A long needed comparison of Baptist and Paedobaptist Reformed Covenant Theologies,
This review is from: The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology by Denault. Pascal ( 2013 ) Paperback (Paperback)
Pascal Denault, `The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology:
A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and
Paedobaptist Federalism', Solid Ground Christian Books (Birmingham:
This is a nicely presented book based on the author's masters thesis. It
is up-to-date, and interacts with contemporary literature up to 2012.
It has footnotes where they belong (at the bottom of the page they are
referenced on), and a full bibliography of works quoted. It does not have
a subject, name or scripture index, but is well structured so that,
arguably, only the lack of a name index is significant.
The book has the following structure:
.... 1.1 Hypothesis
.... 1.2 Methodology and Original Sources
.... 1.3 Brief History of Covenant Theology
2. The Covenant of Works
.... 2.1 Description and Function of the Covenant of Works
.... 2.2 Relationship between the Covenant of Works and the Old Covenant
3. The Covenant of Grace
.... 3.1 The Covenent of Grace in the 17th century
.... 3.2 The Covenant of Grace as seen by Paedobaptists
.... 3.3 The Covenant of Grace as seen by Baptists
.... 3.4 Comparison of the Two Models
4. The Old Covenant
.... 4.1 What Does the Old Covenant Mean?
.... 4.2 The Abrahamic Covenant
.... 4.3 The Mosaic Covenant
5. The New Covenant
.... 5.1 The Newness of the New Covenant
This is a much needed, and extremely welcome book. Denault sets out to
compare Reformed Baptist covenant theology with Reformed Paedobaptist
covenant theology and does an excellent job of it, keeping an irenic
tone throughout, and helping to clarify many difficult issues
along the way. This is not a book which deals with generalisations
and simplifications, but nor does it get bogged down with obscure
side-issues. Rather Denault clearly analyses the issues, and brings
enviable clarity to the debate.
Reformed Baptists (originally known in England as "Particular Baptists")
have long had a great need for a book that explains their version of
covenant theology. Even their primary confession - the 1689 Baptist
Confession of Faith, which was based on the Presbyterian Westminster
Confession of Faith (WCF) - has some confusing properties obscuring
Baptist covenant theology. For example, first it deviates from the
WCF on the section of the Covenant of Works - but, as Denault explains,
this due to a perceived ambiguity in the WCF wording rather than a
difference of doctrine. Secondly, the 1689 Baptist Confession uses the
"covenant of grace" terminology (as does the WCF), obscuring the fact
to those not aware of the nuances that there are significant differences
between the Baptist and Paedobaptist understanding of this covenant.
Denault's book makes one aware of the nuances.
Fortunatlely, there are now a few books which introduce Reformed Baptist
covenant theology, (see, for example, Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ)
but the difficulty with a straight-forward exegetical
description of such a position is that it is not always clear why a
particular point is being made, and what the consequences would be of
not accepting that reading. This is where Denault's book is so helpful.
Not only does he explain the Baptist position, but by comparing it with
the Paedobaptist position, one can see the inner logic of both positions,
and hence the ramifications of adopting different readings of a particular
The book, of course, is not the last word on this subject. In places one
could wish that it was based on a PhD thesis rather than a masters thesis,
for the interaction could even better documented, and more variations of
the Paedobaptist position could be considered.
Nevertheless, this book will help Baptists of all kinds to understand that
Credobaptism is compatible with Reformed theology generally, and with a
version of Reformed covenant theology in particular. It will also help
Reformed paedobaptists understand that Reformed theology should not be
defined in such a way as to exclude (all) Baptists.
More importantly, it will throw light upon the intra-Reformed debates about
whether or not the Mosaic covenant is or contains a republication of the
covenant of works. (see, for example, The Law Is Not of Faith, Essays on Works and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant)
This in turn has implications for how or whether one
understands Christ's righteousness to be imputed to one in justification,
which in turn impacts the crucial and much debated question of what it
means to be justified. This in turn impacts how one relates to God, and
perhaps on whether or not one has properly responded to the gospel of Jesus
Christ. In other words, the subject analysed in this book has vital
implications for one's spirituality and salvation. The issues it addresses
go to the heart of the gospel, and not only how one understands the Bible
to fit together.
This book is a must read for all thinking Reformed Christians; for all
Baptists; and for all those interested in covenant theology, salvation-history,
and how the Bible is structured.
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