Meredith Kline and Subscriptionism

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by CalvinandHodges, Jul 22, 2008.

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  1. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Dr. Clark, without meaning to be disrespectful, voting against Norm Shepherd and attacking theonomy are not relevant to the point of the quotes that Mr. King has posted. If in spite of what seem like pretty straightforward statements you have some way of demonstrating that Professor Kline was not, in fact, teaching dangerous and bizarre doctrine I would be glad to hear it.
  2. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Kline may have had shortcomings.
    For me he was valuable because he showed that that we must understand the essence of the covenant as being God's oath or promise to His people. The covenant is thus not in its essence an agreement or a relationship. To whatever extent it is these things flows from its being God's oath to save His people in Jesus Christ.
  3. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    One could also point out that Bahnsen (and Shepherd for that matter) was never actually disciplined by the OPC either. That would not stop me (or others) from criticizing them.
  4. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Is there going to be any answer to Ruben's question in #31?

    (Other than questioning the disciplinary procedures in the OPC?)

    As a sidenote it seems that the one making the critiques (Rev. Adam King) has read Dr. Kline. So should not his critiques have a fair and honest hearing?
  5. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I'll settle for an answer to #25.

    Also, Kline was a confessional man? I went to the website devoted to him, clicked on an article that seemed like it would be relevant to the most disturbing of the quotes posted by Mr. King, and this was the first paragraph:

    (Emphasis added)

    Aren't our confessions precisely traditional dogmatic wineskins?
  6. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Anyone willing to defend such statements?
  7. kceaster

    kceaster Puritan Board Junior

    I have recently changed my mind on SOME of Kline's ideas about the covenant (of which I hope to explain more fully in due time), but I would be curious to know why faith is placed behind obedience in order of importance. It would seem here that he goes too far to prove the temporal and typological aspects of the national covenant. In doing so he is pitting scripture against scripture, as Hebrews 11:6 tells us that faith is the primary instrument that pleases God, not obedience. So, no amount of prototypical or shadowy language should be able to demolish that premise. Of course, he would argue that obedience wasn't the ground for getting spiritual reward but only temporal reward like he says above. But again, the Bible says that his faith was accounted to him as righteousness, not obedience. It was this righteousness, which is really the righteousness of Christ, that made him a friend of God.

    For those of you who know Klein better, does he ever engage Hebrews 11 when talking about the temporal blessings of the covenant? Maybe better put, what role does faith play in the temporal blessings of the covenant? Is it the ground for both spiritual and physical blessing? Or, is it only the ground for spiritual blessing?

    In Christ,

  8. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    It is not clear from the excerpt you cited whether or not Kline would have so defined the confessions. Since the excerpt does not mention the confessions, nor an investigation collation and analysis of what Scripture tells us about God, instead mentioning "the traditonal thological practice of beginning to define the imago dei by engaging in an analysis of what constitutes humanness", I suspect that he was more likely referring to engaging in the latter practice rather than the confession or searching the Scriptures to see what they tell us about God. Unless of course the rest of the article makes it clear that Kline is defining the confessions as "old wineskins."

    If defining the imago dei by analyzing humanness apart from confessional control is what Kline was warning against, then he is not unconfessional to do so. By coincidence, Semper Fidelis has recently made the same point in another thread, that discussing the question of God's "emotions".
  9. CDM

    CDM Puritan Board Junior

    :ditto: I am not, however, defending--or attacking--Dr. Kline. Why? I have only read bits of him and taking any one sentence from a man, without reading the entire argument is grossly unfair, to put it mildly.

    Having said that, it doesn't mean that some one liners don't send up red flags.
  10. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    All of this comes from the same book? I was wondering because I was looking for a good synopsis of his beliefs and why he was is no liked.
  11. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    We may need to do some thread-splitting to keep these questions focussed. But whoever shouldn't say anything, if someone knows of a way to keep Kline's statements given by Mr. King above in line with Nicene orthodoxy, I think several of us would like to know what it is.

    As far as the old dogmatic wineskins go, he does manifest a certain willingness to mess not just with trajectories but with creedal statements, in saying that it would be desirable to add to our creedal formulations of the Son's filiation a statement that it is from the Father and the Spirit. Combine that with a "let's go back to the Bible and scrap the old way of doing things" line, and what are you coming up with?
  12. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, this is all from the same book: God, Heaven and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos published by Wipf & Stock in 2006. This was Kline's last book before he died. In the preface, Kline comments that this book is designed to complement his book Kingdom Prologue but is aimed at a less academic audience. In essence this is the fruit of his most mature thought. This book was designed for just the thing you are after.
  13. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    From the WCF (and just about every other orthodox confession except those of the East who (I think) still leave the last three words out):

    Kline as quoted above

    So, it is advisable and perhaps even necessary to incorporate Kline's theory into our most basic creeds that would read how? The filioque is the last three words of
    So, would it look like this?
  14. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    My reading would suggest something more along the lines of:
  15. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    That says the same as
    It's just worded differently. As a PS, how would you treat the Spirit?
  16. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    No Tim, because the Son does not proceed ever. He is begotten. That is His unique description. The Son only of the Trinity is begotten; the Spirit only of the Trinity proceedes.
  17. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    I think there is some substantive difference. First, Kline does not suggest a modification of the filioque clause but rather proposes a modification of the "confessional formulation of the eternal filiation of the Son." Second, I have a really hard time believing that Kline would have actually been comfortable with the language you have used. Your language presents an eternal procession of the Son from the Father and Spirit. I don't believe that generation and procession have historically been considered interchangeable terms. There is some difference between the two however that difference may be defined. Furthermore, Kline's statement that the Spirit should be considered as a subject in the eternal generation of the Son doesn't necessarily entail an identical role to the Father's.

    I don't know to what extent I agree with Kline on this one, but I find it hard to declare such discussion immediately outside the bounds of orthodoxy. I'll have to do some research later, because it seems like I could plausibly see Robert Letham proposing a similar modification to the one I presented above.
  18. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior


    I was Meredith's student. I was his colleague. I was his friend. MGK was no anti-Trinitarian. He wasn't making systemtic-dogmatic points. He was explicating passages from a redemptive-historical point of view.

    Might he have used infelicitous language? Yes, but what was his intent as measured by the immediate context and the broader context of his work and ministry? Does anyone care about that or are well happy just to besmirch the reputation of a faithful minister?

    Where was all this concern about Nicene orthodoxy when he was alive? This is the first I've EVER heard about this since 1984.
  19. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    Dr Clark,

    We can all appreciate and respect your loyalty to a beloved teacher, colleague and friend. However, the intention of those of us concerned with his doctrine is not to make personal attacks thus "besmirching the reputation of a faithful minister". Rather, by quoting Kline in his own words it is to draw attention to places in his works that are not in accord with our confessional teachings and have dangerous implications.

    You claim that Kline's intent was not to make "systematic-dogmatic points". And yet in the passage above quoted Kline is actually suggesting an addition to the Nicene creed. I do not see how this is compatible with your assertion. The creeds are most definitely "dogmatic" documents and Kline was proposing a change in them.

    Secondly, the so called "redemptive-historical point of view" must conform to accepted dogmatic standards or it is justly liable to the charge of heterodoxy. I believe you are creating a false dichotomy between the two that biblical theologians such as Geerhardus Vos did not make.

    Some of us did not have the opportunity to know Dr. Kline personally. All we have to go on is his "infelicitous language". Even if we want to judge him by his wider work, we are left with Kline's own comments in that book that this is how he was interpeting his own work. It is just and fair to judge a man's writings, especially when his own claims are that they represent his work as a whole and is suggesting alterations to our creedal standards.

    Dr. Kline's work grew over time. In his last book he is far more explicit on some of these heterodox points than in his earlier career. I was not around through his 50 years of ministry, and I cannot answer for his presbytery in the OPC (neither do I feel responsible to do so--they are answerable to God). But if a minister in my presbytery were making statements such as these, irrespective of his name or reputation, I would feel compelled to charge him with heresy.

    Appealing to personal history, reputation and so forth as you keep doing in no way justifies such blatantly heterodox statements, in which Kline in his own words disagrees with the creeds. That was the question in the OP. Are Kline's views confessional? The obvious answer is no.
  20. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    I did a little reading in Letham's The Holy Trinity on this matter. As he is dealing with the filioque controversy, he makes the following remarks,
    Letham doesn't come right out and endorse the idea wholeheartedly, but he does refer to it as "particularly stimulating" in a footnote on page 68. I know that this doesn't necessarily make the idea Biblical or confessional, but perhaps some consideration is needed when similar thoughts are entertained by one of the foremost contemporary confessional Reformed writers on the Trinity?
  21. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Dr. Clark, I appreciate the replies. The question you raise is exactly the question I have. How come nobody called him on his infelicitous language while he was alive to explain himself? Now that he is gone we can only gain clarification by reading his complex and specialised works or through the recollections that those who know him personally might have of conversations on these topics. So I ask you, as one who knew him, is the endoxation of the Spirit merely a redemptive-historical linguistic trick with no bearing on systematics? Is suggesting that the Spirit is active in the Son's filiation (and that this is clear enough and important enough to warrant a modification of our creedal documents) somehow not what Professor Kline meant by the statements quoted from his last book? If he said it is a desideratum to add something to our creedal statements, but he didn't mean that we should revise our constitutional documents, I think that is language that is not merely infelicitous but downright misleading. Please, help me to understand what contextual palliation could remove the force of that statement.

    -----Added 1/13/2009 at 08:35:51 EST-----

    Bryan, in the first place, I don't think that Letham's "stimulating" comment necessarily involves anything beyond "this makes you think". In the second place, even liking a suggestion and considering it valuable as a direction for further research is very different from proposing emendations to the ancient creedal formulations. In the third place, even a leading light can have a crazy idea or two: the question is what he does with them. No one is suggesting exhuming Professor Kline to do despite to his remains. But I am asking for someone who can explain some reasonable way not to take his statements at face value: personal recollections or covering fire from other theologians don't address the concern: did Professor Kline mean what it sounds like he meant, and if not why not?
  22. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    Certainly it isn't the same as if Letham had written a section advocating such a modification himself. I simply want to point out that he doesn't immediately identify such thinking as heresy and disregard it. I'd also like to point out that Letham does propose modifications to the filioque clause later in his book. Personally, I don't know if I see any need for additions to the ecumenical creeds. However, this doesn't mean that I consider anyone who proposes a modification to be a heretic. It is possible to propose an addition or modification to the Nicene Creed which is meant to clarify rather than correct.

    Perhaps it would aid the conversation if you presented what you think Kline is advocating.

    From my point of view, Kline's language in this obscure passage isn't the best, but doesn't necessarily mean that he denies the Athanasian Creed's statement:
    I can see how you could make the argument that the Spirit may be active in the Son's filiation while still preserving the generation of the Son's subsistence from the Father alone. Kline never stated exactly how the Spirit should be considered in the generation of the Son. I get the impression that y'all are automatically assuming that Kline wants to rewrite the Nicene Creed to say:
    I agree that some of Kline's writings are not compatible with the Westminster Standards on the topics of the 4th Commandment and Creation. I think accusations regarding his Trinitarian theology are a bit of a stretch.
  23. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Bryan, certainly there are additions which are amplifications: there are also amplifications which are distortions. Look again at some of the words cited by Mr. King:
    "The Father begets the Son through the Spirit. In this process the Spirit is the second person and the Son the third."

    Is there any reason that, so far as I know, it has been universally accepted that the order of the Persons is Father, Son, Holy Spirit? If there is, then Professor Kline's suggestion necessarily involves a radical reformulation. "2nd" and "3rd" will no longer be static terms, but they will at one point be applicable to the Son, at another to the Spirit.
    This claim also would seem to amount to a functional denial of a distinction between generation and spiration. I see no way to think of these things as minor points.
  24. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    As I read it, I understood Kline to be referring to the incarnation of the Son, not eternal generation, in this passage. He's referring to functional roles at one point in the history of redemption rather than the eternal relation of the Trinitarian persons. I don't know of any Reformed or ecumenical confessions that really speak to this point one way or another.
  25. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member


    The statement itself by Kline is with respect to the eternal generation/filiation of the Son, not the incarnation. Note my emphasis on the statement:

    I am willing to be convinced that Kline is being unbelievably unclear here (which would be normal for him, in my opinion), but it seems that Kline is suggesting exactly what you say he is not suggesting.
  26. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    Let me repost the passage with a note or two from my perspective:

    So this language is explicitly still in the context of Kline's discussion of redemptive history. Following this conclusion, he then moves to the application to the "eternal immanent relations" of the Trinitarian persons:

    He never exactly states the extent of the analogy. If he saw an exact correlation, I would expect to read that the fathering of the incarnate Son by the edoxate Spirit images the fathering of the eternal Son by the eternal Spirit. Instead, he uses the obtuse language of "inclusion of the Spirit along with the Father as a subject in the eternal divine begetting." This language suggests to me that Kline didn't necessarily intend to present a one-to-one correlation between the economic and immanent Trinitarian relations in this case.
  27. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member


    Ok, at best his language is unhelpful, obtuse and confusing. But even so, why then say:

    How can I possibly take the bolded portion to mean other than:

    "the confession ought to be amended at the point of the eternal generation of the Son to include a reference to the Holy Spirit being involved in such generation" ?

    I mean, that is exactly what the filioque did; it changed the creed withe respect to the eternal relations, not the economic relations (which even the EO acknowledge) of the Trinity. If I understand Kline to be saying what you say with respect to this "endoxation" (whatever that is supposed to mean) and apply it to the same way that he speaks of the filioque, then I am left saying that 1000 years of Western and Eastern theology is out to lunch, since they have been arguing (and a schism has been made) over basically nothing.

    The more this is discussed, the more distressing Kline's statements appear.
  28. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Dr. Sam Waldron also discussed Fuller in this book.

    It is eye opening.
  29. Dearly Bought

    Dearly Bought Puritan Board Junior

    I do understand him to be saying "the confession ought to be amended at the point of the eternal generation of the Son to include a reference to the Holy Spirit being involved in such generation" as you do. My point however is that I doubt Kline is suggesting that we should confess that "the Father and the Spirit beget the Son." The inferred involvement of the Spirit that Kline suggests could be expressed any number of ways that might be interpreted as a clarification rather than a correction of falsehood. I suggest that he might have had in mind something like "the Father begets the Son through the Spirit." This doesn't negate the filioque controversy at all.

    *Please do note in all of this that I am not stating my agreement with Kline's reasoning in this passage. I don't think it is the best of his work that I've read. I'm simply suggesting that he wasn't trying to oppose the Trinitarian doctrine of the ecumenical creeds.
  30. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Bryan, you don't have to suggest that it was something like "The Father begets the Son through the Spirit." That is what Professor Kline says.

    On the basis of how things function in the Incarnation (which understanding itself seems to me open to question, especially with regard to the endoxation of the Spirit), Professor Kline would amend the creedal account. The eternal relations are analogous to the economic relations. Barring the absence of evidence to the contrary, it follows that he would amend the creedal account in a manner that reflects the analogy from the incarnation. In that economic activity, the Father begets the Son through the Spirit. That conclusion is strengthened by the fact that he wants something comparable to the filioque. Anything less than "through" is hardly comparable.

    I agree with Fred that the more one chews on Professor Kline's remarks, the less palatable they seem.
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