Kingdom Prologue (Meredith Kline)

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RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Kline, Meredith. Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview. Two Age Press.

This is the cornerstone of Kline’s work, and any criticism of Kline must answer this work. Like all of Kline’s work, it is brilliant, engaging, and controversial. Kline anticipated numerous developments in biblical theology, especially as they relate to man as vice-regent and covenant theology.

We can summarize this book around Creation, Common Grace, and Covenant.

Structure of the Covenant

The covenant began by acknowledging the covenant lord by name, followed by a historical survey of his previous dealings with the vassal (22). Genesis 1-2 doesn’t have a preamble as such, but the covenant Lord does identify himself.

Creation

Genesis 1:1


It “denotes an event at a ‘beginning’ time that preceded the episodes delineated in verses 2ff” (24). A heaven already existed prior to God’s dividing the waters, which means “heaven,” albeit a created heaven, is not identical to “the sky.” This act of creating the heavens in verse 2 included the sun and stars, which would receive their thematic treatment on Day 4.

The creation account doesn’t have any sense of “war” or struggle (26). Indeed, it was “royal construction” (27). He doesn’t use tools. “The word of his will is his all-effective instrument” (29). Creation week reveals God’s building his cosmic house. The Sabbath is his enthronement (35). Cf. Isa. 66:1; 1 Chr. 28:2. Hebrews 4 notes a parallel between Israel’s dominion-rest and Yahweh’s Sabbath rest.

It is important to note that while Kline is setting the stage for his controversial “framework theory,” that is not the main point of this argument.

Common Grace

Unlike many popular accounts of common grace, Kline actually works through it. Too often, especially in neo-Kuyperian circles, common grace is used as a mantra to justify what one already likes about the current order. To be fair, Kuyper himself did anchor it in the Noahic Covenant, and Kline will do so as well.

To understand Kline’s view of common grace, we need to see the difference between the Kingdom City (Metapolis) and the City of Man. Megapolis is not exactly the city of man. It is the earthly sphere. Metapolis is the kingdom city. As Kline notes, it has “undergone eschatological metamorphosis at the hands of the Omega-Spirit” (100). It is the temple of God’s presence.

Kline’s account of common grace is far more robust than neo-Kuyperian accounts. He notes that “common grace and common curse are correlative to each other (154). Without a common curse, it is not clear why one would need common grace. I think this is the point Klaas Schilder was trying to make against Abraham Kuyper. Schilder was never clear about it, though. The goal of common grace is to provide an interim for the gospel to work (155).

All of this is good and few Reformed would disagree. Kline takes this fact and expounds a new concept: the common. Everything that is not sacred space is the common. The common opens the door for “holy redemptive history” (156).

Therefore, the non-common, the holy, is “the kingdom-intrusion.” It is the anticipation of the final redemptive judgment (158). This means in our modern civil government “we always have the responsibility, whether dealing with…laws of community life, to distinguish which features of Israelite law were peculiarly theocratic (or typologically symbolic) and which are still normative in our present nontheocratic situation (159).

Not surprisingly, Kline pushes back against Kuyperians and “neo-Dooyeweerdians,” particularly the desire to identify creation in a “monistic fashion with the kingdom of God” (171). Although there are not many Dooyeweerdians today, there is a tendency to desire theocracy of some sort. Far from being a liberal, Kline’s vision of the state is quite conservative, almost libertarian at times. The state “is not redemptive. Accordingly, the state as an institutional embodiment of common grace is not designed to provide ultimate and complete solutions for malfunctioning society” (178).

This means the state has to be “non-confessional” (179). If the state is about justice, not justification, then the point of the state is not religion.

Covenant of Works

The covenant of works safeguards the principle of “do this and live.” This is in sharp contrast with the covenant of grace. Kline’s argument is that muting the works principle in the Adamic covenant creates a continuum between works and grace. Pressed hard enough, the gospel is not seen as purely gracious (108).

Most Reformed would agree with him on this point. Kline’s more controversial move, albeit not without precedent in the Reformed tradition, is applying the words principle on a typological basis to the Mosaic economy of Israel. He is not saying Israel earned eternal life by works. Rather, the works principle of Leviticus 18:5 must obtain. Kline’s argument at the surface level is simple: if the Mosaic economy was purely one of grace, then why did Israel get rejected from the land?

Analysis and Conclusion

I do not think anyone fully agrees with Kline. I do think he is a far more important thinker than many of his critics believe. Some might not like his republication of the covenant of works, but it does have precedent in the Reformed world. Even if one were to finally reject Kline on that point, his analysis forced Reformed people to think more rigorously on the covenant of works, especially in light of the Federal Vision heresy.

His take on common grace might be more difficult. As it stands, this is not the traditional Reformed view on the civil magistrate. That needs to be stated. On the other hand, most NAPARC ministers are not lobbying Congress to reinstate the Solemn League and Covenant. Moreover, I don’t think Reformed theocrats have fully worked out what it means to institute case laws in today’s world. It is not as simple as banning abortion (the outlawing of which is justifiable on natural law grounds). It is not as simple as promoting the sanctity of marriage (also natural law).

The references to natural law, which, surprisingly, Kline himself does not seem to employ, illustrate why this debate has always been difficult in Reformed circles. It is tempting to identify “neutral” with “common.” Man cannot be neutral before God. Man can live in common areas, though. That is undeniable. This might be my main criticism of the book: Kline did not really engage with natural law ethics of any kind.

For my own part, if Kline’s position is wedded to a robust natural law ethic, I think it is sustainable. It avoids some of the disasters of antinomianism while avoiding any kind of legalism. Although this is an important book, I do not think it is Kline’s best book. Moreover, this review did not touch on all the rich typological insights. Those insights, if studied carefully, will richly repay one’s study.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
I forget but does he talk about imperfect merit in this book? If so, that to me is a teaching that diminishes the Gospel.

And again, don’t know if it is this book, but his placing the Covenant of Works in the creation act instead of following it is highly problematic as it leads to definition changes in other parts of theology and cause massive problems in covenant theology and a lot of what you discussed here.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Jacob, can you tell me what you think of Clark's statement here. He is one of Kline's descendants. I have a lot of problems with this.

Is Republication Really That Confusing?

"If the substance of the moral law given to Adam was also recapitulated, re-stated, or re-published at Sinai, then that is some version of republication." Dr. R. Scott Clark

Since this was written we had the OPC report that was pretty good. Current names of authors should have been named in it but, Oh well.
Also don't forget the analysis of Kline by three of Westminster West's students who pressed the issue that resulted in the OPC Study. They wrote Moses and Merit. They also do a lot of work with the typology issue. I posted a lot on these topics on my blog.

The Substance of the Moral Law is not the same as the substance of the Covenant of Works. That is messed up.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I forget but does he talk about imperfect merit in this book? If so, that to me is a teaching that diminishes the Gospel.

And again, don’t know if it is this book, but his placing the Covenant of Works in the creation act instead of following it is highly problematic as it leads to definition changes in other parts of theology and cause massive problems in covenant theology and a lot of what you discussed here.

I do not think he talks about imperfect merit. I'll double check. Wait, I know you are talking about now. If I recall correctly, he talks about the distinction between condign and congruent merit. I reread the section from p. 108ff and he doesn't mention that. It could be somewhere else.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Jacob, can you tell me what you think of Clark's statement here. He is one of Kline's descendants. I have a lot of problems with this.

Is Republication Really That Confusing?

"If the substance of the moral law given to Adam was also recapitulated, re-stated, or re-published at Sinai, then that is some version of republication." Dr. R. Scott Clark

Since this was written we had the OPC report that was pretty good. Current names of authors should have been named in it but, Oh well.
Also don't forget the analysis of Kline by three of Westminster West's students who pressed the issue that resulted in the OPC Study. They wrote Moses and Merit. They also do a lot of work with the typology issue. I posted a lot on these topics on my blog.

The Substance of the Moral Law is not the same as the substance of the Covenant of Works. That is messed up.

Does the moral law written on the heart condemn natural man? That's my understanding of it. One of its functions, anyway.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Also how would you rate Kline's descendant that evaded the OPC and ended up in the PCA as a Ruling Elder? What was his name?
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
I don't have Kingdom Prologue any longer. Lane and I went around about that book and Kline's

This was linked to on Aquila....
Confusion in the Camp; Merit and Reformed Theology

Two different definitions of merit... redefinition

Creation, Condescension, and Redefinition of Covenant Merit


There is a mistake in Kline's theology I believe as he makes the Covenant of Works a Creation identity similar to Dr. Robert Gonzales who use to debate this issue here many years ago. As these guys have noted, "…The obliteration of the distinction between creation and covenant is extremely significant for laying the foundation of a new paradigm of merit—one that is divorced from ontological considerations."
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Does the moral law written on the heart condemn natural man? That's my understanding of it. One of its functions, anyway.
Yes it does. But does that make it a Covenant of Works? No. You are speaking after the fall and after the Covenant of Works was broken and annulled. It can't be reinstated again. There is no more pure legality in any proceeding covenant.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Also how would you rate Kline's descendant that evaded the OPC and ended up in the PCA as a Ruling Elder? What was his name?

I used to use the Irons case as a critique of Kline. I don't think it works, though. It's a logical fallacy. One can apply the same line of reasoning to theonomists (e.g., kinism, almost-polygamy, etc).

That also underscores why Kline's project needs natural law.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Yes it does. But does that make it a Covenant of Works? No. You are speaking after the fall and after the Covenant of Works was broken and annulled. It can't be reinstated again. There is no more pure legality in any proceeding covenant.

It does not make it a covenant of works simpliciter, but Kline would not have claimed that for the Mosaic economy, either.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Thank for this. I didn’t know Aquinas had even taken a headshot with hair.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
I used to use the Irons case as a critique of Kline. I don't think it works, though. It's a logical fallacy. One can apply the same line of reasoning to theonomists (e.g., kinism, almost-polygamy, etc).

That also underscores why Kline's project needs natural law.

I take Lee Irons as the logical outworking of Kline. Kline did not see the end of his views, I think when consistently applied you get Lee Irons, and when less consistently applied you get Westminster West Seminary.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I take Lee Irons as the logical outworking of Kline. Kline did not see the end of his views, I think when consistently applied you get Lee Irons, and when less consistently applied you get Westminster West Seminary.

My only quibble there is that the faculty of Westminster hold to natural law, which safeguards against situations like Misty Irons. Prof Clark has been a strong proponent of the moral law and patriotism in the good sense of the word. And claims like "consistently applied" aren't always easy to gloss. I just don't see the connection between a typology in the OT law as an intrusion on one hand, and Misty Irons on the other.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
I just don't see the connection between a typology in the OT law as an intrusion on one hand, and Misty Irons on the other.
Is that an apples and oranges connection? It is primarily the Natural Law debate that many are having problems with here. It is not just that there is a belief in Natural Law but how it is defined and dichotomized to fit Westminster West's narrative. I am not really sure Misty has anything to do with this. Lee is the outworking of Kline's theology. Kline is messy. Sure he may be a very intelligent person but as even Karlburg noted, The Kline who wrote the book ‘By Oath Consigned‘ was not the same theologically as the Kline of ‘Kingdom Prologue’ many years later. I discussed this with Lane Tipton years ago before the OPC study and report with some head way. But he was a semi-defender of Kline. I still have my emails from him and R. Scott Clark. I know these guys who hold to Klinianism are in opposition to Westminister Standards Chapter 7 and totally skew Chapter 19 because of their views of Law and Grace. They are more like Reformed Baptists than confessionally Reformed Christians. I know.
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
Van Drunen believes natural law alone is the sufficient standard for ordering the civil society aright. The Canons of Dort and Belgic Confession testify that natural law is insufficient to order things civil and natural “aright” due to the noetic effects of sin.
 
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