Once again, Miss Johanna Timmer of Holland, Michigan, addresses herself to the proposed Form for the Baptism of Children. In 1971, the CRC Synod decided to permit the use of this form on a trial basis for three years with a view to eventual adoption by Synod (Acts of Synod, 1971, p. 40). It may be expected therefore that Synod 1974 will be asked to take action on this matter.
Besides the matters brought up in the April Issue of THE OUTLOOK, I must make a further observation about the new Form for Baptism of Children.
Have you observed that the new Form for the Baptism of Children omits a very important concept from one of the questions the parents have to answer when presenting their covenant child for baptism?
The question in the old form reads: “Do you promise and intend to instruct these children, as soon as they are able to understand, in the aforesaid doctrine, and cause then to he instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?” Compare the question appearing in the new form, which reads: “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?”
In the new form as well as in the old, the parent promises to instruct the child in the Christian faith (more specifically designated in the old form as “the aforesaid doctrine”). In the new form, however, the parent does not have to promise to “cause him to be instructed” in the Christian faith and doctrine “to the utmost of his power.” This is a significant omission that touches the whole matter of Christian education.
Our Christian schools are parental schools intended to be an extension of the Christian home. (Parents! Do not let those who emphasize sphere sovereignty rob you by shifting the kind of authority you have in the school to the teacher “behind the classroom door!” To be able to fulfill their baptismal vows parents must retain the measure of authority Cod gave them over their children. Parents of truly Reformed persuasion should want to pass on to their children this precious part of their Reformed heritage. In fact, today’s parents of Reformed persuasion should want even to outdo their likely less-privileged parents in passing on this heritage.
This means that to do their utmost in having their children instructed in “the doctrine contained in the Old and in the New Testament, and in the articles of the Christian faith,” parents must put their children in schools through which they can fulfill their baptismal vows.
It is apparent, then, that not only must a parent himself instruct a child in the Christian faith, but because the child is not with the parent the greater part of a school day, he must also cause a child to be instructed in the Christian faith by the teacher(s) to whom he entrusts the child. Our Christian schools were established to meet that purpose and should be faithful in meeting that purpose. It is therefore of supreme importance that we stress Christian education as covenant education, for covenant children, and that we stress the need of appointing teachers who have a strong covenant approach to the covenant children, and to the way they teach and nurture these children. A covenant parent should desire to enroll his covenant child in a covenant school for solidly covenant training.
A faithful covenant parent rears his children in a covenant atmosphere at home, diligently teaching children the inscripturated Word of God and talking of the commandments of God when he sits in his house, when he walks by the way, when he lies down, and when he rises up (Deut. 6:6,7). If he does this, does it not follow logically and naturally that he must expose his children to the same atmosphere in the schoolroom? To do that spells Christian education.
A realization of this rich concept of covenant responsibility drove our forefathers to establishing parental Christian schools, schools by means of which parent’s could strive to realize their promise to do their utmost in causing their children to be instructed in the “doctrine which is contained in the Old and in the New Testament and in the articles of the Christian faith which is taught in this Christian church.”
Webster tells us that “utmost” means “of the highest degree, quantity, number or amount.” To limit a child‘s Christian education outside of the home to an hour of catechism, an hour of Sunday School, an hour of Cadets or Calvinettes, an hour of Young People’s, besides the Sunday worship services, is manifestly not doing one’s utmost, unless there are no Christian schools available. And if there are no Christian schools available in one’s vicinity, one is still not doing one’s utmost, unless he does what he can to establish one, or moves, if he can, to where there is one. One may not be able to do that much for his covenant child, but may one desire less for him than one’s utmost?
How much truer to the whole covenant concept and how much richer the question referred to in the new form would be if it read something like this: “Do you promise, in reliance on the Holy Spirit and in obedience to the covenant God made with you, to do all in your power to instruct this child or cause him to be instructed in the Christian faith and doctrine, and to lead him by your example, and the examples of the others who instruct him, into the life of Christian discipleship?”
While he was Editor-in-Chief of The Banner, Rev. John Vander Ploeg wrote an article entitled, “Education Must Be Christian.” He gave four reasons why the Christian school is a must:
“1. Education must be Christian because God wills it.
“2. Education must be Christian because the covenant entitles our children to it.
“3. Education must be Christian to make our children aware of their identity.
“4. Education must be Christian to train each generation anew also to live forever to the glory of God.”
Let me quote a passage from his article to clinch what I have tried to say:
“In the Covenant of Grace God binds believers and their children to himself, and He also binds himself to them when He says, ‘And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee’” (Gen. 17:7).
“Christian parents, this can mean only one thing our children belong to God, and He belongs to them! And it is precisely for this reason that these children now have a God-given right to learn everything there is to know about their God, seven days a week—at church, and also at a Christian school” (The Banner, Sept. 2, 1960).
Because of the present unrest in our Christian schools it would seem remiss to close this article without issuing a warning or two.
First, to be entrusted with the training of our covenant children, only such teachers should be employed who are faithful to God’s covenant, and true to the Reformed faith in doctrine and life. To thus be true, our Christian schools must root all their teaching in all areas of school life, in God‘s infallible Word, the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. To put any other “Word” on a level with or even above the Scriptures in any area of learning is to violate the Scriptures and is to teach contrary to what the children are taught in the home.
Secondly, if a Christian school shifts to the AACS [Association for the Advancement of Christian Studies] concept of Christian education with its insistence that parents have no authority at all over the contents of what is taught in the Christian school “behind the classroom door,” it has forced the parents to abdicate their God-given authority, which they may not do. This might lead the parent to take the child out of such a Christian school to maintain the unity of the home.
The AACS members should be honorable enough to leave parental schools to the parents and grandparents who started them, slaved for them, and are praying for them. The AACS should start their own schools with the children of parents who wish to abdicate their authority. But to insist on having the parents, who have a right to these schools, to abdicate, seems revolutionary. The sad thing is that the AACS seems to force unwilling parents into a mold into which they do not fit because it would spell unfaithfulness to their vows and to their God–given task. To take this phase of their authority away from them sounds dictatorial Because of this most regrettable conflict between the home and some Christian schools, children of homes that will not relinquish any of their authority, because they are convinced they may not, arc in for a rough time which may necessitate parents taking them out of the school.
Thirdly, a rift in our Christian school is certain, I fear, if AACS sympathizers are permitted to function on their boards or the teaching staffs. “Send out Thy light and Thy truth, let them lead us.”