I’ve dealt with the core argument of MM. Now I want to respond to some of the lesser claims of the book. I begin with their pendulum analogy.
In Part 1, they offer their reading of recent history related to the controversy over justification at Westminster Theological Seminary that took place from 1975 to 1983. They allege that Kline developed his view of the Mosaic covenant in reaction to Norman Shepherd (MM 28-33). They use the metaphor of reactionary “pendulum swings” throughout the book, arguing that the center or plumb line is given by the Confession, and both Shepherd and Kline represent extreme deviations from the plumb line. First came Shepherd, who deviated from the plumb line by denying the covenant of works, even before the Fall. Then, along came Kline, who reacted against Shepherd’s errors by going in the opposite extreme of seeing not only the covenant of works before the Fall but also seeing it as republished after the Fall in the Mosaic economy.
But is this how things unfolded? It is true that the Shepherd controversy prompted Kline to sharpen some of his formulations of covenant theology, but it is not accurate to say that he developed the republication doctrine in response to Shepherd. In the 1960s, long before the Shepherd controversy, Kline had already identified what he perceived to be an error in Murray’s definition of covenant as a sovereign administration of grace and argued rather that covenant is a generic concept that includes both promise covenant and law covenant, of which the Mosaic was one.
Kline’s book, By Oath Consigned (BOC), was published in 1968, at least seven years before the first sparks of the Shepherd controversy in 1975. In that book, he wrote:
The Sinaitic administration ... Paul interpreted as in itself a dispensation of the kingdom inheritance opposite in principle to inheritance by guaranteed promise .... The Sinaitic Covenant in itself, as a covenant ratified by Israel’s oath, made law obedience by the Israelites themselves the way of life-inheritance (BOC 22, 32).
In fact, the basis of this section of BOC was an earlier article titled “Law Covenant” that was published in the Westminster Theological Journal in 1964. That was 11 years before the Shepherd’s controversial teaching on justification by faith and works, or by obedient faith, had broken out.