In this episode of #VosGroup, we turn to pages 200–201 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to continue our discussion of critical theories of prophetism.
Today we provide an introduction to the doctrine of justification with a consideration of several basic categories. We begin with a confessional doctrine of justification from the Westminster Standards. We then consider justification’s relationship to faith. Then we turn to the believer’s relationship to the person and work of Christ and consider how we are united to him. Finally, we speak about the relationship of that union to faith.
Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
Q. 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.
Q. 33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
As is our annual custom, we’ve selected several clips from the episodes we released over the last year. We spoke with many people and had many fascinating conversations. I hope we’ll pique your interest, and you’ll go back to listen to many of the full conversations represented by these highlights.
Thank you to everyone who visited reformedforum.org/donate throughout the year. We are tremendously grateful for your generous support. Be assured that we’re setting the stage for another big year as our board continues to think and pray about our next steps.
We’re looking forward to another full year of Christ the Center. January 25 marked our 10th anniversary. Jeff, Jim, and I recorded that first episode during my first year in seminary—three homes and three children ago. Things have changed over the years, but our goal has stayed the same. Our mission is to present every person mature in Christ (Col. 1:28).
Participants: Adam York, Bill Dennison, Camden Bucey, Cory Brock, Dan Ragusa, Danny Olinger, Darryl G. Hart, Glen Clary, Jared Oliphint, Jeff Waddington, Jim Cassidy, Lane G. Tipton, Marcus Mininger, Michael Kruger, Nathaniel Gray Sutanto
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.”
We continue our #VosGroup series in pages 194–197 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to consider the biblical conception of prophetism. We discuss the Greek and pagan conceptions and their connection to contemporary modernist conceptions.
Vos has in view here a Hellenic, and not New Testament, conception of the prophet. Some would seek to understand prophet as a foreteller, which brings into view predictive prophecy—a telling of a situation in advance of the actual occurrence of the situation. However, it is not proper to take the concept in this direction only. While there is a predictive element present in much of what the prophets communicate, it is better to take them as foretellers in a local sense. This means that prophet is one who speaks an oracle from God. It is a place in time where one speaks on behalf of God.
However, the Greek terms, as it appears in a Hellenic, extra-biblical context, has a different connotation, and this is critical to grasp, that we must reject. That connotation is this: the prophet in this Greek conception is an interpreter of a fundamentally opaque, hidden utterance from god. Pythia (the name of the high priestess of the temple Apollo at Delphi), would be the interpreter of this fundamentally hidden oracle—a dark saying that needed a human interpreter in order to be rendered intelligible.
The Greek prophet does not stand in a direct relation to the deity, as in the Old Testament prophet, who spoke, by inspiration, directly from God, a word from God. Rather than being a mouth-piece of the deity, as is the case with the Nabi, the prophet in the Old Testament sense of the term, the prophet in the Greek, Hellenic sense, is an interpreter of the deity’s oracle. The oracle comes from the Deity but requires interpretation, an interpretive act, from a prophet, to render that message intelligible or clear. The prophet, in this Hellenic conception, is therefore not one who speaks the words of the deity. Rather, he is one who intercepts a supra-rational, intrinsically opaque, communication from a deity. It is precisely this conception of the prophet that Vos sees being appropriated by the liberals of his day.
We continue our #VosGroup series in pages 191–194 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to consider the biblical conception of prophetism. Vos beings by considering critical theories of prophetism based on the term “prophet.” Vos instructs us that all quests for seeking the conception of the prophet in etymology, rather in the teaching of the text, the meaning and function of Nabi (the Hebrew word for prophet) in the biblical text, are fraught with uncertainty and speculation. (more…)
We discuss how a return to sola scriptura through confessional Reformed theology spares us from the errors of Roman Catholicism and modernism. Reformed covenant theology, broadly considered, is facing a crisis regarding what constitutes “reformed” theology. The situation currently is one of chaos and confusion. Some claim that the way forward is by way of retrieving the theology of Thomas Aquinas, the angelic doctor of the Roman Catholic church, in the service of a so-called “Reformed” apologetic. The line of this argument is that if you follow the Roman Catholic theology and method of Aquinas, you will arrive at Protestant conclusions. Others enlist Aquinas in conversation with the likes of John Webster and Karl Barth, in the interest of retrieving “catholic” tradition in the development of a reformed theological identity. Still others, outside of our reformed circles, are engaged in ecumenical dialogue between Thomas and Barth (Bruce McCormack and Thomas Joseph White’s Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth: An Unofficial Dialogue, or Keith Johnson’s Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis, which helpfully to my mind points out the significant points of convergence between the two theologians). It is very much worth pointing out that Van Til virtually predicted this in advance in his sadly neglected but highly important work Confession of 1967, where he says, “If now we live in a dialogical age and if only the church as ecumenical can meet the needs of such an age, then surely the Roman Catholic too must learn to see this fact. As Martin Marty says, “If Protestants and Roman Catholics wish to make possible a creative coexistence, to enrich our pluralistic society, and to profit from each other’s separate histories, they will have to participate in dialogue.…” And what does such “dialogue” look like? Again, Van Til says, “It was Hans Urs von Balthasar who, more than anyone else, has helped Barth to see that Roman Catholicism also begins its theology from the Christ-Event. Roman Catholicism, says von Balthasar, does not believe in direct revelation any more than does Barth. To be sure, Rome does speak of “faith and works,” of “nature and grace,” of “reason and revelation.” But this “and” is not, as Barth thinks, fatal to the idea of the primacy of Christ and of faith in Christ. The whole discussion between Barth and the Roman Catholic position may therefore start from the idea that revelation is revelation in hiddenness. ”The difference between Barth and Roman Catholicism will therefore be not of principle but of degree” (Confession, 119).
We continue our #VosGroup series in pages 187–190 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to consider the word of God and prophetism. Prophetism is restricted to the word as its instrument. The prophetic ministry was a declarative, spiritual authority of one who speaks and writes in the words of Jehovah himself. There is the closest possible connection, then, between the prophetic office and the declaration of the Word of the Lord, as that Word is given by the superintending agency of the Spirit, who breathes out the prophetic Scriptures (cf. 1 Pet. 1:10–11; 2 Tim. 3:16). The effect of being restricted to the ministry of the Word of God was a heightening of the “spiritualizing” relation between Jehovah and Israel.
We continue our #VosGroup series in pages 185–188 of Vos’ book Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to consider the unfolding of God’s plan as it moves from the period under Moses to that of the prophets. Prophetism marks an epochal movement in OT revelation. In other words, the “new happenings” of God’s mighty deeds in redemptive revelation bring enduring advancement toward consummation—each epoch builds upon and brings advancement to what has proceeded.
The new feature is “the organization of the theocratic kingdom under a human ruler” (185). God is seeking to confer himself on a holy people through a holy king in a holy theocratic realm. As such, Prophetism is a “Kingdom-Producing Movement (186–187). This is a critical point to grasp: prophetism is attached to the advancement of the theocratic kingdom. Prophetism therefore has no independent significance. Its entire rationale grows out of the producing and advancement of the theocratic kingdom of Jehovah.
This comes into even greater clarity as we recognize that the Word is the instrument of Prophetism (187–88). The essence, formally, of prophetism is that it “restricts” itself to the Word of God—the Word from the mouth of Jehovah. The Word of God “in reality did more than anything else towards the spiritualizing of the relation between Jehovah and Israel” (187).