[K:JNWTS 27/2 (September 2010): 8-26]

Did Paul Really Teach Republication as “Defined” by VanDrunen? Part 2[1]

Scott F. Sanborn

Kline’s View Contradictory

We have seen that Kline’s view implies that the Mosaic covenant administers two contrary principles. In what follows, we will suggest that this is arbitrary and contradictory. This will set us up for a discussion of Romans 7 and an evaluation of whether VanDrunen’s use of that text to defend Kline’s position is justified.

Kline’s position is completely arbitrary. It is arbitrary because it does not do justice to the nature of a completely holy God who (according to a non-gracious works arrangement) must judge the least breach of sin with eternal condemnation. The fact that it is arbitrary is further supported by the fact that Dr. Kline can only defend it by saying that justice is whatever God says it is. As we see it, this only suggests that we should accept Dr. Kline’s interpretation of what constitutes merit even though it is arbitrary and self-contradictory.

How does it present a contradiction? It does so if Dr. Kline holds to the Reformed doctrine of the necessity of the atonement. According to that doctrine, God must judge the least breach of sin with eternal judgment. If he forgives sinners, his moral nature will not allow him to do this arbitrarily. He must punish sin with eternal condemnation to satisfy his justice. But how can he satisfy his eternal justice? How can he satisfy it in such a way that sin is eternally condemned in time? For unless it is condemned in time (before the end of eternity—which never ends), the sinner will never be released. He can only do this by judging it in an eternal person who can thereby satisfy eternal wrath in a moment of time. From this we can see that God is morally incapable of arbitrarily dispensing justice. He must dispense his eternal wrath on the least affront to his holiness. He cannot give the least breach of his commandments anything but eternal wrath. He cannot dispense his justice arbitrarily.

Therefore, if a covenant comes to sinners with anything but the surety of Christ, it will only condemn them eternally. It cannot reward them with any good gifts, temporal or eternal, apart from the surety of Christ.

What about the gifts of God’s common grace? We admit that (while they are indirect benefits of Christ’s work) they are not promised to anyone with the surety and guarantee of Christ’s work. However, this further suggests that they are not promised to anyone period! They are not promised to sinners on the ground of their works. They are purely gifts that are indirect benefits of Christ’s work. Because Christ has redeemed a people, he will uphold the world for a time until he gathers all his elect into his fold. But no guarantee is given to any of the reprobate that they will enjoy these gifts of common grace for even one moment longer. They do not receive them as a result of their merits. Thus, God never gives gifts to sinners on the ground of their merits, be those gifts favors of common or special grace.

If we assume that Dr. Kline held to the doctrine of the necessity of the atonement, we believe he was caught in a contradiction. On the one hand, this doctrine teaches that it is impossible for God to relax his standard of justice and give sinners any gifts on the ultimate ground of their sinful works. However, this is exactly what Dr. Kline’s view requires. Dr. Kline’s view requires that sinners are rewarded with temporal gifts on the ultimate ground of their sinful works. Why do I say the ultimate ground? Because Dr. Kline explicitly claims that they receive them as a result of their works, the opposite of grace. That is, they receive them as a result of their merits, the opposite of the merits of Christ’s work.

This is the natural implication of Dr. Kline creating two absolutely antithetical administrations in the Mosaic economy. If it is of works (in absolute antithesis to grace) then it cannot be grounded in justifying grace. We acknowledge that Dr. Kline may seem to weaken this claim by saying that it is the sanctifying work of Christ in Israel that enables her to keep the law.

However, he still maintains that the covenant that offers these gifts is itself simply a works covenant. Thus, we believe this still contradicts the doctrine of the necessity of the atonement. For in Dr. Kline’s view, God is still accepting imperfect obedience for rewards. That is, God is justly capable of accepting sinful actions and rewarding them. If God is justly capable of doing this for temporal rewards, why is he not capable of doing this for eternal life?

In fact, why is he not justly capable of accepting the imperfect work of the Holy Spirit for eternal life (Rome)? Dr. Kline cannot answer these questions. It is only when God cannot accept anything short of perfect justice, that the doctrine of justification is upheld properly. Thus, while claiming to defend the doctrine of justification, Dr. Kline’s system actually undermines it.

Therefore, the contradiction in Dr. Kline’s system amounts to this:

  1. God cannot justly accept sinful works as meritorious (necessity of the atonement)
  2. God can justly accept sinful works as meritorious (Israel merits land blessings)

The Kline/VanDrunen Connection

When LNF[2] argues that the Mosaic covenant republished the covenant of works in some sense, Dr. Kline’s view is one of the senses, if not the most important sense, that it seeks to defend.

Again, this can be seen from a combination of T. David Gordon’s chapter (“Abraham and Sinai Contrasted in Galatians 3:6-14,” pp. 240-58) and Brian Estelle’s chapter (“Leviticus 18:5 and Deuteronomy 30:1-14 in Biblical Theological Development,” pp. 109-46). Gordon himself not only reflects the substance of Kline’s thinking, but he even uses similar vocabulary to describe it.

. . . the Sinai covenant itself . . . was a different covenant, different in kind, characteristically legal, Gentile-excluding, non-justifying because it was characterized by works . . .[3]

With Gordon’s past collegial relationship with Dr. Kline, together with similar arguments, no one should doubt the connection.

Gordon clearly argues that the Mosaic covenant is different in substance and kind from the Abrahamic covenant while arguing (like Kline again) that the Mosaic covenant is an administration of the covenant of grace. The claim that it is different in substance and kind is at odds with the Presbyterian tradition of covenant theology in which the Abraham, Mosaic and new covenants are all one in essence (grace), though different in administration. However, it fits well with Dr. Kline’s own teaching, in which there is at least an element in the Mosaic covenant that stands in sharp antithesis to the Abrahamic covenant of grace.

Since Dr. Kline taught that the Mosaic covenant actually administered blessings according to two completely opposite principles (works and grace), he implicitly taught that it was governed by two essentially different natures. Thus, Gordon is following him by drawing out this necessary implication.

As for Brian Estelle, he was not only an editor of the LNF, he also appealed to an article by Gordon on the covenant.[4] Thus, Estelle implicitly defends the view that the Mosaic covenant is (at least in one respect) essentially different from the Abrahamic covenant. Here is one similarity to Kline. Another similarity is found in the fact that Estelle also argued that Israel merited her blessings in the land.[5] This is best seen as a reflection of Dr. Kline’s teaching. Thus, Estelle taught that the Mosaic covenant was (at least in one respect) meritorious and therein essentially different from eternal redeeming grace.

It is reasonable to conclude that (like Kline) this essential difference between elements within the Mosaic covenant is what allowed Estelle to assert that Israel merited her blessings in the land. These elements go together as a package in Kline, and Estelle (his disciple) asserts them both as well.

Therefore, like Dr. Kline, Estelle argues that insofar as the Mosaic covenant is essentially a works covenant (the opposite of grace), Israel actually merited blessings in the land. We now have two chapters of LNF that clearly defend Dr. Kline’s position

We are reminded again that David VanDrunen was one of three editors of this book. By accepting these chapters for publication, he suggested that the senses they promote are acceptable in the Reformed tradition. And he has written his most recent article as a defense of LNF (without repudiating any of its views). This is the case even after the book has received criticism. Thus, he has implicitly endorsed Dr. Kline’s views as acceptable and as defensible from the Pauline epistles. This latter point can also be seen from the fact that Dr. VanDrunen’s argument on Romans 5 is practically identical to Dr. Kline’s.

In addition, Dr. VanDrunen consistently follows Dr. Kline on most issues. And even though Dr. Kline, as a disciple of Cornelius Van Til, rejected natural law, VanDrunen has reformulated the doctrine of natural law to represent the views of Dr. Kline as much as possible. Thus, there is every reason to interpret Dr. VanDrunen’s own words in LNF and his most recent article in light of Dr. Kline’s teaching whenever we find parallels between them.

In the LNF for instance, we find Dr. VanDrunen writing:

. . . by the “works principle” I refer to the idea as it is discussed in many other essays in this collection. I take the works principle to describe the law’s demand for perfect, personal obedience, with sanctions of blessing and curse to follow obedience and disobedience respectively to this demand.  The Reformed tradition held that the works principle was proclaimed in the original covenant of works, that with Adam at creation. As explored throughout this volume, much of the Reformed tradition has also seen a works principle operative in the Mosaic covenant within God’s broader, gra­cious dealings with Israel, not as a way of attaining everlasting life (impos­sible for sinners) but for redemptive-historical, typological purposes such  as reminding sinners of their fall and judgment under Adam, their inability to provide perfect obedience to God themselves, and their hope of a coming Messiah who would himself be born under this works principle and satisfy its requirements on behalf of his people.[6]

Here Dr. VanDrunen expresses his agreement with “many other essays in this collection”, likely including Estelle and perhaps Gordon. As for Dr. Kline, admittedly, we have not found in Dr. Kline the definition of the works principle that Dr. VanDrunen proposes. For VanDrunen, the works principle always seems to involve the promise of eternal life for perfect obedience. However, Dr. Kline (unless I have missed something) seems to restrict the works principle to the particular arrangement that he finds in a particular covenant. Thus, for Kline, the Mosaic covenant did not promise eternal life for perfect obedience, but only temporal life in the land for various degrees of imperfect obedience. And Dr. Kline called this merit.

Nonetheless, the rest of Dr. VanDrunen’s definition of the works principle follows Dr. Kline. He equates the works principle given to Israel with the works principle found in Adam. He states that the works principle did not simply involve a hypothetical promise that no one ever kept. Instead, he believes with Kline that the works principle is actually “operative in the Mosaic covenant”. The way he couches this sentence leaves room for Dr. Kline’s claim that insofar as Israel did keep the law, she merited her blessings in the land (although this is not explicit, at least with respect to the term “merit”).

However, the substance of merit is there. VanDrunen’s claim that the works principle was “operative” reflects the use of that term by Estelle. Estelle writes:

. . . a works principle in the old covenant was operative in some sense because the text clearly states that it was a fracturable covenant, “not like the one they broke.”[7]

Estelle adds to this a footnote, clearly indicating what he meant by the works principle being operative.

From this passage alone it seems evident that the Scriptures considered this works principle operating realistically and not just hypothetically.[8]

It would seem probable that when VanDrunen used the term “operative”, he included this realistic sense and not simply the hypothetical sense. As an editor of the book, he certainly did not reject it. And his compliance with this view, that Israel actually merited her land blessings, is also suggested by a footnote. There VanDrunen argues:

Because both the works principle and redemptive grace were administered in the Mosaic covenant, God did not enforce the works principle strictly and in fact taught his OT people something about the connection of obedience and blessing by giving them, at times, temporal reward for relative (imperfect) obedience.[9]

First of all, we find that VanDrunen reflects the teaching of Dr. Kline that “both the works principle and redemptive grace were administered in the Mosaic covenant”. Second, VanDrunen states that it is because of this arrangement that Israel received blessings in the land rather than complete cursing. In other words, Dr. VanDrunen believes that a mixing together of grace with the meritorious works principle is what allowed Israel to receive blessings in the land.

Here we find a close parallel between Kline’s view and VanDrunen. Both believe that Israel merited her blessings. At the same time, both assert that it was ultimately a result of God’s mercy. Klineans often contend that Kline’s assertion that mercy is ultimately behind this works arrangement should keep him from criticism. However, here we find a follower of Kline (i.e., VanDrunen) interpreting this grace as simply one ingredient in the mixture that allows Israel to merit her blessings. This is the opposite of claiming (with Reformed orthodoxy) that the full positive merits of Christ must be the alone lens through which God judges Israel’s works.

For VanDrunen, this grace also alleviated the severity of the curse. Because of the grace, the curse was alleviated. Nonetheless, it should follow on this construction that the curse still genuinely abides on Israel, though relaxed by grace. This has implications for the nature of the curse that does fall on Israel. It is essentially and truly a curse. Notice that it is because of the mixture of grace with the works principle that “God did not enforce the works principle strictly”. The implication seems to be that insofar as Israel was cursed, this was an expression of the works principle. We would think that this should amount to condign wrath, as we have suggested with Kline.

In concluding this section, we have found that Dr. VanDrunen implicitly concurs with Gordon that the covenants are substantially different. Here they both follow Kline. He implicitly concurs with Estelle, that Israel merits her blessings in the land, also from Kline. Dr. VanDrunen himself agrees on the whole with Kline’s view of the works principle. VanDrunen also formulates that principle in such a way that the works principle plays a positive role in dispensing earthly blessings to Israel, like Kline. VanDrunen implies that the Israelites were all under the curse essentially, like Kline. He was Kline’s student and his other views resemble Kline’s. If it walks like a duck (and I mean nothing derogatory to VanDrunen here) and talks like a duck, it is a duck.

Dr. VanDrunen is promoting Dr. Kline’s views; thus he is promoting all the problematic elements of those views that we have seen above. The attempt to argue that the Mosaic covenant in some sense republishes the covenant of works is primarily the attempt to defend Dr. Kline’s unique views.

In response, Dr. VanDrunen may suggest that chapter 3 of LNF lays out the distinction between the formal aspect of the Mosaic covenant and its essence. Thus, he is not arguing for anything essentially meritorious or condemnatory. However, once again, it seems to us that those who claim this distinction but are actually defending Dr. Kline’s views are really giving the “form” its own unique essential nature. And this essential nature is different in kind from the covenant of grace. That is, they say that the Mosaic covenant was only formally a covenant of works, but when they define this they define it in terms of an essential nature. For they say that it is the absolute opposite of grace.

Going back to our illustration of the marble statue may help jog our memory here. A marble statue possesses the form of something else, say a human being. However, this form of the human being in the statue is simply a series of combined cuts in the marble. The statue has no other essence than the marble. The series of cuts are simply a combination of circumstances. They do not constitute their own essential nature.

If someone were to argue that the statue has the form of a human being, we would be fine with this. But if they would go on to give this form the unique characteristics of a human being (intelligence, will and affections, etc.), we would object that they are now attaching essentially human characteristics to this statue. If they said, but I am only ascribing these characteristics to the form of the statue, we would say they are confused. No, in some way they actually believe that the statue is essentially a human being.

So it is with some writers in LNF. They say that the Mosaic covenant only has the form of the covenant of works just like the statue only has the form of a human being. But when they explain this form they are like the person who says the statue’s form has intelligence, will, and affections. For they say that the Mosaic covenant of grace promises blessings in the land according to a principle that is the exact opposite of grace.

This is essentially merit and can no more be called the form of a covenant of grace than intelligence, will, and affection can be called the form of a statue.

Now it can be said that a statue reminds us of intelligence, will and affection in a human being. But this intelligence, will, and affection are only properly the characteristics of the human being. The form itself does not possess the characteristics of intelligence, will, and affections. So also, if VanDrunen and his colleagues were to simply say that the formal administration of the Mosaic covenant and its temporal promises reminds one of the covenant of works but is not itself a covenant of works in any aspect of its essential nature, this would be fine. Still, they would have to clarify a number of things, and would have to deny merit to Israel’s obedience. But this is not what they do. Instead, they say that the Mosaic covenant itself is a covenant of works promising land blessings according to merit, the opposite of grace. This is to speak of the essential nature of the Mosaic covenant no matter how much they claim they are only talking about its form. It is like saying the form of a statue actually possesses intelligence, will, and affection. It is to speak nonsense.

Clearly, as we have seen, Dr. Kline’s own view expresses his conviction that there is an essential difference between the grace principle and the merit principle. He considers them complete opposites. And the one who is rewarded by merit receives his due reward in strict justice.

It is reasonable to conclude that his followers who defend essentially different covenants and merit also believe that the essence of Israel’s merit is different from the essence of justifying grace. The two are opposites. This is implicitly the view VanDrunen is attempting to defend by his appeal to Romans 7. But does the passage justify this?

VanDrunen: Supported by Romans 7?

In the Reformed tradition, system and exegesis have gone hand in hand. Because the Scriptures are regarded as the word of God, what one text says cannot contradict another text. Scripture interprets Scripture. Thus, those interpretations that both do full justice to the particulars of each text and then are found not to contradict the particulars of other texts are considered the most probable.

Since Dr. Kline’s view (followed by VanDrunen) presents a self-contradictory paradigm, the burden of proof falls on him to prove that Paul’s language necessitates his paradigm. Of course, we only say this hypothetically since we do not believe that Paul was self-contradictory. Thus, to put it another way, VanDrunen must show how his view is not self-contradictory and is necessitated by Paul’s language. In other words, the burden of proof is on Dr. VanDrunen to prove that his position does better justice to Paul’s language than other paradigms that appear more consistent. Then he must add to that an explanation of why his system is not self-contradictory.

While Dr. VanDrunen first looks at Romans 5 and then Romans 7, we will reverse the order. VanDrunen apparently appeals to Romans 7 to prove that “Israel’s experience” was essentially a “recapitulation of Adam’s”.[10] At best he proves that Israel’s experience under the law reminds us of Adam’s, that is, that there is an analogy between the two. Then without arguing the point,[11] he assumes that this analogy proves his particular paradigm which he uses to account for it. That is, he believes this is a defense of all the paradigms presented in LNF. Thus, without explicitly saying so, he presents it as a defense of Dr. Kline’s view of Israel essentially recapitulating Adam’s meritorious works. The implicit claim is that Israel merited her blessings in the land, as Dr. VanDrunen believes.

However, VanDrunen has presented us with no reason to conclude that the analogy between Adam and Israel in Romans 7 necessitates the conclusion that Israel merited her blessings in the land. I have suggested that the legal administration of the Mosaic covenant is simply a reminder of the covenant of works, and I see no reason to see why this does not do full justice to the allusions to both Adam and Israel as those under the law. The situation of Israel reminds us of that of Adam like the statue reminds us of a human being. But the covenant with Israel no more has the essential nature of the covenant with Adam than the statue has the essential nature of a human being. There is no need to posit a works principle here working in the Mosaic covenant that is in absolute antithesis to grace in order to do justice to this analogy.

VanDrunen has argued for his view based on interpreting Romans 7 as a reference to those under the law. However, when we see how Paul describes the nature of this situation, we find that he considers Israel’s situation exactly insofar as they are under the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of grace. Thus, I agree with VanDrunen to the extent that I believe Romans 7 describes the person under the law.[12] However, the focus of this passage is on regenerate old covenant saints. That is, it shows that the grace of sanctification arose from the administration of the law, that very administration that reminds us of the covenant of works.

The law administered sanctification. It administered grace. As such, it was a redemptive covenant of grace. It is only as a result of this that condemnation was administered on those in Israel.

The fact that Paul is here referring to the saints of the old covenant is especially apparent in Romans 7:22: “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man”. This reminds us of the Old Testament Psalmist (e.g., Psalm 119:14, 11, 162). No unregenerate person can truly rejoice in the law of God. It is nothing but a curse to him or her. Further, Paul states that this rejoicing takes place in the inner man, a phrase that Paul elsewhere uses to describe the true person, the inner person of the heart (2 Cor. 4:18). This does not describe a hypocrite for the unregenerate are only darkened in the inner man (Eph. 4:17, 18). They do not rejoice in the law of God in the inner man.

While not essential to our argument, another indication points in the same direction. This description does not seem to describe Paul’s unregenerate Pharisaic past as some assume. For the depiction of this person as one who is convicted of sin seems to stand in contrast to Paul’s own self-assessment before his conversion, as one who was blameless according to the law (Phil. 3:6). In terms of keeping the law, he had believed himself blameless. On the other hand, the person in Romans 7 recognizes his guilt before God even while he rejoices in God’s law.

Finally, this covenant union of God with Israel (the implied first marriage of 7:2-3) reflects the language of the prophets to describe God’s gracious marriage with Israel in the Mosaic covenant (Jer. 2:2; Ezek. 16:8). When Israel was bound to God through the law (“bound by the law”, 7:2) in the older administration this bond was essentially one of grace. “I also swore to you and entered into covenant with you so that you became mine,” declares the Lord, hereby indicating the grace that was the essence of this covenant. As a result of this marriage, they rejoiced in his law. As God says, “I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals (Jer. 2:2).

Our main point here will be that the covenant by which this person is “bound” to the law (7:1, 2, 6) is what brings about the situation in Romans 7:7-25. That is, this covenant is a covenant that confronts them with the law, regenerates their hearts to rejoice in it, and yet leaves them (relatively speaking) in a state of bondage (as to circumstances alone[13]) compared to the greater freedom of the new covenant era.

This amounts to being “bound” to a covenant of grace that is uniquely legally administered. It is not being bound to a meritorious covenant of works. And for believing Israel, it does not amount to being absolutely under condemnation, but only to that which reminds us of complete condemnation in Adam. For the language of “wretched man that I am” reminds us of the self-deprecation that people placed upon themselves when sent into exile. They considered themselves “wretched”. This was the state of believers in Israel who were sent into exile. Their exile reminded them of the complete condemnation that fell upon Adam. But their experience of the curse was not truly condemnation as it should have been if they were in any sense under a complete works covenant. However, had they been under complete condemnation then they would not have been justified, without which no one is a participant in the Holy Spirit.

The fact that Israel is “bound” to the law as a covenant of grace legally administered (Rom. 7) has implications for the rest of Romans. The language of being “bound” to the law (7:1, 6) is similar to that of being “under the law” elsewhere in this epistle (e.g., 6:14). Thus, when Paul elsewhere refers to being under the law, insofar as he is reflecting on Israel’s situation under the law, he is not considering the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of works but as a covenant of grace.

Dr. Kline and VanDrunen’s approach to the old covenant cannot do justice to this. First, VanDrunen’s view assumes that Israel’s situation is so like Adam’s that the Israelites actually merited their blessings in the land. However, there is no indication in Romans 7 that the believer who loves the law is meriting his blessings insofar as he keeps the law. The Klinean may respond, “Ah, but insofar as he disobeys the law, condemnation results. This implies that insofar as he keeps the law, blessings results.” This is true, and a real connection between obedience and blessings does exist. But what is the nature of that connection? Is it one that arises from a merit that is the complete opposite of grace? Or does it simply arise from a unique legal administration of the covenant of grace? VanDrunen has produced no evidence from this text that it must arise from a merit that is the complete opposite of grace.

And since the text suggests that this old covenant saint’s obedience arises from his covenant bond, there is every reason to conclude that the “life” in the land that does result is a consequence of that same covenant also.

VanDrunen has produced no convincing evidence that this covenant, insofar as it actually administers blessings to Israel, is the administration of two completely opposite principles. He has indicated some of the themes of “life” found in both Adam and Israel[14], but he has not shown why this necessitates the conclusion that the “life” actually administered to Israel through her imperfect obedience must arise from her merits.

Because his position is so at variance with the other claims of Reformed systematic theology, we believe the burden of proof lies on him to prove this. Instead, we see no reason to believe that the conviction that the Mosaic covenant is a covenant of grace uniquely legally administered does not do full justice to these connections in Romans 7.

A further indication of this is the fact that the curse that comes on believing Israel (Rom. 7:24), is not essentially the wrath of God, the very opposite of grace. As a result, there is no reason to believe that anything else related to Israel’s covenant bond to God is essentially the opposite of grace. That is, there is no reason to conclude that the connection between her obedience and life is essentially meritorious, the very opposite of grace.

If Israel received her blessings in the land by works, the complete opposite of grace, it should follow that her disobedience and its curse are also the complete opposite of grace. That is, it should follow that the curse or loss of land blessings that comes upon Israel for her disobedience is wrath, the complete opposite of grace. The reason for this is that these are the two sides of the same covenant. If the blessings of the covenant come by works, then the flipside (the curses of the covenant) must also be a result of Israel’s breach of those same works. The blessings and curses result from the same covenant, the same works possessing the same nature. Therefore, if the works and the blessings that result are the opposite of grace, it must follow that disobedience to these works and the curses which result are also the complete opposite of grace. As such, it should follow that Israel, in her disobedience to the law, was under wrath, the complete opposite of grace.

Thus, if we can show that the curse on Israel in Romans 7 is not wrath, the complete opposite of grace, it should follow that Israel does not receive her blessings by works, the complete opposite of grace. Instead, if the curse on believing Israel is ultimately judicial chastisement by grace, then its opposite—the blessings on believing Israel in the land—flow from that same grace. More precisely, if the curses are essentially administrations of the principle of grace, then the blessings are essentially administrations of that same principle of grace. They are not an administration of a meritorious works principle completely opposed to grace, as Kline claims. That is, if the “curses” on believing Israel are essentially by grace so are the blessings.

To substantiate this, we will indicate two things, first that those in Rom. 7:14-25 are under the curse of God and second, that this is not essentially the curse of God. It is only formally God’s curse. First, the curse is indicated by the language “wretched man that I am” (Rom. 7:24). When people called themselves wretched, they were not simply saying that they were sinful. They were also saying that they were cursed. Thus, Revelation 3:17 associates the term “wretched” with other terms of poverty and curse. In extra-biblical literature, it is the language people used when they were banished from their city.[15] This gives pregnant meaning to the statement “who will deliver me from this body of death?” The person who is cursed, cut off in exile and death, asked who will deliver him from it. Confirmation for the fact that this person is cursed is found in Rom. 8:1: “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” Since Romans 8:1 is presenting a new situation that is in relative contrast to Rom. 7:14-25, it is affirming that those in Rom. 7:14-25 were under condemnation and death.

However, those in Rom. 7:14-25 are not under the essential wrath of God. They are the elect who rejoice in the law of God in the inner man (7:22). One of these was Daniel in exile who claimed he was under God’s curse. “The curse has been poured out on us” (Dan. 9: 11). However, Daniel was not under the essential wrath of God. He was one of the righteous in Israel (Ezek. 14:14, 20) and he was justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ to come. Thus, he was only formally under the curse.[16] This must also be the case with the regenerate old covenant saints of Rom. 7:22. The curse on them was only formally God’s wrath. It was not essentially the same as the wrath that came upon sinners in Adam. Thus, the curse on believing Israel is only a reminder of God’s wrath executed in the covenant of works; it is not essentially the same curse.

It follows that just as the curse on believing Israel simply reminds us of the wrath of God that resulted from Adam’s disobedience, so also the life that results from Israel’s obedience simply reminds us of the life offered to Adam. The results of the Mosaic covenant (its blessings and curses) for believing Israel are not substantially the same as those of the Adamic covenant. So also, the means of obtaining those results (for Israel) are not substantially the same as the means by which Adam might obtain either of his results. Thus, the means by which Israel must obtain her result of life in the land is not substantially the same as Adam’s means of obtaining eternal life. It is not meritorious, the opposite of grace.

And this parallel is not broken by the other side, that of Israel’s disobedience. Even though her disobedience reminds us of Adam’s disobedience, there is a significant difference between the disobedience of Adam and that of believing Israel.[17] In the very act of Adam’s disobedience, he was in complete rebellion against God. However, the saint in Rom. 7 has a different nature. His heart essentially loves the law of God in the inner man. At the same time, he finds another law at work in himself (7:25). This struggle arising from a regenerate heart was not to be found in Adam. It is this very fact that implied that believing Israel (unlike Adam) was not genuinely under God’s wrath. That is, it was Israel’s covenant bond with God (with its accompanying justification) that implied that she was not truly under God’s wrath.

So it is Israel’s covenant bond with God (with its accompanying justification) that implies that she is truly not a meritor. If she were, there is no reason to believe that she (like Adam) could not have merited eternal life. But the very fact that all that she received only reminded her of the promised eternal life indicates that the stipulation she received only reminded her of the stipulation given to Adam. Neither of them were substantially the same. Thus, the stipulation given her was not essentially meritorious, the opposite of grace.

Second, as we have seen, Dr. Kline’s view is a complete contradiction, despite the rhetoric. For in that view the law is essentially both a covenant of grace and a covenant of works. It should thereby follow that the person in Rom. 7 would only rejoice in the law insofar as it is a covenant of grace. But insofar as it is essentially a covenant of works, he should cower from it absolutely. On this view, he should have a completely dialectical relationship to the law. That is, his relationship to the law should be one of complete contradiction. He should rejoice in it insofar as it is the means of his sanctification, but he should cower from it completely insofar as it condemns him absolutely. And thus, he should rejoice in it absolutely as a means of grace and fear it absolutely as a means of his complete condemnation.

Of course, this undermines all obligation (both to rejoice and to fear) for no one is obligated by a complete contradiction. She is only obligated by a consistently holy God. And as we have seen, Dr. Kline must arbitrarily gloss over this contradiction and assert a works covenant that does not condemn him absolutely for his sinful works.

Because of these difficulties, we believe that the burden of proof is on VanDrunen to demonstrate that his position is not contradictory and that it is the best explanation for accounting for the way in which Israel’s situation reminds us of Adam’s in Romans 7.

Of course, we recognize that the person in Rom. 7 finds two principles at war within himself (7:25). However, these principles do not place him in two contradictory covenantal situations, one of absolute grace and absolute condemnation. They can exist within him only because of the justifying verdict of Christ, administered by the covenant of grace. As such they can exist only because this situation of being bound to the law is the bond of the covenant of grace. If VanDrunen says that he agrees with this, he must show how his system can account for it. That is, how does his system avoid leading (without arbitrary pleading) to these absurd contradictions? How can it account for a passage in which someone is bound to the law and its curse and is regenerated in this very bond? How can it account for the fact that they are justified and sanctified by this bond and not absolutely condemned by its curse? If it cannot account for this, then it is not supported by the passage. We think his problems are insurmountable.

For VanDrunen’s view of being “under the law” only considers it in absolute antithesis to justification. Thus, he must see every instance of being “under the law”, even as it was administered in Israel, as the absolute opposite of grace and justification. It must be meritorious for him. Any instance in which justification and sanctification are administrations of being under the law, even in Israel, break this paradigm. They are inconsistent with it and thus cannot account for it.

On the other hand, we believe that these problems are overcome when we realize that: (1) Israel was bound to the law as a covenant of justifying and sanctifying grace uniquely legally administered; and (2) this unique legal administration reminded one of the Adamic covenant of works. This fully supports the doctrine of justification insofar as Paul is contrasting justification by grace alone through faith alone to the Adamic covenant of works. And it does justice to the fact that Israel (after the fall) was justified and regenerated by being bound to the law, i.e., the legal administration of the covenant of grace at Sinai.

Answering a Possible Objection

We realize that Dr. VanDrunen may reply to our argument, claiming that he believes that the grace in the Mosaic covenant relaxed the works principle. As a result, he may object that he also believes that Israel was not under God’s condign wrath. Thus, he might claim that the relaxing of the works principle in Israel fully suffices to explain the fact that Israel was not under God’s condign wrath. And if this is proved, then he may claim that with the relaxing of the curse we also have a relaxing of the works, so that imperfect works are now acceptable, though still in absolute contradiction to justifying grace. In this way, he might try to avoid the contradictory nature of his view. However, we believe this would neither provide a coherent theological construction, nor would it do justice to the exegesis of our passage (Rom. 7).

First, as to the theological construction, it would seem that VanDrunen’s position requires that the works covenant is relaxed either intensively or extensively. That is, such a view must posit that either all of believing Israel’s sins are partially forgiven insofar as she receives land blessings (relaxed intensively) or only some of her sins are completely forgiven insofar as she receives land blessings (relaxed extensively). He might also hold to a mixture of these two views (some sins being forgiven partially and some completely), but if both possibilities are refuted, so is their mixture.

We begin by dealing with the view that they are relaxed intensively. This view would suggest that God accepts imperfect obedience across the board followed by a relaxed curse. However, it makes no sense to speak of God accepting imperfect works by merit, in absolute antithesis to justifying grace (VanDrunen and Kline). As per our discussion of the necessity of the atonement, God can only accept perfect works as meritorious. He is only capable of accepting imperfect works insofar as they are shielded by the justifying verdict of Christ. (This was the case for true Israel.) Such works are not essentially meritorious, the opposite of justifying grace. It is therefore impossible for God to accept imperfect works as essentially meritorious, the complete opposite of justifying grace. When God did accept believing Israel’s obedience as a means of rewarding her blessings in the land, he did so only as a result of his justifying verdict in Christ. By this verdict God forgave all of true Israel’s sins intensively, one hundred percent to an eternal and eschatological degree. Thus, she was essentially removed from the complete condign wrath of God for all her sins. And she was imputed with the perfect righteousness of Christ whereby she was given eternal life. Thus, an intensive relaxing of the works covenant and its curse is not feasible.

What if VanDrunen teaches that the Mosaic covenant in its gracious element merely relaxes the covenant of works in an extensive sense? This might seem to fit with his view, for if this works paradigm is works (the complete opposite of grace) it must presumably be absolute works in some respect. Then it should follow that Israel is still under the condign wrath of God (the complete opposite of grace) even though she is not under that condign wrath for all of her sins. A relaxing of works (the complete opposite of grace) on this construction only entails the forgiveness of some sins, and leaves Israel under the complete condign wrath of God for other sins that have not been forgiven.

This view makes believing Israelites no better off than certain unbelievers who have committed fewer sins than they. For faithful Israelites (on this view) have simply had some of their sins forgiven. And therefore, just as certain unbelievers with fewer sins are fully under the covenant of works (it has not been relaxed for them), it should follow that believing Israelites are fully under the covenant of works. This does not present us with a relaxed covenant of works, but one in full force.

This view also impinges the justice of God. Following the necessity of the atonement, God can only forgive sins in Christ. This means he can only forgive the sins of those united to Christ. One is either truly in Christ or not. And if one is in Christ, Christ has borne all his sins on the cross and has been raised for his complete justification. It is therefore unjust for God to curse such a one again since Christ has borne his curse. Thus, when one is forensically united to Christ, he is completely united to his justifying verdict. It is impossible for only some of his sins to be forgiven while he is held truly judicially accountable for others. This must include any notion of those in Christ being truly and essentially judicially accountable before God, even if it is only in relation to the land of Israel. If someone is truly under God’s wrath in any sense, he cannot simultaneously have his sins truly forgiven (even in another sense). If someone is in Christ all his sins are truly forgiven in all senses. This is because Christ’s work is eschatological and therefore cosmic. He takes upon himself the wrath of God and the opposition of the whole cosmos for all the sins of his people. Thus, he bares all their sins in every one of their relations. And the results of this are imputed to them fully when they are united to his justifying verdict by faith. We are not claiming that Dr. VanDrunen consciously holds to all the implications of the view we are opposing. However, if he believes that Israel was partially under a works covenant, the complete opposite of grace, we believe this impinges on God’s justice, as we have noted.

To jump ahead a bit, we also believe this view is at odds with Rom. 7 by suggesting that the OT believer possessed a complete dialectical relation to the law. For then he would not only have rejoiced in the law (Rom. 7:22) but also simultaneously cowered from it completely under God’s absolute wrath, as we have explained previously. Therefore, we conclude that true Israel is not under the essential condign wrath of God for any of her sins. It follows that the works principle has not merely been relaxed. It has been reversed. God’s Son has performed the works and borne the wrath, thereby removing believing Israel completely from the condign eternal wrath of God. This is grace, the complete opposite of an essentially works covenant. It is not merely the relaxing of such a works covenant. How then can VanDrunen speak of a relaxing of the works covenant in any coherent fashion?

Second, Dr. VanDrunen’s position is not supported by our passage (Romans 7). Dr. VanDrunen’s position is that the Mosaic Law contains two contrary modes of administration, one by works and another by grace. We grant that he does not seek to support this precise position (that it contains two contrary modes of administration) from Rom. 7. However, by including Rom. 7 in his article as a proof text, he does suggest that Rom. 7 supports Kline’s meritorious works paradigm (which is one of the two proposed modes of administration). And thus he must be able to show how Kline’s view that the Mosaic Law contains two contrary modes of administration (one by works and another by grace) is consistent with Rom. 7. Since an absolute works principle inflicts essential condign wrath, he must be able to explain how this is consistent with a passage (Rom. 7) in which Israel is not under God’s condign wrath.

We have only found one explanation in VanDrunen’s writings whereby he might try to reconcile these two things. This is his claim that these curses are a relaxing of the works principle, one of two principles administered in the Mosaic covenant. We believe we have seen the absurdity of this view and we cannot reasonably believe that the apostle Paul taught it. However, for the sake of argument we will look at Rom. 7 again from another angle and ask if this view is possibly taught in this passage. In other words, does Rom. 7 teach that there are two contrary principles (that of works and that of grace) at work in the Mosaic law and does it seek to reconcile these by teaching that the covenant of works has been relaxed?

It is true that our passage speaks of two laws. “So then, on the one hand, I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh, the law of sin” (Rom. 7:25). However, these are not two administrations of God himself within the Mosaic law. They are not two principles administered by the Mosaic covenant. Instead, one is the law of God, administered by God himself, and the other is the law of sin found within the sinner. This is how it is further defined in Rom. 8: 3, which states, “What the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh.” The law of God here is represented singularly, and the law of sin is the flesh within sinful human beings. This accords with Rom. 7:5 (which we believe is a summary of Rom. 7:13-25). It states: “While we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit to death.” It is these sinful passions which cause us to be bound to the law (Rom. 7:6, 4) in such a way that we bear fruit to death (Rom. 7:5), rather than life. But the law of God itself is one single administration, possessing a unitary character. This is the implication of the argument in Rom. 7:7-12, in which sin takes the opportunity through the commandment, resulting in death (Rom. 7:8). However, the conclusion with respect to the law itself is that it has a unitary character which is holy, righteous and good (Rom. 7:12). Thus, we do not find anything in Romans 7 that might support VanDrunen’s claim (though he does not make it with respect to Romans 7 specifically) that we find two principles within the law of a contrary nature, one of grace and one of works, the absolute opposite of grace. Instead, we find one law which both causes the believer to rejoice by grace (Rom. 7:22) and simultaneously leads to his death (Rom. 7:24).[18]

This fits with the Mosaic law as a covenant of grace uniquely legally administered to Israel. It administers redemptive grace in which the believer might rejoice, but with such a legal administration that it leads unto death. This legal administration is that of the covenant of grace. As a result, this OT believer’s death (Rom. 7:24) is not his eternal death under God’s condign wrath, but simply death to life in the inheritance (i.e., the land of Canaan). This is not simply the relaxing of the covenant of works, but the reversal of the covenant of works, so that such a saint is no longer touched by God’s condign wrath in any respect. As a result, all the discipline that he experiences under the law is simply God’s judicial chastisement in accordance with the covenant of grace administered in the land of Israel.

Clearly, the Mosaic covenant of grace places believing Israel under the judicial chastisement of God rather than his essential condign wrath. Thus, we return to our initial argument and conclude with it. The blessings of the covenant must have the same character as the curses. Thus, if the “curses” on true Israel are essentially God’s grace (Rom. 7:24), so are his blessings. And if Israel does not truly merit her “curses” (for by her true merit she would merit eternal death) then she does not truly merit her blessings.

This is true for both options of interpreting VanDrunen’s relaxed covenant of works (both the intensive and extensive positions). If true Israel is in no way essentially under God’s condign wrath, she is not partially under the administration of works, the complete opposite of grace (the relaxed extensively view). And if the curses of the covenant are not partially the administration of works, the complete opposite of grace, it should follow that the blessings of the covenant are not partially the result of works, the complete opposite of grace. And so Dr. Kline’s view (which seems in some sense to rely on the extensive position) is in no respect supported by Romans 7. For Kline’s view is that the Mosaic covenant is made up of two absolutely opposing parts—one of grace and one of meritorious works.

Instead, Dr. Kline’s view is implicitly refuted by Rom. 7 (both extensively and intensively). For, as we have seen, the curses of the covenant as they touch believing Israel are in no respect the essential condign wrath of God. They are essentially his judicial chastisement. Thus, they essentially arise from the principle of grace in the Mosaic covenant of grace. If this is true of the curses, it must also be true of the blessings (the flip side of the covenant). These “curses” arise essentially from the principle of grace (the complete opposite of merit. If they arose from merit, these curses would merit Israel the eternal punishment her sins deserve.) So also the blessings must in all respects essentially arise from the principle of grace (the complete opposite of merit). Romans 7, therefore, implies that Israel does not receive her blessings by her meritorious works, as Kline claims.

The Eschatological Orientation of Romans 7 is Not Meritorious

Another problem with this view (if one understands the eschatological thrust of Rom. 7) is it must assume that Israel was striving toward the eschaton by strict merit. For the OT believer in Rom. 7 is not simply seeking to keep the law in abstraction. Instead, the law has an eschatological orientation (just as it had its origin in an eschatological intrusion at Mt. Sinai). And by keeping it, this OT believer is laying hold of and striving toward the eschatological future, a future that is semi-realized in Christ. That Paul understood the matter this way is indicated in Rom. 8:3. “What the law could not do weak as it was by the flesh, God did.” And what did God do? He brought the age of the “Spirit”. Here Paul is reflecting back on Rom. 7:13-25 and telling us that he was there describing the law’s inability to bring the age of the Spirit because of the weakness of the flesh. This includes man’s moral inability (even under grace) to bring it, as well as his natural inability to bring it now as a result of the fall and curse. This latter point was always kept before the face of Israel by the curse of the law, which while it was not the essential curse of his condign wrath to the believing among her, was a reminder of that wrath upon the world, a wrath that kept any mere mortal from bringing the eschatological age.

Thus we suggest that in Rom. 7:13-25 believing Israel was striving in Christ toward the future but relying on Christ to bring the future. This is a necessary conclusion from the fact that believing Israel rejoiced in the law of God in the inner man (Rom. 7:22). 

If, one the other hand, her blessings come by a merit that is the complete opposite of justifying grace (Kline), Israel must be striving toward the fullness of these blessings by strict merit.[19] She must be striving toward the eschaton by strict merit. This is in direct conflict with her seeking salvation by grace since that grace finds its foundation in the eschaton. And if she strives toward the eschaton by strict merit, how can she simultaneously look to the eschaton for grace. How can she rejoice in the law of God in the inner man (Rom. 7:22)?

Israel’s striving to keep the law is grounded in the indicative of redemption, by which she rejoices in the law of God in the inner man.  Since she recognizes that her obedience and blessing are grounded in grace (the opposite of merit), she ultimately looks to God himself to deliver her and bring the future eschaton.  Recognizing her inadequacy (even as a vessel of grace) to bring the eschaton, she looks to Christ alone to do it.  There is no sense here that insofar as Israel is being blessed, she is blessed by merit, the opposite of grace.  In fact, such a view is at odds with the passage, grounded as it is in the indicative of redemption administered in the law. 

The Klinean (assuming he agrees with us that Rom. 7 in some sense describes those under the law) may respond that there are elements of striving found here that are unique to the old covenant era. For instance, the language of being “sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14) and its corresponding “prisoner of the law of sin” (7:23) which describe the old covenant believer’s obedience to the law do not describe that of the new covenant believer anywhere in Paul. In fact, Paul’s claim that for the new covenant believer “the body is dead because of sin” (Rom. 8:10) is in contrast to the language of Rom. 7:23 where “I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.” Further, the old covenant believer is under the curse (Rom. 7:24), as we have noted. 

We admit that this striving was according to the administration of the law. In this, Israel was called to keep the law and by means of her sanctified obedience to the law to receive the blessings of the land and cleanse that inheritance of evil and curse. This was something unique to her under the law. New Testament Christians have a greater freedom from the law (by degrees) than Old Testament saints. As a result, as new covenant Christians lay up treasures in heaven (as believing Israel also did through her obedience to the law) they do not receive blessings as opposed to curses in an arena that is their inheritance. For all that is their inheritance in Christ is now without curse because Christ has borne the curse of the law. In this way, they have a greater freedom from the world. But we can only affirm these things while we simultaneously affirm that Israel received her blessings as a result of the justifying grace that came to her through the Mosaic covenant. In this way, her blessings did not come to her as a result of meritorious works, the complete opposite of grace. And as theologians, we are responsible to present as clear a theological paradigm to account for our claims as possible within the current discussion. We have attempted (even if inadequately) to do that by suggesting how these various elements of scripture can be accounted for with the paradigm of the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of grace uniquely legally administered.[20] VanDrunen does not give us any coherent theological paradigm to account for his views. And he does not even interact in any serious way with the current discussion. The article we are critiquing certainly does not do this, and we are not aware of any other from him or his colleagues that does. We can only conclude that he is skirting the issues.

Thus, we return to the question we asked at the beginning of our first installment of this article. The issue is not whether Rom. 7 alludes to the temptation and fall of Adam, but what paradigm best accounts for this, all the rest of the elements in Rom. 7, the rest of Paul and the Scriptures?[21]

The eschatological thrust of Rom. 7 makes it impossible for Israel to receive her blessings by means of merit, the complete opposite of justifying grace. The nature of her indicative is an eschatological gracious law in which she rejoices (Rom. 7:22). And the future to which she is thereby striving must be an eschatological future of grace in Christ (Rom. 8:3). Thus, the means by which she is striving toward it must be essentially gracious. Otherwise, she cannot be striving toward it in union with Christ and all her striving must be taking place outside of union with Christ, which is completely at odds with the redemptive historical life and hope of the Old Testament. And it is completely at odds with rejoicing in the law of God in the inner man, for such rejoicing can only take place in Christ Jesus.

We have suggested that our interpretation of Rom. 7 has implications for interpreting the rest of Rom. 5-7. Thus, we hope to follow up this article with another in which we will trace out some of these implications, also touching on other issues and passages in VanDrunen’s article. The thoughtful reader should be able to draw out some of these implications for himself. We believe that these connections will show that VanDrunen’s appeal to Rom. 5 will not support his position. For insofar as Romans 5 reflects on Israel under the law, it must also consider her bound to the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of grace uniquely legally administered, not to a covenant of works.


We have attempted to peer a little closer into the nature of VanDrunen’s vague thesis, finding its roots in Dr. Meredith G. Kline. Those roots appear to be an antithetical brew of grace and its complete opposite, merit—a merit by which man receives his due, just reward from God. This is not the teaching of the apostle Paul in Rom. 7 or elsewhere. The way in which Paul magnifies the grace of Christ in all eras of the history of redemption is even manifest in the struggle of Rom. 7, the personal struggle in union with the one who strived with loud cries, yet without sin, in union with the one who bore the curse and who was raised in the Spirit. Now you have come to the banquet of the Son of God, to feast on his word from heaven and to rejoice in the great abundance of this resurrection age, as the Son rejoices over you. For his heart is mirrored in the Psalmist and is now mirrored in you. You have received the fullness of what the Psalmist possessed by grace. You are liberated in Christ. Come and rejoice!

[1] This article continues the argument begun in my, “Did Paul Really Teach Republication as ‘Defined’ by VanDrunen? Part 1.” Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 27/1 (May 2012):10-36. This article is in part a response to David VanDrunen’s article “Israel’s Recapitulation of Adam’s Probation under the Law of Moses.” Westminster Theological Journal 73 (2001):303-24.

[2] Bryan D. Estelle, J. V. Fesko, David VanDrunen, eds., The Law is Not of Faith: Essays on Works and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant (2009).

[3]LNF, 251.

[4] Ibid., 130, n. 92.

[5] “. . . obedience plays a somewhat different role under the old covenant . . . in the old covenant there was the need for compliance so that this would be the meritorious ground for Israel’s continuance in the land . . .,” ibid., 136.

[6] Ibid., 284-85.

[7] Ibid., 130.

[8] Ibid., n. 93.

[9] Ibid., 301, n. 30.

[10] “Israel’s Recapitulation,” 310.

[11] I do not mean by this that VanDrunen does not attempt to argue that “in some sense” this argues for the republication of the covenant of works at Sinai. But he fails to argue for Dr. Kline’s distinctive approach from Rom. 7. If he says that was not his purpose, then we can claim that he did not do a good job defending all the senses found in the LNF, even though he introduces the article with the impression that he is defending the book (“Israel’s Recapitulation,” 303-4). Once again, we believe this excuse would be hiding behind his vague thesis.

[12] While space does not allow us to fully argue for the position that Romans 7:14-25 deals with the period of the old covenant, we provide several arguments here in summary. First, Paul nowhere describes new covenant Christians as “sold into bondage to sin” (v. 14). However, he does consider old covenant believers as under bondage (relatively speaking, Gal. 4:1-3). Second, Rom. 7:5-6 seems to be a summary of what follows in chapters 7 and 8. 7:5 appears to summarize 7:7-25, the repetition of the terms “body” and “death” also confirming this (7:5, 24). The “now” of 7:6 appears to be picked up in Rom. 8:1, which continues with a discussion of the newness of the “Spirit” (7:6, 8: 2, 4-6, 9-16). Thus, 7:6 seems to summarize 8:1ff. The “now” of 8:1 presents a similar “now” of redemptive history that we find in Rom. 3:21—“but now the righteousness of God is manifest”. Thus, 8:1ff looks to this new age in redemptive history and 7:7-25, characterized by “the oldness of the letter (7:6), looks back to those under the old covenant. And Rom. 8:15 seems to present the contrast between chapter 7’s “spirit of slavery leading to fear” and chapter 8’s “spirit of adoption as sons”. Third, the present tense of vv. 14ff does not refer to the present time because these verses are an answer to the rhetorical question of verse 12, which refers to the period of the law. The fact that verse 12 refers to this period is substantiated by the fact that it follows up the rhetorical question of verse 7, which also refers to the period under the law previously alluded to in 7:6, “the oldness of the letter”.

[13] Like the cuts in a statue.

[14] Ibid., 312.

[15] See The Trojan Women by Euripides. In the only scene of the play, Hecuba states, “Ah me! ah me! Whose slave shall I become in my old age? in what far clime? a poor old drone, the wretched copy of a corpse, set to keep the gate or tend their children, I who once held royal rank in Troy.” Hecuba also contrasts her wretched state to that of hope in these words, “None of all the many sons and daughters have I born comes to aid a wretched mother. Why then raise me up? What hope is left us?” Finally, the chorus states, “I met my doom and fell a wretched captive to the Argives by reason of a four-footed beast that moved on wheels.”

[16] For more on this point, see my “Paul and Semi-Eschatological Justification: With a critique of N.T. Wright.” Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 24/2 (September 2009).

[17] In his article (though not with specific reference to Romans 7), VanDrunen does acknowledge some differences between Adam’s situation and that of Israel. However, he does not work out the implications of this in terms of denying the meritorious nature of Israel’s obedience.

[18] Following the claim that Scripture interprets Scripture, VanDrunen may claim that the distinction between the works principle and the opposing grace principle in the Mosaic law is taught elsewhere in Scripture and only presupposed here in Rom. 7. If so, let him bring forth his passage(s). However, we are dealing here with Rom. 7 because this is one of the passages he used to prove that a meritorious works principle (the complete opposite of grace) was taught in Paul. And we believe it is clear that it is both neither taught here and is actually falsified by the passage.

[19] Sometimes Klineans deny that they believe in strict merit. However, they never articulate a consistent paradigm for accounting for this claim. And the paradigm that Dr. Meredith G. Kline has given us in which merit is the complete opposite of grace is nothing other than strict merit despite the rhetoric to the contrary by some of his followers. Because of Kline’s formulations, the burden of proof lies on them to prove that it is not strict merit. In fact, much of the first installment of our article on VanDrunen was given to showing that Kline’s view was in fact strict merit. VanDrunen, by following Kline, was implicitly following Kline in this direction.

[20] See for instance, my “Paul and Semi-Eschatological Justification: With a Critique of N. T. Wright.” Kerux:The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 24/2 (September 2009): 13-39. See also, “‘Entitlement’ in Reformed Covenant Theology: A Review.” Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 24/3 (December 2009): 130-38.

[21] Thus, we should recognize that some theologians who believe that there is an analogy between Adam and Israel in Paul do not believe this supports the Klinean paradigm. However, VanDrunen appeals to such theologians who believe in this analogy as if they implicitly support the Klinean position. This is the case with VanDrunen’s appeals to Herman Ridderbos’s claim that the fall is alluded to in Rom. 7. VanDrunen is not simply noting that Ridderbos sees the fall aluded to in Rom. 7 and now he (VanDrunen) will articulate why we should see something in this allusion that Ridderbos does not see (many exegetes do this). No, VanDrunen uses Ridderbos almost directly to alleviate our fears about Kline’s works principle. This is misusing Ridderbos since Ridderbos’s view of the law in Paul does not fit with this paradigm. As we have seen, others who do not hold to Kline’s paradigm can find analogies in Paul between Adam and Israel, and this was also the case for Ridderbos (see for instance, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 156-58). We hope to have the opportunity to articulate this fact at greater length in a later article.