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The merciless sun of Palestine beats down; weariness past groaning; sweat, fouled bodies; thirst; heads pounding with fatigue, hunger, tension; the chalk dry taste of unslackening fear; desperately aching muscles; sword clumsy in one hand, tools or lift ropes cumbersome in the other as the heavy stones are inched into place-slowly, so exasperatingly slowly.  The time, the age of Nehemiah. The occasion, of rebuilding of the Wall.

Israel’s history is a picture of the Christian Church traveling towards the historic day of Judgment. Both have seen tones of intense vitality, times of the cloudy pillar thru the desert, the fallings away, the sword of Jehovah against Philistia, Egypt. Assyria. Both have had their dark ages of captivity. We are presently, so believe some, in the days of the rebuilding of the wall. The days of final fortification. The persecution is near, even upon us.

We too build sword in hand, harassed by spiritual Samaritans, Hebrews who are not Hebrews, fellow churchmen who the apathetic, even hostile to our cause. We build encumbered, awkward, painfully limited. We have hardly the means, hardly the knowledge, hardly the spirit to begin. Our wall is our Christian educational system. Particularly we have in mind our own proposed high school. Awkwardly, painfully, we begin to build the structure, form our policies, set up our curriculums, study and choose our texts. The wall intends to guard our children so that they may be nurtured in safety.

Even as every man under Nehemiah’s command built that portion of the wall nearest to where he lived, so we are called to see ourselves with our very lives and the seed of the covenant at stake. Yet how many of us feel the need for that wall near at hand? What are we thinking as we turn down the lamps and bolt the door knowing that come midnight Death may come quietly stepping dainty footed over the unmended gap? A, little sleep, a little folding of the hands, thus our calamity shall come upon us. Beware, all who would willingly let the present situation continue!

Anyone who has attempted to plan a curriculum for even one subject knows that it is a plodding painstaking process. It seems especially so when one labors under the knowledge that this high school which we propose may quite possibly be the very last chance we may ever have to rebuild the walls which the tremendous host of modernism, ecumenism, social gospelism, Darwinism, and all the other forces of Babylon have attempted to throw down and pulverize.

Christ sends us and our children as lambs into the midst of wolves, exhorting us to be wise as serpents, harmless as doves. This is why we are equipping our young soldiers with the best ordnance available, training them to know the pitfalls, to scrutinize the path for land mines at every step. In our subjects we drill them to ask: “Does this path lead God ward, or point to Man?” “Is this water fit to drink: will partaking of it set man free or enslave unto death?” When we consider that every part of our curriculum must contribute to this military training, we begin to comprehend the immensity of the task and the necessity of painstaking, detailed, and relentlessly vigilant planning.

Continuing the metaphor of Christian Education as Military Training and defense system, let us examine carefully some of the weapons. The realm of Rhetoric and Literature is a good starting point. What is Rhetoric? It is, very simply, the skill of powerful and persuasive speech either by means of the spoken word of through written literature, or music, or painting, or whatever. It implies the exclusive use of logic, symbolism, comparison, order, and grammar. It implies the best, most persuasive and most effective use of all the means of communication. Rhetoric implies the correct and precise and commanding transmission of ideas. Surely it becomes obvious even to the most unlettered person why a consideration of literature and rhetoric as its tool, is the obvious starting point for consideration of Christian Education.

We will elaborate on this starting point from a Protestant and Reformed viewpoint. All learning is accomplished by the transmission of ideas. Literature may be defined as the idea content, and the message transmitted. There are many kinds of literature, the literature of music, the literature of the Classic Greek dramatists, the literature of modem existentialism, and the literature of the sacred Scriptures. A study of literature, then, involves two things, the message itself with its intellectual, historical, and philosophical content; plus the study of the skills, the techniques, the methods used to convey this content, namely, the rhetoric.

All learning then involves rhetoric and literature. All transmission of ideas between two or more persons be it via books, radio, television, debates, lectures, plays, or by the preaching of the gospel. How must the simple-hearted Christian, learned or unlearned, approach the subject? If he would approach it wisely, he opens his Bible and begins a prayerful search. The first com­munication of ideas is recorded. God communed with Himself; and God communed with Adam. Why? So that Adam should hear, obey, and praise his Creator. The devil also communicated with man. Why? In order to deceive, teach, convince, coerce the hearer to obey him and become his, the Deceiver’s slave. Is it not clear then that Antithesis permeates all learning from the very beginning? , and thus all communication, all literature, all rhetoric? Everything we drink into our minds either tastes of the Deceiver’s poison or flows from the Rock; every path of knowledge must be either laid with mines for our destruction, or lead safely thru the Valley towards the City that hath foundations! How deep-rooted and important then is the study of literature in pointing out that life or death antithesis for our young soldier, scholars.

Christian parents, young people, board members, teachers, elders of the church, awake out of complacency! To our battle stations; reform your lines into fighting position, men and women of God! Do you not realize we are under full scale attack? Have you not heard the watchmen sounding the trumpet? Why are you not rushing to the defense: Are you Protestant? (i.e., Protesting with and for the TESTANT the BOOK, the WILL, the TESTAMENT once offered up unto the prophets). Are you not willing to be reformed RE-formed back into position for battle? Are we or are we not Protestant Reformed, that is, the people who believe that the whole truth revealed in that Book is our only line of defense? Are we or are we not the people who believe that the whole of our lives, all our communications, learning, and literature must be brought under the scrutiny of that Word? Do you or do you not hear the Clarion Call from Zion’s walls? Will you not rush with your brothers to the defense as did the Jews in Nehemiah’s day?

From this urgent reminder of our intense personal involvement in this warfare, we return to our discussion of the Weapons of Defense. Since literature and its rhetoric are so basic, what should the English curriculum of a Protestant Reformed secondary school be? How must its goals differ from those of presently existing schools? In what must its approach and methods, content and guiding principles differ and show themselves distinct over against those of today’s American schools, both secular and (would be) Christian?

Goals, principles, content, approach, method, texts that is quite a list! It isn’t so, as some foolishly think, that these are considerations we can leave for the future principal to decide in a couple of weeks or months! Nor is it so, as even more foolishly is thought, that first we must erect the building and somehow expect the curriculum will be taken care of! We are building the walls of Zion, not the walls of Jericho! If we adopt the same curricular and methodological approaches of the now existing schools, we are adopting with them their pagan and idolatrous principles. This is parallel to erecting Jericho’s walls to protect Zion. On such false assumptions even in such a seemingly indifferent matter as curriculum and syllabus, how could we ever dream that the walls should stand? We cannot. We must start anew, laboriously, awkwardly, painfully the immense task of rethinking our whole educational philosophy (if we must use such a term). More simply, our foundations must be laid only on sound Biblical principles. Any who would think this a matter to leave for last is criminally foolhardy, and blind to the gravity of our modem cultural, political, religious dilemma.

The purpose of this, the first of a proposed series of articles, is two-fold: First, it is to remind our parents and young people not merely of their financial but more importantly of their moral and spiritual calling to support our school. It is a support with respect to working out and realizing goals and principles. It is the thinking out, the planning of the school proper before the mere fact of a physical edifice. It is a support which involves decisions and life plans, even from a very young age. Young people and parents consider, the need for teachers, and the command to give of our best, not just of our money.

The second purpose of this article is really a brother to the first; it is a call to inspire, coerce, or otherwise strike the consciences of our teachers and leaders to contribute their experience, practical knowledge, and expertise in their own respective fields of specialization, be it math, music, science, or history in making plain to the Protestant Reformed public the application of Protestant Reformed principles in the foundation of a school. Let’s get these discussions out of the seclusion of Teachers’Institute, into the public eye, and to work!

This task is immense; It needs the work of many willing and skillful hands, each doing or giving that which he is best able to do or give; Let each of us remember Nehemiah and actively, prayerfully, diligently building the portion of the wall nearest us.

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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