The undersigned, when first asked to write an article of this nature, hesitated. He has only been in the Seminary for a little over one semester and, therefore, has hardly had time to form well defined judgments concerning the school and his work done there. Nevertheless, he consented to write because of two reasons. The first is because altogether too little is written about our Seminary. Secondly, an article of this nature may prove helpful to those who might be considering the ministry as their life’s calling.
Our Seminary’s prime purpose, perhaps one should say only purpose, is to train and instruct young men for the ministry of the Gospel in the Protestant Reformed Churches. As such it is not primarily another graduate school where advanced work is done in theology. It is the Theological School of the Prot. Ref. Churches and as such it is distinctive. All the instruction is geared to that one purpose, the training of men for the Protestant Reformed ministry. This is not to say that the instruction is not of high intellectual calibre; it is and this will be pointed out later in more detail.
What this factor does mean, however, is that the students do a great deal of preaching. They do this almost from the very start. The undersigned experienced what every one of his predecessors did. That is, on the very first day of school he was assigned a text to preach on. The sermon is usually preached toward the close of the first semester (December or January). This is to say the least a terrifying experience. Consider with me the circumstances and you will no doubt understand the use of the rather strong adjective “terrifying.” This is the student’s very first attempt. The sermon must be preached before the three faculty members, the other students or student, and the ministers from the Grand Rapids area. This is not all. The whole scene takes place in the rather uninspiring confines of the seminary room located in the basement of Fuller Ave. Church! Add to this the fact that while the student is preaching, his critics are busily writing down their criticisms. The writer can assure you that when the student says “Amen” to that first sermon there is a relief that is beyond description! Then follows the criticism of each person present. In the light of this criticism the student “patches up,” improves upon, and more often than not reworks the entire sermon. He then is sent out to preach. Let me hasten to add, lest there be any misconceptions, that this experience, terrifying though it may be is also a blessed and rewarding experience. The student gains through this the conviction that whom the Lord calls He also qualifies. Besides what better way is there to learn than by this way in which the student profits from the accumulated experience and wisdom of servants of God who have preached twice a Sunday for years? This emphasis upon preaching also explains why there is so much emphasis upon exegesis. The word exegesis is derived from a Greek word which has the fundamental meaning of “to lead out.” Exegesis is the heart of the sermon or the foundation upon which the sermon must be built. The sermon must never be a lecture with a text as a mere “hanger on.” The student soon learns this, sometimes through painful experience. The sermon must always be based upon sound and careful exegesis so that it explains the text, the Word of God.
There is one characteristic of our Seminary that is basic. It underlies all of the teaching and is unmistakably clear even to the most casual observer. The Theological School of the Prot. Ref. Churches is characterized by a profound respect for the Word of God, the Bible. In all of the teaching there is a humble attitude of faith in the Scriptures. We do not question Scripture’s authority, we simply accept it in faith. From this point of view seminary work is not first of all an intellectual exercise. The emphasis is first of all and fundamentally an emphasis upon Scripture. The first question always is and must be: “What does the Bible say?” This attitude characterizes all discussion between faculty and students. The Professor’s first rejoinder to a student’s argument or question Is: “Do you have a text or passage from Scripture upon which you base your position?”
All of this is not to say that study in our school is done in the “no creed but Christ” atmosphere of American fundamentalism. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is a high regard for the creeds, confessions, and systematic exposition of the truth. Nevertheless, this profound respect for the Word of God underlies all of the work done in our Seminary.
This is not all, from a scholastic point of view our Seminary need take a backseat to no other Seminary. The students are instructed by three able scholars. Rev. G. Vos, instructor in Dutch, is well suited for his task. His instruction, both in the Nether¬lands and in this country, makes him well qualified. Besides giving thorough instruction in the intricacies of Dutch grammar, he unselfishly passes on bits of advice to the student. Advice based on nearly forty years in the ministry. Prof. H. C. Hoeksema, instructor in the Old Testament branches, is a graduate of Calvin College, the Prot. Ref. Seminary, and in addition has done graduate work in our school. His lectures are always stimulating, thought provoking, Scripturally orientated, and never dull. They reveal careful research and the God-given gift of insight into the meaning of Scripture. Rev. II. Hoeksema, instructor in Dogmatics and the New Testament branches, is well-known to all of us. His theological acumen is highly-recognized by friend and foe alike both in this country and in Europe. We need say no more.
Young men, do you want thorough instruction in all the aspects of the theological curriculum? You can get it at our Seminary. This, however, is not the first question to ask. Does God call you to this work? The need is great in our churches. Give this calling your prayerful consideration. If you are called you may look forward to our Seminary with eager anticipation. You will be instructed thoroughly in the theology of Scripture. You will be privileged to study under three men who are wholly dedicated to the task of teaching and propagating the Truth as God has revealed it to us. Not as important, but nevertheless having its place is the level of scholarship. To put it rather bluntly, the level of scholarship at our school is a challenge to the best minds. Do not be discouraged by that; the Lord qualifies those whom He calls. Remember, young men, there is no higher calling; nor is there a more rewarding work than the ministry.