We conclude our remarks on the subject of teacher training with a few observations as to the execution of a plan to establish our own facilities for the training of Protestant Reformed teachers. Again we remind you that we have only some suggestions to make, rather than a full-blown plan. In fact, just because we have no actual blue-print, either literally, for a building, or figuratively, for the school itself, with its teachers and curriculum, we can only make a few suggestions,—suggestions which may be borne in mind when it comes to the actual formation of plans and the execution thereof. Our purpose is simply to point to the problems to be faced, to acquaint ourselves with them, and to avoid, if possible, any hasty, ill-timed, and ill-planned action. Because the suggestions we make here are all connected more or less directly with the actual establishment of our own teacher training facilities, we will include them all under the topic:
I suppose that from a practical point of view the very first thing that most of us think about in connection with the establishment of a normal school is the cost.
It is to be admitted, of course, that practically this is one of the major elements in the execution of any project now days. And I think that in this connection that is especially true, since the project is entirely new for us: we start from scratch. We face the full weight of the initial cost-burden, for the mere establishment of any normal school facilities will cost money. And besides, as far as maintenance costs are concerned, we must realize that we face an added burden,—if burden it may be called,—for we have not ever before faced the necessity of financially maintaining our own institution for higher education, with the exception of our Seminary, which is supported through the regular ecclesiastical channels of assessment and budget. And because this financial aspect is usually viewed as the foremost problem in the execution of any project,—and I would say quite naturally so; perhaps quite carnally so,—I wish to make what I believe to be some pertinent observations on this score. In fact, it appears to me that one could quite profitably devote more study to the whole subject of the fear of the Lord and our material things in a materialistic age. However, at present we will make only a few remarks, without going into detail. I propose that, if you question them, you seriously study what I here submit in the light of Scripture.
In the first place, we should at all times bear in mind that the cause of the kingdom of God is not a matter of material things, but spiritual. This is therefore also true of all the sub-causes of the kingdom of heaven, which we often call “kingdom causes”. The cause of God’s kingdom is not dependent on material things whatsoever. It goes right on too, despite any lack of material things, and despite any lack of financial support on our part. This implies that we should not, as we often do, first of all look at the financial aspect of any kingdom cause. The question is not, “Do we have enough money?” but much rather: “What is our calling?” In this connection, lest there be any misunderstanding, we may indeed apply the passage from, although not in the sense that it is often applied when the financial aspect of kingdom causes is under discussion. Often we are admonished to be realistic and down-to-earth when we talk about constructing new schools and new church buildings, etc. For, they say, “Which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?” Now it is obvious here that our Lord indeed teaches us to reckon well and carefully the cost. But the cost of what? The cost of being a disciple of Him. And He uses an example of a builder and of a king going to war in order to illustrate His point. What is that point? Does the Lord mean to instruct us that unless we have enough dollars and cents to build the kingdom of heaven, we had better not go ahead? Not at all. He teaches us basically that the kingdom of heaven is spiritual, is therefore a matter of grace, not money; and that discipleship of Him comprehends our whole life, our all. Indeed, then, if we have not the money to forge ahead in any kingdom cause, let us not lay even the foundation of a school building. But then let us remember that we cannot lay claim to being disciples. For the Lord says: “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” In other words, if you lay claim to being a child of grace, you must necessarily surrender your all to the grace.
It follows, then, in the second place, that the relation is not such, that our finances control the kingdom of heaven, but such, that the kingdom of heaven controls the finances of the child of the kingdom.
In the third place, we should learn as the people of God that to give of our material things for the sake of the kingdom of God is not a burden, but a privelege. If we were more controlled by this attitude of heart and mind, we would not so readily complain and be fearful when it comes to giving for kingdom causes. And I believe, as a general rule, we would also be more generous. In fact, in the passage fromit is obvious that the Lord speaks not merely of giving out of our abundance, but of sacrificing.
In the fourth place, we should approach these matters in the childlike faith and trust wherewith we are graced as the people of God. In that trust we may be confident that the Lord will not put His people to shame, but will sustain them and prosper their purposes when they walk in His way, because then their purposes are His very own.
And finally, from the practical point of view, judging things from a purely materialistic point of view, we have no reason to complain, either about a lack of material things or about heavy financial burdens. This is so obvious to anyone who views things honestly, that I need not even substantiate it. And I will not.
This has been a little excursion into the subject of the finances of the kingdom. But I think we can all benefit therefrom, and perhaps rethink our personal position which so easily slips into carnality and faithlessnes.
And I believe that on the basis of such a position as depicted above, both those who are charged eventually with actually gathering the material means necessary for starting our own normal school, but also those who are highly privileged to supply those means, may approach the matter with a healthy Christian optimism and confidence,—a confidence not in men, but in the God of His covenant. One more remark in this connection, and then I will turn to other matters. As I have remarked before both publicly and privately, we as a Protestant Reformed people have a most precious heritage, are a highly privileged people.
In the light of that heritage and the consciousness thereof, we ought not to be lax and lethargic, but should be the most active, the most zealous, and the most generous people on the face of the earth. Are we?
Further, without going into detail, I wish to offer a few practical suggestions in this connection. First of all, I think that we could explore the possibility of building in conjunction with our theological school. It already has a building fund. And although we must insist on a non-ecclesiastical normal school, there is nevertheless room for cooperation between the two institutions, especially in regard to physical facilities. Secondly, we need not and must not set our sights too high. We must not look for a mighty institution of learning. We shall have no need of a large educational plant. We are small, and can expect to remain relatively small, especially as we remain true. And certainly we must be satisfied with a humble beginning. But also as far as our educational home is concerned, the saying applies: “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” And yet, in the third place, let us guard against anything amateurish, either as far as physical facilities are concerned, or as regards faculty and curriculum.
But there are other problems, to my mind at least as weighty as the financial problem. We need teachers. We need students. And we need a curriculum, well organized and suited from the beginning to the needs of our prospective grade school teachers. All this has not even reached the planning stage as yet. And whoever should come into a position of authority and responsibility in regard to the establishment of our own normal school should not give short weight to these latter responsibilities. Capable men should be sought, whether they be products of our seminary or whether they may be found among our present grade school teachers, who have the “stuff” and the ambition to build up a respectable Protestant Reformed normal school. When we have reached our goal, I believe we should from that time on exclude from the ranks of our Protestant Reformed teachers, that is, as far as new teachers are concerned, any teacher who has not been trained in our own normal school.
However, these things belong to the future. I only desire that we go forward, and that we do so wisely, carefully, and in a humble dependence upon our covenant Jehovah. And I know that in this way He will bless us in the efforts put forth.