Archive for the ‘Meredith Kline’ Category

Westminster West and Frame’s Point 27

March 26, 2012

Frame’s point 27 (from this list) of Escondido Theology is this: “The Sabbath pertains only to worship, not to daily work. So worship should occur on the Lord’s Day, but work need not cease.”

Meredith Kline wrote: 

Moreover, since the Sabbath is a sign of sanctification marking that which receives its imprint as belonging to God’s holy kingdom with promise of consummation, the Sabbath will have relevance and application at any given epoch of redemptive history only in the holy dimension(s) of the life of the covenant people. Thus, after the Fall, not only will the Sabbath pertain exclusively to the covenant community as a holy people called out of the profane world, but even for them the Sabbath will find expression, in a nontheocratic situation, only where they are convoked in covenant assembly, as the ekklesia-extension of the heavenly assembly of God’s Sabbath enthronement. That is, Sabbath observance will have to do only with their holy cultic (but not their common cultural) activity.

That seems to pretty clearly correspond to Frame’s accusation.  Kline is not the strongest advocate on this point, although his position does seem to underlie other E2k positions.  For example, Lee Irons argues as follows:

I am in complete agreement with Kline’s interpretation of the function of the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant, thus limiting its observance to the covenant community. I also agree with his theocratic analysis of the Sabbath in the pre-fall and Mosaic economies. But I have reservations about his exclusive application of the new covenant Sabbath sign to the cultic activity of the assembled church. The implication seems to be that our Sabbath duties are exhaustively fulfilled by attending corporate worship. Furthermore, not only are Christians permitted to engage in cultural activity on the Lord’s Day outside of public worship, they are positively required to do so. For to rest from cultural activity on the Lord’s Day would be to place the holy stamp of eschatological consummation upon non-holy cultural activity, thus profaning the Sabbath.

Ironically, those whose Sabbath practice is more in line with the Puritan approach of resting all the day from “worldly employments and recreations” are the greatest violators of the Sabbath, and are theoretically subject to church discipline. I doubt that Kline would want to see his view implemented in our churches with such unyielding disciplinary rigor. But even if strict Sabbatarians are permitted the freedom to practice the Puritan Sabbath according to the light of their conscience, it still does not ring true to say that resting from cultural activity on the Lord’s Day is sinful. I want to avoid laying heavy burdens upon God’s people – whether it be the intolerable yoke of the strict Sabbatarians who say that we must rest from any and all cultural activity, or an inflexible application of Kline’s exegetical insights in which the church’s freedom from the Mosaic Sabbath is distorted into a new legalism requiring that we engage in cultural activity on the Lord’s Day.

Irons is not just arguing that Kline’s position implies that men may work seven days (without excuse) but that they must!  This position contradicts Scripture (particularly the 4th commandment) and also lies outside the bounds of the Confession.

Note that Jason Stellman (one of Frame’s targets) does not follow Kline or Irons’ extrapolation of Kline, but instead takes a more traditional approach. Stellman quotes (approvingly, with a qualification):

“The other difference between Stellman and some of the other Escondido theologians is that he takes issue with Kline’s view of the Sabbath. Kline believed that Sabbath observance in the new covenant pertains to the Lord’s Day worship service alone. He thought that the Sabbath pertained only to what is ‘holy,’ and in the new covenant holiness pertains only to worship, not to work. Therefore we should not rest weekly from the tasks we pursue on the other six days.

“Stellman, however, argues that since the Lord’s Day is a day, and not just a few hours, we ought to withdraw from cultural tasks on that entire day (pp. 57-59).”

Stellman’s qualification is that he thinks he is not alone amongst E2k advocates. He writes:

… I don’t remember a single professor during my three years at Westminster Seminary California ever agreeing with Kline’s view of the Sabbath, either privately or in class.

I will note, however, that Kline is listed as amongst the Faculty Emeriti in the current academic catalog.  Escondido is not particularly active in distancing themselves from Kline.

I know that Pastor Stellman sometimes stops by this blog.  I wonder whether he would be willing to confirm that he agrees with “Kline’s interpretation of the function of the Sabbath as a sign of the covenant, thus limiting its observance to the covenant community.” (Irons’ description)  If so, then we may be able to at least identify one of the core principles of E2k, with three distinct branches built on that foundation.

-TurretinFan

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