Back to School (6)

In our past few articles we have tried to urge not the expediency of truly Christian, and therefore, Protestant Reformed education, but the principal necessity of a strictly covenant education for our covenant children. And we have expressed that principle as consisting in the isolation of God’s people, by virtue of the very fact of their belonging to His covenant, applied now particularly to the sphere of education. Moreover, from that principle of isolation we concluded to our calling to isolate ourselves educationally. Further, by way of application, we appealed to our Protestant Reformed people, to the extent that they have no yet begun to practice this principle in the sphere of education, to take action, and to do so before we reach that stage of historical development in our generations at which all love and zeal for Christian education is dead. We make this appeal on the basis of a confidence that the principle is indeed present, not only on some confessional paper, but in our hearts, and simultaneously we sound the alarm because we fear that it is dying for lack of exercise.

A warning and an incentive are, we feel, necessary in this connection. We speak of a warning because also in this matter of education the more stringently you apply this principle of Christian isolation, the more dangerously you live; and we should be aware of that fact. And we mention an incentive, because the more stringently you apply this principle of the antithesis, the more safely and serenely we walk In the midst of the world; and we should be encouraged thereby.

Dangerous Living

The note which Scripture sounds in connection with our spiritual separation is a gloriously cheerful one, full of promise. If we turn to the passage from Deuteronomy which we cited previously, we discovered that the assurance of Israel’s safety is attached to her isolation. For Moses the man of God, tells Israel In chapter 33, verse 28: “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone.” And when the apostle Paul, speaking to the believers, to those who have righteousness, who have concord with Christ, who are the temple of God, sounds the call to separation in II Corinthians 6:14ff., we find that at the same time he adds this incentive: “and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” vss, 17 and 18, And, speaking more in particular of the training of our children, the Preacher tells us to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart therefrom.

Not infrequently in our day we lose sight of the real spiritual nature of this promise. And instead, stress is laid upon the glorious outward achievements that are possible for a Christian educational institution. We like to lay all stress upon the fact that it is possible for our Christian, institutions to gain a place under the sun, to be recognized and applauded even by the world. Men like to emphasize that it is possible for the products of our institutions to find a place in the world, to be recognized for their scholarship and research. And sometimes the matter is so pictured that the cause of covenant education involves no struggle and no danger at all, outside of the fact that it involves an extra financial layout.

I consider this a grave danger. The danger is that, setting our sights upon the above-mentioned objects, we conform our schools to that goal. And then we are lost. To be sure, it is not wrong in itself that our educational institutions should be good from the formal viewpoint—they must indeed be educational institutions. The idea of a Christian School is not that the children are going to church five days a week extra, while in a public school they go to school. No, our schools must indeed be schools, and, as much as possible they must be good schools as respect equipment and” scholarship, instruction and training in the various branches. But these things are not a goal in themselves. Having them all, and having no fear of the Lord in them, you fail to have a Christian School. Moreover, it is as certain as the rising of the sun in the east that if we find our satisfaction in such things, our Christian schools will have no battle at all. Anyone will allow you to have a private school. But principally the world will never grant you the right to maintain a Christian school. And to the extent that the Christian schools fail to experience a very sharp and continual conflict with the world, to that extent they may well ask themselves whether there is something wrong, perhaps, with their Christian school. For we must remember, the world under the command of the devil will never cease to do battle against God’s people in this present time. To be sure, the battle may rage more fiercely at one time than at another; but it never ceases. And the Christian, or the band of Christians, or the Christian institution that begins to find itself the object of the world’s friendship instead of its enmity may well pause for inventory—an inventory of the status of their spiritual isolation.

For we must not forget that from a certain viewpoint this way of isolation is a dangerous way to live. Certain it is, on the basis of Scripture, that it is the, way of the realization of God’s promise, and that therefore in that way Israel, the church, and the individual child of God, together with his covenant seed, shall dwell safely. And by faith we apprehend that sure promise of God also. But by the world and the flesh and by all who live from the worldly principle of utility that position of isolation is considered both foolish and dangerous. It is not a wonder that it is always exactly against this way of life, as it roots in God’s eternal elective decree to separate His people, that men set themselves, also often in the midst of what calls itself church. To dwell alone is not easy; nay, it is for the flesh impossible. The flesh can go alone as long as no separation from the world is required. But that same flesh will never stand for the cause of the living God, because the carnal mind is enmity against God. Only faith can do that. And our Christian schools must be strictly a venture of the faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen. Proceeding out of any other principle they may be schools, but they will not be Christian.

And from that viewpoint it is well for us to consider the cost. To dwell alone is everything but pleasant.

To be sure, it requires financial sacrifice. It means, for example, that in addition to the legally required support of the world’s schools through taxation we must also see to it that we support and maintain our own, separate, schools. The world will not help us with that, while we must help support their schools. In other words, the cost of education is double for us. And there is no question about it that this financial burden is sometimes great.

But yet this is not the worst. Nowadays the emphasis is often upon that aspect of cost in dollars and cents. And often it seems too as though that financial problem is the most difficult for our school boards. But, in the first place, we must get out from under the rule of the almighty dollar in that respect also, and should increasingly learn that our wealth is the very least we have to sacrifice. If it never comes any further than that we have to pay for the education of our children, even to the extent of sacrifice, then we have a fairly easy time yet. And in the second place, the case of extreme financial sacrifice is in our times rare in this respect. Most of us can afford to have three square meals a day yet, plus a little cake and pie, and at the same time support the Christian school handily. And I submit that when the time comes that we can follow the example of our forefathers, and put the money for the Christian School tuition aside before we know where the next loaf of bread is coming from to satisfy the physical needs of our children—then we can speak of real sacrifice.

But the danger of isolation is much greater, and runs much deeper. Is it not necessary for our earthly life to unite with the world, to seek her friendship, instead of inviting her hatred and enmity? What can we do without the world and its favor? God’s people are small and limited in power, of no account as far as influence is concerned. Generally they do not possess this world’s goods in abundance. Nor, as a rule, do they occupy positions of influence and power, the positions where the factors of name, position, honor, respect, and all our earthly way are controlled. No, it is the world that numbers among its citizens the great and powerful men, who have the ability and authority to determine your and my entire position in the world, who hold in the balance prosperity and adversity, life and death for you and me. Do we not need the world’s favor?

What will become of us if we always emphasize in word and deed our separation. Do we not invite the hatred of the world, its reproach and contempt. Will they not trample us, and refuse us a place in their midst, and finally deny us a place on the earth? Exactly those will be the results. We will be refused a name and position, power and influence, money and goods. They will speak evil against us, persecute us, hate us and reproach us and kill us all the day long, if we do not leave our isolated position.

Moreover, bear it in mind that when you give your children a covenant education, you are training them for exactly such experiences. Your dear ones, whom you love with all your heart, your flesh and blood, will have just such a reception—and not a prosperous one—from the world from which they are trained to be separate.

And in the light of all this is it not foolish and dangerous, foolhardy, to maintain that God’s people must dwell alone and that their safety lies in their isolation?

Moreover, does not history teach us a lesson in this respect? Israel dwelt alone, and what became of her? Were they not finally wiped out as a nation? Did they not become the object of the fierce hatred of all the nations ? Did the nations not use Israel as a plaything, to vent all their rage and cruel hatred upon her? And was not her whole institution finally destroyed and brought to utter ruin and desolation?

And does not the history of the new dispensation teach us the very same lesson? Was it not true through all of history that the church that dwelt alone, that maintained her isolation faithfully, that steadfastly defended her spiritual ramparts against the onslaughts of error and human philosophy, was always small and despised, the object of reproach and persecution? And was it not the church that came out of its isolation that invariably occupied a favorable position in the world? We need not wonder then, that few have ever maintained the isolationist position. A small minority have always insisted that the safety of God’s people is in their isolation, while the great majority have always said with ever more emphasis: God’s people can never dwell safely alone; our safety lies in the greatest possible degree of amalgamation with the world.

Dangerous living indeed!