A Glimpse of the Foundational Thoughts of an Important Theologian

Imagine if you could peer inside the mind of a young theologian, before he penned his most influential works. What would we find? Would his later works be illuminated further by an understanding of his foundational thoughts? What connections could you draw between these two periods? For Geerhardus Vos, the “Father of Reformed Theology,” we now have a chance to address these “what if” questions.

With the release of the final volume of Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics, English readers can explore the relationship between Vos’ early thought and his subsequent work in biblical theology. Whatever differences such comparisons may bring to light, the end result will confirm a deep, pervasive and cordial continuity between his work in systematic theology and in biblical theology.

From the preface to Volume Five, Richard B. Gaffin Jr. lays out some of those comparisons:

The relative distribution of attention to the topics treated in this volume is striking and will likely be surprising to many familiar with Vos’ interest in eschatology prominent in his later work in biblical theology. Here less than one-fifth of the whole is devoted to eschatology, the rest to the church and the means of grace. Approximately 60 percent more attention is given to baptism alone than to eschatology, and only slightly less attention given to the Lord’s Supper than to eschatology. Still, in this treatment of eschatology we find a clear recognition of the two-age construct, including the present interadvental overlapping of this age and the age to come, and the structural importance of this construct for biblical eschatology as a whole—an insight that he subsequently develops so magisterially in works like The Pauline Eschatology. The in-depth discussion of the church and of the sacraments will repay careful reading in any number of places. Even those who disagree at points—say, in the case made for infant baptism—will be stimulated by the challenge to their own thinking.

As noted in the preface to Volume One, the Reformed Dogmatics does not include a section on introduction (prolegomena) to systematic theology. In that regard, the answer to question 11 in part two, chapter three in this volume, “In how many senses can the expression ‘the word of God’ be understood?,” warrants careful consideration not only in its own right but also because it provides an indication of key elements that surely would have marked Vos’ formal treatment of the doctrines of special revelation and Scripture.

Prior to the release of Volume Three, we had a chance to interview Gaffin about this translation project, it’s importance, and Vos’ legacy:

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This foundational work in systematic theology has been brought into the modern era. The print edition of the fifth volume will be available next week for those of you who have purchased the first four volumes for your library. Don’t miss this important piece of biblical theology—get it today!

Written by
Jake Mailhot

Jake Mailhot is the product manager for Lexham Press. He also writes about baseball and lives in Bellingham, WA.

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