Monday, October 21, 2013

Baptist Distinctives (The Introduction)

After reading Pascal Denault's The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between 17th Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism, I decided to collect my thoughts and make some chapter-by-chapter observations here.  Overall, I recommend the book, but the grammarian in me cringes at that statement; this book (translated from French) could use a good English editor.

First, let's start with the Introduction, which explicitly states Mr. Denault's hypothesis:
"We propose that covenant theology is that distinctive between Baptists and paedobaptists and that all the divergences that exist between them, both theological and practical, including baptism, stem from their different ways of understanding the biblical covenants.  Baptism is, therefore, not the point of origin but the outcome of the differences between paedobaptists and credobaptists."
Mr. Denault uses two main source documents in his assessment: The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689.  He also identifies the main theologians on both sides of the debate; the paedobaptists:  William Ames, John Ball, Peter Bulkeley, Thomas Blake, Herman Witsius, Samuel Petto, and Francis Turretin; and the Baptists:  John Spilsbury, Henry Lawrence, Thomas Patient, John Bunyan, Edward Hutchinson, Nehemiah Coxe, Thomas Grantham, and Benjamin Keach.  Even though John Owen was a paedobaptist theologian, Mr. Denault references his works in support of Baptist theology; and therefore, refers to him as John (the Baptist) Owen.

In a very simplified way, this debate is between the Presbyterian belief that the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are one covenant under two administrations and the Baptist belief that the Old Covenant and New Covenant are two distinct covenants; and therefore, differ not only in substance, but also in the manner of administration.