Archive for July, 2007

I thought I would move this from the comment section:

DGH accuses my view of society of being “very Roman Catholic.” Well, if I had to chose between the tradition from Augustine to Aquinas vs. Kuyper to Dooyweerd, I am going with the former. But my defense is this, did Luther or Calvin want to destroy the nature of the society in which they lived? Or reform its soteriology and ecclesiology. Are you confusing the 2 Kingdoms?

Further, I agree that Christendom was messy. Politics is always messy. I do not want to introduce to eschaton, simply to honor the fact that God created the world and Christ governs it from His right hand for the good of the church.

Now, beyond that fact, I think we would agree on much. I am extremely comfortable with the American church-state settlement as a proper application of Andrew Melville’s Two Kingdom view. I am happy for the state to be institutionally seperated from the church and vice-versa. I am happy for the state to use its sword to defend my property and to prevent injustice as best as possible in a fallen, sinful world.
Christ’s reign of nature is not the same as His reign over grace. I do not wish to confuse the two.
Therefore, to be clear, I do not have a Roman Catholic view of Christendom (i.e. church over state). And although I love these boys (Hooker, Burke, Eliot), I do not have an Anglican view of Christendom (i.e. state over church). Rather, I have an American view of Christendom (church and state as seperate institutions each answering to God according to their respective callings).

In this sense, America’s was very much a Presbyterian, Melvilleian, founding… no? O.K. so the state did not confess Christ explicitly, but the nation has… and in some flawed but continuing sense… does. I am not a revolutionary. As Kirk and others have shown, drawing a line of demarcation between Christendom and America is a mistake.


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Accidental Christendom?
Was Christendom an accidental mistake? Did a shrewd and manipulative Pagan politician named Constantine sully the purity of Apostolic Christianity? This is an increasingly popular reading of history. Is it accurate?

The Problem of Primitivism
Often, Protestants confuse purity with primitivism. What do we mean by primitivism? Have you ever heard a Protestant claim that their denomination (usually congregation) reflects the theology and practice of apostolic purity? If so, you have encountered primitivism. Primitivism presents a serious challenge to our doctrine of corporate confession. Critics declare that the idea of a Christian nation seems far removed from the concerns of New Testament Christianity. Rather, it is claimed, the pure church is the one that most closely apes what it believes to be apostolic Christianity. Do we suggest that the Church should have another standard than that of the apostolic church infallibly described in the Book of Acts? Allow me to explain.

The church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:20). Houses are built upon foundations. Christ’s church is a house that is being built by God (1 Cor. 3:9,10). As the church is raised, God sets its strong foundation upon the ministry of the Apostles and the prophets. The role of the Apostles and prophets was to infallibly expound the meaning of the person and work of Christ. Having done so, the Apostles left us with a canon of Scripture so that their foundation, once laid, would provide support for the ministry of Pastors, Teachers, and Ruling Elders to do the work of raising superstructure.

Considering the fundamental division between foundation and superstructure we must understand the progressive development of revelation that exists within the New Testament. Not all that occurred during the dynamic days of the Apostles is regulative for church history. One need only compare the description of church life found in 1st Corinthians 12-14 (penned by Paul around A.D. 55) and the relatively subdued, orderly, and normative descriptions found in the “pastoral epistles”. Thus, Richard Gaffin warns against the danger of reading Acts, “as a more or less random samplings of earliest Christian piety and practice, as a compilation of the church—a more or less loose collection of edifying and inspiring episodes, usually with the nuance that they were the ‘good old days, when Christians were really Christians.’” (Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost, pg. 23).

From Jerusalem to Rome

Why is primitivism so dangerous for a biblical view of Christianity? Should we not content ourselves with the faith and practice of the apostolic area? Count the cost. Recognize that truly biblical formulations of the relationship between the persons of the Godhead were not worked out until the 4th Century. The same is true for well-defined statements about the relationship of Jesus Christ to the Father, as well as the relationship of His divinity to His humanity. The biblical doctrine of justification was not well defined until the 16th Century. The Westminster Confession of Faith, the most biblically satisfying creed in all of Christendom, was a product of the 17th Century. Primitivism adores the acorn but scorns the oak. Thus, the primitivist abhors Christendom. He never tires of telling the story of the good old days when the church was purified by the fires of persecution. Oh, the glorious days of the confessors and the martyrs, cut off, sorrowfully and abruptly, by the conversion of Emperor Constantine. The true church suffers, not only the sanctifying struggle against inward sin, but externally against the beastly kingdoms of men whose worldly interests share no common ground with the Kingdom of God established by Jesus Christ.

Primitivism is not a uniquely Protestant problem. Almost immediately following the conversion of the Empire and its official recognition of the Church, the desert fathers renounced the world and took to the wilderness. The monastic severity of St. Anthony owed its origin to a romantic vision of the primitive and suffering church. More dangerous forms of primitivism would follow. The Donatists of the 4th Century and the Anabaptists of the 16th would make suffering primitivism the mark of their heterodoxy.
With this in mind, I remind you of the risen Christ’s words to the Apostles, “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).” Luke uses Jesus words to the Apostles as introduction to the organizing theme of the book of Acts. The book of Acts begins in Jerusalem and ends in Rome. Do not miss the subtle suggestion. The gospel’s arrival in Rome is far from accidental. The capital of a world empire, Rome truly represented, and ruled, the ends of the earth.

Pagan Rome’s Natural Death?
Let us not jump to an opposite extreme. The early church was not filled with radical revolutionaries obsessed with political manipulation of the Empire to fulfill its worldly desires. Although ferociously persecuted by various Emperors, the church did not raise arms or defend its “rights” through violence. Rather, they responded by praying for their rulers and by showing themselves to be the best of citizens.
The Church Fathers make it clear that the church was anything but a revolutionary institution, at least in any ordinary sense. Christians exercised their freedom in Christ by glad submission to civil and social authority. Authority was to be honored even when it degenerated into tyranny (Roman 13:1-4). Yet, the gospel of Christ crucified, resurrected and ascended was revolutionary nonetheless. As Christ was preached, the old “gods” lost their power (Acts 17:5-8; Rev. 20:1-3). The temples decayed. The worship of the Emperor, the cult upon which Roman culture rested, faltered. T.S. Eliot’s Journey of the Magi captures the political and cultural realities of the dawning age:

…were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutch their gods.
I should be glad of another death. (Collected Poems 1909-1962, pg. 100)

In 313, Emperor Constantine began the long process of Rome’s conversion.
Three years later, in 316, amidst the provincial glory of his retirement palace in Split, Diocletian, the last pagan “god”, breathed his last. So expired the Roman incarnation of pagan divinity. Christ had conquered the old gods. Rome was daily being transformed. Nearly two centuries before, Latin Church Father Tertullian boasted, “We are but of yesterday, yet we fill your cities, islands, forts, towns, councils, even camps, tribes, decuries, the palace, the senate, the forum; we have left you the temples alone”. The effect of gospel preaching is organic transformation of all areas of life to the glory of Christ. Rome, once drunk on the blood of the martyrs, was being transformed from inside out. The Psalmist had declared the duty of nations: “kiss the Son”. Was Christendom an accident? No, Christendom is the natural (or should we say supernatural) result of the gospel preached to the nations. Only a stunted and deformed sub-Christian primitivism could despise Christendom’s blessed fruit and comforting promise.

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I wonder if a missing peace of this discussion revolves around the social contract. Darryl (along with R.Scott Clark and Steve Z.) seem to think of a community or nation as a collection of individuals… the parts greater than the whole. I find this most odd coming from Darryl whose Agrarian tendencies would suggest a more organic view of communities and nation as somthing of an extended family.

The Locke, Hobbes, Roussou crowd tell us of a social contract that binds otherwise autonomous individuals through the mechanism of consent. The individual has primacy… King Conscience. Burke suggests an older vision of the social contract as a community of souls binding the dead, the living, and the unborn. Life is not a sprint but an integenerational marathon.

Now, this older view of a nation leads to a recognition that a community or nation is a moral person. Like a corporation, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It has a corporate life of its own and it is responsible for its moral decisions. This seems the heart of our disagreement. Are nations moral persons or just collections of individuals actors?

If the latter it would be hard to understand how Christianity could have much of an impact upon them, but if the former… that is a different story. Thus, I conclude, If a nation is a moral person it is responsible before God and should govern itself accordingly.

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I missed this news while I was at camp… sorry for the delay.

Dr. Brown was a contributor to the 1986 Colloquy at Geneva College God and Civil Government. A fellow at the Howard Center and a the religion editor at the paleo-conservative Chronicles Magazine published by the Rockford Institute, Dr. Brown was a champion of Reformed theology and the conservative cause.

Press release from RTS:


Harold O. J. Brown, John R. Richardson Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina, went home to be with the Lord July 8, 2007 at 8:25 pm. He was born July 6, 1933 in Tampa, Florida to Dr. Harold Ogden and Mary Bakas Brown. He would have celebrated his 74th birthday this year.

Brown earned four degrees from Harvard University and Harvard Divinity School. He received the Bachelor of Arts in Germanic languages and biochemical sciences, the Bachelor of Divinity in theology, the Master of Theology in church history and the Doctor of Philosophy in Reformation studies. He also studied at the University of Marburg, Germany, and the University of Vienna, Austria, and taught courses in Basel, Switzerland, and Yeotmal, India.

In 1975, Brown founded the Christian Action Council with former United States Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D. The Christian Action Council was the leading evangelical pro-life action group and an educational and service ministry, which he served as chairman until 1998. The Christian Action Council is currently known as Care Net, Inc. He was the director of the Center on Religion and Society at the Rockford Institute and taught in the International Seminar on Jurisprudence and Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Brown’s areas of expertise included systematic theology; right-to-life issues; ethics, especially ethical and family values; journalism, public affairs; and political philosophy. He is a member of the American Theological Society, and the Turnerschaft Saxonia Marburg.

Brown received several awards, including many for his pro-life work. He received Fulbright and Danforth awards and was voted Faculty Member of the Year at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he held the Franklin Forman Chair of Christian Ethics and Theology and was professor of biblical and systematic theology. He taught at Trinity as a visiting professor in 1971 and 1975 and served as associate professor of systematic theology from 1976 to 1983. After four years as a pastor in Switzerland, Brown returned to the Trinity faculty in 1987. He joined the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary on its Charlotte, North Carolina campus in the summer of 1998 and remained a vital part of the community until his passing.

Brown served on the editorial staff of Human Life Review and Christianity Today and served as contributing editor for Christianity Today and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He was editor of The Religion and Society Report and wrote numerous articles over the last 40 years in such magazines as National Review, Eternity, Hemelios, Human Life Review, and publications in Germany, Austria, and London. His books include The Protest of a Troubled Protestant (Zondervan, 1969), Christianity and the Class Struggle (Arlington House, 1970), Death before Birth (Thomas Nelson, 1977), The Reconstruction of the Republic (Arlington House, 1977), and Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present. His most recent books are Sensate Culture (Word, 1996) and Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church (Henderson, 1998).

Brown and his wife, Grace, had two children, Cynthia Brown Erb and Peter E.H. Brown. In his spare time, Brown enjoyed crew, skiing and mountaineering.

Harold or ‘Joe’ as many of us called him was a rich blessing to RTS, not only in his solid scholarship and classroom excellence but also in his personal relationships and care for students, staff, and other faculty. He had a European “dry wit” and a great sense of understated humor. Even though slowed by poor health in his later years, he was always challenging in his teaching and tender in his thoughtfulness to others. We will miss him but we rejoice in the heritage he left to us and in his presence with our Savior.

-Dr. Robert (Ric) C. Cannada, Jr., Chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary

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It has been a while since I have posted. Synod and other responsiblities have kept me from actively engaging the blog but I have been reading and keeping up.

Reading the blog gives me pause. I feel divided. In Frank Luntz fashion, Darryl has been able to give a pejorative name to advocates of Christian civil government: Transformationalist. What a dirty sounding word to anyone who stands upon anti-liberal ground. Surely Christian civil government must be rejected, it is an ideology that seeks to change (transform… yuck) society through politics… to tinker (transform) with human nature to conform with our NAPARC dreams.

But then I ask myself the question. What if the gospel takes root in China? Will China remain unchanged? Will its culture not be… transformed? Not on the basis of politics, but through the inpact of souls who have been ordered according to the standards of a Christ and His law.

This is how it was in the West and I am grateful for it. Grateful for our heritage of ordered liberty, economic freedom, and respect for humanity as made in the image of the living God. It has checked the power of the beast, it has made daily life more humane, and given honor to the church as the eschatological Kingdom dwelling in our midst.

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Andrew Matthews

Darryl Hart writes: “by this point in the blog, surely you can see ‘how I get around the fact that the cultural mandate was reaffirmed as part of the redemptive promises…’ I don’t know how I could be clearer. You disagree, of course. But really, you don’t see how I separate the cultural mandate from redemption?”

Of course, I see what you are doing. I just don’t see how it can be sustained from Scripture. At some point W2K theologians are going to have to admit there are laws operative within the economy of grace. The third use of the law, including the cultural mandate, flows from, and is determined by, the new covenant established by Christ. We are not obeying the terms of the CoW (we are no longer in that position), we are obeying laws that have been transferred over into the CoG. As Q.44 of the Shorter Catechism states, we are to obey God’s commandments because “God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer.”

Darryl writes: “the Westminster Divines do not regard the cultural mandate as part of redemption. Questions 21 to 38 of the Shorter Catechism teach about Christ’s work and the application of it by the Holy Spirit. There the cover effectual calling, justification, adoption, etc. I look in vain for anything that approximates the cultural mandate or its subsidiaries.”

I have two questions in response: First, did Christ fulfill the cultural mandate or not? Second, why would duties of Christians be included under questions relating to Christ and the Holy Spirit? Shouldn’t they be included in the questions relating to our moral duty (Q.39-Q.81)?

Darryl writes: “Why would the Divines be silent? It could be they ran out of time or room. It could also be that they saw how to distinguish between the perishable and imperishable.”

The cultural mandate was not a question the Westminster Divines were concerned with. They assumed the possibility of Christian culture: it was all around them. It is only in recent times, due to pervasive secularization, that the cultural mandate has become an urgent question.

However, there are questions that touch upon aspects of the cultural mandate:

Q.49: God shows disfavor unto the third and fourth generations of those that hate him & shows mercy unto thousands (of generations?) of those that love him and keep his commandments. Doesn’t W2K deny that this is how God still works?

Q.59: The Divines affirm the perpetuity of the Sabbath ordinance, thus implying that all work carried out in the week should be done for God’s glory in anticipation of the Sabbath rest (the eighth day). The Sabbath was moved to the first day of the week to show that we now pursue our vocations on the basis of gratitude for redemption & the power of Christ’s life. We do all things (not just cultic activity) by Christ who strengthens us. (Of course, many take exception to the Confession on this point because they have been allowed to. Nevertheless, Sabbath observance is confessional while non-observance isn’t.)

Q.66: The Divines affirm that the keeping of the Fifth commandment is attended with the blessings of “long life and prosperity” with the qualification: “as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good.” St. Paul affirms this in Eph. 6:1-3. I happen to know that W2K people don’t believe this either in the sense it was intended by the Divines.

Q.102: The Divines affirm that we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, the destruction of Satan’s, and for the “hastening of the kingdom of glory.” W2K men transgress the spirit of this petition when they deny we should endeavor to take every thought captive to Christ.

Q.103: The Divines affirm that we pray for God’s kingdom to be “on earth as it is in heaven.” W2K men transgress the spirit of this petition when they work to keep the city of man oriented toward the love of self for self’s sake.

W2K is not true Augustinianism because St. Augustine spoke of two cities with two loves, while W2K speaks of two cities without reference to the driving motivation of each. As soon as it is admitted that there are only two loves, the question becomes how (and not whether) Christians are to influence the earthly city for a higher purpose. Since Darryl likes to refer to St. Augustine so much, here’s a quotation:

“[A] good and honest life is not produced in any other way than by loving, in the manner in which they should be loved, the proper objects of our love, namely, God and our neighbour… Here also is security for the welfare and renown of a commonwealth; for no state is perfectly established and preserved otherwise than on the foundation and by the bond of faith and of firm concord, when the highest and truest common good, namely, God, is loved by all, and men love each other in Him without dissimulation, because they love one another for His sake from whom they cannot disguise the real character of their love” (Letter 137, 5.17).

Finally, I deny that the Christian’s obedience is perishable. Our labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).

Darryl writes: “If you think the Divines were wrong, Andrew, what revised questions do you propose adding to the Shorter Catechism?”

I don’t favor revising any historic confession, which seems to be the (to my mind unfortunate) practice of American denominational Christianity. Rather, a new document should be drafted which addresses this particular issue.

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Andrew Matthews

A Non-redemptive Providential Reign of Christ?

“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Take silver and gold from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon. Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the high priest, Yeshua son of Jehozadak. Tell him this is what the Lord almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from this place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two’” (Zech. 6:9-13).

In order to maintain his earthly people/heavenly people dichotomy, John Nelson Darby multiplied Christ’s priestly ministries. In studying Hebrews, Darby thought he discovered a distinction between Christ’s Melchizedekian ministry of blessing and another sacrificial ministry analogous to Aaron’s priesthood. The Klinean-W2K theology accomplishes the same effect in the particular way it distinguishes between common and redemptive grace. The intent is to maintain an earthly secular kingdom (culture) parallel with a heavenly kingdom of redemption (cult). For example, Darryl Hart writes: “Well, maybe we could choose the wise, strong and high and reputable if two ways are at work, the way of redemption and the way of creation-providence.” Both Dispensationalism and W2K have an interest in denying the catholicity of the new covenant—its cosmic universality and authority—during the present “parenthetical,” as they call it, Church age.

While Meredith Kline employs “common grace” language, Darryl dislikes the term, since it is a legacy of Abraham Kuyper’s Neo-Calvinism. He prefers instead to talk about Christ’s providential rule vs. redemptive reign. This is basically a semantic difference, however. Darryl understands history in light of Kline’s cult/culture dichotomy. Having examined Kline’s arguments for common grace in Kingdom Prologue, I have found them to be exceedingly weak (See below). In the final analysis, the Klineo-Hartian method of “dispensationalizing” Scripture turns out to be yet another destructive nature-grace dualism.

There is no providence/redemption dichotomy to be found in either God’s redemptive purpose, the post-Fall economy, or Christ’s mediatorial ministry. Rather, considerations may be brought to bear from each which imply a complete coordination of divine creative and redemptive acts in every era prior to the eschatological consummation. What I intend by “complete coordination” must be understood in light of the incarnate economy of Christ’s two natures united in his single hypostasis. It is time to exorcize the Nestorian spirit from the Reformed subconscious once and for all.

A. God’s Redemptive Purpose

First, redemption, broadly considered, is the activity God undertakes to save his created works from the ravages of sin, death, and corruption. It is quite literally the salvation of the kosmos (John 3:16-17). The argument being made here is that it was God’s intent all along to beatify creation. Compelling evidence for this is to be found in St. Paul’s teaching in Romans 8. Paul speaks of an intrinsic “desire” within creation for the liberty it will experience when God’s sons are revealed (Rom. 8:19). This desire, a desire for life—not annihilation, was inherent within it from the very beginning, part of its nature as created by God. This is because all creation was to be glorified with Adam after the probationary term of the CoW expired. Therefore, the world’s originally created purpose and its anticipated deliverance seamlessly coincide.

St. Paul’s teaching in Romans 8 is not a metaphorical anomaly easily dismissed by sophistical rationalization. Creation’s corruption and consequent suffering is integral to the narrative structure of redemptive history. When Adam fell, sin came into the world, and death by sin (Rom. 5:12). Also, the ground was cursed to yield thorns and thistles, and generally to impede man’s labor, which had once been a joyous task (Gen. 3:17-19).

There is thus a relationship between creation and the fate of humanity. Man was to rule and subdue the earth, rule the animals, and be sustained by the earth’s produce. However, the ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin, and the principles of death and corruption entered the created order. This means, at the very least, that the structure of organic life was biologically altered. At this point I’d like to recommend the traditional view against Kline that animal death did not naturally occur before the Fall. Indeed, Kline’s work is largely an attempt to demystify Scripture. He seems intent on providing theological reasons to explain away the mystical-cosmological features of biblical revelation, effectively dissolving much of the material into insubstantial abstraction: ceremonial symbol (e.g., the typological theocracies of the Ark and Israel) and literary metaphor (e.g., the framework hypothesis).

B. The Perpetuity of the Cultural Mandate

Meredith Kline argues that the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:26-31) was altered after the Fall. He writes:

The common culture that is the direct fruit of common grace is not itself identifiable with the holy, Sabbath-sealed redemptive kingdom of God…Another way of saying this is that common grace culture is not itself the particular holy kingdom-temple culture that was mandated under the creational covenant. Although certain functional and institutional provisions of the original cultural mandate are resumed in the common grace order, these now have such a different orientation, particularly as to objectives, one cannot simply and strictly say that it is the cultural mandate that is being implemented in the process of common grace culture. It might be closer to the truth to say that the cultural mandate of the original covenant in Eden is being carried out in the program of salvation, since the ultimate objective of that mandate, the holy kingdom-temple, will be the consummate achievement of Christ under the Covenant of Grace. On the other hand, the genealogical and earthly aspects of the original cultural mandate that were to consummate its preconsummation history are not part of the redemptive program per se…As brought over into the postlapsarian world, the cultural mandate undergoes such refraction that it cannot be identified in a simple, unqualified way with either the holy or common enterprises. (KP, 156-7, bold face added).

Here we see that Kline held that the original mandate had as its goal consummated glorification. He writes, “to produce the cult itself, the cosmic-human temple, was the ultimate objective in view in the cultural enterprise” (ibid., 89). We know that man’s confirmation in a state of righteousness was promised in the sacrament of the tree of life and was to be granted after Adam completed his probationary test. Humanity was to fill and cultivate the world in anticipation of his future glorification. Kline believes he can affirm the perpetuity of the cultural mandate post-Fall, and at the same time say it has been refracted. The question I have been raising is whether Kline has indeed preserved anything like the original cultural mandate in his theological reading of Scripture.

The answer is no. To refract a beam of light is to bend it. A prism can be used to break light up into its constituent spectral colors. Kline says that the post-fall economy divides the cultural mandate into parallel redemptive and common grace rays, and redirects cultural labor under common grace to a different end, a dead end. Here, then, is the source of the W2K providence-redemption bifurcation. Prisms are used to produce beautiful rainbows of light. Kline’s hatchet job on the cultural mandate separates the means from the end, effectively destroying it. Man’s work is now not only rendered difficult by God’s judgment; it is drudgery, stripped of its God-glorifying potential. God is then glorified only in the intention of one’s faith and not in one’s labor.

It should be noted that W2K proponents work with demonic persistence to strip temporal vocations of any intrinsic transcendentally oriented character. They applaud pagans who organize society on “neutral” technological and utilitarian principles, and oppose Christian transformationalists at every turn. W2K’s raison d’etre is to desacralize human life and to keep it profane.

Kline has two arguments that the common grace order was established to be secular: 1) Adam and Eve were addressed in the post-fall arrangement as representatives of common humanity, not as God’s elect and, 2) The Sabbath was not to be observed outside Eden, the Sabbath sanctuary.

Kline finds special significance in the fact that on the occasion of the protoevangelium, the first gospel, God addressed all three offending parties: Satan, Adam and Eve. He writes,

In pronouncing his verdicts, the Lord followed the sequence in which guilt had been incurred in the temptation and Fall. Judgment, therefore, moved on from the devil, by whom the temptation was first conceived, to the woman (Gen. 3:16) and then to Adam (Gen. 3:17-19)…Covenant-breakers though they were, Adam and Eve were predestined to become God’s covenant people once again through redemptive grace. Before long they were displaying faith and hope in the salvation promise contained in the curse of Satan (Gen. 3:15). Nevertheless, the divine revelation addressed directly to them (Gen. 3:16-19) did not have in view their personal identity as elect individuals; it rather contemplated the mankind that had been represented in Adam and in him had broken the covenant (ibid., 134).

Here we have simultaneously what Kline calls “the inauguration of the covenant of grace” (ibid., 143), and the inauguration of the common curse/common grace order. It can be clearly seen that whatever common grace is for Kline, it is founded by and for the Covenant of Grace (CoG).

Kline’s methodology is that of the Darbyite dispensationalist. Where there is only one covenant, he tries to find two. He wants so badly to find both a redemptive and a common grace covenant, that he imports predestination into the scriptural context.

Wonderful things in the Bible I see, things put there by you and by me.

Adam and Eve not viewed as elect? What is he talking about? Were they elect or weren’t they? Where else was the woman’s seed to come from that would defeat the serpent?

Yes, Adam and Eve broke the covenant. But God’s purposes for humanity and creation were not to be overthrown. This is the predestinarian error as opposed to true Calvinism: to underplay God’s steadfast commitment to ensure that his creative purpose is achieved. This can only arise from a hesitation to affirm that the Lord is truly good. Seeking to glorify God, an imbalanced piety says that God could have destroyed all creation and started everything over after the Fall. No, he would not. For his own sake, God initiates a covenant of grace to save the world.

Immediately after confronting the man, God pursues a line of interrogation until he reaches the source of the rebellion: Satan (Gen. 3:9-13). Without asking Satan his side of the story, God pronounces judgment upon him and declares warfare between Satan and the woman(!). He also announces—and by his word, guarantees—that the woman’s offspring will destroy him (vv.14-15). Redemption is clearly in view.

Why then does Kline claim that God “did not have in view their personal identity as elect”? The answer is simple: he wants to literally divide the covenant into separate dispensations. But God’s word cannot be broken. The contextual chain of thought remains intact: When he next speaks, God addresses the woman, taking up the difficulty she will experience in laboring to bring forth her seed (v.16). In doing so, the original mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” is perpetuated in the service of redemption.

When he addresses the man, God declares that man’s toil will be both painful and wearisome, that the earth will not easily yield its produce as before (vv.17-19). The original mandate to cultivate the earth is perpetuated despite the fact that death has entered the picture. Adam and Eve must have breathed a collective sigh of relief. Kline is surely correct to note that God’s graciousness maintained marriage, the propagation of offspring, and labor to sustain human life and realize “cultural satisfactions” (ibid., 154). For Kline, “cultural satisfactions” must mean anything other than works done to glorify God, because he thinks he has successfully divided redemptive cult from common grace culture. But he hasn’t.

Everything we have seen so far shows that God has graciously carried over the cultural mandate into the post-Fall phase of history. He has done so in the context of his announced redemptive plan. He affirms the perpetuation of the mandate’s various duties despite new difficulties. There aren’t two covenants present in Genesis 3; there is only one.

I mentioned above that Kline also argues for common grace’s secularity on the basis that the Sabbath was not institutionally reissued after the Fall (ibid., 155-6). Did it need to be reissued? God sanctified the seventh day (Gen. 2:2-3) so that man would labor six days and rest the seventh (Ex. 20:8-11). Was Adam to laboriously toil without respite, without following this pattern? Was Adam to pursue cultural ends without reference to the final rest of which the Sabbath is a sign? To ask these questions is to answer them.

A principle of discontinuity—a kind of crazy regulative principle—is at work in Kline’s theology here. In fact his treatment of the Sabbath is nothing more than an argument from silence. To assume that man is no longer to pursue the cultural mandate’s original purpose through his labor, despite all the evidence of continuity; to deny that God’s original purpose remains intact, despite his gracious intervention, evinces a presumptuous wresting of the word of God.

C. The Corruption of the Earth

After God cursed the ground for Adam’s sin, subsequent acts by succeeding generations led to further curses. The shedding of Abel’s blood led to Cain’s alienation from the ground (Gen. 4:10-12). By Noah’s time, the earth was corrupted so much by violence that God wished to destroy it (Gen. 6:5-7, 12-13). And though after the Flood, God promised never to comprehensively curse the ground again (Gen. 8:21), sinful and violent men have further defiled it. Later, the land of Canaan vomited out the nations that had originally settled it due to the defilement they perpetrated (Lev. 18:24-28). All this is to show that, according to Scripture, death and sin, especially the shedding of man’s blood, corrupt the earth. The provided examples show this “corruption principle” to be operative well before the “typological kingdom” of Israel was established in the land of Canaan (Numbers 35:33-34). The Israelites were even commanded to destroy the livestock of particularly wicked peoples (e.g., 1 Sam. 15:3). The same principle forms the basis for the Jerusalem council’s prohibition of food associated with idolatry (Acts 15:29) and St. Paul’s teaching about food associated with demonic idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14-22; Cf. 2 Tim. 2:20-21). This is confirmed by the fact that the council grouped “idol food” together with blood-eating and sexual immorality. The reasons for this particular association will become clear in my dicussion of the Noahic covenant.

The corruption of the earth by sin provides an explanation for the biblical differentiation between clean and unclean animals. The ground is where blood is shed and corpses are left to rot. This defiles the earth (Gen. 4:10; Num. 35:33-34; Cf. Deut. 21:22-23) and the creatures that move upon it, especially carnivorous animals (Lev. 5:2; 11:1ff.; 17:15-16). To engage in a bit of speculation, we know that once an animal tastes human blood it acquires a taste for it. There may be a partial explanation here for the disorder and violence of the natural world. However, it can hardly be denied that a cosmic imbalance occurs when the image of God is destroyed (or murderously attacked) (Gen. 4:10; Num. 35:33). Such is intuitively understood by every man whose moral sense has not been entirely extinguished.

Even the killing of an animal is not meaningless, but contributes to the disruption of the created order. When animals are slaughtered their blood must be poured out and buried under earth (Lev. 17:13-14). This is because burial is a kind of temporary atonement, a restoration of balance in creation. Since life is in the blood (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:10ff.), the consumption of animal blood entails an unlawful taking of what belongs only to the Lord (Lev. 17:11) and is indicative of man’s transformation into a bestial deity who wastes and destroys creation for satiating his own lusts. It is plain that the prohibition against blood-eating has validity outside the Mosaic dispensation (Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:20, 29), and is therefore obligatory for Christians as well. Therefore, a “corruption principle” is operative in the fallen creation that is not peculiar to the symbolic economy of the Mosaic covenant. Even now there is “fruit” forbidden to us.

Kline tries to evade the import of the scriptural data by restricting the clean/unclean distinction to various “intrusive” theocratic dispensations. Another strategy he employs is to restrict the blood prohibition to altar communities (ibid., 256-62). What his explanation does not account for is why all animal blood is disallowed, and not just that of animals designated for sacrifice. His account also fails when he tries to explain the presence of the blood prohibition in the so-called postdiluvian common grace covenant. I will return to this issue in my discussion of the Noahic covenant in the next installment of this series.

The Bible presents a metaphysical view of reality that constantly leaps off its pages. God sovereignly created the world to be enchanted by supernatural powers. Angelic beings govern creation. The Fall affected creation metaphysically. Sin is the principle of corruption and death. Both righteous acts and sin affect the world. Demonic possession happens; exorcisms are performed. Symbolic actions have cosmic ramifications. The water of baptism is the washing of regeneration. We should take care that we accept Scripture’s teaching by faith and then seek to understand it. We do not begin by deciding what is first possible. God’s word defines what’s possible. Meredith Kline’s biblical theology is an attempt to accommodate Scripture—to domesticate it—to the modern secular mind’s sensibility. It’s time to identify this kind of theology for what it is—a form of godliness that denies the power thereof.

To be continued…

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