In Memoriam: Norman De Jong

There is a stirring scene in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress which reminds me of the life and labors of my father, the Rev. Dr. Norman De Jong. Bunyan describes it as follows:

Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, “Set down my name, Sir”: the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put an helmet upon his head, and rush toward the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force: but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace, at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying—“Come in, come in; Eternal glory thou shalt win.” So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they.


Norman De Jong was born on December 5, 1935, at a farmhouse near Rock Valley, Iowa. He was the fourth of six children of Henry and Anna De Jong. Norm had two older sisters, Dorothy and Lori. He had an older brother, Lester, and two younger brothers, Nelson and Russel.

The De Jong children attended Christian school for their education. Norman graduated from Western Christian High School in 1953. With a desire to study for the ministry, he attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There he changed his major from pre-seminary to history. He graduated in 1957 with a BA. On October 25, 1957, he married Wilma Vande Guchte of Detroit, Michigan. Wilma was also a student at Calvin, where she earned a degree in nursing, and she became a registered nurse.

After the wedding, Norm and Wilma traveled to Iowa City, Iowa. Norman started his master’s degree in education at the University of Iowa. He finished that degree in 1958. Upon graduation he took a position as a teacher at the Southwest Minnesota Christian High School in Edgerton, Minnesota. There Norman and Wilma’s first son was born—Gregory Scott De Jong.

After two years in Edgerton, Norman became the principal at the Christian school in Manhattan, Montana. He and Wilma had a second son while in Manhattan, Brian Lee De Jong. In the summer of 1963, the family left Montana for a new opportunity in Allendale, Michigan. There Norman served as the principal of the Allendale Christian School.

In 1965 Norman, Wilma, and the boys moved to Sioux Center, Iowa, in order for Norman to teach education at Dordt College. During the time in Sioux Center, their only daughter was born—Amy Lynn De Jong. For two years, from 1970 to 1972, the family lived in Iowa City. There Norman pursued his PhD in education from the University of Iowa. He graduated in 1972, and they returned to Sioux Center.

The next two years were tumultuous due to conflicts within the faculty and administration of Dordt College. Norman was in the middle of the dispute and was a leader among the faculty in resisting the promotion of Dooyeweerdianism and Kuyperian sphere sovereignty. In 1974 Norman was among the third of the faculty that was fired by the Dordt College administration.

The next stop for the De Jong family was Bellflower, California. Norman served as principal of the Bellflower Christian Elementary School for three years. In 1977 he took a position as the superintendent of the Eastern Christian School system in North Haledon, New Jersey. After two difficult and frustrating years in North Haledon, Norman returned to the college ranks, teaching at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. He taught education courses at Trinity for the next thirteen years.

During his time at Trinity, developments with the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) led to increasing conflict. The CRC actively promoted theistic evolution through the science department at Calvin College. They also entertained the ordination of women to church office through the teaching of Calvin Theological Seminary. The trends that were increasingly popular in Grand Rapids also began to show up at Trinity Christian College.

Norman resisted these developments locally as well as on a denominational level. In October 1987 he held a public debate with Dr. Howard Van Till at Calvin College on the topic of creation and evolution. Van Till promoted theistic evolution, while Norman advocated a six-day creationist perspective. The debate was attended by fifteen hundred people, and it was much discussed in the denomination.

When the conflict at Trinity became unavoidable, Norman resigned from the faculty. It was at this time that he and Wilma began considering the need to leave the CRC and join the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). Norman and Wilma moved to Sioux Center, Iowa, and for one year Norman attended the newly opened Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Orange City, Iowa.

Returning to Chicago after that year, Norman began working with a group of Christian Reformed people who wished to start a new OPC church in the Palos Heights, Illinois, area. In 1994 Norman was examined for ordination by the Presbytery of the Midwest of the OPC. His theology exam was not sustained, and he spent the next six months studying the Westminster Confession of Faith. When he was re-examined at the next meeting, he was approved for ordination.

On October 2, 1994, Norman was ordained to the gospel ministry by the Presbytery of the Midwest. His son Brian preached the sermon at his ordination service. For the next four years he served as the pastor of Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Palos Heights (later Orland Park). In 1998 he retired, and he and Wilma moved to Howard City, Michigan. During this period he was actively engaged in writing and in preaching. From the fall of 2001 until November 2003 he served the congregation at Mill Creek OPC in Grand Rapids. From 2004 until 2008, he and Wilma were actively involved at Little Farms Chapel in Marne, Michigan. In 2008 they moved to Fremont, Michigan, where he was the founding pastor for Bethel Reformed OPC. After retiring a second time, Norm and Wilma returned to Little Farms Chapel, where they were active from 2011 until 2020. At that time they moved to Crete, Illinois, and became active at Momence OPC in Momence, Illinois.

Mixed in were short-term ministries in South Africa (1990), Perth, Australia (2003–2004), New Town, Connecticut (2007), New Zealand (2012), and New Zealand again (2013–2014). Norm also had brief interim ministries at OP churches in Senora, California, Natchitoches, Louisiana, and Pineville, Louisiana. He and Wilma served in short-term missions in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Cyprus, and Kenya.

Norm was a prolific writer and published a number of important books on education, including Education in the Truth (1968), Philosophy of Education: A Christian Approach (1977), and Teaching for a Change (1998). In 1985 he teamed up with his friend Dr. Jack Van Der Slik to write Separation of Church and State: The Myth Revisited. His book God’s Wedding Band, published in 1989, deals with the creation/evolution controversy within the Christian Reformed Church. A popular version of his dissertation was published in 1978 under the title Christianity vs. Democracy. In recent years he published Bible study books on Esther and on Ezra and Nehemiah. A number of his other Bible studies were self-published.

On September 30, 1989, Trinity Christian College presented Norman with a plaque which reads as follows: “For ten years you have served the college as Director of Teacher Education, touching in significant ways the lives and careers of hundreds of Christian School teachers. Your ready wit and humorous anecdotes give evidence of the kind and gentle heart that beats within. For all your varied range of talents we express to you, on this anniversary, our sincere appreciation and wish you God’s continued blessings.”

This faithful servant of Jesus Christ, this steadfast husband of sixty-four years, this diligent father and grandfather, this devoted teacher in school and church, has been used of God for much good in this world. On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, at 10:15 p.m. Norman De Jong finished his race and entered the presence of his Savior. His faithful wife of sixty-four years was at his side to the last.

In evaluating his life, what sort of man was Norman De Jong?

First, he was a redeemed man who trusted in Jesus Christ alone for his eternal salvation. By his own admission, Norman De Jong was a sinner who, like all men, justly deserved hell. Jesus Christ died on the cross to take away his many sins. Moreover, Jesus gave his perfect righteousness to Norman De Jong. My dad entered heaven clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, and he found acceptance in the sight of the thrice holy God.

Second, he was a truthful man. The truth mattered greatly to my father and not infrequently led him into conflict. He held strong convictions based on the Word of God, and he boldly proclaimed and defended those truths. His stand for truth sometimes cost him his employment, but integrity was more important to Norm than worldly comforts. That meant he was honest when most people would not be so candid. He gave his unvarnished opinion, whether people listened or failed to listen.

Third, my father was an educator through and through, until the day of his death. Most of his career was dedicated to promoting truly Christian education. His books, his work as a college professor, his years as a Christian school administrator, all enabled him to be influential in the Christian school movement of his day. He was a recognized and respected leader in that field.

Another quality that stands out in my mind was his commitment to the serious study of God’s Word. As a pastor and preacher, as an author, as a Bible study leader, he was as diligent as he was passionate about accurately teaching the Word of God. He was not afraid to declare, “Thus saith the Lord!” and to call his hearers to repent, to believe, and to obey the Word of the living God.

Connected to this, my dad loved the church of Jesus Christ, and he strove to promote her peace, her purity, and her unity in the truth. Much of his life was spent in the Christian Reformed Church, which he loved. His ministerial service was in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which he also loved. He loved the church, and he served her with distinction. My dad was a churchman.

The family is comforted by the words of Revelation 14:13 (New American Standard Bible):

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”

Rev. Brian De Jong is the second son of Dr. and Mrs. Norman De Jong. Brian is married to DeLou, has six children, and seven grandchildren. He serves as the pastor of Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.