Archive for the ‘Westminster Standards’ Category

Francis Schaeffer’s paedobaptist covenant premillennialism appears to be rarely held today, although apparently it was commonly held among the Bible Presbyterians and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), both of which he ministered in during his career.

The following is Schaeffer’s view in a nutshell and basically explains why he takes prophecy “literally” but why he wasn’t a dispensationalist even though he was a pre-tribulationist. It is from the second half of the message on the Covenant of Grace in the Westminster Confession of Faith series that was taught at L’Abri in the early 1960s. (This series includes the sermon from which his little book on Baptism was drawn.)

This is basically an introduction to a series of messages on the Abrahamic Covenant in which he emphasizes what he terms the unity and diversity of the covenant. This transcription is very lightly edited to remove repetition, etc. My apologies for any grammatical errors.

We have here two halves in the first three verses of the Abrahamic Covenant. [He then quotes Gen 12:1-3.]

Here we have two halves and we must not get the two halves confused. There is a national, natural promise here to the natural seed of Abraham who are the Jews. But there is also the spiritual portion. The Covenant of Grace is operating here. The Covenant to Noah is under the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant to Abraham is under the Covenant of Grace. It is not aside from the Covenant of Grace. It is a part and a portion of the Covenant of Grace.

What you have is the two halves given. There is the half that deals with the Jews as the Jews, a nation. And I would say that Romans makes very plain that God is not done with the Jews. This portion of the covenant still stands. As a matter of fact, I would say immediately that if it doesn’t stand, then we cannot trust God, because he says in reference to his covenant to the Jews, as Paul is speaking to the Jews concerning national, natural Israel, his brethren according to the flesh, he says “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” He’s talking about the national, natural portion of the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant to the Jews as Jews. But we mustn’t forget that that isn’t all there is to it. There is a spiritual portion, a spiritual and personal element that is shown here: Looking forward to the coming of Messiah and an individual’s partaking in personally in it.

Those who tend to take the amillennial position tend to lose the diversity of this and confuse the national, natural portion with the spiritual portion. But there are many many people today who make the opposite mistake. And that is that they lose the unity, the failure to understand the total unity of the Covenant of Grace from the promise of Gen 3:15 onward, including the fact that there is a unity to those of us who are born again, now on this side of the cross, a unity with these promises, the spiritual side of the promises made to Abraham. Let us not lose the diversity. There is a difference between the promise made to the nation of the Jews as Jews and the spiritual portion, but let us equally beware of losing the unity, There is a unity to the Covenant of Grace. To say in passing, this is the reason I am not a dispensationalist. There is a unity.


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I recently discovered a great number of lectures by Francis Schaeffer.  Evidently these are the “L’Abri tapes” that I first saw mentioned in True Spirituality.

I haven’t listened to very many of these yet, but this includes lectures that appear to be the basis of several of his books. These include True Spirituality, No Little People, Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History, Genesis and Science, A Christian Manifesto, The Mark of the Christian and The Finished Work of Christ, among others. I must confess that I am less familiar with his well known apologetical works than I am with some of his others but I’m sure much of that material is there in embryonic form as well.

Overall, a wide variety of topics are covered, from cultural analysis, theology in general (including a series on the Westminster Confession of Faith), apologetics, the arts, etc.  There are also a good many lectures on eschatology, including an exposition of the book of Revelation.  It is well known that Schaeffer was premillennial, which was not uncommon among Presbyterians of his day, particularly among those of his background.  The titles of some of them seem to indicate that he was pretribulational as well.  But those lectures appear to be from the early 1960’s so I don’t know if he ever changed his views as did some others like James Montgomery Boice, for example.  I haven’t read that much of Schaeffer’s work, but I hope to remedy that soon.  However, I have noticed allusions to a future for Israel in some of his writings that were published in the 1970’s.  I do think it’s interesting that a leader who was known for teachings on cultural and other issues would have taught so much on prophetical themes. But most if not all of those lectures were from the early 1960’s, prior to him becoming a popular evangelical leader in the United States and beyond.

There is also a large amount of video material available online as well, perhaps most notably the film version of How Should We Then Live?

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Note: (2/15/09)  Instead of merely linking to a post on the PuritanBoard, where I was then serving as a moderator, I thought that as I transfer older posts to this new blog that I’d include the full text here.  The following is the substance of an email I sent to both the pastor of the congregation in the Presbyterian Church in America that we had been attending and were in the process of joining and also to the pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of which I was then a member.  My wife and I are now members of a Southern Baptist church.  If I were to write on this subject today I might change a few things about it, but in general the following represents my current views:

Until Saturday night I would have told you that I was a convinced paedobaptist and Presbyterian. I was even prepared to sell most of my Baptist books, even including several ones by and about Spurgeon. However as I had told you in our first meeting, I have always struggled with Acts 2:41 and never thought that passage taken as a whole was nearly as favorable to paedobaptism as many think. No paedo has ever been able to answer it completely to my satisfaction. Whenever I have asked the question (including several times on the PB) I usually get stony silence. Others will respond with some kind of snide comment like “Baptists just don’t get it”. Others will try to argue that there were no children there that day. If I recall correctly during that meeting you responded with something like “we shouldn’t get hung up on one verse” or “we shouldn’t allow one verse to determine things.” However, I suppose I just ignored my concerns up until now. But I read it in context Saturday night and it hit me like a ton of bricks:

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:41-42

Some will argue that the reference to “breaking of bread” in Acts 2:42 is not necessarily a reference to the Lord’s Supper. It is used as a proof text in the Westminster Standards at WCF 21.5, 21.6, 26.2, WLC 63, 108, 154, 174, 175 and WSC 50 and 88. Several of these are general references to the means of grace but Acts 2:42 is used in other instances as a proof text specifically for the Lord’s Supper.

I interpret these verses to teach that, first of all, those who received Peter’s word that day were baptized (i.e. only those personally professing faith) and that this same group continued steadfastly breaking bread which typically included in those days the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. These two verses, in my opinion, throw the Reformed teaching of paedobaptism and credo communion into serious doubt. It appears that the two choices that do justice to the unity expressed here are either adopting Baptist views or adopting paedocommunion. Unfortunately, many in Reformed churches are opting for the latter. This is why we see so many who come from Baptist backgrounds like Doug Wilson, Gregg Strawbridge and Randy Booth adopting paedocommunion soon after becoming paedobaptists. A whole lot more NT evidence can be marshaled against paedobaptism than can be brought to bear against paedocommunion. Once one has explained away all of the “believe and be baptized” verses in favor of an overarching concept of covenant theology that is imposed upon the scriptures, why let 1 Cor. 11 get in the way of practicing paedocommunion?

I am glad that churches like the PCA have up until this point held the line against paedocommunion. But I believe at this point that the teaching of the Westminster Standards on this subject is inconsistent and am thinking that those who have argued that the western church abandoned paedocommunion after the adoption of transubstantiation because of concerns that the child would throw up the elements have a point. Of course the eastern church has never abandoned paedocommunion and will force alcoholic wine down the throat of children who are barely more than infants.

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