In the March issue of Torch and Trumpet Walter A. De Jong challenge us to do some: serious thinking about our Christian schools. Accurately he observes, “We learn from the Bible and from contemporary history that there are projects whose beginning is in the Spirit but whose ending is in the flesh…American history is replete with schools and churches begun in the Spirit that today are edifices of the flesh. There is little reason to suppose that Satan would not like to repeat the performance with our Christian schools.”
This challenge, stated so succinctly, ought not be lightly shrugged from our shoulders. Although our schools are parental rather than parochial, and that by deliberate biblical conviction, consistories who take the Church Order seriously are connected to a tremendous task.
It is far from easy to be a conscientious Reformed pastor or cider.
In the Church Order, which we have pledged to implement in ecclesiastical practice, mention is made of many avenues of spiritual concern and challenge which must be traveled. Doctrine and discipline in the church are of paramount significance. But the diligent elder must also be conversant with the duties of the diaconate, the work of Christian institutions of mercy, the relation of the church to several state laws, and the glorious task of missions. Organizations and institutions which embody concretely the church’s holy ambition to serve the Risen Redeemer demand their share of consistorial attention. Not the least of these is the school. Our rules specify that “the consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant” (Art. 21).
Continual supervision of our Christian schools by the consistories is here enjoined upon us. We must be convinced that our schools deserve the word “good.”
This raises many perplexing but pertinent questions. No doubt, some serious thought ought to be given to the thorny problem of the precise nature and limits of this consistorial supervision. We all believe, I’m sure, in what has been called by certain Reformed leaders “sphere-sovereignty.” Yet we would suggest other fruitful questions which our elders ought to face.
What really constitutes a “good” Christian school?
Many seem to take the position that as long as our schools are officially based upon God’s Word as interpreted by our Reformed confessions all is well. We like to take for granted that boards and educational committees recommend and appoint as teachers only those who express wholehearted agreement with the Reformed faith; further, that only select textbooks are used as guides for classroom instruction; finally, that a measure of wholesome Christian order and discipline is maintained in the building and on the playground.
But is this all article 21 requires of us? Is it enough that we believe that all our board members and teachers are “fine” Christian ladies and gentlemen?
If the consistorial task with respect to the schools is so vital as to warrant special attention in the Church Order, should we not give more thought to the deeper issues involved? How articulate are we, when it comes to a thoroughly Christian educational philosophy? Just what are we trying to do in our schools ? How should the school integrate classroom instruction and experiences with the principles of the Word of God? What kind of covenantal nurture may we expect our principals and teachers to give to the children of the church?
It is rather disheartening to note that at times school boards regard consistories merely as agencies for securing the necessary funds to keep the schools running, while consistories too easily content themselves with “passing the buck” of responsibility for the quality of these schools to others.
Let’s not take our Christian schools for granted. We haven’t heard of any insurance policy against possible loss of our schools by spiritual defection and bankruptcy.
No matter how strongly we are committed to the principle of “sphere-sovereignty,” let us guard ourselves against a growing estrangement between school and church. Consistory members should at times be invited to board meetings. The door of the consistory room should always be open to a representative from the schools. Conferences of elders and board could be held annually with great profit and pleasure. We plead for more two-way traffic between these bodies, in order that both may discharge their duties for the welfare of believers and to the glory of our God.
– PETER Y. DE JONG