I want to make sure that everyone knows this is not meant to start a debate.
I just want to understand a few things concerning this matter and it stems from the following statement I read.
Even Paedobaptists that deny presumptive regeneration would still say that their children are Christians and members of the church, including RC Sproul. It boils down to their distinction between the internal and external aspects of the Covenant of Grace.
First of all is this accurate and second, can someone expand on this issue.
One is baptized into the visible Church, yes, so we count them as members ("non-communing" members until they are catechized and have made a credible confession of faith - then the Lord's Table is open to them). They are our covenant children and therefore Christians in the same sense that Jewish children are called Jews according to Romans 9:4-9. Also one may be outwardly Jewish, yet Paul writes,
He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29 NASB).
As Jewish children partake of all the covenant blessings their parents enjoy and are called Jews, so our covenant children enjoy the covenant blessings that we enjoy outwardly: The Apostles' teaching, breaking bread, prayer, the oversight of Elders, etc. When they give credible evidence of inward regeneration, conversion, and discipleship, they are accepted as communing members.
"Even Paedobaptists that deny presumptive regeneration would still say that their children are Christians and members of the church, including RC Sproul. It boils down to their distinction between the internal and external aspects of the Covenant of Grace."
Originally Posted by Tom
First of all is this accurate and second, can someone expand on this issue.
1. The person who wrote/stated is wrong. Why? Because I'm a paedobaptist who totally rejects any and all forms of "presumptive regeneration".
2. The second part of his/her statement is fine with me, but of course I would disagree on the "aspects" of the distinction. I stand with Jonathan Edwards of old and John H. Gerstner of late re: the spiritual condition of infants and children regardless whether they were born of professed Christian parents or not. We consider them to be "little vipers in diapers" as the popular phrased attributed to Edwards is clear enough. The "presumption" is that ALL are born dead and are under the wrath of God and thus any hint that they are "Christians" is unwarranted. To be deemed a Christian de facto means the individual has bee regenerated by the Spirit, convicted of their sins, repented of their sins and the world, believed savingly upon Christ and clings tenaciously to His perfect righteousness alone. Albeit much more detail could be included, e.g., sanctification, etc. however there is no other definition of Christian other than the items I have included.
Now, what I believe in regard to the "distinction of the aspects"... The aspects are the means of grace by which God by the Spirit calls the elect to Christ. These Paul calls "the oracles of faith" (Rom 1:16, 3:1,2, 11:1,2, et al). OT Israel were given the law of God and the prophets who taught what God revealed in them. In the Church this hasn't changed. The children of believers have a distinct privilege and advantage over those who are without. They are able to hear the preaching of the Word, to be instructed in the Word by faithful parents and others, and they have the prayers of their parents and the saints that God would have mercy upon the children and call them efficaciously to the Lord Christ and thus be reconciled to God in Him. The vast majority of the Jews of Israel and even more so today perished in unbelief; and a remnant were saved. Moses never presumed that the people were the true "people of God" but rather preached to them to circumcise the foreskins of their hearts Deut 10:16. The Prophets continually warned of God's wrath to come if they did not repent of their sin and turn to God for mercy. Yes, the children of believers are "special", they are not like the children of unbelievers but rather they are "holy" (1Cor 7:14), i.e., set apart and given the oracles of God by which salvation comes.
The New Covenant can be seen in some senses as an improved continuation of the Old, and/or of a superior replacement of the Old.
Which one we emphasize tends to result in differing views with regard to paedobaptism vs. believer's baptism, and also with regard to ecclesiology.
I do consider these important, but secondary, differences. Indeed, I am especially grateful for all Reformed believers regardless of these sorts of differences, because, frankly, much of the rest of professing Christendom is largely apostate.
I do NOT believe in baptismal regeneration, just to be clear. I use the word "Christian" to describe anyone who has been biblically baptized, just as the circumcised were called "Jews," yet not all were regenerate.
Baptism "replaces" circumcision just as the Lord's Day "replaces" the seventh-day Sabbath. Those who observe them are called "Jews" or "Christians" merely by association.
I would agree. Edwards was removed from his pastorate because he wouldn't 'conform' to his father-in-law's views, in particular, church membership and those allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper. Edwards wasn't the sole 'outlier' however. That view has been held by many throughout history. Again, John H. Gerstner, R.C. Sproul's mentor, held to that view in opposition to his student. I can find the video where Gerstner and Sproul discuss this issue, I'll post it here.
And I would agree with your assessment of the "common view", although it would be interesting to see the poll conducted and how many participated in it which is said to be common today... which I would suspect is valid.
Jesus most assuredly didn't "presume" that Jews were all regenerate "Christians". He lambasted them and called some of the most educated and leaders of the Jews a brood of vipers, whose father is the Devil, etc.
Romans 2:28-29 (ASV) 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Baptized covenant children do not qualify cart blanc to be called "Christians".
John 1:11-13 (ASV) 11 He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, [even] to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
I was told by a new pastor who had recently graduated from Westminster Seminary (OPC) Philadelphia and who was one of Norman Shepherd's students that you NEVER bring the gospel to your children and tell them that they need to repent and believe on Christ unto justification because they are "Christians". He said what the children need to be taught is: "to be obedient to the covenant", aka: keep the law. Does that sound familiar?
Take a deep breath! NO ONE has used the term "Baptismal Regeneration". What Tom has been asking about and was told that the "common" view among paedobaptists is presumptive regeneration, i.e., covenant children are baptized on the basis that the parents are believers and because they are baptized, then they are presumed to be "Christians". This view is ingrained and written in "stone" in the Dutch Reformed Churches. I've provided their official document which is still being used among them and I'll attach it here so you can read what they believe. You can decide for yourself if you agree with their view which is the epitome of "presumptive regeneration".
Pilgrim Thank you for your help on this issue. As you probably know all too often in debates on baptism both sides can be guilty of misrepresenting the other side and I believe that is shameful. That is why I like to understand both sides properly.
Why should we be afraid to study both sides?
I did a little more digging on RC Sproul and Ligonier Ministries view on the subject of “Presumptive Regeneration”.
One such article at Ligonier Ministries is called: Pray For Your Children's Salvation (ligonier.org)
Here is a quote:
According to God's promise (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39), the children of believing parents are included in the covenant of grace and must be received as members of the church by baptism. This promise is precious, and the privileges it confers on our children are great indeed. But they afford us no ground to presume that our children are regenerate and no reason to treat them as such before they come to saving faith and repentance. We baptize infants based on many points, but not on account of "presumptive regeneration." The results of this view, which says that we must assume all covenant children are regenerate unless by flagrant sin they prove otherwise, can be quite tragic. Knowledge and morality are often substituted for salvation, without Spirit-worked regeneration, conviction of sin, repentance unto life, saving faith, and the necessary fruits that accompany it (John 3:5; 16:8-11; Luke 13:1-9; John 3:16; Gal. 5:22-23). Knowing God savingly and personally is then replaced with engagement in "kingdom activities" at home, in church, at school, and in the community at large.
I am not sure what the disagreement between Sproul and his mentor was. However, the quote above shows me that it probably was not on ‘Presumptive Regeneration’.
According to God's promise (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39), the children of believing parents are included in the covenant of grace and must be received as members of the church by baptism.
Is this true? When I read Acts 2:39 completely there is a qualifier that contradicts the above statement. Notice what it actually says:
Acts 2:38-39 (ASV) 38 And Peter [said] unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, [even] as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him. (emphasis is mine)
1. What is the promise? It appears to be the gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit. 2. To whom is the promise given? To the hearers of those present that day; Jews, and their children, AND "to all that are afar off", i.e., Jews, AND "[even] as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him (GOD)". 3. The promise of salvation and the Holy Spirit is clearly not given to Jews, their children nor the Gentiles automatically!! The promise of salvation which is the Gospel belongs to those whom God by the Spirit are
efficaciously called. Salvation is infallibly promised to all who repent and believe on Christ and no one else. Thus children of believers are not given the promise of salvation de facto. The children of believers are promised salvation IF they are regenerated by the Spirit and they repent of their sins and savingly believe on the Lord Christ. As I stated before, the covenant children are given the three-fold 'means of grace' which IF attended by the sovereign and secret work of the Spirit upon all who have been ordained to eternal life.
A wrong view here most always results in another error which is far more hotly debated than who should be baptized and how are children of believers to be considered in regard to their spiritual state. And that subject is the death of infants. The popular view is actually two: a) children of believers who die in infancy are saved, b) all children who die in infancy are saved. The first has been around for centuries and is officially held by the Dutch Reformed Churches as found below:
Canons of Dordt FIRST HEAD OF DOCTRINE Article 17
Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended, godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of their children whom it pleaseth God to call out of this life in their infancy.
However, contrary to either of these two views, albeit they are extremely popular and held across denominational boundaries and even by pagans today, the Westminster Confession (Presbyterian) and the Savoy Declaration (Congregational) state that "elect infants" who die in infancy are saved.
Savoy Declaration Chapter 10 Article 3
Elect infants dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
One of the best commentaries on this part of the Confession and explanation of infant salvation is, in my opinion found in the following article: Infant Salvation by Robert E. Davis.
Interesting, but as the Ligonier article states, they are against “presumptive regeneration’,which one Paedo-Baptist said “Sproul has strange beliefs beings against presumptive regeneration. The person says that the WCF teaches it.