Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Baptists and Covenant Theology? Two new books show a strong connection

One of the theological questions I have been asked often during my first 24 months as pastor has gone something like this “Why do you talk about Covenant Theology as if Baptists believe it? Isn’t that a Presbyterian thing?" My answer (which is consistently “Yes, Baptists have historically believed Covenant Theology that obviously differs at key points from our Presbyterian brethren.”) has puzzled some and made others curious enough to launch their own study of my conclusion. But my dear friend Mike Gaydosh at Solid Ground Books (www.solidgroundbooks.com) in Birmingham, Alabama, the city where I am blessed to serve as pastor, has recently published two books that provide substantive historical and biblical answers to the question of Baptists and their relationship to Covenant Theology.


The first work is titled The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism by Pascal Denault. The pivot point separating the Baptist and non-Baptist versions of Covenant Theology is, of course, the subjects (The “who?”) of baptism. In the concise span of 140 pages, Denault’s work provides a brilliant historical, biblical and theological defense of believer’s baptism and offers an excellent overview of the consistent, biblical Covenant Theology which the Calvinistic (Particular) Baptists of 17th century England held dear. Denault surveys British Particular Baptists who held to Covenant Theology such as Nehemiah Coxe and Benjamin Keach and also shows biblically how paedobaptists misinterpret the continuity between the promises given to Abraham in the OT and baptism in the NT to arrive at the conclusion that baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of membership in the covenant people of God. The author traces the points at which historic Baptists and their fellow Puritans parted ways on issues of the continuity and discontinuity between the old and new testaments and argues forcibly that Baptists more consistently held to a biblical version of Covenant Theology. I would love to see more Reform-minded Baptist pastors engage this compelling little volume. 

The second work, Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, is a multi-author book and includes
chapters from contributors such as Justin Taylor, Fred Malone and Walter Chantry. Like the Denault book, this work is brief in compass (161 pages, including three appendices) and each of the five well-written chapters examines a separate issue related to the covenants of Scripture, ranging from baptism to the question of the existence of a covenant of works. Earl M. Blackburn, editor of the work, opens with an excellent overview of Covenant Theology and Malone follows with a discussion of biblical hermeneutics and Covenant Theology. This work, like Denault’s book, offers an accessible survey of the Baptist version of Covenant Theology and I heartily recommend them both for your spring or summer reading.

Jeff Robinson

4 comments:

Jason D. said...

For those interested in this subject, we have a podcast and the two newest episodes we interview Pascal Denault regarding the first book you mentioned: http://confessingbaptist.com/category/podcast/

Cory said...

Thanks for sharing these two new works. These are needed publications that I look forward to reading. For those interested, Greg Nichols also published Covenant Theology - A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God's Covenants in 2011. It is a good, but dense read.

Russell Taylor said...

I recently ordered these two, as well as the one mentioned by Cory, and have been very blessed in my reading. Establishing in my mind the distinctiveness of covenantal baptist theology has helped me to establish myself as well as respond to others who are confused about the relationship between covenant theology and biblical baptism. We are the stewards of a heritage of truth. We should keep our swords well sharpened as we defend the truth in this generation. These books are essential tools for every baptist.

Manfred said...

I think Baptists need to spend time digging into the distinctives of Baptist covenant theology - much too much influence from our Presbyterian brothers, as they have written so much.

I've read Denault's book, Nichol's book and Jeff Johnson's Fatal Flaw - http://www.freegracepress.org/?page_id=568 It is, in my view, the best of the three because it serves as an apologetic for a biblically solid Baptist view of covenant theology.