We have been considering the assertion that State or Public schools ought not to be an option for Reformed parents when sending their children to school. We contended last time that the goal or purpose of State education is wrong. It stands opposed to Christianity since it insists on a “religion of humanity.” Using outcome based education, public education places its stress on secular humanism. That may not be the goal of some individual teachers. That may not always even be the goal of a few schools themselves. But it is the goal of government who determines by its appointed educators the course of State education.
Who Should Educate
But there is a second reason that public education of covenant children by the State is not an option. It is not the duty or the calling of the State either to provide education or determine the content of the education of children. We certainly can understand well why the State has assumed this task to itself. In fact, the reason is a noble one. Government has seen the neglect of this important matter, i.e., the education of children, by parents. The government has taken this task upon itself in order to avoid a nation of ignoramuses. Far too many parents would fail to instruct their children in the essentials of life. The State therefore rightfully requires of all parents to see to it that their children receive an education. The Scripture is clear in Romans 13 and other passages that it belongs to the authority of the State to make and uphold laws that will care for and protect its citizens even in the area of education. But the government oversteps its bounds when it takes upon itself the actual education itself.
Although we certainly can be thankful that, at this time, the State does not demand we use its education, nevertheless that it assumes as its task the actual education of our children does not lie within its sphere of authority. The Bible clearly teaches that all instruction of children is given into hands of parents. Parents are duty bound to teach their children. And certainly if they are unable to do so, as is true of most of us, they must be in complete control of their children’s education. The instruction of their children ought not be subject to the control of the State.
That this duty belongs to parents and not State is simple to find in Scripture. We read in Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up.” We read in Ephesians 6:4, “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” We read in Psalm 78:5,6, “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel; which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born: who should arise and declare them to their children.”
It is on the basis of Scripture that the Church Order of Dordrecht includes Article 21, “The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.” The duty to instruct our children belongs to parents. It is a demand of the covenant. Neither is this duty limited only to the religious life of our children. All instruction, even in the academics of life, may never be divorced from faith or the objective rule of the Scriptures. Math, history, geography, music, English all need to be taught from a Scriptural perspective. And the parent is called by God to teach their children all of these things from that perspective. That is why we wrote last month of the fact that the Bible really teaches us of two spheres where learning must take place. These coupled together make our instruction strong: the church and the home.
But the point is here: public schooling is principally not an option. It does not belong to the State to see to it our children are educated and instructed even in things academic. This is a duty that belongs to the home. It is a calling that belongs to parents. Parents therefore must have the say-so in what is taught their children. And in these last days in which we live, this principle certainly is bearing itself out. We must be convicted of the need of parental instruction of our children. They are children of the covenant and of the church of Christ in this world. They are not wards of the State.
Why We Have Schools
But how do we make the jump from the need for parents to instruct their children in these things to the fact that we are having a school do this for us? First of all, consider who runs the Reformed Christian day school. Parents do. Not the teachers. Not even the school board ultimately runs the school. The parents of those children who attend the school are in control of the education in Reformed Christian schools. Parents teach their children by means of a school board and by means of our teachers, but the Reformed Christian school is a parental school.
Most of us as parents do not have the time or the stamina to instruct our children in academics. In fact, we might as well admit it: most of us do not have the ability to teach our children in these academics. Some of us do, of course. But what is true of a few certainly is not true of most parents. Dr. H. Bouwman in his book Scholen (translated into the English: Schools) describes the origin of schools:
And according as humanity broadened out, and the need of intellectual development arose, the parents felt that they could not fulfill the task of rearing and instructing by themselves, and they looked for help. Before long, the parents formed an association in order jointly to appoint one to rear and instruct and - with this the school was born.1
In other words, our Christian schools arose out the desire of Christian parents to keep their children abreast of the academics.
And surely there is a need for that. The rate that knowledge is increasing in so many different areas of life is something with which I, as a parent, cannot keep up. So Reformed parents find teachers who believe the same way they do and who are willing to teach their covenant children in these areas. We do not simply find any teacher who comes along to teach our children the academics of life. We find Christian teachers to do this. We realize that these subjects must be taught from the perspective of the Scriptures. It is for that reason that we establish Christian schools and not simply parental schools. As fellow Christians we band together because we share in common our Christianity. Our school boards therefore are made up of men who are followers of Christ together with us. Our teachers are followers of Christ who themselves seek to walk in His footsteps. And we together take great care to teach our children to be followers of Christ in everything that they do.
Reformed and Christian Schools
Yet, there is something more involved in establishing a school than simply a “generic” Christian school. There are lots of Christian schools available. But a Reformed believer must choose to send, if at all possible, his children to a Christian school which teaches them through the eyes of the Reformed faith. Why? Because they are Reformed believers! These parents maintain that the Reformed faith as set forth in the Reformed Confessions are the truth of the Scripture. That, in turn, means two things as far as the education of their children is concerned.
It means, first of all, that the instruction Reformed parents desire for their children in the Christian school is taught from a distinctively Reformed perspective. The doctrines of the Reformed faith sharply distinguish that school from those schools which teach the free-will of fallen man, the general love of God for every man, and the universal atonement of Christ for every person.
A Reformed parent desires that his children look at math, reading, history, or whatever the subject might be through Reformed spectacles. He wants them to see and understand the sovereignty of God in creation, in history, and in God’s work in His church. He wants his children to see things from a biblical perspective - that means through the glasses of the Reformed faith. That is what sets apart a Reformed Christian school from others.
That means, in the second place, that a Reformed believer desires to have his children taught as covenant children. It is not only State run schools that have certain perspectives on education. There are different perspectives in Christian education as well. Some Christian schools are established for the purpose of converting children. All the classes are geared toward converting children – as if children of believing parents are all unbelievers who need to accept Christ.
Reformed believers maintain that God normally regenerates and calls children of believers in infancy and therefore there is no need to try and persuade children to accept Christ by means of their education. Reformed parents cling to covenant promises of God and maintain that the children God has given them are therefore children of the covenant and ought to be treated as such. And for that reason a Reformed parent ,when given the opportunity, seeks out a school that is both Christian, but more specifically, Reformed and Christian in its perspective.
Just a question yet: call it a challenge, if you will. How convicted are you of Reformed Christian education? Do you send your children to a Reformed school because you simply prefer it? Is it to you just a nice school, it has good teachers, the education received in it is academically excellent, or because it is in the neighborhood?
Certainly we cannot convict those who are not convicted. But it was indeed that conviction, I believe, which motivated solidly Reformed fathers and mothers in the past and in the present to establish the schools that we have. If it were not for that conviction, these schools would have failed. The Reformed Christian schools of today need people who are spiritually convicted.
As for this believing parent a Christian school of this sort is not a preference! To send my children to a public school when given this blessed option, would be wrong. My children and their souls are too precious to me. I take my calling as a parent that seriously! I refuse to play games with their spiritual lives for any reason. I thank God that He has in His grace worked the faith and courage in the hearts of believing parents to establish Reformed schools where I can send my children. What a tremen-Rev. Wilber Bruinsma is the minister of the Protestant Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His children attend the Reformed Heritage Christian School. dous blessing!
1. David J. Engelsma, “Reformed Education,” (Grandville, Michigan: Reformed Free Publishing Assoc., 1977): 6,7