In our last issue we discussed some of the principles that are supposed to be the basis of Christian education in the Sunday school as they were adopted by the International Council of Religious Education in 1932.
We did not finish this discussion. There are three more principles. To these we wish to call your attention now.
The fifth principle reads as follows:
“Christian Religious Education seeks to develop in growing persons the ability and disposition to participate in the organized society of Christians, the Church.”
We wish to call special attention to the definition that is here given to the Church of Christ: “the organized society of Christians.” This definition is, as anyone that has any knowledge of the Church of Christ in the light of Scripture and the Confessions will admit, thoroughly modernistic and Pelagian. A society is a freewill organization established by men, an organization which anyone may and can join, and from which anyone may and can separate himself. But this is not the Church. It is the Body of Christ and is also instituted on earth for the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. One becomes a member of the Church (of which all the elect are members) not by a freewill act of man, but only by the efficacious grace of God in Christ.
Thus it is expressed in the Westminster Confession, chapter XXV:
“The Catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, and shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”
Thus, you understand, the Westminster defines the invisible Church. And of the visible Church the same Confession speaks as follows:
“The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as under the law) consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion, and of their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”
I could quote more, also from other confessions. But let this suffice.
But the Church is not a society of organized Christians.
The sixth principle reads as follows:
“Christian Religious Education seeks to lead growing persons into a Christian interpretation of life and the universe; the ability to see God’s purpose and plan; a life philosophy built on this interpretation.”
Of course, the chief question that immediately arises here is: what is the Christian interpretation of life and the universe; is it interpretation of the Bible? And what is the life philosophy based on this interpretation? It is all very vague and general. Those that drew up these principles of education certainly do not mean to adhere to the biblical interpretation of history, of life, and of the universe. That interpretation would be that according to God’s immutable counsel, Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who received all power in heaven and on earth, stands in the very center of all history. It claims that man sinned and that because of the sin of the first man, Adam, the whole universe is under the curse. It implies that there is redemption and salvation in Christ only. It implies, too, that in the end Christ will come again for the salvation of His own and for the damnation of the wicked, and that, in the day of His coming, He will make all things new.
These things must be definitely taught, not only in the Sunday school, but also in the Church, in the home, and in the school.
But true Christian education cannot be based on such vague and good for nothing principles as the one we just quoted above.
The last of the so-called principles of Christian education reads as follows: “Christian Religious Education seeks to effect in growing persons the assimilation of the best religious experience of the race, pre-eminently that recorded in the Bible, as effective guidance to present experience.”
This is probably the worst of all the seven so-called principles of education. In the first place, note that also this principle is expressed in very general and vague terms: “assimilation of the best religious experience of the race . . . as effective guidance to present experience.” I doubt whether the authors of these seven so-called principles understand themselves what they mean by it and whether they would be able to define their own terms.
What do they mean by religious experience? Do they mean the experience of sin and grace? Do they mean the consciousness of regeneration, the consciousness of faith by which they know that they are in and belong to Christ, that they are justified, that they have the forgiveness of sin and the adoption unto children and heirs of eternal life?
It is evident that they cannot mean this for they also speak of the best experience of the race! And the whole human race certainly does not have the experience of faith in Christ. But what then? I cannot understand the meaning of this so-called principle of education and I doubt very much whether the authors themselves or the Sunday school teacher that is supposed to instruct “growing persons” according to this “principle” can give a clear account of its meaning.
Certain it is, however, that this principle so-called means to be very general. It speaks of the best religious experience of the race. This means, of course, such religious experience as that of Jew and Gentile: Pharisaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Mohammedanism, etc. Besides, the authors of this seventh principle really place the Bible on a par with the “religious experience” of the heathen writings as may be found in their books. It. is true that they claim that the “religious experience” recorded in the Bible is pre-eminent. The Bible is comparatively better than what is found in the books of the heathen authors. Yet, the Sunday school teacher must also attempt to make the pupils assimilate the “religious experience” found in the heathen authors as well as that which is recorded in the Bible. And this also implies the denial of the truth that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.
I pity the Sunday school teacher that must instruct “growing persons” in harmony with this “principle” of religious education.
And I also pity the pupils that must absorb such instruction!
I must still call attention to a few more items as they are mentioned in Christianity Today.
One of these items is from the writings of a certain Dr. Mary Alice Jones. We are informed that she “is held in high esteem by her colleagues” and also that she “is director of the Department for Christian Education of Children.”
This Dr. Jones wrote a book on the subject “The Faith of our Children.” In this book she writes: “The Bible is the Word of God to those who through it hear God speak to them . . . . what we are saying is that the text of the Bible as we hold it in our hands may be or may not be the Word of God.”
This is pure subjectivism, mysticism, and a denial of the objective written and infallible Word of God.
It is subjectivism for the Bible, according to the view, is not from cover to cover the objective Word of God. Whether it is the Word of God depends entirely on the subject that reads or hears the Bible. If, reading a certain passage of Scripture, the reader hears the Word of God speaking to him, that passage is, to him, the Word of God; if he does not so hear the Word of God in and through that particular passage â€•well, then it simply is not the Word of God. One may hear the Word of God in Gen. 1 and believe that God created the world in six days; another may not hear the Word of God in this chapter and believe the theory of evolution. One may hear the Word of God when it speaks of the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin; another may not hear this Word of God and deny the virgin-birth. One may hear the Word of God in the Bible when it speaks of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for our sins; another may not hear this Word of God and maintain that Jesus was the Son of God in the same sense that we all are children of God. It is evident that in this way we have no Word of God in the Bible left.
No wonder that the same Dr. Jones could write: “Let us be careful not to set Jesus off from all other revelations of God . . . he was one in whom sonship of God had been perfected.” It is evident that Dr. Jones did not hear the Word of God in the Bible that speaks of His unique sonship.
Again, it is also evident that Dr. Jones never heard the Word of God in the Bible when it speaks of Christ’s death as atoning. For, in the same book she writes (I quote from Christianity Today):
“With all its goodness and beauty, the life of Jesus ended in the most ignominious death that could be inflicted upon man in his day. He was condemned to be executed, publicly, by crucifixion. How can we interpret this fact to boys and girls? Of course, we shall not tell the little children about the crucifixion of Jesus . . . but after they go to school we could not keep it from them even if we would; so we must be prepared to interpret it to them. The basis of our interpretation must be the fact that people suffer for being good as well as for being bad.”
This is supposed to be Christian instruction!
But in reality it is not Christian but heathen!
In all this so-called “Christian Education” there is no mention of sin and guilt and, therefore, no room for atonement. One may just as well adopt the principles of Buddhism instead of such a Christianity. Jesus is a good man. He lived a beautiful life. It is simply a shame that He died such an ignominious death. We are really ashamed to tell little boys and girls about this death of Jesus. If we could, we would avoid it. The children are all so good and innocent. If we explain this death at all we must only instruct them in the moral lesson that men suffer for being good as well as for being bad!
No, Dr. Jones has never heard the Word of God in the Bible that speaks of the atoning death of Christ.
Why not? Certainly not because the Bible does not speak clearly about this central fact. The reason is that she is an unbeliever. But the pity of it is that she is supposed to give leadership in Christian education in the Sunday school.
No wonder she can write as follows about the resurrection of Christ: “We shall be equally unwise, however, if the story of the resurrection is emphasized to the neglect of the simpler phases of the life of Jesus . . . For a life such as his could not be ended when his body was broken by sinful men. His life has expressed abiding values, deathless love, and so we may teach our children that Jesus lives today, not because of some isolated wonder-inspiring event, but because there was in his life that quality, that spirit, that is of the very essence of eternity.”
Surely, it is evident from this that Dr. Jones never heard in the Bible the Word of God concerning the resurrection of Christ from the dead in spite of the fact that it is so abundantly attested in Holy Writ.