The evening of June the ninth was for me, as well as for all that have a heart for our Theological School and still love our specific Protestant Reformed truth, a joyous occasion.
On that evening, five students graduated from our seminary after previously having been examined and declared candidates for the ministry of the Word in our churches.
In a way, I felt that this occasion was like an oasis in the wilderness.
By “the wilderness” in this familiar figure of speech, I refer to the unrest, the disharmony and disagreement, the strife and contention that are everywhere rampant in our churches, fundamentally, no doubt, because many are not satisfied anymore with the pure Protestant Reformed truth. They seek a new emphasis, the emphasis on MAN, man’s responsibility, man’s moral choice, man’s activity of faith. Hence, this entire strife concentrates around the matter of “conditions.” And the matter was brought to a head by the adoption, in 1950 and 1951, of the well-known Declaration of Principles, which sharply maintains that the promise of God is unconditional and only for the elect, and that faith is not a condition but a God-given means unto salvation.
The result is much wrangling, not only the congregations, but also in the ecclesiastical gatherings, consistory, classis, synod.
In the midst of this wilderness I felt that the occasion of the graduation of our five candidates was, indeed, an oasis, at which I might refresh myself.
Even during the entire school year, the seminary was as it were a haven of rest. There the atmosphere was pleasant and peaceful, even though also there problems naturally arose and were discussed.
There was something special about our graduation exercises this year.
Only one of the candidates, George Lanting, came originally from our churches. He was from our church in South Holland.
As for the rest, one, Marvin Koerner, hailed from the German Reformed Church of classis Eureka, in South Dakota, while three, Emanuel Emanuel, Robert Harbach and James MeCollam were ministers in the Reformed Episcopal Church in this country. Partly through the radio broadcasts of Oak Lawn and South Holland, partly through the instrumentality of the Rev. Schipper and, I think, also of the Rev. VandenBerg, partly also through the reading of literature, they came to love our truth, and with the financial aid of our people were enabled to enter our seminary.
We earnestly hope and pray that, before long, all these brethren may be called to a place in Christ’s vineyard.
A suitable program was arranged for the occasion.
Mrs. Anne Vandenberg was at the organ. The Rev. G.M. Ophoff read a portion of Scripture and opened with prayer. An address was delivered by Candidate George Lanting on the subject, “The Word of God” in which he also criticized the Barthian conception of the Word. The “Trumpeters”, R. Griffioen and B. Klaver, treated us on a musical selection. Thereupon the rector delivered a speech on “Man’s Freedom and Responsibility” and at the close of this speech he briefly addressed the candidates and handed them their diploma’s. Then, after a few closing remarks by the Rev. George Lubbers, the Rev. G. Vos, president of the theological school committee, closed the meeting with prayer.
May God’s blessing rest upon our candidates, and may they ever remain faithful to the truth that was taught them.
And may the blessing of Jehovah, our covenant God, continue to rest upon our school, that, for years to come, it may be instrumental for the maintenance and dissemination of the Reformed truth, the truth of God’s unconditional and sovereign grace.
Bless, O Lord, our churches!