Monday, April 6, 2015

A Reformed Baptist's Humble Plea...

To those who are not Reformed Baptists:  Each of you who is in Christ is my brother or my sister.  You are loved of God, and Christ's satisfaction before God is how you stand before your God and my God, before your Father and my Father.  You serve the Kingdom as I seek to do.  You care for the hurting, the poor, and the lost, and many of you have greater minds and hearts than I ever will.  You desire God's glory to be known and seen, and we share many observable similarities in our weekly gatherings.  We share a commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, and we long to see change in the world.  We weep together as we see Christians persecuted in foreign lands, and we mourn the sins in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us.  We each preach the gospel.  With so many similarities, what is my plea you may ask?

Some of you are Dispensationalists.  With you, I share a love of the Scriptures and a desire to see God's truth.  However, in your relatively new movement (in light of Christianity), you have divided the text into parts, and I believe you are missing a beautiful blessing of the overarching narrative of God's covenant work.   Look again, or for the first time at the historic Particular Baptist understanding of putting Scripture together.  See therein not a "replacement theology", but an "expansion theology".  Oh brothers and sisters, 1689 Federalism is not an anti-Semitic, or promise truncating theology, but rather a beautiful reality flowing out of God's continued revealing of his coming New Covenant/Covenant of Grace.  Many of you agree with me that God is immutable, or unchanging (Mal 3:6).  Why not see God's continued unchanging plan versus viewing God's work as two separate entities?  1689 Federalism is not a liberal rejection of "literal" interpretation, but rather a genre-considering hermeneutical movement seeking to rightly divide God's Word keeping in mind His own promise in Genesis 3:15.  As we continue to love one another, consider looking into 1689 our day, many are rediscovering it, and what if it is a "better way"...

Some of you are New Covenant Theologians.  With you, I share a love of the Scriptures and a desire to see God's truth.  With many of you, I share a Calvinistic or 'Doctrines of Grace' influence, and together we have sought to rightly understand apocalyptic genres in the text, and a desire not to make two peoples out of the people of God.  However, I wonder if in your desire to avoid any paedobaptistic influence, you have rejected Covenant Theology altogether, but haven't understood that there is another option.  1689 Federalism doesn't just tack on Believer's Baptism.  It sees it as the rightful practice flowing from God's covenant work.  You don't have to jettison the Covenant work of God in both Testaments for fear that it will lead to a Presbyterian Covenant Theology.
In your relatively new movement (in light of Christianity), perhaps you've feared that some of the trappings of sabbath-keeping that you've read about in the last 500 years have made you wary of the tri-fold division of the Law (civil, ceremonial & moral), and so you've adjusted your theology to a "Law of Christ" focus.  Brothers and sisters, I too do not want to place law over grace...but, we don't have to.  God's moral law...a law flowing from creation, is a delight.  It is not a legalistic antagonist to no, it is joy to see God honored in a law that we cannot perfectly keep, but a law that we get to seek to joyfully live out now through His grace:

Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against, sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and the perfection of his obedience; it is likewise of use to the regenerate to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to shew what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse and unallayed rigour thereof. The promises of it likewise shew them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, though not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works; so as man's doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.
( Romans 6:14; Galatians 2:16; Romans 8:1; Romans 10:4; Romans 3:20; Romans 7:7, etc; Romans 6:12-14; 1 Peter 3:8-13 )

Neither are the aforementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it, the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.
( Galatians 3:21; Ezekiel 36:27 )
--LBCF 19.6-7

Some of you, and indeed most of you, are Reformed Paedobaptists.  You have a solid Covenantal understanding of theology, and yet you see "one covenant in two administrations".  Honestly, I share the most in common (besides those things listed in the opening paragraph) with you, and yet, our view of the church is different, because we view the Covenant of Grace differently.  Are you sure the covenant of grace is the substance of the other covenants?  What if it is indeed the unique salvific covenant, but it is only the substance of the New Covenant?  What if giving 1689 Federalism a look wouldn't be helpful to you?  It could cause you to tweek your Covenant Theology.  It could cause you to see historical Reformed Baptists differently (we are solidly covenantal, and we have a claim to "Reformed").  Or, it could change nothing in your thinking, but just reading another group of brothers on God's covenant work, even if you ultimately hold different conclusions, could be strengthening for your soul.  It was "your" literature on Covenant Theology that brought so many of us to a greater understanding of the Scriptures.  It was "your" view of Covenant Theology that convinced us of solid Reformed theology beyond "TULIP".  How about giving some of "our" historic writings a try?  We share so much, and I truly love you deeply.  We love our Covenant-making and Covenant-Keeping God, and we do so with so many similarities.  Read some of our Reformed Baptist forefathers, and see if "our" construction of Covenant Theology doesn't have merit.  So many of us took "your" Covenant Theology and simply tacked on Believer's Baptism, and without knowing it, we created a few "binds" in interpretation (in my opinion).  But 1689 Covenant Theology is thoroughly Reformed, thoroughly Covenantal, and...thoroughly Credobaptist.  Thank you for your ministry in my life.  Check out some of our old and new literature and see if it doesn't minister to you...

So, to my Dispensational, New Covenant Theology and Reformed Paedobaptist brothers and sisters:  We continue to love the same God together.  My humble plea to you is to ask you to study 1689 Federalism.  See if it is indeed true, and if it isn't a better way.  Know that you have my love as brothers and sisters, and I continue to be thankful for your respective ministries.  I close with the writings of better pens than mine:

"There is one thing more which we sincerely profess and earnestly desire credence in - viz., that contention is most remote from our design in all that we have done in this matter; and we hope that the liberty of an ingenuous unfolding our principles and opening our hearts unto our brethren, with the Scripture grounds of our faith and practice will by none of them be either denied to us, or taken ill from us. Our whole design is accomplished if we may have attained that justice as to be measured in our principles and practice, and the judgment of both by others, according to what we have now published, which the Lord (whose eyes are as a flame of fire) knoweth to be the doctrine which with our hearts we most firmly believe and sincerely endeavor to conform our lives to. And O that, other contentions being laid asleep, the only care and contention of all upon whom the name of our blessed Redeemer is called might for the future be to walk humbly with their God in the exercise of all love and meekness toward each other, to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, each one endeavoring to have his conversation such as becometh the gospel; and also, suitable to his place and capacity, vigorously to promote in others the practice of true religion and undefiled in the sight of God our Father! And that in this backsliding day we might not spend our breath in fruitless complaints of the evils of others, but may every one begin at home, to reform in the first place our own hearts and ways, and then to quicken all that we may have influence upon to the some work, that if the will of God were so, none might deceive themselves by resting in and trusting to a form of godliness without the power of it, and inward experience of the efficacy of those truths that are professed by them."--Preface to the Second London Baptist Confession 1677/1689.

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