How it All Began
Excerpts from Stepping Forward in Faith by Rev. Dr. Henry De Bolster, Redeemer’s founding president.
6 min. read
September 29, 2022

I clearly remember the day that Mr. Andy Langendoen came to see me in the parsonage in St. Catharines. It was in the year 1974. … Andy wanted to study the possibility of starting a Christian college in the province of Ontario, but he could not do that by himself. He decided to come to me, his pastor, to discuss what could be done to reach this goal. He was willing to spend some money on a study. … I thanked Andy and promised to think about his proposal and to stay in touch with him.

Andy’s idea to establish a Christian college in Ontario immediately appealed to me. However, I was well aware that such an undertaking was no simple task and next to impossible. Private Christian post-secondary education would be expensive. If we wanted such an institution to be a Reformed Christian college, the money would have to come primarily from the recent immigrant communities across the province of Ontario.

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… In addition to the theology of John Calvin, the recent immigrant communities in Canada had also been influenced by the neo-Calvinist theology and philosophy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which bloomed in the Netherlands during the formative years of their generation. The neo-Calvinist theology had been developed by theologians such as Dr. Herman Bavinck and Dr. Abraham Kuyper.

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On the philosophical side, the post-World War II Dutch Reformed immigrants had been highly influenced by the school of Christian philosophy developed by the brothers-in-law, Dr. Herman Dooyeweerd and Dr. D.H. Th. Vollenhoven.

… In brief, this Christian philosophy attempted to explain all of creation in a systematic structure. The philosophy was very attractive to the common people of the Netherlands because it provided an explanation for much of what is observed in nature, while at the same time holding true to the biblical givens. Christians no longer needed to be apologetic about their faith. They discovered that they could fulfill their Christian calling in all vocations of life. They understood that they could be educated and trained to speak and work not just as lawyers, doctors, teachers and business people, who were at the same time Christians. Instead, they believed that they could be Christian lawyers, doctors, teachers and business people, provided that they would receive an education that properly prepared them.

“Christians no longer needed to be apologetic about their faith. They discovered that they could fulfill their Christian calling in all vocations of life.”

These visions and insights drove the Dutch Reformed immigrants to establish their own privately funded Christian elementary and secondary schools within a few years after they arrived in Canada. They wanted their rich theological and philosophical systems and principles developed and taught to their children in their newly adopted country. They wanted to teach these visions and principles not just to their own children, but they wanted to share them with all God’s people in this new country.

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As a result of their strong vision and commitment to Christian education, these Dutch Reformed immigrants were willing to sacrifice substantially to establish the local Christian elementary and secondary schools and to keep them operating. I believe it was also that vision and commitment which had caused Andy to come to my office with his request. I knew that it would be that same vision and commitment that could bring about the establishment of a new Christian college of the arts and sciences in Ontario.

“I reminded myself that the God who had brought so many of us to this country also promised to lead us forward, if we would only trust in Him.”

I also reflected on where we would be able to find a sufficient number of faculty members who would have had their formal education in the vision and principles that I have just described. Would we be able to find sufficient students who would be willing to study at a small infant institution?

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Bell Cairn Memorial School, Beach Boulevard, Hamilton

Yet, were all these questions not substantially the same when we started the Christian grade school and even more so when the first Christian high school was contemplated? Nevertheless, the impossible had become reality; one school after another had been established and was operating. I reminded myself that the God who had brought so many of us to this country also promised to lead us forward, if we would only trust in Him. That is the gospel I preached every Sunday. As God’s Kingdom workers, we are asked to step forward in faith.

Upon the opening of Redeemer College:

Everything was ready for Redeemer College to open its doors and to enroll students into programs of higher learning. Praise the Lord! What an incredible miracle! … I learned not to speak abstractly—as we often do—about trusting the Lord. Trusting the Lord must become real in our daily lives. There is a plaque hanging on the wall of my study that quotes Psalm 37:5: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” … I experienced the truth of the text on that plaque on the first convocation of Redeemer College, the official opening on September 6, 1982.

Excerpts taken from Stepping Forward in Faith: Redeemer University College 1974-1994, Henry R. De Bolster, Guardian Books, Belleville, Ontario, 2001.

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