THE A.A.C.S. AND ITS EDUCATIONAL CREED
The initials A.A.C.S. stand for “Association for the Advancement of Christian Studies.” It is the name for an organization which is found in this- country and in Canada which formerly went under the name “Association for Reformed Scientific Studies” (A.R.S.S.). It is not our purpose in this article to discuss all aspects of this movement. It is sufficient for our present purposes to state that it is deeply interested in “Reformational” education (among other endeavors); that it is laboring towards the realization of a Christian University in Toronto; and that it works closely with Trinity College in Palos Heights, Illinois.
What we are concerned about in this present article is its so-called “Educational Creed.” It has drawn up and adopted such a creed as a particular confession for Christian education. It has done this because of a definite philosophy which it has and upon which it bases all its activities.
In a recent series of articles (which series is still continuing) the editor of the Canadian Reformed Magazine discusses this matter of, the educational creed of the A.A.C.S.
These articles are excellent articles which deal in detail with this aspect of the goals and work of this organization. We do not have the space to discuss at length these articles nor to quote from them in any detail; but they are recommended reading for all who are interested in this matter. These articles call attention to the unique concept of the Church which characterizes the A.A.C.S. and which lies at the bottom of the writing of an educational creed. This philosophy concerning the Church goes something like this. Rooted in A. Kuyper’s idea of sphere sovereignty and borrowing heavily from the philosophy of H. Dooyeweerd, the A.A.C.S. considers the “church” to be one of several societal structures. As such it is on the same level as other societal structures such as the school, the university, the state and the shop. The word “church” can be used either with a capital “C” or a small “c” and, depending on whether the initial letter is in the upper or lower case, the meaning is different. Church with a capital “C” refers to the Church as the body of Christ. This body of Christ however, is supra-temporal and embraces the full number of those who believe. With it we have very little to do except that it is a theological concept. But church with a small “c” is the manifestation of the “Church” with a capital “C”. This earthly manifestation of the Church is not limited however to the church—with a small “c”. The latter is the church institute which is concerned with the preaching of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments and the exercise of Christian discipline within its own sphere. But the church (as institute) is not by any means to be identified with or said to be the Church (as the body of Christ). As a matter of fact, the Church is revealed in all societal structures all of which stand on a par with the church. Dr. A. De Graaff is quoted as saying: “Thus the people of God are bound to institutes and maintain a church wherever possible and to let it function through the offices Christ has ordained.”
All of this means that the body of Christ is also manifested in the home, in the school, in the university, in a Christian labor organization, in a Christian political party, etc. And these manifestations of the body of Christ are all on a par with the church and assume the appearance of the Church. In all of these “societal structures” there are special officebearers who stand on a par with the ministers, elders and deacons within the church; all of them must have a creed; all of them must exercise, in some sense, the keys of the kingdom. In fact, the church (as institute) is not really even essential to the life of the Christian in the world. It occupies a place; it is of some importance; it can be of some use; but it is not by any means essential.
The editor of the Canadian Reformed Magazine points out correctly that the A.A.C.S. has allowed philosophy and not Scripture to determine its definition of the Church. While we concur completely with this judgment, we are now interested in the fact that this particular conception of the Church (or church) requires a particular conception of the creeds.
The position of the A.A.C.S. is that the Three Forms of Unity, upon the basis of which the Reformed Churches function as Church, are creeds which belong to the church alone. In the words of the magazine mentioned above:
In this strange process the Reformed Creeds become something for the “societal church structure” only. You are bound to them only within the church walls. Therefore: no Three Forms of Unity in the school! They don’t belong there, they have no meaning, no effect there. You would turn the school (and labour association, etc) into a church by doing that. No, as soon as you enter some other “societal structure” you simply must write and adopt another creed.
In criticizing this position, the magazine goes on to say:
What a strange thing to say, yea what a nonsense.
In the first place, whose are the Reformed Creeds? Of the clergy maybe, the special officebearers in that particular structure? Or are they of the believers, the people of God, the membership of the Church? Who, I ask, are the “We” who speak in the 37. Articles of the Confession? And what did it mean when they promised, in the Church (!) “by the grace of God steadfastly to continue in this confession in life and death?” “In life,” the whole of life that is, everywhere, always “confessing” and surely not only within the “institutional church.” “In death,” not on a peaceful deathbed but in the death of the martyr for the truth: on the streets of the great city! In the second place, do the Reformed Creeds indeed only busy themselves with “ecclesiastical items” in the narrow sense in which this philosophy uses the word “ecclesiastical?” Again, what a nonsense! We cannot be complete in mentioning the richness of the Creeds. We remind the reader of Art. 12 about man’s mandate in God’s creation; the articles on Scripture as binding us in the whole of life; Art. 36 on the magistrate and our life as citizens; the Catechism about the only comfort in life and death (only within the societal structure of the church); L.D. 27 about the “separateness” of our children, the main foundation of Christian schools; L.D. 45-54 about Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done; our daily bread, etc., etc. What a non-sense to say that these Creeds refer only to the life within the institutional church. Has then the history of the Reformation been written in vain? What a non-sense to say that in building truly Christian, i.e., “reformational” schools (this philosophy employs the word “reformational” in every other sentence),—that we must leave our Reformed Creeds behind. . . .
The article is correct when it points out that our Creeds are not simply some documents which have to do with the church as institute, but that they are living confessions of the people of God which they confess in the whole of their life. They belong in the hearts and lives of God’s people; they belong in the hearts and lives of God’s people when these people go to their places of work in the morning, when they bring up their children in the home to fear the Lord, when they sacrifice their time and energies to establish Christian schools, when, in short, they live according to God’s truth in the whole of life.
But the A.A.C.S. denies all this because of an incorrect conception of the Church. Hence we must have a special creed for the school (as well as for the sphere of labor, politics, etc.). A creed for the school has been drawn up. We quote it here. (Quoted from the Appendix to a pamphlet containing a speech by Dr. Paul Schrotenboer entitled: “Integral Christian Scholarship.”)
Believing that Scripture reveals certain basic principles intensely relevant to education, we confess:
1. LIFE. THAT human life in its entirety is religion. Consequently, scholarly study unfolds itself as service either of the one true God or of an idol.
2. SCRIPTURE. THAT Scripture, the Word of God written, in instructing us of God, ourselves and the structure of creation, is that integral and active divine Word or Power by which God, through His Spirit, attaches us to and enlightens us in the Truth, which is Christ.
3. CHRIST. THAT the Christ of the Scriptures, the Word of God incarnate, is the Redeemer and Renewer of our life in its entirety and therefore also of our theoretical thought.
4. REALITY. THAT the essence or heart of all created reality is the covenantal communion of man with God in Christ.
5. KNOWLEDGE. THAT true knowledge is made possible by true religion and arises from the knowing activity of the human heart enlightened through the Word of God by the Holy Spirit. Thus religion plays its decisive ordering role in the understanding of our everyday experience and our theoretical pursuits.
6. SCHOLARSHIP. (a) THAT the diligent pursuit of theoretical thought in a community of scholars is essential to the obedient and thankful response of God’s people to the cultural mandate. The task of the scholar is to give a scientific account of the structure of creation and thereby to promote a more effective ordering of the everyday experience of the entire community. (b) THAT because of God’s gracious preservation of creation after the fall, men who reject the Word of God as the ordering principle of life provide many valuable insights into the common structure of reality; nevertheless, the central religious antithesis of direction in life remains. We therefore reject the possibility of the synthesis of scripturally directed thought with any other system of thought.
7. ACADEMIC FREEDOM. THAT scholarly pursuits are to be undertaken in the God-given freedom of a complete and voluntary submission to the Word of God and the divine laws that govern human life. The responsible freedom of the scholar must be protected against any constraint or domination of church, state, industry or other societal structure.
8. SUMMARY. THAT all scholarship pursued in faithful obedience to the divine mandate will heed the normative direction of God’s Word, will acknowledge His Law to which creation in all its spheres is subject, and will bow before Christ’s Kingship over all scientific work.
We have not the space left in this article to enter into a detailed criticism of this “educational creed.” But it seems to us that, on the surface, three criticisms are immediately apparent.
In the first place, while the “creed” insists that “Scripture reveals certain basic principles intensely relevant to education,” there is not a single reference to a Scriptural passage in the entire document. This is a most serious lack. There is no proof offered from Scripture. Remember, this is a creed—something which the believer confesses to be the truth of the Word of God. Yet there is no part of the Word of God quoted, either directly or indirectly. ‘This immediately raises the suspicion that after all, the “creed” is something not produced after an intensive study of Scripture, but is a product of philosophy—specifically, the philosophy of Dooyeweerd.
Secondly, there are many extremely vague statements in the “creed” which one is hard put to understand. I refer to such statements as: “That human life in its entirety is religion”; “That Christ . . . is the Redeemer and Renewer of our life in its entirety”; “That the essence or heart of all created reality is the covenantal communion. . . .”; That religion plays its decisive ordering role in the understanding of our everyday experience”; etc. I confess that I do not know what many of these statements mean. If there is one thing a creed ought to be, it is that it ought to be an explicit and clearly understandable statement of the Christian’s faith. This document is anything but that.
In the third place, there are statements which are simply incorrect; i.e., not the teaching of Scripture at all. The second article on Scripture, e.g., is totally silent on the question of its infallible character and is wrong when it defines Scripture as being “that integral and active divine Word or Power by which God, through His spirit, attaches us to . . . the Truth.” It is wrong and out of harmony with the creeds of the Church when it speaks of a gracious preservation of creation after the fall. It is wrong when it defines the freedom of the scholar in terms of protection “against any constraint or domination of church, state, industry or other societal structure.” And there is more.
The whole creed gives the distinct impression that it is a deliberate attempt to disassociate our educational institutions from the truth of the Word of God as defined in our Three Forms of Unity and to root the education of the covenant seed in philosophy. This is the destruction of all Christian, covenantal education