A Response to Brandon Adams on 1 Corinthians 10

Brandon Adams has propounded a believer Baptist understanding of 1 Corinthians 10. His positive explanation of the passage is here, and his rejection of paedobaptist objections is here. It is worthwhile interacting with these ideas, since 1 Corinthians 10 is such an important passage in the debate, and any reasonable interpretations of the passage on a believer Baptist position are worthy of praise, since I have not met many believer Baptists who have formed many ideas concerning the passage. For my purposes, I will mainly interact with the rejection of paedobaptist false inferences post. I read the other post, and may refer to it occasionally, but the substance of what I wish to say concerns what he says about paedobaptist interpretations of the passage.

Almost immediately, we run into some problems, namely, with how Adams describes the paedo position. There does not seem to be a recognition that paedobaptists do, in fact, advocate some aspects of discontinuity and progression as history moves from Israel to the church. For example, paedos argue that the sign changes from bloody to bloodless (going from circumcision to baptism) because Christ’s blood has been shed, making further bloodshed unnecessary. Therefore, circumcision points forward, and baptism looks backwards. That they point to the same spiritual reality does not mean that they work in precisely the same way. Circumcision affected boys, and girls were understood to be included under their covenant head, whereas in the church, baptism is given to boys and girls alike. This kind of nuance with regard to the paedo position appears to be entirely lacking in Adams’s piece. For example, he says, “The basic thrust is that Israel and the Church are one and the same. Their situation was identical to ours.” In light of what I said above, this statement is a strawman, even with regard to Calvin’s understanding of the continuity. Calvin is talking about the spiritual situation, which is the same, undoubtedly the same. That does not mean that a carte blanche statement such as Adams’s is an accurate picture of Calvin’s views. Calvin argued that the different signs point to the same spiritual reality. That is different from saying simply that the signs are the same, and that there is absolutely no difference at all. Otherwise, why would Jesus Christ need to come at all?

Secondly, Adams goes to a great deal of trouble to try to prove that if the manna is not sacramental, then the entire paedo argument falls to the ground. It should have given him pause that when he quotes so many paedobaptists to negate Calvin’s point (which he does in the positive post and the rejection of the paedo position post), yet those paedos still argue the paedo position. Maybe the paedo position overall does not hinge on whether the manna is sacramental, and whether “the same” means “the same as what we partake of” or whether it means “they all had the same spiritual food among themselves.” To tell the truth, I have not really considered the matter of whether the manna was sacramental before reading Adams’s post, but if I had to take a position on it, I would probably say that the manna was not sacramental. It was their daily bread, and Christ does draw typological significance from the spiritual aspects of manna, but I would agree with Hodge that it falls short of sacramental significance. The typological antecedent for the Lord’s Supper is Passover, not manna, and even with Passover, there is both continuity and discontinuity. This brings us to the next point.

I am more than a bit surprised that Adams brought out the tired argument connecting baptism and the Lord’s Supper together, that if paedos treat baptism this way, then the Lord’s Supper must also be treated in this way, and we have to be paedocommunionist in order to be consistent. This argument has been so thoroughly answered by Cornel Venema’s book Children at the Lord’s Table? that it is irresponsible for a credo Baptist simply to throw this argument in paedos’ faces as if we have never considered the matter before. Almost every major paedo treatment of the subject answers this objection. Adams references precisely zero answers to this objection. The two important points that have to be said in response are these. 1. The paedo position recognizes that the two sacraments have important differences, differences strong enough to preclude treating them in the same way that credos say we must. These differences mostly involve the difference between passive reception in baptism, and both passive and active components in the Lord’s Supper. The reason for this difference is 1 Corinthians 11, which is not mentioned even once in Adams’s piece (also irresponsible, since it is directly relevant to his objection, and is part of the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 10). 1 Corinthians 11 describes how the Lord’s Supper is to be engaged. See Venema’s book for a thorough treatment of the passage. His conclusions are that 1 Corinthians 11 describes how all people are to partake, and that this requirement precludes infants from participating. So, if 1 Corinthians 10 comes in the context of 1 Corinthians 11, it wouldn’t matter whether the manna was sacramental or not, since chapter 11 would modify the participation aspect for today’s church.

19 Comments

  1. greenbaggins said,

    March 10, 2020 at 10:58 am

    Stephen, I looked over his post on Romans 4, but he didn’t engage in any exegesis. All he was doing was comparing two passages together with no comment on them. Did you have a particular question about Romans 4 that you would like me to address?

  2. brandonadams said,

    March 10, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Lane, I appreciate your brief interaction with my post here. I’m afraid, however, that you have misunderstood the context of the posts and what they are written against. It was not written as an argument against the entire paedo position (see the full list of my posts towards that end if you are interested https://contrast2.wordpress.com/). You say “Maybe the paedo position overall does not hinge on whether the manna is sacramental[.]” That may be the case, but it was not the point of my post to address other arguments.

    The point of my post was to address one common argument for paedobaptism drawn from 1 Cor 10:1-5 – that “The sacraments of the Old Testament in regard to the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new.” You admit that you have not really thought about this before and note “I would probably say that the manna was not sacramental.” To help me understand where you are coming from, why do you believe the Westminster Standards reference this passage in WCF 7.5, 7.6, 8.6, 20.1, 27.5, 29.7 and WLC 61, 174, and 175?

  3. greenbaggins said,

    March 10, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Brandon, I never understood your posts as an attempt to argue against every point of the entire paedo position. I always understood those posts to be addressing specific issues. The way you posit your argument does, however, seem to be saying that if you are correct in your assessment, then the entire paedo argument falls to the ground. That is a different issue, is it not? I understand you to be saying that you are not addressing every block of the Jenga tower, but that, by concentrating on a few of the blocks, the entire tower comes crashing down. This would be accurate, would it not?

    The particular issue I have not thought about before is NOT whether the sacraments are the same in substance (contrary to your assertion), but whether the manna itself is sacramental, and whether “the same” refers to “the same as ours” or “the same among themselves.” So you distort my position there.

    I would say that the WCF quotes 1 Corinthians 10 in order to state that the spiritual reality to which the signs point is the same in substance whether the OT or NT sacraments are in view. That the WS understand the sacraments to have differences is perfectly evidence in WCF 7.5, where it says that the covenant was differently administered.

  4. brandonadams said,

    March 10, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks for the quick reply.

    1) I do not believe I stated anywhere in my post that the entire paedo argument fails dependent upon this passage. What I said was that the entire paedo argument from this passage fails if the water and manna were not sacraments.

    2) I apologize for not being more clear in my previous comment. I did not mean to imply that you deny that the sacraments were the same in substance. What I meant is that you deny the manna was a sacrament.

    3) I am still quite unclear about your understanding of the Westminster Standards on this point. Do you disagree with the Standards that the manna was a sacrament? Or do you not think the Standards teach that the manna was a sacrament?

  5. Stephen Smith said,

    March 12, 2020 at 2:07 am

    Lane, I have enjoyed your posts on Romans 4 on the Puritanboard, and your recent interaction with Brandon Adams. I don’t have any further questions at this stage. Thanks.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    March 12, 2020 at 10:17 am

    Brandon,

    1. If this is what you meant, it wasn’t entirely clearly stated. Even so, I don’t think my major arguments are much affected by the difference.

    2. Ok, we seem to be clear there.

    3. The Standards do NOT teach that the manna was a sacrament. That some of the proof-texts point in that direction does not mean that the Standards themselves teach it. The proof-texts are not binding, anyhow. WCF 27.5 comes the closest, but it does not say that the manna was a sacrament. It says that the OT sacraments were for substance the same as those of the new.

    You have not addressed the strongest paedo argument from 1 Corinthians 10: baptizo is used of people, some of whom were infants. Paul applies that situation typologically to the church today. If Paul were not trying to say that baptism has an OT antecedent that is typological for us, then he picked perhaps the worst possible way to say it.

    You have also not addressed the other major problem with your construction as noted in my OP: the fact that you don’t interact with ANY responses to the tired old “what’s good for baptism must also be good for the LS” argument, which I have adequately answered, but which Cornel Venema completely answers.

  7. brandonadams said,

    March 14, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    Thanks for the reply Lane.

    I am very happy to discuss baptizo in 1 Cor 10 as well as your comments regarding paedocommunion. However, they must be addressed in due order. We need to reach a conclusion on our present topic first.

    Just to clarify, do you agree that Calvin believed manna was a sacrament?

    Can you please state as clearly as possible why you believe the Standards reference 1 Cor 10:1-4 in the places that I mentioned? When 27.5 refers to the sacraments of the OT, do you believe they are only referring to being baptized in the sea (v2)? Or do you believe they are also referring to eating spiritual food (manna, v3) and drinking spiritual drink (water, v4)? I understand that denominations do not consider the proof texts binding. Keep in mind you are not on trial here. I don’t care if you disagree with the Westminster Standards or its Scripture references (I do). I am merely trying to understand what you believe and what you think the Standards are saying by the use of the proof text.

  8. clement said,

    March 16, 2020 at 1:05 am

    Acts 16:31, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 1 Peter 1:17-21, Revelation 22:18-19

  9. rfwhite said,

    March 17, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    brandonadams: as I try to pull together the details of your first post, would you comment on what, if any, difference it makes for interpreting “our fathers” that Moses described them as people who feared the Lord, and who believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses (Exod 14.31)?

  10. brandonadams said,

    March 17, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    Thank you for the question Dr. White. To make sure I understand your question, you are asking what difference it would make if the people referred to in 1 Cor 10:1-4 feared and believed in the Lord?

    I’m not sure it would make any difference to my interpretation if those people did fear and believe the Lord. As Hodge notes, “our fathers” may still be Paul “speak[ing] as a Jew to Jews” even if those Jewish fathers feared and believed in the Lord.

    That said, I don’t think that Ex 14:31 refers to faith in Christ. I think it refers to the Israelites believing what God said about delivering them from Egypt through the Red Sea. 1 Cor 10:5 and Heb 3:16-4:2 make it clear that whatever belief they had in God’s power to deliver them from their enemies in Ex 14, they no longer had it in the wilderness.

  11. rfwhite said,

    March 17, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    brandonadams: No, not quite what I was asking (though I appreciate your further comments) … let me rephrase my question. Granting Hodge’s view for the sake of discussion, does the description of the exodus generation in Exod 14.31 establish a point of continuity with the church in Corinth, a point of continuity beyond that for which Hodge argues? I ask because when speaking of typology we ordinarily look at points of continuity as well as discontinuity. I also ask because in your first post, under Context, in paragraph #2, you state, “Paul then uses the Israelites as an example (v6 literally “type”) as to why Christians should not rest content in having heard the gospel and professed faith (begun the race), but must run the race with persevering faith.” Would you say, then, that professed faith is a point of continuity between the exodus generation and the Corinthians?

  12. brandonadams said,

    March 17, 2020 at 11:53 pm

    No I would not say that professed faith in the Messiah is a point of continuity between the exodus generation and the Corinthians, though I understand I wrote that sentence in a way that might lead you to think that. Ex 14:31 does not say they professed faith in the Messiah. It says they believed (possessed faith) God would safely deliver them across the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians.

    I understand that Presbyterians typically think of typology in terms of continuity/discontinuity. Baptists rather think of typology more in terms of escalation. Beale defines typology as “The study of analogical correspondences among revealed truths about persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature and are escalated in meaning.” In a rather pertinent example for our discussion, he says “For example, escalation would be the correspondence of God providing literal manna from heaven for physical sustenance and providing the manna of Christ from heaven for spiritual sustenance.” Note that we don’t necessarily look for “a point of continuity” between manna and Christ, other than the analogical point of coincidence (both are provided for sustenance).

    So with regards to Israel, we believe that the nation of Israel was a type of the Church. By that we do not mean that the nation of Israel was simply the Church in the OT. Rather, we mean that the nation of Israel was something other than the Church (though there were believers in it) and that the Church is the escalated antitype of Israel – in the same way that manna was something other than Christ. The type is not the thing typified.

    Applying this to 1 Cor 10:1-4, Hodge summarizes the typological comparison

    ‘All our fathers left Egypt; Caleb and Joshua alone entered the promised land.’ All run, but one obtains the prize…The Israelites doubtless felt, as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea, that all danger was over, and that their entrance into the land of promise was secured. They had however a journey beset with dangers before them, and perished because they thought there was no need of exertion. So the Corinthians, when brought to the knowledge of the gospel, thought heaven secure. Paul reminds them that they had only entered on the way, and would certainly perish unless they exercised constant self-denial.

    Or to echo Beale: God provided all the Israelites with manna for their physical sustenance on their journey to the promised land, yet not all reached the promised land because they lacked faith in God’s promise regarding the land. Likewise God has provided Christ to all the Corinthians for their spiritual sustenance on their journey to heaven, yet not all the Corinthians will reach heaven if they fall into temptation and lack the faith needed to enter heaven, trusting instead on simply being part of all those Corinthians to whom Christ is provided. (Or however you want to phrase it)

    Please let me know where I can clarify or elaborate further.

  13. rfwhite said,

    March 18, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    brandonadams: thanks for your comments. For what it’s worth, I agree that escalation is involved in typology, particularly when we’re talking discontinuity.

  14. rfwhite said,

    March 20, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    brandonadams: For clarification: do you understand 1 Cor 10.1-13 to be a warning against apostasy?

  15. brandonadams said,

    March 24, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    Yes

  16. rfwhite said,

    March 30, 2020 at 8:57 pm

    brandonadams: Another point for clarification … In your first essay you state, “To Israel, as the Triune God, he [Christ] miraculously provided physical sustenance: bread and water.” Would you say that the sustenance that believers like Joshua and Caleb got from the manna, quail, and water was both physical and more than physical?

  17. brandonadams said,

    March 31, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Can you define what you mean by “more than physical” sustenance?

  18. rfwhite said,

    March 31, 2020 at 6:33 pm

    brandonadams: Sure … when I read that “he [Christ] provided physical sustenance,” I inferred “Christ provided sustenance for the body (the outer man).” When I asked about sustenance that was “more than physical,” then, I had in mind “sustenance for the soul (the inner man) of believers.” So, in other words, did Christ’s provision of sustenance for the body also provide sustenance for the soul of believers like Joshua and Caleb?

  19. brandonadams said,

    March 31, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    I do not believe that the manna, quail, and water were a means of spiritual sustenance, if by that is meant a means of sanctification. At least not any more so than anything else in their life (their deliverance from Egypt, conquering of their enemies, etc).


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