Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Gospel Coalition

Today, tomorrow and Thursday Daniel and I are excited to be spending our time in Chicago for the Gospel Coalition. Lord willing there will be posts to follow about our time here, but for now: Just check out the list of speakers and the schedule, and BE JEALOUS. :-P

Today was fantastic. Everything is in some way edifying, and the conference topic of preaching Christ from the Old Testament makes the entire experience incredibly redemption-minded, which is exactly what we love best.

In addition to three jam-packed days of Jesus we get to spend our evenings with friends here in Chicago, and visit a few places in the Windy City. Should be a great week!


  1. Sorry but not jealous here...

    The new hermenuetics developed over the last 50-100 years or so have changed a lot about theology. well worth the read. What was the basis for Vos's 'biblical theology'?

    Read Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray. Read what academia is doing to the seminaries and therefore churches...

    The wave of the celebrity is so very attractive. New ideas and new theologies. What are we chasing after? But there is nothing new under the sun.

    The "reformed theology" of today is not the reformed theology of the reformers.

    No, not jealous - I've seen the fruit of the new theology and it isn't all that great.

  2. I'm officially jealous...

    <3 <3 <3

  3. Anonymous,

    I appreciate your comment.

    I do agree that the celebrity saturation of our culture can become attractive in a negative way. Humanity is prone to make idols of anything, living or dead. Martin Luther, Ligon Duncan, John Calvin, Tim Keller, John Owen or even the Apostle Paul all have the potential to be idolized. The challenge then before us is to worship the Holy Spirit who gives those men the grace to do what they have done, and not worship the men themselves. I think, however, we would be amiss to avoid, or even condemn, "popular" men who have helpful, truthful things to say, simply because we see others, perhaps, idolizing them.

    I am pondering, however, over the several times you mentioned "new" in regards to hermeneutics (interpretation of the Bible) and theology (study of God). From my observation (which is very simple and uneducated) the preaching, lecturing and teaching I heard at the Gospel Coalition this week aimed to faithfully preach the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That, to me, is far from "new." It is a topic and story that spreads across all the millennia of human history, and even into eternity, since the Author of it is Eternal.

    In Christ,

  4. "Biblical Theology" per say is new, Vos was the "father" of it. That hermeneutic is new. The emphasis of the redemptive historical hermeneutic vs grammatical historical hermeneutics is very different. History is a good thing to know.

    The way one looks at the Word to interpret is huge. And it leads to different emphases. I've seen the carnage from the Biblical Theology school of emphasis and it leads to antinomianism. Sin is not dealt with because grace covers it all.

    No offense is intended here. Just would point to history and it is a very good teacher.

  5. Daniel F. WellsApril 15, 2011


    I think there is some misunderstanding regarding the "newness" of biblical theology that needs correction. But first, I want to say that I think anonymity is unhelpful in these sorts of discussions. That's just my preference, though.

    Geerhardus Vos is indeed called the so-called "father of biblical theology." However, historians don't call Vos this because he invented biblical theology. Freidrich Schleirmacher didn't invent liberal theology - he was a transition point and great influence for future mordern theologians. Likewise, Vos (far from a liberal, which goes without saying) was a transition figure and great influence for later American and Dutch Reformed theologians.

    Many (many) scholars have pointed out the historical theological indebtedness that Vos has the the Christian church. Early Christian interpretation was divided between Alexandrian (allegorical) and Antiochian (textual) schools. Augustine's theology would be the driving force for the medieval church until Aquinas, and Augustine was somewhat of a hybrid between the Alexandrian and Antiochian schools (his theology of the city of God versus city of man is highly influential for 'biblical theology' folk). See Moses Silva for further discussion.

    Martin Luther himself was known as a Christ-centered expositor (though he went beyond the text). John Calvin is claimed to have a more God-centered approach, though his work (along with Zwingli) showing the continuity and discontinuity between the testaments due to the progress of redemption greatly influenced the later Reformers and, by extension, Vos. (Sidney Greidanus of Calvin Seminary has a good book on this subject.)

    Even the Westminster Divines with their articulation of federal (or covenant) theology is largely similar to redemptive-historical emphasis. See Bob Cara's article in the "Westminister Confession in the 21st Century Vol III" book edited by Ligon Duncan. Ultimately, both systematic theology and biblical theology are important should be embraced by all Christians. Vos himself taught this.

    Thus, I'm afraid history speaks a little differently on this matter. Even so, I think it is unfair and uncharitable to stereotype those who see value in biblical theology as paving the road to antinomianism. Before Vos ever existed, American reformed theology oscillated between both legalism and antinomianism. Bill Evans has shown that Calvin's exposition of the biblical doctrine of union with Christ sees the balance between justification and sanctification. Hence, the problem had more to do with soteriology than hermeneutical nuance. (Indeed, hermeneutics is important!) Calvin's soteriology, though, found greater influence not in those who endorsed the systematic theological formulation in the late 16th/early 17th century of the ordo salutis. Rather, Calvin's formulation seems closer to the historia salutis which has been embraced more by biblical theology proponents such as Richard Gaffin.

    On a final note, I was intrigued as to how many times during the Gospel Coalition conference a speaker emphasized the imperative along with the indicative. Antinomianism would exalt the indicative and be silent about the imperative. Perhaps other so-called Reformed groups do this, but not the Gospel Coalition from what I have heard.

  6. Daniel

    Perhaps you could read the paper that I originally linked to and see how Vos formulated his theology. It was to address attacks on the Word of God. Unfortunately there were some weaknesses in his response to the attacks.

    Highly philosophical in nature but the bottom line gets to be events are what are important and not the very words of Scripture and there is much missed in that.

    And the dangers of Biblical theology taken to the nth degree are very real.

    Given the focus of redemptive historical hermeneutics this might sound heretical but the Bible is not solely focused on redemption. The Bible reveals God's character to us and it is His record of how He deals with man (covenantally). ... Lots in all this but the simplistic preaching of redemption as the end all ignores much of what is in scripture.

    Why is it that the church very much mirrors the culture? Sin is no longer taken seriously. Grace covers it all. We talk much of grace and how great it is but we really don't know why it is so great. We really don't understand our depravity. Things have changed over the years in the evangelical world and much of the change has not been positive.

    Anyway, enough rambling here.

    Thank you for your time