A Review of The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology by Pascal Denault

Jonathan Brack reviews The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology by Pascal Denault and published by Solid Ground Christian Books. This is a helpful treatment of historic Reformed credo-baptist arguments.

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Rich Barcellos

6 years ago

Thanks for doing this review. FYI, the book was translated from French to English. Here’s an idea – invite Pascal to come on your show and have James Dolezal and James Renihan as well. 🙂

Jason Delgado

6 years ago

I found this book as helpful as Jonathan Brack did… good review.

Listeners who enjoy this may be interested to know that I had the privilege of interviewing Pascal Denault for nearly two hours on this book. I put out a clip on a new podcast we started and Pascal will be on the next two episodes (April 16th & 23rd): http://confessingbaptist.com/category/podcast/

In the interview you’ll hear Denault himself say that he originally wrote it in French and he didn’t get to read an English translation so he does plan on a 2nd publishing with updates and even corrections (as he said some things didn’t translate well). Regarding the conclusion though, I did think he showed that the 17th Century Baptist did believe that 🙂

Love this, keep up the good work y’all!

Jason Delgado

6 years ago

Oh and alot of the questions you ask in the last portion of this podcast I asked him as well, so I think you’ll enjoy it.

Jason Delgado

6 years ago

Here is part 1 of the podcast with Pascal Denault: http://confessingbaptist.com/podcast002/

Keith

6 years ago

Did Jonathan Brack write a critical review in print? Could he please?
Thanks, Keith Furutani

Brandon Adams

6 years ago

Thanks for the review. I second or third the request to have him on the show along with Dolezal and Renihan.

That said, I thought the review jumped into responding to the book before you were done summarizing what it says. A better summary of the thesis first would have been helpful. I agree this is the best foot forward in terms of credobaptist covenant theology: and it’s the oldest 🙂

I’m hoping Brack can clarify something he said regarding Owen:

@12:20 Well if you go back to his baptist argument, it seems to be the same language, the same thoughts as far as how he argues for baptism.

I’m not certain what he means by that. I have read both of the works he is referring to, so I’d love to better understand what Brack is trying to say. He referenced Owen’s appeal to Romans 15:8 in his earlier writing, but didn’t show how the same language was used in his exposition of Hebrews. I don’t find the same language or same thoughts at all between the two. Please clarify, thanks.

Jonathan

6 years ago

I a have a preliminary critical review written up, but I am not sure when I am going to submit it to the WTJ, I am hesitant becasue Pascal’s work was mainly historical and not exegetical. I think it would serve the discussion if I did a review of Coxe’s work instead, looking at the exegetical arguments. Let me reiterate that I loved the book and I think Pascal is mainly trying to put forth a historical position, so to critique him on exegesis might be a moving target. There was no serious treatment of Ephesians 6 or Romans 11, and the Hebrews 10 exegesis was not that tight… and I don’t think he was trying to make a tight case.

Brandon, the language I am referring to is “It was not the covenant of works, neither originally nor essentially, nor the covenant in its legal administration; for he confirmed and sealed that covenant whereof he was the messenger, but these he abolished” is apart of his argument.
I took that to mean that although the covenant of works at Sinai is different essentially in the legal dimension the covenant of grace yet, the covenant made with Abraham (everlasting or grace) he did not abolish… That’s all.
Whether we want to speculate on how consistent John Owen was (I believe he also taught that the OT saints did not have Christ as the object of their faith) is besides me. If the Baptists “baptize” Owen’s covenant theology to argue their point, good for them. I disagree with Owen on multiple areas that I think are essential…. like polity!
The truth is that the argument must stand or fall by exegesis….

Brandon Adams

6 years ago

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for the reply and clarification. I have talked with Michael Brown (and several others) about this issue, and I have read Matthew McMahon, as well as Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, and have found their explanations all wanting, so I appreciate your willingness to help me here.

Brandon, the language I am referring to is “It was not the covenant of works, neither originally nor essentially, nor the covenant in its legal administration; for he confirmed and sealed that covenant whereof he was the messenger, but these he abolished” is apart of his argument.
I took that to mean that although the covenant of works at Sinai is different essentially in the legal dimension the covenant of grace yet, the covenant made with Abraham (everlasting or grace) he did not abolish… That’s all.

Two points:

1) The biggest difference between Owen’s 1643 tract and his 1680 Hebrews commentary is that in the former Owen sees the Mosaic covenant as the legal administration of the covenant of grace (as you have quoted) and throughout the tract refers to “the covenant” singular. In his Hebrews 8 commentary he rejected this view, saying “Scripture does plainly and expressly make mention of two testaments, or covenants, and distinguish between them in such a way as can hardly be accommodated by a twofold administration of the same covenant…Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than merely a twofold administration of the same covenant, to be intended.”

So on this point there is a very clear change in Owen’s mind in how he views the covenants.

2) In his Hebrew’s commentary, Owen does not expand upon the Abrahamic covenant anywhere near as much as he does the Mosaic Covenant. But when he does, he makes some statements that would at least require further clarification from him explaining how it affects his paedobaptism (since he died shortly after, I have not found any further clarification)

Owen employed the same distinction between promise/covenant that the baptists did (which you chided them for in the podcast):

When we speak of the “new covenant,” we do not intend the covenant of grace absolutely, as though it were not before in existence and effect, before the introduction of that which is promised here. For it was always the same, substantially, from the beginning. It passed through the whole dispensation of times before the law, and under the law, of the same nature and effectiveness, unalterable, “everlasting, ordered in all things, and sure.” All who contend about these things, the Socinians only excepted, grant that the covenant of grace, considered absolutely, — that is, the promise of grace in and by Jesus Christ, —was the only way and means of salvation to the church, from the first entrance of sin.

But for two reasons, it is not expressly called a covenant, without respect to any other things, nor was it called a covenant under the old testament. When God renewed the promise of it to Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but this covenant with Abraham was with respect to other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely, under the old testament, the covenant of grace consisted only in a promise; and as such only is proposed in the Scripture,

-Exposition of Hebrews 8:6

So Owen makes it clear that the Abrahamic covenant was not the covenant of grace. The Abrahamic covenant “was with respect to other things”. The covenant of grace is the new covenant, and it existed only as a promise under the old testament.

If the Baptists “baptize” Owen’s covenant theology to argue their point, good for them.

Since you labored in the podcast to show how the baptists/Denault were wrong about Owen, I hope you don’t back away from that assertion too quickly when pressed. Is it “good for them” or “bad for them”? Whether or not you agree with Owen is besides the point. The point is whether or not Denault/the baptists accurately portrayed Owen’s view or not, which in the podcast you said they did not.

The point is that Owen’s view was not the same as his reformed contemporaries, as he admits in his commentary. The Kerux review of The Law is Not of Faith agrees and elaborates on this, so it’s not just an attempt by baptists to “baptize” Owen. It’s a desire to read him accurately.

(btw, if anyone want’s to read Owen’s tract on infant baptism, I have posted it here with proper outlined/indented formatting: http://contrast2.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/of-infant-baptism-john-owen/ )

Brandon Adams

6 years ago

Btw, is there any way to receive email notifications for replies?

Jason Delgado

6 years ago

You can subscribe to the comment RSS feed below

Rich Barcellos

6 years ago

Also, Owen was clear – the object of saving faith has always been the Mediator.

Brandon Adams

6 years ago

The Principle of the Assignation of Divine Honour unto the Person of Christ, in both the Branches of it; which is Faith in Him.

The principle and spring of this assignation of divine honour unto Christ, in both the branches of it, is faith in him. And this hath been the foundation of all acceptable religion in the world since the entrance of sin. There are some who deny that faith in Christ was required from the beginning, or was necessary unto the worship of God, or the justification and salvation of them that did obey him. For, whereas it must be granted that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” which the apostle proves by instances from the foundation of the world, Heb. xi. — they suppose it is faith in God under the general notion of it, without any respect unto Christ, that is intended. It is not my design to contend with any, nor expressly to confute such ungrateful opinions — such pernicious errors. Such this is, which — being pursued in its proper tendency — strikes at the very foundation of Christian religion; for it at once deprives us of all contribution of light and truth from the Old Testament. Somewhat I have spoken before of the faith of the saints of old concerning him. I shall now, therefore, only confirm the truth, by some principles which are fundamental in the faith of the Gospel.

Christologia, Chapter 10 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/christologia.xiv.html

Taylor Sexton

3 years ago

Dr. Bucey,

What Mr. Brack talks about from about 13:15 onward is what we talked about last night concerning what I thought was “crumbling” for me with the 1689 position. He says it well around 13:40: “Although they believed grace was administered in the Old Covenant, there was no administration of the covenant of grace.” I think that, for me, this is crucial. How was grace administered in the Old Covenant? He asked an important question around 14:20, as well: Is being saved by promises not indeed an administration of grace? I think this truly is the weak point for me.

Thanks for this discussion and thanks even more for the hospitality you and Erica have shown to me by inviting me over for that very helpful talk last night.

Let’s do it again!

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