Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Our children and their education (4 - final)*

(continuation from part 3)



The responsibility of the school towards the child

On the horizontal level one other institution comes into view when discussing the various spheres of responsibility with which the child comes into contact, and that is the school. 

A Christian school is given its responsibility by the parents and community that established it. This responsibility flows from the parents/community to the board, principal, and teacher.

A public school is given its mandate from the provincial government and the voters. The ballot containing the names of candidates for mayor and councillors will also present names for candidate school trustees. Because the public school is not parent run, as the Christian school is, parents have little recourse to effect change at the public school. When the government introduces antichristian curricula and demands (cf, what is presently happening in Alberta) the parents have little recourse, other than on election day.

But let us continue speaking of how it is at the Christian school.

What is the responsibility of the school towards the child? What is the place of the school in light of the biblical principle that God gives parents the task to raise the children that he gives them? We ought not to identify Christian education with Christian schools. Christian education is bigger than the Christian school. If parents leave all the education of their children to the schools, then the children, the families, the churches, and the schools will be frustrated. The school is part of the picture, but not the total picture. And the parents' role must remain primary, also in the instruction of their children.

Since it is primarily the task of parents to train their children it makes sense that the parents, and the broader community of the church, will band together to establish a school, form a board, and hire a principal and teachers to help them fulfill their task. Parents may opt either to home school or to establish a day school.

Establishing a day school

Since the education of the children is of greatest importance, it is essential for church, home, and school all to be pulling in the same direction. The image of a triangle is well known and useful: church, home, and school form a triangle where all seek equally and cooperatively to train the child in a biblical way.

Your children are the only “things” you have been given that will last for ever. Everything else you have is borrowed stuff which will all burn on the last day, but your children will live for ever, either in heaven or hell. Raise them carefully!

If the community of Reformed churches and believers at all have the possibility they will establish a confessionally Reformed school. Teachers, who have the children in their classrooms  for many hours per day, will significantly impact the children, for good or for ill. For that reason parents, through the board, will be careful when hiring teachers.

The purpose and goal of the school is to teach the students, to impart to them knowledge, and to help them develop skills that they may become better citizens of the kingdom of God and of the country in which they live. It is the task of parents and of the church to lead the little ones to Christ, and the teacher will help the parents and the church pursue that goal. 

Reformed parents send their children to a (Reformed) Christian school in order for the children to receive good academic instruction in all the necessary disciplines by well-trained teachers who are unequivocally committed to the Reformed faith and who will strive to teach the students from within the framework of a Biblical (i.e., Reformed) view of God, man, and creation.

As Reformed confessors we want the teachers of our schools to know and to love the Reformed confessions, and to teach our children from that perspective. The goal of the school ought to be to impart to the student knowledge and skills within the framework of a consistently Reformed view of God, man and creation. We want the school to train our children to live in this world able to use their God-given talents to the glory of God and the well-being of the neighbour.

Conclusions

1. The child belongs to the parents. God calls parents to take care of every aspect of their children's lives—physical, spiritual, moral, ethical, social, educational. This is the divine calling of parents.

2. The church also has a divine calling towards the children. The children are lambs of the flock. The church must care for them and teach them.

3. Reformed believers who are members of Reformed churches will want to establish confessionally Reformed schools. They will want their children taught by teachers who stand with them foursquare on the Reformed faith as it is confessed in the Reformed standards.

4. Reformed schools must be based upon the biblical teaching and the Reformed confession of:

  a. God.
  • God is the transcendent God of the universe who is absolutely sovereign over creation (Belgic Confession articles 1, 8, 12, 13, 14, 16, 36, 37); 
  • God is the immanent God who has come near to us in his Word, and in the fullness of time, in his Son and Holy Spirit (Belgic Confession articles 2-7, 9-11, 17-21, 25, 26);
  b. Man.
  • Man was created in God's image (Belgic Confession article 14);
  • Man fell radically and totally (Belgic Confession article 15,);
  • Man's only hope is to be recreated (regenerated) by God in the image of Jesus Christ by the Word (Belgic Confession article 14, 16, 17, 22-24, 27-35);
  c. Creation. 
  • God has created and sustains all things (Belgic Confession article 12, 13);
  • God is the Lord of history (Belgic Confession article 13, 37; 

  a. Know and love the Triune God, the Word of God, and the Reformed confession;
  b. Love children;
  c. Be well-trained and academically up-to-date.

May God bless Reformed Christian parents everywhere in the world. May God bless all the schools that they, with the help of their church communities, establish.

The government of the Province of Alberta is demanding ungodly principles and actions of all the schools in the province. Schools that do not comply with the demands of the ministry of education may lose both any funding they receive and accreditation. The latter is worse than losing funding because graduates would not be able to pursue post-secondary education. Their diplomas would not be recognized by colleges or universities. There may be a task here for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms  and/or the Association for Reformed PoliticalAction.

-----------------------
  • Abbreviated version of conclusion of speech delivered at CRTA--West Teachers' Conference in Coaldale, Alberta, March 22, 1996. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Our children and their education (3)*

(continuation from part 2.)

Parental responsibility not absolute

This does not mean that the say parents have in the lives of their children is absolute. No earthly authority or concern is absolute. All earthly authorities and concerns have boundaries, both vertical and horizontal. 

Parental responsibility has vertical boundaries, for every authority is under that of God. He alone has absolute authority. Parental authority is bound to the law of God. Further, the exercise of this authority must show itself to be God working through parents. As Lord's Day 39 says, it is God's will to govern children by the hand of their parents.

Parental responsibility also has horizontal boundaries. There are otherspeople and spheres of peoplewho have something to say about the child and who have responsibility towards the child. 

The state does. If parents abuse their children then the state has the duty to intervene. The state must even remove the children from the parental home if they are put at risk by being left there. Romans 13 teaches us that the government is "God's servant for your good." It is also God's servant for the good of the child. The state has been ordained by God and has a divine calling towards the children and may, at times, need to intervene to protect the life of a child. We could also think of compulsory immunization programs or compulsory education until age 15. The state makes these laws for the good of its young citizens.

The responsibility of the church towards the child


The church also has something to say about the child and has a responsibility towards the child, for the children belong to the church. As we confess in Lord's Day 27, "... infants as well as adults belong to God's covenant and congregation." When a children are born, they are born in the parental home; however, they are also born in Zion (Psalm 87:5). From birth a covenant child is a member of the church.   

In John 10 the Lord used the image of a sheepfold to describe the congregation. A sheepfold will also have lambs. Those lambs belong to the sheepfold as much as the older sheep do. In the spring when lambs were born the shepherd did not wonder what to do with them. He understood perfectly well that those lambs were also his responsibility. They often needed special care. The shepherd would, at times, have to carry them in his arms.

Just as a lamb belongs to the flock from birth so a child born to members of the church belongs to the church from birth. They are lambs of the flock of Christ, the Good Shepherd. What a privilege for the lambs! They do not need first to make a decision for Christ before they can be numbered among the members of Christ's flock. They are by birth. And this is guaranteed to them by baptism.

Peter (in 1 Pet. 5:1ff) exhorts the elders of the church, who labour under Christ, the Chief Shepherd, to tend the flock of God. When the elders grant the request for a child to be baptized then the elders, the under-shepherds, take upon themselves a certain responsibility for that child. They must give the same care and attention to the lambs of the flock as they do to the older members, albeit in a gentler way. They must do so in obedience to the command of Christ: "Feed my lambs!" (John 1:15). They must do so in obedience to the command of the apostle Paul to the elders of Ephesus, and so to all elders every where, "Take heed ... to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son" (Acts 20:28). All the flock, also the lambs.

The third question directed towards parents having their children baptized comes again into view here. Parents are not only asked whether they will instruct their children in the doctrine of Holy Scripture; they are also asked whether they promise to have them instructed therein to the utmost of their power. This question implies the responsibility the church has for the youngsters.

What is this responsibility? The scriptures show us this. E.g., when Joshua led the first worship service in the Promised Land then he assembled the whole congregation, infants included. Joshua read the law in the presence of all Israel including, as Joshua 8:35 makes emphatically clear, "the little ones." When Joel called together the congregation of God's people of Israel in a time of disaster, to lead the people in repentance, then he said, "Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants...." (Joel 2:15-16).

And then think of the care the Lord Jesus extended to the children. He took them in his arms and blessed them (Mk. 10:16). He admonished those who would keep them away from him (Mk 10:13-14). He threatens with eternal punishment those who would cause a little one to stumble (Mt. 18:6). He said that their angels are always looking upon the face of their Father in heaven (Mt. 18:10). He sticks up for them when the priests and scribes complain about them (Mt. 21:15-16). His heart was filled with compassion for them when he thought about how they too would suffer in the destruction of Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-44). He is the Good Shepherd who takes his lambs up in his arms. Following him, the church must do likewise. 

How must the church do that? We must be brief. The ministers must make sure that their preaching reaches the children and the youth as well as the more mature members. The whole church service  and the sermon must be meaningful, accessible, and understandable for the children in the church.

Somewhere I read that the Rev. Abraham Kuyper would keep two pictures on his desk: one of a young member of the congregation and one of an old member. As he wrote his sermons he would often glance at the pictures remembering that his sermons needed to reach both. The story may be apocryphal, but it's a nice story that illustrates well the audience for which ministers prepare their sermons. 

Further, the church must call the children as well to the worship service. Opinions differ on this but I am no fan of during-church Sunday Schools. If the children belong then they must be there, in the worship service worshiping God and hearing the preaching of the Word. Parents do their children a great service by demonstrating by way of their own habits what it means to be a regular and enthusiastic  worshiper of God. Some people say that children should not be subjected to the sermon because they don't understand it. Such people do not understand how God also works in the hearts of the lambs by the preaching of the Word. As Richard Bacon writes: 
[T]he things of the LORD are spiritual in nature, and not necessarily apprehended by the reason. As a result, God often hides the things of His kingdom from the wise and prudent and reveals them instead to speechless babes.

Do not underestimate the power of the Gospel, the means of grace. 

The words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28:19,20 underline the task of the church towards those who have been baptized. The Lord Jesus commanded the apostles, and in them the church of all ages, to teach those who have been baptized to observe the commandments of Christ. The order of words is instructive. After baptism comes further instruction in the things of God. The Reformed churches have taken this seriously. And so we have catechism instruction in which the youth of the church are further instructed in the Word of God and the true faith.

(continued here)

------------------------

Richard Bacon, Revealed to Babes: Children in the Worship of God (Audubon, NJ: Old Paths
Publications, 1993), 55.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Our children and their education (2)*

(continuation of part 1.)

The child belongs to the parents 

There is only one correct answer to the question of to whom God gives responsibility over the children, and that answer is: Parents! God gives children to their parents. The parents are responsible under God to care for their children in every way. In today's political environment this needs to be underlined. The NDP government of Alberta is mistaken in thinking that the children belong to the state.

Parents must care for the physical well-being of their children

Every parent will agree that it is their responsibility to feed and clothe their children. That is self-evident. It is so natural that we do not, in this respect, need a command of God. Even unbelievers take care of their children. In 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul said: "If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." Human instinct powerfully tells us that we must care for our children. It would seem redundant for there to be a command of God in this regard.

Sadly, there are exceptions. There are those who abuse their children, physically, sexually, mentally, and emotionally. There are parents who do not give their children the food and drink they require. Even unbelievers say that such people are worse than animals for such creatures instinctively care for their offspring. Recently there was a mother whale that carried its dead calf for sixteen days, so great was its instinctive love for its offspring. Even without the Bible expressly commanding parents to feed and clothe their children, we all understand that it is their task and responsibility to do so.

Scripture treats it as self-evident. For instance, we read of Hagar who feels it to be her responsibility to find water for her son, Ishmael. In Luke 11:11-12 the Lord said: "What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?" The apostle Paul treats it as self-evident: In 2 Corinthians 12:14 he said: "... children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children." As we page back and forth through Scripture, we come across a mother beseeching Elisha for the life of her son; a father pleading to the Lord Jesus on behalf of his son; a Canaanite woman begging the Lord to heal her daughter.

Although there is no explicit command in scripture, it is completely clear to everyone that the bodily care of children is the (divine) obligation of the parents. It is wrong and it goes completely against nature for parents to begin to feel this responsibility less and to download it on to others—for instance, the school (the state) providing food for the students.

Parents must care for the spiritual well-being of their children

Who is responsible for the spiritual, intellectual, and moral development of the children and for their  religious upbringing? The scriptures give a clear answer to this question. Even if we were to say that it was a matter of course, natural, and completely in line with the above for the parents also to look after their children's spiritual, intellectual, and moral development, yet the LORD considered it necessary to impress this upon the parents, so that there would be no doubt; so that no matter how strong the inclination may be to download it on to the state or society or some other organization, we would remain convinced that it remains the duty of the parents to look after the spiritual growth of their children. 

 In the Bible, the fathers are called to teach their children about the great things God has done for his people. At the Passover celebration, the fathers were to teach the children about how the lamb was "... the sacrifice of the LORD's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he slew the Egyptians but spared our houses" (Ex. 12:27). 

As you read through the book of Joshua, you come across a number of monuments made of piles of stones. One example: After Joshua had led the people across the Jordan River he set up a monument of twelve stones:
And he said to the people of Israel, "When your children ask their fathers in time to come, 'What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know, 'Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.' For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty; that you may fear the LORD your God for ever" (Josh 4:21-24).
The fathers of Israel were to indoctrinate their children in the great deeds God had done for their salvation. See, for instance, Psalm 78. This task still falls to parents, as the New Testament teaches us. Timothy's mother taught him to know the Scriptures from when he was very young. Paul says in Ephesians 6:4 that fathers are to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. 

All of this is nicely gathered together in Lord's Day 39 of the Heidelberg Catechism where we summarize what God requires of us in the fifth commandment. Among other things we say that children are to submit themselves to the good instruction and discipline of their parents. If children must do that, then parents must give good instruction and discipline.

104. Q. What does God require
            in the fifth commandment?
        A. That I show all honour, love, and faithfulness
               to my father and mother
               and to all those in authority over me,
            submit myself with due obedience
               to their good instruction and discipline,
            and also have patience with their weaknesses
               and shortcomings,
            since it is God’s will
               to govern us by their hand.

Woe to the father who lets his children walk in self-chosen ways—ways which invariably are the ways of sin! Think of Eli who let his sons do as they pleased and the curse which fell on the house of Eli because of it. Fathers and mothers will have to answer to God with respect to what they have done with the children God had given them. It will be terrible if they hear from the throne the words, "You took my children and made them pass through the fire (Ezek. 16:20,21)."

Let these few examples from the Bible suffice to underline in our minds that parents are responsible for the spiritual, religious, and moral development of the child. The child belongs to the parents. Let us not be led astray by the Pelagian notion that we must let the child make up his own mind. Let us not be taken in by those who say that we may not interfere with the spiritual progress of the child, but must, rather, only give the opportunities so that what is hidden in them will come out. Do not be fooled by those who say that we are not to indoctrinate the children. Parents must indoctrinate their children. They must get the doctrine in. They promise that when they present their children for baptism. They promise (third question of the parental baptismal vows) to instruct their child in the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. Doctrine is not a dirty word. Let us not believe those who would have us believe that the children belong to the community, or the state.

We must consciously maintain the teaching of Scripture that the child belongs to the parents. The parents must care not only for the physical well-being of the children God gives them; they must also be busy with the spiritual development of their children. For children are a heritage from the LORD (Psalms 127 & 128). The LORD gives the children to the parents. Before the LORD, parents are responsible to raise their children in the fear, knowledge, and discipline of God. It is the task of parents to lead their children to Christ. It does not take a village to raise a child; it takes godly parents to do so. Parents may not abrogate this responsibility.

However, as we will see in the next installment, this responsibility and obligation is not absolute.

(continued here...)

------------------------
*Speech delivered at CRTA--West Teachers' Conference in Coaldale, Alberta, March 22, 1996.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Our children and their education (1)

Disconcerting things are happening in the Province of Alberta, Canada. Jonathon Van Maren gives a good overview of the way the New Democratic Party (NDP), a socialist political party that, some years ago, formed the provincial government, is moving. Minister of Education David Eggen will not allow Christian Schools to maintain the position that God's Word supersedes man's authority (in all matters, including those of sexuality). Dissenting schools may have funding and, worse, accreditation withdrawn. We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Alberta, and for a change in political regime.

These events reminded me of a speech I had delivered some years ago (1996) on the topic of who is responsible for our children--coincidentally to Albertan (and Manitoban) Christian school teachers.

Who must care for the children, for their food, clothing, health, development, education, preparation for  careers in life? Who must give the children leadership in this? Help them make choices? Pay for the costs?

Who has authority over the children? Who decides the direction in which they shall be brought up? The schools they go to? The church to which they will belong? Whom must the children obey? Who is responsible for the children: over against themselves, society, and God?

How we answer these questions has great significance for the present and the future of the child as well as for society and the church. Different answers are given.

Does the child belong to the state?

Preparing for this speech made me open for the first time a book I've owned for many years (Rushdoony, 1966). I read through a number of the essays and was not surprised to read that many people truly believe that the child belongs to the state. This is not a recent belief; rather, it goes back to Ancient Greece. But we do not need to go that far back to show that this is so.

In an essay entitled "John Swett: The Self-Preservation of the State," we read that Mr. Swett spoke of "the children of the State." He said that "... children ... belong, not to the parents, but to the State, to society, to the country" (Rushdoony, p. 79). By this opinion:
Schools are thus not extensions of parental authority, but "wards of the State," extensions of state sovereignty, and so to be respected. Children accordingly become wards of the school on entry therein, and parental rights are forfeited, except, as Swett noted, in private schools. In recognition of this fact, an antipathy to and assault on private schools was not lacking or long in developing (Rushdoony, p. 81).
In another essay, "The Divine Child in the Divine State," we learn that the idea that the child belongs to the state is not unique to late 19th century USA. We are reminded of Adolf Hitler's position: "German youth belong to the Fuehrer" (Rushdoony, p. 109).

At the same time Hitler was expressing his opinion in Germany, the White House made a similar declaration. President Hoover, who presided over the USA during the depression years, issued "The Children's Charter" of the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection. Rushdoony says:
The Charter is a children's "bill of rights" which in effect makes the child both the concern and ward of the State. Pre-natal care, love, understanding, "health protection from birth to adolescence," and "for every child the right to grow up in a family with an adequate standard of living and the security of a stable income as the surest safe guard against social handicaps," these and more were pledged by the Conference (Rushdoony, p. 217).
These notions, that the child belongs to the state, have become well entrenched. In an article in Western Report, Peter Verburg quotes Thomas Fleming, an analyst of culture, who says that "... unlike a century ago, parents and families are no longer responsible for their children." In the context of discussing how the state (society) handles delinquent adolescents, Fleming notes that the standard method is to pass a law:
Too many kids drinking? Let's pass a law. Too many kids doing drugs? Let's pass a law. Too many kids cutting school? Let's pass a law. Through our laws we have said that kids belong to the state.
Verburg continues:
Prior to the late 1800s, it was an assumption in common law that family members are responsible for each other, explains Mr. Fleming.... [P]arents answered for their child's torts and misdemeanours. If a child stole or broke a window, the father made restitution. The assumption was that he knew or should have known it would happen and could have
stopped it (Verburg, p. 31). 
But now, the government has become a surrogate parent. As western society turned ever more from the Word of God, which speaks about these things, children more and more became wards of the state. In 1904 American psychologist G. Stanley Hall published his two volume Adolescence. Social historian Kett (quoted in Verburg's article) says that Hall defined the teen years in Darwinian terms as a distinct state in life that begins at puberty and is marked by inner turmoil. Adolescence "was essentially a conception of behaviour imposed on youth," recounts Mr. Kett, "rather than an empirical assessment of the way in which young people actually behaved." The result was that teens were put into a very special category needing, according to theory, very special treatment from professionals. The influence of parents became less and less appreciated. The state would take care of the education and upbringing of the children (Verburg, pp 31-32).

The Shapiro report, well-known in school circles in Ontario, is informed by the same philosophy. Shapiro's first "Matter of Principle" is:
 That [public] elementary and secondary schools are important institutions whose goal is to develop, nurture and enhance the intellectual and moral autonomy of the young. This goal and attendant responsibilities are shared with parents and other societal agencies.
And so we find ourselves today living in a society which largely believes that the child belongs to the state.

But what does the Bible say about this question? We believe that the Scriptures "... are holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith. We believe without any doubt all things contained in them" (Belgic Confession, art. 5), also the things it has to teach us about the question: "To whom belongs the child?"

(to be continued....)

--------------------------
  • Speech delivered at CRTA--West Teachers' Conference in Coaldale, Alberta, March 22, 1996.
  • Rousas John Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of American Education: Studies in the History of the Philosophy of Education (Nutley, NJ: The Craig Press, 1963).
  • Peter Verburg, "The Age of Exile," Western Report, March 27, 1995, 30-33.
  • The report of the commission on private schools in Ontario, Bernard J. Shapiro, Commissioner, Ministry of Education, 1985.