I Should Have Listened to My Own Advice on Hermenuetics - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonCovenant Theology - God's Master Plan to Give His Son Jesus Christ a Bride
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Check out these books on Covenant Theology.
When dealing with Covenant Theology “simple” is a good thing. After the Bible, this work is the FIRST that you should read, or one that you should introduce to a friend if they are struggling with covenant concepts.
There is no better succinct, concise, precise and exegetically irrefutable work on infant baptism than Harrison’s work. It is not just about baptism – it’s about infant inclusion in the covenant of grace. It’s about church membership.
A refutation of my own first article on Baptism and Hermeneutics.
It is interesting to me that people say one thing and do another. My “secular” vocation often affords me the “nicety” of speaking with people on the phone who say they are going to do one thing and then do the exact opposite when I call them back to finalize a project I may be working on. It is even more surprising to me that I did this in my own first article on Baptism. I said one thing, and then I did another. As a matter of fact, I went way overboard.
I first set forth some basic ideas concerning the principles of hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. I stated that there are rules to translating or exegeting the Bible, and then defined some of those rules. I referred to presuppositions, something we all have, and how they affect biblical interpretation. I stressed the grammatical and historical (grammatico-historico interpretive method) manner in which exegetes are careful to translate the Word of God. If you stop using the rules, then you simply are not translating the text correctly and subsequently, you are not asserting proper hermeneutics. This all seemed good as I reread the article. Then came the absurdity; or, as we call it in philosophical circles, the ignoratio elenchi – the irrelevant conclusion or erroneous subsequent idea.
I quote myself:
In my own reading of various books on hermeneutics, the process of biblical interpretation, I have found that one over-arching theme is often overlooked when interpreting the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. The over-looked axiom is what I call the Christ-hermeneutic. The moment the paedo-Baptist places undue emphasis on his interpretation of covenant theology, the Christ-hermeneutic disappears. What do I mean by this? For the paedo-Baptist, the central covenant of the Bible, that which all other covenants stem, ebb, and flow from, is the covenant made by God with Abraham. All of covenant theology stems from building an edifice beginning with the promise of God made to Abraham, and to “his seed” after him.
This sounds plausible on first glance, but is so wrong I can hardly contain myself at this point. I made up an axiom called the “Christ-hermeneutic.” Actually, my “reformed” baptist buddies and I thought through it and confirmed it with our “reformed” baptist pastor. So much for good guidance. We will get to that after. But I said that the moment the Paedo-Baptist places “undue” emphasis on Covenant Theology, then he has left the realm of proper hermeneutics. Says who? I am appalled at myself. This is such nonsense that it is almost a waste of time for any careful exegete to consider as plausible. Good hermeneutics books do not include anything even remotely close to the idea contained in the Christ-hermeneutic because good hermeneutics books are just that – good hermeneutics books, not bad ones. Covenant Theology is the major redemptive theme and manner of God’s saving actions among men. Rather, it is more often that one fails to emphasize the importance of the covenant enough!
After making a horrible statement about undue emphasis, I then made another statement about the Abrahamic covenant which is equally absurd, “But the moment the presupposition that this is the central covenant of the Bible is made, then the argument has already begun to be founded upon a false hermeneutic.” I give no reasons why this is case, but simply state that I do not like Paedo-Baptists who rely on the Abrahamic Covenant as the central covenant of the Bible. Okay, I can have my opinion, but where is the Scripture to ground this assertion? It seems the Apostle Paul rests a great deal of his New Testament hermeneutic upon the Abrahamic covenant and the manner of Abraham’s justification in relation to God’s promises (how about Romans 4?). In fact he wrote an entire epistle (Galatians) around that very idea. So then I stated this: where in this passage, or in any Old Testament text concerning the promise made to Abraham, do we ever find God saying that this everlasting covenant is greater than the one He will make in Christ.” (Maybe I should have just passed this one over and reread my New Testament again!) I then went on to prove that all Old Testament covenant relationships have been dispelled by quoting (not exegeting) Hebrews 8. Maybe I should have taken some time to really understand Jeremiah’s prophecy before thinking I understood what the writer to the Hebrews was saying about the “newness” of the covenant in Hebrews 8. If you recall, good hermeneutics means that I would endeavor to understand Jeremiah 31-34 before treading into Hebrews 8. It was not exegesis that saved me here. I relied on an unscholarly idea I had fabricated. Rather than basing my ascertains on the Bible, I based them on the “Christ hermeneutic.” This “axiom” was to rescue me from the awkward position my Paedo-Baptist friends like to place me in with regard to the manner in which I had interpreted the New Testament covenant in relation to the Old Testament covenant. It was one of my greatest defenses.
I placed quite a heavy emphasis on what I called the “Christ hermeneutic.” I went on to “snow” my readers with a blizzard of what is called “spiritualizing” the text. To spiritualize the text is to take a Scriptural idea (like Solomon’s temple) and for each part of that idea glean some kind of Christian “spiritual” fact out of it. For instance, instead of keeping Solomon’s temple in its proper context of redemptive history, one would take facets of the temple and relate them to Christian experience, though the writer of the text (which is the Holy Spirit through a prophet) may not have particularly meant that portion of Scripture in that particular way. This can often be dubious in the hands of the unfaithful. As a matter of fact, I really did not even use a text, but rather used a theological idea – the hypostatic union. I spiritualized a theological view into absurdity. I said that because Jesus is the Living Word, (OK so far) and that he has 2 natures that are bound together without mixture (OK so far), that the Word of God we have which is living and active (OK so far) is also bound together in the same manner (not good!). Huh? Where in the world do we get that nonsense? Oh, I forgot, I ripped that little diddy out of 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (I am already engaging in bad hermeneutics by quoting this out of context. Am I listening to my own advice in hermeneutics?) As you can see I emphasized “dividing” quite heavily here. Then I went on to spiritualize the hypostatic union into a kind of hermeneutical tool which dictates that the Old Testament and New Testament have a relationship like the two natures of Jesus. Jesus’ natures do not mix, and so the Old Testament and New Testament do not mix. I even went so far as to say the Paedo-Baptist is treading into a dangerous hermeneutic like Eutychus or Nestorius did with their own version of Christology. (I am laughing as I type this!)
Think about it. If Jesus’ two natures, the divine and human, are joined but do not mix, then how much of one is present in the other? The answer is none if you want to remain orthodox. Thus, if the Old Testament and New Testament are joined but do not mix in the same way as the natures of Christ, then how much of one is in the other? The answer again would be none at all.
Ok so how is this easily refuted? Think about this my dear friends – Jesus’ natures are joined but not mixed at all! Who would, in their right mind, ever say there is NO fulfillment of ANYTHING in the Old Testament in the New Testament? No one would ever say this – not even the Dispensationalists. But I said it disguised in all sorts of hidden subtleties that you, the conscientious reader, missed and glossed over. It certainly did sound like a good idea at the time. But in reality, it was so wrong that I am ashamed I wrote it that way, or even believed it for that matter. I like to use the scholarly term “hogwash” for nonsense like that. The very nature of the Christ-Hermeneutic destroys Christ himself because the two testaments do not mix “at all.” All that quoting of Scripture in the New Testament by Jesus and the Apostles about the Old Testament prophecies would be wrong, and the view we have of the Messiah from the Old Testament could never be fulfilled because the New Testament would, necessarily, have to be something wholly other than the Old Testament. It would necessarily have to be like the natures of Christ if we were all following my previous ideas. We would have to say that the New and Old Testaments are two completely distinct testaments, and like the natures of Jesus, they do not, in any way, mix. Get that now – in any way. Stress that and see the absurdity. Where would any of the fulfillments be? Otherwise, the Christ-hermeneutic fails immediately in its basic teaching. Really, this Christ-hermeneutic is a radical kind of Dispensationalism – way radical if you think about it. I do not even think hardcore Dispensationalists would like its radical nature!
No, friends, let us keep good hermeneutics off the track of the Christ-hermeneutic. Good hermeneutics really has nothing to do with the nonsense that the Christ-hermeneutic offers because the Christ-hermeneutic destroys the entire reality of the New Testament by its very nature.
The Puritans made many posters, even in their day, to aid church members in understanding Scriptural truth. I created this new poster to cover the Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace.
Check Out these Books on Covenant Theology
Presumptive Regeneration, or, the Baptismal Regeneration of Elect Infants by Cornelius Burges (1589-1665)
A Discourse on Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism by Cuthbert Sydenham (1622-1654)
Infant Baptism of Christ’s Appointment by Samuel Petto (1624-1711)
Covenant Holiness and Infant Baptism by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
The Manifold Wisdom of God Seen in Covenant Theology by George Walker (1581-1651)
The Covenant of God by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
A Chain of Theological Principles by John Arrowsmith (1602-1659)
The Covenant of Life Opened by Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)
The Covenant of Grace Opened by Thomas Hooker (1586-1647)
The Covenant of Redemption by Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace by Edmund Calamy (1600-1666)
The Doctrine and Practice of Infant Baptism by John Brinsley (1600-1665)
God’s Covenant and Our Duty By Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
God’s Glory in Man’s Happiness by Francis Taylor (1589-1656)
Infant Baptism God’s Ordinance by Michael Harrison (1640-1729)
Jesus Christ God’s Shepherd by William Strong (d. 1654)