“We endorse quality education, whether it be public or private.”
What do you think about this statement?
This was a statement which appeared in an “open letter” addressed to the members and constituents of two Christian schools. The letter was prepared and signed by the boards of those schools, and it was published in a weekly newspaper. The occasion was an upcoming millage vote in which the voters in a certain Public School District were being asked to approve a 3.0 millage to cover operating expenses. Representatives of the two Christian schools’ boards had met with representatives of the public school board, “reviewed vital information and discussed areas of mutual concern,” and then published an open letter to their constituents. In the letter they did not recommend either a Yes or a No vote on the proposal, but urged their constituents to study and “to seriously consider the proposed millage increase.” And then they added the endorsement quoted above and also urged their constituents to vote.
Purposely I have omitted names. It is my intention to focus on the issue, not on the persons and schools involved.
Neither is it my intention to argue the question whether it is wise and responsible for a Christian school supporter to approve tax millage increases for the state schools, in view of the fact that the Christian school supporter pays “double”—his taxes for the state schools and tuition and gifts for the Christian school.
Nor do I intend to argue the question whether it is the proper domain of any Christian school board to meddle in an affair of this kind and to publish open letters on such issues. Personally, I doubt the propriety of this very much.
But I will pass by these matters in order to concentrate on what I deem a more important matter—what I call a dangerous and deceitful euphemism.
Now what is a euphemism?
Webster tells us that it is “the substitution of an inoffensive or mild expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.”
And what, then, is euphemistic about the statement quoted at the beginning of this editorial?
The main elements of substitution are those two terms,public and private, and, along with them, that expression quality education. Taken in itself, of course, the expression “public education” denotes education which is sponsored, controlled, directed, and paid for by the public, and thus by the government and its elected officials. Thus viewed—apart now from the fact that education is not the affair of the state—that term public education is quite innocuous. In fact, it would in itself be possible that such public education could even be “quality education.” And taken in itself, “private education” is education which is sponsored, controlled, directed, and paid for by private individuals and/or organizations and with private funds. Again, the expression itself is quite innocuous; and again, it is quite conceivable that such “private” education might also be “quality education.”
And after all, who would be so foolhardy as not to endorse, i.e., “give one’s name or support to, sanction,” quality education. That would be like being opposed to motherhood and apple pie! Do we not certainly need more, rather than less, “quality education”? However, as soon as one begins to give substance and content to these formal terms, and then begins to view them from the perspective of one who is committed to parental, Christian, covenantal, Reformed education and to evaluate their quality or lack of quality from the viewpoint of their spiritual dimension—then, I say, the dangerous and deceitful character of this euphemism becomes evident.
In the first place, that term private covers a potential multitude of ills. Private education can be education that is owned and operated by some private individual or corporation for profit-making purposes; again, it can be education which does not even purport to be Christian. It may be humanistic; it may be consciously non-sectarian; it may even be committed to some other religion. It may be just a “private school” for the children of the wealthy. Private education may also be parochial, church controlled education. And this, in turn, may be of various kinds: Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Adventist, Baptist, Jewish. Or again, private education may be parental education and involve schools that are owned, operated, and controlled by associations of parents. These, in turn, may be of various kinds, including our own covenantal schools, devoted to educating our covenant children in harmony with our Reformed principles.
But, you see, as soon as you view the multitude of private schools from the point of view of their spiritual dimension, their controlling spiritual principle, then there is but one answer to the question as to which private schools truly offer quality education, namely: our Christian, covenantal, Reformed schools!
In the second place, that term public is, after all, an inoffensive or mild expression substituted for one that may offend. Consider the fact that the public school is humanistic, pro-evolution, anti- God, anti-Christ, anti-Scripture in its whole approach to education. Can any right-thinking Reformed Christian dare to call such public education “quality”—no matter what school or school district is in question?
Now go back to that quoted statement and in your own mind fill in for those terms “public” and “private” the truly descriptive terms which we as Reformed Christians would use, and then take note of the horrible contradiction which results. And then ask how a Christian school board-or any Christian parent, for that matter-could subscribe to such an endorsement, and that, too, “In His Service.”
Kalamazoo’s New Church Building
Last spring our news column reported the dedication of the new church building of our Kalamazoo (Michigan) Protestant Reformed Church. At the time; a goodly number of people from neighboring congregations joined the Kalamazoo congregation in celebrating that happy occasion. The evening was undoubtedly a highlight in the life of the little flock of Kalamazoo, a congregation which for many years has had a rather checkered history and which often has struggled to maintain a distinctively Reformed witness in that community.
The church there now has a small, but very neat, pleasant, and useful building, located in a better area of the city than was their former meeting place.
At the time of the dedication there were no pictures available, and at the evening program it was too dark to get pictures.
Recently, on a preaching appointment, I had the opportunity to get a couple pictures, one an outdoor view and one an interior view. And so our readers may get a glimpse of Kalamazoo’s new facilities.
For those who may wish to visit our church there, here are the directions. Take the U.S. 131 expressway from Grand Rapids, getting off at the second M. 43 exit (W. Main Street). Follow West Main Street to Drake Road (the first traffic signal). Turn right on Drake Road and follow it to the first street on your left (Greenacre Drive). Follow Greenacre Drive approximately one block; it dead ends in the church parking lot.
The Presbyterian “Join and Receive” Movement
Both the columns All Around Us and the editorial department have reported and commented from time to time on what has come to be called the “Join and Receive” movement in American Presbyterianism. To refresh your memory, let me remind you that this movement at present involves three Presbyterian denominations: the PCA, or Presbyterian Church in America, by far the largest of the three; the RPCES, or Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod; and the OPC, or Orthodox Presbyterian Church. These three, through actions of their respective General Assemblies, are now officially committed to what has been nicknamed the “JR” movement.
According to this plan, the two smaller denominations will simply join the larger PCA on its confessional and governmental basis, and the PCA will receive them. The purpose of this plan—and supposedly also its advantage—is to accomplish a union of the three conservative Presbyterian denominations without a long process of discussion and negotiation concerning differences in doctrine and practice. There will, of course, still have to be arrangements made and decisions reached with respect to various physical assets and organizational aspects.
However, in all three denominations the first major step toward union was taken. The RPCES General Assembly approved the proposal by a much wider margin than the necessary two-thirds vote. The OPC General Assembly first rejected it by a very close vote, failing to give the necessary two thirds vote of approval. However, reconsideration a day later led to a sufficient switching of votes to furnish the needed margin. And the PCA General Assembly approved the receiving of both denominations into its fold.
This is not the end of the process, however. In both the OPC and the RPCES there are two more hurdles. First of all, in each denomination two thirds of the presbyteries (a presbytery is equivalent to our classis) must give their approval. Then, in 1982 the General Assembly of each denomination (if the presbyteries have approved) must again provide approval by a two-thirds margin. Meanwhile, three-fourths of the presbyteries in the PCA must ratify the action of their General Assembly. Only then can the merger be accomplished and the Presbyterian “amalgam” be formed.
It is not my purpose at this time to comment again on the fact that, should the “JR” movement succeed, the result will indeed be a rather bland Presbyterian amalgam.
Two things I wish to point out, especially with regard to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In the first place, a negative vote by only four presbyteries can defeat the entire proposal. The result of that could be that a large portion of the OPC could be locked into a continued separate existence which they do not desire. Or would some, perhaps, not tolerate that continuation of a separate existence, but attempt to join the PCA regardless? In the second place, in these proposals there is no provision made, apparently, for a possible minority who for reasons of principle (at least in their opinion) cannot approve the merger. Does the denomination to which they have been loyal simply intend to leave them ecclesiastically stranded? And what do these people and/or churches of the minority themselves intend to do? Will they have the courage of their convictions and hold back if and when the majority merges? And if so, will they continue a separate existence as an OPC remnant? Or will they seek affiliation elsewhere?
These matters I have, thus far, not seen addressed in print .