At the institution of ‘our’ reformed schools our forebears never intended that all the subjects taught, apart from Bible Study and Church History, would be pretty much like any other school. They knew that every subject lesson had to be consecrated to God because the church’s children had been baptised into the name of the Father who created them and everything for His honour, the Son who redeemed the children and set them apart to be His special children, and the Holy Spirit who renewed them. They knew that the promises made at baptism would affect every subject being taught. Therefore they employed teachers who would consecrate each lesson in the service of the Triune God, basing all education on God’s Word and the church’s confessions. That is something we, today, want to maintain, also in relation to tutors, because of the baptismal vows. Today we want to emphasise this also because there is “equal opportunity” legislative pressure being brought to bear on Christian schools in order to permit outsiders, including LGBTIQ people, to apply for staff positions.
Whilst such ‘anti-discrimination’ or ‘equal opportunity’ legislation hasn’t been enacted in WA yet, it’s on the cards. Other states have enacted it. Tasmania has it. And in Victoria the government says, “Religious organisations and schools will be able to make employment decisions based on an employee’s religious beliefs where these are critical to the job, such as a religious studies teacher.” [i] Notice the condition: “where these are critical to the job, such as a religious studies teacher”. It implies that the other subjects are not religiously determined and that therefore non-reformed teachers should have the opportunity to apply for teaching positions in English, maths, science, geography, the arts, etc., at our schools.
But we maintain that every lesson is religiously determined. Why? Because our children have been baptised into God’s covenant with the triune God. And by that baptism we and our children were “received into the church of God and set apart from all other peoples and false religions, to be entirely committed to Him whose mark and emblem we bear” (BCF 34). That is something glorious and so undeserved, because that promise means that the almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, will surround us with fatherly care, that His eternal Son pays for all our sins, and that the Holy Spirit will work faith and renewal in us. It’s this Biblical doctrine of our covenant relationship with the Triune God that is evident throughout Scripture and that is summarised in our confessions. It has everything to do with the education at our schools because it has everything to do with our whole walk of life as God’s children and hence with what our children are taught.
Baptised in the name of the Father
When they are baptised into the name of the Father, the children grow up to acknowledge Him as creator of the universe. As the late Professor B Holwerda said: Our children do not learn to read and to count as if education were an end in itself. Geography and history are not subjects which are to be considered apart from God. Children can only work with the subjects either for or against God. There is no third way. For “the earth is the LORD’S and the fulness thereof”. The children will serve God in the world and will give thanks to Him. If they are not doing that, and if they do not learn to do that, then God will give them over to a wrong mind, because they have not honoured or thanked Him; then in their thoughts and deliberations they will become vain, and their unwise heart will have become darkened.
Holwerda tells the parents: Your calling regarding the school with the Bible is that you see and confess things in this way: my children shall be educated for the service of God in their whole life and in no other way; that you maintain this and stand up for it, whatever the consequences; that you will say: my children are for the honour and the Name of the LORD and for no other purpose. You do not send them to the school because they have to know how they are to make their way through life and how they can get to heaven, but in order that God’s name will be glorified in all the earth. If the sole purpose of education would be to make them skilled for life and nothing more, then it would be alright to let them go to a public school and, if it is desirable that they know something about religion, well, then the church and the catechism class are there. But if you say: the earth is the LORD’s, then you say: never any other school than the school with the Bible. For us, that is the school which maintains the Reformed confession. Not all of them will become ministers of the church – a good thing too! – but presently they have to know how to honour and serve the LORD in the shop, in the factory, in the kitchen and in the garage, etc.” [ii]
…and of the Son
Likewise, the fact that the children have been baptised into the name of the Son also has great significance for the education of the children. “There is,” says Holwerda, “that reality of the covenant, the unshakeable certainty of God’s promise that the children are washed in the blood of Jesus Christ who has incorporated them into the communion of His death and resurrection. As soon as we lose sight of that for only one moment, our children have become baptised heathens. Their prospects of being saved may possibly be somewhat better because they’re confronted more with God’s grace. But the School with the Bible has then lost its usefulness because we have obliterated the radical difference between our children and those of the unbelievers.” [iii] Moreover, our teachers know that both they and the children share in Christ’s anointing. They have been made prophets, priests and kings. The lessons will be geared to preparing the children for that threefold office of confessing Christ in their walk of life, presenting their lives as living sacrifices of thankfulness to their Saviour and fighting faithfully against sin and the devil (LD 12). Every lesson will keep this purpose in mind.
…and of the Holy Spirit
Not that these children will be able to exercise that office in their own strength. Reformed teachers, parents, church members – they know that these children have also been baptised into the name of the Holy Spirit. He has promised to accompany the teaching of God’s Word with the renewal of the hearts and minds of the children so that they grow in faith and love and so that they more and more reflect God’s image (LD 44), walking in His ways for His glory and kingdom and opposing the kingdom of Satan.
Do teachers or tutors from outside see things this way? No. It’s why a reformed Christian school insists that the staff are members of the church and in their walk of life show that they subscribe to, and seek to submit to, God’s Word and the confessions of the church. We would undermine this fundamental principle of our schools if from our side we were to say that non-reformed teachers or tutors could be brought in for some special subjects, thereby no longer seeing these subjects as consecrated to the Lord. Moreover, would not the government, then, have every right to say we were being inconsistent? Would we not demonstrate thereby that the need to consecrate every subject to the Lord was not really a principle we hold dearly? And if we sought to circumvent the problem by arrangements that placed the onus of responsibility onto the parents, are not they the same parents who send their children to the school and commit themselves to these principles? Herein, too, we are called to show unity of principle and practice.
Someone might contend that we send children, after they leave school, to such secular institutions as TAFE and university. We do, but by then they ought to have had a good grounding in the reformed faith, and be more mature and better prepared to exercise their threefold office also there. Just as we don’t put a young child behind the steering wheel of a car and say ‘off you go’, so we make sure that the church’s children are trained in the Christian faith and godliness before they ‘face the world’ in their service of the Lord.
A divine calling
In LD 49, relating to the third petition, we pray: “Grant that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.” That’s what we pray that our children will grow up to do. It’s what we, too, want to do; to commit everything in subservience to our Lord. Rev W den Hollander once said, “Our understanding of our position in society [unlike the view of unreformed people] is one of calling, stewardship, and is determined by the standards of God’s Word! The Christian’s labour should be a labour-in-the-Lord!” That’s what our teachers are preparing the children for. Rev den Hollander speaks of it as a ‘divine calling’ and says, “each one of us is a royal child, a crown prince by the grace of God! That’s how we learn to see our place in the shop, in the office, on the land, and in the study. Modern man does not see work, their job, vocation and profession, this way any longer. It is decisive therefore in what style and with what standards we do our work. Even the most humble and simple job is fulfilment of a divine vocation.” [iv]
Every lesson is geared to preparing children for this whole-of-life service to the Lord and every lesson is therefore religiously determined. This is why our church members support and send their children to the Christian school and why it employs only reformed teachers; it’s why the school doesn’t employ non-reformed teachers. For, as Schilder once said when he drew a parallel between Leviticus 19:19 and the need for Christian schools: we may not sow two types of seed into the minds of our children. [v]
[iv] William den Hollander (emeritus minister), Clarion, November 6, 2015, p. 605.