Appendix: The Problems in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
This appendix is not a review of the entire WCF. Rather, it is a review only of the Article.Sections (7.2, 7.5, 19.1, 19.2, 20, and 25.2) used by Dr. Belcher in his book as support for Covenant Theology.
The details are below; let it suffice here to say that the WCF citations made by Dr. Belcher are very problematic because the "proof texts" cited by the WCF (in the Article.Sections cited below) are typically used out of context, misused, ignored or otherwise distorted. So, even if Dr. Belcher used the WCF as a literary convenience for citing applicable verses for his argument, they fail for the reasons detailed.
Because these six Article.Sections are those used by Dr. Belcher (and presumably CT‘s generally) for support, it is therefore not surprising that the "proof texts" marshaled by the authors of the WCF are deficient and distorted. In fact, what I found when I compared the claim of the Article.Section against that cited proof texts, I found problems of major proportion:
- the texts of many verses were ignored,
- verse texts were applied to topics about which they said nothing,
- verse texts were used out-of-context,
and so on. Frankly, I was disgusted that a supposedly revered document such as the WCF could be so disrespectful of the Scripture!
Are other Article.Sections of the WCF equally corrupt? I certainly hope not! (But I have neither the disposition nor time to find out one way or the other.)
The format of the tables below should be self-explanatory.
"The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, 144 wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity,145 upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.146"
There is no mention, or even hint, of a "covenant" in the text of Genesis or the cited text. Moreover, the context of Gal 3 is the Law, something which does not exist in the time of Adam.
There is no mention of the promise of life to Adam and no mention of his posterity.
"This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the Gospel: 151 under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; 152 which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah,153 by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament. 154"
The context of the Article.Section is the fictitious Covenant of Works, and how it was supposedly “differently administered” in the times of Law and post-Law. But where the Article.Section assumes the Covenant of Works the Apostle Paul sees only the difference in relative glory. He does not cite or imply any "covenant" beyond that.
The cited texts speak of circumcision, leaven, and the Lord Christ the Paschal Lamb; they do not speak of these as “foresignifying Christ to come”.
Only Heb 11.13 has anything that speaks of something like being built up in the faith. The other cited verses do not handle anything of the context of the Article.Section..
The primary context of the cited verses is the application of the gospel of grace to the Gentiles; they do have some application.
Relative to the assertion “and is called the Old Testament”, there is a problem: the context of 7.5 is the Covenant of Works, which here is equated to the entire Old Testament. Does the CT want us to believe that the Covenant of Works, which can’t be found in Gen 1-3 is now not only found (somewhere!) but is, in fact, the entirety of the Old Testament? If so, this is gaslighting taken to an extreme level.
"God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which He bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it. 365"
The LORD told Adam only that death was the punishment for eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We know from the private counsel within the persons of the Trinity (Gen 3.22) that if Adam had eaten of the Tree of Life that he would have lived forever, but as a sinner worthy of death. (Adam did not know of this when he ate of the forbidden tree.)
There is no "covenant" to be found in the text of Gen 1-3: there is only the first humans in direct communication with the LORD, the divine command to partake of whatever they found in the garden of Eden, including the Tree of Life, with the single prohibition of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
There is nothing of the LORD specifying of Adam “… entire, exact, and perpetual obedience” as asserted by WCF 19.1.
Remember, the Law had not yet been given!
As the Holy Spirit says in Romans:
for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
The "proof texts" above are fine examples of the doctrine of Law and its associated aspects, but none of them prove the ridiculous notion of a Covenant of Works with Adam.
"This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: 366 the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man. 367"
Of the texts cited, only Deu 10.4 applies to 19.2.
Rom 5.13 states "for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law."
It would therefore be impossible for "This law, after the fall …" to be a perfect rule of righteousness, since it did not exist as a stated, applied Law until Moses.
Some of the verses cited apply only after the Mosaic Covenant. Others apply only after the resurrection of the Lord Christ.
Exo 24.1 does not appear to apply at all to the point of 366.
The citation of Mat 22 is not about the ten commandments.
Section Article 20.x
Dr. Belcher references only WCF 20, not a particular Article.Section within WCF 20. My review here will be different from those above for that reason. Below is the only reference use in his book:
“The tree of life was a pledge of the covenant of life (WCF 20), the promised reward for obedience.” [ch 2, pg 26-27, emphasis mine]
As shown, Dr. Belcher equates the Tree of Life as the “pledge” of life supposedly found in the fictitious Covenant of Works. Below I provide the details why this is spurious and invalid.
It is extraordinary that the CT must find it necessary to create a fictitious covenant to support the notion of blessing when Adam and Eve already had the greatest blessing possible! They lived in Eden, they were yet innocent (without sin), and had unlimited fellowship with the Almighty! How could there be any blessings greater than these? And all this is true without a covenant!
But apparently, the CT can’t find blessings unless there is a covenant which specifies those blessings! The CT and Dr. Belcher are so desperate to find that covenant in Gen 2.16-17 that he conflates the Tree of Life as a covenant sign to bolster this already doomed theory. The text of Gen 2 does not refer to a sign of any kind, much less one that identifies the Tree of Life as that sign. (This, apparently, does not even rise to a level of concern with the CT.)
Where does the text of Gen 2 state that the “tree of life was a pledge of the covenant of life”? The LORD granted to Adam and Eve unrestricted access to the Tree of Life from the very beginning. As the text of Gen 2 states, it was never a "pledge" of anything. It was one of innumerable gifts the LORD provided to an innocent Adam and Eve.
WCF 20 is entitled Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience. It has four assertions. Dr. Belcher does not specify which of the assertions he intended, so I had had rather to perform an in-depth search to find something – anything – which might be what he intended.
I opened a copy of the WCF PDF, then performed several phrase/word searches for hits in Article 20:
- "tree of life": not found in WCF 20
- "pledge": not found in WCF 20
- "covenant of life": not found in the WCF at all
- "promise": not found in WCF 20
- "reward": not found in WCF 20
- "obedience" is found twice, but with no connection to the Tree of Life in WCF 20
The Tree of Life is not even mentioned in the WCF 20; therefore, it can’t be a pledge as asserted by Dr. Belcher. I could not find anything that might have been what he intended.
Dr. Belcher’s use of WCF 20 is a FAIL.
"The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion;490 and of their children:491 and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, 492 the house and family of God,493 out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.494
The verses in this section are an adequate demonstration and definition of the ‘visible church’.
FAIL: This section will be treated as a single unit, since it appears to be the CT’s foundation of pedobaptism. The CT’s major error is seen in his use of 1 Cor 7.14. The reasons for this assertion follow.
There is a major difference between the five real OT covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Circumcision, Mosaic, Davidic) and the New Covenant of Jer 31: the former are generational while the latter is personal.
Consider the text of the New Covenant as revealed in Jeremiah:
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
This principle carries into the NT as faith is applied to individual people and people(s), not nations globally (though it spread to and through Gentile nations rapidly). The LORD granted grace to His gospel to the nations, the Gentiles especially. (Mat 28.18-20) This generational/personal distinction is seen in 1 Cor 7.14. Paul’s argument is not that the children are blessed because one parent is a true Christian and that the grace found in that parent somehow percolates down to the children because they are the children of that believing parent. No, rather, the children – who might have ended up in a family devoid of grace – now has one parent in whom grace rules and under whose authority and protection they now live. For this reason, that parent has the opportunity to influence his/her child in the ways of the LORD, whereas that child could have been left to live out a life with no contact with Divine grace. In this sense, and this sense alone, they are holy.
Mat 13 speaks of the ‘'kingdom of heaven’', which could be a reference to the kingdom of the Lord Christ.
Isa 9 speaks of the Throne of David, which is the Millennial Kingdom.
There is no inference in either text to the visible church (the context of the Article.Section).
Eph 2 speaks of the fact that the Ephesians (Gentiles) have been brought into the household of God.
Eph 3 is part of the Apostle’s prayer in which he references “every family in heaven and on earth”.
The so-called visible church is not really the context of the verses cited.
Used out-of-context; there is no overlap with the assertion of the Article.Section. The verse speaks of the LORD adding to the church those whom He deemed should be saved.