The wording of the postal telegram in 1933 was simple enough to Rienk Bouke Kuiper, who was president of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Printed in all capital letters, it said, “UPON THE UNANIMOUS RECOMMENDATION OF THE FACULTY AND THE TRUSTEES OF WESTMINSTER SEMINARY IN SESSION MAY NINTH BY A UNANIMOUS VOTE HAVE ELECTED YOU TO THE CHAIR OF PRACTICAL THEOLOGY. THE SECRETARY OF THE BOARD WILL SEND YOU FULL INFORMATION. WE HOPE AND PRAY THAT YOU MAY BE LED TO ACCEPT THIS POST. (signed) C. E. MACARTNEY, SAMUEL CRAIG, T. EDWARD ROSS, (for the board).
[Note: Today, in electronic communications, it is commonly thought that the use of “all caps” is a form of shouting. Such was not the case in the 1930’s. The typewriters used in radio and telegraphic communications up through World War II were “all cap” writers, typing the message out in all caps on strips of paper that were then glued to a telegraph form. That was just the system of the day.]
R. B. Kuiper was not unknown to the faculty and trustees of this new Presbyterian seminary in Philadelphia. He had served the first year of its existence as professor of Systematic Theology, but then had left it to become the president of Calvin College. Now he was being asked to return two years later to become the professor of practical theology. The prospective teacher had all the spiritual gifts necessary for such a post.
Born January 31, 1886 in the Netherlands to a ministerial father, the family had emigrated to the United States so the father could take a congregation in Michigan of the Christian Reformed Church.
Later, R. B. Kuiper was educated at the University of Chicago, Indiana University, and with a diploma from Calvin Theological Seminary, he finished up his training at Princeton Seminary in 1912.
After this latter instruction from some of the finest minds of the Presbyterian world, such as B.B. Warfield, R.B. Kuiper began his ministry in the pastorate, serving several congregations in Michigan. He would have all that was necessary to be a pastor of practical theology from that experience.
Below, the Westminster faculty as composed upon Kuiper’s arrival, 1933-34.
R.B. Kuiper answered the telegram’s invitation in the affirmative and went to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, where he taught for 20 years. One of his students remarked that he had the gift of making the profound simple as he proclaimed the whole counsel of God.
Among that broad span of the whole counsel of God, and one which seminary professors and students often fail, is the area of Reformed evangelism. Listen to his words in his book “To be or Not to Be Reformed.” He wrote “May God forbid that we should become complacent about our progress in evangelism! Our zeal for evangelism is not nearly as warm as it ought to be. Our evangelistic labors are not nearly as abundant as they should be. Our prayers for the translation of souls from darkness into God’s marvelous light must become far more fervent.” (p. 77) What R. B. Kuiper wrote fifty years ago is no less true in our day. Ask yourselves the question? Am I a zealous evangelist?
Words to Live By: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the LORD, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” The apostle Paul, Acts 13:48 (ESV) “Divine election, and it alone, guarantees results for evangelism.” R.B. Kuiper
Pictured above: Some of the courses taught by R.B. Kuiper in his first year at Westminster.