Sometimes it is nice to not make too much of our differences–particularly theological differences. But other times we can actually be hindered from more fully understanding what others believe and why we really believe what we do. If one can study differences with a charitable tone then there can often be real progress. To do this though we would need to ask and answer the questions behind the questions.
I’ve asked and been asked before, “What is with the antinomians?” or, “Why are we different than paedo Baptists?” Often people go after the specific issue without showing the reason why or the strong support for their contrasting position. This may paint people in a theological corner but it does not provide the framework for solid understanding.
This is why I very much appreciated this short little book by Sam Waldron and Richard Barcellos. The title A Reformed Baptist Manifesto: The New Covenant Constitution of the Church. With a title like this you may be expecting some theological haymakers, but it is surprising irenic. These are a number of sermons that Waldron preached years ago at his church. He has also included some healthy appendices.
Early on they write:
The premise of this study is intimated in the subtitle: the New Covenant Constitution of the Church. To state the premise plainly, the New Covenant is the Constitution of the Church of Christ. In other words, what the Constitution of the United States of America is to our country, what the Magna Carta is to the British Commonwealth, that the New Covenant is to the Church of Christ…Though written church constitutions are permissible for the sake of administration, the premise of this study is that the New Covenant is itself the ultimate, formal basis and legal rule of the Church. This study, therefore, will be spent in establishing and opening up this premise from Jeremiah 31. (pp. 5-6)
To establish the confessional Reformed Baptist position the authors compare and contrast it with Dispensationalism, Antinomianism, Arminianism, and Paedobaptism. As the authors work through each system they show the contrast of confessional Reformed Baptist views.
When I saw the chapter titles I thought, “This is going to be messy. They can’t possibly come out of this clean.” But, I was wrong. The authors kept the tone charitable and all punches were squarely above the belt. But, they did go after them–to show the contrast to the confessional position (London Baptist Confession of 1689).
From the standpoint of the New Covenant the contrast is simple. The Dispensationalist sees very little continuity between the Old Testament and the New (particularly the covenants), while the Paedobaptist sees too much. The Antinomian does not see the need for the moral law to apply to the church today (note: practical antinomians teach against law in the Christian life and advocate lawless living while moderate antinomians don’t advocate lawless living but deny the third use of the law –10 commandments as a rule for Christian living or redefine what law means). The Arminian would deny the certainty and sovereignty of God in the work of the church. To all of these the Reformed Baptist position is one of contrast. The church is the Israel of God, the New Covenant is really new and distinct from the old, the 1o commandments are still ruling us, and there is certainty in God’s sovereign grace.
The authors also provide a critique of padeobaptism and New Covenant Theology in the appendices. Both are very helpful and flesh out some of what is previously argued in the book.
If you are looking to learn about any of these issues then this little book is very helpful. It may be a tad technical at time, but with resolve and patience the reader will be rewarded. The authors do a good job tackling complex and heated topics in just a few pages. I really found the book to be a blessing to me.
Pick up a discounted copy of A Reformed Baptist Manifesto at Amazon.