Hell; Then and Now

Go to Hell
To Hell and back
What the Hell?
Give em Hell
Come Hell or high water
We’re proud that our Preacher doesn’t preach  “Hell, fire, and brimstone”
The Road to hell is paved with good intentions
“Hell is other people” — Jean Sartre (No Exit)
Going to hell in a hand-basket
People will say of the soon to be deceased, “They will split hell in half.”
Hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn.

So the idea of “Hell” is much in our lexicon but increasingly we as a people don’t believe in Hell.

We know that because in a 2007 Barna survey it was revealed

that only 32 percent of adults see hell as, “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.”

We know that Hell isn’t in our belief system much because as Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwest Baptist Seminary has said,

“You can traverse the entire United States on any given Sunday morning, and you very probably will not hear a sermon on the judgment of God or eternal punishment. Evangelicals have voted by the silence of their voices that they either do not believe in (the doctrine of hell) or else no longer have the courage and conviction to stand and say anything about it.”

Because Hell is so little spoken of and because it is one of the themes in Scripture, I try, every couple of years to preach at least one sermon on Hell and that in the Summer time because there is an easy to connect corollary.

First, we must note

I) The reality of Hell

A.) The New Testament speaks openly and repeatedly regarding the reality of Hell. It is,

The final abode of those condemned to eternal punishment (Mt. 25:41-46, Rev. 20:11-15)

Described as a place of fire and darkness (Jude 7, 13)

Described as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30)

Described as a place of destruction (II Thes. 1:7-9, II Peter 3:7, I Thes. 5:3)

Described as a place of torment (Rev. 20:10, Luke 16:23)

B.) Jesus Himself repeatedly speaks of Hell

HADES — Abode of the Dead

(1)  Capernaum exalted to heaven, then brought down to hell (hades) Mt 11:23 / Lk 10:15 …two mentions on SAME OCCASION
(2)  Lord says He will build His church: Mt 16:18 …one mention, ONE OCCASION
(3)  Parable of Rich man & Lazerus:  Lk 16:23 …one mention, ONE OCCASION

GEHENNA

(1) Sermon on the mount: Matt 5:29-30,22 and Mark 9:43,45,47… all 6 on the SAME OCCASION reported by both Mark and Matthew…
(2) Warning the Apostles to fear: Mark 10:28 Luke 12:5  two mentions…SAME OCCASION…
(3) Upbraiding the Pharisees:  Matt 23:15, 33 …2 mentions …SAME OCCASION
(4) Warning against offending little ones: Matt 18:9 …one mention, ONE OCCASION

The Greek word for Hell here is significant. Gehenna or the valley of Henna was a deep, narrow slight valley south of Jerusalem. Here the ancient idolatrous Jewish Kings and people would offer up their children in sacrifice to Molech ( 2 Chronicles 28:3 ; 33:6 ; Jeremiah 7:31 ; 19:2-6 ).

Later in time this same valley  became the Jerusalem dump. Here the corpse’s of animals and of criminals, and all kinds of filth, were cast away and consumed by a fire forever stoked and smoldering. The Gehenna dump thus in process of time became the image of the place of everlasting destruction.

This is the word used for the place of the wicked. It is the word used to speak of the Devil’s residence along with his servants. Because of the constant burning fire of the Jerusalem dump we easily understand the connection to everlasting fire as associated with Hell.  However, there might be more observed here about the nature of Hell with the usage of the word Gehenna. The Gehenna in Jerusalem like all city dumps was a place where no order existed nor meaningful relationship between objects exist. Hierarchy was non-existent.  It was a place of utter chaos and destructiveness.

Contrast that with this sanctuary or with your own homes. There is order here. Everything is in the place it is in for a reason. All is in a meaningful relationship with all else. The pews are faced in all one direction. The Cross, in the center, is ever before us. The pulpit is in the center thus communicating the centrality of God’s Word. The acoustics are designed for sound. The Windows for the movement of air. All is in order and all is properly related to everything else. Even our brass Church mouse speaks of meaning as it speaks of the necessity for quiet in God’s house.  (Quiet as a Church Mouse.) So there you have it. As humans we thrive on order, hierarchy, and meaning but a city dump as standing as metaphor for Hell there is no order… there is no natural relationship between objects. There is no meaning in the dump. There you find a once priceless Grandfather clock next to some old tattered sheets next to an old tennis shoe, next to a empty box of Frosted mini flakes, next to used kitty litter. The city dump is meaningless chaos. The city dump is total destructiveness.

In the words of Rushdoony,

“This tells us then something about Heaven and Hell. Heaven is that realm where all people and all things have a meaningful, loving fulfillment, one in another. There is a totality of meaning, a totality of purpose, a totality of fulfillment; whereas in Hell, there is a totality of isolation. There is no community between one person and another. There is a total isolation, so that everyone is his own world, his own universe, his own god.”

Well, what might we say here? We might note that as man constantly flees from God he at the same time integrates downward into the Gehenna dump with the result that he creates cultures of Hell where meaninglessness is prized as meaning. Where order is surrendered in pursuit of chaos. Where hierarchy is given up in favor of equality.

“Hierarchies are celestial. In hell all are equal.”

~Nicolás Gómez Davilla

One thing that is certainly true in a dump is that all the refuse and junk is equal … equally useless.

So, hell in Scripture is a place of endless burning. This stands in contrast in Scripture to heaven which is a place of endless blessing. Hell, like the Gehenna Jerusalem dump is a place of chaos, equality, and meaninglessness. Heaven, to the contrary, is a place of perfect order, eternal hierarchy, and total meaning. Hell is a place of total isolation whereas heaven is a place of complete community.

Here we can find a measuring rod for our family, churches, and communities. Do our community relationships take on the flavor of heaven or do they take on the character of the city dump — everything in isolation, nothing unique, all equally rotten and corrupt?

II.) Church History and Hell

For the Augustinians…….“They who shall enter into the joy of the Lord shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. . .The saints’. . . knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted. . .with the eternal sufferings of the lost.”

Augustine, The City of God

SECTION 1.“In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. . .So that they may be urged the more to praise God. . .the saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens. . .to the damned.”

Aquinas
Summa Theologica

“The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.”

The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.

Jonathan Edwards
[“The Eternity of Hell Torments” (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]

“God shall not pity them but laugh at their calamity. The righteous company in heaven shall rejoice in the execution of God’s judgment, and shall sing while the smoke riseth up for ever.”

Thomas Boston, Scottish preacher, 1732

III.) Hell and the Character of God

A.) Lose the Doctrine of Hell, and you lose the Justice of God

1.)  The denial of the eternality of Hell is another example of putative Christians or unlearned Christians or immature Christians attempting to make God out to be nicer than He makes Himself out to be. It is an attempt to save God from being God. It is sentimentality trying to rescue the alleged mean glowering character of God. It is another example of do gooders, who by doing their good, end up making Christianity crueler then any Devil could. This denial of the eternality of Hell is taken up by those who, at the very least think, “My God would never be that mean.” It is the argument which attempts to make God “reasonable.”

But God is not “reasonable.” At least not by modern man’s standards. This is something the Reformed Evangelist Rolfe Barnard understood. Barnard quotes two Psalms,

Psalm 9:17: “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God”

And in Psalm 7:11, we find these words: “God is angry with the wicked every day.”

Despite everything we hear today, Hell, God’s eternal penitentiary of the damned, is a terrible reality that men need to be faced with these days. I am aware of the fact that the popular “god” of the popular Christianity today is not the God of the Bible. Like a dead trunk, the popular “god” has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, and no arms to punish the ungodly. But the God of the Bible had fire in Sodom. He had a rod of iron for Samaria, for Tyre, for Jerusalem, and for Belshazzar. The God of the Bible dashed to pieces entire nations like a potter’s vessel. However, the modern “god” has no judgment in his hand; according to the popular gospel today, the modern “god” has sheathed the sword, and sits down as an indulgent weakling. His arm which used to visit vengeance upon impenitent sinners, now hangs nerveless and paralyzed–that is the popular “god” of today. I refuse to worship such a “god”–such a “god” is the creation of man’s wishes, but not the true God of the Bible.

Rolfe Barnard

 2.) Denials of Hell do not seem to comprehend that by altering the anchor example of God’s eternal justice (The condemnation to Eternal punishment for those who rebelled against God and His Christ) that the effect is a relativizing of temporal justice and punishment. If the anchor of justice is set loose and diminished in the Cosmic Divine realm the effect is to set adrift any ideas of absolute justice in the temporal realm.  If God’s justice is altered in terms of Hell and / or its duration then justice is the realm of man can be relativized and altered as well. One reason why we see so much injustice around us is that the Church no longer upholds the justice of God, by affirming the doctrine of Hell.
3.) Those who insist upon the conditionality of Hell or deny the eternality of Hell are those who will, in themselves or in their generations, become those who rebel against the whole concept of fixed Justice. When we deny the proper required Justice applied (eternal Hell) against those who commit crimes against God’s character and who do not find forgiveness in Christ, we will, over the course of time, deny the proper required justice against those who commit other lesser crimes. If the required proper punishment is denied, in our thinking, against those who commit the greatest of all crimes (unrepentant rebellion against the Character of God) then the consequence of that will eventually be the denial of justice implemented against all other lesser crimes.

So … getting rid of the eternal character of Hell guarantees the eventual arise of Hell on earth.

  4.) The Holiness of God is infinite and as such rebellion against God’s Holiness requires eternal punishment for those who do not close with Christ. The denial of the eternality of Hell is a denial of the august and majestic character of God. Low views of Hell insure, and in turn cause, low views of God.

The doctrine of Hell is a case where the punishment fits the crime. Any lesser punishment would suggest a lesser crime. The suggestion of a lesser crime would suggest that an offense against the person of God is somehow an offense that shouldn’t have the fullest possible consequences.  The eternality of Hell corresponds to the Majesty of God and His Law.

B.) And here we round off in speaking of Christ.

Christ is the who bore the Hell of God’s elect that that we might know God’s favor. If we deny Hell, we are denying at the same time the monumental importance of Christ’s work. If Hell, is not real … not eternal, then why is Christ dying for sins that merit the punishment of Hell?

A denial of Hell, ends up being a denial of the meritorious finished work of Christ. On the Cross Christ takes my punishment but if there is no eternal punishment why should I be grateful that He took it?

 

 

 

A Satanist Prayer … A Christian Rebuttal

After complaints from several community members that only prayer or religious groups can give the invocation at the Grand Junction City Council meetings, council members decided to allow a satanic invocation at their August 2 meeting.
 

“We beseech all those present to shun primitive hatreds and superstitions, bigotry, prejudice and atavism and instead seek equality and justice and thereby safeguard all world views and treat them equally and with respect. So say we all in the name of reason, in the name of free inquiry and in the name of rebellion against theocracy. Hail Satan.” said Andrew Vodopich with the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers.

http://www.kjct8.com/content/news/GJ-City-Council-allows-satanic-invocation-at-meeting-438227943.html

 

Notice that the Satanists are Classical liberals. They want to “safeguard all worldviews and treat them equally and with respect.” Here we learn

1.) Egalitarianism is a doctrinal plank which Satanists approve.

2.) Satanists support absolute libertine freedom when they invoke “the name of free inquiry.” “Free inquiry” is the call for absolute freedom. Absolute freedom is to man what freedom is to a goldfish outside its bowl. Absolute freedom is to man what freedom is to a train once off its tracks.

3.) Classical liberalism is Satanic in origin. Satanist are perfectly good with God getting a vote as long as all the other false gods (including Satan) gets a vote as well.

The Satanists pray for all worldviews being treated equally and with respect. However, this is a prayer request as coming from those who have a worldview that allows only their worldview to be treated with respect. This worldview that, “all the Gods should be equal” is a worldview that does not treat equally any other worldview besides their own. Their egalitarian god rises above all competition from any other god. Any God who insists that He-they are God above the Satanist (classical liberal) god is a god that the prayer of the Satanists is not treating with respect.

Another way to say this was framed by a friend of mine,

“It’s as self-contradicting as it can be. They want their world view – in which all world views are treated equally and with respect – to dominate. If their world view dominates, then they can’t say that all world views are equal. Domination negates equality.”

4.) Satanists enshrine reason as an autonomous source of knowing. This is consistent with Satan’s temptation in the garden of Eden. “You shall be as God determining good from evil.” However, their appeal to reason is shipwrecked by the “reasoning” in this prayer.  What good is reason if you are involved in repeated contradiction as we noted above?

5.) The Satanist pray in favor of rebelling against Theocracy. Yet, their belief system has provided the evilest theocracy that man has ever seen. So, the Satanists are for rebelling against theocracy all the while affirming a theocracy that forces all worldviews to be treated as equal.

McAtee contra Wolfe

“If it is the case that fallen, unregenerate man can attain civil righteousness (worthy of praise among men, even from the regenerate) and if regeneration necessarily effects a radical change in the one regenerated, then the principal effect of regeneration cannot be civil righteousness, political, social, or anything related to the basic elements of civil or domestic life. The principal effect must be something else. It must be, then, the restoration of one’s immediate relationship to God, one’s orientation to the spiritual (yet-to-be-visible) kingdom of God, and true worship of God. In short, the principal effect is the adventitious infusing of heavenly gifts and the outward change in religion. The Gospel then is not essentially political, social, or anything earthly other than the true public worship of God.”

Stephen Wolfe

I don’t know Mr. Wolf well at all. He is an acquaintance.  I’ve heard he is a student working on a terminal degree. This quote comes from a piece where Mr. Wolf quotes several theologians demonstrating their belief in Natural Law. Many of those quotes spoke about how the heathen could do “good” works of civil righteousness. The quote above seems to form his conclusion if we stipulate that pagans can do “good.”

We need to keep in mind our Augustine here. Augustine called the so-called good works of the heathen, “splendid vices.” Augustine remains notorious for his insistence that the “virtues,” so-called, of pagans, are not genuine virtues at all. Luther echoed and restored this Augustinian sentiment during the Reformation.

In order for any human action in any area inclusive of civic Righteousness to be considered “righteous” that action must be done for the glory of God. If actions are not done for the glory of God those actions are splendid vices because they are being done for the glory of self. We grant that comparatively on a sliding scale, the pagans can do righteous deeds. Pagans can and do build burn hospitals. Pagans can be philanthropic. Yet any “good” action that an unconverted man or woman can do is not good considered absolutely as according to God’s standards.

So, if Augustine is correct about splendid virtues than Mr. Wolfe is incorrect in suggesting that regeneration does not touch “anything related to the basic elements of civil or domestic life.” The “noble” pagan upon regeneration may do the same types of works in his civil or domestic lives but now they are doing their doing on a different axis. Whereas before their “noble” acts were for their own glory, now their noble acts are for the glory of God. Because of regeneration, this is a monumental shift.

There may be a bit of a false dichotomy going on in the opening quote. It is true that the primary impact of regeneration is “the restoration of one’s immediate relationship to God, one’s orientation to the spiritual (yet-to-be-visible) kingdom of God, and true worship of God,” but because one’s orientation is changed in such a fashion the effect is that one’s orientation to everything from domestic life to civic righteousness to all things earthly is changed as well. This results in all things that are performed by regenerated man to be an expression of public worship of God.  

So, contra Mr. Wolfe, unregenerate man cannot perform civil righteousness per an absolute standard. All the civil righteousness of the unregenerate are just so many splendid vices.

We would also quibble with Mr. Wolfe’s intimation that the Kingdom of God is completely “yet-to-be-visible.” The Kingdom of God is already visible and according to the will of God goes from visible unto visible until such a time that it becomes visible in all of its splendor.

Mr. Wolfe strikes me, with this quote, to be close to a kind of unfortunate dualism as seen in his willingness to suggest that  “the Gospel then is not essentially political, social, or anything earthly other than the true public worship of God.” Now, the key word here is “essentially.” I would be more inclined to say that “the Gospel, in its broadest definition, then is essentially a totalistic claim that calls a man to bring the good news to every area of life including political, social, or anything earthly, especially including public worship.” 

 

Dr. Rev. Joe Morecraft’s Curious Argumentation

Peter was a racist because he was a coward….

So and so what do you think finally and ultimately defines a man; his race or his religion? 

He said, “I really don’t know,” and I said, “then you really don’t know the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for what finally defines a man is not the color of his skin, nor his social level, nor his educational level, nor his financial level. What finally defines a man is his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ….
 
“But racism has crept in (to the Church) in other ways. There is a new movement called “Kinism,” and it is basically a new word for racism that says the races should be kept separate, There is a superior quality to the white race. The color of your skin does make a difference. If a white man and a black woman should marry the black woman is guilty of adultery. In the Reformed world, there is a lot of Kinists. They’re smart. They know how to use the internet. They can out argue you. They know how to twist scripture.
 
Rev. Dr. Joe Morecraft
Excerpt from Sermon — 30 July 2017

The Battle for the Gospel

Just today someone pointed me to this excerpt from Dr. Morecraft’s most recent Sunday morning sermon. I am going to interact with it a bit below but first some prologue,

1.) I think that Dr. Morecraft has done some fine work over the years. Overall, he has been on the side of the angels. I’ve listened to much of his work and have read some of his material. The Reformed Church is all the richer for Dr. Morecraft’s work over the years.

2.) I am not a Kinist and the reason I disavow Kinism is sermons like this. If this is what Dr. Morecraft honestly thinks that all Kinists believe there is no use trying to rescue the word or identify with the label. This is why I have chosen my own word. I am a “familialist.” By choosing my own word I get to define it and I don’t have to keep correcting over and over again the relentless and constant freaking out over the word “kinist.”

Now on to the matter at hand.

1.) In this sermon on Galatians 2 Dr. Morecraft calls Peter a “racist.” This charge is pretty standard fare in the pc post-modern Reformed Church today and Galatians 2 is often brought forward as an example of racism.

However, I am convinced that Dr. Morecraft is not exegeting the passage properly. Peter’s sin in Galatians is not that he was a racist. Peter’s sin in Galatians is that he was an Alienist. This is seen in the fact that he gave into the Judaizing demand that the Gentile Christians Peter had been having table fellowship with had to become culturally Jewish before they could be considered Christian. The Gentiles had to eat like Jews, and be circumcised like Jews in order to be considered Christian. The desires of the Judaizers in Galatians 2 was that all would be put into the Judaizer blender to become culturally one. Peter’s sin was Alienism… not racism. If the Gentiles had agreed to all the Jewish stipulations to lose their Gentile culture and identity than the Judaizers would have had no problem with Peter having table fellowship with those Gentiles. It wasn’t the fact that Peter was having table fellowship with Gentiles that bothered the Judaizers. (If that had been the problem then perhaps the accusations against Peter that Peter was a racist might be sustained.) No, the problem with Peter was that the Gentiles were not culturally Jews. It wasn’t their ethnicity of the Gentiles that bothered the Judaizers. It was their culture. Peter fell into their trap and was guilty of Alienism … of refusing to insist that the Gentiles had to be just like the Jews culturally before they could be considered Christian.

Dr. Morecraft is in error in this passage on this point.


2.)
Dr. Morecraft asked his friend,

“For what finally and ultimately defines a man; His race or his religion?”

To be honest this is a bit reductionistic. Dr. Morecraft knows that man is a being that is composed of body and soul. A man is not ultimately defined by either his soul (religion) or his body (race). A man is finally and ultimately defined by both. Would Dr. Morecraft seriously ask, “what ultimately and finally defines an airplane, the wings or the engine?” He wouldn’t ask this because of how obvious such absurd reductionism is in error. 

Dr. Morecraft knows we can’t divide a man in two and say only one part ultimately defines him any more than we could do the same type of thing in regards to the person of Christ without falling into major heresy. The similar error here would be asking, “What finally defines the person of Christ, his God nature or his man nature?”

Obviously to answer that question is to fall into heresy. In the same way, it is to fall into heresy which ever way Dr. Morecraft’s question is answered. To answer Dr. Morecraft’s question by saying, “his race” would have the respondent fall into the heresy of materialism. To answer Dr. Morecraft’s question by giving the answer “his religion” would find the respondent falling into the heresy of Gnosticism.

Dr. Morecraft hasn’t thought this through as well as he usually thinks matters through.

But if we were forced to answer this question there are several alternatives we might offer up,

a.) “The answer is obviously religion Dr. Morecraft, but if you’re going to suggest now that such an answer means that the way God created men… the way God enfleshed men isn’t worthy of paying attention to or honoring, why then Dr. Morecraft, I can’t help but wonder how you escape the Gnostic briar patch.

b.) “Well, Dr. Morecraft, for the black man what finally and ultimately defines him is his religion and for the White man what finally and ultimately defines him is his religion. Every man regardless of what people group that man belongs to is finally and ultimately defined by his religion. You ask about a man in the abstract but man doesn’t come in the abstract. A man comes in the concrete and it is the concrete man that we must deal with.”

Now let me ask you a question, Dr. Morecraft,

Isn’t it Gnostic of you to suggest that the way our Creator God created a man is unimportant and that all created differences can be whisked away by appealing to the “spiritual?”

c.) “Dr. Morecraft, I’ll answer that question if you will answer this question; What finally and ultimately defines a person? Their gender or their religion?”

“Now, be careful Dr. Morecraft, because if you answer religion I am going to take that as meaning that you’re contending that just as race doesn’t make any difference between people neither does gender make any difference between people. After all if skin color doesn’t make any difference why should plumbing?

d.) Dr. Morecraft, God created man with both a spiritual and physical nature and while we are spiritually united with all the Elect in Christ, we retain our unique, diverse identities in our physical attributes: gender, ethnicity, disposition, etc so that both man’s race and his religion finally and ultimately define man.

Obviously, the import in all this is that Dr. Morecraft is practicing a danger anthropological reductionism here that isn’t consistent with our Christian theology.

Dr. Morecraft ties his answer of “religion” to knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ but I can’t help but wonder how his answer doesn’t tie him to some kind of creeping Gnosticism; that first great heresy that the Church had to contend with. Man remains a modified unichotomy (the integrative reality of body and soul) and to suggest that his soul is finally and ultimately more important than his creaturely fixity is a curious position for such an esteemed Pastor as Dr. Morecraft.

Now to end just an observation. Much of what Dr. Morecraft says about Kinism just isn’t universally true. As one example, most kinists I know insist that all the diverse races have both superiorities about them and inferiorities about them. Kinists are not White Supremacist. This is just one example of why I no longer claim the kinist label. When esteemed men like Dr. Morecraft spread this kind of libel and slander it is just not possible to rescue the term.

Another observation to end that is only related to Dr. Morecraft’s comments in a tertiary fashion. Those One Worlders out there are the hardest on those who still insist that ethnicity and race matters. Yet at the end of the day, One Worldism is its own kind of KINISM. Their allegiance is to their tribe of an ethnically coffee cream colored people who have the racial distinction of not being racially distinct. This One Worlder Kinism will support a universal non-descript dishwater nondistinct culture which will find it’s distinction in its being universal. Likewise, the One Worlders have the religion of no religion which is unique to their tribe. One Worlders are, without a doubt KINIST, in every way. So the One Worlders attack a form of Kinism they don’t like while at the same time advancing a form of Kinism they do like.

Kinism or something akin to it thus is an inescapable category.

I’m not advocating for it. Remember … I’ve disavowed the label. I’m merely saying that something like it is impossible to escape.

Covenantal Succession … Covenantal Nurture

It is the assumption of Scripture that infants are genuine members of the covenant.  That is the reason why in the text before us this morning parents are commanded to nurture their children in terms of Christian covenantal thinking.

There is no debate on that point when we consider the Old Testament. All concede that Circumcision was the sign and seal that indicated membership in the Covenant. It is only in the New Testament where we begin to find widespread and sometimes heated disagreement that NT infants, just as their OT counterparts, are to be branded with a brand that indicates that they are genuine members of the covenant. In the NT, so the reasoning goes of those who go their own way on this matter, infants are not members upon birth, of the covenant.

Of course, if those who demur with us on this point are correct this means that one of the purposes of Jesus death and resurrection was to the end that infants of covenant parents would be expelled from a covenant in which they had previously been a party too before the death and resurrection of our Lord Christ.  This is an odd way to think about a “New and Better” covenant.

Covenant succession merely holds that God’s general way of collecting the Church is via His gathering into the Church the children of His children.

Causes of the decline of Covenant succession

1.) Social Contract theory as applied to the Church

According to this understanding of social order theory long established in the Enlightenment West, each person is by nature an independent locale of sovereign self-authority,  having full legal capacity to act on their own behalf and so not subject to the authority of another. In this theory, each atomized individual is absolutely equal to every other atomized individual and so by sovereign “right” authorized to act upon his own determination.

With this theory, man’s natural liberty was held as being the privilege to do whatever he wanted to do.  In this theory man himself determines what shall be given up in order to live in civil society. Man, as the individual sovereign is everywhere supreme.

Well, you can see how this social contract theory, when adopted by the Church would lead to the idea that it is the individual man himself who does or does not consent to belong to this community of faith.

Whether as pertaining to a broader social order or as pertaining to the Church an objection must be raised to this theory that we believe has had such a baleful influence upon both the social orders of men and upon the Church of Jesus Christ.  Men have never existed as sovereign atomized individuals using their own sovereign free will to determine whether they will or will not be a party to a social contract or to being claimed by God in Baptism. Instead, men are born as members of peoples, as well as Churches as ordained by Him. So, just as men do not choose their own civic obligation but are born to it so men who are born to believing parents do not choose their belonging to the Church but are ordained by God to that end.

2.) Revivalistic Assumptions vs. Scriptural Assumptions

With the first great awakening as followed by the 2nd great awakening, the emphasis as it relates to speaking about conversion moved from the covenantal nurture of children in the covenant to having a dramatic personal emotional experiential encounter with Jesus.

Louis Bevins Schenk in his book on “The Presbyterian Doctrine of Covenant Succession writes,

“The presumption of regeneration in the case of children of the covenant, based upon the covenant promises, was largely displaced by the Church’s practice of recognizing as Christians only those who gave ‘credible evidence,” satisfactory to themselves of regeneration.”

This is the conversion mindset in which most of our churches think today. From evangelism programs like “Romans Road,” “Evangelism Explosion,” or the “Four Spiritual laws,” this is the contemporary Church’s understanding of how conversion occurs. Before this time the whole idea of “altar calls” that have become famous with Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham would have been a curious phenomenon.

However, while never denying that God deals with some people like this — particularly those who come to Christ as adults — this isn’t the model that we find emphasized in Scripture as it pertains to covenant children. In Scripture, the parents are to lay hold of God’s promises that God will be God to us and to our children for a thousand generations and then are to train their children up in the faith in light of God’s promises. In this model, the whole idea of a dramatic conversion experience slips away in favor of covenantal nurture.

3.) Datable Conversionism vs. Covenant Succession Conversionism

Consistent with what was just mentioned the whole ascendancy of a datable conversion became the be all end all for much of the Church. The idea is that “every Christian knows the day they were ‘born again.'” This stands in contrast to the idea of covenantal succession where God

4.) The failure of Covenantal Nurture

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Too often the cash value of baptism to many who are party to the contemporary Church is that they have kept their religious responsibility to their children. They have had them Baptized.

This is why the form distinctly says, in the charge we just read that parents

“must, therefore, use the sacrament for the purpose that God intended and not out of custom or superstition.”

While we are of the persuasion that in Baptism God has placed His claim upon us we are not of the persuasion that Baptism entered into apart from covenantal nurturing laid upon us as parents guarantee our child is right with God.

Listen to the 19th century Southern Theologian R. L. Dabney on this point,

The instrumentalities of the family are chosen and ordained of God as the most efficient of all means of grace—more truly and efficaciously means of saving grace than all the other ordinances of the church. To family piety are given the best promises of the gospel,.. How, then, should a wise God do otherwise than consecrate the Christian family, and ordain that the believing parents shall sanctify the children? Hence, the very foundation of all parental fidelity to children’s souls is to be laid in the conscientious, solemn, and hearty adoption of the very duties and promises which God seals in the covenant of infant baptism. It is pleasing to think that many Christians who refuse the sacrament do, with a happy inconsistency, embrace the duties and seek the blessing. But God gives all his people the truths and promises, along with the edifying seal. Let us hold fast to both.

~ R.L. Dabney

So, if we are to return to a time where covenantal succession is again the norm in our families and in our churches and among our people we must once again practice covenantal nurture. We must teach our children the Scriptures. We must catechize our children. We must anticipate and answer their objections before they have those objections that we know will arise. As we are teaching our children God’s judgments, statutes, and laws we must point out to them how the culture and too often the visible Church wars against those judgments, statutes, and laws. We must introduce our children to systematic thinking because there is nothing non-systemic and non-systematic in the thinking of God. We must dip and saturate our children in a Christian Worldview that they will see non-Christian worldviews as strange, exotic and ugly.  As parents, we must love them, and not provoke them. We must live out before them the majesty of God’s grace that has redeemed us for the sake of the finished work of Christ alone.

Some areas to keep an eye on in order to practice covenantal nurture,

a.) Protect your children from the culture,

Media

The media is a messaging machine and that messaging is seldom based on a Christian world and life view. As such children need not be exposed to Media until they are far far older and have the ability, as coming from covenantal nurturing, to identify and sniff out the false theology behind the false messaging.

Neil Postman in his now classic work warning against the danger of modern Media wrote,

“But it is much later in the game now, and ignorance of the score is inexcusable. To be unaware that a technology comes equipped with a program for social change, to maintain that technology is neutral, to make the assumption that technology is always a friend to culture is, at this late hour, stupidity plain and simple.”

If we are going to practice covenantal nurture in hope of covenantal succession we must understand that technology is, as a rule, no friend of Covenantal succession.

Public Schools

“I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.” ― Martin Luther

I am as sure as I am of the fact of Christ’s reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social, nihilistic 4. ethics, individual, social, and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.

Dr. A.A. Hodge

b.) Protect your children from unexamined friendships

From the youngest of ages, it is your role to be the portal that all must pass through in order to get to your children.  You must be aware that other children of other families may not share the same Christian confession that you own. This means you must be sharp to watch out that friendships are not cemented with those who will, perhaps quite apart from malicious intent, challenge the truths that you are seeking to instill within your children from Scripture. You are seeking to nurture and disciple your children in the Christian faith. If you allow your children large swaths of “playtime” with other children — even other children from Christian homes of a different confessional stripe — you are courting a bad result in your efforts of covenantal nurture.

The Message of Covenantal nurturing

The message to our children that we must start with in terms of covenantal nurturing is that God provided Christ as the one who would fulfill all the law’s obligations as laid upon the sinful children of Adam and who would give to those same children the righteousness of Jesus Christ to those who would in faith rest in Christ’s righteousness alone as their acceptability to God.

The covenantal nurturing message to our children is that God is at war with unbelieving man and has reconciled Himself to unbelieving man by the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is only by the reconciling work of Jesus Christ in His work on the Cross whereby we and they can have peace and blessing with and from God.

We must nurture our children in the way of a faith that rests in Christ’s work alone in Justification but then also teaches them that in Sanctification their faith is to work as they turn to the law and to the testimonies for God’s word on how they shall live as Christians.

We must remind our baptized children that God’s claim is upon them and so they are to grow in the Christian faith. Our challenge is not that they might decide to become Christian but that they would know God’s eternal claim upon them and become what they have already been freely declared to be in Baptism.

We must nurture them to learning of God’s character. His Sovereignty, His Justice, His Wisdom, His Holiness, His Goodness, His Mercy, and His Grace.

We must nurture them to trust in God’s Word and God’s promises as opposed to their experiences, emotions, and mystical revelations. We must nurture them what it means to be a kind and caring people while at the same time warning them against the dangers of a suicidal altruism.

We must nurture them in the ways of taking godly dominion to every area the sovereign God calls them and of the great truth of our postmillennial hope.

We must nurture them in the truth that repentance is a life long project. But then that even our repentance needs repenting over. We must model before them a humility that seeks to shed every ounce of that ugly sin of self-righteousness. We must demonstrate to them what it means to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought and to consider not only our needs but the needs of others. We must pray that they will see us on our knees praying for Wisdom and that they will hear us honestly attest ourselves to as being not yet wise.

God grants us His grace for what parent could possibly think themselves sufficient unto such a calling?

But God is Faithful and being faithful we anticipate that even in all our failures with our children He will be to our seed and their seed the God who calls them to Himself.