Geerhardus Vos: Professor at the Theological School in Grand Rapids

Danny E. Olinger

After visiting Herman Bavinck in Kampen for one last time, Geerhardus Vos left Holland for America on May 19, 1888. Three weeks later, he was in Michigan meeting with the Curatorium (Board of Trustees) of the Theological School in Grand Rapids. Vos asked for the meeting with the Curatorium in order to request two modifications of the terms of his teaching position at the school. His first request was that he would not start teaching until September. The second was that the requirement that he preach weekly be waived. The Curatorium granted both pleas.[1]

Two and a half months later, on the morning of Tuesday, September 4, 1888, Vos’s installation as Professor of Didactic and Exegetical Theology took place at the Spring Street Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. His father, Jan, pastor of the Spring Street Church and a member of the Curatorium, delivered the charge from 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (KJV).[2]

The Prospects of American Theology

Later that evening Vos returned to the Spring Street Church to deliver his inaugural address, “The Prospects of American Theology.” In the address Vos introduced many of the biblical themes that would mark his teaching ministry over the next forty-four years. These themes included a confidence in the Word of God, an understanding of the organic nature of the Word of God, and a belief that what is most practical in the life of the believer is the cultivation of communion with the triune God.

Speaking in Dutch to an audience that in the main had emigrated from the Netherlands, Vos declared that in the homeland, religious motives permeated culture. In America, there was an interest in Christian philanthropy and missions, but religious questions remained secondary. He said, “It is not interest in things theological that propels the mighty machine of American life. The life of the church in its theoretical aspect is not the soil from which the tree of the whole of this modern culture draws its sap.”[3]

Rather than turn to God who has spoken in his Word regarding the issues of life, Americans employed a philosophy of “practical realism.” Vos questioned whether this philosophy, a worldview guided by the visible world experienced through the senses, was truly “practical.” For Vos, “practical realism” did not promote the most practical thing in life, the cultivation of communion with the unseen God. Further, “practical realism” did not have as its chief end the glory and enjoyment of God. Vos said: This [realism] does not know God and does not want to take him into account. It finds its point of departure, not in the Creator but in the creature, and does not acknowledge a higher authority than experience, which is given preeminence. It does not seek to make the creature subservient to God, but beginning with the creature and finding no way up from (the creature), ends theoretically as well as practically in idolizing the creature.[4]

Vos countered that theology, when connected to the church, had a richer content than the sum of the external things of this world. “When theology is anything,” Vos stated, it is a worldview taught by God that does not only involve the method of the expansion of Christendom, but that gives, although not exhaustive but nevertheless definite and absolutely certain, information about the meaning of heaven and earth, of life and death, and about all problems that torment the human heart and the human mind.[5]

In Vos’s judgment a lack of confidence in truthfulness of the Word of God had led to the dismissal of theology in America Christianity. He wrote:

We must confess with shame that the deepest cause of that lack of esteem for dogma and theology that we lament in American Christianity, is a lack of self-confidence, of trust in the veracity of our God and his infallible revelation. If we believed it, we would think more and with greater liking, and maintain the thoughts of God over against the thoughts of the world.[6]

Vos further stated that the unseen God who had revealed himself in his Word was also the sovereign God who directed history. God knows the beginning from the end, and the Scripture reflects this reality. His acts and thoughts are related like links in a chain. Picking up or letting go of one link is picking up or letting go of the entire chain. Any proper approach to the Word of God must recognize both his sovereign control and the Word’s historical coherence.

In conclusion Vos echoed Abraham Kuyper and declared that if the concept of freedom were to undergird American life, then the principles of Calvinism must be central. Affinity [exists] between our Reformed doctrine and the concept of freedom that undergirds our national life. Calvinism must, by virtue of its principia, become the origin of civil liberty wherever its influence extends. Precisely because it places all creatures on a level field of dependence and smallness at the feet of the sovereign God, it cannot tolerate despotic governments, whose power has not come down from God and is not exercised in conformity with the Word of God. The more deeply one understands the sovereignty of God and absorbs its delights, the more proudly one will hold high one’s ransomed head, not only in the church of God, but also in the assembly of the country’s citizens.[7]

Vos admonished his listeners to go forward in American society with confidence in the Word of God and the leading of the Spirit. The witness of the Holy Spirit to the Scriptures, through which God validates to our souls as certain and authentic that which he says in his Word concerning his Word—that is the starting point of our theology, her unprovable, self-evident principium, the rock on which she builds.[8]

Theological School in Grand Rapids

Vos’s appointment at the age of twenty-six to the faculty of the Theological School in Grand Rapids marked a new day for the institution. He was the first professor with an advanced academic degree. He was also the first professor to teach selected courses in English. The original terms of the call also required him to preach once a month in English at the Christian Reformed Church of Le Grave Avenue in Grand Rapids. However, Vos was relieved of this duty with the arrival and installation of the Rev. J. Y. De Baun at the Le Grave Avenue Church.[9]

Vos’s salary for teaching was $1,300 per year. The school year ran from September to June and classes met Monday through Saturday with Sunday being the only day off. By 1888 the student body had grown to over forty men, and Vos’s workload was extreme. Depending on the semester, he spent twenty-three hours to twenty-five hours a week in classroom instruction.

Still, a greater problem than the workload might have been how to teach students who were so limited academically. That the school required students to enter the Literary Department, also named the Preparatory Department, before their promotion to the Theological Department was a tacit acknowledgement that remedial education was needed. The Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in the State of Michigan described the situation at the Theological School. The institution is virtually a theological seminary. But recognizing the fact that many of the young men who attend here had little or no literary advantage, there is a literary course of four years, including such studies taught in our high schools and colleges as seem most essential to theological work.[10]

Vos’s responsibilities as a professor were in the three-year Theology Department. Among the courses and topics that he taught were antiquities, biblical geography, biblical history, Hebrew, history of dogmatics, history of religions, symbolics, hermeneutics, homiletics, natural theology, history of dogmatics, and introduction to dogmatics.

For his lectures in dogmatics, Vos did not translate Francis Turretin’s Elenctic Theology or John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion from the Latin or Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology from English. Instead, Vos developed original lectures that totaled 1,892 handwritten pages. The lectures were published in handwritten Dutch in 1896, then typeset in Dutch in 1910 into a five-volume set. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., with the help of others, translated and edited the 1896 version into a five-volume English set.[11]

In his Dogmatics, Vos quoted Calvin more than any other theologian, but, as Gaffin noted, Vos demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the Reformed dogmatic tradition throughout, particularly from the seventeenth century. Gaffin also took interest in any changes in Vos’s positions from his Dogmatics to his later redemptive-historical writings. As an example, Gaffin noted that in the Dogmatics, Vos cited Romans 1:4 as a proof text for the deity of Christ. In his 1912 article, “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit,” Vos argued that Romans 1:4 referred to the transformation of the incarnate Christ by the Holy Spirit in his resurrection.[12]

Still, Gaffin concluded that, when one explores the relationship between the teaching of the early Vos in the Dogmatics and the biblical-theological teaching of later Vos, “the end result will confirm a deep, pervasive and cordial continuity between his work in systematic theology and in biblical theology.”[13] The volume that captured Gaffin’s interest in this regard was Vos’s final one in the Dogmatics on ecclesiology, the means of grace, and eschatology. Gaffin wrote that there was in Vos’s treatment of eschatology 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.[14]

Two examples of Vos’s treatment of eschatology that would mark his later work were his definition of “eschatology” and his exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15:42–49 with respect to the resurrection body. In answer to the question, “What is contained in the term ‘eschatology’?” Vos wrote,

That history, in the course of which we are situated, will have a conclusion. It is not an endless process but a genuine history that ends in a definite goal and so has a boundary and limits. As it has a beginning, it will have an ending. That ending will come as a crisis, and everything that has to do with this crisis belongs to the “doctrine of the last things.”[15]

Although Vos would expand this definition over time, the philosophy of history that it embodied would mark his mature teaching.

In answer to the question regarding the resurrection body, Vos maintained that Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:42–49 taught that the pre-fall body of Adam was not the same as the resurrection body of believers. He said that for the body of believers two elements must be distinguished, that by which the body is distinguished from the body of sin and that by which the body is distinguished from the body that Adam had before the fall. “Paul teaches clearly that the image according to which the resurrection body is formed is not the image of the first but that of the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:49; Rom. 8:29). Believers receive a body that is not designed for the earth but for heaven, at least for the new earth in which righteousness dwells.”[16] The bodies of believers will be spiritual, glorious, powerful—heavenly bodies.

While Vos taught the students at the Theological School out of his handwritten Dogmatics, the Dutch theologians Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck were at work on producing new systematic theologies. Rather than seeking out a publisher to promote his own work before a larger audience, Vos sought the advancement and promotion of Kuyper’s Encyclopedia of Theology and Bavinck’s Dogmatics in English to an American audience. To do so, he entered into extended correspondence with Kuyper and Bavinck, and also with Benjamin B. Warfield of Princeton Seminary.

Reformed Dutch-American Connections: Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, and Benjamin Warfield

After declining Kuyper’s invitation to become Professor of Old Testament at the Free University in 1886, Vos wrote Kuyper that it was his quiet prayer that the Lord would use him in America as Kuyper’s warm friend and firm advocate.[17] Vos proved true to his word. This was evident in the fall of 1889 when the publisher of Kuyper’s Encyclopedia of Theology wrote Vos to see if he would be willing to translate the Dutch original of the book into English.

Vos then asked Warfield whether he thought an English translation of Kupyer’s Encyclopedia would find an audience in America. For Vos’s part, he indicated the volume could be of help in combating prevailing critical theories. I should think myself that it might prove helpful in dispelling many half-German ideas, which are afloat and of which those, who adopt and defend them do not realise the dangerous tendency simply because they have no clear and firm conviction on the fundamental questions of Christian truth and theology. I only need refer to the looser views on Inspiration, Biblical Theology and Criticism.[18]

Having heard back from Warfield, who presumably encouraged Vos to take on the translation project, Vos wrote Kuyper on February 1, 1890. He told Kuyper that he would be willing to translate his Encyclopedia into English, but that it would take him at least two years given the amount of translation to be done. Vos relayed that Warfield was interested in having Kuyper write for the newly formed Presbyterian and Reformed Review on recent theological thought or trends in Holland. Vos encouraged Kuyper to accept Warfield’s offer. He believed that it would make Kuyper’s name better known in America and help the sales of the Encyclopedia. Vos finished by expressing his desire one day to labor side-by-side with Kuyper, but for the time being his place was in Grand Rapids.[19]

The same day that Vos wrote Kuyper, he also wrote Bavinck. He repeated the main topics that he had discussed with Kuyper, but explained more fully why the Presbyterian and Reformed Review had been created by conservatives in the Presbyterian Church. The background was a difference of opinion among the editors of the former Presbyterian Review (whom Vos did not name as Warfield and Charles Briggs) over the proposed confessional revision of the Westminster Standards in the Presbyterian Church. Vos told Bavinck that he believed that behind the proposal was the attempt to change the teaching of Westminster in an Arminian direction, and his fear was that the right wing of the Presbyterian Church would put up with it.[20]

A little over a month later, Vos thanked Bavinck for his willingness to send Vos those recent books on Dutch theology that he deemed most significant. Vos wrote, “From afar it will be very difficult for me to keep track of the theological alliances and shifting.”[21] In revealing his personal closeness to Bavinck, Vos closed the letter, “Thanking you for the time being for your friendly trouble and with kindest regards also from my parents, to you and yours. Yours truly, your friend and brother in Christ, G. Vos.”[22]

Vos wrote Warfield in June to inform him that Kuyper was willing to write for the Review as long as he had more freedom in regard to the topics suggested. According to Vos, Kuyper thought the topics were unsuitable “in as much as he would either have to pass by in silence two orthodox movements or speak largely about himself.”[23] Proving ever to be the facilitator of the Reformed Dutch-American connection, Vos suggested that, if Warfield were looking for someone to take Kuyper’s place, he should consider Bavinck.[24]

A month later, Vos wrote Kuyper that Warfield was agreeable to a change of topic for his potential article for the Review. He updated Kuyper on the situation in the Presbyterian Church, in regard to the proposed confessional revision, but also informed Kuyper that the evil was spreading to more than the Presbyterian Church. In Vos’s judgment, the Reformed Church in America was also showing signs of theological liberalism. Knowing that he was entering into a delicate subject with Kuyper because of the church situation in the Netherlands, Vos acknowledged it was preferable for the Dutch-Americans to be joined in one Reformed church. Still, he believed the separated stance of the Christian Reformed Church was the only thing that could protect Dutch-Calvinists from washing away with the liberal current in America. The Dutch periodical De Roeper was mistaken in the notion that Freemasonry was the only point of difference between the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America. The issue was much deeper. Freemasonry was only the by-product of a larger theological decline. Vos then changed course and added the surprising statement, “The Reformed brethren in the Presbyterian Church have good courage and face the future with confidence.”[25]

At the beginning of August, Vos wrote Warfield that Bavinck was agreeable to writing for the Review.[26] After he received Kuyper’s article for the Review, Vos wrote Warfield again to let him know the subject matter and length of the article. Warfield believed Kuyper’s article was too long to publish in its entirety. Vos then wrote Kuyper with the news that Warfield thought that the article was too long.[27] Kuyper wrote back to Vos that it was impossible to condense the paper without doing great harm to the argumentation as a whole.

Vos then wrote Warfield and explained the bind that he was in regarding the translation of Kuyper’s article into English. The greatest reach for the article would be in the Review, but it could only appear there in amended form. Vos then offered to Warfield a way out of the difficulty and asked if the article could appear in two successive issues. Kuyper agreed with the suggestion.

The next week Vos updated Kuyper about the condition of his article. Warfield had responded that he was greatly pleased with the contents of the article and was doing all he could to have it appear in the July issue. Vos wrote, “Now I trust that Professor Warfield will do his best to get you an audience with the American Reformed people, and I hope that the Lord exerts an influence with your good words.”[28]

Vos then turned the discussion to theology and noted that he had read in De Herault where Kuyper’s views on infant baptism and supralapsarianism were receiving opposition in Dutch Reformed circles in America. Vos then indicated that he had the audacity to favor these positions in his own teaching. What Vos did not reveal to Kuyper was that Vos had become caught up in a theological controversy in Grand Rapids on both topics.

Doctrinal Controversy: Supralapsarianism

Lambert J. Hulst, editor of the theological journal De Wachter and a member of the Curatorium at the Theological School, objected to what he perceived was Vos’s endorsement of Kuyper’s supralapsarian viewpoint. At issue was the teaching of the doctrine of predestination. In arguing that the divine decree was for humanity prior to creation and the fall into sin, the supralapsarian exegesis that Kuyper advocated maintained that the sin of Adam was predestined and that God’s ultimate goal in election and reprobation was his own glory. The infralapsarian exegesis, which was thought to be the position of the 1618 Canons of Dordt, maintained that the object of predestination was humanity contemplated or considered as created and fallen; God decreed to create, decreed to permit the fall, and decreed to elect.

Hulst’s concern had arisen from Vos’s comments regarding Romans 9:23, “and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had prepared beforehand for glory” (NKJV). In exegeting that verse, Vos said: Calvin is certainly right when he thinks that here preparing and making ready do not refer to the actual leading and governing of men in the execution of God’s decree, but to the forming and preparing of the destiny of men in God’s decree itself. That is clearly reflected in “prepared beforehand for glory.” In His long-suffering God spares the reprobate, not only for those elect who have already been prepared in reality but also for those who do not yet exist in reality but nevertheless are prepared in God’s counsel.[29]

According to Vos, the infralapsarian explanation would not do justice to the words of Paul in this passage. The question Paul asked in Romans 9:20 was “Why have you made me thus?” (KJV). An infralapsarian understanding would have changed Paul’s question to, “Why, when I already was as I was, did you ordain me to this end?” Vos concluded that predestination in this text included God’s foreordination of everything by which man becomes what he becomes.[30]

Vos told Warfield that he was supralapsarian in the matter of predestination because of the exegesis of Romans 9 and Ephesians 1:3, but only in a moderate sense.[31] Vos also pointed out that the supralapsarian position was not condemned at Dordt. In order to condemn the supralapsarian position, infralapsarians would have to do something that they steadfastly refused to do, state positively what the purpose of God was in permitting sin.

Another reason for Vos’s moderation was that he believed the issue was not whether there was a temporal sequence in God’s decrees. Vos wrote, “If it was a matter of a temporal order it should have been called ante and postlapsarianism. The question would then have to be, ‘Do you believe in predestination before or after the decree of the fall?’ ”[32]

In the end, Vos sided with Calvin. In supralapsarian fashion, Calvin declared that God created man in order to redeem man, but at the same time, Calvin used language that did not openly alienate infralapsarians. Vos wrote, The truth is that sometimes [Calvin] expressed himself in one way and at other times in another. But while his infralapsarian-sounding expressions can be explained as partial a posteriori representations, it is impossible to give a minimizing sense to his decidedly supralapsarian statements.[33]

In his February 21, 1891, letter to Kuyper, in which Vos first brought up the issue for Kuyper’s counsel and help, Vos suggested the polemic against Kuyper’s view on supralapsarianism did not get to the heart of the issue. It was simply that Kuyper’s opponents thought that supralapsarianism was his weakest point confessionally. Vos wrote, “The stumbling blocks are the covenant view and baptismal view, which reckon with election, and are dominated by the Calvinistic principle. They will likely adhere to election, but only as something separate that may not influence and have a lasting effect on any other field.”[34] Vos concluded that this mindset was decidedly un-Reformed as the covenant was employed to render the doctrine of election harmless.

He then added, In our little church there is very little theological development. If the people are persuaded once for all that supralapsarianism is condemned by Dordt and that the disputed covenant and baptismal view is committed to supralapsarianism, then anything can be expected. But God still rules.[35]

Election, Covenant, and Baptism

In his February 12, 1891, letter to Warfield, Vos had hinted at what he thought was the real issue, the relationship among election, covenant, and baptism. Vos asked Warfield if Kuyper was correct in his belief that his (Kuyper’s) theory on infant baptism was the proper Calvinistic view.

Did the older theologians really mean that baptism in each case presupposes regeneration as an accomplished fact? I have never been able to make up my mind on this point, and still feel the necessity of having a more or less decided opinion in my teaching.[36]

Vos told Warfield there were those theologians who made baptism little more than a symbolic offer of the covenant on God’s side, that is, a presentation of the gospel instead of a seal of the gospel promise. Vos then added, “It seems to me that Dr. Kuyper approaches more or less to the Lutheran view of baptism, though of course with the necessary restrictions. I shall be very much obliged, if in a few words, you can let me know your opinion.”[37]

A month later, Vos thanked Warfield for sharing his views on infant baptism and sharing his notes on regeneration and conversion. He then wrote, “It seems to me that the subject is beset with great difficulties on every side. The Rev. Hulst, to whose remarks against Dr. Kuyper you made reference in your letter, and many others among us, work to cut the doctrine of election love from the covenant.”[38] The problem for Vos was that the position that Hulst represented wished to give baptism a significance independent of the presumption of election. Vos finished, “I have never been able to agree with this view. A statement, it seems to me, is more than a symbolic offer of the gospel, combined with the duty to accept.”[39]

Vos then reached out to Bavinck for help and advice in regard to the doctrine of the covenant of grace. He explained that the dualistic belief that placed covenant and election next to each other without any inner connection was prevalent among many Reformed believers in America. The covenant becomes a strengthened gospel offer. Election comes last, and functions like a second Amyraldian conclusion.[40] It also appears as if people are embarrassed to speak about covenant and election in the same sentence, and yet, it is in the covenant that the sovereign grace of God shines so clear. Vos said:

I always thought that the issue was as follows: the connection between covenant and election rests on this, that God in the offer of sanctifying grace generally follows the line of descent. That therefore being in the covenant still means more than living under an extraordinary solemn gospel offer or to carrying within one’s self a covenant offer. That this greater value exists is the presumption that one finds oneself within the circle or on the line of election, a presumption which rests on God’s promise, the God of you and your seed. That therefore adults, not born within the covenant, are admitted only on a reliable confession of saving faith. In the meantime, I do not want anyone to Labadistically[41] set himself up as a judge over someone’s (spiritual) state. I object to falsely leading someone to believe that historical faith only can make him right in the presence of God in the covenant.[42]

Vos then described to Bavinck his view of the relationship between the covenant and the sacraments. The sacraments seal the offer of the covenant from God’s side and make it a closed covenant. The content of the sealing is “in the presupposition that you are a true covenant child, the right of all the covenant blessings is sealed to you.” [43] He made clear, however, that he would distinguish between sealing that is “on the condition that” and “in the supposition that.” He explained, “The first sounds totally general and applicable anywhere. In this way, anywhere on the mission field the sacraments could accompany the external calling. The other, however, requires a well-founded presumption that one is talking about covenant children.”[44]

If, however, baptized children grew up and turned their back on the faith, it did not follow that they have nothing to do with the covenant. They will be treated and punished by the Lord as covenant-breakers insofar as they have been in the covenant.

Vos then immediately added that he had objections to the following situations. First, when the comfort of the covenant is lost because children who have been baptized stray from the faith; second, when emphasis of the covenant is sought solely in the duties and demands of the children; and, third, when the grace of regeneration is left outside the horizon of the covenant.[45]

Baptism, Vos continued, has to be viewed more penitently and include the positive promise of God that the seed of the faithful will beget a seed. If this were not the case, then there would be no logical ground to believe that the children of believers dying in infancy will be saved. Vos believed this was the consensus of Reformed theology up to the Synod of Dordt.

Vos then turned to a consideration of Kuyper’s thesis that baptized children must be presumed to be already regenerated. Rhetorically, Vos asked Bavinck, “That is found by many old writers, is it not? It seems to me that Dr. Kuyper goes too far when he recommends this as the accepted doctrine of the fathers.”[46]

Vos then objected to Kuyper’s view of specific baptismal grace. Scripture and the sacrament bring the same grace, but, Vos wrote, “I thought that with the Reformed, the working in baptism as a means of grace was always in close connection with its working as a seal for the religious life. Dr. Kuyper separates seal and means of grace very strongly.”[47]

Interested in Bavinck’s judgment, Vos asked if Bavinck believed that a connection existed between Kuyper’s two views: that baptized children must be presumed already to be regenerated, and that there is a specific baptismal grace that brings about mystical union with Christ. Did Bavinck believe that for Kuyper the latter position was the reason for the former?[48]

Vos then shifted to the relationship between the covenant of grace and the church. He wrote:

Does not the visible church, however pure or impure, have to be present everywhere the covenant of grace is? Is not this distinction one of the aids through which they seek to reconcile the catholic covenant of grace with a sectarian view of the church?[49]

Vos finished with a confession that he had doubts about the manner in which the Reformed movement was returning to the absolute inerrancy of Scripture. But, he said, every time he had those doubts he returned to the conviction that there is no other point of view possible, not even in general, for a Reformed person.


[1] James T. Dennison Jr. believes that both requests were related to poor health on Vos’s part. See, James T. Dennison Jr., “The Life of Geerhardus Vos,” in The Letters of Geerhardus Vos, ed. James T. Dennison Jr. (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2005), 25.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Geerhardus Vos, “The Prospects of American Theology,” trans. Ed. M. van der Maas in Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 20, no. 1 (May 2005): 15.

[4] Ibid., 22.

[5] Ibid., 24.

[6] Ibid., 25.

[7] Ibid., 38.

[8] Ibid., 46.

[9] Jacob G. Vanden Bosch, “Geerhardus Vos,” Reformed Journal 4, no. 10 (November 1954): 11.

[10] Fifty-Seventh Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Michigan with Accompanying Documents for the Year 1893 (Lansing, MI: Robert Smith, 1894), 355.

[11] Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, trans. and ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., et al., 5 vols. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2014–2016).

[12] Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Preface,” in Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3: Christology, trans. and ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. with Jonathan Pater, Allan Janssen, Harry Boonstra, and Roelof van Ijken (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), vi–vii.

[13] Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Preface,” in Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 5: Ecclesiology, the Means of Grace, Eschatology, trans. and ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. with Kim Batteau and Allan Janssen (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2016), viii.

[14] Ibid., vii.

[15] Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 5: Ecclesiology, The Means of Grace, Eschatology, trans. and ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. with Kim Batteau and Allan Janssen (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2016), 251.

[16] Ibid., 276.

[17] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Abraham Kuyper, October 7, 1886, in Dennison, Letters, 121.

[18] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Benjamin Warfield, October 22, 1889, in Dennison, Letters, 129.

[19] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Abraham Kuyper, February 1, 1890, in Dennison, Letters, 135. This is not to say, however, that Vos agreed with Kuyper on every subject. In writing to Warfield in early 1891, Vos expressed his reservations that Kuyper’s “presumptive regeneration” view was the proper Calvinistic position. See, Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Benjamin Warfield, February 12, 1891, in Dennison, Letters, 147.

[20] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Herman Bavinck, February 1, 1890, in Dennison, Letters, 132.

[21] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Herman Bavinck, March 4, 1890, in Dennison, Letters, 136.

[22] Ibid., 137.

[23] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Benjamin Warfield, June 13, 1890, in Dennison, Letters, 139.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Abraham Kuyper, July 12, 1890, in Dennison, Letters, 142.

[26] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Benjamin Warfield, August 5, 1890, in Dennison, Letters, 143.

[27] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Abraham Kuyper, October 27, 1890, in Dennison, Letters, 144.

[28] Ibid., 149.

[29] Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1: Theology Proper, trans. and ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2014), 128.

[30] In his February 21, 1891, letter to Kuyper, Vos had asked rhetorically, “Is not Romans 9:19–23 supralapsarian? From the explanation that the parables contain things hidden from the foundation of the world, does it draw a conclusion for supralapsarianism?” Dennison, Letters, 150.

[31] Letter, Vos to Warfield, July 7, 1891, in Dennison, Letters, 162. It is interesting to note that Vos in his correspondence interacted primarily with Kuyper and Warfield about supralapsarianism, and not Bavinck. Although Bavinck saw strengths and weaknesses with both views, he said (in playing off of 1 Corinthians 15:46), “The entire creation, including that of man, was infralapsarian; the natural is first, then the spiritual.” Herman Bavinck, “The Covenant of Works,” trans. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. in Creator Redeemer Consummator: A Festschrift for Meredith G. Kline, Howard Griffiths and John R. Muether, eds. (Jackson, MS: Reformed Academic, 2000), 170.

[32] Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, 143.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Benjamin Warfield, February 12, 1891, in Dennison, Letters, 147.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Benjamin Warfield, March 12, 1891, in Dennison, Letters, 152.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Named after Moise Amyraut (1596–1664), a French theologian at the Academy of Saumur, Amyraldianism taught a hypothetical redemption. It placed divine election after the decree to atone. Thus, Christ died universally for all, but salvation extends only to those who have faith.

[41] Vos referred here to Jean de Labadie (1610–1674), a Jesuit convert to the Reformed Faith who led a Pietist movement in the Netherlands.

[42] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to Herman Bavinck, May 13, 1891, in Dennison, Letters, 154.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid., 154–55.

[45] Ibid., 155.

[46] Ibid., 156.

[47] Ibid., 156.

[48] Ibid., 156.

[49] Ibid., 157.

Danny E. Olinger is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as the General Secretary of the Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Ordained Servant Online, December 2016.

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