18 Aug GS 1989 art 76
GS 1989 ARTICLE 76 – Welcome and address Prof. Dr. and Mrs. J. Faber
The chairman welcomes Prof. Dr. and Mrs. J. Faber with the following words: Esteemed Dr. and Mrs. Faber:
It is for me a great pleasure and privilege to welcome you together to this important session of General Synod 1989 here in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Your presence here has a very special reason and purpose, for — as you may well know — we generally in our churches do not invite professors to our major assemblies, much less their wives. But today you both are extremely welcome, today and for the duration of your stay in Winnipeg, which we hope will be as joyous and memorable for you as it will be for us. We are grateful that the Lord has protected you during your journey and brought you safely to us. We express the wish that you may fully experience and enjoy the fellowship with the members of Synod and with the brothers and sisters in this area.
This Synod was placed before the task of appointing professors at our Theological College. In itself that is nothing unusual. Synods 1980, 1983 and 1986 (three consecutive Synods no less!) had to deal with appointments of professors in the Old Testament, Diaconiological, and New Testament departments. At this Synod, however, it is somewhat different.
Here we had to appoint two professors at one time, and this already made our decisions of greater magnitude and consequence. But this Synod also had to face the fact that our Principal of twenty-one years of service and our long-standing professor of Dogmatology was going to retire. This is something which no Canadian Reformed Synod has ever had to digest! We must face the fact that we are to bid farewell to you, Dr. Faber, as active professor and Principal of our College. Therefore we decided unanimously to invite you and sr. Faber to visit us so that we may properly mark this historic changing of the guard and take our leave of you as Synod, representing the churches, in a proper manner.
Making appointments is always an exciting work, although sometimes not easy. Still we would rather not have made an appointment at all in the department of Dogmatology, for we have been very fortunate in having you as professor in this department for so many years. We thought that you were still doing an excellent job and we would not have objected at all if you had decided to continue on for some more years. But your request for retirement had to be honoured. We can fully appreciate your reasons for requesting this retirement, and so we acquiesce in the decision of the Board of Governors to grant you this and we agree that it be given in the most honourable fashion.
We are extremely blessed in the fact that we could appoint in Dr. N.H. Gootjes a suitable and able successor, a man who according to the information which we have received will be able to teach in a sound and fitting manner at our College in the department of Dogmatology. I know that you are very pleased with his appointment and with the appointment also of our own Rev. Drs. J. De Jong as professor of Ecclesiology and Diaconiology. It must make your retirement even sweeter to know that capable men come after you to take on positions at the College which has been so much a part of your main work in life.
Your retirement will lead to some more noteworthy changes. Often when a capable person who has become somewhat of an institution leaves, his work is taken over by not one but more persons. So it is here as well. You were for the duration of your tenure as active professor also Principal of our College — a permanent fixture in this respect. Since the principalship will now become a matter of rotation among the professors, Dr. Gootjes will not have to take upon himself immediately or permanently this added burden. This makes it easier for the members of the Senate. But this also means indeed the end of an era.
Dr. Faber, I echo the sentiments of all present when I say that you have been an excellent Principal, an able administrator whose concern was always to seek and find the best for the College — for its status as a recognized Reformed seminary and an acclaimed academic institution. In this way you sought to promote also the honour of Christ and to enhance the reputation of the churches who support this College. You took proper pride in the high standards set and maintained at our College, and this is reflected in the curriculum of our College.
You have also done much work with respect to the Theological College Act passed in the Ontario Legislative Assembly and adopted also at General Synod 1980 which gave our institution legal status to confer various degrees. This has been a major achievement in which you played a key role. Our College has gone from simple and obscure beginnings to being a reputable and recognized institution of learning which has instructed students from far and near, also from outside our churches. I think here especially of the interest from the side of the Free Reformed Churches. Our College has in the first twenty years of its existence delivered far above twenty candidates — more than one per year — in fact all but two of the ministers here are graduates of our College, and so has proven to be a great blessing for our churches and for others.
We recognize in all this first the Lord’s providential care and grace, for all that we have comes from Him and anything good which we do is through Him. At the same time we fully acknowledge that the Lord uses committed and qualified men to carry out His work. In you, Dr. Faber, we were given such a man, and we thank the Lord for your dedication and effort.
When you were appointed by General Synod 1968, first for the position of professor of Old Testament, it was apparent that the churches had great confidence in your expertise in the Bibliological field and in the original languages in which the Word of God is given to us. After Rev. J.T. van Popta passed away, Synod decided to appoint you as professor of Dogmatology in his place. This shows that the churches knew from the start your depth as academician. You have fully responded to that trust, in keeping up with all the disciplines of theology at the College and keeping a good eye on the whole of the training there.
If there is any disappointment which may have been uttered about your work, it is the fact that we have seen no extensive publications from your hand, as yet. The material which we did see, in magazine articles, was well-received, and through the years we looked forward to more. There is so little Reformed material available in English in the field of Dogmatics. By all accounts your lectures were always systematic and thorough, lively and well-presented — you have among your students the reputation of being a skillful and engaging lecturer — and we would like to see this reflected in books which may be used by present and future generations. This, too, will enhance the reputation of our College and advance its curriculum even more. So we ask you to lay aside even the slightest fear of publication and to let us share further in a broader circle in the fruits of your labours! These remarks are not made to be critical but to be sympathetic and encouraging. After all, we want to prevent any boredom which sometimes creeps into retirement.
Also we wish to express our gratitude to you, Mrs. Faber, for the way in which you have supported our professor and Principal in the years here in Canada. We know that you have been to him indeed a help in every way. You have also found a well-respected place in the Church at Hamilton and in our churches. For you it must be a pleasure to be able, the Lord willing, in the new year to have your husband more to yourself and to receive some time together in retirement. Your coming to Canada in 1968 has also in many ways been a blessing for your children, who have found a good place in our Canadian society. I am sure that looking back, you together see the guiding and preserving hand of the Lord. He gave strength also in times of trial and disappointments, which there have been in your lives as there are in every life.
We pray that our heavenly Father will continue to surround you both, Dr. and Mrs. Faber, and your family, with His love and care, that you may go on in His strength in the time that He gives you still under the sun. May you continue to contribute, as long as He gives life, to the propagation of the Gospel and the upbuilding of the churches of Jesus Christ. May it be said of you, when this earthly course is run, what will be said of all faithful servants, “Enter into the glory of your Lord”.
Dr. Faber, you will still serve until the end of this year, the Lord willing. The Board of Governors will undoubtedly, in a fitting manner, mark the true end of your tenure as professor. But this is the last General Synod that gathers in the time that you are still in active service. Therefore we extend to you and to your wife on behalf of our Canadian Reformed Churches our sincere gratitude and our best wishes. May I close with expressing the confidence of the apostle Paul who spoke by the Spirit of God in the letter to the Philippians, “[Our] God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4: 19, 20).
After speaking these words, he requested the assembly to stand and sing Hymn 5: 1, 2, 3, 4.
Prof. Dr. J. Faber replies by addressing Synod as follows:
Delegates of the General Synod of Winnipeg 1989, brothers and sisters of the Canadian Reformed Churches.
Let me immediately speak from the heart in answer to the remarks of the chairman, the esteemed Rev. Clarence Stam.
When the General Synod of Orangeville 1968 decided to appoint me professor of Old Testament, and Rev. J. Mulder, on behalf of Synod, phoned me in Rotterdam, I did not even know that a Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches was being held at that moment. Those of you who remember the situation of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands understand that in the fall of 1968 our thoughts were quite introvert. We were busy with the difficulties within our own Dutch churches.
When I phoned my mother in order to tell her the news, she said to me, “Jongen, ze hebben je hard nodig, ga maar gauw”. (“Son, they need you, go as soon as possible.”). I will not tell you the reaction of my beloved wife. But I tell you this secret that, before I flew to the Synod of Orangeville, I promised her that if it would be an appointment as professor of Old Testament, I would decline. For I knew that the late Rev. F. Kouwenhoven had obtained a Master of Theology degree in Old Testament at John Knox College in Toronto and I had decided never to take the place of a person who was more qualified for a particular academic position. I am still thankful for this decision that I also made known to the General Synod of Orangeville 1968.
The chairman reminded us of the fact that during this Synod Rev. J.T. van Popta was taken away from this life. By our discussions in that Synod the way was opened for the appointment of the late Rev. Kouwenhoven as professor of Old Testament and I was directed to the department of Dogmatology. This was a remarkable act of the God of life, the God of providence. When my wife heard from a journalist in the Netherlands that the situation had changed, she knew that this would have a great impact upon our life and that of our children but she wholeheartedly supported me in accepting the challenge of establishing a Reformed Theological Seminary in Canada.
Brothers and sisters, when I was very young, the LORD God gave me the desire to be a minister of the Word. Although it seemed impossible, I never wanted to become something else but a servant of the gospel of God. I grew up in a very poor situation. If someone knows the situation in the thirties and the slums of Amsterdam, he knows when and where I grew up. I was a student in an elementary school of which never a boy had gone to a gymnasium. In the entire history of that school I was the first one for whom this way was opened. God Himself opened for me the way to study in Amsterdam and Kampen. How I loved the study of the Word of God, the doctrine of the church, the Creeds and the Reformed Confessions!
When after seventeen years of ministry in the Netherlands, the Canadian appointment came, I thought about the way in which the LORD God had led my life. I thought of Rev. S.G. de Graaf who taught me in the Gereformeerd Gymnasium in Amsterdam de Hoofdlijnen in de dogmatiek. I thought of my beloved teacher Dr. Marinus Burcht van’t Veer under whose ministry I went to catechism class and made profession of faith. When I thought of the esteemed Prof. Dr. Klaas Schilder whose publications I began to read as a young lad and when I thought about the way in which I prepared myself by special studies in Dogmatology, then I saw clearly that God directed my way to the Canadian Reformed Churches.
Synod of Orangeville 1968 showed how important the elders are in our Reformed church life. In that Synod it was especially the elders who even over against the anxieties of some ministers said, “Indeed we need our own training for the ministry.” I completely agreed with that idea. If there are churches that form a federation and together have the possibility of establishing a seminary, they themselves have to take care of the training of their ministers. It is a blessing of the LORD God to the Canadian Reformed Churches that in 1968 they received one institution to prepare young men to become ministers of the Word.
There had been young men — as our chairman knows — who had to go to the Netherlands for theological study. There were young men who went to Philadelphia to Westminster Theological Seminary. There were young men who tried to find a way of becoming preachers of the gospel by seeking the help of ministers. If there had not come about one institution, the unity of the Canadian Reformed Churches, I am afraid, would have been broken. In these two decades the Theological College has always maintained an important place within the life of the churches also with respect to the binding together of the churches in the unity of the true faith.
The chairman rightly mentioned that as far as the curriculum of our Theological College is concerned, we wanted to go our own way. You will never find in any Acts of the Canadian Reformed Churches that I have been appointed Principal and Academic Dean of the Theological College. Without official appointment during that Synod, the brothers in Orangeville took it for granted that I would become Principal and set up a curriculum for the theological training. If you study this curriculum and compare it with the course of studies in other theological schools, you will find a stress upon Biblical languages. Since the LORD God gave us the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek, our students should study that Hebrew and that Greek. Just last week I heard a report from a young man — not Canadian Reformed who studied only one year in our Theological College. He is now studying in another institution. He visited us in Hamilton, and said “I come here to tell you that I received the highest grade in Hebrew of our whole seminary and I thank you again for your instruction.” We were glad to receive this message, for we think that the continuous study of the Biblical languages and also of Latin, the language of the church for many ages, is an important aspect of our Reformed training.
In our curriculum we combine with this specific emphasis a stress upon the study of the ecumenical creeds and the three Forms of Unity of our Reformed churches. The confessional character of our training for the ministry should be very strongly stressed and should be very strongly maintained.
This curriculum gives our small institution a specific place within the North American context. We should never give up our special academic requirements for the sake of a false American ideal that big is beautiful and that we therefore need many students.
If I may continue this reminiscence of those first years at our College, it comes to my mind how right at the beginning God led us through a very difficult period from 1969 to 1971. Our school was only a few weeks in operation, when the LORD God took away Rev. Kouwenhoven. Since there was no Synod coming up and there was no money to have an extra one, and since the Synod of Orangeville had originally appointed me as professor of Old Testament, I took up teaching exegesis Old Testament. In the same period our lecturer in Ecclesiology, the late Rev. Scholten, became very ill. Because we did not have any other possibilities, I taught also church history besides my own disciplines in dogmatics, symbolics, philosophy, etc., disciplines for which in our understaffed institution in Kampen there are at least three professors. In those years of 1969 to 1971, the first three years of College, my very esteemed colleague L. Selles and I were the only two full timers who with the help of Lecturer G. Van Dooren, had to train men like Cornelius Van Dam, now professor at our College and Rev. Wietze Huizinga, now in Australia. Those first years were very difficult, but nevertheless beautiful years.
At the same time we had to set up our theological library with all its ins and outs of ordering and cataloguing. We did not have any administrative assistance. It took up until 1975 before we received our first official administrative assistant. I may mention here now with great thankfulness that during those first six years of our College my wife did volunteer work and the administration of our library was at that time in her capable hands.
We as first faculty, coming from the Netherlands, needed all our time for research and teaching, for administration and library, for standing committtees of all General Synods since 1969, for necessary labours in church and schools at Hamilton and for editorship of Clarion. We were compelled to leave preparation of solid scholarly publications in the English language to a following generation at our Theological College.
Brothers, let us think for a moment about the future of our Theological College. It will be very important that, besides the stress upon the Biblical languages and the confessional character of our training, we in appointing professors maintain those high academic standards which — as the chairman in his well-spoken words rightly noticed — I always strongly defended.
Just yesterday I wrote a letter to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities of the Province of Ontario. Since the Theological College Act 1981 of the Ontario legislature was granted to us, we received, last summer, a visit of a task force of the Ministry of Colleges and Universities. This task force consisted of three professors who inquired about our way of operating our Theological College. Recently they brought out a report to the minister and I had to respond to this report and to defend the independent character of a private institution as our Theological College. But let me now say only this: the task force proposes that for obtaining the status of granting the degree of Master of Theology at least 75% of the faculty of a theological college must be in possession of an earned degree of Doctor of Theology. I completely agree with this requirement which at the moment is met by our College. If there would be no possibility of maintaining this level, we would have to accept that and would even have to jeopardize our degree granting status. But if we operate an academic institution, we should never forget that after confessional integrity academic qualifications of the faculty are very important. You should not misunderstand me: I would rather have a confessionally Reformed man without a degree than a doctor of theology who deviates from the Holy Scriptures and the Reformed Confessions. But if we set up an academic institution, we should have a qualified staff. Therefore I am so thankful that your General Synod appointed Dr. N. H. Gootjes and further Drs. J. De Jong whom we hope to meet in our college as professor and then to call Doctor De Jong. Again at least 75% of our teaching staff will have a degree of Doctor of Theology. This will be of importance for our official position as a degree-granting institution within the Province of Ontario.
Brother chairman, I will not take too much of your time. I thank the brothers for this reception and for the generous gift. Let me conclude by saying this: If I think about the Reformed theology and about our Institution for training for the ministry as a Reformed Institution, I see that we have a wonderful task and a beautiful obligation. The Reformed Confession is the expression of the Reformed religion. It is this religion that speaks deeply of man’s depravity as a sinner. Also tonight we do not forget that we are nothing but miserable sinners. Our Lord Jesus Christ said that if a servant has done all that is commanded him, he must say, “I am an unworthy servant; I have only done what was my duty.” There will not be any place for meritorious works within the kingdom of the God of sovereign grace. In His sovereign grace the triune God has elected us before the foundation of the world and He gathers His Church according to His eternal decree of election. This sovereign grace of God became manifest in the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. It is this Christ Whom we love without having seen Him; though we do not now see Him we believe in Him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy, looking forward to seeing Him. It is my deep desire that this Gospel of God’s sovereign grace in our Lord Jesus Christ may be expounded and defended in an academic manner. It is my prayer that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of all mercy, will maintain the Theological College of the Canadian Reformed Churches as a good instrument in His Fatherly hands.
After these words, the chairman requests the assembly to sing Hymn 65:1,3