A Critical Evaluation of Paedobaptism
by Mark Horne

Analytical Outline

Part 1: Continuity of Covenant Sanctions

Part 2: Assorted Retorts

Part 3: Conclusion

Problem's with Mr. Welty's Case

Paedobaptist Propositions

by Mark Horne


Awhile back I had a co-worker who was going to what is probably the most liberal seminary in the U.S., if not the world. She was a very nice "christian" woman (pietism and liberalism, as far as I can tell, far from being opposites, coexist quite nicely) and I pretty much managed to stay on friendly terms with her. Once, however, we had a slight altercation regarding the faith of Ruth. My friend was certain she didn't have any. Ruth didn't care about the God of Israel, the Lord of Heaven and Earth. All she wanted, my friend was certain, was simply to be taken to Israel with Naomi to have a better life. Her willingness to worship Naomi's God simply indicated that she thought no more of Yahweh than her old family idols. She was simply switching gods as she was switching spoken languages, with no deeper significance involved.

I suppose I could have questioned how being an impoverished widow in Israel, with no relative but for an older impoverished widow, was preferable to returning to her own flesh and blood. After all, Orpah and Naomi both thought that such was the more sensible alternative. Instead of raising that question, however, I simply point blank denied that it was permissible to interpret the text in that manner. The Holy Spirit would not have any interest in recording a superstitious pagan joining with Israel and Israel's God for superstitious pagan reasons. No, Ruth's faith is set before us as an example -- one which impressed Boaz and inspired Naomi so that she was restored from her unbelief.

I may have made more headway by taking a less direct tact, but I cannot believe that my instincts were wrong. The Bible may use a different vocabulary than that to which we are accustomed, but it records the same Spiritual realities that we experience today. Ruth was a true convert whose declaration of faith should be a source of inspiration, not mockery -- whether such mockery comes from the apostate mind of a "higher critic," or the pseudospiritual pietist who is arrogant enough to think that his own private internal experiences are too good for those "carnal" days of rituals and "outward" ceremonies makes no difference.

Thus, though I'm sure he would agree with me in the case of Ruth's faith, I am somewhat concerned when Mr. Welty [1]begins his paper by stating that we Reformed paedobaptists "Judaize the New Testament" and "Christianize the Old Testament." It makes me wonder how much initial plausibility should be given to his claim that "'Reformed Baptist' is not a contradiction of terms. . . . but a qualification of terms." Granted, evaluating this sort of claim is difficult. It reminds me of John Frame's discussion of the ambiguity in distinguishing qualitative differences from quantitative differences. Of which sort is the difference between the ocean and a kitchen sink? How can I prove that Mr. Welty has in fact slipped beyond a qualification of Reformed Covenant Theology into a denial of it?

The problem is exacerbated by the state of Reformed Theology in general. There remain, for example, living souls expressing allegiance to the Reformed Faith who are not utterly embarrassed by past arguments against musical instruments in worship.[2] Obviously, if someone can simply disregard all Old Testament exhortations to use instrumental music in worship as of no pertinence to worship in the New Covenant, then the antithesis often posited between Dispensational and Covenant Theology, is rather hard to substantiate. While the no-musical-instruments position is thankfully a minority report, other forms of the sickness are quite widespread. The contrast between "carnal" worship in the Old Testament [3] and "spiritual" worship in the New, is probably the chief offender. I am not all that surprised, therefore, that Mr. Welty perhaps missed the challenge of Reformed paedobaptism on this issue. The challenge has not always been issued clearly.

Beyond the embarrassments mentioned above, there are legitimate difficulties. Who has written the definitive book on the continuities and discontinuities between the covenants? What makes one discontinuity "go too far" and another not? What continuities count as "Judaizing" and what ones don't? These questions basically allow any position to call itself "Reformed." For a Galatian legalist or a seventeenth-century English antinomian could both claim to be merely qualifying the Reformed heritage, not contradicting it.

The best strategy, it seems to me, is to assert a certain kind of continuity between the old covenants and the New, and then to show how this continuity is ignored and / or denied by Mr. Welty. Obviously, the best continuity would be a reference in an epistle stating, "Brethren, I would not have you be deceived, just as Israel according to the flesh was to circumcise each infant son, so each of your newborn sons and daughters must be baptized as soon as is possible after they are born." Make no mistake! -- I do think there are New Testament prooftexts for paedobaptism, just as Mr. Welty does for credobaptism.[4] Unfortunately, the meaning of such texts are themselves the matter of debate. Hermeneutical disagreements are entangled in exegetical disagreements and theological paradigms. Thus, to simply cite a New Testament text is, by itself, a rather question-begging method. If one is writing a paper "to fill a primary need among seminary interns and other young men" at a Reformed Baptist church, then this method has some value. Occasionally, the choir does need preaching. But since, my hope is to reach the same audience as Mr. Welty, I am required to present a more involved counter-argument.

Your patience is appreciated.

The Gospel of the New Covenant

The New Testament describes a covenant made between Jesus Christ and His people. That covenant is conditional.[5] Those who persevere in this covenant by continued faith, repentance, the means of Grace and all other ordinances will be confirmed as children of God on the Last Day.[6] Those that fall away will be consigned to Hell forever, and spend eternity wishing that they had never heard the Gospel. This is the plain and repeated teaching of the New Testament, and it cites the example of the old to make its point. Thus, the old and New Covenants are the same in substance -- one Covenant of Grace. Let's consider some representative passages:

Romans 11.17-24

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

From chapter nine onwards Paul has been explaining the apostasy of Israel, that "they are not all Israel, who are from Israel." Not all were regenerated by the Spirit so that they would continually live by faith, and demonstrate this by recognizing Jesus the Messiah. Nevertheless, all were objectively members of God's covenant people, "to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers" (Rom 9.4-5). This picks up a train of though begun in chapter three: "Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect.. ."

But the covenant is conditional upon perseverance in faith: "For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision" (Rom 2.26). Thus, only those truly regenerated by the Spirit so that they are faithful to the end show themselves to be true Israelites.

Likewise, before Christ, Gentiles who demonstrated persevering faith were never excluded from eternal life (Rom 2.27). This had always been recognized in the Scriptures: Gentiles had the same access to the Tabernacle and Temple as the Jews (Lev 22.17-25; Num 15.14-16). God heard their prayers (1 Kin 8.41-43; 2 Chr 6.32-33). They worshipped with Israel (Psa 115.11, 13; 118.4; 135.20; c.f. Act 13.16, 26). Their worship outside of Israel's borders was accepted by God (2 Kin 5.17). Gentiles who feared and worshipped the true God showed themselves to be among the elect.

Thus, the rhetorical question: "Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is He not the God of the Gentiles also?" (Rom 3.29) Paul has to remind the Jews of this Old Testament teaching so that they will realize that it is not so surprising that God would eventually end the special privileges which the Jews possessed over against the God-fearing Gentiles. In the New Covenant, just as the distinction between Levite and lay-Israelite has been demolished, so has that between circumcised and uncircumcised.

Amid all these discontinuities between the old covenants and the New, Paul insists especially on one continuity between them. He is concerned that the Gentile converts might become presumptuous and arrogant because of Jewish apostasy. Thus, he presents them with a severe warning: An initial profession of faith [7] is not enough. Just because you "were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree" (Rom 11.17b) does not mean that you have no need to fear God's covenant curse. On the contrary, you will only inherit eternal life "if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off" (Rom 11.22b).

Again, this is the structure of God's one covenant of grace, whether before or after Christ:

But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die (Eze 18.24).

All of us, who have faith in Christ, whether we are older converts from unbelief who can actually remember the time when we were lost in our sins, or believers raised to have faith in Christ from our mother's womb who cannot remember any other state, have been grafted into "the same rich root of the olive tree." We have " the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law [all of Scripture, in our case] and the [heavenly] service and the promises." But if we drift away into sin, refusing to repent, until our hearts are hardened in apostasy, then we too will be cut off and be assigned a place with the unbelievers.

"Do not be conceited, but fear!"

I Corinthians 9.24-10.13

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play." Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you are able to bear, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Here we have a warning given to the Corinthians based on the negative example of the Israelites in the wilderness. Notice, Paul does not deny that the Israelites who died in their sins were members of the Mosaic covenant. On the contrary, they were baptized into Moses, ate spiritual food, and drank spiritual water from Christ Himself. But the Israelites did not persevere in what they had been given. Rather they apostatized and fell under the wrath of God.

The New Covenant of which the Corinthians are a part is like the old. Paul does not contrast the possibility of apostasy under Moses with the impossibility under Christ. Quite the contrary, the entire point of the passage is that we must be cognizant of the possibility from the Old Testament example and make sure we persevere in the faith, lest we likewise perish as covenant-breakers.

Furthermore, Paul postulates no distinction between an identifiable class of "nominal believers" who are supposed to heed the warning of the Old Testament by being "truly converted" and a class of "true believers" who can simply assume they are never in danger of becoming apostate. On the contrary, Paul concludes with a general rule for all, "let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" after beginning with the example of himself: "I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified." Paul makes it clear that he, no less than the Corinthians, must heed the warning of the Old Testament.

Is there then no discontinuity mentioned in this passage between the old covenants and the New? Though it is not explicitly spelled out, I do think one is alluded to in 1 Corinthians 10.13: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted beyond that which you are able to bear, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." Now, God obviously must have offered this sort of assistance before Christ, but I do think that we can all agree that entrance and endurance in the Covenant of Grace became much simpler and easier in the New Age ushered in by Christ. I especially think this because the above verse seems to play the sam part in the passage as vv. 14-16 have in concluding Hebrews 3-4 (see below).

Whatever the case regarding continuity or discontinuity, 1 Corinthians 10.13 only serves to heighten the seriousness of our sin if we give in to temptation. This heightened responsibility is Paul's whole point, for he concludes: "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry."

II Corinthians 11.1-4

I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Here there is no direct reference to the Covenant of Grace preceding the Incarnation, but rather to the Covenant of Creation (a.k.a. "The Covenant of Works"). However, the theme of jealousy (also mentioned with our previous passage in 1 Cor 10.22) is worth some moments of thought in our discussion. For it is written:

You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me (Exo 20.4-5; emphasis added).

Here we have the most severe warning in the Decalogue, and it is premised on God's jealousy. When people in covenant with God apostatize by going after idols God becomes enraged as a spurned lover, or more to the point, a cuckolded husband. For again it is written:

" And I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine," declares the Lord God. "Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you, and anointed you with oil. I also clothed you with embroidered cloth, and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands, and a necklace around you neck. I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey, and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you," declares the Lord God (Eze 16.8-14).

Thus the Lord had declared His love and bestowed His gracious glory upon Israel in putting them in covenant with Him. But Ezekiel goes on to describe how all the above blessings were used in idolatry -- for "harlotries."

Therefore, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God, "Because your lewdness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered through your harlotries with your lovers and with all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your sons which you gave to idols, therefore, behold, I shall gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, even all those whom you loved and all those whom you hated. So I shall gather them against you from every direction and expose your nakedness to them that they may see all your nakedness. Thus I shall judge you, like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I shall bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy" (Eze 16.35-38; emphasis added).

The charge of adultery makes no sense apart from the reality of the covenant mentioned in Ezekiel 16.8. Nor is this some sort of merely "outward" legal arrangement which is unmatched by any real relationship between God and His people. The whole premise of God's eternal burning wrath is His sincere covenantal love. "For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord" (Cant 8.6b). Just as we dare not treat God's wrath as some sort of pretense, so we cannot doubt God's real relationship with those who provoke Him to jealousy. His rage is caused by His spurned love. "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God" (Deu 4.24).

If anyone has problem imagining how God could possibly love those He predestined to perish, perhaps we should think about God's covenant with Adam and Eve. Were Adam and Eve elect or reprobate? With regards to the original covenant they were unquestionably reprobate. They were predestined to fail to persevere in the Covenant of Creation. Not only that, they were told by God that such reprobation was an actual possibility. When God told them what would happen if they ate the forbidden fruit, it was given as a possibility that they might indeed be predestined to eat of it. Furthermore, they knew that, if they did not persevere, instead transgressing the Covenant by eating the forbidden fruit, then they would be punished according to the seriousness of the sin, and the seriousness of the sin would be greater according to the degree of grace they received from God. In other words, Adam and Eve knew that, if they were predestined to Fall, then every good and perfect gift coming to them from God was decreed to bring about greater punishment.

So the question arises: Did God love Adam and Eve? Were His good gifts to them a revelation of His love for them, or were they snares meant to hurt them?

The answer must be that, though God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, and ultimately causes all things, God's gifts and offers of future reward are all genuine expressions of a genuine love. It may be difficult to conceive of how this objective revelation in history is to be reconciled with God's eternal decrees, [8] yet it is perverse to use the decrees to deny that God's gifts and promises are motivated by love. The fact is, just as without God's love there is no ground for God's jealousy, so without God's good gifts there is no ground for holding ingrates accountable for how they abuse and pervert these gifts. It was Satan's strategy, after all, to deny that God loved Adam and Eve. If our inferences from God's decrees put us in Satan's camp, we need to rethink our position.

Adam was God's son (Luk 3.38). He and Eve were put in covenant with God -- a genuine relationship of love. When Eve was seduced by Satan, God became jealous and put the world under a curse, disinheriting His son, divorcing His bride. His jealousy continues to be aroused by the natural man:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Rom 1.18-21; emphasis added).

God shows His love for man by showering blessings on him, and man responds by worshipping the gifts and spurning the Giver. The doctrine of reprobation does not conflict with God's love, but presupposes it. Reprobation is God's decree that sinners will continue to refuse His love and arouse His jealousy.

What is true of men in general, is much more true for reprobates in God's Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament. They have been restored to Eden, and wedded to God in a new covenant, only to again be seduced by Satan. As Hosea puts it, "like Adam they have transgressed My covenant" (6.7). Indeed, Israel is guilty of doing with God's special gifts of love, what all men in general are guilty of doing with his general gifts as described in Romans 1.18ff: "For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil, and lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal" (Hos 2.8). How much more is God's jealousy aroused by such treachery in response to such special love!

All of this is background to Paul's language in 2 Corinthians 11.1-4. Paul doesn't say that the New Covenant means that God's jealous wrath is no longer a factor. Far from it.

Colossians 1.21-23a

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach -- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard

Here we have the plainest statement possible that the New Covenant is a conditional covenant. If one is to be confirmed in Christ's imputed righteousness on the Day of Judgment, one must persevere in the Faith. The strongest language conceivable is used to describe Christ's covenant relationship with the Colossians, but any thought that the Colossians can continue to be confident of their eternal salvation apart from continuing in faith is forcefully removed. Nor is there any desire on Paul's part, to somehow throw doubt on the reality of their initiation in the Covenant of Grace. He doesn't throw doubt on the grace they have objectively received but only exhorts them to continue in it.

Hebrews 3-4

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; and they did not know My ways'; as I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'" Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; while it is said, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me." For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, "As I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest," although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day, "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; and again in this passage, "They shall not enter My rest." Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

The author of Hebrews here addresses "holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling" (3.1). Furthermore, he includes himself in the exhortations ("Let us therefore be diligent..." [4.11]). His entire message is parallel to 1 Corinthians 10.1-13, for he compares the Christians receiving the letter to those with whom God made a covenant in the wilderness but who failed to enter the Land because of unbelief. They have been initiated in the Covenant of Grace and now they must continue in it.

Notice, that just as Paul exhorted the Corinthians to flee temptation on the grounds that God would provide a way of escape (10.13-14), so the author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to endure because they have Christ as a sympathetic high priest (Heb 4.14-16). Obviously, if they do not endure, the fault is all the more with them, because they have spurned such a gracious God. The author doesn't say that some have access to this Priest but that others don't. No, it is perfectly plain -- and made even more and more evident, if that were possible, by almost every other chapter in Hebrews -- that those who fall away are guilty of having spurned their high priest and have refused to "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need" (4.16).

Furthermore, while I certainly think the author of Hebrews believed in a qualitative difference between the faith of those whose faith was predestined to endure and the faith of those who were going to fall away, he doesn't seem to think it is worth mentioning. He simply exhorts all professing Christians to "hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end" (3.14), to "hold fast our confession" (4.14). On the contrary, "unbelief" (3.19) is identified with "disobedience" (4.6; 3.18) on the part of those who have been engrafted into the Covenant of Grace. The objective standing of the readers in Christ's New Covenant is not any more in doubt than the membership of the wilderness generation in the Mosaic covenant. What is in doubt is whether they are going to enter God's rest. This will not happen unless they persevere. If they become "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (3.13) then they will provoke God to wrath. No matter what sort of belief they once possessed, it will only count as unbelief if they fall away from the living God (c.f. Eze 18.24).

Remember, "falling away from the living God" (3.12) presupposes standing in Covenant relation with Him.

Hebrews 10.4-39

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, "Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, but a body Thou hast prepared for me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast taken no pleasure. "Then I said, 'Behold, I have come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God.'" After saying above, "Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast not desired, nor hast Thou taken pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Thy will." He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, "sat down at the right hand of God," waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, and upon their mind I will write them," He then says, "And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging [one another]; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and "the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries." Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge His people." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly, by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners, and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, "He Who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him." But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

Here we find the author of Hebrews presenting huge contrasts, significant discontinuities, between the Mosaic covenant and the New Covenant. But again, there is a particular continuity between the periods in the Covenant of Grace both preceding and following Christ. Under both administrations of the Covenant some do not persevere but rebel against God despite His great blessings. As covenant-breakers, such people fall under God's covenantal wrath.

Even here, we do find a significant discontinuity: Those who break the New Covenant are to be much more severely punished than those who merely broke the Mosaic covenant.

Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (10.28-29)

If there is some sort of unconditional guarantee for all members of the New Covenant that they need never fear God's covenantal jealousy, then the above verse simply makes no sense whatsoever. To posit this sort of discontinuity is to eviscerate the true discontinuity which the author of Hebrews declares to us -- that the sanctions facing covenant breakers in the New Covenant are substantially greater than those facing covenant breakers in the old covenants.

Furthermore, the author of Hebrews could not be more explicit that he is addressing a singular group of people, members of the New Covenant, who all need to continue in what they have been given if they would be saved. "By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (10.10). And again, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (10.14) This same language begins and ends Hebrews: "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (2.11). And again: "Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate" (13.12). This is exactly the same gift which makes the treason of apostasy such a high-handed sin: "How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has ... regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified?" (10.29)

Additionally, the writer of Hebrews, makes it clear that all whom he is writing have privileges -- privileges which were purchased at a great price and the despising of which will bring great wrath:

Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (10.19-22).

All the intended readers share in the same confidence, the same priest, their hearts are all sprinkled and their bodies all washed so that all must draw near, holding fast their "confession of hope without wavering" (10.23), lest any one of them come under the fearful wrath of God.

Again, verses 32 and following make it clear that the intended audience consists of people who have made a good start in accepting "joyfully the seizure of your property" (10.34) but who must "not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward" (10.35). The Pauline prooftext for justification by faith alone is used to demonstrate that "endurance" in faith is required for us to "receive what was promised" (10.36). The writer of Hebrews expresses confidence that his readers will endure in such faith "to the preserving of the soul" (10.39).

Mr. Welty's Argument

One might wonder what the rather boring and obvious considerations above have to do with the subject of baptism. Indeed, while I am accustomed to trotting out these passages to combat antinomianism, this is the first time I've ever used them in the context of a debate between paedo- and credobaptism. Why these passages and others like them are of value to the present debate will become clear below when one considers how Mr. Welty argues his case.

Mr. Welty states that paedobaptists distort "the relationship between the two testaments of the Bible" by reading the Old Testament as if it were the New, and reading the New Testament as if it were the Old.

In thus "Christianizing" the Old Testament, paedobaptists restrict the significance of circumcision to purely spiritual promises and blessing while neglecting its national, earthly, and generational aspect. In thus "Judaizing" the New Testament, paedobaptists import Old Testament concepts of "covenantal holiness," external holiness," "external members of the covenant," "external union to God," "covenant children," etc. into the New Testament, even though these distinctions are entirely abolished by the New Testament and completely foreign to its teaching.

Now, much of the guts of this will be argued below, but it is worth setting forth here and now some basic problems I detect in Mr. Welty's conception of things.

It is true that various types of language have been used to cover the fact that the Covenant of Grace includes both those who, by the grace of God's unconditional election, persevere in the Covenant until they reach eternal life, and those who, according to God's inscrutable yet righteous purpose, do not persevere in the Covenant and thus are justly sentenced to eternal death. However, the language of "external" versus internal, or "covenantal holiness" over against some other "real" type of holiness is excessively problematic. Indeed, I call as evidence the whole phenomenon of "Reformed Baptists" from the days of the Puritans as evidence that such language has been misunderstood and misapplied.

Such language, as it is often used, leads to two problems:

1) It allows people to virtually ascribe nothing but nominal or even fictional membership in the covenant on the part of those who do not persevere in it. But this is simply unbiblical. God's wrath is not nominal, and neither are the high privileges and sincere love which God bestowed upon those whom He punishes for rejecting them.

2) It posits some sort of virtual "inner circle" of those who are really in covenant, which is achieved through some sort of work. Thus, ostensible paedobaptists continue to regard their children as unbelievers (in direct disobedience to Romans 6.11) until they manage to rig some sort of revivalist-style conversion experience. This sort of legalism is matched, in my experience, by a corresponding antinomianism, since those who can generate this sort of experience are then treated as if they need never worry about the possibility of apostasy, no matter what sort of lives they lead. The Biblical witness that God's Covenant is one, and that all who are made members of it need to persevere in that covenant to the saving of their souls, is simply overlooked.

To apply this succinctly to one of the expressions to which Mr. Welty objects: "covenant children" are simply Christian children. If Mr. Welty was led to believe that something less real was being indicated by the name, I apologize to him that he has not been presented with the truth of the matter.

Related to this disagreement about terminology, I want to point out that there is a certain kind of agreement between Mr. Welty and paedobaptists. Such language, as it is commonly used, is foreign to the New Testament. But, over against Mr. Welty, it is also foreign to the Old Testament. The Mosaic covenant doesn't involve something unreal or fictional when God reveals through Moses to Israel that "you are a holy people to the Lord your God" (Deu 7.6). God does not pass out counterfeit communion with Himself; He does not feign friendship with those He hates. God's covenant is genuine and it His holiness is really extended through it.

"The Fundamental Hermeneutical Error of Paedobaptists"

Before getting to Mr. Welty's prooftexts we will summarize the basic thrust of his argument: We ought not baptize babies because only those elected to eternal salvation are members of the Covenant of Grace. Only those who are sovereignly given the gift of perseverance were ever truly in the New Covenant, and therefore, babies who do not grow up to persevere in the Faith should never have been baptized.

I think this is a mistake, and hope to show it below. But let us pretend for a moment that it is true: If only those who are predestined to go to Heaven are to be baptized, then no one should baptize professing believers any more than the children of professing believers. After all, adult converts, more often than anyone likes to think about, do in fact abandon the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, Jesus tells us this will happen in the parable of the soils, among other places: "And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luk 8.13). Thus also Luke records that, "even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized, he continued with Philip" (Act 8.13). To demand that no one but those predestined to Heaven be baptized is to deny that the Covenant has any objectively apprehensible reality. As an argument, the possibility of apostasy proves far too much, and it certainly casts doubt on Mr. Welty's claim to be merely "qualifying" Reformed Theology instead of denying it.

Let's take a look at Mr. Welty's prooftexts.

1) Jeremiah 31.31-34

" Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember know more."

Mr. Welty contends that "three implications clearly follow from Jeremiah's description of the New Covenant": (i) "the New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant," (ii) "the New Covenant is made with believers only," and (iii) "the New Covenant is made only with the elect, with those who have experienced these blessings."

Let's deal with (ii) first: Obviously, Mr. Welty is using the word "believer" as a technical theological term for those predestined to persevere in faith to the end and be saved. While this sort of word use is certainly permissible and even helpful in some theological contexts, it is not demanded by Scripture. Luke 8.13 and Acts 8.13 both tell us of persons who believed temporarily, using exactly the same word as is used to describe those who believed savingly. Thus, this whole point, as Mr. Welty himself seems to realize is really subsumable under (iii) and (i).

Yet, even if logically redundant, there are rhetorical advantages to speaking of "believers only," with the assumed definition which Mr. Welty utilizes consciously or unconsciously. What gets slipped to readers (and perhaps to the writer) here -- and it must be slipped, I think, because it will not withstand any sort of Biblical scrutiny -- is that preborn and newborn children are not believers. The merely developmental differences between John the Baptist as an embryo as an adult prophet is somehow equated with the difference between a believer and an unbeliever. Well, if one wishes to believe such a thing, I suppose he is free to do so. But on such a premise, how can one pretend to be arguing for credobaptism? It seems rather self-evident to me that such a belief constitutes assuming what is supposed to be proven. Obviously unbelievers ought not be baptized! If children are unbelievers then the whole debate is needless.

What does the Bible say about children? First, that they are sinners even as zygotes. "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psa 51.5). In Adam, we all alike, no matter what our age, to the extent that we are able, spontaneously hate God and rebel against him.

But is Adam stronger than Christ? It is written: "From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou has established strength" (Psa 8.2). And again: "For Thou art my hope; O lord God, Thou art my confidence from my youth. Upon Thee I have been supported from birth; Thou art He who took me from mother's womb; my praise is continually in Thee . . . O God, Thou hast taught me from my youth" (Psa 71.5-6, 17). "Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother's womb" (Psa 22.9-10). I have sung many hymns about adult conversion from unbelief yet I'm not aware of one Psalm which speaks of that subject. On the other hand, I don't think I've ever sung a hymn that called for me to put myself in the place of one who was regenerated in the womb. Sad. These Psalms were sung in Israel's public worship of God. The idea that their relationship began from the womb was not some sort of fantastic exception, but the general expectation.

And why shouldn't all Christians possess the expectation that their children are believers? After all, that is what God has promised us. God promised "to be God to you and to your descendants after you" (Gen 17.7). The "lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children" (Psa 103.17). [9]

" And as for Me, this is My covenant with them," says the Lord: "My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring," says the Lord, "from now and forever" (Isa 59.21).

God doesn't say through Isaiah, that His Spirit and word will be put in the mouths of a Christian's grandchildren, but rather that they "will not depart from" them. Obviously, this passage does not discount the fact that all children are born sinners, but it does seem to promise more than the bare hope of a future conversion experience.

Thus, Dr. Robert Rayburn in his article, "The Presbyterian Doctrines of Covenant Children, Covenant Nurture, and Covenant Succession," [10] concludes from these verses, "It must be plainly stated that the promise made to the children of the covenant is not that of a special status of privilege but is precisely the promise of the Gospel, eternal life in heaven." What else could God's promise to be one's child's God mean, other than that child is a Christian?

Now, one might respond to Dr. Rayburn with the obvious observation that not all covenant children end up in heaven. He, no doubt, would respond that the covenant promise is conditional. Indeed, he makes a case for a specific kind of conditionality, relating to Christian nurture, in his article. I'll stick with a more general kind of condition which applies both to adult professors and their children equally: "the one who endures to the end, he will be saved" (Mar 13.13).

Another sort of all-too-common response is the alleged counter-example of Esau. This strikes me as rather superficial reasoning. How is the case of Esau any more problematic than that of Simon the Sorcerer? Again there is nothing Mr. Welty can say about election or true regeneration and Esau which does not apply to Simon as well. They both received the covenant sign and they both committed apostasy. How can any case be made against paedobaptism on this basis?

The only substantial difference between Esau and Simon, is that a prophecy was given regarding Esau when Rebecca was still pregnant (Gen 25.22-23), and he and his descendants were later used by a prophet as an example of reprobation to demonstrate by contrast the glory of Israel's election (Mal 1.2-5). If the revelation received by Rebecca revealed that Esau was reprobate, what does this prove other than the fact that Esau would break the covenant which God made with him? Unless one is convinced by Mr. Welty that only the elect are now members of the Covenant of Grace, the case of Esau has no bearing. In other words, Esau's reprobation gives us no new argument.

Furthermore, since no new revelations are given any longer, no parent today has any such prophecy of apostasy for his own children. Thus, in our own experience, we have no reason to even consider questioning the status of our infant children. We should regard them as Christians as much as we regard ourselves as Christians.

Moreover, it is a basic exegetical mistake to import the meaning of Malachi and Paul in Romans into the prophecy received by Rebecca. She was told "Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger." There is nothing in this statement to indicate that Esau is unregenerate or reprobate. In Genesis 48, Jacob blesses Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, putting "Ephraim before Manasseh" (v. 20). This does not indicate that Ephraim is elected and Manasseh reprobate. Both received an inheritance and both became tribes in Israel.

Consider Jacob's prophecy regarding Simeon and Levi, both of whom lost their place as firstborn (after Reuben lost his place -- 49.4) because they murdered converted Canaanites (Gen 34): "Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel" (49.7). Now this is, without question a serious curse. But does it lead to their destruction? Do they lose their inheritance in the Land? Are they scattered?

God turns the curse into a blessing. The Levites are set apart to serve God. "But to the tribe of Levi, Moses did not give an inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as He had promised them" (Jos 13.33). Likewise the Simeonites were redeemed from the curse by joining themselves with the Judahites (Jud 1.3), thus ensuring their salvation.

The point here, is that Esau was not somehow "damned if he did and damned if he didn't." He simply was not to be counted as the firstborn. Make no mistake: God did indeed withhold regeneration from him, and he did indeed show himself an apostate by despising his birthright (Gen 25.34) and intermarrying with the Canaanites (26.34) among other things. And Isaac did sin in his treatment of Esau, not because of how he viewed him as a baby, but because of how he favored Esau over Jacob even after Esau showed himself a covenant-breaker. Indeed, he attempted to entirely disinherit Jacob by giving Esau everything (27.37) [11]. Because of Rebecca's faithfulness and belief in God's Word to her, Isaac's plan backfired.

It is worth pointing out, here, that God's promises, as covenantal promises, are conditional. Thus, the prophet says to Eli: "Therefore the Lord God of Israel declares, 'I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever'; but now the Lord declares, 'Far be it from Me -- for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed'" (1 Sam 2.30). Likewise, Jonah prophesied that God would destroy Ninevah in forty days (Jon 3.4), yet, because Ninevah repented, "God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it" (3.10b). God's promises and threats conditional. I bring this obvious fact up, because there seems to be this idea floating around that Rebecca knew she had a reprobate child in her womb. That is simply not what happened. God's decree is His secret, we have to live by what He has revealed.

Returning to the prooftext at hand, the first observation (i) made by Mr. Welty regarding Jeremiah 31.31-34, is that "the New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant." This is, of course, true, but Mr. Welty interprets this to mean that no individual can ever break the Covenant.

But the breaking of the Covenant on an individual level, is not the particular concern of Jeremiah. His concern is that both the Mosaic and Davidic covenants were irrevocably ended by the apostasy of all Israel (except perhaps for a remnant). During the reign of the judges, idolatry and sin had become more and more common until God finally ripped apart the Tabernacle. Then God replaced the Mosaic economy of judges with the Davidic covenant of kings (Psa 78) and established a new dwelling for Himself in Jerusalem. That covenant also did not last because of increasing apostasy, until the Temple was destroyed and the Jews were taken into exile.

Jeremiah is prophesying that God is going to make another covenant with the exiles (which foreshadows, of course, the true New Covenant mediated by the incarnate Christ [12]). It will involve an Exodus from Babylon which will far surpass the one from Egypt (Jer 16.13-15; 31.32). The Messianic reign has been given over to a line of Gentile rulers, who are New Adams (27.6 [13] ; c.f. Isa 44.28-45.1). And this will involve spiritual renewal (31.31-34). The Spirit will be given in greater measure so that Israel does not fall into idolatry like it did before. As a nation (31.36b), they will be restored as the Covenant people.

Now, because the post-exilic covenant was still merely a foreshadow of the reality which came with Christ, it did later eventually break down. Thus, Jesus is crucified by an apostate nation and destroys them in AD 70. Yet, it is not as if the covenant was not indeed greater than the ones preceding it. Note that Jesus never had to rebuke anyone for worshipping in the high places. Idolatry was finally abolished from the covenant people. They were truly elevated higher than they ever had been before (and thus fell further).

The Covenant ushered in by Christ, was the true New Covenant, and thus it will last forever. The Church is never going to fall into such apostasy, that a new Covenantal administration must be established. It does not however entail that no individual can break covenant with Christ. We have already seen a direct statement to this effect in Hebrews 10. Verses 16-17 quote Jeremiah 31.33-34. What does the author of Hebrews conclude from the "Newness" of the New Covenant? That no individual can break covenant? No. "How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (v. 29). This refers directly to how Moses established the Covenant with Israel, something directly cited by the author of Hebrews (9.8-22). If Hebrews could reveal more plainly the possibility of breaking covenant, I can't imagine how.

Furthermore, as Mr. Welty notes, Jeremiah's prophecy is fully reproduced in 8.8-12. The writer's conclusion is that "When He said, "a new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear" (v. 13). The breaking of the Old Covenant means it is about to end. The New Covenant will never end because it is mediated by One with "an indestructible life" (7.16). The New Covenant is "unbreakable" in the sense that it is indestructible.

Is there anything in Jeremiah's prophecy to indicate that individual covenant breaking will become impossible? This brings us to (iii), the idea that only the elect are now members of the Covenant -- and parts of ii, above, which says that only true (i.e persevering) "believers" are members of the Covenant. "While recognizing the proper Old Testament distinction between an external covenant (elect and non-elect) and an internal covenant (elect only), baptists understand this external/ internal distinction to be abolished in the New Covenant." [14] Mr. Welty's evidence is that

Three blessings are spoken of with respect to the New Covenant: law written in the heart -- "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts" (v. 33), personal knowledge of God -- "No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest" (v. 34a); and forgiveness of sins -- "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (v. 34b).

To Mr. Welty's mind, this proves that only the elect (once regenerated) are members of the New Covenant. I'm not at all convinced by this for the following reasons:

I. New Testament teaching states that both the elect and non-elect are members of God's one covenant just like they were before Christ. See, for example, Romans 11.17-24; I Cor 9.27-10.13; II Cor 11.1-4; Col 1.21-23a; Heb 3-4; 10.4-39.

II. The reduction of the Covenant blessing which Mr. Welty's interpretation entails seems unworthy of how the Bible speaks of the New Covenant in contrast to the old. Let us suppose for the moment, that the "big problem" with the old covenants is that they included non-elect members, and let us further pretend that it is possible to make a covenant with only the elect by presuming that the children of adult believers are unregenerate (and pretending that the phenomenon of adult apostasy does not really matter). Then why would Jeremiah's prophecy entail that membership in the covenant be narrowed? After all, if this is some sort of work of the Spirit being prophesied, then wouldn't one expect that formerly unregenerate members of the covenant would be regenerated, instead of simply lopping them off? What did Christ do which made that sort of an excision such a big deal? How can this be treated as a prophecy of some a better situation?

Consider an analogy: Moses exclaims, "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!" (Num 11.29b). According to Mr. Welty's principle of Biblical Theology, all that God needed to do for this wish to be fulfilled is deny covenantal status to any but Moses and the seventy elders to whom he had given the Spirit. Does this sound remotely credible? Wasn't Moses asking for an expansion of the Spirit's manifestation, not a contraction in Covenant membership? Likewise, isn't Jeremiah prophesying an expansion of the Spirit's indwelling, not simply the discounting of those who were who were formally bereft of these blessings?

III. The promise that "they will all know me" does not necessarily literally apply to the New Covenant. The New Covenant prophesied by Jeremiah, is a covenant that will be made with the remnant in Babylon.

Thus says the Lord God of Israel, "Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not puck them up. And I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart (Jer 24.5-7).

Now, without a doubt, this prophecy finds its ultimate fulfillment in Christ and New Covenant He made just as every other prophecy does (1 Pet 1.10-12). For example, when God instituted Passover to be celebrated "throughout your generations" as "an eternal ordinance," His word was not thwarted by Christ but rather fulfilled. Passover is continued in the Lord's Supper. The Mosaic Covenant was just as much a type of Christ's New Covenant as was the covenant prophesied by Jeremiah.

Nevertheless, the situation addressed by Jeremiah is that of a converted and /or faithful remnant in Babylon that had formerly lived among a great many syncretists who mixed idolatry with the worship of God. Jeremiah says in chapters 24 and 31 that this situation has been ended and a new covenant will be made with a group of faithful, sincere believers. The centuries of ever increasing apostasy are over. God's Spirit will be poured out in a greater way than it was before.

In other words, it is simply not self-evident to me that Jeremiah's words demand that we believe as a timeless principle that all members of the New Covenant are truly regenerate. Jeremiah seems to be addressing a particular situation. After all, if Jeremiah was setting forth such a principle, then the author of Hebrews not only missed it, but flatly contradicted it -- for he holds that New Testament believers can apostatize just like Old Testament believers could.

IV. I don't find Mr. Welty's assumption that the "three blessings" listed by Jeremiah are identical what we call "regeneration" to be well-grounded. Again, consider the language of Hebrews:

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame (Heb 6.4-6).

Now the people mentioned above are obviously not elect or truly regenerate because, if they were, they would continue in faith. Yet, the author of Hebrews does not feel obligated to deny the above blessings have been experienced by these apostates. On the contrary, he underscores them in order to emphasize the heinousness of their sin.

Thus, I don't see why one could not list the blessings mentioned by Jeremiah as experienced by some non-elect people. Jeremiah says that the members of the New Covenant will have the Law written on their hearts? (Heb 10.16) The author of Hebrews says that such people will be subject to a much more severe punishment for treachery against such a great blessing (Heb 10.26-31).

Jeremiah says that all members of the New Covenant will know God? The Apostle Peter says that there are those who "have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" and are, therefore, worse than they were before since they have fallen back into sin (2 Pet 2.20; c.f. 1.2).

Jeremiah says that all their sins will be forgiven? The Apostle Peter speaks of one "having forgotten his purification from his former sins" (2 Pet 1.9).

Finally, we have the example of the terminology used to describe Old Covenant distinctions absolutized as if it were the difference between Heaven and Hell. In one place, Paul states that the Gentiles in the Old Covenant situation were "separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2.12). Now this certainly sounds like an unregenerate state, but the fact is that there were gobs of Gentile believers in the Old Testament. Paul is emphasizing a relative difference by using absolutist language so that his readers will realize that the blessings of the New Testament Gentile believers are far greater than the Old Testament Gentile believers.

Indeed, Paul uses the same sort of absolutist language for Old Testament Jewish believers: "But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith" (Gal 3.23-24). Did Paul not believe that the Old Testament taught justification by faith? (Rom 4.1-9; c.f. Heb 11)

Hebrews, too, gives us this sort of absolutist terminology. Did Old Covenant believers not in any sense ever have their consciences cleansed from dead works to serve the living God? (9.14) Inasmuch as Old Testament believers were justified by faith, we know that this cannot be true.

Furthermore, a great deal is said in Scripture about the Spirit being poured out on all without discrimination in the New Covenant in contrast to the old covenants. Obviously, such an outpouring implies a greater number of truly regenerate persons. Yet this Spiritual outpouring is not to be equated with the once-and-for-all event of regeneration because (a) people already regenerated receive the Spirit (John 20.22; Act 2.1-4; 8.14-17), some more than once (Act 4.31).; and (b) people remaining unregenerate receive the Spirit (Heb 6.4 [15] ; c.f. 1 Sam 10.6, 9, 10; 11.6). Yet this difference is expressed by the Apostle John thus: "the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7.39). Thus, this relative difference in the outpouring of the Spirit is not only treated absolutistically, but is truly enjoyed by both the elect and the reprobate.

Given this phenomenon, why should we find Mr. Welty's contention -- that Jeremiah 31.31-34 entails that only the regenerate are in the covenant -- to be justified? After all, one other blessing listed in this "new" covenant is that "I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (v. 33b). Was this not the exact same promise as the Mosaic covenant? (Deu 4.20; 7.6; 14.2). Jeremiah is promising a new and greater covenant, but it is obviously the same in substance as the old. It contains greater privileges, promises greater rewards, and threatens greater punishments. Greater punishments were inflicted on the breakers of the post-exilic covenant to which Jeremiah was directly referring (Matt 23), and even greater punishments are and will be inflicted on covenant breakers in the New Covenant, to which Jeremiah was typologically referring (Heb 10.26-31) [16]. Jeremiah, like the Apostolic authors later in history, is using absolutist language to contrast the former covenants with the later ones.

Mr. Welty's interpretation of Jeremiah 31.31-34 is an interesting idea, if we take the passage in isolation. But it hardly counts as a credible argument, given the New Testament teaching on this issue.

2) Jeremiah 32:37-41

Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath, and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good, and for the good of their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. And I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will faithfully plant them in this land with all My heart and with all My soul.

This passage only works if one makes the same faulty assumptions about what is entailed by an "unbreakable" covenant with which I have dealt above. However, Mr. Welty adds to his case that the New Covenant is "everlasting" and therefore cannot be broken by a member of it. But Isaiah 24.5 explicitly states that people have "broken the everlasting covenant," using the exact same Hebrew word. Thus, there is nothing about the term "everlasting" which entails unbreakableness by individuals.

In general, the language on which Mr. Welty focuses his attention, "'always fearing' God and 'never turning away' from him," need not apply to every individual covenant member, and Mr. Welty shows no reason why it should so apply. He assumes it.

3) John 1.11-13

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Here Mr. Welty asserts that the Apostle John supports his case that in "the New Covenant era, only the elect can be properly considered children of God, "his own," in covenant with God." I don't see it. If a person came to a liberal church, shared the Gospel, and as a result was kicked out of the church along with a few who converted, these verses would be just as applicable today. I need some actual evidence that Mr. Welty's old covenants/ New Covenant distinction is being mentioned here. As it stands, this is only going to be convincing to baptists who share Mr. Welty's beliefs and think that the Apostle John does too.

One comment that deserves some attention: "Those who are children of God are not so by virtue of their birth." Does Mr. Welty think this remark has any applicability to paedobaptism? If our natural-born children were children of God by virtue of their birth then why would we baptize them? On the contrary, our children are by nature depraved sinners bound for Hell. In baptism, we break our parental ties and give them to God for adoption. We receive them back only as stewards. On the other hand, if Mr. Welty wants to use this passage as a prooftext that God's promise "to be God to you and to your descendants after you" (Gen 17.7) is now canceled, all I can say is that it seems like a leap. One would expect such a shattering change to be explicitly explained by the Apostles, not left to some shadowy passages in Jeremiah or a remark in a Gospel.

4) Romans 9.2-4, 8.15-17

. . . that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises. . . For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

One can't help noticing that this (these?) prooftext(s) has (have?) been reversed. What is, in the flow of Romans, a strong statement followed by a qualification, becomes, in Mr. Welty's order, a statement of the how the reprobate are included in the old covenants (true) but that only the elect are in the New. Paul makes strong assertions in Romans 8 about God's sovereign and infallible election of some to eternal life. He then goes on to discuss God's covenantal election of Israel and how not all elected to be part of that covenant were elected to persevere in it. They were reprobate. This culminates in Romans 11 when Paul tells the his readers that they must be careful lest they discover that they too are reprobate covenant members. Having been grafted into the New Covenant, they should take to heart the example of the members of the old covenants who were cast out. I argued this above, so there's no point in rehashing it. The basic message which Mr. Welty attributes to his texts, is precisely the opposite of Paul's overall argument going from Romans 8 to 11.

Furthermore, Romans 8.15-17 by itself undermines Mr. Welty's case. Let me reproduce the verse with my own italics:

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

Paul explicitly lays down a condition which those who have received a spirit of adoption must meet if they would be glorified with Christ. He does not say we are fellow heirs with Christ since indeed we suffer with Him, but "if indeed we suffer with Him." [17] Lest there be any doubt that there still remains a reward that is contingent upon a condition (though the meeting of that condition, as Paul will show in Romans 9 is a gift of God to those whom He has elected to eternal life), Paul immediately proceeds to make clear that "the spirit of adoption" must not be equated with adoption itself. No, our adoption is not accomplished until the resurrection (vv. 18-25).

Thus, Mr. Welty is right that "New Covenant adoption involves election, regeneration, and the indwelling of the Spirit" but only because adoption takes place at the resurrection for those who have persevered in the Covenant -- who have suffered with Christ so that they are then glorified with Christ. On the other hand, there are texts that speak of adoption as a blessing which we have already received through baptism (Gal 3.23-4.7). The fact that this "already-not yet" tension exists in the New Covenant indicates to me that Mr. Welty's statement that "the concept of adoption has been transformed in the New Covenant," is not true in the way he thinks. Just as before Christ, the covenant was an objective reality entered into and continued in by signs and rites, so it is in the New Covenant. The Old Testament believers were adopted through covenantal initiation (received and persevered in by faith) Those that apostatized manifested that they were reprobates and thus were disinherited as sons of the Evil One. Those who persevered looked forward to the resurrection of the dead where they would receive adoption -- a hope not clearly revealed until the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The old covenants and the New Covenant are the same in substance.

* * *

By trying to equate the New Covenant with the elect only, Mr. Welty bears a great burden of proof. Not only does he not sustain this burden in his exegesis, but he never even lays the conceptual groundwork for how such a project, if Biblical, could possibly be carried out. If one is only supposed to baptize the elect, then who can legitimately baptize anyone? And if it isn't wrong to baptize a professing adult even though he might not persevere in his profession, then what makes it wrong to baptize babies?

Given this apparent incoherency, why is it so unthinkable to simply respond in faith to God's promise to be the God of our children? This is a repeated promise and presupposition in the Old Testament. I don't think Mr. Welty has provided adequate grounds for believing that the promise to us and our children (Act 2.39) has been revoked.


Having dealt with Mr. Welty's alleged "fundamental hermeneutical error," most of what follows is rather extraneous. However, a few comments are in order.

"Significant Discontinuities in the Meaning & Function of Covenant Signs"

1) Mr. Welty argues that "the meaning of the sign of circumcision is not identical to the meaning of the sign of baptism," though there is "significant overlap." True, but does this discontinuity have anything to do with denying paedobaptism?

The first sort of discontinuity mentioned are promises made to Abraham personally: "I will make you very fruitful," "you will be the father of many nations," "kings will come from you," and "the whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you." But obviously, these promises, literally applied to each individual, were never the meaning of circumcision. Circumcision did not represent to Abraham's great-grandson Judah, that his descendants would inherit all of Canaan, but only that portion which fell to them along with the portions which fell to the other tribes. None of the tribes, other than Judah, could claim the promise of kings being born to them. Circumcision signified participation in the inheritance promised to Abraham, not the same identical promise. An inheritance of which we baptized Christians are a part.

And this promised inheritance, as we have seen, included a promise on the part of the Lord to be the God of the circumcised person and his descendants after him. Unless Mr. Welty can show that there is discontinuity on this point of contention, none of the rest matters.

The second sort of discontinuity mentioned is a difference "between physical and spiritual blessings" [18] of the old covenants and the New Covenant. But I think Mr. Welty misunderstands the discontinuity here: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother [which is the first commandment with a promise] that it may be well with you and that you may live long upon the earth'" (Eph 6.1-3). So writes the Apostle Paul. He not only does not deny physical blessings but explicitly emphasizes them. Mr. Welty's contention that only the resurrection to eternal life can be construed as a blessing of the New Covenant is simply unbiblical.

Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life (Mar 10.29-20).

Mr. Welty says that all New Covenant "physical" blessings are for the next age, but Jesus states that they are for this present age as well.

Now it is true that many blessings are withheld from the saints in this life, so that the glory of the resurrection must always be our hope. But this was true of the Old Testament saints as well. I agree that there is a greater stress on the Regeneration for which we are all waiting, in the New Testament, but I deny that this is such a sharp discontinuity as Mr. Welty seems to believe. It is a matter of emphasis.

Furthermore, at risk of being accused of "Christianizing the Old Testament," I have no idea what Mr. Welty is talking about when he states:

Under the Old Covenant, the previously mentioned physical blessings were enjoyed, and the promises for these blessings were cherished, by the Israelites, even by those Israelites who lived an outwardly moral life but had no personal faith in the God of Abraham. That is, the physical blessings of the Old Covenant could be enjoyed even by those who did not personally experience its spiritual blessings (as long as the covenant community as a whole remained faithful).

This "Hypocrite's Paradise" is simply unwarranted. The Israelites were required to love the Lord with all their hearts, not simply live "an outwardly moral life." Furthermore, the Israelites were taught that secret sins would be punished by God so that the apostates would be cut off from the faithful covenant community. As it is written, "Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them" (27.26). These "words of this law," of course, include the Greatest Commandment.

There is, however, another sort of discontinuity evident in Paul's admonition to covenant children. The original Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue promised long life "in the land which the Lord your God gives you" (Exo 20.12). Paul drops off the "which the Lord your God gives you" so that the meaning of the word "land" becomes "earth" (since the same word is translated either way depending on context). The Commandment promises physical blessing, but not exactly the same promise as the Mosaic covenant. The promise was for the Promised Land in the Mosaic covenant, but now the blessing has expanded to cover the whole earth. Children in Ephesus can claim that promise, as can children anywhere else on the globe. No longer is there only a special land somewhere where God dwells with His people, but now God's Kingdom encompasses the entire planet.

Mr. Welty asks, if the meaning of circumcision and baptism are the same, "Why institute a new sign?" But no one ever said they were exactly the same. Reformed exegetes (and others) have pointed out how circumcision was appropriate for the time when the promised seed had not yet come. Furthermore, the New Covenant could not bear to maintain any bloody rites now that Christ has shed his blood.

He further asks, "Why baptize those who had already been circumcised into the covenant community?" But Christ instituted a new covenant community. Unless one is grafted into Christ through baptism, one cannot (ordinarily) be saved.

2) Mr. Welty lists four alleged problems if "baptism did replace circumcision as to its function in the covenant community." Two have to do with Paul permitting Christian Jews to circumcise and circumcising Timothy. Again, no paedobaptist denies some discontinuity in covenant signs. The fact is Gentiles had been saved since the call of Abraham by trusting in His God, without needing to be circumcised. Ethnic Jews continued to maintain what were now merely their customs, not the law of God in the New Covenant. There was no reason for them to discontinue this practice, as long as they realized that it was no longer the rite of entrance into the covenant community. Timothy, in order to witness to Jews, became one himself. None of this seems problematic to me or any other paedobaptist I know.

Mr. Welty remarks here that baptism "is a sign for disciples." Yes it is. That's the whole point. We're supposed to disciple our children from infancy.

Mr. Welty asks: "Why didn't the apostles and elders at the Jerusalem council refute the Pharisees' charge . . . by the simple statement, 'Because baptism has now replaced circumcision'?" Well, they did. It was presupposed by both parties in the debate that the Gentiles in question had been baptized. The Pharisees wanted to add a further requirement if the Gentiles were to be included in the new covenant community. They saw Christian baptism as simply an addition to the Mosaic covenant. The Apostles replied that the New Covenant replaced circumcision and the rest of the Mosaic covenant. Thus the sign of the Mosaic covenant is replaced by the sign of the New.

Related to the above, Mr. Welty asks: "Why didn't Paul, in the book of Galatians, refute the Judaizers who insisted on circumcision with the simple argument: 'baptism has replaced circumcision'?" Well, it's not so simple because Paul also had to explain why this was the case and how it is found in the Scriptures. However, the bottom line is that he did so argue:

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise (Gal 3.25-29).

"Paedobaptist Misuse of Key Biblical Texts"

I disagree that Mr. Welty's texts are "key," misused or not. The key texts in his argument are the ones he uses to allege that paedobaptists make a "fundamental hermeneutical error." These texts are interesting and helpful, but not as some sort of absolute proof. Nevertheless, Mr. Welty's comments deserve some attention.

1) Acts 2.38-39

And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."

Mr. Welty interprets:

The three phrases must be taken together: (1) you, (2) your children, (3) all who are far off. According to the text, the promise is equally applied to all three categories of people. There is nothing "special about category (2) which cannot be said about category (3), with respect to the promise of God spoken by Peter.

I think Mr. Welty's opinion is an exegetical possibility, but since this passage does not fall to us from heaven, without a history or precedent, it is an exceedingly unlikely one. God made a covenant with Abraham which was for Him, His progeny, and all those who would join with him. Because Evangelicals are often guilty of "Judaizing" the Old Testament (!) they often miss this last part and assume that Peter's statement contains a distinctive "New Testament crescendo." The point is that Abraham was chosen to be a blessing to the nations. Thus, Peter's presentation of the New Covenant covers the Abrahamic distinctives quite nicely.

The bottom line is, did Peter intend, and could he expect his audience to hear in his words, to make the three phrases equal? Is the promise for A or B?


(1) you [assuming you repent and get baptized],

(2) and your children [if God calls them],

(3) and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call,


(1) you and your children [assuming you repent and get baptized],

(2) and for all who are far off [and their children], as many as the Lord our God shall call

Now, this verse seems like worth mentioning for paedobaptists because there is no reason on earth to think that Peter means or could expect his listeners to think he meant A. The promise has always been for us and our children. Why should that no longer be true now? Even if Peter has some further insight that demands such a change, he is being rather misleading unless he puts in some explicit qualifiers [19]. It is simply unimaginable that converted Jews would not baptize their babies. Where is the explanation for this shift in the New Testament canon? That the best Mr. Welty can do is cite John 1.11-13 simply give us further evidence that the paedobaptist position is the correct one.

Mr. Welty further comments:

In the immediate and surrounding contexts, it is obvious that the promise Peter is speaking of is the promised gift of the outpoured Holy Spirit, as predicted by Joel. Do paedobaptists assume that, because their children have received the promise, they have therefore received the Holy Spirit?

Well, of course we do. What else would we think? As the Shorter Catechism puts it: "A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers" (q. 92). Now, is not the Holy Spirit promised to baptized believers? Is not the Holy Spirit the one in baptism Who "applies" not just "the benefits of the New Covenant" but "Christ" Himself? [20]

2) 1 Corinthians 7.14 Apparently, the Apostle Paul was mistaken here because he "Judaized" the New Testament by putting forward the concept of covenant holiness, which Peter told us had been abolished (Acts 10.28). Of course, Mr. Welty claims that the paedobaptists, not Paul, do the Judaizing. However, he admits that the concepts are used by Paul, claims such concepts are abolished, and offers no alternative explanation so that the passage can be understood. I'm at a loss as to how to understand Mr. Welty's position.

First of all, Peter's statement (Act 10.28) that it is against "our law" for a Jew to visit a Gentile, does not refer to the Mosaic covenant, but to demonic pharisaical tradition. [21]Nowhere in the Old Testament is there such a rule for Israelites. Mr. Welty is "Judaizing" the old covenants to assert that they demanded such "external, covenantal holiness." When Peter confessed that "God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean," he was not claiming that "such distinctions have been abolished in the New Covenant era," but that such distinctions had never been legitimate because "God is not one to show partiality" (Act 10.34). God has always been the God of both the Jew and the Gentile. [22]

Secondly, the fact that the distinction between Jew and Gentile has been abolished, does not imply that there is no distinction between believer and unbeliever. It is ripping Acts 10.28 out of context to apply Peters words to all men in general. He was speaking as a believing Jew to God-fearing Gentiles. The issue of marriages to unbelievers still had to be dealt with, and the Old Testament indicates that divorce would be justified (Ezr 10.1-3; Neh 13.23-29). But under the New Covenant, with the Holy Spirit having come in more power, the Church is not considered as vulnerable as it once was. The need for holy children, a major problem with mixed marriages in the Old Testament (Mal 2.15; Neh 13.24), is no longer jeopardized by an unbelieving parent.

Finally, Mr. Welty is absolutely right that the child of a believer and the husband have the same status. The holiness involved, contrary to far too many paedobaptist exegetes, does not entail membership in the Church or Covenant, but only the right to enter the Church -- a right lost to the adult because he is an unbelieving enemy of God [23]. He is not baptized for the same reason a baptized adult living with a woman other than his wife is not admitted to the Lord's Table. The child, however, is not blaspheming Christ by denying Him and thus has done nothing that would keep him from being incorporated into the Church.

3) Romans 4.11 This could get rather thick, and this paper is already too long. When Mr. Welty starts talking about "the biblical notion of a seal," I suspect that a whole separate response is in order. But since I could only guess at what he means, I'll save that for another day.

The bottom line is that Paul is not dealing here with a shared meaning between circumcision and baptism. He is arguing that circumcision and uncircumcision have never ultimately marked the difference between believer and unbeliever. Abraham is the perfect example of this because he was both a believing Gentile (before circumcision) and a believing Jew (after circumcision). Circumcision marked one as a member of the priestly people through which God was saving all the nations. Thus, it differs from baptism, because there is (ordinarily) no salvation outside the institutional Church. [24]

A couple of comments: Mr. Welty's contrast between the "present possession" of salvation and a "conditional promise" of salvation is entirely lacking in Biblical warrant (see Col 1.21-23, etc, above). Furthermore, the assumption that Isaac's circumcision "sealed" the "need for righteousness by faith" is simply not justified. Do not all people have that need, apart from the grace of God? Why bother then to seal such a thing? God promises righteousness to our children (Psa 103.17). Do we believe Him or not? Like circumcision, baptism seals and confers a present possession., whether done to an adult professor or a sleeping infant. This possession must be continued in all one's life. As the Westminster Larger Catechism puts it:

The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long . . . by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body (q. 167; emphasis added).

Now, obviously Mr. Welty doesn't agree with the above. I only cite it to show that Reformed paedobaptists do not think that baptism is a sign and seal of an absence. We see it as an objectively revealed presence which is to be received by faith throughout one's life. [25]

4) Colossians 2.11-12 Mr. Welty insists that this passage is speaking of believers. He is right. Too bad he insists that babies are unbelievers. Such a presupposition is contrary to Scripture and thus distorts his interpretation of this passage.

I am not sure what to make of Mr. Welty's exclamation, "It is the inward experience of spiritual circumcision that is tied to baptism in the New Testament!" But the Bible ties the "inward" experience of "spiritual" baptism to baptism also (Rom 6.3ff; Gal 3.27; Act 2.38; 22.16). Unless Mr. Welty denies a "sacramental union" between the sign and thing signified, then I don't see how he can make any sort of headway with this contention. The "inward experience of spiritual circumcision" was tied to circumcision in the Old Covenant, just like the "inward experience of spiritual baptism" is tied to baptism now. Thus, Colossians 2.11-12 cannot be "spiritualized" (dematerialized?) to deny the implication that baptism has superseded circumcision.

5) Household baptism shows a continuation of the Old Testament covenantal model, as far as we can tell. Naturally, if there were no infants in any of the households, then these baptisms are not a challenge to the credobaptist position. Since we are not told whether babies are present or not, these passages are not proofs. They are simply worth mentioning because, if Apostolic practice is at variance with previous practice in the Old Testament, not only do we not have any evidence of the fact in the entire New Testament, but we have examples of practices which seem quite similar.

A couple of general comments. Mr. Welty seems to be under the impression that paedobaptists expect unbelievers to be baptized if the head of their household is baptized. But that is not true. Any circumcised Israelite would have been cut off if he had denied the true God, so there is no reason at all to expect them to be circumcised before Christ, or baptized afterwards.

Furthermore, there is no reason for the language of households believing, or devoting themselves to the service of the saints, etc to be applied distributively to each member of the household. Of course, Mr. Welty might want to know why paedobaptists assume that the baptism of a household should be applied to each member. The answer is in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants.

Finally, Mr. Welty's arguments that Lydia was probably single and had no children is interesting and, to my mind, persuasive. However, as an independent businesswomen of some means, she probably had slaves who had children.

Again, none of this absolutely proves anything, but I do think it throws weight on the paedobaptist side of the argument.

"Inconsistencies in Paedobaptist Practice"

1) Paedobaptists look for a warrant of faith in the parents of those to be baptized. Mr. Welty insists that no profession of faith could have been required before circumcision, and then leaps from this possibility to the claim that faith was not required in the Abrahamic or Mosaic covenants:

It may [be] objected that the very fact that these parents remained within the covenant community shows an implicit profession of faith on their part. That is, by not living an outwardly immoral life, they were not cut off from the covenant community. But this objection could not apply to the hundreds of males in Abraham's household, since at that time the covenant community was less than a day old, and there was no time to "apostatize" by an outwardly immoral life. Indeed, paedobaptists justify the practice of infant baptism with respect to the Abrahamic (not the Mosaic) covenant. In other words, the life of the parents could not possibly have been evaluated by the stipulations of the Mosaic law during the hundreds of years between Abraham and Moses, for the Mosaic law had not yet been given. There was thus no possibility of "excommunication" between Abraham and Moses. Once again, the criterion is physical descent from Abraham, and not the faith of the parents. Besides, since when does an outwardly moral life substitute for a profession of faith? Would paedobaptists baptize longtime visitors to their churches, simply because such individuals lived an outwardly moral life? The two are simply not the same.

I find all this quite incredible. God promised Isaac that He would bless Him "because Abraham hearkened to My voice and kept my charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Gen 26.5). No, this list does not describe the Law given by Moses, but it does describe that which was given by God to Abraham in language as rich as any used to describe what was later handed down from Sinai. This is the Law of God, and certainly provided "stipulations" by which "parents could . . . have been evaluated."

And the fact that God made a covenant with Isaac on the basis of His relationship with Abraham, does not imply that the covenant was unconditional as far as Isaac was concerned. For the Mosaic covenant itself was also made on the basis of the promise to the patriarchs (Deu 4.37), yet it is conditioned on perseverance (4.40). Thus, we see that Judah's firstborn son Er comes under the covenantal curse of God (Gen 38.7). Furthermore, Judah's second-born, Onan, is slain by God because he would not obey the Levirate law later given again by Moses (Gen 38.8-10). Of course, the details of the law may have varied according to the covenantal situation, [26]but the point is that there was a detailed law from God involved the Abrahamic covenant. I don't know why the details of it, or the time when it was given, are not recorded for us, while the details and giving of the Mosaic law are recorded. Nevertheless, the existence of such a law is explicitly taught, even though God decided that the Mosaic laws were the ones he wanted to be passed on to the New Covenant Church as Scripture.

Furthermore, God explicitly said that His covenant with Abraham was conditional: "For I have chosen [literally "known"] him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord, by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him" (Gen 18.26; emphasis added). We see this demonstrated when Abraham obeys God by offering Isaac:

Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, "By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld you son, you only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice (Gen 22.15-18; emphasis added).

These blessings promised as a reward for Abraham's obedience are the same that were promised to him when God originally called him (Gen 12.1-3). Obviously, the covenant made with Abraham was conditional -- Abraham would not inherit the promise unless he persevered in the Faith.

Nor would his servants. Mr. Welty alleges that, "When Abraham was required to circumcise his (hundreds of) servants (Genesis 17.27) and their offspring, neither he nor God required a personal profession of faith of any of them." But we have already seen that the Abrahamic Covenant mandated that Abraham "command his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord" (Gen 18.26). We see an example of the faith of one of Abraham's servants in Genesis 24, where "the oldest of Abraham's household" (v. 2) shows himself faithful in acquiring a wife for Isaac, and even prays in faith to God (vv. 12-14). To paraphrase Mr. Welty, to assume that Abraham built altars for himself alone, and did not lead his entire household in worship (Gen 12.7, 8; 13.4, 18; 21.33) "is clearly a species of 'Judaizing' eisegesis, a reading of the Old as if it were some sort of Marcionite nonsense." And the objection that, because the covenant community was only one day old there was no time for anyone to apostatize is bizarrely irrelevant. One does not apostatize before joining the covenant community, but from it. Apostasy presupposes circumcision. One has to be raised before one can fall.

Finally, Mr. Welty's imagination that paedobaptists think that "not living an outwardly immoral life" is somehow equivalent to "remaining in the covenant" is untrue and unjustified. The fact is that Israelites were required to worship the One true God. If they did not do so, then they were to be cut off from the Covenant. Faith is a requirement. How was this requirement enforced? I have no idea. Requiring a profession of Faith is one way to do it, I suppose. But who is claiming that such a profession has direct Old Testament warrant? I suppose that some advocates of a strict regulative principle might require such warrant, but that is hardly a concern to most paedobaptists.

On the other hand, does a profession of faith guarantee sincerity on the part of the professor? Of course not! Only God can judge the heart. The Church could baptize without a profession of faith by the parent. The only thing required is that only the children of members of the Covenant be baptized. All baptized believers are members of the Covenant. Anyone guilty of unbelief should be excommunicated for the same reason that anyone who broke the First Commandment should be excommunicated (if not executed) in Israel. Mr. Welty's virtual identification of the Mosaic covenant with a system of hypocrisy and permissible unbelief is rather hard to take. I really don't think I've seen anything more insulting to God in dispensational literature. Paul's entire argument in Romans 4 is that faith was just as much required in the old covenants as it is in the New Covenant. Mr Welty's rhetoric seems to more than qualify the Reformed position on the unity of the covenants.

Mr. Welty's observation that "Never in the darkest days of the judges or of the canonical prophets was the privilege of circumcision revoked due to the people's apostasy" is entirely beside the point. What prophet had the power to keep the people from being circumcised? Mr. Welty might as well say that faith must not be a prerequisite for baptism because liberal mainline churches have never had the privilege of baptism revoked even though they are apostate. If the ministers are liberal too, then there is no one to enforce the Covenant.

Incidentally, here we see more confusion about how a Covenant may be "broken." The old covenants failed and had to be replaced precisely because apostasy spread throughout the people of God. The leaders who should have cut off from Israel those who did not continue in the Faith, instead joined in being faithless. Thus, the entire population had to be disciplined by God, and He eventually had to make new covenants.

The one exception to this phenomenon, of course, is the generation in the wilderness, who rebelled against Moses. In that case, God was able to protect Moses and enforce the Covenant. Thus, when Joshua led the people across into the Promised Land, God told him to circumcise the men of Israel.

And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way, after they came out of Egypt. For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised. For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord, to whom the Lord had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with mild and honey. And their children whom He raised up in their place, Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them along the way (Jos 5.4-7).

Mr. Welty's contention, then, that nothing but physical decent from Abraham's household was required as a condition for circumcision, "period," is flatly untrue. [27]The privilege of circumcision was revoked for apostasy, and then graciously restored a generation later. Remember, this loss of covenant privilege was not merely a result of failing to live an outwardly moral life, but "unbelief" (Heb 3.19). Or is the inspired writer also guilty of "Christianizing the Old Testament"?

In conclusion, members of the Covenant, before and after Christ, have the privilege and duty to incorporate their infant children in the Covenant of Grace by the Covenant sign. While there is no explicit rule of which I am aware, that one's legitimate continued membership in the Covenant must be re-affirmed when the sign is applied to one's children, it does seem like as good a place as any to publicly confirm one's faith. There's nothing inconsistent in the paedobaptist practice.

2) "Paedobaptists do not bring their little children to the covenant meal." True. This inconsistency has virtually undermined the paedobaptist position. Admission to communion becomes an oxymoronic visible entrance to the invisible Church, and baptism a virtually meaningless ritual that, at most, represents some sort of dedication. [28]The whole reaction of the Reformation to the false Romanist sacrament of confirmation is virtually eviscerated by this tradition which crept into the Church during the medieval era, due to a false and superstitious view of the Lord's Supper.

I appreciate Mr. Welty bringing up the issue. [29]

3) "Paedobaptists do not baptize entire households" Here Mr. Welty assumes that unbelievers were supposed to be circumcised and that, therefore, paedobaptist logic demands the baptism of unbelievers. As I mentioned above, this is a false premise.

4) "Paedobaptists do not practice the 'halfway' covenant" Mr. Welty asks, "why not baptize the children of covenant children, even if those covenant children have never made a profession of saving faith?" Because such children are apostates and should be excommunicated -- if a Biblical, confessional, and lifestyle confession is what is being demanded here, and not some extrabiblical revivalist-type emotional experience.

Let's be blunt here: only half-way baptists could possibly conceive of an oxymoronic "halfway covenant." Only people who denigrate God's grace-bearing sacraments to the level of mere external symbols could possibly conceive of baptized babies as unregenerate enemies of God who must later experience a conversion, and presume to equate that later experience with the mystery of regeneration. Neither the Westminster Standards nor the Sixteenth-century Reformers knew anything of requiring an autobiographical account of an alleged conversion experience as a prerequisite for Church membership. [30]The New England Congregationalists baptized their children, but they denied God's promises by continuing to regard them as unconverted heathen. People who ought to have been considered members in good standing were instead, virtually excommunicated. Whereas the Westminster Confession says that a child enters the Church through baptism (XVIII, 1), these "puritans" added an additional work that had to be performed before one was recognized as a Christian.

Thus, Mr Welty's contention that the half-way covenant was caused by "paedobaptist theology," is simply false. Congregationalist theology was radically innovative at this point and thus created all sorts of problems. Presbyterianism did not have this problem until the Great Awakening spread the puritan poison into their denomination.

"Paedobaptist Sentimentalism Examined"

1) "Are you saying my covenant children aren't 'special'?" Here Mr. Welty brings up the case of Esau, citing Romans 9.13:

Isaac would have been presumptuous to write a letter to his newborn Esau in which he stated: "Dearest Esau, child of the covenant: Not only do I love you, but more importantly, God loves you as well!" Such a letter would have been contrary to Christian responsibility, and the God-ordained facts.

I have already covered the case of Esau above. However, there is one particular point which needs to be raised: Since when is it wrong to tell the reprobate that God loves them? Our example comes from Jesus: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" (Mat 23.37). Jesus shed tears over a city that He Himself had ordained to destruction (Luk 19.41).

If Mr. Welty rejects "the free offer of the gospel" as articulated by John Murray,[31]or defended by Robert Dabney [32], then he needs to inform his readers of the fact, for it seems to be presupposed in his denial that we should tell our children that God loves them. If Mr. Welty agrees with Murray, then how does his criticism hold up to scrutiny? I don't think Mr. Welty is a "hyper-calvinist," but it's hard to understand what else he means here.

Jesus weeps for Jerusalem. Jesus weeps for all baptized Christians when they are in sin -- irrespective of at what age they were baptized. All need to repent before their time runs out (Rev 2.21). This is an objective fact revealed to us in God's word. Those unconditionally elected to eternal life will take advantage of the covenantal blessing and repent. Those to whom God sovereignly decides not to give the gift of repentance will spurn the covenantal blessing until their "sin is accomplished" and "brings forth death" (Jam 1.15).

Thus, properly understood, a letter from Isaac would not be "contrary to . . . the God-ordained facts," but would undergird them. Esau could not have been the kind of reprobate he was if he had not first been the beneficiary of God's covenantal love. And since Mr. Welty admits that both the elect and reprobate were in the Mosaic covenant, then he must admit that there is nothing improbable about God having special love for the elect and reprobate alike, over and above what he has for "the general mass of unregenerate mankind." For Moses says to Israel "the Lord love you" (Deu 7.8a). Indeed, lest their be any doubt, Moses says that "the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you" (Deu 23.5). This incident took place just before a number of Israelite men lusted after Moabite women and were seduced into idolatry (Num 25.1-9). But Moses doesn't say, "The Lord loved all but the 24,000 Who He later had to destroy as apostates." Nor did he say, "The Lord loved all but Achan and his family because of what he is going to do at Ai." No, God loved all of them but some did not remain in His love. Likewise, Christ loves the Church, but we must remain in His love (John 15.9).

2) "Are you saying that God won't hear the prayers of my four-year old covenant child?" "Baptists rightly respond that God will always hear a prayer for conversion from anyone, young or old." But since Baptists cannot possibly be that shallow, they surely have a better answer than that. What about when the child is three and a half? Does he get to sing "Jesus loves me"? Surely, Mr. Welty has heard some real emotional responses from paedobaptists. Why is he pitching softballs to himself? Let someone else step up to the mound, and I would be more impressed.

I've already mentioned Ephesians 5.1-3, where Paul quotes the Fifth Commandment to children. How on earth can we tell children whom we consider unregenerate to obey their parents "in the Lord"? How can the "obedience" of a God-hating rebel be "well-pleasing to the Lord"? (Col 3.20) How can I raise my children "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph 6.4) if they are not disciples of the Lord? The entire decalogue presupposes salvation of both parent and child. [33]Paul presupposes that the Holy Spirit indwells parent and child. There is no reason to think Paul is moving away from the people he addressed in Ephesians 1.3-14. Mr. Welty will, no doubt, insist these children have made a "profession of saving faith." But then what reason should I give to my toddler that he should obey his daddy? Do I tell him that Jesus says that he must obey me, "in the Lord"? But that would presuppose that he is a follower of Jesus, something I must not believe until he prays for conversion. Or do I come up with some secular reason for his obedience?

As far as I can tell, unless I can justifiably regard my child as a Christian, I have no basis for the fellowship which the Bible commands parents to have with their children. If I were to adopt Mr. Welty's standpoint, I don't know what I could consistently do, but beat the snot out of my children until they "converted" and gave me some other basis for asking for their obedience.

Finally, if I have raised my child as a Christian, what right do I have to demand a "prayer of conversion"? Do I presume that my four-year-old is trusting in his own good works to save him and must repent of legalism? Do I presume he is a hypocrite living in sin? Do I presume he is lying when he claims to love and trust Jesus as I have taught him to? This demand for some sort of conversion experience needs to be seen for what it is, the requirement of good works over and above simple childlike faith, and/or a satanic accusation burdening the consciences of our little brothers and sisters in the Lord.

3) "How dare you Baptists separate the children from their own parents in the covenant community! They are your own flesh and blood!" Flesh and blood? Flesh and blood is the problem! Our children our born of the flesh, the depraved Adamic nature. They are conceived sinful and guilty. Baptism is supposed to separate children from their parents. The entire horizon of discourse is so far out of orbit, I don't know how to respond.

I guess I'll just point out that Christian parents who adopt a child baptize them just like they do their biological children. The Covenant is thicker than blood.

Mr. Welty writes that, "Baptist parents also bring their children under the influence of preaching, catechizing, and family instruction. So what's the point?" This seems like another softball. The question is, Do baptists consistently treat their children like the unbelievers that they claim they are? To the extent that they do so, does their treatment of their children remotely resemble what the Bible says about how parents should raise their children? In my experience, baptists act as if their children have been baptized most of the time. They treat them as fellow Christians, allowing them to pray, teaching them to sing "Jesus loves me," etc.

4) "Now you say, as part of your so-called 'gospel,' that my children aren't in the covenant, and cannot receive the covenant sign. Is that good news? No!" The main thing that Mr. Welty can say about this "sentimental" response, is that it mandates that children not only be baptized but also be given communion. No kidding!

He also comments: "Arguments like this have about as much force as any Jewish objection to the passing away of the types and shadows of the Old Testament." God's promise to be the God of our children is a "type" and a "shadow"? This is a Reformed view?


Why is Mr. Welty's paper unconvincing? As I said above, Mr. Welty's paper is obviously aimed at fellow baptists, and perhaps those who imagine themselves to be paedobaptists but whose theological paradigm reduces baptism to an empty ritual and demands some sort of experience for salvation. If he had intended to reach paedobaptists, he would have seriously addressed their concerns. The only real point in writing out a response is simply to remind credobaptists who find this paper so cogent that they need to actually consider the views of paedobaptists if they wish to argue with them.

Let's summarize what I think is unconvincing about Mr. Welty's paper and then summarize the paedobaptist position.

Problems with Mr. Welty's Case

I. Lacking evidence. Nowhere does the New Testament say that the babies of Christians must grow up and reach some stage of development, and then make a profession of faith, before they can be baptized. Mr. Welty simply has no Scripture to which he can directly appeal for credobaptist practice.

II. Unconvincing prooftexts. The texts Mr. Welty uses are unpersuasive because (1) they are open to other, better, interpretations; (2) the interpretation which Mr. Welty asserts openly contradicts the interpretation given in the New Testament (i.e. Jer 31.31-34 and Hebrews); (3) Mr. Welty never even acknowledges any of the New Testament passages which would appear to contradict his interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies (i.e. Rom 11.17-24; 1 Cor 9.24-10.13; 2 Cor 11.104; Col 1.21-23a; Heb 3-4; Heb 10.4-39; etc).

III. Incoherent position. Mr. Welty's position seems incoherent because (1) he assumes [34]that we can set the boundaries of the covenant according to the secret and eternal decrees of God; and/or (2) he assumes that we can set the boundaries of the covenant according to the spiritual state of a person's heart. Furthermore, (3) his argument against the admission of infants into the Church through baptism would also deny admission to any adult professing faith.

IV. Denigration of the Old Covenants. Mr. Welty repeatedly makes false and insulting statements about God's Covenant of Grace before Christ. Membership in the Covenant of Grace is said to be a matter of either nothing but physical descent or merely superficial obedience. I suspect he is resorting to such a gross portrayal due to the pressure of III. For, if he wishes to think it possible to actually have a covenant (historically administered by signs and seals) with only the elect, then it helps to think that a covenant which includes the reprobate, thereby includes obvious hypocrites and open rebels (who simply meet the supposed requirement of physical descent).

V. Assumption that Babies are Unbelievers. Mr. Welty may or may not believe that it is possible for preborn or newborn infants to be regenerated, but he definitely assumes that it is unlikely. Thus, (1) he believes a child must go through some sort of self-conscious conversion experience before he can be regarded as a Christian; and (2) he makes the cognitive content of a more mature Christian (how much more mature?) the standard by which less mature Christians are judged and found wanting. Yet he provides no Scriptural justification for such an assumption.

VI. Equating the Memory of a Conversion Experience with Saving Faith. Related to V above, one problem in the credobaptist position is the embarrassing tendency of their little children to demonstrate belief the Gospel and love for Jesus from the moment they begin to talk, at least in the homes of faithful parents. Thus, because faith alone saves, one might fall into the sin of discipling one's children, instead of evangelizing them. To get around this temptation, Mr. Welty speaks of "faith" being required, when he actually means an experience of some sort. This allows him to say that one must possess faith to be a member of the covenant, as if any paedobaptist would deny such a thing.

VII. Denying that Baptism Is Both the Sign and the Thing Signified. Mr. Welty seems to indicate that Baptism is merely an empty sign without grace and salvation annexed to it, which it seals and confers.

Paedobaptist Propositions

1. The rite of baptism is God's act by which, through His representative and the power of the Holy Spirit, He confers citizenship in His Kingdom upon the one baptized, and incorporates the person into Christ's body, the Church. This is not done to some baptized individuals (the elect) but to all who are baptized. God's promise in baptism is worthless if it cannot be trusted.

2. Baptized believers are covenant keepers, and baptized unbelievers (in doctrine or life) are covenant breakers. A "believer" here refers to one who simply demonstrates a credible confession of faith (in doctrine and life).

3. Baptized infants who cannot demonstrate faith as is legitimately expected of older Christians, are believers. Simply being baptized counts as a credible confession for a baby.

4. The children of baptized believers possess the right to membership in the Covenant, and their parents are under obligation to offer them to be baptized into the Church. They are God's by right, like the tithe, because He demands that they be brought to Him. They are His by possession, when they are incorporated into His Kingdom by baptism -- just as the tithe is possessed by God when the tither relinquishes it to the Church (otherwise the tither has stolen from God). Thus, though baptism incorporates one into Christ, one need not fear for the salvation of babies and other believers who die before baptism can be administered. God will not be robbed of his elect by their death.

5. All covenant keepers are to be considered regenerate. Not "presumed" (which implies an unwarranted assumption), but considered -- reckoned, regarded, and / or treated as -- regenerate.

6. All covenant keepers are given the Holy Spirit. They may have been regenerated before they entered covenant (infants perhaps, and adults converted from unbelief almost certainly), or at their baptism (infants perhaps). Since some people do apostatize and break covenant, we know they never were truly regenerate. However, all are truly given the Holy Spirit at baptism, and either persevere in His fellowship (if truly regenerate) so that they attain to Eternal Life, or grieve the Spirit so that He departs from them and they die in their sins (if unregenerate). Furthermore, for a baptized individual who apostatizes (as a child or adult) and then is brought back by a new understanding of the Gospel, there is virtually no way to be sure when he was truly regenerated. Nor does it really need to be known.

7. All covenant keepers, infants and adults, must continue to be discipled and persevere in the faith in order to inherit Eternal Life.

8. All those who die in the covenant, have persevered by God's grace, and thus can be assured of Eternal Life.

9. Parents of baptized babies can be assured of the eternal salvation of their infants, should untimely death befall them. They do not need to be told that, "If your infant was elect then he is in Heaven." That tautology is a useless torment from Satan. A promise to be the God of you and those of your children of whom God decides to be the God," is no promise at all. The promise is to us and our children. Our covenant children who die have died in the Lord. They are shown to be elected unto Eternal Life.

10. Baptized children are just as much Christians as their parents are. Both are in covenant with Christ and both must endure to the end to be saved. God is equally the God of parents and their children.

(Note, clicking on the footnote number will carry the reader back to the appropriate place in the body of the text...)

[1] I hope Greg will forgive me for calling him "Mr. Welty" throughout. I would never do it personally, but it seems appropriate, if stiff, for a paper of this sort.

[2] The basic argument is that references to musical instruments in the Old Testament are typological in nature. Obviously, this is totally unpersuasive to anyone not already committed to the position. Why should anyone believe that such references are typological in nature?

[3] A rabbit trail: Throughout this paper I use the term "Old Testament" and "New Testament," but this division seems less and less warranted to me. If we justify a separate "testament" on the basis of new revelation given after a period of silence, then we ought to acknowledge four testaments, dividing the Old into the Hexateuch, the books of the kingship, and the books around the exile (before, during, and after). The fact that we simply bulldoze over centuries of development both in the Church and in revelation by using the term "Old Testament" for such a great collection of books takes away any justification for then identifying the "New Testament" as a separate collection of books.

[4] "Believer's baptism." Since Mr. Welty and I both believe in "baptism," why should I alone submit to a prefix? Even this nomenclature is somewhat inaccurate, however. Saving faith is perfectly possible for a baby.

[5] To say it is "conditional" is simply to say that God's Covenant of Grace demands a response on the part of manùa response that encompasses not only an initial confession of faith, but a whole life of covenant keeping. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, God, by the Covenant of Grace, "freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved" (7.3). Obviously, then, there is no merit possible on the part of the sinner, for salvation is "freely" offered. Furthermore, the saving faith is a gift of God, as the paragraph quoted from above goes on to plainly state. Nevertheless, faith is a clearly a requirement which must be met by anyone who wishes to inherit eternal life. It is a condition of the Covenant.

Furthermore, "faith" is, according to the Westminster Standards, such a rich concept that it can be spoken of as including a multiplicity of things. Thus, though the Confession states that faith "is the alone instrument of justification" (12.2), repentance is also stated to be "of such necessity to all sinners that none may expect pardon [justification] without it" (15.3), sanctification is defined as "the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" [i.e. be justified] (13.1), and good works are means to "the end, eternal life" (16.2). All of these conditions come under the heading of saving faith, for

By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein, and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of Grace (14.2).

The "principle" act of saving faith alone justifies, but such faith is inconceivable apart from a life of "obedience" and "trembling." In other words, if we truly trust God we will meet the requirements of the Covenant because we will believe that there is great reward in meeting them and great punishment in refusing to do so. If we decide not to meet the conditions then we show we don't believe what God tells us about the rewards, nor do we take His threats seriously.

The bottom line here is, there is nothing incompatible between a conditional covenant and the fact that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone.

For more discussion, see below (note 6).

[6] Question 153 of the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q: What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law?
A: That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us [1] repentance toward God, and [2] faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and [3] the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.

The means by which Christ communicates "redemption with all other benefits of the covenant of grace" (Q. 57) are "all his ordinances; especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation" (Q. 154).

This confirms that, in Reformed theology, a life of persevering faith is a condition of the Covenant of Grace. Here we see the Westminster Divines mean by "faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" the "the principal acts of saving faith" mentioned in chapter 14, paragraph 2, of the Confession (see above, note 5). This is listed as one of three distinctive requirements which must be met if one is to be justified ("escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law"), and the last of the three is obviously divisible into a much longer list of requirements. Such a statement may seem surprising, but it is really simply an elaboration on the Confession's affirmation of the necessity of repentance, along with it's definition of repentance as "purposing and endeavoring to walk with [God] in all the ways of his commandments" (15.2).

[7] Of course, I am assuming adult converts here, whether they were complete unbelievers or God-fearing Gentiles who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah when they heard about Him.

[8] Though it is certainly possible. See Robert L. Dabney's "God's Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy," Discussion: Evangelical & Theological, vol 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth).

[9] The next verse reads: "To those who keep His covenant, and who remember His precepts to do them." Again, remember all that was said above about the condition of covenantal faithfulness. One cannot inherit eternal life unless he perseveres in the Faith.

[10] Presbyterion, 22/2 (1996), p. 96-97. Dr. Rayburn's article is highly recommended as an attempt to recover among Reformed paedobaptists our Reformation heritage in this area.

[11] Incidentally, we see a more clear prophecy of damnation in Isaac's "blessing" of Esau: "you shall break his [Jacob's] yoke from your neck" (Gen 27.40b).

[12] Mr. Welty treats Jeremiah's prophecies as if they were directly referring to Christ and his work. I disagree. Because the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah foreshadows the true New Covenant, he is prophesying Christ just like all the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures prophesy Christ (Daniel and Malachi who prophesied even later are probably "directly" prophesying Christ).

[13] I get the title "New Adam" from the dominion given over the animals. Notice that this is mentioned in Daniel 2.38 when Nebuchadnezzar is also called "the king of kings" (2.37). Later in Daniel, we get a vision of a new creation, with the spirit over the waters (7.2), animals created (7.4), and then a Son of Adam given dominion over them (7.13-14). Thus, though mere beast compared with the true Second Adam, they also are revelations and types of the Messianic King of Kings.

[14] This sentence pretty much demonstrates the problem with the "internal/external distinction." In one breath, Mr. Welty says that both the elect and non-elect are members of one covenant, and yet immediately posits two covenants, one external and another internal. Which is it? Were the non-elect genuinely members of God's covenant or just some outward legal fiction? This virtually reproduces the confusion in the Westminster Confession of Faith over the visible and invisible Church(es?). See John Murray's excellent critique in vol. 1 of his Collected Works.

[15] According to the Westminster Confession of Faith (X, 4) some non-elect are given "common operations of the Spirit." Hebrews 6.4 is one of the prooftexts.

[16] It occurs to me that the word "direct" might imply that the preteristic object of Jeremiah's prophecy has some sort of priority over the later fulfillment in Christ. Given the strong statement in 1 Peter 1.10-12, I don't see the Christological fulfillment of prophecy to be either "secondary" or "indirect" in that sense of the word.

[17] For the argument that this translation is the only correct one, see James D. G. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary: Romans 1-8 (Dallas: Word, 1988).

[18] For the record, I am rather antagonistic towards this language, since it seems more platonic than Christian. Is not the entire physical cosmos a gift of the Spirit? (Gen 1.2) Is it not the Spirit Who gives us a Church home, a loving family, a livelihood? I remember how our Church helped my wife and me when our first son was born. Every time I open our stroller, a luxury model given via an extremely generous baby shower, I can't help but think about how much love we have been shown. Is it somehow wrong for me to see that item as a gift of the Spiritùa blessing of the New Covenant? The fact is, ever since I became Reformed, I always associated the "physical v. spiritual" dichotomy as something I left behind in fundamentalism.

[19] He is also being unnecessarily redundant since the class mentioned in A (2) is simply a subset of those mentioned in A (3).

[20] Of course, as noted above, the Holy Spirit at Pentecost did not come upon previously unregenerate people. Baptismal regeneration is not at issue. In the case of miscarriages, all Christians can take comfort in God's promise to be the God of our children. We can confidently assert that our children are regenerate in the womb (Psa 22.9-10). But, just as Pentecost did not simply signal a previous existing status, but conferred power from on high and thus began the Church, so baptism begins the Christian life with a further outpouring of the Spirit.

Furthermore, since covenant children, just like Christians converted at other ages, sometimes do apostatize, we know that some children receive the Holy Spirit without being truly regenerated. But, again, all baptized children are promised the Holy Spirit and all are to be considered, and taught to consider themselves "dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6.11). If they apostatize, we must re-evaluate their status (and do so again if they return in repentance), but that does not change the fact that we are to regard all covenant members, infants and adults alike, as one in Christ.

[21] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in" (Mat 23.13).

[22] The change was revealed when the Holy Spirit fell on these uncircumcised Gentiles. Then Peter realized that the entire distinction between Gentile and Jewish believer was being eradicated. But that has nothing to do with the terminology of "unholy" and "unclean" in Acts 10.28. Rather, that language was a result of the perversions of the Pharisees.

[23] Thus, I agree with Mr. Stan Reeves' "Reformed Baptist's response to paedobaptists' argument from 1 Cor 7.14," that some Reformed exegetes have not been as clear as they might have been. In the case of Murray (and probably Hodge), a theological mistake might have contributed to the problem, since he did not believe in sacramental efficacy as articulated by Calvin and the Westminster Standards. Thus, baptism could only signify some previously existing reality, with nothing left to effect.

Once, that misunderstanding is resolved, however, I see no grounds left for Mr. Reeves' critique. His own speculations (and Dagg's) about what the passage might mean simply don't bear much weight. How can one claim to have done justice to Paul's concerns without even mentioning Malachi 2.15? At most, Mr. Reeves has demonstrated that, if the credobaptist position is true, then it is feasible to interpret 1 Corinthians 7.14 in a credobaptist manner. But that bare possibility can only be countenanced if one is convinced that the "Old Testament" concerns should not be used to interpret the text. But that is precisely what is at issue.

[24] According to the Westminster Confession of Faith: "The visible church . . . is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" (XXV, 2), and into which baptism is "the solemn admission of the party baptized" (XXVIII, 1).

[25] To reemphasize, the fact that some baptized infants do not receive the grace of baptism by faith throughout their lives, is not because their free will overthrows God's attempt to save them, but because God withheld the gift of persevering faith from them for His own sovereign reasons. Yet the grace of baptism is not therefore null and void, for such reprobates are condemned all the more because of the reality of the grace of baptism and the sincerity of God in giving it. "From everyone who is given much, much will be required" (Luk 12.48).

Ronald Wallace, in his Calvin's Doctrine of Word & Sacrament (Tyler, TX, Geneva Divinity School Press, 1953, 1982), sums up Calvin's view of the paedobaptism and apostasy (all emphasis added):

Calvin admits the practical difficulties in his position. Many under this arrangement are baptized and do not come to faith. "I grant, indeed, that many which are the children of the faithful, according to the flesh, are counted bastards, and not legitimate, because they thrust themselves out of the holy progeny through their unbelief" [Comm Acts 3.25, C.R. 48:76]. Indeed, Calvin says that the "greater part is without the covenant through their own unbelief" [Comm Ezek. 16.21, C.R. 40:355]. There was, however, a remnant in Israel, and there is a "special elect" among the children of the elect, and the door of baptism must not be closed to them through the offense that others cause. "This in no way hinders the Lord calling and admitting the seed of the godly into the fellowship of grace. And although the common election be not effectual for all, yet may it set open a gate for the special elect" [Comm Acts 3.25, C.R. 48:76]. Those born of the holy seed have at least to give a decision about the Baptism which has been bestowed on them, and thus it is that even in them Baptism is efficacious in bringing them to decision. If their decision is a rejection of grace, it brings judgment and condemnation upon themselves.
Calvin points out that it was a very high honor to be born in Israel. For Christ, though He honored all mankind when He "connected Himself to us by a community of nature" [Comm Rom 9.5, C.R. 49:174. Quum se naturae communione nobis copulavit], nevertheless bound Himself by a closer tie to the chosen race [Ibid. Calvin speaks of this as, Arctum coniunctionis vinculum]. But in many of the Jews "the blessing of kindred was separated from piety," and instead of profiting them it turned to their greater condemnation [Ibid]. To be born in the sphere of the Church brings us into this specially close relation to Christ which can either profit us or turn to our greater condemnation. Calvin makes the comment that "many . . . become degenerate" [Comm 1 Cor. 7.14, C.R. 49.413; cf. on Ps 102.28, C.R. 32.74]. Indeed it is only those "who do not turn aside from the faith of the parents" who inherit the blessings of the covenant made with the fathers [Comm Ps 102.28, C.R. 32.74]. The solemn word of Moses to the children of Israel applies with no less relevance to the children of Christian parents. "Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God" (Deu 29.10). "Though they did not receive by faith the promised salvation, nor, on the other hand, renounce the flesh so as to dedicate themselves to God, still they were bound to God under the same obligation which their parents laid themselves" [Comm Deu 29.10, C.R. 25:48. . . . Eodem iure Deo fuisse devinctos quo se patres obligabant] (pp. 194-195).

[26] Judah's condemnation of Tamar (Gen 38.24), for example, is reminiscent of the penalty laid down for a priest's daughter who is convicted of harlotry (Lev 21.9). Does this mean that Judah had the status of a priest? Or was Judah simply being tyrannical?

[27] Since Mr. Welty himself states that Abraham's servants and all their children were also circumcised, he has overstated his case in that respect also. The fact is that, except for the promise of the Messiah himself, virtually nothing in the old covenants was tied to physical descent. One became a Jew by being circumcised, whether as an infant born to covenant-keeping parents or as an adult proselyte from one of the other nations. Likewise, one now joins the Church through baptism, whether as an infant born to covenant-keeping parents, or as an adult proselyte from unbelief. No one male was ever born an Israelite and no one is ever born a Christian.

[28] How can anyone justify dedicating an unforgiven sinner to God?

[29] For a historical overview of paedocommunionist practice, and helpful bibliographic information for further research, see the paper, The History of Paedocommunion: From the Early Church Until 1500 by Tommy Lee also included on the CRTA Sacramentology page.

[30] Note that it was a story about a conversion experience, not "a profession of saving faith" which was required. Any child will testify that they love and trust Jesus. Virtually any adult raised as a covenant child will do so, unless of course the objective promises of God, without which there can be no faith, are undermined by Zwinglian, revivalistic preaching. If you are raised in the Christian faith, and never knew a time when you did not believe in Jesus, yet are subjected to the satanic accusation that your faith is false because you haven't experienced some sort of dramatic "conversion," then you are naturally going to grow up rather confused. Perhaps you will spend time and energy searching for that experience. Perhaps you will believe the lie and become the secularist that your pastor and parents say you are. But you certainly are not going to have any firm promises from God upon which you can rely. Those have all been emptied by the conversionist paradigm.

[31] "The Free Offer of the Gospel" in John Murray's Collected Writings (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1982)

[32] "God's Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy," Discussion: Evangelical & Theological, vol 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth)

[33] This becomes more evident if we take a more literal interpretation of Ephesians 5.18ff:

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody in you heart to the Lord;
always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
being subject to one another in the fear of Christ
wives, to your husbands, as to the Lord....

In other words, all the instructions for different relationships are based on the command "be filled with the Spirit." 5.18-6.9 is all one section.

[34] I don't mean that Mr. Welty doesn't possess reason for his belief. I simply mean that, if he wants to communicate to paedobaptists, he needs to set these reasons forth. He cannot expect rational people to adopt his position if they cannot imagine it ever being carried out by finite creatures.
Article Copyright © 1997, Mark Horne, All Rights Reserved

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