Below is the second part of a speech Rev R Eikelboom delivered at a Canadian Reformed office bearers’ conference in 2002. The first part[i] dealt with whether Reformed Education is just the parents’ business. He showed how Reformed Education concerns the well-being of the church and is therefore the concern of every church member and of the church. He concluded the first part with the words: “I do not hesitate to say that a church that concerns itself about the education of its children may expect a blessing of the Lord! But, on the other hand, a church that does not concern itself with the education of its children has no future at all!”
As in the previous article, references are to the Canadian situation but are as relevant for our situation in Australia.
Reformed Education – What is it?
If we agree that the church must concern itself – in principle – with the education of its children, we need to ask ourselves: is there a reason why the people of our congregations must necessarily send their children to Canadian Reformed schools? Why not to public schools? Why not to [general] Christian(!) schools! Why exclusively to ‘Reformed’ schools, and I mean: Canadian Reformed schools? Now, in some circumstances this may not be possible. In some cases it may be necessary that we are satisfied with second-best, whatever that may be!
But before we pass on to the next question, let us quickly put this issue into perspective! For in the course of the last forty years, many people have moved to Calgary,[ii] but when their children had to go to school they moved back to where they came from, because they wanted their children to attend a Canadian Reformed school! And we ask: why? Is it because so many children in the public schools come from broken homes, and we don’t want our children to be corrupted? Is it perhaps because our teachers are better, more committed, than theirs? Or is it because our curriculum is different? Because we don’t teach evolution and sex education like they do?
The answer is: we send our children to Canadian Reformed schools … because we believe that our children are different! Covenantally different! God set our children in the covenant and now He wants them trained in the Word of the covenant, the life of the covenant! And that life of the covenant, we learn from the Old Testament, covers every part of life from the cradle to the grave! It concerns work and holidays, eating and drinking, marrying, having children, looking after children, loving and caring for others, and looking after the aged! The covenant way of life described in the Scriptures must become our children’s way of life! And we use the schools to teach them!
Now I would love to say much more about covenant education. In fact, I believe that I need to say much more! Because – according to the Church Order – it is the task of the elders, the task of the consistory members, to visit God’s people, and to hold them responsible for the choices they make with respect to the education of their children! And when you talk about education, there is one word which we must remember, which we must understand, and which we must keep our minds focussed on, and that is the word: covenant! God has made a covenant with us and with our children. And that means: our children belong to God. And covenantal education means: helping our children to make sense of this world; and to make sense of themselves – their own strengths and weaknesses – so that they can do the task which their heavenly Father has prepared for them! Covenantal education says to the child: God is your Father, and you are His child! And now, as God’s child, this is how you are supposed to live! You have these talents, so develop them! You have these responsibilities, so fulfil them! Covenantal education says to the child: this is what God has given to you! And now: this is how God wants you to respond. As elders in the church, we should be able to teach God’s people that this is what covenantal education is all about!
Discussions on the subject of education can be very emotional. And that’s because very few of us actually sit down and develop an attitude towards Christian education. Instead, most of us heard our parents talk and pray about it. We remember their genuine desire to do what was pleasing to the Lord. And we also remember how much they sacrificed to do what they believed to be right. And so, if we decide to do it differently than our parents did, we may very well feel that we are betraying them. And therefore we need to speak to each other gently and sensitively, and not necessarily try to convince each other in a brief conversation. Instead, we must be willing to speak, and listen, and actually think about the objections that are being raised and address them.
However, in this context I would submit, brothers, that – really – there is only one institution where we can find covenantal education, and that is: in the Canadian Reformed school. Not in an evangelical Christian school. Not in an interdenominational school either. And I say this, not because I want to offend anyone. But consider: when Canadian Reformed parents request to have their children enrolled in the school, the answer must be: yes! Because that child has a status: he is a covenant child! His status makes him eligible. Or to say it more dramatically: when that child was baptized, God already put his seal on that child’s application form.
But if a school is interdenominational? If it judges applications on the basis of the parents’ faith or religiosity? Or if it accepts children from various denominations, including those who reject infant baptism? That school cannot do justice to the status of my child! Indeed, that school cannot do justice to the God who made a covenant with my child! Because that school ignores the most important data, namely the fact that this is God’s child, and therefore we owe it to God to admit that child to our school! The bottom line is: if a school provides covenantal education, that should first become evident in its admission policy: that school will enrol children of believing parents precisely because they belong to the church, the covenant community! And such a school will teach my children the unspeakable riches and tremendous privilege of the covenant, as well as the high calling.[iii]
(to be continued)
[i] Reformed Education 1 – Just the Parents’ Business? – Defence of the Truth.
[ii] Rev R Eikelboom was Minister of the Word in Calgary when he held this speech. By that time the Canadian Reformed Church of Calgary had its own Canadian Reformed School.
[iii] More extensive treatment of this particular subject can be found in Clarion, vol 28, nos.10 & 11, May 19 & June 2, 1979. Also available here: “Covenantal Education” by Rev Clarence Stam – Defence of the Truth.