Covenant Theology No Longer?
Count me among those very gratified at the resurgence of Calvinism among the baptist community, represented by such figures as John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and others.
Count me as also surprised that the traditional Reformed communions, in their enthusiasm for the burgeoning "Reformed Baptist" movement, have apparently ceded the field on covenant theology.
I refer to the fact that Reformed Theological Seminary now has an institute for Baptist studies. RTS is a non-denominational seminary, and it is perfectly within their rights to have such an institute. More surprising is that Westminster Seminary in California (the pit-bull of seminaries when it comes to adherence to Reformed Confessional standards) also has an institute for Baptist studies!
Does covenant theology no longer form part of the core of the Reformed tradition? Have the Reformed paedobaptists simply decided to stop arguing for covenant theology? The Reformed Baptists have been quite busy, I realize, attempting to stake out a theologically consistent sacramentology and, to my mind, they have been failing in their noble, well-intentioned attempt. This is because a hybrid of Anabaptist individualism and Reformed theology is an inherently unstable mixture, which would explain the absence of a long-term, transgenerational Reformed Baptist movement in the history of the church. (Note, not coincidentally, that "transgenerational" is the very thing undermined by Baptist sacramentology.) "Reformed Baptists," even very learned and impressive ones, tend to pop up in history now and then, but their movements do not appear to have longevity. I do not believe it is an accident that these movements seem to invariably degenerate into Arminian (i.e., not Reformed) theology.
It would seem to me that, while applauding the recent resurgence of Calvinism in Baptist circles, we paedobaptists should continue urging, arguing, and persuading our Baptist brothers and sisters to ditch the individualist sectarianism latent in the Anabaptist doctrine of the church and to embrace the longstanding catholic practice of baptizing infants.
But maybe that's just me. The trend seems to be to pretend that "Reformed Baptist" is a stable theological category and to set up institutes whereby Baptists are not challenged to embrace the full-orbed Reformed Faith, inclusive of covenant theology, but to continue their project of uniting things that cannot be long united: Calvinist soteriology and an Anabaptist doctrine of the church.
I welcome and embrace the Reformed Baptist resurgence. But I will never stop lovingly urging my Reformed Baptist brethren to lose the "Baptist" part.
The establishment of Baptist "institutes" at Reformed seminaries indicates that my attitude is becoming a minority report.