This article covers familiar ground for many of our readers who are committed to the cause of Christian education in parent-controlled schools; but it is by no means superfluous to repeat the truths stressed here. We know that many of those who send their children to such schools do not know about the historical roots of these institutions and perhaps not even about the principles on which they real. And even if all those whose children now attend a Christian school knew about all this, it should not he forgotten that it is imperative for each new generation to be instructed in the basic truths which we hold dear.
Mr. Lyra, age 24, is a third generation Brazilian of Portuguese descent but of Dutch ancestry from his mother’s side. Before he left Brazil be was already engaged in some religious work of a missionary nature. He came to this country to study theology at Faith Theological Seminary in Philadelphia where he graduated in 1961 with a B.D. degree and then spent a year at the same institution in graduate study. During his stay in our country he has preached in 35 states and occupied the pulpit in a New Jersey church from July to October, 1961.
Recently Mr. Lyra received a scholarship from the Free University of Amsterdam where he plans to study Missions and Practical Theology. He has contributed articles to various periodicals in Brazil and the United States. One of these, on The Sustainers of the Reformed Faith in Brazil, appeared in TORCH AND TRUMPET in the May-June issue of 1960. Mr. Lyra is an ardent Calvinist and hopes to be able to do much for the Reformed faith when he returns to Brazil. His field of special interest is Christian education. It has been a pleasure to correspond with him for the past two years and we wish him God’s choicest blessing on his future labors in Brazil for the Kingdom of God. We regret that Mr. Lyra’s article had to be shortened considerably on account of lack of space.
The Service which Calvinism has rendered to the cause of Christian education has surpassed the imagination of many. It began with Calvin himself and his God-centered outlook for every department of human activity. It has also developed through the centuries in remarkable ways, by the incessant efforts of the followers of the great reformer around the world.
GROEN VAN PRINSTERER
The eminent Dutch Calvinist Groen VanPrinsterer, born in 1801, spent perhaps the greater part of the 75 years of his life as a champion for the cause of the Christian School. Even from the floor of Parliament, Groen’s influence was felt throughout the Netherlands in his urgent appeals that parents give a Christian education to their children. Today he is known as the father of the Christian School.
As he endeavored to show the necessity of Christian Schools, his keen mind, along with his sincere love for his Maker, provided him with cogent arguments for the cause which his opponents could not refute. To one he said: “Your public school which removes the Cross removes also Christ and Christianity. Christ-less education is to blame for the fact that our people no longer fear God. If there is to be any blessing in education, the Cross of Christ must have the place of honor in the entire program of education.”
A summary of his “Axiomata” for Christian Schools may be of help in demonstrating the paramount significance of this God-centered education in which all Calvinists believe: “Above all, education must be according to the Word of God. And therefore: the fear of the Lord is the foundation of all knowledge (science); the love of the Lord is the fountain of all morality and virtue; the Word of the Lord is the instruction of both pupils and teachers; prayer to the Lord is the guarantee of all blessing and success; active faith in the Lord is the agency and the condition for the health of the soul; the Lord and his service is to be the beginning and the end of the School.”
A careful examination of Groen Van Prinsterer’s above remarks will provide us with a partial elucidation of the undeniable necessity of the Christian School. I say partial because the real motif will be discussed later.
WHY THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL IS A “MUST”
What, then, makes the Christian School such an urgent “‘must” today? The words of Jeremiah in chapter 8 and verse 9 furnish the answer: “Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?” These words could have been written recently, in the present age. The principle they teach remain the same and are also applicable for us: when God and his Word are left out of the picture, what wisdom is left to anyone? The answer, of course, is, None.
A high degree of godlessness has become one of the leading characteristics of our time. Our century is called secularistic because in every domain of life the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe is ignored. The field of education does not escape the malevolent influences of this twentieth century secularism; in fact it is the area most affected of all human activities. Its purpose is defeated, its methods are badly warped, and its very contents are impaired, with consequences beyond our comprehension. But “secular education,” as Dr. Peter Eldersveld so wisely points out, “is actually a contradiction in terms, for how can you really educate without God? How can you teach the truth about this world if you leave God out of it?”
Precisely at this juncture, then, the Christian School appears on the scene with its radiant challenge and its bountiful offers. No Christian parent should close his eyes to its importance, neither should he discredit its indispensable value for the Christian community. The Christian School should always be a welcome reality in the midst of God-honoring believers today, for its need is absolutely obvious for the formation of Bible-believing, Bible-loving, and Bible-living generations, whose primary purpose in life will be “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” in the various aspects of their daily walk.
NEEDED: PARENTAL CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS
But what kind of a Christian School are we talking about? Is it the enterprise of a few wealthy persons who are Christians? Is it a school established with the fortune of a deceased Christian who made the bequest in order that certain Christian principles might be upheld? Are we referring to a parochial School dependent on the dictates of a local church for its functioning? Our answer to these questions would be “No,” though such schools would be preferable to no Christian schools at all. Wealthy Christians could do much with schools referred to above but somewhere along the way the goals of this God-centered educational program will be missed or not fully attained. In the second instance, equally, it is also evident the results would be somewhat identical to the first. With respect to the third, it is clear that the church is and should always be busy with its primary miSSion, viz. the preaching of the unabridged Gospel of salvation to unregenerate men and the upbuilding of the saints in the faith.
Hence there must be another type of Christian school superior to all others, which will in a more efficient fashion perform the task of showing forth the glory of God in every facet of human learning. What is it? It is the Parent-Controlled School or the Parental Christian School. Education of children and youth is God’s command to parents. It is the parents’ responsibility, therefore, to provide a course of studies for their children in which the glory of God will always be its ultimate end. But parents have neither the time nor the equipment for the achievement of this goal. For this there is needed the Christian School fully equipped with godly teachers who are able to instruct and train citizens for the kingdom of God.
WHAT IS CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION?
It is the objective of the Christian School to show the greatness and grace of God in each course of instruction. In the study of history, for instance, the pupil is told that God is the starting-point of history, since in Christ “he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:17). Also that God is the moving force throughout the ages, and that He alone gives meaning to history. In the words of John Gill, “a journey through history is a walk with God.” History, thus taught, is not merely the pouring of facts into the learner’s mind but an interpretation of those facts. Only the Christian School can impart to the students a correct philosophy of history. With arithmetic, as well, the pupil is made to see that “God created all things with a numerical and spatial aspect,” and that this consistent and orderly law reflects the exactness of the Creator and his unsurpassable intelligence.
In geography, as the student takes his journey around the globe, with the aid of textbooks, maps, and engravings, he is reminded that “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).
At the laboratory, in the study of biology, the pupil is taught the real significance of God as fons omnium vitae, the source of all life, in contrast to the evolutionary hypothesis and the destructive higher critical theories advanced in many public schools, which undermine the students’ faith in God’s sovereign Majesty as the Creator and Sustainer of all things and in the Bible as his infallible Word.
Instruction in language is carried on with emphasis on clarity and accuracy of thought, aiming at the enablement of the pupil to speak and write correctly and to apply these talents for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom.
Music, as taught in the Christian School, cultivates a real appreciation for true beauty and leads to the development of those divine gifts which redound to God’s praise. As Johann Sebastian Bach puts it, “Where the end of music is not God’s glory, there can be no true music, but only an infernal, devilish hubbub.”
Finally, gymnastics has also its place in the Christian School, for the training of manhood and womanhood in Christ. Its purpose is to assist the pupil to maintain his physical body-the temple of the Holy Spirit-under proper care (Mens sana in corpore sano), in order that God may be glorified in and thru it, as he answers the prayer:
“Take my life, and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my hands, and let them move At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be Swift and beautiful for Thee; Take my voice, and let me sing, Always, only, for my King.”
THE PLACE OF THE BIBLE IN THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
Our question now is: What place does the Bible have in the Christian School? The answer is that the Bible is the solid foundation upon which all the other subjects are built. But should the Bible be also a course by itself in the curriculum of the Christian School? Or should we take for granted that the parents are faithful in teaching it to their children at home? An affirmative answer for the latter does not exclude an equally positive reply to the former. Even though some parents do not neglect their duty to instruct their children at home, the Christian School must always supplement their efforts.
It is sad indeed that a large number of Christian fam· Uies today take no time to perfonn their part of this task.
The Scripture plainly admonishes parents to be diligent in their efforts to inculcate in their children the eternal truths of God. Deuteronomy 6:6, 7 is very clear in this regard: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Despite the fact that everybody is in a hurry today, including Christian parents, it is imperative that this divine requirement be fulfilled. The Christian School can contribute towards that fulfillment.
In olden days Hebrew children began very early their studies of the divine oracles. At the age of ten, the Jewish boys knew the whole Pentateuch by heart. Then they proceeded to study the Psalms and the Synagogue Prayers. All this, however, was a result of their deep reverence for the Word of God and their unconditional obedience to his commands. Where is that respect for the Bible today?
Those, however, who still accept the Bible as God’s infallible Word and the only standard for faith and conduct should unremittingly direct their best efforts to restore the Holy Scripture to the place of honor and authority which it must occupy in the affairs of mankind. The words of Daniel Webster fit very appropriately in this context: “If truth be not diffused error will be.” These prophetic words have found a partial fulfillment nowadays but it is still possible to witness a revival of interest and love for the eternal Word of God to dispel the darkness of this age. The Christian School plays a very decisive role in this direction, as experience has already shown.
From its very beginning, the Bible outlines God’s wonderful way of salvation which culminates at Calvary followed by the glorious resurrection of the triumphant Lord, and his ascension to the presence of the Father where he intercedes for his own. This is the greatest truth ever told and no pupil should be allowed to miss its true meaning for his own life and daily experience. The student is to be led to the realization that in all things Christ must have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18c).
This naturally leads us to the doctrine of the Lordship of Christ which the Christian School should always accentuate in its program. Professor Jan Waterink draws to our attention the fact that “whether or not a person is Christian will depend on whether or not he acknowledges Christ as King of his life.” Teachers should not hesitate to delineate for the pupils God’s way of salvation. Once this essential goal is attained, instructors should proceed to bring the students to a fun realization of what it means that Christ is Lord indeed: Lord of their lives and Lord over the most trivial details of man’s activities. As Abraham Kuyper expresses it, “There is not an inch in the whole area of human existence of which Christ, the Sovereign of all, does not cry, ‘It is mine.’ “It is absolutely necessary for this knowledge to be imparted at an early age in order that as the youngster grows he may verify more and more that he is not his own but was bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Therefore, he is not self-governing, but his sufficiency is of God (II Corinthians 3:5). He depends entirely on the commands of his Lord which he must obey, for his own advantage and for the glory of God Almighty.
THE REAL MOTIVE FOR CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION
It is important that we comprehend what should constitute the primary basis, or the real motif, for the Christian School. Here Calvinism becomes more distinct from other systems with regard to the matter of Christian schools. Our reference is to the Covenant of Grace which God has established with man. Because of their covenantal relation· ship parents must dispense a Christian education to their children in every aspect, in order that they may be true and loyal to their vows before God.
The word “covenant” means an arrangement which, in this case, is made by God only. The part which a person exercises in relation to it is to reject or accept it by faith even though this faith is not of ourselves but a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
At the very inception of the history of mankind God made a covenant with Adam. This covenant is commonly designated as the “Covenant of Works” since man was under obligation to perform certain works of obedience with a purpose to obtain the promises of God. The primary promise, of course, was that of eternal life (Genesis 2:17). Man failed to keep that covenant (Romans 5:12) but God in his mercy and lovingkindness purposed to make another covenant with man. Such is the Covenant of Grace. Genesis 3:15 gives God’s first indication of the establishment of this new covenant. In Genesis 12:1–3 and 17:1–14 we learn about the crystallization of that Covenant, its formal establishment. In 17:7 we read: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Then, in the remaining verses God gives to Abraham the sign of this covenant-circumcision.
As we carefully examine God’s covenant with Abraham we notice the prominence which is given to faith, and this concerns not only Abraham but all his descendants. This faith was absolutely essential because “the blessings that God promised would come through the seed of Abraham were not essentially material blessings but the blessings of eternal salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Galatians 3:14,16).
Later on there were additions to this covenant but nowhere are we told in the Scriptures that it was revoked.We must notice now that in the case of Abraham he first believed God and only after that did he receive the sign of circumcision. This sign, as we know, was also received by all the males within his gates. (See Romans 4:11; cf. Genesis 17:10–14.) As we turn to the New Testament we contemplate the same picture. The only change is with reference to the sign: the Philippian jailer believed in Christ as Abraham did and then was baptized, he and his house (Acts 16:31).
The eunuch of Acts 8:36, 37 also believed and was baptized. There is an inextricable relationship between circumcision in the Old Testament and baptism in the New Testament. Colossians 2:11–13 gives evidence to that effect and in Philippians 3:3 Paul declares: “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” That means that as true children of our father Abraham we are saved by faith, as he was; circumcision was just an outward sign of that inward faith in Christ.
Children, therefore, must not be excluded from the New Testament aspect of the Covenant of Grace, as they were not from the Old. Even in the Covenant of Works children were included; otherwise they would not have Adam’s sin imputed to them.
This means, then, that children of believing parents must also be baptized. That does not imply they will automatically be saved but their baptism is a sign and a seal that they a1so have a part in God’s Covenant of Grace.
As long as we are obedient to God’s requirements, there must be no fear regarding the fulfillment of his promises. However, as someone has aptly observed, “No Christian has a right to personalize the promises and privileges of the Gospel without personalizing the obligations and responsibilities, too.” No parent may expect God’s blessings to be bestowed upon his children, if he is not willing to pay the price of fu1filling each divine requirement, faithfully, in the training of his children. The Word of God is quite explicit in its command: “Train up a child in the way he should go; and even when he is old he will not depart from it” ( Proverbs 22:6).
I remember hearing about a little girl who at an evangelistic meeting was asked if she would not come to Christ. That question sounded very strange to her for she replied with wonder: “Why? I have never gone away from him yet!” Here is a good instance of one who was truly brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; one who knew Jesus Christ from an early age; one whose parents had used all the necessary means of Christian education commanded by God. Doubtless the Christian School was one of those important means so employed. God will always bless its use richly if it is used in faith.