Archive for the ‘Covenant’ Category

Response to Jamin Hubner’s Criticism of Hendryx’s Review

September 27, 2012

J. W. Hendryx posted a review of “Kingdom Through Covenant,” which focused on one particular issue that Hendryx has with the “Progressive Covenantalism” described in that book.  Jamin Hubner wrote a response to Hendryx’s review.

Hubner’s response was way off the mark, as evidenced by the following line from his response: “Perhaps we should let these heretical Baptists who believe the New Covenant is a regenerate community speak for themselves.”

I answer:

a) Hendryx’s objection to Progressive Covenantalism was an objection to the rejection of the visible/invisible distinction.

b) Hendryx specifically identified those Baptists who confess the London Baptist Confession of 1689 as being distinct from the Progressive Covenantalists:

Before we define what the visible/invisible church distinction is, it is important to note that, in stark contrast with Progressive Covenantalism, Classic Covenant Theology (as expressed in the Westminster Standards) and Classic Reformed Baptist Theology (as expressed in the Baptist Confession of 1689), both affirm the visible/invisible church distinction. Drawing on the Westminster Confession, the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 chapter 26 states:

“The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that fills all in all. 1.1 Heb. 12:23; Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:10,22,23, 5:23,27,32 . All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted. ( 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 11:26; Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:20-22 ) “

 emphasis mine.

(emphasis is Hendryx’s) (I would also suggest reading LBCF, Chapter 26, for additional context)

c) Hendryx did not identify Progressive Covenantalists (much less LBCFers) as “heretical” or “heretics.” Quite to the contrary, in a linked document, Hendryx repeats what he wrote previously:

Gentry and Wellum are extremely intelligent, fair, well-spoken men who love the Lord and committed to the Bible and Jesus Christ. They are dear brothers in the Lord.

Hubner goes on to try to drive a wedge between Hendryx and James White, but this wedge is misplaced. Hubner should instead realize that Hendryx is criticizing the Progressive Covenantalists, while maintaining the position held by White with respect to visible/invisible distinction.

Thus, White wrote (as quoted by Jamin):

Classically, credobaptists have seen the elect filling the New Covenant (due to its nature), and hence have recognized that the visible church is a mixed body, not to be seen as fully co-extensive with it. Apostasy, then, is viewed as apostasy from a profession of faith, not from membership in the New Covenant. The visible church contains true covenant members and false: but since the New Covenant is inherently soteriological in nature, and is made in the blood of Christ Himself, its members cannot apostatize anymore than Christ can lose His sheep (Jn. 10:27-30) or fail to do the Father’s will (Jn. 6:38-39). Apostasy then is not from the New Covenant, but from false profession of faith in Christ, which may include membership in the visible church.

But KtC wrote (pp. 691-692):

As Carson rightly notes, if this biblical and theological understanding of the church is basically right, “then the ancient contrast between the church visible and the church invisible, a contrast that has nurtured not a little ecclesiology, is either fundamentally mistaken, or at best of marginal importance.” Why? Because the New Testament views the church as a heavenly community (i.e., tied to the age to come and the new creation, not “in Adam” but “in Christ”) and a spiritual community (i.e., born of and empowered by the Spirit in faith union with Christ), living her life out now while she awaits the consumation, literally “the outcropping of the heavenly assembly gathered in the Jerusalem that is above.”

And the New Testament is clear: to be “in Christ” and thus in the new covenant, a member of his gathered people (church), means that one is a regenerate believer. The New Testament knows nothing of one who is “in Christ” who is not regenerate, effectually called of the Father, born of the Spirit, justified, holy, and awaiting glorification.
How does covenant theology respond to this analysis, since they continue to affirm the “mixed” nature of both Israel and the church? Probably the most significant response is an appeal to the warning/apostasy passages of Scripture in order to demonstrate that the visible church is a “mixed” community, just like Israel of old (see, e.g., Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-39). Do not these text demonstrate that it is possible for some people to be members of the new covenant community but then, sadly, to depart from the faith, thus demonstrating that they were never regenerate, believing people even though they were externally members of the church? We can give only a brief reply to this assertion as we note three problems with this response.

(emphasis in original)

Thus, while Dr. White affirms the mixed nature of the church and the visible/invisible distinction, KtC does not.

Of course, that does not mean that White and Hendryx agree on everything.  I think an important difference between Hendryx and White would be that Hendryx would view the visible church as the New Covenant Community, in this life, and that White views the invisible church as the New Covenant Community in this life.  Naturally, a lot more nuance would be helpful, but what is unhelpful is suggesting that Hendryx thinks that either Progressive Covenantalists or LBCFers are “heretical,” when Hendryx specifically distinguishes between them.


Rebuttal to Hubner’s Response to DeYoung

August 22, 2012

Jamin Hubner has posted a response to Kevin DeYoung on the topic Baptism and the covenant.

Jamin quote KDY as stating: “If circumcision was for Abraham a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith, then we cannot say the cutting away of the flesh was simply an ethnic identity marker or a sign of mere physical import.”

Then Jamin responds:

Not true. Circumcision was a seal of the righteousness that Abraham had by faith because he had faith. Obviously, if he didn’t have faith, circumcision wasn’t and isn’t a sign of his faith! I honestly don’t know how Kevin misses that one since it’s explicit in the text.

It’s really unclear what Jamin is trying to object to. His comment doesn’t really seem to address what KDY said, and later on in his comments he seems to agree with KDY that the sign was not merely of physical import. Perhaps Jamin just misread something.

Jamin quotes KDY thus:

And if this spiritual sign—a seal of the righteousness that comes by faith—was administered to Abraham and his infant sons, then we cannot say that the thing signified must always be present before the sign is administered. Isaac was circumcised, and so was Ishmael—both being given the seal of justification by faith before the exercise of faith. Just like infant baptism.

Then Jamin responds:

Kevin again misses that circumcision is “a seal of the righteousness that comes by faith” – that is, Abraham’s faith and righteousness, not somebody’s else’s!

Again, it’s not completely clear if Jamin follows KDY’s argument. Assuming that he does, Jamin seems to be trying to argue that all circumcisions were a sign of Abraham’s faith (not of each recipient’s faith). If so, it is not clear how Jamin derives this from the text. Of course, Abraham’s circumcision was a sign of the faith he himself had, but by extension the same is true of each circumcised person – his circumcision signed/sealed his (the individual’s) faith.

Jamin quotes KDY thus:

So whether infant baptism makes sense to you or not—and I deeply respect my non-paedo friends in my church and in the broader church—shouldn’t we at least agree that the basic spiritual import of circumcision and baptism is the same and that there is biblical precedence [sic for precedent] for administering a spiritual sign without the immediate presence of the thing signified?

Then Jamin responds:

The answer is no, because the basic spiritual import of circumcision and baptism is not the same, precisely because the covenant’s [sic for covenants] are not the same (Heb 8).

The question then is, “what was the basic spiritual import of circumcision,” if it was not faith? Acts 15 confirms for us that the Jews were saved by faith, just like the Gentiles. So, on what point is the basic spiritual import different? We don’t get an answer from Jamin.

Jamin continues:

As Wellum has thoroughly argued in Believer’s Baptism a number of years ago, and more recently in Kingdom Through Covenant, circumcision and baptism signify different realities (which is why they are radically different signs!).

They are radically different signs because Christ has come. The bloody has been replaced with the bloodless, because Christ’s blood has been shed. But the question is what Jamin thinks the different spiritual realities are.

Jamin then quotes himself as previously stating:

Circumcision marked out a male line of descent from Abraham to David to Christ, served as a physical sign to mark out a nation and to distinguish them as people who would prepare the way for the Messiah, and was part and parcel of Mosaic law.[1] None of this is true for baptism.

But, didn’t circumcision point to new life like baptism does?[2]Yes, but there’s a difference between looking forward to something and looking back to something after Christ has accomplished his work. As Sam Waldron puts it, “Baptism, therefore, professes what circumcision demanded. Circumcision did demand a new heart, indeed, but it did not profess a new heart. Baptism professes a new heart.”

a) So, wait – Jamin does agree that circumcision points to new life like baptism does. So, then why did he answer “no” instead of “yes” to KDY?

b) The attempt to limit circumcision to the Mosaic administration fails as well. Ishmael was circumcised – not just Isaac. Abraham’s slaves were circumcised too. While many of the male ancestors of Jesus in the male Abrahamic line to Joseph and Mary were circumcised, we are not told that all were, and the hill of foreskins at the entering in of Canaan suggests that some were not. Indeed, Abraham comes before Moses.

c) More to the point, while circumcision was associated with the Mosaic administration, the “basic spiritual significance” does not lie the nation being marked out – the marked out nation was itself a shadow (and likewise with the promised land etc.).

d) There is a difference between pointing forward and pointing backward, no doubt, but that difference is not one that is at the level of the “basic spiritual significance.”

e) Waldron’s way of putting it may be catchy, but it is not consistent with Paul’s discussion of Abraham’s circumcision. Paul claims Abraham already had faith and treats circumcision (in his case) as a profession of the faith that he already had. The same would the case with any proselytes.

f) Moreover, while it is easy to treat circumcision as law and demand (by simply lumping it in with “the law”), circumcision was a profession of the thing demanded. The way of salvation was always by faith, for all people, for all time. It was not uniquely demanded of the Jews in the Old Testament. Even if you will say that the gospel preached to the Jews (in shadow) and was not preached to the nations, surely it was preached to the female Jews. Thus, while circumcision was uniquely received by male Jews, faith was not demanded only of the males.

g) Further to (f), the idea of circumcision “demanding” what baptism professes is a confused idea, if one is trying to apply Paul’s teaching that a person who is circumcised is a debtor to the whole law.

h) Also further to (f), leaving aside the Pauline comments mentioned at (g), the idea that circumcision “demanded” anything is not a teaching of Scripture. It seems instead to be an inference from the fact that it was applied to infants who were later to learn about their responsibilities. What is missing, though, is any notion that the circumcision was a demand, rather than a profession.

Jamin concludes:

Thus, in the Old Covenant, you have the command given to God’s people to “circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your heart” (Jer 4:4) to those who already bore the physical sign, hoping that maybe in the future this would happen. But in the New Covenant, the Apostle speaks to God’s covenant people in the aorist, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands…you have been buried in baptism” (Col 2).

Jamin seems to treat Jeremiah 4:4 as though it were part of an OT AWANA curriculum. What distinguishes the two cases is that one is addressed to merely outward members of the covenant, and the other is address to members of the covenant both outwardly and inwardly. Abraham’s inward circumcision preceded his outward circumcision, just as the Colossian proselytes’ outward baptism followed their inward circumcision.

The unbelieving Jews professed faith, but they did not have it:

Isaiah 29:13
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

So, in fact the Jews professed a faith they did not possess, whereas the Colossians possessed faith. But that’s not a difference between baptism and circumcision, but between hypocrites and faithful.


Defining the word Covenant

February 11, 2008

The Reformed Reader presents some historic definitions of the word “covenant” by various authors, including the real Turretin (link). It’s really only a very short snippet of Turretin, but it is worth checking out to see many facets of the Christian jewel, “Covenant.”

%d bloggers like this: