The Healthy Influence of Meredith Kline

His Vossian eschatology and two-kingdom outlook gave some of us room to avoid this:

Have you heard of the Benedict Option? If not, you will soon.

It’s the name of a deeply pessimistic cultural project that’s capturing the imaginations of social conservatives as they come to terms with the realization that the hopes and assumptions that animated the religious right over the past 35-odd years have been dashed by the sweeping triumph of the movement for same-sex marriage.

From the start, the religious right has been marked by two qualities: optimism and a faith in majoritarianism. The qualities are connected. Think back to Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. The name conveyed its ideology: A majority of Americans are morally and religiously conservative. To the extent that the nation’s politics and culture don’t reflect that, it’s because they have been co-opted by a secular liberal minority that has placed itself in control of such elite institutions as the media, Hollywood, the universities, the judiciary, and the federal bureaucracy. The proper response is to take back these institutions using democratic means, primarily elections.

In other words, play by the rules of the democratic game, and social conservatives will eventually triumph.

This sounded like a fantasy at first, since the movement began among evangelical Protestants, who never made up more than about 25 percent of the population, and whose style of worship and belief was profoundly off-putting to non-evangelical Christians, let alone to more secular Americans. But ecumenical and inter-religious efforts throughout the 1980s and early 1990s helped to forge an alliance among conservative believers in many faith traditions: evangelicals, but also Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and Muslims. This made talk of majorities at least plausible, and seemed to vindicate the optimism, too.

Is this the thanks Kline gets? Anyone who steers you clear of the transformationalism/sky-is-falling outlook that afflicts various sectors of modern neo- and New Calvinism, a perspective that Kline’s reading of the Bible contravenes, deserves an extra helping of gratitude (if that’s not a dirty word for the Lutheran challenged).

15 thoughts on “The Healthy Influence of Meredith Kline

  1. I recognize Dr. Irons, about 7 years after that pic was taken, he would preach to us and his wife played the hymns beautifully.



  2. Hey, how about an all-Reformed theonomist commune in Tyler, TX? Maybe take over a town in Idaho named after the Russian capital? But be very afraid if Hillary wins and brings Janet Reno out of retirement.



    Meredeith Kline, By Oath Consigned–”The newness of the New Covenant does not consist in a reduction of the Covenant of Redemption to the principle of election and guaranteed blessing. Its law character is seen in this, too, that it continues to be a covenant with dual sanctions….There is no reason to regard Jeremiah’s description of the New Covenant as a comprehensive analysis, on the basis of which an exclusive judgment might then be rendered, excluding the curse sanction from a place in New Covenant administration. Even the aspect of New Covenant consummation that Jeremiah does deal with he views from the limited eschatological perspective of an Old Testament prophet…. The theologian of today ought not impose on himself the visionary limitations of an Old Testament prophet. By virtue of the fuller revelation he enjoys ( I Peter 1:10-12) he is able to observe that the imperfection of the covenant people and program has continued on from the Old Covenant into the present phase of New Covenant history. It is in accordance with this still only semi-eschatological state of affairs that the administration of the New Covenant is presently characterized by dual sanctions, having, in particular, anathemas to pronounce and excommunications.”

    “It is not proper, therefore, to set up a dichotomy whereby according to God’s secret will, election or justification cannot be lost, but according to our covenant perspective they may be lost. The statements cited show a tendency to use typically Calvinistic language with respect to the level of God’s secret will, but in the level of “covenant perspective” to use typically Arminian language (Christ died for you; the elect may become reprobate). There is even the notion in Norman Shepherd that Ephesians 1:1–14 does not “function as canon” in relation to God’s unchangeable decree of predestination, but functions as canon only within that “context of the covenant” where “election” maybe lost. This is a misreading of the doctrine of God’s incomprehensibility. That doctrine does not mean that the perspicuously revealed grace of God in election and justification can be regarded as changeable on the covenant level.”

    —Henry W. Coray, Donald C. Graham, Edward L. Kellogg, Meredith G. Kline, Robert D. Knudson, Arthur W. Kuschke, David C. Lachman, George W. Marson, W. Stanford Reid, Paul G. Settle, William Young to the Trustees of Westminster Theological Seminary (December 4, 1980),


  4. What a horror show under the “Is this the thanks Kline gets?” link?

    Look at who and what passes for the “other side” multiple times on the comments.


  5. Mark, thanks. You’re making me want to get back into these, KP was some amazing stuff, I’m finding. Take care, good to hear from you.

    Who’s next?


  6. It was my first semester at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, way back in the Fall of 1989. I was a baptistic-leaning, premillenial Christian affiliated at the time with the Christian & Missionary Alliance. (Long story, since I had grown up Episcopalian.) I decided to take Dr. Kline’s “Old Testament Hermeneutics” class. My life was never to be the same.

    One day as I sat in the lecture hall, watching Dr. Kline’s chalk-stained fingers excitedly filling up the chalk board with his charts and notes, he happened to mention in passing something called “limited atonement.” The heresy bells went off in my head. I had never before heard of such a strange concept. I sheepishly raised my revivalistic evangelical hand, and when called upon by the good professor I asked timidly, “Dr. Kline, what about John 3:16?”

    Dr. Kline, usually a gentle and soft spoken man in person, looked up at me from the bottom of the lecture hall, and boldly quoted to me from Romans 9: “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?”

    You could have heard a pin drop in the lecture hall. My jaw dropped. I will never forget that moment.

    That was a turning point in my journey into a Reformed and covenantal understanding of the Faith. And while I don’t agree with everything Kline taught, in God’s providence he was instrumental in bringing me into a covenantal and Reformed understanding of Scripture. And for that I will be forever grateful for this great biblical scholar.


  7. No, but was in the so cal presbytery when at school in santa barbara from 2000 – 2004. He was an excellent preacher. I heard him maybe 2 or 3 times. The man who defended him during his trials was our elder, a very Godly man, I look forward to seeing the SB crowd on vacay this summer, I digress..


  8. I recognize Dr. Irons, about 7 years after that pic was taken, he would preach to us and his wife played the hymns beautifully.

    AB, was that before he went into hiding from justice?


  9. I think Kline only owned a single tan leisure suit for the entirety of his teaching career.

    I’ll never forget his shock — shock! — when he realized we weren’t all learning how to read OT Aramaic… and the terror I felt as he made me sight-read from Daniel to prove how easy it was.

    He was a prince of a man, and I still remember his prayers opening classes. You felt as though you had stumbled upon a lecture from an Old Testament prophet.


  10. Alexander,

    Come again? After he was found guilty, he didn’t preach in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church any longer, if that’s what you mean.

    A shame the way that trial went, wouldn’t you say? Lee is brilliant.


  11. Lee Irons was censured by his own presbytery and he ran away rather than submit to the courts of the church. The presbytery may have terminated the censure after, note after he fled, but that shouldn’t have happened. They clearly wanted to “move on” as people say nowadays. Regardless, Lee Irons did not reconcile himself to his presbytery ergo he is a fugitive from justice.


  12. His intention of peacably withdrawing from the OPC is how I read this, but you are right, I don’t see a guilty verdict, so I misspoke. Thank you, Alexander. Grace and peace.

    September 19, 2003 – Mr. Irons wrote a letter to the Presbytery in response to the action of the 70th GA indicating his intention to peaceably withdraw from the OPC.


  13. W. Robert Godfrey and D. G. Hart—: “Westminster California was born in the heat of the Shepherd controversy and initially left the Shepherd problem to WTS (especially since Frame tended to defend Shepherd while Strimple and Godfrey had sharply criticized him.) But even with the dismissal of Shepherd in 1981, the issue of the doctrine of justification did not disappear. Some in the Reformed churches continued to defend Shepherd, others embraced the New Perspective on Paul and still others adopted the Federal Vision” (Westminster Seminary California: A New Old School [Escondido: WSC, 2012] 109).


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