Christian Education “a dull habit or an acute fever”

American philosopher and psychologist William James (1842–1910) once made the astute observation that religion is always a dull habit or an acute fever. Applying this to Christian education, it seems warranted to conclude: that the latter (the acute fever) must have been the in the case of our forebears who, in the midst of want, sacrificed so much to found Christian schools; and that it must be the former (a dull habit) in the case of those today who, in the midst of affluence, are vacillating as to whether these schools are to be maintained or not.

An excellent testimony – Elsewhere in this issue there appears an excellent “Testimony Concerning the Promotion of Christian Education” issued by the Northwest Iowa Chapter of Reformed Fellowship, Inc.

As much as we hail this testimony, it is equally regrettable that the publication of it is found to be necessary. The following excerpt from this testimony ought not to be taken lightly but should rather give reason for pause and also be an occasion for grave concern. The writers say:

“It therefore deeply disturbs and distresses us to see an evident decline of interest in, commitment to, and support for educational enterprises among leaders and members of the confessing Christian community.”

Genuine profession of faith – The devotion and sacrificial giving of those who put first things first by founding Christian schools and causing them to flourish has been a monument to Christian stewardship. Christian education, not only at home and in the Sunday school but also in the day school throughout the week. is a phenomenon astounding to others who may want Christ as their Savior but have never learned to recognize Him also as the Lord and Ruler in every area of their lives. Consistent Christian education, regardless of the cost and based on principle, certifies the genuineness of one’s profession of Christ as our Master as well as our Redeemer.

It is told of someone who was sacrificing himself in a very difficult ministry to the poor and the needy of a large city that when he was asked, “Why don’t you run away from it all before you are broken by this inhuman burden?” he replied, “I would like to run away from it all, but a strange Man on a cross won’t let me.”

Even so, when parents who sacrifice to have their children educated at a school where Christ is King are asked that question, they too may reply: “At times I would like to run away from it all, but there is always that God-Man on the throne who just won’t let me do it.”

What makes the difference? – Christian education—“a dull habit or an acute fever.”

What is it that really makes the difference?

Briefly and simply it’s just this; either we acknowledge Christ as Lord and King in all of life—also from Monday through Friday in the schoolroom—or else we acknowledge Him as such only in part.

Dyed-in-the-wool Communists can be expected to be on fire with an acute fever because they know and are committed to their master—a dictatorial State. The same is true of old-line Roman Catholics, because they too are devoted to a master—their ecclesiastical hierarchy. Even so, the man who lives for houses and lands, automobiles and all the rest of this world’s goods, is driven on by a consuming passion always to get more, because of him too it is a settled matter who his master is—Mammon. It’s no dull habit for such as these; but, morning, noon, and night, for them it’s always an acute fever!

Calvinists in name only are phonies, fooling nobody but themselves, as they follow their dull habit of poking around in the ashes of a fire that burned brightly once upon a time. Someone, not a Christian, once said: “If I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and my Savior, I would never write or talk anything else.” John Calvin was on fire with this conviction; as those who call ourselves his followers, we are guilty of sham unless we mean business about enthroning this Jesus as King in our lives first, last, and all the time.

That’s the secret of Christian education.

Is Christ really in it? – If the Christian school is getting to be a question of to be or not to be, what’s wrong?

Let’s not fool ourselves, the trouble is that we are then no longer seeing and serving no man save Jesus only. The threat to the future of the Christian school is just as simple as that.

Make no mistake about it: when our eye is no longer single, when the kingdom of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ are no longer kept in focus, and when our priorities become confused—what then? Well, then the cause is lost; that’s when the twilight or the eclipse of the Christian school sets in; and that’s when the acute fever in religious education becomes a dull habit that may grind on for a while but is sure to spell Ichabod in just a matter of time unless God has mercy on us.

He puts it all together – What this adds up to is this: the One who alone can put it all together when Christian education threatens to fall apart is none other than Jesus Christ a Lord and Master. The Christian school, as well as every other Kingdom venture, must be an intensely personal matter, meaning this: to be initiated at all, to have the momentum to move forward, and to surmount all the hurdles encountered—Christian education must revolve around and be wholly committed to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it must be sustained by those who daily walk hand in hand with Him as their Lord and King.

The implications of this should be obvious. Christ as our only Master must be in it every step of the way.

“You have a right to your opinion and I have a right to mine,” someone replied when as his pastor I tried to persuade him to have his children in the Christian instead of the public school. But that’s wrong! The education of covenant children positively does not belong to the adiaphora. For any parent who really means it that Christ is his Lord and King, that’s a settled matter.

The curriculum in the Christian school becomes an acute fever rather than a dull habit when we truly catch the vision of having the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ integrated in every subject that is taught.

The cause of Christian education will not have to go begging or be a matter of touch and go financially, and teachers will not have to work for a pittance if we are not fooling when we sing: “Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.”

Teachers will not need to be reminded that all the instruction given is to be distinctively Christian if they truly know Jesus Christ and are filled with “one holy passion” always to serve Him as their Lord and Master.

Ministers and elders who, because of fear or a lack of conviction, refuse to rock the boat by talking Christian education from the pulpit or at family visiting should lose no lime in re-examining their commitment to the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Officers in the Christian Reformed Church who chicken out or are indifferent when it comes to implementing Article 71 of the Church Order are not true to their sacred trust.

It should be noted that the CRC Synod of 1971 approved the use of a new Form for the Baptism of Children “on a trial basis for three years with a view to eventual adoption by Synod.” One regrettable change that promises no good for the cause of the Christian school is the following:

In the old form the parents are asked the following question, and I italicize the part now no longer included: “Do you promise and intend to instruct these children, as soon as they are able to understand, in the aforesaid doctrine, and cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?”

Does that not include instruction in the Christian school whenever and wherever possible? Of course, it does.

However, the form now being used on a trial basis has the question as follows: “Third, do you promise, in reliance on the Holy Spirit, to do all in your power to instruct this child in the Christian faith and to lead him by your example into the life of Christian discipleship?”

Thus, no longer are the parents requested to answer whether they will also “cause them to be instructed therein.”

Now I know what we have lost with respect to the Christian school by making this change in the baptism form. But will somebody who proposed and voted for this change please tell me what we have gained by it?

If it be true that the cause of Christian education is losing its momentum in our day, as the northwest Iowa Testimony tells us (and the evidence seems to bear this out) let me urge, for one thing, that we stay with the old Form for the Baptism of Children and that we vote down the adoption of the proposed form when the three-year trial period has expired.

The Testimony from northwest Iowa is right: the cause is urgent. True, the Christian school is expensive. But TV sets, new homes, automobiles, vacations in both slimmer and winter, and all the gadgets we are sure we can no lone;er do without—these cost a lot more. Dare we say before God that, in our affluence, we can afford all this and that we can no longer afford “the good part” or “the one thing needful”?

Let anyone who thinks that the Christian school is too expensive, by all means must stop to count the cost. How can we possibly afford to place the immortal souls of covenant children in jeopardy by sending them to public schools where God and His Word. prayer. and the Christ whom we profess to be our Lord and King are not even allowed to come!

Unless Christian education again becomes the acute fever that it was once upon a time, the light will flicker and go out—and we will have no one but ourselves to blame.