Christian Education In Our Country
Almost entirely Christian education in our country is conducted by the Sunday school.
And what is worse, it is chiefly given under the influence of modernism. Of this we quoted a few illustrations from Christianity Today.
In this article I wish to quote some more illustrations.
Here are some of the principles that are supposed to be a guide for the religious education of the children and youth in the Sunday school. They were adopted by the International Council of Religious Education in 1932 and have never been amended or changed:
“1. Christian Religious Education seeks to foster in growing persons a consciousness of God as a reality in human experience, and a sense of personal relationship to him.”
This first principle of religious education is characterized by its vagueness and generality. Who is this God of whom it speaks? Is it the God of the Scriptures Who has revealed Himself in Christ Jesus our Lord or is it perhaps some other god? How does Christian education seek to foster a consciousness of God “as a reality in human experience”? By thorough instruction in the Bible as the Word of God? And how will the teacher awaken a sense of personal relationship to that God? Is it awakening in the pupil a deep sense of sin and guilt so that the pupil may flee to the cross of Jesus for redemption and forgiveness and deliverance from sin and death and receive everlasting life?
Of all this the first principle does not speak at all. It seeks refuge in vague generalities.
“2. Christian Religious Education seeks to develop in growing persons such an understanding and appreciation of the personality, life, and teaching of Jesus as will lead to experience of Him as Savior and Lord, loyalty to Him and to His cause, and manifest itself in daily life and conduct.”
Such is the second principle. One would almost be inclined to approve of this and subscribe to it. Does it not speak of Jesus as “Savior and Lord”? But be not deceived! The question must be asked and answered: how and in what way is Jesus our Savior and Lord? To that question true Christian Religious Education uniformly answers: Through His death, resurrection, and exaltation at the right hand of God and His reception of the Holy Spirit. But how does this second principle answer this question? By referring to “the personality, life, and teaching of Jesus.” There is no room for the cross and for the atoning death of this “savior and Lord.” Hence, the Jesus that is mentioned in this second principle is no Savior at all.
“3. Christian Religious Education seeks to foster in growing persons a progressive and continuous development of Christlike character.”
This is the third principle.
This is, as you will recognize, thoroughly modernistic language. It is the moderns that like to speak of Christlike character, whatever this may mean. But a “Christlike character” (let us assume for a moment that the term can even be used) is impossible without the cross-resurrection-exaltation of Christ and the sovereign operation of the Spirit of Christ in our hearts and that, too, through the Word of God and the preaching of the Word. Then the principle of regeneration is wrought in our hearts by sovereign grace. Then we become in principle Christlike. And as to fostering a progressive and continuous development of such a “Christlike character,” if it means anything at all, it must mean that “Christian Religious Education” brings the Word of God to the pupils so that they are admonished to put off the old man and to put on the new and thus to walk in newness of life. This is the only conceivable “development of Christlike character.”
But, of course, this is not the meaning of the authors of these “principles.” What they mean is that the pupils must be taught to copy the “personality, life, and teaching of Jesus” in their own life and walk in the world. And this certainly is not Scriptural.
“4. Christian Religious Education seeks to develop in growing persons the ability and disposition to participate in and contribute constructively to the building of a social order throughout the world, embodying the idea of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.”
This is the fourth principle.
The idea is, of course, the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.
This is quite in harmony with all the foregoing principles. If Christian religion is nothing but the consciousness of some God or god as a reality in human experience and a sense of personal relationship to him; if we must know Christ only in His personality, life, and teaching and not as the One who bore all our sins away on the accursed tree; if that religion consists in the development of a Christlike character; if the terrible reality of sin is denied (and sin is not even mentioned in any of the principles quoted here) â€•then, indeed, one may speak of a universal fatherhood of such a god, and of the universal brotherhood of such men, regardless of the question whether they believe in such a god or whether they are atheists, regardless of the question whether they believe or not in such a Christ, and regardless whether they are righteous or wicked. But this is not in harmony with the Word of God. Do the authors of these principles mean that the teachers in the Sunday school must teach their pupils to pray the Lord’s Prayer and in the sense of the universal Fatherhood of God address Him as “Our Father who art in heaven”? Let them try it. They will soon discover that all men cannot and will not pray even the first petition nor any of the others.
There is no universal fatherhood of God nor a universal brotherhood of Man.
God is the Father of His children in Christ Jesus our Lord. And the sons of God are brethren.
We have still more to say about these principles. But this must wait till our next issue, D.V.
About Being Protestant Reformed
The last time we briefly referred to and explained some of the passages of Scripture that speak of the covenant of God with His people as a relation of friendship and intimate fellowship. In fact, the chief and highest purpose of all the works of God outside of Himself is the realization of this bond of friendship. That is why, in the book of Revelation, chapter 21 vs. 3, we read: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” This means that God’s covenant shall have been realized in the highest sense of the word. In fact, this final realization of the covenant shall be the highest possible bliss. In the new Jerusalem the people of God shall see His face and walk in the light of the glory of God.
For the revelation of the covenant life of God, He in His eternal counsel determined to form a people that was like unto Himself in a creaturely way. For the bond of friendship and fellowship, as we said before, requires a basis of likeness. Hence, in His eternal counsel God conceived of a people that would be like unto the image of His Son. That creature is, first of all and preeminently, Christ. For thus we read in Col. 1:15ff. : “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead: that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased God the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things on earth, or things in heaven.”
This is a most beautiful and profound passage of Scripture, which I will not interpret in detail at present.
My purpose is rather to show that, in the counsel of God, the Son of God, in human nature, and that, too, as the resurrected Lord, is absolutely first. Christ is not only the firstborn of every creature, but He is also the first begotten of the dead.
You understand, of course, that the text in Col. 1:15-20presents to us the supra-lapsarian viewpoint of the counsel of God.
Infra-lapsarianism presents the historical viewpoint. In history, Adam is first, then the fall into sin, then Christ, His incarnation, death and resurrection, and the redemption of the people of God. But according to supra, Christ is first and all other things not only creation but also the fall, are for and by Christ. This is taught us by the text in Col. 1.
With Christ, therefore, the Son of God in human nature, Who is the most perfect likeness of God, the covenant of friendship is first of all established.
But this is not all.
Christ does not stand alone. He is not only the firstborn of every creature and the first begotten of the dead, but He is also the firstborn among many brethren. For thus we read in Rom. 8:29-30: “For whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” These many brethren of whom Christ is the firstborn are, of course, the elect. They are given to Christ. They are chosen in Him. And the purpose is that the covenant of friendship might be established with and reflected in countless millions of men and the glory of God’s own covenant-life might be revealed in the highest possible manner.
Unto Christ and the elect in Him are also given all things in heaven and on earth. For He is the firstborn of every creature. In the eternal counsel of God all things in the whole universe are conceived as being united in Him even as they are created by Him and for Him. The whole creation is a house of God in Christ and through His Church of which He is the Head, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Eph. 1:23. The covenant of God embraces every creature. All things must serve the people of God in Christ that they serve their God.
Of this all-embracing idea of the covenant the rainbow is the sign and symbol.
All this is not yet historically realized. Nevertheless, all things in time, all that takes place in time: creation, the fall, and all that takes place in the history of the world, with Christ and His cross and resurrection in the midst, must be and are conducive to the final realization of God’s all-embracing covenant of friendship.