Merit and Moses: A Critique of the Klinean Doctrine of Republication (Review)

Published: RTR 74, no. 2, 2015

Merit and Moses: A Critique of the Klinean Doctrine of Republication

Andrew M. Elam, Robert C. Van Kooten and Randall A. Bergquist, Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2014. Xiii + 155.

The Klinean-Westminster West hypothesis says that the Mosaic covenant was a republished covenant of works, offering life in the land to national Israel on condition of ‘relative fidelity’ (Michael Horton, God of Promise, 38). This arrangement typologically pointed to the second Adam. The view is novel in Reformed history, and has met with antipathy. Merit and Moses seeks to repudiate it in as simple terms as possible—and so there is unavoidable complexity—and in interaction with the Westminster West publication, The Law is Not of Faith (P&R, 2009).

Merit and Moses uncovers numerous problems with the hypothesis, and the broader, covenantal framework in which it sits. The evaluation is made in terms of conformity to the Westminster standards, generating ecclesiastical complications for exponents, but Scriptural evaluation would have provided the more substantial and compelling critique. Where is the hypothesis taught in Scripture? The only life genuinely offered outside the Garden is based on God’s grace, including the provision of Land as an Edenic type. After the Fall, the Covenant of Works only condemns, and the Mosaic points to a spotless sacrifice as the solution. If the Land is attained by relative fidelity, how should the fifth commandment in Eph 6:3 be understood?

Wider historical-theological considerations lie outside the book’s parameters, so there is little investigation of the Lutheresque appearance of the hypothesis, or of the similarity to Cameron/Amyraut’s subservient, third covenant (cf. WTJ 2004–2005).

The Westminster West hypothesis is probably not as theologically problematic as the book suggests. Even though the thesis is exegetically overextended, Israel’s typological role needs consideration (cf. ‘servant’ in Isaiah, and David’s protestations of innocence in the Psalter). Merit and Moses could be clearer that the un-extrapolated hypothesis does not deny salvation by grace.