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Bultema, Harry (1884-1952) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Bultema, Harry (1884-1952)

Historical Note:

The Rev. Harry (Harke) Bultema was born in Uithuizen, the Netherlands, July 16, 1884.  His godly mother’s evangelical fervor made a decided impact on her son.

In 1901 the family arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He attended the Calvin Preparatory School until 1908 and the College in 1908-1909.  Bultema graduated from Calvin Seminary in 1912.

While he was a student at Calvin he became critically ill with typhoid fever.  At that time he experienced a renewal of purpose and promised the Lord that if he recovered he would devote himself fully to serve the Lord and to read His Word daily.

The premillenarian thinking of Bultema was already evident during his seminary years.  As a student he argued with Professor F. M. Ten Hoor, who later served on a synodical committee investigation the Maranatha Controversy (1918).

It is reported that the rivalry between Bultema and Herman Hoeksema came to a climax in the seminary when Bultema criticized a sermon of H. Hoeksema during a practice preaching session.  Herman Hoeksema became a “key” figure in the removal of Bultema from the CRC.

During his ministry in his first congregation in Peoria, Iowa (1912-1916), Rev. Bultema continued his studies of millenialism.  There he began his study of the premillennial and dispensational writings of J. N. Darby, the Plymouth Brethren leader.  He also came into contact with the Rev. John Isaac Fles, a premillenarian, pastor of the Second CRC of Pella, Iowa.  The premillennialism of the founder of Pella, Scholte, also made an impact on Bultema’s thinking.  Ultimately, H. Bultema adopted the position of Spirit baptism to the exclusion of water baptism.

In 1916, H. Bultema became the pastor of the First CRC of Muskegon, Michigan.  Rev. Fles, who had served this church sixteen years, participated in the installation service.  When Fles was pastor of the Muskegon church he had preached sermons on God’s program for the Jews in Palestine, the imminent return of Jesus, and the thousand-year reign.  Premillennialism was not considered a position contrary to the confessions.  It was held, at that time, by a number of Christian Reformed ministers.

Dr. Henry Beets had encouraged H. Bultema to put his thinking into book form.  The Book, Maranatha, when published, produced a stir in the church.  The point at issue was not the premillennialism but the dispensational thrust of Bultema’s premillenarian position.  He was judged to be contrary to the Scripture and the confessions of the Church because he denied the unity of the Church of Christ and the present Kingship of Christ over the Church.  The special committee of the Synod of 1918 included the names of H. Hoeksema and Professor F. Ten Hoor.  That committee moved Synod to bring the matter to the attention of the consistory of First CRC of Muskegon.

The majority of the consistory and of the congregation sided with their pastor and sought to keep the church property.  Classis Muskegon, however, in December of 1919, deposed Bultema.  Synodical delegates concurring in the decision were Y. P. De Jong and H. Hoeksema.  The matter of the church property was adjudicated by the Michigan Supreme Court in favor of the Christian Reformed Church.

A temporary “tabernacle” served as the first building for the new congregation.  A new building was constructed a short distance south of and on the same street as the First Christian Reformed Church.  The Rev. H. Bultema served as pastor of the Berean Church for thirty-three years. Rev. Harry Bultema passed away on September 21, 1952 from cancer. He was married to Dena Kuiper.

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