For the Faculty: James T. Dennison, Jr. (Editor), Scott F. Sanborn, J. Peter Vosteen
Typing and formatting: Tin L. Harrell
Charles G. Dennison
George Herbert
Scott F. Sanborn
James T. Dennison, Jr.
James T. Dennison, Jr.
Charles G. Dennison

KERUX is a publication of Northwest Theological Seminary and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 17711 Spruce Way, Lynnwood, WA 98037-7431. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $20.00 (U.S. and Canada); $25.00 (Elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U. S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in New Testament Abstracts, Cambridge, MA, Old Testament Abstracts, Washingon, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in ATLA Religion Database, Chicago, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.

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ISSN 0888-8513
Vol. 21, No. 2
September 2006

[K:NWTS 21/3 (Dec 2006) 3-8]

Isaiah's Christmas Children:

Understanding the Message of the Prophets

Isaiah 10:28-11:10

Charles G. Dennison

My messages on Isaiah's Christmas children had ended, but I realized that those messages demanded a postlude. An afterthought—not so much to extend my comments about the children themselves, but in order to provide something of a wrap for the prophetic perspective about which I have had much to say over the course of the previous six messages.

You may recall in the last couple of messages at least, I made much of the inherent difficulties in hearing and reading the prophets. So formidable are these difficulties that some simply, as a general rule and with the exception of a few golden passages, avoid the prophets altogether. You are not long into any of the prophets before you are face to face with complexities: problematic constructions of languages and images that seemingly defy penetration; obscure names, oblique historical and geographical references.

But even more perplexing than these can be the inexplicable breathtaking changes in mood and emotional direction. One moment the prophet is declaring disaster and the next, without as much as a bat of an eye and in some cases within the same sentence, he is announcing the startling intrusion of divine grace. Not that the note of grace isn't welcomed. Its startling appearance however often leaves us somewhat baffled.


We also commented at length on another prophetic feature, what seems to be the most disconcerting shifts in audience where we can't make out who the prophet is talking about. For instance, we're rolling along comfortably talking about the judgment that is sure to come upon the Assyrians and, without any indication or warning whatsoever in the text, we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of a verse talking about Judah's demise. We have found examples of all these unsettling features in Isaiah chapters 7-12, the so-called "Book of Immanuel" in Isaiah's prophecy—that section in which the figure of the child figures so prominently.

We have endeavored to explain these features—these disturbing features—in our previous messages. We didn't spend much time explaining the first feature, the meaning of the obscure and oblique references, but the meaning for these obscure and oblique references may be found in the deliberately hidden character of the prophets' message. That hiddenness becomes a sort of ministerial extension of what the Lord says to Isaiah in directing him to tell the people of Judah, "Keep on listening but do not perceive; keep on looking but do not understand; render the hearts of these people insensitive, their ears dull and their eyes dim. Otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and return and be healed (6:9-11)". The prophets deliberately speak in parables. The prophets deliberately speak in obscurities—and that by design.

We spent much more time on the other features that we've mentioned this evening. The meaning of the inexplicable changes in mood from wrath to grace, we located in the inexplicable and totally disarming nature of grace itself. God's grace comes unexpectedly and undeservedly into this world and upon his chosen vessels. And that's how it intrudes into the prophets' message. The meaning of the disconcerting shifts in audience where a word about Israel's enemies suddenly slips into a word about Israel herself, we located in the subtle but profound message that not just the Gentiles, the enemies of the Jews, but the Jews themselves are gathered under condemnation in order finally that the gospel of salvation through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ might come to Jew and Gentile alike. This is in keeping with the message that we finally hear in passages like Romans chapter 3 where Paul makes it clear that all the world, Jew and Gentile together, is guilty before God (Rom. 3:19); and


that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (v. 23). All of these things, all of these devices, all of these features then are conspiring to prepare us for the presentation of the gospel, the gospel itself laid within the features themselves.

So far this message has been a summary and a review. And it hardly seems fair for me to get you out on a cold winter's night merely to tell you what you have already heard. Actually, there is another prophetic feature, abundantly evident in Isaiah 7-12, about which we have said nothing thus far. I have in mind the prophets' presentation of time, the prophets' presentation of history, and the apparent anachronistic character of the prophets' message.

You know what an anachronism is. Anachronism means to be out of place historically time-wise, as if someone were to say Julius Caesar lived in the seventeenth century and the Battle of Waterloo happened yesterday. The prophets' treatment of time and apparent anachronisms can be as startling and befuddling as their unexpected mood swings and their sudden shifts in audience. In fact, it is this feature in the prophets' message, the whole matter of their treatment of time and history that invariably causes so much excitement about the prophets for so many. While their treatment of time may seem perplexing to us, it is all too clear to a great many people. But for the prophets, you see, events, if we read them properly, appear to have the ability to reach far beyond their historical setting, touching even the distant reaches of human history and the furthest extent of the plan of God. As the prophets speak, as they preach, as they declare their message, the events about which they speak seem to have the ability to reach far beyond their historical setting, touching even the distant reaches of human history and the far reaches of the plan of God.

We have a sweeping example of this in Isaiah 10 and 11. Picking up at verse 28 where we began our reading, we find a passage that has not only thrown commentators, but in actual fact does the service of opening up for us the prophetic line as far as the historical development of the prophetic vision is concerned. Verses 28-32 of that tenth chapter, as we have seen before, belong to a section speaking about the Assyrian threat—a yet future threat for Judah. Assyria is mentioned explicitly in this chapter, previously in verses 5, 12, and 24. When we come to verses 28-32, we would think that we have before us the


incremental itinerary of the invading Assyrian army; the listing of all of the sites to which the army comes as it makes progression through the land. We have listed here then cities and villages to which the advancing Assyrian army comes as it makes its way toward Jerusalem. So it seems, and with verse 32, Jerusalem is well in view.

But we have a problem. We have a problem if we move with this text along this line. For these cities mentioned all belong to the northern and eastern approach to the city of Jerusalem—the cities that were along the route as you make your way south through Benjamite territory. You're coming down from the north through the territory of Benjamin towards Jerusalem in order to make your assault upon Jerusalem which is in the territory of Judah. You get the picture. A southern course for the assault is in view in the mentioning of these cities as the army makes its way towards Jerusalem. But when the Assyrians finally do make their assault (remember this is a prophecy concerning a future assault by the Assyrians), when the Assyrians finally do make their assault (as Isaiah 36:2 tells us), they actually make that assault from the southwest, not from the north but from the southwest and from the city of Lachish, near the boundary of the territory of Philistia. The text in speaking about the Assyrians charts a southern course through the territory of Benjamin for Jerusalem. But the actual Assyrian assault comes from the southwest and from the city of Lachish.

Well what do you make of this? In chapter 10, prior to the Assyrian invasion, Isaiah naturally thought an Assyrian invasion will come from the north, so he wrote it up that way. When the actual invasion did occur, it seems that the Assyrians tripped up even Isaiah and came from the south. How silly of him! So much for prophetic and even biblical infallibility! Now some might not be overly upset by this apparent discrepancy and would say, "North, south, who cares where? It doesn't make any difference. The main thing was the invasion occurred and the Assyrians did in fact make an invasion. Isaiah at least had that much right. After all, neither the Bible nor prophecy is an exact science." The tragedy is that people who talk like this hardly know how destructive they are. In the balance is not only biblical authority and the Bible's infallibility, but the squandering of a golden opportunity to grasp hold of an important feature of the prophet's revelation.


You see, what Isaiah is actually describing in the listing of all of these cities is the advance of the combined army of the Israelites to the north under Pekah and the Syrians under Rezin. We read about their advance in chapters 7-9. Setting the tone for this section of Isaiah's message is what we read in chapter 7:1, namely "In the days of Ahaz king of Judah when Rezin, the king of Syria and Pekah, the son of Ramaliah, king of Israel, went up to wage war against Jerusalem but could not conquer it." The progression of this combined army of the Israelites and the Syrians is marked by the city by city march chronicled for us in chapter 10:28-32.

But what, we might ask, is the advance of this combined army doing in a section talking about the advance of the Assyrian army? You see, one of the devices of the prophets is to describe one event—it may be present or past—in such a way as to anticipate a future event. In such a way, you see laid within that event the most future and ultimate of events, the consummation of all things. It is as if in reading an event the prophets are able to see in those events the coming judgment that is sure to come upon all of the world—future events laid within present events and even the most future event of all, the end of all things. Therefore, Isaiah sees in the current advance of the Syrians and the Israelites, the future invasion of the Assyrians when he speaks about the Assyrians in this passage, whose invasion is guaranteed by Judah's reliance upon these Assyrians in her struggle against the northern alliance.

But of course you will note, drawing out our considerations concerning the prophets' estimation of time and history, this is not all that Isaiah is privileged to see. In verses 33-34, as the tenth chapter ends, he sees a devastation from which Judah herself cannot and will not be excluded. He sees devastation that comes to Judah to be sure in the Assyrian invasion, but an invasion in which Isaiah in turn sees the nation of Judah so thoroughly laid low that the tree of Jesse is reduced to a bare stump. And it will be many, many years in the future; and many, many more invasions still before that shoot and branch will miraculously sprout. You see, in the event current with the prophet, he sees events that he envisions in front of him in terms of those things that are future and yet to be realized. It will be many, many years still and many, many invasions yet before the shoot and branch from Jesse will miraculously sprout (Is. 11:1-5), and many, many years further still when the perfections of his reign will


manifest themselves in an environment reminiscent of Eden (v. 6-9). But a reign that will finally transcend Eden itself as the root of Jesse is gloriously exalted and made sublime in his final resting place which is nowhere else but glory itself (v. 10).

The prophet's message here, as it deals with time, as it deals with history, lends an immediacy to all these events that are circumscribed. Truly then the prophet's vocabulary presents many instances along this very line. Jesus, himself the prophet, preaches the end of the world in his predications concerning the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem. That is why the prophecies of Jesus concerning the coming destruction of Jerusalem are so hard for us to decipher and understand. He is speaking in those prophecies in prophetic form. He is looking at a near event and he is seeing a yet future event superimposed on that near event; so that when he gives the declaration concerning it, it becomes very hard to sort out what is pertaining to the destruction of Jerusalem and what belongs to the end of the world. And how many exegetes have stumbled over his proclamation at that very point? How many churches have stumbled over Jesus' proclamation of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and what it means concerning the end of all things? And John the apostle, writing the Revelation, will do the same thing as he speaks about judgments that come upon the church and the world—judgments pertaining to the period in its extensiveness between the first and second coming of Christ. This is the Bible's method. This is the Bible's way of bringing us right up against the ultimate issues and the most conclusive considerations—of pressing upon us the urgency of God's purpose and his call.

The prophets' method of communication by the Lord's design brings near the future distant blessings, but also the coming certain destruction of this world. And it effectively sets before us the question: "Am I, in appropriating the salvation of which the prophets speak, ready for the judgment they announce?" Are you ready?


[K:NWTS 21/3 (Dec 2006) 9-10]


George Herbert (1593-1633)

Christmas (I)

After all pleasures as I rid one day,

My horse and I, both tired, body and mind,

With full cry of affections, quite astray;

I took up the next inn I could find.

There when I came, whom found I but my dear,

My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief

Of pleasures brought me to Him, ready there

To be all passengers' most sweet relief?

Oh Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,

Wrapt in night's mantle, stole into a manger;

Since my dark soul and brutish is Thy right,

To man of all beasts be not Thou a stranger:

Furnish and deck my soul, that Thou mayst have

A better lodging, than a rack, or grave.


Christmas (II)

The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?

My God, no hymn for Thee?

My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds

Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.

The pasture is Thy word: the streams, Thy grace

Enriching all the place.

Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers

Outsing the daylight hours.

Then will we chide the sun for letting night

Take up his place and right:

We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should

Himself the candle hold.

I will go searching, till I find a sun

Shall stay, till we have done;

A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,

As frost-nipped suns look sadly.

Then will we sing, and shine all our own day,

And one another pay:

His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,

Till ev'n His beams sing, and my music shine.


[K:NWTS 21/3 (Dec 2006) 11-51]

Meredith G. Kline:

A Critical Review1

Scott F. Sanborn

As a seminary student, I remember some of us asking Dr. Kline to write a book on Gog and Magog. We appreciated his linguistic study of Har Magedon that strengthened the connections between Ezekiel 37-38 and Revelation 20. Is this the book we've been waiting for all these years? Well, in some ways it is. However, in other ways it is disappointing, as it incorporates a number of deviations from traditional Reformed theology with an otherwise penetrating study of the final Gog/Magog crisis.

Unfortunately, these departures from Reformed theology detract from the Christ-centered character of the gospel. As we will see, Dr. Kline holds to a different view of the divine human relationship per se. This cannot help but affect our relationship with the God-man, Jesus Christ. He also suggests that many Biblical characters merited God's blessings strictly speaking. According to Dr. Kline, while Christ alone merited eternal blessings, these other characters have this in common with him—they did in fact merit something. Thus, the unique nature of Christ's merit is downplayed. Finally, Dr. Kline steals from New Testament saints their joyous (one-in-seven-day) Sabbath rest in Christ through his resurrection life.


1 Meredith G. Kline, God, Heaven, and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006. 293 pp. Paper. ISBN: 1-59752-478-6. $31.00.


General Biblical-Theological Considerations

In this book, Dr. Kline seeks to view God's covenants and their history in light of the final Gog/Magog crisis. Finding anticipations of the Gog/Magog gathering throughout previous covenant history, he seeks to do justice to the biblical-theological perspective of anticipation and organic connection. The connections can be insightful. At the same time, one may ask whether he finds too much anticipation of the Gog/Magog motifs in earlier redemptive-history to the neglect of organic development.

Dr. Kline's general eschatological approach is amillennial. He makes a very strong case for the amillennial interpretation over against the premillennial and postmillennial views (especially in chapter 11). His interpretations of the book of Daniel and Revelation 20 are very helpful in this respect. And his linguistic approach to Har Magedon (as found in a previously published article, printed in Appendix B, 251-70) shores up the connection between the end of Revelation 19 and the end of Revelation 20 (implied in Ezekiel 37-38). Premillennialism has met its match!

Often, amillenialists and postmillenialists are lumped together in opposition to premillennialists. However, Dr. Kline rightly recognizes that the main division is the one that divides premillennialists and postmillennialists from amillennialists. To underscore this distinction, he suggests we label the positions according to the following criteria: do they believe a visible glory-kingdom precedes or only follows the consummation? If one believes the kingdom of glory precedes the consummation, one maintains the "pre-consummation" view. Premillennialists and postmillennialists stand together here; they are both "pre-consummationists." But if one believes the kingdom of glory follows the consummation, one maintains the "post-consummation" view. Amillennialists are "post-consummationists" (171). The idea is a good one even if the terms are cumbersome.

Upper Register and Lower Register

Unfortunately, Dr. Kline uses the terms "upper register" and "lower register" without defining them. He uses them as adjectives, leaving the reader to fill


in the blank. For Dr. Kline, the upper register is simply a reference to the celestial heavens, i.e., the heaven where the angels dwell. And the lower register is a reference to the terrestrial heavens, i.e., the visible heavens of our universe. The lower register also includes the earth. He uses the term "upper register" instead of "heaven" because "heaven" can also refer to the visible heavens. (However, in conformity to popular usage, I will mostly use the terms "heaven" and "earth" in this review, "earth" alone including the visible heavens.) While Dr. Kline's use of "upper register" and "lower register" is not a form of Platonism (as some suggest), still one may legitimately ask whether Dr. Kline separates the relationship between heaven and earth too strongly at points.

The problem that some people have on this issue is primarily with Dr. Kline applying this terminology to the use of the term "day" in Genesis 1. Dr. Kline has shown from Job and Revelation that the Bible sometimes speaks (more explicitly) from the perspective of heaven in contrast to speaking from the perspective of earth (242).2 He believes that something similar is happening in Genesis 1. Thus, the term "day" in Genesis 1 is simply a description of "day" from the perspective of heaven. It is not a description of "day" from the perspective of earth. Therefore, "day" does not mean 24-hour day by the standards of earthly time. Nor does it allude to any period of earthly time, as the day-age view of Genesis 1 implies.

Whether or not Dr. Kline has proven his point that "day" does not refer to earthly time, his article "Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmology" (Appendix A, 223-50) makes a good case for the so-called Framework view. Along with the six 24-hour day and day-age views, this is one of three positions accepted by his denomination (the Orthodox Presbyterian Church). Here one will also find his exegetical argument that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1) describes the initial creation ex nihilo ("out of nothing"). Thus Dr. Kline disagrees with his former professor of Old Testament, E.J. Young,


2 "The question whether the references to the six days (with their evenings and mornings) describe lower register time phenomena or whether they belong to the upper register is answered in favor of the latter…" (emphasis mine). See also p. 38, the last paragraph.


who believed that this phrase was a general title for the creation days that followed. Dr. Kline uses this argument (contra Young) to support his own view that the heaven of Genesis 1:1 refers to the celestial heavens, not the terrestrial heavens created later. For Dr. Kline, the celestial heaven where the angels dwell is created.

Dr. Kline's view that the celestial heavens are created is connected to his unique doctrine of the "Endoxation" of the Spirit. This in turn is the backdrop to his doctrine of the Fatherhood of the Spirit.3 We believe that all of these doctrines are built on limited exegetical evidence, which does not take account of the fullness of Biblical revelation. However, in the balance of this review, I want to focus on Dr. Kline's views of the covenant of works, the Mosaic covenant, Noah and Abraham's merit, and the Sabbath. Thus, I will not deal with Dr. Kline's Trinitarian views here, despite the fact that they are seriously problematic.

The Consummation

In certain respects, Dr. Kline's view of the final consummation resembles a form of Restorationism. Unlike numerous Restorationists, he does not believe that the cultural mandate can bring in the eternal kingdom of God. The cultural mandate (if Adam had kept it perfectly and sinlessly) would only have brought a "Megapolis" (i.e., a huge worldwide theocratic city). Adam would still have needed to wait upon God to transform the "Megapolis" into the "Metapolis" (i.e., the heavenly city from above)4. Thus, unlike some Restorationists, Dr. Kline (presumably) does not believe that human political structures continue into the consummation. However, the question here is: does Dr. Kline teach that the essential nature of the Metapolis has material constituents that are


3 A complex and even bizarre formulation which deserves a separate treatment of its own.

4 "Man's carrying out of the cultural mandate would produce Megapolis, the global theocratic city, the holy city whose king was the Lord God, enthroned on Har Magedon, the cultic center of the city. And by the glorification of the citizens of the city, the people-temple, God would transform Megapolis into Metapolis, the Beyond-city, the heavenly city" (89).


similar to the material constituents of the Restorationists' final kingdom? That is, are their final products materially similar? Dr. Kline suggests that the New Heavens and New Earth may not involve any significant metaphysical change. Perhaps the universe will no longer expand, like Newton's static universe. But the invisible heavens and the visible creation may continue to have the same relationship to one another. The only difference may be in us. Our eyes would be opened to see the invisible heavens and the angelic hosts (19). And the relationship of our bodies to the present universe might change (20). (There may even be new forms of animals and plants in the consummation, 26.) On the other hand, Dr. Kline does argue that there will be a "union of the new heaven and new earth" by which "the earth is `heavenized'" (28). Is this a metaphysical change of some sort? Whatever may be said, Dr. Kline's view stresses continuity and fits in with his view that the spirit realm is a created embodiment of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, his interesting interpretation of Romans 8 does not support the Restorationist view that the final consummation will be materially similar to the present state (27, 271-293).

Hebrews 12:27-28 presses for even greater discontinuity in the consummated state. The heavenly kingdom that remains is not of this creation. To be sure, created beings like ourselves are not entirely out of view, like the angels and Christ (in terms of his human nature) who are now in heaven. But the created habitable arena of Heaven and Earth seems to be. This at least argues for a new creation whose "dust" is transformed to the same degree that the "dust" of our bodies are transformed—so transformed that we are of heaven, not of the earth earthy (1 Cor. 15:47-49) Does it seem right for such transformed bodies live in an arena that is "of the earth earthy"? It seems to this reviewer that 2 Peter 3 must at least be read in terms of some kind of metaphysical transformation. Hebrews may press us further—the final consummation is the continuation of a heavenly state that already exists above (Heb. 12:27).

The Adamic Covenant of Works

For Dr. Kline, the covenant of works is a natural constitution of man grounded in strict justice. He appeals to his particular formulation of the cov-


enant of works as the doctrine of classic covenant theology (64-65).5 It should be noted that Dr. Kline's position is not the classic Reformed doctrine. In fact, he disagrees with the overwhelming majority of Reformed theologians since the Reformation. The majority view is even represented in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Dr. Kline knows that he is disagreeing with a very standard view of the covenant in Reformed theology. Also, Dr. Kline is aware of an article written by one of his former students, Lee Irons, called "Redefining Merit: An Examination of Medieval Presuppositions in Covenant Theology." This article was published in a book dedicated to Dr. Kline.6 In it, Mr. Irons places Dr. Kline's view of merit in opposition to the Westminster Confession and the latter's view that the covenant of works was a voluntary condescension of God the Creator to man the creature (WCF 7.1).


5 "Unfortunately there are currently not a few revisionists who deviate from these tenets of traditional covenant theology. It is their opinion that the reward of eternal heavenly life that God promised to Adam was more than any creature could merit. The operative principle in the covenant was then not simple justice but justice qualified by some kind of `grace.' This blurring of the works concept and contradiction of the law-gospel contrast inevitably leads to a Judaizing subversion of the gospel.

Also involved in this radical revision of covenant theology is an assault on the justice of God, for entailed in the discounting of the merit of the act of probationary obedience is the setting up of a standard of justice above God and his judgments. To refuse to acknowledge the pure and perfect justice of God's covenantal stipulation of a heavenly reward for the performance of the mandated probation task is to fail to recognize that God's covenant Word is definitive of justice. It is to deny that the name of the Judge of all the earth is Just.

The fallacy of the revisionists' position becomes even more evident when we examine their assault on God's justice with respect to the negative sanction of the covenant, the penalty threatened for disobedience. Indeed, the inescapable implication of their view is that God would be guilty of appalling injustice in his judicial response to man's sin. For if, as they argue, Adam's ontological stature was not such that any good he might do would be worthy of eternal life, then by the same token neither would any evil he might do be deserving of Hell's eternal death. Yet precisely that was God's judgment on man's transgression—the judgment which in the case of the elect was visited on the Son of God. The denial of the simple justice of the appointed blessing sanction of the Creator's Covenant of Works with Adam thus has as its consequence the turning of the Cross of Christ into the ultimate act of judicial malfeasance. However unintended, such is the evil fruit of the rejection of the traditional doctrine of the covenant of works."

6 Lee Irons, "Redefining Merit: An Examination of Medieval Presuppositions in Covenant Theology," in Creator, Redeemer, Consummator: A Festschrift for Meredith G. Kline, eds. Howard Griffith and John R. Muether (Greenville, SC: Reformed Academic Press/Reformed Theological Seminary, 2000), 253-69.


Dr. Kline regards Geerhardus Vos as one of his great teachers, i.e., through Vos's writings. In his article "The Covenant in Reformed Theology,"7 Vos's article indicates that the "voluntary condescension" expression of the Westminster Confession is represented throughout Reformed theology. Others, with more historical knowledge than Dr. Kline, may appear to have convinced him (wrongly) that his own non-voluntary condescension view is the majority view. And yet, Dr. Kline is fully aware that he is taking issue at least with the Westminster Standards, a major trajectory in Reformed theology. Thus, his claim to represent historic Reformed theology in his formulation of the covenant of works is less than forthright.

The classic Reformed doctrine makes a distinction between man's natural state (in which God owes nothing to the creature) and God's voluntary condescension to make a covenant of works with man. This distinction goes back at least to Robert Rollock (ca. 1555-1599) in Scotland and was instrumental in the Reformed theology that followed. We may call this view double benevolence. God was benevolent in creating man. And he was also benevolent in giving him a covenant of works. By contrast, Dr. Kline's view is single benevolence. God, with one act of benevolence, created man and created him in covenant.

Even some 17th century Reformed theologians who believed that God created man in covenant at the moment of creation (Hermann Witsius) believed in double benevolence. They express it this way: that God was not simply benevolent in creating man, he was also benevolent in sustaining him; and most crucially, God would have been benevolent in giving Adam eternal life (if


7 Geerhardus Vos, "The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1980), 234-67. See especially page 244. "If his natural goodness is already the creative work of God, the same can be said for the covenantal relationship in which God places him. This too is the product of a free divine deed, a gift flowing out of the condescending mercy of the Lord. Out of the nothingness from which the Almighty called him into being the creature brought along no rights, least of all the right to an unlosable, eternal life. When a way is opened by which he can attain this, then this way is a creation of God, something that, humanly speaking, could have been omitted. This point must be seen clearly. According to the Reformed view the covenant of works is something more than the natural bond which exists between God and man. The Westminster Confession puts this in such a pointedly beautiful way (VII:1)…" See also the last paragraph on this page of Vos's article.


Adam had passed the test). Both Witsius and Francis Turretin taught that man's creation in the image of God disposed God to make a covenant of works with him.8 But they still taught that Adam would not have merited the reward of eternal life in strict justice. They were trying to hold two elements of Scriptural teaching together (even if it seemed to involve some tension). In his discussion, we see Witsius dealing with this tension.9 For Witsius,10 as with John Henry Heidegger,11 it befits God's goodness and holiness to offer man eternal life. For Turretin, it may even be appropriate to God's justice according to truth.12 But God was not moved to give man eternal life by his justice accord-


8 "Fourth, such a covenant was demanded not only by the goodness and philanthropy (philanthropia) of God (which could not exert itself more fitly than by receiving nearer to himself and making happy with his communion the man seeking him), but also by the state of man and the desire of happiness impressed upon his heart by God. Since it cannot be doubted that it was right and lawful, it could not be empty and frustrated, but ought to be fulfilled on the ground of man's obedience (unless we hold that God wished to feed man with a vain desire and thus deceive him—which even to think is blasphemous)." (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, VIII.iii.9, vol. 1, 576).

9 Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants, vol. 1, trans. by William Crookshank (Escondido, CA: The den Dulk Christian Foundation, 1990), 76-82. Witsius summarizes this tension, saying, "Lord, we know that thou art indebted to none, and that there is none who can say to thee, what dost thou, or why dost thou so? That thou art also holy, and infinitely good, and therefore a lover and rewarder of holiness" (I.iv.23, vol. 1, 82).

10 Ibid. "…a holy creature, which he necessarily loves from the goodness of his nature, must also enjoy the fruits and effects of that divine love.

XVII. Besides, it is the nature of love to seek union and communion…

XVIII. The same thing may be demonstrated in another manner, and if I mistake not, incontestably as follows: The sum of the divine commands is thus: `Love me above all things; that is, look upon me as thy only chief good; hunger and thirst after me; place the whole of thy happiness in me alone; seek me above all, and nothing besides me, but so far as it has a relation to me.' But how is it conceivable, that God should thus speak to the soul, and the soul should religiously attend to, and diligently perform this, and yet never enjoy God? Is it becoming the most holy and excellent Being, to say to his pure unspotted creature, (such as we now suppose it), `Look upon me as thy chief good; but know, I neither am nor ever shall be such to thee. Long after me, but on condition [of] never obtaining thy desire; hunger and thirst after me, but only to be forever disappointed, and never satisfied; seek me above all things, but seek me in vain, who am never to be found'? He does not know God, who can image that such things are worthy of him…

Lord… thou art…holy, and infinitely good, and therefore a lover and rewarder of holiness" (I.iv.16-18 and 23, vol. 1, 79 and 82).

11 See Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, 296.

12 See footnote 8 above.


ing to merit. God is not an inherent debtor to man. Both Witsius and Turretin make this quite clear several times.13 Thus the question remains: was God moved in strict justice to offer man eternal life in such a way that if Adam had passed the test, he would have merited eternal life in strict justice? Witsius says "No," while pondering the mystery. Turretin gives a resounding "No!"

But Dr. Kline appears to say, "Yes!" Admittedly Dr. Kline says the issue at stake is not whether the obedience offered is proportional to the reward (though he thinks this may be possible14). Still, Dr. Kline continually asserts that Adam would have truly merited eternal life according to God's "simple justice," that is, God's "pure and perfect justice" (64)15. What else is this but "merit" according to strict justice? For Dr. Kline, Adam would have merited eternal life in exactly the same way that Christ did in his active obedience. By implication, Dr. Kline seems to assert that God was bound in strict justice to offer man eternal life in such a way that if Adam had passed the test he would have merited eternal life in strict justice. This opinion, other Reformed theologians have roundly denied. Dr. Kline must assume that previous Reformed theologians have thereby denied the covenant of works. They however would claim otherwise. The following is Turretin's way of maintaining that God is inherently a debtor to no man, while speaking of merit in the covenant of works. "Thus Adam himself, if he had persevered, would not have merited life in strict justice, although (through a certain condescension [synchatabasin]) God promised him by a covenant life under the condition of perfect obedience (which is called meritorious from that covenant in a broader sense because it ought to have been, as it were, the foundation and meritorious cause in view of which


13 "…God owes nothing to his creature. By no claim, no law is he bound to reward it. For all that the creature is, it owes entirely to God; both because he created it, and also, because he is infinitely exalted above it. But where there is so great a disparity, there is no common standard of right, by which the superior in dignity, can become under an obligation to give any reward, Rom. xi.35, 36"…Whatever then is promised to the creature by God, ought all to be ascribed to the immense goodness of the Deity" (Witsius, Economy of the Covenants, I.iv.11 and 13, vol. 1, 76-77).

14 Meredith G. Kline, "Covenant Theology under Attack," available at

15 See larger quote in footnote 5.


God had adjudged life to him)" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XVII.v.7, vol. 2, 712).16

Why is Turretin's view not a confusion of the covenant of works with the covenant of grace? On Turretin's view, God's benevolence in giving the covenant of works to Adam does not guarantee to Adam and his posterity eternal life (which it would if it were the covenant of grace). It only sets up the situation (the covenant) in which Adam's posterity may possibly receive eternal life—on the condition that Adam obeys the covenant. The immediate ground by which Adam received life would have been his own obedience. It was not a covenant of grace because no one else's obedience would have been the ground of God's covenantal reward to him. And he would have had no need of another's merciful work to forgive him for his sins.

Turretin's arguments for the claim that God is not inherently a debtor to man include Rom. 11:35-36,17 Rom. 8:18, and 2 Cor. 4:17. Romans 11:35 (a quote from Job 41:11) states, "Or who has first given to him that it might be paid back to him again?" The text refers to man as he exists in history. It is not speaking about God's first act of benevolence in creating man out of nothing. Thus, it seems to imply that no mere man could possibly deserve anything from God as a result of strict merit.

For the two other texts, Turretin argues "works…are destitute of the conditions of true merit…they cannot merit anything because they are imperfect and finite, having no proportion to eternal glory (which Paul testifies when he says, `The sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us,' Romans 8:18). `Our light affliction, which


16 Dr. Kline speaks of those who believe that "Adam's ontological stature was not such that any good he might do would be worthy of eternal life" (64, see footnote 5). In Dr. Kline's opinion, these people deny the covenant of works. By implication Dr. Kline wrongly lumps classical Reformed theologians with people like Daniel Fuller as he implicitly does in his article "Covenant Theology under Attack." Daniel Fuller is presumably following Karl Barth who also rejected the covenant of works (Church Dogmatics, vol. 4.1, 60-65). Barth probably read Cocceius; thus he rejected Cocceius' view that the covenant of works involved double benevolence. For Cocceius's view see William J. Van Asselt, The Federal Theology of Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669), trans. by Raymond A. Blacketer (Leiden: Brill, 2001) 259-61.

17 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XVII.v.8, vol. 2, 712.


is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory' (2 Cor. 4:17). Here the apostle expressly professes that afflictions are not worthy (or as the Vulgate has it condignas). Now if the afflictions which we suffer for Christ's sake (which belong to a far more noble virtue) are not condign, how much less the actions?" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XVII.v.22, vol. 2, 717).

If we are to formulate our doctrine of the covenant of works correctly, we must do it in a way that seeks to do justice to all of the evidence, not just part of it. Thus, we must adequately interpret the above texts (plus those quoted in the Westminster Confession, chapter 7, section 1) and integrate them into our doctrinal formulations. Dr. Kline does not do this.

This may be due to the fact that his system has difficulties dealing with a text like Romans 11:35—"Or who has first given to him that it might be paid back to him again?" Here Paul implies that man cannot strictly merit anything before God. That is, man cannot measure up to the standard of what would be necessary to strictly merit anything from God. He can't give to God that God should repay him. However, for Dr. Kline, the strictest standard of merit is the covenant of works. Clearly Adam could have kept the covenant of works. Thus, according to Dr. Kline, man could have measured up to the strictest standard of merit possible. Therefore, man was capable of strictly meriting God's favor. As Dr. Kline says, "God's covenant Word is definitive of justice" (64). Dr. Kline seems to imply that there is no strict justice apart from the covenant. To say otherwise, for Dr. Kline, is to put "justice above God and his judgments" (64). By implication, Dr. Kline believes that it is improper to appeal to a standard of strict justice and strict merit (which man can't measure up to) apart from the covenant of works or the covenant of redemption.

However, the historic Church has believed otherwise. It has taught that God's attribute of justice is not grounded in any of the covenants he has made concerning man. God's justice is grounded in his own necessary nature. God's essential justice cannot be grounded in any of his decrees regarding man, otherwise he wouldn't have been just if he hadn't created man. On the contrary, God was free to create man or not. God would still have been just if he had not created man and made covenants with him. Thus, God's necessary eternal justice cannot be grounded in any of his covenants regarding man. It cannot


be grounded in his decree concerning the covenant of works. For God would still have been just if he hadn't created man at all, let alone made a covenant of works with him. Nor can God's essential justice be grounded in the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son. For God would have still been just if he hadn't decreed to redeem man. Both the covenant of redemption and the covenant of works were free acts of God. Therefore, they cannot be the basis of his necessary attributes.18

If, on the other hand, Dr. Kline simply means that God's covenants always faithfully reveal God's essential justice (which is not grounded in those covenants), I would agree. God's covenants are true revelations of his nature. The question remains: does the covenant of works (interpreted in the light of the whole organic continuum of revelation) reveal that Adam would have merited the reward of eternal life in strict justice? In light of Romans 11:35 (and other texts noted in WCF 7.1), the answer is "No."

Dr. Kline's one last claim is that if Adam's merit was not strictly meritorious, then neither was Christ's. However, the flip side of Anselm's argument in Cur Deus Homo ("Why the God Man?") provides an answer to this question. Anselm asserts that Christ's passive suffering was infinite because of his infinite nature as God. This suggests that Christ's active obedience has infinite worth because he is eternally worthy of the Father's favor. Since he is God, Christ can truly merit our salvation strictly speaking.19 Adam, on the other hand, "merits" out of the self-binding condescension of God.

Thus, while Romans 5 suggests that there is continuity between the two Adams, this does not have to imply identical similarity (even in respect to the type of merit attributed to them). Surely, the "surpassing excellence" of the Son of God would suggest an aspect in which the antitype (2nd Adam) exceeds the type (1st Adam).


18 Even if Dr. Kline adopts the problematic hypothesis that the intra-Trinitarian relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is essentially "covenantal," he must still posit that this intra-Trinitarian "covenant," being essential to God's nature, defines (but does not determine) God's essential strict justice apart from his covenants regarding man.

19 William Perkins and other Reformed theologians made a similar argument long ago. I am indebted to Andy Vanderhoff for this reference to Perkins.


The Mosaic Covenant of Works

Dr. Kline argues that Israel's obedience was meritorious. He does this in order to bring together two types of exegetical claims in his system. I will agree with both these exegetical claims, but question his systematic connection between them. The first exegetical claim involves the unique legal arrangement of the Old Covenant. Dr. Kline claims that Paul's quotations of Old Testament texts are not simply a refutation of Pharisaic misinterpretations of those texts, although they involve this. Paul reflects on the Old Testament and speaks of it as an adminstration of works when compared to the fullness of the New Testament and faith. In addition, Paul's claims are reflected in the Old Covenant administration itself. Israel's obedience to the law was a type of Christ's obedience. Her obedience brought blessings and the advancement of God's presence in the land. On the other hand, her disobedience was followed by curse and the retreat of the advancing kingdom of God in Israel. Therefore her disobedience showed: (1) that her obedience was only a type, not the real thing; (2) that she could not earn salvation by works; and (3) that the true Savior had not yet arrived. Therefore, the prophets later look back on Israel's disobedience and contrast it to the obedience of the coming Messiah, the true Israel.

On the other hand, Dr. Kline believes that the Mosaic covenant (which administered this typology) was an administration of the covenant of grace. Here he differs from some of his students such as Lee Irons, who have stated that the Mosaic era was a gracious era, but the Mosaic covenant was not a gracious covenant. In this reviewer's opinion, Dr. Kline is right on both these aspects. But the question remains: does he coordinate these truths together in a way that is internally consistent and coherent? Or does his formulation imply contradictions?

Perhaps the clearest quote in the book where Dr. Kline tries to reconcile both of the above aspects (i.e., the Mosaic covenant as a covenant of grace and the typological nature of Israel's obedience) is the following: "The Old Covenant order, theirs by national election, was one of highest historical privilege. And while a works principle was operative both in the grant of the kingdom to Abraham and in the meting out of typological kingdom blessings to the nation of Israel, the arrangement as a whole was a gracious favor to fallen sons


of Adam, children of wrath deserving no blessings, temporal or eternal. The Law covenant was a sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace..." (128).

There are at least three possible interpretations of Dr. Kline's views. (1) The term "works principle" is used improperly. This arrangement does not involve any merit in the proper signification of that term. Instead the gracious nature of the Mosaic covenant ultimately determines the nature of what Dr. Kline calls "merit" in this arrangement. What he calls "merit" is really a reward of grace. He simply uses the term "merit" to show one area of discontinuity between obedience under the law and obedience under the New Covenant. The obedience of Old Covenant saints was a type of Christ's obedience; the obedience of New Testament saints is not. On this interpretation, Dr. Kline is not denying that the obedience of Old Testament saints resulted from grace just as much as New Testament saints (allowing, of course, for a greater degree of the work of God's Spirit in the New Testament). And the blessings of the land were ultimately grounded in God's redemptive grace as they are in the New. Therefore, Israel's "merit" was not really merit. Dr. Kline just uses this term improperly.

(2) The term "works principle" is used properly. Thus, while the Mosaic arrangement is gracious, the works principle is strictly meritorious. Hence, the Mosaic covenant contains two completely opposite principles. On this view, God gave Israel the law out of his unmerited favor. But from his unmerited favor, he offered Israel a strictly meritorious relationship. Thus, Israel's merit was strictly meritorious even though the overall arrangement was gracious.

On this view, the relationship between God's grace and Israel's merit might be analogous to the relationship between the Father and Son in the work of redemption. The Father sent the Son out of his great love prior to the Son's merit. But the Son's work is still strictly meritorious. Thus, God gave Israel the law out of pure grace just like the Father sent the Son. But Israel retains the land out of strict merit just as Christ earned the final inheritance out of strict merit.

View two could fit with two different approaches to merit. In terms of the Medieval Nominalist/Realist debate: (a) there is no such thing as strict merit in distinction from covenant. Thus all strict merit is simply God's arrangement by


covenant (Nominalism). God can simply declare what is merit by free fiat, which he then expresses in covenant. (b) There is such a thing as strict merit considered independently of covenant (a position steering between Realism and Nominalism), but (on view #2) God used this strict merit in his arrangement with Israel (just as the Father used strict merit in his covenant with the Son). On this view the merit of the Mosaic covenant matches this strict eternal merit.

(3) The "works principle" is closer to the Roman Catholic view of merit, now applied to temporal blessings. God's grace takes away our ill deserts so that we can now merit his favor. The arrangement that enables sinners to be meritors is gracious. But the merit established by it is merit properly speaking. This view can fit with either option "a" or "b" above.

How shall we interpret Dr. Kline? Does he hold to view one, two, or something else? Here is what he writes. "The Old Covenant order, theirs by national election, was one of highest historical privilege. And while a works principle was operative both in the grant of the kingdom to Abraham and in the meting out of typological kingdom blessings to the nation of Israel, the arrangement as a whole was a gracious favor to fallen sons of Adam, children of wrath deserving no blessings, temporal or eternal. The Law covenant was a sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace..." (128).

This statement may be construed to support view #1. God's "gracious favor" is "to fallen sons of Adam, children of wrath deserving no blessings, temporal or eternal." If they do not deserve temporal blessings, then they cannot merit them strictly speaking. This implies that Israel is not parallel to Christ, who deserved temporal (as well as eternal) blessings. Because Christ deserved them, he could merit them strictly speaking. This seems to negate interpretation #2 above. Still, it may not close the case on view #2 altogether.

I ended the quote where I did to show one thing. Kline may be saying that the "Law covenant" is a "sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace" because it gives its temporal blessings as a result of grace, even if this grace was mediated through Israel's obedience. That is, the whole arrangement is gracious. However, the expression "Law-covenant" is a "sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace" also goes with what follows in the quotation. Here the law-covenant serves as a foil to the final administration of grace. The two are contrasted.


This is apparent in the words that follow: "The Law covenant was a sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace, designed to further the purpose and program of the gospel. By exhibiting dramatically the situation of mankind, fallen in and with Adam in the original probation in Eden, the tragic history of Israel under its covenant-of-works probation served to convict all of their sinful, hopeless estate. The Law thus drove men to Christ that they might be justified by faith" (128-29).

The question for interpreting Kline is, does the phrase "Law covenant...sub-administration of the Covenant of Grace" go with what goes before it (in precisely the way that I have suggested above) as well as with what goes after it? Or does it primarily go with what follows? If it goes with what comes before it (in the way I have suggested) and with what comes after it, then Dr. Kline believes that the actual execution of the Old Covenant in Israel was only in relative contrast to the New Covenant. For then unmerited favor determines the specific nature of what he calls "merit" in the Old Covenant. If so he is using the terms "merit" and "covenant of works" imprecisely. (Then the terms "merit" and "covenant of works" are more offensive than their substance.)

However, if these words do not go with what comes before (in the way I have suggested), but primarily with what comes after, then Dr. Kline believes in an absolute contrast between the actual execution of the Old Covenant in Israel and the New Covenant. At least this position implies that an absolute contrast exists between the overall gracious nature of the Mosaic covenant and the "meritorious" element of that covenant. In this case the Mosaic covenant contained an element ("merit") that was in absolute anti-thesis to its own overall gracious nature. This would give the terms "merit" and "covenant of works" their proper significance. But it would not explain how this "merit" could function in a covenant that is essentially gracious. Thus it would appear internally incoherent.

This latter interpretation of Dr. Kline's position appears to be supported by other elements of the book. First, the unqualified use of the term "opposite" to compare the Abraham and Mosaic eras or the Old and New Covenants. He calls "the principle of promise, the opposite of the principle of works that was operative in the Law" (96). And "the Torah covenant with its `do this and live'


principle (cf. Lev. 18:5), the opposite of the grace-faith principle" (96). This unqualified use seems to express only polar opposition (i.e., an absolute contrast). Thus he uses the term "sharp contrast" to describe their opposition (97). Second, the term "principle" seems to imply a universal norm that is applied in precisely the same way to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, and Christ. (More on this below.) Finally, Dr. Kline continually speaks of Noah, Abraham, and Israel's merit as the "ground" of their inheritance (79, 103). The language of "ground" used without qualifying the term implies the absolute ground. As if Israel's obedience is the absolute legal ground of her retention of the land. These elements of Dr. Kline's formulations suggest the plausibility that either views two or three above represent his position.

There is one other place where Dr. Kline holds out some hope that Israel's typological blessings were gracious. Only if Dr. Kline means that Israel's retention of typological blessings (and not merely their original reception) was gracious is this text relevant to this discussion. So we will consider it in that light. Dr. Kline writes, "As an administration of the overarching Covenant of Grace, the Abrahamic Covenant with all its kingdom blessings, whether temporal-temporary-typological or heavenly-eternal, is the fruit of the Son's meritorious performance of passive and active obedience according to the terms of the Father's covenant of works with him" (emphasis mine, 96). However, without further theological distinctions, this seems to contradict sentences that follow. "The introduction of this Law arrangement centuries after the covenant promise to Abraham did not abrogate the earlier promise of grace because its works principle did not appertain to individual, eternal salvation (cf. Gal 3: 17). The works principle of the Law was rather the governing principle in the typological sphere of the national election and the possession of the first level kingdom in Canaan" (emphases mine, 97).

That's like saying, "Typological blessings are gracious, but strict works in the Mosaic Covenant doesn't contradict this because typological blessings are not gracious." Without further qualification, this is contradictory. It is true that Paul (Gal. 3:6-18) distinguishes the instrumental means by which Abraham was justified and promised the inheritance (by faith alone) from the instrumental means by which Israel received God's grace to retain the land and multiply its blessings (obedience to the law). However, this is not precisely the way Dr.


Kline argues the point. Perhaps Dr. Kline wants to affirm the gracious nature of Israel's blessings in some fashion, but he is still unwilling to say that Israel's merit was not strictly meritorious because (on his view) covenant determines merit. Whatever the case may be, Dr. Kline's view of strict merit in the theocracy is inconsistent with any claim that Israel's retention of typological blessings was gracious. Thus, we will critique that aspect of Dr. Kline's view which implies that there was strict merit in the theocracy.

Permit me to note some Scriptural counter examples to Dr. Kline's position on merit in the theocracy (so understood—as strict merit). Paul's quotation of Leviticus 18:5 in Galatians 3:10 indicates a relative contrast between the "works of the law" as they were actually practiced in Israel and the new age of the Spirit. Leviticus 18:5 implies that the one who keeps the law will live in the land. But the nature of the law Israel was called to keep indicates that it was not an absolute covenant of works. That law included the ceremonial law. Israelites were required to present sacrifices for their sins. They were required to follow all the purity regulations of Leviticus. When they defiled themselves, they had to seek cleansing.

Thus, the very law they kept implied that they were sinners. They had demerited the right to life before God and they needed God's saving grace. This grace even functioned to cleanse defilement from the land. So it was instrumental in giving Israel blessings in the land. The law's atoning sacrifices covered Israel's demerit and turned aside the curse. The ceremonial law was the means by which Israelites returned to the camp, entered the tabernacle, enjoyed the fruits of the land, etc. Israel's obedience was simply the means by which God mediated this grace to her. Thus, Israel did not keep the law as an absolute covenant of works. Even Israel's retention of the land was grounded in the saving grace of Christ to come. In this way it differed from the meritorious works of Adam and Christ.

I would like to suggest the following theological/metaphysical problems with Dr. Kline's formulation. First, merit is impossible after the Fall. God can justly offer a covenant of "merit" to a creature who has not demerited his favor, as he did in the case of Adam. But how can God justly establish a meritorious arrangement with a creature who has demerited his favor?


Man's moral nature after the Fall makes him worthy of God's wrath. God's nature requires that he unleash his eternal wrath on undeserving sinners. After the Fall, God and man have a very different relation to one another than they did before the Fall. This relationship makes it impossible for God to accept man's works as meritorious in the way he was able to accept Adam's (even for temporal blessings). Thus, such a covenant would suppose conditions that are contrary to fact. Actually rewarding such a covenant with life would be impossible, even for God.

Second, types are not the reality. Here I will argue that because Israel's obedience was a type of Christ's obedience, it could not be meritorious. Types are both similar to and different from their anti-types. Old Testament sacrifices were types of Christ's propitiatory sacrifice. They were similar in that both involved the shedding of blood. But they were different in that Old Testament sacrifices were not the ground of propitiation. They were not propitiatory in their essential nature. So also, Israel's obedience to the law was similar to Christ's obedience in that both involved some degree of righteous love for God and his law. But they differed in that Israel's obedience could not stand before God's judgment seat without the justifying work of another. Christ's obedience could stand on its own merits. This made it meritorious while Israel's was not.

Since types have similarities to their anti-types, some may ask, why isn't "merit" something Israel's obedience has in common with Christ's obedience? The reason is that the dissimilarity between a type and its anti-type involves precisely that characteristic where the type fails and Christ succeeds. This is obvious enough. Yet this becomes even clearer when we consider it from the perspective of the Old Testament writing prophets. They saw Israel's failure from the perspective of her exile and claimed that in precisely that area where Israel failed, the Messiah would succeed. Israel's failure indicated that point at which she differed from Christ. What Israel failed to do and Christ accomplished was the ground for the coming of the kingdom. This was the prophetic perspective. Israel could not meet the demands of perfect (eschatological) righteousness to bring the perfected (eschatological) kingdom.

This is similar to the relationship between sacrificial types and anti-type. For both are based on the prophetic pattern of failure and fulfillment. As with


Israel's obedience, the prophets looked back on the sacrificial system of Israel. It was a failure. Then the prophets projected the future sacrifice of Christ that would bring the eschatological age. The Old Testament sacrifices failed precisely at that point where they were not similar to the reality. They could not propitiate.

This pattern is unfolded in the book of Hebrews with its quotations of the prophet Jeremiah. "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4) is the backdrop for the prophetic reversal—"their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Heb. 10:17 and 8:12, quoting Jer. 31:34). In Jeremiah's day, the Lord remembered Israel's sin and the curse remained on the people and their inheritance in the land. The temple was defiled and the sacrifices could not propitiate God's wrath. As a result Israel went into exile for her sin. The prophet Jeremiah looks back on this failure. Hebrews implies that this failure resulted from the inability of the sacrifices to take away sin. So Jeremiah predicts a new day when God will remember Israel's sin no more. When this happens, Israel will be placed in a New Jerusalem and its surrounding area will be "holy to the Lord." "It shall not be plucked up, or overthrown anymore forever" (Jer. 31:40). This is an eschatological projection.

According to Hebrews, Christ has fulfilled all of this. For he took away the curse separating God's people from the "eternal inheritance" (9:15). And he brought us to the "more perfect temple, not made with hands" through "eternal redemption" (9:11-12). This is eschatological fulfillment.

This does not detract from the fact that the sacrifice of Christ was the ground of salvation for all the saints of the Old Testament. For the eschatological fulfillment of salvation is the ground for all previous salvation in redemptive history. All previous forgiveness of sins was (to use Kline's term) an "intrusion" of Christ's eschatological sacrifice. All of this underscores one thing: precisely at the point where the type fails, it is not like the anti-type.

Israel's obedience differs from Christ's in that she was disobedient. And the imperfect obedience of Daniel and other prophets was not sufficient to reverse Israel's situation. Thus imperfect obedience of any kind is contrasted to Christ's perfect obedience. The point of difference is clearly obedience tainted with sin verses perfect, sinless obedience. What is this difference? Israel's obedience was not sufficient to bring God's kingdom while Christ's


obedience was. That is, Israel's obedience had no worth (merit) to bring in God's kingdom, while Christ's obedience did. Only Christ's obedience could earn the coming of the kingdom. Only his was truly meritorious.

Making special reference to Christ's sacrifice, Paul implies something similar when he says, "what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin" (Rom. 8:3). The law could not bring in the age of the Spirit because it was weak by the flesh. Israel could not merit the coming of the kingdom. Only Christ's perfect obedience and sacrifice could bring it. Therefore, from the prophetic point of view, Israel was not able to merit at all. She had no true merit just as much as the sacrifices never truly propitiated anything.

From the above, it becomes evident that at this point Dr. Kline's view of the Mosaic Covenant does not square with Geerhardus Vos's organic understanding of redemption and revelation. In respect to merit in the Mosaic Covenant, Dr. Kline's understanding of progressive revelation is more like a room addition to a house. The Abrahmic Covenant of grace and the redemptive era prior to Moses is the original house. This grace and redemption continues to operate in the Mosaic Covenant. However, the element of merit in the Mosaic Covenant does not organically unfold from this original house of redemption because its essential nature is not dependent upon redemption. Instead, for Dr. Kline, the law and its strict merit are built on their own foundation of strict merit. Admittedly for Dr. Kline, merit as a room addition within the theocracy would never have existed without the house. For Dr. Kline believes that Israel would never have been able to merit the blessings of the land, if God had not given Israel the land by redemptive grace. Still, the merit once established is strict merit. Thus the law and its merit were added as a room addition to the house of redemption—in a mechanical fashion. By implication, at this point Dr. Kline teaches that the development of God's supernatural words and deeds was mechanical, not organic. Strictly speaking, Israel's own deeds earned her blessings in the land once God had placed her there by grace. Israel's merit was a new room mechanically built alongside God's own deeds of redemption. Here Dr. Kline differs significantly with Geerhardus Vos, who maintained the organic nature of God's speech and acts throughout redemptive history. As


such, Vos maintained that, even though Israel's obedience had a unique theocratic function in retaining the land, it was not meritorious.20

Finally, Dr. Kline's belief in merit in the theocracy may also influence his view that the promises made to Abraham involve a two-level fulfillment, first in the land of Canaan and then in Christ in heaven (98). This view may not seem objectionable in itself because we do see the promises coming to fulfillment provisionally in the land prior to Christ. Thus, previous Reformed theologians have expressed themselves in this manner in an orthodox way. However, Dr. Kline may overly separate the blessings of the typological kingdom in Israel from the final eschatological reality, i.e., the final eschatological blessings come by grace, but the typological blessings are retained by strict merit. We would thus suggest that it is better to say that the promises made to Abraham are fulfilled in Christ, and their final fulfillment in Christ expresses itself provisionally in the types and shadows of the theocracy. In this way, we highlight the types and shadows as intrusions of the future reality. This underscores the metaphysical unity between the theocracy and the kingdom of Christ in an attempt to do justice to the organic nature of redemption and revelation.

Noah and Abraham's Merit

According to Dr. Kline there were a couple of other instances where strict merit operated prior to the law. There were two other temporary situations in which a small room of merit was built alongside the house of redemption—in


20 Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, 127. Vos alludes to the promise that "he who shall do the commandments shall find life through them" and relates this life to "the promised land." In discussing this "life-inheritance" he says, "it might still be objected, that law-observance, if not the ground for receiving, is yet made the ground for retention of the privileges inherited. Here it can not, of course, be denied that a real connection exists. But the Judaizers went wrong in inferring that the connection must be meritorious, that, if Israel keeps the cherished gifts of Jehovah through observance of His law, this must be so, because in strict justice they had earned them. The connection is of a totally different kind. It belongs not to the legal sphere of merit, but to the symbolico-typical sphere of appropriateness of expression." In the next paragraph Vos discusses what he means by "appropriateness of expression," but it is clearly not strict merit. Cf. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, XVII.v.23, vol. 2, 718 for a representative summary of Vos's view.


the cases of Noah21 and Abraham.22 However, when Dr. Kline calls Noah and Abraham's obedience meritorious this really muddies the waters. His arguments in this area are less convincing and somewhat self-contradictory (if strict merit is involved). As with Israel, Dr. Kline admits that "the blessings of the covenant with Noah were a gift of grace to ill-deserving sinners." On the other hand, he speaks of a "works principle" respecting Noah. His language respecting the nature of Noah's merit is not as strong as it is in the case of Israel, so one may think that he is conceiving of Noah's merit improperly.


21 "As in all other administrations in the Covenant of Grace series, the blessings of the covenant with Noah were a gift of grace to ill-deserving sinners, fallen in the first Adam. Yet there was a principle of works in this covenant in connection with the messianic aspect of the typology of the ark-salvation event. The covenant was a covenant of grant, bestowing kingdom benefits as a reward for faithful service rendered to the Lord of the covenant. Noah was a type of Christ, the faithful Servant of the Lord, and as such he was the grantee of the ark covenant…The Lord said to Noah: `Come, you and all your house, into the ark, because I have found you righteous in this generation' (Gen 7:1). Noah's exemplary conduct as a covenant servant receives God's approbation and this righteousness of Noah is declared to be the ground for granting to him salvation from judgment and inheritance of the kingdom in the ark. Divine approbation of Noah is also found in Gen 6:8, which states that in contrast to corrupt mankind, whom God intended to destroy, `Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.' The regular meaning of this expression is to be applauded for good service deserving of favorable recompense. This same assessment of Noah as `righteous' and `perfect' is repeated in Gen 6:9. Particularly in view in God's commendation of Noah and the covenantal grant based thereon would be his steadfast stand as a prophetic spokesman for God (Gen 6:9; 2 Pet 2:5) amid spreading apostasy and in the face of the satanic opposition of the world rulers of this age.

Special covenantal grants bestowed in return for notable services are attested in the case of others beside Noah. We will take up the case of Abraham at the appropriate point. There were also David (Ps 89:3; 1 Sam 13:14; cf. 1 Sam 16:7; 2 Samuel 5-7) and Phinehas (Num 25:10-13; Ps 106:30). The eternal salvation of these individuals was, of course, a matter of divine mercy and grace through Christ. But it pleased the Lord to invest their exemplary righteousness and outstanding acts of covenantal devotion with special significance so that with reference to a typological manifestation of God's kingdom they prefigured Christ as one who received the kingdom of glory for the faithful performance of the messianic mission stipulated in his eternal covenant with the Father. And in the case of some of these grantees, including Noah, their righteous acts were the grounds for bestowing kingdom benefits on others closely related to them (cf. Noah's household—Gen. 7:1), just as in the case of Christ the many are made righteous by the obedience of the One (Rom 5:19) and become joint-heirs with him of his kingdom inheritance" (78-79, emphases mine).

22 "Genesis 22 records another episode in which an outstanding act of obedience on Abraham's part is said to be the basis for the Lord's bestowing on him the blessings of the covenant: `By myself have I sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and


have not withheld your son, your only son, that I will surely bless you . . . because you have obeyed my voice' (vv. 16-18). From the perspective of Abraham's personal experience of

However, he says that it follows the "works principle" which he elsewhere defines as the opposite of grace. This suggests strict merit. If nothing else, it seems to reveal contradictions in Dr. Kline's system. Thus, I will suggest that the element of strict merit implied in the case of Noah and Abraham, as representatives of the "works principle," must be abandoned.

Dr. Kline's argument that Noah merited God's typological blessings is as follows. God promised Noah a reward for his obedience. "Come, you and all your house, into the ark, because I have found you righteous in this generation" (Gen. 7:1). But if this argues for Noah's merit then the following text argues for the saints meriting eternal life: "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…" (Matt. 25:34-35). Both are rewards granted for obedience. So why is Noah's obedience meritorious and not New Testament believers? There must be another reason.

Perhaps Dr. Kline's reasoning involves the fact that Noah received typological earthly blessings for his obedience, something that New Testament saints do not receive for their obedience. In this way, Noah could function as a type of Christ who brings the eternal inheritance. The argument might run something like this: Israel's obedience was a type of Christ's partly because through various degrees of obedience she received various degrees of earthly


justification by faith, this act of obedience validated his faith (Jas 2:21ff.; cf. Gen 15:6). But from the redemptive-historical/eschatological perspective, Abraham's obedience had typological import. The Lord constituted it a prophetic sign of the obedience of Christ, which merits the heavenly kingdom for his people.

That Abraham's obedience functioned not only as the authentication of his faith for his personal justification but as a meritorious performance that earned a reward for others (and thus as a type of Christ's obedience) is confirmed in the Lord's later revelation of the covenant promises to Isaac (Gen 26:2ff.). The Lord declared that he would bestow these blessings on Isaac and his descendants `because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws' (v. 5; cf. v. 24). Abraham's obedience was not, of course, the ground for anyone's inheritance of heaven, but it was the ground for Israel's inheritance of Canaan, the prototypal heaven, under the terms of the Mosaic covenant of works. Eternal salvation would come because of Christ's obedience, but because of Abraham's obedience Christ would come as to the flesh from Israel (Rom 9:5) and thus salvation would come from the Abrahamites, the Jews (John 4:22)" (102-3, emphases mine).


typological blessings in the land in contrast to various degrees of curse. In this way, she was a type of Christ whose infinite decree of obedience merited an infinite blessing. So (the argument might go) Noah's obedience is a small vignette of Israel's typological function prior to Israel's appearance. In this way, we might find typological progression within Genesis. Abel and Enoch receive rewards, but not earthly typological ones. Noah receives a typological earthly reward, and Abraham will receive a more extensive and long-term typological reward (but not in his lifetime). Then Israel will inherit the typological kingdom in Canaan and her obedience will function as an imperfect type of Christ's obedience. Is this the movement Dr. Kline's thinking is taking?

Even if Dr. Kline can show that Noah's obedience is a type of Christ's obedience, he must also recognize that the flood event and Noah's own salvation in it is a type of Christ's salvation of his sinful people (1 Peter 3:20-21). In this way, Noah's unworthiness is at work in him as a member of an event that is a type of Christ. Therefore, if Noah also functions as a type of Christ's merit, Noah's own righteousness cannot strictly speaking be the ground of his salvation. The final ground of that salvation must be the work of Christ himself. Noah is at best a type, not the reality.

Dr. Kline's argument for Abraham's merit is even more complex. On the one hand, Abraham merits blessings because his obedience is the basis of Isaac's participation in the blessings. On the other hand, Abraham represents the faith-promise principle in contrast to the work's principle in Israel. How can Dr. Kline have it both ways, especially if strict merit is involved?

Admittedly, it is not impossible for something (or someone) to represent two polar opposites as long as it is in different respects. But the point here is, how does Dr. Kline argue for this from the text? He acknowledges that Paul's contrast between Abraham and Moses is not a contrast between two different ways of salvation. Thus, on his view, it is a contrast between two different ways of receiving the inheritance—one of promise, one of merit. Abraham's reception of an eternal inheritance is contrasted to Israel's reception of a temporal inheritance. This appears to be the way Dr. Kline argues (96-97). Paul then is only denying that Abraham received eternal blessings by works. He


does not deny the teaching of Genesis, that Abraham received typological blessings for his descendents by strict merit.

However, this undermines any truly redemptive-historical contrast in Paul's words, even if that contrast is relative (and not absolute). For Paul is contrasting two eras in the history of redemption—the historical era of promise and the historical era of the law. His contrast must respect something they have in common for it to be a genuine comparison. For instance, it makes sense to contrast Susie and John in this way. Susie is a great tennis player and John is a terrible tennis player. "Tennis" is what they have in common. But if you were to say, Susie is a great basketball player, and John is a terrible football player, this does not represent a contrast. For they have nothing in common. That is, there is no common link between them.

Dr. Kline's interpretation of Paul's contrast between Abraham and the law leaves no common link between them. The term "inheritance" may describe both of these blessings, but it doesn't really refer to anything similar between them. Abraham's is a covenant of promise with respect to individual salvation. And Israel's was a covenant of merit for temporal blessings. These are two very different things. Thus, no genuine historical contrast is in view. On this logic, Paul could as easily have shown the law-gospel contrast as it operated within the Abrahamic era itself (without reference to the law). Or he could have shown the law-gospel contrast from the Mosaic era itself (without reference to Abraham).

For Paul's contrast to be a genuine redemptive-historical contrast, it must be dealing with something common to the two eras. The issue of the eschatological inheritance is central (Gal. 3:18, the historical arrival of the eschatological inheritance promised to Abraham is not by means of the law; and v. 14, the promise of the Spirit). Thus, Abraham received the inheritance to come by justifying grace in relative contrast to Israel's inheritance, which was mediated to her through her sanctified obedience. However, for this contrast to hold good, there must be something common between these inheritances. I would suggest that the point of comparison involves the fact that Israel's inheritance was a type of the eschatological inheritance. Thus Abraham and Israel ultimately point to two different ways of receiving the eschatological inheritance—by grace or by works. The fact that both arguments ultimately


respect the eschatological inheritance links the contrast between Abraham and Israel. Israel's obedience was a type of Christ's works by which he brought the eschatological inheritance. By contrast, Abraham represents the reception of the eschatological inheritance by grace alone through faith alone. Abraham and Israel point to two different ways of receiving the eschatological inheritance. Thus in some respects, Abraham's faith is contrasted to Israel's obedience. Therefore, if Abraham's obedience also functioned as a type of Christ's obedience to bring the eschatological inheritance (as Dr. Kline's view implies), it cannot do this to the same degree and in the same respect that Israel's obedience functioned as a type of Christ's obedience to bring the eschatological inheritance. As a result, Abraham's obedience and Israel's obedience cannot both have the same nature. They cannot both be strictly meritorious.

Galatians 3 may indicate that Abraham's obedience was not a type of Christ's obedience in any respect. But it certainly implies that Abraham's obedience was not strictly meritorious. Thus, if Dr. Kline's exegesis of Genesis is correct and Abraham was a type of Christ's righteousness in some sense, this must be understood in a way that is consistent with the fact that Abraham didn't actually merit anything. Abraham was at best a type, not the reality. Once again, if Abraham's obedience is typological, Galatians 3 implies that it was not typological to the same degree and in the same respect that Israel's obedience was typological. Otherwise, Paul could not contrast Abraham to Israel in the precise way he does. This further underscores the point that Abraham's obedience was not strictly meritorious. For if Abraham and Israel's obedience were strictly meritorious, then they would both have to measure up to the same standard of strict justice grounded in God's nature. If this was the case they could not be contrasted in the way they are. Therefore, the fact that Paul contrasts them (with Abraham representing the opposite of works) indicates that Abraham's obedience was not strictly meritorious. (And, as we have seen above, neither was Israel's.)

Cult and Culture

While Dr. Kline only alludes to cult and culture in the book, we must note it because of the importance it plays in his doctrine of the Sabbath.


Dr. Kline teaches a distinction between cult and culture. For Dr. Kline, the cult is the vertical vector of worship to God. Culture is human beings relating to their environment. Does this mean that the Christian performs his cultural duties only for himself and not God? No. Dr. Kline teaches that whatever we do in the culture we are to do for the glory of God, in worship to him. Does this mean that the Christian's morality does not affect the way he lives in the culture? No, instead Dr. Kline thinks that the Bible instructs individual Christians as to how to behave in their culture. In this way, they are salt and light. Thus, he believes that individual Christians can work together in para-church organizations or with unbelievers to influence the culture.

His point is twofold: (1) the church as an institution is not to be involved in such cultural activities as setting up soup kitchens, etc. Nor is the church as an institution to work to influence political action. (2) The Spirit of God is not specially present in modern day cultures as he was in the land of Israel. Thus, institutions and laws in the theocracy connected to God's special presence do not carry over into modern day cultures. Instead, those elements are fulfilled in Christ's invisible theocratic reign in heaven (presently manifested in the Church).

The Sabbath

Dr. Kline thoroughly rejects the doctrine of the Sabbath found in the Westminster Confession. He goes so far as to say, "The advocacy of such a continuance of the Decalogue ordinance of the Sabbath is, in effect, a Judaizing contention" (196). He is accusing the Westminster Confession and the denominations that adopt it of teaching a Judaizing doctrine.

By implication, Dr. Kline also rejects the Continental view of the Sabbath. For he denies that the first day of Christian worship is grounded in the fourth commandment

Let us look at his principal arguments and consider some counter-arguments from the Scriptures. Dr. Kline argues that: (1) Sabbath rest from labor is dependent on working in a theocratic arena; (2) the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant (thus for believers only); (3) the first day of Christian worship is not


tied to the fourth commandment; and (4) the Sabbath is not a creation ordinance binding all future generations, even in the covenant of grace.

Sabbath as Rest from Theocratic Work. Dr. Kline teaches that the Sabbath is only for those who live in a theocratic arena. That is, it is only for those engaged in six days of theocratic work followed by a day of theocratic rest. The Sabbath only has significance where cult and culture are interconnected. It only functions when people live in an earthly land inhabited by God's special presence. This was true in the Garden of Eden; it was a holy sanctuary. And it was true in the land of Israel from Joshua to the exile.

According to Dr. Kline, when you practice the Sabbath you are stamping a sign of holiness on the arena to which the Sabbath relates. You can only do this in lands where God's Holy Spirit is present in the physical arena. This is the arena you build up by your work. When you rest, you give that arena rest as well.

Dr. Kline recognizes that the work/rest pattern of the Sabbath is God's own work/rest pattern (Genesis 2:2-3). Here Dr. Kline agrees with the Westminster Confession. However, Dr. Kline differs from the Confession in this: the Confession teaches that the Sabbath is grounded in the essential nature of the created order. Dr. Kline believes it is grounded in the unique presence of God. That is, for Dr. Kline, God's special presence in a land is the only basis for keeping Sabbath. When God's special presence leaves a land, there is no more reason for keeping Sabbath. On the other hand, the Confession teaches that the Sabbath is historically grounded in God's general omnipresence in the world at large.

If the Sabbath is grounded in God's omnipresence, this does not exclude its rest from taking on theocratic overtones when God is specially present. That is, the general (non-theocratic) pattern of work/rest can take on theocratic overtones when God eschatologically intrudes in a land. Dr. Kline does believe this is true of capital punishment. God's general presence (involving common grace and man as image bearer) is the ground of capital punishment. But when God eschatologically intruded in Canaan, capital punishment took on unique theocratic associations. It was an intrusion of eschatological punishment. However, when the theocracy expires, capital punishment still remains (stripped of its theocratic associations)—as Dr. Kline insists. By similar reasoning, even


if the Sabbath takes on theocratic associations in Israel, this does not mean that it does not continue after the theocracy is gone.

Thus the question becomes: does the Sabbath have non-theocratic associations? Is it grounded in creation in general or in the building of a theocratic arena? In other words, is it a creation ordinance for all time or is it peculiar to Adam, Eve, and Israel alone?23 We will seek to answer this question by looking at God's creation of the world.

The original paradigm of the Sabbath is God's own rest from labor. Was God's work exclusively one of building a theocratic arena? It was not. Even Dr. Kline admits that the Garden of Eden was uniquely holy. He believes that (in the cultural mandate) God called Adam and Eve to extend his holy presence throughout the world. This implies that the rest of the world that God created was a common arena. God was not specially present there the way he was in the Garden.

Therefore, much of God's creative work involved building up an arena that was not holy. It was common. God's work/rest pattern was broader than the theocratic work/rest pattern. Therefore, God's work/rest provides a paradigm for working in the common arena followed by rest in relationship to a common arena.

Dr. Kline could object by pointing to the pattern of creation found in Genesis 1. In it, God created spheres (i.e., land, bodies of water, visible heavens); then he created beings to rule over those spheres. They were "kings" over those arenas. So it would seem that when God created spheres, he was creating kingdoms for other creatures to rule over. Thus, God's creative activity was kingdom building activity. Now we admit that God's creation of spheres and rulers may have pointed beyond themselves to the ultimate eschatological rule of God (as well as man). But the arenas created (and their rulers) were not holy. Otherwise those spheres would have been co-extensive with the Garden in their holiness. And Adam would have been called to guard the whole world from the intruding serpent. (Dr. Kline would agree on this point.) The spheres


23 Dr. Kline thinks that the patriarchs may also have kept the Sabbath because they had altars which had theocratic associations.


God created were common, not holy. Only the Garden of Eden was holy. Thus, most of God's work involved building up common, non-theocratic arenas outside of the Garden of Eden. Thus, the Sabbath is a privilege to creatures in God's image, to those who live in common arenas as well as to those who live in holy arenas. It is therefore universally binding.

Dr. Kline also claims that when we keep Sabbath we are putting our stamp of approval on our work, claiming that the work we did was theocratic. This is our word of approbation similar to God's word of approbation at the creation, i.e., "God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). However, when God declared his work "very good," he was not putting a stamp on it, saying that it was holy. Most of it was common. He called his work "good" in an arena that he made common.

Therefore, when we rest on the Sabbath, we are not putting a stamp of holiness on our work. We are not saying that it was theocratic. On the contrary, just as God rested (one in seven days) when he built up arenas that were non-theocratic, so we are called to rest (one in seven days) after we work in arenas that are non-theocratic. This fits the traditional notion that God's pattern of work/rest is fundamentally a general eschatological pattern in force until the consummation.

Such an approach involves the believer in a vital union with God in his work and rest. As God worked, then rested (one in seven days), we are to work, followed by rest (one in seven days). We are to see our work as an imitation of God and a communion with his past work. That is, we are to see our rest as an imitation of his rest and union with him in his rest—even now, resting in Christ and his resurrection-rest.

The Sabbath is not historically grounded in God's creating a theocratic arena. It is grounded in a more general pattern that includes God's creation of both the holy and the common. Thus, the Sabbath is not dependent on the Old Testament theocracy. Dr. Kline's claim that the "continuance of the Decalogue ordinance of the Sabbath is…a Judaizing contention" is groundless.

Sabbath as Sign. Dr. Kline argues that the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant just as circumcision (or the Lord's Supper) is a sign of the covenant. He concludes from this that unbelievers are only obligated to keep the Sabbath in


the same way they are obligated to partake in the Lord's Supper, i.e., by being converted. But if they refuse to believe the gospel, they should not keep the Sabbath (just as they should not partake in the Lord's Supper, lest they eat and drink damnation to themselves).

It follows that, on Dr. Kline's view, there must be only two reasons why the Israelites were commanded to give their slaves rest from labor on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:10; Deut. 5:14). (1) Those slaves were covenant members. As such they were obligated to keep the Sabbath. (2) Even if the slaves were not covenant members, they were laboring in a theocratic arena. While Dr. Kline does not address the above two points directly in the book under review, some of Dr. Kline's students have drawn the following conclusion from these two points: when both these reasons no longer apply in the new covenant, believers are no longer called to give their unbelieving slaves rest from labor. They are allowed to have unbelievers work for them on the Sabbath. Are these two reasons (that slaves may have been believers and that they were doing kingdom-building activity) the only reasons the fourth commandment forbade Israelites from having others work for them on the Sabbath?

Let us consider one example in response to Dr. Kline. Clearly Nehemiah's insistence that Israelites not buy from pagans on the Sabbath (Neh. 13:16-17) makes the first point irrelevant to this implication. For Dr. Kline's claim to succeed, the only point at issue must be that these pagans are working in a theocratic arena. We have shown that a theocratic arena is not essential to the Sabbath. However, this of itself does not exclude the Sabbath from taking on theocratic associations in Israel. Is that what is happening here? All indications steer us away from this conclusion. First, as pagans, the Tyrians in Nehemiah's day were certainly not involved in kingdom activity (building up the kingdom) even though they were working in a kingdom land.

In response, Dr. Kline could claim that these pagans were doing kingdom-building activity in spite of themselves. If so, this would be inconsistent with his system. For although I have suggested that slaves might not have been covenant members (i.e., the Gibeonites, Josh. 9:3, 17-27), this does not appear to be consistent with Dr. Kline's view of kingdom-building activity. For, following the example of Adam's priestly task to "guard" the garden, Dr. Kline seems to believe that only those who are priests (in some sense) can be engaged in


kingdom-building activity.24 Of course, one does not have to be a priest according to the order of Aaron to engage in theocratic work. The fact that Israel was a nation of priests in general (Ex. 19:6) allowed all Israelites to build up the kingdom.25 But the Tyrians (discussed in Neh. 13:16-17) were not members of the nation of Israel. They were not priests at all. Thus, according to Dr. Kline's own position, they could not be involved in kingdom-building activity. It should follow that, the false claim that the Tyrians were building up the kingdom cannot be the reason that the Israelites were forbidden to have these pagans work for them.

Second, we have seen that the most fundamental pattern of work/rest is universal, involving the building of common and holy arenas followed by rest. Thus, Dr. Kline must not only show that the specific work the Tyrians engaged in here took on theocratic overtones, but that their work was uniquely theocratic, limited to a holy arena. (The work of holy war and the priestly tasks in the temple might be some examples.) Only if the Tyrian's work was uniquely theocratic, can Dr. Kline limit Nehemiah's reprimand (for buying from pagans on the Sabbath) to a holy arena. However, selling fish and other merchandise (as the Tyrians were doing) is not uniquely theocratic work. It is something people legitimately practice in common arenas six days a week. Thus, Nehemiah's rebuke of Israel is not grounded in the fact that the Tyrians were doing uniquely theocratic work. Therefore, the false claim that the Tyrians were doing uniquely theocratic work cannot be used to limit Nehemiah's rebuke to the theocracy.

Perhaps Dr. Kline would say that Nehemiah's point is that the Israelites themselves were doing kingdom activity by engaging in trade (and so making a profit). Whether the Israelites have others (pagans) work for them in this process is irrelevant on this interpretation. However, by rebuking the nobles, Nehemiah implicitly rebuked all who bought from the Tyrians. Thus, the text rebukes those who are simply buying from pagans even though they are not working themselves. Some may respond to this point by noting that this was a


24 Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (Overland Park, KA: Two Age Press, 2000) 51, 67, 86.

25 Ibid., 74.


trading society, so that all who bought were also selling their own goods in the process of the trade. But this response is not precisely accurate since coinage already existed in this period (Zech. 11:12-13). And those who purchase merchandise with coins or weighted silver (as some probably did) are not trading the goods they produce in the same manner as those who sell their own products for other goods and coinage. If they are working in some sense (as perhaps they are), it can be equally said that we are engaged in profit when we pay pagans to work for us on the Sabbath. (Then the prohibition forbidding us to have others work for us on the Sabbath is inseparable from the prohibition forbidding us to work on the Sabbath.) Clearly Nehemiah's reprimand (however understood) includes a rebuke to Israelites who were simply buying from pagans on the Sabbath for their own consumption.

Finally, Dr. Kline may claim that the Israelites were building up the kingdom simply by acquiring goods that they would consume. Perhaps. But since the Sabbath prohibits work even in common arenas, Dr. Kline would have to show that the specific consumption Israel practiced in this case was uniquely theocratic. If it was not, then the same consumption (when purchased on the Sabbath) is also prohibited in common arenas. Then at best, that consumption takes on theocratic associations in a theocratic arena like capital punishment does when it operates in a theocratic arena. But like capital punishment, it is not limited to a theocratic arena because it is not uniquely theocratic. It follows that Nehemiah rebuked Israel for buying from the Tyrians on the Sabbath even when that buying activity was not uniquely theocratic. Therefore, Nehemiah's prohibition also applies in common arenas.

All of this indicates that Nehemiah is (at least) referring to a practice that is forbidden to all those who take the sign of the Sabbath upon themselves. They ought not to have others (unbelievers) work for them any more than they ought to work themselves. (Jesus notes the exceptions of necessity and mercy, Matt. 12:1-13.)

The first day of Christian worship is not tied to the Decalogue. Kline's view is that the Decalogue was a unique treaty with Israel. Therefore, "the distinctive first day of the new, dominical week is not a modified residue of the Sabbath day of the fourth commandment" (196).


This claim is grounded in his study The Structure of Biblical Authority (1972) 94-110. Here Dr. Kline claims that the Decalogue was God's covenant with Israel. He also claims that the New Testament documents are God's covenant with the new covenant Church. He is right to make both these claim. However, he draws an unwarranted conclusion from these two facts. He concludes that the Old Testament is not the "canon" or rule of the Church in its life-norms. By implication, he posits a radical discontinuity between the Old Testament with its Decalogue and the New Testament documents. As a result, he fails to do full justice to the organic connection between the Old and New Testaments.

I would suggest instead the following: the old covenant organically unfolds into the new covenant. The old treaty with the old Israel organically unfolds into the new covenant with the new Israel. Thus, the old covenant documents are the canon of the New Testament Church insofar as they organically unfold in the new covenant. All that is written in the Old Testament is the Word of God and it all organically unfolds into the New Testament. Since this is the case, all that is written in the Old Testament as it organically unfolds in the New (together with the New Testament) is the canon of the New Testament Church. It is artificial to say (with Dr. Kline) that the Old Testament is our "Scripture," but it is not our "canon." As long as we do justice to the true organic nature of the canon (and the organic unfolding of both faith and life norms), this will not lead to theonomy (as Dr. Kline fears). Therefore, I am arguing for continuity between the Testaments in opposition to Dr. Kline's radical discontinuity at this point.

Thus, it will not settle the issue of the Sabbath to say that the Decalogue was a covenant made with Israel. We must ask further, how does each aspect of the Decalogue organically unfold through the Old Testament into the New Testament? In some respects Dr. Kline acknowledges this himself,26 but he does not address Jesus' appeal to the Sabbath commandment as we intend to do here. We will see that Dr. Kline's system has difficulty dealing with Jesus'


26 While Dr. Kline believes that the Decalogue's stipulations are not universally binding simply because they are in the Decalogue; he does believe that many of those stipulations are universally binding for other reasons (189). However, his stress on discontinuity allows some of the Decalogue's ten stipulations to pass away in the new covenant.


teaching on the Sabbath. In fact, Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath is directly at odds with Dr. Kline's restriction of the fourth commandment to the theocracy.

When Jesus asks, "Is it lawful…on the Sabbath?" (Luke 6:9 and 14:3), he is appealing to the law for his own Sabbath practice as well as that of his disciples. As disciples, Luke intends the Church to follow Jesus' teaching. This implies that the Church is under the authority of the Sabbath commandment found in the Decalogue.

Dr. Kline does not believe this. How can he avoid this conclusion? It appears he must disagree with one of the premises I've suggested above, perhaps the premise that Jesus was teaching his Church how to observe the Sabbath. Presumably, Dr. Kline must say that Jesus was not teaching his future Church how to observe the Sabbath. He was only discussing how the Sabbath should be observed in the theocracy. Dr. Kline must draw this conclusion because Jesus appeals to the Decalogue. And on Dr. Kline's view, the Sabbath stipulated in the Decalogue only applies to the theocracy. So (on Dr. Kline's view) who was Jesus addressing? Apparently, only people living in a theocratic order. Jesus was simply addressing people who lived during his own lifetime, for their Sabbath practice prior to his resurrection. Dr. Kline doesn't say this (nor does he discuss these texts), but this would seem to be the necessary conclusion of his system. Yet this is not the picture we get from Luke's gospel. Instead when Luke presents Jesus' teaching, Jesus is teaching things that his future Church is supposed to follow. And in some instances Luke shows us the Church following these very teachings in the book of Acts. Therefore, I would suggest that when Jesus appeals to the Decalogue for the Sabbath practice of his Church, he is operating under the assumption that the Sabbath commandment in the Decalogue is not restricted to the theocracy.

As we have seen above, Dr. Kline at best can say (on his assumptions) that Jesus was teaching people during his own lifetime how to keep the Sabbath. Therefore Dr. Kline cannot support his Sabbath views by adopting a popular interpretation of Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath. This interpretation claims that Jesus taught something new about the Sabbath in the new covenant (in Luke 6:9 and 14:3) that snatches from it the "rest" character of the Sabbath found in the Old Covenant. But Dr. Kline cannot adopt this interpretation to support his Sabbath view. For this popular interpretation (for all its


faults) rightly assumes that Jesus was teaching his Church how to keep the Sabbath. In fact, this interpretation cannot work without that premise. However, Dr. Kline cannot believe that Jesus was teaching his Church how to keep the Sabbath, since Jesus was appealing to the Decalogue. For, on Dr. Kline's view, the Sabbath stipulation in the Decalogue is only applicable to the theocracy, not to the New Testament Church. Dr. Kline must find some other way to deal with Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath.

An approach similar to the previous one is to say that Christ appeals to what is lawful only to undercut it. This is followed by the assumption that he did this not only for himself, but also for his followers. If so, one must explain why Luke implicitly commends the women who "on the Sabbath…rested according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56). They obviously didn't get Jesus' point if Jesus meant to cancel rest on the Sabbath day. For whatever Jesus meant to teach about the Sabbath, he intended his disciples to follow during his own lifetime. Jesus was not simply giving instructions to be followed after his resurrection. If Jesus meant to abolish rest on the Sabbath, he expected the women (as his disciples) to follow his teaching from that point on. If this is the case, these women failed to follow Jesus when they rested on the Sabbath. How then can Luke implicitly commend them?

Clearly Luke's commendation of the women reveals that Jesus' teaching on the Sabbath (whatever new revelation it involved) did not undercut resting on the Sabbath. Instead, Jesus' questions about what is lawful on the Sabbath show that his positive teaching about the Sabbath was organically related to the Decalogue. Thus, the Church is to live by the Decalogue. This is the "third use of the law" common to confessional Reformed theology. This connection between the Decalogue and the Church's practice is substantiated in Luke/Acts. For Jesus' own positive teaching about the Church's Sabbath practice in Luke is picked up in the book of Acts when it refers to the church meeting on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). If someone denies this connection between Luke and Acts, we might ask—what does Jesus' positive Sabbath teaching refer to? There seems to be no other literary reference to it in Luke/Acts than the church meeting on the first day of the week.

I have suggested that Dr. Kline's view implies that Jesus was only addressing issues about the Sabbath relevant to the theocracy. That is because


Jesus was appealing to the fourth commandment, which Dr. Kline believes was only normative for Israel in the theocracy. Dr. Kline may object by pointing out that Palestine during Jesus' day was not a theocracy. It was subjugated to Rome. But this does not make his position any easier. For Dr. Kline believes that the fourth commandment only applies in a theocratic arena. If Jesus also believed this, he wouldn't have appealed to the fourth commandment. For (on this view) he knew he did not live in a theocracy. On Dr. Kline's view, Jesus could only appeal to the fourth commandment, if he believed he lived in a theocracy.

The above considerations prove either that: (1) Jesus believed he lived in a theocracy and his statements about the Sabbath were only applicable to his own lifetime (which we think is absurd); or (2) Jesus believed that the Sabbath commandment in the Decalogue was applicable beyond the theocracy. The latter option is the only feasible one. And while there are several approaches to this second option, one stands out above the others. Jesus taught that the Sabbath commandment in the Decalogue was relevant to his future Church. While he gave further revelation respecting it, that revelation did not undermine the "rest" character of the Sabbath as it is grounded in the creation ordinance, further (and organically) unfolded in the Decalogue, and confirmed in our Lord's Sabbath teaching.

Sabbath as Creation Ordinance. In the book under review, it appears that Dr. Kline no longer maintains that the Sabbath is a creation ordinance for all time. Certainly Dr. Kline still believes that the Sabbath was instituted in Genesis 2:3. But does it have abiding significance? Dr. Kline has avoided this issue explicitly. He continually qualifies his refutation of the Sabbath as an abiding creation ordinance with his refutation of the theocratic character of Sabbatizing. Have the two become integrally related for him?

Some quotes make this plausible: "…the Christian calendar is of a different kind than that exhibited by the sabbatical seventh day. Unlike the latter, whose observance took the form of a symbolic imitation of a divine paradigmatic event (viz. the Creator's seventh day cessation of work), the Christian practice of the first day does not involve such re-enactment" (194). "Further, since the six days of divine work in the creation paradigm (cf. Exod 20:11) were holy kingdom-establishing activity, so too must be the six days of work in the


Sabbath ordinance, which replicates that divine archetype. This means that Sabbath observation requires a theocratic as well as a covenantal setting, that is, a setting in which culture as well as cult is holy kingdom activity" (190, emphases mine).

Thus it seems that the very nature of the Sabbath as a creation ordinance cannot be practiced outside of a theocratic setting. This conclusion fits with his approach to Hebrews 4:9. "Continuing the typological Sabbath permanently into the New Covenant age contravenes the teaching of the Book of Hebrews that Jesus has secured the antitypical Sabbath estate (sabbatismos, Heb. 4:9) that still remained to be attained after Joshua brought Israel into the typical Sabbath rest in Canaan (Heb. 4:8)" (195). Does this imply that "remains" in Hebrews 4:9 refers exclusively to its past fulfillment in Christ's resurrection? In this way, Kline would be undercutting the broader eschatological paradigm of "Sabbath" which still looks to the future (á là Heb. 4:11). This broader eschatological pattern (in which "Sabbath" still has a future orientation) has significance for the weekly Sabbath even if Hebrews is not specifically singling out the weekly Sabbath. For it shows that the Sabbath pattern of work/rest that God established at the beginning still has significance for cosmic history even after the theocracy has been abolished. This sequence is still a pattern for God's people and can therefore still be a pattern for our weekly work/rest.

Finally, we note that Jesus appealed to the creation ordinance in Mark 2:27—"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Since the Sabbath was instituted in Genesis 2:3, Jesus is looking back to this institution. On Dr. Kline's view, Jesus is appealing to a unique theocratic situation. Thus Jesus can only do this because he is observing the Sabbath in the land of Canaan just as he observed the sacrificial system. Jesus cannot be teaching how the Sabbath is to be observed in the kingdom of God. For the kingdom is not theocratic.

However, it is more likely that Jesus is setting forth his relation to the Sabbath and its practice in the kingdom. This is enforced by the connection of Mark 2:27 with the following story in which he asks, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm?" (Mark 3:4). The similarity between this and Luke's positive portrayal of the Sabbath ("Is it lawful?" Luke 6:9 and 14:3),


suggests that Jesus is showing forth the nature of the Sabbath in the kingdom by the miracles (intrusions of the kingdom) he performs on it. Thus, when Jesus appeals to the creation ordinance for his Sabbath practice, he is setting forth a general pattern of mercy to be followed by the Church. If Jesus thought the creation ordinance was purely theocratic, he could not have appealed to it for the practice of the Sabbath during the kingdom era.

Therefore, the connection of the Sabbath in Israel to the creation ordinance, the Decalogue, the covenant people, and the theocracy, does not prove Dr. Kline's view of the Sabbath. At least in the respects suggested above, the first three of these elements can be distinguished from the specific theocratic form in which they may have been embodied in the theocracy. Therefore the Sabbath as a creation ordinance, displayed in the fourth commandment, still binds the Church today, as we are heirs of the fullness of the organic unfolding of that revelation in Christ. We rest in him as we Sabbatize, looking forward to the future eschatological rest, anticipating it even now in him. And what a blessed rest it is!


Dr. Kline wants to make Christ central. And his biblical-theological approach (when separated from its many unorthodox accoutrements) tends more in that direction than his usual opponents (Theonomic Reconstructionists). However, numerous things detract from the centrality of Christ.

First, he has detracted from the Son's unique relationship to the Father (i.e., Dr. Kline's view of the Fatherhood of the Spirit). Second, Dr. Kline has de-emphasized the vital elements of the covenant relationship between God and his people (so perspicuous in Geerhardus Vos) in the interest of defending the (legitimate) forensic elements of the covenant. By arguing against his view of merit, I have implied that some of the ways he views the forensic elements of certain covenants are illegitimate. This may explain his emphasis on the imagery of the text to the neglect of touching his readers with their vital union with Christ.


Third, he has distracted the saints from their vital union with Christ in their weekly Sabbath rest. When Dr. Kline identifies the Sabbath with an absolute works principle, he is giving it a sharply legal (or forensic) thrust. In the new covenant, this detracts from it as a day of rest in God—vitally joyous semi-eschatological delight!

Fourth, Dr. Kline has a different view of the relationship of God and man (per se), especially in the area of merit. This indirectly affects his understanding of the relationship between the God-man and mankind. It also detracts from the necessity of Christ being God to merit our salvation (in his active obedience).

Finally, in his implicit view of Christ's merit, Dr. Kline has rightly critiqued Daniel Fuller, saying in effect, `If grace is everywhere, then grace is nowhere,' since grace is based on merit, the merit of Christ.27 The same critique might be lodged against Dr. Kline with a different twist, `If merit is everywhere, then merit is nowhere,' because the term looses its specificity when applied indiscriminately to various states of man. Dr. Kline's claim that merit is everywhere and his failure to distinguish that merit from the merit of Christ (with the exception that only Christ actually merited eternal life) is a distraction from the centrality of Christ. It muddies his biblical-theological attempt to exalt the risen Christ as the Lord of Har Magedon.


27 "Covenant Theology under Attack."


[K:NWTS 21/3 (Dec 2006) 52]

Jonathan Edwards

on Preaching1

Hence how greatly are those ministers to blame who in a great measure neglect Christ in their preaching, who insist on morality only, and that in such a manner as to find but little occasion to mention the name of Christ, the Redeemer, and his glorious work of redemption.


1 From "The `Miscellanies,'" No. 702 in Works (Yale edition) 18:308-309.


[K:NWTS 21/3 (Dec 2006) 53-61]

Justin Martyr1

James T. Dennison, Jr.

"To the Emperor Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Pius Augustus Caesar, and to Verissimus his son": thus begins the First Apology of Justin Martyr. The Roman Emperor to whom the work is addressed, Antoninus Pius, ruled the imperium from 138 to 161 A.D. His rule is part of the Antonine era which spanned 96-192 A.D. and included the reigns of the following Caesars: Nerva (96-98 A.D.); Trajan (98-117 A.D.); Hadrian (117-138 A.D.); Antoninus Pius (138-161 A.D.); Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.); Commodus (180-192 A.D.). Hadrian ("Hadrianus" in Justin's address above) had adopted Antoninus five months before his death because his chosen heir died prematurely. "His son", Verissimus, is Marcus Aurelius, adopted in 138 A.D. as `son' of the emperor. This formidable triumvirate (Hadrian, Antoninus, Aurelius) comprise the rulers of the world during the heart of the second century of the Christian era.

Edward Gibbon (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Em-pire) esteemed the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius as the Golden Age of


1This is the latest in a series of articles on the church fathers of the 2nd century and beyond. Previous publications include: "Ignatius of Antioch." The Outlook 53/9 (November 2003): 10-13; "Irenaeus of Lyons." The Outlook 52/11 (December 2002): 9-10; "Melito of Sardis." The Outlook 53/4 (April 2003): 7-8; "Origen: A Review." Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 19/2 (September 2004): 16-29; Cf. also "Athanasius, the Son of God and Salvation." The Outlook 52/9 (October 2002): 14-15; "Arius `Orthodoxus'; Athanasius `Politicus': The Rehabilitation of Arius and the Denigration of Athanasius." Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 17/2 (September 2002): 55-71; "Augustine and Grace." Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 18/3 (December 2003): 38-52. Forthcoming in 2007 will be "Irenaeus and Redemptive History".


Rome—in fact, the Golden Age of Mankind: "the human race was most happy and most prosperous" from 117-161 A.D. And the designation "Pius"? it appears to confirm Gibbon's opinion. The Roman Senate granted the title to Antoninus for the devotion ("piety") he showed in deifying his predecessor, Hadrian (the custom for all Roman emperors, by decree of their successors, from Julius Caesar on). Gibbon, following the lead of the Roman historians (Julius Capitolinus and Cassius Dio), elevates the predecessor and successor to the level of demigods. It would appear that we are to believe that the Roman empire became uncommonly pacific—even utopian—under Antoninus.

But then, why Justin's Apology? Why the need to present a defense (Greek, apologia) of the Christian faith to the emperor? Justin explains: "on behalf of men of every nation who are unjustly hated and reviled" (First Apology 1; Library of Christian Classics [LCC] 1:242). Justin is referring to Christians who were being persecuted in Antoninus's Golden Age. Or were they? Many modern historians are dubious about Justin's alarmist language. According to our modern scholars (echoing Gibbon, et al), Antoninus's reign was "dull", "quiet", "uneventful"—no blood baths of executed senators, no civil wars, no iron-fisted social repression—none of these are recorded during Antoninus's reign. Justin's portrait of persecuted Christians is overblown, his Apology overexcited (so our modern `experts').

Eusebius of Caesarea, whose Ecclesiastical History is the primary source for events in the patristic era, agrees with Justin. He even lists the martyrdom of Telesphorus, Bishop of Rome, as falling at the beginning of Antoninus's reign (138 A.D.). Have Eusebius and Justin manufactured stories of persecution and martyrdom in order to gain attention and toleration for a Christian minority? Strange Christianity that! i.e., deceive in order to survive. It is more likely that the Pollyanna view of Antoninus's reign is manufactured. But more on this below.


Justin is another "Martyr" (Tertullian calls him "The Martyr"), though his destiny was involuntarily thrust upon him. He was not obsessed with the martyr's crown as was Ignatius of Antioch (†110 A.D.). Justin was born a


Samaritan in Neapolis (Colonia Flavia Neapolis)—modern day Nablus, near Jacob's ancient well north of Shechem (cf. Jn. 4:5, 6). The emperor Vespasian (69-79 A.D.) had erected Neapolis between Mounts Ebal and Gerizim in 72 A.D. This "new (Roman) city" (Greek, Neapolis) featured fresh springs, magnificent views and the monuments of an imperious megapower (remember 70 A.D.! no citizen of Jerusalem could forget that date!!). In this fresh pagan splendor, pagan Justin was born and raised. He tells very little about his childhood so that the year of his birth is guesswork: most scholars estimate ca. 100 A.D. From his writings, one thing is not guesswork—he received an excellent education.


Some time during the reign of Hadrian, shortly before Antoninus Pius was elevated to the imperial seat, Justin began an intellectual odyssey in search of truth. From his pagan background, he was accustomed to associating truth with the intellect and so his journey took him to the schools of the philosophers. It is this pursuit of philosophical truth which has misled scholars in identifying Justin's conversion as the embrace of "true philosophy". In other words, faith in Christ was a philosophical arrival. Nothing could have been further from the heart (and mind) of Justin. In Christ, Justin found the One who surpassed all pagan philosophies, replaced his "uncircumcised" past and displaced even his Samaritan context. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, united to Christ Jesus, Justin put aside all the "beggarly elements" of his unbelieving past.

Justin details his story of coming to Christ as follows. His search for truth first took him to Stoicism, the philosophy of fatalistic resignation. Justin arrived eager to discuss God with the teacher, but the latter refused to discuss theology until Justin had first completed the entire Stoic curriculum. Justin moved on to the school of the Peripatetics, so-called because they walked about when discussing philosophical matters. But the teacher wanted paid first before admitting Justin to the ambulatory circle. Justin turned his back on this venal greed as unworthy of genuine philosophy. Next he sought out the Pythagoreans who based all knowledge on the primacy of number/mathematics. But they demanded that Justin first study geometry, astronomy and music


before discussing God. Justin moved on to Platonism. While contemplating the Platonic concept of God, Justin met an "old man" on the beach at Ephesus (his intellectual odyssey had taken him to Asia Minor). This unnamed man directed Justin to the Old Testament in confutation of the errors of Plato and the other philosophers. Opening the Scriptures, Justin found not only the God of the Old Testament, but the God and Father of our/his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. His journey was over! About 135 A.D., Christ became the delight of his mind and heart. "We through the name of Jesus have believed . . . [and] have been stripped through the name of his first-begotten Son of the filthy garments, i.e., of our sins; and being vehemently inflamed by the word of his calling, we are the true high priestly race of God" (Dialogue with Trypho 116; The Ante-Nicene Fathers [ANF] 1:257). Justin likens his effectual calling to that of father Abraham. "What larger measure of grace did Christ bestow on Abraham? This, namely, that he called him with his voice . . . to quit the land wherein he dwelt. And he has called all of us by that voice, and we have left already the way of living in which we used to spend our days, passing our time in evil after the fashions of the other inhabitants of the earth; and along with Abraham we shall inherit the holy land, when we shall receive the inheritance for an endless eternity, being children of Abraham through like faith. For as he believed the voice of God and it was imputed to him for righteousness, in like manner we, having believed God's voice spoken by the apostles of Christ, and promulgated to us by the prophets, have renounced even to death all the things of the world" (ibid., 119; ANF 1:259).


From Asia Minor, Justin made his way to Rome where he is reputed to have established a (catechetical?) school. Tatian, of Diatessaron fame (the first attempt at a "harmony" of the four gospels), is alleged to have been one of his students. Justin managed to attract the ire of a Cynic teacher named Crescens who vigorously opposed his Christianity. Eusebius maintains that Crescens helped secure the death of Justin shortly after the accession of Marcus Aurelius (161 A.D.). Justin himself states, "I too therefore expect to be plotted against and fixed to the stake by some of those I have named, or perhaps by Crescens, that lover of bravado and boasting" (Second Apology 3; ANF 1:189). Crescens


however does not appear in the record of Justin's trail and execution (The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs; ANF 1:305-6).


All sources agree that Justin was executed while Junius Rusticus was Prefect of Rome (162-168 A.D.). Beheaded along with six other Christians, Justin testified to his faith in "the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . . the herald of salvation" (ANF 1:305). We learn from this trial narrative that Justin had left Rome after his first visit/residence, for he says, "I am now living in Rome for the second time." He even gives his address: "above one Martinus, at the Timiotinian Bath." When asked to abjure Christ and sacrifice to the Roman gods, Justin responded: "We can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ even when we have been punished, because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgment seat of our Lord and Savior. Do what you will, for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols" (ANF 1:306).


Eusebius is aware of at least eight works from the pen of Justin—only three survive: The First Apology; The Second Apology; The Dialogue with Trypho (ca. 155-160). The apologies may have been written shortly after 150 A.D. because Justin mentions "that Christ was born a hundred and fifty years ago under Quirinius" (First Apology 46; LCC 1:271). Trypho was a Jewish teacher with whom Justin carried on a conversation about the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.

Defense of Christianity

Liberal church historian, Adolf von Harnack, maintained that Christianity was application—the application of Hellenistic or Greek philosophy to Jewish-Christian soil. In other words, Christianity is but a more advanced, developed


and sophisticated form of Greek philosophy sprouting from roots in Jewish and Christian culture. For Harnack (and all liberals since), Justin's pursuit of "true philosophy" is proof of the Greek philosophical trajectory of early Christianity. For liberal Harnack, Justin Martyr (recreated in Harnack's own German idealistic and evolutionary/developmental image) is the prime example of one who turns Christianity into the perfect philosophy. Harnack's thesis dominates textbook treatments of Justin up to the present day through his massive History of Dogma.

But how does Harnack's reconstruction comport with Justin's own testimony? Does Justin present his conversion to Christianity as a perfecting of the philosophical odyssey, i.e., Christianity the supreme Graeco-Roman philosophy? Justin writes that in turning from his pursuit of philosophy, he was "possessed" by a love of the Old Testament prophets, the "words of the Savior" and "those men who are friends of Christ." This does not read like a perfecting of philosophy; rather it reads like a full and complete break with pagan philosophy for the Word of God in the prophets, gospels and epistles. This break is confirmed in the Dialogue with Trypho. Justin appeals throughout to the Scriptures; he does not appeal to Hellenistic philosophy. The love of Christ as Savior, as the love of the Word of God, has jettisoned Justin's quest for true (pagan) philosophy. Divine revelation displaces and replaces human wisdom—a virtual Pauline echo! The displacement and replacement motif also echoes the redemptive-historical turning point in the ages, i.e., the "fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4) which has brought fulfillment to the promises of the Law and the Prophets in the Gospel of Christ Jesus our Savior. In sum, from the time of his conversion, Justin's method is the antithesis of Christianity and paganism. Viewed in this light, it is not a philosophical synthesis which dominates Justin (Harnack and most textbooks to the contrary), it is the antithetical revelation of God in Christ.

In defending his Christian faith and the Christian faith of his brothers and sisters in Christ, Justin specifically rebuts the charge of atheism. Disregard for the traditional pagan gods was regarded by the Romans as "atheism"; hence Christians were deemed "godless". As to the charge of rejecting gods who are no gods, Justin pleads guilty. But with reference to the one true God, his Son and his Spirit, Justin confesses that he worships and adores these (First Apology 6; LCC 1:245). Justin also defends his fellow Christians against the charge


of being "criminals". Specifically, Christians were accused of incest ("brothers and sisters") and cannibalism ("This is my body . . . my blood") (First Apology 26; LCC 1:258). Justin declares to the emperor, his adopted son Marcus Aurelius, and all pagans: Not Guilty!

Justin's Hermeneutic

Recently, a Norwegian scholar named Oskar Skarsaune2, has examined Justin's works so as to explore the Martyr's mind and heart in interpreting Scripture. Shifting the focus away from philosophy (as Justin himself does) to exegesis, Skarsaune reviews Justin's approach to the Bible; more specifically, he considers the relationship between the Old and New Testament in Justin's thought. In short, Justin is a promise-fulfillment biblical theologian. That is, he considers all matters in the Scriptures Christocentrically—especially as he uses the "proof from prophecy" to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah of the Jewish Scriptures. From Genesis to Revelation, Christological exegesis dominates Justin's interpretation of the Bible. While identifying typological or figurative anticipations of Christ in the former testament, Justin nonetheless argues for a real participation by the Old Testament believers in the grace of God in Christ. Abraham is united to God through Christ by grace; Moses is united to God through Christ by grace; David is united to God through Christ by grace—even as we are united to God through Christ by grace. Salvation in every era of redemptive history has been through effectual union with Christ by grace.

But what difference exists between the former (Old Testament) revelation and the latter (New Testament) revelation? Justin notices two distinctions in particular. First, the ceremonial and impermanent elements in the law are left behind to the believer, while the moral and permanent elements in the law (i.e., the Ten Commandments) remain. "For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham . . . of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is


2 Cf. "The Conversion of Justin Martyr." Studia Theologia 30 (1976): 53-73; The Proof from Prophecy: A Study of Justin Martyr's Proof-Text Tradition (1987); "Justin Martyr," in Magnae Saebø, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Interpretation (Volume I: From the Beginnings to the Middle Ages) (1996) 389-410.


there of them now, after . . . Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin" (Dialogue with Trypho 23; ANF 1:206). "[God] sets before every race of mankind that which is always and universally just, as well as all righteousness . . . And hence I think that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ spoke well when he summed up all righteousness . . . in two commandments" (ibid., 93; ANF 1:246).

The second difference is found in the eschatological Israel, i.e., as Paul expresses it, the "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16). Justin understands the New Testament people of God to be the new Israel. The church as a Jewish-Gentile body replaces and displaces the former (Old Testament) Israel. Justin even forcefully suggests that Gentiles have been substituted for Jews under the new covenant: "we find it also predicted that certain persons should be sent by him into every nation to publish these things, and that rather among the Gentiles [than among the Jews] men should believe on him" (First Apology 31; ANF 1:173). The church displaces the synagogue and temple; the one body of Christ replaces the nation of Israel.


Justin was a Chiliast. From the Greek word chilioi (Rev. 20:2-7), a chiliast is one who believes in the millennial reign of Christ upon the earth for a thousand years. In other words, Justin was a premillennialist, although an historical premillennialist in distinction from a dispensational premillennialist. "I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem" (Dialogue with Trypho 80; ANF 1:239). All of which goes to prove that Justin was not right about everything.

Antoninus Pius

In conclusion, I return to Antoninus as promised above. Justin attests that one factor inducing him to consider Christianity as the truth of God was the way in which Christians died when persecuted. "For I myself, too, when I was delighting in the doctrines of Plato, and heard the Christians slandered, and saw them fearless of death . . . perceived that it was impossible that they


could be living in wickedness and pleasure" (Second Apology 12; ANF 1:192). Asia Minor, where Justin sojourned for a time, was the site of the most famous martyrdom in the early church—Polycarp of Smyrna. It was also the location of persecutions under Pliny and Trajan. Justin's apologies in fact may be part of a defense of Christians in the face of a wave of persecution at Rome and beyond. As we have shown, persecution took Justin and six companions shortly after the end of Antoninus's reign. Hence, executions of Christians, however sporadic or occasional, are attested in Justin's context, Justin's works, Justin himself.

But what of Gibbon's halcyon days of the Roman empire under Hadrian and Antoninus? Most historians follow Gibbon in believing there is little or no evidence of hostility to the church in the years 138-161 A.D. And so Justin's testimony is dismissed. But the idyllic portrait of Antoninus's reign is misleading. There is a wall in Scotland, north of Hadrian's famous barrier, which was erected by Antoninus from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde (ca. 37 miles) in order to keep the barbarians out of Roman Britain. It failed. And there are hints of bloody disturbances elsewhere during Pius's reign, i.e., revolts in Mauretania (Morocco), Germany, Dacia (Romania), Judea and Egypt. There are even suggestions of turmoil in Rome itself.

And there is the rescript of Antoninus preserved in Eusebius's Church History (4.13) documenting imperial enmity against Christianity. Though regarded by most scholars as a Christian forgery, the rescript has the air of authenticity when placed alongside undoubted declarations of Roman suppression of "atheists" (i.e., Christians). Hence we may rightfully be more suspicious of a propaganda campaign to cover up Antoninus's ?infrequent hostility to Christianity, than dubious about the reports in Christian sources of persecution against the church during his reign.

Whatever the truth in this instance, Justin had discovered "the way, the truth and the life." Not even an imperial rescript (if genuine) could deter him from confessing his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—even if it meant the martyr's crown. "Our Jesus Christ, who was crucified and died, rose again and, ascending into heaven, began to reign . . . There is joy for those who look forward to the incorruption which he has promised" (First Apology 42; LCC 1:269).


[K:NWTS 21/3 (Dec 2006) 62]

Augustine on Merit1

Let human merits, which perished through Adam, here keep silence, and let God's grace reign through Jesus Christ.


1 On the Predestination of the Saints 15.31, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, 5:513.


[K:NWTS 21/3 (Dec 2006) 63-71]

Again, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount1

James T. Dennison, Jr.

Not another book on the Sermon on the Mount (hereafter SM)! No—not another ordinary, predictable, mundane, neo-Puritan, personal or political-agenda based book on the SM. This is a book that takes the text of Matthew 5-7 seriously; that takes Christ in the text seriously; that takes Matthew himself seriously as a narrative theologian; that takes life in the kingdom of heaven seriously.2 It also, unfortunately, takes too seriously higher critical theories of the origin of the SM and the context of Second Temple Judaism (50 or 100 years from now, these theories will be regarded as the junk of the 20th and 21st centuries). But along with Herman Ridderbos's section on the SM in his brilliant Matthew's Witness to Jesus Christ (1958) 25-363 and his chapter "The Significance of the Sermon on the Mount," in When the Time Had Fully Come (1957) 26-43, Talbert's book will be a great help to those who pay attention to the text, in its context, with Christ at the center (as well as the acme or the apex) of the text and life in heaven's kingdom as the existential (experimental/experiential) outcome.


1 A review of Charles H. Talbert, Reading the Sermon on the Mount: Character Formation and Decision Making in Matthew 5-7 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006). 181 pages, paperback. ISBN: 0-8010-3163-x. $17.99.

2 At least, it does so at the fundamental level. The application of the fundamentals fades after Talbert's treatment of the Beatitudes.

3 Cf. his full-length commentary, Matthew (1987) 81-157.


But, of course, there will be those who refuse to pay attention and will continue to preach the SM as if no one can teach them anything—which means they can't teach their congregations anything because they refuse to learn any of the things that Talbert lays out in these pages. Caveat! Reading this book will be dangerous. You will even have to think about the alteration and transformation Jesus is bringing into history. And, if you are a preacher, you will have to change the way you preach the SM—all this so that you and your congregation will live out the SM in the church and in the world. That would certainly be a radical and refreshing change in the Reformed and evangelical world, would it not! Pastors and people actually behaving as if they were in the kingdom of heaven. Think how many ecclesiastical bureaucrats that would leave gnashing their teeth; and how many good old boy networks in church institutions that would leave in outer darkness; and how many local church personalities whose imperious and control-freak subjugation of others would be trumped and transcended by a truly heavenly arena.

On pages 3-4, Talbert reflects upon the relationship of Matthew to ancient Judaism. In this regard, he indicates that Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism were not the norm until the 2nd century (ca. 135 A.D.).4 If this sounds like a discarded theory of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is indeed its ghost. F.C. Baur and Adolf von Harnack are revived in what Talbert is suggesting. But we will leave Baur and von Harnack decently interred, consign this section of Talbert to their unlamented and passé biers and move on to something more credible in these pages.

We skip over the pages in which Talbert rehearses the faddish pet theories of our current era—religion is a dynamic of spiritual diversities. Hence we lay our contemporary grid over 1st and 2nd century Christianity and Judaism to find Christianities many and Judaisms many. Diversity of religion and diversity within religions was—Voila!—a Jewish and Christian thing 1900/2000 years ago. Neat!! All of which only goes to prove that modern philosophical approaches to culture inevitably become the presupposition for reading 1st and 2nd century approaches to culture—especially religious culture. This is just more of the same old sophomoric nonsense of making ancients in our own


4 Citing Gabriele Boccaccini.


progressive (now, post-modern) image. How convenient that our theories of ourselves are found in the narcissistic mirror reflections which we impose upon apostolic and post-apostolic Christians. When will we (and Talbert) ever learn to allow Christ, the apostles, the early church (even to the 2nd century) to speak for themselves? When will we ever deny ourselves and our presuppositions and let the text speak as the ipsissima vox of Christ and the early church? The answer is: when Christ finally returns and the mirror of the eschaton shuts every mouth, damns every theory foisted on the text of Scripture and consigns every view read on to the text to the great conflagration.

The useful (as opposed to throw-away) portion of this book debuts on page 10 ("The Context of the Sermon"). Here we discover penetrating work with the structure of the text (the opening of Matthew's gospel to be specific, chapters 1-4), not theories about the sources of the text. But having begun well in this regard, Talbert is hindered by pagan rhetoricians and authors (12f.). Our hopes in exploring Matthew's text and Jesus' words are dashed (actually, endure a bit of a hiatus) once more with irrelevant remarks from Diogenes Laertius, Epictetus, Philostratus, etc. Talbert understands ancient Greco-Roman literature—especially rhetoric—and he uses this material to supply background and insight to the SM. The only problem, to quote Tertullian, is: What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?

Talbert is back on track with page 14. He reminds us to read the SM in sequence with the rest of Matthew's gospel (i.e., from 1:1 to 5:2). What a novel idea! Especially in evangelical and Reformed circles where passages from the SM are routinely used as pretexts for the pastoral hobby horse of the hour; more often, they are twisted to suit the pastoral hobby horse of the hour. We get sermons on pacifism, social do-goodism, sex, abortion (murder), sex, the five easy steps to prayer (from the Lord's Prayer), sex and other assorted banalities, trivialities and irrelevancies which are quickly forgotten. Of course, the congregation has vacated the irrelevancies five minutes from the church door. In pages 10-11, 14f., Talbert is actually leaving us with truly memorable markers found within the text; markers which will not be forgotten, but remembered and cherished the next time one reads (and practices) the drama inherent in the text.


We learn about Matthean typologies (14ff.)—fascinating, if not obvious ("he who has eyes to see"), patterns of redemptive-historical recapitulation: old Israel/new Israel; old Moses/new Moses; old Exodus/new Exodus, etc.5 Add to the typological, patterns of repetition, patterns of framing, patterns of unfolding progression and connection: Talbert lays these out in pp. 16ff. By the time we arrive at chapter 3 ("The Structure of the Sermon," 21-26), we have been led through the contextual matter which leads up to the SM. Surely, placing the SM in the context which Matthew lays down as the portal to the Discourse on the Mountain is fundamental to the message of the Sermon itself. Or, at least, it is so for Matthew and if we wish to have the mind of Matthew (which is the mind of Christ) in understanding, expounding and proclaiming the SM, we must come to grips with his context for the Sermon.

Chapter 3 provides a review of structural suggestions for the Sermon. Talbert reviews the proposals of the heavy hitters in this matter: Dale Allison, George Kennedy, Ulrich Luz, Don Hagner, Jack Dean Kingsbury, Hans Dieter Betz, Michael Goulder, Robert Guelich, Daniel Patte, even Augustine. He then notes: "in spite of the diversity of opinion, about certain things there is a remarkable agreement, if not unanimity" (25). Providing his own particular nuances on this "unanimity," Talbert submits his own structural outline of the sermon (25-26; compare the précis, 147-48).

Chapter 4 broadens the matter of Talbert's subtitle: "Character Formation and Decision Making." It is clear to everyone that ethics is an aspect of the SM. The history of the imbalance in the discussion of this matter would require a book of its own. Suffice it to say, scholars and preachers being sinful creatures, imbalanced treatments of the Sermon's ethics to the exclusion of its eschatology are matched by imbalanced treatments of its eschatology to the neglect of its ethics.

Talbert reads the Sermon primarily as an ethical and character forming homily (29). At the same time, he is not reductionist in doing so ("not reductionist in the sense of reducing it to its ethics [the horizontal dimension]," 31). Instead, Talbert scopes out the Biblical paradigm of "both vertical and horizon-


5 Cf. James T. Dennison, Jr., "The Law from the New Mount." Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 21/1 (May 2006):42-48, especially pp. 44-45.


tal relations" in order to preserve the God-ward and man-ward vectors of our Lord's remarks. In other words, Talbert has not made the mistake of classic liberalism/modernism which reads the Sermon as a socio-political mandate for transformation of the cosmos. Nor has he made the mistake of conservative evangelicalism in reading the Sermon devotionally, pietistically and individualistically. Rather he is sensitive that the Sermon contains two vectors—an eschatological ("kingdom of heaven") and a temporal (life out of the heavenly arena mirrored in the temporal arena). While Talbert is not as emphatic as I would be about the interface of the eschatological and the temporal, he is looking in the right direction with his terminology "vertical and horizontal". We would see the King and Lord of heaven's eternal kingdom drawing us in to the environment of that never-ending relation and fellowship, so that we may now live and behave as we shall forever live and behave coram Deo.

In chapter 5 ("Is Matthew a Legalist?"), we revisit the age-old problem of grace and works. While Talbert does not use the terms, we are, in fact, using Matthew as a foil for the Augustinian-Pelagian debate. Is a sinner capable of obeying God's law, thereby placing himself in the position of deserving or meriting a reward (Pelagius); or is a sinner wholly incapable of obeying the law of God, thereby finding himself in the position of requiring divine and supernatural grace for beatitude? As classically formulated in the 5th century, this debate is as old as non-Biblical religion and its ethics versus Biblical religion and its ethics; or, to put it yet another way, the age-old conflict between Christian theism and paganism. Talbert affirms the priority of the "divine initiative" (33) in this matter, but he muddies the waters by appealing to E.P. Sanders in support. Sanders is a revisionist scholar who has coined the phrase "covenantal nomism" to describe the Judaism of the 1st century. In other words, Sanders has remade Pharisaic Jews of the 1st century into Protestants of the 16th century (i.e., in the covenant by grace; show the covenant by the works of the law [Greek, nomos]). If Sanders (and Talbert) are correct, one wonders what Jesus and Paul found so objectionable in the Judaism with which they were familiar by up-bringing and personal experience?

In the process of sorting all this out, Talbert introduces the terms "indicative and imperative" (34)—terms now well known to anyone familiar with the


discussion of New Testament ethics over the past 40 years or more.6 Those who sneer at the use of this vocabulary are ignorant (not academically or intellectually responsible, let alone credible), obscurantist (saber rattlers with typically tyrannical hidden agendas) and inflammatory (intentionally hurling mud at those who do not choose their benighted ethical legalisms). With regard to the SM, the indicative is the eschatological grace of the breaking-in of the kingdom of heaven; the imperative is the obligatory life-fruition, flowing from eschatological kingdom grace.7 Talbert enlarges on the specifics in Matthew's presentation of the divine initiative with what I denominate "the Immanuel dynamic". Immanuel means "God with us" (Mt. 1:21). That phrase is a singularly serendipitous expression of divine initiative. God being "with" sinners necessitates God himself making the first divine and supernatural move; the sinner's sincere response is the fruit of this divine initiative. Talbert traces the "with Jesus" expression through Matthew's gospel in order to demonstrate this indicative-imperative relationship. Here he makes use of narrative techniques advanced by Meir Sternberg and Robert Tannehill. This section (35-43) has some very interesting observations on Matthean narrative themes, providing fertile ground for deeper reflection.

The next 100 pages (47-146) deal with each of the sections of the SM in detail. Following his outline (25-26), Talbert takes us through each of the six units of the Sermon. It is this feature which makes the book worth the price. His outlines of structure and delimited units/subunits are superb and stimulating. Pastors and students of the SM will appreciate this break-down of preaching/teaching units. The detailed discussion is inaugurated with a return to the issue of "eschatological blessings" (26). Here is underscored the antithesis between the view that regards the ethics of the Sermon as a works requirement for entrance into the kingdom of heaven and the view that displays the eschatological aspect of the kingdom as a grace initiative—i.e., one which joins the soul of the believer and his character/behavior to the arena of the


6 For a review of the discussion to 1979, cf. William D. Dennison, "Indicative and Imperative: The Basic Structure of Pauline Ethics." Calvin Theological Journal XIV (April, 1979): 55-78. Little has changed in the basic parameters of the discussion since this article was written, as Talbert's comments indicate.

7 Cf. the full application of this pattern in the sermon by this reviewer, footnote 5 above.


kingdom of heaven. At this point, Talbert comments on the Marxist (and radical socialist, even trendy evangelical Leftist) approach to the Sermon which regards it as a socio-politico-economic blueprint for the "workers paradise lost" (or other duplicitous slogans of the implacable liberal-fundamentalist guild). Talbert's conclusion is scintillating: "Matthew is a theological, not a political, document" (48). That statement is, of course, a no-brainer, but alas, the no-brainers among the Left-liberal establishment are clueless. After all, for them, text is always and ever pretext—in fact, political pretext arising from the partisan machinations of their intolerant agendas. Vladimir Lenin allegedly called these folk "useful idiots"—a badge of shame to those who still serve the purposes of radical social activism (wittingly or unwittingly).

Talbert proceeds to describe the structure and meaning of the Beatitudes (49-54). We learn that the kingdom of heaven is a passive dynamic (future hope) with an active component (present reign of God in Christ). The predicates of the Beatitudes are thus uniformly rooted in redemptive history. Talbert provides citations of Old Testament passages to illuminate Christ's kingdom affirmations of: "the poor in spirit" (Mt. 5:3), "the meek" (5:5), "the merciful" (5:7), etc. Again, none of this language is socio-politico-economic. It is theological, spiritual, eschatological.

With respect to the antithesis in Mt. 5:17-20, Talbert rejects the suggestion that Jesus is annulling the law and the prophets (a straight forward reading of the words in the text, against all antinomians and other dismissers of the "third use of the law", i.e., the law as a rule of present life in the kingdom for the believer). Rather, accomplishment of the former revelation by fulfillment is emphasized. Talbert could have buttressed his case here with the drama of eschatological accomplishment which breaks in with the kingdom Jesus brings. This provides a more dynamic element to the `fulfillment' than a static absolutization of the former (OT) truths. Those truths are revealed anew in the light of the eschatological kingdom of God which Christ both proclaims (SM, parables, etc.) and displays (miracles, prophetic actions, passion and resurrection, etc.). This means that the enduring and permanent elements of the law and the prophets are aspects of the reality of God's character and his heavenly kingdom. They can no more `pass away' than he or his heavenly kingdom can `pass away'. It is this dynamic which would have sharpened Talbert's com


ments on "righteousness" in Matthew and the Old Testament. If righteousness is an eschatological relation, it is both a status ("constitutive" of eschatological acceptance) and a practice ("definitive" of eschatological behavior). If the classic language of justification and sanctification are reflected in the previous comment, so be it.

Locking horns with Hans Dieter Betz, who de-Christologizes and de-soteriologizes the Sermon (66-68), Talbert defends a Christological reading of the Sermon which joins it to the soteriological purpose of the gospel. This reviewer would venture even further than Talbert. In the declaration "but I say unto you", Jesus places himself alongside God himself—an ontological declaration arising from an eternal Father Son relationship. Surely, it is because of that divine and supernatural identity that he saves to the uttermost those graciously gathered into his heavenly kingdom.

Matthew 5:21-48 has been labeled "the antitheses" because it contains contrastive remarks of Jesus about the Jewish traditions heaped upon the law. Here are the famous antitheses on murder (5:21-22) and adultery (5:27-28). Talbert maintains that Jesus is not annulling the law of God; rather he is affirming "the right interpretation of it" (69). Shrewdly, Talbert notes the combination of apodictic and casuistic elements in these antitheses (69-70). But then Talbert reduces Jesus' teaching to the horizontal aspect of human relationships. Admitting that part of the focus in Jesus' statements is on human relationships, Talbert ironically seems to forget his own hermeneutical key with respect to the SM. If the kingdom of heaven or the eschatological vector is the wonderfully indicative element of God's gracious initiative breaking in upon humans, then is not Jesus describing what kingdom-of-heaven oriented behavior in human relationships entails? Is it possible for a person living out of the consciousness of being part of the kingdom of heaven to murder another human being? Surely that would be contrary to the ethos of heaven's kingdom where there is no murder, let alone hatred of heart or despite of person. In the language of the sports world, Talbert fails to "follow through" with his own profound premises.

Throughout the remainder of this book, as Talbert struggles with the details of the individual units of the SM, he inclines to the horizontal and neglects the integration of the vertical (eschatological) and the temporal (hori


zontal). Well might we say to him, "You began well. Who has hindered you?" It is at this point that I register my greatest disappointment with the book.

Yet if we maintain the balance of integrating the two vectors of the SM, Talbert will help us do even better than he does with the doctrine of our Lord's wonderful remarks. And that is what our Savior's original disciples heard, believed, taught and lived—as the gospel of Matthew makes all too clear. What Jesus is and says for Matthew is what he is and says to us, the church. That objective kingdom-eschatological drama remains—though subjective reductionists seek to horizontalize, de-Christologize, de-eschatologize and/or de-supernaturalize the SM.


[K:NWTS 21/3 (Dec 2006) 72-73]


Charles G. Dennison

I stood there much like the stalks and

grain, my feet planted, my hands on

the tin holding it full of the

evidence of this year's crop.

To your vision, I'm sculptured;

my head turned away, I look

over my left shoulder, seized

by whatever has caught me

by surprise. My eyes, which you

can't see, focus on the vast

heavens, grays and whites and storm-

markers revolving, rushing

for me and our world. You're drawn

in behind my hidden eyes and

we brace ourselves for what comes

from beyond the backing, the wall,


the canvas. Something black, a huge

sphere faster than any line-storm

and no further distant than two

rows of corn, a meteor

to which my mind surrenders,

while you're convulsed in horror.

Still, you stay, expecting the

ball to strike and crush us there.

But the wind rushes on us,

the black gust that would break us;

hot blasts explode toward my

face, the furnace singes then

burns my field but brushes by

moving us past Armageddon

to our incomprehensible

prize. Even now I can embrace

the nuclear night.



[K:NWTS 21/3 (Dec 2006) 74]

Augustine on Christ's Incarnation1

They are born of God (Jn. 1:13). Whereby is it brought to pass that they should be born of God, who were first born of men? Whereby is it brought to pass, whereby? "And the Word was made Flesh, that it might dwell among us" (Jn 1:14). Wondrous exchange; He made Flesh, they spirit. What is this? What condescension is here, my brethren! . . . for your sakes the Word was made Flesh; for your sakes He who was the Son of God, was made the Son of man: that ye who were the sons of men, might be made the sons of God. What was He, what was He made? What were ye, what were ye made? He was the Son of God. What was He made? The Son of man. Ye were the sons of men. What were ye made? The sons of God. He shared with us our evil things, to give us his good things. But even in that He was made the Son of man, He is different much from us. . . . He came to us, but from Himself departed not far; yea from Himself as God He departed never; but added what He was to our nature. For he came to that which He was not, He did not lose what He was. He was made the Son of man; but did not cease to be the Son of God.


1 Sermon LXXI. Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, 6:470.