By Jeff Robinson
One of the theological questions I have been asked most often during my first 24 months as pastor has been some version of this query: Do Baptists believe Covenant Theology or is that just a Presbyterian thing? My answer (which is consistently “Yes, Baptists have historically believed Covenant Theology that obviously differs a bit from our Presbyterian brethren”) has puzzled some and made others curious enough to launch your own study of my conclusion. But my dear friend Mike Gaydosh at Solid Ground Books in Birmingham, Ala., the city where my family lives, has recently published two books that will provide plenty of grist for that mill and will 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 point of pressure separating the Baptist and non-Baptist version 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 provides an excellent overview of the consistent, biblical Covenant Theology which the Calvinistic (Particular) Baptists of 17th century England espoused. Denault surveys British Particular Baptists who held to Covenant Theology such as Benjamin Keach and John Gill and also shows biblically how paedobaptists misinterpret the continuity between the promises given to Abraham in the OT and baptism in the NT and 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.
Edited by Earl M. Blackburn, the second work, Covenant Theology: A Baptist Distinctive, is a multi-author work 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. Blackburn 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 a well-done overview of the Baptist version of Covenant Theology and I heartily recommend them both for your spring or summer reading.
To order, see the Solid Ground Christian Books website at http://www.solid-ground-books.com/index.asp. Phone: (205) 443-0311.
Jeff Robinson (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church. Jeff is the author of the forthcoming book, The Great Commission Vision of John Calvin. Jeff is also a fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.