Introduction: How things began

     The discussions recorded here are not fictive but have actually occurred. They did not take place in a pastor’s vestry or a private home or in the usual, traditional places where friends meet, but in internet chat-groups. To make matters easier, I shall reduce the forty-odd people who have debated on the subject of baptism with me over the past eight or nine years to eight. Tyler, Jim, Dan and Howard, represent the traditional and, I believe, Scriptural side concerning the baptism of believers and the children in their charge. Ralf, Detlef, Nigel and Jean represent those who feel that Scriptureteaches baptism as a post-conversion duty leading to an entrance into a local church. The discussion is thus between those who believe in household or family baptisms resulting from the heads of the families coming to faith on the one hand and those who believe in the baptism of individuals only who come to faith after childhood or after what is often called the age of discretion on the other.

     The one sees the family as a Christian unit under special covenant care and promises of which baptism is a sign and the other feels that such an understanding of baptism iscontrary to the Word of God as baptism points back to the believer’s faith and open testimony of his walk with God. All the friends in this chat-group accept the broad tenets of what is commonly called Calvinism or the doctrines of grace and would thus consider themselves ‘Reformed’. My records of my chat-group correspondence are necessarily selective. Most of the subscribers kept their Christian decorum but some were sadly abusive. One pastor of a particularly severe Baptist movement told me straight that I was the son of a whore and married to a whore. He was suspicious of any baptisms that he did not perform himself and told me proudly that when taking over a new church, he rebaptised the lot to make sure they were rightly baptised. Two other men wrote to me to tell me that though I might have the arguments, they had the Spirit of God and therefore must be right! Several brethren admonished me to repent because of my alleged sin in propagating what they called ‘infant baptism’. One young whippersnapper, just starting college, wrote telling me that I was incompetent and ignorant and did not know the first thing about Church History. Another wrote informing me that it was his Christian duty to tell me I was a moron. One lady told me that she had been baptised eight times because every time she moved to another area, the local Baptist church baptised her again to be on the safe side. 

     However, after a number of years of correspondence, I started receiving most positive feedbacks and firm friendships were made. Several professed with almost amazement that they had never realised that non-Baptist Christians were able to defend their views on the question of baptism. Others admitted that historically speaking, the practice of believers having their infant children baptised could be traced to Apostolic times but it had been wrong all along. What surprised me about the correspondence was that a large proportion of letters came from those who had become Baptists long after becoming Christians. This was on the grounds that their former churches were negligent in their practice of the ordinances, doctrine and church order. These brethren were often highly sacramental in their insistence that Baptist baptism and Baptist discipline and church orders were essential to faith in Christ. It appeared to me that these brethren had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. 

     I learnt to love my Baptist brethren but became ashamed to be identified with those churches who share my views as they appear impotent in spreading them and invariably retire in awe when confronted by most able Baptist propaganda. I found, however, that here was a good place to start my witness as most Baptists appear quite ignorant of any well-argued position on Baptism but their own.

     All material relating to e-mail addresses, URLs, web-sites, attachments, salutations and polite endings with signatures etc. in these discussions are omitted. We chatted about far more topics than Baptism and found a good deal of mutuality in them. Sometimes weeks passed before the topic of baptism reappeared. These other subjects have been edited out. One might wonder why only one sister is included in these chats and complain that the ladies are badly represented, but in fact in the actual debates in several chat-groups only one sister took part, so Jean is actually over-representative. If any of the postings surprise or shock you, I assure you that I am giving the remarks verbatim though in a milder form through cutting out disturbing parts. 

I. The Waters that Divide

     We shall allow Tyler to start the part of the debate recorded here as he was the person who first aired his ‘alien’ thoughts on baptism in the chat group and, as one brother on the list remarked, ‘his words had the same effect as if a bomb had dropped close by’. First reactions were rather off-putting and not always ‘brotherly’.

     Tyler: Brethren, this Sunday, we had our daughter Mary-Sue baptised before the gathered church in the new font and placed under the covenant promises of God, praying and calling on God that He will be especially gracious to her and grant her justifying faith and eternal salvation. Rejoice with me that we have the privilege of bringing our children to God in the waters of baptism and please pray for Mary-Sue that she may grow in grace and a knowledge of Jesus.

     Several replies came in almost immediately:

     Detlef: Though I rejoice with you at the birth of your daughter and understand your desire to have her saved, surely you have no Scriptural warrant to have her baptised. You are jumping the gun. Get her saved first and then baptise her. You have obviously the Spirit of God, but only in a limited measure.

     Mark: This is an unpleasant surprise. Don’t you know this is a Baptist forum and we regard infant baptism as pagan? You must repent of this and come to a proper understanding of baptism. The Bible testifies to believer’s baptism throughout and Church History knows no infant baptism until the Dark Ages. None of the early church fathers either sprinkled or baptised children.

     Ralf: You are new to the list and obviously not yet familiar with the blessings of baptism. We call ourselves Baptist because this is our central doctrine. We believe that the local church is the Body of Christ and is made up of believers only and that entrance is gained into the church by the rite of baptism. Belief leads to baptism and baptism to Church entry.

     Jean: With all due respects to your faith, you have a long way to go. Obviously you have had your child sprinkled but baptism entails an immersion in water, otherwise it is not a correct baptism. Besides, what do you mean by ‘covenant’ and how come you feel that your children are under any sort of covenant blessings? You puzzle me.

     Howard: Thank you so much for sharing this blessed experience with us. There are several of us on this list who are open on baptism as we have found no compelling arguments from any side which we can relate to Scripture. A discussion on the meaning manner and purpose of baptism would do us all good.

     Tyler had not really expected his new friends on the site to come back at him so dogmatically, so he thought and prayed over his reply for a day or so before replying:

Baptism as the centre of faith questioned

     Tyler: Thank you for your thoughts regarding my last posting. Actually, I merely wished to share my joy with you at my daughter’s baptism and was quite taken aback by your comments and I apologise sincerely for giving offence. I did not realise that your chat-group was for Baptists only but would request you to tolerate my name on the list. I will touch on the points you made briefly and then suggest a topic for wider and deeper discussion. I feel that it will be best if we place some sort of structure on our discussions, dealing with matters on which we differ point by point and, most importantly, giving Scriptural evidence for our beliefs. Allow me to recapitulate on what you have said. It appears that some believe that a Christian is an adult Baptist who has been baptised on profession of faith into a local church. You maintain that this is the only Biblical manner of baptism possible and that this has been practised through all ages. You do not believe in what is commonly called ‘covenant theology’, a term I relate to teaching within the Covenant of Grace’, nor do you believe in household baptisms in which the head of the family has himself baptised and those children whom God has given him for their care, protection and education in the ways of God. This is all much of a shock to me as it more or less denies all that I have come to believe. 

     Furthermore, baptism does not play an equally major role in my faith as it appears to do in yours.  For many Baptists, it appears to be the main pillar on which they base their faith. For me baptism points to Christ and illustrates faith in Him as taught in the Scriptures and not to a step in obedience after first professing faith. My question for further study would be, have I outlined your faith correctly? Furthermore, I would like to know if you have other Baptist principles which you feel I should know. At present, all I can say is that I am quite as sure that you are wrong as you are that I am wrong but I am always willing to learn more, and, I trust, have the grace to change my views should they be proved wrong. I certainly do not think myself a pagan but have had so many tokens of grace from my Lord that I can count myself blessed and forgiven by Him and a child of His own choosing.

Baptist principles

     Ralf: Baptist principles as I see them are eight-fold. 1. Baptism is fulfilled only in immersion. It is a ‘bath of submergence”. So we need not use the foreign word ‘baptism’ and if the Bible were correctly translated it would tell us to make disciples and immerse them. 2. Households baptised in the New Testament, clearly believed to a man and all were of an age of discretion, so that the idea of household is strictly non-relevant. Only individual believers were baptised. 3. Covenant theology is Jewish theology. Baptists see no natural, unbroken continuation of a covenant of grace with Abraham and his seed into New Testament times. 4. Baptism is of special importance to us because without it one cannot be a member of a Christian church or a member of the Body of Christ. 5. So it follows that Christ’s church is New Testament. There is no continuing church of God in history from Adam to ourselves so that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob cannot be regarded as members of the Church, Christ’s Bride, and theKingdom of God etc. 6. The Old Testament cannot be used as a handbook of Christianity as the Presbyterians so wrongly teach. 7. We do not say that non-Baptists are not Christians. They are in the family of God but are alien to the whole truth of the gospel and strangers to the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ’ and Christ’s Kingdom. They are certainly not part of the Baptist Bride, which are those nearest Christ. 8. True Baptist churches are those which are built on the testimony of other Baptist churches going back in this way to the time of Christ.

     Jim: Here is my question to you… Do you believe that we as Baptists should accept the baptism of the reformed denominations, or of Methodism, who so obviously link baptism with regeneration when the Baptist view is that baptism is totally symbolic?  How can we accept alien immersion if it is linked to a heresy like baptismal regeneration?

     Joe: I think the following six points are essential to Christian baptism:

1.  A Proper Subject

     A believer in Jesus Christ. Baptism becomes a pseudo-sacrament or an insignificant ritual if done prior to conversion. Baptism invokes no spiritual change in the candidate, it is simply a symbol of their new life in Christ. To baptize a non-believer or infant would be anachronistic.

2.  A Proper Design or Purpose

     Public identification with Christ. As stated above baptism invokes no spiritual change in the candidate. It is an act of obedience. The practice symbolizes the believer who has been washed of their sins by Christ’s substitutionary atonement and it affirms the association with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

3.  A Proper Mode

     Immersion. Full immersion of the candidate in water is the only method that adequately portrays the death, burial, and resurrection it is intended to symbolize. Sprinkling does not picture anything.

4.  A Proper Administrator

     A representative of a Baptist church. What is meant by ‘representative?’ I know traditionally, the administrator must be ordained, either an ordained minister or an ordained deacon. It has always been my practice and the practice of churches I have been a member of, to only allow ordained men to baptize. I don’t have a problem with that, but how do we justify this Scripturally? Has anyone put together a list of all those who baptized in the NT and can we provide textual evidence of their ordination? I guess this might open up a can of worms concerning ordination. I’m also curious about the symbolism in the proper administrator. If we denounce sprinkling because it does not picture what it is intended to symbolize, what does the proper administrator symbolize?

5.  A Proper Authority

     An act of a New Testament Baptist church. Here we have the Landmark controversy of alien immersion. I’m not sure if I want to address this issue because I don’t want us to get side tracked, but it is a question that must be answered. Since the only reading I have done on this issue was by J. R. Graves himself, I’m curious as to the practice of the rest of you on the list. If someone was dunked in a non-Baptist church and then wants to join with your fellowship, do you baptize them before allowing them to join the church? Of-course if someone were dunked by a non-church i.e., Campus Crusade for Christ, the Promise Keepers, the Navigators, or some other such organization, the believer should by all means be baptized properly by a local church. I know this opens me up to the question of whether or not a Methodist church, or an Evangelical Free church, or some other denomination should be classified as a ‘church’.

6.  A Proper Succession

     An organic connection of the authorizing church to the Jerusalem church.

     Jean: All Baptists are not of one mind on the covenant. Indeed, we are heavily divided on this issue. Some argue that God made a covenant with Abraham but this has been fully abrogated. Others deny that there is such a thing as a covenant at all. Some refuse to believe that there has been a covenant of grace since Adam sinned, but allow for a covenant of grace in the New Testament. Still others would argue that though there was a covenant of grace in the Old Testament, it merely applied to Old Testament times and now there is a new covenant of grace which only applies to New Testament times. Many Baptists affirm that the covenant with Abraham was merely national and material. Others say it was a covenant of works. Very few, speak of a covenant of grace from the fall to the resurrection. Modern holders of the so-called New Covenant Theology School deny outright that there has ever been such a thing as a covenant of grace. So we are heavily divided on this issue.

     Howard: Our churches which we call Regular Baptists, do not make baptism their central theme but the doctrines of grace and experience of them in Christ Jesus. We thus call ourselves Baptist and Reformed and do not accept infant baptism as we see it as a remnant of Rome and thus Baptists are more Reformed than Anglicans, Presbyterians, Independents and Methodists.

     Tyler’s Answer: Baptist peculiarities are inessential and external

     Most professing Christians disagree with Baptists

     Tyler: It is not easy for me to respond to all these postings and I am not a pastor or theologian but merely a school teacher so please bear with me as I try to answer. First of all, I would ask you to become used to the idea that the bulk of Christendom, for reasons right or wrong, does not agree with the position of a Baptist. The main thing that worries me personally about Baptists is that though they present themselves as a united body, they are only united in their believing that baptism is best rendered by immersion and divided on almost every other doctrine. They are not even of one mind regarding how to immerse. Their religion thus centres around a mode, or, to be practical, an amount of water which not only cuts them off from fellow-Christians but even from fellow-Baptists. Furthermore, it appears to me that Baptists have separated themselves from other churches merely because of inessentials. 

     Many of you Baptists trace your descent ideologically from the early European Cata- and Anabaptists but this is a claim that has no virtue in it. The early Swiss, German, Moravian and Dutch Baptists split up into at least a dozen factions in the very first months of their founding over matters such as sharing goods in common, paying taxes, taking up arms, swearing oaths, upholding marriage affiliations and obedience to the secular magistrates. These very quickly became vital issues for the Baptists causing one group to condemn and even persecute another. In next to no time we see the Swiss, Sabbaths, Austerlitzers, Hoferists, Münsters, Hutterites, and Gabrielites treating one another as enemies of the truth. Balthazer Hubmaier condemned Hans Hut for allegedly spreading sedition and political revolt and Hans Spittelmaier condemned the ‘schismatics’ from his young movement for refusing to carry weapons. He called them Stäbler or Staff-bearers in scorn. The Baptist sect of the sword bearers formed the Schwertler Baptists. The later Baptists looked on their Swiss fathers in the faith as ‘misanthropes’ and the Swiss looked upon the spiritual children they had fostered in other lands as ‘false brethren’. When Menno Simons instituted a second wave of Täufer, this chaos of Baptist split-ups increased greatly. Then we have the extant correspondence of Thomas Müntzer with the various Baptist factions. Baptists invariably maintain that the Cata- or Anabaptists had nothing to do with Müntzer’s revolutionary ideas but such correspondence confirms how a large number of the first-generation Baptists throughout Eastern and Western Europe held their militant brother in great esteem. They corresponded with him, acknowledging him as a leader and pioneer and only gradually differing from him in his attitude to arms. Around 1533-4 Konrad Grebel, Andras Castelberger, Felix Manz, and especially Hans Huiuf were corresponding with Müntzer. Even after Müntzer’s death, a number of Baptist denominations took up or prepared to take up weapons. Others made the Sermon on the Mount their peace-policy. Happily, the radicals became fewer and fewer as the 16th century progressed. It is a common Baptist myth that Zwingli identified himself with the Täufer for a time. Though initially, Zwingli discussed state-church relations with the future Täufer and also the Christian’s responsibility to the powers that be, Grebel, Manz and their followers had not yet at this stage developed ‘Baptist Principles’ themselves. Furthermore, Zwingli made public what he had gained from his discussions with the originators of the Catabaptist movement and stated where he had differed from them as their radicalism grew. 

     Nor can modern Baptist maintain that they have now matured and their days of quarrelling and splitting up are over. It is true that the Baptists have become tolerated and even respectable but there is little that unites, Strict, Reformed, General, Sovereign Grace, Free-Will, Primitive, Regular, Particular. Landmarker, Campbellites and a host of other Baptist denominations which have only their rites to unite them – or divide them as the case may be. One Baptist church, as you have witnessed with me on this chat-group, split up over the question of whether one should use wine or not at the Lord’s Table. The anti-wine brigade withdrew and formed a ‘purer church’ just round the corner. The pastor of the ‘mother’ church told us that he bought a bottle of wine for the communion service at a supermarket. As he was paying at the cash point, there was a great shout of ‘Heretic! Heretic’. The new pastor of the new flock had been observing our list member and had taken the opportunity to denounce him in public. Needless to say, both these churches claim that they are true churches in their denominational capacity and bodies of Christ. 

     So too, Baptists are looked upon as Counter-Reformationists and Sacramentalists by many non-Baptists as they make a rite the centre of their belief and institutional church succession and authority, which they can in no way document, as their badge of orthodoxy.

The New is not in the Old Concealed and the Old not in the New revealed

     So, too, as Jean says, Baptists are terribly split up concerning covenant theology. On the whole, it is plain that Baptists look upon the two Testaments as teaching two different covenants and two different gospels with none of the Old reflected in the New and none of the New reflected in the Old. Dispensationalism is rampant amongst Baptists and there way of paring down Scripture is Marcionite. It is as if we have two different Gods who planned two different ways of salvation. It thus stands to Baptist reason that there was no Church in the Old Testament and no Bride of Christ and that there was no possibly way of spiritual salvation in the Old Testament dispensation. The People of God in the Old Testament had only national, political and territorial significance. All these arguments reject the plain Biblical fact of the covenant connection between circumcision and baptism. Indeed, this plain, Biblical connection is claimed to be Roman, as Howard points out. Baptist Raymond Burnish in his The Meaning of Baptism refers to Winward’s and Payne’s Orders and Prayers for Church Worship, published in 1960, and the fact that no Old Testament lessons are used, Burnish comments that this is, “a reminder of Baptist stress on the New Testament, and their emphasis on the faith of the candidate rather than on the efficacy of the sacramental elements, which we saw in the Roman Catholic rites.”This is a very neat way of ridding oneself of allegiance to the everlasting covenant. Also, the best strategy in ridding oneself of the stigma of Rome is to claim that the stigma is greater on the other side. Burnish, however, closes his chapter Baptist Churches in Britainby declaring that though Baptists in their theology and liturgy of baptism stress personal faith and their commitment to Christ, ‘they still see baptism in sacramental terms, emphasising the way in which baptism unites the candidate to Christ and grants his participation in the death and resurrection of Christ.’ Thus Baptists denounce in others what they practice themselves. They have become expert apologists in keeping their cake and eating it. That which puts me off modern Baptists the most is their High Church sacramentalism and their rejection of the pan-Biblical Covenant of Grace which includes both Law, which Fullerite Baptists see as part of a revelation which ended in New Testament times, and gospel based not on the whole Bible but selected parts of the New Testament.

     However, some modern Baptists such as David Kingdon and other so-called ‘Reformed Baptists’ still adhere to the old Particular Baptist teaching that what circumcision was to the Old Testament, baptism is to the New and claim that they believe in the unity of Scripture. But such apologists are a decreasing minority amongst the Baptists and they see a fundamental covenantal break between the two Testaments. Often, too, they tend to take back in the enthusiasm of their polemics what they have categorically stated elsewhere. This is very much the case in Kingdon’s important apologetic, but inconsistent, work Children of Abraham which I would recommend the chat-group to read. In concluding this letter, I must say that as Baptists do not speak with one voice, there is not really any convincing Baptist argument against the other churches, especially those which are Reformed in the Calvinist sense. Calvin, of course, was not a Baptist.

Trying to hit a moving target

     Hunters know that it is far more difficult to hit a moving target rather than one which stands still. This maxim is also very much applicable to the chameleon-like Baptists who might be in the same church building as their fathers and even in the same association but their doctrines have now changed and other once allied churches are now at loggerheads with them. Ten to one, there are also several Baptist churches in the immediate neighbourhood who have split off from them over wearing gowns, having choirs, serving coffee after the service, using fruit juice for the Lord’s Supper, running Sunday Schools, using musical instruments or other such church-dividing and thus ‘church-forming’ methods. The result is that objective criticism is nigh impossible. As soon as one Baptist idiosyncrasy is revealed, other Baptists say that the church under scrutiny is apostate and not truly Baptist. Now North American Baptists are arguing themselves into new inter-church warfare through their debates on what they call direct, gospel, baptismal, decisional or universal regeneration. Others are splitting themselves down the middle over profitless debates concerning whether one can be saved in eternity but not in time or whether one can be regenerated without ‘means’, whereby different anti-means churches use different definitions of ‘means’. One is reminded of William Cowper’s poem of going the whole hog. Different Islamic sects allow various parts of a pig to be eaten, some the head, some the tail, some this and some that until together they go the whole hog and the pig is entirely eaten. Thus one Baptist denomination affirms the Trentian doctrine of succession and priestly authority, another denies the incarnation, another claims that revealed ethics have been succeeded by Natural Law, another denies that there is a gospel to sinners and yet another denies Christ’s particular atonement. Altogether the Christian gospel is destroyed. What is left, is usually claimed to be the doctrine of immersion but even this is capable of being interpreted multifariously. Some dip, some pour, some duck, some immerse thrice, some immerse once, some bend the candidate forwards and some backwards, some use baptismal vestments and some do not, others immerse in running water, others in tubs and swimming pools. Each of these Baptist eccentricities is prepared to found a new denomination to affirm his ‘rights’ to ‘baptise’ in this way. This is chaos rather than Christianity. What do you think?

     A Mixed Reaction to Tyler’s Criticism

     A caricature of the Baptist position 

     Ralf: I find your posting offensive. You have painted a caricature of our churches. I have books in my study from Robinson, Gale, Christian, Armitage, Carson, Warns, Hiscox, D’Anvers, Booth, Gill, Conant, Cramp and many more who totally refute you. You must read van Braght’s fine book Martyrs Mirror to see how the poor Baptists have been there since the time of Christ and always been persecuted for their stand for the truth by those with the mark of the beast on their foreheads. Furthermore, you entirely ignore the Biblical meaning of Baptism and it is that which we Baptists look to for our doctrine and not church history. It is clear that the waters of your baptism isolates you from the truth.

     Keeping God’s covenant

     Simon: This discussion is becoming too complicated. Tyler’s main concern in baptising his daughter was keeping God’s covenant. If we can show him that he is wrong in his understanding of the covenant, he will perhaps deduce that he is wrong in his understanding of baptism. Furthermore, Baptists do not trace their succession from the Anabaptists yet there is proof enough that we have been around since the dawn of Christianity. We believe in a succession of doctrine and not in an unbroken chain-link of churches.

     Howard: Tyler obviously does not believe that baptism is our looking back in faith to our conversion but it has to do with some sort of contract God has made with man, promising him certain things which are testified to in baptism. I cannot follow him here at all but would like to know more about what he thinks because this is good training for me in witnessing to outsiders. We must be not only convinced ourselves about what we believe but know where the people stand to whom we are called to witness.

     Jean: I would like to take Tyler up on his sources for all the things he says but would feel more at home myself in discussing the relationship of baptism to God’s promises to mankind.

     The True Nature of the Covenant of Grace

     Tyler: Thank you for your patience with me and my apologies once more for upsetting some of you. I would like to concentrate my reply on the eternal covenant of grace

Where sin is, salvation is not far away

     Seen from the point of view of time, no sooner had Adam sinned than God set in action a pre-conceived covenant within the Holy Trinity to save a people out of fallen mankind. This action was planned, sealed and settled in eternity. From then on, God speaks to man within covenants that He has drawn up for man. Man is never an equal partner but has the conditions of the covenants dictated to him in their entirety. This does not mean that mankind is entirely passive as members of the Covenant of Grace.  They have to live a life pleasing to God and Christian parents are especially required to bring their children up in the faith which has transformed them. First these covenants were with individuals and their families such as Adam, Noah and Abraham, then with peoples such as the Jews and some surrounding states and finally with the entire nations of the Gentiles, Jews included. Without some knowledge of how these covenants worked, it is impossible to understand anything of God’s plan of salvation. Any divergence from God’s revealed covenant plans has always been seen in the history of the Church as a divergence from the Christian gospel and way of life and thus error if not heresy. 

     It is on this point that the Baptists of today are strongly divided. Indeed, modern denominations within the Baptist movement are returning to the old covenant-denying heresies, teaching that God’s covenants with mankind before the resurrection of Christ have been abrogated. They even tell us that God’s relationship with Israel and the faithful in it has no relevance for the Christian Church. They see no lasting covenant in Old Testament times and no lasting purpose in any of the Mosaic laws or even Old Testament revelation. The Old Testament is rolled up and discarded as if it were now quite useless and superfluous. For the Baptist, on the whole, the Old Testament is a Jewish book about Judaism for pre-Apostolic Jews. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. The O. T, is, rightly understood, a Christian book and was the text-book of Christ and His Apostles. It foretold the reign of the Messiah and the fulfilment of true Judaism in Christ, (Luke 24:25-27; 44). 

     Above all, it teaches us that righteousness comes by faith and not by works. Thus we see the covenant with Abraham as being the covenant of grace and pointing the way to faith in Christ. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 was a continuing of the covenantal commission to Abraham and his seed. Abraham was made the father of all nations in that he was the progenitor and type of all those, of whatever nation, who believe in Jesus. The sign of the promises of this covenant i.e. the righteousness which is of faith, in the form of circumcision was given to Abraham’s son Isaac and to all his subsequent seed. Circumcision was not the bringer of this righteousness but a pointer to it. So we believe that the promises which were to Abraham and his offspring still belong today to those who believe as Abraham. We also believe that baptism has succeeded circumcision, for reasons which I hope to go into later, and whereas circumcision was a promise-carrier for the Jews, baptism is such for both Jews and Gentiles.

     No parallels seen between circumcision and baptism

     Detlef: Tyler, this is all very well and good but even if we allow for the Abrahamic Covenant being carried on into the New Testament, no parallels between circumcision and baptism can be drawn. I recommend that you read David Kingdon’s book Children of Abraham in which he shows that salvation depends on God’s election and not parentage. Neither the faith of our fathers, nor any outward rite helps children to believe. Kingdon believes that the covenant with Abraham extends through both Testaments, but criticises covenant theology on the grounds that they refuse to accept that the Abrahamic covenant has been radically changed. In his third chapter, a ‘Critique of Covenant Theology’, he argues that children of believers have no part to play in this covenant and therefore ought not to be baptised and states on pages 6-7:

     “1. Covenant theologians apply the wrong method of exegesis. Instead of recognising that the New Testament fulfilment of the Covenant promises in Christ is far richer than the types of the Old Testament, they identify the two completely. Another weakness is the inferential argument that the silence of the New Testament as to a command to baptise infants is sufficient proof of the practice of infant baptism. Proselyte baptism also disproves, rather than proves, their case.

     2. Paedobaptists are guilty of reading the Old Testament into the New. In the Old Testament, participation in the temporal, earthly blessings of the Covenant was sufficient to give a right to circumcision. Paedobaptists are, however, reluctant to admit this, as it would destroy the circumcision-baptism identity. Yet if they deny it, they then admit the necessity of faith. The attempt to prove from the disciplinary laws of Israel, that unbelievers were the ones dealt with, is unreal. The delinquent was cut off as a breaker of the law, not as an unbeliever in the New Testament sense.

     Embarrassment is also occasioned by the circumcision of Abraham’s servants. Should servants today be baptised if they work in Christian households?

     3. Many Paedobaptists read Old Testament into New and argue along the lines of national privilege. People born into Israel automatically inherited certain privileges. This shows their theocratic cast of mind. According to the New Testament, only those who share Abraham’s faith are Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3: 29).’

     Baptism and parental responsibilities

     Tyler: Thank you brethren for this information which I trust we can use to our mutual edification and education. I am familiar with Kingdon’s work and am preparing an extensive biography of books I have read on the subject which I shall post for your appreciation so that we might refer to them. Kingdon has retained some remnants of the old Baptist Particular School represented by John Gill and Abraham Booth in adhering to a form of covenant theology and much as I admire his fairness and honesty in debate, I question whether his position is Scriptural or even logical. Divine election does not rule out parental responsibility but parental responsibility is one of the divine ways through which God draws in His elect. The Bible, in both Testaments, is most emphatic concerning the covenant duties of parents to their children and to God and their children’s covenant duties to their parents and to God. To argue that children are not placed under the faith of their parents would make a mockery of the numerous passages referring to the promises of the covenant being given to those who respond to the gospel and their children and the fact that children are placed under their parents ‘in the Lord’ in the fellowship of the church. The Old Testament prophets join hands with the New Testament authors in stressing the responsibilities of parents in preparing a people for the Lord. This is the message God’s angel gave to Zacharias at the beginning of the New Testament and this is the message that Zacharias preached as soon as he regained his speech (Luke 1:13 ff., 64 ff.). Similarly the New Testament shows not just the responsibility of parents to their children but also Christian soldiers and those who have servants in matters of faith.

     David Kingdon believes that he can avoid coming to the above conclusion by postulating that the children mentioned in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 6 were only those who ‘had already been converted and so had been baptised as believers.’ Though this might fit ‘Baptist principles’, it does not fit Scripture. The entire churches at Ephesus and Collosse were Paul’s addressees and he nowhere discriminates between one kind of child (the unbaptised unbeliever) and another (the baptised believer) but addresses all the children as being in the fellowship of the church. Besides, Kingdon’s unconvincing attempt to remove unbelieving children from covenant promises would also remove them from Paul’s admonition that children should obey and honour their parents. Here we see how natural duties are closely associated with spiritual duties in Christian families, a point Kingdon, alongside other Baptists, always appears to challenge.

     The inner turmoils which are at present breaking up the Baptist movement more than ever are chiefly concerning new interpretations of what the old covenant of grace entails. This explains why David Kingdon has chosen to sound a cry of alarm, showing how Baptists are cutting themselves off from their own roots by failing to see the golden thread of promise and fulfilment woven throughout the one covenant of grace which pervades the entire Scriptures.

     The three points Bro. Detlef refers to show what a world of misunderstanding there sadly is between us. Kingdon’s claim that covenant theologians are guilty of faulty exegesis can only be maintained if he proves this by Scriptural evidence and shows that the Baptists provide a better and fuller way. This will be no mean task as there are sadly widely different covenant theologies to be found in most denominations, including most particularly the Baptists. Kingdon is obviously quite aware that most Baptists would disagree with him on covenant matters; a point which ruins most of his ‘Baptist’ argument. Indeed, his book has angered Baptists far more than those he wished to oppose as he often comes very near to the covenant position he criticises. Everything he says sounds like a sigh of ‘Almost persuaded’, but Baptist dogmatism pulls him back to the new traditions that have arisen in the Baptist folds. 

Types and antitypes

     Actually, most of Kingdon’s arguments can be turned round and used against him. The first ‘evidence’ that he produces against non-Baptist covenant-holders whom he, again, calls inaccurately ‘Paedobaptists’, is the biased statement that they fail to see how richer the New Testament antitypes are than the Old Testament types. In answer, I would say that we most clearly see this richness but where is this insight in Kingdon’s work? He tells his readers that the children of believers are outlawed from the New Covenant promises of which baptism is a sign and seal. Furthermore, he argues that covenantal promises are to individual and professed already-believers only and that such promises offer no temporal benefits. He teaches that God has no organic people any longer and that baptism has a totally different function to circumcision. To me he robs baptism of its New Testament value and purpose because, for him, it does not point to what God has laid in store for his elect but merely to that which certain of His elect have attained, namely personal faith. Kingdon’s baptism, though it is made the central feature of Baptist faith and practice, has much less to offer than Abraham’s circumcision so we must ask him how a covenant can become richer by becoming poorer? 

The Bible allegedly silent on covenant promises to New Testament children

      Now, forgetting all that the Old Testament has said about believers and their children and forgetting that this is referred to throughout the entire Bible; and forgetting the baptism of households according to the promise to believers and their seed, indeed, to whole households; forgetting that children are referred to on numerous occasions as being taken up in the promises of the covenant, Kingdon argues that the Bible is silent on the subject. His own argument, however, is one of silence. The Bible does not say that children are banned from the covenant promises, so he takes it for granted that they are. However, there is no difference whatsoever in the covenantal claims in the New Testament regarding believers and their children in comparison to those of the Old Testament apart from the glorious fact that they point to realised history and not to a future fulfilment. The certainty of the promises is the same and the demand of a change of heart which only Christ can give is the same.

      Kingdon’s call to Jewish proselyte baptism in defence of his theory is as much a debatable subject amongst Baptists as amongst other Christians interested in the topic and, as we are dealing with Scriptural evidence alone here, it may be regarded as a red herring. Other Baptist apologists, for instance, argue that covenant baptism is based on Jewish proselyte baptism (see Warns) and it is this identity which shows it is un-Christian.

Neither circumcision nor baptism are carnal in themselves

      Kingdon’s second point is that ‘In the Old Testament, participation in the temporal, earthly blessings of the Covenant was sufficient to give a right to circumcision.’ Here he seems to be arguing that circumcision was merely carnal, yet he has told us in the previous section that circumcision was both carnal and spiritual and he understands circumcision as pointing to regeneration. This would rightly ally circumcision closely to baptism so now Kingdon distances himself so as to re-toe the Baptist line. 

      Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant and was ordained of God in order for Him to choose out a people of His choice. This does not sound like mere ‘temporal, earthly blessings’ for such a people. Indeed, God said to Abraham before telling him of His covenant, ‘I am the Almighty God; walkbefore me, and be thou perfect’. Again, this does not look like the introduction to a carnal covenant. The ‘seed’ here is defined as ‘every man child’ (Genesis 17:10). We also read that all the nations of the world shall be blessed in Abraham because through him ‘they shall keep the way of the Lord’ (Genesis 18:19). This, too, is a most spiritual promise and, furthermore, the Scriptures are still speaking about Abraham’s natural children. Later, Kingdom ‘spiritualises’ this in the wrong sense to only those of like faith and not natural offspring. Thus the promises of what is to come are only given to those who have already experienced them. In this way, the covenant as a means of preparing a people for the Lord is first emptied of meaning, then ignored. 

     One wonders how Kingdon would handle Psalm 78. We remember that David, who for all his faults is presented in the Scriptures as a righteous king and even type of Christ the Antitype, gives thanks to God in Psalm 70 for being brought up from childhood in the promises of the covenant and now in Psalm 78, with reference to David, the Psalmist sees those promises as being handed down from father to son:

     ‘Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from the children, showing to the generations to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments’ (Psalm 78:1-7).

     Here it is more than clear that the spiritual promises of the covenant are given to the natural seed and that by generation after generation. The Psalmist is not saying that all Jewish children will recognise the fulfilment of these promises in the Messiah as Abraham did but that all Jewish children are given those promises which by faith they might fulfil. The Old Testament prophets preached ‘the just shall live by faith’ just like the New Testament authors who strengthen their own arguments from the Old Testament whose believers are our mentors.

     Moving along to the New Testament (Romans 4), we find that the answer to the question of whether the promises are to yet unsaved children or to the already saved, is that though the children of Abraham were to receive circumcision, this was not because of their own spiritual state but that of their father’s. They were not saved by circumcision but a way of salvation was opened for them, testified to by circumcision. Circumcision was not a work of righteousness to be performed by Abraham’s children, but a pointer to faith which works righteousness. By bringing mere temporal blessings to bear on circumcision, Kingdon is ignoring the pan-Biblical teaching which emphasises circumcision’s basic spiritual purpose. Kingdon makes something of an understatement when he argues that his imaginary Paedobaptists are reluctant to admit the carnal nature of circumcision. This writer, whom Kingdon would falsely term a ‘Paedobaptist’, would admit that he believes neither circumcision nor baptism to be carnal of themselves, because both point to material and spiritualblessings, but there are carnal so-called Paedobaptists as well as carnal Baptists and Jews. Adult baptism on profession of a faith does not automatically de-carnalise sinners, nor does the baptism of believers’ children. 

     Baptising whole households

      The ‘embarrassment’ concerning baptising households, including servants who lived as members of those households, to which Kingdon refers, appears to be his own and not that of the ‘covenant theologians’ he opposes. As the Scriptures clearly teach that this was the Old Testament and New Testament pattern, there is no cause for a bold Christian to be embarrassed by following God’s Word. Throughout the history of the church believers have had their dependants baptised according to the New Testament pattern and this was obviously the custom amongst early Baptists before their extreme individualism coupled with a rejection of covenant teaching became fashionable. We have early documents extant of the baptisms of Swiss Mantz, Blaurock, Schad, Bruggbach, Grebel etc. which speak of the heads of households being baptised and subsequently their entire household, without anything whatsoever being required of those people but to follow in their parents’ or master’s footprints. Besides, they were baptised by pouring and sprinkling in living rooms and kitchens. Early Baptists such as Wolfgang Brandhuber even taught that as servants and their families were part of the believer’s household, they should have an equal share in all their masters’ property. Early Baptist converts amongst Native Americans also took this praiseworthy course.

A faulty antithesis

     Kingdon’s third point to disprove covenant theology is a faulty antithesis. The fact that the Jews were a chosen people with obvious privileges does not rule out the teaching of both Testaments that God would choose out a people from all nations. Indeed, those under covenant promises are privileged people, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. To the Jew first, then to the Gentiles is the way Christ went. Abraham (Genesis 17) was promised the fatherhood of the nations and not the mere fatherhood of the Jews. Besides, God’s covenant promises and purposes were known widespread throughout Eastern states at least a thousand years before the Jews arose as a people.

     This move from a Church which started before the Jews and consolidated under the Jewish faithful to a world-wide church can be seen in the development of the ordinances which move from a Jewish-only background to a world-wide application. From Abraham to Moses, there is the one ordinance of circumcision embracing God’s promises of salvation. With the coming of the Law emphasis is laid on the fact that this salvation cannot be found in the Jews themselves. A work of grace and atonement is outlined to them in the celebration of the Passover. From the time of Christ on, these promises and emblems of grace are universalised in the emblems of baptism and the Lord’s Supper which are not based on an either Jewish or Gentile background but on a Christian background which knows no difference between Jew and Gentile.

     Covenant promises within a family framework

     From the very start of the revelation of the gospel of grace in Genesis, promises of salvation are placed in the family sphere. The union of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:24) is used to picture the marriage of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and His Bride, the Church. It is the seed of the woman which is appointed to bruise the heel of the serpent. Again, though this reference is to the primal family, we know through the progressive revelation of the Scriptures that this is again a prophecy of Christ and, it appears from Genesis 5 was fulfilled through the genealogy of Seth, Cain being ‘cursed from the earth’. Then, as sin again almost triumphed in the world, God set apart Noah and his family as the inheritors of covenant promises. Genesis 6:13 ff preserves the very thoughts and words of God concerning this covenant:

But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee (v. 18).’

     After this, it is a constant refrain in the Scriptures that God will be a God unto His chosen ones and to their seed. To say that this is merely a reference to adult believers who lived after Noah, Abraham, Moses etc. is totally refuted by the examples themselves which invariable include the children of the covenant partners and even their ages. Genesis 17:10 can never be argued away by those who would ban children from the covenant of grace. God, speaking to Abraham, says:

     ‘This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. . . . And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.’

     What is said of circumcision also goes for baptism

     Here we see that Abraham is made responsible for the entrance into the covenant of grace for his children and those placed, for whatever reasons, in his care. This writer ceases not to be surprised when his Baptist friends tell him that circumcision was a mere political act to mark a person out as a Jewish citizen. This is a weak argument indeed as the Jewish nation, only one of the many nations Abraham was to head, had still hundreds of years to wait until its emergence and any man’s children of whatever nationality, placed in Abraham’s own household care were eligible. Besides, Paul, in Romans 4:11, identifies what circumcision points to in relation to faith in the very same way as what baptism points to in relation to faith. We read:

     ‘And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed to them.’

     Given this immediate connection in purpose of circumcision and baptism, it is in keeping with Scripture to hold that what was said of circumcision goes also for baptism. Abraham, as the believing covenant father, had his children circumcised at the command of God. This command is repeated throughout the New Testament with reference to baptism. There has been no change in the covenant, though the Old Testament bloody sign has given way to a New Testament unbloody sign because the once and for all time sacrifice circumcision pointed to has been wrought out, a sacrifice to which baptism symbolically points back to, as the washing away of sin.

The promises are both to natural descent and spiritual descent

     Other Baptist friends say that the promises to Abraham and his seed regarding circumcision were not to Abraham’s natural descendants but we must spiritualise such references and apply them to believers only. Thus, Abraham’s seed means merely those who believe as Abraham. That Abraham was the father of the faithful is clearly the teaching of Scripture. But the same Scriptures teach equally clearly that the promises within the covenant were also to Abraham’s natural seed and that circumcision was the God-appointed sign to first remind Abraham’s immediate offspring, then the Jews and their confederates of those promises. God did not command Abraham to circumcise adult believers only but also his natural children as Genesis 17:10-11 clearly teaches. Thus we find in the covenantal words of Genesis 12:3-4, in context, a reference to both spiritual and natural offspring of Abraham besides the same covenantal genealogy in the gentile nations.

     ‘I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’

     Indeed, in connection with the covenant and when portraying God’s requirement of a loving people, we read in Deuteronomy 10:17-18:

     ‘For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.’

     All these covenant revelations are pointers to Christ who is the Light to lighten the gentiles (Luke 2:32) and the fact that the gentiles will glorify God for his mercy (Romans 15:9). Therefore, it is no surprise to find that the New Testament preachers of righteousness always affirm that they are preaching in accordance with the Abrahamic covenant and admonish their hearers to be baptised with their households and that the promises are to those who believe and their children until Christ returns. When this covenant was renewed in Moses day, we read in Deuteronomy 29:10-13:

     ‘Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in the camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water. That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day. That he may establish thee today for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’

     This chapter emphasises repeatedly that the covenant has particular implications for children to come and strangers (non-Jews) to come (v. 22.), spreading out to all nations (v. 24.) and Moses states that this revelation is to believers and their children for ever (v. 29).

Circumcision was part of the covenant of grace prior to the ceremonial law

     Baptists are adamant in affirming that circumcision is merely part of the ceremonial law which is passed away and therefore it has no bearing either on present-day children or on the New Covenant. The Scriptures teach otherwise. Moses was still only a plan in God’s mind, seen from the point of view of time and circumcision was, as is explained in Genesis 17:10 ff. part of the everlasting covenant, called the New Covenant by Jeremiah, which evangelical, Reformed Christians have always associated with the covenant of grace. It is significant to note that Abraham is spoken to as a father and he is told how to behave towards his own children. This fact was so full of significance for the New Testament Church that Stephen in his great defence before his martyr death, based his last sermon on it. When every single word he said had to be weighed and not found wanting, Stephen began his solemn opening up of God’s plan of salvation with Abraham and his family, outlining how God’s grace continued through his kin ‘who found favour with God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.’’

Another look at the seed of believers

     Jean: Bro. Tyler, I fear you have quite mixed up Kingdon’s view of the seed of Abraham. He does not make it as complicated as you make it appear. Perhaps you are reading too much into his words. His explanation is simple enough as it is based on three simple passages of Scripture. Under the title Towards a Baptist Theology of the CovenantKingdon outlines his own view of what the Baptist covenant entails relating to the seed, as opposed to your ‘covenant theology’. His first point is:

     ‘The Covenant with Abraham looms large in the New Testament. Here we see that ‘his seed’ are believers and believers only. Because of this there is no need for an express command forbidding the baptism of infants. The arguments from silence is from an empty not an eloquent silence.

The term seed is used in three senses referring to:

1.Christ (Gal. 3: 16ff.).

2.Abraham’s literal seed (John 8: 37, 39).

3. The true seed (Rom. 9:7).”

     Tyler: Thank you for this point Jean. However, I believe Kingdon is limiting the force of Scripture here and, in viewing matters through Baptist spectacles alone is shutting out the natural, primary significance of the Biblical texts. Kingdon is arguing without due regard to the history of his subject which is recorded throughout the Old Testament and right through the New. This Biblical history refers to the natural seed of Abraham time and time again as being the seed which carries spiritual covenantal promises. Indeed, sporadically in the earlier parts of the Old Testament and repeatedly in the Psalms and Prophets, world-wide believers and their natural seed are put under covenantal promises. Even if one dispenses with the Old Testament, the New Testament alone bears ample witness to this fact and so Kingdon’s three-fold list of ‘seeds’ is incomplete and therefore quite misleading. Furthermore, Kingdon replaces covenantal promises and prophecies applying to circumcision and baptism, by covenantal fulfilments, which quite alters the Biblical pattern. Circumcision and baptism are types, not antitypes. The covenant of grace, historically speaking, is not to be argued backwards from its accomplishment in the faith of believers, but to be argued forwards through its promises of the need of faith and how faith is given. If covenant theology is to be argued backwards at all, it is from the fulfilment of the promises in Christ in the fullness of time, whose gospel reaches back to the very fall of man and yet also forwards to the crowning glorification of Christ and His church at the end of time.  Indeed, the covenant, which is accomplished in Christ, can never be said to be accomplished in the believer but the believer receives the benefits of the covenant, promised to Abraham and his seed through its accomplishment in Christ. 

     Kingdon’s reference to Christ as Abraham’s seed is only half a reference and thus a half-truth. As Kingdon argues that circumcision carries with it natural meanings only to the carnal, forgetting all the spiritual meanings both to the unbeliever, not-yet believer and already-believer, so he argues that Christ as Abraham’s seed is merely a spiritual phenomenon and not a natural one. As circumcision applies to both natural and spiritual factors (and so does baptism), Christ’s seedship is also both natural and spiritual. Christ was by his human nature through Mary, an offspring of Abraham. He was also thus the offspring of believers. Christ’s human origin through Mary was denied by the earliest Baptists such as John Smyth and is still denied by a number of Baptist denominations, but it has always been a central testimony of orthodoxy. Furthermore, Galatians 3:16 is quite wrongly applied by Kingdon. Paul is not arguing that God only put Christ, and not all the natural seed of believers, under the covenantal promises, but in Christ alone those promises are accomplished, wrought out and ratified. It is only in Christ that they are then applied to others. One cannot argue here that Christ is the only Abrahamic seed to benefit from the promises, nor can one argue that the law, which was also fulfilled in Christ, is only applicable to Christ. The law was to all men and condemns all men but is fulfilled in Christ for all in federal relationship to Him, just as the covenantal promises were to all Abraham’s offspring and subsequently the offspring of believers though only fulfilled in Christ. Thus, true law-keepers, like true promise-keepers, are only found in Christ. Believing seeds spring from the One True Seed. This does not make the law and the promises void of application to those who reject them. They apply to unbelievers, too, and their rejection is used by God in His exercise of justice. In short, Christ was not the receiver of the promises merely as promises but the Giver and Goal of those promises. He confirmed the promises and they were fulfilled in Him. Here Paul is arguing so that ‘the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith(Galatians 3:14). Obviously, he is applying the promises in the Abrahamic way to the Gentiles. The covenant with Abraham is thus also the same covenant with the Gentiles. Indeed, the Gentiles are the true inheritors of the covenant promises as foretold by God in Genesis 17 following.

     Kingdon‘s linguistic tangle

     The tangle Kingdon has got himself into here is of a simplistic, linguistic nature. He argues that where the word ‘sperma’ i.e. ‘seed’ occurs, Paul and the other New Testament writers are ‘uniformly’ referring to Abraham’s natural seed, but when the word ‘tekna’, i.e. children, occurs, this is a reference to believers in Christ. Thus, Kingdon continues, Abraham’s ‘seed’ are natural children but Abraham’s ‘children’ are spiritual children. This is most odd reasoning indeed as one would thus expect Christ to be referred to as Abraham’s child (teknon), whereas Paul refers to Christ as Abraham’s seed (sperma). Furthermore, when Paul is speaking in Romans 9:29 of the Lord of Saboath leaving a righteous seed, he refers to this people as sperma and not tekna. Interestingly enough, when Paul wishes to show how God reserves a people for Himself as in Romans 9:26, “And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not my people, there shall they be called the children of the living God,” Paul uses neither sperma nor tekna but uioi (sons). Kingdon might note, here, too, that Paul is speaking of the extension of the Abrahamic covenant into the New Testament period and basing his arguments on what the Old Testament says. Once again, we see that if one rules out the Old Testament and the implications of the Old Testament outlined in the New and relies on inner-text linguistic jugglery rather than inter-text, pan-Biblical exegesis, one might create a new dogma, but one will certainly end in Babel by doing so.

     Having made his above point, still forgetting that Christ is the seed of Abraham, Kingdon quotes John 8: 37, 39 as further evidence for his argument. Abraham’s literal descendants here are also called ‘sperma’ as opposed to tekna, Kingdon maintains, indicating that the former are natural children and the latter spiritual. Christ, however, is not contrasting sperma here with tekna but tekna with douloi. He is comparing slaves with true-born children. That true sons of God, are also called sperma according to John’s gospel is made plain in the wider context where we read, ‘Hath not the scripture said that Christ cometh of the seed (sperma) of David?’ This can be compared with Galatians 3:16. What would Kingdon say to 1 John 3:9, ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed (sperma) remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God? In English, we refer to natural offspring, children, descendants, a new generation etc. without being too particular in differentiating between the terms, yet we would never confuse them with natural servants and slaves. Greek usage is no different. John called the people who came to him to be baptised ‘a generation of vipers’ but he still dealt with them as being under the covenant promises.

Ignoring the whole teaching of the Bible

     One of the great weaknesses of Kingdon’s polemic is that he presents no study-in-depth of the Old Testament references to the covenant, even though he mentions the names of Old Testament fathers such as Abraham and Isaac in conjunction with their seed. Nor does he extend such a study to the New Testament. If, however, Kingdon had made a pan-Biblical study of spermatekna and uioi, he would have seen that his findings do not represent the clear teaching of Scripture as these terms are used interchangeably. Kingdon trips himself up with his own argument because he studies a few highly selected passages in the New Testament, ignoring other New Testament passages that refute him. He then generalises on his conclusions as if his verdict applied to the entire revelation of God on the subject in both Testaments. Obviously, when God, in Genesis 17-18 laid out the foundations of the covenant, His words applied both to natural and spiritual seed. The fact that generation after generation in hereditary order are mentioned, rules out a mere spiritualising of such descent here and there but it does not rule out the fact that spiritual promises are given to all Abraham’s natural seed after the covenant was established. It is the natural offspring of believing Abraham who are promised spiritual blessings. Thus we find that sperma is used in Genesis 17:7 to portray the children of the everlasting covenant going from generation to generation, whatever their spiritual status! The fact that God promises Abraham to be ‘a God unto thee and thy seed’ cannot be seen as a mere promise to natural descendants. The children thus to be born are called uioi(18:19 etc.) and though the noun teknon is not used, the corresponding verb tikto is used of their birth. This Old Testament usage reflects New Testament practice throughout. Children born to the sons of Abraham are thus called their seed, irrespective of their faith. To these children belonged circumcision, bringing with it the covenant promises. When, in Acts 2, Peter affirms the continuation of the Old Testament covenant of grace into the New, he says, ‘The promise is unto you and your children’. Here the word tekna is used. According to Kingdon’s theory, this would mean that Peter was not referring to the children of those present but merely those who would be led to the Lord by them, i.e. their ‘spiritual seed’. There is neither a linguistic nor a theological reason for such a far-fetched theory. The promises are a. to believers, b. to their seed and c. to the nations through believers and their seed as per the Great Commission. According to normal usage, sperma refers to the seed to come whereas tekna refers to the children as they are born thus the two terms are roughly equivalent to offspring and children. When the term ‘children’ is used for a particularly familiar relationship with God, then the term uioi is often used rather than tekna. Believers are made sons of God.

The true seed

     Romans 9:7, as Kingdon points out, refers to Abraham’s line through Isaac which he calls ‘the true seed’. But Kingdon ignores the importance of the fact that Isaac was also Abraham’s natural seed and that circumcision was also designed for Abraham’s natural seed. The covenant was not with Ishmael, who was given special individual treatment by God as he was born before the covenant, but to those children who came after the covenant was made, beginning with Isaac. Obviously, too, even Esau was of Isaac’s line and was circumcised. Indeed, this very passage confutes Kingdon’s thesis that the covenant promises were not handed down from father to children but jumped like a butterfly from flower to flower, landing solely on true already-spiritual blooms. This would have done away with the purpose of circumcision. Paul says plainly that though the promises were to the entire people of Israel, the fulfilment was not theirs en bloc (v. 3-6). Kingdon’s idea that the promises were merely to ‘spiritual sons’ and thus there is no reference to natural sons, is quite contradicted by the text which is speaking of promises also to those of the flesh of whom Christ came(v.5). This view of Christ’s natural descent is confirmed by the author of Hebrews who emphasises in his second chapter:

     ‘For verily, he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like his brethren, and that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.’(vv. 16-18).

     If your quote from Kingdon represents his Baptist version of the covenant of grace, it is severely lacking in both linguistic and Biblical application. If Kingdon seeks by such argumentation to show that baptism is not for the families of believers, it is obvious that he has still a great deal of Bible study before him.

John G. Reisinger and his New Covenant teaching

     Simon: Tyler, your criticism of Kingdon falls to the ground as he cannot be regarded as a representative spokesman for the Baptists. Your refutation is therefore fighting with windmills. Baptists have gone a long way since the days of Gill and Booth. Most of us look on them as apostate. I believe we can learn a lot from John Reisinger on covenant theology. He has put Baptist covenant teaching on the map. In his booklet Abraham’s Four Seeds, Reisinger describes the mere natural and physical nature of circumcision and shows that circumcision was not the spiritual promise-carrier of the covenant of grace. He demonstrates that Abraham had two natural seeds, the first ‘Natural Seed’ is Abraham’s total offspring which includes Ishmael and Isaac and then there is the ‘Special Natural Seed’ of Jacob which developed into the nation of Israel. The special nature of this second seed was that it was given natural promises in relation to God which no other nation had. Circumcision thus has to do with natural promises to a natural people only. Reisinger teaches that there is a third seed which he calls the ‘Spiritual Seed’ which is the elect of God and a fourth seed, the ‘Unique Seed’ which is Christ. Reisinger furthermore shows that that the Body of Christ and His Church do not contain Old Testament saints and anything spiritual promised to Abraham’s offspring will not take place until New Testament times. Reisinger denounces the idea covenant theologians hold that Israel according to the flesh is the Body of Christ and that covenant promises are to Christian parents only. He shows how covenant theology followers believe that the Jews were a redeemed people en bloc who experienced spiritually salvation. One notable example he gives is Jonathan Edwards who ‘confuses the covenant of redemption with the covenant of grace.’ If covenant theologians insist that God’s covenant promises are to believing Abraham and his seed and subsequently to believing Gentiles and their seed, he says they are twisting words. The Old Testament saints were thus never our fathers in Christ. The Body of Christ came into existence at Pentecost, and was thus ‘a new entity on the earth.’

     Howard: Most Baptists do not look upon the covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses as referring to a life of faith explained in terms of a life under God’s grace. Most of us believe the term ‘covenant of grace’ to be misleading. It is not Scriptural. Or course, you will say that the term ‘Baptist’ to describe Christians, and the term ‘Baptist Association’ to describe the gathered church are not explicitly Biblical, either, so I would not, for myself, press this argument too much. In fact, as it is through covenants that God has planned His way of salvation and as salvation is through grace only, then God’s covenant of salvation can truly be called a covenant of grace. ‘By grace are ye saved’ (Ephesians 2:8). I suppose we Baptist do not use the term because it is so misused.

     Even though some Baptists do accept that there was a church in the Old Testament who trusted in Christ of sorts, and thus in some ways accept the doctrine of an eternal covenant of grace that God has entered into with His people, they view this as a mere national affair which confused state-adherence with church-adherence. As the Spirit was not yet given, they could not have been Christians in the fullest sense. I would say that the old established covenants had an eternal moral function, mostly through the Ten Commandments, though many modern Baptists will not accept what is normally called the Moral Law. The Founders Journal Baptists are striving to rescue some form of covenantal teaching, championed by Ernest Reisinger and Richard C. Barcellos whilst the new so-called New Covenant Baptists, championed by John Reisinger are fighting for a New Testament only Bible. Typical of this inner strife is the fact that not only brothers in Christ but brothers in the flesh, as in the case of the Reisingers, are warring against each other. With the advent of Tom Wells’ and Fred Zaspel’s book New Covenant Theology, it is evident that a number of Baptists from both sides of the line are merging together and forming a third party. I presume that they will soon be calling those who do not merge with them ‘hard-liners’ or even ‘hardshells’ and we shall soon have three modern Baptist New Covenant movements instead of two. Thus you are right in saying that Baptists are sadly divided by their own water. 

     In spite of the Founders Journal’s effort to keep up some semblance of covenant theology, most, if not all, of modern Baptists will not accept that the children of believers are or were ever part of the promises of the covenant of grace which they see as merely being implemented in New Testament times for individual, adult or teen-age believers. Admittedly, there are still those amongst the Baptists who will accept that circumcision, as a sign and promise of the righteousness which is by faith, was applied as such to children, but this was a pointer to Abraham’s faith and not their own. We teach that baptism does not point to the faith of others but to one’s own faith. Children should receive faith first and then the sign that points to it.’

Baptist baptism points back to their own faith and not to Christ’s work
      Tyler: Thank you for so graciously replying to me. It appears as though Baptists reject the concept of a covenant of grace with a people or with families but see such a covenant between God and individuals who appropriate God’s grace by an act of faith. This they demonstrate by a work of obedience in having themselves baptised, thus securing for themselves a place in Christ’s Church, whether it be universal as some Baptists believe, or merely local, as other Baptists claim. The covenant of grace thus starts for Baptists with their particular, individual belief and not with Scriptural covenant promises to believers and their children through all times. In other words, the Baptists, on the whole, have totally reversed the Biblical teaching of the covenant of grace. The covenant sign to them is given when all the promises, according to their understanding, are fulfilled by their own declaration of faith. It is not given to point to their fulfilment in the work of Christ. Thus Baptists are in danger of maintaining their own faith as the grounds for baptism rather than Christ’s work. However, Biblical baptism, as I see it, looks backwards to all that Christ has done to fulfil all righteousness, including His being baptised, and looks forward to this blessed news being preached to all creatures throughout the entire world and through all time. This was the conception of the covenant given to Abraham and his seed, to the restored Israel and her seed after the Exile and to the Gentile church and her seed throughout the New Testament. Baptism never means that the already clean in their own estimate are to be washed again in the baptismal waters to declare to the world that they are righteous. Baptism points out that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and all need cleansing and it is only the purging effect of Christ’s sacrificial blood that can obtain this and to which true baptism points. Thus Peter can preach:

     ‘Arise, and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Be baptised every one of you, in the name of Jesus, for the remission of sins.’ (Acts 2:38).

     When Precisian Thomas Cartwright protested against Puritan Whitgift’s emphasis on the promise-bearing function of baptism, the Archbishop censured him for believing baptism to be a mere bare ceremony. Whitgift told Cartwright that whosoever refused baptism whether for themselves or their families, refused what God in the gospel of baptism promised. Those who refused the promises could never enjoy their fulfilment. The Book of Joshua (chap. 6) provides us with a solemn warning attached to believers not giving their children the sign of the covenant. This is hardly more emphasised than the case of Moses in Exodus 4 where God threatened to kill Moses for not circumcising his son. It is thus a great sin for Baptists to deny the promise-bearing function of baptism to the extreme point of denying it to their covenant children. If children are denied such promises and disciplining by their own parents, whom are they to look to in order to receive that baptising and instruction warranted them by the Great Commission?

New Covenant Theology

     Reisinger is said to open the door to a more fitting, Biblical view of the New Covenant but he merely does this by letting Dispensationalism and Dualism in by the back door. His adaptation of Dispensationalist theories has very shaky foundations. Ishmael and Isaac were not placed in any covenant relationship with each other at all as Ishmael was specifically excluded from the covenant with Abraham and his subsequent seed. Ishmael and Isaac were dealt with on completely different terms so the fact that Ishmael was also ‘Abraham’s seed’ is irrelevant to the nature of the covenant of grace. However, it was to Abraham through Isaac’s descendants that God gave not only His natural promises but also his spiritual ones. One would think that these chapters referring to God’s covenant with Abraham and his offspring from Genesis 12 following could hardly be termed merely ‘physical’. Here we read of God’s love for a people of His own choice, His hatred of sin, His promises of great blessings, His demands for justice, His admonition to keep the way of the Lord and His will to preserve a righteous people. This hardly sounds like mere politics! Moreover, God’s dual promises to Abraham and Isaac were not annulled at Jacob’s birth from whence yet another covenant emerged, but Jacob received the promises handed down from his father, Isaac, who had received them from his father Abraham who had received them from God. These spiritual promises were so tied up with circumcision that those of Abraham’s offspring who refused to circumcise their children had themselves and thus their future seed cut off by execution. God meant the promises to last up to the time of the Gentiles when they would be the inheritance of all believers and their seed. 

     Israel far more than a political parenthesis

     One gains the opinion, when reading such works as Kingdon’s, but very much more so when reading Reisinger’s, that the entire history of the Old Testament between Abraham receiving the promises and the fulfilment of them in Christ, was a mere political parenthesis with no trace of a people of God in it in any way. This causes Reisinger to argue that that the Body of Christ and His Church do not contain Old Testament saints. Indeed, Reisinger argues that anything spiritual promised to Abraham’s offspring will not take place until New Testament times. Kingdom appear to believe that Israel were people of God but only in a national sense and that circumcision had some spiritual purpose but only as a sign of nationhood. This is hardly in keeping with Scripture as we know from them that not only was Abraham justified by faith in Christ but also Abel, Enoch, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Moses and such numbers of others that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that time would fail him to relate all their names. By cutting off the Old Testament from the New, Reisinger, and many Baptists like him, split the Church down the middle and excommunicate the countless number of Christ’s own in Old Testament times. This brings the Baptists into line with arch-Arminian Wesley who, when Hervey showed him that Abraham’s righteousness was Christ’s imputed righteousness and he should follow in those Abrahamic footsteps, he answered that he would not take his cue from a Jew!

     Reisinger’s insistence that covenant theologians equate the Body of Christ with Israel after the flesh and en bloc, is most surprising, judging by the fact that Anglican and Presbyterian writers, i.e. those who believe traditionally in covenant theology, rarely bring Israel into their definitions of Christ’s Body at all. Here we can take John Murray as an example of a sincere covenant believer who, nevertheless, finds no room for political Israel in his view of Christ’s Body. In his 14 page essay The Nature and Unity of the Church, Murray merely mentions Israel as an example of a people using a general assembly which was also called έκκλησία or להק, yet, in his extensive definition of the Body of Christ, Murray does not mention natural Israel even once. Being a Presbyterian, Murray, in his Government of the,Church essay sees the government of ancient Israel as providing types of the government of the church as they were ruled by a Council of Presbyters! This interpretation could hardly offend the Baptists, whose churches often have such a government themselves. After this remark, right at the start of his essay, Murray does not mention Israel again in his detailed study of church government.

     If we look to the Anglican creeds and their expositors, whether High Church or Low, natural Israel is neither used as a matrix for the Church nor the Church for Israel. E.J. Bicknell in his commentary on the Church of England’s Articles, deals with the connection of spiritual Israel with the Church but not natural Israel. He explains when dealing with Article XIX (The Church):

     ‘It was indeed only too obvious that the greater part of the nation (of Israel) proved unfaithful to its call. The prophets taught that God’s purpose would be fulfilled through the faithful few (Is. 6:13, Amos 9:8, etc.). But this faithful remnant was the true representative of Israel (cp. Rom. 9): it was to form the centre of the coming Messianic Kingdom.’

     Turning from one who might be thought ‘High’ in his churchmanship to a Lowchurchman and Evangelical, we find Griffith Thomas, Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, introducing and commenting on the Thirty-Nine Articles in his The Principles of Theology. When dealing with the nature of the Church, the Anglican says:

     ‘When Jesus Christ saves an individual and unites that one to Himself, a new relation is thereby constituted between that individual person and others similarly joined to the Lord. To this community the New Testament gives several titles, the word ‘Church’ being the most important.”

     In his lengthy discussion of Article XIX, Griffith Thomas does not so much as mention natural Israel apart from a brief allusion to the church in the wilderness in Acts 7:38 in order to establish the meaning of ‘ecclesia’ as ‘congregation’. Furthermore, when Griffith Thomas comes to expounding what is meant by the Body of Christ’, he, again, does not mention Israel, nor even the sum total of the churches but says:

     ‘The term ‘Body’ is never to be identified solely with the aggregate of Churches throughout the world. It always implies vital union with Christ and refers to all those who are spiritually one with Him.’

     Griffith Thomas goes on to show that the Body of Christ cannot be reduced to the visible as Rome, and indeed many Baptist churches teach, because some members are already with Christ, some are on the earth and others are not yet born. It must needs be ‘invisible’ or, as Griffith Thomas prefers to call it the ‘real’ church as compared with the ‘formal’ church. He can thus state when describing the difference between the papist conception of the Church and the Anglican:

     ‘Rome makes this visibility to be of the essence of the Church, while Anglicanism, following the New Testament, makes invisible or spiritual union with Christ the vital and fundamental requirement.’

     It is important to note here that the Baptist fathers of the past, such as John Gill and Abraham Booth, taught this Reformed distinction as firmly as did the Anglicans. Gill speaks of the Church Militant on earth and the Church Triumphant in heaven but also of ‘the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven.’ (Heb. 12:23) which he identifies with the Invisible Church. Gill, like the Anglican Articles, teaches that the true visibility of the church is seen purely from God’s overview of His own. More important to our present discussion, however, is the fact that these Baptist fathers taught that pre-Israelites believers such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were fitting members of the Church of Christ and his Body. This is an impossible thought to such as Reisinger and many other Baptists who have the sacramental idea of no Baptist-style baptism, no church. Indeed, they identify the visibility of their church with its spirituality just like Rome does. In this way, they declare themselves to be un-Reformed. Baptists thus cast out the Old Testament members of the church, and most of the new, those who have not chosen on their own initiative to enter the church by the Baptists’ door. However, the Old Testament saints had circumcision as the sign of the righteousness through faith, a sign that Reisinger will not accept as the Old Testament sign pointing to acceptance in Christ by God.

     In his chapter, ‘Who is the Great Nation?’ Reisinger affirms that there were believing souls in Old Testament times but they nevertheless had not what he calls ‘hope realised’ until Christ came. He appears thus to suggest that there was a kind of suspended salvation for OT saints which turned into real salvation at the point in time when Christ atoned for their sins, or, indeed, even later at Pentecost. However, the nature of the Church has always been faith in Christ and not rational trust in Christ by sight. There is thus no difference in a saving aspect between the faith of Abraham and the faith of Paul. Indeed, Abraham is depicted in the Scriptures as being the father of the faithful. ‘Hope realised’ will be the lot of the entire Body of Christ on the Resurrection Morning. Paul tells us that now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12). Indeed, when the author to the Hebrews describes Christian faith, he begins with the faith of the fathers in times past and, before listing their names, tells us (11:1) that:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’

     In other words, the author to the Hebrews is showing that what Reisinger regards as a second class position, a class into which he puts all Old Testament believers, is actually the first class way of faith par excellence which we New Testament people should follow as our example. We also should follow the entire covenant of grace as given to our father Abraham. Rather than Abraham being a second-class Christian, Reisinger actually makes second-class Christians of his readers, basing their faith on ‘hope realised’ rather than hope substantiated in faith. Reisinger has thus a tiered-view of believers even more complicated than the old papist system. Starting from believing Jews who are still cast out of the Church, he moves to Non-Baptist Christians and then higher to common or garden Baptists until he has his Four Seeders sitting crowned right at the top of the ladder.

      Reisinger thus clearly contradicts Genesis 15:6 ‘And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord and he accounted it to him for righteousness’. Could Abraham have been more saved than at that time? Furthermore, Jesus told the Jews, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). This was before Christ’s death and resurrection! We note, too, that Paul speaking to the Roman Christians of their common father in the faith in chapter 4, echoed the words of Genesis 15:6. Indeed, Paul uses Abraham as the prime example of one who believed in Jesus. There is thus no reason whatsoever to disbelieve the fact that those Old Testament saints mentioned in Hebrews 11, and the myriad more whom the author had not time and parchment enough to name, died safely in the Christian faith and entered into the eternal inheritance of the saints, God’s true elect. Hebrews 11:13-16 is worth quoting here:

     ‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.’

     The point to be made here is that Abraham never believed that he was receiving mere national and physical promises, nor were they such that he passed on to his seed. The Old Testament saints were quite aware of the fact that their nation was a mere pointer to a better country and this was taught generation after generation, in accordance with the covenant. As these covenant promises now include the Gentiles, it is our Christian calling to keep on preaching these promises to subsequent generations, to our own seed first, and then to the uttermost parts of the world.

     When is a covenant of grace not a covenant of grace?

     In his book Abraham’s Four Seeds, Reisinger makes very much of the argument that covenant theologians use theological terms, which include ‘the covenant of grace’ and stresses how wrong this usage is. They should use Biblical terminology and none other. However, his book is full of New Covenant insider jargon, which would appear to covenant believers as a foreign language and he often uses theological language where he has claimed his covenant brethren ought not to use it themselves. Thus he speaks of ‘a Covenant of Redemption’, a ‘Unique Seed’, ‘protoevangelium’, ‘hope realised’, ‘doctrines of grace’ and even, when he is not watching his own vocabulary, he uses the term ‘covenant of grace’ to express his own thought as when he criticises Edwards for confusing the covenant of redemption, (which he does not define), with the covenant of grace, (which he defines contrary to traditional usage). However, Edwards, as Reisinger allows, believed that the sinner can only receive the blessings of the covenant through faith. This is not, however, departing from covenant theology but affirming it. Louis Berkof, surely one of the very best spokesmen for covenant theology, writes on the relationship of the covenant of redemption and covenant of grace:

     1. The covenant of redemption is the eternal prototype of the historical covenant of grace. This accounts for the fact that many combine the two into a single covenant. The former is eternal, that is from eternity, and the latter, temporal in the sense that it is realised in time. The former is a compact between the Father and the Son as the Surety and Head of the elect, while the latter is a compact between the triune God and the elect sinner in the security.
     2. The counsel of redemption is the firm and eternal foundation of the covenant of grace. If there had been no eternal counsel of peace between the Father and the Son, there could have been no agreement between the triune God and sinful men. The counsel of redemption makes the covenant of grace possible.
     3. The counsel of redemption consequently also gives efficacy to the covenant of grace, for in it the means are provided for the establishment and execution of the latter. It is only by faith that the sinner can obtain the blessings of the covenant, and in the counsel of redemption the way of faith is opened. The Holy Spirit which produces faith in the sinner, was promised to Christ by the father, and the acceptance of the way of life through faith was guaranteed by Christ.

     The covenant of redemption may be defined as the agreement between the Father, giving the Son as Head and Redeemer of the elect, and the Son, voluntarily taking the place of those whom the Father has given Him.

     One might find this more theological than Scriptural, though certainly not more theoretically theological and less Scriptural than Reisinger’s proposals, but it must be admitted that this is a totally different concept of covenantal theology than that presented by Reisinger as the genuine thing. Reisinger has quite simply set up an artificial target to shoot down. He fails to come to grips with covenant views which are not his own and thus does not understand them. Similarly, though Reisinger claims to have used the Westminster Confession as his source of covenant theology, the complicated and speculative conclusions he draws from it and claims consequent covenant theologians maintain, just cannot possibly be forced into the words of the Confession. Thus, Reisinger quotes briefly and partially from Chapter VII, Section III of the Confession which has to do with God’s covenant with man. The full Section reads:

     ‘Man by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant (of works), the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.’

     Reisinger ends the quote after the words ‘commonly called the covenant of grace’ leaving out the reference to the way of salvation in Christ. He then ‘concludes’ that the covenant of grace is merely a way of restoring man in perfect Adam, i.e. recreating man as a still unfallen Adam. This is certainly not the salvation in Christ of which the Westminster Confession testifies from start to finish. Furthermore, Reisinger takes his cut-down and cut-away version of Section III to ‘prove’ that, according to covenant theology, the nation of Israel ‘has to be one with the Church today’ and that the covenant of grace is basically the same as the covenant of works. Of course, if one cuts out the work of Christ from the covenant of grace as Reisinger does in his presentation of Section III, one might be expected to misinterpret it, as Reisinger does with a vengeance here. But this is the man who accuses others of word-twisting and being inconsistent with their own theology when they claim that Reisinger’s view of the covenant of grace is not theirs. Whatever Reisinger has used as a basis for his defining covenant theology in the way-out way he does, it is certainly not the Westminster Confession, although he claims this was his sole source. Furthermore, different as the Westminster Confession’s view of covenant theology is to Reisinger’s understanding of it, other churches also, such as the Church of England, have confessional teaching on covenant theology which is not in the least as Reisinger portrays it.

     In his teaching on the covenant of grace, Reisinger is again sawing away at the Baptist branch he is sitting on. In his Body of Divinity (Vol. I, p. 306-307), John Gill, after outlining the everlasting covenant concerning the salvation of men, devotes an entire chapter to the everlasting covenant of grace of which the previously named covenant is the basis and foundation. He defines this as:

     ‘The covenant of grace is a compact or agreement made from all eternity among the divine Persons, more especially between the Father and the Son, concerning the salvation of the elect.’

     Gill then goes on to describe in what way the compact is a covenant and why it is called a covenant of grace. Incidentally, Gill uses the terms Covenant of Redemption synonymously with the Covenant of Grace, though Reisinger claims that this is confused thinking. As Gill, however, defines his terms far more exactly than Reisinger and at far greater length, the accusation of ‘confusion’ backfires. Reisinger confuses the covenant teaching of the Scriptures because he redefines the terms unscripturally and thus inaccurately and then calls others ‘confused’ who disagree with him, as in the case of Edwards who agrees with Gill.

Israel’s double role in the history of salvation

     A major mistake that Kinghorn and Reisinger make in their stressing the national and physical nature of circumcision, the people of Israel and indeed the entire religion of the Old Testament, is that they fail to see that Israel, by reason of both its material and spiritual nature, has a double role to play in the history of salvation. Naturally, as a people, they are a type of the continuing church which receives the fullness of revelation in the New Testament and within that type there is also the number of the faithful who receive the righteousness which is of faith. The fact that national Israel as a type, contained true Israel as a fulfilled reality is certainly the teaching of Scripture. Hosea 1:10, for instance, teaches that the number of Israel will become as the sand of the sea and shall infiltrate and embrace all peoples. This may be seen as a mere material, physical prophecy. Paul, however, in Romans 9:24-26, interprets this as a typological pointer to the Gentile Church to come. Both Kinghorn and Reisinger, however, feel that Israel’s natural role finished with the coming of Christ and thus its spiritual role in the Church ended. This is in no wise the case. Old Testament Israel remains for ever a type of Christ’s Church and also the true Israel who are Abraham’s seed in the sense that they are in Christ, are still there and, we trust, spreading. The national entity of Israel was only a type of other things. But the eternal truths that it pointed to, i.e. acceptance with God and justification by faith from generation to generation, were already contained and realised in the type as witnessed by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and countless more. The Church did not die when Israel’s typology made way for the Antitype. Nor was it first founded after the Antitype had come. The covenant which said Christ is the only hope of mankind for salvation, was the same covenant which was made with the Old Testament saints and the New. Dispensationalism teaches that covenants made in Old Testament times are abrogated. The Scriptures both in the Old and New Testaments, teach the everlasting covenant which saves throughout all time and all peoples. Once saved always saved is only because once a covenant of grace always a covenant of grace.

     Detlef: There are two things which I believe are wrong in your argumentation, a. your insistence that the covenant with Abraham was both carnal and spiritual and b. your emphasis that Christ, too was material and spiritual. Surely you are not saying that Christ was a mixture of both just like the Jews. We do not believe that the ancient Jews had anything of Christ, nor do we believe that Christ had anything physical or material which he received from the Jews. Christ had nothing to do with sinful flesh.

A faulty view of Christ’s incarnate nature

     Tyler: I know many Baptists, especially in the States would agree with you, Detlef, but I ask that you bear with me on this topic, too. Coming back to Kingdon and others who see the Jews as merely carnal and yet, in juxtaposition stress merely the spiritual side of Christ, I believe there is possibly another reason for their reluctance to mention the natural, human side of Christ’s incarnation. Since the rise of the Baptist movement in the early 16thcentury, Baptists have been loath to admit that Christ had a natural body at all. This was brought home to me only a few years ago in this very chat-group when the question of Christ’s temptations was aired. My, statement, thoroughly Biblical as I thought it was, that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin, was greeted with stern, suspicious criticism. I was asked repeatedly if I thought that this meant that Christ was actually tempted. On my affirming this, I was rebuked strongly by several of the subscribers who felt that I was questioning Christ’s Divine nature. Some argued that Christ’s human nature was a sham for mere appearance’s sake. Others told me that Christ’s human nature was pre-incarnate and the body prepared for him was heavenly and not earthly.

     It is interesting to broach the subject of Christ’s incarnation with certain Baptists and point out to them that Christ is of the seed of David also in His capacity as Son of David. Here, the natural and the spiritual meet. This they will not listen too at all, protesting that Christ’s incarnation must be accepted spiritually but not naturally. I did not quite understand what they meant until I picked up an article by Samuel Trott written for the Signs of the Times in the middle 19th century. Of Christ, Trott, fondly called ‘Elder Trott’ by his fellow denominationalists, says that we find Him:

     ‘repeatedly addressed as the Son of David. But Christ indirectly, though clearly, rejects the idea of being the Son of David, on one occasion, that is, of being so in the sense in which the Jews understand the Messiah would be David’s son, namely: in a natural sense Mt. 22:42-45; Mark 12:35-37.’

     Trott goes on to relate that Christ’s identity as David’s offspring is in relation to His being the true King of Israel, a title given him by the Holy Ghost and not through natural descent. This, again, is to reject the prophetic nature of the Old Testament where natural means are shown to have spiritual fulfilments. Christ was not only King of Israel because this was given Him as a Messianic title; He was also of the line of David by natural descent and thus the natural and spiritual covenant King. The two lines of descent, spiritual and natural, belong together. David, himself, was a type of Christ in his capacities as Prophet, Priest and King, but if he had not been an historical figure, he would not have been the type. Christ was the Antitype whose human ancestors all pointed to Him as the fulfilment of their natural and spiritual line. If David had been present when Christ said, ‘If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?’, he would not have denied that Christ was of his lineage but answered as John the Baptist, ‘I must decrease but He must increase.’

     To find out more on this topic, I turned to Gilbert Beebe, another otherwise fine Baptist writer, who edited the Signs of the Times during Trott’s contributions. Beebe echoes both Kingdon and Trott in his exposition of Galatians 4:4,5, arguing that Christ was of the seed of Abraham and thus a spiritual offspring and therefore was not of the seed of Adam which would have made him a natural offspring. Beebe argues in this way to show that Christ did not take on natural, fallen flesh and therefore concludes, ‘It is not true that Christ identified himself with all mankind in his assumption of flesh.’ Quoting Hebrews 2:13, Beebe argues that Christ was of the same seed as the children whom His Father gave him, i.e. the children of God and not the children of flesh, arguing that Christ therefore took on redeemed flesh. Here Beebe, as Kingdon and Trott, is confusing three entities: the natural man in his pre-conversion state; the natural man in his post-conversion state and the spiritual ‘New Man’. None of these states can be excluded from the argument, otherwise there is no Saviour and no saved. When the Scriptures compare children of the flesh with the children of God, the Spirit is comparing lost children with those found – He is not comparing human beings with ethereal beings. All God’s children are still natural descendants of Adam and it is with this line that Christ identified Himself so that He might choose a people from them. Election and predestination refer to Christ’s choosing from a common stock which is the human race. This common stock is composed solely of fallen mankind. Christ took on humanity to save human beings not ethereal beings. Furthermore, He obviously took on post-fall human nature because He took on all their bodily weaknesses, though He never committed sin. Adam fell in his full strength but Christ stood through all sufferings and temptations in spite of a body which experienced every weakness such as thirst, hunger and pain due to man’s fall. Christ’s faith proved stronger than Satan’s temptations and thus Christ proved Himself the greater Adam and Satan’s great and good Superior. Adam, though humanly strong, fell. Christ, though humanly weak, stood firm. His was a double victory and a double victory was needed. Christ did not merely gain victory for Himself, His main purpose was to gain victory for weak beings by overcoming their weakness. The dilemma of such as Kingdon, Trott and Beebe is that they feel they must rescue Christ from being thought to appear in sinning flesh. Here they are far nearer Mary Baker Eddy than Christ and the Apostles. Those of this persuasion write horrific dramatic and descriptive accounts of the man Christ being formed in a sinful womb and passing through the normal birth channels to frighten people off from the very idea that Christ could have taken on fallen human flesh. They argue that any contact with Mary’s blood would have made Christ a sinner. They feel that they have overcome this problem by postulating that Christ either was merely spiritual in His descent from the Old Testament fathers, though what that entails, they never tell us, or that Christ’s flesh was different to that of other natural men. They are very quick to point out that Romans 8:3 teaches that Christ merely appeared to have human flesh and that it was in this flesh that sin was condemned. Paul, however, is clearly teaching that our sins were condemned in our kind of flesh, i.e. that which Christ took upon Himself for our sakes. If sin had been condemned in a pseudo-human body, how do these Docetic Baptists feel that it helps fallen man? They just cannot accept the Bible teaching that Christ identified Himself with fallen, not redeemed, man so that He might chose out a people from them. Christ had our iniquities laid upon Him and gave Himself as a sin offering, He was not killed spiritually on our behalf but physically in His sin-bearing body. Our bodies are pre-resurrection, Adamic bodies. If Christ had taken on a redeemed body, He would have taken on His perfect, everlasting, resurrection body and therefore He would not have been able to become the Suffering Servant, smitten and afflicted of God in our stead. His sufferings would have been a sham. In spite of this obvious truth, we often find Baptists interpreting Hebrews 10:5, “A body hast thou prepared for me”, to mean that Christ’s perfect human body already existed in heaven and that Christ merely descended with it and returned with it. There was thus no real incarnation. It is a good Christian rule that where error arises, the best evidence against it is the Scripture on which the heresy is allegedly based. Hebrews 10:5 clearly states that the body was provided for the occasion ‘when he cometh into the world’.

Christ’s sufferings were no phantasm

     Christ, too, died as all in Adam die, because He died our death, bearing our sins. He was raised from the dead because death could not hold One so triumphantly righteous. This shows how deeply He identified Himself with the past and the future of natural man. He had to fully identify Himself with natural, fallen men to make them spiritual. The one action could only take place in conjunction with the other. This was no phantasm but the once and for all time real thing! Furthermore, Christ does not merely rescue His elect from sin and leave the majority of sinning mankind to sin on ad infinitum. He comes in mercy and comes in judgement, putting an end to all human sin. He paid the price of the elect’s ransom but also paid the price of sin itself so that sin after the resurrection will be no more in the new heaven and new earth. He came to cleanse His creation and His entire Kingdom and set up a spotless inheritance for His saints. As all have sinned, Christ identified Himself with mankind in His common plight and became as all mankind were that he might break sin’s chains for His elects’ sake so that they might receive an inheritance undefiled. Furthermore, Beebe, as Kingdon, seemingly forgets that all God’s spiritual children are born in Adam naturally before any are reborn in Christ spiritually so that the elect are of necessity, because of their human nature, of Adam, but yet, in their new, spiritual nature, of Christ. In order to save His people, Christ triumphed in both natures and is for this reason true Man and true God. The Baptist way, which Kingdon, Beebe and many like-minded teach, denies the true manhood of Christ. Furthermore, it is obviously only a short step from viewing Christ’s Manhood wrongly to viewing His Deity falsely. If Christ as true man was only a sham, must not the action of His godhead which took on such a deceptive task be also highly questionable? Here we have a god who is not prepared to go the entire way of suffering and atonement for his elect but works out a symbolic compromise which lowers both His manhood and godhood.

     Jean: Bro. Tyler, I am most impressed by your arguments and I see that we Baptists are perhaps rather too cock-sure about what we believe. We usually have conversations with people who have had their children baptised in order to give them a name, make them Christians or preserve them from future temptation through the rite. To be honest, I have never met someone like you on the other side who is prepared to give a good, well-thought-out reason for his faith. However, you will agree that most Paedobaptists believe that baptism either automatically saves their children or that children are saved by virtue of being children and thus ought to be baptised.


Baptism and Sonship

     Tyler: I find that there are nominal non-Baptists as there are nominal Baptists. I do admit that Baptists are more particular about who they let into their fellowship than do some other denominations but not always so. The older and more traditional a Baptist church gets, the more it resembles other denominations. I know a number of churches which have fourth generation, members who were born, brought up in a Christian family and baptised at a very early age who can only appeal to tradition as a reason for the life they are living. I also meet with the idea that little children are innocent amongst Baptists As much as amongst non-Baptists. I know that many Baptists, as Kingdon, accuse so-called ‘Paedobaptists of believing that the children of the flesh are the children of God, in contradiction to John 1:12, 13.

     If by ‘Paedobaptists’, Kingdon means those who believe in covenant theology, he seems to have been highly misled. I started studying theology seriously some forty-eight years ago and have not yet come across one single believer in covenant theology who also believed that to be born of the flesh was to be a son of God. Yet, time and time on this list, members tell me that I believe in baptismal regeneration or that all born children are children of God and thus fit subjects for baptism. All our Reformed creeds, confessions of faith, articles and homilies cry out against such an interpretation. Note how the Homily Of the Scriptures, draws a clear line between the ‘vile and miserable’ ‘fleshly men’ ‘who care for nothing but their carcasses’ and the man of God who has been made partaker by grace of God’s goodness. Note how Latimer, Ridley, Hooper, Philpot. Nowell, Jewel, Reynolds and the like preach the fall of all men and the rise of all those found through electing mercies in Christ. Note how brave John Foxe, besides those just mentioned, preached the imputed righteousness of Christ as the only basis for man’s justification. Then we have the Prayer Book Supplement of 1582 where the sinner prays:

     ‘O Lord God, which despisest not a contrite heart, and forgettest the sins and wickedness of a sinner, in what hour soever he doth mourn and lament his old manner of living, grant unto us, O Lord, true contrition of heart, that we may vehemently despise our sinful life past, and wholly be converted unto thee, by our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.’

     What would Kingdon say to the Sunday prayer in the same collection?

     ‘Almighty and merciful Lord, which givest unto thy elect people the Holy Ghost, as a sure pledge of thy heavenly kingdom, grant unto us, O Lord, thy holy Spirit, that he may bear witness with our spirit, that we be thy children, and heirs of thy kingdom; and that by the operation of this Spirit we may kill all carnal lusts, unlawful pleasures, concupiscence, evil affections, contrary unto thy will, by our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. Amen’

     It would do Kingdon good to read Archbishop Usher on the sinfulness of sin and the graciousness of free grace in his Sum and Substance of Christian Religion so that he might realise that the new-birth without all the sacramental trimmings of Baptist paraphernalia was essential to the throwing out of Rome’s similar sacramentalist and sacerdotalist novelties. It was this doctrine that Grindal, Whitgift, Whitaker and Abbot held to whilst debunking the wiles of the Counter-Reformation whether from the Roman, Precisian or Anabaptist sides. So too, he might consult Tyndale’s sermon on the Roman superstition associated with the anointing with oil, Of Anoiling, and his exposition of the New Birth as the Biblical alternative. It is the same sermon in which Tyndale takes the Mickey out of those who feel that a baptism is not done properly unless the right amount of water is used. Here Tyndale teaches that it is impossible to do God’s will until we are made God’s sons and have his Spirit to teach us. We must be born again by the Word of Life before any good works can ensue. Quoting 1 Peter 1, Tyndale teaches ‘Ye are born anew, not of mortal seed, but of immortal seed, by the word of God, which liveth and lasteth ever.’Even a man of God such as Bishop William Beveridge, not usually counted amongst the Puritan Reformed, says in his sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:17, ‘Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature’, emphasises the need to be born again before being considered a child of God. Here, again, Kingdon is building up an argument of straw to be burnt up by the fire of his cause, quite oblivious to the true state of affairs which would truly pour cold water on his misapplied fervour.  Actually, however, a belief in baptismal regeneration appears to me to be as common amongst Baptists as amongst any other ‘Christian’ body.

Baptism for the spiritually circumcised only

     Kingdon maintains that ‘Believers are spiritually circumcised as the seed of Abraham, and to them alone belongs baptism.’ This is a statement void of Scriptural documentation by Kingdon. It is a mere denominational postulate referring to Baptist baptism. Kingdon is here comparing apples with pears. In the Old Testament those circumcised with the sign of the covenant of grace, still had to have their hearts circumcised before becoming members of the true Israel. This is the way the covenant works. Circumcision as also baptism are signs pointing to citizenship in the true Israel and not keys to unlock doors to the walled garden of true Israel as Baptists teach regarding their baptismal rite. Whether one was circumcised before Christ’s first advent or baptised after, neither brings with it the circumcision of the heart or is taken as an equivalent as such but both are signs indicating God’s provisions for His covenant elect. Yet Baptists so merge baptism with conversion that it is impossible to distinguish between type and antitype. Here we can take the British Baptist Union spokesman S.F. Winward’s teaching as a fair representation of all that I have ever heard concerning Baptist baptism during my sixty-odd years of fellowship with a large variety of Baptist believers in numerous Baptist denominations. He teaches that the baptismal candidate is placed in union with Christ at baptism. He shares thus in Christ’s death and resurrection and receives the forgiveness of his sins, becoming a son of God. The Holy Spirit then joins the ‘baptizand’ to his brethren in Christ in the church. Many Baptists, however, would disagree with Winward on the latter point, arguing that it is to the local, visible church only to which the Spirit joins the believer in baptism, i.e. a local Baptist denominational organisation or independent Baptist church. But they still maintain that baptism is the door into that church. Burnish reproduces Windward’s table of baptismal blessings, listing what man does and what God does in baptism. For Windward conversion and baptism are so linked together that their separate functions are confused. 

“(a) What I do in my Baptism:

I. I turn to God in repentance and faith.

II. I make a public confession of my personal faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

III. I follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ who was himself baptized.

IV. I obey the command of Jesus Christ that all disciples are to be baptized.

V. I make a vow of allegiance to Christ.

(b) What the Lord does for me in my Conversion and Baptism.

I. He brings me into union with the Lord Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection.

II. He washes away all my sin, granting to me full remission and forgiveness.

III. He clothes me with the new nature of the Lord Jesus Christ.

IV. He gives to me the Holy Spirit, through whom I become a son of God.

V. He incorporates me into the Body of Christ, the Universal Church.”

Implications Kingdon draws from his view of the Baptist covenant

     Kingdom stresses that ‘far reaching implicationsflow from this (his) position.’ He lists these, followed by his conclusion, as:

“1. In respect of salvation. Reformed Baptists believe in Covenant grace which alone saves, and also in the necessity for repentance and faith.

2. In respect of the church. In the light of the New Covenant, the church membership should be composed as far as possible of true believers. We must work from this New Testament definition rather than from the existing situation. The 1689 Confession and all Reformed Baptists have refused to apply the parable of the wheat and tares to the church.

The historic Reformed Baptist position is one of strength, because it has a proper understanding of the relationship between baptism and circumcision. It does justice to the continuity and diversity of revelation, it gives a proper view of family, church and state and it provides a ground for instruction of children. We do not assume that our children are regenerate.”

Covenant grace alone saves the wheat

     Regarding Kingdon’s first point, this is in keeping with covenant theology which says the same thing, though the call to repentance and faith comes before or is simultaneous with the gift of grace. There is thus no ‘also’ but this is one work of God in salvation.

     In respect of Kingdon’s second point, the fact that he claims that a Baptist church ‘should be composed as far as possible of true believers’ shows that he admits there are tares amongst the Baptist wheat. Most Baptists I have ever met apparently believe that most other Baptist churches are apostate, i.e. tares, yet they cling to their idea that their own, particular church is nevertheless ‘pure’. That is, until it splits over some petty problem concerning whether wine or fruit juice should be used in communion or concerning the date of the various ‘raptures’ they teach. 

     What Kingdon feels is strength is a very deceptive weakness for others. Furthermore, this stance can hardly be called ‘historic’ even if Kingdon feels he can trace his view back to 1689. The fact is that Baptists have been historically always at sixes and sevens amongst themselves concerning the true nature of the church and there is no Baptist consensus even amongst those who call themselves Reformed Baptists, or, as some wits call them, ‘Deep Water Presbyterians’. Indeed, most Particular Baptists on the Reformed side with whom I have discussed Baptist creeds view the 1689 declaration as a watering down of the 1644 First London Confession and a pandering to the views of Presbyterians. That the 1689 Second London Confession is, in principle, an adoption of the Westminster Confession, does not appeal to the Baptist majority’s love of independence. If I were a Baptist, I would prefer the 1644 Confession any day.

     Having said that, it must be pointed out that the doctrine of the covenant of grace outlined in Chapter VII, Of God’s Covenant in the Baptist confession is exactly that which is held by most adherents, if not all, of covenant theology. Unlike Kingdon’s theory that the 1689 knows of no tares amongst the wheat, Chapter X, 4. Of Effectual Calling, makes it clear that tares can creep into the church community but cannot be saved ‘be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the Law of that religion they do profess.’ Furthermore, Chapter XXVI, 1-2. Of the Church, distinguishes strictly between the invisible church and the gathered, visible, professing church. Concerning the latter, the Chapter states what such a church ‘ought to be’ but accepts that this is not always so as the errors and unholy living in the church show. Moreover, Chapter XXVI, 3, explicitly states that the purest churches on earth are mixed and subject to error. If this is not an admittance of tares amongst the wheat, what is? This is exactly in keeping with those views of the church expressed in covenant theology. Indeed, the 1689 Chapter on the church nowhere as much as suggests the teaching that Kingdon categorically claims is explicitly stated in it. Kingdon’s prejudice appears to have run away with him here. Kingdon claims that the Baptist authors of the Second London Confession ‘were not prepared to apply the parable of the wheat and tares to the visible church, precisely because it appeared to them to sanction a definition of the church as she had become, rather than of the church as she should be.The way Kingdon words the entire paragraph here is as if he were quoting the authors of the Baptist Confession and not reading his own interpretation into it. The sources he gives, however, do not leave this impression at all. The Baptist Confession does not support Kingdon one bit. This is yet another sad sign that modern Baptists are out of tune with the faith of their fathers. 

A Baptist church defined as it ought to be, not as it is

     Kingdon’s italics, if truly reflecting Baptist policy, would reveal a most serious weakness in Baptist ecclesiology. The idea expressed is that Baptists wish to promote an image of themselves as representing what the situation of the church will become and ought to be rather than what the situation of the Church is. In other words, they pretend to have reached the eschatological point where the sheep are separated from the goats and the wheat from the tares. Furthermore, in arguing this way, Kingdom is saying that the Biblical parable of the wheat and the tares gives a faulty view of the church as it sees her as she is in time and not as should be in eternity. This leads Kingdon to make a most unworthy statement which combines deep prejudice with shallow polemics. Whereas non-Baptist Reformed brethren, he argues, accept the present mixed state of churches, Baptists ‘do not pretend that all is well with them, but they do believe that the situation must not be accepted as normal but reformed by the Word of God.’ In arguing that they alone preserve the idea of a pure church, Baptists are indeed pretending to be what they are not and what their Baptist fathers knew they were not. 

     Reformed churches on the whole, see themselves as being constantly in need of Reform in their membership at least to the same degree as the Baptists on the whole, without making idle boasts concerning their purity. They too, have as their aim to eliminate the tares from the wheat in loving and caring discipline. That this is not always carried through with Biblical care, is sadly reflected by most denominations, the Baptists certainly not excluded. The fact that many of the older and larger Baptist bodies, such as the Southern Baptists, are like the Jews at the time of the prophets ‘at ease in Sion’ can scarcely be denied. Indeed, one can safely say without exaggeration that one is more liable to find preaching directed to a mixed gathering of unbelievers and believers amongst Non-Baptists as among Baptists who just will not conceive that there are mere nominal Christians in their membership.

     Sadly, at this stage Tyler and I were told by the self-appointed Chairman of the web-sites that we were welcome to continue in the internet fellowship providing we would not take up the topic of baptism again.

     George M. Ella, Mülheim, 22/02/2020