The undersigned, too, wishes to make a few remarks in connection with the erection of our seminary building. I know that articles to this effect have appeared in our Standard Bearer in the June and July issues. Rev. Schipper was asked by our Theological School Committee to contribute an article in our June issue, and we see no reason why we should repeat what was so, ably set forth in that article. The editor of our Standard Bearer, Prof. H.C. Hoeksema, commented on this matter in his article in the July number of our magazine, and that article, too, speaks for itself. The adoption of a permanent curriculum, combining seminary and pre-seminary college courses, the calling of a third professor to our faculty and the erection of a new seminary building are extremely important subjects. After all, the seminary is certainly a most important institution in the life of the church. It is the heartbeat of the life of the church. It prepares young men to become preachers of the Word of God and, therefore, it controls and directs that preaching of the Word of God and the life of the Church of God. I repeat: I need not reiterate what has been written in the June and July issues of our Standard Bearer by Rev. Schipper and Prof. Hoeksema respectively. In this connection, although a member of the Theological School Committee, I have not been asked by that committee to write this article. I am writing this purely on my own.
Why do I wish to contribute this article? In the light of the fact that the money has not been coming in rapidly, and also because considerable unrest has been expressed in connection with the location selected for our seminary building, the undersigned wishes to call attention to these matters.
We certainly need this building. Of course, this need not be emphasized now. This, too, has been decided by Synod. But, we certainly need this building. Our people surely do not believe that our present teaching quarters should continue in the basement of our First Church. We are certainly called to provide the best possible training and instruction for our future ministers of the Word of God. If possible, these students must not receive this instruction elsewhere. We are called to instruct our own young men. We ourselves must give this instruction and training. Of course! Our recent synod was in unanimous agreement on this point, I believe. Our calling is plain. The question is not: what must we do? But: can we do it? And if we are, to furnish our future ministers of the Word of God with this kind of instruction, we must have more than two professors. And then we must have our own seminary building. This is simply our calling. Can we do it?
Is this new seminary building an extravaganza on our part? Are we over-reaching ourselves? Is this venture really beyond our means? Of course, we all know that we are stewards of the Lord. And we all, I am sure, are very familiar with the implication of the truth of Christian stewardship. Christian stewardship implies, in the first place, that we are not the owners of the things we possess. Nothing belongs to us. God alone is the Absolute Owner, the sole Possessor of all things. He is that by virtue of the fact that He is the Divine Creator of the heavens and the earth and all the things therein contained. His are all the gold and the silver and the cattle upon a thousand hills. To Him belong all things; nothing belongs to us. He also created us, body and soul; all the gifts and talents we may possess are not our own but His. Whatever means we may use to acquire the things of this present time have been divinely created. Indeed, the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. Secondly, the truth of Christian stewardship implies that we are called to use whatever we have in the service of His Name and in the advancement of His Kingdom in the midst of the world. In this matter we have no choice. This is simply our calling. This is simply something we must do. And, thirdly, Christian stewardship implies that we shall be required to give an account of our stewardship. We shall be required to give an account of what we have done with all the gifts and talents and means the Lord has given us. Of course, these three aspects of Christian stewardship can be set forth in greater detail. But that is not necessary in this article. What is necessary, however, is that we must and should be impressed with the awesome responsibility involved in this Scriptural truth. The man who hid his napkin in the earth suffered a terrible judgment.
Now I repeat: is this erection of a seminary building an extravaganza for our Protestant Reformed people? Are we really over-reaching ourselves? Can we do this?
And then I certainly wish to say that many of our people have a heavy financial burden. This is also true of many of our churches. Of course, we live in a day and age of luxury and plenty. Vacations and pleasures and conveniences, and luxuries are common among us. I am not aware of any suffering among our people, of suffering for the sake of God’s covenant, also in the financial and material sense of the word. How many are the luxuries in which so many of us indulge! Nevertheless, I do not wish to ignore the truth that our people have a financial burden. The cost of living is high nowadays, and it costs considerable money these days to furnish our children with Christian instruction. How much would a second missionary and a third professor cost our people per year? Well, how much would we save a year if we should buy one package of cigarettes less a week? Would we be saving some $20 a year? Even so, the cost of living is high, also the cost of Christian instruction, and this is a heavy burden especially for our families with many children.
Can we afford this seminary building? It seems to me that many of our people must blush when asked this question. As far as the undersigned is concerned, the answer must be in the affirmative. Why? In II Chronicles 24we have an account of the repair off the temple in the days of Joash, the king of Judah, who walked in the ways of the precepts of the Lord during all the days of Jehoida. We read in that chapter that a chest was made and also that the moneys were gathered in abundance. There was no assessment. They got more than they needed. Why? How must this abundance be explained? Because we read in verse 10 that all the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the chest. You see, it was simply a matter of the heart. They rejoiced, gave with joy; it was simply a matter of the heart. For us, the question is simply this: do we really want this seminary building? Does this venture occupy a place in our hearts? Do we rejoice because of the opportunity to set up a building of our own? Do we recognize its importance; are we behind it with all our heart and soul, even as Israel was when they had the opportunity to contribute toward the repair of the temple? If this be the case, then we can have it. Why? The reason is obvious. Then they who have little will give of the little they have, and they who have much will give of their abundance. And when we all give as the Lord has prospered us, give of that which does not belong to us and for which we must give an account to Him Who is the sole Owner of all things, I am sure that the money will come in abundance. It is all a matter of the heart.
However, we also wish to make a few comments on the location of our seminary building and our calling to contribute to this venture. No, I do not wish to discuss this building site as such. It appears that many of our people are afraid of the location on Cambridge, S.E., in Grand Rapids because of the race problem; they fear that, should we build there, we would regret it later. Now I do not wish to discuss this problem in this article. The fact is, our synod has approved the purchase of this site and has instructed our Theological School Committee to conduct a financial drive to acquire funds in order that this seminary building may be erected. This financial drive must be conducted now. Money, therefore, should be collected and received now.
Now the reader must understand that I am stressing here one point. And this point is fundamental. To be sure, we can also point to other things. When, as parents, we erect our own schools, also our own high school, we seek what is adequate, do we not? We want our schools to have proper lighting, etc. And now we ought to be satisfied with having our seminary facilities in the basement of our First Church? Of course, we are grateful to First Church for the use of its basement all these years. But, what institution, I ask you, is more important for the church than its seminary? We should be satisfied with our present seminary quarters in the basement of First Church because these quarters have served us since 1925? Do we apply the same rule when we build homes for ourselves? Do we proceed from the idea that what was good enough forty years ago is also good enough for us today?
Be this as it may, however, I wish to stress one thing in this connection. And this one thing is a fundamental principle of Reformed Church government. Two fundamental principles of Reformed Church government are: the autonomy of the local church, and the synod is the broadest governing body in the life of a denomination. And we, of course, are now referring to the second of these principles. We are afraid that the present site for our seminary building is ill-advised? We are afraid that we will regret it later that we have built there? So what? The synod speaks for us, does it not? Are we going to withhold our contributions until later? Until when? Are we dissatisfied with this present site on Cambridge? We have the right of appeal to our next synod in 1972, although it would have been better had we appealed sometime ago. We certainly could have known for some time that this site on Cambridge had been selected and purchased. But, let us assume that we appeal to the synod of 1972. Let us also assume that the synod of 1972 rejects our appeal and decides to maintain this present location. What shall we do then? Shall we refuse to support this venture financially because we reject this synodical decision? This reminds the undersigned of churches he has served in the past and where members refused to pay toward the erection of a church building which had been determined by the congregation because they did not approve the location which had been chosen. And why should we withhold our contributions now? Regardless of our personal opinions, likes or dislikes, feelings with respect to the race problem, this building is certainly going to be built, and it is going to be built at a synodically approved site. Only the synod can and may decide where this building will be erected. And we are certainly going to submit to this decision of the synod. Now, the synod has decided. We have the right of appeal. And then, when this appeal has been treated, we will all stand behind this synodical decision. Of course! This is proper. So, let us then present a united front now. We will have to do this later anyway. And, by all means, let us not decide to withhold our contributions because we believe that the basement of our First Church is adequate. These quarters are not adequate. Besides, this matter, too, that we must have a seminary building of our own, has been synodically determined. Let us, therefore, be Reformed also in this matter, give joyfully and liberally of what the Lord has given us, set our shoulders to the wheel, and do it now, even if the location of this building must be located elsewhere. This determination of the building site may not and must not interfere with our contributions to this wonderful cause as of now.
[Editor’s Note: Send your contributions or pledges to: Theological School Building Fund, c/o Mr. Richard H. Teitsma, 1659 Shangrai La Drive, S.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan 49508.]