What makes a school reformed? Over the years Christian school teachers have devoted many conferences and staff meetings to this. This is the first in a series of brief articles that will focus on the characteristics of the reformed school. Today’s article will emphasise that in the reformed school humble submissiveness to God’s Word is the first requirement, governing everything. Without it the school may as well close down but to the extent that it is faithful to God’s Word it will stand strong in the strength of the LORD and be truly reformed.
The term ‘reformed’ has that root word ‘form’, meaning to shape or mould. Hence, to re-form means to shape again. The reformation of the 16th century was a re-forming of the church so that it was shaped or moulded again in accordance with God’s Word. The same can be said of the Secession of 1834, and the Liberation of 1944. But although these are climactic moments in Church History for which we thank God, we use the term reformed to mean on-going submission to God’s Word. Reformed churches, reformed homes and reformed schools, in order to be worthy of that name, ought to be continually re-forming themselves in accordance with God’s Word. If we all submit to this in childlike simplicity we may look forward to the future with confidence, trusting in God’s blessings.
So the central characteristic of the reformed school is that it seeks to be governed in everything, not by the sentiments of the world, not first by the dictates of the government or popular opinion, not by our natural inclinations or feelings, but by God’s Word as it is confessed in the reformed church’s creeds and confessions. The constitution of a reformed school association will say that the aim is to provide “education which conforms to God’s Word” as summarised in the Three Forms of Unity. This is the over-riding characteristic of the reformed school: it seeks to subject itself to God’s Word in everything – the relationships amongst teachers, the behaviour of students, the relationship between school and home, the school’s aims and objectives, the content of the lessons. In all things it asks itself: What does our Lord God say about this? How do we serve, honour, obey Him in this or that matter?
Therefore we need to pray fervently for our reformed schools more than ever. The teachers have a huge task. Here in Western Australia the government has, over the years, presented reports to schools—the Detman Report, the Beazley Report, the McGaw report, to name a few. Teachers studied them, picked out what they wanted, and discarded the rest. But then came the WA Curriculum Framework and, schools were told, this is mandatory; either teach it or be deregistered as school. All schools were lumped with a secular curriculum with its roots in the French revolution and which reflected post-modern thinking. Reformed teachers had to modify their own curriculum so that the teaching at school was obedient to the government but above all they had to re-form it so that what was taught was obedient to their Lord and master Jesus Christ. This placed great demands on the teachers. And now they need to do the same with the National Curriculum.
On top of that there are continuing challenges of a godless ‘political correctness’ regime changing society and finding its way into schools. Biblically based corporal punishment is no longer tolerated at schools; the government has outlawed it. There is subtle pressure to have more females in leadership positions. The language of ‘political correctness’ finds its way into government legislation which, in turn, regulates schools. For example, a recent document sent to the schools pointed out that:
The Commonwealth Acts make education discrimination on the following grounds unlawful: race, colour, descent [and then follow others with which we can agree – but then comes] sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status …
Here we see the influence of the LGBT brigade on the government laws which work to override the Law of God. Whilst reformed schools will not have LGBT teachers, the threat is there – and further reinforces the need for reformed churches to apply the third mark of the true church in relation to these matters.
Reformed teachers have a huge task. They need to know God’s Word and the confessions thoroughly. They need the weekly preaching of God’s Word to comfort, instruct, encourage and guide them in thankful subservience to God. The determination to be governed by God’s Word, to continually submit every aspect of schooling to God’s revealed will, is to remain the primary characteristic of the Reformed school.
It’s why we set up reformed schools. We did not want our children to receive God-centred education at home and church and an ungodly, secular education at school. Rev. K. Schilder once presented a speech in support of the Christian school. He referred to laws in Leviticus about not ploughing with an ox and ass yoked together, not wearing a cloak of two types of material, not sowing two types of seed into your field, etc., and he said: through these laws Israel was continually reminded that they had their own unique identity; they were a holy nation; there was to be no unnatural compromise with the world. He added that the minds of our children are like a field and we may not sow two types of seed into it: a godly seed and an ungodly seed. If we sow a godly seed into our children at home and in church but send them to a secular school where a different seed is planted in the minds of our children we are transgressing this Scriptural principle. Of course, we could be guilty of transgressing this principle in our homes, too, if we sow two types of seed into them ourselves by permitting indiscriminate viewing of TV, movies, internet and computer games. But there is a principle here for our schools too. It is that we will not sow two types of seed into the children. No dualism for the covenant community but humble, thankful, faithful subservience to God and His Word.
It is this humble submissiveness to the Word of God that is to characterise every lesson and every relationship; indeed, all that happens at the reformed school—just as it is to characterise everything that happens at home, in church, in our work and in our leisure. It must be absorbed into the minds of the children so that the coming generations may fear and serve the LORD, their covenant God, walking with Him from day to day as he presses all history on to its great climax – the return of our Lord Jesus Christ on the clouds of heaven.