems to me is not consistent with the presentation of Scripture. Rather than a covenantal-only perspective, it seems to me that the Bible presents a covenantal-decretal perspective, one that is substantially more textured than the FV flattening suggests.

    Anyway, it is from the flattening force of this hermeneutic that the FV finds biblical support for their baptismal regeneration position. My attempt here has been to use the 1 Samuel 3 passage to demonstrate that this covenantal-only perspective does not fit. Instead, the passage must be interpreted via categories that are decretally informed.

    I admit that this language is cumbersome. My usage of it reflects my effort to be consistent with the boundaries and markers that have been drawn here af GB in prior conversations.

    Does this make sense?

    As to your example of the covenantal perspective reading of commands/promises to parents, I’d say that your interpretation demonstrates that the word “only” (as insisted on by the FV) does not apply. Indeed, in that you include the necessity for parents to express their faith in God’s promises, in that they also are called to give a conversion response (repent and believe), I’d say you are rather demonstrating the co-inhering of the covenantal and decretal perspective.

    To go back to my challenge to the FV BR position, the FV wants us to treat our children as if they were already converted. There is no need to call for an initial response of repentance and belief, as we assume they are already (covenantally viewed) regenerate.

    My one small challenge is that this is not how God teaches us to view our children. The historic reformed practice of confirmation (correct me if I’m wrong), aside from some misunderstandings, is effectively built on the notion that raising our children in the admonition of the Lord means we teach them to repent/believe, and expect them at sometime to give evidence that they actually (vitally) have repented/believed. Prior to that we treat them as children under promise, but ones not yet evidencing the prequisites for full experience of those promises.

    My arguments here are showing my own faulty memory in the accepted reformed expressions. I hope I am clear enough however that my points are followed.

    The FV wants to treat children as if they were saved from entrance externally into the covenant; that is as if they were fully a Christian as an adult convert baptized upon profession of faith.

    I think Samuel gives evidence that God himself does not view things so indiscriminantly.

  130. rfwhite said,

    January 15, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    129 Reed, presuming that your exposition of the FV covenantal perspective in this connection is sufficiently accurate for this discussion, then it suggests to me that the questions here include not only the relationship of that which is knowable (covenant) to that which is unknowable (decree), but also the definition of covenant. Is the covenant an administration of salvation / blessing only or of both salvation / blessing and judgment / curse? It appears that this is at least part of the question of texture vs. flattening that you are describing.

  131. Reed Here said,

    January 15, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    No. 130, Dr. White, yes I agree. This subject is one of some continual examination here. I for one am persuaded that the FV holds to this hermeneutic inconsistently at best. Such extended conversations as those on temporary faith never quite get to the end. I suspect the skill needed is beyond my abilities. (No excuses, I walk by faith after all).

    I found T. David Gordon’s article “Reflections on Auburn Theology” (By Faith Alone, Johnson & Waters) some recent help (as other critiques in the Knox Colloqium effort). I’m anticipating your and Beisner’s article in the same work will be of further help.

  132. rfwhite said,

    January 15, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    131 Reed, thanks. I’m heartened to see that I’m tracking with your argument.

  133. Curate said,

    January 16, 2009 at 1:21 am

    To go back to my challenge to the FV BR position, the FV wants us to treat our children as if they were already converted. There is no need to call for an initial response of repentance and belief, as we assume they are already (covenantally viewed) regenerate.

    As an FV Dark Ale, may I challenge your view as being defective, diminished, and truncated? Here is why:

    I treat my 18 month old child, Carl, as regenerate because he has been baptized into Christ. I view my other, older, children the same way.

    That in no way implies that I do not require them to confess their faith themselves when they are able to do so. Neither am I satisfied with only an initial confession, but an ongoing faith, BECAUSE THEY MAY FALL AWAY!

    Thus my belief in the reality of apostasy means that I both believe that my children are regenerate through baptism, AND that I require a personal confession and evidence of a living faith.

    I am thus able to apply Hebrews 6 and 10 et al directly and personally to them and to the congregation. I treat them all as elect, I address them as such, AND I warm them that unless they persevere in faith and obedience they cannot be saved.

  134. Ron Henzel said,

    January 16, 2009 at 4:56 am

    Curate,

    It seems to me that you’re saying that to treat people as elect means treating them as if they can fall away. Therefore, you seem to believe that the elect can fall away. Is this an accurate representation of your position?

  135. David Gray said,

    January 16, 2009 at 7:27 am

    >It seems to me that you’re saying that to treat people as elect means treating them as if they can fall away.

    Wouldn’t it be better to say that you treat the visible church as elect recognizing that some are not and will fall away. Warning against apostasy, per se, can’t be a bad thing as scripture does it.

  136. Xon said,

    January 16, 2009 at 8:10 am

    David Gray (135), that is a pretty standard way to speak on both sides of the FV discussion. Reed’s argument, however, at least as he has articulated it in more recent comments, seems to deny that this an appropriate approach. The “Judgment of charity” is a common anti-FV assertion about people in the visible church: we treat them as if they are elect until and unless they prove otherwise. Guy Waters says the same thing, although he then criticizes Rich Lusk for saying that “pastorally” we have to collapse the distinction between visible and invisible. (Don’t get me started on that pot-kettle problem, though).

    Also, Lane has openly acknowledged here, rather famously, that he no longer considers Doug Wilson to “eschew” the visible/invisible distinction. So, Reed, your argument is moving further and further away from actual FV positions on things, it seems to me.

    But putting that aside and returning to the logic of your argument as you first put it, you still seem to be saying that, since Samuel could be both “covenantally” with God (as a good Israelite, circumcised, etc.) but NOT yet “know the Lord” in a decretal sense, that this means that FV is wrong when it says that we ought to presume that all covenantally united people are also decretally united until and unless they prove otherwise. Put that way, of course, the argument is clearly fallacious, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how else you might be trying to argue.

    And, again, I do think there are a lot of (probably accidental) distortions of FV positions in this, especially in more recent comments you have made. “Covenant only” perspective does NOT mean, in any FVer I’ve ever read or heard, that we NEVER question a person’s decretal election. And I have double never heard any FVer say that we should not require “professions of faith” from our children, unless by “profession of faith” you mean some formalized statement. But, again, these are all technically beside the point of your original argument, which seems to have logical flaws even if we accept at face value all your interpretations of what FV theology asserts and entails.

    Trying to understand, but you’re getting a lot of resistance on this one from people who arne’t FV sympathizers, too. Hey, we all have those days. :-)

  137. Ron Henzel said,

    January 16, 2009 at 11:34 am

    David,

    I am simply going by Curate’s own words in comment 133. He did not say that he merely treats his children as regenerate while realizing they may not be. In his second-to-last paragraph he clearly states that he believes his children are “regenerate through baptism,” and then in his last paragraph he equates believing that they are “regenerate through baptism” with treating them as elect. He does not make any distinction between being regenerate and being elect, and since he seems to be asserting that baptism is the instrument that effects regeneration, then he would also seem to believe that baptism somehow effects election as well.

  138. Pete Myers said,

    January 16, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    To go back to my challenge to the FV BR position, the FV wants us to treat our children as if they were already converted. There is no need to call for an initial response of repentance and belief, as we assume they are already (covenantally viewed) regenerate.

    I treat my child as elect, but expect him to show signs of faith and repentance as he grows up, recognising that my treating him as elect may turn out to, in time, become inappropriate (which I pray won’t happen).

    There is no need to manufacture some point of initial response of repentance and belief. However, continual repentance and belief every day is something that I call my children to, and every brother and sister in my congregation too as well.

    So does every Evangelical Anglican I know.

    The fact is:

    1) Presumptive election/regeneration does not equal FV’s view on baptismal regeneration.
    2) Presumptive election/regeneration does not equal failing to call my children to repentance and belief

    And, what’s more,

    3) FV’s view on baptismal regeneration does not equal presumptive election/regeneration!

    I’m thinking of my children as decretally elect, and personally inwardly regenerate… but just like with myself and everyone else, I only think of people as being regenerate insofar as they show covenant loyalty. Once my children, or my church member, demonstrates covenant unfaithfulness, they’re proving themselves to be unregenerate, and church discipline kicks in.

    The FV person thinks of their children as covenantally elect, and corporately regenerate. In this sense, when someone demonstrates covenant infidelity, the FVer thinks they are falling away from their election and regeneration.

    My point is this: the categories are not as tidy as they’re being treated in parts of this discussion.

    Blessings…
    Pete

  139. Curate said,

    January 16, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    It seems to me that you’re saying that to treat people as elect means treating them as if they can fall away. Therefore, you seem to believe that the elect can fall away. Is this an accurate representation of your position?

    No, Ron, it is not accurate. I do not believe that baptism effects election. I treat the elect, meaning the church that is listening to me preach to them, as if they can fall away, just as scripture does.

  140. Pete Myers said,

    January 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    #139, Curate,

    You’re talking about covenantal election aren’t you?

  141. Reed Here said,

    January 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Roger, Xon: your arguments amount to no distinction for pre/post conversion. For those in covenant, you effectively eliminate any consideration of actual conversion, as you assume it’s been there all the time. You both have expressed language that describes initial conversion as if it were no different than the ongoing expressions of faith/repentance occurring in sanctification. Might I caution you, it is such language that gives us real concern that you actual will end up conflating justification and sanctification.

    Pete, my problem is that this does not square with the Scriptures.

    Xon, recent exegetical discussions actually seem to me to fall in my favor. But then again I may be jaded :)

    As to judgment of charity, there is a distinct distinction between the kinds of judgments of charity the FV will offer and that which we critics do. I don’t think you’re deliberately ignoring the significance of the differences, but surely you do remember:

    > The FV gives a judgment of charity, a presumption of regeneration, upon baptism (speaking of infants), whereas we would expect a profession of faith before offering the same charity judgment.

    > The FV will not offer a judgment of charity when interpreting the Bible where it fits their hermeneutic, ala the book of Ephesians, insisting that reprobate and elect members are being addressed by Paul indiscriminantly. Equating that position as a charity judgment equal to the charity judgment that says Paul is speaking generally, and particularly only to those to whom it applies (decretal) elect; well that is simple meaningless foolishness. These two positions do not even share the same basic presuppositions. Might as well say 2+2 =5 as much as it does 4.

  142. Zrim said,

    January 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Pete,

    I wonder if you might clarify:

    Once my children, or my church member, demonstrates covenant unfaithfulness, they’re proving themselves to be unregenerate, and church discipline kicks in.

    The FV person thinks of their children as covenantally elect, and corporately regenerate. In this sense, when someone demonstrates covenant infidelity, the FVer thinks they are falling away from their election and regeneration.

    I get the sense you are trying to distinguish your view over against how you understand a FV one.

    But, first, to my reading, your view (first paragraph) seems pretty conclusive: demonstrated covenant unfaithfulness = “proven unrengenerate.” Your characterization of the FV does as well (second paragraph): covenant infidelity = “falling away from election and regeneration.” What’s the difference here?

    And second, to my lights, covenant breaking doesn’t “prove” anything. Rather, it “suggests” that true faith may be in question. And the process of discipline, which is arduous, isn’t designed with an eye toward making pronouncements upon one’s eternal status. Rather it seems to have an eye toward a visible regard for the one in question (to say nothing of an eye toward repentance). After all, if there are wolves within and sheep without, and if we can expect to see in glory plenty of those deemed heretics by the militant church while those deemed saints by the same curiously absent the church triumphant, I seriously question this language of “proving.”

  143. Todd said,

    January 16, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    This discussion demonstrates the problem of accepting new and confusing terminology into our doctrinal formulations. Once we accept terms such as “covenant regeneration” and “covenant election” then we go round and round trying to figure out what they really mean and how they apply. “Covenant election” belongs to Israel as an OT nation. Other than Israel, “election” in the New Testament always refers to the eternally elect ordo salutis wise. And “covenant regeneration” is nonsensical and only leads to more confusion and wrangling about words. There is no such thing as covenant regeneration, there is only regeneration as the WCF defines it; that is, decretal regeneration. Until FV proponents and sympathizers demonstrate the inadequacy of the traditional formulations in our confessions and systematic theologies, it might be helpful to stick to the old language when discussing theology, so at least everyone understands what others are even talking about.

    Todd

  144. Jim Crangle said,

    January 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Hey Guys,

    I am a newcomer as you will soon probably guess. In the last couple of years, some things have happened in my life that have caused me to question some of the teachings and inconsistencies of my Roman Catholic upbringing. I am coming very close to leaving the Catholic church, but before I do, I need to do some soul searching as well as have a clearly defined explanation of why I would make this big decision to leave. Thanks to the internet, I have been able to search out some of the answers to those questions without upsetting family and friends. I came across an unusual website for Reformed Catholics. I didn’t know it was possible for two opposing doctrines to exist together – the label seemed to be an oxymoron. That website was linked to the doctrine of the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul which then led me to other sites which included this blog.

    I read and studied the Federal Vision and at first was very drawn to its teaching because it seemed to be an honest attempt to reconcile the differences between the teachings of the Reformation with the doctrines of the Catholic church. But then as I read and studied further, I began to see the same inconsistencies that I struggle with in our Catholic doctrine. Since you guys seem to be wrestling with some of the same issues on this blog, can you help me out here – I’m a little confused. How did the Federal Vision become a part of Reformed churches? Their views on baptism, communion, and the church are very similar to the Roman Catholic church. Is the purpose of the Federal Vision to try and bring the Reformed church and the Roman Catholic church back together? Is that something the Reformed church is seeking after? I’d really like to know. My knowledge of church history is minimal to nothing, so it could very well be that I am missing something here.

    Thanks for welcoming this rookie.

  145. Reed Here said,

    January 16, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    No. 143, Todd: am in complete agreement. For the sake of the discussion, I accept both the “covenantal” definitions and the sincerity with which the FV wants to maintain that it is not merely discussing the decretal terms under another guise.

    I find it fascinating that even in this thread, the amount of attention given to the particular usage of terms, and then need to qualify them, outweighs the argument against my challenge (at least in terms of shear word count). The same thing happened on the last thread I started, and more or less has occurred on every FV post here at GB.

    I’ve deliberately sought to avoid the equivocation issue. But, like the gorilla in the room it is kind of hard to do so.

    This brings me back to words like “functional,” “effectively,” “practically,” etc. The FV wants to insist it is saying something new, different, and better, something which will help alleviate weaknesses found in the discipling of Christians. I am persuaded that FV sincerity and verbosity is insufficient to avoid the conclusion that the FV’s positions inexoriably collapse into the very positions they try to avoid. But that’s the subject of a different post.

  146. Richard said,

    January 16, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Joshua, you said “You’re seriously going to say that we can believe in the promises of election for children who die in infancy, but not for live infants?”

    Quite! I cannot fathom that thought process. If my child died today then I shouldn’t doubt her election but if she is still alive I should…seems somewhat absurd.

  147. Pete Myers said,

    January 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    #143, 144, Todd and Reed

    I am in half agreement. Sometimes the “anti-FV” rhetoric seems to extend to positions that are held by people who aren’t FV, but are Reformed. Furthermore, sometimes the “anti-FV” crowd seem to use terms in such a narrowly defined way, that, you’d get (and do get) confused just talking to an Anglican Evangelical about a pretty mainstream position.

    “Grace” is a classic example. Many many people I know (over here) would use the term “grace” to refer to “unmerited favour”, while they’d use the term “mercy” to refer to “demerited favour”.

    But lots of you guys would only use “grace” to talk about demerited favour – and insist that is the only valid meaning of the word. In fact some can be quite militant about it. (Despite the universal use of the term “common grace”, which is unmerited favour).

    #142, Zrim,

    My view (read, standard paedobaptist evangelical Anglican over here in the UK, and in no way FV, as far as I can tell) is that:

    1) Using terms in the classical systematic sense (at least as far as I can tell):
    (a) election as in decretal election,
    (b) regeneration as in inward real actual personal regeneration
    (c) outward/administration of the CoG, and inward/substantive experience of the CoG

    2) I can’t know that anyone is regenerate other than myself. However, scripture tells me to relate to people as either regenerate or not based on their relationship to the covenant – I have no other way of discerning someone else’s salvation in this life. Put another way – Paul, and I, have to apply statements about the substance of the covenant to people who are included in the administration of the covenant. Because, their relationship to the outward administration is the only indication we have of their relationship to the inward substance.

    3) True covenant faithfulness is: repentance and faith. Only the elect can do this, because only the elect are regenerate. Outwardly, I can see your: profession, walk of life, and treatment of other Christians (i.e. relationship to the church). Outwardly, these are the only ways I have of getting any indication of whether someone is inwardly regenerate and therefore genuinely repenting and believing.

    4) I baptise my children, because they have a right to (outward, administrative) covenantal inclusion.

    5) That right to (outward, administrative) covenantal inclusion is also good evidence to me and the church that they’re regenerate. Because they are included in the covenant I expect them to have faith and repentance as they grow up to become capable of those things.

    6) To my eyes, therefore, I have the same confidence about my children’s salvation as I do about the profession of an adult at church.

    7) However, my children could grow to 15, renounce Christ, and fall into unrepentant sin. This would demonstrate that they never had been regenerate all along. But that doesn’t mean that I was wrong to treat them as though they were regenerate before it was clear that they weren’t – I was simply treating them based on the best information I had at the time.

    8) But to my eye that is the same situation as a 35 year old Christian man at church, who was converted at 20, but who at 35, renounces Christ, and has an unrepentant affair. This would demonstrate that he had never been regenerate all along. But that doesn’t mean that I was wrong to treat him like he was regenerate previously – I was simply treating him based on the best information I had at the time.

    Note: This is not losing regeneration/election. Paul talks to the whole of the Ephesian church as though they are elect (Ephesians 1), even though some of them would probably fall away later. He is simply talking to them based on the best information he has at the time.

    The FV view, as far as I can tell (to treat them as a homogenous group just for the sake reducing comment length) is:

    1) The FV are using the terms “elect”, and “regenerate” differently:
    (a) They are talking about “covenantal election”… the idea that God’s people are together “the elect” when they are in covenant with God.
    (b) They are talking about “covenantal regeneration”… the idea that God’s people are part of “The Regeneration of the World” when they are in covenant with God.

    2) In this sense, the FV talk about people actually being elect and regenerate for a temporary period of time. Put another way – Paul is, in Ephesians 1, genuinely saying that he is absolutely confident about every single person in Ephesus, that they really are elect. He’s not “just acting on the best information available to him”… he really is capable of knowing the actual truth of the elect status of people in the sense he’s talking about (i.e. covenantal election).

    Therefore, my position is different to the FV position. I also think my position is the consistent position to hold if you’re a paedobaptist… and it is scriptural.

    It seems completely inconsistent to me to:
    (a) Think your child is still a rebellious sinner against the Lord, whose heart is only evil continually, and wouldn’t repent even if he had the faculty to do so, and yet baptise him anyway.
    (b) Think your child is an unrepentant rebel and yet teach him to pray “Our Father…”, and to call Jesus “Lord”.

    And – this position is also different to the FV position, as, it does not automatically lead to paedocommunion. The requirements for taking communion are not simply “whether you’re a genuine Christian”. (If you want more on this, see: http://www.metepyers.com/2009/01/01/a-critical-reconsideration-of-paedocommunion/)

  148. Reed Here said,

    January 16, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    No. 146, Pete:

    Yes, some of the FV position overlaps with positions found in other reformed expressions. This is even true for some positions we have in common (our criticism of the FV is not absolute).

    Clarity in words are important (grammatical silliness to illustrate ;-)). With the FV, we agree that the words of the Bible have an acceptable (i.e., biblical) semantic range. Obviously we disagree as to the range.

    The only thing I would ask is why you do not seem to expect a moment for a baptized child to offer a profession of faith (or am I assuming this is missing in your practice)? Do you practice padeo-communion? Do you maintain any sense of the older reformed practice of confirmation?

    It would seem to me if you do expect a moment of a profession of faith from a baptized child, and that prior to that moment their experience in church is different (e.g., communion at least), then how we minister Christ to them must be consistent with this as well.

    It is for this reason that I speak to baptized children as presumed not-regenerate until they offer the biblically expected profession of faith (and then presumed regenerate). This does not mean they are treated like children outside the church. It does mean, however, that I do not ignore their needs to close with Christ.

    This, I believe, is the defectiveness of the FV’s BR position. It offers our children a truncated faith. As with all such errors, wrongly ministering Christ is fraught with potential danger and damages. Both the FV and we critics take serious our charge to raise children in His admonition and to not exasperate them. When our ministry of Christ does not match the Bible’s, we run these twin risks.

  149. David Gray said,

    January 16, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    >It is for this reason that I speak to baptized children as presumed not-regenerate until they offer the biblically expected profession of faith (and then presumed regenerate).

    Pastor, you do accept that children can be regenerate prior to their ability to articulate an acceptable confession of faith, correct?

  150. Andrew said,

    January 16, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Reed (and sympathizers),

    It seems to me, given not just my limited knowledge but the reactions of others, that what you are attacking is not remotely an FV distinctive, but standard reformed theology, at least in the pre-Thornwall times. Like Pete, I am from the UK, and I have held these views independently of the FV.

    I could try to provide historical quotations, but this would involve a lot of work, and this forum might not be the best place for reflection on them.

    So instead, I wonder if you have read Schenck’s book “The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant: An Historical Study of the Significance of Infant Baptism in the Presbyterian Church”. If not, I would happily donate £50 to yourself or some good cause of your choice in return for a committment to read it.

    I would not expect you to agree with it (the book is largely historical, rather than theological), but I think you might at least recognise the breath and depth of the posistion of disagree with.

  151. Pete Myers said,

    January 16, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    #147, Reed,

    The only thing I would ask is why you do not seem to expect a moment for a baptized child to offer a profession of faith (or am I assuming this is missing in your practice)? Do you practice padeo-communion? Do you maintain any sense of the older reformed practice of confirmation?

    It would seem to me if you do expect a moment of a profession of faith from a baptized child, and that prior to that moment their experience in church is different (e.g., communion at least), then how we minister Christ to them must be consistent with this as well.

    Reed, Witsius outlines the different sorts of experiences we may see in an elect child of Christian parents (this is a very rough summary, doesn’t cover eveyrthing he says, don’t have Witsius to hand):

    1) The elect child may remain unregenerate until, say, they’re 17… then poof. It all makes sense.
    2) The elect child may be regenerate in the womb, but there is a particular battle for years and years inside the child, between the old and new man, where it takes the child (let’s say) 20 years for the new man to finally show himself in “full bud”. Over this time, the new man largely looks stifled by the old for long periods, but then seems to make glimmers of winning, only to fall back again.
    3) The elect child may be regenerate in the womb, and as he grows, he embraces fully everything he hears about Christ, as his faculties enable him to more and more.

    So, why aren’t I expecting “a moment of profession”? Pastorally I think it’s incredibly unhelpful to force my children into a restricted view of conversion. I have this argument with my boss (who is a baptist), on average once every 2 months.

    Theologically speaking, I think that regeneration can be thought of as a particular moment, but also as an ongoing process (ala Calvin). In this sense, the “particular moment” could be thought to be the point at which regeneration began. Hence, there is a central section in Mark’s gospel, all about how Jesus’ death will solve the hard hearted lack of understanding that the disciples have. It is bracketed by the inclusion of two miracles where Jesus open’s people’s eyes (Mark 8v22-26; 10v46-52).

    I think it’s really clear – bare minimum – that the first miracle is supposed to be an enacted parable of what’s going on with Peter’s profession in 8v27-33. Which raises the question – at what exact point did Peter become regenerate (leaving aside the “giving of the Spirit” in Acts 2, obviously unique historical circumstances)?

    I expect my children to continually profess faith. I don’t expect there has to be a particular point in time when we can all point to and say “that’s their conversion”. In fact, Reed, I’d suggest this need for this “point of turning”, or whatever, is actually less Reformed, and more pietistic Evangelical.

    A bit of testimony: for as long as I could remember, I believed in Jesus. I trusted in Jesus. I didn’t understand very much, and longed to be taught about him fully, but I trusted Jesus – I’d say that I loved him.

    But when I was 7, I heard in Sunday school, that, we won’t go to heaven unless we ask Jesus to come and live in our hearts. I got worried. I came home and asked my mother about it. She said, yeah, I need to ask Jesus to come and live in my heart. So we sat down and prayed.

    Bam. In that one prayer, my church had managed to conspire to do the single worst thing for my faith – and totally knock my assurance. I had trusted in Jesus… but now that trust needed to meet the expectations of others. I wasn’t being nurtured in my simple trust of Jesus, I was being shown that my trust wasn’t good enough… and I spent years struggling with assurance, never confident I trusted Jesus properly.

    I only learnt to understand my testimony this way after I had become an infant baptist, and see all the implications of it.

    Confirmation

    Reed – massive difference here, I think: I do not believe confirmation is the mark of you becoming a Christian

    The mark of becoming a Christian is baptism. If you don’t believe your kids are Christians – don’t baptise them. It is a massive inconsistency to deliberately give people the mark of Spirit baptism if you don’t think they are Spirit baptised.

    Not only does this inconsistency just make baptists think that infant baptism is inconsistent – but this sort of inconsistency is just the sort of thing the FV guys are trying to plug. They aren’t doing it correctly. But it would help to plug it correctly for them.

    Confirmation is the mark of maturity – growing up in the faith. Reed – I don’t know if you read my blog posts on this: http://www.metepyers.com/2009/01/01/a-critical-reconsideration-of-paedocommunion/

    But I point out there how Calvin, and Witsius, both reject paedocommunion not because we shouldn’t think of our children as real Christians, but because communion is different in nature to baptism. You can be baptised in virtue of just being a Christian… but communion requires maturity and personal reflection.

    Therefore – confirmation is a point of recognition by the church that a covenant child has “come of age” in the faith. Why do we need that?

    Well, we all agree on the Ordo Salutis: (1) Regeneration, (2) Faith

    For infants, we assume (1) Regeneration… but they don’t have the capacity to exercise (2) Faith. Confirmation is the moment when the church can publicly see that the child has grown in the Faith we all expected the child too, because we assumed they were Regenerate.

    But this moment is not the point where I start thinking of them as converted. If it were – that’s then I’d baptise them.

  152. Pete Myers said,

    January 16, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Oh, and, Reed… I’d cheerfully point out that I think you’re misunderstanding my position in #147 even though I’m sticking to purely classical Reformed terminology.

    Though, I’d only point it out for the fact that it’s ironic. And being British I like irony.

    A lot.

  153. Zrim said,

    January 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Pete,

    Re 146:

    But to my eye that is the same situation as a 35 year old Christian man at church, who was converted at 20, but who at 35, renounces Christ, and has an unrepentant affair. This would demonstrate that he had never been regenerate all along. But that doesn’t mean that I was wrong to treat him like he was regenerate previously – I was simply treating him based on the best information I had at the time.

    I’m not trying to find a FV devil under your doily. There is much with which to agree in your post. But, with regard to references to anyone’s eternal status, you seem to employ more language I am at ease with here (e.g. “demonstrate,” “indicate”) than there (e.g. “prove,” “never”). But you seem to almost go back and forth between the two.

    In your example above you suggest that our apostasizing, adulterizing and unrepentant friend’s behavior tells us he “had never been regenerate all along.” Mmmm. Why is it not enough that this is a comment on his relation to the covenant instead of hop scotching to speculate on his election, regeneration?

    When a fellow deacon abruptly surrendered his post and church membership, admitting to “agnosticism,” my first inclination was not to close a chapter on his eternal status. Rather, it was to pray for and avail myself to him. Prior to his apostasy, I treated him according to the best information I had available to me, too. But I worry that, amidst all the erudite theologizing and making up of terms (thanks, Todd), we lose sight of reality, and, in point of fact, what is really at stake here, which is to say, how we actually regard those who fall away from the outward covenant. I appreciate you are trying to make a point by way of example. But does it count for anything that I do not find myself in your example? I do not find myself ever making speculative conclusion on any member of the covenant.

  154. Pete Myers said,

    January 16, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    #152, Zrim,

    I do not find myself ever making speculative conclusion on any member of the covenant.

    Zrim, you do… you do, you do, you do.

    Every time you counsel a member of your church, or encourage someone with Christ, … every time you speak to someone as though they are elect you are making a speculative conclusion about them.

    That is a faithful thing to do… we are to treat people who appear to be outwardly faithful covenant members as though they really are God’s children. My point is – you simply cannot function as a Christian without making this assumption about the inward reality of people’s hearts.

    As to someone who has firmly rejected Christ, turned away, and is unrepentant. I would tell them that they are heading towards Hell unless they repent and turn to him in faith. When I do that, I am – again – having to lean on a “speculative conclusion” about the real status of that man’s heart.

    The confusion here is NOT due to “erudite theologizing and making up of terms”. I’m using terms in a purely Reformed way here (and, anyway, I don’t think the FV terms are that hard to understand on their own terms… though granted the failure by some of them here to distinguish how they’re using terms is amazingly unhelpful).

    So – in a nutshell – if someone very clearly falls away from the outward covenant, I would not treat them, or speak to them, as a Christian. And I’d press home to them that they shouldn’t consider themselves a Christian unless they repent.

    Please note, Zrim, that this discussion has actually arisen from a very practical and pastoral disagreement that Reed and I have had… it has not arisen from a vague, purely academic theological discussion (but they always have pastoral applications anyway).

    Reed is saying that he does not think of his children as genuine Christians as he’s raising them. He’s said that he will wait for a moment profession, and treat that as though it is there “conversion”, after which, he will think of them as genuine Christians. I, along with many other Evangelical Anglicans, think there’s big pastoral consequences of that thinking that way.

    I can be as confident about my son’s salvation as I can be about John Doe who professes at church. If John Doe died today, I’d speak at his funeral with an absolutely confident tone that he is with Jesus… I’d do the same thing if my baby boy died today too.

    The possibility that John, or Josiah (my son), may possibly fall away in the future, thus proving themselves never to have been real Christians doesn’t stop me being confident about their relationship with God now.

    As to how far we can push language… John seems to be able to speak in pretty definitive terms (1 John 2v19) based on people’s response to the gospel.

    If you’re concerned about the tone and method in which I’d describe these sorts of things to my congregation – do remember this is a comment thread on a blog. It’s hard enough to get people to hear the things I say plainly when I say them as plain and straight up as possible.

    To add all of the qualifications, and fuzzy language that we find ourselves doing when we’re having those sensitive conversations on a Sunday morning – well – it would be simply impossible to communicate in this forum with that kind of nuance.

  155. Reed Here said,

    January 16, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    David: yes, I agree, regeneration (the decretal kind) can happen at any time, before or after water baptism.

  156. Reed Here said,

    January 16, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Pete: I treat children prior to profession of faith differently, not because I know they are not regenerate, but because the biblical standard for doing otherwise has not been satisfied. I have no warrant to presume beyond what Scripture teaches.

  157. Reed Here said,

    January 16, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Andrew: appeals to posterity only are sufficient to the degree that they illustrate the biblical doctrine. References apart from such demonstration are empty of any influence other than an appeal to mere historical authority, something we all as Protestants supposedly eschew.

  158. Reed Here said,

    January 16, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Pete: nothing I’ve argued for in any way conflicts with Witsius (his observations are not even in view).

    I disagree with how you’ve expressed water baptism. We do not baptize because we assume they are also Spirit baptized (your words). We water baptize because God has promised to Spirit baptize when and where it please God according to His decree. Rather than remove inappropriate inconsistency, you’ve pushed for a consistency beyond the biblical bounds.

    (It is usually a good sign when both sides of an issue seem to want to argue against you. That credo-baptists and the both pro-FV and otherwise sympathetic on this issue commenters disagree with me, and somewhat on the same basis, gives me encouragement that I’m on target with the Scriptures).

    I’ve not responded to a lot else of what you’ve written, as it sounds like you are arguing (more or less) against inferences that are not in view here.

  159. Curate said,

    January 17, 2009 at 1:34 am

    Reed, I do indeed believe in a moment of conversion, and I am surprised that you do not grant me this, given the very long discussion we had about a year ago on baptism.

    Baptism is the usual and normal moment of conversion, because it is the laver of regeneration. In my baptismal service, the minister says after the baptism, seeing that this child is regenerate ….

    The WCF calls baptism the means of conveying salvation, so it and I are on the same hymn sheet here, and you are arguing like a revivalist Baptist.

    In my own case my baptism only bore fruit 23 years later, and I blame my godless upbringing for that. Had I been nurtured with the food of life from infancy things would have been different.

    So rebirth is not tied to the moment of administration, but that kind of delay is an anomaly.

    To wrap it up, I do not expect a moment of conversion in my kids because they are already converted, and they are demonstrating a lively and obedient faith.

    You do not believe your own confession on this, and that is the root of your confusion.

  160. Pete Myers said,

    January 17, 2009 at 5:04 am

    #155, #157, Reed,

    We do not baptize because we assume they are also Spirit baptized (your words).

    Not my words. Reed, I find it incredible that you’re failing to actually engage with what I’m saying here. You’re running my logic backwards.

    Look at this very carefully, Reed:
    1) I give baptism to my children, because they have a right to be included in the covenant. (not because I first think they’re regenerate)
    2) Baptism is the sign and seal of regeneration.
    3) Therefore, infant baptism teaches me to expect my children to be regenerate.

    (It is usually a good sign when both sides of an issue seem to want to argue against you. That credo-baptists and the both pro-FV and otherwise sympathetic on this issue commenters disagree with me, and somewhat on the same basis, gives me encouragement that I’m on target with the Scriptures).

    Both of those sides of the issue would want to disagree with me too. And, anyway, this sort of logic is quite dangerous.

    I’ve not responded to a lot else of what you’ve written, as it sounds like you are arguing (more or less) against inferences that are not in view here.

    I frustratingly think you aren’t even seeming to grasp the issues.

    Rather than remove inappropriate inconsistency, you’ve pushed for a consistency beyond the biblical bounds.

    It is inconsistent – well within biblical bounds – to baptise someone whom you think not to be regenerate. Your position isn’t baptising someone when you’re “not sure”… you are baptising children whom you think aren’t regenerate. That is inconsistent.

    It’s also the sort of inconsistency that results in a reaction that swings too far the other way – hence the FV. In other words, the the FV have a point on this whole “you’re being baptistic” thing. I realise that you guys get offended by it. And I realise that the FV response isn’t the most balanced. But they are responding to something that is substantially baptistic.

    But, perhaps I’m not hearing you correctly… if so I need to push you on this:

    I treat children prior to profession of faith differently, not because I know they are not regenerate, but because the biblical standard for doing otherwise has not been satisfied. I have no warrant to presume beyond what Scripture teaches.

    Please don’t conflate categories here, Reed. I’ve tried to carefully pick apart absolute objective knowledge from our subjective judgements on these matters.

    We can’t have objective knowledge about the regeneration of anyone other than ourselves. So – you don’t know they’re unregenerate, neither do I know they are regenerate in this sense.

    When you say “the biblical standard for doing otherwise has not been satisfied”… that is exactly the point of disagreement. It is in this sense that you “know” they’re not regenerate, and in this sense that I “know” they are regenerate. Based on the biblical standard for treating someone as regenerate or not – you are concluding the children aren’t, but I am concluding they are.

    Reed – to set the Biblical standard needed to be able to say someone is regenerate higher than an infant is able to obtain is baptistic thinking.

    The Biblical requirement of a demonstration of mature faith and repentance prior to me treating them like a real Christian is:
    (a) only obtainable by those with a non-infant mind.
    (b) therefore not applicable to infants
    (c) I expect to see smaller evidences of this in infants as their capacities grow (what Calvin calls a kind of seed faith)

  161. Todd said,

    January 17, 2009 at 5:31 am

    As for the need for clear, precise, agreed-upon language in discussing theology, here is a good reminder from Machen:

    “This temper of mind is hostile to precise definitions. Indeed nothing makes a man more unpopular in the controversies of the present day than an insistence upon definition of terms … Men discourse very eloquently today upon such subjects as God, religion, Christianity, atonement, redemption, faith; but are greatly incensed when they are asked to tell in simple language what they mean by these terms”
    (What Is Faith? 13-14)

  162. David Gray said,

    January 17, 2009 at 6:26 am

    Machen was exactly right about that…

  163. Pete Myers said,

    January 17, 2009 at 7:13 am

    #160, Todd,

    Even when I’ve used FV terms, I’ve tried to define them, or at least what I mean by them.

    And in this discussion we’re having now, Reed and I are using terms in exactly the same way – but – there’s still misunderstanding and lack of communication.

    When your anti-FV rhetoric becomes such that it becomes anti-a-lot-of-other-things-as-well, and when your absolute insistence on particular definition of terms is so narrow that it excludes reasonable usage (e.g. grace for unmerited favour)… then there’s perhaps more going on than simply your interlocutors are being too postmodern.

    The concern I’m expressing here, is, that in reaction to the FV, there seems to be a measure of unbalance on the other side – an unbalance that people seem very, very reluctant to acknowledge and address at points. Responding to the FV’s unbalance with unbalance in the other direction (even if it’s not as extreme)… will simply encourage FV sympathisers to sympathise more.

    (And in itself causes confusion. Part of the reason that I thought the FV were right on loads of things, was because I’ve listened to debates, and read articles, where the anti-FV don’t sound Calvinistic)

  164. David Gray said,

    January 17, 2009 at 7:40 am

    >an unbalance that people seem very, very reluctant to acknowledge and address at points

    But acknowledging the unbalance will get you labeled FV…

  165. Todd said,

    January 17, 2009 at 7:58 am

    David and Pete:

    What particular imbalance(s) are anti-FV folk like myself very reluctant to acknowledge and address?

    Thanks,

    Todd

  166. Zrim said,

    January 17, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Pete,

    Re #154:

    As to someone who has firmly rejected Christ, turned away, and is unrepentant. I would tell them that they are heading towards Hell unless they repent and turn to him in faith. When I do that, I am – again – having to lean on a “speculative conclusion” about the real status of that man’s heart…

    So – in a nutshell – if someone very clearly falls away from the outward covenant, I would not treat them, or speak to them, as a Christian. And I’d press home to them that they shouldn’t consider themselves a Christian unless they repent.

    I like nutshells. What I am less wild about is when I have to keep my eye on three at a time and guess which one bears the bean.

    For my part I’d rather employ the language of the Apostle in 1 Cor. 5 instead of your preference for Billy Sunday: “…hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.”

    I simply do not locate in scripture any license to peer into and make conclusion upon anyone’s invisible status. All I ever see is are boundary markers for outward posture. And for even those who appear to have fallen away, I see no license to speak to them as definitively as you suggest. I only see license to speak strongly in such a way that it pricks the conscience of true faith instead of fear-mongering a soul into submission. Moreover, it is not altogether clear to me that when a soul is not pricked, how “shaking dust from sandals” translates into knowing a soul will one day beg father Abraham to dip his finger.

    I quite agree with you that this boils down to a pastoral concern; that was the point of my fellow deacon story. Stray sheep don’t need sheering, they need a rod and staff.

  167. Pete Myers said,

    January 17, 2009 at 10:59 am

    #165, Todd,

    Well the baptistic imbalance of not wanting to view your children as real Christians for one.

    #166, Zrim,

    I have nowhere claimed to know the secret decrees. This feels like a frustrating discussion, as, you seem to be pulling my comments out of context – they’re coming from a discussion about baptism and how we view our children.

    What’s more, I have already acknowledged that my use of words on this comment thread is deliberately more pointed. That’s because unless I am absolutely clear about what I mean, I’m scared I’m gonna get the FV brand and face flame.

    The reality is, Zrim, that I talk to my next door neighbour (who’s not a Chrsitian), and tell him honestly that he won’t be in heaven, despite his feeling that he will. If I give him even a hint that he might get to heaven, unless he repents and has faith (i.e. if I add all the qualifications that I don’t know the state of his heart etc.), then I’m not pressing home the genuine urgency that is needed.

    Here’s the balance thing – you’re absolutely right to say that we shouldn’t go around declaring the secret judgements of God as though we have them written down at home. But I think you’re wrong to say that we don’t talk about what we see, and pretend that the judgements are so completely unknowable that we need to just put them out of our thinking completely – heck – that’s the FV position, which has led them to have to create new categories anyway.

    I’m preaching on God’s sovereignty this month. Last week I preached on election. I talked to the congregation as though they were elect.

    I don’t know for sure if any of them are elect (including my wife). But it was still biblical, right, faithful and pastoral to talk to them as though they are elect, because, God’s told me to talk to people as though they’re elect if they’re showing three things:
    – profession of faith in Christ.
    – love for other Chrsitians
    – growth in godliness

    This is 1 John. I’m slightly miffed that, even though I’d already pointed you to 1 John, you clearly hadn’t read it. But instead assumed that I “obviously aren’t being biblical” and decided to make this comment, which feels a little high handed:

    For my part I’d rather employ the language of the Apostle in 1 Cor. 5 instead of your preference for Billy Sunday:

    John says this (2v19):

    “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they are all not of us.”

  168. Reed Here said,

    January 17, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    No. 159, Roger: you indeed are correct and I apologize. The error came from my attempt to conflate Xon’s FV-lite with you FV-dark. Purely my mistake, not your’s or his.

    As to the question of the function of a profession of faith, I would maintain even with your dark version, it is still substantially different then what I see in Scripture.

    As to my “inconsistency” with my standards, you are encouraging in your consistency, if not in your accuracy. I maintain (hopefully as consistent) that this is a no-fly criticism, referring back to our previous conversations for my defense. But that is a debate I think we’ve left were it was.

  169. Reed Here said,

    January 17, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    No. 160, Pete:

    I indeed may have misunderstood you. I was commenting on your statement:

    The mark of becoming a Christian is baptism. If you don’t believe your kids are Christians – don’t baptise them. It is a massive inconsistency to deliberately give people the mark of Spirit baptism if you don’t think they are Spirit baptised.

    Aside from the question of what “Christian” means (I assume you are using it more broadly of those visibly in the CoG, and not expressly of those inwardly united to Christ.), is the latter sentence.

    Are you saying we water baptize because we assume that folks are Spirit baptized? (At least that is what the sentence says). Maybe you might intend something beyond your last present active usage of “to be.” I am trying to be careful and not read beyond what you’ve said.

    It appears to me from the rest of what you said that I’m at least in the ballpark with my criticism. Your take on confirmation, focusing exclusively on the growth in faith as opposed to the initiation of faith seems to demonstrate that your understanding of conversion, for baptized children, is in practice something that has no functional visible presence. It is assumed to be. Even the confirmation practice is not understood so much from an expression confirming the initiation, but confirming the developnment of faith.

    If I’ve understood you rightly, you see confirmation more as an aspect of sanctification that conversion. If so, I would argue that you are flattening the differences too much.

  170. Ron Henzel said,

    January 17, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Curate,

    You wrote in comment 139:

    No, Ron, it is not accurate. I do not believe that baptism effects election.

    I will take this as an affirmation that you do believe that baptism effects regeneration, since you did not in any way modify or challenge my citation of you saying that children are “regenerate through baptism.”

    You also wrote:

    I treat the elect, meaning the church that is listening to me preach to them, as if they can fall away, just as scripture does.

    So now you are defining “the elect” as “the church that is listening to me preach”?

    In comment 159 you wrote:

    The WCF calls baptism the means of conveying salvation[...]

    Exactly where does the confession say that? I checked out WCF 27 and 28 but could not find such a statement.

  171. Reed Here said,

    January 17, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    No 160, Pete: I’ve reviewed your post on padeo-communion. Your position is that children are excluded from the LS on the basis of maturity, correct? That is, they are excluded until they are able to fulfill the self-examination criteria, yes?

    Aside from general agreement, I would note that you conclude by offering an argument from Calvin’s silence, to wit that this is not to say that baptized children are presumed not regenerate. I think all the old saws about making arguments only on the basis of silence apply here. You need to go elsewhere in Calvin to determine whether or not he presumes regeneration upon baptism.

    I.O.W. your assumption is just that. Nothing in 1Co 11 necessitates saying that only (presumed) regenerate are in view. Rather, the underlying presupposition Paul is arguing from is whether or not a person evidences the fruits of conversion. There is a deliberate ambiguity in what it means to “discern the Lord’s body.” My understanding is that this is because Paul intends for us to consider this from both the perspective of one’s relationship with God and one’s relationship with the Church. You cannot fulfill the 2nd greatest commandment (love of others) unless you are able to fulfill the 1st greatest commandment (love of God), and both necessesitate regeneration.

    Thus, to limit Paul’s argument to a question of maturity is to miss the primary reason for the self-examination – do you give evidence of one who is truly (inwardly, vitally) united to Christ? Rather than a support by silence for presumed regeneration merely on the basis of baptism, the passage actually supports the need for a higher standard of measurement. This standard is both beyond baptism, and reflects a need for evidence of sanctification (which evidence only flows post-conversion).

    On your prior comment, as to my supposed (credo-) baptistic inconsistencies, I disagree. I understand that a part of the regular ministry in the life of a covenant child is to ask them to offer a profession of faith. I do this because Scripture says to do so. It demonstrates both a continuity and discontinuity with the experience of those outside the CoG who are also not admitted to full (vital) membership until they offer a profession of faith.

    Say this is baptistic if you wish. I believe you are missing the Bible teaches this. The continual danger we fall into is an either/or absolutizing of our position. The credo-baptist would agree with you. That merely shows you understand his (possible) imbalance. It does not show I’m inconsistent with the Bible. It may very well be that I’m merely inconsistent with a position that is inconsistent with the Bible. I find that a safe place to rest.

  172. Reed Here said,

    January 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    No. 170, Ron: to offer clarification for Roger, he does not make the equating you read in his comments. Rather he sees the Spirit’s work of baptism i>ordinarily tied to the act of water baptism not exclusively so. He will qualify this position very carefully so as not to fall into any of the obvious problems addressed by the Westminster Standards.

    I.O.W., Roger will offer one of the more self-consciously consistent FV takes on baptism. I believe he is still critizable from the equivocation issue however. LIke the FV generally, in this area Roger is not guilty so much on internal inconsistencies, but biblical inconsistencies. He will disagree of course, but it will probably save you both some time if you are aware of these things.

    Hope this helps.

  173. Todd said,

    January 17, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    “Well the baptistic imbalance of not wanting to view your children as real Christians for one.”

    We tell our children Christ is their Savior if they believe. When they say they believe as two-year olds, I don’t assume think they are lying, they may possibly already be saved, but I also know it is possible they are not. We evangelize our children as they grow up – that is not baptistic, it is our responsibility. Baptistic is to assume our children are unregenerate until believers’ baptism, or to push them for a definitive time and date of accepting Christ to assure them (and us) that they are Christians. No one is suggesting that. What Reed has been arguing for is classic reformed thinking, as evidenced by Hodge below:

    “Infants are the objects of Christ’s redemption. They are capable of receiving all its benefits. Those benefits are promised to them on the same conditions on which they are promised to their parents. It is not every one who says Lord, Lord, who shall enter into the kingdom of God. It is not every baptized adult who is saved; nor are all those who are baptized in infancy made partakers of salvation. But baptism signs, seals, and actually conveys its benefits to all its subjects, whether infants or adults, who keep the covenant of which it is the sign. As a believer who recalls some promise of the Scriptures which he has read or heard, receives the full benefit of that promise; so the infant when arrived at maturity receives the full benefit of baptism, if he believes in the promises signified and sealed to him in that ordinance. Baptism, therefore, benefits infants just as it does adults, and on the same condition.”
    (Charles Hodge – Systematic Theology Vol III)

  174. Reed Here said,

    January 17, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    No. 144, Jim:

    Your comment got hung up in the “pending” que. Shouldn’t happen again. To offer just a brief answer to your question:

    > FV proponents would vigorously deny the RCC connection.
    > At least the potential for this connection has been noted almost from the beginning of the controversy.

    Some of this has been cleared up by the FV offering clearer language. Yet the basic principles that some critics believe warrants the connection still remain.

    We try to be careful here as we discuss such connections, not wanting to merely be heard to be offering pejoratives in our critique of the FV. Your observations are appreciated in that vein, as you demonstrate a sincere and irenic spirit in your questions.

    I’ll leave it to others to answer it more detail, provided they do not seek offer a full blown examination here (not the topic of this post). If some wish, they can communicate with you offlist, or possibly one of us moderators can begin a thread on your particular subject.

    David Gadbois, you might be best set to handle this. Want to?

  175. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 17, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Hey, my weekend freed up!

    Reed, Todd, Dr. White: I’ve been taking a closer look at 1 Sam 2 and 3, considering (more carefully than last time!) your arguments and helpful comments.

    Here’s the summary of my opinions, and then I’ll explain them below. I’m still listening, but my thoughts have evolved a bit:

    (1) It is not possible that the narrative in 3 is a telescoping recapitulation of chapter 2.
    (2) It is possible but by no means certain that Samuel is not regenerate by the time the narrative hits 3.7.
    (3) If we were to take Samuel as unregenerate in 3.7, then this reading opens the door wide to precisely the “covenantal regeneration” that you and I wish to exclude — I’ll treat this in a separate post, but notice that Xon has already been moving in this direction.
    (4) There is not one single notion of “judgment of charity” — that’s a separate post as well.

    In a short, the “telescoping recapitulation” reading is made impossible by verse 3.14. To see this, we need to first notice the structure of chapters 2 and 3. Elkanah brings Samuel to Eli sometime after he is weaned. The narrative now moves in six “panels”, each consisting of a narrative scene and ending with a statement concerning Samuel’s ministry and growth.

    Panel 1 (2.1-11): Elkanah brings Samuel
    End Panel 1 (2.11): “And the lad was minstering the Lord before Eli the priest” – the verb here is a present participle, indicating ongoing action.

    Panel 2 (2.12-18): The Sin of the Sons of Eli
    End Panel 2 (2.18): “But Samuel was ministering before the Lord.” — again with the participle

    Panel 3: Samuel grows up (2.19 – 21)
    End Panel 3 (2.21): “And the lad Samuel grew up with the Lord.” — here, waw-consec. and imperfect, which Williams calls the “preterite”, a simple past tense.

    Panel 4: Eli confronts his sons (2.22-26)
    End Panel 4 (2.26): “And the lad Samuel was continuing (pres part. again!) to grow agreeable, both to the Lord and to man.”

    Panel 5: Prophecy against Eli (2.27 – 3.1)
    End Panel 5 (3.1): “And the lad Samuel was ministering the Lord before Eli.”

    Panel 6: The Vision (3.2 – 4.1)
    End Panel 6 and end of narrative (3.19 – 4.1): “And Samuel grew (waw-consec. + impf.), and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel knew, from Dan to Beer-Sheba, that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet to the Lord. And the Lord increased his appearance at Shiloh for he revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh. And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.”

    Now, here’s the payoff. When God speaks to Samuel, he explicitly makes reference (3.14) to the threat that he had previously delivered through the man of God. So, the vision in panel 6 must occur *after* panel 5.

    But panel 5 must occur after Eli’s encounter with his sons in panel 4, which in turn occurs after the sins of the sons in panel 2 begin.

    Further, the narration indicates flow of time in two ways. First, the participles indicate ongoing flow of time. Second, 2.19 – 21 show the passage of time with the family of Elkanah — the boy receives a little robe year after year, Hannah has three sons and two daughters.

    Put all of this together, and it becomes necessary to see chapters 2 and 3 as an ongoing narrative in which Samuel is continuing, year after year, to “minister the Lord” and to “grow in pleasantness to the Lord” — all prior to the events of chapter 3.

    Thus, I think it impossible to see chapter 3 as a telescoping recapitulation.

    What now of the meaning of 3.7, “Samuel did not yet know the Lord”?

    On the one hand, we have an inclination to read “yada’ et-yhwh” as salvific knowledge — or as a combined prophetic/salvific knowledge. In favor of this are these arguments

    * There is a parallel between 2.12 and 3.7, the sons of Eli who do not know the Lord and Samuel who does not yet know the Lord.
    * The broader Scriptural usage is overwhelmingly in favor of reading the phrase salvifically.
    * It is possible that 1 Sam 2 speaks of Samuel in an anticipatory way, much as Jeremiah is “anticipatorily” known by the Lord in Jer. 1.5.
    * (from #115) It is possible that Samuel’s “not yet knowing” of the Lord is intended to parallel Israel’s “not yet knowing” the Lord — which is salvific.
    * (from #115 again) It is possible that Samuel is “growing in favor with God” because he is obedient to Eli and therefore under the blessing of the 5th commandment.
    * (#123, and I’m not sure I fully understand it) “In that light, with the light of Samuel’s role in the ending of the historical cycle of the judges, it seems improbable that the author intends us to understand Samuel’s knowledge of God as specifically prophetic and not generally soteric (or at least also generally soteric).”

    I think these arguments make your reading possible, Reed. Against it I would raise a possible alternate reading. Samuel does not know what the voice of the Lord sounds like, even though he has for some time been a faithful, believing minister of the offices of the Lord. This contrasts entirely with the sons of Eli, who do not know the Lord in any sense.

    These two are then emblematic of remnant Israel and apostate Israel, respectively. The one is faithful, but ignorant, since the “word of the Lord is rare”; the other is faithless and unknowing because they misuse the sacrifices.

    Here are the arguments in favor of this reading.

    * The contrast between the sons of Eli and Samuel is a complete one. The sons of Eli “do not know the Lord” because they are “sons of Belial” — worthless men. This is then explicated by their behavior.

    In contrast, Samuel “does not know the Lord” because the word of the Lord has not yet been revealed to him. This is then the explanation for his failure to recognize the voice of the Lord three times.

    (Todd, I don’t think the text casts any negative light on this beyond Samuel’s ignorance).

    Thus, it is possible that the narrator is using “know the Lord” in two senses here, each qualified by the second clause. Samuel, the adopted son, is entirely different from Hophni and Phineas, the natural sons, in that his lack of knowledge is one of ignorance only, while theirs is one of willful disobedience.

    * Ephesians makes clear, even as it discusses election, that those who are not yet of faith are children of wrath. That is, when we come to faith, we pass from wrath to favor, and not before.

    If this is the case, and since the narrative is an ongoing chronological narrative, then Samuel must be in faith prior to the vision.

    Objection: what about the possibility of “anticipatory growing in favor”, similar to Jeremiah 1?

    The notion of “anticipatory growing in favor” seems too much like “eternal justification” to me. Eph. 1 and 2 seem to rule out that God would see us in this way.

    Further, the appeal to Jer 1 is troubled in several ways: the knowledge is from the Lord to Jeremiah, not the other way; the knowledge in Jer 1.5 is arguably prophetic rather than salvific (!); and, we haven’t ruled out that Jeremiah, like John the Baptist, was regenerate in the womb.

    * One additional feature is telling. In 2.21b, Samuel is literally said to “grow up with YHWH” — which phrase is repeated again in 3.19: “And Samuel grew and the Lord was with him.” This strongly suggests that Samuel’s status as “with the Lord” was present both before and after the vision.

    To sum up, I think your reading is possible, but it is by no means a “necessary inference.” That is to say, I would not wish to use either your reading or mine as a test for sound doctrine.

    Regards,
    Jeff Cagle

  176. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 17, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    So suppose I surrender entirely to your judgment, Reed, and affirm that Samuel undergoes a conversion experience some time between verses 7 and 10 of chapter 3. ;)

    What then does Samuel’s experience tell us about the non-believing covenant members? Well, they can grow in favor with the Lord (if only in an anticipatory sense?!). They can minister before the Lord without censure.

    In short, if I take your account, non-believing covenant members like Samuel are to be treated just the same as believing covenant members with rights even to participate in the ministry and offices of the church.

    I am confident that this is 180o opposite from the conclusion you wish to draw.

    Jeff

  177. Reed Here said,

    January 17, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    No. 175, Jeff: whoa, serious work dude. Thanks. As my challenge was intended to be small, an example if you will, I’m comfortable using in support of more established arguments elsewhere.m(Recapitulaton was admittedly my weakest argument, and not essential).

    I guess I’d conclude, if in all other contexts such language infers soteric connotations, and the text does not requite us to deny that here, then the broader context of Scripture informs this particular Scripture. Again, unless the immediate mitigates against, the broader context must not be excluded.

    No. 176: not necessarily so. My point is not to make another observation about the distinction between EVCM and NEVCM, or even EVCM-not-yet-ICM (figure it out ;-) ). My point is to challenge the flattening (practical elimination) of decretal considerations in terms of the conversion of baptized children. If (and only if) we are seeing (at least, not solely) Samuel’s conversion, we have evidence that God himself does not present things in the flattened covenantal-only hermeneutic of the FV.

    Rather, if Samuel here is experiencing conversion (& calling) then we find support for the reformed position that we are not to presume regeneration upon baptism for covenant children.

    This is my only point, admittedly a small one.

  178. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 17, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    A large portion of the threads here have been focused on terms like “presumptive regeneration”, “covenantal regeneration”, and “judgment of charity.” In the process, we as a group seem to be at loggerheads concerning the right way to speak of and to our children.

    On the one hand, we don’t wish to treat them as “vipers in diapers” (great phrase!). On the other, we don’t wish to treat them as certainly saved.

    On the one hand, we affirm that each person, including covenant children, need to come to a point of repentance from sins and faith in Christ. On the other, we affirm that there may not be a single, definable moment in time when this occurs.

    On the one hand, we acknowledge that children could be regenerate in the womb (John the Baptist), and we are mindful that Jesus received little children to Himself. On the other, we acknowledge that covenant children could be Esaus rather than Jacobs.

    Interestingly, many of us on all sides of the argument have appealed here to these “on the one hand/on the other” arguments — see #35, 41, 47, 51 above and more.

    What’s going on? Why do our children leave us sputtering (as they often do!) in trying to describe their exact status?

    I submit that we have inductive uncertainty in trying to determine whether or not our children are saved. In other words, because we stand on the outside of others and do not have a Salvation-O-Meter that we can attach to them, we cannot know the salvation of others.

    BUT

    Just as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle does not mean “we don’t know anything about anything”, so also our lack of Salvation-O-Meters does not prevent us from thinking about the salvation of others in terms of degrees of confidence.

    Here are evidences that our children (or anyone else) might be saved:

    (1) They have made a profession of faith.
    (2) They exhibit godly character and the fruit of the Spirit.
    (3) They glorify God in speech and action.
    (4) They are members of the church.
    (5) They have made vows to the church.
    (6) They have received baptism.
    (7) They are children of believers.

    Some of these (1-3, 5) are obvious and need no comment. They are “strong evidences” of true belief.

    What about 4, 6, and 7? At first, it might not seem that these should count as evidences of possible faith. And yet, when we meet someone who says, “Hi, I’m visiting from 10th Pres in Philly”, we not only greet them as a brother but invite them to partake in communion with us! At the level of sharing in communion, we consider church membership to be sufficient evidence of faith.

    Likewise with 7. If a child of believers dies and yet has made no profession of faith, we consider the promise in 2 Sam 12 and argue that, while we don’t certainly know the decrees of God, all odds are that the child is saved. That is, we view the odds to be good enough so that we give the parents assurance.

    Similarly with 6: a baptizee, whether child or adult, is in fact a visible member of the church. This is evidence, not infallible proof, that this one belongs to God.

    Where the confusion occurs is when we try to absolutize any one of the above 7 evidences as either “certain” or “worthless” in determining actual salvation.

    Instead, I think we should accept that we will always have higher or lower degrees of confidence about everyone, and that certain degrees of confidence are acceptable for certain situations.

    So for example: with my children, given their developmental stage, I accept them as Christians even though neither of them has made an “EE-perfect” statement of faith. My evidence? They belong to the church and have been baptized into the church. They show the fruit of the Spirit at times. They show spiritual interest. They can express that Jesus died on the cross for their sins.

    For now, at this level, that is enough. If in the future they show contrary evidence, I will worry. If in the future they do not develop in their faith, I will worry. But for now at this point, I have a high degree of confidence that they are in Christ.

    So one place that I would agree with Reed is this: at some point, I would want my children to take membership vows. This a matter that is often overlooked, but the logic of paedocommunion leads, I think, to the abolishment of membership vows for covenant children. That’s a mistake; the vows function as reasonable evidence of faith.

    Now a candidate for elder is a different matter. Scripture authorizes us to examine such a one more carefully to get a much higher degree of confidence of his walk with the Lord.

    So my point is this: we ought, I think, to be thinking about “degrees of confidence” of salvation, rather than either absolutizing any one evidence (whether “profession of faith” or “baptism”) as dispositive.

    This brings me to why I don’t like “Covenantal Regeneration” as a term. The very language itself suggests an absolute relationship between being in the covenant and being regenerate — or being a partaker of “the regeneration.” The language takes membership in the visible church as “strong” or “absolute” evidence of salvation, which in fact it is not.

    Regardless of what the user of that term means by it, the term will inevitably confuse. (Todd’s caution in #143 is very much on-point here) “Covenantal Regeneration” is pedagogically ill-favored.

    Thoughts?

    Jeff Cagle

  179. Reed Here said,

    January 17, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    No. 178, Jeff: regardless of our take on 1Sam 3, you and I have a high degree of agreement in these things. If I might speak anecdotally, of my five children, taking into consideration your list of 7:

    > I have confidence in the faith of three,
    > I have hopes of faith in the fourth, and
    > I do not yet see evidence of faith in the fifth, but am confident of his security in the Lord’s hands should he die before offering a profession of faith.

    My concern with the FV’s BR is both a corporate concern and a personal concern. As a pastor, I have no right to affirm something is true of a person apart from the marks the Bible uses. A profession of faith is one of those marks.

    As a father, I express my faith in God’s promise by how I disciple my children. Thus with my middle child, I have expected he has been saved for a number of years. Yet he was unable to either articulate that, or offer even in a muddled articulation demonstratnig of real faith nevertheless.

    Given this, in my discipling of him I did not urge him to simply pursue sanctification. Instead I urged him to pursue evidence of conversion, a profession of faith. I called on him to seek Christ for a credible profession of faith and repentance.

    I did not do so because I thought this was necessary for salvation, or that prior to it there was no salvation. I did so because the Bible tells me that this is a mark to expect in my child, prior to coming to the LS. Trusting God, I did as instructed.

    Two weeks ago this child came to me and said he wanted to become a communing member of the Church. As is my practice, I gently probed his profession. To my surprise he offered a profession not marked simply by comprehension, but very obvious and very clear ownership of the truths he espoused his faith in. Admittedly this is anecdotal, yet the joy of this father eliminates any questions I may have had concerning the value of simply following the biblical plan God lays out for our/His children.

    I believe the FV’s BR position offers children a short-circuited experience of God’s ministry in both bringiong them to Christ and in growing them. I agree with them in terms of their critique of the vipers in diapers paradigm (ev en thought I’ve yet to see a church where this is fleshed out the way the FV critiques). I thing they’ve pushed the pendulum too far in the other direction.

  180. Curate said,

    January 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    170

    WCF says that the sacraments convey the things they signify. Baptism signifies justification and regeneration, so it conveys the same to those who rightly receive it.

  181. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 17, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Two weeks ago this child came to me and said he wanted to become a communing member of the Church…

    I’ve only had a portion of that feeling when presenting communicant class children for reception as communing members. You must be really happy. :)

  182. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 17, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Ron (#170):

    WCoF 27.2: “There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other…”

    So when someone is washed of his sins by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (“the one”), we attribute it to baptism (“the other”), recognizing that the true efficacy of baptism is faith.

    Jeff Cagle

  183. rfwhite said,

    January 17, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    175 Jeff C, thanks for the ongoing spade work. About 123, I was trying to bring together several streams of evidence, namely, the historical context (the spiritual condition of the judges generations), the context in 1 Sam (contrast between Eli’s sons and Samuel), and the official context (prophet’s knowledge as emblem for people’s knowledge). All these make it probable (though not certain or necessary, as you point out), to my mind, that we’re meant to understand the story to be about Samuel’s conversion and call (in contrast to the declension of Eli’s sons and of many in Israel), if not just Samuel’s conversion only.

  184. rfwhite said,

    January 17, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Jeff C, Reed, how do you put “children of wrath” together with “children of the covenant”? Specifically, with reference to God’s favor or disfavor toward children of the covenant.

  185. todd said,

    January 17, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Jeff, #175,

    Good thoughts. I’m still struggling with the phrase “he did not know the Lord” as something excluding the decretal sense. I still cannot think of one place in Scripture where that phrase is used to the exclusion of the decretal. Can you?

    The quintessential statement on this phrase in the OT is arguably Judges 2:10 “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” Clearly there the phrase includes, at the least, the decretal sense of being in a saving relationship with God. Why would the author of Samuel use this same phrasefor Samuel if he meant something enitrely different, especially after I Sam 2:12, which confirms the same meaning as Judges 2? Why would the Jews read a completely different meaning int it? What would have prepared them to understand it as a shorthand for not ever hearing God’s voice before? (A side note – interesting that it seems a whole generation of covenant children, raised by believing parents, were never regenerated to know the Lord, according to Judges 2:10)

    Finally, if there is no negative value judgment of Samuel not recognizing God’s voice after three times, what is the point of this story? What is it telling us about Samuel that we need to know?

    Thanks,

    Todd

  186. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 17, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Good questions, Todd.

    * If indeed the “know the Lord” does not include the salvific aspect, then it would be unique. So the burden of proof is certainly on my reading!

    (Obviously, I think the “with the Lord” and “grew in favor with the Lord” phrases in ch. 2 meet that burden of proof, as does the fact that Samuel is ministering before the Lord and is not in any way chastized for doing so, unlike the sons of Eli.)

    * Judges 2.10 is interesting, since it includes salvific and non-salvific usage of the word “to know” in the same sentence. More than any other usage, I think Judges 2.10 is not a pure example of salvific knowledge.

    * Why would the Jews have read a completely different meaning into it? Context is the only possible reason to offer. But I should say that the context is so strong (to my mind) that until I read Reed’s post, it had never even entered my mind that Samuel could be unbelieving as he was growing in favor with God. I’ve also polled my seminary buddies with a “cold read” — here, read 1 Sam 2-3 and then I have a question for you … what does 1 Sam 3.7 mean? Their first instinct has been non-salvific knowledge (of course, when I make Reed’s argument, they each say, “I could see that.”). That says something about the strength of the contextual clues here. The narrator leads us to see Samuel as already under God’s favor.

    * What does it indicate that God has to call Samuel three times? Well, it doesn’t indicate a wayward heart — the author makes a point of Samuel’s prompt obedience to the voice that he supposes to be Eli’s. Rather, it reinforces the point in the narrative: The word of the Lord was rare (3.1), but that was about to change (3.21).

    Whether 3.7 is prophetic only or prophetic AND salvific, it functions in the narrative as an explanation: God calls; Sam goes to Eli. God calls; Sam goes to Eli. “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord; the voice of the Lord had not yet come to him” God calls; Sam says, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

    The narrator specifically intrudes this comment into the story to explain why Samuel didn’t recognize God’s voice: because he did not know the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed.

    On my reading, this would function as a parallel to the ignorance of the remnant. Under the judges, the apostate part of Israel held sway. Beginning with Samuel, the remnant will rediscover their Lord and hear His voice.

    Again, I wouldn’t make my reading a doctrinal test. Reed’s account looks more plausible now than when I first considered it.

    Jeff Cagle

  187. rfwhite said,

    January 17, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    185 Todd, if I may butt in, I share your enthusiasm for the “conversion” interpretation of 1 Sam 3.7. Absent the text’s assertion of God’s favor toward an unconverted Samuel, it would be certain and not simply the most probable, in my opinion. Beyond the suggestion that God’s favor reflects Samuel’s obedience to the 5th commandment, do you have additional light to shed on that expression?

  188. Ron Henzel said,

    January 17, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Curate,

    The way you expressed it in comment 159, you seem to make baptism the effectual means of conversion. And now in comment 180 you isolate one aspect of what the WCF says about the sacraments from its whole teaching, resulting in distortion.

    In contrast, the WCF makes baptism a sign and seal that represents Christ and His benefits to us (27:1) in so that sometimes Christ and His benefits are attributed to baptism even though they belong to Christ Himself, (27:2) because it is not baptism itself that accomplishes these things, but the work of the Spirit (27:3).

    The Reformed tradition, going back to Calvin, has always insisted that the office of the sacraments is essentially the same as the office of the Scriptures when it comes to conferring salvation, in that they both confer the grace of salvation by holding forth Christ and His benefits to us. Calvin, for one, was quite clear about this. And yet, if one were to apply the same logic to the Scriptures as you applied to the sacraments in comment 159, then the first hearing of the Gospel in the Scriptures would have to also be “the usual and normal moment of conversion.” And yet this would be a ridiculous distortion of the traditional Reformed teaching.

    You clearly do not understand the confession, and stand far outside the entire Reformed tradition on this point.

  189. Ron Henzel said,

    January 17, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Jeff,

    Regarding your comment 182: I think you and I are pretty much in agreement on how to interpret the WCF. Curate seems to be saying something entirely different, however.

  190. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 17, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Dr. White (#184):

    Interesting question. I would consider covenant children (and spouses of Christians) to be within the shadow of the church. If indeed they are children of wrath, then their proximity to the church may mitigate that wrath for a time, but it will not prevent their final falling away.

    This is all spoken from “God’s point of view”, of course, which assumes that we have little “ECM” and “NECM” tags attached to everyone.

    If we speak from man’s point of view, then we have different perspectives on knowledge. Normatively, the fact that children are within the church and baptized is evidence that they should be treated as Christians. Situationally, their conduct and profession should continue to confirm or deny that status, within developmentally appropriate standards.

    It should be possible for a youth in the Church to articulate the gospel and apply it to himself or herself, regardless of whether there has been a single moment of conversion.

    (Aside: does not the narrator in 2.26 speak from both God’s view and man’s view?)

    What do you think?

    Jeff Cagle

  191. todd said,

    January 17, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    “(Obviously, I think the “with the Lord” and “grew in favor with the Lord” phrases in ch. 2 meet that burden of proof, as does the fact that Samuel is ministering before the Lord and is not in any way chastized for doing so, unlike the sons of Eli.)”

    Jeff,

    I wouldn’t expect the Lord to chastize a covenant child because he wasn’t regenerated yet; God allowed Cain to offer worship for many years before confronting him.

    * Judges 2.10 is interesting, since it includes salvific and non-salvific usage of the word “to know” in the same sentence.”

    I would argue that the second half of Judges 2:10 does refer to saving knowledge. Surely the point is not that the next generation were not even aware of what happened at the Red Sea; the point is that they did not benefit from it unto salvation.

    * Why would the Jews have read a completely different meaning into it? Context is the only possible reason to offer. But I should say that the context is so strong (to my mind) that until I read Reed’s post, it had never even entered my mind that Samuel could be unbelieving as he was growing in favor with God.”

    unless v. 1:21 is simply a general statement without specfic time frame in mind – the details come later.

    ” I’ve also polled my seminary buddies with a “cold read” — here, read 1 Sam 2-3 and then I have a question for you … what does 1 Sam 3.7 mean? Their first instinct has been non-salvific knowledge (of course, when I make Reed’s argument, they each say, “I could see that.”).”

    Hmm.. theology by polling…you wouldn’t happen to be related to Bill Clinton, would you? (just a joke)

    * What does it indicate that God has to call Samuel three times? Well, it doesn’t indicate a wayward heart — the author makes a point of Samuel’s prompt obedience to the voice that he supposes to be Eli’s”

    Yes, this is a nice point. Samuel is promptly obeying.Though I’m not sure we would expect any differently from a young child, converted or not.

    ” Rather, it reinforces the point in the narrative: The word of the Lord was rare (3.1), but that was about to change (3.21)”.

    Why then does the Lord not identify himself to Samuel? Does it not read like a test to you? Of course we have never heard God’s voice, but it seems in the OT that when God audibly speaks the people are expected to know who is speaking.

    ” Beginning with Samuel, the remnant will rediscover their Lord and hear His voice”

    Yes, this point would be true in both our interpretations. .

    “Again, I wouldn’t make my reading a doctrinal test.”

    Nor would I.

    Dr White,

    I see chapter 3 as recapitulation. Looking at Samuel as a whole; God’s blessing was on him from his parental heritage, providential positioning in the temple,to his conversion and calling, and eventually throughout his entire ministry as prophet. Now chapter 3:1-17 takes us to a specific time of Samuel’s conversion and calling as prophet, all of course demonstrating the favor of God upon him. Is this what you were asking?

    Todd

  192. Reed Here said,

    January 17, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    No. 181, Jeff: simply elated. I admit to being worried for this child for sometime.

    No. 184, Dr. White: I’d have to think about that some. Ephesians talks about “were children of wrath as the rest,” i.e. those not in covenant with God. The sticking point is that the FV will want to say external only considerations in view. Yet it seems to me that Ephesians 2 will not allow for such a flattening ((if it does, then we’re all in a heap of trouble in terms of our understanding of 2:8-9).

    I tend to prefer to speak of baptized children prior to profession as children under promise. Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s promise (to all whom it properly belongs) of His intention to apply to them the salvific work of Christ (when He deems).

    There is a distincion for children being at least externally in covenant. Yet I think the point of the contrast in Eph. 2 is not dealing specifically with their case. Rather the contrast is between prior conversion – children of wrath, post conversion – children of God, with the focus being more general than the particular situation of baptized children.

    I guess I’m leaning towards a “does not apply in context” view, but I suspect it is more textured than that.

    P.S. am enjoying you archtype-type-antitype, CoW – CoG discussion in By Faith Alone. I sense the kinds of insisghts that will lead to further coordination and cohesiveness in understanding. Thanks!

  193. Pete Myers said,

    January 17, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Reed, Jeff, Todd

    1) My posts on paedocommunion aren’t attempting to achieve what you’ve read them to be.

    The only reason I pointed you to them in this context, is to show that presumptive regeneration does not necessarily lead to paedocommunion. They’re not intended to prove presumptive regeneration (in fact the posts assume pr, in order to argue against pc from a pr position).

    All I’m saying about Calvin is that his argument for credo-communion is not based on thinking that infants are to be considered less Christian than adult professors. Calvin may articulate that view elsewhere (I believe he doesn’t), but the point is, that argument is not used to defend his view on credo-communion. This is not simply an “argument from silence”, as, it’s in direct contradiction to those who hold to paedocommunion because they believe in presumptive regeneration.

    2) As to the proof for baptism based on presumptive regeneration. Mea culpa, I think I got my words a little muddled, sorry for the confusion.

    3) I agree with Jeff in #178, and so it appears with Reed in #179. I don’t know what you’re hearing by “presumptive regeneration”. But I mean by it that there are good evidences that my children are genuine (inward) Chrsitians before they come to faith.

    While, of course, their confirmation is an important moment of public proclamation of their faith, I just don’t want to turn that into calling it a “conversion” moment. I feel that undermines the piety they had previously.

    And, of course, I keep saying (but I’ll say it again)… this all changes if they fail to show repentance and faith when they start gaining the faculties to do so.

    4) On Hodge – being an Anglican, my idea of “Reformed” is basically Calvin. I don’t think Calvin is in the same place Hodge is. So I disagree with Hodge. To be honest, I can’t see how Hodge is consistent with the WCF on this either…

    On PR, I think (based on something I vaguely remember reading a long time ago) Matthew McMahon takes the position that I would take. Though I wouldn’t go to the stake for that.

  194. Pete Myers said,

    January 17, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    …and Jeff’s usage of Frame’s perspectivalism is an immensely valuable thing to bring to the discussion table (I saw that in #190).

    Perhaps, in future comments, I’ll try and put things in Frame’s terms.

  195. todd said,

    January 17, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Jeff,

    I meant, “nor would I mine” in post 191( just for clarity)

    Pete,

    I know Calvin and Hodge differ a bit on the Supper, but where do you see them differing on baptism?

    Thanks,

    Todd

  196. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 18, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I had a though in the shower that might undermine my reading AND challenge the assumption that people are flatly under wrath prior to conversion, so let me throw out a couple of questions here:

    (1) What is Cornelius’ soteric status prior to Peter’s visit in Acts 10?
    (2) Can Cornelius be an effective parallel to Samuel? Or, is he so uniquely located in the transition from Old Covenant to New that parallels cannot be made?

    Jeff Cagle

  197. todd said,

    January 18, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Jeff # 196

    This is where the categories of inward and outward covenant, visible and invisible church become so important. The Lord does have a special relationship with all children in the outward administration of the covenant of grace that does not depend on the ordo; whether that child is regenerate or not. Jesus blesses all the children of Israel, and he was not conferring salvation on them all, nor were they all elect. God speaks to Cain lovingly and warns him. God provides for Ishmael in a special way. In Ezekiel God calls all the children of Israel, “My children” whether elect or not.

    So I can rightly say to my little ones pre-profession – “God loves you; you are special to him. God has given you a wonderful savior, and has chosen you to grow up hearing about this savior. Always trust him for salvation.” This is not telling him that he is already eternally elect jus because he is a covenant child and has been baptized. No, we evangelize him by teaching him more and more about Jesus, encouraging him at the proper time to make his own profession of faith. From the point of hispublic profession I give him the judgment of charity and assume he is a believer and treat him that way. If the church ex-communicates him, I will treat him as an unbeliever, but still not presuming I know for sure the status of his salvation – that I leave to the Lord.

    So if my child remains unconverted, from the standpoint of eternity and the ordo, he was and remains always under God’s wrath. But from the standpoint of God’s placing him in a covenant family, he is a recipient of God’s special love and care while he remains in the outward administration of the covenant.

    Todd

  198. David Gray said,

    January 18, 2009 at 9:13 am

    >This is not telling him that he is already eternally elect just because he is a covenant child and has been baptized.

    Does anyone teach this?

  199. rfwhite said,

    January 18, 2009 at 9:15 am

    191 Todd, thanks. On recapitulation in 1 Sam 3, it does seem necessary to acknowledge a measure of backtracking on the author’s part, doesn’t it? At the least, 3.1 seems intent on setting Samuel’s conversion and call at a time coincident with 2.11-12, 2.18. Perhaps we could see 3.1-17 as an elaboration of 2.25-26 (note: the connection to listening to the voice of the father), the point being that while Eli’s sons were given over to declension, Samuel was not.

  200. todd said,

    January 18, 2009 at 9:58 am

    David,

    Maybe not in those exact words, just refuting the idea that we must tell our pre-profession children that they are already Christians by virtue of their baptism or outward covenant member status. Well, time to leave for worship

    Peace,

    Todd

  201. Andrew said,

    January 18, 2009 at 11:59 am

    In passing, I would suggest (in response to a previous post), that there is no contradiction between paedo-communion, and having public professions of faith from our children at the appropriate age.

    Making vows is an element of worship, and can be done at any time. One might decide that is should be done at the same time as conferring voting rights to a member.

  202. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 18, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Dr White (#199):

    In your view, does 3.14 have reference to the threat delivered in 2.27ff?

    Jeff Cagle

  203. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Todd (#197):

    My question in 202 is directed to you also: does 3.14 have reference to the threat in 2.27ff?

    I agree with your account. I think you are giving detail to what it means to be “in the shadow of the church.” Perhaps ‘shadow’ has overly negative connotations, but I mean it as a positive term, as in ‘in the shadow of your wings’ of Ps. 63.7.

    contra Herman Hoeksema, God has genuine common grace towards mankind, and that common grace appears in Scripture to be “enhanced” or “concentrated” or “elevated” for those within the visible church.

    We might consider Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as an example of this, or God’s treatment in Hosea of Israel as a wayward wife. The branches on the olive tree are, after all, “attached.”

    This does not, at the same time, deny that the non-elect within the church are under wrath. The branches are, after all, “broken off.” In Hosea, the remnant is all that remains. After Jerusalem rejects Jesus, she is torn to the ground.

    So I think we’re dealing with a complex phenomenon in Scripture.

    As it relates to the discussion about Samuel, I don’t think the phrase “growing in favor” has any support for a reference to this kind of common grace. (I suspect you agree with me, which is why you would want to locate the “growing in favor” after the vision, yes?)

    Jeff Cagle

  204. rfwhite said,

    January 18, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    190, 192, 196 Jeff C and Reed — I take it that our thinking about how to related “children of the covenant” and “children of wrath” is quite similar. Jeff C, I too have pondered possible analogies between children of the covenant and Cornelius and his house, though I expect both of us would recognize key differences, not the least of which is that Cornelius and his house were outside the covenant community and Samuel was not. Someone (was it Todd?) brought up Cain (and Abel) earlier, which we’d all agree is more closely analogous to Eli’s sons and Samuel. Especially if we take the division between Eli’s sons and Samuel as an expression of the continuation of the division of the seed in Gen 3, an appeal to the context of Cain and Abel is helpful. As Gen 4 begins, Cain and Abel are both covenant sons born to covenant parents, raised by covenant parents, and engaged in noble, acceptable vocations. Though (ironically?) it is Abel who was given a name of disfavor and Cain of favor, there is no further differentiation between Cain and Abel for quite some time. As covenant sons, Cain and Abel had evidently been taught by Adam and Eve concerning acceptable worship of the Lord their God (cf. Job 1), for Cain and Abel both bring offerings to God in keeping with their standing as covenant community members. So much is this the case for Cain, that it is said of him that he went out from “the presence of the Lord” (4.16; cf. 1 Sam 1.22, 2.21?). In that community context, Cain and Abel both enjoyed great privileges when they witnessed, as it were, the doctrine of the gospel taught and embraced, the ordinances administered, and public worship performed. Though a covenant children, Cain was exposed as one of those who was yet a child of Adam liable to wrath and in whose heart God had not put hostility toward the serpent and his seed. Highly privileged as a child of the covenant (even in the presence of the Lord) and yet still liable to wrath when found with a hardened heart.

  205. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    I guess I’ve always read “out from the presence of the Lord” as an immediate follow-on to the conversation in v. 15: Cain got out of town immediately (and founded the first town. :) )

  206. rfwhite said,

    January 18, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    202 Jeff C, though I can’t say I’ve thought it through, it does appear that 3.14 refers to the threat of 2.27ff.


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