Imprecatory Psalms — Overview

Imprecatory Psalms

These are the Psalms where we find the longing of God’s people for God’s enemies to be defeated so that the glory of God’s name may not be tarnished or diminished.

There is an urgency in the Psalms with which we are too often unfamiliar. An urgency to protect God’s honor and his position. The closest that we may be able to get to this is the instinct that a husband might have to protect the reputation and honor of his wife were her reputation and name to be called into question.

Though we will be looking at the Psalms this morning we see some of this urgency to protect God’s honor and his position when the Lord Christ, by means of violence, clears the Temple of the money-changers. God’s name was being brought into disrepute and the Lord Christ rose up to defend His name.

This type of mindset, minus the violence that the Lord Christ brought to the Temple, is what is driving the Psalms of imprecation. He sees God’s name being overcome. He longs for God to be vindicated against those who are God’s sworn enemies and in that context he calls down imprecations and curses upon the wicked.

When we consider, what moderns consider to be the Harshness of these Psalms we agree with D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Look at the Psalmist. Look at some of those imprecatory Psalms. What are they? There is nothing wrong with them. It’s just the zeal of the Psalmist. He’s grieved and troubled because these people are not honoring God as they should be. That is His supreme concern.”

Moving on we understand that “Imprecate”, “Imprecatory”, and “Imprecation” are words that we seldom use any more so we briefly pause to define what these words mean.

IM’PRECATE, L. imprecor which means “in”(precor) to pray.

So, to imprecate is to invoke, evil upon any one.

It is to pray that a curse or calamity may fall on one’s self or on another person.

So, in the inspired prayer book and song book that God left to us one finds these Imprecatory Psalms. These imprecatory Psalms are those that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies

We find these Imprecations sprinkled throughout the Psalms

Psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 58, 69, 79, 83, 109, 137, 139, and 143

Besides what was read this morning from Psalm 58 I offer just a few samples of what we are speaking of,

“Pour out Your indignation on them, and let Your burning anger overtake them” — Psalm 69:24

“Happy the one, who taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rock.” — Psalm 137:9

“Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave.” Psalm 55:15

“O God, break the teeth in their mouths.” Psalm 58:6

“May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.” Psalm 69:28

“May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.” Psalm 109:9

Well, here we have these Imprecatory Psalms. They are Psalms that typically offend modern sensibilities. They are Psalms that don’t comport either with our vision of God or our vision of Christians. How should we understand them?

Well, there have been different approaches to understanding them.

A.) Some folks just want to ignore them as being repulsive.

Well known Bible teacher of the 20th Century Bill Bright speaking of these Psalms said,

“We cannot demand that the Bible give us nothing but correct teachings and safe moral instruction and be offended when it does not.”

A 19th century Bible teacher, John J. Owen could write,

(These) “forms of expression are of such cold blooded and malignant cruelty, as to preclude entertaining the idea for a moment that they were inspired by God.”

Another popular evangelical bible handbook of the 20th century offers,

“In OT times God, in measure, for expedience’ sake, accommodated Himself to men’s ideas. In NT times God began to deal with men according to his own ideas.”

C. S. Lewis spoke of these Psalms as “devilish” and “diabolical.”

C. I. Scofield could say — these are a “cry unsuited to the Church.”

Examples like this could be multiplied but the point is that there has been a large contingency of men who have basically said that these Imprecatory Psalms do not count. They are, so they say, unworthy of God and of Scripture.

The problem here of course is that man’s fallen sensibilities are being used as a guide to what God can and cannot say. To refuse these Psalms is to fall to the ancient ploy of the Serpent when he came to Eve planting doubt in her mind by hissing, “Hath God really said?” If we do not allow these Psalms to be God’s voice then haven’t we become God, determining good and evil? How can we fault those who claim to be Christian and yet who deny the Virgin Birth, the divine creation of the world, the resurrection of Christ, and all the miracles of Scripture if we just, on our own whim, read these Psalms out of Scripture?

A second problem is that one doesn’t get away from Imprecatory sentiments in Scripture by getting rid of the Imprecatory Psalms. The imprecations of God continue throughout the OT right into the NT. The point here is that we couldn’t get rid of, what we consider to be the unsavory character of God, by eliminating the Imprecatory Psalms. Imprecation is everywhere throughout the Scripture including the NT.

Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

(These “Woe Passages” are a Imprecatory prophetic pronouncement against God’s enemies in which a Divine lawsuit is being brought against God’s enemies)

Matthew 26:23-24 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. 24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.

1 Corinthians 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema (accursed) Maranatha.

Galatians 1:8-9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Galatians 5:12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

2 Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

II Thes. 1:6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from[b] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Revelation 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

More than that many of these Imprecatory Psalms are quoted in the New Testament. The Lord Christ quotes from them in John 15:25, and John 2:17, while Paul the Apostle quotes from Psalm 69 in the Epistle to the Romans 11:9-10 and 15:3.

So, again we say that we don’t relieve God of His “meanness” by just eliminating the Imprecatory Psalms. Even without these Psalms God remains “mean.” And we do see that summarily removing parts of the Scripture we don’t like ends up with us being sovereign over Scripture.

B.) Another tack that some have taken with these Psalms is to admit that they are inspired and so legitimate. However they then immediately insist that these Psalms were for a different time … a different era. They suggest that we must understand that God has changed with the coming of Christ.

A noted white hat “Reformed” Theologian who is a Professor on the West Coast, for example has written,

“The imprecatory Psalms, invoking God’s judgment on enemies, are appropriate on the lips of David and the martyrs in heaven. However, they are entirely out of place on the lips of Christians today, guided as we are not by the ethics of intrusion but by the ethics of common grace.

Therefore, moderns are wrong for dismissing such episodes as immoral, and fundamentalists are wrong for invoking them as if they were in effect during this intermission between Christ’s two advents.”

Michael Horton, The Christian faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids, 2011), pp 961-2.

Here the idea is that the Imprecatory Psalms are true but they are to be regarded as only appropriate to the OT saints or to the Martyrs in heaven. The idea is that we live in an age of common grace that does not allow us to pray this way, whereas in the OT they lived in a time when

We are explicitly told we would be wrong to pray that God would vindicate His name by crushing His enemies today.

Wrong to pray that God would crush those who “put women and children under the ground who were alive,” as it is being reported is being done to Christians in Iraq.

Here is another description of what is going on in the World and remember we are told that we are wrong to pray Imprecatory Psalms against these people.

“They tied the hands of one woman to the back of a car and her legs to another car and they split her into two,” another said. “Have you seen anything like this? This is all because she is not Muslim and did not want to be converted.”

What I’m seeking to do here is to tease out the real life implications of suggesting that we should not pray the Imprecatory Psalms asking for God to visit justice upon His enemies who will not relent.

Here is another case where we are told it is wrong for God to rise up to defeat His enemies.

One of our family members has abandoned his wife and children to pursue a lifetime of perversion, which he apparently has been engaging in for the last seven years. He moved out in January to go live with the new friend but continued attending church with the family and picking up the children (ages 14, 12, and 5) to go spend time with his new paramour. The wife is moderately sick from a Tick bite and relies on expensive medications to suppress the symptoms, but they no longer have medical insurance because he’s unemployed due to his new instability. She can’t pay the kids’ private school tuition; they’re about to lose the house and go bankrupt; and she just applied for welfare. The church is in the process of excommunicating him; no facility is willing to hire him; the older two kids hate him; and he is trying to get a divorce so he can move to Texas with his new paramour.

Those who say that we cannot pray against God’s enemies and petition God to destroy those who would destroy him or His people have forgotten that, in the words of Cornelius Van Til,

It is at all times a part of the task of the people of God to destroy evil. Once we see this we do not, for instance, meanly apologize for the imprecatory Psalms but glory in them.

C. Van Til
Christian Theistic Ethics

We agree with Theologian Dabney that,

This age has witnessed a whole spawn of religionists, very rife and rampant in some sections of the church, who pretentiously declared themselves the apostles of a lovelier Christianity than that of the sweet Psalmist of Israel. His ethics were entirely too vindictive and barbarous for them, forsooth; and they, with their Peace societies, and new lights, would teach the world a more beneficent code.

R. L. Dabney
Discussions– Evangelical and Theological (Vol. 1, pg — 709-710)

Of course the major obstacle to the reasoning that the Imprecatory prayers are not for us to pray has already been mentioned. The major obstacle is that we find the same type, though not the same degree, of Imprecation going on in the NT. Anathemas and Woes are pronounced upon people by Jesus and Paul. Portions of the Imprecatory Psalms are quoted by the Lord Christ and others. Alexander the Coppersmith is explicitly inveighed against in an imprecatory fashion. The principle of imprecation is found in the NT and if in the NT that suggests the idea that Imprecations are only for the NT age is a theory that is not satisfactory.

It all really comes down to this. Do we love God and His Kingdom enough to not love those who viciously oppose God and His Kingdom? Do our hearts burn within us to see God’s name exalted by the leveling of Satan’s Kingdom?

God’s Kingdom cannot come without Satan’s kingdom being destroyed. God’s will cannot be done on earth without the destruction of evil. Evil cannot be destroyed without the destruction of men who are permanently identified with it. Instead of being influenced by the sickly sentimentalism of the present day, Christian people should realize the glory of God demands the destruction of evil. Instead of being insistent upon the assumed, but really, non existent, rights of men, they should focus their attention upon the rights of God. Instead of being ashamed of the imprecatory Psalms, and attempting to apologize for them and explain them away, Christian people should glory in them and not hesitate to use them in the public and private exercises of the worship of God.

Johannes G. Vos
The Ethical Problem of the Imprecatory Psalms
Westminster Theological Journal

Now, what is the danger of praying these Psalms? The danger is that we will be praying them with a lack of love. You see it is love that drives us to pray in such a way. Love for God and others.

Puritan David Dickson gets at this point when he offer

If any of the enemies of God’s people belong to God’s election, the Church’s prayer against them giveth way to their conversion, and seeketh no more than that the judgment should follow them, only until they acknowledge their sin, turn, and seek God.

So we pray God’s judgment against them as God’s enemies fully realizing that should they turn and be saved that our Imprecatory prayers against them immediately cease.

We pray Imprecatorily with hopes that God will crush His enemies the same we He crushed us when we were enemies and that is by granting repentance.

At this point we are one with Luther who said on this score,

We should pray that our enemies be converted and become our friends, and if not, that their doing and designing be bound to fail and have no success and that their persons perish rather than the Gospel and the kingdom of Christ.

Martin Luther

Our tendency to pray Imprecatorily, as our tendency to love unbiblically is too often forgetful of a genuine love to God and His Christ. Whether praying imprecations or loving unbiblically what to often drives us is love for self. When we pray imprecatorily we have ourselves at the center thinking only of the wrong done to us personally and forgetting the injury to thrice Holy and Glorious God. Similarly, when we love unbiblically we have ourselves at the center. We refuse to oppose others, via imprecatory praying or in other ways, because we love ourselves to much to want to risk being widely disliked. And so, too often both in our Imprecatory praying and in our unbiblical loving we have self at the center.

Republication Ruin #5

“When we come to the Republication Paradigm, merit is being defined and used differently than in the Westminster Standards.”

Elam, Van Kooten, Bergquist
Moses and Merit; A Critique of the Klinean Doctrine of Republication

1.) The reason that merit is being defined and used differently than in the Westminster standards is because the whole idea of “merit,” as handled by the Klinean Republication lads, is resting in a different worldview from those who wrote the Westminster standards. Words are worldview dependent and the worldview of the Escondido Theology is a different worldview than the Westminster divines and so their definition of merit is as different as the worldview that they own.

2.) Concretely speaking, merit is different in the Escondido Theology because, following Kline, the Escondido theology no longer is taking into consideration the ontological divide between man as creature and God as Creator. Because the Westminster West lads view merit only covenantally there is little understanding in their position to see the inability whereby Adam could gain, even in the prelapsarian covenant, a strict merit. Adam could never have earned a strict merit due to the ontological distance between the Creator and the creature.

Adam gained merit in the prelapsarian covenant only due to God’s condescension. God’s condescension allowed Adam to accrue “covenant merit.” However, covenant merit could never be strict merit because of the ontological divide between God and Adam. The only one who could ever gain strict merit was the Lord Christ; and that only because there was not ontological divide between the Father and Son. The Escondido theology severely minimizes this ontological distance between God and man and so does not render justice to the idea of God condescending to man.

The sum of it all is that the changes made in the Escondido Republication Theology goes a long way towards giving a facelift to the Reformed faith so that it no longer is what it once was. You simply cannot rearrange and redefine central concepts of the Reformed faith without sending ripple effects through the whole theological structure.

Fisking Gordon’s Take On Same Sex Marriage

Over at this site,

R2K fanboy T. David Gordon, a year ago or so, had a go at same sex marriage. Someone sent me this article written by the Religion and Greek Prof at Grove City College. This article demonstrate why I did not send my children to “Christian colleges.” Why spend your hard earned money to have your children indoctrinated in this dreck?

You may not know this but T. David Gordon (hereafter TDG) is the chap who once said of standard vanilla Christianity,

“(it is) the Bible-thumping error par excellence,” and the doctrine of the “never to be wise.”

TDG also said once of the Covenant of Grace that he “pitied the poor Israelites who suffered under the Mosaic administration.”

TDG gets points for boldness but has points subtracted for being slow.

Anyway, in the piece that follows, TDG tries to convince us that the same sex marriage issue should be approached as a civil issue and not as a religious issue.

TDG titles his article,

Thoughts on Same-Sex Marriage, Part III: The Issue Is Civil, Not Religious

Bret responds,

By what standard is TDG determining that the issue of same sex marriage is civil and not religious? What other standard could he use to come to that conclusion except a religious standard? Something is informing TDG that same sex marriage is not a religious issue. I contend that it is TDG’s religion that is the standard informing him that same sex marriage is not a religious issue.

TDG writes,

“Parties on each side of the same-sex marriage issue often interject religion into the discussion. In my opinion, this is unhelpful. The manifest intention of the First Amendment is that the majority may not impose its religious preferences on the minority, but permit the minority the same due exercise as the majority enjoys. If the determination of whose union the state must recognize were a religious matter, then plainly, Mormons could still be polygamous, and the state would be obliged to certify their polygamous unions. In plain point of historical fact, the Utah compromise proves that the question of whose unions the state will recognize is not a religious decision; it is a civil decision, which the state determines according to its own interests.”

This is a non sequitur which commits the is / ought fallacy but lets pretend it doesn’t and play along with TDG.

1.) TDG interjects his religion into the discussion by saying that interjecting other religions (besides the one he champions of course) is unhelpful concerning the issue of same sex marriage. TDG desire the religion of “no religion” to have the final say.

2.) To take the 1st amendment the way TDG is taking it is to argue that all minority religious preference immoralities must be protected since that is what the 1st amendment promises. Would TDG say that the 1st amendment supports smoking peyote for religious reasons? Would TDG say that the 1st amendment protects the minority religious practice of “Suttee?” Would TDG say that the 1st amendment protects the religious minority preference of child sacrifice in a religious ceremony? By TDG “logic” shouldn’t these minority religious practices have the same due exercise of religion as the majority enjoys?

3.) TDG misses the fact that it was precisely because polygamous marriage was a religious matter that the FEDS said “no” to Mormon polygamy. In point of fact, in the polygamy case the FEDS imposed upon the religious minority of Utah their religious preference in favor of the majority religious preference.

4.) In plain point of historical fact,

a.) The Utah decision was no compromise.
b.) The Utah decision is proof positive that even a broken clock is right twice a day
c.) The Utah decision proves that religion is an inescapable category

5.) How does the State determine what is in its own interest without some kind of religious standard? Note this is important. TDG insists that the standard used by the State is a cost-benefit analysis. But one must still ask, ‘what standard will be used, by the State, to assess the cost benefit analysis to which TDG appeals? What religious- Theological presuppositions will be in play in order to determine the cost-benefit analysis?

TDG writes,

“If the issue were a religious issue, it would be difficult to account for the prevalence of the civil recognition of marriage in so many religiously diverse nations. Secular nations such as France and the former Soviet Union recognized marital unions; Buddhist and Hindu nations recognize marital unions; Islamic countries recognize marital unions. If recognizing opposite-sex unions were merely an expression of religious faith, why would Joseph Stalin’s USSR have done so? Why would France do so? State recognition of certain unions is a civil issue, regardless of whatever religious (or irreligious) opinions exist regarding those unions themselves. And a great variety of differing governments have recognized the union of a single man and a single woman for some reason that must, therefore, be non-religious.”

1.) It is not difficult in the slightest to “account for the prevalence of the civil recognition of marriage in so many religiously diverse nations.” It is simply a matter of understanding that no pagan worldview completely cleanses itself of all residual tenets of Biblical Christianity.

2.) TDG needs to do some historical work looking at what happened to marriage and family at the beginning of the great Soviet Union experiment before it reversed course. He could start by looking up the name of Alexandra Kollontai and go from there. He could discover that religious reasons moved the Soviet Union to originally seek to break up the idea of marriage and family and that the failure of reorganizing marriage and family consistent with Christ hating religion forced them to give up on their religious project of redefining marriage and family. But then TDG, being a religion guy, wouldn’t know anything about the history of religious communism.

3.) The fact that a great number of pagan States have recognized opposite sex unions no more proves that such recognition is irreligious then the fact that a great number of pagan states have recognized dog licenses proves the state is one big dog kennel. The fact that men and States never act completely consistently with their God hating worldviews is not that difficult to understand.

TDG writes,

“I suspect the primary consideration that has motivated such a diversity of states to recognize heterosexual unions between one man and one woman is because this is the ordinary biological way in which new taxpayers (and soldiers, etc.) are created. Governments do not (yet?) have the power to create new humans to pay taxes in the future and to participate more broadly in the culture. They are dependent upon the biological union of males and females to secure a national progeny, and, for this reason, they recognize and protect such unions by issuing licenses. Now, there may be a host of religious reasons for being happy that states do this; but the states do not do so for religious reasons. Secular as well as non-secular states do so for the common reason that this is the ordinary way in which new citizens enter the state and are reared to maturity. That is, to put it crassly: the state has an interest in preserving and promoting the biological unions by which, ordinarily, new citizens enter the public arena.”

Bret responds,

1.) In this quote TDG takes up the fundamental principle of legal positivism which is that the good is what the state does and a just law is whatever the state decrees.

2.) The fact that many states might do what Christians want them to do, yet not for the reason Christians want them to do so should convince Christians that this is not a religious discussion? Hello Bueller?

3.) If this reasoning was correct then the State most certainly should, on the basis of a cost benefit analysis, at least allow polygamy. After all polygamy can produce large numbers of taxpayers. Further, States, on the theorizing of TDG should pass laws that require marriages to be voided if there is some kind of sterilization that prohibits child bearing. Remember … this is all cost-benefit analysis.

4.) There is no such thing as a “secular” State if by that one suggests that a State rules from nowhere and from no religious disposition.

5.) TDG has the State recognizing marriage for the purpose of self-sustainment. The problem here is that the desire for self sustainment is a religious consideration. A religious consideration that is driven by a Christian (religious) presupposition that life (sustainment) is good and that death is bad.

TDG writes,

“We would do well to remind ourselves: We are not discussing whether consenting adults may have sexual relations as they wish; that matter has been settled (in the United States) since the Texas Supreme Court decision. We are discussing which unions the state ought to recognize. I am suggesting that, unless and until the state can procure a future progeny by another means than the union of a male and female, it would be imprudent for it not to recognize, and therefore protect, this particular union. And, I further suggest that the conversation we ought to be having is this: What similar benefit does state recognition of same-sex unions bring to the state, which would warrant the clerical and judicial costs to the state?”

Bret responds,

1.) So because Lawrence vs. Texas gave us a illegal law the matter is now settled?

2.) So, if the state could suddenly discover better ways to produce progeny for its own survival therefore the State would have a legitimate grounds in order to recognize marriage between a man and his cow? Paging Todd Bordow.

3.) TDG is taking us here from “Has not the Lord said,” to, “Has not the State said.”

TDG wrote,

“I myself remain open to a convincing conversation here, but I do not hear or read anyone making it. It should not be difficult to determine what it currently costs the individual states (or their aggregate) in clerical and judicial expenses to recognize those marriages that they now recognize. Nor should it be difficult to calculate, therefore, the “per-union” cost to the state recognizing unions. The conversation should then turn to the “return” the state would likely get for this expense.”

Bret responds,

1.) Am I to take from this that if a cost-benefit analysis could be made which would reveal that it was profitable for the State to turn me into Soylent Green it would be acceptable to do so?

2.) This is pragmatism and utilitarianism in its most ugly visage. Do we need to enter into arguments that has been used to overturn pragmatism?

3.) Why is it so wrong to thing that the conversation should turn to what God thinks?

TDG seems to come from the Libertarian “axiom” that one cannot legislate morality, but the whole, “it’s a civil issue, not a religious issue” is a self-defeating stance, for that in and of itself is legislation of a morality. There are no “irreligious” issues and because there are no irreligious issues there is no separating law from religion.

In the end what TDG wants is that all the gods be seen as equal thus receiving equal protection under the law. So, we ask T. Dave, “what entity will make sure that all the gods will receive equal protection under the law? What entity will make sure none of the gods get a leg up on the other gods?

The answer TDG offers us is that the God state of course will make sure all the gods are equal in the common realm. No god is given preference. Decisions are made via a cost-benefit analysis. The God state thus becomes the God of the competing gods and so the God state is God over all. The God state will make sure the the God of the Bible is restricted in the exercise of His dominion. All must serve and bow before the God state. Re-read TDG article and note that the civil realm is ordered according to the desires of the State. What else is that but acknowledging that the State is the God in the civil realm?

Because this is so, we do currently have a Theonomic order. The State is the God we serve and the State, while insisting its law comes from nowhere in terms of religion, is actually giving us a law order of Humanism.

TDG, as a professing Christian, supports this.

Republication Ruin #4

“Although we acknowledge that certain points of similarity between the covenant of works and the Mosaic covenant can be found in previous writers, none of them argue a works-merit formula for Israel as a “corporate Adam”, as Kline and his disciples propose. Instead, in our view, the evidence shows that Meredith Kline is the architect of the contemporary Republication Paradigm described above.”

Elam, Van Kooten, Berquist
Merit and Moses; A Critique of the Klinean Doctrine of Republication — pg. 37

The importance of this quote lies in the demonstration that the kind of Klinean Republication that is so commonly pushed today is as completely innovative and novel as … well, …. as completely innovative and novel as the whole R2K project for which it serves as the theological foundation. We could be polite and say that this Escondido Theology is both “good and original,” but we’d have to press on to qualify by noting that what is good about Escondido Republication is not original and what is original about it is not good.

One has to understand that this innovative doctrine (this theology with absolutely ZERO historical legs) could well completely eviscerate what little remains of the Reformed Churches witness in the West if it is not stopped.

Republication Ruin #3

Our assessment, in a nutshell, is as follows: TLNF’s (Book — The Law is not of Faith) doctrine of republication represents a reactionary pendulum swing against the views of Norman Shepherd and the Federal Vision (FV) theology. Although advocates of the republication view properly recognize many of the deviant formulations in the Shepherd/FV theology, many of the alternatives they propose are also problematic, and warrant careful evaluation….

In the estimation of TLNF, the OPC needs the one and true remedy for ridding the denomination of the bad fruits of “Shepherd-ism” (in all its varieties), by laying the proverbial axe to its root in “Murray-ism.” Of course, according to TLNF, that axe is the doctrine of republication. However, it will become clearer how the republication
viewpoint, following Meredith G. Kline, is itself a reactionary theological pendulum swing away from the plumb line of the Confession….

Kline’s Reactionary Theology

As noted above, Kline and the authors of TLNF are correct to point to dangerous imbalances in the theology of Norman Shepherd and FV. But is it possible that even as Shepherd and FV represented a pendulum swing away from the WCF in one direction, Kline’s reaction to it might constitute a swing in another? We may identify three components of Kline’s teaching and writings intended to counteract the teaching of Shepherd and FV. In our view, these components also swing wide of the plumb line of the Westminster Standards.

Elam, Van Kooten, Berquist
Merit and Moses; A Critique of the Klinean Doctrine of Republication, pg. 3, 16, 17

So just how did Kline’s theology end up being a reactionary pendulum swing to Shepherd and punitively Murray?

Well, what Shepherd did was to fold grace into law so that there was not enough discontinuity between grace and law with the consequence that the covenant of works was seen as a gracious covenant. Kline on the other hand went all reactionary by folding law into grace and strangely enough also found himself, like his nemesis Shepherd, with not enough discontinuity between law and grace with the consequence that the covenant of Grace is described as “being a covenant of grace except when it’s not.” Shepherd made a legal covenant gracious. Kline has made a gracious covenant legal.

For Shepherd’s folding of grace into the legal covenant the result was a confusion of faithfulness and faith for justification. For Kline’s folding of law into the gracious covenant the result is a confusion of law and Gospel for the Old Testament saints in the Mosaic administration of the covenant of grace. If Shepherd make the mistake of making the Covenant of works, gracious, Kline has made the mistake of making the covenant of grace, legal so that the covenant of grace in the Mosaic covenant is described as one that includes “works.” In Kline’s covenant of Grace one can earn merit, via law-keeping, to stay in the land. Shepherd and Kline agree that law and grace must be folded into each other. The only difference is that Shepherd folded grace into law (Covenant of works is seen as being gracious) while Kline folded law into grace (Gracious Mosaic covenant is seen as being legal).

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