Vos Group #3: The Nature and Method of Biblical Theology, Part 2

For the third episode of Vos Group, Dr. Lane Tipton joins Camden Bucey to discuss the final portion of the first chapter of Geerhardus Vos’s Biblical Theology (pp. 11–18, “Guiding Principles” through the end of ch. 1). Vos’s view of biblical authority governs his method of studying Scripture and particularly the use he makes of knowledge of the biblical authors’ historical contexts. Today’s discussion also covers the relationship between biblical and systematic 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.

James J. Grimes

6 years ago

Very good discussion. Thank you. This is a good way to read through Vos.

Jeff Downs

6 years ago

I agree with James above. This was an exceptional session. I’ve already listened twice; third time through I’ll take some notes. 🙂


6 years ago

I think your link at the top of the notes here, “Vos Group” is mis-coded.


6 years ago

Dr. Tipton,

I thought I’d post something in complaint to the pot-shot toward the end of the show that was directed at Gordon Clark. I know: here we go again 😉 But then again, the dead guy didn’t throw the first punch. Surely he was misrepresented in that he also, with Vos as was quoted, taught, “…the end of the study of biblical theology is that you might possess and enjoy and glorify God as he is revealed in Scripture to you.” But further than that, do you not think that there is a false dichotomy between saying, as you put it, the Bible is a “dogmatic handbook” versus “an historical document of dramatic interest”? Are not the propositions that God revealed dogmatic statements concerning history? Are not those breathed-out words interesting and surely they tell of dramatic events? Is the Bible to be autonomously questioned or accepted as God’s word? I think the latter, in other words, the Bible is dogmatic.

You, yourself, mock Clark for teaching that the Bible is “first and foremost as a handbook of dogmatic propositions and arrange them kinda like Gordon Clark would in a kind of series of logical syllogisms and hierarchical coimplicatory relations,” and yet this is basically what a Confession is.

Later you seem to nearly say the same thing as what Clark is thought to believe, although not so pejoratively stated, when you say, “The Bible’s not simply, uh, it is dogmatic truth, it is. But it also reveals something that you not only believe and confess, but also something in which you participate” and also here, “the word-revelation of God in Scripture leads us to the climactic deed-revelation revelation of God in Christ and Jesus himself says, ‘You must believe that I am. You must believe that God has raised me from the dead. You must confess with your mouth I am Lord.’ And so there’s a fundamental doctrinal substratum to our religion.” (emphasis added)

Exactly! Our religion is fundamentally doctrinal, and although I disagree with the verbiage of “deed-revelation”, whatever you call it, it’s not the “fundamental substratum.” Perhaps you agree with Clark more than you think but I know he’s, unfortunately, a whipping-boy over here at RF.

Personally, I’ve come to appreciate so much of what the best of biblical theology and redemptive-historical hermeneutics has to offer. You are right that it is so rich! But to the extent that we can say that thus and such, whether it’s biblical-theological or not, is true, it will either be expressly stated in, or deduced by good and necessary consequence from, the Scripture. You should read Clark’s chapter in history in A Christian View of Men and Things where, toward the end of the chapter, he gets down to what defines one society from another. It’s not Toynbee’s progress or any other secular definition, but rather those that are in God’s kingdom and those that aren’t. There are two societies… sounds like a drama to me! One between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent!


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