Credo-Baptist Apologies: Paul Jewett on 1 Cor. 7:14

The very thing they most want this passage [1 Cor.7:14] to yield for the “holy” children, namely, the right to baptism, they must deny to the “consecrated” parent who does not believe. Thus their exposition is plunged into sibylic contortions. The holy children are “so far holy that they are in the fold, not aliens”; they are “in the church classification of believers”; theirs is a holiness “that evinces the operation of the covenant”; they are “in the body of Christ” by a kind of “collective holiness”; they enjoy the advantage of “the baptismal solidarity of the family.” But all these luxuriant theological formulations drop from the discussion when the unbelieving spouse is concerned. He or she is “consecrated,” but not so far as to be “in the fold”: he/she is an alien; he/she is “sanctified,” but not in the church classification of a “believer”: he/she is an unbeliever. The covenant does not “operate” for him/her as it does for the child; the “collective holiness” that gathers in the child leaves him/her uncollected. And though he/she was in the family before the child was, he/she has no part or lot with the child in the “baptismal solidarity” of that family! There is, however, no profound difference between the Greek verb “to make holy,” used of the parent in this verse, and the Greek adjective “holy,” used of the child. Why, then, should the meaning be so different in the one case than in the other? If the sanctifying influence of the believer on the unbelieving spouse carries with it no benefit in the church above that of hearing the Gospel, how may we conclude that the sanctifying influence of the believer on the child implies the right to baptism and church membership? (Infant Baptism & The Covenant of Grace, pp.126-127).

© 2011, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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5 comments on “Credo-Baptist Apologies: Paul Jewett on 1 Cor. 7:14
  1. 1.) I hope you’re not suggesting the argument for covenant baptism hinges on a few NT proof texts. Again, this betrays hermeneutical question-begging.

    2.) Jewett writes: “Why, then, should the meaning be so different in the one case than in the other?” Umm, is this a serious question? The difference is that the adult member of the household has already shown himself to be an apostate unbeliever. The child member of the household has done no such thing.

    3.) Moreover, the covenant-baptism argument is not that there is a one-to-one parallel between the child and the unbelieving spouse. The argument is, rather, from a broader principle everyone knows to be true based on the OT covenant pattern (“your children are holy”) to an analogous application of that principle (“you don’t have to leave your unbelieving spouse” and, more distantly, if we put this together with 1 Peter: “the unbelieving spouse is included in the covenant, and we have good reason to expect him to come to faith”).

    4.) It is a grievous crime against the English language to use “he/she” in something intended to be taken seriously. šŸ™‚

    • 1. I don’t. All the paedo-baptists I read say the same thing. The interesting thing, however, is that their arguments are not monolithic. One person discounts 1 Cor. 7:14 while another sees it crucial to his case. This just confirms to me that paedo-baptist is not the “clear” teaching of Scripture.

      2. I agree with your exegsis on the matter, but you need to struggle with why Paul is using essentially the same word for holiness in both cases. I grant that the spouse is called an unbeleiver, whereas the child is not. Tough passage for all parties.

      3. Your point is well taken. This is the most powerful argument for viewing children covenantally. Baptists say that the state of their children is no different than their pagan neighbor’s. This does fly in the face of how God teaches us to view our children in relation to His promises. I’m at work in answerering this within a credo-baptistic paradigm. Actually, Vos spoke of a distinction within a paedo-baptist paradigm that I think can apply withiin a credo-baptistic paradigm. He said:

      “There are two phases of the Covenant of Grace, (a) a legal or external phase, and (b) a vital or spiritual phase. We may think of these two phases as two circles, one within the other – an outer and an inner circle. Every child born of believing parents is in the outer circle, the legal or external sphere of the Covenant of Grace. But only those truly born again are in the inner circle, the vital or spiritual sphere of the Covenant of Grace. Some people born in the external sphere the outer circle, are non-elect persons and never come to Christ Everyone that is of the elect will, at some time in his life come into the inner circle, the vital or spiritual sphere” (Vos, Blue Banner of Faith, 1959, Jan-March issue, 36).

      4. Agree šŸ˜‰

  2. Most troubling to me is the way these arguments all seem to reveal a misunderstanding of the dynamic of the covenant in the OT. In other words, in OT Israel, the unbelieving spouse would be sanctified by the believing spouse, but would not be forced to be circumcised. The children of the believing spouse would, however, be circumcised.

  3. I realize that last comment is awkward because, obviously, only males received the sign of the covenant. The point is, the household dynamic hasn’t changed. Paul is simply applying the OT dynamic (households included) to a new circumstance that was rare in the OT (believing wife, unbelieving husband). The circumstance is new in the NT, not because the dynamic of the covenant has changed, but because now the gospel is going to the nations centrifugally.

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