What about the second step of their core argument? They claim Kline’s voluntaristic definition of merit undergirds and makes possible his doctrine that the Mosaic covenant is a republication of the covenant of works:
This redefinition [of merit] was first applied to the notion of Adamic merit in the original covenant of works. In the development of Kline’s teaching, it also came to undergird and shape Israel’s “typological merit” in the republication of the covenant of works under Moses …. The traditional view required that a work be perfect in order to merit before God. In the redefined view underlying the republication position, perfection is no longer absolutely necessary …. This redefinition of merit … is central and foundational to the doctrine of republication (MM 41, 48, 59).
But it is simply not the case that Kline’s definition of merit “came to undergird” his republication doctrine. They provide no quotes where he explicitly moves from point A to point B, that is, from his view of merit (which arose in the context of debate whether Adam could have merited under the covenant of works) to his view that the Mosaic covenant was, at the typological layer, a republication of the covenant of the works. And they would not be able to find any quotes to that effect, since, as we have seen, Kline did not hold a voluntaristic definition of merit in which God is at liberty, by his mere will, untethered from his justice, to define imperfect deeds performed by sinners as meritorious.
The authors of MM further claim that Kline, based on his voluntaristic definition of merit, taught that sinners can “extract” a blessing from God (p. 39), that God “makes himself indebted” to sinful man (MM 77). They argue that, for Kline, the category of merit applies “equally” to Christ, Adam, Israel (MM 68, 112); these figures are “interchangeable” (MM 117). “The fact that Israel’s works are those of fallen sinful creatures is completely irrelevant” (MM 69).
All these outlandish charges flow from their faulty starting point, but bear no relationship to reality. Kline never said or implied that sinners can “extract” a blessing from God. Kline never said or implied that the category of merit applies “equally” to Christ, Adam, and Israel. Kline certainly never said or implied that the sinfulness of Israel is “completely irrelevant.” Again, they are not able to bring forward any quotes supporting these allegations—in this case, not even a lonely snippet of a quote.
Now, it is true that Kline occasionally spoke of a kind of “meritorious” obedience in the post-Fall situation, as either something that occurred (e.g., in the case of the exemplary obedience of Noah, Abraham, and David), or as something God required (e.g., in the case of Israel under the republished works principle in the Mosaic covenant). But Kline recognized that any “merit” on the part of sinners in the post-Fall situation is in a special category by itself—it is emphatically typological merit. After the Fall, the imperfect obedience of certain OT saints (sinners saved by grace incapable of truly meriting anything) could function typologically only if God “constituted” those individuals as typological signs of the coming Messiah and “invested” their flawed obedience with typological significance. Kline writes:
The biblical data indicate that the Lord was pleased to take the exemplary obedience of certain of his servants and to constitute that a typological sign of how the obedience of the coming messianic Servant of the Lord would secure the kingdom and its royal-priestly blessings for himself and for his people. Abraham and David were recipients of such covenants of grant as rewards for faithfulness. Phinehas was another (cf. Num 25:11–13). Each of these individuals had personal hope of heaven only through God’s grace in Jesus Christ, only as a gift received by faith alone. But the conspicuous faithfulness of their lives in general or of certain specific acts of outstanding service they performed was invested by the Lord with typological significance so that they, with reference to a typological manifestation of the kingdom, pointed to Christ as one who also was under a covenant of works and received the grant of the kingdom for the obedient fulfillment of his covenantal mission (KP 237-38, emphasis added).
Here is another quote by Kline making the same point:
Within this typological structure Abraham emerges as an appointed sign of his promised messianic seed, the Servant of the Lord, whose fulfillment of his covenantal mission was the meritorious ground of the inheritance of the antitypical, eschatological kingdom by the true, elect Israel of all nations. Certainly, Abraham’s works did not have that status. They were, however, accorded by God an analogous kind of value with respect to the typological stage represented by the old covenant …. It was only a typological pointer but the obedience of Abraham that God assessed as meritorious on these two occasions was richly symbolic of Messiah’s mission (KP 325-26, emphasis added).
Whether we are talking about Noah, Abraham, David, or corporate Israel, these sinners did not themselves merit blessings in the same sense that Adam could have or that Christ did. Rather, God invested the imperfect obedience of sinful men with symbolic significance so that within the logic of the typological picture their obedience could function as the legal ground of blessing (which is a significant part of what Kline means when he says an act is “meritorious”). Their obedience was not, in itself, truly meritorious, since that would require their obedience to have occurred under a true covenant of works. Rather, their obedience occurred under a typological covenant of works, and so their obedience was a “typological pointer” that looked back to the obedience Adam failed to yield and forward to the obedience of the second Adam.
Additionally, Kline made it clear that God’s appointment of national Israel to be a type of Christ’s probation under the works principle was itself a privilege of grace:
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 (GHHM 128, emphasis added).
That last clause is particularly telling and directly contradicts the central claim of MM. Remember, the fundamental theological error of Klinean republication, in their view, is the assertion that fallen sinners can merit or extract temporal blessings from God. In the above quote, Kline explicitly rejects that. To the degree that he speaks of sinners (whether Noah, Abraham, or the Israelites) having a kind of “merit” (typological merit) in the post-Fall situation it is only because God in his grace had appointed these sinners to serve as types of Christ and accorded their sinful works a value analogous to the merit of Christ. The entire arrangement (national Israel as a typal kingdom under a typological covenant of works) “was a gracious favor to fallen sons of Adam.” The Israelites were sinners “deserving no blessings, temporal or eternal.” So it is simply not the case that, for Kline, “the fact that Israel’s works are those of fallen sinful creatures is completely irrelevant” (MM 69).
In sum, the core argument of Merit and Moses against Klinean republication rests on two mistakes. First, they charge Kline with a voluntaristic view of merit, a view that he never held and which they are unable to document from his writings. But second, with that mistaken understanding of Kline’s view of merit in place, they engage in equivocation and say that when Kline speaks of Noah’s or Abraham’s or Israel’s “merit” after the Fall, he is using that term in the same sense as in his discussion of the merit of Adam and Christ. But Kline clearly qualifies his discussion of post-Fall merit and sets it apart as qualitatively different. He makes clear that in these post-Fall cases he is referring to imperfect obedience that has been “invested by the Lord with typological significance,” an investment which is itself an act of grace. And so it is the fallacy of equivocation for the authors of MM to claim that, for Kline, the category of merit applies “equally” to Christ, Adam, Israel (MM 68, 112).
GHHM = God, Heaven, and Har Magedon (2006)
KP = Kingdom Prologue (2006)