Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Reader

Ronald J. Feenstra

Second Reader

John Bolt

Third Reader

Richard A. Muller

Fourth Reader

Stanley K. Fowler


A recent resurgence of Baptist works that defend sacramental theology has revived the mid-twentieth-century debate among Baptists over the meaning of baptism. Just as the mid-twentieth-century generation of Baptist sacramentalists struggled to get other Baptists to accept their views, the problem remains today that most Baptists do not and will not seriously consider Baptist sacramental theology. The purpose of this dissertation is to help solve this problem by presenting a historically informed systematic theological defense of covenantal sacramentalism, which uses covenant theology to enhance a sacramental theology of baptism. This dissertation argues that the covenantal view of Baptist baptismal sacramentalism appeals to sacramentalists and ordinance-only Baptists alike, because it enhances Baptist theology of the meaning of baptism in helpful and unique ways. This dissertation demonstrates those ways by presenting the covenantal view's biblical grounding, systematic coherence, historical roots, and practical benefits, arguing that it meets Baptist objections to sacramental theology better than other sacramentalist views. After introducing the problem and the proposed solution to it in chapter 1, this dissertation builds its argument in three stages: first, it shows how the covenantal view complements both the strengths and weaknesses of mid-twentieth-century and contemporary Baptist sacramental theology in chapters 2 and 3 respectively. Second, in chapter 4, this dissertation argues for a recovery of seventeenth-century Baptist versions of covenant theology and sacramentalism, because these historical positions not only make this dissertation's covenantal view a genuine Baptist view with roots in the Baptist tradition, but also provide helpful arguments for its biblical grounding, systematic coherence, and practical benefits. Third, in chapter 5, this dissertation draws from seventeenth-century Baptist positions to formulate a contemporary covenantal view of sacramentalism. This view states that the Spirit graciously uses baptism as a confirming sign and seal of a believer's initiation into the new covenant, thereby strengthening his or her consciousness of salvation. Likewise, in baptism, the believer faithfully takes hold of God's covenant by consciously receiving its blessings and by pledging to fulfill its duties--both of which are tied to God's new covenant community, the church.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.