The Theological University developed from a Theological Seminary that was founded on 6 December 1854 in Kampen.
In 1834, a group of believers was separated from the national Reformed Church in the Netherlands and formed a new ‘covenant of churches’ – the Christian Reformed Churches. The most important reasons for this ‘Secession’ (Afscheiding) were the rejection of state influence on the churches and disagreement with the dominant liberal theology in the ‘Nederlands Hervormde Kerk’.
At first the pastors for these new churches were trained in small local seminaries. In 1854 the Reformed churches decided to unite these different schools in the Theological School of Kampen, where ministerial and academic training were deliberately combined. In the course of more than 150 years the Theological school flourished in the historic Hanseatic city of Kampen and also became a strong stimulus for the local Reformed churches. The school gave a strong impetus to the development of the participation of the Reformed people in the political and social life in the Netherlands of the late 19th century. A good example was Maarten Noordtzij (1840-1915), professor of Old Testament, who was not only an outstanding academic, but also deeply involved in public and social life.
In 1882, the theological level of the School was strengthened by the appointment of Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) as professor. The plan and first edition of his magnificent Reformed Dogmatics came into existence in Kampen. In 1902 he was appointed at the Free University of Amsterdam, the new neo-Calvinist university of Abraham Kuyper. This led to a crisis of the Theological School in Kampen, as Bavinck took more than half of the students with him to the capital.
The Theological School recovered during the following decades. Its level of theological education and research rose with the work of well-known professors such as Jan Ridderbos (Old Testament), Saekle Greijdanus (New Testament) and Klaas Schilder (Dogmatics).
Another difficult period came just before and during World War II, when tensions in the churches led to a split in the churches. In this way the Reformed churches (vrijgemaakt – liberated) came into existence. This also resulted in a split in the Theological School. From 1945 on, two Theological Schools existed next to each other in Kampen. Due to a change in the Dutch legislation of Higher Education, both Schools officially received the status of ‘university’ in 1987, although they had just the one theological faculty.
In 2012 the Protestant University (Oudestraat) moved to Amsterdam and Groningen. Our Reformed Theological University continues its work in Kampen.
Students from many different countries and continents – USA, Australia, South Africa, Korea, India, Brasil, Hungary, Ukraine and many others – found and find their way to the Kampen University.
Today the university has about 140 students and a growing number of international students, who come to Kampen for BA, MDiv, MA or PhD studies. Our theological library is up-to-date and very well equipped, which makes the university attractive to national and international theologians and researchers.
Nowadays, the Theological University still strives to combine both ministerial training and academic excellence. This results in Reformed theological endeavors typically aimed at practical theological application for the churches. At the same time, our theology has an open eye for the surrounding world and our theologians are ready to interact with scientists and researchers from various disciplines.
The content and direction of our work is guided by the conviction that the Scriptures are the revelation of the living God. Some clear focuses are:
- study of the Reformed and neo-Calvinist tradition in its historical context and its actual meaning for today – in the Netherlands, and also for other continents and cultures;
- a lively interaction between biblical studies and systematic theology, in open conversation with the late-modern and Western context; a narrative salvation-historical approach in dealing with the biblical sources and the various forms of biblical spirituality and practices.