I took a break for three weeks, and now I am back. I have been evaluating Part 3 of Merit and Moses, in which the authors argue that Klinean republication is “an unstable theological paradigm” (MM 82).
The first major area of instability is that republication brings the works principle back after the Fall. As a result, it is contended, “grace and works have been combined as opposing principles in a single covenant in a ‘tug of war’ kind of tension with one another” (MM 101). I answered this sub-charge under the general instability charge in three posts beginning with this one.
The second major area of instability is that republication creates “spiritual schizophrenia” (MM 125) in the piety of the Old Testament saints. I answered this sub-charge in three posts beginning with this one.
The third major area of instability, to which we now turn, has to do with the merit of Christ. Recall that the authors of MM sought to establish that for obedience to be deemed strictly meritorious, it must have two qualities: (1) it must be perfect, and (2) it must be offered by a being who is ontologically equal with God. Since Adam could only offer perfect obedience, but was not ontologically equal with God, his obedience would have been “covenant merit” but not “strict merit.” Christ’s obedience is the only obedience that has “strict merit,” because he satisfies both conditions by offering perfect obedience and by doing so as one who is ontologically equal with God. The authors of MM then take these two criteria for obedience and use them to raise three objections about the nature of Christ’s obedience in the Republication Paradigm, arguing that by redefining merit as being “whatever God says it is,” and not according to their two criteria, this creates theological problems for the Republication Paradigm in its view of Christ’s merit.
The Necessity of Christ’s Perfect Active Obedience
Their first charge relates to their first criterion—perfect obedience. The authors of MM claim that, in the Republication Paradigm, God is free to reward works tainted with sin as meritorious. This can be seen in the Klinean view that Israel’s works, thought tainted with sin, are deemed to be meritorious in God’s sight, at least for the purpose of obtaining temporal rewards. Therefore, since God is free to deem sinful works as meritorious, sinless perfection is not a necessary requirement for merit. This can then be applied to the obedience of Christ. Although the Republication Paradigm affirms that Christ’s obedience was perfect, it “does not require Christ’s obedience to be perfect by definition” (MM 114, emphasis theirs). Their charge is that the Republication Paradigm can only affirm the weaker statement that Christ’s obedience was perfect, not that it had to be perfect as required by the justice of God.
This charge is based on a major misunderstanding of Kline, one that I have already dealt with in an earlier post. It is not true that, for Kline, God is free to deem the sin-tainted, imperfect works of sinners as having true merit. (I use the phrase “true merit” to distinguish it from “typological merit.”) Kline agrees with the authors of MM that the justice of God requires obedience to be perfect in order for it to be truly meritorious. This is clearly the case for Adam before the Fall and for Christ as the Second Adam. In both of these cases, their obedience must be perfect in order to be meritorious, because the justice of God demands it. In the case of the obedience of those ordained by God to be types of Christ, the obedience was not perfect, since all after the Fall are sinful (e.g., Noah, Abraham, David, Israel as a nation). But their obedience had typological merit, not true merit.
Therefore, it is simply not true that Republication Paradigm can only affirm the weaker statement that Christ’s obedience was perfect, not that it had to be perfect as required by the justice of God. The Republication Paradigm affirms that Christ’s obedience had to be perfect, just as Adam’s had to be. This is because Kline has a robust understanding of the absolute perfection required by the justice of God. In fact, this is precisely why Kline affirms the necessity of Christ’s active and passive obedience as the satisfaction of the law and the justice of God. God requires perfect righteousness for those who would gain a right and title to heaven. “Heaven must be earned” (KP 107). The righteousness by which we are deemed righteous and qualified to obtain the eternal inheritance is the righteousness of Christ as provided in his vicarious obedience as the Second Adam on behalf of the elect.
KP = Kingdom Prologue (2006)