What follows is an address by the late Prof B Holwerda to a school association meeting in 1941. [i] Having lost none of its relevance for today, it is certainly worth reading. Translated, it will be published in four instalments on this website, beginning with this brief introduction, followed by three instalments covering what Holwerda says on what we confess about each of the Persons of the Trinity and their significance for the Christian school – the ‘School with the Bible’.
The Organising Committee asked me to speak here this afternoon about your calling with respect to the School with the Bible.
For us the word ‘calling’ always means God’s calling in Jesus Christ. We know of no other calling, neither do we want to know of any other calling. Therefore, if we’re setting out this afternoon to consider our calling with respect to the School with the Bible, this concerns a specific part of the calling with which God has called us in Jesus Christ. This means that we do not see the School with the Bible as an institute of our own making, on whose behalf we have committed ourselves to a number of moral duties. It is not one of our hobbies we’re getting excited about because it is our business, nor do we fire up one another about it because it is our common cause. The school also does not have our special attention at this moment because of the situation of our days.
But we see the school as God’s business to which He calls us as His workers. It is a distinct part of His Kingdom of which we are citizens and whose law we’re not allowed to transgress. We see the school as a project to which not we ourselves committed each other, but for which God gave us jointly the mandate. The word calling implies that the matter is not one of preference but of obligation. Those who speak of a calling know themselves absolutely bound by the Father’s law, which grants real liberty only in the way of obedience. The word ‘calling’ therefore represents everything we believe about the fundamentals, the rights, and the singular character of Christian education.
I emphasise these things on purpose. For we have a degree of affinity with what has grown over the years and what we inherited from the previous generation. There is in our circles strong respect for tradition, and we cherish a degree of piety. I do not deny their values, but if that piety is not inspired by a strong awareness of duty it is thoroughly worldly.
That danger also threatens in respect of the Christian education for which a previous generation fought a tenacious battle. We know how our grandmothers saved a few cents from the meagre weekly wage. That particular generation did make real sacrifices for the sake of Christian education. And for that reason this school has acquired a certain dignity. We feel ourselves more or less morally obliged to keep this work going. We speak reverently about “the inheritance of the fathers”.
But if our struggle for Christian education in these days is nothing else than traditional loyalty we are lost. If we cling to the School with the Bible because we always cling to an inheritance, if we fight for it because of the sacrifices made by our grandparents, we might as well stop. For it may then appear that we carry on the work of our fathers, that we preserve the inheritance with care, but in the mean time we have already lost the School with the Bible because we are no longer motivated by the spirit of the past. For our ancestors did establish the school in the conviction that God asked it of them. We may therefore carry on with this school – not because of the struggle of the fathers but only in the conviction that, together with the previous generation, we submit to God. Piety for the work of the fathers and respect for tradition are good; but only when they’re founded on the same living faith, the same strong awareness of duty.
The previous speaker said: Hold on to what you have. But that word always has the meaning: hold on to it, not because you have received it as a holy inheritance but because God calls you to do so every day. Whatever was built up in the faith may never be accepted in a spirit of piety. It can only be taken over in the same faith. If I am not motivated by that faith, I will indeed inherit the Minutes Books and the buildings, and I preserve them with care, but I no longer regard that inheritance as an act of faith.
If we are to really understand our calling as given by God, we must again see the School with the Bible as an act of faith. For the real point at issue is nothing less than our confession of the triune God: I believe in God. And according to our confession that means: I believe in God the Father and our creation; I believe in God the Son and our redemption; I believe in God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification. It is in that Name that our children were baptised; and for the sake of that Name our parents said—and we must say today—I desire the School with the Bible.
(to be continued)
[i] Address to the meeting of the Association for “The School with the Bible” at Groningen, The Netherlands, 27 September 1941, by Prof B Holwerda. This article was translated from De betekenis van verbond en kerk voor huwelijk, gezin en jeugd (The significance of covenant and church for marriage, family and youth – a collection of speeches and articles by Prof. Holwerda), pp. 89-102, published by Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, Goes, 1974.