Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rebuttal to Hubner's Response to DeYoung

Jamin Hubner has posted a response to Kevin DeYoung on the topic Baptism and the covenant.

Jamin quote KDY as stating: “If circumcision was for Abraham a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith, then we cannot say the cutting away of the flesh was simply an ethnic identity marker or a sign of mere physical import.”

Then Jamin responds:
Not true. Circumcision was a seal of the righteousness that Abraham had by faith because he had faith. Obviously, if he didn’t have faith, circumcision wasn’t and isn’t a sign of his faith! I honestly don’t know how Kevin misses that one since it’s explicit in the text.
It's really unclear what Jamin is trying to object to. His comment doesn't really seem to address what KDY said, and later on in his comments he seems to agree with KDY that the sign was not merely of physical import. Perhaps Jamin just misread something.

Jamin quotes KDY thus:
And if this spiritual sign—a seal of the righteousness that comes by faith—was administered to Abraham and his infant sons, then we cannot say that the thing signified must always be present before the sign is administered. Isaac was circumcised, and so was Ishmael—both being given the seal of justification by faith before the exercise of faith. Just like infant baptism.
Then Jamin responds:
Kevin again misses that circumcision is “a seal of the righteousness that comes by faith” – that is, Abraham’s faith and righteousness, not somebody’s else’s!
Again, it's not completely clear if Jamin follows KDY's argument. Assuming that he does, Jamin seems to be trying to argue that all circumcisions were a sign of Abraham's faith (not of each recipient's faith). If so, it is not clear how Jamin derives this from the text. Of course, Abraham's circumcision was a sign of the faith he himself had, but by extension the same is true of each circumcised person - his circumcision signed/sealed his (the individual's) faith.

Jamin quotes KDY thus:
So whether infant baptism makes sense to you or not—and I deeply respect my non-paedo friends in my church and in the broader church—shouldn’t we at least agree that the basic spiritual import of circumcision and baptism is the same and that there is biblical precedence [sic for precedent] for administering a spiritual sign without the immediate presence of the thing signified?
Then Jamin responds:
The answer is no, because the basic spiritual import of circumcision and baptism is not the same, precisely because the covenant’s [sic for covenants] are not the same (Heb 8).
The question then is, "what was the basic spiritual import of circumcision," if it was not faith? Acts 15 confirms for us that the Jews were saved by faith, just like the Gentiles. So, on what point is the basic spiritual import different? We don't get an answer from Jamin.

Jamin continues:
As Wellum has thoroughly argued in Believer’s Baptism a number of years ago, and more recently in Kingdom Through Covenant, circumcision and baptism signify different realities (which is why they are radically different signs!).
They are radically different signs because Christ has come. The bloody has been replaced with the bloodless, because Christ's blood has been shed. But the question is what Jamin thinks the different spiritual realities are.

Jamin then quotes himself as previously stating:
Circumcision marked out a male line of descent from Abraham to David to Christ, served as a physical sign to mark out a nation and to distinguish them as people who would prepare the way for the Messiah, and was part and parcel of Mosaic law.[1] None of this is true for baptism.

But, didn’t circumcision point to new life like baptism does?[2]Yes, but there’s a difference between looking forward to something and looking back to something after Christ has accomplished his work. As Sam Waldron puts it, “Baptism, therefore, professes what circumcision demanded. Circumcision did demand a new heart, indeed, but it did not profess a new heart. Baptism professes a new heart.”
a) So, wait - Jamin does agree that circumcision points to new life like baptism does. So, then why did he answer "no" instead of "yes" to KDY?

b) The attempt to limit circumcision to the Mosaic administration fails as well. Ishmael was circumcised - not just Isaac. Abraham's slaves were circumcised too. While many of the male ancestors of Jesus in the male Abrahamic line to Joseph and Mary were circumcised, we are not told that all were, and the hill of foreskins at the entering in of Canaan suggests that some were not. Indeed, Abraham comes before Moses.

c) More to the point, while circumcision was associated with the Mosaic administration, the "basic spiritual significance" does not lie the nation being marked out - the marked out nation was itself a shadow (and likewise with the promised land etc.).

d) There is a difference between pointing forward and pointing backward, no doubt, but that difference is not one that is at the level of the "basic spiritual significance."

e) Waldron's way of putting it may be catchy, but it is not consistent with Paul's discussion of Abraham's circumcision. Paul claims Abraham already had faith and treats circumcision (in his case) as a profession of the faith that he already had. The same would the case with any proselytes.

f) Moreover, while it is easy to treat circumcision as law and demand (by simply lumping it in with "the law"), circumcision was a profession of the thing demanded. The way of salvation was always by faith, for all people, for all time. It was not uniquely demanded of the Jews in the Old Testament. Even if you will say that the gospel preached to the Jews (in shadow) and was not preached to the nations, surely it was preached to the female Jews. Thus, while circumcision was uniquely received by male Jews, faith was not demanded only of the males.

g) Further to (f), the idea of circumcision "demanding" what baptism professes is a confused idea, if one is trying to apply Paul's teaching that a person who is circumcised is a debtor to the whole law.

h) Also further to (f), leaving aside the Pauline comments mentioned at (g), the idea that circumcision "demanded" anything is not a teaching of Scripture. It seems instead to be an inference from the fact that it was applied to infants who were later to learn about their responsibilities. What is missing, though, is any notion that the circumcision was a demand, rather than a profession.

Jamin concludes:
Thus, in the Old Covenant, you have the command given to God’s people to “circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your heart” (Jer 4:4) to those who already bore the physical sign, hoping that maybe in the future this would happen. But in the New Covenant, the Apostle speaks to God’s covenant people in the aorist, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands…you have been buried in baptism” (Col 2).
Jamin seems to treat Jeremiah 4:4 as though it were part of an OT AWANA curriculum. What distinguishes the two cases is that one is addressed to merely outward members of the covenant, and the other is address to members of the covenant both outwardly and inwardly. Abraham's inward circumcision preceded his outward circumcision, just as the Colossian proselytes' outward baptism followed their inward circumcision.

The unbelieving Jews professed faith, but they did not have it:

Isaiah 29:13
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

So, in fact the Jews professed a faith they did not possess, whereas the Colossians possessed faith. But that's not a difference between baptism and circumcision, but between hypocrites and faithful.


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