Henry R. Van Til, 1906-1961

On Thursday morning, September 28, we heard that Prof. Henry R. Van Til had suffered a heart attack while in his office at Calvin College. A little while later we were shocked to learn that he passed away on the way to Butterworth Hospital. The brother had been troubled with a heart condition for some time but he remained active and busy till the time of his death at the age of 54. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the bereaved family to which he was very dear and which was precious to him his wife Elizabeth and seven children.

The funeral services were held in the Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church on Saturday. The family’s pastor, Rev. John A. Mulder, was in charge. After words of tribute had been spoken by Rev. Dr. Alexander De Jong the pastor of many of the deceased’s relatives, including his father, in the Second Church of Highland, Indiana—the Rev. Mr. Mulder spoke fitting words of comfort and admonition on Philippians 3:20, 21 before a large audience of professors, students, ministers, relatives, and other sympathizers. A memorial service was held on the following Monday in Calvin College Chapel where Dr. John H. Bratt spoke on Job 33:13, stressing the fact that the brother’s death in the prime of life defies explanation and calls for resting in the sovereign will of God and accepting this loss in faith as imbedded in the wisdom and goodness of God.

Henry R. Van Til was born in Griffith, Indiana, in 1906. He studied at Calvin College where he obtained his A.B. degree in 1934. He then studied theology at Westminster Theological Seminary for two years, completed the course at Calvin Seminary a year later, and returned to Westminster where he received the degree of master of theology. He was ordained in 1940 and became pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of Sumas, Washington, which he served for three years. In 1943 he felt called to become chaplain in the armed forces of the United States in which capacity he served for three years. After the war he spent a short time in study at the University of Chicago and then went to the Free University of Amsterdam where he was engaged for about 15 months in further post-graduate study of theology and philosophy after which he returned to the States.

In 1946 Rev. Van Til was appointed associate professor of Bible at Calvin College where he labored diligently till the very day of his death. He took a lively interest and an active part in the work of various religious organizations. He served as president of the Calvinistic Culture Association in 1955 and acted as vice president of the Evangelical Ministerial Union of Grand Rapids. He was one of the charter members of the Reformed Fellowship, Inc., served as member of its Board until his death and as editor of the book review department of its magazine, TORCH AND TRUMPET. He contributed many articles to it over the past ten years, and probably has done more for the paper than anyone else. In 1959 he completed a scholarly book entitled The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, which has received considerable favorable attention in many periodicals.

Our association with Prof. Van Til dates from the time we became managing editor of TORCH AND TRUMPET about five years ago. We learned to know him as a conSistent, enthusiastic Calvinist and an ardent lover of the Reformed faith. He was too aggressive and tough-hewn to be well liked by those who regard urbanity and tact as supreme virtues. To be able lo appreciate “Hank” Van Til one had to know him well and discover in him such rugged attributes as religious zeal, a warm love for Christ and his Church, and complete devotion to the truth of the Scriptures.

We are pleased to be able to publish an abridgment which Dr. Alexander De Jong sent us, at our request, of his stirring message at the funeral service. But the printed words that follow cannot convey the deep impression which the spoken words and the touching, intimate manner in which they were delivered made on those present.