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Today in Church History

August 13

Geerhardus Vos

On August 13, 1949, Geerhardus Vos died in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

After a brief tenure at Calvin Seminary, Vos was Professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary for nearly 40 years, where he taught most of the founding faculty of Westminster Seminary. Unlike his Princeton colleagues, Vos labored in relative obscurity. Charles Dennison wrote:

His Princeton years (1893-1932) had to be a disappointment to some. If they expected a man capable of hand-to-hand theological combat, what they received was a quiet, peaceful, even private man. He was more of an Isaac than an Abraham. A theologian's theologian, hardly an aggressive spokesman for the cause, hardly energetically engaged in the courts of the church, Vos spent his time out of the limelight in class preparation and in extensive reading and writing. The bibliography of his writings covers thirteen pages and it reveals a different sort of Christian soldier in the battle for Reformed orthodoxy. In Vos, we are face-to-face with a theological intelligence effort. He studied the enemies' movements so thoroughly that he was able to anticipate them. This is especially evident in the way he was answering Albert Schweitzer even before Schweitzer was publishing his most influential works. Positively, Vos remained a theologian capable of making even Murray and Van Til stretch.

In retirement, Vos fell into even greater obscurity. Moving first to Southern California and then to Grand Rapids, Vos devoted the last years of his life to writing poetry. The handful of attendees at his funeral in Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania included no representatives from Princeton Seminary. After his death, with the republication of many of his books, including Biblical Theology, there has developed a resurgence of interest in Vos within the OPC and beyond.

- John Muether

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