The Singular Glory of Christ’s Meritorious Obedience
This is their third and final argument against Klinean Republication’s view of the merit of Christ. The Republication Paradigm, they say, “serves to undermine the singular glory of Christ’s meritorious obedience” (MM 116). By defining merit in such a way that it applies equally to Adam, Israel and Christ, the Republication Paradigm “brings Christ down” to the level of Adam and Israel (MM 117) and makes these three figures (Adam, Israel, and Christ) “interchangeable,” since “each can equally perform meritorious works” (MM 117).
By contrast, on their view, these three figures are not equally able to merit. The merit of Israel is nonexistent, the covenant merit of Adam was possible only because of God’s voluntary condescension, and only the merit of Christ is strict merit. The authors claim their understanding of merit enables them to set Christ’s meritorious obedience apart as “singular” and “unparalleled” and “unique” (MM 116-17):
Unlike Israel’s so-called “merit” (in the Republication Paradigm), Christ’s obedience is utterly flawless. Unlike Adam’s “covenant merit,” Christ’s merit requires no voluntary condescension. It is intrinsically worthy of the reward of eternal life (MM 116).
In response, I think the authors of MM are confused in two areas.
Their first area of confusion goes back to their mistaken understanding that Kline defined merit in such a way that perfection is not required. They think Kline taught that flawed, imperfect obedience can be deemed meritorious by God on the basis of his mere will or word. But this is a misunderstanding of Kline. He never taught that, and it cannot be proved from his writings. Therefore, it is not true that the flawed, imperfect obedience of Israel is in the same category as the merit of Adam and Christ. The obedience of Israel (or of other sinful Old Testament saints, like Noah and Abraham) has merit in the typological layer only. It is not perfect and therefore not truly meritorious. There is a categorical difference between true merit and typological merit. Clearly any post-Fall individual functioning as a type of Christ, and whose imperfect obedience was invested by God with typological significance as pointing ahead to the merit of Christ, would not be interchangeable with Christ the antitype. If we are comparing the merit of Christ with that of Israel, then, we can certainly affirm the singular glory of Christ’s meritorious obedience.
But what if we are comparing the merit of Christ with that of Adam? Here, we come to their second area of confusion. Since the merit of Christ is that which God accepts in place of Adam’s, so that the elect might attain the reward of eternal life, this is a point where we should see the two as parallel, rather than trying to set apart Christ’s merit as categorically different from Adam’s. The two Adams parallel demands it. Were we to set Christ’s merit apart in a category by itself (sui generis), we would disturb the parallel between the two Adams. Christ would not be the second Adam. Both Adam and Christ were federal heads under covenants of the works variety that involved true merit based on divine justice.
Now, does this mean that there are no differences between Adam and Christ, or that the two are “interchangeable”? Of course not. We all agree that there are both similarities and differences between Christ and Adam. The similarities include: both are fully human; both were under covenants of the works variety; both were required to obey God in order to achieve eschatological advancement; both were federal heads who represented others.
The differences include: unlike Adam, Christ is not only human but divine; unlike Adam, Christ’s obedience included his becoming man by taking a true human nature into personal union with himself in the incarnation; unlike Adam, Christ had to obey to the point of death by offering himself as a sacrifice to satisfy God’s wrath; unlike Adam, Christ was exalted much higher than Adam would have been, by being given the divine name and being exalted to God’s right hand; unlike Adam, those whom Christ represents are his bride and he brings them into mystical union with himself.
In addition, as I argued in a previous post, the obedience of Christ has infinite glory and worth, due to the dignity of his divine person. The glory and worth of the obedience is as great as the glory and worth of the person performing the obedience. In the case of Christ, he is a divine person who assumed a human nature into personal union with himself, something that is not true of Adam. Therefore, Christ’s obedience is uniquely glorious, far more than Adam’s. In view of the divine dignity of the person of Christ, the obedience of Christ is unique, unparalleled, and awash in singular glory. Therefore, without undermining the parallelism of the merit of the two Adams, Klinean Republication can affirm the singular glory of Christ’s obedience in a variety of ways. It is simply not true that Klinean Republication makes Adam and Christ “interchangeable” (M 117).