Before we continue, I want to reiterate that it is very important that we keep the distinction between Abraham’s natural seed and his spiritual seed at the forefront of our minds when examining these Old Testament passages. The Covenant of Circumcision, given to Abraham’s physical seed, cannot give them a right to eternal spiritual blessings any more than it can give Gentile believers today a right to blessings in the land of Canaan. The Covenant of Grace was certainly revealed to Abraham, but the Covenant of Circumcision was a typical covenant given to a typical people which functioned as a servant to the spiritual covenant of eternal salvation.
I won’t pretend that if someone sits down and reads Genesis 12-17, he will easily be able to draw out all the points we have covered, and are going to cover. Interpreting Scripture is not always easy; it’s not always clear. If it was, there wouldn’t be a need to title this series Unlocking Abraham. I want to be very clear that I believe that the only way to understand what’s going on with Abraham is to look at the New Testament. We must be sure to practice good interpretive procedures, which includes allowing the clearer parts of Scripture to interpret the less clear.
Even so, there are Christians who attempt to do what we are presently doing, and arrive at different conclusions about how to interpret God’s covenant dealings with Abraham. Although I may disagree with many of these sincere believers, I freely admit that I do not have all the answers. I do not present these theses as dogmatic assertions, but as statements of my current understanding, which continues to be sharpened. I welcome questions, even challenges, from those with differing viewpoints.
I would also like to say a word here about baptism. Although this examination of Abraham will eventually take us to a defense of credobaptism (Believer’s Baptism), I want to make very clear that a certain practice of baptism is not my motivation for these posts. My goal is not to win converts to my side of the historic baptism divide. Rather, it is to understand Abraham’s part in the history of redemption. I have always tried to keep my credobaptist upbringing from dominating the way I view God’s covenants with man. Therefore, I don’t start with credobaptism, then formulate a view of the covenants, or of the church, that fits my view of baptism. Rather, it was only after my understanding of the covenants began to deepen that I landed firmly in my credobaptist convictions.
In my ongoing studies of Covenant Theology, I have realized that the classification of “Paedobaptist Covenant Theology” and “Baptist Covenant Theology” is really misleading. It gives the impression that the two groups are each unified in their respective understanding of the covenants, and that this understanding is dominated by their baptismal practice. This is far from the truth. Paedobaptists have widely differing understandings of the covenants among themselves, particularly regarding the Sinaitic or Mosaic Covenant, and the Covenant of Works with Adam. There are also many Baptist Covenant Theologians with whom I would greatly disagree on certain subjects. It might surprise some of my readers that with the exception of Nehemiah Coxe, the one Covenant Theologian with whom I agree the most is John Owen, a paedobaptist! Owen’s disagreement with the Westminster divines about the nature of the Mosaic Covenant led to the production of a confession of faith known as the Savoy Declaration. Yet there are many Baptist Covenant Theologians today who side with Westminster over Owen on this issue, and in my opinion, weaken their case for credobaptism.
So when I look at the Covenant Theologians of the past, and wonder exactly where I fit, I don’t judge my allies by their baptismal practices. For example, I don’t consider myself to be”on the same side” as Sam Waldron, A.W. Pink or W. Gary Crampton versus John Owen, just because Waldron, Pink and Crampton are Credobaptists. Rather, I take each of these men’s (and others’) insights and attempt to judge them by Scripture. Yes, I may end up on the same side of the baptismal fence of A.W. Pink, but I may not get there the same way as he did. On the other hand, one need only read Crampton’s book, From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism, to see that Paedobaptists have based their practice of baptizing infants on several different reasons throughout history. Thus I merely see myself as a student of the Word of God, walking in the steps of my forebears, which include Calvin, Witsius, Pink, Owen, Coxe, Clark, Robbins, and many others, as well as walking alongside my contemporaries (who are much more learned than I) such as Renihan, Barcellos, Waldron, Nichols, etc. Interacting with Brandon Adams and Sean Gerety has been absolutely invaluable, though they do not always approve of my position!
Thanks to my readers for their encouragement and discussion. Lord willing, I’ll be posting more soon.