Vos Group #2: The Nature and Method of Biblical Theology, Part 1

Dr. Lane Tipton and Camden Bucey open up Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology for the second episode of Vos Group. On pages 3–11 (Chapter 1 up to, but not including, “Guiding Principles”), Vos sets out the nature of the discipline of biblical theology and its relationship to the different departments of theology. In short, biblical theology is a study of the history of God’s special revelation which is his authoritative interpretation of the history of redemption. The discussion also covers Vos’ historical methodology, the organic nature of special revelation, and the particularly practical side of biblical theology.

Roughly each month, Lane and Camden will work through the pages of Vos’ Biblical Theology. While Vos’ book is foundational, it’s tough for the “uninitiated” to access. This will be a great opportunity for study groups to listen to our discussions and work things out together. We hope everyone who participates will learn more about Reformed biblical theology. Pick up a copy of Biblical Theology and get on the BT wagon!

Lane G. Tipton is Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. He has appeared numerous times on our programs. Please visit our archives to listen to Dr. Tipton speak about a range of theological topics.

All the episodes in this series will be available at http://reformedforum.org/resources/vos/

If you’d like to subscribe only to these episodes (rather than all episodes of Christ the Center), just use the following feed: http://reformedforum.org/category/series/vos-group/feed


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26 Responses

  1. Stephen Smith

    Thanks too for a great discussion. I want to raise a few points by the Australian Anglican Biblical theologian, Graeme Goldsworthy. In his ‘Christ-centered Biblical Theology’ he acknowledges his debt to Vos and regards him as a true and leading pioneer in Biblical Theology. However he raises 2 potential criticisms:

    1. In Ch 4 of his book, Goldsworthy argues that Vos leaves out key aspects of historic redemptive themes (eg, creation in Gen 1, the Lord’s resurrection, ascension, much Pauline theology). Vos gives praise for Vos’ important contributions but says the absent material is noteworthy. He concludes “Vos does not provide us with a satisfactory example of a *comprehensive* biblical theology.” [my emphasis]

    2. In ch 8 Goldsworthy compares two approaches of the historic-redemptive method. The Robinson-Herbert method vs the Vos-Clowney method. Goldsworth defends the Robinson-Herbert method though it is interesting that he says this is a bit like the 39 Articles approach vs the Westminster Confession approach. Goldsworthy is Anglican so prefers the ‘flexibility’ of the Robinson-Herbert method and the 39 Articles.

    If will be interesting to see if others are aware of Goldsworthy’s views and can comment on them.

    1. phil

      Christ-Centered Biblical Theology is what you are referring to. GG is correct as to 1. It seems to me that Vos was more concern with the methodology of doing biblical theology and did not do as much biblical theology as is currently being done. Read several biblical theologies and you will see what GG is referring to in 1. I don’t know enough about Robinson-Herbert to comment on it. GG says he is a BT addict and so am I. Read through several Biblical Theologies and you will get a better understanding of what they are trying to do. For sure read Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology.

  2. Sean Holm

    Thank you gentlemen so much for putting this together. I look forward to the discussions to come and the many nuggets laid throughout the pages of this book (this will be my 2nd read). I don’t know what future episodes will be like but I thought it was just the right amount of content to get through at a time. Thanks again!

  3. Mark Van Drunen

    Camden thank you for helping me tackle this important book. I would not have attempted it without these discussions. What is the next reading assignment?

  4. MarkG

    I thought this was a great discussion. I really enjoyed it.

    I have not read Goldsworthy but someone may find this review of Goldsworthy’s book by Hamilton interesting.


    It seems Goldsworthy doesn’t buy into the covenantalism (al la WCF) of Vos & disciples who are coming out of a Presbyterian & Reformed background. I wonder if Hamilton would also level his criticism concerning Goldsworthy’s lack of emphasis on “Author Intent” against Vos et al. It would seem so.

    I would be interested in a program laying out the landscape of BT in evangelical circles, e.g., Vos, Goldsworthy, Vaughn Roberts, Hamilton, Gentry & Wellum (“Kingdom Through Covenant”) & New Covenant Theology, Michael Williams (“Far as the Curse is Found”).

    I thought it was interesting how Dr. Tipton drew the most basic distinction along the lines of Scripture viewed as divine revelation (e.g., Vos) verses as an autonomous description of religion (e.g., Gabler). That seems like the most critical distinction. Although Hamilton seems committed to Scripture as revelation he also seems to put the priority on determining the author’s intent.

    There are a lot of voices out there and sorting through it is sort of daunting.

    1. phil

      I think we are dealing with 2 different issues here. One is hermeneutics and the other issue is the result of an author’s hermeneutic, that is the actual story or theme(s) that scripture tells according to the author. I think it is very exciting and it has caused me to understand scripture and my relationship to God in a revolutionary (for me) new way.

  5. Paul Wichert

    This is great. It is very helpful to get the fruit of your several re-readings and re-teachings as we move through the book.

    1. Mark G

      Justin, I believe David Calhoun has a brief discussion on this question in his second volume of his history of Princeton Seminary. If I remember correctly nobody knows for sure. However, Vos was getting close to retirement and things like pension may have influenced his decision to stay. Vos retired from Princeton in 1932.

  6. James J. Grimes

    What is the reading assignment for the third session? I did not see it listed anywhere. Thanks. BTW, great series so far.

  7. I meant to comment earlier than this, but haven’t had a chance. I had and read this book in the 80’s. Before Van Til actually, but don’t have it anymore. I’m gonna find a copy. THIS is CTC at it’s best in my opinion.

  8. Stuart


    I think one of the reasons that Vos stayed is because he was no controversialist and hated schism. He was a child of the Secession of the Dutch church and only agreed to go become a professor at Princeton when those slandering him for being a supralapsarian would not cease. Then, at Princeton, he had to face the Confessional Revision controversy, and by the time people were leaving to form Westminster, he was likely sick of it. Further, those starting Westminster were mostly his students (John Murray, Cornelius Van Til, J. Gresham Machen), so he probably felt as though he was too old.

    I think it’s important when reading Vos to remember that he didn’t like change and that whatever polemical spirit he may have had while younger died down and almost ceased entirely before Westminster began. He would regularly strive to say strictly what the Confession said, regardless of his affinity for its language. So I think it’s likely that, even including all other reasons mentioned, Vos stayed at Princeton because it was familiar.

  9. G. Kyle Essary

    I finally got caught up on my reading and podcasts. I really appreciate this and look forward to the next few as well.

    My main question regards the locus of revelation. It seems that Scripture itself bears witness to Scripture as the locus of revelation, but Vos seems to place revelation in the historical redemptive acts to which Scripture points. Am I missing something here?

  10. Quick request :), pray about the possibility to getting a different more specific player for tracking minutes etc. this would make it a lot easier to recall certain important segments of the episodes.

    With that said, I am very excited to see you guys discussing Vos’ seminal work; I know I am going to learn a ton of great insights from you guys.

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