We said in our previous article that Christian instruction must be God-centered and covenant-directed, that is, the teaching must be of such quality that it serves to prepare our children to take the place which the Covenant assigns to them.
We would call that then the Center of all instruction, the hub where all the spokes make contact, the point around which everything revolves. Let this out and you get a disintegrated curriculum, an unorganized series of subjects in our schools, but have that center and all the subjects are integrated into one grand unity.
To keep that center is then our continual calling.
To keep that center is extremely difficult.
We are all prone to off-center activities. The best of us are by nature self-centered, creature-centered, and man- and world-centered. We must continually repent of this and turn from it. If we will retain true Christian instruction we must be vigilant.
The present Christian school system reveals betimes a certain tendency which I fear is off-center. I repeat, we are all off-center so much in our lives that it hardly behooves us to look at others to see how they fare. But yet, when certain tendencies reveal themselves it is well that we take notice of them, discuss and test them.
We refer especially to the tendency today to evaluate Christian instruction in terms of the social and political service it can render to the attainment of a democratic state, or how it can function to lead America back to God. The danger is that the instruction instead of being covenant-centered becomes social-centered.
To be more specific let me cite examples of the above mentioned tendency.
In the Christian School Annual 1943, we may read as follows: “The Christian day school stands as a spiritual bulwark and base of supplies in the midst of history’s fiercest and most destructive war”, (p. 72). A little further we read, “The Christian School is a bulwark against the demoralizing influences of war”, (p. 72), and continues with the statement that America needs leadership, and, “for the supply of that kind of leadership we can hopefully look to our Christian schools”, (p. 76). Certainly we appreciate what we have in this country, and we are not insensible to the chaos and confusion which we experience at present, but the above given approach makes our outlook very nationalistic, it tempts us as party of the antithesis and endangers the truth that we seek a better, that is, an heavenly country. Of course, the writer believes that too, but it is not mentioned. Besides, do you think Jesus and the Apostles wanted the saints to look hopefully to them for the attainment of a Jewish national state? Wasn’t it that “hopeful outlook” which Jesus repeatedly condemned, and wasn’t He finally crucified because He would not comply with the hopeful outlook?
In that same annual, p. 79 we find a quote which reads as follows: “Culture belongs to Common Grace and is the result of the creative will of God. Culture is a task God has assigned to human society in order that it may achieve the evolution for which it has been created”. The article then proceeds to give government a place in this evolution and asserts that democracy needs Christian schools. In comment on this expression we remark that Scripture plainly tells us what evolution human society will achieve, and one look at our present world will convince us of the same. We shall have no part in this evolution and if this evolution is the fruit of common grace, grace is indeed a corrupt root. But on the other hand, the evolution for which it was created (to borrow that term for just a moment) is reached through Christ, over the cross and will be reached by the church via the way of world catastrophe and judgment. All this because sin entered into the world. But one notices that the statement re-appears that democracy needs Christian schools. Again the nationalistic outlook. Again we tempt ourselves to give the type of leadership a democracy wants instead of setting ourselves to the task of giving our children the type of instruction which the covenant requires. For my part I am convinced that our Christian men may and can function in high places (provided they do not forswear themselves by joining the Lodge or the Union) but to imagine that the presence of a Christian there will improve our national state of affairs is to forget what relation exists between light and darkness.
In that same Annual, p. 84, we read, “The cause is after all much bigger than just the Christian schools. It is the cause of a democracy and of the Kingdom. Either one of which is well worth fighting for”. And in interpretation of this statement the article continues to tell us that the scope of Christian instruction goes “beyond winning the war to winning the peace.” Again the national-political flavor. It is dangerous to identify so closely a democracy and the Kingdom, unless the writer secretly hopes that Christian instruction may bring us a theocratic state upon earth. And that the Christian schools must serve to win the war and win the peace threatens to convert our schools into political machines, whose service is primarily national.
In the Annual of 1940, p. 39, we read, “Christ-likeness is the supreme need of the hour if civilization is to survive”. This statement is repeated on p. 41 and continues to show that Christian schools foster Christlikeness. Here Christian schools are in the service of civilization, whatever this may mean. What civilization, for instance ? This is all so vague, to say the least.
Repeatedly we find Christian education advertised as being more true to genuine democracy than the public schools. Or we find Christian instruction advertised as the power which must assist in bringing our youth to Christ and through them to bring America back to God.
In a recent editorial of the Home and School Magazine (October 1946, p. 14) we read, “The avowed aim of Christian education is to develop Christian character, prepare the child for constructive Christian citizenship and useful occupation”. And then continues to show that we must produce Christian citizens for democratic living and attain that by democratic leadership in our schools. Place next to this the avowed aim of Christian instruction as expressed in the Baptism Form and we feel the difference.
Dr. Machen in his book, “The Christian School the Hope of America” has probably summed up this tendency when he says that the Christian schools are “like precious salt, that checks the ravishes of decay” and then holds up the Christian schools as nurseries of democracy where we shall be liberated from the totalitarian state and have freedom”, (p. 17).
We by no means infer from the above quotations that all the emphasis is on this social or national aspect. We read, for instance, in the 1945 Annual, p. 91, as follows, “We are opposed to the world. And the world is opposed to us. The lines between us will become ever more clearly defined as time brings the principles of both sides to their logical development and outworking”. But even in this passage and article the “lines” are not clearly drawn, the antithesis is hinted at but very vaguely.
But we said, the tendency is there. We could produce countless other quotations to bear this out. But this is sufficient.
The tendency there is to make things vague, foggy and unclear. The tendency to becloud the real issues. The danger of making an apology for our existence. We read precious little of the antithesis, of election and reprobation, of the Covenant. The antithesis sometimes seems to lie between democracy and totalitarianism instead of between God’s people and the world, between light and darkness, between election and reprobation.
And this is off center.
Have we become ashamed to be fools ()? Paul tells us, “We are fools for Christ’s sake”. That is our position as Christian schools, in the eyes of the world. When we go about instructing our children and thus go about building upon the foundation of God’s Word, we become spectacles to the world, to angels and to men ( ).
We do not make fools out of ourselves, we are fools for Christ’s sake. But we must never be ashamed of this or apologize for it. When we instruct our children to reveal themselves in this world as of God’s Party, as God’s friend-servants, when we educate them to live and walk in Christ, when we teach them to seek the better country. . . .in the eyes of the world we are fools and our children will be fools.
Since the worldly wise press us from all sides and since we loathe being fools in such a wise world, we are in danger of going off center when we give covenant instruction. God be merciful to us and let us chastise ourselves with the whip of His Word.
(to be continued)