Covenental Theology, Apostasy and Perseverance

So, here’s a point on covenantal theology in relation to apostasy and perseverance.

I was watching a debate between Douglas Wilson and James White on whether or not we Reformed Evangelicals should consider Roman Catholics our brethren. White spoke in favour of the Negative, and Wilson spoke in favour of the Affirmative. But Wilson spoke in the affirmative position from an interesting angle. Wilson maintained that for every person who is baptised with Trinitarian baptism (which, for the record, Wilson also takes to include infants), that person shares in a special covenantal relationship with Christ by virtue of that baptism which has been administrated unto them. And since this is the case, it can be said that a baptised Roman Catholic is a true, covenantal brother of a baptised Protestant, even if the Catholic Church is living in spiritual adultery and outside of regenerate salvation by virtue of its manifold abominations and perversions and errors.

Now what was so interesting about this was that Wilson, in his opening presentation, commented on the apostasy passages in Hebrews. If it is the case that a Roman Catholic counts as our brother in Christ by virtue of Trinitarian baptism, does it follow that they are part of the saved, elect people? And to this, Wilson answers: Not obviously. Wilson maintains that it is quite clear when one reads the Book of Hebrews that it is taken to be a very real possibility and danger for people who are members of the New Covenant community to forsake that new covenant with Christ and thus fall away from it. But does that imply that the elect can fall away from salvation? Well, no. Why? Because, on Wilson’s view, there is a distinction between people who are baptised members of the New Covenant Church and people who are born-again elect members of the New Covenant.

So it may be that in a discussion about apostasy and perseverance, there are very implicit underlying assumptions being made about fundamental covenantal theologies. For the person who thinks a distinctions such as that which is represented in Wilson’s view is correct or incorrect , that may alter the way you approach the question about apostasy and perseverance in the New Testament.


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