Back to School (5)

From the general and all-comprehensive principle of the Christian’s spiritual isolation we have arrived, by way of application, at the confession of the necessity of Christian education. It is the very nature of God’s people, through the wonder of divine grace, that they are a covenant people, that they are of God’s party in the midst of the world, that they stand antithetically in the midst of the world that lies in darkness, with the calling to be holy as the holy God that called them and to proclaim the virtues of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light; and since their calling is exactly that they live in the midst of the world, in every sphere of life, out of the principle of regeneration, so that their entire life is ruled by the spiritual principle of the new life; and since the sphere of education is one department of their life: it follows that also this sphere of education must be ruled by this principle of spiritual separation, and must therefore be in harmony with God’s work. We found, however, also that this same conclusion to the necessity of Christian education follows from this principle of spiritual isolation from another viewpoint, namely, that of the preparation of the educand for a covenant life in the midst of the world. Education must prepare for life. And, in the case of covenant children, it must prepare them for a life out of the principle of God’s calling. Hence, it lies in the very nature of the case that if the education of our children is to achieve its purpose—preparation for the life of the covenant—that education must itself be covenant instruction, must itself be rooted in the fear of the Lord.

You confess that you are a Christian?

Then you cannot possibly deny the necessity of Christian education. You confess that your calling is to walk as a separate people? Then you certainly do not consider it a question whether your children shall receive Christian instruction, separate instruction. You claim to be covenant parents? Then you certainly acknowledge that this matter of covenant education is not a matter for you to decide, but a matter that has been decided for you by the living God who called you.

And mark you well: this is a matter of confession. That is far different than a matter of logic or a purely formal matter of the right understanding of certain Scriptural passages. We are not interested now in a mere academic discussion of the necessity of Christian education. This is the very crucial matter of our confession as Christians.

And we should understand well that confession always includes walk. You cannot—of that I am certain—with any sound reason deny what has been said concerning the necessity of Christian instruction. That stands. It cannot be assailed. And any Reformed man must say Amen to it. Furthermore, what we have said on this score is a matter of principle too. And it is a matter of fundamental principle—one of the most fundamental principles of the Reformed world and life view. But still it happens only too often,—and I speak from experience now—that a man agrees with this principle, grants the necessity of covenant education for covenant children, yea, even enthusiastically acclaims this principle, and gives expression to his wholehearted agreement, and yet turns around and opposes that very principle in his walk. Mind you I am not now speaking of the question of Protestant Reformed education versus the education of the existing Christian Schools; that too, I am convinced, is governed by this same rule. But I have seen it, that this principle is maintained and that parents still dare to send their children to the public school. And how sad a sight that is!

O, you know the excuses. The Christian School is too distant. The Christian School is too expensive. The difference isn’t worthwhile in view of the cost.

But understand this matter well. And I include myself and all present supporters of Christian education, as well as those who walk contrary to this rule. This principle of the fear of the Lord runs roughshod—as the principles of the fear of the Lord do always—over any practical objection which you may raise. You have no money? The rule stands: covenant instruction for covenant children. You live to far away? God’s truth stands: covenant instruction or nothing.

You are dissatisfied with the existing Christian Schools? The Word still echoes and resounds: be ye separate! To be sure, it may take time and effort to implement this decision. Christian Schools do not simply mushroom out of the ground. But to assent to this principle, and at the same time to sit lethargically and inactively by, or rather to actively oppose it by supporting and making use of the public school, is wrong. This is sin! Sin against the living God! And we may not walk in sin!

Hence, to the extent that this evil is prevalent among us, it must be put away. To the extent that this principle is not practiced among us, let us be admonished to conform our practice to the principles of God’s Word. To the extent that our practice of supporting Christian instruction is not governed really and truly by this principle of covenant education for covenant children, let us examine our principles and learn spiritually to understand this divine necessity of Christian education. And let us for God’s sake learn to give our all in the cause of His covenant.

But how?

The above, as we have intimated already, is the only question you and I may ever ask. How shall we go about fulfilling our calling? How shall we put into practice what we confess, namely, that a Christian education is a divine necessity for our children? How shall we provide our children with the proper spiritual and mental food?

In terms of the queston which we asked some time ago, as to the three theoretical possibilities in the education of our children, we must now choose between the second and third possibilities, i.e., the existing Christan School and the Protestant Reformed Christian School. The first, the public school, has been ruled out. It cannot provide our children with the right food. And the attempt to Christianize the public school not only is practically impossible as well as in many places contrary to the law of the land, but it is at the same time contrary to our calling as God’s people.

Hence, if remains to determine in the sphere of Christian education generally, what our calling is as Protestant Reformed Christians. Is it our calling before God to establish and maintain our own schools? That is after all the question. Answer it, and you have the whole matter solved fundamentally.

Now, however, the application of the principle of Christian isolation assumes a somewhat different aspect. For it cannot be denied, in the first place, that the existing Christian schools stand historically and formally in the line of the Christian school movement. Secondly, we would not attempt to deny that in the general sense of the term the existing schools are Christian, and also in that same sense Reformed. In the third place, when the actual product of the existing schools is compared with the fruit of the public school, one cannot choose in favor of the latter. It is for these reasons especially that as long as any group of Protestant Reformed parents has not established its own school, they may not countenance the practice of passing by the existing Christian schools in favor of the public school. And we submit that our parents should be very careful in this matter, lest not only they themselves but also and especially their children grow to be historically disconnected from the Christian education movement. It is not at all inconceivable that a generation grows up that has no heart at all for Christian education, if we are careless in this respect.

Nevertheless, our aim should be Protestant Reformed education for Protestant Reformed children. Various arguments have been adduced for this position in past years. Many and various faults have been found in the existing Christian schools. They have been protested by individuals as well as consistories. Cooperation has been long and frequently attempted. But certain facts remain—facts which a priori doom all such cooperation to failure, granted that both (or all) groups in these cooperative Christian schools stand their doctrinal ground.

In the first place, it cannot be gainsaid that Christian Reformed parents, by virtue of their holding the majority, have control of the existing schools. We have no quarrel with them about this matter, for the simple reason that we have no quarrel on the score of decision by majority vote. We merely state a fact.

In the second place, these Christian Reformed parents who control the existing schools are committed to the doctrine of common grace as expressed in the Three Points of 1924, as well as to the error of general grace expressed in the same doctrinal utterances of 1924.

In the third place, it is the position of Protestant Reformed parents that as soon as you make grace common in any sense of the word, you have done violence to the very basis of the principle of Christian isolation. Make divine grace common, and you necessarily replace the antithesis by synthesis, isolation by amalgamation.

Because of these facts—and we need not resort to the sophistry that these doctrinal differences are confined to the churches as institutes—we differ radically and principally as to the very basis of Christian education. And because of this radical and principal difference, any cooperation must needs be but very superficial or it involves a sacrifice of principles by one or both parties.

To state the matter positively, when the principle of the antithesis is applied strictly and properly to the sphere of education, we, as Protestant Reformed people, who claim that we have adhered to that principle while others have departed therefrom, necessarily arrive at the conclusion that the only way in which we can ever have schools purely based upon this rule of Christian isolation is to have our own schools. And by “our own” schools we understand not simply separate schools. We may not and should not separate merely for the sake of separation or merely in order to put the name Protestant Reformed Christian School over the entrance of a building. But the education given in those schools must be such that it applies the principle which we have delineated in these articles to the entire curriculum. On any other basis the name Protestant Reformed School is a hollow sound.

Call to action.

And once more, when we view ourselves in the light of these facts, there is much to be done. True, a beginning has at long last been made. In our eastern churches, the movement for Protestant Reformed education appears to be on solid footing now. And there are outposts of the movement in the Midwest (Edgerton) and the far west (Redlands). But it is to me an amazing thing that a Protestant Reformed congregation can exist for twenty or twenty-five years without the slighest spark of zeal for truly Christian education. In spite of every practical consideration that can be rallied in opposition, our Protestant Reformed people should all, without exception, be on fire with zeal for this principle of distinctive covenant education. And sad to say, one can only too often conclude that this zeal is absent, for real principle will surely triumph at all costs. We are stricken with a terrible lethargy in regard to this matter of education. We of all people have a heritage in which we may rejoice, of which by God’s grace we may glory. We may and do say: Here is the true Reformed line; this is Reformed principle; this is Calvinism; this is truth, the pure truth of the Word of God!

And yet we are inactive, be it said to our shame.

And let him that reads take warning—warning, lest indeed a generation arise which can no more be roused by a love of this principle of the fear of the Lord, and in which no warm hearts can be found for the cause of covenant education! It is high time for action!