Kline’s Comments against WCF/WLC

For background, see my post Contradiction in the Westminster Confession

I stumbled upon some very succinct notes from Kline articulating the view Karlberg ascribes to Kline in that post. Comments on the A. A. Hodge One-Covenant Construction of the Redemptive Order consists of brief comments from Kline arguing against the view of the Covenant of Grace articulated in the WCF/WLC. In summary, he notes:

Through its failure to distinguish satisfactorily the two very different arrangements in the redemptive order [CoG and CoR] and the resultant blurring together of contradictory elements, the one-covenant construction of A. A. Hodge (and WCF/WLC) has at least these liabilities:

1. It leads to a definition of the covenant community (church) in Baptistic terms as consisting of believers or the elect, contrary to the Presbyterian doctrine that the church consists of those who profess Christian faith and their children.

2. Arguably (as I suggested at the faculty forum), it has contributed by its formal fusing of the works and grace principles to the confusion of the two and even the repudiation of the works principle in the teachings of Fuller, Shepherd, et. al.

These are precisely the two points of contention with WCF I have striven to work out and articulate on this blog.

17 thoughts on “Kline’s Comments against WCF/WLC

  1. Brandon,

    I’d be really interested to hear from a Reformed Christian how the covenant of redemption and Christ’s federal headship could include more that the elect?

    I couldn’t find a single Reformed theologian who disagrees…

    In case you’ve misunderstood what Kline means by “made with the elect” this is what he means:

    “The eternal covenant is between the persons of the Godhead — with the elect of mankind also in view in so far as the Son is contemplated as the second Adam, the representative of the elect”

    Hodge says the same thing when he says:
    “By this is meant the covenant between the Father and the son in reference to the salvation of man”

    Also Berkhof:
    “The covenant of redemption may be defined as the agreement between the Father, giving the Son as Head and Redeemer of the elect, and the Son, voluntarily taking the place of those whom the father had given Him.”

    “And in like manner, when Christ, as in Isa. 42:1-6, is spoken of as the party with whom the Father covenants, the elect are to be viewed as in him.”

    Clark and Van Drunen:
    “In Reformed theology, the pactum salutis has been defined as a pretemporal, intratrinitarian agreement between the Father and Son in which the Father promises to redeem an elect people.”

    (if this guy is right in his interpretation of Owen: http://www.apuritansmind.com/Baptism/McMahonJohnOwenRedemption.htm)
    “But it certainly means, by Owen’s own definition, that only the elect participate in the fruits of the Covenant of Redemption.”


    1. Hey Kyle,

      I’m a bit confused as to what you’re responding to. I never suggested any Reformed Christian said the CoR included the non-elect. Did you read the full article to get a context for Kline’s quote? Let me know where our misunderstanding is.


  2. Brandon, you said: “I do not think Kline’s “solution” of making the Covenant of Redemption a covenant made with the elect to be a viable option”

    Explain what u think Kline was saying.

    (I’m doing this from my phone so please excuse the brevity and any spelling errors)


    1. Like I said, I’ll have to save my explanation of that statement for another post 😉

      Kline was saying that the covenant theology of the Westminster Standards are contradictory, specifically WLC31. His solution to that contradiction was to change WLC31 to refer to the Covenant of Redemption instead of the Covenant of Grace.


  3. I look forward to hearing what u think is wrong with that…. As I believe that is the general thought of most theologians I’ve read! At least in regards to what the CoR is.

    Kline isn’t saying that the elect are participants in the CoR, just beneficiaries!

    Anyway I’m probably missing your point and will wait for your forthcoming post on the matter.


    1. “Kline isn’t saying that the elect are participants in the CoR, just beneficiaries!”

      That’s not correct. Have you read the linked article? Kline says:

      the eternal covenant is made by the Father with the Son in his appointed status as second Adam and thus (in keeping with the parallel between the federal headship arrangements in the covenants with the two Adams)
      with those represented by Christ as federal head, i.e., the elect, and them exclusively.


  4. The funny thing is thats what I thought you understood him to be saying and why I tried to clarify what he means by “made” in the first comment. Kline isn’t saying anything other than what the other theologians that I quoted. And his quote alone should clarify the matter.

    Anyway… Ill blog about it real soon.


  5. Brandon,

    It turns out the wife has made plans for us tonight… so i decided to just quote Kline here for you instead of blogging about it.

    What is the Covenant of Redemption in Kline’s theology?

    Lets look at some of the pertinent quotes from his books:

    Kingdom Prologue:

    “This second covenant of works is the eternal covenant, which we shall call “The Father’s Covenant of Works with the Son.”  The series of temporal administrations of redemptive grace to God’s people are subsections of what we shall call “The Lord’s Covenant of Grace with the Church” (or, for brevity’s sake we may use the traditional “Covenant of Grace”).  Preeminently the Covenant of Grace finds expression in the new covenant, but it also includes all those earlier covenantal arrangements wherein the benefits secured by the obedience of Christ in fulfillment of God’s eternal covenant with him were in part already bestowed during premessianic times, in each case according to the particular eschatological phase of covenant history.
    Though interlocking, these two redemptive covenants, the eternal and the temporal, are nevertheless to be clearly distinguished from each other for they differ in several most basic respects.
    In the eternal covenant,
(1) the Son is assigned the role of covenant servant;
(2) the second party is the Son in his status as second Adam and thus, included along with him, the elect whom he represents, and them exclusively; and
(3) the operative principle is works. 
    Contrariwise, in the series of historical administrations of the gospel,
(1) the messianic Son is Lord and mediator of the covenant;
(2) the second party is the church, the community of the confessors of the faith and their children, including others beside the elect; and
(3) the operative principle is grace.”

    God, Heaven and Har Magedon:
    “All three persons of the Trinity participate in this covenanting but we shall focus here on God the Father and God the Son.”

    “On the Son’s part there was a commitment to undertake a messianic mission on earth, to enter the fallen world as a second Adam, as the representative and savior of an elect multitude from among mankind fallen in the first Adam. And the Father promised to reward the Son’s faithful carrying out of this commission with highest exaltation. This eternal divine covenanting is revealed to us in various ways in Scripture. “

    “Also distinguishing the two covenants (CoR and CoG) from each other is the difference in their principal parties. The eternal covenant (CoR) is between the persons of the Godhead — with the elect of mankind in view in so far as the Son is comtemplated as the Second Adam, the representative of the elect. But the parties to the Covenant of Grace are the Lord and a company of earthlings, the community of those who profess faith and pledge troth to Christ the Lord together with those under their household authority. Whereas only the elect of mankind are (representatively) in view in the eternal covenant, in the administaration of the Covenant of Grace the covenant community includes some who are not elect — “they are not all Israel who are of Israel”

    All this is to say Kline does not think that there is a participation of the elect in the Covenant of Grace but that it is made with us representatively or federally, so that we might be the beneficiaries of Christ’s work.

    “Because God was pleased to constitute both the first and second Adams as federal representatives of a corporate humanity, the obedient performance of the obligations of the covenant of works administered to each of them would have the result that all whom they represented would receive with them the proposed grant of God’s kingdom-glory. In the case of the first Adam all the predestined mankind that should descend from him was represented by him in his covenant of works and all would, therefore, have been beneficiaries, if he had kept the covenant. In the case of the second Adam, however, not all mankind is elect in him and represented by him in his covenant or works and, therefore, not all men buy only those who, by the sovereign election of divine grace, are in Christ are the actual beneficiaries of the eternal glory bestowed through the Covenant of Grace.” (Kingdom Prologue p.g 141)

    Hope this helps.


  6. All this is to say Kline does not think that there is a participation of the elect in the Covenant of Grace but that it is made with us representatively or federally, so that we might be the beneficiaries of Christ’s work.

    Meant to say: covenant of redemption!


    1. Kyle,
      I’m trying to understand the difference you are making between participating and benefiting. Do all men under Adam participate in the covenant made with Adam, or are they only beneficiaries of it?


  7. Brandon,

    Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify my statements…. It’s been ackward trying to have this conversation via my phone and around family all day.

    I didn’t mean to say participants what I meant to say was merely: “in the eternal covenant (CoR) we are beneficiaries but not PARTNERS.

    Sorry for the confusion there!


    1. Thanks for giving me your time even though you’re busy with family.

      I didn’t mean to say participants what I meant to say was merely: “in the eternal covenant (CoR) we are beneficiaries but not PARTNERS.

      If that’s the case, then I’ll just re-state what I asked earlier: Who are you arguing against? I don’t disagree.


  8. Brandon,

    I’m not arguing against you! I know what you personally think in this matter! I’m merely attempting to defend Kline!

    Sorry if it came across any other way than me trying to say that Kline would and does agree with our mutuall understanding of the CoR!

    Have a blessed Lord’s Day tomorrow!


    1. Thanks Kyle. I think you’re probably just jumping the gun a bit from my comment at the end and that’s the source of our confusion here. Wait till I lay out my thoughts on that and then let me know if you can still clarify anything for me.


  9. Pingback: 2011 January 10 | Covenantal Baptist

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s