Longtime readers of the blog may recall a previous post entitled The Three Best Books in Defense of Believer’s Baptism. Well, now The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism by Jeffrey D. Johnson will top that list. In fact, together with Fred Malone’s book The Baptism of Disciples Alone: A Covenantal Argument for Credobaptism Versus Paedobaptism, I am not sure a Reformed Baptist needs another work in his library on this subject.
What makes Fatal Flaw so good is that it is a treatment of the subject from within a covenantal framework (in a more thoroughgoing manner than the treatment of Malone). Johnson meticulously details the central issues surrounding the debate between Paedobaptists and Baptists who hold to Covenant Theology. In Part One of the book (which is the bulk of the work), Johnson argues devastatingly against what he calls the “fatal flaw” of the theology behind infant baptism, which he identifies as “this notion that the Mosaic Covenant is a manifestation of the covenant of grace” (p. 69). But he shows that this is itself a failure to understand the dual nature of the Abrahamic Covenant, which is the focus not only of much of his argument in Part One but also the entirety of Part Two of the book, in which Johnson lays out what he calls “Covenantal Dichotomism.” In this section of the book he essentially lays out a Reformed Baptist understanding of Covenant Theology, relying on a clear understanding of Scripture with the help of a few old friends like John Bunyan and Nehemiah Coxe. Here are a couple of quotes dealing with both the continuity and the discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants that I hope will give you a feel for Johnson’s basic position:
Although contrasts between them are vast, there is a link connecting them. What is the link? It is Jesus Christ. Christ in his life fulfilled the righteous precepts and demands of the Law of Moses. In His death He fulfilled the curses of the law. By doing these two things, He fulfilled the law of the Mosaic Covenant and established the new covenant. Therefore, it can be said that the new covenant fulfilled the unconditional promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, by means of the Mosaic Covenant of works. (p. 233)
Both the Mosaic and the new covenant were birthed out of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant was established between Abraham and his seed. The Mosaic Covenant was issued with the nation of Israel, which was Abraham’s natural seed. The new covenant, on the other hand, was made with Christ and those who are in union with Him. Thus, the old covenant was issued with Abraham’s natural seed, while the new covenant was issued with Abraham’s spiritual seed.
Although both the Mosaic and the new covenant are extensions of the Abrahamic Covenant, the new covenant is not an extension of the Mosaic Covenant. This is because the Mosaic Covenant was based upon works, while the new covenant is based upon faith. (p. 235)
I should observe here that Johnson appears to agree with the idea (which he briefly interacts with on pp. 53-54 and 104-108) that the Mosaic Covenant should be understood as a republication of the original covenant of works. Perhaps one final quote, focused on his understanding of the the covenant of works, would be helpful:
The point is, throughout history (past, present, and future), the covenant of works and the covenant of grace have coexisted. The covenant of grace was alive during the reign of the Mosaic Covenant of works; and conversely, the covenant of works lives under the reign of the new covenant of grace. Just because the Mosaic Covenant was a manifestation of the covenant of works did not mean that the covenant of grace was inoperative during that time. Every converted Israelite was circumcised in heart by the Holy Spirit and placed into the covenant of grace. In like manner, even though the new covenant has been established and the old covenant has passed away, the covenant of works is still present. It is just as forceful and alive today as it was in the garden. Every sinner born into this world is born into the covenant of works and is condemned beneath its heavy demands. The law is merciless. It does not care if sinners are incapable of obedience. In this way each of these covenants has coexisted throughout the history of redemption. (p. 248)
I agree and am so thankful that Jesus met the demands of the covenant of works so that I might be included in the covenant of grace. Aren’t you?
Here are what a couple of respected Baptist scholars have had to say about the book:
This is an excellent and outstanding work, which deals with the subject from the ground up—one of the best, if not the best, I have ever seen! Jeffrey deals with all the aspects of the subject and in the logical order of their development in the subject area. He presents his position clearly with solid and sound exegesis and clear discussion and argumentation. Thus, he makes a definite and strong contribution to the subject matter of the day concerning the ongoing debate between continuity and discontinuity of the Divine covenants.
— Dr. Richard P. Belcher, retired professor at Columbia International University and pastor at Covenant Baptist Church in West Columbia, South Carolina
Jeffrey Johnson has produced a thorough, vigorous, and impressive interaction with covenant theology as it is used in support of infant baptism. He has given detailed analysis of each part of the system, approved what was biblically warranted, challenged what is indefensibly contrived and offered compelling alternatives to each part of the system that he has challenged. He has not left it at that point but has offered an alternate interpretation of the relationship between the covenants.
— Dr. Thomas J. Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
I add my own voice to those of these men, and I would recommend the book not only for its excellent handling of the debate concerning baptism but also as a good introduction to a Baptist understanding of Covenant Theology.
A Good Deal on the Book
In addition, I want to let you know about a special offer from Richbarry Press. The book normally sells for $16-18, but it is available from Richbarry Press for just $10.00 plus postage. Just contact:
Richbarry Press, c/o Dr. Richard P. Belcher, 105 River Wood Drive, Fort Mill, SC.
Or call 803-396-7962
Or email email@example.com
26 thoughts on “The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism”
Good review. However, the Richbarry Press web site does not seem to list the book.
I am not sure why it isn't yet listed on the website, but Dr. Belcher has assured me that the book is available if you use the contact information I have provided.
I agree that this is the fatal flaw. I have not read Fred Malone's book, but does he agree? I feel this is an issue that we need to get together and agree on. Waldron's Exposition of the confession, for example, rejects this idea.
This issue is also precisely what is currently being debated amongst paedobaptists at the moment. See point #1 in the conclusion here: http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=199
I took advantage of the offer and ordered a copy. Thanks!
Do you have any copyright info on this work? I've had a few people ask me if this is new, which I assume it is, but I can't find ANY publishing info anywhere.
Thanks in advance.
I apologize for not responding sooner. It has been a while since I read Malone's Baptism of Disciples Alone, but I don't recall his putting the stress on the Mosaic Covenant being a republication of the Covenant of Works. As I recall, the primary focus of his argument was that the Mosaic Covenant was a breakable covenant that includes believers together with unbelievers, whereas the New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant that includes believers only.
Essentially, Malone argues that the big problem with Paedobaptist Covenant Theology is that it treats the New Covenant like the Old Covenant in precisely the way that God said they would be different, in that they treat the New Covenant as a breakable covenant that includes unbelievers as well as believers.
Hope this helps, brother!
I will try to go back and read Waldron's treatment of the Confession. Thanks for the input!
I apologize for not responding sooner.
Yes, The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism by Jeffrey D. Johnson is a new book that just came out this year. Thus the copyright notice is dated 2010. The publishers is Free Grace Press, and the web-page for the book may be found here:
God bless you, brother!
I looked yesterday and could not find The Fatal Flaw on the Richbarry Press website.
I also wanted to note that earlier today I posted an interview with Jeffrey Johnson on my blog here: http://onepilgrimsprogress.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/interview-with-jeffrey-d-johnson-author-of-the-fatal-flaw-of-the-theology-behind-infant-baptism/
Lord willing, I will post a review shortly.
I am not sure why it still isn't listed on the website, but Dr. Belcher has assured me that the book is available if you use the contact information I have provided.
I have read Dr. Malone's work, and still do not understand why anyone would consider it to be good. I have read very few works that are that terrible, whether considered mechanically (spelling, grammar, punctuation) or on the merits of its arguments. I found Kingdon's much briefer work to be far better, though still unconvincing.
I have both this work and Dr. Crampton's renunciation of paedobaptism on order at the moment. I am impressed that he distinguishes between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, instead of broad-brush identifying everything as “Old Covenant.” I look forward to reading it.
Well, be prepared for a number of typos and misspellings in Johnson's book as well. For example, he pretty consistently misspells Robert Reymond's last name as 'Raymond' (including in the bibliography). The work definitely needs some editing, but I still highly recommend it due to its content.
I obviously disagree with your take on Malone's work, but we can agree to disagree, right? Would I be correct to assume you are a paedobaptist yourself?
Yep, of the RPCNA variety. I was raised a Baptist/baptistic for most of my life, but came to paedobaptism when I came to Reformed principles of theology, church government and worship. My wife is a Reformed Baptist, as are many of my closest friends; so it's not like I'm unfamiliar with the position.
I consider it to be a poor argument (or theological cowardice) to attempt to argue from the differences between paedobaptists, and especially where individual paedos “give up” the argument on a certain principle or text, against paedobaptism itself. Since that was one of the most convincing things for Malone to switch sides (again), as embodied in Watson's “Should Babies Be Baptized?” I can't really take him too seriously. I read his book, along with Kingdon and Jewett, during my month of training in Louisiana last August. — Additionally, my wife (who was raised under Al Martin's preaching) was quite incredulous and thought Malone committed intellectual/theological suicide when he argued for women taking the Lord's Supper from Exodus 12. He also speaks of some of his own nuanced views (like circumcision being a type of regeneration, or professing children receiving baptism) as though they were the views or positions of all Reformed Baptists, which is manifestly not the case.
Why can't books wait for better editorial work before publication? Is it really that important to “get the info out there,” if it looks like it was dashed off in a hurry, or like the first draft paper of a high school student?
Admittedly I haven't read Malone's book. Does it differ much if at all from his “String of Pearls Unstrung” that is on the Founders website?
Overall I haven't done a lot of reading on this subject since around mid 2008 when I returned to baptistic convictions after having been a Presbyterian for a number of years prior to that.
Due to a number of factors I still haven't finished reading “The Fatal Flaw” yet and am interested to see how Jeffrey unfolds his thesis.
I would say that even if one doesn't agree with everything in the book, one virtue of it is that he interacts at some length with recent scholarship, some more orthodox, some less so (including the FV.) I've found that many Baptists who would consider themselves Reformed to one degree or another have no familiarity with either the FV or the NPP. He also delves pretty deeply into the various schools of thought within the paedo ranks instead of just strawmanning them all into one or two camps the way some Baptists do.
I'm not aware of any paedobaptist who argues from the Mosaic covenant to make his case for the practice and I can't recall any anti-paedo literature arguing on that basis either. I am pretty sure that Jewett as well as Alan Conner, just to name a few, argue their case against paedobaptism by showing how the New Covenant is administered differently than the Abrahamic covenant. Now, most baptistic theologians do charge that paedos read the NT into the OT when it comes to the national aspects of circumcision, but that's not the same as failing to distinguish the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants.
Sean, where were you in Louisiana? Ft. Polk? I grew up about an hour from there.
Malone's “Baptism of Disciples Alone” is basically a more in-depth treatment of the subject, along many of the same lines as “String of Pearls Unstrung” (I had read that one years ago). He devotes a lot more attention to the regulative principle and the nature of the covenant (examining primarily Jeremiah 31/Hebrews 8), with some summary examination of the paedo proof texts.
I do not know of anyone who, in addressing the subject of infant baptism, has written more and said less.
I've read a good bit on the subject, and have developed a few arguments/questions concerning infant baptism that I still haven't had answered from the Baptist side.
I know that John Flavel addressed the relationship of the covenant of grace with both the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant, considered distinctly from each other, in his “Vindiciae Legis et Foederis,” in Volume 6 of his Works, or available here in html (http://www.covenanter.org/Baptism/flavelbaptism.html).
Yep, I was down at Polk for pre-deployment training. I'm currently in Afghanistan, so it's good to have something like this to occupy my time. 🙂
Sean said: “I've read a good bit on the subject, and have developed a few arguments/questions concerning infant baptism that I still haven't had answered from the Baptist side.”
I would be very interested in hearing these arguments/questions. After having gotten my M.Div.from a Presbyterian seminary (Covenant, where I indulged in numerous debates and discussions on the issue) and having read several books defending paedobaptism, I thought I had pretty much heard it all. But I am certainly curious to hear any new arguments or questions.
It's just a couple thoughts, largely undeveloped or underdeveloped… but,
1. The principle of God establishing covenants with “covenanters and their seed” is not a type or shadow of the Old Testament. This is manifest because the principle existed previously under the Covenant of Works (Adam and his seed) and the Covenant of Redemption (Christ and His seed, the elect). These covenants existed prior to the fall into sin and the subsequent redemption promised in the Covenant of Grace, and therefore before all types and shadows (since types and shadows are, in fact, types and shadows of redemption in the OT dispensation of the Covenant of Grace); and therefore the principle cannot be a type or shadow. — The argument is similar to that which we usually set forth in defense of the perpetuity of the Sabbath: since the Sabbath was given in Gen. 2:2, 3, before the fall, it was before all types of redemption (because before redemption itself), and therefore cannot itself be a type.
2. Circumcision could not have been a seal of the land promise, or a way of identifying the people through whom Messiah would come, because of the proselytes who were also circumcised, along with their children (Exod. 12:48). The proselytes never received the land with the citizens of the nation of Israel, and Messiah did not come through their line (with the exception of certain women mentioned, such as Rahab and Ruth). Circumcision was therefore not a national seal, but an ecclesiastical one, receiving individuals into the church of God under the Old Testament.
3. The circumcision of the infant children of proselytes tends to argue for the rite of circumcision not being administered merely because of remote descent from Abraham, but for the personal faith/piety of the immediate parent(s). The Reformed Baptist argument generally sees Abraham as the one with whom the covenant was made, with succeeding generations simply falling under his covenant. But whereas one could argue that Israelites “to a thousand generations” would still be the physical seed of Abraham, and that proselytes were the spiritual seed of Abraham, the infant seed of proselytes were neither the physical nor the spiritual seed of Abraham, and yet were still circumcised — not in virtue of their remote descent from Abraham, but in virtue of their immediate descent from believing parents. Since this was manifestly the ground on which they were circumcised, I argue that this must have been the universal ground on which circumcision was to be administered, since the same law in this regard applied to the native Israelite as to the strangers or proselytes (Exod. 12:49).
4. All of this points to the fact that faith, repentance, and a life led in obedience to the commandments of God, was required of all “communicant members” of the church under the Old Testament. The idea that adult membership in the Old Testament was based solely upon physical descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is both incredible (as that God would make provision for such wickedness in his church under any dispensation), and directly contrary to many statements in Holy Scripture, particularly in the Psalms. When I wrote a defense of paedobaptism from the Psalter upon the baptism of my daughter, I gave special attention to this point, which may be read here: http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=753985011#!/note.php?note_id=201954494149. (If you can't read it without adding me as a friend, I would be happy to add you.) As I said in the conclusion, this argues both for the strong continuity in the church of God through both Testaments, as making the same requirements of adult members, as well as against the idea that declarations in the New Testament of church members being believers, saints, regenerate, etc. argues against the church membership of their infant children in this dispensation (since the same requirements under the previous dispensation certainly did not rule out the church membership of believers' children).
5. I question the interpretation usually offered by Reformed Baptists of Jeremiah 31:31-34/Hebrews 8:6-13, on the basis of Jeremiah 24:7: “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.” The fulfillment of this prophecy occurred after the seventy years' captivity (verse 6), and therefore is not being spoken of the time of the New Testament, but of the Old. It therefore cannot be understood as excluding the infant children of believers from membership in the church, since this was still a standing ordinance of God at that time; so neither can Jeremiah 31/Hebrews 8 be understood in such a regard.
Sean, I don't have time today, but tomorrow I should be able to post a response to the five arguments you have offered here. Please stay tuned in.
Does anyone know if Gary Crampton takes the same view of the Mosaic Covenant in his new book on infant baptism? Thanks.
I just received Johnson's book today, and cannot say that I am as impressed as others seem to be, particularly in the light of some of the objections I have raised.
1. Not one of the texts I have cited (Exod. 12:48, 49; Jer. 24:7), nor any of the texts that would particularly have bearing on the first point I raised (Ps. 89:19-37; Isa. 53:10; Heb. 2:10, 13, 14), are listed in his Scripture index.
2. The case of the proselytes under the Old Testament, as Gentile believers received into the church (not nation) of Israel, does not seem to be even alluded to. This is quite the oversight, as he is attempting to demonstrate the non-spiritual, non-ecclesiastical, unbelieving character of the people of God under the Old Testament.
3. He engages in the long-standing practice of Baptists which I have frequently called “theological cowardice,” in quoting or citing from Paedobaptists who simply give up the argument on various principles or texts; indeed, he approvingly refers to Booth's “Paedobaptism Examined” — a multi-volume work consisting of little more than “the Principles, Concessions, and Reasonings of the Most Learned Paedobaptists,” as indicated in the full title — as one of several “excellent books” (p. 20), along with Malone's “Baptism of Disciples Alone,” on which I already observed the same thing.
4. In Chapter 2, “The Analogy between Baptism and Circumcision,” he contradicts himself in attempting to set forth the ways in which circumcision differs from baptism. (1.) His first two points are “1. Male Exclusivity” and “2. Jewish Citizenship” (p. 36), yet he does not attempt to explain how women were citizens of the nation of Israel without circumcision. (2.) He claims it to be a sign of “2. Jewish Citizenship;” yet in the very next point, “3. Unbelieving Adults” (p. 37), he brings to our attention the fact that Abraham received circumcision (prior to the nation or citizenship of Israel or the Jews), and that his Gentile servants (whom he assumes were unbelievers) were also circumcised. (3.) He sums up what he has attempted to argue (merely asserted) in the preceding points in “5. Not Identical in Meaning” (p. 38), which hardly warrants identifying it as a separate point; and merely begs the question in “6. Different Participants” (p. 40).
5. In light of this, it seems that he fails to distinguish between the church and nation of Israel, which I consider to be quite basic to even a casual reading of the Old Testament, and which is defended at length in Gillespie's magnum opus, “Aaron's Rod Blossoming.”
6. I was not terribly impressed with the bibliography. Especially in a day and age with entire libraries online at sites like Google Books and the Internet Archive, the list of Paedobaptist works he consulted was especially paltry. Numerous Puritans dealt extensively with the question of the relation between the law and the gospel, the relationship between the covenants, etc.; yet I could find no more than three or four names of Puritans listed in his six pages of Bibliography. — Burgess' treatment is especially helpful, as are Flavel's works on paedobaptism, “Vindiciae Legis et Foederis” (in Vol. 6 of his Works) and “Vindiciarum Vindex” (in Vol. 3).
7. As an aside, I would distance myself from the statements of Dabney which he critiqued in footnote 13 of Chapter 1, pp. 28, 29. Although I hold to the unlawfulness of musical instruments in public worship under the New Testament, I obviously disagree with his assessment of the identity of church and nation under the Old Testament. Ironically enough, Girardeau, whose work Dabney was favorably reviewing, explicitly maintained this same distinction in his work, referring favorably to Gillespie, and presenting nine distinct arguments for the distinction between church and state in Old Testament Israel (“Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church,” pp. 34-37).
Just some of my initial thoughts. I hope to hear from you (or anyone, for that matter) on the initial points I raised before.
Sean, I am humbled that Presbyterians would be willing to read my book and give it a hearing. I have always been a Baptist, but in many ways, I have learned more from the writings of Presbyterians than from any other source. As I said in the preface of my book, I am indebted to them. In addition, I have many good Presbyterian friends that have been a great blessing to me over the years. For this reason, I did not write this book to be divisive or bring any hostility between Baptists and Presbyterians. My main objective was to help Baptists who are honestly struggling over the issue.
1. Concerning your first criticism, not citing Exod. 12:48, 49; Jer. 24:7, could be a valid point. If there is a future edition, these verses may need to be addressed.
2. I don’t fully understand your second criticism. The book does refer to Gentile proselytes in the Old Testament. But, it seems like you’re saying that I did not leave any room for a spiritual and an ecclesiastical element in the Old Covenant, which is not the case at all.
3. Charging me with “theological cowardice” is an easy charge to make, but very hard to prove. I can honestly say that I did my best not to build any straw-man arguments. I attempted to address the strongest arguments (from the most prominent Presbyterian writers) that were germane to the subject.
4. Your fourth criticism is at best only partially valid. I may not have addressed how women could be citizens of the nation of Israel without circumcision, but this does not negate the overall point of chapter 2— that infant baptism and infant circumcision are not identical in their recipients. I admitted that there were some similarities between circumcision and baptism, but again similarities do not equate to perfect continuity between the Old and New Testament signs.
5. Your fifth criticism is not valid at all. I do distinguish, throughout the book, between the elect (spiritual Israel) and the unbelieving Israelites in the Old Testament. Again, my case against infant baptism is not based upon the idea that Old Testament Israel was only and strictly a physical, national, and unbelieving people.
6. Concerning you not being impressed with the bibliography, I will humbly admit that my book is not perfect, exhaustive, nor the last word upon the subject.
Now concerning your arguments for infant baptism:
1. In chapter 16, I explain why the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants all included the physical seed while the New Covenant does not. In short, it is not based so much upon typology, as it is the fact that Jesus Christ is the Federal Head of the New Covenant and He had no physical children. All these other Federal Heads did. (however, chapter 16 is more complex than this)
2. You made a huge jump from saying that circumcision could not have been a seal of the land of promise (based upon the circumcision of Gentile proselytes), to conclude that circumcision had no national significance at all. I do not know of any Presbyterian who would argue that circumcision was completely unrelated to any national significance, and that circumcision was strictly and only an ecclesiastical sign (Among other things, you would have to prove that church and state were completely separate in the Old Testament).
3. For your third argument to have any validity you would need (among other things) to prove that Moses had some reason to believe that the Israelites in the wilderness were believers prior to commanding them and their children to be circumcised. But, by Moses’ own testimony, he claimed that they had always been an unbelieving people. Thus it appears Moses knew before hand that the bulk of these Israelites where faithless, yet he still had them circumcised. If this is the case, it does not appear that faith was a prerequisite for adult circumcision, nor a believing parent(s) needed for infant circumcision.
4. I would agree that God commanded Israel to believe, repent, and live a life of obedience, but this does not negate the fact that believing parent(s) were not a prerequisite for infant circumcision. Furthermore, you would need to prove that personal unbelief in the parents disqualified them from having their children circumcised.
5. I disagree that Jeremiah 31:31-34 was fulfilled in the Old Testament. For two reasons, (1.) after their captivity, Israel did not turn back to God with “their whole heart.” This is evident by the prophesy of Malachi in chapter 3, verse 7, and in Stephen’s sermon recorded in Acts 7, where he claimed that Israel had always been marked by wickedness, see verses 51-53. As a whole, Israel was just as stubborn the years after their return from captivity as they where prior to going into captivity. (2) Because Hebrews 8:6-13 speaks of this not being fulfilled until the Old Covenant has passed away with the establishment of the New Covenant.
I apologize for not responding sooner. I haven't been paying much attention to the blog of late. There have been some pastoral concerns that have altered my schedule and needed my attention, and of course these responsibilities are my higher priority. But I can take some time this afternoon to respond.
I see that Jeffrey Johnson has already written a response both to your arguments and to your criticisms of his book. I will leave him to defend his book, then, and just give my own responses to your arguments for paedobaptism. I will list your arguments followed by mt own responses.
Response to Sean's First Argument: If am understanding you correctly, your basic point is that the Covenant of Grace follows the Fall and is made in response to the Fall and therefore that a principle in any covenant prior to the fall cannot function as a type of some aspect of the Covenant of Grace. This seems to be the point of your emphasizing that, for example, the covenant with Adam existed “before all types and shadows.” This emphasis is made in an attempt to demonstrate that the principle of “establishing covenants with 'covenanters and their seed' is not a type or shadow” pointing to some aspect of the Covenant of Grace or the New Covenant. Again, if I have correctly understood you, then I have to say that I see several problems with your thinking here:
First, it appears to me beyond debate that Adam himself, serving as representative covenant head, functioned as a type of Christ as our representative covenant head and Redeemer. Paul indicates this clearly in his epistle to the Romans, where he says, for example, that “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Rom. 5:14-15). But in this passage Christ is spoken of as our Savior from sin, isn't he? So Adam could and did function as a type of “the subsequent redemption promised in the Covenant of Grace,” didn't he? I certainly think so, and I think this shows that there could be such types before the Fall.
Second, even though the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Redemption existed before the Fall, they both existed in contemplation of the Fall, for why else would a Covenant of Redemption be necessary? And how else could Adam serve as a type of our redeemer, Jesus Christ? I raise this matter simply to point out that your whole argument seems to be based upon a misconception of the true nature of these covenants in the unfolding plan of redemption. And I think it ignores what the New Testament clearly reveals about the nature of these covenants and the way in which types really can and do function in God's plan of redemption.
Third, I am thus moved to ask you why types and shadows can't be ordained from before the foundation of the world with the Fall and subsequent redemption in Christ already in mind? On what basis do you make such a restriction as you are making here? It seems to me that you are relying on pure conjecture, which hardly amounts to a solid argument and, as I have pointed out, ignores some key New Testament evidence.
Fourth, I would also observe that I don't see what direct bearing the issue of typology even has upon the subject at hand anyway.
Response to Sean's Second Argument: First, I don't understand why you think Exodus 12:48 helps your case at all, since this verse clearly states that “when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it” (italics mine). It looks to me like the Lord is talking about people who are already living with the Israelites in whatever land they themselves are in and that they therefore already possess land themselves. What God is saying here is that they should be viewed as such in the same way as an Israelite would be viewed. How, then, does this verse in any way indicate that their receiving circumcision has nothing to do with their right to live in the land as part of national Israel as you suppose? It seems to me like it indicates the opposite.
Second, I am equally perplexed about your assertion that “circumcision was therefore not a national seal, but an ecclesiastical one.” Again, it seems to me that Exodus 12:48 militates against this idea rather than for it. I see no “ecclesiastical” versus “national” distinction made here by the Lord. He simply speaks of being regarded as “as a native of the land” or not.
Response to Sean's Third Argument: First, I would agree that when God says, “when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD” (Exod. 12:48, italics mine), He appears to be viewing such a person as a believer. However, I question your premise that therefore faith was “the universal ground on which circumcision was to be administered,” for in the next line God says, “let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it.” But nothing is said about faith in any of these males, among whom would be included even grown slaves and any male children they had irrespective of their own faith or lack thereof, as was the case for Abraham (Gen. 17:12-13; 23) and the Israelites (Exod. 12:44). How, then, could faith be the universal ground for circumcision, when many males would be circumcised irrespective of faith?
Second, if you want to argue from this passage that infant baptism should be practiced in a manner analogous to that of circumcision, would you also say that any anyone living in a believer’s home, even adults sons and daughters and their children, must also be baptized irrespective of their own faith? If not, then on what basis do you decide which aspects of the circumcision laws are binding now and which are not?
Response to Sean's Fourth Argument: I think this argument misses the point. No one disagrees that the people of Israel were expected to trust and obey the Lord. The issue is what was the basis for their having been considered a part of Israel in the first place and thus required to be circumcised. You have been trying to make the case that it was faith in the parents that formed the basis for their inclusion in Israel and for the circumcision of infant males, but you haven't demonstrated this. You apparently assume that people were considered a part of the covenant people of Israel only if they believed, but it appears to me that the reverse was true, namely that they were expected to believe because they were a part of the covenant people of Israel, and this because they were descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Response to Sean's Fifth Argument: I think you have misinterpreted this key text because you have not paid close enough attention to either the Old Testament context or to the way in which the New Testament itself interprets the text.
First, why not assume that the promise in Jeremiah 31:31-34 is further illuminating the promise previously made in 24:7, in which case 24:7 clearly would not have been fulfilled immediately following the return from captivity since the new covenant was not inaugurated at that time.
Second, the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34 was not fulfilled until the time of Christ, who Himself inaugurated the New Covenant (See, for example, Matt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 3:5-6; Heb. 8:7-13; Heb. 9:14-15; Heb. 12:22-24). It is astounding to me that you simply and completely ignore this New Testament interpretation of the Old Testament, and it is probably the major problem with your whole position.
Well, together with Jeffrey Johnson's points, I think you have been sufficiently answered.
I just finished this book and cannot begin to say how thankful to God I am for having done so. I underlined about every third line as the Lord continued to reveal to me the Truth about His covenants of grace and works and how they were manifested throughout history. This has been MOST helpful to me and caused my soul to rejoice multiple times – for faithful men who have taught me reformed theology and attending deep things of God.
I am going to ask my elders to carry this book in our bookstore and likely buy a copy for my adult son.
With much joy and thanks to our Lord Jesus – the keeper and maker of covenants.