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Some Memories of Meredith Kline

Kline 2.jpgUpon hearing the news that Meredith Kline had died (Friday, April 13), came that all-too familiar bittersweet reaction.  On the one hand, I was saddened but not really surprised, since I knew that Dr. Kline had been ill for some time.  On the other, I recalled the words of Psalm 116:15:  "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."  I would ask you to pray for Dr. Kline's wife and children (one of whom, Meredith M., was my Hebrew teacher), especially that our gracious God will comfort this family with the promise of Jesus Christ's victory over death and the grave.

I didn't know Dr. Kline very well, if at all.  In fact, I was one of twenty or so students who had him for a course in Peneteuch and then for another class in the Old Testament section of our hermeneutics class.  This was back in the days when Westminster Seminary California had just opened its doors in San Marcos, before the current Escondido campus was ready for students. 

When I was a student at Westminster--back in 1982-84--I was a five-point Calvinist, but was still a functional dispensationalist and adamantly rejected paedobaptism.  I sat through Dr. Kline's lectures struggling to make sense of them, and trying to understand why everyone else felt that it was such a privilege to study under him.  I was just plain lost.  If you've read Kline, you know what I mean.

At the time, my primary theological interest was apologetics.  So, I was especially interested in Dr. Kline's lecture on the documentary hypothesis (JEDP).  I was dismayed when Kline called our attention to JEDP by drawing the letters on the board.  He then drew a red circle around these letters, and dramatically added a slash across them.  And that was it!  I thought he'd go through the evidence point by point which showed this critical reading of the Old Testament to be fallacious.  Instead, Dr. Kline went on to lecture about the fact that the Book of Deuteronomy was structured along the lines of an ancient near-eastern Suzerainty treaty, and made the case that if Deuteronomy was such a treaty document, it must have been written in the middle of the second millennium B.C.  If true, this absolutely destroyed JEDP, by demonstrating that the "D" source was written at one time, nearly a thousand years before the time of Josiah, when critical scholars claim that Deuteronomy was written.  That places one of the books of the Pentateuch back in the days of Moses.  I have used that argument ever since. 

Therefore, it troubles me greatly when some who disagree with Kline's "framework" hypothesis about the creation days (which is a debatable issue), unjustly imply he was some kind of closet liberal.  Kline defended inerrancy loudly and often in class, and his lecture on JEDP was among the most profound and decimating arguments against critical methodology I have ever seen!

And then there was the day when Dr. Kline was late to class.  From the room in which we met, we could look out the window and see off in the distance the freeway off-ramp which people took to exit the freeway and enter the industrial park where the seminary held classes.  Someone noticed a CHP officer giving a ticket to a very unhappy motorist who was gesturing emphatically. You guessed it, it was Dr. Kline.  By the way, his lecture that afternoon was on "cult and culture" and the "two kingdoms."  Dr. Kline didn't think it very funny, but we giggled through the whole lecture.

On another occasion, John Gernster came to lecture on his version of classical apologetics.  Dr. Gerstner said something about Cornelius Van Til, with which Dr. Kline took great umbrage.   Although it was a friendly debate, Dr. Kline was so upset that someone had misrepresented Dr. Van Til (he believed), that his hand was shaking visibly as he raised it to challenge Gerstner's assertion.  Right then and there I understood the influence that Van Til had upon the Westminster faculty.

Upon my graduation from Westminster, I went back and read and then re-read (and then read again) Kline's Structure of Biblical Authority, Kingdom Prologue, and a host of journal articles Dr. Kline had written on eschatology and various biblical passages.  And if you've read my stuff and heard my sermons, you know how Kline has influenced me in so many areas.  Although I didn't really know him personally, I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to sit at his feet, even though it took a while for me to realize the value of what I had heard. 

How many times I have wished that I could go back and take those same courses over again . . .  But at least I have his books and journal articles.  So, even in death, Dr. Kline still speaks.

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Reader Comments (17)

Dr. Kline, Geerhardus Vos, and James Dennison are the theologians most responsible for showing me how the Bible is the historically progressive self-revelation of God. I will always be in debt to Dr. Kline for his insights and teaching us all that Christ and eschatology dominate the whole of special revelation. My prayers are with his family.
April 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCraig Phelps
I'm a relative newcomer to the Reformed faith - 3 1/2 years or so. It happened through reading Calvin's Institutes, then Luther's Bondage of the Will, then the Reformed confessions and as many other Reformed works as I could get my hands on.

I didn't think I would find anything by modern writers to match the older works in profundity until I got a hold of the online version of Kingdom Prologue. Once I got into it, I was glued to my computer monitor for the next the couple of weeks or so until I got through it. Then I read anything by Kline I could find, and at this point, I can safely say that he has shaped my understanding of the bible and theology as much as anyone I've read. What wonderful insights he had into the nature of the biblical covenants!
April 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDavid R.
My copy of Kingdom Prologue is still on the way, and it'll be my first title by Kline, although I've read enough of his online, especially your citations of him that I feel I know (knew) him. Still working on that framework stuff, though. My head says go with it, but my heart says to stick with the dispensationalist scientific creationists!

Baby steps . . .

But what do I do with the finger of God in Exodus 20 writing in the fourth commandment that "in six days God created the heavens and the earth?"

I've never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Kline, but am thankful for his service to God's kingdom. I must admit I'm saddened that I never did get to meet him in this life, but am pleased to know that he is in Heaven worshipping the great God he loved and served.
April 16, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkeith
I had the privilege of serving as pastor for almost a decade at the church that Meredith attended in New England. He was unfailingly kind, considerate, and encouraging to me in the gospel ministry, and was always available to answer one of my questions about a difficult text. His Sunday School classes were remarkable for their scriptural insight, and he was an enthusiastic supporter of the church's missions program. In every way, Meredith was an exemplary churchman in our congregation.

Meredith and Grace attended Deerwander Bible Conference annually. I remember them rising early to prepare breakfast for junior and senior high campers. Later in the morning Meredith would teach a Bible class for camp staff. Whether teaching at seminary, church, or camp, he taught with faithful care for both the text and his students.

Whether speaking or writing, I am grateful for Meredith’s spirited proclamation of Christ's active obedience. Indeed, there is "no hope without it."
April 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Wingard
I had the privilege of sitting under Professor Kline for his Pentateuch class at WSC in the late 90s. I came into that class thinking I had a decent understanding of the books of Moses. I came out a few months later realizing how foolish my original evaluation of myself was. Prof. Kline opened my eyes to the amazing complexity and yet simplicity of the structure of those books (especially Deuteronomy). His influence will stay with me for a lifetime and I can't wait to take classes from him again in the New Heavens and Earth!
My prayers go out to his wife and son and the rest of his family as the mourn his death. Thank God for the resurrection!
April 17, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermholst
"Therefore, it troubles me greatly when some who disagree with Kline's "framework" hypothesis about the creation days (which is a debatable issue), unjustly imply he was some kind of closet liberal."
What do you mean by this? Do you mean that God didn't create the earth in six days or evolution was used by Him etc ? I don't know anything about this teacher to know what you mean by this statement.
April 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersarah

The framework hypothesis is simply the belief that Moses was using a poetic device in Gen. 1 to show that God is King over His creation. A careful reading of the text will note that there is a correlation between Days 1&4, 2&5, and 3&6. First the Kingdoms are created, then the Kings to inhabit those Kingdoms. Finally, the 7th Day is the culmination of the Creation Week in which God rests and reigns over all the Kings and Kingdoms. Thus, Moses did not write Genesis 1 to explain the exact time length of the Creation, but rather to give the Israelites an understanding of who there God is and what pattern of behavior (ruling/working for 6 days followed by the 7th day of rest) to follow.
Kline did not advocate evolution (at least not from what I have ever read or heard from him). Rather, he did not believe that Gen. 1 should be used as the basis of some sort of Young Earth is the only possibility of interpretation. The Framework does leave the Young Earth as a possibility (since that view is not concerned with the length of the days), but it also leaves open the likelihood that this earth (and the universe) is much older than we think.
Google Meredith Kline's name and you will find a website devoted to his writings (I don't recall the name at the moment). Look for his article "Space and Time in Genesis" (or something very close to that) for an introduction to that viewpoint by Kline himself.
April 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermholst

on this page:

Look for, "Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony"

See also: "Because it had not Rained"

Both are excellent.

For a simple and easy to read Kline-like treatment of Genesis 1 see Robert Godfrey's booklet, "God's Pattern for Creation"

See also "The Genesis Debate" (Lee Irons and Kline represent the Framework postion in this book)

April 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRick B.
" I was just plain lost. If you've read Kline, you know what I mean."

Indeed. What's a good place for a non-specialist (with no Hebrew and deteriorated Greek skills) to start with Kline?

Is it worth trying to find _Treaty of the Great King_? The only times I see it, the cost is astronomical.

And, BTW, web links to Two Ages Press get you to a domain squatting search page.

April 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter"lee n. field"
Two-Age press is down. They must have failed to renew the domain.

Also, you’ll find that most of the content of "Treaty of the Great King" is repeated and enlarged in "The Structure of Biblical Authority" and in his commentary on Deuteronomy. So I’m not sure it’s worth paying big bucks for.
April 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRick B.
Thanks Kim for posting your thoughts on Dr. Kline. Many of us never have experiences with those that we read, and these experiences always humanize the word.

April 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterScott D.
As a lowly lay-lady and lover Dr. Kline's writings - I only survived my first readings (and continue to grapple with them) because of my pastor's labor in bringing the treasures of Kline to his sermons and class material.

The Framework hypothesis was a huge turning-point and eye-opener for me! It makes splendid sense and upholds the wonder and majesty of God's creative powers. Furthermore, it is an effective answer to "seekers/critics" bent on mocking the so-called random/fragmented stories of the OT.

Kline's ideas are mere discoveries of a man, gifted by God to see deeper glories of Divine revelation in the written Word. The truths have always been there - hidden in plain sight!

Eschatology drives theology, whether we know it or not.

Thank you, Dr. Kline, for your faithful, tireless labor and passionate love for Jesus Christ. Thank you, Pastor Kim, for passing on Dr. Kline's wisdom and legacy!!!

We are edified.
April 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
There’s much good that’s been said here and elsewhere through the years concerning Kline’s covenant theology. It’s been a pleasure to read these blog responses and those on other blogs, due primarily to my immense appreciation for the labor of an ordinary godly man, Meredith Kline, who’s taken us places few have tread.

Dr. Kline is forever a challenge to all who take serious covenant-historical thinking. I trust there will be generations to come who will likewise find him rightly taking the status quo to task. His thinking will very likely rank up there with Vos and others.

Some years ago I started becoming familiar with the whole notion of biblical theology and Kline’s name constant came to the fore. Those were the days when Lee Irons and Bill Baldwin would go round and round with others who opposed (or minimize) the notion of a covenant of works (with both Adam in Creation and Israel in Canaan). No doubt my head was swirling, but thankfully I had a friend who eventually helped me sort it out after some time.

Unfortunately, there were other influences abroad that steered my thinking away from considering further the validity of what Kline (and others of like mind) posited. Some of these antagonists of Kline (today Shepherdians) were tangling with Irons/Baldwin back when. I was so close then to hearing what today I believe to be a most sound handling of Scripture, yet, for some time the path went in a way toward the Federal Vision crowd.

It wasn’t until I sat down and read through all the works of Kline, Ridderbos, and Riddlebarger that I realized how far away from Scripture my understanding of the Kingdom had come. Once the Kingdom and its covenant administrations came clearly into view…it was all over, and did the FAT LADY SING! ;)

My apologies for carrying on here Kim, but perhaps a hearty thanks to YOU will smooth things over a bit. Your labors in bringing forth a well-honed eschatology has played such an integral part in viewing the box top of this whole puzzle. And thanks for the opportunity here to express our heart-felt appreciation for God’s kindness to us in Meredith’s ministry of the Gospel.
April 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Morizio
As a sister-in-law to Meredith M. Kline (the son), I would like to express appreciation on behalf of the Kline family to Dr. Riddlebarger for his kind comments. Knowing that the family was busy with funeral arrangements, I printed off “Some Memories of Meredith Kline” and the post from Charlie Wingard and brought them to yesterday’s church service where they were displayed with his many books and some great photographs. The “Service of Praise and Thanksgiving in Loving Memory of Meredith G. Kline” was incredible.

Thank you for your prayers.
April 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Morris
Thanks mholst and Rick, for the site to read up on Kline's work, but if Kim had a hard time understanding him then I'll have to decline the offer to read his material. I have never heard about this and was just wondering if it is reformed theology. I belong to a reformed church, OPC, and I have never heard of this teaching.
April 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersarah
Thanks for this. As Dr. Estelle would say, this "warmed the cockles of my heart." I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Kline but he is by far my favorite theologian and exegete.
July 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterphil sipe

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