Re: Scripture: Intrusion Ethics

From: Peter Ruest (
Date: Sat Jul 06 2002 - 11:19:11 EDT

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    Thank you, Terry, for this comprehensive explanation of the covenant of
    works God made with Adam according to the Westminster Confession. If
    this is what Kline meant, his starting point is more easily acceptable.
    It still doesn't completely remove all of my questions, however.

    How do you envisage the possibility of Adam's passing the trial or test?
    He would not have eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
    For how long would he (and Eve) have had to abstain from it to pass the
    test? Would it have been just one attack by Satan? Your (or the
    Westminster Confession's) explanation seems to imply that he would have
    been awarded with eternal life immediately after passing the test. Would
    God have removed the tree, or death as the consequence of eating from
    it, or the tempter, at the same time?

    It seems to me that all this would be easier to understand if this test
    was not a covenant of works, but an educational means by which God
    demonstrated to Adam his inability to be obedient in his own strength -
    a danger inherent in the freedom of will God had given him -, of which
    he had to be aware.

    But more important than this theological question - now completely
    hypothetical anyway - is the implication for concordance between
    biblical history and science. I assume you (and the Westminster
    Confession) consider Adam and Eve to have been real persons in a real
    historical situation. The circumstances of the early chapters of Genesis
    date them into the Neolithic, between 6000 to 10,000 years ago. How
    about the other humans living at that time on all continents except the
    Antarctic? How about their predecessors? For this question, it doesn't
    matter whether Adam and Eve were created de novo or descended from
    preadamites. We have no reason to reject those other people as genuinely
    human, anthropologically or theologically. Their descendents are living
    among us. They are fallen like us, and some of them have been saved like
    us. Did the nature and standing before God of the preadamites suddenly
    change when Adam was created/called, and when he fell?

    I don't think biological descent from Adam is any problem in this
    respect. I don't consider biological inheritence from Adam of some
    original sin to be a biblical concept. Adam as a typical representative
    or type of all humans before, in and after his time would satisfy
    biblical teaching. I don't think Romans 5 (and Genesis 3:20) deals with
    biological inheritance at all.


    "Terry M. Gray" wrote:
    > Peter,
    > Kline's perspective on Genesis and the covenants is that outlined in
    > the Westminster Confession of Faith. Let me review in case you are
    > unfamiliar with it.
    > The original covenant made with Adam was indeed a covenant of works.
    > It was based on his obedience to the simple command: "you shall not
    > eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Since Adam was
    > created in a state of moral mutability, this is understood as a
    > trial. Had Adam passed the trial, he would have been rewarded with
    > eternal life (including moral immutability). It is in this sense that
    > in God's progressive revelation that "eschatology precedes
    > redemption". The glory that we will receive in heaven would have been
    > Adam's had he obeyed this test.
    > Adam failed the covenant of works. At this point in revelation God
    > reveals the covenant of grace which ultimately is fulfilled by Jesus
    > Christ who is the second Adam who fulfilled the requirement of the
    > covenant of works (positively by his perfect obedience and negatively
    > by bearing the curse due to mankind in Adam). All of the covenants in
    > the Bible subsequent to the fall (including the promise in Genesis
    > 3:15) are part of the covenant of grace--ultimately received by faith
    > and ultimately through Christ the covenantal mediator.
    > Eschatological glory can now come to mankind by a route other than
    > the original revelation in the covenant of works. It comes through
    > redemption--through Christ's work in his incarnation and atonement.
    > It's crucial to point out that this is progressive revelation
    > language. Of course, God didn't switch to plan b after plan a failed.
    > As much as Kline's language may sound that way, I'm confident that
    > that is not what he means. He means that God revealed plan b after
    > plan a failed. In our Calvinist theology (Kline's in the same
    > theological ballpark that I am), God's plan was set from the
    > beginning. Christ was the lamb slain from before the foundation of
    > the world. God knew that Adam would fail the covenant of works and
    > that Christ's work was the necessary means to accomplish the
    > redemption of his people from the beginning. God even purposed that
    > it would all happen this way for his own glory and for his own good
    > pleasure (I'm not claiming that I can understand the relationship
    > between God's eternal purpose and Adam's freely chosen sin--I simply
    > affirm both).
    > Saying that "eschatology antedates redemption" in no way takes away
    > from the centrality of the person and work of Christ in Biblical
    > revelation. It simply means that if we acknowledge the progressive
    > element of Biblical revelation that eschatology was revealed (Genesis
    > 2) before redemption was revealed (Genesis 3).
    > All this theology is probably off-topic, but since it is important to
    > Kline's claims, it's probably worth reviewing. The bottom line in
    > Kline's argument is that in the time since the fall we have been in
    > the "age of grace" when the eschatological judgment is delayed and
    > the gospel is proclaimed to show the way of salvation through the
    > mediator. Kline argues that occasional in the history of Israel (and
    > in the cross) that the eschatological judgment "intrudes" into this
    > gospel period and judgment is executed now rather than later.
    > Kline would argue that there are no such intrusions in the period
    > following Christ's first coming (until the second coming) and that
    > loving our enemies, praying for our enemies, and proclaiming the
    > gospel to our enemies is the order of the day until the Lord returns.
    > I must emphasize in response to various posts recently made that no
    > one here that I know of is advocating that these Old Testament
    > situations are examples for us to follow. Kline certainly would not.
    > However, we are defending them as legitimate ethical actions in
    > accord with God's law and God's will at that particular time in
    > redemptive history. As such they are not challenges to an infallible
    > Bible.
    > TG
    > >"Terry M. Gray" wrote:
    > >> 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.
    > >>
    > >> TG
    > >
    > >Terry,
    > >
    > >I very much appreciate your post and your emphasis on providing a better
    > >understanding of the ethical problems perceived in the Old Testament. I
    > >fully agree with your engagement for a full understanding of biblical
    > >inspiration and the unity of God's Word. Meredith Kline apparently shows
    > >a similar engagement, and the extract you present from his Structure of
    > >Biblical Authority provides a very interesting perspective, much of
    > >which was new to me.
    > >
    > >However, I am uneasy about an aspect in his argument which I perceive as
    > >a fundamental flaw. He writes (in part):
    > >
    > >> 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.
    > >
    > >Kline assumes (or has he argued for it earlier in his book?) that
    > >"eschatology antedates redemption", that "the Creator rested only after
    > >he had worked", that "since the creature must pattern his ways after his
    > >Creator's, ... it was a covenant of works which was proffered to Adam as
    > >the means by which to arrive at the consummation", and that "the way of
    > >redemptive covenant with common grace" represented a secondary
    > >"intrusion".
    > >
    > >I am uneasy about the claimed primacy of a "covenant of works" over the
    > >"covenant of grace" as an afterthought, so to speak. Although I disagree
    > >with some of George Murphy's theology, I consider his main emphasis on a
    > >"theology of the cross" to be of paramount importance. I think even
    > >creation and eschatology have to take second place after God's
    > >revelation of his grace in the cross of Christ.
    > >
    > >Maybe Kline was misled by a traditional but questionable understanding
    > >of God's creative "work" and "subsequent rest". But this is just an
    > >aside here.
    > >
    > >Paul's emphasis in Gal.2:16 that "a [hu]man is not justified by works of
    > >the law but through faith in Jesus Christ" tells us what is the
    > >foundation for God's dealing with us, not just in the present
    > >"dispensation", but from beginning to end. God made various covenants
    > >with [certain of] his people, but never in contrast to this principle.
    > >Paul says in Gal.1:8 that "even if we, or an angel from heaven, should
    > >preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let
    > >him be accursed." I'm certainly not suggesting Kline is doing this, but
    > >even the Old Testament covenants must be viewed in the light of
    > >unmerited grace and of faith in Christ's redeeming substitutionary death
    > >on the cross, never of a law that would permit man to arrive, on the
    > >basis of works of the law, at the consummation intended by God.
    > >
    > >As God transcends time, he knew from before the beginning of creation
    > >that his Son must die on the cross as a propitiation for our sin. This
    > >would eliminate any possibility of an eschatology grounded in creation
    > >alone, without redemption. Of course, foreknowledge is not
    > >predestination.
    > >
    > >Note that even if redemption is built into God's way with humans from
    > >the beginning, the possibility of an intrusion of eschatology into the
    > >time of grace envisioned by Kline is still a viable and important
    > >insight contributing to a solution of the ethics problem.
    > >
    > >Peter Ruest

    Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
    <> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
    "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)

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