By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
Dr. William VanDoodewaard, Assistant Professor of History at PHC
“The caliber of students is amazing,” he smiles. “Really, this is a utopia of the teaching world. Compared to what I’ve seen at other Christian colleges, this is definitely a higher standard of education.”
His approach to teaching history, he says, is “Augustinian” in the sense that he holds to the idea that a “city of God” and a “city of man” live side by side, the former reaching into eternity and the second living for the present.
“In light of that,” he explains, “I understand history theologically, through God’s movement in His church.”
A native of Canada, Dr. VanDoodewaard began his Ph.D. work in Scotland and finished it in Indiana while serving as a Visiting Professor of History at Huntington University. For his thesis, he researched the history of a theological classic entitled The Marrow of Modern Divinity, which he has edited for re-publication.
The original author, Edward Fisher, an English barber-surgeon of the 17th century, wrote the book as a lively story instead of a dry theologian’s tome. Marrow reads as a play, or a Socratic dialogue, with a pastor counselling a young Christian and his two friends. One friend is a legalist and one an antinomian, the latter defined as someone who believes that Christ-followers have no obligations to follow a moral or ethical code, since the grace of God is fully sufficient to forgive all their sins.
“[Marrow] is a great classic in English and Scottish theology,” says VanDoodewaard. “It helps gain a clear understanding between the law of God and the gospel of Christ. What role does the law play in grateful living toward God? It teaches how to live a life of thankful service.”
Even with his extensive theological and historical studies, Dr. VanDoodewaard says he has no interest in being “an ivory tower professor, disconnected from reality.” Back in Indiana, for instance, as a part-time pastoral intern with an inner-city ministry, he worked regularly with drug addicts at a rescue mission.
“Of babies born in [Kokomo, IN], 36% test positive for drugs,” he notes.
One man especially stands out in his memory—a former truck driver, cage fighter, bouncer, and drug user—who came to know Christ and saw his life transformed through his local congregation.
“He had only broken relationships with his wife and children and had become involved in dealing [drugs],” VanDoodewaard shares. “He was changed spiritually, and I spent a lot of time with him one-on-one.”
These days, Dr. VanDoodewaard enjoys playing with his kids and occasionally teaching at his new church in Maryland. He also teaches summer modules at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, explaining church history to prospective pastors.
“It’s kind of a hobby,” he says.
PHC welcomes its newest history professor and looks forward to what he will offer the campus community.