Saturday, February 13, 2010

Legalist Preachers

I do not like this one so well, all he does is yell yell yell. I will not have this one about --when he comes in I put him out!!!

It seems there is afoot in the land a rash of people being rough on preachers.

Nothing new there. But the front is an interesting one: the advance is coming from seminary profs and presidents.

From both the left and the right.

From the right, the disciples of the late MG Kline (who I am sure would be appalled). The tar is that to preach imperatives is to be a legalist who doesn't preach grace or Christ. These men have done good work, particularly against the overly objective, outward and quantifiable crowd (FV to those "in the know").

From the left, the "Christ centered" crowd. Good folk, and I am grateful for them, generally. They don't return the favor, however, I guess. Again, to preach imperatives or cultural mandate is to be tarred a legalist.

Surprising victims include Edwards and Lloyd-Jones.

My own view is that we ought to have apostolic balance: indicative drives imperative. But, imperative cannot be lacking.

I thought we all agreed on that. Apparently, I am wrong. And I am very sorry to be wrong.


  1. Well Ken -

    I'm grateful for you! I like the balance you show in your posted comments.

    By the way, I took 6 (count 'em-six) courses with Meredith Kline at Gordon-Conwell. I never got any indication from him that we shouldn't preach imperatives. The particular mix of emphases at Westminster California is due to a lot more factors and influences than Dr Kline, from whom I learned an enormous amount.

    Tim Keller

  2. Tim,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I admit I am trying to get my head around this.

    I certainly don't blame Kline. I have profited greatly from him, as well as from some of his students.

    I do see certain folks (Horton, Gordon, Clark) etc using the republication thesis in Kline's covenant theology as somewhat fuel for their fire. That said, I don't blame republication, either. I think they're misappropriating him. I've been doing a lot of thinking about that --hoping to write a book on Covenant Theology for laymen.

    I would love to know all the factors at work. Certainly, I think the URC is one of them, but there are good brethren in that particular expression of our faith, too.

    It grows curiouser and curiouser. I sometimes wonder why we have to judge other men's work. Each of us would like to see his work as more important and correct than that of others, it seems.

    Maybe my own fault is that I take up for those I think are being unfairly picked on, and I see a lot of faithful preachers out there, preaching Christ, who are now being tagged as legalistic for stressing engagement in the civil sphere, or preaching the third use of the Law.

    Your word "balance" is so key in this debate, as in so many others. Christ is always central. The gospel reigns supreme. But, the gospel does not negate the call of discipleship, and the joyful submission of all of life.

    Your words mean so much to me, Tim. Thanks, brother!

  3. "Maybe my own fault is that I take up for those I think are being unfairly picked on, and I see a lot of faithful preachers out there, preaching Christ..."

    Okay, this NOT one of your faults!!! Keep doing this!

    Now, maybe you have (I may have missed it), and not that I necessarily think that Tim Keller is worthy of EXTRA respect (though I actually think that he is in light of the sheer difficulty of the calling God has given him), but I'd love to see you jump in and "take up for those being unfairly picked on" on that same blog in question, when the someone being picked on (seemingly every week) is Tim Keller!

    Jeff Hutchinson

  4. ...but not at the expense of the good time you need to spend each week preparing Gospel sermons where the indicatives drive the imperatives :)

    Jeff Hutchinson

  5. I know I am treading into deep water here. The term republication was new to me. Years ago I began a study of the 10 commandments though, and I find myself feeling more and more pulled to return there. One of the things that so intrigued me about doing an in-depth study of the commandments in all their historical and theological context was to use them, as they were intended, to drive sinners to Christ and then instruct redeemed sinners on how to live or better yet how to love God and others. I saw in my study that the law was a covenant of grace - God's ever expanding covenant of grace and his ever expanding revelation of who He is and who we are. I so agree about the imperative being necessary and being driven by the indicative. While I believe that love should drive our social/ethical action, God's law always has and always will provide that action with it proper content. Melanie

  6. I'm not an historian, nor an intellectual....I love Jesus and am thankful for the teaching/training I have had in the Presbyterian Church for the last 29+ years. It has helped me to understand the gospel, to love people I would have never thought I could love, and has given me a desire to know God better and serve him better, with or without all of the knowledge I may be missing. The reason I am responding is that it is a little overwhelming to think that there IS that much knowledge and pontificating going on about being "saved by Grace", being a Christian, what is or is not good to preach or hear.....I'm not young in age, but I guess I am still very young in my knowledge and understanding about a lot of things. I just thank God that He loves me still and will continue to work in me until the day I meet Him face to face. I do thank you, though, for the thoughtful, insightful words of which I can either take or leave. God bless and have a great day!

  7. Thanks Jeff, Melanie, and Anon.

    Anon: I think preaching should be Christ and gospel, centered, but then address every possible human endeavor from a Biblical perspective. If someone tries to do that, I'm a happy listener. Some are basically saying all it ever is or should be is an announcement of what God has done for us in Christ.

    I agree that should be central, but it is not complete.

    Melanie: The Mosaic Covenant is in one sense a republication of the Covenant of Works, because the Covenant always demands obedience, either from ourselves, or by another. Christ meets the stipulations of the Covenant of Grace for his people. And, the Law remains, as it always was (even before the Decalogue) a standard of righteousness.