Wednesday, June 16, 2010

R.J. Rushdoony Versus Baptismal Regeneration

In his book Sovereignty, R.J. Rushdoony forcefully opposes baptismal regeneration, a pillar doctrine of the Federal Vision heresy (thanks to Biblical Soteriology for originally posting this):
The conflict between God and man over the issue of sovereignty comes about in various ways. An important instance of the clash can be found in the rise of English Arminianism between c. 1590 and 1640. The basic problem was one of predestination versus sacramentalism, or, more specifically, predestination versus baptismal regeneration. If God saves man by His sovereign predestinating grace, then baptism is an outward witness to an inner grace, and to God's covenant promise. 
It witnesses to the fact that God has a covenant of grace with His people. It is, according to chapter 27 of the Westminster Confession, "a sign and seal of the covenant of grace." It witnesses to what God has promised and to what God has done; it is not itself the ingrafting into Christ, or regeneration, or remission of sins, but a witness to what God in His sovereign grace does. The salvation is from God, not from the rite nor the church. The Larger Catechism, A. 165 says of baptism,
Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ has ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord's.
Behind a man's baptism there stands God's sovereign decree, and Christ's atonement in satisfaction of God's justice. To affirm baptismal regeneration means to transfer the saving power from the Lord who ordains baptism to the rite itself, and to the church which performs the rite. (R.J. Rushdoony, Sovereignty, p. 72)

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