Klaas Schilder

Schilder was born December 19,1890, in Kampen, The Netherlands. He later studied in his hometown at the Theologische School of De Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland, from which, in 1914 he graduated cum laude. That same year he married Anna Johanna Walter. During the next 14 years Schilder was to pastor five congregations for periods of about three years each until, in 1928, he was called by one of the largest congregations in the denomination in Rotterdam where he remained five years. In 1933 he was awarded his doctorate, this time summa cum laude, from the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany. The title of his dissertation was Zur Begriffsgeschichte des "Paradoxon," mit besonderen Berucksichtigung Calvins und des Nach-Kierkegaardschen, attacking the Barthian and Kirkegaardian dialectic paradigms for theological paradox. In that same year he was appointed Professor of Systematic Theology at the Kampen Seminary. He held that position until his death on March 23, 1952.

Schilder's pastorate at Rotterdam was a time of great gospel proclamation. The monumental church building was regularly crowded for Rev. Schilder's sermons. His enrapt congregation, hung on his every word, already recognizing K.S. as one of the greatest preachers of the day. "[Schilder] did not mix news items of the day with his sermons to make them sound up-to-date, or in order try to get the interest of the young people, or to ‘make God relevant.’ His sermons often ended with a mighty symphony. His church services ran for two hours. He didn’t know what it was to preach a short sermon. Sometimes he spoke quickly to get everything said. He couldn’t get things done in less than a two hour service."1 As a professor and editor Schilder relentlessly attacked the subjectivism and pietism of the neo-Puritans, the Kuyperian common grace social theory and national agenda, the increasing modernism of the continental scholastics, and the dialectic theology of neo-orthodoxy.

Dr. Schilder published numerous books and articles. His most recognized work, the trilogy Christus in Zijn lijden, received international acclaim, especially in its English translation (1938). He contributed regularly to the weekly journal De Reformatie (the Reformation) since it began publication in 1920. He became one of the publication's editors in 1924, and from 1935 he was the sole editor. The vehement and public opposition Schilder maintained, not only against theological and ecclesiastical errors but also in attack to the dangerous anti-Christian ideology of National-Socialism, led to his arrest by the invading Nazis in August 1940. Soon after his release Schilder was forced to go into hiding. He was considered one of the most wanted criminals by Hitler's occupying forces. He remained in hiding until the month before the end of World War II.

During Schilder's two years as a fugitive, the mainline church took the opportunity to bring him up on charges. In his absence he and the absent Sidney Greidanus were suspended for being "publically schismatic" and both were deposed from the ministry on August 3, 1944. "The shock waves of this action" were felt through the whole country. Holland was a country at war, ravaged, plundered, and trodden down by the Nazis, whose national church's synod had just excommunicated one of the most respected and heroic men. Thus Schilder became the Machen of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands. Schilder's offshoot denomination, the Liberated Churches, grew. "By the appearance of their first yearbook in 1946 there were 216 churches listed which were served by 152 ministers and had 77,000 members."2 By the end of the war Schilder was already teaching again at Kampen. The Reformation, whose publication had been stopped by the Nazi's in 1940, resumed five years later and continued to be among the best theological journals around. On March 23, 1952, eight years to the day after he had been suspended from his office as minister of the word and professor, Klaas Schilder died of a massive heart attack. He was 61 years of age.

Geoffrey Thomas, "Learning from the Life of Klaas Schilder"