Redemption and Revelation (Vos/Horton)

Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama As we grow in the Christian faith we learn more about God’s word (and vice-versa).  Sometimes we take huge steps in understanding Scripture and sometimes we take smaller steps. Either way, we’re growing in grace and knowledge.  For me, one major area of growth in understanding Scripture was when I began to learn about the relationship between progressive revelation and redemption.  Michael Horton does a nice job of summarizing Geerhardus Vos’ excellent teaching on these points. (Note: it’s worth reading a few times slowly!)

In defining biblical theology, Vos argues for this integration of word-revelation and act-revelation, both in subservience to redemption.  First, he says, it is ‘the historic progressiveness of the revelation process.  It has not completed itself in one exhaustive act, but unfolded itself in a long series of successive acts.”  Thus, “revelation does not stand alone by itself,” but is “inseparably attached to another activity of God, which we call Redemption.”

Here again we are reminded of the point emphasized by Bavinck and Berkouwer, that one cannot develop abstract theories of scripture or hermeneutics, but must always develop them from the content itself (viz., the unfolding plan of redemption).  Revelation is not gnosis, a way of salvation by discovering God’s hidden essence or will, nor is it in any way an end in itself.  Redemption cannot be reduced to revelation ([contra] neo-orthodoxy).  It is not an act of downloading eternal ideas or principles onto our noetic desktop or revealing that which has always been true.

Rather, says Vos (in line with the Reformed scholastics), “Revelation is the interpretation of redemption.” This is what interests us in terms of revelation.  So revelation unfolds in exact proportion to the unfolding of redemption, announcing and interpreting the acts of God in history.  In redemptive history, there are objective-central and subjective-individual events, the former referring to unrepeatable founding events such as the exodus and the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ.  There are no second or third crucifixions or Pentecosts, and yet every new believer is crucified and raised with Christ, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and empowered as his witness by being baptized into these realities.  This is what Vos means by “subjective-individual” redemptive events.

Michael Horton, Covenant and Eschatology, p. 233.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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