On September 25, 1927, Classis Muskegon of the Christian Reformed Church ordained Cornelius Van Til to the ministry of Word and sacrament. Having earned his PhD from Princeton University in the previous spring, Van Til accepted a call to pastor a Christian Reformed congregation in Spring Lake, Michigan. He would serve there a year before returning to Princeton to teach at the seminary, later to join the faculty at Westminster Seminary (1929) and transfer to the OPC (1936).
But Van Til’s brief time in pastoral ministry was a happy and contented year for him and his wife Rena. As John Muether’s biography of Van Til notes: “Two features of his experience stood out for him. First, Van Til maintained his predecessors’ practice of huisbezoek (family visitation). To accomplish this task, Van Til fell into the habit of walking great distances, because he served without the use of an automobile. Many of Van Til’s later students struggled to maintain his strenuous walking pace when he strolled with them on the campus of Westminster Seminary. Second, Van Til placed great stress on catechetical instruction in his pastorate. So strong was his preparation for catechism classes that when he reflected on it later, he computed that his catechetical teaching load at Spring Lake far exceeded his Westminster teaching load.”
Beyond all of his academic degrees, the accomplishment Van Til most cherished was what he called his “V.D.M. degree” (Verbum Dei Minister or “minister of the word of God”) conferred on him by his classis. All of his other degrees, he claimed, “were but means by which I might be true” to his ministerial calling.