Scripture: Intrusion Ethics

From: Terry M. Gray (
Date: Mon Jul 01 2002 - 13:14:14 EDT

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    Burgy, Shuan, et al.

    Robert Rogland, David Campbell, and others have given able
    explanations of some of the ethically difficult Old Testament
    accounts. I wish to contribute to that discussion by posting a
    lengthy quote from Meredith G. Kline's Structure of Biblical
    Authority and his discussion of intrusion ethics. The bottom line is
    that these seemingly unethical acts that seem to be commanded by God
    are "intrusions" of the final judgment destruction of the wicked into
    the present age. Please read Kline's general argument carefully, then
    the particular applications (imprecatory Psalms and the conquest of
    Canaan in the section I am sending).

    Some of us hear scripture's teaching about itself--"Thy Word is
    truth"; "All scripture is God-breathed..."; "For prophecy never had
    its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God..."; "His
    letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which
    ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other
    Scriptures, to their own destruction."--and do not feel so free
    simply to say that the Bible contains errors or that parts of the
    Bible are sub-Christian. Thus we put more effort into understanding
    how these things might be consistent with the totality of God's
    revelation of himself--the result is accomodationism, intrusion
    ethics, the framework hypothesis, etc.

    The ASA statement of faith sets forth a view of scripture which
    members have assented to: "We accept the divine inspiration,
    trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and
    conduct." This statement is broad enough to cover most (but not
    necessarily all) of the views being expressed on this list. The
    debate over inerrancy was carried out in the ASA several decades ago
    and the inerrancy view did not prevail--this is obvious from the
    wording of the Statement of Faith. I will readily admit that my view
    is narrower than the ASA's view. However, I will also assert that the
    view expressed in the ASA statement of faith leans toward the
    evangelical right rather than toward the liberal left. A study of the
    history of the ASA will bear this out.

    I would argue that dismissing the various Old Testament passages that
    pose certain ethical problems does not even conform to the broader
    ASA statement of faith concerning scripture. Thus, efforts such as
    the one I share below continue to be necessary. At the same time I
    will count myself among those who admit that some of these issues are
    difficult. Perhaps we can't come up with a good solution. For myself,
    I would rather say "I don't know how to explain that" than to say
    that scripture is any less than what it says about itself or to
    compromise the clearer ethical teachings.


      From *The Structure of Biblical Authority* Second Edition by Meredith
    G. Kline 1972 (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids). pp. 154-164 from the chapter
    entitled "The Intrusion and the Decalogue".


    Chapter Three


    The often canvassed subject of Old Testament ethics still beckons the
    investigator on in search of a more adequate solution of its peculiar
    complex of problems. In this search no other standard of righteousness
    is available to one who would think his Maker's thoughts after him than
    the standard which emerges in the description of the words and ways of
    God which have been inscripturated. But if it is in this very connection
    that the problems appear, what is the investigator to do? What, indeed,
    but to recognize that problematic as the biblical revelation of the
    divine activity might seem, it yet conveys a revelation of law. So will
    he give himself again to the exegesis of the Word in the conviction that
    the solution of the ethical problem must be one and the same as its
    accurate and adequate formulation. The attempt is, therefore, made here
    to seek a solution in terms of a somewhat fresh formulation of certain
    distinctive elements in the religion of the Old Testament.

    The Concept of Intrusion

    It is by tracing the unfolding eschatology of Scripture that we can most
    deftly unravel the strands of Old


    Testament religion and discover what is essential and distinctive in it.
    For eschatology antedates redemption. The pattern for eschatology goes
    back to creation. Since the creature must pattern his ways after his
    Creator's, and since the Creator rested only after he had worked, it was
    a covenant of works which was proffered to Adam as the means by which to
    arrive at the consummation. In the sense that it was the door to the
    consummation, this original Covenant of Creation was eschatological.

    That door, however, was never opened. It was not the Fall in itself that
    delayed the consummation. According to the conditions of the Covenant of
    Creation the prospective consummation was either/or. It was either
    eternal glory by covenantal confirmation of original righteousness or
    eternal perdition by covenant-breaking repudiation of it. The Fall,
    therefore, might have been followed at once by a consummation of the
    curse of the covenant. The delay was due rather to the principle and
    purpose of divine compassion by which a new way of arriving at the
    consummation was introduced, the way of redemptive covenant with common
    grace as its historical corollary.

    For the present thesis it is especially significant that the delay and
    common grace are coterminous. In saying this we would not lose sight of
    the positive contribution of common grace to the new eschatological
    program. Common grace, whose mercies are real while they last, provides
    the field of operation for redemptive grace, and its material too. The
    delay associated with common grace makes possible a consummation
    involving an extensive revelation of the divine perfections, a glorified
    paradise as well as a lake of fire. This delay is not the delay of mere
    postponement but the delay of gestation. Nevertheless, it is at the same
    time true that consummation and commonness between elect and reprobate
    are mutually exclusive. In this limited sense common grace may be called
    the antithesis of the consummation, and as such it epitomizes


    this world-age as one during which the consummation is abeyant.

    Because of the Fall the gestation-delay, the entire birth process that
    at last produces the consummation, is characterized by pain and sorrow.
    The whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. But
    it is the consummation-child himself who particularly interests us. We
    suggest that he might well be named Perez. For he breaks through
    beforehand, making a breach for himself. That is, the Covenant of
    Redemption all along the line of its administration, more profoundly in
    the New Testament but already in the Old Testament, is a coming of the
    Spirit, an intrusion of the power, principles, and reality of the
    consummation into the period of delay. Breaking through first of all in
    the Old Testament period, the Intrusion finds itself in an age which is
    by the divine disposition of history, or, more specifically, by the
    divine administration of the Covenant of Redemption, an age of
    preparation for a later age of fulfillment and finality. Its appearing,
    therefore, is amid earthly forms which at once suggest, yet veil, the
    ultimate glory. Not to be obscured is the fact that within this
    temporary shell of the Intrusion there is a permanent core. The pattern
    of things earthly embodies realized eschatology, an actual projection of
    the heavenly reality. It is the consummation which, intruding into the
    time of delay, anticipates itself.

    As for the peculiar forms of the Intrusion in the Old Testament age,
    they have a pattern coherent and comprehensive-for things must always be
    done decently and in order in the house of God. Taking for a moment an
    Old Testament standpoint and viewing these forms as belonging to the
    reality that is in Old Testament times, we may say that they also point
    to a reality that was (as an archetype in the heavens) and that is to
    come (in the Messianic age). They are antitype1 in relation to the
    reality that was. They are sacramental symbol in relation

    1 antitypa ton alethinon (Heb. 9:24).


    to the core of the present Old Testament Intrusion of that reality. And
    they are type in relation to that reality as it is to come, when Messiah

    When the Old Testament forms are classified as type, their antitypes2
    are found in the present phase of the new covenant as well as in the
    eternal state, so epochmaking in the unfolding of the Intrusion is the
    revelation in the Son. However, the apocalypse of Jesus Christ and his
    kingdom is still in the category of Intrusion rather than perfect
    consummation, as is signalized by the fact that the present age is still
    characterized by common grace, the epitome of the delay. The
    identification of the new covenant with the consummation keeps pace with
    the stages in the exaltation of the Son of Man; and while we see him
    sitting on the right hand of power, we have not yet seen him coming in
    the clouds of heaven. Hence, there is not yet a corresponding antitype
    for every element of Old Testament typology. Certain Old Testament types
    find their antitype in the age introduced by the first coming of Christ,
    and, indeed, only there in some cases (e.g., the sacrifice of the
    Passover lamb). But the fulfillment of other Old Testament types is
    realized only in the world to come (e.g., the actual possession of the
    promised land by the people of God). While, therefore, the Old Testament
    is an earlier edition of the final reality than is the present age of
    the new covenant, and not so intensive, it is on its own level a more
    extensive edition, especially when considered in its own most fully
    developed form, viz., the Israelite theocracy.

    2 Some confusion arises in the terminology through the double use of the
    word "antitype" to signify both that the Old Testament is the copy of
    the prior heavenly pattern and that the New Testament reality
    corresponds to the earlier Old Testament pattern. Thus, not only are
    both Old Testament and New Testament antitype (although in different
    senses), but the Old Testament is both type and antitype (again from
    different points of view). Possibly it would be better, then, to style
    the Old Testament forms simply as "copies" when viewed in relation to
    the things in the heavens. Cf. Hebrews 9:23, hypodeigmata ton en tois


    To summarize thus far: Perez makes the breach in the Old Testament; that
    is, the consummation intrudes itself there. This Intrusion has realized
    eschatology as its core, while its symbolic surface (the sacramental
    aspect thereof excepted) forms a typical picture of eschatology not yet
    realized. In the recognition of the true character of core and shell and
    in the further recognition that the core is always present within the
    shell lies the proper understanding of much in the Old Testament.

    The Intrusion and Ethics

    When we survey the Old Testament, a divinely sanctioned pattern of
    action emerges which is not consonant with the customary application of
    the law of God according to the principle of common grace. It will be
    our purpose to show that this ethical pattern is congenial to biblical
    religion by relating it to the Intrusion phenomenon which we have found
    to be an integral element in the Old Testament.

    Biblical laws have been classified according to their ground as laws
    founded: (1) on the nature of God; (2) on permanent relations of men in
    their present state of existence; (3) on temporary relations of men or
    conditions of society; and (4) altogether on positive commands of God.3
    Discussing the question of how far the laws contained in the Bible may
    be dispensed with, Hodge says that the laws of group 1 are immutable;
    that the laws of group 2 may be set aside by the authority of God; and
    that the laws of groups 3 and 4 are mutable, the positive laws of the
    Old Testament being, as a matter of fact, now abolished together with
    those laws of group 3 which were designed exclusively for the Hebrews
    living under the theocracy.

    3 See C. Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, 1940), III, 267-269;
    cf. W. B. Green, "Ethics of the Old Testament," Princeton Theological
    Review, XXVII, 2 (1929), 179-181.


    It is to be observed, however, that these categories are not mutually
    exclusive and that, therefore, there may be more complexity in the
    application of a given law than this simple formulation of the problem
    of mutability suggests. Two of these categories may be involved as
    multiple aspects of one law which may then have both a mutable and an
    immutable aspect. To illustrate, though laws five through ten in the
    Decalogue are grounded on permanent relations of men in their present
    state of existence, they are also founded on the nature of God. For they
    simply apply to specific cases the grand principle that man must reflect
    the moral glory of God on a finite scale. This principle is immutable
    because it concerns the relationship of man to God. On the other hand,
    the relations governed by this immutable principle are themselves

    In the present age we may say that the essence of laws five through ten
    is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and the answer to the
    question, "Who is my neighbor?", is the parable of the good Samaritan.
    But beyond this life that parable will no longer serve as the answer to
    that question. Then Lazarus must not so much as dip the tip of his
    finger in water to cool the tongue of him who is in anguish in the
    flame. The law of heaven requires that Lazarus pass him by on the other
    side. Not to take pleasure in his anguish (for Lazarus has been renewed
    in the image of God, not of Satan), but nonetheless to pass him by whom
    heaven's Lord must command, "Depart from me, thou cursed." The neighbor
    relationship envisaged in the parable of the good Samaritan has,
    therefore, a terminus ad qzlem at the limit of the present state of

    The unbeliever is the believer's neighbor today; but the reprobate is
    not the neighbor of the redeemed hereafter for the reason that God will
    set a great gulf between them. God, whose immutable nature it is to hate
    evil, withdrawing all favor from the reprobate, will himself hate them
    as sin's finished products. And if the redeemed


    in glory are to fulfill their duty of patterning their ways after God's,
    they will have to change their attitude toward the unbeliever from one
    of neighborly love to one of perfect hatred, which is a holy, not
    malicious passion. Just because the grand principle which underlies laws
    five through ten is immutable, the application of these laws must be
    changed in accordance with the changes in the intracreational
    relationships for which they legislate.

    Now it appears that there was introduced in the Old Testament age a
    pattern of conduct akin to that found in prophetic portrayals of the
    kingdom of God beyond the present age of common grace. Our thesis is
    that this Old Testament ethical pattern is an aspect of the Intrusion.
    Included in it are both anticipations of God's judgment curse on the
    reprobate and of his saving grace in blessing his elect.

    Possible misunderstandings may be forestalled by making certain
    observations at once. First, the demands of this Intrusion ethics in the
    Old Testament are not of a lower or laxer order. Quite the contrary, it
    was only in union with the highest outreach of faith that there could be
    true compliance with the demands of this ethics. Second, this concept of
    Intrusion ethics is not prejudicial to the permanent validity of the
    moral law of Moses. The distinction made is not one of different
    standards but of the application of a constant standard under
    significantly different conditions. It is evident that such a
    distinction must be made between the period of common grace in general
    and the age of the consummation. The only proposal beyond that made here
    is that there are anticipations of that distinction and, to that extent,
    an anticipatory abrogation of the principle of common grace during the
    Old Testament age. Finally, this concept of Intrusion ethics does not
    obscure the unity of the Covenant of Redemption throughout its various
    administrations. It does bring into bolder relief the basic structure of
    that covenant in its historical unfolding and in so doing inevitably
    displays its essential unity.


    Intrusion of Judgment Curse

    The Imprecations in the Psalms

    In justification of the imprecations in the Psalms (see, e.g., Pss. 7,
    35, 55, 59, 69, 79, 109 and 137) it is necessary to point out that the
    welfare of man is not the chief end of man; that we sinful creatures
    have no inherent rights which our holy Maker must respect; that
    accordingly, God may, without violating any obligation, take any man's
    life at any time and in any way; and that it is one with this for God to
    inspire the Psalmist to pray that he should do so in a particular
    instance, the prayer itself being altogether proper since it is divinely
    inspired. It is also helpful to indicate that the Psalmist expresses
    hatred of others and prays for their destruction not in a bitter spirit
    of personal vindictiveness but out of concern for the honor of God's
    name, which had been despised, and from love of God's kingdom, which had
    been opposed in that enmity displayed by the objects of the imprecations
    toward the Psalmist as one who represented that kingdom. However, when
    all this has been said by way of explanation and defense, the
    significance of the imprecations has not yet been fully appreciated.

    Another important side of the picture can be brought into view by the
    observation that normally the believer's attitudes toward the unbeliever
    are conditioned by the principle of common grace. During the historical
    process of differentiation which common grace makes possible, before the
    secret election of God is unmistakably manifested at the great white
    throne, the servants of Christ are bound by his charge to pray for the
    good of those who despitefully use and persecute them. Our Lord rebuked
    the Boanerges when they contemplated consuming the Samaritans with fire
    from heaven (Luke 9:54; cf. Mark 3:17). We may not seek to destroy those
    for whom, perchance, Christ has died.

    But in the final judgment the Lord will not rebuke


    James and John if they make similar requests. Then it will be altogether
    becoming for the saint to desire God's wrath to descend upon his
    unbelieving enemy. No longer will there be the possibility that the
    enemy of the saint is the elect of God. Then the grain harvest will be
    ripe for the gathering of the Son of Man and the clusters of the vine
    will be fully ripe for the great winepress of the wrath of God.

    We must distinguish an ethics of the consummation from an ethics of
    common grace, and the imprecations in the Psalms confront us
    unexpectedly with a pattern of conduct which conforms to the ethics of
    the consummation. Since it is intruded by inspiration it constitutes a
    divine abrogation, within a limited sphere, of the ethical requirements
    normally in force during the course of common grace. What is required is
    that we cease stumbling over this as though it were a problem and
    recognize it as a feature of the divine administration of the Covenant
    of Redemption in the Old Testament, a feature that displays the
    sovereign authority of the covenant God. It is also bright with promise
    for the future of his kingdom and people; for, to make explicit the
    obvious, this ethical intrusion appropriately attaches itself to the
    activity of persons and institutions which were types of things to come
    in the age of the consummation. The ethical principles themselves belong
    to the core of consummation reality within the shell of things typical.

    The Conquest of Canuan

    Another familiar Old Testament ethical problem is that of justifying the
    Israelite dispossession and extermination of the Canaanites over against
    the sixth and eighth words of the Decalogue. Defense might be attempted
    by comparing the function of the ordinary state when, acting through its
    officers against criminals or through its military forces against
    offending nations, it destroys life and exacts reparations. The proper
    performance of this func


    tion is not a violation but a fulfillment of the provisions of common
    grace. For in God's dealing with mankind in common grace he has
    authorized the state as "an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil."

    Now it is true that Israel's army was also an avenger for wrath. But
    while an analogy may be recognized between the two things being
    compared, the conclusion cannot be avoided that radically different
    principles are at work. For if Israel's conquest of Canaan were to be
    adjudicated before an assembly of nations acting according to the
    provisions of common grace, that conquest would have to be condemned as
    an unprovoked aggression and, moreover, an aggression carried out in
    barbarous violation of the requirement to show all possible mercy even
    in the proper execution of justice. It would not avail the counsel for
    the defense to claim that by a divine promise originally made to Abraham
    and afterwards reiterated to his descendants the land was rightfully
    Israel's, nor to insist that the iniquity of the Amorites was full and
    cried to heaven for judgment, nor to advise the court that the conquest
    was undertaken and waged according to specific directions of Israel's
    God to Moses and Joshua. Such facts would have no legal significance for
    the international tribunal judging solely by the principle of common

    It will only be with the frank acknowledgment that ordinary ethical
    requirements were suspended and the ethical principles of the last
    judgment intruded that the divine promises and commands to Israel
    concerning Canaan and the Canaanites come into their own. Only so can
    the conquest be justified and seen as it was in truth-not murder, but
    the hosts of the Almighty visiting upon the rebels against his righteous
    throne their just deserts-not robbery, but the meek inheriting the

    It was earlier maintained that Intrusion ethics required of him who
    would obey its demands the highest outreach of faith. Thus, in the case
    of the conquest, showing mercy to Canaanite women and children would not
    have been rising above a condescending, permissive decree to


    the heights of compliance with a loftier standard. It would have been
    falling, through lack of faith, into the abyss of disobedience. As a
    matter of fact, was it not the great men of faith, a Moses, a Joshua, a
    Caleb, who prosecuted the conquest with vigor? And was it not in
    consequence of spiritual declension in Israel that they soon began to
    spare and make peace with those Canaanites who were left in the land to
    try them? The conquest, with the pattern of Old Testament action it
    exemplifies, was not, as it is so often stigmatized, an instance in the
    ethical sphere of arrested evolution but rather of anticipated

    Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., Computer Support Scientist
    Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
    Fort Collins, Colorado  80523
    phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801

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