Interview #20: Jeff Johnson – The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism (2 of 2) + More


On episode 20 of our podcast, we got Brandon Adams to interview Jeff Johnson about his book The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant BaptismThis is part two of a two part interview (here is part 1.)

After that, we have Dr. James Renihan on our “Ask a Reformed Baptist” segment. We talk about some Reformed Baptist headlines (with our SPECIAL GUEST!) and give you a preview of next week’s episode featuring Richard Barcellos telling us about Reformed Baptist Academic Press.


The Fatal Flaw

THE FATAL FLAW of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism
by Jeffrey Johnson
[Book currently 50% off at Solid Ground!]

Books & Sites Mentioned:

Headlines Mentioned:

Sponsor: – A wiki dedicated to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, commonly called the 1689, and theology in accordance with the doctrines contained therein.

Post-Interview Music:

Not What My Hands Have Done on For All The Saints by Indelible Grace Music [Taylor Sorensen]

42 Replies to “Interview #20: Jeff Johnson – The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism (2 of 2) + More”

    1. Jason, what do you mean by 1689 Federalism? The site (i.e., its contributors)? The PBs of the late 17th century? Other?

        1. as to 1. the site contributors we are one with Owen; 2. as to the 17th century PBs, ask Sam. 3. as to other, ask them
          The covenant of works was made with Adam as a public person (i.e., a federal head) and sinless image bearer. Our only hope is for another Adam. Christ is another Adam. Ergo, Christ is our only hope. The promise of eschatological life upon obedience is for a sinless federal head to attain for others. There is no other way.

          1. I agree with this above statement by Richard. The Mosaic Covenant was not intended to provide eternal life (by the works of the law) for the fallen sinners. But, our federal head (Christ Jesus) did obey the Law of Moses and brought eternal life for all who believe. For Old Testament Israel, the Mosaic Covenant was merely temporal and typological, but Christ, who fulfilled the Mosaic Covenant, brought the eternal and spiritual promises to all who believe.

    2. Sam comments on this in the republication post from a couple of weeks ago:

      While the majority of Particular Baptists agree that the Mosaic Covenant is a Covenant of Works, how it relates to the original Covenant of Works varies in their thought. Some state in the strongest terms that it IS the original Covenant of Works reapplied to Israel. That would make eternal life possible through the Mosaic Covenant itself, a point that Coxe and Owen would have disagreed with (and I disagree there too). Coxe makes a brief but helpful comment here:

      I’m writing up some notes to perhaps clarify…

      1. Look forward to it… I’m very glad we decided to get you on as host for this one… you plus Jeff Johnson on this stuff was very helpful to me in a lot of areas. On that note, been a group of guys that have become interested in this topic and want to read through the Coxe/Owen volume together… do you know any resources that may help us on that. From what I’ve heard of the book I with there was a study guide of some sort :D

  1. Great podcast, I appreciate all of the resources that have been mentioned in the last few podcasts such as Petto and others; I still have a lot of reading to do to in understanding the various nuanced views of covenant theology. I look forward to reading Jeffrey Johnson’s book when it comes out to see a reformed baptist biblical theology, and how the covenant motif within the framework of a confessional 1689 view rather than paedobaptist view can address the synchronic vs. diachronic issue in developing a biblical theology and respond to the common objection that utilizing covenant as a motif for biblical theology assumes a synchronic approach to biblical theology. Also thanks for recommending my blog.

  2. I forgot to mention it in the podcast, but Mark Karlberg (a paedobaptist) notes:

    Murray’s interpretation of the Mosaic covenant marks a dead-end, the end of the line in English-Puritan interpretation. His position is exegetically and theologically untenable.

    In other words, he believes Murray brought the WCF line of thinking of the Mosaic Covenant to its logical conclusion, and it is a dead-end.

    1. Yet Christ says that He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it, and that those who love Him keep His commandments. Have you ever thought of that?

  3. Both episodes on this subject were incredibly helpful. I do wonder about Johnson’s position on the Exile. He wants to say more than that the Mosaic Covenant was only temporal in orientation. How does this work with the presence of visible Saints who were carried off into exile? The mixed nature of Israel and the corporate nature of the curses leads me to the position that the Mosaic Covenant is only temporal and typological. Or at least that it is temporal for Israel, and for Jesus it is physical and spiritual. In that regard, the Mosaic Covenant is temporal and parenthetical.

  4. The fatal flaw in “The fatal flaw in infant baptism” is basically the following: a very basic error. Jeff Johnson should have caught this: all throughout the podcast he is talking about the covenant with MOSES. Circumcision is described in the everlasting covenant with ABRAHAM. Moses represents the law, whereas Abraham represents grace. Circumcision/baptism is the sign of God’s covenant people. Even still, you cannot really say that the covenant of Moses is over, I mean the 10 commandments are still valid. Jesus made them even stricter. Jesus even came to fulfill the law, not do away with it! The 10 commandments but the way are for God’s covenant people, to describe what God’s people should be like. The covenant of the law is still valid, it’s just that since we cannot keep it, the covenant of grace intervenes.

    Furthermore I don’t think you should divorce faith from Israel, describing it as a geopolitical nation. Back then the covenant was with only 1 nation: Israel. Now God makes a covenant with ALL nations, because God is loving and gracious! God widens his covenant to include all people from all nations, boys as well as girl, hence baptism and not circumcision. Our obligation as Christians is to make disciples of all nations: meaning: baptize them so as to keep all of what Jesus has told us to do.

    I think the Mosaic covenant still should be valid, because the way of salvation is uniform all throughout time, doesn’t matter whether we are in OT or NT times. Jews don’t have a different type of moral DNA which would make them different from us. They are also saved by grace alone by faith alone and by Christ alone. Otherwise we fall into the error of dispensationalism.

    We do not baptize slaves because today there are no slaves, that was done away with in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation.

    1. Thanks for your opinion Matthew. If you have time to read the book, your concerns are dealt with at length. It is also addressed in Pascal Denault’s The Distinctiveness of 17th Century Particular Baptist Covenant Theology, as well as the Coxe/Owen volume.

      1. Some questions for Baptists: when does an everlasting covenant end? What do you say to God’s Word when it says that your child is holy [set apart]?

        1. Matthew, we cut that part of our bibles out. (In all seriousness, I would encourage you to take some time to read our books).

          An everlasting covenant ends when God says it ends. When does an everlasting priesthood end (Ex 40:15 cf Heb 7:12, 18)?

          He is the LORD our God;
          his judgments are in all the earth.
          Remember his covenant forever,
          the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
          the covenant that he made with Abraham,
          his sworn promise to Isaac,
          which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
          to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
          saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
          as your portion for an inheritance.”

          (1 Chronicles 16:14-18 ESV)

          Reformed paedobaptists appeal to typology to argue against dispensational interpretations of the everlasting land promise. We employ the same hermeneutic but with greater sensitivity to the New Testament’s clear testimony regarding the covenants (that the Old is set aside/abrogated and a completely different covenant is established instead)

          Consider Greg Nichols as well:
          Fifth, its description as “everlasting” was also applied to other temporary institutions. The word translated “everlasting” in Genesis 17:8, literally means, “until the distant future.” Often it does signify forever and ever (Deut. 33:27; Ps. 90:2), but not always. Context must determine its duration. Scripture uses this very word to describe the duration of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:34) and of the Aaronic priesthood (Exod. 29:28, 40:15). Scripture indicates explicitly that these other old covenant institutions terminate with the coming of Messiah. His coming is their vanishing point, the end of the age. Similarly, in Genesis 17:8, [this Hebrew word] signifies “until the distant future, throughout the entire era of Hebrew Israel’s theocracy.” That era lasted a very long time, some fifteen-hundred years, until the promised Messiah came to institute the new covenant.

          1. But if Abraham’s is the covenant of grace, if it ends before the end of time, then does it mean that grace ends? Surely not! Anyway, the promise belongs to our holy, children, so why then not baptize infants? Seems antibiblical.

          2. There are good reasons to believe that the Abrahamic covenant is still valid today. This is because Abraham’s having faith is described in the New Testament (James, I think) as an example. Through Abraham all the nations will be blessed and it makes no sense if the Abrahamic covenant is valid while only Israel was in covenant with God through the OT. So, following from this, it rests upon Baptists to show that the everlasting Abrahamic covenant has changed. Baptism has replaced circumcision, but why would the recipients of the covenant change? If God suffered the Jews to circumcise baby boys in the OT, why would He then not have believing parents baptize their holy [that is, set aside for God] children? The word baptism means “putting under the authority of”. In 1Cor. 10:2 we read that the Jewish people were baptized into Moses through the Red Sea. Here all Jews were baptized, regenerate AND unregenerate, men, women, and yes, infants as well! The whole nation. God has not changed and is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Paedobaptism makes perfect sense.

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