Sunday, April 05, 2015

The problem of "simple justice"?

In the republication view, merit is defined in terms of God's revealed will as specified by the terms of the covenant. Simply stated, merit is whatever God says it is. According to the republication position, the nature of the specified condition is ultimately irrelevant for determining its meritorious or non-meritorious character. The condition may be perfection (as in the covenant with Adam), or it may be something less than perfection (as in the Mosaic covenant). A work is meritorious, therefore simply when God decides to accept it as such through the stated stipulations or conditions of a particular covenantal arrangement. Kline referred to this as simple justice. ... In this redefined view of merit, there is no longer any need or place for the previous distinction made between Adam's covenant merit in contrast to Christ's strict merit. In terms of the definition of merit, Adam and Christ can equally earn the rewards of their respective covenants according to the principle of simple justice.(Andrew M. Elam, Merit and Moses, 67)

In dealing with Kline's view of merit, the authors claim that Kline teaches something called "simple justice," which is a merit that is nominalistic and totally arbitrary. Whatever God says is merit is merit. This sounds wrong, but the issue is: Is this a correct representation of what Klineans hold to?

First of all, it must be mentioned that claiming that both Christ and anyone else (e.g. Adam, Israel) "merit" in the same way is totally in error. Nowhere have the authors given any proof that any Klinean believed that, and one should not argue from silence. If we remember that we are talking about Form, and especially literary forms, then one should be cautious about reading one's preconceived notions into what Klineans write. Just because Kline mentioned the phrase "simple justice" and link Adam with Christ does not imply that the two "merit" in exactly the same way, since a typological relationship might just be referenced here, not some "ontological" equivalence.

"Covenant merit" deals with the logical construction of the covenant condition and reward. In form, it seems very similar to how "simple justice" seems to be construed, except it is a logical construct whereas it is unclear what kind of construct "simple justice" is. As such, on this topic it seems to me that Kline's view of merit require more clarification, yet even apart from that it can be seen that critics of Kline are grasping at straw to make the charges stick.

No comments: