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Letters of Geerhardus Vos Hardcover – February 9, 2006
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"An intimate look into the life of a figure who deserves more attention. Geerhardus Vos linked important sites in trans-Atlantic Calvinism a hundred years ago: from Amsterdam to Princeton to Grand Rapids to Philadelphia. His letters show how he built these networks and what he thought on the important theological questions that agitated them." James D. Bratt, professor of history and director, Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, Calvin College
"Brings a man to life who has been the trait d' union between the Dutch neocalvinist movement of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck and the American Presbyterian tradition of Benjamin B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen. These letters are not just about theology, but present Geerhardus Vos in vivid relationship and debate with friends and colleagues. The editor has done a tremendous service for the study of the history of Reformed theology with this rich and hitherto unknown source." --George Harinck, professor of history, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
"Geerhardus Vos was a pilgrim living between two worlds. He came from
the Old World; he flourished in the New. This life between the old and the new was a mirror of his sojourn between the present evil age and the age to come--between the now and the not yet. He belonged to the last Pilgrim--that Pioneer and Perfector. Geerhardus Vos belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ--his life was hidden with Christ in God." --From the Introduction
About the Author
Vos was born in the Netherlands an emigrated to the USA in 1881. He earned degrees from Calvin Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Strasbourg (Ph.D. in Arabic). In 1894 he was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in the USA. Before beginning his 39-year tenure on Princeton's faculty, he was professor of systematic and exegetical theology at Calvin for five years.
Academic Dean of Northwest Theological Seminary in Washington, where he also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Theology. He is the author of The Market Day of the Soul, editor of Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary, and has also edited various books including Francis Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Geerhardus Vos's Old Testament Eschatology, and The Letters of Geerhardus Vos
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Top Customer Reviews
Several of Vos' published works remain in print and widely studied. But those who seek to understand the context from which such original work came have long had to consult thin biographical tidbits, mostly found in a handful of libraries. This excellent volume has vastly improved this situation.
The book falls into four sections: 1. A long (65 pp.), very well-crafted biographical essay by James Dennison (who does nothing to temper his admiration for his subject.) Dennison is probably a little more conservative and doctrinaire than Vos.
2. A 28pp. bibliography.
3. Typescripts of dozens of letter by Vos. They range from his days applying for admission as student at Princeton Seminary (1883) up to the retirement years in his 80s (some as late as 1946). The majority, however, are 1889-1897. Vos' correspondence displayed here include Warfield, Kuyper, Bavinck, Machen, Ned Stonehouse and an assortment of pastors and former students. Vos is articulate, cultured, lively and concise in virtually every letter. Here we see his wide ranging opinions on German, Dutch and English-language theological works (including early takes on Barth and Bultmann), his original exegesis, his Princeton politics, his warm support of Machen, Frank Stevenson, Paul Woolley etc. after they started Westminister Seminary in 1929 (just three years before he retired from Princeton), his difficult arrangements for Kuyper's history making Stone Lectures at Princeton Seminary, etc. He comes off as massively learned, but humble and likeable.
Dennison's footnotes are concise and generally helpful (though in the case of one Seminary board political issue in the late 20s, Dennison fails to give us specific background information). There are some footnote errors, but pretty minor: Chicago Theological Seminary is confused with Univ. of Chicago Div. School at one point. p. 109 lists a Vos MS as located in the "Alumni Alcove" of Princeton Theological Seminary (which hasn't existed in ten years) -- its probably in the Manuscripts Collection of Prinecton Sem., or has a call number. Anyway, these and a few others are pretty minor blemishes on a generally careful and excellent work.
4. Four of Vos' poems.
Even a cursory review of this volume increases one's amazement at Vos' rather unassuming career. HOW? One explanation is that Vos only lectured outside the Princeton campus ONE time after accepting his teaching post there. He simply was not the churchman we would have expected, and as a result his influence was confined to his (often prominent) students and his readers.
P & R has done a really outstanding job packaging this book, as well.
The first is biographical. Dennison has complied what is the most thorough biography written of Vos, in a mere 73 pages. The fact is that Vos preferred to stay in the background and rarely, if ever, sought publicity for himself. Additionally, when requested of him, Vos only provided the most skeletal of biographical details. Dennison has thoroughly dug into the everything he could find in order to compile his biography, which is enriched by intermittent reflections on VOs at various stages of his life. I found this to be most interesting as Dennison works through the actions of Vos at the time of the reorganization of Princeton Seminary in 1929, when a number of faculty, many of whom were Vos' students, left Princeton to found Westminster Seminary. Vos chose to stay and Dennison sheds light on the rationale for Vos' decision.
The second section is bibliographical, with a listing of the publications of Vos in his lifetime, as well as things that were published posthumously , along with addition works titles about him and his work.
The third section is the letters. Approximately 75% of the published letters were written to just three correspondents: B.B. Warfield, Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck. In the letters we have an opportunity to see Vos in his own words, and it is a remarkable picture. His learning was extensive, yet he seeks to learn from others. He is cordial to a fault, and generous with his personal time as he shares life with others. He is also very committed to what might be called "old-school Calvinism," being highly sensitive and rightly suspicious of the winds of change blowing through Reformed theology of his day. I have no doubt that he would not be surprised by the downward spiral that has occurred into our day, and perhaps pleased at the glimmers of hope for the future, through such things as the recent publication of Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics in English.
The final section contains a few of Vos' poetry. Fluent as a scholar in nine languages Vos wrote poetry throughout his career and his retirement. It was primarily for his own enjoyment and to share with a few friends. Frankly, I "don't get" poetry but I did enjoy the few pieces included in this volume.
Vos is a giant of biblical theology from a Reformed perspective. This book provides a clearer picture of the man and the mind behind his writing. I highly recommend it.
The Letters of Geerhardus Vos was a satisfying read. Condensed into 274 pages flows a biographical tale of a theologian who struggled to navigate the waters between his theological Dutch roots and new life in America. From his early days at Princeton with the Hodge's and Warfield to developing the field of Biblical Theology Vos's Letters in an engaging read from beginning to end.
I appreciate being able to see and come to identify with a man in whom I had perceived to be somewhat academically ethereal in relation to myself. That still maybe true but I saw a man with flaws and who struggled over many things. I enjoyed watching him struggle over Kuyper's view of baptismal regeneration and never being able to decide on the matter himself. That's Vos struggling there! It was fascinating to read, in one particular letter, Vos referring to the covenant of works as "so called." He shunned popularity and charged toward humility. Finally, it is interesting that his Biblical Theology of protology and eschatology never really caught on in the churches until students such as Dr. Richard Gaffin and a few others ran with it; to which I give many thanks.
The Letters of Geerhardus Vos begins with biography and ends with letters from Vos to various friends including: Bavink, Warfield, Kuyper, and Machen. Nothing in this book disappoints except the length. I simply wanted more.