An Interview with Dr. Richard Gaffin on the Ridderbos Legacy

Herman Ridderbos (1909–2007) is acclaimed for bringing clarity to eschatology and redemptive history, among other important topics. His legacy as a theologian is far-reaching. We are very pleased to offer the Herman Ridderbos Collection (9 vols.) on Pre-Pub.

We recently talked to Dr. Richard Gaffin, professor emeritus of biblical and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and editor of the Logos edition of Geerhardus Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics translation team, about Ridderbos’ influence and theological legacy.

Logos: Herman Ridderbos has influenced a range of theologians, from Joel Beeke to N. T. Wright. What have the writings of Ridderbos done for you personally?

Dr. Gaffin: He is among those from whom I’ve learned who have most deepened my understanding of Scripture, and so my knowledge of God and my submission to the saving lordship of Christ.

Logos: What does Ridderbos contribute to the discussion of the New Testament canon, and why is it significant?

Dr. Gaffin: He demonstrates the apostolic matrix of the New Testament documents, and so provides an exegetically based, redemptive-historical rationale for their origin and for the closing of the New Testament canon.

Logos: You and Ridderbos have both written on the topic of “redemptive history”—can you explain what it means, and why the concept is important?

Dr. Gaffin: Redemptive history begins following the original creation and at the entrance of sin. Subsequently, the concept largely incorporates the history of Israel, God’s old covenant people, until in the person and work of Jesus Christ it reaches its new covenant eschatological consummation with the realized–still future (“elliptical”) pattern.

All of the biblical documents, regardless of genre, have their origin and their content as a function of redemptive history. Sound understanding of the Bible turns on understanding its redemptive-historical origin and redemptive historically qualified subject matter.

Logos: Do you think the evangelical church today has a thorough understanding of the Kingdom of God? How would Ridderbos’ writings help inform that understanding?

Dr. Gaffin: In my perception, the majority of evangelical churches still view the Kingdom of God—along with eschatology in general—as entirely future. Their need is to appreciate and appropriate “elliptical” eschatology (the by now proverbial “already-not yet”), particularly as Ridderbos has demonstrated in The Coming of the Kingdom and elsewhere.

Logos: What does Riddebos bring to the study of eschatology?

Dr. Gaffin: He brings a clear and in-depth demonstration of the elliptical structure of biblical/New Testament eschatology; “eschatology” is to be defined in terms of what has occurred/arrived with the first coming of Christ, as well as what will take place at his second coming.

Logos: What do you consider to be Herman Ridderbos’ most important work?

Dr. Gaffin: Paul: An Outline of His Theology [included in the Herman Ridderbos Collection].

Logos: If I’m new to Ridderbos, which of his writings would be a good introduction?

Dr. Gaffin: I don’t hesitate to recommend When the Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament Theology. Its short chapters provide excellent introductions to his thought and major works.

Be sure to pick up the Herman Ridderbos Collection (9 vols.) before the price goes up January 2!

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