Interview #3: Pascal Denault – The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology (2 Of 2) + Book Giveaway

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On episode three of our podcast, we finish up our two part interview with Pascal Denault on his new book The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism.

After that, we talk about the book then some Reformed Baptist headlines and give you a preview of next week’s episode featuring Richard Barcellos on his newest book Better Than The Beginning: Creation In Biblical Perspective.

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Giveaway:

Congrats to David T., Sam B., and Aaron M. for winning last week’s podcast giveaway. 

The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology

esv study bible

This week we are giving away two of Pascal Denault’s The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology and a new ESV Study Bible (TruTone, Classic Black).

Books & Sites Mentioned:

Headlines Mentioned:

Post-Interview Music:

“Thy Mercy, My God” [music: Sandra McCracken | words: John Stocker]

69 Replies to “Interview #3: Pascal Denault – The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology (2 Of 2) + Book Giveaway”

  1. Great podcast, thanks guys!

    Regarding paradigm shifting view of the Abrahamic Covenant, hear what Owen said:

    “When we speak of the “new covenant,” we do not intend the covenant of grace absolutely, as though it were not before in existence and effect, before the introduction of that which is promised here. For it was always the same, substantially, from the beginning. It passed through the whole dispensation of times before the law, and under the law, of the same nature and effectiveness, unalterable, “everlasting, ordered in all things, and sure.” All who contend about these things, the Socinians only excepted, grant that the covenant of grace, considered absolutely, — that is, the promise of grace in and by Jesus Christ, —was the only way and means of salvation to the church, from the first entrance of sin.

    But for two reasons, it is not expressly called a covenant, without respect to any other things, nor was it called a covenant under the old testament. When God renewed the promise of it to Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but this covenant with Abraham was with respect to other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely, under the old testament, the covenant of grace consisted only in a promise; and as such only is proposed in the Scripture,

    -Exposition of Hebrews 8:6″

    So Owen was clear that the Abrahamic Covenant was not the Covenant of Grace – pretty radical for a paedobaptist.

    Also, look out for a new website coming out in a few months dedicated to “particular baptist covenant theology”.

  2. The podcast was very informative; I got Pascal’s book, and I should have time to read it soon. There was one error though in the announcement section since Pastor Mike Abendroth of No Compromise Radio is actually dispensational not a reformed baptist, although he does accept the doctrines of grace and is friends with Carl Trueman and James White as is made apparent by their sermons preached at his church and their appearances on No Compromise Radio.

      1. Hi Jason. If you look closely, the Statement of Faith you link to says the “1689” is “Edited and abridged by Bethlehem Bible Church.” If you then look at the Eschatology section, you will see a pre-trib premill view that is a usual hallmark of dispensationalism. Also, because he is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary, it is likely that he is dispensational, like John MacArthur. I sat under the teaching of a graduate of The Master’s Seminary a while back and he too was dispensational, although he called it a modified dispensationalism that I think has been called “progressive dispensationalism.” To be clear, I do not know Pastor Abendroth and have not heard his teaching. I am merely making conclusions based on his seminary background and the Statement of Faith you linked to.

        1. Oh wow, didn’t notice that about his “version” of the 1689… I understand if a church ha one or two phrases they may take exception with, but taking out entire chapters! Thanks for the FYI @google-e14b27ac91f34fa1821776cc65f3c3ed:disqus & @facebook-100001655973424:disqus, I stand corrected.

  3. Great interview! As someone who is somewhat new to Covenant Theology and is interested in the Baptist variety, and as someone who needs alot of study in church history, this book is much needed. Thanks so much for calling attention to it in such an interesting way!

  4. I have a question: are we to say that the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are necessary for any reckoning of a saving covenant relationship? If we say that old testament saints are saved by a promise of the Messiah and not the Messiah himself, isn’t that one step removed from the atoning blood itself? In what sense do OT saints take hold of the substance of the atoning work if they only access the type and shadow? Thanks

    1. Well, Jesus’ blood was shed in time and space, so all before that event look forward to the actual substance or anti-type, which was Christ. They are still saved BY CHRIST, but they looked forward to the promise being fulfilled, we look back to the promised being fulfilled.

      “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:9; Romans 4:22; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23; Genesis 15:6

    2. Hi Dennis, the distinction is not between promise and Messiah. The distinction is between promise and covenant. Old testament saints were saved by the Messiah himself through the power of the promise, which was not yet inaugurated as a formal covenant.

      1. HI Brandon, I’d like to hash out that distinction between promise and covenant a little more. Our confession says, “This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament.” I take this to mean the covenant is revealed in the promise given to Adam and is fully discovered (comes into full bloom, or fruition?) in the New Covenant. I think that word “full” in the confession indicates that there is a substantive covenant at work during the time of the OT saints, just that it was in seed form and doesn’t become fully recognizes until the blood is shed. I think the Renihan’s language of a “retroactive” application of Christ’s work is helpful. I also like to think of it as the OT saints being saved “on credit”, where in the NT, the saints are saved “on cold-hard cash.” In both cases, it’s still money, capable of purchasing real things. Likewise, the substance of the covenant is present in the Old (can we say that?) but it only becomes visible in the incarnation. Thoughts?

        1. Hi Dennis, have you had a chance to read the book yet? Or the Owen/Coxe volume? Those both go into depth answering your question. The seventeenth-century baptist position was that the new covenant is the covenant of grace, and it did not exist as a formal covenant in the old testament, but only as a promise. It had the power to save (thus I suppose you could say the substance existed in the promise), but it was not a formal covenant until Christ’s death. This position is fully compatible with what you read in the Renihan’s paper.

  5. Lots of things to digest. Paradigm shift? Maybe once I can sort everything out :) Though I probably need to read the book first since I’m a much better visual learner than audio learner.

  6. y’all should read the Coxe/Owen book, if you haven’t. In 50 years from now, someone will write that it was that book that really helped covenantal Baptists begin to get in touch with their theological roots.

  7. In the exchange between Brandon and Dennis, that subject in other words, it seems to me if one acknowledges the foundational Covenant of Redemption then you can see how the Covenant of Grace is a real, set if you will, covenant. It is the Covenant of Redemption playing out in history. Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. We don’t have to wring our hands over whether it is mere promise at first then consummated covenant, etc. I also think it is off-the-mark to call the New Covenant the Covenant of Grace. It is obviously part of the Covenant of Grace played out in historical time, but it is off-the-mark to call it starkly the Covenant of Grace. It bothers me that I am not hearing the Covenant of Redemption mentioned. Errors are fallen into when the Covenant of Redemption is forgotten or denied.

      1. This page get at exactly what I’m driving at:

        http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/faq/slainfounda.html

        I’ve already read paedo-baptists claiming “discontinuity” on this point of the New Covenant actually being the Covenant of Grace. This opens up a breach for the bad doctrine to criticize and live on. The Covenant of Redemption, Works, and Grace are not at the same level as the other covenants. They are the over-arching and foundational structure of the Plan of God. And not necessary.

        1. That last sentence meant to say it is not necessary to identify the Covenant of Grace solely and starkly with the New Covenant in time. It’s already identified with it in the foundational and over-arching way that the Covenant of Redemption itself makes it identified with it.

  8. I don’t think my objection was answered. When we starkly label the New Covenant as the Covenant of Grace we give the lawyers (not theologians, mind you, but scripture lawyers) a breach to exploit, and it’s just off-the-mark anyway. Look at this exchange between Brandon Adams and a staunch paedo-baptist (Rev. Winzer) at the Puritanboard:

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f31/how-many-reformed-understandings-covenant-grace-there-78854/index3.html#post999456

    I believe Owen is correct in that quote. Then look how Winzer zooms right in on this stark identification of the New Covenant with the Covenant of Grace. Winzer sees the weakness is *there.* It doesn’t win the battle or the war for him (and he knows that), but it staves off the current onrush. Read posts #106 and 107.

    By the way, note to the paedo-baptists: when you are confident in your views you are eager to talk about and argue and explain them. You’re cheery about it. It’s actually fun. Truth is fun. When you are not confident in your views you are back on your heels and constantly ticked off and ultimately you resort to power moves to shut down your opposition. I know Brandon’s had at least one comment deleted by the moderators over there at the Puritanboard.

      1. When you identify the Covenant of Grace starkly with the New Covenant can you tell me how the biblical verse “slain from the foundation of the world” does not suggest that the Bible is giving us warrant to assume the death on the cross prior to its actual occurence in history for Old Testament saints purposes.

        I just think it’s unnecessary to make this insistence that the Covenant of Grace and the New Covenant are the exact same thing. I have understanding of this material, of classical covenant – federal – theology, I’m not paedo-baptist, and I see where the paedo-baptists have gummed it all up to make Covenant Theology the servant of their demand for infant baptism, and I just think you guys are being off-the-mark in this one point, and that it’s unnecessary anyway.

        1. Thanks for clarifying. I would encourage you to read the paper from Sam & Micah Renihan that I linked to, as well as this book from Denault. Have you read both?

          Personally, I think it’s “necessary” because it’s biblical.

          1. I’ve read both. Thanks, by the way, for bringing things like that
            Renihan paper to all our attention. I said it seemed on-the-mark to me after I read it. I just think that when the Bible says Jesus was slain from before the foundation of the world it is saying the Covenant of Grace is above time as well as being played out in history and as truly a reality for Old Testament saints as it is for us. But that is the nature of the Covenant of Redemption itself. If I’m missing something I’ll stand corrected. I’ll read the Renihan paper again for this subject in particular. Thanks.

          2. That the covenant of grace was an historically realized/established covenant in the Old Testament does not follow from the reality that Christ was the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. Before the foundation of the world means before time.

            I don’t follow what you are saying about the Covenant of Redemption. If you are agreeing that the nature of the CoR is the lamb slain from before the world, then what is your objection to the CoG being historically realized at a particular point in time? Sorry, I’m just not following what exactly your objection is. Maybe this quote from Owen addresses your question? http://www.puritanboard.com/f31/how-many-reformed-understandings-covenant-grace-there-78854/index3.html#post999703

          3. Howdy Shul, just as an aside, we have featured “other” types of Covenant Theology from Baptist (see link: http://confessingbaptist.com/tag/covenant-theology/ ) In all my study and in all these other resources I can’t ever remember hearing anyone arguing their point based on Christ being slain before the foundations of the world. Are you aware of any that maybe perhaps I have just missed? Thanks

          4. We’re all talking past each other, and it’s my fault. It’s difficult to speak of the Covenant of Grace and the New Covenant being the same thing while at the same time the Covenant of Grace being something that is like a scaffolding across history, an arc, if you will. Obviously the CofG and the New Covenant are the same thing, but it’s not so obvious as to identify the two in such stark terms as is being done by Pascal and the Renihans, et al.

            “…then what is your objection to the CoG being historically realized at a particular point in time?”

            I don’t have an objection to that at all. But you guys are saying more than that, it seems to me. What you are saying is causing paedo-paptists like Rev. Winzer to say you believe in discontinuity. I’m sayint the CofG was as real and *effected* so to speak for Old Testament saints as it is for us. Obviously we live after the fact of the death on the cross of Jesus, but the O.T. saints lived as if Jesus had been slain already too, from the foundation of the world.

          5. Thanks for trying to clarify Shul. Rev. Winzer is notoriously difficult to dialogue with – even other paedobaptists express great frustration. He is rather idiosyncratic and stubborn. Please do not use him as any kind of indicator of the validity or clarity of any particular view.

            Neither I, nor Denault, nor the 17th century baptists, nor the Renihans are denying that the CofG was “real and *effected* for OT saints”. What we are saying is that the CofG was not the Abrahamic Cov, the Mosaic Cov, the Davidic, nor the Noahic covenants. All of these were formally instituted/established in a ritual ceremony at a particular point in time. And none of those were the formal establishment/institution of the CofG. The power of the CofG reaches throughout all history. It dispenses justification, sanctification, and glorification throughout history. Yet it is not formally inaugurated/established/instituted as a covenant in history until Christ’s death. We say this because that is what we believe the book of Hebrews clearly teaches.

            And I would not describe the CofG as an arc. That lends itself more to the “one covenant two administration” view. I would describe it as a channel of power running underground, beneath the surface in the OT, bursting through the surface at the cross when it was finally displayed in all it’s glory and the previous covenants and their shadows and types are done away with.

          6. OK, that was very clear. I follow you in what you wrote. Can I ask just one thing? In that Jesus came to fulfill what Adam failed to fulfill – the Covenant of Works – and the Covenant on Sinai looks like the Covenant of Works republished in obviously elaborated form, then do you see that (the Mosaic Covenant) as being part of the Covenant of Grace at all? I.e. it is a covenant of works for Jesus, but it is part of the covenant of grace for us. Jesus was born under the law. And *national* Israel is a type for the coming Messiah. Pascal got into some of this language when he stated in that interview that national Israel had unique things to do in God’s plan of redemption like keep the bloodline pure for the birth of Jesus, and to actually be the very substance of the engrafted word of God (Israel’s history if the very subjects of the Bible itself), and to shepherd the word of God through history, etc. So in a real sense *National* Israel was as unique a player in God’s plan of Redemption as pre-fall Adam and as Jesus Christ Himself. Isn’t seeing things this way enough to separate those three covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic), in the way you see a need to, from the Covenant of Grace? *Individual* Israelites were fallen just like us and in need of faith in the coming Messiah just as we need to have faith in the already come Messiah, but *National* Israel is different (and this is what Paul is struggling to say in Romans, i.e. they, his fellow Jews, are just like everybody else regarding salvation, YET, they are different, so hold your criticism…Paul says in so many words).

            So, you can do away with that radical continuity between the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant that paedo-baptists have put forward to make Covenant Theology the servant of infant baptism by seeing the difference between *National* Israel (as type of the Messiah) and *individual* Israelites as fallen men and women and children just like everybody else after the fall.

          7. re: Mosaic = CoW for Jesus, see Petto’s book on covenant theology, and Michael Brown’s analysis of it (Christ and the Condition). See also Chapter 4 in “The Law is Not of Faith” (Personally, I have some more work to do in clarifying this issue in my own mind – I need to re-read what I have just recommended… I have thus far held that the Mosaic was limited to temporal life and death, thus I have a hard time understanding how it could offer eternal life upon obedience… but I just have to sort out some cobwebs)

            Yes, I agree with you that national Israel is different from individual Israelites. Pink does a good job of distinguishing the two and the relations to the Mosaic Covenant: http://contrast2.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/pink-on-moses-republication

            So, you can do away with that radical continuity between the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant that paedo-baptists have put forward to make Covenant Theology the servant of infant baptism by seeing the difference between *National* Israel (as type of the Messiah) and *individual* Israelites as fallen men and women and children just like everybody else after the fall.

            Yes, and I feel this is what we have already done. I don’t see your observation/suggestion as altering anything that has already been said. See Kline’s “Two Level Fulfillment” http://www.upper-register.com/papers/two_level_fulfillment.pdf

          8. Jason, all I can remember on that is the chapter, one of them, in Beeke’s A Puritan Theology where he (or Jones) brings up that verse from Revelation. I don’t remember the context. Here it is, this is from Chapter 18: “For Owen, the covenant of grace only formally becomes a covenant through the death of Christ (Heb. 9:15–23), although this sacrifice had been decreed from before the foundation of the world. As a result, the new covenant, promised in the Old Testament, is not the promise of grace, but the actual “formal nature of a covenant” through its establishment by the death of Christ.40 The new covenant, then, is the fulfillment of the covenant of grace, but also distinguishable from it by virtue of being a testament. Hebrews 8 has, therefore, special reference not to the covenant of grace, but to the new covenant specifically.41”

            Beeke, Joel R.; Jones, Mark (2012-10-14). A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Kindle Locations 11785-11791). . Kindle Edition.

            That passage doesn’t really speak to anything I was bringing up, except perhaps Owen saying “but also distinguishable from it” which anyway in some way gets at what I’m trying to say, that the CofG and the New Covenant shouldn’t be starkly called the exact same thing. But again, we are talking past each other because I can hear you thinking, but they are the same thing!, but I’m talking about it as if you would do away with the term *covenant of grace* and solely use *new covenant*. That’s what it sounds like you are saying. But again, even after writing that I can see how it would confuse the exchange even more. Basically I see the power of classical Covenant – Federal – Theology, and I don’t see that it needs much changing just to subtract the infant baptism and ‘two ways of being in the CofG’ ad hoc bad doctrine out of it.

          9. Have I ever said they are the same thing? I thought I made it pretty clear in these podcast that I don’t know and I don’t have a view that I can claim as my own as I, myself, am still studying this out, and Denault’s book just brought out alot of info that I had never considered.

            That said, I don’t think any Baptist wants to merely change Covenant Theology simply because they don’t want to baptize their natural offspring, but rather because of the exegesis of the Scriptures.

            Also, as far as the “discontinuity” comments from our paedo brothers,… we will never be able to satisfy them as long as we are not baptizing our babies, and that shouldn’t be a driving factor anyways.

          10. Hi Shul, my apologies if I asked already, but have you read Owen’s commentary on Hebrews 8 for yourself? I ask because Owen spends 150 pages commenting on verse 6. Beeke and Jones can hardly do that justice in a couple of paragraphs. Owen himself does not neatly segregate the new covenant from the covenant of grace as Beeke and Jones suggest. See their fn41 where they express their own confusion on this point.

            The new covenant, then, is the fulfillment of the covenant of grace, but also distinguishable from it by virtue of being a testament. Hebrews 8 has, therefore, special reference not to the covenant of grace, but to the new covenant specifically.41

            Owen does not say that the new covenant is distinguishable from the covenant of grace because it is a testament. Owen also does not say that Hebrews 8 is referring to the new covenant, rather than to the covenant of grace. He says they are the same thing and that Hebrews 8 is talking about the covenant of grace.

            Owen:

            It remains to the exposition of the words, to enquire just what the new covenant is of which our Lord Christ was the mediator. It can be no other but that we call “the covenant of grace.”… That which beforehad lain hidden in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hidden in God himself, was now brought to light; and that covenant of grace which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was now solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ.

            It [the covenant of grace] had before the confirmation of a promise, which is an oath; it had now the confirmation of a covenant, which is blood.

            Note that, contrary to Beeke/Jones’ claim, Owen does not distinguish the testamentary nature of the new covenant from the covenant of grace itself.

          11. In general to you both, I think we are on the same page. Your sources are the same as my library. I see doctrine as armor of God, and want the real thing. This is all very *big picture*, and seeing the parts in relation to the whole gives one ultimate understanding. The fact that Christians throughout the centuries have not seen what we are talking about can raise questions. Maybe many did but privately? Obviously having the ‘whole’ in understanding is not necessary for salvation though. I have learned from what you guys have been presenting. When I can sum it up in a short paragraph I’ll know I have arrived at a terminal point of understanding of it all. I’m close. I need to go back to my old style of having actual notebooks and pens. I can gather info and put it all together better that way…

          12. One little note: I am frustrated that Kline, Owen (no, though, I haven’t read more than passages from his massive commentary) and all the rest don’t speak in the typology terms that to me makes it all seem clear. The typology of Jesus = National Israel either seems to be not seen, or just steered clear of for some reason. I’m not surprised Pink would bring up the typology though. I have much in common with him not only in doctrine but in life history.

          13. Thanks for these links. I’m always heartened by the ‘nothing new under the sun’ aspect of biblical doctrine (re the Augustine link especially). Thanks again.

      1. Will be interesting see what happens with time. Would love to see some more reprints like the coxe/owen volume as one still working through this all on his theological journey

    1. The book includes an endorsement in the front from Fred Malone. I’m fairly certain his “Baptism of Disciples Alone” did not follow 1689 Federalism, but I haven’t had time to read that one yet.

      1. I couldn’t say as I am still figuring out the differences and still learning basic covenant theology but I did enjoy that book but it has been several years since I read it. It helped me move to a covenantal understanding of credo baptism though. Confessing baptist moderators would love to have an interview with me who have written on this subject and their current views. Would love to hear Fred Malone, pascal, earl Blackburn, Walt chantry, Greg Nichols, renihans, Jeffery Johnson men like that talking to one another. Another book I would love to see would be Tom nettles on history of covenant theology and baptist like he did for baptist and the doctrines of grace with “by his grace and for his glory”. Don’t know if there are enough sources to do that but it would be a great read if so

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