As to the Schools (3)

This is the third and final post written by Mike Vermeer. (Well, the final post if I am unsuccessful in convincing him to continue writing). Having spent the first 40 years of my life complacent and ignorant regarding Christian education, I am thankful for Mike’s work on behalf of the schools, which work is beginning to disabuse me of my ignorance.

This article brings me to the second reason why we needed to start our own school; in answer to the question posed in various ways, why did we start a school? The reason I am about to explain, I must emphasize, was not the basis for any of my decisions – I am carnal. However, God has shown us once more in this how His ways are higher than our ways.

In baptism, we vow to teach our children to the utmost of our power, according to the doctrines that are taught in our church. This vow encompasses all the rearing and instruction of our children.

With a school staffed by Protestant Reformed teachers, it is impossible they could teach our children according to the truth we believe. They could not help but teach Protestant Reformed doctrines. They could not but provide the motivation to learn using earthly benefits alongside (and obscuring) the glory of God. They could not but teach the wisdom of men in addition to (and obscuring) the Knowledge of God. They would not point our children to the Kingdom of God but would obscure that most blessed Kingdom with more emphasis on the Kingdom of Man.

And I knew it. Demonstrably. But I could not bring myself to leave a school that I knew could not teach our children the truth of God. I am carnal.

But God – beautiful words – But God would not allow us to go to a school where our children could not be taught the knowledge of God according to truth. This is where the reformation of 1924 comes in, and the article “As to our Moral Obligation” by Rev. Hoeksema.

Have you read it yet? You should.

That article shows the PRC was weak from the very beginning – perhaps not in doctrine, but certainly in practice. They were hardhearted and would not listen to the pleas of Rev. Hoeksema throughout the 1940s…You are 600 families strong! There is no reason why you should not be able to start your own school! Moral obligation to support the existing schools? No, moral obligation to teach your children, To the Utmost of your Power.

Why were schools not started immediately? There may be any number of reasons. Perhaps there was the (wrong) idea that a small school could not maintain a rigorous educational quality. Perhaps Kuyper’s philosophy of “Sphere Sovereignty” was embedded into their thinking so that they felt they needed to have sufficient “industry experts” in order to start a school.

I think (then Rev.) Engelsma does a good job explaining the sentiment of the 1940s in his forward to Hoeksema’s “As to our Moral Obligation.” In this forward, Engelsma seems to be channeling not Hoeksema but those who opposed him. Listen to him: “These articles…caution us against a foolish, rash forcing of our own schools when they are not possible.” With that, all of Hoeksema’s emphasis on instructing our children “to the utmost of our power” is safely defanged, and we are able to comfortably settle on our lees and claim that “well, it’s not possible (when is it ever, really?) so we had better just use the existing schools or homeschool.”

It is both our obligation and our vow to teach our children to the utmost of our power.

We would have been unable to do so in the Protestant Reformed schools. By God’s gracious deliverance, he also made that path impossible.

For us to teach all our children to know God within our individual homes is also impossible; we lack the time, ability, and means to give them a complete education, as noted by Rev. Hoeksema in the above mentioned article.

And so – not because it was possible, but because it was necessary – God gave us to begin a humble and despised school, where, by God’s grace, we will teach our children rigorously to know Him in all of His covenant love, in all of His creation, and in all of His beauty.