Is Geerhardus Vos a Transformationalist?

Typically I think of Vos as the granddaddy of modern Reformed Amillennialism.  Many of his spiritual descendants are now representing the so-called Radical 2 Kingdoms theology, which denies any visible cultural difference between believer and non-believer in the non-ecclesiastical realms.  While his Amillennialism is still likely impeccable, I recently discovered a section in Vos which would place him well outside the non-interventionist sub-school of Amillennialism that looms so large today.  In The Kingdom of God and the Church, Vos sounds downright Kuyperian.  Here are some examples:

Undoubtedly the kingship of God, as his recognized and applied supremacy, is intended to pervade and control the whole of human life in all its forms of existence.  This the parable of the leaven plainly teaches.  These various forms of human life have each their own sphere in which they work and embody themselves.  There is a sphere of science, a sphere of art, a sphere of the family and of the state, a sphere of commerce and industry.  Whenever one of these spheres comes under the controlling principle of the divine supremacy and glory, and this outwardly reveals itself, there we can truly say that the kingdom of God has become manifest.

pg. 87-88, P&R 1972 ed.

Even more strongly, Vos writes:

And what is true of the relation between church and state, may also be applied to the relation between the visible church and the various other branches into which the organic life of humanity divides itself.  It is entirely in accordance to subsume these under the kingdom of God and to co-ordinate them with the visible church as true manifestations of this kingdom, in so far as the divine sovereignty and glory have become in them the controlling principle.  But it must always be remembered that the latter can only happen, when all of these, no less than the visible church, stand in living contact with the forces of regeneration supernaturally introduced into the world by the Spirit of God.  While it is proper to seperate between the visible church and such things as the Christian state, Christian art, Christian science, etc., these things, if they truly belong to the kingdom of God, grow up out of the regenerated life of the invisible church.

pg. 89

While Vos clearly wants to distinguish Christendom from the visible Church (as he should) , he does not shy away from the concept itself.  Notice that at the beginning of his list is “the Christian state.”  This is consistent with the old Two Kingdoms theology of the Reformers.  It is not consistent with the new version today.

This entry was posted in Geerhardus Vos, two kingdoms by Steven Wedgeworth. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.

2 thoughts on “Is Geerhardus Vos a Transformationalist?

  1. Thanks, Steven, for the quotes from Vos.
    I recently finished reading Vos’ BIBLICAL THEOLOGY, and I did not observe any implication from his emphasis on the spirituality of the Kingdom as not exerting influence on what may be called the nonchurch world. When he mentions two kingdoms, his purview is the one present, the other future.
    On page 378, he states “…Jesus through the labours of His ministry began to realize the Kingdom on earth, that this was a gradual process, that the labour on the Kingdom, to which His followers devoted themselves after Him, and which is still continued by us, is actual Kingdom-producing labour, and that this will go on through the ages of history up to the point set by God for the termination of this world-order…”
    Apparently, the present two kingdom view is a reaction to modern cultural developments, and a logical inference from what is perceived in Vos’ spiritual Kingdom view.

  2. Hello Steven,

    A friend of mine just forwarded your blog entry to me. It is new to me, and I’m happy to have an opportunity to come into contact with information like this, and to consider it carefully with what I’m taught at seminary and what I read in my own self-directed learning. Having just read Kuyper again, it was good to have him fresh on my mind as I consider the post (though I don’t think transformationalism today is what typically what Kuyper would have advocated). While transformationalism is a pretty ambiguous term, I appreciate the particulars you provide in the quotes themselves.

    I’d like to know more about what Vos means by the “controlling principle of the divine supremacy and glory,” compared to Kuyper’s ideas. The terminology used by Kuyper is quite different, I believe. For instance, I would not necessarily deduce from this that they share the same view of a cultural mandate, or even that Vos develops the same eschatalogical significance as Kuyper in the cultural mandate. It would be further interesting to know whether Vos understood a distinction in a mediatorial reign and a providential reign (in his concept of Kingdom); since Kyuper does not appear to distinguish between the two. Futher, the “coordinating relationship” may also be different between the two.

    Further interesting would be a better understanding of what exactly Vos meant by the spheres “growing up out of the regenerated life of the invisible church,” as well as how he particularly thought of a “Christian state,” for instance.
    The more I look at the quotes you provided, the more I’m inclined to go back to Vos to read him thoroughly. So thanks for the nudge.

    That said, I’m not at all inclined to believe that the present NL2K, or even Kline’s work of decades past is developed in reaction to a cultural condition present today.

    Thanks again for the post.


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