“Whether You Promise—
and intend to see these children, when come to the 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?”
What is your answer?
This promise all, who have received children of the Lord, have made at one time or another. It is the pledge elicited from Reformed parents when a child is presented for baptism. The “Yes” is the inevitable reply.
How easily this pledge is given! Who answers anything but “Yes.” The child must be baptized! And if this demands the making of a promise,—a promise must and shall be made. Few pledges, to my mind, are more easily, more superficially, more recklessly made. One wonders how many parents, when uttering their invariable “yes,” are fully conscious of the implications of the promise they are making.
How easily, too, it is broken! When taken in its deepest significance this is always true. Who is audacious and spiritually ignorant enough to think that he keeps the baptismal pledge perfectly? However, also in its more external significance it is conveniently forgotten when parents become lax toward church attendance and catechism and school.
Yet, how vital to the welfare of us and our children that this covenant promise be faithfully kept.
What You Promise—
We must instruct these children; all whom we thus present for baptism; all our natural seed. Historically they all belong to the covenant of God. All are not true children of God’s covenant. All do not belong to the promised seed, for there is always in the church on earth a two-fold seed, that of the woman and that of the serpent. The covenant is established with “Abraham and his seed,” and these are the believers only. Nevertheless, historically all our children belong to the sphere of the covenant as it manifests itself in the world. Wherefore all must and do receive the sign and seal of the covenant of God.
Besides, a covenant parent can and may never do otherwise than instruct all his natural seed in the same way of Jehovah’s precepts. For the Christian another course would be impossible. The godless, reprobate seed as well as the children of the promise must be instructed in “the aforesaid doctrine.”
Finally, we can instruct the true seed, which are the children of the promise, only by training all our children. We are neither able nor called to separate between the spiritual and carnal seed.
We must instruct and bring up these children.
The life of man begins with the period of childhood, characterized by passivity and simple receptivity. The child is blessed with a clear, impressionable mind; a strong, retentive memory; a keen, sometimes wild imagination. The child is trusting, too. It does not easily question the integrity and trustworthiness of its instructors. It readily imbibes what it is taught. What an age for instruction and training in the aforesaid doctrine!
This period all too soon passes on into that of adolescence. Our passive, trusting child is growing up. The young man is no longer merely passive and receptive. In fact, he is more apt to assume a critical attitude toward all he is taught. The period of adolescence, is not without its element of conceit. Yet, the adolescent has not attained to much stability, neither in conceptions nor in walk of life. The period of adolescence, therefore, is fraught with dangers. Also here I would say: what an age for instruction and training in the aforesaid doctrine! But also, how necessary that this be begun before, long before this delicate period of life is reached.
A few fleeting years in this critical period and your boys have become men, your girls women. Your passive, impressionable children; your still pliable young men and women have grown up. More or less suddenly and painfully you come to the realization that the time of instruction and training has gone by,—forever. The man is less easily impressed, more matter-of-fact. His opinions are formed, his will is set, his conceptions have ripened, whether right or wrong. The tender sprig may be bent in any direction or shape. It may be tied into a knot. Rut once it has become a branch it defies every attempt at reformation. As long as cement is soft and fresh impressions are readily made in it. But, once it has hardened nothing less than extreme force can make the slightest impression on it. Need it be greatly stressed how essential it is, with a view to the training of our children, that these things be remembered?
Our baptismal pledge speaks of the aforesaid doctrine.
The second baptismal question makes plain what is meant. “Whether you acknowledge the doctrine which is contained in the Old and New Testament, and in the articles of our Christian faith, and which is taught here in this Christian Church, to be the true and perfect doctrine of salvation.”
Hence, the Scriptural, Christian, Reformed, Protestant Reformed Doctrine is meant. The “aforesaid doctrine” is not a general, colorless, indefinite, superficial Christianity such as many people are content to have as a basis for Christian instruction. It is the distinct, colorful, specific Reformed doctrine with respect to God, man, the world, God’s counsel, providence, creation, sin, grace, the covenant, the church, heaven, hell, and all things. How much of that “aforesaid doctrine” can be found at the basis of much so-called Christian instruction today?
In the sphere of that doctrine these children must be instructed and brought up. Not only must this “aforesaid doctrine” be the direct contents and object of the instruction and training we give our children. The latter must not only be faithfully indoctrinated. All the training and instruction our seed receives must be in the sphere of, in harmony with, on the basis of the specific Reformed truth, the doctrine “taught here in this Christian church.”
Mind you, you promise. The instruction and bringing up of children is primarily and principally the task of the parents whose children they are. It is natural and logical that this should be the case. Parents know their own children, their characteristics and disposition and temperament and ability, as no other person can know them. And parents love their children, whatever their faults, as only parents can. It is reasonable, therefore, that the bringing up of children should be primarily and basically the duty and task of the parents. That responsibility parents profess to have assumed when they reply affirmatively to the third baptismal question. And note, as far as the parents themselves are concerned, they only are responsible for the bringing up of their children. This does not mean that others in the church, who have no children, shoulder no responsibility in the matter of Christian instruction and Christian school. They, too, have a calling. The covenant school is their school, too. From their point of view the covenant children instructed in those schools are their children, too. The let-the-parents-take-care-of-their-own-children attitude, which so many who have no children of school- going age have assumed, must certainly be condemned. Nevertheless, from the viewpoint of the parents the responsibility can and may never be shifted to others, neither as far as the instruction proper is concerned, nor as far as the financial obligations go. Whether we instruct and train ourselves or cause or help them to be instructed, “we pledge to bring up our children in the “aforesaid doctrine.”
To the utmost of our power.
Parents, in how far are we bringing our “yes,” so easily, often inadvertently uttered, into actual practice?
This instruction of our children involves three distinct spheres or agencies, the home, the church, and the school. These are closely related. Ultimately they have the same purpose. All three must be based on and proceed from the same religious, doctrinal principles. And only then is the instruction and training of the child as it should be when home, church, and school cooperate to the fullest extent. However, they are not mere reduplications. They are and remain distinct. The home is the place where the child is really trained, brought up, although the element of instruction is by no means excluded. Church and school emphasize instruction, though training is not excluded. And these, in turn, have their peculiar calling and task. Indoctrination proper is the task of the church. She must watch over the flock of God, preserve sound doctrine, develop and defend the truth. This never is and never should be made the task of the school. The class-room must not be made into a catechism class. On the other hand, in the school we help and cause our children to be instructed in the aforesaid doctrine with a view to their (place as covenant children in this present life and world.
Does anyone doubt the necessity and importance of the school as an agency in the training and intellectual and spiritual development of the child? And can anyone fail to see what tremendous influence a teacher can and does have on the child? 40 weeks out of each year, 5 days out of every week, 5 hours every day our children are under the care, influence, training of their teachers. Some 1,000 hours! For every hour in the catechism room they spend 50 hours in school! How vital to the welfare of the child that its instruction in the school be in perfect harmony, principally, with that in the home and the church. And how important, that the teachers do not counteract, but complement the work of home and church. A Christian home and church must of necessity be complemented by a Christian school; a Reformed home and church by a Reformed school; a Protestant Reformed home and church by a Protestant Reformed school.
I want to emphasize, that the baptismal (pledge and the Christian school are directly related. The former makes the latter mandatory. I do not believe what Prof. Kromminga wrote in a Banner of some years ago. “If Christian parents faithfully indoctrinate their children and faithfully send them to catechism, their failure to send them to a Christian school may certainly be qualified as a deficiency in their performance of their Christian duty in this respect, but hardly allows of the qualification of constituting a breaking of their baptismal pledge. The proper procedure in such a case is educational. This will be all the more because the duty of sending children to Christian schools is only inferentially and indirectly required by the baptismal pledge.” To this view I take exception. The professor himself knows how enemies of Christian instruction have quoted this same passage to their advantage. I refer especially to that enemy of the Christian school, the Rev. L. Brunsting of the Reformed Church of Sioux Center, Iowa. I do not believe for one moment that sending children to the public school, the school of the world, with its hatred for God and His people, its systematic exclusion of all sectarian teaching, where the Word of God is trampled under foot, where the teachers are enemies of the covenant of God, where the ape comes in the place of the Creator, where accursed modernism and atheism and consequent godlessness reign supreme, where antichrist is on the throne, principally,—hardly allows of the qualification of constituting a breaking of the baptismal pledge.” To me there is a direct relation. The one demands the other. The breaking of the one implies the breaking of the other.
In the school we parents “help and cause our children to be instructed.” In reality it is only an extension of the home, having arisen of practical necessity from the development of life in general. The school is not given with creation, as was the home, neither was it specifically instituted, as was the church. It is simply the practical result of the development and increasing complexity of life itself. As long as possible the parents did all the instructing. As life progressed the educational requirements of the child increased. Finally the parents had neither the time nor the means to give their children adequate instruction along secular lines. Thus the school came into being and teachers were hired to care for this particular phase of the child’s bringing-up.
In this school the children are instructed in the subjects essential to prepare them for their place in this world, and that on the basis of and in harmony with “the aforesaid doctrine.” At least, so they must! If things natural and spiritual, earthly and heavenly, temporal and eternal were unrelated this would not be true. In that case we should not need a Christian school, except, perhaps, for reasons of environment. Certainly, we should not need a school based on “the aforesaid doctrine.” But things natural and spiritual are related, as means are related to the end and the way to the destination. Therefore a Christian is called to live in all things from the principle of regeneration and by the light of the Word of God. The Christian must be a Christian always and the truth of God’s Word must be the lamp before our feet and the light on our pathway in all things and always. Thus we feel the need of a Christian school, which is not a public school plus some Biblical instruction and religious exercises, but a Christian institution throughout. Thus we see the need, too, of doctrine in our schools; sound, unadulterated, Reformed doctrine.
That doctrine must be the basis of all instruction in our schools. Mind you, the true doctrine, Reformed doctrine, Protestant Reformed doctrine. Nothing less will do. Some people are content with some general Christian teachings. They would speak of a Christian school, but not a Reformed school, still less a Protestant Reformed school. God forbid that such be our conception of what our children should have. With such a general, lukewarm Christianity you have sacrificed all that is worthwhile. That attitude is proving to be and will prove to be the death of the Christian school. And church and home as well!
That Other Side—
Speaking of Reformed truth and Reformed principles which must form the basis of all instruction, who has not heard of “The other side,” meaning: the other side of the truth. Since 1924, in fact, that “other side” has received the lion share of attention.
The one side, then, is the truth as we confess and believe it as Protestant Reformed churches and people. To this side belong such doctrines as election and reprobation, grace for the elect only, the preaching of the Word of God as it intends to save only God’s elect, constant development of the world in sin, total depravity and related doctrines. To quite an extent our Christian Reformed brethren also believe these truths, so they assure us. That’s the one side. However, they hasten to add, “you Protestant Reformed people are one-sided.” There is also “the other side.” That “other side” teaches, that there is grace for all men, that God loves even the reprobates, that the preaching of the Word offers redemption (which was not merited for them by Christ, and which God, therefore, does not even possess) to all men, that there is a constant restraint of sin by the operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of all men, and that as a result of this gracious operation all men are still able to perform that which is good before God. Can you harmonize the “one side” with “the other side”? No. Apparently, in fact, they contradict each other. But we believe both, they say. Amazing faith!
Now that “other side” is precious to our Christian Reformed brethren with whom we thus far cooperate in the field of education and whom we until now permit to have charge of the instruction of our children. So dead is that “other side” to them, that brethren who fail to emphasize it must be expelled from the fellowship of the Christian Reformed churches. That doctrine, which our people have received and loved for these many year, can have no place in their midst. Mind you, men who preach that “other side” and are Arminian in so doing are not molested. Men who have always been known as liberal remain in good standing. But woe to those who dare lay too much emphasis on “this side.” So dear is “that other side” to them, that the editor of The Banner has been forbidden to receive articles which do not contain “that other side.” At least, so I have been given to understand. By all means he must not allow The Banner to make propaganda for the Protestant Reformed Churches. If it is not true that the board has given the editor-in-chief of The Banner these instructions we are willing to retract. That propaganda would consist solely of emphasizing “the one side,” election, particular atonement, grace for the elect only, total depravity, etc., without including “the other side.” Such an article the broadminded Banner may not receive. That does not mean that articles will not be published which stress only “the other side.” They will be received, even though they make wholesale propaganda for Arminianism and modernism. Do the brethren feel the weakness, perhaps, of always saying to their hearers and readers, “we cannot understand, we cannot harmonize, we know it seems contradictory, it is not logical,—but we believe it just the same”? As soon as our editor-in-chief refuses articles for The Standard Bearer “because they make propaganda for the Christian Reformed Churches,” in spite of the fact that he is at liberty to criticize them as he sees fit, please discontinue my subscription. Any doctrine that cannot stand that test is not the truth.
It is reasonable to assume, that “that other side,” so dear to our Christian Reformed brethren, must also find a place in the Christian schools. The teachers are saturated with it from Sunday to Sunday, while our churches and principles are constantly condemned. That must bear its fruit in the field of education. God is gracious to all! He desires the salvation of all men! Toward all men He assumes an attitude of love and good will! The Spirit restrains sin from the beginning! Man still has remnants of the righteousness he had in Paradise! By virtue of it he can still please God in many things! All these are principles which must become manifest in school, whether the teachers do so consciously or subconsciously. Those who might feel inclined to teach “the truth” are hamstrung, and too few to make any appreciable difference to us.
Must our children be instructed in “that other side” from day to day? Remember, it makes a great deal of difference whether our children get their history in the light of common grace and “the other side” or whether it is in the light of the Word of God. The one interprets all history in the light of God’s love and grace to all men, checking of sin and “the good that sinners do.” The other explains men and events and historical trends in the light of the antithesis, total depravity, constant development of the world in sin, the covenant. The same holds for civics, science, psychology, geography, etc. Moreover, there is the life, discipline, and devotionals of the school to be considered. Even our Christian Reformed brethren will realize that it makes a difference to us whether the prayers that are offered by our teachers, the songs that are learned and sung by our children, the programs rendered on many occasions, are Reformed in character or saturated with “that other side,” which to us is pure Arminianism and principally modernism.
Yes, to my mind Arminianism and modernism already have eaten deeply into the education and life of our Christian schools. As a result they are doomed. Thanks to “that other side.”
What, then, is the ideal for which we must strive? What is our calling according to the pledge we made when our children were presented for baptism?
We must have schools of our own. That is the ideal. We must begin by acknowledging this fact. How we can deny this and call ourselves Protestant Reformed is a mystery to me. How some can fail to see that the present set-up is detrimental also to church and home I cannot understand. Home and church and school are so closely related, that they become stronger or weaker, together.
We should have schools which we as Protestant Reformed parents can control. Today our children are taught in schools controlled by those who cast us out and detest the doctrine for which we hope to fight unto death. Even our Christian Reformed brethren will expect that we cannot be satisfied with this.
We should have teachers who instruct our children on the basis of the doctrine so dear to us. That is not the case today. Either the teaching is saturated with “the other side,” and then the Christian school is a Christian Reformed school, or it is not distinctive at all, and then the so-called Christian school is in reality only a public school with a veneer of Christianity. In either case what is our position? Sometimes we comfort ourselves with the thought that there is little religion of any kind in our schools. We tell one another: most of the teachers do not know enough doctrine to make them overly dangerous for our children. What a comfort! When things have reached the point where we seek consolation in ignorance, what do you suppose is our calling with respect to our children? Besides, when such instructors attempt to become religious it will invariably be in the direction of Arminianism. We should have teachers who know sound Reformed doctrine and are able to make that doctrine the basis, the heart and soul of all their instruction. That, by the way, also points to my greatest difficulty. Do we have such teachers? Will we have a complete staff that will set this as its ideal? If not, the sacrifice of time and energy would be useless.
Those teachers, in those schools, would then have to see to it that all the instruction of our children is thoroughly Reformed, Protestant Reformed in character. Their history and geography and science and civics, the songs they learn and sing, they prayers they hear their teachers offer, the programs they render, all their instruction and training should be permeated with that truth.
Is such a school a financial possibility? Of course it is, if it is only the fervent desire of our parents and people in general. Neither would our financial burdens be increased to any appreciable extent.
Is such a school a spiritual possibility? That is the question. Are the principles at stake vital and dear enough to us? Are we conscious of the need? Is our love of the truth equal to the task?
The matter of our own school is before us these days. Another mass meeting will soon be held. Let all who favor a school of our own be there, one and all. Let those, who fail to see the need or possibility be there to state their objections. They owe this to the others. In this way an open, brotherly discussion of the issue can ultimately lead to a definite decision.
“The churning of milk bringeth forth butter.”