So I don’t know what to make of Geerhardus Vos. I’m a late-comer to him, to be sure, but I recently read his “Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed History,” which appears in the collection Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation. I have a few interesting observations of his work, and perhaps I can go in more detail in subsequent posts.
1st) Vos is largely responding to the critics of “Covenant Theology” or “Federalism,” but also those who say that it represents a novelity in the Reformed tradition. Vos does this in a rather sophisticated way, however, since he freely admits that Calvin was not a covenant theologian. Vos also admits the Lutherans never latched on to this sytem, and he puts some distance between the Lutherans and Reformed.
2) Vos believes that the Lutherans and Reformed use the law in different ways, and he even says that the doctrine of justification functions differently in these two traditions. In this regard, he is not all the way in the “continuity” camp that we see today. I’m not sure that I agree with him, but it is worth noting.
3) Vos’s defense of covenant theology is that it is a legitimate development, with seed-ideas in early Reformed theologians which grew up through the work of their successors. It seems to me that this same argument could be employed today by some of the “discontinuity” proponents for different purposes, though it would require a good balance.
4) Vos admits that Robert Rollock holds to Piscator’s position on imputation, though he believes that Rollock should have gone all the way with a full-blown active/passive affirmation. This should not obscure the fact, however, that Vos admits that Rollock did not affirm such, which is what I have also argued. More on this to come in later posts, for sure.
5) Interestingly, Vos concludes his essay with an excursion on the role of children in the covenant, and he admits that certain key Reformed theologians taught baptismal regeneration. He lists Zanchius, Ames, and Spanheim. This doesn’t seem to upset him. He lists other positions, as well, but all are perfectly “Reformed.”