A New President for Calvin College; A Visit to Concordia; “No, No! Not Here! This is a Public School”

Among the more important matters calling for the attention of and action by this year’s CRC Synod is the appointment of a successor to Dr. William Spoelhof to serve as the next president of Calvin College.

Although its impressive growth and other circumstances make it increasingly difficult today to still speak as intimately as formerly of Calvin as “onze school,” it should require only a minimum of thought and imagination to realize the crucial role of Calvin as a denominational school and the strategic importance of the position of the man who is to be placed at the helm.

The names of the two nominees being presented to Synod have been sufficiently publicized, and a resume of the qualifications of each has been made available for all to read and consider.

Be that as it may, I probably am only one of many in the cnc who wish that our firsthand knowledge of these appointees could be greater so that we could be in a better position to make a more meaningful choice. In bygone years when ministers were appointed to the presidency of Calvin College the situation was at least somewhat different. Because such men (Hiemenga, Schultze, B. B. Kuiper) appeared so frequently in our pulpits, the denomination was in a better position to know and to have confidence in them right from the start.

Whether we have any experienced and trusted minister or ministers today who are academically qualfied to be at the head of Calvin College, I am not in a position to know. However, it may fill some with more than a bit of nostalgia to realize that the day of an ordained man in that position is now, at east for the time being, apparently a thing of the past. The “onze school” character of Calvin is probably not enhanced by this situation.

Obviously then, the responsibility of this year’s Synod in making this apPointment is not to be minimized. Every delegate (elders as well as the ministers) must be fully aware of what his vote means. In the case of appointments to important government positions the nominees are thoroughly interviewed at great length because of all that is at stake. Every delegate to Synod ought to realize the full importance of the choice he is asked to make. Delegates should feel altogether free then to ask any and every fair and reasonable question he may have on his mind or heart.

Following are a few matters about which I believe the delegates should feel the need of receiving unambiguous and satisfactory answers from the nominees.

1. What do the nominees see as the future of a denominational college or church school such as Calvin College is? 2. What are their views on academic freedom? May this freedom be exercised in teaching outside of or only within the confessional framework to which Calvin is committed? 3. Do they believe it is still necessary to have Calvin faculty members sign the Form of Subscription? What bearing should signing the Form have on their teaching? Should this be regarded as a liability or as an asset? 4. How will the nominees give expression to their commitment to the Reformed faith? 5. How do they propose to promote an integrated education at Calvin in every part of the curriculum? 6. Do they believe that Calvin College Chimes (subsidized by a mandatory payment from all students) has proved itself a worthy or an unworthy student voice at our school that is called Calvin College? If not, what would they suggest be done? 7. Do they favor or reject the view of Scripture as advocated by leaders in the AACS (Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship )? Are they in favor of or opposed to the appointment of AACS persons to the Calvin faculty?

8. What do they advocate as their own Christian philosophy of education? How do they implement this in their present positions?

9. What are their views on the Kingdom of God and how to they seek to promote it?

10. Do they believe that Calvin should leave room for the teaching of evolution?

It is to be hoped that all elder delegates at Synod as well as the ministers will feel free to inquire frankly about these and also any other matters they may have in their minds and on their hearts.

It is to be hoped and should also be a matter of prayer that both of the nominees may be able to give full satisfaction and assurance with respect to their qualifications to fill this very important position. If this does not prove to be true in the case of either nominee, Synod should exercise the freedom not to make an appointment at this time. In that event, Dr. Spoelhof could be asked to continue, or a caretaker president could be appointed until a more satisfactory candidate can be found.

May the Lord’s richest blessings and guidance be granted to all delegates in their decision as they face this very important task.


Taking advantage of the opportunity to ride with our son who arranged a business trip to the St. Louis, Missouri area at the time of a Theological Convocation being held at Concordia Theological Seminary, I had the most interesting experience of being able to sit in on two and a half days of the meetings held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, April 16–18, at which outstanding Lutheran theologians, pastors, teachers and laymen addressed themselves to the controversy about Scripture that is so seriously disturbing the large LC–MS (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod).

In all, the Convocation ran from April 14–18. It was called by Dr. J. A. O. Prcus, president of the LC–MS and other denominational officials. Preus‘ position as president is fulltime, and J was surprised to learn that this is also true of all but four or five of the forty district presidents throughout the 2,800,000-member denomination.

About 300 delegates (professors, pastors, teachers, laymen) from all parts of the church were in attendance. Although the meetings were not open to the public, Victor W. Bryant, Director of the denomination’s Public Relations Department, and Joe A. Isenhower, the Administrative Assistant, were most cordial and accommodating in seating members of the news media and in showing us every consideration to assist in covering the meetings. As a CRC we could learn much from their know-how in handling publicity for their denomination.

A visit to Concordia undcr the present circumstances leaves one with mixed feelings. There is something so grand about that beautiful campus with its imposing and solid stone buildings—everything seems so reassuring. Until recently the student body numbered over four hundred. In some twenty-five fine homes on the campus, faculty members live side by side. However, when the controversy about Scripture came to a head at Concordia, the majority of the students walked out with President Tietjen and other faculty members who had been discharged because of their views. There is a tension in the LC–MS that fills the onlooker with sadness at the thought of such a deep and serious split in contrast to the harmony and the unity present there in a bygone day. It is heartening, however, to know that the historic Christian view of Scripture was upheld at Concordia regardless of the trauma and agony experienced in this painful parting of the ways.

The Lord willing, I plan to add to these introductory observations about the Convocation at Concordia and the LC–MS. The CRC as well as other denominations can and should learn much from what is happening to this large Lutheran body that has formerly been so sound in its view’ on Scripture. We too are no strangers to this controversy about the Book.

Probably, as is being predicted, the direction which the LC-MS will move in this controversy will surface more clearly when their denominational assembly meets in July at Anaheim, California. We do well to follow these developments with keen interest and also remember our Lutheran fellow-Christians in fervent prayer.

During the days of April 14·18 at this Theological Convocation the delegates listened to and discussed five essays or lectures on “The Nature and Function of Holy Scripture.” Let it suffice at this time to quote briefly from an outstanding address by Dr. Martin H. Franzmann, a former Concordia faculty member presently living in retirement in Cambridge, England. Dr. Franzmann told the delegates:

Of course, there is a way in which we can properly speak of a human side of the Bible. The Scripture does have a human side in the sense that in and through it the Spirit of God condescends to give man His revelation in human language. But this certainly does not detract from the divine character of the Bible any more than did the human nature in Christ detract from His divine nature . . . . The union of the human and the divine in Scripture is an instrumental union, and the two must never be separated in a way that makes primary authors of the human writers. This is in full accord with the Nicene Creed which says of the Spirit: ‘Who spake through the prophets.’”

As we read and reread those words of faith and wisdom, it should be obvious that they cut right through the vexing controversy about Scripture and should settle it once and for all, not only for the Lutherans but also for the CRC.


Recently we met her once again in a local shopping mall. Several years ago 1 was her pastor. She was playing the church organ already at fourteen. Now that her children are all grown, she has continued her education and has become an assistant teacher in the public school.

The incident she related sticks in my mind.

Being herself a product of the Christian School, she too was obviously struck by what she told us.

While she was at the school piano our friend noticed that one little tike was excitedly trying to ask for acertain song. But, try as she would, the youngster couldnt say what she wanted.

“I think I know what she would like to sing,” this assistant teacher said. “Is it ‘Jesus Loves Me’”? Yes, that was it, and the little miss said so with her head bobbing up and down in eager approval. You see, the assistant teacher surmised as mueh because she had come to know this youngster from the Mission Sunday School where she also went to play the organ or piano at the meetings.

But that’s when thc teacher in charge took over. “Jesus Loves Me”? “No, no! Not here!” she quickly objected. “This is a public school.”

A few days later my wife and I accepted an invitation to be present for “Grandparents’ Day” at one of our Christian schools. Scripture was read freely and prayer was offered. Christ had free access there and it was evidcnt that He was honored there as King. How different! A difference we so often and so easily just take for granted.

My heart still aches for that little tike who was bursting that day to sing “Jesus Loves Me” at school too, but was strictly forbidden to do so because she was in a public school.

Now, can there honestly be any question in which school our covenant children belong?

Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me,” Jesus says, “for to such belongeth the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).

And notice what else Jesus said:

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me; but whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:5, 6).

Indeed, Christian school tuition is expensive. But, really, the cost is nil compared to the awful price parents may have to pay if they are content to hand their covenant children over to teachers who must exclude the Savior and say of Him, “No, not Not here! This is a public school.”