Jeffery Johnson has written a very detailed examination of Paedobaptism in his book, The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism. He covers a wide range of topics, but his main argument is that Paedobaptism is inconsistent. His claim is that the Paedobaptistic understanding of the one Covenant of Grace does not line up with the biblical evidence. Traditional Covenant Theology would say that all the biblical covenants are just different administrations of the one Covenant of Grace. Johnson goes to great length to claim that part of the Abrahamic Covenant and the whole Mosaic Covenant were not part of the Covenant of Grace.
He believes that the Abrahamic Covenant was in fact 2 different covenants (or at least had 2 different and distinct parts). The first was the promise to bless the nations and the second was the land promise. He believes the sign of circumcision was strictly for the physical sons of Israel and was only about the land promise. He believes that physical circumcision was only a physical sign and had limited spiritual significance. Traditional Paedobaptist covenant theology sees a link between circumcision and baptism, hence why Presbyterians baptize babies. However, Johnson argues that heart (or spiritual) circumcision is the new covenant version of physical circumcision and thus unrelated to baptism. However, that just seems utterly ignorant of the biblical meaning of circumcision and the abundant evidence of the necessity of heart circumcision in the Old Testament. Circumcision and baptism both have a heart aspect and both reflect internal realities and were not just outward signs. For example:
Jeremiah 4:4, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
Deuteronomy 10:16, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”
Deuteronomy 30:6, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”
Jeremiah 9:26-27, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh–Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”
Ezekiel 44:6-9, “And say to the rebellious house, to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: O house of Israel, enough of all your abominations, in admitting foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, to be in my sanctuary, profaning my temple, when you offer to me my food, the fat and the blood. You have broken my covenant, in addition to all your abominations. And you have not kept charge of my holy things, but you have set others to keep my charge for you in my sanctuary. “Thus says the Lord GOD: No foreigner, uncircumcised in heart and flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the people of Israel, shall enter my sanctuary.”
Paul’s teaching on Circumcision seems to be in line with everything that Moses and the prophets taught about circumcision:
Romans 2:28-29, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
Colossians 2:11, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
Romans 4:11-13, “He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.”
Circumcision always represented heart circumcision. To Abraham it was a sign of the heart circumcision that had already took place. To Isaac and others who were circumcised as a child it represented the heart circumcision that needed to take place. It was not “just” about setting apart a group of related people. For if the land promises were just for the physical descendants of Abraham, then why does Paul say that Abraham was promised the whole world? Were only the Jews supposed to inherit the whole world? Why did Jesus say the meek shall inherit the earth? I don’t know about you, but I’m finding very big flaws in Johnson’s “Fatal Flaw”.
Johnson also says, “The new covenant conditions are fulfilled in Christ. A covenant based upon grace and faith independent of works, with no threats or curses attached. In that members of the new covenant are not threatened with death for disobedience.”
That sounds great on the surface, but the problem is that Heb 10:26-31 says,
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
If that is not a threat of death for disobedience, then I don’t know what is. I know that some have tried to argue that the one sanctified is Christ. However, that still doesn’t change the context because it says “The Lord will judge his people”. Who’s people? God’s people. We could add many other calls for righteous living throughout the New Testament. Who are God’s people? Is it just the elect or is it those who are part of the visible church? In this context it must be the visible church, because we know from other passages that the elect will not fall away.
I think the whole idea that the New Covenant is “unbreakable” because of perseverance of the saints is misleading. This is the problem that credo-baptists miss. They seek to have a regenerate church membership, but so did the people of Israel and in reality so do paedobaptists. In the OT, God commanded that the wicked and those that disobey be put to death. The failure was not that the nature of the covenant was a mixed people of believers and unbelievers, the failure was that the faithful Israelites didn’t purge the wicked from their midst. The same can be said of the New Covenant. The problem is not babies born into covenant families, but that the church allows unrepentant sin to fester and grow and we don’t discipline. Whole denominations have fallen because of a failure to discipline.
There is much more I could discuss, but these were the two arguments that stood out for me. This is a great attempt to argue against Paedobaptism, but unfortunately I think it falls far short of being a fatal flaw.