In April of 1925, in Grand Rapids, MI, elders and ministers from three Christian Reformed Churches, recently cut off by their denomination, met to make plans for the future of their churches. The minutes of the combined consistories’ meeting indicate a significant concern. Article 9 states:
The training of ministers of the Word is discussed. It is decided to appoint a committee that will serve with advice at the next meeting. Committee: Revs. Ophoff and Hoeksema.
At the next meeting of these consistories, held May 6, Article 8 states that the “committee appointed at the last meeting to discuss the matter of the instruction of the students and to report at this meeting renders its report. . . .” The committee proposed to the consistories a two-tier course of instruction. The “Elementary Course” included:
A. Holland: [Dutch] Reading, Writing, Speaking.
B. Greek: Grammar, Reading.
C. English: Reading, Composition, Speaking.
D. Hebrew: Grammar, Reading.
E. Old Testament History.
F. New Testament History.
The “Advanced Course” included:
A. New Testament.
1. Greek: Reading, Forms.
2. Exegesis: Proper, Introductory, Questions.
B. Old Testament.
1. Hebrew: Reading, Forms.
2. Exegesis: Proper, Introductory, Questions.
1. Dogma Geschichte (History of Dogma).
And for both classes: Essays and sermons.
The minutes record: “Now the report is treated and adopted without change.” And, “The various courses in which instruction will be given will be divided among the three ministers Hoeksema, Danhof, and Ophoff.”
Thus it was that the instruction for the ministry in the then “Protesting Christian Reformed Church” (as they officially identified themselves for over a year and a half) began in the summer of 1925. The sense of urgency can be grasped from the minutes. The churches will need faithful preachers of the Word.
Year Ninety-two Begins
On August 29, 2016, the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary opened its doors for the ninety-second year of instruction. Much has changed since 1925. Over the years, the “elementary course” changed its name to pre-seminary courses, dropping the Holland (Dutch) and English (since a college degree is required), and shifting Hebrew, Old Testament History and New Testament History to the seminary. The “advanced course” became seminary proper, and to these subjects were added: Hermeneutics, Homiletics, four courses in Church History, Missions, Catechetics, Poimenics, and more. The number of instructors is still three, but none of them have congregations to pastor, as the original three instructors had. And while students in the first forty or fifty years of the seminary’s existence were sent into vacant churches for summer assignments (or in times of dire need, in the middle of the semester) with a minimum of training and perhaps one or two sermons, current students have the luxury of an experienced minister to guide them in their six-month internship.
In other ways, by the grace of God, nothing has changed. The biblical languages (Greek and Hebrew) are still rigorously taught. Dogmatics and Exegesis are still the core of the curriculum (a total of seventeen semester courses of Dogmatics, History of Dogma, Confessions, and Exegesis). And all the instruction is directed toward the original reason for the seminary, namely, preaching—the making and effective delivery of sermons—still emphasized, as the students will write and deliver around twenty sermons in four years. No wonder that we now need four years to accomplish all this.
More importantly, by God’s indispensable grace, the same doctrines are being taught in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary in 2016 as were taught in 1925—in particular, the truth of sovereign, particular grace over against the errors of common grace and the well-meant offer of the gospel. In addition, the doctrine of God’s everlasting covenant of grace in harmony with the doctrines of sovereign grace, enriched and sharpened through the controversy of 1953, is woven into all the instruction of the PRTS. How good and merciful Jehovah God has been to the Protestant Reformed Churches!
But, as important as all that is, we must not neglect one important purpose of this article, which is to inform the readers of the seminary life in the current year of instruction. It can be noted that the seminary staff, professors, and students (with wives and families) gathered for the annual picnic at Hagar Park in Georgetown Township on September 2 (a mere seventeen-year tradition). The following Wednesday, the annual convocation was held in Grandville PRC, with Prof. Dykstra (by rotation) addressing the seminary and supporting members of the PRC.
Even though the seminary had no graduating class in the Spring of 2016, our student body has changed some from the previous year. Aaron Lim discontinued his studies at the end of the last year and returned to Singapore with his wife Iva. We wish them God’s blessing in finding what the Lord’s vocation is for Aaron.
For the first semester, the student body is somewhat dispersed, with all seven of the fourth-year students serving various congregations in their internships (a list is given at the end of the article). Three of the young men are in the Grand Rapids area, and four are in congregations in Classis West.
All three second-year students have returned. Matt Kortus (and Sarah) are members of Faith PRC. Jacob Maatman (and Rachel and son) are members of Southwest PRC. Darren Vink (and Stephanie, with their two girls and two boys) are members of First PRC (GR). These men have knowingly shouldered a heavier load than their previous year, for Exegesis and Practice Preaching are now in their schedule. Each one is also teaching one catechism class— Seminarians Vink and Maatman in Holland PRC, and Seminarian Kortus in Trinity PRC.
The one addition to the seminary is Josiah Tan, the lone student in the first year. Josiah and his wife Hui Qi come from Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore. They plan to be with us, D.V., for the four-year course of instruction. The Tan’s have joined Georgetown PRC. They are looking forward to the birth of their first child in November, D.V.
In addition, the seminary has one student taking preseminary Greek reading. Well, two actually, with one young man actively participating in the class through an internet connection (Skype). Both these men have completed Greek Grammar and are in their second year of Greek studies.
If you are interested in seeing all the classes being taught in the seminary, the schedule of classes is posted on the seminary website. A number of visitors (men and women) have taken up the invitation to sit in on four different classes this semester.
The seminary anticipates one change in the daily routine this semester—attendance at the Classis West Officebearers’ Conference in Randolph PRC on September 27. These conferences are always a highlight of a man’s seminary career, for he relishes the opportunity to hear good speeches and to benefit from the experience of those in the special offices of the church.
We look forward to a good year, with the Lord’s blessing. And for that, we earnestly implore you, the readers of the Standard Bearer, to keep the seminary in your prayers.
M. De Boer—Georgetown PRC, Hudsonville, MI
B. Feenstra—Loveland PRC, CO
J. Holstege—Calvary PRC, Hull, IA
J. Langerak—Edgerton PRC, MN
D. Noorman—Hope PRC, Redlands, CA
S. Regnerus—Southeast PRC, Grand Rapids, MI
J. Smidstra—Faith PRC, Jenison, MI