Vos Group #51 — The History of Prophetism: Critical Theories

In this installment of #VosGroup, we turn to pages 198–199 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to consider critical theories of prophetism. We extend and amplify the material in these pages more than usual by connecting Vos’s teaching to the theology of Karl Barth and other modernist approaches.

Broadly, the term can be associated with “instrument of revelation” and this is so important to note. For Vos, contra Barth, there is a direct, organic disclosure of God’s revealed truth in our calendar-time history. It is not in a distinct, third-time dimension that Barth calls Geschichte that “revelation” occurs. For Barth, revelation is Jesus Christ in a distinct time dimension, God’s third time for us, that “revelation” occurs. Revelation is Jesus Christ. The Scriptures, the prophets and calendar time history are not themselves revelation–they only point to revelation. Revelation is a “supra-historical” event in a time dimension altogether different from our calendar time.

But Vos would say this is fundamentally wrong–it is a different religious conception of “revelation” altogether. God speaks directly to Adam in the Garden of Eden in terms of positive, special, verbal revelation. God’s voice can be heard, speaking with inerrant and inescapable authority, in Eden. It is this initial self-revelation from God, in the Garden of Eden, prior to the fall, that supplies us with our conception of revelation. God both acts and speaks in calendar time history, and that special is initially given to Adam under the covenant of works. God’s revelation in nature (image of God) is by divine design subordinate to God’s revelation in positive categories. In other words, Genesis 2:7 (image of God) and Genesis 2:15–17 (Covenant) demand the idea that God reveals himself with absolute authority and clarity directly in history.

Vos says, “But the Reformed have always insisted upon it that at no point shall a recognition of the historical delivery and apprehension of truth be permitted to degenerate into a relativity of truth. The history remains a history of revelation. Its total product agrees absolutely in every respect with the sum of truth as it lies in the eternal mind and purpose of God.”


Participants: ,


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.

Leave a comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Gerard O'Brien

8 months ago

This was such a helpful episode – thank you!

What I still don’t understand is Acts 2:17b:

‘Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.’

As I read that, it seems to be referring to the ‘office’ of the prophet and not the ‘religious aspect’ of the prophet (intimate relationship with God). I.e. It’s not just that the sons and daughters are prophets (religious aspect), it’s that they are prophesying (office / action of speaking forth from God).

I’d appreciate any clarification you can offer.

Thanks again!

reformed-forum-logo-white400

Contact Info

Reformed Forum
115 Commerce Dr.
Suite E
Grayslake, IL 60030

+1 847.986.6140
mail@reformedforum.org

Copyright © 2019 Reformed Forum