« The Testimony of the Holy Spirit | Main | "The highest of all missionary motives" »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Charles McNinch

Curious: one issue your post doesn't directly address--are we to assume that all "covenant" children are "regenerate"? This gets confusing to me. Please help.


Charles: It is better to say that we should "treat" all covenant children as regenerated until proven otherwise. If they grow to adulthood without ever making a public profession of faith or if they lack a credible profession of faith, then they should be subject to church discipline and potentially be excommunicated if necessary. But until that happens, we should treat them the same way we treat adult members of the church in good standing, as fellow Christians and members of the household of God. Just as adult members of covenant community could be unregenerate and tares mixed in with the wheat, so with our covenant children. But just as we cannot read the heart but must treat anyone with a credible profession of faith as a fellow believer, so with our covenant children. God has made promises to save us and our covenant children, to convey his grace from one generation to the next in the ordinary use of the means of grace and covenant nurture. Therefore, we should believe those promises, and part of believing them is to treat our children as "in" rather than "out" and from that position of being "in" to nurture them in the faith in the expectation that they will grow up into a mature faith.


"My two older children sometimes ask me when they were regenerated and converted."
The very fact that they would ask such a question is a profound testimony and encouragement.

Charles McNinch

That's exactly how I would answer the question! And yet... critiquing myself in this answer, it doesn't really answer the question--or tries to answer it both ways. No we can't assume all covenant children are "regenerate" (or elected) because the tares are mixed in with the wheat, but yes we must assume they are regenerate because God promises to save them. Maybe it's just a place where systematic theology fails us and leaves us a tension we have to live with.


Maybe the trouble is with the word "assume." Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary lists 6 meanings for "assumption," and under meaning five, they subdivide betwen a) the supposition that something is true and b) a fact or statement (as a proposition, axiom, postulate, or notion) taken for granted. Perhaps that is the distinction in this case. We can suppose that they are regenerate, but we cannot presuppose it. We can treat them as regenerate, based on the promises of God that he ordinarily will save our children in the due use of the means of grace and covenant nurture, but we do not lay it down as a fact taken for granted, especially since the promises of God are conditional on covenant nurture and are not an absolute guarantee but a general pattern that does admit of exceptions.


Gregory Baus linked to your sermon series "And the God of thy Seed" (scroll down: http://honest2blog.blogspot.com/2007/02/sin-shall-have-no-dominion-how-does.html ), which I listened to several months ago. Much of what you taught there aligned with how my understanding about children and the Covenant has started to gel (the bits and pieces of Covenant theology and Berkhof and scripture and such that have been floating around in my mind...)

Do you have resources that you recommend that focus specifically on children and parents in the covenant? Or, perhaps do you have your outline/notes that you'd be willing to share?



Charles Hodge's review of Bushnell's Christian Nurture is helpful. You can find it on Google books (starting on p. 303): http://books.google.com/books?id=4cZCAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PA336&ots=-6nFYArmX1&dq=charles%20hodge%20review%20bushnell%20covenant%20nurture&pg=PA303#v=onepage&q&f=false

Once you've read Hodge and been warned about the weaknesses in Bushnell's theology, you can even read Bushnell himself with profit as long as you are discerning. http://books.google.com/books?id=C9TaShjLB5gC&dq=bushnell%20christian%20nurture&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false

The comments to this entry are closed.