Leithart Trial: Barker on Permissible Views of Baptism

Here is a section of the testimony by William S. Barker II, former president of Covenant Theological Seminary, a witness in defense of TE Peter Leithart in his trial in Pacific Northwest Presbytery.

Stellman: Do you think it’s okay to take what our standards call the saving blessings of the covenant of grace such as being in dwell by the Holy Spirit, adopted and constituted inwardly in the most profound sense as God’s son, and being married to Jesus. Is it okay to take those blessings that our standards attribute to the elect and apply them simply by virtue of baptism to every single infant who’s been baptized?
Barker: I would probably not say it that way myself but if I understood it in context I – – as I take it – – Jeff Meyers would have said something like that. I’ve found that to be allowable within the system of doctrine.”

This explains why the defense wanted him as a witness.

Here is the fuller context for reference:

CROSS-EXAMINATION
PROSECUTION (STELLMAN): Dr. Barker, first let me thank you for coming and being here and testifying before this court. I’ve got a few questions – –
WITNESS: I’ve not met you before, could you tell me your name?
Q: My name is Jason Stellman.
A: Glad to meet to you.
Q: Nice to meet you too. Got a couple questions for you. You began by talking about the fact that we are not bound to what some call strict subscription but rather need to subscribe in a good faith kind of way. How many system, systems of doctrine are there?
A: You mean in – – in Christianity as a whole?
Q: No. The way we use the term. How many systems of doctrine are there?
A: We subscribe to one system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures.
Q: Okay. Good. I was hoping that’s what you would say. The conf- – We can – – we receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this church as containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture. Tell me if this is the system of doctrine taught in holy Scripture? Infant baptism, in an ex opere operato fashion unites every single person who receives it to Jesus Christ by which we are married to Christ and adopted by virtue of baptism into God’s family. All of which benefits can be lost. Furthermore, we are placed after baptism in a covenantal situation with God that is not fundamentally dissimilar to that which Adam enjoyed before his fall. We are through baptism justified and which is the same thing definitively sanctified. Faith comes in later on not as the sole instrument whereby we receive the saving blessings of the covenant of grace but faith comes in after the fact, after we’ve received them all by baptism as a response. And if we persevere in faith, then we will stand before God on the last day and receive final justification according to works. Is this the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture?
A: If I understand correctly, you’re quoting from a Federal Vision advocate and I would assume that’s Dr. Leithart.
Q: I’m taking statements of Dr. Leithart’s and putting them into one semi-concise statement.
A: Right. I think – –
DEFENSE: Mr. Moderator?
MODERATOR: Excuse me, Mr. Witness. We have objection here.
DEFENSE: The defense simply wants to reiterate that reasonably our witnesses were primarily prepared to address the quotes in the indictment. So, the defense does not think it’s reasonable for the court to expect the same level of preparation from our witnesses to new quotes.
MODERATOR: Okay, well – – so noted. I’m going to allow the question. You – – If you want to on redirect do (inaudible) —-
DEFENSE: I just wanted that noted.
MODERATOR: Alright. Go ahead.
PROSECUTION: Alright and – – and just for the record, these questions I’m asking you Dr. Barker are things I wrote down while you were talking. And so, I only brought up the issue of system of doctrine because that was the first question that was asked of you. And so the door has been opened and I’m just – –
MODERATOR: Yeah, I think you – – you are permitted to ask the question.
PROSECUTION: Alright and so – – and so, does that describe the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture?
DEFENSE: Are these paraphrases or are these actual quotes and if so what’s the cite?
MODERATOR: I – – I’m going to let him ask the question. If you – – if you – –
(okay)
MODERATOR: – – if you want to challenge the accuracy of any of those statements as not being representative of the respondent or the respondent’s views, you certainly may in redirect.
WITNESS: As I understand, the general teaching of the Federal Vision school of thought, a statement like that is made to describe somebody as a covenant child who becomes connected to the visible church as a result of that having happened and has some type of relationship then with God, with Christ, with the visible church but it isn’t clear whether that person is among the elect. And as long as we understand it that way, I can see where this could be within our system of doctrine.
Q: Do you think it’s okay to take what our standards call the saving blessings of the covenant of grace such as being in dwell by the Holy Spirit, adopted and constituted inwardly in the most profound sense as God’s son, and being married to Jesus. Is it okay to take those blessings that our standards attribute to the elect and apply them simply by virtue of baptism to every single infant who’s been baptized?
A: I would probably not say it that way myself but if I understood it in context I – – as I take it – – Jeff Meyers would have said something like that. I’ve found that to be allowable within the system of doctrine. It’s a particular understanding of the – – the benefits of being in a covenant relationship, being part of the visible church, which was my own experience as a baptized infant. Just what does that mean? What does that entail? We don’t know whether any of those individuals are really among the elect and whether it will prove out over the course of their life.
Q: But isn’t it the case that there’s a qualitative difference between those who are elect and those who are not with respect to the blessings they receive and their relationship to God and not just a difference of duration?
A: Well, I would, I would think so. The – – It’s very hard to know outwardly what the difference is.

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