In Defense Of Moses: A Confessional Critique Of Kline And Karlberg -- By: D. Patrick Ramsey

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 66:2 (Fall 2004)
Article: In Defense Of Moses: A Confessional Critique Of Kline And Karlberg
Author: D. Patrick Ramsey

In Defense Of Moses:
A Confessional Critique Of Kline And Karlberg

D. Patrick Ramsey

[D. Patrick Ramsey is pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, London, Ky.]

I. Introduction

It would be hard to overstate the importance of understanding the correct place and role of the Mosaic Covenant in redemptive history.1 This is so because it is directly tied to the proper relationship between law and grace, which is fundamental to many important doctrines. As John Newton once observed, “Ignorance of the nature and design of the law is at the bottom of most religious mistakes.”2 It should not surprise us, then, that “differing systems of theology often have radically different conceptions of the proper relationship between Law and Gospel.”3

Notwithstanding such importance, the church as a whole has not been overly successful in discerning the Christian’s relationship to Moses. Some within the church have idolized him,4 others have hated him,5 and still others are simply

bewildered by him.6 Sadly, all too few have clearly and properly assessed and appreciated his role in the history of redemption.

It is my conviction that the historic Reformed faith, as it is expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, has essentially understood the correct purpose of the Mosaic Covenant in redemptive history. This is not to say, however, that the Reformed community has been and is agreed upon this issue. There have always been some within the Reformed camp who have departed from the position stated in the Confession. Two contemporary examples are Mark W. Karlberg and his mentor Meredith G. Kline.7

Although they claim to hold to the classic form of covenant theology,8 this article will attempt to demonstrate that their view is incompatible with the Westminster Standards. In order to do so I will first summarize their view of the Mosaic Covenant, then present some reasons why this view is inconsistent with the Westminster Standards, and finally answer some possible objections.

II. Kline and Karlberg’s View of the Mosaic Covenant

According to Kline and Karlberg the Mosaic Covenant is to be interpreted as a covenant of works, although not exclusively. As Mark...

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