Vos Group #69 — Emotions and Affections

We turn to pages 255–256 of Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments to consider the ways in which the Old Testament prophets use anthropomorphism to describe God. The “emotional” or “affectional” dispositions of Jehovah’s nature is the next set of attributes. He says, as a guiding principle, “we are here in a sphere full of anthropomorphism” and says that “an anthropomorphism” is never without an “inner core of important truth” that “must be translated into more theological language” where we can “enrich our knowledge of God” (255).

Vos makes an absolutely critical observation here that needs sustained attention to the theological issues he raises here. They are as important in our day as in Vos’ if not more so. Anthropomorphic language ascribes the qualities of the creature to God’s acts in time. But such language is never intended by Reformed theologians to be taken in a univocal way, as though God literally possesses creaturely qualities.

  1. God’s acts in time do not require him to be temporal.
  2. God acts in the contingent historical order of creation do not require him to be contingent and historical.
  3. God’s acts in relation to mutable and passible creatures do not require that he be mutable and passible like the creature.
  4. There is no point of univocity between the Creator and the creature—no mutual sharing in mutability and temporality.

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