That Protestant Reformed instruction for our Protestant Reformed children by Protestant Reformed teachers, sincerely dedicated to and thoroughly equipped for that task, in Protestant Reformed Schools would be ideal no Protestant Reformed person, it seems to me, would care or dare to gainsay.
How could this be disputed in view of what is promised when our children are presented for baptism? The question is asked: “Whether you promise and intend to see these children, when come to the years of discretion, instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to (the utmost of your power?” This implies, not merely that we shall indoctrinate them in the narrower sense of the word, that we shall teach them Reformed doctrine as such, but the entire “bringing” of our children, their training and education in the home and the school as well, shall be on the basis of and in the light of that doctrine. The latter should permeate all the education, all the training, all the discipline our children receive. In view of this solemn pledge we might well ask: are we as Protestant Reformed parents as faithful as we might be in the matter of Christian education? Are we instructing and bringing up our children, and are we causing them to be instructed “in the aforesaid doctrine’’, that is, “the doctrine which is contained in the Old and New Testament, and which is taught here in this Christian Church”, and that “to the utmost of our power?”
Until now and still we support the Christian Schools as they are today. We can and may do nothing else as long as our ideal is not yet realized. I, for one, can only condemn the conduct of people, who deliberately ignore the present covenant schools and surrender their children to the godless, Christless institutions of the world, where all the instruction is principally evil, because it does not proceed from faith, is not in accord with God’s perfect law, is not to the glory of God, but is founded upon the institutions of men and the human imaginations of evolutionary thinking. As matters stand today, the present Christian schools are certainly the places where our children should be receiving their education.
This does not mean however, that we support the present schools as wholeheartedly and enthusiastically as we should like. We do not regard them as our ideal. How can we, I submit that even our Christian Reformed brethren do noit expect us to. More or less, we Protestant Reformed people are strangers in the institutions we love. Yes, here and there a Protestant Reformed man is given a seat in the board; our children attend those schools, and I thank God they may and do; we still have considerable influence in at least one school in these United States. Nevertheless, we do occupy a backseat; we are standing, more or less, on the outside; we cannot demand that our doctrine permeate all the instruction that is given; we cannot say from the bottom of our hearts: these are our schools.
The Christian schools of today are Christian Reformed schools. I state this merely as a fact. We can expect nothing else. Some people in our midst take exception to this statement and deny us the right to make it. Our schools, so they argue, are not church schools and we should not call them Christian Reformed. They are the schools of the parents. That however can only mean, that, officially, our Christian school societies have not adopted the doctrines accepted by the synod of the Christian Reformed churches. Beyond this however, it means nothing to say that our schools are not church schools. The simple and undeniable fact is, that Christian Reformed people, men who by virtue of conviction and church affiliation are committed to the pernicious doctrine of common grace, control them; that, as an inevitable consequence, the societies are Christian Reformed societies, the boards Christian Reformed boards, and the schools Christian Reformed schools. I do not write this bitterness of heart, nor expecting that this should be different, but merely as a matter of fact. Christian Reformed men and women teach in these schools. A few exceptions to this rule do not alter the same. As a result, the doctrine of the Christian Reformed churches, the doctrine as these teachers see it and believe it, forms the basis and contents of the instruction. Either that or nothing at all! We must certainly expect, that our conscientious Christian teachers will do all they can to instruct our children in the light of the truth of the Word of God, the truth as they see it. We require this of them. Whatever falls short of this only brings our schools that much closer to the schools of this world. Wherefore, whatever doctrine is taught, directly or indirectly (and we certainly want doctrine at the basis of all our instruction, do we not?), will be Christian Reformed. This also implies, and that is worse, that the doctrine as we believe and confess it, will not be taught there. Our doctrine is not desired by our Christian Reformed brethren. It is regarded as heretical, unscriptural, dangerous, Anabaptistic, and what not. Worse by far than the fact that wrong principles and doctrines are instilled in the minds of our children is the fact, that what we believe to. be sound Reformed doctrine, without which real education is impossible, is rejected. Against the former we might conceivably protest. We might possibly raise our voices against things that are taught contrary to the Word of God. But, how shall we protest against that which is not taught? And that is more serious, by far!
In the light of all this, how can we Protestant Reformed people be fully satisfied with the present setup? How can we consider it ideal, that our children, whom we pledge to bring up “in the aforesaid doctrine”, are instructed and trained in this atmosphere, 5 hours each school day, 25 hours each school week, some 1,000 hours each year? Remember, it would take our children 40 years to spend as much time in catechism, under the present set-up, as they spend in the day school in one year. The 12 years our children spend in school are equivalent, as far as the time element is concerned, to 480 years in the catechism class. It would certainly be ideal, that those 12 years, those hours be spent in a school of our Own a school where the truth we confess and love is maintained and applied wherever possible.
What truth? In broad outline, which are the points involved, the doctrine wherein we differ with our Christian Reformed brethren?
Officially these are embodied in the “three points of 1924”. They who cast us out maintain, that man, by a gracious though not regenerating operation of the ‘Holy Spirit in the heart, is able to do that which is good in the sight of God. He can please the Lord in things natural and social and civil, in business and politics, in art and science. We believe, that man is actually depraved in all his ways. Without regeneration his every thought and word and deed, in his business and politics, his art and science, his personal and social life proceeds from the principle of sin and is enmity against God. They teach, that this good which the natural man is still capable of doing is the fruit of God’s restraining grace operative in all human hearts. Actually, man never became wholly depraved. From the moment man fell the Spirit of God checked the progress of sin in such a manner, that the human race retained remnants of the good it possessed in the state of perfection. With these remnants he still works and develops and pleases God. We are convinced, that there is no such grace operative in the hearts of wicked men; that sin along with all of human life is developing until the climax is reached in the Antichrist, who is to come. Where we see the development of sin and the approach of the Antichrist, they see good. The Christian Reformed churches contend that God is graciously inclined toward all men, also the reprobates, that he has love for all, would lead all to repentance and salvation, and blesses all. We confess, that the Lord loves His people only, that His blessing is on the elect only, and that the curse of the Lord and nothing else, dwells in the house of the wicked. Don’t you see how these doctrinal differences must affect all education, primary or secondary? The connection between each one of these doctrines and “Christian” instruction is not remote, but immediate and vital. I know, the day-school is not the place to develop doctrine as such. Nevertheless, all instruction, all the prayers that are offered, all the songs that are taught and sung, are rooted in, are flavored and determined by the one or the other.
In a broader sense of the word the difference between us concerns the entire field of Reformed doctrine. Only ignorance says: we differ on only a few points; let’s shove them aside and cooperate on the basis of what we have in common. It would not be too difficult to point out that the doctrines of predestination and atonement and total depravity and many others are involved. More or less we differ in our conceptions of sin, of the fall, of God’s counsel and providence, especially in the presentation and practical application and emphasis of all these truths. Again, don’t you realize what all this means in the matter of Christian education? No, the school does not teach these doctrines as such. But, no Christian instruction is possible without them! The basis of all education is doctrine. In the latter lies the interpretation of all things.
To what else, then, can serious consideration of all these things lead them to the conviction, that Protestant Reformed schools are and must be our ideal?
The school plays a major role in the whole of the training and instruction of the covenant child. Let us never underestimate its tremendous influence. With the home and the church it forms the Triple Alliance for the education of the covenant boy and girl. How essential it is that these three agencies stand on the same doctrinal foundation and work together toward a common end! And how detrimental to the spiritual welfare of the child if there is conflict between the atmosphere and education in the school, on the one hand, and in the home and the church, on the other. If a team of horses refuse to pull together in one direction nothing can be accomplished. The same applies here. And not only does the child suffer if all the agencies for its education do not stand firmly and unequivocally on the same doctrinal foundation, but by the same token these agencies become a handicap to one another, too. By pulling together and spontaneously preceding from the same doctrinal principles, the home and the school and the church promote the welfare of the child, not only, but also of one another. The moment there is conflict, that moment a process of deterioration sets in. From this point of view the welfare of the home and the church is bound up in that of the school. To a great extent of the future of the former depends on the latter. In any consideration of the present subject the question must certainly be faced: in how far is the very existence of our church contingent on the outcome of this issue?
This importance of the school for the welfare of the child as well as the home and the church has always been recognized by Reformed educators. Therefore I stated above, that even our Christian Reformed brethren will grant us that our ideal can be no other than the one defended in this essay. Always they have stressed the point, that Reformed doctrine, the principles of “Calvinism”, must permeate all the instruction our children receive. To me that means, that our Protestant Reformed doctrine must permeate all the education our children receive. And always they have emphasized, too, how important it is, that home and school and church stand on the same doctrinal foundation and build on the same Reformed principles. With the principle we fully agree. Wholeheartedly we subscribe to what a certain C. V. H. once wrote (I quote from some literature distributed by the National Union of Christian Schools): “The Christian school is the link which unites the home with the church. If we take this link out we destroy both the home and the church, but if we maintain the link we save both: Our Reformed home and our Reformed Church.”
The underlying thought is pertinent here: if we maintain the link we save both, our Protestant Reformed home and our Protestant Reformed Churches.