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A New Book by Geerhardus Vos
by Fred G. Zaspel
Well, it’s not entirely new, of course. Geerhardus Vos’ Gereformeerde Dogmatiek has been around since 1896. But it has been available only in Dutch. Now, thanks to Logos and under the editorial direction of Richard Gaffin - long a Vosian affectionado - this important expression of Reformed theology will finally be available in English. And a valued service to the world of Christian theology this will be.
Vos (1862-1949), the well-known pioneer of Biblical Theology from old Princeton is not widely recognized in America as a systematician also, but that will soon change. Vos began his career at Calvin Seminary teaching Systematic Theology, and it is his lectures there that form the base of these five volumes - a work first begun by his students who took good notes!
Logos has allowed me a sneak preview at the first couple of chapters (“The Knowability of God” and “Names, Being, and Attributes of God”), and I have to say that although I am not surprised at Vos’ expertise as a systematic theologian, I am impressed with it. I think it was Berkhof (a graduate of old Princeton) who attributed his own grasp of the Reformed system of doctrine to the influence of Vos. “Precision” is the word. Vos’ understanding is clear, his definitions are to the point, and his explanations are crisp and cogent.
Vos’ Dogmatics is catechetical in form - successive questions with answers, similar to the approach of A.A. Hodge’s Outlines of Theology. This format has pros and cons. I would love to see more lengthy expositions, developed with that biblical-theological slant for which Vos is famous, but this format just does not lend itself to it. Instead we are given answers that are brief, crisp, densely packed, well-stated, and concise. Another disappointment is that his approach is not explicitly exegetical. Seldom here does Vos unpack a given verse or passage of Scripture to provide answer or definition. Quick reference to related Scripture verses in parentheses is about all so far (Keep in mind I’ve only seen the first two chapters). Yet Vos’ grasp of the issues is clearly superior, and consistently he speaks immediately to the nub of the issues he addresses with clear theological precision and with explanations that are obviously well-informed exegetically. Crisp statements and explanations of doctrine like this are valuable indeed, and even with these “What I wish he had done” kind of disappointments Vos’ work is immensely valuable and will doubtless prove helpful now to English theological students everywhere for many years to come.
Watch for this to come out from Logos this year. Right now they have it on “Pre-Pub” special. This just a heads up.