Vos Study #2

Vos study #2 is posted over at Christ the Center. (Here’s the CO post for #1, the introduction).

The assigned reading, pp 3-11, was fascinating — and I had the extra benefit of all the underlining and margin notes made by my dad, since he loaned me his copy.

The audio recording focused on the distinction between liberal, rationalistic “Biblical Theology” as it was already known in Vos’ time through the work of J. P. Gabler, and the orthodox “Biblical Theology” that Vos boldly (and I think most would say, successfully) set out to reclaim. Gabler’s version is focused on the history of what Jewish people thought, with no reference to any objective reality or revelation behind that thought. Here Vos brilliantly diagnoses in rationalism antipathy not only towards the past, but also the future:

[Rationalism] has by preference asserted itself in the field of religion even more than in that of pure philosophy. This is because in religion the sinful mind of man comes most directly face to face with the claims of an independent, superior authority. Closely looked at, its protest against tradition is a protest against God as the source of tradition, and its whole mode of treatment of Biblical Theology aims not at honouring history as the form of tradition, but at discrediting history and tradition. Further, rationalism is defective, ethically considered, in that it shows a tendency towards glorification of its own present (that is, at bottom, of itself) over against the future no less than the past. It reveals a strong sense of having arrived at the acme of development. The glamour of unsurpassability in which rationalism usually sees itself is not calculated to make it expect much from God in the future. In this attitude, the religious fault of self-sufficiency stands out even more pronouncedly than in the attitude towards the past. (p. 10)

“Glamour of unsurpassability” — that’s a phrase I gotta remember to use!

Another section earlier in the reading that was not touched on much is the dissection of Exegetical Theology into four disciplines:

(a) the study of actual content of Holy Scripture;

(b) the inquiry into the origin of the several Biblical writings, including the identity of of the writers, the time and occasion of composition, dependence on possible sources, etc. …

(c) the putting of the question of how these several writings came to be collected into the unity of a Bible or book…

(d) the study of the actual self-disclosures of God in time and space which lie back of even the first commital to writing of any Biblical document, and which for a long time continued to run alongside of the inscripturation of revealed material; this last-name procedure is called the study of Biblical Theology.

The order in which the four steps are here named is, of course, the order in which they present themselves successively to the investigating of man. When looking at the process from the point of view of the divine activity, the order requires to be reversed, the sequence being

(a) the divine self-revelation;

(b) the committal to writing of the revelation-product;

(c) the gathering of the several writings thus produced into the unity of a collection;

(d) the production and guidance of the study of the content of the Biblical writings.

It’s an interesting inversion there. Also, the notion of studying those things “which lie back of even the first commital to writing of any Biblical document,” in one sense seems scary (are we trying to go beyond scripture? To understand what scripture does not reveal?); but it also kind of makes sense. Scripture is not just words; there’s real stuff behind it, real history, and that’s what we want to get at.

Lots of interesting stuff in this section also (perhaps the most important stuff!) about how Revelation and Redemption are progressive and organic, and develop in tandem — and how Revelation ceased together with the “central, objective” elements of Redemption, although there are still “personal, subjective” elements of Redemption that continue to occur (individually within all of us Redeemed).

Can’t wait until the next installment is posted. I don’t know how far the reading assignment will go, maybe the rest of chapter 1? Maybe it will be posted here before the episode is released?

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