The Antithesis and Chapel at Calvin College – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn the last few months we have been 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 relates the antithesis to chapels at Calvin. This too makes for interesting – and some humorous – reading.

The emphasis on the antithesis was also apparent in the insistence on chapel attendance. There was little surveillance in those days. Prof. Rooks wandered around occasionally, checking likely retreats; but in actuality there was little disciplinary action. There always were inveterate skippers, but chapel was generally well attended. A far greater proportion of the whole student body attended than do today. In fact, in actual numbers there were often more students attending daily chapel at Calvin then than there are today in a college ten times its size.

Chapel services varied. Occasionally, clergymen and celebrities were invited to speak, but most of the sessions were conducted by faculty members. Those humble enough to recognize their ineptitude at public speaking regularly devoted the session to song, Scripture reading, and prayer. Others, however, spoke frequently. I remember a fascinating series of talks by Prof. Johannes Broene on the personalities of the apostles. Prof. Vanden Bosch always spoke. He was a meticulous man, almost fussily neat. Annoyed at the litter dropped in the building, he once spoke on the text ‘Let him that is filthy be filthy still.’ Dr. Peter Hoekstra often illuminated Scripture passages with historical data. Prof. Rooks gave his talks in the Oxford accent he had acquired in Graafschap. Dr. Ralph Stob spoke on the same topic for quite a while, and he always assumed that the students remembered the content of the preceding speech. Prof. Nieuwdorp, a fine mathematician, gave several talks on the ‘Stahrs.’

…At its best, chapel was spiritual refreshment; at the lowest level it was a rendezvous, a brief date, a study period, or a time to sleep. For most it was an activity to participate in, not something to escape. It was a boon not a bore. Students did not often skip chapel; and neither did the professors (pp.29-30).

PRC Archives: Introducing Fourth PRC, Grand Rapids, MI

A week ago we gave you a mystery photo of one of the PRC congregations off the cover of one of its bulletins (dated July 17, 1955). Below is now a scanned copy of the full cover and back of the bulletin with the rest of its information (click on it to enlarge).

4thPRC Bulletin-July-1955_Page_1

As you might guess, there was considerable interest in this photo and church, since it looked so “new” to many of us – including myself! And some of you really went to work attempting to find out what building this was and why you were not familiar with it – and also, what happened to it, since we know it is no longer a place of worship among us.

If you have read the comments on this post (the fine print at the bottom of the post), then you may know that some correctly identified it as Fourth PRC, located at 1436 Kalmazoo Ave, SE, in Grand Rapids, MI.

The reason why so much of my generation and younger do not know this building is because it was lost in the schism of 1953, with members loyal to the PRC eventually becoming SE PRC, the congregation we know to this day. The congregation of Fourth, which followed Rev.H.DeWolf, kept the building, and then were absorbed into the CRC in 1961 when the church became Faith CRC. That congregation disbanded in 1978 and the building is now occupied by Faith Temple Church of God in Christ.

I wish to thank those of you who left comments and others who sent me emails about it. The Noormans from Faith PRC (now) have roots in that congregation, as you will see from Dorothy’s comment. Especially I thank Terry Dykstra for his persistent research on Fourth PRC, some of which I have included here. And for the pictures which he sent me of the building as it still looks today – in very fine condition.


I told a few of you that I would love to stop and tour this building – even rummage around to see if there are any PRC remnants left there yet – as archivists/historians are prone to do! Who knows, I may get brave yet and head over there before the summer is out. I think I may have some interested tag-alongs. 🙂

The Antithesis at Calvin College: “An Uneasy Alliance” – John J. Timmerman

Last night I did some more reading in John J. Timmerman’s “semi-autobiography”, Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987). I read his fascinating chapter on the early years of Calvin College (“Golden Branch among the Shadows”), since his father served as a curator of the board of the CRC Theological School. And, of course, Timmerman himself would go on to teach English there for many years.

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanA section at the beginning of this chapter in particular struck my attention. It touches on the “uneasy alliance” that existed early on between two groups in the CRC which understood the antithesis quite differently, especially as regards the nature of Reformed education.

For those new to this word, the antithesis refers to the Christian’s place and calling in this world, namely, that he is by God’s grace in Christ holy, set to be and called to live in spiritual separation from the ungodly world about him.

This is part of what Timmerman says about this “uneasy alliance” regarding the antithesis (I have slightly edited this paragraph for ease of reading):

In 1876 a small, poor, and humble people in a strange land established a theological school, and then successively an academy, a junior college, and in 1920 a college. They were in many ways attached to the culture of their homeland; but they were citizens of an often bewildering new land, and they profoundly believed themselves to be citizens of the kingdom of God. Between this kingdom and the secular world there was a profound antithesis, which demanded a form of education on all levels that would be uniquely designed to meet the demands of both kingdoms.

One group, the descendants of the Afscheiding in the Netherlands [the Reformed church separation of 1834 led by H.De Cock and others], viewed education essentially as a caretaking operation, devoted to the unaltered transmission of the Reformed faith with minimal dilution by worldly culture, and unfortunately sometimes tending to identify the antithesis with ancestral habits. The other group, the Doleantie [the Reformed church separation of 1886 led by Abraham Kuyper], also believed in the antithesis; but they saw education not as flight but as conquest, not safety but bold appropriation of the fruits of common grace, which when properly mediated by the believer required him to modify or conquer the culture around him.

These two impulses for many years lived in uneasy alliance, even at times in opposition, but until the 1930s no word was more pervasively influential at Calvin College, whether in bold prominence or quiet remembrance, than antithesis (pp.28-29).

The Reformed American and Rev. Henry Danhof

For our PRC archive item this week we are going back to our “mother church”, the Christian Reformed Church and to a series of articles one of her pastors wrote. The name of that minister was Rev. Henry Danhof. You recognize that name, right? Yes, he was indeed one of the founding fathers of the PRC, along with Rev. Herman Hoeksema and Rev. George Ophoff. And here is the story of his writings that I came across this week.

One of the old publications of a group within the Christian Reformed Church is known as “The Reformed American”. Except that that is the English translation. It was in reality a Dutch periodical, designed especially for those in the CRC who were hanging on to the Dutch language and needed (wanted?!) a publication in the “mother tongue.”

The magazine was titled De Gereformeerde Amerikaan and was published by the Consortium (partnership or association) der Gereformeerde Amerikaan. From the cover posted below you will discern some familiar CRC names – leading professors and ministers at the time (click on the image to enlarge). We have a full set of these in the Seminary library, dating back to 1897! This week while searching for a much-needed copy of a Dutch book among all the Dutch material reserved in the Seminary basement, I found some loose copies of “The Reformed American”, starting with the year 1911 (I just had to scan that back cover too, since the ads are as inviting as the articles. OK, who can tell us about the “Holland Furnace Co.”?).

Reformed American-March-1915-cover

Naturally, I had to browse through them (which is always rewarding in one way or another!), and that’s when I saw the reference to Rev.H.Danhof. In Jaargang XIX (volume 19), dated Maart, 1915 (you can figure that one out!) Rev.H. Danhof began a five-part series of articles under the title “De Zelfbenaming van Christus.” I have scanned the last two pages here for you, with his name at the end.

But now, here is your challenge: what was Rev.Danhof writing about in this series? In other words, give me the meaning (translation) of the title. And beyond that, he has one name of Christ in particular in view – what is that name (See, I even give you a hint!)? And here is another one: that name is found on the pages I post here. Have fun! get out those Dutch dictionaries! Or ask grandpa and grandma! 🙂

Reformed American-March-1915-inside-HDanhofI do have some other questions though: I wonder if these articles have ever been translated. And if so, where might they be? But, regardless, do these early writings give any hints where Rev.Danhof would end up in the common grace controversy in 1924? I’m curious. Are you too?

Rev.H.Hoeksema’s 30th Birthday Noted in “The Banner”

Today I stumbled on a great archive item while browsing through a bound volume of 1916 “Banners” (The Banner was then and still is today the official publication of the Christian Reformed Church) found in Prof. (emeritus) D.Engelsma’s library, which I have started to process.

Knowing that Rev.Herman Hoeksema (one of the founders of the PRC in 1925) was a newly-ordained CRC minister in 1916 (he was ordained on Sept.16, 1915 in the 14th St. CRC in Holland, MI), I looked at some early issues of this collection of 1916 Banners.

It wasn’t long before I discovered two references in the “Church News” section of the March 23, 1916 issue (The Banner was a weekly magazine at the time, published every Thursday!) to his Holland congregation celebrating his thirtieth (30th) birthday.

March23-1916 Banner cover_Page_1


I scanned the front cover of this issue, so that you can see what The Banner looked like in those days (not the best scan due to the size but still readable). And then I also scanned the page of “Church News” (under “Holland Notes”) where the two references to the 14 St. CRC marking Hoeksema’s birthday may be found (click on the images to enlarge).

I think you will rather enjoy these little historical notices. I also type them out there for ease of reading.

March23-1916 Banner inside pg re HH_Page_1

Middle column notice:

Surprises will play an important part among the news items this week.

The first one was by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the 14th St. church on their pastor, Rev.H.Hoeksema. It being the thirtieth anniversary of his birth last week Monday, the ladies came en masse and brought, as a token of esteem, thirty silver dollars. The presentation speech was made by Mrs.M. Van Putten and a very enjoyable time spent.

Third column notice:

March 13, was Rev.H.Hoeksema’s birthday, the 30th. In the evening the Ladies’ Aid surprised him and presented him with as many dollars as he had seen summers. Tuesday evening, March 14th, a catechism class brought a fine rocker to the parsonage and spent the evening with the domine’ and his wife. Such an expression of appreciation will do the heart of the pastor good and urge him on to greater effort in the work of the Lord.

Antiques and Our Heritage (1) – The Antithesis

Markings on loong journey-TimmermanBack in September of 1972, John J. Timmerman wrote an article in The Banner, the official periodical of the Christian Reformed Church, under the title “Antiques and Our Heritage.” Prompted by the plethora of antique shops that may be found along America’s highways, Timmerman proceeded to describe five aspects of the CRC’s heritage that he considered “old, precious, and beautiful.” He continued, “I believe that our heritage has such beliefs, values, and institutions that they are worthy of the honor of pious memory and pervasive influence. I shall refer to five such ‘antiques.'”

And guess what the first one was: “The awareness of an antithesis between believers and unbelievers.” Striking. I give you his description of it, because it is good for every Reformed Christian to remember. Not just those who deny common grace with its bridge from the world to the church.

Antithesis is an old word among us. It was frequently used in classrooms, journals, and sermons thirty years ago. It has been one of our key words, followed by commitment, integration, relevance, and now thrust. These words seem to cluster together in distinct groups. Antithesis and commitment were often used together; whereas integration, relevance, and thrust seem closely related.

All are valuable words and I have no quarel with any of them, but the most important and most forgotten word seems to me to be antithesis. Citizens of the kingdom of God have a distinct supernatural birth, a peculiar God-given task in the world, and  a divine destiny. At the center of life is the Lord Jesus and His Word to which we owe our deepest commitment in love and service. We try to make this commitment relevant without compromising our identity, or washing out our distinctiveness. In this type of thought the Christian was meant to be different from the unbeliever in reflection, language, critical judgment, and manner of life. There was to be no bland adjustment to the relativism of the day; no easy blending with modernity. The word is no longer in fashion, but the reality should be. If Christians become hard to detect, they are not strong Christians.

Taken from Markings on a Long Journey: Writings of John J. Timmerman (Baker, 1982), pp.156-57. We plan to post more of Timmerman’s “antiques” in the future. They are all good food for thought.

PRC Archives – H.C. Hoeksema’s 1985 “Banner” Interview

While perhaps our PRC archives post today does not refer to something all that far back in our history (29 years), it is something of which perhaps an entire generation of PRC members is not aware. That is an interview the official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), The Banner, did with our own Prof.Homer C. Hoeksema, publishing it in the Feb.4, 1985 issue.

HCH Banner Interview-Feb 1985_Page_1


Prof. “HCH” was interviewed by Banner editor Rev.Andrew Kuyvenhoevn and reporter Robert Rozema, who wrote the summary of the interview for that issue. There are other intriguing articles in the issue relating to the relationship between the CRC and PRC: one written by Editor “AK” (“Reformed Relatives”); another by Dr.John Kromminga, former president of Calvin Seminary (“Is Reunion Possible?”); and a third by Rev.Arthur Hoogstrate, who reflected on his personal memories of Rev.Herman Hoeksema (his preaching) and the common grace debates as a Calvin student (“I Remember”). The interested reader may look these up if he chooses.

But for our purposes today, we want to highlight the interviewand the cover that graced the cover of that issue. Because the CRC herself put us “front and center” and seemed to treat us as familiar Reformed family relative, which, of course, we were – and are. I think you will find both questions and answers in the interview to be interesting and enlightening, looking back to our origin and to where we were at as denominations in 1985.

I give you all three pages of the interview here in image form. Click on them to enlarge. And then feel free to share your perspectives. How do you “read” this today?

HCH Banner Interview-Feb 1985_Page_2
HCH Banner Interview-Feb 1985_Page_3
HCH Banner Interview-Feb 1985_Page_4

History of First PRC of Holland, MI (1)

HollandMi-RSwierenga-2014Sometimes the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America is found in works other than those written by and produced in the PRC. A good case in point is the recent three-volume set on the history of Holland, MI by Robert P. Swierenga (Van Raalte Press/Eerdmans, 2014). Holland Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City includes a section on the history of the area’s churches, including the First (and only!) PRC in Holland.

As we feature this PR congregation today, I thought we would leave you a brief excerpt from this work.

Holland’s Protestant Reformed Church was the product of a schism in the Christian Reformed Church in 1924 over the theological issue of ‘common grace,’ the teaching that God’s non-saving favor rests on all people, believers and non-believers alike, as common image bearers of God. Herman Hoeksema, former pastor of the Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church then serving the Eastern Avenue congregation in Grand Rapids, insisted that God’s grace was not common nit ‘particular,’ limited only to true believers. The denominational synod of 1924 deposed him for refusing to accept the so-called ‘Three Points,’ the doctrine of Common Grace; the strong-willed pastor then founded the Protestant Reformed Church (-es, cjt).

In July 1929 an ardent band of Hoeksema followers in Holland mostly from his former Fourtheenth Street church, established the First Protestant Reformed Church with eleven families. The organizational meeting took place at the Women’s Literary Club building on Central Avenue at Tenth Street. The group first worshiped in a bakery building on East Sixteenth Street (later Zwiep’s Seed Store), then in a basement church on Pine Avenue and Nineteenth Street, and a year later in the North End Gospel Chapel (a Christian Reformed ministry) at 39 River Avenue (chapter 5). Until candidate Martin Gritters (the first pastor) came in 1932, the congregation relied on seminarians and clerics assigned by the classis.

After six years, Gritters took another call, and Peter De Boer came to Holland. In January 1939 De Boer and the congregation dedicated a two-hundred-seat sanctuary on Twentieth Street at Maple Avenue (still there! -cjt). The body grew to twenty-nine families during his ministry of five years. Seminary candidate Walter Hofman led the church from 1943 to 1947, when it numbered fifty families (180 souls), with a Sunday school of sixty-six, and nearly 100 percent attendance of the youth in local Christian day schools (270).

“Herman Hoeksema was right!” – John Bolt

BiblicalInterp&DoctFormul-Leder&MullerOn this archive day, I wish to call attention to a striking and significant chapter with the above title which has appeared in the brand new book Biblical Interpretation and Doctrinal Formulation in the Reformed Tradition: Essays in Honor of James De Jong, ed. by Arie C. Leder and Richard A. Muller (Reformation Heritage, 2014).

You will notice from the contents of this book as found at the link provided that the final chapter (14) has the full title, “Herman Hoeksema Was Right (On the Three Points That Really Matter)”. The author is Calvin Seminary professor of systematic theology John Bolt, who returns to the “scene of the crime” committed in 1924 when the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) adopted her three points of common grace (Synod of  1924) and then in time suspended and deposed pastor Hoeksema (Classis Grand Rapids East, 1924-25).

This time Bolt goes even further in his evaluation and criticism of what the CRC did at that time, both doctrinally and church politically. His conclusions will surprise and startle you. If you are Protestant Reformed, in a good way. But for those who disagree with Hoeksema and the PRC (Protestant Reformed Churches in America which he founded in 1925) then as well as now on the rejection of common grace, these conclusions will no doubt stir up some anger and animosity.

This is how Bolt states his thesis at the beginning of the article:

In this essay I want to take my analysis of the 1924 CRC tragedy a step farther than I did in my earlier essay (Bolt refers here to his article which appeared in the Calvin Theological Journal titled “Common Grace and the Christian Reformed Synod of Kalamazoo (1924); A Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Retrospective”; v.35, 2000, pp.7-36. You may find this article on the PRC archives webpage here. -cjt) and defend the following proposition; With respect to the issues and events surrounding the common grace controversy generated by the decisions of the CRC’s Kalamazoo Synod of 1924 and its aftermath, including the suspension of the Rev. Herman Hoeksema by Classis Grand Rapids East, on the three fundamental issues – that  grace is particular; that the doctrine of common grace is an extra-confessional matter on which Reformed people can have different opinions; and that Reformed Church polity was violated by hierarchical actions – Herman Hoeksema was right and the Christian Reformed Church was wrong (296-97).

As a member of the PRC, and being wholly committed in faith and practice to the rejection of common grace and the defense of sovereign, particular grace, I do not wish to puff up my chest and say, “See, we told you so! Way to go, John Bolt, for telling the rest of the world what we have been saying for a long time!” Rather, Bolt’s evaluation is cause for humble reflection – by ourselves (PRC members), by our friends, and by our foes. Perhaps his evaluation can be the springboard for some healthy, open, Biblically and confessionally-based discussion of the real issues involved, especially on the doctrine of common grace itself, including the free offer of the gospel. I personally would hope so.

I suspect someone else in the PRC will be commenting on this essay, perhaps even in a Standard Bearer editorial. You may look forward to a further analysis of Bolt’s analysis. My purpose today is simply to call attention to the book and the essay in connection with our own history. It is always good to know what others think of us, whether for ill or for good.

New Reformed Education Blog

RefdEduc-DJEAs a fitting follow-up to yesterday’s post about the book on Christian school Board leadership, I want to make you aware of a new blogging venture on Reformed education. Rick Mingerink, administrator at Adams Christian School, has started a blog on this subject with the sub-title “Thinking about the Calvinist day-school”. This is how Rick introduces his blog in his first post:

In 2009, I started a running commentary on various matters and issues that pertain to Reformed education.  For two and a half years, I filled the back of Adams’ Monday Note with my thoughts, concerns and ideas in regards to education in the Calvinist day-school.

I’m looking forward to using a new format for my thoughts.  The blog is ideal for an activity such as this.  Among other conveniences, it also allows others to respond.  For me, that is important.  Whether you challenge my thoughts or you encourage them, I would be appreciative if you contributed your own thinking.

One of the biggest threats to Reformed education is not thinking about it.

His most recent posts concern the educational views of Rev.Herman Hoeksema in a sermon he preached in 1916 on Deut.6:7, when he was still a minister in the Christian Reformed Church (later published in The Standard Bearer, 1927). I encourage you to check out Rick’s blog, support and encourage him by subscribing to it, and begin following these interesting and informative posts on Reformed education.

We must think about it! And talk about! Thanks, Rick, for continuing the conversation in this powerful way!

P.S. Thanks to those who responded to my post on Christian school Boards yesterday too. If you haven’t checked out  the comments yet, do so. Three people – all involved in Christian education at different levels and ways – left helpful notes that are of benefit to all of us.