The Reformational Movement

Institutions and Organizations

Latest posting: September 22, 2005.

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In the factual and informational spirit of my cast of characters who are or have been involved in the reformational movement, I here present information on institutions and organizations that have played a role in the movement's development. I have stayed away from editorial comment, which I reserve for the narrative series. -Theodore Plantinga.

  • Association for Calvinistic Philosophy. Organized in the Netherlands in 1935 by Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd. In later years Dooyeweerd wanted to change "Calvinistic" to "Christian," but his advice on this matter was not followed.

  • Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA). A Christian undergraduate liberal arts college with a few graduate programs. Founded in 1876 as an institution to train ministers for the Christian Reformed denomination. Its preparatory (pre-seminary) program grew into a junior college (called John Calvin Junior College) and then into a full-fledged undergraduate arts and sciences program. Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary now have separate boards but share a library and a campus. Both institutions have employed professors who participated in the reformational movement, including Evan Runner (Calvin philosophy department).

  • Calvin Theological Seminary: see Calvin College.

  • Canadian Reformed denomination. Another church home for reformationals, especially in the earlier days of the movement in North America. The counterpart in the new world of the "liberated" (vrijgemaakt) churches that were organized separately after Schilder and many other office-bearers were deposed in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands in 1944. The Dutch counterpart of this denomination suffered a split in the late 1960s, which led to the formation of a denomination known as the Dutch Reformed churches (Nederlands Gereformeerd), whose members are also referred to as the "buiten-verbanders" (outside the federation), to be distinguished from the "binnen-verbanders" (inside the federation), who retained the name "Reformed Churches in the Netherlands" (liberated).

  • Christian Reformed denomination (headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA). Not to be confused with the denomination in the Netherlands which is known as "Christian Reformed," and whose North American counterpart is the denomination known as "Free Reformed." The Christian Reformed Church in North America is the denomination that counts more reformationals among its members than any other on this continent. Evan Runner was Christian Reformed during his Calvin College teaching days. In his later years he became United Reformed. The latter denomination was formed in the 1990s largely by dissenters in Christian Reformed ranks who disagreed with what the denomination was doing in response to such issues as the challenge of evolutionism and the question of allowing women to serves as ministers, elders and deacons in the church.

  • Dordt College (Sioux Center, Iowa, USA). A Christian undergraduate liberal arts college that became a reformational stronghold in the 1960s and has employed many reformationals as professors ever since. Founded in 1955 as a two-year institution offering teacher education.

  • Free University of Amsterdam. Founded in 1880 by Abraham Kuyper and his associates. In time it achieved full government recognition and funding (the last step came in 1970). This development brought its character as a Christian institution into question. It employed many leading figures in the reformational movement as professors, including Herman Bavinck, Dooyeweerd, and Vollenhoven. In the earlier days of the reformational movement, many North American reformationals went to the Free University to study for a doctorate.

  • Groen Club (also known as the Groen van Prinsterer Society). A student club at Calvin College that operated from about 1953 to about 1971. Its sponsor was Evan Runner. Many of the leading figures in the North American reformational movement were members of the Groen Club during their student days at Calvin College and/or Seminary.

  • Hervormde Kerk: See Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.

  • Institute for Christian Studies (ICS, located in Toronto, Canada). A graduate institution offering masters' and doctoral degrees in various disciplines, normally with an emphasis on the philosophical or foundational issues that arise within those disciplines. Its professorships include both an Evan Runner chair (history of philosophy) and a Herman Dooyeweerd chair (social and political philosophy). It was founded in 1967 by the Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship (AACS), which was earlier known as the Association for Reformed Scientific Studies (ARSS), having been founded in the 1950s by Dutch Reformed people in Ontario, who were partly inspired to take this step by Evan Runner's work at Calvin College. The first professors at ICS were Hendrik Hart, James Olthuis and Bernard Zylstra. Calvin Seerveld joined them in 1972. It was expected that Runner would also move to ICS, but it never happened.

  • Kampen. The name of a city in the Netherlands and also the home of the official seminary (called Theologische Hogeschool) of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. Kampen was established in 1854 as the seminary serving the churches that stemmed from the Secession of the 1830s. The theological faculty of the Free University served as the mainister-training institution for the denomination that resulted from the Doleantie of 1886. After the church union of 1892, the new and united denomination found itself with two institutions offering training for the ministry. There was a degree of rivalry between the two; some people were very loyal to one of them and had little respect for the other. In the aftermath of the 1944 split, Kampen became two separate seminaries serving the two denominations that had parted company. Just as the two denominations each claimed the original name and claimed to be the legitimate continuation of the denomination, the two seminaries claimed the original name. In practice they came to be distinguished by street address. The seminary serving the Schilder denomination was known as "Kampen (Broederweg)" since its building was located on a street with that name, and the other one was referred to as "Kampen (Oudestraat)." The parallel terminology in the case of the denominations was "Reformed Churches (liberated)" as distinguished from "Reformed Churches (synodical)." Schilder had begun teaching at the original Kampen in 1933; after the events of 1944 he was part of the faculty of Kampen (Broederweg). Herman Bavinck had begun his teaching career at Kampen as well and moved to the theological faculty of the Free University in 1902, shortly Kuyper gave up his teaching duties to become Prime Minister of the Netherlands (he was in office 1901-05). In recent decades the Dutch have taken to calling the two seminaries in Kampen "theological universities" to recognize the level of instruction they offer. This designation should not be taken to mean that a number of faculties or schools or programs are included within the institution.

  • Paideia Press (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada). A reformational publishing company founded in the early 1970s by John Hultink. Its main early project was S.G. De Graaf's Promise and Deliverance (four volumes), translated by Evan Runner and his wife.

  • Philosophia Reformata. The leading scholarly journal in reformational circles. Dooyeweerd himself served as its editor for many years. At first its articles were published mainly in Dutch, but over the years other languages came into wider use, especially English.

  • Potchefstroom. A Reformed university in Potchefstroom, South Africa. It was originally known as the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. More recently, it has been merged with other institutions to become the North-West University and is no longer an explicitly Christian institution. Its best-known reformational professor was the philosopher H.G. Stoker.

  • Redeemer University College (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). Formerly known as Redeemer Reformed Christian College. An undergraduate Christian liberal arts institution with many professors associated with the reformational movement and an endowed chair of philosophy named after Evan Runner. Founded in 1982.

  • Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland). The official name throughout the twentieth century of the denomination of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck. The name dates back to 1892, when there was a union of two separate denominations (which could be compared to the "free churches" in Scottish church history) that had arisen in the Netherlands through secessions from the original Protestant church that stemmed from the Reformation (called the Hervormde Kerk, the Dutch counterpart of the Church of Scotland). The dominant figure in one of those denominations was Abraham Kuyper; it had come into existence in 1886 after a process of church reformation was rejected within the Hervormde Kerk. This reformation process of the 1880s is called the Doleantie. The dominant theological figure in the other and older denomination was Bavinck, who was then teaching in the denomination's theological seminary, located in Kampen. The older denomination traced its roots to the Secession (Dutch: Afscheiding) of the 1830s. The vast majority of reformationals in the Netherlands through the middle of the twentieth century were members of this united denomination, whose Dutch initials, often used in English as well, were "GKN." It was this denomination that expelled Klaas Schilder in 1944. The result was another denomination that kept the same official name but was referred to unofficially as "liberated," while the larger body which had deposed Schilder as a professor (he taught at Kampen) and a minister came to be characterized as "synodical." In later years, reformationals in the Netherlands might well be members of the "liberated" Reformed Churches, or perhaps of yet another denomination that resulted from a 1970 split within the latter (see also: Canadian Reformed denomination). The new group came to be called "Nederlands Gereformeerd" (Dutch Reformed) and is easily confused in English-language terminology with the Hervormde Kerk, which is also referred to frequently as "Dutch Reformed." In addition there are churches in Canada which fall outside the reformational tradition and are known officially as "Netherlands Reformed." It should be noted that the Dutch language has two adjectives for Reformed in the ecclesiastical sense: "Gereformeerd" and "Hervormd." This terminological difference cannot be duplicated in English and is therefore a source of confusion. In 2004, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands united with the Hervormde Kerk and also with a small Lutheran denomination to form a new body known officially as the Protestant Churches in the Netherlands. This development left the spiritual descendants of Schilder in sole possession of the name "Reformed Churches in the Netherlands." However, another source of confusion is the fact that there is also an important denomination in the Netherlands that bears the name "Christian Reformed." It is not the Dutch equivalent of what is called the Christian Reformed denomination in North America but is actually made up of people and churches in the Herman Bavinck denomination (stemming from the Secession of the 1830s) who, back in 1892, declined to join the church union, largely because they disagreed with Kuyper. Members of the Christian Reformed denomination in the Netherlands do not characteristically think of themselves as reformationals. They and their North American counterparts (called Free Reformed) maintain more objections to the thinking of Kuyper than are to be found among the Canadian Reformed followers of Schilder. The Christian Reformed in the Netherlands maintain a seminary in Apeldoorn.

  • Trinity Christian College (Chicago, USA). Not to be confused with Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois, which is associated with Trinity Evangelical Divinity School as part of what is now Trinity International University. TCC, located in the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights, is an undergraduate liberal arts institution. It was a major reformational center in the 1960s and early 1970s. Its leading spirit in terms of reformational thought and emphases was Calvin Seerveld, who moved to the Institute for Christian Studies in 1972.

  • United Reformed Churches: See Christian Reformed denomination.

  • Wedge Publishing Foundation. A reformational publishing company founded in Toronto in the 1970s by reformationals associated with the Institute for Christian Studies. It was later taken over by John Hultink of Paideia Press.

  • Go to the contents page for the history of the reformational movement.