Transcript for ‘How Did I Change My Mind on Infant Baptism?’

One of my supporters has very kindly transcribed this video on my movement to a paedobaptist position. I don’t have time to transcribe my videos myself, so anyone willing to volunteer to transcribe one video every week or fortnight would be greatly appreciated! I’ve very lightly edited the transcript at a few points for the purpose of comprehension.

Welcome back. Today’s question is:

As you have shared in several places, you came from a Reformed Baptist theological background and later moved to an Anglican setting. I am in a similar situation where most of my theological background and education has been in a Reformed Baptist context, yet I have been on the edge of embracing infant baptism for several years now.

Could you speak to what pushed you over the edge on the issue of infant baptism? Did you switch to that view quite easily? Or was it a long journey?

I want to give some background as to where I am in thinking through this: The basic Presbyterian arguments don’t fully persuade me, though they are compelling. I also don’t want to put all my theological chips in the scant references to infant faith, as some in the Lutheran circles might. I have followed Peter Leithart for some time now, and he and Leonard Vander Zee have been perhaps the most helpful and persuasive in this conversation. In many ways Leithart’s Baptized Body has ruined me for thinking about the covenant community as made up of those who are half way in and those who are fully in, which goes against typical Presbyterian view. Yet, I am also cautious to embrace Leithart’s position full on, because I don’t think I can get on board with predestined real apostasy, as he seems to hold in that book.

Yet, the Baptist demand that the church be a regenerate covenant community and their insistence on a link between repentance and baptism hold me back from embracing paedobaptism entirely.

I imagine that you’d find yourself near Leithart’s views in some ways, but I would love to hear from you some of the biblical support for infant baptism that original compelled you to embrace the position and also how your views have developed since then. Also, how, in your view, does your position on paedobaptism relate to paedo-communion? And if you could recommend some books that depict your general position well.

Well, I’ve already answered some of these questions to some degree or other in other videos. I’ll leave a link to those below, but I’ll give a general answer to the issues raised within this video. I won’t answer everything here. If anyone has any further questions following up from it please leave them on my Curious Cat account and I’ll hopefully answer them in future videos.

What pushed me over the edge on the issue of infant baptism? Well, when we change our minds we tend to do it for a variety of different reasons and the significance of the fact that I came from a Reformed Baptist theological background should not be neglected.

There is a way in which our theology will always develop to some degree or other against the foil of our background and for me that background was a Reformed Baptist background. And the background that I come from and what I gained from that background will always be something that’s a voice within my head, a voice that I’m talking in conversation with. Not a literal voice—I don’t hear voices!—but a voice in my head that I’m engaging with and I’m thinking about my theology in dialogue with. I’m thinking about what I was brought up with and how my theology relates to that.

Now this can be a problem because the background that you have as a child is always a fairly simplified and often a distorted one in various ways. It is also bound up with a lot of emotional attachments, perhaps even a sense of bitterness—whatever it is these relationships that we have with our past can be quite fraught with. So one of the things you see with a lot of progressive thought, for instance, is that they are reacting against a particular evangelical background and often there’s very little content to their thought in its own right. It does not develop out of its own clear impetus, its own clear foundation. Rather, it’s pushing back against something else, something that they grew up with.

And so, for me, part of my development was a relationship with my background and, for better or worse, that is an important part: my relationship with my dad as a Reformed Baptist pastor, my relationship with my church upbringing, my relationship with their theology and the environment of thought within which I was raised. And it’s important to recognize these things, because often we like to think of our theological developments as things that occur in a pure and abstract intellectual vacuum, but it doesn’t. It occurs against the background of relationships, against the background of resentment, against the background of friendship, against the background of attachments.

Now, as I changed my position on baptism, I had a very good relationship with my father. However, it was an important aspect of my development that for me the position was not an abstract position: it was a position that was attached to something—the way I had been raised by my parents.

And so I’ve always found it important to relate it to that context and to think about the extent to which this was a matter of me trying to forge my own identity in contradistinction to the position that my parents raised me with, to what extent was it me dealing with a fairly limited or even caricatured weak-man position (the position that you hold as a young teen, rather than a position that is the mature position of someone who has studied deeply within the theology of Reformed Baptist thought, for instance).

I’ve had to ask myself those questions and have retained a paedobaptist position, which has developed in various ways. However, I have recognized to some extent that some of the different factors that shaped my first arrival at this. Among these factors were friendship, moving to a new context, finding that certain of the contexts within which I was feeling most stretched and was gaining most in my theology were Presbyterian ones.

I recognized that there was a weight of theology within Presbyterian context that I wasn’t finding within a Reformed Baptist context. It can seem like a certain move up in the world as you attach yourself to a new crowd who have a bit more sophisticated theology, better attachments—these sorts of things—that by virtue of your change in theological position that you are part of a better set for you to be stretched theologically. And again, that’s part of it.

It’s important to recognize that that was a factor in my change, and I think it’s an important factor for many people. For instance, in the way that people move in the direction of the Roman Catholic Church. Often there’s a sophistication and there are institutions that are more elite and more facilitating for people who are working at the highest level of theological thought within Roman Catholic contexts, and for many people from a more low-church Presbyterian or Reformed evangelical context that can be deeply attractive.

As you rise up within the arena of academia you can feel that you don’t have a home within the context that you come from. It’s important to consider to what extent this is a certain attraction to a peer group and to what extent is it is actually a response to real theological issues, because positions can become very attractive and appealing when there is a personal motive for holding them. And so, before I go into any of the more theological reasons for changing my mind, I want to consider some of those personal reasons, those personal factors that frame my decision. Not all of them were an impetus in the direction of paedobaptism, but many of them did nudge me in that direction. And it’s important to recognize that, even though some would hold me back, for the most part they did push me in that direction.

I have had to audit, as it were, my reasons, to recognize that some of them were not good reasons, some of them may have been natural reasons but they were reasons that you need to be cautious about. You need to investigate those reasons a bit more carefully to think about what actually underlies them, because when we change our mind on issues it is not something that we do as a pure intellectual decision, and as you study the phenomenon of conversion and the many different forms that it takes it is something that is a very complicated thing. It’s bound up with friendships, it’s bound up with relationships, it’s bound up with key events that occur to people and it is not the pure intellectual shift that we like to think it is.

And often there are complexes arising from our shifts that reveal that we’ve not actually changed in quite as much of a way as we think. We’re still fixed on a certain theme, or background, or foil. For instance, our background that we were once deeply attached to can be something that we are just deeply reacting against now. So it’s important to consider these things. If we’re going to have a healthy way of relating to theological issues we need to recognize these personal factors, we need to think about those, we need to think about the ways in which we’ve been pushed in directions through panic. There are occasions when we change our minds through panic, through fear, through aversion, through rejection, through antagonism, through bitterness, through reaction, and through love—through the way that we can be in a relationship with someone and suddenly all their views seem attractive to us. These are all things that we need to think about. And so, before I go on, I want to register those concerns and those issues.

What were some of the bigger issues that changed my mind? Well, it wasn’t key biblical verses. When you’re changing your mind on an issue like infant baptism, it’s the sort of issue that often represents a consequence of a broader paradigm shift in your theology and most people will make that paradigm shift in a number of stages. There is a fundamental shift that occurs beneath the surface and then it expresses itself in places like infant baptism.

For me it was the shift from an understanding of salvation that was focused upon the individual, with Christ being the means for saving that individual and bringing them to heaven, and that sort of notion of salvation to one where salvation is rooted in history, the grand historical narrative from Genesis to Revelation, and, within that narrative, Christ and the formation of the church as his body. These sorts of things. Christ as the one who fulfills Israel’s identity, the one who forms a new humanity.

All of this is attached to a lot of other issues. When we think about changes in our minds, in addition to thinking about the personal issues, we also need to think about the ways in which our thinking occurs within interconnected systems of thought. When our minds change, it’s like an ecosystem changing. It can be a trophic cascade, a shift on one particular issue can throw everything else out, and as everything else has shifted then new beliefs start to crystallize and new forms of theology start to take shape.

For me those shifts occurred primarily in that area—the shift of that center of gravity. Other changes that occurred related to my anthropology. Again, associated to my earlier position on salvation, my anthropology had previously been very much focused upon the detached individual who is rather self-defined, who’s very much related to God in a direct and immediate way (and there is a certain sort of direct relationship to God). But I began to realize that in Scripture there’s a lot of emphasis upon a different type of anthropology, where we belong to groups, where we are generative beings. We are beings who are born from parents and bear children, we are beings who are related to others, we are beings who have sexed bodies. We are beings who are defined by our bodies, not just by our subjectivities, our agency, and things like that our volition.

And once I began to realize that, many of the underpinnings of my Baptist theology started to fray in various ways, because I realized that Baptist theology often rested upon a very individualistic set of assumptions about salvation, about the church, about the story of Scripture. And the more I realized the center of gravity of Scripture, the more that I began to see that, for instance, the relationship between Israel and the Church was a very key one. Now, I don’t believe that circumcision directly corresponds with baptism, but what I do see is that within circumcision we see an underlying theological and natural logic about the way in which we belong to each other, the way in which the child belongs to its parents and its family—it is defined within that relational network, not just as a detached being.

I also began to think about things like adoption and the way that adoption provides a paradigm for thinking about infant baptism. Adoption in many ways presents the way in which someone can, apart from their own choice but for the sake of their well-being, be included within a new family on the basis of a real belonging and in anticipation of their full participation in the life of that community. Now, I think infant baptism is similar, as is baptism more generally.

This is an important thing: that these shifts are often related to shifts in people’s understanding of the sacraments more generally. So, when I was a Baptist, when I thought about my baptism as a 15-year-old, I had a lot of anxiety about that. I had a lot of anxiety about my salvation more generally for a period of time, but the anxiety was caused in part by the fact that I fell away shortly afterwards and had this long period of backsliding. And that made me wonder: if this was the confession of my faith, what was that faith really worth if I immediately slipped away shortly after my baptism?

As my understanding of the sacrament shifted, my understanding of my own baptism as a 15-year-old shifted and that helped my assurance to no end. I realized that baptism was more about what God was doing to me and saying to me than about what I was saying and that baptism was efficacious for the entirety of my life. It wasn’t something that could just be destroyed by my sin and my failure. Rather, I could keep returning to that in the same way as something like adoption. It has a meaning that you are supposed to live out and enter into. It is a promise that has been held out to you, that you can enter into.

Now, as you look through the evidence of the early Church, you’ll see that there seems to be a variety of practice on this. Against certain paedobaptist arguments, I don’t believe that the early Church universally practiced paedo-baptism, but yet we do seem to have evidence that suggests that they did widely practice paedobaptism. So, there was a mixed practice. What we see is people like Tertullian pushing back against infant baptism, not on the basis of it being invalid and against biblical teaching or whatever, but teaching that it is something that is opposed to prudence, that you don’t want to baptize infants, just as you don’t want to baptize those who have not yet married because they might fall away. And that is a concern that I think is ultimately invalid.

There are concerns about people not being raised in the faith properly and that is one of the concerns I have about infant baptism being seen as something that can be applied apart from its prospective significance. The significance of baptism, I believe, is very much about what it is pointing forward to. Like adoption, it is anticipating a full participation in the life of the body of Christ and the life of Christ. Now, if you’re baptizing infants and they never darken the door of a church, there really is no point. You are just undermining the meaning of the rite. You are not actually celebrating baptism as it ought to be celebrated.

And so that was a shift that occurred early on, and I’ve been developing that through in various ways. My understanding of infant baptism now is slightly different from what it was in the past. There is a bit more of an understanding of infant baptism as a prudential practice that can be applied appropriately in many instances, and in certain situations I would cut down on the number of infant baptisms. If there were not clear assurances that a child will be raised in the faith, I would not baptize them as an infant. I think that infant baptism very much anticipates that child being raised in the faith and being raised as a member of the body of Christ, and so, if you are not doing that, do not baptize your children, because you’re just undermining the meaning of the rite.

Now, beyond this, I think that there are reasons why in Scripture we see this connection between baptism and repentance and faith, and for the participation of infants in that. So, for instance, if we read Acts 16: “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, both you and your household.” There is by very implication the inclusion of the household in the faith of its head.

This is an anthropologically-grounded truth. I don’t believe that this is just a theological statement that has to be made by the New Testament for it to be true. Rather, this is a statement that is grounded upon the truth of human nature. Just as God would save Noah and his sons and daughters-in-law, just as God would save Lot and his family, just as God would save the children of Israel as a whole body of people, God saves families. God deals with households because these bodies of people are bound together in their loyalties.

When we think about faith, we often think about faith according to the paradigm of the detached individual that makes up their own choices, their allegiances, etc. as an adult and this is on the paradigm of the liberal individual. But yet as human beings we’re not those who fit the paradigm of the liberal individual well—people who act according to choice, volition, individual agency, and our private subjectivity. Rather, our selves are bound up with our bodies, with our belonging to particular communities, with the people that we are associated with, etc. And so, if we have baptism understood in this framework, it makes a lot more sense to baptize infants, because infants are not those without faith.

When you think about infants as detached individuals who must have faith of a mature form of their own, then they don’t have faith in that sense. But they do belong to their parents and they are cast upon their parents. If their parents are people of faith, just as they have their national identity from their parents and those loyalties, just as they have their family identity from their parents, all these given identities—the name that they are given, the surname that they have—all of these things are similar to the way that baptism operates in such cases. Baptism brings you into a relational network, a given identity, on the basis of something that is already there—you are a participant in the life of faith of a particular family and it is presumed that you will grow in that.

Now, this is because God is forming a new humanity and the new humanity is not just detached fragments of the old humanity salvaged, but it’s a restoring of the channels of humanity—the relationship between parents and children, the relationship between the child and their family of belonging. These are natural relationships that God created. And the gospel as many people think about it is one that treats us as detached abstracted individuals, as people who ultimately conform to some paradigm of the liberal individual. And a certain type of Baptist thought has been very much drawn to the paradigm of the liberal individual. It is the implicit basis of its theological anthropology. But, when we look through Scripture, I think we see a view of anthropology that pushes back against this. And we see it in many different ways: we see it in the salvation of bodies of people, we see it in the assumption that households are implicated in the faith of their heads.

Now the assumption here is not that there’s some sort of magical thing whereby, if a head of a household is converted, all their household is automatically saved. No, it’s about the human reality that a body of people are bound together in a union, that we are implicated in the lives of others. This is less so in modern society and so I think this is an important point, that infant baptism has a harder case to make now than it did in the first century AD in the context of Israel, where there were these tight networks and where being a member of a household would mean a participation in the life of worship of the household, and you could far more easily assume that or presume upon that. Now you can’t in the same way. And so, unless there is a clear provision for the raising of the child in faith, I believe there is a reason for caution about the practice of infant baptism. These are contextual and prudential considerations that I think we have to consider in our particular social condition that they did not have to consider to quite the same degree in the first century AD.

Another thing to consider is that this is not something that leaves faith behind. It’s something that assumes the growing of a body of people in the life of faith. Now there’s always a problem when you have a church which is defined purely by infant baptisms, where there is not a maturing in the life of faith. On the other hand, there is a danger of churches where there is no infant baptism, where there is, as I talked about earlier, just odd individuals, flotsam and jetsam of the old fallen humanity drawn together and formed in this new body, rather than God restoring the relationships of the old humanity, God restoring what it means to be generative beings.

This is about what it means to believe, for instance, that God is a friend of the family, that God created the family. God created the bond between parents and children and he’s going to restore that, and part of that is that children belong to the household of faith, that Christ blesses the child on behalf of their parents. This is something we see in a number of occasions in the Gospels: that Christ heals or even saves people on account of the faith of others who are closely related to them—the master or the father or the mother, whatever it is—that these close relationships mean something. They weigh something. They’re not just left behind, leaving us as detached individuals relating to the gospel on this front.

Now if you see the relationship between Israel and the Church and the history of salvation as being far more central, then this makes sense, because it would be a radical shift in God’s pattern of dealing if this were not the case: if it were the case that God suddenly stopped dealing with families, that God suddenly stopped including infants and suddenly just included adults on a personal confession of faith. To actually make that move you need to have created something of a breach between the Old and the New Testaments, a breach that is far greater than what we actually see. There is an escalation, there is a transformation, there’s death and resurrection, but there is not an absolute break and a rejection of what went before, or a supersession of what went before. Rather, what we see is the fulfillment of what went before, and here I think that the inclusion of infants is an important part of this, that the inclusion of infants in the life of the Church is something that draws our mind back to the natural form of creation and is based upon natural law.

It’s not something that we need an explicit biblical verse for, because it’s part of what it means for us to be human beings: that we are bound up with other human beings. We are not detached individuals that form all our own loyalties, all our own identities. Actually, in the same way as I was talking about early on in this video, our minds, our loyalties, our beliefs are formed in relationships and the child who was born into a believing home is someone who is implicated within that. They grow within that and their minds were formed within that. And the hope is as they are raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord they will grow into the fullness of that life. Now this is exactly what is also true in the case of an older convert: that their baptism is prospective. They are baptized in the anticipation that they will grow into the meaning of that, into the full life of the household of God.

There’s a lot more that I could say on this but those were the key factors that changed my mind, those key shifts led to a trophic cascade in my theology, a change in the whole ecosystem of my thought, making paedo-baptism a lot more compelling. Compelling not on the basis of a few verses here and there in the New Testament—which is a fairly thin foundation to work from—but from the deeper texture and roots of biblical thought, its deeper understanding and presentation of human nature, the relationship between Old and New Testaments, and the centre of gravity of salvation in Christ and the Church.

Please leave any questions that you might have on my Curious Cat account. If you would like to support this and future videos, please do so using my Patreon account or my PayPal account. The links for those are below. I won’t be back probably for a couple of days. I’m moving tomorrow and the next day, so Lord-willing I’ll be back by the end of the week but thank you for listening and I hope you have a great day. God bless.

How Did I Change My Mind on Infant Baptism?

As you have shared in several places, you came from a Reformed Baptist theological background and later moved to an Anglican setting. I am in a similar situation where most of my theological background and education has been in a Reformed Baptist context, yet I have been on the edge of embracing infant baptism for several years now.

Could you speak to what pushed you over the edge on the issue of infant baptism? Did you switch to that view quite easily? Or was it a long journey?

I want to give some background as to where I am in thinking through this: The basic Presbyterian arguments don’t fully persuade me, though they are compelling. I also don’t want to put all my theological chips in the scant references to infant faith, as some in the Lutheran circles might. I have followed Peter Leithart for some time now, and he and Leonard Vander Zee have been perhaps the most helpful and persuasive in this conversation. In many ways Leithart’s Baptized Body has ruined me for thinking about the covenant community as made up of those who are half way in and those who are fully in, which goes against typical Presbyterian view. Yet, I am also cautious to embrace Leithart’s position full on, because I don’t think I can get on board with predestined real apostasy, as he seems to hold in that book. Yet, the Baptist demand that the church be a regenerate covenant community and their insistence on a link between repentance and baptism hold me back from embracing paedobaptism entirely.

I imagine that you’d find yourself near Leithart’s views in some ways, but I would love to hear from you some of the biblical support for infant baptism that original compelled you to embrace the position and also how your views have developed since then. Also, how, in your view, does your position on paedobaptism relate to paedo-communion? And if you could recommend some books that depict your general position well.

Continue reading “How Did I Change My Mind on Infant Baptism?”

Election in Ephesians 1

Trying to understand Ephesians 1 and was wondering if you could help. Paul seems to be addressing the visible/historical church in Ephesus. If my assumption is right then he is saying that the people in the visible church of Ephesus are predestined to adoption as sons, have redemption through Christ’s blood, have been gifted with every spiritual blessing, etc. My trouble is that as a Calvinist I don’t know how to make sense of the fact that he calls all of that visible church elect? Could you help me work through this important passage?

Continue reading “Election in Ephesians 1”

Must the Pastor be a Gifted Theologian?

What do you think the relationship is between depth of theological understanding and being a good pastor? Is it a straight one to one correlation? Other things being equal, a better theological understanding will make a better church leader? Once you are over a certain threshold of theological understanding does it then become.more about preaching ability, love for people, management skills etc? I think I default to thinking that there is a very strong correspondence (as the people whose books have greatly helped me have all been deep thinkers), but the more I think about it the more this seems wrong (most local church leaders are not going to have the time or money to train to a very deep level).

Continue reading “Must the Pastor be a Gifted Theologian?”

Transcript for ‘Responding to Criticisms of Echoes of Exodus’ Video

One of my supporters has very kindly transcribed the video in which I respond to criticisms of Echoes of Exodus. I don’t have time to transcribe my videos myself, so anyone willing to volunteer to transcribe one video every week or fortnight would be greatly appreciated! I’ve very lightly edited the transcript at a few points for the purpose of comprehension.

Welcome back. It’s been the better part of a month since I last posted a video so here we go again. Today I’m going to be answering a question that was left on my Curious Cat account. “Could you respond to some of these criticisms that are raised by this review of Echoes of Exodus?”. And there’s a link to a Themelios review from the latest edition.

I’ll respond to that now, but before I do so I would like to make sure that you’re all aware of my new blog, which is devoted purely to my podcasts and videos. My main blog has been cluttered up with podcasts and videos over the last while, making it very difficult to access my regular material, so within the future I’m hoping to have all my material—podcast and video related—over on this other blog, which will enable it to be accessed easily without it cluttering up my main blog, where I’ll be focused more upon articles and links to things that I’ve been writing elsewhere on the Internet.

So, to the review. A number of questions and challenges are raised by the review. I think one of the main concerns that the reviewer—Geoffrey Harper—has is that the connections that we draw are not justified by the text itself: they are a bit of a reach and when you actually examine the text they don’t have the strength with which they are proposed. Here’s one example:

Other proposals, however, remain much more tenuous—like Israel’s so-called “birth” in Exodus 12: ‘Israel steps out from the womb through doorposts covered in blood…and later emerges into new life from a narrow passage through waters, which then close behind them’.

There’s a lot of things that could be said about this. At the outset it’s worth noting that I wrote over 150,000 words for this book, and that was just a sketch of things that I’ve explored in much more detail. Some of it was just done from memory—material I’ve explored in considerable depth before—and other parts of it were just sketching out a picture that could be worked with for the actual text, which is only 40,000 words. So a great deal that is within the book, in a very sketchy form or limited form or just excluded altogether, is within those original notes and is something I’ve given thought to.

For instance, come to the childbirth themes in Exodus. When you read through the book of Exodus what you notice is the story begins with women struggling in birth. It begins with the groaning of Israel and women struggling in birth, and these two things are related. Israel is groaning in birth pangs—in travail—in its struggle and it’s multiplying its children, and those children are being killed by Pharaoh—the baby boys. And so, the story begins with the birth of the boys, the killing of the boys by Pharaoh, and with the rescue of Moses through the waters. As Moses is drawn out of the waters it is a birth story and the deliverance of Moses is connected with his birth. He’s not named until after he’s taken from the water and the events that surround that are significant, not least because Miriam is on the other side. There’s drawing out of the water—that’s how he gets his name—and then there’s a playing out of an exodus pattern.

Now what this should teach us is that what happens to Moses later on happens to his people: they are drawn out of the water and as they are drawn out of the water they are greeted by Miriam on the other side singing and praising God. They are ‘baptized into Moses’, as Paul can talk about it in 1 Corinthians 10.

Now what more can we say about this? If we look in Exodus chapter 4, there’s an emphasis upon Israel as God’s firstborn son. God is ‘delivering’ his firstborn son in both senses of that term. When we get to the story of the Exodus there’s blood placed on the doorpost, there’s significant emphasis upon the firstborn sons that if God does not have his firstborn son let free by Pharaoh then God will kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son and the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. So the significance of the firstborn son is foregrounded.

Likewise, the doorposts elsewhere in Scripture are connected with birth and the firstborn is the one that’s first through the door. These are connections that we see in the story of Sarah, having the announcement of Isaac’s birth. It can be the story of Jephthah and his daughter, his firstborn daughter coming out the door first. These sorts of stories all connect the doorposts with birth and the ‘doors’ of the womb. When you come out, those doors are opened. The first to come out is the firstborn.

Now, what more is there that can strengthen these connections. The actual connections that we drew within the book itself—the doorpost covered in blood and then the narrow passage through broken waters—those are relatively weak connections in terms of the larger book. The larger connections that justify those secondary connections are the connections between Israel’s travail in Egypt and the experience of the women struggling in birth. Those two themes held alongside each other are very important. They help us to understand that particular connection.

Then the doorposts: again, there’s some connection there. That has been explored in far more detail by James Jordan and the details have been fleshed out a bit more. It’s not just an imaginary connection. There is some more detail to that, I think that’s in Law of the Covenant in one of the appendices where he reflects upon the relationship between the encounter with God at the night camp in Exodus 4 and the doors, the womb, and the Passover celebration, so that can be explored in more depth there.

Why is it that we have the institution of the law of the firstborn immediately before Israel leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea? I don’t think it’s accidental. Israel has already been described as God’s firstborn and so the law of the firstborn—the one that opens the womb—is connected with the Passover and Israel being delivered through the Red Sea.

It is a birth event and we see other symbolic birth events elsewhere in Scripture. For instance, Christ’s death and resurrection is associated with birth, the ‘woman whose hour has come’, or the connection between the events of Jesus’ initial birth and the new birth from the dead. Wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger—presumably a stone container—and then later on we have Christ wrapped in linen garments, laid in the tomb. And then the announcement to shepherds, the Angels, a Mary and a Joseph. All these events connect those things together. And so, this connection between childbirth and exodus is not a stretch.

We see these themes of childbirth more explicitly referenced in other parts of the Pentateuch—the idea of Moses as a nursemaid and things like that. These are themes that are in play there and if you follow the breadcrumbs it leads you back to this connection. There’s a lot more that can be said about that but it is not just something that we pulled out of our hat.

Haran, in Genesis 31, is another connection that is questioned so I’ll read the section where it questions it here:

For Roberts and Wilson, however, proposed connections are at times simply incorrect or slide towards the allegorical. The former is exemplified on page 66 where the town of Haran is said to be named after Abraham’s brother even though the words are different”.

So there is a problem. There is a genuine mistake here and that was my fault, not Andrew’s. But when I looked back—I had a number of iterations of notes for this—when I looked back at my original notes it was not something that I missed then, although it was missed in the later connections. When I looked at my original notes, I pointed back to some texts that had recognized the original difference between those words. But I had said that we would be missing something if we didn’t recognize that, even though they’re aspirated differently, they are connected terms.

This is something that we see as we look through the book of Genesis: that there is a constant playing upon terms. These terms are not exactly the same but there is lots of punning. So ‘Seir’ and the connection with Esau. Esau and Seir are connected with goat themes—because the word is similar—and with hairiness. Esau is a ‘hairy’ man and so he is associated with Seir. And these punning terms are significant. We see the same thing in the names of the trees that are used to outwit Laban by Jacob. And we see the same with Laban’s name and ‘white’, and the connection of Laban with Lebanon. We see the same with Esau and ‘Edom’, ‘Edom’ playing off the name of Adam, playing off ‘red’ and playing off the name of the actual place of the Edomites. And so these terms are significant.

We see a number of these occasions within the book of Genesis and people who are just focusing upon the actual terms themselves, in terms of a sort of strict etymology, are missing things. So, for instance, if we get to Genesis chapter 2 and the play between the name of the woman, “she shall be called woman because she was taken out of the man,” those terms actually are not necessarily related to each other [etymologically], but there is a pun, there is a connection between those two terms and if we miss those we’re missing something that the actual writer has flagged up for us—that these terms are supposed to be related. Even if, strictly speaking, they are not related in the sense that some might think they are.

We see this elsewhere, in other parts of Scripture. For instance, the name that’s given to Samuel is explained with an explanation that would fit more to the name given to Saul. Now, why is that? Well, the author of 1 Samuel knows what he’s doing. He’s wanting us to recognize certain connections that would otherwise be missed.

When we’re talking about the name of Haran, the name of the person and the name of the place, those two things are connected. We read in Genesis 11:27: “This is the genealogy of Terah. Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begat Lot, and Haran died before his father Terah, in his native land in Ur of the Chaldeans,” and then later on “And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan and they came to Haran and dwelt there. So the days of Terah were 205 years and Terah died in Haran.”

The connection between these two figures is interesting. I mean, why do we find Haran and this place named ‘Haran’ in the same small section of the text? Is it just something that’s a pure coincidence? No, it isn’t, and a number of people have pointed out that, even if these things are not strictly connected, their connection should be recognized. There are Jewish scholars who have pointed this out. Julius Wellhausen pointed this out and a number of others have highlighted this: that there is in all likelihood a connection to be drawn.

Now, they do that for various reasons. The connections that they want to draw are not necessarily the same connections that I will be highlighting, but there is a connection between these terms in all likelihood, just as there is a connection between the word plays that we have upon Esau’s name and the color red, Adam, or, in the case of ‘Seir’, his being hairy, and the theme of the goats. And so, in all these cases, what we see is the author of Genesis doing subtle things with words, and when we see Haran appear later in the text it is connected with the descendants of Haran through Milcah. It’s associated with Bethuel and Laban, it’s associated with Nahor as well as in various ways. And as we explore this I think it will help us to understand why there is a connection between these two names. There is a lot more that could be said on that, but I don’t want to get into that rabbit hole. If people need to explore that in more depth, leave a question and I can answer that one.

Other things: the reference to Goliath. Goliath is pictured as a villainous snake covered in scaly armor and ending up with a bruised head—this is seen as allegorical. Now, is this really the case? I don’t think it is allegorical. Why do we have these details given to us? Why are we twice told that he is dressed in bronze or has bronze things? Bronze plays on the word for serpent. Now this would be just something small by itself, perhaps, if it were not for the fact that David has just been anointed, and then there’s this person standing against Israel for 40 days who then gets his head crushed. Now this is a familiar theme. It’s the serpent theme that we see later on in the case of Christ. Christ is anointed by the Spirit, goes into the wilderness 40 days, being tested in the wilderness, fasting, and then defeating the serpent. And so these are themes that are picked up within the New Testament.

But within the Old Testament itself there are the themes too. When Saul is set apart as the leader of the people, his first test is Nahash the Ammonite: ‘nahash’ means serpent. These are connected themes and so as we look through the text it should not surprise us that David’s first test after he is anointed is a serpent figure. The scales are associated with fish as Geoffrey Harper argues, they are associated with fish scales. There’s no reason why here they can’t be associated with land serpent scales or, more importantly, that the serpent isn’t connected with the sea serpent. We see the sea serpent in the case of Pharaoh and the sea serpent imagery is explored within the book of Psalms and elsewhere, such as the book of Isaiah. These serpent themes mutate: the serpent becomes a sea serpent, it becomes a dragon within the book of Revelation and elsewhere. We need to pay attention to these things because they’re there.

He says: “Moreover, this strained connection obscures the more obvious intertextuality: Goliath falling over and losing his head as divine judgment resembles the fates of Dagon and Saul, not Pharaoh.” Yes and it connects to that too, and those are connections that I’ve written on in a discussion of Samson and Good Friday. There’s a lot of connections that are drawn in any single passage. If we’re reading these passages we can also connect it with the story of Joseph—Joseph sent to his brothers. And we can connect it with a number of different parts of the Old Testament that are alluded to. We don’t necessarily have to choose between one set of connections. There are usually a number of these things. So we see Exodus themes playing out, we see themes of Joseph and his brothers, we see themes of Jacob. I have written on some of those Jacob themes recently with the relationship between Jacob and Laban and David and Nabal, whose name is a reversal of Laban. Once again, these word plays are significant. If you pay attention there’s a lot of things going on there.

Then the review goes on to say: “The more fundamental issue concerns authorial intent. While intertextual theory accommodates reader-centered synchronic approaches in which connections remain in the eye-of-the-beholder, these must necessarily jettison original intent.” No, I don’t think that’s the case. If we read through 1 Samuel we can see all these things taking place there. There’s the exodus theme playing out within the original story of the capture of the Ark, there’s the themes of the serpent that play out on a number of occasions. And there are these other themes that play out in the case of Saul that are explored elsewhere within the book, themes that connect Saul with Pharaoh, that connect Saul with themes from the book of Genesis, that connect David with the themes from the book of Genesis.

And these have been noted by various authors, generally one by one, not recognizing how they all fit together, but they are there if you look closely. And so, for instance, David Daube, who’s written at length on the exodus theme—he connects the events of the capture of the Ark with the story of Jacob in the house of Laban, and then also with the story of the Exodus. Those themes can then be developed further. It’s not as if the author of Samuel did not have these themes in his mind. He knows what he’s doing when he’s describing a figure like Goliath and he’s mentioning he’s dressed in scaly armor, that he’s dressed in bronze, and playing upon the term for ‘serpent’.

We should maybe look a bit further before we put a lot of weight on that and, as I’ve argued on many other occasions. When we’re doing typology we’ll put different weight on different things. When we read those sorts of details we’ll think, ‘hmm, there might be something there’ and then we’ll look a bit further and we’ll think, ‘Oh, 40 days, that’s interesting … immediately after an anointing, that’s interesting too … his head is crushed, again, very interesting!’ And it becomes more interesting as time goes on. As we see, for instance, that the author of Samuel has already spoken about Nahash the Ammonite—this serpent figure who challenges Saul. So could there be something in his head? Quite probably there is. I don’t think that this is just an eye-of-the-beholder thing. When you actually look at these texts there are a lot of subtle things going on and they are playing with themes of Genesis, as you see through the book of 1 Samuel. These things are seen by many scholars. As you look closely you will see the Jacob story or the Joseph story or the story of the Serpent and the woman. These things are playing in the background. They know what’s going on.

Now, stepping back a bit from all of this, what can we say about the deeper principles about how we read the text? Well, when we wrote this book one of our concerns was to give to the average person in the pew a sense of some of the things that take place in Scripture. One of my frustrations has always been that when you read these approaches to intertextuality the focus is so much upon methodology that what you have is this long desert of methodology that you must wander through—this wilderness—until you reach the Promised Land. And then you just dip your feet into the Promised Land and you can’t actually explore it much because you just can’t justify each one of these readings with the full methodological rigour that is expected.

We used the motif of music in part because music is something you have to hear—the connections can’t necessarily all be argued for in a full sense. You should make arguments for them and many of these are positions—these connections that we drew—that we can make arguments for, but our intent was not to present this methodologically rigorous 1,000-page-book that outlines exactly how we arrived at every one of these conclusions. Maybe one day I’ll write one of those, but what we wanted was for people to see something that we’ve seen that’s beautiful. And as you look at this there will be a lot of gaps, a lot of gaps that need to be filled in with some reasoning, perhaps even a few things which will be errors—and some things that will be mistakes, which are only half-mistakes. In the case of Haran, that is a half-mistake: it’s something I had originally given attention to and then forgot.

And, as in many of these cases, we need to pay attention to the words in front of us. When we have two terms placed in close proximity that are so similar we’d be blind not to recognize a possible connection. If we’re talking purely in terms of methodology and explanations for these things, it can be like explaining a joke: it has a deflationary effect. When you try and explain a joke, you can’t explain everything. Any attempt to articulate the basis for one’s reading in words will end up losing something, because the reasons for your reading are often grounded upon a deeper sense of the text, what the author is doing, some of the things that are going on—and often it’s a connection that is weaker.

I’ve compared this in the past to a tree: you have the central trunk and then you have the large branches that go out, and then the smaller, thinner branches and then the leaves. The leaves might be a particular verbal connection, such as the connection between Haran (the name of the son of Terah) and then the name of the place. Now that’s a weak connection: we could drop that leaf from the tree and the tree would still stand strong, but I don’t think that there is a complete lack of connection there. Actually I think there is an important connection there and the text is working with that but when we get to big connections—things like the Exodus theme itself—that’s a big branch of the tree and that’s not going to be dropped anytime soon. But yet it is upon that branch that there are a lot of thinner branches and leaves that flesh that out, that fill it out, that give it weight and substance, and as you explore those some of those will be stronger than others.

I’m not going to put the entirety of my weight upon some of these connections. So, for instance, the connection between Goliath and the serpent, that’s something I can put quite a bit of weight upon but I’m not going to put all my weight on that—there’s no reason to. There are a lot of other connections that bear the sort of weight that we want to bear, but yet if we miss the way that these branches and the other things that arise out from that give shape to the biblical narrative and help us to recognize its integrity, its interconnected character, and its beauty then we won’t be making as much of the text as we should be.

And so the approach that we took within this book was to give a fuller picture, to try and show the branches and the smaller branches and the leaves that are upon this tree of Scripture. Certain things may not always have the weight that some people might want to place upon them, but they are there and if you look more carefully there’s a lot more besides. These are not connections that we just scraped off the bottom of some barrel, as if there’s not a lot more where those came from. These are just examples of huge themes and so, for instance, when we do mention the themes of childbirth and exodus, these themes are not just based upon two different details within the text—upon crossing the Red Sea and going through the bloodied doors of the Passover—it’s based upon deep thematic connections within the book itself. It’s based upon the institution of the law of the firstborn. It’s based upon later references within other books of the Pentateuch.

What we give is something of the final result, some of the connections that were further down those branches. We don’t actually give the full branches that led us to that point, but those connections are there and, as you begin to see the leaves, as you begin to see some of the smaller branches, it will help you to recognize the shape of that big branch of Exodus that is going throughout.

There’s a difference between a technical book and one written for a general audience. The frustration that so much great typology is placed out of the reach of people in the pews is one of the things that motivated our writing in a book like this. If you want to write a technical book, you can write a technical book, but you’re not going to get the layperson reading that book. You will also end up losing the beauty: you’ll be explaining the joke in such detail that the joke won’t be able to stand by itself. You need to ‘get it’ and ‘getting it’ is part of what typology is. It’s like the way that you can’t fully explain a joke—a joke is deflated by a methodological explanation and technical articulation of how everything fits together within the joke to the point that it becomes funny. You cannot reach the point of humour by the explanation and, in the same way, typology is a lot about ‘getting it’: it is about having your ear to the text and recognizing when there is something that connects.

The standard of proof is also another issue here. The standard of proof for these methodologically focused approaches are far higher than the text itself observes. The text gives us all sorts of connections that will not stand the test of these rigorous methodological proofs. Paul will tell us about the way that Sarah and Hagar are connected with the unbelieving Jews in the church and then he will say Sarah is connected with Jerusalem and Mount Zion and Hagar with Sinai and … ‘Wait, what?! What’s that connection?!’ But he doesn’t explain how those things fit together. However, if you pay attention they do fit together: there are connections there but he only gives you the results.

You’re supposed to recognize these things, to see the beauty, and to think, “Hmm, that’s interesting! How does he arrive at that?”. Ideally, you’re supposed to be the sort of person who hears that and thinks that ‘yeah, I’ve recognized where he’s got this from.’ But, for many of us, we’ll need to work it out and see how he arrived at it and then get the joke. But if we’re reading through Scripture merely thinking in terms of rigorously proving every single connection before we can ever claim it—if we’re thinking about this approach where you must lay out all your working before you ever actually state a conclusion—you put these things out of reach of people in the pews and you also miss a great deal of what Scripture says itself.

Scripture says a lot of things in the way of typology that aren’t given rigorous explanation and could not be explained fully in a way that would be absolutely certain. The connection between Christ and the priesthood according to Melchizedek! Why that connection? There are a lot of details that need to fill the gap there, and the author never gives them to us. We’re supposed to recognize this, we’re supposed to see the connections or, if we don’t see them, to explore and to discover them. And so many of these connections that we draw are ones that are supposed to invite you deeper into the text. That’s why we leave questions at the end of each chapter. Each chapter has three review questions and three questions that are intended to get you to look a bit deeper, because we’re just skimming the surface within these the chapters.

When we talk about these themes of birth in Exodus, these themes of birth are repeated in various other parts of scripture, connected with great deliverances of God. These themes of birth are fleshed out considerably within the Exodus story in ways that we just do not mention. The connection between place names and persons within the book of Genesis, and the playing and the punning upon those different names, and the ways that events are connected together within that: this is something that we could present a very rigorous and detailed case for but we just give you some of the details that we arrive at the end of our explorations and some of the connections between names that are found there. But there’s a lot more beneath the bonnet, as it were, and so we would like for people to look beneath the bonnet.

It’s great to be asked these questions and to be challenged, “How did you actually arrive at this conclusion?”. But ideally what we want is for people to see the beauty of the text, even if they do not always see exactly how we arrived at it. We want people to see some of these connections and to be curious, thinking, ‘How could I see some of these connections myself? What are some of the things that are going on within the text?’ Methodology is important and presenting rigorous exegetical arguments, recognizing controls upon arguments—what is a good reading? what is a bad reading? How do we become skilled readers of the text, so that we hear things within the text and those things that we hear in the text are not just voices in our heads?

These are all important things and these are things that we have given attention to, but we don’t lay them out fully within the book, because there’s a time and a place. There is a time for a rigorous academic book, like Brian Estelle’s Echoes of Exodus, which I highly recommend. There is a lot of rigorous work in there upon the methodology that is very helpful, whereas in our book we weren’t attempting to give a methodological treatment, we were attempting to give a sense of the beauty and the music of the text. And, as in the case of music, you need to hear it, you need to hear these connections and then, when you hear these connections you may be tempted to go into musical theory to explain why you are hearing these connections. Are these connections really what you think they are or are they illusory? And musical theory and other things like that can help answer those questions.

As you’ve studied music on a more academic level you can understand it—not just how it sounds but some of the deeper ways in which the music is structured. That, in many ways, is what hermeneutics and the study of methodology and these sorts of things can give you. But you’re supposed to listen to the music, you’re supposed to enjoy the music as it’s presented to you and that music is presented without the need for this extensive methodology that lies between you and the text. The methodology can end up being a large tract of wilderness that prevents people from entering into the beauty of the text.

We didn’t want it to be that way and so, hopefully, when you read Echoes of Exodus you will have a sense of the beauty of the destination. Ideally what we’re giving is a report from a land that we have been exploring, a good report of a good land, maybe encouraging you to take the journey there yourself, to look a bit deeper into scripture, to look into some of these questions of methodology and hermeneutics and, by following that good report, to arrive at that destination in a fuller way yourself.

Thank you very much for listening. If you have any further questions, please leave them in my Curious Cat account. If you would like to follow this and other videos, please do so using my new blog and the link for that is below. If you would like to support this and other videos please do so using my Patreon account or using PayPal and other donations. Thank you so much for your time and, Lord willing, I’ll be back again tomorrow. God bless.