Separation of Church and College

At the request of the Reformed Fellowship I will gladly give a few practical remarks about the separation of Church and College.

In The Reformed Journal I wrote at the time on the principle involved, viz., sphere sovereignty. It seems that our leaders in general subscribe to that principle. But many do not consider it practical to separate the College from the Church. They fear that the proposed separation may be detrimental to the cause of higher education, and of course if that would be the case we should let Calvin College remain a Church owned and Church controlled institution. though it is doubtful whether fear in itself might be our guide. We should try to find a way out of the labyrinth of difficulties so that we can apply the principle without hurting the cause. And usually this can be done.

Now my contention is that the practical objections weighed in the balances of expediency are found wanting, and that it will be practical and for the best interests of the School to separate it from the Church.

Permit me to look in this article at the proposition from a practical viewpoint.


First there is the problem of the finances. That often is the nervus rerum. Is it financially safe to separate the College from the Church? I would say it is not safe to leave Calvin College a Church owned institution.

God loves the cheerful giver. and not the one who grumbles because Synod again has raised the quota for the College. In the long run people do not want to be forced to sacrifice. They want to give of their own free will. Synodical decisions and drives will serve the purpose only temporarily. It is necessary to make the people warm for the cause of higher education. They must feel their responsibility. They must not give because loyalty to the Christian Reformed Church demands it of them, but because God calls them to support this great cause with their prayers and their contributions. And that is at present not the motive which prompts them to sacrifice. The question is asked by many: “Why should I give so that Calvin College can teach courses for all kind of secular positions, as a pre-medical course, a pre-law course, etc.?” And they rightly ask this question if they are urged to give because the Church happens to maintain this institution while the Church actually has no business to do this.

Our people are willing to give. They have proven this repeatedly. Institutions like Pine Rest and the Reformed Bible Institute and other causes are so many monuments which testify of the great generosity of our common people (de kleine luyden). If they aTe approached in the right way and are convinced that they have a great responsibility to propagate Calvinism in all spheres of life, they will loosen their purse strings.

But there is something else. As long as Calvin College is a Church institution you can only expect members of the Christian Reformed Church to sustain it. But why limit ourselves to the membership of this comparatively small denomination? We should try to interest Calvinists in the United States and Canada in a true Calvinistic College, which should become in process of years a Calvinistic University. There are still the 7000, who have not bent the knee for the Baal of false religion and desire to honor God as the Sovereign in atmospheres of life. They should collaborate with us. We will need millions to reach our ideal, and the load will be far too heavy if the Christian Reformed Church has to carry it alone.

According to the report in our Church papers, President Spoelhof drew the attention of Curatorium (the Board of Trustees) to the need of good Calvinistic professors. Time, buildings, and a large number of students do not mean anything if we have not a sufficient number of able, devoted teachers. And I doubt whether we will get them if the College remains a Church institution. In our choice of professors we have to limit ourselves in the main to those who belong to the Christian Reformed Church. It is possible that some who do not belong to this Church wiII teach at the school. But they will be the exceptions. It stands to reason that we rather not call persons who are of other Churches, and that such persons do not prefer to work in such a school. In the main we will be limited to men and women of our own Church. And this has its drawbacks. In the first place it is very doubtful whether there is a sufficient number in our Church to fill the respective chairs. And in the second place this limitation may make us choose persons who are scholastically inferior but who happen to be loyal members of the Church and favored sons and daughters.

More might be said for instance about the relationship of the Church to a College owned and operated by an Association. But it is not my purpose to give a blueprint of the association to be formed.

It is my conviction that we can sepmate Church and school if we really want to do this, and that such separation will be beneficial to both Church and school.

P.S. It is hardly necessary to remark that a thorough study should be made of the procedure of the separation.