The Scholastic Epistemology of Geerhardus Vos

J. V. Fesko
Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology
Westminster Seminary California

In a small recess of the twentieth-century Reformed tradition some disciples of apologist Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987) have claimed that the father of presuppositional apologetics founded his unique program on the biblical theological insights of Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949), particularly his epistemology. Despite the popularity of the claim, the recent publication of Vos’s Reformed Dogmatics presents counter-evidence. In particular, Vos employs the traditional scholastic distinction between pure and mixed articles. The presence of this scholastic distinction challenges the claim that Vos and Van Til had the same Christ-focused epistemology. This essay presents the thesis that Vos’s use of the pure-mixed articles distinction disproves that Van Til and Vos had the same view of epistemology. This essay demonstrates that Vos stood with historic Reformed Orthodox theology by using this traditional scholastic distinction and shows evidence that he was comfortable with a broadly Thomistic realistic epistemology. The implicit argument is that by rejecting the distinction, Van Til moved away from classic Reformed theology on these particular points.

To prove this thesis, the essay proceeds first with an examination of the claims regarding the Vosian Van Til. The second section surveys the basic points of the scholastic distinction as it comes from Peter Lombard (1100-1160) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-74). Third, the essay explores Vos’s use of the distinction and attempts to identify its proximate source. If the distinction was common to Lombard and Aquinas, did Vos learn it directly from these medieval theologians? Did he learn it from his theological text book when he studied at the Theological School in Grand Rapids (now Calvin Theological Seminary)? Or did he acquire the distinction from his reading of early modern Reformed Orthodox theological works? Fourth, the essay asks the question, What are the implications of a scholastic Vos? Or more specifically, what difference does it make that Vos employed this scholastic distinction? Fifth, the essay concludes with some summary observations.

The Vosian Van Til?

Lane Tipton writes in the foreword of William Dennison’s Defense of the Eschaton, “The theology of Geerhardus Vos and the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til stand out in the twentieth century as the purest antidotes for the destructive methodologies of modern philosophy and theology.”[1] Tipton claims that Vos’s biblical theology with its formulation of a supernatural, progressive and organic view of special revelation stands over and against modern notions of a higher-critical biblical theology. According to Tipton, Van Til similarly starts his apologetic method with the ontological trinity and a comprehensive view of covenantal history, general and special, over and against all other forms of non-Christian views of life.[2] Tipton argues that Vos and Van Til do not repristinate the Reformed tradition as they engage new modern threats, but “not a shred of the older theology is abandoned.” He claims that in Van Til and Vos the older theology develops in a richer way as a result of their critical engagement with those whose presuppositions and methods would seek to destroy the older theology.[3] In his review of Dennison’s book, Danny Olinger believes that Dennison successfully argues his case for the symbiotic relationship between Vos and Van Til.[4]

I acknowledge that Vos influenced Van Til. With Van Til’s biographer, I agree that Vos may have provided Van Til with the necessary tools to understand both redemptive history and the history of Western philosophy.[5] It was particularly Vos’s doctrine of the covenants that was influential on Van Til.[6] Through this Vosian covenantal lens, Van Til believed that one was epistemologically united to one of two federal heads, Immanuel Kant or Christ.[7] Admitting Vos’s general influence on Van Til is unproblematic. There is sufficient documentation to support the general claim.[8] But beyond the simple claim, what proponents of the “Vos influenced Van Til thesis” have not yet asked is where the precise continuities and discontinuities lie between the theologian and the apologist. In particular, Tipton asserts that both were faithful to the older theology without abandoning a shred of it in the face of contemporary challenges. Does Tipton’s statement withstand scrutiny?

One of the key claims by Van Tillians is that Van Til recognized the interpretive nature of all apologetical evidence. Van Til rejected all forms of natural theology and replaced it with a “confessional, biblical apologetic method.” One Van Tillian connects the medieval concept of pure and mixed articles to the natural theology that Van Til rejected.[9] According to Dennison, Van Til embraced John Calvin’s (1509-64) theology rather than that of Aquinas. Aquinas supposedly tried to show the unbeliever that the Christian story accorded with logic and fact, whereas Calvin demonstrated that logic and fact only have meaning within the context of the story. Thus, Van Til “made a final appeal that ‘following Calvin rather than Aquinas, we may today point out that in all history of thought, except that which is based upon the Christian story, man cannot identify himself.’” In other words, a person must function within the Christian story of Scripture “in order to have a true epistemology.”[10] This is supposedly the profound Vosian insight that Van Til learned from his former professor. Yet, whatever general truth there might be to the claims regarding Vos’s influence on Van Til, those who argue this connection do not account for the scholastic elements in Vos’s theology that the recent publication of his Reformed Dogmatics bring to light.

Vos employed the distinction between pure and mixed articles in his doctrine of creation, a theological distinction that owes its origins to Lombard and was adopted by Aquinas.[11] In brief, articuli puri / mixti derive their origins from the disciplines of theology and philosophy. Those articles derived from theology alone are “pure,” and those that originate from both philosophy and theology are mixed.[12] The idea that stands behind these terms is that human beings acquire some knowledge of God through the use of reason and other knowledge exclusively from special revelation. In other words, this set of terms requires that a theologian define the precise relationship between philosophy and theology. In short, to admit mixed articles means that one employs some form of natural theology. If one rejects mixed articles, then he must rest all of his theological claims about God exclusively on Scripture. This naturally has implications for one’s epistemology, or the doctrine of how and what a person can know about God.

In Dennison’s analysis, Vos and Van Til both affirm a purely biblical epistemology:

Following Vos, Van Til places epistemology where it truly belongs, within the eschatological status of history: either one is a member of the kingdom of God, with the knowledge of the truth (grounded in the triune God of the Bible), or one is a member of the kingdom of Satan, with the knowledge of a life (grounded in the deception of Satan). In redemptive history, there is no other ground for human knowledge. One either stands with Christ as the source of all knowledge or against him.[13]

To say the least, Vos’s use of pure and mixed articles presents a significant obstacle to Dennison’s argument. If Vos had a “bug,” to borrow a term from how Scott Oliphint characterizes Herman Bavinck’s (1854-1921) Thomistic epistemology, then how closely did Van Til actually follow Vos?[14] It seems like Vos’s use of the scholastic distinction undermines the claim of Van Til’s supposed Vosian epistemology.

Lombard and Aquinas on Pure and Mixed Articles

Before we turn to examine Vos’s use of the distinction, it is necessary briefly to explore the origins of mixed and pure articles from Lombard and Aquinas.

Peter Lombard

In his discussion on whether God can be known through the creation, Lombard appeals to the apostle Paul’s famous statement in Romans 1:20 regarding the natural knowledge of God. He concludes that man can know God through the creation because nature and God’s works are both manifest to man.[15] Based on statements from Ambrose (337-97) and Augustine (354-430), Lombard notes that these ancient authorities come to similar conclusions.[16] Through the creation there are even vestiges of the trinity in creatures, a point first famously promoted by Augustine.[17] Lombard believes that “the image of the Trinity in some measure is revealed in creatures.”[18] Nevertheless, he qualifies the statement:

But a sufficient knowledge of the Trinity cannot and could not be had by a contemplation of creatures, without the revelation of doctrine or inner inspiration. So it was that those ancient philosophers saw the truth as if through a shadow and from a distance, lacking in insight into the Trinity, as was the case with Pharaoh’s magicians in the third plague. And yet we are aided in our faith in invisible things through those things which were made.[19]

It is one thing to claim that one sees a shadow of the trinity versus claiming that he has complete knowledge of the triune God. Lombard does not use the specific terms, but the distinction between what can be known through reason’s contemplation of natural revelation versus special revelation lies clearly in view. That is, this is the specific concept addressed by the terms pure and mixed articles.

Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas first raises the issue in his prolegomena when he asks whether theologians can demonstrate the existence of God. He writes: “The existence of God and other like truths about God, which can be known by natural reason, are not articles of faith, but are preambles to the articles; for faith presupposes natural knowledge, even as grace presupposes nature, and perfection supposes something that can be perfected.”[20] He makes a similar point when he asks the question of whether sacred doctrine is a matter of argument. He answers the objection of whether sacred doctrine should rest on the authority of reason:

Since grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it, natural reason should minister to faith as the natural bent of the will ministers to charity. Hence the Apostle says: ‘Bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5). Hence sacred doctrine makes use also of the authority of philosophers in those questions in which they were able to know the truth by natural reason, as Paul quotes a saying of Aratus: ‘As some also of your own poets said: For we are also His offspring’ (Acts 17:28). Nevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets, who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such are) made to the other doctors.[21]

Aquinas does not invoke the specific terms, as they were a later development, but he nevertheless employs the ideas that we know some truths by reason and others by revelation. He draws this distinction from Scripture and the example of Paul at the Areopagus in the book of Acts. Arguments derived from reason are probable but incontrovertible arguments come from Scripture.

Aquinas employs the concept again when he discusses the same question as Lombard in his Summa Theologica: “Whether the Trinity of the Divine Persons Can be Known by Natural Reason?”[22] With Lombard Aquinas opines: “It is impossible to attain to the knowledge of the Trinity by natural reason.” By natural reason humans can only know that God is the principle of all things. The divine power to create is common to the whole trinity and thus does not reveal the distinction of persons among the godhead. Whoever tries to prove the existence of the trinity from natural reason fails on two fronts. First, he fails to acknowledge the dignity of faith, which is concerned with invisible things and exceeds the abilities of human reason. Second, if one tries to prove the triunity of God from natural reason in his efforts to persuade unbelievers, he exposes the Christian faith to ridicule because of the argument’s lack of cogency. In other words, trying to prove the trinity from natural reason is the fool’s errand. We cannot prove what is of faith and can only be received by authority.[23] Aquinas does not invoke the terms, but he has the concept of pure and mixed articles in view in his discussion of whether natural reason can prove the existence of God as a part of the preambula fidei or the trinity. The doctrine of the trinity is a pure article whereas God’s existence is a mixed article.

Subsequent Reformed Reception of Pure and Mixed Articles

Despite the popular belief that Reformed theologians scuttled all medieval theology, there are numerous points of continuity between medieval, Reformation, and post-Reformation theology. One such point of continuity lies in the concept and specific terms of pure and mixed articles. Early modern Reformed theologians acknowledged the instrumental use of reason in theology. That is, rational truths in theological arguments lead to the distinction between pure and mixed articles. Because the truths of theology and philosophy do not contradict one another, one can make propositions that include language and concepts from both disciplines. The fact that statements about the distinct persons of the godhead deals with the question of whether they are truly or only rationally distinct from the essence of God raised the need for theologians to establish the rules for the use of philosophy in theology.[24] This means that a majority of Reformed Orthodox theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries employed the distinction to guard the line between natural and special revelation, particularly as it pertained to the doctrine of the trinity.[25]

Francis Turretin (1623-87), for example, explains that in mixed syllogisms (where one proposition is from faith and the other from reason), reason is not the basis and rule upon which the conclusion rests but only a means and instrument to arrive at the truth. This means that mixed syllogisms rest on the authority of Scripture, not reason.[26] Thus even philosophy could contribute to a proof in the argument of a mixed article. The philosophical element of the mixed article only confirms and elucidates the truth of a doctrine, it does not establish it.[27]

According to Johannes Heidegger (1633-98), reason had a fourfold function with mixed articles. Reason:[28]

  1. Attempts to understand the content of revelation. We receive the word of God in both our hearts and minds.
  2. Defends principles of faith by showing that there are no logical contradictions and refuting the errors created by perverted reason. He aimed this use of reason against other religions such as Judaism and Islam. He traces this aspect from Aquinas to others in his own day such as Hugo Grotius (1583-1645).
  3. Draws conclusions from revealed principles to confirm one’s faith and salvation from a rational point of view. The apostle Paul used reason in this manner in Acts 14 and 17.
  4. Judges simple things used in the articulation of doctrine, such as natural words and concepts (“man,” “body”) and the construction of propositions from these simple terms. Heidegger illustrates the point with the simple terms of “God” and “blood” and explains that only faith comprehends what Luke states in Acts 20:28, “God acquired the church by his own blood.”

Heidegger then gives a fourfold function of reason in the explication of pure articles. Reason:

  1. Receives God’s revelation—only the spiritual person can do this (1 Cor. 2:24).
  2. Is the instrument of judgment in doctrine concerning what is true and false. This judgment operates according to the rules of good and necessary consequence. The light of Scripture and regenerate reason are necessary to reach correct conclusions.
  3. Formulates doctrine through all means of knowledge: grammar, logic, rhetoric, ethics, mathematics, physics, and metaphysics.
  4. Compares the Old and New Testaments, supernatural and natural revelation, one doctrine with another, and argument with argument.

Heidegger and other Reformed Orthodox theologians therefore made extensive use of the concept of pure and mixed articles to delineate the precise relationship between faith and reason or theology and philosophy and the boundaries of their respective fields of knowledge. Heidegger was not alone as similar arguments appear in Turretin, Bartholomaüs Keckerman (ca. 1572-1609), Johannes Alsted (1588-1638), Leonhard Rijsen (ca. 1636-1700), Bernardinus de Moor (1709-80), and Richard Baxter (1615-91).[29]

The distinction was widely used among Reformed Orthodox theologians both in the exposition of doctrine and also in the defense of the faith. Turretin noted, “Although reason is not the principle of faith, it does not follow that atheists cannot be converted. The manner of dealing with them can be either theological (by arguments founded on Scripture) or philosophical, so that by the principles of reason the prejudices against the Christian religion are drawn from corrupt reason may be removed.”[30] But despite the distinction’s widespread use among Reformed theologians, not all have viewed this development in a positive light. Paul Tillich (1886-1965) attributes the rise of rationalism and the Enlightenment to the use of the pure-mixed distinction. He believed the distinction’s use was the final victory of philosophy within theology. The Protestant agreement with Aquinas created the substructure of reason and a superstructure of revelation. But what developed was that mixed articles became rationally unmixed and the “substructure of rational theology dispossessed the superstructure of revelation, drawing it into itself and taking away its meaning.”[31] As common as this assessment was among nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians and theologians, the use of the concept among medieval and Reformed Orthodox theologians tells a different story.

Vos on Pure and Mixed Articles

In the first volume of his Reformed Dogmatics Vos treats the doctrine of creation in his sixth chapter. Vos asks a series of questions: What is creation? How do theologians divide the external works of God? Where does the doctrine of miracles belong? In the fourth question Vos poses the following: “Is the doctrine of creation an articulus purus [pure article] or an articulus mixtus [mixed article]?”[32] Vos provides his answer by first explaining his use of terms. Pure articles “are those that cannot be derived both from reason and from revelation but depend entirely on revelation.” Mixed articles, on the other hand, “flow from both reason and revelation.” With his terms defined, Vos zeroes-in on the specific nature of his question: “Whether creation can be proven by reason.” Some have tried to answer the question by starting with the concept of God. God could not have remained enclosed within himself because he needed a world to love. Vos rejects this argument because it would deny God’s aseity. He counters that one can reason from the world up to God, but we cannot descend from God to the world by “logic,” that is, by reason alone. Human reason alone will eventually run out of road and conclude that the creation is mysterious and unique but cannot determine that it arose ex nihilo. Thus, Vos concludes that creation ex nihilo is a pure article; we learn of it solely from special revelation. Vos qualifies his answer, however, by specifying that creatio ex nihilo is a pure article, not the general idea of God’s creation of the universe.[33] Vos then proceeds to explain the doctrine of creation from Scripture, chiefly Genesis 1 and 2.[34]

As Vos treats the doctrine of creation he unhesitatingly invokes the scholastic category and only with brief explanation. He mentions nothing of pure and mixed articles in his prolegomena, which is a scant two-page chapter where he addresses the topic of the “knowability of God.” Under this brief chapter Vos defends the idea that God can be known but that it is an incomplete knowledge because of his infinite being and hence we can only give a description of God.[35] Our knowledge of God is incomplete but nevertheless true. God alone, argues Vos, possesses the ideal knowledge of himself. We can know God because he has made us in his image and because we are spirit and possess the necessary faculties.[36] This short treatment of the knowledge about God follows the classic Reformed categories of archetypal and ectypal theology, though Vos does not invoke the terms.[37] Nevertheless, Vos does not address the question of pure and mixed articles. But their omission in his fragmentary prolegomena and their subsequent seamless use under his treatment of creation signals that Vos thought they were legitimate categories, which he employed in his theology. In fact, Vos and Aquinas employ the distinction in the same way. Aquinas argues that the knowledge of creatio ex nihilo is an article of faith, hence a pure article: “The newness of the world is known only by revelation; and therefore it cannot be proved demonstratively.” One cannot ascend to the first cause (God) to prove that the world had a beginning because he cannot investigate the divine will; we can only investigate the divine will if it is manifested by revelation. “Hence,” writes Aquinas, “that the world began to exist is an object of faith, but not of demonstration or science.”[38]

Vos’s use of the mixed-pure articles distinction has its ultimate source medieval theologians like Aquinas and Lombard but he leaves no indicators that he read or had knowledge of Lombard’s Sentences. So, the pressing question is, What is the proximate source for Vos’s use of the distinction? Did he directly glean it from Aquinas? Was it part of the received Reformed Orthodox tradition that Vos inherited at the Theological School? Did he encounter the distinction from his theological textbook in use during his time at the Theological School, Aegidius Francken’s (1676-1743) Kern der Christelyke Leere?[39] These three options are potential sources for the concept, but some are more likely than others. Vos mentions Aquinas in two difference places in his first volume, in his discussion of God’s knowledge and the question of eternal creation.[40] Vos claims that Origen (184-253) believed that the creation was eternal and that, philosophically, Aquinas and John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) were open to the idea apart from Scripture. Vos does not specify that Aquinas believed that: (1) the temporality of the creation cannot be philosophically demonstrated, (2) only late in his life did he explicitly defend the idea of the possibility of an eternally created world.[41] Vos simply lists the reasons why an eternal creation was unacceptable and then refers his students to a secondary source, H. E. Gravemeijer’s (1813-90) Leesboek over de Gerreformeerde Geloofsleer.[42] In other words, Vos was likely engaging Aquinas through this secondary source, one with which he was familiar given that he had written a review of it in 1890.[43] So it seems unlikely that Vos learned the pure-mixed distinction directly from Aquinas.

Did Vos glean the concept from his theological text book, Francken’s Kern der Christelyke Leere? This is possible but Francken does not appear to use the term in his discussion of creation, though he presents the material in a question and answer format like Vos does in his own dogmatics.[44] This means that the most likely proximate source for the pure-mixed distinction lies in Vos’s reception of the Reformed Orthodox tradition. Several factors point in this direction. First, Vos was himself familiar with early Modern Reformed theology. His essay, for example, on the history of covenant theology has numerous direct citations to primary sources such as Zacharias Ursinus (1534-83), Robert Rollock (ca. 1555-99), James Ussher (1581-1656), Francis Roberts (1609-75), Johannes Cloppenberg (1592-1652), John Owen (1616-83), Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711), Caspar Olevianus (1536-87), Johannes Marckius (1656-1731), and Johannes Coccieius (1603-69).[45] Vos also interacted with Heinrich Heppe’s (1820-79) Reformed Dogmatics in his essay on the covenant.[46] Heppe might be the closest proximate source for Vos’s encounter with the distinction, as Heppe has a brief explanation of the terms:

Since theology has also to acknowledge and to expound what belongs to natural religion, we may distinguish between ‘simple (pure) articles,’ which rest purely upon revelation, and ‘mixed articles,’ in the exposition of which reason too has its substantial share. Only it must be maintained that the basic doctrines of theology (Trinity, Fall of human race, Redeemer, True Blessedness and the Single Way of it) may be known purely from revelation, and that withal H. Scripture in every part of its doctrinal system is the sheer authority.

Heppe then cites a statement from Alsted: “Since theological questions are of two kinds, simple and mixed, of which the former consist of purely theological terms, the latter of a theological term and a philosophical, no one of sound mind could fail to see that philosophy can be applied to proof only in the latter category, in the former merely to assertion and explanation.”[47] Another possibility is that he learned the distinction from Bavinck, or perhaps Bavinck and Heppe. Bavinck uses the terms and Vos reviewed Bavinck’s first volume of his dogmatics in 1895, the year before he first distributed his own dogmatics.[48]

This information means the likely proximate source of the pure-mixed distinction is the received Reformed Orthodox tradition, which he learned from his primary source reading and secondary sources like Heppe’s Reformed Dogmatics. In fact, Vos praised Gravemeijer’s Leesboek because of its Reformed Orthodox roots:

There is a historical continuity between the movement of the present day and the past. This very recognition of the intellectual factor is distinctive of Calvinism. It is characteristic of this historical tendency also, that it has manifested itself in a renewed study of the old systems of Reformed theology, a sort of theological renaissance. The thread of development is taken up where it broke off. A thorough review of the work which the fathers did constitutes the basis of what the men of to-day are striving for.[49]

Vos believed, therefore, in the value of older systems of theology and connecting them to the theology of his own day. What “older systems” did Gravameijer cite that Vos found praiseworthy? Gravameijer’s project was in excess of 2,500 pages, but a quick perusal of the first volume reveals references to de Moor, Marckius, Calvin, Augustine, the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), Anselm (1033-1109), Petrus Van Mastricht (1630-1706), Campegius Vitringa (1659-1722), Grotius, and à Brakel.[50] Gravameijer interacted with several key Reformed Orthodox theologians as well as others from the early and medieval church. Vos was therefore in conversation and appreciative of Gravameijer’s Reformed catholicity and through his own use of the pure-mixed distinction promoted classic Reformed and catholic theology.

Implications of the Scholastic Vos

The above surveyed data reveals that the claims of the Vosian Van Til require qualification and nuance in several places if proponents of the thesis want it to hold any water. One may claim that Vos was one of Van Til’s chief influences and his favorite professor and that Vos’s understanding of redemptive history set the stage for Van Til’s own apologetic program. But such an observation is very general, vague, and unrevolutionary. Does Vos actually present anything that is different or unique than what one finds in ordinary early modern confessional Reformed theology? Could not this be the case with any theologian who affirms the covenants of works and grace and the progressive nature of special revelation? Part of the Vosian Van Til thesis rests in the unproven belief that Vos was the father of Reformed biblical theology.[51] If we tie the claim to the creation of the formal discipline of biblical theology as distinct from systematic theology, then perhaps Vos has paternal rights in this sense. But if we examine the substantive nature of Vos’s biblical theological work, there are undoubtedly clear antecedents well before Vos assumed the chair of biblical theology at Princeton, antecedents that go back thousands of years.[52] Perhaps one might say that Vos is the father of modern Reformed biblical theology but certainly not the father of Reformed biblical theology.

That being said, Van Til undoubtedly employs the same covenant theology as Vos and his view of redemptive history looks very much like Vos’s, but such an observation only accounts for the continuities. Such parallels undoubtedly exist between Van Til and dozens of other Reformed theologians. But what of the discontinuities? The above surveyed material proves that Vos employed the scholastic category of pure and mixed articles whereas Van Til did not. For Van Til, either the triune God or the self-authenticating Christ of Scripture is the starting point, not the supposedly synthetic Aristotelian epistemology of Aquinas in which humans can know God through natural or supernatural means, reason and faith.[53] Those who argue for the Vosian Van Til ignore or are unaware of this significant difference between the theologian and the apologist.

There are several ways to explain this difference: (1) Van Til was unaware of Vos’s earlier teaching on systematic theology and only encountered his views when he was the chair of biblical theology at Princeton; (2) Vos changed his earlier views and never explained why he did so. In other words, there is the early scholastic Vos and the later purified biblical-theological Vos. (3) The purported connections between Vos and Van Til are not as strong as proponents of the Vosian Van Til thesis would like us to believe. And (4), in as much as we can talk of the scholastic Vos, we can also speak of the scholastic and even at times Thomist Van Til. Van Tillians accept Van Til’s anti-Aquinas rhetoric at face value and assume that he accurately assesses Aquinas, rejects him, and then offers an alternative. In truth, he actually promotes some of the very points he supposedly rejects. We can briefly explore each of these different scenarios.

First, was Van Til aware of Vos’s earlier lectures on Systematic Theology? This is a distinct possibility. In his later published works on biblical theology Vos does not invoke the distinction as far as I am aware. Would there be a need to discuss faith and reason in lectures on biblical theology? Perhaps not. Vos lectured on Systematic Theology when he taught at the Theological School from 1888-93 and then moved to Princeton to take up the newly created chair of Biblical Theology. Vos’s systematic theology lectures were never formally published and only reproduced in mimeograph form (though extensively distributed), thus one would likely have to had sat under Vos’s instruction to hear his teaching and views. Van Til did not meet Vos until he went to Princeton in 1922 after seven years of study in Grand Rapids. This means that Van Til did not meet Vos for some twenty-five years after he had lectured on systematic theology.[54] Van Til may have never been exposed to Vos’s lectures. It is, however, possible that while Van Til was in Grand Rapids that he read Vos’s lectures while attending Calvin College or the Theological Seminary in the 1920s, as a below-cited letter appears to suggest.[55]

Second, could Vos’s lectures in systematic theology represent his immature views and his later biblical theological days at Princeton his mature views? In other words, is there an early and late Vos where his views evolved? And if they did evolve, could this explain Van Til’s supposed use of Vos’s view of redemptive history? Such a development is always possible but the only way to prove a shift in Vos’s views is through primary-source evidence. To my knowledge there is no textual evidence that Vos ever repudiated his earlier views. In fact, his lectures on biblical theology echo the same themes that Vos presents when he addresses pure and mixed articles. Vos writes about the two categories of revelation, general (or natural) and special (or supernatural). Regarding natural revelation, Vos states:

Nature from which natural revelation springs consists of two sources, nature within and nature without. God reveals Himself to the inner sense of man through the religious consciousness and the moral conscience. He also reveals Himself in the works of nature without. It is obvious that the latter must rest on the former. If there were no antecedent innate knowledge of God, no amount of nature observation would lead to an adequate conception of God. The presupposition of all knowledge of God is man’s having been created in the image of God.[56]

To be clear, Vos sets out the character of natural revelation prior to the entrance of sin into the world.

When he factors sin, Vos makes several qualifications regarding the relationship between man’s innate knowledge, creation, and his ability to know God through this revelation. In a fallen world both man’s religious and moral sense of God has been “blunted and blinded.” Finding God through the creation has become laden with error and distortion. Thus, when the Bible addresses unbelievers, it calls them to correct their understanding through the contemplation of creation (Isa. 40:25, 26; Psa. 94:5-11). Only supernaturalism can correct the unbeliever’s erroneous pre-conceptions. Only redemption restores fallen sinners to a normal and efficient use of natural revelation. But then Vos makes an important statement:

How true this is may be seen from the fact that the best system of Theism, i.e., Natural Theology, has not been produced from the sphere of heathenism, however splendidly endowed in the cultivation of philosophy, but from Christian sources. When we produce a system of natural knowledge of God, and in doing so profess to rely exclusively on the resources of reason, this is, of course, formally correct, but it remains an open question whether we should have been able to produce such a thing with the degree of excellence we succeed in imparting to it, had not our minds in the natural exercise of their faculties stood under the correcting influence of redemptive grace.[57]

Vos acknowledges the necessity of special revelation but he does not dismiss natural theology as Van Til did. Van Til once wrote to Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), “I think you will agree, then, that no form of natural theology has ever spoken properly of the God who is there. None of the great Greek philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, and none of the great modern philosophers, like Descartes, Kant, Hegel, or Kierkegaard and others, have ever spoken of the God who is there.”[58] Van Til completely rejects natural theology whereas Vos admits a Christian version of it in line with early Modern Reformed theology.

The reason for comparing Van Til and Vos on this point is not merely about their respective views on natural theology but to demonstrate that Vos’s earlier statements on pure and mixed articles in his lectures on systematic theology (1890s) are consistent with his lectures on biblical theology (1940s). If there was ever a point where Vos would lecture and write about the ontological trinity or the self-attesting Christ of Scripture as the basis for all knowledge like Van Til, it would be in the above-cited portions from his lectures on biblical theology. But there is no change—on the issue of pure and mixed articles, then, there is no early and late Vos. All signs point to Vos’s consistency on the respective place and function of faith and reason, views inherited from early Modern Reformed theology that are broadly Thomist. In fact, in thick irony for proponents of the Vosian Van Til thesis, Vos opens his Biblical Theology with a quote from Aquinas: “Theology a Deo docetur, Deum docet, ad Deum ducit [is taught by God, teaches God, leads to God].’”[59] What is interesting about this statement is that it is a quote attributed to Aquinas, but in truth it is more accurately a summary of his teaching on prolegomena regarding the object of theology, namely, God. Francis Turretin appeals to this same statement in his prolegomena and says that Aquinas “aptly expresses” the proper understanding of the nature of theology.[60] The precise origin of Vos’s Aquinas quote is relatively inconsequential; but it is important because it once again reveals the scholastic elements of his prolegomena, components likely gleaned from Vos’s reading of early Modern Reformed theology. Regardless of the Reformed tradition’s historic antipathies towards Roman Catholic theology, Vos and Turretin’s appeal to Aquinas reveal that the tradition has profited from reading the Angelic Doctor.[61]

Further corroborating evidence comes from Vos’s review of the first volume of Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, in which Bavinck treats prolegomena. Vos specifically draws attention to Bavinck’s positive reception of Irenaeus (130-202), Augustine, and Aquinas. These theologians do not belong exclusively to Rome but to Protestants as well.[62] If there was ever a point where Vos could object directly to Bavinck’s positive appeal to Aquinas, it would be here. But Vos instead characterizes this as a virtue rather than a vice of Bavinck’s work. At several points Vos interacts with Bavinck on matters related to faith and reason, the principia, and his realist epistemology. Bavinck promotes the idea that God is the principium essendi of theology and that his self-revelation is the principium cognoscendi of theology, which he divides into the verbum externum and internum, revelatio and illuminatio. In all of this Bavinck echoes traditional early Modern categories and Vos makes no critical remarks. Vos aligns Bavinck’s realism with the Common Sense Realistic epistemology of James McCosh (1811-94), the recently deceased president of Princeton University and author of Realistic Philosophy: Defended in a Philosophy Series (1887).[63] Again, Vos notices and passes by Bavinck’s realism without criticism. Vos’s comments stand in stark contrast to Van Til’s negative assessment:

The net result of Bavinck’s investigation is a moderate realism, which seeks on the one hand to avoid the extremes of realism, but on the other hand to avoid the extremes of idealism. It is not a specifically Christian position based on the presupposition of the existence of the God of Scripture that we have before us in the moderate realism of Bavinck.[64]

Van Til was critical of Bavinck’s realism whereas Vos was not. This was because Vos’s epistemology was essentially the same as Bavinck’s, thus he did not see a problem with it.

Vos was willing to critique Bavinck where he dissented from his views, such as on the topic of Bavinck’s apparent conflation of revelation and redemption.[65] While Van Til and later Van Tillians have registered their criticisms of Bavinck’s epistemology, especially its realistic Thomistic cast, Vos did not disagree with his Dutch colleague on these points when he had ample opportunity.[66] In line with the historic Reformed tradition, Vos approvingly cites Bavinck’s overall stance: “Calvin saw in philosophy a praeclarum donum Dei [“remarkable gift of God”]. And so all Reformed theologians have judged.”[67] That Vos draws attention to this statement is significant because the Latin phrase appears elsewhere in Bavinck’s later writings where he describes it in the following terms: “Traces of the image of God continue in mankind. Understanding and reason remain, and he possess all sorts of natural gifts. In him dwells a feeling, a notion of the Godhead, a seed of religion. Reason is a precious gift of God and philosophy a praeclarum Dei donum.”[68] There was a great degree of theological affinity between Vos and Bavinck on the relationship between philosophy and theology. Thus, whatever criticisms Van Til made of Bavinck on this relationship would also apply to Vos.[69] Hence, the Vosian Van Til thesis suffers a mortal blow.

Third, the supposed Vosian influence on Van Til is not as strong as its proponents would have us believe. William Dennison, for example, makes thirteen claims about Vos’s supposed influence on Van Til.[70] Dennison acknowledges in one place that he has not provided a comprehensive presentation of Van Til’s connection to Vos.[71] Only on one occasion does he specifically cite evidence from Vos’s text, and even then, it is a passing reference, not a close primary-source analysis.[72] The closest to primary-source analysis that one proponent of the Vosian Van Til thesis comes is from Danny Olinger when he cites a letter from Van Til to an unknown recipient:

What you say about Vos and Turretin is interesting. Vos once told me that he had studied the covenant question at that early period because of the sick ideas on the subject prevailing at the time in Grand Rapids. But whether he depended on Turretin I do not know and am inclined to doubt. Turretin does not impress me very favorably, and at any rate if there is any trait that stands out in Vos it is the originality of statement and boldness of position. To think that he was able and dared to take the position he did that is revealed in his notes on Dogmatics is nothing short of amazing. Incidentally, I hope someone will give his life and labors a worthy write-up. But I do not know anyone who has the sweep of interest that he had. I know of no one who combined linguistic, philosophic and systematic interpretation as he did. Hy komt mischien niet tot aan de eerst drie, but he runs close after them, I feel.[73]

Olinger notes that Van Til used a Dutch expression taken from 2 Samuel 23:19 and 23 to characterize Vos, a phrase that described King David’s mighty men. Olinger also documents that Van Til spoke personally to Richard Gaffin and regularly mentioned his appreciation for Vos. Esteem is one thing but specific influence is entirely another.

Van Til’s statement in the letter to his unknown friend is telling and actually presents counter-evidence rather than corroborate the Vosian Van Til thesis. The unknown friend believed that Vos may have leaned on Turretin, but Van Til doubted it. Moreover, Van Til did not view Turretin favorably. He instead believed that Vos was insightfully original and even mentions Vos’s lectures on systematic theology, which suggests that Van Til had read them. What Van Til seems to underestimate is that Vos had many connections to the theology of Turretin and Reformed Orthodoxy as the previous sections of this essay have demonstrated. Proponents of the Vosian Van Til thesis need to move beyond Van Til’s effusive appreciation for Vos and engage in close primary-source analysis to see where, precisely, the continuities and discontinuities between Vos and Van Til lie. Especially relevant is Vos’s positive assessment of Reformed scholastic theology and Van Til’s largely negative reception of it.[74]

Fourth, in as much as we can talk of the scholastic Vos, we can also speak of the scholastic and even Thomist Van Til at certain points. This may come as a surprise to some, especially given the many rejections that Van Til has made against Aquinas’s theology. But analysis must move beyond Van Til’s anti-Aquinas rhetoric and compare the accuracy of his historical-theological claims against Aquinas’s actual statements and Van Til’s own position on the same doctrines. This is also true of the historiography of Van Tillians.[75] Van Til, for example, was highly critical of Aquinas’s supposed view of analogy, but upon closer examination the truth of the matter is that Van Til’s view parallels Aquinas’s position. The same applies to Van Til’s understanding of metaphysics and his own version of natural theology.[76] What Van Til often rejected with the left hand he would reintroduce with the right under different terminology and no apparent historical antecedent. This has given the impression that Van Til was Copernican and original in his apologetics, a claim Van Tillians have made.[77] But the truth is that beneath Van Til’s rhetoric he often articulated the views of others, such as Bavinck.[78] Further research needs to be done on Van Til’s precise relationship to the Thomist elements of the historic Reformed tradition.


Vos’s Reformed Dogmatics provide sufficient evidence that he held to a scholastic epistemology common to Lombard, Aquinas, and scores of early Modern Reformed theologians. Moreover, the Vosian Van Til thesis rests more on a foundation of Van Til’s appreciation for his former professor rather than careful comparative analysis of Vos and Van Til’s theological claims. Greater attention to the reception of Reformed Orthodox theology in twentieth-century Reformed theology will help the church come to grips with its historic commitment to Reformed catholicity. Reformed theologians who want to claim a Van Tillian revolution as the hallmark of a new phase in the development of the Reformed tradition need first to study carefully patristic and medieval theology so that they understand to what degree Reformation and post-Reformation theologians carried on the catholic tradition and the degree to which current Reformed theology carries catholic and even Thomist DNA.[79] Only then will we be able properly to evaluate the claims of how truly revolutionary or traditional someone’s theology is. In this case, Vos stands with the catholic tradition and has scholastic elements in his theological epistemology, elements that Van Til does not have. The Vosian Van Til thesis requires qualification if it is to reflect the facts. One can say that Vos was one of Van Til’s favorite professors from whom he learned significant elements of classic Reformed theology, as Vos transmitted historic Reformed teaching. But the idea that Van Til learned a unique epistemology from Vos must be set aside.

  1. William Dennison, In Defense of the Eschaton: Essays in Reformed Apologetics, ed. James Douglas Baird (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015), xi.
  2. Lane Tipton, “Foreword,” in Dennison, Defense of the Eschaton, xi.
  3. Tipton, “Foreword,” xii.
  4. Danny Olinger, “How Vosian is Van Til? A Review Article,” Ordained Servant 25 (2016): 141-45.
  5. John R. Muether, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2008), 130.
  6. Muether, Cornelius Van Til, 172.
  7. Muether, Cornelius Van Til, 130.
  8. Muether, Cornelius Van Til, 18, 128, 129-30, 162, 172, 218.
  9. Jamin Hubner, The Portable Presuppositionalist: Biblical Apologetics in the 21st Century (Charleston, SC: Book Surge Publishing, 2009), 52-53 n. 112.
  10. Dennison, In Defense of the Eschaton, 30.
  11. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols., ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003-07), I:60, 99; II:329.
  12. Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, 2nd ed. (1986; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017), 41.
  13. Dennison, Defense of the Eschaton, 32-33.
  14. K. Scott Oliphint, “Bavinck’s Realism, the Logos Principle, and Sola Scriptura,” Westminster Theological Journal 72 (2010), 359-90; cf. Laurence O’Donnell, “‘Bavinck’s Bug’ or ‘Van Tillian’ Hypochondria? An Analysis of Prof. Oliphint’s Assertion that Cognitive Realism and Reformed Theology Are Incompatible,” in For the Healing of the Nations: Essays on Creation, Redemption, and Neo-Calvinism, eds. Brad Littlejohn and Peter Escalente (Lincoln, NE: The Davenant Press, 2014), 139-72.
  15. Peter Lombard, Sentences: Book 1 The Mystery of the Trinity, trans. Giulio Silano (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2007), I.iii.1.
  16. Lombard, Sentences, I.iii.2-3.
  17. Lombard, Sentences, 20. Some Reformed theologians would later advocate this aspect of mixed articles (see David Sytsma, Richard Baxter and the Mechanical Philosophers [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017], 122-27; Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols. [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003], IV:157-62).
  18. Lombard, Sentences, I.iii.9.
  19. Lombard, Sentences, I.iii.9.
  20. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (Allen, TX: Christian Classics, 1948), Ia q. 1 art. 2 ad. 1.
  21. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia q. 1 art. 8 ad. 2.
  22. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia q. 32 art. 1.
  23. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia q. 32 art. 1 sed contra.
  24. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, I:402.
  25. Aza Goudriaan, “Theology and Philosophy,” in A Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy, ed. Herman J. Selderhuis (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 27-65, esp. 32-33.
  26. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1992-97), I.viii.14.
  27. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, I:403.
  28. For what follows, see Dolf Te Velde, The Doctrine of God in Reformed Orthodoxy, karl Barth, and the Utrecht School: A Study in Method and Content (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 105-06; cf. Johannes Heidegger, Corpus Theologiae Christianae, 2 vols. (Zurich: ex Officina Heideggeriana, 1732), I.xxxiii-xlvi (vol. I, pp. 10-15).
  29. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, I:402-05; Turretin, Institutes, I.viii.14-24; Sytsma, Richard Baxter, 98-103; Bernardinus de Moor, Continuous Commentary on Johannes Marckius’ Dicactico-Elenctic Compendium of Christian Theology, vol. 1, trans. Steven Dilday (Culpeper, VA: L & G Reformation Translation Center, 2014), I.xxi (pp. 175-79).
  30. Turretin, Institutes, I.viii.23.
  31. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought: From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism, ed. Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), 279. The claim that scholasticism created Enlightenment rationalism is a discredited but argument common to nineteenth-century historiography (see, e.g., Isaak Dorner, System of Christian Doctrine, vol. 1, trans. Alfred Cave and J. S. Banks [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1880], 98-108; J. H. Scholten, Supranaturalisme in Verband Met Bijbel, Christendom en Protestantisme [Leiden: Academische Boekhandel Van P. Engels, 1867], 53-54). I am grateful to Richard Muller for alerting me to the references to Dorner and Scholten.
  32. Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, Theology Proper, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (1896; 1910; Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012-14), 157.
  33. Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, 157.
  34. Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, 160.
  35. Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, 1.
  36. Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, 2.
  37. See, e.g., Francis Junius, A Treatise on True Theology with the Life of Francis Junius, trans. David Noe (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014). Cf. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, I:229-37.
  38. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia q. 46 art. 2.
  39. Aegidius Francken, Kern der Christelyke Leere (Rotterdam: J. Spandaw, 1768). I am grateful to John Bolt who informed me of the use of Francken’s work as the chief textbook at the Theological School during Vos’s days as a student.
  40. Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, I:17, 179.
  41. John F. Wippel, The Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas: From Finite Being to Uncreated Being (Washington D. C: Catholic University of America Press, 2000), 580.
  42. Henricus Eskellof Gravemeijer, Leesboek over de Gereformeerde Geloofsleer, 5 vols. (Te Sneek: J. J. Wiarada, 1883-90). Vos does not cite specific pages.
  43. Geerhardus Vos, “Review of Leesboek over de Gereformeerde Geloofsleer, Parts I-XX, in Presbyterian and Reformed Review 1 (1890): 146-49.
  44. Francken, Kern der Christelyke Leere, 109-16.
  45. Geerhardus Vos, “The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1980), 234-70, esp. 236, 239, 240-41, 244-45, 246, 248, 251.
  46. Vos, “Doctrine of the Covenant,” 264; Heinrich Heppe, Dogmatik der Evangelishe-Reformierten Kirche (Elberfeld: R. S. Friderichs, 1861).
  47. Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics: Set Out and Illustrated from the Sources, ed. Ernst Bizer, trans. G. T. Thomson (1861; London: George Allen & Unwin Lt., 1950), 11; idem, Dogmatik der Evangelishe-Reformierten Kirche, 4, 9.
  48. Geerhardus Vos, “Review of Gereformeerde Dogmatiek Door Herman Bavinck,” The Presbyterian and Reformed Review vol. 7, no. 26 (1896): 356-63; cf. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, I:60, 99.
  49. Vos, “Review of Leesboek,” 146.
  50. Gravameijer, Leesboek, 8, 9, 12, 14, 30, 38, 42, 44, 47, 48, 50, 52, 54, 57, 60, 66, 70, 72, 74, 77, 78, 81, 82, 83.
  51. Richard B. Gaffin, “Introduction,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1980), xii.
  52. See J. V. Fesko, “On the Antiquity of Biblical Theology,” in Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church. Essays in Honor of Richard B. Gaffin Jr., eds. Lane G. Tipton and Jeffrey C. Waddington (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2008), 443-77; also Peter J. Wallace, “The Foundations of Reformed Biblical Theology: The Development of Old Testament Theology at Old Princeton, 1812-1932,” Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997): 41-69, esp. 42.
  53. See, e.g., Cornelius Van Til, My Credo, in Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussion on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, ed. E. R. Geehan (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1980), 3, 19, 21.
  54. Muether, Cornelius Van Til, 50.
  55. Muether, Cornelius Van Til, 44
  56. Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (1948; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2014), 19.
  57. Vos, Biblical Theology, 20.
  58. Cornelius Van Til to Francis Schaeffer, 11 March 1969, in Ordained Servant 6/4 (1997): 77.
  59. Vos, Biblical Theology, v, also 19.
  60. Turretin, Institutes, I.i.7; cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia q. 1 art. 7.
  61. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, I:154.
  62. Vos, “Review of Gereformeerde Dogmatiek,” esp. 357.
  63. Vos, “Review of Gereformeerde Dogmatiek,” 358; cf. James McCosh, Realistic Philosophy Defended in a Philosophic Series, 2 vols. (New York: Scribner’s, 1887); Francis L. Patton, “Review of Realistic Philosophy by James McCosh,” The Presbyterian Review 8 (1887): 562-63. On Bavinck’s Thomist realism, see David S. Sytsma, “Herman Bavinck’s Thomistic Epistemology: The Argument and Sources of His Principia of Science,” in Five Studies in the Thought of Herman Bavinck, A Creator of Modern Dutch Theology (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2011), 1-55; Arvin Vos, “Knowledge According to Bavinck and Aquinas, pt. 1” The Bavinck Review 6 (2015): 9-36; idem, “Knowledge According to Bavinck and Aquinas, pt. 2” The Bavinck Review 7 (2016): 8-62;
  64. Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1974), 46; cf. idem, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 2nd ed., ed. William Edgar (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1997), 93-94 n. 24.

  65. Vos, “Review of Gereformeerde Dogmatiek,” 359.
  66. See, e.g., Oliphint, “Bavinck’s Realism,” 359-90.
  67. Vos, “Review of Gereformeerde Dogmatiek,” 362.
  68. Herman Bavinck, “Herman Bavinck’s ‘Common Grace,’ trans. Raymond C. Van Leeuwen,” Calvin Theological Journal 24 (1989): 35-56, esp. 51; cf. idem, “Calvin and Common Grace,” Princeton Theological Review 7/3 (1909): 437-65. Noteworthy is that Vos translated Bavinck’s article.
  69. See, e.g., John Bolt, “Grand Rapids Between Kampen and Amsterdam: Herman Bavinck’s Reception and Influence in North America,” Calvin Theological Journal 38 (2003): 263-80, esp. 270-71, 273. On Van Til’s criticism of Bavinck on these issues see, e.g., Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1972), 34, 38-39, 41-42, 45-49, 51, 52, 57, 228; idem, “Bavinck the Theologian: A Review Article,” Westminster Theological Journal 24 (1961): 48-64, esp. 49-50, 64; cf. Brian G. Mattson, “Van Til on Bavinck: An Assessment,” Westminster Theological Journal 70 (2008): 111-27;
  70. Dennison, Defense of the Eschaton, 30, 31, 33, 34, 35, 48, 49, 94, 98 n. 33, 130, 137, 158, 161.
  71. Dennison, Defense of the Eschaton, 35.
  72. Dennison, Defense of the Eschaton, 49.
  73. Cornelius Van Til, “Letter to an Unknown Friend dated 25 Dec 1941,” from Archives of Westminster Theological Seminary, as cited in Danny Olinger, “Vos the Systematician: A Review Article,” Ordained Servant Aug-Sep (2018): 11-15, esp. 12.
  74. For Van Til’s negative assessment of scholasticism and its Reformed variants, see J. V. Fesko, The Covenant of Redemption: Origins, Development, and Reception (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016), 187-97, esp. 195-96.
  75. For a recent critique of one Van Tillian’s assessment of Aquinas, see Richard A. Muller, “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective: A Review Essay,” Calvin Theological Journal 53/2 (2018): forthcoming; cf. K. Scott Oliphint, Thomas Aquinas (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2017).
  76. See, e.g., Robert LaRocca, “Thomas Aquinas and Cornelius Van Til on the Distinction Between Creator and Creature,” Unpublished paper; idem, “Cornelius Van Til’s Rejection and Appropriation of Thomistic Metaphysics,” (Master’s Thesis: Westminster Theological Seminary, 2012); Michael Horton, “Consistently Reformed: The Inheritance and Legacy of Van Til’s Apologetic,” in Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics, eds. K. Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton (Phillipsburg, NJ: 2007), 131-48.
  77. E.g., Greg L. Bahnsen, “Socrates or Christ: The Reformation of Christian Apologetics,” in Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective, ed. Gary North (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1976), 239.
  78. See, e.g., Laurence O’Donnell, Kees Van Til als Nederlandse-Amerikaanse, Neo-Calvinistisch-Presbyteriaan Apologeticus: An Analysis of Cornelius Van Til’s Presupposition of Reformed Dogmatics with Special Reference to Herman Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek (Master’s Thesis: Calvin Theological Seminary, 2011); idem, “Neither ‘Copernican’ nor Van Tillian’: Re-Reading Cornelius Van Til’s Reformed Apologetics in Light of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics,” The Bavinck Review 2 (2011): 71-95.
  79. On the Thomistic nature of Reformed theology see e.g., Richard A. Muller, “Calvinist Thomist Revisited: William Ames (1576-1633) and the Divine Ideas,” in From Rome to Zurich, Between Ignatius and Vermigli: Essays in Honor of John Patrick Donnelly, SJ, eds. Kathleen M. Comerford, Gary W. Jenkins, W. J. Torrance Kirby (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 103-20; Andreas J. Beck, “Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676): Basic Features of his Doctrine of God,” in Reformation and Scholasticism: An Ecumenical Enterprise, ed. Willem J. van Asselt and Eef Dekker (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 205-26.