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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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Derick Dickens

5 years ago

Thanks for a great lesson today. Outstanding content to help walk us through the book.

Stephen Smith

5 years ago

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.


5 years ago

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.

Sean Holm

5 years ago

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!

Mark Van Drunen

5 years ago

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?

Tim H.

5 years ago

This is great. Thanks for doing it, gentlemen.


5 years ago

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.


5 years ago

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 years ago

Great episode.
The suggestions above regarding a comparison of biblical theologies sounds like a good idea.

Daniel Vos

5 years ago

This is helpful and exciting, Camden and Lane. Looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the book so I can follow along with your exposition.

Steve P

5 years ago

Appreciate the podcast. I was looking for the reading guide, even if it’s just for the next episode.

Paul Wichert

5 years ago

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.

don Bryant

5 years ago

Thanks for this series. I really enjoy the close reading and the running comments, particularly putting the book in its context and what series of issues Vos is addressing.

Justin Andrusk

5 years ago

Any thoughts as to why Vos remained in the PCUSA despite the formation of OPC in 1936? Is there anything written that shows why he kept such a low ecclesiastical profile?

Mark G

5 years ago

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.

Camden Bucey

5 years ago

I believe this was mainly because his wife was quite ill. He needed to keep his pension and insurance largely to care of her.

Mark G

5 years ago

I thought I had read that also but wasn’t sure. thanks.

James J. Grimes

5 years ago

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

Camden Bucey

5 years ago

We haven’t recorded the third episode yet. We’ll try to get through the next ten pages or so, I imagine.

Bruce Denithorne

5 years ago

Hey, wondering if there are any groups that are going through the book that I might be able to join.

Steve M

5 years ago

My dad and I met to discuss the first episode this morning and he surprised me with a copy of this outline that he found online:
We had a great discussion and are eager for more.

Greg - (Tiribulus)

5 years ago

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.


5 years ago


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.

G. Kyle Essary

5 years ago

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?


5 years ago

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.


4 years ago

Goblarian… Lol… Love the convo. =)


1 year ago

I bought the book and started the introduction! I am looking forward to catching up.

Camden Bucey

1 year ago

If you can read more than three pages per month, you’ll catch us before long. 🙂

Douglas Sniesak

11 months ago

Outstanding discussions. I recently found ReformedForum, and have been so blessed by the discussions, and have mentioned to friends of mine. Very rich discussions. Thank you for making this available.


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