KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Richard A. Riesen and David L. Roth
1. THE WRITINGS OF GEERHARDUS VOS......................................................................................................................................................3
2. GOD'S ESCHATOLOGICAL
3. BOOK REVIEW..............................................................................................................................................................................................40
KERUX is a publication of Kerux, Inc. and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 1131 Whispering Highlands Dr., Escondido, CA 92027-4961. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $15.00 (U.S. and Canada); $20.00 (Elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U. S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in Old Testament Abstracts, Washingon, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in ATLA Religion Database, Chicago, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.
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ISSN 0888-8513 September 2000 Vol. 15, No. 2
The Writings of Geerhardus Vos*
Danny E. Olinger
Geerhardus Vos's first book, The Mosaic Origin of the Pentateuchal Codes (hereafter, The Mosaic Origin) was a thesis Vos prepared for a Hebrew fellowship while a student at Princeton Seminary.1 It was so exceptional that his professors, particularly William Henry Green, thought it should be published, and it appeared in 1886.2 In 1948, Vos, with the help of his son, Johannes, produced his last book, The Biblical Theology.3 In the sixty-four-year span between the publication of The Mosaic Origin in 1886 and The Biblical Theology in 1948, Vos put before Christendom an unmatched Reformed biblical-theological corpus.
According to Vos, "Biblical Theology, rightly defined, is nothing else than the exhibition of the organic process of supernatural revelation in its historic continuity and multiformity."4 Vos understood the procedure of the biblical-
* Slightly revised version of an address delivered at the Kerux Conference, June 25, 1999 at Westminster, California.
1 Geerhardus Vos, The Mosaic Origin of the Pentateuchal Codes (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1886), iii.
2 Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., "Preface," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), ix.
3 Vos, The Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), vi.
4 Vos, "The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 15.
theologian, therefore, to be the faithful reproduction of the structure and proportion of thought as it presented itself to the mind of the biblical writer himself.5 In this manner, Geerhardus Vos was a biblical theologian, and this article is a survey of his writings. Hopefully, then, one who reads this article will develop a deeper understanding of what biblical theology is, by reading what Vos has said.
Consistent with his definition of biblical theology, in his corpus of books, reviews, articles, sermons and poems, Vos consistently labored to show that the diverse strands of biblical revelation from Genesis to Revelation are centered in Jesus Christhis death and resurrection constituting the focal point of the Scriptures.6 This is not to say, however, that Vos's writings were greatly esteemed during his own lifetime. The Trustee's Minutes in the Princeton Student Bulletin remarked on Vos's death in 1949 that he was one of the most learned and devout in Princeton's long line of teachers, and, yet the same Trustee's Minutes mention that his published writings were the despair of his contemporaries.7 All too often, liberals dismissed his writings while his conservative brethren did not understand them. The end result was that Vos's work was falling through the cracks, ignored and under (if not un-) appreciated. One example of this is found with his seminal volume, The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church (hereafter, The Kingdom of God). Appearing in 1903 as the first major work from Vos during his stay at Princeton, the book went so unnoticed that Vos himself had to write the review that appeared in the Princeton Theological Review!8
When recognition did come for Vos, it was often through the later work and testimony of his students. The very book which Vos had to review himself, The Kingdom of God, was brought to the attention of the Reformed world through the efforts of three of Vos's most well-known pupils, Ned B. Stonehouse,
5 Vos, Review of La Theologie de Saint Paul, by Percy Gardner. Princeton Theological Review 11:127.
6 Gaffin, "Preface," xvi.
7 Princeton Seminary Bulletin (Winter 1950), 42.
8 Geerhardus Vos, Review of The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church, by Geerhardus Vos. Princeton Theological Review 2:335-336.
John Murray, and Cornelius Van Til. In reviewing Herman Ridderbos's The Coming of the Kingdom in the pages of the Westminster Theological Journal, Stonehouse announced that what Ridderbos had done was indeed noteworthy, but that Vos had already presented the Lord's doctrine of the kingdom from the biblical-theological point of view. Stonehouse wrote, "It is refreshing . . . to receive a new reminder after fifty years [that] Vos's fundamental perspectives and conclusions are by no means outmoded."9
In the same year, Murray reviewed the reprinting of Vos's The Kingdom of God for the Westminster Theological Journal and concluded by stating, "Vos provides us with a biblico-theological study which supplies us with the conceptions which must guide and govern our thinking if we are to be faithful to him who went preaching the kingdom of God."10 And although not directly citing Vos's The Kingdom of God by name, almost a decade and a half earlier, Murray had also defended Vos's kingdom views and exegetical ability in his review article of J. Oliver Buswell's Unfulfilled Prophecies in the Presbyterian Guardian. Murray wrote, "Dr. Buswell is guilty of pitiable distortion and misrepresentation of a scholar [Vos] who has done more than perhaps any other now living in the defense of the essential deity of the Lord, and that upon the
9 Ned B. Stonehouse, Review of De Komst van het Koninkrijk, by H. N. Ridderbos. Westminster Theological Journal 14:160. Stonehouse followed in Vos's footsteps by teaching New Testament Biblical Theology at Westminster Seminary and always made known his indebtedness to his former mentor. In regard to Stonehouse's appreciation of Vos, there is a fascinating letter (June 7, 1962) in the Archives of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that Stonehouse wrote in reply to a Dr. Snider of the Free Methodist Seminary of Japan. Snider had asked what 5-10 books Stonehouse would recommend for Snider's own background study in teaching a course on New Testament Theology. Stonehouse replied that there are almost an endless number of books in this general area, "but very few of them seem to me to be a biblical theology. Unless the authority of the Scripture is maintained, it seems to me that theology should not be described in this way. There is, however, one man who sought to develop a biblical theology on a thoroughly scriptural basis, and that is my old Professor Geerhardus Vos who taught at Princeton." Stonehouse then goes on to list for Snider all of Vos's works, gives a brief description of each, and provides information of how to obtain them. Stonehouse mentions no other authors or works and concludes with the admonition, "if you do not know these books, you would find it advantageous to procure them for yourself."
10 John Murray, Review of The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom and the Church, by Geerhardus Vos. Westminster Theological Journal 14:231.
basis of the most exact and penetrating exegesis and apologetic."11
Van Til also recognized his dependence upon the work of Vos. In Van Til's book, Christian Theistic Ethics, he argued that the kingdom of God is not realized by the righteousness of man, but by the righteousness of God which is then given to man for his salvation. Van Til stated that it was Vos in his book The Kingdom of God who beautifully works this out.12 Van Til also credited Vos for seeing the kingdom as a present and yet future reality. Van Til wrote, "The kingdom of God is a present reality. We have entered into it. But it is also that for the realization of which we daily strive. Dr. Vos has made this two-fold aspect of the kingdom abundantly clear on the basis of the teaching of Jesus. It will not do to teach with modernism that the eschatological aspect of Jesus' teaching of the kingdom is not an important aspect."13
Like Stonehouse, Murray, and Van Til, other theologians have also recognized the value of Vos's theological insights. J. Gresham Machen, who believed that Vos had a better-developed "bump of reverence" than some other theological professors,14 reportedly said, "If I knew half as much as Dr. Vos, I would
11 John Murray, "Dr. Buswell's Premillennialism," Review of Unfulfilled Prophecies, by J. Oliver Buswell. Presbyterian Guardian (Feb. 27, 1937), 207. Murray's high esteem for his former teacher is reflected in a personal letter written to J. Gresham Machen shortly following Murray's graduation from Princeton Seminary. Murray wrote, "It was with a certain amount of apprehension that I learned recently of the ill health of Dr. Vos. We can only hope that he will yet be spared for some time for further usefulness in the church of Christ. His praise is in all the church. Without question, through him as God's instrument, God's truth went into all the earth" (Charles Dennison, "Geerhardus Vos and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church," lecture given at the Northern California Presbytery Family Camp, June 18, 1999).
12 Cornelius Van Til, Christian Theistic Ethics (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), 78.
13 Van Til, Christian, 90. So close was Van Til to Vos, that upon Vos's death in 1949, it was Van Til who officiated at the burial service in Roaring Branch, PA. According to Richard Gaffin, Van Til himself considered the solemn honor of conducting the service of his teacher and friend to be one of his most cherished memories. Gaffin, "Geerhardus Vos and the Interpretation of Paul," in Jerusalem and Athens, ed. E. R. Geehan (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971), 228.
14 Ned B. Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen (South Holland, IL: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), 72.
be writing all the time . . . . Take for example that work of Dr. Vos on the Kingdom of God. Every sentence might well be the topic sentence of a paragraph."15 Anthony Hoekema believed that in Vos one finds a balanced approach to biblical eschatology, which recognizes the full authority of the Scriptures and does full justice to the totality of biblical teaching.16 H. Henry Meeter testified that the classes he took from Vos "unearthed . . . some of the grandest thoughts of Holy Writ,"17 and wrote openly of his indebtedness to Vos in the writing of his doctrinal dissertation, The Heavenly High Priesthood of Christ.18 Meredith G. Kline maintained that his book, Kingdom Prologue, is a work that unfolds and develops the infrastructure found in Vos's Biblical Theology.19 Edmund P. Clowney believed that the preacher who takes up Vos for the first time enters a rich new world.20 Richard Gaffin considered Vos to be a theological genius with unparalleled biblical insight.21 Sinclair Ferguson stated that Vos was "a scholar
15 H. Henry Meeter, "Professor Geerhardus Vos: March 14, 1862 _ August 13, 1949." The Banner (Sept. 2, 1949), 1046. Vos's own appreciation for Machen is seen in a letter written to Machen's brother, Arthur, following J. Gresham's death. Vos wrote, "Dr. Machen for a short while was my pupil at Princeton Seminary. Afterwards for many years, we were associated as members of the faculty, and the time soon came that I learned more from him than had ever been my privilege to impart to him as a teacher. He was indeed a profound scholar, but what counts for more than that, a great man of God and a true defender of our Christian faith in its present day form" (Dennison, "Geerhardus Vos").
16 Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1989), 301.
17 Meeter, "Professor," 1046. Meeter further wrote on p. 1046, "How often, as one sat in his classroom, one would experience something of the sentiments of the disciples of Emmaus: Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked to us in his lectures, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?"
18 Meeter, The Heavenly High Priesthood of Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans-Sevensma) 29. Meeter wrote, "I want to acknowledge my indebtedness to my former teacher, Professor Geerhardus Vos, Ph. D., D. D., of Princeton Theological Seminary, whose eminent class lectures on "The Teachings of the Epistle to the Hebrews" and whose article on "The Priesthood of Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews" (Pr. Th. Rev. 1907 pp. 423, 579) and on "Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke" (Pr. Th. Rev. Jan. 1916) have been a very great help to me in the writing of this dissertation."
19 Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue (Meredith G. Kline, 1991), 5.
20 Edmund P. Clowney, Preaching and Biblical Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1961), 18.
21 Gaffin, "Preface," vii.
par excellence"22 and that with Vos's sermons the sensitive and thoughtful reader "will be struck by the mountain peaks which Vos's mind and vocabulary seemed to be capable of scaling."23 James T. Dennison, Jr. stated that Vos's "presuppositions and panoramic insights into the programmatic or redemptive-historical nature of biblical revelation have justly earned him the titleFather of Reformed biblical theology."24
Considering the complexity and breadth of Vos's literary output which has influenced not only the above-mentioned Reformed theologians, but also many others throughout Christendom, the task of reviewing his writings is an especially humbling endeavor. The reader should be warned that what follows in no way should be considered as the last word on Vos. Geerhardus Vos was a complex man, and his writings are no different. Gaffin, who assigns major portions of Vos for his students to read at Westminster Seminary, is fond of saying that every semester a student reading Vos for the first time comes up to him and asks when Vos is going to be translated into English.25 It is my hope that this article not only will help those newly introduced to Vos to understand him better, but also will provide some fresh insights for those who already profit from reading his many works. I will focus briefly on Vos's polemical writings, discuss some of his theological insights, consider select themes of his sermons and suggest possible further avenues for study.
During the first part of Vos's theological career, his writing style was highly polemical. In The Mosaic Origin, Vos wasted little time in establishing what he believed was the posture of liberal criticism. In the very first chapter of that book, he argued "Criticism on the part of our opponents has long since left its
22 Sinclair Ferguson, "Introduction," in Grace and Glory, by Geerhardus Vos (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994), viii.
23 Ferguson, "Introduction," x-xi.
24 James T. Dennison, Jr., "The Bible and the Second Coming," in The Book of Books: Essays on the Scriptures in Honor of Johannes G. Vos, ed. John H. White (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1978), 57.
25 Comments made during a personal conversation with the author, April 1, 1999.
independent position, and become subservient to naturalistic tendencies. It manifests a spirit of enmity against the very material upon which it works."26 The review of The Mosaic Origin which appeared in the 1886 edition of the Bibliotheca Sacra, picked up on Vos's distrust of modern critical methods. The reviewer commented, "There is at times something in the tone of the book which seems to indicate a misapprehension of the aims of biblical criticism . . . as if (the critics) were conspiring to overthrow the authority of Scripture and were unscrupulous as to the means which they used to establish their positions."27
The words of the reviewer regarding Vos's distrust of liberal criticism and its objectives would be proven correct over the years. Vos believed that, despite its claims, modern criticism was neither scientific nor objective in dealing with the biblical text as it surrendered "to the most illegitimate subjective impulses."28 Consequently, according to Vos, the fault with modern criticism and the critics who employ its methodology was that "from the very beginning, and ever increasingly as time goes on, they allow themselves to be guided in their literary criticism by view points drawn from their historico-philosophical interpretation."29 Vos understood one of the prejudices and failures of liberal theology to be, then, its forcing an alien element upon the biblical text with the liberal critic creating the conflict in the text instead of receiving it from the self-disclosure of God.30 In Vos's words, "the half century
26 Vos, The Mosaic Origin, 13.
27 John F. Jansen, "The Biblical Theology of Geerhardus Vos," Princeton Seminary Bulletin (Summer, 1974), 27-28.
28 Vos, "The Ubiquity of the Messiahship in the Gospels," in Redemptive History Biblical Interpretation, 335.
29 Vos, Review of Entwicklungsgeschichte des Reiches Gottes, by H. J. Bestmann. Princeton and Reformed Review (1901), 12:480.
30 Vos, The Self-Disclosure of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), 97. Vos commented, "The method we are criticizing is one of dogmatic appreciation rather than of historical investigation. It tells us what Jesus, from a certain standpoint, ought to have considered fundamental, and what He might have regarded as negligible; but it does not tell us what Jesus actually did assign or would have assigned to these respective categories had the question been put to Him."
of toil of the 'liberal' theology, instead of rehabilitating the historical Jesus, has only resulted in the construction of a far different figure."31
Another failure of criticism, according to Vos, is that in cherishing a most doctrinaire and tenacious belief in the inherent and endless perfectibility of human nature, it puts its faith not in God, but in man.32 And, as Vos argued, since faith in the last analysis can only be glorified through its object, modern criticism lacks the supreme glory of the faith of Christianity.33 But, more than the weakness of such a faith commitment, Vos believed that modern criticism's hope in man revealed its underlying hostility to the Christianity of the Bible. Whereas the biblical religion saw man, the creature, as being subservient to God, the Creator, the modern consciousness sought to make God subservient to man. If God existed, according to the modern religious spirit, he existed to serve man.34 This was a main reason why Vos so relentlessly attacked liberal criticismhe believed it reversed the true nature of biblical religion by seeking to have God defer to man. In his sermon, "Christ's Deliberate Work", Vos stated, "There is so much talk of service at the present day and it is so often deplorably noticeable that the idea people connect with this word is purely that of benevolence and helpfulness to man. If that is the meaning then the word is not fit to be the synonym of religion. The only true religious service is the one that puts foremost and guards foremost the supreme interest of God. That and nothing else is a true copy of the ministry of Jesus."35
For Vos, then, the true religion of the Bible stood opposite the false religion of criticism, and any attempt to combine the two was destructive. In his review of A. B. Davidson's The Theology of the Old Testament, Vos lamented the fact that Davidson attempted to occupy an intermediate position between
31 Vos, The Self-Disclosure of Jesus, 272.
32 Vos, "Eschatology of the Psalter," in The Pauline Eschatology (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986), 360.
33 Vos, "Eschatology of the Psalter," 360.
34 Vos, "The Alleged Legalism of the Pauline Doctrine of Justification," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 399.
35 Vos, "Christ's Deliberate Work," in Grace and Glory, 255.
the modern view and the old view concerning the interpretation of the Old Testament. Vos stated that Davidson's position "does justice to neither the old nor the modern view and is, on account of its continual oscillation between the two, weaker than either of them."36 Vos concluded, "Where the critical theories and any solid form of supernaturalism are combined, as is the case in Dr. Davidson's book, they eventually obscure and confuse each other."37
Vos did not believe that Liberal Christianity and Historic Christianity could exist side by side, nor did he believe that a compromise could be reached between the two. In his article, "Christian Faith and the Truthfulness of Bible History," he wrote: "We, for our part, believe and we say it deliberately, that it were a thousand times better for the church to be torn and shaken for many years to come by the conflict with criticism than to buy a shameful peace at the stupendous doctrinal sacrifice which such a position involves."38 In the Pauline Eschatology, Vos addressed this issue again when he wrote concerning Paul's words in Ephesians 4:17-20, "Perhaps no more incisive criticism of the false modern slogan 'religion is not doctrine but life' than these verses from Ephesians can be conceived. What Paul says is not that perverted ideas concerning religion and Christ are unimportant and their correction negligible; what he maintains is that they are subversive to the true Christian religion, and ought to be resisted to the utmost."39
In his defense against the onslaught of Liberal Christianity, Vos often wrote articles and reviews which dealt with the main issues of the day. For example, in 1896 on the heals of the trial of Charles Augustus Briggs, Vos severely criticized both Briggs's theological methodology and his view of Scrip-
36 Vos, Review of The Theology of the Old Testament, by A. B. Davidson. Princeton Theological Review 4:116.
37 Vos, Review of The Theology, 119.
38 Vos, "Christian Faith and the Truthfulness of Bible History," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 468.
39 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 311.
ture in his review of The Messiah of the Gospels and The Messiah of the Apostles.40
Another example of Vos's addressing the ecclesiastical situation could be seen in 1902 with his lecture "The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God" which opened the ninetieth session of Princeton Theological Seminary. He delivered this address in the context of the confessional crisis going on in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (hereafter, PCUSA) over the proposed revision to the Westminster Standards and the adding of the chapter, "The Love of God and Missions." Vos argued that a failure to distinguish between God's general benevolence and God's special love for his own would lessen the Calvinism of the Confession. Such a lessening, however, Vos had no interest in as he said, "the music of the (older orthodoxy) may not always please modern ears because it seems lacking in sweetness; but it ranged over a wider scale and made better harmonies than the popular strains of today."41
During the early and middle portions of his career, Vos labored vigorously to defend biblical Christianity. From 1890 to 1919, Vos contributedby my count109 reviews of books, many of which dealt with the pressing theological issues of the day.42 After 1919, however, not one review appeared from his pen. There would be hints of his displeasure of the modern ecclesiastical scene, but such hints would come at the conclusion of articles or in chapters of his books. For instance, Vos did not make direct commentas far as I can tellconcerning the proposed Plan of Union of 1918 which sought to combine multiple and diverse churches under a common preamble devoid of doctrinal
40 Vos, Review of The Messiah of the Gospels and The Messiah of the Apostles, by Charles A. Briggs, Princeton Reformed Review 7:718-724. On p. 719 of the review, Vos remarked upon Briggs's rejection of historic Christianity, "Such wholesale condemnation of historic Christianity we have long been accustomed to from certain quarters where the contempt of so-called tradition is equaled by the lack of historic information, but in the case of a scholar and student of history like Dr. Briggs it is inexcusable . . . ."
41 Vos, "The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 425.
42 James T. Dennison, Jr., "A Bibliography of the Writings of Geerhardus Vos," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 547-559.
distinctives.43 Following the horrors of World War I, the mindset of many wishing to adopt the Plan of Union was that doctrine divides and practice unites. Vos, however, argued at the conclusion of his 1920 article, "The Eschatology of the Psalter" that the church would sign its own death-warrant as a distinct institution if it allowed itself to become subservient to the so-called concerns of the present time.44
As Vos matured and entered the final stage of his career at Princeton, he was still fighting, but in a different manner. Vos would turn in the 1920's to writing what Murray considered to be his opus magnum,45 The Self-Disclosure of Jesus. In this book, Vos argued that the crucial question is whether Jesus believed and claimed to be the Messiah for "with its decision the Christian religion stands or falls."46 Liberalism, especially that branch indebted to Tubingen, sought to eliminate the Messianic self-consciousness.47 The result of such modernistic efforts to eliminate the Messianic self-consciousness cast doubt upon Christ's claim to be the object of faith, prayer, and worship,48 and if Christ was mistaken, that is, if Christ did not fully understand himself, then a blow is struck to the heart of true religion which consists of the fellowship which takes places between God and man. Vos stated the matter plainly, "No one can take a Saviour to his heart in that absolute, unqualified sense, which constitutes the glory of religious trust, if there persists in the background of his mind the thought that this Saviour failed to understand Himself."49 However, Vos emphatically refuted the liberal contention that Jesus failed to understand himself. Commenting upon Matthew 11, Vos wrote, "Jesus' joy and thanksgiving do not relate to something taking place outside of Himself, in regard to
43 Stonehouse, Machen, 304-314.
44 Vos, "Eschatology of the Psalter," 365.
45 Murray, "Dr. Buswell's Premillennialism," 207.
46 Vos, Self-Disclosure, 11.
47 Ransom Lewis Webster, "Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949): A Biographical Sketch." Westminster Theological Journal 40:309.
48 Vos, "Modern Dislike in the Messianic Consciousness of Jesus," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 331.
49 Vos, The Self-Disclosure, 16.
which He, although rejoicing in it, would after all be a mere spectator. Jesus thanks God because his own Person is the pivot, the center, of the whole transaction."50
There will be movement, then, for Vos in the way that he critiqued modern thought, but there will also be movement for Vos theologically. Charles Dennison, my mentor in Vos studies, maintained that Vos was working out of a classical grid in regard to theology early in his career, but that, as he matured as a biblical theologian, he in some waysnot in every way, but in some waysleft the classical grid behind.51
One example of the movement of Vos was his shift in seeing the biblical writers as theologians. In his inaugural lecture, "The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline" (hereafter, The Idea of Biblical Theology) Vos stated, "As the heavens contain the material for astronomy and the crust of the earth for geology, so the mighty creation of the Word of God furnishes the material for Theology in this scientific sense, but is no Theology."52 In the same paragraph, he added "that which the Apostles teach is in no sense primarily to be viewed under the aspect of Theology."53 With
50 Vos, The Self-Disclosure, 147.
51 Comments made at the January 11, 1999 meeting of the "Vos Monday" study group. This is not to say that Vos lacked a covenantal, redemptive-historical hermeneutic in his younger days. Upon acceptance of the newly created chair of Biblical Theology at Princeton Seminary, Vos put forth basic principles to govern the work of the biblical theologian in his 1893 inaugural address, "The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline." In this address, he presented what he believed the Bible to teach concerning the object and aim of theology, the relationship of revelation and redemption, the centrality of the covenant, and the nature of Biblical Theology. It is undeniable that the foundation for much of what Vos wrote is found in this lecture, but Dennison maintained that one errs in trying to understand Vos's contribution if it is seen as a finished product from the beginning. Dennison believed that, in analyzing the whole of Vos's theological corpus, Vos's internal and methodological development from working with the biblical text year after year must be taken into consideration.
52 Vos, "The Idea of Biblical Theology," 21.
53 Vos, "The Idea," 21.
these statements, Vos appeared at this early stage of his career to be in agreement with Abraham Kuyper that Scripture itself is not theology, but underlies it.54
Some four decades later in the Pauline Eschatology, however, Vos steadfastly maintained that Paul was engaged in a theological enterprise and that what he taught must be viewed under the aspect of Theology. In the Pauline Eschatology, Vos argued that if one is to gain insight into Paul, then one must comprehend "the Apostle's construction of Christian truth."55 Too often, however, the "Pauline system of truth" is not comprehended because "Paul's mind as a theological thinker was far more exacting" than the facile one-sidedness which weighs down many of his interpreters.56
In the Biblical Theology, Vos elaborated on the implications of the biblical writers engaging in theological activity. There he argued, "we know full well that we ourselves live just as much in the New Testament as did Peter and Paul and John."57 Stressing the continuity that existed between himself and others as contemporary interpreters and the writers of the New Testament, Vos stood at a distance from his early Kuyper-like statement in the "The Idea of Biblical Theology" that the Word of God only furnishes the material for Theology. Vos came to understood the roots of the theological enterprise to be in the text itself, and believers to be engaged in a common theological endeavor with the biblical writers.58 In his article, "Geerhardus Vos and the Interpretation of Paul," Gaffin elaborates upon what he believes is a crucial hermeneutical insight of Vos in pointing out the continuity between the contemporary interpreter and the biblical writers. Gaffin writes, "the concept of theology is redemptive-historically conditioned. The essence of theology is interpretation of the history of redemption. Consequently, it is not only possible but necessary to speak of a theological continuity between Paul and his interpreters."59
54 Abraham Kuyper, Encyclopaedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid, 3 (Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1909), 167.
55 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 148.
56 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 148-149.
57 Vos, Biblical Theology, 303.
58 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 44.
Another key example of movement in Vos's views is found in comparing his earlier and later statements on justification. In 1903 when Vos wrote the article "The Alleged Legalism in Paul's Doctrine of Justification," Vos argued that the doctrine of justification stood central in Paul's teaching and is the entrance into understanding the Apostle. He stated, "Paul's mind was to such an extent forensically oriented that he regarded the entire complex of subjective spiritual changes that take place in the believer and of subjective spiritual blessings enjoyed by the believer as the direct outcome of the forensic work of Christ applied in justification."60
However, by 1930 with the publication of The Pauline Eschatology, Vos reversed direction on this point as he argued that eschatology is the key to penetrating Paul's thought. In this latter work, Vos indicated that justification must be seen in light of the eschatological reality. Vos declared, "It [eschatology] no longer forms one item in the sum-total of revealed teaching, but draws within its circle as correlated and eschatologically-complexioned parts practically all of the fundamental tenets of Pauline Christianity . . . . It will appear throughout that to unfold the Apostle's eschatology means to set forth his theology as a whole."61 Vos also argued, "the eschatological strand is the most systematic in the entire fabric of the Pauline thought-world. For it now appears that the closely interwoven soteric tissue derives its pattern from the eschatological scheme, which bears all the marks of having the precedence in his mind."62
By placing the eschatological consideration first, something that Vos began to do with increasing consistency as he matured as a theologian, Vos blazed a comparatively new trail in Reformed theology. Traditional Reformed theology started from the standpoint of the ordo salutis and concluded that
59 Gaffin, "Geerhardus Vos," 232.
60 Vos, "The Alleged Legalism," 384.
61 Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 11.
62 Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 60.
aspects of it, like justification by faith, were Paul's primary emphasis. Vos, in contrast to traditional Reformed theologians, understood the primary concern of Paul to be with the historia salutis as that history has attained to eschatological finality in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.63 Vos argued, "the question is not so much whether the doctrines of justification and possession of the Spirit and union with Christ carry with themselves an outlook of the future, but rather whether those acts and states to which these doctrines refer are not from the outset eschatological acts and states, or more strictly speaking, anticipations in this life of what had previously been regarded as reserved for the end."64
It is in this light that Vos represented a theological revolution at Princeton Seminary. Charles Hodge, representative of the old Princeton theology, led with the ordo salutis in his theologizing.65 William Dennison comments concerning the place of eschatology in Hodge's Systematic Theology, "Hodge's discussion of eschatology is an isolated deliberation of the 'state of the soul after death.'"66 In contrast to Hodge, Vos pointed the church to a redemptive-historically conditioned methodology more in line with revelation itself. As Vos argued in support of a redemptive-historical or covenantally conditioned methodology, "God has not revealed Himself in a school, but in the covenant; and the covenant as a communication of life is all-comprehensive, embracing all the conditions and interests of those contracting it."67
63 According to Gaffin, Vos, along with Herman Ridderbos, are agreed in this understanding of the Pauline theology. In Gaffin's words, both view Paul's primary theological concern to be "with the historia salutis as that history has attained to its eschatological denouement in the death and especially the resurrection of Christ . . . . Ridderbos expressed this belief deliberately and programmatically," while Vos expressed it implicitly, but also unmistakably (Gaffin, "Geerhardus Vos," 237).
64 Vos, Review of St. Paul's Conception of the Last Thing, by H. A. A. Kennedy. Princeton Theological Review, 3:485.
65 William Dennison, Paul's Two-Age Construction and Apologetics (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985), 88.
66 Dennison, Paul's, 87.
67 Vos, "Idea," 10.
Vos, then, while working within the confines of the old system, continually pushed Princeton in a new direction theologically. Vos saw the Bible as leading with eschatology; he saw Jesus Christ leading with eschatology; and he believed that the Christian should lead with eschatology. In Scripture, "the eschatological is an older strand in revelation than the soteric,"68 and the historical was first before the theological,69 and it should be the same for the Christian united to Christ participating in the drama of redemption revealed through the Word of God.
Failure to grasp the primacy of eschatology for Vos leads to a failure to understand Vos fully. Foundational to Vos's hermeneutic is seeing Paul as arguing that Adam, irrespective of sin, had an eschatologythe hope of a higher future and communion with God. Before man needed to be saved from his sin, he had an eschatology in that he possessed a future hope.70 As Vos argued in The Biblical Theology, man was created perfectly good in a moral sense, yet he could rise to a still higher estate. The eschatological state is the goal of man irrespective of the fall into sin.71 Vos stated the matter plainly in The Pauline Eschatology: "the eschatological process is intended not only to put man back at the point where he stood before the invasion of sin and death, but to carry him higher to a plane of life, not attained before the probation, nor, as far as we can see, attainable without it."72 The attraction of heaven "is not something brought into the religious mind through sin."73
68 Vos, Biblical Theology, 140.
69 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 41.
70 Vos, "The Eschatology of the New Testament," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 49. In a private conversation with the author, June 24, 1991, Charles Dennison maintained that the fundamental key to comprehending Vos's thought was understanding Vos's belief that the Bible teaches that before man needed salvation from sin, he had an eschatology, i.e., a future hope of communion with God on a higher plane.
71 Vos, Biblical Theology, 22.
72 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 72.
73 Vos, "Heavenly-Mindedness," in Grace and Glory, 113.
Vos believed, then, that the ultimate design of all of God's converse with man is to the end that God might make his abode with his people.74 In the garden, even before the fall into sin, God came and he wentan acquaintance, if you will, of indirection that in the end is neither satisfying to God or man. Thus, as Vos wrote, "even if no tempter had existed,"75 some type of probation for Adam would have been necessary to achieve the perfect communion which the tree of life symbolized. Adam, however, falls short, and unless God himself comes to fulfill the demand of the covenant, the hope of that perfect communion with God would be lost.
What is lost with the first Adam's disobedience is realized with the coming of the second Adam. The fulfillment of the goal set before man from the beginning comes in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The coming age has begun to be present with the death and resurrection of Christ.76 In particular, the resurrection of Jesus Christ serves not only to restore what has become the prey of decadence and death, but also achieves for man the goal of the pre-fall estate. The purpose of the resurrection is not to get man back to a pre-fall environment, but to place man in the eschatological goal of the pre-fall estate. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the objective in view in revelationuninterrupted personal intercourse between God and manhas been realized. Vos said, "To be a Christian is to live one's life not merely in obedience to God, nor merely in dependence on God, nor even merely for the sake of God; it is to stand in conscious, reciprocal fellowship with God, to be identified with Him in thought and purpose and work, to receive from Him and give back to Him the ceaseless interplay of spiritual forces."77 Further, Vos argued that in Christian eschatology, the Christ occupies center stage from the beginning to the end. Vos stated, "All developments, all transactions, all gifts, all experiences that make up the drama of the great world-change are related to
74 Vos, Biblical Theology, 106.
75 Vos, Biblical Theology, 33.
76 Vos, "The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 115.
77 Vos, "Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 186.
Him and derive their significance from Him; He is the representative and exponent of the future life in its totality."78
Consequently, according to Vos, the redemption Christ earns is graciously bestowed on those who are in relationship to him. Participation in the merits which flow from Christ's work is only through faith which effects a personal union with Christ. This faith, Vos argued, consists "not merely in the mental acceptance of [Christ's] sacrifice as a historic fact, but a faith which mystically feeds upon him, the living sacrifice as he now exists in heaven."79 For the one, then, whose life is hid with Christ in God, there is conformity to the life of the Savior. Vos commented, "Man's salvation appears to Paul not merely associated with Christ, but capable of description in terms of Christ."80
Being in covenantal relation with the risen Christ, the Christian, then, lives out of resurrection life earned by Christ and bestowed by grace, and that even as he prepares for resurrection life bodily in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Vos described this as the semi-eschatological nature of the Christian life, for the Christian, by the gracious gift of God, possesses the goal even as he moves towards it.81 The kingdom of heaven has arrived, the blessings of the eschaton are a present possession for the believer, but yet the consummation of all things still awaits.82
78 Vos, "Hebrews," 197.
79 Vos, "The Gracious Provision," in Grace and Glory, 240.
80 Vos, "The Theology of Paul," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 360.
81 Vos, "Eschatological Aspect," 92. There Vos stated, "Through the appearance of the Messiah, the great representative figure of the coming aeon, [the] new age has begun to enter into the actual existence of the believer. He has been translated into a state which, while falling short of the consummated life of eternity, yet may be truly characterized as semi-eschatological."
82 Vos, "Eschatology of the New Testament," Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 26.
Vos believed, therefore, that it is imperative for the believer living semi-eschatologically to keep in contact with the heavenly realm which has been ushered in by the death and resurrection of Christ. Vos said, "The heavenly world is to the believer what the earth was to the giant in ancient mythology; so long as he remains in contact with it, an unintermittent stream of new spiritual power flows into his frame."83 According to Vos, "the heaven in which the Christian by anticipation dwells is not the cosmological heaven, it is the thoroughly redemptive heaven, a heaven become what it is through the progressive upbuilding and enrichment pertaining to the age-long work of God in the sphere of redemption. As such it not only in principle beatifies but also still beckons onward the believer to its final consummation."84 As the Christian is beckoned onward to heaven, however, he is not to be indifferent to the natural environment in which he finds himself by the providence of God. What is incumbent for the Christian who finds his members in this present evil age is to gravitate towards the future life so that earthly concerns are subordinate and subservient to the heavenly realm.85 In other words, "heavenly-mindedness can never give rise to neglect of the duties pertaining to the present life. It is the ordinance and will of God, that not apart from, but on the basis of, and in contact with, the earthly sphere man shall work out his heavenly destiny."86
The agent for securing this heavenly dynamic, according to Vos, is the Spirit of God.87 Christ is equipped by the Spirit for his mission; now, the Spirit equips the Church for her mission. The Spirit is the epitome of the age to come. The Spirit is the communication of that life which pertains to the world to come. The distinctiveness of the Christian religion as it is lived by those who embrace it and the ethic derived from it is through the Spiritual realm. The Spirit's proper realm is the future age, but from there he projects himself into the present, and becomes a prophecy of himself in his eschatological operations.88
83 Vos, "Running," 137.
84 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 40.
85 Vos, "Running," 132.
86 Vos, "Heavenly-Mindedness," 113.
87 Vos, "Eschatological Aspect," 122.
88 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 165.
Reading the Scriptures, then, in light of Christ's accomplishment (which means the dawning of the new age and outpouring of the Spirit upon the elect of God), Vos challenged his readers to see the Christian's heavenly citizenship in all of its fullness. As Vos stated in The Pauline Eschatology, the church is used to thinking and theologizing out of the present into the future, because its base of existence is in the future. However, the more biblical way to think and theologize and live is out of the futurea future which has become a reality with Christ's resurrection. Vos preached, then, that the Christian must bring the ultimate things which are now his to the forefront of his consciousness in order that in light of these he might learn the better to understand the provisional and preparatory.89 Consequently, Vos argued that the gauge of health in the Christian is the degree of his gravitation to the future, eternal world.90 The Christian possesses the goal in principle even as he moves towards it and is directed in his thinking by it.
Every task of Christian service is at the same time a means of grace from and an incentive to work for heaven.91 The Christian's outlook is not bounded by the present life and the present world. The Christian sees that which is and which is to come in their true proportions and in their proper perspective. The center of gravity of the Christian's consciousness lies not in the present but in the future.92 What Vos challenged his readers to see, then, was that the end conditions the present existence of the believer. Vos wrote, "eschatology posits an absolute goal at the end of the redemptive process corresponding to an absolute beginning of the world in creation: for then, no longer a segment but the whole sweep of history is drawn into one great perspective, and the mind impelled to view every part in relation to the whole."93
89 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 42.
90 Vos, "Eschatology of the Psalter," 363.
91 Vos, "Heavenly-Mindedness," 119.
92 Vos, "Christian Hope," 142.
93 Vos, "Hebrews," 193.
The disastrous result of not having the end condition one's thought and life can be seen in Israel who in her disobedience perceives that the land is her ultimate end. The hope of heaven evaporates for Israel and she refuses to give up her life in this creation for her God. The Old Testament period was primarily a prospective period, a period in which Israel was reminded at every step that something higher and better was yet to appear with the coming visitation of God.94 In its sin, however, Israel ceases to possess an eschatological vision which has God at the center of its hope. As Vos argued in "The Alleged Legalism," Israel itself replaces God as the center of expectation and it no longer desires to be expendable for God and his glory. Consequently, "the Judaistic Spirit made itself the end and God the means."95 The Judaistic Spirit gave itself the glory and in making God the means, it made God into a passive God who must be subservient to Israel.
How easily not just unfaithful Israel, but also man in his sin enlists God as a means in the fight for creature-betterment, almost oblivious to the fact that [the Lord] is the King of glory for whose sake the whole world exists and the entire battle is waged.96 Vos believed that the Bible taught that the end of all existence did not rest in the creature, but in the Creator.97 He stated, "God is the center of every hope worth cherishing for man, and to take God as source and end of all that exists and happens, and to hold such a view suffused with the warmth of genuine devotion . . . is by reason of its essence a veritable theological tree of life."98
It is along these lines that the believer longs for heaven because it is the realm of closest embrace of God. Vos wrote, "Those who looked for the city that has foundations sought it for no other reason than that its maker and builder is God. It is because it is the city of God, the structure in which he has
94 Vos, "Running the Race," 130.
95 Vos, "Alleged Legalism," 391.
96 Vos, "The Wonderful Tree," in Grace and Glory, 17.
97 Vos, "Eschatology of the Psalter," 358.
98 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 61.
embodied his own perfection, in which his thoughts and purposes for his own stand objectified, that it forms a worthy object of the supreme religious quest of the believer. In it is God at every point, and those who dwell in it see him constantly. The measure of their desire for it becomes the measure of their love for God."99 Vos also stated, "A heaven that is not illumined by the light of God, and not a place for closest embrace of him, would be less than heaven"100 In answering the objection of those who complain that glorifying God will at some point in heaven become redundant, Vos replied, "There clings an earth and time-savor to questioning what there will be to occupy one's self withal when arrived above. As if the Lord God Himself would be there with his inexhaustible fullness! In his presence there can be neither surfeit nor tedium."101
Vos also saw heavenly-mindedness at the heart of the biblical ethic. He wrote: "the believer's whole ethico-religious existence, the sum-total of his Christian experience and progress, all that is distinctive of his life and conduct demands being viewed as a preparation for the crowning grace of the resurrection."102 Through the work of Christ, "the believer has been in principle snatched out of this present evil world and translated into the eternal kingdom of the Son of God's love."103 In regard, then, to ethical behavior, the believer must purge himself from all leaven as he finds the members of his body in the world, even though in another sense he is already "unleaven" as he participates in the world to come.104 Vos maintained that to be a Christian meant "to live not merely in obedience to God, nor merely in dependence on God, nor even merely for the sake of God; it is to stand in conscious, reciprocal fellowship with God, to be identified with Him in thought, purpose and work, to receive from Him and give back to Him in the ceaseless interplay of spiritual forces."105
99 Vos, "Hebrews," 229.
100 Vos, "Hebrews," 122.
101 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 316.
102 Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 157.
103 Vos, "Hebrews," 197.
104 Vos, "The Sacrificial Idea in Paul's Doctrine of the Atonement," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 381.
105 Vos, "Hebrews," 186.
Moving finally to a more thorough consideration of Vos's sermons, Machen, as a student at Princeton Seminary, upon hearing Vos preach his Easter sermon, "Rabboni," told his mother that the sermon "rather surprised me . . . (for) Vos is usually rather too severely theological."106 In the sermons, as we have already noted throughout this article, the theological insights are presentthe primacy of eschatology, the centrality of union with Christ, heavenly-mindedness and its relationship to Christian ethicsbut in an arguably more palatable form.
I was never the same after reading the six sermons of the original 1922 edition of Grace and Glory. The centrality of Christ, the mutual fellowship between our God and ourselves in the covenant, and the participation in eschatological blessings is what Vos preaches to us over and over again in his sermons. To read that, and to be directed by Vos back to the Scriptures themselves to see these blessed realities centered in the promised Messiah and fulfilled in his appearance for my salvation and participation in the age to come, absolutely ruined me. The old way of theologizing with its inadvertent focus upon the self would not do. Clowney correctly comments that in Vos's sermons "we hear a scholar preaching to theological students . . . with a burning tenderness and awesome realism that springs from the grace and glory of God's revelation, the historical actualization of his eternal counsel of redemption."107
In Vos's sermons, he proclaimed in a variety of ways that God and his people have been joined in covenant fellowship through the work of Jesus Christ. Vos emphasized continually that in the covenant there is a mutual surrender of God and man. God condescends and gives himself to his people, and his people give themselves to their God. Vos believed that the essence of religion is a true communion between God and man, and in his sermonizing Vos often stressed communion with God as a present reality and future hope for the believer. For instance, in the "Wonderful Tree," Vos stated, "When Jehovah,
106 Stonehouse, Machen, 72.
107 Clowney, Preaching, 19.
entering into covenant with Israel says, 'I will be unto you a God, and ye shall be unto me a people,' this means infinitely more than the trite idea: henceforth you shall worship me and I will cultivate you. It is the mutual surrender of person to person."108 In the "More Excellent Ministry," Vos declared, "The entire Christian life, root and stem and branch and blossom, is one continuous fellowship with Christ."109 In "Songs from the Soul," Vos proclaimed, "The secret of the Lord . . . is the intimate converse between friend and friend as known from human life where there is no reserve, but thoughts and feelings of the heart are freely interchanged . . . the covenant being conceived not as a formal contract . . . but as a communion in which life touches life and intertwines with life so that the two become mutually assimilated."110 In "The Christian's Hope," Vos said, "And the believer knows . . . that as long as he cannot fully possess God, God cannot fully possess him nor be completely glorified in him. This sentiment lies at the basis of all genuine God-born Christian hope."111 In "Heavenly-mindedness," Vos stated, "Traced to its ultimate root heavenly-mindedness is the thirst of the soul after God, the living God."112
Vos impressed upon his readers, then, in a myriad of ways that the heart of religion is to be bound to the person of God in Jesus Christ. To be bound to Jesus Christ, and to live in light of that relationship is what Vos typically drove towards in his sermons. In the "Spiritual Resurrection of Believers," Vos declared, "you must begin with [Christ] and end with him. If you are loved, it has been in him, as a member of his body. Therefore look to him! Only when he turns you away will you have the right to say that God has not loved you with an everlasting love, but not until then."113
108 Vos, "Wonderful Tree," 9-10.
109 Vos, "The More Excellent Ministry," 94-95.
110 Vos, "Songs From the Soul," 172-73.
111 Vos, "Christian's Hope," 155.
112 Vos, "Heavenly-Mindedness," 113.
113 Vos, "The Spiritual Resurrection of Believers," in Grace and Glory, 230-31.
Vos also fought against what he believed were the misguided attempts of some in Christendom to place the emphasis of the Christian life in anything other than communion with the living God. He declared in "Songs from the Soul": "I need not tell you that there is a tendency at the present day to make the religious life seek the surface, the periphery; to detach it more or less from its centre which lies in the direct face-to-face communion of the soul with God."114 The thirst that the Christian has for full fellowship with his God in an environment where there is no sin is the substance of the religion of the heart and drives the Christian in his service to his God in this world.115 In "The Wonderful Tree," Vos stated quite forcefully: "Here lies the infallible test of what is truly religious in our so-called religion. Everything that lacks the unique reference to God, as its supreme owner and end, is automatically ruled out of that sphere."116 "Religion," as Vos proclaimed in his sermon, "Our Holy and Gracious God," "is love of God or a sense of dependence upon God but not entirely after the same manner as we cherish love for our fellow creatures or feel dependent on them in certain relations. Religion begins when we realize our dependence on the absolute, infinite being, the eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient God."117 In his sermons he sought consistently to demonstrate this belief that the entirety of man's existence is to be for his Godsomething that Vos believed was written over the entrance of the temple of Reformed theology.118
Interestingly, Vos often addressed preaching itself in the sermons he delivered. One possible reason for this might be that Vos had his audience in view, seminarians soon to be preachers themselves, as he proclaimed God's Word in the chapel at Princeton. Vos believed that there was a straightforwardness to preaching which is proportionate to the preacher's own trust in the absolute and inherent truthfulness of the gospel message.119 The preacher
114 Vos, "Songs," 179.
115 Vos, "The Joy of Resurrection Life," in Grace and Glory, 165-66.
116 Vos, "Wonderful Tree," 15.
117 Vos, "Our Holy and Gracious God," in Grace and Glory, 267-68.
118 Vos, "The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 242.
119 Vos, "More Excellent," 100.
must not only be convinced of the truthfulness of the gospel message, but also the necessity of the supernatural work of God centered in Jesus Christ. Men preaching moral examples do not preach Christ. Vos maintained "to preach the risen Christ means to preach a gospel which claims to come with the demonstration of the Spirit and with power. It means to assume that this world is dead in trespasses and sins; and that no word of persuasion, no force of example, no release from the body, in fact nothing short of a new creation can give it life."120 Vos cried out, "Oh the pity and shame of it, the Jesus that is being preached but too often is a Christ after the flesh, a religious genius, the product of evolution, powerless to save."121 The admonition, then, that Vos gave to those who would be preachers: "whatever topic you preach on and whatever text you choose, there ought not to be in your whole repertoire a single sermon in which from beginning to end you do not convey to your hearers the impression that is impossible for you to impart to them what you want other than as a correlate and consequence of the eternal salvation of their souls through the blood of Christ, because in your own conviction that alone is the remedy which you can honestly offer to a sinful world."122
Admittedly, what has been said in this article is only a preliminary examination of certain aspects of the writings of Vos. Much more could, and should be done, in seeking to understand the significance of Vos's contributions. For instance, Vos often directed his readers to see that there is a connectedness in the covenant between doctrine and life.123 Doctrine is not isolated to articles of
120 Vos, "Joy," 163.
121 Vos, "More Excellent," 102.
122 Vos, "Gracious Provision," 238. It must be noted that Vos himself does not always in a strict fashion follow his own advice. For example, while his sermon, "The Wonderful Tree," expresses deep biblical truths concerning the covenant and the nature of biblical religion, it directly says little of Christ and his work.
123 See, for example, Vos's comments on the relationship of life and doctrine in the covenant in his article, "The Christian Faith and the Truthfulness of Biblical History" and in his sermons, "The Wonderful Tree" and "Songs from the Soul."
faith, but is a way of life in the covenant. What Vos saw as the biblical view of the active relationship between belief and duty cuts across the modern notion that "doctrine divides and practice unites." With biblical Christianity, doctrine and practice are united.
Another area of further study could be found in Charles Dennison's suggestion that Vos saw Jesus as theologian. In one of his last presentations on Vos to the pastor's study group that meets monthly reading Vos's works, Dennison commented upon Vos's concluding chapter, "Recapitulation," in The Kingdom of God. He stated,
This is no summary in the ordinary sense . . . Vos must be seeing Jesus as theologian, who in the Synoptics, at least, sets forth the kingdom of God as the center point of his theology. This means that Vos, in some sense, is looking for the roots of theological method, not simply in the Scriptures as theological, but in Jesus as theologian.
For Vos, Jesus' theological method rises first of all from the historical reality of God's interaction with this world. This historical reality involves the historical unity of God's Old Testament work and Jesus' labors recorded in the gospels. Jesus himself is conscious of this as he sets forth the kingdom as a great system of objective, supernatural facts and transactions, a system (or "world") which means this world's transformation or renewal.
At the center of this other-worldly system is God and his glory together with the exalted position to which Jesus and his work have been elevated in the estimations of his church. Indispensable to Jesus' theology is his identity as Savior, a fact from which his church cannot separate itself and still be called the church. For Jesus to be Savior, in his theology of the kingdom, means the essential message of faith and repentance to those who would enter the kingdom. This message immediately draws the recipients of the kingdom message into the primacy of the spiritual and the ethical
over the physical. The essence of the kingdom is understood in terms of salvation for another world, righteousness for that world, and blessedness intimately in it.
In Jesus' theology, the kingdom captures the very essence of life itself; that life in this world finds its integration and end through the genuine religious devotion to God, a devotion that touches all forms and spheres of human experiences and expresses itself in complete sacrifice to the service of God, even as it did in Jesus himself.124
There is great profit in reading the writings of Geerhardus Vos. But ultimately, I believe that it is safe to say that Vos would want us to read his writings in order that we might hunger more for the Word of God. In commenting upon the epistle to the Hebrews, Vos maintained "although the epistle is addressed to Christians of the second generation, it none the less conceives of its readers as in the most immediate sense made recipients of the divine word spoken by Christ and through that word brought into no less direct communion with the supernatural world than the contemporaries of the earthly life of Jesus."125 For the believer, then, living between the death and resurrection of Christ and his return, the word remains what it was from the beginning, "a signal of the presence of God and a vehicle of approach for the world of the supernatural."126Vos's interest was conformity to what he saw happening in the Scripturesa Word-dominated life lived to the glory and enjoyment of the risen Christ. In his writings, he sought to point believers to the Scriptures that they might see their life there in the text and in their God.
Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church
124 Written manuscript of comments made to "Vos Monday" study group, Sept. 21, 1998.
125 Vos, "Hebrews," 191.
126 Vos, "Hebrews," 192.
God's Eschatological Word
Robert L. Broline, Jr.
In the very first paragraph of the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith on the Holy Scripture, the Confession states:
In addition to the well known texts of 2 Timothy 3 and 2 Peter 1, one of the texts inserted by the authors of the Confession in support of this paragraph is Luke 1:3-4. The authors of the Westminster Confession of Faith (the Divines) recognized that at the heart and soul of the biblical religion is the written Word of God. The placement of their doctrine of Scripture first in the Confession speaks volumes as to the exalted and authoritative position that the Bible occupies in setting forth their theology of that written Word.
In verses 3 and 4 of the prologue to his gospel, Luke places center stage the written Word of God. Luke wrote out his account of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for Theophilus in order that he might not fall, and that he might continue and grow in the certain and exact knowledge of the things that he had been taught concerning all that Jesus began to do and to teach (Lk. 1:1-4; cf. Acts 1:1).
Interestingly, you may have noted that Luke does not make any explicit claim to divine inspiration in his Prologue in describing his method of inscripturation. Liberal biblical scholars pounce on this point, and many argue that the "glaring omission" of any direct claim to inspiration here in Luke's own description of his writing activity supports their view that the Bible is at best a fallible and inferior witness. On the other hand, many conservative biblical scholars, like Dr. Ned B. Stonehouse, have pointed out that this is not at all out of the ordinary. Many books of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, make no explicit claim to divine inspiration. Nevertheless, in Luke 24, the Lord Jesus Christ in affirming the Old Testament as Scripture included several books in the Old Testament canon which make no direct claims of divine inspiration as such. "Inspiration may be a fact even where there is no specific claim" (Stonehouse, The Witness of Luke to Christ, 45). In light of this observation, Dr. Stonehouse writes the following concerning Luke's own description of his writing enterprise:
Although Luke does not make an explicit and plain declaration of inspiration, it is implied, as has been argued. Further, the divine inspiration of Scripture is testified to by other parts of the New Testament—most notably 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21. In these passages especially, the Scripture testifies plainly to its own divine inspiration and authority. It
is inspired by God (literally "God-breathed") and therefore is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is written by holy men moved by the Holy Spirit as they spoke from God. (2 Pet. 1:21).
This Reformed doctrine of divine inspiration is not only implied by Luke in his Prologue as he describes his writing activity, but it is actually central to Luke as he lays out for us his method of inscripturation—his writing activity. Luke is telling us in his own unique way that the writing enterprise stands at the heart of Biblical religion. And, that the Biblical religion actually moves toward the inscribing of God's Word.
In a simplified way, here is an illustration of this movement from the Old Testament (there are various other ways to illustrate this movement, but here is one). Think about prophecy to Israel. Prophecy for Israel was primarily a spoken enterprise, as opposed to a scribal or written enterprise. You are familiar with the writing prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah and the minor prophets who wrote down their prophecies from God, often at the express command of God. But what about those men who came long before these writing prophets who were also called prophets by the Scriptures?—who as prophets were preachers of God through his Spirit to the people. I have in mind, for example, Abraham—he was called a prophet yet we have no writings by him. And then who can forget the extraordinary ministry of the prophets Elijah and Elisha—yet again we have no inspired writings by these prophets of God.
So there is this movement, this progress in the Old Testament revelation from the speaking prophets to the writing prophets—those who wrote down their prophecies. From this one example in the history of revelation in the Old Testament, we see how the Biblical religion moves towards the writing down of God's Word.
Further, in the writing down of God's Word there is a permanence attached to it. There is a sense in which the spoken word by its very nature had a vapor-like character. It was spoken, and then it was gone—but when it is written down there is a permanence attached to it. This century has been characterized by those who say the written Word is an inferior mode of revelation. Many say
that writing it down makes it static, and gets in the way of my own direct revelation and encounter with God. Not the Bible, but experience is the most important thing for my spiritual health—that is what brings vitality and spontaneity to my faith and life as a Christian. Such people (most notably liberals) contend therefore, that the written Word is inferior to the oral tradition that stands behind the written Word of God.
But in accordance with Luke's Prologue, the opposite is actually the case. The written Word is in actual fact the superior mode which replaces the spoken word because it carries with it the indelible mark of eternity, permanence and heaven. In this way, Luke's Prologue to his gospel account proves to be Prologue to the rest of the New Testament Scriptures specifically in terms of its emphasis upon the permanent, eternal, and heavenly character of the Scriptures.
The permanent, eternal, and heavenly character of the Bible as the written Word of God is demonstrated for us in Luke's Prologue in the movement from the oral accounts (to which Luke refers) to his written account of the gospel. Luke specifically lays out for us the transition from the period in which the New Testament church relied upon the eyewitness-ministers's oral accounts of the acts and teachings of Jesus to that subsequent period in which the New Testament church relies upon the written record of Jesus' acts and teachings. This movement from one period to another is underscored by what we might call the gap between the time the acts and teachings of Jesus actually took place and the time they were written down. Luke in laying out his method of inscripturation reveals to us this gap between the time and event of Christ's deeds and words and the actual time and event of Luke's writing enterprise.
We know from even the earliest dating of the writing of Luke's gospel that it was not written down until about 32 years after Christ's death, resurrection and ascension. In fact, even the earliest date for any of the New Testament writings was not before A. D. 50 (probably James). This means that we have a gap of 20 to 30 years. For the gospels, if Mark was first, the earliest date was not before A. D. 54. Thus, the writing enterprise with respect to the four written accounts of the gospel of the Lord Jesus that we have did not take place until at least 25 years after the time of Christ, and toward the later years of the time
of the apostles. The widespread and predominant use of oral transmission which preceded the written account is alluded to by Luke in verse 4.
In verse 4, Luke says that he writes his account down that Theophilus "might know the exact truth or certainty of the word which you have been taught." This last verbal phrase ("have been taught") in the Greek may be better translated and understood as "were orally instructed in." Thus, this movement in Luke's Prologue from the period of the spoken word to the period of the written Word is underscored for us in the relationship of those who were "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" to those who were not (Lk. 1:2). For example, you will note that Luke does not include himself in the group that he calls "eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" (Lk. 1:2). Rather, Luke presents himself as a "second-generation" Christian in the sense that he was not an eyewitness and minister of Jesus' life and ministry upon earth. Now the era that pertains to this group of those who were "eyewitnesses and ministers" of Christ's ministry is known as the apostolic era. By Scripture's own definition, an apostle is one who was an "eyewitness and minister" in the time of Christ's earthly ministry—with the special exception of the apostle Paul, to whom Christ made a special appearance. On the other hand, Luke together with Theophilus are "second-generation" Christians and as such they are part of the generation that belongs to the post-apostolic era.
Do you see what Luke is doing in his Prologue with respect to this transition from the oral accounts of the gospel to the written accounts? He matches up the movement form the oral to the written Word of God to the movement form one era to another era with respect to the church's faith and life. He matches up this movement form the oral accounts to the written accounts with the transition from the apostolic era to the post-apostolic era. And it is specifically this transition from the apostolic era to the post-apostolic era that stresses the permanent, eternal, and heavenly character of the written Word. Now there are several other passages we could turn to in the New Testament to demonstrate further the supremacy of the Written Word with this mark of permanence, eternity, and heaven. We will consider three.
The first one is in John 14 from Jesus himself. Jesus promises his disciples that the Holy Spirit will come and that the Holy Spirit's specific task would be to bring to their remembrance all that he had said and all that he had taught (Jn.
14:26). Now most Reformed, conservative commentators recognize this to be a text about the eventual writing down of Jesus' acts and words in the gospel records. But this text also suggests the supremacy and excellency of the written Word of God. You see, not everything Jesus spoke and did was written down. The gospel writers under the inspiration of the Spirit were selective in what they wrote down. As such, what was written down is what has authority for us. I am not trying to drive a wedge between what Jesus said and did and what was written down. John tells us later in chapters 20 and 21, that not everything that Jesus, the Son of God, did and said was written down, or could be written down—he said and did so much! But that which was written down—this has the authority and supremacy! And there is a reason for that. Note the context of John 14:26. Jesus is about to go away. He is leaving this world to ascend to the world which is above. A new era is about to begin for the people of God—an era without the physical presence of Jesus. Jesus in his physical presence is not permanent to this world. What is permanent? The Word that they would write down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The written Word of God, that is permanent to us now in this world, until Jesus returns.
The second text I have in mind is found in 2 Peter 1. I know that there is a debate over the proper interpretation of 2 Peter 1:19but I am convinced by those biblical commentators who say that the King James Version gets it right: the King James reads, "We have a more sure word of prophecy." In this chapter, the apostle Peter has been telling his readers about the glorious experience of being on the mount of transfiguration (vv. 16-18). He tells them that he heard the voice of heaven (v.18), but then he goes on to say that we, the church, have the more sure word—the written Word (v. 19). The word of prophecy is more sure than the experience he had on the mount? When he heard the voice of God himself? Yes! . . . that's what Peter says. Do you see what the apostle Peter is getting at here? This one who was an eyewitness and minister of Jesus' glorious transfiguration, who heard the words of God the Father from heaven, says that this personal experience and this spoken word from heaven is inferior to the more sure word of prophecy—the Written Word of God. The absolute supremacy of the written Word over even Peter's own experience in its permanent, eternal, and heavenly character is all the more heightened when you take note of the particular timing of Peter's declaration! Peter, the apostle, the eyewitness-minister, is about to go away. He is about to die (note v. 14);
he is about to leave this world for the world above. Sound familiar?—sound like Jesus' statement to his apostles in John 14? This is the apostle's last will and testament. The end of the era of those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of Jesus' majesty. The end of the apostolic era is in sight and the post-apostolic era is dawning. And it is specifically in this context—this end of the post-apostolic era context—that we have the apostle Peter's clear and definitive statements on the absolute supremacy of the Spirit-inspired written Word of God (vv. 20-21). The apostle Peter, who as an eyewitness and minister of Jesus' ministry on earth belongs to the apostolic era, states that the written word of God is a more sure word of prophecy for us—the church: we who belong to the post-apostolic era, we who belong to the era in which there are no living apostles—no living eyewitness-ministers of the Living Word.
We may go farther! The fact that this emphasis upon the absolute authority of the written Word comes at the end of the apostolic era in anticipation of the post-apostolic era not only underscores the written Word's mark of permanence, eternity, and heaven, but it also stamps the written Word with eschatology. The writing enterprise, the writing down of God's Word is itself eschatological—it is definitive, it is final. Yes! The mark of eschatology, or the stamp of finality, is placed upon the written Word of God! In a representative way, the impending death of Peter anticipates the end of the apostolic era, and it is in this particular context that the apostle Peter makes plain to the church of Jesus Christ the absolute supremacy and divine inspiration of the written Word of God, as God's eschatological Word, as his last self-revelation to his church.
If you need more proof or clarification for what I am saying about his mark of eschatology—this stamp of finality—upon the inspired written Word of God, I call your attention to the other primary text given in support of the doctrine of inspiration 2 Timothy 3:16. You know this verse by heart concerning the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. But do you know, or do you remember, the particular timing in which the apostle Paul uttered this plain and powerful statement on the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of the Spirit-inspired written Word? You got it! Like Jesus, and like Peter, Paul declares this just before he is about to die. "For I am already being poured out as a drink
offering, and the time of my departure has come" (2 Tim. 4:6). It is his last will and testament addressed to the young pastor, Timothy. And it is in this context that the apostle Paul writes his last letter to the church. He is about to die and with the end of that era, the post-apostolic era is about to commence. And in this context, he sets before Timothy and the church, this clear and definitive teaching on the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of the written Word—the Bible.
In both 2 Peter and 2 Timothy, this end of the apostolic era context in anticipation of the post-apostolic era stamps the written Word with finality—God's Eschatological Word! The Bible is God's final word to you as the post-apostolic church in this world, and that until Christ returns—period! For the Christian, there cannot be, there must not be anything that equals or surpasses the written Word of God as the sole source of revelation and authority for your doctrine and life in this world! Yes, Scripture alone is sufficient. Think about it! If the spoken words of Jesus, which were not written down, and Peter's personal experience on the Mount suffer in comparison to the written Word, what may we say about such modern claims of personal divine encounters, angelic visions, and the like? Even claims to personal guidance apart from the Scriptures? Don't allow anything to displace the written Word of God as the sufficient and final source for your faith and life as a Christian.
In anticipation of the post-apostolic era, Luke writes down his gospel for Theophilus who represents the church of that era—and as "lovers of God" (the meaning of Theophilus's name) of this same era, he wrote it down with you in view as well. For you presently live in the era in which there are no living apostles, no eyewitness-ministers of Jesus' acts and word. The written Word has come down to you from heaven above, from God himself—his final Word having come, in these last days, to us through his exalted Son (Heb. 1:2). For it was the exalted Jesus' words and deeds that Spirit-inspired men wrote down and explained for us—as those who live in the post-apostolic era (Acts 1:1-2).
In the text, the written Word of God, we experience God! In the written Word, we have fellowship with him together with his Son, Jesus Christ—the Living Word. May "our hearts burn within us," as the Spirit of God preaches Christ to us in all the Scriptures that we might continue to cling to our Savior by
faith alone—to the end that our life might more and more be conformed to our Savior's life, even as our life is more and more conformed to the Bible. We must not . . . we dare not neglect it!
Look to the Bible alone to feed your souls that you may know and embrace the gospel with all certainty, that you may not fall, that you may remain steadfast in your Savior, as members of his glorious body.
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Model. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999, 373 pp., paper. ISBN: 0-8028-4449-9. $22.00.
In his book, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Model, Professor Sidney Greidanus of Calvin Theological Seminary sets for himself the primary task of providing "seminary students and preachers with a responsible, contemporary method of preaching Christ from the Old Testament" (xii). Greidanus states that he wrote the book because, upon his return to his alma mater to teach after a twenty-five year absence, he was unable to locate for his students a suitable textbook from which to teach Old Testament Christocentric preaching. Greidanus advocates what he calls the "redemptive-historical Christocentric method." Greidanus maintains that this method "complements the theocentric method of interpreting the Old Testament by seeking to do justice to the fact that God's story of bringing his Kingdom on earth is centered in Christ: Christ the center of redemptive history, Christ the center of the Scriptures" (227). Thus, not only in preaching from the New Testament, but also in preaching from the Old Testament, one must understand the Scriptural message in the light of Christ. However, despite this key redemptive insight, and many other useful contributions which appear within the book, a question remains whether the book is not flawed to some degree by a misdirected or inconsistent hope.
Greidanus begins with an apology for the necessity of preaching Christ, and the necessity of preaching Christ from the Old Testament (1- 67). He next moves to a survey of the history of preaching Christ from the Old Testament,
followed by a presentation of New Testament principles for preaching Christ from the Old Testament, and then to a detailed description of the Christocentric method (69-277). The concluding chapters of the book aim to be practical as they cover the steps from Old Testament text to Christocentric sermon and provide an example to the reader of the employment of the Christocentric method (279-350).
Greidanus sets the stage by identifying what he believes to be the problem for the contemporary exegete in preaching Christ from the Old Testament. He states, "we are not at all clear on what it means to 'preach Christ'" (3). In addition to the confusion of many in preaching Christ, there is added the difficulty involved in dealing with the Old Testament text. How does one "preach the incarnate Christ from a book that predates his incarnation by many centuries?" (54). Is God-centered preaching of the Old Testament adequate, or should preachers aim for explicitly Christ-centered sermons? (xiii). Further, "what puzzles scholars is not that the NT writers frequently use the OT but how they use it" (185).
In attempting to answer these questions and many others, the book is to be applauded for its strong commitment to redemptive-historical, Christocentric exegesis and preaching of the Word of God. In this respect, Greidanus is relentless. Chapter after chapter, he emphasizes the fact that Jesus Christ is the link between the Old Testament and the New Testament and that the mighty acts of God in the Old Testament reach a climax in the New Testament when God sends his Son. Greidanus believes, therefore, that one can "preach a Christian sermon from the Old Testament because its whole history leads to Christ and finds fulfillment in him" (237). Greidanus further states: "the conviction that Jesus inaugurated the messianic age enables the NT writers to preach Christ from the OT, for this presupposition means that God's redemptive-history reaches its climax in Jesus. In him all the OT promises come to fulfillment" (196). From the bedrock of redemptive-historical exegesis, Greidanus defines preaching Christ as "preaching sermons which authentically integrate the message of the text with the climax of God's revelation in the person, work, and/or teaching of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament" (10).
To his credit, Greidanus states that the "whole Old Testament throbs with a strong eschatological beat" (237) and that it can only be read as a book of ever increasing anticipation (47). Consequently, the Old Testament is open to
the future and inherently points beyond itself and its own experience to the coming of the Christ (208).
Having supplied the reader with what he believes are the biblical bases for preaching a Christocentric sermon from the Old Testament, Greidanus ends his book with a helpful section entitled, "Steps from Old Testament Test to Christocentric Sermon" (279-318). According to Greidanus, the preacher should take special notice of the sequence of the steps and not their number. He writes: "the number of steps is not as important as their sequence, for putting questions to the text in the wrong sequence is asking for hermeneutical and homiletical trouble" (280). The steps, along with comments that the reviewer found to be helpful, are as follows:
1) Select a Textual Unit with an Eye to Congregational Needs.
2) Read and Reread the Text in its Literary Context. Greidanus here urges the preacher to become engaged with the text before consulting commentaries. Greidanus is not anti-commentary, he just wants to make sure that the commentary is the servant and not the master in relationship to the text as the preacher develops the sermon.
3) Outline the Structure of the Text. In this step, Greidanus suggests that the preacher work with the original Hebrew to chart the literary structure of the text with greater precision.
4) Interpret the Text in its Own Historical Setting. This step involves distinguishing between the interrelated strands of literary, historical, and theological analysis. Literary interpretation seeks to answer the questions, "how does it mean?" and "what did it mean in the context of this book?" Historical interpretation seeks to answer the questions, "what was the author's intended meaning for his original hearers?" and "what needs of the hearers did the author seek to address?" Theological interpretation seeks to find out what the text reveals about God, his redemptive acts, covenant, grace and will for his chosen people.
5) Formulate the Text's Theme and Goal. In formulating the textual theme, the preacher attempts to answer the question, 'what is the biblical author saying in this passage?'
6) Understand the Message in the Contexts of Canon and Redemptive History. At this stage, literary interpretation becomes canonical interpretation, historical interpretation becomes redemptive-historical interpretation, and theocen-
tric interpretation becomes Christocentric interpretation. First, literary interpretation becomes canonical interpretation as an answer is sought to what the text means in the context of the entire Bible. Second, historical interpretation becomes redemptive-historical interpretation as the passage is placed in the context of God's all-encompassing story from creation to new creation. Third, theological interpretation becomes Christocentric interpretation when one asks how the passage means in light of Jesus Christ.
7) Formulate the Sermon Theme and Goal. The sermon theme is a single assertion of the textual theme while the sermon goal is a succinct statement of what the preacher seeks to do in preaching this sermon.
8) Select a Suitable Sermon Form. Greidanus advises a sermon form that both respects the form of the text and achieves the goal of the sermon.
9) Prepare the Sermon Outline. Although Greidanus recognizes that there must be a certain amount of flexibility in organizing a sermon outline, he believes that a good outline is marked by unity, symmetry, and movement to a climax.
10) Write the Sermon in Oral Style. According to Greidanus, following this last step, especially during the first ten years of one's pastorate, enhances precision of expression, insures economy of words, and generally improves one's style.
Now, despite these and other positive contributions that can be found in the book, the question remains whether Greidanus's redemptive-historical Christological approach is as eschatological as it should be. Greidanus states that the blueprint of all redemptive-history is found in the Old Testament four-fold pattern of creation-fall-redemption-new creation (194). This is an advance from his strong advocacy of a three-fold estate of creation-fall-redemption in his earlier book, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text1. However, it appears that while Greidanus pronounces his adherence to a four-fold estate theoretically, practically he is much more at home with a paradigm that blurs the lines between the three-fold and four-fold estate positions. In this sense,
1 Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. Noting his reliance upon Albert M. Wolters' Creation Regained, Greidanus writes, " we can say that a central, all-encompassing theme of Scripture is Creation-Fall-Redemption" (98).
Greidanus can appear to promote both a restorational view and a new creation view. Whether this 'blend' is intentional or unintentional, the result is the promotion of an eschatological hope which is inconsistent. At times, Greidanus flattens the vertical aspect of God's eschatological intrusion and sees the recapturing of the earth as the goal set before man; at other times he sees life with God in Glory as the goal. It appears at times that Greidanus overreacts against a consistent four-fold estate position because he is afraid that it leaves the believer in a socially irresponsible position. Preaching from a heavenly perspective does not contain a call to be socially responsible, and that would be a cardinal sinfor preaching must be culturally relevant if anything. Where Greidanus does not succumb to such fears and his "blend" which flattens the vertical aspect of God's eschatological intrusion, the book is very helpful to the biblical-theological preacher.
Still, for those who seek to follow the biblical-theological insights of Geerhardus Vos, the inconsistency Greidanus evidences is problematic. As Vos argued in such books as his Biblical Theology and The Pauline Eschatology, the Scriptural goal put before Adam in the garden was confirmation and transformation to a fuller communion with God on a higher plane of existence.2 Thus, despite the many outstanding contributions of Greidanus's book which sets it apart from virtually every other book in its field, the question still remains whether the book is not flawed to some degree by a misdirected or inconsistent hope. How important is the hope of Glory in preaching, even preaching from the Old Testament? Should every sermon end with the translational hope of Glory which has been realized in Jesus Christ?no, but neither should it be totally excluded from the scope of Christocentric preaching. Greidanus seems to equate preaching which is prominent with the hope of heaven with gnosticism, a view which promotes escapism and a rejection of the body (31f). Vos would thoroughly agree, as we should, with Greidanus' rejection of gnosticism. But is heavenly-minded preaching which appreciates the four-fold estate of man gnosticism? To proclaim the hope of heaven to be achieved through the coming work of the Messiah is not a violation of the
2 This is a constant point that Vos emphasized in his writings. For example, in the Pauline Eschatology, he wrote, ". . . the eschatological process is intended not only to put man back at the point where he stood before the invasion of sin and death, but to carry him higher to a plane of life, not attained before the probation . . ." (72).
historical nature of the Old Testament biblical text.
Greidanus has also continued his disturbing trend of lumping together theologians of completely different commitments (see Charles Dennison's Kerux 4/3  review of Greidanus's The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text). It still remains inconceivable to this reviewer that Greidanus can more than once appeal positively to doctrinal statements of Vatican II, while never mentioning any of the Old Testament exegetical insights of Meredith G. Kline.
Also troubling is Greidanus's lack of consideration for the covenant of works. In preaching Christ from the Old Testament, it would appear that an explanation, dismissal or defense of the covenant of works would be in order. Does Greidanus believe, for example, that eschatology precedes soteriology?
It also must be asked what connection there is for Greidanus between the church and preaching. Can the historia salutis be divorced from the ecclesia salutis? For instance, can redemptive-historical Christocentric preaching take place in a church which has forsaken both the authority and historicity of the Word of God? Greidanus does not ask nor answer the question.
Has Sidney Greidanus produced a work that is truly helpful in preaching Christ from the Old Testament? I believe that he has. In fact, I believe that it is the best book of its kind, but that is not the same as saying that it is the book that it should be. If one is to preach Christ faithfully from the Old Testament, then there must be the self-conscious awareness that biblical religion is thoroughly eschatological. Greidanus asserts the necessity of such an understanding, but throughout Preaching Christ from the Old Testament it is readily apparent that what he considers to be "thoroughly eschatological" does not have the hope of glory permeating it. Geerhardus Vos believed that biblical-theological preaching yields the highest fruit of practical theology because it points the believer to his life with God in Glory. Vos had an appreciation of the eschatological goal of the Old Testament; we must ask if the same can be said of Greidanus.
In the last section of the book, Greidanus attempts to show concretely how to exegete and preach redemptive-historical Christological sermons from select texts. As a test case, Greidanus applies his 'Steps from OT text to Christocentric Sermon' to Genesis 22 (292-318).
It is Greidanus's extended look at Genesis 22 which provides a good picture of why the book is both helpful and lacking at the same time. In good redemptive-historical fashion, Greidanus sees the conflict as God's asking Abraham to offer up the son of promise. This conflict is resolved when the Lord intervenes and provides a substitute. The Lord provides his only Son as a sacrificial Lamb so that his people may live. There is encouragement then to trust God for our salvation for he will provide.
We are thankful for what Greidanus points out in Genesis 22, but we are left asking if Greidanus's sermon has missed a central element in the text, namely, the faith of Abraham. Geerhardus Vos, for example, believed "the climax of the training of Abraham in faith came, when God asked [Abraham] to sacrifice Isaac, his son." (Biblical Theology, 84). Will Abraham give up that which he loves most in this creation for the One who is in heaven? Will Abraham learn to possess the promises of God in the promising God alone? Vos maintained that both Romans 4:17-23 and Hebrews 11:17-19 present Abraham's faith "as rising to the height of trusting the omnipotence of God for the raising of Isaac from the dead, after the divine command to surrender him should have been executed. Here the two poles of negation of self-resource and of affirmation of divine omnipotence are represented by faith and resurrection" (Biblical Theology, 85). In Vos's opinion then, the Genesis 22 text speaks to the believer about true faith which begins and ends with God.
It is apparent that something is slightly different in Vos's understanding of the text and Greidanus's understanding. I would suggest that part of this difference is accounted for by Vos's consistent commitment to the four-fold estate of man. In looking at Abraham in Genesis 22, Vos understands the crisis put before Abraham in light of the four-fold estate. Abraham's hope was to be heavenly, not earthly, and that hope was to drive him in his faith. Further, the standard set forth for Abraham's covenantal response is God himself. Abraham's faith will be patterned after the faith of that One to whom he is joined in covenant relation. The Father in Heaven will give up that which he loves most in heaven for his chosen on the earth. In the covenant, life will flow into life, and as God condescends and gives himself to his people, his people in return give themselves to him.
The debate over whether the Bible teaches a three-fold estate (creation-fall-redemption) or a four-fold estate (creation-fall-redemption-glory) is not just a superficial intramural debate among Reformed biblical-theologians which leaves preaching unaffected. The believer is always called to be faithful in the provisional (the third estate) for the sake of the final (the fourth estate). Inevitably, preaching which rests upon a three-fold estate foundation will focus on pilgrimage at the expense of destination. Preaching that rests upon a four-fold estate foundation, however, does justice to both journey and goal. The goal of communion with God in Glory impacts and directs the believer's walk in this life. Preaching which does not acknowledge communion with God in the final estate as the goal set before man negatively affects biblical piety, the very thing that those who preach from a three-fold model want to protect.
My suggestion is to use Greidanus's Preaching Christ from the Old Testament much the way one might use S. G. DeGraaf's Promise and Deliverance or C. Trimp's Preaching and the History of Salvation. Rejoice in the helpful Christocentric insights which can be found in this book, but be aware that Greidanus, like DeGraaf and Trimp, does not consistently see eschatology as preceding soteriology or communion with God in Glory as the goal set before man. The hope put before the first man was that of confirmation and transformation to a higher plane of existence in which he as the creature would enter into a partaking of the eternal glory of God the Creator. Redemptive-historical, Christocentric preaching from the Old Testament never loses sight of that eschatological hope set before Adam and realized in the work of the second Adam, Jesus Christ.
Danny E. Olinger