Benjamin K. Wikner, Ed.
Reviewed by: Jack Bradley
Date posted: 10/23/2005
To You and Your Children: Examining the Biblical Doctrine of Covenant Succession, edited by Benjamin K. Wikner. Published by Canon Press, 2005. Paperback, 336 pages, list price $16.00. Reviewed by OP pastor Jack Bradley.
I highly recommend this book. Its editor Ben Wikner provides a concise definition of covenant succession: "The doctrine of covenant succession presents the Scriptural teaching that the children of believers (covenant children) are expected to succeed in the faith of their parents, and this is accomplished through the divinely ordained means of covenant nurture.
Rob Rayburn masterfully sets the table in the opening chapter: "Divine grace does not abolish conditions. Rather it sees to their fulfillment. Grace is necessary precisely because conditions must be fulfilled." Randy Booth conveys the encouraging, yet challenging tone of the book when he writes regarding these conditions: "There is not one parent who has not failed at various points. . . . The connection between the behavior of a child and his parents is unavoidable. The sooner we acknowledge this the sooner we can deal with the problem."
Rayburn spells out the gravity of the problem: "The fact is that if we deny the possibility of a faithful nurture of covenant children, we have embraced a way of thinking that must prove fatal to our entire understanding of salvation and the gospel." Thomas Trouwborst documents how such a fatal understanding took root in covenantal circles, the historical process by which "a theology of doubt took precedence over a theology of faith and belief."
Chuck McIlhenny deals well with doubt regarding covenant children dying in infancy: "We can say to grieving Christian parents, 'Your child is with the Father in Heaven.' . . . They are reckoned with their parents as believers and members of Christ's body by the covenant."
Douglas Wilson challenges parents to think long-term: "Most of the readers of this book will be, in the providence of God, an ancestor for tens of thousands of people. Pray for them. Ask God for them." Mark Sumpter adds: "The covenant home is ready-made as an institution of multiple generations; the church is called to express that same image. . . . Both institutions should express a model resembling the familial fabric of the covenant, showing a mutual dependence."
Contributions are also made by Nelson Kloosterman, Timothy Bayly, Joel Belz, David Hagopian, and Douglas Jones.
This book is all about faithful parental and ecclesiastical nurture of covenant children. All parents and pastors should read it. (Also highly recommended is Robert Rayburn, "The Presbyterian Doctrines of Covenant Children, Covenant Nurture and Covenant Succession," at www.faithtacoma.org/covenant.htm.)