1689 Confession, Particular Baptists & the Substance/Administration Distinction – Sam Renihan

A very important post from the Particular Voices in which Sam Renihan begins:

Given recent interaction in a variety of places related to http://www.1689federalism.com/ in general, and the video on “20th century Reformed Baptists” in particular, I thought that it would be helpful to provide some data and reflections for those interested.

Here is the video:


Given the preface of the confession which declares that wherever there is agreement the same words will be used, we have to realize that if the editors of the London Baptist Confession wanted to confess WCF 7, they would have done so. Instead we see heavy changes. Now, what is the nature of these changes? This is not like the covenant of works in the confession. The covenant of works may have its name erased in chapter 7 and a few other places, but all of its parts are taught and the category itself is used throughout the confession. So in the case of the covenant of works, the LBCF does not deviate from the Westminster doctrine at all. But, in the case of the way that it treats the covenant of grace it most definitely departs from the Westminster Confession. Is the substance and administration setup taught elsewhere in the confession? No, it isn’t. So when you see an edit like that, it would indicate that the Baptists are at least declining to confess the Westminster model (one substance/two administrations) and perhaps rejecting that model.


This should lead us to say, “well, what do their writings demonstrate, following the WCF model or departing from it?” This blog has been largely dedicated to showing that the majority of Particular Baptists self-consciously rejected the “one substance/two administrations” model. However, Particular Baptist federal theology was not monolithic. Not all Particular Baptists agreed on all points, nor was federal theology articulated in monolithic ways (on either side of the debate). So, do not conclude that the Particular Baptists rejected the ideas of “the substance of the covenant” or the “administration of the covenant.” What the majority of them rejected was that the old and new covenants were simply “administrations” of the one covenant of grace. In a nutshell, because the new covenant was established on “better promises” the old and new could not be the same covenant. Nevertheless, there were Particular Baptists who adopted the WCF model, in a sense…

And one very important conclusions from this blog (that is highlighted on the blog):

It is probable that while the confession positively supports that notion (that the old and new differ in substance), it also remains broad enough to accommodate some of the variety within Particular Baptist federal thought.

Read the rest or listen to 13 minute readout (note that the readout doesn’t read the pictures on the site).

For more, check out the following podcast interview:


Update Aug. 18, 2014Part 2

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