Robert Knight Rudolph

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Robert Knight Rudolph
Born (1906-06-08)June 8, 1906
New York City, NY
Died July 14, 1986(1986-07-14) (aged 80)
Quarryville, PA
Education A.B., University of PA
B.D., Reformed Episcopal Seminary
Th.M., Westminster Seminary
D.D. (hon.), Reformed Episc. Seminary
Ordained Deacon on October 30, 1932
Presbyter on February 15, 1934
Title Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics

Robert Knight Rudolph (June 8, 1906 — July 14, 1986) was an American Reformed Episcopal minister and theologian. He served as Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Philadelphia for forty-nine years before his retirement in 1981. Together Rudolph and his father trained men for the gospel ministry at this institution for a total of seventy-four years. Rudolph was known for his strict adherence to Calvinism and presuppositional apologetics.


Cornelius Van Til and Robert K. Rudolph (1981)

Rudolph, the son of Bishop Robert Livingston Rudolph and his wife Anna Knight Rudolph, was born in New York City on June 8, 1906. He married Ruth Muriel Andrews of Dorset, VT. Ruth’s mother owned a maple candy store there. He used to say that he loved maple candy and he loved the clerk.

After attending the Collegiate School in New York, Rudolph earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1929. He went on to receive two graduate degrees. He earned a Bachelor of Divinity from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1932, at which time the commencement speaker was J. Gresham Machen, founder of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Rudolph began teaching at Reformed Episcopal Seminary that year and continued his studies at Westminster, where he received a Master of Theology degree. In the course of his training, he studied under Machen, Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Haddon Clark. His theology reflected the influences of all three men.

Since 1932, Rudolph taught at many schools, including the Philadelphia College of the Bible (now Philadelphia Biblical University) in Philadelphia and the Teacher’s College (now Castleton State College) in Castleton, Vermont, but his greatest influence was at Reformed Episcopal Seminary, which also awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 1944.

Reformed Episcopal Seminary (2003)

In addition to teaching, Rudolph served as Assistant Editor and finally Associate Editor of the Episcopal Recorder, a publication of the Reformed Episcopal Church. He contributed frequently to other church papers and magazines as well. In 1949, he was asked by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company to write an Introduction for its printing of John Calvin’s commentary on the book of Genesis. When Reformed Episcopal Seminary published a festscrift in 1986 commemorating its centennial, the editor included an article by Rudolph titled “The Attributes of God and God’s Image in Man.”

Rudolph was known for his hospitality, often giving generously to needy students. He also opened his family home, the Chalet (Dorset, VT) to family friends, including Fred Kuehner, Theophilus Herter, Howard David Higgins, Gordon Clark and countless newlyweds.

Rudolph died of cancer on July 14, 1986, at his home in Quarryville, PA, and was buried in the Maple Hill Cemetery near his family home in Dorset, VT.


Rudolph often summarized complex theological doctrines in short aphorisms. Here are some of his common ones (as found in his students’ notes):

The Bible[edit]

  • We must have a Biblical standard by which to judge both our theology and our experience: Open minds, like open windows, need screens to keep the bugs out.
  • Don’t be satisfied to learn Scripture truth second hand. If you make a duplicate key from the master key, then a duplicate key from the first duplicate, in four generations the keys will not fit the lock. You must have constant reference to the Master Key. (Check your doctrine by the inspired Word of God.)
  • It’s true as far as it goes, and it won’t turn out in reverse.
  • There is only one interpretation but many applications.
  • The real miracle is the Bible.

Doctrine of Creation[edit]

  • He is not it; and it is not He. God makes ducks, but he doesn’t quack.
  • God is the changeless author of a world that he changes.
  • Creating the earth did not add to the glory of God. It just showed what he is capable of doing because of his glory.
  • Origins and Destinies belong to the Lord and cannot be looked at in the laboratory; they are properly studied as theology, not science.
  • The world believes God owes it something rather than the world owing God everything. The first is the wheelbarrow pushing the man.

The Will of God[edit]

  • Is what is ought to be?
  • It’s okay to wish someone “good luck,” as long as you understand that everything comes by divine providence.
  • The final cause is never the responsible cause. When you receive the new birth, who goes to heaven — you or God?


  • Seeing is not believing, but believing IS seeing. (Read Romans 1:25 and then Romans 1:18–20.)


  • The normal reasoning powers of the mind addressing itself to matters of right and wrong according to the standard that it has been taught and according to the degree that it has accepted that standard.

The Church[edit]

  • You can no more have an invisible church without a visible church than a walnut without a walnut shell. No, the visible church is not perfect; did you ever try to eat the walnut shell?
  • You need competition to keep the Church pure. The Old Testament Church became impure; the Reformation is running downhill. God himself brought the New Testament Church outside of the Old Testament Church; he did not try to revive it from within.


  • The Israelites crossed the Red Sea dry shod; the Egyptians were immersed.

The Second Coming[edit]

  • A lot of people are so interested in the second coming that they don’t do anything about the first.

Everlasting Punishment[edit]

  • In this life you’ll receive it on the ‘law of averages’; in the next life, Absolutely.
  • How do you know that temporary happiness will not turn out to be permanent pain?
  • If you don’t think there is a hell, you’re not interested in heaven.

Christian Character[edit]

  • Seek to set a godly example, but remember, If you wait to live it, you’ll never preach it.
  • If you don’t have the fruit; you don’t have the root.
  • “Be diligent to make your calling and election sure.” Who are you making it sure to? Not God. He is omniscient. It must be to yourself and others around you.
  • Freedom is what a train has when it is confined to its tracks. If the train jumps the tracks to go its own way, it runs aground. Man is free only when he follows God's law—choosing to go his own way, he runs amuck.
  • Keeping the Commandments does not mean you avoid trouble in this life (it’s relative), but you do in the next.
  • Character is not created by environment but by God. Character determines action. Character is a creation and you deal with it as such (a lion is a lion and you treat him as one).
Reformed Episcopal Seminary (2003)


  • No one has said for 50 years that you go to college to learn the truth.
  • The only thing that experience teaches is how to do a repetitive act better.
  • Seminary first!

Liberal Theology[edit]

  • Liberals often use the terms of orthodoxy but mean something entirely different. Ask for definitions, and he’ll run for the five-fifteen.
  • Don’t try to dress up a poor substitute for the real thing. It’s baloney, no matter how thin you slice it!


  • Robert Knight Rudolph, “The Attributes of God and God’s Image in Man” in Ambitious to be Well-Pleasing, ed. Allen Carl Guelzo, (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1986), pp. 59–88.
  • Robert Knight Rudolph, “Introduction” in Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949).

External links[edit]

(Both sites below contain links to Rudolph’s class notes.)


  • “A Trilogy of Tributes” in RESume (Summer, 1986), p. 9.
  • “Dr. Rudolph — a P.K.’s Perspective in RESume (Fall, 1981), pp. 1, 3.
  • Fred O. Kirms, “An Appreciation” in the Episcopal Recorder (Sept. 1977), pp. 7–9.
  • Raymond A. Acker, A History of the Reformed Episcopal Seminary 1886–1964 (Phila.: Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church, 1965).
  • “Rev. Robert K. Rudolph” (Obituary) in the New York Times (16 July 1986), accessed at
  • “Rudolphisms” in RESume (Fall, 1981), pp. 4–5.
  • Walter G. Truesdell, “Robert Knight Rudolph, 1906–1986: In Memorium” in RESume (Summer, 1986), p. 1.