Book Review

[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 50-52]

Danny E. Olinger, ed., A Geerhardus Vos Anthology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005. 375 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-87552-618-7. $19.99.

I don't like anthologies. I still remember the time that I bought Bartlett's Familiar Quotations with the anticipation that I could use some of the sayings to spice up my sermons and add color to my everyday conversations. I was supremely disappointed. I found the quotes to be far too short and randomly chosen to be of much value. Therefore, when I was asked to review this anthology, I was not too excited. I envisioned the same type of problem all over again. I have read most of Vos's larger works and realize that his argumentation is not easy to summarize into short pithy sayings, much less into clear communication of his thought. I was expecting a quote such as "In so far as the covenant of works posited for mankind an absolute goal and unchangeable future, the eschatological may be even said to have preceded the soteric religion" (The Pauline Eschatology, p. 325). Now, to those who have studied Vos this is a very perceptive saying. But to those who don't know the larger corpus, undoubtedly it would be rather meaningless.

However, I have found this anthology to be quite different from others. This is a very good book. There are several reasons for this. First, the introduction to the book is not a typical introduction. It presents the works of Vos in their historic ordering telling of the difficulty he had in getting them recognized, read, and understood. It was really his famous students, Stonehouse, Murray, and Van Til, who brought them to light. In the development of the introduction, there is a perceptive understanding of his teaching woven into the history. Don't skip the introduction!

Secondly, the quotations are of sufficient length to give you a good idea of the flow of his thought. In addition to that, under the topical heads there are a number of quotes put together in such a way that they develop the thought of that topic. This is very helpful in understanding Vos's concepts.

Thirdly, Mr. Olinger has done us a great favor in choosing quotations that express Vos's thought without using the more obfuscated language for which he is often known. There is a reason his books are not on the most popular lists. His ideas are magisterial. His writing style leaves something to be desired. However, in reading through this anthology you would never suspect his deficiencies. Well done, Danny!

Fourth, all of the quotations indicate the source from which they have been extracted in the full corpus of his writings. Therefore, it is possible when a particular saying intrigues you, to go to the fuller statement and learn more.

So, there you are. I am not going to enter into a long discussion of the various topics. They are many and all worth reading. But I want you to buy the book. It is too inexpensive and valuable to leave it on the shelves of P & R. Buy it. Put it on the table next to your favorite easy chair. Pick it up and read a section while you sit there. Meditate on what he is saying. You will be the richer for it. And, by the way, buy at least three copies so that you have two to give away to your friends.

J. Peter Vosteen