Pastor Richard Barcellos joins the Regular Reformed Guys to talk about his upcoming, as yet unnamed book about the Covenant of Works, the Garden of Eden and a number of other questions in relation to the New Covenant Theology…
Since my book first came out in January of 2013, I wanted to revise it. At first it was minor corrections and typos, but along the way came some important precision that I wanted to include in my work. I have written this blog post to explain what’s new in the revised edition of the Distinctiveness…
THE MINOR CHANGES
The minor changes (in addition to correcting typos) concern a small update of the bibliography with new works on covenant theology that became available since the first publication of the Distinctiveness. Also, thanks to the helpful remarks of Pastor Samuel Renihan, I have corrected some overstatement I had made concerning the views held by Particular Baptists as if there was only one common view regarding the Covenant of Grace and its relation with the Old and New Covenants. I did not revise the book to the point of presenting these other views held by some Particular Baptists, but I have nuanced some affirmations at least to acknowledge them. Regarding that matter, the readers will most certainly profit from the doctoral dissertation of pastor Renihan that will hopefully be published in a near future.
CLARIFYING SOME PAEDO/CREDO DISTINCTIONS
I greatly benefited from fruitful exchanges with Presbyterian pastors and brothers that helpfully critique the arguments I have presented. This brought me to a more refined understanding of the visible/invisible distinction of the church which led me to rewrite some areas of the book. Without endorsing the full paradigm of the normal paedobaptist mixed visible church, I came to a more robust ecclesiology and I think a more biblical and Baptist understanding of this important distinction. Also, I have modified some comments regarding paedobaptism that were perceived as being a little too harsh or unnecessarily provocative. I still wanted to offer a critique of the Presbyterian view, but in the irenic spirit of our forefathers. The readers will find, near the end of this revised edition,a new comparative chart that summarizes the differences between the Presbyterian view and the Particular Baptist view on the covenants.
REVISITING THE MOSAIC COVENANT
Finally, I was sharpened by a lot of discussions among the Reformed Baptist community that forced me to articulate a more precise and consistent covenant theology on some specific points. In the process I have rejected the idea that the Mosaic Covenant offered eternal life as an absolute republication of the Covenant of Works. I came to the understanding that the Mosaic Covenant was strictly limited to life in Canaan and was only typologically tied to the heavenly realities brought by the New Covenant. I had previously endorsed Samuel Petto’s view that understands the Mosaic Covenant both as an earthly covenant of works for Israel in Canaan and an absolute covenant of works for Christ to obtain eternal life. I still believe the former (Israel), but I now believe that the latter (Christ) is only typologically true. In other words, Christ didn’t accomplish the Old Covenant but the New Covenant which was set forth as a covenant of works between him and the Father (the Covenant of Redemption), the terms of which were prefigured but not properly stipulated in the Old Covenant.
The main issue, in my opinion, was that I used to blend the type with the antitype or the shadow with the reality in the same covenant by attributing eternal life as a promise proper to the Mosaic Covenant. I believe that this mixed approach to covenant theology is the essence of paedobaptism with its internal/external distinction that blends earthly kingdom with heavenly kingdom, Old Covenant with New Covenant, etc. 1689 Federalism, on the other hand, relies on the fundamental distinctions between Old and New, type and antitype, shadow and reality and, therefore, distinguishes between the Mosaic typological republication and Christ’s established New Covenant: typologically related, but essentially distinct.
This revised edition of The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology now reflects this view and I believe that this was Coxe and Owen’s view. Many brothers were involved in important discussions that led me to this clarification. I especially want to thank brother Brandon Adams who was very instrumental in that regard and I want to commend him for all his laboring for the cause of the Gospel by his defense of 1689 Federalism. The readers will find lots of helpful resources by visiting his website: www.1689federalism.com
Recently, R. Scott Clark has released a series of podcasts in defense of paedobaptism. The majority of the material in the podcasts comes from a series of blog posts he wrote previously (he is often just reading them). Those posts, as well as other essays that Clark has written, have already been addressed in depth in A Critique of R. Scott Clark’s Covenant Theology. Since Clark did not address any of the arguments in that post, it is still relevant and I refer you there for a thorough treatment.
That said, Clark makes a few comments in the podcasts that are worth commenting on. (It’s also worth noting that Clark speaks of “baptists” very broadly, often referring to Arminian Dispensationalists. Only very occasionally does he have confessional baptists specifically in mind.)
Abraham and Moses
Clark’s main argument is simultaneously his main weakness. In response to baptists, Clark emphasizes that Abraham is not Moses. That is, the Abrahamic Covenant is not the Mosaic Covenant. I did not count, but I would not be surprised if he repeated that point at least 60 times over the series of podcasts. Clark is departing from Westminster on this point, resulting in an inconsistent covenant theology. This leads him to deny any kind of dichotomy in Abraham, resulting in some strange inconsistencies…
God has always dealt with his people through the covenant, yet covenant theology from a Baptist perspective is a teaching that is all too often neglected. Many Baptists don’t know why they are Baptist. If questioned they are most likely to respond by alluding to the mode of baptism rather than its underlying theology. This book is easily accessible, providing the reader with a clear understanding of the historical Baptist position. The work points out the errors inherent in the Reformed paedobaptist paradigm, and seeks to show that the only covenant of grace is the new covenant in Christ.
“This book is a welcomed addition to the increase of literature on covenant theology from a Baptist perspective. Griffiths argues that one is either in Adam or in Christ, there being no middle ground, and to be in Christ (prior to or after the fact of the cross) is to be a recipient of what our Lord both secured and delivers by virtue of the new covenant. The discussion is informed and worth the time to read and ponder.”
—Richard C. Barcellos, Pastor, Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Palmdale, CA; Author, The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More than a Memory
“In this book, Griffiths presents a persuasive argument for a Reformed Baptist understanding of covenant theology. Anyone recognizing the fundamental value of covenant theology will benefit from this edifying work. I warmly recommend it as a very important resource, especially to Reformed Baptist believers. Readers of other persuasions will find much to think through and hopefully will be convinced by the accuracy of the view put forth in these pages.”
–Pascal Denault, Author, The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology
“What is a covenant? Why are there two testaments? How does the old relate to the new? Who are the children of Abraham? Who is Israel, and what is the Church? The biblical answers to such questions are vital in seeing the overarching storyline of Scripture, but perhaps more importantly, the answers to these questions reveal the very nature of those who have been redeemed by God. This is why I am so thankful for this book. Phillip Griffiths has done a phenomenal job of answering these questions in offering an explanation and defence of covenant theology from a Baptist perspective. The genius of this book is discovered in how easy Griffith’s argument is to follow without the complexity of the subject being compromised. I love this book, and I am eager to recommend it to everyone.”
–Jeffrey Johnson, Author, The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism
Paperback: 214 pages Publisher: Wipf and Stock (June 10, 2016)
Huddled together in 1644, representatives of 7 churches gathered to summarize their common confession, and to distinguish themselves from the Anabaptists and the Arminians. It was a time of turmoil, and the river of the Reformation had swept across the banks of London. This was one of the first of several non-Anglican groups in that century to put pen to paper and confess their faith. Two years later, the Westminster Assembly would produce its own confession (WCF), and then in 1658, the Congregationalists would follow suit (Savoy Declaration). That original group of 7 churches was the Particular Baptists. Amid persecution, and to show their solidarity and theological agreement in many ways with the Presbyterians and Congregationalists that had since written their own confessions, a larger crop of Baptists would draft the 1677 Baptist Confession with great reliance on the WCF and Savoy, however due to persecution, this document would not be published until 1689, giving it the name that it is known by today: “The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith”. This Confession was classically theist in its view of God, covenantal in its view of Biblical Theology, “Calvinist” in its soteriology, and would show alignment with the Westminster Confession of Faith on the Ordinary Means of Grace and the Law. I grew up Baptist, became Calvinistic in my soteriology in my teen years, and have found a wonderful home in the confessional roots of Baptist theology as a pastor in my mid-thirties. To me, this Historic Confession, similar to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Savoy Declaration, is worth considering for at least five reasons:
For Baptists influenced by the ‘New Calvinism’, it is helpful to see that for Baptists, Calvinism is not “new”…
It contains a wonderful vision for the Christian life…
There is value in saying more sometimes…
Historic Confessions ground us…
Believer’s Baptism has much of its roots in a Covenant Theology…
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:21 (KJV)
It seems as though in the year 2015 there has been many challenges facing us as Christians, both from outside our walls and from within.
The church needs to be encouraged with the reminder of the steadfastness and surety of God’s reign through grace,
which will not be thwarted by sin nor traitors in our ranks.
If it would please the Lord, we are hoping to achieve several things with this year’s theme: REIGN of GRACE.
Beginning on Friday we hope to provide an overview concerning a very important way in how to understand God’s redemptive plan which is interwoven all throughout the Scriptures – the Covenant of Grace. This Covenant is central to the 1689 Baptist Confession and is sure to provide God’s people with confidence and renewed hope that the Lord fulfills His promises!
Then on Saturday, following the reassurance and reminder of the promises and plans made to Christ’s people, we will offer teachings that have a more practical mood, in hopes they may exhort, encourage and equip those in attendance to continue to fight the good fight,
and not to grow weary in well doing.
So then, please join us that we may continue steadfastly unto the end in the most holy faith which we confess.
Come, gather and meet new friends who share with you in precious like faith.
Learn about the causes and cure for spiritual depression from a master physician and minister. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 – 1981) served as minister of Westminster Chapel in London for almost 30 years. This 16-week course begins September 8, 2015.
Also studyBaptist Covenant Theology with lectures by Dr. Fred Malone and Dr. Jim Renihan…
The study of the Covenants has often been called the “marrow” of divinity. How we understand the covenants is how we understand the whole of God’s redemptive plan in history. This course provides an introduction to a Reformed Baptist view of the covenants, comparing and contrasting it with other prominent view including: Presbyterian Covenant Theology, Theonomy, Dispensationalism and New Covenant Theology. Dr. Fred Malone serves as pastor of First Baptist Church, Clinton, LA. Dr. Jim Renihan is Professor of Historical Theology and Academic Dean of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies on the campus of Westminster Seminary, Escondido, CA.
This course meets for 10 sessions. The course begins October 19, 2015. Students will have access to course material online until January 31, 2016.
Learn how you can audit the Baptist Covenant Theology course free this fall.
3:00 pm What does it mean to be Baptist and Reformed | Fred Malone
4:30 pm Relationship of Covenant of Grace to the Old Covenant | Pascal Denault
5:45 pm Dinner
7:00 pm Hebrews 8 and the New Covenant | Jeff Johnson
Friday, Sept. 25th
7:30 am Prayer Meeting
8:00 am Breakfast
9:00 am Relationship of Covenant of Grace to the New Covenant | Pascal Denault
10:30 am Registration Opens Contemporary Challenges | Jeff Johnson
12:00 noon Lunch
3:00 pm Panel Discussion on Covenant Theology & Q&A | Jason Montgomery
4:30 pm Implications of CovenantTheology | Jeff Johnson
5:45 pm Dinner
7:00 pm Galatians 4:21-31 | Pascal Denault
1. SOLID GROUND CHRISTIAN BOOKS will again be represented at our conference this year. Michael Gaydosh will be bringing many wonderful Reformed books for your perusal. Be sure to come prepared to take home some of these great books that will be for sale!
2. REGISTRATION: A. Modes: To register for our upcoming conference, please mail the filled out registration form to: Heritage Baptist Church, 201 East Broad St., Mansfield, TX 76063 or register online. The option to pay by Paypal is also available.
B.Deadlines: Save $5.00 off general or student registration if you register on or before September 5. If you are requesting to stay in a home, please submit your registration by September 5- first come, first served basis.
C. Contact: If you have any questions about digital notebooks, registration, lodging orany other matter, please contact: Cindy Cason at firstname.lastname@example.org; 817-453-5580.
D. Fees: Early Registration-1 person: $75.00 on or before 9/05 Registration after 9/05-1 person: $80.00
Student Registration (early)- $30.00 Student Registration after 9/05-$35.00
Early Registration Family Cap: $105.00 Registration after 9/05 Family Cap:$110.00
Each Additional Attender: $10.00 Children under age 5-free
The added attendees will not receive notebooks and the children will not receive nametags. Additional notebooks may be purchased at registration desk at the cost of printing.
3. OFFERING : If you are able to give a little extra, there will be an offering Friday evening during the service to help offset expenses and keep registration prices low.
This is a reprint of Nehemiah Coxe, probably the co-editor of the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1677/89), on “A Discourse of the Covenants that God made with men before the law” and John Owen’s “An Exposition of Hebrews 8:6-13, wherein the nature and differences between the Old and New Covenants is discovered.” It contains an Introduction by James M. Renihan, “Why is this reprint important?” and an appendix by Richard C. Barcellos, “John Owen and New Covenant Theology: Owen on the Old and New Covenants and the Functions of the Decalogue in Redemptive History in Historical and Contemporary Perspective.” Coxe was a leading Particular Baptist theologian in his day. He intended to write on the Mosaic and New Covenants but when Owen’s Hebrews commentary came out, Coxe directed his readers to Owen. Coxe covers the covenant of works, the covenant with Noah, and the covenant(s) with Abraham. Owen focuses on the Mosaic (Old) and New Covenants.
This volume brings together wonderful insights from two faithful church leaders of an earlier generation with helpful analyses from competent teachers of today. The result is a valuable resource for students, academics, and pastors.
Thomas K. Ascol, Ph.D.
Editor, Founders Journal
More times than I can count…I have heard Reformed theology defined in such a way that it excludes those who hold to believer’s baptism. This valuable work will help set the record straight.
Michael A. G. Haykin, Th.D.
Author of Kiffin, Knollys and Keach–Rediscovering our English Baptist Heritage
Nehemiah Coxe’s work on the covenant is an important piece of writing by a significant seventeenth-century Particular Baptist theologian. Its republication is long overdue. This work is an important resource for twenty-first-century Reformed Baptists.
Robert W. Oliver, Ph.D.
Author of History of the English Calvinistic Baptists 1791-1892
Nehemiah Coxe was a leading Particular Baptist pastor and theologian of the seventeenth century. He was probably the co-editor of the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1677/89).
John Owen, a leading Congregational paedobaptist of the seventeenth century, is well-known for being the ‘Prince of the Puritans.’ J. I. Packer says, “In his own day he was seen as England’s foremost bastion and champion of Reformed evangelical orthodoxy.”