Two weeks ago we began quoting from the fifth chapter of John J. Timmerman’s book Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), where he describes the early years of education at Calvin College. We called special attention to his emphasis on the antithesis as it was taught and manifested at this Reformed institution.
Today I continue quoting from this section, as Timmerman describes the effect the antithesis had on learning.
The pervasive emphasis on the antithesis did not diminish the appreciation for learning or produce an index of forbidden books or a cowering from challenge. In the classroom it resulted in the search for truth from alien sources and a critical appraisal of fundamental religious options. Some teachers did this brilliantly, some rather feebly, but they all did it. Calvin College then, as afterwards, emphasized the best that had been thought and written. Although only six of the eighteen professors held doctorates, all but two of the rest had master’s degrees or their equivalent. The teachers were well acquainted with scholarly habits, and almost all insisted on rigorous work. One of those who did not compensated for it in illumination. Calvin graduates were admirably prepared for university studies beyond Calvin, and many of them enhanced its academic reputation. I think most of the students would have agreed that they were well prepared in their majors, confronted by the deep questions, nurtured in the Reformed faith, and given a genuine liberal education. There were, of course, real or self-appointed geniuses who would dispute that, but I think I state correctly the attitude of the vast majority of students (p.29, in “‘Golden Branch among the Shadows”’).