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One last remembrance of the former days had come in when his lifelong friend from the Netherlands, Herman Bavinck, delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton. Twenty-two years earlier, in the summer of , the two friends had travelled the Rhine River together in Germany.
When Bavinck had visited America in , he stayed with Vos and his family in Michigan for three weeks. The Scriptures were the only principium , but the dogmatic tradition was indispensable for sound teaching.
The Reformed and Rome differed, however, in their understanding of the way that God set the translation to the estate of glory before man. The Reformed believed the translational hope from innocence to glory was put before man in the covenant of works. Rather, prior to the Fall, eternal life was to be gained by natural means in covenant as the Reformed taught. The two different conceptions led to two different views of Christianity. Bavinck ably vindicates the federal character of all true religion.
What has impressed us most is that, while Dr. This is far from saying that the world is not also a vindication of Calvinistic theology. But it is so in the indirect and for that reason all the more telling way of showing how perfectly easy and natural it is to build upon the foundations of the Reformed principles a system of Christian thought which by its very largeness of grasp and freedom from theological one-sidedness becomes the most eloquent witness to the soundness and depth of the principles underlying it.
No higher commendation of Calvinism is conceivable than that it lends itself to being made the basis of a structure of truth so universally and comprehensively Christian in all its lines and proportions.
Both not only were raised in the Seceder movement in the Netherlands, but also were sons of Seceder pastors who themselves were friends. Both were originally professors at schools that were Bible-believing and pietistic, Bavinck at Kampen in the Netherlands and Vos at the Theological School at Grand Rapids.
Both pulled up the academic reputations of the schools, but then moved to institutions, the Free University of Amsterdam and Princeton Seminary, that were Reformed, but broader and more scientific in orientation. But, Harinck notes, neither Vos at Princeton nor Bavinck at Amsterdam became the dominant theologian of their new institutions as they had been at their old ones. He saw all the streams of human history headed toward their final goal in the perfected kingdom of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Paul arranged the historical facts in a coherent, doctrinal system, conscious that his presentation possessed a distinct theological impress. Vos concluded that Paul was a theologian.
Gaffin Jr. Kuyper believed Scripture itself was not theology but underlies it. He declared that one must not speak of the biblical writers as theologians. For Kuyper, revelation was pre-theological, theology was post-biblical. In this review Vos gave notice of the topics he thought were important in Pauline studies but had been almost universally overlooked.
Vos wrote:. The question is not so much whether the doctrines of justification and possession of the Spirit and union with Christ carry with themselves an outlook into the future, but rather whether those acts and states to which these doctrines refer are not from the outset eschatological acts and states, or, more strictly speaking, anticipations in this life of what had previously been regarded as reserved for the end.
Especially in connection with the pneuma conception this might have been more strongly emphasized. The Spirit is from the beginning to Paul the element of the eschatological, heavenly world. Vos declared that the body at creation cannot have been a body of corruption, dishonor, and weakness, since elsewhere in his writing Paul plainly taught that these attributes were the result of sin. Vos concluded that it would have been better for Kennedy to state the problem clearly and leave it unsolved rather than to solve it in such a way that brought Paul into conflict with himself.
Ethelbert Warfield, president of the Board of Trustees and the older brother of Benjamin Warfield, preached at the p. On both Monday and Tuesday mornings an academic procession started at the faculty room in Nassau Hall and led into Alexander Hall. On Tuesday luminaries from the Presbyterian and Reformed churches around the world took center stage.
Gresham Machen described the day in a letter to his mother. Tuesday was the big day, Alexander Hall at the University was filled with a magnificent assemblage. The stage and the central part of the lower floor were brilliant with many-colored gowns, and the rest of the hall was occupied by ordinary folk.
I never heard any hymn-singing like that. The speeches were by Dr. Stewart, moderator of the Church of Scotland, Dr. MacMillian, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. In addition to the ceremonies taking place on the campus, the faculty had released a volume of essays, Biblical and Theological Studies , in commemoration of the centennial. He has been translated into a state, which, while falling short of the consummated life of eternity, yet may be truly characterized as semi-eschatological.
Vos turned to Romans —4 to answer the question of how the Spirit was conferred upon Christ. He concluded that it was a history of redemption question a contrast between the states of humiliation and exaltation and not a question of natures humanity and divinity. That is, the reference was not to two coexisting sides in the constitution of the Savior, but to two successive stages in his life.
According to the flesh, Jesus descended from David. According to the Spirit, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead. Vos then exegeted the text that he believed Kennedy had not understood fully, 1 Corinthians — So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body , it is raised an imperishable body ; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. The complexity in understanding the passage was that Paul switched comparisons as he moved from verses 42—44a to verses 44b— In verses 42—44a, Paul contrasted the body in the fallen, pre-eschatological state with the body in the eschatological state.
The fallen, pre-eschatological, state-of-sin body is the natural body of verses 42—44a that is perishing, dishonorable, and weak. The eschatological, resurrection-state body is the spiritual body of verses 42—44a that is permanent, glorious, and powerful.
The contrast changes at the end of verse Included now in the natural, pre-eschatological was the pre-Fall estate. Vos explained why Paul changed the comparison in his argument in verses 42—44a between the body of sin and body of the resurrection to a comparison in verses 44b—46 between the body of creation and the body of the resurrection.
The Apostle was intent upon showing that in the plan of God from the outset provision was made for a higher kind of body than that of our present experience. From the abnormal body of sin no inference can be drawn as to the existence of another kind of body. The abnormal and the eschatological are not so logically correlated that the one can be postulated from the other.
But the world of creation and the world of eschatology are thus correlated, the one points forward to the other; on the principle of typology the first Adam prefigures the second Adam, the psychical body, the pneumatic body cf. The resurrection is when the spiritual entered, the second man was exalted, and the eschatological era was inaugurated.
Vos concluded the article with some observations that he believed were central to the study of Reformed biblical theology. The Spirit was the agent for securing this because of the impotence of sinful human nature for good. This was why Paul interpreted the whole Christian life in terms of the Spirit and regarded the moral and religious life of the believer as a fruit of the Spirit in its highest potency.
Second, Paul approached the endowment of Christ with the Spirit from an eschatological-soteriological point of view. The resurrection of Christ was the point where the peculiar identification between Christ and the Spirit began.
Evolutionary philosophy stood against the two poles of biblical eschatology, creation and consummation. For those who followed the principles of evolutionary philosophy, the result was a Christianity devoid of the supernatural, where life in the kingdom was severed from the realm of the Spirit. Paul taught that the Spirit, which belonged to the age to come, determined the present life.
In the preface Vos surveyed the role that biblical eschatology had played for the church living after the appearance of Jesus Christ. The Reformers focused on the doctrine of justification, how does one obtain righteousness before God?
This resulted in the pushing of the eschatological hope into the background for a time, but the two strands of justifying faith and eschatological hope were intertwined. Sinners are justified unto the end of communing with God. The Reformers had received from Paul something better than either prophet or Psalmist had been able to give with the same clarity.
From this definition, he maintained there are two characteristic elements of eschatology, the limited duration of the present order of things and the eternal character of the subsequent state. The Apostle Paul understood that the subsequent state, the age to come, had intruded into the present age. Paul also understood that the soteric movement that had Christ at its center occurred within this cosmical setting of the overlap of the ages.
The result was a philosophy of history where eschatology no longer formed one item in the sum-total of revealed teaching. The believer joined to the risen Christ by faith was living in the overlap of the ages, which Vos illustrated with the following diagram. Heaven empowers the believer while it also beckons the believer to its final consummation.
The mother-soil for the Greeks was metaphysical speculation. The mother-soil for Paul was revelation. Biblically, the historical was first, then the theological. It was through an eminently historical event, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that the parallel structure of the two ages was begotten.
In fact, forty years earlier in his Reformed Dogmatics , Vos himself had placed eschatology as the last topic discussed. Vos examined four structural lines in Pauline teaching to test this thesis and the relationship between eschatology and soteriology. These were the doctrines of the resurrection, salvation, judgment and justification, and the Spirit. Next Vos considered the doctrine of salvation. They are destined to impending salvation, but also have a present possession. By making both the negative element of the forgiveness of sin and the positive element of bestowal of the benefits of salvation unqualified, the Apostle made the act of justification to all intents, so far as the believer is concerned, a last judgment anticipated.
Vos spelled out at the end of the chapter why a proper understanding of the relationship of eschatology and soteriology, namely, that Paul gave such a precedence to the eschatological, was so important. It provided the Apostle with a philosophy of history into which the soteric and theological could be fitted, every development construed in light of the starting point and terminus.
And every philosophy of history bears in itself the seed of theology. Vos believed this eschatological understanding could not but produce the finest fruit of practical theology. To take God as source and end of all that exists and happens, and to hold such a view suffused with the warmth of genuine devotion, stands not only related to theology as the fruit stands to the tree: it is by reason of its essence a veritable theological tree of life.
Pauline eschatology was supernatural and heavenly-oriented.
The Pauline Eschatology (Vos)
One last remembrance of the former days had come in when his lifelong friend from the Netherlands, Herman Bavinck, delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton. Twenty-two years earlier, in the summer of , the two friends had travelled the Rhine River together in Germany. When Bavinck had visited America in , he stayed with Vos and his family in Michigan for three weeks. The Scriptures were the only principium , but the dogmatic tradition was indispensable for sound teaching. The Reformed and Rome differed, however, in their understanding of the way that God set the translation to the estate of glory before man. The Reformed believed the translational hope from innocence to glory was put before man in the covenant of works.