The Birth of Geerhardus Vos

One of my favorite theologians, Geerhardus Vos, was born this day, March 14, 1862, in Heerenveen, the Netherlands. Vos came to the United States in 1881 when his father became pastor of a church in Grand Rapids. Geerhardus studied at the Christian Reformed Seminary in Grand Rapids and then at Princeton Theological Seminary. He traveled back to Europe for doctoral studies in Berlin and Strassburg. He taught five years in Grand Rapids before answering the call to be the first Professor of Biblical Theology at the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1893. He served Princetont until his retirement at the age of  70 in 1932.

If you have never read Vos, I would suggest you start with sermons from Grace and Glory. Many of these are found on the website at various places (such as Kerux). I also think that Danny Olinger’s Geerhardus Vos Anthology provides a helpful starting point for people new to Vos and Biblical Theology. At some point, all who are interested in biblical theology and eschatology must read Pauline Eschatology. This book turned my theology upside down, especially the idea that “eschatology precedes soteriology.” Vos says, “[The] eschatological principle is so deeply embedded in the structure of the biblical religion as to precede and underlie everything else” (Pauline Eschatology, p. 66). Worthy of meditation!




St. Augustine and Biblical Theology

A few years ago Pope Benedict XVI gave a series of lectures on the early church fathers, and they have been collected into a book: Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine. In one of the lectures on St. Augustine, the Pope mentioned something significant about Ambrose’s influence on St. Augustine:

The great difficulty with the Old Testament, because of its lack of rhetorical beauty and of lofty philosophy, was resolved in Saint Ambrose’s preaching through his typological interpretation of the Old Testament: Augustine realized that the whole of the Old Testament was a journey toward Jesus Christ. Thus, he found the key to understanding the beauty and even the philosophical depth of the Old Testament and grasped the whole unity of the mystery of Christ in history as well as the synthesis between philosophy, rationality, and faith in the Logos, in Christ, the Eternal Word who was made flesh. (171)

Interesting…Biblical Theology via a typological interpretation of the OT was part of the breakthrough for St. Augustine in understanding the Scriptures. The Old Testament is a way to Jesus Christ, the eternal Word made flesh.

Preaching Jesus and the Gospel in Leviticus

As part of The Gospel Coalition’s “Preaching Christ in the Old Testament,” Collin Hansen has a helpful interview with Jay Sklar, associate professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary. Sklar was editor and part contributor to the notes on Leviticus for the ESV Study Bible. The whole interview is worth your time, but I wanted to highlight this question and answer:

What does it mean to preach Leviticus in proper relationship to Jesus and the gospel?

It means to remember that its laws come in the context of the Lord’s redeeming grace (Exod 1-19). As such, the laws were meant to guide the Israelites in a proper response of obedient love to their king, in this way enabling them to carry out their mission of reflecting his character in the world and spreading his kingdom of blessing in all the earth. (Here’s where we need to remember that the Israelites were to be a kingdom of priests [Exod 19:4-6], and priests are there to help other people know what it means to be in right relationship with the Lord.)

Once this is done, a Christian is then in a position to read these laws in the context of the Lord’s redeeming grace as found in Jesus. As such, Christians see the principles these laws teach as guides for how to respond with grateful obedience to our king, in this way enabling us to carry out our mission of reflecting his character in the world and spreading his kingdom of blessing in all the earth. (Here’s where we need to remember that we are also called to be a kingdom of priests! 1 Pet 2:9)

To state this even more simply: just as the Israelites read Leviticus in the context of the Lord’s redeeming work in the exodus, Christians read Leviticus in the context of the Lord’s redeeming work in Jesus. And just as the Israelites understood the laws of Leviticus as direction for how the Lord’s holy people worship him in grateful obedience and love, Christians understand the principles behind these laws as direction for how the Lord’s holy people worship him in grateful obedience and love.

Read the interview here. Sklar also suggests the following resources for Leviticus: Gordon Wenham, The Book of Leviticus & Allen Ross, Holiness to the Lord. He also suggested Christopher Wright’s Old Testament Ethics for the People of God, and his chapter “Preaching from the Law” in Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching, both of which lay out Wright’s hermeneutic of how to interpret and apply OT laws.

Meredith G. Kline Audio Resource Site

I was browsing around my links and realized that the link for Meredith Kline Resources no longer worked. That old link went to a website that Robert Lotzer maintained. I started looking around and discovered that there is a new Meredith G. Kline website here. Of special interest are the mp3 lectures covering these topics: Kingdom Prologue, Old Testament Exegesis, and Old Testament Prophets. You can access those here.

Herman Ridderbos: Lecture on John @ WTS

Herman Ridderbos is one of my favorite authors. His little book on New Testament Theology (When the Time Had Fully Come) and his big book on the Kingdom of God (The Coming of the Kingdom) reshaped my understanding of the eschatology of the New Testament, as did his classic work on Paul: An Outline of His Theology. His book on the canon of Scripture made the brilliant argument that the foundation of the canon lies in the history of redemption itself. In other words, it is not just a question of church history but New Testament theology and redemption.

I could go on and on about him, but that is not the point of this post. The point is rather this: Westminster Theological Seminary posted the audio of Herman Ridderbos lecturing on the Gospel of John. I think the title of the lecture is, “The story of the Fourth Gospel: A History of Interpretation.” You can hear it here.

Paul’s Two Age Construction and Apologetic

Dr. Bill Dennison, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA, as well as Visiting Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Northwest Theological Seminary, talks to the guys at Christ the Center about the theological perspective articulated in his book Paul’s Two-Age Construction and Apologetics. If you have not read Dennison’s book, and if you are interested in biblical theology and Vos, this is a must read. You can get it here.

Charles Dennison on the History of Salvation

I have mentioned before how thankful I have been for the ministry of Charles G. Dennison. He was the Historian for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and a pastor in that denomination. Dennison was a student of biblical theology, and in particular, the type of biblical theology that came from Geerhardus Vos.

My friend David Donovan has posted 27 sermons by Rev. Dennison on “The History of Salvation.” He points out that Danny Olinger, who edited the historical writing of Dennison, suggests that one of the best ways to see biblical theological preaching is through Charlie Dennison. You can take a look at the 27 sermons here.

Why a crown of thorns?

Peter Leithart:

Why a crown of thorns?  A sign of the curse, obviously.

But thorns grow from the ground, and specifically grow from the ground when there are no people to cut them back.  Thorns replace vines, grain, olive trees when Israel is driven into exile.

A king with a crown of thorns is a king suffering the curse on his land, the curse of exile.

I have never considered the exile trajectory.

Bartholomew: Covenant and Creation

In the process of looking for some material on creation and its relationship to the covenant, I stumbled across Craig Bartholomew’s article “Covenant and Creation: Covenant Overload or Covenantal Deconstruction” [Calvin Theological Journal 30 (1995): 11-33]. It is a helpful article that evaluates recent contributions to covenant theology (such as Gordon Spykman, Meredith Kline, O. Palmer Robertson, and William Dumbrell). You can download the pdf here.

Is another “fall” possible in heaven?

In the recent “Ask Pastor John” video, someone asked Piper the following question: “If the Angels could fall, how can we know we won’t?” This is a great question, and you can watch Piper’s answer here. Piper’s answer appeals to the doctrine of perseverance. The fact that God holds us in His hand, and no one can pluck us out of His hand, applies not only to perseverance in this life, but also the life to come.

That is indeed a helpful way to look at this issue. With the doctrine of perseverance, we should also consider justification and union with Christ. We can see this clearly as we examine the different states of mankind. This structure of history that comes from St. Augustine and is adopted by the Puritans. Thomas Boston (and others) called this the “four-fold estate of man.” One of my early posts addressed this matter. You can read that post here, but here is a short summary.

The Bible teaches that the final state of things (the New Creation) is better than the “pre-fall” state. The four “states” of our existence are as follows:

  • Innocence—possible to sin or not to sin
  • Fall—not possible not to sin
  • Grace—possible not to sin
  • Glory—not possible to sin

I have a chart that explains this situation [see Fourfold State]. The first state (The Garden) is completely separated from the others. It will never be known again. The second state (The Fall) crosses over the third state (Grace or Redemption), which brings about the tension of sin and righteousness for believers. The last state, the New Heavens and New Earth, cross over redemption as well due to the work of Christ upon the cross. The cross is the point at which Heaven intrudes into redemption with a note of finality. This is often called the already/not yet structure of New Testament eschatology.

The point of this is that our union with Christ puts us beyond the possibility of a fall. That is a central meaning of justification. One of the problems with denying imputed righteousness is precisely this problem. Look at it this way: forgiveness places us back in the Garden at the state of innocence. The righteousness of Christ places us beyond the Garden in Glory. That is the importance of a positive righteousness.

For a more thorough explanation of the fourfold state, read Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in Its Fourfold State and Philip Graham Ryken’s work  Thomas Boston as Preacher of the Fourfold State.

The Book of Hebrews: Pilgrims In A Postmodern World

Dr. William Dennison is a good friend who teaches as Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. Dennison introduced me to redemptive-historical preaching and Geerhardus Vos, and nothing was ever the same after that!

Dr. Dennison recently gave a series of lectures at Amoskeag Presbyterian Church on this topic:  “The Book of Hebrews: Pilgrims In A Postmodern World.” Here are the three lectures:

Lecture 1 – Christ in History

Lecture 2 – History, Postmodernist Style

Lecture 3 – Pilgrims of Faith

Keith Mathison on Biblical Theology

Anytime a book dealing with biblical theology comes out, I am interested. Today, I received an email from Westminster Bookstore, and the title was this: “A Clear, Comprehensive Redemptive-History in the Tradition of Vos, Ridderbos, and Kline.” Well, that is enough for me to stop what I am doing a read on.

The book that fits that description is From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology by Keith A. Mathison. I haven’t seen the book yet, so I didn’t realize that it was in that particular direction (i.e., Vos, Ridderbos, and Kline). But here is what Michael Horton says about it:

Filling a crucial gap, From Age to Age is simultaneously sweeping in its scope, deeply informed on the specifics, and so readable that I’ll be recommending this as the book to give to any Christian who asks me for an overview of the Bible. If you read, meditate on, and inwardly digest From Age to Age, you will have a deeper, richer, and fresher appreciation of the greatest story ever told.

The sample pages  (which you can pull up in pdf here) show the table of contents. The book is divided into Old Testament and New Testament with an excursus on the Intertestamental Period, and the book is a hardcover at 822 pages! Westminster Bookstore has it at 34% off.

Jesus, the Last Adam, keeps the fast

I noticed that Justin Taylor posted some great quotes from Leithart’s article mentioned in the previous post:

  • Feasting is the beginning and the goal, but Adam could enjoy the full feast—truly enjoy it—only by first keeping the fast.
  • Fasting is not gnostic. On the contrary, refusing to keep the fast is gnostic. Adam was the first gnostic.
  • Impatience is always incipiently gnostic, because it assumes that nothing can be bettered by time. It is not gnostic to prefer roasted meat to raw. Fasting is not a renunciation of creation; rather, it celebrates and honors the goodness of that most basic and pervasive of all creatures: time.
  • Little by little, piece by piece, waiting and not grasping, saving ahead of borrowing: That is Lenten economics.
  • Sex is so pleasurable, so obsessively delightful, that we have to have our senses trained before we can handle it well. Abstinence is the fast that prepares us for the feast of marriage. Lenten sexuality honors creation by insisting we take time to get ready.
  • Everywhere we turn, the world tells us not to keep the fast. Everywhere we turn, the world tempts us to be Adam. Our culture is devoted to stoking up our appetites and convincing us that we need to have it all, and to have it all yesterday. We are fooling ourselves if we think we don’t participate in that culture.
  • Fasting looks like an enemy to life, but the opposite is true. We live abundantly only if we know how to fast—which is to say, only if we are disciplined to wait until the feast is ready.

Thanks Justin. And finally:

Jesus is the Last Adam because He keeps the fast. He enters a world that is no longer a garden, but a howling waste, and in that wilderness Satan tempts Him to break the fast, to be an Adam: “You’re hungry; eat this now. You deserve the accolades of the crowds; you can have it now if you jump off the temple. You want all authority in heaven and on earth, but your Father won’t give that to you unless you suffer an excruciating, shameful death; you can have it all now, no cross or self-denial required. It’s yours, and you only need to do a bit of bowing. Life, glory, power, everything you want, everything you deserve—you can have it all now.”

Jesus refused, and refused, and then refused again, and in so doing broke the power of Adamic sin. Jesus kept the fast; he waited, labored, suffered, died, and then opened his hand to receive all the life, glory, honor, authority, and dominion that his Father had to give Him. He kept the fast and as a result was admitted to the fullness of the kingdom’s feast—because by that time both it and he were ready. And by resisting the devil, Jesus sets the pattern of true fasting and reveals a Lenten way of life.

This quote gets to the heart of the article and because it gets to the heart of the gospel. It draws you into the gospel story and presses you to live this life out of the power of Christ. It causes you to see your life in Christ in the text. Read the whole article.

Peter Leithart: Keep the Fast, Keep the Feast

I just finished reading Peter Leithart’s article “Keep the Fast, Keep the Feast,” posted at First Things. This is quite an amazing piece of work. Leithart has some helpful points reflecting on both church history and Scriptures, and he provides some great examples of how to do biblical-theological interpretation. Leithart blogs here, and he pointed out that the article is already translated into German! Take a moment and read the whole thing (in English, of course!).

Gaffin: “Sanctification and the Gospel”

The Reformed Forum posted a new audio conversation with Richard Gaffin on the topic of “Sanctification and the Gospel.” Gaffin joined the guys from Christ the Center to “discuss the nature of the gospel and the relation of the benefits of redemption to union with Christ.” Other topics of discussion included John Calvin, union with Christ, the duplex gratia dei or two-fold blessing of justification and sanctification, definitive and progressive sanctification, and the relationship between the historia salutis (the history of redemption or the accomplishment of redemption) and the ordo salutis (the order of salvation or its application). Listen to the audio here.

Dr. Gaffin is one of my favorite authors and theologians. Some of his books include Resurrection and Redemption, Perspectives on Pentecost, and By Faith, Not By Sight. He has also edited Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos.

I have also provided some links to Gaffin’s audio from WTS Bookstore: