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.