We have the children; the material means are at our disposal; the teachers can be obtained; hence, the possibility is there. That is the thrust of this wherever possible. The question is: Should we, the way being open, establish schools of our own, where our Protestant Reformed children can be instructed by Protestant Reformed men and women on the basis of what we believe to be the unadulterated Reformed truth? The negative has the burden of showing why this is neither desirable nor mandatory. The affirmative answers this question with an unequivocal: Yes! And gladly we assume the burden of proving our position.
You will notice, that our subject does not limit us to any particular type of school. It includes whatever school, whether for elementary or higher education, it is within our means to establish.
In defense of the proposition as stated above I would like to set before you a series of clear-cut affirmations.
I—The truths involved in our controversy with our Christian Reformed Brethren, the doctrines which make this school question the vital issue it is, are: a.—Fundamental in themselves, and b.—Basic to all instruction.
I need not elaborate here, since my opponent, I know, will grant me the truth of this affirmation. Nevertheless, this must be our point of embarkation, for were there not those doctrinal differences between us and them who control our present Christian schools, there could be no question of separation.
As Protestant Reformed people, therefore, we believe that the doctrines at stake are fundamental, so much so that they in a broad way affect the entire structure of Reformed truth and our whole view of God, the world and man. Our cause is a worthy one. Officially and in a narrower sense the principles involved are embodied in the “Three Points of 1924.” According to them who now control the instruction of our children the natural man is able to do much good, also before God, by virtue of a gracious operation of the Holy Spirit in the heart of every man. In things natural and civil, in politics and society, in business and art, in every sphere of human endeavor he can do much to please his Maker. This good is the fruit of a general operation of the Spirit whereby sin is restrained and remnants of the original integrity which man enjoyed in Paradise are retained in him. Above all, God is graciously inclined to all men in general. From day to day and in numerous things He bestows His grace on mankind in general. His blessing rests on reprobates as well as elect and His expressed desire is that all shall be saved. I need not take time and space at this time to state what we believe with respect to each of the above. In a broader sense the whole structure of Reformed truth is affected by these doctrines, Predestination, particular atonement, total depravity, sin, God’s counsel and providence, especially their emphasis and application,—all this and more is involved. There is with our Christian Reformed brethren always that other side, the side we do not want and do not want our children to believe, but which means so much to them, that they cast out of their ecclesiastical fellowship all those who cannot see that other side.
Now mind you, these are precisely the doctrines which must affect, one way or the other, all that is done in a school, all the instruction that is given, the prayers that are offered, the hymns that are sung, the programs that are rendered. These points are not only weighty in themselves, but they are strikingly basic to all instruction. Grace for all! A divine desire to save all! An offer of salvation, of saving grace to all! Blessing for all men! Sin is restrained! Remnants of original righteousness are retained in all men! Mar can please God in every sphere of life! These and others are not comparatively immaterial principles; they give color and direction and perspective to all that goes on in a school. And, naturally, with the affirmation of such doctrines goes the contradiction, directly or indirectly, of the truths we confess and hold sacred.
II—The school is of paramount importance as an agency for the instruction of our covenant seed.
So is the home, of course. It, as far as the direct instruction of our children is concerned, is perhaps the most important of all educational agencies. In the home the child is instructed practically from birth. There the child receives its first impressions, learns its first prayers, hears its first Bible stories, receives its first lessons in reverence, obedience and general behavior.
Also the church is a vital factor in the instruction of the child, more so than at first thought we might realize. Here the child is indoctrinated, in catechism and as it grows older, in the preaching of the Word. What is still more important in this connection, in church the parents and teachers are indoctrinated. In this way the church exerts an inestimable influence on both the home and the school. Here the doctrine is preserved and proclaimed which constitutes the basis of all instruction. The church is the supply base of incentive and doctrinal conception for both the home and the school. This point is too obvious to need more emphasis. Bear this in mind with a view to our present discussion. No, our schools are not church schools, but the mighty influence of the church is definitely and necessarily behind all that goes on in the school. Under the present setup the influence is that of the Christian Reformed Church.
However, also the school must never be underrated as an educational agency. Here the child is instructed in all that must prepare it for its place as a child of God’s covenant in this present world. Here doctrine is applied to life itself, and that by men and women with mature conception and definite conviction. And what a part of a person’s life is spent in school! 25 hours each week, 40 weeks each year, 12 years, including high school! 12,000 hours under Christian Reformed teachers and in a Christian Reformed atmosphere! And that during the most vital and impressionable period of one’s life. For never is one so exceedingly receptive to all one sees and hears. How fresh and clear is the mind of the child, how retentive its memory, how keen its imagination! How readily it imbibes all it is taught! In a measure this applies even to the period of adolescence. True, at that age one is not as passive as formerly. Still, the conceptions of the adolescent are not yet mature, his convictions are not yet ripened and aged by experience, his mind is still very impressionable and he is not yet able properly to discriminate. It is during that all-important period of life that the school, that is, they that teach in the school, exert their influence on our children. If you really love your church and are duly concerned about the spiritual welfare of your children, these considerations should stagger, should frighten you.
III—The instruction our children receive must be based on our Protestant Reformed truth.
My opponent will grant also this affirmation, yet this point must be stressed as a step toward our final and correct conclusion.
The schools our children attend must be Christian schools, as Christian as it is within our power to make them. They must not be public schools plus some religion and religious exercises. They must be based throughout on the principle of the fear of the Lord and permeated with the truth of the Word of God.
That truth of Scripture, to us, is our Protestant Reformed truth. All the instruction our children receive must be based on and permeated with that truth. Whatever contradicts that truth is not Christian, but unchristian, antichristian. In the measure “the three points” with their implications permeate the education our children receive; in fact, in the measure the pure Reformed truth does not permeate that education, in that measure such education is un- and antichristian. Nor can the Christian school ever approximate its ideal and purpose on any other basis than that of the unadulterated Reformed truth. That purpose is that
God may be glorified and that “the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Can that purpose be reached where the truth is corrupted and our children are instructed on the basis of a distorted view of God, the world, man and doctrine in general? I heartily agree with what my opponent once wrote in the Standard Bearer, “After all doctrine, false or true, determines the religious character of all the instruction, life and discipline of the school. . . . We need men and women that are thoroughly learned in the Reformed doctrine, that love the Reformed doctrine and are able to base their teaching upon the Reformed truth.” Indeed, even the best we can give them is not good enough for our God-given covenant seed!
And thus our school must cooperate with the home and the church. The highest possible harmony, certainly, should exist between these three main agencies for the instruction of our children. That point has always been stressed by leaders of the Christian school movement. Only then can the education of our children approximate the ideal. There must be doctrinal harmony. Nothing can be more distressing to the child than an education that contradicts itself, that denies common grace in the home and the church and tolerates, inculcates it in the school.
Then there is the influence they must and do have on one another. Church and home must exert their influence on the spiritual character of the school. The latter should willingly cooperate with the former. We should have teachers that seek to create in our children genuine loyalty to the Protestant Reformed home and church and a real appreciation of the Protestant Reformed truth as it applies to all of life. More than we realize, the welfare of the home and the church, and the future of the latter, depend on our schools.
IV—Our present schools cannot and do not meet the educational needs of our children and our obligations as covenant parents.
Emphatically, they cannot, and my opponent will never be able to prove the contrary. The present Christian schools are Christian Reformed schools. Don’t deny this by saying that our schools are not church- schools. That only means, that officially they did not adopt the three points and that they are not under direct supervision of the church. To all practical purposes they are Christian Reformed, controlled by Christian Reformed people, a few hamstrung Protestant Reformed board-members and teachers notwithstanding. The societies are Christian Reformed, the boards are Christian Reformed, the teachers are Christian Reformed, hence, the schools are Christian Reformed. I am utterly at a loss to understand how any Protestant Reformed person can fail to see this. Consequently, the instruction is Christian Reformed, that or nothing, but certainly it is not Protestant Reformed, The Christian Reformed church is the doctrinal supply base for our present schools. Mind you, this is not an indictment against our present teachers. We expect nothing else. We don’t ask them to violate their own consciences by teaching contrary to their own convictions. Nevertheless for us this means two things. a—The Christian Reformed doctrine is the basis of all the instruction, b—Our principles are not taught, but rejected and ridiculed. Against the former we might conceivably lodge some kind of a protest. But how can we protest against what is not taught? Nor is there anything we as Protestant Reformed can do about the situation. There is no way to make the Christian Reformed school Protestant Reformed unless we can do the same with the Christian Reformed church. However, Rev. De Jong will give me occasion to say more about this in my rebuttal.
That our present schools are definitely Christian Reformed is corroborated by numerous experiences. Forcibly this fact is brought home to us, when our children are taught the good points of the union, when such doctrines as that of the covenant of works is taught as does the Christian Reformed church, and when our children are asked to believe that ‘’according to His mercy God would save all men, but according to His justice He cannot do this”. Often young people have said to me, “We can’t make up our minds as to what is right. When we hear our teachers talk, it seems to us they’re right. When we hear you talk, we feel that you are right.” Thus there is constant opposition to our church and doctrine, whether deliberate or unintentional. Daily the seeds of doubt are being sown in the hearts and minds of our children. And remember two things in this connection: a—The lie often seems so plausible at first glance. The flesh is so ready to believe, that God does love and bless all men, that there is a restraint of sin and that the natural man can do much good. These things are the natural conclusions of the sinful heart. b—Always it is the mature mind of the teacher over against the delicate, impressionable, trusting mind of the inexperienced child. When all is as it should be this is fine and 4he thoughts of our children are molded in the right direction. But how precarious is the situation when all is not well. Neither are all teachers above taking undue advantage of their natural superiority.
And so the dangers are many. Nor can we as parents completely control and counteract the evil influences of the school, even in our own children. Many parents are not able to refute all the things their children come home with. Besides, there are many things which never reach the ears of the parents, things which our children take for granted but which are poisonous nevertheless. Then, our children form friendships especially in high school, which often lead them away from their own churches. And thus our schools as they are today are slowly gnawing away at the foundations of our Protestant Reformed home and church.
No, I cannot be enthusiastic about the schools as they are today. Enthusiastic! How can any Protestant Reformed person be? Is it nothing to you whether Protestant Reformed doctrine or Christian Reformed doctrine permeates all the instruction our children receive? That continuous dripping of the lie into the minds and hearts of our children must and will bear its inevitable consequences.
V—Conclusion: We should establish our own schools.
There simply is no other way to avoid the dangers that threaten us now and to approximate our ideal. We must have schools, which we as Protestant Reformed parents can control, wherein our teachers can labor according to their convictions and with a free hand, and wherein all the instruction is based on the truth we love. We must have “men and women”, says Rev, De Jong himself, “that are thoroughly learned in Reformed doctrine, that love the Reformed doctrine and are able to base their teaching upon the Reformed truth.”
A Protestant Reformed home and Protestant Reformed church call for a Protestant Reformed school. The school is the extension of the home, we say. A Christian Reformed school the extension of a Protestant Reformed home? Shame on us for hugging such an inconsistency. Even our Christian Reformed brethren must feel that way about us.
When our passive, impressionable, little children have grown up and the training period shall be past forever, when their opinions shall have been molded and their conceptions ripened, when the tree shall have taken its permanent shape, then you and I must be able to say: We did our best! We sought to bring them up in the aforesaid doctrine to the utmost of our power! We cannot say that now as we take our children to those of the Christian Reformed church and say, “Here’s my child. Instruct it!”
Wherefore, if we love our Protestant Reformed truth and church, if we are duly concerned about the spiritual welfare of our children, there can be only one answer to the question we are discussing: the answer the affirmative was privileged to defend.
As I understand the subject of our debate it is my task to state why I think that we should not establish our own schools wherever possible. This is a very up
to date subject, especially here in the city of Grand
Rapids. As we start out our debate I have all confidence in my worthy opponent that he will write about the issue at stake. This is not a personal matter at all and the debate should leave no scars.
As I see the issue the point at stake is not at all whether an instruction based throughout upon Protestant Reformed principle is not ideal for our children. There can be no difference of opinion among us on this particular point. However that does not settle the issue at all, although I have a notion that this will be the chief argument of my opponent. Neither is it the point in our debate whether we should establish our own schools if this becomes necessary. Nor is it the point whether the present Christian Schools have just about reached the ideal so that there is really no room for improvement. We all know better. And all those that have the true interest of our Christian schools at heart will admit at once that the schools are far from having reached the ideal. But the point at stake is whether we should establish our own schools wherever possible.
The question may arise: “What is meant by wherever possible.” By this expression I understand the physical possibility. That is to say: there must be a sufficient number of children, and financially it must be possible that the local sponsors of such a movement can carry the financial burden. Naturally the availability of teachers, a building site and the very possibility of building also enter in. However, as to the former we will leave out this element for the time being, and as to the latter this is a temporary problem due to war restrictions.
Should we establish our own schools wherever possible? My answer is definitely “NO!” I want to look at the matter of a school of our own from the viewpoint of its necessity and not its possibility. I hope that my worthy opponent also clearly keeps this distinction in mind. Perhaps with an example I can clearly illustrate the point of distinction I mentioned. (The kind reader of course should keep in mind that an illustration has its limitations and especially in the case at hand is meant to focus attention on one point). Here follows the illustration as to the difference between possibility and necessity. For the sake of argument, conceive of it that I live in a fairly decent house. Naturally if I would move out and build a new house and a better house, provided of course that I have the means, I would improve myself. Should I go to work now and build a new house? Perhaps I will, perhaps I will not. In order to come to a definite decision I have to consider a great many things. And after taking all things into consideration I may very well come to the conclusion that I will not build a new house but stay where I am, even though my house is not as convenient and up to date as I would like to have it.—But let me now draw another picture.-—I live in an old shack; we are always sick because of the unhealthy living conditions. On a certain night I wake up and the house is afire, the whole thing burns down. Now it is no longer a question whether I like to move, or should move, but I must move. I have no place to live. And as I move in another house the motive was not at all improvement, neither was it a matter of possibility, but it was absolutely necessary. I could do naught else.
But why not establish schools of our own if we have the means, the facilities, the children, if they are most ideal for the instruction of our children? Why not? For several reasons. Let me enumerate a few of them. Of course I know beforehand that my opponent and those on his side will deny that there can be any reason at all. I hope though that my opponent will not ignore or try to minimize some of these vital reasons I expect to enumerate. The financial argument used so often against a school of our own does not enter into the picture. In the first place I think this is usually a poor argument and I do not put much stock in it. Furthermore the argument is excluded because the very subject of our debate presupposes the financial possibility. But here follow a few of the reasons, all of which have been mentioned many times before.
First of all I am convinced that we have a calling with respect to the present Christian School. We are members of the Societies, we send our children to these Schools. We have a moral obligation toward the school in which we have a place at present. I know this is denied time and again by those who are on the side of the affirmative. And I wish to state right here and now that: “As long as the affirmative denies that we have a moral obligation toward the present Christian School, its argument for a school of our own is not convincing, though it may seem that way, everybody just does not swallow sweeping statements without even being granted a hearing.” But why do we have a moral obligation and in what does it consist? Let me mention a few things. Nobody can deny that we are part of the present school system. We agree with the principles as expressed in the various constitutions upon which the institution and its teaching is based. Besides we have helped to erect and maintain these schools, we always had a vital interest in them. The Christian schools are no church schools, they may not teach doctrine, much less the common grace theory. If this is done nevertheless we can appeal to the constitution, bring in our protests and complaints and attempt to make the Boards and the teachers see the error of their way. We should leave these schools where we were educated ourselves, which we maintained in the past, which are founded upon the truth of God’s Word, which are no church schools, but parental schools, leave the schools in which we are vitally interested, the schools where our children are instructed or give instruction? Leave these schools because they are minus the label Protestant Reformed, and because we have no full control of them, or because We are a minority ? It seems to me that every unbiased person will come to the conclusion that, we can not j ust merely leave those schools and build our own. To me that looks too much like what we call in our church life ‘wegloopende protestanten’. And woe if people do that with respect to the church, that is bad. But then it would be perfectly in order to do the same with respect to the school ? Of course not.
In the second place I would not establish schools of our own whenever possible because the present Christian schools do not cast us out, as it was in 1924 with respect to the church. On the contrary they seek our help and cooperation. And let no one say that this is merely a matter of the dollar. There are many instances wherein the Christian schools have not benefited financially at all by having our children in their school, still they kept them and wanted them. And it is no exception that some of our children received and undoubtedly still do receive Christian instruction in our present Christian schools which is partly paid for by Christian Reformed people. Don’t say: “They are merely interested in our dollars.” That is too much to swallow. Fact is there are a goodly number of Christian school people outside of our Protestant Reformed churches who are sincerely interested in us, in our children. People who admire us for our positive stand on Christian instruction and who desire nothing better than to keep us and cooperate with us for principle’s sake. Personally I also think that the Christian school movement certainly needs all the support it can be given. Should we withdraw arbitrarily while no one casts Us out- but on the contrary they want to keep us? That would be foolish and morally wrong.
In the third place it is my. position that we have no moral right to leave the school unless we have first brought our grievances to the proper authorities, attempted to improve the Christian character of the instruction, have done our utmost in the spirit of love to see to it that our schools live up to their constitutions,
. and in every way have shown that we seek the true welfare of the Christian schools. And if we utterly fail in this then the matter becomes altogether different. However, the very thing I mentioned, we Protestant Reformed people never did. We have been too negative since ’24. We should have been, we.-.should be today, more positive and constructive. I for one am willing to confess this. I know it is very easy to say: “We have no calling here,” or “You try it once and see how far you get.” The fact is, generally speaking, we never tried. It is very easy to do some mud- slinging but whereas we are. all guilty of neglect, let us admit it, confess it. Besides, this is also a fact, I know of one community where the above has been tried. And it worked, it works today. As I see it this matter is of such weighty importance that even if the present movement for a school of our own here in Grand Rapids should succeed, this above mentioned matter of neglect will haunt and bother the movement for many years to come. And a goodly number of our own people, even if they would send their children to a school of our own certainly would always condemn the manner in which the school came into being. Let nobody think that you can merely brush these things aside. Much less can those who are on the affirmative side win our people for the idea of a school of our own by merely stating that those who are against it are not Protestant Reformed. That argument is not true, besides it is very dangerous and has already sown seeds of bitterness among brethren that belong to the same household of faith. The matter of a school of our own wherever possible must be debated in a sphere of brotherly love and respect, otherwise the end will be hopeless confusion, ‘verkettering,’ division and bitterness. And you cannot win one soul for the movement by the method of ignoring the arguments of the opposition and display the attitude: “We are all right and those who do not agree with us are all wrong.” Naturally I happen to be on the negative side, hence I must defend the negative side, but irrespective of this I am firmly convinced that the above subject certainly is debatable. And to win anyone for the movement you must first be willing to see the other man’s point of view, believe in his sincerity, and then try to convince him that he is nevertheless wrong. A. simple ‘for’ or ‘against’ does not decide the matter. Instruction based upon Protestant Reformed principles is ideal for our children. But from the foregoing does not at all follow that we must -now establish schools of our own where ever possible. There are too many problems that enter in before we should decide upon such a move in any local community.
I have more to say on this subject but space does not permit. In the next Standard Bearer we expect to finish the debate. Let the readers be judges and kindly wait with your final judgment till you have read all the material.