Vos Group #12 — Revelation in the Patriarchal Period, Part 1

For the first Vos Group of 2015, Dr. Lane Tipton guides us through Chapter 7 of Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology, “Revelation in the Patriarchal Period,” pp. 66–72. The section titles are Critical ViewsThe Historicity of the Patriarchs, and Theophanies.

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/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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Bruce Sanders

5 years ago

In your podcasts you consistently maintain the historicity of Adam because your theology necessitates: (i) Christ as the second Adam; and, (ii) redemptive history. In one podcast, Lane Tipton even said that if the historicity of Adam ‘falls’, so does Christ. Based on a consistent Reformed Systematic Theology, I understand why these statements are being made.

The problem is that apart from our ‘theological’ life, we Christians also live in a scientific world, a world discovering DNA from hominids such as Neanderthal, Denisovan, and Flores, each of which bred with Homo Sapiens in times past (e.g. people in Tuscany Italy have up to 4.5% of their DNA from Neanderthals; Polynesians have Denison DNA and not Neanderthal, etc). Magazines such Scientific American and New Scientist report almost weekly on sequencing discoveries and the creation of new life forms in the lab.

While the presuppositions and conclusions of ‘evolutionary’ theory can be debated, the mounting DNA evidence is that our genome is much more complex than that of one Adam.

My question then is: “Will we really need to drop Christ when we are forced to admit the Adam in Genesis was not historical?

Matt Sanders

5 years ago

Yes we will really need to drop Christ because he spoke of Adam as a real, historical person (that would make Christ wrong and worthy of being dropped). But since the Adam in Genesis is historical, hey what do you know, Christ is right again. (Is this circular?)

Bruce Sanders

5 years ago


I checked the gospels of Matthew through John and Jesus never once mentioned Adam.

Dr. Tipton’s thesis of “first Adam” and “second Adam” is based primarily on Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 15, and Dr. Tipton has concluded that both Adams have to be historical within the Reformed teaching on redemptive history.

As Dr. Tipton has pointed out in several podcasts, many Christian churches / schools have moved away from the idea that Genesis is historical (I mentioned DNA being one reason for the shift, but there are several: the universe being vastly older than 5775 years as dated by Orthodox Jews; evidence of evolution, etc). The impact on theology for these schools is they have concluded that Paul was simply wrong about the two-Adam relationship. Dr. Tipton does not agree with their conclusion.

We now come to Dr. Tipton’s statement (actually, statements made in different ways during several podcasts): “if the historicity of Adam ‘falls’, so does Christ.”

I am simply asking, “Is this true”? Do we really have to abandon Christ because Genesis is just a story?

Hopefully in Part 2 of Vos Group #12 Dr. Tipton will clarify / resolve the dilemma.

Matt Sanders

5 years ago


Romans 5:12-21, Acts 17:26, Luke chapter genealogy account, 1 Timothy 2:13-15

Granted it’s not always Jesus referring to Adam, what about this classic?

2 Tim 3:16: “Each-and-every (3956 /pás, singular) Scripture (Gk, singular) is God-breathed (2315 /theópneustos) and profitable for teaching, for convincing, for correction, for training in righteousness.”

Let’s throw out Genesis too – just a fairy tale I ‘spose. Ah heck, pitch the entire scriptures, curse God and die. Sounds like a super time. Is that your goal? Is Christ a role-model type of dude for you?

Matt Sanders

5 years ago

whoops, Luke Chapter 3 genealogy account

Bruce Sanders

5 years ago


As Dr Tipton has pointed out, all Reformed Christians are deeply troubled / worried about how modern discoveries are threatening Reformed theology. But it is just that; it is Reformed theology that is being threatened. The whole of Reformed theology is built on the foundation that Adam in Genesis has to be a historical person. Take that away and Reformed theology, as it currently exists, shatters.

Other Christians do not have this problem. More than one billion Christians, living faithful, fruitful lives in the service of Christ and His Church, acknowledge that evolution is totally compatible with Scripture. Even Orthodox Jews, who hold the Hebrew Scriptures in the highest position, have no problem with evolution and the non-historicity of Adam.

If you listen carefully to what is and is not being said during the podcasts, Dr Tipton is not trying to defend Christianity; he is trying to defend the Reformed tradition. To do so, he is using every tactic possible, including your last point about Christ being “just a role model” A billion Christians alive today do not see Christ as merely a role-model, but as their Lord and Savior, reigning on high, about to return to bring them into the glories promised in Scripture.

Matt Sanders

5 years ago

Some Reformed Christians might be deeply troubled but many are not; I personally don’t know any that are worried.

“The whole of Reformed theology is built on the foundation that Adam in Genesis has to be a historical person. Take that away and Reformed theology, as it currently exists, shatters.”

I don’t agree with this statement in any way. The whole of Reformed theology is built on the truthfulness, trustworthiness and reliability that God has spoken. Your words show a lack of trust in such. Reformed theology does a wonderful job (and the most biblical) at explaining scripture. Liberalism starts with denying basic truths and then it turns into utter unbelief in anything God has purported to say.

Indeed much of Christianity doesn’t see Christ as just a role model but many do see him as just this, as a means to an end, not the end.

So are you saying we came from apes? Apes turned into astronauts.

Bruce Sandeers

5 years ago



1) The concern about the Human Genome Project being a threat to Reformed theology comes from (i) face-to-face discussions I have had with Dr. Tipton and others on the Reformed teaching staff; and (ii) from statements Dr. Tipton made during the podcasts.

2) The statement “if the historicity of Adam ‘falls’, so does Christ” is a quote from Dr. Tipton (made during several podcasts, although he alters the wording from time to time).

3) I did not say we came from apes. The Human Genome Project is discovering that modern Homo Sapiens are a mixture of hominids now extinct; i.e. we did not come from one original genome such as an Adam (this is the evidence of greatest concern to Dr. Tipton and Reformed theology). The differing genomes of each of these hominids all had human qualities (one example is they all had the genes that make the voice box and anatomical structures that allow humans to speak; apes do not have these genes).

Post Script

Matt: Thanks for the exchange.


5 years ago

I listened to the podcast again and didn’t hear Dr. Tipton claim a threat to Reformed theology. And sure, every informed Christian knows “if the historicity of Adam ‘falls’, so does Christ”’. But since the historicity of Adam doesn’t fall, as Tipton stated, then neither does Christ.

But hey, you said he told you this face to face. I’m just a (part) chimp.



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