Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The status of children of believers

This is what Calvin says:

'...Solomon writes, "Blessed are the sons of the righteous after their fathers' death" (Prov. 20:7). This is not only because of their holy upbringing, which is surely of no little importance; but because of the blessing promised in the covenant, that God's grace shall everlastingly abide in the families of the pious'

I've found this reformed doctrine to be the one of the least well known in reformed church circles. Whenever it is brought up as a possibility, most people reply with some kind of indignant shock, and say (understandably) "But surely we are saved by faith only?". Others have replied with "The children aren't saved, but receive the blessings of the new covenant", to which they mean belonging to a Christian home where they are prayed for, have the bible read and so forth.

I find both replies less than satisfying, but I'm still not sure where I stand on the issue. I'm going to baptise my children. However my minister, who doesn't believe children are members of the covenant, always asks the parents publically at their child's baptism "So you don't believe in spiritual grandchildren, do you?" (expecting the answer to be "of course not").

Any thoughts? Recommended readings?

10 comments:

Dannii said...

"but because of the blessing promised in the covenant, that God's grace shall everlastingly abide in the families of the pious"

Which verse(s) is he referring to here?

geoffc said...

*sigh* unfortunately Danni, since i have to read calvin for college, i'va passed the page and i can't find it. :-)

But if you google "arguments for infant baptism" you'll find it. It was in regard to the Old Testament.

But somehow I know you won't be convinced ;-)

shanerogerson said...

clearly your pastor is wrong Geoff - and should not arbritrate your conscience in this matter - and for once I can go on record as advicating we stick to the prayer book.

Noah is either a believer to be discipled and nutured in the faith or
a pagan to be converted.

until parents grasp this choice - i am not sure they have understood the nature of covenant relationship and promise.

shanerogerson said...

Glen Davies paper can be found in the library somewhere. very helpful.

geoffc said...

thanking you kindly.

I will definately trat my children as believers, and pray "our father in heaven..."

However, the becomes some sticky issues, such as them falling away later, and how that corelates to having the holy spirit and being 'elect' and then later not. If they were never members of the elect, how can we say they are members of the new covenant?

Ben said...

And Pete Tong wrote an issues in theology paper on how we ought to treat our children in this regard in 2008.

I agree with Shane.

David Ould said...

hi Geoff,

I wrote an issues paper on this in 2007. You can find it here. I've not read Pete Tong's piece but I'd be interested.

Dannii said...

Geoff, Whether I will be convinced or not is still to be seen, I just want to understand at the moment.

"clearly your pastor is wrong Geoff - and should not arbritrate your conscience in this matter - and for once I can go on record as advicating we stick to the prayer book."
Well, we can't have pastors going against their consciences either...

geoffc said...

David, thank you. Your peice is the clearest i've read on the issue, which deals with both covenant continuity as well as the problems of saying 'all children of beleivers are saved'.

so, practically speaking, in what ways are your children members of the new covenant, even if you cannot guarantee their salvation?

David Ould said...

thanks for your kind words, geoff.

My 3 week old boy is being baptised on Sunday. Here's how I understand what is going on.

He is a member of a community, both in our houshold and in our local church where the covenant is declared. I don't think that's quite the same as saying he is a member of the new covenant. My reformed baptist friends have helpd me see this would be an overstatement as they read Hebrews and see the finality and efficaciousness of Christ with respect to the members of the new covenant.

I hope that distinction is useful. I'm always drawn back to the argument that whole households were baptised. Are we really saying they were all converted?