Recently Christianity Today (April 18, 1986) carried in its News section a rather interesting report concerning a conference on Christian education “organized by leaders in a movement known as Christian Reconstruction.” To some of our readers perhaps the name “Chalcedon” is more familiar. Post-millennialism and theonomy are trademarks of this movement; and the Rev. Rousas J. Rushdoony is generally recognized as the theonomy patriarch, although others are also known as proponents of this philosophy. The CT report had the title, “War Is Declared On Public Education.” The conference was hosted by Paul Lindstrom’s Christian Liberty Academy in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. Connected with the academy is a “satellite school system for home educators with an enrollment of over 22,000 children in 36 countries.” And among the home schoolers, it is claimed, are thousands of Catholics and Mormons.
According to CT’s report there were some rather radical statements made at this conference concerning public education, statements which really have nothing to do with Christian and covenantal education as such, and statements which, if all Christian education and schools are lumped together, as they frequently are, tend to give Christian education a black eye in the public mind. Thus, for example, while it is surely true—and consistently Reformed Christians have always maintained this—that “the public school is not a genuine option for Christians truly concerned about their children and their world,” (something which CT ascribes to “public education’s most radical opponents”) it has nothing as such to do with Christian education to label public education a “multi-billion dollar taxpayer rip-off,” as Paul Lindstrom is reported to have done, and to call for “warfare against the humanist elite that controls America’s culture and its schools.” Nor does it have anything to do with Christian education as such to encourage families “to avoid seeking permission from state authorities to conduct home schools and simply take their stand on biblical grounds.”‘ Or again, it has nothing to do with Christian education to assert that “a generation of barbarians is busily destroying this civilization,” as Rushdoony is reported to have said. Or again, it does not promote Christian education to assert, as Samuel Blumenfeld is reported to have done, that “public educators have deliberately downgraded the literary skills of Americans to make them more amenable to socialism,” and to assert that the “main instrument for this conspiracy was the ‘looksay’ method of reading instruction installed in the 1930s to replace traditional phonics methods.” And it sounds rather revolutionary, in fact, to propose that “We must first remove the obstacles, including the restrictions on home schooling, mandatory attendance laws, and teacher certification requirements. Then we must separate ourselves financially and stop paying for education that is calculated to destroy us.”
However, according to the CT report, there were some truths stated, especially by Rousas J. Rushdoony, which, when stripped of their theonomist, Reconstructionist, postmillennialist context, are truths which have always been emphasized by those who promote Reformed, covenantal education. I have in mind such fundamentals as the following:
1) Education is primarily the calling and obligation of Christian parents. This is true even when this education is and must be in part accomplished by means of schools. Education is not the task of the state or of the church. This is the reason why for years and years Reformed people have established and maintained parental Christian schools.
2) Education is inescapably religious; there is no such thing as neutral knowledge. Public education is humanist, and therefore in rebellion against God. Traditionally, in our Christian school movement we have not phrased it this way; and, in fact, we have phrased it more specifically. But surely, education is inescapably religious; and that religion is either the truth or the lie. In the deepest sense, it promotes either knowledge or ignorance, either wisdom or folly, either the fear of the Lord, or enmity against Him. From this same point of view, as Rushdoony is reported to have said, “. . . nothing is secular for God. All things are to be governed by His Word.”
3) The Bible must undergird and inform every discipline. This is precisely what our forefathers meant when in connection with Christian education they insisted that our Christian schools must not merely be “schools with the Bible,” but “schools on (i.e., based upon) the Bible.”
It is precisely because of the above that we have always striven, wherever possible, to establish our own Protestant Reformed Christian schools—not, mind you, as church schools, but as schools owned and operated by societies of likeminded, Protestant Reformed parents. As more than one of our school societies states it in their constitution:
This Society is based on the following principles:
A. The Bible is the infallibly inspired, written Word of God, the doctrine of which is contained in the Three Forms of Unity, and as such forms the basis for administration, instruction, and discipline in the school.
B. Our sovereign, Triune, Covenant God has from eternity chosen and in time forms a people unto Himself, that they may stand in covenant relation to Him, and live to His praise in fellowship and loving service in all spheres of life, in the midst of a sinful world.
C. The training of the covenant child in the school as well as in the home and in the church must serve to prepare him to follow his lifelong calling to reveal the glory of his God in a life lived from the principle of regeneration by grace.
The purpose of this Society is to provide a system of education maintaining and developing the principles sketched above.
Historically, our Christian school movement has always been committed to these principles. In fact, I make bold to assert, these principles have been originally the fundamental principles of the Christian school movement among Reformed people in this country and in the Netherlands from the very beginning—though many have long since departed from them. Only to the extent that we also actually practice these principles will our schools be successful. And if they forget and depart from them, our schools will lose the fundamental reason of their existence. A mere Protestant Reformed name on our schools, and even a mere separate existence, for whatever reason, is not our goal. Our schools must be Protestant Reformed in truth and in deed!
But there was another significant point made at this conference, according to the report in Christianity Today. It is this:
Even Christian schools did not escape criticism at the conference. Speakers attacked the use of humanistic texts by some Christian educators and alleged that teachers certified at university-related colleges of education were tainted with anti-Christian values and methodologies. The implication was that Christian educators need to make a radical break from secular schools and build a system based solely on biblical principles.
This is an important point, one which can be applied to our own Protestant Reformed schools. In the first place, the simple fact is that there is no college, no teacher-training institution, where teachers can be trained to be Protestant Reformed teachers, whether you think of secular colleges or religious colleges. And this is only the negative side of the situation. Wherever our teachers go for their education, they have ample opportunity—and they must be on constant guard in this respect—to imbibe non-Reformed and non-Biblical ideas. And if our teachers are to be distinctively Reformed teachers, they must become such, in large measure, on their own and in spite of their higher education. To no little extent their education precisely in those areas of learning which are important to them as teachers involves negativelearning. There is no such thing as a Protestant Reformed college for them to attend. In the second place, the area of textbooks and manuals for teachers and for students is important. The simple fact is that to a large degree our schools remain dependent on others for these teaching materials—whether on worldly educators and authors or on Christian educators and authors who are not distinctively Reformed. The CT report states that at the conference mentioned “there was little new material that lived up to the ideals of a Christian curriculum espoused by Rushdoony.” The same is true of our Protestant Reformed schools. This is an area of sore lack among us. It is a lack which we should attack, and that, too, before it is too late. Do not say that it cannot be done. Our seminary has done it, and is still doing it, at the level of theological education. Our seminary would, in fact, lose its distinctiveness if this were not done. But the same is true of our parental schools. Far more attention should be given to this problem on the part of our schools and our Federation of School Societies than has been given it heretofore. Consider it!