This Is Not Reformed Theology

Particular Baptist Covenant Theology was essentially the idea that the Covenant of Grace is synonymous with the New Covenant and was only revealed in the previous biblical covenants (Abrahamic, Davidic, etc.) but that the Biblical Covenants were not the Covenant of Grace in substance.

RYAN DAVIDSON Five Reasons For Considering The 1689 Confession of Faith (November, 2017).


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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. From “the idea that the Covenant of Grace is synonymous with the New Covenant and was only revealed in the previous biblical covenants” to the extent that “the Biblical Covenants were not the Covenant of Grace in substance” it is but a short step to New Covenant Theology, and it is no wonder that NCT has gained so much traction in Baptist circles.

    Interestingly, the 1689 Confession itself doesn’t make these assertions and reads quite differently. It does not state that the covenant of grace is merely revealed in the biblical covenants (NCT proponents liken it to a food menu advertising the dishes that can be served, or to a billing of a sports game to be played), it states that the covenant of grace ‘is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation…and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality’.

    But taking the 1689 Confession’s statement that the covenant of grace is revealed in the gospel with Davidson’s (and NCT’s) assertion that the biblical covenants were not the covenant of grace, it is not difficult to see the move that NCT has made in declaring that the biblical covenants did not contain the substance of the gospel. Further still, the founder of New Covenant Theology, Jon Zens, rather infamously came to deny the covenant of grace altogether.

  2. Kevin,

    As I read the younger scholars of the 1689 and its context, they are arguing that is what is intended. They have a case. Arguably, the founders intended to say that the cov of grace was revealed under the types and shadows but not actually present. Quite understandably, the 1689 does not speak as the WCF does about the unity of the covenant of grace. I think Ryan is right. if one sees the Abrahamic covenant as an administration of the cov of grace then infant baptism is the logical conclusion (though, on social media, he has backed away from that conclusion). The Particular Baptist hermeneutic and reading of redemptive history is rather different from the Reformed. I am glad that they are seeing it for themselves.

    • Dr Clark

      Agreed. Nehemiah Coxe, who was involved in the drafting of the 1689 Confession, is perhaps representative of that Particular Baptist school of thought you mention.

      In 1681 Coxe published ‘A Discourse of the Covenants that God made with Men before the Law. Wherein, the covenant of circumcision is more largely handled, and the invalidity of the plea for pædobaptism taken from thence discovered.’

      Here Coxe denies that circumcision was a sign and seal of the covenant of grace – he sees it instead as the sign and seal of a ‘covenant of circumcision’, which ‘served the design of the covenant of grace’. Coxe affirms that ‘Jewish infants were born members of that church’, ‘that church’ however being merely a type of the church of Christ and not his church in reality.

      Coxe avers that the OT covenants were ‘a subserviency to the covenant of grace’, that they can be individually described as ‘a covenant of grace’, i.e. a gracious covenant, but not administrations of THE one and eternal covenant of grace itself made with Christ and his elect in him. The OT covenants were but ‘typical’ and an ‘analogy’ of the covenant of grace. He states that ‘the covenant of circumcision…must needs be established as typical, and subservient to the covenant of grace, in a temporary dispensation’ and that ‘the covenant of grace and that of circumcision have their mutual respect, as the type to its antitype’.

      As you say, this is a departure from Reformed theology, and I think seeds of the tares of NCT are abundantly sown here. To change the metaphor, NCT is further down the track than Coxe, in the same direction of travel.

  3. The Particular Baptists covenant theology theory that the Covenants of
    the Old Covenant were only Covenants of Promise, but not as the Reformed
    know it, that is as Ryan states a revealing of the Covenant of Grace only,
    begs the question of just how were the saints who were under the Old
    Testament actually saved ?, even though they say that they were saved by Christ,

    Unfortunately this is a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bath
    water, it seems that in there attempt to overthrow all things that might imply
    or seemingly lead to a connection with infant baptism, they have dispensed
    with many continuities between the covenants, including that the Older
    Covenants were not or did not contain the Covenant of Grace in substance,
    then if that is the case how did they obtain the Promise, if it were only a
    promise that was formal, future, external & verbal, for faith to be effectual
    it needs the Promise to be material, be present, be internal & have substance,

    This PB theology seems way to convoluted, Occam’s Razor ought to be taken
    to it, the simpler One Substance, Multiple Administrations view ought to prevail,

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