The Wrong Way.
As these words are written, the short but pleasant summer season has again come to an end, and schooldays are with us once again. Throughout the country the schools have opened their doors to receive the nation’s children. Our own covenant children, too, have returned to their respective institutions of learning, and on the whole they seem quite happy about it all. We parents are likewise happy. The summer months may be ever so pleasant from many points of view, there is nothing like the satisfaction one gets when home and church and school all come down to normal and spiritually profitable business once more.
Some of our children (not many, we are grateful to add) still receive their education in the institutions of this world. The majority of these, especially in these parts, are high school students; some, however, attend the public grammar schools. In other churches, sundry reports seem to indicate, this evil is increasing rather than decreasing. If so the situation is alarming, for this would mean that ultimately the Christie n School is doomed. However, also among us there are still those parents who make themselves guilty of this sin against their children, their church and their God. How can they do it? How can people who are born and raised in the sphere of the covenant begin to speak of peace of heart and assurance of faith, when they are so negligent in their Christian calling with respect to the covenant seed Jehovah has entrusted to their care, and when they so deliberately walk in the way of evil? We cannot and may not look for the blessing of the Lord in that way. You parents are evil!
These people have excuses, yes. Many of them. Shall we listen to a few?
The Christian School is too far from home for our children. This excuse is offered, naturally, where the younger children are concerned. The distance is too great for the children to walk, and it is too inconvenient for either of the parents to bring them. Besides, there are so many busy streets to be crossed and one cannot live in constant dread of possible accidents. Hence, they send their children to the public school which happens to be much closer to home. Now this excuse may carry some weight in certain localities, particularly in rural districts. Generally speaking, however, it holds no water. Did such people not move to where they now live of their own volition? They had children at the time they purchased their homes; to say the least, they as Christian men and women looked forward to receiving children of the Lord; and they knew that at a given age children must go to school.
Christian education is much too expensive. “We just can’t afford it. We can’t spend our last penny for the school.” This, if the truth were told (it usually isn’t) would he found to be the main objection. On the whole this sin also is rooted in covetousness, the love of money. Now tuition is high, that is true; too high in many cases, not from the viewpoint of the education received, but from the aspect of family incomeand budget. The public schools are free. A tremendous difference, especially for those parents who work hard for every dollar and must Count their pennies to make both ends meet. Still, also this excuse is without merit. Have those who were unable to pay full tuition not always been deceived and provided for in one form or another? Do not the poorest of the poor send their children to the Christian school, if only the will to do is present? However, as a rule it is not a matter of poverty with these people but of pure carnality. The money is there, but it seems to them such a waste of money to spend it on Christian education. They feet that they get so little in return. There is so much more satisfaction in spending precious money for houses and cars, for gas and oil, for candy and smokes, for cottages and trips, for fishing and bowling and a host of other things:
Most of us, at one time or other, have heard the excuse: if only the Christian schools were better, more Reformed; as it is they are so little better than those of the world. That is an ingenious way of covering up one’s iniquity! Surely, people who send their children to the public school, to the world, to Babylon, outside the sphere of the covenant, for their education should not talk about the Christian schools. They have forfeited every right to do so. That does not mean, that there is no element of truth in what they say, but even this will not drive the conscientious Christian into the world. He may feel sad about prevailing conditions; he will never seek refuge and comfort in Babylon.
Occasionally the argument is advanced: the public schools are not so dangerous; we need not be so afraid to send our children to these schools for their instruction; the education they give is of a high character. In short, the public schools are good enough! On what basis? According to what standard can this be maintained? How can any one who is Protestant Reformed assume this position? On the basis of Common Grace one may conceivablyfind support for this position. After all, God is gracious to all men. He bestows many benefits, much knowledge and wisdom and virtue on all, and as a result there is still much good in the world, also in the schools of the world. The knowledge of the world, its science and art and culture, and consequently its schools are the fruits of common grace. The public school is the gift of God’s grace (common) as well as the Christian school (special). That makes the public school much more acceptable, even to the Christian, of course. Little wonder that Christian school interest and attendance are on the decline. On the basis of the truth and of the antithesis, however, this position is utterly impossible. The public school is the school of the world. It does not fly the banner of God’s covenant, nor could it ever desire to do so. It rests, not on the basis of grace, but of sin.
In our own circles the objection is raised: the present Christian schools are so far from ideal, especially for us who are Protestant Reformed. They are controlled entirely by them who have cast us out. Many teachers do not know enough about Reformed doctrine to discern between Arminianism and the truth. Those who do know their doctrine are hostile to the truth as we see and love it. The principles, which would really provide the Christian schools with a sound and permanent basis for existence and would really make for distinctive education, are rejected. All this is true, of course. Even this, however, constitutes no reason to send our children to the schools of the world; Whatever Jerusalem may do, never may we forsake it to go to Babylon.
Many mote excuses are offered. I shall not take time and space to discuss them. Have you never heard parents defend their position by saying, “I can’t see what is so bad about the public school. After all, I went there too.” The obvious implication is: and look at me now. Am I one step behind those who received their education in the Christian schools? The proper and honest answer to this question would be: you certainly are behind those others, especially in your Bible knowledge. To that rule there are few exceptions. Most of us ministers have had the opportunity in the catechism class to compare public school children with Christian school children. Generally speaking, there simply is no comparison.
And then there is the case of Johnny, who was taken from the Christian school and sent to the public school because he had some trouble with his teacher or his principal. One day Johnny came home crying. His, teacher had slapped his face, or his principal had found it necessary to punish the boy. Who was to blame? Why, the teacher, of course! Who said so? Johnny did, and Johnny does not lie. He had done nothing wrong. He never does. All of a sudden and without any reason for doing so teacher had just slapped him in the face. As a consequence Johnny is taken from the Christian school and sent to the public school. He doesn’t have to submit to such indignities! Did mother go to see the teacher or the principal? No, why should she? Did father bring the matter to the attention of the board? Certainly not! Did either in any way seek to learn the truth of the matter? Not at all; they might discover that Johnny did not tell the truth after all. They simply took their child or children from school and sent them to the public school. Besides, look how much money is saved this way. Such parents! And such Christians!
All these and many other excuses notwithstanding, it certainly should be plain to all Reformed parents, that the public school is not the school for our children. It is the world’s school, and the world is enmity against God. There the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of all wisdom, has no place. There all is strictly this-worldly. Is that training the child in the way he should go? Is that providing the covenant child with the nourishment it should receive? Stones for bread; serpents for fish; that’s what such parents give their children.
The schools of the world are institutions of the lie, built on the lie, and dedicated to the lie. They are such because they are purely humanistic, and pure humanism is the lie. They are this because they have no place for God, and God alone is THE Truth. They represent the lie because they have no room for Christ, and because they ignore and reject the Word of God, apart from which there can be no knowledge of the truth. Scripture alone reveals the truth with respect to all things, to God and man, to Christ and our salvation, to heaven and earth and all things. In its light alone we see the light. The Word of God is not a natural textbook on history, or geography, or science, or civics, or mathematics or biology,—yet none of these can be understood without the revelation God has given in His Word. The latter alone reveals the things not seen, without which the things seen are never apprehended in their proper significance or true perspective. Scripture alone lays down the fundamental principles; gives the directives; sheds God’s light on God’s world. That revelation of God the world rejects as foolish and irrelevant. Therefore the world always lies and its institutions are institutions of the lie. To deny this spiritual character of the public school is to deny the spiritual character of the world itself.
All this does not mean, that the world cannot give us certain facts, and be technically correct about them. It can teach that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, and this is correct. It can teach our children that a line is the distance between two points, and who shall deny the truth of this statement?
Nevertheless, the education of me world is false. Education is more than the inculcation of mere, naked facts. It explains them. It seeks to see them in their proper place and perspective. It inquires into the reason and purpose of things, the origin and the end. Without God and His Word such education most of necessity be false. The Lord of hosts has no place in all the thoughts of the natural man. How, then, can he ever attain to the truth.
Such schools are hot for our children, that’s certain.
There are some things that should not even enter into the mind of the child of God; that a Christian should find it impossible to do.
Sending his children to the public school is one of them.
(To be continued)