Archive for the ‘Benjamin W. Miller’ Category

Baptized Children Should Know Their Election?

April 19, 2010

So then, for those who are baptized (for those in God’s covenant), a proper sense of identity involves knowing that they are chosen by God to receive grace and inherit glory with all his people, and that they are called to live with God and for God forever with all his people, fulfilling the purposes for which he made his human creatures.

I was surprised to find the above paragraph on an OPC website (here), attributed to Benjamin W. Miller, who is presently an associate pastor at the Franklin Square OPC. I don’t mean to suggest that Pastor Miller is in any way associated with the Federal Vision, although my criticism of Pastor Miller’s argument is similar to the criticism I would have of certain Federal Vision ideas. Pastor Miller eagerly makes reference to the fact that certain covenant membership is specifically visible, and he does so in this very paragraph. My understanding is that some (if not all) Federal Vision proponents refuse to acknowledge the visible/invisible distinction. The first portion of the paragraph states:

These people are visibly identified as the households of those who profess the Christian faith, on whom God places his covenant name in baptism. They are nourished on Christ, the covenant Mediator, as he gives himself to his people through the means of grace in his church. Their lives are progressively renovated to worship God (cultus) and to work for God (culture).

With respect to Pastor Miller, however, I think he’s overstated his case. The children of believers are certainly visibly and outwardly members of the covenant. However, those children may or may not be nourished spiritually, for the spiritual nourishment of Christ is associated with invisible covenant membership of which regeneration and faith (not their sacrament, baptism) is the entrance.

While it is permitted to hold to views of presumptive regeneration in the OPC, it seems that Pastor Miller may have taken his position of presumptive regeneration too far. Those who are only visibly identified are provided with the means of grace, but they may not be provided with grace. Christ nourishes his people through the church, but as with the Old Testament church – not all are Israel which are of Israel.

There is real danger in attempting to discern one’s election based solely and specifically on membership in the visible covenant, particularly for those whose membership is as a result of household baptism. The danger is not merely hypothetical: we have the example of the Jews to remind us of the fact that true circumcision – true membership into the covenant – is inward circumcision of the heart.

While children in the covenant ought to be reminded of their identity, they also ought to be reminded of the fact that their membership is presently external and visible until by repentance and faith, as instrumental means, they are justified before God and become true children of Abraham by faith.


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