The assignment given me at a recent Theological School Committee meeting was to write for publication in The Standard Bearer a brief summary of the activities of the committee and the seminary. In trying to fulfill this mandate I found that it is not easy for a neophyte member of this committee to write such a summary. There is so much history and therefore so much learning and adjusting to do that one scarcely has the time to reflect long enough to report in any detail what has happened. It is like jumping in midstream and not knowing the many curves and rapids that have been passed in the years gone by. I chose, therefore, not to report simply in a factual manner but rather to give a rather subjective view, my impressions, of what has transpired in the short while that I have been a member of this committee.
In the first place, we can report one sure thing: the seminary is off and running for another academic year. And, in observing the beginning of this academic year one cannot help but be impressed. The seminary faculty is a very able trio; they know what they are doing and they do it well—in the classroom not only, but administratively as well. It was a smooth beginning—evidence, of course, of planning and hard work.
Further, I think it can be said that there has not been a year recently when the faculty and the Theological School Committee began its work with such enthusiasm. We and the faculty were, of course, highly pleased and grateful to God that Rev. Decker was led to accept the call to labor in the seminary. And, yes, he is off and running, too. His teaching duties began immediately. The now Professor Decker and his family are comfortably settled in the northeast section of Grand Rapids. For those who could not or did not attend Professor Decker’s installation on Wednesday, October 3, you missed something. This evening, too, was cause for an increased measure of enthusiasm—for the newly-installed professor, for his colleagues and for the people present. The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the sermon preached by Professor Hanko. Professor Hanko chose as his text the well-known words of I Timothy 2:15 and in the course of his sermon gave excellent advice—God’s advice and truly scriptural advice—to his new colleague, to the students and to all the people assembled there. Advice, which if followed, will lead to much prayer, much hard work, and much blessing. The evening was a truly blessed event. An added bit of joy was also brought to the new professor when he welcomed sizeable contingents from his former pastorates. For there were not only some who drove from South Holland, but there were also six couples who made the trip from Doon, Iowa. As Rev. Decker put it: the presence of these people and the whole night certainly did much to ease the pain of leaving his congregation.
I think, then, that it can be said without question that the morale in the seminary—faculty and students alike—is high. Professor Decker’s presence is an answer to much prayer, and it is, therefore, with renewed zeal and eager anticipation that Professors Hoeksema and Hanko began this year’s work. And, in that regard, I want to emphasize that work they do! I know of no other faculty that works any harder. Consider for example, that these men teach 18-20 hours per week (mostly at the graduate level). This is a normal load. In a day when college and university faculties are demanding lighter loads (graduate faculty members at present rarely exceed 6 hours) we can certainly thank God for ambitious, energetic, conscientious men. But quantity is not all for which we can be thankful. Quality is there, too. One does not need to talk long with all three professors to know that they demand a lot of themselves and their students. These men demand much of themselves and they produce quality study materials. A recent conversation with a certifying official of the Michigan Department of Education was evidence of this fact. Upon reviewing the seminary curriculum, there was no doubt in the mind of this official that the Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches was no mail-orderhouse diploma mill. The standards are indeed high for both faculty and students.
Another source of delight to the committee, the faculty and students, and, I believe, to the entire constituency of our churches is the prospect of a new building. For those who live in the Michigan area one need only drive up the Ivanrest hill to realize that that building is no longer a dream but is rapidly becoming a reality. The exterior is all but finished and the interior is fast being finished. The furnishings have already been bought at a tremendous savings, by the way, thanks to the gratuity of Steelcase, Inc. through its institutional grant plan. It certainly is not hard to imagine being settled in this new plant by the second semester.
There certainly are many reasons for enthusiasm and rejoicing even in this short while that I have been a member of the Theological School Committee. God has been truly good to us and has provided for the needs of our seminary: He has given us able and dedicated professors, men dedicated to the true and careful exegesis of the Scriptures and men who hold with might and main to truths of the Reformation; He has given us the wherewithal to finance the new building, He has worked within the hearts of our people the willingness to contribute liberally; He has given us students and continues to call young men as is evidenced by three new faces again this year; and, above all, He has preserved us in His truth, He has given us the privilege of continuing in the line of the Reformation, the privilege of maintaining the Reformed heritage. And, in all of this our seminary is in the forefront. Thank God for its establishment and its continued existence.
We need not dwell long, then, need we, on whether the seminary is worth every dime spent on it. Several congregations, the one of which I am a member included, have experienced directly the fruits of the training of our seminary. Young men who are dedicated to the true and careful exposition and exegesis of the Scriptures and who are dedicated to the Reformed faith and who are recent graduates of our seminary occupy our pulpits from Sunday to Sunday and thus serve as a constant reminder of the worth of our theological school. They have been well prepared for the task to which God has called them.
The seminary is indeed off and running for another academic year. The Theological School Committee rejoices in that fact and prays God for His continued blessing upon us as we direct this institution and upon all the personnel of this institution. We trust that your prayers, too, are similar.