Doug Wilson writes:
“As far as the Jews were concerned, the Bible teaches that because they were born into an Israelite family, circumcised in the covenant on the eighth day, they were attached to the tree. This attachment was an objective historical fact. But the sin and hypocrisy of many of them was also an objective fact, and the Lord of the Orchard consequently removed their branches, and grafted in other branches. Now the interesting thing here is that Paul turns and warns the Gentiles who had been grafted in against the very same sin committed by their fruitful predecessors” (To a Thousand Generations, p. 89).
Pastor Wilson writes that Israel is still the tree, but that the ascended Christ is Israel. I dispute the assumption that “natural branches” are still possible. The tree is now supernatural.
No More Natural Branches
I have asserted that, post-AD70, it is no longer possible to grow out of the tree of Israel as a “natural branch.” We are done with the natural and have moved on to the supernatural. The babies of Christians have not grown out of Christ. It is a ridiculous assertion. The Messianic line is no longer flesh but Spirit. The regenerate are fruit that grows out of, and is born by, the apostolic hybrid branches. It is fruit that remains.
Also, I asserted that the time of branches is also over. The “Tabernacles” Feast of Israel’s history was fulfilled in the Firstfruits Church. Some branches were gathered, others were removed. And the Enemy’s Trees, both Jew and Gentile, were cut down to size. Jesus finished the house when He received His apostles into heaven as He promised. He formed the house. He is now filling the house.
(Note that Israel’s history follows the feasts, but on top of that, so does the entirety of Bible history. The “Booths” rest for all time is eternity.)
The Election and Membership Rift
Pastor Wilson sees a gap between election and Covenant membership. Instead of realizing that this is a gap allowed by God to teach the Church wisdom as she closes it up using Church discipline, he sticks the jemmy in to crank it wide open. All the world should be in the Church so they are under Covenant to God.
However, all the world is already under a New Covenant “circumcision.” All men everywhere must now repent and believe. Jesus is their king.
So this gap in the Church between election and membership, a number of unregenerate Church members who have taken baptismal vows, is not related to children. It concerns those who took vows and were grafted—legally—into the Body. Over time it will become apparent that the graft didn’t actually “take.” But with our infants, when is this graft supposed to take place? If they can’t grow out of the tree naturally (i.e. by flesh) then grafting is the only way in. And, if the Church understands her duty, this grafting is only possible by repentance and faith.
Parental Covenant Mediation
Repentance and faith connect us directly to Christ by the Spirit, legally and relationally, personally and individually. Baptism connects us directly to the delegated authority of the Church, legally and relationally, personally and individually. It is both subjective and objective because it is a two-way relationship.
Our children, however, do not answer directly to the authority of the Church. Neither did they under the Old Covenant. So attempting to connect them legally to the Church with a personal vow of submission is something even Abraham would have understood as fraught with danger. As mentioned yesterday, circumcision was applied to males, including infants, because it was a genealogical Covenant intended to leads its members to salvation. The New Covenant is a Spiritual Covenant intended to lead its members (those already saved) to resurrection.
Circumcision kept Israel as a distinct, genealogical tree. It was One before it was Many. But the Church is always Many before it is One. The Church is a unified army of individual responses.
The evidence for credobaptism is both implicit and explicit.
Seed of Destruction
Which brings me to my main objection. Pastor Wilson writes that the apostolic Trumpets and “Jewish war” Atonement were the First Reformation. He wisely understands the Great Reformation as the Second.
“The methods of the Master Gardener have not changed. Fruitless branches were removed in the First Reformation, when unbelieving Jews were taken out of the Israel of God. Jesus clearly warned the unbelieving Jews. “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken to you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:43). The same thing happened again in the Second Reformation, fifteen hundred years later. The Gentiles who had been grafted in had forgotten Paul’s warning to them. They thought their hereditary position in the tree was sufficient to keep them in the tree. “Are we not Christians was said with the same complacency and evil heart that “Are we not Jews?” had been said, equally in vain, hundreds of years before…” (TATG, p. 90)
The similarities between AD70 and the Reformation are astounding. But we must ask whether this particular sin is something that could happen at any time in Church history or was related directly to the doctrines of the Roman Church. “They thought their hereditary position in the tree was sufficient to keep them in the tree.” Now…
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAVE GIVEN THEM THAT IDEA?
It was paedobaptism, impure and simple. For sure, a lack of church discipline was part of the problem, but not the root of the problem. The factor of automatic infant “membership”, an hereditary position, led to the same presumptive sin that circumcision did. Flesh loves to think it has already arrived and does not need to be cut. Infant New Covenant membership is the seed of destruction in Reformed doctrine, and it requires reformation.
But I do see the Federal Vision as a move in the right direction, just not far enough. And being halfway there is causing confusion. You’ve nutted out the Federal bit for everyone. Now it’s time to work on the Vision, the discernment of who is actually under enforceable Covenant vow.
The Bosom of Christ
Viewing the Church as some kind mystical, etherial body is gnosticism, and rightly condemned by the FV gents. But taking tent pegs and hammering them into flesh, into babies and nations, is just as much a sin in the opposition direction. Such a “holy polis” can only ever be carnal. Dr Leithart has a lot of good to say against a gnostic view of the Church, but the New Covenant is not territorial, at least, not in that way. As one reviewer of his brilliant book on Constantine wrote, there is an odd emphasis on paedobaptism as the frontline. (I’ll have to take his word for it. I’m not up to that bit yet. So correct me if I’m wrong.) He condemns Dr Leithart as being a sacramentalist. I would condemn him too, except I do follow his logic on the reality of baptism. What is the solution? It shouldn’t be applied to the unregenerate!
Yes, Christian countries should defend themselves against non-Christian countries, but the whole idea of yeast is that it knows no boundaries. It is confrontational but it is also transformational.
The frontline is not baptism, it is the preaching of the gospel. Baptism is for the transformed who can then mediate the gospel in the same way. We teach faithful men who can teach faithful men, etc. It is procreation of a different order. It is not filling the world with tattooed “Christianized” flesh, it is filling the desolate, empty flesh of the world with the Spirit of God.
The frontline is circumcision-of-heart, not baptism. God reveals our nakedness before He covers us. Covering those who have not yet known their nakedness leads to this “hereditary” kingdom. Male Jews were un-covered before they were robed with the divine office of “Jew,”. But the kingdom is no longer hereditary. It may appear so, sometimes, because the only people we are discipling are our own children (shame on us). But the New Covenant is supposed to be the Many becoming One, all nations transformed.
We can see this in the High Priest. He had six tribal names carved in onyx on each shoulder. James Jordan observes that they all looked the same, like babies do. But these “Adam” names were to grow into an “Eve,” the fiery gemstones aligned as a mature army on the bosom of Christ. They were no longer a division of flesh but fully matured, and distinct, gemstones filled with the glowing, reflective rainbow fire of the Spirit.
True Old Covenant Israel was united fully in Christ. The old rivalries were put away because of a new, unifying Spirit. So shall it be with the New Covenant, when every cultural difference is merely the Spirit refracted in a different color. But the reflection is a sign of bridal maturity.
A baptized nation is a nation of potent, Spirit-filled people who have heard the voice of Christ, not a nation of potential, yet impotent, Christians carved into and carried on the shoulders. There were no babies on the bosom of Abraham, either.
The New Jerusalem carries the names of the tribes and the apostles. It’s a city into which the nations are bringing their treasures. The treasures are not the carved names of childhood, whether circumcisions or Christenings. The gems and pearls are those who are being given a new name, the white stone of the internal Urim and Thummim (Atonement accepted and vindicated by works).
A la mode
If you’re interested, this plays out in the Tabernacle furnitures as well. The Ark is the Golden Covenant Head, Adam, who wears its likeness on his High Priestly forehead as engraved holiness. The Breastplate corresponds to the Incense Altar, the fragrant Eve, the bridal body.
So, anointing of the head is all about Adam, opening the Veil and sending the Spirit. But baptism is about the body, the gathering of all members as One, passing through the new city’s “Jordan water walls.” The Covenant pattern is head first (circumcision) then body (baptism). A sprinkling on the head messes it up entirely.
Grafting begins with a cut. The graft begins when a child’s heart is cut under the gospel and completed when they believe. But that’s grafting into Jesus by the Spirit.
Baptism grafts us into the Body. It is a public vow before and to the people of God. One has submitted to authority in Heaven and now submits to authority on earth.
Regarding childhood faith, God’s design is certainly that our children believe at a young age. Baptize them when they believe, after the gospel has done its work, not before.
But then is a child ready to submit to the authority of the church directly? That is what baptism achieves. Yes, it does something objective, but I suspect it’s not what Dr Leithart believes. Baptism recognizes the miracle and puts the saint — willingly — under the authority of the Church. For children, this would mean honoring their parents “as unto the Lord” rather than simply as unto their parents. They are no longer on the parents’ coat tails when it comes to faith and witness. The second birth has taken place, and they rise to the occasion. Our youngest is 9 and I believe he is ready. He is testifying to God’s work in his life without being asked. (tear) By the power of the Spirit, he is a witness, a prophetic mediator.
I read my kids the story of floating ax head this morning, and, guess what, it follows the matrix. When does the ax head float? Day 6, the mediator on the waters.
The Old Covenant was for trees under the ax. God was building a bigger house for the prophets.
The New Covenant is for floating ax heads. The process Pastor Wilson is describing above is a supernatural sink -or-swim, a bit like a witch dunking! If you don’t persevere in faith, there was no miracle to begin with.
My argument is against his strategy of dunking people who never claimed to be supernatural. (Basically, ha, gotcha)
The process of being under the Church’s sword and then handed the sword occurs at baptism. But, in the greater picture this process answers that old chestnut about the whole household participating in Passover.
Where was the sword in Passover? In the hands of the angel. Who was under the sword? The flesh, the Passover lamb/kid and all the human firstborn. It was about flesh. Flesh, flesh, flesh. Circumcision.
Where is the sword in Atonement? In the hands of God’s mediators, who call down the Covenant curses upon Jericho. In the bigger picture, Jericho was Herodian worship, and in the largest, it will be the final judgment, when we judge angels.
Like a floating ax head, God’s true people maintain their edge in the long run.
This idea of mediators is most important. The Bible keeps correlating baptism with Day 6 – the sacrificial mediators who stand on the Edenic spring, walking on the water of the Laver, with clean feet, and enter into God’s rest by faith.
The Old Covenant was administered by angels, who actually did stand on the crystal sea. They were the mediators, the clean vessels (Temple bowls) who carried the wisdom of God.
The New Covenant is administered by human angels, who pass through the waters of baptism and come out the other side as governors.
So, why, why, why, do paedobaptists, especially FV ones, think it’s okay to baptize someone via mediation, that is, via “god parent” proxies? The wisdom that we mediate is the gospel, the edge that cuts hearts.
Baptism is for mediators, the New Adams, not for those being mediated to. It is a robe of office, and a commission. It’s not about who your parents are. Adamic birth certificates are all cut and paste, all forgeries.
A friend commented on a facebook discussion:
“…if you want to say that articulated faith is a condition for baptism, fine. But the infant is recapitulated by Christ, and so needs union with Him just as much as the rest of us do. And Christ was a perfect infant.”
Christ was the perfect infant, but He was not “accepted,” vindicated, as righteous flesh before God until His baptism, at which the Father testified publicly. Infant union with Christ is entirely carnal.
Baptism vindicates the work of the Law. It is for flesh that is justified before God.