Heidelberg 48: Making Some Sense Of The Republication Debate Pt 1: History

Parts of the confessional Reformed world in North America are in the midst of a controversy over whether it is biblical, confessional, and historically Reformed to teach that the Mosaic covenant was, in some sense, a republication of the covenant of works. In this episode the focus is on the history of the doctrine of republication. To listen to some folk, one might get the impression that republication is a novelty. In its most basic form, the doctrine of republication is the teaching that the same law, in essence, that was given to Adam as part of the covenant of works before the fall (see Westminster Confession of Faith chapters 7 and 19) was, in some way, re-stated or repeated to national Israel. Historians of the Reformed tradition generally admit that it was taught in the classical period of Reformed theology (16th and 17th centuries). The evidence for this claim is very strong and that is the evidence that we will be reviewing.

You will want to stay tuned for episodes 49 and 50. This week Chris Gordon and I spent an hour in the studio discussing republication and I think you will want to hear these episodes.

Here’s episode 48:

If you benefit from the Heidelcast please share it with your friends. Leave a rating on iTunes so that others find it.

Send us a note and we may read it on the show and remember, when the coin in the coffer clinks…

Don’t miss an episode. Subscribe to the Heidelcast in iTunes.

iTunes

42 comments

    • 1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

      2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

      3. Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.

      4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

      5. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

      6. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.

      7. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.

      — Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 19.

      113. What does the tenth Commandment require?

      That not even in the least inclination or thought against any commandment of God ever enter our heart, but that with our whole heart we continually hate all sin and take pleasure in all righteousness.1

      1 Rom 7:7,8. * Prov 4:23. * James 1:14,15. * Matt 15:11,19, 20.

      114. Can those who are converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?

      No, but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience;1 yet so, that with earnest purpose they begin to live not only according to some, but according to all the Commandments of God.2

      1 I John 1:8-10. Rom 7:14,15. Ecclesiastes 7:20. 2 Rom 7:22. James 2:10,11. * Job 9:2, 3. * Ps 19:13.

      115. Why then does God so strictly enjoin the ten Commandments upon us, since in this life no one can keep them?

      First, that as long as we live we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature,1 and so the more earnestly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ;2 secondly, that without ceasing we diligently ask God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we be renewed more and more after the image of God, until we attain the goal of perfection after this life.3

      1 I John 1:9. Ps 32:5. 2 Rom 7:24, 25. 3 1 Cor 9:24, 25. Phil 3:12-14. * Matt 5:6. * Ps 51:12.

      —Heidelberg Catechism

  1. As you known, I disagree with #4.

    Aside from that I do not understand why anyone other than a deeds salvation devotee would have a problem with what you have said.

    Is the arguement over the issue of whether or not the blessings and the cursings are temporal as opposed to eternal AND that they only applied to ancient Israel?

    Thanks for your time

  2. I just listened to episode 50 ….

    ” Since the Fall it has always been unlawful to use the law of God in hopes of establishing one`s own personal merit and justification, in contrast or complement to salvation by way of promise and faith; commitment to obedience is but a lifestyle of faith, a token of gratitude for God`s redeeming grace.” Greg Bahnsen “No Other Standard”.

    Theonomist believe that we are saved by faith , not works.

    • Ron,

      For your sake I’ve edited your comment. I’m sure that, on reflection, you wouldn’t want that comment to stand in public.

      It’s been a while so I listened to the discussion of theonomy, I stand by what I said. “Theonomy” per se doesn’t have a doctrine of justification. Yes, one can find theonomists saying orthodox things on justification. One can also find theonomists saying heterodox things about justification. Virtually all the leading FVists have roots in theonomy. Whether theonomy necessarily leads to FV is an open question. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m aware that some of the earliest and most vocal critics of the FV were theonomic. At the same time, Bahnsen was a strong supporter of Norman Shepherd, one of the godfathers of the FV movement and theology. His son David has argued persuasively his Dad supported Shepherd’s doctrine of justification through faithfulness.

      http://www.davidbahnsen.com/index.php/2008/04/28/greg-bahnsen-and-norm-shepherd-the-final-word/

      That view can be reconciled with the passage you quote since Shepherd himself denied that that our obedience has any (congruent) merit but he also denied justification through faith alone.

      The picture is sufficiently muddy so that there are writers on both sides of the question (that Bahnsen was orthodox on justification and that he was a Shepherdite). There are followers of Bahnsen on both sides of the issue.

      Theonomy, as we said in the episode, is a view of the civil law. What we said about theonomy is accurate and well grounded in a variety of theonomic writings.

      We didn’t allege any particular view of theonomy with respect to the FV but we did agree that if some version of republication is correct, that tends to reinforce the temporary and typological (and unique) view of national Israel (with her civil law) and the national covenant that God made with her. It was against this background that the Westminster Divines used the words “abrogate” and “expired” with respect to Israel’s ceremonial and civil laws (which threefold distinction is regularly rejected by theonomists).

      re republication: yes, one of the issues concerns whether temporal the blessings and curses in Israel may be described as a “covenant of works.” There are other issues. Some deny the pre-fall covenant of works altogether, despite the fact that the Westminster Confession teaches this repeatedly and that the catechisms repeat it. Those who deny the pre-fall covenant of works, of course, deny that it could have been republished. Others reject republication on the ground that it implies an offer by God to Israel to earn justification and a suggestion that they could have done so. None of the orthodox Reformed writers of whom I’m aware actually held such a view. Others see any notion of republication as contradictory to the covenant of grace such that they know that the law given to Moses was only an act of grace and in no way legal.

  3. Scott

    FV is not a principle of theonomy . It just plain is not.
    The school of thought says that we are saved by faith alone , in Christ alone. Someone can claim the moniker theonomy and also like the Los Angeles Dodgers..that does not make all theonomists Dodger fans (GO DODGER BLUE)
    The theonomist perspective is like any other school of thought. You can be a Christian and be a pre-mil dispensationalist, this doesn`t mean that virtually all Christians are pre-mil.
    Not everything said by folks calling themselves theonomists is fair game for critizing the principles of theonomy.
    I am a theonomist and have subscribed to the three forms of unity and am an office bearer in the EURC as you know.
    If the issue of FV was part and parcel of theonomy, I would not be an office bearer..my name would have been removed from nomination.

    David Bahnsens words are called hearsay, they carry no weight.

    Also… can fallen man merit even temporal blessings from God?
    Thanks for your graciousness in this conversation.

    • Ron,

      1. I’m not alleging that FV is a principle of theonomy but I am saying that the HISTORIES the two are intertwined and that the principals of the two movements are often the same. The same people who brought us theonomy also brought us the FV movement. That’s a historical fact.

      2. It cannot be denied that Bahnsen was a strong and unwavering supporter of Norman Shepherd. That is a fact. That his son is able to document that unwavering support is interesting. It is also a fact that Bahnsen’s legacy re justification is ambiguous. That is why folk on both sides of the FV debate are able to claim him. That cannot be said about people like Bob Godfrey, e.g., whose doctrine of justification has been utterly clear since the very beginning of the Shepherd controversy in 1974. There’s no reason why confessional Reformed folk should be even the slightest bit unclear or confusing about justification.

      3. Re Israel. We’re not talking about temporal blessings generically. We’re talking about a very specific situation, one that has never been repeated and that cannot be generalized to people outside of Israel during its national existence and that cannot be applied to people after the expiration of Israel’s national status and covenant. For the purposes of this discussion it is essential to understand Israel’s absolute uniqueness in this respect (and in others—failure to recognize the uniqueness of Israel’s position and place in the history of redemption is at the root of a lot of confusion).

      That God might have arranged a temporary, national covenant with Israel such that she may be said to have “merited” temporal blessings in the land is a view that has been held in the history of Reformed theology. It is probably a minority view but it has been held.

      I would not put it that way myself. As I’ve said many times, there’s too much evidence in the history of Israel for me to think that even the temporal blessings were merited. Nevertheless, it is also the case that Scripture does speak to Israel in legal terms and that, is, in my view, the material question in republication. I agree with the broad mainstream of classic Reformed writers in the 16th and 17th centuries and with the Marrow of Modern Divinity, that the old covenant (Moses-David-Prophets) was both an administration of the covenant of grace and an administration of the covenant of works.

  4. 1. I was immersed in theonomy in the mid 1960`s. I used to hear Rushdooney weekly in Pasadena.. Gary North was a family friend and often had dinner with us. I`ve worked on Bahnsen`s house in Orange county in the late 70`s …I know these folks well.I also lived in Tyler Texas in the early 80`s and there was no such thing as FV. It is not a tenant of theonomy. Once gain, theonomy has distinct principles. The idea that justification is not a point in time but rather a line that we draw and participate in is not part of theonomy.

    2. Those folks claiming Bahnsen one way or another remind me of all the folks claiming Calvin and their patron saint…its become comical. “Neo-Calvinist”..Paleo-Calvinist..”Nomian..”Antinomian”..it`s become a joke. Bahnsen isnt here to defend himself..it`s a shame that he gets defamed in the grave.
    The fact that some theonomists are FV is not an indicater that FV is a tenant of theonomy any more than the fact that some Christians are dispensationalists translates into dispensationalism being the heart of Christianity.

    3. Theonomy understand Israels uniqueness. It seems that critics continue to say that theonomy fails to recognize that uniqueness. There has been a radical change. No nation stands in special, redemptive covenant with God as was Israel in the OT. This doesn`t mean that we look to natural law in order to determine what to do with a rapist.

    God said that if your honor your parents , would would live a long life. How do I deal with that?

    Once again thank you for this polite exchange.

  5. Having been fascinated with this debate for some time, and (I confess) having recently shifted my sympathies, it seems to me that the difference (or at least a crucial difference) between the contemporary position on republication and that of the older writers is that, on the one hand, the older writers who spoke of a “revival” or “renewal” or “promulgation” of the covenant of works at Sinai conceived of the nature of the obedience that merits the blessing (even temporal blessings) as perfect obedience, such as is not possible for post-fall man, and for this reason, could never rise above the hypothetical. On the other hand, Kline and many of those who follow him speak in terms of a modified works covenant in which the stipulation is merely imperfect “typologically legible” obedience—the nature of which OT saints (such as Noah, Abraham and David) were capable of performing, which actually was performed at times during the course of Israel’s history, and which functioned as the meritorious ground of their enjoyment of blessings in the promised land (when they enjoyed such blessings). It seems to me that it is this version of republication that is controversial and lacks Reformed precedent.

  6. Dr. Clark, if I’ve overstated this I’d like to be corrected. But it seems to me that the older writers speak of four views of the MC and the modified typological works covenant is not among them. There were several bi-covenantal views, one of which understood the MC to be a renewal of the covenant of works, one of which understood it to be the covenant of grace (interestingly, Turretin says that these two views were more a difference over words than substance) and one of which understood it to be a mixed covenant. Then there was the Cameronian view that the MC was a third covenant in addition to the CoW and CoG. In all of the views that distinguished the MC, or some aspect of it, from the covenant of grace, it was understood to stipulate perfect and personal obedience as the condition of blessing.

    There are some more recent formulations that are understood by some (until recently me included) to be precedents for Kline, e.g., those of Buchanan and C. Hodge. But in none of these cases (that I know of) is it clear that these men viewed Israel’s imperfect obedience as the meritorious condition for inheriting life in the land (and in my opinion it is doubtful that they did).

    Perhaps the closest thing to a precedent for Kline’s view is the view articulated by G. Vos in Biblical Theology (p. 127) where Vos seems to acknowledge “that law-observance, if not the ground for receiving, is yet made the ground for retention of the privileges inherited.” So far so Kline. But then he explicitly says that this conditional feature “belongs not to the legal sphere of merit, but to the symbolico-typical sphere of appropriateness of expression.” So he is not really a precedent for Kline after all.

    Do you know of anyone prior to Kline who clearly held that Israel’s imperfect obedience functioned as the meritorious ground of blessing in the land?

    • David,

      The second administration of this covenant was the renewing thereof with the
      Israelites at Mount Sinai; where, after the light of nature began to grow darker,
      and corruption had in time worn out the characters of religion and virtue first
      graven in man’s heart, God revived the law by a compendious and full declaration
      of all duties required of man towards God or his neighbour, expressed in the
      decalogue; according to the tenor of which law God entered into covenant with
      the Israelites, promising to be their God in bestowing upon them all blessings of
      life and happiness, upon condition that they would be his people, obeying all
      things that he had commanded; which condition they accepted of, promising an
      absolute obedience, Exod. xix.8, “All things which the Lord hath said we will
      do;” and also submitting themselves to all punishment in case they disobeyed,
      saying, “Amen” to the curse of the law, “Cursed be every one that confirmeth not
      all the words of the law: and all the people shall say, Amen.”

      Premble in the Marrow

      This we are to know, that like as the Lord, by his prophets, gave the people in the Old Testament many exhortations to be obedient to his commandments, and many dehortations from disobedience thereunto; even so did he back them with many promises and threatenings, concerning things temporal, as these and the like Scriptures do witness: (Isa 1:10), “Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah”: (verse 19,20), “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good things of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” And (Jer 7:3,9,20), “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely by my name? Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, behold mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place.” And surely there be And surely there be two reasons why the Lord did so: first, because, as all men are born under the covenant of works, they are naturally prone to conceive that the favour of God, and all good things, do depend and follow upon their obedience to the law, and that the wrath of God, and all evil things, do depend upon and follow their disobedience to it, and that man’s chief happiness is to be had and found in terrestrial paradise, even in the good things of this life. So the people of the Old Testament being nearest to Adam’s covenant and paradise, were most prone to such conceits. And secondly, because the covenant of grace and celestial paradise were but little mentioned in the Old Testament, they, for the most part, had but a glimmering knowledge of them, and so could not yield obedience freely as sons. Therefore the Lord saw it meet to move them to yield obedience to his laws by their own motives, and as servants or children under age.

      Edward Fisher, Marrow.

      The Law—considered as a national covenant, by which their continued possession of the land of Canaan, and of all their privileges under the Theocracy, was left to depend on their external obedience to it,— might be called a national Covenant of Works, since their temporal welfare was suspended on the condition of their continued adherence to it; but, in that aspect of it, it had no relation to the spiritual salvation of individuals, otherwise than as this might be affected by their retaining, or forfeiting, their outward privileges and means of grace.

      http://heidelblog.net/2013/08/the-law-might-be-called-a-covenant-of-works/

      Besides this evangelical character which unquestionably belongs to the Mosaic covenant, it is presented in two other aspects in the Word of God. First, it was a national covenant with the Hebrew people. In this view the parties were God and the people of Israel; the promise was national security and prosperity; the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic law; and the mediator was Moses. In this aspect it was a legal covenant. It said, “Do this and live.” Secondly, it contained, as does also the New Testament, a renewed proclamation of the original covenant of works. It is as true now as in the days of Adam, it always has been and always must be true, that rational creatures who perfectly obey the law of God are blessed in the enjoyment of his favour; and that those who sin are subject to his wrath and curse. Our Lord assured the young man who came to Him for instruction that if he kept the commandments he should live (emphasis added).

      http://heidelblog.net/2013/11/a-renewed-proclamation-of-the-covenant-of-works-was-hodge-a-heretic/

      The Sinaitic covenant included a service that contained a positive reminder of the strict demands of the covenant of works. The law was placed very much in the foreground, giving prominence once more to the earlier legal element. But the covenant of Sinai was not a renewal of the covenant of works; in it the law was made subservient to the covenant of grace. This is indicated already in the introduction to the ten commandments, Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6, and further in Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:24. It is true that at Sinai a conditional element was added to the covenant, but it was not the salvation of the Israelite but his theocratic standing in the nation, and the enjoyment of external blessings that was made dependent on the keeping of the law, Deut. 28:1-14. The law served a twofold purpose in connection with the covenant of grace: (1) to increase the consciousness of sin, Rom. 3:20; 4:15; Gal. 3:19; and (2) to be a tutor unto Christ, Gal. 3:24.

      http://heidelblog.net/2013/11/was-louis-berkhof-a-heretic/

      These are all well before Kline. I don’t think that these quotations from the mid-17th century through 1932 dropped out of the sky. These are indicators of a strand of thinking in Reformed covenant theology that has existed for a long time.

  7. Dr. Clark,

    I was probably not clear enough, but I don’t know how to be any clearer. I am already familiar with those quotes but I don’t see that any of them are precursors to Kline. Certainly not the first one from Pemble, because he is speaking explicitly of a renewal of the original covenant of works, i.e., perfect obedience as the meritorious condition for inheriting life. I already mentioned the Buchanan and Hodge quotes in my last comment and said that I doubt they are precursors to Kline, meaning, I don’t think they view imperfect obedience as a meritorious condition. If they do, it is certainly not explicit that they do. If you disagree, I would be interested in knowing on what grounds.

    IOW, the question is not whether some Reformed divines viewed Sinai as a renewal of the CoW. Nor is the question whether some viewed Sinai as a national covenant demanding corporate obedience. Neither is the question whether prosperity in the land was conditioned on obedience (since it obviously was).

    The question (and as far as I know, the only question) is whether any Reformed divines prior to Kline understood the imperfect obedience rendered by OT saints to function as the meritoriousground of (temporal) life inheritance. Do you know of any who clearly expressed themselves in this way? I don’t think any of the above citations fit the bill.

    • Well David, I see I made an elementary mistake. I should have asked for your standard of evidence before I posted. Had I known that you’re operating by the standard I see in this reply I would not have spent the time to compile the post.

      It seems to me that your standard is quite unreasonable and unhistorical, particularly with the respect to the 19th and 20th century quotations. I’ve never argued that one can necessarily find Kline’s view precisely or exactly in the 17th century. That’s not how theology develops. One will not find the language of Nicea used in precisely the same way in the 3rd century but one does find some of the same ideas in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, which the Council employed in the 4th. My argument is that there are precursors to Kline, however, in the 17th centuries and following.

      There’s evidence in the Marrow and other 17th-century sources to think that the Reformed were thinking about Israel as temporary, typological covenant of works relative to the land. What interests me about the Premble quote is this section:

      according to the tenor of which law God entered into covenant with the Israelites, promising to be their God in bestowing upon them all blessings of life and happiness, upon condition that they would be his people, obeying all things that he had commanded; which condition they accepted of, promising an absolute obedience, Exod. xix.8, “All things which the Lord hath said we will
      do;” and also submitting themselves to all punishment in case they disobeyed….

      It comes in the explicit context of a ” second administration” of the covenant of works. In other words Premble thought of the national, typological Israelite covenant as expressed in terms of the temporary blessing and cursing. For Premble was their status actually conditioned on such? I would need to re-read him more fully (it’s been a few years). Nevertheless, this language gives evidence that he and others were willing to think of the national covenant in those terms.

      Personally, I read that language in pedagogical terms but I think that some writers, did move beyond the pedagogical view of republication to a material view, mutatis mutandis, i.e., understanding that it was only for typological purposes and that their obedience was imperfect. The merit in view, in this case, is not—as I explained before—condign. It is congruent. Meritum de congruo is not intrinsically worthy. That is meritum de condigno. According to congruent merit, God has covenanted to accept our best efforts to a certain end. In the 14th and 15th centuries some writers posited that God had so covenanted to accepted our best efforts toward justification. The Reformation rightly rejected this view. We did not, however, reject condign merit and argued strenuously that Jesus has condignly merited our justification. Therefore, those who argued against any sort of merit are quite out of accord with the history of Reformed theology.

      The language of the covenant of works did not exist until the 1560s. The idea was arguably present before then but the terminology was not. As covenant theology developed, it took more than half a century for Reformed writers to begin to think about how to apply these categories to Israel. Given that the earlier writers spoke as they did as early as they did. Already in the 1560s and 70s they were writing about the “legal” quality of the national, temporary covenant with Israel.

      So, when I see writers in the 1640s et seq talking about the national covenant probationary terms, I see the beginning (not full-blown) stages the view that was more fully articulated later. To the degree that Reformed writers appealed to a parallel between Adam and Israel (and they did), that also contributed to the development of the probationary view of Israel’s national covenant. Did any of them say explicitly that Israel congruently “merited” there status in the land? Not explicitly. Did they substantially encourage their readers to think in probationary terms? Yes. I think that’s the force of the Fisher (evangelista) quotation from the Marrow.

      Now, regarding the passages from Buchanan, Hodge, and Berkhof, I we shall have to agree to disagree. They were saying not only materially but verbally what I understand Kline to have been saying. I believe that Meredith thought he was merely re-stating Hodge et al.

      How can you dismiss this language from Buchanan?

      …considered as a national covenant, by which their continued possession of the land of Canaan, and of all their privileges under the Theocracy, was left to depend on their external obedience to it,— might be called a national Covenant of Works,,,,

      or Hodge

      …in this view the parties were God and the people of Israel; the promise was national security and prosperity; the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic law; and the mediator was Moses. In this aspect it was a legal covenant. It said, “Do this and live.” Secondly, it contained, as does also the New Testament, a renewed proclamation of the original covenant of works. It is as true now as in the days of Adam, it always has been and always must be true, that rational creatures who perfectly obey the law of God are blessed in the enjoyment of his favor….

      or Berkhof?

      It is true that at Sinai a conditional element was added to the covenant, but it was not the salvation of the Israelite but his theocratic standing in the nation, and the enjoyment of external blessings that was made dependent on the keeping of the law, Deut. 28:1-14.

      Because of the state of development of covenant theology in the 17th century, I can see how reasonable people can disagree about how to interpret those texts. I do not see, however, how those who are foursquare opposed to idea of a temporary, national, conditional, typological covenant of works can avoid condemning Buchanan, Hodge, and Berkhof.

  8. Dr. Clark,

    Thanks for the interaction. It’s a little strange because there are threads on your blog from as recently as four months ago in which I was advocating your position. I hope I am not as fickle as that makes me seem….

    It seems to me that your standard is quite unreasonable and unhistorical, particularly with the respect to the 19th and 20th century quotations.

    I don’t want my standard to be either of those things and I’m open to correction.

    I’ve never argued that one can necessarily find Kline’s view precisely or exactlyin the 17th century. That’s not how theology develops. One will not find the language of Nicea used in precisely the same way in the 3rd century but one does find some of the same ideas in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, which the Council employed in the 4th. My argument is that there are precursors to Kline, however, in the 17th centuries and following.

    I understand that you believe there are precursors to Kline in the 17th century and following. You may be right, but I’ve begun to have doubts. When doctrine develops legitimately, it does so in continuity with the past, correct? For example, all the substance of the doctrine of the covenant of works was already present in Calvin and eventually someone (Ursinus?) came along and said “This is a covenant.” So the question I think is: Are there legitimate precursors to Kline in the Reformed tradition, that is, views that are substantially identical to his (though perhaps without his elaboration)? You say “yes,” but I am not sure. For one thing, as I’ve already pointed out, it seems clear that in the 17th century, among the Reformed, there were precisely four views to choose from regarding the MC, namely: (1) It’s a CoG, (2) it’s a CoW, (3) it’s a mixed covenant, (4) it’s a third (subservient) covenant. (I’m basing this on Turretin and Francis Roberts, and I think Bolton has a similar taxonomy.) None of these four views include the notion that Israel merited her (his?) retention of the land by imperfect obedience. I conclude from this that the substance of Kline’s doctrine is nowhere present in the 17th century, not even incipiently, and thus the development is not legitimate. Is this so unreasonable?

    There’s evidence in the Marrow and other 17th-century sources to think that the Reformed were thinking about Israel as temporary, typological covenant of works relative to the land.

    I would not disagree with you here, but again, the issue is the nature of meritorious obedience.

    What interests me about the Premble quote is this section:
    according to the tenor of which law God entered into covenant with the Israelites, promising to be their God in bestowing upon them all blessings of life and happiness, upon condition that they would be his people, obeying all things that he had commanded; which condition they accepted of, promising an absolute obedience, Exod. xix.8, “All things which the Lord hath said we will
    do;” and also submitting themselves to all punishment in case they disobeyed….
    It comes in the explicit context of a ” second administration” of the covenant of works. In other words Premble thought of the national, typological Israelite covenant as expressed in terms of the temporary blessing and cursing. For Premble was their status actually conditioned on such? I would need to re-read him more fully (it’s been a few years). Nevertheless, this language gives evidence that he and others were willing to think of the national covenant in those terms.

    I don’t understand what you’re getting at here. Like I said before, Pemble seems to be articulating a standard view that Sinai renewed the original covenant of works (i.e., view #2 above, not a modified CoW with a more lax condition). That is not a precursor to Kline. Perhaps you can clarify further?

    Personally, I read that language in pedagogical terms but I think that some writers, did move beyond the pedagogical view of republication to a material view, mutatis mutandis, i.e., understanding that it was only for typological purposes and that their obedience was imperfect. The merit in view, in this case, is not—as I explained before—condign. It is congruent.

    I think you’re arguing here that some Reformed writers held that under the MC, Israel congruently merited blessings in the land. If so, like I said, I’m doubtful….

    Already in the 1560s and 70s they were writing about the “legal” quality of the national, temporary covenant with Israel. So, when I see writers in the 1640s et seq talking about the national covenant probationary terms, I see the beginning (not full-blown) stages the view that was more fully articulated later. To the degree that Reformed writers appealed to a parallel between Adam and Israel (and they did), that also contributed to the development of the probationary view of Israel’s national covenant. Did any of them say explicitly that Israel congruently “merited” there status in the land? Not explicitly. Did they substantially encourage their readers to think in probationary terms? Yes. I think that’s the force of the Fisher (evangelista) quotation from the Marrow.

    I just reread that quote yet again and I don’t see anything that implies congruent merit (though I understand why you want to read it that way). It seems to me that in that section, Evangelista is simply explaining the reason for the temporal sanctions.

    Now, regarding the passages from Buchanan, Hodge, and Berkhof, I we shall have to agree to disagree. They were saying not only materially but verbally what I understand Kline to have been saying. I believe that Meredith thought he was merely re-stating Hodge et al.

    I don’t doubt that Dr. Kline thought he was restating Hodge. In fact I think I recall him footnoting that section of Hodge in one of his books or papers. As much as I respect and admire Kline (though not so much as I used to), I think he was mistaken about this. (Incidentally, I find it interesting that Kline seemed to believe that his particular view of the MC was THE classic view.)

    How can you dismiss this language from Buchanan?
    …considered as a national covenant, by which their continued possession of the land of Canaan, and of all their privileges under the Theocracy, was left to depend on their external obedience to it,— might be called a national Covenant of Works,,,,

    It seems to me that Buchanan here is articulating something like the subservient covenant view (#4 above). Like I said, I fully understand why you view Buchanan as a precursor to Kline. I used to think this myself, and have even quoted him to that effect on a number of blogs over the years (including yours!). I think you are assuming that “external obedience” implies imperfect obedience. You may be right about this and if so, then Buchanan is indeed a precursor to Kline. (But then I wonder how Buchanan connects to the 17th century.) But does external obedience necessarily imply imperfect obedience? Maybe it does but I’m not sure. I tend to think that “external” does not refer to a diminished standard of obedience, but rather to the way law and order functioned in the theocracy. Buchanan footnotes Thomas Bell after that section and Bell says the following in his explanation of the “national covenant”:

    To the temporary promises and threatenings, together with the laws accompanying them, the Israelites gave their consent, Exod. xix. 5.-8. These laws were not merely judicial, but also moral and ceremonial, Exod. xxxiv. 27. Deut. iv. 13. In obeying these, and testifying their loyalty to God their king, they were to live in prosperity, Lev. xviii. 5. Deut iv. 1, 40. viii. 1. Isa. i. 19, 20. but in palpably or presumptuously violating them, they were to die, Heb. x. 28. For instance, idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, and every presumptuous transgression, were all to be punished with death, Deut. svii. 2.-7. Lev. xxiv. 15, 16. Exod. xxi. 12.-14. Lev. xx. 10. John viii. 5. Num. xv. 30, 31. Deut. xvii. 12. For such as were guilty of any of these, no sacrifice was to be offered, Psal. li. 16.; and of consequence, no pardon was to be given them, unless by a peculiar dispensation from God the king of Israel; but they were to die without mercy, compare Heb. x. 28. with 2 Sam. xii. 13. In other cases, having offered the appointed sacrifices, their sins were forgiven, and their lives continued, Lev. iv. 26. xxxi. 35. When I say forgiven, it is only meant of a political pardon, such as these sacrifices in that theocracy, were appointed to procure, and not at all of that remission of sins which is the fruit of Christ’s atonement. It can no more be doubted that many Israelites were forgiven in the one sense, who were not in the other; than that many were included in the national covenant, who were not savingly interested in that of grace. “Thus, (as one saith) the temporal life of the Israelites was preserved, or forfeited, as they were innocent or guilty of such crimes, for which no sacrifices were appointed of God.”
    In this conception of the national covenant, the focus is necessarily on external obedience and political pardon, but I don’t think any of this necessarily implies congruent merit.

    or Hodge

    …in this view the parties were God and the people of Israel; the promise was national security and prosperity; the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic law; and the mediator was Moses. In this aspect it was a legal covenant. It said, “Do this and live.” Secondly, it contained, as does also the New Testament, a renewed proclamation of the original covenant of works. It is as true now as in the days of Adam, it always has been and always must be true, that rational creatures who perfectly obey the law of God are blessed in the enjoyment of his favor….
    Again, I understand why you want to read this as a precursor to Kline, but this is very concise and I would want to ask Hodge some questions. The pertinent passage is “the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic law” and this alone does not imply congruent merit. (As you know, Hodge said that nothing new came out of Princeton. If he is a precursor to Kline, I wonder where he got this idea of congruent merit in the MC. Certainly not from Turretin.)

    or Berkhof?

    It is true that at Sinai a conditional element was added to the covenant, but it was not the salvation of the Israelite but his theocratic standing in the nation, and the enjoyment of external blessings that was made dependent on the keeping of the law, Deut. 28:1-14.

    This is also extremely concise and thus liable to different readings. Does “conditional element” imply covenant of works? Not necessarily, since Vos (for example) acknowledged a conditional element and yet denied that this implies merit (BT, p. 127). Of course, Berkhof had already denied that the MC was a CoW several sentences earlier. But even if Berkhof is suggesting a works principle in the MC, there is still no necessary implication of congruent merit.

    Because of the state of development of covenant theology in the 17th century, I can see how reasonable people can disagree about how to interpret those texts. I do not see, however, how those who are foursquare opposed to idea of a temporary, national, conditional, typological covenant of works can avoid condemning Buchanan, Hodge, and Berkhof.

    I agree with your first sentence. As for your second, if you’re saying that those who oppose Kline are by implication opposing those three guys you mention, well I used to think the same thing, but I’ve just attempted (in my feeble way) to articulate why I no longer think so. Again, I’m sincerely grateful for the interaction.

  9. Dr. Clark,

    Perhaps a Brakel can help clarify, or at least provide some additional perspective (assuming you still have some patience for this exchange). Forgive another longish post….

    You said: “Because of the state of development of covenant theology in the 17th century, I can see how reasonable people can disagree about how to interpret those texts. I do not see, however, how those who are foursquare opposed to idea of a temporary, national, conditional, typological covenant of works can avoid condemning Buchanan, Hodge, and Berkhof.”

    According to your first sentence, covenant theology was still developing in the 17th century, thus presumably you believe that eventually it reached a fully developed (or at least more developed) state, and that perhaps that greater development is well represented by Buchanan, Hodge and Berkhof. Correct?

    I am interested in the question as to whether Buchanan et. al. are intending a national covenant that is truly in addition to the covenant of grace and distinct from it, or whether they are describing merely an aspect or characteristic feature of the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace that cannot properly be viewed as a distinct covenant. In the case of Buchanan (at the very least) it certainly may be the former. And if that’s the case (as I’d like to demonstrate), a Brakel would clearly have “condemn[ed]” Buchanan (and whomever else held to such a view).

    As I pointed out earlier, Buchanan footnotes (among others) Thomas Bell. In Bell’s articulation of this issue, it seems clear that he does indeed view the “national covenant” with Israel as an actual covenant distinct from the covenant of grace:

    A national covenant was also established with Israel by the ministry of Moses. As a nation, kingdom or commonwealth, they were under a theocratical government, God giving them a body of laws by which they were to regulate their conduct: laws accompanied with promises and threatenings of a temporal nature. The promises and threatening respecting them in their national capacity could not belong either to the covenant of works, or of grace, as these two covenants affect men only as individuals. For though all nations shall be gathered before the universal Judge, Mat. xxv. 32. yet he shall pass sentence not upon nations as such, but upon individuals” (emphasis mine). (Conciliatory Animadversions)

    But is Bell’s conception of this national covenant distinct from the covenants of works and grace really a legitimate development of covenant theology? Maybe, but not according to a Brakel. It is interesting that he has a section in his discussion of the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace in which he deals with this precise issue (in A Christian’s Reasonable Service, volume 1). He poses the question:

    Did God, either in the Old or New Testament, establish a different, external covenant in addition to the covenant of grace?

    Before he responds, he describes what is meant by such an “external covenant,” including the following points (among others):

    (3) The promises of such a covenant merely relate to physical blessings, be it the land of Canaan, or in addition to that, food and clothing, money, delicacies, and the delights of this world.

    (4) The condition is external obedience, merely consisting in external observance of the law of the ten commandments and the ceremonies, church attendance, making profession of faith, and using the sacraments, participation being external and without the heart.

    (6) In the Old Testament this would be the national covenant established only with the seed of Abraham. This covenant would have been an exemplary covenant to typify the spiritual service in the days of the New Testament. In the New Testament it would be a covenant to establish the external church. All of this would constitute an external covenant, it being essentially different in nature than the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

    It seems to me that he’s describing something similar if not identical to Bell’s understanding, and I would assume yours (apart from the applicability to the NT). Would you agree? Following his description, a Brakel gives his answer to the question:

    Upon closer examination of such an external covenant (even though proponents of such a covenant do not perhaps appreciate such a close examination), the question is whether there is such an external covenant? Some deny that such is the case in the New Testament, but claim it existed in the Old Testament. Others maintain that such a covenant also exists in the New Testament. We, however, make a distinction between external admission into the covenant of grace, and an external covenant. We maintain that there have always been those who externally have entered into the covenant of grace, and who, without faith and conversion but without giving offense, mingle among the true partakers of the covenant. Their external behavior, however, does not constitute an external covenant. God is not satisfied with such an external walk but will punish those in an extraordinary measure who flatter Him with their mouths and lie to Him with their tongue. Thus, there is an external entrance into the covenant of grace, but not an external covenant. This we shall now demonstrate.

    So for a Brakel, upon “close examination,” there is clearly no “temporary, national, conditional, typological covenant of works”! Would he have therefore condemned Buchanan, Hodge, and Berkhof? It’s an interesting question I think.

    a Brakel continues with his argument, the entirety of which is well worth reading, but I note here just one of the objections that he deals with (an objection that I can’t help but assume you would agree with):

    Objection #1: In the Old Testament the entire nation, head for head, the godly and the ungodly, had to enter into the covenant. They were all required to partake of the sacraments, were all in this covenant and used the sacraments, and many broke the covenant. There was thus an external covenant which in its essential nature was entirely different from the covenant of grace. For this covenant has been established with believers only and thus cannot be broken.

    Answer: (1) The covenant of grace is an incomprehensible manifestation of the grace and mercy of God. When God offers this covenant to someone, it is an act of utmost wickedness to despise it, and to refuse to enter into it. Therefore everyone to whom the gospel is proclaimed is obligated to accept this offer with great desire and with all his heart, and thus to enter into this covenant. This fact is certain and irrefutable. Thus, the obligation to enter the covenant does not prove it to be an external covenant.

    (2) The ungodly, being under obligation to enter into the covenant of grace, were not permitted to remain ungodly, for the promise of this covenant also pertains to sanctification. They were to be desirous for sanctification, and this desire was to motivate them to enter into the covenant. Therefore, if someone remained ungodly, it would prove that his dealings with God were not in truth—as ought to have been the case. It would confirm that he had entered into the covenant in an external sense, as a show before men, and that he was not a true partaker of the covenant.

    (3) They were required to use the sacraments in faith. If they did not use them in this way, they would provoke the Lord. Neither in the Old nor New Testament do the ungodly have a right to the use of the sacraments. Unto such God says, “What hast thou to do to declare My statutes, that thou shouldest take My covenant in thy mouth?” (Ps 50:16).

    (4) Just as the ungodly merely enter the covenant under pretext, so they likewise break it again and their faith suffers shipwreck. Thus they manifest by their deeds that they have neither part nor lot in the word of promise. Their breach of covenant was not relative to an external covenant but relative to the covenant of grace into which they entered externally. The manner whereby they entered into this covenant was thus consistent with the breach of this covenant. With all that was within them they destroyed the covenant of grace by changing it into a covenant of works.

    (5) In a general sense God established this covenant with the entire nation, but not with every individual. Everyone was to truly enter into this covenant by faith.

    I found a Brakel’s presentation to be interesting and helpful. For him, in the OT as well as the NT, there are those who are merely externally in covenant, but there is no “external covenant” per se. Clearly Brakel would have been “foursquare opposed to the notion of a temporary, national, conditional, typological covenant of works” (your words), and clearly he would have taken issue with the passage from Thomas Bell that I quoted above. If this is how covenant theology has “developed” since the 17th century, then a Brakel (for one) would have obviously been opposed to such a development!

    Thoughts?

    • David,

      “legitimate” is not a historical question. “Were” and “were not” are historical questions. There were a wide range of views about the Mosaic covenant, or at least a range of ways of articulating the relations between Moses and the covenant of grace. Samuel Bolton lists these:

      • Some would have it a Covenant of Works, and yet will not have it opposite to the Covenant of Grace.
      • Some would have it a Covenant of grace, but more legally dispensed.
      • Some again would have it mixed Covenant, mixed of the Covenant of Nature, and of Grace.
      • Some again would have it a subservient Covenant; a Covenant given to them in way of subservience to the Gospel and Grace.
      • And others would have it no Covenant, but rather the repetition of the Covenant of works made with man in the Innocency. And that God in giving of the law, did but repeat the Covenant under which we did, and do stand, till we come over to Christ…And this God did with merciful purposes, to drive us out of ourselves; and to bring us over unto Christ.

      You seem to be assuming that we all know (or should know) what “the orthodox” view of Moses and republication was or should be. Given the range of views held by the orthodox it’s not historical to retroactively set up “the orthodox” view.

      The historical question is whether there were elements and trajectories in the 17th century on which Buchanan et al elaborated. Clearly there were.

  10. Dr. Clark,

    You seem to be assuming that we all know (or should know) what “the orthodox” view of Moses and republication was or should be. Given the range of views held by the orthodox it’s not historical to retroactively set up “the orthodox” view.

    Okay. But,

    1. There was clearly a mainstream Reformed consensus that the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace. Bolton tells us as much: “There is, however, a second opinion in which I find that the majority of our holy and most learned divines concur, namely, that though the law is called a covenant, yet it was not a covenant of works for salvation; nor was it a third covenant of works and grace; but it was the same covenant in respect of its nature and design under which we stand under the Gospel, even the covenant of grace, though more legally dispensed to the Jews.”

    2. There is weighty rejection of the “third covenant view,” e.g., a Brakel (see my above comment).

    Also Turretin: “However, we [i.e., the orthodox!] recognize only two covenants mutually distinct in species (to wit, the covenant of works, which promises life to the doer; and the covenant of grace, which promises salvation to believers). Although we confess that the Sinaitic covenant as to mode of dispensation was different from both, still as to substance and species we deny that it is constituted a third covenant and hold that it was nothing else than a new economy of the covenant of grace.”

    Add to this that the Genevan churches confessed the Formula Consensus Helveticus, which also explicitly rejected the third covenant view.

    The historical question is whether there were elements and trajectories in the 17th century on which Buchanan et al elaborated. Clearly there were.

    Okay. But another historical question is whether those elements and trajectories in the 17th century were widely rejected in the Reformed churches.

    3. There is still the question of whether the view that the MC granted temporal blessings on the ground of congruent merit has ANY historical antecedents. Above you said “Now, regarding the passages from Buchanan, Hodge, and Berkhof, we shall have to agree to disagree. They were saying not only materially but verbally what I understand Kline to have been saying.” I would still love to see a demonstration of this (when you have the time).

    • David,

      I don’t understand what standard of evidence you’ve adopted. It doesn’t seem like a historical standard. You seem to be looking for ipsissima verba. That’s not how history works. If you can’t see it in Hodge et al, then you can’t see it.

      As to the 17th century, it comes down to definitions. Owen speaks different from Turretin but they’re speaking about slightly different things. There’ no question that for Owen believers under Moses were proleptically in the covenant of grace but he also made the Mosaic covenant a very distinct thing so that the believers, under Moses, who participated in that unique historical arrangement, also participated proleptically in the covenant of grace.

      So, if one, like Cocceius begins with the covenant of works and connects it to Moses, then one speaks one way. If one is looking at the covenant of grace and salvation, one speaks another. I think most of the differences outlined by Bolton are formal or pedagogical rather than substantial.

      I think the consensus is that everyone who was saved, under Moses, was saved sola gratia, sola fide, by looking to Christ. There was wide consensus that the Mosaic covenant had a pedagogical role in pointing believers, under Moses, to Christ. The question then comes how one may articulate that pedagogical function? may it be conceived as a national, temporary covenant with respect to the land?

      If we define our terms carefully, I don’t see why this is controversial.

  11. Dr. Clark,

    Thanks again.

    I don’t understand what standard of evidence you’ve adopted. It doesn’t seem like a historical standard. You seem to be looking for ipsissima verba.

    I believe that we do in fact have an ipsissima verba on this question in WCF 7 and 19, but I know you disagree, and certainly it’s true that diverse views have been tolerated historically.

    If you can’t see it in Hodge et al, then you can’t see it.

    Since you mention Hodge, maybe we can take a closer look at him if it’s okay with you, so that maybe I can explain why I don’t “see it.”

    Here’s the contested passage again:

    Besides this evangelical character which unquestionably belongs to the Mosaic covenant, it is presented in two other aspects in the Word of God. First, it was a national covenant with the Hebrew people. In this view the parties were God and the people of Israel; the promise was national security and prosperity; the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic law; and the mediator was Moses. In this aspect it was a legal covenant. It said “Do this and live.”

    That’s not a lot to work with. The first question I want to ask him is if he is advocating for a covenant distinct for the covenant of grace, or if he is merely speaking of an aspect of the Mosaic administration of the CoG. Since he used the word “aspect,” it may be the latter, but in another place (in a Princeton Review article on the visible church), he had asserted that God actually made two covenants with Abraham, one which formed a temporary commonwealth and another which formed a church. That makes it seem like he held to a third covenant view of sorts, unless his mind changed on this at some point. Who knows….

    On the assumption that he has in view simply a feature of the MC, he may possibly be echoing Turretin’s distinction between the “external economy” of the Mosaic administration, which is characteristically legal, and the “internal economy,” which is characteristically evangelical.

    My second question has to do with Hodge’s phrase “the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic law.” This is where I assume you are reading in the idea of congruent merit. Presumably, you think Hodge has in view imperfect “typologically legible” obedience to the law, on the meritorious grounds of which Israel will retain their temporal blessings. Could that be what Hodge meant? It’s possible I suppose but I think there is a far better explanation.

    If you’ll suffer me an attempt at a brief analysis of what it means for Israel to corporately obey the Mosaic law.

    It means:

    1. perfect obedience to the moral law, which of course is impossible for anyone except Adam (pre-fall) and Christ. We know that Israel didn’t obey perfectly, but does that mean they must have merited congruently? No. Because obedience to the law also implies:

    2. obedience to the ceremonial law, which provided, through the sacrifices, for the forgiveness of unintentional sins. So there is a way built right into the law for Israel to be forgiven of their sins and thus receive temporal blessings, without any recourse to the notion of congruent merit. The law said “Do this and live,” but it also provided for forgiveness. Turretin: “Here comes in the immunity from temporal punishments in the court of earth which (as to sins not committed with uplifted hand) was granted through the sacrifices, which (without relation either to repentance or faith) restored men to their rank and rendered them free from all forensic punishment.” I think this adequately explains (w/o recourse to congruent merit) how Israel was able to retain their state of blessedness during some phases of their history.

    3. Finally, corporate obedience means obedience to the civil law. The civil law and its penalties of course necessarily had reference to external public actions, not internal heart attitudes, so the focus on external obedience in no way implies a lowering of the moral standard such as is entailed in congruent merit.

    This is how I read Hodge when he speaks of national obedience to a legal covenant. Is this really less plausible than congruent merit?

    There was wide consensus that the Mosaic covenant had a pedagogical role in pointing believers, under Moses, to Christ. The question then comes how one may articulate that pedagogical function?

    It seems to me that the widespread consensus was that the moral law was republished under the Mosaic administration and that it served as a pedagogue to drive men to Christ and as a rule of duty once they had received Him.

    may it be conceived as a national, temporary covenant with respect to the land?

    If we define our terms carefully, I don’t see why this is controversial.

    I know you’re busy, but have gotten around to reading what I posted from a Brakel yet? He discusses why it’s controversial (the national temporary covenant idea that is, not the notion of congruent merit).

    • Can we get an agreed definition of congruent merit? Does this work? –

      “congruent merit is not sufficient in and of itself to merit the reward…

      “Congruent merit – This is more like benevolence than what we generally think of merit. It is “congruent” or “fitting” that a good person shows his kindness to others. There is no obligation, however, to give congruent merit.”
      http://www.puritanboard.com/f31/condign-congruent-pactum-merit-66235/

      Of course this kind of merit is ruled out concerning salvation from sin and obtaining eternal life. But in the context of the nation of Israel remaining in the land?…

  12. Hey Jack,

    If you get a chance, please greet the saints at El Camino….

    Regarding congruent merit, I think the idea is that it gets you part of the of the way there, but then you need grace to get the rest of the way. It’s like only having a dollar when bus fare is two dollars and the driver spots you a buck and lets you ride. (Unfortunately I’m too reliant on public transpo these days….) I hope Dr. Clark will correct me if I’m wrong.

    As far as I know, Protestant theology completely rejects congruent merit. Regarding the notion of Israel meriting their continued possession of the land, like I’ve tried to point out above, there have been weighty objections given to the idea of Sinai as temporary covenant of works (as opposed to legal administration of the covenant of grace). But if I were going to abstract out the typological elements of it (which I think is a mistake), then why wouldn’t it make more sense to say that Israel’s retention of the typological inheritance (when they did retain it) was on account of the typological sacrifices?

    • Grace is inherent to congruent merit. By definition, it does not meet the standard of righteousness. According to congruent merit God graciously imputes perfection to our best efforts. Lane’s distinction between pactum merit and congruent is fuzzy since, according to some late medieval writers, God covenanted to impute perfection to our best efforts.

      I don’t think any Reformed writer would have spoken explicitly of meritum de congruo relative to land tenure and national status. The question is whether that idea was implicit.

      Because of the categorical Protestant rejection of the idea of our merit (condign or congruent) in soteriology, we don’t often use the category of congruent merit. Thus it is unfamiliar to most of us.

      When our catechisms and confessions speak of Christ’s merits, they are speaking of condign merit. When they deny our merit (in salvation) they seem to be denying both categories.

      It is possible, however, to construct a scenario in which Israel’s land tenure and national status were contingent upon congruent merit (obedience that God freely accepted as sufficient) without calling it that.

  13. I don’t think Kline would have been happy with the notion of congruent merit at Sinai. Rather, it seems to me that he applied his principle that pactum merit = strict merit to the MC. And since the MC at its foundational substratum was the CoG, it did not require perfect obedience. Hence, as long as the nation maintained a reasonable degree of corporate obedience, they would strictly merit their continued possession of the land according to the terms of the pactum.

    • Dr. Clark,

      Not condign merit. Kline I believe rejected condign merit as speculative because the creature has no right to judge intrinsic worth (and hence he also rejected congruent merit for the same reason). Rather, for him our only rule is the covenantal stipulations established by the Judge of all the earth. Hence, there is only pactum (= strict) merit. That’s how I read him.

  14. It strikes me that if we say that Israel merited their retention of the land, then by analogy we also have to say that under the NT, a church member who maintains a credible profession of faith merits his admittance to the Lord’s table.

    • David,

      Israel’s land/status was a kind of postlapsrian, typological, congruent cov of works. The Supper is NOT a cov of works! It is quintessentially a covenant of grace,

      Israel’s role, relative to the land, was to point to Christ not to New Covenant believers.

    • But the land inheritance was sacramental, right? Wasn’t it a sacrament of the covenant of grace?

    • David,

      1. Apparently we’re not discussing history any longer. Let’s be clear about that. Now we’re discussing what we ought to say about the Mosaic covenant. That’s exegetical/systematic theology.

      2. I’m not here to defend MGK but I do think we ought to represent his views (and everyone’s) accurately.

      3. My views don’t coincide exactly with MGK’s.

      4. There are really only two kinds of merit, condign and congruent. Only condign merit is strict merit. Congruent and/or pactum merit (if there is a distinction) is, by definition, not strict. I think failure to understand these terms correctly has contributed to confusion in this discussion, which is typical of the confusion that seem to reign in this controversy more broadly.

      5. MGK distinguished sharply between merit before the fall and after the fall. Failure to do so leads to Pelagianizing results. MGK was utterly hostile to all forms of Pelagianism, hence his 30-year war against the Shepherdite theology.

      6. MGK held that the covenant of works was co-extensive with creation. He described Adam’s obedience as meritorious. I don’t remember him qualifying it but I understood him to say that it was intrinsically worthy because he was righteous. There have been theologians in the Reformed tradition who’ve specifically said that Adam had no need of grace before the fall in order to obey. There have been others who’ve said that God must have accepted his obedience graciously because of the Creator/creature distinction.

      7. MGK did not reject condign merit since he understood that Jesus’ obedience was intrinsically meritorious.

      8. I don’t have to “read” MGK. I heard (and read) him as a student and talked with him as a colleague and a friend. (Yes, I’m pulling rank).

      9. I understand the Mosaic covenant to have been principally an administration of the covenant of grace and secondarily, a typological, temporary, national, pedagogical re-statement/republication of the covenant of works. I don’t think that God made a covenant (pactum) whereby he promised to impute (de congruo) perfection to Israel’s best efforts or to reward them with the land. I think the land/national promises and their status was law preaching intended to teach them the greatness of their sin and misery and to drive them to seek the Mediator to come.

      10. I really think we should give this a rest today.

  15. I’m basing my comments re: MGK to some extent on the following quote from Kingdom Prologue (pp. 115-116). Admittedly, he is discussing the covenant of works (with Adam) here, but the principles he lays down would have to apply to any situation involving a works principle.

    The disproportionality view’s failure with respect to the doctrine of divine justice can be traced to its approach to the definition of justice. A proper approach will hold that God is just and his justice is expressed in all his acts; in particular, it is expressed in the covenant he institutes. The terms of the covenant—the stipulated reward for the stipulated service—are a revelation of that justice. As a revelation of God’s justice the terms of the covenant define justice. According to this definition, Adam’s obedience would have merited the reward of eternal life and not a gram of grace would have been involved.

    Refusing to accept God’s covenant word as the definer of justice, the disproportionality view exalts above God’s word a standard of justice of its own making. Assigning ontological values to Adam’s obedience and God’s reward it finds that weighed on its judicial scales they are drastically out of balance. In effect that conclusion imputes an imperfection in justice to the Lord of the covenant. The attempt to hide this affront against the majesty of the Judge of all the earth by condescending to assess the relation of Adam’s act to God’s reward as one of congruent merit is no more successful than Adam’s attempt to manufacture a covering to conceal his nakedness. It succeeds only in exposing the roots of this opposition to Reformed theology in the theology of Rome.

  16. Sorry, one last comment. Can you help me reconcile these two statements you’ve just made? (I can wait till tomorrow!)

    You said: “Israel’s land/status was a kind of postlapsrian, typological, congruent cov of works.”

    But then you said: “I don’t think that God made a covenant (pactum) whereby he promised to impute (de congruo) perfection to Israel’s best efforts or to reward them with the land.”

  17. Dr. Clark,

    1. Apparently we’re not discussing history any longer. Let’s be clear about that. Now we’re discussing what we ought to say about the Mosaic covenant. That’s exegetical/systematic theology.

    True enough. I’m really only interested in the historical question insofar as it helps us answer the normative one. I acknowledge my conviction that the mainstream Reformed orthodox consensus, that is, that the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace, is correct.

    2. I’m not here to defend MGK but I do think we ought to represent his views (and everyone’s) accurately.

    Since MGK’s views on the question of merit in God’s covenants is a whole nuther question, I’m happy to leave it to the side.

    9. I understand the Mosaic covenant to have been principally an administration of the covenant of grace and secondarily, a typological, temporary, national, pedagogical re-statement/republication of the covenant of works.

    If you don’t mind discussing theology for a moment longer, I’d like to ask you this clarifying question: In your opinion, how many substantially distinct covenants has God made with man? Has He made two (i.e., the covenant of works and the covenant of grace), or has He made three (i.e., the CoW, the CoG, and the Mosaic)?

  18. I guess I’m the only one left in the “room” at this point (but hey, I’m used to that…). Since it may have gotten lost in the rabbit trails and excess verbiage above (for which I’m happy to take the blame), I just wanted to reiterate my original point, which I don’t believe has yet been answered.

    I had originally posted this:

    Kline and many of those who follow him speak in terms of a modified works covenant in which the stipulation is merely imperfect ‘typologically legible’ obedience—the nature of which OT saints (such as Noah, Abraham and David) were capable of performing, which actually was performed at times during the course of Israel’s history, and which functioned as the meritorious ground of their enjoyment of blessings in the promised land (when they enjoyed such blessings). It seems to me that it is this version of republication that is controversial and lacks Reformed precedent.

    I hope it is clear that what I labeled as “unprecedented” is not the “idea of a temporary, national, conditional, typological covenant of works” (your words) per se. That notion seems fairly well represented in Reformed theology, at least as a minority view from the 17th century on. Rather, my claim regarding the lack of Reformed precedent was limited to Kline’s idea that for Israel under the law, their imperfect obedience functioned as the meritorious ground of their continuance in the land.

    You responded to me thusly:

    I think that some writers, did move beyond the pedagogical view of republication to a material view, mutatis mutandis, i.e., understanding that it was only for typological purposes and that their obedience was imperfect. The merit in view, in this case, is not—as I explained before—condign. It is congruent.

    You then further elaborated:

    So, when I see writers in the 1640s et seq talking about the national covenant probationary terms, I see the beginning (not full-blown) stages the view that was more fully articulated later. To the degree that Reformed writers appealed to a parallel between Adam and Israel (and they did), that also contributed to the development of the probationary view of Israel’s national covenant. Did any of them say explicitly that Israel congruently “merited” there status in the land? Not explicitly. Did they substantially encourage their readers to think in probationary terms? Yes. I think that’s the force of the Fisher (evangelista) quotation from the Marrow.

    And you added this:

    Now, regarding the passages from Buchanan, Hodge, and Berkhof, I we shall have to agree to disagree. They were saying not only materially but verbally what I understand Kline to have been saying.

    Hence, according to you (if I understand), and contrary to my claim, Kline’s notion that Israel’s imperfect obedience merited temporal blessings was not only held implicitly by some 17th century writers; it was also held explicitly (“verbally”) by later writers such as Buchanan, Hodge and Berkhof.

    My response to you (which may not be so clear in the posts above) is as follows:

    1. Regarding the 17th century, none of the views given in Bolton’s taxonomy (which you posted), imply Kline’s theory. That is clear to anyone with any familiarity with those 17th century views, all of which understand the obedience required to be perfect if it was to be meritorious. Whereas Kline said that imperfect obedience was the ground of continuance in the land. Hence, there is no precedent for Kline (even implicitly) in the 17th century.

    2. Regarding Hodge, Buchanan and Berkhof, it is easy enough to go through each of the citations you posted from them and show that they are not precedents for Kline either (not even implicitly), but let’s just take Hodge (once again) as a test case:

    Besides this evangelical character which unquestionably belongs to the Mosaic covenant, it is presented in two other aspects in the Word of God. First, it was a national covenant with the Hebrew people. In this view the parties were God and the people of Israel; the promise was national security and prosperity; the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic law; and the mediator was Moses. In this aspect it was a legal covenant. It said ‘Do this and live.’

    Is Hodge speaking of a works principle here? Of course he is, but that’s not what I said is unprecedented. Is Hodge possibly speaking of “a temporary, national, conditional, typological covenant of works” (your words again)? Could be, but again, that’s not what I said is unprecedented. Is Hodge speaking of imperfect obedience as meritorious ground of blessing, or congruent merit (this is what I said was unprecedented)? No, he is not, not even by implication.

    It strikes me that the only way one can see congruent merit even implied in this passage from Hodge (apart from reading Kline back into him) is if one buys into the old Pelagian canard that, if God commands Israel to “Do this and live,” then Israel must have the power to obey. From there it’s a short step to the thought that, if Israel has the power to obey, then the obedience required must be less than perfect, and the merit accrued must be congruent. (Note: I fully realize you are not a Pelagian, but I hope you see my point.)

    But of course “Do this and live” does not imply the power to obey, and the obedience Hodge speaks of here is nothing less than the perfect and personal obedience (albeit exercised nationally) that Reformed theology has always understood to merit the blessing when a works principle is operative. So in the case of Hodge, the notion that Israel merits by imperfect obedience (or by congruent merit) is absent not just “verbally,” but also implicitly.

    For some corroboration, following is the same basic idea expressed by Francis Turretin, who I would think, as much as anyone, deserves the right to be recognized as Hodge’s antecedent on this question:

    The matter of that external economy was the threefold law—moral, ceremonial and forensic. The first was fundamental; the remaining appendices of it. The form was the pact added to that external dispensation, which on the part of God was the promise of the land of Canaan and of rest and happiness in it; and, under the image of each, of heaven and of rest in him (Heb. 4:3, 9); or of eternal life according to the clause, ‘Do this and live.’ On the part of the people, it was a stipulation of obedience to the whole law or righteousness both perfect (Dt. 27:26; Gal. 3:10) and personal and justification by it (Rom. 2:13). But this stipulation in the Israelite covenant was only accidental, since it was added only in order that man by its weakness might be led to reject his own righteousness and to embrace another’s, latent under the law. (Institutes, volume 2, p. 227, emphasis mine)

    I don’t think it’s necessary to look at Buchanan and Berkhof to show that they do not qualify as precedents for Kline’s either.

    This is why I said that there is no Reformed precedent for Kline. I hope that’s now clear (in case it wasn’t before)….

    • Hi David R,

      As one who appreciates what I know of Kline, I would take a position of defense, if I had the time. Let me look this over and the original convo that started it. I’ll be around for questions if you want, while I catch up to you.

      Grace and peace.

  19. AB,

    I’m happy to talk about this. One thing you should know about me is that Kline has been one of my favorite theologians for a number of years. I have read most of his books. It’s just on this one specific issue that I have come to disagree.

    • It’s on my list to study more Kline. I was busy listening to Hart / Strange lectures on “reformed in America” from the conference in November. Most of the time, I’m looking to be directed to the good stuff. Hence, my presence. Thanks.

Comments are closed.