First the question: What, in general, is culture. The term culture comes from a word that means to till, cultivate, promote the growth of an organism. In explaining the idea of culture, we may begin with plant culture. Here culture is the labor, the care, that the farmer bestows on the plants that he grows in his fields. He prepares the soil, sows the seed. He thereupon cultivates the plants. He keeps the soil loose, destroys the weeds that spring up around the plants. He feeds the plants through enriching the soil. This is done largely before the sowing of the seed. The plant, properly cultivated, bears fruit. And its fruit is its culture. The apple is the culture of the apple tree; the pear is the culture of the pear tree, and so on. Thus the word culture signifies first the cultural action—the care bestowed upon the plant—and, second, the result of this action, the fruit which the cultivated plant bears.
Now humans, too, are plants. Christ compares men with trees when he says that the good tree bears good fruit and the bad tree, bad fruit. Here He refers to humans, to God’s moral-rational creatures. Being plants, humans can be cultivated, trained, nourished mentally and spiritually. Cultivated humans bear fruit, and this fruit is their culture. Thus the culture of a man is his works, his entire conversation in word, deed, and thought, either good or bad.
What now is true culture? It is the good fruit which Christ’s branches bear. “I” says He, “am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. . . .ye are the branches. He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” (). In speaking of fruit, Christ refers to the entire good works of His people. So, then, true culture is the entire conversation of God is believing people in word deed and thought in so far as it proceeds from the new life in Christ and is untainted by the sins of the flesh. True culture, it is plain, is true religion. It is therefore wrong to speak of religion and culture. To do so is to indicate that we are void of true understanding; that we do not have the right conception of things. To be correct, we should speak of religion namely culture.
In the light of these observations, it is plain that there is no true culture in the world that lies in darkness. For the men of this world are bad trees. And bad trees bring forth bad fruit.
But doesn’t the world know, let us say, mathematics? True it does. But mathematics, to limit ourselves to this science, is not of the world but of God. Properly, therefore, it does not belong to the culture of the world. Mathematics belongs to nobody’s culture. It is the capital, given man by God, wherewith man works. The culture of the world is the wisdom of the world that is foolishness with God. The culture of the world is the temple of an idol and the idol in that temple. The culture of the world is all that which proceeds from the principle of sin that operates in the world. The culture of the world is the lie, is sin and corruption to which the world gives expression in its philosophy, poetry and art and in all its works. This is the culture of the world. We must not, therefore, go to the world for culture. We must go to Jerusalem for culture i.e. religion.
It follows then that man may be ever so educated, if he is not one of Christ’s, he does not have true culture. The blood in a man may be true blue, as they say, he may be ever so refined, well-mannered and polished or generous and kind, if he is not one of Christ’s, he does not have true culture. A woman may be ever so lovely, gracious, and tender, if she is not one of Christ’s, she does not have true culture. It is the nobility of the soul that proceeds from the new life in Christ that is true culture.
This agrees wholly with what Paul teaches in. Says he there, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels (speaking with the tongues of angels—this certainly is culture), and have not charity, (love in the original; the life of regeneration) I am sounding brass and a tinkling symbol (I do not have true culture). And though I have prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge (i.e., though I be the best educated man in the world, the wisest and the most profound); and though I have faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing (I have no true culture). And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor (this is generosity for you, philanthropy), and though I give my body to be burned (What self-denial!) and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (I have no true culture).
Then the apostle goes on to describe true culture. “Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself and is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
Let no one imagine that I am casting aspersions upon education. It may be an excellent thing for a man to be educated. As reformed people we believe in a trained ministry. We insist that the men who occupy our pulpits have knowledge of languages, know words, are able to construct sentences; be trained in the art of self-expression, know history, philosophy and theology. Moses was a highly educated man. Likewise Paul. Likewise the great reformers of the 16th century. Let a man learn, if he can, all there is to be known about everything above and under the sun. It is well. But let him remember that education is good only if it goes hand in hand with true culture. Let him remember that education without true culture is a dangerous thing. It is a curse. Better, much better, a minister of the gospel with no education to speak of but with true culture, than a highly educated minister but with no true culture.
If the “man of God” is to bear fruit (I now have reference to our elect covenant youth), he must be cultivated taught, trained. The cultivator of that “man of God” is God Himself. Says Christ, “My Father is the husbandman.” Properly, God through Christ is the sole cultivator, trainer of the “man of God.” God may cast him in the crucible of affliction that his faith may flower. He chasteneth him that he may become partaker of Christ’s holiness. An essential element in the cultivation of the “man of God” is his being fed. God feeds him with the word of truth, thus with Christ who is the truth, the true bread. He feeds this man by causing the word—His word—to dwell richly in him.
In training the “man of God,” God uses agents—the parents of the child, the pastors in the church and the teachers in the school. The school only is the seat of true culture whose teachers are willing and truly qualified to properly train that “man of God.” And here again the essential element in the training of the child is being fed the truth.
Here we come upon the reason why the Christian parent cannot send his child to the schools of the world. The pedagogues in these schools feed the child the lie. But arithmetic is true; and this is taught in the schools of the world. Assuredly, the multiplication tables are true, they being of God and not of man. But in teaching arithmetic, the teacher in the schools of the world proceeds from the lying premise that God is not and that the creature is a god to himself; and so he basically corrupts with his lie God’s arithmetic. And it is this lie that pervades all his instruction.
The “man of God” must be fed the truth and the truth unadulterated. Speaking of the “man of God,” Peter says: “Desire the unadulterated milk, that ye may grow thereby (1 Peter 2). The unadulterated milk is Christ as we possess Him in the scriptures. That “man of God” cannot thrive on the lie; but neither can he thrive on the adulterated truth, on the truth mixed with the lie. “As new born babes,” says the apostle, “desire the unadulterated milk that ye may grow—mark you grow—thereby; that ye may grow thereby—mark you, thereby.” What mother would think of feeding her infant child with poisoned food.
Here we come upon the reason why we as parents of Protestant Reformed persuasion must have our own schools—schools that are seats of true culture. Certainly, it is the will of God that we as parents place ourselves in a position that enables us to choose the teachers for our own children. We may not allow others in distinction from ourselves to determine who shall instruct our children, especially not if those others are brethren holding the theory of common grace, which is nothing else but incipient modernism.
The matter, certainly, is of vital importance. Consider that this “man of God” (our elect covenant youth) is not our man, but God’s. God bought that “man” with the very blood of His only begotten. We hold our children simply as a trust. God says, “Feed that ‘man’ that he may grow and mature and be meet for my use.”
We hear it said, now by this one, then by that one, that we would do wrong in taking our children out of the Christian schools that be; that the thing for us to do is to co-operate with the brethren in improving these schools, in making them what they should be. The fact is, we cannot for the simple reason that we do not hold in our hands the reins of government of these schools. And we never will. In the school boards we are in the minority and will continue to be. The brethren see to this. Now it is the majority that rules. This would not be bad if the split were not on vital issues. But since it is, we, the minority, are in duty bound to go our way alone. The issue is vital also before the consciousness of the brethren. The proof of this is that, with respect to the schools, they see to it that the reins do no slip from their hands. And their holding the reins means, let it be repeated, that they and not we determine who shall teach our children.