Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Leaving Dispensationalism Behind (Part Three)
At the end of my first year in seminary, Big Red and his family moved into our apartment complex, which allowed us to continue our theological conversations on a much more regular basis. During one of our talks, I spied a book on Red’s desk called Children of the Promise by Randy Booth. To my shock and horror, the subtitle was The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism. What an oxymoron! I knew that there was absolutely no Biblical evidence for baptizing infants. This was a tradition left over from Rome.
I made no mention of this to Red, but I immediately procured the book from The Master’s library. I read it with extreme skepticism. I doubted every assertion and quibbled over every point of his exegesis, but after reading the book, I knew I was in serious trouble. I was far from convinced, but for the first time, I had to acknowledge that there was a legitimate Biblical argument for infant baptism.
I had always approached baptism as an independent issue. Booth’s book helped me understand that baptism is largely determined by the relationship between Israel and the church. Baptism is a symptom of ecclesiology.
For the next couple of years, I wrestled with the issue of Israel and the church. During this time I read through the Bible multiple times, always with an eye towards understanding the relationship between Israel and the church. I paid careful attention to Genesis 12-17, Romans 9-11, Galatians 3-4, Hebrews 8-10, as well as hundreds of other related passages. I began to come to the conclusion that the church is a continuation of what God began with Abraham (and ultimately with Adam).
When I came to reject a hard distinction between Israel and the church, my dispensational house of cards toppled. However, I did not immediately jump to a covenantal view. I made a pit stop in New Covenant Theology, a Reformed Baptist sect of recent origin.