Joel Beeke Biography- Seminary’s Chancellor and Professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics

Joel Beeke he is well known man to be diligent in his work for God, as he is presently the seminary’s chancellor and professor of systematic theology and homiletics, before he become that, he was known to be the president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary from its founding in 1995 until 2023

Ministerial Journey

In 1986, Joel Beeke started pastoring the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan and it is believed that through that did he received higher calling and assignments.

Joel Robert Beeke is presently 72, as he was born on December 9, 1952, is an esteemed American Reformed theologian. He serves as a pastor in the Heritage Reformed Congregations and holds the esteemed position of chancellor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. With the guidance of the Heritage Reformed Congregations, Beeke played a key role in establishing Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in 1995.

He served as president until he took on the position of chancellor in 2023. He holds positions as a professor of homiletics, systematic theology, and practical theology. Beeke has extensive teaching experience at various theological seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary (now Cornerstone Theological Seminary), Westminster Theological Seminary, and Westminster Seminary California. Additionally, he has been invited to lecture at numerous seminaries worldwide.

Beeke established Reformation Heritage Books in 1994. He held the position of president and editorial director at Reformation Heritage Books for nearly three decades, from 1994 to 2022. Since then, he has taken on the role of board chairman. He holds the position of editor for the Puritan Reformed Journal and The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth magazine, both esteemed periodicals in the Heritage Reformed Congregations. Additionally, he serves as the president of Inheritance Publishers, a ministry dedicated to republishing sermons from the Reformed tradition spanning several centuries. Furthermore, he holds the esteemed position of vice president at the Dutch Reformed Translation Society.

Beeke has a wealth of knowledge in systematic and historical theology, with a focus on topics such as the Puritans, Calvinism, holiness, assurance, and the doctrines of grace. Additionally, Beeke has written on pastoral ministry, biblical family life, and Christian living, showcasing their expertise in these areas. With his extensive experience in preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and seminary leadership, Beeke actively advocates for the practical devotion and preaching style of historical figures such as the Puritans, Reformers, seventeenth-century Scottish Presbyterians, and Dutch divines of the Nadere Reformatie.

A Festschrift titled “Puritan Piety: Writings in Honor of Joel R. Beeke” was published in 2018 to acknowledge Beeke’s significant contributions to the church and the academic field. This publication has played a crucial role in reviving interest in Puritan theology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Notable scholars such as Richard A. Muller, Chad Van Dixhoorn, Michael A. G. Haykin, Sinclair B. Ferguson, and W. have made valuable contributions to this Festschrift. Robert Godfrey.

Joel Robert Beeke was born on December 9, 1952, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was the fourth of five children and the third son of John Beeke (1920–1993) and Johanna (née Van Strien) Beeke (1920–2012). Beeke’s father, John Beeke, was born in Krabbendijke, the Netherlands, and moved to the United States with his family at a young age. John and Johanna Beeke were deeply committed to their faith and brought up their children in the Netherlands Reformed Congregations. John Beeke had a long and dedicated career as a carpenter, alongside his role as a ruling elder in the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Kalamazoo for four decades.

Beeke recalls a significant moment from his childhood when he experienced a profound sense of comfort, believing that his prayer had been answered by a higher power. From that point on, Beeke started delving into books written by the Puritans that he discovered in his father’s book collection. He began with John Bunyan’s Life and Death of Mr. Badman. Instead of engaging in recreational activities with his siblings after school as he usually did, Beeke dedicated himself to extensive reading for the following six months. Despite experiencing a strong sense of guilt for his sins, Beeke’s initial enthusiasm for theology and spirituality started to diminish.

In 1967, at the age of fourteen, Beeke found himself engaged in a spirited debate with an atheist teacher at Milwood Junior High School in Kalamazoo, where he passionately defended the existence of God. However, this encounter left him with a lingering concern – he realized that he lacked a personal connection with the very God he had so fervently defended. Determined to bridge this gap, he embarked on a road trip to the western United States that summer, accompanied by his brother and his brother’s friend, in the hopes of finding solace and a deeper sense of spirituality through the awe-inspiring beauty of nature.

While Beeke’s brother and his brother’s friend were searching for lost car keys in Yellowstone National Park, Beeke sought solace in his tent, fervently praying for a profound connection with God. After completing his prayer, he discovered a solid object beneath his knees and realized that the keys were tucked beneath the sleeping bag he was kneeling on.

According to Beeke, “I experienced a profound connection with God for the very first time in my life. It felt as though there was a divine presence in the car, and a profound connection within my heart. And what immediately occurred was that I found myself as a lost sinner in the presence of God. Throughout the entire seven hundred mile journey to Iowa, and all the way back home, tears streamed down my face as I reflected on my past mistakes. I was disoriented and overwhelmed, feeling as if I was spiraling into a dark place.

After coming back home, Beeke let his closest friends know that he needed to focus on his spiritual journey before he could spend time with them. He dedicated his evenings to studying the Bible and theological books. Beeke proudly states that he has thoroughly read every book authored by the Puritans in his father’s bookcase.

When he was around fifteen years old, Beeke developed a strong belief that he was beyond redemption and had no chance of being saved. This often led to him shedding tears before falling asleep. In May 1969, at the age of sixteen, the Kalamazoo Netherlands Reformed Congregation appointed a new minister, Arie Elshout (1923–1991). Prior to Elshout’s arrival in Kalamazoo to commence his pastorate in August 1969, Beeke reached out to him, sharing his spiritual struggles and expressing his longing to hear the preaching of the gospel. Elshout’s ministry in Kalamazoo led to a life-changing conversion for one of Beeke’s brothers. Beeke and his brother started to have frequent conversations, engage in prayer, and shed tears together while discussing matters of faith and the Scriptures.

Upon reaching Kalamazoo, Elshout made a point to visit Beeke’s close and extended relatives. He had a conversation with Beeke’s maternal grandfather, who had faced challenges in finding confidence in his faith throughout his lifetime. When Beeke’s grandfather shared his spiritual struggles, Beeke remembers Elshout mentioning that there is a way of finding solace in Jesus Christ through faith in Him, even for someone like Mr. Van Strien!Beeke expressed that Elshout’s words deeply impacted him. He described feeling a powerful and authoritative message from God that allowed him to truly believe and embrace the gospel. Beeke had a clear revelation that Jesus Christ suffered and died for his sins, taking his place and paying the price. He also understood that Jesus’ obedience to the law made him perfectly righteous, and all Beeke had to do was receive him. The overwhelming beauty and glory of the gospel moved Beeke to raise his hands in praise and shed tears of gratitude.

Shortly after his conversion, Beeke overcame his shyness and started spreading the word of God to his neighbors by going door-to-door. Beeke recounted his experience of feeling a strong inner calling to preach the gospel during the summer of 1969, despite his initial resistance due to his young age and shy nature. As I delved into the autobiography of C., H. Spurgeon, on the other hand, Beeke believed it was necessary for him to leave high school and start preaching. He was inspired by Spurgeon’s early start in ministry. Nevertheless, Beeke’s father and his minister, Arie Elshout, advised him to exercise patience. Throughout this period, Beeke diligently devoted their evenings to reading the Bible and theological books, often staying up past midnight.

As a junior in high school, Beeke decided to shift his focus from pursuing a basketball scholarship to dedicating himself to preparing for the Christian ministry. Following a short tenure in the United States Army Reserve, Beeke pursued his academic interests at Western Michigan University from 1971 to 1973. He then transferred to Thomas Edison State College, where he successfully completed his Bachelor of Arts degree with a focus on religious studies.

In 1974, Beeke was admitted as a theological student to the Netherlands Reformed Theological School under the guidance of J. C. Weststrate, a minister from the Netherlands. At the age of twenty-one, Beeke’s acceptance as a ministerial student in the Netherlands Reformed Congregations was quite remarkable. This was due to the fact that the youngest pastor in the denomination at the time was over twice his age.

During the years 1974 to 1978, Beeke pursued his studies under Weststrate in St. Catharines, Ontario, and successfully completed a program that is equivalent to a Master of Divinity degree. He relocated to Canada with his first wife for academic studies, with the support of the Netherlands Reformed Congregations Student Support Fund. Beeke started preaching after successfully finishing his initial year of studies. From August 1975 to January 1976, he embarked on an extensive car journey, dedicating over four months to preaching in every Netherlands Reformed church in the western half of the United States and Canada. Throughout his time as a student, he delivered approximately two hundred sermons.

After successfully finishing his studies with J. C. Weststrate, Beeke joined the ministry of the Netherlands Reformed Congregations. Upon successfully passing his candidacy examinations, he became eligible to receive a pastoral call in November 1977. In December 1977, Beeke received calls from eleven congregations. Feeling a strong sense of direction, he made the decision to accept a call to serve as the pastor of the Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Sioux Center, Iowa, starting in January 1978. The church had a membership of approximately seven hundred individuals. After successfully finishing his final examination for ministry in February 1978, Beeke was officially installed by J. C. Weststrate, his theological instructor, on March 29, 1978, and delivered his inaugural sermon as an ordained minister from Zechariah 4:6 on March 30, 1978. He and his first wife received a warm welcome from the mayor of Sioux Center. Beeke holds the distinction of being the first minister ordained in the Netherlands Reformed Congregations who did not speak Dutch as their native language.

Beeke served as the only pastor of the Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Sioux Center until 1981. During his time as a pastor, he played a key role in establishing the Netherlands Reformed Christian School in Rock Valley, Iowa, where he also served as the president of the board. From 1978 to 1981, Beeke fulfilled the role of moderator for vacant Netherlands Reformed churches in Rock Valley, Iowa; Corsica, South Dakota; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He held the position of clerk of the Netherlands Reformed synod from 1980 to 1992, and served as the president of the Netherlands Reformed Book and Publishing Committee from 1980 to 1993.

In March 1981, Beeke took on the role of minister at the Ebenezer Netherlands Reformed Church in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. The church had a congregation of approximately seven hundred people. Beeke felt confident in his decision to move to Franklin Lakes after finding inspiration in Luke 5:4. He delivered his final sermon to the Netherlands Reformed congregation in Sioux Center on April 21, 1981. In August 1981, Beeke assumed the role of minister at Ebenezer Netherlands Reformed Church and delivered his inaugural sermon titled “The Experiential Goal of the Ministry” based on Matthew 17:8. During his time as pastor at Ebenezer Netherlands Reformed Church, Beeke also served as the board chairman of the Netherlands Reformed school of Clifton-Franklin Lakes.

From 1981 to 1986, Beeke fulfilled the role of moderator for vacant Netherlands Reformed churches in Clifton, New Jersey; St. Catharines, Ontario; and Unionville, Ontario. He held the position of editor for Paul, the Netherlands Reformed Congregations’ missions journal, from 1984 to 1993. Additionally, he served as the editor of The Banner of Truth, the Netherlands Reformed Congregations’ denominational periodical, from 1985 to 1993.

In 1982, Beeke released his initial publications, Jehovah Shepherding His Sheep and Backsliding: Disease and Cure. In the same year, he collaborated with his brother, James W. Beeke, who serves as the principal of Timothy Christian School in Chilliwack, British Columbia, to coauthor the Bible Doctrine Student Workbook.

In 1982, Beeke joined the doctoral program at Westminster Theological Seminary. During his time there, he immersed himself in the teachings and practices of the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition, forming valuable partnerships along the way. While initially focusing on the doctrine of predestination, Beeke later shifted his research to the doctrine of assurance, recognizing the importance of addressing the specific needs of his denomination. During the years 1984 to 1986, Beeke had the opportunity to lecture in systematic theology at the Center for Urban Theological Studies in Philadelphia. It was during this time that he had the privilege of teaching alongside Sinclair B. Ferguson, who would later become a close friend in Beeke’s ministry. In 1985 and 1986, he gave lectures on systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Beeke successfully completed his doctoral candidacy in June 1986. In October 1986, he embraced a pastoral opportunity at the First Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was officially welcomed in December 1986, delivering his inaugural sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:5.

Between 1986 and 1992, Beeke offered theological instruction in various subjects such as systematic theology, ethics, church history, liturgy, and missiology at the Netherlands Reformed Theological School. He also assumed the role of president at Inheritance Publishers, a renowned global distributor of historic sermons in booklet form. From 1986 to 1994, Beeke fulfilled the role of moderator for various Netherlands Reformed churches in different locations, including Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kalamazoo, Michigan; South Holland, Illinois; Woodstock, Ontario; and St. Catharines, Ontario. In May 1988, Beeke successfully completed his PhD in Reformation and Post-Reformation historical theology. The title of his dissertation was “Personal Assurance of Faith: English Puritanism and the Dutch ‘Nadere Reformatie’ from Westminster to Alexander Comrie (1640–1760)”.

In 1993, the synod of the Netherlands Reformed Congregations removed the consistory of the First Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Grand Rapids. It is worth noting that Beeke went through a divorce from his first wife in 1988 and subsequently remarried just one year later. This raises the question of whether he was eligible to hold positions within the church, a matter that may have been contested by a majority of the synod. A letter from the Dutch sister church, the Gereformeerde Gemeenten, mentioned that our representatives who attended your December meeting reported that the discussions seemed to have reached an impasse. Given the circumstances, they put forth a proposal to hold a vote and determine if the Synod still had faith in Rev. J.R. Beeke. They explained that their decision to present this proposal stemmed from a lack of knowledge regarding potential solutions for the situation at hand.

They expressed hope that their proposal could offer a viable solution to an otherwise impossible predicament. However, a significant majority of the church’s members, 780 out of 1000, were unable to support the removal of their pastor, elders, and deacons. The consistory made the decision to establish a new denomination called the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation (later renamed the Heritage Reformed Congregations in 2003), while Beeke continued his ministry to the church. Eight additional churches quickly joined the Grand Rapids congregation to establish a new denomination, resulting in a total denominational membership of approximately two thousand. After the division, Beeke played a key role in setting up a new denominational periodical called The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth. In addition, he offered pulpit supply for congregations within the Heritage Reformed Congregations.

Since 1994, Beeke has held the position of editorial director at Reformation Heritage Books, a ministry focused on publishing books in the Reformed and Puritan tradition. In 1994, he assumed the role of vice chairman for the Dutch Reformed Translation Society, with the aim of sharing the translated works of Herman Bavinck and Dutch Nadere Reformatie writers with English-speaking audiences. Beeke held a teaching position in theology at Westminster Theological Seminary from 1993 to 1998. From 1995 to 2001, he held a position as a lecturer in homiletics at Westminster Seminary California. From 1995 to 2001, he took on the role of moderator for the Heritage Netherlands Reformed church in Hull, Iowa. From 1994 to 2005, Beeke worked as a staff editor for Christian Observer.

In 1995, the synod of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregations appointed Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as the denomination’s pastoral training institution. Beeke was the initial and only instructor to educate at the seminary during its formative years of operation. During the initial year of the seminary’s operations, the four new students gathered in the garage of a private residence. In 1998, the synod of the Free Reformed Churches of North America chose Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as the training institution for their denomination’s ministerial students. During the early days of the newly formed Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregations and the formation of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Beeke dedicated an extensive amount of time each week. For over 25 years, he has been teaching various subjects in theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.

In 2023, Beeke made a transition from the seminary presidency to the chancellorship. As chancellor, Beeke diligently upholds the mission of the seminary through his extensive work in writing, teaching, preaching, and speaking at conferences globally.

Beeke hosts a podcast titled “Doctrine for Life with Dr. Joel Beeke” and maintains a blog called “Doctrine for Life: Biblical Truth for Experiential Living.”

Personal Life

Beeke went through a separation in 1986 and a divorce in 1988 from his first wife. In 1989, Beeke entered into a marriage with Mary Kamp, who had a background in nursing and education. Beeke lovingly refers to Mary as his “queen.” Joel and Mary Beeke collaborated on the book How Can We Build a Godly Marriage?. They share a family with three children. They have a total of ten grandchildren. Beeke resides with Mary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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