Vos, Reformed Dogmatics

by Robert Strivens30 June 2015

Book Notice: Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, trans. R. B. Gaffin, 3 vols. (Lexham Press, 2012-14)

The name of Geerhardus Vos is synonymous with biblical theology. His volume, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testament (Eerdmans, 1948; repr. Banner of Truth, 1975) was formative in expounding a biblical view of the unfolding revelation of God in Scripture, from Moses through to the New Testament. Vos is best known as a conservative member of the faculty at Princeton Seminary, where he taught from 1893 to 1932, standing against the increasingly liberal tendencies within that faculty and choosing to remain there even when Machen and others left in 1929 to form Westminster Theological Seminary.

Vos’s roots were, however, of course in the Netherlands. He was born there, in 1862, and grew up there, moving to Michigan in 1881 when his parents emigrated. He had a further period in Europe in 1885, for study, but returned to Grand Rapids to teach in the theological school of the Christian Reformed Church (later Calvin Theological Seminary). Among other subjects, he taught Christian doctrine there from 1888 to 1893. His lectures notes were hand-written in Dutch and were published in that language in 1896 (manuscript) and 1910 (printed). Richard Gaffin has done the Christian world a great service by translating and editing these lectures into English, now published by Lexham Press in three volumes.

The content of the volumes takes the form of series of questions and answers. There is not a great deal of room for extended analysis, but the answers are supplied in pithy, concise form, packing a great deal of substance into a relatively few words. The answers, as one would expect, reflect a clear theological position - that of Reformed orthodoxy - and often provide responses to views that differ. So the first chapter, on ‘The Knowability of God’, asks ‘Is God knowable?’ and then, after a brief positive reponse citing 1 Jn. 5:20 and Matt. 11:25, asks three further questions elucidating the sense in which Reformed theologians maintain this position, the grounds on which some deny it and responses to such denials. That pattern is continued throughout the work. It is a masterpiece of concise statement of foundational truths.

The topics covered by the three volumes are: Vol. 1, Theology Proper (knowability of God; his names, being and attributes; the Trinity; God’s decrees; predestination; creation; providence); Vol. 2, Anthropology (nature of man; sin; covenant of grace - a particularly extended discussion); Vol. 3, Christology (names; person and natures; offices; states).



About the author

Robert Strivens

MA (University of Cambridge, Corpus Christi College)
ThM (Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia)
PhD (University of Stirling)

Having trained for the pastoral ministry at LTS, Robert pastored an evangelical church in Banbury for 8 years. Prior to training for the ministry, he was a solicitor in private practice, working in London and Brussels. He has been involved in training pastors in French-speaking West Africa. He teaches New Testament and Greek and also lectures on Contemporary Issues. His doctoral research was on Philip Doddridge and early 18th century Dissent. He is married to Sarah and they have three sons.