The Historical Progress of Supernatural Revelation (Vos)

Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos

I’ve read the following paragraph by Geerhardus Vos so many times I’ve lost count. It’s so rich and full of very helpful insight. You can find it in his Shorter Writings. The title of the chapter is “The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline.” Vos gave this lecture as his inaugural address as professor of Biblical theology at Princeton in 1894. Here’s the paragraph:

The first feature characteristic of supernatural revelation is its historical progress. God has not communicated to us the knowledge of the truth as it appears in the calm light of eternity to His own timeless vision. He has not given it in the form of abstract propositions logically correlated and systematized. The simple fact that it is the task of Systematic Theology to reproduce revealed truth in such form, shows that it does not possess this form from the beginning. The self-revelation of God is a work covering ages, proceeding in a sequence of revealing words and acts, appearing in a long perspective of time. The truth comes in the form of growing truth, not truth at rest. No doubt the explanation of this fact is partly to be sought in the finiteness of the human understanding. Even that part of the knowledge of God which has been revealed to us is so overwhelmingly great and so far transcends our human capacities, is such a flood of light, that it had, as it were, gradually to be let in upon us, ray after ray, and not the full radiancy at once. By imparting the elements of the knowledge of Himself in a divinely arranged sequence God has pointed out to us the way in which we might gradually grasp and truly know Him. This becomes still more evident, if we remember that this revelation is intended for all ages and nations and classes and conditions of men, and therefore must adapt itself to the most various characters and temperaments by which it is to be assimilated.

Vos, Geerhardus, Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, ed. by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001), 7.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015