(From the speech delivered by the Rev. Herman Veldman at the recent conference of our Protestant Reformed ministers).
Our own Christian school is necessary, first of all, in the light of the history of our Protestant Reformed Churches. We must remember that the origin of the latter is inseparably connected with the theory of Common Grace.
Common Grace is that theory which would teach us that concord, agreement between the church and the world is possible in all things earthly andcivil. It is the bridge which spans the gulf which otherwise exists between the Church and the world. It speaks of a restraining operation of the grace of God upon the hearts of men, checking evil and sin, not only in the sphere of their external deportment but also within their own hearts and lives. This theory also speaks of a positive operation of the spirit of God upon the hearts of men rendering them able to do in things civil that which is good before God. The theory of Common-Grace lauds Athens and speaks of the children of darkness and of the world as putting the children of the light, the children of God, to shame; it wipes out all lines of demarcation between the Church and the World; it nullifies, the antithesis, destroys our distinctiveness and defends and nurtures a worldly-mindedness which is the death of the church of God in the midst of the world.
It is because of this is-Sue of Common Grace that we today constitute the Protestant Reformed Churches. It is true, of course, that also the error of Arminianism was involved. The Three Points are indeed a mixture of Common Grace and Arminianism. But we are all aware of the fact that practically the issue of worldly-mindedness lay at the root of the conflict. We know that years before 1924 this spirit of broadmindedness was already present and working in the churches. The Jansen controversy merely served to accelerate the issue and uncover the tremendous difference of thought and conception which existed. And, it is because we held to the view that God’s people are a distinctive people, with a distinctive calling, that we today are compelled to stand, alone. It is this principle which constitutes the heart and fiber of our churches—it alone is our hope and right of existence. This, in brief, explains the birth of our Protestant Reformed Churches.
Now it is true, is it not, that the school is exactly that sphere where the teaching of Common Grace is most prevalent and dangerous. I need not dwell at this time on the purpose of the school in the Reformed system. The purpose of all instruction within the church, such as catechetical instruction, is to prepare the seed of the church to assume their place within the church and be able to partake of the means of grace, the preaching of the Word and the holy sacraments, This explains why in this instruction all emphasis be laid upon doctrine and the holy Scriptures. The school, however, prepares the same child or children for their place in the midst of the world. The Christian School and the theory of Common Grace are mutually exclusive. The one is the denial of the other. Christianity is distinctive; Common Grace embraces the world. It is therefore of the utmost significance that we teach our children in such a way that, in the world, they may be a distinctive people, an wholly other people, walking in the world but as not of the world. Our history, therefore, our beginning and existence as Protestant Reformed Churches demands of us that also the instruction of our children in the school be distinctive. If we ignore this matter the cause which we represent is doomed. What can it profit us if we as churches maintain the pure preaching of the Word but permit our children to absorb the doctrine of Common Grace in the school? What doth it profit us if we be distinctive on the Lord’s Day but reject that principle during the week? The peculiar nature of the origin and existence of our churches demands therefore our own school.
Secondly, our own school, proclaiming to our children that our God is one God, is necessary because the continuance of God’s covenant in the world is inseparably connected with the truth that Jehovah is God alone, and the knowledge and strict maintenance of that truth. We read in: “Now hearken therefore O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandment of the Lord your God which I command you”. Notice in this passage, that we read in verse 2 that we are not to add unto the word which Moses commands us, and in verse 1 we read that we must hearken unto these commandments and do them in order that we may live and go in and possess the land which the Lord of our fathers giveth us.
If we apply this passage to Israel of the Old Dispensation we may observe, first, that the significance of Canaan lay in the fact that it was the land of God’s fellowship, to be sure in a typical sense, with his people. The heart of Canaan in the days of old must be sought in the temple on Mount Moriah. In that land the Lord exercised communion with his people. He forgave them their sins through the typical blood of His Son; He walked with them and He talked with them; He dwelt in their hearts so that they tasted His love and mercy; He blessed them and was to them the God of their salvation. It is for this reason that the land of Canaan could also be such a terrible land. God’s fellowship with his own is possible only on the basis of His holiness and righteousness. When Israel therefore refused to walk in the ways of their God, turned their backs upon Him and their faces to the idols of the nations round about them, this land would become a land of drought and famine, a land in which they would be harassed and tormented by the heathen nations round about them. Israel must therefore hearken to the commandments of their God and do them if they are to live and possess this land which the God of their fathers had given them.
The same truth applies to us. This passage from the book of Deuteronomy certainly refers to the entering of ourselves and our children into the heavenly city, the heavenly Canaan, and therefore to our continuance as God’s covenant people. This is true not only subjectively. To be sure, the truth as we love and proclaim it is indispensable as far as my salvation is concerned. I cannot taste the assurance of life eternal unless I stand on the principle of the sovereign grace of our God. But this is also true objectively. If Israel of old did not hearken to the commandments of the Lord and neglected to do them they would not go in and possess the land which the Lord of their fathers gave them. And if we neglect our calling with respect to the instruction of our children; if we fail to hold before them the blessed truth that God is one, but allow them to drift along with the tide of Common Grace; if we fail, according to, to teach them the Word of God in all its purity and add to or diminish aught from the Word of the Lord, we too will fall short of the land which the Lord God of our fathers giveth us, and ultimately our name and place will disappear from the ranks of those with whom the Lord establishes His covenant in the line of continued generations. God realizes His covenant only in the sphere of the truth. Certainly, we as churches cannot hope to continue to exist, ultimately, in this way.
Its Practical Enforcement
Now the question is not whether our children must have Protestant Reformed, instruction. There-is no difference of opinion among us on this point. None among, us is satisfied, with the instruction as given in our schools today. Neither is it the question among us whether we must have. Protestant Reformed schools for our children. On this, too, we agree. But the question is whether we should strive to have our own schools now. Have we come to such a time?
On this point much has been said and who am I to add to previous discussion except for the purpose of discussing the matter here? However, I would observe that as yet we have no schools of our own. In the meantime another generation is being trained in a Christian Reformed atmosphere and in Christian Reformed teaching. This is alarming. The instruction of a child is a very grave matter. What has been done for that child in its childhood can never be undone. We might learn a lesson from the Roman Catholic Church’s understanding of the importance of the instruction of the youth. Any evasion of this issue or postponement of distinctive Protestant Reformed education for our children simply means that another generation will pass which was not instructed in the fundamental truths of the Word of God.
Secondly, if we have the calling to improve our present day Christian schools what are we doing about it? Let us frankly ask ourselves this question and answer it. If it be unethical to turn our backs upon the Christian schools of today because we should attempt to improve them, what are we doing along that line?
Thirdly, our schools of today are certainly Christian Reformed. It is, of course, true that our schools are not church schools in the sense that they are under the direct influence and control of the church. Our school system is private, not parochial. This does not alter the fact, however, that the schools of today are Christian Reformed. An article in the Banner some time ago from the pen of President Schultze of Calvin College should remove any doubt from our minds on this point. Apart from the fact that a very few schools of today have Protestant Reformed members on their teaching staffs, we may certainly say that the teaching staffs of the present schools are Christian Reformed. Besides, the Union of Christian Schools is definitely Christian Reformed and their literature bears the Christian Reformed stamp.
Finally, what can we do? The issue whether our children are to be instructed in the distinctive teachings of the Word of God was settled in 1924 and 1926. I repeat, our schools are not church schools. We are aware of that. But it is also a fact that our schools are controlled by the parents. These parents are members of a church. As members of a certain church they are obliged to uphold the doctrine of their church. It would be rather unethical on our part to expect anything else, of them. These parents are preponderantly Christian Reformed. In 1924 the Three Points were officially adopted by the Christian Reformed Churches. In 1926 our protest was officially rejected by those churches in their synodical gathering held at Englewood, Chicago. In 1926, therefore, we stood officially on our own. May God give us the grace that we also stand on our own as far as the instruction of our children is concerned. Then we may be assured of the continued blessing of the God of our salvation and the continued realization of His covenant also with the children whom the Lord has given us.