I have been diving further into the debate between Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists on the issue of baptism. It has been a great encouragement and time of learning for me. I am truly a novice in all this but I want to summarize what I have understood so far.
The Real Issue
As I have sought to understand what is the bottom of this issue I believe I have begun seeing glimpses of what it is. The issue seems to revolve around our understanding of the New Covenant, it’s administration, and what has truly been abrogated. Which can be further summarized as, the difference between the hermeneutics of Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists.
As I have been reading stuff from both sides, which perhaps I should make a list, I have begun seeing that it’s like two world views colliding. The interesting thing is these two worldviews are both thoroughly Biblical and seek to honor God’s word and live out the life God tells us in His word.
Now, I may be wrong in this assessment of what the real issue is, but I hope I will be given grace by both sides as I try to understand these issues.
On the Presbyterian side, the side which holds to the Westminster Confessions, they believe that the New Covenant is similar to that of the Abrahamic. They as well believe that the backdrop of baptism is found in the Old Testament and as such much be understood as we seek to understand baptism and who it is for.
This is where I see the strength of the Presbyterian argument. Though they’ll admit they don’t have the grammatical strength to prove that the New Testament teaches us to baptize our children, they have the strength in pointing to an Old Testament understanding that is to be carried into the New Testament. They will say that just because the New Covenant is truly new, there are also elements that have existed previously and so we must understand those elements. Part of those elements is the discussion of warning passages, who is in the New Covenant, and the nature of the New Covenant.
There is more I can say but I think this is my summary of what I have understood so far.
On the Reformed Baptist side, which holds to the London Baptist confession of 1689, they believe that the New Covenant is truly New. They believe many, if not, all of the Old Covenant connections have been severed, it being a shadow of the New, and that the New Covenant is one which is spiritual and not physical.
This is where I see the strength of the Reformed Baptist argument. Though they’ll admit they have to handle the warning passages well, and that there is a mixture in the visible church, the strength of their argument is that the New Covenant is a covenant which God makes with His people by Christ, and Christ saves His people perfectly. Thus, baptism should only be for those professing, even if they prove not to be in the New Covenant, because it is profession that demonstrates a work of God.
I admit that I have read more from the Presbyterian side and need to get some more of the Reformed Baptist arguments, but I find the strength of the Reformed Baptists more compelling in the sense that the New Covenant seems to indicate that people cannot be lost in it. Whereas in the Presbyterian side, the New Covenant has the mixture.
As I study this more I am confronted with taking all the New Testament and Old Testament teach, and see it all together. There are many New Testament statements and realities that I have not considered, but I praise God for faithful and God honoring men who seek to truly honor the word of God. May we all seek to be more Biblical.