Calvin College is a college of the Christian Reformed Church, a century-old denomination with a five-century-old heritage. It bases its whole faith and life on the sacred Scriptures, God's holy, inspired, infallible Word, and thus takes its stand with the churches which have their roots in the Protestant Reformation.
In America the Christian Reformed Church traces its origin to a band of immigrants who sought freedom in the nineteenth century from the established church of the Netherlands. They settled in western Michigan and, after an early period of religious unrest among the thousands of Dutch settlers who soon joined the earlier immigrants, organized the Christian Reformed Church in 1857.
The Christian Reformed Church subscribes to three statements of faith (in addition to the early Christian Apostles Creed) which stem from the Reformation period: the Heidelberg Catechism, which is the most famous and widely translated of all Reformation creeds; the Confession of Faith written by the Belgian theologian, Guido de Brèges, in 1561; and the Canons of Dort.
The Christian Reformed Church stresses the sovereignty of God in every part of life—in the family, the church, the state; in world affairs; in economic, social, and political life; in business; and in learning and the arts.
The founding date of Calvin College and Seminary is 1876. In that year the Christian Reformed Church adopted a six-year curriculum for ministerial training. The first four of these years were spent in the Literary Department and the last two in the Theological Department. In 1894 students who were not pre-theological students were admitted to an expanded curriculum, and thus the school became a type of preparatory school or academy. In 1900 the curriculum was further broadened and made more attractive to students interested in teaching or in preparing for preprofessional courses in the universities. By 1906 the Literary Department, which provided the four years of preparatory and two years of college work, became known officially as the John Calvin Junior College. The two-year college in time became a four-year college, and the preparatory department was discontinued. In 1921 Calvin College awarded its first Bachelor of Arts degree.
The school, which had started with seven students, grew slowly during the early years, but by 1930 it had reached its pre-World War II size of 350-450 students. By 1950 the enrollment had climbed to 1,270 and now is approximately 4,300.
The curriculum has expanded to include professional training in a variety of fields, but the college maintains a strong commitment to its liberal arts curriculum as a means to develop students' understanding of God's world and their place in it.