Alan D. Strange
A certain Presbyterian wag once opined that one could get an idea of eternity if Arthur Kuschke and John Skilton arrived at a passageway at the same time with space sufficient for only one: “after you, please,” each would say, over and over again, insisting that the other go first, continuing on forever, neither willing to go before the other. This humorous scenario is apt, expressing the humility and dignity of each man. Certainly, Arthur Kuschke was a dignified man: he was cultured, well-mannered, and a true gentleman. He was, at the same time, an extraordinary servant, who considered others better than himself and delighted in serving—his Lord, the church, Westminster Seminary, and his family.
Arthur W. Kuschke Jr. was born on September 18, 1913, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and lived a full life, dying July 1, 2010, at the age of ninety-six. He received his undergraduate degree from Wheaton in 1936 (the year that the OPC was formed), earning a divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary three years later and a Master of Theology in 1940. In that same year, he was ordained in the Presbytery of Philadelphia (May 21, 1940), in which he served all of his life, and became assistant to the field secretary at Westminster Theological Seminary for four years. In 1946, he became the librarian (succeeding Leslie Sloat), serving in that post until 1979, and thus laboring for almost forty years at Westminster. Over the course of the years, he wrote numerous essays and articles, particularly for the Presbyterian Guardian. He married Charlotte Milling in 1951, and they had three children (David, John, and Margaret) and five grandchildren.
Mr. Kuschke enjoyed the longest tenure, without rival, as librarian at Westminster Theological Seminary. Under him, the library came to possess one of the finest theological collections, particularly among confessional institutions. He not only supervised the expansion of the collection, but also oversaw the construction of the Montgomery Library as a fire-proof, air-conditioned building to house the growing collection that had been located in a wooden carriage house. Inasmuch as a library is the intellectual heart of an academic institution, Mr. Kuschke contributed greatly to the expansion of Westminster Seminary and thus the role and growth of the seminary in the life of the church. He did not stop serving after he retired, however, but continued active as a churchman for the next thirty years.
Mr. Kuschke’s deep humility might conceal that he was a “valiant for truth,” though not to anyone who knew him at the seminary, in the Presbytery of Philadelphia, or as a commissioner or committee member in service at the general assembly. To those of us who knew him, it was evident that nothing pained him more than having to enter the ranks of theological controversy, but he did it willingly and joyfully because he believed, as did Paul, that contending for the gospel—the gospel in all its fullness and purity—was a worthy battle. Over the years, he was involved in many of the great controversies that have marked the OPC in her history: the Gordon Clark matter, the Peniel case, the Shepherd controversy, and more. Mr. Kuschke was a staunch Presbyterian who believed that God worked through the judicatories of the church, and he engaged in these battles as they took place at the level of presbytery and general assembly.
With respect to the most prominent of the controversies in which Mr. Kuschke was involved, the Presbytery of Philadelphia constituted itself a committee of the whole in 1979 and spent some sessions discussing the teachings of Norman Shepherd. Mr. Kuschke was one of the leading opponents of Professor Shepherd, arguing that Shepherd was a theological innovator who compromised the utterly gracious character of the gospel. If there was one thing for which Mr. Kuschke gave his life, it was that salvation is of the Lord, all of grace, from first to last. Mr. Kuschke was set to defend this truth wherever and whenever he thought it necessary. Candidly, he tended to see later cases as reprising the issues of the Shepherd case, as in the Jon Pedersen case, which was not a revisiting of the Shepherd case, and the John Kinnaird case, which addressed some issues similar to the Shepherd case, but was also, arguably, not a reprisal of that case.
Also quite dear to Mr. Kuschke’s heart were his labors as a member, and chairman, for many years of the Committee on Candidates and Credentials in the Presbytery of Philadelphia. According to his wife, Mr. Kuschke considered service on this committee one of the great privileges and responsibilities of his ministry. She notes that at the beginning of the OPC most candidates were Presbyterians leaving the mainline church due to its liberalism. Mrs. Kuschke continues, “As the years went by and the OPC grew, men from various denominations and diverse background sought her out. Arthur wanted to ensure that such men had an understanding of the system of truth the Scripture proclaimed and what the Reformed faith stood for.” Mrs. Kuschke stresses that her husband would seek to work with the men, particularly seeking to help them in areas of weakness, spending time with them personally, and directing them in reading and further preparation.
At the denominational level, Mr. Kuschke was involved with the reconciliation ministry of the church, what ultimately developed into the Committee on Appeals and Complaints. I was privileged to work with Mr. Kuschke on this committee and to learn from him the importance of the discipline of the church and how it is used for the honor of Christ, the purity of the church, and the reclamation of the offender. This ministry was very important to him, burdened him greatly as cases were before the committee, and was an object of earnest and importunate prayer on his part. Mr. Kuschke had a passion that discipline be biblically administered, which is to say, that proper biblical processes be followed so that the guilty might be brought to repentance and those not guilty be acquitted and vindicated.
Mr. Kuschke liked walking and was quite a nature enthusiast, enjoying the Morris Arboretum and strolls along the Wissahickon Creek. He could identify trees of every variety and birds not only by sight but by also by song. Summers were enjoyed in Maine and he loved spending time with his children and grandchildren to whom he passed along his love of general revelation. As part of that, Mr. Kuschke also loved reading, having membership in five local libraries, with particular interest in history, biography, art, music, birds, mountain climbing, poetry, and mysteries. He had a special interest in music, sacred and secular. With respect to the former, this manifested itself most pointedly in his fourteen years of service on the Trinity Hymnal Committee as its secretary. He loved, and was a great champion of, the Trinity Hymnal. He also loved orchestral and vocal music, having an extensive collection of old 75 RPM records. I enjoyed speaking with him about music especially and sharing some of our favorites—Bach, Brahms, Schubert, and many others. He was also a philatelist (stamp collector), something that I just recently found out and wish I had known earlier as a fellow-philatelist.
According to his wife, Mr. Kuschke was an ardent student, above all, of the Word of God; he also loved the writings of John Murray (under whom he did his ThM), Cornelius Van Til, and Martin Lloyd-Jones, all of whom he also counted as close personal friends. Family devotions were held after the evening meal. Sunday afternoon was a special time of “apple parties” about the fireplace. Mrs. Kuschke writes: “Here catechism instruction took place, interspersed with a snack of cheese and crackers and a slice of apple offered (carefully!) on the tip of a paring knife to each as he has his turn.” The children were each given in the first grade a Bible at Christmas. According to Mrs. Kuschke, speaking for herself and her husband, “It was a special joy to see our children make their profession of faith, to be thankful to the Lord for their fine Christian spouses, to welcome grandchildren and see them make professions of faith within the OPC.”
Arthur Kuschke was a man faithful to his Lord, to Christ’s church, and to his family. If asked about his hope, however, he would undoubtedly have answered in something of the fashion of J. Gresham Machen: “So thankful for the active obedience of Christ; no hope without it.” Arthur Kuschke, to any who knew him, was a man who sought to magnify Christ and to give all glory to God. He was a man who knew that he was a miserable sinner, having no hope of eternal life apart from the grace of God in Christ. Christ, and Christ alone, was all his hope and stay. Soli Deo Gloria.
Alan D. Strange, an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is associate professor of church history and theological librarian at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana, and is associate pastor of New Covenant Community Church (OPC) in New Lenox, Illinois. Ordained Servant Online, November 2013.