*A talk given at the Chr. School Aux. meeting, Jan. 6, 1944.
It is quite significant that a meeting of this nature can be planned and successfully carried out, especially in the times in which we are now living.
It means that the present world-wide conflagration which has made such inroads into our thoughts and lives, has not destroyed your interest in your home problems, particularly in the education of your covenant youth. It also means that as a Protestant Reformed group you love and cherish your distinctive principles to the extent that you desire to apply them to every sphere of life and feel the need of a thoroughly Reformed training for your children, so that you are striving to have a school of your own. And even though the war efforts prevent you from erecting a school building to fully realize your purpose, you have the courage to proceed with your plans and are even laying post-war plans to be carried out in the future.
No doubt the audience this evening could be much larger, and the interest shown thus far could be more extensive. Yet the groundwork is laid so that the movement is bound to gain momentum as the work is carried on.
You realize that I speak as an observer interestedly viewing your efforts from a distance. This does place me at a disadvantage in making a speech, but does not prevent me from raising questions which you either have met or are bound to meet repeatedly in a movement of this kind. I present these questions for your consideration.
My first question may not seem to be logically the first question that would be raised, but I consider it of primary importance.
It can be stated in this form: what name do you intend to place over the portals of your new institution?
The name, if it is to have any significance at all, must express the true essence of the institution in distinction from all others. It must serve as a seal of the fundamental principles underlying the institution, and must carry those principles on into the generations to come. As soon as a school does not live up to its name it has no right of further existence under that name. We might ask: what do you mean when you speak of “our own school”?
It is questionable whether this matter was always given its just consideration when our present Christian schools were organized. I recall seeing the inscription over one of our present Christian schools which read: Christian and Grammar School. Possibly the founders of that institution did not approve of calling it a Christian Grammar School because they could not conceive of such a thing as “Christian grammar.” Whatever the case may be, the name is quite expressive of the character of much of the instruction in our present schools. The name of your school must express what it is.
From our own experience we know that our present Christian schools are frequently nothing more than a school with the Bible. The sessions are opened and closed with prayer, a few hymns are sung, sometimes even of a questionable nature, there is a Bible lesson, and as for the rest the school goes over to a general routine of the day. The text books, the lessons, and possibly even the atmosphere of the schoolroom differs in nothing from any public school. In some cases the teacher knows so little of sound Reformed doctrine that she could not possibly apply it in her instruction. Particularly such subjects as history and geography are taught from the same approach as in the public schools, except that the theory of evolution is avoided. In our high school conditions are no different. There entertainment and sports even play an important role in the curriculum of the school. The high school publications, such as their annuals,” carry hardly a spark of Christianity in them.
In many ways our present schools give an academic training, plus a certain amount of Christianity, such as might be expected in a “Christian and Grammar School.” The theory of “common grace” is the underlying cause for this condition.
The question may well be asked: what do you mean when you speak of “our own schools?” You certainly do not favor a church school. Your intention is not in the least to take the responsibility of the instruction away from the parents by laying it at the door of the church. The training of the covenant child belongs with the office of believers, and we have no intention of destroying this principle. Nor is your purpose to create a school which only carries the outward distinction that it is open only to Protestant Reformed children and boasts a teacher’s staff of persons who can prove their membership in some Protestant Reformed Church. That mere outward distinction does not make it a school of “our own.”
We want a Christian School, call it by whatever name you deem proper, that is based on sound doctrine, where the instruction is permeated with the Truth of the Word of God. Basic Christian instruction is more than a daily Bible lesson, more than a Christian atmosphere, and more than an occasional application of some moral axioms. A passing remark or a story with a Christian moral applied to the lesson of the day, does not make a school Christian. The instruction must be permeated with the Truth of Scripture, or it fails to meet its requirements. No teacher is fit to teach Arithmetic unless she carries in her soul the conviction that one and one are two, not simply by some natural law, but because God’s ordinances govern the whole universe. She must not merely say so, but that conviction must govern all her instruction. She cannot possibly teach geography unless she is constantly aware that she is dealing with God’s earthly creation, God’s world. And she has no right to teach history unless she sees in all of history the unfolding of God’s eternal thoughts and purposes, even the development of His covenant.
In one word, also in the sphere of instruction, the question is always: God or Baal. We must absolutely maintain that God is God, the Sovereign and ever blessed Lord, besides whom there is no other. To deny Him, to ignore Him, or even to slight Him is to rear up an idol before His face. Serve Him we must, for we either love and serve Him with all that is in us, or we bend the knee to Baal. The choice is inevitable. But it must always be for God and against Baal. There is no alternative.
The name of your school must express what it is.
My next question is this: Is it imperative to have our own schools wherever possible?
I prefer to put the question in this form, rather than to ask whether it is necessary. Your presence here tonight seems to imply that you are convinced of its necessity, or at least have a definite interest, in the matter. Besides, we might ask whether it is necessary when we really mean, is it worth the effort and the sacrifice? We may be counting the cost with the sole purpose of making that our main objection against it. If it is imperative we also weigh the cost, but only with the purpose of finding ways and means to gain our end.
Is it essential to the proper development of our children and to the future of our Protestant Reformed Churches? Does God’ demand it of us as Christian parents who cherish the unadulterated milk of the Word and desire to preserve it for ourselves and our children? We are aware of our responsibility toward ourselves as covenant parents, and toward our children as the covenant seed, the church of tomorrow. We realize that our children spend twenty-five hours of each week, for forty weeks of each year, for a period of nine to twelve years under the direct influence of the instruction of their teachers. Estimated on the basis of twelve active hours per day, this amounts to almost three years of their lives. We fully realize the import of entrusting our children to the influence of others for such a long time, especially during their most impressionable years, which mean so much to their proper development. From that aspect we ask, is it imperative to have our own schools?
In this connection the question might be raised: But is it not our duty to exert our influence in our present schools? A counter-question could be placed: How much of this has been done in the past? And in how far has this succeeded? The question may even be considered: In how far are we justified in urging our convictions upon children of parents who are definitely opposed to those convictions?
Another question suggests itself: Is this a proper time for such an undertaking? It has been said: This should have been done immediately after our churches came into existence. Yet regardless of anything else, you cannot turn back the clock of history. Besides, there is a definite advantage to beginning now. We have had ample time and opportunity to become more thoroughly established in the truth of God’s sovereign grace and more mellowed in our convictions. From that aspect this seems to be the ideal time. And as for the war that is being waged, if ever we are called to labor and to watch in prayer, to hold that which we have that no man take our crown, it is now.
A final question, then, is this: What can be done?
If you are at all convinced that it is imperative to establish a school of our own, you must continue to strive unwaveringly toward that goal. Much work must be done in many ways. Your conviction must become the conviction of all. A solid foundation must be laid that your school may truly have a right of existence, that it may be worthy of its name, and that it may be able to withstand all the winds and storms that are sure to assail it in the future.
But above all, we must all be spiritually strong enough to support such a gigantic, yet worthy undertaking. We must ever more determinedly apply our principles to our whole lives, placing God first in everything, committing our way to Him, and serving Him in all things unto the praise of His glory. If we so strive we shall not strive in vain.