Education and Censure

We have been discussing various sins which become the occasion of ecclesiastical censure when members of the church persist in them and after repeated admonition refuse to repent. In this connection we asked the question whether parents are to be disciplined who refuse to send their children to Christian schools and, more particularly, whether Protestant Reformed parents are the proper objects of censure if they refuse to use the facilities of Protestant Reformed education for their children where these facilities are made available? It is with this question that we are at present concerned.

To the best of my knowledge the church has never officially taken a stand on this matter. We are unable to refer to any expressed decision that would answer our question for us. However, the past and present practice of the church would indicate that her answer is negative. This negative answer must not be interpreted to mean that this failure on the part of parents is not sin. On this point all are agreed but the thinking is that the sin is not of such a magnitude that it necessitates discipline and ultimately excommunication from the church. Parents are to be admonished and directed to the proper way but more than this the church cannot do. There are several reasons for this position and these we purpose to discuss presently but, first of all, we want to make it clear that with this view we are not agreed. We fail to see the legitimacy of the arguments presented in its favor and, if this matter is considered as a thing of principle, as it must be, it is not difficult to show that parents who neglect this aspect of their calling are guilty of gross sin. This we also intend to show presently but there are two related matters we must mention first.

(1) It must be remembered that we are discussing primarily the question whether parents should be disciplined who fail to send their children to our own Protestant Reformed Christian Schools? The other matter which concerns the failure of parents to send their children to the existing Christian School in areas where Protestant Reformed Education is not available is related but the circumstances are not the same and they cannot be treated as being synonymous.

(2) It must further be remembered that the purpose of this rubric is not to discuss the principles and necessity of Protestant Reformed education, interesting and important as this may be. We proceed on the supposition that we are agreed that this is a matter of principleimportance, inherent in our calling as Protestant Reformed parents to “train up our children in the way they must go.” Our present concern deals only with the question whether or not we can neglect this calling without exposing ourselves to the discipline and censure of the church.

Our readers must bear with me momentarily while I digress from this main subject to insert a few remarks. I have a strong desire to share with all the readers of The Standard Bearer the content of a public lecture, given in December 1956 by Rev. R. Veldman who was then pastor of our Southeast Church, on the subject: “The Ideal of Protestant Reformed Education.” He, too, agreed that this is a matter of principle. Said he, “Remember that this is a principle matter and in matters of principle we may not be wrong, we have to be right.” Now, in 1956 Rev. Veldman spoke correctly in defense of this principle and referring to the principles of Christian education as adopted by the National Union of Christian Schools, he said: “I want to say this, that this platform certainly tells us what was the position of the Christian Reformed Churches and the Christian Reformed people and there is no reason to believe that principally they have changed at all since that time. I want to read to you these principles now and as I read them I want you to notice three things: How vague they are. In the second place, how they are lacking in all the essentials of specific Reformed truth, and in the third place, how they contain principles and language that are positively modernistic.”

Remember that this is in December of 1956. In 1962 Rev. R. Veldman tells our Synod publicly that he has not agreed with our churches since 1953. Either this was a brazen lie or all that he said in the aforementioned lecture about common grace and its relation to education he did not believe himself. The latter is hardly conceivable.

But there is one thing more. Since he has come to Oak Lawn he has had the audacity to invite our Protestant Reformed people to come to his church to hear him (in the Oak Lawn Christian Reformed Church) telling them that: he hasn’t changed. This also is duplicity. As one brother put it when he said, “If Rev. Veldman means what he says, let him give that same lecture which he gave in 1956 in the Christian Reformed Church now and we’ll all go to hear him.” He hasn’t changed? In this lecture he spoke not only of education but of “the fundamental doctrinal differences between us and the Christian Reformed Church.” He said, “Now I want you to notice, beloved, with a view to our calling in this matter which are the doctrines involved wherein we and our Christian Reformed brethren differ fundamentally.” Then he continued, “For that’s the question, isn’t it. I said awhile ago that if our doctrine . . . if the doctrinal issues involved were not so fundamental also to everyday life and education and everything, it would be conceivable that we could work together on a doctrinal basis that would avoid the difficulty. I also said it is not possible now. In order to show that, I have to point to some of the doctrines at stake. Now, I want you to notice, beloved, how fundamental these doctrines are in themselves and how they pertain to your whole world and life view.” And from here on he discussed the Three Points, Predestination, Particular Atonement, and Total Depravity. In the lecture he enjoined andencouraged us to establish a school of our own wherein our children can be educated in harmony with the truth as we confess it in distinction from the common grace heresy. But today he accepts members from our church who have been put under censure because they defiantly and rebelliously refuse to even talk with the elders of the church about these serious matters of their calling in regard to the training of their children. In 1956 Rev. Veldman said there is a vital relation between education in the school and the baptism vow but that is obviously no longer regarded to be so today by him. I do not know who he thinks he is deceiving with all this duplicity but I do hope that some day he may yet remember what I learned from him in catechism in the First Church about the righteousness of God. God is surely not mocked and He judges a righteous judgment!

But we must return to consider the reasons often given why members of the church are not censured for failure to send their children to our schools. Perhaps the strongest reason I have ever heard given is the one that argues that if this were a censurable sin it would follow that any Protestant Reformed person living in an area where there is no school would be compelled to move to a place where there is one or they too would have to be censured. This in turn would mean that there could be no Protestant Reformed Church except where there is also a Protestant Reformed School. On the surface this appears td be plausible reasoning but it really isn’t. I cannot accept these conclusions for this is begging the question. This argument says in effect that the sin of refusing to use the God-given facilities is the same as the sin (?) of living in a place where these facilities are not provided. We must rather say that where those facilities are not yet, it is the calling and duty of our people to labor diligently and unceasingly to provide them if at all possible. And if necessary, to willingly be without other things to make this possible. Failure to do this is sin. If we have done our utmost (and who has?) and the Lord still does not make it possible for us to have our own school for our children (which may also be the case) we can be assured that His blessing rests upon us and our children when we use the best facilities available. Otherwise not! God does not say that we must all live in one place but He does require of all of us that we labor diligently wherever He has placed us. This argument fails to convince us that the sin of neglecting to use the facilities God has given us for the educating of our children may be condoned or excused. Another argument is the cost argument. It is said that for some the cost is prohibitive, impossible. Not knowing everyone’s circumstances we may admit there may be validity to this argument but then two things must be said. First, the cost of a thing is determined by its value. If we value all kinds 6f temporal and worldly things above the education of our covenant seed, we have to admit that the cost of the latter is out of our reach for then we always have money for other things but never enough to pay our tuition. If, however, we have grace to put first things first and the things of the Kingdom of God above all, the cost-argument is reduced to nil. Secondly, it cannot be denied that there may be those who simply do not have the material means to pay the cost but where this condition truthfully prevails, we must not hesitate to seek the assistance of the diaconate of the church. The argument certainly cannot be that one says, “I don’t send my children to our school because I can’t afford it.” If that is really so, such a one must be admonished to go to the deacons but if that is the situation because they have used their God-given means, which should have been used to bring up their children in the way of the truth, for foolish and unnecessary things of the world, they must be admonished on this account. Either way they walk in sin and unless repentance follows there must be the loving hand of discipline laid upon them by the church.

A third argument that is sometimes heard is that there is no real difference between ours and other schools and, therefore, it makes no difference where our children are sent. Those who argue this point ought to send for a copy of Rev. Veldman’s lecture. They have need of instruction in the very fundamentals. We affirm that the differences are basic and vital and that this argument is wholly untrue. It appears frequently as an excuse rather than a reason and excuses do not justify our failure to walk in our calling before God.

We conclude for the present by saying that the next time, D.V., we will give our positive reasons why we believe that consistories should not hesitate to apply the means of discipline upon those who neglect to use the means of Protestant Reformed Education for their children where such means are available to them.