Recently, Nick Batzig, contributor at Reformed Forum, wrote an article seeking to answer one of the arguments presented in Kingdom Through Covenant. This issue raised by Drs. Wellum and Gentry was concerning members of the Covenant of Grace. Westminster Confession of Faith 7.3 and Question 31 of the Westminster Larger Catechism state that only the elect are members of the Covenant of Grace. Covenant Theologians, though, argue that children are to be viewed as members of the covenant even before they are united to Christ by faith.
This is the seeming contradiction that Batzig seeks to untangle. He explains that the Covenant of Grace must be viewed from two separate perspectives, eternity and in time. From eternity’s standpoint, according to Batzig, the members of the CoG are only those whom the Father has chosen to redeem in the Son by the power of the Spirit. On the other hand, members of the CoG in the outworking of time include the elect and their children.
To help explain, Batzig points to Covenant Theology’s distinction between the visible and invisible church. The invisible church, being composed of the elect only (WCF 25.1), is akin to the eternal aspect of the CoG. The visible church, then, is like the outworking of the CoG in time because it includes those professing faith and their children (WCF 25.2).
A Couple of Concerns
I believe Batzig reveals a conflicting view of how Covenant Theology views the visible church and how it is portrayed in Scripture. He correctly states, “There are always wheat and tares.” But Batzig hurts his case by referring to this parable in Matthew 13:24-30. Notice who is responsible for sowing the bad seed. It’s the devil. Jesus makes this explicit when He explains the parable in Matthew 13:36-43. A related parable is found later in this same chapter when Jesus compares the kingdom to “a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind (Matt. 13:47-50).” Notice again that the fish being judged are never portrayed in a positive light. Again, Batzig quotes a portion of 1John 2:19, and this verse explains that those who fell away from the faith showed their true identity—being of the world, not a part of God’s chosen people.
This does not square with how CT portrays the mixed multitude of members in the Covenant of Grace. For Batzig and other Covenant Theologians, this mixed aspect is fundamentally positive, but it seems contrary to the overall attitude of the New Testament.
A second concern about Batzig’s argument is his discussion of union with Christ. He recounts a charge leveled against him by a proponent of New Covenant Theology that “Covenant Theologians don’t get the Adam/Christ structure of the Bible.” Batzig goes on to assure the reader that this structure forms the foundation of CT, but I believe this is a point where CT’s argumentation falls flat.
The New Testament makes clear that Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the new covenant, and we experience the blessings of the Father by being united to the Son by faith (Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:3). In the Old Testament, God worked through physical bloodlines, and He spoke of ethnic Israel being the Son of God (Ex. 4:22; Hos. 11:1). But Jesus came to earth as the true Son of God (Matt. 2:15; 3:17), and now it is through union with Christ that one becomes a son or daughter of God, not by being born to Christian parents. It is difficult to see how one could argue that a child could be seen as a member of the covenant while not being in union with Jesus. Sure, they may be around the covenant community, and they may regularly hear the gospel as a result, but that is far from saying that the Bible views them as a member of the covenant.
There’s more to say, but I’ll stop there for the sake of brevity. I hope, though, that this will spark some more dialogue regarding a very important discussion.