One more reason that is often advanced to support the contention that ecclesiastical censure cannot be applied to those who neglect their calling to use the facilities of Protestant Reformed education where these are made available is the claim that the task of the training of the children is a parental responsibility and, therefore, parents are at liberty to choose the school that they desire for their children. Where they send them is of no concern to anyone else and the responsibility for that decision rests alone on the parents. The church has no right to interfere with this liberty.
The point of truth in the above argument is that parents are indeed responsible for the training and education of their children. This is the sole point of truth. The rest simply does not follow. We may apply the same argument to every circumstance of sin and show that if this argument is true there can never be any ecclesiastical censure applied to any member of the church. A man, for example, joins an ungodly and worldly union. That is his personal responsibility. So the argument must run. No one may interfere with his liberty to be or not to be a member of such an organization. Another man may indulge in vice and live in drunkenness and immorality. This, too, is his personal responsibility. Another may desecrate the Sabbath, practice theft, etc. In each instance the individual must simply point the church to the fact that what he does is his own responsibility and is of no business or concern to the church. To follow this line of reasoning leads to anarchism, the deplorable I situation that existed in Israel at the time of the judges when “there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). This philosophy, followed by much that is called church today, destroys all law and order. The basic folly of it all is that it denies the fundamental truth that there is a law of God imposed upon us through the means of the instituted offices of His church and from that law we can never extricate ourselves. Personal responsibility and individual freedom never mean that we are at liberty to do as we please but we are bound by the law of God. And the church is duty bound to enforce that law of God and has every reason to expect that her members will submit thereto or subject themselves to the spiritual forces of ecclesiastical censure.
From this then it should not be difficult to see the reason that we hold to the position that parents who neglect the facilities of Protestant Reformed education for their children must be disciplined. Our position is simply this:
(1) In His Word God has clearly revealed our calling as parents to bring up our children in harmony with His Word, i.e., the truth as we believe and confess it. From this calling we can never be excused or set free.
(2) The above calling applies not to part but to the entire training of our children, i.e., in the home, the school, the church and everywhere. As Moses expresses it, “when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest in the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:7). This we can never modify to fit our own liking.
(3) When the Lord in His providence and grace gives to us schools, making it possible to have such schools, wherein we are able through the employment of Protestant Reformed educators to impart to our children that world and life view that is in harmony with the Scriptures, we are duty bound to use these means and failure to do so is gross sm. It is not a matter of individual choice as to where we will send our children but then it is a matter of our calling before God which we cannot neglect with impunity.
This position is further sustained by the fact that parents make a sincere and solemn promise before God when they present their children in baptism. They are asked to stand in the presence of the church as witness and “sincerely answer this question”: “Do you promise and intend to see this child, when come to years of discretion, instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?” And the answer is given, “Yes.”
Prior to their being asked this question, parents are reminded that baptism is “not a custom or superstition” but it is “an ordinance of God, to seal unto us and to our seed His covenant; therefore it must be used for that end.” We may not mock with the holy ordinances or institutions of God and certainly the school does not stand divorced from the training of our children but is a very vital “help” by which we “cause our children to be brought up.” And whether that “help” shall be conducive to bringing them up in harmony with the doctrine we confess is contingent upon the kind of school to which we send our children. We cannot expect and have no reason to expect that the public school can or will train our children to live in the midst of the world from the principles of our doctrine. Neither can we expect this of schools in which the philosophy of education is saturated with the heretical world and life view of common grace. Rev. R. Veldman, in the lecture to which we referred in our last article, correctly stated: “You know you can say but the home and the church counter act whatever evil there is in the school but by the same token whatever evil there is in the school counteracts the home and the church. After all non-Protestant Reformed people and anti-Protestant Reformed people cannot instruct Protestant Reformed people and for all these reasons the principle is not difficult to see. In this way we shall educate our children. You know what it means to educate . . . it means to lead out . . . to bring out. And what has to be led out? The man of God! The new life! The child of God. The regenerated child of God. The Protestant Reformed man of God has to be brought out. And then we instruct. You knowwhat it means to instruct? It means ‘to build into’ and in that way to ‘construct.’ What do you construct in the school? What must you construct? The man of God! Among us the Protestant Reformed man of God must be constructed. If you are going to construct a brick building, you use brick don’t you? You don’t use wood to construct a brick building. And you don’t use Christian Reformed material to construct a Protestant Reformed man. If you are going to build a Protestant Reformed man out of your child, you’ll have to use Protestant Reformed material.”
With this we fully agree. It makes sense, doesn’t it? As Protestant Reformed people we have a calling with respect to the education of the children whom it pleases the Lord to give unto us. This calling is beautiful as it is also difficult. It is a glorious privilege that can be enjoyed only in the way of assuming great responsibilities. To attain that calling necessitates that we use Protestant Reformed means or material and where these are not available that we labor “to the utmost of our power” to obtain them. When they are made available to us and we neglect to use them, we sin grievously. We violate the “sincere” promise which we have made to God and we know, do we not, what the Word of God says about the breaking of vows. We refuse to walk in the way of submission and obedience to our calling and then what becomes of our religion when God Himself makes so plain to us that “obedience is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22)? The same passage reminds us that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (vs. 23). We become responsible for a generation that might have been taught in the ways of the Lord but because of our neglect has imbibed a way of life that is contrary to His precepts. We fail to be good examples, for our very actions betray our confession. With our mouths we tell our children that this is the way but in our deeds we direct them in the opposite direction. We alienate our children from the children of like faith and coerce them to seek their companions among those who walk as we professedly would not have our children walk. From the pulpit and in the home the children must confront warnings and admonitions against the very things into which we lead them. We sow the seeds of confusion and fail to build constructively on a sure foundation by our dubiousness. We obstruct our own prayers for it is impossible to ask His blessing when we refuse to walk in His way and are thankful for the institutions and other gifts which He has given us.
May the church then leave such wrong-doing go unpunished? Can she feel that her obligation is fully resolved when she has remonstrated these wrongs by admonition? Can she justify the position that full parental responsibility is met when the children of the church are catechized? My answer to these questions is an unequivocal “No.” We are convinced that the church should not hesitate to follow her admonitions with discipline and, if need be, with excommunication. Is not such conduct an offense in the church of Jesus Christ and does not the Form for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper itself bar from the table of the Lord “all who lead offensive lives”? If such parents have such little regard for the vows connected with the sacrament of Holy Baptism, what concern can they have for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? Is it possible to derive a spiritual blessing through the means of the latter sacrament while living in contempt and disregard of the sacred oath of the former? We believe not, for the sacraments are inseparable.
We do not contend that Christian censure may be applied only to certain selected sins. This conclusion might be drawn from our having written on certain specific sins in connection with Christian discipline in. our last articles. However this is not the case. Neither do we aver that all sin necessitates censure. On the contrary, we agree with what Rev. Hoeksema once wrote when he stated that the sin for which censure is and must be applied is that of impenitence. God’s people, as members of His Church, are called to live as a distinct people, walking with their children in the way of His covenant. To refuse to do so by refusing to give those children years of training in conformity with the demands of the covenant, where the means to do so is provided, is to persist impenitently in a walk of sin. Such a walk may not be condoned in the church.