Back To School (3)

In our previous article we began our investigation of the case for Christian instruction. We called attention to three theoretical possibilities as to the training of our children, namely: the public school, the existing Christian school, and the Protestant Reformed Christian school. And each we briefly described. We emphasized, in the first place, that the public school is the school of the world in every respect. In the second place, we called attention to the actual impossibility of a co-operative venture in education on the part of parents who, on the one hand, desire to have their children instructed according to their own convictions as to what constitutes the fear of the Lord which, according to Scripture, is the beginning of wisdom; and who, on the other hand, belong to different denominations and thus differ as to the principles of the fear of the Lord. And in the third place, we called attention to the fact that cooperation in the field of education is possible only by a homogeneous group of parents. Only on that basis can there be real co-operation. On any other basis you can have only an essential disunity and disharmony, with an external and purely formal appearance of cooperation.

The question, therefore, which we face is: Which of these three theoretical possibilities must we choose? And this question must be answered, as we concluded last time, with a principal answer, not primarily with an array of practical arguments.

Such arguments might well be arrayed. Arguments of a minor principal nature might be called up against the public school. We might, for example, call attention to the fact that the public school violates the principle of parental education. Education is the business of the parents, not of the state, nor of the church. Hence, even though the state has the right to demand that you shall educate your children, and even though the church has the calling to see that you shall educate your children aright, the work of training as such is the work of you, the parents. And those parents who leave the training of their children to the state abrogate their parental authority.

One might also call attention to many other faults in the public school system. We could mention too that the public schools are governed largely in our day by a wrong philosophy of education, the progressivism of John Dewey. We could mention the danger of bad associations, when our children are sent to school with all kinds of other children. We could mention how the lack of a Christian education is noticeable often in ignorance of the most simple Bible truths and ignorance of the most general facts of Bible history in the catechism room,—a handicap for both minister and catechumens. We could mention that when we send our children to the public school, we will reap this fruit, that a generation will grow up which has no understanding and no love for Christian education, so that the Christian education movement will die a natural death ere long.

One could point to many positive benefits of Christian education. One might make the so-called financial difficulties and sacrifices look easy and small, by calling attention, for example, to the “flush” times in which we are living. One might shame that “financial argument” by comparing our willingness to support the cause of Christian education with our willingness to spend all kinds of money on luxuries, to spend many dollars on vacation-trips, or to burn up much money in smoke, and that too, without a thought. One might point out that in Reformed circles Christian education is the fashion, the trend. We might emphasize that Christian education is a heritage and tradition from our Dutch forefathers.

And undoubtedly, the same method could be followed in comparing the so-called “existing” Christian schools and the Protestant Reformed Christian school.

But to follow this method in answering our question,—at least, without following another method first,—will yield very little fruit.

For on the one hand, the result will be that you have Christian schools, if you have them at all then, which are founded on a tottering foundation of practical arguments. And the moment such a Christian school is assailed by the winds and floods of contrary practical arguments which seem to be more weighty, at that moment your whole Christian school will lie in rubble.

And on the other hand, you will never be able truly to establish a Christian school on such a foundation. You may build an imposing structure. You may for a time be able to maintain a school which gives a little moral instruction. But unless a Christian school is founded on a sure and impregnable and undeniable foundation of principle, it will never succeed to be a Christian school.

We must see, first of all, therefore, that the matter is one of principle in the deepest sense of the word. The question can never be and may never be: shall we go ahead with Christian instruction? Shall we send our children to the Christian school or not? Equally, 1 am in last instance convinced, and for the same reason that the matter is one of principle, the question can never be: shall we go ahead with Christian instruction that is Protestant Reformed or not?

The question has been and is often asked. And it is often answered In the light of practical considerations. It is answered in the light of considerations of cost, considerations of convenience, considerations of size, considerations of influence and power, considerations of the shortcomings of the existing schools. But if that is a question, left to our discretion and our choice, as the building of a house can be a question, then indeed let us first reckon up the cost, lest we be unable to finish what we have begun to build. And let us be well aware of the fact that on this basis the cost of the tower of Christian instruction (and this is especially true of Protestant Reformed Christian instruction) will present an Insurmountable obstacle,—and I do not mean first of all the cost in dollars and cents.

The only question may be: how shall we best fulfill our calling to give our children a Christian education? The first question is out of order. No more than you ever ask whether you should provide your children with good food, with enough vitamins and minerals, with a well-rounded diet, no more can you ask that question as far as the spiritual and mental diet of your children is concerned.

The matter itself is decided. It is not left to our choice at all. The necessity, the unavoidable necessity, the dire necessity, of Christian education of covenant children is upon us. And the only question you and I may ever ask is: how shall we go about is?

If we cannot take that stand, we may as well give up any thought of maintaining Christian schools, much less Protestant Reformed schools. We may as well quit before we involve ourselves in any more unnecessary expense of money and effort. We must be able to take the attitude that everything we have is expendable, yea rather, that principally we have already expended everything in this cause. Then, and then alone, can you ever hope to maintain Christian schools and to keep them Christian in the most specific sense of the word.

The fundamental principle which decides that stand is the principle of the antithesis, or, if you will, the principle of our Christian isolation. It is the same principle which controls and lies at the basis of all Christian activity, in any sphere of life. It is the principle which determines even that there is a church of Jesus Christ in distinction from the world. It is the principle which, positively stated, consists in this, that God has a people for Himself, which are the objects of, the fruit of, the recipients of, and the realization of His sovereign, particular grace. Otherwise people and the world share all things except grace.

It is this principle which we would investigate a little and enlarge upon, applying it to the sphere of education. For it is the key to the answer to the question which of the three theoretical possibilities of education must be chosen. It is the key to such an answer as will leave only one actual possibility.

It’s Scriptural Basis

One might without difficulty trace this principle throughout all of Scripture, from the record of the Protevangel in the book of Genesis to the visions of the holy apostle John in the book of Revelation. But let us note only a few very clear and striking passages for our present purpose.

I would call your attention, first of all, to the words of Balaam, that hypocrite of hypocrites, who was more foolish than his own dumb ass. For in Numbers 23, the ninth verse, we find him speaking the word which the Lord put in his mouth. It reads as follows: “‘For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.” The same thought is expressed in the farewell address of Moses, the mediator of the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 34:28a: “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone.” And from a slightly different aspect we find this truth expressed in the well-known words of Isaiah 43:21: “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.”

Lest, however, it might be objected that this is the language of the Old Testament, and that it is valid only in regard to Gods people in the old dispensation, we may notice that the same language is spoken of and to God’s people in the new dispensation. Thus we find, for example, in I Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Nor can it be gainsaid that the same principle is clearly delineated in the classic passage of II Corinthians 6:14, ff., where we read: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

To the significance of these passages we call your attention the next time, the Lord willing.