Anthony W. Brooks
In my last installment of Why I Am A Presbyterian I gave some general presuppositions and background to my journey into Presbyterianism. This was to lay a foundation for my thoughts and journey into the Presbyterian church. I discussed, amongst other things, my assumptions before entering the church and how those assumptions were overturned by study and teaching. Here I want to focus in on the covenant aspect of Presbyterianism, but this requires some background as well.
Foundational Teachings that Led Me Into The Church.
When I was in high school I was placed into a Bible study group on Wednesday nights by my mentor and this class would give me the foundations to understand covenant theology as I see it now. The class was led by an older couple who had the blessing to study the Bible together for over 40 years. These two had their Bibles memorized, or at least a large portion of them. The Bible they were using was called the Open Bible, perhaps you have heard of it? No? Well it is a Cyclopedic reference bible that breaks the Bible up into topics; much like the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible.
One of the features of this Bible was the study notes that would explain and divide the Bible into the different covenants: Edenic, Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, etc… This was meant to help the reader understand God’s dealings with his people over time. Now, though these two teachers were thoroughly dispensational in their theology, they were also covenantal as well. This confuses me now, but back then I gave it no thought, I was dispensational as well.
The aim of this class was to survey the entire Bible deeply. It was a task that would probably take four or five years if done weekly. So I had a long time to sit under their teaching. When we started they taught us the Edenic Covenant or the Covenant of Creation as the Westminster Confession puts it. We discussed the terms of the covenant and the punishment that was wrought when it was broken and so on all the way through to the New Covenant. This foundation set me up nicely for when I would start to study Paedobaptism.
They Never Saw It Coming
I broke their hearts, I know I did. In their mind anything that wasn’t Baptist was most likely Roman Catholic sympathy. So when I decided to baptize my three month old son I could hear the collective hearts of FBC Judson groan in agony. I was their product, the one who was supposed to eventually grow and be a youth pastor, associate pastor, or maybe even head pastor. I was supposed to help grow the church and teach the faithful generations after the old guard died. But alas this didn’t happen. I drank the poison of Rome.
What attracted me to this form of covenant thinking was the continuity of the scriptures. The Bible is a fundamentally covenantal book of making and breaking covenant. God makes a deal with Israel saying to keep it or I’ll destroy you, Israel breaks the covenant, God shows them mercy by not destroying them but instead sends them into slavery by another nation and they repent. So the cycle continues.
Of course there are implications to this covenant mindedness. One is that of the covenant sign and the other is the covenant home. Baptist’s like to be functional Presbyterians with their dry baptisms (Child Dedication) and their Joshua 24:15 households. But it is so inconsistent with their covenantal outlook. When you look at the structure of the family in the Bible it is the covenant body of God in the home. The husband is the head and all the members have their rolls. When the covenant is broken God judges the whole unit. That’s just the way it is (see Joshua 7-8). This is why Presbyterians baptize their infants… because God sees them as Christians and members of that covenant unit (a further discussion on this will come in a later post).
I want to raise my family to be faithful to this covenant. To do that I must see things this way. My son, who is only three, is responsible to keep covenant with God just like I am, and it is my responsibility to teach him to do it.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Picture: Moses receiving the commandments from God on Mount Sinai