The subject heading this article is the one that has been assigned me by the “Beacon Lights” Staff for their “School Issue.” From one point of view the subject is outdated. There was a time, not too many years ago, when this was the burning issue in our churches, especially in the Grand Rapids area. But in recent years, with the establishment of our own schools, and especially with the split in our churches, the argument has faded into the background. For it was rather a striking thing that those who opposed Protestant Reformed education were also the ones that opposed the truth that we as churches have always maintained. Be that as it may, the fact is that our subject is no longer an issue in the churches.
Yet it is worth our while to recall the arguments that we advanced against those who opposed our schools, and thus, to come to a renewed understanding of their importance in our lives.
Schools belong to the parents. For the task of instructing the covenant youth belongs to the parents. It is their responsibility; it is their duty; it is their obligation. And it is their duty and responsibility and obligation before God. We must not forget that really the parents instruct their children in our schools because the whole control of the school rests with the parents. For many reasons they give the duty to the school; but that does not mean that they lose their responsibility in the instruction of their children. It is their calling to bring the child up in the fear of the Lord. Thus, the parents instruct their children through the means of the teachers in an organized school.
Fundamental to the necessity of Protestant Reformed schools is the truth of Scripture that God gathers His church in the line of continued generations. Although this is the teaching of the whole of Holy Writ, we call your attention to one text in particular: Gen. 18:19. The context to this verse speaks of the visit which the Lord pays to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. After the Lord has revealed to Abraham that he shall have a son, and that that son shall be the child of the promise, the Lord goes in the direction of Sodom to “see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me.” Abraham goes with the visitors to take them on their way. Then we read, “And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Vss. 17-19. Several things we must notice in this passage.
(1) God speaks of revealing something to Abraham.
(2) That something is the secret of His own counsel, with respect to Lot, in his relation to Sodom, which has become ripe for judgment; and, more generally, the relation between the church and the world, especially with respect to the judgment of the world, which becomes ripe for destruction.
(3) The basis for that revelation of God is the covenant of grace. Abraham is God’s friend-servant; and as covenant friend of God, he is in a position to receive the revelation of God’s counsel in fellowship with Him. But that is not all. Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation. That great and mighty nation is the church which is gathered from all nations of the earth and which is the spiritual seed of Abraham. Nevertheless, that spiritual seed is gathered from the natural seed in the line of continued generations, even though that natural seed encompasses all the nations of the earth in the new dispensation.
(4) But at the basis of the gathering of the seed from father to son, lies covenant instruction. The church is preserved in the midst of the world from father to son by means of covenant instruction. “For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord…” vs. 19. It is striking to notice, however, that even at the basis of this, is the fact that God knows His people eternally. And that eternal knowledge that God has of His people is the cause of the preservation of the seed. Thus, the first part of verse 19 could better be translated, “For I have known him, so that he will…” But those whom God knows, He preserves in the line of generations by means of covenant instruction.
Therefore the text teaches that God reveals His will to Abraham His friend because God has known Abraham, so that he will pass on that revelation of the will of God to his children, so that the covenant seed may come, which is essentially, Christ. Thus, the church is preserved through the means of covenant instruction.
That is important to our subject. For all instruction, whether that be geography or arithmetic or the sciences or philosophy, is centrally and basically covenant instruction.
But now, we must be more specific. Attend to the Baptism Form, where we read these questions which the parents answer in the affirmative, at the baptism of their child: “Whether you acknowledge, that although our children are conceived and born in sin, and therefore are subject to all miseries, yea, to condemnation itself; yet, that they are sanctified in Christ, and therefore, as members of his Church, ought to be baptized?
“Whether you acknowledge the doctrine which is contained in the Old and New Testament, and in the articles of the Christian faith, and which is taught here in this Christian Church, to be the true and perfect doctrine of salvation?
“Whether you promise and intend to see these children, when come to the years of discretion, instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?”
You notice that the same elements are present as in the text we quoted. 1) The revelation of God. 2) The covenant continued in the line of generations. 3) Covenant instruction as the basis of the continuation of that line of believers. But the parents are very specific. They vow before God and the church that they believe that the revelation of God is taught in the Church of which he is a member. That means that he believes that the church to which he belongs maintains the pure Word of God as contained in the Scriptures and the Christian creeds. That, therefore, when they instruct their children, they instruct them in what their church maintains to be the truth. And that is the vow which they take before God from which they may not deviate in any respect.
The conclusion is therefore very evident. We must have schools which teach the reformed truth as we confess it to be the Word of God. We must have schools that are in agreement with what is taught in the church. We must have schools that will teach our children the truth of God’s Word as we maintain it – distinctively Reformed. Negatively, that means that schools which are committed to a position which is not in harmony with God’s Word, as taught in our church, such as the public schools, and most of the Christian schools in our land, cannot be entrusted with the instruction of our children. It is only where the revelation of God, in its purity, is taught, that the instruction of our covenant seed is the basis for the preserving of the church. And do not say that the present Christian schools are good enough, for where a split in the church is warranted to preserve the truth, it follows with indubitable logic that our own Christian schools become a vital necessity.