Approximately one week ago I was approached by a committee of the Auxiliary with a request to give a talk on this occasion, your annual picnic. And having accepted the invitation, I naturally began to ponder as to what was required of me, and as to what I should say; and I furthermore came to certain conclusions, which I shall pass on to you in the form of a declaration of intentions. In the first place, what you will hear tonight is not to be classified as an oration, nor even as a speech, but as a mere talk. For this I was asked, and such you will receive. And so also you may sit here this evening without any fears as to long-windedness, for such is the error, not of a seminarian, but of a minister. In the second place, my talk tonight is not to partake of a controversial nature. We are gathered this evening as Auxiliary Members or as members of our school society; in short, as friends of the movement for Protestant Reformed Education. A controversial talk would be out of place among friends. And finally, you are not going to hear anything new this evening. Such would be expecting the impossible; not only because there is nothing new under the sun, but more specifically because speeches and talks have been made in connection with this movement for some twenty years. And be it said to our shame, they have not yet brought forth any actual fruit. We have not yet, after twenty long years of independent existence as churches, and after twenty long years of instruction, acquired our own educational system. If we had, perhaps this evening’s talk would be out of place. Rut since we have not, you cannot but hear an old story, and one that is fitting.

In our times we once more are hearing talk about pioneering, pioneering in the twentieth century, This is due to the fact of the social and economic problems which our country sees on the horizon of the future, and which shall loom up as soon as this war-induced prosperity of ours comes to an end, when heads of families shall once more face unemployment. The question has arisen whether America has not reached the peak of its development; whether perhaps she has not over-reached it; whether perhaps our country’s population is not too large for our land and its resources to support it. And to that question two answers are generally given. On the one hand, are those who say that our ultimate frontiers have been reached. Pioneering has come to an end. And in that attitude is evinced an element of satisfaction, self-satisfaction. On the other hand, are the more progress-minded, who answer “not true”. Geographically, they say, we may have reached our frontiers, although some, with their eyes on such rich territories as Alaska, for example, are even bold enough to deny this. But economically, they say, this certainly is not true. Science and industry have certainly not reached the ultimate in development. Every day the old is being set aside, and the new is attained. And these men of vision see broad fields for future development. Pioneering, they say, although it can no longer be carried on in the old! tradition of a Daniel Boone, or of a Lewis and Clark, or in the tradition of our own forefathers who not too long ago settled some 30 miles away from here on the shores of Lake Michigan—pioneering is not ended.

And thus also in the field of education, more specifically in the field of Christian Education, nominally at least there is a satisfied, self-satisfied, non-pioneering group. And there is a group of pioneers. And we stand with those who see new fields to conquer. Representing as we do the movement for Reformed Education, we are pioneers. For although the name Christian Education has its origin far back in history, yet that name as properly interpreted and understood has never yet become a reality, the First Reformed Christian School of Redlands, California, to the contrary notwithstanding. We are pioneers in the field of Christian Education.

And characteristic of all pioneers and also of us are certain factors. In the first place, that being dissatisfied with their present position, they have an ideal, a goal, for which they strive. In the second place, that in the seeking of that ideal, there are certain dangers peculiar to pioneers. And finally, that in the attainment of that goal, any pioneer has certain needs, needs which would not arise, were he not a pioneer.

And therefore I have chosen to talk for a few moments on the topic:

Pioneering in Christian Education.

and I would like to consider with you:

  1. Our High Ideal.
  2. A Lurking Danger.
  3. Our Pressing Needs.

1. Before we picture to ourselves the ideal, which we as pioneers seek, it would perhaps not be amiss to consider what that ideal is not, to picture what we are leaving. This would perhaps not be necessary if there were not a possibility of a wrong (conception of what we seek. But it is possible that in the mere excitement of pioneering, in the mere excitement of seeking something new, in the mere excitement of seeking something which has the name Protestant Reformed, a name which is undoubtedly dear to our hearts but which is nevertheless a name,—I say it is possible that we after all forget our basic ideal, forget the reason why we are pioneers, and thus set our ideal too low. And therefore, before we can really be inspired by our true ideal, any wrong one must be rooted out; and we must be brought to rationally and) calmly consider what we want.

And the position which we are about to abandon, the ideal which may not be ours, is referred to by the Dutch phrase, “De School met den Bijbel”. Perhaps we of the movement for Protestant Reformed Education would more frequently characterize that ideal by referring to it as simply “the existing Christian Schools”. Whether you are aware of it or not, and whether you really understand what it means, those are exactly the schools which we do not want: schools in which the Bible is an added something, schools which, very simply stated, are similar in every respect to the schools of the state, except that over and above the instruction given in secular subjects, there is one hour per day of Bible instruction, and classes are begun and ended with prayer. And added to that there is a certain Christian atmosphere in those schools, an atmosphere which is sometimes deprecated; as being worse than the atmosphere found in the public schools. We will not consider the possibility that even the Bible instruction given might possibly be thoroughly rotten down to the very core. We will not consider the fact that some of these schools have made what are called concessions to the Protestant Reformed people in the form of allowing certain of them in the boards and some of their teachers in the staffs. We will not mention the fact that five or six year old children come home with some of the most corrupt and stinking Arminian hymns on their lips and in their little hearts. We are dealing not with incidentals but with principles: principles of Christian education. And though all the Biblical instruction and Bible history instruction should be absolutely correct (and we do not deny its necessity), and though every teacher should be a member of the Protestant Reformed Churches, and though the children should sing naught but the Psalms, yet if the phrase “de School met den Bijbel” should! be applicable to those schools, those schools may not be ours. If you should take the Bible from such a school, you would still have a school; it is but an addition. It is such schools that we must very consciously and willingly leave, not for any incidental corruptions, but for the sake of principle.

Our ideal, and we would do well to remember it and make ourselves thoroughly acquainted with it, is much higher. It is as different, fundamentally, as light is from darkness, as the church is from the world. The world also will upon occasion allow the introduction of the Bible alongside of other works. We do not seek a “school with the Bible”, but a school based on the Bible. We fall very fundamentally upon the basis of common grace if we have a school with the Bible. We fall upon a theory which holds to a division of life into two spheres: a sphere of the service of God, and a sphere separated from God’s service. We would stand upon a theory which holds that the ungodly produces good, and that we can use that good, provided we root out the evil parts of it before we give it to our children. A theory which has brought about the use of textbooks which are crammed from cover to cover with evolution and materialism and pragmatism and from which the teacher has supposedly removed the harmful parts. We have had an educational system, which, be it consciously or subconsciously, has not been positively Christian as it has claimed, but fundamentally pagan, while it attempted to be something impossible, neutrally Christian.

And I would like to impress upon your hearts and minds this evening that as we believe that our covenant life embraces all, every sphere, all our heart and soul and mind and strength, so our schools must instruct our children in harmony with the precepts of God’s word. We must have instruction which prepares our children for one life, not two. And no more than the ordinances of God can be excluded from any sphere of life, no more may they be excluded from any sphere of instruction which prepares for that life. Our ideal is instruction that is permeated with the principles of the Word of God.

Then we shall have schools to be sure where direct instruction is given in Scripture; schools to be sure, where there is prayer and Christian music and a Christian atmosphere. But, and this is important, schools in which every subject is carried out to the ultimate. Where, for example, history will be taught throughout with a view to its relation to the people of God and to the coming of God’s kingdom; ancient history will then not be centered about the thoroughly materialistic idea of the growth and advancement of civilization but will be taught throughout with a view to the people of God in the Old Dispensation, with a view to the relation of the nations of the world and the development of these nations to the people of Israel and ultimately with a view to the coming of Christ. Thus also more recent history, will be centered about the idea of the preservation of the Church in the world and ultimately with a view to the coming of the day of the Lord. History would then be taught, but it would be reconstituted. And this must be done with every subject.

A high ideal? Extremely high. And one that is entirely different, one that has never before been reached. But not impossible of attainment. Pioneers we are, soldiers of the cross of Jesus Christ, and under His banner we must go forward!

2. But there are dangers in the path! Dangers which must be faced ere we reach the goal. Those who would keep us back from this expedition have often recounted them to us.

There is, for example, the financial danger. You’ve heard it explained as often as I. There is the danger, some, say, that the pupils of our: school will not be admitted to advance schools, because our school will not be accredited. There is the danger that we will be small and unrecognized, a “Hastings Street outfit”. There is the danger that we won’t have sufficient teachers; and that therefore the instruction of our children will be inadequate. Perhaps you can add a dozen to this list. But did you notice, my friends, that none of these supposed dangers is a principal one? Did you notice that all of them are but carnal inducements to cause us to forsake this venture? Don’t you feel that all of them, when tried by the standard of our high ideal, are found wanting? Twill not say that we need not concern ourselves with those matters, for that would be denying reality.

But there is a far greater danger; greater for the reason that it is a matter of principle. The history of pioneers has too often ended in tragedy. It has too often ended in the tragedy of not attaining that for which they sought. Many of the early pioneers, seeking religious freedom, when they came to this free land were religiously sound. Many of the prosperity-seeking pioneers spent all their lives seeking a prosperity which they never found, but instead in their seeking found only hardships and poverty and finally a cruel death at the hands of savages. And many more, having come to a new land, were swayed from their purpose, and settled down and were satisfied, not having attained their ideal. And that is our danger. Not an external one, but a danger in ourselves. And a very real one. And an understandable one. We have been brought up in the tradition of the existing Christian Schools. We have never known anything different. What is more, only too often our attention has been centered on but incidental wrongs in those schools, for example, the errors in Bible instruction or the corrupt prayers and songs learned. And the danger is that we will be satisfied if we have a school in which these errors are not present. And then we shall not have attained our ideal. If you have followed me thus far, you will realize that then we would have a school which is fundamentally no different than any existing Christian School, however Protestant Reformed it may be, Of that danger we must beware, lest we falter in this crusade.

3. What then are our needs? Fundamentally they are one: Remain true to our ideal. Cling to our Reformed Conception of the truth. Cling to it with our whole being; and get busy. Get busy as Auxiliary members and as School Society members. It is our duty as well as the duty of the board to make ourselves understand what a truly Protestant Reformed, or shall I say, Reformed, education must be. We must not succumb to the idea that if we only are separate all will, be all right. We may not succumb to the idea of two spheres, for that idea will ultimately wipe out every line of demarcation between Church and world and would bring a tragic end to this pioneering movement as it will ultimately bring to the existing Christian schools. And we need not apologize for our efforts. We are not separatists, we are Christians. And our children shall receive a truly Christian education, but most emphatically also an education. And therefore our obligation as parents is tint of all to study, in order that we may be sure of attaining our ideal. And as to supporting the venture financially, nothing, I trust, need be mentioned.

And with regard to a teaching staff our need and therefore our duty is also clear. Teachers in such a school are a thing unknown. They must be trained as yet. The existing colleges do not properly train them for our school. A college of our own is yet a dream. But this much is true. We must first of all, both parents and teachers, rid ourselves of the idea that teaching is the lowest among the professions, but must learn to look upon teaching as a high calling, and reward it as such also. And in lieu of a college, we must see that our teachers are men or women with the same ideal as ours, not only, but men and women with the ability and initiative to strive for that ideal, and ultimately to produce the necessary Christian textbooks in the various fields. It is undeniable that our teachers must also be pioneers, and as time goes on, perhaps study groups could be organized to aid them in their task, in lieu of the training we are now unable to provide.

That then is the venture which we have joined. There is much reason for gratitude, for there has been progress and development already. But we have only begun. We may not lay down our burdens now. This cause, my friends, is God’s cause. That is enough. Whether we shall realize our ideal perfectly or not, our duty is plain. We may not shirk. But as hardy pioneers we must press forward, everyone performing his duty to the best of his ability until our God shall call us to the Church triumphant.

And may the covenant Jehovah, Who has laid this duty upon us, bless us and give us the grace to perform it!

(The above was a talk delivered at the annual picnic of the School Auxiliary during Aug., and was published upon request).