Thursday, March 30, 2023

Natural Theology by Geerhardus Vos

Reformation Heritage Books, 2022, 106pp
Gerhardus Vos will be know to readers of this blog for his famous work, Biblical Theology, published by the Banner of Truth Trust. Vos served as Professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1892 until his retirement in 1932. His main interest during that period was in tracing the redemptive-historical flow of the Bible’s big story. Prior to that he taught at the Theological School at Grand Rapids, where among other things Vos lectured on dogmatics and natural theology.
It is commonplace to say that God has two books in which he has revealed himself; the ‘Book of Nature’ and the ‘Book of Scripture’. The task of natural theology is trace what can be seen of God’s self-revelation in the created order. In a useful introduction to the work under review John V. Fesko places Vos’s contribution to the field of natural theology in the context of Reformed thought. John Calvin and his fellow Reformers drew on the teaching of earlier theologians to emphasise that while God reveals his existence to all in nature (Romans 1:19-20), natural revelation cannot give saving knowledge to sinners. Fesko argues of Cornelius Van Til’s negative attitude towards natural theology was a departure from the mainstream Reformed teaching as represented by Vos.
The main body of the work is drawn from notes made on Vos’s lectures on natural theology by his students at Grand Rapids. His lectures would follow and question and answer format. This is retained in the text. But what may have been an effective means of communication in the lecture hall does not work quite so well on the printed page. The Q&A approach makes it more difficult for the reader to follow the overall drift of Vos’s argument and a sense of momentum is lost.
That said, there are good things here. Vos gives attention to the meaning of natural theology. He discusses the strengths and weaknesses of arguments for the existence of God. The Professor interacts with older and more modern objections to arguments for God’s existence, many of which are still doing the rounds today.
*Reviewed for the Banner of Truth Magazine, 

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