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W88-1237.70. Hesselink, I. John (1928-2018). Papers, 1953-2007. 4.50 linear ft.

Identifier: W88-1237.70

Scope and Contents

The Dr. I. John Hesselink papers consist of materials from 1953 to 1993, which document his activities during that time period. Included are correspondence, reports, studies, articles, essays, and books. The folders have been arranged alphabetically by topical headings and the material within the folders has been arranged chronologically. The strengths of this collection lie in the “correspondence” and “papers” subgroups. The correspondence consists of letters written to Hesselink while living in Japan and correspondence generated during his term as president of Western Theological Seminary. The papers subgroup includes several dozen samples of Hesselink’s writings, including articles, essays and several books.


  • 1953 - 2007


Ira John Hesselink was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1928. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Central College (Iowa) in 1950. Hesselink attended the New Brunswick Theological Seminary from 1950 to 1951, during which time he also served as the Junior Assistant Pastor of Highland Park Reformed Church. In 1951, he married Etta Marie Ter Louw. Hesselink received his bachelor of divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary in 1953. That same year, he was ordained in Holland, Nebraska, and became a missionary in Japan. He received his doctorate in theology from the University of Basel, Switzerland, in 1961. He gained a reputation as a Calvin scholar of renown with his dissertation, “Calvin’s Concept and Use of the Law.”

Hesselink then went back to Japan as a professor at the Tokyo Union Theological Seminary from 1961 to 1973, with the years 1965 to 1967 spent as a visiting professor at Western Theological Seminary. It was in 1973 that Hesselink became the president of Western Theological Seminary, a position he held until 1985. He received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Hope College in 1973, and an honorary doctor of divinity from Central College in 1981. In 1986, he was installed as the Albertus C. Van Raalte Chair of Systematic Theology at Western Theological Seminary.

Over the years, Hesselink has put his talents to good use in a wide variety of roles: evangelist, missionary, lecturer, instructor, translator, and administrator. He is a prolific writer who has published in the English, Japanese, and German languages. During his career, he has studied under Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, and Hesselink was responsible for the historic “reconciliation” meeting between the two men in Switzerland.

Hesselink passed away in Holland, Michigan on October 28, 2018.


4.50 Linear Feet

Language of Materials





Missionary in Japan, 1953 1973; evangelist; writer; president of Western Theological Seminary (WTS), 1973 1985; professor at WTS, 1985-1998. Collection includes correspondence, articles, essays, and books written by Hesselink. Subjects include theologians, doctrinal theology, books of the New Testament, the RCA, Japan mission, and Western Theological Seminary. Detailed Collection Register available.


83 images (Boxes 3, 7, Oversized)


I. John Hesselink, Jr.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Joint Archives of Holland Repository

Theil Research Center
9 East 10th Street
Holland Michigan 49423 United States