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CMF Ben Wikner
To You and Your Children: Examining the Biblical Doctrine of Covenant Succession BW100
Benjamin K. Wikner, editor, 298 pages, softcover
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Scripture promises that God's people "shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them" (Is. 65:22-23), and that Christ "will turn...the hearts of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:6). Yet Christian parents today face a disturbing exodus of their children from the Church to the world. Why is this? What is the place of children within the faith? What do the promises mean? Recognizing that this subject is fraught with difficulty and grief, the twelve contributors to this volume seek to address the hard questions and lay a biblical foundation of hope for our children.

"This book is all about faithful parental and ecclesiastical nurture of covenant children. All parents and pastors should read it."
-Jack Bradley, OPC pastor, New Horizons (May 2005)

This book is a collaboration of pastors and teachers from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church [OPC], the Presbyterian Church in America [PCA], the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches [CREC], and United Reformed Churches of North America [URCNA].

Contributors include Timothy Bayly, Joel Belz, Randy Booth, David Hagopian, Douglas Jones, Dr. Nelson D. Kloosterman, Dr. Charles Alan McIlhenny, Dr. Robert S. Rayburn, G. Mark Sumpter, Tom Trouwborst, Benjamin K. Wikner, and Douglas Wilson.

Foreword: The Children's Crusade

R. C. Sproul, Jr.

Because we are myopic, parochial, individualist Americans we tend to think that myopic, parochial, individualist Americans invented myopic, parochial individualism. The particular error of individual-ism isn't peculiar to Americans, nor is it peculiar to the modern age. We meet at least one such creature in the hook of' Acts. We are all familiar with the story. Paul and Silas languish in prison, guilty of "troubling the city." As the two men pray and sing, an earthquake comes, shaking the foundations of the prison, loosing everyone's chains and opening every door. The jailer awakes, sees the doors open, and decides life is no longer worth living. Paul calls out, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” The jailer comes, falls down be fore Paul and Silas, and exhibits both great wisdom and great folly by asking, “Sirs, what must I do to he saved?”

Though he doubtless was rather ignorant of the fullness of the answer, he did well to ask about his salvation. Where he erred is evident in the answer given him: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and tour household.” Before we seek to understand how the grace of God works in the lives of our children, and even before that grace is actually at work, we ought first to hope for our children. The jailer�s problem was not that he was insufficiently covenantal in his theology, but that he was not sufficiently concerned for his family. He cared first and foremost for himself and his own salvation. Even before he prays the sinner�s prayer, he is learning from Paul and Silas to care more for his family.

My own experience was rather the opposite. I was raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord by believing parents. In fact, many Reformed folk have felt the pangs of jealousy toward me because of how lucky I was in the parent lottery. In, through, under, and around their covenant faithfulness and in, through, under, and around my heavenly Father's covenant faithfulness, I am an heir of the covenant. I do indeed believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

To one degree or another, I'm ashamed to say, I took that grace for granted. I was “in,” and was making a reasonable effort toward my sanctification the Calvinist way. That is, I equated learning more theology, which is a good thing, with growing in grace, which is likewise a good thing. But confusing the two is not such a good thing. Calvinists, and I am among them, tend to measure their own sanctification on a peculiar scale. You are a simple novitiate when God regenerates you and you trust in the finished work of Christ alone. You become a first-degree believer when you understand the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism. The next step is actually to read a Calvinist or two—Piper, Boice, or Sproul will do. The next steps up the ladder correspond to the relatively difficulty and obscurity of what you are reading. Calvin is better than Piper, but Turretin is better than Calvin. The next plateau has you reading Beza, Bullinger, and Bucer. You become an officer when you can actually quote VanTil. You reach the thirty-third degree when you actually understand that quotation.

Everything was going along swimmingly in this stream of least resistance until God did something shocking—He blessed me with a child. Suddenly I knew I had to get serious about my sanctification, because now it had eternal consequences beyond myself. In the grace of God, I was more zealous for the soul of my little girl Darby than I was for my own soul, which in turn focused my attention back to my own soul. Suddenly that whole “getting in by the skin of my teeth” thing, which had looked so appealing when I was a single man, now horrified me because it meant that my own daughter could end up being wood, hay, and stubble. Because of the work of Christ on my behalf, God was covenantally faithful enough to me to make me realize that I had to be covenantally faithful to Him and my daughter if I wished Him to bless her covenantally.

Since that time God has so blessed me five more times. Each time my own heart bursts with the truth of God: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.” We are, of course, to be singularly focused on pursuing the glory of God. We are to long for the fullness of God�s blessing, for the beatific vision, for that day when we shall be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. But there can be no greater earthly desire, yearning, or passion than that which yields the greatest joy knowing that not only we but also our children walk in the truth. If such doesn�t enflame our hearts, I�m afraid we have no hearts to enflame.

The doctrine of covenant succession, then, misses the mark. It is not that the doctrine is false, but that it is false that it is merely a doctrine. We aren�t here talking about competing theories of the nature of free will. We aren�t dickering over what year John wrote his Apocalypse. We aren�t fussing about whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father only or from the Father and the Son. We are talking about eternity, heaven, hell, and our children. We are talking about the pursuit of joy, the very substance of life.

Such doesn�t mean, of course, that we should descend into sloppy sentimentalism. It would indeed be a deadly mistake to assume our children will be on our side of the great divide simply because we really want them to be there which is why it is a good thing that Ben Wikner has assembled such a team of scholars to tackle the thorny questions of covenant succession, and why it is a good thing to read this book, and read it with all due care. But my prayer is that as you read, behind every argument, beneath every syllogism, you will see the radiant face of your own children, reflecting the radiant face of the Savior, as “He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mk. 10:16).

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