David Murray concludes his four-part series on Merit and Moses — the book that is anti-republication — by boiling it down to this:
. . . my own concerns about RP have grown as I’ve increasingly come into contact with people who are using the RP to argue against any place of the law in the Christian life. They hear RP teachers saying that Israel obeyed the law to merit the land, but the NT believer is no longer under that arrangement. Thus they conclude, we don’t need to obey God’s law any more. Again, I know that’s not what RP intends but it is such a complex and confusing system that even those who have heard it explained many times still struggle to understand and communicate it accurately. I remember the first time I heard the RP preached, I thought, “What on earth was that?” To some degree, I still feel that sense of bafflement. With theology, I’ve often noticed that the more complex a system, the more likely that it’s wrong.
What is striking about this conclusion is that Murray (David, that is) winds up basically where Norman Shepherd started — Christians in the 1970s believed they could dispense with the law (thanks either to D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion or Jack Miller’s Sonship Theology). Shepherd opposed such antinomianism and wasn’t even contending with republication or 2-kingdom theology. He was, of course, sorting covenant theology out to some degree with Meredith Kline, who turned out to be one of the leading opponents of Shepherd. And Kline, as David Murray points out, represents for the authors of Merit and Moses the overreaction against Shepherd.
Has anyone yet to show us what the right reaction against Shepherd is? The folks who have been most vigorous in opposing where Shepherd led (i.e. Federal Vision) were some of the people who wrote for The Law is Not of Faith. Do they get credit for that? Not much. And what about the Murrayites (not David) who didn’t go the way of Federal Vision? Were they critical of Shepherd or Federal Vision? Or did they sit on their hands? Or how about the Obedience Boys? Have they had their innings with Norman Shepherd who argued for an obedient faith?
My contention is still that the very small world of U.S. conservative Presbyterian and Reformed believers has not yet gotten over Shepherd.