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30 review for By Oath Consigned: A Reinterpretation of the Covenant Signs of Circumcision and Baptism

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    Kline, Meredith. By Oath Consigned: A Reinterpretation of the Covenant Signs of Circumcision and Baptism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1968. This book is “early Kline” and he sharpened some of his views later in Kingdom Prologue. According to some of Kline’s students, he would rather people read KP than this book. On the other hand, this book is short, accessible, and fairly well-written. It is certainly worth your time. A covenant is a “relationship under sanctions” (Kline 16). Sanctions is the ke Kline, Meredith. By Oath Consigned: A Reinterpretation of the Covenant Signs of Circumcision and Baptism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1968. This book is “early Kline” and he sharpened some of his views later in Kingdom Prologue. According to some of Kline’s students, he would rather people read KP than this book. On the other hand, this book is short, accessible, and fairly well-written. It is certainly worth your time. A covenant is a “relationship under sanctions” (Kline 16). Sanctions is the key element and will factor largely in his 4(5) point covenant model. The sanctions go with the oath that one or both covenant partners swear. In Genesis 15 God swears an oath that the same will be done to him that was done to the split cows if God fails to live up to his covenant promise. That’s the book in a nutshell. From that idea Kline identifies “promise-covenants” (Abraham, David) and “law-covenants” (Sinai). If God swears the oath, it is a promise covenant. If man swears the oath it is a law-covenant. He sees this contrast in Galatians 3-4. Further, Kline argues that the law-principle cannot be identified with the promise-principle, since Paul explicitly contrasts the two in Romans 3:31. Taking his earlier definition of covenant as “relationship under sanctions,” Kline specifies that the divine covenant is “an administration of God’s lordship, consecrating a people to himself under sanctions of divine law” (36). Circumcision: The Oath Sign of the Old Covenant The starting point for this is the covenant ratification ceremony in Genesis 17. Things get interesting here. Kline is correct to point out the sanctions/curses aspect of the covenant (and his wonderful insights on “cutting a covenant”). Genesis 17, however, is normally viewed in line with the promise, not the sanctions. There is a warning to future generations on this covenant if they fail to circumcise. I think this is why Kline didn’t consider the book to be the final word on the subject. Kline notes that circumcision is an “act of consecration” (44). All of this seems fairly standard. The trick is to tie it to baptism. Before making such a facile, surface-level connection, Kline continues the exploration. It’s not so much that x replaces y. Rather, in Colossians 2, we are circumcised in Christ in his “crucifixion-circumcision.” The language of baptism follows the covenantal model of circumcision: malediction, consecration, identification” (47). Seen another way: circumcision, burial, resurrection. That is Colossians 2 (and probably Romans 6). Circumcision signifies that the sword of the Lord cuts off false servants. John’s Baptism as Covenant Judgment This is the best chapter in the book. It helps explain some problems Reformed have always had with John’s baptism. If circumcision/baptism is a sign and seal, and if baptism replaces circumcision, then where does John the Baptist fit in? It’s not immediately obvious. Kline notes that the elements of the covenant are already there. John the Baptist is issuing a “riv-lawsuit” to covenant-breaking Israel. He is the messenger of the covenant. In the Old testament, passing through the waters is a covenant-ordeal (Noah, Numbers 5, etc.). It’s also more. Kline writes, “Synonymous with the motif of ordeal by water is that of ordeal by combat with sea-monsters” (60). For example, crossing the Red Sea was a battle between Yahweh and Leviathan (Isa. 51:9-10; Pss. 74:12-15; 89:10). Christian Baptism: Oath-Sign of the New Covenant Peter saw baptism as “a sign of judicial ordeal” by linking it “to the archetypal water ordeal, the Noahic deluge” (65; 1 Peter 3:20-22). This makes better sense of the claim “baptism now saves you,” which we normally water down to mean “salvation now saves you.” The ark/flood didn’t save Noah by magical regeneration. Water functions as the ordeal instrument. Even Peter’s language of “conscience” testifies to the judicial background. Our conscience either accuses or acquits us. It is forensic. Kline concludes, “Baptism, then, is concerned with man in the presence of God’s judgment throne” (67). Paul does something similar in 1 Cor. 10:1ff However, the line of reasoning gets stranger (while remaining correct). Associated with the Baptism/Exodus language is also that of judicial fire, the theophanic smoke-cloud. This language avoids the problems of whether baptizo means “dip” or “sprinkle” or “plunge.” None of those words fits the situation of Israel’s being baptized, either in the Red Sea or by fire. In fact, such language makes it difficult to see how they were “baptized into Moses.” The only remaining option is that baptism is a judicial (and hence, covenantal) event. Earlier we said you cannot simply jump from circumcision to baptism, as though the latter replaces the former. I think it does, but we have to lay the covenantal groundwork first. Only then can we approach Colossians 2. A similar parallel, as we have noted before, is in Romans 6:3. It moves like this: Death (circumcision; Christ is ritually cut off) → accusing role by Satan/demonic antagonists (think of Yahweh’s fighting the Dragon in the Red Sea). Conclusion: “Christian baptism is a sign of the eschatological ordeal in which the Lord of the covenant brings his servants to account” (79). This is quite easily the best academic book on baptism I have read. The argumentation and use of sources is probably a bit too technical for the lay reader. The conclusions, however, are understandable and have been adequately developed by some of Kline’s later students (see Michael Horton, Introducing Covenant Theology).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Jones

    Probably the best book I've read so far on Paedobaptism. I'm still not sold on his conclusions around covenantal authority as the basis for baptism but appreciate the work he did to get there, particularly his idea that the law covenant is the basis for the promise. It is Christ's fulfillment of the law that enables us to come to God. God's grace to us is not baseless, but dependant upon Christ's work. Always great to be reminded of these things. Probably the best book I've read so far on Paedobaptism. I'm still not sold on his conclusions around covenantal authority as the basis for baptism but appreciate the work he did to get there, particularly his idea that the law covenant is the basis for the promise. It is Christ's fulfillment of the law that enables us to come to God. God's grace to us is not baseless, but dependant upon Christ's work. Always great to be reminded of these things.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mark Trigsted

    This book has been out of print for years. I have an electronic copy if anyone would like a copy please message me privately with your e-mail... This was one of the most important books that my former Pastor Dave Sherwood told me about years ago as I was just coming into the Presbyterian Church and struggling with some aspects of Covenant Theology. Dave studied under Meredith Kline and I have grown to love him as well. I just wish I could have met him... I am re-reading this again now!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laurent Dv

    Best book of Kline in my view (by far more readable than Kingdom Prologue). It sums up all his thought (covenant theology, circumcision and baptism, biblical theology ...). The best defense of pedobaptism and pedobaptist covenant theology. But if you want Kline more complete and last system you need to read Kingdom Prologue and this article written by Lee Irons (http://www.upper-register.com/papers/...). Best book of Kline in my view (by far more readable than Kingdom Prologue). It sums up all his thought (covenant theology, circumcision and baptism, biblical theology ...). The best defense of pedobaptism and pedobaptist covenant theology. But if you want Kline more complete and last system you need to read Kingdom Prologue and this article written by Lee Irons (http://www.upper-register.com/papers/...).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Drake Barnhill

    Although I do not necessarily agree with his conclusions, what I appreciate about Kline is his inclusion of malediction in baptism. Most Baptists I’ve read (and I speak as a Baptist) have not included any aspect of the maledictory aspect of baptism when teaching converts or exhorting matured believers. Fortunately there are Reformed Baptists such as Renihan who speak about the judiciary aspect of covenantal inclusion.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul Wichert

    This is a short but important book on the covenants, covenant signs, and biblical-systematic theology in general. Lots of new insights here, and a good place to begin with Meredith Kline. It is out of print, however. You can also study along by podcast with two Kline aficionados at http://www.meredithkline.com/glory-cl.... Looking forward to reading more by this author. This is a short but important book on the covenants, covenant signs, and biblical-systematic theology in general. Lots of new insights here, and a good place to begin with Meredith Kline. It is out of print, however. You can also study along by podcast with two Kline aficionados at http://www.meredithkline.com/glory-cl.... Looking forward to reading more by this author.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael Rachel

    Excellent and provocative.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Thomas

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mlimber

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hogan

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adamtmcneal

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jess Alex

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cristin Smith

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Wells

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mihai Sarbu

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Thiessen

  18. 4 out of 5

    Terry E

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jordan B Cooper

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael Beatty

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jared Helms

  22. 5 out of 5

    Timothy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eric Huber

  24. 5 out of 5

    David Donovan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robinson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jack

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jonah Hill

  30. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Carlson

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