The word “good has a wide variation of meaning depending upon how the term is used. It may mean perfection as, for example, when we say that God is good. He is Light and there is no darkness in Him. He is the sum total of all virtue and perfection. In this sense there is none that is good but one and that is God.
The term may also have a strong ethical connotation and then it denotes such things as are in harmony with the moral law of God. It forms the contrast of all that is vile and corrupt. Such things as uprightness, integrity, honesty, humility, sincerity, etc. are good. They are the opposite of such evils as pride, deceit, lying, etc. Although such virtues are not found in the natural man, they are possessed by the children of God who, by virtue of the grace of regeneration, are made good.
In common conversation the word “good” is generally used to designate that which is adapted to the purpose for which it was made or brought into being. Thus, for example, we may speak of an automobile, as it rolls from the assembly line of one of the huge industrial plants, as good only when, after a test drive, it is evident that there are no mechanical defects and that it will serve as a reliable means of transportation. We may speak of a good tree as one that is productive; of good food as that which nourishes the body; of a good watch as one that will reliably give the time of day; etc. In this sense we also read in Scripture that man (and all things) was created good. Although this expression also denotes that man was created in excellency and virtue; that he was without sin and endowed with many excellent gifts; it also signifies that he was created so that he was adapted unto the purpose of serving and glorifying His Creator.
In this last named sense we speak then of a good Christian school. In all things it conforms to and is adapted unto the purpose for which, it is brought into existence. And the Christian school does not have the same reason for its existence as schools in general. Its purpose is distinctively Christian. It is not materialistic or humanistic but emphatically God-centered in all of its aims. It has its objective in training the children of the covenant in the fear of the Lord and thus to prepare them to live in the midst of this present world as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. They must be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. The school that succeeds in this endeavor is good. Only then is it worthy of the beautiful name “Christian.”
The task of the school is somewhat curtailed by other vital training centers in the life of the covenant child. The school is only a part of that important triple alliance which cooperatively is called to train him. To this belongs also the home and the church. These three are not to be confused. Although they are intimately related and each one is concerned about the labors of the other, their separate sphere and objective of labor must be kept distinct. The school must not perform the functions of the former. This danger is more than imaginary and when it becomes a reality the result is disorder which is never good. Let each perform the duties of its own sphere according to the calling of God and the result will be the complete training of the man of God.
Whereas, in this connection, our main interest concerns the school, we may dispense with an elaborate discussion on the home and church. A few brief remarks in this connection will suffice.
Concerning the home, it may be stated that it is the oldest and most basic of all institutions of learning. It is established in creation itself and upon it revolves the solemn duty to “train up the children in the way they should go.” Parents may never relegate this obligation to others although they may employ others to assist them in this prodigious task. When this is done the matter of accountability to God remains with the parents and is never pushed off on the assistants. Were this regarded with more seriousness, many parents would be more careful in the means employed for the training of their children and more devoted and zealous in procuring the very best means possible. More concerning this we will write under a separate heading of “Parental Responsibility.”
The church, too, is an institution but, unlike the home, has its origin not in the creation but in grace. She is conceived in the eternal counsel of God. Her entire constituency is given unto Christ before the foundation of the world according to the sovereign and unchangeable decree of election. In time she is separated from the world through regeneration and called out of darkness into the marvelous light of God. She is called to manifest herself as the body of Christ, showing forth the praise of the glory of His grace amidst the darkness of men. Upon the church is laid the duty to preach the Word of God and to indoctrinate the seed of the covenant in the truth of that word and so prepare them through the word to occupy their place in the kingdom of heaven. Another calling the church does not have. She must declare the mighty works of her God. She must witness unto the world of His power and grace. She does not tell the world what God in Christ would like to do and tries to do but cannot unless He receives the consent and cooperation of man but rather she proclaims the Gospel of Christ in which that which God has done and will continue to perform until the day of Jesus Christ is preached. By the power of that gospel, the lives of the true members of the church are brought into subjection to and the service of Christ. The church is not a social or civic center. Its interests and aims are not of this world. She does not seek world reformation. The culture of her members is spiritual, their citizenship is heavenly and in the communion of saints the things of the kingdom of God are sought in and through all things of this present time. The church must confine her labors to teaching and preaching and indoctrinating in the realities of the kingdom of heaven. Her subjects must be instructed and prepared to rightly occupy their place in that kingdom, even now while they are in the present evil world.
The Christian school is not a subsidiary to the church and must not be conceived of as a sort of mission station as is not infrequently done. The school is an extension of the home and is born out of practical necessity. There was a time when all of the secular training of the child was done by the parents in the home but that time is no more. Life, with all of its complications and involvements, makes this a practical impossibility. The specialized training that ii requisite to most occupations today the parents are not able to provide. Consequently, the school is a cooperative enterprise in which parents together furnish those services for their children which as individual parents they are unable to provide. Worldly schools are the outgrowth of worldly homes and Christian schools are the proper extension of Christian homes. (Note: The state has taken cognizance of the gross neglect of worldly parents to provide for their children and, consequently, taken the matter of education into its own hands.) The school, in distinction from the church, aims at furnishing the child with the necessary preparation and training so that he is able to fill his place in the present industrial, political and social world. The Christian school aims to prepare the child to do this as a Christian. It purposes to so train the child that it is thoroughly equipped to serve God in whatever vocation of life it is called. To express it with other words, the Christian school that is worthy of its name, aims at preparing the citizens of the kingdom of heaven.to rightly occupy their temporal place in the midst of this present world. They must be trained to live the antithetic life in business, in labor, in government, in society.
It is evident then that the school aims at the temporal. It does this, not exclusive of the spiritual and eternal, but so that the purpose of its establishment is after all earthly. Just as the home is not an eternal institution but will pass away with the things of this earth for in heaven there will be no marriage or giving in marriage, so also it is with the school. It serves it purpose in this present order of things and if it is to do this well, it must never lose sight of the heavenly and eternal but rather, in its earthly form and character, serve them. Then it is a good school.
The task of the good Christian school is also, therefore, related to the calling of the church. Not so, of course, that the school must preach the gospel or indoctrinate as such but if we remember that the truth of the gospel is expressive of a way of life, we may characterize the duty of the school by saying that it is her task to apply in a practical way this world and life view of the church unto every single phase of the child’s secular education. Whether the child is then taught geography, history, mathematics, reading, or whatever it may be, he is taught these things in the light of the truth of the Word of God and from the truth he gains the correct perspective of life regardless of the field or vocation he chooses to enter. He must be trained in the fear of the Lord. This, a good Christian school does!
In light of all this, it should be evident that the most important single factor in a good Christian school is the teacher. Such things as buildings, physical facilities, size, etc. are relatively unimportant. The significant factor is the teacher. A staff of competent, God-fearing teachers makes a good school. Without them the ideal in education cannot be reached. Teachers who are able to inculcate the Protestant Reformed world and life view into the minds of succeeding generations are ever in demand. The meaning of Article 21 would require that “Consistories see to it that there are such teachers.” This is quite different from consistorial supervision and control of the schools. What this means and how this can be accomplished we will, D.V., write next time.