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Protestant Reformed Education – A Unique Enterprise (2)

At this time Beacon Lights presents the second half of Prof. H. Hanko’s lecture, sponsored by the P.R. High School Circle, at Hope P.R. Church.

We have noticed in our former article in the Beacon Lights that Protestant Reformed education has a unique basis.  We turn now to a consideration of the fact that Protestant Reformed education is unique in character.  When we speak of the character of Protestant Reformed education, we speak first of all, of the goal of education; that is, the aim of education in our schools; the reason why we want to give our children this king of education. There are, of course, many possible kinds of goals, and it is well that we refer to some of them briefly.  One goal, which is proper to consider as a proper goal for education, is the goal which our government sets up. The government says that education must be provided our children in order that they may be good citizens and contribute something toward the good of this commonwealth.  Education, therefore, from the point of view of the government, is for the benefit of the state.  But this goal we must reject.  Not because we do not want our children to be good citizens, for they must indeed be good citizens, but rather because even while they are citizens of this country, they must, above all else, be citizens of the kingdom of Heaven.  And if they are citizens of the kingdom of heaven and live as such in the midst of the world, they will also surely be good citizens of this country.  So this is an option to possible goals of education which we must emphatically reject.

In the second place, it is possible as the present Christian schools have it, to educate our children because it is our calling to subdue the earth.  But this, too, is a goal which we cannot accept.  Not because it is not our calling to subdue the earth, for that it surely is, but this calling to subdue the earth is not a goal but a means to the attainment of the goal.  It is not the end of the journey, but the road we must take to arrive at the end.  While it is indeed true that we are called to subdue the earth for yet a higher purpose and a more lofty aim.  The subduing of the earth cannot ever be an aim in itself.

There are some who claim that the goal of education must be to prepare the Christian to take an active part in every sphere of life.  That is, it is the calling of the Christian to busy himself in the sphere of politics, in the sphere of economics, in the sphere of labor and management relationships, etc. This is becoming a rather unusually popular goal in education today, and is even hailed as being truly Calvinistic.  But I think it is best to reject this goal as well as an altogether unsuitable alternative.  It is not my purpose at this time to get into the reasons why this is true, or even into the question of whether this is even a legitimate calling of the Christian.  This would be beyond the scope of our present discussion.  It is sufficient to say for now that there are grave objections to this entire idea.  It is, to say the least, of very dubitable Calvinism.

There is one more point that we can make, perhaps, and that point is whether or not it is our calling to provide our churches with professional men as doctors, dentists, and lawyers, it is, to my mind, a debatable question whether we, who live in the end of the ages, have need of doctors, dentists, and lawyers, at least as far as the church of God is concerned, and the kingdom which we are called to seek here below.  This does not mean that to be a doctor, dentist, or lawyer, is in itself sin, and indeed if our churches all had ministers of their own and shepherds to lead them, and if there were sufficient teachers to staff all our schools and our education system was complete, there could not possibly be any objection to making this the professions one of the immediate goals of education.  But the fact of the matter, nevertheless, is, that as long as our churches are so desperately short of ministers, and as long as our educational system is not complete, there is a far greater need for ministers and teachers within the church of Christ than there is for doctors, dentists, and lawyers.

In as much, then, as we must reject all these other options as proper goals for education, what ought, then, to be the goal of distinct Protestant Reformed education?

It is necessary, in the first place, to make a few remarks concerning the goal of education from the viewpoint of education being instruction of the knowledge of God.  We have said in our previous article, that all revelation is God speaking to his people concerning himself in his love toward them in Jesus Christ.  If this is true then, it seems to me, that we ought to notice that the knowledge of God is an end in itself apart from anything else.  In other words, if we want to discuss what the goals of education ought to be as they are determined by the unique basis of our Protestant Reformed schools, then, surely in the first place, that goal of education is the knowledge of God in itself knowledge for knowledge sake.  The knowledge of God apart from any other consideration.  In fact, this ought to be considered the chief goal of education than which there is none more important.  Let me use an example to illustrate this.  Think, if you will, of a man and a woman who have been recently married.  Supposing that soon after their marriage, he is called to leave her and to serve in the armed forces of this country. Of course, if they love each other, as they ought to, they will write to each other.  And in the letters which the bride sends to her husband, she will ask him to tell her everything he can about himself and about his life.  She will want to know all the details.  If he should respond and say “Why do you want to know all these uninteresting and routine details of my life”, her answer will be—she wants to know them simply because love prompts her to want to know as much as she possibly can about his life and about himself.  The fact that she loves him moves her to seek from him as much knowledge as she can possibly gain.  In other words, the knowledge that she desires to have of her husband is, in as much as it is prompted by love, simply knowledge for knowledge sake.  If you asked her why she wants to know the answer will be “Because I love him, that’s all.” It would seem indecent, at this point to interject any other consideration.  Supposing, for example, that a bride, when asked concerning the reason why she wants to know as much as she can about her husband, would say, “I want to know about him because I want to know whether or not he will be able to provide me with new dresses.” “I want to know as much as I can about my husband because when he returned again, I want to know whether or not he will be able to buy me a new house.” If those were her reasons for wanting to know about her husband, her love would surely be suspect and rightly so, and you could well ask whether or not her love was sincere.

In a much higher sense of the word is this true of our relation to God.  It is true, of course, that we also often times interject all kinds of ulterior motives.  In our desire for education, we are told sometimes that the goal of education must be the attainment of financial security.  We are told that we can only earn a good living and compete in modern society and attain financial security in this day of vast knowledge if we acquire an education.  But surely this means, to put the matter bluntly, that we define the goal of education as being this: we want to know more about God in the hopes that God will give us bigger paychecks.  Is there not something indecent about all this, making our love of God suspect?

The fact of the matter is, therefore, that the goal of education must be, first of all, and basically, the knowledge of God as an end in itself.  If all that we study in school is the revelation of God, then the reason why we study all these subjects is simply because we love God, and because we want to know about him as much as we possibly can.  God has shed abroad his love within our hearts, and, in that way, he has given us the indescribably blessed privilege of loving him, and love want to know.  Let us not prostitute this love by bringing into it evil and ulterior motives.

This leads me to the second point I wish to make about the unique goals of Protestant Reformed education.  Although, what I have to say now is really closely connected with what we just discussed.

The love of God for his people and the love of his people for God is a unique relationship.  It is not a love between equals, as that love exists mutually between earthly lovers.  It can never be this, for God is the adorable God, who is highly lifted up, transcendent above all the works of his hand.  This means that our love for God must always be of a very special kind, simply because it is not love which exists between equals, it must be a love which is always praise, always giving glory to God. It must be a love that is always an acknowledgement of God as highly exultant above the Heavens.  This love therefore must always be a doxology, a hallelujah.  And this love, therefore, must always be a perpetual hallelujah in our entire life.  It is and it will be when our lives are constantly lived in praise to God in everything we do.  With all that God has given us, our lives will be such a hallelujah when we seek perpetually the kingdom of God and its righteousness with all we are and with all we have.  Education in our schools must have as its goal to teach our covenant youth to do this.

There are a couple of more points that must be made in connection with this matter of the unique character of Protestant Reformed education.  In the first place, all this means that we have a unique view of the pupils who attend these schools.  In this respect, also, our schools differ radically from all schools that are in existence.  Consider the following: on the one hand, we do not say along with the government that the pupils in our schools are nothing more than potential contributors to the well-being of the great society.  Nor yet do we say, as it is so often maintained in the existing Christian Schools that our pupils are mission prospects who must be lead by the means of the school to make a personal commitment to Christ.  This, of course, is based upon the fact that the covenant God established with his people is an agreement.  And if the covenant is an agreement, then it stands to reason our little children cannot enter into such an agreement.  And, therefore, on the basis of such a view of the covenant, our children are considered nothing more than prospects for conversion on the mission field. And the purpose for education becomes then to lead these mission prospects to accept Jesus Christ.  This also we must emphatically reject.

On the other hand, we consider the pupils who attend our schools to be covenant children with whom God is pleased to establish his everlasting covenant.  They are children who are objects of God’s eternal and unchangeable love.  They are the objects of a very great and wondrous mercy. They are children who are purchased through the precious blood of the cross of Jesus Christ.  In them is performed the glorious work of God’s grace.  They are destined, presently, to live in the new Heavens and in the new earth.  In short, they are God’s chosen and beloved children.  We have them only for a few moments entrusted to our care to take care of them until God takes them again unto himself.  It ought to be evident, therefore, that even the view that we hold of the children who attend our schools in unique in P.R. schools.  In the second place, this unique approach of Protestant Reformed education is unique also with respect of our consideration of the teachers who staff these schools.  I don’t want to say very much about this, only, in brief, I want you to consider that the teachers which we have in our schools today are totally unlike any other teachers which can be found in any other educational institutions.  And the difference between them and other teachers consists in this, that they not only know what I have just been trying to say, but they have dedicated to all this with a passionate dedication that arises from the very core of their being.  And the teachers, after all, make the school.

There is one other way in which our schools are unique, and that is that our schools provide for our children unique advantages.

A few remarks ought to be made by way of introduction to this point.  If you have caught the jist of what I have been saying so far, and if you have seen some of the vision of this unique character of P.R. education, then there is no need for me to spell out in details the advantages.  You will readily be able to see them for yourself.  There are, of course, many advantages—some great, and some of lesser significance.  I shall not weary you with spelling them out in detail.  However, the advantages are of such a kind that they not only cannot be obtained anywhere else in this sorry world, but that they are also of inestimable worth.  There is no single price too great to pay to attain them.  There is no single obstacle too high to overcome, to lay hold upon them.

Only one of these advantages do I want to mention.  And this one I pick out of all possible advantages because to my mind this is the key of it all.  This advantage of which I speak is the advantage that P.R. education makes our children wise.

There is a difference, you know, between knowledge and wisdom.  Although it ought to be added that true knowledge such as we have been speaking of is very closely connected to wisdom as Solomon so often points out to us.  But in general, wisdom is the spiritual ability to make use, proper use, of proper knowledge.  In the natural world, wisdom is the ability to leave agricultural school and to apply the knowledge attained there to grow corn.  Wisdom is the ability after having received a diploma from medical school, to establish an office and diagnoses and cure disease.  Wisdom is not simply to understand the functioning of an internal combustion engine, but it is the ability to start your car on a cold winter morning when it won’t run. Wisdom is, therefore, the practical application of knowledge.  In the spiritual sense of the word, wisdom is the ability to make proper use of the knowledge of God.  Wisdom is, therefore, a Heavenly gift.  It is a gift earned on the cross.  It is a gift given of grace.  It is a gift which belongs only to God’s elect.  And let it be understood that here too lies an absolute antithesis.  Just as there is an absolute antithesis between the knowledge which the world has and the knowledge which we have, so also is this antithesis carried over into this matter of wisdom.  With all the knowledge which the world possesses the world is nevertheless still nothing but a vast army of fools.  They attain knowledge of many, many things.  Their knowledge sometimes even startles us.  But, nevertheless, in as much as all the knowledge which they attain is divorced from the knowledge of God, it is not true knowledge and in as much, therefore, as it is not true knowledge, they cannot possibly possess wisdom.  The evidence of this is in the fact that with all their knowledge presently they die, and the world and all their knowledge is destroyed, and the end is hell. But true knowledge which is taught in our schools leads to wisdom.  Indeed, it is essential for wisdom and it produces through God’s grace a marvelous gift of wisdom.

So you see what all this means—in every respect our schools are unique.  Our schools teach our children to be wise, to make use of the knowledge of God that is given to them through the revelation of God in creation.  It teaches them to use this creation in the service of God and in seeking the things of the kingdom of Heaven.  It teaches them that they are loved by God and are given the blessedness of loving him.  It teaches them that they are lovers in the intimacy of the marriage of God’s covenant.  And in the creation they walk as God’s lovers then, that is, they walk wisely.  These saints, nurtured in our schools, walk as redeeming the times, as pilgrims and strangers, as possessing nothing, yet owning all.  As those who seek the city which hath foundations but with the things of this city which shall presently perish while they wait the return of their lover.  This is the unique characteristic of our schools.  Go into the halls of our educational institutions once, if you will, and, although you see there, little boys with faded blue jeans and dirty faces and tousled hair, and little girls with scraggly pigtails and eyes brimming with tears, and sagged stocking, these children are nevertheless God’s chosen possession—covenant children, the objects of his love and of his grace. And in these schools where teachers are dedicated to the cause of education according to the scriptures, these covenant children are taught the truth, taught to be wise.  And presently from these halls of learning shall emerge these same children, gifts of God, elect people, who take our place in his church when it is time for us to depart, and who will, as we have, walk in all their life on a journey that ends in the arms of their God.