In this second instalment, Prof B Holwerda explains that we have the School with the Bible because we believe in God the Father and our Creation:
God the Father and our creation: that is the first article of our confession [the Apostle’s Creed], and that is also the beginning of our school. With that we say: the earth is the LORD’s and its fullness. And if that’s not what it is, we have not understood anything of the School with the Bible.
Is the School with the Bible there to bring children to Jesus?
At times you come across notions in our circles that do cause disquiet. I heard a speech at a parents’ evening about the significance of Christian education. The speaker, a teacher, undoubtedly meant well. But for him the purpose of Christian education was that the teachers had to lead the children to Jesus.
He was alluding, of course, to those mothers of long ago who brought their children to Jesus; and he said that the same thing was now happening in the School with the Bible. He mentioned also the Bible lesson, as well as the learning of psalms. So it was something like this: at that time the mothers brought their children to Jesus, and today the teachers do that. That speech made quite an impression.
Again: I do not doubt the man’s sincerity. But anyone of that opinion has practically surrendered the Christian school’s right to exist. For the School with the Bible is essentially different from a school that offers a Bible lesson; it is different from a school that spends an hour here or there on religious instruction.
Can today’s mothers no longer be trusted to lead their children to Jesus? Has the school taken over that task and, in doing so, de-Christianised the family’s role? And if the school must lead the children to Christ, why not adopt the practice in many state schools of having the church minister visit a few hours each week for religious instruction? Isn’t it possible to then take the next step and say that the school is not the right place for any religious instruction; that this really belongs in the catechism class?
The consequence is that not only the family, but also the school is being de-Christianised. It effectively separates the school from the grace which is in Christ Jesus. The distinction between nature and grace has then also been carried through in the school. For the sake of ‘grace’ there is then an hour’s religious instruction; but the other subjects, classified as ‘nature’, are taught just as in the public school.
We will then end up with a school that offers a Bible lesson; but the school itself is, as such, without the Bible.
In the School with the Bible, Scripture is central to all subjects
However, the School with the Bible is vastly different. It is not different from the state school merely because it teaches a psalm and a Bible story, but because all its education must be under the control of Scripture. Every single subject must be placed under the dominion of the confession of God the Father and our creation.
For it is still strongly held also among us that the distinctive difference between the Christian school and the state school is sought in the Bible story, the psalm and the prayer; and that the other subjects are considered to be neutral. We’re so often lost for an answer to those familiar remarks, from the other side, that to speak of Christian arithmetic and hand-writing is foolishness. They say: Doesn’t two and two make four for your children, same as it does for children in the state school? Don’t they get exactly the same answers in addition and subtraction, division and multiplication?
People could possibly tolerate a private school if for Christian children two and two would make five, but not now. They say: When your children first learn handwriting, they’re just as clumsy, and they too make a mess. When they first learn to read they stutter, and they chant in the same monotony as in the other school. In history they learn the same facts, in geography they use the same atlas. Are they not all neutral subjects?
Our answers are often unconvincing, to the detriment of the Christian character of education. Comments of that kind radically undermine all Christian values.
Many parents are happy when their children do well at school. It improves their prospects for earning a good living. They will be able to look after themselves. And with respect to the life hereafter, it is also helpful that they are familiar with the Bible. This viewpoint completely secularises life. Such parents regard a good school merely as a means to a good job.
The same idea can then be extended to a Christian technical school. Oh, we shall be happy if our son becomes a good carpenter. Isn’t timber and nails the same everywhere?
Psalm 8 and the School with the Bible
But I am thinking of Psalm 8, the psalm Jesus Christ had in mind whenever He was thinking about little children. The psalmist says: O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth. And why is that Name excellent here on earth? Well, one of the reasons is: “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger.” The psalmist regards the child’s mouth, including the babbling of nursing infants, as a powerful instrument through which God breaks the dominion of the evil one, establishes His Kingdom, and regains the world.
We would be inclined to say: That’s a little overdone. The realm of Satan is firmly established, and children’s mouths will certainly not topple it.
But the psalmist is quite sure, and he knows what he is saying. He rejoices over the cries of each newborn baby; and he doesn’t do so because in later years that mouth will sing psalms and utter words of prayer – yes, that too; but he rejoices because also this child is chosen by God to govern as king. Also this child, as son of man, is visited by God and crowned with glory and honour with a view to his future dominion over the works of God’s hands.
The psalmist knows that not each child is destined to become a church minister. Most of them will become farmers and occupy themselves with sheep and oxen, with hunting the beasts of the field or catching fish. But these sons of men will be shepherds and fishermen as servants of God, and in their business the Name of the LORD will be glorified throughout the earth.
That is what God expects from His children. Not that they will land a well-paid job, but that they will be God-fearing shepherds and hunters who keep God’s commandments, and in their occupation push back God’s enemy – the avenger – and conquer the revolution against Him.
The blessing of motherhood
That’s why the apostle Paul calls the women in the church blessed, because they bear children. It is wonderful testimony about those difficult days when the church was persecuted to the point of destruction. The mothers trembled as they reflected on their children’s fate, and they agonised over the coming birth.
But Paul calls them blessed, because they dedicate their body to God for the realisation of His ultimate enmity; because in giving birth to children they cooperate in the Christianisation of the world; because in giving life to the sons of men they help create the holy seed through whose service the Name of the LORD is made to excel, and who therefore shall inherit the blessed earth.
Now we’re speaking a different language. Here the child is looked at in its relevance for the Name of the LORD, for the Kingdom of God. Here life has not been cut into two: a realm of nature for man himself, and a realm of grace for God. Here we do not concern ourselves with a top job for our children in this world, and a future heaven for their soul. But here we’re considering the children, including nursing infants, in the interest of the Name and honour of the LORD on this earth, in the interest of man’s life in accordance with His will and for His service.
This is characteristic of the Biblical view. The Bible honours the large family. But not in the manner we often do it: that the children have learned to adjust, that they were taught to make themselves useful; and that such families, after their first years of hardship, may enjoy a period of prosperity, and so on. No, happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
The Child and the Enmity
Scripture always regards the child from the viewpoint of the enmity. I do not mean of the national enmity, but of the great wars of the LORD. It makes the godly rejoice in the child, not because it enriches life, but because God works out His wars in that manner, and the world is filled with His Name.
Once you have understood that, you will see the significance of the School with the Bible. Of course, two times two makes four, also for us. But our children will not have that knowledge in order to become smart business people, but that they may sanctify their business activities to the Lord.
They do the same sums as the other children, and when they hold a pen in their hand they too make a mess. But out of the tiny brains, out of the mouth, out of the hands of our children, God has ordained strength, that His Name may be excellent in all the earth.
If that is not the purpose, you had better not teach them that. If your boys must learn to excel in doing sums so that they may get promotion in this world and do better than their dad and mum, you’d better not to teach them that. It will desecrate life, and that child will be a henchman of the enemy and avenger. But they learn their times-tables; they chant: apple, bear, cat, dog; their pen makes blotches; and all of this only for the sake of their enemies. God, who set His glory above the heavens, is on the way to His glorious Kingdom on this earth, also in these scratching pens.
A soldier is not taught how to handle his weapons in a neutral way, as an end in itself. But he is trained to fight for his king, for his country. If he divorces his training from that purpose he trains himself in crime.
The situation at school is no different. Our children do not learn reading and arithmetic as things that have value in themselves. Geography and history are not subjects they can divorce from their life with God. They can use these only for or against God. There is no other choice. For the earth is the Lord’s and everything that is in it.
They will serve and thank Him in this process; and if they do not do so, and do not learn to do so, God gives them up to corruption, because they did not glorify Him nor were thankful, and they become futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
This is your calling with respect to the School with the Bible: that you see and confess it in that manner. That you will say: my children will be trained to serve the Lord in every sector of life. That you will also persevere and stick with it whatever the cost: my children live only for the glory and Name of the Lord. You do not send them to school to learn how to make the grade in this life and finally end up in heaven, but that God’s Name shall be glorious in all the earth.
If your aim is to equip them solely for living, you can send them to the state school. And if you desire them to also know something about religion, well, there is the church and there is catechism instruction.
But if you say: the earth is the Lord’s, you are in effect saying: no school but the School with the Bible. No, they will not all of them be church ministers, and we can be happy about that. But they must learn how to serve the Lord among the sheep and cattle, in the shop and in the garage.
I could wish that this theme of the great enmity would grip us again. That we would again recognise that throughout life here on earth, in all the relationships, God’s Name must be sanctified. It would make us re-discover what Christian education really is, and we would again support it! We would again be unmoveable like our forefathers and declare: This is where we stand. We have no choice, for the sake of God’s glory here on earth. And we will never hand over our children for a different purpose.
(to be continued)