A Critical Review1
As a seminary student, I remember some of us asking Dr. Kline to write a book on Gog and Magog. We appreciated his linguistic study of Har Magedon that strengthened the connections between Ezekiel 37-38 and Revelation 20. Is this the book we've been waiting for all these years? Well, in some ways it is. However, in other ways it is disappointing, as it incorporates a number of deviations from traditional Reformed theology with an otherwise penetrating study of the final Gog/Magog crisis.
Unfortunately, these departures from Reformed theology detract from the Christ-centered character of the gospel. As we will see, Dr. Kline holds to a different view of the divine human relationship per se. This cannot help but affect our relationship with the God-man, Jesus Christ. He also suggests that many Biblical characters merited God's blessings strictly speaking. According to Dr. Kline, while Christ alone merited eternal blessings, these other characters have this in common with himthey did in fact merit something. Thus, the unique nature of Christ's merit is downplayed. Finally, Dr. Kline steals from New Testament saints their joyous (one-in-seven-day) Sabbath rest in Christ through his resurrection life.
In this book, Dr. Kline seeks to view God's covenants and their history in light of the final Gog/Magog crisis. Finding anticipations of the Gog/Magog gathering throughout previous covenant history, he seeks to do justice to the biblical-theological perspective of anticipation and organic connection. The connections can be insightful. At the same time, one may ask whether he finds too much anticipation of the Gog/Magog motifs in earlier redemptive-history to the neglect of organic development.
Dr. Kline's general eschatological approach is amillennial. He makes a very strong case for the amillennial interpretation over against the premillennial and postmillennial views (especially in chapter 11). His interpretations of the book of Daniel and Revelation 20 are very helpful in this respect. And his linguistic approach to Har Magedon (as found in a previously published article, printed in Appendix B, 251-70) shores up the connection between the end of Revelation 19 and the end of Revelation 20 (implied in Ezekiel 37-38). Premillennialism has met its match!
Often, amillenialists and postmillenialists are lumped together in opposition to premillennialists. However, Dr. Kline rightly recognizes that the main division is the one that divides premillennialists and postmillennialists from amillennialists. To underscore this distinction, he suggests we label the positions according to the following criteria: do they believe a visible glory-kingdom precedes or only follows the consummation? If one believes the kingdom of glory precedes the consummation, one maintains the "pre-consummation" view. Premillennialists and postmillennialists stand together here; they are both "pre-consummationists." But if one believes the kingdom of glory follows the consummation, one maintains the "post-consummation" view. Amillennialists are "post-consummationists" (171). The idea is a good one even if the terms are cumbersome.
Unfortunately, Dr. Kline uses the terms "upper register" and "lower register" without defining them. He uses them as adjectives, leaving the reader to fill in the blank. For Dr. Kline, the upper register is simply a reference to the celestial heavens, i.e., the heaven where the angels dwell. And the lower register is a reference to the terrestrial heavens, i.e., the visible heavens of our universe. The lower register also includes the earth. He uses the term "upper register" instead of "heaven" because "heaven" can also refer to the visible heavens. (However, in conformity to popular usage, I will mostly use the terms "heaven" and "earth" in this review, "earth" alone including the visible heavens.) While Dr. Kline's use of "upper register" and "lower register" is not a form of Platonism (as some suggest), still one may legitimately ask whether Dr. Kline separates the relationship between heaven and earth too strongly at points.
The problem that some people have on this issue is primarily with Dr. Kline applying this terminology to the use of the term "day" in Genesis 1. Dr. Kline has shown from Job and Revelation that the Bible sometimes speaks (more explicitly) from the perspective of heaven in contrast to speaking from the perspective of earth (242).2 He believes that something similar is happening in Genesis 1. Thus, the term "day" in Genesis 1 is simply a description of "day" from the perspective of heaven. It is not a description of "day" from the perspective of earth. Therefore, "day" does not mean 24-hour day by the standards of earthly time. Nor does it allude to any period of earthly time, as the day-age view of Genesis 1 implies.
Whether or not Dr. Kline has proven his point that "day" does not refer to earthly time, his article "Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmology" (Appendix A, 223-50) makes a good case for the so-called Framework view. Along with the six 24-hour day and day-age views, this is one of three positions accepted by his denomination (the Orthodox Presbyterian Church). Here one will also find his exegetical argument that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1) describes the initial creation ex nihilo ("out of nothing"). Thus Dr. Kline disagrees with his former professor of Old Testament, E.J. Young, who believed that this phrase was a general title for the creation days that followed. Dr. Kline uses this argument (contra Young) to support his own view that the heaven of Genesis 1:1 refers to the celestial heavens, not the terrestrial heavens created later. For Dr. Kline, the celestial heaven where the angels dwell is created.
Dr. Kline's view that the celestial heavens are created is connected to his unique doctrine of the "Endoxation" of the Spirit. This in turn is the backdrop to his doctrine of the Fatherhood of the Spirit.3 We believe that all of these doctrines are built on limited exegetical evidence, which does not take account of the fullness of Biblical revelation. However, in the balance of this review, I want to focus on Dr. Kline's views of the covenant of works, the Mosaic covenant, Noah and Abraham's merit, and the Sabbath. Thus, I will not deal with Dr. Kline's Trinitarian views here, despite the fact that they are seriously problematic.
In certain respects, Dr. Kline's view of the final consummation resembles a form of Restorationism. Unlike numerous Restorationists, he does not believe that the cultural mandate can bring in the eternal kingdom of God. The cultural mandate (if Adam had kept it perfectly and sinlessly) would only have brought a "Megapolis" (i.e., a huge worldwide theocratic city). Adam would still have needed to wait upon God to transform the "Megapolis" into the "Metapolis" (i.e., the heavenly city from above)4. Thus, unlike some Restorationists, Dr. Kline (presumably) does not believe that human political structures continue into the consummation. However, the question here is: does Dr. Kline teach that the essential nature of the Metapolis has material constituents that are similar to the material constituents of the Restorationists' final kingdom? That is, are their final products materially similar? Dr. Kline suggests that the New Heavens and New Earth may not involve any significant metaphysical change. Perhaps the universe will no longer expand, like Newton's static universe. But the invisible heavens and the visible creation may continue to have the same relationship to one another. The only difference may be in us. Our eyes would be opened to see the invisible heavens and the angelic hosts (19). And the relationship of our bodies to the present universe might change (20). (There may even be new forms of animals and plants in the consummation, 26.) On the other hand, Dr. Kline does argue that there will be a "union of the new heaven and new earth" by which "the earth is `heavenized'" (28). Is this a metaphysical change of some sort? Whatever may be said, Dr. Kline's view stresses continuity and fits in with his view that the spirit realm is a created embodiment of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, his interesting interpretation of Romans 8 does not support the Restorationist view that the final consummation will be materially similar to the present state (27, 271-293).
Hebrews 12:27-28 presses for even greater discontinuity in the consummated state. The heavenly kingdom that remains is not of this creation. To be sure, created beings like ourselves are not entirely out of view, like the angels and Christ (in terms of his human nature) who are now in heaven. But the created habitable arena of Heaven and Earth seems to be. This at least argues for a new creation whose "dust" is transformed to the same degree that the "dust" of our bodies are transformedso transformed that we are of heaven, not of the earth earthy (1 Cor. 15:47-49) Does it seem right for such transformed bodies live in an arena that is "of the earth earthy"? It seems to this reviewer that 2 Peter 3 must at least be read in terms of some kind of metaphysical transformation. Hebrews may press us furtherthe final consummation is the continuation of a heavenly state that already exists above (Heb. 12:27).
For Dr. Kline, the covenant of works is a natural constitution of man grounded in strict justice. He appeals to his particular formulation of the covenant of works as the doctrine of classic covenant theology (64-65).5 It should be noted that Dr. Kline's position is not the classic Reformed doctrine. In fact, he disagrees with the overwhelming majority of Reformed theologians since the Reformation. The majority view is even represented in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Dr. Kline knows that he is disagreeing with a very standard view of the covenant in Reformed theology. Also, Dr. Kline is aware of an article written by one of his former students, Lee Irons, called "Redefining Merit: An Examination of Medieval Presuppositions in Covenant Theology." This article was published in a book dedicated to Dr. Kline.6 In it, Mr. Irons places Dr. Kline's view of merit in opposition to the Westminster Confession and the latter's view that the covenant of works was a voluntary condescension of God the Creator to man the creature (WCF 7.1).
Dr. Kline regards Geerhardus Vos as one of his great teachers, i.e., through Vos's writings. In his article "The Covenant in Reformed Theology,"7 Vos's article indicates that the "voluntary condescension" expression of the Westminster Confession is represented throughout Reformed theology. Others, with more historical knowledge than Dr. Kline, may appear to have convinced him (wrongly) that his own non-voluntary condescension view is the majority view. And yet, Dr. Kline is fully aware that he is taking issue at least with the Westminster Standards, a major trajectory in Reformed theology. Thus, his claim to represent historic Reformed theology in his formulation of the covenant of works is less than forthright.
The classic Reformed doctrine makes a distinction between man's natural state (in which God owes nothing to the creature) and God's voluntary condescension to make a covenant of works with man. This distinction goes back at least to Robert Rollock (ca. 1555-1599) in Scotland and was instrumental in the Reformed theology that followed. We may call this view double benevolence. God was benevolent in creating man. And he was also benevolent in giving him a covenant of works. By contrast, Dr. Kline's view is single benevolence. God, with one act of benevolence, created man and created him in covenant.
Even some 17th century Reformed theologians who believed that God created man in covenant at the moment of creation (Hermann Witsius) believed in double benevolence. They express it this way: that God was not simply benevolent in creating man, he was also benevolent in sustaining him; and most crucially, God would have been benevolent in giving Adam eternal life (if Adam had passed the test). Both Witsius and Francis Turretin taught that man's creation in the image of God disposed God to make a covenant of works with him.8 But they still taught that Adam would not have merited the reward of eternal life in strict justice. They were trying to hold two elements of Scriptural teaching together (even if it seemed to involve some tension). In his discussion, we see Witsius dealing with this tension.9 For Witsius,10 as with John Henry Heidegger,11 it befits God's goodness and holiness to offer man eternal life. For Turretin, it may even be appropriate to God's justice according to truth.12 But God was not moved to give man eternal life by his justice according to merit. God is not an inherent debtor to man. Both Witsius and Turretin make this quite clear several times.13 Thus the question remains: was God moved in strict justice to offer man eternal life in such a way that if Adam had passed the test, he would have merited eternal life in strict justice? Witsius says "No," while pondering the mystery. Turretin gives a resounding "No!"
But Dr. Kline appears to say, "Yes!" Admittedly Dr. Kline says the issue at stake is not whether the obedience offered is proportional to the reward (though he thinks this may be possible14). Still, Dr. Kline continually asserts that Adam would have truly merited eternal life according to God's "simple justice," that is, God's "pure and perfect justice" (64)15. What else is this but "merit" according to strict justice? For Dr. Kline, Adam would have merited eternal life in exactly the same way that Christ did in his active obedience. By implication, Dr. Kline seems to assert that God was bound in strict justice to offer man eternal life in such a way that if Adam had passed the test he would have merited eternal life in strict justice. This opinion, other Reformed theologians have roundly denied. Dr. Kline must assume that previous Reformed theologians have thereby denied the covenant of works. They however would claim otherwise. The following is Turretin's way of maintaining that God is inherently a debtor to no man, while speaking of merit in the covenant of works. "Thus Adam himself, if he had persevered, would not have merited life in strict justice, although (through a certain condescension [synchatabasin]) God promised him by a covenant life under the condition of perfect obedience (which is called meritorious from that covenant in a broader sense because it ought to have been, as it were, the foundation and meritorious cause in view of which God had adjudged life to him)" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XVII.v.7, vol. 2, 712).16
Why is Turretin's view not a confusion of the covenant of works with the covenant of grace? On Turretin's view, God's benevolence in giving the covenant of works to Adam does not guarantee to Adam and his posterity eternal life (which it would if it were the covenant of grace). It only sets up the situation (the covenant) in which Adam's posterity may possibly receive eternal lifeon the condition that Adam obeys the covenant. The immediate ground by which Adam received life would have been his own obedience. It was not a covenant of grace because no one else's obedience would have been the ground of God's covenantal reward to him. And he would have had no need of another's merciful work to forgive him for his sins.
Turretin's arguments for the claim that God is not inherently a debtor to man include Rom. 11:35-36,17 Rom. 8:18, and 2 Cor. 4:17. Romans 11:35 (a quote from Job 41:11) states, "Or who has first given to him that it might be paid back to him again?" The text refers to man as he exists in history. It is not speaking about God's first act of benevolence in creating man out of nothing. Thus, it seems to imply that no mere man could possibly deserve anything from God as a result of strict merit.
For the two other texts, Turretin argues "works are destitute of the conditions of true merit they cannot merit anything because they are imperfect and finite, having no proportion to eternal glory (which Paul testifies when he says, `The sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,' Romans 8:18). `Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory' (2 Cor. 4:17). Here the apostle expressly professes that afflictions are not worthy (or as the Vulgate has it condignas). Now if the afflictions which we suffer for Christ's sake (which belong to a far more noble virtue) are not condign, how much less the actions?" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XVII.v.22, vol. 2, 717).
If we are to formulate our doctrine of the covenant of works correctly, we must do it in a way that seeks to do justice to all of the evidence, not just part of it. Thus, we must adequately interpret the above texts (plus those quoted in the Westminster Confession, chapter 7, section 1) and integrate them into our doctrinal formulations. Dr. Kline does not do this.
This may be due to the fact that his system has difficulties dealing with a text like Romans 11:35"Or who has first given to him that it might be paid back to him again?" Here Paul implies that man cannot strictly merit anything before God. That is, man cannot measure up to the standard of what would be necessary to strictly merit anything from God. He can't give to God that God should repay him. However, for Dr. Kline, the strictest standard of merit is the covenant of works. Clearly Adam could have kept the covenant of works. Thus, according to Dr. Kline, man could have measured up to the strictest standard of merit possible. Therefore, man was capable of strictly meriting God's favor. As Dr. Kline says, "God's covenant Word is definitive of justice" (64). Dr. Kline seems to imply that there is no strict justice apart from the covenant. To say otherwise, for Dr. Kline, is to put "justice above God and his judgments" (64). By implication, Dr. Kline believes that it is improper to appeal to a standard of strict justice and strict merit (which man can't measure up to) apart from the covenant of works or the covenant of redemption.
However, the historic Church has believed otherwise. It has taught that God's attribute of justice is not grounded in any of the covenants he has made concerning man. God's justice is grounded in his own necessary nature. God's essential justice cannot be grounded in any of his decrees regarding man, otherwise he wouldn't have been just if he hadn't created man. On the contrary, God was free to create man or not. God would still have been just if he had not created man and made covenants with him. Thus, God's necessary eternal justice cannot be grounded in any of his covenants regarding man. It cannot be grounded in his decree concerning the covenant of works. For God would still have been just if he hadn't created man at all, let alone made a covenant of works with him. Nor can God's essential justice be grounded in the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son. For God would have still been just if he hadn't decreed to redeem man. Both the covenant of redemption and the covenant of works were free acts of God. Therefore, they cannot be the basis of his necessary attributes.18
If, on the other hand, Dr. Kline simply means that God's covenants always faithfully reveal God's essential justice (which is not grounded in those covenants), I would agree. God's covenants are true revelations of his nature. The question remains: does the covenant of works (interpreted in the light of the whole organic continuum of revelation) reveal that Adam would have merited the reward of eternal life in strict justice? In light of Romans 11:35 (and other texts noted in WCF 7.1), the answer is "No."
Dr. Kline's one last claim is that if Adam's merit was not strictly meritorious, then neither was Christ's. However, the flip side of Anselm's argument in Cur Deus Homo ("Why the God Man?") provides an answer to this question. Anselm asserts that Christ's passive suffering was infinite because of his infinite nature as God. This suggests that Christ's active obedience has infinite worth because he is eternally worthy of the Father's favor. Since he is God, Christ can truly merit our salvation strictly speaking.19 Adam, on the other hand, "merits" out of the self-binding condescension of God.
Thus, while Romans 5 suggests that there is continuity between the two Adams, this does not have to imply identical similarity (even in respect to the type of merit attributed to them). Surely, the "surpassing excellence" of the Son of God would suggest an aspect in which the antitype (2nd Adam) exceeds the type (1st Adam).
Dr. Kline argues that Israel's obedience was meritorious. He does this in order to bring together two types of exegetical claims in his system. I will agree with both these exegetical claims, but question his systematic connection between them. The first exegetical claim involves the unique legal arrangement of the Old Covenant. Dr. Kline claims that Paul's quotations of Old Testament texts are not simply a refutation of Pharisaic misinterpretations of those texts, although they involve this. Paul reflects on the Old Testament and speaks of it as an adminstration of works when compared to the fullness of the New Testament and faith. In addition, Paul's claims are reflected in the Old Covenant administration itself. Israel's obedience to the law was a type of Christ's obedience. Her obedience brought blessings and the advancement of God's presence in the land. On the other hand, her disobedience was followed by curse and the retreat of the advancing kingdom of God in Israel. Therefore her disobedience showed: (1) that her obedience was only a type, not the real thing; (2) that she could not earn salvation by works; and (3) that the true Savior had not yet arrived. Therefore, the prophets later look back on Israel's disobedience and contrast it to the obedience of the coming Messiah, the true Israel.
On the other hand, Dr. Kline believes that the Mosaic covenant (which administered this typology) was an administration of the covenant of grace. Here he differs from some of his students such as Lee Irons, who have stated that the Mosaic era was a gracious era, but the Mosaic covenant was not a gracious covenant. In this reviewer's opinion, Dr. Kline is right on both these aspects. But the question remains: does he coordinate these truths together in a way that is internally consistent and coherent? Or does his formulation imply contradictions?
Perhaps the clearest quote in the book where Dr. Kline tries to reconcile both of the above aspects (i.e., the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of grace and the typological nature of Israel's obedience) is the following: "The Old Covenant order, theirs by national election, was one of highest historical privilege. And while a works principle was operative both in the grant of the kingdom to Abraham and in the meting out of typological kingdom blessings to the nation of Israel, the arrangement as a whole was a gracious favor to fallen sons of Adam, children of wrath deserving no blessings, temporal or eternal. The Law covenant was a sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace..." (128).
There are at least three possible interpretations of Dr. Kline's views. (1) The term "works principle" is used improperly. This arrangement does not involve any merit in the proper signification of that term. Instead the gracious nature of the Mosaic covenant ultimately determines the nature of what Dr. Kline calls "merit" in this arrangement. What he calls "merit" is really a reward of grace. He simply uses the term "merit" to show one area of discontinuity between obedience under the law and obedience under the New Covenant. The obedience of Old Covenant saints was a type of Christ's obedience; the obedience of New Testament saints is not. On this interpretation, Dr. Kline is not denying that the obedience of Old Testament saints resulted from grace just as much as New Testament saints (allowing, of course, for a greater degree of the work of God's Spirit in the New Testament). And the blessings of the land were ultimately grounded in God's redemptive grace as they are in the New. Therefore, Israel's "merit" was not really merit. Dr. Kline just uses this term improperly.
(2) The term "works principle" is used properly. Thus, while the Mosaic arrangement is gracious, the works principle is strictly meritorious. Hence, the Mosaic covenant contains two completely opposite principles. On this view, God gave Israel the law out of his unmerited favor. But from his unmerited favor, he offered Israel a strictly meritorious relationship. Thus, Israel's merit was strictly meritorious even though the overall arrangement was gracious.
On this view, the relationship between God's grace and Israel's merit might be analogous to the relationship between the Father and Son in the work of redemption. The Father sent the Son out of his great love prior to the Son's merit. But the Son's work is still strictly meritorious. Thus, God gave Israel the law out of pure grace just like the Father sent the Son. But Israel retains the land out of strict merit just as Christ earned the final inheritance out of strict merit.
View two could fit with two different approaches to merit. In terms of the Medieval Nominalist/Realist debate: (a) there is no such thing as strict merit in distinction from covenant. Thus all strict merit is simply God's arrangement by covenant (Nominalism). God can simply declare what is merit by free fiat, which he then expresses in covenant. (b) There is such a thing as strict merit considered independently of covenant (a position steering between Realism and Nominalism), but (on view #2) God used this strict merit in his arrangement with Israel (just as the Father used strict merit in his covenant with the Son). On this view the merit of the Mosaic covenant matches this strict eternal merit.
(3) The "works principle" is closer to the Roman Catholic view of merit, now applied to temporal blessings. God's grace takes away our ill deserts so that we can now merit his favor. The arrangement that enables sinners to be meritors is gracious. But the merit established by it is merit properly speaking. This view can fit with either option "a" or "b" above.
How shall we interpret Dr. Kline? Does he hold to view one, two, or something else? Here is what he writes. "The Old Covenant order, theirs by national election, was one of highest historical privilege. And while a works principle was operative both in the grant of the kingdom to Abraham and in the meting out of typological kingdom blessings to the nation of Israel, the arrangement as a whole was a gracious favor to fallen sons of Adam, children of wrath deserving no blessings, temporal or eternal. The Law covenant was a sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace..." (128).
This statement may be construed to support view #1. God's "gracious favor" is "to fallen sons of Adam, children of wrath deserving no blessings, temporal or eternal." If they do not deserve temporal blessings, then they cannot merit them strictly speaking. This implies that Israel is not parallel to Christ, who deserved temporal (as well as eternal) blessings. Because Christ deserved them, he could merit them strictly speaking. This seems to negate interpretation #2 above. Still, it may not close the case on view #2 altogether.
I ended the quote where I did to show one thing. Kline may be saying that the "Law covenant" is a "sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace" because it gives its temporal blessings as a result of grace, even if this grace was mediated through Israel's obedience. That is, the whole arrangement is gracious. However, the expression "Law-covenant" is a "sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace" also goes with what follows in the quotation. Here the law-covenant serves as a foil to the final administration of grace. The two are contrasted.
This is apparent in the words that follow: "The Law covenant was a sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace, designed to further the purpose and program of the gospel. By exhibiting dramatically the situation of mankind, fallen in and with Adam in the original probation in Eden, the tragic history of Israel under its covenant-of-works probation served to convict all of their sinful, hopeless estate. The Law thus drove men to Christ that they might be justified by faith" (128-29).
The question for interpreting Kline is, does the phrase "Law covenant...sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace" go with what goes before it (in precisely the way that I have suggested above) as well as with what goes after it? Or does it primarily go with what follows? If it goes with what comes before it (in the way I have suggested) and with what comes after it, then Dr. Kline believes that the actual execution of the Old Covenant in Israel was only in relative contrast to the New Covenant. For then unmerited favor determines the specific nature of what he calls "merit" in the Old Covenant. If so he is using the terms "merit" and "covenant of works" imprecisely. (Then the terms "merit" and "covenant of works" are more offensive than their substance.)
However, if these words do not go with what comes before (in the way I have suggested), but primarily with what comes after, then Dr. Kline believes in an absolute contrast between the actual execution of the Old Covenant in Israel and the New Covenant. At least this position implies that an absolute contrast exists between the overall gracious nature of the Mosaic covenant and the "meritorious" element of that covenant. In this case the Mosaic covenant contained an element ("merit") that was in absolute anti-thesis to its own overall gracious nature. This would give the terms "merit" and "covenant of works" their proper significance. But it would not explain how this "merit" could function in a covenant that is essentially gracious. Thus it would appear internally incoherent.
This latter interpretation of Dr. Kline's position appears to be supported by other elements of the book. First, the unqualified use of the term "opposite" to compare the Abraham and Mosaic eras or the Old and New Covenants. He calls "the principle of promise, the opposite of the principle of works that was operative in the Law" (96). And "the Torah covenant with its `do this and live' principle (cf. Lev. 18:5), the opposite of the grace-faith principle" (96). This unqualified use seems to express only polar opposition (i.e., an absolute contrast). Thus he uses the term "sharp contrast" to describe their opposition (97). Second, the term "principle" seems to imply a universal norm that is applied in precisely the same way to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, and Christ. (More on this below.) Finally, Dr. Kline continually speaks of Noah, Abraham, and Israel's merit as the "ground" of their inheritance (79, 103). The language of "ground" used without qualifying the term implies the absolute ground. As if Israel's obedience is the absolute legal ground of her retention of the land. These elements of Dr. Kline's formulations suggest the plausibility that either views two or three above represent his position.
There is one other place where Dr. Kline holds out some hope that Israel's typological blessings were gracious. Only if Dr. Kline means that Israel's retention of typological blessings (and not merely their original reception) was gracious is this text relevant to this discussion. So we will consider it in that light. Dr. Kline writes, "As an administration of the overarching Covenant of Grace, the Abrahamic Covenant with all its kingdom blessings, whether temporal-temporary-typological or heavenly-eternal, is the fruit of the Son's meritorious performance of passive and active obedience according to the terms of the Father's covenant of works with him" (emphasis mine, 96). However, without further theological distinctions, this seems to contradict sentences that follow. "The introduction of this Law arrangement centuries after the covenant promise to Abraham did not abrogate the earlier promise of grace because its works principle did not appertain to individual, eternal salvation (cf. Gal 3: 17). The works principle of the Law was rather the governing principle in the typological sphere of the national election and the possession of the first level kingdom in Canaan" (emphases mine, 97).
That's like saying, "Typological blessings are gracious, but strict works in the Mosaic Covenant doesn't contradict this because typological blessings are not gracious." Without further qualification, this is contradictory. It is true that Paul (Gal. 3:6-18) distinguishes the instrumental means by which Abraham was justified and promised the inheritance (by faith alone) from the instrumental means by which Israel received God's grace to retain the land and multiply its blessings (obedience to the law). However, this is not precisely the way Dr. Kline argues the point. Perhaps Dr. Kline wants to affirm the gracious nature of Israel's blessings in some fashion, but he is still unwilling to say that Israel's merit was not strictly meritorious because (on his view) covenant determines merit. Whatever the case may be, Dr. Kline's view of strict merit in the theocracy is inconsistent with any claim that Israel's retention of typological blessings was gracious. Thus, we will critique that aspect of Dr. Kline's view which implies that there was strict merit in the theocracy.
Permit me to note some Scriptural counter examples to Dr. Kline's position on merit in the theocracy (so understoodas strict merit). Paul's quotation of Leviticus 18:5 in Galatians 3:10 indicates a relative contrast between the "works of the law" as they were actually practiced in Israel and the new age of the Spirit. Leviticus 18:5 implies that the one who keeps the law will live in the land. But the nature of the law Israel was called to keep indicates that it was not an absolute covenant of works. That law included the ceremonial law. Israelites were required to present sacrifices for their sins. They were required to follow all the purity regulations of Leviticus. When they defiled themselves, they had to seek cleansing.
Thus, the very law they kept implied that they were sinners. They had demerited the right to life before God and they needed God's saving grace. This grace even functioned to cleanse defilement from the land. So it was instrumental in giving Israel blessings in the land. The law's atoning sacrifices covered Israel's demerit and turned aside the curse. The ceremonial law was the means by which Israelites returned to the camp, entered the tabernacle, enjoyed the fruits of the land, etc. Israel's obedience was simply the means by which God mediated this grace to her. Thus, Israel did not keep the law as an absolute covenant of works. Even Israel's retention of the land was grounded in the saving grace of Christ to come. In this way it differed from the meritorious works of Adam and Christ.
I would like to suggest the following theological/metaphysical problems with Dr. Kline's formulation. First, merit is impossible after the Fall. God can justly offer a covenant of "merit" to a creature who has not demerited his favor, as he did in the case of Adam. But how can God justly establish a meritorious arrangement with a creature who has demerited his favor?
Man's moral nature after the Fall makes him worthy of God's wrath. God's nature requires that he unleash his eternal wrath on undeserving sinners. After the Fall, God and man have a very different relation to one another than they did before the Fall. This relationship makes it impossible for God to accept man's works as meritorious in the way he was able to accept Adam's (even for temporal blessings). Thus, such a covenant would suppose conditions that are contrary to fact. Actually rewarding such a covenant with life would be impossible, even for God.
Second, types are not the reality. Here I will argue that because Israel's obedience was a type of Christ's obedience, it could not be meritorious. Types are both similar to and different from their anti-types. Old Testament sacrifices were types of Christ's propitiatory sacrifice. They were similar in that both involved the shedding of blood. But they were different in that Old Testament sacrifices were not the ground of propitiation. They were not propitiatory in their essential nature. So also, Israel's obedience to the law was similar to Christ's obedience in that both involved some degree of righteous love for God and his law. But they differed in that Israel's obedience could not stand before God's judgment seat without the justifying work of another. Christ's obedience could stand on its own merits. This made it meritorious while Israel's was not.
Since types have similarities to their anti-types, some may ask, why isn't "merit" something Israel's obedience has in common with Christ's obedience? The reason is that the dissimilarity between a type and its anti-type involves precisely that characteristic where the type fails and Christ succeeds. This is obvious enough. Yet this becomes even clearer when we consider it from the perspective of the Old Testament writing prophets. They saw Israel's failure from the perspective of her exile and claimed that in precisely that area where Israel failed, the Messiah would succeed. Israel's failure indicated that point at which she differed from Christ. What Israel failed to do and Christ accomplished was the ground for the coming of the kingdom. This was the prophetic perspective. Israel could not meet the demands of perfect (eschatological) righteousness to bring the perfected (eschatological) kingdom.
This is similar to the relationship between sacrificial types and anti-type. For both are based on the prophetic pattern of failure and fulfillment. As with Israel's obedience, the prophets looked back on the sacrificial system of Israel. It was a failure. Then the prophets projected the future sacrifice of Christ that would bring the eschatological age. The Old Testament sacrifices failed precisely at that point where they were not similar to the reality. They could not propitiate.
This pattern is unfolded in the book of Hebrews with its quotations of the prophet Jeremiah. "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4) is the backdrop for the prophetic reversal"their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Heb. 10:17 and 8:12, quoting Jer. 31:34). In Jeremiah's day, the Lord remembered Israel's sin and the curse remained on the people and their inheritance in the land. The temple was defiled and the sacrifices could not propitiate God's wrath. As a result Israel went into exile for her sin. The prophet Jeremiah looks back on this failure. Hebrews implies that this failure resulted from the inability of the sacrifices to take away sin. So Jeremiah predicts a new day when God will remember Israel's sin no more. When this happens, Israel will be placed in a New Jerusalem and its surrounding area will be "holy to the Lord." "It shall not be plucked up, or overthrown anymore forever" (Jer. 31:40). This is an eschatological projection.
According to Hebrews, Christ has fulfilled all of this. For he took away the curse separating God's people from the "eternal inheritance" (9:15). And he brought us to the "more perfect temple, not made with hands" through "eternal redemption" (9:11-12). This is eschatological fulfillment.
This does not detract from the fact that the sacrifice of Christ was the ground of salvation for all the saints of the Old Testament. For the eschatological fulfillment of salvation is the ground for all previous salvation in redemptive history. All previous forgiveness of sins was (to use Kline's term) an "intrusion" of Christ's eschatological sacrifice. All of this underscores one thing: precisely at the point where the type fails, it is not like the anti-type.
Israel's obedience differs from Christ's in that she was disobedient. And the imperfect obedience of Daniel and other prophets was not sufficient to reverse Israel's situation. Thus imperfect obedience of any kind is contrasted to Christ's perfect obedience. The point of difference is clearly obedience tainted with sin verses perfect, sinless obedience. What is this difference? Israel's obedience was not sufficient to bring God's kingdom while Christ's obedience was. That is, Israel's obedience had no worth (merit) to bring in God's kingdom, while Christ's obedience did. Only Christ's obedience could earn the coming of the kingdom. Only his was truly meritorious.
Making special reference to Christ's sacrifice, Paul implies something similar when he says, "what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin" (Rom. 8:3). The law could not bring in the age of the Spirit because it was weak by the flesh. Israel could not merit the coming of the kingdom. Only Christ's perfect obedience and sacrifice could bring it. Therefore, from the prophetic point of view, Israel was not able to merit at all. She had no true merit just as much as the sacrifices never truly propitiated anything.
From the above, it becomes evident that at this point Dr. Kline's view of the Mosaic Covenant does not square with Geerhardus Vos's organic understanding of redemption and revelation. In respect to merit in the Mosaic Covenant, Dr. Kline's understanding of progressive revelation is more like a room addition to a house. The Abrahmic Covenant of grace and the redemptive era prior to Moses is the original house. This grace and redemption continues to operate in the Mosaic Covenant. However, the element of merit in the Mosaic Covenant does not organically unfold from this original house of redemption because its essential nature is not dependent upon redemption. Instead, for Dr. Kline, the law and its strict merit are built on their own foundation of strict merit. Admittedly for Dr. Kline, merit as a room addition within the theocracy would never have existed without the house. For Dr. Kline believes that Israel would never have been able to merit the blessings of the land, if God had not given Israel the land by redemptive grace. Still, the merit once established is strict merit. Thus the law and its merit were added as a room addition to the house of redemptionin a mechanical fashion. By implication, at this point Dr. Kline teaches that the development of God's supernatural words and deeds was mechanical, not organic. Strictly speaking, Israel's own deeds earned her blessings in the land once God had placed her there by grace. Israel's merit was a new room mechanically built alongside God's own deeds of redemption. Here Dr. Kline differs significantly with Geerhardus Vos, who maintained the organic nature of God's speech and acts throughout redemptive history. As such, Vos maintained that, even though Israel's obedience had a unique theocratic function in retaining the land, it was not meritorious.20
Finally, Dr. Kline's belief in merit in the theocracy may also influence his view that the promises made to Abraham involve a two-level fulfillment, first in the land of Canaan and then in Christ in heaven (98). This view may not seem objectionable in itself because we do see the promises coming to fulfillment provisionally in the land prior to Christ. Thus, previous Reformed theologians have expressed themselves in this manner in an orthodox way. However, Dr. Kline may overly separate the blessings of the typological kingdom in Israel from the final eschatological reality, i.e., the final eschatological blessings come by grace, but the typological blessings are retained by strict merit. We would thus suggest that it is better to say that the promises made to Abraham are fulfilled in Christ, and their final fulfillment in Christ expresses itself provisionally in the types and shadows of the theocracy. In this way, we highlight the types and shadows as intrusions of the future reality. This underscores the metaphysical unity between the theocracy and the kingdom of Christ in an attempt to do justice to the organic nature of redemption and revelation.
According to Dr. Kline there were a couple of other instances where strict merit operated prior to the law. There were two other temporary situations in which a small room of merit was built alongside the house of redemptionin the cases of Noah21 and Abraham.22 However, when Dr. Kline calls Noah and Abraham's obedience meritorious this really muddies the waters. His arguments in this area are less convincing and somewhat self-contradictory (if strict merit is involved). As with Israel, Dr. Kline admits that "the blessings of the covenant with Noah were a gift of grace to ill-deserving sinners." On the other hand, he speaks of a "works principle" respecting Noah. His language respecting the nature of Noah's merit is not as strong as it is in the case of Israel, so one may think that he is conceiving of Noah's merit improperly.
However, he says that it follows the "works principle" which he elsewhere defines as the opposite of grace. This suggests strict merit. If nothing else, it seems to reveal contradictions in Dr. Kline's system. Thus, I will suggest that the element of strict merit implied in the case of Noah and Abraham, as representatives of the "works principle," must be abandoned.
Dr. Kline's argument that Noah merited God's typological blessings is as follows. God promised Noah a reward for his obedience. "Come, you and all your house, into the ark, because I have found you righteous in this generation" (Gen. 7:1). But if this argues for Noah's merit then the following text argues for the saints meriting eternal life: "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat " (Matt. 25:34-35). Both are rewards granted for obedience. So why is Noah's obedience meritorious and not New Testament believers? There must be another reason.
Perhaps Dr. Kline's reasoning involves the fact that Noah received typological earthly blessings for his obedience, something that New Testament saints do not receive for their obedience. In this way, Noah could function as a type of Christ who brings the eternal inheritance. The argument might run something like this: Israel's obedience was a type of Christ's partly because through various degrees of obedience she received various degrees of earthly typological blessings in the land in contrast to various degrees of curse. In this way, she was a type of Christ whose infinite decree of obedience merited an infinite blessing. So (the argument might go) Noah's obedience is a small vignette of Israel's typological function prior to Israel's appearance. In this way, we might find typological progression within Genesis. Abel and Enoch receive rewards, but not earthly typological ones. Noah receives a typological earthly reward, and Abraham will receive a more extensive and long-term typological reward (but not in his lifetime). Then Israel will inherit the typological kingdom in Canaan and her obedience will function as an imperfect type of Christ's obedience. Is this the movement Dr. Kline's thinking is taking?
Even if Dr. Kline can show that Noah's obedience is a type of Christ's obedience, he must also recognize that the flood event and Noah's own salvation in it is a type of Christ's salvation of his sinful people (1 Peter 3:20-21). In this way, Noah's unworthiness is at work in him as a member of an event that is a type of Christ. Therefore, if Noah also functions as a type of Christ's merit, Noah's own righteousness cannot strictly speaking be the ground of his salvation. The final ground of that salvation must be the work of Christ himself. Noah is at best a type, not the reality.
Dr. Kline's argument for Abraham's merit is even more complex. On the one hand, Abraham merits blessings because his obedience is the basis of Isaac's participation in the blessings. On the other hand, Abraham represents the faith-promise principle in contrast to the work's principle in Israel. How can Dr. Kline have it both ways, especially if strict merit is involved?
Admittedly, it is not impossible for something (or someone) to represent two polar opposites as long as it is in different respects. But the point here is, how does Dr. Kline argue for this from the text? He acknowledges that Paul's contrast between Abraham and Moses is not a contrast between two different ways of salvation. Thus, on his view, it is a contrast between two different ways of receiving the inheritanceone of promise, one of merit. Abraham's reception of an eternal inheritance is contrasted to Israel's reception of a temporal inheritance. This appears to be the way Dr. Kline argues (96-97). Paul then is only denying that Abraham received eternal blessings by works. He does not deny the teaching of Genesis, that Abraham received typological blessings for his descendents by strict merit.
However, this undermines any truly redemptive-historical contrast in Paul's words, even if that contrast is relative (and not absolute). For Paul is contrasting two eras in the history of redemptionthe historical era of promise and the historical era of the law. His contrast must respect something they have in common for it to be a genuine comparison. For instance, it makes sense to contrast Susie and John in this way. Susie is a great tennis player and John is a terrible tennis player. "Tennis" is what they have in common. But if you were to say, Susie is a great basketball player, and John is a terrible football player, this does not represent a contrast. For they have nothing in common. That is, there is no common link between them.
Dr. Kline's interpretation of Paul's contrast between Abraham and the law leaves no common link between them. The term "inheritance" may describe both of these blessings, but it doesn't really refer to anything similar between them. Abraham's is a covenant of promise with respect to individual salvation. And Israel's was a covenant of merit for temporal blessings. These are two very different things. Thus, no genuine historical contrast is in view. On this logic, Paul could as easily have shown the law-gospel contrast as it operated within the Abrahamic era itself (without reference to the law). Or he could have shown the law-gospel contrast from the Mosaic era itself (without reference to Abraham).
For Paul's contrast to be a genuine redemptive-historical contrast, it must be dealing with something common to the two eras. The issue of the eschatological inheritance is central (Gal. 3:18, the historical arrival of the eschatological inheritance promised to Abraham is not by means of the law; and v. 14, the promise of the Spirit). Thus, Abraham received the inheritance to come by justifying grace in relative contrast to Israel's inheritance, which was mediated to her through her sanctified obedience. However, for this contrast to hold good, there must be something common between these inheritances. I would suggest that the point of comparison involves the fact that Israel's inheritance was a type of the eschatological inheritance. Thus Abraham and Israel ultimately point to two different ways of receiving the eschatological inheritanceby grace or by works. The fact that both arguments ultimately respect the eschatological inheritance links the contrast between Abraham and Israel. Israel's obedience was a type of Christ's works by which he brought the eschatological inheritance. By contrast, Abraham represents the reception of the eschatological inheritance by grace alone through faith alone. Abraham and Israel point to two different ways of receiving the eschatological inheritance. Thus in some respects, Abraham's faith is contrasted to Israel's obedience. Therefore, if Abraham's obedience also functioned as a type of Christ's obedience to bring the eschatological inheritance (as Dr. Kline's view implies), it cannot do this to the same degree and in the same respect that Israel's obedience functioned as a type of Christ's obedience to bring the eschatological inheritance. As a result, Abraham's obedience and Israel's obedience cannot both have the same nature. They cannot both be strictly meritorious.
Galatians 3 may indicate that Abraham's obedience was not a type of Christ's obedience in any respect. But it certainly implies that Abraham's obedience was not strictly meritorious. Thus, if Dr. Kline's exegesis of Genesis is correct and Abraham was a type of Christ's righteousness in some sense, this must be understood in a way that is consistent with the fact that Abraham didn't actually merit anything. Abraham was at best a type, not the reality. Once again, if Abraham's obedience is typological, Galatians 3 implies that it was not typological to the same degree and in the same respect that Israel's obedience was typological. Otherwise, Paul could not contrast Abraham to Israel in the precise way he does. This further underscores the point that Abraham's obedience was not strictly meritorious. For if Abraham and Israel's obedience were strictly meritorious, then they would both have to measure up to the same standard of strict justice grounded in God's nature. If this was the case they could not be contrasted in the way they are. Therefore, the fact that Paul contrasts them (with Abraham representing the opposite of works) indicates that Abraham's obedience was not strictly meritorious. (And, as we have seen above, neither was Israel's.)
While Dr. Kline only alludes to cult and culture in the book, we must note it because of the importance it plays in his doctrine of the Sabbath.
Dr. Kline teaches a distinction between cult and culture. For Dr. Kline, the cult is the vertical vector of worship to God. Culture is human beings relating to their environment. Does this mean that the Christian performs his cultural duties only for himself and not God? No. Dr. Kline teaches that whatever we do in the culture we are to do for the glory of God, in worship to him. Does this mean that the Christian's morality does not affect the way he lives in the culture? No, instead Dr. Kline thinks that the Bible instructs individual Christians as to how to behave in their culture. In this way, they are salt and light. Thus, he believes that individual Christians can work together in para-church organizations or with unbelievers to influence the culture.
His point is twofold: (1) the church as an institution is not to be involved in such cultural activities as setting up soup kitchens, etc. Nor is the church as an institution to work to influence political action. (2) The Spirit of God is not specially present in modern day cultures as he was in the land of Israel. Thus, institutions and laws in the theocracy connected to God's special presence do not carry over into modern day cultures. Instead, those elements are fulfilled in Christ's invisible theocratic reign in heaven (presently manifested in the Church).
Dr. Kline thoroughly rejects the doctrine of the Sabbath found in the Westminster Confession. He goes so far as to say, "The advocacy of such a continuance of the Decalogue ordinance of the Sabbath is, in effect, a Judaizing contention" (196). He is accusing the Westminster Confession and the denominations that adopt it of teaching a Judaizing doctrine.
By implication, Dr. Kline also rejects the Continental view of the Sabbath. For he denies that the first day of Christian worship is grounded in the fourth commandment
Let us look at his principal arguments and consider some counter-arguments from the Scriptures. Dr. Kline argues that: (1) Sabbath rest from labor is dependent on working in a theocratic arena; (2) the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant (thus for believers only); (3) the first day of Christian worship is not tied to the fourth commandment; and (4) the Sabbath is not a creation ordinance binding all future generations, even in the covenant of grace.
Sabbath as Rest from Theocratic Work. Dr. Kline teaches that the Sabbath is only for those who live in a theocratic arena. That is, it is only for those engaged in six days of theocratic work followed by a day of theocratic rest. The Sabbath only has significance where cult and culture are interconnected. It only functions when people live in an earthly land inhabited by God's special presence. This was true in the Garden of Eden; it was a holy sanctuary. And it was true in the land of Israel from Joshua to the exile.
According to Dr. Kline, when you practice the Sabbath you are stamping a sign of holiness on the arena to which the Sabbath relates. You can only do this in lands where God's Holy Spirit is present in the physical arena. This is the arena you build up by your work. When you rest, you give that arena rest as well.
Dr. Kline recognizes that the work/rest pattern of the Sabbath is God's own work/rest pattern (Genesis 2:2-3). Here Dr. Kline agrees with the Westminster Confession. However, Dr. Kline differs from the Confession in this: the Confession teaches that the Sabbath is grounded in the essential nature of the created order. Dr. Kline believes it is grounded in the unique presence of God. That is, for Dr. Kline, God's special presence in a land is the only basis for keeping Sabbath. When God's special presence leaves a land, there is no more reason for keeping Sabbath. On the other hand, the Confession teaches that the Sabbath is historically grounded in God's general omnipresence in the world at large.
If the Sabbath is grounded in God's omnipresence, this does not exclude its rest from taking on theocratic overtones when God is specially present. That is, the general (non-theocratic) pattern of work/rest can take on theocratic overtones when God eschatologically intrudes in a land. Dr. Kline does believe this is true of capital punishment. God's general presence (involving common grace and man as image bearer) is the ground of capital punishment. But when God eschatologically intruded in Canaan, capital punishment took on unique theocratic associations. It was an intrusion of eschatological punishment. However, when the theocracy expires, capital punishment still remains (stripped of its theocratic associations)as Dr. Kline insists. By similar reasoning, even if the Sabbath takes on theocratic associations in Israel, this does not mean that it does not continue after the theocracy is gone.
Thus the question becomes: does the Sabbath have non-theocratic associations? Is it grounded in creation in general or in the building of a theocratic arena? In other words, is it a creation ordinance for all time or is it peculiar to Adam, Eve, and Israel alone?23 We will seek to answer this question by looking at God's creation of the world.
The original paradigm of the Sabbath is God's own rest from labor. Was God's work exclusively one of building a theocratic arena? It was not. Even Dr. Kline admits that the Garden of Eden was uniquely holy. He believes that (in the cultural mandate) God called Adam and Eve to extend his holy presence throughout the world. This implies that the rest of the world that God created was a common arena. God was not specially present there the way he was in the Garden.
Therefore, much of God's creative work involved building up an arena that was not holy. It was common. God's work/rest pattern was broader than the theocratic work/rest pattern. Therefore, God's work/rest provides a paradigm for working in the common arena followed by rest in relationship to a common arena.
Dr. Kline could object by pointing to the pattern of creation found in Genesis 1. In it, God created spheres (i.e., land, bodies of water, visible heavens); then he created beings to rule over those spheres. They were "kings" over those arenas. So it would seem that when God created spheres, he was creating kingdoms for other creatures to rule over. Thus, God's creative activity was kingdom building activity. Now we admit that God's creation of spheres and rulers may have pointed beyond themselves to the ultimate eschatological rule of God (as well as man). But the arenas created (and their rulers) were not holy. Otherwise those spheres would have been co-extensive with the Garden in their holiness. And Adam would have been called to guard the whole world from the intruding serpent. (Dr. Kline would agree on this point.) The spheres God created were common, not holy. Only the Garden of Eden was holy. Thus, most of God's work involved building up common, non-theocratic arenas outside of the Garden of Eden. Thus, the Sabbath is a privilege to creatures in God's image, to those who live in common arenas as well as to those who live in holy arenas. It is therefore universally binding.
Dr. Kline also claims that when we keep Sabbath we are putting our stamp of approval on our work, claiming that the work we did was theocratic. This is our word of approbation similar to God's word of approbation at the creation, i.e., "God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). However, when God declared his work "very good," he was not putting a stamp on it, saying that it was holy. Most of it was common. He called his work "good" in an arena that he made common.
Therefore, when we rest on the Sabbath, we are not putting a stamp of holiness on our work. We are not saying that it was theocratic. On the contrary, just as God rested (one in seven days) when he built up arenas that were non-theocratic, so we are called to rest (one in seven days) after we work in arenas that are non-theocratic. This fits the traditional notion that God's pattern of work/rest is fundamentally a general eschatological pattern in force until the consummation.
Such an approach involves the believer in a vital union with God in his work and rest. As God worked, then rested (one in seven days), we are to work, followed by rest (one in seven days). We are to see our work as an imitation of God and a communion with his past work. That is, we are to see our rest as an imitation of his rest and union with him in his resteven now, resting in Christ and his resurrection-rest.
The Sabbath is not historically grounded in God's creating a theocratic arena. It is grounded in a more general pattern that includes God's creation of both the holy and the common. Thus, the Sabbath is not dependent on the Old Testament theocracy. Dr. Kline's claim that the "continuance of the Decalogue ordinance of the Sabbath is a Judaizing contention" is groundless.
Sabbath as Sign. Dr. Kline argues that the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant just as circumcision (or the Lord's Supper) is a sign of the covenant. He concludes from this that unbelievers are only obligated to keep the Sabbath in the same way they are obligated to partake in the Lord's Supper, i.e., by being converted. But if they refuse to believe the gospel, they should not keep the Sabbath (just as they should not partake in the Lord's Supper, lest they eat and drink damnation to themselves).
It follows that, on Dr. Kline's view, there must be only two reasons why the Israelites were commanded to give their slaves rest from labor on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:10; Deut. 5:14). (1) Those slaves were covenant members. As such they were obligated to keep the Sabbath. (2) Even if the slaves were not covenant members, they were laboring in a theocratic arena. While Dr. Kline does not address the above two points directly in the book under review, some of Dr. Kline's students have drawn the following conclusion from these two points: when both these reasons no longer apply in the new covenant, believers are no longer called to give their unbelieving slaves rest from labor. They are allowed to have unbelievers work for them on the Sabbath. Are these two reasons (that slaves may have been believers and that they were doing kingdom-building activity) the only reasons the fourth commandment forbade Israelites from having others work for them on the Sabbath?
Let us consider one example in response to Dr. Kline. Clearly Nehemiah's insistence that Israelites not buy from pagans on the Sabbath (Neh. 13:16-17) makes the first point irrelevant to this implication. For Dr. Kline's claim to succeed, the only point at issue must be that these pagans are working in a theocratic arena. We have shown that a theocratic arena is not essential to the Sabbath. However, this of itself does not exclude the Sabbath from taking on theocratic associations in Israel. Is that what is happening here? All indications steer us away from this conclusion. First, as pagans, the Tyrians in Nehemiah's day were certainly not involved in kingdom activity (building up the kingdom) even though they were working in a kingdom land.
In response, Dr. Kline could claim that these pagans were doing kingdom-building activity in spite of themselves. If so, this would be inconsistent with his system. For although I have suggested that slaves might not have been covenant members (i.e., the Gibeonites, Josh. 9:3, 17-27), this does not appear to be consistent with Dr. Kline's view of kingdom-building activity. For, following the example of Adam's priestly task to "guard" the garden, Dr. Kline seems to believe that only those who are priests (in some sense) can be engaged in kingdom-building activity.24 Of course, one does not have to be a priest according to the order of Aaron to engage in theocratic work. The fact that Israel was a nation of priests in general (Ex. 19:6) allowed all Israelites to build up the kingdom.25 But the Tyrians (discussed in Neh. 13:16-17) were not members of the nation of Israel. They were not priests at all. Thus, according to Dr. Kline's own position, they could not be involved in kingdom-building activity. It should follow that, the false claim that the Tyrians were building up the kingdom cannot be the reason that the Israelites were forbidden to have these pagans work for them.
Second, we have seen that the most fundamental pattern of work/rest is universal, involving the building of common and holy arenas followed by rest. Thus, Dr. Kline must not only show that the specific work the Tyrians engaged in here took on theocratic overtones, but that their work was uniquely theocratic, limited to a holy arena. (The work of holy war and the priestly tasks in the temple might be some examples.) Only if the Tyrian's work was uniquely theocratic, can Dr. Kline limit Nehemiah's reprimand (for buying from pagans on the Sabbath) to a holy arena. However, selling fish and other merchandise (as the Tyrians were doing) is not uniquely theocratic work. It is something people legitimately practice in common arenas six days a week. Thus, Nehemiah's rebuke of Israel is not grounded in the fact that the Tyrians were doing uniquely theocratic work. Therefore, the false claim that the Tyrians were doing uniquely theocratic work cannot be used to limit Nehemiah's rebuke to the theocracy.
Perhaps Dr. Kline would say that Nehemiah's point is that the Israelites themselves were doing kingdom activity by engaging in trade (and so making a profit). Whether the Israelites have others (pagans) work for them in this process is irrelevant on this interpretation. However, by rebuking the nobles, Nehemiah implicitly rebuked all who bought from the Tyrians. Thus, the text rebukes those who are simply buying from pagans even though they are not working themselves. Some may respond to this point by noting that this was a trading society, so that all who bought were also selling their own goods in the process of the trade. But this response is not precisely accurate since coinage already existed in this period (Zech. 11:12-13). And those who purchase merchandise with coins or weighted silver (as some probably did) are not trading the goods they produce in the same manner as those who sell their own products for other goods and coinage. If they are working in some sense (as perhaps they are), it can be equally said that we are engaged in profit when we pay pagans to work for us on the Sabbath. (Then the prohibition forbidding us to have others work for us on the Sabbath is inseparable from the prohibition forbidding us to work on the Sabbath.) Clearly Nehemiah's reprimand (however understood) includes a rebuke to Israelites who were simply buying from pagans on the Sabbath for their own consumption.
Finally, Dr. Kline may claim that the Israelites were building up the kingdom simply by acquiring goods that they would consume. Perhaps. But since the Sabbath prohibits work even in common arenas, Dr. Kline would have to show that the specific consumption Israel practiced in this case was uniquely theocratic. If it was not, then the same consumption (when purchased on the Sabbath) is also prohibited in common arenas. Then at best, that consumption takes on theocratic associations in a theocratic arena like capital punishment does when it operates in a theocratic arena. But like capital punishment, it is not limited to a theocratic arena because it is not uniquely theocratic. It follows that Nehemiah rebuked Israel for buying from the Tyrians on the Sabbath even when that buying activity was not uniquely theocratic. Therefore, Nehemiah's prohibition also applies in common arenas.
All of this indicates that Nehemiah is (at least) referring to a practice that is forbidden to all those who take the sign of the Sabbath upon themselves. They ought not to have others (unbelievers) work for them any more than they ought to work themselves. (Jesus notes the exceptions of necessity and mercy, Matt. 12:1-13.)
The first day of Christian worship is not tied to the Decalogue. Kline's view is that the Decalogue was a unique treaty with Israel. Therefore, "the distinctive first day of the new, dominical week is not a modified residue of the Sabbath day of the fourth commandment" (196).
This claim is grounded in his study The Structure of Biblical Authority (1972) 94-110. Here Dr. Kline claims that the Decalogue was God's covenant with Israel. He also claims that the New Testament documents are God's covenant with the new covenant Church. He is right to make both these claim. However, he draws an unwarranted conclusion from these two facts. He concludes that the Old Testament is not the "canon" or rule of the Church in its life-norms. By implication, he posits a radical discontinuity between the Old Testament with its Decalogue and the New Testament documents. As a result, he fails to do full justice to the organic connection between the Old and New Testaments.
I would suggest instead the following: the old covenant organically unfolds into the new covenant. The old treaty with the old Israel organically unfolds into the new covenant with the new Israel. Thus, the old covenant documents are the canon of the New Testament Church insofar as they organically unfold in the new covenant. All that is written in the Old Testament is the Word of God and it all organically unfolds into the New Testament. Since this is the case, all that is written in the Old Testament as it organically unfolds in the New (together with the New Testament) is the canon of the New Testament Church. It is artificial to say (with Dr. Kline) that the Old Testament is our "Scripture," but it is not our "canon." As long as we do justice to the true organic nature of the canon (and the organic unfolding of both faith and life norms), this will not lead to theonomy (as Dr. Kline fears). Therefore, I am arguing for continuity between the Testaments in opposition to Dr. Kline's radical discontinuity at this point.
Thus, it will not settle the issue of the Sabbath to say that the Decalogue was a covenant made with Israel. We must ask further, how does each aspect of the Decalogue organically unfold through the Old Testament into the New Testament? In some respects Dr. Kline acknowledges this himself,26 but he does not address Jesus' appeal to the Sabbath commandment as we intend to do here. We will see that Dr. Kline's system has difficulty dealing with Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath. In fact, Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath is directly at odds with Dr. Kline's restriction of the fourth commandment to the theocracy.
When Jesus asks, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath?" (Luke 6:9 and 14:3), he is appealing to the law for his own Sabbath practice as well as that of his disciples. As disciples, Luke intends the Church to follow Jesus' teaching. This implies that the Church is under the authority of the Sabbath commandment found in the Decalogue.
Dr. Kline does not believe this. How can he avoid this conclusion? It appears he must disagree with one of the premises I've suggested above, perhaps the premise that Jesus was teaching his Church how to observe the Sabbath. Presumably, Dr. Kline must say that Jesus was not teaching his future Church how to observe the Sabbath. He was only discussing how the Sabbath should be observed in the theocracy. Dr. Kline must draw this conclusion because Jesus appeals to the Decalogue. And on Dr. Kline's view, the Sabbath stipulated in the Decalogue only applies to the theocracy. So (on Dr. Kline's view) who was Jesus addressing? Apparently, only people living in a theocratic order. Jesus was simply addressing people who lived during his own lifetime, for their Sabbath practice prior to his resurrection. Dr. Kline doesn't say this (nor does he discuss these texts), but this would seem to be the necessary conclusion of his system. Yet this is not the picture we get from Luke's gospel. Instead when Luke presents Jesus' teaching, Jesus is teaching things that his future Church is supposed to follow. And in some instances Luke shows us the Church following these very teachings in the book of Acts. Therefore, I would suggest that when Jesus appeals to the Decalogue for the Sabbath practice of his Church, he is operating under the assumption that the Sabbath commandment in the Decalogue is not restricted to the theocracy.
As we have seen above, Dr. Kline at best can say (on his assumptions) that Jesus was teaching people during his own lifetime how to keep the Sabbath. Therefore Dr. Kline cannot support his Sabbath views by adopting a popular interpretation of Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath. This interpretation claims that Jesus taught something new about the Sabbath in the new covenant (in Luke 6:9 and 14:3) that snatches from it the "rest" character of the Sabbath found in the Old Covenant. But Dr. Kline cannot adopt this interpretation to support his Sabbath view. For this popular interpretation (for all its faults) rightly assumes that Jesus was teaching his Church how to keep the Sabbath. In fact, this interpretation cannot work without that premise. However, Dr. Kline cannot believe that Jesus was teaching his Church how to keep the Sabbath, since Jesus was appealing to the Decalogue. For, on Dr. Kline's view, the Sabbath stipulation in the Decalogue is only applicable to the theocracy, not to the New Testament Church. Dr. Kline must find some other way to deal with Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath.
An approach similar to the previous one is to say that Christ appeals to what is lawful only to undercut it. This is followed by the assumption that he did this not only for himself, but also for his followers. If so, one must explain why Luke implicitly commends the women who "on the Sabbath rested according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56). They obviously didn't get Jesus' point if Jesus meant to cancel rest on the Sabbath day. For whatever Jesus meant to teach about the Sabbath, he intended his disciples to follow during his own lifetime. Jesus was not simply giving instructions to be followed after his resurrection. If Jesus meant to abolish rest on the Sabbath, he expected the women (as his disciples) to follow his teaching from that point on. If this is the case, these women failed to follow Jesus when they rested on the Sabbath. How then can Luke implicitly commend them?
Clearly Luke's commendation of the women reveals that Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath (whatever new revelation it involved) did not undercut resting on the Sabbath. Instead, Jesus' questions about what is lawful on the Sabbath show that his positive teaching about the Sabbath was organically related to the Decalogue. Thus, the Church is to live by the Decalogue. This is the "third use of the law" common to confessional Reformed theology. This connection between the Decalogue and the Church's practice is substantiated in Luke/Acts. For Jesus' own positive teaching about the Church's Sabbath practice in Luke is picked up in the book of Acts when it refers to the church meeting on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). If someone denies this connection between Luke and Acts, we might askwhat does Jesus' positive Sabbath teaching refer to? There seems to be no other literary reference to it in Luke/Acts than the church meeting on the first day of the week.
I have suggested that Dr. Kline's view implies that Jesus was only addressing issues about the Sabbath relevant to the theocracy. That is because Jesus was appealing to the fourth commandment, which Dr. Kline believes was only normative for Israel in the theocracy. Dr. Kline may object by pointing out that Palestine during Jesus' day was not a theocracy. It was subjugated to Rome. But this does not make his position any easier. For Dr. Kline believes that the fourth commandment only applies in a theocratic arena. If Jesus also believed this, he wouldn't have appealed to the fourth commandment. For (on this view) he knew he did not live in a theocracy. On Dr. Kline's view, Jesus could only appeal to the fourth commandment, if he believed he lived in a theocracy.
The above considerations prove either that: (1) Jesus believed he lived in a theocracy and his statements about the Sabbath were only applicable to his own lifetime (which we think is absurd); or (2) Jesus believed that the Sabbath commandment in the Decalogue was applicable beyond the theocracy. The latter option is the only feasible one. And while there are several approaches to this second option, one stands out above the others. Jesus taught that the Sabbath commandment in the Decalogue was relevant to his future Church. While he gave further revelation respecting it, that revelation did not undermine the "rest" character of the Sabbath as it is grounded in the creation ordinance, further (and organically) unfolded in the Decalogue, and confirmed in our Lord's Sabbath teaching.
Sabbath as Creation Ordinance. In the book under review, it appears that Dr. Kline no longer maintains that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance for all time. Certainly Dr. Kline still believes that the Sabbath was instituted in Genesis 2:3. But does it have abiding significance? Dr. Kline has avoided this issue explicitly. He continually qualifies his refutation of the Sabbath as an abiding creation ordinance with his refutation of the theocratic character of Sabbatizing. Have the two become integrally related for him?
Some quotes make this plausible: " the Christian calendar is of a different kind than that exhibited by the sabbatical seventh day. Unlike the latter, whose observance took the form of a symbolic imitation of a divine paradigmatic event (viz. the Creator's seventh day cessation of work), the Christian practice of the first day does not involve such re-enactment" (194). "Further, since the six days of divine work in the creation paradigm (cf. Exod 20:11) were holy kingdom-establishing activity, so too must be the six days of work in the Sabbath ordinance, which replicates that divine archetype. This means that Sabbath observation requires a theocratic as well as a covenantal setting, that is, a setting in which culture as well as cult is holy kingdom activity" (190, emphases mine).
Thus it seems that the very nature of the Sabbath as a creation ordinance cannot be practiced outside of a theocratic setting. This conclusion fits with his approach to Hebrews 4:9. "Continuing the typological Sabbath permanently into the New Covenant age contravenes the teaching of the Book of Hebrews that Jesus has secured the antitypical Sabbath estate (sabbatismos, Heb. 4:9) that still remained to be attained after Joshua brought Israel into the typical Sabbath rest in Canaan (Heb. 4:8)" (195). Does this imply that "remains" in Hebrews 4:9 refers exclusively to its past fulfillment in Christ's resurrection? In this way, Kline would be undercutting the broader eschatological paradigm of "Sabbath" which still looks to the future (á là Heb. 4:11). This broader eschatological pattern (in which "Sabbath" still has a future orientation) has significance for the weekly Sabbath even if Hebrews is not specifically singling out the weekly Sabbath. For it shows that the Sabbath pattern of work/rest that God established at the beginning still has significance for cosmic history even after the theocracy has been abolished. This sequence is still a pattern for God's people and can therefore still be a pattern for our weekly work/rest.
Finally, we note that Jesus appealed to the creation ordinance in Mark 2:27"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Since the Sabbath was instituted in Genesis 2:3, Jesus is looking back to this institution. On Dr. Kline's view, Jesus is appealing to a unique theocratic situation. Thus Jesus can only do this because he is observing the Sabbath in the land of Canaan just as he observed the sacrificial system. Jesus cannot be teaching how the Sabbath is to be observed in the kingdom of God. For the kingdom is not theocratic.
However, it is more likely that Jesus is setting forth his relation to the Sabbath and its practice in the kingdom. This is enforced by the connection of Mark 2:27 with the following story in which he asks, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm?" (Mark 3:4). The similarity between this and Luke's positive portrayal of the Sabbath ("Is it lawful?" Luke 6:9 and 14:3), suggests that Jesus is showing forth the nature of the Sabbath in the kingdom by the miracles (intrusions of the kingdom) he performs on it. Thus, when Jesus appeals to the creation ordinance for his Sabbath practice, he is setting forth a general pattern of mercy to be followed by the Church. If Jesus thought the creation ordinance was purely theocratic, he could not have appealed to it for the practice of the Sabbath during the kingdom era.
Therefore, the connection of the Sabbath in Israel to the creation ordinance, the Decalogue, the covenant people, and the theocracy, does not prove Dr. Kline's view of the Sabbath. At least in the respects suggested above, the first three of these elements can be distinguished from the specific theocratic form in which they may have been embodied in the theocracy. Therefore the Sabbath as a creation ordinance, displayed in the fourth commandment, still binds the Church today, as we are heirs of the fullness of the organic unfolding of that revelation in Christ. We rest in him as we Sabbatize, looking forward to the future eschatological rest, anticipating it even now in him. And what a blessed rest it is!
Dr. Kline wants to make Christ central. And his biblical-theological approach (when separated from its many unorthodox accoutrements) tends more in that direction than his usual opponents (Theonomic Reconstructionists). However, numerous things detract from the centrality of Christ.
First, he has detracted from the Son's unique relationship to the Father (i.e., Dr. Kline's view of the Fatherhood of the Spirit). Second, Dr. Kline has de-emphasized the vital elements of the covenant relationship between God and his people (so perspicuous in Geerhardus Vos) in the interest of defending the (legitimate) forensic elements of the covenant. By arguing against his view of merit, I have implied that some of the ways he views the forensic elements of certain covenants are illegitimate. This may explain his emphasis on the imagery of the text to the neglect of touching his readers with their vital union with Christ.
Third, he has distracted the saints from their vital union with Christ in their weekly Sabbath rest. When Dr. Kline identifies the Sabbath with an absolute works principle, he is giving it a sharply legal (or forensic) thrust. In the new covenant, this detracts from it as a day of rest in Godvitally joyous semi-eschatological delight!
Fourth, Dr. Kline has a different view of the relationship of God and man (per se), especially in the area of merit. This indirectly affects his understanding of the relationship between the God-man and mankind. It also detracts from the necessity of Christ being God to merit our salvation (in his active obedience).
Finally, in his implicit view of Christ's merit, Dr. Kline has rightly critiqued Daniel Fuller, saying in effect, `If grace is everywhere, then grace is nowhere,' since grace is based on merit, the merit of Christ.27 The same critique might be lodged against Dr. Kline with a different twist, `If merit is everywhere, then merit is nowhere,' because the term looses its specificity when applied indiscriminately to various states of man. Dr. Kline's claim that merit is everywhere and his failure to distinguish that merit from the merit of Christ (with the exception that only Christ actually merited eternal life) is a distraction from the centrality of Christ. It muddies his biblical-theological attempt to exalt the risen Christ as the Lord of Har Magedon.
2 "The question whether the references to the six days (with their evenings and mornings) describe lower register time phenomena or whether they belong to the upper register is answered in favor of the latter " (emphasis mine). See also p. 38, the last paragraph.
3 A complex and even bizarre formulation which deserves a separate treatment of its own.
4 "Man's carrying out of the cultural mandate would produce Megapolis, the global theocratic city, the holy city whose king was the Lord God, enthroned on Har Magedon, the cultic center of the city. And by the glorification of the citizens of the city, the people-temple, God would transform Megapolis into Metapolis, the Beyond-city, the heavenly city" (89).
5 "Unfortunately there are currently not a few revisionists who deviate from these tenets of traditional covenant theology. It is their opinion that the reward of eternal heavenly life that God promised to Adam was more than any creature could merit. The operative principle in the covenant was then not simple justice but justice qualified by some kind of `grace.' This blurring of the works concept and contradiction of the law-gospel contrast inevitably leads to a Judaizing subversion of the gospel.
Also involved in this radical revision of covenant theology is an assault on the justice of God, for entailed in the discounting of the merit of the act of probationary obedience is the setting up of a standard of justice above God and his judgments. To refuse to acknowledge the pure and perfect justice of God's covenantal stipulation of a heavenly reward for the performance of the mandated probation task is to fail to recognize that God's covenant Word is definitive of justice. It is to deny that the name of the Judge of all the earth is Just.
The fallacy of the revisionists' position becomes even more evident when we examine their assault on God's justice with respect to the negative sanction of the covenant, the penalty threatened for disobedience. Indeed, the inescapable implication of their view is that God would be guilty of appalling injustice in his judicial response to man's sin. For if, as they argue, Adam's ontological stature was not such that any good he might do would be worthy of eternal life, then by the same token neither would any evil he might do be deserving of Hell's eternal death. Yet precisely that was God's judgment on man's transgressionthe judgment which in the case of the elect was visited on the Son of God. The denial of the simple justice of the appointed blessing sanction of the Creator's Covenant of Works with Adam thus has as its consequence the turning of the Cross of Christ into the ultimate act of judicial malfeasance. However unintended, such is the evil fruit of the rejection of the traditional doctrine of the covenant of works."
6 Lee Irons, "Redefining Merit: An Examination of Medieval Presuppositions in Covenant Theology," in Creator, Redeemer, Consummator: A Festschrift for Meredith G. Kline, eds. Howard Griffith and John R. Muether (Greenville, SC: Reformed Academic Press/Reformed Theological Seminary, 2000), 253-69.
7 Geerhardus Vos, "The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1980), 234-67. See especially page 244. "If his natural goodness is already the creative work of God, the same can be said for the covenantal relationship in which God places him. This too is the product of a free divine deed, a gift flowing out of the condescending mercy of the Lord. Out of the nothingness from which the Almighty called him into being the creature brought along no rights, least of all the right to an unlosable, eternal life. When a way is opened by which he can attain this, then this way is a creation of God, something that, humanly speaking, could have been omitted. This point must be seen clearly. According to the Reformed view the covenant of works is something more than the natural bond which exists between God and man. The Westminster Confession puts this in such a pointedly beautiful way (VII:1) " See also the last paragraph on this page of Vos's article.
8 "Fourth, such a covenant was demanded not only by the goodness and philanthropy (philanthropia) of God (which could not exert itself more fitly than by receiving nearer to himself and making happy with his communion the man seeking him), but also by the state of man and the desire of happiness impressed upon his heart by God. Since it cannot be doubted that it was right and lawful, it could not be empty and frustrated, but ought to be fulfilled on the ground of man's obedience (unless we hold that God wished to feed man with a vain desire and thus deceive himwhich even to think is blasphemous)." (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, VIII.iii.9, vol. 1, 576).
9 Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants, vol. 1, trans. by William Crookshank (Escondido, CA: The den Dulk Christian Foundation, 1990), 76-82. Witsius summarizes this tension, saying, "Lord, we know that thou art indebted to none, and that there is none who can say to thee, what dost thou, or why dost thou so? That thou art also holy, and infinitely good, and therefore a lover and rewarder of holiness" (I.iv.23, vol. 1, 82).
10 Ibid. " a holy creature, which he necessarily loves from the goodness of his nature, must also enjoy the fruits and effects of that divine love.
XVII. Besides, it is the nature of love to seek union and communion
XVIII. The same thing may be demonstrated in another manner, and if I mistake not, incontestably as follows: The sum of the divine commands is thus: `Love me above all things; that is, look upon me as thy only chief good; hunger and thirst after me; place the whole of thy happiness in me alone; seek me above all, and nothing besides me, but so far as it has a relation to me.' But how is it conceivable, that God should thus speak to the soul, and the soul should religiously attend to, and diligently perform this, and yet never enjoy God? Is it becoming the most holy and excellent Being, to say to his pure unspotted creature, (such as we now suppose it), `Look upon me as thy chief good; but know, I neither am nor ever shall be such to thee. Long after me, but on condition [of] never obtaining thy desire; hunger and thirst after me, but only to be forever disappointed, and never satisfied; seek me above all things, but seek me in vain, who am never to be found'? He does not know God, who can image that such things are worthy of him
Lord thou art holy, and infinitely good, and therefore a lover and rewarder of holiness" (I.iv.16-18 and 23, vol. 1, 79 and 82).
11 See Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, 296.
12 See footnote 8 above.
13 " God owes nothing to his creature. By no claim, no law is he bound to reward it. For all that the creature is, it owes entirely to God; both because he created it, and also, because he is infinitely exalted above it. But where there is so great a disparity, there is no common standard of right, by which the superior in dignity, can become under an obligation to give any reward, Rom. xi.35, 36" Whatever then is promised to the creature by God, ought all to be ascribed to the immense goodness of the Deity" (Witsius, Economy of the Covenants, I.iv.11 and 13, vol. 1, 76-77).
14 Meredith G. Kline, "Covenant Theology under Attack," available at http://www.upper-register.com/ct_gospel/ct_under_attack.html.
15 See larger quote in footnote 5.
16 Dr. Kline speaks of those who believe that "Adam's ontological stature was not such that any good he might do would be worthy of eternal life" (64, see footnote 5). In Dr. Kline's opinion, these people deny the covenant of works. By implication Dr. Kline wrongly lumps classical Reformed theologians with people like Daniel Fuller as he implicitly does in his article "Covenant Theology under Attack." Daniel Fuller is presumably following Karl Barth who also rejected the covenant of works (Church Dogmatics, vol. 4.1, 60-65). Barth probably read Cocceius; thus he rejected Cocceius' view that the covenant of works involved double benevolence. For Cocceius's view see William J. Van Asselt, The Federal Theology of Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669), trans. by Raymond A. Blacketer (Leiden: Brill, 2001) 259-61.
17 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XVII.v.8, vol. 2, 712.
18 Even if Dr. Kline adopts the problematic hypothesis that the intra-Trinitarian relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is essentially "covenantal," he must still posit that this intra-Trinitarian "covenant," being essential to God's nature, defines (but does not determine) God's essential strict justice apart from his covenants regarding man.
19 William Perkins and other Reformed theologians made a similar argument long ago. I am indebted to Andy Vanderhoff for this reference to Perkins.
20 Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, 127. Vos alludes to the promise that "he who shall do the commandments shall find life through them" and relates this life to "the promised land." In discussing this "life-inheritance" he says, "it might still be objected, that law-observance, if not the ground for receiving, is yet made the ground for retention of the privileges inherited. Here it can not, of course, be denied that a real connection exists. But the Judaizers went wrong in inferring that the connection must be meritorious, that, if Israel keeps the cherished gifts of Jehovah through observance of His law, this must be so, because in strict justice they had earned them. The connection is of a totally different kind. It belongs not to the legal sphere of merit, but to the symbolico-typical sphere of appropriateness of expression." In the next paragraph Vos discusses what he means by "appropriateness of expression," but it is clearly not strict merit. Cf. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XVII.v.23, vol. 2, 718 for a representative summary of Vos's view.
21 "As in all other administrations in the Covenant of Grace series, the blessings of the covenant with Noah were a gift of grace to ill-deserving sinners, fallen in the first Adam. Yet there was a principle of works in this covenant in connection with the messianic aspect of the typology of the ark-salvation event. The covenant was a covenant of grant, bestowing kingdom benefits as a reward for faithful service rendered to the Lord of the covenant. Noah was a type of Christ, the faithful Servant of the Lord, and as such he was the grantee of the ark covenant The Lord said to Noah: `Come, you and all your house, into the ark, because I have found you righteous in this generation' (Gen 7:1). Noah's exemplary conduct as a covenant servant receives God's approbation and this righteousness of Noah is declared to be the ground for granting to him salvation from judgment and inheritance of the kingdom in the ark. Divine approbation of Noah is also found in Gen 6:8, which states that in contrast to corrupt mankind, whom God intended to destroy, `Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.' The regular meaning of this expression is to be applauded for good service deserving of favorable recompense. This same assessment of Noah as `righteous' and `perfect' is repeated in Gen 6:9. Particularly in view in God's commendation of Noah and the covenantal grant based thereon would be his steadfast stand as a prophetic spokesman for God (Gen 6:9; 2 Pet 2:5) amid spreading apostasy and in the face of the satanic opposition of the world rulers of this age.
Special covenantal grants bestowed in return for notable services are attested in the case of others beside Noah. We will take up the case of Abraham at the appropriate point. There were also David (Ps 89:3; 1 Sam 13:14; cf. 1 Sam 16:7; 2 Samuel 5-7) and Phinehas (Num 25:10-13; Ps 106:30). The eternal salvation of these individuals was, of course, a matter of divine mercy and grace through Christ. But it pleased the Lord to invest their exemplary righteousness and outstanding acts of covenantal devotion with special significance so that with reference to a typological manifestation of God's kingdom they prefigured Christ as one who received the kingdom of glory for the faithful performance of the messianic mission stipulated in his eternal covenant with the Father. And in the case of some of these grantees, including Noah, their righteous acts were the grounds for bestowing kingdom benefits on others closely related to them (cf. Noah's householdGen. 7:1), just as in the case of Christ the many are made righteous by the obedience of the One (Rom 5:19) and become joint-heirs with him of his kingdom inheritance" (78-79, emphases mine).
22 "Genesis 22 records another episode in which an outstanding act of obedience on Abraham's part is said to be the basis for the Lord's bestowing on him the blessings of the covenant: `By myself have I sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, that I will surely bless you . . . because you have obeyed my voice' (vv. 16-18). From the perspective of Abraham's personal experience of justification by faith, this act of obedience validated his faith (Jas 2:21ff.; cf. Gen 15:6). But from the redemptive-historical/eschatological perspective, Abraham's obedience had typological import. The Lord constituted it a prophetic sign of the obedience of Christ, which merits the heavenly kingdom for his people. That Abraham's obedience functioned not only as the authentication of his faith for his personal justification but as a meritorious performance that earned a reward for others (and thus as a type of Christ's obedience) is confirmed in the Lord's later revelation of the covenant promises to Isaac (Gen 26:2ff.). The Lord declared that he would bestow these blessings on Isaac and his descendants `because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws' (v. 5; cf. v. 24). Abraham's obedience was not, of course, the ground for anyone's inheritance of heaven, but it was the ground for Israel's inheritance of Canaan, the prototypal heaven, under the terms of the Mosaic covenant of works. Eternal salvation would come because of Christ's obedience, but because of Abraham's obedience Christ would come as to the flesh from Israel (Rom 9:5) and thus salvation would come from the Abrahamites, the Jews (John 4:22)" (102-3, emphases mine).
23 Dr. Kline thinks that the patriarchs may also have kept the Sabbath because they had altars which had theocratic associations.
24 Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (Overland Park, KA: Two Age Press, 2000) 51, 67, 86.
25 Ibid., 74.
26 While Dr. Kline believes that the Decalogue's stipulations are not universally binding simply because they are in the Decalogue; he does believe that many of those stipulations are universally binding for other reasons (189). However, his stress on discontinuity allows some of the Decalogue's ten stipulations to pass away in the new covenant.
27 "Covenant Theology under Attack."