The Aim of Christian Instruction

Just what is the goal and end we seek to attain in the matter of Christian instruction? What is the one dominating aim of the effort expended in the matter of Christian education? Such is the question in answer to which we shall first of all have something to say about the aim as such, and then secondly treat of the realization of this high ideal.

The Aim Itself

Aim is always an important matter. The gunner on the battle front understands this full well. He must know what the objective is before he can train his gun on that object, he must sight his objective and train the gun on it with geometric precision, and then if all other things be equal the missile of destruction will accomplish its work of devastation. No soldier would say that the matter of aim is a minor thing. Or, if you wish a still more cogent example, think of the meeting of Mr. Churchill and Pres. Roosevelt on the Atlantic. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss not only ways and means but the aims and object of the war. Guiding principles were agreed upon to reach the aim of not only winning the war but also winning the peace after dictatorship had been destroyed. Apart now from the validity and practicability of these aims, it certainly was in order to establish beforehand the end in view, the aim, that the war effort might be directed toward the attainment of those purposes.

In the cause of education and instruction, educators must and do, whether consciously or unconsciously, set themselves aims which they seek to realize in the education of the oncoming generation. Christian instruction also has its aims. Primarily these aims are not plural but singular in number. They must be one, for God is one and His Word is one. The Christian emphasizes the unity of all things, and must do so, because as God is one and His Word is one, so also man is one and his life is one. Man’s life may be divided into various departments and spheres, but these departments and spheres may never be separated. God is the God of our whole life. We are called to serve him at home and on the street, on Sabbath and during the week, in pleasure and in work. Everywhere and always man is called to love God with all his heart and soul and mind, and his neighbor as himself for God’s sake. Therefore Christian instruction has and can have only one primary aim, to which all its secondary aims must be subservient and submissive. It is one God, one faith, one Spirit, and therefore one aim. One ultimate aim, one dominating purpose. Only When we see the all dominating purpose and aim, only then can we properly consider secondary aim. It is this one aim with which we now deal.

How Express This Aim

How shall we in a few simple words express this one aim as it pertains to Christian instruction?

What is the slogan of Christian instruction? How may the controlling aim be briefly summarized?

Frequently (the aim of Christian instruction has been epitomized in the words “the glory of God.” Certainly it is true that the aim of Christian education should be the glory of God, and if it is not, then Christian instruction is not worthy of the name. As a matter of fact it is not even worthy of the name “instruction,” for whatever does not aim at God’s glory cannot be instruction but is destruction. The instruction Satan gave Eve in Paradise was nothing less than destruction, and all instruction that is not permeated with the glory of the sovereign God ought to be denominated destruction, whether given in the Public School or in the Christian School. To that end God created all things, and to that end of his own glory God controls and directs all things. That is the only end that the world will ever attain, for God has made all things for His own name’s sake, even the wicked unto the day of destruction. Out of him, through him, but also unto Him are all things. Only when we educate our children as co-laborers of God to seek His glory in whatever they think or do, only then are we instructing them in the way in which they shall go. In every endeavor, in every relationship of life, our children are called to glorify Him who has called us and our seed out of the darkness into His marvelous light, that we might show forth His praises. All secondary aims of command of fundamental processes, worthy home membership, vocation, citizenship, worthy use of leisure, and all else you can mention, must be dominated by and controlled by the one guiding principle. Our children must be enabled to lead lives that are to the glory of God in Christ. They must think and live theocentrically, not anthropocentrically.

It is exactly this one high aim that can never be recognized by the world and its educators. The aim that the world sets itself leaves God out (neutral, so-called), is the very opposite of this (anti-God). Briefly epitomized, the aim of worldly educators is: “the glory of man.” Instruction that is not God-centered and guided by the Revelation of His Word, necessarily begins and ends in man. There is no third choice or possibility. It is for or against; God or Mammon. We called the aim of the world: the glory of man. Perhaps we should not favor them so much, by even allowing the word glory to stand. What glory can there be for man, if God is not glorified? In the real sense, they glory in their shame. Instruction that fails to reckon with God and His glory, ends in shame. Does not Paul say that they glory in their shame? To seek man and to educate children to separate even a part of their life from God, is a culture that cultivates man’s shame, that continues to walk in the lie of Satan that it is possible to live at all without God. It is downright spiritual destruction. Their ways are ways of death, and such schools together with their instructors that fail to aim at the glory of God are simply opening the doors that lead to hell and destruction. The fool says in his heart: There is no God.

Others have summarized the aim of Christian education, to our mind, still better when they pointed to the words of II Tim. 3:17 as a brief paraphrase of the aim of Christian instruction. Dr. H. Bavinck in the Netherlands pointed to this passage as a cogent expression of the aim of positive Christian instruction. Others have followed him. To our mind, correctly so.

The passage referred to reads, “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Although as a slogan or catch-phrase this text will hardly do, because it is somewhat lengthy; nevertheless, it is more specific, and for that reason a better paraphrase of the aim of Christian instruction. The term “the glory of God”, however true it be, is too all-comprehensive and applicable to all of life to state specifically the precise aim of Christian instruction. Because of that it is vague when applied to Christian education, and leaves us in the dark as to how to attain our purpose, for the simple reason that the purpose has been generalized too much to be useful. That is not so with the passage of II Tim. 3:17. It at once tells us the direct, spiritual aim of the instruction of the covenant seed. The purpose of all instruction of that seed is declared to be that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” It recognizes that the child must be prepared unto all good works, good works in the sense in which Scripture speaks of them. Good works are all works, all works that are: done out of faith, in accord with God’s law, and to His glory. Whether the child that is instructed is to become a doctor, a lawyer, a minister, a businessman, or a common laborer—that makes little difference. What does make difference is that the child is thoroughly furnished to live his whole life in a manner compatible with the fear of God and out of that fear. Secondary aims of good citizenship, vocation, proper use of fundamental powers, etc. may not be forgotten. These must be cultivated, but on the plane of the service of God. The child must be equipped to lead a normal life, yes, but as a child of God. He must be furnished so that he understands his calling everywhere. Obedience and authority must be a matter of pleasing God; love and fellowship, politeness and common courtesy—all these must be subservient to God’s law. To know his task, to know it as a Christian—to that end he must be thoroughly furnished.

That stands to reason also. Our armed forces need to be thoroughly furnished also. They must have the best equipment of all kinds, when they need it and where they need it. And they must know how to use it. And our covenant children must in the battle of life have their equipment and know how to use it. They must be trained to fill their places in life, as Christians. That specific aim demands a specific training.

To give them such instruction—that is and must ever be the high aim of all Christian instruction. Otherwise it cannot be Christian instruction we give; and if we do not give Christian instruction, we are giving Mammon instruction, which is destruction. God is not mocked—we can only reap if we sow, and what we sow!

The Practical Realization

On this point we can be brief. Much might be said—I do not feel that I am the one that can answer all practical problems. I shall suggest a few things, of a general nature.

First of all then, since the aim of Christian instruction is the furnishing of the man of God unto all good works, it is imperative that all instruction be based on God’s Word. To the law and the testimony also applies here. Not that all instruction must be Bible knowledge in the narrower sense. Of course not! We are not Pietists. But the light of God’s Word must be brought to bear and its significance felt in all that is instructed. In reading, writing and arithmetic; in history and art; in athletics and society activities; in all God and His will have a place, in one way or another.

Secondly, those that instruct and are busy in a practical way toward the attainment of this ideal, must themselves be imbued with the Scriptures. Their hearts as well as their minds must be at the feet of Christ the Lord, and themselves be worthy examples of all good works. That is true of the teaching personnel of the local Christian Schools. But it is equally true for parents and all others that are engaged in the task of forming a new generation. The stream will not reach higher than its source. A blaring radio shouting out its corruption all day, magazines that merely bring the world into the home, fathers and mothers that continually quarrel and fret, that love their ease more than God, must not complain if the children do as they do instead of doing as they say. They have only themselves to blame. The child is more impressionable to demonstration than to exhortation, to example than to precept. Our homes must be God-centered and God-controlled. The plaque on the wall, “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord” is not enough. Parents must be able to say, Be followers of me as I am of Christ, if they would strive toward the high aim of Christian instruction. Parents above all should. The home fires must be kept burning. Sometimes I’m afraid that while we are seeking to remedy things by better catechetical instruction, by better Christian School instruction (all laudable and worthy in themselves, and proper), our trouble is with the home fires. They sadly need more fuel. It is chilly in the house—you hardly feel there is a spiritual fire burning.

Thirdly, and fourthly, and fifthly—for there is much more. But enough!

It is our calling to instruct the rising generation that the seed of the covenant may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

It is our calling. Is it our aim?