Things I’ve Learned

That the Covenant of Grace is both conditional and unconditional.

You know how Lutherans have to confuse the natures of Christ in order to get ubiquity? The Presbyterians have to say that the Covenant of Grace was made with the elect and their children–some of which are not elect.

On the other hand, now I get the whole paedo communion impulse. They offer them the sacrament of baptism but not communion? They’re back to the old halfway covenant (I ought to brush up on the halfway covenant so I can see if they really are).

* * *
I still hear McLachlan when he baptized: “In keeping with the command of the NT that all believers should be baptized . . .” It is like that one time we practiced excommunication at Providence, you can preach and teach all about these things but it really sticks with people when it is just carried out in the right circumstances.

I actually think the Presbyterians would not deny that identification with Christ is part of the meaning of Baptism, but not the main and defining meaning. I think it will have repercussions for how they handle symbols of any kind, but we’ll see. My next question is: Is identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection an important meaning of Baptism and where does it appear in paedobaptism?

My first question was whether the Covenant of Grace were conditional or unconditional. Why that matters here is that faith is not a real condition for Calvinists: Christ gives faith to the elect, and many will simply say he purchases it effectively for everyone for whom he died. So the answer I got from two ordained ministers in the OPC to that first question was yes and no. Or yes to both conditional and unconditional.

My second question was to know whom the covenant is made with. The answer is their definition of the church: believers and their children.

I agree that the children of believers enjoy privileges others do not, and that these are great and powerful means that God can use to convert them, but I don’t know about the theological implications of making the Covenant of Grace the mechanism under which those benefits come. Or, as if an unbaptized child of believing parents attending the same church would get less.

I started reading Greg Nichols’ book on Covenant Theology and gave up on it, rather obsessed with whether the Covenant of Grace could be conditional it seemed to me at the time. Now I’m ready for more of that.


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