Covenantal Dichotomism

Late last year I stumbled across a Baptist Reformed blog discussion about a new book that was aimed at refuting infant baptism. With no malice towards those who practice infant baptism, the author of the book explained his aim as that of examining the presuppositions that led to this view with the objective being to convince Baptist to stay Baptist. This turned out to be a fairly comprehensive look at covenant theology, explaining clearly and biblically the differences in how Baptist and Presbyterians look at things.

I am most thankful for the blog, with comments from both sides – including the author of the book; and for the book – which is not high-minded nor overly intellectual. Not only is it a solid defense of credo-baptism, it is a wonderful walk through Covenantal Theology. What follows is a summary I’ve taken from Part 2 of the book, which takes some examples and explains the view of the author; which I am in agreement with.

Read the other blog here: http://reformedbaptist.blogspot.com/2010/05/fatal-flaw-of-theology-behind-infant.html

Covenantal Dichotomism

From Part 2 of The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism, by Jeffrey D. Johnson:

Without an accurate view of the Abrahamic Covenant, it is nearly impossible to understand the relationship between the various covenants of the Bible. The Abrahamic Covenant included at least four major promises:

  • A seed
  • A land of rest
  • That Abraham would be the father of many nations
  • And, ultimately, that Abraham’s children would be the “People of God”

The key to understanding these promises is distinguishing their two-prong fulfillment. That is, there is a dual nature to the Abrahamic Covenant. By studying the Old and New Testaments, we learn there is a physical and spiritual fulfillment to each of these promises.

Included in the physical fulfillments were:

  • A natural seed (Gen 17:7 & 10)
  • Types and shadows
  • A condition

Included in the spiritual fulfillments were:

  • A spiritual seed (Gal 3:16 & 29)
  • Spiritual realities
  • An unconditional guarantee

The nation of Israel was God’s outward people, analogous to the visible church – distinctly different from the “true Israel of God”, His inward people.

John Bunyan’s The Doctrine of Law and Grace Unfolded makes the case for one covenant with Abraham that has two parts; including law and grace. On the one hand, its condition was fulfilled by the work/righteousness of Christ. This made it a covenant of works. On the other hand, it provides grace without works to those who are in Christ by faith. In this sense, it is a covenant of grace. Like a coin, it is a singular covenant with two sides – including Gen 12 and Gen 17. For Abraham and his spiritual seed, it was an unconditional covenant of grace. For Abraham’s natural seed, including Christ Jesus, it was a covenant of works.

The Mosaic covenant, unlike the Abrahamic covenant, had no dual nature: it was strictly a covenant based upon works – Exodus 19:5 – 8. It contained 1.) an outward and visible seed, 2.) various types and shadows, and 3.) condition based on works. It promised blessings and curses; it was not established with the physical seed of Abraham to make them righteous, but to show them their sins and point them to Christ.                

Not only did Christ fulfill the natural and conditional aspects of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants, He fulfilled the spiritual and unconditional aspects of Abrahamic Covenant.

7 thoughts on “Covenantal Dichotomism

  1. My pleasure, CD. I was and still am amazed at how well Johnson makes the case for the credo-baptist based on the structure of the covenants detailed in Scripture. Not based on the normal case of the texts pro and con each side of the baptism issue, but the basic foundation of covenant theology. Very refreshing, informative, and encouraging.

  2. In the book of Genesis there is tree of knowledge and a tree of life. After eaitng the fruit from the tree knowledge God states The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. Then Adam and Eve are cast out and so on and so forth. It is at this moment that we are set apart to live a life to repent for this disobedience and even perhaps to partake of the fruit from the tree of life? This fruit may be the transition from like to as .

  3. Angelika,

    When one is born again by the Spirit of God, one begins life as a new creature in Christ, partaking of His nature and being matured day by day. In a sense, this is when we once again partake of the tree of life, but not until the new earth is made do we see the actual tree of life again.

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